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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
In quest of a new identity
The BJP’s Hindutva card has run out of steam, says Vijay Sanghvi
A
N idea can be contained in a few words but tracing its origin and explaining its ramification may require thousands of words. Yet it may not often present a complete picture. An idea germinated at the political conclave of the Bharatiya Janata Party at Nagpur for its strategy for the next Lok Sabha election.

Bestowing confidence in the academia
by Shelley Walia
H
IGHER education has a significant role in underpinning a modern, competitive economy in which academic studies have to contribute to the acquisition of skills which will be useful in subsequent vocations. It is to maintain research excellence at an international level that selectivity becomes vital. This is possible only if the academic profession attracts intelligent minds.



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OPED

Freedom in peril
We must shed our soft approach
by Amrik Singh
A
FTER the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, what is happening is mainly a variation of what happened after the Chinese attack on India in 1962. There was a feeling of helplessness and indignation then as it is now. After a few weeks, this feeling of indignation will cool off, and unless one is mistaken, things will be back to square one.

Profile
He learnt lessons about sound and silence early
by Harihar Swarup
F
EBRUARY 26 was first birthday of sound wizard Resul Pookutty’s daughter, Salna. The Oscar Award winner was a in a hurry to rush back to Mumbai to be with his daughter. He believes that Oscar was her gift to him as luck had smiled on Pookutty since her birth. He decided to name her — Salna —having read Khalil Gibran’s Broken Wings. In the book, Salna is mentioned as Gibran’s lady-love.

On Record
No possibility of deflation: Virmani
by Bhagyashree Pande
G
IVEN the testing times that we are in, monetary policy and fiscal policies are two-pronged approaches that the government of the day can use to counter the situation. However, issues like rising deficit, falling remittances and dip in foreign investors sentiments can put a spoke in the fast developing economy like ours.





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A Tribune Special
In quest of a new identity
The BJP’s Hindutva card has run out of steam, says Vijay Sanghvi

AN idea can be contained in a few words but tracing its origin and explaining its ramification may require thousands of words. Yet it may not often present a complete picture.

An idea germinated at the political conclave of the Bharatiya Janata Party at Nagpur for its strategy for the next Lok Sabha election. The party leaders came to the conclusion that it would not be a single electoral battle but it would be 28 fights in as many states. The Lok Sabha election would be sum and total of the provincial elections. So the conclusion was that each would need to be fought separately and with different strategies, separate issues, leaders and alliances specific to each state.

The idea perhaps originates from a close look at the results of state assembly elections. The party could not understand its failure to return to power through the May 2004 election to the Lok Sabha. No serious introspection to understand the limits of its political philosophy and its electoral strategies was overtly attempted. And a spell of victories in the state assembly elections that followed the Lok Sabha elections in four years obviated the need for any such essay.

The BJP won Himachal, Uttaranchal, Gujarat and Karnataka. Its allies won Bihar, Punjab and Orissa. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were added in December last year. Yet the totals number of the Lok Sabha seats in states under the BJP rule came to 103 and seats in states under its allies came to 75. But it could not win any other major state with more seats like West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. In fact, it was relegated to a third position in Uttar Pradesh for the second assembly election in 2007 after its defeat in the 2002 election and poor performance in the Lok Sabha election.

The result of Uttar Pradesh was first indication that the Hindutva slogan had had its run and was no more yielding votes to the party. It was partially confirmed by the results of the Gujarat assembly election. It was clearly a victory of the economic achievement focus given by Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The party and the Sangh Parivar had played a minimal role in it. Whatever doubts remained in hearts of many in the Sangh Parivar over the efficacy of the Hindutva as a vote garnering weapon were laid to rest by the unexpected turn of events in the state assembly elections in five states in December last.

The BJP had laid full emphasis on the issues of national security and terrorism in its campaigns in Delhi and Rajasthan. Yet it failed in retaining power in Rajasthan and wresting out of the Congress hands in Delhi though the Congress was at disadvantage of facing the anti-incumbency factor for its bid for power for a third term. Yet, the BJP overcame the disadvantage in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh where the campaign was focussed more on the economic performance of two chief ministers. The Hindutva appeared nowhere in these states. The message was clear and loud.

The party was faced with a dilemma as its national identity attached to the contentious issues of the Hindutva had run out of steam. It could not give it up entirely as the Sangh Parivar would not agree to it or could revert back fully to it lest it would estrange the allies that had remained in the National Democratic Alliance to give it a reach to more states. As it were, the party knew of the difficulties ahead in coming to firm agreement on seat adjustments with Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal in Orissa and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Even Nitish Kumar was posing problems with his hard attitude in bargaining in Bihar.

