Monday, 17 February 2014

INDIA and Reformation in United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

What is United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

The UN Charter established six main organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council. It gives primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security to the Security Council, which may meet whenever peace is threatened.
According to the Charter, the United Nations has four purposes:
  • to maintain international peace and security
  • to develop friendly relations among nations
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.
All members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.

Maintaining Peace and Security

When a complaint concerning a threat to peace is brought before it, the Council’s first action is usually to recommend that the parties try to reach agreement by peaceful means. The Council may:
  • set forth principles for such an agreement
  • undertake investigation and mediation, in some cases
  • dispatch a mission
  • appoint special envoys
  • request the Secretary-General to use his good offices to achieve a pacific settlement of the dispute.
When a dispute leads to hostilities, the Council’s primary concern is to bring them to an end as soon as possible. In that case, the Council may:
  • issue ceasefire directives that can help prevent an escalation of the conflict
  • dispatch military observers or a peacekeeping force to help reduce tensions, separate opposing forces and establish a calm in which peaceful settlements may be sought.
Beyond this, the Council may opt for enforcement measures, including:
  • economic sanctions, arms embargoes, financial penalties and restrictions, and travel bans
  • severance of diplomatic relations
  • blockade
  • or even collective military action.
A chief concern is to focus action on those responsible for the policies or practices condemned by the international community, while minimizing the impact of the measures taken on other parts of the population and economy. [UNSC Website]

Structure of UNSC 

Permanent and Non Permanent Members

The Council is composed of 15 Members:

  • Five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States. (We will further call them P5).They have the power to "veto" any substantive resolution; this allows a permanent member to block adoption of a resolution, but not to prevent or end debate.
  • Ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly (with end of term date):
    • 5 - Afro Asian Region
    • 2 - Western Europe
    • 1 - Eastern Europe
    • 2 - Latin America

Non Council Member States

More than 60 United Nations Member States have never been Members of the Security Council.

A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that that country's interests are affected. Both Members and non-members of the United Nations, if they are parties to a dispute being considered by the Council, may be invited to take part, without a vote, in the Council's discussions; the Council sets the conditions for participation by a non-member State.

Need for a Reform in the Council


In 1945, at the time of inception UN had 55 members. And UNSC had 11 members.
Thus around 22% were members of both UN as well as UNSC.

On a contrary today, UN has 194 members. And UNSC has only 15 members.
Thus the percentage fall down to 8%.

This shows that there is a need of a reform in terms of representation of all the nations in the world.


If we look at P5, they are developed nations with an exception of China. They were the nations who won the WW II. Geographically the area they cover is less or rather there are lot of nations which do not have a direct representation in the Council which utmost requires a change.


UNSC was formed in 1945 after World War II, so while establishment a clause called "Enemy Clause" was put and the nations who lost the war were in it. Namely Italy, Japan and Germany. This clause states that the countries listed in this clause cannot ever become the member of UNSC. 

Now the times have changed, with so much development of diplomacy, there is need of a reform in this clause.

In 1945, after the war was over, INDIA was asked to join the UNSC but we declined it as the policy makers of that time felt that growth of India as a nation is much more important as it has just gained its Independence. They preferred to focus on the issues which India was going through rather than participating at World Politics.

Legal Hurdles 

  • 2/3rd majority of the UN members should pass the resolution and ratify in their respective Parliament.
  • All P5 members should agree.

Basis to become a Permanent Member in the Changed Era

  • Global weight of the Nation
    • The respective country should be able to influence the World Politics
  •  Contribution in World Peace
India fulfills both the conditions to be nominated as a Permanent Member in UNSC as it does influence the World Politics up to a great extent in Afro Asian region. India's contribution in World Peace is very well known to all the nations and it has been largest contributor of Peace Keeping Forces in various parts of the world. It is high time that P5 and other members of UN acknowledges India for its righteous demands.

