Times of India

A liberal but strong state is need of the hour

The mistake is to think that the current paralysis in decision making in Delhi is limited to politicians. Gutless bureaucrats, risk averse at the best of times, have done as much damage. India’s economy has sound fundamentals and is today one of the world’s strongest, but its confidence has been badly shaken by a weak state that cannot enforce its own laws, let alone enact its legislative agenda. Partly to blame is the Anna Hazare movement which has led to contempt for state institutions.

When democracy won but the people lost

The past two weeks witnessed a remarkable spectacle in which India’s democracy won but India’s people lost. On November 24, the government announced a bold reform to allow 51% foreign stake in retail. It triggered off a storm of protest across the political spectrum, and eventually forced the government to back down and suspend the reform. During the entire debate no one asked why China and dozens of countries welcome foreign investment in retail.

Duty or revenge, no one is above the law

On a sweltering afternoon on September 29th principal district judge S. Kumarguru began to hand out sentences. There was a hushed silence in the packed courtroom in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu. He began at 3.30 but could not finish until 4.40 because he had to read aloud the names of 215 government officials. Among those convicted were 126 forest officials, 84 policemen and 5 revenue officials. Seventeen were convicted of rape and they were sentenced from seven to 17 years; others received from one to three years on counts of torture, unlawful restraint, looting and misuse of office.

A primer for the corruption fighter

The dust has settled and a degree of calm prevails. Anna Hazare has returned to his village after conquering Delhi. He ought to consolidate his gains now before letting loose another storm. He would do well to sit down with his advisors in this lull and draw up a result oriented, longer term agenda to fight corruption. To this end, I offer Team Anna a primer on what we know about corruption--what works and what doesn’t--a sort of corruption fighter’s manual.

Middle class gets back its dignity

A year ago no one could have imagined that cabinet ministers, powerful politicians, senior officials and CEOs would be in Tihar jail awaiting trial. Corruption is no longer the news about India; it is our unexpected and puzzling response to it. What explains the unending movement against bribery is an increasingly self-assured and impatient new middle class, which has finally attained self respect and dignity and is being taken seriously by the media. The middle class will become 50% of India’s population by 2020, and when that happens our politics will also change.

Judging sex, lies, war and yoga politics

Human beings are flawed animals with plenty of good and bad in them. They are also addicted to judging each other. During the past month there has been plenty of high moralizing about the world’s most powerful leaders. But in most cases the judgements have often been flawed as I will show in the cases of Dominique Strauss Kahn, Osama bin Laden, Rajat Gupta and Baba Ram Dev.

Good omens for rule of law in India

On April 8, the day before Anna Hazare broke his fast, I was in Cairo to present the ‘Indian model’ for Egypt's future. After the conference, a few of us wandered off to Tahrir Square, where a massive demonstration had broken out.  Through a twist of fate, I found myself suddenly on the podium, offering good wishes to the 37,000 protesters from the people of Al Hind. In the next three minutes I tried to convey a lesson from India’s democracy: it is not elections, not liberty, not equality that finally matters; it is the rule of law. Corruption persists in India because the rule of law is weak.

Politics of feebies promises a bleak future

The stench of corruption travels quickly from Delhi. With the news that Tamilnadu chief minister’s daughter, Kanimozhi is soon to be charged by the CBI, the money trail in Raja’s 2G scam seems to be established. The noose is tightening and DMK’s PR machine is working overtime to spread ‘sincere lies’ before the state election on April 13. Each of the major parties--the DMK and the AIDMK--commands the loyalty of about a third of the voters. The Congress, DMK’s junior partner, controls 12% to 15% of the vote and Vijaykanth, AIDMK’s partner, holds around 9%. The AIDMK has the advantage of anti-incumbency but it will be a close contest. What should concern us, however, is another form of corruption raging under the bright Tamil sun that challenges our political morality.

It is immoral for us to slow growth

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said last Sunday that his country’s annual growth target has been lowered to seven percent for the next five years. He made this remark in an on-line chat with the nation. “We must no longer sacrifice the environment for the sake of rapid growth as that is unsustainable,” he said. He urged the government to shift its focus from GDP growth to the quality and benefits of growth.

Is it Criminal to think small in India?

 There are two spaces in the politics of India. And one of them is empty. The two spaces reflect the classic division between those who look ahead and aspire versus those who look back and complain. Our political parties cater to the second–to the victim in us through their politics of grievance. The present gridlock in the parliament is also symptom of the same dispirited politics—no party is sufficiently hungry for reform to break the logjam.