Joined: 05 October 2007
Satyam's former chief financial officer said auditors weren't complicit in the company's fraud. At left, Satyam Infocity in Hyderabad.
They relied on the internal auditor reports and they also presented all the queries before the audit committee, said Mr. Agarwal in an interview. Mr. Agarwal also interviewed the two Pricewaterhouse auditors in Hyderabad Sunday. Satyam has been in the throes of scandal since January when its founder confessed to cooking the books by at least $1 billion. Pricewaterhouse Coopers couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Mr. Agarwal said that the views expressed were the views of the three people interviewed, and that the institute itself hadn't yet come to a view. A lawyer for Mr. Vadlamani had no immediate comment. Satyam's former CFO played the role of master servant in the fraud, he told Mr. Agarwal. Mr. Agarwal said the CFO attributes the whole game plan to Mr. Raju and his brother. According to the former CFO, all the policy, the decision of the management was implemented by a cost accountant inside the company, and his team, said Mr. Agarwal. This cost accountant and his team created forged documents such as sales bills, bank statements and fixed deposit receipts, Mr. Agarwal said the former CFO had told him. These forged documents were given to the auditors on which they have relied and completed the audit, Mr. Agarwal said. He (Mr. Vadlamani) said categorically that the auditors are totally innocent. Mr. Vadlamani had tried to disclose the fraud in earlier times, he told Mr. Agarwal, but couldn't do it because of the Satyam employees being put at risk. He said that I tried to disclose to the public in earlier times, (but) I could not do it because there was a matter of 54,000 employees, matter of bread and butter of 54,000 employees. The former CFO also tried to resign twice in the last five years, Mr. Agarwal said. In interviews with the accountants S. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri, Mr. Agarwal was told they weren't aware anything untoward was happening inside the company. We have performed our duty as per the auditing standard, we were not aware anything is happening in the company, they told Mr. Agarwal. The firm's high profile independent directors and compliance with international standards gave them confidence. There was a great environment of confidence in the company, Mr. Agarwal said. There was no grounds to even think that something is going wrong.
Kasab. Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman captured during the attacks, which left 164 people dead, could face the death penalty if he is convicted of 12 criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India. Nine other attackers were killed during the three-day siege in November. Mr. Kasab's trial will take place in a special court set up at the Arthur Road Jail in central Mumbai where he is being held, but the building's security infrastructure will only be ready for the trial next week, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told the trial judge M.L. Tahiliyani. He did not provide details. Mr. Kasab's trial was supposed to start Monday. India has blamed the Mumbai attacks on Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist militant group widely believed to have been created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in the divided Kashmir region. Pakistani officials have acknowledged that the attacks were partly plotted on their soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects. They have also acknowledged that Mr. Kasab is a Pakistani national.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Tamil protesters demonstrated outside the Houses of Parliament in central London.
Several thousand demonstrators had gathered Monday to draw attention to the situation in Sri Lanka, where the U.N. estimates up to 190,000 people are trapped in the war zone, with dozens dying every day. London police moved the protest Tuesday to an area in front of Parliament, and arrested four people for public order offenses. Two people were pulled from the River Thames after jumping in. Members of my family, some of our grandparents, are stuck in an area in the northeast of Sri Lanka which has been bombed intensively for the last two months, said protester Vijay Mahalingam, 28. There is no phone contact, and every day we just hope they have not been harmed. Sri Lankan troops are trying to defeat Tamil Tiger rebels fighting to carve out an independent state on the island, off the southeast coast of India. The Sri Lankan government has rejected international calls for a cease-fire, and says it is on the verge of defeating the rebels. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said there should be a humanitarian cease-fire to allow civilians to leave the danger zone. Nothing excuses the reported use of civilians by the LTTE [Tamil Tigers] as a human shield, Mr. Miliband said. But nor does the LTTE's behavior excuse any failings by the Sri Lankan government to meet the high standards expected of democratic governments in conflict.
Before throwing the shoe, Mr. Singh asked Mr. Chidambaram several questions about the Central Bureau of Investigation's findings last week that cleared a senior Congress party leader, Jagdish Tytler, from any involvement in the bloody riots that left 3,000 dead. Mr. Chidambaram said the CBI was an independent body and the government played no role in the decision, and called for the public to be patient. Mr. Singh, dressed in an olive-green shirt and a white turban, then threw his blue and white sneaker at Mr. Chidambaram, narrowly missing his face. Moments later, Mr. Chidambaram repeatedly asked the reporters in the room to settle down, and said, the emotional outburst of one man should not hijack a press conference. Soon after, Mr. Singh told TV news reporters that he regretted throwing the shoe but he felt Mr. Chidambaram was dodging the question. I just wanted to ask him how justice will be done, but he was not interested in answering the questions, he told during a telephone interview from police custody. I don't think it was the right way, what I have done, but the issue is right. Mr. Singh didn't say whether he was inspired by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who last month was sentenced to three years in prison for throwing his shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush in Baghdad. The 1984 riots, which remain a very controversial issue in India, left more than 3,000 dead, most of whom were Sikhs. The carnage erupted across India after former prime minister Indira Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards shot her to death. Many blame Congress party officials for turning a blind eye or even supporting the rioters in the violence that ensued after their leader was slain. On Tuesday, hundreds of Sikhs held protests over the CBI's findings in front of the home of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi. Jagdish Tytler, the center of the controversy, was a lawmaker at the time and remains a divisive figure in Indian politics. He is currently campaigning for re-election to Parliament in elections that begin later this month.
