PERSPECTIVE: BEYOND TELANGANA – The Indian republic is young enough to try out more states

PERSPECTIVE: BEYOND TELANGANA – The Indian republic is young enough to try out more states – young enough, yes !! but ‘mature enough,’ is just a “maybe” ?!!

Is the current Indian leadership looking for a solution to problems, or busy creating them ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
FORWARDED BY GORKHS DAJU

POLITICS AND PLAY: BY RAMACHANDRA GUHA

Indian subcontinent map - the oldest civilization in world history, still to mature in modern politics ?!!

The United States of America has less than half as many citizens as the republic of India, yet almost twice as many states. The map of that country has been drawn and redrawn very many times in the course of its history. On January 1, 1800, for example, the US had only 16 states; fifty years later, the number had jumped to 30. When the 19th century ended there were 45 states in the union. Oklahoma was added in 1907, while Arizona and New Mexico were incorporated in 1912. Hawaii and Alaska came on board as late as 1959.

To be sure, while some of these states were carved out of existing ones, most were added on as the American colonists expanded their reach and influence to the west and south of the continent. On the other hand, the republic of India is constituted out of territory left behind by the British. After the integration of the princely states was completed in 1948, no new land has been acquired by the Indian Union. Still, the American example is not entirely irrelevant, for it shows that large nations take shape over long periods of time. It may only be after a century or more after a nation’s founding that its political geography settles into a stable equilibrium, with its internal divisions and subdivisions finally and firmly established.

Powerful influences over the fate of Gorkhaland, young and old ?!!

When India became independent in 1947, it inherited the provincial divisions of the raj, these a product of accident rather than of historical or social logic. At once, a clamour began to create states based on linguistic communities. The Telugu speakers of the Madras Presidency wanted an Andhra Pradesh. The Marathi speakers of the Bombay Presidency demanded a Maharashtra. The Punjabi, Malayalam and Kannada speakers likewise mounted campaigns for states incorporating their particular interests.

The Congress leadership, represented by Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, was initially opposed to linguistic states. Having just witnessed the division of India on the basis of religion, it now feared a further balkanization on the basis of language. However, the demands grew so insistent that the government finally constituted a states reorganization commission. The commission had three members: a jurist, S. Fazal Ali (who also served as chairman), a historian, K.M. Panikkar, and a social worker, H.N. Kunzru.

The report of the SRC, made public in 1955, recommended that the four major linguistic communities of southern India get states of their own. A consolidated state of Marathi speakers was not granted, principally because the Parsi and Gujarati capitalists of Mumbai were fearful of its consequences. However, this led to a resurgence of the samyukta (united) Maharashtra demand, which acquired such widespread popular support that in 1960 two separate states of Gujarat and Maharashtra were constituted, with Bombay being awarded to the latter.

The SRC did not concede the demand of Punjabi speakers either, because it was led by the Sikhs, and the Congress leadership feared that it might be the precursor of an independent Sikh homeland. But when the Sikhs fought so valiantly for India in the 1965 war with Pakistan, the longstanding demand for a ‘Punjabi suba’ was finally conceded, with the areas dominated by non-Sikhs being separated to constitute the new states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Viewed retrospectively, the fears of Nehru and Patel appear to have been misplaced. With the partial exception of Punjab in a particular decade (the 1980s), the new states based on language have not been a threat to national unity. To the contrary, they have consolidated this unity. Whereas Pakistan split into two because the Punjabi and Urdu speakers of the west oppressed the Bengali speakers of the east, and Sri Lanka underwent a 30-year civil war because the Sinhala majority sought to make the minority Tamils second-class citizens, the republic of India has, by creating clearly demarcated territories and autonomous provincial governments, allowed its major linguistic communities the space and place to nourish and renew themselves.

In the context of the challenges of the 1950s and 1960s, the creation of linguistic states was an effective solution. But must it be a permanent one? Do not now the new challenges of inclusive development and good governance call for a further redrawing of the map of the republic? That is the question raised by the movement for a Telangana state, a Vidarbha state, a Gorkhaland state, a Bundelkhand state (and some others). Those who articulate these demands do so on the grounds that they represent populations whose livelihood needs and cultural aspirations are denied dignified expression in the excessively large states in which they now find themselves.

Before the general elections of 2004, the Congress, then out of power, forged an alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. It made one particular promise and one general promise; support for the creation of a Telangana state, and the formation of a new states reorganization commission. After it unexpectedly came to power, the Congress reneged on both promises: the first because it was opposed by the powerful Andhra chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy; the second because it was opposed by the communist parties, whose support was crucial to the new government’s survival, and who vetoed a new SRC because the Bengali comrades did not want to give encouragement to the movement for a state of Gorkhaland.

The constraints of realpolitik compelled the Congress to abandon promises made in 2004. Five years later, it came to power without requiring the support of the Left. Surely it was now time to constitute a new SRC with three or more credible members? That it failed to do so was the product of apathy, inertia, indolence, complacency, in a word, status quoism. The consequence was a resurgence of the Telangana movement. The Central government, buying time, set up a commission under B.N. Srikrishna. The report, recently tabled, basically favours the retention of a united Andhra, and is sure to lead to a fresh and costly wave of strikes, bandhs, fasts, and hartals.

The experience of the past few decades suggests that smaller states are, on the whole, conducive to good (or at least less dreadful) governance. After a unified state of Punjab split into three parts, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and the now truncated, Sikh dominated Punjab have all witnessed steady economic growth. The hill states of Uttarakhand and Meghalaya are better off for having left the low-lying large states of which they were previously part, namely Uttar Pradesh and Assam. I do not believe that, for all their difficulties, the residents of Chhattisgarh are nostalgic for the days when it was part of Madhya Pradesh. True, Jharkhand does not appear to have significantly benefited from separation from Bihar, but its major problems — Maoism, the mining mafia, political corruption and so on — predate its creation as a state of the Union.

The commission that I am calling for — and which both reason and emotion mandate —would consider each case for a new state — Telangana, Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, et al — on its merits. Regions that have a cultural, ecological or historical coherence, and are adversely affected by their current status as part of a larger unit, could be granted statehood; for the examples of successful smaller states alluded to above suggest that they may more meaningfully respond to the social and economic needs of the people.

As a political experiment the Indian republic is young, and still finding its equilibrium. A bold government, a government that both understands the nature of the Indian experiment and cares for the future of India, would now constitute a new states reorganization commission. That government is not, alas, this government, which is damaged by a spate of corruption scandals, and headed by a prime minister who is cautious at the best of times. The unrest and discontent will therefore continue in Telangana, and beyond. (ramachandraguha@yahoo.in)

Tackling Telangana! – Issue Of Identity Is The Strongest Political Urge – just as it is for Gorkhaland and all the Indian Gorkhas who have pleaded since 1907 for self determination in India ?!!

The Telangana Districts - a tempting slice of the electoral pie ?!!

From Boloji.com & The Statesman Editorial, Special Article
By Rajinder Puri

14 Jan 2011: The current escalating crisis in Andhra sparked by the Telangana demand is a lesson of how politics should not be conducted. It provides a damning indictment of Sonia Gandhi’s ineptitude. Thanks to her India now might well be destabilized by yet another smoldering crisis. The current crisis started after the accidental death of the late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy. Because of sentiment the overwhelming view of Andhra legislators was to make YSR’s son Jagan Mohan Reddy, who was an MP, the new CM.

 

The Indian Gorkha issue - much older and similar in nature to the Telengana statehood call, but based on the principle of pure political "ethics and morality" without the lure of a sizeable "vote-bank" ?!!

For no compelling reason Sonia Gandhi resisted the demand. As the demand gathered momentum she unilaterally declared her commitment to make the separate state of Telangana. She thought this would divide Jagan Reddy’s support. Thereby she selected a remedy worse than the perceived ailment. The strongest and oldest demand for separate statehood is in Telangana. Due to late YSR’s political manipulation it was only smoldering. Now it has been ignited threatening to engulf Andhra in flames.

