contributed by ashok sharma
The Hindu: October 2, 2015 02:06 IST
The archives beckon
The West Bengal Government on September 18 declassified a cache of 64 documents relating to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, some 70 years after he disappeared and left behind many larger-than-life myths. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee followed that up with the release of confidential Cabinet meeting papers from the period from 1938 to 1947. How should one look at these decisions? As something that should have happened a long time ago, or as a signal of things to come in the future? Government documents, papers, personal memoirs, correspondence, Cabinet notes, virtually anything can have a classified tag put on them in India, rendering them beyond scrutiny for an indefinite period, to be accessed only by those who are authorised to do so as set down in the Manual of Departmental Security Instructions that categorise classified documents as Top Secret, Secret and Confidential. Any breach could attract the draconian provisions of the Official Secrets Act, a legacy of the colonial period. The Right to Information Act seemed to offer some hope of transparency being ushered in, and of a willingness on the part of governments to take citizens along in the process of governance. But Section 8 of the Act continues to provide the means to hold documents in official custody. The U.S. has a strong de-classification tradition, though it retains the right to keep some documents away from the public gaze. The U.K., over the years, has declassified documents after a lock-in period. Now Germany has opened up its archives to scholars. So what do classified documents mean for the world's largest democracy?
Ideally, the disclosures on Bose — although what has been released is only a small part of the collection, with a substantial portion remaining in the custody of the Central government — should open the floodgates on several documented events from the past. Journalist and historian Neville Maxwell put online a year ago a telling account of India's debacle in the 1962 war from the Henderson-Brooks Report that had been marked Top Secret. There is now a clamour to make public documents relating to the sudden and rather mysterious death of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, some 50 years ago in Tashkent. Other documents that ought to be made public include those on the misuse of the intelligence agencies and other questionable actions during the period of the Emergency, the run-up to Operation Bluestar and the Indian Peace Keeping Force operations in Sri Lanka. The way to aid informed public discussion is by making authentic information on the past accessible — without of course forgetting that not everything can be put out in the public domain.
› (also archives [plural]) a collection of historical records relating to a place, organization, or family:
These old photographs should go in the family archives.
› (also archives [plural]) a place where historical records are kept:
I've been studying village records in the local archive.
› [I or T] to move your hand or head in a way that tells someone to come nearer:
The customs official beckoned the woman to his counter.
"Hey you!" she called, beckoning me over with her finger.
He beckoned to me, as if he wanted to speak to me.
› [I] If something beckons, it attracts people:
For many young people, the bright lights of the city beckon, though a lot of them end up sleeping on the streets.
· rendering noun (PERFORMANCE)
› (also rendition) the way that something is performed, written, drawn, etc.:
Her rendering of the song was delightful.
rendering noun (TRANSLATION)
› a translation of a book or piece of writing into a different language or a different style:
a new rendering of the Bible into modern English
rendering noun (IN BUILDING)
› specialized architecture a layer of plaster or cement on a wall:
› to show someone where they should go, or to make someone go where you want them to go:
She ushered us into her office and offered us coffee.
Officials quickly ushered the protesters out of the hall.
> to look at something or someone for a long time, especially in surprise or admiration, or because you are thinking about something else:
Annette gazed admiringly at Warren as he spoke.
He spends hours gazing out of the window when he should be working.
› to make a loud complaint or demand:
The children were all clamouring for attention.
[+ to infinitive] She clamours to go home as soon as she gets to school.
The Hindu: October 2, 2015 02:06 IST
The old chorus and a false note
India's response to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's latest comments at the United Nations General Assembly marks a shift in the government's strategy in dealing with the periodic references to Kashmir that Pakistan has made it a practice to make at UN fora. To begin with, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that he intends to stick to his 'red lines' on Kashmir. So any talks between the two countries will not be on terms set by Pakistan, which seeks to make Kashmir the central point of such exercises. That Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif stayed in New York at the same hotel and attended the same conference along with world leaders, and yet did not make the time for a bilateral meeting — they settled for a simple hand-waving gesture while at the peacekeeping summit — indicates that there has been no diplomatic headway since National Security Adviser-level talks between the two countries were cancelled in August. Later, in its sharp response to Mr. Sharif's speech at the General Assembly, India demonstrated a major shift in its approach on Kashmir at the UN. In a point-by-point reply to Mr. Sharif's reference to Kashmir as a land "under foreign occupation", India brought up the condition of Kashmiris in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), saying it was up to Pakistan to vacate Kashmir and not the other way round. Consequently, India dismissed Mr. Sharif's four-point formula that included points on demilitarising Kashmir and the Siachen glacier. It was delivered not directly to India but to the UN, in yet another attempt to internationalise the issue rather than offering a sincere solution.
