Monday, 19 May 2014

Understanding Article 370 of The Indian Constitution

There is a Whatsapp message doing the rounds on Article 370, and its import... I am not an expert, but have read parts of the Indian Constitution - enough to know that this is a highly complex matter, and not given to such summarisation as in a Whatsapp Message that has the potential of giving a one-sided picture.

Please go through the Actual text of Article 370 given below {Source : Article 370 of the Constitution of India; }, verified with the constitution updated to 92nd amendment here : Page on cgsird.gov.in}


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Please update me in case of any error... I have personally read all the amendments after the 92nd - till the the 98th; and none concerns with Jammu and Kashmir. Do update me in case of a mistake; I have no intention of being wrong even inadvertantly



1.      Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution:
a.       the provisions of article 238 shall not apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir,
b.      the power of Parliament to make laws for the said State shall be limited to;
                                                        i.            those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which, in consultation with the Government of the State, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the Instrument of Accession governing the accession of the State to the Dominion of India as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make laws for that State; and
                                                      ii.            such other matters in the said Lists, as, with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the President may by order specify.

Explanation—For the purpose of this article, the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President as the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir acting on the advice of the Council of Ministers for the time being in office under the Maharaja’s Proclamation dated the fifth day of March, 1948;
c.       he provisions of article 1 and of this article shall apply in relation to this State;
d.      such of the other provisions of this Constitution shall apply in relation to that State subject to such exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify
                                                        i.            Provided that no such order which relates to the matters specified in the Instrument of Accession of the State referred to in paragraph (i) of sub-clause (b) shall be issued except in consultation with the Government of the State:
                                                      ii.            Provided further that no such order which relates to matters other than those referred to in the last preceding proviso shall be issued except with the concurrence of the Government.
2.      If the concurrence of the Government of the State referred to in paragraph (ii) of sub-clause (b) of clause (1) or in second proviso to sub-clause (d) of that clause be given before the Constituent Assembly for the purpose of framing the Constitution of the State is convened, it shall be placed before such Assembly for such decision as it may take thereon.
3.      Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of the article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications and from such date as he may notify:
Provided that the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State referred to in clause (2) shall be necessary before the President issues such a notification.
4.      In exercise of the powers conferred by this article the President, on the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, declared that, as from the 17th day of November, 1952, the said art. 370 shall be operative with the modification that for the explanation in cl.(1) thereof the following Explanation is substituted namely:

Explanation—For the purpose of this Article, the Government of the State means the person for the time being recognised by the President on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly of the State as the *Sadar-I-Riyasat of Jammu and Kashmir, acting on the advice of Council of Ministers of the State for the time being in office.

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As can be readily, this is not such a simple matter. Not one point of the message is mentioned above... that does not mean that all the points are wrong. My point - let us leave this to experts; this requires legal and constitutional experts, which we are not. Please dont forward such messages; we citizens simply do not know whether the content is accurate or not.

Further, there is a history involved in this, which we are not aware of. There are repercussions of this as well, and there is a history of negotiations, presidential decrees, and a lot of water under the bridge. It is not our task to create unwanted pressure on our newly elected Government - let us trust them to do the right thing. They have experts, we dont. If at all, as we are interested in this, please stick to known sources like our Media, or books.

Understanding Article 370

The above link analyses this in its entirety.  Please read it for a better understanding; or read any of the other articles on this matter in the media.

An excerpt :

Third, is Article 370 still intact in its original form? One of the biggest myths is the belief that the “autonomy” as envisaged in the Constituent Assembly is intact. A series of Presidential Orders has eroded Article 370 substantially. While the 1950 Presidential Order and the Delhi Agreement of 1952 defined the scope and substance of the relationship between the Centre and the State with the support of the Sheikh, the subsequent series of Presidential Orders have made most Union laws applicable to the State. In fact today the autonomy enjoyed by the State is a shadow of its former self, and there is virtually no institution of the Republic of India that does not include J&K within its scope and jurisdiction. The only substantial differences from many other States relate to permanent residents and their rights; the non-applicability of Emergency provisions on the grounds of “internal disturbance” without the concurrence of the State; and the name and boundaries of the State, which cannot be altered without the consent of its legislature. Remember J&K is not unique; there are special provisions for several States which are listed in Article 371 and Articles 371-A to 371-I.

Let us trust of Parliament, Our Prime Minister Modiji, Our Opposition and Our Courts to sort this matter out; please dont believe everything you read...that SMS may be 100% accurate, or it may not. We dont know; and as you can see from the text of the article, it is no simple matter. Further, we have no idea of the history... so let us forget it, and move on.

