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EDITORIAL

Architects of Future

September 5 is observed as Teachers' Day in our country. This is in remembrance of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the eminent philosopher-teacher, a frontline freedom fighter, Professor of Indian Philosophy at Oxford and the former President of India. The name of this great son of the soil lends honour and credibility to the teaching community of our country. The world has recognized his contribution to higher education and to the ethical code of teaching community.
Our State does not lag behind in remembering the great educationist who has inspired many a teacher in and out of service in the State. The day was observed all over the State and in most of educational institutions from lowest to the highest level. The Chief Minister addressed a large gathering at SKICC, most of them teachers, and also presented certificates of honour to some of the distinguished teachers drawn from various institutions. Speaking on the occasion,
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Pak Army-Theo fascist nexus

Defence Ministry is showing signs of concern over consistent infiltration bids by the terrorists from across the LoC. Top echelons of the Ministry, besides the top brass of the Army have been making repeated on-spot visits to forward areas along the LoC but more particularly the Tanghdar, Keran and Macchil sectors of district Kupwara. During last two months the terrorists from across the LoC have made no fewer than a dozen attempts to sneak into Indian side of the line. The alert jawans of the army foiled their attempts and inflicted casualties on them. After tight vigil along the LoC by Army, which led to failure of militant plans to infiltrate, the Pakistani troops .....more

Lokpal Bill has positive import

By Amulya Ganguli

The civil society members are not the first critics of a government to face official probes into their past. The most celebrated victim of the government's wrath in recent years was the website, Tehelka.com, following its expose in 2001 of fraudulent deals involving the then defence minister, George Fernandes, and BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, who was caught on camera accepting a bribe. . . .. . ...more

Corporates can strengthen banking sector

By Anjan Roy

India's public sector banks have made huge strides since the days of nationalization. They now handle unrecognizably large deposits compared with the pre-nationalisation days; they have far greater resilience in terms of capital base and own funds; they are offering varied products to their . ...more

Politics of sports
Quit being spoil sports!

By Poonam I Kaushish

In this Anna season of transparency, our netagan continue to thrive on ambiguity. Kudos to Sports Minister Ajay Maken who's National Sports (Development) Bill entails sweeping away the cobwebs that ensnare Indian sports in its deadly vicious tentacles. Only to be nastily bitten by his 'sporty' compatriots, who not only cried foul, refused to play ball but also tried clean-bowling him for intruding on their terrain. Welcome to the sleazy world of political sports!
Significantly, the Bill to ... .
...more

EDITORIAL

Architects of Future

September 5 is observed as Teachers' Day in our country. This is in remembrance of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the eminent philosopher-teacher, a frontline freedom fighter, Professor of Indian Philosophy at Oxford and the former President of India. The name of this great son of the soil lends honour and credibility to the teaching community of our country. The world has recognized his contribution to higher education and to the ethical code of teaching community.
Our State does not lag behind in remembering the great educationist who has inspired many a teacher in and out of service in the State. The day was observed all over the State and in most of educational institutions from lowest to the highest level. The Chief Minister addressed a large gathering at SKICC, most of them teachers, and also presented certificates of honour to some of the distinguished teachers drawn from various institutions. Speaking on the occasion, the CM gave the teaching community the right place and status they deserve. He called them the "architects of future". He reminded them of their duties and also mentioned about the responsibilities of the government in improving the life of the teachers of his state.
There are no two opinions about the importance and relevance of teachers to the future prosperity and progress of the nation. Dedicated and duty conscious teachers are always remembered by their students even when these students reach the heights of position and status in their lives. Teachers are proud that they are remembered with affection and live memories. Celebration of Teachers' Day in all the three regions of the State including many far off and remote places and even in primary schools indicates that society is fully conscious of the importance of education. Now if the society recognizes this, it is logical that teachers will have to prove themselves to be worthy of the honour bestowed on them. While most of the teachers at all levels are dedicated persons but of lately some reports have been coming in that cast a shadow on the character and honesty of some of the irresponsible members of teaching community. For example, in recent months the Education Minister or senior officers of the department while on a surprise checking visit found many teachers absent from duty. There have also been complaints lodged by local persons against some teachers in their respective schools for dereliction of duty. Even in some cases, the Headmasters and Principals, too, have been alleged to be carelessly performing their duty. Even charges of graft have also been leveled against some officials in the Directorate of Education. All this leaves a bad taste. Nobody expects teachers to be accused of dereliction of duty. The reason is that a teacher has to be a model of an upright person as the impact of his life and work is enormous on the mind of the taught. He has to be fully conscious of his duty as the architect of the future of the country and the nation. We are aware that in many cases justice is not done to the teachers as a whole and in some individual cases, very rough treatment is meted out to them by the government. This is a sad part of the story. The authorities are within their jurisdiction to visit the performance of teachers and suggest both appreciations as well as reprimand whatever is demanded by circumstances. But individual cases cannot become generalization. In his address to the teachers, the Chief Minister hinted at Government's intention of removing the grievances of teachers in many ways and announced that the matter was under the consideration of the Cabinet sub-committee.
In final analysis, it needs to be said that great advancement in science and technology has made a deep impact on our educational system, on curricula, on approach and delivery. This calls for many far-reaching reforms in the entire educational system so as to make it compatible with the needs of today and tomorrow. That will also necessitate re-visiting the role and functionality of the teaching community, their life style and their economic well being. The Department of Education might need a comprehensive reassessment of all these things.

