gfiles magazine

January 11, 2016

Is the third global war round the corner?

For the past seven decades, since the end of World War II, global leaders, defence policymakers and military experts have speculated about how, when and where World War III will happen. The when and where is immaterial today; given the hundreds of hot and dangerous spots across the globe, it can happen anytime, anywhere. The how, though, is still relevant. During the Cold War, it was felt that the new global war would be instigated by one of the two superpowers, America or the Soviet Union. The Cuban missile crisis was a prime example of this mindset.

World War III: myth or reality?

Peace is the greatest illusion today. The whole world is a battlefield. There is no place in the whole physical or virtual world put together that you can call totally peaceful.
As many as 185 out of a total of 196 countries in the world today are currently engaged in some form of armed conflict, civil war, insurgency or other forms of violent unrest. There are only less than a dozen countries in the world today that are not involved in any violence or conflict within or outside their borders.

Possible scenarios Flashpoints on the globe

Albert Einstein was once asked what he thought the future wars—more so World War III—would look like. This is what he had to say, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
Ironically US Army Chief of Staff Gen Omar Bradley also had a similar comment to make in a discussion with some bigshots about future wars and how they would be fought.

Climate justice served

Few things have generated as much interest worldwide as the climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015. Seldom in the history of the modern world have over 150 heads of state and government got together as they did on November 30, the day the fortnight-long high-voltage, high-decibel negotiations commenced. Le Bourget, an erstwhile airfield, was converted into a convention complex to host the 40,000 delegates that had registered to witness what could be a historic compact or catastrophe. The shadow of Copenhagen loomed large and so did the manoeuvres of the developed countries and the aspirations of the developing world.

A metropolis in deluge

For once, Prakash Javadekar has spoken as a true Union environment minister. Though couched in diplomatic language, he has made one point clear–the recent deluge that devastated India’s fourth largest metropolis with a population of 10 million plus was neither caused by nature nor was it a ‘climate change event’ as being touted by the Government of Tamil Nadu and its cohorts.

Pollution politics

New Delhi and Beijing are among the most polluted cities of the world. The quality of response that the two political systems have provided to the crises is a sad commentary on the efficacy of a democracy in the art of combatting emergencies. When Bejing was declared the most polluted city of the world, it inter alia declared a red alert, closed its schools, shut down the thermal plants, and imposed restrictions on plying of diesel generators and vehicles.

Let down by the leadership

In military circles, Shiv Kunal Verma first shot into prominence in 1992 when he produced the highly acclaimed film on 60 years of the Indian Air Force, Salt of the Earth. This benchmark film was followed by a series of films on the Indian Navy and the Army, culminating with his filming Kargil War and Aakash Yodha, which again covered the aerial dimension of the conflict with Pakistan in 1999. The Standard Bearers (National Defence Academy) and The Making of a Warrior (Indian Military Academy) were among the various films he made on military training institutions in the country. Verma is also the author of The Long Road to Siachen: The Question Why and the highly acclaimed Northeast Trilogy that documents the region in meticulous detail. Among his other works are the books on the Assam Rifles while he has also co-authored Courage & Conviction, the autobiography of the former Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh.

Perception and prejudice

When Madhukar Gupta, an alumnus of Allahabad University, decided to appear for the civil services examination in 1970, he was only following a norm set by his grandfather, father, uncles and brothers.
His grandfather, Lala Prasadi Lal, was in imperial service, an euphemism for the civil services under the British rule. His father, Dr Anandswarup Gupta, had an illustrious career as an Indian Police officer (1939 batch), which included serving as the Founder-Director of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D). Four of his uncles were also in the premier service.

Making of a mass leader

“I had my first brush with administration when I was barely three days old, cradled in the arms of my mother.  Sharadabai Govindrao Pawar had a meeting to attend at the Pune Local Board, of which she was a member, on 15 December 1940.  Although she had delivered a baby boy just three days earlier, she was not one to miss her call of duty.”
These three opening sentences of the book sum up the entire life of the man. Born to a woman of tremendous force and fortitude, he grew up in the hustle and bustle of a highly charged peasant political family in an out-of-the-way village. Early experiences of dealing with all sorts of people and exposure to ideological crosscurrents drive the grown-up man at a very early age into active politics, which becomes his absorbing destiny.