Trust our institutions, people... trust them. In this, they have delivered admirably well!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Elections 2014 - Hope, Euphoria, and Ignorance

Now we have a majority in the lower house; one that is not a dynastic ruled majority. That is a reason to celebrate. And we have a Government which will decidedly perform better than the current incumbent. Having said that, sad part is, there is no focus on the real issues; the people were blown away in an,emotional tide without indepth thought. My problem is not the result, but the method adopted to,get the result. I welcome the result, not the method which was frankly deplorable. In our 67th year of independence, we are still being taken for a royal ride by the political class. We still wont have a free police, anti-corruption laws, administrative reform etc. We will still be lorded over by babu class, We will still not have proper education reform. The money spent will continue to reach the pockets of corrupt babus and political leaders.

Sure, we will be better off under NDA than under UPA. But serious, serious fissures remain. Nothing is being done on Sachar Committee report. Polarisation of society continues. This is clearly evident in,voting pattern, at least what has been reported so far. Implementation remains a bug bear. Will NaMo with his focus on big business forget the plight of the downtrodden? If he does, then democracy has lost today, yet again. More than 300 million Indians still live in dire straights. More than 600 million Indians still don't have access to proper education and health facilities. India still partners sub Saharan countries on,HDI parameters.NaMo and NDA focus is on big business: I just pray to God that he doesn't forget the others, the 80% Indians outside the purview of this class.

If he does,Democracy will have lost -again - for the third time in a row... 

Don't get me wrong : I reiterate that NDA is a far better option than UPA. No comparison. But we, the people of India, deserve better. Please don't tom-tom democratic success a-la western news; let us move on from that clich├ęd utterance. Indian democracy is not in doubt anymore; time for us to raise the bar to real inclusive democracy and growth, and to real performing institutions! Our institutions, Armed Forces apart, have failed the Indian people and The Indian nation. That is a manifest truth. And that real change will not come about till we the people demand the highest possible standards of governance, public probity and performance from our political classes in place of populism and grandstanding. We are creating a powerful superstructure, that I admit. We have destroyed, or are on the verge of destroying dynastic rule, in itself a victory for democracy, that is also granted.

But we are building this strong superstructure on a weak foundation. There is a historical precedent for this : in 1953, Panditji was warned of the errors of higher education without a solid primary education platform. No one listened. We are still paying the price for that folly. That is the real danger confronting us : the democratic institutions of our nation are inarguably weak, corrupt, rusted and decrepit, with rampant corruption and nepotism. We ignore this at our own peril.

Read the above again. Do you deny that the administrative machinery, police etc,entire people interface of the Government is ridden with inefficiencies, corruption and nepotism? Do you deny that 80% projects are stuck in corruption? Do you deny that NDA 1 did not undertake administrative reforms? These are documented facts. Sad that we are fine with this sorry state of affairs. 

Do you deny that we are among the worst in HDI parameters? Do you deny that we are as bad as Saharan nations in health and education? Do you deny that schools in rural India go unattended by teachers? Do you deny that malnutrition is a serious concern? Do you deny that farmer suicides are rising at an alarming rate? Do you deny that small and marginal farmers are losing 800 rupees per crop per hectare? Do you deny corruption has beset the entire government machinery across departments and sectors and levels? Do you deny the increasing polarisation of our society, and the increasing intolerance? Do you deny that only 10paise reaches the people out of every rupee spent? 

The changes everyone is talking about  are superficial; they will only provide much-needed immediate relief; they will do precisely nothing to fundamentally alter the economic scenario we are currently in the grip of. What are the real problems in front of us? Police Reforms, Administrative Reforms, Corruption, Land Reforms, Labour Reforms, CBI Autonomy, Armed Forces Reforms, GST, NIA & NCTC, Oil and Fertilizer Subsidies, Structural Fiscal Excesses and Freebies. And there is no intention of doing anything on this. CMIE data shows 80% projects are stuck in one of the above problems; and further, these are at state level, where the center has little leverage due to the state list - central list problem

How will these come unstuck?

Dont we want a performing, free police force that is free from interference? Dont we want the IAS lobby and the Babus to be held accountable? Corruption is the single biggest drain on the economy... shouldnt we want to lessen it? Dont we need to both ease land acquisition while also providing for the land-owners? Dont we need an Armed Forces free from the babus who know nothing of the Army? Dont we want to be safer, which a properly functioning police and NIA-NCTC will make us? We also need to understand where things are stuck. Everything comes unstuck in project implementation, which lies solidly in areas governed by the state list as per our constitution. In a coalition government, getting consensus and moving on such matters is highly fructuous and virtually impossible. We can also not change the list or introduce constitutional amendments. Center lacks sufficient leverage to make things move on the states list. This is why NCTC still lies a work in progress, for example. This is why land acquisition deals get stymied.
 
