The Indian EXPRESS

N THE end, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s near-vote for Purno Sangma — the SP leader reportedly realised his mistake, tore up the ballot paper and voted afresh — could well compete for the most scintillating moment of the day. With the outcome foretold, the presidential contest had lost its edge long ago. In fact, ever since the UPA deftly countered Mamata Banerjee’s preemptive strike on the issue of Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature with its own firm declaration of intent and by winning over Yadav to its side, the contest was interesting only for its sideshows. Remarkable, then, that a contest such as this one has had the nation holding its breath. Not since V.V. Giri’s election in 1969 — in which he won as Indira Gandhi’s candidate against N. Sanjiva Reddy, the official Congress choice — has a presidential contest held so many in such thrall. Partly, this has been because the poll run-up showcased realignments that provide a glimpse of the political layout in 2014. More than that, however, the impression of a nation standing still till its next president is elected was encouraged by the virtual halt in normal policy and governance in the name of the presidential polls. The Congress and the UPA have now lost their ex-


The presidential polls are also over. Now will the UPA please get down to governance?
cuse for inaction, and this alibi. In fact, steadily, the UPA has been losing its fig leaves. There was Banerjee’s U-turn on Mukherjee, which means that in the foreseeable future, the UPA would find it difficult to blame her for its own lack of clarity and conviction. Now, even Rahul Gandhi has officially indicated that he may have finally decided to decide. The government knows what it has to do. To begin with, to revive and stabilise the economic environment, it must ensure the autonomy of the regulatory structure from political meddling, it must signal that laws will not be changed at will and assure investors, domestic and foreign, of strict time-frames for clearances of proposals and projects. There is also work to be done in laying out a political vision and a hierarchy of objectives for the government’s remaining term. It must decide whether it will continue to be buffeted by storms — the continuing global economic plunge or the corruption scandals, real and presumed — or seize the initiative. Will it remain preoccupied with itself, or communicate with those who voted it to power, in the villages — but also in the cities? Those are the questions and the UPA has no excuses left to give on the answer sheet.

No more alibis

ORRESPONDENT banking is a sort of plumbing that allows global trade to move without getting stuck in payment problems. Yet, it is the alleged misuse of the correspondent banking relationship by HSBC that has come under the glare of the US Senate, and rightly so. The bank had put too few people to police antimoney laundering regulations in its business, sometimes even outsourcing them. As a result, when it chased correspondent banking business with some banks in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and other countries, the red flag was either not raised or ignored. That a bank with global assets of over $2.3 trillion can do this shows the extent to which ducking of norms has clouded the financial sector to earn profit in difficult times. In conjunction with the allegations against Barclays and others of trying to tamper with the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), now spreading to other markets like Korea, the financial sector will take time to clean up its act. The probes throw up critical issues for the world economy. They have to do with the financing of global trade. Under the present


India has lax enforcement in the financial sector. It can take a leaf out of US prosecution of HSBC
model, correspondent banking ensures that banks, like those in India, provide financial support for Indian companies when they trade abroad. If an Indian firm trades with a company in Peru, for instance, chances are there will be no Indian banks operating from there. The settlement of the bills of exchange and other papers will be done through the offices of correspondent banks. In bigger markets like China too, the presence of Indian banks is nominal. So they can also commit such mischief unless anti-money laundering regulations are implemented diligently. But here is the problem. In India, anti-money laundering charges are supposed to be investigated by the Enforcement Directorate with inputs from agencies like the Intelligence Bureau and the Financial Intelligence Unit. Yet there are no institutional mechanisms for the sharing of data between these units and even less with those outside, like the RBI. That is why there are celebrated arrests in India but rare, if any, successful prosecutions even in open-and-shut cases like the Satyam fraud. The final word on the 2G allocation cases, of course, is a long way off.