Challenges Today To Bring Reforms In The Council

  • Members (Composition of the Council)

India has been elected seven times to the UN Security Council. Only three countries have served longer than that (Japan, Brazil, and Argentina), except for the Permanent Five, and Colombia has served the same amount of time.

India has been seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council as a member of the G4, an organisation composed of Brazil, Germany, Japan, and India, all who are currently seeking permanent representation. According to their proposal the UN Security Council should be expanded beyond the current fifteen members to include twenty-five members. If this actually happens, it would be the first time permanent Security Council status is extended to a South Asian nation and supporters of the G4 plan suggest that this will lead to greater representation of developing nations rather than the current major powers. 

This countries makes a number of claims to justify their demand. Let us see cases for each of this nations -

  1. India
  • 1/6th Population of the World or the Second Largest Population
  • 3rd Largest Economy in terms of Purchasing Power and 10th Largest Economy in World
  • Largest Liberal Democracy
  • Nuclear Power
  • Largest Contributor of Peace Keeping Force
    • India is the largest contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions with 7,860 personnel deployed with ten UN Peacekeeping Missions as of 2014 after Bangladesh and Pakistan, all three nations being in South Asia. India has contributed nearly 160,000 troops, the largest number from any country, participated in more than 43 missions and 156 Indian peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice while serving in UN missions. India has also provided and continues to provide eminent Force Commanders for UN Missions. 
  • Largest Contributor of Technical Members in other Organs of UN
 Major Opposition -
  • Pakistan - Primarily it believes that if India becomes a Permanent Member will Veto out Pak's all proposals. It is the one nation which specifically opposes India's candidacy.
  • China - Today China is only in P5 from the Aisa region, thus it maintains it dominance over the whole region specifically Aisa and Gulf Region. It seeks not to lose this Status.
  • Indonesia - Indonesia is the largest country in ASEAN and maintains its dominance and influences the decision of the group. It says that India is not able to take its Independent decisions or stand in various matters of World Politics. So it would be able to take sound decisions if it becomes a permanent member. Thus it believes that India is not apt to join Permanent Members of the Council. Recently India took a unbiased stand in matter of Seria which shows that India is changing its image of the nation who does not take one sided non-diplomatic decisions and stand in matters of World Politics. 

India is seeking support from G 77 (A organization formed by group of 77 small island nations) in return to represent them at the UNSC if India gets elected as the Permanent member.

      2.  Japan
  • 4th Largest Economy
  • 2nd Largest Contribution in terms of funds at UN 

It is mainly opposed by China as there are several disputes between to nations regarding property of land.

Thus, Japan, along with India, are considered the most likely candidate for two of the new permanent seats. China has stated that it was ready to support India's move for a permanent seat on the UNSC if India did not associate its bid with Japan. This may be contrary to the Indian stand since Japan and India are both members of the G4 and support each other's candidature. Japan has been elected to the Security Council for ten terms as a non-permanent member.

     3.  Germany
  • 3rd Largest Contributor to UN's Regular Budgets.

Germany has been elected to the Security Council as a non-permanent member three times as a unified state, as well as three times when it was divided (twice for the West, once for the East).

If Germany gets a Permanent seat at the council, then it would lead to Over Reformation as France and UK which already being in P5 will turn all Europe in! They would then over influence the decisions of the council. 

The better way to bring it in would be by replacing France and UK with European Union (EU). Germany being a developed nation also falls against it in this claim.

      4.  Brazil
  • Brazil is the largest country in Latin America in terms of population, GDP and land area. It has the fifth largest population, seventh largest GDP.
  • 11th largest defence budget in the world.
  • 5th largest by physical size. It is one of only five countries that ranks among the top ten globally in terms of physical size, population, and GDP – the others being the United States, Russia the People's Republic of China, and India all permanent members of the UNSC except for India, which is in G4. 
  • It has contributed troops to UN peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East. 
  • Brazil is one of the main contributors to the UN regular budget. 

Brazil has been elected ten times to the Security Council. Prior to the UN's founding in 1946, Franklin D. Roosevelt lobbied for Brazil to be included on the Security Council, but the UK and the Soviet Union refused. 

