gfiles magazine

October 8, 2011

gfiles Magazine October Issue 2011


chief election commissioner sy quraishi
‘People facing criminal charges should be debarred from elections’

DR SY Quraishi assumed charge as the 17th Chief Election Commissioner of India on July 30, 2010. He had been Election Commissioner since June 30, 2006, and was already involved with the control, direction and superintendence of the conduct of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President of India, and the general election of 2009.

Born in 1947, Quraishi acquired a Masters degree from St Stephen’s College, New Delhi, before joining the IAS in 1971. His doctoral thesis was on the “Role of Communication and Social Marketing in Development of Women and Children”. As Director General, Doordarshan, he turned around the programming and finances of the organization through introduction of new approaches. As Secretary, Power and Non-Conventional Energy, Haryana, he negotiated a $600 million World Bank loan for reform and privatization of the power sector. The initiative was evaluated as one of the 10 best in the world by the World Bank Quality Assurance Team. He also served as Secretary, Irrigation, in Haryana. As Additional Secretary for the Ministries of Renewable Energy and Steel at the Centre, Quraishi piloted wideranging reforms. Of his books, Social Marketing for Social Change has broken new ground in the field of development communication. He is an avid musician in his leisure time.
interviewed by ANIL TYAGI  

gfiles: Anna Hazare and his team have been saying that they will take up the issue of the right to recall or reject the elected representatives. What are your views?
SY Quraishi: You are referring to “Right to Reject”. Currently, there is no such right. Some people have been demanding for years that there should be an option in the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) called ‘‘None of the Above’’. Under Election Rule 49, we have the option to not vote for anybody. In the ballot paper days, we could put the blank ballot paper into the box.
Or people would stamp on all the symbols or all over the ballot paper or write “Sab chor hai”. All would be regarded as invalid votes. With the introduction of the EVM, anonymity has gone. If you go inside a polling booth, you have to press a button. It has a very loud beep. If you don’t press a button, everybody will know you have not voted. So people will try to intimidate you: “Go and vote for me.” There are 16 buttons and it has been suggested that the last one should be the “None of the Above” option. We have asked for an amendment to the Act to allow for this. The matter has gone to the Supreme Court. 

gfiles: The criminalization of elections is a major concern. There is debate over what kind of criminals should be allowed to contest. What is your opinion?
SYQ: We strongly feel that people with very serious criminal charges pending against them should be debarred. On conviction, in any case there is disqualification. Conviction for a day will also lead to disqualification. The point is, if the conviction takes 20 or 30 years, in between the same guy continues to enjoy political power which he can abuse. So we have been proposing disqualification at least in heinous cases which carry rigorous punishment of five years or more, cases like rape, murder, dacoity and kidnapping. However, political parties say there is a possibility of false cases being forced by rivals. To guard against this, our proposition is to consider only those cases where a court of law has framed the charges. The case has to be registered at least six months before the election. 

gfiles: How much money is spent in a general election, as per your official estimate?
SYQ: We have a rough estimate of Rs 1,200 crore for managing and conducting a general election that is spent through the States. If you are talking about expenditure by a candidate, that is different. There is a law that provides for a ceiling for the expenditure. It used to be Rs 10 lakh (Vidhan Sabha) and Rs 25 lakh (Lok Sabha) till last year. On our request to the Law Ministry, it was increased to Rs 16 lakh and Rs 40 lakh. At least inflation should be accounted for. The last ceiling was fixed in 1995-96.  
‘We have heard about the EVM manipulations. It’s a good idea that
there should be transparency.’

gfiles: There are 545 seats in the Lok Sabha, and 5,000-6,000 candidates across the country. See the volume of money you’ve allowed. What’s the way out?
SYQ: Many people think even Rs 40 lakh is not a huge sum. But, in five States that went to the polls recently, they reported, on an average, 20-50% expenditure. They have not spent even the Rs 16 lakh allowed, the average expenditure comes to around Rs 8-9 lakh. I don’t know why they want to under-report, what the logic is and what benefit they get. In private conversation, they all say they spent Rs 2-5 crore. It has become competitive, a rich candidate can be defeated only by a richer candidate. This vicious circle has to end.  

gfiles: Why don’t we have a system to track the record of criminals?
SYQ: We don’t have that information in our computers. Suppose you are a candidate come to file your nomination, you’ll bring an affidavit. Whether you are reporting your property truthfully or falsely, the returning officer is in no position to know. He cannot go to check and the decision he has to take is time bound. The nomination has to be accepted or rejected. So we put it in the public domain. If it is a false affidavit, it will attract legal action. The FIR and cases are filed in the court. We also pass it on to the CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) for they can cross-check with their accounts. We also give a copy to the ADR (Association for Democratic Reforms).  
‘We have warned the political parties that now we have rules and guidelines and we
will come down on them heavily.’

