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Lokpal asco
The government presents a fundamentally
awed anti-corruption Bill and ensures that
it collapses in Parliament
Indian experience 87
Thanes fury 122
Ramanujan enigma 33
VOLUME 29 NUMBER 1 JANUARY 14 - 27, 2012 I SSN 0970- 1710 WWW. FRONTLI NE. I N
F R O N T L I N E 3
On the Cover
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his
Cabinet colleagues Kapil Sibal, Anand
Sharma and Pranab Mukherjee in New
Delhi on December 28, 2011.
Published by N. RAM, Kasturi Buildings,
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Anti-incumbency worries 28
Close contest
in Manipur 31
Prof. Robert Kanigel
on the enigma
of Ramanujan 33
Setback to UID 39
Question marks over
cash transfer schemes 42
Escalation of tensions 45
South Africa:
ANC at 100 48
Sri Lanka:
No-win situation 50
CELAC summit:
An alternative bloc 55
Chavez welfare mission 58
In the jungles
of Borneo 62
Map fetish 82
Secular thoughts 87
Sex determination:
Tracker controversy 94
BRT Sanctuary:
Green approach 99
A new beginning 106
Haven for exporters 110
Responsible tourism 112
Making managers 116
Banking for all 118
Cyclone attens
Cuddalore, Puducherry 122
Vivan Sundaram:
Clothed by art 129
Bhaskar Ghose:
Inaction as policy 80
Praful Bidwai:
Red-green deal 92
Jayati Ghosh:
Year of centenaries 97
R.K. Raghavan:
At a crossroads 103
COVER STORY Lokpal asco
The scuttling of the Lokpal Bill is one more
sign of the lack of political will to ght cor-
ruption. 4
Lost opportunities 8
Prashant Bhushan 12
Farce of Lokpal 17
Prof. Mohan Gopal 21
Team Anna: Down,
but not out 23
Low-key in
Mumbai 24
Lokayukta Bill
in Uttarakhand 26
An interview with
Professor Robert Kanigel,
biographer of the Indian
mathematician Srinivasa
Ramanujan. 33
Without equality, democracy
and social justice, which are
three interrelated factors,
secularism cannot exist as a
positive value in society. 87
Cyclone Thane takes a
heavy toll on the lives
and livelihoods of people
on the Tamil Nadu
coast. 122
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
4 F R O N T L I N E
THE ruling United Progressive Alliances (UPA)
political track record in 2011 was of a sustained
downward slide. The Lokpal Bill asco in the Rajya
Sabha on December 29 and the developments that
followed suggest strongly that the Congress, the
leader of the alliance, is on course to repeating this
dismal performance in 2012 too. The state of play on
the Lokpal Bill does not augur well for the Congress
both in terms of the immediate political fallout and
in terms of the repercussions in the medium term.
References to the midnight drama in the Rajya
Sabha on December 29, especially the allegations
about the Congress leaderships role in engineering
it, are bound to come up time and again in the run-up
to the Assembly elections in ve States scheduled to
be held between late January and early March. The
Budget session of Parliament is set to commence
amidst these elections, and the Congress will have to
put in serious efforts at repairing its relations with
the Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam (DMK), its partners in the UPA who have
opposed some of the key provisions of the Bill.
The asco in the Rajya Sabha also underscored
the confusion that exists within the Congress on the
Lokpal Bill. Evidently, the party was being pulled in
different directions throughout the debate in Parlia-
ment and in the run-up to it. In fact, one section was
of the opinion that a half-way measure involving the
mere introduction of the Bill and the generation of a
controversy on some provisions, leading to the even-
tual non-passage in Parliament, would bring the
party political and electoral benets. They would
come supposedly from groups and communities per-
turbed by the perceived Hindutva orientation of
Team Anna, the civil society conglomeration that
generated a nationwide debate on the Lokpal issue
over the past six months through agitations, and so
The asco underscored the
confusion within the Congress on
the Lokpal Bill. This and the
perception that the party conspired
to kill the Bill in the Rajya Sabha
could affect its prospects in the
coming elections in ve States.
The scuttling of the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha is one more sign of the lack of
political will to ght corruption. BY VENKI TESH RAMAKRI SHNAN
Cover Story
Lokpal tragedy
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 5
This section believed that the party
could take credit for introducing the
Bill and also accuse the opposition of
not allowing its passage. It was appar-
ently of the view that a number of pro-
visions in the Bill introduced in
December, including those that were
not in the Bill introduced in August,
would lead to its collapse.
However, this section saw as a neg-
ative development the proposal to con-
fer constitutional status on the Lokpal
and the passage of the Bill bringing in
the amendment on this provision in
the Lok Sabha. The move was wel-
comed by other sections of the Con-
gress and the UPA. Undoubtedly, this
strategic mish-mash contributed in a
big way to the asco in the Rajya Sab-
All this has also once again raised
questions about the Congress lack of
political will to bring in far-reaching
laws in many key areas, including in
the realm of combating corruption. Al-
ready, the Lokpal Bill exercise has
been likened to the 15-year impasse in
passing the Womens Reservation Bill.
These comparisons, naturally, high-
light the absence of political assertion
by the leadership of the countrys
largest party.
While the contours of the medium-
and long-term issues relating to the
Lokpal Bill are still unclear, there is
little doubt that in the short term the
Congress will have to contend with
some intense political jousting on the
Rajya Sabha asco. The opposition
parties, including the Bharatiya Jana-
ta Party (BJP) and the Left parties and
many powerful regional parties, have
all launched a campaign on the devel-
Civil society groups led by Team
Anna are also bound to take up some
agitprop exercise in the context of the
December 29 developments, though
the grouping faces two limitations on
this front. First, the health condition of
its top-most leader, Anna Hazare, is
preventing him from taking up any
major campaign initiative. Second, is
the argument among sections of the
civil society movement that both the
Congress and the BJP were hand in
glove in scuttling the Bill in the Rajya
Sabha. These sections argue that if
Team Anna is going to campaign on
the Rajya Sabha asco, it should take
on not only the Congress but also the
BJP. Many supporters of Team Anna,
such as Yogendra Yadav, have stated
this position forcefully. As of the time
of this writing, the core committee of
Team Anna has yet to take a formal
view on this.
However, the BJP has upped the ante
by sending a high-level delegation
comprising party president Nitin Gad-
kari, veteran leader Lal Krishna Ad-
vani and Sushma Swaraj and Arun
Jaitley, Leaders of the Opposition in
the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha re-
spectively, to President Pratibha Patil
with a demand to reconvene the Par-
liament session for voting on the Lok-
pal Bill. The party launched the
campaign with some powerful rhetoric
by Arun Jaitley paraphrasing Jawa-
harlal Nehrus freedom at midnight
speech. If it was freedom at midnight
on August 15, 1947, it was eedom at
midnight yesterday. At the stroke of
the midnight hour when the world
slept, India awoke to a great fraud be-
ing played on its parliamentary de-
mocracy, Jaitley told a press
conference on December 30.
Central to the campaign is the
thrust that the government ran away
from the Rajya Sabha because it had to
accept the oppositions conditions
while passing the Bill in the Lok Sabha.
The party also proposes to highlight
the consensus among opposition par-
ties on three basic amendments: pro-
tecting the legislative jurisdiction of
the States under Article 252, the ap-
pointment and removal process of the
Lokpal, and the autonomy of the in-
vestigating agency.
Jaitley said the government knew,
from the experience in the Lok Sabha,
that these consensus amendments
would be enforced, and that was why it
conspired to kill the Bill in the Rajya
Sabha. That is exactly why Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh and Fi-
nance Minister Pranab Kumar Muk-
herjee refused to intervene in the
Rajya Sabha debate. They got a friend-
ly party like the Rashtriya Janata Dal
(RJD) to disrupt the House, Jaitley
added. According to him, the strategy
of the BJP and several other opposi-
tion parties was to defeat a weak and
spurious Lokpal law but at the same
time insist on amendments which
would improve and convert the weak
law into a strong law.
Along with the BJP, regional par-
ties such as Mayawatis Bahujan Samaj
Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Ya-
davs Samajwadi Party (S.P.) are
bound to highlight these issues to tar-
get the Congress.
The Left parties have made their
position clear through the statement
of Sitaram Yechury, Polit Bureau
member of the Communist Party of
December 29 when the discussion
on the Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha
continued late into the night.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
6 F R O N T L I N E
India (Marxist). Yechury termed the
Rajya Sabha developments as nothing
but subterfuge and sabotage engi-
neered by the government. The Con-
gress used its allies in the UPA such as
the Trinamool Congress and outside
supporters like the RJD to create
chaos, he said.
Interestingly, the Trinamool Con-
gress, which Yechury referred to as an
accomplice, has continued with its
criticism of the Congress position on
the Lokpal bill even outside Parlia-
ment. In fact, the party is planning an
independent campaign in at least
three of the ve election-bound States,
and by all indications this campaign
will have an anti-Congress thrust.
Clearly, that is bound to accentuate the
Congress embarrassment.
The Congress response to all this has
followed the offence is the best form
of defence dictum. On December 30 it
held a high-prole press conference,
elding Home Minister P. Chidamba-
ram, Information and Broadcasting
Minister Ambika Soni, Parliamentary
Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Ban-
sal, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Con-
gress spokesperson and Chairman of
the Parliamentary Standing Commit-
tee that drafted the Lokpal Bill. Chi-
dambaram and Bansal told the media
that it was the BJP that had no in-
tention of passing the Bill. The BJPs
slogan was Support Anna, defeat the
Bill. So it hit upon the ingenious device
of moving 187 amendments, many of
them contradictory and several others
that could not be reconciled. It is al-
leged that the debate was choreo-
graphed by the government and that it
was the murder of democracy. In fact,
it was the opposition that choreo-
graphed chaos and murdered democ-
racy, Bansal said.
According to Chidambaram, the
real story is that the BJP had no in-
tention of passing the Bill in the Rajya
Sabha and that is why the opposition
party moved 187 amendments. On oc-
casions, it is possible that one or two
new amendments are moved in the
other House. But, 187 amendments
were moved. That is the real story. Can
anyone make sense of 187 amend-
ments? Can anyone reconcile them in
a matter of a few minutes or a few
hours? The real story is that the BJP
had no intention of passing the Bill,
said the Home Minister. Obviously,
the Congress political defence will be
on these lines.
The party leadership also main-
tains that it will sit down and talk with
the Trinamool Congress to sort out the
We are ready to rene and redraft
certain provisions of the proposed an-
ti-corruption legislation to address the
concerns of our ally. In the Lok Sabha
we accommodated the concerns of the
Trinamool Congress. They were satis-
ed. They voted in favour [of the Bill in
the Lok Sabha]. There was a change of
stance later. We need to sit and talk
with them. We think the proviso [that
the Act shall be applicable to a State
which has given prior consent to its
application] is adequate, but we can
always rene it, redraft it to take care
of their concerns, Chidambaram
pointed out. On his part Singhvi as-
serted that the Lokpal Bill is certainly
not dead and it is not even in the ICU
or emergency. It is merely under rest
and recovery and it will be back soon,
he said.
It is not yet clear how the Congress
leadership proposes to go about effect-
ing the return of the Bill after rest and
recovery. Technically, the Lokpal Bill
has not lapsed. It has been passed by
the Lok Sabha but has been stalled in
the Upper House. The Parliaments
Business Advisory Committee has to
take it up for consideration before the
next session. Before that the govern-
ment will have to go through all the
amendments that have been moved by
different parties. It will have to reach
out to different parties, particularly al-
lies with reservations on the Bill. The
government also has the option of
passing the Bill through a joint session
of Parliament.
Several Congress leaders told
Frontline that these options are being
considered collectively. The govern-
ment is yet to evolve a concrete plan of
action, but it will be delineated in
about three weeks, said a senior Min-
ister. Even as these assurances are be-
ing given, there is growing
apprehension among sections of the
political class and civil society that the
Lokpal will go the way of the Womens
Reservation Bill because the main-
stream political parties, particularly
the Congress, do not have the political
will to enforce it. Team Anna associate
and former Lokayukta of Karnataka,
N. Santosh Hegde, has been vocal
about this. It is for the Congress lead-
ership to disprove these apprehen-
MEMBERS OF THE opposition parties troop out of Parliament House
blaming the Congress for the failure to pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
8 F R O N T L I N E
IN writing the history of Lokpal legislation in
India, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011, may
have to be split into several chapters. Of these, the
events connected with the non-passage of the Bill in
Parliament in December 2011 may well be suitably
titled Opportunities Missed & Focus Derailed.
An observer has only to look at the various stages
in the evolution of this Bill to understand the pro-
posed changes the government had accepted or re-
jected, which led to the uncertainty about its passage
and indeed its future.
On December 22, the government introduced
the Bill along with the Constitution (116th Amend-
ment) Bill in the Lok Sabha. This Bill incorporated
some of the recommendations of the Parliamentary
Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Griev-
ances, Law and Justice. This was a completely new
Bill as the government had withdrawn its previous
Lokpal Bill, which it introduced in the Lok Sabha on
August 4, 2011, and later referred to the Standing
Committee. The Standing Committee tabled its re-
port on December 9, 2011.
The August Bill did not propose to confer consti-
tutional status on the Lokpal. The Standing Com-
mittee recommended constitutional status so that
the Lokpal had higher stature and increased legiti-
macy. The committee believed that constitutional
status would enhance the legal and moral authority
of the Lokpal institution and also insulate the basic
principles of the Lokpal from the vicissitudes of
ordinary or transient majorities.
It is inconceivable, the committee stated, that
while parties are in favour of the institution of Lok-
pal in principle, as a statutory body, parties would
not agree with equal alacrity for the passage of a
constitutional amendment Bill.
Yet, the Lok Sabha, which passed the Lokpal and
Lokayuktas Bill with a few amendments, rejected the
Constitution (116th Amendment) Bill, which re-
quired two-thirds majority of the House present and
voting for its passage.
The object of the Constitution Amendment Bill is
Lost opportunities
How the governments Lokpal Bill-2011 evolved, and the provisions that are
bound to weaken it. BY V. VENKATESAN
Cover Story
ABHI SHEK MANU SI NGHVI (second from right), Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Lokpal
Bill, with other panel members before a press conference in New Delhi on December 9.

The Bill underwent three crucial
amendments after its introduction
and before its passage in the Lok
Sabha on the Lokayukta issue, the
time limit for investigation and the
action-taken report. All three have
the potential to weaken the Lokpal.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 9
laudable as it seeks to create an auton-
omous and independent Lokpal at the
Centre and Lokayuktas in the States
with powers of superintendence and
direction over investigation and prose-
cution of public servants accused of
corruption. Yet, it failed to secure the
requisite support in the Lok Sabha be-
cause members found a huge gap be-
tween its object and the provisions of
the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill.
The Standing Committee also rec-
ommended constitutional status to the
grievance redress mechanism and a
separate law to guide citizens on pro-
cedural matters and to acknowledge a
citizens complaint within a xed time
The government introduced the
Right of Citizens for Time Bound De-
livery of Goods and Services and Re-
dressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011,
in the Lok Sabha on December 20, but
did not see merit in according consti-
tutional status to it.
During the debate in Parliament,
the opposition was critical of the gov-
ernments control over the selection
and removal of members of the Lok-
pal. The Congress member of the Ra-
jya Sabha and Chairman of the
Standing Committee, Abhishek Manu
Singhvi, argued that it was usual for
the government to enjoy a slight ma-
jority in selection committees meant to
choose members of a constitutional
The Leader of the House in the Lok
Sabha, Pranab Mukherjee, suggested
that just because the government ap-
pointed constitutional functionaries, it
did not mean it could inuence them.
But the Standing Committee re-
port shows that it wanted to dilute the
provisions with regard to selection and
removal in the Bill that was introduced
in August. That Bill had proposed a
nine-member selection committee,
ve of whom would have been govern-
ment nominees. The Standing Com-
mittee recommended a four-member
selection committee comprising the
Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok
Sabha, the Chief Justice of India (CJI),
an eminent Indian nominated unani-
mously by the Comptroller and Audi-
tor General (CAG), the Chief Election
Commissioner (CEC) and the Chair-
man of the Union Public Service Com-
mission (UPSC), and the Leader of the
Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The De-
cember Bill proposes ve members, of
whom three should be government
nominees the Prime Minister, the
Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition
in the Lok Sabha and the CJI or a
judge of the Supreme Court nominat-
ed by the CJI, and one eminent jurist
nominated by the President. Had the
1 0 F R O N T L I N E
government accepted the Standing
Committees recommendation, it
could have dented somewhat the op-
positions criticism.
Again, on the question of removal
of members of the Lokpal, the stand-
ing committee had recommended that
a citizen should be allowed to ap-
proach the Supreme Court directly
with a complaint, rather than on the
basis of a reference from the President,
as required under the August Bill. The
committee had also suggested that if
the President did not refer a citizens
petition the reasons should be given.
The Bill of December rejects both
these recommendations.
Clearly, the governments eager-
ness to control the appointment and
removal of Lokpal members is at odds
with the object of the Constitution
Amendment Bill, which is to make the
Lokpal and the Lokayuktas independ-
ent and autonomous of the govern-
ment. It is fair to argue that
constitutional authorities, once ap-
pointed, tend to become autonomous
in their functioning. But as the move-
ment for a strong Lok Pal was born out
of a strong distrust of the government,
the government must have gauged
that such provisions would be looked
at with intense suspicion.
The composition of the Lokpal is an-
other contentious issue. Abhishek
Manu Singhvi claimed in the Rajya
Sabha that it was wrong to consider
the requirement that at least 50 per
cent of the nine-member Lokpal be-
long to the Scheduled Castes/Sched-
uled Tribes/Other Backward
Classes/women/minorities as reserva-
tion. He argued that the provision was
only meant to ensure diverse repre-
sentation, considering the pluralistic
diversity of India.
He may well be right. But his claim
was contrary to what Minister of State
for Personnel, Public Grievances and
Pensions V. Narayanasamy said while
moving the motion for consideration
of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha. He said
the provision was incorporated in re-
sponse to the demands from various
political parties that there should be
reservation for these sections. The Bill
of August provided that the Lokpal
would have its own investigation and
prosecution wings. The Standing
Committee, however, sought to dilute
this by recommending instead that the
Lokpal conduct a preliminary inquiry,
after which the Central Bureau of In-
vestigation (CBI) would investigate.
Also, the CBI would have autonomy
over its investigation. The committee
also proposed that the Lokpal will have
a supervisory role over the CBI in cases
relating to Group A and B ofcers.
The Bill of December further dilut-
ed these recommendations. The Lok-
pal, it says, shall refer a preliminary
inquiry against Group A, B, C and D
employees to the Central Vigilance
Commission (CVC). The Bill further
says that after conducting the inquiry,
the CVC shall submit a report to the
Lokpal in the case of Group A and B
employees and proceed according to
specied procedure in the case of
Group C and D staff. The CVC, accord-
ing to the current Bill, shall send peri-
odic reports to the Lokpal on its cases.
The Bill adds that if a prima facie
case exists against a public servant, the
Lokpal may refer it to the CBI for in-
vestigation. Also, it may refer a case for
preliminary inquiry to the CBI (other
than Group A, B, C and D ofcers). The
Bill also provides that the Lokpal shall
exercise general superintendence over
the CBI (similar to the CVCs super-
vision currently). These additional di-
lutions in the later Bill, according to
critics, reduce the Lokpal to just a post
The Standing Committees recom-
mendations in the inquiry and investi-
gation aspects, too, have been diluted.
The committee recommended that the
Lokpal conduct only the preliminary
inquiry and that it be authorised to
initiate it suo motu. In such cases, the
inquiry would have to be done by a
ve-member Lokpal Bench that is not
connected with the suo motu initia-
tion. More important, the accused
would not get an opportunity to be
heard at this stage, though the Bill of
August allowed that. The later Bill re-
jects both these recommendations and
sticks to the August version, which
provided that the Lokpal could initiate
an inquiry only on the basis of a com-
plaint by a citizen. The only concession
the Bill makes is that the Lokpal shall
have its own inquiry wing to conduct a
preliminary inquiry on a complaint it
has received and has decided can be
inquired into.
The governments Bill underwent
three crucial amendments after its in-
troduction and before its passage in
the Lok Sabha, and all three have the
potential to weaken the Lokpal fur-
ther. First, the Bill as introduced made
it clear that it would be applicable to
the States and that it might be notied
on different dates for different States.
The government then amended the
Bill to say that it shall be applicable to
the States only if they give their con-
sent. Although meant to address the
concerns of States over the Bills provi-
sions, the amendment can make the
Act a non-starter if the States choose
not to give their consent.
Secondly, the Bill as introduced in
the Lok Sabha insisted that investiga-
tions must be completed within six
months and that this period might be
extended by six months for reasons to
be recorded in writing. The Bill did not
provide for further extensions. Howev-
er, the amended Bill as passed by the
Lok Sabha allows extension of six
months at a time for reasons to be
recorded in writing and does not limit
the number of extensions.
Third, the Bill as introduced in the
Lok Sabha required that the Lokpal
send a copy of its investigation report
to the Competent Authority (the Lok
Sabha, the Prime Minister, the Speak-
er or Chairman of the Rajya Sabha),
which would table it in the House and
communicate the action taken to the
Lokpal within 90 days. The Bill as
amended and passed by the Lok Sabha
has removed the requirement of re-
porting to the Lokpal on action taken.
An element of mutual checks and bal-
ances to ensure accountability has
been inexplicably removed.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 2 F R O N T L I N E
PRASHANT BHUSHAN, a member of Team
Anna and a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court,
has been a vociferous critic of the governments Lok-
pal Bill at every stage. He answers, in an interview to
Frontline, questions raised by Members of Parlia-
ment during the recent debate on the Lokpal Bill in
the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and enunciates
the challenges ahead of the movement for an effec-
tive Lokpal. Excerpts:
The governments Lokpal Bill makes an attempt to
separate the investigative and prosecution functions
in criminal justice administration. Such separation
has been considered a desirable goal in itself.
The Lokpal, in our Bill, is essentially an investi-
gative body with some incidental powers of recom-
mending disciplinary action and freezing of assets. It
does not enjoy any judicial powers, and the nal
decisions about conviction, sentencing, conscation
will be taken by the courts. I dont agree that sep-
aration of prosecution and investigation is desirable.
What I agree with is that investigation and prose-
cution should not be under the control of the politi-
cal executive. Both should be under an independent
body same body or two different bodies. Probably
better that it should be controlled by the same body.
The assumption that our Bill frees the Lokpal of
any control is wrong. The Lokpal under our Bill is the
most accountable institution in the world. First, it is
mandated to function with complete transparency,
meaning that every detail or every investigation must
be put out on a public website immediately after the
investigation. Secondly, the CAG [Comptroller and
Auditor General] is required to do an annual and
nancial audit of the Lokpal. Thirdly, every member
of the Lokpal is accountable to the Supreme Court,
and any citizen can move the Supreme Court to get
any member of the Lokpal suspended or removed.
And, of course, it [Lokpal] is subject to judicial
review of the High Courts or the Supreme Court like
every other institution. Anybody can go to court to
stop its investigation or challenge its decisions.
A December 2011 independent research study
conducted by the Law and Governance Faculty of
the Bangalore-based Azim Premji University has
analysed the functioning of the Karnataka
Lokayukta model over a period of nearly two
decades. It has concluded that the Lokayukta has
failed to achieve its primary purpose of securing
criminal conviction of corrupt ofcials. It has also
Whole Bill diluted
The one amendment which the
government accepted defeats the
whole object. [The amendment says
the Bill, once passed, shall be
applicable to States only if they give
their consent.] It means the States
will never decide to apply the Act.
Interview with Prashant Bhushan, Senior Advocate and member of Team Anna.
PRASHANTH BHUSHAN: "THE Lokpal under our
Bill is the most accountable institution in the
Cover Story
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 4 F R O N T L I N E
shown that the vesting of investigative
powers in the Lokayukta and the
merging of the States anti-corruption
bureau with it have not resulted in
proactive Lokayukta action against
The reason for the unsatisfactory
results of the working of the Karnataka
Lokayukta is the inadequate investiga-
tive machinery provided to it as well as
the inadequate number of judges deal-
ing with charge sheets led by the Lo-
kayukta, resulting in gross delays in
investigation as well as trials. Also, the
investigative machinery under the Lo-
kayukta is still that of the government,
which retains administrative control
over it.
I have not read this research study,
but I know that the State Lokayukta is
not satisfactory, and in my view these
are the reasons.
It is another matter that there
should be some vetting of the charge
sheet to be led by the prosecution in
order to see whether it is proper or not,
whether it is called for or not. Some-
body other than the Investigating Of-
cer [IO] should vet that charge sheet.
Thereafter, there should be coordina-
tion between the investigators and the
prosecution because the investigator
has to provide all the evidence and the
prosecutor has to put that evidence
before the court. That is why in most
countries there is no separation.
Prosecutors should be independ-
ent of the government. Today, investi-
gation is under the government. When
you free investigation from the govern-
ment, it is not necessary that prose-
cution must be separated. Today, the
government is inuencing the prose-
cution. In the 2G case, every day the
government is interfering with the in-
vestigation through the Director of
Prosecution [who is an ofcer of the
Law Ministry] or the CBI.
Section 25 of the governments Bill
recognises the independence of the
investigator from the government.
Even the Supreme Court has
acknowledged in the Vineet Narain
(hawala) case that the governments
administrative and nancial control
over the CBI is legitimate. If the
administrative control is transferred
to the Lokpal, how will you ensure
ministerial responsibility to
Parliament for the functioning of the
This business of supervisory juris-
diction is actually meaningless be-
cause it does not allow the Lokpal to
interfere with investigation. So, what
can the Lokpal do?
I have had discussions with two
successive CVCs [Central Vigilance
Commissioners], P. Shankar and Pra-
tyush Sinha, about this. The CVC also
has supervisory jurisdiction over the
CBI. Both the former CVCs said that
the maximum that they could do was
to ask the CBI to register an FIR.
Thereafter, they could not tell the CBI
what to investigate, how to investigate,
whether to investigate.
In the 2G case, on our complaint,
the CVC asked the CBI to register an
FIR. The CBI registered the FIR and
sat on it for two years until the Su-
preme Court started monitoring the
matter. The CVC couldnt do anything
to push them. Control is exercised
through administrative powers of
transfers, promotions, postings, and
disciplinary control. That is the real
control over the CBI. Through that the
government is able to inuence the
The Supreme Court has not said
that administrative control of the CBI
must remain with the government. In
the Vineet Narain case, the court felt
that supervisory jurisdiction was good
enough. But the court did not realise
that it would actually be meaningless.
The Supreme Court wanted to free the
CBI from the interference of the gov-
ernment. But the model that the court
decided [on] was clearly unworkable.
The only way of freeing the CBI would
be to remove it from the administra-
tive control of the government and put
it under the administrative control of
an authority that is independent of the
government, like the Lokpal.
There are many institutions which
have no accountability to the govern-
ment. You can give accountability to
Parliament, but that does not mean
there has to be accountability to gov-
The judiciary has 100 times the
powers of the Lokpal. But the account-
ability of the high courts and the Su-
preme Court is zero. They are not
mandated to function transparently.
Effectively, the government has no
control over the judiciary. In practice,
even Parliament has no control over
the judiciary because we have seen that
impeachment of judges is impractical.
The power of the Lokpal is only to do
"WE NEED TO spend more time on
grass-roots communication and
mobilisation. Then, we need to
develop a long-term perspective and
a broader vision as well about the
functioning of democracy." Here, on
August 21, 2011, the anti-corruption
rally led by Anna Hazare on its way
to the Ramlila Ground in New Delhi.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 5
criminal investigation of one kind,
which is of corruption. Even in the
police, the SHO [station house ofcer]
has more powers than the Lokpal. The
SHO can investigate every crime. The
Supreme Court can not only order an
investigation [initiated by the Lok-
pal], but stop it. Even high courts can
do that. Take the Election Commission
or the CAG. They are not accountable
to the government.
There are many authorities under
the Constitution which are not ac-
countable to the government but are
accountable to the Supreme Court.
Similarly, the Lokpal would have been
accountable to the Supreme Court. In
fact, we [in the Jan Lokpal Bill] have
xed two other accountabilities of
Lokpal. One, it will have to function
transparently. No other institution is
mandated to function transparently.
Second, it will be subjected to an an-
nual audit, performance and nancial
audit, by the CAG. No other institution
is like that.
It is pointed out that as the
governments Bill gives the power of
superintendence and direction of the
cases to the Lokpal, this will enable
the Lokpal to intervene and ask for a
change of IO if it feels that any IO is
being inuenced in the investigation
by an indirect carrot or stick.
The Lokpal under the govern-
ments Bill cant ask for that. The Lok-
pal has been given the right to ask any
investigating agency, not merely the
CBI, to investigate. If you look at the
Bill carefully, the Lokpal can send a
case to the Enforcement Directorate or
the State police. Everywhere, there is
the same problem. All these organisa-
tions are administratively controlled
by the government.
But why cant we assume that since
the Bill gives the Lokpal supervisory
powers over the investigating
agencies, the Lokpal can check any
abuse of administrative control over
them by the government?
This supervisory jurisdiction was
vested with the CVC for seven years.
The CVCs said they consulted former
CJIs, including Justice J.S. Verma
[who had delivered the Vineet Narain
judgment], regarding this supervisory
jurisdiction and what it meant. They
told us that the CVC could not do that
[check misuse of administrative con-
trol by the government]).
Just because the former CVCs did not
exercise their supervisory powers
fully because of awed advice from a
former Chief Justice, should this
become the precedent for the Lokpal?
Well, it is an open question wheth-
er the CVC can check the governments
interference with the CBI or not. If it
can, than it is good. It is something
that can be examined. All that I am
saying is, make it explicit in the Lokpal
Act that it can do all these things.
Rather than leave it to inferences?
Of course. What is administrative
control? It is precisely this, that the
government can change the Investi-
gating Ofcer, transfer him, deny him
promotions, that it can write his con-
dential reports. Vest this administra-
tive control with the Lokpal. What is
the problem? After all, administrative
control of all Election Commission
staff is with the E.C., not with the gov-
The question of federalism and the
perceived encroachment on States
rights have proved to be the Achilles
heel of the governments Bill and the
Jan Lokpal Bill. How do you think this
can be resolved?
It is clear that there is no question
of federalism here. This whole argu-
ment that the Lokayukta being there
in the Bill will interfere with federal-
ism is totally misplaced. The Constitu-
tion has three lists the Union List, the
State List and the Concurrent List.
This subject pith and substance of
this legislation is essentially criminal
law and criminal procedure because
corruption investigation and prosecu-
tion are aspects of criminal law and
These are both Items 1 and 2 in the
Concurrent List. Therefore, Parlia-
ment has equal right to legislate. Par-
liamentary legislation on this will
supersede the State legislation. Even
otherwise, since this law is to imple-
ment the U.N. Convention against
Corruption, it comes under Article 253
of the Constitution, under which only
the Union has the right to legislate. In
any case, both the Union and the
States have the right to legislate since it
is in the Concurrent List.
So, is Leader of the Opposition in the
Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley wrong in
arguing against the use of Article 253
by the government?
Jaitley is totally wrong because he
says that State civil services are in the
State list. But the Bill doesnt deal with
State civil services. On disciplinary
matters, the Lokayukta has only the
power to recommend. Ultimately, the
decision has to be taken by the State
government. And that is only an in- S

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 6 F R O N T L I N E
cidental power arising out of the cor-
ruption investigation. So, the test
which is applied is what is the pith and
substance in this law? Is it a law which
deals with State civil services? Or does
it deal with criminal investigation?
Obviously, it deals with criminal in-
So, is it correct to deal with the
Lokpal legislation under Article 253
or as an item under the Concurrent
Both are correct.
Is Jaitley correct in arguing that the
government ought to have invoked
Article 252 of the Constitution (Power
of Parliament to legislate for two or
more States by consent and adoption
of such legislation by any other State)
to enact the Lokpal legislation?
The government need not invoke
Article 252 at all. The one amendment
which the government accepted de-
feats the whole object. [The amend-
ment says that the Bill, once passed,
shall be applicable to States only if they
give their consent to its application].
In fact, the government has diluted the
whole Bill by allowing the States to
decide when to apply this Bill. It means
that the States will never decide to ap-
ply the Act.
If Parliament has the will, it can do
it. It will show that the BJP is also
against a strong Lokpal Bill.
You have been a strong supporter of
deepening participatory democracy by
legitimising referendums on
important issues. Do you think
referendums can aid legislation and
policymaking? If something impinges
on secularism and democracy, for
example, is it advisable to go in for
referendums? There are certain
non-negotiables such as the basic
features of our Constitution. If a piece
of legislation or a policy measure
aims to advance such a basic feature,
and if public opinion is in favour of
abandoning our commitment to such
basic features, what happens? On the
Lokpal issue, nobody is sure about
public opinion on the many intricacies
of the Bill. How could the government
go by the results of privately
conducted opinion surveys?
If a referendum impinges on secu-
larism or democracy, that referendum
will not be constitutional. If the refer-
endum is for making a law, that law
cannot be against the Constitution. If
the referendum is for making a policy,
that policy cannot be against any law.
If the referendum is for amending the
Constitution, even that cannot be
against the basic structure of the Con-
Only those referendums can be
held which are constitutional and
which are for effectuating something
permitted by the Constitution.
Secularism and democracy are
parts of the basic structure. If the refer-
endum is for amending the Constitu-
tions basic features, that referendum
will be unconstitutional. If nobody is
sure what the public opinion wants, we
can test it out. The government could
have gone in for a referendum. This
[Lokpal] was a good case.
There are too many nuances in this
debate. How would the public
understand these in a referendum?
You can ask a neutral body like the
Election Commission to identify
which are the contentious issues and
ask it to frame the questions in a neu-
tral and fair manner. One contentious
issue was the selection committee [to
choose the Lokpal members]. There
were three or four different options,
and the people could have been asked
to vote on them.
What will be the relevance of
Parliament if we have to go in for a
referendum to resolve every issue?
But Parliament is not deciding ac-
cording to the will of the people. This
kind of parliamentary democracy is
not allowing governance by the will of
the people. People do not want SEZs
[special economic zones], yet in ve
minutes Parliament passes the SEZ
Act. People did not want the nuclear
deal, but the government goes ahead to
pass the nuclear deal.
Parliamentary democracy is not
part of the basic structure. We can
change it. Democracy is the basic
structure. What form of democracy,
we can always change by amending the
Constitution. If we nd that parlia-
mentary democracy is not resulting in
the will of the people being carried out,
then we can change that. They [the
MPs] get elected by use of money pow-
er. So, this form of democracy has
shown itself to be very imperfect and
What road will Team Anna take in the
coming weeks? What, according to
you, have been its strategic errors
and what correctives should it take?
I would say that in the last few
months we neglected the ground-level
work of communicating with the peo-
ple. Our workers and volunteers were
not organised by us, so to say, to com-
municate all these issues to the people.
We need to spend more time on grass-
roots communication and mobilisa-
tion. Then, we need to develop a long-
term perspective and a broader vision
about the functioning of democracy
and some of the other key issues in the
You have said all political parties do
not want a strong Lokpal. Can it be
said that it is because the Lokpal
addresses the symptoms rather than
the root cause, which is electoral and
corporate corruption. In other words,
a strong Lokpal may not achieve
much, given the aberrations in our
electoral system.
Political parties do not want a
strong Lokpal because they have a
vested interest, conict of interests, in
the matter. Most of them would be
adversely affected by the enactment.
They are not worried about the root
cause. Of course, the government Bill,
like the Jan Lokpal, includes in its am-
bit corporate bribe-givers. In our Bill,
we have said that if a corporate is in-
volved in corruption, then ve times
the loss caused to the government
should be recovered. That means for
every act of corruption, the corporate
accused would virtually be bankrupt-
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 7
They use the snafe and the bit all right/But where
is the bloody horse?
WHERE indeed is that bloody horse? As Roy
Campbell rightly asked. The Indian political class
and the bogus and rude elements who claim to repre-
sent Indias civil society have been debating for
months the dimensions of the stable, the qualica-
tions of the syces and regular supply of food, but they
have not given the slightest of thought to the heart of
the matter the stable simply cannot hold any
For months on end we have heard arguments on
the process for the appointment of the Lokpal, the
ambit of its jurisdiction over public servants from the
Prime Minister downwards, its control over the Cen-
tral Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and so on. But
what exactly is its main function? That is set out in
an obscure denition in clause 2 (e) of the Lokpal
and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, as passed by the Lok Sabha
on December 27, 2011. There was no discord on this
fateful provision.
It reads thus: Complain means a compliant,
made in such form as may be prescribed, alleging
that a public servant has committed an offence puni-
shable under the Prevention of Corruption Act,
But that Act itself prescribes a procedure for the
investigation and punishment of offences under it.
Where, then, is the need to set up a parallel machin-
ery in respect of these very offences at enormous
expense of public time and money, not to forget the
bitter debate on this wasteful course when issues of
great moment await debate and legislation.
Chapter II of the Act of 1988 provides for the
appointment of special judges to try the offences.
The Bill of 2011 provides in Chapter IX for the
establishment of special courts to hear cases under
the Act of 1988 or the act to be passed.
The Lokpal will need the services of the police for
investigating allegations. The Lokpal will have an
inquiry wing (Chapter III) and a prosecution wing
(Chapter IV). Remember that this pooh-bah of an
institution will comprise a Chairman plus up to eight
Clause 23 exposes the aw: 23(1) No sanction or
approval of any authority shall be required by the
Lokpal for conducting a preliminary inquiry or an
investigation on the direction of the Lokpal, under
Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973,
or Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establish-
ment [DSPE] Act, 1946, or Section 19 of the Preven-
tion of Corruption Act, 1988, as the case may be, for
the purpose of making preliminary inquiry by the
inquiry wing or any agency (including the Delhi
Special Police Establishment) or investigation by
any agency (including the Delhi Special Police Es-
tablishment) into any complaint against any public
servant or for ling of any charge sheet or closure
report on completion of investigation in respect
thereof before the Special Court under this Act.
2) A Special Court may, notwithstanding any-
thing contained in Section 197 of the Code of Crimi-
nal Procedure, 1973, or Section 19 of the Prevention
of Corruption Act, 1988, on ling of a charge sheet in
accordance with the provision of sub-section (7) of
Section 20, take cognisance of offence committed by
any public servant.
If the sanction provision under Section 197 of the
CrPC and Section 19 of the 1988 Act can be rendered
irrelevant in this case, why not discard them com-
pletely. It is a fundamental principle of English
criminal law that except in special cases, any person
can set in motion the machinery of criminal law. A.P
Farce of Lokpal
A draft Bill appended to the 1966
interim report of the Administrative
Reforms Commission on redress of
citizens grievances empowered the
Lokpal to investigate complaints of
maladministration and accrual of
gain to the Minister or Secretary.
The omission of maladministration in the Lokpal Bill, despite it having found a
place in all Lokpal Bills from 1968 to 1985, is deliberate. BY A. G. NOORANI
Cover Story
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 8 F R O N T L I N E
Herbert did it to enforce liquor laws on
the premises of Parliament.
It was in India that the Raj imposed
the requirement of sanction to protect
its minions. The effect is that at the
outset the government itself will de-
cide whether its ofcial can be prose-
cuted or not in a court of law.
For over a century the Privy Coun-
cil, the Federal Court, the Supreme
Court and umpteen high courts have
wrestled with the words while acting
or purporting to act in the discharge of
his ofcial duty.
The debate is not yet over. The Su-
preme Court has fought shy of holding
these provisions unconstitutional. If
the Bill becomes law, Section197 of the
CrPC will suffer another inrmity. It
will violate the fundamental right to
equality before the law. Only cases be-
fore the Lokpal will not need the sanc-
tion, others will for the very same
But Clause 23 also renders Section
6A of the DSPE Act irrelevant; but
only for cases before the Lokpal. And
thereby hangs a sorry tale that tells us a
lot about our political class, right
across the political divide. It is this Act
of 1946 which still constitutes the
charter for the CBI. Hence in court
proceedings, the CBI is referred to as
the DSPE. Executive instructions by
the Government of India directed the
CBI not even to hold a preliminary
inquiry in respect of a certain class of
public servants. As soon as the Single
Directive was struck down as void by
the Supreme Court in the hawala case,
it was shamelessly reintroduced, this
time in a piece of parliamentary legis-
lation as Section 6A of the DSPEAct. It
reads thus:
Section 6A Approval of Central
government to conduct inquiry or in-
vestigation [Inserted by Act 45 of
2003. Section 26 (w.e.f. 11-9-2003)]
(1) The Delhi Special Police Estab-
lishment shall not conduct any inquiry
or investigation into any offence al-
leged to have been committed under
the Prevention of Corruption Act,
1988, (49 of 1988) except with the pre-
vious approval of the Central govern-
ment where such allegation relates to -
(a) the employees of the Central
government of the level of Joint Secre-
tary and above; and
(b) such ofcers as are appointed
by the Central government in corpora-
tions established by or under any Cen-
tral Act, government companies,
societies and local authorities owned
or controlled by that government.
(2) Notwithstanding anything
contained in subsection (1), no such
approval shall be necessary for cases
involving arrest of a person on the spot
on the charge of accepting or attempt-
ing to accept any gratication other
than legal remuneration referred to in
clause (c) of the Explanationto Section
7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act,
1988 (49 of 1988).
Surely, if the sole purpose of the
institution of the Lokpal is to ensure
the integrity of police investigation
and prosecution both free from exec-
utive inuence the sensible course is,
rst to repeal the sanction provision
(Section 197 of CrPC and Section 19 of
the Prevention of Corruption Act) and
to repeal also Section 6A of the DSPE
The ofce of a Director of Prose-
cutions protected from political and
police inuence must be set up and the
police force given the protection of the
law for which it has been pining all
these years. This is done easily by im-
plementing the recommendations of
the National Police Commission. To-
gether, these steps will remove the per-
version which crept into our legal
The CBI rightly objected to being
brought under the purviewof the nine-
I NDI RA GANDHI S BI LLS of 1968 and 1971 covered both allegation of
corruption and maladministration, dened widely to include "action",
"procedure" or "practice" which is "unreasonable, unjust, offensive or
improperly discriminatory". Here, in drought-hit Bihar in 1966, Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi distributing land pattas in a village in Raipur district.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 9
Lokayukta of Karnataka. He is a
member of Team Anna, but one
must, perhaps, not ask whether he
brought his States Act to its notice.


member body of an all-powerful Lok-
pal. Clause 25 resolves the issues thus:
a(i) The Lokpal shall, notwithstand-
ing anything contained in Section 4 of
the Delhi Special Police Establishment
Act, 1946, and Section 8 of the Central
Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, have
the powers of superintendence and di-
rection over the DSPE in respect of
matters referred by the Lokpal for pre-
liminary inquiry or investigation to the
DSPE under this Act:
Provided that while exercising
powers of superintendence or giving
direction under this subsection, the
Lokpal shall not exercise power in such
a manner so as to require any agency
(including the DSPE) to whom the in-
vestigation has been given, to investi-
gate and dispose of any case in a
particular manner.
Why not engraft the last words in a
charter for the CBI, which successive
Directors have been pleading for? Two
decades ago, the Estimates Committee
of the Lok Sabha headed by Mano-
ranjan Bhata said:
The Committee is of the rm view
that unless the CBI is given a statutory
status and well-dened legal powers to
investigate the cases which have ram-
ications within the States, its effec-
tiveness will decline substantially and
It is in these directions that our
efforts should be directed give a new
charter to the CBI to ensure its autono-
my indeed. Discard the antique of
1946, but there is yet graver aw.
True, corruption in India has reached
monumental proportions, and effec-
tive measures should be devised to
eradicate the vice. It is, however,
equally a folly of monumental propor-
tions to imagine that the sole purpose
of the Lokpal is to probe cases of cor-
ruption. That indeed is very much its
duty. But there is much else besides
which ombudsmen are supposed to
check. It is maladministration which
results in harassment and injustice
even if there is no corruption.
Give it a thought. What kind of
person will collect the evidence and
marshal the facts to move the Lokpal?
Not the villager, or the hapless clerk or
the small businessmen, or the widow
who does not receive the pension in
time. In a poor country like ours these
functions are as important as probes
into corruption. They are studiously
omitted in the Bill.
This Bill is a disgraceful perversion
of the Interim Report of the Adminis-
trative Reforms Commission on Prob-
lems of Redress of Citizens
Grievances. Submitted to Prime Min-
ister Indira Gandhi by its chairman
Morarji Desai on October 20, 1966,
nearly half a century ago, it was signed
by Harish Chandra Mathur, H.V. Ka-
math, V. Shankar and V.V. Chari. The
report recommended a constitutional
status for the Lokpal (para 37). Ap-
pended to it was a draft Bill. Clause 7 of
the Bill empowered the Lokpal to in-
vestigate complaints of two distinct
kinds: Injustice in consequence of
maladministration and (2) favouri-
tism or accrual of personal benet or
gain to the Minister or to the Secre-
tary. It was also empowered to act suo
motu in both these cases.
As pointed out earlier by this writer
(History of deception, Frontline,
May 20, 2011), this format was fol-
lowed in all the Lokpal Bills from 1968
to 1985 when it was restricted to cor-
ruption. That restriction was blindly
followed in all subsequent Bills of V.P
Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda, Inder Ku-
mar Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
and now this Bill.
One has only to mention the Law
Minister who introduced the Bill in the
Lok Sabha on August 26, 1985, A.K.
Sen, for people familiar with his record
in public life to realise that he was up to
no good. He was inherently incapable
of anything but the cynical whether
on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activ-
ities (TADA) Bill or the Muslim Wom-
ens Bill, 1986. The Lokpal Bill was
withdrawn on November 15, 1988; its
vice proved contagious.
Indira Gandhis Bills of 1968 and
1971 covered both allegation of cor-
ruption and maladministration, de-
ned widely to include action,
procedure or practice which is un-
reasonable, unjust, offensive or impro-
perly discriminatory. These are the
very kinds of behaviour that affect the
poor hapless citizen. Bills from 1985 to
2011 omit them.
The BJP regime headed by Vajpayee
moved two Lokpal Bills, 90 of 1998
and 73 of 2003. Arun Jaitley waxes
eloquent in denunciation of the proce-
dure for the appointment of the Lok-
pal in the Bill of 2011 (Clause 4). Its
selection committee consists of the
Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok
Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in
the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of
India and one eminent jurist nomi-
nated by the President. This, to his
mind, stacks the cards in favour of the
government (three-two); given the
practices of the BJP in power, the jurist
must necessarily be a stooge of the
Now consult the two BJP Bills on
this point. The selection committee
would consist of the Vice-President,
the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the
Home Minister, the leader of the
House other than the one in which the
Prime Minister is a member and the
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
2 0 F R O N T L I N E
Leaders of the Opposition in both
Houses of Parliament a solid phalanx
of ve to two. Clause 4 of the 1998 Bill
set up such a body; Clause 4 of the
2001 Bill replicated it.
Meanwhile, the States have forged
ahead. In 1962, the Government of Ra-
jasthan took the lead and set up a com-
mittee under the chairmanship of H.C
Mathur to suggest administrative re-
forms. Its report, presented in Septem-
ber 1963, recommended the
establishment of the ombudsman. Ra-
jasthan amended its law to make it
more liberal as Justice S.P. Kotwal
noted in his rst report as Maharash-
tras Lokayukta (1973). His second an-
nual report (1974) contains the
poignant remark:
Our experience of the past two
years has brought to light a large num-
ber of cases where extraordinary de-
lays have taken place in the payment of
pensions and retirement benets and
sometimes even arrears of pay in case
of several government servants. The
position is not improved when we no-
tice that these delays invariably take
place in the case of the very poorest
class of employees in government ser-
vice such as the peons and other
Fourth class servants, and the school-
teacher in the mofussil, whose pay is
notoriously low and whose economic
condition borders upon starvation.
Of what use to such people are the
Bills of 2011, whether by the govern-
ment or by the so-called Team Anna?
One of its members is Santosh Hegde,
who was Advocate-General of Karna-
taka when the Ramakrishna Hegde
government got enacted the Karnata-
ka Lokayukta Act 4 of 1985. Its deni-
tion clauses 2(2) and 2(10) are
relevant. The Lokayukta was empo-
wered to probe both cases (Section 7).
The denition reads thus:
(2) allegation in relation to a pub-
lic servant means any afrmation that
such public servant,
(a) has abused his position as such
public servant to obtain any gain or
favour to himself or to any other per-
son or to cause undue harm or hard-
ship to any other person;
(b) was actuated in the discharge of
his functions as such public servant by
personal interest or improper or cor-
rupt motives;
(c) is guilty of corruption, favour-
itism, nepotism or lack of integrity in
his capacity as such public servant;
(d) has failed to act in accordance
with the norms of integrity and con-
duct which ought to be followed by
public servants of the class to which he
(10) maladministration means
action taken or purporting to have
been taken in the exercise of adminis-
trative functions in any case where
(a) such action or the administra-
tive procedure or practice governing
such action is unreasonable, unjust,
oppressive or improperly discrimina-
tory; or
(b) there has been wilful negli-
gence or undue delay in taking such
action or the administrative procedure
or practice governing such action in-
volves undue delay.
On retirement as judge of the Su-
preme Court, Santosh Hegde served as
Lokayukta in Karnataka, one of the
best ever, and later joined Team An-
na. One must not ask whether he
brought his States Act to its notice.
Nor must one question the quality
of the homework put in by that team or
for that matter by Ministers of the gov-
ernment. Omission of maladministra-
tion is deliberate. Where was the
much-vaunted, loudly professed con-
cern for the poor? By the bogus team or
by the Ministers? Is such a restrictive
law to be recommended to the States?
Folly has its own momentum. Anna
Hazare, Baba Ramdev, lm actors,
sundry others rushed into the fray.
Panicked, so did the Ministers. In this
mad scramble to take the bull by the
horns all that both sides accomplished
was to grab the cow by its udder end.
ARUN JAI TLEY, LEADER of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, during the
debate in the Upper House on December 29. He argued that the cards were
stacked in favour of the government in the selection committee. How did the
two BJP Bills fare on this point? Their selection committee would consist of
the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Home Minister, the
leader of the House other than the one in which the Prime Minister is a
member and the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament a
solid phalanx of ve to two.