India's Sachin Tendulkar celebrates the wicket of New Zealand's James Franklin lbw for 49 on the fifth day of the third international cricket test at Basin Reserve in Wellington Tuesday.
Ross Taylor reached his fourth test century, his second in successive tests, and shared a record 142-run fifth-wicket partnership with James Franklin (49) which prolonged New Zealand's innings until the rain intervened. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh took four for 59 and completed match figures of 7 for 102 to bowl New Zealand to the brink of defeat and there were signal performances Tuesday from Sachin Tendulkar, who took two wickets, and Rahul Dravid, who held his 184th test catch. New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori was 15 not out and No. 10 Iain O'Brien 19 not out when rain halted play 29 minutes into the day's second session. Ishant Sharma spilled a vital catch, dropping Mr. O'Brien, 10 minutes before the rain arrived. In doing so, he might have cost India its last chance of winning the match. India was still pleased to have won a series in New Zealand for the first time since it's inaugural tour in 1967-68. Credit to both the bowlers and the batsmen. We really performed as a team right throughout this tour and that is what's important, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said. We didn't rely on a single batsman. We got contributions throughout the whole series from everyone, Rahul (Dravid), Sachin (Tendulkar), V.V.S. (Laxman). Everyone contributed so overall I think that was a great effort. Whenever it was needed someone contributed and that's great for the morale of the team. India took charge of the final test when it dismissed New Zealand for 197 on Saturday in reply to its first innings of 379, taking a 182-run lead. It declared its second innings at 434-7 on Monday, with an overall lead of 616 and with five and a half sessions or at least 168 overs remaining. Rain was forecast for the final day and there was a suspicion India may have batted on too long Monday to give itself maximum opportunity to close out the series with a win. The tourists reduced New Zealand to 84-4 in its second innings before Messrs. Taylor and Franklin combined in the largest fifth wicket partnership by a New Zealand pair against India. They batted almost 25 overs before stumps Monday and a further 21 overs Tuesday to lengthen the New Zealand innings and to bring the rain into calculations. Mr. Harbhajan bowled Mr. Taylor for 107, ending his innings of 257 minutes, and also removed Tim Southee (3) while Mr. Tendulkar contributed the wickets of Mr. Franklin, who was stuck for 4 1/2 overs on 49, and Brendon McCullum for six. New Zealand was 258-8 when Mr. Southee was out but Messrs. Vettori and O'Brien defied India for the last half hour. I'm just a bit disappointed (not to win), Mr. Dhoni said. We were expecting to have more overs but I still feel whatever opportunities we got we made the most of. We would have been really happy with one more win to clinch the series but it wasn't to be. India took control of the series when it won the first test at Hamilton by 10 wickets and preserved that margin when the second test at Napier ended in a high-scoring draw. I think to have them 200 for six on the first morning after we took a gamble bowling first was really pleasing and I suppose from then on in it was a bit disappointing that we didn't go on, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said. It was a poor performance in the first innings with the bat but it was good to see a fighting performance from some guys; Ross Taylor and James Franklin today with the bat and I think Chris Martin's bowling throughout the whole series has been a particular highlight. There are some positives but we have to look back and say we were outplayed in two of the three test matches. Opener Gautam Gambhir was named player of the match for his 167 in India's first innings. Gambhir had scores of 72, 30 not out, 16, 137, 23 and 167 for 445 runs at an average of 89. Mr. Dravid finished with 184 catches in tests, eclipsing the world record of 181 he previously shared with Australia's Mark Waugh. It's great to be part of the team and to achieve this, Mr. Dravid said. Taking catches is about the team. It's about helping your bowlers and you need the bowlers to create the nicks for you. I've been fortunate over the last 13 years. I've played with some very good bowlers and I've been lucky, worked really hard and it's been really satisfying.
Satyam's former chief financial officer said auditors weren't complicit in the company's fraud. At left, Satyam Infocity in Hyderabad.