 

Telengana is in fact the pre-independence princely state of Hyderabad. The Nizam ruled Hyderabad. The state had a cultural identity apart from the rest of the Telegu speaking people who are spread in 22 districts. Only nine of these were in Hyderabad, the rest in the Madras Presidency. In 1953 all Telegu districts were carved out to make Andhra, the first state formed on a purely linguistic basis. Later Andhra was merged with the Telugu speaking area of Hyderabad to become present day Andhra Pradesh.

There is a common fallacy that is destabilizing the world today. It is the tendency to view all political demands only on the basis of economic well being. This is happening because the corporate world has subverted the political process. Economic prospects informing the big business mindset have all but extinguished political sentiment. This is a global phenomenon. Consider the subversion of the European Union concept as envisaged by its original 15 founding members by the mindless expansion of the Community in search for bigger markets.

The Sri Krishna Report on Telangana states that Telangana is not more backward than the rest of Andhra. The Report and politicians in general miss the point. The demand for Telangana is not based upon economic considerations. Deep down it is an assertion of identity.

Identity that defines self rule or independence is crucial for the political process. Hegel and Max Weber wove an entire thesis around it. Karl Marx focused on economic interests as the defining criterion for global consolidation. History vindicated Hegel.

It was pure nationalism that divided Soviet Union and China despite a common approach to economic theory. In India the governance provided by British colonialists was perhaps superior to that provided by the rulers who preceded them or those who followed them. But that did not dilute the urge for independence that sought to assert an Indian identity.

India opted for linguistic states after being compelled by an agitation. However, in the assertion of identity common language is but one factor defining group identity. Ethnicity, religion and shared experience common to a contiguous territory are other factors. That is why the establishment of linguistic states was a half step.

A further study is required to consider shared history, dialect and economic viability of different territories to define statehood. The shared history of Telengana people united them culturally.

The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was against merging Telengana with Andhra. The 1955 SRC report said: “We have come to the conclusion that it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana area to constitute a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State.” The government ignored the recommendation and established present day Andhra Pradesh in 1956.

There is need for a second States Reorganization Commission. It should study the issue of identity. There are dormant statehood demands in all the large states.

An inflamed Telangana could spread the demands for new states across India. It should be noted that Konkani Goa was not merged with Maharashtra due to its unique history of being ruled by the Portuguese. UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana were never considered as a mega state on account of all being Hindi speaking. The Commission should also consider the desirability of converting all metropolitan capitals of large states into city states playing host to government and assembly offices of the newly carved smaller states.

Chandigarh as a Union Territory successfully serves Punjab and Haryana. So might Hyderabad serve Telangana, Rayalseema and coastal Andhra. If instead of a panic expedient decision to create Telangana a national policy to review all large states had been announced the present discord in Andhra might never have erupted.

The issue of smaller states should not be clouded by the fruitless debate about comparative governance in large and small states. There are states in both groups that are well and ill governed.

The issue of identity is the strongest political urge from the village to district, state and national levels. For stable systems it should be respected and not submerged by a myopic obsession with the economic rate of growth.

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Jaswant Singh hopeful of positive outcome from Gorkhaland talks

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: Jaswant Singh hopeful of positive outcome from Gorkhaland talks – a ray of hope in the darkness of despair ?!!

From The Hindu
By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, December 19, 2010: After negotiations spreading over 15 months and more and meetings with some senior Congress leaders, Darjeeling MP and senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh on Saturday said talks on the Gorkhaland issue were moving in a “satisfactory direction” and he was optimistic of a positive outcome.

Flanked by leaders of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, Mr. Singh told journalists that he was convinced that an early resolution of the issue would be in the national interest. He noted that the area around Darjeeling borders four different countries, including China, and finding a solution to the 103-year-old demand for Gorkhaland was of “very high national importance.”

The GJMM had agreed to defer its agitational plan that included the call for a 48-hour bandh in Darjeeling and surrounding areas that was to take place in a few days from now. A delegation of the GJMM, including its president Bimal Gurung, has been here for the last few days.

It had met senior Congress leader and chief troubleshooter for the government Pranab Mukherjee, who had requested them to defer their agitation plan as talks were going on. On Friday, the delegation members also had a meeting with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, said Mr. Singh. He added he was “satisfied” with the talks and was optimistic of an early resolution of the problem.

Mr. Singh said he viewed the Gorkhaland demand as one that would “bind” rather than “divide” (‘yeh sawal jodne ka hai todne ka nahin – it is question of binding people together, not dividing them). And Mr. Gurung said his group’s demands were within the framework of the Constitution and it did not want to indulge in anything that could only be used by its detractors for creating mischief.  “We [Gorkhas] have shed a lot of blood for the country … our demand is linked to our identity.”

In response to questions, Mr. Singh said the press should not take for granted that his own party, the BJP, or the Congress or even the Left would continue to oppose the Gorkhaland demand. While he did not spell out concretely where the talks were placed, he said they were “delicately poised.” He also suggested that some resolution could be in sight even “before the Assembly polls” due in West Bengal in about four to five months.

“There is every indication that the talks are moving in the right direction. We have no indication that they will fall flat,” Mr. Singh said.

GJM hints at interim resolution of Gorkhaland issue soon

From The Business Standard
By The BS Reporter

New Delhi, December 19, 2010; 0:23 IST: The Union government is all set to sign an interim resolution for creating a separate Gorkhaland before the West Bengal Assembly elections next year.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) today said the tripartite talks with the Centre and the West Bengal government were in the “right direction” and the issue could be resolved before the formation of the new government in the state. Hopeful of resolution to the dispute, the GJM has also deferred its call for protests and bandh that was scheduled to begin on December 20.

“It is a question of identity. We have met finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. The talks were very successful. Our entire struggle is peaceful and non-violent. The tripartite talks are moving in the right direction and we are hopeful that an interim resolution would be signed after the tripartite talks,” said Bimal Gurung, president of GJM.

Commenting on the proposed interim resolution sent by the ministry of home affairs (MHA), members of GJM said they have made certain amendments on the draft proposal. “We have proposed creation of a separate state within West Bengal. The state government would handle home affairs, judiciary and there can be a common governor. But the remaining financial and administrative decisions would be taken by the representatives of Gorkhaland,” said Gurung.

They said the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 had allowed creation of Assam within Meghalaya. “We are demanding a similar status,” he said.

Darjeeling interim solution soon on lines of ‘state within state’: GJM

From The Indian Express

New Delhi, Sun, Dec 19 2010, 02:33 hrs: The Centre could soon announce an interim arrangement to resolve the Darjeeling issue, which, according to the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), would be on the lines of carving out a “state within a state”.

“An interim resolution is very close and likely before the West Bengal Assembly polls,” said Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh today. He added that the GJM leadership had therefore decided to defer the plans to enforce a two-day bandh from December 21 in view of the progress in talks.

The Centre has made amendments in the draft interim resolution and has given it to the GJM, he said. The GJM top leadership led by its chief Bimal Gurun have been camping in the Capital for the last few days, and have held meetings with Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and senior BJP leader L K Advani.

“It will be much more than autonomy. It would be on the lines of the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act 1969 (through which Meghalaya was created within Assam),” said senior GJM leader H B Chettri. The party said besides a common Governor, the Home Ministry and Judiciary would also remain with the state government.

Asked whether the Left Front government, Trinamool Congress and the Bengal unit of the BJP were in agreement with the draft interim resolution and the amendments, Singh replied: “There is no reason why their response is not positive”.

GJMM suspends 48-hr bandh in Darjeeling

From The Statesman
By The Press Trust of India

KOLKATA, 18 DEC, 2010: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJMM) today suspended its proposed two-day bandh from 20 December in the Darjeeling hills in deference to a call from Union finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee and senior BJP leader Mr LK Advani.

“We have suspended the bandh. We met Mr Mukherjee yesterday and Mr Advani today, who asked us to wait for the outcome of the tripartite talks,” GJMM general secretary Mr Roshan Giri said from Delhi. “Christmas is approaching. In deference to the wishes of the finance minister and Mr Advani, we suspended the bandh,” he said.

