Archive for December, 2012

Now don’t abuse our faith in the judiciary!

Saturday, December 29th, 2012 December 29th, 2012 Abhineet KumarAbhineet Kumar

The death of the Delhi bus gang rape victim is disturbing. Even as she struggled for her last breath, news of rapes from different parts of the country kept pouring in. The outburst of society has been nothing more than natural, which could have been handled better than ordering lathi charges on the protestors.

What has been most appalling is the orchestrated response of law-makers and the diminishing hope from the judiciary for a speedy trial.

In 1975, railway minister L N Mishra was murdered. The proceedings against the 65-year-old accused still continue after 37 years. Put judicial delays in context with almost no security guarantee for witnesses and our poor record in providing evidence to the court, results in criminals and corrupt politicians showing full faith in the judiciary, while victims and the common man are left facing the lathi-wielding police.

Let’s face it, this is a crisis of institution.  Now some of the politicians and the police would like the society to feel safer with setting up a new committee and promising more patrolling. It rather reminds me of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

Crime can be brought down with punishing the criminals and not just assuaging the victims. Bihar’s better performance in law and order is attributed to “fast track courts” and not to a change of heart in criminals.

Our problem is institutional and this is what we need to correct if we want to live in a safer society.  Remember that injustice is only apparently selective. If it is happening out there in the society, it can happen in anyone’s family.

We understand this but we need to channelise the energy in the right direction which is to bring speedy trial for rape cases. While death punishment is being debated, what else can you suggest for the bunch of criminals who gang rapes a girl destroying her organs which ultimately kills her?

Is six months to a year not enough to prove them guilty? Can someone talk about judiciary reforms? Can someone promise speedy trials of the accused? Can justice be delivered or would we be satisfied with rhetoric? Or is society ready even for the rape of people’s faith in the judiciary?

The anatomy of a rapist

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 December 19th, 2012 Sreelatha Menon

There has been calls for death penalty for rapists in the Delhi gang rape case. There is also a demand for enforcing law and order, having more police men posted and so on. And it is a fact that no girl is safe walking on the streets of Delhi or surrounding areas.

But will additional cops on the streets alone help? It would certainly help to   create a fear of crime. And since the offenders in this case are slum dwellers, it would enhance a feeling of suspicion of the poor, thus widening further the already wide gulf between the rich and poor.

Crime is not just a result of lack of policing but also the accumulated result of social and psychological causes that could have been prevented.  The lack of respect for other persons, the victims in this case, could be the result of the offenders being deprived of respect and attention themselves.

What can provide the necessary emotional and mental nourishment in young men and women to prevent them from behaving like children from a dysfunctional family, or a dysfunctional society in this case?

The society in which the offenders in the recent case of Delhi gang rape live is brutalized, dysfunctional. The urban slums they live in is symbolic of their rejection from society, from all the glitter that surrounds them and also from the feeling of security, of importance, dignity and honour.

In the tiny one room houses, children grow up seeing  sexual abuse all around them. There has been countless surveys and studies in Delhi alone showing the extent of the problem of childhood sexual abuse.  The other problems of society, equally prevalent in rich and poor, (like domestic violence-verbal and physical, alcoholism, ) exhibit themselves more openly and more frequently in slums where little separates one hutment from the other, making it an unbroken fabric of violence , bitterness and insensibility.

In a milieu where life holds little value and honour, men are likely to exhibit a similar disrespect for fellow beings, men or women, besides a hatred and bitterness coming out of their own sense of deprivation.

Having a police post in bus stands and in every slum would help. But what would also help is a move by Government to reach out to each and every young man, reach out to every migrant settling down in the squalid homes  in and around Delhi. The reach out programme should be a continuous one that hand holds people in finding housing, access to health care, and financial saving and credit programmes. It could also direct them to skilling programmes and other benefits that are available. It should provide round the clock crèches in every community of say 1000 people, so that every child is taken care of..

These creches could be community centres which should also have counselors who could be  students  , or volunteers , who could visit every family at least once a month and hear out their problems.

Even if there are no free grains or cash transfers or ration cards or any of the fancy subsidies the Government prides itself in doling out, if the Government along with the civil society which is feeling  outraged over the rape, could provide basic hand holding and showed some sign of compassion and concern to the poor in Delhi, maybe such aberrations of behavior would be seen less often.

