MAY 14, Tuesday

Delhi Edition

* Front Page

China hits back, imposes tariff hike on U.S. goods worth $60 bn

China hits back, imposes tariff hike on U.S. goods worth $60 bn

Beijing defies Trump warning “not to retaliate or it will only get worse”

Agence France-Presse

China said on Monday it would raise tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. goods from June 1, in retaliation for the latest round of U.S. tariff hikes and Washington’s plans to target almost all Chinese imports.

The announcement came after the latest round of U.S.-China trade negotiations ended on Friday without a deal, and after Washington increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

U.S. President Donald Trump had also ordered the start of a process to impose new duties on another $300 billion worth of Chinese items.

Time for resolution

Despite the retaliation, Beijing appeared to give time to find a resolution by setting the June 1 date.

The new rates will target a number of American imports, with tariffs ranging from 5% to 25%, according to a statement by the Tariff Policy Commission of the State Council — China’s Cabinet.

The Chinese response was announced soon after Mr. Trump warned Beijing not to retaliate.

“China should not retaliate-will only get worse!” the U.S. President wrote in a series of tweets on trade.

But Beijing appeared to dig in. “China will never surrender to external pressure,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing on Monday.

In addition to tariff hikes, China could use other measures to hit back at the U.S., as it imports fewer U.S. products — which limits its ability to match tariffs dollar-for-dollar.

“China may stop purchasing U.S. agricultural products and energy, reduce Boeing orders and restrict U.S. service trade with China,” Hu Xijin, Editor of China’s state-run Global Times, wrote on his verified Twitter account.

“Many Chinese scholars are discussing the possibility of dumping U.S. Treasuries and how to do it specifically.”

Both sides have indicated that talks will continue, with Beijing’s top trade negotiator Liu He saying on Friday that they would take place in the Chinese capital at an unspecified date. In a previous round of tit-for-tat moves, the U.S. imposed 10% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports in September.

Beijing announced shortly after that it was hitting over 5,000 categories of U.S. products with tariffs of 5% to 10%.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told U.S. media on Sunday that Mr. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could meet next month on the sidelines of the G20 summit to thrash out their differences on trade, although no new talks are scheduled.

“The two Presidents maintain contact through various means,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, without confirming a possible meeting between the two leaders.

Missing women force a rethink at Cannes

Missing women force a rethink at Cannes

Namrata Joshi

Cannes film festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux at a news conference. REUTERSREUTERS


A routine press conference on the eve of the Film Festival on Monday turned controversial with general delegate of the festival Thierry Fremaux on the defensive over the award of the honorary Palme d’Or to legendary French actor Alain Delon, despite his archaic views on homosexuality and his admission of having slapped women.

“We are not giving the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Mr. Fremaux, when questioned about the criticism heaped against Cannes on the issue.

While talking about the “contradictions in history”, Mr. Fremaux said the festival was honouring Mr. Delon for his years as an actor. He stressed on the significance of “context”, saying that the actor came from a different generation but was being judged with the eyes of the new and young.

He felt that Cannes was criticised more than other organisations when it came to societal and political issues, and there was this expectation by the media that the festival should be “impeccable and perfect”.

‘Only the best’

Mr. Fremaux asserted that the selection of films at the festival would not be on the basis of gender.

“The films that are there deserved to be selected; they are not there simply because they have been made by women,” said Mr. Fremaux. “We are looking at the end of chain,” he said, while, according to him, it is the beginning — the fostering at film schools, training and exposure that need to be widened.

Cannes has traditionally been criticised for its gender skew. Till last year, there had been 1,600-odd competition titles from men in the entire history of the festival as against just 82 from women. It had made 82 women film professionals stage a silent protest on the red carpet on May 12 last year, perhaps the most memorable image of Cannes 2018. Jane Campion remains the only female director to have won the Palme d’Or for her 1993 film The Piano.

This year has seen a marginal improvement with four women directors competing for the Palme D’Or — Mati Diop for Atlantique, Jessica Hausner for Little Joe, Céline Sciamma for Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Justine Triet for Sibyl — and 13 in the overall selection.

The Un Certain Regard section has six films directed by seven female directors.

Last year in a ‘50:50 by 2020’ pledge , Cannes took upon itself to record the gender of the cast and crew of all films submitted, to make public the names of selection committee members and work towards gender parity on the board of the festival management and the programming teams.

In a start, the selection committee for the films this year was gender balanced with an equal number of women and men.

* Nation

‘19% candidates in 7th phase have cases’

‘19% candidates in 7th phase have cases’

31% have assets worth ₹1 crore or more, according to ADR report

Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi

Of the 909 candidates contesting the seventh phase of the Lok Sabha election, 170 (19%) have criminal cases against them, while 127 (14%) have declared serious criminal cases against their names, according to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Among the major parties, 18 (42%) of the 43 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates, 14 (31%) of the 45 Congress candidates, 6 (15%) of the 39 Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates, 3 (21%) of the 14 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidates have declared criminal cases against their names. Of the 313 Independents, 29 (9%) have criminal cases filed against them.

The National Election Watch and the ADR have analysed the self-sworn affidavits of 909 of the 918 candidates contesting the Lok Sabha election in the seventh phase. Of the 909 candidates, 159 are from national parties, 68 from State parties, 369 from registered unrecognised parties and 313 are Independents.

Fifteen (35%) of the 43 candidates from the BJP, 10 (22%) of the 45 candidates from the Congress, four (10%) of the 39 candidates from the BSP, 7 (29%) of the 24 candidates from the DMK and 24 (8%) out of 313 Independents have declared serious criminal cases against themselves.

Red alert constituencies

In the seventh phase, 33 out of 59 constituencies are red- alert constituencies. Red-alert constituencies are those where three or more contesting candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.

While five candidates have declared convicted cases against themselves, 12 have declared cases related to murder, 34 cases related to attempt to murder, and seven related to kidnapping with intent to secretly and wrongfully confine persons.

Twenty candidates have declared cases related to crime against women. Of them, two have declared cases related to rape. But 10 candidates have declared cases related to hate speech against themselves.

On the financial status of candidates, the ADR said 278 (31%) candidates had assets worth ₹1 crore and more.

Forty (89%) of the 45 candidates are from the Congress, 36 (84%) of the 43 candidates from the BJP, 11 (28%) of the 39 candidates from the BSP, 9 (64%) of the 14 candidates from the AAP and 59 (19%) of the 313 Independents have declared assets worth more than ₹1 crore.

The average assets per candidate contesting in the elections to be held on May 19 is ₹4.61 crore.

Among major parties, the average assets per candidate for 45 Congress candidates is ₹17.15 crores, for 43 BJP candidates it is ₹9.82 crore, 39 BSP candidates have average assets of ₹5.24 crore, and 14 AAP candidates have average assets of ₹5.20 crore.

High asset candidates

Siromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal (over ₹217 crore) and Sukhbir Singh Badal (over ₹217 crore) from Punjab’s Bathinda and Firozpur constituencies, respectively, are among three high asset candidates along with Ramesh Kumar Sharma of the Congress (over ₹1,107 crore) in Patliputra seatuency of Bihar.

On the other hand, Congress candidate from Punjab’s Sangur, Pappu Kumar, along with Shiv Charan of the Jai Hind Party from UP’s Maharajganj and Sunil Kumar Pandey of the Congress from UP’s Salempur are the candidates who have declared zero assets.

Human rights biggest casualty in West Bengal electoral battle

Human rights biggest casualty in West Bengal electoral battle

Central, State police forces accused of threatening political activists; EC takes note

Suvojit Bagchi

A video grab shows a central police force commander slapping a man in custody in Haldia during polling on Sunday. The video has been shared with the EC. Special arrangement


Human rights violation by both Central and State forces continues unabated in Bengal in this election season.

Both sides have randomly picked up and intimidated people who belong to particular political parties or subscribe to specific ideologies. The Hindu has accessed some evidence, though the actual size of rights violations by the central forces, local police and political parties during the elections is allegedly very high.