Roles and responsibilities

At the Service of a Billion Plus is a recently published, very insightful and interesting book on Group ‘A’ Civil Services (CS), particularly for those contemplating entering these services. The book is a collection of 20 articles of retired officers from 19 services ranging from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) to the Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS). Shankarganesh Karuppiah, a serving Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax  with economics background, has done a commendable work by editing this compilation. The uniqueness of the book lies in the fact that it will be very informative for the Indian citizen at large, on the broad role-cum-performance of the CS and their functioning milieu, outlined lucidly with a reasonable array of facts and figures, apart from short narratives on experiences of superannuated officers of the IAS and other CS.

Futile efforts

The culture of constituting short-term committees for changing the income tax law of the country seems to have become a past time with finance ministers. In the past few years, there have been umpteen decisions to appoint committees/tax panels to amend the income tax law. The most recent has been the announcement by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on October 27, 2015, of setting up a panel, headed by a retired judge of the High Court and nine members, for reviewing the Income Tax Act, 1961. Its duration is one year and it has to submit its first interim report by January 31, 2016, so that the acceptable suggestions can be included in the Finance Act.

Close to nature in Madhav

Madhav National Park is located in close proximity to the Shivpuri town. Madhav National Park has been the hunting preserve of the Maharajas of Gwalior, and is one of the oldest protected areas of Madhya Pradesh.
Spreading over an area of almost 355 sq km, the Madhav National Park is fascinating mix of natural splendors of history and architectural wonders. It is said that Emperor Akbar, while returning from Malwa in 1854, captured a large number of wild elephants in its forests. However, at present there are no elephants in this tract. The common fauna in Madhav National Park include leopard, wild dog, wolf, jackal, hyena, spotted deer, nilgai, chinkara, chowsingha and wild pig. There are reports of tigers straying into the area from adjoining forests. Having a varied terrain of wooded hills, dry, mixed deciduous forests, and flat grasslands around the lakes, the park offers abundant opportunities of sighting a variety of wildlife.

Mystery of creation

It is only a juvenile intelligence that analyses and arrives at a conclusion. If your intelligence is sufficiently evolved, you realise that the more you analyse, the further away you are from any conclusion. 
 As we dissect everything, wanting to excavate truth from physical nature, we enter into the minute dimensions of particle science. From protons, neutrons and electrons to neutrinos, bosons, and super-symmetric particles, we seem to be going deeper and deeper. But all this is still only in the realm of physical nature. Dark matter, we are told, comprises more of the universe than matter—and this is not composed of atoms at all but of particles of a still unknown type.

Congress in leadership deficit

scindia for mpcc?

THE Congress party has to immediately decide on two important issues. First, the party has to select the Deputy Leader of the Lok Sabha as Captain Amarinder Singh who was holding the post has been appointed President of the Punjab Congress. Second, they have to choose a new President of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee. The problem is that there are few senior leaders available in the Lok Sabha. The top contender for the post is Kamal Nath, the seniormost member of the Congress Legislature Party. Observing the political situation, he may not agree to take the post. Another strong contender is Jyotiraditya Scindia. In the given circumstances, he is an impressive leader but if insiders are to be believed, the Congress leadership is planning to appoint him the President of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee. Kamal Nath and Scindia are both articulate and influential leaders but their hands are full with party activity. There are two other important leaders, Ashok Chavan, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, and Kanti Lal Bhuria. Both are seasoned politicians and fulfil the loyalty prerequisite of the Congress. g

Speaking to the nation

party spokespersons are the new heroes

The demands of television have created a furore in every political party. Every TV channel needs a party spokesperson on its evening show. If the representative of a political party is not seen on screen, it appears hell will break loose and the nation will be disappointed. Not surprisingly, every party has a department with these ‘guest coordinators’ for TV channels. It’s a full-time department that tracks the news, reads newspapers, keeps track of tweets and so on. The job of the media department and these so-called spokespersons starts from the morning. This new breed of politicians dresses up in the morning and is ready to speak to the nation from morning till evening. They are the new heroes of their political parties. However, being in the opposition, the Congress is faced with a peculiar predicament. The party has 44 members of Parliament and 64 spokespersons. The guest coordinators are in great demand and are not averse to throw their weight around. They have their own whims and fancies and they send those spokespersons who take care of their personal needs. Nobody wants to go to the less-known TV channels and popular TV channels have their own choice of leaders. When the controversy about Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, was highlighted by the media, the instructions were to defend Vadra but some spokespersons refused, stating that Vadra was not a Congress party member and officially the Congress was under no obligation to defend him. Those who dared to defy the diktat have been shown the door. Sources even disclose that some newly recruited spokespersons brief senior team members on how to behave, speak and deal with the media. g

