Jun 28, 2008

Trade Unions for something new

Friday , June 06, 2008 at 2117 hrs “Our goal is the unification of workers to advance class struggle and international solidarity to combat the advance of imperialism”. This quote could be circa 1917 Russia but came on May 5, 2008 from MK Pande, president of CITU (the Left-affiliated trade union). At a recent ILO consultation on employment policy, another Left national trade union leader told me that Chapter 5B of the Industrial Disputes Act (the freedom of companies to hire and fire) was a non-issue (I regret not asking the obvious question of why he opposed a non-issue). He challenged anybody to prove the adverse effects of current labour laws but felt that evidence of the exploding share of informal employment in total employment (93%) and informal temporary employment in total temporary employment (99%) was not enough.
The rhetoric worries and the agenda of trade union leaders and Left parties gives me little hope. They are choosing the status quo over change. They are choosing issues that matter to middle-aged men with a wife at home rather than embracing the issues of women. They fight for spending Rs 1,000 crore on higher provident fund interest rates rather than higher allocations on skill development. By choosing job preservation over job creation, they fight for issues dear to the labour aristocracy in organised employment rather than informal workers. Basically, they choose the past over the future.
Nobody likes informal employment. Policy-makers hate it because it is exploitative and does not yield taxes. Employees hate it because it does not have the corridor effect for skill development and higher wages. Informal employers don’t like it because they are unable to retain employees who jump at the first chance to the formal sector. Formal employers don’t like it because outsourcing manufacturing or services to the informal sector yields uneven quality, lower productivity and higher unpredictability. So, why do we perpetuate a labour regime which ensured informal employment accounted for all net job creation for the last decade? This tragedy is minority rule where trade unions have positioned the self-interest of their small membership as national interest and this represents regulatory capture at its worst.
Trade union leaders today focus their members (Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh 6.2 million, INTUC 3.8 million, AITUC 3.3 million, Hind Mazdoor Sangh 3.2 million, and CITU 2.6 million) on serving their political masters and the small constituency of organised labour. If they want to remain relevant, they must focus on the three burning issues that affect most workers: a) increasing the share of organised employment, b) bringing in labour market outsiders (less skilled, less educated, first time jobseekers, women, retired people, students, etc), and c) fixing the crisis in skill development because employability is more important than employment.
Trade unions were not always so selfish and self referential. The Bombay mills labour association was formed in 1890 but the association worked with the government on behalf of workers. Gandhiji founded his textile labour association in Ahmedabad in 1917 and the All India Trade Union Congress was formed with Lala Lajpat Rai as its president in 1920. Labour leaders made considerable sacrifices in the Independence movement and have been at the forefront of building modern India.
But as with any special interest group, they began to lose the big picture around 1965. Egged on by anti-employer rhetoric often fanned by politicians, trade unions began to exercise powers far in excess of what was required by their original mandate. The loophole that allowed non-employees to take on trade union leadership positions led to part-time roles for professional politicians and unions whose core agenda of building political constituencies is mostly unrelated to workers welfare. Economist Mancur Olson’s work on “distributional coalitions” that describes how a vocal organised minority in a democracy can hijack the agenda at the expense of an unorganised majority seems almost written to describe India’s labour markets of today.
This “scope creep” and “leadership capture” of trade unions has sad consequences for the people they masquerade to protect. I recently spent some time in Kanpur; this once shining citadel of India’s textile power is now an open area museum of tragedy with 5.5 million people, only 10 hours of power a day and thousands of shuttered businesses. The romance of Datta Samant’s defiance was before my time but while it is unclear that the closure of central Mumbai mills got workers prosperity, it may actually have denied them participation in the upside of the current liquidation of the mill land.
Don’t get me wrong; unions have a key role to play in a civilised society. Worker representation and voice is a fundamental right. But their future relevance will come from “soft power” by taking on issues like employability, workplace safety, worker retraining and inclusiveness. Their current agenda of confrontation is bereft of imagination and does not represent the worries and issues of the unorganised sector, women and youth. Evidence is now overwhelming that our labour laws may not be hurting job creation but they ensure that job creation happens in the informal sector. To defend the status quo on labour laws deserves Indira Gandhi’s retort to Morarji Desai on the abolition of the privy purses “a moral façade to an indefensible argument”.
While I believe that the extreme Left does the wrong thing for the right reasons, I was fascinated by the statement of Maoist Prachanda after his recent election win in Nepal where he said that, “we are against feudalism, not capitalism”. To me this statement represents a profoundly developed sense of purpose, destination and reality. India is changing rapidly; 50% of CITU’s membership is unorganised labour that wants job creation (not job preservation). I read an unverified statistic that only 18% of members of the Communist Party of India are less than 30 years old. Are they really keeping up with a country that is growing younger, only has 25% of its women in the workforce and only 7% of its workforce in formal employment?
I am 38 years old and work for a company with 80,000 employees with an average age of 22. While I cannot claim to speak for all of them, I can confidently assert that the stand of trade unions on various issues conflicts with my generation’s confidence in our abilities, imaginations and our country. We believe that India’s superpower status will be built on our economic power. Anything that breeds poverty, or labour markets that are not inclusive, almost seems unpatriotic (and elitist).
—The author is chairman, Teamlease Services

Three Men in a Boat

Monday , June 16, 2008 at 2307 hrs Larry Summers, Pascal Lamy and Prakash Karat would make a most unusual set of bedfellows at the best of times. Strangely enough, just recently, they did find themselves in the same intellectual boat, (even if not in the cozy comfort of the same intellectual bed), on the subject of globalisation. Karat is, of course, a communist ideologue from central casting. Summers seems a recent convert, purportedly for the cause of the American worker impoverished by globalisation. But, many suggest personal motives as well—-a pitch for a job in a forthcoming Democratic administration. Lamy joined the chorus against ‘unfettered’ globalization, particularly in global finance, last week. There is a bit of the personal here as well—-the ambitious Frenchman is already through with more than half his tenure as the boss of the WTO, with little to show in terms of a result.
Motives aside, all three men do have formidable intellect, and if the three of them form an anti-globalisation team it will be taken more seriously than motley groups of street protestors, who have been the face of the anti-globalisation movement thus far. One hopes, of course, that these three gentlemen see reason in why they are wrong.
Let us analyse the extraordinary volte-face of Summers first—-caught in a premature autumn of his soaring career after his exit from Harvard the eminent ‘liberal’ economist is now pitching for a return to government. Hillary Clinton’s exit has hurt his cause and he is now trying to hop on to Barack Obama’s protectionist bandwagon. Trade, says Summers now, is responsible for the ills of American workers. As an economist, he surely knows how much the US has benefited from globalisation and free trade. He would also know that not everyone can always be a winner—some workers would have indeed lost out. The policy solution, however, is not to shut out globalisation—that would create a bigger number of losers—but to rehabilitate the minority who do lose out by offering them retraining, education and social security. It’s a real pity, then, that Summers has chosen globalisation as the strawman to be demolished.
Pascal Lamy’s problem isn’t free trade. In fact, as WTO chief, it is his responsibility to help break barriers down. However, he too was caught, recently, lamenting unfettered globalisation, training his guns on global finance in particular. His argument—the US subprime crisis, which signals a genuine crisis in financial globalisation has eroded people’s faith in globalisation at large; shut out finance and focus on trade. Sadly, this logic is flawed as well. The spread of global finance has been critically important for both the developed and developing countries. There is admittedly a problem in the Western banking system which was caught out rewarding—and then paying dearly for— excess risk. But the solution lies in better domestic regulation, and initiatives on the part of the industry itself to correct the flawed incentive structures. To shun financial globalisation altogether is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Prakash Karat, the last of the unlikely trio, is perhaps the most trenchant critic of globalisation. Unlike Summers and Lamy, he sees no merit in any aspect of it—trade, investment or finance. His fundamental argument is that economically, it does not benefit the people of India or other poor countries and politically, it perpetuates western (American) imperialism. His argument is, of course, incorrect. Most developing countries, including India and China, have grown faster in the last 15-20 years of globalisation than they did at any earlier time. The number of people in poverty has declined but perhaps not enough. Still, it is less than it was under a more closed international system. Obviously, much more needs to be done to make the process of globalisation more inclusive—state support of infrastructure, education and health and social security nets has never been more critical—-but again, the policy solutions lie in the domain of domestic policy. Autarky is unlikely to solve anything.
If Karat remains unconvinced about the economics of globalisation, there is the politics as well. Developing countries, including India, have never had greater leverage in the international economic system than they do now. A lot of this has to do with their recently acquired economic might, courtesy global engagement. It should warm the cockles of Karat’s heart to see India, Brazil, South Africa, et al reject repeatedly, admittedly lopsided US proposals at the WTO. This was not the case during the Uruguay Round of the 1980s and early 1990s where poor countries including India were simply not able to put up a fight at all. The IMF, too, is mulling an increase in the voting powers of developing countries. Something is clearly changing and it is tilting some balance of power towards India and other developing countries. So why despise the globalisation that is finally bringing power to the previous have-nots?
It is time for Messrs Summers, Lamy and Karat to rise above the personal and ideological and get realistic. Like much else in the world, globalisation has its limitations. Domestic policies can do a lot to help diversify its gains and minimise its losses. Focus the rhetoric and policy on those and let globalisation run its admirable course.

