Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 2012 - Interesting Links

* Srivathsan, A (2012): SMALL IS BIG FOR INDIA'S BOOMING RETAILS SECTOR, The Hindu, 30 Sep 2012 -

* Madhukar, CV (2012): MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE PARLIAMENT, Manushi, 20Sep12 - URL -

* 'Micchami Dukkadam' (18 Sep. 2012, Tata MF)

-On the final day of Paryushan is Samvastsari Pratikraman (ritual for washing away sins). Jains seek forgiveness from all the creatures whom they may have harmed knowingly or unknowingly by uttering the phrase— Micchami Dukkadam. It means "If I have caused you offence in any way, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, word or deed, then I seek your forgiveness". No private quarrel or dispute may be carried beyond Samvatsari, and traditionally, letters have been sent and telephone calls made to friends and relatives asking their forgiveness.

* Raghavan, BS (2012): No Point in Picking on Denmark, BL 19Sep12 -
- Denmark ranks 19th among foreign investors in India, with a direct investment during 2010 of $231 million. India’s own commodity exports to Denmark totalled $992 million in 2011.
-  it has 80 companies already operating in India, with 20 or more in Tamil Nadu alone, although Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are the preferred destinations.

* Shourie, Arun (2012): ‘For 15-20 years now, we have been attending the elongated funeral rites of the parliamentary system’, Indian Express, 18Sep12 -

* Obe, Mitsuru (2012): THIRST FOR ENERGY SHAPES JAPAN’S TIES, WSJ, 4Sep12, url -
- LNG from Qatar, Malaysia, Australia
- Imports 90% of its crude; 25% of LNG

* Anand, Geeta (2012): A WOMAN’S UNTREATABLE TB ECHOS GLOBALLY, WSJ, 8Sep12, url -

* Hoshi, Takeo and Anil Kashyap (2012): A PLAN TO REVIVE JAPAN, WSJ 11Sep12, url -
- National Institute of Research Advancement (NIRA)
- Inefficiencies...postal addressing system...a confusing algorithm ensures that adjacent buildings in cities do not have consecutive addresses

* Krishnakumar R (2012): REPLACEMENT MIGRATION, Frontline, 21Sep12, url -
- Kerala emigrants - 2.28m abroad; 1.5m returned; 3.43m non-resident-Keralites; 9.31m Keralite in other states
- Average wage of unskilled laborer in Gulf - Rs.11,484;
- Daily wage in Kerala - Rs.450

* Hampaiah, Ralladoddi (2012): EVERYONE IS STEALING GERMPLASM, Down to Earth, 1-15Sep12, pp23, url -
- Bt Cotton germplasm comes from ARAU, Hyderabad’s “Narasimha” breed - taken from Mahanandi village in Kurnool dist. by Monsanto
- Ongole bull

* Suchitra, M (2012): STENCH IN MY BACKYARD, Down to Earth, 1-15Sep12
- Garbage disposal and protests from Vilappilshala village near Trivandrum

* Economist (2012): Obituary - ROGER FISHER, Economist 15Sep12, url -
- lawyer, teacher, peace-maker
-  In any negotiation, he wrote—even with terrorists—it was vital to separate the people from the problem; to focus on the underlying interests of both sides, rather than stake out unwavering positions; and to explore all possible options before making a decision. The parties should try to build a rapport, check each other out, even just by shaking hands or eating together. Each should “listen actively”, as he always did, to what the other was saying. They should recognise the emotions on either side, from a longing for security to a craving for status. And they should try to get inside each other’s heads.
- For those who found his principles too idealistic, he could point to age-old haggling tricks he also recommended: pretending not to be interested, refusing to react to pressure, being prepared to walk away.

* Nagral, Sanjay (2012): DOCTORS IN ENTREPRENEURIAL GOWNS, EPW 8Sep12, url -

* Ito, Joichi (2012): MIT MEDIA LAB - Program on NHK, url - //

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Who was Kihota Hollohan?

At the core of numerous 'landmark judgments' passed by the Supreme Court of India, are individuals who stood up against the system and ended up re-defining the Indian Constitution.

Mr. Inder Golak Nath protested against the Punjab government for delaring his land 'surplus', and fit to be taken over by the state. His legal battle went on for years until the Supreme Court not only ruled in his favor but also decided on 27 Feb., 1967, that the Parliament's power to amend the Constitution could not be used to curtail fundamental rights.

Another landmark case was filed in 1970 by Swami Keshavananda Bharati, head of a monastry (muth) in Kerala. He was objecting against attmempts by the Kerala state government (under land reform acts) to restrict control over the monasty's property. This case too went on to address the much grander issue of the Parliament's power to amend the Constitution. It marked the beginning of something that has been called the "basic structure" of the Constitution which cannot be altered by any government, under any circumstances.

Now we come to Kihota Hollohan. A legal battle between this gentleman and Mr. Zanchillu also resulted in a Supreme Court judgement (1992) that not only has a bearing on how elected representatives behave in the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, it unwittingly also prevents prevents the legislature from performing one of its principle functions: scrutiny of the executive. It does this through an anti-defection law which rests on the assumption that  'elections are won by political parties rather than persons'.

Whatever be the pros and cons of the anti-defection law, one curious thing about Kihota Hollohan is that there is hardly any information about him or about his opponent, Zanchillu, in the legal tomes that rest in cyberspace. Nothing in Manupatra; nothing in .

So far, the only bit of information I could find is that Mr. Hollohan was the Nagaland state minister for social security and welfare, in 2003.

Wonder what was it that Zanchillu did to so upset him...