J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 2 1
Cover Story
PROFESSOR Mohan Gopal, director of the Ra-
jiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies
(RGICS), New Delhi, is a strong proponent of the
governments Lokpal Bill. The RGICS provided key
inputs to the making of the governments Lokpal Bill
and the Constitution Amendment Bill. Prof. Mohan
Gopal, a scholar in constitutional law, headed the
National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, for ve years
and the National Law School, Bangalore. He was
appointed by Parliament as the distinguished jurist
member of the inquiry committee on the corruption
allegations against Justice P.D. Di-
nakaran. Excerpts from an interview
he gave Frontline:
The Lokpal Bill as passed by the Lok
Sabha has diluted some of the strong
provisions of the original Bill that the
government introduced in August. Is
such a dilution justied?
The December 2011 government
Bill is not a diluted version. There was
a provision in the rst Bill requiring
that the trial court shall complete the
trial within one year, which may be
extended to two years for reasons giv-
en in writing. This provision would
have been in conict with clear Su-
preme Court rulings that no time lim-
it can be imposed on a trial. By
dropping such a requirement, the Bill
has been strengthened against judi-
cial challenge. Speedy completion of trials will come
through good case management.
Was the government justied in invoking Article 253
to enact the Bill? Is Article 252 not better suited to
secure the object of the legislation?
India is a signatory to the United Nations Con-
vention on Corruption. It is clear that Parliament has
not only the right but also the duty to enact legisla-
tion in fullment of Indias obligations under Article
6 and other provisions of the U.N. Convention.
In the hawala [or Vineet Narain] case, the Su-
preme Court held that the right to corruption-free
governance is a fundamental right. Every citizen,
regardless of the State in which he or she may live, is
therefore entitled to have an equally effective ma-
chinery to protect this right an independent Lokay-
ukta. The availability of a Lokayukta mechanism
cannot be left to individual States. A consistent mini-
mum standard must be established across the coun-
try for the protection of this fundamental right.
Article 252 is not applicable in the present con-
text. It is not for Parliament or the Central govern-
ment to propose or initiate Central legislation under
Article 252. Any such proposal must come from two
or more State legislatures. No State
legislature had come forward to
Parliament with an Article 252
In my personal view, the issue
could have been handled somewhat
differently by the government from
a tactical point of view. This can be
considered going forward.
The Lok Pal Constitution
Amendment Bill should be rst in-
troduced and passed. The issue of
State List/Union List (and hence
Articles 252 and 253) does not ap-
ply to a constitutional amendment.
The lists are relevant only when
Parliament enacts legislation, not
when Parliament exercises its
amending power. Parliament will
then be acting directly under the
authority of the new constitutional
Bill not diluted
The Constitution Amendment Bill
should be rst introduced and
passed. The issue of State List/
Union List does not apply to a
constitutional amendment. The lists
are not relevant when Parliament
exercises its amending power.
Interview with Prof. Mohan Gopal, director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for
Contemporary Studies, New Delhi. BY V. VENKATESAN
252 is not applicable in the
present context.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
2 2 F R O N T L I N E
provision on the Lokpal. If, however, a
two-thirds majority cannot be mus-
tered for the Constitution amendment
with such a provision empowering
Parliament to enact law on the Lokay-
ukta, the constitutional amendment
may simply require that there shall be
a Lokayukta in each State under the
superintendence and control of which
cases against corruption would be in-
vestigated and prosecuted in each
State, and leave it to the State legisla-
tures to enact laws on the functions,
powers and institutional aspects of the
Such laws would need to comply
with key principles/minimum stan-
dards that should be laid down in brief
in the constitutional amendment. Ex-
isting Lokayukta laws would only need
to be upgraded as needed to meet these
minimum standards.
Is the governments control over both
the appointment and removal of the
Lokpal justied?
The December Bill drops the pro-
posal of the August Bill to have a Min-
ister as a member in the selection
committee. It thus reduces govern-
ment control. The government would
not have control over the selection
panel under the law as it would have
only one representative the Prime
Minister. It is not right to suggest that
the Speaker is under the control of the
government if this were the case, the
ofce of the Speaker would be greatly
lowered. Nor is it right to suggest that
the jurist would be under the control of
the government. A government-con-
trolled jurist is an oxymoron.
There is a strong argument against
the Bills seeming tendency to disturb
the federal equation by legislating on
the States power to take disciplinary
action against its employees.
I agree that the issue of disciplinary
action should be kept out of the Lokpal
mechanism, which should concentrate
on the investigation and prosecution
of the crime of corruption.
The debate in Parliament shows that
many members are concerned with
the governments interference in the
CBI. Is Section 25 of the Bill sufcient
to ensure that such interference does
not take place?
The independence of the investiga-
tor receives explicit statutory recog-
nition in Section 25 of the December
draft of the Lokpal Bill. It may be ad-
visable to also include in Section 25 an
explicit recognition of the well-estab-
lished principle of law on the inde-
pendence of the investigation from the
The Supreme Court clearly distin-
guishes in this regard [in the hawala
case] between interference in the in-
vestigation of cases on the one hand
[which it prohibits] and government
administrative and nancial control
over the investigator on the other
[which it does not object to and con-
siders legitimate].
The government Bill is fully consis-
tent with the dicta that what is to be
protected as independent is the inves-
tigation process. This does not mean
the government is not obliged to full
its constitutional and legal duties and
administrative and nancial respon-
sibilities with respect to investigative
agencies and their ofcers.
The CBI Director is to be selected
under a new independent process in
which the CJI or a Supreme Court
judge nominated by him would be a
party. The Director would have com-
plete independence in running the
agency in accordance with the law, in-
cluding assignment of staff to cases
and review of the investigation.
Under both the Constitution
Amendment Bill and the proposed
Lokpal Bill, the Lokpal/Lokayukta will
have the power of superintendence
and direction of the cases as per the
interpretation of that term by the Su-
preme Court. This power will enable
them to intervene and ask for a change
of IO [investigating ofcer] if they feel
that any IO is being inuenced by an
indirect carrot or stick.
Though the term reservation has not
been used in the Bill, it is clear that
there is indeed a thin line separating
reservation from the requirement of
representativeness. Do you agree?
What has not been adequately ap-
preciated in our country is that reser-
vation provisions in our Constitution
are about representation of excluded
sections they are not welfare mea-
sures. This is clear from the debates in
the Constituent Assembly. So the thin
line you refer to does not exist as a
matter of constitutional history. It is
social prejudice, not lack of capacity
that is responsible for poor representa-
tion. For example, there are high
courts that have never had a Dalit
judge, or only one or two of them in
their history not because of the lack
of competent Dalit judges or lawyers
but because of social prejudice.
The low number of women and
Dalits appointed to our Supreme
Court in the last half century is nothing
short of shameful. A legislative set-
aside is being insisted upon because of
the depth and intensity of social preju-
dice. When that social prejudice
abates, these legislative set-asides
should become irrelevant.
The Constitution Amendment Bill has
been criticised as a smokescreen for
a weak Lokpal Bill. Does an institution
become strong merely because it is a
constitutional body?
Yes, the reality in our country is
that merely because an institution is a
constitutional body it does become
stronger than it would be if it were a
statutory body. This is what our expe-
rience has shown.
By placing the concept of autono-
my of the Lokpal in the Constitution,
we will also be providing a strong basis
for the judiciary to further esh out
and build the nuances of constitution-
ally protected autonomy. Imagine how
much strength the Supreme Court
would have had in the hawala judg-
ment if it had been supported by a
constitutional provision that estab-
lished the principle of the autonomy of
the investigative process.
Also, by placing the existence and
operation of the Lokpal beyond the
reach of ordinary legislative majori-
ties, we will give it considerably greater
protection from threats.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 2 3
WHO is saying that the core committee is meet-
ing on January 7? We have not decided on the date
yet. Make that correction immediately. There is no
need for us to announce everything to the media
immediately, Arvind Kejriwal, a member of Team
Anna and the mastermind of the Jan Lokpal move-
ment, shouted over the phone. At the other end was
someone probably trying to conrm whether the
core committee of Team Anna was meeting on that
day to decide its future course of action. The confu-
sion cropped up because of a statement made by his
colleague Kiran Bedi in Pune without consulting
anyone else in the team after meeting Anna Hazare
at Sancheti Hospital, where he had been admitted.
Going by the different, at times contradictory,
voices in which Team Anna members speak, it can be
surmised that it nds itself in total disarray after the
political class, especially the Congress, ensured that
the Lokpal Bill fell at on its face in Parliament.
Adding to the disarray is Annas fragile health.
The 74-year-old has been advised total rest by doc-
tors. On January 5, Kiran Bedi said Anna Hazare
would not campaign in the ve election-bound
States as was planned earlier. This will be music to
the ears of Congress leaders, but the fact remains
that Team Anna is at a low right now, confused about
the course it will have to take and unsure about the
fate of the Jan Lokpal movement and the response it
will generate.
If his close aides are to be believed, Anna is
extremely hurt and disenchanted with what he sees
as a betrayal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia
Gandhi. According to his aides, Anna was condent
that a strong Lokpal Bill would be passed since the
Prime Minister had personally assured himof it and
that he felt cheated by what was nally passed by the
Lok Sabha. If the countrys Prime Minister and top
political leader can cheat like this, whomthen can we
believe? he reportedly said.
Kejriwal, who has so far scripted the movements
journey, admits that its future course is uncertain. It
is true we are at a crossroads today. We dont know
how we are going to take the movement forward now
and we dont know what our strategy will be. All this
we have to sit together and decide. When will we hold
that meeting is also not clear yet. It can only be done
after Anna is discharged from hospital, he told this
He said although different individuals were
meeting at their own levels, the entire team had not
yet sat together to discuss the issue at length. Frank-
ly speaking, we do not know how we are going to take
this issue forward now, Kejriwal said.
But does this mean the Lokpal movement, which
had brought hordes of people on to the streets in
support, will die out? Certainly not, he said vehe-
mently. According to him, the lacklustre show in
Mumbai, where only a handful of people had gath-
ered to support Anna at the MMRDA grounds for his
Down, but not out
Team Anna will probably make
some course correction. Its members
admit that there were some tactical
mistakes in the journey so far and
are clear that they will not give up
the ght for a strong Lokpal Bill.
Team Anna nds itself in total disarray following the Lokpal asco in Parliament.
Cover Story
TEAM ANNA MEMBERS (from right) Kiran Bedi,
Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant
Bhushan addressing the media in Ghaziabad
on December 29.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
2 4 F R O N T L I N E
AT least in some quarters, it was li-
kened to the non-violent movement
in pre-Independence India. Howev-
er, Anna Hazares campaign seemed
to lack the solid fundamentals that a
movement like the Dandi March of
1930 had.
The failure of Anna Hazares
three-day fast in Mumbai from De-
cember 27 in effect exposed the
awed strategy of the campaign and
its fundamentals, say several com-
mentators in the city. Professor H.M.
Desarda, an economist and one-time
supporter of Anna Hazare, put it like
this: In retrospect, it was a virtual
movement that could never address
the genesis of corruption. The agita-
tion was limited to demanding a law.
A law is necessary, but you also need
to carry out systemic reforms.
What went wrong in Mumbai af-
ter the campaigns huge success in
New Delhi in August 2011? Some at-
tribute the weak response to the loca-
tion of the fast in suburban Mumbai,
while others cite the weather and the
holiday season. Yet others blame the
apathetic Mumbai middle class and
the lack of transportation to the ven-
ue. On a more serious note, many say
it was because of the confusion in the
average citizens mind over what the
campaign was all about.
Avinash Bhede, a bank ofcial,
said he used to wear the Anna topi to
work in August. But this ardent Anna
Hazare supporter could not under-
stand why Anna Hazare was still car-
rying on his protest when the Bill had
reached Parliament. I had no inter-
est to leave work and go to the
MMRDA grounds for a cause I was no
longer convinced about, he said.
Anna Hazares timing in Delhi
worked exceptionally well for the suc-
cess of his campaign. The scams relat-
ing to the Commonwealth Games and
2G spectrum allocation had just been
exposed. But in Mumbai the move-
ment had lost its topicality.
Even Mahatma Gandhi main-
tained a gap of several years before he
renewed his freedom movement, an
observer said. Whereas Anna Hazare
did not wait even for a year before
attempting to stir the pot again.
In todays world, people cannot
keep taking time off to attend dhar-
nas, says Usha Thacker, a real estate
broker in Mumbai who participated
in the earlier campaign.
The other thing I was not happy
about was his holding the country
hostage. Anna Hazare was unwilling
to meet negotiators midway. That is
not very mature. Compromise is a
great thing, and he could have done
that instead of saying he would die
Low-key in Mumbai
ANNA HAZARE S SUPPORTERS at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai on December 28.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 2 5
three-day fast from December 27,
should not be taken as an indicator of
the movements popularity. The thin
attendance, he said, was the result of
many factors such as the inaccessibil-
ity of the venue, the festive season and
the fact that the Parliament debate was
already under way. The three-day
programme was a symbolic one from
our side, meant to be a message from
us to Parliament that we too should be
heard while it framed the law. At times
symbolism does not excite people, he
said. The way the debate on the Lokpal
Bill was conducted in the Rajya Sabha
is seen as an attempt by the govern-
ment to do everything in its power to
keep the issue at bay. The moot ques-
tion now is whether the Lokpal Bill will
meet the same fate as the Womens
Reservation Bill, which too has the
support in principle of all parties but
nobody actually wants its passage.
Members of Team Anna, however,
are unanimous that this will not be
allowed. We have to keep the issue
alive, keep up the pressure and we can
only do that by taking to the streets,
said Manish Sisodia, a close aide of
Anna Hazare. According to him, the
movement has to be made broad-
based to make people aware that the
Lokpal movement was defeated not by
politicians with vested interests but by
the bullying tactics of majoritarian
politics which is totally remote-con-
trolled by the high command. We had
to explain to the people the dangers of
bahumat ki dadagiri (the arm-twist-
ing of majoritarian politics), he said. If
people actually understood that the
countrys democracy had lost its par-
ticipatory nature and had turned au-
thoritarian, then they would once
again associate themselves with the is-
sues that the team was raising, Manish
Sisodia said.
According to Nikhil Dey of the Nation-
al Campaign for Peoples Right to In-
formation (NCPRI), the ght against
corruption, by whatever name, will not
die down whether Team Anna is there
or not. I cannot say what the future
course of that team will be, but they are
not the only representatives of civil so-
ciety. There are others who have been
working on this issue for long, and
people like us will keep the issue alive.
Change does not come by revolution, it
comes slowly, by persistent move-
ments, by keeping up the pressure, and
as our experience with RTI [right to
information] has taught us, if you keep
at it, it becomes a reality sooner or later
whether those in power like it or not,
he said.
Aware of the fact that corruption as
an issue is not going to die down soon,
Team Anna will, in all likelihood,
make some course correction. While
admitting that there were some tacti-
cal mistakes in the journey so far, its
members are clear that they cannot
and will not give up the ght. I am
sure the Lokpal Bill will not go the way
of the Womens Reservation Bill be-
cause this issue has mass support. The
government was not forced by us to
bring the Bill in Parliament, it was
forced because of the massive upsurge
of peoples support for the movement,
and as long as that support is there, we
have nothing to worry, said Kejriwal.
The journey has been stretched by
a few more years it seems. Till Decem-
ber we were condent it is going to be
soon, but we are not so condent any-
more. It is going to be a long journey,
Kejriwal admitted.
Ajay Jadhav, an NGO activist from
Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, and Vi-
nay, a second-year MBA student from
Pune, and many others like them,
however, appeared undaunted by the
long road ahead for a strong anti-cor-
ruption law to become a reality. We
have to do this for our children. After
all, how long can we go on suffering
corruption like this? said Jadhav, who
has been associated with Anna Hazare
for several years now.
So, even as the Congress can take
solace from the fact that Team Anna
does not look as determined and as
strong as it did some months ago, this
reprieve is believed to be a short one. It
was peoples support that propelled
the movement so far. Since the issue
has not yet been resolved, that support
could re-emerge sooner or later.
rather than give in, said Usha
Shankar Kambles concern was
more mundane. The daily wage
worker at a shop in Churchgate
said: I would lose a days salary if I
went for Anna Hazares dharna. I
thought the issue was resolved in
Delhi. I could not understand what
he was doing again in Mumbai.
Another strategic error made by
Anna Hazare is said to be his direct
combat with the Congress. While
the campaign targeted the Con-
gress, it could not project a viable
solution to the issues he raised. The
ruling government hit back by
pointing out that Team Anna had
no Dalits, Adivasis, Other Back-
ward Classes or minorities in it, ef-
fectively saying that only the upper
and middle classes were involved in
the campaign. Anna Hazare, there-
fore, lost a huge base.
Further, the Congress in Mah-
arashtra refused to let him use the
historical Azad Maidan as the ven-
ue of his protest. Instead, the State
government offered the MMRDA
grounds at Bandra as a better loca-
tion to accommodate large num-
bers of protesters such as those seen
in Delhi. This, it is said, was done
purposely because of the perception
that Mumbaikars (particularly An-
na Hazares prole of supporters)
would not make the trip to a subur-
ban location.
Also, Anna Hazare does not en-
joy as much support in Maharash-
tra as he does elsewhere. His
campaigns are not new for the Ma-
rathi and local media. Basically,
the media helped draw crowds to
the Ramlila grounds [in Delhi],
said Vishwambar Choudhari, Anna
Hazares aide. Mumbai had no
build-up as in Delhi. Anna Hazare
had spent three days in Tihar jail
before his dharna at the Ramlila
grounds. Support for him had been
building up and that got people
coming to see or hear him, he said.
Anupama Katakam
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
2 6 F R O N T L I N E
UTTARAKHAND passed a Lokayukta Bill on
November 1, 2011, making it the rst State in India to
enact a law with all the main features of the Jan
Lokpal Bill drafted by Team Anna. It brings the
Chief Minister, the Council of Ministers, and the
Members of the Legislative Assembly in the ambit of
the Lokayukta. It envisages amendments to some
sections of the anti-corruption Act and the Code of
Criminal Procedure, which would require the Cen-
tres concurrence. Team Anna says it is a test case for
the Centres intention whether to have a strong anti-
graft institution or not.
Uttarakhand was one of the few States with a
functioning Lokayukta, but it was only a recom-
mendatory body. The Bill provides that the Lokayuk-
ta will have powers to conscate assets that are
disproportionate to ones known source of income
and freeze bank accounts. Pending an inquiry, a
public functionary may be transferred, suspended or
downgraded in rank. All government servants will
have to disclose their assets by June every year,
failing which their salary will be stopped from July.
The Bill also provides for protection to whistle-
blowers and a reward of 10 per cent of the seized
amount to them. But if a complaint is lodged to
harass someone, then that individual will have to pay
Rs.1 lakh as penalty. To check misuse of the law, the
Bill allows a victim to challenge the Lokayuktas
decision in the High Court.
As per the provisions of the Bill, a seven-member
committee led by the Chief Minister will select the
Lokayukta. Others in the committee will be the
Leader of the Opposition, two serving judges of the
Uttarakhand High Court, the senior-most member
of the existing Lokayukta and two members who
may be former judges of the High Court or the
Supreme Court; former chiefs of the Army, the Navy
or the Air Force; former chiefs of the Election Com-
mission, the Union Public Service Commission or
the Information Commission; or a former Cabinet
Secretary. But they should not have held any govern-
ment post after retirement.
The selection committee will set up ve search
committees and short-list three names against one
member post. Later, the State government will pub-
lish these names on a website for the public to make
their comments about these persons.
The Bill evisages the State Lokayukta to be a
six-member team consisting of a chairman and ve
others or an eight-member team consisting of a
chairman and seven others. Half of the members will
be former judges of the High Court or the Supreme
Court or advocates who have been practising therein
for the past 20 years or more. The remaining half will
be from among members of the Public Service Com-
mission or persons with expertise in finance or jour-
nalism or with a research background. The
Lokayuktas term will be for ve years or until he/she
A test case
The Bill has certain provisions that
make it complicated. For instance,
it says the investigation and
prosecution of the Chief Minister,
Ministers and legislators can only be
initiated with the consent of all the
members of the Bench.
Uttarakhand passes a Lokayukta Bill
and waits to see if the Centre will take
necessary steps to make it an effective
anti-graft law. BY PURNI MA S. TRI PATHI
Cover Story
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 2 7
attains 70 years of age. The Lokayukta
will get a salary equal to that of the
Chief Justice of the High Court.
According to the Bill, the Lokayuk-
ta can take cognisance of an offence
either directly or on the basis of a com-
plaint. It will have three wings, namely
investigation, prosecution and judi-
cial. The State vigilance department
will come under the direct command
of the Lokayukta. The Bill proposes to
bring the lower judiciary but not the
judges of the High Court in the Lokay-
ukta net. After the completion of an
investigation, a charge sheet will be
led by the Lokayukta in a special
court established under the Preven-
tion of Corruption Act. The period of
investigation will not be more than 12
months, as far as possible.
The Lokayukta will also have the
powers to recommend punishment,
such as dismissal, removal, or reduc-
tion in the rank of government ser-
vants. The recommendation shall be
binding on the appointing or disciplin-
ary authority of the government. For
any act of corruption, the punishment
ranges from six months to 10 years of
rigorous imprisonment. In the rarest
of rare cases, it may be extended to life
Team Anna, which had held meet-
ings with the committee that drafted
the Bill, welcomed it, saying it was
cent per cent identical to the Jan
Lokpal Bill. Its members said it re-
mained to be seen whether the Centre
would pass an equally strong Lokpal
Bill or supercede the State Lokayukta
The Central government has not
yet passed the Lokpal Bill, and if it does
not approve the Uttarakhand Bill, its
intentions will be clear, Arvind Kej-
riwal, a member of Team Anna, said.
But notwithstanding Team Annas
praise for the Bill, it has certain provi-
sions that make it very complicated.
For instance, the Bill says the investi-
gation and prosecution of the Chief
Minister, Cabinet Ministers and legis-
lators can only be initiated with the
consent of all members of the Bench.
Avadesh Kaushal, a Dehradun-
based NGO activist, said this provision
would make it impossible to prosecute
Ministers or the Chief Minister when a
situation arose. It means that if any
one of the members of the Lokayukta
does not favour the investigation and
prosecution of the high functionaries,
then the investigation will not take
place, Kaushal, a Padma Shri awar-
dee, said.
Another jarring note in the Bill is
that the Lokayukta and its members
can only be removed on the recom-
mendation of the Supreme Court.
Since the Lokayukta is a State subject,
then why go to the Supreme Court
when a High Court already exists in
the State? It unnecessarily compli-
cates the removal process of the Lo-
kayukta and its members even if there
are valid and justiable grounds for
their removal, he said.
Kejriwal dismissed the apprehen-
sions, saying these could be ne-tuned
at the time of framing the rules. We
will point out the discrepancies to the
State government and request it to rec-
tify them. No Bench takes all its deci-
sions unanimously all the time, so the
provision of initiating action against
high functionaries should be by major-
ity decision, he said.
As for the provision that the Su-
preme Courts recommendation is
necessary for the removal of the Lo-
kayukta and its members, Kejriwal
said this must only be a typo. The
Uttarakhand Bill was mainly a cut-
and-paste job of the Jan Lokpal Bill,
and hence, instead of the High Court,
the Supreme Court has been men-
tioned as the body to recommend re-
moval. This is a mistake and will
certainly complicate matters. We will
ensure that this mistake is rectied,
he said.
For the time being, what remains
to be seen is whether the Centre will
approve the Bill.
UTTARAKHAND MI NI STERS COMI NG out from a Cabinet meeting that
discussed the State Lokayukta Bill, in Dehradun on October 29, 2011. The Bill
brings the Chief Minister, the Council of Ministers, and the Members of the
Legislative Assembly in the ambit of the Lokayukta.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
LONG before their formal announcement, the
elections to the ve State Assemblies scheduled to be
held in 2012 were perceived as a semi-nal of the
general elections in 2014. This perception gained
ground essentially for two reasons. First, the pres-
ence of two major States in the country Uttar
Pradesh and Punjab among the ve that will face
elections. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State,
contributes 80 members to the Lok Sabha, and Pun-
jab 13. Second, these elections are crucial for three
major players in mainstream politics, namely, the
Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA),
which is the ruling coalition at the Centre; the princi-
pal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by it; and
prominent regional parties such as the Samajwadi
Party (S.P.) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP),
which are not aligned to either the UPA or the NDA.
Experience of the past decade has shown that the
electorate does not necessarily go in for the same
choices in the elections to the Assembly and the Lok
Sabha. Still, the 2012 Assembly elections have been
perceived as one that will provide a broad indicator
as to how things will unfold at the national level in
the long run-up to
the general elec-
tions. Apart from
Uttar Pradesh and
Punjab, three small-
er States Manipur,
Uttarakhand and
Goa will also have
elections over a pe-
riod of three months
beginning in
The emerging
scenario, particular-
ly in Uttar Pradesh,
Punjab and Utta-
rakhand, by and
large, is as good as
the projections that
these elections will
have national impli-
cations. Reports
Twin concerns
If any such sentiment against the
State governments prevails in
Punjab and Uttarakhand, the
Congress will have two more States
before the 2014 elections. In Uttar
Pradesh, the contest is between the
Samajwadi Party and the BSP.
Anti-incumbency sentiment against the Centre and the State governments makes
the results in ve States unpredictable. BY VENKI TESH RAMAKRI SHNAN
Assembly Elections
PRESI DENT Mulayam Singh
Yadav addressing a press
conference ahead of the
State elections, in New Delhi
on December 14, 2011.



2 8 F R O N T L I N E
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 2 9
from the grass roots in these States
indicate a hitherto unprecedented po-
litical phenomenon of having two
types of anti-incumbency factors at the
same time: one working against the
State government and another against
the Central government. This has ac-
centuated the element of unpredict-
The conventional voting pattern in
Punjab and Uttarakhand is to reject
the incumbent government. The BJP-
led NDA is in power in both the States,
and a repeat of the traditional pattern
would mean a cakewalk for the Con-
gress. But the anti-incumbency factor
against the Centre has created a sit-
uation where this may not happen in
both these States.
This was apparent when leaders of
the Punjab Congress, including former
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder
Singh, contemplated at one point of
time having dialogue with members of
Team Anna which has been for the
past six months carrying out an anti-
corruption campaign targeting the
Union government. Sections of the
State Congress believed that Team An-
nas stance against the Union govern-
ment, and thereby the Congress, had
the potential to check the anti-incum-
bency factor against the State govern-
ment the Congress expected to cash in
on. The party has been highlighting
crucial issues relating to the adminis-
trative failures of the Akali Dal-BJP
Ministry in the State. The Congress
leadership ultimately refrained from
initiating dialogue with Team Anna
and appealed to it not to campaign in
Punjab, but the very discussions on
this underlined the partys apprehen-
sions about the dual anti-incumbency
In Uttar Pradesh, an anti-incum-
bency factor is at play against the May-
awati-led BSP government and also
against the Congress led-UPA govern-
ment at the Centre. In the process, the
principal contest of the BSP is with the
S.P. led by Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Signicantly, the Congress has much
at stake in the Uttar Pradesh elections.
The partys hopes of coming up with a
creditable show in the Lok Sabha elec-
tions depend to a large extent on an
improved performance in Uttar Pra-
desh. Some time back, the party had, in
fact, shown promise of being able to
capture a signicant part of the anti-
incumbency vote against the Mayawa-
ti government. The 21 seats it won in
the 2009 Lok Sabha elections had
boosted its morale. The State leader-
ship of the party understood this Lok
Sabha result as indicative of the Con-
gress dominance in as many as 95 As-
sembly segments. However, the
current political situation is such that
not many in the State Congress are
hopeful of this sort of a performance in
A BSP SUPPORTER holding a cut-out of the map of India with images of
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and B.R. Ambedkar at an election
rally in Lucknow on December 18, 2011.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
3 0 F R O N T L I N E
the Assembly elections. Once again,
the reason cited is the presence of the
two-dimensional antiincumbency
The reasons for the anti-incum-
bency sentiment against the Centre are
evident. It is directly related to the de-
velopments of the past couple of years
when the Congress and the Manmo-
han Singh government have been
shaken by a plethora of scams and alle-
gations. It started with the 2G spec-
trum scam and went on to the
controversial Antrix-Devas deal, the
misappropriation of funds and corrup-
tion in the conduct of the 2010 Com-
monwealth Games, the blatant
violation of rules in the construction
and allotment of Adarsh Housing So-
ciety apartments in Mumbai, and the
anti-corruption movement led by An-
na Hazare. The latest developments in
Parliament and outside on the Lokpal
Bill, including the sordid political dra-
ma that unravelled in the Rajya Sabha
on the night of December 29, have also
worked against the Union government
and the Congress.
Above all this, the possibility of a
direct campaign by Anna Hazare is
also expected to impact the Congress
negatively though the partys leader-
ship, both at the Centre and in the
States, is of the view that this would
impel some sections particularly
those that have apprehensions about
the Anna movement being benecial
to the forces of Hindutva and its politi-
cal arm, the BJP of the electorate to
support it.
Beyond issues relating to corrup-
tion, the inability of the government to
control prices and the perceived weak
leadership of the Prime Minister, espe-
cially in terms of economic manage-
ment, have contributed to the dual
anti-incumbency factor in the elec-
tion-bound States.
The cumulative impact of all this
has been that even the Congress allies
in the government, such as the West
Bengal-based Trinamool Congress
and the Tamil Nadu-based Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam, have started not
only opposing the Congress in Cabinet
meetings but going against the govern-
ment policy openly, including in Par-
liament. In Parliament, both the
parties questioned the Congress stand
on the Lokpal Bill.
Congress leaders, including Union
Law Minister Salman Khurshid, who
hails from Uttar Pradesh, have main-
tained that the troubles with the allies
will be sorted out before campaigning
gathers momentum in the ve States.
However, the attitude of the Trina-
mool Congress, led by West Bengal
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, does
not seem conducive to that. It has de-
cided to ght the elections on its own
in Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Goa.
Incidentally, in all three States the par-
ty has roped in leaders from the
Sections in the Congress are also of
the view that the party leadership has
not been able take the kind of initia-
tives required to capitalise on the anti-
incumbency feeling against its politi-
cal opponents. According to them, this
is most glaring in Uttar Pradesh and
Uttarakhand, where the governments
are reeling under a spate of corruption
and mismanagement charges. In this
context, the role played by Rahul
Gandhi, general secretary of the party
and the heir-apparent to the Congress
throne, has been most disappointing
for the party. He had shown promise
from time to time through some politi-
cal initiatives in Uttar Pradesh but
failed to follow them through to their
logical conclusion.
The perceived political and organisa-
tional failures of the Congress in the
context of these elections have also re-
sulted in questions being raised about
the manner in which the Election
Commission has gone about xing the
schedule for the elections. The election
schedule has generated complaints
that the Congress is trying to cover up
its political and organisational failures
using extra-constitutional measures.
The argument is that ve years ago
elections to these States were held in
three separate periods. Manipur, Pun-
jab and Uttarakhand held elections in
February, while Uttar Pradesh had it
in April-May and Goa in June. But this
time the elections in all the ve States
will be completed by the rst week of
The general perception in Uttar
Pradesh was that elections would be
held in April as they were in 2007. The
State government had even advanced
the school examinations to March in
order to facilitate elections in April.
More importantly, just two days before
the Election Commission released the
schedule, the UPA government an-
nounced a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for
backward minority communities
within the 27 per cent reserved for
Other Backward Classes (OBC) in edu-
cation and government employment.
The central question in this con-
text in all the States is which of the two
types of anti-incumbency factors will
ultimately dominate the elections. If
anti-incumbency sentiment prevails in
Punjab and Uttarakhand, the Con-
gress will have two more State govern-
ments in the run-up to the 2014
general elections. However, in Uttar
Pradesh, there is no guarantee that
even an assertion of the anti-incum-
bency factor against the State govern-
ment will benet the Congress. Here,
the S.P. is better placed organisation-
ally to capitalise on the feeling against
the BSP government.
Singh Badal in discussion with BJP
leader Sushma Swaraj during a rally
of the Shiromani Akali Dal in Moga
district in Punjab on December 18.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 3 1
THE New Year dawned with election fever in the
north-eastern State of Manipur. Assembly elections
have been scheduled for January 28 in this insurgen-
cy-ravaged State, which is still reeling under the
residual impact of 120 days of blockades and coun-
ter-blockades along its two lifelines National High-
ways 39 and 53.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh of the Con-
gress is aiming to script history with a hat-trick. In
2007, he became the rst Chief Minister of the State
to have completed a full ve-year term. The second
consecutive ve-year term will now help him and the
ruling party to showcase political stability as a signif-
icant achievement in the past 10 years. Five opposi-
tion parties, meanwhile, have teamed up in a bid to
unseat the ruling Congress. The entry of the Naga
Peoples Front (NPF), the ruling party in the neigh-
bouring State of Nagaland, into electoral politics in
Manipur has also raised the political temperature.
In 2007, the Congress emerged as the single
largest party in Manipur by winning 30 seats, one
short of an absolute majority in the 60-member
Legislative Assembly. It formed a Secular Progres-
sive Front (SPF) coalition government with the
Communist Party of India (CPI), which won four
seats. The Manipur Peoples Party (MPP) and the
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had ve seats
each, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Na-
tional Peoples Party three each, and independents
10. The independents included six candidates
backed by the United Naga Council (UNC). The
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won four seats
in 2002, drew a blank in 2007.
The Congress later added one more to its tally in
a byelection. The effective strength of the MPP, a
regional party, is only three in the outgoing Assemb-
ly after two of its MLAs quit the party.
The MPP, the RJD, the NCP, the Janata Dal
(United) and the Communist Party of India (Marx-
ist) have forged an alliance this time, the Peoples
Democratic Front (PDF). The RJD joined the oppo-
sition bandwagon after withdrawing the outside
support it had lent to the SPF government. The CPI,
which was a coalition partner of the Congress, will
contest on its own. The MPP has reached an under-
standing for seat adjustment with the BJP in constit-
uencies where its PDF partners do not have
candidates. The Assembly elections in Manipur will
perhaps be a testing ground for such an alliance
outside an alliance meant to check the splitting of
non-Congress votes.
A keen contest between the ruling party and the
opposition combine is on the cards in 15 urban con-
stituencies in the valley areas, which felt the maxi-
mum impact of the blockades. The Sadar Hills
Close contest
The entry of the Naga Peoples Front
into the fray has raised the political
temperature. The Manipur Peoples
Party has reached an electoral
understanding with the BJP in those
seats where its alliance partners are
not contesting.
In Manipur, the Congress hopes to win for the third time, while ve opposition
parties team up to unseat it. BY SUSHANTA TALUKDAR I N I MPHAL
CHI EF MI NI STER OKRAM Ibobi Singh presenting Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh a painting as State Congress
president Gaikhangam (right) looks on, at a rally in Imphal
on December 3, 2011.
Assembly Elections
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
3 2 F R O N T L I N E
Assembly Elections
Districthood Demand Committee
(SHDDC) imposed a blockade from
the midnight of July 31, 2011, to press
for its demand for a separate Sadar
Hills district, carved out of Senapati
district. The SHDDC lifted the block-
ade after 91 days following the signing
of a memorandum with the Ibobi
Singh government. Meanwhile, the
UNC, which opposed the SHDDCs
demand, called a counter-blockade on
August 21, 2011. This continued for
100 days, until it was lifted ahead of
the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh and United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi to
Manipur on December 3, 2011. The
two blockades resulted in the disrup-
tion of supply of essential commod-
ities, and black marketeers and
hoarders had a eld day.
The NPFs moves are being
watched keenly following its decision
to join the electoral fray. It has decided
to eld 14 candidates. The party is
counting on the support enjoyed by the
UNC. In the 2007 Assembly elections,
of the 11 Naga-dominated constituen-
cies, six seats were won by independ-
ent candidates backed by the UNC,
which had integration of the Naga-
inhabited areas of Manipur with Na-
galand as its main poll plank. This time
the UNC has decided to back NPF can-
didates. The Naga-dominated constit-
uencies are spread across the four hill
districts of Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamen-
glong and Chandel.
NPFpresident Dr Shurhozelie Lie-
zietsu said the forthcoming Assembly
elections would be a referendum on
whether Nagas wanted to live united
as a family. Shurhozelie, who is also
Nagalands Minister of Urban Devel-
opment and Higher and Technical
Education, said that the election was
an opportunity for the Nagas in Mani-
pur to decide the matter. He, however,
said that the primary agenda of the
NPF was to defeat the incumbent Con-
gress party. Nagaland Chief Minister
Neiphiu Rio has been projected as the
star campaigner for the party in the
Manipur Assembly elections.
The presence of the NPF as a
strong contender will keep alive the
larger issue of the territorial integrity
of Manipur vis-a-vis the campaign of
Naga bodies for the integration of the
Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, As-
sam and Arunachal Pradesh with Na-
galand. It will be interesting to watch
how far the voters are inuenced by
such issues in Assembly elections
when weighed against local factors.
The election outcome will also indicate
whether the development plank of the
ruling party will have an edge over the
emotive appeal of the NPF.
The Congress hopes to reap dividends
from the strategy it adopted for the
development of hill areas, which ac-
count for 20 of the 60 seats. Last time,
the Congress won six seats in the hill
areas, including two Naga-dominated
constituencies. The Ibobi Singh gov-
ernment also succeeded in holding
elections to the Autonomous District
Council (ADC) in the hill districts in
2010. The ADC elections were held
after a gap of 20 years and they
brought an end to the governance in
the hill areas by bureaucrats. The Con-
gress hopes that in view of the ADC
elections the hill constituencies will
vote in favour of the party this time.
The All Naga Students Associ-
ation, Manipur (ANSAM) had im-
posed a 68-day economic blockade to
oppose the holding of the ADC elec-
tions. Fresh trouble cropped up when
Thuingaleng Muivah, general secreta-
ry of the National Socialist Council of
Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), conveyed to
the Government of India that he want-
ed to visit his birthplace, Somdal, in
Ukhrul district of Manipur. Ibobi
Singh refused to allow Muivah to enter
Manipur. He succeeded in impressing
upon the Central leaders that Muivahs
visit would create law-and-order prob-
lems and trigger ethnic tensions.
If the NPFs performance is going
to indicate the future of the Naga re-
gional party, the elections will also be
an acid test for the MPP, which hopes
to revive itself. Election watchers say
that smaller parties such as the RJD
and the NCP can hope to gain margin-
ally from the possible losses of both the
Congress and the MPP, particularly in
the valley constituencies. The RJD
gained a foothold in the State in 2007
by winning three seats. Political ob-
servers feel the dark horse in the race
this time is the Trinamool Congress.
The key plank for the opposition
parties is corruption and misrule of
the Congress-led coalition govern-
ment. However, they will have a tough
task taking their campaign ahead ef-
fectively in rural areas where the gov-
ernment has constructed roads and
bridges and initiated other develop-
ment works.
On his visit to the State in Decem-
ber, the Prime Minister pre-empted
the opposition strategy by reeling off
development statistics. The funds to be
devolved to the State under the Thir-
teenth Finance Commission for 2010-
15 is expected to be about Rs.13,600
crore, which is more than double the
amount given for 2005-10. Manipurs
Plan outlay for the current year is
Rs.3,210 crore, which is more than
three times the Plan outlay for the year
2005-06, the Prime Minister said at a
public meeting in Imphal. He added
that over the last ve years, the UPA
government at the Centre had worked
closely with the Manipur government.
He inaugurated the new secretar-
iat complex and the High Court com-
plex as part of the State capital project.
He announced that an oil depot taken
up for construction at Malom would
work as a road-fed depot until the
work of a railway line up to Imphal was
completed. He also announced that
the capacity of the liqueed petroleum
gas (LPG) bottling plant at Sekmai
would be doubled to 1,200 MT. This
will help in maintaining a regular sup-
ply of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG
to the people of Manipur. The ruling
Congress is likely to showcase these
announcements to counter the opposi-
tion campaign, particularly on the is-
sue of the blockades.
Campaign managers and spin doc-
tors in both the ruling party and oppo-
sition camps are busy ne-tuning their
strategies. Indications are that Mani-
pur will witness an interesting and
close battle this time.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 3 3
PROFESSOR Robert Kanigel, the acclaimed au-
thor of The Man Who Knew Innity: The Life of the
Genius Ramanujan, a biography of the enigmatic
Indian mathematicianSrinivasa Ramanujan, visited
India recently on an invitation from the Indian A-
cademy of Sciences on the occasion of the 125th
anniversary of Ramanujan, which was celebrated in
Chennai on December 26. Kanigel wrote the biog-
raphy, which the dust jacket of one of its editions says
has all the drama, the richness and cultural sweep of
a ne historical novel, in 1991.
A mechanical engineer by training, he graduated
from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New
York, in 1966. He later moved to Baltimore, where he
held engineering jobs for three years. In 1970, he
began a career in journalism writing for Baltimore
Magazine and the Sunday magazine of The Balti-
more Sun. On the strength of that experience, he
decided to be a writer, and has been writing books
ever since. In the early 1970s, he wrote City Sunrise:
Waking Up from the Suburban Dream about cities
and city living. In his own words, though the title
was very good, the book was bad. It was never
published. He began writing for the magazine of
Johns Hopkins University as well. Over the years, he
has written about 400 articles, essays and book
In 1986, he wrote Apprentice to Genius about the
powerful role of mentor relationships among elite
scientists. Beginning in the 1980s, he taught writing
at Johns Hopkins University and at the University of
Baltimores Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts. In
1999, he became professor of science writing at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where
he helped start its Graduate Programme in Science
Writing. He retired from MIT in August 2011 and
has returned to writing full time. Kanigel spoke to
Science Correspondent R. Ramachandran in Mum-
bai on December 23. Excerpts from the interview:
In the Preface to your book The Man Who Knew
Innity, you have said that the publisher suggested
that you write about Ramanujan even though you
had not heard of him. What caught your fascination
or propelled you to get down to producing the
When the editor rst approached my agent, and
the agent rst approached me, my rst reaction was
that this was not going to work. I didnt know about
[G.H.] Hardy [the English mathematician]. I had
some background in mathematics, not a lot, but
some. But I didnt close my mind to the idea. I started
doing a little initial research at Johns Hopkins Uni-
versity. Then I got hold of a BBC documentary on
Ramanujan. Until then I hadnt known anything
about Hardy. And somehow in there, it was the idea
of it not being only about Ramanujan but about the
kind of tension between Ramanujan and Hardy the
friendship, the mentoring, and the relationship be-
tween two men working at the very highest levels
that attracted me more. At that time I knew very
little about Ramanujan, about South Indian culture,
about anything. But at that very, very early stage of
my interest it was that idea of friendship and collab-
The enigma
of Ramanujan
I expect that some day some other biographer will
come around and take another approach to the
story of Ramanujan and [G.H.] Hardy and bring
new insights. Kanigel
An interview with Professor Robert Kanigel, biographer of the Indian
mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. BY. R. RAMACHANDRAN
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
3 4 F R O N T L I N E
oration at the very highest level that
really intrigued me.
You have dwelt at length on the
psychology of Ramanujan the way
his character was built, the temple-
town atmosphere in which he grew
up, his religiosity to understand his
mathematics, which seems to give an
impression that his spiritual bent of
mind had an impact on the kind of
mathematics he did. Do you believe
I dont think that had an inuence
on the mathematics per se. None. Zero.
I tried to describe the world from
which Ramanujan came. If somebody
wishes to trace a connection between
any of that and the mathematics, they
can try, but I dont think they are going
to get anywhere. Nonetheless, if we try
to understand his personality and his
character, and the way he lived, we
would want to know about his up-
bringing, about his religious inuen-
ces, about South India, and his
relationship with his parents as best as
we can. So, I would deny any relation-
ship between that and the mathemat-
ics itself. There is much more to
Ramanujan than his mathematics. He
is a human being.
What I meant was that the title of your
book, your reference to the fact that
Ramanujan related zero and innity to
something divine and, for instance,
your example of values that 2n 1
took as an equation that Ramanujan
talked of representing the thought of
That is one story, one anecdote.
The fact is it is not me but some South
Indians in the world that he grew up in
who saw some direct connection be-
tween his religiosity and his mathe-
matics. I am telling that story. I am
giving it a place in the book. But that is
different from saying that there is a
direct, intimate connection between
his religiosity and his mathematics. If
you are writing a biography or reading
a biography, its a mistake to be too
quick to make direct one-to-one corre-
spondences between A and B. I think
in something like a biography you cant
say that A caused B. You can say that it
has inuences on his personality, on
his life, on his character.
You do not say that in so many words,
but your emphasis on his religious
upbringing and the religiosity in him
gives the impression that it is perhaps
that which drove him to explore the
kind of extraordinary mathematics
that he did, which was beyond any
ordinary mathematician and was
I wouldnt say so. I would say that
that is part of his life and part of his
ROBERT KANI GEL: I tried to describe the world from which Ramanujan