Brand Article

‘Branding is about detail, advertising is about the big picture’
Ceat, Arvind Mills, Shoppers Stop, Godrej, Sify, Cisco, Canara Bank, Network18 — all have got a brand makeover in the recent past. It’s a great time for design agencies, isn’t it?Yes! There is so much on our hands that we have to turn away work everyday. We’ve done the branding for Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad airports. Since January, we also did four brand launches — Ceat, Trident, Arvind and Shoppers Stop.Are companies looking at it as a long-term investment? It has to be long-term. Changing your brand identity every now and then can be too painful. Internationally, there are hardly any companies who changed logos. How long does a re-branding process take? And how much would you charge for single re-branding exercise? It takes about six months to a year. It depends if the company’s made some acquisition or taken some strategic initiatives. Most of the time it happens if it has entered into a new business. We are the most expensive strategic design agency in India and we don’t benchmark our rates with Indian firms in the business. We charge about 10 times more than the next agency.About Rs 10-15 crore? Well, at least that much.Generally, what do companies expect you to do — increase market shares, push sales? Both. Also, address perception issues. It’s something the public sector banks faced when they were unable to address the youth. But design is only a small part of the solution. Today, it is about looking into the entire picture. We’ve been tracking Indian consumers for decades. Most of the times brands become out-of-tune with customer aspirations. Customers have evolved faster than brands. And the Indian consumer has become extremely demanding. The rate of change in his aspirations and desires in the last 5-7 years is much higher than what it was in the last two decades. Today, because of the media, there is a convergence between urban, rural and small towns. They all consume the same media, so their aspirations are shaped in the same way. How do you go about the re-branding process? We do interviews with a cross section of employees of the company; then we brainstorm with separate sets of employees through workshops. We also run anonymous surveys. Then we speak to all other relevant stakeholders, like customers, competition, analysts and even the media. We also include desk research, where we bring in international expertise from The Brand Union. We scan international trends in that industry and decide on the brand strategy.How do you ensure that brand makeover is not cosmetic? Does it permeate to areas like customer service, work atmosphere? You know, people often people say that, “Oh, they just changed the logo”. But think about it. Changing every interface on that logo costs a lot of money and headache. The owners of these companies have spent their blood, money and sweat to grow them where they are, and they wouldn’t opt for a brand makeover if there wasn’t a good enough reason for it. With Canara Bank, for example, people only saw the logo change. What they didn’t see was that we employed management consultants and recommendations were made to bring people closer together, boost morale. So there was an HR consultancy also working with us. It’s just that these initiatives don’t get plastered on Marine Drive. But the logo does! Once a brand makeover has happened, how do you measure the success or failure of the entire exercise? In most cases, its not difficult to do it. Product branding, for example. We used to do it a lot in the past, like Fair & Lovely, Kissan and Mother Dairy. You can measure it because your sales go up. Corporate branding is measured through either a general perception index or through audits, which we do very often. Earlier branding addressed only external customers. Today, branding is targeted at even your employees, because you need them and there’s a huge talent crunch! Employees want to engage with the brand that they’re working for, but organisations don’t allow them to do it. Aren’t ad agencies trying to turn the tide by forming own design cells? Ad agencies don’t have the specialisation required for this. Branding is about detail, while advertising is about the big picture. Clients are clear about what they want.Which agency would you rate as No 2 and by how far? That’s a terrible question to ask (Laughs). There are hundreds of smaller boutiques who do very pretty work on brochures, pamphlets. But these firms are not attractive to buyers. I don’t know anyone who looks at the whole brand and aligns it with the entire business, like we do. In the last few years, every single global firm looking to enter India wanted to do it through R+K. But I wish people would grow up from small 2-4 agency strong outfits. Are you considering acquisitions in the future? Not really. We always manage to hire the kind of people we want. But we’re open to acquisitions in the future, maybe in special areas like digital.

Ramayan going Global

NDTV Imagine’s Ramayan going global
Expects to regain 50% of its cost via syndication
Meera Mohanty
New Delhi, June 27 NDTV Imagine is leveraging its content through syndication; it expects to regain as much as 50 per cent of its costs on certain shows from out of TV, or out of advertising revenues before the first two years.
“Syndication was always considered a residual or add-on revenue. But at Imagine, we have a different philosophy; we don’t consider ourselves just as a channel, but content creators. We will come up with ideas across platforms,” said Mr Gaurav Gandhi, EVP, Business Operations and Ancillary Revenues, NDTV Imagine.
It has syndicated its Ramayan to Sun Network’s Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam channels. The programme is now reaching 15 million more viewers (NDTV Imagine claims its own Hindi version reached 65 million on prime time). The channel is earning additional revenues from the license fee and a share of advertising revenues that the dubbed versions will generate.
On the agenda is to take Ramayan to Bengali and Marathi audiences through similar tie-ups. The content will also travel to Mauritius, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, and will see a multi-lingual home video release. Children’s programmes have been syndicated earlier, so have general entertainment shows and formats, but not while the original version was on air simultaneously. A great part of the credit, Mr Gandhi insisted, goes to Sun Network for betting on the acceptance of a dubbed version of NDTV’s Ramayan. The show’s running at 7 o’clock in the evening on Surya and Gemini and on Sunday mornings on Sun TV.
“The content is doing extremely well in the dubbed versions too. It’s been on air for about a month on Sun and the ratings for the slot have nearly doubled from 4-5 to 10-11 TRPs) said Mr Gandhi. “Mythology and kids content travel well. Soaps don’t always travel well,” said Mr Gandhi. But at NDTV Imagine, new revenue options, such as home video, are being factored in early on.
Nachle Ve, the dance based show hosted by choreographer Saroj Khan, will now be made available as dance tutorials in Jane Fonda-style home videos. It will be released in Germany and France, and licensed domestically too, according to Mr Gandhi. Its English learning programming, ‘Angrezi mein kehte hain” will also see new language versions; talks are also on with an university to use it as teaching material. The channel is also exporting the formats themselves. An Egyptian version of Nachle Ve, hosted by an Egyptian counterpart of Ms Khan, will be produced with the help and expertise of NDTV Imagine.


Anoothi Vishal / New Delhi June 28, 2008, 0:52 IST
Indian classrooms are now opening up to the world.

When Jessica Pealchen, a class eight student at Lotus Valley International School in Noida, returns after her summer break next week, she will be telling teachers and classmates of a holiday spent differently from Indian schoolchildren.
While her peers may have been off to "smart" foreign or domestic locations — or at the very least, to their grandparents — Jessica and her mother were in Mumbai to see "the large slum".
By the time she is back, she will hopefully know it's called Dharavi, and may even have numbers such as one million (the slum's population) on her fingertips — but that's another matter.
Jessica's choice of holiday destination is not the only thing that separates her from other schoolmates in the suburb. For one, there's her nationality (she's German); for another, her background (she's travelled all over the world, thanks to her father's job with Volkswagen; she was last at the American School in the Caribbean, where they hardly ever "studied", and spoke only Spanish); and, of course, her language.
Having studied Hindi for three years, she knows enough to get by, but just. "Sometimes other kids call me ‘German Shepherd' and names in Hindi, but I am not bothered," she grins effortlessly as only a schoolkid can, "My friends have taught me all the bad words in Hindi so I know if someone is using them."
Adults may worry over displacement angst but Jessica is clearly thriving on her multicultural experience in a school with students from 10 different nationalities. She loves the Indian-Chinese food they serve in the canteen every Thursday, likes math, has friends whose homes she visits, and is clearly a favourite with teachers.
Jessica's parents have told her that "In the old days, schools in Germany too used to be like this, with rules and discipline."
In class four, brothers Liam and Ashton Pansearohud are probably more ambivalent towards the "rules and discipline". In South Africa, where they had earlier studied, they didn't have to contend with such issues.
"We were never punished," they say, fidgeting outside class, but also mindful that had it not been for schooling in India, they would never have got a chance to do "so many things…horseriding, golf, swimming, tennis", activities that their very fancy school offers alongside interactive smart boards in classrooms, central air-conditioning, the Advanced level suite of examinations and, in junior classes, a playway method of teaching.
In the last five years the rise of "international" schools in India — with or without affiliation to the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme — is well-documented.
With money from the corporate sector pouring into this very lucrative business, none of the "excesses" that used to get talked about even a year or two ago — wi-fi classrooms, laptop-carrying pupils, air-conditioned school buses with security, extra-curricular activities ranging from shooting ranges in the premises to yoga for the tots, and campuses to rival five-star hotels in their look and feel — seem as eye-popping as they did when these schools first started changing the face of education in India.
But while such schools have always attracted NRIs and moneyed Indians of a certain class and aspiration — children looking to go abroad, seeking IB or International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) tags — they are now emerging as magnets for foreign students from the Asia-Pacific region and, more recently, from even Europe and South America, "countries such as Italy, Germany, France, Spain, even Chile, which are close culturally to the Indian ethos", as Alka Varma, head of admissions at Pathways, an elite school in Gurgaon (with children from an astounding 53 countries this session), says.
Sandeep Dutt, author of the Guide to Good Schools of India, trainer in the field of education and bookseller by profession, whose English Book Depot publishes and supplies tomes to most of India's "good schools", says the education sector is sitting on a boom "the kind that you have seen with IT or medicine, without government intervention, solely through private initiative".
So if IT is outsourcing talent and "five-star" hospitals attracting substantial "tourists", schools in India too are not lagging behind. In fact, with the rapidly increasing number of foreign students — primary to high school level — India is emerging as a popular destination for education, even if you discount the over 15,500 "colleges" of higher learning.
Numbers, of course, don't always tell you the whole story. While CBSE lists 8,979 schools affiliated to it (till March last year), including those abroad, experts like Dutt put the number of elite private schools "of a certain standard", with boarding facilities, at just 100-200, with about 500 students enrolled in each.
Of these, 10 per cent on average are expat students — though Woodstock in Mussoorie always had American students, newer ones like Pathways in Gurgaon, and the Mahindra United World College India, off Pune, have a much higher percentage of foreign enrollments.
Both the number of foreign students in these existing schools and the number of such schools itself is rising phenomenally.
In fact, experts "safely" say that as many as 70-80 more such schools are to come up in the country this year (on an average, a school set up on 25-30 acres of land needs a three-year gestation period; the annual percentage growth is thus more conservative, estimated at about 15 per cent per annum).
The schools themselves report an increase in the number of foreign admissions in the last few years, and a change in student profiles.
Kodaikanal International, a Christian multicultural residential school in Tamil Nadu, has always had a substantial presence of American students, but this year dean Sam Balachandra is amazed.
"There is now a trend towards students from Europe, probably because our students have gone to Europe with good IB results," he offers. There's also another segment seeing a rapid increase: students from Asia-Pacific, Korea in particular.
"We used to have 10-15 students from Korea, but this year we already have 20," Balachandra says. Consultant Gulab Ramchandani, credited as the founder of the new schools movement in India — he has designed schools from the likes of Assam Valley to Bawa Lalvani Public School in Kapurthala to Jain International in Bangalore — agrees.
"Earlier", says Ramchandani, "a significant market was the Middle East and schools would host fairs there to attract students." But now that has stopped "since those countries have also got good schools".
There were always students from Nepal, Thailand and the Saarc nations, he says, "but these days, I see a lot of Korean students. By and large, they don't create any problems. They may show off a new phone once in a while but are clean, no drugs."
One reason for students from Korea and also Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia enrolling in Indian boarding and elite day schools is the medium of instruction: English. "Where else is proper English spoken any longer? Certainly not in the US or UK," laughs Pramod Sharma, principal, Mayo College, Ajmer, who has entertained enquiries from Korean students but says that seats get filled with Indian students and those from Saarc countries.
Sharma adds that upward mobility in the countries is through English, so parents send their wards to Indian schools, generally recognised as being able to bestow good skills in the language. (Reports in the foreign press suggest that primary and secondary students in South Korea are increasingly taking TOEFL exams because they need the scores to apply to "special purpose" high schools and, finally, universities abroad.)
So high is the demand for Indian schools that middlemen and "consultants" seem to be having a field day. "There is obviously a lot of money to be made," Sharma says, explaining how e-mails go around seeking bulk admissions for foreign students.
"If a school normally charges Rs 1.3 lakh per child, foreigners are prepared to pay Rs 2.5 lakh per child plus a commission of Rs 50,000 to whoever gets the admission done."
Even at the extra cost and in spite of international schools charging several times more than most CBSE or ICSE affiliated private schools in the country, these work out to be much cheaper for foreign students than schools in the US or the UK.
One of the biggest trends in private schooling in India is the IB affiliation. In education hub Pune, the Mercedes-Benz International School and the Mahindra United World College used to be the only IB schools. Now, at least five new ones have entered this space in the last two years, including MIT Gurukul and Indus International School, Symbiosis International and the Sharad Pawar International School.
Even the hoary Doon School has become an IB World School since 2006. Apart from being an elite-magnet, the affiliation encourages more international students. Even without that, educationists are united in dubbing the Indian education system "the best in the world".
What they imply is that schools here subscribe to an Eastern ethos while allowing for modern teaching methods and ensuring five-star comforts for students. This is a blend that students (and parents) from culturally conservative countries appreciate.
Hui-Jeong-Gim, a class eight Korean student at Lotus Valley, will probably agree with that. She has been in school in India for four years, speaks English in a markedly Indian way, and says that though she was "initially very shy", she now likes her classmates because "they also respect their gods like we do".
Kodaikanal's dean Balachandra remarks how assimilation is an issue with Korean students, "Their parents insist they stay in separate dorms, not with the rest, otherwise they'll not have any friends." Teachers say that while students from Asian cultures are diligent, they're aloof.
For students from the West, that's not an issue — but there are others. At the MIIT Gurukul, only vegetarian food is served and William Fernandes, head (admissions), admits that "there have been instances where we have had to counsel the students and parents on a vegetarian diet". There are counsellors to help foreign students accustom themselves to Indian culture.
At the Mahindra United World College, where the ratio of foreign : Indian students is 70 : 40, the rural setting is used to establish bonds with a "real" India. Students are required to participate in community service and group games. In the picturesque Western Ghats, colliding with India at close quarters, who can deny that this too is education?