Among the evidence is a video clip from Sunday where a group men sitting on the ground in an enclosed area is seen being threatened by another group of men in uniform, carrying INSAS, an assault rifle used by the armed forces.

‘Encounter’ threat

The members of the forces are seen hitting the men on head with sticks and even slapping them. A commander in a blue T-shirt is heard saying that he will “encounter” them. “I have killed many here,” he is heard saying in the video clip.

The unarmed men on the ground are asked to raise their hand and are hit repeatedly. The content of the video could not be independently verified but has been shared with the representatives of the Election Commission.

The incident took place in Parbatipur Patit Pabani High School in Haldia under Tamluk constituency, according to sources who shared the video. BJP workers in Haldia said that the men “on the ground are Trinamool Congress supporters with bombs and guns”. Human rights activists, however, said no one “in custody of security forces can be tortured or made a witness against himself or herself”.

“What the police officers are seen to be doing [in the video] to the boys in custody is a serious violation of basic dignity of human beings and not permitted by law or the Act that governs the force,” said Dhiraj Sengupta, general secretary of a civil rights group, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Probe ordered

The Special Police Observer of the EC, Vivek Dubey, said he has ordered a probe into the incident. “The point is well taken. I have requested for an enquiry and report. I would not be able to comment till I receive the report,” Mr. Dubey told The Hindu.

Similar allegations of human rights violations have been levelled by both sides. The State police have been accused of continuing with their “brand of intimidation”. Sachindranath Sinha (64), an organising secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, is one of the victims of such alleged “harassment”. Mr. Sinha’s house in Purba Medinipur’s Mobarakpur village was allegedly surrounded by more than two dozen policemen on Saturday night. The VHP leader was escorted to the local Bhagawanpore police station and interrogated throughout the night. He was not tortured or slapped with any charges.

“They did not furnish any papers or warrant and released me the next day around 8 a.m. on a personal bond,” Mr. Sinha said.

Superintendent of Police, Purba Medinipur, V. Solomon Neshakumar denied that Mr. Sinha was picked up from his residence.

“Many people were found in the area after midnight and there was commotion. Several people were detained on suspicion and he [Mr. Sinha] was moving with them. They were taken to the police station, [their] antecedents were verified and they were released,” Mr. Solomon said.

Mr. Sengupta said that culture of “tolerance is missing in the country”.

“The BJP-RSS men are being threatened and detained as a result of this situation. Such detestable things are common to all who browbeat the [State] government. BJP-RSS is no exception. However, BJP-RSS do similar things in the States ruled by them,” he said.

‘Probe mismanagement in fodder camps’

‘Probe mismanagement in fodder camps’

NCP chief Sharad Pawar asks CM to act quickly as State witnessing its worst drought since 1972

Shoumojit Banerjee

Drought tour: NCP chief Sharad Pawar with farmers and residents of Sautada village, Beed, on Monday.Ganesh Wadded


Calling the current situation in drought-hit Maharashtra as worse than the one in 1972, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday exhorted the State government to get its act together and take relief measures in the rural areas.

Mr. Pawar also sought a probe into allegations on mismanagement of fodder camps and urged the government to ensure that farmers received their crop insurance compensation immediately, and that employment guarantee schemes (EGS) were generated to alleviate agrarian distress.

“The present situation is worse than the 1972 drought. It is characterised by an acute scarcity of water. While crops were destroyed in the 1972 drought, water was available then unlike today where farmers are scrambling to maintain cattle camps and keep their livestock alive,” said the NCP chief, stressing on the need to rise above petty politics at this critical hour.

Mr. Pawar visited fodder camps in Beed on Monday as part of his ongoing drought tour of the Marathwada region. He has previously visited Sangli, Satara and Ahmednagar districts. The former agriculture minister also held public dialogues with farmers at a number of places. Fodder camp owners and farmers discussed their problems with Mr. Pawar, with many lamenting that they had not received any relief — be it crop insurance or through EGS — as promised by the government.

“It amounts to mockery when a farmer pays ₹600 for his crop insurance scheme to avail of a compensation of ₹50,” said Mr. Pawar. He alleged that over 90% farmers had not received any compensation for their crops or fruit trees damaged by the searing heat.

The condition of farm labourers, he said, was worse due to absence of employment opportunities.

A common complaint of the cattle camp owners was the extreme difficulty in maintaining the camps owing to shortage of fodder. The Beed district fodder camp association has said if the situation did not improve, they would be compelled to shut down the camps.

“I will be meeting the Chief Minister to apprise him of the bleak situation and strongly urge him to take concrete measures to alleviate your plight…I request you all to give this government some more time before taking decisions like closing down the fodder camps,” Mr. Pawar told the people.

“While Beed and Marathwada are no strangers to drought, today there is absolutely no drinking water or water for sustenance of livestock. Tankers are proving insufficient to fulfil the needs of the villages. In many areas in the region, the water sources have dried up while in others, the source is contaminated,” he said, promising a supply of 25 tankers to bring immediate relief.

‘Not every man with a beard is a terrorist’

‘Not every man with a beard is a terrorist’

2 men labelled ‘terror suspects’ by media are yet to come to terms with the trauma

K.V. Aditya Bharadwaj

CCTV grabs showing Sajid Khan at the security check (top) and then walking away from the metro station. Handout E Mail


Lanky and bearded, Sajjid Khan sat in a nondescript lodge in ’s crowded downtown market area, pacifying his traumatised wife, even as he held back tears while trying to come to terms with the events of the past 48 hours.

On Saturday night, Sajjid, 38, was apprehended by the police for being a “terror suspect” when he was begging in front of a mosque in R.T. Nagar. Until then, he was unaware of being branded a “terror suspect on a suicide attack mission”.

The unfortunate turn of events began on May 6. CCTV camera footage from the Kempegowda Metro Station that evening of a man clad in a kurta, lungi, and skull cap — later identified as Sajjid — leaving the station soon after the metal detector he had passed through beeped, was beamed across Kannada TV channels.

In the same footage, one channel spotted another man — later identified as Riyaz Ahmed — and labelled him an “associate”. The security scare was in the backdrop of the April 21 Sri Lanka Easter bombings.

Speaking to The Hindu, Sajjid said he was an agricultural labourer from Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan. He had come to the city to beg during Ramzan, as was his practice for the last three years.

What caused the metro metal detector to beep was the ₹150 in coins he had collected as zakath (charity) which was rolled up in his lungi around his waist.

“The police told me that according to the media, I had tried to bribe a sweeper with ₹1 crore to let me in with the bomb. If I am begging for alms, how can I bribe anyone? I can’t even buy my children firecrackers to share with other children during Deepavali. Everyone in my village will vouch that I am a harmless man who begs for a living,” he said breaking down.

Is he angry with what has befallen him? “I am too small a man to be angry; a man who lives on alms. I can only cry and pray,” he said.

Sajjid’s alleged ‘associate’, turned up at the police station voluntarily. Riyaz Ahmed, 50, a street vendor, has been selling watches in Majestic for the last three decades.

“Why am I being humiliated and branded a terrorist? What is my fault? My biggest fear is that someone on the street will recognise me from the TV visuals and lynch me. I fear for my life. The media must realise that not every man with a beard and a skull capis a terrorist,” he said, visible shaken.

Riyaz has not resumed selling watches. He has locked himself up in his house fearing for his life. He has now lodged a complaint with the police against media channels for falsely branding him a terrorist and putting him in jeopardy.

Both Sajjid and Riyaz have been cleared by the city police as having no links to terror. Riyaz says he will return to his trade in Majestic soon.

Average salary of IIM-K graduates goes up

Average salary of IIM-K graduates goes up

50% of recruiters feature in Fortune 500 list

Special Correspondent

Record placement: A view of IIM-Kozhikode.File picture


Despite its ranking slipping to the eighth position in the management category in the last two editions of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), the Indian Institute of Management, (IIM-K) has continued to sustain its placement record with a 16% increase in the average salary offered to students.