gfiles: Before sending your election reform proposals to the government, do you invite the public’s and political parties’ views?
SYQ: Yes, we hold a meeting with the parties on all the major issues. The last meeting we had was on money power two years ago. Every party expresses concern about it. They feel that they’ve been forced into using money because of others. We also wanted to discuss criminalization, and the debate over the EVMs. Earlier, we had called a meeting to discuss a new gadget which we developed – called a totaliser – a device to mix the votes drawn from different machines. So that nobody will know which village voted for whom otherwise they punish them for five years. 
In the ballot paper days, votes from 10 boxes were mixed. You never knew the voting pattern of a particular area. With the EVMs, mixing is not possible. So we asked our company to develop the totaliser. By connecting machines, the totaliser aggregates all the votes and the total is shown to the people present.  

gfiles: People are also questioning the EVMs’ authenticity, like whether they have been tampered with.
SYQ: No, they have not said it has been tampered with. They want to make it absolutely transparent and tamper-proof and there should be a voter-verifiable paper trail (VVPT). It means that when you press a button, the vote will go into the machine so the voter can’t see it. At the all-party meeting, except one or two, they all said they wanted to go back to the ballot paper system. We have heard about the EVM manipulations. There should be transparency, it’s a good idea. We referred the concerns and the issue of feasibility of VVPT to our independent committee of experts. We have enough safeguards against these things. Two PSUs, BEL and ECIL, manufactured the EVMs. One is under the Defence Ministry, the other under the Atomic Energy Ministry. Nobody knows which machine goes to which State /district/polling booth. We do mock polls also and show the results then and there.  
‘Electioneering has become competitive. A rich candidate can be defeated only by a
richer one. This vicious circle has to end.’

gfiles: Should elections be state-funded?
SYQ: State funding has been mentioned in the context of money power. It has been suggested that if the state funds elections, then money power will disappear. I think it’s a very fallacious argument. If it was that simple, it would have been done 14 years ago. It is not the white money but the black money that affects elections. We have a ceiling of Rs 16 lakh for Assembly elections. We can do state funding, but what will happen to that Rs 2 crore that is distributed in envelopes? 

gfiles: As CEC, will you be able to stop black money?
SYQ: Our enforcement makes us very unpopular. We have warned the political parties that now we have rules and guidelines and we will come down on them heavily. We have been accused of causing an emergency, accused of excesses, of harassment. All we’ve been doing is implementing the law. Black money can be stopped if the political parties themselves enforce discipline and follow a model code of conduct. We have now understood how it works, the machinery we have set up has to be strengthened further. We have to come down heavily, raid hotels, farmhouses, check them at the airports, railway stations, bus terminuses. 
The third measure is voter education. That is the ultimate answer. When we went to Tamil Nadu, every political party, including the ruling party, expressed concern about the money power problem. The next day, we were in Thiruvananthapuram. Members of a Kerala political party came to see us. We asked them about the problem. They said there was no such problem. We asked why. They said that the Kerala voter is very enlightened and very savvy. They go by whatever decision they’ve taken, money makes no difference to them. So no party wastes money. Now that is a very healthy situation. We tried it in Tamil Nadu and, as a result of civil society’s awareness, all the money received was reported. People cooperated by informing us that saris and dhotis had been distributed. They said, “Come and catch them,” and we did. I was getting 300 SMSes and e-mails on my BlackBerry every day.  

gfiles: Many political parties are registered only to be used for hawala because there are no checks.
SYQ: You are right. The number of political parties has gone up to about 1,300. That was half an hour ago. It must have increased in the last half-hour. In 2003, donations to political parties were exempted from tax for both the donor and the recipient, so people are trying to benefit. A couple of years ago, we checked on a few parties. In one case, we found that they had incurred expenditure of Rs 3 crore. So we wanted to see on what account. We found that they had bought jewellery and shares. A TV channel heard about it, and took a list of the registered parties (about 100) and went to the addresses. Some were nameplate parties and some were bogus. Unfortunately, we don’t have the power to deregister them which is a lacuna in the law. The Supreme Court has said the power to register does not necessarily bring in the power to deregister, it has to be given separately and specifically. We have asked the government to bring in this amendment.  

