Tuesday, December 28, 2010

UTTAR PRADESH MEDIA: The real reporters

IIPM Prof Rajita Chaudhuri: The New Age Woman

UNICEF trains children of Lalitpur to change the world

Far from newspaper offices in Lucknow, a group of children in two of the six blocks of Lalitpur is writing of issues as they see them. They belong to one of Uttar Pradesh's most backward districts where the under five mortality rate stands at 159, only 55 per cent households have access to clean drinking water, just 23.3 per cent children receive full immunization and barely 17.2 per cent of the households have access to toilets.

These are the child reporters (CRs) who have been active since 2006 in a UNICEF supported programme. It aims to use children as fact finders based on the premise that they would be more knowledgeable about local issues and as first generation literates would be looked upon with respect by both their families and villagers. And also, they can be brutally honest.

At village Jamalpur, Uma Devi Bhargava, a class six student for instance is quick to refute the village pradhan's (also called Uma Devi) contention that she undertook surprise checks of the mid-day meal. Bhargava says: 'She is lying. We are forced to eat undercooked rice which has midges and weevils rolling out. For the last one month there has been no food, but our Pradhanji is not bothered. And why have a man who does not know how to cook in the school.'

Fifty-six children of the Talbahet and Birdha blocks (32 girls, 24 boys) aged between 8 and 14, sketch, write reports and poems that are then collated into a news booklet called Balvani (voice of the children). Though the selection process of CRs is by force narrowed down as school teachers are asked to identify bright and articulate children, the writings have begun to have an impact. Thus when 12-year-old Anup Singh's sketch of a sleeping teacher in a class full of children (apparently born from his experience at his primary school in village Sunaora) published in the inaugural issue of Balvani (May-July 2006) reached the district officials, the teacher was immediately suspended.

At village Jamalpur, Madhu Raja, a student of class seven is working on a report on how school principals ask for money during enrollment. For Sonam Vishwakarma of the same village, each day is a new learning experience. 'Only yesterday I came to know that education till class 12 is free. I can now grow up to be anything. I have to pass this message to all the children in my village', she says. It was on Vishwakarma's insistence that two children from a Sahariya (tribal) hamlet approached the village headman to insist that the well in their hamlet be cleaned. 'The well was cleaned within three days and the children couldn't thank me enough', she beams.

In November 2009, at the first national convention of CRs in New Delhi, attended by 70 CRs from 14 states, seasoned media persons who came to interact with them, were stumped. Senior Hindi journalist Ram Sharan Joshi complimented them on being 'the real reporters, authentic, genuine and grass roots.'

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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Monday, December 20, 2010

IIPM Prof Arindam Chaudhuri on 'BJP and Kashmir Azaadi'

IIPM Prof Rajita Chaudhuri's Snaps


More than a year ago, I wrote a cover story in this very magazine stating, WHY NOT AZAADI FOR KASHMIR? I argued why keeping unwilling Kashmiris as a part of India was a huge drain on resources as well as on India's moral authority. Moreover, unlike all other parts of India that may also demand independence tomorrow, Kashmir has a huge and long history attached; and worldwide, when such groups have historically staked a claim for their independence, democratic nations have obliged. My article had then triggered a tremendous response – ranging for praise to virulent abuse! I still stand by my point that it is pointless to force Kashmiris to remain with India at gunpoint. This only triggers ill feeling. I have many Kashmiris and Muslims studying in my institute and even working with me. And many are also linked up with me on my Facebook account. When I at times go to their profiles and check out the material that they post, it scares the wits out of me. They are mostly openly anti-India. They write stories of all that they have gone through. They post videos that will make anyone hate India. They themselves almost hate India! And they want azaadi for Kashmir.

