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EDITORIALS

Raj Babbar’s outbursts
It seems all is not well with the SP
T
HE Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav finds itself in a very awkward position today following the outbursts of actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar.

Scrap the MP’s fund
It breeds corruption and controversy
T
HE controversial MPLAD (Members of Parliament Local Area Development) scheme has yet again proved to be the fountainhead of a questionable flow of money.


EARLIER STORIES

After 10K
February 8, 2006
Left alone
February 7, 2006
Iran in the dock
February 6, 2006
Regulatory body needed
February 5, 2006
Guaranteed jobs
February 4, 2006
Pay panel pill
February 3, 2006
Scope for diplomacy
February2, 2006
Airport blackmail
February1, 2006
Delayed IT refunds
January 31, 2006
Cabinet Mark II
January 30, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Custodial violence
Guidelines are blatantly ignored
I
T is an unfortunate matter of deep concern that despite the Supreme Court expressing its revulsion over custodial violence repeatedly, the reprehensible practice continues regardless.

ARTICLE

Red carpet for Bush
Let’s not beat about the bush
by G. Parthasarathy
I
NDIA has a tradition of welcoming foreign guests. Yet our communist parties believe that after irresponsibly disrupting air services throughout the country, they should hold demonstrations to disrupt the welcome to be accorded to President George W. Bush when he visits India in the first week of March.

MIDDLE

My budget speech
by S. Raghunath
M
EMBERS of the family, distinguished servant maid, the past year has been one of unprecedented stresses and strains. My meagre take-home salary was waylaid in broad daylight and mugged by deductions, while the 9173rd installment of ex gratia dearness allowances was impounded and credited to my provident fund account causing a severe liquidity crisis while the horses I backed ran so slowly that they got mixed up in the next race.

OPED

DOCUMENT
Right way to rightsizing
The following are excerpts from the “World Public Sector Report 2005” published by the UN:
I
N cases where a government judges that rightsizing would mean reducing the number of staff, how should it go about it? There are three principles to keep in mind. Effective rightsizing will:

GM food must be allowed into Europe, WTO rules
by Stephen Castle
E
UROPE faces new pressure to open its markets to genetically-modified food from the US after the World Trade Organisation ruled that the EU broke international rules with its moratorium on new licences.

India’s VRS experiment
T
HE state-owned banks in India were generally considered overstaffed before the implementation of a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) in 1999. A study undertaken by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) had revealed that this sector was overstaffed in 1998-1999 by more than 59,000 employees if the benchmark of $ 233,000 in business per employee (BPE) was used.

From the pages of

 
 REFLECTIONS

Editorial cartoon by Rajinder Puri

 

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Raj Babbar’s outbursts
It seems all is not well with the SP

THE Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav finds itself in a very awkward position today following the outbursts of actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar. This two-time MP from Agra, now under fire from the SP for his “anti-party activities”, has accused Mr Mulayam Singh’s number two, Mr Amar Singh, of being overbearing in running the party affairs and promoting a kind of culture which is not good for the health of the party. Mr Raj Babbar also holds Mr Amar Singh responsible for weakening the socialist credentials of the SP by hobnobbing with the forces which are in ideologically opposite camps.

The Agra MP may not be alone in the ruling party in UP feeling uneasy because of the Amar Singh factor. While he has shown the guts by airing his views on what he calls the middleman’s culture, the others who agree with him are keeping quiet at the moment, indicating that all is not well with the SP. Now that the Chief Minister has made it clear that whatever Mr Amar Singh is doing is unquestionable, Mr Raj Babbar may have to look for a new pasture. Speculation is already rife in political circles that he may join the Congress, which is looking for allies in UP. This will not only help Mr Raj Babbar to ensure his political survival, but also prove that his plain-speaking was not aimed at “weakening the secular forces” as alleged. His outbursts highlight a serious malaise in the party being run by a small group where Mr Amar Singh has been given greater say than anybody else.

The coterie problem is not confined to the SP alone. It is plaguing most other political parties too. The problem becomes more acute when the power structure in a political organisation is controlled by a small group. The remedy lies in the decentralisation of power and decision-making in political parties. This is also necessary for making political formations truly democratic in nature. If political parties do not bother about democratic values they cannot promote a healthy polity in the country. 