Pak Army-Theo fascist nexus

Defence Ministry is showing signs of concern over consistent infiltration bids by the terrorists from across the LoC. Top echelons of the Ministry, besides the top brass of the Army have been making repeated on-spot visits to forward areas along the LoC but more particularly the Tanghdar, Keran and Macchil sectors of district Kupwara. During last two months the terrorists from across the LoC have made no fewer than a dozen attempts to sneak into Indian side of the line. The alert jawans of the army foiled their attempts and inflicted casualties on them. After tight vigil along the LoC by Army, which led to failure of militant plans to infiltrate, the Pakistani troops along the LoC of late started giving cover to the militants by resorting to ceasefire violations. One JCO of the Army was killed and in retaliatory firing three Pakistani soldiers were also killed.
This is not a happy situation. The Defence Secretary has recently visited the forward posts in Tangdhar, Kupwara where the terrorists had tried to infiltrate in a large number. According to informed sources with the Army, no fewer than 3,000 well armed terrorist groups are waiting in different camps along the LoC in the above stated sector and ready to infiltrate. The meeting of the visiting Defence Secretary with the Commanders, the Governor and the CM for assessing the ground situation is of much significance. Even a little while ago, high ranking officials of the Defence Ministry had also made similar visits. This indicates that all is not well in the aforementioned sector. Recurrent violation of cease fire by Pakistani troops, artillery fire to provide cover to the infiltrators and interception of radio and satellite phones all point to a tense situation along the line. It could be the fallout of deepening crisis in Pakistan where Army wants to do something to retrieve its position humiliated in the aftermath of American commando attack on and liquidation of Osama bin Laden. Our Army would be well advised to keep its powder dry as the nexus between Pakistan Army and the Theo-fascists in that country is deepening fast.

