Thursday, December 29, 2011

To see Buddha smile at Odisha!!

Assumptions and misconceptions run huge when we ignore facts or are ignorant about them. The same stands true especially when mumbaikars are treated as north indians, assameese called as nepalis and south indians given the nomenclature of madrasis. State citizens have a tendency to create countries within their states to show their dominions over them, in fact forgetting the Shakespearean quote ' all the world is a stage and all the men and women are mere actors' .. the functionality of statehood was aimed at uniting people, communities and beliefs. Unfortunately, we create fiefdoms within ourselves, to form a bigger state entity called 'individuality'.

  Raj Thakareys and the MNS, Tamil Elams and regional groups is gaining momentum in this 21st century   where West Asia is fast becoming democratic and grouping itself to form a state entity. I am awed at the challenges which our Iron Man, Vallabhai Patel was faced, with dignity and grace. Recalling one of the incidents mentioned in one of the biographies on him,he was called upon by Nehru through a representative to integrate India. In Bed for weeks due to the prevailing illness, he was not in a position to move or travel. But the moment he got the directions, he jumped and with full vigour and passion started off to convince 565 princely states across the length and breadth of India to be a part of the larger India they dreamt!! Cutting across caste, class, religion, community and statehood; he made India or Bharat united. Unfortunately there is section of people who still believe that we can never stand united among this diversity; and was better left to be ruled by princes and horses. Often my mind wavers on this, witnessing the ignorance and talking to the ignorant.

Having travelled to Orissa which earned the distinction of being a Maoist state; the state of laborers and illiterates, the state of poverty amongst rich; I was given updates and situational reports from various quarters. Given that I had traveled to Rourkela, Puri and Konark  when I was 2 years old, was excited to visit the state at the present state of affairs. The Patna Express took me 36 hours forcing to burn the morning oil at 2:30 am, thanks to Prasant Jena who was waiting for me to pick me up from Bhubaneshwar station. I was a part of the land deals which he took me; and educated me on the cost of land business. I find that Bhubaneshwar is one of the top destinations for companies to invest in and figures third in the Doing Business Report. Hard to imagine for a small city similar to Kochi in size but bigger in ambition. Hats off to Patnaik, who is a Harvard graduate in stimulating growth.

Despite the extremists efforts, the larger part of Orissa (Odisha, as it is now called) is progressing, though the poor are still disadvantaged owing to the rich divide brought by the bountiful mines and minerals of Orissa. No wonder POSCO wanted to get the deal done at any cost.The city is growing, so is the roads and infrastructure. Making way for 6 lanes and connecting Chennai to Kolkota; travelling through the industrial belt all the way to Baleshwar/ Balasore was an enriching experience. As I was witnessing the famous Kalinga War which made Ashoka repent and lead to the sprout of Buddhism only to be driven away later (allegedly by Shankaracharyas advaita). I was also standing as a mute witness to the mining goondas exploiting the sacred soil and waging war against nature. Guess Herman Hesse's would have to rewrite his 'Sidhartha'!!

Bhubaneshwar- Baleshwar Maruti 800 drive took us 3 and half hours (approx 210 kms). The road was endless and vast enough to wage a war. I stood non plussed and imagined how wars were fought in this vast track of land. The frequent tolls slowed us, while the oncoming traffic through the single line was enough to scare us on the impending accidents, not to mention the sacred cows. The road produced a tour to the butcher with carcass of the goats and dogs laying in a state of static motion. It had the right mix of all forms of human and natural inventions, lorries; industries, pollution; agri land etc....

Baleshwar is a hustle bustle small city (or rather extended version of town) which is 15 kms from our prestigious agni launch pad, Chandipur. Its only a test ground for most of the missiles, with the actual launching done in Russia, Kyrgistan and other countries. Its a product of our Industrial policy as you can see industrialist queuing to settle themselves there. Interestingly, the land value of Baleshwar is pretty higher than the capital state of Bhubaneshwar. No wonder, the road less travelled to Baleshwar is packed by POSCO's, Vedanta, Cairn India etc. Staying at my Project Manager, Prasant Jena's house; I find that unlike we mallus, he has so many identical twins in Orissa. All wear the same shirt, jeans, have fat tummy and sound similar. Quite unique in their similarity!!