gfiles: In the past few years, the EC has been perceived as being more proactive and cracking the whip harder. Has this been a deliberate strategy?
SYQ: The election system has a lot of credibility because the EC has been fiercely independent, with no government interference, and has enormous power. It is probably the most powerful election commission in the world although some people would like to give more power to us. In certain cases we are considered toothless. We don’t have the power to prevent a criminal from contesting because that is a matter of disqualification of a candidate and it has to be done by law, it is not in our hands. India’s electoral system has kept democracy on the rails, the changeover of power is always smooth and bloodless. People lose by one vote and accept the verdict with humility and grace. In this country the losing PM or CM offers the chair to the successor with folded hands. These are things we should not forget. It has become fashionable to condemn the whole system and all politicians. Painting all politicians black and calling them corrupt is very dangerous. You can’t have democracy without politicians. All politicians are not corrupt, some are very honest.  

gfiles: What major change should come in to improve elections?
SYQ: The most critical reforms are debarring criminals and checking money power. These two complex issues have to be handled because everyone is sick of them. A solution has to be found because the situation can’t go on like this. g

gfiles Magazine October Issue 2011

market exchanges

SEBI sticks it to MCX
The regulator opts for governance and transparency over competition
REGULATORY oversight, complacency and a weak regulator have been the major reasons for scams in India’s financial history. The situation has become far more precarious with corporates growing more powerful either due to sheer size or political patronage. Otherwise also, the general feeling is that regulators apply double standards and when it comes to taking on the big and mighty, their authority and independence come under the scanner.
It has been seen that corporates on the wrong side of the law have resorted to maligning the regulator by managing the media and planting all sorts of stories against the functioning of the regulator and its top brass, and using the very same law to file frivolous cases with the intention of harassment. This is likely to create a situation wherein the regulator would try to buy peace at the cost of those very interests it is supposed to uphold.
One such war is on between the market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX). The latter filed a writ petition in Bombay High Court challenging SEBI’s rejection of its application to launch new segments such as equity and interest rate derivatives. A detailed 68-page SEBI order said that MCX-SX is not fully compliant with the MIMPS (Manner of Increasing and Maintaining Public Shareholding in Recognized Stock Exchanges) Regulations, 2006, as it was dishonest in withholding material information, its promoters were holding more than 5% of its equity and its buyback transactions were illegal under the SCR Act.
MCX-SX contends that the SEBI decision is biased on the ground that it doesn’t want to promote healthy competition and is in fact siding with and promoting the interests of an existing exchange that happens to have monopolized the markets.
MCX-SX maintains that SEBI’s decision is biased: it doesn’t want to promote healthy competition and is in fact siding with and promoting the interests of an existing exchange.
The fact is that SEBI has taken a very considerate view and its conduct shows that it has gone out of its way to help and promote MCX-SX. SEBI could have denied MCX-SX permission to start an exchange from Day One because of non-compliance with its shareholding regulations. Instead, it granted it permission to start a currency futures exchange on condition that its shareholding regulations be met within a year’s time.
This conditional grant was extended twice by SEBI, allowing MCX-SX to run its exchange for three years. These relaxations were obviously made with a desire to have competition and demonstrate SEBI’s concern about the monopolistic situation in the stock exchange space. It clearly proves that SEBI has not taken this decision in haste and must have given MCX-SX a dispassionate hearing with an open mind. The exchange cannot launch new products till the issue is settled. SEBI, while giving the conditional approval for the currency segment, which is now valid till September 15, 2012, in the interest of trade said that the exchange cannot launch new products till it finally complies with the regulations.
But MCX-SX is making a mockery of the existing rules and regulations. SEBI had directed the exchange’s promoters, Financial Technologies and MCX, to fulfil shareholding norms relating to ownership of an exchange, which limit a single investor’s holding in a stock exchange to 5%, before granting approval for the equity segment. MCX-SX then came up with a capital restructuring scheme, which involved its promoters cutting their stakes to 10% from a combined 70%. In lieu of the capital reduction, the promoters issued themselves warrants that could be converted into equity shares six months after they were sold to investors. SEBI, however, rejected the scheme in September 2010 through its very well-drafted order that cites the violation of the relevant securities laws.
SEBI had directed the exchange’s promoters to fulfil shareholding norms relating to ownership of an exchange, which limit a single investor’s holding in a stock exchange.