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Scrap the MP’s fund
It breeds corruption and controversy

THE controversial MPLAD (Members of Parliament Local Area Development) scheme has yet again proved to be the fountainhead of a questionable flow of money. Caught up in the ugly current is no less a person than an Election Commissioner of India, Mr Navin Chawla, whose fate has to be decided by the Chief Election Commissioner. While the opposition parties have raised questions about the propriety of his accepting money from MPs for a charitable trust when he was a bureaucrat, there is need for addressing a larger question as well: should this “loose change” running into crores of rupees every year be put at the disposal of members of Parliament at all. Far too many instances of misuse of the funds have come to light already. These easily outweigh the instances of adequate utilisation. Even when there is no hanky-panky involved in distributing money under this scheme — possibly this has been used for public good in Mr Navin Chawla’s case — his amount is very much a tool for buying influence for the sitting MPs, thus putting to disadvantage the other claimants to the post. Why should such a partisan use of public money be allowed?

Taking care of community projects is the job of the executive. MPs, on the other hand, happen to be members of the legislative wing. There is no reason why they should hijack this power. Some of them do protest that they should have funds at their disposal which they can donate to worthy causes, but since the facility has been abused rather than used, it will be foolhardy to continue with it.

The murky circumstances under which the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao extended this facility to MPs are too well known to bear repetition. Even the present Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, had opposed the scheme at that time and has continued to do so ever since. The principled stand of such dignitaries combined with the antics of some MPs who have been caught with their hand in the till repeatedly should be enough to give the controversial scheme a deep burial. Ironically, its lure is so strong that MLAs too have been demanding the facility and the Punjab Government has even expressed its desire to open the Santa Claus bags. Parliament must act before the contagion spreads. Mr Chawla’s case is peculiar as he happens now to be an Election Commissioner. Even if the money from an MP’s fund has been given to his trusts, he need not stand on technicalities. He cannot afford to have a controversy when he is a member of the Election Commission.

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Custodial violence
Guidelines are blatantly ignored

IT is an unfortunate matter of deep concern that despite the Supreme Court expressing its revulsion over custodial violence repeatedly, the reprehensible practice continues regardless. In states like Punjab, police investigation is considered synonymous with third-degree methods. The guidelines issued by the apex court in this regard are violated more often than followed. That the highest court of the land should have the need to reiterate them from time to time is in itself a matter of shame. Now that the court has quantified them in detail, it becomes the duty of the police top brass and the government to ensure that these are implemented strictly. Many policemen dare to defy them only because they do not think that they will be definitely punished for the excesses. Somehow the odious practice has become so ingrained that senior officers, instead of making sure that anyone indulging in custodial violence is dealt with firmly, tend to shield their subordinates. The British mentality of torturing every suspect is yet to change even half a century after Independence.

At times, senior government and police officials themselves encourage this practice by making the policemen act in a partisan manner and swoop down on the Opposition or persons uncomfortable for the police force. That becomes the open general licence for the lower constabulary to take the law into its hands whenever it pleases. Till each such violation is ruthlessly dealt with, the pernicious system is not going to end.

What the police force does not appear to realise is that its heavy-handed methods are counter-productive. Because of the reputation that it has earned, the police is feared more by innocent citizens than actual criminals. That is why those who may have some information about a crime rarely come forward to share it with the police. Naturally, investigation work suffers. The police has to fight a lone battle while the public, instead of treating it as a friend, detests it. Senior police officers must end the practice, not just to honour the Supreme Court guidelines but also to make the police a more efficient force.

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Thought for the day

Words are chameleons, which reflect the colour of their environment.

— Learned Hand

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Red carpet for Bush
Let’s not beat about the bush
by G. Parthasarathy

INDIA has a tradition of welcoming foreign guests. Yet our communist parties believe that after irresponsibly disrupting air services throughout the country, they should hold demonstrations to disrupt the welcome to be accorded to President George W. Bush when he visits India in the first week of March. Our communists claim that India compromised on pursuing an “independent” foreign policy by voting to report Iran, which has clandestinely obtained enrichment equipment and designs for nuclear weapons from Pakistan to the United Nations Security Council. Are they thereby suggesting that their comrades in Beijing and the Russians who voted similarly also do not follow an “independent” foreign policy? If they now claim that Beijing and Moscow are toadies of Washington, why then did they demand not too long ago that we should follow the lead set by Russia and China on Iran’s nuclear programme?

More importantly, if they want to demonstrate against President Bush while he is in India, will they hold similar demonstrations should China’s Hu Jintao visit India because of China’s supply of nuclear weapons designs, missiles, fighter aircraft, tanks and naval frigates to Pakistan? And will they demonstrate against General Musharraf for sponsoring terrorism across India?

