Book Reviews
The Insider’s View: The Gilded life view of an IAS officer

The book contains bland memories of an IAS officer, Javed Chowdhury who comes from a privileged background (Doon School, St Stephen’s College) but believes in welfare socialism, the public sector, the subsidy system. He seems to have seen no evil, spoken no evil and heard no evil (except the ‘neo-liberal’ ideas of the 1990s)

India is a land of violence, injustice and extreme income disparity. Life for the common people is tough: courts don’t deliver justice; property rights get violated; the police are often party to crime; and money and power can fix the system, more often than not. Who could have tackled all these issues? Public servants, mainly members of the elite IAS—Indian Administrative Service—who run the country. From the police to securities regulations, from irrigation projects to banking regulations, from city corporations to transport systems—they are the omnipotent and omnipresent decision-makers.
Unfortunately, most IAS officers oversee a corrupt and inefficient system, through their entire career, without standing up and fighting for what is right. It is just a job for them, a career. They don’t go out of their gilded life of white cars, large bungalows and club memberships. A small number even do enormous damage. We believe that the principal reason for India’s poverty is not misguided policies. It is rampant loot by politicians with supporting and acquiescing bureaucrats. 
And, when they retire, they enjoy generous State pension and perks. School teachers may or may not get their pension, but retired IAS officers never have to face such problems. Some manage to grab land to build large post-retirement flats and bungalows worth crores of rupees, as several Maharashtra bureaucrats have done. 
One could argue that they are merely doing a job, like everyone else. If doctors don’t attend to patients and professors don’t teach, why should IAS officers be expected to live up to a much higher standard? Quite correct; except that if one has merely done a job all one’s life, and not made some significant change to public life that one can be proud of, why be presumptuous enough to write a memoir of such a ‘career’? 
We do look forward to the memoirs of bureaucrats who have made real change like GV Ramakrishna. But a reading of this book (The Insider’s View; Penguin Books; Pages 310; Rs499) shows that Javid Chowdhury is not one of them. He was a secretary of food, revenue and family welfare. While this book does give some insights on his life as a civil servant, it hardly inspires the reader. Mr Chowdhury comes from a privileged background (Doon School, St Stephen’s College) but believes in welfare socialism, the public sector, the subsidy system—anything but accountability and reward for human ingenuity and enterprise as the main drivers for progress. He seems to have seen no evil, spoken no evil and heard no evil (except the ‘neo-liberal’ ideas of the 1990s). He professes that was he was innocent of caste, gender and religious bias right until 1989, 24 years into his career. What a waste!


BSE Sensex, Nifty wait for breakout: Friday Closing Report

The bias remains downward for the medium-term

The market closed in the red on disappointing earnings reports and global concerns. Today the Nifty moved in a narrow range of 5,642 and 5,697 and closed in the negative, making the lowest closing in the past six days (including today). The index made a lower low and saw a lower high for the third consecutive day. The Nifty is in an indecisive zone. However the bias is downward for the medium-term. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw volume of 61.90 crore shares and an advance decline ratio of 588:1161.       


The domestic market opened in the negative on all- round profit taking after recent gains. Mixed sentiment across the globe following not-so-impressive earnings reports also weighed on the sentiments. The Nifty opened 21 points down at 5,684 and the Sensex started off at 18,715, down 44 points from its previous close.


Buying in select stocks saw the benchmarks hit their intraday highs in early trade itself, albeit in the negative. At the highs, the Nifty rose to 5,697 and the Sensex went up to 18,730. However, the market couldn’t maintain the gains and drifted further southwards in subsequent trade on selling pressure in fast moving consumer goods, healthcare and oil sectors.


A soft opening of the European markets added to the woes in the local market as the indices extended their gains in noon trade. The benchmarks fell to their lows shortly after 2.00pm with the Nifty going back to 5,642 and the Sensex dropping to 18,558.


The market witnessed a small recovery and closed off the lows, but in the red. The Nifty settled 41 points (0.72%) lower at 5,664 and the Sensex finished the session at 18,625, down 133 points (0.71%).


The broader markets underperformed the Sensex today. The BSE Mid-cap index declined 0.84% and the BSE Small-cap index dropped 1.05%.


Except for BSE Auto (up 0.81%), all other sectoral gauges settled lower. They were led by BSE Consumer Durables (down 2.84%); BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 1.78%); BSE Healthcare (down 1.20%); BSE PSU (down 1.15%) and BSE Power (down 1.06%).


Eight of the 30 stocks on the Sensex closed in the positive. The chief gainers were Mahindra & Mahindra (up 2.57%); Bajaj Auto (up 1.72%); Hero MotoCorp (up 1.68%); GAIL India (up 0.83%) and BHEL (up 0.73%). The top losers were Hindustan Unilever (down 2.14%); ITC (down 2%); Cipla (down 1.84%); Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (down 1.59%) and Reliance Industries (down 1.39%).


The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were—United Breweries (up 4.94%) and Emami (up 4.01%)..