Catch-22 situation

rss to discuss bjp agenda

These days, it is learnt, the RSS is a concerned organisation. First, they fought to get the power and, after achieving it, the top leadership is worried. The BJP, its political wing, is not delivering the agenda as per the desired speed. January is going to be a decisive month for the BJP. The future of two top leaders—Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley—will have to be decided. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Bhaiya ji Joshi, Dattatreya Hosabale and Krishna Gopal, have to plan the BJP’s roadmap. Earlier, other RSS stalwarts like Suresh Soni and Indresh used to advise and their inputs were considered valuable but now they have been reportedly sidelined. There are many pending agendas which have to be implemented and ministers are helpless to implement in doing so. Sources say that the top leadership of the RSS is discussing the role of the BJP leadership in managing the nation. Earlier there was a discussion that Arun Jaitley be shifted to External Affairs but with the onslaught by Arvind Kejriwal, this appears to be a remote possibility. Basically, it’s a Catch-22 situation for the BJP and the RSS. In Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime, there was Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Jaswant Singh who were working as a team. In Modi’s regime, there is only Modi; the word ‘team’ has disappeared. The BJP’s ‘Margdarshak Mandal’ comprising Advani and Joshi is at loggerheads with the RSS. Advani is not even on talking terms with the RSS leadership, though Joshi still has some working relationship with the RSS. Modi has his own agenda in mind and is working like a bullet train. But some voices of dissent are growing louder in the party while others are waiting for the RSS hammer to strike. g

Keeper of promises

shinzo makes time for friends

Tapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did the aarti in Varanasi along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit in December. One was surprised to see Shinzo wearing a beautiful yellow jacket, shedding  his traditional suit and tie. Shinzo was gifted the jacket by none other than his friend, Vibhav Kant Upadhyay, who heads the India Center Foundation. Sources disclosed that Shinzo had been asked to wear the jacket during the aarti and not while travelling with Modi; Shinzo respected the advisory. When a dignitary like Shinzo visits India officially, there is no scope for a common citizen to interact with him. Shinzo has established a good rapport with the India Center Foundation. Shinzo and Upadhyay know each other for the last 20 years. And so Shinzo took time off from official engagements and met Upadhyay’s influential friends—Dr Vivek Lall, Global CEO, General Atomics; Rajesh V Shah, Co-Chairman and Managing Director, Mukand Ltd; Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, Founder and Managing Director, VPS Healthcare; Vivek Nair, Vice Chairman and MD, Hotel Leela; and Saleem lqbal Shervani, former Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Government of India. At the meeting, Shinzo said, “The role of the India Center in the India-Japan relationship is significant. The foundation has been working for a very long time in ideating and authoring initiatives including but not limited to the Varanasi-Kyoto partnership, DMIC and the high-speed train. In 2005, I visited India just ahead of the visit by the then Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi. At that time, Vibhav and I visited many key policy leaders, including the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and conveyed these ideas and initiatives.” Shinzo is now the Prime Minister of Japan but he has not forgotten his friendship with those who stood by him and, irrespective of diplomatic nuances, he kept his word to Upadhyay. g

Waiting for Pandora’s box to open

The implementation of the Seventh Central Pay Commission report is a Pandora’s box for the states. The babus in the state bureaucracies are a worried lot as they may not get the benefit of the handsome package recommended by the Pay Commission. It is a norm that once the Central Pay Commission report is implemented by the Centre, the states are automatically under pressure to maintain pay parity. In the current circumstances, the financial condition of many states is not healthy. Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Punjab have reportedly written to the Centre to delay the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report, citing their fiscal health and inability to shoulder such a huge financial burden. As per reports, it would imply a total burden of `1,02,100 crore on the central exchequer, and if the same formula is adopted by the states, there will be a huge burden on the existing fiscal frame of the states as well. The states have approached the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Cabinet Secretary and Niti Aayog, seeking more time for implementing the pay panel’s report. The states which are nearing assembly elections are really in a big soup. Any suggestions? g

