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Achyuth Punnekat
Tuesday , April 21, 2015

Five takeaways from Yechury's elevation as CPM chief

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It was an announcement that came as a surprise to many journalists who cover the CPM. Hours before the party chose Sitaram Yechury as its new chief, rumour mills had been churning that his party senior, and politburo member since 1992, S Ramachandran Pillai would be taking over. Pillai seemed to have it all - strong organisational skills, seniority, backing of the powerful Kerala unit and of the outgoing generalissimo Prakash Karat too. Yet, he lost to Yechury in a fight that went down to the Central Committee, as the politburo failed to reach a 'consensus' (the carpet under which communists prefer to sweep their differences from public view). So what does the selection of Yechury mean for the CPM? 1) A More Visible Leader? CPM now has a leader who is more visible and charismatic than what Prakash Karat turned out to be. Unlike Karat who....

Saturday , October 13, 2012

Jumbo Travails: But it's not yet time to write off KSRTC

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"No one can overhaul KSRTC," is the quip... Not from disgruntled passengers but the head of government in Kerala himself. Oommen Chandy's public admission throws up titillating possibilities of titivating the transport giant. When I was a kid, the aana vandi (elephant bus) was a quintessential part of living in Kerala... They were noisy, cumbersome beasts festooned in red and yellow, with the company logo of two jumbos splashed on its side earning it the pachydermal nickname. Unlike the elephant though, KSRTC buses were neither gentle, nor smart. They were simply big and slow. And big and slow is what the road transport corporation continues to be. Too big to manage and too slow to adapt. The corporation has a negative revenue-expenditure gap of around 55 crore rupees every month. 30 crore rupees is spent every month just to meet the pension bill for 33000 'pensioners' who....

Monday , October 08, 2012

Rural Development: A victim of Kerala's political morass

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It is not very often you see city authorities providing drinking water and other facilities to people on protest against a ruling government. But in Thiruvananthapuram, women from the Kudumbasree Rural Mission have found vocal support from the Left-ruled city corporation. They are protesting the Central government's decision to grant 14 crore rupees to a rival, privately run NGO called Janasree Mission. Janasree has alleged links to the ruling Congress. Understandably, the Kudumbasree people are angry, and justifiably so too. The issue has become so farcical that members of a Government-managed Rural Development Programme are pitted against the same Government, while a private NGO is reaping the benefits of government funding. It's a complex plot worthy of a Shakespearean comedy. Trouble has been brewing since the Congress-backed Kudumbasree-clone, Janasree Mission, was introduced during the last government's tenure. The latest grant to Janasree, is ostensibly for agricultural....

Sunday , October 07, 2012

Kerala Power Board's Induction-phobia Is A Joke

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Of all the harebrained schemes I've ever heard in my life (and trust me, I cook up many myself), this one probably deserves a citation and a plaque. The Kerala State Electricity Board, it appears, has decided that induction cookers are the new enemy. The local media is abuzz with reports that the KSEB plans to curb their use. Apparently, working women are growing in Kerala. And they are relying heavily on these easy to use, and fast, cooktops. It has (apparently) added 500 MW more demand in just one year. Thanks to a less-than-favourable monsoon this year, KSEB is feeling the pinch. It has had to start load shedding, power cuts are back, and there has been a fairly steep hike in electricity tariffs so that the loss-making enterprise can at least purchase costlier power from Naphtha-based power plants like the one in Kayamkulam.....

Tuesday , October 02, 2012

Solar Power: Why Kerala should act smarter

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When I was a kid growing up in the sleepy (at that time!) little town of Palakkad, my teacher once asked me to make a solar cooker. And so I started... scrounging for a suitable box, pestering Dad to buy glass, painting the cooker black to prevent heat loss. I did a lot of work on that cooker. Funnily enough, it never really worked! But have a heart, I was just 8. And you see it was the monsoon season. In Palakkad the rains can be wicked. So when recently I read of Oommen Chandy's 'cunning plan' to set up solar electricity generation stations, the first one in Palakkad, I was mildly sceptical. A Korean company has already agreed to set up the first 30MW plant in Palakkad district in 6 months time. Like many Kerala government initiatives, I suspect this will turn out to be a dud. ....

