Thursday, August 30, 2012


Television censorship is needed urgently

As a measure of policy upshot to censor nonnews television programs, the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) that was formed in June last year, is already over the edge, with heaps of complaints pouring in against the free fall of moral content (that includes obscenity and violence) of the small screen programs. Within 6 months of its inception, BCCC received 3441 complaints, and between June 20, 2011 and July 02, 2012, 717 separate complaints were lodged with the new regulatory body. In this latter period, 47 per cent of the complaints were against obscenity and nudity and 16 per cent were against portrayal of violence, especially against women. The BCCC, in its turn have decided to use its armory against 479 complaints that it has taken seriously and has decided to act.

The real focus of the complaints are not merely the content but also the holistic impact that it will bear on the viewers' minds, especially on the children, if the objectionable content is not aired during restricted hours. A frenzy of television programs depicting crime against women and their victimisation, along with obscenity, forms the core domain for the scope of BCCC censorship. The women issue is also taken up by National Commission of Women (NCW) in concert with BCCC who are in talks with TV channels regarding its editing.

Apart from BCCC, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is another body that is on a crusade to stop the re-certifying A rated films to be aired by TV channels. They have set the tone in compliance with the 1952 Cinematograph Act, which is waiting to be ratified by the Parliament. It has set the stage for stonewalling business prospect for a number of production houses that depends on a large extent of its return on investment on selling satellite rights to the television channels.

It is anybody’s guess as to why regulatory bodies like BCCC are not steering their swipes at the TV channels by compulsorily introducing program ratings or labels! In fact one should go to the extent of labeling each episode of the TV programs – which will give clear indication for the discretion of the viewers and for the kids – instead of hitting the broadcasters’ punching bag now and again. In most of the developed countries, TV programmes and films shown are categorically rated, so that the viewers are discreetly informed about the type of the program or movie they would be watching. In Australia for example, the television classification tags are well laid down (like MA15+ ratings means it can be shown between 9:00 pm and 5:00 am and AV15+ signifies content of violence in the film). Otherwise there are many ratings; one signifies for pre-schooling, another for children in general while some labelling are meant for 15 years plus category. US too have specific classifications of TV programs laid down its regulatory body.

The fact that the most liberal countries in the world, too, have television censorship only highlights the need to regulate programs which have telling effect on all segments of viewers and the producers of the programs and movies are not idolisers to be trusted upon. Even the advertisements should be regulated as it adroitly influences us all, especially the children. It is also important to set up state level censorship bodies as well as district level advisory committees that can get a better grip of increasingly localised television channels mushrooming in various regional languages.


Thursday, August 23, 2012


Disruptions leads to weak economic conditions

Internal peace and economic development share an uncanny correlation. But then, it is quite rare when a policy maker correlates these two discreet variables, while making plans for inclusive growth, whereas these conventional indicators are deeply inter mingled in our societal framework. Recently, both the Growth Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation and our ranking in the Global Peace Index (GPI) has gone down. And why not, with perpetual social and political turmoil, the economy has been on the brink. With more political and social turmoil, the economy is also seen experiencing tremors. Be it the latest Assam mayhem or the on-going naxal problems or the recent labour-corporation friction at Manesar – almost all these event had a strong impact on our economy.

The challenges India faces, in terms of threat of a peaceful existence by riots, are well known as modern India has never been a peaceful coexistence between communities and religious groups. Between 1950 and 1995 an estimated 1,186 separate riots have spooked the population killing approximately 7,052 individuals. However, it is being vetted that higher growth rates and satisfactory economic performance has an inverse relation with incidence of riots. In times of economic gloom it is to the advantage of politicians to stir communal tension which raise new specter of confrontation between religious groups. For example, the ultra-right wing majority communal groups have often blamed the minority community for India’s economic woes. Further, during economic downturn, with dead end opportunities, there is a tendency of greater competition between ethnic groups. In a cigarette factory in Jabalpur, which had largely been controlled by Muslims, competition between Hindus and Muslims led to widespread violence. In Aligarh, similar economic competition propelled Hindu businessmen to increase ferocity of attacks against Muslims in a politically charged tailspin. Th is was carried out so that Muslims are compelled to sell off their properties at low cost to the Hindus.