And few people are asking these questions... which is why I state Ignorance of the Electorate...

It is fine to state one man can start the process of change. The key question here is how? No one in the entire discussion in the national doscourse is willing to tackle the nitty gritty of the issues involved: the precise methods and steps that can be taken. Let us get practical here, and look at the ground realities.How will NaMo do it? How will he ensure 8-10% GDP growth without tackling the fundamentals? Let alone the above, what about the Fertilizer and Oil subsidy? 48% of our budget is eatern away by subsidies and interest payouts. National debt is ballooning. All economic fundamentals are awry - and you already have Subramanyam Swamy advocating a removal of Raghuram Rajan - this is even before they have come to power, to say nothing of the other, shall we say, interesting statements made by some geniuses!

What will be the impact of Dr Rajan's removal? What is interest rates are lowered in this scenario? What will be the impact on the people? We are already being hammered by 10-12% inflation on CPI basis on our home consumption basket - the 8.62% is total CPI inflation. That means, interest rates are being lowered to achieve a short term impact on the economy, forgetting the other more deleterious impacts. Are they advocating interest rates reduction to benefit big business? This is even before taking power!

In conclusion, I can only state that the Jury is still out on the verdict. Time will tell whether Democracy won, or it lost for the third time in a row. The deplorable election debate, with shocking name calling, aspersions on patriotism, hindutva undercurrent, dictatorial utterances regarding non-supporters leaving India, complete avoidance of real issues plaguing the societal, political and economic sectors of the nation, the tidal wave of emotional euphoria that has tended to distort perspective, the worryingly high proportion of NOTA, the blindingly bright prognosis for a vibrant India which has no basis in the fundamentals or the indicators on both societal as well as economic parameters; and most of all the shocking and stunning ignorance of the electorate leave a worry in the mind and a bitter taste in the mouth. A bitter taste of an opportunity lost once again, for the third time in a row; and of the people being taken for a royal ride by the political class.

That is why I don't celebrate election results regardless of whoever wins. I weep for my nation, and for the ignorance of its people... Forgive me for spoiling the party, folks... I cant see anything to celebrate. Yet again, we have been taken for a ride...  

Monday, 12 May 2014

Book Review : Dongri To Dubai / Byculla To Bangkok by S Hussain Zaidi



























This is the first time I am feeling slightly queezy about writing a book review, to be honest - which is frankly a tribute to the Author, S Hussain Zaidi. These 2 books are based on the Mumbai underworld, and are unique; absolutely unique in their approach, attention to detail, coverage, research and narrative. While the chosen topic is guaranteed to attract a good number of educated Indians, the genre itself does not lend itself to a taut narrative

This is where the books score; the narrative is taut, fast-paced and almost frenetic. The story is well put together, and does not dwell needlessly on futile aspects, sticking to the title chosen. In the first one, it deals with how a Mumbai Big Gun Dawood grew from Dongri, to become Dawood  of Dubai; while in the second, it is the story of one-time Dawood aid and then enemy Rajan and his career graph from Byculla to Bangkok


The 2 books together trace the full story of the Mumbai underworld. Zaidi has started from the beginnings in the 1950s, and has included well-known names such as Haji Mastan's story as well. This forms the backdrop to the main story, and creates the atmosphere, as well as shows how the Mumbai underworld metamorphosed in various phases. Further, this also enables us to understand how the modern bhais grew into the system.


The books make for a fascinating reading, reading almost like a thriller, at times a deeply moving and tragic story as circumstances force decent people to take to crime, at other times a story that stokes various emotions in you, and at yet other times reading like a fast-paced action movie, resulting in keeping you glued to the book till the very last page. One would never have thought such a fast narrative can be possible in this genre!


The books are extremely well-researched, and use police records, court records, personal interviews with various players - gangsters as well as police officers, news reports, and various other sources to create a vivid motion picture in front of your eyes, treating you to a ringside seat in one of the most important phases of our nations independent history, and leaving you much the richer for the experience.