An analysis of the final placements for the 2017-19 batch students showed that the top 50% of the recruited students secured an average salary of ₹23.74 lakh, while the remaining 50% bagged an average of ₹15.05 lakh. The highest cost-to-company (CTC) offered was ₹40.5 lakh.

The entire placement was completed within six days and placements were achieved with 390 offers from 107 organisations. About 50% of the recruiters feature in the Fortune 500 ranking list.

A total of 366 students participated in the final placements of 2019. Nearly 26% of the 21st batch of the postgraduate programme comprised women and they were extended a number of roles by reputed organisations. The IIM-K has declared an increase of 60 seats just for women, for the new batch, making it the first in its league.

About 85% students of the hired batch belong to the engineering category, while the remaining are from commerce (7%), science (3%), arts (2%) and others (3%). Incidentally, 42 students were from IITs, 72 from NITS and 10 from BITS. About 5% of the students have CA/CFA certifications.

Work experience

About 25% of the students were freshers and the average work experience of the others was 18.4 months. Also, 39% of them worked in the IT and Telecom industry, 23% in manufacturing and oil and gas and 16% in consulting analytics.

Final Placements 2019 saw a host of marquee recruiters in the consulting vertical such as Bain & Company, BCG, Deloitte, EY, McKinsey & Company, KPMG and PwC. Further, students were also offered niche roles by firms such as Feedback Infra and Avalon Consulting.

Over 21% of the total offers were in the finance domain. Top recruiters including Colgate Palmolive, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Piramal, State Street and Yes Bank made offers in investment banking, financial markets and corporate finance.

General management vertical saw an increase in the number of leadership roles offered. Capgemini ELITE and Tata Sky joined the list of top recruiters with Aditya Birla Group, Mahindra, RPG, and TAS who have continued their long standing association with the IIM-K.

With regular recruiters such as American Express, Microsoft, Mondelez, Optum, Wipro, new recruiters Citrix and Payoneer also participated in Final Placements 2019. Students were offered roles in analytics, product management, EA to CXO and allied fields.

Protests break out over minor’s rape

Protests break out over minor’s rape

Scores of people injured in Kashmir Valley

Peerzada Ashiq

Up in arms: Protesters raising slogans at Mirgund on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Highway on Monday. NISSAR AHMAD


Violent protests erupted in the Kashmir Valley on Monday over the rape of a three-year-old girl, leaving scores of people, including security personnel, injured. The clashes brought life to a standstill in the Valley.

A spontaneous shutdown in the Valley also forced the authorities to close down all educational institutes “as a precautionary measure”.

Hundreds of protesters, demanding justice for the victim and a fast-track investigation, hit the streets in parts of Srinagar, Baramulla, Pulwama and Bandipora. Women and students also participated in protests held at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. Holding placards, the protesters demanded “death penalty” for the accused. Lawyers of the Kashmir High Court Bar Association abstained from court work in Srinagar.

A police officer said protesters turned violent in Baramulla’s Pattan area where they blocked the Srinagar-Baramulla Highway. One protester was critically injured after a teargas shell hit him on the head. Over a dozen protesters sustained pellet shotgun and other minor injuries. “Several security personnel also suffered injuries in the clashes in Baramulla,” said the officer.

Jammu & Kashmir People’s Conference (J&KPC) chief Sajjad Lone condemned the police action.

The incident of the alleged rape took place on May 8 at Sumbal in Bandipora district.

SIT formed

The police said the culprit was arrested immediately, and a medical report has also confirmed “sexual assault”. “A Special Investigation Team has been formed for a time-bound investigation,” said Bandipora SSP Rahul Malik.

Governor Satya Pal Malik has directed the police “to work swiftly in the case and ensure that the culprit gets exemplary punishment.” He spoke to religious leaders of different communities and called for a joint appeal to people to remain calm.

AI project eyes early stage diabetic retinopathy

AI project eyes early stage diabetic retinopathy

Onset diagnosed in 92 patients at 18 civic-run Mumbai dispensaries with device attached to smartphone

Jyoti Shelar

A patient being screened on a retinal imaging device.Special Arrangement


In a first for Mumbai, early stage diabetic retinopathy has been detected using artificial intelligence (AI) at civic-run dispensaries. The unique project is being implemented by the Aditya Jyot Foundation for Twinkling Little Eyes (AJFTLE) and, in a span of eight months, nearly 1,300 diabetes patients have been screened on a retinal imaging device attached to a smartphone.

Commenced in August 2018, the Foundation has screened patients in 18 civic-run dispensaries across the city. Till March this year, 92 patients were diagnosed with early stage diabetic retinopathy and referred to municipal hospitals or the Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital for further treatment.

“Diabetic retinopathy is tricky because there are no early signs. That’s why screening is the only way to detect the complication early and prevent diabetic blindness,” said eye surgeon Dr. S Natarajan, also managing trustee of AJFTLE.

Common cause

Diabetic retinopathy is the commonest diabetic eye disease; it damages blood vessels in light-sensitive tissue at the back of the retina.

While some patients may have symptoms like blurred vision or impaired colour vision, it’s a common cause of blindness in the diabetic population. A robust screening programme is thus the need of the hour.

As a part of the AI project, technicians from the Aditya Jyot Foundation visit civic dispensaries along with Remedio Fundus on Phone, a portable device attached to a smartphone equipped with retinal imaging.

After the patient’s eye images are clicked, the AI on the device screens them for signs of diabetic retinopathy, and prompts technicians on whether they should be referred to a hospital or not. If the image is unclear, the device also prompts a retake of the picture.

Besides diabetic retinopathy, 97 patients, who had been referred, were diagnosed with cataract, and 69 had other eye diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, of which they were unaware.

Not the last word

“The AI diagnosis cannot be termed as the last word. Thus, the diagnosis is verified by an ophthalmologist when the patient is referred further. But this is an excellent tool to indicate the risk of retinopathy in patients. Also, the added advantage is that the device does not depend on [an Internet] network and is completely offline,” said Dr. Radhika Krishnan, AJFTLE’ chief executive officer, adding the initiative was in the process of expanding to 60 civic dispensaries in Mumbai.

A growing challenge

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that diabetes is a growing challenge in India, with an estimated 8.7% diabetic population in the age group of 20 to 70 years. “There are an estimated 73 million diabetics in the country. Of these, nearly 25% are at the risk of diabetic retinopathy,” said Dr. Natarajan.

Curbing infighting an uphill task for rival parties in hill State

In focus:Himachal pradesh

Curbing infighting an uphill task for rival parties in hill State

Internal conflict visible in the Congress as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party

sobhana K. Nair

In many ways this Lok Sabha election is exceptional for Himachal Pradesh. It’s the first time that two of its titans — Congress’ six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Bharatiya Janata Party’s two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal are out of the battlefield.

It is also an election where the BJP, being the ruling party in both the Centre and State, is facing anti-incumbency. The Congress, meanwhile, is plagued with severe infighting. Virbhadhra Singh is sulking, after not getting his way in the selection of candidates. Though he is actively campaigning for the party, many of his comments have put his party in a spot.

Simmering infighting

Mr. Singh campaigned for Mandi candidate Ashray Sharma, grandson of his bête noire Pandit Sukhram. The two hugged and made up but the bitterness often surfaces. During a rally for Mr. Sharma, Mr. Singh openly criticised Mr. Sukhram for the political opportunism of his shifting loyalties between the Congress and the BJP.

None of the party bigwigs — Sukhwinder Singh (Sukku), Sudhir Sharma, G.S. Bali or Asha Kumari — are in the fray.

Infighting is simmering in the BJP too, especially in the Hamirpur constituency, where Anurag Thakur, the BJP nominee, has to face not only his Congress opponent, but also his own disgruntled colleague Health Minister J.P. Nadda.