When banks slip

E OFTEN use obvious truisms to run away from deep truths. Nothing exemplifies this better than our constant anxieties about growth. It is obvious that we ought not to fetishise GDP numbers: the quality, composition, distribution and sustainability of growth are important. It is also true that growth may not automatically translate into other forms of development that we cherish; an excessive focus on the instrumental aspects of growth can elide serious ethical and political questions. But we are letting these important concerns elide one deep truth. Even as simplistic a number as GDP growth contains within it nothing less than a social revolution. India’s tragedy is that its elites do not want to ride this revolution; they use the limits of growth as a pretext to stop massive social change in its tracks. There is short-term policy pessimism in India. It often looks as if critics are talking down India. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A lot of the anger against the current paralysis comes from the fact that for the first time since independence, the horizons of what can be achieved have dramatically changed. We used to have criticism borne out of an underlying resignation that the more things change the more they remain the same; now it is criticism borne out of a sense of what we can achieve. This is an inchoate but massive shift in our historical consciousness that the experience of sustained growth has brought about. The psychological transformations that growth brings should not be underestimated. There is a world of difference between societies where per capita incomes double every eight years or so, versus a society where per capita incomes double in twice that time. Look at some of the underlying dynamics growth has unleashed. Even as recently as a decade ago, we used to have endless debates about the demand for education. That debate is now over, in part because nothing gives education more of a fillip than actually seeing


So who’s afraid of growth?
A GDP number is a harbinger of social revolution. That makes India’s elites skittish
returns to education. Of course, there are massive quality failures in our system, but the underlying demand dynamics are nothing short of a social revolution. There are other good signs in the offing. Rural wages are rising. The shift to non-agricultural occupations in rural India is growing. As the increasing number of strikes are showing, the bargaining power of labour may be returning. The Indian middle class keeps cribbing about the increasing costs of household services, which is a good thing. In short, there is some evidence that even marginalised labour has more choices than before. Consumption of the bottom status within a decade, the increasing dissociation of caste and occupation and so forth. One need not be Panglossian about this social change, but the way in which we are ignoring a silent revolution for formulaic genuflections on poverty is scandalous. Growth also hides a revolution in governance. Eight per cent growth, without increasing tax rates, translates into more than 1520 per cent growth in government revenue. In short, growth is what allows you to build government. The fact is that the Indian state is now capable of doing a lot more things than it was more than a decade ago; that it does not do half

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In an inchoate way, growth mitigated some of our worst anxieties. Indian nationalism became much less anxious than it was in the 1970s to the ’90s. There was the sense that we could make it. Despite massive problems, the degree to which social peace has been held in the last decade has been impressive. It is because people feel they have something to lose by disruption.
decile is rising. But more importantly, in large parts of the country, people are seeing actual pathways of economic change. One of the great blind spots of social science in India is that it focuses only on an abstract idea of poverty at the bottom, or the depredations of elites at the top. There is almost no documentation of pathways of change in the middle: the driver who comes to the city, and becomes the owner of a fleet of several taxis within a decade, the lower middle class entrepreneur in education who goes from virtually zero capital to a turnover of hundreds of crores in a decade, the rise of Dalit entrepreneurship, the increasing number of children of domestic servants making it to lower middle class or middle class the things as well as it might is a failure of our politics, not the limits of growth. All the things we want from a state will be enabled only by growth. You cannot have a sustainable welfare state without growth. There is no doubt that we are overregulated and under-governed in so many areas, from environment to safety, but there is also the blunt truth that building a state in these areas requires massive resources. There is no doubt that the pattern of growth, particularly in five or six sectors, has enabled increased rent-seeking. However, we should not elide the fact that in so many other areas, the state now touches the lives of citizens more deeply than it did a decade ago. If you were thinking dialectically rather than polemically, you could

argue that it is precisely this increase in the state’s presence that is now sowing the seeds of an accountability revolution, where old principles of governance are no longer tenable. In an inchoate way, growth mitigated some of our worst anxieties. To put matters in historical perspective, Indian nationalism became much less anxious than it was from the 1970s to the ’90s. There was the sense that we could make it. Despite massive problems, with the exception of Maoist violence, the degree to which social peace has been held in the last decade has been impressive. It is largely because people at all levels feel they have something to lose by disruption. In some ways, the deeply disfiguring warts of our society are also becoming more visible, because growth makes it impossible to sequester and segregate. The so-called Indian tolerance was often founded on a social fixity: each community in its place. You will see more discussion around discrimination, gender, because growth has enabled a kind of mobility where people are knocking at closed spaces. The spectre of misery and cruelty in India is still too overwhelming to be complacent. But for the very same reason, it is unconscionable to minimise the importance of the single most important driver of social change in India: growth. A GDP number is the harbinger of a social revolution: a sense of expanded opportunity, rising wages, greater mobility, pathways to social change, an altered sense of the self, a massive change in the scale and scope of government operations. The limits to growth are no excuse for blinding us to its possibilities. You cannot help thinking that the skittishness about growth stems from a fear of the genuine social revolution that growth will unleash, that will undermine the noblesse oblige of what now masquerades as social conscience. The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