Seeing and feeling the pulse of Odisha residents, I am sure they want their state to emerge as a leader in India. The mindset is positive, the situation is tending to be favourable (except for the miners) and the leadership is good. I believe we can admire the vastness of the Kalinga empire in the near future. We shoukd understand that Ashoka's contribution to India is not just the chakra represented in the Indian flag, but the great ideals and the principles he adopted; which the land of kalinga made him believe.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010


The passing of Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 also forms part of the ‘To Do’ List for Indian Parliament this winter. Unfortunately, the bill seems to have evoked minimal discussion within the legal community and civil society, may be because it is clubbed with titans like the Lokpal Bill.

No one has a case against the relevance of this bill which requires judges to declare their assets, lays down judicial standards, and establishes processes for removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. This bill which has been pending for a while was also in the limelight in recent times, especially during instances of allegations of misconduct against judges, both sitting and retired.

Appointment of Higher Judiciary - Present System of Collegium

The Supreme Court of India in the case of Supreme Court Advocates –on Record Association v. Union of India (AIR 1994 SC 268), also known as Second Judges Case, introduced the collegium system of judicial selection within the higher judiciary wherein the judges are selected/nominated by a team of five or three senior most judges in Supreme Court and High Court respectively. This method of selection initially gained wide popularity as it kept executive influence to the minimal, contrary to the earlier practice.

However, experience over the years has proved otherwise. The noted jurist and author Fali S Nariman in his autobiography refers to the above mentioned case as ‘A case I Won: But which I would prefer to have lost’.

To quote him: “But the extra-curricular task (imposed upon five senior most judges by a judgment of the court itself), that of recommending appointments to the highest court, has not been conducted with the care and caution that it deserves. There is too much ad hocism, and no consistent and transparent process of selection. As a result, the image of the court has gravely suffered”.

Even worse, the higher judiciary have constantly maintained the position that such a system is to be secret as it is related with ‘independence of judiciary’ and has strived to keep the selection process beyond the purview of pro-transparency legislations like the Right to Information Act,2005.

Provisions of the Proposed Bill

Important Provisions of The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, 2010 can be listed as follows:

  • Judges are mandatorily required to declare their assets and liabilities, and also that of their spouse and children.
  • Bill establishes a three-tier system of National Judicial Oversight Committee, The Complaints Scrutiny Panel and an Investigation Committee to oversee the performance of judges.
  • Initiative to provide a statutory back up for judicial standards which have been always subject to discretion of Judges.
  • Any person can make a complaint against a judge to the oversight committee on grounds of ‘misbehavior’.
  • A motion for removal of a judge for ‘misbehavior’ can be also moved in the parliament, which will be referred to the oversight committee.
  • Complaints and inquiries against judges will be confidential and frivolous complaints will be penalised. Vexatious Complaints will be punished with an imprisonment of five years and also to a fine which may extend to five lakh rupees.
  • The oversight committee may issue advisories or warnings to judges, and also recommend for their removal to the President.


The dilemma for policy makers have always been to make judiciary accountable without compromising on the ‘independence of judiciary’, considered to be a part of the basic structure of constitution. This legislation was an opportunity for the judiciary to restore its lost credibility. But it seems to be falling short of target.

From a broader perspective, the bill is trying to deal with subjective criteria’s like integrity and credibility of the judges appointed. It also seeks to establish a complicated procedure and a three-tier system for investigating complaints against judges, ensuring that such complaints are not vexatious and justice is ensured for the judges themselves. Inspite of all such measures, interestingly even the Parliamentary Standing Committee which studied the Bill, feels that it will be only a partial success, as the bill is only remedial and the real cure lies in infusing transparency into the selection process of judges.

To conclude, the focus ought to have been on the appointment process of judges and the least on such elaborate trial procedure. Many argue that a holistic legislation dealing with appointment, enquiry and impeachment would have been a far more welcome step. Hence, until substantial reforms are introduced into the opaque system of appointment of judges, we are trying to place the cart before the horse.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Curbing Vandalism

As the proactive role of courts are being seriously debated and many argue for drawing boundaries for the seemingly undefined ‘judicial activism’, the recent decision of Kerala High Court (Hemant Kumar’s Case,2011) imposing preconditions for grant of bail, in cases involving destruction of public property, deserves attention. The judgment states that accused in cases involving destruction of public property should deposit the value of the property destroyed as security to be eligible for bail. Call it ‘judicial activism’ or a case of ‘judicial innovation’, recent media reports suggest that the judgment has started making repercussions, as major political parties in the state have instructed their cadres to be cautious on the streets. The judgment has also initiated a public debate, as the Kerala Government is trying to prepare a detailed valuation of public property destroyed in past few years and also intending to set up fast track courts to specifically deal with such cases.