It was in 2014 that, for the first time, all the four seats in Himachal Pradesh went to the BJP. “The Himachal has always gone with the party that was in power in the State. But in 2014, while the Congress government under Virbhadhra Singh in power in the State, the voters chose BJP [candidates for Parliament],” Joginder Saklani, Assistant Professor in Political Science at the Himachal Pradesh University, said. He sees an edge for the BJP.

Congress fortress

The BJP had been making steady in-roads in the State in this Congress fortress. Till 1977, the Congress won all the four seats here. It was in 1989 that the BJP first made its mark by winning three seats.

The average Himachali voter does not open up easily and most of them show indifference to politics. But when it comes to their vote, they hold surprises up their sleeves. In 2014, they defeated the sitting Chief Minister’s wife Pratibha Singh from Mandi, and just three years later in the 2017 Assembly polls, they served defeat to the BJP’s stalwart Prem Kumar Dhumal at the hands of his own former aide Rajinder Rana. The State does not always follow the national narrative. In 1996, when the Congress was routed across the country, it won all four seats in the hill State. Many claim that Himachal Pradesh, because of its geographical attributes, is cut off from the mainland and thus throws up these surprises.

National narrative

But in 2019, with the social media wave, which includes messaging app WhatsApp, delivering every little detail of the campaign across the nation here, the national narrative is loudly echoing in these hill, too.

The conversation begins and ends with, “Ghar main ghus ke maara” (‘entering the house to deliver a beating’) referring to ‘surgical’ and air strikes in Balakot. The conversation then shifts to “Puri duniya ne Modi ka sikka maan liya” (‘the whole world respects Modi’). “The Balakot strike has changed the elections here, much like in the rest of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looming large here as a prime factor in this election,” Mr. Saklani added.

Equally, one hears people questioning the BJP’s narrative of nothing having been done in the 70 years before Mr. Modi’s Prime Ministership.

Out of the four constituencies here, Mandi has seen the most intensive campaigning. Mr. Modi himself was here on Friday. The State machinery is over-active here because Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is a legislator from the Seraj Assembly seat that falls under the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency. This election is a litmus test for him. If the BJP loses this election, then his position as Chief Minister becomes untenable.

Critical Hamirpur

The other seat critical for the BJP is Hamirpur. Here, former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Anurag Thakur is seeking re-election for the fourth time. His victory is essential to keep his father Prem Kumar Dhumal relevant in the State’s politics.

In Shimla, the BJP has dropped its two-time MP Virender Kashyap and fielded Suresh Kashyap instead, while the Congress has fielded Dhani Ram Shandil.

Both candidates, who belong to the Koli community, covered under the Scheduled Caste category, are from the Defence services background. One is a retired Colonel of the Indian Army, while another is former senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Congress has fielded two-time MLA Pawan Kajal from the Kangra Lok Sabha constituency of Himachal Pradesh, while the BJP has picked State Minister Kishan Kapoor, after dropping veteran leader and former Chief Minister Shanta Kumar.

Mr. Kajal, 44, hails is an OBC (Other Backward Class), while Mr. Kapoor, the Food and Civil Supply Minister in the Jai Ram Thakur-led BJP government in the State, belongs to the semi-nomadic Gaddi tribe, having a sizeable population in Kangra and Chamba districts.

PM wants hat-trick

Mr. Modi, at a rally in Mandi on Friday, pleaded for a ‘hat-trick’ from Himachali voters: “Aapne 2014 jeetaya, 2017 jeetaya, ab 2019 jeeta kar hat-trick karne ki baari hai.” (‘You made us win in 2014, then again in the 2017 Assembly polls, now it’s time to score a hat-trick by making us win in 2019’).

Whether Himachal will is up in the hill air.

JD(U) changes tack in last phase, seeks special status for Bihar

JD(U) changes tack in last phase, seeks special status for Bihar

As the campaign winds down, party leaders have chosen to focus on development work by Nitish Kumar at rallies

Amarnath Tewary

Poll talk: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar conversing with Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at an election rally in Patna on Monday.PTI


As the election campaign in Bihar enters the last stretch, the ruling JD(U) has apparently changed its campaign narrative and returned to its demand for special status for the State.

JD(U) leaders have also focussed more on development work by the Nitish Kumar government rather than issues of “muscular nationalism” or Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “strong leadership,” which they were highlighting in earlier campaign speeches.

Promise to voters

Recently, JD(U)’s principal general secretary K.C. Tyagi had urged voters of Bihar to give his party at least 15 or more MPs, promising that they would raise the issue of special status for Bihar again.

Out of total 40 Lok Sabha seats in the State, the JD(U) and BJP are contesting 17 seats each with the partner Lok Janshakti Party contesting the remaining six.

“We’ll put up a fresh demand for Bihar’s special status before the 15th Finance commission… a permanent solution to all round development of Bihar can be possible only if the State gets the special category status,” said Mr. Tyagi while speaking to presspersons in Patna. State JD(U) president Basistha Narayan Singh endorsed Mr. Tyagi’s statement.

The special status demands come alongside remarks from party MLC Gulam Rasool Balyawi that if NDA wants to come to power in 2019, they have to place Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the forefront of the campaign.

Though Mr. Balyawi’s statement was rejected by both the BJP and the JD(U) leaders, Mr. Nitish Kumar did not respond to it. A senior State BJP leader told The Hindu that such statement in the middle of the poll campaign should have been immediately dismissed and refuted by Mr. Kumar, as a senior JD(U) leader.

“I’m surprised that a JD(U) leader can make a loaded statement at this crucial time without the go-ahead from top party leadership,” he said.

Speaking at election meetings in Nalanda and Aurangabad, the Chief Minister chose to highlight achievements of his government.

Nitish talks welfare

“My government has constructed good roads, brought electricity, given bicycles to students and done several welfare schemes for your development…I always believe in work and will continue to do so,” Mr. Kumar said. Other JD(U) leaders too have pitched the development plank. The changed narrative has not gone unnoticed in the opposition RJD and Congress.

“JD(U) must have seen what is written on the wall and have started singing the old tune of special status for the State….why they have not been raising this issue in first six phases of campaign and why they have started it now,” said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.

Senior State Congress leader and party MLC Premchandra Mishra also said, “It seems JD(U) has got hint of what is coming on May 23… They must also have drawn some conclusion from what senior party leader Ram Madhav recently said that the BJP would require the support of allies to form the next government at the centre. But, I would say it has become too late for them.”

However, State BJP leaders asserted that “along with its alliance partners like JD(U) and LJP, the NDA will form the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.”

* Editorial 1

An eye-opening rap on politics

An eye-opening rap on politics

Why the ‘Chaiwala’ and ‘Chowkidar’ myth-making cannot capture the political ferment on the margins

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Politics today is not merely a ritual of decision-making but a dynamics of myth-making. Myths provide the rationale, the ecological perspectives, the tacit frameworks and the symbols within which politics is located. Today one of the great myths and icons of politics is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The media and the ideological apparatus are focussed on creating new myths around him, while in turn Mr. Modi is re-mythicising politics around proverbs, slogans and fragments of history.

The outsider

He has presented himself as the outsider, the man who stormed Lutyens’ Delhi. As an attempt to present himself to the common man as a fellow common man, he has created fictions of himself as “Chaiwala” and “Chowkidar”. These two everyday archetypes have worked efficiently for him, banalising his demagoguery and populism. These fictions create for him a groundswell of sympathy, a framework where the Prime Minister is immediately perceived “as one of us”.

The communication industry has tried to go one up by devoting TV channels to him, and Vivek Oberoi produced a film, a biopic, which is doggedly waiting for clearance. However there is a snag here. While politics and the politics of democracy create one set of myths, Bollywood is another great myth-maker. In fact, Bollywood has captured the myths, the contradictions of modernity in a spate of stellar films, from Deewaar, Sholay, Mother India to Seeta aur Geeta. Many of the basic tensions between law and family, integrity and loyalty, town and country, foreign and indigenous have been articulated by Bollywood. Bollywood is not only the first great creator of the modern Indian myth but also the finest tuning fork and testing ground for myth.