The books form a set of must-read books for Indians, not just because of the sheer quality of the writing and the interesting portrayal of seminal events it contains, but also since it highlights a series of ugly aspects of our country and our society, aspects from which there is no escape in these books. The entire saga of the textile mills of Mumbai and the hopelessness of those who lost their jobs will shock you, and you cannot help but feel a deep sense of loss and regret for the tragedy that had struck the mill workers


The blunt and open exposure of corruption in all its ugliness will leave you in a state of perpetual wonder as you read the book, and page upon page screams corruption. The open and shocking look at this aspect is what makes these books a must-read; it is here you will see and understand how corruption and high crime interact, it is here you will realise in full force the power that your 10 rupee note holds, and it is here you will realise the sad and terrifying impact of corruption!


In these books you will also get to read, and with proof, of the hypocrisy of various international regimes. The highlight is an interview with an Assistant Secretary Of State of the USA, which speaks volumes of the one-sided US approach to terrorism in India, as I had highlighted in my previous article on my blog on India-USA relations.


All in all, an excellent set of books, a superb taut narrative with an ingrained lesson that is delivered without preaching, but rather as a part of the story itself. There are no value judgements, or diatribes; the story is unveiled as it is without any remarks. This is what hits you in full force, far harder than a sermon could ever have done, as you realise the damage through cause-and-effect!


Just as I have reviewed these 2 together, it is preferable that the reader reads both. The two books are totally independent of one another, and either can be read first; you can also skip the second or the first. But in doing so, you run the risk of missing a fascinating headlong rush through contemporary history and a deeply involving non-fiction book! Rated 5 stars out of 5!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Reality : India-USA - Has Anything Changed?

On the face of it, the title seems incorrect, for how can anyone say that the famous and much touted partnership between the 2 largest democracies has not undergone a sea change. Witness the Nuclear Accord; The US support for a permanent seat on the UN; increased cooperation; increased trade... it seems glaringly obvious that everything has changed. But has it?

Let us take trade. Can this really be the barometer of a healthy relationship? We have a very robust trade with China. It is somewhat lop-sided, but the trade relations are massive. And yet, no one would call China as India's friend, or that it has a vastly improved relationship with India. We also have trading relations with Pakistan to the tune of nearly 3 Billion Dollars, with whom we have fought 4 wars - 1948, 1965, 1972 and 1999.

The  reality is that a "Healthy", "Friendly" US-India relationship does not  exist, except in Pro-USA lobbies in India, and Pro-India Lobbies in the  USA. Historically, India is probably the only country that has  consistently refused to bow down to USA. This is a current trend, with  the Indian Government making a clear statement that it will not back  down as late as last week. It is manifest in the realities above that  India and the USA, if not enemies, are certainly nowhere close to being  friends, let alone strategic partners. Note that trade does not count in  geopolitical relationships; we have a trading relationship with our  mortal enemy Pakistan, as well as a huge trade with China, who is also  an enemy. Trade does not define Strategic Relationships.

The question is, then, if you take away trade, what can be seen of the relationship? That question, unfortunately, cannot be attended to fully in a blog post. But let us take a single factor here : geopolitical and security relations between the two countries. The USA did everything in  its power to build Pakistan up militarily right from 1955. In 1971, it went to the extreme of nearly attacing India, ignoring the Bangladeshi Genocide, and the attendant damage this was threatening to cause in India. Even the requisite help in terms of helping the refugees was not provided till very late, and then too limited in nature. You had the now-famous Henry Kissinger, whose views regarding India dont make for too healthy and happy reading from an Indian standpoint.

Despite  clear evidence of genocide & the presence of nearly 9 Million  refugees (80% plus Hindus) as well as the knowledge that India does not  have the resources to feed them, no one on Earth came forward to help.  In the face of 1 Billion Dollars, we got something like 100 Million.  And, everyone – 104 nations – opposed the war without suggesting any  alternative to India, or to the refugees. Critically, not one single  nation said anything to Pakistan excepting Russia.


Has anything changed in the intervening 43 years since then? Let us take a look at another gentleman, also a Senior US Diplomat. He was questioned by S Hussain Zaidi in May 2007. The transcript of a critical part is given below; you can read the entire part in the book from Dongri To Dubai...

Hussain Zaidi : Are you aware that Pakistani soil has been used to create terrorism not only in India, but also in cities like Bombay? Karachi in Pakistan has been a safe haven for at least 30 terrorists wanted by the Indian Government in Mumbai blasts of 1993 and subsequently other bombings?

Assistant Secretary Boucher : Well, If you are going to accuse every country - I mean, there are terrorists in India. Look at the Mumbai bombings, Look at the train bombings.