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 3 5
personality. Many of his friends, many
of his associates and some of these an-
ecdotal accounts are by people who
themselves may have been very pious,
very religious, and very devout Hindus
may have been quicker to make
[these] connections than I or you. But
it is part of the story and it is part of the
mystery too. Everybody seems to agree
that someone [who] is a level of genius
beyond what we encounter is almost
automatically propelled into the re-
gion of the mysterious. Once having
been propelled into the region of great
mystery at the highest level of human
intellect, you nd yourself scratching
your head as to what could possibly
explain it. So I did the best I could.
Do we understand Ramanujan now or
does he still remain mysterious?
I think he does. I think you could
say the same thing about literature, the
arts. What is the genius of Picasso?
People will try to explain it in easy
ways, but I think they are unjustied in
doing so. I think some people really are
a few steps beyond where the rest of us
live. We are forced to view those in-
tellects, those artistic sensibilities to
whatever it is, as a little bit mysterious
or a little beyond what is the common
There is a second aspect though.
There are many people out there, very
smart, brilliant, and they dont do any-
thing with their lives. They are just
stuck there. There are personal charac-
teristics that propel people to do what
they do, that is beyond the actual work
that they are doing a kind of an ambi-
tion, a kind of a drive, a kind of a
pushing force [for them to say] I am
going to make something of myself
and nothing is going to get in my way.
And I think thats part of an under-
standing of how a Picasso or a Rama-
nujan come into the world.
Did that push in his case come from...
It came from his mother.
You think it was the mother alone or
was it also his religiosity?
I dont know but his mother seems
to have been a dynamic character.
You come back to this
towards the end of the
book when you refer to
Jaques Hadamards
statement on creativity,
where again there is this
implication of a kind of a
divine intervention in
creativity and you place
it against Hardys own
rejection of any such
linkage, which again
gives the same
That perhaps is an in-
terpretation that you are
bringing to it, and I am
not going to deny it. I
would just posit a con-
nection certainly but
maybe a loose and ten-
uous one, between one side of his life
and the other, and exactly what that
link is is quite in the realms of neuro-
biology, what happens in the brain
more than anything else. We are going
to have a tough time guring that one
out. This is something that I obviously
struggled with in the course of writing
the book. Who am I, an American,
coming from a very different culture
trying to make sense of this? Of course,
you always encounter this sort of prob-
lem. I write about many different
kinds of subjects, not just about math-
ematics, and you are always up against
the edge of what you know. You have to
be a little bit respectful of what you
dont know as well as what you know.
So probably it is built into my person-
ality not to make claims that I am not
100 per cent certain about.
Did you have a preconceived plan
about how you were going to go about
things when you came down here to
explore? Or did you let the
information come to you as you went
around and structure the book
I had done a fair amount of reading
before I came here, and I had spent
two or three weeks, I think, in Cam-
bridge. Basically, I structured my time
to go to the places that gured in Ra-
manujans life. I did my
best to observe some-
thing of Ramanujans
world by visiting those
places, making allowanc-
es all the time that this
was 1988 and Ramanu-
jan had lived in the early
years of the 20th century.
So things change, but I
had to start somewhere,
and that was my ap-
proach to visit those plac-
es that he had visited.
Your description of
places and events almost
seem as if you were
there in that period and
you had met Ramanujan.
For example, you
describe how Ramanujan
walked. How would anybody know
how Ramanujan had walked when you
came and talked to people?
Other people had written about
Ramanujan and there were stories. [S.
R.] Ranganathan, [P.V.] Seshu Iyer,
Ramachandra Rao, [E.H.] Neville,
Hardy himself, and there were other
people. These people had taken little
snippets of Ramanujan, and I absorb-
ed all these snippets and I tried to put
them together. Always looking for ar-
eas where they agreed and areas where
they didnt and tried to make sense of
that. So I know how Ramanujan wad-
dled down the street. I have been doing
this for a long time. I have been a
professional writer for 40 years and
this is what I do for a living. Trying to
somehow create worlds out of dispara-
te material and trying to make it vivid
for my reader all the while having re-
spect for what is true and not going
beyond that slippery line between non-
ction and ction.
In that sense it is certainly different
from other biographies that are dry
accounts of life and events
There has been a movement at
least in the U.S. I dont know whether
there is one in India or elsewhere in
the past 30 years. It gets called new
journalism, immersion journalism,
the English
G.H. Hardy, displayed
at the Ramanujan
Museum and Math
Education Centre at
Royapuram in Chennai.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
3 6 F R O N T L I N E
or narrative non-ction, all of
which represent an attempt to
move away from what you just
described boring, tedious,
simple statement of facts to
blow true stories out of what
we know from facts, and I con-
sider myself something
like that, in that
May be that is why
people are trying to
turn your book into a
lm now. What is
happening to the lm
For six or seven years
now a screenwriter has
purchased something
called an option where he
has access to use my book and the title
and the information there to make a
lm. He has written the screenplay
through many versions, through many
iterations, and the efforts of the past
six years have been to secure nancing.
It is now very, very close to signing on
the dotted line, and my understanding
is that the Indian actor Madhavan has
agreed to play Ramanujan in this lm,
and the screenwriter and the producer,
Edward Pressman, have been nego-
tiating with possible nanciers.
Before you get to describing
Ramanujans life in Cambridge, you
devote a lot of pages to describing
Hardy himself his world, the
Cambridge life, even the Apostles
Society to which he belonged, and his
personal life. Why did you feel it was
necessary to dwell on Hardy at such
length and in so much of detail to
understand the relationship between
the two mathematicians?
In some respect I consider this al-
most a dual biography, of Ramanujan
and Hardy. Lets say you have other
authors writing the biography. All of
them would have included Hardy as a
major character in the book. The ques-
tion is how much. For me, Hardy
played such an important role that
their chemistry, their tension, their
friendship, their relationship played a
central role mathematically and per-
sonally in Ramanujans life, and I felt
that it was really important for the
reader to come to understand Hardy as
well as Ramanujan.
However, towards the end you do say
that while Hardy was interested in the
mathematics of Ramanujan, there
was no emotional attachment
between the two even as friendship,
in the sense that Hardy did not care
so much personally for Ramanujan.
He treated him more for his
mathematics as a kind of a master,
and Ramanujan wanted to obey him.
I agree with everything you said up
until the end. I dont know about the
master and obey. But Hardys rela-
tionship with Ramanujan was a little
bit problematic for me. I think it does
come across in the book. And I think I
was more explicit in that case than in
some other areas. As much as Hardy
did for Ramanujan, and as good a per-
son that he basically was and he cared
in his own way. Nonetheless, I dont
think Hardy was the best friend that
Ramanujan could have had in En-
gland and that somebody more emo-
tionally compatible might have been
better for Ramanujan those
Do you think the absence of a
real friendship affected the
mathematics that Ramanujan
was producing there?
I dont know. Certainly,
we all have problematic re-
lationships of one kind or
another with our parents. A
tension is in there. Some
parents are more distant
and separate and not in-
volved and have very high
expectations from their
children, and the children,
maybe they dont feel that
close to their parents but re-
spond to their expectations. I
think it might have been a little
bit like that between Ramanujan
and Hardy. I am just making a vague
connection, not a one-to-one. I dont
think Hardy was the ideal friend that
Ramanujan could have had. Maybe he
was the ideal taskmaster to extract the
mathematics out of him. I dont know.
But I think Ramanujan certainly felt
that he had to produce, at least he
wanted to. And he was the man in all of
Europe maybe that he was closest to
mathematically, and it would be nat-
ural that he wanted to please him.
Are there still some pieces in your
story that remain unexplored for you
to understand them better, both
together and individually?
Sometimes book reviews churn out
phrases like This is the denitive
biography of and I dont believe in
that idea. I think there is always anoth-
er approach to take, more research
avenues to pursue, other directions,
other things to look at, other aspects
just as when you take a photograph, by
the very act of framing, you exclude
other things that are not in your frame.
It is like that in any kind of ambitious
writing also. You may do a very good
job of what you are doing but by the
very nature of it you cannot do every-
thing. And I expect that some day
some other biographer will come
around and take another approach to
DI SPLAYED at the University of
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 3 7
After the book
came out,
there was
new theorising
about what
died from.
the story of Ramanujan and Hardy
and bring new insights.
That is what I meant. Did you come
across other things that you had
missed that could have lent a
different perspective to the whole
After the book came out, there was
new theorising about what Ramanu-
jan actually died from. That would
have been interesting to bring to light.
Other than that I dont know whether
[any] new material has been brought
to light. But I expect it will come to
Have you been in touch with people in
India who knew about his life closely?
Not since the book has come out. V.
Viswanathan, Narayana Iyers grand-
son, has written and [Bruce C.]
Berndt has that about the relation-
ship between Narayana Iyer and Ra-
manujan at the Port Trust. That is
another little area. If I were going back
25 years later and writing a sequel to
this, I would bring in that sort of
Did you ever actually get down to
looking at those notebooks and
papers? What kind of impression did
those give you as the writer of a
biography rather than as a
mathematician? The manner in which
he wrote, the scribblings, the physical
look, and so on. Did the feel of it give
you some insight into the man?
The closest I came in there was
when I started working on the note-
books early on; that what you see in the
notebooks is his coming back to it
again and again and again, and I think
I compared [that] with playing scales
for a musician and making sketches for
an artist. To me as a writer, I like
words, I like language, and its never
hard for me to go back and revise and
revise and revise. Its not painful. I like
it. I think it must have been something
like that for Ramanujan. I think that
was the closest I could come to saying
what I saw in those notebooks. That
this was a landscape he enjoyed inhab-
iting. What does it mean to know inn-
ity. Obviously, you cannot know
innity. The way I pictured it when it
rst came to me was imagine some-
body in the Himalayas who knows the
area around where he grew up and has
this kind of intimacy with it which you
and I certainly dont [know] because
they are with it all the time. In that
sense he knew innity. Thats what I
I interpreted it somewhat differently. I
felt you referred to his spiritual
leanings and God and things like that.
Well, thats ne. One of the things
about language is that it does have
many different ways of responding to
it, and that was part of my intent that
there was this layer on top of the math-
ematical symbol of innity that does
call for the suggestion of God, religion
and spiritual connection. Absolutely.
When you met people here in India,
their recall factor must have coloured
what they told you and what you
understood of the man. Where did you
nd contradictions and
There is always some degree of in-
consistency. Certainly, on the religious
issue that you started out with. Some
people thinking that it had nothing to
do with him and some people viewing
him as a highly devout and pious per-
son. That was less with people I was
talking to and more with anecdotes
and documents that had come through
Ranganathans and Seshu Iyers work.
There is some discrepancy between all
of those accounts, and thats one of the
reasons why there is always going to be
some uncertainty. You have to be very
careful about what you say because of
exactly what you are saying.
Did you nd that you were really
missing something in understanding
the man when you came here so
many years later. That there were
pieces that required a lot more lling
up than what you were presented with
at that point of time?
When you come away from writing
a book like this, you obviously feel a
sense of satisfaction, but you also be-
come acutely aware of everything that
you dont know as well as you do know.
I would have loved to have spent some
time in Ramanujans company, to have
actually seen him in esh, instead of
hearing second or third hand about
him. I would have liked to see some
more letters. I would have liked to be
inside Ramanujans head when he was
dealing with Hardy. I would have liked
to be in London and then in Cam-
bridge when Ramanujan stepped out
onto the docks, into an altogether dif-
ferent culture, after spending a whole
life in South India. Yes, I would have
liked to have known in much more
detail about all these aspects of his life.
How much time did you spend moving
around in India for your research?
About a month and a half.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
3 8 F R O N T L I N E
Was that sufcient? Your book seems
to give the impression that perhaps
you would have spent a lot more time
than that.
Well, lot of people said that. I had a
limited budget. My on-site research
was supplemented by a whole lot of
documentary resources. You have got
that going as well as your personal re-
sponses to what you see.
You came here in 1988, but when did
you start on the project itself?
I think about three or four months
before that.
Is that all! I thought it would have
been much more than that to do the
kind of research you did on the man.
I dont recollect exactly how much,
but it was certainly less than a year.
You have probably written other
biographies. How do you compare this
effort with the others you have
The book that I wrote before Ap-
prentice to Genius was a kind of an
ensemble biography. It was not really a
biography. It had biographical ele-
ments. For the book that I wrote onthe
rst efciency expert [The One Best
Way: Frederick Winslaw Taylor and
the Enigma of Efciency], there was a
whole room devoted to him at the Tay-
lor Archives in New Jersey. Next, I am
probably going to write a biography of
Jane Jacobs, who is an extremely inu-
ential urban visionary, somebody who
has refashioned ideas about city living.
So every subject presents its own prob-
lems. In the case of Taylor, one of the
problems was that he was not such a
nice, friendly personality. He was a
complicated character, but there are
plenty of resources on him.
In the case of Ramanujan, I was
facing a three-part problem. India,
England and mathematics. Mathe-
matics is hard, an American coming to
India is presented with difculties. Its
all across a 75-year historical gap. And
England, too. People think that for an
American that should be easy. Its not.
So, all of these were part of the compli-
cations in writing this particular biog-
raphy. But every biography presents its
own problems. In the case of Ramanu-
jan, what I wrote was the rst Western
biography [on him]. Some people
write biographies of people like Char-
les Dickens or Isaac Newton, where 20
biographies have come before and
their problem is to nd something new
to write. But I didnt have that prob-
lem, but I had these other problems. So
its always different. If you ask if it was
a more difcult biography than the
others, I wouldnt say so. Each pre-
sents different problems.
Would you say that the barriers that
this presented were more challenging
than the others?
I guess I will have to say that. The
fact that the mathematics is so dif-
cult. The fact of trying obviously,
with not much success to penetrate
South Indian culture, plus the English
If you started out today, how different
would it be?
Thats a great question. Well, I will
start with The Man Who Knew Inn-
ity. Of course, it will be different. No
question about that. Twenty-ve years
have elapsed. I am a much older per-
son. I might see things differently.
Frankly, it depends in part on your
nancial resources; whether you can
spend more time. I dont know. I
would be interested in laying my hands
on the letters that Neville might have
written about Ramanujan to various
people. It would be interesting to track
down his children or something. But I
dont think he had any children and
that may have been the problem [that
they dont gure in the book]. I still
think I would devote so much on Har-
dy. Berndt has made it his lifes work
and he has published several books in
English that contain nothing more
than some of this new material that he
has located in English and some in
Tamil about Ramanujan. I would
probably start with those new materi-
als. I make a distinction in my own
mind between the raw material and
the nal product itself. Some of that
material is good raw material.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 3 9
THE Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fi-
nance has dealt a body blow to the Unique Identica-
tion (UID) project.
The Unique Identication Authority of India
(UIDAI) was set up under the Planning Commission
by an executive order on January 28, 2009. The
scheme involves the collection of demographic and
biometric information to issue ID numbers to indi-
viduals. The rst numbers were handed to the tribal
residents of Tembhili village in Nandurbar district of
Maharashtra on September 29, 2010. The National
Identication Authority of India Bill, 2010, was in-
troduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 3, 2010.
On December 10, 2010, it was referred to the Stand-
ing Committee.
Over the next year, the Standing Committee re-
ceived suggestions, views and memoranda, and
heard from various institutions, experts and individ-
uals. It was briefed by representatives of the Plan-
ning Commission and the UIDAI. News reports
were considered and clarications sought from the
Planning Commission. The Standing Committee
adopted the report on December 8, 2011. On Decem-
ber 13, 2011, it was placed before Parliament.
The report is a severe indictment of the UID
project. It found the project to be conceptualised
with no clarity of purpose and directionless in its
implementation, leading to a lot of confusion. The
overlap between the National Population Register
(NPR) and the UID is unresolved. The structure and
functioning of the UIDAI had not been determined
before beginning the exercise. The methodology of
collection of data is built on shifting sands. There is
no focussed purpose for the resident identity data-
Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the UIDAI, in his
talks and interviews, calls it open architecture. The
UID project is only about producing a number and
linking an identity to the number. What could be
done with that identity infrastructure will depend on
who uses it and for what purpose. It leaves the eld
open for those who have the power to use, or abuse,
the data and for those who use the number to con-
verge on data about individuals.
Even as it is claimed that obtaining the UID
number is voluntary, apprehensions have grown that
services and benets will be denied to those without
the number. This is an inversion of the idea of in-
clusion, which is a key element in the image-building
exercise done for the project.
The lack of preparation before launching a pro-
ject of this dimension is striking. As the Planning
Commission admitted to the Standing Committee,
no committee had been constituted to study the
nancial implications of the project. There is no
comparative analysis of costs of the UID number and
the various extant ID documents. No comprehensive
Setback to UID
Raising a series of unanswered
questions, its report says the project
is full of uncertainty in technology
as the complex scheme is built upon
untested, unreliable technology and
several assumptions.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance nds the UID project to be
conceptualised with no clarity and directionless. BY USHA RAMANATHAN
AT TEMBHLI VI LLAGE in Nandurbar district, a day before the
launch of the UID in 2010.The village received the rst numbers
under the project.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
4 0 F R O N T L I N E
feasibility study was carried out at any
time. In fact, the Detailed Project Re-
port was done as late as April 2011. On
September 28, 2010, a day before the
launch, a group of eminent citizens,
including V.R. Krishna Iyer, Romila
Thapar, Upendra Baxi, A.P. Shah,
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, S.R. Sankaran,
Bezwada Wilson, and nine others re-
leased a statement reecting just these
concerns. This statement was later
submitted to the Standing Committee.
In the time that elapsed between the
expression of concern by the group of
eminent citizens and the report of the
Standing Committee, the situation
had hardly changed.
The Standing Committee has
found the project to be full of un-
certainty in technology as the complex
scheme is built upon untested, unre-
liable technology and several assump-
tions. This is a serious concern given
that the project is about xing identity
through the use of technology, espe-
cially biometrics. As early as December
2009, the Biometrics Standards Com-
mittee set up by the UIDAI had report-
ed adversely on the error rate. Since
then, neither the Proof of Concept
studies nor any assessment studies
done by the UIDAI have been able to
afrm the possibility of maintaining
accuracy as the database expands to
accommodate 1.2 billion people. The
estimated failure of biometrics is ex-
pected to be as high as 15 per cent.
Critics of the project have referred
to studies such as the 2010 report of
the National Research Council in the
United States (cited in Frontline De-
cember 2, 2011: How reliable is
UID?), which concluded that human
recognition systems are inherently
probabilistic and hence inherently fal-
lible. In India, a report from 4G Iden-
tity Solutions, which is a consultant to
the UIDAI and supplies it with bio-
metric devices, suggested that children
under 12 years and persons over 60
years would nd their ngerprints to
be undependable biometrics. Most da-
maging to the credibility of using n-
gerprints for authentication which is
what is proposed and currently seen as
practical in terms of cost and tech-
nology is what Ram Sevak Sharma,
Director-General and Mission Direc-
tor of the UIDAI said in an interview to
Frontline (December 2, 2011, page 8):
Capturing ngerprints, especially of
manual labourers, is a challenge. The
quality of ngerprints is bad because of
the rough exterior of ngers caused by
hard work and this poses a challenge
for later authentication. Issuing a
unique identity with iris scans to help
de-duplication will not be a major
problem. But authentication will be
because ngerprint is the basic mode
of authentication. The Standing
Committee has taken this admission
on board.
Enrolment requires an individual
to produce documents that the enroll-
er accepts as sufcient proof of person
and address. When documents do not
exist, or they are inadequate for the
purpose, a person may nd a verier
to establish their identity. Or, especial-
ly in the case of the poor, they may be
introduced to the system by approved
introducers. In practice, these two
methods have been shown to be irra-
tional and prone to error. The Home
Ministry had questioned this erratic
method of enrolment and its implica-
tions for national security. These con-
cerns have resonated with the
Standing Committee.
Nilekani has been talking about
enrolling 600 million residents before
he completes his term in 2014. Howev-
er, it seems that the Cabinet Commit-
tee on UID had, in the rst instance,
given its approval to let him enrol 10
crore residents, which was later in-
creased to 20 crores. The UIDAI does
not currently have the mandate to en-
rol more than that number. To meet
his target of 600 million, Nilekani en-
tered into memorandums of under-
standing with a multiplicity of entities,
including State governments, banks,
oil companies and insurance compa-
nies, to act as registrars. This may have
helped in spreading the net wider to
capture residents to get their demo-
graphic and biometric data. But it also
meant that the chances of duplication
of work increased. The Ministry of
Home Affairs also alleged that some
registrars had not adhered to the pro-
cedures laid down by the UIDAI, set-
ting the MoUs to nought. This, it was
feared, was also compromising the se-
I RI S SCANNI NG AS part of the process to obtain biometric data at the Head
Post Ofce in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, on December 5, 2011.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 4 1
curity and condentiality of the infor-
mation gathered. The Standing Com-
mittee found that issues relating to the
process of data collection, the duplica-
tion of efforts and the security of data
remained unresolved.
The UIDAI says it is now devel-
oping a monitoring and evaluation
framework. There are plans for period-
ic audits. The project has carried on so
far without these essential safeguards.
There has been speculation that
the dissensions within are signs of a
turf war. There could be something in
that. Yet, the Standing Committee re-
port reveals that the issues have been
raised by a range of agencies and they
are impossible to ignore. So:
the Ministry of Finance (Depart-
ment of Expenditure) has been con-
cerned about the duplication of effort
and expenditure among at least six
agencies that collect information the
NPR, the Mahatma Gandhi National
Rural Employment Guarantee
Scheme (MNREGS), the BPL (below
poverty line) Census, the Rashtriya
Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and
bank smartcards.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has
raised security concerns about intro-
ducers, the involvement of private
agencies which could also have securi-
ty implications, and the uncertainties
in the revenue model of the UIDAI
which proposes that a fee be imposed
once a separate pricing policy is in
The NIC has pointed out that privacy
and security of UID data may be better
handled if they were stored in a gov-
ernment data centre.
The Planning Commission has
voiced its reservations about the mer-
its and functioning of the UIDAI. It
has also questioned the necessity of
collecting iris images, which has re-
sulted in a steep escalation of costs.
Further, there is the matter of the
number of government agencies col-
lecting biometrics as part of different
schemes that ought to give one pause.
Setting a refreshing precedent, the
Standing Committee has drawn on the
research around the United King-
doms Identity Project anchored at the
London School of Economics and Po-
litical Science. While acknowledging
that there are likely to be differences
between one jurisdiction and another,
it found it relevant to draw lessons
regarding the factors of complexity;
untested, unreliable and unsafe tech-
nology; possibility of risk to the safety
and security of citizens; and require-
ment of security measures of a high
standard, which is likely to result in
escalating operational costs.
In the UID project, every resident
is entitled to a UID number. It is not a
marker of citizenship. The Standing
Committees concern is that even ille-
gal migrants can get the UID number.
It favours restricting the scheme to ci-
tizens for the reason that this entails
numerous benets proposed by the
What upset the Standing Commit-
tee most was the disdain shown to Par-
liament in proceeding with the project,
on the premise that the powers of the
executive are coextensive with legisla-
tive power of the government. What
would happen if Parliament rejected
the project and the law?
In the Attorney-Generals opinion:
If the Bill is not passed for any reason
and if Parliament is of the view that the
authority should not function and ex-
presses its will to that effect, the exer-
cise would have to be discontinued.
This contingency does not arise. This
anticipation has been belied by the re-
jection of the project and of the Bill by
the Standing Committee. The Stand-
ing Committee also considered un-
ethical and violation of Parliaments
prerogatives the continuance of the
project while the framing of the law is
under way.
The government, as the Standing
Committee records, had recognised
the need for a law to deal with the
security and condentiality of infor-
mation, imposition of obligation of
disclosure of information in certain
cases, impersonation at the time of en-
rolment, investigation of acts that con-
stitute offences, and unauthorised
disclosure of information. Yet the pro-
ject was rolled out with no protections
in place.
The Standing Committee recog-
nised the legitimacy of concerns raised
about issues, including access and mis-
use of personal information, surveil-
lance, proling, linking and matching
databases in securing condentiality
of information. A data protection law
has to be debated and enacted before
large-scale collection of information
from individuals and its linkage across
separate databases can be
The concerns and apprehensions
voiced by the Standing Committee
have led to its categorical rejection of
the Bill. In conclusion, the committee
has said that it will urge the govern-
ment to reconsider and review the
UID scheme as also the proposals con-
tained in the Bill in all its ramications
and bring forth a fresh legislation be-
fore Parliament.
The data already collected may be
transferred to the NPR, if the govern-
ment so chooses.
That, however, is not all. The NPR,
which came in for scrutiny because of
its link with the UID project, has em-
barked on the collection of biometric
data which is authorised neither by the
Citizenship Act, 1955, nor by the Citi-
zenship Rules of 2003. This, the report
says, has to be examined by Parlia-
ment. Until then it is reasonable to
assume that it should be suspended.
The UID project has raised many
questions about data convergence, im-
perfect technology, national and per-
sonal security, extraordinary
expenditure, exclusion and inclusion,
and the source of power to gather, hold
and use data about individuals. This
report raises unanswered questions
about the biometric and data-gather-
ing ambitions of the state. The associ-
ation of the project with a corporate
icon has tended to lull many into com-
placency. Yet, as is reected in the
Standing Committee report, the proc-
ess, the technology and the conse-
quences are deeply problematic. The
report leaves no room for doubt that
the UID project will have to be revisit-
ed and the NPR re-examined.
Usha Ramanathanworks on the juris-
prudence of law, poverty and rights.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
4 2 F R O N T L I N E
IN an attempt to address some of the serious
imbalances in society, specically the gender imbal-
ance, the Central and State governments have em-
barked on several short-term conditional cash
transfer (CCT) schemes in the past decade and a half.
While the Central government is convinced about
the efcacy of the schemes aimed at arresting the
distorted sex ratio at birth and improving the surviv-
al of girls through a system of incentives, many anal-
ysts find the concept repugnant and without any
transformative effect in society.
Interestingly, a study by the International In-
stitute for Population Sciences (IIPS), done in con-
junction with the United Nations Population Fund
for the Planning Commission as an input to the
Twelfth Plan process, has pointed out several pitfalls
in such schemes. An evaluation by T.V. Sekher of the
IIPS of 15 girl-child-specic schemes throws light on
the various aspects of the schemes, the perception of
the beneciaries, and the overall administrative re-
sponse. The CCT provides short-term cash benets
to the poor on the condition that they adopt certain
behavioural changes in the long run. It is seen as a
measure to channel resources to poor families over a
period of time. In operationfor several years in many
Latin American countries, the concept of CCT in the
promotion of the girl child is relatively new in India.
The concept operates on the condition that in order
to receive the nancial incentive, families have to
commit to behavioural changes such as birth regis-
tration, enrolling children in schools and maintain-
ing adequate attendance levels, getting prenatal and
post-natal health care treatment, immunisation, and
delaying the age of marriage beyond 18 years.
The study showed that overall because of the
myriad conditions attached to the schemes, often
linking the latter with family planning targets and
terminal methods of sterilisation, the schemes did
not quite achieve their lofty objectives. The bureau-
cracy and the paperwork involved made the bene-
ciaries cynical. Clearly, if the CCT was meant to
induce long-term behavioural changes, they were
not going to happen with a set of frugal incentives
contingent on families accessing hard-to-access gov-
ernment entitlements, overcoming increased bu-
reaucratisation and meeting conditions relating to
the small-family norm.
The majority of the schemes were found to be
administered through the various departments of
women and child welfare in the States and, more
specically, through the Integrated Child Develop-
ment Services (ICDS). Information about the
schemes was disseminated through anganwadi
workers. The overall objective of the CCTin schemes
relating to girl children ranged from promoting the
birth of the girl child, delayed marriage, education
It found that because of the
conditions attached to the CCT
schemes, often linking the benets
to family planning targets and
terminal methods of sterilisation,
the schemes did not quite achieve
their lofty objectives.
A study questions the efcacy of
conditional cash transfer schemes in
promoting the girl child.
Social Welfare
A GI RL CHI LD enrolled under the Bhagyalakshmi
scheme in Mysore playing with her mother.
Off target
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 4 3
and family planning. Interestingly,
barring the Central governments
Dhana Lakshmi scheme, which covers
all the girl children in a family, all the
schemes operational in the States re-
strict the incentives to either one or
two girl children. Single-girl child
families receive larger benets com-
pared with those with two girls. Such
state-sponsored discrimination ne-
gates the thrust on encouraging the
birth of a girl child. Again, the inten-
sive targeting on the basis of the below
poverty line category also reduces the
impact as the cohort that discrimi-
nates against the girl child through
selective abortions certainly does not
belong to the BPL category, which can-
not not afford such tests.
The study found that while the
promise of cash transfers did give a
sense of security and instilled a sense
of condence in the families to invest
in girls, the targeting of BPL families
may not meet the objectives as ad-
verse ratios cut across different eco-
nomic classes. The approach itself
was fallacious; the administrative
glitches and the lack of coordination
between the implementing depart-
ments and nancial institutions were
another story. The author says: It is
not clear how far conditional cash
transfers have led to a change in paren-
tal preferences and attitudes towards
daughters. This desk review has
helped to highlight the operational
challenges in the implementation of
various schemes. The effectiveness
and impact of the schemes towards
ensuring desirability of daughters can-
not be fully established.
The study pointed out that the ma-
jority was in favour of simplification of
the schemes to further enhance their
usefulness and reach. For example,
schemes such as Dhana Lakshmi and
Bhagyalakshmi in Karnataka could be
simplied for operational purposes by
cutting down on the number of condi-
tions attached with various levels of
immunisation and school attendance.
According to the study, With every
conditionality, the beneciaries have
to full the documentation and certi-
cation formalities to provide the proof
of fullment. Likewise, domicile cer-
ticate is mandatory for many
schemes, and poor migrant families
are likely to be excluded from these
schemes. Inexibility in the timing of
joining the scheme is also a major de-
terrent for availing benets among the
illiterate families. Barring Ladli
Scheme (Delhi) all the other schemes
insist on the registration of the girl
child within a year of birth.
The author explained that it was
not clear whether these incentives en-
sured that girls survived after birth
and received better care or if the bene-
ts ensured their birth itself. By limit-
ing the benet to two girls or by
providing a larger incentive for the
rst girl, the scheme inadvertently
ended up valuing girls differentially
depending on their position in the
birth order. The eligibility criteria,
therefore, could lead to mixed percep-
tions about the intent of the scheme,
he surmised.
Clearly, there are problems. Some of
the schemes have been in force for
nearly two decades. The problem is in
the approach. To assume that a mere
cash ow to a family will make the girl
child wanted is not working. In Hi-
machal Pradesh, for instance, the In-
dira Gandhi Balika Suraksha Yojana,
launched in 2007 with the objectives
of improving the deteriorating sex ra-
tio, encouraging the small-family
norm and promoting gender equality,
is meant for couples who adopt a per-
manent method of family planning af-
ter having one girl child or two girl
children. There should not be any male
child. The eligible couples have to sub-
mit an afdavit attested by an exec-
utive magistrate stating that they have
only one female child or two female
children and have no male child at the
time of accepting the terminal ster-
ilisation method. This is reverse dis-
crimination. The government is
creating a new mindset among the
people. State governments, on the oth-
er hand, take pride in publicising the
schemes as major achievements.
Another drawback, according to
the study, is the multiplicity of out-
comes. There are too many targets to
be achieved through the CCT. Al-
though unstated, family planning is
one of the key objectives. The focus on
increasing the value of daughters in
the family is synonymous with increas-
ing the value of the small family. Sekh-
ers study is not entirely against cash
transfers though he brings out all the
inherent limitations in the present ap-
proach. He argues that simplifying
registration procedures, enhancing
cash incentives and minimising the
number of conditions will make them
more attractive. He recommends a de-
tailed independent evaluation cover-
ing the beneciaries and the key
stakeholders of eight schemes the
Dhana Lakshmi Scheme, the Ladli
Laxmi Yojana (Madhya Pradesh), the
Bhagyalakshmi Scheme (Karnataka),
the Balika Samriddhi Yojana (Guja-
rat), the Ladli Scheme (Delhi), the La-
dli Scheme (Haryana), the Girl Child
Protection Scheme (Andhra Pradesh)
and the Mukhya Mantri Kanya Su-
raksha Yojana (Bihar).
The IIPS study foundmany drawbacks
in the 15 schemes. The achievement of
targets and the utilisation of allotted
funds in the rst two years of the Cen-
tral government-supported Dhana
Lakshmi scheme, initiated in 2008 in
seven States, showed that the scheme
was not successful. While the targeted
beneciaries for the year 2008-09
were one lakh girls, the actual number
of beneciaries enrolled under the
scheme was only 79,555. Of the allot-
ted Rs.10 crore, only Rs.5.95 crore was
spent in the course of the year. The
utilisation of allotted funds is not satis-
factory even during the second year, it
There were too many conditions as
well, the study noted. In the Bhagya-
lakshmi scheme, 3 per cent of the ben-
eciaries belonged to the
above-poverty-line categories, which
was in violation of the stipulated
norms. In the Ladli scheme, touted as
one of the more successful ones, it was
noticed that many eligible parents
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
4 4 F R O N T L I N E
Social Welfare
were not able to register owing to lack
of relevant documents. The Madhya
Pradesh scheme linked the benet to
the small-family norm, and people
were found to be suspicious about the
benets promised. In Haryana, deaths
of girls were not reported by the par-
ents, the study said. To what extent the
Ladli scheme helps arrest the skewed
child sex ratio (CSR) in that State re-
mains to be seen. In Rajasthan, the
Rajalakshmi scheme was discontinued
because of poor implementation and
for other reasons. In Gujarat, the study
found that the implementation of the
Balika Samriddhi Yojana had overbur-
dened the ICDS and anganwadi work-
ers. The post-birth grant, at Rs.500, is
a pittance. In Punjab, one of the States
with a low CSR, the Rakshak Yojana,
launched in 2005 with a lot of publici-
ty, has very few beneciaries. The
study found that up to March 2010,
there were only 306 beneciaries un-
der the scheme.
The incentives offered by the
schemes under review are paltry, ac-
cording to the study. Where they are
linked to the girl attaining 18 years, the
matter of the state helping with the
marriage expenses is a problematic
one in itself. The Kanyadaan-based
schemes have not been viewed as pro-
gressive by various sections. The Muk-
hya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana in
Bihar, launched in 2008 by the Presi-
dent of India for empowering women
by nancially supporting the marriag-
es of girls belonging to economically
disadvantaged families, makes a
mockery of the idea of empowerment
Interviews with some of the bene-
ciaries of the scheme revealed that
there were considerable delays in re-
ceiving the amount. Some stated that
they had to bribe the ofcials. Others
said that the amount of money was not
signicant and therefore the nancial
assistance was not perceived as attrac-
tive. The study observed that the
scheme supported the marriage ex-
penses of many poor families. But,
more importantly, it encouraged the
registration of marriages.
What emerged from the study is
that while some schemes provide in-
centives only if the couple accept ster-
ilisation after two children, others
limit the incentive to two girls, with a
larger incentive for the rst one. The
study surmised that clearly, the in-
tention behind some of the schemes is
also to ensure smaller families and
promote family planning alongside
ensuring the birth of girls.
In most of the schemes, the bene-
ciaries can avail themselves of the ter-
minal benets only when the girl
completes 18 years of age and is un-
married. The percentage of girls mar-
rying under 18 is still rather high
despite the implementation of these
schemes. Likewise, there has not been
much improvement in the various pre-
conditions attached to the cash trans-
fers, such as birth registration,
institutional delivery, childhood im-
munisation, school enrolment, com-
pletion of school education, delaying
of marriage until 18 years of age and
parents accepting sterilisation after a
maximum of two children. The other
issues relating to administrative fail-
ures pertaining to the CCT are only
secondary. The conditional ap-
proach only adds to the general ad-
ministrative lethargy and indifference.
The report found that some families
appreciated the governments efforts
to offset the liabilities in educating and
marrying off girls.
If the basic philosophy of these
schemes is to promote birth and sur-
vival of girl children, particularly from
poor families, why restrict the benets
to only one or two girls? the study
asks. It is possible, Sekher writes, that
many poor families with strong son
preference and who have only daugh-
ters (often more than two) are unlikely
to be enrolled under the scheme.
The study has raised several im-
portant points which womens orga-
nisations and health groups have
empathised with. For one, the linkage
of family planning with girl-child pro-
motion schemes has always been prob-
lematic. The acceptance of the
terminal method of family planning is
one of the eligibility criteria under
many schemes. While the CCTscheme
cannot be a panacea to alleviate pover-
ty or promote the girl child as it funda-
mentally lacks a strong progressive
and transformative element, the study
underscores the conceptual limitation
facing government policies.
MADHYA PRADESH CHI EF Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan holding a girl
child after giving a cheque to her mother under the Ladli Laxmi Scheme at
Athner village in Betul district. A le picture.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 4 5
THE end of 2011 saw the formal departure of the
United States occupation troops from Iraq. Most of
the troops have been relocated in neighbouring Ku-
wait so as to be ready to intervene militarily at short
notice once again in Iraq or in other West Asian
The U.S. is in no hurry to loosen its grip on the
resource-rich region. Its strategists
are busy devising ways by which it
can retain its hegemony there. They
are emboldened by the happenings
in Libya, where, in the words of
President Barack Obama, the U.S.
led from behind. A similar strategy
is being followed in the case of Sy-
ria, a close ally of Iran.
The immediate goal of the West
is to effect a regime change in Syria
and further isolate Iran in the re-
gion. If the West succeeds in its
game plan, then Iran will be the last
domino it will have to tackle in the
Tensions with Iran have risen
alarmingly in recent months. Belli-
cose statements are emanating reg-
ularly from Washington and other
Western capitals. The West is now
threatening to impose unilateral
sanctions against Iran. These in-
clude new sanctions on the export of Iranian oil and
The Obama administration started piling up
pressure after the release of the latest report by the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which,
without providing any tangible evidence, accused
Teheran of engaging in clandestine uranium-enrich-
ment activity. U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta
said in the last week of December that Iran could be
in possession of a nuclear weapon within a years
time. He pronounced that this was a red line that
the U.S. would never allow Iran to cross and that his
country would take whatever steps necessary to deal
with the situation.
Israel is an undeclared nuclear power that keeps
on threatening to attack Iran. Nuclear-armed U.S.
ships and submarines are lurking in the Persian
Gulf, ready to get into action at short notice. The U.S.
has big military bases in neighbouring Bahrain and
Qatar. In the WikiLeaks cables, the Saudi King is on
record exhorting the U.S. to attack Iran and cut off
the head of the snake.
Iran continues to insist that its
nuclear programme is only for
peaceful non-military purposes.
Challenging the so-called evidence
provided by the IAEA, Iran claims
that much of it has been fabricated
by U.S. and Israeli intelligence
An article titled Time to At-
tack Iran by Matthew Kroenig in
an inuential foreign policy jour-
nal said that a carefully managed
U.S. attack on Iran would be able
to destroy Irans nuclear installa-
tions without provoking an all-out
war engulng the region. Kroenig
was until recently Special Adviser
to the U.S. Defence Secretary.
The anti-Iran hysteria in the
U.S. has in recent months been car-
ried to absurd levels. Some months
ago, the U.S. government and the
The last domino
West Asia: The IAEA report that Iran is clandestinely enriching uranium
contributes to the escalation of tensions between U.S. and Iran. BY JOHN CHERI AN
Iranian military leaders have warned
that if the West imposes new
sanctions, Teheran may use the
option of closing down the Strait of
Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. One-
third of the worlds tanker-borne oil
trafc passes through the strait.
world affairs
U. S. TROOPS returning from
Iraq get off a plane at Joint
Base Lewis-McChord in
Washington State on December
6. But the U.S. is devising ways
to further isolate Iran in the


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
4 6 F R O N T L I N E
media gave credence to charges that
the Iranian authorities had given a
Mexican drug cartel a contract to as-
sassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassa-
dor to the U.S. In December, a U.S.
federal judge ruled that Iran was in-
volved in the September 11 attacks on
New York. The judge concluded that
Iran provided direct help to Al Qaeda
specically for the attacks.
Iran, which is one of the biggest oil
producers in the world, has reasons to
feel threatened by the latest develop-
ments. Iranian military leaders have
warned that if the West implements
new sanctions, Teheran retains the op-
tion of closing down the Strait of Hor-
muz in the Persian Gulf. The Strait of
Hormuz is a 6.4-kilometre-wide chan-
nel between Iran and Oman, located at
the mouth of the Gulf. One-third of the
worlds tanker-borne oil trafc passes
through it. Nearly all the liqueed gas
from Qatar passes through the strait.
Irans economy has already been
affected severely because of years of
sanctions imposed by the West. Oba-
ma signed a new piece of legislation on
December 31 that would penalise com-
panies doing business with the Central
Bank of Iran. This law is aimed at
countries such as India that import oil
from Iran. Much of Irans oil goes to
China and India. The European Union
accounts for only 18 per cent of Irans
oil exports.
Iranian Vice-President Mohammad
Reza Rahimi has issued a warning that
not a drop of oil will ow through the
Strait of Hormuz if sanctions are im-
posed on the Iranian oil sector. In the
last week of December, the Iranian ar-
my carried out 10 days of military drill
in the Sea of Oman, located near the
Strait of Hormuz. Iranian ships and
aircraft dropped mines in the sea as
part of the drill.
Admiral Habibullah Sayyari, the
Iranian navy chief, told the Iranian
media that it would be very easy to
close the strait to shipping. Iran has
comprehensive control over the water-
ways, he said, adding that Iran had no
hostile intentions but the West
doesnt want to go back on the plan to
impose sanctions.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami,
Deputy Commander of the Revolu-
tionary Guards, told the Fars News
Agency that Iran would implement
defensive strategies to protect its vital
interests. Iran has on earlier occa-
sions warned that in case it is attacked,
the 32 U.S. military bases in the region
will be targeted along with the closure
of the Strait of Hormuz. Experts say
that if hostilities break out, the price of
oil will go through the roof.
Iran had offered to resume nego-
tiations on its nuclear programme in
an effort to stave off the latest round of
sanctions. But after Obama approved
the new sanctions, the Iranian army
red a new, mid-range surface-to-air
missile, designed to evade radars, dur-
ing the naval drill in the Gulf. Teheran
also announced on January 1 that Ira-
nian scientists had produced the na-
tions rst nuclear fuel rods. The rods,
which contain natural uranium, have
been inserted into the core of Irans
research reactor.
The Obama administration responded
to the Iranian statements on the Strait
of Hormuz by immediately despatch-
ing two of its warships the aircraft
carrier USS John C. Stennis and the
guided-missile destroyer USS Mobile
Bay towards the strait. The U.S. De-
fence Department issued a warning
that any step to inhibit freedom of
navigation through the Strait of Hor-
muz will not be tolerated.
Along with the threat of using mil-
itary force, the U.S. and Israel have
been targeting Iranian individuals
working for scientic establishments
and the military. Iranian military and
civilian installations have also been
targeted for terror attacks. In the last
two years, cars in which two nuclear
physicists were travelling were blown
up. Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the
head of Irans Atomic Energy Orga-
participate in a
drill in the Sea of
Oman on
December 30.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 4 7
nisation, was wounded in a bomb at-
tack on his car. On November 12, an
explosion in a Revolutionary Guards
base killed 17 people, including the
man behind Irans missile programme,
General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.
The New York Times quoted experts
speculating that the base was hit by a
missile red from a drone. The Iranian
authorities, however, said that the in-
cident was an accident.
In late November, the Western
media reported that a mysterious ex-
plosion had damaged a uranium-en-
richment facility near the city of
Isfahan. There has not been any news
in the Iranian media of a major explo-
sion taking place near Isfahan. But Is-
raeli and U.S. ofcials have been
claiming credit for the acts of sabo-
tage. Dan Meridor, Israels Interior
Minister, boasted: There are coun-
tries which impose economic sanc-
tions and there are countries who act
in other ways in dealing with the Ira-
nian nuclear threat.
Earlier, in 2010, the U.S. and Israel
subjected Iranian nuclear facilities to
the Stuxnet computer virus. The Stux-
net computer worm reportedly also
damaged computers used in industrial
machinery. The purpose of the cyber
attack was to cripple Irans nuclear
For some time now, the Obama
administration has authorised the use
of armed drones in Iranian air space.
The tensions between Washington
and Teheran escalated after the Ira-
nian air force brought down an
RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone of the
U.S. in the rst week of December. The
drone, which can y at 15,000 metres,
is among the most sophisticated in the
expanding U.S. drone eet. The
downed plane was proudly put on dis-
play in Iran. Teheran refused Wash-
ingtons demand for the return of the
drone, which, the U.S. claimed, had
mistakenly strayed into Iranian terri-
tory. The U.S. media reported that the
Obama administration initially con-
sidered a military incursion into Iran
to retrieve the drone but better sense
prevailed. RQ-170s are mainly used for
reconnaissance and are not used to
target militants in Afghanistan. The
drones have been reportedly carrying
out surveillance over Iran for the last
two years to identify possible targets
for attack. The RQ-170 was used for
surveillance of Osama bin Ladens
compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The U.S. think tank Stratfor, which
has strong links with the military es-
tablishment, has reported that the
Obama administration has been wag-
ing a broad ISR (intelligence, surveil-
lance and reconnaissance) campaign
in Iran, particularly to map out Iranian
nuclear sites, ballistic missile units and
development efforts, its air defence
networks and command and control
Meanwhile, all the Republican
candidates vying to occupy the White
House in 2012, except Ron Paul, have
said that they are prepared to go to war
against Iran. Their main argument is
that Iran is developing nuclear weap-
ons that would pose an existential
threat to U.S. closest ally, Israel. Play-
ing to the gallery in an election year,
Obama reiterated that the military op-
tion against Iran was very much on the
table. No options off the table means
that I am considering all options, he
Iran, naturally, has not taken the
latest threats lightly. Its Revolutionary
Guards have been put on a war footing.
The countrys air force has been put on
high alert and has been carrying out
exercises since December. It has
formed rapid reaction units. The Ira-
nian government has repeatedly
warned that any attack by either Israel
or the U.S. will trigger a prompt re-
sponse, which would envelop the en-
tire region in ames.
China, the biggest buyer of Iranian
crude, has said that it is against emo-
tionally charged action in the region.
Russia has warned the West against
cranking up the spiral of tension,
saying that this will be detrimental to
the efforts to get Iran back to the nego-
tiating table.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
4 8 F R O N T L I N E
THE African National Congress (ANC), the ol-
dest liberation movement on the continent, turned
100 years on January 8. A year of celebrations cost-
ing at least 100 million rand (7.9 million) has been
planned with a centenary golf day, a dinner, a
church service, a centennial address by South Afri-
can President Jacob Zuma, a performance of the
ANCs history in song and dance and a shindig for
100,000 people.
Under the black, green and gold banner reading
100 years of seless struggle, there will be much
lionising of heroes such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver
Tambo and Walter Sisulu.
One hundred years should be the ANCs biggest
celebration, to have survived this long and be in
government, but its now a party in crisis, said Wil-
liam Gumede, author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle
for the Soul of the ANC. Its a bitter-sweet victory.
This may be the pinnacle but now its all downhill.
Symbolically perhaps, the ANC has been forced
to covertly buy its own birthplace, a Wesleyan church
in Waaihoek, Bloemfontein, at a hugely inated
price so that it can take centre stage in the commem-
orations. In July, it spent 10 million rand of public
ANC at 100
As the apartheid liberation movement marks its centenary, can South Africas
ruling party stay united? BY DAVI D SMI TH.
World Affairs
ONE DAY AFTER his release from jail, Nelson Mandela with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela, Walter
Sisulu and Sisulus wife Albertina, in the garden of Tutus residence in Cape Town, on February 12, 1990.