‘Gully Boy’ challenge

Given this, one is tempted to ask how Bollywood would respond to Mr. Modi’s myth-making in politics. Do the archetypes of chowkidar and chaiwala stand the test of Bollywood? Viewed through the lens of a popular film such as Gully Boy, the answer is a definite no. One has to confront why Gully Boy is one of the most creative and effortless answers to Mr. Modi’s understanding of poverty and the urban margins. It talks of freedom beyond the shakha-imposed panopticons of today, ready to dream even beyond state and market, yet sensitive to the neoliberal dream.

Gully Boy is a story of life, survival and creativity in a slum. It focusses on a set of Muslim families. Yet what is insightful is that while these people are rooted in community, the characters do not stereotype identity. When the hero is asked where he comes from, he replies it could be any of the seven Muslim slums around there. He is conscious of the slum and the limits of poverty. Yet he never gets bogged down in his minoritarian identity or his poverty. The slum in Gully Boy, unlike in Mr. Modi’s politics, is not over-sociologised. For all its roots in minoritarianism and poverty, the slum is a cosmopolitan creation, open to the world while rooted in the locality. In fact, if one watches closely, its language of politics is remote from Mr. Modi’s. He repeats the rhetoric of equality and communalism. However, the slum recognises inequality but articulates a language of dignity, of a sense of individuality without being individualistic. The slum is a society where you do not deny what you are, but refuse to be confined or restricted by it.

There is an un-sentimentality about life, which looks pain in the eye, but does not believe in the lottery of luck. The slum citizen wants an open-rule game. They are also on the lookout for perceptions beyond caste and class. When the hero asks his friend where he met his girlfriend, a foreigner, the man answers, “We found each other by looking into each other’s eyes. Outside they do it differently, here when we see, we only see caste and class.” The message of the slum is clear. Love and life need a freedom beyond the confines of status. Gully Boy recognises inequality but spends more time talking about the phenomenology of distance, between two people juxtaposed to each other, but continents apart in mindsets.

Different dialect

The most brilliant and intriguing part of Gully Boy is that it is a film that centres around rap, and the radicalism of rap. Rap is a poor man’s song and poetry, capturing a protean sense of the body and an inventive sense of language. The lyrics are built around everyday issues of inequality, poverty, race and the individual’s attempt to transcend them. The lyrics in the film become little classics of sociology, parables of the struggles of everyday life. Every performance becomes, in that sense, a choreography of sociology, especially of slum life. This is understandable as rap traces its origins to the housing projects of New York City.

Rap captures the sense of being, the new ontology of slum life. The traditional stereotypes, the conventional language of the first half an hour gets reworked through rap. The film faces up to the violence of patriarchy, the effete nature of fathers who bully their sons and wives but feel powerless against the outside world. The hero’s father beats him for dreaming about music. He adds that the slum is not a place for dreams and aspirations. One survives by keeping one’s face down and sticking to the ground. The older generation worn down by life becomes a wet blanket to the dreams of the new. But it is this sociology of differing generations that makes the slum as a sociological fragment fascinating. The older generations blend poverty and patriarchy to create the authoritarianism of the slum. Rap provides the language of protest and agency, adding to the new cosmopolitanism of the slum. It emphasises desire, not mere aspiration, freedom and not the civics of success, and is able to clothe it all in irony and humour. It is the new costume ball of sociology for a slum, capturing both the dreams and the rage within.

Rap as dream is a potent alternative to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, where dreams have to be collective and march in a shakha. Rap is a battle against Jingostan, seeking a cosmopolitanism of friendship and openness. Rap is a dream of freedom, a celebration of language, an invention which sees the slum as a drama of possibilities.

In indigenising rap as language and dialect of the slum, director Zoya Akhtar creates a new piece of political sociology which goes beyond current isms and their faded dreams of liberation. Singing rap is dreaming society afresh and in that sense the film is deeply liberating. In emphasising the power and creativity of art, it shows how great literature and the politics of freedom emerge from great suffering. All one has to do is to listen to the depth of the hunger in you. Without mentioning Mr. Modi or referring to any other ism, Gully Boy becomes a dream of alternative possibilities, of dreams beyond the dated aspiration of Chaiwala and Chowkidar. Instead of sticking to the sycophantic mindset of the two, it shows that the margins of India are exploding with creativity beyond the confines of the bureaucratic and the governmental. The city acquires a new poetics without being less grimy or less violent. There is a new creativity, a dream of freedom which goes beyond shakha, the Chaiwala and the Chowkidar, where the city is a form of freedom and the right to be free includes the right to dream beyond status and slum. Gully Boy is Bollywood’s fable that Mr. Modi has not got India right, that his India is not musical or free enough. In Gully Boy, dreams, language and body overleap the Modi world to dream a different India, differently.

Shiv Visvanathan is an academic associated with the Compost Heap, a group in pursuit of alternative ideas and imagination

Redactive pricing audit and the CAG’s duties

Redactive pricing audit and the CAG’s duties

Parliament is constitutionally privileged to know under what conditions a procurement was decided on

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The Supreme Court’s observations in connection with the Rafale fighter aircraft deal by citing the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s (CAG’s) report on redacted pricing, and subsequent media reports and the controversy over “stolen files” brought back into the spotlight the role of the supreme audit institution of India.

Many questions arise before the stakeholders: What is redactive pricing? Does the constitutional mandate provide redactive pricing to be included in the CAG’s audit reports submitted to the President to be placed before Parliament? Do any supreme audit institutions (SAIs) such as the National Audit Office, the Government Accountability Office or Commonwealth countries follow redactive pricing in audit reports?

Redaction is the selection or adaption by ‘obscuring or removing sensitive information’ from a document prior to publication. The CAG is mandated to audit all receipts and expenditures of the three-tier governments in India and report to the legislature judiciously, independently, objectively in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations, without fear and favour. He conducts financial compliance and performance audits and submits his reports to the legislature to help people’s representatives in enforcing legislative oversight and public accountability of the executive. Legislative committees such as the Public Accounts Committee and Committee on Public Undertakings examine the CAG’s selected reports.

Not transparent

In the preface of the audit report, the CAG stated that redactive pricing was unprecedented but had to be accepted due to the Ministry’s insistence citing security concerns. Consequently, the full commercial details were withheld and the figures on the procurement deal were blackened. It was unprecedented that an audit report submitted by the CAG to the President under Article 151 of the Constitution suppressed relevant information. Whether the Ministry’s insistence citing security concerns could have been accepted by the CAG can be examined only by the Supreme Court in the light of the constitutional provisions on the CAG’s duties and parliamentary privileges and prerogatives.

Redactive pricing is nowhere used in SAI audit reports. It does not seem to have been used in a government audit by any SAI of any country. Redactive pricing in the ‘Performance Audit Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Capital Acquisition in Indian Air Force (Union Government – Defence Services, Air Force, Report No. 3 of 2019)’ suppresses more than it reveals. For example, in the Rafale deal, Parliament, its committees, the media and other stakeholders of the CAG’s reports cannot obtain complete, accurate and reliable information due to redactive pricing. The reduction in the original requirement, to 36 aircraft, a waiver of the earlier decision to involve Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, observations of the Indian Negotiating Team, cost escalation due to inclusion of bank guarantee and performance guarantee were not compared properly to arrive at the audit conclusion.

Pivotal to procurement

Pricing is the quintessence of any procurement decision. Along with quality and quantitative specifications, comparative merits and demerits are ascertained, and the pricing of comparable products are compared in decision-making. Pricing is an integral part of the procurement decision-making process of any equipment, product, goods or service. A strategic competitive advantage of a product, how best it should be procured, how many at a time are to be purchased and at what price and under what conditions, terms, instalments, along with after-service conditions, discounts, commissions and other conditions are evaluated to arrive at a purchase decision. Therefore, price integrity and comparative competitiveness are at the heart of any procurement decision.