If we perform an empirical state-wise analysis, we find out what we have been advocating for. In the period 1981-1995, Punjab with 3.11 per cent growth rate and Haryana with 4.13 per cent had been some of the highest growth story in India – and it has been supplemented with lowest number of riots of 0 per cent. On the contrary, Bihar with a reasonably high riots average of 2.71 had an abysmal growth rate of 0.63 per cent. A seemingly anomaly to it is Maharashtra with a very high riot incidents of 8.14, was also being one of the highest growth states with 4.64 per cent SDP growth. However, its poor peace record is because of a single communal riot in 1992, while otherwise it had been largely peaceful. The same is true in the case of Gujarat. Therefore, even though in large periodicity of about 15 years one riot had caused dent in its peace record.

It gets far more important for our policy makers to consider peace keeping efforts as a vital part of economic growth. A riot or a violent turmoil creates negative externalities for the state and nation at large, thus decreasing the investor confidence and investment in the state. Even a small businessman would be able to explain the loss he/she faces because of one day shut down during these scenarios. Riots not only create one day economic loss but also leave the entire society and business paralyzed for weeks and even months and lingers in minds for a lifetime.


Thursday, August 16, 2012


Power generation failed to keep pace with economic growth

Around 600 million people mostly in north, east and northeast India could not immune themselves from the massive power failure, which is touted as the biggest failure of the decade. Whatever be the cause – be it a failed power reform or a tired UPA's abandoned former mantra of development – the big banner media coverage of the power grid failure is only a continuation of common man's daily struggle. Th e power outage to them is only a few hours of excess than other days, as it is a perennial problem in most parts of India.

The bottom line of the problem is the poor showing of the State Electricity Boards and dearth of reforms in power distribution that can portend a situation of losses touching up to 1.2 per cent of India's nominal GDP by March 2014. With no effort to stem the crisis, the losses rose in FY 2010 to 0.9 per cent, a significant jump from 0.6 per cent in FY 2006. Th e losses are accumulating because the power generation has failed to keep pace with our economic growth. It is paradoxical that electricity generation has experienced a draw-down in the liberalised era from its previous period. In the period 1980-81 to 1990-91 the power generation grew by impressive 124 per cent, only to be blunted by the ill-effects of much reduced growth in the next decade by mere 58 per cent, and then followed by an augment of 75 per cent in the first decade of this century. Accordingly, a similar consumption trend prevailed.

The populist government largesse has put the SEB's under siege with a combined debt of Rs 200,000 crores. Th ere are states, like Punjab, which provide free electricity to the farmers, raises important policy questions. Where are these subsidies coming from? Shockingly, it's not coming from states' exchequer – which should have been the case – but from the coffers of SEBs – turning them into junks that cannot be easily salvaged. Even in the farm sector, the consumption proportion is falling (31.4 per cent in 1998-99 to 21 per cent in 2010) because of frequent power cuts and erratic supply. Th erefore even with the free gift s rolled out, the farmers and the farm sector remains in the same pedestal. Further, annual power theft of Rs 30,000 crores buries the chances of power revitalisation and recovery of the SEBs. India's failure trail had started from 1951 itself (from the time India declared its energy policy) and it would be surreal to know that China have increased its power generation more in last five years than what India could do ever since 1951! Our policy makers must be held accountable for the power plants lying idle because of dearth of fuel. In fact, more than 10,000 MW capacities of power plants have taken a back seat because there is no fuel. Consequently, year after year India falls short of its target production and capacity. It faces, on an average, peak hour deficit of about 13.5 per cent compelling it to buy power from Bhutan.

In spite of India's high-sounding goals of increasing power generation, its implementation and capacity building have let the nation down. Th e stonewalling is done mainly due to bureaucratic entanglements, fund misappropriation, and environmental impediments. India's main driver of power production viz coal is in short supply causing further delays in its endeavour to capacity enhancements. It is, in fact, one more category of governmental dysfunction. And in the aftermath of the recent blackout, policy makers need to realise that there is long way to go before we can be called a great power.


Thursday, August 9, 2012


State police has failed miserably in controlling riots

Imposing social stability, justice and communal peace is the most important role of any state police force. However, perennially, Indian police force has shown their incapability in containing and addressing any major upheaval with respect to peacekeeping measures in their respective states. It goes without saying that in case of a riot it must protect the unarmed, disarm the armed, the perpetrator must be brought to books and victims must be properly rehabilitated. However, this seems to be world away in case of India, and most police forces have been failing to protect a peace plan in an engineered riot!

In the recently held riots in Assam, the Bodos’ formidable reputation justified by a series of swarm attacks on Bangladeshi immigrants could not be tackled by the police. They were simply not geared up to handle violence of this nature! The police imposed curfew, but the attackers openly flouted them. The headlines were created by such violence as the rioters armed with guns, machetes and sticks continued with their mayhem with police standing helpless as mere spectators. Finally, the Assam government had to deploy about 1,000 soldiers from the Army to bring the situation under control. There were allegation that no police visited the rehabilitation camps which are languishing in dearth of food, medicines and other essential supplies.