Digressing a little, if Facebook is any indicator of what real people of Kashmir want, that's freedom from India. When I read their posts, two things cross my mind. Firstly, are they potential terrorists? The answer is, of course not… I know a lot of them. They are educated, nice people. It’s a free nation and they speak their minds out of their personal experiences. The second thought that crosses my mind is obviously how Facebook has become an open forum to actually spread hatred; and that the Intelligence departments of India should keep a track of the communication happening there… My blood oft en boils when I read so much of open anti-India comments. And imagine I have to oft en see these people the next day walking into my office! It is surely a great test of patience and belief in democratic values for a patriotic Indian. I do try to understand their perspective too and realise their reasons for hating India. But I must add that while I can vouch for a lot of my students that they are nice people, I obviously can’t vouch for their friends. The situation now is such, that completely anti-India people are openly spreading hatred for India amongst Indian Muslims. Accept it or not, there are clear signs that a strong united community of India haters is developing, who are connected not as friends but by their hatred for India – something that was not that easy in pre-Facebook days. Anyway, I will leave it at that.

Coming back to my original topic – should we give azaadi to Kashmir? I still say, yes, of course! Keeping people dictatorially bound to a nation under gunpoint is totally meaningless and almost inhuman. But I do realise the problems that the Indian government has in hand. An azaad Kashmir must come with some pledges from whoever becomes the leader of Kashmir. A pledge to take back hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and allow them full freedom to earn a living and practice their religion. A pledge to allow similar freedom to the Buddhists, Shias and other minority communities. And a pledge to remain a secular republic in both form and content. Of course, the question is, will those leaders be able to give such pledges? And will they be thereon willing to keep them? The truth possibly is that within 48 hours of such independence being granted, Kashmir will become a part of Pakistan and an Islamic state. Soon after, China would gain control of strategic parts of the region. And we must remember that India is the only major nation to have systematically lost national territory in the 20th century. From the Government of India's point of view, it surely cannot afford to lose more, nor can it afford to let azaad Kashmir become a playground for Islamic radicals and China.

So what does India do? That’s a tricky one to answer. But right now, all I can say is that from a political perspective, the Congress can’t take the situation lightly and keep waffling on it and let anarchy prevail. It’s actually sad to see our liberal and so-called secular intellectuals bend over backwards to be politically correct even when faced with dangers of hardline Islam. If someone from the Hindu or Christian community is a bigot, we never hesitate to denounce such an individual openly. Why do we then hesitate to denounce in the same tone, when it comes to a Muslim bigot? Why can’t we tell radical Muslims – just as we tell radical Hindus – that their ideology and vision is simply not acceptable to India? That oppressive and regressive parts of the sharia are as unacceptable as parts of the manu code of the Hindus? It's time the government took a strong stance – whatever it is – and engaged the masses to make their viewpoint logically clear to Indians at large who are finding the government weak at this point of time.

I am reminded of the days of the Shah Bano case when the Congress, having absolute majority in Parliament, was the unquestionable dominant political force and BJP was in the fringes. Post the Shah Bano case [when Congress passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, overruling a Supreme Court verdict], we saw the dramatic growth of BJP from 2 seats to 85 seats to even majority as the nation in general clearly saw the government's attempt to overrule the verdict of the Supreme Court of India as an illogical appeasement of the Muslims. The current happenings can possibly give Indians a similar feel. And if the Congress doesn’t look decisive, this could be the opportunity that BJP might have been waiting for. BJP's Ram Janmabhoomi plank might be dead, but its 'non appeasement of Muslims' plank is very much alive. Masses are also getting enlightened today. They are on the same Facebook. They see the pseudo-intellectuals speak. And they know this can take a dangerous turn. They may not take much time to turn the wave during the 2014 elections, giving the Congress a nasty shock and leading to a dramatic revival of the BJP.


1846: Jammu and Kashmir state is created under the Treaty of Amritsar between the East India Company and Raja Gulab Singh of Jammu

1925: Maharaja Hari Singh succeeds the throne

1932: Sheikh Abdullah becomes head of 'Muslim Conference'

1939: The Muslim Conference changes its name to the National Conference and moves closer to the Indian Nationalist movement

1947: Maharaja suppresses revolt in Poonch ruthlessly

OCTOBER 27, 1948: Large numbers of raiders cross from NWFP into Kashmir. Hari Singh asks for help from India and accedes. Indian troops arrive and thrust the invaders back.