The Hindutva card ran out of steam in less than two decades because the strategists were oblivious to its limits as it was confined by the definition of the Hindutva as pertaining to the upper castes in general and Brahmins in particular. The membership composition of its highest decision-making body betrayed the fact.

Hindutva is a vast ocean in which thousands of rivers pour out their waters and are merged in it. The intermediate castes that constitute between 40 and 48 per cent of population in different states, and the Dalits who suffered the ignominy of untouchables for centuries with their more than 20 per cent share in population are also a part of it. Throwing crumbs at them in the name of social engineering was not enough because of the new awareness of their station and strength they have acquired.

The last two decades have seen the explosion of education, expansion of media, availability of means of communication and improvement in economic conditions to kindle aspirations for power in all those who remained at the lowest rungs of society. They are conscious of their numbers and more assertive. The poll results in Uttar Pradesh and dependence on the regional party in Bihar should have made it to introspect over its own electoral strategy and political philosophy.

However, its meteoric rise since 1991 caused an illusion that it was due to the Hindutva. It was not is now proved by its desperation that has made it to turn its shape into regional party.

The realisation of limits of the Hindutva card appears to be at the back of minds. The frequent swings of its leaders from the ancient idol to the modern needs in search of an issue that could put aflame minds of voters is a clearly indication that the BJP leaders want to find a new identity but not sure of what it should be. So they have shifted the focus to managing the election rather than winning it by turning it the national battle in to local fights.

In other words, the party would fight the election in each state without a central thread running through its campaign to make it more effective. The BJP would apparently need a group of politically wise persons who can fully understand the specifics of each states and can subordinate those specifics to the national theme instead of allowing the state specifics to dictate the national theme.

Inherent in that need is a danger that the party would have to grant greater autonomy to the state units to devise their own campaign strategies to espouse the limited provincial or ethnic cause to win maximum number of seats. People fighting for power by espousing the ethnic or provincial causes do tend to be more aggressive in their approach. This is the experience for a long time and is reflected running down of the regional parties for years as an unhealthy development. Depending on failure or success, the limited autonomy of political strategy has the potential of getting out of hands and the central control. It may not happen but the potential cannot be wished away.

National leaders were reluctant to accept the principle of formation of states based on language during the entire freedom struggle. But the Nehru government relented in 1956. It remains the unending process as more and more groups are demanding their own state because they are not satisfied with their development as a part of a large state.

Sub-nationalities that have grown in the last 50 years stand in the way of full integration as many prefer their identity as their state-language than their nation. The BJP’s decision to fight the national election as a sum of provincial battles may create a situation that the party might find it difficult to handle in future.

The party had emerged as a potential political edifice that can be an alternative to the Congress. Its rise since in 1990 had held the promise of it but the party remained stuck in its rigid stand of Hindutva despite the correctives adopted for the alliances instead of growing and changing along with the time and the world to accommodate the new political aspirations that were emerging and looking towards it as an alternative.

To many this view would appear to be obiter dicta but even they cannot rule out the possible run of events in the directions indicated. After all every event has its own logic.

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Bestowing confidence in the academia
by Shelley Walia

HIGHER education has a significant role in underpinning a modern, competitive economy in which academic studies have to contribute to the acquisition of skills which will be useful in subsequent vocations. It is to maintain research excellence at an international level that selectivity becomes vital. This is possible only if the academic profession attracts intelligent minds.

The Chadda Committee which took up the issue of bringing concrete changes under the Sixth Pay Commission at its very first meeting at Panjab University, Chandigarh, with academics from universities in the north took the bold initiative of recommending salaries of teachers which would match the civil services with the aim of ushering an era of economic security and academic advancement necessary for complex societal needs.

The service quality we provide as well as the learning climate the students experience depends on the maintenance of international standards and a status in society that would not only attract more talent to its teaching staff, but also help in pursuing work of exceptional quality that would bring benefit to the wider community, as well as to the institution itself and the student body.

Academics from all ranks who gathered that morning under the able Chairmanship of Professor G.K. Chadda, Member, Planning Commission, to formulate the education policy realised that the demands of the teaching community are valid and justifiable in a globally competitive market.

Education is a fundamental weapon of a people striving for economic uniformity and cultural awakening.