The CAG is mandated to get into the nitty-gritty of procurement terms, procedures, comparative advantages and disadvantages without fear and favour to form an objective, independent and judicious audit opinion. An audit is expected to analyse the facts and comparative pricing charts to highlight the financial propriety and prudence of the procurement decision. The institution is constitutionally mandated and empowered to do its duties covering all essential factors about the procurement, customised end-to-end pricing assessments, legal requirements, escrow accounting, terms and conditions and arbitration clauses in compliance with legal and other regulations.

The executive procurement decision is expected to be completely analysed in the CAG’s audit to pinpoint inaccuracies, non-compliance of essential procurement procedures, conditions and pricing errors which may have a negative financial impact and cause potential damage to the country’s interests.

Complex audit

Given the dynamics of international competition in competitive products and pricing in today’s modern market scenario, pricing, delivery and post-delivery service and other conditions are essentially covered in an SAI audit. It is a complex audit, demanding exceptional insight, expertise, knowledge and skills. In case the CAG’s office lacks expertise to conduct a performance audit, expertise can be sought from the pool of resources or credible organisations to be coopted in the audit team.

Pricing decisions must be subjected to detailed analysis, without resorting to redactive pricing. Parliament is constitutionally privileged to know what the executive had done and how and under what conditions a procurement was decided. The CAG’s audit is expected to highlight value for money in purchase decisions.

A performance audit is done to establish whether the procurement activity was executed keeping in mind economy, efficiency, effectiveness, ethics and equity. Only a thorough pricing audit can bring out the credibility and integrity of a purchase decision, thereby achieving an SAI’s constitutionally mandated responsibilities.

K.P. Shashidharan is a former DG, CAG Office. The views expressed are personal

To the final lap

To the final lap

With six phases of elections over, parties are primed for post-poll alliance building

With Sunday’s sixth phase of polling, voters in 483 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies have voted. The electoral process has been a mirror to both India’s failings and its promise as the world’s biggest democracy. A reasonably good voter turnout did nothing to dull the effects of a nasty campaign by leaders of most parties, but especially of the Bharatiya Janata Party. All of Delhi and Haryana, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand voted in the sixth phase, a total of 59 constituencies. Turnout varied from place to place, but the sharp decline in Delhi, to 60.50%, from 2014’s 65.07% was notable. Widespread violence, including the death of a BJP activist, and the State government’s highhanded action against a BJP activist for a social media post ahead of the polling vitiated the atmosphere in West Bengal. An attack on the BJP candidate in Ghatal constituency was unfortunate and condemnable. Meanwhile, the oversight by the Election Commission of India has left a lot to be desired in terms of being demonstrably impartial and swift, through the first six phases. In the last phase of polling on May 19, the remaining 59 constituencies will vote. There is no word on when Vellore, where the election was cancelled because of excessive use of money by the candidate of the DMK, will vote.

There is no let-up in the unusual ferocity among political adversaries that has characterised the campaign in the 17th general election, but political leaders have started preparing for the post-poll scenario. Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, whose Telangana Rashtra Samithi is expected to do well, has reached out to leaders in other States. On Monday, he met DMK chief M.K. Stalin in Chennai as part of efforts to put together a Federal Front of parties dissatisfied with both the BJP and the Congress. On the other hand, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has been eager to move towards early coordination of regional parties within an anti-BJP formation that would include the Congress. These moves are evidently premature, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has rightly suggested that they must await the final results. The fierce response by Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion that she withdraw support to the Congress government in Rajasthan has been the clearest indication of her preference in the post-poll scenario. Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has continued to publicly express his admiration for Ms. Mayawati, keeping the possibility of an understanding with her wide open. He had earlier tried to strike a pre-poll alliance with the BSP, but it did not materialise. Prime Minister Modi, while continuing to campaign against alliances, in principle calling them unstable, has over the weekend claimed to know “the art of running coalitions”. The calculators are clearly out, but the calculations will have to wait.

Last-ball finish

Last-ball finish

The 12th IPL season ended on the note its thrills and controversies had promised

An enthralling Indian Premier League season produced a gripping last-ball finish in Hyderabad, with Mumbai Indians securing an unprecedented fourth crown. Sunday’s tense, seesawing final ended in heartbreak for Chennai Super Kings and ecstasy for Rohit Sharma’s side. This was a clash between the League’s two most successful teams, and there was little to separate them in the end. All four of Mumbai’s titles have arrived in the last seven seasons, and key to that continued success has been the retention of a strong core of players. Lasith Malinga remains a force to reckon with even at 35, as he proved with his nerveless final over. Jasprit Bumrah, who finished with 19 wickets and an incredible economy rate of 6.63 for the season, is the finest death-overs bowler in the world today. Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard again made a difference with their lower-order striking. Among Mumbai’s newer faces, the leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, who had played only three IPL matches ahead of this season, performed a vital role. CSK should derive encouragement from the manner in which it fought for the trophy, with an ageing squad that clearly had a number of gaps. The batting was a concern throughout, and if not for the efforts of bowlers Deepak Chahar, Imran Tahir, and Ravindra Jadeja, and the astute leadership of M.S. Dhoni, the team may not even have qualified for the playoffs.

The IPL’s 12th edition had its share of thrills and controversies. A spirited, young Delhi Capitals side entertained, as did Kolkata Knight Riders’ Andre Russell with his ferocious hitting. There were two hat-tricks and six centuries. Australia’s David Warner, who with Steve Smith was returning to high-profile cricket since the ban for ball-tampering, was in devastating form, topping the charts with 692 runs. Tahir’s 26 wickets, the most for a spinner in one season, made him the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. R. Ashwin’s act of ‘mankading’ Jos Buttler sparked some unnecessary moralising while there were a number of contentious umpiring calls; even the normally composed Dhoni stormed on to the field to protest one decision. It was feared that with the World Cup around the corner, the IPL would be a watered-down affair. English and Australian stars did fly home early to join their national teams, but love for the IPL remained undiminished in India. The country’s focus will now shift to the World Cup, with Dhoni, Rohit, Bumrah, Jadeja and Pandya having just a few weeks to recover from the IPL exertions. With England, Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and West Indies having begun their preparations already, India will hope its players can quickly switch to the one-day mode.

* Editorial 2

Private, public and political morality

Private, public and political morality

When people choose a political life, they must follow an ethic distinct from private morality

Though related, political, public and private morality are not identical. They may come from the same source, but are distinct. This point has been noted in the Western tradition since at least Machiavelli. But its lineage in India is ancient.

Ethics in three domains

Take, for example, Asoka who spoke of Dhamma (ethics) in three distinct domains. First, interpersonal morality. Each of us has special obligations to our children, spouse, parents, teachers and relatives. We have a duty towards those under our special care, including the aged, ‘servants’, animals and, occasionally, strangers. Asoka distinguished this private ethic from what might be called inter-group morality in public life. Crucial here is harmony between different religious-philosophical groups generated by the exercise of sayamam (self-restraint). He particularly emphasised the importance of vacaguti — controlling one’s tongue to be critical of other groups only if there is good reason to, only on appropriate occasions and always moderately; also, to praise one’s own group, only when there is good reason to, only on appropriate occasions and always moderately. Neither hate speech nor speech glorifying oneself was acceptable as part of public morality — a point very relevant in our times.

Asoka then distinguished private and public morality from power-related political morality specifying what rulers and the ruled owe one another. Subjects owe obedience to their king. But the ruler too owed something to his subjects: to ensure janahita, the good of all (including all living species), and janasukham, happiness not only in this life but also in the afterlife. To achieve this, rulers and their officials must display damdasamata and viyohalasamata (impartiality in meting out punishment and in politico-legal acts more generally). This sums up the core of Asoka’s political morality: a commitment to justice, to impartiality.