Remembering Sam Manekshaw - 4

The wonder that was Sam
APRIL 3, 1914 - JUNE 27, 2008
Ashok Mehta / New Delhi June 28, 2008, 0:30 IST
For managers struggling to learn the intricacies of that complex thing called leadership, the model to follow is Manekshaw.
So Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw is gone. The last time I met him was in Delhi over a drink. He was here to attend one of innumerable board meetings. We spoke of soldiering in war and peace. I learnt several lessons anew. One of them was a facet of Sam I hadn't known before.
The fact is there were other Generals in the Indian Army cleverer than him. But it was he who became a living legend of the Indian Army. How? One reason is Manekshaw was one of the finest communicators the Indian Army has ever had. And for managers struggling to learn the intricacies of that complex thing called leadership, the model to follow is Manekshaw.
On March 30, 1972, three and a half months after his victory over Pakistan, in a speech to cadets at the passing out parade at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Manekshaw said: "You are leaving here this morning as officers, as leaders. You will be going from here to your units that are deployed on the border. They are facing an enemy whom they have but recently fought and vanquished. You are going to be given command of troops in an operational area. You are indeed fortunate. Your tasks will be to administer to their needs and to lead them in battle. What sort of men will you be leading? You will be leading veterans, men who have fought, men who have won, men who are used to good leadership. Make sure you give it to them." His speech, his bearing, suggested grace was more important in victory than in defeat.
Management manuals are now discovering many of the attributes of leadership that came to Manekshaw naturally. He had a healthy contempt for bureaucratic authority and detested fawning officers. He wrote in the confidential report of one such officer: "Why this officer has not developed a stammer is incomprehensible to me. I know I shall never suffer from piles."
He was obsessive about the welfare of the troops, although few know that the Field Marshal never commanded a battalion. He was a fastidious and unconventional dresser, his uniform never conformed to regulation, it was always that little bit smarter. And he flirted outrageously with the ladies. All this came together to create a mystique that made people listen to Manekshaw — after all, how many chiefs would refuse to call the prime minister Madame on the grounds that it would be impolite to use a word more appropriate in bawdy houses?
Not everything Manekshaw described about his days in the Army was strictly accurate. Lt Gen JFR Jacob, in his Witness to Surrender, an account of the war for Bangladesh, says the capture of Dacca — the event that led to the complete surrender of the Pakistan Army — was never an objective set out by those who planned the war from Delhi, namely Army Headquarters. Gen Jacob's book is intended to demystify India's military victory over Pakistan in 1971 and Manekshaw's part in it.
But although that is probably the truth, the reality is that because of his personality and the way he told the story, Manekshaw's version of the war is the one that India internalised. He warded off pressures from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to go to war following the crackdown by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan. "War, yes. But not now" he said. During a cabinet meeting Manekshaw managed to convince Gandhi that more time was required to ensure victory. "I guarantee the capture of East Pakistan in two weeks" he said on at least two occasions. It was the timing of the war that won it for India, though Mankshaw accepted, luck played a part.
Sam became a Field Marshal in 1973. For someone who was nearly sacked as a two-star General for being too anglicised and rubbing the wrong way, Defence Minister Krishna Menon and Lt Gen Bijji Kaul, his rehabilitation was remarkable. What saved him from the guillotine was the 1962 war (the Chinese came to my rescue, he used to say). Ironically he was promoted to relieve Kaul, the very man gunning for him. Immediately on reaching the demoralised 4 Corps headquarters he announced: "Gentlemen, I have arrived. There will be no more withdrawal in 4 Corps". Providentially the Chinese declared a unilateral ceasefire and from then on Sam rose to give India its first decisive military victory in 1971.
Today Manekshaw's home Stavka, in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, custom designed by his late wife, Silloo, must be silent. He used have half a dozen Gorkhas in attendance, two dogs, one called Piffer and the other one called Ceasar; and a cow. He used to do his own typing and replied to his mail himself. His bridge partners at the Wellington Gymkhana Club must be desolate — he was regular visitor. He used to be on the board of 14 companies. Then it became six, and lately, he had been excusing himself from most.
Manekshaw had many stories to tell. But one of the most exquisite was the one when at a presidential banquet, he told Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi: "You look very pretty tonight". Surrounded by her ministers, she bowed and said: "Thank you, Sam".
Had Sam not gone off to join the Army he might have become a gynecologist. Luckily he did become a soldier and went on to win the Military Cross in Burma later joining the 8 Gurkha Rifles. He was a favourite with the Gurkhas. It was during his visit to Nepal in 1972 that King Mahendra conferred on him the title of Honorary General of his Army which ruffled some feathers in the Foreign Ministry at Delhi. Since then both countries have made each other's Army Chiefs Generals of their armies. For the Gurkhas he will always be Sam Bahadur, a name given to him on the spur of the moment by Harka Bahadur, a young soldier from his battalion.
Sadly in the twilight of his life, he became a victim of a TV assault. After then President APJ Abdul Kalam handed over Rs 1.6 crore as pension arrears following a hike in the Field Marshal's pension, a TV channel raked up Pakistani soldier-diplomat, Gauhar Ayub's charge against an Indian Brigadier who allegedly sold in the early 1950s, Indian war plans to the enemy for Rs 20,000. A conversation between Manekshaw and US Consul General William K Hitchcock in Calcutta in 1967, in which Hitchcock reported how indiscreet Manekshaw was, was also recalled. Ayub's book where he threatened to reveal all, is however, yet to come out.
In 1968 when Sam was about to become Chief of Army Staff, I was sounded to be ready to move at short notice, as his aide-de-camp. That never happened. Later I knew why. Sam said: "that b….r ? I'll end up becoming his ADC". It was an appointment I didn't get. To this day I have not ceased to regret it.
When the Field Marshal was leading the India-Pakistan war of 1972, Major General Ashok K Mehta was racing towards Dacca with a battalion of 2/5 Gorkha Rifles to help capture it

Sonia'S New Clothes

Aditi Phadnis / New Delhi June 28, 2008, 0:29 IST
The fiasco over the Left alliance, among others, exposes the party's weaknesses.