1948: Abdullah becomes Prime Minister of Kashmir. Problems ensue between him and the Maharaja. Kashmir gets a special status in the Indian Constitution.

1948: India takes the Kashmir problem to the UNSC.

1949: On 1 January, a ceasefire between Indian and Pakistani forces leaves India in control of most of the valley, as well as Jammu and Ladakh, while Pakistan gains control of part of Kashmir including what Pakistan calls "Azad" Kashmir and Northern territories.

1949: On 17 October, the Indian Constituent Assembly adopts Article 370 of the Constitution, ensuring a special status and internal autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir.

1951: First post-independence elections. Abdullah wins unopposed.

1952: Kashmir and India reach an agreement on the flag, citizenship.

1953: Abdullah is dismissed as Prime Minister and arrested. He's replaced by Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad aka 'Bakshi the Builder'

1954: Kashmir's Constituent Assembly ratifies accession to India. The customs barrier between Kashmir and India is lifted.

1957: kashmir approves its constitution. Abdullah views this as a repudiation of the commitment to a plebescite. Aug 1965: Kashmiri nationalists Amanullah Khan and Maqbool Butt form another Plebiscite Front with an armed wing called the National Liberation Front (NLF) in POK.

1974: Kashmir Accord is signed by G. Parthasarathy for Indira Gandhi and Mirza Afzal Beg for Sheikh Abdullah. The Accord retains Kashmir's special status, but the state is termed as a 'constituent unit of the Union of India'.

1976: Maqbool Butt is arrested on his return to the Valley; Amanullah Khan moves to England and NLF becomes Jammu and Kashmir liberation Front (JKLF).

1987: The Muslim United Front (MUF) against Farooq's Conference- Congress alliance. MUF manages to win just 4 seats amidst rigging. The insurgency in the valley increases in momentum from this point on.

1990: At a march of 1 million, 40 Kashmiris are killed by police firing. 350,000 Pundits leave the Kashmir valley for refugee camps in Jammu amidst threat to life.

MAY 7, 1999: The Indian Army patrols detect intruders on Kargil ridges in Kashmir. India fights to regain lost territory.

2000: Hizbul Mujahedeen declares a unilateral ceasefire for three months. India begins peace talks.
This article is sourced from PR-CANADA.net, click here to read compelete article.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'V'iciously 'A'bnormal 'T'ax!

Prof Rajita Chaudhuri follow some off-beat trends like organizing make up sessions

Inter-state VAT variations are proving to be the chronic ulcer for trade and commerce in the country. And the problems are visible. Will the yet to be implemented GST prove a breather? Finds out Savreen Gadhoke

This outflux of diesel buyers from Delhi has cost the petrol pumps in the capital city about Rs. 350 million in net earnings within just the first month (April 2010) of the increase in VAT. As industry sources confirm, revenues of diesel sellers have dipped by 40% in Delhi and is expected to fall further by around 80%. Understandably, the worst affected are the oil shops that lie on the border areas of the capital. A field enquiry suggests that those in areas like Ghazipur, Anand Vihar (East Delhi) and Dilshad Garden (North-East Delhi) have seen their monthly revenues fall by as much as 70%.

There is another negative spillover. The month of February 2010 saw the minimum wage levels of unskilled labour being increased by 33.5%. At a time when revenues have fallen, it becomes hard to imagine how the gas station owners can adhere to the rule of wage increase.

So do they have an answer to this bonehead play? The gas station parties believe they do ' retaliate. Adopting a demonstrative method, the Petrol Dealers Association of Delhi and NCR has announced that petrol pumps in Delhi will go on a 24-hour strike every Monday, starting May 14, 2010, so long as the VAT increase is not annulled. Till date, there have been three such day-long shut downs' on April 9, May 14 & May 24. The Association has also threatened to go on an indefinite strike from June 14, 2010, if its demands are not met.