He said that the GJMM delegation led by party president Mr Bimal Gurung also met Congress general secretary Mr Rahul Gandhi. “We extensively elaborated our stand to Mr Gandhi,” he said. Asked about the recent revival of the demand for Gorkhaland, Mr Giri evaded a direct reply saying: “Let’s see. So many rounds of talks have taken place. We want an interim council to materialise soon.”

He said that a rally would be held on 3 January either at Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong or Siligiri where the future strategy of the GJMM would be worked out.

Yesterday, chief secretary Mr Samar Ghosh had said that the tripartite talks on Darjeeling was not taking place immediately as the Centre was yet to discuss it with the West Bengal government.

GJM calls off Darjeeling bandh

From WebIndia

Siliguri, Saturday, Dec 18 2010 IST (UNI): The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha(GJM), demanding setting up of an interim council in the hills, today withdrew its proposed 48-hour Darjeeling bandh from December 21.

”The proposed Darjeeling bandh has been called off after meetings with the ruling central and opposition leaders,” GJM spokesperson Harka Bahadur Chettri told UNI over phone from Delhi.

Mr Chettri is part of a high-powered GJM delegation that includes president Bimal Gurung and general secretary Roshan Giri. He said the decision to call off the stir was taken after talking to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and Opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani.

The GJM had called a shutdown of Darjeeling for 48 hours from December 21 demanding resumption of tripartite talks on political level before December 20 for immediate setting up of the interim council in the Darjeeling Hills and starting the process of transfer of certain administrative powers.

It had also threatened to renew the movement for a separate state of Gorkhaland if the interim set-up was not constituted soon.

”We have called off the agitation at the request of central leaders,” Mr Chettri said, citing that they (leaders) wanted continuation of the tripartite talks and said any agitation now would derail the move.

Mr Chettri said since Union Home Minister P Chidambaram was away in Tamil Nadu, the fate of the next round of talks would be known after his arrival in Delhi.

Mr Gurung and his team complained to Mr Gandhi and Mr Mukherjee that the Bengal government was ‘dragging’ its feet on the interim set-up.

The GJM delegation also invited Mr Gandhi to Darjeeling ‘to witness what the government of West Bengal has done to an otherwise natural haven that it used to be’.

”Rahul Gandhi has assured us to visit Darjeeling and the GJM will give him a grand welcome,” Mr Chettri said.

— (UNI)

 

INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY: The New Power Game: Rogue Diplomacy

INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY: The New Power Game: Rogue Diplomacy – exposing the long awaited expose for the greater good of international understanding ?!!

 

USA and India - time for a serious rethink ?!!

From Project Syndicate
By Jaswant Singh

 

NEW DELHI, 2010-11-26: “Such very fine brains” filled with “such bad ideas.” That was how the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former United States senator and perhaps the keenest mind to enter US politics since World War II, once described India, where he was US ambassador in the 1970’s. That snappy description of my country is also a very good way to describe the current – and seemingly unending – contretemps between the leaders of Iran and the US.

As a new round of negotiations with Iran begins – with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton the first into the breach – finding a way to move Iran-US relations beyond their freighted past is an urgent matter. In both countries, deep and mutually paralyzing suspicion has poisoned relations for three decades. Negotiations in such an atmosphere are almost fated to failure.

America’s acceptance of Iran’s current regime is grudging. Iranian leaders demonize the US as if the millions killed in the 1980’s in the Iran-Iraq War (in which the US backed Saddam Hussein’s invading army) died only yesterday. So long as these dark shadows are allowed to linger, “resetting” relations between the two countries, in the manner of US-Russia relations, will be impossible.

The list of disputes between the two countries is almost endless, but Iran’s plan to enrich uranium now stands above everything else. The Iranians insist that they need nuclear power to generate electricity. Their secretiveness, maintains the US, betrays the regime’s drive to develop nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, given the Americans’ deeply ingrained suspicion, the agreement reached earlier this year between Iran and Turkey and Brazil to allow for the export of low-enriched uranium from Iran in return for fuel rods was “not acceptable” to the US. Indeed, after years of sanctions, threats, negotiations, and then more sanctions and threats, the US remains unclear about what specific nuclear program it might accept.

So what does the US want? “Crippling sanctions,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once said, though she quickly retracted that impromptu remark. But no such caution restrains US senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who says that the “evil (of) a nuclear … Iran” will affect the US “far more than (any) conflict.” Following the hopeful early months of the Obama administration, this “stop Iran” policy has become America’s focus.

Iran, of course, repeatedly asserts its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but its past relations with Dr. A. Q. Khan – the self-proclaimed “godfather” of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program, and the world’s most notorious nuclear proliferator – invites skepticism. Indeed, the US holds the “Khan network” responsible for helping Iran start its own nuclear program.

Mistrust is compounded by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s incendiary pronouncements, particularly about Israel. Although the origins of Iran’s nuclear program are to be found in the “enlightened” presidency of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) – it was just before Ahmadinejad’s inauguration that Iran ended its self-imposed moratorium on uranium enrichment – Ahmadinejad’s bombast has made matters worse.

And not just with the US. In September 2005, the International Atomic Energy Agency deemed Iran “non-compliant” with the NPT. Between 2006 and 2008, Iran was subjected to three United Nations Security Council resolutions, each imposing yet more sanctions. Yet, despite increasing economic costs, Iran’s response only hardened.

Iran’s insecurity goes back at least to 1953, when US and British officials plotted the military coup that removed from office Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran’s first elected prime minister and an ardent nationalist, and installed General Fazlollah Zahedi. Mossadegh’s sin was his plan to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. But, in the process of laying claim to Iran’s oil, subverting its democracy, and jeopardizing its national security, the US and Britain committed a much graver sin: the wounding of Iranians’ national pride.

Then there is the Shah’s ouster, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution, the absurd abduction of US diplomats, President Jimmy Carter’s disastrous attempt to free them militarily, and the “Iran-Contra” scandal, when Reagan administration officials sought to sell weapons to Iran through third parties and channel the proceeds to anti-Sandinista guerrillas in Nicaragua.

Iran sits at the heart of an extremely volatile region. The country’s Shia footprint stretches from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush. It has a vital role in Afghanistan; indeed, it was passively supportive of the removal of the Taliban from power in 2001.

With such a country, “non-engagement” means having no policy at all. America’s failure to talk to Iran is as foolhardy as its decades-long failure to talk with Mao’s China. And the ongoing failure to talk to North Korea does not appear to be working either, as the recent shelling of South Korea demonstrates. Even if Iranian nuclear weapons are not acceptable to the US, President Barack Obama needs to start talking more openly about what is. His Nobel Peace Prize demands it.

And talking should not be impossible. As India’s foreign minister, I engaged in successful talks with Iran frequently. Iran may be a self-proclaimed theocracy, but it has conducted foreign relations since the 1979 revolution in a rational, if not always emollient, way. Ahmadinejad may bluster, but there is usually considerable ambiguity and calculation behind his outbursts.

Iran is obstinate, prideful, ambitious, and, yes, sometimes paranoid. But it also sees itself as vulnerable. A young population with no memory of the Islamic Revolution is desperate for the jobs that its leaders have failed to provide.

In these circumstances, if Iran is offered a diplomatic ladder that it can climb down with its dignity intact – above all, a credible promise of an historic reconciliation with the US that includes specific economic benefits, not Obama’s current vague offers – a tired revolution’s troubled leadership might take it. That, not Western bluster and sanctions, is the way ahead.

Jaswant Singh, a former Indian finance minister, foreign minister, and defense minister, is the author of Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence; and Lok Sabha MP from The Darjeeling Constituency.

NATIONAL CORRUPTION: WikiLeaks – Cong played religious politics post 26/11

NATIONAL CORRUPTION: WikiLeaks – Cong played religious politics post 26/11 – probably most morally damaging to a government already reeling under massive corruption scandals ?!!