Separately, Mr. Vadlamani told the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India on Sunday that Satyam's outside auditors from Price Waterhouse weren't complicit in the fraud, said Uttam Prakash Agarwal, the president of the accounting body, in an interview. Price Waterhouse is the Indian affiliate of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mr. Agarwal's review is separate from the criminal investigation of the auditors. A CBI spokesman said the accounting body's investigation was separate but that they are helping us. He said the CBI was looking at the involvement of PWC, but haven't taken any action yet. According to Mr. Agarwal, Mr. Vadlamani said that forged documents were given to the auditors and they relied on the documents provided by the management. In a press release from the accounting body, the group stated that Mr. Vadlamani said he and a vice president of finance were actively involved in the scam. Mr. Vadlamani said the plan had been carried out by fabricating and preparing false documents such as sales invoices, bank statements, bank confirmations, and involved a team of some 10 junior staff, the release said. The comments couldn't be independently verified. A lawyer for Mr. Vadlamani said he didn't know what had been discussed between the accounting institute and his client. I do not know the exact content of the statement that is said to have been recorded by Mr. Agarwal," he said. A Satyam spokeswoman declined to comment on the contention that a team of junior staff was involved: Satyam will cooperate with the investigation, but we would not be able to comment on it. A lawyer for B. Ramalinga Raju declined to comment on the statement from the institute. Price Waterhouse audited Satyam's financial statements from mid-2000 to late 2008. The firm has suspended the Satyam auditors, S. Gopalakrishnan and Srinivas Talluri, until investigations into the fraud are completed. The accountants, in interviews, told Mr. Agarwal they weren't aware anything untoward was happening inside the company, according to Mr. Agarwal. He said the accountants told him they had performed their duties in compliance with auditing standards. A lawyer for Mr. Gopalakrishnan and Mr. Talluri said his clients have pleaded innocent. PricewaterhouseCoopers declined comment.
The Nano: At the weekend, thousands of Indians got their first chance to poke, kick and pile into the petite car they've been adoring from afar for over a year. With around 400 perky Tata Nanos put on display for consumers across the country for the first time, more Indians will fall for the $2,000 minicar. For many, the car is more than just a good deal; it represents the potential of the new India. The Nano is India's new ambassador. Of course, for decades the favorite representative of Indian roads for Indians and Indophiles has been the chubby classic from Hindustan Motors Ltd., appropriately called the Ambassador. Based on a British Morris Oxford from 1948, the chunky car has changed little since it came to India 60 years ago. The Ambassador looks like a giant tortoise, its new competitor the Nano is more like a wireless mouse. The bulging Ambassador seems as if it could give birth to a Nano. It's about twice the weight, up to five times the price and gets about half the gas mileage. It comes in two colors: white and silver. The Nano comes in white and silver as well and four other colors including Racing Red and Sunshine Yellow. The Ambassador sells around 1,000 a month. Tata expects to be able to sell more than 20 times more Nanos once its factories reach full capacity. With many more modern options, today most Ambassadors are bought for official purposes. Around 60% of them become taxis, another 20% are bought to ferry politicians and bureaucrats around.
Ambassador fans say the sturdy cars are easy to fix and great for India's rough roads. Expatriates often buy them for their retro look. Still, even die-hard Ambassador enthusiasts will tell you that kitsch comes at a cost. Riding in it is like gliding around on your sofa, say ex-ambassador owner Peter Keep. It was an iconic car to drive or be driven in but I don't think many that have ever owned one would want another one. After the headlights of his new, $10,000 Ambassador kept falling off and his windshield wiper went on strike during the monsoon, Mr. Keep's standard question for other Ambassador owners was: Do bits fall off yours as well? The usual answer was yes. Hindustan Motors has done much to modernize the interiors and the engine of the Ambassador over the years. Some of Its latest models even come with cell phone chargers and MP3 players. A Hindustan Motors spokesman said that quality is usually not a problem for customers unless they mistreat the car. The fact that the car is still on the roads despite all the new competition is a testament to its popularity, she said. The Ambassador hasn't dominated Indian roads since the 80s when Suzuki Motor Corp. took pole position here with its Japanese hand-me-down models built and sold through its joint venture with the Indian government. Still, the two symbols of India's roads represent how the country's economy has changed.
The Ambassador arrived just as India was gaining its independence and became the car of choice in the socialist era. It didn't change much over the decades because it didn't have much competition. It stayed stuck in the 40s as control on the country's companies, commodities and foreign currency was more important for the government than promoting innovation. Today, India's economy is radically different. As companies and consumers have been given more freedom to invest, build and borrow as they please, growth has accelerated. Easier access to international markets has brought new capital and technology and even spawned new industries. The software, call center and outsourcing industries have tapped India's pool of engineers to help protect global companies from computer bugs, build telecom networks and design the computer programs that make Western companies work better.
The Nano is a result of a similar pool of dedicated and educated engineers turning their attention to their home market. Cutting the sticker price of the Nano took hundreds of Tata engineers four years to figure out. "This car was developed from scratch to slash costs, said Jai Bolar, one of the five engineers first asked by Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata to develop the Nano. Ratan used to tell us that the only people that could do it is us. The Nano team grew from five to more than 300 as more experts were called in to rethink everything from the brake system to the engine to the windshield wipers to the way parts would be delivered. Mr. Bolar, 30 years old, epitomizes the excitement about the new opportunities in India. After getting his masters in automotive engineering in the U.S. and interning at a car parts company in Detroit, he chose to come home and work for Tata. As India's consumers get to see what Mr. Bolar and his colleagues have created, many will smile, happy that India's economy is no longer riding on outdated, imported technology.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen (L) speaks as Richard Holbrooke, special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, watches during a news conference in New Delhi.