Having a closer look at the issue, one is left wondering whether we were so far trying to curb the menace with an impotent legislation, Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act, 1994. A perusal of the legislation makes it clear that this miniature legislation have been carefully drafted as the law makers knew they would be at the receiving end quite often. Interestingly, in cases of vandalism, neither the offender nor the public at large seems to be concerned regarding the loss caused in total. On the contrary, anyone related with the government would know about the effort, time and procedural formalities after which a ‘pubic property’ is procured by the State, in addition to the cost involved and expenses for maintenance. Hence, the annoyance of the Court is justified as an authority which issues ‘writ of manadamus’ for delivering public services, Courts cannot be a mere spectators when public property is vandalised.

However, it is felt that the above mentioned judgment requires a strong statutory backing for proper implementation. This author believes that the value of a public property needs to be calculated considering the utility of the property and not solely on its physical value. Undoubtedly, we need guidelines and procedures to determine the ‘real value’ of property destroyed. On a broader perspective, it is suggested appropriate amendments needs to be brought so that obstruction of public service is also within the scope of ‘destruction’ for the meeting the objectives.

Earlier judgments, including Supreme Court observations in Inre Destruction of Public Properties(2009) and literature available on the subject, primarily accuses political parties as major destroyers of public property. But we fail to note that communal organisations and politically neutral protestors are equally liable. The protest by Gujjars last year can be sited as best example. It is also a debatable issue whether leaders of political parties can be held ‘vicariously’ liable for the act of a mob and forced to pay damages. It is for sure that the judgment will be challenged and will be subject for judicial interpretations in coming days. Many also believe that such penal amounts would be paltry for the super rich political parties. However, the bold stand by Kerala High Court and the subsequent reluctance to review the judgment has communicated strong message across political frontiers.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Negative News

Negating Negative news
By Madhu.S

“The question of negative news arises out of negation of moral principles”

Negative news have two dimensions, one in which is portrays a matter in a negative manner (context specific) and other which gives a negative view of a matter (content specific). For example, the death of a person can be given a negative outlook by incorporating ‘suspicious circumstances of the cause of death’ equal to that of a murder. This is the context specific negativity. Content specific negativity arises in case where news is shown to believe on the bad reputation of a country or a person. This type of negative news is used usually to cause discomfort or throw bad light on a person or a country, something which the western media usually does while portraying Afghanistan or like countries.
Interestingly the scope of negative news is immense, as there exists a class of people who take interest of such news and another set who uses it as an opportunity. The concept of yellow journalism is the child of the second class of people supported by the first class of people. Ex Chief Minister IK Gujaral, Former head of ISRO Mr Nambi Narayan etc are known victims of this.
Effect of negative news reporting:
 News portrayed in the negative light has a lot to do with the psychic of the creator and the end-user or journalist/editor and reader/people. Journalism exists on creating or inventing news rather than innovating news. Competition among different media and between peers has ordained the existence of such news. However, a large section of the journalists believe that a huge market exists for such negative news. Creating interesting news has direct relation to the customer satisfaction. Politicians are the major class of people who support negativity.
Jan Kleinnijenhuis (2002) in his seminal article Negative News and the Sleeper Effect of Distrust gives interesting reading on how negative news are been used to instigate and dissuade opponents, critical during the election periods. According to him, negative news creates distrusts between political peers which acts as sleeper effect on the people or persuades them to distrust the politicians. In fact various research done by Neuroscientists represent that the outcomes of elections depend largely on rapid, unreflective trait inferences of competence and reliability that occur within a one-second exposure to the faces of the candidates (Todorov et al. 2005).
When the face of the candidates is flashed through different media associated with corruption or criminal offences, the voters tend to distrust such people. Interestingly, all major political parties take the same route in this game of “winning by tarnishing”. Herein lie’s other factors as to which negative factors outweigh the other. If we measure the negativity of news and come with an index, we can see that political issues dominate the rankings. News related to sports or weather can be found to have the lowest score because of the neutrality involved into it. While sport teams and weather incidents can also be prone to negativity.
The causal effect of readership or viewership is directly linked to negative news. Richard Posner, a Correspondent of New York Times had termed the act of creating sensationalism as bad news. It was found that the arise of negative news owes to the decline of mainstream news and the arrival of visual media leading to a deterioration in quality.
In a recent poll conducted by the Hindu, it was found that Indians still believed that newspaper have wider quality and credibility spending around 37 minutes for reading it (2006:Indian Readership Survey). While visual media and mobile news reporting is considered to be least credible. The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer which studied on credibility of advertisements in different media found that advertising and social networks as news media are not considered as being credible sources of information in India by opinion leaders.  Though no formal studies have been conducted on negative news, opinion leaders believe that with the advent of new media, quality and credibility has deteriorated with an increase in negative news.
Effect on readers:
The Center for Media and Public Affairs did a study on network coverage of murder. Between 1990 and 1995, the murder rate in the U.S. went down thirteen percent. But during that same period, network coverage of murders increased three hundred percent. If you happened to watch a lot of news during that period, you would probably have gotten the impression that murders in America were escalating out of control, when in fact the situation was improving.[1] Cynicism and pessimism is considered to be one of the potent factors that drive negative news. Health experts believe that frequent exposure to negative news creates higher chance of heart failures and slow reaction against medicines.
 It is believed that inducing fear, frequent reproaching and disparagement by various media is causing a strong sense of pique among the readers. With the resultant splurge in ‘cry-till-night’ operas and cynical comedy shows proves the fact that negativity is increasing in a routine manner causing grave issues family issues caused through distrust. Factually incorrect News headlines with minimum veracity involved like “Boss runs with wedded employee”, “Raped husband kills wife” etc has been increasing clogging as Page 3 columns and newspapers.