A truly emancipatory educational system could only emerge from a broad based people’s movement that is dedicated to the needs of a healthy and progressive system as well as expressive of our aspirations. And now when the recommendations of the Chadda Committee stand ratified by the Union Cabinet, our demand for their quick implementation should not be something we have to fight for.

The civil service automatically and with quick promptness gets the benefits whereas the academic sadly has to agitate to get his rights!

As is apparent, the low level of salaries and funding is a deterrent to the inclination of the best in our society to choose teaching as a career. We do have teachers who possess the sensitivity and the maturity to pay full attention to the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of young people, and are role models in responsible behaviour and effective teaching. As we move towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium we must realise the important role of the university and take all steps to ensure a fine blend of search for excellence and a social standing that not only bestows confidence but also empowers the community. It is time we acted.

In this context, the present stir gains immense significance in its pursuit of a motive that simply pleads for a social agenda having education as its first priority. In the post-industrial knowledge-based India, scholarship, excellence, responsibility, equity, participation, emancipation, and citizenship are the fundamental principles of higher education.

One last word. People just seem too tired to relish the challenge and too nervous of the difficulties involved in trying to secure change in academic institutions. Inertia prevails, breeding today’s mood of wait-and-see. It is a dangerous mood, inviting impatient policy-makers to impose their own plans.

Let the recent demonstration by the university and college teachers for the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission not be taken as a move of acquisitiveness and Mammonism.

It should be viewed as an endeavour of the teachers of this nation to show to their fellow citizens that their fight is for more earnestness, more dignity, and more perfection, and that the State has the responsibility of being a repository of the collective will with the sole aim of ensuring a culture with a moral fibre and an instinct for truth and honesty.

It is, after all, the “moral causes that govern the standing and falling of States”. And these are best protected by the university and the sound learning that it imparts.

An attempt has to be made to present a vision of higher education from a distinctive academic and cultural angle and see its relevance from local, national and international standpoints.

There has to be an endeavour to weed out structures which fail to recognise the national, social and cultural assets of education and research, thus preventing academics from making its full potential contribution to the quality of life.

However, from the perspective of a concern for liberal education policy that helps teachers maintain responsibility, free thinking and autonomy in a modern, progressive, and liberal-democratic society, the record is pretty dismal and the reasons obvious.

Now is the time to act to set the record right and bring back confidence in the academia for a revolutionary pedagogy and a new struggle for a knowledge- based society in which the teacher plays the pivotal role.

The writer is Professor, Dept of English, Panjab University, Chandigarh

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Freedom in peril
We must shed our soft approach
by Amrik Singh

AFTER the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, what is happening is mainly a variation of what happened after the Chinese attack on India in 1962. There was a feeling of helplessness and indignation then as it is now. After a few weeks, this feeling of indignation will cool off, and unless one is mistaken, things will be back to square one.

This should not happen. India is a soft country, no doubt, and the happenings are an illustration of what has been stated above. Unless we learn from our experience and change our ways of functioning, the past can repeat itself.

After 1962, there were some changes in the Army and things certainly improved. However, while we appointed an inquiry committee, we have not published its report even after decades. A clear sign of being ‘soft’!

Decades later, when we review the developments, one thing becomes clear.  We change only under compulsion and not in pursuit of performing better or to achieve excellence. Whatever we have achieved so far is impressive to some extent. But could things not have been handled much better?

Somehow the grip of the past is so strong on us that we are not prepared to change the system. Unless that is done, we will not get out of the mess which we inherited. Both the direction and the speed of change should have been more comprehensive and meaningful.   

If this is the total outcome of what we learnt from the two incidents, it indicates that we are prepared to change but within limits and only marginally. We are not prepared to change our mode of thinking which is responsible for all that is happening. However, certain things need to be done urgently and perhaps will be done. But what about tomorrow?

One, we must remodel our law and order agencies. Some decisions have been taken, but these are not enough. Unless we remodel our system of working effectively and with a sense of urgency, our progress will fall short of expectations and, more important, there will be no perceptible change in our soft approach.

This basic weakness in the law and order dimension needs to be recognised.  Our institutional mechanism and functioning is by and large non-professional and we have to realize this basic truth. Whichever party comes to power, it treats the law and order in a ‘convenient’ manner. There is hardly any party that is free from this perverted outlook. We should look at the studies made by various committees and experts to see how things have become more and more non-professional with the passage of time.

This concerns all political parties. Whatever wrong things happened during the last quarter century should be set right. For this, the parties should rise above partisan considerations and strive for national interest. The law and order machinery must be completely depoliticised; it must work in a professional manner. 