Critics believe that the ANC is
trading on past glories. Like its
counterparts elsewhere in Africa, it
has found it could liberate in poetry
but it had to govern in prose, with
the glue that held it together fast
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 4 9
funds to regain the church from a man
who acquired it for just 280,000 rand
eight years ago, according to South
Africas Mail & Guardian. There is
now a race to complete costly reno-
vations before the centenary ame is
The church stands in what used to
be a black township in Bloemfontein in
Free State province. It was here in
1912, that businessmen, clergymen,
journalists, lawyers and teachers held
a political meeting that laid the foun-
dations of the South African Native
National Congress, renamed the ANC
in 1923.
The partys cause came from un-
likely DNA in the shape of Britain, and
Mahatma Gandhi. The latter arrived
in South Africa in 1893 and blazed a
trail with resistance campaigns
against colonial rule. This was the
progenitor in a sense of the ANC, said
Allister Sparks, a veteran journalist
and political analyst.
Britain had angered black activists
and intellectuals by handing power to
Afrikaners (descended from Dutch
and German settlers) when the Union
of South Africa was formed in 1910. It
was the betrayal of black people,
Sparks added. This is the only in-
stance when Britain granted inde-
pendence to a minority group, because
it was stricken with guilt about the
Boer Wars.
If one is looking for an original sin
in the South African story, it was that.
The granting of independence to the
white minority created a problem that
led to apartheid.
The 1913 Natives Land Act carved
up the territory along racial lines, in
effect giving 90 per cent of land to
white people. The ANCs rst political
action was to petition Britain to in-
tervene but in vain.
In 1914, Afrikaner nationalists
founded the National Party, also in
Bloemfontein. It introduced racial
apartheid (meaning apartness in
Afrikaans) in 1948.
The ANC was banned in 1960 and
began an armed struggle, carrying out
200 acts of sabotage in 18 months. The
apartheid regime hit back, arresting
and jailing key gures, including Man-
dela, who would spend 27 years behind
bars. Other leaders, notably Tambo,
went into exile and campaigned tire-
lessly for international support.
The corrosive effect of sanctions,
and township unrest were among
pressures that brought the edice
crashing down. In 1990, the ANC was
unbanned and Nelson Mandela re-
leased. The rst democratic elections
followed in 1994, with Mandela be-
coming the countrys rst black Presi-
But critics believe the ANC is trad-
ing on past glories. Like its counter-
parts elsewhere in Africa, it has found
it could liberate in poetry but must
govern in prose, with the glue that held
it together fast disappearing.
Moeletsi Mbeki, a political econo-
mist whose brother Thabo succeeded
Mandela as President from 1999 to
2008, said: A liberation movement
has one project, which was to get rid of
apartheid. Everybody could agree on
Crime and HIV (human immuno-
deciency virus) rates soared, but once
in ofce, some veterans seemed deter-
mined to line their pockets and dem-
onstrate the timeless truth that power
corrupts. The biggest stain was a 1990s
international arms deal costing an es-
timated 70 billion rand of taxpayers
Ofcial inquiries continue into al-
legations that bribes worth more than
2 billion rand were paid to individuals
and the ANC itself. Andrew Feinstein,
an ANC Member of Parliament, re-
signed after the party asked him to
collude in a cover-up. Theres a strong
sense that Parliament has never reco-
vered, that this was the moment at
which Parliament became nothing
more than a rubber stamp for the rul-
ing party.
Along with charges of cronyism
and patronage, the ANC is fractured by
internecine war. The partys broad
church of members, a strength during
the struggle years, has become unwiel-
dy, a weakness in trying to run one of
the worlds most unequal societies.
There are battles between left and
right, between African nationalists
and pro-Western liberals, between big
egos vying for power and the riches it
brings. One of Mbekis favourite litera-
ry quotations is recycled endlessly:
The centre cannot hold.
The poison in the bloodstream was
evident when the autocratic Mbeki
was ousted after an unseemly power
struggle. Now Zuma, seeking re-elec-
tion at the end of the centenary year, is
facing an insurgency from the youth
leader Julius Malema. But party stal-
warts play down talk of imminent im-
plosion, noting that the ANC has
weathered previous internal storms.
Recent election results, however,
suggest a gradual erosion of the sup-
port that the ANC once took for grant-
ed. The patience of voters who still lack
electricity, water and other basic ser-
vices is wearing thin.
A growing educated middle class is
losing touch with apartheid history
and seeking alternatives. Some com-
mentators predict that the party could
lose its parliamentary majority within
a decade.
And with the trauma of public re-
jection would come the greatest test of
all: to avoid the example of revolu-
tionaries such as Zimbabwes Presi-
dent, Robert Mugabe, with their
assumed divine right to rule.
The party born in a township
church in 1912 is at a crossroads, look-
ing back on a proud heritage beyond
praise but contemplating an uncertain
and perilous future.
Guardian News & Media 2011
Recent election
results suggest
a gradual
erosion of the
support the
ANC once took
for granted.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
5 0 F R O N T L I N E
SRI LANKAN President Mahinda Rajapaksa
has a choice to make. Before him is the voluminous
Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission
(LLRC) report. The question on many lips is What
will he do with it? His decision on the report or
procrastination over it will decide the direction his
country takes and what happens to it in international
fora. The issue at hand is disarmingly simple. What is
Rajapaksa prepared to concede to the Tamils to
bring them back into the national mainstream? The
LLRCreport, in large parts, offers him the way out. It
recognises that a political solution is imperative to
address the root cause of the conict and wants the
government to provide the leadership to a political
process that will ensure sustainable peace and
The LLRC was constituted by the President on
May 15, 2010, soon after United Nations Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moons visit to Sri Lanka and the
decision to conduct a U.N. probe into the last stages
of the Eelam War. Former Attorney General C.R. De
Silva acted as the Chairman of the Commission.
The LLRCs mandate was to inquire and report
on the following matters that may have taken place
during the period between 21st February 2002 and
19th May 2009, namely:
i. The facts and circumstances which led to the
failure of the Ceasere Agreement operationalised
on 21st February 2002 and the sequence of events
that followed thereafter up to the 19th of May 2009;
ii. Whether any person, group or institution di-
rectly or indirectly bear responsibility in this regard;
iii. The lessons we would learn from those events
and their attendant concerns in order to ensure that
there will be no recurrence;
iv. The methodology whereby restitution to pay
persons affected by those events or their dependants
or their heirs can be effected;
v. The institutional, administrative and legisla-
tive measures which need to be taken in order to
prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the fu-
ture and to promote further national unity and rec-
onciliation among communities, and to make any
such other recommendations with reference to any
of the matters that have been inquired into under the
terms of the Warrant.
After 57 public sessions and 12 eld visits at over
40 locations to talk to the people in the North and
East and in other affected areas of the country, the
LLRC submitted its nal report to the President on
November 20, 2011. More than a thousand people
appeared before the commission to make represen-
tations. Additionally, the LLRC received and ana-
lysed over 5,100 written submissions.
It also held unscheduled meetings with the gen-
eral public, especially in areas affected by conict
No-win situation
The President has ruled out land
and police powers to the North. This
effectively puts an end to any dream
of an autonomous set-up there. The
Tamil National Alliance says there
can be no talk of a solution without
considering land and police powers.
The government-appointed commission recognises the importance of a political
solution, but there seems to be no breakthrough. BY R. K. RADHAKRI SHNAN I N COLOMBO
World Affairs/Sri Lanka
PRESI DENT MAHI NDA RAJAPAKSA studying the report of the
Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, at his
residence in Colombo on November 29, 2011.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 5 1
and in settlements for internally dis-
placed persons (IDPs). The report was
presented to Parliament on December
The LLRCs recommendations include
various constructive measures to fos-
ter peace and reconciliation. It wants
the government to supply information
on missing persons and detainees to
their relatives, take up the investiga-
tion of cases of disappearances and
abductions seriously, put its heart into
the promotion of a trilingual policy,
ensure the deployment of Tamil-
speaking ofcers in all ofces, curb ac-
tivities of illegal armed groups, reduce
high-security zones (mainly in Palaly
and Trincomalee-Sampur), return pri-
vate lands occupied by the military,
and set in motion a process of demi-
litarisation, including phasing out of
the involvement of the security forces
in civilian activities and the restora-
tion of civilian administration in the
Northern Province. The most conten-
tious of its recommendations is that
the state ascertain more fully the al-
legations of human rights violations
against the security forces.
While the commission has detailed
various acts of violence and killings by
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) in graphic detail, it has
claimed that it was faced with difcul-
ties in attempting a reconstruction of
certain incidents involving the loss of
civilian lives which have been brought
to the attention of the commission.
The report says:
While the commission nds it dif-
cult to determine the precise circum-
stances under which such incidents
occurred the material nevertheless
points towards possible implication of
the security forces for the resulting
death or injury to civilians, even
though this may not have been with an
intent to cause harm. In these circum-
stances the commission stresses that
there is a duty on the part of the state to
ascertain more fully the circumstances
under which such incidents could have
occurred and, if such investigations
disclose wrongful conduct, to prose-
cute and punish the wrongdoers.
On the question of forced disap-
pearances, the report says: It is the
clear duty of the state to cause neces-
sary investigations into such specic
allegations and, where such investiga-
tions produce evidence of any unlawful
act on the part of individual members
of the Army, to prosecute and punish
the wrongdoers. The commission
must also stress in this regard that if a
case is established of a disappearance
after surrender to ofcial custody, this
would constitute an offence entailing
penal consequences. Thus the launch-
ing of a full investigation into these
incidents and, where necessary, insti-
tuting prosecutions is an imperative
also to clear the good name of the Ar-
my who have by and large conducted
themselves in an exemplary manner in
the surrender process and when civil-
ians were crossing over to cleared ar-
eas, which conduct should not be
tarnished by the actions of a few.
In the chapter Overview of Securi-
ty Forces Operations, the LLRC deals
with in detail the larger picture of the
I NTERNALLY DI SPLACED PERSONS and the temporary structures that accommodate them in the Arunachalam
camp at Manik Farm in northern Sri Lanka, an August 2009 photograph. The LLRC suggests ways to tackle the
issues of resettlement and genuine reconciliation, including completion of the process of the return of the refugees
to their homes and restoration of normal life in the war-affected areas.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
5 2 F R O N T L I N E
operations and, in effect, exonerates
the Army of any large-scale wrong-
Regarding the sensitive question of
what language to sing the national an-
them in, it stops short of making a
specic recommendation and lists two
views to add two lines in Tamil or
allow the anthem to be sung in Tamil
as was the case earlier.
It also wants the government to
look into discrimination in education
in order to bring about genuine recon-
ciliation. The LLRC also suggests ways
to tackle the vexatious issues of reset-
tlement and genuine reconciliation,
including completion of the process of
the return of IDPs and refugees to
their respective homes and restoration
of normal civilian life in affected areas.
The commission is of the view that
consideration should also be given to
providing appropriate redress to the
next of kin of those killed and those
injured as a humanitarian gesture that
would help the victims to come to
terms with personal tragedy, both in
relation to the incidents referred to
above and any other incidents which
further investigations may reveal.
The LLRCs terms of reference did
not allow it to investigate war crimes.
The committee came in for criticism
from international human rights
groups for this.
Making initial comments on the
LLRC report 11 days after the report
was tabled in the Sri Lankan Parlia-
ment, Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson
for the Indian Ministry of External Af-
fairs, said that India wanted an inde-
pendent and credible mechanism to
investigate allegations of human rights
violations during the end stages of
Eelam War IV. This needs to be done
in a time-bound manner, he said.
The present situation provides a
great window of opportunity to forge a
consensual way forward towards rec-
onciliation through a political settle-
ment based on devolution of power. It
recognises that a political solution is
imperative to addressing the root
cause of the conict and notes that the
government should provide leadership
to a political process which must be
pursued for the purpose of establish-
ing a framework for ensuring sustain-
able peace and security in the
post-conict environment, he said.
Supporting a broader dialogue for
a solution, India said that a full imple-
mentation of the 13th Amendment to
the Sri Lankan Constitution was need-
ed. (The 13th Amendment provides for
the setting up of a Provincial Council
and a High Court for each province
and making Tamil an ofcial language
and English the link language.) There
was also a need to go beyond the 13th
Amendment so as to achieve mea-
ningful devolution of powers and
genuine national reconciliation. We
hope that the Government of Sri Lan-
ka, recognising the critical importance
of this issue, acts decisively and with
vision in this regard. We will remain
engaged with them through this proc-
ess and offer our support in the spirit of
partnership, Vishnu Prakash said.
The Tamil National Alliance has said
the LLRC report categorically fails to
effectively and meaningfully deal with
issues of accountability. It wants the
international community to estab-
lish a mechanism for accountability
to bring to book the perpetrators of
war crimes during the last stages of
Eelam War, which ended in May
Thousands of Tamil civilians, di-
rect victims of the war, had deposed
before the LLRC. TNA leader R. Sam-
panthan said the ndings of the LLRC
offend the dignity of these victims.
The TNA said that the allegations
of war crimes needed to be fully in-
vestigated. They include deliberately
underestimating civilian numbers in
the Vanni in order to deprive them of
food and medical supplies; deliberate-
ly or recklessly endangering the lives of
civilians in no-fire zones; targeting ci-
vilian objects, including hospitals; and
executing or causing the disappear-
ance of those who had surrendered.
The LLRC concludes that, on
these issues, the government is not re-
sponsible. Instead, it shifts [the]
blame onto individual soldiers and
surmises that any violations that may
have been committed were merely iso-
lated incidents. For example, large
numbers of disappearances that re-
sulted from the surrender of unarmed
persons before government forces
have been cynically dismissed as iso-
lated incidents perpetrated by a few.
The LLRC unjustiably rules out the
possibility that these violations were
systematic, Sampanthan said.
The biggest shocker in the report
was for the Douglas Devananda-led
Eelam Peoples Democratic Party
(EPDP), the ruling United Peoples
Freedom Alliances (UPFA) only ally
from the North. Devananda is the lone
Tamil in the Sri Lankan Cabinet. In a
section devoted to illegal armed
groups, the report says, The commis-
sion is constrained to observe [that]
the attitude manifested by the lead-
ership of the TMVP [Tamil Makkal
Viduthalai Puligal] and EPDP in their
explanations provide little or no con-
solation to the aggrieved parties and
tend to militate against any meaning-
ful reconciliation process. The com-
mission wants the government to put
an end to the illegal groups.
In a statement, the EPDP said:
We regret to note about the com-
ments made as regards the EPDP in
the report. Whilst we deny the allega-
tions about the EPDP, we wish to em-
phasise that while the leader of the
EPDP was giving evidence before the
Tamil National Alliance. He says the
ndings of the LLRC offend the
dignity of the victims of war.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 5 3
commission, he had brought to the no-
tice of the commission about the in-
correct translation, which resulted in
misunderstanding of what he stated.
In addition, releasing this misconcep-
tion to the media, prior to the tabling
of this report to Parliament, makes us
to believe whether it is done with any
ulterior motive. But the party said it
welcomed the LLRCs recommenda-
tions. It wants a parliamentary select
committee to be set up without further
delay and a time frame worked out for
the conclusion of its recommenda-
tions. Once the select committee is in
progress, our party will initiate action
to have discussions with the constitu-
ent parties of the select committee
with a view to promote consensus to
reach early agreement, the EPDP
statement said. The party also wants to
initiate action to revive the Tamil
Party Forum to reach [a] common
understanding among Tamil parties in
this regard.
But other Tamil parties are not im-
pressed. They hold the EPDP respon-
sible for many problems in the
Northern Province and say that the
EPDP is part of the problemand that it
can never be part of a solution. Deva-
nanda, who fancies his chances when
provincial elections are held in the
North, is apparently offering his hand
in a bid to be seen as the person who
took the initiative at a time when other
Tamil parties were busy ghting the
battles that are best fought on another,
distant day.
Many international non-governmen-
tal organisations (NGOs) have pressed
for an independent international in-
vestigation into the civil war. In its
publication When will they get jus-
tice?, Amnesty International had
slammed the LLRC. It said that the
commissions report provides no ac-
countability for atrocities (Frontline,
December 16, 2011).
The Brussels-based International
Crisis Group (ICG) criticised the re-
port for failing to provide a thorough
and independent investigation of al-
leged violations of international hu-
manitarian and human rights law that
the U.N. and other partners of Sri Lan-
ka have been asking for during Eelam
War IV. It wants the international
community through the U.N. Hu-
man Rights Council to establish an
independent international investiga-
tion in 2012. Without such an investi-
gation, accountability for the crimes
committed at the end of the civil war
was highly unlikely, it said.
The ICG also said the international
community should bring pressure on
Sri Lanka since there was little
chance that the recommendations
would be acted upon if there was no
prodding from outside. It called upon
the U.N. Secretary-General, the Hu-
man Rights Council and inuential
countries such as China, India, Japan,
the United States, Canada, Britainand
France, and also the European Union,
to push Sri Lanka on the path of
genuine reconciliation. Sri Lankas
friends in the Non-Aligned Move-
ment, especially South Africa, Brazil,
Indonesia and Mexico, have a partic-
ularly important role in reminding Sri
Lanka of the importance of account-
ability and demilitarisation to lasting
peace and reconciliation, it said.
It also wants a formal discussion of
the LLRC report and the U.N. Secre-
tary-Generals panel report at the
March 2012 session of the U.N. Hu-
man Rights Council. This should lead
to an independent international
mechanism to investigate all credible
allegations and to monitor domestic
efforts at accountability, it pointed out.
The Human Rights Council
should also take note of the LLRCs
recommendations that the govern-
ment investigate and hold to account
those responsible for abductions, dis-
appearances and attacks on journalists
including those committed by armed
pro-government Tamil parties. These
issues should be addressed on an ur-
gent basis by the Sri Lankan govern-
ment and its implementation of the
commissions recommendations
should be monitored on an ongoing
basis by the HRC, the ICG said.
The New York-based Human
Rights Watch, too, said that the LLRC
turning a blind eye to the abuses of
security forces highlightedthe need for
an international investigative mecha-
nism into the conict as recommended
by the United Nations Secretary-Gen-
erals Panel of Experts in April. Gov-
ernments and U.N. bodies have held
back for the past 18 months to allow
the Sri Lankan commission to make
progress on accountability, said Brad
Adams, Asia director at Human Rights
Watch. The commissions failure to
provide a road map for investigating
and prosecuting war-time perpetra-
tors shows the dire need for an inde-
pendent international commission.
Human Rights Watch said that the
LLRC report failed to examine the use
of heavy artillery against civilian areas
as possible indiscriminate attacks in
violation of the laws of war. While
summarily rejecting the claim that the
military either deliberately targeted ci-
vilians or caused disproportionate ci-
vilian harm, the LLRC did not even
consider whether any attacks failed to
discriminate between civilians and
combatants, it said.
Among the many omissions, the
LLRC report does not examine allega-
tions that government forces executed
several LTTE leaders who attempted
to surrender to the government during
the last days of the war in what has
been called the white ag incident.
The report limits its analysis of the
so-called Channel 4 video, which ap-
pears to show government soldiers ex-
ecuting handcuffed and blindfolded
SRI Lankan Minister and leader of
the Eelam Peoples Democratic
Party. The report has comments
against the EPDP.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
5 4 F R O N T L I N E
World Affairs/Sri Lanka
prisoners, to a technical discussion of
the videos authenticity without men-
tioning the governments admission
that its forces killed a young woman
visible in the footage, it added.
We now have the opportunity,
which eluded us for so long, to derive
the fullest benet from our countrys
natural strengths and, in particular,
from the unique calibre of our human
resources, said Nimal Siripala de Sil-
va, the Leader of the House, after he
presented the LLRC report to Parlia-
ment on December 16. To do so, the
rst requirement is inclusivity. We
have to put behind us the anguish of a
painful conict and to confront the
challenges of the future as one nation,
he said.
Siripala said the government had a
deliberate policy to withdraw securi-
ty forces from all aspects of community
life, promised a total end to the posses-
sion of unauthorised weapons, talked
about setting up a mechanism for
gathering and assessing factual evi-
dence on allegations against security
forces, and asserted that there was no
move to change the demographic com-
position of the North and that the
complex issue of land entitlement
was being looked into based on the
inputs given by the LLRC.
All the agony and suffering which
the 30-year conict has inicted on
our country is a matter of deep sad-
ness. While we recognise this collec-
tively as a nation, our
acknowledgement of this reality must
strengthen our determination to seize
this rare opportunity which has now
presented itself. We must do so in a
spirit of togetherness, irrespective of
considerations of language, creed or
religion, he added.
A few days later, the President, in a
breakfast meeting with editors of the
Sri Lankan media, reiterated his views
on what a political solution could in-
clude. He ruled out land and police
powers to the North. This effectively
puts to an end to any dream of an
autonomous set-up in the North. The
TNA reacted by saying that there could
be no talk of a political solution with-
out considering land and police
After the LLRC made its interim rec-
ommendations in September 2010, a
committee under the chairmanship of
the then Attorney General was consti-
tuted to look into the aspects of imple-
mentation. The LLRC, in its nal
report, points out the lack of progress
on its interim recommendations.
The rightist Jathika Hela Urumaya
(JHU), which seeks to usurp the con-
stituency of the Janatha Vimukthi Pe-
ramuna (JVP), contended that the
LLRC had overstepped its mandate.
Its general secretary, Champika Rana-
waka, who is also the Power and Ener-
gy Minister, was quoted in The Island
(December 27) as saying that the
LLRC had overstepped its mandate
by recommending devolution of pow-
er, which was a political issue beyond
its scope.
Devolution of power will not be
carried out to please the TNA or for-
eign conspirators. If there is any divi-
sion of power, it will be conducted at
the behest of the people, said
The JHUs comments, read in con-
junction with the Presidents views on
devolution and the TNAs stand on a
political solution, point to the emer-
gence of a no-win situation. The gov-
ernment is talking to the TNA on the
question of a political solution, but 18
rounds of talks have produced no
breakthrough. Meanwhile, the Tamils
are losing their patience. Some of them
(including the Mannar bishop, whose
quote the people have no space to
grieve has been the dening feature of
the situation of rehabilitated Tamils)
has written to the TNA leadership on
the issue of lack of progress.
For the rst time since the end of
the war, the TNA is under pressure
from its constituency to deliver. Tamil
civil society representatives claim that
when they voted overwhelmingly for
the TNA in the local body elections,
ignoring the many incentives from the
government, they had given it the
mandate to stand up for them. In their
view, however, the TNA is faltering.
From the government side, many Min-
isters and also the President have li-
kened the TNA to the LTTE for its
intransigence in negotiating positions.
As the LLRC notes, Seeds of rec-
onciliation can take root only if there is
forgiveness and compassion. Leaders
of all sides should reach out to each
other in humility and make a joint dec-
laration, extending an apology to in-
nocent citizens who fell victim to this
conict, as a result of the collective
failure of the political leadership on all
For now, no one seems to be in a
mood to apologise.
THI S PHOTOGRAPH RELEASED by the Sri Lankan military on May 15, 2009,
shows government soldiers on a beach inside the no-re-zone where they
surrounded the Tamil Tigers before the nal battle.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 5 5
THE main avenues of Caracas, the Venezuelan
capital, are still lled with hoardings and slogans
hailing the launch of the new regional economic
grouping, the Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States (CELAC), at a summit of leaders
from the region on December 2-3, 2011. The summit
was originally scheduled to be held in July but had to
be postponed to allow the Venezuelan President,
Hugo Chavez, to recover from his treatment for can-
cer. Most of the continents leaders were present at
the meeting. The United States and Canada have not
been invited to join the grouping. The aim of CELAC
is to be the voice of the region and, eventually, make
the discredited Organisation of American States
(OAS) irrelevant.
President Chavez and his Cuban counterpart,
Raul Castro, described the occasion as the most
important event in the continent in the past
hundred years. Many of the leaders present at the
summit expressed the hope that CELAC would full
the dreams of the liberator Simon Bolivar of creating
a united America. Bolivar, who was born in Cara-
cas, liberated most of South America from colonial
yoke. He wanted a united Latin America but the U.S.
An alternative bloc
Trying to downplay the signicance
of the bloc, Washington insisted that
the OAS, which always took pro-U.S.
positions, remained the pre-eminent
multilateral organisation speaking
for the hemisphere.
Thirty-three countries form a new regional grouping to strengthen cooperation
and challenge the hegemony of the U.S. BY JOHN CHERI AN I N CARACAS
AT THE OPENI NG session of the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Caracas on
December 2.
World Affairs/Latin America
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
5 6 F R O N T L I N E
sabotaged his dream. In 1823, U.S.
President James Monroe invoked the
Monroe Doctrine to ensure that the
region remained within Washingtons
zone of inuence. In the 19th and 20th
centuries, the U.S. regularly inter-
vened militarily in Latin American
countries. To create the Panama Ca-
nal, a new country, Panama, was for-
cibly carved out of Colombia in 1903.
Mexico lost much of its territory to
American conquests in the 19th centu-
ry. Puerto Rico, too, became a colony of
the U.S.
Until the end of the 20th century,
barring Cuba, most governments in
Latin America were under American
dominance. The U.S. interfered freely
in the internal affairs of the southern
countries, propped up military dicta-
tors and rode roughshod over demo-
cratically elected governments. In his
opening speech at the summit, Chavez
cited Bolivar, saying that the funda-
mental building blocks of South Amer-
ican unity, independence and
development had been put in place
with the formation of CELAC. All the
33 states in the region are members of
the new regional bloc, which will be
ranked among the biggest regional
groupings in the world. More than 600
million people reside within the bor-
ders of CELAC member-countries.
The OAS was formed in 1948 when
the Cold War began, with the stated
aim to defeat communism. Until the
late 1990s, Washington virtually laid
down the ground rules for the OAS. At
its bidding, Cuba was excluded from
the OAS soon after the revolution. At
the same time, the OAS winked at the
military coups and large-scale human
rights violations that had taken place
in the continent from the 1950s on-
wards. The role played by the OAS
after the 2010 coup in Honduras came
in for a lot of adverse comments. Ac-
cording to the Venezuelan writer and
commentator, Luis Britto Garcia,
Washington has a plan to militarise
the Central American region in a bid to
perpetuate its hegemony. He points
out that Latin America is not only the
richest region in terms of biodiversity
but has 60 per cent of the worlds water
resources. Washington has a plan to
make Venezuela and Colombia go to
war. But relations between the two
countries have improved since a new
government came to power, said
The U.S. State Department
spokesman, while trying to downplay
the signicance of CELAC, insisted
that the OAS remained the pre-emi-
nent multilateral organisation speak-
ing for the hemisphere. His
condence seems to be misplaced. The
U.S.-sponsored Free Trade Area of
the Americas is a non-starter. Only a
few states in the region signed free
trade agreements with Washington.
The U.S., of course, will keep on
trying to regain its inuence through
diplomatic and military means. Presi-
dent Barack Obama had even stated
that he didnot want to be remembered
as the man who lost Americas back-
yard. The main goal of the U.S. is to
control strategically scarce resources
and markets and secure the help of
Latin American countries on issues
such as climate change and reforma-
tion of the international nancial sys-
tem. Washington does not want a
powerful independent power bloc to
emerge in its neighbourhood. The U.S.
inuence has been waning in the re-
gion. The majority of the countries
have turned their back on the neoliber-
al economic policies prescribed by
CELAC is the brainchild of Chavez
and former Brazilian President Lula
da Silva. The idea was rst mooted by
the two leaders at the Rio Group Sum-
mit held in Cancun in 2010, soon after
the OAS, under the inuence of the
U.S., refused to intervene in Honduras
following the military coup there.
CELAC has the potential to speed up
genuine economic and political inte-
gration of the region on the basis of
sustainable development, justice and
equality. However, many of the leaders
present in Caracas warned that the
road towards meaningful integration
would be a difcult one. There are ide-
ological differences still to be over-
come. This is evident from some of the
views expressed at the summit.
The Presidents of the left-leaning
governments want CELAC to serve as
a forum to resolve regional conicts.
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Cor-
rea, said he wanted CELAC to replace
the OAS. It is clear that we need an
inter-American system. The OAS has
been captured historically by North
American interests and vision, and its
cumulative bias and evolution have
rendered it inefcient and untrustwor-
thy for the new era that our America is
living, he said in his speech. On the
other hand, Chile, which currently
holds the rotating presidency of CEL-
AC, wants the focus to be on promot-
ing human rights and democracy.
The leaders attending the founding
summit of CELAC issued a Caracas
Declaration besides approving 22
other important documents. The Ca-
racas Declaration stated that the
member-countries would put forward
a concerted voice for Latin America
and the Caribbean on all important
issues. A separate Statute of Proce-
dures, drafted jointly by Venezuela
and Chile, which has a right-wing gov-
ernment, called for the coordination of
common positions between member-
countries in multilateral fora, political
spaces and spaces of international ne-
gotiations to promote the Latin Amer-
ican and Caribbean agenda. The
Caracas Declaration calls on all the
member-countries to advance jointly
the political, economic, social and cul-
tural integration of the region.
With this goal in view, members of
the new grouping will be encouraged
to develop programmes, projects and
initiatives on integration within the
region. CELAC will develop mecha-
nisms for coordination with subre-
gional integration mechanisms such
as the trading bloc Mercosur (Com-
mon Market of the South) and the
South American regional grouping
UNASUR (Union of South American
Nations). UNASUR is already playing
an important role in the region. It
helped defuse serious internal ten-
sions in Bolivia in 2008 and helped
prevent hostilities between Colombia
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 5 7
VENEZUELAN PRESI DENT HUGO Chavez (left) greets his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, during the opening
session of the summit.