However, India's decision to reply to the Pakistani line on Kashmir with counter-allegations on the PoK seems to be a false step. Despite all its attempts over the years, Pakistan has been unsuccessful in getting the United Nations or the P-5 Security Council members to consider any reference on Kashmir; the subject was last discussed by the UNSC in 1971. All of its references and pleas to UN committees to take up the dispute have been disregarded, and every P-5 nation has counselled both countries to resolve the issue bilaterally. At a time when India's position on this question is actually being upheld, it is puzzling why New Delhi wished to take this new line at the UN; it would only invite the multilateral spotlight back on to the Kashmir issue. As an active aspirant to a permanent seat in the Security Council, India's stature would be enhanced internationally if it instead sets in motion a bilateral process to resolve issues with its neighbour, with a view to ending the decades-old dispute. That will need the bricks-and-mortar of sustained discussions on the basis of common interests. Such a process cannot possibly be replaced by a simple wave between the two Prime Ministers across a crowded floor at a UN meeting.
· chorus noun (SONG OR SONG PART)
› part of a song that is repeated several times, usually after each verse (= set of lines) :
I'll sing the verses and I'd like you all to join in the chorus.
They burst into a chorus of (= they sang the song) Happy Birthday.
› a piece of music written to be sung by a choir (= group of singers):
The choir will be performing the Hallelujah Chorus at the concert.
chorus noun (SINGING GROUP)
› a group of people who are trained to sing together:
> to defend or keep a principle or law, or to say that a decision that has already been made, especially a legal one, is correct:
As a police officer you are expected to uphold the law whether you agree with it or not.
· stature noun (REPUTATION)
› the good reputation a person or organization has, based on their behaviour and ability:
an artist of great stature
His stature as an art critic was tremendous.
If the school continues to gain in stature, it will attract the necessary financial support.
· stature noun (HEIGHT)
› (especially of people) height:
His red hair and short stature made him easy to recognize.
MUDRA Bank on a roll
The new agency can make a difference to small finance banks.
The Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank or MUDRA Bank, which was launched on April 8 this year, appears to have made an impressive start. Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that it had already advanced over Rs 24,000 crore to over 3.7 million micro enterprises and he expected advances to cross Rs 1.2 lakh crore by the end of the current financial year, with over 12.5 million borrowers. By the yardsticks of even the most efficient organisations, this is a phenomenal achievement; by the standards of India's public institutions, even the well-run ones, this seems to be a creditable record, matching the pace at which bank accounts were opened under the Prime Minister's Jan Dhan Yojana. Over time, evaluation studies of both programmes will provide a better understanding of both how such rapid scaling up was achieved and what kind of impact it has had. Meanwhile, it is useful to look at the opportunities and challenges faced by this organisation as it deals with its mandate of universalising access to credit among micro enterprises.
MUDRA Bank is currently set up as a subsidiary of the Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi), which itself was hived off from the then Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) to deal with its small business portfolio. The model that IDBI and Sidbi primarily followed was a refinancing model; state-level institutions, like state finance corporations, extended loans to these enterprises and these were then refinanced by the apex institutions. Over time, the state-level architecture withered and, at present, is virtually defunct. This effectively shut down the main channel of funding for the national institutions; the little that they could do through direct lending and refinancing banks kept them afloat. Along the way, IDBI morphed into a universal bank, while Sidbi remains but, some might say, a pale shadow of its former self.