The attacks on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have started. One cabinet minister has said people elected from the Rajya Sabha should not be the ones to decide India's fate. Another minister has said that the Congress is looking to its president to set the priorities right — the decision to go for elections should be taken by the party, not by the government.
Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi is saying nothing. Last week a delegation from Madhya Pradesh met her to tell her that if elections were to be held, the Assembly elections should be delinked from the general elections. If the two were held together, the Congress would be wiped out. "Aisa hai?" (is that so) she asked with seemingly gentle incredulity.
The fact is, the disarray in the managerial ranks of the Congress Party is out in the open for the second time in a year. First the Presidential elections and now this.
The story tells itself if you view the Congress-Left relationship as an M&A gone wrong. When the Left parties decided to support the Congress, they did so because they wanted to keep the political marketplace free of the tainting influence of the BJP. The family that defines a common enemy stays together. So far, so good. But below the surface, there was also an attempt to suborn the other: elements in the Congress believed they could capitalize on the vastly superior secular credentials of the Left; the Left thought it could radicalize the Congress and claim the credit for it.
Both processes occurred in the parallel. Those in the Congress who were drawn into the honeypot of Left support became the strongest supporters of the Left within the Congress, rather like the Mohan Kumaramangalams of yore. The logic was: if we have to continue to fight against the BJP, we need a relationship with the Left because not just now, later too, we will need Left support to form a coalition. The days of single-party governments are gone.
Those in the Left parties keen to see a common front against the BJP prosper and flourish with some crumbs falling their way also looked the other way when ideological compromises were made. So when Sonia Gandhi went to Baharampur, West Bengal and said: "I am with the people of Nandigram who faced sorrow and hardship, especially with the women, children and farmers" and slammed the Left Front government over the law and order situation, the Left parties just ignored the jibe. That the UPA government was undertaking no land reform, was not the subject of popular strikes and agitations. It was only a subject for editorial writers at People's Democracy.
All these calculations didn't really affect the vast central stream in both groups that was content to hear views from the Left and right but refused to be swept off its feet by either.
This is where coalition management went wrong. It is the job of middle management to do Swot analyses, to anticipate difficulties. Shouldn't someone in the Congress have been talking to the Samajwadi Party in the full knowledge that the Left might have to pull out one day? Shouldn't efforts have been made to win over disgruntled allies of the BJP including Nitish Kumar ? Could the Congress have prevented the deterioration of relations with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti to the point where they had to leave the UPA?
The straightforward fact is the Congress party is pretty much wasting its time setting such store by allies like the RJD and the DMK. In the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections — whether they are held early or on schedule — Lalu Prasad is unlikely to get seats above single digit. With the DMK's electoral alliance all but collapsing, new actors — literally and metaphorically — are certain to emerge on the scene in Tamil Nadu politics, rendering the DMK politically irrelevant, at least temporarily. So a section in the Congress is citing pressure from allies to put off elections and dump the nuclear deal; but these are allies which are going to have zero or negligible value when the next election comes around.
So what does that tell us about Sonia Gandhi's leadership of the Congress? The Presidential election was date-bound. It wasn't as if her party was unprepared for it. The Congress is going blue in the face claiming Pratibha Patil was their candidate all along, they just didn't want to show their hand. But frankly, no one believes this and sees that election as the biggest management failure of the Congress. Similarly, the current mess, where Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony are running breathlessly from meeting to meeting — with the Left, with the Prime Minister, with the Congress President — and trying to cobble up strategic allies at the last minute to save the government and the nuclear deal is nothing but another management failure.
It is now clear that Sonia Gandhi is not the ruthless, tough Congress leader Indira Gandhi was. If she had been, she would have sacked Amarinder Singh a long time ago, kept other Congress chief ministers on tenterhooks and evaluated their performance through independent agencies. There is much that she would have learnt. She might also have been wiser in her choice of Governors — Buta Singh embarrassed the government but there are many others like him around, only less obvious.
Lalu Prasad paid great tributes to her respect for democracy. But the way Congress ministers are telling it, the whole party is against the nuclear deal — barring the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. So what we're seeing is not democracy at all, they say. The question is: what does Sonia Gandhi have to say about it all?

The problem that is the media

T C A Srinivasa-Raghavan / New Delhi June 28, 2008, 0:36 IST
The media needs to introspect about the steep increase in the dissatisfaction with it.

Between 1980 and 1997, I was a full-time journalist. Since then I have been a columnist for this newspaper. This takes up, on average, about three hours a day. In the remaining time, I do a bit of this and a bit of that and it is great fun.
But since my primary identity has been of a journalist, it is not surprising that people should complain to me about the media as if I can do something about it. Initially, I would defend my professional colleagues as being more sinned against than sinning. But not any longer because I think the journalists have a lot to answer for.
So I have decided to devote this article to the media, for two reasons. The first is that 11 years is a long enough time for me to be able to stop defending my former professional colleagues. Second, in the last few months, there has been a steep increase in the number of times people have voiced very deep dis-satisfaction with the media.
Thus, when people complain, it turns out very quickly that they are complaining about television. Print is usually less complained against.
Second, if you ask enough questions, it turns out that most of the complaints are occasioned by irritation rather than a factual mistake in reporting. That perhaps explains why there are fewer complaints against print, which irritates no one except those about whom it has got the facts wrong. They, of course, are incensed but it is only by chance that one gets to meet them when they are really angry. Some, of course, phone to protest.
Third, in the financial press — about which I can claim to know something — it is not mala fide (as is often assumed) but plain old fashioned ignorance that lies at the heart of the problem. This is not to say there are no bent journalists. But they are far fewer now than a decade ago.
Ignorance manifests in some strange ways. For example, a day before the RBI increased the interest rates, the largest circulated newspaper in the country reported that no such thing was even being contemplated. And when the increase was actually announced, the reporter on the largest-viewed business channel just lost it, saying the RBI had misled the markets because it had said that it "soothing" things just the previous day. Recently, a well-reputed newspaper carried a report on page one that every dollar that India accumulated between April and June cost it Rs 169 per dollar. The actual figure was less than Rs 43.
Fourth, there has been a staggering increase in the number of publications, and with it, a corresponding increase in the number of columnists, that is writers who have a fixed space reserved for them in the publication. The result is that persons with very little understanding, leave alone comprehension, have become pundits, writing pretty much what they please. (Many people believe I am one of them but a pox on them).
Fifth, with only a few exceptions, there has been a general devaluation of the editorial. Few papers ever took them seriously but now in most newspapers it has become just one more hole in the page to be filled. And, what is worse, many important newspapers, it has become a vehicle for airing the personal opinion of the editor, rather than that of some group or class interest, which is what the editorial used to do in the past. Two striking examples of this are worth citing. One is the manner in which the nuclear deal has been written about by a leading newspaper from the south — India will become a US pawn in that country's battle against China. The other was the view, expressed repeatedly, in a BJP paper from Delhi that the exit of Nepal's monarch was a blow against Hindus, quite disregarding the fact that those who voted the monarch out were themselves Hindus. There has also been a steep decline in the intellectual quality of the persons charged with writing editorials because it costs so much to hire a clever, well-read and sensible writers.
Sixth, the proliferation of TV channels and its hit-and-run nature has meant the deployment of a vast army of the untutored persons who not only report the news but also, as they babble along, give opinions, usually in response to some inane question from the anchor. But, as I said, these persons are merely irritating. It is the print media that hurts more.
I can go on but the short point is clear: those who complain against the media have a much stronger case today than they did in the past. It is the media, particularly television, which has to take corrective steps. The policy only maximising viewership matters has resulted in people not watching the news as much as they used to — they read the ticker underneath instead.
In the old days they used to shoot the messenger who brought bad news. Now the messengers are shooting themselves.

Oil Slick

T N Ninan / New Delhi June 28, 2008, 0:34 IST
There is much criticism of the government and the Reserve Bank for their handling of the macro-economic problems caused by the spurt in international oil prices. Setting aside the question of who deserves how much criticism and for what, take a short history lesson on what oil prices have done to India, starting with the first oil shock, which was when Opec moved in response to the Yom Kippur war of October 1973 and took oil prices up sharply to the equivalent, in today's context, of $110/barrel.

All those who have been arguing that the Manmohan Singh government should have passed on the full impact of the present oil price increase (and that includes this newspaper), should give Indira Gandhi credit for taking the bit between her teeth and jacking up oil product prices overnight. The price index for the fuel sub-set went up by 80 per cent in barely a year, as a result. General inflation in 1973-74 rose to 20 per cent, and 25 per cent the following year. The fall-out wasn't long in coming. Student mess bills went up in Gujarat, sparking off an agitation that became a movement for unseating the state government. George Fernandes launched a railway strike, and another fire was lit in Bihar against corruption. Before you knew it, Jayaprakash Narayan had started an all-India agitation against the government. In the summer of 1974, Mrs Gandhi finally moved against inflation, imposing a dearness allowance freeze, restricting dividend payouts by companies, and cracking down on money supply. The stock market tanked overnight and the economy stalled, but in three months the inflation curve began dropping, and the JP movement soon began losing steam. It was in fact petering out when the unrelated Allahabad High Court judgment created a fresh crisis that led to the Emergency. Though no one can argue that it was the only cause, Mrs Gandhi's long slide down began with her decision to raise petrol and diesel prices, and the runaway inflation that resulted.
The second oil shock came in 1979-80, when prices touched the current equivalent of about $90 per barrel. The government raised fuel prices, inflation soared from nothing in one year to 17 per cent in the next, GDP actually shrank 5 per cent in the wake of a bad harvest, and there was widespread resentment against what was seen as an incompetent government, which got a drubbing in the election that followed. The foreign exchange situation stabilised only after the new government under Indira Gandhi negotiated what was then the largest ever loan taken from the International Monetary Fund, of $5 billion.
Cut to January 1986. Rajiv Gandhi had just enjoyed a year-long honeymoon with the country through his long first year as Prime Minister. Then he raised oil product prices. There was an almighty uproar, and the government had to roll back the price increase in a matter of weeks, but by then Rajiv's honeymoon was well and truly over and he never recovered. Five years later, in 1990, the first Gulf crisis sparked off a sharp spurt in oil prices, the government kept postponing key decisions and before you knew it the country had run out of foreign exchange. This time, though, there was a happy ending as the economic reforms got launched.
In other words, high oil prices light a fire, every time. In today's context, if the government tries to cushion the impact of oil prices, the fiscal deficit (correctly measured) goes sky-high. If oil prices are raised even slightly, inflation marches into double-digits. The RBI then feels obliged to jack up interest rates, pushing the economy into a slowdown, if not a recession, and what was in the world of reasonable oil prices a sunny economy slips into gloom and doom.

