Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Higher education is starving--Why donate Rs 23 Crore to Harvard?

Why didn't Prof. Amartya Sen himself part with part of his Nobel Prize in Economics to finance the Harvard U. which employs him?


Higher education starves, but a $4.5m gift to Harvard’s fine?

R Vaidyanathan

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 3:42:00 AM

The news item was not in the front pages of any major newspaper. It was published by some national dailies in the inside pages.

It is about the Government of India gifting $4.5 million (nearly Rs 23 crore) for Harvard University to establish a fund in honour of Prof Amartya Sen, which would help Indian students pursue higher education in that institution. This was to celebrate the 75th birth day of the renowned economist in recognition of his “extraordinary accomplishments” (PTI, December 11, 2008).

The government had earlier given £3.2 million (nearly Rs 26 crore) to the Cambridge University’s Judges Business school to celebrate Nehru’s entry as a student of Trinity College (see my article in DNA Money, February 12, 2008).

Both the news items, though important, were not debated by academicians nor commented upon by editors. To start with, there are questions regarding using government money to facilitate the fund-raising activity of Harvard or Cambridge. It is common knowledge that post-Thatcher era, the educational institutions in the UK are forced to raise the fees particularly for foreign students and even then, the fees do not cover even 25% of the cost of running these institutions. And hence, most of the British educational institutions are going around the world with a begging bowl, camouflaged as road shows, for their graduate and undergraduate courses.

Harvard, which recently lost more than $8 billion (nearly 22% of its corpus), is so much more desperate to augment its resources in the context of the global meltdown and deep US recession (WSJ, December 4, 2008).

Now, why should a developing country like India fund the cash-starved institutions of the West?

If Cambridge was so fascinated about Nehru entering it as a student or about the ‘India Story’, then it should have approached a private financier or some company in the UK to fund this endowment.

Ditto for Harvard, which could have asked many leading philanthropies in the US or business groups in India to fund the centre.

I know of several centres in China, which are funded by these universities or US companies. But India is a peculiar country, which funds centres in foreign universities, facilitating/ enhancing their finances. This gesture is not going to make others recognise us as a global economic power.

The higher educational institutions in India are starved of funds and crying out. After the decision of the government regarding reservation for other backward castes and the Supreme Court judgments thereon, it has become imperative for centrally funded institutions to increase their strength by at least one-and-half times and hence they need funds to expand their physical infrastructure. The government is not much forthcoming on this and expects the Central institutions to fend for themselves. There is a need for buildings and various other physical infrastructure in all the Central institutions of higher learning, leave alone the lower levels of education.

It is also surprising that the traditional rebels without a pause, namely the Left liberals, are totally silent on this. The usual Marxist crowd berating US imperialism, etc is also silent. May be the recessionary imperialism is not to be bothered about. The academic community is silent and some may be positioning themselves for future opportunities.

In the context of starving Indian institutions, gifting nearly Rs 50 crore to institutions in the UK/US is, to say the least, callous and may be construed as the result of the embedded colonial gene in our systems. The courtiers and family retainers may be already crowding around relevant ministries and power centres to get the positions, but that does not justify this subsidy.

Due to our distorted Nehruvian socialistic thinking, we believe that government is the embodiment of wisdom since it can tax and provide subsidies. We still live in the era of Kings where the whims and fancies of the Chakravarthi could get huge gifts to the courtiers and other foreign poets/ scholars. All one need do is stand in the queue and sing praises — particularly in this Dhanur month. Of course, if your colour is white, then just stand, not necessarily in the queue. Gifts will be bestowed and you will be profusely thanked for your presence and acceptance of the same.

There are many NRIs and Indian business groups who could have provided this subsidy/ alms to Harvard, but that was not the deal. Harvard I presume has arm-twisted the Government of India to get the funds to minimise the impact of its losses on the hedge funds. Anyhow, Indian government is the best hedge against such situations; due to the colonial hang-up and because we think Americans have done a great favour to us.

That is the reason our Ambassador to the USA, Ronen Sen (of the ‘headless chicken’ fame) profusely thanked the president of the Harvard University for accepting the gift.