■ WHO can forget the years when Rajesh Khanna starred in mega hits like Safar, Kati Patang, Anand, Amar Prem and Aaradhana? He sparked off a frenzy never seen before or since, perhaps not even by the likes of Amitabh Bachchan. Rajesh Khanna’s stardom was a unique phenomenon. — Bidyut K. Chatterjee Faridabad ■ WITH the death of Rajesh Khanna, another star of the golden age of Hindi cinema has vanished. Two other stars, Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor, also passed away this year. A fresh acting style, combined with his endearing mannerisms, made Rajesh Khanna a superstar. His stardom was brief but intense — in the early 1970s, he starred in dozens of films and delivered 15 successive hits. His movies are made memorable by the songs in them, sung by the inimitable Kishore Kumar. A sensitive filmmaker like Hrishikesh Mukherjee picked Rajesh Khanna to act in his films. The superstar did not shy away from non-glamorous roles, as in Bawarchi. However, his best performance was in Anand, which won him millions of hearts. — J.V. Yakhmi Mumbai ■ THE sad news of Rajesh Khanna’s death came at time when Bollywood fans were still recovering from the loss of Dara Singh. It is sad that he wasn’t able to reinvent himself and return to audiences the way Amitabh Bachchan did. — J. B. Sunuwar Bagrakote ■ MANY years ago, Rajesh Khanna had come to Muscat to inaugurate a music institute. I had the good fortune to meet him in his Mumbai home a year later and reminded him of his trip to Muscat. He jokingly said that he wanted to set up the “Rajesh Khanna Institute of Acting” there. While other Bollywood stars have high walls and gates around their bungalows, Khanna never did. Such was his popularity in the 1970s that the school I went to in Mumbai arranged to take its students to see Anand. I remember leaving the cinema hall sad because the lovable character that Khanna played died in the film. Today, Rajesh Khanna the real-life hero is no more. — Sunil D’Cruz Muscat

Letters to the

The golden age



Limbaugh’s latest conspiracy theory is a symptom. Republicans may be losing to their own fringe
Party this campaign season. First, there was birtherism: the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US and so is not a legitimate president. Polls suggest that anywhere between a third and half of GOP voters believe that Obama is actually Kenyan, a belief shared by Arizona’s secretary of state. Representative Darrell Issa has signed on to the idea that the White House gave guns to Mexican drug cartels to push for tougher gun laws, while Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is trying to protect conservative think tanks from Obama’s ostensible agenda to destroy them via campaign finance reform. After the mid-term elections in 2010, when the Tea Party was able to mobilise the Republican base with spectacular results, apprehension that the party is being taken over by its vocal extreme wing has grown. Limbaugh is known to make wildly implausible allegations, but he is a symptom of how much influence the fringe now has over the Republican Party.

Rush’s bane

F RUSH LIMBAUGH, the voice of the super-conservative sections of the Republican Party, is to be believed, the Democrats, in a remarkably prescient move, have rigged one of the year’s most anticipated films — The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy — to serve the liberal agenda. The villain in Nolan’s latest is called Bane, which, according to Limbaugh, is an obvious reference to the company that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney used to run: Bain Capital. Limbaugh thinks Americans will be hoodwinked by the film into associating Bain, and therefore Romney, with evil. The only problem with this theory is that it would require the Democrats to have access to a time machine so they could travel to 1993, when the comic that introduced Bane was written. But this is far from the first time that an outlandish idea has eclipsed good sense within the Republican

HE Central Public Works Department announced that the Parliament House will be closed for ten years and Lok Sabha shifted to Shopper’s Paradise, a new mall in Gurgaon. The old colonial structure will be officially leased to MacDonald’s for ten years and handed over within the month.” Three years ago, this piece of satire in a Delhi paper was dismissed as a mocking view of an unshakable institution and its architecture. How could a structure designed, quite literally, to display the pillars of Indian democracy, be equated with commercial trash? Today, however, there is talk in government circles of plans to construct a new Parliament building. The old structure, says Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, is “silently weeping” for all the cracks, encroachments and lack of emergency measures that make it uninhabitable. Of the many landmarks of iconic value, few can match the regal feel of Lutyens’ or Baker’s buildings. Whatever the tragedy of colonial rule, colonial architecture still epitomises for most an urban monumentality and a symbolic vision missing in the structures of free India. The Lutyens legacy surpasses the anonymous history of the more recent city: the smudged lines of government housing blocks that lend a ramshackle air of industrial