 

Wikileaks: The India Documents - coming at a most sensitive time when corruption scandals nationwide are bursting their seams ?!!

From The Press Trust of India

 

Washington, Posted on Dec 11, 2010 at 13:51: Post 26/11, a section of the Congress leadership was seen playing religious politics after one of its leaders, A R Antulay, implied that Hindutva forces may have been involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, according to a confidential memo by the then US ambassador to India, David Mulford, released by WikiLeaks.

“The Congress Party, after first distancing itself from the comments (of Antulay, the then minority affairs minister), two days later issued a contradictory statement which implicitly endorsed the conspiracy. During this time, Antulay’s completely unsubstantiated claims gained support in … Indian-Muslim community,” Mulford wrote in his secret cable to the State Department on December 23, 2008.

“Hoping to foster that support for upcoming national elections, the Congress Party cynically pulled back from its original dismissal and lent credence to the conspiracy,” Mulford wrote.

Regardless of Home Minister P Chidambaram‘s dismissal of Antulay’s comments, the Indian-Muslim community “will continue to believe they are unfairly targeted by law enforcement and that those who investigate the truth are silenced,” he said in the cable.

“The entire episode demonstrates that the Congress Party will readily stoop to the old caste/religious-based politics if it feels it is in its interest,” Mulford alleged, according to the cable posted by WikiLeaks on its website yesterday. The United States has neither confirmed or denied the authenticity of these cables, but said that some 250,000 papers have been stolen from its system and demanded that WikiLeaks the whistle blower website return them back to the State Department.

According to WikiLeaks, there are some 1,300 cables from the US embassy in New Delhi. However, only half a dozen of them have been posted by it on its website.

Mulford said while the killing of three high-level law enforcement officers during the Mumbai attacks, including ATS chief Hemant Karkare, “is a remarkable coincidence, the Congress Party’s initial reaction to Antulay’s outrageous comments was correct.”

“But as support seemed to swell among Muslims for Antulay’s unsubstantiated claims, crass political opportunism swayed the thinking of some Congress Party leaders,” he wrote. “What’s more, the (Congress) party made the cynical political calculation to lend credence to the conspiracy even after its recent emboldening state elections victories. The party chose to pander to Muslims’ fears, providing impetus for those in the Muslim community who will continue to play up the conspiracy theory,” Mulford wrote in his cable.

While “cooler heads” eventually prevailed within the Congress leadership, the idea that the party would entertain “such outlandish claims proved once again that many party leaders are still wedded to the old identity politics,” he said.

The 79-year-old Antulay “was probably bewildered to find that his remarks, similar in vein to what he would have routinely made in the past to attack the BJP, created such a furor this time,” Mulford said.

The cable noted that Antulay “sparked a political controversy on December 17 with comments insinuating that the killing of Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) Chief Hemant Karkare by the Mumbai terrorists was somehow linked to Karkare’s investigation of (Malegaon) bombings in which radical Hindus are suspected.”

Tata rebuttal starts a war of corps, words; more to come – no more silence from big business, too fed-up and intolerant of corrupt bureaucrats and the wrong direction India is taking  ?!!

 

Ratan Tata speaks out - Not to intimidated by the Congress corruption and misinformation any longer ?!!

From MSN India
Source: Business Standard

 

10/12/2010: Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata Thursday gave a strong rebuttal to former telecom entrepreneur and present Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s indictment of policy on the sector, saying it was not factual and meant to meet political ends.

Chandrasekhar, who’d issued an “open letter to the Prime Minister” on Monday, said Tata’s response was a feeble one, which did not address the points he’d made.

Asked about the war of words between operators, telecom minister Kapil Sibal, who took charge recently after his predecessor had to step down after a flurry of allegations and a probe by investigative agencies, stated: “We will put everything (the controversy) to an end, as we will ensure a level playing field to all the operators.” The minister added: “Everybody is looking at the telecom sector (only) as a source for earning money for the finance ministry.

If we look at telecom in that context, we will be doing injustice to the people of India.” Ratan Tata’s Chandrasekhar’s talking-nonsense missive had two interesting aspects. One, he indirectly rapped the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, though he made a point of commending its former telecom minister during its earlier rule, Arun Shourie.

Two, he had some good words for the policy under A Raja, the minister who had to step down last month, and whose offices and homes were searched by investigating agencies yesterday. He has, in passing, critiqued the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s (CAG’s) report in this regard, which led to the present political storm.

Tata said Chandrasekhar’s political “affiliation” was known and he was making “insinuations” accordingly, to embarrass Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Chandrasekhar is an independent member of the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, whose election was supported by the BJP. Tata also blamed the BJP for various “flip flops” in telecom policy in his letter.

And, defended both Manmohan Singh and the actions taken by former minister Raja. “Whatever may be said, it must be recognised that the recent policy broke the powerful cartel which has been holding back competition and delaying implementation of policy not to their liking, such as growth of CDMA technologies, new GSM entrants, revision in subscriber-based spectrum allocation norms and even number portability,” his letter said. By cartel, he meant incumbent GSM operators — including Chandrasekhar’s BPL, which the latter later sold off.

As noted, Tata was careful to “commend” Arun Shourie for, during the earlier NDA government, implementing “a far sighted policy”, under which CDMA operators offering limited mobility services like Tata Teleservices migrated to full mobility by taking a Unified Access Service Licence for just Rs 1,650 crore.

Chandrasekhar’s first letter had alleged Tata was a beneficiary of the way the government had manipulated telecom policy. In his reply to Tata’s rebuttal, he said the latter’s missive “is a typical one that ducks the main issues and instead attempts to shoot the messenger”.

Adding: “I am only disappointed, but no longer surprised, that in sharp contrast to my efforts to go out of the way to keep this debate relating to facts and policy discussions, your letter is intensely personal, attributes feeble motives and (is) most unbecoming of the House of Tatas. I can only think that this is a lapse in good judgment. I particularly find your self-appointed defence of the Prime Minister and Government very irrelevant.”

Commenting on the various points in the Tata letter, to the effect that there was no unwarranted gain to his group during the tenure of any minister, Chandrasekhar said, “The facts, in the letter are just exceptionally weak,” and that he would “rebut your allegations, claims and innuendo, chapter and verse, in the public domain.”

Tata’s letter defends using controversial corporate lobbyist Niira Radia. It does this by making a mention of Chandrasekhar’s own earlier alleged attempts to prevent the entry of WLL-limited mobility services and CDMA operators.

Tata says in 2002, Chandrasekhar used to be parked in the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi (owned by the Tatas), where he interacted with the polity and bureaucracy and with other operators to forge a telecom policy of their choice. This was when Chandrasekhar was president of the Cellular Operators Association of India, the GSM operators’ body.

It notes Chandrasekhar also solicited support of the Confederation of Indian Industry for the purpose. “Would you not consider this as an endeavour to influence or subvert policy? To influence politicians or solicit support from selected corporates?” asks Tata in the letter.

As for the CAG report, Tata said it had not ascribed any value to the notional loss to the exchequer on the 48 new licences issued to GSM incumbents from 2004 to 2008 — CAG has ascribed a huge notional loss to the 2008 issue of licences by Raja’s ministry. This, says Tata, though “CAG was supposed to cover the period from 2003”.

Along with Ratan Tata, its Chairman, Tata Telservices also sent a detailed, six-page, response to Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s open letter of charges on alleged telecom policy manipulation.

Answering every allegation by Chandrasekhar in some detail, TTSL said it had applied for dual crossover technology only after the policy was announced and was the first legitimate applicant to do so, after the policy announcement.

Chandrasekhar, in his letter, said TTSL had received undue advantages during the processing of dual technology applications. He also said TTSL caused a loss of Rs 19,074 crore to the exchequer, by virtue of the dual technology.

In his rebuttal Tata indirectly rapped BJP, even as he made a point of commending Arun Shourie, a telecom minister during BJP-led government.

Meanwhile, a diary with “incriminating” details is believed to have been recovered during the searches conducted by the investigating agency on Wednesday from the residence of former communications minister, A Raja, who would be questioned soon.