The top two A Group losers on the BSE were—CESC (down 15.32%) and Lanco Infratech (down 10.77%).


The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were—Intec Capital (up 17.49%) and Fintech Communications (up 16.38%).

The top two B Group losers on the BSE were—Centerac Technologies (down 19.94%) and Orissa Sponge Iron & Steel (down 14.65%).


Out of the 50 stocks listed on the Nifty, 15 stocks settled in the positive. The key gainers were M&M (up 3%); Hero MotoCorp (up 2.11%); Bajaj Auto (up 1.98%); Ambuja Cements (up 1.38%) and Asian Paints (up 1.23%). The main losers were Punjab National Bank (down 6.72%); Jaiprakash Associates (down 5.40%); Hindustan Unilever (down 2.72%); ITC (down 2.23%) and Reliance Infrastructure (down 2.15%).


Most markets in Asia were closed for the Eid holiday today, but those that were open settled lower. Investors were concerned that the global slowdown, which has already dented corporate earnings, is expected to impact exports from the region.


The Shanghai Composite tanked 1.68%; the Hang Seng dropped 1.21%; the Nikkei 225 declined 1.35%; the Seoul Composite tumbled 172% and the Taiwan Weighted settled 1.76% down. Financial markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines were closed today.


At the time of writing, key benchmarks in Europe were down between 0.49% and 0.66% and the US stock futures were in the negative, indicating a soft opening for US stocks.


Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of shares amounting to Rs551.34 crore on Thursday. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors were net buyers of equities aggregating Rs34.73 crore.


German chemical major BASF today said it will invest Rs1,000 crore to set up a new manufacturing facility at Dahej in Gujarat by March 2014. Besides the domestic market, the plant will export chemicals to other nations including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and some other Asean countries. The stock declined 0.78% to settle at Rs659.50 on the NSE.


Mahindra Holidays & Resorts will soon start a full-fledged office in Dubai to enrol Indians living there as its members. As at the end of September, Mahindra Holidays had 151,200 members. During the quarter ended September, the company added 4,162 members. The stock rose 0.04% to settle at Rs282 on the NSE.


American Diary: 11 days to go back to the Big Apple

Ready for the last phase of the US presidential elections? Our Special Correspondent will keep you updated on all the latest trends, moves, moods and swings of the Obama-Romney duel

It was good to read the New York Times (NYT) this morning saying that Virginia, Colorado, Ohio and Wisconsin are four of the swing states where the US Presidential election will be decided. I am going to be in all these four states over the next eleven days bringing you the latest happenings in the keenly-contested presidential election, which will also decide who is the most powerful man on the planet.
As I leave Westchester for New York on a cool morning—the trees are on fire—the yellows browns and reds are quite spectacular and I cannot but wonder if the US will turn red on 6th November. I am in for a bit of a disappointment on reaching Columbia Law School as Professor Jack Greenberg co-counsel in the iconic case of Brown Vs Board of Education  (who argued 40 matters before the Supreme Court)  says he is not feeling well and can only talk to me on the phone. So I ask him, “did you imagine in 1954 when the Brown case was argued that America would have a black President in about 50 years after?” He said, “It never crossed my mind”. I asked him, would he have been surprised at such a thought? He replies, “Of course I would have been surprised.” 
Revisionists are now arguing that it wasn’t Brown which desegregated America but rather Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act, I said to Mr Greenberg. His response was that Brown made the Civil Rights Act possible by bringing about compulsory bussing and desegregation. 
I chat a little more about what-ifs and if-nots about the process that ultimately let to Barak Obama being elected the first black President of the US.
I then amble onto Broadway and notice that much has changed. But that is an abiding theme in New York—if you come back after three years, you will not recognise the neighbourhood. Since I am a little early for my next appointment, I step into a small takeout-cum-deli called Nassbaum and Wu where I get talking to an old Indian looking gentleman called Rusi Patel from Karachi who worked at IBM for 30 years, has two kids who are both professors at New York University and who says he is the only independent on the west side of Manhattan. 
Patel then launches into a blistering criticism of Obama who he voted for four years ago. He is particularly miffed at the Health Care Bill—“Do you know doctors have stopped taking new patients on medicare because there has been no increase in remuneration? Do you know that the law is completely opaque and indecipherable? Do you know they circumvented the filibuster by making it a money bill? Do you know that not one republican voted for it? Do you know that it will lead to senior rationing?” he fires rapidly. I latch on to the last bit and ask, “Senior rationing, how’s that?” He says, “If you are 85 forget about a hip transplant, you will have to be satisfied with something less? If you are 90, no bypass surgery, they will tell you it is not safe. And how can they bring 50 million people into the scheme all at once? It has to be done gradually and the board, which has no doctors on it, will decide treatments.” I cannot get in a word edge ways in this diatribe, so I say you are the only Republican on the Westside but he says no, he is only independent.
If Patel's view is an indicator of the general mood in America we are in for a change. But keep reading and I will bring you more news and views from the ground over the coming days. 
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)


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