The culture of political convenience and opportunistic functioning at the highest levels is dangerous for the country’s security. If only all the major political parties eschew narcissistic and vindictive politics, and resolve to sincerely act together, the national interest can be safeguarded
Corruption has taken time to grow in India. It has graduated from a slow pace, covert and cautious activity in the Nehru era to a fast, audacious and daring occupation of politicians and bureaucrats today, as can be seen from the size and frequency of scams. Party funds of all political parties started swallowing cash 'donations' from public and corporate houses which encouraged generation of black money and patronised the affluent donors. Numerous inquiries and lingering court cases have gone on for decades, tiring the witnesses and the public to such an extent that the delays virtually turn out protective for the accused—while their crimes gradually fade away into oblivion. As if by the legal processes so designed, no political party or senior political leader has yet been convicted and finally punished (exhausting all appellate levels) which could be an example to deter others.
The sluggish pace of court cases and moderated enquiries gave comfort and much-needed security to the culprits who have insidiously formed their pressure groups within the political parties. Progressively, party ideologies became out-dated, giving way to an era of politics of mutual comfort and gain. Small wonder that we find the tone and tenor of party spokespersons quickly shifting from their pre-poll accusatory stance against their declared foes, to an immediate friendly mode, keeping in tune with the post-poll trends emerging from the counting.
The anti-defection law has curbed retail horse-trading to an extent but in recent times we have seen political parties, which fought elections as avowed enemies coming together for forming an alliance with no qualms about their pre-election espousal of promises in their manifestoes. Governments are formed on the basis of shared interests of parties, which in today's context are virtual family domains of dynastic lords who call the shorts. Shamefully, it is a sad chapter in the history of the world's largest democracy that weak governments have openly traded parties and groups to win a vote of confidence in Parliament.
First, the Narasimha Rao government was saved with support bought from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha. Again, in July 2008, when the Left Front withdrew their support from the UPA-1 over the Indo-US Nuclear Cooperation Treaty and the Manmohan Singh government, reduced to a minority, was confronted with a confidence motion—and the stench of political corruption rose again. Wads of currency notes, allegedly paid to MPs to buy their vote to save the sinking Manmohan Singh government, were waved and the drama of active horse-trading was caught in a sting operation. While the 'cash-for-votes' is still being 'investigated', the public is largely convinced about the existence of murk and muck in our political actions at the top.
The culture of political convenience and opportunistic functioning at the highest levels is dangerous for the country's security. On critical national issues like corruption, security, good governance, healthcare and poverty eradication, it would be great if the major political parties eschew narcissistic and vindictive politics, resolving to sincerely act together, at least to safeguard the vital national interests. Such an approach can perhaps help in restoring some semblance of political integrity at the national scene and bring in systemic change in the decaying state organs and callous departments. Some of the aspects that need immediate focus are:
1. Political Blackmail: Everyone knows how confidence motions have been won through dubious machinations between parties and individual MPs and MLAs. Modern-day Chanakyas have devised ways and means to bend and twist democracy through their party or alliance. As we saw in the questionable confidence vote for the Manmohan Singh government, Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party jumped in straight from the Opposition with its 22 MPs to save the government, despite his vociferously-voiced divergence with the policies of the ruling combine. It is also fresh in public memory how ruling coalitions are often held to ransom by tiny parties and even Independent MPs/MLAs who find and create opportunities to coerce and blackmail the ruling alliance, primarily to achieve their own narrow aims. The arrogance and audacity of the erstwhile DMK ministers mounted so high that they saw nothing odd in publicly admitting that they received their directions from Karunanidhi and not from Manmohan Singh! How are such coalitions different from gangs of criminals looting and sharing the booty? Thanks to our coalition politics, Madhu Koda, an independent MLA, went on to become Chief Minister of Jharkhand. Though now in jail for having amassed booty of over Rs4,000 crore through the mining mafia, he is now an MP in the Lok Sabha. His ambitions and possibilities in present-day Indian politics are not hard to speculate.