The Winning Formula

Gujarat and West Bengal are ideologically and geographically poles apart, but their politics has something in common. Read carefully between the red and saffron graffiti lines and a similar subtext emerges. Both these governments claim that the Centre, that represents India, is doggedly undermining them though they do all the hard work. This hidden message has helped Modi and the Left Front beat the anti-incumbency factor, while all other political formations have been felled by it. Fortunately for them, no other party in their respective backyards can match them in expressing this form of reluctant sub-nationalism. This is the key to their success: not cadre discipline or Hindutva and development. Jyoti Basu gave the CPM a distinctive appeal when from the early 1960s he fused leftism with an anti-Centre posture. According to the Kolkata communists, even the Green Revolution was aimed to benefit hardy wheat eaters in the north with muscular hybrid varieties, while the east continued to harvest its lowly rice. The joke is that when Jawaharlal Nehru's ashes were doing the rounds in various states and eventually reached Calcutta, it was accorded the deepest respect. But Basu, the sceptic, lifted the top of the urn, inspected the ashes inside, then turned to his people and triumphantly announced: "I knew it; we got less." Recently, Modi made a public declaration that Gujaratis should consider not paying any central taxes as all the money Delhi soaks in from this state goes elsewhere. According to Modi, Gujarat contributes Rs 40,000 crore but gets only 2.5 per cent of it. Obviously there are bad guys out there at the Centre, who are using this money, fiddling with the books and fattening their purses. Much of Gujarat's development began well before Modi became chief minister in 2001. Gujarat ranked third among the top 15 Indian states in terms of growth and industrial output. But, as some argue, it may have slipped to the fourth position after Modi took over. The real per capita income growth in Gujarat has reportedly gone down as well between 1994-95 and 2005-06. Out of 17 sub-sectors that measure growth performance, Gujarat has done well only in eight. Its gender parity index in terms of school attendance at the higher primary level shows that it is lower than most other states. For every 100 boys in school in that grade there are only about 81 girls. Not a very comforting human development statistic. Unlike Gujarat, the Left Front inherited an underdeveloped economy in West Bengal, and they have since done their bit to deepen it. There are now fewer teachers per school and more patients per primary health centre even after three decades of "communist" rule in this state. In fact, in terms of education, health and the electrification of households, West Bengal is in the back of the class, rubbing shoulders with Bihar, UP and Mizoram. Yet the Left Front keeps getting elected. To argue that Hindutva boosted Modi's appeal in Gujarat would then prompt the question why it did not help the BJP at the national level. The melodrama at Ayodhya and the shock waves of the Mumbai blasts should have seen BJP through several rounds of elections. In fact, when these events happened many political fence-sitters did some futures trading and opted for BJP stocks only to be disappointed at their short-lived buoyancy. Modi could have stumbled upon his winning formula quite by chance. Initially he only wanted to win an election and planned the carnage in exactly those areas where BJP was weak. As the election campaign progressed, so did criticisms against his handling of the killings grow nationwide. It was somewhere between whistle-stops that he cleverly turned around the attacks against him and made them sound like an assault on Gujarati pride. This was a masterstroke. He wore his hurt on his sleeve like a badge of honour and launched into a counter-attack. All of Gujarat, he said, was being insulted by India, and should the people of this state stand for it? Modi went tub-thumping from stage to stage holding a kind of hands-up referendum on this question wherever he went. This was the turning point. Modi became a Gujarati icon overnight. In public rallies he is greeted by repeated chants of his pet name, Namo. His facial hair and his attire have inspired millions to try and look like him. Those who cannot make it, have to do with Modi shirts and masks, such is this man's charisma. All of this would have been impossible without Modi's subtle anti-Delhi posture. Neither development nor Hindutva, nor a combination of the two, could have helped Modi make it through the night to the second term. Modi's use of sub-nationalism not only foxed his opponents but puzzled the BJP high command in Delhi as well. L K Advani came along for the victory parade in Gujarat but he wore yesterday's look even as Modi was clearly the hero of the hour. In Bidhan Roy's time, the Congress too could sport this morally superior than thou anti-Centre attitude. But since then, only the Left Front has credibly pushed this sentiment of stung hurt to its advantage. And now we have Modi. Truly, what Bengal thought of yesterday, the rest of India thinks of today! The writer is professor of sociology, JNU.

Reservation - For Teaching at IIT

MUMBAI: Buoyed by its success in pushing through a quota for OBC students in higher education, the government has now ordered IITs to introduce - with "immediate effect" - quotas in the teaching faculty for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs. IIT directors, not surprisingly, were livid with the decision, though none of the four TOI spoke to were willing to go on record. The high quality of IIT faculty has built the institution into a globally respected brand. Said an IIT-Delhi professor: "It is hard to imagine that even teachers will now use the caste flag to get in." The government diktat dated June 9, which has been sent to all the IITs, lays down 15% quota for SC, 7.5% for ST and 27% quota for OBCs in teaching positions. IITs currently have reservations for backward category candidates for administrative posts - from attendants to the level of deputy registrar. However, there is no reservation for faculty members in these premier technological institutes. The order signed by Seema Raj, director of technical education in the HRD ministry, read, "I am directed to say that the matter relating to reservation of SC, ST, OBC categories in recruitment to teaching (faculty) posts in the IITs was considered in the second meeting of the SCIC (Standing Committee of IIT Council) held on 11/2/2008. The recommendations made by the SCIC have been accepted by the chairman of (the) IIT Council. Accordingly, it has been decided to implement reservation for SC, ST, OBC, in recruitment to teaching (faculty) posts in IITs with immediate effect." For subjects in science and technology, posts will be reserved for lecturers and assistant professors. In areas like management, social sciences and humanities, reservations will be applicable up to the professor level. The ministry allows IITs to dereserve the posts after a year, if they do not get filled "despite all efforts". Insiders feel that merit, on which brand IIT rests, would be shaken by the decision of the government. The order specifies that in departments dealing with science and technology subjects, "reservation shall be applied to the extent possible at the school or broad branch of engineering, at least, if not at the individual department level." The IIT directors TOI contacted, who were yet to convey the order to their faculty members, said they are shocked by the decision. "Some of the finest people have given up top positions and fat cheques that were offered to them in other parts of the world to come and teach in the IITs, despite the low pay scale that the government offers. With reservation in faculty positions, I see a day, not far from now, when the IITs will crumble," said one director. Another director said that there had been no bias against hiring backward category candidates to teaching positions if they were found meritorious. "Till now, if a backward category candidate was found on par with another candidate, the former was given preference, but reservation will change the atmosphere on campus," said the director. All directors agreed that such reservations for faculty posts would mar the quality of education at the institutes. The lecturer’s post in the IITs is a contractual one and the basic salary is Rs 10,000 per month. Usually, fresh PhD candidates are taken in at this level. If their services are found satisfactory, they are promoted to assistant professor and get onto the permanent rolls of the IITs. But now, almost half the posts - 49.5% to be precise - will be reserved at both these levels.

Reality Show

Teen Paralysed
KOLKATA: The next time you drag your son or daughter to music or dance competition, remember the face in this photograph. She is Shinjini Sengupta, a 16-year-old class XI student of a reputed Kolkata school, who can now neither speak nor move. She wasn't like this even a month ago. She was a good dancer and acted in tele-serials and had even appeared in a Bengali film. Participating in a dance competition on a Bengali TV channel recently, Shinjini was rebuked by the judges of the show during the shooting on May 19. The teenager never recovered from the shock of being publicly chided. She slipped into depression and then lost her speech and finally even the use of her limbs. Shinjini was flown to Bangalore's NIMHANS on Friday evening. "The doctors here have not been able to diagnose her problem. She can't speak or express herself. An MRI and a CT scan have been done, but we still don't know what she is suffering from," said Sibani Sengupta, Shinjini's mother. Till three days ago, she would write if she needed something. Now she has even stopped that. Psychiatrists admit that Shinjini's case, though an extreme one, is not rare. "Quite often we come across such cases. Depression is one of the factors behind a number of illnesses. Shinjini was biologically vulnerable," said psychiatrist Debashish Roy. On May 19, Shinjini participated in a popular dance contest aired from Monday to Wednesday on a Bengali channel. Shinjini didn't break into tears like some of the other participants after being scolded by the judges. "On returning home, she said she felt like singing loudly. I asked her if she was upset. She just said that she had fought hard to hold back her tears. After that day, she was not her usual self," Sibani said. She almost stopped eating and slept for most part of the day. When awake, she listened to music. "Being our only child we never stopped her from doing what she wanted to do. Education was our first priority. If she could manage to learn dance without hampering her studies we were okay with it. Now, I don't know what we will do. All parents should learn a lesson from us," said D K Sengupta, Shinjini's father. Some days later, Shinjini was at Fun City shooting for a tele-serial. That was the first time her parents realised she was facing a medical problem. "She couldn't say her dialogues. The director was a bit surprised since she hadn't behaved like this ever before. We thought she was deliberately doing this. Then we realised that there was a problem," Sibani said. She managed the shoot that day but that was the last time that she appeared before the camera. Shinjini even refused to watch episodes of the dance contest where she had appeared. "We took her to a psychiatrist. She was given medicines which made her drowsy and there was not much improvement in her condition. Since she had stopped eating, her health deteriorated as well and we had to take her to a nursing home," said her father. On 11 June, she was taken to a nursing home and later shifted to Calcutta Medical Research Institute. After five days at the hospital, the family members decided to take her to Bangalore for treatment. Shinjini was in class VII when she won a prize for dance in school.