and Venezuela following a tense bor-
der stand-off in 2010. The Bolivarian
Alliance for the Peoples of Latin Amer-
ica (ALBA), another grouping of ide-
ologically like-minded states such as
Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia,
Nicaragua and many several Carib-
bean island nations, has also made
great strides. There already exists a
high level of cooperation in economic,
social and cultural areas among ALBA
The Caracas Action Plan, approved
during the summit, envisages closer
interaction among member-states in
the elds of energy and eradication of
hunger and illiteracy and in overcom-
ing environmental and humanitarian
challenges. The top-most priority will
be given to nding solutions to the
grave economic challenges that the
new international nancial crisis has
brought about. The way forward for
Latin America, according to the Cara-
cas Action Plan, is to nd ways to
strengthen and deepen the integra-
tion of our economies through CEL-
AC. Most of the leaders present at the
summit were critical of the U.S. role in
the region. Argentinian President
Christina Fernandez de Kirchner said
the people of the region were paying a
huge price for the trade in drugs. She
criticised drug-consuming countries
for not doing enough. The U.S. is the
biggest consumer of illicit narcotics.
It seems that Latin America ends up
with the deaths and the guns, and oth-
ers end up with the drugs and the mon-
ey, she said.
Bolivian President Evo Morales
said the U.S. should not be allowed to
set up military bases in the region.
Now is the best moment to put an end
to certain impositions that are coming
from above with regard to our armed
forces, he said. Morales also referred
to the global nancial situation and its
impact on Latin America. He said the
world was witnessing the terminal
and structural crisis of capitalism.
The CELAC communique criti-
cised the continuing U.S. economic
blockade on Cuba and supported Ar-
gentinas territorial claims on the Mal-
vinas (Falklands). The special
communique on the Malvinas calls on
the United Kingdom to engage in talks
with Argentina in the shortest time
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
5 8 F R O N T L I N E
LIFE in Caracas, Venezuelas capital, has been
tough for the past couple of years, especially for the
less privileged. This is mainly because of a change in
the weather pattern. The rainy season, which usually
ends in September, has shown no sign of ending.
Rains continue to lash the capital, causing landslides
and trafc jams. Last year, hundreds of people lost
their lives owing to ooding. The government was at
its wits end trying to provide refuge to thousands of
people from the barrios (shantytowns) dotting the
hills in and around Caracas. Their houses, clinging to
the steep hills, were destroyed by incessant rains and
In an unprecedented move, President Hugo Cha-
vez ordered that the buildings housing key ministries
be opened up for people left without a roof over their
heads. Even a ve-star hotel owned by the govern-
ment opened its doors to families rendered home-
less. Meanwhile, the government is building housing
colonies for the poor in safe areas that are easily
accessible from the capital.
The government is also trying its best to improve
the quality of life of the large segment of the capital
citys population residing in the barrios. More than
half the population in the capital resides there. Cara-
cas has been attracting migrants from the country-
side since the 1920s, when the countrys oil boom
began. Today, most of the countrys population re-
sides in the capital, to the detriment of rural devel-
opment and agriculture. The administration has
ambitious plans to relocate people to more habitable
places and provide them with decent housing and
other basic amenities.
This correspondent was taken to one such devel-
opment project, Cambea City, located around 50
kilometres from Caracas on a beautiful site astride
the Caribbean Sea. As many as 602 families from the
barrios have already been settled in fully furnished
apartment buildings. Each family is given a two-
bedroom at and priority is given to big families.
Among the facilities already available here are a
primary health care centre, a school and an adult
education centre. President Chavez selected the site
two years ago. A township is planned to be built there
within 10 years and 20,000 families are to be reset-
The government launched the Bolivarian Mis-
sions to improve health care coverage and educa-
tion and to eradicate illiteracy. Mission Barrio
Adentros goal was to provide free and high-quality
health care. The government has succeeded in this
mission by dramatically increasing the number of
primary health care physicians and constructing sev-
The government has launched the
Bolivarian Missions to improve
health care coverage and education
and to eradicate illiteracy. The
country is now the least unequal in
Latin America.
World Affairs/Venezuela
Welfare state
President Hugo Chavez has
implemented a host of welfare
measures to improve the standard
of living of the poor.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 5 9
eral thousands of primary health care
centres all over the country. In the past
10 years, infant mortality has been re-
duced by 20 per cent. The literacy
campaign, known as Mission Robin-
son, run between the years 2003 and
2005 succeeded in helping over one
million adults learn to read and write.
Today the adult literacy rate in Vene-
zuela is 95 per cent. The United Na-
tions agencies have classied
Venezuela as a territory free of illiter-
acy for the past six years. Mission Ri-
bas provided higher education to
adults, helping more than 500,000
adults graduate in the rst three years
after it was established.
The project in the resettlement col-
ony is managed by community coun-
cils, with the state playing only a
supervisory role. All people residing in
a community have a shared history of
living together in the barrio. Those
policing the community are drawn
from within it. The teachers are also
from the same barrios. Venezuelan
doctors, trained in Cuba, live perma-
nently within the community.
The government has also provided
fair price shops, a modern kitchen and
a bakery tted with the latest equip-
ment. The prots from the sale of food
and other commercial activities will be
ploughed back into the communitys
welfare kitty. It is peoples power in
action. The idea is not only to build
homes but to speed up social integra-
tion, said an ofcial. There are 150
similar projects being undertaken all
over Venezuela. In 2011, Chavez
launched a new housing programme
called Mission Vivienda Venezuela un-
der which two million homes are to be
built between 2011 and 2017.
Temir Porras, the dynamic young
ideologue and Vice Foreign Minister
in charge of Asia, said that until Cha-
vez came to power, the slums were
excluded from the city despite the fact
that the majority of the people reside
there. One illustration of the Chavez
governments hands-on approach to
this problem was the installation of a
state-of-the-art metro cable car line
connecting the densely populated bar-
rio of San Sebastin in the hills dotting
Caracas to the underground metro
line. Before the cable cars started oper-
ating in 2010, the residents had to
walk 45 minutes downhill. There were
more than 600 steps to the nearest
metro station. The old, the inrm and
the very young were forced to remain
conned to their homes before the
government embarked on this innova-
tive scheme.
Porras said that people had a fun-
damental right to own a home. The
government has taken up this task in
right earnest. Unlike in countries such
as India, the government has kept pri-
vate sector out of the housing sector.
According to the Minister, Venezuela
will use its substantial oil revenues for
the social good. Until Chavez came to
power, Venezuela was only pumping
oil for the benet of the rest of the
world, he said. Porras said that the
government faced tough challenges as
we have to push forward in an atmo-
sphere of freedom. He said it was a
race against time to provide welfare
for the majority. He emphasised that
the governments thrust was to pri-
oritise government investments into
the social infrastructure. The oil indus-
try, he said, was used to develop other
sectors. We have inverted the situa-
tion there are more rich people than
poor in Venezuela today. We have pro-
ven to be the least unequal country in
the region, Porras said.
Latin America is the most unequal
region in the world.
The economic and social transfor-
mation that the Bolivarian Revolution
could bring about was only possible
after the events of 2002, the year in
THE STATE-OF-THE-ART metro cable car line connecting the shantytown
of San Sebastin in the hills in Caracas to the underground metro line.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
6 0 F R O N T L I N E
which the George W. Bush adminis-
tration vainly tried to oust Chavez
through a military coup. The Bush ad-
ministration and the local elite were
alarmed by the Venezuelan govern-
ments stated goal of taking control of
the countrys oil revenues and use
them for the welfare of the people. Pet-
roleus de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA), the
state-owned oil company formed in
1948, had tried to model itself after
American energy companies like En-
ron. It had virtually become a state
within a state. Oil revenues currently
account for 90 per cent of the countrys
export earnings. Earlier, little of these
found their way into developmental
projects. Deals with United States
companies and the stock market were
given top priority. Even after countries
like Algeria and Libya extracted big
concessions from Western oil compa-
nies in the early 1970s, the PDVSA
preferred to maintain the status quo
and provide the U.S. market with
cheap oil.
According to Ivan Orellana Alcala,
Vice Minister for Hydrocarbons, there
were heated debates in Venezuelan
politics in the mid-1970s about the
subservient role being played by the
PDVSA to the big oil companies. He
pointed out that it was only in 1973
that the oil cartel, Organisation of Pet-
roleum Exporting Countries (OPEC),
rst got together and decided to x
production quotas. The West retaliat-
ed by setting up the futures markets to
take control of the pricing mecha-
nisms. Venezuela and Saudi Arabia,
the two main players in OPEC, were
reluctant to nationalise their oil sec-
tors fully. The Venezuelan government
had nally to bow to public pressure
and nationalise the oil sector in 1975.
The President at that time, Carlos
Andres Peres, however saw to it that
the stiff conditions put forward by the
American oil companies were accept-
ed. These included hefty compensa-
tion and continued employment of
Americans in the countrys oil sector.
The government also agreed to let the
PDVSA run free of government con-
There was an agreement that
PDVSA would not be politicised, said
Orellana. Only two positions in the
PDVSAs board of directors were re-
served for government nominees. The
Left parties challenged the Presidents
decision and in 1975, got a law passed
that was to bring PDVSA under state
control. But there was a catch. To get
the law implemented, a two-thirds
majority in Parliament was needed.
The two parties that were dom-
inant at the time started preparing the
ground for reversing the nationalisa-
tion process. One step in this direction
was to strengthen the relationship of
PDVSA professionals with neoliberal
U.S. academic institutions. Young
professionals were sent to universities
in New York and Chicago where they
were politically indoctrinated. Special
relations were established with Texan
oligarchs, said Orellana. The Minis-
ter, who is now in charge of the
PDVSA, had spent his entire profes-
sional life in the organisation. He was
among the minority which opposed
the creeping privatisation policies pur-
sued by the PDVSA. The Minister said
that the internationalisation of the
PDVSA was proposed with the help of
private investments.
The privatisation process was deci-
sively reversed after the political up-
heaval in 1989, known as the Caracazo.
The ordinary people of Caracas and
surrounding areas reacted violently
when the government implemented
the International Monetary Fund
(IMF)-proposed shock therapy by
sharply increasing fuel prices along
with the prices of basic commodities.
More than 300 people lost their lives.
That incident left the government
shaken. It decided to go back and slow
down the privatisation process.
After Chavez came to power, the
PDVSA continued to be run by the
so-called technocrats. The PDVSA
board refused to consider the demands
of the popularly elected government. It
opposed the funnelling of oil revenues
to the ambitious development
schemes Chavez had in mind. The
PDVSA top brass also did not take
kindly to the decision to supply oil to
Cuba on special terms. President Cha-
vez, exercising his authority, reconsti-
tuted the board of directors in 2001
and passed a number of laws to streng-
then government control. Rafael Ra-
mirez, a close political ally of the
President and a petroleum engineer by
training, was appointed PDVSA
Chairman in 2002. He has been the
Energy Minister since 2005. The gov-
ernment got important decisions such
as a national gas policy implemented
despite strong opposition from the
PDVSA. When the decision was rst
taken, the PDVSA had threatened to
cut off gas supplies to the people.
The short-lived coup against Cha-
vez in April 2002 came in the wake of
the PDVSAs opposition to the govern-
ments nationalisation policies. The
company, which was supposed to be
state-owned, had made common cause
with the opposition parties. Ninety
per cent of the PDVSA staff were polit-
ical eunuchs. They were easy to manip-
ulate, said Orellana. After the coup
attempt zzled out, the government
nally managed to retain full control
over the countrys hydrocarbon re-
sources. Most of the recalcitrant
PDVSA workers were sacked after they
absented themselves from work dur-
ing the strike. The entrenched PDVSA
hierarchy, however, went down only
after plunging the country into an eco-
fair price shops in the resettlement
colonies for people from the barrios
who lost their homes in landslips.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 6 1
nomic crisis by embarking on a pro-
longed strike and acts of internal sabo-
tage, which drastically cut down oil
production. The country incurred a
$17,000-million loss as a result of the
strike in its oilelds and ports which
lasted from December 2002 to March
2003, said the Minister.
Within a few months of the strike
zzling out, the government nally
managed to get full control over the
PDVSA, the lifeline of the countrys
economy. Whoever controls the
PDVSA controls Venezuela. All the
ve coups in Venezuelas modern his-
tory were connected to oil, said the
Minister. The PDVSA, which today is a
leading global player, no longer looks
solely to the West as a market. After
Chavez came to power, transnational
companies are not allowed to own
more than 40 per cent of any given oil
production site. Importantly, the gov-
ernment increased royalties from oil
production from as low as 1 per cent to
a minimum of 33 per cent. Increasing-
ly, the exports are going to the East,
especially China. India too has invest-
ed in Venezuela but its presence is
small in comparison with China. India
prefers to source most of its crude from
its neighbourhood.
The government knows that global
oil prices remain volatile. This factor
has been taken into consideration
while formulating the 2012 national
budget. The budget is calculated at
$50 a barrel of oil, though the current
prices are more than double that. The
Minister for Planning and Finance,
Jorge Giordani, said that the low esti-
mated price for oil was meant to act as
a cushion against volatile global com-
modity prices. He gave the example of
the precipitate drop in oil prices from
$140 a barrel to $40 when the world
was hit by a nancial crisis in 2008.
The non-petroleum sector provides
55.4 per cent of the income for the new
budget. Luis Britto Garcia, one of Ve-
nezuelas and the continents foremost
novelists and essayists, who describes
himself as an independent supporter
of the Bolivarian Revolution, said that
the government had accomplished
most of the millennium development
goals. As examples, he gave the eradi-
cation of illiteracy and the continuing
emphasis on education by the govern-
ment. Out of a population of 30 mil-
lion, nine million people are studying
in schools or colleges. He said that the
poverty rate had been reduced dra-
matically from 80 per cent to around 5
per cent. Elections in Venezuela are
among the most transparent in the
world. Hundreds of international ob-
servers have been present during the
elections and referendums that have
taken place since Chavez was elected
in 1998.
According Garcia, it was Venezue-
la that started the trend of politic-
isation of the masses. Venezuela, he
said, had become a participatory de-
mocracy. Social movements have
been in the forefront of the Bolivarian
Revolution. The political longevity of
Chavez would not have been possible
without the support of the social move-
ments. The establishment of the vari-
ous missions and their integration
with the social movements has stood
the government in good stead. Most of
the participants in the missions are
He readily admits that the govern-
ment still faces important challenges.
He said that the capitalist mode pre-
vailed in the mixed economy of the
country. Most of the consumer goods
are imported. Retail business is still in
the hands of a strong capitalist class.
Chavez nationalised the countrys tele-
communications and power sector in
2005. The state is now playing a bigger
role in agricultural, banking and other
important sectors. Garcia blames prof-
iteers for the rising ination. All the
same, he exuded the hope that the
country was on the road to socialism.
We have socialised our principal reve-
nue earner oil. Our oil resources will
be used to form a really productive and
renewable economy, said Garcia. The
writer predicted that the victory of
Chavez in the presidential election due
to be held in 2012 was a certainty. He
said that more than 60 per cent of the
population was solidly behind the
Latest ofcial gures released in
December 2011 reveal that Venezuela
has had the largest reduction in unem-
ployment in the continent. According
to Venezuelas National Institute of
Statistics, the unemployment rate is
currently 6.2 per cent. Before Chavez
assumed the presidency, it was more
than double this gure. Ination is an
issue as prices of non-basic goods go
up. But the ination levels are lower
than those witnessed in the 1990s and
before. The government raises wages
once or twice a year to match the im-
pact of ination. Venezuelans today
have the highest minimum wage in
Latin America.
CHAVEZ AT A ceremony where houses built under the project Caribia City
outside Caracas were handed over to beneciaries on December 30, 2011.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
6 2 F R O N T L I N E
COMFORTABLE as Sukhadana is, we desert it
the next day in favour of further adventure deep in
the jungle. Our next destination is LubukBaji, the
campsite hidden away in the jungle. It is not on
google maps; after all, it is just a notional shelter, a
half-hearted shack made of wood, with neither walls
nor doors but just a sloping roof supported by wood-
en pillars hoisted on a platform with a ladder to
climb. It is situated on top of a hill in the jungle. But
to those who have trekked the rainforest to reach
here, it is nothing short of paradise.
It takes seven hours of jungle trek in pouring rain
to reach LubukBaji. The route is strewn with mossy
boulders, sodden leaves in various stages of rot with
the attendant lurking creatures underneath, logs
that have sprouted bright-coloured toadstools and
harbour insects galore, vines that criss-cross your
path tempting you to hang on to them for balance
only to snap suddenly and hurl you down, copious
quantities of slippery slush that creeps into your
Pontianak, like many other towns
in Indonesia, is devoid of high-rise
blocks. The town on the Equator
has been attracting unattering
attention to itself, being at the centre
of the inevitable development versus
environment conict.
Kalimantan is literally caught between
paradise and palm oil as Borneos
fabled biodiversity gives way to an
endless continuum of monocropping.
This is the last part of a
two-part article.
Rainforest retreat
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
oil palm plantations
in the Kapuas river
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
6 4 F R O N T L I N E
shoes and socks, uorescent and ven-
omous creepy crawlies that eye you
warily from the trunks of trees and
under the boulders and everywhere
around, cobwebs uttering like bunt-
ings as if in ceremonial welcome. The
rainforest is indeed a daunting place
for a city dweller to be. With 10 kilo-
grams of gear strapped to my back, a
heavy SLR camera dangling down my
neck, an ankle-length raincoat that
gets caught in every brush and branch,
spectacles that blind me with steam if
not with the pouring rain, it takes all
my reserve energy and resolve to nego-
tiate this stretch.
We spend a couple of days at Lu-
bukBaji exploring the jungle at differ-
ent times of the day, all equally dark
and steamy thanks to the thick canopy.
Our porter-cum-cook, who skipped
lightly through the jungle in his rubber
slippers, has carried all our groceries,
including vegetables in a rucksack.
Now he magically transforms these in-
to delectable meals cooked on open re
with logs. How he managed to light the
ever-damp logs is a mystery. We even
get dark brown Indonesian coffee to
top up our gourmet meals. The space
below the platform serves as an effec-
tive shelter from the rain and doubles
as a kitchen as well. A group of school-
children on environment study tour is
already camping there. There is nei-
ther mattress nor pillow and all of us
sprawl on the hard wooden oor, and
have never slept so soundly even in our
own beds at home!
At night, the jungle turns into a
veritable tower of babel. Nocturnal
creatures emerge from the woodwork
to exercise their vocal chords. They
produce a cacophony of sounds that
mimic some we are so familiar with in
the cities like the screech of a tile-
cutter or the hiss of a water pipe that
has run out of water. There are other
unfamiliar ones, quite unlike any you
have heard before. Insects set up such
a racket that you have to cock your ears
to catch that guttural grunt of orang-
utans. An alarmed bird lets out a
shriek before ying away, apping its
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
ALONG the Kapuas.
wings noisily. Luminous eyeballs in
the foliage remind you that there are
elusive creatures, perhaps jungle cats
lurking out there. We sit up on our
wooden platform listening to the myr-
iad magical sounds of a rainforest,
which goes to make such a wonderful
jugalbandhi (musical duet) with the
pitter-patter of rain in the background
providing the tanpura (drone) effect
before exhaustion and sleep overtake
The journey back from LubukBaji
to Sukhadana is memorable for the
non-stop downpour, which makes
passage extremely risky. We hurtle
down some slopes, cling to vines and
branches and swing along in some
stretches, crawl on all fours in others.
Every time you grab a vine or a tree
trunk, an army of angry insects crawl
on your arms and explore your torso,
leaving red welts on the skin. Kapilan
and Malavika, the two teenagers in the
group, sprint and skip lightly and re-
ach the waterfall ahead of us where
they frolic under a frothy natural
spring. As for the rest of us, the seven-
hour ordeal is one of the toughest we
have ever undertaken. But for our pa-
tient and encouraging guide Dar, we
might have ended up spending one
more night in the jungle, perhaps out
in the open. We nally reach the
plains, dripping from head to toe,
scratched and bruised all over, but
with a sense of exhilaration that we
had been able to glimpse some primor-
dial wilderness in all its glory.
In the evening, we stroll down the
streets of Sukhadana looking for a din-
ing outlet. It is a tiny village with neat
rows of houses having inviting patios
and beautifully maintained small gar-
dens. There is an order and discipline
in the layout of the village. It reminds
me of the Madras (now Chennai) of
yore where I grew up. There is just one
high street, no ATMs or money chang-
ers. If you need to change currency,
you have to either drive, take a bus or
hitch a ride on a scooter to Ketapong.
On the main road, there are a few stalls
with petromax lamps; all have live
WHI CH look like
warehouses with
neither doors nor
windows but only
little alcoves
splattered all over
the walls, are in
fact custom-built
birdhouses where
swallows are
enticed to build
their nests (right).
F R O N T L I N E 6 5
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
6 6 F R O N T L I N E
specimens eyeing you warily from
their glass cases. If you dont relish
squid, octopus, sting ray, sh or sea
snake, your options are rather limited
to ayams (chicken) in various avatars.
Our efforts to obtain a vegetarian vari-
ant of nasi, Bahasa for rice, did not
yield any results. Obviously, there is no
concept of vegetarian food, and we
were offered packets of biscuits con-
taining palm fat. Of course you can
have durian to your hearts content, if
only you can stand its smell.
There is no time to dry our
drenched clothes since our boat out of
Sukhadana is to leave at 8 a.m. the next
day. We just stuff the smelly lot into
our suitcases and rush to the boat jetty
only to nd that even by 9 a.m., there is
no sign of Bresoul Express! It comes all
the way from Ketapong to pick up pas-
sengers in Sukhadana. The low tide
has beached it a mile away in mid-sea.
Now we have the rather daunting task
of dragging our luggage along a half-a-
mile-long embankment, which is all of
12 inches wide. There is no other way
to reach the boat, which we must reach
if we are to catch our ight from Pon-
tianak to Jakarta that evening. The
embankment is about six feet high and
it takes all your nerve to negotiate the
stretch in the blazing morning sun.
Like Arjuna, you wear imaginary
blinkers to keep out peripheral vision
and focus on the narrow strip ahead.
Finally, we come to a spot from where
we have to drop down six feet to reach
the wading pool of seawater below. For
locals this is routine and they do not
seem to mind. A local man offers his
shoulders for me to hold on to when I
jump; I accept gratefully and land with
a thud, but no damage done. We wade
through ankle-deep sea, which soon
rises to knee level and then to waist
level. Before it climbs any further, we
WALKI NG ON AN embankment to board the beached boat.
I N THE BRESOUL Express, which plies
between Sukhadana and Pontianak.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 6 7
reach our beached boat and heave our-
selves in. Our luggage is loaded atop
the boat and secured with tarpaulin
and ropes. We are packed like sardines
in this little boat.
The boat ride through the inner
delta is absolutely stunning. Lush
mangroves line the banks; there is
nothing between you and the wide ho-
rizon and your boat rocks in harmony
with the gentle tide. En route we see a
few villages on stilts and occasionally
there are some oating markets as
The Kapuas is the lifeline of Kali-
mantan for many reasons. It is the lone
waterway that enables villagers from
many parts of the island to travel since
ights are few and far between and
quite expensive. Pontianak perches
between the Kapuas and the sea and is
a bustling port town that does brisk
business in exports. No wonder it has
sprouted many business hotels. Long
before you reach Pontianak, the delta
becomes a beehive of activity and the
river is packed with trafc. On the wa-
terfront, houses sit on stilts, and peo-
ple use boats much the same way we
use cars to move around. The Kapuas
is at its widest near Pontianak and we
see a curious construction on the river
banks. There are tall buildings, which
look like warehouses. There are nei-
ther doors nor windows, only little al-
coves splattered all over the walls.
They seem to be custom-built for a
purpose. And they are noisy, with the
raucous chatter of birds.
Our curiosity takes us to one of
these and we learn that these are cus-
tom-built birdhouses where swallows
are enticed to build their nests. Birds
nest soup is a delicacy relished all over
South-East Asia and elsewhere, and is
a rupiah spinner for the people of Kali-
mantan. We dont kill the birds or
harm the young ones, we just take
away the nests after the edglings y
away, grins a villager.
Birds nest is big business in Pon-
tianak just as timber is. Our boat skirts
several otillas of logs bobbing in the
river. Sometimes they stretch across
for kilometres. I am told that Bornean
jungles are rapidly felled to make way
for palm oil and rubber plantations
and their wood is prized. I had earlier
noticed while ying over the island
what seemed like forest res. These are
not forest res but slash-and-burn de-
forestation to make way for palm oil
plantations. Felling timber is perhaps
the lesser evil if forests must be
In fact, when we were ying into
Pontianak, I leaned over the smoky
window to catch a glimpse of Borneos
fabled biodiversity. After all, it is the
most biodiverse rainforest on our
planet, richer than even the Amazon
jungles in their stunning ora and fau-
na. Yet, all I could see for half an hour
or so was an endless continuum of
monocropping. As far as the eyes could
see, oil palm plantations lined up with
sickening monotony.
The island of Kalimantan, or Bor-
neo as it is known, straddles the South
China Sea and is shared by three na-
tions Indonesia controls two-thirds,
Malaysia, most of the remaining land-
mass, and Brunei, the richest sultanate
in the world, occupies a tiny slot in the
north-eastern corner. Malaysia was
the rst to gure out that the unyield-
ing mangrove, native to the island, can
be coaxed to host oil palm plantations,
a discovery that threatens to convert
the last remaining rainforest into a
vast expanse of oil palms. For millions
of Malaysians, palm oil has brought
quick prosperity. The island of Borneo
has become the favourite destination
of ocean-going steamers that load
palm oil onto massive containers and
ferry them to all parts of the world
where this gooey gelatinous substance
transgures everything from biscuits
and pastries, processed foods and
bakes into the trans fat-laden junk
food we so relish. Indonesia, waking
up to the possibility, has launched a
massive drive to convert its virgin for-
ests into anodyne plantations growing
oil palm and rubber.
Pontianak, in recent times, has
been attracting unattering attention
to itself, being at the centre of the inev-
itable development versus environ-
ment conict. Even as its population
has swollen to half a million mostly
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
THE RAI NFOREST I N all its natural glory on the outskirts of Sukhadana. (Below) The campsite at LubukBaji.
6 8 F R O N T L I N E
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 6 9
native of
insects, and
cobwebs (far
right) utter
like buntings
ONa fallen tree
trunk on the
Kubang hill.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
7 0 F R O N T L I N E
Malay and ethnic Chinese being the
largest minority an increasingly dis-
enfranchised native Dayak tribe,
whose natural habitat in the rainforest
has been supplanted by oil palm, rub-
ber and tobacco plantations, is ghting
to retain its traditional way of life
against the onslaught of multinational
corporations in search of cheaper raw
Visitors to Pontianak must con-
tend with a thick haze that hangs over
the town, enveloping everything in
sight. It is caused by slash-and-burn
cultivation, and the villagers have been
reporting a very high incidence of re-
spiratory diseases, a new phenomenon
in this otherwise clean environment.
It is already dark, but we decide to
visit the Equator Monument, a tower
holding up a mock Planet Earth. Pon-
tianak has two newspapers, both in
Bahasa. We drive around the town
soaking in the sights and ambience.
When we return to our hotel we nd
that it is hosting a traditional Bornean
wedding. Because of our foreign ori-
gin, we are able to gatecrash into the
wedding celebrations to take pictures
with the beautiful bride and groom in
traditional attire.
The next day we are on the ight to
Jogjakarta to visit the magnicent
Buddhist temple at Borobudur. From
the airplane, the delta appears to be a
tangle of varicose veins of dozens of
swollen rivers and hundreds of rivulets
and creeks. The landscape is largely
at with occasional hills sheathed in
gossamer mist. Pontianak, like many
other towns in Indonesia, is complete-
ly devoid of high-rise blocks. How long
it will remain so, especially with the
palm oil glut and prosperity, is a mil-
lion barrel question though.
I N A MARKET in Sukhadana.
A BORNEAN BRI DE and groom in
their traditional attire in Pontianak.
A TYPI CAL WEST Kalimantan house
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 7 1
Nan article written in 1974, in the
immediate aftermath of the Su-
preme Courts landmark judg-
ment in the Kesavananda Bharati
case, the legal scholar Upendra
Baxi predicted that for a long time to
come the Indian judiciary, constitu-
tional scholarship and, above all, the
Indian polity are likely to be consumed
by the magnicent obsessions created
by the 11 opinions of the Supreme
Court. He said in an article titled The
Constitutional quicksands of Kesava-
nanda Bharati and the Twenty-Fifth
Amendment that even a limited
analysis of what the court decided is
as delicate and difcult as that directed
to the unravelling of the signicance of
the smile of Mona Lisa. Upendra Baxi
was prescient.
The two books under review seek
to unravel the varied and profound
questions raised by the historic judg-
ment of 700-odd pages, which was de-
livered by a sharply divided 13-judge
Constitution Bench with a majority of
7:6. They try to answer the questions,
to use Baxis phrase, with the chill of
reason rather than with the passion of
a moment.
The Kesavananda Bharati case
dealt with the scope and width of Par-
liaments amending powers as laid
down in Article 368 of the Constitu-
tion. In Golaknath vs State of Punjab
in 1967, for the rst time an 11-judge
Constitution Bench decided, with a
majority of 6:5, that Parliament could
not through amendment abrogate or
abridge the fundamental rights. In or-
der to nullify the Golaknath verdict,
Parliament enacted the 24th Amend-
ment to the Constitutionin 1971 laying
down that its powers to amend the
Constitution were unrestricted and
In March 1970, Kesavananda Bha-
rati, the pontiff of a religious mutt in
Kerala, took objection to the attempts
of the government to acquire, under
the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963,
land belonging to the mutt. The mutt
challenged the Act, through the fa-
mous advocate N.A. Palkhivala, before
the Supreme Court by ling a writ pet-
ition seeking to protect the fundamen-
tal right of religious institutions to
manage their own property without
undue restrictions by the state. When
this petition was pending, the 24th
Amendment to the Constitution
(amending Articles 13 and 368) was
adopted. It was followed by the 25th,
26th and 29th Amendments. The 25th
Amendment (1971) made many
changes in Article 31 (dealing with
compulsory acquisition of property)
following the 1970 bank nationalisa-
tion case (R.C. Cooper vs Union of In-
The 26th Amendment (1971) ter-
minating the privileges and privy purs-
es of the ex-rulers of the former
princely states was aimed at getting
over the Supreme Courts ruling in the
privy purses case. The 29th Amend-
ment (1972) added two Kerala Land
Reforms Amendment Acts (1969 and
1971) to the Ninth Schedule, which is
meant for Acts that the State legisla-
tures and Parliament wanted to keep
beyond judicial review. Kesavananda
subsequently challenged this amend-
ment, but as the challenges to the other
Revisiting a verdict
The Kesavananda Bharati
Case: The untold story of
struggle for supremacy by
Supreme Court and
Parliament by T.R.
Andhyarujina; Universal Law
Publishing Co.,2011;
pages150, Rs.295.
Basic Structure
Constitutionalism: Revisiting
Kesavananda Bharati edited
by Sanjay S. Jain and Sathya
Narayan; Eastern Book
Company, 2011; pages 290,
The Supreme Courts 1973 verdict in Kesavananda Bharati and the debate on the
basic structure doctrine continue to fascinate observers. BY V. VENKATESAN
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
7 2 F R O N T L I N E
amendments raised similar issues,
they were heard together. Kesavanan-
da became the lead petitioner since he
led the petition rst.
Consequently, the validity of these
amendments was challenged before a
Constitution Bench comprising ve
judges. In August 1972, the ve-judge
Bench admitted the petition and re-
ferred it to a 13-judge Bench, which
heard the case for over six months be-
fore delivering its verdict on April 24,
1973. The Supreme Court had only 15
judges when the 13-judge Bench heard
the case. Palkhivala led the arguments
on behalf of the petitioners, while the
eminent constitutional scholar, H.M.
Seervai, along with Attorney-General
Niren De, argued on behalf of the
T.R. Andhyarujina was a junior to
Seervai during the hearing of the case.
The arguments before the court lasted
66 days and young Andhyarujina
maintained a diary, noting down me-
ticulously every twist and turn that
marked the relationship between
counsel and the Bench and among the
judges within the Bench. He makes
two points. One, he disputes the gener-
al belief that the Supreme Court held
in the Kesavananda case that Article
368 does not enable Parliament to al-
ter the basic structure or framework of
the Constitution. Second, he asserts
that the belief was the result of the
stratagem of the then Chief Justice of
India (CJI), Justice S.M. Sikri, who got
a note titled View by the Majority
signed by nine of the 13 judges.
This note had no legal sanctity
whatsoever. The crucial sentence in
the note relating to Article 368 not
enabling Parliament to alter the basic
structure was in fact lifted from only
one of the 11 judgments in the case.
That judgment was authored by Jus-
tice H.R. Khanna. The book is a chron-
icle of how a single judges view
became the holding of the majority of
A certain amount of tension was
building up between Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi and Justice Sikri before
the hearing began. In order to prepare
the Supreme Court to reverse the Go-
laknathverdict, Indira Gandhi wanted
to pack the court with judges of her
choice and did succeed in doing so to
some extent. Justice Sikri resisted, but
he was not always successful.
The odds were even when the hear-
ing began. Chief Jusitce Sikri and Jus-
tices J.M. Shelat, K.S. Hegde and A.N.
Grover were determined to defend the
concept of implied limitations on Par-
liaments amending power. This con-
cept was the bedrock of the Golaknath
judgment. Justices Sikri and Shelat
were part of the majority judges in the
Golaknath case. All the four judges
were part of the majority judges whose
verdicts went against the govern-
ments moves to nationalise banks and
abolish privy purses. The Supreme
Court had decided these cases between
the Golaknath and Kesavananda
Justices A.N. Ray, K.K. Mathew,
D.G. Palekar, M.H. Beg, and S.N. Dwi-
vedi were pro-government judges on
the Kesavananda Bench, and their col-
lective view was that Parliament had
unfettered powers to amend the fun-
damental rights. Justices H.R. Khan-
na, A.K. Mukherjea, P. Jagannatha
Reddy and Y.V. Chandrachud were
non-committal at the start of the Kesa-
vananda hearing, and no one was sure
about their leanings until the delivery
of the verdict.
In the nal outcome, the number
of Sikri-led judges went up to six, with
two additions. They were Justices
Reddy and Mukherjea. Justice Chan-
drachud joined the remaining ve
judges who decided that Parliament
had the unlimited amending power.
Justice Khanna thus became the only
judge who could tilt the scales one way
or the other. By signing the note circu-
lated by Chief Justice Sikri, Justice
Khanna apparently joined the Sikri-
led judges, thus giving them the bare
majority on the Bench.
Andhyarujina argues that there was an
unbridgeable gulf between the views of
Justice Khanna and the Sikri-led six
judges and that it was impossible for
them to have formed the majority.
While the Sikri-led judges adopted the
implied limitations route to reach the
basic structure doctrine, Justice Khan-
na took recourse to, what a keen ob-
server of the case called, the semantic
route expressly rejecting the implied
limitations theory. Justice Khanna
held that the word amendment ipso
facto overruled dismemberment of the
existing Constitution through the
amendment process.
The Sikri-led judges had a pre-con-
ceived notion of what the basic or es-
sential features of the Constitution
were. These differed according to their
perceptions, and they were clear that
Parliament could not touch them.
These included the republican form of
government, separation of powers,
fundamental rights, democracy and
judicial review.
Justice Khanna held that any
amendment should not leave the exist-
ing Constitution unrecognisable. The
degree of weakening of the Constitu-
tion would need to be much higher
than what was envisaged under the
implied limitations theory of the Sikri-
led judges, and the new Constitution
resulting from such an amendment
must be completely different from the
original one so as to make it unrecog-
nisable. Justice Khanna was against
only this kind of amendment.
As a senior advocate of the Su-
preme Court explained to this review-
er, the distinction between Justice
Khanna and the Sikri-led judges could
be understood better by the metaphor
of an obese person wanting to undergo
bariatric surgery to trim his potbelly.
To the implied limitation theorists (led
by Justice Sikri himself), even this sur-
gery would have been anathema as
they would deem it as damaging the
basic structure of that patient. The se-
mantic theorists (represented by Jus-
tice Khanna), however, would have
approved it, provided the surgery was
not accompanied by a facial implant or
a sex change.
In the note on the View by the
Majority, the Sikri-led judges, along
with two of the pro-government judg-
es, dramatically merged their views
with that of Justice Khanna without
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 7 3
any explanation or reasoning whatso-
ever in order to help their brother Jus-
tice Sikri, who was to retire before the
delivery of the verdict.
As the View by the Majority note
essentially reected his original posi-
tion, Justice Khanna had no difculty
in signing it.
But it was Justice Khannas subse-
quent conduct that cast doubts on his
own position, and thereby hangs an-
other tale. When the Kesavananda
case was decided, the apprehension
that the elected representatives could
not be trusted to act responsibly ap-
peared ridiculous. But, as Senior Ad-
vocate Raju Ramachandran, writes in
his essay in Supreme, but not infallible
(an academic book published in 2000
to mark the golden jubilee of the Su-
preme Court), this apprehension came
true very soon and all too dramatically.
The supersession of judges in 1973
to choose A.N. Ray as the successor to
Sikri as CJI was the rst indication.
The superseded judges, Justices She-
lat, Hegde and Grover (who were on
the side of Sikri on the Kesavananda
Bench), resigned in protest.
The Allahabad High Court set
aside Prime Minister Indira Gandhis
election to the Lok Sabha on June 12,
1975, on the grounds of corrupt prac-
tice. She then imposed an internal
emergency, led an appeal in the Su-
preme Court, got the electoral law
amended retrospectively to take away
the basis of the High Court nding,
and rushed through the 39th Amend-
ment Act inserting Article 329A to
wipe out all judicial proceedings
against her election.
In Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi vs
Raj Narain, the Supreme Courts ve-
judge Constitution Bench unanimous-
ly applied the basic structure doctrine
to invalidate Article 329A, though it
upheld the Prime Ministers election
on the basis of the retrospective
amendment to the electoral law.
Justice Khanna, who was part of
this Bench, had no difculty in going
along with the four judges. However,
he felt it necessary to interpret his own
judgment in the Kesavananda case,
probably realising that it had caused
confusion. He claried that he found
it difcult to read anything in his Ke-
savananda judgment to justify the con-
clusion that the fundamental rights
were not part of the basic structure.
He suggested that he had held that the
right to property, a fundamental right
at that time (Parliament later removed
it from the list of fundamental rights
and converted it to an ordinary right),
was not part of the basic structure. He
argued that if he wanted to exclude all
the fundamental rights from the basic
structure, he need not have specically
mentioned the right to property as the
one that needed to be excluded from
the basic structure.
However, many observers, includ-
ing Andhyarujina, consider that in Ke-
savananda, Justice Khanna did not
share the Sikri-led judges emphasis on
treating the fundamental rights as un-
amendable basic features of the Con-
stitution. In Kesavananda, they say
that Justice Khanna was in favour of
amending the fundamental rights as
long as such an amendment did not
result in changing the basic character
of the Constitution.
Andhyarujina argues in the book
that it is not open to the author of the
judgment to explain it or to say later
that he did not mean what his judg-
ment plainly reads. If a judgment is to
be analysed for its meaning, it can only
be done by another court and not by
the author of the judgment. He has
also pointed to several inconsistencies
in Justice Khannas clarication of his
judgment in the Kesavananda case
made while delivering the Indira Neh-
ru-Gandhi judgment. Justice Khanna
did not convincingly answer these in-
consistencies during his lifetime.
Irrespective of such inconsisten-
cies, it is possible to suggest that Jus-
tice Khanna decided to identify
himself with the Sikri-led judges on
the question of the fundamental rights
being a part of the basic structure in
view of Indira Gandhis blatant abuse
of constitutional provisions to keep
her in ofce. He might have thought
that had he not cleared the doubts
about the majority verdict in the Kesa-
vananda case then, authoritarian
tendencies in the government would
have become unstoppable. By signing
the View by the Majority note, Justice
Khanna had created sufcient elbow
room to adjust his position later.
To Andhyarujinas surprise, sub-
sequent Benches of the Supreme Court
accepted this clarication of Justice
Khanna rather than what the plain
reading of the Kesavananda judg-
ments would suggest. The fundamen-
tal rights thus became an inseparable
part of the basic structure of the
Justice Khannas clarication,
though legally untenable, found sup-
port among subsequent Benches of the
Supreme Court, primarily because he
inspired huge respect by virtue of his
unblemished and distinguished re-
cord. He was the sole dissenter in the
ve-judge Constitution Bench in the
infamous A.D.M. Jabalpur case, which
justied the suspension of right to life
and liberty during the Emergency. The
Indira Gandhi government supersed-
ed him while appointing Justice Beg
the Chief Justice on Justice Rays re-
tirement in 1977. Justice Khanna re-
signed in protest and has since been
hailed as a towering legal icon.
The second book under review was
born out of an event, organised in Pune
on January 16, 2010, on the 90th birth
anniversary of the late Palkhivala, to
reargue the Kesavananda Bharati case.
Section 1 of the book deals with the
comparison and critical analysis of 11
opinions in the Kesavananda case.
Section II is devoted to the legacy of
Seervai and Palkhivala and includes
articles by Seervais son, Navroz Seer-
vai, and brother of Palkhivala, Behram
A. Palkhivala.
Section III includes critical papers
by invited authors, including Andhya-
rujina and Anil B. Divan.
The two books will contribute im-
mensely to enhancing the constitu-
tional literacy of lawyers, and through
them, lay readers. They also help us
understand how constitutional law,
like political events, can be a result of
accidents in history.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
7 4 F R O N T L I N E
vocate in the Supreme Court of India, faced a lot of
criticism from his colleagues, especially Soli J. So-
rabjee, who was a junior to Nani Palkhivala during
the hearing of the Kesavananda case, that his latest
book, The Kesavananda Bharati Case: The Untold
Story of Struggle for Supremacy by Supreme Court
and Parliament, was a wasted effort. The former
Solicitor-General took the ak in his stride, saying,
The purpose of my book is only to give a historical
account of how the basic structure doctrine came to
be established in our constitutional law. Excerpts
from an interview he gave Frontline:
Your book suggests that the inviolability of the basic
structure doctrine was a dubious view of the
majority of the Kesavananda Bench. What should
have been the ratio of that judgment?
Extracting the ratio from the 11 judgments
should have been the task of either the 13-judge
Bench or a subsequent Bench. It is difcult to say
what would have been the ratio on a proper judicial
exercise. Had that exercise been done, there may not
have been a majority holding that there is a limita-
tion of the basic structure of the Constitution in
amending the Constitution. There was no majority
for any implied limitation on the amending power as
Justice [H.R.] Khanna had rejected the implied lim-
itations on the Constitution. What would have been
extracted as the ratio of the Kesavananda case by a
later Bench is a matter of speculation. This difcult
exercise was purposely avoided by Chief Justice
[S.M.] Sikri when he created the so-called View by
the Majority note and passed it aroundfor signatures
of the judges on April 24, 1973.
In the concluding chapter, you concede that the
basic structure doctrine is so deeply enshrined in
our constitutional law that it would not be shaken
even by the knowledge of the process by which it
came to be formulated. What then is the purpose of
the book, if it is not to make readers question that
long-held belief?
It is correct that the basic structure theory has
become an axiom of our constitutional law and one
cannot imagine any Bench of the Supreme Court
annulling that theory. It is also true that for whatever
reason and method the majority view was arrived at,
the axiom of unamendability of the basic structure of
the Constitution has had a salutary check and con-
trol on the amending power. The purpose of my book
is only to give a historical account of how the basic
structure doctrine came to be established in our
constitutional law. After this case, Parliament and
the government gained by different approaches on
its social and economic policies, which the court did
not interfere with merely because some fundamental
right was perceived to be violated. In that sense, the
judgment served a useful purpose to society.
Can you explain how the then government sought to
appoint judges before the hearing of the case?
After the Golaknath case, the government took a
predominant role in the appointment process. By
and large the new government nominees, though
men of eminence and distinction, decided in favour
of the unlimited power of Parliament except Justice
A.K. Mukherjea. After Golaknath, the initiative
came from the government. Justice Sikri was initial-
ly reluctant to appoint Justices [M.H.] Beg and
[S.N.] Dwivedi. The government prevailed upon
Amending power
is unique
It is correct that the basic structure
theory has become an axiom of our
constitutional law and one cannot
imagine any Bench of the Supreme
Court annulling that theory.
Interview with T.R. Andhyarujina, Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 7 5
him. He selected Justice Khanna. The
government accepted it. The relations
between Justice Sikri and Indira
Gandhi were also strained.
Justice Sikri had to choose 13 out of
the then total strength of 15 judges to
hear the Kesavananda case [the earlier
relevant case, Golaknath, was decided
by 11 judges and the Kesavananda
Bench had to be bigger than that].
There were just two remaining judges
who did not have a long tenure: Justice
[V.] Alagirisamy and Justice Inder
Dev Dua. But their tenure could have
been extended in the form of ad hoc
judges [and could have been chosen to
be part of the Kesavananda Bench to
replace Justices Sikri and J.M. Shelat].
The general practice is when your view
is being reviewed, propriety requires
that you recuse yourself from the
Bench. But nobody raised objections
[against Justices Sikri and Shelat be-
ing on the Kesavananda Bench be-
cause they were earlier part of the
majority judges on the Golaknath
You mention that there was a move to
exclude Justice Beg, a pro-
government judge, from the Bench
after 66 days of hearing on his
hospitalisation. Who was behind this
It is unfortunate that a strong at-
tempt was made by the petitioners and
the CJI [Chief Justice of India] to ex-
clude him on his third and last illness.
His exclusion would not have changed
the number of the majority, as the ma-
jority would have still prevailed with
7:5 instead of 7:6. In a case with such
political overtones, the [likely] exclu-
sion of Justice Beg at the last moment
created tensions. It was felt that if the
case was adjourned for the return of
Justice Beg, the case would have pro-
longed beyond the retirement of CJI
Sikri and the whole effort of the 13-
judge Bench would have come to
naught. Therefore, the petitioners and
the CJI wanted to drop Justice Beg
from the Bench and proceed as if there
were 12 judges. The illness of Justice
Beg at the crucial moment was inter-
preted as some sort of a game plan of
the government to put an end to the
case. The petitioners believed that it
was a move to favour the government.
As a result, Justice Beg was retained on
the Bench, with Palkhivala being
asked to give written submissions. It
was a serious illness, but the question
was whether his illness would go be-
yond the tenure of Justice Sikri.
The Attorney-General had threat-
ened to walk out if Justice Beg was
dropped. [Justice H.M.] Seervai sup-
ported him. Without one judge on the
Bench, the legitimacy of the judgment
would have come into question. Palk-
hivala, therefore, submitted to the gov-
ernments wish, and agreed to close his
oral arguments on the 66th day.
By signing the View by the Majority
note, did the neutral judges not apply
their minds? You suggest that some of
them reluctantly signed it because of
constraints of time as Justice Sikri
was due to retire.
The only judge who said that he
signed the View by the Majority note to
accommodate Sikri was Justice Y.V.
Chandrachud. The rest of the judges,
except Mukherjea, were by and large
committed to the view of Parliament
not having the amending power to
change the basic structure. It would
not have made any difference to the
ultimate result, as at least ve of the
judges were clearly in favour of limit-
ing Parliaments amending power,
and, one judge, Justice Khanna, was in
favour of limiting its powers only on
the grounds of basic structure. The ab-
sence of judicial conference does not
invalidate the judgment. The view by
the majority cannot be considered in-
valid because of the absence of a judg-
es conference [preceding it], but it
had become dubious because it was a
hurriedly prepared paper passed on
for signatures just before the judgment
was delivered.
You have also claimed that the then
government was in possession of
some of the draft judgments before
they were delivered. What was the
basis of this claim?
The government decided on the
supersession of judges even before the
judgment was delivered in open court.
Kuldip Nayar, in his book, says that
Chief Justice Sikri queried Justice Beg.
Justice Dwivedi said [after his ap-
pointment] that he was going to the
Supreme Court to reverse Golaknath.
Justice Beg was the nominee of Indira
Gandhi. The government had advance
notice of the views of the judges. Jus-
tice Mukherjea, Justice P. Jagannatha
Reddy, Justice Chandrachud and Jus-
tice Khanna did not give the impres-
sion of being one way or the other.
They appeared to be uncommitted. So,
they would tilt the balance. Justice
Reddy, on his own, came to more or
less the same conclusion as the Sikri-
led judges.
Justice Mukherjea wrote a joint
judgment with Justice Hegde. Justice
Khanna took a midway position. Jus-
tice Chandrachud was perceived by the
petitioners to be in favour of limiting
the amending power by some of his
statements in the court, and the fact
that he had been invited by Justice
Sikri to the only judicial conference of
like-minded judges. Therefore, his
writing a judgment in favour of Parlia-
ment was a great surprise. This gave
rise to the rumour that he had been
inuenced by the then Law Minister
Kesavananda case external political
forces operated for over 66 days.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
7 6 F R O N T L I N E
H.R. Gokhale and retired Chief Justice
Gajendragadkar [a family friend of
Chandrachud]. Justice Chandrachud
later said that he was entitled to
change his views. He denied that he
was inuenced by Gokhale and Justice
Why did Chief Justice A.N. Ray
dissolve the 13-judge Bench to review
the Kesavananda judgment within two
days of its constitution in 1976? You
have speculated on the reasons, like
his isolation on the Bench,
Palkhivalas letter to the Prime
Minister on the eve of the hearing
protesting against the move, and so
on. Can you elaborate?
I think the 13-judge Bench was
constituted by Justice A.N. Ray to re-
view the Kesavananda case without
any judicial order and there was no
indication why the case was required
to be reviewed. This was the strongest
reason advanced by Palkhivala. On
this point, neither Chief Justice Ray
nor Attorney-General Niran De was
able to give a convincing answer. And
from the observations of other judges,
this question was a worrying one.
Therefore, in my view, Ray could not
carry the majority with him to review
the Kesavananda case, and on the
third day, he felt compelled to dissolve
the Bench without any reason.
How would you interpret Justice Rays
Chief Justice Rays acceptance of
the CJI post is often misunderstood. It
was not he who manoeuvred it but the
government. After knowing the views
of the judges who were going to decide
against Parliament, the government
decided that the next CJI should not be
a judge from among those judges. It is
now known that the government even
asked Justice K.K. Mathewwhether he
would accept the position of the CJI.
But he declined. Chief Justice Ray
himself was reluctant to be the CJI in
such a controversial way, but he was
told that if he did not accept the posi-
tion, the government was determined
to go down the line and appoint any
other judge who would consent to be
the CJI. Therefore, Justice Ray accept-
ed the position with reluctance.
Your mentor H.M. Seervai changed his
view after the Emergency that the
doctrine of basic structure was
required for Indian democracy as
without it many of the abuses of
power during the Emergency could
not have been reversed legally. Do
you similarly support the doctrine
now, even while legally questioning
its birth?
In the Kesavananda case, it was
argued that the amending power could
be abused. It was not an unknown fact.
But that could never be the reason for
cutting down any power. Seervai
changed his view for personal reasons.
Today, after 38 years, one can say that
as a matter of political argument a
check on the amending power is al-
ways to be welcomed. In other coun-
tries, the amending power is not
subjected to such judicial constraints,
except in Bangladesh. Any power is
capable of being abused and the fact of
the abuse is never a ground for limiting
the governing power.
The difculty in ascertaining the
basic structure is that it is a highly
nebulous and subjective standard. It
gives a vital power to the judiciary,
which was never contemplated by the
Constitution makers. It is true that
Parliamentary and executive misuse is
something that requires judicial cor-
rection and which is done in the nor-
mal course. But the amending power is
a unique power, which cannot be com-
pared with the ordinary legislative or
executive power. The amending power
is a quasi-political power and its val-
idity may not be within the domain of
the executive, which is a view taken in
most jurisdictions of the world, includ-
ing, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and
South Africa. It is a unique power to
create the Constitution. Judges are
bound by the Constitution.
All constitutional cases, in a sense,
are political. In the Kesavananda case
the external political forces operated
for over 66 days, and in that sense it
was not a normal, constitutional case
deciding political issues.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 7 7
N its formative stage in the 19th
century, boundary-making and
clashes of territorial claims in
Central Asia infringed on the at-
tempts by the Raj to persuade
China to agree to dene the boundary
in northern and eastern Kashmir,
which includes the Aksai Chin in La-
dakh. China refused; partly under
Russian pressure. G. J. Alders magist-
erial book British Indias Northern
Frontier 1865-95: A Study in Imperial
Policy appeared in 1963 and shed light
on the diplomacy of Britain and Russia
during this period.
Martin Ewans, who served in the
British High Commission in New Del-
hi, is a diplomat with a scholarly bent.
His book, based on thorough research,
is a welcome addition to the literature
on the subject.
The aim of this book is to describe
and analyse the relationship between
Britain and Russia in Central Asia dur-
ing the years 1865 to 1895, with a par-
ticular focus on the efforts that were
made to establish a rm and sustain-
able dividing line between their re-
spective spheres of inuence. These
efforts were ultimately successful in
producing a frontier which has lasted
to the present day.
The three decades in question were
signicant because they were bounded
by two decisive events; in 1865 by Gen-
eral [M.G.] Chemiaevs high-prole
storming of Tashkent, which overturn-
ed Russias stationary policy; and, at
the conclusion, by the Pamir Agree-
ment of 1895, in which the two powers
put the nishing touches to their fron-
tier negotiations. Central Asia was sig-
nicant because it was the sole region
in the world where Russia, with her
preponderant military strength, could
bring effective pressure to bear on
British territory.
long, protracted nego-
tiations began. Sir
Mortimer Durand, the
Foreign Secretary,
went to Kabul in Sep-
tember 1893 to tell the
Amir that Russian
Government insisted
on the literal full-
ment of the Agree-
ment of 1873. +This
involved the with-
drawal of the Afghans
from trans-Oxus
Roshan and Shignan
but included the ac-
quisition by the Amir
of Cis-Oxus Darwaz,
then in the possession
of Bokhara. He was
also urged to retain
Eastern Wakhan though it was mili-
tarily indefensible.
Ewans traces the background to
Russias march and narrates in docu-
mented detail the internal debate on
the policies to adopt. Among the useful
appendices of pertinent documents is
a Memorandum by Russias Foreign
Minister, Prince Gorchakov, dated
November 21, 1864, in which he de-
scribed the fate of every country
which has found itself in a similar posi-
tion. The United States of America,
France in Algeria, Holland in her Colo-
nies. England in India all have been
irresistibly forced, less by ambition
than by imperious necessity, into this
onward march, where the greatest dif-
culty is to know when to stop.
Neither side was fully satised
with the Pamir Agreement. But it
proved durable. This is the essence of a
boundary agreement it should dis-
please both. No serious student of
boundary-making can afford to ignore
this very instructive work.
Elsewhere, British
naval power gave her a
decisive invulnerability,
and her Indian empire
was immune to attack
from the sea. From the
direction of Central
Asia, however, there was
a perceived threat, if not
of actual invasion, then
at least of an advance
sufcient to generate
unrest or open up oppor-
tunities for subversion,
in this jewel of the Brit-
ish Crown.
Since the Crimean
War (1854 56) checked
Russias expansion in
Europe, Russia entered
Central Asia. The Ka-
zakh Steppe was annexed in 1864;
Tashkent was conquered in 1865; Sa-
markand and the Fergana valley in
1868; Khiva, the last of Khanates, in
1873, Kokand in 1870, and Turkme-
nistan in 1881. Russia pressed forward
to reach the Afghan frontier.
British and Russian empires col-
lided in Central Asia and nearly went
to war in 1885. Their vital interests,
however, were easily susceptible to ad-
justment provided that neither occu-
pied Afghanistan, and Russian
expansion did not reach Indias north-
ern frontier. Thus was born the Wak-
han Corridor, which, one of Indias
most cerebral Foreign Secretaries, Sir
Olaf Caroe, called the Afghan
In 1873, the northern limits of Af-
ghanistan were dened by the Gran-
ville-Gortchakov Agreement with a
laxity explicable only by the poverty of
knowledge of the territories. The cru-
cial eastern part, the Roof of the
World, was left undened. Before
Empires diplomacy
Securing the Indian
Frontier in Central
Asia: Confrontation
and Negotiation
1865-95 by Martin
Ewans; Routledge;
pages 200; 80.
On the territorial claims of Russia and Britain in Central Asia. BY A. G. NOORANI
books/in brief
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
7 8 F R O N T L I N E
N and around Auvers-sur-Oise,
23 kilometre north-west of Paris,
a number of large, discoloured re-
productions of paintings by the
artist most associated with the
village have been planted on billboards
to show how true a match they are to
what is still there. These points on the
Van Gogh trail include the church, the
mairie, the cafe where Vincent lodged
for the last two months of his life, and
the corneld by the cemetery in which
he and his brother Theo lie buried side
by side.
For well over a century, the end
story has been taken as gospel, all the
more believable for being a tragedy
advanced in such heartfelt paintings.
There goes Kirk Douglas in the Vin-
cente Minnelli adaptation of Irving
Stones Lust for Life, half out of his
mind with crazy creativity and further
maddened by crows. A shot rings out.
He stumbles back to his digs, takes to
his bed, smokes his pipe and a day or
two later dies.
Time now, it is reasonable to ex-
pect, for an out-and-out corrective: a
Van Gogh biography exhaustive
enough to recalibrate everything ever
written by or about him. In a 10-year
venture, involving teams of research-
ers and translators from the Dutch,
Steven Naifeh and Gregory White
Smith have assembled what amounts
to a companion volume to their
thumping great 1989 Jackson Pollock:
An American Saga the same length
(900 pages plus) and equally cumber-
some in ambition.
The partners describe Van Gogh
early on as a congenital arranger and,
boy, are they arrangers too. Vincents
tempest-tossed career, as they see it,
was brief and curtailed, but that seems
to have obliged them to compensate by
picking their way through it with long-
winded diligence. Wisely, rather than
let the book sink further under the
weight of footnotes, they have con-
signed these to a website
Besides synthesising a century of
Van Gogh scholarship, Naifeh and
Smith fatten the narrative with dis-
quisitions on social, literary and
graphic inuences and, above all,
home background. Family is key. Prac-
tically everything that ever troubled
Vincent is referred back to a forbid-
Van Gogh trail
A biography that paints the artists death in a different perspective.
ding father and mother and the pres-
sures of a parsonage upbringing.
Moody, bookish, given to sudden
enthusiasms and bouts of self-delu-
sion, he made several false starts in
young adult life. Initially he was set to
take advantage of family connections,
but a spell working for Uncle Cent, the
leading art dealer, in The Hague, Paris
and London, was not a success and
Uncle Vice-Admiral Van Gogh hadnot
anything to offer so unseaworthy a
school leaver. Striking out as a teacher,
he spent a couple of months in the
Nicholas Nickleby role at a Dotheboys
Hall-type school in Ramsgate (a re-
sort community on the English coast,
N&S tell us). Then, inspired by Pil-
grims Progress, he turned evangelical
but lost the plot.
From a family point of view, Vin-
cent was impossible, emulating the
Prodigal Son one moment, or collect-
ing birds nests, or sloping off to dedi-
cate himself to poverty and taking in a
pregnant prostitute whom he threat-
ened to marry. She knows how to
quiet me, he wrote, knowing full well
that every extreme move he made pro-
voked the family on whom he still de-
pended to righteous despair. And then,
daftest whim of all, there was the sud-
den xation on drawing.
He was in his late 20s when, with
what he himself described as passion
augmented by temperament, he took
to art and began making extravagant
demands on his younger brother Theo,
who (thanks to Uncle Cent) was by
then an up-and-coming dealer. Insist-
ing with the fervour of a convert that
besides being family he was a good
investment, Vincent stressed that he
was a sower now and needed seed. I
am ploughing in my canvases as they
Van Gogh: The Life by Steven
Naifeh and Gregory White
Smith; Random House, 2011;
pages 955.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 7 9
do ontheir elds, he wrote. The letters
to Theo are unique in art history; lled
with an abundance of neediness, they
number 1,000 or so, as many as the
paintings he produced in less than 10
years, and almost as many as the draw-
ings. Written at night to clear his mind
of seizures of energy and exhaustion,
they were, essentially, day-to-day nal
demands, calling for money, reassu-
rance and materials.
Metaphors mixed and morphed
under the strain of his ardour, say
Naifeh and Smith. That is because he
was so dependent on selling his abil-
ities to a brother who, for all his loyalty
and devotion, could not be relied on
forever. Two years of living together in
Paris proved trying enough for Theo,
and when Vincent cleared off to Arles,
Theo was able to think for himself a
little more. He spares nothing and no
one, he explained to his ancee Jo
For Vincent, struck with the dream
of establishing a little artistic commu-
nity in Arles, reality took the form of
Gauguin, coaxed to join him but un-
persuaded by the crisis talks he was
subjected to day and night. Between
Vincent and Gauguin, the one a perfect
volcano, the other boiling inwardly, a
erce struggle was preparing itself,
N&S note.
What happened then Gauguin
quitting and the incident of the muti-
lated earlobe was breakdown. All
one can hope for is that his suffering is
brief, Theo said, reporting back to Jo
after a visit to Vincent in hospital.
Preoccupied for the time being
with his coming marriage, Theo did
not want to know. The correspondence
languished. Vincent took to identify-
ing with Robinson Crusoe and talked
of dropping art and joining the For-
eign Legion [a French military service
created for foreign nationals].
Bongers rst impression of her
brother-in-law, when she met him in
Paris 18 months later, surprised her.
She saw a sturdy, broad-shouldered
man, with healthy colour, a smile on
his face and a very resolute appear-
ance. Was this the man of the self-
obsessed letters, whose pictures were
piling up in her home and whose un-
couth manners she had been warned
Ten weeks later Vincent was dead.
Everyone knows that he shot himself
in the wheat eld and did so because,
being syphilitic, epileptic, manic,
whatever, he felt he had to. However,
in a 16-page, small-print Appendix: A
Note on Vincents Fatal Wounding,
the authors entertain the strong possi-
bility that, far from taking his own life,
the artist was halfway through a pro-
ductive working day when a bullet en-
tered his body, red from a distance
and at a low angle. Like Man Fridays
footprint, this is a lone fact, a fact with-
out context, a famous fact as immove-
able as the arrow in King Harolds eye.
But ever since the day he died there has
been talk of an avoidance of the truth,
with the artists connivance.
In 1956, following the publicity
around the release of Lust for Life, an
elderly businessman called Rene Se-
cretan came forward with an account
of summer holidays in Auvers when he
was 16. In July 1890, he and his broth-
er Gaston kept bumping into this
weird Dutchman.
Bearding the tramp was something
to do instead of just idling or shing or
playing cowboys around the place.
(Buffalo Bills Wild West show had
been a hit not long before in Paris.)
They put salt in his coffee and chilli on
his brushes to watch him splutter, and
paraded girls from the Moulin Rouge
to get him going.
Secretan the juvenile sharpshooter
in his buckskin tunic did not actually
confess to what would have been no
doubt an accident, but he indicated
that behind a farmyard dung heap in
the Rue Boucher, a mile or so from the
famous cornelds, a shot was red and
Van Gogh was hit: it was (apart from
the grievous outcome) the sort of mis-
hap that a generation or so later oc-
curred on an average Just William
afternoon. That the pistol, the pain-
ters easel and his nal canvases were
never found suggests a cover-up. They
were dumped maybe in the nearby riv-
er Oise. The Secretan brothers left the
village that day.
On his deathbed Van Gogh is said
to have said: It is I who wanted to kill
myself. How stoical he was, deecting
suspicions. His fatalism, or forbea-
rance, can be parlayed into something
like martyrdom. There was no suicide
note. But illuminating though they
are, even the letters are secondary to
the paintings and drawings. Naifeh &
Smith bang on about clumsy begin-
nings and the naive use by the lapsed
preacher of a rigid perspective frame,
but this is to treat the life as an accu-
mulation of data. It seems their re-
searches blinded them somewhat. For
example, they do not think much of the
way he drew hands.
Van Goghs imagery the sower,
the digger, swirling sea, oceanic elds
was grounded in rhyme and rhythm.
I paint by heart, he said. The brush-
strokes come like clockwork. You can
often count them: four or ve strokes
at a time landed on canvas or paper
like heartbeats or drum tattoos. The
alacrity was there, right through.
Guardian News & Media 2011
VI NCENT VAN GOGH S "Self-portrait
with felt hat" at the Van Gogh
museum in Amsterdam.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
8 0 F R O N T L I N E
NE had pleaded in an ear-
lier article for the aware-
ness, in the year to unfold,
of the events of the last
year so that we could steer
clear of the perils in which we found
ourselves in that span of sad time. Per-
haps, it is tting that we try to look
ahead, now; not knowing the future,
one can only peer at signs and dis-
cernible actions and words, and also
look over our shoulders at what hap-
pened before.
Right now we are a country that is
clearly slowing down. According to re-
cent reports, industrial growth is al-
most non-existent; it can be said to be
an engine that is just about ticking
over. There is little to be excited about
as far as infrastructure growth is con-
cerned; nuclear power stations are still
entangled in protests, which seem sus-
piciously rehearsed, with village wom-
en speaking in angry terms of
Fukushima and ssile material.
Roads show no dramatic growth in
terms of mileage, and their quality is
reverting, inevitably, to the levels we
are so used to pot-holes appearing
after a small shower, crazy, erratic lev-
elling, which makes vehicles bounce
and careen over seemingly even
stretches, and lanes becoming narrow-
er and narrower. There has been little
additional capacity to our shipyards;
ofcials will point enthusiastically to
one completed berth in one port,
which is nice, except that we need
about a hundred more. Schools in vil-
lages do not, as they have not had for
decades, teachers, and if they do, many
of the teachers are barely literate and
All this is not because the govern-
ment does not want to improve the
It is not as if the state is not aware
of all this. It certainly is, having scores
of committees of experts in the Plan-
ning Commission and in other bodies
who have studied these trends and re-
ported on them. But nothing seems to
Nothing happens because the
prime mover, that is, the policymaking
structure right at the top, is unable to
function as it is caught up in the coils of
coalition politics. Dishonesty and
thievery at high levels in some coali-
tion members, and irrational, mind-
less stubbornness on the other and the
dishonesty of some prominent mem-
bers of the main coalition partner have
made it virtually impossible for the
ruling UPA-II (United Progressive Al-
liance) to develop and execute a clear-
cut policy with any degree of determi-
Surely, it is time for the political
executive to take stock of where they
are: what they have been able to
achieve in the years they have been in
ofce. Surely they, of all people, are not
deceived by the glossy brochures they
pay huge amounts to advertising agen-
cies to bring out extolling the virtues
that they claim to possess and all the
goodies they claim to have given to the
smiling farmer and shyly smiling
women in the touched-up
It is time to take stock; if social
activist Anna Hazare did nothing else,
he served as a catalyst for the wide-
spread middle-class anger against the
corruption every person has to con-
tend with almost every day, and the
arrival of overloaded trains from the
rural hinterlands to the already over-
crowded metropolitan cities speaks
eloquently of the state of affairs in ru-
infrastructure. It says it wants to and
there is not any good reason for it not
to be telling the truth. But the plain
truth is that it is not happening. Young
men and women are not getting
enough employment and the heady
years of burgeoning call centres seem
to have faded away; in the realm of
small individual enterprises, there is
nothing that provides any secure em-
ployment, or returns to the
To make more money, many small
entrepreneurs nd it easy enough to
turn out shoddy products, be they elec-
tric plugs, screwdrivers and other
tools, joints and cables. The services
they provide are equally shoddy; repair
jobs are never durable and cannot be
depended on. There is no pride in
workmanship, in what is made or in
the service given. This, on a macro lev-
el, pulls down the development pos-
sible in this area, adding to the slowing
down of overall development.
Inaction as policy
It is time for the political executive to take stock of what it has achieved in the
years it has been in ofce.
Point of View
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 8 1
ral India. Has the state done anything
really major to alter this, except for the
National Rural Employment Guaran-
tee Scheme? One, just one, scheme in
all these years?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,
and even Congress president Sonia
Gandhi have spoken of the compul-
sions they face in running a coalition
government. In place of compulsions
read compromise. And then let them
ask themselves just how long they in-
tend to continue to compromise just to
stay in power, when the initial, promis-
ing growth of the country has now fal-
tered and has virtually failed. Hard
facts need to be faced in these rst few
weeks of the new year; not just what
has not been achieved but what will
never be achieved given the composi-
tion of UPA-II.
Look at the situation that prevails
in the country today, at the fact that
food prices have fallen drastically, rais-
ing the hope that the Reserve Bank of
India (RBI) will loosen, to some ex-
tent, its grip on money supply and re-
duce interest rates, which may, just
may, trigger a renewal of industrial
activity and that of the service sectors.
Look at the relative incapacity of the
government to be able to take any ma-
jor decision with parties such as the
Trinamool Congress, the Nationalist
Congress Party and the Dravida Mun-
netra Kazhagam for company. Take a
look at the strident, near hysterical op-
position, chiey the Bharatiya Janata
Party, baying for the blood of the pre-
sent government, slavering over the
thought that it will form the next
Take a good look, and then take a
hard, dramatic decision that will be
more than a wild gamble. Ask for mid-
term elections. Perhaps the UPA will
come back to power. Perhaps the Na-
tional Democratic Alliance (NDA)
may. One way or the other, the people
of India will benet and get a chance to
install a government that may take
them forward with a little more resolu-
tion and a clearer direction. In their
interest, if for nothing else, such a deci-
sion needs to be considered.
It may not be the best decision, but
it may prove to be the most practical.
Democracy is, as has been famously
said, the worst form of government
there is, but it is all we have in our
endeavour to live as free men, with
dignity, and try to ensure that our fel-
low men do the same.
MI GRANT LABOURERS AT the Bhubaneswar railway station. Except for the National Rural Employment Guarantee
Scheme, nothing has been done for the rural people in all these years.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
8 2 F R O N T L I N E
IT has been said that the difference between a
lunatic and a neurotic lies in their different re-
sponses to reality. The lunatic believes that two and
two make four. The neurotic accepts that they make
four but feels profoundly unhappy about it. Indias
initial response to the boundary dispute with China
reected neurosis at the highest level. It infected the
press, the intelligentsia and the political class. It
soon degenerated into lunacy, which gripped the
bureaucracy. It has since gone about in its map
phobia exposing the country to ridicule.
The latest outbreak is the worst. Foreign period-
icals have to bear the brunt whenever they carry a
map of South Asia. The Economist publishes excel-
lent maps, however small. In 2011 it incurred our
babus wrath twice. They no longer rubber-stamp the
silly warning: The external boundaries of India are
neither accurate nor authentic. They obliterate the
map pasting a slip of paper over it. Two issues (of
May 18 and November 19) were treated thus.
The rst had an article entitled Fantasy fron-
tiers on Indian, Pakistani and Chinese border dis-
putes. Subscribers receive the issue late. So did they
the issue of November 19. It carried an article entit-
led Unquenchable thirst based on reports from
Delhi, Dhaka, Islamabad and Srinagar. The subtitle
said, A growing rivalry between India, Pakistan and
China over the regions great rivers may be threat-
ening South Asias peace. The accompanying map
on page 24 of the magazine was pasted over. But
incompetence reared its head over the wrath. For, a
notice on page 26 was left intact. And this piece
instructed readers how to get the obliterated map.
It read thus: Missing map? Sadly, India censors
maps that show the current effective border, insist-
ing instead that only its full territorial claims be
shown. It is more intolerant on this issue than either
China or Pakistan. Indian readers will therefore
probably be deprived of the map in this brieng.
Unlike their government, we think our Indian read-
ers can face political reality. Those who want to see
an accurate depiction of the various territorial claims
can do so using our interactive map at
When one turns to this map, one nds nothing
that could offend, let alone harm, any countrys
cause. Proceeding from the east to the west, the
McMahon Line is clearly depicted but with the qual-
ication disputed border. China raised the dispute
belatedly two decades after the Simla Conference of
1914 and then through maps published privately.
But in 2011 it would be manifestly wrong to deny the
existence of a dispute or contest the related note on
the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh that its terri-
tory, just below the Line, is now largely claimed by
The same holds true for what is known in the
lingo of the Sino-Indian boundary dispute as the
middle sector in Uttar Pradesh. A dispute did arise
in 1954. Both parts of Kashmir are shown as being
administered respectively by India and Pakistan.
The Line of Control was clear. The Aksai Chin plat-
eau, in the Ladakh province of Kashmir, is depicted
as area held by China, claimed by India. It has been
held by China for at least 50 years.
There is one statement, however, which is un-
true. It concerns the Shaksgam Valley and asserts:
Area ceded by Pakistan to China. Pakistan ceded
no territory to China under their agreement of
March 2, 1963. On the contrary, it received from
China 750 square miles of administered territory
beyond the watershed, the traditional grazing
ground for people in Hunza. The added assertion
claimed by India is factually correct. Prime Minis-
ter Jawaharlal Nehru did contest the validity of the
agreement no sooner than it was published.
The map is analysed in detail because it is a
classic case of much ado about nothing. The map
depicts the factual position, steering clear of legality.
The Economist had informed subscribers in a mess-
age that the map showed the current effective
Indias statute book has been deled. The Crimi-
nal Law (Amendment) Act, 1961, was enacted to
The map lunacy is a symptom of
a deeper malaise. Are we going
to settle the disputes unilaterally
or by a settlement with Pakistan
and China?
Indias obsessive responses to maps showing its disputed boundaries with
Pakistan and China expose the country to ridicule. BY A. G. NOORANI
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 8 3
send to prison anyone who questions
the territorial integrity of India wheth-
er by words, spoken or written, or by
visual representation or even by
signs, a feat not very easy to accom-
plish. Time, the proverbial healer, let
the nation down miserably. Three dec-
ades later came the Criminal Law
Amendment (Amending) Act, 1990. It
ordains: Whoever publishes a map of
India, which is not in conformity with
maps of India as published by the Sur-
vey of India shall be punishable with
imprisonment which may extend to six
months, or with ne, or with both.
The difference between the 1961
and 1990 Acts is that the former re-
quires proof that the publication is, at
the least, likely to be prejudicial to the
interests of the safety or security of
India not prejudicial merely to the
governments diplomacy or publicity
campaign. There must be a real likeli-
hood of the nations safety or security
being imperilled not the policy of the
government of the day.
The 1990 Act drops this require-
ment in respect of maps altogether.
Of course, the Act is brazenly un-
constitutional. A citizen is perfectly
within his rights in asserting that there
does exist a dispute over the future of
Kashmir or that the northern bounda-
ry is wrongly depicted in ofcial maps.
He can say that in words or by maps. It
would be unwise of him to attempt
that by signs.
But which among the maps of In-
dia as published by the Survey of In-
dia is the citizen bound blindly to
accept on pain of imprisonment?
The Ministry of States, headed by
Vallabhbhai Patel, published not one
but two White Papers on Indian
States, each containing a map bearing
the imprimatur of the Surveyor-Gen-
eral of India. The one of July 1948
showed the boundary as on Independ-
ence Day, 1947. Not only were Kash-
mirs northern and eastern boundaries
shown undened but even the yellow
colour wash did not cover this region.
The one of February 1950 also bore the
legend boundary undened. So did
the middle sector. In contrast, the
McMahon Line was shown clearly as a
dened boundary. A political map
published in 1950 also showed the
contrasting states of the western and
eastern sectors of the northern bound-
ary. Only in 1954 was a map published
ofcially to show a dened boundary
in the western sector. Zhou Enlais cir-
cular letter, dated November 15, 1962,
to the leaders of Asian and African
countries reproduced both the 1950
and 1954 maps (as Reference Maps 3
and 4, respectively). They did little to
enhance our credibility.
1954 was a fateful year. The Panch-
sheel agreement on Tibet, which India
and China signed on April 29, 1954,
contained a pledge to respect each
others territorial integrity and sover-
eignty. The pledge related to the maps
of 1948 and 1950, both of which
showed the boundary in the Aksai
Chin as well as the middle sector in
U.P. as undened while showing the
McMahon Line very clearly.
However, on July 1, 1954, Nehru