The greatest impediments to its candidacy are the regional oppositions of both Mexico and Argentina, two important countries in Latin America.

Majority population of Brazil is Portuguese  speaking, and rest of the countries in Latin America are Spanish speaking. Thus they argue that how can a Portuguese speaking nation represent a Spanish community.

  • Size of the Council

The size of the council cannot exceed some particular number of members otherwise it would become extremely difficult to take decisions within the council. 

  • Veto Power

This goes in the relation with the size of the Council. As there are more Permanent members, all of them will have Veto Power which will make it very difficult for the council to come to a consensus as someone might always Veto out proposals from different countries.

India as said that it will not take the Veto Power for first 10 years if it is elected as Permanent member at the council.

The UN Security Council reform, being debated since two decades is too long overdue and the necessary expansion must be made considering how much world has changed.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

General Elections 2014 - Able Prime Minister Candidate

The biggest determinant in our lives is culture, where we are born, what the environment looks like. But the second biggest determinant is probably governance, good governance or a certain kind of governance makes a huge difference in our lives. 
                                                                                                Nicolas Berggruen 

The 2014 elections for the central government have charged the air all over. The most debated question is Who will be next Prime Minister of India?

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) have announced Mr Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat as their PM candidate and in response to BJP, Congress has their mascot as Mr. Rahul Gandhi as their PM Candidate which was very well said by Dr Manmohan Singh that under leadership of Congress we look up to Rahul as next Prime Minister. 
The both the candidates have delivered a speech recently, Narendra Modi at SRCC, Delhi. His speech was focused on the development of the nation alone arguing that "Focus on developing India, and secularism will flow in". He thumped on sound governance and growth with Gujarat in the context. NM gave his formula as P2G2 [Pro People, Good Governance] which could be applied to whole of India. Sound Governance is the answer for India as projected by Mr. Modi.  
Mr. Rahul Gandhi's speech at CII Summit surrounded on Inclusive growth and harmony. Rahul Says, “Our economic vision must be about more than money. It must be about compassion. We must envision future of India that leaves no man or woman outside in the shadows. Embracing the excluded is essential to growth of India. These will the face of compassionate India. India will only move forward with inclusive growth that embraces everyone and is open and attainable to everyone. When you play politics of alienating communities, you stop the flow of movement of people and ideas and we all suffer. For me the greater danger is excluding people, excluding the poor, middle class, dalits. Anger, hatred and prejudice do not contribute to growth. ”Thus Mr. Gandhi states that Inclusive Growth is the answer for India.

Is the comparison between Narendra Modi's speech and Rahul Gandhi's vision fair? Both of them talk on totally different perspectives of nation’s growth. Rahul Gandhi is young, untained and is being seen as sincere, gritty and focused. At the same time he is a reluctant leader. Narendra Modi on the other hand is charismatic, mass leader, workaholic to the core, obsessed with development of Gujarat. 

Narendra Modi has the experience of first hand governance of serving the people being the Chief Minister of Gujarat for about 10 years. His policies are based on what he has analyzed. Whereas Rahul Gandhi does not have any first hand governance experience of serving the people other than UP and Bihar elections, so there may be no basis of what he has to say. Narendra Modi is charismatic and a very good orator and his PR skills always keep him in the news forefront whereas Rahul Gandhi does not speak his views publicly. When opposition targets Rahul, they say they do not know about his views on the critical and important issues that are dominant in news at that time. We need to hear more from Rahul Gandhi, What he believes in? What he stand for? Many People argue that Rahul has come from such a dynasty with the Gandhi name (born with a silver spoon), because of which his political journey became easy. I feel that this point of comparison is total bogus. It is been said that NM is a pan leader who has made himself of what he is today by what he has done which is not totally true as Modi even comes from a dynasty that is RSS! At the same time the history confirms that dynasty rather Gandhi Family does not affect elections. So arguments of Rahul being a member of Gandhi family going against him are not at all valid. 