It may be argued that SEBI could have permitted MCX after taking certain undertakings from them with regard to the conversion of warrants being put into a lock-in period. But most legal luminaries gfiles talked to were of the view that this would have set a wrong precedent and also the process may be prone to abuse by devising of novel methods. SEBI would therefore do well to stick to its order since promoting competition at the cost of governance and transparency may give rise to far more dangerous situations than monopoly presents. g

gfiles Magazine October Issue 2011

bn uniyal

Delhi, whore city

The ONGC imbroglio brings a chance remark by Ramnath Goenka to our columnist’s mind
ONE day, sometime in early 1977, a group of journalists was sitting on the lawn of Chandra Shekhar’s South Avenue flat. Ramnath Goenka (1904-91), the founder of the Indian Express group of newspapers, arrived there, pulled up an easy chair and plonked himself in it with a thump, and pronounced without any apparent provocation: “All capital cities are like whores – alluring to all but faithful to none.” “That’s well said, sir,” remarked someone from amongst us. “But why didn’t you move to get it inscribed in the Constitution? After all, you were a member of the Constituent Assembly, weren’t you?”
“That’s because, my dear young man, I was not a whoremonger then!” pat came the reply from Goenka, who was never one to let a putdown like that go without an adequate response. The banter was conducted in what is called khanti Hindi and, therefore, sounded a great deal more stinging than it does in English. The reason for Goenka’s outburst soon became apparent. He disclosed that he had just seen the liaison man of an industrialist lurking behind the hedge when he alighted from his car. There were others like him also loitering on the road. That had upset him.
“Netaji [Chandra Shekhar] is about to arrive from Patna after meeting Jayaprakash Narayan and the word has already gone around that he too has a chance of becoming PM,” continued Goenka. And then he burst into laughter, saying, “But why get annoyed over that? Am I also not here because of that? Delhi is a funny place. Damn whore of a city! Here, in this house of pleasure dancing, girls change, clients change, even madams change but the only ones who never seem to change are the harmonium and tablawallahs, am I right?” Goenka was not off the mark in his estimate of capital cities. They do attract all sorts of men and women, righteous and roguish, but mostly fixers, fraudsters, racketeers, wheeler-dealers, hustlers and suckers. He was, however, not the first to call a capital city a whore. The early Christians called Rome a whore. Before them, the Jews called Babylon “the mother of whores”.
The Indians did not come up with such comparisons because whoring in India was not despised and prostitution was treated like any other profession with its own guild, code, rules and regulations. And, like prostitution, even thieving and sleight of hand were all treated as arts in their own right. No wonder, it was only in India that thieving or chaurya kala was accorded the status of one of the 64 high arts that an accomplished, well-to do city dweller or nagarika was expected to learn and be proficient in.
Delhi too is full of swindlers, sharks, fiends, goblins, monsters, vamps and outright rascals in various disguises – bureaucrats, retirees, MPs, journalists, swamis, gurus and whatnot. Every second person you meet at a gathering will, without as much as batting an eyelid, claim to be the confidant of no less than the Prime Minister himself. He will not hesitate to claim that he has been assigned to fix a deal or two. If he is less ambitious, he may scale down his contact to the level of a Cabinet Minister or a Secretary to some Ministry.

Delhi is full of swindlers, sharks, fiends, goblins, monsters, vamps and outright rascals in various disguises — bureaucrats, retirees, MPs, journalists, swamis, gurus and whatnot.

THERE is nothing that a Delhi go getter takes as much pride in as presenting himself as a fixer or a wheeler-dealer on the rolls of someone high up. Almost everyone you meet or are introduced to at a Delhi club, restaurant or dinner party has a secret multibillion-dollar deal up his sleeve, or a Minister or Secretary waiting for him to return with a deal.
If you are important, successful or wealthy, a businessman on the move or one who has a contract stuck somewhere, a real estate tycoon, or a bureaucrat hopeful of selection for a key post, you cannot avoid running into someone with top-level connections in some Ministry or other, in the CBDT, CBEC, CBI, IB or RAW. This is how it goes: “Oh, sir, it’s you…You are the…I guessed so…let’s move aside…I have something to tell you…what a chance, sir…you must be cautious, sir…IB is tracking you, sir…I am telling you…also, I think, revenue intelligence….”
Or the spiel may go: “Your enemies, sir…there are some MPs after your blood…I know a few journalists who want to kill you…I have it straight from the horse’s mouth, sir…yes, yes, the horse is very close to me…actually, sir, you can almost say the horse lives in my stable, sir…I’ve known him from the days when he didn’t even know how to neigh…actually, sir, you will not believe it but it’s me who first taught him how to neigh…sir, I can’t say ‘bray’…you can say that, sir, I can’t…his wife…you know these things, sir…but not here…we can’t talk here…let’s meet tomorrow…you know, your friend, so-and-so…tomorrow, then…Oh, no, sir, not tomorrow…tomorrow, you know, the Home Minister’s dinner… no, sir, not tomorrow…the day after…yes, I’ll call you, sir….”
This will go on until one or the other is ensnared. Many names will be dropped – often by both fixer and “fixee”. The “fixee”, if he is cleverer than the fixer, will not take long to make out that, though the fixer may know the horse well, he may not know him well enough to stitch things up for him. If the fixer finds out that the “fixee” is too clever to be caught in his net, he may draw an MP or a senior bureaucrat who is around into the conversation and use him as his showpiece to convince the “fixee” how well connected he is. The suckers are, however, not as innocent as you may think.
They, too, are extremely clever at acting as suckers and beguiling the hustlers into believing that they are a nice bite. Goenka’s take on Delhi came back to my mind after many years because of this continuing campaign of disinformation, falsehood and calumny over the appointment of the new ONGC chairman. In my 40 years or so as a journalist, I have never seen such a vigorous and vile campaign over the appointment of a public sector company chief. I say this with authority because I know every player in this game personally. Some who are active from behind the scenes may not know me but I know them well from their friends. They have all done incalculable harm to a great organization. And the worst has been done by none else than the Prime Minister who has taken so long to settle the matter one way or the other. g