North East Enquirer (7 July 2003) -,%2003/oh17.htm

Supreme Court of India: Shri Kihota Hollohon vs Mr. Zachilhu And Others on 18 February, 1992 - URL -

Scribd: A Case Analysis on Kihota Hollohon -

Khanna, Kartik and Dhvani Shah (2012): ANTI-DEFECTION LAW: A DEATH KNELL FOR PARLIAMENTARY DISSENT? NUJS Law Review 2012; URL -

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Doraemon Ektara

An Ektara is a single-sting intrument that has numerous variations in India. One that is commonly seen in rural North India is fashioned out of bamboo-sticks , a clay pot and some paper and is played like a violin.

One of the proponents of this Ektara, has been a permanent fixture at Dilli Haat for the past eight years, filling shopping arcades with melodies from the latest Indi-pop, and selling his wares out of a wicker basket. Yesterday, for the first time, I got a chance to listen to the man and the efforts of his family to make a living out of street-music.

Ram Bhaj Singh comes from a family of musicians from rural Panipat in Haryana. It was his uncle, an elderly gentleman frequently seen in a white turban and kurta-pyjama, who first ventured towards Dilli Haat and positioned himself outside the gates, amongst the vendors who cannot afford to pay a 'tax' to the local authorities. According to Singh, it was one of officials within Dilli Haat, a manager named Sridhar, who first gave him the opportunity to step within the gated complex.

The deal was simple and straightforward. For a payment of Rs.150 per day, he could sell his wares to the tourists and foodies who stepped into the Haat all day. Since he free to set differential pricing for foreign tourists and Indian customers, the word soon got around that he was making a killing. The sale of just one ektara to a foreigner was enough to pay the day's rent. The entire community of musicians then turned up at the Singh household in Panipat to negotiate a division of spoils.

A deal was negotiated. Eight musicians from the community would take turns to sell their wares throughout the day for the same daily rent. It continued to be an excellent arrangement for many years until 2010 when there was a change of guard at Dilli Haat and Sridhar's replacement decided to maximize revenue by increasing the rent from roving musicians from Rs.150 to Rs.350 per day.

Unwilling to shell out nearly Rs.50 per head, the community first stayed off the Haat for two months. When the new manager refused to relent, the entire community turned up at the residence of Shiela Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi. About twenty of them would wait for days with their ektara baskets until the CM's office relented and a telephone call went out to the Haat office. The old daily rent was to continue but, in exchange, the Singhs agreed to forego the differencial pricing strategy. Prices were fixed- Rs.50 for the small ektara and Rs. 100 for a bigger one.

So as to make up for the loss of foreign-tourist revenue, the Singhs now try to increase the sale-volumes by bringing in better designs; pitching in bits of of English and by brining in more contemporary designs aimed at the kids.

Topping this list of new designs was the current favorite on children's TV, Doraemon, and tune that topped the charts - Kolaveri Di.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

CAG on Railways: Death by a Thousand Cuts

 Today is the last day of one of the most unproductive sessions of the Indian Parliament.

Over the last three weeks, the Indian Parliament has been paralyzed over the CAG Audit report findings. The opposition - mainly the BJP - has been stridently demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Their focus has been on the CAG report on allocation of coal blocks. This, unfortunately, also served to divert public attention from other equally scathing CAG reports on the Delhi Airport (DIAL), Nuclear Energy (AERB), Power (UMPP under SPVs) and the Indian Railways.

The CAG report on railways (2010-11) appears, at first glance, one that is least glamorous but I found it particularly interesting.  It gives you a glimpse into the kind of routine mismanagement behind the losses being reported by IR every year. Here are some examples --

* Container Operations (p11): Haulage rates fixed by railways for CONCOR and other private players has been below their operational costs. For instance, the haulage rates fixed for 40-feet containers was only 27 tonnes as compared to 21.5 tonnes for 20-feet containers. Total revnue loss - Rs. 1,175 Crores  (p11)

* Manipulation of Computerised Reservation System (p34): Just as we suspected, the audit finds numerous instances of "Tatkal" tickets being issued before the stipulated start-time of 8AM. Also, at precisely 8AM on the day of the 'advance reservation period', not less than 363,700 passengers were booked on the system!

* Incomplte Lines (p77): Indian Railways committed resources of Rs. 8,549 crore on 50 incomplete new lines for an indefenite period with no certainty of the objectives being realised.

* Stoppage of work due to planning lapse (p 103): A new bridge was planned next to a protected national mornument, the Red Fort, without informing ASI. Loss - Rs. 33 Crores.

* Contract Mismanagement (p107): CAG notes that frequent extensions were granted to contractors, ignoring the target period for completion. Loss in anticipated savings - Rs.19.44 Cr

* Awarding contracts without site-surveys (p121): For doubling the track between Cheppad and Kayankulam in 2005, a new bridge was needed. Only after the award of contract did the authorities inspect the site of work and discover that the use of pre-set concrete slab and girder would result in a level difference of 1.6 meters!  The contracter then backed out and the project was stalled for six years!

* Excessive delay in maintenace of locomotives (p128): 99% of maintenance work on diesel locomotives has been delayed by North Western Railways. Loss - Rs. 92.89 Cr.

* Loss due to non-procurement of critical parts which were (p129): Rs.85 Cr.

This seems like a classic case of  'death by a thousand cuts'...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

A Grasshopper Couple

Which is this strikingly beautiful grasshopper couple, perched in a Papri tree?

Answer from Shaku, 10 Sep., 2012:

Ak grasshopper/Painted grasshopper (Poekilocerus pictus).