We can't settle issues like Afghanistan and many other issues without India's full involvement, Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a press conference during an official visit here. India is a vital leader in the region, added Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, who accompanied Mr. Holbrooke to New Delhi after they both visited Kabul and Islamabad. But their comments also served to highlight the extreme sensitivities the U.S. faces as it tries to pursue a cohesive diplomatic and military strategy that eradicates Islamist militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan but doesn't heighten tensions between three countries whose shared history is rife with violence and mutual suspicion. Indeed, when U.S. policy makers initially considered including Kashmir the disputed Himalayan territory that is shared by India and Pakistan as part of the U.S.'s new regional policy, India balked. U.S. officials subsequently have taken discussion about Kashmir off the table, even though it remains a central flashpoint in tensions between India and Pakistan. Just this week, Indian troops and suspected militants have been fighting in Indian Kashmir; a gunbattle Tuesday left two from each side dead. Pakistani officials have complained that the U.S. needs to consider all conflicts in the region as it seeks to solve them. When asked if part of the reason for his Indian visit was to press for the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan over the future of Kashmir, Mr. Holbrooke said, We did not come here to ask the Indians to do anything. We did not come here with any requests. Rather, he said, for the first time since the partition of India in 1947, when the departing British split the country into India and Pakistan, Mr. Holbrooke said the U.S., India and Pakistan face a common threat and a common challenge and we have a common task in fighting terrorism and stabilizing Pakistan. U.S. officials view beating back a creeping insurgency in Pakistan as key to winning the war in neighboring Afghanistan. He also noted India's significant development projects and aid to Afghanistan and said better coordination between the U.S. and India in that country would bolster stability. There is impressive foreign assistance in Afghanistan by India, Mr. Holbrooke said. Simply by having a dialogue with your government, we realized both have the same priorities. Yet Indian influence in Afghanistan is another key source of tension with Pakistan, which views India's involvement there as part of a potential encirclement of Pakistan by India. U.S. officials last year said that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the premier spy agency, played a role in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, which killed at least 41. Pakistan denied any involvement.
How RBI spurs lending. Indian lenders are increasingly parking their surplus cash with the Reserve Bank of India under the so-called reverse repurchase window for an overnight interest rate of 3.50%. Putting a fence may free up funds that could be loaned to cash-strapped companies or to buy sovereign debt. The RBI had imposed a daily total limit of 30 billion rupees ($600 million) under the facility in 2007.
Joined: 05 October 2007
See a timeline of major Indian political events and parliament terms in the past 20 years. I would not vote for them, says Rajat Kumar, a 33-year-old in Gurgaon, a Delhi suburb, who runs the India office of a European outsourcing company. You can't talk about removing corruption without removing the causes that create corruption. Those causes, as he sees it, include the poor pay that make low-level bureaucrats depend on bribes to make ends meet. He says he'll guage parties on what they plan to do to lift India's masses out of poverty. I sleep in an A/C room, I drive in an A/C car and I speak English, says Mr. Kumar. I am not the problem area. Yet, the poor are targets on the campaign trail. Parties hand out cash bonuses or free lunches to create a show of strength at rallies, observers say. After the rallies, party workers often distribute liquor as a reward for coming, people who have attended say. According to a survey by the Centre for Media Studies, a fifth of voters nationally say politicians or party workers offered them money to vote in the past 10 years. In some states, nearly half say they have been bribed. Out of the $2 billion the government and Indian parties are expected to spend on the elections this year, one-quarter will be for illicit activities, the New Delhi think tank estimates. Leaders of established parties have spoken out against the payouts. Neither do we encourage it nor do we approve it, says Ravi Shankar Prasad, a spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party, currently the second-largest party after Congress. A Congress representative didn't return calls seeking comment. Last week, Andhra Pradesh state police confiscated $600,000 in cash they said was intended for voters. In neighboring Karnataka, the state election commission registered over 500 cases where liquor, cash and goods intended for voters were seized, says the state's chief election officer M.N. Vidyashankar. It's these practices that the reformist parties promise to fix. Last month, the Professionals Party of India, boasting a middle-class following, planned to run 100 candidates nationwide to battle corruption. It's down to two. The party says protecting a squeaky-clean reputation means it can't spend as much as its opponents, and so has had a hard time even finding candidates. It's a humble start, says the party's founder R.V. Krishnan. But I don't think the PPI is attracting the kind of candidates we need. Until last month, Meera Sanyal used to go to work every day in Mumbai as the India head of ABN Amro Bank. Now, on a leave, she has hit the campaign trail to run as an independent. Ms. Sanyal says that the November terror attacks in Mumbai spurred her to take action to give a voice to the middle class. Let's see if this country is really ready for change, she says. Ms. Sanyal's larger opponents have money power and muscle power, she says. It's going to be a real big question mark how to beat that.