A MAP OF the world. To be in awe of maps or to imagine that ones own map contains the revealed truth, as is
Indias position, is sheer illiteracy.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
8 4 F R O N T L I N E
wrote a 17-paragraph memorandum
ordering the withdrawal of all our old
maps. New maps should be printed,
he said, in which a clear line should be
shown for the entire frontier. This
frontier should be considered a rm
and denite one which is not open to
discussion with anybody. In October
Nehru visited China. The maps of 1948
and 1950 were printed in the October
24, 2008, issue of Frontline to illus-
trate this writers article Maps and
Nehru prided himself on his ex-
pertise in foreign affairs. But can any
educated person believe that a state
can freely alter its maps and insist that
the rest of the world should accept its
altered map? There is not one country
in the entire wide world which regards
the Aksai Chin as anything but dis-
puted territory.
It is not without signicance that
on July 17, 1954, China sent a Note to
India alleging violation of its boundary
in Bara Holi in U.P., Wu Je, as China
calls it (White Paper I; 1954-1959;
page 1). China had, of course, taken full
notice of the 1954 map.
It is sheer illiteracy to be in awe of
maps or to imagine that ones own map
contains the revealed truth. A map is
no different from a statement couched
in words. It is a cartographic state-
ment. Maps are not documents of title.
They can serve only as pieces of evi-
dence. If published bona de as a mat-
ter of course, without any awareness of
a dispute, a map can support the par-
tys case as an assertion of title or belie
its claim if the line it depicts supports
the adversarys stand. A map manu-
factured to create evidence is worth-
less. Maps aoat in international
journals do not constitute evidence at
all. Those in an old atlas of repute
might, depending on the circumstanc-
es. No claim to territory can rest on a
map unless it embodies an accord be-
tween them or the adversary has for
long acquiesced in it. A map, a state-
ment by cartography rather than in
words, has no greater weight than any
assertion in words. It is not a docu-
ment of title, has no intrinsic force and
cannot, by itself, cede territory. Only a
treaty of cession can, the annexed map
illustrating the written text. A bounda-
ry agreement denes the boundary in
an area where the boundary had not
been dened. The document lays down
the alignment of the boundary; the
map illustrates the alignment; after
joint surveys, the dened boundary is
demarcated on the ground and a new
agreed map nally settles the matter.
In the classic Arbitral Award in the
Island of Palmas Case the distin-
guished Judge Max Huber said: Only
with the greatest caution can account
be taken of maps in deciding a ques-
tion of sovereignty.
Rulings of the International Court of
Justice (ICJ) are clear on the intrinsic
worth of maps. Cambodia won its case
on the Preah Vihar temple because
Thailand had by its conduct accepted a
crucial map though in its inception
and at the moment of its production, it
had no binding character.
In the Frontier Dispute between
Burkina Faso and Mali, the ICJs rul-
ing of December 22, 1986, lays down
the law on maps:
Whether in frontier delimitations
or in international territorial conicts,
maps merely constitute information
which varies in accuracy from case to
case; of themselves, and by virtue sole-
ly of their existence, they cannot con-
stitute a territorial title, that is, a
document endowed by international
law with intrinsic legal force for the
purpose of establishing territorial
rights. Of course, in some cases maps
may acquire such legal force, but
where this is so the legal force does not
arise solely from their intrinsic merits;
it is because such maps fall into the
category of physical expressions of the
will of the State or States concerned.
This is the case, for example, when
maps are annexed to an ofcial text of
which they form an integral part. Ex-
cept in this clearly dened case, maps
are only extrinsic evidence of varying
reliability or unreliability which may
be used, along with other evidence of a
circumstantial kind, to establish or re-
constitute the real facts.
The actual weight to be attributed
to maps as evidence depends on a
range of considerations. Some of these
relate to the technical reliability of the
maps. This has considerably increased,
owing particularly to the progress
achieved by aerial and satellite photog-
raphy since the 1950s. But the only
result is a more faithful rendering of
nature by the map, and an increasingly
accurate match between the two in-
formation derived from human inter-
vention, such as the names of places
and of geographical features (the topo-
nymy) and the depiction of frontiers
and other political boundaries, does
not thereby become more reliable. Of
course, the reliability of the toponymic
information has also increased, al-
though to a lesser degree, owing to
verication on the ground; but in the
opinion of cartographers, errors are
still common in the representation of
frontiers, especially when these are
shown in border areas to which access
is difcult.
Other considerations which de-
termine the weight of maps as evi-
dence relate to the neutrality of their
sources towards the dispute in ques-
tion and the parties to that dispute.
Since relatively distant times, judicial
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 8 5
decisions have treated maps with a
considerable degree of caution; less so
in more recent decisions, at least as
regards the technical reliability of
maps. But even where the guarantees
described above are present, maps can
still have no greater legal value than
that of corroborative evidence endors-
ing a conclusion at which a court has
arrived by other means unconnected
with the maps. In consequence, except
when the maps are in the category of a
physical expression of the will of the
state, they cannot in themselves alone
be treated as evidence of a frontier
since in that event they would form an
irrebuttable presumption, tanta-
mount in fact to legal title.
On December 17, 2002, the court
reafrmed, in the case between Malay-
sia and Indonesia concerning the two
islands of Ligitan and Sipadan, the rul-
ing it had delivered earlier in 1986 in
the landmark case on the frontier dis-
pute between Burkina Faso and Mali.
How on earth can maps published in
periodicals, Indian or foreign, affect
India or, for that matter, Chinas rights
and interests. The map dening the
India-Pakistan boundary in the Sir
Creek supported Pakistans case, while
the text it illustrated supported India
(Map 44). In his award in the Indo-
Pakistan Western Boundary case dat-
ed February 19, 1968, the Chairman
Judge Gunnar Lagergren referred to
maps issued by the Survey of India. It
was a dispute between two parts of
Indian territory in British India and
Kutch, a princely state. Most of Indias
claim was upheld. The opposition
mounted protests.
Nath Pai, Member of Parliament
from Ratnagiri, led a march in the re-
gion. Prof. Hans J. Morgenthau, then
on a visit to India, remarked to this
writer as we were driving up to Farida-
bad for a seminar, Your country must
be the only one in the world which
wins 90 per cent of its claim before a
tribunal and calls it defeat.
But the wrath is selective. Maps pub-
lished in the Soviet Union, the Soviet
Atlas Mira (World Atlas), depicted the
McMahon Line as Indias boundary,
but the Aksai Chin was shown as Chi-
nese territory. More, the line to the
west of the Karakoram Pass was shown
as described in the Sino-Pak Boundary
agreement of March 2, 1963. This was
the state of Soviet maps until as late as
1985. It had begun 30 years earlier. In
1955, the Soviet Embassy presented to
President Rajendra Prasad a copy of
the Soviet Atlas which did not conform
to Indias maps in depicting Indias
northern frontier. But it was not until
August 1, 1960, that the Government
of India revealed this and the diplo-
matic exchanges that had followed. Sa-
dath Ali Khan, Parliamentary
Secretary to the Prime Minister, said
that the India-China boundary was
delineated as on the Chinese maps;
that is, including Aksai Chin, Nilaang-
Jhadang and a great part of NEFA
[North-East Frontier Agency, now
Arunachal Pradesh] in China.
The Government of India prompt-
ly took up the matter with the Soviet
government, which promised to look
into it. India sent an aide-memoir to
which we, have not so far received any
reply, he added. Reminders were sent
in 1957, 1958 and 1959. In November
1960, the Joint Secretary in the Minis-
try of External Affairs, in charge of the
relevant division, spoke to the Coun-
sellor of the Soviet Embassy about it.
The 1959 edition of Atlas Mira
showed Sikkim as an independent
state. Earlier, it had been shown as an
Indian protectorate. Publicising the is-
sue proved to be of no avail. It was
raised in the Lok Sabha, once again, on
April 1, 1965, because a Soviet Embas-
sy publication, Soviet Land, carried a
map which lopped off the entire Aksai
Chin area from Indian territory. Ex-
ternal Affairs Minister Swaran Singh
said: The international boundary of
India as shown in this map does not
conform to the well-recognised inter-
national boundary as shown in Indian
In May 1970 came the 30 volumes
of the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia. A
map published on page 280 of the vol-
ume, which covered India, depicted
the entire Aksai Chin and NEFA as
I NDI AN SOLDI ERS AT the India-China border near Tawang, Arunachal
Pradesh, a le picture. Arunachal Pradesh, just below the McMahon Line,
and the Aksai Chin plateau gure in the India-China border dispute.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
8 6 F R O N T L I N E
Chinese territory. There was no mis-
taking its importance. The preface ac-
knowledged that the current third
edition of the Great Soviet Encyclo-
paedia is published in conformity with
the decree of the Central Committee of
the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union and the Council of Ministers of
the Union of Soviet Socialist Repub-
lics. The scientic programme of the
encyclopaedia was dened by the de-
cree of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet
Swaran Singh told the Lok Sabha
on August 6, 1970: Notwithstanding
their assurances that these erroneous
maps would be corrected in later pub-
lications, we are disappointed that
they have not carried out their assur-
ances. I do not condone that. He add-
ed: The fact is that they have not
published the map correctly even in a
single publication. These things are
not done in a haphazard manner. This
is a representation of a particular posi-
tion taken by them on an earlier occa-
sion, and they continue to repeat it.
He was alive to the fact that there are
long-range implications. And that is
why we are pressing them from time to
The Government of India took up
the matter with greater vigour. On
September 24, 1970, President V.V.
Giri made a personal demarche to
President Nikolai Podgorny. The
Prime Minister and the Foreign Min-
ister raised the question with their
hosts during their visit to Moscow, as
they revealed in New Delhi on October
27, 1970. They have already given an
assurance to our President, Indira
Gandhi said.
On November 8, the Soviet Am-
bassador informed New Delhi that his
government was shortly going to pub-
lish a new map of India which will
show the Sino-Indian border as an un-
settled border. Swaran Singh broke
the happy news to the Lok Sabha the
very next day. A map published recent-
ly in the Soviet Encyclopaedia did, in-
deed, mark the border in dotted lines
to indicate its disputed character. But
the dotted lines ran according to the
Chinese alignment. Swaran Singh
counselled patience.
That is not the new map which
they intend to issue, he said on No-
vember 18, 1970. The signing of the
Indo-Soviet Treaty on August 9, 1971,
invested the map question with grea-
ter importance. Of what avail the mu-
tual assurance of help in the event of
either party being subjected to an at-
tack or the promise by each to respect
the territorial integrity of other party
if the two differed on the alignment of
Indias frontier in a crucial sector? The
day after the treaty was signed Swaran
Singh assured Parliament: They told
us that they would take steps to correct
Swaran Singh was a man who
would have given Job (of biblical fame)
a hard time in a contest of sheer pa-
tience. But on May 25, 1972, he ad-
mitted defeat: The continued
existence of (wrong) maps does affect
our interest.
It took them six years to make a
correction and a partial one at that.
The 1978 edition of Atlas Mira (at page
41) followed the McMahon Line. But
the Aksai Chin and the areas west were
shown as Chinese territory.
In a denitive statement on foreign
maps, in the Lok Sabha on May 17,
1979, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, then Min-
ister of External Affairs, noted that the
atlas showed Kashmir as an integral
part of India but the Aksai Chin area
as a part of China. Not for the rst
time in diplomacy was the aid of car-
tography invoked to deliver a message.
Interestingly, during this entire
period, our card-carrying patriots in
the print media did not censure the
Soviet Union. Ignorant television an-
chors came later on the scene to add
fuel to the res of chauvinism. Here
this writer must utter a mea culpa. My
assessment that the alignments in the
Soviet maps were deliberate and were
prompted by a desire not to close the
option of a rapprochement with China
was only partly true. If at all. For Soviet
writers had no qualms then about en-
couraging the Tibetans claim to inde-
pendence. It was only in the course of
research in the archives for my book
India-China Boundary Problem,
1846-1947 (Oxford, 2011) that I found
that all through the latter half of the
19th century and beyond, Russia had
warned China against settling the
boundary in the north and east of
Kashmir. It had objected to British
maps. Regimes change, but they do not
erase the corporate memory of an ably
staffed Foreign Service. Soviet leaders
were torn between the claims of diplo-
macy and those of history.
But neither the babus nor the pack
of chauvinists dare attack the United
Nations. If they do, they will receive a
riposte that will stun them We are
only depicting the truth; wake up to
the reality. The legend accompanying
U.N. maps says, the nal status of
Jammu & Kashmir has not yet been
determined. On February 25, 1955,
Lakshmi Charan asked in the Lok Sab-
ha: In view of the fact that the Kash-
mir Constituent Assembly has ratied
the accession of the state to India, what
will be the terms of discussion on
Kashmir with the Pakistani Prime
Minister? Jawaharlal Nehru replied:
A question like this cannot be solved
However, onboth Kashmir and the
boundary dispute with China, he had
not only bolted the door to settlement
but whipped up public opinion. The
hounds appetite was whetted and
their yelp has become bolder, shriller.
Television readily lends its services to
them, night after night.
The map lunacy is a symptom of a
deeper malaise. We must ask ourselves
in all honesty, are we going to settle
those disputes on Kashmir and the
boundary with China unilaterally or
by a settlement with Pakistan and Chi-
na? To be sure, no settlement is pos-
sible except by a compromise
acceptable to both sides. And compro-
mise entails concessions on both sides.
An irresponsible opposition and an
ignorant as well as irresponsible media
can be trusted to denounce any conces-
sions not only on the idiot box but in
columns in the pages of most main-
stream dailies, especially ones consti-
tuted by retirees from the defence
services and the foreign service.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 8 7
I HAVE known Prof. Romila Thapar for about 45
years, most of it as a colleague at the Centre for
Historical Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi. Romila, as she is called by almost every-
body from her eight-year-old grandnephew to all of
us present here had helped to set up, organise and
give a distinct academic orientation to the centre.
Her commitment to the interest of the centre has
always been a notch above personal considerations, a
principle without which no institution of excellence
can be built. The exacting standards she set for col-
leagues and students by her personal example of
continuous scholarly pursuits provided the ambi-
ence for the academic work of the centre. That she
has been a team person who believes in democratic
functioning of institutions has accentuated the qual-
ity of her contribution.
In the eld of historical research, Romilas works
stand apart, both in narration and in interpretation.
The writing of ancient Indian history during the
post-Independence era found in her one of its out-
standing practitioners, who brought together modes
of analysis and interpretation with a theoretically
nuanced innovative methodology. The quality of her
contribution to historical scholarship is so well
known that it needs no reiteration, so also the fact
that the large corpus of her work has been a major
intervention in contemporary social and political
life. The past often gures as a powerful force in the
struggles of the present. So was it during the recent
Hindu communal resurgence, using history as a
means of mobilisation. In countering the misuse of
the past, Romilas study and interpretation of an-
cient Indian civilisation has served as a major in-
tellectual resource.
The importance of Romilas work is not limited
to the retrieval of secular history from the biased
interpretations of colonial and communal histori-
ans, which in a variety of ways many others also have
accomplished. Her contribution is of a different or-
der, marked by a qualitative change in the prevalent
method of historical reconstruction. Her intellectual
journey from the times of her initial research on the
history of Asoka to the more recent interpretation of
the Somanath temple episode reects a quality of
scholarship ever vigilant to engage with the latest
trends in the discipline.
Not that alone. She combines with remarkable
ease scholarly pursuit with social commitment in a
Secularism in India appears to have
begun its journey with a dead weight
around its neck an irreconcilable
resolution of realising communal
harmony without creating the
material and ideological foundations
to generate and sustain it.
Without equality, democracy and social justice, which are three interrelated
factors, secularism cannot exist as a positive value in society. BY K. N. PANI KKAR
This essay is based on a paper presented at
a seminar organised by Social Scientist and
SAHMAT in New Delhi to felicitate historian
Romila Thapar and her contribution
to secularism.
ROMI LA THAPAR. I Ncountering the misuse of the
past, her study and interpretation of ancient Indian
civilisation has served as a major intellectual
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
8 8 F R O N T L I N E
manner that her well-informed opin-
ion lends direction to many a public
issue. The controversy over the Babri
Masjid is perhaps the most well-
known example. In the campaign
against the political abuse of history,
a term she coined, during those dif-
cult days of Hindutva resurgence, ex-
ploiting the history of Ayodhya,
Romila was in the forefront writing,
speaking, protesting and fasting in de-
fence of the ideals of secularism. The
Hindu communal cabal hated her be-
cause they could not disprove her facts
or refute her interpretation or contra-
dict her arguments. At the same time,
she entertained serious reservations
about the practice of secularism, par-
ticularly its pursuit by the state. It is
most appropriate, therefore, that the
seminar to felicitate her is devoted to a
critical reappraisal of the way secular-
ism was conceived and practised.
The concern of academic debate and
public discussion as well as creative
representation of secularism has been
mainly political: relationship between
state and religion, interrelationship
between different communities, and
interdependence of secularism and de-
mocracy. A common bond connecting
these three issues is the quest for reli-
gious harmony, which in course of
time came to be identied with secu-
larism. In politics, almost everybody
swears by it although very few practise
it. The identity of secularism with reli-
gious harmony is well pronounced in
creative representation. The popular
Hindi lm industry, for instance, has
exploited its emotional possibilities in
blockbusters such as Sholay and Zan-
jeer by celebrating the sacrice of char-
acters committed to the pursuit of
religious harmony. In contrast, serious
cinema has demonstrated how fragile
the commitment to religious harmony
canbe, as was so brilliantly captured in
Govind Nihlanis Tamas, based on
Bisham Sahnis novel by the same
name. The journey from Sholay to Ta-
mas indicates the vast areas of emo-
tion, consciousness and culture that
still remain unexplored both in aca-
demic investigations and in creative
representations. As secularism ap-
pears to be weakening in the face of the
more emotional appeal of communal-
ism, understanding the vicissitudes of
the former beyond their political di-
mension demands closer attention.
Looking back from the vantage
point of 63 years experience, the prac-
tice of Indian secularism presents a
mixed bag of achievements and fail-
ures. It has succeeded in weathering
one crisis after another, so much so
that all discussions on secularism start
and end with a consideration of either
past or impending crises. Yet, secular-
ism has withstood the intellectual
scepticism about its relevance by the
critics of modernity or its rejection as
an alien system by communal ideo-
logues. Moreover, legal and institu-
tional structures have managed to
safeguard the secular space through
constitutionally guaranteed public in-
stitutions. It is indeed true that aberra-
tions have taken place in all these
spheres, yet secularism has survived,
often precariously, but nevertheless
with sufcient strength to make the
system work. As Martha Nussbaum
has observed, Indian society had reac-
hed the brink of religious fascism, but
had successfully pulled back, not be-
cause of the tactical error of communal
forces but most probably because of a
traditionthe popular commitment to
It was because of this commitment
that the country overcame the trauma
of the demolition of the Babri Masjid,
responded powerfully to the massacre
of the minorities in Gujarat orches-
trated by the local government, and
denounced the attack on Christians in
Kandhamal by Hindu fundamentalist
groups. On all these occasions, Indian
secularism asserted itself in a manner
that forestalled any further
This is not to suggest that the biog-
raphy of Indian secularism can be
written as a success story. Far from it.
The assaults on secularism witnessed
in the recent past were partly a symp-
tom of the weaknesses some might
even say failure of secularisation in
Indian society. Its origin can be traced
to the emergence of a public sphere
which provided the space for a rational
critique of religious practices. The In-
dian experience shared some of the
general features, particularly the at-
tempt to reduce the dependence upon
supra human agency and to narrow
down the areas of life in which reli-
gious ideas, symbols and institutions
held sway, but had its own specic
character, inuenced by social, cultur-
al and political specicities. Yet, the
process of secularisation that Indian
society had experienced was qualita-
tively different from what happened in

