My confidence in the existing parliamentary and judicial process has been shaken badly by the recent events in the campaign against corruption
That the government had to succumb—after innumerable flip-flops-to the common citizenry, led by a small battle-scarred fauzi, who hails from Ralegan Siddhi in rural Maharashtra, speaks volumes about the aam admi's frustration and anger over the corruption and arrogance he suffers. It may be the hard-earned money he is compelled to shell out to obtain a birth or a death certificate, a domicile proof, ration card, electric connection, driving licence or passport. Or in the villages it may be the 7/12 extract of the land record, or a change of land use, sanction for a well. The list is endless. It will not be too long before millions of tired middle-class Indians hit the streets once again, seeking a change for the better, with some concrete solutions to end bribery, stop rising prices and injustice.
The Indian people have tasted success in their first major fight. The young and the old, students and workers, flat owners or shanty dwellers, they came out in thousands. Not just the men, even women and children; announced their struggle at the Marina in Chennai, Bengaluru's Freedom Park, on Mumbai's Azad Maidan, even at schools and on street corners in towns and villages, in response to the call from the Ram Lila.
The people have come to realize that it is well within their rights to take on the hitherto uncontrolled autocracy of the executive at the Centre and in the states—the netas and babus from parliament, to the state legislatures, municipalities and panchayats, perhaps even sections of the judiciary and the media which can be manipulated.
No, the Lokpal is not a magic wand that will put an end to corruption and corrupt practices overnight. There is a far more effective Bhram Astra or Rambaan that came into existence in 2005, the Right To Information Act (RTI). This useful tool is an effective and potent weapon that has worked wonders in pulling out that skeletons of corruption out of the cupboard-the 2G call, the Common Wealth shame, or Adarsh disgrace.
Today, the common citizen who seeks information, does not have to hire a legal luminary or expert to help him get it. Focused, crisp applications can receive appropriate responses within 30 days. But an applicant choosing to sleep over the information thus secured can make it a wasteful exercise. It is imperative that the information available is utilised to pursue the matter to the source; this is the first step in the fight against corruption.
The citizen's battle against corruption begins from a simple RTI query
Let me explain the reasons for my belief in the simple RTI rather than the Lokpal, as my faith in the existing parliamentary, governmental and judicial process has been shaken considerably recently.
The Lokpal bill has seen eight avatars. It was first introduced in the Lok Sabha by the government of Indira Gandhi on 7 May 1968 and passed on 20 August 1969, but before it could be ratified by the Rajya Sabha, the Congress Party split and this resulted in the dissolution of parliament. Subsequently, the bill was introduced by the Congress four times and the Bharatiya Janata Party twice. All the governments that proposed the bill seemed to have been jinxed and collapsed before completing their terms.
What I cannot understand is why the government and parliament in their wisdom, did not consider bringing the bill before the Rajya Sabha, which is a permanent body that never lapses or expires, as its members change periodically. And now Rahul Gandhi, in an out-of-turn Zero Hour intervention is calling to convert the Lokpal into a constitutional authority, which will be an even more lengthy process that will require the concurrence and two-thirds sanction of a score of state assemblies that is nothing short of shooting the bill down yet again.
Post Anna Hazare's hunger protest, for the first time in parliamentary history, the government was forced to set up a Joint Lokpal Drafting Committee constituted of some high-profile cabinet ministers and down-to-earth members of civil society. There are provisions to fasttrack the process to enact the Lokpal Act, even bypassing the parliamentary standing committee. One of these is to convene a joint session of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, to allow members to debate the proposal in threadbare without the enforcement of party whip.
There will be enough time in the Winter Session this year. But it must also be debated in public and objections and suggestions must be sought from the people at large. In September last year, parliament apparently rushed through 17 bills in a few minutes, including an amendment to dilute the Prevention of Corruption Act! Come what may, the Lokpal Bill must be enacted into law this Winter Session and a Lokpal appointed to office by 26th January 2012. No two opinions!
The executive, that is the government, is next. Today, the hitherto respected prime minister is himself under a cloud of distrust for continuing to lead a bunch of ministers, some of whom are not only corrupt, but have even accused him of corruption. And still we read about the declaration of assets by some cabinet members which must be taken with a bucket of salt. Why does a former Maharashtra chief minister and now union minister not figure in the list of people disclosing their wealth? And should not the people know exactly how much, if any, income-tax each minister is actually paying? Some years ago there was the case of a very senior cabinet minister (who aspired to become prime minister) conveniently forgetting to pay taxes for ten long years. Unfortunately there was not RTI Act then to help fish out the information.
The stock replies from the prime minister these days is that a lot of the mess we are witnessing is due to the 'compulsions of coalition dharma', obviously implying that allies like the National Conference, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Trinamool Congress are holding him to ransom, or that there is 'no magic wand' to deal with corruption and to bring back black money, both response devoid of logic and lacking in conviction. It is a sad statement of affairs that he has not been able to step in even mildly to bring any debate to an honest and meaningful conclusion. The latest is the collapse of the sports bill criticized by heavyweights with conflicting interests.