Narendra Modi marked in his speech that the Gujarat model with the motive of implementation in whole of India which is not at all feasible. As the economic growth of Gujarat is over the edge with other states is not because of only good governance. But also because of various castes in the state who are very mercantile like Ambanis, Tata, and lot more. So it is not possible to take out gujaratis from Gujarat and place it across India and make them grow there to increase economy. He even mentions that the milk available in Singapore, Tomatoes at Afghanistan and various other commodities available in other parts of world come from Gujarat. This is not at all authentic and makes no sense. For educated people who believe this should go back to college and study bit more. Thus everything happening in Gujarat, the credit cannot go to Modi.

Narendra Modi has to cross three concentric circle of acceptance. 1. Within his own Party 2. Within NDA 3. Popular mandate in the country. 
In his speeches he seems to be more strategic, a PR agent and polarizing figure rather than a true leader who is more compassionate and humble. Campaigning on the basis of development alone will not pull down the baggage which he carries of 2002 riots is very critical as it is still unsolved and Gujarat CM has to confront it. Some may say that after 2002, there have been no other riots and only development has occurred in all sphere. So this 2002 incident should be forgotten and left behind. Yes we should get the riots behind us. Modi should condemn his minister who murdered 97 gujarati, that he has not done. He should stop persecuting the police officers who brought the lady to justice. It is He who can and has to put an end to this! Thus there is a moral question that there is larger humanitarian aspect which needs to be answered which shows what India represents.
Today in Gujarat the condition is not so good as it is being projected and talked about. If we follow the statistics and data, the HDI index is not so well. Even today tribal gujarat has high rates of poverty, malnutrition. The issues with the female child still prevail.It is same as any other state in the matter of fact that even in Gujarat we have to give chai pani to police and similar traffic as any other place. So what development are we talking about? Is it really holistic and equitable development? Who is the development for? If we look at the statistics, even before Modi's government Gujarat did progress. looking at the CAG report which mentions under valuation of land which attracted companies to foster in Gujarat.  
It is Hope and Aspiration that are being projected from Narendra Modi's campaign. Is it so that this hope and aspiration for the people of nation is talked only by Modi? Every leader and political party shows hope and gives aspiration to the people take it Mamta banerjee, tamil leaders, communist or Rahul speaks of sad things. Dr Manmohan Singh delivers a growth of 8.5%, was it not aspiration and hope?
Consider BJP with Modi and Congress with Rahul, as of now both of them are likely to get 150 seats. Question is that can Rahul's leadership make congress get more than 150. With BJP it is very clear that it needs 180 to 200 seats own its own. So finally can Rahul do 30 seats more or modi do it? Jury is out.

Rahul Gandhi is not tested yet in case of first hand governance, this could work in his favour in a way that he has the potential for Inclusive Development. As after becoming a PM, you do not work in isolation rather you work with other political parties and thus administrative experience would not be very important.(Barack Obama had the least senate experience)

For a voter if Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi be the final candidates for PM by next year, will have a choice if they want a more Inclusive man with no executive experience or a man with an experience of first hand governance.

In a nation like India which is multi religious and multi lingual, our political leaders should not have rough edges in their personality!

Jai Hind.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

RTI Amendment Bill 2013 - Compromised Right to Information!

For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.

                                                                                                                 -  Benjamin Franklin 

The Right to Information Act (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India "to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens". The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has its own act called Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to pro-actively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005.

Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second Schedule like IB,Directorate General of Income tax(Investigation), RAW, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID), and similar few more. The exclusion, however, is not absolute and these organizations have an obligation to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. Further, information relating to allegations of human rights violation could be given but only with the approval of the Central or State Information Commission.

Thus this act enables people of India to seek information about anything on going in the country from bodies which are directly or indirectly funded by Central Government and work for public interest. 