2. Emergence of Dangerous Trends of Populism: In a weird move to placate particular segments in the society at the cost of higher national interests, the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution to save lives of three convicts sentenced to death for assassinating Rajiv Gandhi. They have exercised and exhausted all their legal rights, appeals and mercy petitions, which have been duly heard and finally rejected by the Supreme Court and the President of India. Now, inspired by this populist move of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, there is a similar resolution mooted in the J&K Assembly to save Afzal Guru, convicted and sentenced to death for the attack on India's Parliament. These moves to save the worst of the criminals and terrorists are also echoing in Punjab and, if allowed to prevail, will turn the worst of the criminals into heroes to inspire their ilk to tread the same path with greater assurance. With the advent of such politics, do we need Pakistan or China to destroy India? The enemy within is more potent, cunning and on its way to invincibility as well! What is mindboggling is that it is the victim-the unsuspecting gullible masses-who, in the name of care and welfare, are being used by the perpetrators to intrinsically destroy themselves. This sinister trend of populism too is being pedalled hard in the name of Democracy!
3. Systemic Degeneration: Corruption has had a cascading effect on all organs of State resulting in a systemic degeneration of institutions and departments. If not based on rule of law, democracy gradually shrinks into a self-serving oligarchy, which in turn converts resources and power of the State to instruments serving vested interests of the ruling group. Look how the State is being emasculated by this approach. The CBI, the so-called autonomous investigative agency is, as everyone knows, not so autonomous. Like hounds in sheath, the CBI sleuths can be set on trails or shooed away depending upon the convenience of the government (DoPT). People have frequently seen how quickly the CBI sleuths also adapt to the changed equations between the ruling coalition and their erstwhile targets. In most cases their investigations are inconclusive and kept alive or in suspended animation for need-based subsequent revival. A pattern of CBI behaviour has been established and it is becoming simpler now to predict their course and object of investigations. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has not done enough to curb corruption at the Centre. Appointment of tainted officers to head such an organisation further eroded its credibility. Institutions that should be people-oriented are top-oriented, serving personal interests of a chosen few at the cost of those who wait and suffer. What is even more worrisome is that the politico-bureaucratic nexus has not shied away from destroying the cohesion among India's Armed Forces. Recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee emphasised on the need to have a single point military advice system to help and advise the government on matters involving national defence and security. This, the Committee reiterated, necessitated early institutionalisation of 'Chief of Defence Staff' as a fountainhead of integrated and cohesive military vision as is working in countries like France, the UK and Australia, among others. The nexus, however, has not only slept over these vital recommendations for over a decade now, but has also pushed down the military from their entitled position in the National Warrant of Precedence. Take away the sheen from professions like the military and you will have destroyed their morale and pride so completely that they will blunt their fighting edge.
And see how it manifests—we have juniors going berserk killing themselves or their colleagues in the field; and generals getting increasingly involved in cases of corruption.
It is pathetic that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the most qualified among the world's prime ministers, has expressed his inability to control terrorism, inflation and corruption 'because of compulsions of a coalition government'. Is that how we had expected India's Prime Minister to lead India? A government that cannot find answers to questions as basic as these in the 21st Century has no moral right to hang on to power:
India is passing through a curious phase faced with a mix of challenges and opportunities. There is matching potential available too. We can transform it to a global power if only we can overcome the coalition blackmailing and self-serving politicking within the government. The tendency of ministers treating their ministries and departments as their fiefdoms must be curbed and accountability introduced to infuse positive energy in the callous administration.
(The writer is a military veteran who commanded an Infantry battalion with many successes in counter-terrorist operations. He was also actively involved in numerous high-risk operations as second in command of the elite 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guard (NSG.) He conducts leadership training and is the author of two bestsellers on leadership development that have also been translated into foreign languages).
The initiatives include negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement aimed at not only liberalising existing bilateral trade of $14 billion and taking it up to $25 billion by 2015, but securing access for Indian services like education and health in the 250 million people Indonesian market
Jakarta: With an eye on mineral resources like coal, India is scaling up its economic ties with Indonesia and the move is being helped by big Indian business houses like the Tatas, Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and Aditya Birla Group, reports PTI.
Indian commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma is leading a big CII delegation, headed by well-known industrialist Vijay R Kirloskar, to develop new linkages with the Indonesian government and industry.
The initiatives include negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement aimed at not only liberalising existing bilateral trade of $14 billion and taking it up to $25 billion by 2015, but securing access for Indian services like education and health in the 250 million people Indonesian market.
"India and Indonesia can do much more in the changing world," Mr Sharma said at a reception hosted by the India-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce on Monday night.
He said while Indian business houses have invested $20 billion in sectors like steel, power and coal, Indonesia should allow access to Indian pharmaceuticals, which have made a name for themselves in the world market.