ANDRE MALRAUX, FRENCH PRESI DENT GEN. Charles de Gaulles special
envoy, with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi on November 29,
1958. Nehru told Malraux that the secular project in India was not limited to
the creation of a secular state in a religious society, but the creation of a
secular state in a multi-religious society.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 8 9
most other countries, including coun-
tries in Europe. In Europe,
secularisation was integral to the in-
tellectual and cultural movements
represented by the Renaissance and
Enlightenment. Central to these
movements was the inuence of hu-
manism, which accorded primacy to
human beings and their problems of
existence. Even if the social depth and
intellectual intensity were missing, the
Indian historical experience was not
devoid of an effort to privilege the sec-
ular. However, the social base of secu-
larisation in India being a weak and
culturally colonised middle class, it
was incapable of ushering in an in-
tellectual and cultural transformation,
which would lay the foundations of a
modern society.
Yet, the colonial period did witness
a rational critique of religious practic-
es, a humanist alternative for social
ethics and a universalist philosophy
for social harmony. In the absence of a
social base powerful enough to nurture
these ideas, they could not usher in a
secular alternative that could trans-
gress caste and religious boundaries
and create an independent ethical
code. This was compounded by the na-
ture of social and religious reform
which, instead of dissolving caste and
religious inuence, tended to reinforce
them. As a consequence, social identi-
ties were built around primordial loy-
alties, which served as a major factor in
the making of political consciousness.
This trajectory of social development
forced the secular to retreat into the
space in which religious ideologies
held their sway. The Indian form of
secularism struck roots in this space
dominated by religious ideologies, the
formation of which was partly aided by
the socio-religious reform and partly
by the intervention of the colonial
The character of secularism in India
can be understood only in the context
of the social composition and cultural
make-up of its society. Communities
during the pre-colonial period experi-
enced in their local settings, both ma-
terial and ideological, a fundamental
change during the colonial adminis-
tration. A feature that inuenced this
process was the religionisation of the
small and diverse communities that
existed on the basis of their economic
and social functions. Their sense of
identity, circumscribed by local condi-
tions, was slowly eroded by the forces
unleashed by colonial rule. The 4,000-
odd communities that the Anthropo-
logical Survey of India had identied,
on the basis of their life patterns, belief
systems and social structure, eventu-
ally came within the parameters of one
religion or the other. The constitution
of religious communities was thus a
predominantly colonial phenomenon.
In pre-colonial times, religion was a
perceived and experienced reality, but
it did not generate trans-local con-
sciousness. A partial change occurred
because of the community-based con-
ception of society and consequent ad-
ministrative measures propagated by
colonial rule.
Communal conicts, which be-
came quite frequent during the coloni-
al administration, further
strengthened the community con-
sciousness. For the colonial state the
conicts were not politically unwel-
come. Administratively, however, it
was necessary to contain them. As a
result, two strategies were employed
by the colonial state for their resolu-
tion: suppression of violence, on the
one hand, and the creation and in-
corporation of civil society into the co-
lonial system, on the other. The rst
was invoked when violence threatened
to disrupt normal transactions and the
second, as a long-term policy of hege-
monisation. In pursuit of the second,
the government gave representation to
Indians in administrative, legislative
and advisory bodies on the basis of a
fair distribution of patronage to the
members of different religious com-
munities. Be it representation in the
organisations sponsored by the coloni-
al government to ensure its presence
and inuence in civil society or elec-
tions to legislative councils or nomi-
nation to executive and advisory
bodies, the government took care to
distribute patronage according to
community afliation. The ofcial rec-
ognition of the representative charac-
ter to religious communities had
unintended consequences: rst, it fa-
cilitated the construction of internal
solidarity and cohesion of communi-
ties, and secondly, it imparted to the
communities an overarching
The formation of communities was
aided by colonialism in yet another,
even if indirect, manner. The changes
in the system of communication and
improvement in infrastructural facil-
ities brought about by colonial mod-
ernisation, in however limited a
manner, considerably increased phys-
ical mobility across the country. The
pan-Indian religious communities
were no more an object of imagination
alone; instead they became part of the
experienced reality. Although travel
for pilgrimage and trade was common
even during the pre-colonial times, it
became more extensive and frequent
under colonialism.
Apart from the mobility due to ad-
ministrative and military reasons,
there was also movement for personal
reasons. In 1830, Engula Veeraswamy
went on a Kasi yatra from Madras and
wrote a journal describing the land
and the people he encountered. Simi-
larly, Vishnu Bhatt Godshe Versikar, a
Chitpavan Brahmin, travelled to
North India in 1857 to render religious
services, and his experience on the way
sensitised him about the popular sen-
timents against colonial rule. He also
has recorded his experience in a trav-
elogue. The experience of Veeraswamy
and Versikar was part of the formation
of a larger communitarian identity. A
consequence of this physical mobility
was that by the middle of the 19th
century the social horizon of the peo-
ple had transgressed local boundaries.
The process of secularisation oc-
curring in the context of the historical
experience encapsulated above had led
to a rearticulation of the relationship
between state and religion as well as of
different religious communities. What
the Indian form of secularism did was
to address these two dimensions but
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
9 0 F R O N T L I N E
without ensuring the social reach of
democracy and justice and, more
grievously, without effecting cultural
equality. As a result, both state- and
society-centric approaches to secular-
ism were exclusively enclosed in the
problematic of religious consciousness
and hence led to continuous tension
between the religious and material
conditions of existence. The former
was concerned with the relationship
between state and religion, while the
latter focussed on inter-religious rela-
tions. What Jawaharlal Nehru had
told Andre Malraux that the secular
project in India was not limited to the
creation of a secular state in a reli-
gious society, but the creation of a sec-
ular state in a multi-religious society.
This important distinction de-
manded a three-way resolution: rst,
determining the relationship between
state and religion; secondly, assigning
relative distance between state and
different religious communities; and
thirdly, ensuring harmonious relation-
ship between communities. The solu-
tion proffered was the incorporation of
all the three issues within a single rem-
edy namely, secularisation of the re-
lationship between the state, religion
and community. The solution was
based on an Enlightenment view of
religion which opposed revelation,
dogmatism and superstition. At the
same time religion as such was not
Having thus ensured that the Indi-
an state would not be irreligious or
anti-religious, the principle of neu-
trality towards all religions was adopt-
ed. The inter-community relationship
was a more difcult issue, as it was
integral to social consciousness, which
can be created only through contin-
uous intervention. In the light of such
an understanding and approach, the
secular project tended to work towards
the realisation of religious harmony.
But secularism is not a product of reli-
gious harmony. In fact, religious har-
mony is achievable only if secularism is
in place. But in the conception of secu-
larism in India, religion was implicat-
ed in a manner that the state could not
dissociate itself from religious matters.
Moreover, the realisation of secular-
ism depended upon its reconceptual-
isation with secular political and
cultural values embedded in it. But the
conception of religious harmony as
secularism was not sufciently inclu-
sive to realise this possibility.
During his radical phase, Nehru
had envisioned a modern state com-
pletely dissociated from religious con-
cerns. A departure from it to
accommodate religious pluralism was
in all probability due to the inuence
of Gandhi for whom religion was the
source of value for judging the worth of
all worldly goals and actions. The Ma-
hatma, considered the spiritual father
of Indian secularism, sacriced his
life for Hindu-Muslim harmony; yet,
harmony remained a distant dream.
The question, therefore, is that if
religious harmony is not secularism,
what else constitutes it in a multi-reli-
gious society? The answer perhaps lies
in the ability of the state and society to
internalise values and ethics, informed
by reason and humanism. The social
reality that the Indian form of secular-
ism has sought to address is religious
plurality and the tensions arising out
of it, for which the peaceful coexistence
of different religions was adopted as
the solution. History has been invoked
to trace its antecedents in religious
harmony and cultural synthesis from
medieval times. As a part of this secu-
lar project, Su and Bhakti traditions
have been invoked, the contribution of
liberal rulers like Akbar has been cele-
brated, and the composite nature of
music, architecture, painting, and so
on was retrieved. The earliest repre-
sentative view of this history is the
work of Tarachand who incidentally
was handpicked by Nehru to explain
the Indian secular tradition to the
Western audience on the evolution of
a composite culture through Hindu-
Muslim interaction.
Several histories have been written
and continue to be written to elaborate
this thesis. The secular history, howev-
er, is not necessarily the history of sec-
ular rulers or of secular tendencies.
The secular is implicated in the histor-
ical process as a whole, namely, in the
social, cultural and ideological realm
of social existence and their represen-
tations. A departure from a communi-
tarian view is therefore a necessary
step if secular history is to be retrieved
from the problematic of religious har-
mony. Much of the energy of secular
history has been expended for disprov-
ing the colonial and communal view of
the Indian past being the history of
continuous struggles between reli-
gious communities and for establish-
ing the tradition of harmonious
relations of religious communities.
The new directions in secular history
have to seek out avenues of historical
investigations, like shared values, in-
clusive social engagements and com-
mon cultural participation.
Inter-community relations have been
so discredited in the recent past by the
incidence of intermittent religious
conicts that secularism, it is argued,
has reached a stage beyond redemp-
tion. The inability of the state to ob-
serve religious neutrality and to
maintain equidistance from religions
and the resurgence of communalism
which has compounded it are the main
reasons attributed to this discom-
ture. Moreover, secularism was pos-
ited exclusively within the realm of
religion, and other areas of human ex-
istence, such as culture and economy,
were not incorporated into the secular
Among the advocates of secular-
ism, Nehru was quite conscious of the
importance of taking cognisance of the
compulsions of material life. During
his early radical phase, he had empha-
sised the role of economy in the con-
For realising
equality is
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 9 1
struction of a secular society: The real
thing to my mind is the economic fac-
tor. If we lay stress on this and divert
public attention to it, we will nd auto-
matically that religious differences re-
cede to the background and a common
bond unites different groups. This
opinion of Nehru can be interpreted to
mean that secularism can be a reality
only within the rubric of social justice.
That is why Baba Saheb Ambedkar
considered secularism not only a polit-
ical issue but also a moral issue. In this,
Gandhiji and Ambedkar appear to
share the same ground. But, in the
nal analysis, neither Gandhis ethical
notions nor Nehrus materialist ideas
nor Ambedkars sense of justice g-
ured as the principles guiding
The conception of secularism as re-
ligious harmony is based on a mono-
lithic view of religion, which does not
take into account the differentiation
within it. Within each religion there
are several cultural and social groups
between whom both contradictions
and complementarities exist. As a re-
sult, religious pluralism and cultural
pluralism connote entirely different
realities even though they are used as
interchangeable by many. The as-
sumption of Indian secularism that
the tensions arising out of religious
pluralism can be overcome by harmo-
ny is unreal because of the cultural and
social hierarchies that exist within reli-
gion. Because of the prevalence of
these hierarchies, attempts to bring
about religious harmony cannot cover
all followers of any religion. The ap-
proach to secularism exclusively
through inter-religious relations can-
not lead to an abiding solution.
Being so, secularism in India ap-
pears to have begun its journey with a
dead weight around its neck. It carries
the burden of an irreconcilable resolu-
tion of realising communal harmony
without creating material and ideolog-
ical foundations to generate and sus-
tain it. Implied in this reality is that the
communal harmony attempted at the
religious level leaves the internal con-
tradictions untouched. The impor-
tance attributed to religious harmony
is indeed logical, given the reality of a
multi-religious society. But it is not
sufciently inclusive to reconcile the
cultural differences. To realise inclu-
siveness, cultural plurality is not suf-
cient; what is essential is cultural
equality. The Indian form of secular-
ism draws upon cultural plurality,
which does not dissolve but accentu-
ates differences and thus tends to un-
dermine secularism. Integral to the
concept of secularism, therefore, is
cultural equality; so also are democra-
cy and social justice. Without these
three interrelated factors equality,
democracy and social justice secular-
ism cannot exist as a positive value in
The meaning of the Indian form of
secularism, beyond inter-religious
harmony, which the Constitution had
sought to implement through practice,
has not been internalised by state and
society. No denition of secularism
was prescribed at the time of adopting
the Constitution or even when the con-
cept was introduced into it in 1976.
The meaning, therefore, has been a
subject of unending debate. A clearer
reformulation of the concept and re-
covery of its meaning is now required
in the light of historical experience and
contemporary realities. It cannot be
accomplished either by romanticising
the indigenous past or by dismissing
the ability of vernacular culture to en-
gage with it. The alternative lies in
imparting the concept and the values
of democracy and social justice and
cultural equality.
I would like to end by recalling
what Prof. Romila Thapar said in
2002 in her foreword to my book Be-
fore the Night Falls: Forebodings of
Fascism in India: Secularism has to
be retrieved from being a pale shadow
of what is projected as religious co-
existence, to a system of values and
actions that come from insisting upon
democratic functioning and human
rights. The success of secularism will
depend upon such a reorientation.
STREETS of Ahmedabad
during the communal
riots of March 2002.The
popular commitment to
secularism helped the
country overcome the
trauma of many such
disruptive events.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
9 2 F R O N T L I N E
S global capitalisms worst
crisis in seven decades con-
tinues unremittingly, it be-
comes obvious that the
shop-worn solutions rec-
ommended by the International Mon-
etary Fund (IMF), the United States
Federal Reserve, the European Central
Bank and other agencies devoted to
neoliberal approaches are failing. The
combination of austerity, harsh bud-
get cuts, bank bailouts, fresh capital
infusion into nancial institutions,
and further privatisation of public
companies and services is just not de-
livering results.
The entire edice of the welfare
state, built especially in Western Eu-
rope after the Second World War with
free or subsidised health care, educa-
tional and social services, including
old-age pensions and unemployment
allowances, is being dismantled. This
represents social retrogression on a
historic scale. Yet, the Great Recession
shows few signs of lifting even as job-
lessness reaches new highs, particular-
ly in southern Europe.
In India, conventional indicators
of economic performance are dipping.
Gross domestic product (GDP) growth
is slowing down, ination remains a
worry, and the rupee has lost nearly 20
per cent of its value to the U.S. dollar
within a year. The stock markets have
tanked, with the Bombay Stock Ex-
changes (BSE) market capitalisation
falling by 27 per cent over the year.
The cost of money is at its highest
in more than a decade, with the gov-
ernment borrowing at almost 9 per
cent and companies at 13 per cent. The
current account decit, already about
3 per cent of the GDP, is set to widen.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) ows
alists for policy paralysis is bending
over backwards to reassure them that
second generation reforms are on the
way. These include environmental de-
regulation, mindless public sector div-
estment, more dole outs to business,
and pruning the scal decit, just
when more public investment and
tighter regulation are needed.
This largely replicates the bank-
rupt strategies being pursued in the
West, to disastrous economic, social
and political effect. This approach will
address none of the structural prob-
lems that this economy and society
face, including persistent mass poverty
and widespread deprivation.
This translates into lack of assets
(especially land) and purchasing pow-
er in the hands of the people, compre-
hensive denial of social opportunity,
cascading class inequalities and re-
gional disparities, and lack of food, wa-
ter, shelter and energy security. The
situation perpetuates a level and qual-
ity of social bondage and economic
servitude which are unbecoming of a
minimally civilised society.
Any society that aspires to a mod-
icum of civilised existence and social
cohesion must dene clearly and pur-
sue rapidly a project that aims to pro-
vide basic public services to all its
people so that they can lead a mini-
mally decent existence free of want
and realise their basic human poten-
tial. Half of Indian children, malnour-
ished, underweight and wasted as they
are, cannot possibly realise their po-
tential. Equally vitally, the project
must accomplish this task in an envi-
ronmentally sound and climate-sensi-
tive way, while keeping the focus
centrally and sharply on equity.
Here is a preliminary proposal, in-
remain sluggish. Meanwhile, there are
indicators that the sovereign debt cri-
sis in the European Union (E.U.) could
affect India adversely. European
banks exposure to India now runs at
about 15 per cent of the GDP.
The governments response to this
situation has been to boost the capital
markets articially by allowing foreign
investors, including individuals, to in-
vest directly in Indian corporate
stocks. It is also asking public and pri-
vate nancial institutions to set up a
Rs.50,000-crore infrastructure debt
fund. Meanwhile, many oil-rich Gulf
states or their sovereign wealth funds,
including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar
and Abu Dhabi, are reportedly plan-
ning to pull their investments from the
crisis-ridden economies of the E.U.
and the U.S. and shift them to India.
The Manmohan Singh govern-
ment, under re from Indian industri-
Red-green deal
It is time to jettison neoliberalism for programmes that combine equity with
climate-sensitive schemes for universal public service provision.
Beyond the
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 9 3
spired partly by the Green New Deal
Susan George proposes in her new
book Whose Crisis, Whose Future?
This is best expressed as a peoples
charter for which all progressive social
and political currents must struggle.
The charter at minimum must include
land reform and universal entitle-
ments to adequate quantities of food
through a public distribution system
(PDS), safe drinking water, basic shel-
ter, health care (especially preventive
care), education for 12 years, sanita-
tion and electricity and other modern
energy services, including clean cook-
ing fuel. The land reform must encour-
age cooperative farming and
redistribute land without parcelling it
out into unviable plots.
To take one instance, a progressive
approach to food security and food
sovereignty must be based on furnish-
ing a strong infrastructure, including
soil recontouring and topsoil conser-
vation; sound drainage; low-input,
low-water methods of farming; mini-
mal use of chemical fertilizers and pes-
ticides; and shifts to cropping patterns
that are appropriate to specic agro-
climatic conditions.
Thus, Punjab will have to move
away from its current paddy-wheat-
paddy crop cycle, which depletes the
soil of micronutrients, leads to salinity
and waterlogging and necessitates the
use of massive doses of cancer-causing
chemicals. Water-stressed western
Maharashtra will have to abandon
sugarcane cultivation, which con-
sumes eight to 10 times as much water
as cereals per unit of biomass and
more if millets are grown. The pri-
orities of agricultural research will
have to change. As will the metrics for
measuring productivity, which must
include water and energy audits.
And we will all have to accept that the
future of Indian agriculture lies not in
unsustainable water- and energy-in-
tensive Green Revolution practices but
in dryland farming based on sturdy,
moisture stress-resistant seeds and
methods that aim at maximising the
useful biomass produced. Such an
agrarian transformation will need
huge amounts of public works and bil-
lions of person-days of labour. But this
can be logically linked to and integrat-
ed with the National Rural Employ-
ment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The
infrastructure needed for a universal
PDS, including grain storage, can also
be tied to the NREGA.
Similarly, provision of water secu-
rity will mean building a vast network
of water-harvesting systems, percola-
tion tanks, bunds and small or micro
dams, and collecting water where it
falls, while reducing runoff. Along
with water purication facilities and
adequate sanitation (essential for pro-
vision of safe drinking water), this
would demand large-scale invest-
ments running into thousands of
crores of rupees. The schemes could be
usefully integrated into a revised ver-
sion of the National Water Mission
under the National Action Plan on Cli-
mate Change.
Again, we must abandon the illu-
sion that the provision of adequate
shelter both in the urban and rural
areas can be left to the mercy of private
builders or crude individual/family ef-
forts. If India is to have sustainable
habitats, with ecologically sound town
and village planning and low-carbon,
low-cost building construction, the
task must be addressed by the govern-
ment, including local bodies, jointly
with community organisations, pub-
lic-spirited and environmentally con-
scious architects, social scientists and
civil society groups.
At least 70 per cent of the Indian
housing and infrastructure that will
exist by 2030 is yet to be built. How we
conceptualise, design and construct it
will determine how it will affect cli-
mate change processes and how suc-
cessfully we adapt to these with
resilient forms of housing, low-entro-
py cities that avert long commutes, re-
conguration of ofce work,
embedding energy-saving approaches
in buildings, adapting them to energy
conservation right from the start (and
not as an afterthought), and so on.
Perhaps the most challenging task
is that of reaching electricity to the 500
million Indians who do not have it
the largest such number anywhere in
the world some of whom live in our
nearly one lakh unelectried villages,
but the bulk of whom live in both ci-
ties/towns and villages ofcially de-
clared electried on bizarre criteria.
The short answer is twofold: in-
stalling lakhs of home-lighting sys-
tems based on solar cells, in the short
run; and in the middle and long run,
restructuring the entire power grid in a
decentralised manner to meet the
needs of distributed generation and
consumption, in which renewable
sources and small-scale power gener-
ation play a pivotal role, unlike in con-
ventional grids based on centralised
generation. India has a historic chance
to do the second by technological
Solar home- and village-lighting
systems are becoming increasingly
competitive with grid-based power.
There is a veritable renewable energy
revolution in progress, and costs of so-
lar cells are falling by the month. In the
latest auction for solar generation in
the 100 megawatt-plus range under
the National Solar Mission, bids were
as low as Rs.7.49 per kilowatt-hour
(kWh). This is about half the feed-in
tariff being offered for renewables.
At the present rate of cost reduc-
tion, wind generationthe worlds fas-
test-growing energy source for two
decades, with annual growth rates of
30 per cent-plus is already compet-
itive with gas-based power. Biomass-
based and mini- and micro-hydro are
even cheaper. Soon, solar-thermal and
solar photovoltaics will join this
league. India must not allow the re-
newables revolution to bypass it and
must exploit every opportunity to reor-
ganise its energy system to promote
and accommodate renewables.
All this will need massive funding.
But that can come from plugging the
Rs.5 lakh-crore leak of revenues for-
gone annually by the government, by
taxing corporations and rich and up-
per middle-class individuals who cur-
rently pay among the lowest taxes
anywhere. But there is no substitute
for a green-red or Green New Deal.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
9 4 F R O N T L I N E
ONE of the least discussed issues in the context
of the data thrown up by Census 2011 is the worri-
some decline in the child sex ratio (CSR) and the
not-too-perfect implementation of the Pre-Concep-
tion and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohib-
ition of Sex Selection) Act, or PCPNDT Act. There is
reason to believe that the implementation of the Act
a good piece of legislation has not been up to the
mark and that the efforts to prevent sex determina-
tion tests have not been effective. The interest of the
Union Ministry concerned is perceived at best as
pedantic. There is also the concern that some people
involved in the implementation of the Act continue
to carry the baggage of ideas that run contrary to the
spirit of the Act. The resistance from vested interests
and from well-meaning sections to certain measures
introduced by the government has rendered the ba-
sic provisions of the Act ineffective and deected
attention from the problem at hand.
Consider this. On December 2, in response to a
question in the Lok Sabha on the implementation of
the Act, the replies of the Minister of State for Health
and Family Welfare were at best evasive. To a ques-
tion on the number of meetings held by advisory
committees set up in the States, the reply was that
such meetings were continuous processes and that
information was not maintained centrally. The last
annual report prepared on the implementation of
the Act was in 2006. Since then, barring the occa-
sional question on the subject in Parliament, there is
little happening in terms of seriously taking stock of
the situation. New technological interventions in-
troduced by governments, both at the Centre and in
the States, have not inspired condence among those
concerned about the sharp decline in the CSR.
The number of convictions under the almost
16-year-old law has been negligible. Sting oper-
ations, too, have had negligible impact, says Varsha
Deshpande, a lawyer in Maharashtra. She cited the
example of Kolhapur, a district withone of the lowest
CSRs in the State, and said the sex of the foetus was
communicated in various novel ways, including
cryptic phrases and the widely accepted greeting Jai
Mata Di. For this reason, there is enough scepticism
over the tracker, the latest technological x being
promoted by the Ministry, which has been intro-
duced in some States. The tracker, or silent observer
(SIOB), is a device attached to ultrasound machines
through cables in order to capture video images of
each sonography and store them in its hard disk. The
idea behind the tracker, which is a product of a
company that claims to be one of the leaders in
mobile and e-governance, is that the images stored
in a centralised server can be reviewed to track in-
stances of foeticide.
While sections within the government are con-
vinced about the efcacy of the tracker, Dr Sabu
George, who has been pushing relentlessly for the
effective implementation of the Act, and Varsha
Deshpande are sceptical of such efforts. There are
limitations to using technology to ght technology,
argues Sabu George, who fought hard to insert
amendments to the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Tech-
niques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act to
include pre-conception tests too. He says what is
required is more reporting of Form F, the mandatory
requirement under the PCPNDT Act. (It is a form for
the maintenance of records in respect of pregnant
women by genetic clinic/ultrasound clinic/imaging
centres.) It is not a crime to show the image but to
communicate it is and that is still rampant. Trackers
do not prevent the ultrasonologist or doctor from
communicating the sex of the foetus, said Sabu
In the 36 sting operations conducted in Mah-
arashtra, he said, one revealing fact was that Form F
had not been lled out by any of the institutions.
Varsha Deshpande said doctors were happy with the
Tracker controversy
Results of sex determination tests
are often given verbally by doctors,
and it is argued that there is a thin
line between the medical reasons
for termination of pregnancy and
female foeticide.
The use of tracker technology to zero in on the misuse of diagnostic techniques
for sex determination has evoked mixed reactions. BY T. K. RAJALAKSHMI
Gender Issues
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 9 5
trackers as no inspections were being
conducted. She said there were more
than 260 cases pending in courts and
only four convictions so far. Of the 270
centres in Kohlapur, 230 had installed
the device, she said. Twenty centres
had refused to install it, but no action
was taken against them, she added.
The image tracked is not enough
evidence to tell the court that sex de-
termination has been done. The law is
wider and comprehensive; it should be
implemented. For non-maintenance
of records, the courts are known to
impose only minor nes, said Varsha
Deshpande. The Kolhapur district ad-
ministration made it mandatory for all
pathologists using ultrasound ma-
chines to install the SIOB. The Mah-
arashtra chapter of the Indian
Radiological and Imaging Association
(IRIA) went to court against this and
argued that the device was useless and
that it violated the privacy of the indi-
vidual as third parties could view the
images. The government argued that
ever since the installation of the device
was made mandatory the lling up of
Form F had gone up. Two separate
judgments, on the use of mobile ultra-
sound clinics and on the installation of
the SIOB, have gone in favour of the
governments position.
The IRIAs petition in the Bombay
High Court challenged a July 28, 2011,
decision of the Medical Health Ofcer
(the designated Appropriate Author-
ity) restraining a genetic clinic from
using a portable sonography machine.
ADivision Bench of Justices P.B. Maj-
mudar and Mridula Bhatkar upheld
on November 17 the decision of the
Appropriate Authority. It ruled:
In our view the direction issued by
the Authority is in consonance with
the provisions of the Act and only with
a view to prevent possible misuse of
such machine. It cannot be disputed
that such a machine can be utilised for
prenatal diagnosis even at the place
where the machine is taken outside the
clinic. It is required to be noted that
ultrasonography is one of the prenatal
diagnosis techniques as prescribed un-
der the Act. As pointed out earlier,
unfortunately there are cases where
AT A CAMPAI GN against sex determination tests and female foeticide, in
New Delhi. A le picture.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
9 6 F R O N T L I N E
Gender Issues
such techniques are being misused to
detect sex of the foetus and termina-
tion of pregnancy of unwanted female
child. In our view, even if there is only
one case out of millions this court may
not interfere with such a policy deci-
sion which in our view is the most
scientic and in the interest of society.
Considering the said aspect, it cannot
be said that any fundamental right ei-
ther under Article 14 or 19 is violated as
the Petitioner-Association can carry
out its activity within the Institute it-
self and at the recognised place. The
restriction imposed by the concerned
ofcer is the most reasonable and in
public interest and does not violate the
fundamental right of the petitioner in
any manner. Ultimately the public in-
terest at large is required to be taken
into account and the decision taken by
the concerned ofcer is in consonance
with the provisions of the Act.
The order also referred to the Divi-
sion Benchs judgment on August 28,
2011, on a petition led by the State
chapter of the IRIA(State chapter, Jal-
na vs Union of India and Ors) chal-
lenging a circular issued by the
Collector and District Magistrate of
Kolhapur on March 3, 2010, asking all
radiologists and sonologists to install
the SIOB in their ultrasound sonog-
raphy machines. The Division Bench
had upheld the circular and dismissed
the petition. In the latest order, too,
the court observed that the notice un-
der challenge was consistent with the
provisions and object of the Act and
that the direction given by the ofcer
concerned was in consonance with the
provisions of the Act.
But radiologists believe that the
measures are defective and do not ad-
dress the problem in any seriousness.
Tejinder Pal Singh, a consultant radio-
logist and ultrasonologist in Yamuna-
nagar district of Haryana, believes that
the tracker is effective mainly in tele-
medicine. Junior medical profession-
als capture the images and send them
to seniors for expert opinion and fur-
ther guidance. Other uses include sur-
veillance and supervision of the work
of juniors so as to identify faults and
rectify them, he said. The images can
be misused to harass doctors and they
also violate a patients privacy, he
added. Tejinder Pal Singh does not
think the tracker is a solution for the
skewed CSR. A doctor will never use a
machine with a tracker to do sex deter-
mination tests. It is like committing
suicide, he said.
People like Sabu George and Var-
sha Deshpande believe that the track-
ing technology might not help the
cause of the girl child in the long run.
There was no evidence to show that the
collection and interpretation of ultra-
sound images by the Appropriate Au-
thorities had led to greater rates of
conviction in foeticide cases. These are
not the only issues. There is also a
growing but worrisome belief that the
Medical Termination of Pregnancy
(MPT) Act is liberal and that the pro-
liferation of across-the-counter abor-
tion methods, including the
availability of small and portable ultra-
sound machines, have put the girl
child at risk.
Some aver that abortion records
are not kept properly and that Form Fs
are not maintained by the Appropriate
Authorities. Such authorities are em-
powered not only to take criminal ac-
tion but to search and seize
documents, records and objects of un-
registered bodies. They are also empo-
wered to inspect hospitals, nursing
homes and other institutions involved
in performing ultrasound tests. But
they faced an uphill task. Results of sex
determination tests were given verbal-
ly by doctors and this was difcult to
prove, and it was argued that there was
a thin line between the medical rea-
sons for termination of pregnancy and
female foeticide. Also, agencies that
carried out sting operations, on the
basis of which cases were led by the
Appropriate Authorities, did not coop-
erate during the course of hearings.
The CSR for the National Capital
Region also showed a further decline
of two points from the previous Cen-
sus. The average CSR was lower than
the national average; the decline was
almost by 49 points when compared
withCensus 1991. Among the districts,
South and South-West Delhi recorded
a CSR decline of 10 points over Census
2001, while the rest of the districts
showed a marginal improvement but
remained far below the national aver-
Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Professor of
Political Science in the University of
Delhi and a member of the State Su-
pervisory Board, feels that a lot of sys-
temic correction was needed,
including better monitoring, regular
meetings, an efcient tracking of por-
table ultrasound machines, less em-
phasis on technological xes and
quicker disposal of cases by courts. Bi-
jayalaxmi Nanda, who has been re-
searching on the impact of conditional
cash transfer schemes like Ladli for the
promotion of the girl child, said that
such schemes by their differential re-
wards weakened the resolve of people
to have a second daughter. There were
supply-side deciencies as well, apart
from the fact that several beneciaries
did not know about the conditional-
ities attached to the scheme. She was
also worried that the population x
of small families still dominated the
minds of policymakers.
There is little disagreement about
the comprehensiveness of the law it-
self. The scepticism about interven-
tions such as the tracker is well
justied, and their efcacy, if any,
should be reviewed dispassionately.
Secondly, progressive laws such as the
MTP Act should not be tampered with
and blamed for the decline of the girl
child population.
Last but not the least, the govern-
ment must shed its obsession with
controlling the size of the family under
the garb of girl-child promotion
Radiologists say
the Act does not
address the
problem in any
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 9 7
EAP years have a certain
mystique and even a my-
thology to them: they are
seen as special and often
have of way of becoming
just that, somehow living up to the
expectations that people have of them.
Certainly, the year that has just started
will mark many signicant
It is the centenary year for many
events that have either shaped sub-
sequent history or simply got embed-
ded into our collective consciousness:
the construction of New Delhi as the
capital city of Imperial India; the
maiden and nal voyage of the
Titanic, the unsinkable ship that fa-
mously struck an iceberg and sank in
mid-April; the announcement of the
formation of the Chinese republic by
Sun Yat-sen and the abdication of the
last Qing emperor; the discovery of
the South Pole in Antartica; and the
end of the Meiji era in Japan upon the
death of the last Meiji emperor.
In Europe, too, a century ago was a
time of ferment perhaps even more
so than today. Vienna, Austria, at the
turn of the century (the n de sicle)
epitomised the cultural churning that
reected the political, economic and
social changes that people were trying
to absorb and come to grips with.
Writers like Robert Musil and painters
like Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt
captured the sense of decadence of the
dying order and the search for new
meanings and structures to organise
life. The social and cultural mood
which obviously was also to be soon
reected in the politics that led up to
the First World War was brittle, vola-
tile and slightly ominous.
Perhaps, this sense of portent was
most potently expressed in the music
must have underlined the ephemeral
nature of life and the inevitability of
But by the time Mahler was work-
ing full time on the symphony, his
frame of mind was happier than it had
been for some time. His health was
much better as he worked in the seren-
ity of a summer retreat in the hills and
he had just returned from two very
successful seasons conducting orches-
tras in New York and looked forward
to a professional tour of the United
States. In fact, he is known to have
been anticipating a time when he
could accumulate enough to retire
from conducting and devote himself
full time to composition.
So the Ninth Symphony contains
so much more and is so brilliantly
complex even at its most shattering
that it cannot be seen in simple terms
as a harbinger of death. Indeed, fellow
composers saw it as immensely life-
afrming even in its acceptance of the
certainty of death. Alban Berg wrote to
his wife: The rst movement is the
most glorious he ever wrote. It ex-
presses an extraordinary love of this
earth, for Nature; the longing to live on
it in peace, to enjoy it completely, to
the very heart of ones being before
death comes, as it does, irresistibly.
Much later, the biologist Lewis
Thomas, in his famous essay Late
night thoughts on listening to Mahlers
Ninth Symphony, described how his
own response to this music evolved
with time. He heard the music not as
an ultimately peaceful afrmation of
death but a clanging nightmare of de-
struction, emanating from the grow-
ing possibility of nuclear war.
I cannot listen to Mahlers Ninth
Symphony with anything like the old
melancholy mixed with the high plea-
of the time. The non-verbal nature of
music often makes it the best way of
expressing ambiguity and emotions
that cannot be easily crystallised into
words. The pre-eminent example of
this may come from the composer-
conductor Gustav Mahler. His Ninth
Symphony was premiered in Vienna, a
year after its composer died in May
1911 without ever having heard it per-
formed. In fact, he was superstitious
about writing it. He feared (correctly,
as it turned out) that, just as had been
the case for Beethoven and Bruckner
before him, it would turn out to be his
last symphony and indeed his last ma-
jor work.
Certainly, this is music written in
the shadow of death. Two years before,
Mahler and his wife, Alma, had lost a
beloved child, a young daughter. Then
he lost his job as a conductor at the
Vienna court opera. And then, in the
course of a routine medical examin-
ation, he was diagnosed with a serious
heart condition. All of these events
Year of centenaries
This year marks the hundredth year of events that have either shaped history
or simply got embedded into our collective consciousness.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
9 8 F R O N T L I N E
sure I used to take from this music.
There was a time, not long ago, when
what I heard, especially in the nal
movement, was an open acknowledge-
ment of death and at the same time a
quiet celebration of the tranquillity
connected to the process. I took this
music as a metaphor for reassurance,
conrming my own strong hunch that
the dying of every living creature, the
most natural of all experiences, has to
be a peaceful experience. I rely on na-
ture. The long passages on all the
strings at the end, as close as music can
come to expressing silence itself, I used
to hear as Mahlers idea of leave-taking
at its best. But always, I have heard this
music as a solitary, private listener,
thinking about death. Now I hear it
differently. I cannot listen to the last
movement of the Mahler Ninth with-
out the door-smashing intrusion of a
huge new thought: death everywhere,
the dying of everything, the end of
However one chooses to interpret
this extraordinary and powerful work
of music, what is also evident is that it
expresses forcefully the instability and
yearning of those times. Musically, it is
not on rm tonal ground: despite be-
ing formally structured in major and
minor tonalities, it is marked by the
use of chromatic harmonies and even
dissonance. Thematically, it is marked
by contrast, with often conicting
themes vying for supremacy. Emotion-
ally, it moves from tranquillity to ag-
gression to irony to reection. There
are several false climaxes or anticipa-
tions of them, and so the actual climax,
even at its most reverberating, is but a
part of the transition to quietude. For
the symphony closes very slowly, soft-
ly, with long hushed phrases only on
string instruments, fading away al-
most imperceptibly into silence.
So this is music for uncertain times
even though it contains within it cer-
tainties of different kinds. No wonder
it appeals so strongly to us a century
later. Europe, and indeed the whole
world, is now faced with another peri-
od of political and economic volatility.
As old and not so old orders collapse
under the weight of their own contra-
dictions, there is social yearning for
some security even with the knowledge
that much of what exists is neither just
nor tolerable.
In Europe, the events that unfold-
ed later as a result of what occurred in
1912 turned out to be signicant. For
example, the rst Balkan war in south-
easternEurope (in which, incidentally,
Greece was involved) led to a chain of
events that culminated in a world war.
The eventual ofcial collapse of the
Gold Standard (by which major cur-
rencies were linked to a precise weight
of gold) was presaged by the growing
tendency of the major powers to
cheat the system and print more
money than was justied by their gold
reserves. Across Europe, there was so-
cial and political ferment as workers
marched for their rights and protested
against the inequality and injustice of
the economic system.
Does any of this sound contempo-
rary? But then, that need not be only
something to be feared. As Leonard
Bernstein said of the nal movement
of Mahlers Ninth Symphony: It is ter-
rifying, and paralysing, as the strands
of sound disintegrate... in ceasing, we
lose it all. But in letting go, we have
gained everything.
GUSTAV MAHLER, AUSTRI AN composer-conductor. His Ninth Symphony
was premiered in Vienna in 1912, a year after his death. He was superstitious
about writing it. He feared that as with Beethoven and Bruckner before him
it would turn out to be his last symphony.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 9 9
IT was a perfect way to celebrate Mahatma
Gandhis birthday in Chamarajanagar, Karnataka.
On October 2, 2011, 25 gram sabhas in and around
the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
(BRTS) were awarded community forest rights, in-
cluding right of access to and ownership of non-
timber forest produce (NTFP); shing, grazing and
cultural practice rights, and the right to conserve and
manage the forest. This was unprecedented as these
rights were granted in a protected area and tiger
It was the culmination of a ve-year struggle by
Soliga Adivasis under the umbrella of the Zilla Buda-
kattu Girijana Abhivruddhi Sangha (ZBGAS) for the
rights to harvest forest produce, which had been
banned in 2006 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
The Forest Department was conspicuously unrepre-
sented at the function where District Commissioner
Amar Narayan and MLA C. Puttarangashetty dis-
tributed the community forest rights.
The Soligas have been advocating a larger role for
themselves in the management of the BRTS and in
tiger and wildlife conservation. At a workshop held
in the BRTS on July 12 and 13, about 160 Soliga
Green approach
Soliga Adivasis and social action
groups have prepared the framework
for a community-based plan for
conserving the areas forests and
wildlife and securing forest-based
livelihoods for the tribal people.
An alternative conservation model for the BRT Sanctuary is a step closer to
SOLI GA ADI VASI S AND NGOs discussing the conservation plan for the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 0 0 F R O N T L I N E
Adivasis and a few conservation and
social action groups prepared the
framework for a community-based
plan for conserving the areas forests
and wildlife and securing forest-based
livelihoods. In the process they also
challenged the short-sighted conser-
vation policy of 40 years which pitted
traditional communities against wild-
life (and the ofcials mandated to con-
serve it). As an alternative, they came
up with a vision on how the Soliga
community, the Forest Department
and civil society groups could work to-
gether to achieve more inclusive and
lasting conservation of one of Indias
biologically diverse ecosystems.
The Biligiri Rangaswamy hills of
southern Karnataka were infamous for
being the hideout of the forest brigand
Veerappan. They are otherwise well-
known for their tigers and elephants
and as a major site for pilgrimage.
Some plant ecologists consider the
hills the meeting point of the Western
and Eastern Ghats, and therefore have
afnities with both areas. The BR hills,
with megalithic burial sites dating
back to at least 300 B.C. and Adivasi
populations that have resided there for
several centuries, has a long history of
human use.
In 1974, an area of 540 sq km of the
Biligiri hills was declared the Biligiri
Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctu-
ary. The Soligas, until then a tribe that
mostly practised shifting cultivation,
were forcibly settled in podus (settle-
ments), some of them getting small
plots of land and others having to turn
to manual labour and other occupa-
tions, including gathering forest pro-
duce such as amla (Indian gooseberry,
or Phyllanthus emblica) and honey
from the rock bee (Apis dorsata).
In 2004, pursuant to a Supreme
Court order, the State government
prohibited the collection of NTFP for
sale. The ban order was put into effect
in the BRTS in 2006. This impover-
ished several thousand Soligas. The
Adivasis, who until then had mostly
cooperated with the Forest Depart-
ment, became hostile and agitated.
The proverbial last straw was when the
State government notied the area as a
tiger reserve in January 2011 ignoring
protests by Soligas and civil society
groups and without obtaining the nal
approval from the National Tiger Con-
servation Authority (NTCA).
Over the last decade, the BRTS has
been gearing up to demonstrate that it
could be an alternative model for a
protected area. Early discussions on a
paradigm change in the governance of
the sanctuary were held as part of a
National Consultation on Wildlife
Conservation and Peoples Livelihood
organised there in 2000 by Kalpav-
riksh, the Vivekanandan Girijana Ka-
lyan Kendra (VGKK), and the Ashoka
Trust for Research in Ecology and the
Environment (ATREE). In 2005, a
joint meeting of the Karnataka Forest
Department, the VGKK, ATREE and
the ZBGAS mooted the idea of joint
management, until a change of lead-
ership in the Forest Department scut-
tled the formation of a sanctuary
advisory committee under the Wildlife
Protection Act.
Further discussions were held by
these organisations from time to time,
including in 2007 when the Soligas
were falsely implicated in a series of
forest res and mistreated by the For-
est Department. Meanwhile, a decade
of research by ATREE showed that not
only were the Soligas not a threat to the
areas biodiversity but their traditional
management techniques such as con-
trolled burning of undergrowth may
have sustained forests until the take-
over of their management by the State
forest administration.
The restoration of collaborative
management got a big push when the
Forest Rights Act (FRA) was promul-
gated. In August 2007, a workshop
was organised by the Soliga Abhiv-
ruddhi Sangha (SAS), the VGKK,
ATREEand Kalpavriksh to discuss the
FRA. It was noted that apart from se-
curing tribal livelihoods (through
rights to land and forest produce), the
FRA could be a basis for moving to-
wards a community-based model of
conservation (especially through the
community forest resource manage-
ment rights provided in it). The Soligas
got busy in making claims under the
FRA. Then, in 2010-11, with the noti-
cation of the area as a tiger reserve, all
the groups realised that an alternative
conservation plan was now more ur-
gent than ever.
They sent a short note on this to the
Union Ministry of Environment and
Forests and the Karnataka govern-
ment urging them to pursue a commu-
nity-based approach rather than the
conventional tiger reserve model. The
total silence from these agencies was
the trigger for the July 2011 workshop,
organised by the ZBGAS, ATREE, the
VGKK and Kalpavriksh. While the
participation was overwhelmingly
from the Soliga tribe, inputs were also
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 0 1
THE DODDA SAMPI GE, the sacred
tree of Soliga Adivasis, inside the
BRT Sanctuary.

servation challenges such as the rapid
spread of the weed Lantana camara.
Its story is symptomatic of what has
gone wrong with the BRTS in the past
few decades.
The Soligas rmly believe that
their traditional management of the
forest kept this weed at bay. In partic-
ular, they point to the use of taragu
benki, or litter re, which they lit in a
highly controlled manner, affecting
only the leaf litter and suppressing lan-
tana and other weeds. Once the area
was declared a sanctuary, the Forest
Department prohibited this practice,
resulting in lantanas prolic spread.
ATREEs long-term research has
quantied the spread of lantana, the
inuence of re on retarding lantana
growth and the adverse effect of the
weed on native vegetation.
The spread of parasitic mistletoe
on trees has also resulted in the death
of adult trees. The Soligas claim that
both invasive species and parasitic
growth have increased owing to the
ban on litter re. Ecological research
and local knowledge showthat the lan-
tana spread has caused a decline in the
populations of native species and
hence the availability of food for
None of this research and local
knowledge has, however, been incor-
porated into the management plan-
ning of the sanctuary.
Most of the participants in the
workshop seemed to be in favour of
controlled burning, but there was
some concern that even talking about
it may expose the tribal people to pros-
ecution by the Forest Department.
Memories are still fresh of the 2007
forest res, in which the department
levelled charges against a number of
Soligas. Some of them still face the
charges, while others were forced to
give written agreements that they
would not be involved in incidents of
re in the future. A few Soligas were
even beaten up. It is an irony of Indias
conservation scene that a practice that
may be good for the ecosystem and
wildlife is considered illegal.
Other ecological issues discussed
included poaching, tourism, plastic
provided by members of the organis-
ing groups and the NTCA, the Nature
Conservation Foundation (NCF) and
Vasundhara, and conservationists
such as Ravi Chellam and Kalyan
Two days of lively discussion resulted
in a framework plan consisting of three
components for community-based
and collaborative management of the
Ecological conservation: The
BRTS faces a number of serious con-
pollution by tourists, roads and check
dams, quarrying, use of chemicals in
coffee estates, and the increased tick
infestation (because of the ban on litter
re). Broad strategies were listed for
each of these, such as regular patroll-
ing by joint teams of Soligas and Forest
Department staff, restrictions on tour-
ists, and organic production of coffee.
Livelihood security: The BRTS
has 16,000 Soligas living in 62 podus.
Their predominant livelihoods are
agriculture, NTFP collection, and la-
bour in coffee estates, or Forest De-
partment service. The rst point that
came up in the discussion was a de-
tailed listing of the plants that the Soli-
gas used from the forest for food,
medicine and other household or mar-
ket purposes. Serious problems had
cropped up of late, including a marked
decline of many of these species (espe-
cially owing to the spread of lantana),
restrictions in access to forests im-
posed by the department, and reduc-
tion in bee populations (and therefore
honey) as bees were killed by pesti-
cides when they gathered honey from
the plains.
The Soligas proposed that they be
given the opportunity to take tourists
into the forest so that they could earn
some money from it. Currently, their
only benet from tourism was employ-
ment in the various tourism enterpris-
es in the BRTS, they pointed out. They
also suggested greater control over the
NTFP trade. Using the provisions of
the FRA, they propose to harvest, add
value and sell NTFP directly to outside
markets without going through state-
controlled cooperatives.
Governance and management:
The participants explored the poten-
tial of the FRA to transform the gov-
ernance and management of the BRTS
dramatically. The Soligas proposed
the formation in each of the 62 podus
of a forest management committee re-
sponsible for the conservation of a
patch of forest in a 10-km radius.
Above this, to ensure coordination,
they would set up committees for the
three taluks contained in the sanctuary
and one committee for the sanctuary
as a whole. The latter would have rep-
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 0 2 F R O N T L I N E
resentatives of the Forest Department
and local civil society groups, making
it a genuine co-management institu-
tion. The tentative name suggested for
this was the Biligiri Community-Based
Tiger and Wildlife Sanctuary Commit-
tee. Signicantly, the Soligas did not
want an exclusively community-dri-
ven model, and they strongly felt that
management would only be possible if
the Forest Department actively
worked with them.
The duties of the podu-, taluk- and
sanctuary-level committees include
meeting once a month to discuss issues
pertaining to forest conservation,
drawing up detailed action plans for
the short and long term, and submit-
ting podu-level plans to the govern-
ment for approval and support. The
conservation plan will include proce-
dures for the arrest of persons involved
in illegal activities, prescriptions for
re management and NTFP harvest,
and suggestions for sharing of benets
from tourism and other enterprises.
The Soligas have drawn up a de-
tailed process for the coming months,
including public consultations in the
relevant gram sabhas where this
framework will be discussed. They will
solicit additional inputs from ecolo-
gists, policy experts and forest ofcials.
On the basis of this, a consolidated
plan will be prepared, endorsed by
gram sabhas (to give it a legal stamp)
and presented to the State government
and the NTCA. A 20-member commit-
tee of Soligas (appointed at the work-
shop) will take the process forward,
helped by an advisory committee of
conservationists, social scientists, and
activists familiar with the BRTS or
having worked on related processes
All this is easier said than done. The
challenges are huge. First, it took the
Soligas three years of campaigning to
win community forest rights. Second,
though it had been invited and it had
promised participation, the Forest De-
partment was not represented at the
workshop. It will need much skill and
perseverance to get the department on
board, especially now that the area is
considered a tiger reserve and the de-
partment might possibly exercise grea-
ter control.
Third, the tiger reserve status also
means that there will now be attempts
to relocate some villages (from the so-
called core or critical tiger habitat).
Though the Soligas seem to be united
in opposing such a move, the tempta-
tion of a Rs.10-lakh relocation package
for each family (currently offered by
the Central government) could cause
divisions within the podus, especially
in the case of some families that do not
currently have access to land. Fourth,
putting local and scientic knowledge
together is not easy, given the very dif-
ferent methodological and epistemo-
logical arenas in which they operate
and exist.
Despite the above, there is no
doubt that the BRTS is set for a change
in course; the uncertainty is more
about how long it will take. An alterna-
tive conservation model for the area is
now much closer to becoming a reality.
It will gain strength not only from the
factors mentioned above but also from
the participatory and equitable con-
servation wave that is now sweeping
the world, with country after country
changing its laws and policies towards
more collaborative and community-
based governance.
Indeed, India is also legally bound
to move in this direction, having
agreed to do so under the Convention
on Biological Diversity and a number
of other international treaties and hav-
ing asserted for itself the need to de-
volve decision-making to the grass
roots. The people and institutions
which currently hold power in the
BRTS would do well to recognise that
such a model can do more for the tiger
and for its myriad fellow species, in-
cluding human communities, than the
bureaucracy-based, exclusionary
model they currently espouse.
Ashish Kothari is with Kalpavriksh;
Nitin Rai is with the Ashoka Trust
for Research in Ecology and the
Environment; and C. Madegowda is
with ATREE and the Zilla Budakattu
Girijana Abhivruddhi Sangha.
A SOLI GA FAMI LY. In 1974, when an area of 540 sq km was declared the
BRTS, the Soligas, a tribe that mostly practised shifting cultivation, were
settled on small plots of land. Some of them turned to manual labour and
other occupations, including the gathering of forest produce.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 0 3
ANY friends quiz me on
the future of the anti-
corruption movement
in the country and spe-
cically whether the
Anna Hazare movement will be able to
sustain itself. All this in the context of
the asco in the Rajya Sabha on that
momentous night, for which parties on
both sides in the House were possibly
to blame. The hint of a controversy
over the role of its Chairman, Hamid
Ansari, was perhaps wholly avoidable
because conjectures on his motive and
neutrality could damage a well-oiled
I want to steer clear of the politics
that has come to envelop the whole
question of how to keep up the mo-
mentum of the movement to make
public life in India less corrupt than it
is now. I believe it is the utmost re-
sponsibility of the aam admi to pre-
vent any hijacking of the process by
dubious elements. There are many
who would want to stall the enactment
of a law that gives muscle to the state in
the ght against venality.
Despite all his failings, Anna Ha-
zare is a welcome phenomenon. Those
who dissect his persona are being mis-
chievous and tendentious. Like most
of us, he also has frailties normally
associated with humans. I salute him
for his courage, if not for anything else.
He has unmistakably aroused the
common man and made him under-
stand that the opportunity to cleanse
governance was never closer. It is this
undeniable popular awareness that af-
fords some optimism for the immedi-
ate future. To describe Anna as an
urban middle class infatuation is
grievous. And to jeer at all those who
even remotely endorse Anna is even
more obnoxious.
tem that will protect the honest citizen
and swiftly penalise the misbehaving
and greedy public servant has to be
condemned. It is true that a few
around Anna Hazare went overboard
in the initial days of euphoria with
needlessly vitriolic outbursts. I get sig-
nals that they have realised their mis-
take and are now trying to mend their
ways by keeping a low prole and
through more subdued language. This
is a costly distraction from the sacred
task of enhancing the levels of integrity
in governance. We somehow have to
see that no citizen pays a bribe to get a
birth certicate, ration card, driving
licence, train ticket or a passport with-
in a prescribed period of time. This is
the irreducible minimum of citizen en-
titlements, on which there can be no
The Prime Minister and his col-
leagues have made it clear that the
Lokpal Bill will be reintroduced in the
Rajya Sabha in the Budget session. I
have no reason to disbelieve them. At
the same time, they could be making
virtue out of a necessity. We have reac-
hed a stage where an ombudsman
call it by whatever name is a national
necessity because of the unbridled cor-
ruption that is sweeping across the
country and popular expectations that
the government will have to institu-
tionalise the war against corruption.
Any government that hints even
remotely that this is a pointless exer-
cise will pay a huge price in terms of
electoral support. Having said this, I
wonder how far our lawmakers will go
to bring about a credible ombudsman.
They should realise that the common
man is so clued-up that he will not
settle for a weak Lokpal. He may not
express his dissent collectively by tak-
ing to the streets. He will, however,
Recently, I ran into a young, artic-
ulate and ambitious politician whom I
have known for a long time. He made a
few unprovoked and acerbic com-
ments on the integrity of those who
were around Anna or were positive
about him. His point was that those
who lived in glass houses should not
throw stones at others. He was un-
doubtedly reecting the views of many
who just cannot stand Anna Hazare
and the crowd around him. I was im-
mediately reminded of McCarthyism
in the United States during the height
of the Cold War and the days immedi-
ately prior to that. Secretary of State
John Foster Dulles, who was going
strong at that time, was a rm believer
of the dictum: If youre not for us, you
are against us.
The objective American felt utterly
uncomfortable with this myopic vi-
sion. This is exactly the feeling of un-
ease that I get just now in our country.
The concerted attempt to malign or
deride those who want an upright sys-
At a crossroads
A more inclusive membership and a redrawing of priorities for implementation
on the anti-corruption plank could help sustain the Team Anna movement.
Law and Order
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 0 4 F R O N T L I N E
demonstrate his disapproval when he
exercises his franchise. This is a risk
that no party would like to take. A
fractured verdict owing from discon-
tent with all political formations will
also be most unwelcome to parties
across the spectrum and to the com-
mon man, who is fed up with the antics
and misdeeds of partners in a coali-
tion. This is where lies the wisdom of
constructing an effective Lokpal that
will stand the test of time.
How strong should a Lokpal be? I am
opposed to bringing the Central Bu-
reau of Investigation (CBI) under it
because I believe that an autonomous
and well-tested CBI is required to x
corruption in high places. It just can-
not be an appendage of the Lokpal or
the Executive (read the PMO). There is
too much at stake for the present and
future governments in granting free-
dom to the CBI of the kind that I and
several others have been pleading for.
When this is the political reality, it
would be unrealistic for Team Anna to
stick to its demand that the CBI should
be brought under the Lokpals pur-
view. The viable alternative would be a
small investigative wing attached to
the Lokpal, which can do a preliminary
inquiry into major charges of corrup-
tion. Where the charges are credible in
the Lokpals view after this inquiry,
and a regular CBI investigation is mer-
ited, the ndings of such preliminary
inquiry could be passed on to the CBI
for appropriate action under the law.
Thereafter, the Lokpal will have no
authority except to receive a report
from the CBI on the action taken on
the Lokpals ndings. This may not,
however, be acceptable to Anna Ha-
zare. If the point is overemphasised,
many will doubt the motive behind
Team Annas demand for control over
the CBI.
A more contentious matter is the
clubbing of a demand for a strong anti-
corruption mechanism in the States
with other demands. It is common
knowledge that the problem of misuse
of government funds by public ser-
vants is unmitigated at the State level.
The anti-corruption directorate in
many States is a joke. It shares the
many inrmities of the CBI without,
however, the latters reach and profes-
sionalism. This is why a Lokayukta
with its own investigation wing is an
absolute necessity in the States. There
is at present no national statute on the
subject. The few States that have this
apparatus owe it to the recommenda-
tions of the Administrative Reforms
Commission (ARC).
Naturally, very few States have
chosen to set up a Lokayukta. I am told
that the Karnataka set-up, even before
the former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddy-
urappas arrest, was more than a force
to reckon with. A Central law on the
subject is being opposed by many
States for obvious reasons. However,
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
has decided in favour of a strong Lo-
kayukta in his State. This is most wel-
come. It squares with the image that he
has so assiduously built for himself in
the past few years. I do not think that
any other Chief Minister will dare to
emulate him, at least in the near
What is Team Annas future? Anna
is recovering from a chest infection
and is resting at his native place. Given
his willpower and motivation, he
should be back on his feet very soon. It
will be a setback to the whole move-
ment if he is not. It is easy to take the
position that no campaign for a public
cause can remain personality oriented.
The reality, however, is that the group
will lose its sheen without Annas lead-
ership. Many of his detractors are
banking on this. Let us hope he dis-
appoints them. But the greatest obsta-
cle to the team is a near consensus
among political parties that a strong
Lokpal cannot coexist with a democra-
cy, where Parliament and the State
legislatures are supreme. I do not fore-
see any radical shift from this position.
This is why I am convinced that Team
Anna will have to stoop to conquer. It
just cannot afford to break its dialogue
with the Central government, however
distasteful this might be. It cannot also
take the issue just now to the streets.
The poor response that it evoked in
Mumbai recently cannot be ignored.
This is, however, no reason to abandon
the ght. It is a signal that Team An-
nas strategy bears modication. A
more inclusive membership and a re-
drawing of priorities for immediate
implementation on the anti-corrup-
tion plank, both at the Centre and in
the States, could help sustain the
Jumping into the electoral fray to
work against one or the other party
that refuses to endorse Anna would be
fatal. It would only bring further odi-
um to the teamand give more ammu-
nition to those who are determined to
dilute the ght against dishonesty. I
am sure there are enough sane ele-
ments in the vicinity of Anna who
would counsel him on this. Or else the
Anna phenomenon could soon be just
a memory. I do not see anybody
around us now who can shape into
another gutsy ghter like Anna.
ANNA HAZARE I N a Pune hospital on January 1. The campaign against
corruption will lose its sheen without Annas leadership.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 0 5

A VI EW OF the Kovalam beach
near Thiruvananthapuram.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 0 6 F R O N T L I N E
THINK Kerala, and a rather clichd description
of its pattern of development the achievement of a
high quality of life without much accomplishment in
economic growth is what comes to mind. But for
some time now, economists have been claiming that
a new virtuous phase of development has emerged
in Kerala in which human development and eco-
nomic growth seem to have started reinforcing one
another positively.
No doubt, Keralas economy has seen a revival
since the late 1980s, when it displayed signs of
growth with the support of a few key enabling condi-
tions demographic dividend, emigration and cer-
tain economic reforms. However, it was during this
phase of revival that the States human development
achievements began to face some threats too. Kerala
also continued to experience high levels of (educat-
ed) unemployment and a persistent problem of low
levels of investment.
But, with the coming of globalisation, character-
ised by the advent of new technologies and innova-
tion, the results of its human development
achievements offered the State certain unique
strengths. After an initial phase of confusion, politi-
cal turmoil and false starts, the State seems to have
learnt to use such strengths well in the pursuit of its

The amazing success of Kerala
Tourism, the encouragement given
to IT and allied sectors, and the
enthusiastic promotion of Kerala as
a global brand are some of the
measures taken to achieve its goal.
A BOAT CRUI SE in Kochi. The time is ripe to change Keralas prole fromtourism paradise to investors destination.
A new
Kerala seeks to take the high road to
economic development and leave
behind its history of lost opportunities.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 0 8 F R O N T L I N E
goal of long-term economic develop-
ment, the outcome of which is still
However, the amazing success of
Kerala Tourism and, to an extent, the
States promotion of information tech-
nology (IT) and allied sectors, the
mushrooming of business schools and
institutions offering courses in emerg-
ing sectors, the opening up of the
banking sector to the needs of the gen-
eral population, the fast pace of in-
frastructure development visible all
over, and the enthusiastic promotion
of Kerala as a global brand these are
but a few examples of a State reaching
a critical threshold in its search for
sustained economic development.
Now, less than a decade after Ker-
ala rst attempted to showcase itself as
a friendly investment destination by
organising a (controversial) Global In-
vestor Meet (GIM) in Kochi in January
2003 (Visions of development, Fron-
tline, February 14, 2003), the State is
getting ready to launch a similar exer-
cise to woo international sponsors and
showcase investment opportunities.
The major promotional venture,
Emerging Kerala 2012, is a biennial
global business event and is scheduled
to be inaugurated by Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh in Kochi on Sep-
tember 12.
The Kerala State Industrial Devel-
opment Corporation (KSIDC), the key
investment promotion agency of the
State government, which incidentally
celebrated its golden jubilee on June
30, 2011, has entered into an under-
standing with the Confederation of In-
dian Industry (CII) to promote the
event across the world. It is expected to
attract heads of governments, corpo-
rate leaders, heads of major regulatory
institutions, banks and nancial in-
stitutions, and economists and inves-
tors in infrastructure, manufacturing,
IT, tourism, logistics, health care, in-
dustry, food and agro-processing, and
several other sectors.
We are trying to tell the world
about the innumerable opportunities
opening up in Kerala, that we are fully
committed to making use of those op-
portunities and are willing to welcome
wholeheartedly those who come for-
ward to invest in our projects, Chief
Minister Oommen Chandy said while
releasing the Emerging Kerala 2012
logo in Thiruvananthapuramrecently.
The story till now had been one of
lost opportunities in Kerala, be it with
regard to investment or infrastructure
development. We cannot afford this
any longer. We have to make use of the
favourable opportunities that are
emerging and claim for ourselves the
gains that are duly ours. Emerging
Kerala 2012 will be the chance that
Kerala can make use of. We will not
allow projects that are useful to the
State to be entangled in red tape or
delayed by policy indecision, he said.
The event is expected to put on
offer before investors a number of
mega projects, including an interna-
tional transhipment terminal at Viz-
hinjam (near Thiruvananthapuram), a
north-south high-speed rail corridor
that is expected to alter the States in-
dustrial and social infrastructure pro-
le, the Kochi-Coimbatore industrial
corridor with 12 globally competitive
industrial hubs along its course, a life
sciences park, an electronics hub, cen-
tres of excellence in education, and
projects in elds such as power, gas
distribution and municipal waste
management. The State is also target-
ing public-private partnerships with
international investors in electronics,
energy, nanotechnology, pharmaceu-
ticals, petrochemicals, education,
transportation and airport
For a change, Kerala is looking
ahead instead of harking back to its
past. It dreams big as it seeks to take
the high road to economic develop-
ment characterised by higher levels
of skills and knowledge, a higher tech-
nological base, sustained huge invest-
ment, environment sensitivity,
modern forms of organisation and
management and higher wages,
among other factors. The time seems
ripe for changing its prole too, from
tourism paradise to a contemporary
global business brand, the Investors
Own Destination.


