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India's China War

The battle of Rezang La was the only bright spot for India in the 1962 war with China. In this Walk the Talk with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7, Ramchander Yadav and Nihal Singh, two of the six soldiers who survived that battle, look back at the events of that icy November morning 50 years ago
Walk the talk with Shekhar Gupta Indian Express Oct 31.2012

Our extensive retrospection on the drubbing we contrived to suffer in October-November 1962, ought to be as salutary as it is necessary, but the right questions must be asked — and by the right people. What went wrong, who were the villains, can there be a repeat, are we better prepared — all these carry many lessons but the comprehensiveness of our failures points to an equally comprehensive weakness: we could not behave as a state capable of looking after its affairs. Beyond material strengths, it is how one functions that counts. Without underestimating all that we have since achieved, we must realise that our bad habits have not improved while the vitiating pressures have become even more alarming.

The Unlearned Lesson of 1962  in The Hindu Nov 02.2012

But What About The PM?

In the context of the Lokpal debate, much has been said about the elected government versus the "non-elected" "Civil Society" and how bodies like the NAC and even the Planning Commission in some ways could be used as analogous to the Lokpal Drafting Committee.

Writing in the First Post, Vivek H Dehejia notes:

There are two important differences, however, which make an American-style CEA [Council of Economic Advisors] more legitimate than an Indian-style NAC. First, members of the CEA, while nominated by the President, must be confirmed by the US Senate, similar to other high-ranking government appointments such as members of the Cabinet. They cannot simply be handpicked by the government and appointed without consultation, as are members of our NAC.

Second, and equally important, the CEA’s role is purely to advise the President, who then proposes legislation to the Congress taking the CEA’s advice as one input. Crucially, they are not involved in lobbying on matters of legislation, nor are they involved in drafting legislation. NAC is involved in both of these.

And then he cuts to the chase, making the obvious point that many have shied away from underlining:

In India, members of the Rajya Sabha are elected, albeit indirectly, and therefore constitutional jurisprudence may hold that there is no bar in a PM coming from the upper chamber. Politically, the argument is not so clear-cut. In practice, being elected to the Rajya Sabha really boils down to being put forward for election in a state in which your party holds a majority, and you are almost certain to win by default.

That is why, although not written in our Constitution, we too shared an unwritten convention that the PM should sit in the Lok Sabha, who thereby gains legitimacy by being directly elected by voters in a particular constituency. We may have had such a convention before the advent of the UPA government, but that has clearly gone out of the window. Perhaps that is something else those critical of the role of civil society in our current political configuration may wish to give heed to.

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‘Mass-Produced Engineers From Private Colleges With No Quality Are Of No Use To Us’

The ‘Metro Man’ on the need for reforms in governmental attitude and the ‘control Raj’ that still exists despite two decades of liberalisation.

 ‘Metro Man’ E. Sreedharan has been revered as the professional who has kickstarted a whole new work culture in India. But he finds the quality of a majority of engineers in the country below acceptable standards. He blames this on the unbridled growth of private engineering colleges, with no regulatory body in sight. A few days before announcing his succession plan at the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), he met Arindam Mukherjee for an hour-long freewheeling interview. He stressed the need for reforms in governmental attitude and the ‘control Raj’ that still exists despite two decades of liberalisation. Excerpts:

Do we need to take a fresh look at how engineering education is being run in India, with so many private colleges coming up?

We have enough engineering colleges, producing about two million engineers per annum. But the best out of the IITs and RECs make a beeline for universities abroad. The next best go for management and prefer to sell soaps and oil rather than doing engineering. The next lot goes to the IT sector, which is very lucrative. There are still large numbers left who, unfortunately, are not of the required quality. That means the level of education, particularly in private colleges, is not up to the required standard. There are a few good private colleges. The remaining are all ‘business’ colleges, which take capitation money and high fees, take students through three to four years and give them a degree. Unfortunately, many of them are deemed universities. This is most unfortunate, and a shame to the nation. We have been so liberal in giving them university status without controlling quality.
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Irrelevance of secularism

Meghnad Desai

Turkey has played a crucial role in India’s history; indeed, it is central to the partition of India and the subsequent adoption of secularism by India. When the Ottoman Sultan lost in the First World War, his role as the Khalifa was threatened. There were rumours that the Allies wanted the Mufti of Jerusalem to be the new Khalifa. Gandhiji saw in this his chance of launching an anti-British struggle in which Hindus and Muslims could fight in a united front. The Khilafat agitation was the biggest peaceful struggle across India against the British, even larger than 1857.

Of course, Gandhiji unilaterally suspended the movement after Chauri Chaura. Muslims were disappointed and left Congress in droves. There was never again another joint struggle against the British. Congress spurned Jinnah’s demands that there be minority rights guarantee for Muslims in the Motilal Nehru Report. Jinnah left India in disgust and resumed his law practice in London for the next six years. When he came back, his demand for minority rights had become a demand for a separate nation. Congress lost the Muslim vote and in 1946 did not win a single Muslim seat. Partition followed.

Now, an endangered press
The murder of Mid-Day's J. Dey is only the tip of the iceberg. If violence against journalists continues unchecked, can a beleaguered press continue to report the way it should?
If they are becoming fair game for everybody, it makes you wonder if the media as a sector really has clout.

The lawlessness that is currently manifest in public life is turning out to have another dimension to it. The power to scotch the watchdog role of the media. Ironically, while the profession has been drawing flak for having become both soft and sensational, those who have been trying to report honestly from the ground  may not be able to continue doing so. Since India is now a country where many exercise power illegitimately, our much-touted free press has become an endangered press.
One sentence leapt out last week from a report on one of the condolence meetings for Mid-Day's J. Dey. It said, senior crime reporters “appealed to fellow journalists to report with utmost caution and to not go deeper into the underworld or crime stories.” Journalists are perceived to belong to a power-wielding entity called media, but the truth is that the vast majority is neither respected for their role, nor safe. So they will respond with self-censorship.