gfiles Magazine October Issue 2011


ps pasricha
The traffic policeman
The former DG of the Maharashtra police looks back on a body of work in the spheres of traffic management, computerization and more
AFTER post-graduating in physics with specialization in electronics in 1968 from Roorkee University, I cleared the UPSC in 1969 and joined the Indian Police Service (Maharashtra cadre) in 1970. After the training with fellow IAS trainees at Mussoorie, I went for a four-month training course for IPS trainees at Mount Abu. My first posting was at Satara as Additional Superintendent of Police, managing the entire rural area for a year. Thereafter, my regular post was as Superintendent of Police, Thane, and I became the chief of Crime, Thane region. In those days Thane Urban, Rural and the Navi Mumbai Commissionerate were combined. I was there till 1974-75.
When the Emergency was declared in 1975, I got a call from the office of the Director General of Police, Maharashtra, saying I was being posted as SP, Kulaba (present-day Raigad district). I was instructed to report to my new posting that day itself. I was there till 1977.
Two incidents relating to the Emergency are etched in my memory. I had to detain one of my own officers under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). There were lots of complaints against this inspector, Nagre, about excesses against the people of Kulaba. In another incident, I arrested the strongman of Uran, Tukaram Hari Warkare, much to the chagrin of the political bosses. He was such a despicable person that he did not leave a single marriageable girl of the area. He spoiled the lives of about 16 such girls. He ran a sort of parallel administration, with brutal justice and illegal activities like gambling, illicit liquor dens and so on.
When I put him behind bars, there was tremendous political pressure on me. Those were the days when smuggling was rampant in the coastal belt of the Kulaba district, now Raigad district. The place was also sensitive as the RSS had its regional headquarters at nearby Murbad.
With my background in electronics, in 1977 I was posted as SP, Computer Operations. A new post had been created as the era of computerization had just begun. I was in charge of ushering in the computerization in the police department. In 1978, I was posted as Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Wing. In those days the department had not expanded to what it is today. You had only four zones in the Mumbai Commissionerate. Today we have 12. I was in charge of Zones I and II.
At the end of 1979, I became DCP, Traffic. By 1981, the World Bank-funded Bombay Urban Transport Project (BUTP) had started. In those days we did not have any concept like traffic management. There was no scientific management of traffic systems at all. In 1982-83 I enrolled for a doctorate in traffic management at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), Mumbai.
After completing my PhD I was made the Traffic department chief. The doctorate was conferred on me in 1986. I put into practice whatever I had learnt and came up with a case study model. In those days projects were often held up due to delay in allocation of funds. I devised a model which was based on low-cost effective solutions whose execution was not hampered by allocation of funds. The projects were already under implementation by the time the funds arrived.