While there is no medicine to cure such illness, but there are better options for preventing it from being acute. The core of the issue of negative news lies in the demand and the supply chain. Self-regulation is a weak word to be issued to restrict the use of negative news, but can be a more effective weapon. The Norms of Journalistic conduct framed by the Press Council of India, 2006 provides a good framework for regulating the use of negative use with the sole purpose of increasing readership by doing more harm to the victimized. The Preamble to the guidelines is clear to avoid any discrepancies of negativity which states “The fundamental objective of journalism is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased, sober and decent manner.” Only if the print and visual media unequivocally stand to protect themselves to be the tools for negative news, shall it be effective.
Reviewing and editing of negative news is left to the public especially when it is a free and open field. Educating the readers shall be a mandate of all media, so that the readers themselves can shrug off negative impacts of news. The public shall be given opportunities to rate and rank articles, news and views moderated by a Readers Editor (eg: The Hindu). This will act as a check and balance in negating any attempts to promote sensationalism. The readers and the viewers have the right to be provided accurate and quality news, while the media should act as the agents of change through an impartial and unbiased and open platform. Maintaining quality standards should be the norm and the compliance with it the rule for all media alike. The fact is that only 55-60 percent of the people in India are literate and only 242 million people read newspapers in India (IRS), with a large growth opportunity for the media. There around 80 television news channels catering to the news requirements of the Indian audience spanning from agricultural price to budget for agriculture to latest films of bollywood stars to the number of runs scored by Sachin Tendulkar. It is a necessity that all media as a responsible media provide authentic and accurate news to the Indians to progress and develop.

Monday, November 28, 2011

FDI in retail debate - Part 1

By D. Dhanuraj

FDI in retail sector has been a pending decision from the Government. That too at a time everyone ditches at the Governance for the lack of direction and the reform drive. Corruption, scam, tainted image of the Government.. all are adding pressure to the Government. It is argued that any such reform like FDI in Retail can push the Government forward and shed the image of stagnation in Governance.