No new Parliament building can match the image etched in national memory
sameness to the skyline. Where does the iconic nature of public building end and prosaic usefulness take over? Throughout the world, there are examples of landmarks retrofitted with all the gadgetry and conveniences of modern life — shored up against earthquakes, equipped with electronic security, fire alarms and emergency escapes — all made to guard against manmade and natural threats. The original White House, for example, was commissioned by George Washington in 1792. Porticoes were added by different presidents 30 tuned and renovated with airconditioning, plumbing, security. In the overall structure of public space, Rajpath is an arena of great urban significance, equal to the Mall in Washington DC and the Champs Elysees in Paris. In the 85-year history of the site, there have been many additions, as would be expected of any important public arena. Most of the ministry structures, built along the adjacent flanks, date back to the 1950s and ’60s. Without exception, each is a poor cousin of its antecedent on Raisina Hill, each a step How many of the princely houses around India Gate still retain anything of their original design? How many ministers have radically altered their bungalows in the Lutyens zone? Ironically, many parts of the colonial city still retain large sections of “hutments”, classified by the preIndependence CPWD as temporary structures, which were meant to be demolished after 1947. How then could the 85-yearold red sandstone masonry of Parliament House be on the verge of crumbling? Part of the problem in not investing value in the old Baker structure lies in the current preference for an international feel to architecture — the glassy malls and offices that suggest a country on the rise. The fate of Parliament House is unfortunately in mediocre hands, with people whose singular anxiety for personal security, comfort and familiarity far outweighs the larger concerns of architectural and national symbolism. No new structure, however laudable in design, can compete with the old image etched firmly in Indian memory. The proposal to make afresh is, sadly, a serious blow to an iconic landmark that has stood as the visible symbol of Indian democracy. The writer is a Delhi-based architect

Those hallowed halls

Colonial architecture still epitomises for most an urban monumentality and a symbolic vision missing in the structures of free India.
years later for ceremonial reasons. Subsequently, both Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman renovated the building to suit changing requirements. Security and nuclear threats during the Cold War meant more construction, even the addition of a nuclear bunker. However, throughout its 200-year history, the alterations firmly retained the architectural character of the original. Similar upgrades were carried out on the Capitol building, home of the US Congress. Closer home, derelict forts and palaces in Rajasthan have been recast as luxury hotels — fineaway from the monumental tradition of design quality and construction workmanship set up by Lutyens. To say that the government’s approach to public architecture around the central vista is lackadaisical and indifferent is nothing new. The 20-year-old Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts is open but incomplete, the classical National Gallery of Modern Art is undeniably shabby with open-faced wiring and a new addition that took 25 years of deliberation. However, architectural alterations continue to be made freely.

Growing unpopular
Bhalla’s ‘Growth pays, populism does not’ (IE, July 18). While comparing the performances of the NDA and the UPA during their respective regimes, Bhalla comes to some significant conclusions. According to him, the UPA won the 2009 poll as it had delivered “high growth” and not because it offered “more inclusion”. He also suggests that “populist policies” followed by UPA 2 have resulted in “considerably less growth”, culminating in “political unpopularity” and defeat in “nearly every election it has fought under the new more populism-less growth formula”. — M. Ratan New Delhi
■ THIS refers to Surjit S.

Edward Abbey

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

HE bomb at the National Security headquarters in Damascus happen fast if the regime starts to look like it is losing. All this on the yesterday struck a potentially fatal blow at the heart of the Assad eve of yet another attempt at a UN resolution, in the hope of resusregime... That a bomb could be planted inside the National Secu- citating the Annan plan. Despite reassurances that the focus is sancrity building, and kill a relative of the president, is the tions, not military intervention, Russia and China are as strongest possible signal that the ruling regime is no longer imwary as ever and there is little hope of consensus. It may pregnable, that it can no longer guarantee the safety of its no longer matter. For all the foreign secretary’s claims that own. For the rebels, the boost to morale will mean much, not yesterday’s events confirm the urgent need for UN action, in least after the appalling violence in Tremseh last week and PRINTLINE fact the situation in Syria has taken on a dynamic of its own, government forces’ continued defiance of Kofi Annan’s one that is rapidly outstripping the international commupeace plan. The message is more potent still for the president’s backers. nity’s capacity to respond. Despite all the bloodshed, the Assad family still enjoys a level of public support. When that melts away, it is the beginning of the end. And it will From a leader in ‘The Independent’, London


Attack on Syria’s security headquarters might make international intervention redundant

On guard, Assad

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