Lokpal Bill has positive import

By Amulya Ganguli

The civil society members are not the first critics of a government to face official probes into their past. The most celebrated victim of the government's wrath in recent years was the website, Tehelka.com, following its expose in 2001 of fraudulent deals involving the then defence minister, George Fernandes, and BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, who was caught on camera accepting a bribe. For its pains, the company was "ruined", as the Wikipedia claims, because the Atal Behari Vajpayee government let loose the police and tax authorities against it.
Compared to that onslaught, the charges against Arvind Kejriwal and others are mild, as of now. Given the present tattered reputation of the Manmohan Singh government, it is unlikely that it will be as venomous as the Vajpayee government. But, if there is a lesson from these episodes, it is that it is high time that a powerful ombudsman is installed. Otherwise, there is no way that the government's vindictiveness against its opponents can be curbed.
So, the Lokpal is not only necessary to catch the corrupt. It will also act as a check against official arbitrariness if only because it will be a body to which complaints can be filed with a reasonable expectation that they will be seriously considered. This will be a sea change from the present arrangement, where inquiry commissions are set up which prove to be virtually useless not only because of the inordinately long time they take to come to a conclusion, but also because their verdicts do not always carry conviction.
To return to the Tehelka case, in a classic instance of shooting the messenger, the terms of reference of the first commission, which was set up to probe the scandal, were to probe the credentials of the journalists who had conducted the sting operations ! After the judge heading it resigned, another judge was appointed, but he gave Fernandes a clean chit in his interim report. Considering that the Narendra Modi government, too, has been exonerated of any wrong-doing by the Nanavati-Mehta commission in its first report on the Gujarat riots, it is obvious that this form of inquiry is beginning to lose its credibility.
Hence, the need for a Lokpal. Since the kind of behaviour of which Laxman and Fernandes - in whose house a monetary transaction was secretly filmed - were accused fall in the category of corruption, the Lokpal can play a role in similar cases not only by preventing the harassment of whistle-blowers, but also by probing the alleged sin, which is its main business. But, that is not all. The fact that the CBI will have relative autonomy because of its close association with the Lokpal will also prevent its misuse by the government, which has not hesitated to use this premier investigating agency to target critics and even political adversaries.
What is more, autonomy can make other outfits like the police shed their dependence on the government. At present, the police officers and men seem to have no option but to meekly carry out the orders of their political bosses - whether it is let a community vent its anger on another, as they were apparently asked to do in Gujarat, or to let a gang of hooligans "invade" an area controlled by the latter's political opponents, as in Nandigram.
Once, however, it is seen that an independent Lokpal is able to exert a restraining influence on the government, more and more police officers will be able to follow their conscience instead of illegal verbal orders from above. The resultant cleansing effect on the system as a whole will be immense. For this to happen, a credible ombudsman is unavoidable. But, the way in which its proponents are pushing its case is damaging rather than helping their cause. Instead of challenging and bad-mouthing the government, the political parties (except the Congress) and the parliamentary system, what the Anna camp could have done was to enlist the cooperation of activists like Aruna Roy, Jayaprakash Narayan and others to push its case.
But, the self-righteousness, which has guided the team from the start, has made it see everything in black and white, with only those who are with Anna being on the side of the angels. By their mulishness, they have only played into the government's hands, which will embroil the activists in so many court cases that they will have little time for their main campaign. Moreover, their legal difficulties may not evoke too much sympathy because of their infuriating pompousness, which has unfortunately been encouraged by several television channels, both Hindi and English, which are more intent on augmenting the number of their viewers than on being objective.
The mistake which the civil activists made was to believe that since popular enthusiasm would carry them past the victory post, there was no need for tactical ploys. But what they did not realize was that the government was waiting for them to pause for breath before launching an offensive. (IPA)