The diary, according to sources privy to the probe, has some details pertaining to the allocation of 2G spectrum, among other incriminating details.

They said the former Minister would also be questioned by the agency soon.

CBI sleuths spent considerable time in understanding the entries made in the diary which consist of names of some politicians and corporate honchos, sources said.

THE EXCHANGED LETTERS GO PUBLIC – THE TATA REPLY

Ratan Tata: Corporate battle turns political

From The Times of India

Dec 10, 2010, 04.09am IST

Dear Rajeev,

I am currently overseas and have just seen a copy of the open letter you have addressed to me with copies to the entire media community. This is of course in keeping with the current trend of attempted character assassination through widespread media publicity couched in pain and concern for upholding ethics and values. Your letter is based on untruths and distortion of facts and it is essential that I place the real facts, as bluntly as possible before you. I hope this will also be broadly disseminated to the same audience as your letter. I am of course well aware that some media houses will choose not to publish or air my response in deference of their owners, who are the real gainers in the telecom sector, with whom you have unfortunately aligned to provide a massive diversion of attention away from the real culprits in the telecom space.You will appreciate that the Government’s stated telecom policy of 1999 set out the principles of a technology neutral environment. When cellular mobile telephony was introduced, the first set of operators including yourself, chose GSM, the broadly used European technology at that time. The first set of cellular mobile operators received their licenses based on an auction process in circles for which some of them and their partners submitted very high bids. Later in July 1999, in a BJP-led NDA Government, in accordance with the recommendation of a Group of Ministers headed by Mr Jaswant Singh, the fixed license fee regime was changed to a revenue share regime (which exists even today). If a hypothetical amount was to be calculated similar to one that has been done in the CAG report, at that point of time, the loss to the exchequer would be about Rs. 50,000 cr and the exchequer would have been deprived of this amount. Realistically, however, the revenue share system would have recouped some amount over time and this important change most probably has been responsible for the greater growth of the industry as it enabled tariffs to be reduced.

CDMA technology (a newer and more efficient technology), was utilized by some operators for fixed wireless operations such as PCOs and for last mile wireless connectivity for fixed line phones. The first attempted deviation from stated policy was in January 2001 when the then telecom minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, in a BJP-led Government, sought to allow the fixed wireless application of CDMA — for limited mobility on the grounds that it would be available to the public at a lower price. The GSM operators led by you mounted a campaign lobbying against this on the grounds that it would be unfair to the incumbents who had made investments and who had enjoyed first mover advantage.

You will recall that you and Nusli Wadia approached me in the Chambers in Taj Mumbai in July 2002 to sign an appeal to the then Prime Minister, Mr A B Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Advani and Finance Minister Mr Jaswant Singh not to allow fixed mobile service providers to provide mobile services. I enclose a copy of your fax dated July 12, 2002, requesting me to sign and the draft letter which I was supposed to sign. In para 2 of this letter your objective amongst other things was to reach a 50 million subscriber base by 2006. To refresh your memory, I enclose a copy of the letter dated August 16, 2002, that I wrote to you expressing my inability to sign such a letter as it would block the introduction of CDMA technology and I believed that the telecom industry needed to be technology neutral but what I agreed with you was that any new operator should pay the same fee as the incumbents so that all operators were equalized and that no one was disadvantaged. As a result of a technology agnostic policy we achieved more than 100 million subscribers in 2006 and to date 700 million. I am also enclosing a copy of my letter to Mr Vajpayee dated January 12, 2001, in which I advocated an open, transparent process giving all parties a chance to be heard — a stance that I have not changed till date. This has angered you and the other operators who were not interested in a level playing field and lobbied aggressively through COAI to ensure that a technologically agnostic environment would not come to pass. It is obvious that an industry driven by technology cannot confine itself to a single technology only because that was the technology employed by a handful of operators who derived early mover advantage, enjoyed high ARPUs and in fact thwarted new — admittedly more efficient technology like CDMA. China, Korea and even the US have built their large subscriber numbers on the utilization of both CDMA and GSM technology. Growth could have been far greater had incumbent operators like yourself risen above their self interest of protecting their investment and allowing the existence of all technologies on an equal footing. However, in pursuance of the spirit of NTP 1999, the Government did indeed implement the technology neutral policy in November 2003. The minister involved was Mr Arun Shourie in the same BJP-led NDA government. This was implemented through the creation of the UASL (unified access service licence) regime which enabled existing license holders to migrate to UASL license providing freedom of choice of technology and where a pan-India license could be obtained for a fee of about Rs 1,650 cr, the same fee paid by the successful fourth cellular mobile operator. Mr Shourie needs to be commended in implementing this far sighted policy, which has enabled technology to be the driver of the industry, rather than technology protected growth.

I will now briefly touch on the points you raised regarding TTSL (Tata Tele Services Ltd) and the alleged advantage they gained. I have requested TTSL to address those issues in greater detail to you directly.

On the issue of various allegations you have made on the so called benefits gained by TTSL, so called out-of-turn allotment that you claim have been given by DoT, you have chosen to misrepresent the facts as they suit you to justify the claims you have made. The true position is that TTSL has not — I repeat not — been advantaged in any way by Mr Raja or any earlier minister. The company has strictly followed the applicable policy and has been severely disadvantaged, as you are well aware, by certain powerful politically connected operators who have willfully subverted policy under various telecom ministers which have subsequently been regularized to their advantage.

The same operators continue to subvert policy; and have even paid fees for spectrum, even before the announcement of a policy, and have “de-facto ownership” in several new telecom enterprises. Licenses were granted to several ineligible applicants. Several licensees have spectrum in excess of their entitlement as per license conditions and not on the self styled capacity spectrum efficiency that you have chosen to mention. This is the smoke screen that I am referring to as these subverters of government policy continue to do so to their advantage and their acts are
being ignored or condoned. TTSL, on the other hand, as an existing licensee, applied for spectrum under the dual technology policy after the policy was announced on October 19, 2007 and is still awaiting allotment of spectrum in Delhi and 39 key districts for about three years whereas operators who applied — and paid the fee even before the policy announcement — were not only considered ahead in line but were allotted spectrum with amazing alacrity in January 2008 itself. I am surprised that you have chosen to sidestep this very important aspect.

The investment by NTT DoCoMo in TTSL was not based on a zero base valuation, like others, but was based on the performance of the company with 38 million subscribers, pan-India presence of network, offices, channel, turnover of Rs.6000 cr, 60000 km of fiber; and the potential growth of the company. The valuations are on the basis of a due diligence and service evaluation of the company’s service quality by DoCoMo.

On the question of hoarding of spectrum which I have referred, you will no doubt remember that in 2005 I made an issue of the fact that spectrum was a scarce resource and needed to be paid for rather than given free as was being proposed. The government policy entitled operators no more than 6.2 MHz on the basis of their license conditions. All additional spectrum should have been returned or paid for. Even TRAI has recommended this in July 2010. I believe that TTSL was the only operator that returned spectrum when demanded by DoT. The CAG report clearly indicates which of the powerful GSM operators are holding spectrum beyond their entitlement free of cost and to the detriment of the other operators.

On the question of many disadvantaged new applicants who have supposedly been denied licenses in 2007, you are well aware that many of the applicants were proxy shareholders in high places, and were applying to entering the sector with a view to monetize the license once received. Even those that were granted license and spectrum have failed to effect any meaningful rollout of services. Strangely, you have chosen to ignore this fact and singled out TTSL who have, in fact, put in place a network supporting 82 million subscribers, despite the fact that they have been deprived of spectrum in Delhi and the 39 key districts over the past 3 years as mentioned earlier. How could you or anybody possibly consider this to be a beneficial situation for TTSL?

