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Vivian Fernandes
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why I differ with Fr Frazer Mascarenhas of St Xavier's, Mumbai

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In an email to students of St Xavier's College, Mumbai, its principal Fr Frazer Mascarenhas has questioned the Gujarat model with its emphasis on private enterprise and growth, while favouring a rights and entitlements approach to development, which is the hallmark of the present government at the Centre (see Times of India, 23 April edition). 'All the human development index indicators and the cultural polarization of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last ten years,' says Fr Mascarenhas. Since I have written a book called Modi: Leadership, Governance and Performance (available on www.amazon.in and www.homeshop18.com), I feel compelled to dissect the assertions of Fr Mascarenhas (Fr FM), though I am by no means an apologist for Modi, but see myself as an journalist prejudiced towards Constitutional values and free markets. So here goes: Fr FM: 'The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital....

Sunday , April 06, 2014

Spot the difference between media cover-up of the 1984 and 2002 riots

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Reverence in the media to those in authority and a tendency to fall in line, allows those indulging in political mass murders to escape justice and investigators to engage in cover-ups, says Manoj Mitta, author of books on the 2002 and 1984 riots. Institutions have evolved since the 1984 riots. The National Human Rights Commission was set up in October 1993. The judicial conscience now stings; it does not merely prick. The NHRC under the late Justice JS Verma visited Gujarat's riot-affected areas and gave a report (31 May 2002). Under its new chairman, Justice AS Anand, it took the unusual step of moving a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, when Baroda's Best Bakery Case (fourteen killed) collapsed and all seventeen accused were set free by a trial court (in June 2003). The reason: the baker's daughter and the complainant and her family had turned hostile. They....

Sunday , March 09, 2014

Using the law to roll out illiberality

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The decision of a publisher to settle a civil defamation suit and stop selling a book on Hinduism is a celebration of the liberal principle, said senior advocate Aman Lekhi. The question whether the book hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus was being tested in court and the publishers ran away from it. The petitioners had not imposed their views, and the Constitution was not subverted, Lekhi said. But other speakers said the serial use of penal provisions by fundamentalists to harass and intimidate was a marker of creeping illiberality. None of them however supported the banning of books. The occasion was a debate organized by the Foundation for Media Professionals following a settlement made by Penguin Books with Delhi-based Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS) on February 4 to stop selling in India and withdraw unsold copies within six months of Wendy Doniger's book, 'About Hinduism, An Alternative History',....

Monday , February 17, 2014

Honest politics is AAP's economic policy: Kejriwal

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(Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal spoke at the Confederation of Indian Industry's national council meeting in Delhi on Monday (17 February, 2014). He clarified the party's attitude on private business. The party is seen as statist because it disallowed FDI in retailing, threatened to cancel the licenses of private power distributors, and filed corruption cases against Delhi's water utility officials involved in public private partnerships while in power for 49 days. Left parties believe that it is the private sector that corrupts politics. But Kejriwal reversed the equation. He said it is politics that corrupts business and encourages crony capitalism. Here is a high-fidelity summary of what he said.) Government does not do vikas (development). It is people, like you, who do vikas. The government has no business to be in business. The government's job Is to provide security to citizens, ensure justice and give honest governance. AAP....

Friday , January 31, 2014

Kejriwal must force open access to cut power tariffs, policing through CAG will not help

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Between 2008 and 2012, 1.32 lakh crore (or 1.32 trillion) units of power were sold in the country at an average wholesale prices of Rs 5 per unit, says Gajendra Haldea in an article in Dainik Bhaskar. Haldea is Advisor to Planning Commission Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and author of the Electricity Act 2003, which lays the basis for competition in the sector. Adding cost of distribution and overheads, this power should retail for Rs 8 per unit. None of the countries of India's size sell power at this rate, he says. When the US power company, Enron, supplied electricity from its Dabhol plant in Maharashtra at Rs 7.80 per unit in 2000, there was an outcry; the government abrogated the contract (by paying a huge penalty) and ejected Enron. The situation has not improved. State Electricity Boards buy costly power and sell it at a discount.....