Corporates can strengthen banking sector

By Anjan Roy

India's public sector banks have made huge strides since the days of nationalization. They now handle unrecognizably large deposits compared with the pre-nationalisation days; they have far greater resilience in terms of capital base and own funds; they are offering varied products to their customers; and, the public sector banks handle no less than 80% of all banking transactions in the country.
Although there are 27 PSBs, in a way they are all same and the virtual monopoly of the public sector in India's banking scene is giving rise to demands for greater competition. It is in this context that the former Governor of Reserve Bank and currently chairman of the Prime minister's economic Advisory council, Dr C. Rangarajan, observed last week that Indian banking needs greater competition. That means we need to open up the banking industry window a little more to allow fresh players. This demand is now on the way to being met with the Reserve Bank issuing draft guidelines for giving licences for new banks last week.
The idea of giving new bank licences and admitting new banks has been in the air for at least a year now. Exactly a year back, in August 2010, Reserve Bank had released its "Discussion Paper on New Bank Licences" inviting comments on the policy issues relating to allowing fresh players into banking. Easy say that after over forty years it is time to admit new banks, this is fraught with grave concerns as well. After all, banking is not like any other industry. Financial sector plays a critical role in the economy and any disruption in any part of the financial architecture of an economy can have impact on the entire economy. The recent history of financial melt-down in the developed economies once again is a grim reminder.
The draft policy resolves one of the key questions that were raised in the RBI discussion paper, that is, whether private corporate sector should be allowed to float new banks. It allows the private corporate sector to start new banks under some very strict conditions. These include stipulations that promoter groups having assets or income from real estate or broking business in excess of 10% will not be eligible to float a bank. Besides, there are provisions which seek to maintain an arms' length relation between the promoter groups and the banks. For example, any exposure of the bank to a promoter group company in excess 10% shall not be permitted or exposure in exposure in excess of 20% to the entire group of companies will be ineligible. Similarly, half of the directors of the banks shall be independent ones.
Just before the new bank licensing policy was announced the Reserve Bank Governor had expressed his reservations about "self-dealing" by private corporate promoters if they are allowed to promote new banks. There are very many other concerns as well, such as, conflict of interests between bank shareholders and depositors. While shareholders will prefer risk taking for higher gains, bank depositors will surely ask for safer investments to protect their money in the banks. The cases of some of the big banks which faced bankruptcy in course of the financial melt-down are illustrative of the dichotomy of interests between shareholders and depositors.
While the discussions paper had examined in detail the pros and cons of each of these subjects, the most sensitive issues are whether private coporates should be allowed to float new banks and what should be their voting shares. When governor Subbarao referred to possibilities of "self-dealing" he was making a pointed reference to such collusion, between a promoter group and a bank, in the event of allowing private corporate entry into banking. Currently, the provision is that a bank cannot give loans or have transactions with an entity in which any of its directors is interested. Thus, if a company does not have a common director with a bank which it is promoting, there is no bar to the bank giving it funds. This is self-dealing. This can go against the interest of say banks depositors. Capturing the essence of the problem MrSubbarao observed: "By far the biggest apprehension is about self-dealing".
Private corporate promoters can further hide any self-dealing through an elaborate structure of cross holdings and corporate structures. The promoted banks could therefore turn into private pool of funds for corporate purposes. There would be no harm as long as things are going fine. However, in times of crisis unless funds are spread among a wide variety of private companies risks tend to get concentrated. Therefore too much funds into a single or handful of groups become vulnerable to the fortunes of these limited borrowers. Banks can fail with such corporate. This would spell disaster for the individual depositors.
At the same time, if the private corporates are debarred from floating banks, there might not be very many serious promoters who can float a really sound new bank. For one, banks cannot be floated with small core funds as equity. A new bank must start with a sufficiently large capital base -the draft policy states Rs500 crore-- to be a meaningful player. Such funds could come only from large corporate houses not from any other sources. It is well know that large houses including the Ambanis, Aditya Birla Group, Tatas are all in the running for banking licences. Of these, Tatas had at least one large bank at the time banks were taken over by the Government in late 'sixties. So also had the Birlas which had the third largest bank in their stable at the time of nationalization. Equally important, they have the talent pool to run such operations professionally and with competence.
If new private sector banks are to be allowed, it is inescapable that private corporates should be allowed to enter. Hence, what is needed is to introduce fool-proof rules and regulations for securing water-tight segmentation of banking activities from other activities of a group. The requirements of an arm's length segregation will call for changes in the current laws and more stringent rules have to be put in place than only the bar on common directors. Besides, RBI's supervisory powers will also have to be augmented to go into the accounts and funds flows of group companies.
In the end, the future structure of India's banking industry will evolve as new banks start functioning. No amount of a priori moves will ensure such an healthy separation between promoter groups and India's new private sector banks. The proof of the pudding will be in eating. Only hope is that so far the Reserve Bank of India has proved to be an eager, careful and cautious guardian of Indian banking. (IPA)

Politics of sports
Quit being spoil sports!

