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EDITORIAL

Supremacy of Parliament

After twelve days of hectic interaction between the government and the civil society team, a breakthrough has been made. It is India's victory. It has established the supremacy of the Parliament, a subject that that had unfortunately come under unnecessary debate. None among the stakeholders was against strong rules to combat corruption, a social evil of serious implications. But the modalities were a contentious issue. Now a compromise formula has finally emerged and both sides have realized that neither the pressure of public opinion can be disregarded nor constitutional obligations overlooked. The world was watching the standoff with great curiosity. It is now convinced that Indian democracy has the capacity and resilience to absorb shocks howsoever ........more

Boosting medical services

Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad has been frugal to his home State in seeing that medical services in J&K are streamlined and maximized to reach the needy people. Owing to the fact that J&K is a hilly state and connectivity is a rather strained, people living at far off places find it difficult to get medical treatment in time and save precious lives. Apart from this, the ever increasing population of the twin capitals, Jammu and Srinagar, has put great strain on existing medical services. To mitigate the difficulties of the people of the State, the former Chief Minster and current Union Health Minister has gone out of way to establish two Super Special Hospitals in these two cities. During his recent meeting convened to review the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Education Department at Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi, he had a detailed discussion . ........more

Road accidents

By Sayed Essar Naqvi

This articles has been composed in view of the accident that took place recently.
The accident took place when a bus was coming from Surankote to Poonch. It fell into a gorge near Madana area. Around twenty persons were killed and the number of the injured was even more than this. Those who died include women and children also. It was so terrible that the bus was almost crushed. Escaping death from such a situation is only a miracle. .. .. .
...more

Woes of Air India

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

Kautilya says in Arthasastra "Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or poison that finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government employee not to eat up a part of government revenue. Just as it is not possible to find whether the fish moving under water is drinking water or not, similarly it is not possible to find out how much money the government employees have embezzled" . .. . ... ...more

India's coastal security

By Anirudh Prakash

In a recent statement to the parliament, the minister for state for home affairs stated that threats to major coastal cities from pan-Islamist terrorist outfits continue to exit. And he added that the government is ably prepared to respond to such threats. Notwithstanding such a claim by the government, doubts about the robustness of India's coastal security mechanism continue to linger; doubts that have been proven right by a series of events off t- ...more

EDITORIAL

Supremacy of Parliament

After twelve days of hectic interaction between the government and the civil society team, a breakthrough has been made. It is India's victory. It has established the supremacy of the Parliament, a subject that that had unfortunately come under unnecessary debate. None among the stakeholders was against strong rules to combat corruption, a social evil of serious implications. But the modalities were a contentious issue. Now a compromise formula has finally emerged and both sides have realized that neither the pressure of public opinion can be disregarded nor constitutional obligations overlooked. The world was watching the standoff with great curiosity. It is now convinced that Indian democracy has the capacity and resilience to absorb shocks howsoever challenging. Of course, credit should go to Anna Hazare not only for generating awareness among the people but more importantly for leading the movement without the minutest incident of violence. It was in true Gandhian in spirit. If at all any violence was noticed in this entire bizarre happening, it was Delhi police's brutal attack on the rally of Baba Ramdev for which Union Home Minister has to be answerable.
The decision of the Parliament expressed in new terminology as "Sense of House' accepting three points of Jan Lokpal Bill draft has been conveyed by the Prime Minister in his letter to Anna Hazare. It shows that the Prime Minister was much concerned about the situation, and had twice made appeal to the fasting civil activist to break his fast as his life was precious for the nation. Now the task before the Parliament and the government is to give teeth to the Lokpal Bill in a manner that neither the law of the land is violated or the authority of the Parliament is not challenged nor are corrupt and tainted functionaries spared the brunt of law. Eradicating corruption is a complicated task but there is no turning away from taking some hard decisions in this context.

Boosting medical services

Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad has been frugal to his home State in seeing that medical services in J&K are streamlined and maximized to reach the needy people. Owing to the fact that J&K is a hilly state and connectivity is a rather strained, people living at far off places find it difficult to get medical treatment in time and save precious lives. Apart from this, the ever increasing population of the twin capitals, Jammu and Srinagar, has put great strain on existing medical services. To mitigate the difficulties of the people of the State, the former Chief Minster and current Union Health Minister has gone out of way to establish two Super Special Hospitals in these two cities. During his recent meeting convened to review the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Education Department at Nirman Bhawan in New Delhi, he had a detailed discussion on the project.
The idea of having two Super Specialty Hospitals, one each in Jammu and Srinagar, developed from the perception that on international level great advancement has been made in the field of medical sciences. India, though considered among countries with advanced medical services, still needs to keep pace with the fast developing new methodology of treatment and cure of diseases and researches in the field. It goes to the vision of the Union Minister not to have waited too long to streamline medical services in the country. By choosing his home state as the place for establishing advanced institutes, he has rendered great service to the State. Even prior to it, he was instrumental in providing a super class dental college and hospital to Jammu which is now a model of excellent dental hospitals in the country.

