Sunday, December 11, 2011


Heard so inside parliament 

for publication on Sunday December 11, 2011


R Rajagopalan
New Delhi
Overheard two Union Ministers of different political parties 
discussing in their mother tonge, a possible change of
Chief Minister of their state, by April 2012
In JPC on 2G, questions come from a Congress
Member E M Sudharshan  Nachiappan,
against the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram role
in clearing files on 2G, was irking  Congress leadership. 
Interestingly the JPC Member defeated the then Finance Minister
in Lok Sabha election in 1996. Nachiappan recently
used strong words against P Chidambaram
in an interview to a leading Tamil weekly
DMK, BJP and ADMK MPs enjoy Sudharshan Nachiappan
company in JPC.
V P Singh Badmore  a BJP Rajya Sabha MP from 
Rajasthan suggested to Foreign Office that Ajmer in Rajasthan
and Koyna in Tureky be declared as twin cities. As both cities
have commonalities with Sufism. Vijay Pal Singh accompanied
Vice President Ansari to Turkey recently. In a detailed note
submitted to Ministry of External Affairs by VP Singh speaks 
volumes about the Moiuniddin and Jalauiddin in both cities
Dr Hamid Ansari liked the idea of VP Singh-also taken up
this issue with both Governments-for future cultural ties
Lalithalakshmi  a Tamil Nadu  IAS officer got married with Saurav Pahari
another West Bengal cadre IAS officer. Therefore Lakshmi is given special 
permission by Union Government to get her Cadre changed to West Bengal, 
so that the married couple can be posted in one State.
In exercise of the power conferred by sub-rule (2) of Rule 5 of the Indian 
Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules. 1954, and with the concurrence of the 
Govern.  ments of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Central Govt. hereby transfers Ms. 
Lalithalakshmi, IAS (TN:08) from Tamil Nadu to West Bengal cadre on ground of 
marriage to Shri Saurav Pahari, IAS (WB:08). 

Nishikant Dubey BJP MP while initiating the discussion on
Supplementary Grants in Lok Sabha begun his opening remarks
by ensuring a smile on the face of Pranab Mukherjee..
When Dubey was a student, used to listen Pranab budget speeches
but today in Lok Sabha as MP Dubey said he was disappointed
to get the arguements of pranab da. 
With a pencil in his hand, Pranab Mukherjee was seen smiling
by putting his pencil on his cheeks.
Thirumavalavan VCK on Wednesday walked out of Lok Sabha condeming
the attack on Tamils in Kerala on Mullaiperiar dam issue 
He went to Mahatma Gandhi statue inside parliament and sat dharna
Trichy Siva in Rajya Sabha spoke on Mullaiperiar Dam 
Dr V Maitreyan intervened to say, but deputy chairman
stated that MP cannot pressurise or direct the Chair 