By Poonam I Kaushish

In this Anna season of transparency, our netagan continue to thrive on ambiguity. Kudos to Sports Minister Ajay Maken who's National Sports (Development) Bill entails sweeping away the cobwebs that ensnare Indian sports in its deadly vicious tentacles. Only to be nastily bitten by his 'sporty' compatriots, who not only cried foul, refused to play ball but also tried clean-bowling him for intruding on their terrain. Welcome to the sleazy world of political sports!
Significantly, the Bill to regulate sports bodies becomes imperative against the backdrop of the massive corruption in funding the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The Bill, now sent for re-drafting seeks transparency in the federations overseeing various games in the country, reserving 25 per cent seats for ex-sportspersons in sports bodies, strict anti-doping norms, elections under its supervision et al.
Our netagan's angst against Maken and his Bill arises over three issues: One, to regulate all sports federations and bring them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. Two, the 70 year age limit on the sports federations office-bearers. Three, time limit on term. Our 'un-sporty politicos refuse to buy Maken's correct assertions that his proposals are not about "more Government" or "less Government" but are simply about going about the business of sports transparently. "Are you saying that after RTI more transparency would come and everything else was hanky-panky before?" they counter.
Said sports 'big daddy' NCP supremo Union Agriculture Minister, ICC President and ex-BCCI Chief Sharad Pawar, "I will take this Bill with Sonia Gandhi. Said another, "Maken doesn't know anything that is the problem. Why is he interfering?" Dittoed one more, "We are being painted as villains as if we are gaining from these federations. Instead of showing himself as the savior Maken should concentrate on getting more money, modern technologies and development plans. Why is he concentrating on something which has nothing to do with sports development?" Really?
Now we know why. Think. India has over 40 sports associations, encompassing every game from archery to yachting. Each is headed by a politician or his 'chamcha' for years on end. Besides Pawar, BJP MP VK Malhotra, oversees the Archery Federation of India, for decades and is also the acting president of the Indian Olympic Association, Haryana INL MLA Ajay Chautala heads the Wrestling Association, NCP's Praful Patel and Heavy Industries Minister leads the All India Football Federation (Europe's governing body is headed by ex-French football player) and 83-years old Vidya Stokes Women's hockey.
Union Science Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh heads the Maharashtra Cricket Association, Cabinet colleagues CP Joshi and Farooq Abdullah lead Rajasthan and J&K Associations and RJD Chief Lalu Yadav controls Bihar's Cricket, former police officer K.P.S. Gill who knows nothing about hockey is the czar of the Indian Hockey Federation for 14 years. Other sports organizations like table tennis, boxing, judo et al are also led by politicians whose expertise in or knowledge of these games is at best tenuous.
Worse, in most sports, barring cricket, India's global rankings are abysmal and our medal prospects in international events zilch. Shockingly, our national sport hockey team failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. In football, India now ranks 158 in FIFA's global chart, below Palestine. Add to this, on paper, the administrators do their bit. In hockey, India had two foreign coaches, yet, all they had to say at the end of their tenures were how poorly hockey was run in the country!
Yet we call ourselves a nation of sport lovers. Spoil sports is more like it. Think. In a billion plus nation only 3 per cent of us play sports. Why do we have only the occasional Sachin Tendulkar, Abhinav Bindra, Vishwanathan Anand, Geet Sethi, Leander Paes and Saina Nehwal? Why can't we produce badminton players like the Indonesians and table tennis players like the Chinese? Or scout for swimming talent among three years old like Russian coaches do?
Sadly, games after games, year after year, it is the same story. India sends one of the largest contingents, but comes back with wins that are truly embarrassing. Since 1984, we have won only three Olympic medals while China managed 420 in the same period -- including 100 in the Beijing Olympics.
Significantly, most of these bodies are funded by the Government. The Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) is wealthy, but never refuses public funding in the form of tax breaks from the Central and State Governments, land and "directly or indirectly" benefits from the Government. Example: The Delhi and District Cricket Association gets the Ferozeshah Kotla ground for free but earn crores from matches. Also, other bodies too avail of entertainment tax, IT benefits and custom duty exemptions, which are just like a grant.
All agree that most associations are incompetent and venal and incestuously co-exist on bhaichara. Consider the massive women's athletics doping scandal after attaining Commonwealth glory took place right under the Athletic Federation bosses. The richest body, BCCI's running is completely opaque. Only last year the ouster of its IPL, aka Indian Paisa Limited, Chairman Lalit Modi was ousted under a cloud of graft charges thanks to the BCCI's non-accountability.
This is not all. More scandalous is the issue of 'conflict of interest' that arises from our polity heading various sports organizations. Appalling was the sight of some Ministers un-sportingly attended the Cabinet meeting to discuss the Sports Bill. Underscoring the 'high stakes' involved and the murkiness in Indian sports. Remember the serious Commonwealth Games fallouts thanks to multiple Ministers being in-charge of organizing them. As also India's TV cricket commentators are on the BCCI's payroll.
So, where does Sports in India go from here? Importantly, time to give politicians and babus the boot from sports bodies. Who break bend, warp, twist and ignore all rules, paving the way for mediocrity, degeneration and collapse. Politicians who have little to contribute, but a lot to gain and replace them with fine, upright, capable sports lovers or former sportsmen with a clear mandate to make India a super power in sports.
Undoubtedly, the Government needs to pull the country from this sports morass. The need of the hour demands change. And change can only come about via more scrutiny and transparency, albeit the re-drafted Bill. It should retain most of the existing clauses of the Bill including being run professionally and annual audit. All so vital to clean up Indian sports, make it a more professional affair to ensure accountability.
In sum, it is high time to set our sports house in order. Sport must become a national priority for India to do well. We will never reach 'golden' heights as long as the coaches have to report to a Joint Secretary in the Sports Ministry and players have to depend on official largesse.
Let's face it, rescuing sport from the grip of our netagan, deceit and money will be not only an uphill task but a lot of sweat and tears. It is not a question of Maken versus Pawar, Lalu or about "more Government" or "less Government". It is simply about doing the business of sports transparently. Time to stem the rot and do a Chak De India! Or else reconcile to being a nation spoil sports! - (INFA)



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