Monday, September 1, 2008

Snippets / Mail Today, September 01, 2008

Is it a cover-up for RTI not working?
AS A nation, we are not in the habit of preserving history, be it a monument or a document. As a result, there are no records available pertaining to many sensitive subjects, ranging from national to local, from bilateral talks to something as mundane as the ownership records of an important building. But a people suddenly empowered with the right to know are seeking information on a whole range of matters and the government just doesn’t have the answers.
The increasing rate at which ordinary people are invoking the Right to Information Act has put the government in a tizzy. My colleagues at India Today magazine have several RTI’s and while they have been successful in getting information, more often they have been stonewalled as one babu throws the ball into another’s court. Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekar recently shot off a missive to secretaries of ministries and departments directing them to shun the “ lackadaisical approach” and to appoint a joint secretary to be Chief Records Officer to maintain “ accountability and transparency.” It will be the CRO’s duty to “ coordinate and supervise all activities relating to management of public records. You may also consider visiting records room of your ministry during this month for an inspection so as to convey the importance of records management”. Ordinarily, Chandrashekhar should have been lauded, only it’s come too late. In a country where nobody bats an eyelid when precious artifacts are allowed to be smuggled abroad by the high and the mighty, records, if not already lost, must be thrown away to save a VIP’s skin. I think the missive is nothing more than a cover- up to later say “ See we did our best”.

A brain wave to save DRDO

FOR QUITE some time now, we Indians have waxed about our intellectual capital,
of the brain drain being reversed and painting pictures of our countrymen from
California to Canberra returning in droves to ride on ‘ Shining India’. Ask the
fellows at the Defence Research and Development Organisation and they will think
you are an ignoramus. DRDO runs 52 research laboratories in the country and in
the last five years, over 1,200 scientists have left for greener pastures.
Things were bad earlier too, and in the five preceding years, 400 scientists
had quit.
Bad pay, appalling working conditions and a bureaucratic mindset
that is hardly in sync with scientific temperament of the establishment. The
government’s concerns were allayed by the babus who convinced their masters that
once the 6th Pay Commission recommendations were implemented, the scientists
would be happy with the bounty, would fall in line and all would be fine.
Really? The DRDO is taking no chances though. This month, it is organising a
Round Table where HR honchos from the US, UK, Israel as well as top Indian
corporates like Wipro, Infosys and Tata will teach them the art of retaining
For the sake of our defence forces, let us hope the lessons would be
truly learned.

WHEN set up, JNU was supposed to be a centre of academic excellence on the lines of the Ivy League colleges in the US. Those dreams died young as it acquired the dubious reputation of being the cradle of arm chair revolutionaries. Last week, JNU once again shamed itself. Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State was scheduled to address students but the Left Unions would have none of it and the programme was cancelled. Last year, I was in New York when students protested against Columbia University’s decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to address them. But they didn’t stop him. Instead, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS were all on hand to show the boys and girls put the Iranian despot through the wringer. The message went all across the US and indeed the world. The JNU protests were limited to a single column on the inside pages. Centre of excellence?

ABHINAV Bindra, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar are suddenly the toast of the
country and more than advertising agencies, it is the political class that seems
determined to milk them dry. The two Kumars arrived last week from Beijing and
did the mandatory photoops with the President, Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi
but before they could be whisked away, the Opposition swung into action. BJP MP
VK Malhotra who heads the country’s Archery Federation, Digvijay Singh, JD( U)
MP who is president of the National Rifle Association and Abhay Chautala, who
heads Boxing, convinced the jet- lagged boys it would be inappropriate not to
call on the PM- in- waiting. So, off they were herded to LK Advani’s Prithviraj
Road residence where they were introduced to Page 3 types who for a change were
washing down lassi. It was no different a fortnight earlier when Abhinav became
India’s first individual gold medalist.
Within five minutes of his feat,
Ambassador Nirupama Rao handed out to Indian journalists copies of
congratulatory messages from the PM and Sonia Gandhi. The PMO even got in touch
with the IOA to convey the PM’s desire to meet him on his return. Again, the
BJP, for ever in agitation rather than congratulatory mood was caught napping
and it fell on Digvijay to turn sharp- shooter for the Opposition. He called up
Abhinav’s father to ensure the young man did not ignore Advani. If you thought
it was Even Stevens and end of matter, there’s more. Last heard, the NDA camp
was claiming that two out of three medal winners came from disciplines whose
associations were headed by their leaders.

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