Road accidents

By Sayed Essar Naqvi

This articles has been composed in view of the accident that took place recently.
The accident took place when a bus was coming from Surankote to Poonch. It fell into a gorge near Madana area. Around twenty persons were killed and the number of the injured was even more than this. Those who died include women and children also. It was so terrible that the bus was almost crushed. Escaping death from such a situation is only a miracle. The tragedy left many homes merely houses comprising of bricks and stones. There are certain families which lost their only earning member of their family. Which inturn left them economically paralyzed. They are left to the mercy of almighty.
This is not the first time that this sort of accident occurred on this route in particular and other routes of Poonch in general. Similar sort of accident took place on the same route in 2008 itself which claimed many lives and hence left many individuals helpless.
A simple question comes after looking at the above narrated picture of the accident that is, what could be the cause of these types of mis-happenings? First and foremost, the observable reason is the condition of vehicles deployed in that particular route. Almost all of them are in undesirable condition. For instance, the condition of their tyres is so miserable that they seem merely tubes rather than complete tyres. The conditions seem like that not tyres but tubes are running on the roads. Simply speaking, the condition of vehicles is so miserable that everything of their body moves except for engine. It's very common that the people travelling on these routes often encounter with problems like puncturing of tyres etc. Sometimes these problems end up in extreme cases like an accident.
Secondly, the drivers who drive on these local routes seem undertrained. Being the inhabitants of local areas they are well accustomed with the routes and their nature but actually don't seem have got enough training to drive safely on the roads. As a the result of this they fail to handle the vehicle smartly and sometimes get killed themselves even.
Apart from poor condition of the vehicles and undertrained drivers the overloading of the vehicles could also be held responsible for the mishappening like this. The number of passengers exceeds the permitted which results in overcrowding and consequently imbalances the situation. It may occasionally put the situation out of control for the drivers.
One could also admit that the most unexpected cause of tragedies like this is the casual attitude of the concerned authorities. For instance, the condition of the vehicles is something which is occasionally enquired. Also, least attention is paid to check the overloading of the transported vehicles on these sorts of routes.
Lastly, I intend to suggest the probable remedies or precautions which could be exercised to avoid such disastrous accidents. These precautions are precisely the avoidance of the cause which is supportive for an accident to occur. First of all the condition of the concerned vehicles should be improved. There should be a limit for the vehicle to run before it undergoes repairment.
Besides, travelling agents should be strictly directed by the concerned authorities not to overload the buses and other vehicles. In case anybody is found guilty of overloading he/she should be strictly punished with heavy fine which should also go to the extent of cancellation of permits in the extreme cases. One could also expect the co-operation of people regarding this issue. They should also acquire the awareness of not travelling in the overcrowded buses in hurry because better be late than never. People can also pressurize drivers not drive overloaded buses.
It is our fundamental as well as moral duty to save our people from unnatural deaths like an accident. Representatives along with the administration of the concerned areas are required to trace out the causes of these kinds of accidents and remove them. Automatically, the effect would be good and smooth transport facilities. Also, the people are required to have enough awareness to make themselves safe. They can help themselves through the continuous awareness of the condition of the vehicle and not letting it to overload. If any vehicle is found guilty of it they are supposed to complain the concerned authorities. Reciprocally, authorities are supposed to take action against the culprits of the same. Only a safe road and good conditioned vehicle can make one to think of travelling safely. And only then travelling could become a hobby.