Richard Holbrook and Mike Mullen in India
Rush of bookings for DLF housing project in Delhi The massive pent up demand for affordable flats in Indian metros was on display in Delhi as DLF launched its largest-ever residential project in the city. The first day alone saw 900 bookings for a set of 1,400 flats at the 200-acre residential-cum-office complex in central Delhi.
Joined: 05 October 2007
The Indian Economy:Rural India. This country's path out of the global economic turmoil may start at Dev Kuli village, Bihar, among a community of outcastes who dine on rats.In Bihar, India's poorest and least literate major state, the Mushahar are the poorest and least literate. Most are farm laborers. About one in 10 can read. So impoverished is this group that they hunt field rats to supplement a deprived diet. Mushahar is Hindi for rat eater. But the outlook for the state's two million Mushahar has brightened in the past year. Thanks to government aid programs, more Mushahar children are attending school. Increased state investment in roads and local factories has put their parents to work. Demand for laborers has pushed up wages for field work.
The one-room primary school for Mushahar children at Bihar's Dev Kuli village, where several hundred of the low-caste Mushahar families live. In a sign of the times, a government proposal to promote rat farming was ridiculed by the Mushahar, the very group of untouchables, or Dalits, it was supposed to benefit. They worried it would pull their children out of school and extend a social stigma to the next generation. Some protested on the streets of Bihar's capital, Patna, shouting: We want to learn to use a computer mouse, not catch mice. The Mushahar in Bihar are part of a political and economic shift that is building across the Indian countryside. The transformation, largely driven by development spending by national and state policy makers, will be put to a test starting next week. The world's largest democracy kicks off a month of polling April 16 in which many of the leaders behind these experiments are seeking re-election. Growth has slowed in the new India of technology outsourcing, property development and securities trade. But old India the rural sector that is home to 700 million of the country's billion-plus people shows signs it can pick up the slack. The rural awakening helps explain why India continues to grow. The change is largely political. In years past, many state leaders rode to power with vows to give voice to lower-caste voters. But after failing for the most part to lift living standards, these officials have been replaced in many cases by leaders who have. In poor and largely rural states from Orissa in the east to Rajasthan in the west, many new leaders have invested in health, education and infrastructure. That has set the stage for the creation of industry and consumer markets and enabled upward mobility. It's unclear whether development spending in rural India will spark longer-term expansion. Up till now, a lot of our growth has been bubble growth, says Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of a software and outsourcing company. That makes the internal reforms even more important now, so we create momentum for future growth.
Companies from such as telecom provider Reliance Communications India Ltd. say rising sales in once-spurned rural areas are driving their India growth. The Indian unit of LG Electronics, which sells low-voltage appliances for power-deprived areas, expects rural areas to account for 45% of its Indian sales this year, up from 35% last year. A car and tractor maker, says it couldn't keep up with orders for its new Xylo, a cross between a minivan and SUV, in part because of surprising rural demand. If any one part of the economy is decoupled from the global crisis, it is India's rural sector, says Anand Mahindra, vice chairman of the auto maker's parent company.
The countryside's strength comes in part from a trade policy that free-market economists say may hurt India in the long run. Tariffs on agricultural imports are among the world's highest and may have deterred investment in rural India. But these tariffs have also sheltered swaths of the country. An estimated 88% of India's rural incomes are tied to activities inside those markets, according to IIFL. Even slight improvements here are significant, economists say, because they build on a base of practically zero. For so long, these states were a drag on our economy, says Surjit Bhalla, head of Oxus Research & Investments, an advisory firm in New Delhi. Now larger rural populations can become a fillip to growth. India's economy has held up better than most, in spite of slowing tech sales and falling real-estate and stock markets. The International Monetary Fund projects India will grow 5.1% in 2009, India is also closing the gap on China, whose 6.7% projected growth for 2009 marks a sharp decline from recent double-digit gains. Bihar, which borders Nepal, was once a breadbasket of eastern India. But it largely missed out on the economic miracle of the last decade. In the 1990s, as India's economy expanded about 5% a year, Bihar barely grew.
Infrastructure was poor. Farm goods often rotted before reaching the market. Amid corruption and rampant crime, the state was branded India's kidnap capital. The young left to seek education and jobs. More than half Bihar's 83 million residents live below the international poverty line of about $1 dollar a day. Fewer than half are literate. The state attracted $167 million in foreign direct investment between 1994 and 2004, a period when India as a whole attracted $29 billion.
In recent years, political candidates won elections with promises to empower to lower-caste voters. But education, health and infrastructure projects were often neglected, presenting opportunity for opponents. In late 2005, a former railways minister from a low-caste background, Nitish Kumar, became chief minister, the leader of Bihar state. Breaking from the torpid bureaucracy of his predecessors, the 58-year-old Mr. Kumar has tried to prod the government machinery into action. He hosts Monday open houses at his residence, where ministers and department secretaries are required to field public complaints. Bureaucrats must also accompany him to town-hall meetings in far corners of the state, where they pitch tents in fields. His critics say the exercises simply aim to drum up votes; Mr. Kumar says an open government serves the people and the economy. My message is that democracy should provide solutions to the problems, he said in an interview at his residence, where he wore traditional white linen trousers and shirt. With an alliance led by his ruling Janata Dal (United) party, Mr. Kumar has built thousands of miles of roads. He has hired 200,000 schoolteachers and is recruiting 100,000 more. He has lured private-clinic doctors back to public hospitals. Development projects and strong harvests have helped Bihar's economy close the gap with the national average. The state is growing at an annual rate of about 5.5%, and that is expected to accelerate, according to the Asian Development Research Institute. The number of people migrating out dropped 27% in the 2006-08 period compared with 2001-03, according to the Bihar Institute of Economic Studies, a local think tank.