This is not to deny in any way the importance of a refinancing institution. In many situations, it is an essential component of a robust financial framework. It provides liquidity and can help shape lending policies and risk management practices. The question is really about the strength of the delivery network. Here, MUDRA Bank will have a significant potential advantage over the Sidbi model. Its refinancing activities are not going to be restricted to a specific set of institutions. It has the mandate to use the entire range of financial service providers currently servicing the micro segment. Some of this is being done by banks, but non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and microfinance institutions (MFIs) are active players in this field and they, particularly the latter, stand to gain access to significantly more resources to lend onward to the target segment. In fact, MUDRA Bank may well play a critical role in the viability and success of the newly licensed small finance banks, which are mandated to lend the bulk of their funds to priority sector borrowers, a large proportion of which will qualify as micro enterprises. So, a much more viable architecture is emerging. Of course, with such large amounts of money being talked about, great care has to be taken with risk assessment and management. Going forward, this should become a significant institutional capability in MUDRA Bank.
· on a roll
› infml experiencing a period of success or good luck:
They've won nine games in a row, so they're obviously on a roll.
› a fact or standard by which you can judge the success or value of something:
Productivity is not the only yardstick of success.
· hive sth off
› to separate one part of a company, usually by selling it:
The plan is to hive off individual companies as soon as they are profitable.
› dry and decaying:
› old-fashioned A withered arm or leg has not grown to its correct size because of disease.
› floating on water:
She spent seven days afloat on a raft.
He managed to keep/stay afloat by holding on to the side of the boat.
› having enough money to pay what you owe:
Many small businesses are struggling to stay/keep afloat.
› to gradually change one image into another, or combine them, using a computer program:
The video showed a man morphing into a tiger.
› (of a person or animal) strong and healthy, or (of an object or system) strong and unlikely to break or fail:
He looks robust and healthy enough.
a robust pair of walking boots
a robust economy
The Indian Express
Paltry disclosures underline that addressing black money will require a more comprehensive approach by government.It is hardly surprising that the government has ended up mobilising only Rs 3,770 crore through a one-time compliance window for disclosing black money or undeclared assets overseas as part of the new law aimed at unearthing black money. With no amnesty on offer this time, few expected those who had stashed money abroad to declare their assets and pay the penalty and tax, which works out to 60 per cent, given the fears of their cases being re-opened and prosecution, even though the government had promised that information filed under this special window would remain confidential.
In 1997, the government raised Rs 10,000 crore through the highly successful Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, which was applicable for undisclosed domestic income or assets, but was forced to commit to the Supreme Court that there wouldn't be any more amnesty schemes. Having pitched the issue of black money in the 2014 national polls and with the prime minister promising to bring back undeclared wealth or income held abroad, the government may have had little choice but to go ahead with a scheme like this.
But a crackdown on black money will have to extend way beyond schemes like the latest one. That would mean striking at the root of this evil, such as in the form of false invoicing of imports and exports, benami and real estate transactions in India.
India's political parties have for long fuelled this by offering cash, for instance, to influence voters and appear to be loath to bring any change that would ensure state-funded polls. Having said that, there is much the government can do. Pushing the GST can help plug some of the avenues for generating black money, while greater monitoring
of export-import trade and the setting up of a dedicated unit, along the lines of the Trade Transparency Unit in the US, to check the mismatch between the country's export-import data and that of other nations — a recommendation made by the Special Investigation Team constituted by the Supreme Court — will certainly help.
Despite having recognised that real estate in India is a major source of the generation of black money, there has
been a great reluctance to bring this sector under regulatory watch. Korea has been successful in some ways in fighting this by mandating that more transactions be carried out electronically. India, too, should move towards laying down a medium-term roadmap as Aadhaar-linked schemes gain traction and more people become part of
the formal banking system.
Most importantly, to succeed in this battle, governance reforms and an easing of the path for entrepreneurs and businesses will be key
› (of an amount of money) very small and of little or no value:
Student grants these days are paltry.
The company offered Frazer a paltry sum, which he refused.
› of little quality or value:
She made some paltry excuse and left.
> complete and including everything that is necessary:
We offer you a comprehensive training in all aspects of the business.