Let me address the question of the Tatas need for an external PR service provider. Ten years ago, Tatas found themselves under a campaign by corporate rivals to defame the ethics and value systems of the group which held it apart from the others in India. The campaign was instituted and sustained through an unholy nexus between certain corporates and the media through selected journalists. As Tatas did not enjoy any such “captive connections” in this environment, the Tata Group had no option but to seek an external agency focused at projecting its point of view in the media and countering the misinformation and vested interest view points which were being expressed. Vaishnavi was commissioned for this purpose and has operated effectively since 2001. You yourself have interacted with Niira Radia on some occasions in the past and it is therefore amazing that you should now, after nearly 9 years seek to question Tatas’ appointment of Vaishnavi. Also, the statement regarding Tatas employing Mr Baijal is completely false. Vaishnavi is neither owned by the Tata Group nor is the Tata Group Vaishnavi’s only client. Mr Baijal, whom you apparently dislike, is part of Noesis, (an affiliate of Vaishnavi in which Tatas have no ownership) and, as facts will show, on various occasions has differed with the Tata Group during his period in office and has not advocated or influenced telecom policy for the Tata Group in any way. You and many others have focused your attention on Ms Radia as corporate lobbyist. I would like to draw your attention to the following:

You parked yourself at the Taj Mahal Hotel Delhi for several months since 2002 which was the centre of operations for you to prevent entry of WLL Limited Mobility and CDMA as well as to interact with the polity and bureaucracy and with other operators to forge telecom policy of your choice. You did this in your own capacity as also as President of COAI (Cell Operators Association of India).

You also constantly solicited support of CII. Would you not consider this as endeavor to influence or subvert policy? To influence politicians or solicit support from selected corporates? I take it that in your view this would not constitute lobbying.

Your affiliation with a particular political party is well known and it appears that their political aspirations and their endeavor to embarrass the Prime Minister and the ruling party may well have been the motivation behind your letter and the insinuations which you make. We should all note that many of the flip flops in the telecom policy occurred during the BJP regime. Whatever may be said, it must be recognized that the recent policy broke the powerful cartel which had been holding back competition and delaying implementation of policies not to their liking, such as growth of CDMA technologies, new GSM entrants, revision in subscriber based spectrum allocation norms, and now even number portability. You yourself have publically commended in November 2007 such initiatives and the minister for breaking the cartel and reducing the cost of service to the customer.

The 2G scam ostensibly revolved around Mr Raja’s alleged misdeeds and some parts of the CAG report were quoted as having indicted the minister. Much has been made about the hypothetical loss to the exchequer in the grant of new licenses and spectrum on the basis of 3G auction prices, (which were not known or even foreseen at the time of granting such licenses and spectrum). However, the media and even you have chosen to ignore the rest of the CAG report in which excess possession of spectrum, the disadvantages to TTSL by name, the irregularity in allotment of licenses to most players whose applications were ineligible to be considered in the first place have been mentioned in great detail. You have also not noticed that CAG has not ascribed value to 48 new GSM licenses issued to
incumbents during this period even though the CAG was supposed to cover the period from 2003. I would have thought that all this would have been of public interest and should have been widely reported. I have welcomed the ongoing investigations and sought that the period of investigation be extended to 2001 for the nation to know the real beneficiaries of the ad hoc policy-making and implementation.

Finally, you have chosen to lecture me on the responsibilities of upholding the ethics and values which the Tata Group has honored and adhered to through the years. I can say categorically that we have not wavered in upholding our values and ethical standards despite the erosion in the ethical fabric in the country and despite the efforts of others to draw us into controversy and endeavor to besmirch our record. When the present sensational smokescreen dies down, as it will, and the true facts emerge, it will be for the people of India to determine who are the culprits that enjoy the political patronage and protection and who actually subvert policy and who have dual standards. I can hold my head high and say that neither Tata Group or I have at any time been involved in any of these misdeeds.

The selective reporting and your own selective focus appear to be diversionary actions to deflect attention away from the real issue, which plagues the telecom industry, in the interest of a few powerful politically connected operators. Perhaps it is time that you and members of the media do some introspection and soul searching as to whether you have been serving your masters or serving the general public at large.

Warm regards,
Yours sincerely,

Ratan N. Tata

EARLIER: THE SNIDE ATTEMPT BY THE CONGRESS CORRUPT

Rajeev Chandrashekhar: Corporate battle turns political

 

Former telecom entrepreneur and present Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar - wonder why the ruse to suddenly attack and shift blame ?!!

From The Times of India

 

Dec 10, 2010, 04.11am IST

Dear Mr Tata,

It is with considerable concern and some confusion that I have watched your recent television Interviews and press statements following the 2G scam and the exposure of the infamous Nira Radia tapes. I, as countless other Indians, have held the house of Tatas in great esteem and respect – have seen them as being different from so many other Indian corporates that play by a different set of rules and values. I, along with many Indians, consider JRD Tata as one of the true builders of modern India.

So, it is with considerable sadness and dismay that I am constrained to write this open letter to you. I trust you will not consider this as personal, since my letter has to do with issues of principle and conduct that are disturbing. In your recent press interactions, you have made the point that the 2G scam needs to be investigated and have made several sub-points, including:
1. Out-of-turn allocation of spectrum;
2. Hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators; and
3. Flip-flop of policy

Let me wholeheartedly agree with you. Many in media and public life including me, have been saying this for several years now, so your belated realization of these critical issues is very welcome. I sympathize with your concern about public policy making in our country sometimes resembling that of a Banana Republic. But the forces behind this are helped considerably by the fact that people with power and influence remain silent and passive spectators to this. So many including I would have welcomed your intervention much earlier, as in the case of the alleged bribing offer 15 years ago, of Rs 15 cr that you referred to only recently. You will agree that speaking out against corruption is most effective when it is happening and not decades or years later. Because then it becomes an intellectual post mortem, and not active resistance. Since I was previously a telecom entrepreneur, there will be a temptation for those that advise you, to attribute agenda and motivations to this letter of mine. But I assure you that there is none. I write because I believe that there is a need to join you in this debate and necessarily bring to your attention the contradictions between your stand and the position of the Tata telecom companies, that you may be unaware of, given your senior position in your organization.

1. Out-of-turn allocation of spectrum: According to the CAG Report, the potential loss to the Exchequer on account of dual technology licenses at 3G rates is Rs 37,154 cr. By virtue of dual technology – according to the CAG – your company has caused a loss to the exchequer to the tune of approx Rs 19074.8 cr. But it is not just this. It is a fact that the Tata Group is a beneficiary of out-of-turn spectrum. In fact, one of the biggest of them all. It is a fact admitted by the Government on affidavit that 575 applications were received for 2G spectrum by October 1, 2007. Using an illegal and arbitrary cut-off date, Mr Raja processed only 122 applications received till 25 September, 2007. 110 were rejected and 343 applications were put in abeyance. Given the fact that there is no 2G spectrum available, these applications received till October 1, 2007 (within the date represented by the Government) have now been put in the dustbin. In fact, the TRAI had already recommended on May 11, 2010 that no more UASL license with bundled spectrum can be given. This means that these 343 applications will never be processed and will never see spectrum. In the meantime, 19 days after these 575 applications were received, the dual technology policy was announced through a press release by Mr Raja. The Tatas put in their dual technology applications around October 22. So, in effect, their application went in three weeks after the 575 2G applications were received. Today, Tatas already have GSM spectrum allocated and GSM service launched in most of the circles. But the 343 applications submitted three weeks before the Tata Group have neither been processed nor have any chance of ever being processed – so much for First Come, First Serve.

You will accept that this seems to be a case of arriving late, forming a new queue, jumping the priority and accusing others of getting priority on spectrum allocation and meets your point of out-of-turn allocation of spectrum. I am sure the 373 applicants who were rejected for no fault of theirs, will agree – while the Tata Group has sold its equity for billions of dollars to NTT DoCoMo based on its out-of-turn GSM allocation on dual technology policy. In my humble opinion, evidence suggests that the Tatas have benefited from out-of-turn spectrum allocation. The dispute between Tatas and Reliance Comm inter se on the allocation sequence cannot dilute the primary fact of bypassing other early applicants to this spectrum.