Saturday , September 29, 2012

Two ways to beat big brand retail

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"No!" say saffron and red. "Yes!" says the central Hand... A poll finds citizens upset, while some selfish consumers like me smile in glee. FDI in retail has found plenty of opponents. From the consumerist-communist shores of Kerala... to the austere but corporate-friendly Narendra Modi. It's sad, really. That people who have never shopped at Sainsbury's; never waltzed down the aisles of Wal-mart; never taken a peek inside a Tesco, should judge big brand retail on the basis of hearsay. Farmers will get less, they claim. Middlemen will be wiped out! Kirana stores will crumble! Consumers will be conned! The fact is... It's all true! IF we take a good idea, add bad policy and incompetent regulation to it. In a country where consumer rights are a joke, where the farmers have to eke out a living... it is a foregone conclusion that exploitation....

Thursday , September 27, 2012

Air Kerala: A totally mad business plan

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Oommen Chandy recently gave Air India Express a mild heart attack by suggesting that Kerala is relooking at launching its own flag carrier (Kerala has no flag yet, but I have a design in mind going cheap!). Some Gulf resident Mallus are pretty upset over AI's failure to provide previously announced additional services to the Gulf. So much so that Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh flew down to explain. "There simply weren't enough planes", he said, "AI had to give priority to Hajj services". Never mind the fact that Mallus working in the Gulf pay in full for tickets, while Hajj pilgrims get subsidised tickets. Swish frame to the King of Good Times now staring at penury... Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher is flapping and flapping, but it can't take off the ground. There's no two ways about it. If the airline's fleet falls below five, it's bye-bye licence.....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pawar has done UPA a favour

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There were rumours of the No.2 conundrum in a cabinet of equals... There were reports of Governors un-appointed and Chairmen unacceptable. And closer home to the truth, it was clear that the NCP was quite upset that Prithviraj Chavan had thrown a spanner in the works through his 'clean' administration policies. So it was no surprise that an embarrassed Congress bent over backwards to placate one of its oldest allies. And frankly, eating a bit of the humble pie may have done the grand old party a bit of good. After the climate of optimism that set in with the Prime Minister taking over Finance, this is perhaps the next shot in the arm UPA-II needed. The NCP has managed to arm-twist the Congress into setting up a co-ordination committee a la UPA-I. Such a mechanism with the Left had helped the UPA work more cohesively during the previous....

Thursday , August 18, 2011

Giving voice to the silent masses: Can UK show the way?

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The Sadhu of Ralegaon Sidhi has won the Second Battle of Delhi. A disorganised government licks its wounds and offers placations. It is evident that the mighty UPA has been brought to its knees once again. One may debate the prudence of the Gandhian's demands. And one may question the probity of this government... But the truth remains that among all this brouhaha over a draft Bill, which may or may not be passed by Parliament, one fundamental issue is being left unaddressed. Anna is the hero millions of Indians seem to have pinned their hopes on. I was surprised by the vehemence of the arguments even some experienced journalists put forth in supporting Anna. And the Jan Lokpal Bill has become the quick fix solution to the people's urgent problems. Here is a billion strong country plagued by a vicious disease no true democracy should be afflicted with.......

Saturday , July 17, 2010

A Symbol of Progress?

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My sister has just joined IIT Bombay... And far from happy I am a little apprehensive. The issue is simple. Money. Specifically The Rupee. Not the lack of it. Not the abundance of it. Just the symbol of it. The media, as usual, has been going gaga over the new rupee symbol... And the enthusiasm has been infectious on the web too. I've even seen friends musing on Facebook on when they'll see it on keyboards! Considering the fact that the '£' '¥' '€' signs don't feature in most keyboards available in India... I guess never. Not unless India decides to ban US standard keyboards and make desi versions mandatory! And considering the fact that the much hyped new rupee sign is utterly devoid of any originality, I hope people are never forced to use the ruddy thing! Mind you, I like the idea of a....


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