When I put Warkare behind bars, there was tremendous political pressure on me. In those days, smuggling was rampant.
I experimented a lot with the knowledge I had gained; at least 90% of the projects were a great success. I also learnt a lot from my failures. We need to improve upon our traffic management systems. We need to upgrade our traffic signaling system and traffic signboards, and enforcement of traffic laws needs to be strict. Take a look at the traffic system in Flora Fountain or Nariman Point in Mumbai, it is so smooth and nowhere does one face any traffic jams.
Just building flyovers does not solve the problem. Given the number of cars coming onto the roads each year, a new flyover adds to the number of vehicles that pile up at either end of that flyover – increasing the duration of the traffic signal time. If you build a flyover on the route of motorists, they will always try to test the route and try to find an easier way to reach their destination.
What you need is excellent road marking and signage, and you have to take physical stock of the traffic density and volume on the road to determine the duration of the traffic signal. You have to put up railings along the central divider, but also have adequate zebra crossings at the defined lines. Besides, you need to have good quality road surfacing. These days we often witness double parking on roads and lane cutting. If you have proper visible signage at regular intervals informing the driver of the next road diversion, it enables him to slowly move his vehicle into the desired lane and exit the main road when the diversion comes.
Singapore has torrential rains but they do not have potholes on their roads. When they begin construction of a flyover, they finish it within four to five months. You cannot say you will take five years to build one flyover. We take into account the economic cost ratios while building flyovers and roads. But we do not take into account the social costs, the loss of time and loss of precious fuel.
There has to be a scheme of incentives and disincentives. A penalty of Rs 500 does not mean anything for the contractor. Increase it to Rs 50,000 and if the contractor fails to comply then it should keep on increasing double-fold after, say, every 30 days. And a reward should be given for the best services offered.

In 1979, I reinvented this concept of Road Side Police (it was invented by an Englishman in 1957) and roped in school children. We trained them in traffic rules, road safety norms and public manners while on roads. The result was that these kids forced their parents into following basic manners like not littering on the streets and obeying traffic rules. A system of negative points needs to be introduced so that once the driver logs 10 negative points, say, for drunken driving, rash driving, lane cutting or jumping signals, his driving licence is suspended permanently.
It is high time we have an Online Driver Information System and Registration of Vehicles. This is all the more important in these times of terrorism. Not all traffic systems are computerized. The result is that when you seek information on a car involved in any terror or crime activity, chances are that the information may be delayed or unavailable.
A NOTHER problem is that of allowing heavy-duty vehicles or multi-axle vehicles (Articulate Vehicles) to enter city limits during rush hours. There are norms laid down for their movement during the night. Most of them do not have proper signal indicators. I empowered my men and posted them along with tanker owner association members and made such vehicle drivers repair their indicators. We did not even spare the state-owned Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses.
During my tenure I ensured that the taxiwallahs and autorickshaw drivers did not go on strike at the drop of a hat. We heard them out and solved their problems. True, a certain amount of corruption is there. My humble request to the supporters of Anna Hazare is: let us take a vow not to give or take a bribe. Then 90% of our job will be done.
It is a question of building national character. In 1986, in Japan I bought a watch and asked for a warranty card. Pat came the reply in broken English: “Sir, the whole nation is the guarantee for you.” In the Japan of the mid-1950s, when there was scarcity after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two Indians were travelling on a train to Osaka and cribbing about hardly any food being available. They were overheard by a 12-year-old boy who promptly got down at Nagoya station and came back with a bagful of eatables for them. He pleaded: “Please do not go back to India and say that there was nothing to eat in Japan.”
Around early 1990 I was posted as chief of the state CID in Pune. The next posting was as the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Mumbai. I then had to rush to Amravati district to quell the communal riots there. Following a brief stint as Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, in 1993 I was promoted to Inspector General and made Joint Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, in Mumbai for two years. Then, for reasons best known to my seniors, I was made DG, State Police Academy, Nashik. I was also given charge as special DG, Training, with 14 other police training institutes under my command. In 2003 I was made Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, and two years later, on April 13, 2005, I was made DG of the Maharashtra police and retired in 2008.

Singapore has torrential rains but no potholes on roads. When they begin construction of a flyover, they finish within five months. 
The highlight of my career came in November 2005 when I was given additional charge as chief coordinator of the Guruta- Gaddi tercentenary celebrations at Nanded due in 2008. It was exactly 300 years since the Guru Granth Sahib was handed down to the Sikhs. The project had an outlay of over Rs 2,500 crore. The ceremony was attended by the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Congress president and others. We brought out a special edition titled Guru Manyo Granth on the Takht Sachkhand Sahib Hazur Abchalnagar Sahib, Nanded. Today, since the board managing the gurdwara has been dissolved, I am in charge of all the 14 gurdwaras here. I have written 14 books on traffic-related issues. g

(As told to Prashant Hamine)

gfiles Magazine October Issue 2011

draft land bill
They who sow the wind shall reap...
 Why the proposed legislation on ‘the most inelastic of resources’ is untenable and unsustainable