Messi or Maradona?

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012 December 19th, 2012 Aabhas Sharma

It’s hard to argue against the notion that Lionel Messi is perhaps the best football player of all time. He actually scores more goals in a year than an entire team put together. Case in point: Liverpool Football Club. Messi has scored 90 goals in 2012, Liverpool 88 – and they fielded 38 players in all competitions.

He not only scores more goals than anyone else, he also scores them in doubles and trebles. So far in the 2013 La Liga season, he hasn’t scored a single goal in any game – only twos and threes. He also has an insane number of assists against his name – well at least Liverpool beat Messi in this aspect. He is already the number one goal scorer for Barcelona – a club where illustrious names like Ronaldo, Romario, Maradona, Rivaldo all plied their trade.

Yet there are people who have tried to argue that Messi isn’t all that great till he wins a World Cup, till he takes a struggling side like Napoli to a league title. At this point, I would like to confess that even I was one of them (not any more though). After all Diego Maradona — his only true rival to the greatest of all time throne – played in an inferior team. Messi has Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol to name a few, as teammates and these are players who form the nucleus of not only one of the best club teams of all time but also of one of the best international teams. Spain have been tremendous over the last few years and Messi’s teammates have been at the forefront of their success. Maradona didn’t have this luxury. But this needs to be put in a bit of perspective.

No doubt what Maradona achieved with Napoli was phenomenal. With Maradona spearheading them, Napoli won two league titles, one UEFA Cup and two domestic cups in a seven-year spell. Now Napoli weren’t a great team by any standard but neither were they awful as often as it is portrayed. Of course, Maradona transformed them and was the man for them but they weren’t that bad before him and after him. In 1980-81 they finished 3rd, in 81-82 they finished 4th. They had two poor seasons after that where they finished 9th and 12th but they weren’t as bad as people assume. In 91-92, the year Maradona left them Napoli finished 4th, in 93-94 and 94-95 they finished 5th and 6th. So yes, Maradona was critical to their success and almo

Then there’s the argument of not doing anything worthwhile with his national team, Argentina. Messi is a different player with Argentina, Maradona was Argentina. Maradona won the World Cup in 1986 and fans still remember it as Maradona’s World Cup, like 1958 was Pele’s World Cup. Messi has had one opportunity in 2010 but failed to deliver. Maradona was 26 when he won the World Cup in 1986, Messi will be 26 in 2014 when the next World Cup in Brazil takes place. So there’s time for him to rectify that.

Fans will always find an argument or two to debate whether Messi is better or Maradona. If Messi continues to play like he has done in the last five years, the voices against him will slowly and slowly fade away in distance. Even if he calls it a day tomorrow, he will be among the top three football players of all-time. If he wins the World Cup in 2014 or perhaps even after that, then there will be no debate.

Sorry Diego, you will have to vacate your throne of the greatest player of all time, as it is you’re being pushed off it almost every single week. Goal after goal, assist after assist, your successor has all but claimed your crown.

And what about the average student?

Friday, December 14th, 2012 December 14th, 2012 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

Recently, over a lunch conversation, the vice-chancellor of a private university which is still setting up base in India, revealed that once they became operational, it would only be the crème-de-la-crème of students with 90 per cent score that they would like to admit.

They are forging tie-ups with well-known international institutions so that they can attract the best students.

I asked him the reason for emphasis on the best-of-the-best. He replied that they would like to follow the example of the Ivy Leagues. Nothing, but the best in India.

Fair enough. India does need its own Ivy Leagues.

But he is not the only one who wants highly intelligent students. Most of the new institutes being set up wish to be like the IIMs and IITs and target the top performers in a said class or school. They are even visiting schools to market their institute and curriculum to students.

But what bothers one here is what about the students who cannot make the grade? What will happen to a student who scores 50 or 60 or 70 per cent marks in his 10th or 12th? Is he/she not entitled to a decent higher education?

When I asked these questions to the gentleman, he said, for the ‘others’ there are other institutes.