More than his predecessors, President Bush has made a genuine personal effort to build strong relations with India. After Ms Condoleezza Rice replaced Gen Colin Powell in the State Department, the Bush Administration has made a conscious effort to widen ties with India, with a clear recognition that India has an important role to play in guaranteeing strategic stability in the Indian Ocean region and in promoting a viable balance of power in Asia. Washington has endorsed and complemented New Delhi’s approach in dealing with growing religious extremism in Bangladesh, the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka and the misguided erosion of democratic freedoms by King Gyanendra in Nepal.

There is also now growing acknowledgement in Washington that the Taliban is receiving support on Pakistani soil. Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was told in no uncertain terms when he was in Washington that the US reserved the right to intrude into Pakistani territory to hit at the remnants of Al- Qaeda and the Taliban. Mr Aziz was also told that Pakistan will not receive any American cooperation in civilian nuclear energy. This message was reinforced by stinging editorials in the New York Times and The Washington Post.

Despite these developments, it would be naïve to presume that the US will not adopt an intrusive approach on issues like Kashmir. Thus, we should avoid making discussions with President Bush Pakistan centric, but Dr Manmohan Singh should inform his American guests that any division of Kashmir on religious, sectarian or linguistic lines is unacceptable and that we will not countenance any change of borders. India can, however, consider General Musharraf’s proposal for self-governance in Jammu and Kashmir. As a first step, Pakistan will have to give PoK and the Northern Areas at least the same measure of “self-governance” that the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir now enjoys. Like in J&K, Pakistani forces in PoK and the Northern Areas should be placed under “Unified Commands” headed by the elected and empowered Chief Ministers of these two regions. President Bush should also be informed that talking of “demilitarisation” is premature because of the continuing cross-border terrorism.

President Bush is visiting India at a time when there are signs of American war weariness in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Like the US, India has an interest in stability and progress in the States of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council, where over three and a half million Indians reside and from where we obtain two- thirds of our oil supplies. The prospects for our cooperation in countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar have increased after the visit of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to India .

The recent elections in Iraq have produced fissures between Shias and Sunnis. Can this spread into Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait, thereby disturbing stability in the oil-rich region? How can India and the United States cooperate to promote stability in these crucial countries and to promote Indian involvement and investment in sectors like oil, natural gas, petrochemicals and fertilizers in these friendly Arab countries? These are important issues for India and the US to exchange ideas and perceptions. There should also be a similar exchange of views on our efforts for economic integration with the countries of East and South-East Asia and measures we could take for getting China constructively involved in promoting a viable balance of power in Asia. Relations with Myanmar are, however, going to be an area where there are differences with the US that have to be imaginatively addressed.

The July 18 agreement signed by President Bush and Prime Minster Manmohan Singh is naturally going to remain an important focus of attention. The agreement involves separation of India’s peaceful and military nuclear facilities, with peaceful facilities coming under IAEA safeguards. Dr Raja Ramanna was the first to advocate such a proposal in exchange for an end to nuclear sanctions against India. The Bush Administration, however, appears to be trying to dictate to us on how the separation should be carried out to appease the “nonproliferation fundamentalists” in the US. At the same time, sections of our nuclear establishment are asserting that both our deterrent capabilities and R&D programme will be adversely affected by any separation, contradicting what Dr Ramanna had said earlier.

The Manmohan Singh government has handled this issue clumsily. Will our nuclear deterrent capabilities be adversely affected by separation? There is no question of our agreeing to any measures that will limit our ability to build a credible minimum deterrent, like that of France. Will our fast breeder reactor programmes be adversely affected by placing them under IAEA safeguards? Surely, the people of India are entitled to answers to these questions. While the separation of our civilian and military nuclear facilities should be transparent, it is primarily the responsibility of the Bush Administration to persuade American legislators about what India can realistically be persuaded to accept.

It is time this bottom line was unambiguously spelt out to the Americans, after our own “nuclear autarkists explain how they intend to overcome limitations arising from the shortages of indigenous uranium ore. Our American friends should realise that the relationship with India cannot be a “partnership” based on mutual trust, if sanctions directed against India indefinitely continue. The visit of President Bush will have little impact if there is no progress in implementing the nuclear deal, or in the absence of an American commitment to support our candidature for permanent membership of the Security Council.

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My budget speech
by S. Raghunath

MEMBERS of the family, distinguished servant maid, the past year has been one of unprecedented stresses and strains. My meagre take-home salary was waylaid in broad daylight and mugged by deductions, while the 9173rd installment of ex gratia dearness allowances was impounded and credited to my provident fund account causing a severe liquidity crisis while the horses I backed ran so slowly that they got mixed up in the next race.