One of Mr. Kumar's toughest challenges is improving the lot of the Mushahar in places like Dev Kuli village. Home to about 10,000 people, Dev Kuli is surrounded by farming hamlets and abuts a two-lane highway where long-haul trucks blast their air horns as they rumble toward New Delhi. The lives of all residents, from low caste to high, have long revolved around the rice and wheat harvests. Several hundred village families are outcaste Mushahar, who live among goats, pigs and swarms of flies in a dried-out gully. The government began to build brick houses but left them without windows or doors. As a caste the government has identified as "extremely backward," the Mushahar will be eligible for a $57 million government program that will provide families with a water supply, toilets, radios and educational support, according to Vijoy Prakash, the principal secretary for two government departments dedicated to low-caste assistance. On Mr. Prakash's desk sits a stuffed rat, a reminder of who such programs aim to help. Yet he says past efforts have failed in part because only 9% of the Mushahar can read. This is the group that has remained excluded from India's growth, he says. As the sun came up on a recent day, a group of Mushahar gathered round a water pump to wash clothes. Later in the morning a long line of Mushahar children made their way up a mud embankment and, in a profound departure from community tradition, headed to primary school. Parents complain that their children face discrimination even at Dev Kuli's one-room school for Mushahar children, the name of which translates as Slum People's Primary School. Children from other castes attend a school nearby. The government has repaired the school's roof in recent months, hired a new teacher and added an extra bathroom to provide privacy for girls. Even so, the school doesn't have chairs or desks, so students sit on empty grain bags and write on a cement floor covered with dirt. Each day, a group of government-hired Mushahar, known as motivators, roust children from their homes and escort them to class. Motivator Phulwanti Devi, a recent and rare Mushahar college graduate, says she battles parents almost every morning to release their children from farm work. We tell them, It will improve their future, says Ms. Devi, 25 years old. They reply, We don't see that you have such a good job. I tell them: I have a diploma, and so I can get a better job. What about you? Still, Ms. Devi and other motivators say attendance at the school has grown. Teachers say about 150 children are enrolled. On a recent day, the motivators rounded up about half that many. There are other challenges. Some motivators say they haven't been paid their salaries of 2,000 rupees a month, about $40. Local officials occasionally tell teachers to skip class to conduct government work, such as counting votes at election time. Mr. Prakash, the secretary for lower castes, says the motivators will soon be paid from funds his department has set aside. Bihar's education secretary, Anjani Kumar Singh, says a Bihar court has ruled that teachers can't skip class for government work, but admitted the order could be hard to enforce at election time.
Generating genuine business activity among a largely illiterate community hasn't been easy, either, judging by Mr. Prakash's rat-farming initiative. He estimated that three million people in the state would welcome a stable supply of the protein-rich meat. Many Mushahar say they enjoy the meat, typically barbecued or cooked with a spicy masala, and believe it keeps their hair dark. But many resented being pushed into farming them. If we get involved in rat farming, our children will also get involved, says Ms. Devi. After some Mushahar protested in Patna late last summer, Mr. Kumar, the chief minister, shelved the proposal. Yet Dev Kuli's economy has improved. The infrastructure push has created jobs building and repairing roads. That has helped bring factories to the area, say locals, including a steel mill and a cola-bottling plant. Those jobs have boosted farm wages to the point where the Mushahar won't work in the fields for less than about $2 a day, says Raj Ballabh Raji, a local farmer from a different caste. Mr. Raji, who now works his six acres with a new tractor, notes one more sign of prosperity. You can now find a petrol pump within a mile of here, he says in a tone of pleasant surprise. The economy is changing.
Joined: 05 October 2007
Joined: 05 October 2007
Queuing to cast ballots outside Hyderabad, April 16.