> a decision by a government that allows political prisoners to go free:
Most political prisoners were freed under the terms of the amnesty.
› a fixed period of time during which people are not punished for committing a particular crime:
People who hand in illegal weapons will not be prosecuted during the amnesty.
› to store or hide something, especially a large amount:
The stolen pictures were stashed (away) in a warehouse.
· be loath to do sth
› to be unwilling to do something:
I'm loath to spend it all at once.
Oct 02 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Indian response to Pakistan raising Kashmir at UN reveals changed strategy
India's strong riposte to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif 's UN speech where he blamed the international body and India for failing to resolve the Kashmir issue marks a new strategic approach. In a departure from earlier diplomatic passivity, New Delhi accused Sharif of distorting facts and blamed Islamabad for continuing to use terrorism as an instrument of statecraft. It upped the ante and asked Pakistan to vacate the part of Kashmir under its own occupation.
Coming at a time when the international community is slowly realising that terrorism cannot be tackled in silos, India's tough line is aimed at highlighting Pakistan's duplicitous policies that have seen the latter emerge as the epicentre of terrorism in South Asia. And given that Islamabad openly harbours UN and US designated terrorists, few are willing to buy the narrative that Pakistan is only an innocent victim of terror. That international patience with Pakistan is wearing thin was recently exemplified by the US threatening to withhold military aid as Islama bad isn't doing enough to act against terror groups such as the Haqqani network. Against this backdrop, India's strategy of calling Pakistan's bluff puts additional pressure on the latter.
Similarly , India's new aggressive stance also puts the spotlight on Pakistani atrocities in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Given Islamabad's almost blanket curbs on reportage from PoK, few stories of human rights abuses get out. The recent emergence of a video revealed glimpses of widespread repression practised by Pakistani authorities in PoK, including in Gilgit-Baltistan.Residents of these areas are denied basic constitutional rights, lack political representation and don't have access to judicial redress. In fact, Islamabad stands accused of carrying out a version of ethnic cleansing in PoK whereby Kashmiris have been replaced by Punjabi settlers even while local youths are pressured to join jihad in Indian Kashmir.
Hitherto Indian governments, including the previous UPA regime, have refrained from forcefully criticising Pakistan for its activities in PoK in the hope of getting Islamabad to climb down from its maximalist position on Kashmir. However, that approach has yielded little reward so far. By telling it like it is on Kashmir now, New Delhi aims to change the discourse that had become unfairly focussed on the Indian state of J&K. New Delhi must now stick to this new position, making concessions only if Islamabad makes some while avoiding pointless sabre rattling.
› a quick and clever remark, often made in answer to a criticism:
She made a sharp/witty/neat riposte.
· passive adjective (BEHAVIOUR)
> not acting to influence or change a situation; allowing other people to be in control:
He's very passive in the relationship.
Traditionally in many professions women have been confined to more passive roles.
> to change something from its usual, original, natural, or intended meaning, condition, or shape:
My original statement has been completely distorted by the media.
› the skill of governing a country
› a large, round tower on a farm for storing grain or winter food for cattle
› a large underground place for storing and firing missiles (= flying weapons)
· harbor verb (HIDE)
› to protect someone by providing a place to hide:
They were accused of harboring a fugitive.
> near or towards the end of something:
Building of the new library should begin in the latter part of next year.
>an extremely cruel, violent, or shocking act:
They are on trial for committing atrocities against the civilian population.
› the fact of something being extremely cruel, violent, or shocking:
These people are guilty of acts of appalling atrocity (= cruelty).
› to not allow something, especially feelings, to be expressed:
He repressed a sudden desire to cry.
› to control what people do, especially by using force
› until now or until a particular time:
Mira revealed hitherto unsuspected talents on the dance floor.
› talking and behaving in a way that threatens military action
Oct 02 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
Pursue Global Fight Against Tax Evasion
But focus on stemming black money generation
The government's so-called voluntary compliance scheme offered to those with undisclosed assets overseas to come clean has produced a whimper rather than the bang political rhetoric had made it out to be. Only 638 people used the compliance window, which closed on September 30, to disclose black money . The amount dec . 3,770 crore, is small change, and a tiny proportilared, at ` on of the money stashed abroad. The scheme had no amnesty , unlike the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme of 1997 that gave immunity from both penalty and prosecution. Valuation of assets at current market price has been a dampener. Fears have not been dispelled that those who come clean would not be harassed.