2. Hoarding of spectrum by incumbent operators: This is an important point you have raised. I concur with you that there is a need for telcos, old or new, to pay market rates for spectrum. I also completely agree that the subscriber-linked criteria allocation of spectrum is flawed and is encouraging fudging and false subscriber numbers. But I bring to your attention, that this is existing Government policy – flawed or unfortunate as it may be, and the only solution to this is to replace this with a new policy. If by hoarding, you mean having more spectrum than number of subscribers that can be serviced – then please note that Tata holds spectrum both for GSM and CDMA. Based on the spectrum that Tata has, its average efficiency is perhaps the lowest amongst the large operators. Equally, that the CDMA spectrum that Tata holds is 3-4 times more efficient than the GSM operators – by its own admission, which I recall during the WLL scam. Moreover, Tata has received CDMA and GSM spectrum at 2001 rates. So even if the hoarding charge was to apply, it would also apply to the Tatas for having maximum cumulative efficiency (CDMA and GSM) to serve the least number of subscribers amongst the incumbents. Again, I fully support the need to price spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz with incumbent operators at market rates. But the charge of hoarding that you make applies equally to Tata Tele – whether it is total spectrum held, or subscribers served based on that spectrum, or price paid to acquire such spectrum, vis-à-vis the cumulative efficiency of CDMA and GSM.

3. Flip-flop of policy: In your interview, you have pointed out that a lot of the current dysfunctionality in telecom has arisen from policy changes and flip-flops. You would recall that one of the most horrific distortions of policy was the infamous WLL scam in 2001 where telecom companies with fixed service licenses managed to muscle their way into cellular with active support of policy makers of that time – and not to forget that it was all done in the name of benefit to the common man! You will further recall that in 2003, a convenient set of recommendations by the TRAI and Government allowed this illegality to be regularized through the UASL policy, opening the gates to unprecedented and unique (and unheard of) First Come, First Served form of licensing – bypassing tenders (a form of auction) that were the norm for obtaining cellular licenses till then. Your company was the beneficiary of this ‘policy flip-flop’ and you chose to accept the benefits of this flip-flop at that time – despite this blatant violation and distortion. I am personally aware because I led the fight against it and remember being immensely disappointed at the Tata Group’s remarkably self-serving position. Further, in one of the most mysterious and indefensible acts, Tata Group took on board as a consultant, the very individual, who as the chairman of TRAI was the architect of this UASL and other shames.

A Raja, current Telecom Minister - now contemplating the end of a thoroughly corrupt legacy ?!!

So in summary and respectfully, your positions in the recent interviews seem to be in stark contrast with the actual conduct, performance and position of Tatas’ telecom companies in each of the three points you have raised. There are several other questions that deserve answers, including why a group like Tata with its sterling character and reputation requires outside lobbyists to lobby on their behalf! That, in itself, is enough to shatter one’s confidence! I reiterate that this letter is not meant to tarnish or disrespect or distract from the many achievements of the Tata Group including the acquisition of international brands like Land Rover, Jaguar and its increasingly global footprint. But I believe, on behalf of many erstwhile supporters of the Tata group, that it is my duty to seek and spotlight the truth. The Tata Group has a responsibility, and indeed, owes it to its many admirers in India to actually live up to its image of ethical conduct, otherwise your statements and actions will seem to be hypocrisy – something that’s already available in plenty in our public and corporate life.

Respectfully,

RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR
Member of Parliament

 

MEANWHILE

Upload videos, audios to expose corruption on CVC’s ‘Vig-Eye’ – designing a release valve in a vain attempt at damage control instead of allowing a ‘Joint Parliamentary Commission’ to get at the roots of unprecedented corruption in the Nation ?!!

From MSN India
Source: Agencies

New Delhi, 09/12/2010: In a unique move, the Central Vigilance Commission on Thursday launched an exclusive website for people to upload videos, audios and lodge complaints exposing acts of corruption in government departments.

According to an anti-corruption watchdog official, Vig-Eye (an acronym for vigilance eye), provides a more user-friendly platform for interface between the CVC and the citizens who may have suffered at the hands of corrupt officials and who want to disclose information about such illegal activities.

“The advantage of Vig-Eye includes simplified process of filing complaints and it will provide authentic identity of the complainant. Vig-Eye would be completely digitised and it will give online access to vigilance information,” Central Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas said while inaugurating the web portal.

“Efforts at modernising the vigilance framework are underway which include development of new models of preventive vigilance, adoption of risk management approach and aligning the vigilance function with the corporate governance framework,” he said.

The CVC said that preventive and punitive approaches to addressing corruption need to complement each other. The Commission has adopted a strategy of leveraging technology and has been persuading the government to adopt e -governance measures.

“The aim is to use technology in activities vulnerable to corruption in order to reduce human intervention,” he said. Thomas said that the Commission has undertaken a campaign aimed at creating awareness about corruption and inculcating ethics on good governance. The campaign would help reduce people’s tolerance for corruption.

The Commission has also recommended to the government to include ethics education in the school curriculum, Thomas said. Thomas was speaking during a seminar ‘Empowering citizens to combat corruption’ organised at Vigyan Bhawan here on International Anti-Corruption Day. The seminar was aimed at deliberating and recommending proactive and participative measures to combat corruption.

Introducing the Vig-Eye, Vigilance Commissioner Srikumar said that it will help build up the vision of proactive and predictive vigilance. The VC said that people can use mobile phones and web based technologies to lodge complaints or grievances using mobile phones with a software application specially designed to file complaints.

People can visit CVC’s website (www.cvc.nic.in) to access or get more information on Vig-Eye. The CVC acts as an apex anti-corruption statutory body mandated to fight corruption and ensuring probity in public life.

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: GJM revives demand for Gorkhaland

GORKHA ADIVASI POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS: GJM revives demand for Gorkhaland – with the Congress and UPA fast losing moral authority and embroiled in a multitude of corruption scandals, the stakes against political inaction and apathy now heightened ?!!

 

Map of proposed State of Gorkhaland - a result of Congress apathy and corruption scandals ?!!

FROM THE PRESS TRUST OF INDIA STAFF WRITER

 

Darjeeling, Dec 10, 2010, 20:50 HRS IST (PTI): The GJM today renewed its demand for carving out a separate Gorkhaland state from West Bengal and moved Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and BJP president Nitin Gadkari to press for it.

“We have written to the prime minister, Sonia Gandhi and Nitin Gadkari renewing our demand for Gorkhaland,” Gorkha Janmukti Morcha general secretary Roman Giri told reporters.

The demand for Gorkhaland has been revived as no date has been announced for the tripartite talks on GJM’s demand for an authority to replace the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council, he said.

The GJM has already called a 48 hour bandh from December 20 in the Darjeeling hills if the interim council was not set up by that date.

Mirik shuts down over stripped post – Morcha leaders attacked – making brother fight brother so that Bengal can ultimately triumph once more ?!!

Mirik town and lake: a tourist hotspot (TT) - now for Bengal to make it a political hotspot as it is closest to Siliguri ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY VIVEK CHHETRI

Darjeeling, Dec. 10: Two central committee members of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha came under attack in Mirik today, prompting the party to expel a local leader suspected to have masterminded the stone throwing after he was stripped of a portfolio.

Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha, along with Pravin Rahapal, a central committee member from Kalimpong, were pelted with stones near the Mirik Youth Hostel area around 1.30pm.

“A group of 20 armed people laid siege to our vehicles near the Mirik youth hostel. Pravin Rahapal’s car has been damaged. Rahapal’s friend, Bijay Chhetri, who was also from Kalimpong and travelling with him, suffered minor injuries,” Tamang said over the phone from Mirik, 40km from here.

Tamang and Rahapal had been touring Mirik for the past fortnight, reviewing party activities in the area.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said in Darjeeling: “The party’s central committee had decided to relieve Arun Ghisingh from the post of Mirik town committee president recently and instead made him a member of the Kurseong sub-divisional committee. There were allegations that he was interfering in the development works being undertaken by the Mirik municipality.”