for publication on Sunday December 11, 2011


R Rajagopalan
New Delhi

Sonia Gandhi walked too brisk in and out of Central Hall
and lobby of Parliament today, smiled at each of those
who greeted on her 66th birthday, escorted by  SPG
Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam President Bapiraju
Congress MP presented her a special puja prasad
with Ladoo. He told her that it is Lord Balaji prasad
she smiled and accepted it.
Lalu Prasad tonsured his head, and is seen wearing a fur cap
in Parliament. He greeted Sonia Gandhi inside Lok Sabha
by walking near to her seat when proceedings begun.
S Thirunavkarasar who recently joined Congress from BJP
was in Delhi today to greet Sonia Gandhi on her birthday
Instead of his typical Tamil dress of veshti and white kurta
Thiruvakarasar came in Pyjama Kurta typical of Youth Congress
leader style. Many senior Congress leaders were taken back
to see the new attire of Arasar who was a
former Union Minister in Vajapyee Government
Deve Gowda former Prime Minsiter on Friday walked
straight into Lok Sabha at 1102 hours,without realising
the entire house is standing up in silence to mourn the death of 
hospital patients in Kolkata. Deve Gowda rushed to house
as he was keen to raise the SM Krishna issue and keen
to express his views. Gowda was alerted by watch and
ward-to walk slow as the house is mourning. Closed his
eyes-Gowda stood for a mintue. then resumed his first row seat
in Lok Sabha
Bhupender Singh Hooda Chief Minister Of Haryana entered Cetnral Hall
alone,walked alone. But in earlier occasions, he will be escorted by
State Ministers and Haryana Congress MPs. But on Friday his
political graph is sliding because, he walked alone in Central Hall.
With two helping sticks limping in Parliament, Congress MP from 
Haryana Deepender Singh Hooda spent one hour. Almost all
senior Union Ministers went near to Deepender and enquired
about the fractured right leg. Deepender is the son of 
Haryana Chief Minister Bhpender Singh Hooda
Dig Vijaya Singh was in Parliament, huge crowd went near to him
in his inimical  smile style -somewhat similar to that of
Karunakaran broad smile- Diggy Raja shook hands with everyone.
Atleast ten to fifteen MPs walked with him from main portico
of parliament building to Central Hall.
Gulam Nabi Azad Union Minister when he entered Lok Sabha
at 1055 hours on Friday- was greeted by almost all Telangana Congress
MPs. Some Telangana Congress MPs touched Gulam nabi feet
inside Lok Sabha. While these MPs were holding huge posters
reminding Sonia Gandhi for telangana as promised on her birthday
two years ago. 

But a contrast meeting of Andhra Congress MPs with Dig Vijaya Singh
inside Parliament, which is interesting. Dr KVP Ramachandra Rao
and Sabbam Hari went rushing to Diggy Raja, while Unndavalli
Aruna Kumar joined this discussion. KVP and Diggy Raja spent
few minutes separately in a corner of Parliament. 
Satyavrt Chaturvedi the Congress spokesman was narrating to
fellow Congress MPs inside Parliament the difficulties he faced in many live TV discussions
to defend UPA2 

In a lighter vein joke to his fellow Congress MP
Satyavrt said.. Thursday P Chidambaram on 2G, Friday SM Krishna on Bellary mining
Monday Kapil Sibal on Facebook and Twitter , Tuesday Anand Sharma on FDI in retail
like this..parliament will have blockade...We have added eleven young spokesmen
who are Union Ministers.. Let them defend such a long list.... 


Assessing Manmohan Singh: He was never a true reformist by instinct

Bibek Debroy Dec 11, 2011, 10.49am IST
Rare is the person who reads Robert Browning now. He wrote a poem titled "The Patriot" and it begins, "It was roses, roses, all the way, /With myrtle mixed in my path like mad." Somewhere down the line, the poem says, "And you see my harvest, what I reap, /This very day, now a year is run."
It has been more than a year now, seven years if one counts from 2004. As prime minister, Manmohan Singh(let's call him MMS) is most likely on his way out, once the Congress figures out the exit policy.
Since clamours for removal have emanated from within the Congress too, we aren't talking about 2014. More like 2012. As PM, the MMS legacy has been the nuclear deal, aborted peace initiatives with Pakistan and part-aborted agreements with Bangladesh. But MMS is an economist. As FM, he is the one who liberalised the economy in 1991 and reminded us about an idea (reforms) whose time has come.
Rao, Not Singh To put it mildly, the economy is in a shambles now. Reforms most likely are on permanent pause. The sound and fury over FDI in retail amounted to nothing. During UPA-I, we had RTI and NREG. The rest was a legacy. During UPA-II, we have Right to Education and may have Right to Food. As a reformer, lauded by the external world and urban India, I doubt MMS will be proud of this legacy.
But should we be surprised? We have conjured up an image of MMS as the original reforming FM. There are several problems with this identification. First, MMS wasn't PV Narasimha Rao's original choice as FM. IG Patel was, though that is neither here nor there. Second, the credit for those reforms should largely go to Rao, though the Congress conveniently chose to ignore this later. Indeed, MMS also distanced himself from Rao, though that too is perhaps neither here nor there, except that it reveals some of MMS' personal attributes. The point is, any FM in 1991 would have had to introduce those reforms. The agenda was known. The blueprint was known.
All of these had been firmed up by the end of 1990. All that remained was for FM to read out the speech. MMS wasn't the engineer or the architect. At best, he was the contractor.
Third, MMS may have been an economist once. But for years and years, he was a laterally inducted bureaucrat. A requisite characteristic of a successful bureaucrat is lack of conviction, economic, political or ideological.
You need to be malleable. And MMS was successful at that. It isn't generally known that the "garibi hatao" slogan was thought of by MMS. Therefore, we have ourselves conjured up this 'father of reforms' image and MMS chose to go along.
Honest, But... Part of the image also concerns honesty. Honesty is a relative expression. I have been severely reprimanded by an MP for calling MPs and politicians dishonest. I have been advised to call them differently honest and there is a grain of truth in that.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