Consider this: In 2008-09, of the 21,700,000 students who appeared for the 10th standard exam, about 50 per cent passed. And in the 12th standard, about 15,700,000 appeared and 7,900,000 passed.

Of this, in conventional colleges, we could accommodate only about 5,000,000. That means 2,900,000 students, even after passing 12th, have not been going to college for whatever reason — not being able to make the grade, financial or otherwise.

We as a nation need more quantity than quality education. By quality here, I mean the research-oriented.

We need colleges that can provide good education to students and enrol as many as possible. Just as in the US, a demarcation between institutions– to provide mass education and to be research oriented—is needed.

We need to put more children through schools so that they can have multiple employment avenues. By being selective, we not only shut doors on the not-so-bright students but also drive many away from our higher education system. There are enough instances of students not being able to make it to the IITs but have been able to secure admission in an international institution.

The government has been working on some initiatives, but we are well aware of what the outcome would be. The condition of India’s higher education in government’s hands is no secret.

If private institutions, which have the capacity to change India’s higher education scenario, too begin to behave exclusive, only god save our future generation.

A Lilliputian stock exchange

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 December 11th, 2012 Sundaresha Subramanian

If anyone wants to feel like the legendary Gulliver, please consider a visit to Maldives, our tiny neighbour scattered across the Indian Ocean, south-west of the Malabar coast. Covering markets, I have spent hours trying to belittle the Indian stock exchanges talking about how they have reached less than two crore people, how there is insufficient liquidity beyond the top stocks and inadequate measures of investor protection. But, a recent visit to Male completely caught me off-guard as the Maldives Stock Exchange(MSE) made our own bourses look like Gullivers.

The MSE is ten years old and was initially a part of the capital market regulator. In 2008, it was hived off into a separate company.  Currently, it has six companies listed.  There are three registered brokers in the country – Stock Brokers Maldives, Aariya Securities and First option – all of them operating from Orchid Magu, the Dalal Street of Maldives.

The six listed  companies are Maldives Transport and Contracting Company Plc (MTCC), Bank of Maldives Plc (BML), State Trading Organization Plc (STO), Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), Amana Takaful Insurance (ATM) and Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun Plc (DHR).

DHR with a market capitalization of six billion Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is the largest listed firm. The MSE website said “The Board of Directors of Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun Plc have approved and declared an Interim Dividend of MVR 329,618,162 (approx. US$ 21.4 million) for the Financial Year 2012/13 with MVR 4.35 payable per ordinary share”

Similar to the SME platform in Indian exchanges, Maldives Stock Exchange has two boards. A public company established under the Companies Act can list on the First Board or Second Board of the MSE. The First Board for equity is for larger capitalised companies. The Second Board is for smaller public companies. Second Board companies may move to the First Board if such companies meet the First Board listing requirements.

The first board charges a initial listing fee of 50,000 Rufiyaas, while the second board charges half of this. A few hundred trades are executed. The exchange even has a bellwether index called Masix, which follows the freefloat model.

Howsoever tiny the stock exchange may be, the basics of investing and perils of it seem to be the same. Like all exchanges MSE website, also has a section for investor awareness which says, “Investing in securities is like investing in a business. The objective is to get a good return. This could be either to get a regular income by way of dividends or to get a profit by way of capital appreciation of the securities or both,” the MSE website said.

Warning investors of the risks of investing, MSE said, “All investors must be aware of the risks attached to investing in securities. The securities of a company could fluctuate in value due to the business risks as well as financial risks.” An investor must not be guided by rumours, MSE advises, “To minimise risk, he may invest in securities of several companies, preferably operating in different industries.” It seems neither Lilliputs nor Gullivers are immune from confusing, contradictory disclaimers from their respective stock exchanges, which masquerade as “investor awareness” information.

What beckons for Beckham

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 December 3rd, 2012 Nitin Sreedhar

So it could have not ended in any better possible way for David Beckham. In his last appearance for the Los Angeles Galaxy, the iconic midfielder lifted his second Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup in as many years after a 3-1 comeback win over the Houston Dynamos in the final.