What then is the difference between private/public morality and political morality? While in one’s personal life, in our dealings with those with whom we have close daily encounters such as our family, friends or ‘servants’, we can’t help but be partial, and while in the larger public domain, where we face people with different religio-philosophical sensibilities, we can’t entirely escape some degree of partiality to our own world view, the political domain requires the impartial or just use of power for the good of all.

Family, civil society and state

Two thousand years later, the German philosopher Friedrich Hegel made similar points, although in a different way and in an entirely different context. He distinguished three spheres of human life: family, civil society and the state. The family, Hegel claimed, was the smallest community in which its members do not even distinguish themselves from one another. Their identities are fused. A family is bound by emotional ties, by mutual love and affection. Members take pride in each other’s achievements and feel a strong sense of shame at the other’s wrongdoing. Morality here is guided by unarticulated feelings.

The family is different from another sphere of life that Hegel designated civil society but should more appropriately be called ‘market society’. Here, each person acts as an individual with a sharply defined sense of her own interests which are distinct from, compete and may even clash with the interests of others. No one is tied to the other by bonds of love or affection. Since there is no community but only an aggregate of individual interests, there is no commonly held ethic either. Competitive life is governed by coercive legal rules to regulate the pursuit of self-interest. At best, each individual devises her own personal, subjective moral maxims.

Finally, Hegel spoke about a third domain where people once again see themselves as members of a large political community, as citizens of a state. Citizens in a political community must be bound together neither by feelings nor by self-interest but by a commitment to common values discovered by public reason — values such as political freedom, solidarity, shared traditions and cultural heritage. Morality in this domain requires that we overcome our loyalty to blood relations, not pursue only our private interests, and commit instead to using power grounded in shared principles. Love and hate are largely imposters in this domain where consensus is forged by the use of public reason. Its democratic version requires that, guided by values of openness, equal respect and justice, we deliberate and help each other arrive at impartial laws and public policies, acceptable in principle to everyone in the polity.

Furthermore, those who wield political power must realise that what they do has enduring consequences affecting the lives of an incalculably large number of people. This brings with it enormous public responsibility which derives in no small part from the fact that they have at least temporary legitimacy to use force against ordinary citizens. They have, at their disposal, an apparatus of violence simply unavailable to heads of families or members of civil society. Powerful politicians, therefore, must show great care and sensitivity to the appropriate use of force and violence.

Private and political morality

One important implication of the difference between private and political morality is this: it is sometimes believed that moral scrupulousness in one’s private life automatically guarantees high moral stature in political life. This simply does not follow. Those wielding public power may refuse to enrich themselves, their family or friends, and resist from obtaining sexual favours. But such ‘cleanliness’ need not entail scrupulous political morality. What use is personal incorruptibility if the politician is partial to or discriminates against one particular community, abandons public reason, smashes dissent to concentrate power in his own hands, makes arbitrary use of force, and lives in the illusion that he is greater than all the institutions that surround him? What if he begins to believe that he alone possesses the truth or knows the good of the entire community? And precisely because of the moral restrictions he has placed on his personal life, feels released from any restriction on the use of power in the political arena? In short, a person who is profoundly moral in his private life may brazenly violate all norms of political morality — undermine justice and public reason. Conversely, it is entirely possible that a person who has morally slipped in his private life (cheated on one’s spouse, enriched himself) respects the integrity of public institutions, is acutely sensitive to the moral costs of violence, shows a deep commitment to justice, and upholds reason-based democratic norms.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that politicians are free to abandon private morality. But we often find comfort in the illusion that there is one simple, seamless morality, reflected equally in private and in public. In fact, most humans are complex moral agents. It would be wonderful if our private and political moralities were perfectly aligned and we achieved the highest moral standards in both. But in a non-ideal world we can only hope that when people choose to lead a life in politics, they will at least follow minimum norms of political morality even as they fail to be scrupulously moral in their private lives.

Rajeev Bhargava is Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi

The Madhava Menon model of legal education

The Madhava Menon model of legal education

For him law worked best when it worked for the society

Legal education in India can be classified into two categories: the years before and after the advent of N.R. Madhava Menon. Earlier, the study of law was often a default option, when you couldn’t get admission to any other course or didn’t know what course your life should take. The law degree was a three-year affair following an undergraduate degree. There were a few exceptional teachers and a few exceptional students; for the rest it was pretty much an active engagement with the “guide” books in the run-up to the examinations. Real learning started when you were apprenticed to a senior lawyer.

Menon (1935-2019) shook that up. Responding to an appeal from the Bar Council of India, which was gravely concerned with the steep decline in standards of the profession, Menon accepted the challenge and transformed himself from an academic to an institution-builder. With missionary zeal he established the country’s first National Law School in Bangalore in 1987, with an independent university status. He oversaw the building of its campus. He drew in excellent faculty. He carefully designed a five-year law course as the first degree after school, thereby ensuring that only those who were seriously interested in the subject came in, and would emerge well equipped for what the profession needed.

The Menon model

And he succeeded brilliantly. The mix of motivated students and faculty overseen by a Vice Chancellor to whom dedication and discipline came naturally produced results which made the Bar, Bench, law firms and other users sit up and take notice. As his graduates entered the field, it was clear that law had joined the ranks of other professions where much could be expected from an entrant, and the entrant could expect commensurate responsibility, position and compensation. Inevitably this led to the creation of other national law schools which largely followed the Menon model, and whose heads were often Menon trainees.

That one achievement would have been enough to guarantee him a place in any honours listing, but Menon was far from done. Judges too, especially young recruits to the service, needed training. The National Judicial Academy (NJA) was set up in Bhopal, and the Menon magic of institution-building created another sterling institution from scratch. It became de rigueur to have this on the resume of a judicial officer, and it was a mark of subject expertise to be invited to teach a course. In time this expanded to reach higher levels of the judiciary, especially in new areas of law. Many senior judges received their first exposure to public interest litigation and human rights and environmental issues at the NJA long before these became current coinage — indeed, Menon’s endorsement of these outlier subjects was a key reason for sceptics to become adherents. Supreme Court judges also came to teach, learn and, on occasion, receive reprimand for an errant judgment, which took the occupant of the apex court back to his college backbencher days.

The best tribute

More was to come. At the request of the State government, he set up the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Calcutta, which sought to focus on academics and research. To some extent, this was to alleviate his concern that students from his first and premier law school had shown a preference for law firms and corporates rather than joining the Bar or NGOs where a rights-based language was at play. For Menon, the law worked best when it worked for society’s benefit. True enough, retirement and quieter times did not figure in his list of options. In his sunset years, he created and ran the M.K. Nambyar Academy for Continuing Legal Education in Kerala as well as the Menon Institute of Legal Advocacy Training for developing grass-roots capacity to access and use the law for underprivileged sections.

Being the last word on the subject, he was, of course, the first choice when it came to being asked to serve on the Law Commission and other bodies and committees connected with legal education. All these tasks he accepted willingly and gave each one his best. At a personal level he constantly engaged with those working in fields close to his heart. They received his advice, encouragement and valued friendship. He will be missed and mourned by many, especially generations of his students. Perhaps one tribute that would please him would be an introspection if they passed the ultimate Menon test — of using the skills he gave them for the public good, wholly or at least in part.

Sriram Panchu is Senior Advocate, Madras High Court

Living in the panopticon

Living in the panopticon

It’s the price we must pay to safely walk on the street, watch a movie in a theatre or shop in the bazaar

Uday Balakrishnan

China is often pilloried in the West for the deep surveillance of its people. Latest reports indicate that the Chinese state, harnessing artificial intelligence, will soon have enough information to rate all its citizens for good behaviour, making everything from buying a train ticket to getting a credit card difficult, if not impossible, for those not conforming to rules of conduct set by the state.

It is naive to believe that mass surveillance is special to China or that it is a recent phenomenon. The extent to which the British had spied on Indian society and the systems they developed for that were brought out in detail by the late historian C.A. Bayly in his book, Empire & Information — Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870. All countries monitor their citizens. The communist states did it through the 20th century. Anyone sifting through records of Stasi, former East Germany’s security agency, would be astonished to note the extent to which the state spied on its citizens.