Indian politics resembles a kind of electoral E-bay. Every vote, every candidate and every alliance is up for sale. The current government is an amalgamation of several parties, lead by Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party. Over the past five years, Congress's alliances have changed as its policy priorities have changed. To pass last year's nuclear deal with the United States, for instance, Congress dropped its Communist allies and picked up a partner, the Samajwadi Party, based in India's largest state. This is part of a larger trend of politics-as-promiscuity, where almost any party is willing to partner with almost any other at any stage of the election cycle before, during and after polls. The greatest influence on the composition of the next coalition government will be India's poor, illiterate and backward classes. This is the enduring romance of Indian democracy; despite all its disappointments and fractious infighting, everyone truly does have a say. But the variety of voices also entrenches coalition politics and makes it hard, if not impossible, to enact truly sweeping economic reform. Both the ruling Congress Party and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party have to appeal to this voting majority. But India is not in danger of reverting back to protectionism or statism. No new government, whatever the coalition, is likely to go down that path because the costs of doing so are widely accepted. That explains why despite the financial crisis, which has reduced India's growth rate from a torrid 9% to about 5%, there are no calls to revert to sweeping trade controls and a renationalization of the indian economy. Fiscal populism, however, is another story. In the run-up to this election, the Congress-led government opened up the fiscal spigots, running up spending indiscriminately. Over the past five years, the fiscal deficit has risen to more than 10% of GDP from less than 6%. Public debt is now around 80% of GDP. In their election manifestos, both Congress and the BJP have promised to provide further freebies, from infrastructure to loan guarantees to tax breaks, if elected.
The gravest danger from this election is the intensification of this populism. If the two major parties and their respective allies fall well short of the required majority to govern, there is a chance that they may partner with Kumari Mayawati, the charismatic leader of the Uttar Pradesh-based Bahujan Samaj Party. Ms. Mayawati's party largely represents India's Dalits, or former untouchables. And her power is growing to a point where she could demand the right to take power as prime minister. That would be a Barack Obama-like moment of high symbolism for Indian politics the elevation of a woman and one representing India's historically oppressed class to the highest political office. But the downside of that symbolism might be the expansion of India's already gigantic affirmative action program, known as reservations. At present, reservations are confined to public sector employment and publicly funded educational institutions. Ms. Mayawati wants to do even more. It is no secret that she will seek to extend reservations to the private sector. This would effectively be a huge tax on private-sector activity, as companies would be forced to radically change their hiring practices, having to accept underqualified employees and pay them high wages. This is the nightmare that the next elections could bequeath to India. It is also the logical culmination to identity politics, where citizens vote for politicians who represent their caste, rather than for a person who represents policies that affect all Indians, rich or poor. The sad reality is that if Ms. Mayawati as a future Indian prime minister or even a significant powerbroker were to seriously push for private sector reservations, there would be little resistance. Politicians who oppose reservations are cast as antipoor which in a country of poor people is political suicide. The last legislative initiative that expanded reservations to elite educational institutions in 2005 actually commanded bipartisan support. There is reason for hope. Since independence, many Indian voters have reflexively ejected politicians from office even when they had compiled decent records in power. (One major exception was the rejection of Mrs. Gandhi in 1977 after the Emergency.) Anti-incumbency can be healthy, but it can also create perverse incentives. If electoral failure is guaranteed, politicians have little incentive to deliver essential services and enact lasting reforms. Recently, though, Indian voters have started to reward good performance, especially in state-level politics. Narendra Modi in Gujarat, Sheila Dixit in Delhi and Naveen Patnaik in Orissa have been re-elected for their perceived good governance. In this election, the competent Nitish Kumar, who runs Bihar one of India's poorest and most difficult states to govern may even be returned to power. The Communist Party in West Bengal, which mucked up business deals and land issues related to special economic zones, could lose ground. If that responsiveness endures, India's so-called democracy tax the price to be paid in the form of costly economic populism, slow decision-making, inability to implement key reforms and corruption can be reduced. In a politically decentralized India, political leaders don't have to be responsive everywhere at the same time, anyway. A few visibly successful experiments can have widespread demonstration effects. In the long run, competition between states can serve as a key to India's economic development. So, will the risk of more damaging populism be countered by a more responsive politics and hence better economic policies? Time, and India's 700 million voters, including that solitary priest, will soon tell.