Despite having a year left on his contract, Beckham had announced that the MLS Cup final would be his last match in the MLS, and his last for the LA Galaxy. In five rollercoaster years in the United States, England’s most-capped outfield player has won every major accolade the MLS had to offer. And surprisingly enough, he has maintained his phenomenal record of winning the league in his last season for his previous clubs. He won the Premier League in his last season for Manchester United in 2003, following which he departed for Real Madrid.

In Madrid, he won the La Liga with Real in 2007, in his last season, clinching the title from arch rivals FC Barcelona in the last match of the season. That was Madrid’s first La Liga triumph since his arrival.

He arrived at the LA Galaxy amongst much fanfare and albeit his time in the MLS hasn’t been exactly perfect, there have been moments that only Beckham could produce. In a match against the Kansas City Wizards, Beckham rolled back the years, scoring from 70-yards out reminding everyone of his famous goal in Manchester United colours in 1996 when he scored from halfway against Wimbledon, catching goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his line. Apart from the 70-yard screamer against the Wizards, Beckham has bended-in many of his trademark free kicks.

His final victory with the LA Galaxy is nothing short of a Hollywood spectacle. But now the real question arises. Where does David Beckham go now? He has already quashed rumours of his retirement, insisting that there is still a considerable amount of time left before he hangs up his boots. He has hinted towards having one final shot at the biggest European gong of all time – the Champions League.

He hasn’t made any attempts to hide his intentions known that he is game for any team that is willing and capable of handing him some valuable Champions League action. Clubs like the free-spending Paris Saint-Germain, Premier League minnows Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United have all expressed their interest in acquiring his services. And the latest name to be thrown into the fray is French Club AS Monaco, with the clubs chief executive saying that they would be “foolish” if they did not explore such a possibility.

At 37, there are doubts over whether Beckham will have enough to offer for whichever team he opts to join. He is clearly devoid of the dazzling pace he possessed whilst at United, something which made him rule the wings donning the coveted #7 jersey. But he is still one of the best dead-ball specialists in the game today. And on his day, he is simply unplayable. His vision, range of passing, crossing and set-piece deliveries are immaculate. And let us admit it; no one can bend it like Beckham.

Come New Year, wherever Beckham opts to go, it will be a sight to savour. David Robert Joseph Beckham, in a new team, a new league and tormenting the opposition’s defences. And this would very well be his last hurrah, before one of the greatest-footballers of our generation decides to call it a day.

A Holiday

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 December 2nd, 2012 Praveen Bose

After many days and perhaps of months of work, often considered stressful, ones body begins to speak and mind too begins to speak up… Give me a break!
When one applies for leave to go on a holiday, its a feeling of bliss. After years of going on the usual holidays, as most of know, I realised that I never felt rested. I actually felt more tired than I started. It was not the case when I didn’t have to take a call when going on a vacation

Now that I had to take decisions and do much of the planning and take quite a few responsibilities, I realise it is more stressful to go on a holiday or a vacation.

I decided to redefine the concept of a holiday. But, for this I have been branded a miser and what not.But, then my carbon footprint would be minimal too.
For me a holiday is just a break from the routine. I hit upon the idea to take a few days off from work. But stayed put in the city. Like any day I would leave home for work. But, the difference? I never went to office.

I had to explore the city where I have spent bout 33 years. It had grown into a uncontrolled monster much of which I did not know what it contained. I may be able to sat how to go from Marble Arch to Piccadilly in London, thanks to the numerous novels and travelogues we come across every now and then which made these places very familiar and part of the vocabulary.

But, most of my city remains a mystery to me.

Armed with a bus pass, I took off, taking the first bus that I came across. And, alighting at the last stop… often places that I didn’t know existed. I felt ashamed of being ignorant of many of these places. Yes, there was a time as a reporter I have had to visit many laces. The expansion of the city over the last decade and the utter lack of proper connectivity between parts of the city meant that most people living in north Bangalore have no idea of what lies in the South or which is the farthest point in south.

I repeated this for six days in succession and realised that perhaps its time people began writing novels and made people familiar with my city the way many of the London-based novelists did.

Perhaps, its time for a political thriller with all the inner workings of the land encroachers and political classes; politicians of all hues have same colour in my city. Its more like Henry Ford’s statement: “You can have any colour as long as it is black.”

Now I am waiting to take my next “holiday”…