Most of the successful schemes in the West also offer a combination of some tax forbearance in return for revenue and a promise of more disclosure in future. The OECD, a club of rich countries, has estimated the total collections from voluntary disclosure initiatives at abo ut ¤37 billion in the five years to 2014.
Their governments do not renege on the promise to shield taxpayers. India has inked OECD's automatic inform ation exchange pact, a part of its drive to end base erosion and profit shifting by multinationals, and the noose is tightening on evaders. Effective information sharing will help establish audit trails, and India should follow UK's example of asking companies to identify the real, ultimate beneficial owners of all companies and make the registry public.
A recent OECD survey of 47 countries that includes India showed that countries do not tolerate non-compliance of their taxpayers. However, the focus should be to halt the generation of black money . To get there, the government should make the funding of political parties transparent, reform the real estate sector and adopt the goods and services tax that creates audit trails on income and production. Widening the tax base and an overhaul of the tax administration brooks no delay . But the government also needs to encourage wealth creation to bring in voluntary compliance.
· stem noun (CENTRAL PART)
› a central part of something from which other parts can develop or grow, or which forms a support
› (especially of an animal) to make a series of small, weak sounds, expressing pain or unhappiness:
A half-starved dog lay in the corner, whimpering pathetically.
· put a damper/dampener on sth
› to stop an occasion from being enjoyable:
Both the kids were sick while we were in Boston, so that put a damper on things.
› to remove fears, doubts, and false ideas, usually by proving them wrong or unnecessary:
I'd like to start the speech by dispelling a few rumours that have been spreading recently.
› to fail to keep a promise or an agreement, etc.:
If you renege on the deal now, I'll fight you in the courts.
>one end of a rope tied to form a circle that can be tightened round something such as a person's neck to hang (= kill) them:
They put him on the back of a horse and looped a noose around his neck.
› a serious problem or limit:
The noose of poverty was tightening (= becoming more serious) daily.
· trail noun (PATH)
>a path through a countryside, mountain, or forest area, often made or used for a particular purpose:
a forest/mountain trail
› to repair or improve something so that every part of it works as it should:
I got the engine overhauled.
· brook no sth/not brook sth
› to not allow or accept something, especially a difference of opinion or intention:
She won't brook any criticism of her work.
view on diesel pollution: tougher regulation to clean up the car industry
next year marks the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, marking the end of the worst urban pollution that, at the peak of the 1952 London smog, killed nearly 1,000 people a day. It probably did more to improve the health of Britons than any other public health measure until the ban on smoking in public places. Last month, the department of the environment finally published a paper on how it planned to meet EU air pollution limits. It acknowledged, for the first time, that as many as 50,000 people a year in the UK were dying because of air pollution. Nearly half of those deaths were caused by diesel emissions. The VW emissions scandal has only confirmed something that was apparent to anyone who has bought a new car in the digital age. A quick scan of the websites reviewing performance data showed that gaming the targets by which consumers made their judgments was more or less assumed. There was complicity not only between regulators and the major manufacturers, but between the major manufacturers and the people who bought their cars, whose preferences were shaped at least as much by government incentives to buy diesel as they were by the smallprint of the producer-generated emission measurements.
Encouraged by tax breaks to buy diesels to help cut carbon emissions, European sales soared from 15% of new cars in 1990 to more than half in 2008, the rate of purchase accelerating rapidly after the manufacturers developed a new, quieter engine to meet growing demand. The danger to public health from nitrogen oxides and sooty particulates was acknowledged. Regulation of stringent emissions targets was presumed to be the answer. Only now has it become clear, thanks to organisations like the ICCT, the International Council on Clean Transportation, that in the past 15 years actual emissions from many different diesel cars have been anywhere between twice and seven times above the legal limit.