Seperate at Birth - Rajdeep Sardesai

The state of the UPA government is a bit like a bad old Ajit joke about liquid oxygen: liquid usse jeene nahi deta, oxygen usse marne nahi deta (liquid doesn’t let it live, oxygen doesn’t let it die). Substitute uranium for liquid oxygen and Prakash Karat in the role of Ajit and the plight of Manmohan Singh’s government is apparent. The Indo-US nuclear deal may have been the cause of the latest flashpoint, but the reality is that the Left-UPA relationship has long since reached the point of no-return. Perhaps, the astonishing part is that it’s taken as long as four years for the realisation to dawn that the UPA-Left equation was perhaps untenable to begin with.
Flashback to the CPI(M) manifesto for the 2004 general elections. While the BJP was projected as ‘enemy number one’, there was harsh criticism of the Congress too. Claiming that the Congress’s policies were no alternative to BJP rule, it said: “The Congress party ruled over the country for four decades. Its policies and record of government contributed to the present plight of the people and the country. Its failure to strengthen the foundations of democracy, secularism, federalism and the anti-people policies laid the basis for the rise of the BJP and its coalition government.”
This stinging attack is hardly surprising. In the three states where the Left is in power, the Congress remains its principal rival. Nor is this ‘normal’ political rivalry: the adversarial relationship on the ground with the Congress is bitter and acrimonious, based on decades of ill-will and mutual distrust.
If the two sides chose to still partner each other in the summer of 2004 it was primarily because of the doctrine of necessity, spurred by the logic of numbers. With the UPA having 218 members in the 543-member 14th Lok Sabha, the Congress-led alliance needed the 60 members of the Left to cross the half-way mark. When the CPI(M) overruled the CPI and decided not to actually join the government, the first seeds of trouble were sown. Power without responsibility is always dangerous: in politics, especially in a coalition arrangement, it is a recipe for disaster, as it allows a party to exercise exaggerated influence without any care for the consequences.
But it wasn’t just the numbers that saw the UPA and the Left cosy up to each other. On the one hand, there was a blind hatred for the ‘communal’ BJP which was seen as enough reason to overlook the very basic differences that exist on the ground. On the other, there was also a substantial section of the old Nehruvians within the Congress who still saw the Left as being potential fellow travellers. These unreconstructed Nehruvians — best exemplified by Mani Shankar Aiyar — genuinely seemed to believe that the core principles of the Nehruvian ideology — secularism, socialism, non-alignment — were part of a shared legacy with the Left, based on a fierce opposition to the BJP’s fundamentalism and America’s imperialism.
Unfortunately, these secular ‘warriors’ failed to recognise that the Left’s ideological fervour was based on a sense of self-righteous moral superiority to the rest of the political class and had no place for the Congress’s accommodative spirit. This kind of dogmatic attitude allows virtually no space for dialogue or compromise, so critical while running a coalition government. So, for example, while the Left’s ideology is gradually becoming irrelevant, the red cadres have not lost their commitment to their core belief system. Antipathy to America, for example, is not simply a reflex anti-Bush attitude, it is part of a Cold War worldview that has been shaped over decades. Again, the determined fight against the market economy is based on the Left’s unswerving belief that global capital is an ‘evil’ influence on society.
No one exemplifies this ideological absolutism more than Karat. Four years ago, the CPI(M) leader was embraced by 10 Janpath because he was blessed with the qualities that Sonia Gandhi seems to appreciate in a politician: honest, straightforward, secular, and dare one say, an English-speaking PLU (in sharp contrast to an ‘outsider’ like the wily Amar Singh). Ironically, four years later, some of the qualities that made Karat an attractive option for the Congress leadership now make him such a difficult person to deal with. Call it political naiveté or a misreading of the situation, but the UPA leadership has gone horribly wrong in underestimating the force of Karat’s ideological commitment. In a sense, this also reveals the limitations of the present ruling arrangement. As an ‘accidental’ politician, the PM has been out of place in the hurly burly of alliance politics which demands astute political management, while Sonia Gandhi too has shown herself unwilling to confront hostile allies.
The time though for well-intentioned pussyfooting is surely over. Four years ago, Gandhi’s ‘inner voice’ convinced her that she must not be the PM, she must now introspect again: how long can a marriage of convenience last when the bride and the groom can no longer bear to stay in the same house. In real life, it requires a courtroom to intervene to end the relationship. In a democracy, the court of the people is the only way forward.
The writer is Editor-in-Chief, IBN Network

A stitch in Time - Barkha Dutt

For a couple of years now, New Delhi has been clinging to a delusion about Kashmir. The delusion isn’t all without reason. The spiralling number of mobile phones, the multiple airlines that zip in and out of an airport that will soon have international flights, the ski tournaments at Gulmarg and the return of the Bombay film crews — all of this has lulled policymakers and mediators into a false sense of well-being. The hustle and bustle of life is seen at the very least, as a sign of radical improvement.
But tourists and tulips apart, all is not well in Kashmir.
For those of us who have, in the past, watched Srinagar shut down in eerie silence as soon as daylight dimmed or have walked through its empty, lifeless streets in times of violence, the changes were indeed dramatic and inspiring of hope. But it didn’t take long to understand that they were, in the end, only band-aids to wounds that may have needed immediate surgery. Strip away the sheen of economic energy and you will find that the Valley is still emotionally paralysed by anger. And the low simmer that this anger has cooked on for years erupted into a full boil this week.
On the face of it, this week’s controversy is about the transfer of 40 hectares (even less) of forest land to the state’s Governor, who also controls the Amarnath Shrine Board. But at its heart, the protests are saying something that New Delhi should listen to in a hurry and with worry. In an election year, the political discourse is headed towards a dangerous and irrevocable communal polarisation. Among the allegations made by protestors is the suggestion that the transfer of land and construction of facilities on it for Hindu pilgrims is an attempt by ‘outsiders’ to alter the religious demographics of the Valley. The fact that a charge like this is still able to draw a flood of people onto the streets is a statement on how battered and damaged the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar continues to be.
And while intelligence sleuths conspiratorially blame ‘separatists’ for instigating the violence, here’s the bare truth. Like with many other issues in recent months, there is no significant difference between the position taken by the mainstream political parties in the Valley and parties that have demanded freedom or self-rule for the state. In fact, the agendas of the two have blurred into near sameness. This time, all of them, are united in demanding that the land transfer to the Governor’s office be scrapped. The only two parties that are supporting status quo are the national parties: the BJP and the Congress, the latter seen in the state, as essentially a party of the Jammu region. That is the other thing that should worry New Delhi deeply: it is almost as if Jammu were entirely a different state, with its Hindu-dominated demographics determining a politics entirely opposite to that of the Muslim-dominated valley. The street slogans in Jammu have underlined a different sort of conspiracy theory — the charge that Kashmiri politicians are trying to keep Hindu pilgrims out and away from the yatra.
It’s a horrendous falsehood for a state in which local Kashmiri Muslims have for centuries looked after every need of the thousands and thousands of Hindu pilgrims that stream in for darshan at the Amarnath cave. The cave itself is said to have been discovered by a Muslim shepherd in 1860. And since then, from providing ponies to food, to walking sticks, to even lugging up children on their strong mountain-weathered backs, the lives of the local Muslims have been inextricably linked to those of the visiting pilgrims. And when snowstorms or terrorists strike, it’s the locals who have stepped in to save the lives of their guests.
So, how did it all get to be so ugly? The law itself seems innately dangerous and divisive. It provides for the Governor, ‘if Hindu’, to manage both the Amarnath and the Mata Vaishnodevi Shrines. The Chief Minister, ‘if Muslim’, will in turn control the Muslim Wakf board. The legislation was formalised during the tenure of the National Conference, but the new government led by the PDP made no attempt to change it either. In fact, the Forest Minister who cleared the recent transfer of land is a legislator from the PDP. It also doesn’t help that the former Governor (he retired a few days ago) enjoyed displaying his authority and made sure his offices sent a press release on his new plans for the yatra — hardly the sort of sledgehammer publicity-seeking manner you would want in a sensitive, conflict-ridden state.
Omar Abdullah has been candid enough to say that it is time to change the laws his own party made in ‘good faith’. His words should be heeded. To allow religious bodies to come within the domain of the political establishment is a recipe for brewing hatred and mistrust. The new Governor, NN Vohra, has been a peace mediator on Kashmir. He will understand — better than most — that peace in the valley is being held up by safety pins; the cloth itself is still woefully torn. It is time for him to start the process of change by relinquishing control of the shrines. The CM must then follow the example by letting go of the Wakf board. A multi-religious, independent body of eminent citizens and scholars that includes the marginalised community of Kashmiri Pandits should be handed over the charge of all religious bodies, both Muslim and Hindu. Threats by terrorists mean that the army cannot recede into the background. But at least a beginning would have been made in liberating religion from politics.
And in the meantime, if New Delhi had hoped that the historic elections of 2002 would have paved the way for a landmark change in 2009, it has to think again. This election may well be strident, volatile and bloody. Kashmir needs more — much more-than astringents and band-aids. The peace doctors have been missing for too long.
Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