Two, equally important is judicial reforms. If the political parties have not done it all these decades, it is because ours is a nation of talkers and not doers. Without a new resolve to change our ways, we cannot march forward. The world is changing but we are not changing.

Streamlining the law and order machinery and the judiciary will have a direct bearing on the improvement in the functioning of the political parties. There is so much corruption and incompetence and little has been done to check repeated violations in the functioning of the legal machinery. If democracy has to succeed, the rule of law is imperative and it should be upheld in letter and spirit. The key to upholding the rule of law is the right functioning of the law and order machinery and the judiciary. When the British consolidated their power in India, the two organs were the pillars of the structure that they evolved.

Three, while the Central government has been liberal in upgrading the pay scales of its employees, it has done little to improve the functioning of the bureaucracy. Though it has been expanding, it has not become productive.  There is need for a plan of action which can be implemented, say, within three years. Even if such a plan is worked out, the crucial thing is one of implementation. More than anything else, the civil services — the IAS and the IPS in particular — demand close attention. 

This, in turn, will depend upon whether we are determined to overcome the softness of our approach.  Unless we change our outlook, it will be a wasted effort. As things change, we should also change our attitude, approach and orientation. This can be ensured with a kind of ruthless determination which has seldom occurred in the past. 

We will have to re-examine our past functioning, namely, our historical growth over the centuries and identify those mistakes which we committed and which could have been avoided. Even if this is not done, we have to examine why we are soft and why most of our neighbours are not.  If that is done, the contrast will become obvious. Once we see the obvious, it will be time to re-learn and shape out a different future for ourselves.

Working out the various strategies for a better tomorrow requires self-discipline, commitment and a vision of the future. If we don’t shed our soft approach, we will continue to drift. We have to review our past and the future. Our strength lies in our determination and firm resolve to do things differently.

Those who ‘administer’ the country in different capacities should be made to realise that personal ambitions apart, they have a job to do which will determine the future of the country. That will be the starting point. What is to be done after that needs to be worked out in greater detail. Six decades after Independence was too long a period for us for doing so. But, evidently, we needed more than one shock to awaken us. We have already received two shocks. 

In political terms, our medium for doing all this would be the growth and strengthening of our democracy. Equally important is our commitment to work in close cooperation with each other and ensure peace and justice. And these things must be done sincerely and methodically to regain our stature and prestige.

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Profile
He learnt lessons about sound and silence early
by Harihar Swarup

FEBRUARY 26 was first birthday of sound wizard Resul Pookutty’s daughter, Salna. The Oscar Award winner was a in a hurry to rush back to Mumbai to be with his daughter. He believes that Oscar was her gift to him as luck had smiled on Pookutty since her birth. He decided to name her — Salna —having read Khalil Gibran’s Broken Wings. In the book, Salna is mentioned as Gibran’s lady-love.

At one stage Pookutty had almost walked out of the Slumdog venture following a tiff with Director Danny Boyle. Pookutty felt that the Slumdog team was not giving sound its due importance. He was persuaded to join back. “I would have been crying now, had I not agreed to come back”, he says. The Slumdog was a difficult project and Danny was very demanding.

Youngest of eight children, Pookutty was born to an improvised family in a tiny village of Kerala’s Kollam district. His father was a bus conductor and wanted his youngest son to be a doctor but Resul’s destiny was different. There was time when he had to walk 6 km every day to reach the nearest school and study under the light of a kerosene lamp as there was no electricity in the village. The arduous life taught him lessons about sound and silence.

Pookutty tried his hands on many things — he reared domestic animals, sold milk, took to tuitions to finance his college education. However, cinema was always uppermost in his mind.

The turning point in his life came after he graduated in physics. Even though he had taken admission in a law course in 1990, his passion for film industry continued. In his first attempt, he did not get entry into Pune’s Film and Television Institute after failing in the group discussion. But he was determined to join it. He read all the books he could find on sound engineering. In the second attempt, he succeeded.

Resul’s science background and his keen interest in sound effect have helped him to bring out two CDs on the subject with special reference to India. His notable achievement has been to raise the status of sound recordist and sound engineers in the film world even before Slumdog Millionaire. In filmdom, his commitment and dedication are respected. Thirty-six-year old Pookutty created history by becoming the first Indian to win an Oscar for sound mixing for the critically acclaimed film Slumdog Millionaire.