The predicament of the gas station owners in Delhi is just one of such instances, where variable inter-state VAT is bringing about great inconvenience to trade and commerce. While these variations have negatively impacted businesses in certain states, they have also given rise to smuggling and black marketing. This defeats the intention of introducing VAT in 2005. It was conceived with a view to make accounting more transparent, to cut trade barriers, curb tax evasion and boost tax revenues. Items were classified into various categories such as essential, nonessential, luxury items with taxes ranging from 1% to 20%. VAT rates for each state is decided by the individual state governments, and this has led to non-consistency in the taxes levied on similar product categories.

Poultry is one example of how variation in VAT has affected the trade between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Kerala has depended on Tamil Nadu for poultry supply, for decades. There was no state tax applicable on poultry till Kerala agreed to the VAT regime. Thereafter, consumers buying poultry had to pay 12.5% more on the purchase of poultry in Kerala, while the commodity was kept free of VAT in Tamil Nadu. The effect ' during 2004, around two million live birds were transported from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, post-VAT, the trade almost came to a halt. This gave rise to smuggling of live birds from Tamil Nadu into Kerala to bypass VAT and earn that 12.5% on bottomlines by the traders. The act has become so severe and organised now that even after the strengthening of check posts on borders by the Kerala government, smuggling continues through parallel roads and country routes. Kerala's coconut farmers also faced troubles when the state government levied 12.5% VAT on copra and other coconut products. Subsequently, the government was forced to waive-off the tax to support exports to Tamil Nadu. While TN levies a VAT of 12.5% on automobiles, marbles, tiles, refrigerators, ACs and timber, the state of Puducherry charges just 4%. So why would you buy your next car or your new twin-door refrigerator in Tamil Nadu? A VAT of 12.5% is levied on silk in Karnataka, J&K and Maharashtra, while in Delhi, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Bihar & Uttaranchal, the tax applicable is just 4%. Tyres and tubes attract 8% VAT in Haryana, while in Delhi they attract 4%. The stark difference shows up as on as much a burger at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Delhi levies a tax of 12.5% on a KFC snack, while the hungry buyers end up shelling out 13.5% more as tax in UP! Naturally, these differences in VAT hamper sales of certain commodities in selected states. 'Traders are at a disadvantage due to variations in VAT. If any commodity is charged 12.5% somewhere and the neighbouring states charges 4%, certainly, the higher VAT state will lose. And, if that commodity is a high value product, the difference is much. So, obviously the buyer will get it from the adjoining state,' says DP Nag, Secretary, Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industries. The culprit ' the Constitutional right that the states have, exercising which, they can charge VAT. And this causes discrepancies in prices, despite there are friendly treaties and trade agreement between neighbouring states.

Be that as it may, VAT, which was implemented with a view to simplify the taxation structure has had negative impacts on certain businesses. However, efforts are being made by various state governments to keep the VAT rates in sync with the neighbouring states. For instance, the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Haryana and UP are soon scheduled to meet to mull over how to reduce variations in VAT levied on diesel, so as to save the aggrieved diesel retailing lot of Delhi. But the truth is: despite efforts on the part of the state machineries, uniform tax remains the only working hypothesis. There is some hope with the Ministry of Finance's target of implementing Goods & Services Tax (GST) by 2011, which will impose uniform tax rates at a national level. But as market experts believe, it seems a far-fetched dream for now. 'At this juncture, no state can be tamed. The GST regime is showing some hope, but the road to that is not as easy as we have a Quasi-Federal Constitution. Under this, states enjoy some autonomy, particularly in List II, where states enjoy full rights to tax as per their whims. Will any state want to lose that autonomy,' questions Ramendra Nath Ganguly, former Assistant Commissioner ' Sales Tax, Ministry of Finance.

A uniform GST is a dream. The asymmetrical VAT is reality. Simply said, the answer lies in market economics, and only the simple Marshallian Law of Demand and Supply can perhaps wipe off what the traders hate for now.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

For More IIPM Info, Visit below mentioned IIPM articles.
IIPM Prof Rajita Chaudhuri's Snaps
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