Monday, February 1, 2010

Snippets / Mail Today, February 01, 2010

Narayanan’s departure heralds change
WITH the departure of MK Narayanan as National Security Advisor, the government has initiated the process of restructuring the security apparatus to fit the Chidambaram doctrine. Since he took over as home minister, his meetings with security and intelligence agencies have been on an almost daily basis and attended by, among others, the chiefs of RAW, IB, NSA, CBI and the Secretary ( Security). This has bogged him down in Delhi, leaving him little time to go around the country for a first hand look at things. Many are the times when he leaves the capital after one such meeting and visits three or four states before returning to New Delhi for the next day’s meeting.

This can tire the toughest of men and a search is now on for someone who is well versed in security management to take the responsibility for coordinating between the various agencies all matters relating to security and surveillance.

The candidate selection process will soon begin and the government is not limiting its choices to the establishment; professional security and strategic experts are also being shortlisted. The one who finally gets the job is likely to be given the rank of secretary and will be asked to head a new outfit which most probably will be called the National Security Group or Panel. The chiefs of the RAW, IB, CBI and others, barring that of Military Intelligence, will report to the NSG who will in turn report to the Home Minister. The restructuring ought to have taken place long ago since Chidambaram had planned these steps not long after he had taken over in the aftermath of 26/ 11. But stiff resistance from an entrenched cabal meant that his plans were put on hold for more than a year. Now that the obstacles are beginning to melt, he has lost no time.
More power to his elbow.

They are missing PC at Davos meet

FOR some years now, the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos has been one that no businessman from India worth his balance sheet would dare give a miss. Four years ago, the theme at the meet was “ India Everywhere” and Indian businessmen joined the government to launch a marketing blitz to convince global investors that India was the place to be. Since then, the world has been on a financial roller coaster but there’s no stopping India or Indians. This year, over 90 business honchos have joined ministers Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma and the Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia in the Swiss ski resort. And as usual, they are making a splash. Still, there is one man who is missed: P Chidambaram.

He has led the Indian team to Davos the last few years and is on first name basis with most government and business leaders. Of course they are aware that he has moved from finance to home, but many of them still thought that his credentials as a financial diplomat would have given the Indian team a much needed boost, especially in dealing with the Chinese.

Besides, there is the acknowledgement that in the current global scenario where matters relating to the economy cannot be delinked from those related to security, Chidambaram would have been an asset. But who is to tell them that we do things differently here? The division of labour among the UPA top brass is in stark contrast to the NDA government where a handful of senior leaders decided everything from economy to trade to terrorism to cricket. Pranab Mukherjee is among the best finance ministers we have had, but he is not the kind to want to rub shoulders with the high and the mighty in Davos.

He is more comfortable leading political firefighting operations at home along with AK Antony, Veerappa Moily, Digvijay Singh and Ahmed Patel. The economic pie is shared between Kamal Nath, Sharma and Ahluwalia who between them are doing an admirable job. Security remains the sole preserve of Chidambaram. The fatcats in Davos may be missing him but I am sure PC doesn’t miss them .

THE 15th Lok Sabha has the largest contingent of young members of Parliament and while many of them are yet to display their full potential on the debating floor, they seem to have reached a cross party consensus on one thing: food. One of the privileges of being a member of Parliament is that it enables you to tuck into just about edible matter at ridiculously low costs, thanks largely to the huge subsidy offered by the Indian Railways, official caterers to Parliament House. Things may change soon. The kitchen that serves Central Hall has been temporarily closed and the old kitchen inside Parliament House is being renovated and the babalog seem to have convinced the powers that be that it’s time to better the fare at India’s most exclusive club. Among those who have raised the demand for better quality and more variety in the daily fare are young MPs like Supriya Sule, Milind Deora and Jitendra Prasada.

The General Purposes Committee of Parliament is expected to take up the matter at its next meeting scheduled in March and if the proposal is accepted, large hotel and restaurant chains could be making bids to keep the honourable MPs gastronomically content. Mamata Banerjee shrieks each time someone tries to curtail her department’s powers, but with the railway minister sportingly acceding to the young MPs, the all new cafĂ© could open as early as the next winter session.