His debut movie was Private Detective in 1997, which was followed by more famous movies including Black, Gandhi, My Father, and Ghajini.

Pookutty was inspired to pursue a career as a sound technician by watching films of Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Aravindan. He has been quoted as saying, “if you ask for the best example of the use of sound technology in Indian cinema, I would say, it is Adoor’s Elipathayam when actor Karamana Janardhana bites a pebble, while eating rice. Gopalakrishnan showcased the cultural context of an entire people through that scene”.

Pookutty has also a dream of making his own film some day. The prestigious Award for his work in Slumdog Millionaire is a reiteration of the fact that Indian film technicians are capable of producing international quality work. The experience in Slumdog Millionaire, the sound recording for the film was an immensely challenging and frustrating job.

He says, “It is extremely difficult to record live sound in a city like Mumbai. We had to invent new techniques on the location to cancel the sound of different cameras used for shooting”.

Pookutty is now looking forward to put his audio wizardry in Sanjay Bansali’s next film, featuring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai.

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On Record
No possibility of deflation: Virmani
by Bhagyashree Pande

Arvind VirmaniGIVEN the testing times that we are in, monetary policy and fiscal policies are two-pronged approaches that the government of the day can use to counter the situation. However, issues like rising deficit, falling remittances and dip in foreign investors sentiments can put a spoke in the fast developing economy like ours.

In an exclusive interview to The Sunday Tribune, Chief Economic Adviser to Government of India Arvind Virmani speaks on issues like inflation, reform of subsidies and the recovery of the Indian economy. Excerpts:

Q: Inflation is falling so rapidly. Aren’t you concerned about deflation?

A: As regards inflation, the problem is with the lack of demand and not supply. It is reasonable to believe that the inflation would revert to and settle at historical levels or a little lower than that. Inflation is likely to go below 3 per cent. It will not go to 0 per cent level in our case. So, there is no deflationary situation.

Q: When would the recovery really take place? For the West is still giving more uncertain forecast. It is saying more pain could still come.

A: Recovery is critical for us because we don’t know where the bottom is and so there is uncertainty. The West is concerned about when the markets will rise again. With us, it is when will we witness stability. Once that is understood, we can see the effectiveness of policy and the reform goes up.

Hopefully by Sept 09-end, the growth will start picking up. Because of the policy measures taken in the last half of 2009-10 should witness growth. Even if we see that the growth now being replicated in the next year last two quarters then we know that there is stability and growth could pick up gradually. At least that will give the industry and policy markets the stability and they can plan for the future accordingly.

Q: Are subsidies really an area of concern given their steep rise of late?

A: External events have acted as depressant of demand, countering that negative effect next year is not a concern. However, reform of subsidies is a major issue and will continue to be in the future. How to target the subsidies so that small farmers and BPL families get the benefits that they deserve is an issue that needs to be addressed. The announcement of Unique Identification devices announced in the interim budget is meant to identify the actual target population, catalogue them so that the subsidy programmes made for them reaches them and not the others, thereby preventing pilferage.

Q: Does the rise in fiscal deficit run counter to monetary policy? Is it an area of concern now?

A: In macro economics, there are two types of shocks rather developments — the demand problem and supply shocks. The consequence for us in the global meltdown is a decline in demand. Export slowdown is obvious, investment inflows are also slowing down. So, the problem is part of demand. The way to go about is the use of monetary and fiscal policy to counter the situation. Given the demand problem, fiscal steps are made to compensate decline in demand.

We are in a historically unparallel situation. It’s a once in a century situation being witnessed. Economists are changing their views as regards deficit. They are saying that stimulus is a done thing. So, we should forget about FRBM targets only for this year and the next year. We can go back to FRBM targets once the situation is in order. Besides, there is nothing that cannot be reversed in these stimulus packages to improve the situation. In short run, fiscal deficit targets have to be overlooked. For longer term, FRBM targets should be taken into account.

Q: Where would you see the situation of dip in remittances, FDI investment and portfolio flows?

A: Capital flow is going to fall due to developments in real estate, etc. Foreign institutional investors facilitated as intermediation meeting the needs of capital of the domestic industry. In India, savings is not an issue; there is nearly 40 per cent savings. The real issue is that we have an undeveloped financial market like the corporate debt market, repo market for bonds, etc.

Thus, the actual users of capital have little access to savings because of the lack of development of these markets. Once again there is dependence of the users of capital on the financial markets. Thus, the challenge remains — to develop these markets, remove hindrance and facilitate development.

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