26 Nov 2011


NEW DELHI: Four 'Babalog' ministers of state (MoS) held a quiet meeting on the FDI in retail trade Thursday evening around the same time their seniors were engaged in a bitter fight over the proposal in a Cabinet meeting here.

They decided to send an urgent note to Rahul Gandhi to explain the political fallout of the Cabinet's decision to go for 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail trade and how the opposition will use it to hilt to confuse the rural voters in the Uttar Pradesh elections, impacting the Congress prospects.

The four MoS --Jitin Prasada, Jitender Singh, Sachin Pilot and RPN Singh -- are worried that they all come from the rural constituencies and will have to face ire of the farmers to be hit by the decision despite the government's claim that it will help them.

One of them rang up a former union commerce secretary to give a perspective to them on pros and cons of the FDI in retail. The retired bureaucrat is now penning draft of the letter the four junior ministers will be handing over to Rahul early next week.




        The sudden decision of the Government of India to open up Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 51 percent in multi brand retailing and 100 percent for single brand retailing has come as a rude shock to the thunder struck millions of traditional retail vendors in the country. While  Parliament is in session, this move of the Government of India to announce such a major policy decision affecting millions of people outside the Parliament without even consulting the State Governments is unprecedented and indicates the  overweening arrogance of the UPA Government. The FDI policy in the retail sector is a sensitive issue and it was strongly opposed by various trade bodies even when the Committee appointed to study this issue made field visits.  But, by making this sudden announcement ignoring the sentiments of the people, the Central Government has stirred the proverbial Hornet’s Nest.   
The purported intention of the Government of India seems to be to bring more foreign investment into the country to improve  market efficiency and bring down double digit inflation prevailing in the country, mainly due to the series of policy blunders made by the Congress led UPA Government at the Centre. Does our Nation lack such resources or the technology to deal with such problems? The Central Government should realize that constraints on farm products, on the supply side, which is one of the contributory factors to food inflation cannot be addressed through the FDI route, but only by squarely addressing the infrastructural constraints through appropriate policy support.
        The world over, whenever local Governments opened up the retail sector, local prices went up sky high instead of curbing the price level. There are many countries whose experience shows just the reverse, as the price mark up by such MNCs is much higher than what is being charged by the small vendors.  Further, such invasion of MNCs leads to monoplolisation of the market, exploiting both farmers and producers on the one side and the consumers on the other side as, once the traditional system of retail is broken, it cannot be rebuilt, if the MNCs adopt a predatory pricing policy. In most such countries, the unorganised retail sector, which provided livelihood to millions of traditional retail vendors, has been completely destroyed, as the organized Multi National Companies swamped the retail markets.  For instance, in the U.K., it is reported that 3 retail chains now control 65 percent of the entire retail market. Similarly, in a country like Thailand, over 30 percent of the local shops were forced to close and pull down their shutters within 10 years of the entry of Foreign retailers.  In India reports suggest that 90% of the total retail business is in the unorganized sector wherein 40 million people depend on unorganised retail for their employment and livelihood. While the Government of India talks about creation of 10 million jobs in the next 3 years, this will lead to 40 million people being uprooted and thrown out from their business.  Most of these people are not well educated and will remain unemployed for ever.  When we talk about the creation of employment opportunities, these retail vendors in the country who depend on this business for their livelihood will be rendered destitute and will be driven to the streets. Therefore, I strongly feel that this decision of the Government of India is a wrong decision, taken under pressure from a few retail giants, who are starved for capital infusion for their future survival.
        The announcement of the Government of India has come as a thunderbolt and shocked millions of small vendors who have been completely taken off guard.  Their fear that this move will completely throttle small retailers and distributors is not unfounded. As this will affect the livelihood of millions of small departmental store owners and completely destroy the unorganized retail sector within the next couple of years, I strongly oppose this move of the Government of India to open up the retail trade to Foreign Direct Investment. Though the policy guidelines are yet to be released by the Government of India, any amount of safeguards will not be any use in protecting the interests of the domestic sector.  Therefore, I demand that this ill advised move of the Government of India should be reversed as it will not serve to bring down inflation or improve market efficiency. Rather, the domestic manufacturing and services sectors will take a serious hit and the retail trade will be completely taken over by the MNC dominated big retail giants which is not good for our country. Therefore, I am constrained to state that my Government will not allow the multi brand global players as permitted under the new policy to set up their hyper markets in Tamil Nadu.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