A global economy produces global citizens. Look towards India's marathon elections, which start today, for proof of that. The almost-festive election season (it lasts a month) is drawing wide interest and participation from people who don't even live there anymore. Perhaps more than any other group, Indians have emerged as poster children for existing in a global ether. They summer here, winter there, straddle multiple homes, offices, identities and citizenships? Well, not quite; India's dual citizenship program doesn't allow voting rights but you can work, travel and own land freely. And channel funds through Aunties and Uncles in villages and donate to the candidate of your choice. Technically illegal but like so much of India, explained away by a simple hey everybody does it." After India opened its borders to foreign goods and investment in 1991, the economic liberalization also created easier mobility and connectivity. Some predict the global recession will increase the homeward bound. Returning Indians also have become a symbol of newfound opportunity and possibility in a country they once fled, fixtures in growing sectors as technology, banking and, now, politics. A Kerala native says he and other NRIs have set up candidate Shashi Tharoor's back office, fielding media queries, handling his web site and social networking efforts. We have seen some of the tactics from campaigns like Obama, he says. Mr. Tharoor, remember, unsuccessfully tried to be secretary general of the United Nations. Being a celebrity has its drawbacks. And Mr. Abraham says locals are wary of an outsider and crave face-to-face contact over Facebook. India's voting population like the country is mostly rural and poor. And so that might explain why Mr. Tharoor appears on his very 21st century global web site dressed simply, in sandals and a white cotton cloth wrapped about his waist. As Indians, here, there and everywhere have learned, fitting in can be the first step to success. India is drawing voters, campaigners and even candidates from its large diaspora to the upcoming national elections, where they are a small but rising presence. Some Indians who work in the Middle East, home for a holiday this week, are extending stays so they can vote when the first polls open Thursday. India doesn't have an absentee-ballot system for all voters. Candidate Shashi Tharoor has about one dozen overseas friends helping him canvass the southern state of Kerala fitting since the former undersecretary-general of the United Nations has lived outside India most of his life. The Facebook page of Meera Sanyal, a candidate for Parliament in south Mumbai, is run from London. The world-wide participation reflects the fluidity of India's expatriates and their strong ties to home, particularly when India's role in the global economy is growing. Indian politicians often have worked or studied abroad. But this election seems to be global in many more aspects of the process. An Indian government census counted 11.5 million Indians abroad, known as nonresident Indians, or NRIs. Some estimates push that number as high as 30 million. Donations to political parties or candidates from foreign citizens aren't permitted. But NRIs often donate money through relatives or find other ways to contribute. The global recession may be pushing some to move home. Others appear inspired by recent economic and political events that suggest an opportunity for changing the status quo. And they now have better tools with which to work. We bring our perspectives from abroad here, says Mr. Abraham. From his London home, writer Salil Tripathi runs the Facebook group for his college classmate and banker-turned-politician, Ms. Sanyal. He says he wanted to help his friend, who was spurred to run after the November terrorist attacks on Mumbai. Mr. Tripathi acknowledges that the strategy seems incongruous with the realities of India's voting populace, which is largely rural and poor. Still, the Facebook group devoted to Ms. Sanyal, on a leave from her job as the head of Indian operations of ABN-Amro Bank, now has more than 2,500 members. The added votes can make a difference. After practicing law in California and living abroad for 42 years, Amitabha Sen moved to New Delhi in 1997 and to his native Kolkata this past fall. His return coincided with Tata Motors' canceling plans to build its low-cost Nano car in West Bengal, citing opposition from politicians. He is running on an independent ticket and proinvestment platform for a Parliament seat. India needs me more than anywhere else, Mr. Sen says, estimating that more than half of his campaign has been financed by friends overseas. I call it payback time, to give back to the country that helped me be the man I am today.
Judge M.L. Tahiliyani shook his head.
We showed you on video, the judge scolded him gently, in Hindi. He gestured at a woman in a white salwar kameez, who looked pointedly in Mr. Kasab's direction. She Anjali Waghmare was his attorney, the judge said.
But barely had Mr. Kasab been introduced to his lawyer than she was dropped from representing him. The judge questioned her about whether she had been assigned to represent a witness against Mr. Kasab prior to accepting his defense. Ms. Waghmare replied that she had indeed been assigned by legal services to represent someone injured in the terrorist attacks. She had met with the man but hadn't known he was a witness in the case. Pressed to explain why she didn't reveal the information sooner, Ms. Waghmare, whose name means tiger killer in the local language, groveled: My intent is only to assist the court. When the judge finally removed Ms. Waghmare from the case, the prosecutor beseeched the judge to quickly find a replacement so the trial would not be further delayed. It has already been delayed weeks while the secure courtroom was erected within the jail. The court has struggled to find any lawyer willing to represent Mr. Kasab. Many people seem to view any lawyer who agrees to represent Mr. Kasab as a traitor. A previous attorney backed out after he received threats. Ms. Waghmare had to be given police protection while representing Mr. Kasab after an angry mob threw stones at her house. At one point Wednesday, the judge, reverting to Hindi, asked Mr. Kasab if he understood what was going on in court. He nodded that he did. But the arguments were largely in English, and there was no translator for either Mr. Kasab, an Urdu speaker from a rural area in Pakistan with only a fourth grade education, or his two co-defendants, who are accused of making the maps that the terrorists used to plan their attack in November. Urdu speakers can understand Hindi because the languages are similar orally, though their scripts are different. During the back and forth about his lawyer's fate, and all through the morning proceedings, Mr. Kasab grinned whenever his name was mentioned, and peered curiously at the journalists. Otherwise, he seemed unfocussed on the proceedings. After dismissing his lawyer, the judge spoke in Hindi to Mr. Kasab, explaining what had happened. When the judge called proceedings to a close, he said he wasn't sure he could find any legal services lawyer willing and qualified to represent Mr. Kasab. And the judge made an appeal to the local bar association for volunteers to show up in his chambers on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. if they were willing to represent the accused. Later on Thursday, criminal lawyer Abbas Kazmi was appointed to defend Mr. Kasab. When the attention of the world was trained on India's judicial system, it lived up to its reputation for being a mess.
Joined: 18 April 2009
Discussion_Indian serials & Indian values
Author: Bonheur Replies: 58 Views: 6362
|Bonheur||58||6362||14 January 2008 at 4:41pm by Aahaana|
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