Woes of Air India

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

Kautilya says in Arthasastra "Just as it is impossible not to taste the honey or poison that finds itself at the tip of the tongue, so it is impossible for a government employee not to eat up a part of government revenue. Just as it is not possible to find whether the fish moving under water is drinking water or not, similarly it is not possible to find out how much money the government employees have embezzled" (2.9). This is the difficult situation when the Ministers are honest and keen to weed out corruption. One can imagine the hapless situation when the Ministers join the officials in capturing illegal benefits. This is the story of Air India.
The draft report of CAG reportedly points out that Air India voluntarily closed services on profitable routes. The Amritsar-Birmingham service was started in 2005. This was closed in 2008 citing 'technical problems.' Soon thereafter Jet Airways started service on this route. Similarly services were closed on the profitable Kolkata-Bangkok and Kolkata-Dhaka routes. Kingfisher and Jet Airways started services here. Other routes closed were those of Delhi-Kochi, Kochi-Kuwait and Kochi-Muscat. The management preferred to operate only on easy routes even if they were unprofitable.
Air India entered into a contract to buy 111 airplanes at a massive cost of Rs 44,000 crores in 2005 when the company's market share was declining and the balance sheet was in the red. Air India took 28 airplanes on dry lease between 2000 and 2005 even though it did not have pilots to fly these. The management was more excited about making purchases than making profits for the company. The company has the highest employee per aircraft in the industry. The management was more interested in making fresh appointments rather than getting works done from existing employees.
Two paths are open to the officials of a Public Sector Undertakings. First route is of making the company profitable. This involves confronting and haggling with the Employees Union and vendors. The airline industry is much dependent upon customer interface. Polite and warm dealing by the staff brings in customers. This requires much effort in cultivating Human Resources. This path is full of thorns. The results are also uncertain. Disgruntled employees can complain to the Minister and have the MD transferred. Therefore, PSU officials prefer to tread the other easier path. They close profitable routes so that they do not have to struggle with technical problems. They bother not about the quality of service lest they step on the toes of the Unions. They dance to the tune of the minister and secretaries of their parent ministry and provide them with various facilities. They start air service to an unprofitable destination in the Minister's constituency even though it may be a loss proposition for the company. One high official of Air India said "I feel like a woman with 1,000 husbands," referring to the constant demands from government officials. It is more convenient for the officials to join the minister and the secretaries in bleeding the company, than resisting the demands of the minister and secretaries and facing their ire. The problem is not restricted to Air India. It is common to other PSUs like MTNL and Prasar Bharati which too are running in loss.
An unholy nexus has been established between the minister, secretaries and officials of the PSUs. All get opportunities of making money on the sly in this dispensation.
They can get commissions in purchases, appoint favourite persons, and also use or misuse facilities like guest houses and free seats. In return, the secretaries ensure continued flow of government money. Privatizing the company will deprive the secretaries of the various benefits that they get. Therefore, they plead with the Government to provide more funds to keep the company afloat. Recently Rs 800 crores has been provided to Air India as equity by the Government. The money will ensure that the stream of benefits accruing to the minister and secretaries will continue unabated.
It would be necessary for the officials of the company to improve morale of the employees and remove the inefficient among them, sort out technical problems, return excess leased aircraft and cancel excess orders to make the company profitable. Instead Air India has embarked on reducing incentives of the staff to cut costs; and slash fares to increase customers. This will not work. Fewer incentives will weaken the staff morale and cancel benefits that may arise from slashing of fares. The reduced revenues from slashed fares will make things worse.
Peter Harbison, executive chairman of Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a research group in Sydney, Australia, singled out Air India as an example of government mismanagement. "There are other state-owned airlines in other emerging-market countries that have similar problems, but I can't think of one as bad as Air India," he said. He cited Indonesia's national carrier, Garuda, which once was an airline with heavy debts and a fleet of unsafe old planes that regulators in Europe refused to let land there. But under a businessman, Emirsyah Satar, who was named chief executive in 2005, Garuda Indonesia has been transformed into a profitable company.
These problems of Air India are rooted in the very nature of PSUs. Running a business requires a temperament very different than that of an official. A successful businessman smells and thinks money morning, evening and night. The official is thinking more about his promotions and keeping the minister in good humour. Therefore, fundamentally, the Government must not enter into business at all. This is the learning from the spate of failed nationalizations made by Indira Gandhi. The Government may, if at all, enter business for a short period in areas where the private sector fears to tread. For example, the Government will be well advised to invest in a company to launch commercial satellites. Private businessmen may not have the knowledge or the risk taking ability to enter such hazy areas. The Government may privatize it once the company is successful. It is better to privatize a PSU when profitable than to privatize it when it starts making losses.
We should not get confused by the few exceptions to this rule. Most profitable PSUs are today monopolies or have huge historical investments. The State Bank of India, for example, has a huge network that was built over more than a century. It manages the clearing house in most cities. These factors give it an edge over newly formed private sector banks. This formula, however, is not applicable to companies like Air India, MTNL and Prasar Bharati which are not able to face competition from private players. Role of the government is to regulate and guide private businesses. The government must not step into their shoes. We must privatize Air India as soon as possible.