23 Nov 2011


By R Rajagopalan

 The Lok Sabha secretariat relented on Wednesday and restored the media's facility of basic papers like the list of business and question papers that was abruptly stopped on the opening day of winter session on the ground that everything is now available on the net.

The decision was reviewed after journalists protested on Tuesday at the hindrance to their professional work of proper coverage of the House if they do not get hard copy of documents to refer when in the Press Gallery and are supposed to check on the Internet on return to office. 

Sources said the secretariat realised the media's handicap from the new paperless policy since they are not allowed to bring their laptops or Ipads in the Press Gallery alike the members of Parliament who have been given the gadget to facilitate the technological shift from the stakes of paper to the new electronic era.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Media is victim of paperless zeal of Lok Sabha

22 Nov 2011


By R Rajagopalan/Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: Journalists covering the Lok Sabha had to bear the brunt of its zeal for going electronic with a new paperless regime on Tuesday when they arrived for the coverage of the month-long winter session of Parliament.

They were totally crippled by the sudden denial of Parliamentary papers like the list of business and question papers they always used to get as they enter the Press Gallery to keep track of the proceedings and that too without notice.

A group of aggrieved journalists barged into the office of the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha during an adjournment of the House to convey their professional handicap in providing objective coverage of the House without the papers. They told him how they would be left to guessing the proceedings that take place during the noise and din without the agenda to check what is going on and that may result in misreporting.

Even the public relations department of the Lok Sabha was surprised by the paperless regime thrust on the media, without making any alternate arrangements for access of the information required when in the Press Gallery covering the proceedings. It could do little than to rush an internal note to review the decision not to give any papers to the media.

The new regime is aimed at minimising the huge consumption of paper and ultimately eliminate use of paper totally by putting everything on the Internet. 

The MPs are not complaining since they have been provided free either an Apple iPad or Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab, with a connection from the Parliament hub, to check documents even while in the House and so much so that they can even watch proceedings going on in the other House without moving from their seat. Also, the staff is ready to rush the paper documents on demand from any MP.

The media, however, does not have such a facility. What to say of allowing iPad or laptop in the Press gallery, journalists are not allowed to even take inside their mobile phones, particularly the smart phone on which they can check the necessary agenda and question papers to pursue the proceedings effectively. Moreover, the mobile jammer are installed in the Press Gallery that will not allow any Internet connection even if the rules are relaxed and journalists allowed to take along their equipment for surfing.

Also, a majority of journalists covering the Lok Sabha are still not that computer savvy to work with the help of the net, besides others handicapped by slow Internet connections in their offices. There are a score of journalists working for the language dailies who still write in long hand and have no knowledge of computers. They cried that it is a sort of censure, binding them out as they have no way to get the papers without any computers.

The only silver-lining on the day of despair, though not much since the House just could not function because of pandemonium, for journalists was that they did get the answerbooks of the questions as also the statements made by two ministers, Pranab Mukherjee and Dinesh Trivedi since they are circulated by the staff of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) who do not come under the diktats of the Lok Sabha secretariat.

Not available, however, were four reports of the standing committee on home tabled in the House on Tuesday by its member Navin Jindal, including a report on The Enemy Property (Amendment & Validation) Second Bill, 2010.    