Madam lost her middy blouse in all-day kitty and mahjong parties at her coffee club, while Junior blew up a small fortune in stonewash Levi’s and fags.

The daughter of the house — the apple of our eye — drew upon our resources for having her eyebrows tweaked, plucked and waxed and hair shampooed and “set off” 13 times a day and for buying Channel No. 5 and other French perfumes in kilolitre quantities.

As a result, we have ended the current financial year with a net deficit of Rs 213.50 which I propose to cover by way of fresh imposts and stringent economy measures.

I propose that Madam join a less exclusive coffee club and that her rummy stakes should not exceed 10 paise per point as against the present Rs 10 per point. The net savings to the exchequer on this account is likely to be Rs 14 during the remaining period of the current financial year.

I propose a levy of Rs 5 per call on every telephone call Madam makes to exchange the latest gossip and run down her enemies with a graduated penal levy of Rs 7 on calls exceeding 420 minutes in duration. This is likely to fetch the exchequer an additional revenue of Rs 26.

The concession to Madam to travel to her home town to visit that old battle-axe — her mother — is proposed to be abolished.

As in previous years I propose to rationalise and effect a substantial hike in duties on tobacco and tobacco products. From April 1, Junior will have to pay an ad valorem surcharge of Rs 6 on every pack of king-sized fags he smokes clandestinely in the shrubbery of his college’s ornamental garden after bunking moral classes. This impost is likely to yield the exchequer a revenue of Rs 33 computed for the whole year. For the present, I propose to leave untouched duties on Junior’s stomewash Levi’s and Michael Jackson CDS and Reebok sneakers.

All sections of the household will have to equitably bear the burden of fresh imposts if our domestic household is to overcome its current fiscal and budgetary crisis.

As part of our zero budget exercise, I propose to do away with the present practice of slyly raiding the ‘hundi’ kept in the worship room and desperately prying out of it 5 and 10 paise coins with a hair-pin.

I propose that the daughter of the house — the apple of our eye — visit less exclusive beauty parlours and that she has her eyebrows tweaked, plucked and waxed and hair shampooed and ‘set off’ once in 15 days instead of 13 times a day as at present. This is likely to result in a net saving of Rs 19 per year. The concession to her to subscribe to Vogue, Glamour, Good House-keeping and Women’s Wear (vide Export-Import Policy Red Book, vol. 111) is proposed to be withdrawn.

The concession to the servant maid by way of an old cotton saree and a blouse piece during Dasehra and Divali is proposed to be abolished resulting in a net saving of Rs 9 during the current financial year.

I thank you for your patient hearing and I now move the house for the consideration of my budget proposals.

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DOCUMENT
Right way to rightsizing

The following are excerpts from the “World Public Sector Report 2005” published by the UN:

IN cases where a government judges that rightsizing would mean reducing the number of staff, how should it go about it? There are three principles to keep in mind. Effective rightsizing will:

Be strategic, that is, it will start from a strategic view of where government or an individual department is going and a sense of the implications of strategy for staff employment;

Actually deliver savings, and not merely a crude reduction in the number of employees; and

Minimise hardship to employees.

Despite the impression that rightsizing means an exclusive focus on the “bottom line” (something of which finance ministries and certain donor agencies have occasionally been guilty), this is an area to which the strategic model outlined in this chapter also applies. Something approaching a consensus has developed that “turning around” an organisation is a two-stage process where emergency action to stem decline leads to strategic planning for the future: what has been called a “recovery strategy”.

Rightsizing is a process that starts with the overall development strategy and HRM plan of the government or the individual department. A management review is conducted within that strategic context and used to generate a re-profiling plan, where appropriate, one that includes measures to minimise hardship to employees, if needed (the phrase “where appropriate” signifies that retrenchment is not a necessary outcome of a review). The voluntary retirement scheme introduced by state-owned banks in India between November 2000 and March 2001 is an example of a successful experience with rightsizing.