Hussain Zaidi : Yeah, But -

Assistant Secretary Boucher : They were local people, and there were people with connections to other places, including Pakistan


{For the record, the weapons and the bombs were irrefutably traced to Pakistan; they were sent to international agencies as well. The entire plot was unravelled, and Pakistani involvement established. Key perpetrators traced to Pakistan as well}

Hussain Zaidi : Yeah, but the kingpin is always Pakistan

Assistant Secretary Boucher : No, I... I dont think that's completely true, frankly.

Hussain Zaidi : India has always been a victim of terrorists who were remotely controlled by Pakistan, and they have always produced evidence to the US, you still maintain that -

Assistant Secretary Boucher : I'm not here to have an argument. If you want to ask me a question, I'll give you an answer, okay? There are terrorist groups that originated in Pakistan that are now operation throughout the region. Some of those groups are now banned in Pakistan. Some of them have tried to assassinate President Musharraf as well as other people throughout the region. The fact is, you know, this is not a gang from one country to another. Thisis not an accusation from one country to another. These terrorists are operating and attacking governments throughout the region and particularly India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan have recognised that they have a common problem. They need to find common solutions. That's why they have a common mechanism to work together against terrorism.  We think that's good development. We're against terrorists. We're with India against terrorists. We're with Pakistan against terrorists, and we all have to work together if we're going to stop it. That's our view of the situation.

[Zaidi in his mind - as per book - I was absolutely shocked by Boucher's partisan attitude, but now I have to directly ask him about Dawood Ibrahim and the hypocrisy of the US in turning a blind eye towards him]

Husain Zaidi : Just one last thing. Dawood Ibrahim is declared global terrorist by the US. I think the US has also declared that Dawood is an ally of Al Qaida. So I think even the US appears to have in their possession, evidence of his being in  Pakistan

Assistant Secretary Boucher : I dont know if that's true. I mean, I do Dawood Ibrahim is a bad guy, and we deserve to get him, but we all have to work together, yes?

Note the date, this was during the thick of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal negotiations. Even then, there was no hint of a softening, or no hint of taking Pakistan to task, or no hint of a realisation of the gargantuan nature of the problem facing us. This is as late as in 2007. This is when India-US relations were being called the defining relationship. Even now, 7 years later, little seems to have changed; with reports from the US being to the tune that Pakistanis did not know of that Osama was in Pakistan - 1 km from its biggest military training school!

As we can see, nothing has changed in 43 years. The USA is still focussed in the Pakistan-China axis, as it always was. Its views are still partisan; Indian problems - genuine problems do not find even a vague hint of a realisation in the US policies. And yet, we Indians go gaga over the US-India relationship! Arms continue to flow to Pakistan; the USA continues to look the other way; it continues to deny India critical technology; it continues to come in India's way at each and every single forum.  It is time for us to face this hard reality : The USA is not a strategic partner. Let alone that, it is not even a friend, at least on the GeoPolitical and Strategic perspective.

We are just business partners. If Company 1 have a business manufacturing product X, composed of a component Y, that is being produced by companies A, B and C. Of these, A can be negotiated with, and the product sourced.  Similarly, company A has a second product, for which it can source a component from company 1. That does not make the owners of company 1 and A friends; it makes them business partners. That is the perfect description.

Note that we have a trade of nearly 3 Billion Dollars with Pakistan, who is a defined enemy. So why cant we have a 100-Billion Dollar Trade with an acquaintance or an unknown entity such as the USA? Just as you have family, friends, acquaintances and unknown people in individual relations, we can map the India-US relations to such 'names'. In that framework USA is at best an acquaintance. An acquaintance who is the best freind of the next door neighbour who is my enemy. Proof provided above.

Time to face the reality: The USA and India arent friends, and arent strategic partners. We are just trading partners. You have a drink and dinner with friends, you look to defend them in front of others. This is exactly what the USA has been doing to Pakistan - while going after us hammer and tongs for everything under the sun. Time to face the reality, and move on. Let us focus on trade, by all means. Trade is welcome, so long as it is fair. But let us all draw the line there; let us all accept that this brouhaha has to stop; that this is just wishful thinking born out of the romantic notion of democratic links and the equally romantic but thoroughly unrealistic dreams of the expatriate population.

Will this change? Will the hitherto powerless PIO and NRI population make a dent on US' conscience and policies? That remains to be seen. Till that day comes about, let us focus on building trade - like we do with China, Pakistan, even Burma, Sri Lanka. Let us look for strategic partners elsewhere. If the change does happen, it will be welcome. Problem is, it hasnt happened in the past 67 years... 


References -

The Blood Telegram - Gary J Bass
Black Friday - S Hussain Zaidi
From Dongri To Dubai - S Hussain Zaidi