Friday, November 18, 2011

MK Alagiri red flag on Urea Decontrol-wages war with Pranab Mukherjee

18 Nov 2011                 



From R Rajagopalan

NEW DELHI: A turf war has intensified between Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister M K Alagiri on the decontrol of all fertiliser prices. Mukherjee wants to reduce his subsidy bill. Alagiri has, however, sought the Prime Minister's intervention to scuttle an imminent decontrol of urea as he worried taht it will badly hit the small and marginal farmers.

He has pointed out in a letter to the Prime Minister that the new policy of a partial decontrol of some fertilisers since April 1 last year rather shot up its subsidy bill and their prices doubled without giving more choices to the farmers as envisaged in the policy despite his strong protests.

Mukherjee, as chairman of the Group of Ministers (GoMs) on fertilisers, has been shooting down repeated pleas of Alagiri since February last year on the nutrient based subsidy (NBS) policy that was implemented from April 1 last year. Alagiri had feverishly fought for postponing the policy by at least one year or let Department of Fertilisers implement it in phases.

Sharing the concern over the burgeoning fertiliser subsidy, Alagiri has been taking the stand that any direct cut in the subsidy budget is no solution. Instead, he suggested to enter into long term contracts at reasonable rates and establish joint ventures in the resource-rich countries to source fertilisers.

In a terse note to the Prime Minister, Alagiri has opposed the next move to decontrol urea that was left out from the 2010 policy enforced on the phosphatic and potassic fertilisers known as NPK, pointing out the disaster of allowing the manufacturers and importers, instead of the government, fix the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) of these fertilisers.

He points out that his prophesy in his two letters last year to the finance minister on February 3 and 13 has come true as the fertiliser prices are shooting up and "subsidy bill of the government in NPK sector is also growing incessantly." He is worried that after introduction of the NBS policy, the MRP of fertilisers has rather doubled "which is going against the interest of the farmers as well as food security of the country."

Alagiri had also protested in his February 13 letter last year to Mukherjee to desist from any direct cut in the fertiliser subsidy budget as it would "definitely result in scarcity of fertilisers, which would not only cause farmers' riots but also in reduced overall food grains production." His concern was that "any direct cut in fertiliser subsidy would result in multifold increase in subsidy on imports of food grains."

Mukherjee has, however, remained adamant that the policy has been carefully worked out, keeping in mind all these factors, and hence no scope for any revision. In his letter on February 12, 2010, he also rejected Alagiri's plea in his letter of February 3 that year not to hike the urea price by 10 per cent, pointing out that its MRP has remained unchanged since the year 2002, leading to its excessive use detrimental to the health of the soil as "an unduly low MRP insulates the user from market realities, resulting in unrealistic demand for the product."

In his separate letters dated August 3 this year to both the Prime Minister and Mukherjee, Alagiri has warned that any decontrol of urea "may have significant impact on the availability of urea at affordable prices in different parts of the country and aggravate the situation with respect to small and marginal farmers" as it is the most sensitive and widely used fertiliser in the country.

He has taken a firm stand that "for next 2-3 years any suggestion of implementing Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) regime in heterogeneous urea industry alongwith proposals regarding decontrol of MRP and decanalisation of urea imports is not desirable."

Alagiri points out how impractical the government was to decontrol the prices of NPK fertilisers from April 1 last year, wanting a written assurance from the fertiliser industry to maintain current price line. The Department of Fertiliser did work on getting such assurance, but there was hardly any credible assurance from the industry.

The fertiliser minister says it was impractical for the industry to give such a written assurance, "given the highly volatile nature of prices of fertilisers in the international markets and the fertilisers proposed to be covered in the 2010 NBS are mainly dependent on imports up to 90 per cent." There have also been instances when the price rise has been three to four times in international market over a period of six months, he points out.

Moreover, he said the government can not bind the existing players in the industry as the NPK fertilisers fell under decontrolled category and these are also on OGL (open general licence) which means any new entity can import and sell these fertilisers to farmers and claim the concession and subsidy envisaged in the NBS.