It is appealing to make the case for sweeping change: a total ban, for example, on diesel-powered cars in city centres at least, something both London and Paris are considering. Or varying the rate of congestion charge to discriminate against diesels, as rates are already varied in favour of low-polluting cars. There could be sharper differentials of car licence fees and fuel taxes. But those would be a steep and unfair penalty on consumers who bought diesel cars in ignorance of the damage they were causing, and rural drivers who rely on their cars. Or there is the idea of a government-backed scheme to trade in polluting diesels for cleaner petrol-driven cars, put forward by the last Labour government's science minister, Lord Drayson, who had a hand in a similar scheme to help the car market after the 2008 crash. But it would be hugely expensive, impractical in real terms, and polluting in itself as usable cars were scrapped.
In the end it comes back to regulation. It may be impossible to design a scheme that is entirely beyond gaming in the short term. But a system that monitors actual emissions, a stringent version of the EU's proposals for more realistic testing which the manufacturers were arguing should be delayed beyond the target date of 2017, could genuinely deliver cleaner cars. Whether they will also meet consumers' demands for high fuel efficiency and affordability will be the next big headache for the diesel car industry.
> able to be seen or understood:
Her unhappiness was apparent to everyone.
[+ that] It was becoming increasingly apparent that he could no longer take care of himself.
› involvement in a crime or some activity that is wrong:
She is suspected of complicity in the fraud.
› a black powder composed mainly of carbon, produced when coal, wood, etc. is burned:
It can be dangerous to let too much soot accumulate inside a chimney.
PM's peace proposal
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's proposed four points to stabilise the disputed region are worth considering.IT may not quite be a four-point potential solution to the Kashmir dispute that was once mooted under the now retired Gen Pervez Musharraf but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's proposed four points to stabilise the disputed region are worth considering.
Ahead of the prime minister's address at the 70th UN General Assembly, the Foreign Office had indicated that Mr Sharif would concentrate on the Kashmir issue, though it had not indicated how it would try and revive global interest to help address the dispute.
Also read: PM urges India to pledge not to use force under any circumstances
After the Ufa debacle, with the Indian government insisting on talking only about terrorism, the Pakistani government changed tack and had begun to once again focus mostly on Kashmir.
The fear, then, was that Pakistan and India were returning to a period of talking past each other instead of talking to each other. Seemingly aware that Pakistan had to offer concrete proposals to tackle Indian intransigence, Mr Sharif and his team have come up with four interesting points that have something for both sides.
The immediate out-of-hand dismissal of the proposal by the Indian government has only underscored that the problem is really the India government's apparent rejection of the very idea of talks with Pakistan.
Prime Minister Sharif's trump card was to call for the formalisation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement that was verbally agreed to and adhered to for the better part of a decade.
Given that the mechanism has already been tried and tested and produced positive results for many years, it is a sound offer.
Furthermore, to make such a call from the podium of the UN General Assembly hall and to request that the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan step up its verifications suggests that Pakistan really does want to put a stop to the year-long violence along the LoC and the Working Boundary.
While the demilitarisation of the disputed region and the withdrawal of troops from Siachen are perhaps longer-term goals that can only be realised once a full-fledged peace process is resumed, they do articulate a vision for what a normalised region could look like.
The challenge for the Pakistani government will be to carry forward these proposals and press them in other forums.
As the immediate and fierce Indian response indicated, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in no mood to go beyond its talking points of terrorism and attempting to link it to Pakistan.
To push for bilateral normalisation when one side — a side courted by the outside world for economic and diplomatic reasons — is determined to talk only on its own terms is a very hard task indeed.
The problem, as ever, is compounded by the sense that the outside world is somewhat sympathetic to the Indian claim that Pakistan continues to tolerate anti-India, pro-Kashmir jihadists on its soil.
A tension-free region must also be a terrorism-free region. A zero-tolerance policy is still awaited here.
· tack noun (BOAT'S DIRECTION)
› the direction or distance that a boat moves at an angle to the direction of the wind, so that the boat receives the wind on its sails:
The ship was on the starboard tack.
› able to express thoughts and feelings easily and clearly, or showing this quality:
an intelligent and highly articulate young woman
She gave a witty, entertaining, and articulate speech.