The attack on the two leaders is being seen as fallout of the Morcha central committee’s decision to strip Ghisingh of the president’s post. “Recently I had received a letter from the party’s central committee saying that I had been upgraded to a member of Kurseong subdivisional committee. The general public, however, has not accepted the decision and today’s incident is probably a reaction of the general public,” Ghisingh said, denying he had any hand in the incident.

“It was probably a public reaction. I don’t think they were attacked but I heard that one of their vehicles hit a gate when it was speeding.”

Observers said a town committee president of the party had more clout than a subdivisional committee member although the latter was higher in the hierarchy rung.

Tamang claimed “miscreants” had tried to target him and the two vehicles had been pelted with stones. His car, though, was not hit. “They were armed with lathis also. I have filed an FIR at the Mirik police station against Arun Ghisingh, his father J.S. Ghisingh and 20 other people,” said Tamang.

In Darjeeling, Giri said the Morcha had decided to expel Arun for anti-party activities.

“His father J.S. Ghisingh, who was also the president of the Morcha’s Mirik ward 1 committee has been suspended for six months,” said Giri.

Ghisingh on his part said the public would shutdown Mirik indefinitely.

“A hartal has started in Mirik and the public has decided to shut down the town for an indefinite period until justice is delivered,” he said.

Some of the shops in Mirik opened late in the evening after members of the Nari Morcha urged shopkeepers to keep their establishments open.

Rivals in Delhi letter match – parochially highlighting differences while knowing exactly where the mandate lies ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Darjeeling, Dec. 10: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the ABGL today sent separate memorandums to leaders in Delhi, demanding the creation of Gorkhaland.

“We have written to the Prime Minister, UPA chairperson and other BJP leaders maintaining that the issue of Gorkhaland is about giving political identity to the Indian Gorkhas and that our demand, which is the oldest in the country, must be considered if Telangana is formed at anytime,” said Roshan Giri, the Morcha general secretary.

The ABGL has also written to the Union home minister and the chief minister of Bengal saying that statehood is needed “for national integration and security as Darjeeling is strategically a volatile region”. “The hill people of Darjeeling have already rejected both the Sixth Schedule and the interim set-up,” wrote Binod Gurung, the secretary of the ABGL’s Sadar committee .

The Morcha has decided to allow banks to keep their ATMs open on every alternate day. “The relief department has also been kept out of the bandh’s purview,” said Giri. Banks were so far allowed to remain open only on Monday and Fridays following the Morcha’s call for an indefinite shutdown of government offices since December 6.

TOURISM: Embassy alert spurs search – French tourists lost & found in sanctuary

TOURISM: Embassy alert spurs search – French tourists lost & found in sanctuary – cost cutting against the advice of the tour operators, an adventure that almost cost them their lives ?!!

 

The Maenam sanctuary in South Sikkim (TT) - to know the true nature of the lay of the land and to take advice of local tour operators may be wisest ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

 

Gangtok, Dec. 10: Two French nationals who lost their way in a wildlife sanctuary while trekking without a guide were tracked and brought back after their embassy in Delhi called up tour operators here to alert them to the missing visitors.

Michael Dieppois and Noemie Hais were escorted back from the Maenam wildlife sanctuary to one of the periphery villages around 2pm today, 20 hours after they were reported lost by the French embassy, which also said they were spending the night in an abandoned shed in the forest.

 

A trekking trail in the Samdruptse hill (TT) - maybe foreigners ought not to be left to their own strange designs, like collecting rare species under the guise of tourism ?!!

No search could be initiated till in the morning because of the adverse terrain, tour operators said.

 

Throughout the night as the mercury dropped — temperatures at this time of the year in Maenam comes down to 6-8 degrees Celsius in the evenings — the French men kept texting the embassy to keep contact since their mobiles became low on battery and they did not want to risk many calls, sources in the tourism industry said.

The sanctuary spread over 36.3sqkm is accessible through Rabong and Yangyang.

Tour operators said Dieppois and Hais, in their early 20s, had gone hiking to Maenam hill for a short trip to the sanctuary from Borong, 90km from here, on December 9. They had lost their way when they were at an elevation of 2,660m. At what point of time they got lost cannot be established yet.

But with darkness closing in, the two trekkers managed to ring up the French embassy in New Delhi on their mobile phones. The embassy then got in touch with the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim (TAAS) president Lukendra Rasaily here in Gangtok.

“I received a call from the French embassy around 6pm yesterday informing me that two French nationals were lost in the Maenam sanctuary. I was told they were without food, water and warm clothes for night stay,” said Rasaily.

The two trekkers had taken shelter in an abandoned shed for loggers for the night, he said. “Temperatures usually drop to 6-8 degrees Celsius at this time,” said Rasaily.

The TAAS president alerted the tourism and forest officials in South district. “Karma Takarpa, TAAS adventure cell chairman, mobilised a five-member rescue team from Yangyang, one of the entry points to the sanctuary. The team was sent to the location with water and food,” he said.

The search team started for the sanctuary around 9am. While the rescuers were marching up the hill, another tourist and his guide trekking in the sanctuary stumbled on the French men.

“The French embassy called us up to tell us that the two trekkers had been found. We then called back our rescue team, as we got information that the two trekkers had been escorted to one of the villages near the sanctuary by the tourist and his guide. They will come back to Gangtok this evening,” he said.

“The two French nationals, Michael Dieppois and Noemie Hais, are in good health,” said South district collector A.K. Singh.

TEA NEWS: Garden closure in Terai too

TEA NEWS: Garden closure in Terai too – political blame game, the typical state of confusion that Bengal thrives in, while the poor & starving workers always lose out, while the well-fed management doesn’t care to solve problems but create them ?!!

 

‘Non-performance’ lock (TT) - tea workers denied the right to work or earn a daily wage by Bengal's bankrupt politics and policies ?!!

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

 

Siliguri, Dec. 10: The Belgachi Tea Estate at Naxalbari today became the first garden in the Terai to be shut down in the recent past with the management attributing lawlessness and non-performance of workers to the closure.

Asok Bhattacharya blamed trade unions affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad for the shutdown, though the Citu pointed finger at the management’s inefficiency for the closure.

“The management faces inconveniences in the day-to-day running of the estate as labourers stay away from duties or work for only one-and-a-half hours, instead of the stipulated eight hours, a day. They also resort to agitation frequently and steal plants, causing losses to the estate,” reads a notice put up by K.K. Jha, the manager of the garden.

The plantation located 30km from here employs around 800 permanent workers and an equal number of casual workers. The garden was taken over by the Belgachi Tea Company Limited in December 2009. Although many tea estates in the Dooars are locked out quite frequently, Belgachi is the first garden in neighbouring Terai to announce suspension of work this year.

The state urban development minister Bhattacharya said: “The garden in the Terai has closed down only because of immature trade unionism by the leaders and members of newly formed trade unions affiliated to the Morcha and the Parishad. Considering the present state of affairs in the tea industry, no other reason can be cited for the shutdown.”

Bhattacharya’s comment comes at a time the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union and the Progressive Tea Workers’ Union, affiliated to the Morcha and the Parishad, are rapidly expanding their bases in the brew belts of north Bengal, where the Citu and the Intuc used to hold sway over the labourers.

Both the unions slammed the minister for his comments. “We are a minority in Belgachi where other trade unions have strong bases. Performance of the new management has been miserable,” said Suraj Subba, the general secretary of the plantation labour union.

“As Asok Bhattacharya knows that the CPM will be in a pitiable condition in the ensuing Assembly polls, he is trying to create confusion among workers by making baseless comments against us. He is continuing his propaganda against the Morcha even in tea belt.”

Baijnath Naik, the general secretary of the progressive union, said: “Whatever the minister has said is false. The management’s refusal to infuse fresh funds to clear the workers’ dues had led to the closure.”

The CPM-affiliated Citu alleged that the new management had not paid gratuities and provident funds due to retired workers. “Facilities in the garden have also dried up with irregularities in payment of wages and ration,” said Gautam Ghosh, a district Citu leader from Naxalbari.