ACQUIRING land, whether for public or private purposes, is not easy. There are conflicts galore and the political climate is hot. Yet, if governments today are unable to acquire land even for core infrastructure and public projects, it is of their own making. In its greed, and egged on by carpetbaggers, the UPA government took two devastating policy decisions as soon as it came to power in 2004 – mindless promotion of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and 100% FDI in real estate. This led to unabated land hunting for speculation, fancy townships and luxury development, resulting in sky-rocketing prices that terribly skewed the land market, triggered inflation and created a huge black economy. The Biblical adage, “they who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind”, has come true in a short time.
It is intriguing how an economist Prime Minister abandoned the basic principle of economics, that land is the most finite and inelastic of all natural resources and should be managed with utmost prudence.
The Draft National Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, seeks to make amends by using bombastic words: “Infrastructure across the country must expand rapidly. Industrialization, especially based on manufacturing, has also to accelerate. Urbanization is inevitable. Land is an essential requirement for all these processes. Government also needs to acquire land for a variety of public purposes.” Then it becomes condescending: “In every case, land acquisition must take place in a manner that fully protects the interests of land-owners and also of those whose livelihoods depend on the land being acquired.”
The Preamble takes off from there and states that the Bill is to balance the need for facilitating land acquisition for industrialization, development of essential infrastructure facilities and urbanization, while at the same time meaningfully addressing the concerns of farmers and those whose livelihoods are dependent on the land being acquired. The “nobility” of the Bill is in ensuring that the cumulative outcome of compulsory acquisition be that affected persons become “partners in development”.
But “development” is not defined anywhere in the Bill and it is unclear what kind of development land will be compulsorily acquired for. Is it constructive or destructive development? As of now, most development projects are destructive in nature – denuding forests to promote mining, devastating farmland to build townships, destabilizing agriculture to form SEZs and destroying coasts to construct ports and power plants. The views of the National Alliance of People’s Movements on one such piece of “development” are pertinent: “SEZ is a system of apartheid, the return of the old system of zamindari. There will be a preferred group of people/industrialists in these ‘zamindari enclaves’ just because they happened to grab a piece of land approved as SEZ as opposed to those who are outside of the SEZ….”

The Indian model of the SEZ, which is a part of the ‘industrialization’ thrust, is nothing more than glorified real estate-based urbanization. 

The Indian model of the SEZ, which is a part of the “industrialization” thrust, is nothing more than glorified real estatebased urbanization. Interestingly, both these key expressions – “industrialization” and “urbanization” – find no definition in the Bill, making them amenable to discretionary interpretations. The applicability of the law extends to the Central and State governments acquiring land for their own use, to hold and to control with the ultimate intent of transferring it for the use of private companies for stated public purpose – including Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) projects– and for immediate and declared use by private companies for public purpose. The words “hold and to control” are ominous and likely to give unfettered power to government authorities to compulsorily acquire vast tracts of land, hold them for some time and then pass them on to “industrialists” and real estate developers for windfall gains and huge bribes. Some states, like Tamil Nadu, are already doing this by building up “land banks”.
IN the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which is sought to be replaced, a direct nexus with public purpose is a prerequisite for acquiring land for companies. This has been dispensed with in the present Bill in which “public purpose” includes infrastructure, industrialization and urbanization projects implemented under the PPP mode. If the past is any lesson, this provision will be misused. Almost all land acquisition imperatives given in the draft Bill are project-oriented, both public and private. Unfortunately, the most primary violation in such projects takes place in the way they are planned and implemented. The fact is that living, sentient human beings with rights and freedoms in theory inhabit the specific parts of the land that the authorities, in their wisdom, consider suitable for other purposes/projects. For the planners and decision-makers, land is seen simply as property and those owning the land are mere aberrations.
This mindset flows from the legal fiction of Eminent domain which has been regarded as an inherent right of the state, an essential incident of its sovereignty, to take private property for public use. This power, a colonial legacy, depends on the superior domain of the state over all property within its boundaries. This is all right as long as land is acquired for bona fide public purpose and public use. But this proposed legislation provides for acquisition “with the ultimate intent to transfer it for the use of private companies for stated public purpose”. This is suspect, as would be seen from the massive misuse of acquired land for bribe and rent seeking by public authorities and the phenomenal profit-making by private players and real estate developers. Vague statements like “minimum displacement”, “minimum disturbance to infrastructure, ecology and minimum adverse impact on individuals affected” are highly subjective, left open-ended, and do not carry conviction. For instance, what is the “minimum” displacement in forests and how much is “minimum” damage to rivers?

The primary violation in land projects is that the planners and decision-makers view land simply as property and those owning the land as mere aberrations.
Then comes the larger question of sovereignty. In a democracy people are sovereign, not governments. The people’s sovereignty gives them the right and freedom to possess and retain a place to live in security and dignity. The government’s exercise of sovereignty is in direct proportion to the responsibility, accountability, and legitimacy of the state in the eyes of the people.