It may be relevant to point out that Dr Manmohan Singh is perhaps the only unelected prime minister (he is a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from Assam) and that he chose not to cast his vote in a general election and instead set off on a visit to China on the day of the Assam assembly elections. So much for respect for the democratic process from the head of the government.
The prime minister is increasingly seen to be presiding over a motley group of ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ministers in his union cabinet. He chose to ignore the warning by the then sports minister on the Commonwealth Games, and is today posturing about applications to Swiss bankers to retrieve black money stashed there. The United States has managed to get the Swiss to disclose the names of 4,550 individuals and foundations; the United Kingdom, France and Germany have also struck deals with the Swiss authorities to tax their citizens who might park money there, while our government is still dilly-dallying on the extradition of a 26/11 accused from the US.
Now, by allowing his ministers to defend the indefensible, through verbal gymnastics or the use of dirty tricks like the threat of a CBI inquiry or parliamentary privileges, the prime minister has forfeited the confidence of the nation, and is largely seen as a weak leader who is not capable of dealing with some equally serious situations like the rise in food prices; a far cry from the earlier image of an outstanding economist, a man of integrity, not given to verbosity, amiable and free of arrogance.
It is time to shout the warning by Oliver Cromwell, from 20th April 1653 at the Rump Parliament: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately. Depart and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go." It is time for UPA2 to seek the peoples' vote of confidence through a mid-term election, at the earliest.
(The writer is a Mumbai-based chartered accountant and activist.)
The stock has lost more than 50% of its value since the company announced a share buyback in April. This shows a serious crisis of confidence among investors
Infinite Computer Solutions (India), which has launched a share buyback amounting Rs27 crore, continues to languish on the market, accentuating the concerns of investors.
The Infinite stock lost more than 60% from Rs186 on 13th April, when the company announced the buyback, to 30th August, when it closed at Rs Rs71.65 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE).
Infinite went public in January last year. But on 11 April this year, the board of directors suddenly decided to buyback 9.9% of its equity at a price not exceeding Rs230 a share. This ignited concerns among shareholders and precipitated the fall in the share value. (Read, 'Infinite Computer's share buyback after 16 months of IPO raises several questions'.)
Last week, the company informed the NSE that till 26th August it had bought back a little over 9.82 lakh shares for Rs12.36 crore, completing about 45% of the buyback amount planned.
In the past two trading sessions-on Friday and Monday-the stock has gained over 20% even while the broader market has slipped. In the morning session today, it continued to move up, to a little over Rs91.
Market sources tell us that despite the short speculative rally, this stock will be unable to attract the interest of genuine investors.
In its response to the Moneylife article mid-June, the company said that the only reason it had undertaken the buyback was that it felt its shares were highly undervalued, given the prospects, and that was the only reason. Apparently, investors don't yet agree on this. The stock has badly sagged even after the so-called buy back scheme has been well underway.
In the quarter ended June 2011, Infinite's consolidated revenues stood at Rs262.30 crore, a 5.8% growth, q-o-q, operating profit grew by 4.9% to Rs44.7 crore, but net profit (after tax) was stagnant Rs29.90 crore.
The campaign is single-minded, the creative takes the correct leap, and gets the message across through simple stories. All in all, good work
Tata Docomo no longer wishes to 'keep things simple, silly'. And that's a relief. Hope that marks the death of those horrendous 'talk shows' conducted by actor Ranbir Kapoor. An idea that was actually cool in theory but got murdered by some really stupid scripts.
But Tata Docomo is here to stay and there's no getting away from it. They have launched a brand new ad campaign titled just that: 'No Getting Away'. Indicating a powerful mobile phone signal. And there are quite a few commercials on air.
In one commercial, an SUV is seen rocking hard inside an underground parking lot. Clearly, a couple is enjoying some great sex therein. (Sadly, you don't get to watch the action!) Suddenly, 'anti climax' happens; the shocked male's phone goes off.
In another ad, a dude is seen crapping inside the airport toilet. And his phone, placed in his trouser hung by the door, starts vibrating and the phone falls down. One ad features a suspicious dad. He is worried his daughter talks on the phone late into the night. The beti conceals the phone inside the cupboard, but it's of no use. The thing goes off.
The last one I watched is the cutest. A maid, while cleaning the house, finds a cell phone. Because no one's watching, she grabs it and hides it inside her blouse. But the memsaab, who arrives on the scene, nabs her after the phone starts buzzing inside the blouse. By the way, a maid did scoot off with my phone last year. Maybe I should have checked you-know-where!
I like this campaign for three reasons. One, the promise is single-minded. The Docomo signal is very strong. That it will help you stay connected wherever you might be. That keeps the communication relevant and crystal clear. Two, the creative takes the correct leap. The idea is to feature situations where you don't want the phone to work, but it does. This approach makes the ads funny, entertaining and irreverent. And hopefully, memorable. Finally, the commercials tell simple stories. So the cost of production must be very low, and therefore many such commercials can be produced ensuring freshness in the media.
All in all, good work. Full marks for the simplicity. This is what television advertising should be. And yes, let me also keep another thing simple for Tata Docomo: Now that you are on to a good thing, please immediately kill those rubbish Ranbir Kapoor talk shows.