In India, organised retail sector is not going to be a threat to kirana shops in the immediate future as India is diverse and the Purchasing power of each family and individual vary a lot. The organised retail is a long way to get accomplished as we lack the supply chain management, ware housing, processing, refrigeration etc. They say  more than 33 million are going to lose their livelihoods as a result of this policy. I wonder how it going to be as it is not Tsunami to strike the small merchants over night. there is a trade off always in any sort of changes happening in the economic activity. The challenge for all policy makers and the economists is that of finding a suitable way to absorb these tremors. In this case, it is a trade off between 33 million and 1167 million. If we go by public choice theory, trade off will be of lager benefits to the larger population. But this does not mean that we are asking these small trading communities to go to Hell. instead , contrary to expectations, they are going to benefit as many established Indian players already commented that the most important step in this bargain is to take these small time merchants into confidence. whether it is HLL or Future group, they have already rolled out smart programs like coaching and equipping these trader community on the best practices in sales while storing their products in these kirana shops. Thus, these merchants learnt the art of selling the items in a professional way while customers in the rural areas started getting improved and quality service hitherto not offered.

All the studies show that farmers are at the losing end as a result of middlemen and lack of infrastructural facilities within the system. Politicians exploit the opportunity by declaring MSPs gauging the vote bank politics of the upcoming elections in the region. A distorted market is created banning import and export without any scientific reasons but by reflecting the paternalistic statehood. When millions of citizens starve, food grains are thrown into Bay of Bengal fortunately without causing much social unrest. No one declares hartal when the nation dumps the food grains into the ocean. why? are we not sensitive to the poor or do we lack the sensibilities? what are the reasons and what are the remedies?

Free speech and defamation

by D.Dhanuraj

Three events or incidents caught my attention in the recent past. Though they are three different contexts, I tend to look through the angle of freedom of expression and personal choice.

Hon.Kerala High Court punished comrade Jayarajan for calling the judges 'Shumbhan'. Later, he was given bail by Hon. Supreme Court. Not getting into the legality of the issues here, I started myself asking this question; 'Who is Mr Jayarajan?'. He is not a minister or not an MLA while he had these remarks on Judges. He is a state committee member to CPI(M). then the next question splashes across my mind; why should people listen to him? in fact, it has been the volume of the followers to his speech that got him into trouble. But there is no twitter or face book fan following pages reflecting the popularity and damage he has caused to the system by such remarks. then who is culpable? all the visual channels and print media had given adequate coverage for the reported speech. I am wondering if they had not given him that kind of coverage to his purported speech on several occasions, what would have irked Hon High Court and the petitioner? so, arent we looking at the brand image of a CPI(M) leader in an incurious way? how many state committee leaders of CPI (M) gets such a reception in the media? how can we say that national executive committee members of different parties in India do not indulge in acts as comrade Jayarajan had risked. Whom to blame here? or is there any blame at all?

Second incident is related to the banning of the film 'Dam999'. if the above logic is applied, the whole media shall be banned before banning the film. No Government has any right to ban any art form citing some mischievous reason. if that is the case, how are they different from fundamentalist forces and Taliban?I also believe that the decision makers are living in a different world completely detached from online and smart phone era. Even, I am against the philosophy behind the sensor boards. if Government bans the film, then the first organisation to be dismantled is Censor Board as they only gave the certification. In both the cases, it looks so funny.

Third event is that of the media restrain on Baby Bachan. If the same media had taken such a step in Jayarajan's case, it would not have ended up in wasting so many man hours and prime time TRPs. If someone had tried to follow acts and commissions of Tamil Nadu Government, they media would have received severe punishment for eulogizing comrade Jayarajan. If the Director of the film had followed the logic of the petitioner in the defamation suite, he would have ended up filing a defamation case against Tamil Nadu Government.

Now, I am confused and getting weired results from these permutations and combinations. so lets try what media did on a self regulatory way in Baby Bachan's issue until these wielding powers are debated and removed from the lexicon..

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Santhosh Pandit and Hippocratic Malayali

By D. Dhanuraj

I am surprised by the way media, public and critics approached Santhosh Pandit's 'Krishananum Radheyum'. Many say, it is not a film but a musical album whereas some others say that it is comedy show. whatever it is, as per the Censor Board certification, it is a movie with a 'U' certificate. media reports that theaters are packed for this movie and has already generated surplus revenue for the director. now comes the question many ask these days; Is this movie making a history in Malayalam film industry??