Indian drug companies are the second largest receivers of US Food and Drug Administration approvals.
"The Indian generic companies changed the global discourse and broke the stranglehold of MNCs in the world pharma market," he said.
When it comes to tapping natural resources and the growing market in Indonesia, Indian firms are not lagging behind their competitors. Tata Power has picked up a 30% strategic stake in PT Kaltim Prima Coal and PT Arutmin Indonesia and established coal linkages for its Mundra power project in Gujarat.
Likewise, the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group has bought coal assets and is developing the same. The Adanis have also done similar deals in the coal business. Indonesia has emerged as the world's foremost producer and exporter of thermal coal, ahead of Australia, an official said.
"In two-three years, Indonesia will contribute 150 million tonnes of coal to India," said Biren Nanda, India's ambassador to Indonesia.
In 2010, coal shipments from Indonesia to India stood at about 50 million tonnes, which is expected to rise to 70 million tonnes in the current year.
Mr Nanda, who has been in Jakarta for three-and-a-half years, said economic ties between the two countries have seen a sea change in the last few years. Government-to-government talks have been scaled up to ministerial levels from lower level official talks earlier.
With respect to Indian firms doing business in Indonesia, the TVS Group has set up a two-wheeler manufacturing plant, which it wants to leverage for the entire South-East Asian market, a senior group official said.
Mr Kirloskar, who is chairman and managing director of Kirloskar Electric Company, said Indian firms have unique advantages in respect to the competition from China in markets like Indonesia.
"The Chinese cannot do everything. The Chinese have not developed the Nano car, we have developed it," he said.
The IRDA portability circular says that the prospective insurance company will lose the right to reject a proposal if there is a delay of more than 15 days in receiving all relevant information from the existing insurer. How can the insurance watchdog implement this circular?
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority's (IRDA) mediclaim portability circular intends to protect the insurance policyholders' interest and it also sets strict timelines for existing and the prospective insurance company to comply with the guidelines for smooth portability implementation. However, the ground reality may lead to the insured being booted out by the existing insurer-and not being accepted by the prospective insurer.
This will effectively mean that an insured person opting for mediclaim portability may end up in no-man's land.
Industry sources told Moneylife, "Getting the medical & claims history from an existing insurer within seven days itself will be a big challenge. How will IRDA implement the default acceptance of an insurance proposal if the prospective insurer does not respond within 15 days of receipt of information from the existing insurer? It is not valid in a court of law. If the insurance company (to whom the insured wants to shift) has not issued a policy, nobody can hold it liable to pay any claim. There is no way an insured can say that he has a claim against the prospective insurance company in this case. There has been a court judgment in the past, which states that paying premium and having receipt of the same is not evidence of an insurance contract. Only a policy document is evidence of an insurance contract.
"If push comes to shove, the insurer can always ask for a hefty premium or policy terms having high co-pay and sub-limits, which will dissuade the customer from porting. Moreover, the prospective insurer can always deny the portability proposal within the IRDA timeline under the power of 'right to underwrite'. Therein lies the problem. Portability will remain an illusion-it won't work out on the ground."
Though IRDA's intentions are noble, what will an insured person do if he is faced with such a situation? The problem will be more pronounced especially for senior citizens, who have neither the time, energy nor the resources to run from pillar to post for a valid mediclaim policy. And there are more glitches that could crop up.
"On a case-to-case basis, the existing insurer may not be too keen to continue, once the policyholder has shown an interest to port. The policyholder will not have the new premium quote as the procedure for porting has to start 45 days before the expiration of the policy. Without the knowledge of new premium to make a sound portability decision, the policyholder is shooting in the dark. If the prospective insurer rejects the proposal, the policyholder will have to run around to get a quote from the existing insurer… just before the policy expiration date."
So if you are planning to switch your insurer, be prepared for a bumpy portability ride. The need for portability is real and IRDA's recognition of the same is a step in the right direction. It will work in simple and straightforward cases, especially for the young with no pre-existing diseases (PED).
Obviously, insurers will lure this target segment. The sections that will be the most affected will be the elderly and those with PED-ironically, both these categories need comprehensive mediclaim policies.
So will insurance portability have a smooth take-off? Or will it be bogged down by the issues detailed above? Moneylife will keep a close watch and keep you posted on the developments in this crucial front.