We all should be very happy that Harvard condescended to accept our cheque since each of us was worried they may not!

Will the Indian mind ever get de-colonised?

The writer is professor of finance and control, Indian Institute of Management —Bangalore, and can be reached at vaidya@iimb.ernet.in. Views are personal.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dial CPM Brinda and Teesta for cash-for-false-affidavits

Dial CPM Brinda and Teesta for cash-for-false-affidavits

Gujarat-based NGO processed payment from CPM relief fund

Navin Upadhyay | New Delhi (Pioneer, 20 Dec. 2008)

A controversial Gujarat-based NGO was instrumental in organising payment of Rs 1 lakh each to as many as ten witnesses in various post-Godhra riot cases. The money came from the CPI(M) relief fund and was distributed months before the witnesses deposed in the courts, five years after the clashes took place. Four other eyewitnesses received Rs 50,000 each.

The revelation comes in the backdrop of reports that a host of Gujarat riot case victims were misled into signing affidavits giving false information at the behest of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO headed by social activist Teesta Setalvad.

Incidentally, those who were both victims and eyewitnesses received Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 while the victims got mere Rs 5,000 each. This has raised eyebrows over the selection of beneficiaries and the purpose of paying a disproportionately large sum to the eyewitnesses before the trial.

Chief Coordinator of CJP Rais Khan told The Pioneer that he had submitted the name of beneficiaries to the CPI(M) on instruction from Teesta Setalvad. "Setalvad identified the people and I merely followed her instruction and forwarded the list to CPI (M)," Khan said.

When contacted, Setalvad said she was present at the function on an invitation from the CPI(M) and had nothing to do with fund raising. "It was CPI(M) money and I was a mere guest at the function," she claimed.

Yasin Naimudin Ansari, one of the eyewitnesses who got one lakh rupees, told The Pioneer on phone from Ahmedabad that he was approached by someone from Teesta Setalvad's organisation. "I vaguely remember this. But I don't remember the name of the person," he said.

The function took place in Ahmedabad on August 26, 2007 and the witnesses were handed out demand drafts by CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat, Teesta Setalvad and Rais Khan.

Brinda Karat admitted that the CPI(M) had raised the money, adding that as far the party was concerned it was giving relief to the victims. "Our party is not involved in any court cases involving Gujarat riots, and for us, distributing relief was merely a humanitarian gesture," she said.

Not disputing that she had taken the help of local NGOs to identify the victims, Brinda said, "We had received a lot of applications and money was distributed in different phases."

The 14 DDs (Nos 567540 to 567554 all dated 01/08/2007) were handed over to these witnesses by Teesta, Brinda and Rais Khan. Seven DDs were payable at Ahmedabad and seven at Baroda. Interestingly, one of the recipients is Yasmin Banu Sheikh, the estranged wife of Zahira Sheikh's brother Nafitullah.

The Pioneer is in possession of letters written by beneficiaries thanking Brinda, Teesta and Rais Khan for the payment.

Yasmin Banu Ismailbhai Shaikh (aunt of Zahira) of Baroda, who received Rs 50,000 (DD No 567552 dated August 1, 2007). Yasmin is a complainant in case No. 114/04 at Baroda. It is interesting to note that, when no substance was found in her complaint, she was directed to face lie detection test by the court and ever since she has not appeared in the court.

Among the recipients are four Best Bakery case witnesses and nine are appearing as witnesses in Ahmedabad-related Naroda Patia, Shahpur, Khanpur and other 2002 riot cases.

The information has been gleaned through a string of petitions under the Right to Information Act by one H Jhaveri from various agencies, including banks.

The four Best Bakery case witnesses are:

Sailun Hasan Khan Pathan of Ahmedabad who was paid Rs 1 lakh; Tufel Ahmed Habibullah Siddiqui of Baroda who received 50,000; Sehjad Khan Hasan Khan Pathan of Baroda who was paid Rs 50,000 and Rais Khan Amin Khan Pathan of Baroda who too got Rs 50,000.