I don't consider nor make any comment as it is the audience and applause that one craft gets in its wider platform that make an art live for ages. in this case, let it be decided by the society and art connoisseurs. But I don't understand why everyone is passing teasing comments on Santhosh Pandit. The debate how good the film is that what  i appreciate but he cannot be called as criminal by anyone for such an enterprise. In Malayalam there are 70 to 75 films are released every year. I don't think we know each and every film for that matter. so why dont we leave this film into the bracket if we don't like it?

it is interesting to learn that the movie and its parts are available free of cost on social media. how many other directors have done it in the past? if you go to a book stall, we get books written by Thankshi to MT to local writer. how many of us have complained about such a disparage? if we don't like those writings of inferior quality, we don't subscribe to them; it is a personal choice. here also, it is a personal choice to watch the movie. same is the case with any music show attended by legends like Yesudas and Chitra in comparison with  local troupes. if the outcry is from the organisations like AMMA et al, I am not sure how do they have the privilege of becoming apostles of Malayalam movie industry.

21st century has inaugurated many unconventional media fronts to all of us.lets accept it. he used one of those platforms and nothing else. This film has not been imposed on anyone.  In a way, he is smart and innovative to convey a strong message to all of us on how bad the films are made in the industry. In the days to come, I am sure many more changes and shocks will be in Malayalam film industry. Monopoly of the associations will be challenged. what we need ti s the freedom for creativity and expression. it cannot be bonded to the politically affiliated trade unions and academies. One is free to watch and criticize it. But he should not be made joker by all of us as I think, in that case we are better cases to fit as jokers.

Indian Oil Corporation and petroleum price hike

By D.Dhanuraj

Some times it is very difficult to understand the rationale and logic of these numbers and demand Oil marketing Petroleum comapnies raise. Sometimes it is confusing also. According to reports, IOC had decalared  an equity dividend of 95.00% amounting to Rs 9.5 per share for the year 2010 - 2011. According to the annual report of IOC which is available on their website, the profit after tax for the year 2010-2011 is Rs 7445 crores. in Chairman's report, though he discusses about the gap between international price and the domestic price, he does not delve into the details of how much it costs to the company for every liter of Petrol sold. 

Moreover, IOC is a Maharatna company. the definition and status of Maharatna company might be different but it actually helps the share holders to understand the value of the company. Here, a Maharatna company which has a profit of Rs 7445 crores demands for the price hike telling the world that they are on loss. 

I am not able to decipher the whole argument of IOC here though I believe that petrol prices should link with international prices... are we inflating the share value of IOC by covering up cost and expenses of IOC?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Gender Perspective on Urban Development and Planning

The Indian constitution guarantees equal rights to women. In addition, India is a signatory to the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) thus underlining its commitment to the elimination of Discrimination against women. But it cannot be denied that gender inequality exists and in varying forms. In the urban space, women constitute a diverse group but with specific gender interests which are because of some common sets of roles and responsibilities. Cities in general have more number of women headed households, single women living by themselves, working women with travel needs, etc. In addition, urban life poses greater risks with regard to safety and security of women. According to a women’s safety audit study undertaken by UNHABITAT in 2007, feelings of insecurity and fear of crime and violence are highest in large cities.  The report says that though urban design and planning do not generate violence but they do create and environment that offers greater or lesser opportunities for violence. Thus, by virtue of bad design, isolation, inadequate and poor maintenance, women can be at more risk and insecure in public spaces. Thus any kind of urban development planning must address the needs of these diverse groups. In addition, the empowerment of women is imperative in addressing issues like poverty.

It is assumed that urban development is gender neutral and provides equal access to men and women. Infrastructure planning in India has been the forte of men. Women are generally under represented in the fields of governance and planning process. One of the main reasons is the absence of active involvement of women in the political sphere and local governments. Even this can be traced to the lack of freedom of women to move about safely and without violence (Bealle, 1996). Thus women have little say in the distribution of city resources and to make them work to their advantage. The various services and infrastructure projects that seem to respond to varied requirements for men and women have different impacts on them. For example roads that are designed without taking in to account the safety needs of women (without streetlights) increases crime against women and are not ‘gender neutral’. It is important to provide gender specific interventions which are implemented and monitored in order to benefit women. For example, if public transport is designed with a view to addressing the special requirements of women, then access points and schedules will ensure that women utilize the service well. Unequal access to education, health care, housing, etc. not only serves to dis-empower women and weaken their voices in planning, but it also impacts urban growth. (Khosla,2009).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Office of profit- what is it?

