Vol-CXII : October 1, 2013

Dear Colleagues

There is unusual heavy rain in many parts of the world in the past month; evidence for changing climate patterns?

1.  For decades, Kerala model of development was being presented as an exceptional strategy for socio-economic development not only for rest of India, but also for other developing countries. Its strength lay in literacy for all and status of women. Today, Kerala is witnessing many distortions. Per capita consumption of alcohol is highest in Kerala; violence against women has increased significantly, both at home and in public spheres; most young men and women have migrated out of the state; remittances from middle-east have resulted in rapid urbanization with colourful homes built with expensive fittings; purchase and hoarding of gold has galloped in the state; local government leaders are amassing wealth through corruption, following the model of their seniors. Is this model still being exported?

2.  One of the members of Indian parliament belonging to a big business house was reported as lamenting the watchful functioning of Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) of India. He was speaking to a visiting Head of State from an African country, suggesting that scrutiny by CAG of government’s policies and expenses was acting as a de-motivator for business investment. His lamenting as a business leader is understandable; who would like to be under scrutiny? But, his dismissive remarks on a constitutional body like CAG which reports to Parliament is breach of oath as a parliamentarian? Governance in India doesn’t bother about conflicts-of-interests?

3.  The pace of migration to cities in search of livelihood is most vigorous in the state of Uttar Pradesh. With growing mechanization of agricultural operations, declining income from small land holdings and absence of off-farm livelihood opportunities, most young men are piling up in cities. This state had five major cities that have existed for centuries; called KAVAL (Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra and Lucknow), the state now has second largest urban population in the country. Migrants to cities lack an identity, which results in harassment and denial of access. Given the ‘youthful’ leaders of the state, search for identity can be enabled by the government?

4.  In a recent reference by Central Information Commissioner (CIC), in response to an application under Right To Information (RTI) Act, the officials in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) wrote that Prime Minister’s Relief Fund is not a public agency covered under the RTI Act. It refused to divulge the names of recipients of this Fund by claiming that Prime Minister’s Relief Fund is a private body. This is a fraud on the people of this country since any institution with Prime Minister (and not Dr Man Mohan Singh) as its patron can be treated as a private body. Not only that Prime Minister heads this body, its office is in PMO and its affairs are handled by government officers attached to the PMO. Citizens beware before you send your contributions to PM Relief Fund?

5.  The new Company Act 2013 has provision for a non-profit company under Section 8. This provision provides for a charitable company to be incorporated with the condition that its profits will not be shared with the promoters or directors. Unlike other forms of incorporation, the purposes listed in the new Company act are quite inclusive—promotion of arts, commerce, science, religion, sports, education, social welfare, research, charity, protection of environment. Perhaps the Income Tax authorities should now alter their prescription of non-profits?

All the very best

Rajesh Tandon