Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Snippets/ Mail Today, March 29, 2010

Crackdown on brokers
IT IS nearly a quarter century since Rajiv Gandhi delivered his inspirational speech to “ rid the country of middlemen and powerbrokers” at the Congress Centenary celebrations in Mumbai. But they continue to thrive. Visit any of the bhavans in Lutyen's Delhi that house key ministries and their presence is overwhelming.

This despite the Prime Minister's Office and the cabinet secretariat regularly issuing circulars to all ministers and senior bureaucrats to stay away from these parasites and every now and then, the CBI compiling and circulating a list of “ Undesirable Elements” — people who are persona non grata.

But circulars alone cannot keep them away. Things have got so bad that a handful of ministers handling key infrastructure ministries have decided to crack down. Shipping Minister GK Vasan has told officers of his ministry that any official found liaising with such people would be immediately suspended.

As Health Minister, Gulam Nabi Azad has to deal with hundreds of private medical colleges that are mushrooming across the country. Promoters of many of them are hard- boiled businessmen who are in it for the money and wouldn’t bat an eyelid before cutting corners. Azad recently sent letters to Vice Chancellors and Deans of medical colleges warning them to keep away from people making promises “ of getting things done by proclaiming themselves to be close to me". Azad's letter is as tough a warning as can be. While reiterating his intention to maintain absolute transparency in the functioning of his ministry, he has threatened colleges that engage middlemen with stringent action including withdrawal of recognition and even banning new admissions for a year or two.

Considering that some colleges charge up to Rs one crore for a seat, it is hoped that the promoters of these institutes will think a dozen times before letting the parasites loose in the corridors of power.

Cong & DMK take to stamp diplomacy to boost ties
HERE'S something to scotch unending speculation that the Congress and the DMK, allies both at the Centre and in Chennai, are drifting apart and will go their separate ways before next year's assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

The alliance has always been an uneasy one and in the last thirty years, both parties have swapped partners. The Congress has been in alliance with Jayalalithaa's AIADMK while the DMK had embraced the NDA during the Vajpayee regime.

Right now, the alliance looks strong but there is a feeling it will remain so only as long as M Karunanidhi is in the driver's seat. There are apprehensions that once he hands over the baton to one of his sons, the alliance will come unstuck.

Such speculation gained weight after Rahul Gandhi went on an overdrive to revive the Grand Old Party in the state where it has not tasted power for 33 years now. His Youth Congress enrolment drives have met with spectacular success with over two lakh youngsters joining the party on one day in big cities like Chennai and Madurai. Rahul's initiatives are his own and alarmed seniors in both parties who feel his revival offensive will harm relations between the two parties. So how do you mend the rift? A bit of stamp diplomacy would do, feels the DMK's Union Communications Minister A Raja. He has decided to issue a stamp in honour of C Subramanian, former AICC chief who was also the Union industry and finance minister. The proposal came from Home Minister P Chidambaram and Raja promptly gave his stamp of approval. It's only fitting that the Department of Posts will issue the stamp this year which is Subramanian’s centenary year. But in honouring the man who is widely credited as the architect of the Green Revolution and was responsible for Tamil Nadu’s rapid industrialisation in the 1960s, the DMK may just manage to wean away some Congress votes.

YOU would be mistaken if you think Rahul Gandhi spends much of his time scouring for Dalit hamlets to sleep in or trying to revive the Youth Congress in states where the party’s fortunes are at an all time low. The young man’s interests are varied and there is nothing that doesn’t arouse his curiosity. Two weeks back, without any of the fanfare that accompanies VVIP arrivals, the young man quietly walked into the India Today Conclave at the Taj Palace Hotel to listen to Professor David Bloom of Harvard University talk about the impact of population on economic growth.

He then stayed on to hear Alan Mullaly, CEO of Ford Motor Corporation of the USA tell the audience about how his company beat the economic downturn and thrived.

The grapevine has it that apart from meeting political scientists and thinkers, Rahul has also been meeting up with some renowned religious scholars of all faiths, including Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. One of them is Dr Karan Singh, whose interests range from art and culture to music and literature and who has authored several books on Hinduism. I understand that Rahul frequently drops by at Singh’s place. He merely sits back and is all ears as Singh extols the teachings of the Vedanta and the Upanishads . Hindutvites, please note. You may be in for some serious debate.

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