by D.Dhanuraj

I never understood the office of profit argument. In recent times, this has been a controversial definition for political hara-kiri. Now, it has taken an alarming proposition that can cause for midterm assembly elections in Kerala. The debate is on ‘whether the chief whip of the ruling front (UDF in this case) enjoys the office of profit or not?’ I am not a legal expert to cite the various judgements and provisions in the law to prove or disprove the argument. Yet as a researcher, it looks so funny to me when the very idea of office of profit and these positions (Chief whip in this case)are interchanged for political vexation .  
What do we mean by a political office? From President to local ward member can be included in that long list. What is their duty? In Indian context, to perform and drive for the societal needs and meet the social challenges in truly democratic way. What is the role of Government and who are all responsible for the Government? From PM or CM as head of the cabinet (as applicable) to MPs and MLAs supported by executive and other forms of para statal agencies.  Recently, parliament legislated to hike the remuneration for MPs. What does it mean? Each one is eligible for get remuneration for the work they are doing. Isn’t it the same case when PM is paid and MPs are paid but PM also is an MP? PM also chairs more than 70 committees in India. Isn’t it a problem that system necessitates these additional work and not PM as an individual?

What is Chief Whip? Culture and definition of Whip varies from UK to other countries.
In UK,  “The role of Chief Whip is regarded as secretive, as the Whip is concerned with the discipline of their own party's Members of Parliament and never appears on television or radio in their capacity as whip. Whips in the House of Commons do not speak in debates”.

But in Kerala, it differs in all the respects. Chief Whip is the spoke person (though not officially) for the Government in power. I do tend to believe that everyone is tempted to be on media in Kerala so is the case with the Chief Whip. But don’t forget that he is also an MLA. Like PM is selected, Chief whip is also been selected. So, why office of profit? The 'chief whip' is the leader of the 'team' of whips whose job it is to keep order within the party and to ensure the members of the party (MLA's) vote in line with the party's ideas. It is as good as a Minister is a given a ministry to look after. Is he enjoying the office of profit? It looks to be a very murky idea of defining office of profit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hartals and Petroleum price hike

by D Dhanuraj

Another Hartal day passed in Kerala. It is a ritual all Malayalees are used to for ages. Not many will ask you about what happened post Hartal? did they have any impact on the cause? I dont think anyone did a study on these and made a report on cost benefit analysis of hartals. Sometimes, i wonder hartals add more business to the state economy as beverage corporation outlets have Onam business on the previous day of hartal and of course many tour operators are benefiting from hartals. 

Keeping jokes apart, I want to discuss the philosophy of hartals called by left parties to protest the oil price hike. Though I am in favor of declaring the oil price according to the international price market, I do believe that the system is not transparent one. It is still controlled by the party in ruling. When they postpone the price hike due to impending assembly elections, the scheme of things are very clear. There was no explanation for not slashing the price when there was a fall in the international market. Most of the oil companies belong to either navarathna or maharathna status. How is it possible when these companies claim to be bleeding.

Coming back to the topic of discussion, i have a recent experience on how an oil company behaves. I am staying near to an Indian Oil Bottling plant. Recently, there was a strike called by the workers belong to different unions. Reason was, they felt they were not adequately paid. When my curiosity worked, i could get the numbers. The strike was called by loading and unloading as well as by the cap (those who put cap on the lid of the cylinder) workers. Though there is no reason to work on the exact numbers that they were demanding (later they won also), i was wondering on the work culture of these employees. Many locals are working in this plant. Many of them work in our houses also helping in domestic activities. But many times, i learnt that they come to these work during their company logins. Mostly, they have 8 hours shift. But in between they will come out of the company and engage in their own business. I don't know any other private company would have entertained this work culture. Apart from these daily wagers and union workers, the full time employers get a very high salary. I am happy when anyone gets good money for their living. But a closer look will explain that these workers are not engineers or professionals rather semi skilled or non skilled workers. Again, i dont want to cite their salaries here but one thing is sure that they are getting high payment that cannot be expected even in a highly paid IT company in metros. So what is the cost here?