There are nine witnesses relating to Ahmedabad riots who are testifying in local riot cases. All of them were given Rs 1 lakh and they are: 1.Kureshabibi Harunbhai Ghori of Baroda, witness in case No. 11/02 registered in Khanpur Police Station.

2. Husenabibi Gulambhai Shaikh, also of Baroda and witness in case No. 11/02 filed in Khanpur police station.

3. Rasidabanu Yusufkhan Pathan of Ahmedabad, witness in 2002 riots cases.

4. Fatimabanu Babubhai Saiyyed of Ahmedabad and witness in Case No. 100/02 registered in Shahpur Police Station.

5. Badurnnisha Mohd Ismail Shaikh of Ahmedabad, witness in Case No. 49/0 3 of Shahpur Police Station.

6. Mohd Khalid Saiyyed Ali Saiyyed of Ahmedabad, witness in Naroda-Patiya case. His first application was registered on March 7, 2008 and second on May 29, 2008.

7. Mohd Yasin Naimuddin Ansari of Ahmedabad, witness in 2002 riots cases.

8.Shaikh Azharuddin Imamuddin of Ahmedabad. During 2002 riots he was injured. At that time he was 10 years.

9. Sarjahah Kausar Ali Shaikh of Baroda. No details available.

List of Victims who were paid Rs 5,000 on 11/10/2007.

Mohammed Rafiq Abukar Pathan , Aslamkhan Anwarkhan Pathan, Pathan Saiyedkhan Ahmedkhan, Imtiyazhhan Saiyedkhan Pathan, Rashidkhan A. Pathan, Sairaben Salimbhai Sanghi, Ashraf Sikandarbhai Sanghi.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Commie VIPs !

Commie VIPs !

Over 45,000 men protect our VIPs
Aloke Tikku , Hindustan Times
Email Author
New Delhi, December 18, 2008
Last Updated: 01:14 IST(18/12/2008)
As the post-26/11 debate on whether politicians need more security than the public rages on, facts hidden in government figures show how India can be safer if only our VIPs do not turn security into a status symbol.
On paper, threat assessments dictate security cover and the extent of protection. Politics often replaces threat assessments in practice. More than 45,000 policemen protect the pool of VIPs in India that grew at 20 per cent — 12 times faster than the annual population growth rate — between 2004 and 2005. This means more security personnel guard 13,319 VIPs than the number of policemen in any Indian city — Delhi and Mumbai included. This is more than the police strength of all states bar the nine largest.
An estimated Rs 825 crore of taxpayers’ money is spent annually on the salary of the security staff alone, assuming — conservatively —that all on duty are constables earning Rs 15,000 each.
The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) headquartered in Delhi had compiled the figures more than a year ago.
Police officers said the actual number of policemen protecting the VIPs — ministers, members of Parliament, state legislators, judges and bureaucrats among others — would be at least twice this figure. In Delhi, more than 14,000 personnel are on VIP duties. The report, Data on Police Organisations in India, only counted about 4,900 security personnel deployed for more than six months as on January 1, 2006.
“A total of 11,012 VIPs were provided police protection for more than six months during the year 2004… It shows an increase of 20.9 per cent over the previous year,” the report said.
“The increase in the VIP protection deployment has strained the limited manpower resources of State Police,” the report said, suggesting that the grounds for providing security were skewed.
On paper, threat assessments dictate security cover and the extent of protection. Politics often replaces threat assessments in practice.
Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh’s is the latest example. His threat perception suddenly increased this year to the highest level, Z-Plus, around the same time that the UPA government’s life was hanging in balance after the Left pullout.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati too had got herself home ministry clearance for her car to drive up to the aircraft at the Delhi airport after she extended support to the government more than a year ago. She withdrew support this year, but the privileges continue.
BPR&D said the deployment of police for VIP protection should be rationalised by reviewing it against need-based assessment. According to figures in its report, West Bengal has the most number of VIPs -- 1,999. Assam comes next with 1,610 and Uttar Pradesh, a close third at 1,506. Maharashtra, on the other hand, had reported about 122 VIPs.
Terror-torn Jammu and Kashmir, however, has only 170 VIPs.