Concurrently with the rightsizing process, governments need to pay attention to specific process measures since they constitute a continuous concern. These include measures to generate ownership of and commitment to the programme, and consultation and communication with staff and their representatives. The appropriate pace of the programme, which the timetable in the strategy action plan will address, is another process issue. Once the strategic framework is in place, the next step is to try to avoid making job reductions altogether through the following measures:

Remove ghosts. Uganda thought that its initial target for staff reduction of 34,000 jobs was tough until it discovered no fewer than 42,000 ghost workers on its books (i.e., fictitious names included in a payroll, allowing someone falsely to receive a salary);

Enforce retirement ages. Uganda discovered several thousand staff still working beyond the official retirement age;

Initiate recruitment freezes combined with natural wastage;

Delete empty posts. These are established posts that have been vacant for some time;

Carry out human resource forecasting in order to anticipate a declining need for staff in some areas or a declining ability to pay for them;

Seek “functional flexibility” through “multi-skilling”. In this vein, Ford Motor Company in the United Kingdom, for instance, took action to reduce the number of separate job categories from 516 in 1986 to 45 in 1988;

Set up a redeployment procedure so that staff in a redeployment “pool” must be considered first before a post is advertised in the normal way. It is important to avoid such “pools” being abused as a dumping ground for staff who have fallen from political favour, such as senior civil servants identified with the party previously in power;

Organise retraining to convert, for example, a redundant administrator into a computer programmer; and

Anticipate redundancy by having procedures in place that will enable government to deal with the problem systematically. Such procedures take time to develop, especially where trade unions must be consulted. They should be drawn up as a part of day-to-day HRM practice. In one British local authority, the redundancy agreement drawn up as long ago as 1977 enabled the authority to reduce jobs over a period of several years without making compulsory redundancies.

If, after all that, a government still finds that it needs to reduce jobs, it should consider the following steps, arranged in order of political difficulty.

* Introduce part-time and flexible working hours;

* Appoint new staff on temporary contracts;

* End guaranteed entry. Some governments, such as that of Benin in West Africa, have had a scheme for automatic entry into the civil service for all graduates. Given an increased number of graduates, this is probably no longer appropriate in most countries;

* Suspend automatic advancement. Similarly, some countries have had a system of automatic, seniority-based promotion which, apart from its salary implication, weakens the link between promotion and merit;

* Introduce voluntary redundancy. This is often welcomed by staff, and quotas can be achieved faster than government might expect (as in the United Kingdom). However, it can be expensive: in Ghana, it consumed two per cent of total government expenditure over the first five years of reform;

* Privatise/contract out. This will bring staff numbers down but may not reduce spending: a contracted-out service is not necessarily less costly, as discussed earlier in the report;

* Freeze salaries; and

* Implement compulsory redundancy.

A striking feature of the above list is that compulsory redundancy, despite the popular image, is only the last item on a long list, and it may never be reached if the government manages to achieve sufficient savings through other means. On the other hand, if redundancies are needed, then any responsible employer will take care to minimise the hardship caused to the staff who are affected.

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GM food must be allowed into Europe, WTO rules
by Stephen Castle

EUROPE faces new pressure to open its markets to genetically-modified food from the US after the World Trade Organisation ruled that the EU broke international rules with its moratorium on new licences.

A lengthy and complex preliminary ruling from the WTO said that a de facto Europe-wide ban, which prevented new corn, cotton and soybean products from entering the European market, was not based on scientific concerns.

American sources also said that the WTO had found that six individual states — France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Luxembourg and Greece — broke the rules by applying their own bans on marketing and importing GMOs.

The row over GMOs has exacerbated transatlantic tensions over trade. In most European countries there is acute suspicion of GM technology which is widely accepted by North Americans. Corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified to resist insects or disease have been widely grown in the US for years.

The case refers to the period between 1998 and 2004 when a group of EU member states blocked all new approvals until a new system was in place which would boost traceability and labelling of GM products.

Though that ban has now been lifted, US producers are still frustrated at the pace of the approval procedures in Europe. Moreover they also believe that, by taking the EU to the WTO, they will deter non-European countries from blocking GM products.

Last night the European Commission refused to comment on the findings which have yet to be made public formally.

However the EU is likely to dispute the WTO's preliminary ruling, arguing that the moratorium is now over, and pointing to the fact that 30 GMOs or derived food and feed products have been approved for marketing in the EU.

If the preliminary findings are backed up in the WTO's final report, due in several months, the EU is entitled to appeal.

The US, Canada and Argentina brought the WTO complaint against the EU, in May 2003, arguing that the moratorium was about protectionism, not science.

The three countries say there is no scientific evidence for the EU action, which was an unfair barrier to producers of biotech foods wanting to do business in Europe.

The EU said it needed the block to allow it to gather biotech data and find out how best to update GMO rules.