THE I I M KOZHI KODE campus. The State is seeking to promote centres of excellence in education.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 1 0 F R O N T L I N E
THECochin Special Economic Zone
(CSEZ) is one of the 15 Government
of India-owned duty-free enclaves in
Kerala meant to promote multi-
product exports. It has excellent in-
frastructure and facilities for fast-
track clearances.
Until 2000, when the concept of
special economic zones became pop-
ular in India, the enclave was func-
tioning as the Cochin Export
Processing Zone. Today it is one of
the largest employment destinations
in Kerala, and is spread over 41.7
hectares at Kakkanad (about eight
kilometres from Ernakulam), on the
new seaport-airport highway.
SEZs are meant to provide ex-
port processing units an operating
environment free from legal hassles
governing import and export, a lib-
eral regime in respect of levies, do-
mestic regulations and restrictions
in order to boost manufacturing and
augment exports, earn foreign ex-
change and generate employment
In other words, they are meant to
generate additional economic activ-
ity; promote exports of goods and
services; encourage investment from
domestic and foreign sources; create
jobs; and develop infrastructure fa-
cilities in order to attract foreign and
domestic investments.
As far as trade operations, duties
and tariffs are concerned, SEZs are
considered foreign territory, out-
side the territory of the Indian Cus-
toms department.
There are 98 units now function-
ing in the CSEZ, in sectors such as
electronic hardware and food and
agro-products (which together ac-
count for the majority of exports),
plastic and rubber products, engi-
neering goods, gem and jewellery,
textiles and garments, and electron-
ics software. Twenty-three more
units are being established.
These units together employ
over 11,200 employees and regis-
tered exports worth Rs.17,003.53
crore in 2009-10, a growth of 45 per
cent over the previous year. In 2010-
11, it was the jewellery sector that
showed impressive growth, with 93
per cent of share in export, according
to initial estimates by the State
The CSEZ is strategically locat-
ed, with the international maritime
highway from Europe to the Pacic
Rim just 12 nautical miles off Kochi
and major international air routes
passing over the city. The State gov-
ernment plans to develop a Greater
Cochin SEZ by adding on more
phases of the SEZ at the Cochin port
and Cochin airport, and forming
customs-bonded industrial areas
along the airport-seaport highway.
The inauguration of the Vallarpa-
dam Container Transhipment Ter-
minal SEZ nearby has been a major
factor in enhancing the location ad-
vantages of the SEZs in Kerala.
Besides operating the CSEZ, the
jurisdiction of its Development
Commissioner (the designated au-
thority running the enclave) extends
to new SEZs being set up in Kerala
and Karnataka and also the hundred
Export-Oriented Units (EOUs) in
Kerala, Karnataka, Lakshadweep
and Mahe. Nearly 75 EOUs are in
operation in Kerala and 15 more
units are being established.
The CSEZ, however, is the only
multi-sector SEZ in Kerala, and ex-
pansion plans are being mooted in
nearby Alappuzha district on 125
acres (1 acre = 0.4 ha) of government
land in Cherthala taluk. The policy of
the Kerala government allows the
development of SEZs on its own, or
in the public, private or joint sector.
In addition to eight SEZs noti-
ed earlier in Kerala, seven more
were notied during 2009-10.
Among them were the four SEZs de-
veloped by the Kerala State Informa-
tion Technology Infrastructure Ltd
at Kollam, Alappuzha, Pallippuram
and Kannur and others by Electronic
Technology ParkTechnopark in
Thiruvananthapuram, Carboran-
dum Universal Ltd at north Thrik-
kakkara (near Kochi) and TCG
Infrastructure Holding Ltdat Thrik-
R. Krishnakumar
Haven for exporters
WORKERS AT A production unit in the Cochin Special Economic Zone.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 1 2 F R O N T L I N E
KERALAS success story as a popular tourist
destination in the country is well known. The Tou-
rism Department in the State has now come up with
an initiative called Responsible Tourism (RT), which
is about creating better places for people to live in,
and better places for people to visit. The aim is to
develop tourism in a manner in which it benets the
local community directly and has minimal social and
environmental impact. The RT initiative was
launched in February 2007 and eld-based inter-
ventions started six months later on a pilot basis at
Kumarakom, Kovalam, Thekkady and Wayanad. It
succeeded in developing a replicable model, based
mainly on the initiative undertaken at Kumarakom.
The most important outcome of the RT initiative
is that it has created a healthy and positive relation-
ship between the tourism industry and the local
community. There is now a growing awareness in the
local community that tourism can be a tool for socio-
economic development. As for the industry partners,
they have understood the value to involve the local
community in the tourism plan for the sustenance of
the destination and their business.
The project was led by the local panchayat with
the active participation of the community and sup-
ported by the tourism industry. In Kumarakom, al-
most all major hotels and resorts participated
actively in the RT initiative by procuring local pro-
duce, providing employment opportunities to the
local people, promoting local enterprise, assisting in
environment upgradation programmes and promot-
ing village life experience tour packages. Recog-
nition for the venture came quickly, in the form of
the Grand Award from the Pacic Asia Travel Asso-
ciation (PATA) and an award from the Ministry of
Tourism, Government of India.
The RT programme utilises all opportunities to
link the community with tourism and this has seen
Kumarakom emerge as a model tourist destination.
Social acceptance of the initiative is a driving
factor at Kumarakom. The supply (of vegetables, and
so on) to hotels is led by the local units of Kudum-
bashree, or self-help group, for women from disad-
vantaged sections. The cooperation of homestead
farms and local farmer groups has helped sustain the
supply. RT also promotes local cuisines.
The dynamic leadership of the panchayat and the
continued support of the tourism industry has
helped in streamlining the process. Fifteen of the 18
major hotels in Kumarakom procured local goods
for their daily use from the local community. Initial
fears regarding uninterrupted supply, quality and
price were addressed by developing institutional
More than 2,000 people have beneted directly
from the Kumarakom RT initiative in the past three
years. They include 650 women from 28 Kudum-
bashree units, 450 farmers , 500 homestead farmers,
75 artistes, 21 people involved in the production and
Responsible tourism
It is a new model for tourism development that has been successfully tried in
Keralas prime destinations. BY U. V. JOSE
Fifteen of the 18 major hotels in
Kumarakom participate in the
initiative by procuring local goods
for their day-to-day use. More than
2,000 people have beneted directly
from the Kumarakom RT in the past
three years.
A SAMRUDHI RT shop in Kumarakom.


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 1 4 F R O N T L I N E
sale of souvenirs and about 100 per-
sons roped in for the village-life experi-
ence packages.
The Kumarakom initiative also
identied irritants relating to the de-
velopment of tourism in the area.
These included the pollution of back-
waters and canals and public places,
the displacement of local people, the
use of agricultural land for non-agri-
cultural purposes, the encroachment
of backwater shores and denial of ac-
cess to backwaters by tourism proper-
ties, tourism-related immoral
activities, and the increasing con-
sumption of alcohol and drugs. Efforts
were made to address these issues with
the help of the panchayat.
As a result of the RT movement,
the Kumarakom bird sanctuary was
declared a plastic-free zone and resi-
dents of the town now guard against
immoral activities. The RT movement
also has contributed to the develop-
ment of infrastructure, including a
drinking water scheme andlighting on
most of the streets.
Some of the environmental inter-
ventions initiated at the destinations
as part of the RT initiative include pro-
motion of eco-friendly products, cam-
paigning for green practices in the
hospitality sector, taking up waste
management issues, and community
initiatives in conservation.
The Tourism Department is in the
process of taking the initiative forward
to other destinations with the help of
the Kerala Institute of Tourism and
Travel Studies (KITTS), which is the
nodal agency for this. The KITTS will
provide training and help build capac-
ity in the local panchayats and among
other partners through the RT School
that will be established under it. A
framework of RT practices has also
been developed for tourism enterpris-
es that would want to participate in
this initiative.
A separate classication system
has also been developed. By adopting
such practices, tourism entrepreneurs
can develop their businesses even as
they provide social and economic ben-
ets to local communities, respect the
environment, and thereby create bet-
ter places for the local people and tour-
ists alike.
The new mantra in the eld of des-
tination development is that the qual-
ity of a destination has to be dened
by the quality of life of the local pop-
ulation. RT will go a long way in im-
proving the latter and thereby the
U.V. Jose is Director, Kerala Institute
of Tourism and Travel Studies, and
Planning Ofcer, Department of Tou-
rism, Kerala.


A RESORT I N Kumarakom. Campaigning for green practices in the hospitality sector is one of RTs environmental
intervention programmes.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 1 6 F R O N T L I N E
THE growth of management educa-
tion in India has been phenomenal,
with new management schools
opening almost every month in some
part of the country. However, stu-
dents nd it difcult to choose the
right school, except when it comes to
the premier institutes.
Management education in the
country began in the late 1950s,
when the universities of Delhi, Bom-
bay, Calcutta and Madras started
part-time courses in management at
the post-graduation level for work-
ing executives. Their popularity re-
sulted in other universities also
offering such courses. The Indian
Institutes of Management then
came up in Ahmedabad, Calcutta
(now Kolkata), Bangalore and Luck-
now to offer full-time courses of two-
year duration for fresh graduates.
Within the university system, the
faculty of management studies of the
University of Delhi was the rst to
launch a full-time MBA programme
in 1967, which was followed by sev-
eral other universities in India. A
good number of universities also
started offering part-time and corre-
spondence courses in management.
The Indira Gandhi National Open
University today offers a wide range
of courses in management.
While in the early 1990s there
were only a handful of management
schools in the country, a Supreme
Court judgment in 1993 led to a
surge in the number of management
schools.In Kerala, only a few institu-
tions, such as the School of Manage-
ment Studies, Cochin University of
Science and Technology (CUSAT);
Department of Commerce and Man-
agement Studies, Calicut University,
and the Institute of Management in
Kerala, University of Kerala, were
offering MBA programmes in the
early 1990s. However, there are
many new institutions now offering
MBA degree programmes.
One cannot, compare the per-
formance of a university department
with that of a private school as there
will be big differences in factors such
as faculty strength and infrastruc-
ture. University departments tend to
have better quality faculty but poor-
er infrastructure compared with
many new private schools. Universi-
ties have realised the need to involve
industry professionals in framing
the curriculum. Currently, interac-
tion with industry is restricted to in-
dustry personnel handling special
classes at management institutions.
It is important that universities
do the following to foster a mutually
benecial climate with industry:
provide for adequate number of
industry personnel on the board of
studies in management and com-
merce, faculty of management and
commerce and also in the governing
revise the curriculum as per the
requirements of industry and have
continuous interaction with leaders
in industry for the same.
Have close interaction with indus-
try by setting up Chair centres, Chair
professorships as was done recently
in Kerala University where the State
Bank of Travancore established a
Chair professor in Banking by trans-
ferring Rs.55 lakh.
Have more interaction with the
Confederation of Indian Industry
(CII), the Federation of Indian
Chambers of Commerce and Indus-
try (FICCI) and other chambers of
Conduct industry-relevant pro-
jects and training programmes.
To conclude, in 2011-12, as per
the statistics put out by the All India
Council of Technical Education, the
number of applicants for (establish-
ing) management institutions was
only 400. In another ve years, only
those that can sustain their faculty,
impart training to them, have a close
link with industry, offer niche spe-
cialisations and choose students
with a focus on cross-subsidising
fees will be able to survive.
Dr K.S. Chandrasekar
Dr K.S. Chandrasekar is Professor
and Head, Institute of Management
in Kerala, and Dean, Faculty of
Management Studies, University of
Making managers
STUDENTS AT THE School of Management Studies, Cochin University of
Science and Technology.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 1 8 F R O N T L I N E
IN 2011 Kerala made a landmark achievement:
its banking sector became the rst in India to achieve
100 per cent nancial inclusion, guaranteeing at
least one bank account in each household and bank-
ing facilities within reach of all the people in the 14
districts of the State.
The declaration made by Chief Minister Oom-
men Chandy in Thiruvananthapuram on September
30, 2011, said every household in Kerala has at least
one bank account and the facility for need-based
credit. The project to achieve
total nancial inclusion was part
of a Government of India initia-
tive aimed at providing banking
services to every village with a
population of over 2,000.
In Kerala, Canara Bank, the
convener bank of the State-level
Bankers Committee, and other
participating banks identied
127 villages with no banking
channels for a special inclusion
drive. Earlier, Palakkad in north
Kerala had become the rst dis-
trict in the country to achieve
total nancial inclusion in 2007.
Subsequently, the 127 villages
were identied and a bank
branch, mobile bank or banking
counsellor started functioning
there under a special initiative
by lead banks in each district.
Since then, several banks have
launched nancial literacy and
credit counselling centres, facil-
ities for opening no-frills accounts and issued smart
cards as part of the initiative. However, it will require
extension of credit and insurance facilities to all
those with bank accounts for the inclusion plan to be
fully effective, say bank ofcials.
The report of the Committee of Financial In-
clusion 2008 appointed by the Union government
denes nancial inclusion as the process of ensur-
ing access to nancial services and timely and ade-
quate credit where needed by vulnerable groups such
as weaker sections and low-income groups at affor-
dable costs.
The most important objective of the drive for
nancial inclusion was thus to provide access to
nance for the poor and vulnerable sections of socie-
ty. Even though technological developments have
changed the face of the banking sector in India,
access to technological initiatives, including ATMs,
credit/debit cards, Internet banking and online
money transfers have been restricted only to certain
sections of society. Those who
are thus nancially excluded,
especially the poor, cannot ac-
cess mainstream nancial prod-
ucts such as bank accounts,
credit, remittances and pay-
ment services, nancial adviso-
ry services, insurance facilities,
and so on.
According to a 2008 Na-
tional Bank for Agriculture and
Rural Development (NA-
BARD) report on nancial in-
clusion, the essence of nancial
inclusion is in trying to ensure
that a range of appropriate -
nancial services is available to
every individual and enabling
them to understand and access
those services. Apart from the
regular form of nancial inter-
mediation, it may include a ba-
sic no-frills banking account for
making and receiving pay-
ments, a savings product suited
Banking for all
The banking sector in Kerala becomes the rst in the country to achieve 100 per
cent nancial inclusion. BY R. KRI SHNAKUMAR
The most important objective of
the drive for nancial inclusion
was to provide the poor and
vulnerable sections of society access
to nance.
Perumbavoor, Ernakulam district.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 2 0 F R O N T L I N E
to the pattern of cash ows of a poor
household, money transfer facilities,
small loans and overdrafts for produc-
tive, personal and other purposes, in-
surance (life and non-life), etc. While
nancial inclusion, in the narrow
sense, may be achieved to some extent
by offering any one of these services,
the objective of Comprehensive Fi-
nancial Inclusion would be to provide
a holistic set of services encompassing
all of the above.
The Government of India hopes to
bring 80 per cent of households in In-
dia into the formal banking network in
the next ve years, as against about 47
per cent households at present.
Kerala now tops the Index of Fi-
nancial Inclusion (IFI) prepared by
the Reserve Bank of India estimated
on the basis of data on banking pene-
tration, availability of banking services
and usage of the banking system
among 23 States. It had rare advantag-
es in its nancial inclusion pro-
gramme, being a State with one of the
largest government-run women-em-
powerment programmes in the coun-
try, called Kudumbashree, with 37
lakh members and covering more than
50 per cent of households in Kerala
having linkages with banks.
All Kudumbashree NHGs (neigh-
bourhood groups) have bank accounts
through which members of NHGs
have access to savings and credit ser-
vices of banks. The NHGs act as the
intermediary between banks and the
beneciaries. Kudumbashree has also
chalked out a comprehensive financial
literacy campaign in order to provide a
platform for NHGs to be aware of and
benet from formal banking services.
Moreover, over 24 lakh families have
registered under the National Rural
Employment Guarantee Scheme
(NREGS) and have their wages paid
through over 35 lakh bank accounts.
Kerala also has the largest number of
social security pensioners in India,
over 15 lakh people, whose pension is
paid only through bank accounts. A
recent trend has been a ood of new
accounts being opened by another vul-
nerable section living in Kerala, the lot
of migrant labourers (about 10 to 30
lakhof them, according to various esti-
mates) ocking to the State from all
parts of the country.
Kerala had a total of 4,227 bank
branches as of March 31, 2010. Of this,
342 are rural branches, 2,829 are
semi-urban branches and 1,056 are ur-
ban branches. The State also has the
largest number of semi-urban branch-
es (2,829) compared with the other 14
major States in India. Kerala has over
6.5 million households and 33 million
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 2 2 F R O N T L I N E
VEERAMPATTINAM, a shing village on the
edge of the Bay of Bengal, situated about 10 km from
Puducherry town, bears witness to the havoc
wrought by cyclone Thane in the Union Territory
of Puducherry and the neighbouring State of Tamil
Nadu on December 30. About 150 metres from the
beach, hundreds of coconut trees were lying at on
the ground. Those left standing in what were once
coconut groves four days ago had their broken fronds
drooping. Fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) shing
boats lay smashed amid them. Furious waves,
whipped up by winds gusting up to 120 km per hour,
had hurled them there. Concrete had chipped off a
pillar against which the wind had ung another boat.
Engine parts ripped apart were strewn around. The
wind had bent a tall mast, with a halogen lamp on
top, to form a square; the lamp was now wedged
inside the square. A heavy anchor, which the wind
prised out of a boat, had sunk into the sand. One half
of a boat lay immersed in the sand. The other half
had been thrown some distance away.
Fishermen M. Thangeswaran and S. Mani were
scooping out sand from an engine they had dug out
from the shore. It was a 10HP engine, which can take
a boat 15 km into the sea.
In the village, the asbestos roofs of every house
had been blown away by the devastating storm. Two
big sheds erected in front of the Senkazhuneer Am-
man temple looked bare, their roofs torn asunder.
It was worse than the [December] 2004 tsuna-
mi, which struck these parts, said C. Sethumad-
havan, a young sherman, who had just discovered
an engine buried in sand, which he said had become
The waves caused destruction in the tsunami
and we lost our folk, boats and nets. But this time,
with the wind and the waves coming together, the
damage to infrastructure and agriculture is incalcu-
lable. We could not run anywhere because of toppled
trees and electricity poles lying across roads. Ambu-
lances could not reach our village to take the injured
to hospital and we could not use our motorbikes
either. So we carried the injured to hospital on ma-
keshift stretchers made out of bedsheets, he said.
The scene was eerily similar at Panithittu, anoth-
er shing village 13 km from Puducherry town. The
waves had travelled more than 200 metres inland
and brought down the walls of the verandah of a
house. Fishermen said the waves had ingressed 40
metres permanently. During the tsunami, waves
It damaged about 3.5 lakh dwellings
in Puducherry and in Cuddalore and
Villupuram districts in Tamil Nadu.
The damage caused to the
agricultural economy of the region
is immense.
Cyclone Thane takes a heavy toll on the
lives and livelihoods of people on the
Tamil Nadu coast. BY T. S. SUBRAMANI AN I N
Natural Disaster

Cyclone fury
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 2 3
came in several hundred metres but
receded fast.
K. Perumal, a sherman, pointed
to a heap of mangled shing nets on
the beach and said, This is all we could
retrieve. Hundreds of different kinds
of expensive nets were washed away.
In South Street at Panithittu, V.
Vaanpriya, an engineering student,
was collecting the damp books that
were strewn about on the oor of her
house. The cyclone had blown away
the thatched roof of a room of the
house. The cyclone struck us like a
rocket, Vallathan, her father, said.
Wind and waves came from nowhere
in huge eddies. All of us spent the night
crouched in the small puja room. All
the streets in the villages had rooess
huts and electricity poles made of ce-
ment concrete broken in two as if they
were pencils.
Life could be really hard for the villag-
ers in the coming weeks. As the Fron-
tline team turned off from the
Puducherry-Cuddalore highway past
Reddipatty, Eechankadu and Pillayar-
kuppam, the enormity of the damage
to crops came into full view. On either
side of the road, banana plants and
coconut trees on hundreds of acres had
fallen to the ground, sugarcane had
started withering, palmyra trees
looked bare andcasuarina trees leaned
dangerously in the groves. Dozens of
tamarind trees had fallen on the 23-
km stretch from Puducherry to Cudda-
At Eechankadu, the winds toppled
several electricity transformers erect-
ed opposite Elfo Tech Electro Chem-
icals, whose roof had been blown away.
Elsewhere, poultry farm sheds had col-
lapsed, killing the birds. The havoc at
Panithittu was so extensive that wom-
en broke down in front of Union Home
Minister P. Chidambaram when he
visited the village on January 3. I
thought the world had come to an end
when furious winds shook up the trees
and the roofs of our homes, Chinna
Ponnu said. The damage to infrastruc-
A SCENE OF destruction at Panithittu village in Puducherry.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 2 4 F R O N T L I N E
ture in Puducherry and Cuddalore
towns, which fell directly in the path of
the cyclone, was indeed high. It was as
if the two towns were caught in an
aerial bombardment. Eve Herman,
general secretary of the French Insti-
tute of Pondicherry (FIP), would nor-
mally take ve to eight minutes to foot
the distance from her home to ofce.
But the cyclone has stretched her trek
to 40 minutes; she now has to cross the
roads blocked by trees and electricity
poles, with their cables sprawled out
on the ground. The SIPCOT industrial
complex, about 6 km from Cuddalore
town, was a sorry sight, with the asbe-
stos roofs of chemical and pharmaceu-
tical industries missing and the
chimneys bent.
It was a surreal scene on Bharathi
Road, Lawrence Road and Seematti
intersection in Cuddalore town, with
electricity poles, lamp posts, trafc sig-
nal posts and hoardings in a mangled
heap on the ground. The town simply
shut itself up as if a curfew had been
imposed on it. Business establish-
ments and restaurants did not open for
a couple of days. When they did, peo-
ple crowded shops and restaurants
and there was a mad rush for milk,
water, candles, kerosene and petrol.
Water ran out because there was no
electricity to pump water to overhead
tanks. There was total blackout in the
entire district.
All this seemed to be a mere trailer
for the scenes along Cuddalore town
and Ummapet, Kannarapettai, Seda-
A ROW OF houses damaged in
Ramapuram village.
WHAT WAS ONCE a coconut grove at Pudukuppam village in Ramapuram
panchayat in Cuddalore district.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 2 5
A FI SHI NG BOAT buried in sand at
Veerampattinam in Puducherry.

palayam, Kullanchavadi, Vazhisotha-
nai Palayam, Ramapuram, Vadak-
kuthu, Vadalur and Kurinchipadi
villages on the road to Neyveli from
Puducherry. Only the skeletons of huts
remained and vast stretches of coco-
nut, banana, cashew, sugarcane, man-
go and casuarina plantations and
paddy and groundnut elds were bad-
ly damaged.
The cyclone destroyed thousands
of acres of paddy which would have
been ready for harvest in a month. M.
Umasankar, a farmer and a social
worker at Eechankadu, said there was
no way the farmers could hope to har-
vest themnow.
G. Veerappan, a farmer from Kan-
narapettai, picked up a dry twig from
the ground, and said, The cyclone
stripped the cashewtrees of their leav-
es and the trees look as barren as this
twig now. At Karaikadu village, thou-
sands of coconut trees appeared head-
less as their crowns had been ripped
Ramesh A., councillor of the third
ward in Ramapuram panchayat,
which has 18 villages under it, said,
The vegetation here was so dense that
you could not see half a kilometre away
even if you stood on the terrace of a
house. But everything is so bare now
that you can see up to the Cuddalore
beach, 7 km away.
In addition to the damage to crops,
Vadakkuthu panchayat has another
big problem on hand: access to drink-
ing water. There is no electricity to
pump water from borewells to over-
head tanks.
Residents quickly organised them-
selves to remove the poles and trees
that had fallen across the roads and
restore trafc, said A.L.S. Anthony
Dass, rst ward councillor of the pan-
chayat. K. Jagan, president of the Va-
dakkuthu panchayat, said he had
collected money from the villagers and
supplied water in tankers in 48 hours
after the cyclone had struck. But he
knows that restoring the economy of
this agrarian region will not be that
easy. It will take at least 10 years for the
coconut, cashew, mango, jackfruit, ta-
marind and casuarina trees that are
replanted to start yielding again.
Workers in cashew processing units
will have no jobs until then. The prices
of all these items are bound to soar
immediately, farmers said.
In Neyvelis Lignite Corporations
township and its cashew plantations,
an estimated ve lakh trees collapsed,
denuding the townships green cover.
Puducherry, an erstwhile French set-
tlement, was preparing to celebrate
New Years Day with usual its gusto
when the cyclone struck. Groups of
French tourists and visitors from Ban-
galore and Chennai had checked into
hotels in the town to celebrate the
dawn of 2012 on the boulevard front-
ing the sea in the town.
The India Meteorological Depart-
ment (IMD), Chennai, had predicted


J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 2 6 F R O N T L I N E
by December 20 itself that a low pres-
sure zone might build up in the Bay of
Bengal just after Christmas. Resource
models it had built for the past 15 years
and the surface observations helped it
issue the warning. Every three hours,
we get charts of surface observations,
an ofcial of the department said.
True to prediction, just after
Christmas, a trough of low pressure
intensied rapidly into a well-marked
low-pressure system, which galvan-
ised itself into a cyclonic storm. By
December 28, the cyclone, christened
Thane on a suggestion from Myan-
mar, centred itself about 500 km east-
south-east of Chennai. The IMD pre-
dicted that the system would move
westwards and cross Tamil Nadu coast
between Nagapattinam and Chennai,
close to the Puducherry-Cuddalore
coastal stretch on December 30 morn-
Kannan M., a researcher in Con-
temporary Tamil in FIP, said he felt
fear in his bones as Thane pounded
Puducherry. I have lived here for the
past 21 years. We have lived through
four cyclones, he said. But on Thurs-
day night [December 29], my wife and
I were really scared.
He remembers a similar wind-cy-
clone which brought no rains with it
that pounded Puducherry in 2000.
People living on the Puducherry-Cud-
dalore-Nagapattinam coast, used to
threats of frequent cyclones, seemed to
be a bit indifferent to Thane, perhaps
thinking that the cyclonic storm would
veer towards Andhra Pradesh or
The situation was deceptive on De-
cember 29 evening. There was no rain,
just mild snatches of wind and drizzle.
By 9-30 p.m., the Puducherry Electric-
ity Department cut off the power sup-
ply to the town and the neighbouring
The wind started picking up steady
speed from about 11-45 p.m. and it
began raining. The winds pounded the
coast at 120 kmph. The winds were so
strong that they ung open the
latched, colonial-style doors on the
rst oor of the FIP building, situated
close to the beachhead.
With the wind and the rains acting
in unison, it was like a monstrous ani-
mal whirling around with an ur, ur
noise, said Kannan. The wind gained
speed, but the rain was feeble. Be-
tween gusts of wind, it would be calm.
After a calm gap of about ve minutes,
the winds would blow again, he said.
This situation prevailed from 6-30
a.m. to 8 a.m. on December 30, when
Thane crossed the coast between Pu-
ducherry and Cuddalore. The gusts of
wind continued up to 10 a.m. and
started dying from then on. It rained
steadily from about 11-30 a.m. to 1
p.m. and then everything became nor-
mal again.
Y.E.A. Raj, Deputy Director General of
Meteorology, Regional Meteorological
Centre, Chennai, called Thane a very
intense storm. It was not a rainstorm
but a windstorm, with winds reaching
65 nautical miles an hour, or 115 kmph.
We were able to track its path. All
our predictions turned out to be accu-
rate, he said. Most often, such intense
storms caused a good amount of rain-
fall but it is disappointing that it did
not rain hard today, Dr Raj said a
couple of hours after the cyclone had
passed. Cuddalore received about 9 cm
of rainfall, Puducherry 15 cm, coastal
Kalpakkam 10 cm and Nungambak-
kam and Meenambakkam in Chennai
6 cm and 7 cm respectively. A similar
situation prevailed in 2000 when a
severe cyclonic storm crossed the Na-
gapattinam coast with little rain.
Puducherry and Cuddalore resi-
dents who stepped out after the cy-
clonic storm had passed were shocked
by the scale of destruction. Puducher-
ry isnt the same when you litter, reads
a board erected near the pillared War
Memorial on the tidy boulevard. It
seemed ironical that the storm-surged
waves had lifted up the rocks kept on
the shore to prevent sea erosion and
littered the boulevard.
The 179-year-old Le Jardin Bota-
nique (the Botanical Garden), the
pride of Puducherry, was a wreck. Es-
tablished in 1826, it is one of the oldest
botanical gardens in India. Situated on
12 hectares, it is home to a mixture of
species belonging to the Western
Ghats, the Eastern Ghats, tropical dry
evergreen species, deciduous species,
and very rare and endangered species.
An ofcial of the Botanical Garden es-
timated that 90 per cent of its vegeta-
tion was destroyed. He was
heartbroken that four out of eight
Khaya senegalensis, a monstrous tree
native to central Africa, had suffered
The images of destruction and ha-
voc kept repeating at Sembanar Kovil,
Poompuhar, Seerkazhi, Thethi, Tiru-
payathaankudi, Tiruchattankudi, Pil-
lazhi, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruvelvikudi
and Kadalankudi, all in Nagapattinam
People everywhere said that Thane
had caused much more damage than
the tsunami of December 2004. While
the tsunami affected only the coastal
areas, damaging boats and nets and
causing loss of life, Thane destroyed
the entire agricultural economy of vil-
lages and disrupted its infrastructure,
including electricity distribution.
The tsunami did not affect any
trees. It affected only those living on
the coast, said R. Rajendran, who
lives near Panithittu. Thane not only
destroyed boats and shing nets but
ruined the entire agricultural econo-
Thane in Ramapuram village.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 2 7
my. Besides, it has damaged thousands
of tiled houses and thatched huts.
Puducherry Chief Minister N.
Rangasamy said on December 31 that
75 per cent of the trees in Puducherry
town had collapsed, and paddy on
17,012 hectares in Puducherry and Ka-
raikaal regions alone had been
K. Balakrishnan, Communist Par-
ty of India (Marxist) legislator, who
represents the Chidambaram Assemb-
ly constituency in Cuddalore district,
estimated a loss of Rs.2,000 crore in
the district. About 6.75 lakh houses, or
95 per cent of all the dwellings in the
district, were damaged. Cash crops
and vegetables on two lakh hectares in
the district had been totally ruined,
Balakrishnan said. This was besides
the loss of poultry and cattle.
Balakrishnan wanted an immedi-
ate survey of the damage to crops in the
district and asked the Tamil Nadu gov-
ernment to pay farmers a compensa-
tion of Rs.20,000 for an acre of paddy
damaged, Rs.35,000 for an acre of
sugarcane, Rs.75,000 for an acre of
plantains, Rs.40,000 for an acre of co-
conut trees and Rs.10,000 for cashew
cultivated on an acre. He wanted full
compensation to the owners of boats
and nets, whether they were lost or
D. Ravikumar, who belongs to the
Viduthalai Siruthaigal Katchi (Dalit
Panthers) and a former legislator from
Kattumannarkovil constituency in
Cuddalore district, said the forest cov-
er in the district was only 5 per cent
while the National Forest Policy man-
dated that all over India it should be at
least 33 per cent. He, therefore, want-
ed Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayala-
lithaa to implement an afforestation
programme to compensate for the loss
of green cover in Cuddalore from cy-
clone Thane. At least 50 lakh trees
should be planted in the district, he
said. Ravikumar wanted the State gov-
ernment also to reserve 50 per cent of
the work under the Mahatma Gandhi
National Rural Employment Guaran-
tee Scheme for the tree-planting pro-
gramme in the different districts
affected in Tamil Nadu.
On January 3, Jayalalithaa an-
nounced a Rs.700-crore package to
provide relief to those affected by the
cyclone in various districts in Tamil
Nadu. This was in addition to the relief
package of Rs.150 crore she had an-
nounced on December 30. The cyclone
fully or partially damaged about 3.5
lakh huts and tiled houses in Cudda-
lore and Villupuram districts.
Crops, including paddy, sugar-
cane, cashew and oilseeds, on about
two lakh hectares were damaged in
Cuddalore, Villupuram, Thanjavur,
Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts.
In Cuddalore district alone, paddy on
58,000 hectares, cashew on 23,500
hectares, sugarcane on 5,752 hectares
and banana, pulses, oilseeds and cot-
ton cultivated on 3,600 hectares were
damaged. About 27 high-tension elec-
tricity pylons, 4,500 distribution
transformers, 36,000 electricity poles
and cables running to 350 km were
damaged, Jayalalithaa said.
It is hard to say how long it will
take to rebuild the lives wrecked by the
AFTER THE CYCLONI C storm hit Puducherry town.

J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 2 8 F R O N T L I N E
Letters, whether by surface mail or
e-mail, must carry the full postal
address and the full name, or the
name with initials.
THE Cover Story paying
tribute to Rabindranath Ta-
gore on his 150th birth anni-
versary was interesting and
informative (Remember-
ing Tagore, January 13,
2012). The photographs of
Tagore with eminent per-
sonalities, such as the one
with Helen Keller, are rare
and wonderful.
Among Tagores works,
the ones that immediately
come to my mind are Gitan-
jali, Gora and The Home
Coming. Gora takes the
reader straight to Bengal, its
essence and traditions. The
Home Coming too does the
KUDOS to Frontline for
publishing such a beautiful
issue on Gurudev Rabindra-
nath Tagore. Frontline
should come up with more
such special issues.
READING the Cover Story
was like walking and living
with Rabindranath Tagore.
The photographs are rare
and precious. The poem,
translated by Partha Ghose,
was a treat.
THE issue is a collectors
item, especially for academ-
ics and students. Only a
great person like Tagore
could match the wave-
lengths of people as diverse
as Mahatma Gandhi, Albert
Einstein, Netaji Subhas
Chandra Bose and Sree Na-
rayana Guru with equal
ease. Over 15 countries have
issued special postage
stamps commemorating
Tagore, whichshows the ad-
miration he commands the
world over.
MANY of us are unaware
that Tagores real name was
Rabindranath Thakur. Mis-
pronunciation by the Brit-
ish led to the change in
History will remember
him for following his own
teachings, such as I love my
God because he gives me the
freedom to deny him.
THIS is yet another collec-
tors issue from Frontline,
like the ones on M.S. Sub-
bulakshmi, the Kanchi Pa-
ramacharya, and R.K.
Mario Miranda
created memorable charac-
ters for decades, was no
doubt a uniquely gifted car-
toonist (Humble genius,
January 13).
It is no exaggeration to
say that he was to The Il-
lustrated Weekly of India
what R.K. Laxman was to
The Times of India.
Although he got the
Padma Shri and the Padma
Bhushan awards in 1998
and 2002 respectively and a
lifetime achievement award
from the All India Cartoo-
nists Associationin 2001 for
his notable contributions,
many feel he deserved more.
IN terms of pure economic
theory, subsidies are bad,
but in terms of political
practice, they are manna
from heaven (Understand-
ing the PDS, January 13).
The initiative of the Central
government to re-engineer
the existing systems and
processes cannot be termed
as undermining the PDS
system. The ultimate objec-
tive of the government is to
reduce the scale of untarget-
ed subsidies and limit the
governments scal com-
mitments in a phased man-
ner. Apprehensions that the
direct transfer of subsidies
will ruin the PDS system ap-
pear to be without any basis.
Opposition parties should
wholeheartedly support this
reforms initiative.
The overhauling of the
existing PDS and fertilizer
subsidy schemes will not
only improve delivery but
also help the Union govern-
ment contain a substantial
revenue outow; the money
thus saved can be utilised
for other agship pro-
grammes of the Centre.
Global warming
THERE is confusion among
countries of the world over
the issue of climate change
(Uncertain stand, January
13). The need of the hour is
to nd a solution to global
warming. To achieve this
goal, developed countries
should help developing
countries with adequate -
nance and technology.
THE success of the United
Arab Emirates is attributed
to its strong administration
and the broad vision of its
rulers (Meteoric rise, De-
cember 30). The monarchy
strives to adopt European
standards in infrastructure
development, higher educa-
tion, health services, law
and order, and science and
However, its rulers have
a big task at hand at present
to unite the local popula-
tion in a democratic way, in
this era of peoples revolu-
tions in the Arab world. The
absence of an effective hu-
man rights cell in the public
domain has come under
criticism from the United
Nations. Though the emir-
ates consists of seven states,
only Dubai and Abu Dhabi
are witnessing overall devel-
opment. It is high time the
authorities concentrated on
the development of the oth-
er ve states.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
A MANS wedding ensemble made of womens
sanitary napkins; dresses sculpted from Chinese
bras, orthopaedic supports, surgical caps and even
pouches normally used for transfusions; suits made
of pills, capsules and metallic kitchen scrubbers; a
queenly train of truck tyre rubber and a funky num-
ber in corrugated plastic; a deity designed from
kitchen sponges and an alien-like efgy made from
throwaway paper cups. Such was the stuff that
well-known artist Vivan Sundarampresented at his
recent multimedia assemblage Gagawaka: Making
Strange at Delhis Rabindra Bhavan Gallery on De-
cember 22 -27, 2011.
The exhibition showcased 45 tactile sculptural
garments boasting a lineage of recycled trash, found
objects and bazaar buys completed in association
with designer Pratima Pandey and the assistance of
Tanmay Gupta.
It was an interesting context: in making art out of
things with a non-art function called the ready-
made or found object the artist was situating him-
self in an iconic trajectory of modernity which
challenged the commodication of art from the early
Clothed by art
People asked me why I included
fashion models. I wanted the
garment to be inhabited for its
performative aspect, and when
it came to be imaged by the model
I saw myself enter a form of
popular culture.
Vivan Sundarams multimedia
assemblage Gagawaka: Making
Strange is an attempt to bring
art into the fashion world.
sheet, foam and cotton fabric lining. P




F R O N T L I N E 1 2 9
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 3 0 F R O N T L I N E
20th century onwards. Yet, Making
Strange seemed to have crossed over
to the notion of fashion from the art-
ists political and social concerns of the
past two decades, be it the Babri Mas-
jid demolition or an exploration of the
national capital as a citadel of excess
consumption and waste.
Vivan Sundaram spoke to this
writer about his attempts at a fresh
articulation of politics in Making
Strange; he also stressed the need for
artists to engage with a mass-media-
driven popular culture to arts ends.
The show is replete with references
to an entire trajectory of 20th century
art popularised by the Dada
movement, as epitomised by Marcel
Duchamps display of a ceramic urinal
titled Fountain, and Surrealism.
Closer to our times is the notion of
wearable art, which is now celebrated
through the reputed World of
Wearable Art Awards (WOW) festival
in New Zealand. WOW describes itself
as more than an art show, more than
a fashion show, as Mardi Gras meets
haute couture at a Peter Gabriel
concert directed by Salvador Dali. Is
that the context of your show as well?
I know a little bit of WOW because
I exhibited some of my garments there.
Suzanne Moncrieff, the artist who
started it, heard about my work and
came over. Its obviously an initiative
that tries to bring together art and
fashion. There is a long history to
this; at certain moments in 20th
century art, fashion named itself
as its friend and not enemy.
Equally, there is the position
that fashion is an industry, part
of a commodity culture. But like
all things there is a moment to
break out and create something
new. By and large, fashion receives
from art the possibility of potential for
these new inputs. Sometimes artists, a
smaller number, may start making
garments but very few will make a col-
lection. What little I know of WOW is
that it has increased the craft input
and provided avenues for people with
certain skills with which they craft cre-
ations in an exquisite sort of way.
WOW gives the impression of be-
ing different from fashion but has a
glamorous look about it, which excites
people. Started as a fringe event, it is
today one of New Zealands largest
tourist attractions and is held in a sta-
dium. In a way, this aspect had made
me less interested in sending my gar-
ments to the festival. But the young
designers working with me were very
keen, so we participated.
As an artist I am more interested in
posing certain kinds of questions,
making conceptual comments, dealing
with all the subjectivities that art al-
lows you to enter: how much of the
personal aspects of sexuality often
embedded in art is political.
What then is the context of your show
and how does it t into the trajectory
of your work? Many remember the
giant city of garbage you installed in
this very gallery some years ago to
highlight the national capitals
metropolis experience of
consumption and waste. The same
people wonder if you have crossed
over to the Gaga land of celebrity
My work with trash has a direct
reference to this show. Three years
ago, for a public art project in Delhi
called 48 degrees, I made a raft out of
10,000 Himalaya water bottles which
was supposed to oat in a water body
in Connaught Place. At the eleventh
hour, the police stopped the exhibit
from oating. I later took it to the Ya-
muna to see if it oated. Fortunately it
did. The raft was rowed along the river
for two hours and then it was de-
This gave me the idea of a sculpture
that moves not as a kinetic object but
one that moves in social space. This
made me think how, particularly in
developing countries, people can be
seen carrying things on their backs.
The idea of the body being a mobile
armature, providing the support or
spine of a sculpture, emerged. Simul-
taneously, my thoughts veered to the
idea of something that shelters the
body, like the shell of a tortoise.
Like a garment.
Yes, garments are supposed to be
the rst form of shelter. But entering
the arena of garments required certain
sculptural qualities as well. I felt much
easier attempting this by following the
trajectory that I have followed in my
work of the past 20 years. I dont sculpt
in the traditional way but use the Dada
concept of found objects to construct
sculptures and installations. And so
this project entered that zone as well.
But a garment needs a body
Exactly. A sculptural object is a
sculptural object unto itself. But once
metal support.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 3 1
masks (micro-dot fabric).
it relates to the human body which
inhabits the sculpture, something else
happens. As you clothe, cover and shel-
ter the body, the dialectic between cov-
ering and revealing comes into play
evident from the earliest times to now.
See how jewellery covers the body
in Indian sculpture the body in its
nakedness gets decorative attributes.
These are aspects civilisations have en-
gaged with at several levels, historical-
ly and socially.
What prompted the idea of Making
It started with thoughts of objects
and clusters to do with the body in a
very personal way. I suppose illness
had something to do with it, and age.
People always tell stories of being laid
up in bed after an operation which
makes them think of or experience
their bodies in a new light.
On March 30, 2009, I wrote out
the word tampon (I have tended to
stop drawing). Then I listed things
such as sanitary pads and diapers as
well as medical items such as bandages
DI VA R-E-D: CHI NESE padded bras
(blended fabric and lace).
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 3 2 F R O N T L I N E
and spinal supports. About 11 of the 45
garments I nally made touched on
intimate items of use, or were body
aids and prosthetics. I wanted to see
how one could re-invest these objects
with a different sort of meaning.
Then there were other objects,
more sensual or erotic, which drew my
attention, such as making dresses just
out of bras.
What was the creative process like?
So much of the art practice of mod-
ern artists involves handling objects
and playing with them. From that play
emerges the form, then the structure
and then the meaning. You can also
start the other way round, with re-
search, and by accumulating, engaging
with, even acting out, the archive. Here
you construct an exhibit and a body of
meaning in a more self-conscious way.
While playing with the object, you
tell the tailor to stitch in a certain way.
That becomes your vocabulary of ma-
terial transformed in process. Put it on
a dummy, it drapes and falls.
By and large, I took recourse to
humour, irony, parody to open up
space for a production of meanings, or
to be provocative and playful such as
making a womans dress out of jock-
straps, a humorous pointer to the
world of cross gender.
Earlier, in the city of garbage I had
created fantasies of scale, texture and
material. It had a direct reference to
ecology, urban displacement and the
fragile lives of the majority of people
and their social matrix.
Here, once the found object or
trash object which was spatialised in
terms of the city got located on to the
body, its placement and layering
opened up an altogether different
range of complex references. These in-
clude aspects of desire, sexuality and
eroticism, to my forgotten subjectiv-
ities; from private body fantasies to
economic production processes all
speaking through a matter-of-fact ob-
What kind of responses did you come
With children aged four to 13 or so DERVI SH: MEN S SI LK ties with metal support.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
F R O N T L I N E 1 3 3
accompanying adults it was a different
dynamic the garment was a dress to
be worn, or a large toy. At the other
end, my Marxist friends got pleasure
out of seeing a fresh politics emerging
from the exhibition a strong and viv-
id materiality that can become the very
critique of commodication, a play-
land culture which manages to upturn
the order of things. The shows open-
endedness made it receptive to an en-
tire spectrum of viewers.
The show was preceded by a live
performance on a ramp that you
had fashioned at the gallery. If live
performance was so integral to the
show, how was a viewer supposed to
respond to the static garments resting
on their armatures?
It was part of a process. I realised
that to make garments I would need a
designer to help craft it and then tai-
lors. When it was time to get the gar-
ment photographed, the designer said
it would make a difference if it was
worn by a model, so that the photo-
graph would give us a sense of its pres-
ence. This led to the next step if you
have a model, then you walk her or him
down the ramp. So a basic perform-
ative unit was formed.
I was clear that just as I was in the
art world bringing in fashion, I would
bring art into the fashion world, ex-
ploring the spectrum between model,
actor, dancer, and non-artist inter-
preting the garment and walking the
ramp to see the kind of dynamics it
The idea of models seems odd for
your garment show.
People asked me why I included
fashion models with their overdened
looks when the spirit of garments was
totally different. I wanted the garment
to be inhabited for its performative
aspect, and when it came to be imaged
by the model I saw myself enter a form
of popular culture. That is how model-
ling and fashion circulate, in terms of a
public that is by and large very differ-
ent from the art-going public.
I was not entering fashion as a
commodity culture of supply and de-
mand and seasonal collections. This
one show would be my pertinent state-
ment pointing towards the cross-
presence of art and fashion as exempli-
ed by the Metropolitan Museum of
Arts retrospective of Alexander
McQueens garments made, among
other things, of sea shells and feathers.
In the museum this master crafts-
mans work moves into a different
realm and makes us relook at art ob-
jects with a corresponding visuality.
Remember, the 20th century saw art
objects using the ephemeral a la the
postage stamp enter the museum.
We live in times when creations of
famous fashion designers are being ex-
hibited as art objects and viewed by
people who visit art shows. That makes
my task easier when it comes to the
reception of my work.
Did the show take on a different hue
for those who could not watch the live
People in India do not spend too
much time looking at art works, unlike
in the West. Viewers would quickly see
the show and then watch a constantly
running recording of the performance
on a video screen, which was part of
the show. The fact that they had seen
the physical object and seen it per-
formed provided a new and accessible
If I show something in the category
of modern art, people would ask what
it means. But a garment is a garment
and by being worn so it says, I am open
to you; you can receive me and think of
the meanings I evoke in you.
What was the response to this work
from the artist community?
One artist remarked that she
would have liked to see more grubbi-
ness in the work. My earlier work on
trash had started from that point;
here, my idea of re-presenting it was to
take it into the realm of beauty, and to
bring another level of attention. And I
am not being very original here. The
element of surprise, the act of looking,
is just the initial part of the idea of
displacing an object from its original
Then again, a master like A. Ra-
machandran loved the show. The as-
pects of eroticism that he himself deals
with, he found (embodied) in these
garments! They were objects outside
the codes of art but which gave the
same delight on viewing.
Had I called the works sculpture, I
might have been asked why I was mak-
scrubbers and coated fabric.
J A N U A R Y 2 7 , 2 0 1 2
1 3 4 F R O N T L I N E
ing such a imsy sculpture. Calling
them garments gave me a greater ex-
ibility. The work became more porous
and democratic for people, including
those who look out for the fashion
week and others who simply like to
dress up.
I am interested in public art, and
fashion too can be called a form of
public art if you fashion the art part of
it in a considered way, in a way that
engages material and concept differ-
Equally, many artists the world over
are now talking about a need to
reect on the blurring of boundaries
and about going back to the basics of
art. How does art practice dene itself
in a world dominated by a mass-
media-driven popular culture?
In the past two decades, the more
conventional paradigms of the art-
making practice in India have widened
and become more varied; the art mar-
ket too has made its presence felt. The
public has opened up to receiving all
kinds of art in different ways, from the
cerebral and conceptual to installa-
tion, which is ephemeral. No one says
that this is not art.
This gives artists the freedom but
how far they take it creatively is impor-
tant. One of the larger problems is the
lack of public institutions that support
this kind of work. In the West, mu-
seums such as the Tate, pressured not
to seem dated, go one step forward to
absorb work that was not part of their
agendas. This will happen in India as
As I see it art has a much larger
denition. The kind of artist I am, I
will soon start questioning the plea-
sure principle of this show I have
already attempted to build criticality
into it, more deconstruction will fol-
Something tells me I will go back to
making art that foregrounds forms,
concepts and questions as I have
done through the notion of the archive
which is a signicant trajectory of my
By this, you mean the practice of
using parts of earlier works in a
different way in new projects?
Yes. The set I made for Making
Strange comprised parts of earlier
works which were re-presented. Using
the archive of ones own work is not a
case of not having anything new to
say. The work is dismantled and re-
presented. My own work becomes the
found object. An archive is not some-
thing static; it is constantly being rein-
vented as it is being pulled out and
engaged with, coming to you as memo-
ry, as fragment.
Ultimately, as an artist who wears the
garment of a political being, how do
you look at the politics of your latest
art stakeout?
Commodication of culture rules
our lives today. Most of us live inside
television screens or in the virtual
world. These are much larger univers-
es and they affect our lives much more
than, say, 30 years ago.
There are complex economic pro-
duction processes at work. Then there
are private body fantasies and social
desires to want to be part of group
identity but seem different at the same
time. When I went to the NIFT [Na-
tional Institute of Fashion Technol-
ogy] library while researching for this
show I came across an extraordinary
body of work on fashion done by an-
thropologists, sociologists and culture
theorists. As artists, do we enter this
arena or do we stay away fearing that
we will get eaten up by the monster?
I would argue that one must take
the risk, but constantly put questions,
breakers and interruptions in the in-
terpretation of a denitive image the
model and the ramp walk. The model
carrying the garment is a moving and
animated armature. It is precisely this
movement that makes performance
and allows you to cross over to some
other space such as theatre or dance.
Think of a contemporary dance
choreographer wanting to choreo-
graph several compositions with three
or four garments, or aspiring to a scale
and having 30 garments to a composi-
tion. Some garments may be difcult
to dance in but Pina Bausch has said
you can just be standing and you are a
dancer. All these conventions allow the
garments to be interpreted in different
ways. Or imagine 10 to 12 garments
seated before a theatre director asking
to be cast as characters.
I am excited at the thought of life
beyond the show.
(compressed cottonwool) with
coated fabric lining.
Published on alternate Saturdays.WPP No.CPMG/AP/SD-15/WPP/11-13 & MH/MR/South-180/2009-11.Postal Regn. No.TN/ARD/22/09-11. RNI No.42591/84