The communal clash in Kosi Kalan town in Mathura district, just preceding Assam violence, is another embarrassing reminder of police inefficiency. The large scale vandalism, destruction and damage to properties to the tune of Rs.50 crores crippled the town with no ‘timely’ strong measures from the police to control the same. In fact, the situation in Kosi Kalan spiraled out of control mainly because of delayed police action, which otherwise could have been prevented. Two decades ago a similar happening took place in Mumbai which had all the makings of a horror movie with 900 people dying in the incident. Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry into the riots revealed the ineffective and simply not up to the mark police’s role to combat the violence. The police were largely apathetic failing to leave their appointed posts, even during emergency calls. Same goes in the case of Meerut riots of 1982. N.C. Saxena who inquired into Meerut riots of 1982 had similar story to narrate about police’s role into the incident. Aligarh riot in 1971 paints the same picture.

In the 3 major post-independent riots (the Delhi riots against Sikhs in 1984, the post-Babri Masjid riots in 1992 and the Gujarat mayhem in 2002), the role of police has been quite unsatisfactory and in all these incidences, the state machinery had to rely on Army or specialised forces to gain control over the situation. However, the army which comes for the rescue takes time for their deployment with their little knowledge of geography and the prevailing situation, which often becomes a hindrance for them to put the situation back to normal.

The situation handling exercise echoes the utter failure of state machinery that foretells the unnecessary loss of lives and properties. It is imperative for the state government to train their police force and equip them with right tools to control such situation. Going further, the state police should develop a special task force for such SOS situation. Or else, the army would have to forgo their tasks, to take up the responsibilities which the state should independently handle.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


Regularising illegal colonies has economical and political benefits

Illegal colonies have become not only a problem for dwellers but a huge concern for urban development. Not only these colonies are denied of basic amenities, but also are excluded from the developmental schemes. After years of running around, the Centre has finally given a nod, in the backdrop of broader economic impact to regularise around 1200 colonies of Delhi.

However, things don’t appear as simple as it reads. There was an impression that 40 lakh people in the Congress stronghold were taken for a ride by halting the regularisation of their colonies. Moreover, there was scant development work that accompanied the non-approval in these impoverished localities. Albeit provisional regularisation certifi cates (PRCs) have been issued to 1,200 colonies, not more than 44 illegal ones have been regularised yet. However, the process is on, with 1018 colonies’ boundaries have already been finalised and regularisation certificates will be distributed within the next few months. It does not end here – the sore point of noninclusion the localities from developmental work and providing basic amenities will end – and these areas will be included in the city’s civic map. Almost one-third of Delhi’s population lives in the illegal colonies which no longer are faced with the chance of getting demolished. With regularisation, real estate boom is expected in these localities as the property owners now can buy and sell their properties drawing curtains to their pressing economic worries. In the same lines, Haryana government has vowed to regularise 1,000 odd illegal colonies across the urban centres of the state. It’s not only the restoration, but provision for the best amenities that are the high priority areas for the state government. The Municipal Corporations have set aside sizeable amount for roads, water supply, schools, healthcare, transport, even firefighting and police posts in these localities. The state exchequer will be delved for the expenses, even though the fund would be raised through indirect taxes from the people of the state.

The regularisation of unauthorised colonies seems to be a very potent vote catcher. Parkash Singh Badal knew it too well when he announced his regularisation drive that was the tipping point ahead of this year’s assembly election, that he won. The decision was taken in December by the incumbent government – chaired by him – where he declared that local municipal institutions will curve out identification and demarcation process which will be followed by regularising them and their development programmes will be treated at par with other localities. However, the regularisation endeavour of Punjab government has a catch and a price! The property holders in the unlawful colonies have to pay a development charge of 75 per cent of the property price in exchange for restoring legality of the colonies. It also restates that at least a majority of the owners must deposit the charge for the government to extend the facility. Predictably, there are very few takers to this proposal. The people residing in the illegal colonies form a major chunk of votes, too precious for the incumbent governments to loose. Bhupender Singh Hooda and Parkash Singh Badal realised it too well, and so did Sheila Dixit – all hell bent on speeding up the infrastructural development in the areas where the illegal colonies are located. It is a trend line in which regularisation of unauthorised colonies remains the dominant force behind the campaigns.