The Nuclear Deal

Emulate America’s bipartisan handling
Brahma Chellaney
The way forward on the nuclear deal is not through disinterest in bipartisan consensus but by emulating the example set by the much-maligned Bush administration at home.
The political drama and uncertainty in India triggered by the partisan wrangling over the civil nuclear deal cannot shroud a key fact: Three years after the deal was unveiled as a “historic” breakthrough in U.S.-India relations, its final shape remains unclear and its future uncertain. Several developments have only increased the odds that finalising and implementing the deal will be a long, arduous challenge for both sides.
The most prominent of these developments is that time has run out for the deal to be approved during U.S. President George W. Bush’s term in office. Given the extended requirements set for congressional ratification by the U.S. Atomic Energy Act and Hyde Act, it will be a Barack Obama or John McCain administration — and a new U.S. Congress — that will have the final say on the deal. While acknowledging this reality, the Bush administration, however, continues publicly and privately to prod New Delhi to play its last card by taking the safeguards accord to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s governing board for approval.
With no role to play in the subsequent stages, India may see more conditions being tagged to the deal by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and the U.S. Congress. Considering how the deal picked up tougher terms with each stage it crossed, there is a distinct possibility that it would attract more conditions in the remaining phases. Take the NSG process, which promises to be drawn-out in view of the impending change of administration in Washington. Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voiced hope in Parliament on August 13, 2007 that the NSG rule-change for India would occur “without conditions,” an unconditional waiver now looks fanciful. The Bush team is loath to share with New Delhi its revised draft proposal to the NSG.
In fact, one of the Hyde Act’s prerequisites for the deal’s congressional approval is that any NSG rule-change must mirror the conditions that legislation has set for nuclear commerce with India — from a permanent test ban and tightly regulated uranium access to a continued prohibition on all civil nuclear fuel-cycle technologies and the right to demand the return of transferred items and materials. The Act requires that an NSG exemption should neither be less stringent nor take effect before congressional ratification of the deal. Its clause-by-clause explanatory notes state that no NSG decision should “disadvantage U.S. industry by setting less strict conditions … than those embodied in the conditions and requirements of this Act.”
The concern is that if the NSG fails to replicate U.S.-style conditions, New Delhi would do an end-run around America to buy power reactors from Russia and France. Indeed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured Congress barely four months ago that the NSG exemption will be “completely consistent with the obligations of the Hyde Act.” The Act asserts the U.S. has the “necessary leverage” in a group it founded to “ensure a favourable outcome.”
Given these realities, there ought to be neither hurry nor heat in evolving India’s strategy and options on the deal. This is an issue that needs to be discussed dispassionately, in a bipartisan spirit, without succumbing to contrived deadlines. After all, the deal centres on the very future of the country’s nuclear programme. Once India has invested billions of dollars in importing power reactors, the congressionally enforced conditions, with cyclic presidential certifications of Indian “compliance,” will effectively bear it down. Even when Washington walked out midway from a binding 30-year bilateral pact over just one plant, the U.S.-built Tarapur nuclear power station, New Delhi continued to honour the accord’s terms till the end — and even beyond to this day.
Declassified U.S. documents show that the CIA had correctly assessed that India would not end its obligations even after America had broken its word, but instead would seek U.S. help to find a substitute fuel supplier to keep electricity flowing from Tarapur. That is exactly what happened. But in return, to this day, India has exacerbated its spent-fuel problem at Tarapur by granting the U.S. a right it didn’t have even if it had not walked out of that accord — a veto on Indian reprocessing of the accumulating discharged fuel. Yet, even in the latest deal, India has inexplicably agreed to forego reprocessing until it has, in the indeterminate future, won a separate, congressionally vetted agreement.
The political passions the deal is generating make it all the more important that spin should not be allowed to obfuscate facts. Both America and China stand to gain from the qualitative and quantitative fetters the deal imposes on India’s deterrent, including the test prohibition and the forced shutdown of Cirus — one of the two research reactors producing weapons-grade plutonium. Yet vicious attacks have been orchestrated on the Left for allegedly acting at China’s behest. Disinformation has been planted to sow confusion in the BJP ranks and break the party’s steadfast opposition to the deal. Can slogans and taunts serve as a substitute to an informed debate on an increasingly complex and technical deal?
One would have expected greater transparency in a deal between the world’s most-populous and most-powerful democracies. In one telling example, the Bush administration, through a gag order on its written responses to congressional questions, has sought to keep the Indian public in the dark on the larger implications, lest the deal should run into rougher weather. In another example, New Delhi continues to shy away from explaining why it agreed to certain glaring provisions in the 123 agreement, such as its grant of an open-ended right to the supplier to suspend supplies forthwith simply by issuing a one-year termination notice on any ground, or the conspicuous absence of any dispute-resolution mechanism.
Citing the newfound support to the deal by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam or Brajesh Mishra can hardly lay to rest nagging questions. Cryptic personal opinions of individuals, however distinguished, will not obscure hard facts. After having been a party to all the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led pronouncements against the deal since 2005, Mr. Mishra has suddenly gone solo to find virtue in the accord. All he says is that he was officially briefed and now “hopes” and “believes” the deal is no longer injurious to Indian interests. But why not share with the public any new material facts he may know?
Mr. Kalam, as scientific adviser in 1999, publicly supported the then government’s U.S.-instigated but abortive move to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Now, in lending support to a deal that drags India through the backdoor into the CTBT, Mr. Kalam says: “If at any time there was a fear that national security would be compromised … we can withdraw.” This shows he hasn’t studied the deal, because the one common thread running through the Hyde Act, the 123 agreement, and the safeguards accord is that India is to be barred from ever halting international inspection of its entire civil nuclear programme, even if the U.S. unilaterally terminated cooperation.Rancorous divisiveness
Let’s be clear: the deal has divided India like no other strategic issue. The rancorous divisiveness ought to give pause to those who may think the deal can be rammed through. Indeed, through political over-investment, the deal has been meretriciously presented as the centrepiece, if not the touchstone, of a new Indo-U.S. partnership. To depict the deal as critical to U.S.-India ties is to suggest the base of that relationship is still narrow. Any bilateral relationship cannot rise or fall on the basis of a single issue.
New Delhi’s best option today is to let the deal enter a period of suspended animation and await the new political line-up in Washington. A critical matter like this, which is going to tie India to legally irrevocable international inspections, demands a broad consensus at home. To ignore the widespread misgivings and to precipitously proceed ahead will set a treacherous and damaging precedent.
Dr. Singh had assured the nation on several occasions that he would build a broad political consensus in the deal’s favour. Just two days after signing the original deal on July 18, 2005, he said: “It goes without saying that we can move forward only on the basis of a broad national consensus.” On August 17, 2006, he told the Rajya Sabha: “Broad-based domestic consensus cutting across all sections in Parliament and outside will be necessary.” Subsequently, he reassured Parliament that he will “seek the broadest possible consensus within the country to enable the next steps to be taken.”
That is exactly the wise course he needs to follow today. The partisan acrimony needs to be defused.
New Delhi should learn from the way the much-maligned Bush administration has handled the deal domestically — by forging an impressive political consensus. The Hyde Act was the product of such consensus-building and political co-option, with the administration holding closed-door briefings for lawmakers and allowing its three-and-a-half-page bill to be turned into a 41-page, conditions-stacked legislation. Bipartisan support also holds the key to the deal eventually winning congressional ratification. In India, the deal ought not to be turned into a partisan issue, for it will have to be implemented well after the present government’s term.

The Nirmal Shekar Column

London: To Lleyton Hewitt, his momentous brush with Wimbledon glory must seem like a distant memory now. And the little Aussie battler knows who is to blame for that.
His distinguished Aussie predecessors such as Rod Laver and John Newcombe had been multiple-champions on the pampered lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis Club in the past. In the event, Hewitt, on winning the 2002 Wimbledon title, might have expected to add a few more.
But a certain Swiss gentleman who got into the habit of defying geometry with his golden right arm had ideas of his own — and has since become a permanent occupant of the most coveted throne in the game. What is more, Roger Federer went on to ‘own’ Hewitt, as they say in the fight game, beating the Aussie 11 times in a row between 2003 and 2007.
“I came in knowing nobody has beaten me 12 times in a row,” said Andy Roddick in Miami in April this year after beating Federer for the first time in 12 meetings.Dirty Dozen
On Monday, in the 122nd Wimbledon championships, Hewitt will get his chance. Nobody has beaten the Aussie 12 times in a row either, and the last thing he’d want is a Dirty Dozen.
In a men’s championship that promised so much a few days ago but has already lost two of its biggest drawcards in Roddick and Novak Djokovic, the fourth round contest between Hewitt and Federer assumes tremendous significance.
On Friday, after a rain-delay of just over an hour and a half, both Federer and Hewitt posted straight set victories in the third round to set up an intriguing clash, although given their head-to-head record some might believe that all the intrigue was of the imagined variety. To be sure, Federer will step in as the overwhelming favourite on Monday. They have met twice at Wimbledon and Federer won both those matches comfortably. But in their last meeting, at the Cincinnati Masters last year, Hewitt lost 7-6 in the third, and despite a sore hip he has been playing well here this week.
If his record against the great man is unflattering — whose isn’t? — then it must be acknowledged that Hewitt is one of the most accomplished grass court players of his generation with a win-loss record of 87-20 on the surface.
Even if he cannot stop the Swiss maestro, Hewitt is capable of offering Federer his first real test in this championship. He has a chance to prove to himself and to the world that he is not a relic; that he still has it in him to compete with the very best on equal terms.Easy win
On Friday, Federer raced past Marc Gicquel of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in an hour and 21 minutes. He started on the wrong foot, losing his opening service game, but motored along nicely the rest of the way. “It is always a challenge playing Lleyton. He is a great player, a guy I enjoy watching,” said Federer. “He is a great competitor. We go back a long time. I think it is an intriguing match for both of us.”
Hewitt, playing Simone Bolelli of Italy, seemed set to match Federer in the brevity of the contest but his 22-year-old opponent from Bologna decided to make a match of it in the third set. Bolelli fought off a matchpoint on serve in the 10th game and took the set into a tiebreak. But Hewitt opened up an early lead in the tiebreak and closed out the match with an ace down the middle for a 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(2) victory.
Hewitt has been serving well all week — he fired 14 aces against Bolelli — and he is playing with typical aggression from the back of the court. But without the high quality ammunition of a Roddick or a Nadal, can this doughty warrior really challenge the master on Monday? If nothing, it is worth a look.