Sunday , January 19, 2014

Media has been unrelenting after Muzaffarnagar riots; it was inert before

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'The media is the voice of the voiceless. It did a splendid job on the Muzaffarnagar riots,' but if it had seen a pattern in the over one hundred communal incidents that have occurred in Uttar Pradesh since the Akhilesh Yadav government took office and was as vigilant then as after the riots, localized clashes would not have flared up and resulted in 48 deaths and displacement of about 50,000 persons, almost all of them Muslim. This was the conclusion of Farah Naqvi, member of the National Advisory Council, and an organizer of relief to the survivors of both the Godhra (2002) and Muzaffarnagar (2013) riots. She was speaking at a debate on, 'Communal Violence: Has the Media Been Soft On Mulayam,' organized by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) at Delhi's Press Club on Saturday 18 January, 2014. But Madhukar Jetley of the Samajwadi Party said the....

Sunday , January 12, 2014

A grievance redress system for Kejriwal

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Having read about the chaos at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's janta darbar on the streets, I recommend Lokvani, an Internet-based grievance redress system which collector Amod Kumar installed in Sitapur district in 2004. In a large country like India, 'good governance is not possible with e-governance,' Kumar told me when I met him a few years later for a TV series. Lokvani and Kumar were awarded the Prime Minister's award for excellence in public administration. As UP's special secretary for IT, Zohra Chatterji bought the software from the non-profit society which Kumar had set up and gave it to all the other 69 (one less than now) districts of the state. In 2009, Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan persuaded collector Manju Rajpal to install Lokvani in Rajasthan's Bhilwara district. Lokvani was not Kumar's original idea. He improved upon similar systems that had been implemented in....

Tuesday , December 31, 2013

AAP disdains private partnerships but is best suited to make them work

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I would like to believe that the Aam Aadmi Party is an alternative that combines honest politics with a responsible attitude to public finances. Well-wishers like me want it be compassionate and caring. But we want it to move away from the politics of patronage and the culture of subsidies that have characterized Indian politics so far. The announcement of free water up to 20,000 litres per household per month, has dented that hope to some extent. (The 50 percent subsidy for electricity consumers up to 400 units is a disappointment. Will regularization of contract employees be the next move?) Not so much because of the cost involved - which is not much, but because of the message it sends. It is not as if the previous government was unconcerned about the poor. The rate per 1,000 litres (kilolitre) up to 20 kl was Rs 3. That is Rs....

Sunday , December 29, 2013

Why Communists Hesitate To Step On Mulayam's Blue Suede Shoes

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If the riots that happened in Muzzafarnagar had occurred in Gujarat instead, we would have had no respite from the Communist cacophony. There would have been ( rightly) daily denunciations and protests. Left leaders Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, Sitaram Yechury, A B Bardhan and D Raja would have worked themselves up into a lather. The RSS-VHP-BJP combine would have been skewered and chief minister Narendra Modi condemned by name. But have you heard any of our secular guardians name and shame Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav or Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav? It is as if they are bound by a code of silence. There is nothing to choose between communalisms which the RSS and the Samajwadi Party indulge in. But when Left parties slice and dice and go shrill on one and soft on another, they lose credibility. The loss of these allies, in a social,....

Monday , December 09, 2013

AAP should ensure it cannot be business as usual

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Some of us who voted for the Aam Aadmi Party did so hoping it would gain enough seats to become a pain in the side of the government. While governance is not rocket science, as AAP's national executive member Prithvi Reddy said on CNN-IBN, it does require compromise - not on principles but on issues. A ringside view of governance will be educative for the AAP; it will be an apprenticeship in the responsibilities of office (without having to shoulder it). I think the mandate for AAP is to sit in the opposition. It should allow the BJP to form a minority government and use it as a cat's paw. It must make the government wield the jhaadu (broom) at the cozy arrangement that exists between business and political leaders to loot the public. The cleansing must begin with the electricity sector. During the 12 years of privatization, power....


More about Vivian Fernandes

Vivian Fernandes is a senior journalist with nearly 30 years of practice, 19 of them in television, all of which he spent at TV18. Vivian’s last assignment was as executive editor of a book on India and China written by the founder of the Network 18 group, Mr Raghav Bahl. He has been an observer of Indian business and politics, and had reported on economic policy making as reporter, chief of Delhi bureau of correspondents and economic policy editor. Vivian has traveled abroad with Prime Ministers Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh. He was also reported on the World Trade Organization’s trade talks from Cancun, Hong Kong and Geneva. He continues his association with the Network18 group, but not as an employee.


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