It argues that, while GMOs are not inherently unsafe, a case-by-case assessment of environmental, human and animal health needs to be made.

Two years ago the moratorium was lifted and a modified strain of sweetcorn, grown mainly in the US, was allowed on to the market.

But Washington continued with the case because it wanted to be sure approvals for GMO sales were being decided on scientific rather than political grounds.

Last night's ruling was greeted with relief by US farmers.

— The Independent

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India’s VRS experiment

THE state-owned banks in India were generally considered overstaffed before the implementation of a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) in 1999. A study undertaken by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) had revealed that this sector was overstaffed in 1998-1999 by more than 59,000 employees if the benchmark of $ 233,000 in business per employee (BPE) was used.

If the BPE was raised to approximately $ 291,000, the number shot up to more than 177,000 employees, accounting for 22 per cent of the total staff in 16 nationalised banks. In terms of productivity, BPE and the profit per employee (PPE) of the Indian public sector banks were much lower than the BPE and PPE of comparable private or foreign banks.

Although sometimes criticised for their potentially negative consequences, including lack of financial sustainability, job erosion and brain drain, early retirement schemes are still accepted as an effective human resource development strategy to retrench employees, improve efficiency and productivity, and balance the age and skills composition of the workforce.

Between 15 November 2000 and 31 March 2001, the first round of a VRS was implemented in all but one state-owned bank in India. All permanent employees with 15 years of service or who were above 40 years of age or those who had been identified as surplus were eligible to participate in the early retirement scheme.

The employees who opted for the retirement plan were entitled to 60 days of compensation for each year of service rendered or the equivalent of the salary for the remaining years of service, whichever was less.

Those who were eligible for a VRS but unwilling to opt for early retirement were provided with the option of a five-year sabbatical. To minimise the financial burden created by the VRS, the Government of India allowed the banks to settle the payments in two instalments, with a minimum of 50 per cent of the amount paid in cash immediately and the remaining payment made within six months, either in cash or bonds.

The Government encouraged the banks to issue bonds and guaranteed their repayment, including accrued interest.

The overriding goal of the scheme was achieved dramatically in terms of retrenching employees and reducing costs. Out of the total 863,117 employees in the 26 state-owned banks that implemented the initiative, 100,810 (11.7 per cent) staff took the offer, according to a study published in the bulletin of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).

In 2000-2001, the staff cost of all the 27 state-owned banks (including the Corporation Bank, which did not opt for a VRS), was INR 21,050 crore (approximately $ 4.7 billion). By 2001-2002, it had dropped to INR 18,959 crore (approximately $ 4.3 billion). Furthermore, the VRS is considered to have helped to balance the skills profile vis-a-vis the employee mix. The next phase of the VRS is expected to focus on the age profile of the workforce.

Encouraged by the initial success of the VRS in its state-owned banks, the Government of India began to introduce a similar scheme in the civil service in September 2004. Senior civil servants, who have between one and five years left before retirement, are eligible to participate in the scheme.

They are offered special financial packages consisting of “one-time lump sum” compensation in addition to their regular retirement benefits.

It is expected that the new scheme will rationalise the workforce of the civil service and further prepare the Government for the new challenges of ageing, globalisation and technology modernisation.

— From the World Public Sector Report 2005

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From the pages of

June 2, 1926
Ban on teaching Hindi

The Madras Government (Ministry of Education) have just issued an order asking the Chairman, Municipal Council, Bezwada, to dispense with two Hindi teachers employed in some primary schools to teach Hindi. The Government say that, according to existing rules, only a vernacular language of the Madras Presidency can be taught and provision made for it. As Hindi is “not a vernacular of the Presidency,” it can neither be taught in public schools nor a teacher appointed at public expense.

We are afraid this order is unreasonable and unjustifiable. Those who know the situation of Bezwada can easily understand how it forms a centre from which rail-roads diverge in all directions connecting northern with southern India and how necessary it is for local people to understand Hindi or Hindustani which is becoming the common language of India. If the Madras Ministry of Education cannot understand this fact, we can only hope it will try to do so and withdraw the ban.

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Springs of water gush forth from bare rock face. Who put the water in the rocks?

— Sanatana Dharma

The resolute determination of self-realisation is not formed in the minds of those who are attached to pleasure and power, and whose judgement is obscured by ritualistic activities, Become free from pairs of opposites, be ever balanced and unconcerned with the thought of acquisition and preservation.

— Ramakrishna

Reason has to be strengthened by suffering opens the eyes of understanding.

—Mahatma Gandhi

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