Remembering Sam Manekshaw - Quotes

“If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is a liar or a Gurkha!”
“I always wanted to play with dolls. When I was young, my mom wouldn’t allow me to, then my wife came along, and I still was not allowed to. Finally, I told myself, ‘now I am the Field Marshall, I will damn well do as I please and went and got myself the dolls!’ ”

Remembering Sam Manekshaw - 3

A field marshal & a gentleman
Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw was the quintessential soldier: magnificently mustachioed, charming, dapper, decisive, and above all, impervious to political pressure. He was better known as Sam Bahadur, or Sam the Brave, a title bestowed on him by his beloved Gurkhas. Compared to today’s standards and levels of probity in the Army, he was cool, bold and seminal. And he was considerate to those under his command. His was a highly decorated soldiering career that sp anned four decades.
He was also droll and irreverent, traits long extinct in the Indian military. He was an able listener, irrespective of how junior his interlocutor. He was charismatic, and rarely ever stood on ceremony. Through earthiness and plain-speak he motivated an army that achieved what no other army has done since the Second World War — liberating a nation. Even the U.S., with all its might and technical wizardry, has not managed such a feat in the past 63 years.
The Field Marshal was a team player. He almost always finished his own work in an hour and spent the rest of his time floating from one office to another. He often dropped in on harried juniors, and eagerly helped them with their tasks.
As Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Manekshaw’s chutzpah helped achieve ‘jointness’ among the three Services. This was evidenced by the coordinated and synergised operations that resulted in Pakistan’s military rout in 1971. Without doubt India’s finest war-time chief, he was also a noble warrior who looked upon his enemies with respect. Addressing troops from atop the bonnet of his jeep in the Chamb Sector in November 1971 weeks before the 1971 campaign started, he asked them not to be rapacious in victory.
Separately, he urged the officers not to misbehave with Pakistani women. If they were ever overcome with “negative urges,” they should put their hands in their pockets and think of Sam Manekshaw, he added. By and large, the Indian Army behaved in an exemplary manner in both the theatres of war. Having begun with the Second World War in which he was awarded the Military Cross on the battlefield during the Burma campaign, Manekshaw actively participated in all the wars that independent India fought. He capped it all with the decisive 1971 triumph that led to the birth of Bangladesh. Measured campaign
Manekshaw’s planning of the 1971 campaign was brilliantly measured, and it showed his well-rounded leadership qualities. He steadfastly refused to cave in to pressure from either Prime Minister Indira Gandhi or her Cabinet colleagues to launch immediate military operations against East Pakistan. Their intention was also to stem the flow of millions of Bengali refugees into India after the Pakistan Army had executed a pogrom of intellectuals and leaders, killing over 50,000 of them.
In March 1971, largely Bengali East Pakistan had revolted against the dominance of its Punjabi and Pathan-dominated Western section. This resulted in a brutal crackdown by the army, which had a similar ethnic mix. The refugee exodus into India followed. This imposed on India a crippling financial burden. In addition, the influx strained the social and political fabric in the northeastern States, the effects of which remain till today. After touring the teeming refugee camps, Indira Gandhi asked Manekshaw what the Indian Army could possibly do to control the situation. “Nothing,” quipped Manekshaw, to the horror of the Prime Minister’s entourage of civil servants and Ministers. No one had ever dared to respond so brusquely to her.
An impatient Indira Gandhi, backed by her eager-to-please Cabinet, wanted Manekshaw to conduct a swift, surgical strike on East Pakistan and install a government led by Mujibur Rehman, the popular Bengali leader. This was to be followed by the return of the refugees. Manekshaw patiently listened, and then went on to elaborate firmly on the enormous logistical exercise that was necessary to launch operations against a 90,000-strong Pakistani Army. Guided by military logic, his capability and the reality on the ground, Manekshaw said that though his army would be operationally ready three months later in June, November 1971 would be the tactically opportune point to launch an attack on East Pakistan.
He had principally two reasons for this. The first was that the monsoon would render the region a virtual lake, making troop movement difficult. If India launched operations in June, the outcome would be catastrophic, he said. The second and equally credible rationale for a postponement was a perceived threat from China, with which India had fought a debilitating border war nine years earlier. Manekshaw wanted the Himalayan mountain passes to be snowed up before troops — at least two divisions of them — could be withdrawn from the Chinese front for deployment in the east.
He maintained in his briefing to Indira Gandhi and her Ministers that India must guard against the prospect of having to fight a war on two fronts. “That,” he declared, “would present me with problems far more complex than what had been the bane of the German General Staff for more than 50 years across two World Wars. It would be unwise to rely on diplomatic assurances that the Chinese would not react in support of Pakistan. We must wait for the snow to block the northern passes.”
Indira Gandhi ordered the General to move his formations into position and be ready to engage battle by June. In the ensuing months a whispering campaign was mounted by senior officials and politicians against Manekshaw. He was being accused of cowardice, vacillation and shoddy generalship. Manekshaw was aware of the calumny unleashed against him, but maintained his cool. He went about preparing for combat by bolstering the communication lines around East Pakistan. Indira Gandhi meanwhile secured a friendship and military treaty with the Soviet Union, the country’s principal materiel provider, thereby neutralising the possibility of any interference from either the United States or China. It also enabled the establishment of a formal Bangladesh government-in-exile in India and the arming and training of Mukti Bahini guerilla fighters jointly by the Research and Analysis Wing and Indian Army Special Forces personnel.
Over the next few months, until war started, these guerrillas successfully harassed and engaged the Pakistani Army, confining it to the garrison towns cut off from the capital, Dhaka. This made Manekshaw’s eventual task easier. And, when the Pakistan Air Force conducted a pre-emptive strike on Indian airfields in December 1971 from West Pakistan, Manekshaw unleashed his campaign. It all ended in a fortnight with the liberation of East Pakistan and the capture of over 90,000 Pakistani soldiers.
A firm believer in the chain of command, he delegated the battle planning and execution to Eastern Army field commanders. Meanwhile, he used his clout with the political establishment to meet the financial and hardware requirements. He was the uncrowned Chief of Defence Staff. (This is a post India’s military and political establishment has been wrangling over for the past decade.) Inimitable modesty
With his inimitable modesty, Manekshaw declined to preside over the Pakistani surrender in Dhaka. He insisted that the credit go to the Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen. Jagjit Aurora. He jocularly remarked that he would go only to accept the surrender of the entire Pakistani Army.
As Chief of the Army Staff, Manekshaw had issued instructions that if anyone from 54 Sikhs came visiting, he was to be escorted straight to him, whatever time it was and whatever he was involved with. Occasionally, these grizzled veterans would arrive at Army House with a string of ‘sifarishs’ (requests) ranging from a bag of sugar for a daughter’s wedding or a note to the local administration for help. All were received with a robust burst of colloquial Punjabi, which Manekshaw spoke like a native. And none was left unrequited.
Deployed to Burma during the Second World War, he was badly wounded during a successful attack near the Sittang river on February 22, 1942 to capture a vital hill while leading two companies. As he charged forward with his men, a Japanese soldier emerged from the jungle and pumped seven bullets into Captain Manekshaw. The Division Commander, Major General D.T. Cowan, who was witness to the action, whipped off his own Military Cross ribbon and pinned it onto Manekshaw. His rationale was that a dead person could not be awarded one of the most coveted bravery medals in the British Army.
After recovering from his wounds, Mankeshaw was once more dispatched to Burma as part of General (later Viscount) Slim’s 14th Army and was wounded again. In the final days of the Second World War, he was appointed Staff Officer to General Daisy in Indochina. There, after the Japanese surrender he helped rehabilitate over 10,000 prisoners of war.
Appointed to the Military Operations Directorate after Independence in 1947, Brigadier Manekshaw was responsible for Planning and Logistics during the first India-Pakistan war over Jammu and Kashmir. He was reportedly the only military officer and one of three people present, albeit in an ante-room, in the palace in Jammu, when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession ceding his kingdom to India in October 1947. The third person was V.P. Menon, who was political adviser to Lord Mountbatten at the time of Partition.
A series of staff and command postings followed. But in 1961 Manekshaw’s outspoken nature offended Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon. He favoured Lieutenant-General B.M. Kaul. There was also a court of inquiry into a nebulous charge, but he was exonerated.
India’s 1962 defeat by the Chinese followed, and Manekshaw was swiftly given command by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of the retreating 4 Corps, which was commanded earlier by General Kaul. Manekshaw did wonders to salvage their battered morale. He became Chief of the Army Staff in June 1969 and was made Field Marshal on January 1, 1973. He retired a fortnight later. Unconventional
He was an unconventional and at times risqué dresser. He once hosted his senior Lieutenant-General, Kulwant Singh, who was commanding the Western Army at Shimla, at an inspection in a “wholly unsuitable” jacket that was a cross between a regulation shirt and a bush shirt. When General Singh referred to it disparagingly, he quipped: “Have you come to inspect my formation or my dress?” Manekshaw invariably supported his subordinate officers, even if they expressed views contrary to his — as long as they were professionally sound. Those who served with him said that he never raised his voice. But even a mild rebuke accompanied by “Sweetheart, this will not do,” was enough to tame the wildest of soldiery egos. Towards some of his peers, however, his attitude was one of disguised mockery.
But Manekshaw’s fabled irreverence got him into trouble with a vindictive Indira Gandhi, who was jealous of his standing after the war. A throwaway line to a news reporter at an airport soon after the 1971 victory that had he decided to migrate to Pakistan at Independence — thousands of Parsis had opted to stay on — India would have lost the war, infuriated Indira Gandhi. She not only castigated him publicly but withdrew some of the perquisites he enjoyed as Field Marshal.
Unlike his successors, Manekshaw faded gracefully into retirement, seeking neither to perpetuate the glory that was justifiably his for personal profit nor compromising his Field Marshal’s Five-Star standing