India's coastal security

By Anirudh Prakash

In a recent statement to the parliament, the minister for state for home affairs stated that threats to major coastal cities from pan-Islamist terrorist outfits continue to exit. And he added that the government is ably prepared to respond to such threats. Notwithstanding such a claim by the government, doubts about the robustness of India's coastal security mechanism continue to linger; doubts that have been proven right by a series of events off the Mumbai coast in the last few months.
Firstly, on June 12, 2011, a cargo ship M.V. Wisdom which was en route to Alang in Gujarat drifted towards the Mumbai coast after breaking its tug and eventually got stranded in Juhu beach. This incident was followed by another involving a Panama flagged ship, M.V. Pavit, which ran aground near Juhu beach on July 30, 2011 after having been abandoned by its crew a month earlier near Oman. The most worrisome part in this episode was the fact that this ship drifted in the Indian territorial waters for nearly 100 hours and remained undetected by the navy, the coast guard and the coastal police - the three agencies entrusted with the responsibility of coastal security. A few days later, on August 4, 2011, yet another Panama flagged oil tanker, M. V. Rak with 60,000 metric tonnes of coal and 340 tonnes of fuel oil on board sank off the coast of Mumbai. The sinking ship discharged more than 25 tonnes of oil resulting in a major oil spill and thereby endangering marine life in the area.
The government's approach towards coastal security has always been reactive and top down. Corrective measures were undertaken only after a major incident and implemented without preparing the environment at the ground level and thus enable them to function effectively. To begin with, large-scale smuggling along the western coast had compelled the government to establish the coast guard in August 1978 with a mandate to protect the maritime and national interests of the country as well as to assist in anti-smuggling operations. But the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai highlighted the fact that an inadequately manned and ill-equipped coast guard alone cannot safeguard the coasts. Instead of addressing the fundamental issue of lack of manpower and inadequate equipment, the Indian government launched a new scheme to cater for the terror challenge. This was Operation Swan, launched in August 1993 to prevent clandestine landings along the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts. It was a three layer security arrangement involving the navy, the coast guard and a joint patrolling team drawn from personnel belonging to the navy, coast guard, state police, and customs. While the underlying idea appears doable, the fact remains that Operation Swan has not resulted in a single seizure even after being for 18-years. Inadequate attention paid to overcome the basic problems of coordination, manpower, equipment, and motivation among the various concerned agencies at the ground level has been the main reason for this failure.
Even as Operation Swan was in progress, the Indian government launched yet another ambitious project - the Coastal Security Scheme in 2005, which involved setting up a series of coastal police stations to strengthen the surveillance infrastructure along the coast. The scheme was, however, a non starter because the coastal states did not display any enthusiasm in implementing it as they did not perceive any threat to their coasts. Despite Mumbai being a preferred target of the terrorists, Maharashtra too implemented the scheme only in a piecemeal manner. Moreover, the decision to set up coastal police stations with a mandate to patrol shallow waters gave an excuse for the navy to withdraw from joint patrolling immediately. Thus, coastal defence along Mumbai was rendered weak, giving an opportunity for the terrorists to strike.
The severity of the 26/11 incident compelled the Indian government to take several measures to overhaul the coastal security apparatus. Yet again it insisted that the navy and the coast guard should pool their resources to guard India's territorial and coastal waters. It also instructed the state governments to establish coastal police stations and ensure that manpower and interceptor boats were provided to them.
Over the last two years, various measures to strengthen coastal security have begun to be gradually implemented. For instance, the navy has assumed the responsibility of coastal security and has set up four joint operation centres for better coordination. It has also increased surveillance patrols along the coast and has been conducting several joint coastal security exercises. The coast guard, likewise, has set up five coast guard stations along with a regional and a divisional head quarter and is in the process of setting up four more stations. It has also inducted several offshore patrol vessels which have helped in stepping up patrolling along the coasts and territorial waters. Similarly, under the coastal security scheme, 72 coastal police stations have been operationalised and an additional 154 police stations are in the process of being established in two phases. Around 183 interceptor boats have been provided to the police stations and their manpower is being enhanced.
However, incidents of ships drifting in the country's territorial waters undetected raise questions about the effectiveness of all these measures. Here, it is important to reiterate that the problem lies not in the measures adopted but in the inadequate attention paid to the functioning of the system at the ground level where the actual action takes place. For example, a series of coastal police stations have been operationalised, with some having adequate manpower and interceptor boats. Still these police stations have been unable to function effectively which was evident during the M.V. Pavit incident. There are reasons behind such failure.
Firstly, sufficient attention has not been paid to provide these police stations with essential requirements such as proper training to their personnel for sea operations, adequate fuel and funds for the running and maintenance of the boats, buildings for police stations, etc. Secondly, the respective jurisdictions of the coastal police stations and police stations located near the shores have not been communicated clearly to the personnel on the ground, leading to widespread confusion. Thirdly, information sharing and coordination between the marine police, coast guard and navy remain a problem. At present whatever coordination or information sharing takes place between the three agencies is largely based on personal rapport between the concerned officers. But this rapport has to be institutionalised. And most importantly, if India's coastal security has to become strong, it is essential for the police forces in the coastal states to shed their land centric outlook and turn their attention to coastal security duties as well. (INAV)



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