In the past, surveillance was selective and targeted. India’s pre-Independence leaders were relentlessly followed by British intelligence. Little was missed of Subhas Chandra Bose’s time in Germany or Mahatma Gandhi’s in his ashrams. British agents filed detailed reports on Jawaharlal Nehru’s journeys and meetings through Europe.

It is one thing for citizens to be monitored by the state, but it is quite another to be ‘spied’ upon by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon and apps loaded onto cheap Chinese smartphones. Recently I was surprised to read transcripts of every command I had given to my Alexa speaker over the last few years; I am still trying to erase them all.

As one of the largest consumers of data, India is a goldmine for data aggregators. It’s the state’s duty not to make it easy for aggregators to collect data with impunity. India too needs something as strong as the General Data Protection Regulation, which was adopted by the European Union in 2018, and a willingness to enforce it, to protect the privacy of its citizens.

In the wake of suicide attacks and bombings worldwide, mass surveillance has assumed a new urgency. Almost all countries are going China’s way. Today we are all tracked 24×7 across places and devices. Unpleasant as it is, and even as all of us wish to be protected from overzealous governments, we need to get used to living in a global panopticon. It’s the price we must pay to safely walk on the street, watch a movie in a theatre or shop in the bazaar.

The writer, a former civil servant, taught public policy and contemporary history at IISc. Bengaluru

* Foreign

Mosques, shops come under attack

Mosques, shops come under attack

Police impose curfew across Sri Lanka amid fears of an escalation in violence; social networks blocked

Harmony disrupted: The Abbraar Masjid mosque in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka, which was attacked on Monday.REUTERSDINUKA LIYANAWATTE

Mobs attacked several mosques, torched dozens of shops and homes of Muslims in Kurunegala, some 100 km north-west of capital Colombo, on Monday, in the biggest outbreak of violence since the April 21 Easter serial bombings.

A police curfew, initially imposed in six villages in the district, was later extended to cover the entire island until Tuesday morning, amid fears of the attacks spreading.

The government blocked social media platforms, including WhatsApp and Facebook, following the violence. Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake told local media that troops would not hesitate to use “maximum force” to contain the tense situation.

The incidents point to an escalation of violence targeting Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, following the Easter terror attacks that the government had attributed to two local Islamist radical groups. The IS, too, had later claimed responsibility for the explosions that claimed over 250 lives in in Colombo, nearby Negombo and the Eastern city of Batticaloa.

Kurunegala affected

The cluster of villages in Kurunegala district — Kuliyapitiya, Kobeigane, Rasnayakapura, Hettipola, Bingiriya and Dummalasuriya — witnessed destruction, according to local sources. “It began in the afternoon today. It was like they [the mobs] had planned to move from one village to the next, attacking our homes and property,” said a community leader in the area, who asked not to be named. “A group of men are still on motorbikes, making a big noise, while villagers are either indoors, or hiding in the nearby jungles in fear,” he told The Hindu.

At least three mosques were attacked late on Sunday in nearby Kiniyama, sources said. “One mosque has been almost fully destroyed. It will take us millions to rebuild it,” a source from the village said.

Kurunegala, an ancient royal capital, is a Sinhala-Buddhist-majority district which is home to nearly 16 lakh people. Muslims living here constitute 7.3% of the population, according to government data.

Hours after the attacks in Kurunegala on Monday, reports of similar incidents of violence emerged from Gampaha district, less than 30 km from Colombo. Earlier, on Sunday, Chilaw town near Colombo had witnessed dozens pelting mosques and Muslim-owned stores with stones, and a local man being beaten by a mob, prompting a police curfew.

In the wake of the Easter blasts, Muslim political leaders and activists — who vehemently condemned the attacks — had flagged the possibility of a backlash targeting the community.

Condemning Monday’s spate of violence, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said: “There is no difference between such racists trying to set our country on fire and the suicide bombers who detonated themselves.”

Rajapaksa’s constituency

Former President and Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa, who represents Kurunegala in Parliament, urged citizens not to take the law into their own hands. Referring to the deadly anti-Tamil riots of 1983, he said the country should not go on a similar path again.

Colombo-based NGO Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) said on Monday that it was “alarmed” by the increased spate of communal violence against the Muslim community since the Easter attacks.

“CPA is also concerned about reports indicating inaction and/or delays in response to this violence by the security authorities, an unfortunate trend which has repeatedly been witnessed in the past,” a statement said.

Swedish probe will allow Assange to clear his name: WikiLeaks

Swedish probe will allow Assange to clear his name: WikiLeaks

Agence France-Presse

Swedish Vice Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson.REUTERSANNA RINGSTROM

The reopening of a 2010 rape investigation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will give him “a chance to clear his name”, the whistleblower website’s editor said on Monday.

Kristinn Hrafnsson said in a statement that there had been “political pressure” on Sweden to reopen the case into Mr. Assange, who is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for breaching his bail conditions in 2012.

U.S. extradition request

The U.S. is also seeking to extradite him on conspiracy charges relating to the public release by Wikileaks of a cache of secret documents. The British courts will have to rule on the two extradition requests, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid having the final say on which one takes precedence. “I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the U.K. and that he could be extradited to the U.S.,” Deputy-Chief Prosecutor of Sweden Eva-Marie Persson said in Stockholm.

The statute of limitation for rape in Sweden is 10 years — a deadline which would be reached in mid-August next year for that alleged incident, leaving prosecutors pressed for time should they decide to file any formal charge.

Ms. Persson said she would request to interview Mr. Assange while he was in British custody, but that this would require the consent of the Australian, who fought unsuccessfully through the British courts to avoid extradition before fleeing to the Embassy.

A lawyer representing the victim in the rape investigation urged Swedish prosecutors to move quickly.

“We are not going to give up until a charge is brought and the case goes to court,” lawyer Elisabeth Massi Fritz told a news conference.

An election that wasn’t meant to happen in U.K.

An election that wasn’t meant to happen in U.K.

With Brexit getting delayed, British citizens will vote for EU Parliament on May 23

Vidya Ram

Promotional material for the EU Parliament election campaign in Germany.


Just under three years since the Brexit referendum that irrevocably changed British politics, another election is set to take place later this month that could fundamentally impact the political landscape again.

On May 23, British citizens and European and Commonwealth citizens resident in the U.K. will vote to select 73 candidates for the European Parliament, who will take up their seats in July for a five-year term.

It is a unique election in many ways: even as late as April, this was the election that was never meant to happen in the U.K., and some continue to hope that the MEPs elected may never have to take up their seats. Even after the delay of Brexit till October 31 and after repeated failures by the U.K. government to get the necessary parliamentary backing, some retain the distant hope that Britain could still leave before the end of June.

Indeed, the Conservative Party has been running a particularly understated campaign, with voters across many parts of the country reporting that they had received no flyers at all. Some leaflets sent out by the party were lambasted by its own MPs because they asked local MPs to support the Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Priti Patel, the former Cabinet Minister, who is critical of the withdrawal agreement as it stands, labelled the campaign “desperate” and “appalling” and an attempt to undermine Ms. May’s critics.

Enthusiasm in Britain for European parliamentary elections has traditionally not been high: in 2014, turnout in the U.K. was just 36%. However, with public strength of feeling on Brexit high, it could be far higher this time round — around 49% of respondents to a YouGov poll earlier this month said they were certain to vote, with only 13% adamant that they would not. However, it has not been good news for Britain’s main political parties, for whom recent local election results have already sent a grim warning of public discontent.

A poll conducted by Opinium on behalf of The Observer led to a new wave of panic among Britain’s main parties as the Brexit Party — founded by former U.K. Independence Party head Nigel Farage — looked set to be the most popular party, with 34% support, followed by Labour on 21%, the Liberal Democrats on 12% and the Conservatives on 11%.