Search for foreign secy begins

The search for the new Foreign Secretary has begun as the incumbent, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, is superannuating this year. So, who will be the new Foreign Secretary of India? There are many competent officers in the lineup but, as is the nature of the Prime Minister, there is no indication till now as to who will be appointed to this prestigious post. As the clock ticks, Navtej Singh Sarna would have been the obvious choice but he has been appointed High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Another officer who would have been a good choice was Anil Wadhwa, but he has been appointed Ambassador to Italy. It is learnt that a lobby within the Ministry of External Affairs was not on good terms with Anil Wadhwa. If the sources are to be believed, India’s Ambassador to China, Vijay Gokhale, is now the frontrunner for the post. It is believed Gokhale’s specialisation in China is in his favour; he also speaks fluent Chinese. A change of guard in South Block does not, however, mean that Jaishankar will be completely out of the ruling set-up.  Sources disclose that there might be two security chiefs: one to look after internal security and the other to oversee the foreign front. In the given international scenario, security is going to be a paramount subject of the government. Watch this space. g

Bumping out BSNL

Is the government in the mood to wind up public sector institutions? There is no formal directive regarding this but the way some top functionaries of the RBI are working, it appears that it has the tacit consent of the government to ignore PSUs. Recently, there was an important matter—issue of payment banks licence to telephone operators by the RBI. Approximately 41 operators applied for the licence—including BSNL. Almost everybody got the licence—except BSNL. The Reserve Bank granted ‘in-principle’ approval to 11 entities, including Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo, Paytm, Vodafone, and Airtel, to set up payment banks and proposed such licences ‘on tap’ in future. The other entities which have been given ‘in-principle’ approval are the Department of Posts, Cholamandalam Distribution Services, Tech Mahindra, National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL), Fino PayTech, and Sun Pharma’s Dilip Shantilal Shanghvi. Not only BSNL but Mobikwik, Oxigen, Citrus, and Novopay Itz Cash Card also applied for the licence but failed to get approval. Sources disclosed that BSNL was refused on reasons of non-compliance with list of required documents. gfiles investigated this issue and found out that there was a strong lobby working to keep BSNL out of the multi-crore bonanza. BSNL partnered with Sistema, a reputed Russian company headed by Vladimir Yevtushenkov. Insiders reported that BSNL pleaded with RBI authorities that the non-compliance charge was false and that keeping in mind the impeccable reputation of BSNL, the licence should be granted ‘in-principle’. But when authorities have their own bias, who listens. The dream to promote rural banking by BSNL is shattered! g

Caught in Kejriwal’s war

Devi Lal, former Chief Minister of Haryana, used to say that whenever one is at a low ebb in politics, he/she should start fighting with the top leadership of the ruling party. It has a two-way advantage: if you win, nothing better than that and if you lose, people are afraid to fight with you as they are advised, keep away from him, he always fights with big people. Arvind Kejriwal hails from Haryana and he is following the same dictum in Delhi. He is on the warpath with all the bigshots of the nation since he has become Chief Minister of Delhi. In this milieu, most of the civil servants in the Delhi government do not have an idea how the Delhi government is running especially after the CBI raid on the office of Rajendra Kumar Sharma, PS to Kejriwal. Chetan Bhusan Sanghi, a 1988-batch IAS officer, who was heading many important departments has taken leave for three months. The buzz is that when even the CM’s officer is not safe, what protection is there for other officers. Most of the civil servants are working as they have to do their job but their enthusiasm for the new government, away from BJP and Congress culture, has withered away. What’s more, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has barred all bureaucrats except heads of departments (HoDs) from communicating with the media. Citing “inordinate” delays in processing files and policy, the Aam Aadmi Party has further decided that bureaucrats can object to a Cabinet minister’s decision only once. In a recent Cabinet decision, the government ordered that files sent for reconsideration, if cleared by the minister a second time, would be binding on all officials. It is not surprising that within the Delhi Secretariat, civil servants are saying they have to tune up the radio and keep the TV on all the time as “our government is more seen and heard on newspapers, TV and radio than files”. g