With “kleptocrats” ruling the roost, the legitimacy and credibility of governments are at their lowest ebb. Communities are struggling and the people’s battle against the “kleptocratic power” is raging. These struggles are mostly land-based and farmers, tribals, Dalits, the urban poor and the working class have sacrificed their lives at the altar of “destructive development” while trying to defend the piece of Mother Earth to which they belong and from which they eke out a livelihood. These struggles are not only to protect livelihood but are central to defending the basic tenets of our democracy. The overall struggle is for deepening of democracy in the country – to establish the rule of law, to ensure right to life and livelihood with dignity, and to ensure democratic control over the natural resources of land, water and forest. The proposed Bill rubs in the principle of Eminent domain and strikes at the very root of this democratic struggle. It is untenable and unsustainable. The answer is stringent land use-cum-management and not free-wheeling acquisition of this most scarce and inelastic of resources. g

gfiles Magazine October Issue 2011

friends & foes
The missing Joshi
bjp leader went to lanka
A very important BJP leader was missing during Narendra Modi’s upvaas in Ahmedabad. In case anyone thinks that Murli Manohar Joshi was indulging in divisive politics, they should know he is above such things. He was in Colombo, delivering a lecture at the Maha Bodhi Society of Sri Lanka’s celebrations of the 147th birth anniversary of its founder, Angarika Dharmapata.
The organizers initially invited Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj. She accepted but it was found that Tamil leaders opposed her addressing the Maha Bodhi Society in Sri Lanka. As she is a candidate for the prime ministership, she is cautious and cancelled the visit. Joshi was then approached. Though hesitant, he agreed when his advisers spoke of the importance of a Sri Lanka visit after the LTTE wipeout. When Joshi landed in Colombo, he was overwhelmed at the welcome. He met the Prime Minister, the foreign minister and LTTE leaders also. The Maha Bodhi Society leaders were also impressed with his Sanskritised oratory.
PC as Enemy No 1
diggy raja leaps to defence
HOME Minister P Chidambaram suddenly became public enemy No 1 for the Opposition as well as a section of the Congress. Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha kept demanding, on TV channel after channel, a fresh and transparent probe into the 2G affair and PC’s role in it.
The sudden attack was intriguing. Though there was already fuel in the fire, one thinks twice before attacking the Home Minister. The Congress was vertically divided on the issue and Chidambaram was quite taken aback when the first salvo in his defence came from none other than party General Secretary Digvijay Singh. The latter took on Sinha, saying the government should reinvestigate the UTI 64 scam. This ensured Sinha’s disappearance from the scene.
Digvijay appears to have differences with PC, but this act to save party and government could only come from a maverick politician like him.
Uttarakhand tug-o’-war
vora-birendra tussle
AN intra-party crisis is plaguing the Congress in Uttarakhand, which goes to the polls in just months. The party is somewhat favourably placed – because of the BJP’s blunders, which the new Chief Minister, BC Khanduri, cannot rectify so soon. A poll campaign strategy is being planned but two senior leaders, Birendra Singh, General Secretary in charge of the State, and Motilal Vora, treasurer, cannot agree on which newspapers will be included in the campaign. Vora, who began life as a journalist, wants to take the decision on releasing advertisements in major papers but Birendra, as in-charge of the State, is in no mood to allow this. Vora realises that the matter involves a huge sum of money, but Birendra has a grasp of the hill State’s affairs. Other leaders feel the two will come to an amicable solution in time and without third party intervention.
Let napping MPs lie
meira must accept siestas
LOK Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar greatly respects the Members of Parliament. But she is fully justified in expecting discipline in the House. So, on occasion, she is forced to remind them of the basics of Parliamentary norms. Recently, Lalu Prasad Yadav was caught napping in the House when the Lok Sabha was debating the Jharkhand coal mines issue and she had him woken up. The MP from Bihar was no aberration; senior leaders in almost every party are prone to take siestas. Former PM HD Deve Gowda’s dozing off amidst meetings is no secret. Atal Bihari Vajpayee has always enjoyed a siesta, even as Prime Minister. Sharad Yadav can’t resist a catnap after lunch. Pranab Mukherjee is known for his forty winks in the afternoon. It is common knowledge that Mulayam Singh Yadav takes off from work after lunch.
Many business houses routinely book five-star hotel rooms and organise lunch for some Ministers and MPs when Parliament is in session. The moment the House adjourns for lunch, these “five-star” politicos are seen rushing out. The excuse bandied about is that MPs go to bed very late and start work very early in the morning. So Madam Speaker should be accommodating so long as one does not snore and disturb others! g