I am surprised that left parties call for hartal every time there is a hike in petroleum price. They say that this will lead to inflation and will affect the middle class. I am happy that they accept that there is a growing middle class in India. At the same time, i am confused why they dont raise voice for a better public transport system. If they believe that the petroleum price hike can affect the poor, why can they raise their voice for their mobility? Isn’t it a contradiction that left parties succumb to the private cars owners aspirations and demands. Aren’t they supporting rich and getting into unnecessary tango of import bills and climate changes?

Sad revelation is that those who get extra decent salary and those private car owners dont vote for left parties... what a dilemma..

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Random Thoughts on Universities in Kerala

by D. Dhanuraj

Whenever I travel outside Kerala, I have noticed that others look at Malayalees with lot of admiration for the simple reason that Kerala ranks very high in literacy rate. When i meet my friends there, I complain about the lack of quality of education in Kerala. Then, they are again astonished; how come it is possible for a high literacy rate. I do have to go for hours to share the experience and explain the reasons. Yesterday, I met a friend of mine and we were discussing the quality of university education in India. It is considered that quality of higher education in Kerala is very poor. Reasons are many that include the lack of professional management of universities as they are politically managed than professionally. Political bosses believe that universities are to centres for politicking. Syllabus is obsolete or woven with intricate political ideologies most of the times. Teachers unions dictate the daily functioning where as syndicate is stuffed with the representatives of political class. List is a long one. But what my friend asked me is the most twisting element of the whole saga of universities; most of the universities for the most of courses in Kerala send the course degree certificate to the student only after one year of the completion of the students. He was citing that many court cases are there in connection with these bizarre happenings. Even then, the situation has not been improved. Many times, many students lose one year because of this irresponsible behaviour from the university.  He asks me; “what is the solution?”

I was wondering if the same act has been from NIITs or IIPMs or any private provider. I am sure they would have been assaulted by this time and would have lit pyre for their innings in Kerala. Youth wing of political parties would have man handles the oblivious staff for the same reason. If so, why is it not happening with universities?

Answer is: Kerala’s mindset has to be reoriented.

Monday, August 01, 2011

'Jobs to Be Done' Marketing Model

Marketing is one of the most important functions of a business in order to remain competitive and profitable. A sound marketing strategy determines the sales graph even more than the quality of the product. The traditional marketing model is characterised largely by the practice of market segmentation. This implies to dividing the market into product categories, which can be a function of price or else dividing the customer base into target demographics based on age, gender, education, income level, etc. Despite many of these sophisticated marketing techniques, it can be seen that most of the products launched are not successful at least to the degree intended.

Prof Clay Christensen from the Harvard Business School suggests an alternative or rather an effective marketing model that can help make products that people really need and hence will see an increase in the sales chart. It is called the Jobs to be one marketing model.

According to this concept, consumers do not by a product just because they belong to a demographic category, but because they need or rather ‘hire’ the product to do a job for them. They are emotional or irrational and take life as it comes. Thus, it is important to know what job people want the product to do for them, rather than just stating the general function of a product, which is largely based on competitors or the employees. He also goes to the end of suggesting that market segmentation should be done on the ‘jobs to be done’ perspective.

Important questions:
Is the traditional market segmentation model ineffective in the changed global scenario?
Is the ‘jobs to be done’ marketing model a good enough alternative model for the traditional model?
Can services also be marketed based on this model?

Criminals and brutality in India

Nearly 7,500 people have died in official custody in India over the past five years, according to a report by a human rights group. This report by Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says many of these people were tortured in custody. But the government routinely attributes deaths in custody to illness, attempted escape, suicide and accidents.

Suhas Chakma, director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, says prosecuting responsible officials takes a long time in India, and leads to a culture of impunity. “It takes about 25-30 years to prosecute somebody. And by that time many of the accused are dead, or possibly the relatives that have filed a complaint are dead," he said, adding, "So there is a culture of impunity which is given by the government of India, and I think this is the single most important factor which is encouraging torture."

Interesting notes and facts:

  • In India, the attitude towards criminals remains the same as it was during the British rule. 
  • At the end of every five years, recruitment into the police force takes place. Interestingly, 30 per cent of the recruited population has a criminal background.

People expect the police to be more humane and do an honorable job while tackling criminals, while in reality, this cannot be expected, because they themselves are exploited with long working hours and constrained time for relaxation. The working hours of the police force should be revised as per the UN standards. In India, the police should totally be removed from the Government control.