On June 3 Central Information Commission (CIC) issued an order to Union Cabinet, which held the six major political parties CongressBJPNCPCPI(M)CPI and BSP received subsidies from the exchequer and were thus answerable to the people under the RTI. The CIC, a quasi-judicial body, has said that six national parties are public authorities which have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government. The CIC had in its order held that this six national parties were required to appoint public information officers as they have the character of a public authority under the RTI Act. 

The order had evoked sharp reactions from political parties of non agreement  especially Congress which has been credited with bringing in the transparency law. The government or this political parties clearly show that they are not at all willing to be put under this act. Thus this led to Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013 was introduced on August 12 in the Lower House by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V Narayanasamy. The Union Cabinet had cleared the proposal to amend the Act to give immunity to political parties and negate a Central Information Commission order to this effect. 

It was UPA who responded by deciding to charge the law to negate CIC ruling, though on record senior ministers maintain the final decision on whether any bill is to be referred to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny rests with the Speaker, based on the views of different political parties, the government has informally conveyed that it wants the bill to be passed during the ongoing Monsoon session itself. This means the amendment to exempt political parties from the RTI could be discussed and passed by both Houses of Parliament before September 6. The amendment is likely to be discussed in Lok Sabha on monday. The government confidence is based on the fact that with the exception of the Trinamool Congress and the BJD, all other political parties are united in being kept out of the transparency act. 

This amendment is on its way with a rapid speed to become a law which obviously is not happening with  any other bills in the parliament. Why do this political parties need a shied from RTI act? They are representatives of people of India and sincerely work for public welfare then they are definitely answerable to the people. Many RTI activist have opposed the proposed amendments. 

" The principle of transparency of political financing is increasingly gaining international recognition. Instead of bucking this trend by amending the RTI Act, political parties in India must act on civil society’s demand for greater transparency in their affairs. This change of mindset is more than likely to restore people’s confidence in the political establishment. "

PS. Visit the Right to Information website and there is a quiz on RTI which everyone should          undertake.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Satyagraha - A Commentry

Satyagraha hits the theatres today! Prakash Jha has said that film is a dialogue with the youth of today. The director picked a rather new (as compared to last week's critically acclaimed  political thriller Madras Cafe) subject for Satyagraha. Prakash Jha's latest take on What Ails The Nation.

The movie shows the real time scenarios of the failing present system as a whole. Thus if it is happening in the real life, we not require a cinema version of it. Especially a version which doesn't add anything of significance to the narrative: it's all been-here-seen-this-and-that before.

Saibal Chatterjee writes for NDTV, "Prakash Jha's Satyagraha is a political film that, for all its well-meaning bluster, neither stings nor scalds. It fails to hit the core of the truth that it seeks," and further elaborates, "Unfortunately, Satyagraha barely skims the surface of a complex theme, leaving many a crucial question unanswered. As a result, it can hardly be expected to shake a vast nation and its somnolent rulers out of their torpor." 

Mahatma Gandhi may have been the original satyagrahi, but two years ago, there was Anna Hazare, the man who threatened an indefinite fast unless the government agreed to his demands to enact a law against corruption. The image of Anna is still so strongly etched that even when Amitabh Bachchan channels the Mahatma (a classic scene has Bachchan drape his arms around two young girls and walk, in almost the same pose as the Mahatma did, all those decades ago), we instantly think of the man who colonised Jantar Mantar. And when we see Ajay Devgn, who plays Amitabh Bachchan's trusty lieutenant, we think of Arvind Kejriwal, the man who has broken away and formed his party against corruption, and which is readying to fight the elections in 2014.

The various other scenes like boy setting himself afire and few more are taken from real life incidents.

When it comes to cinema, its truth is equally divided amongst the three monkeys - story, acting and direction. What the movie lost out in story and direction, it made up for with acting.

The characters in the film are well defined and justified with an exception of TV journalist Yasmin (Kareena Kapoor Khan), is most puzzling: is she an objective recorder of events for her TV channel, or a part of the crusade against corruption? She keeps criss-crossing the lines, depending on what the scene wants her to do. Devgn's part could have gone somewhere. As the guy of today who wants to use technology-driven social media — Facebook updates and Twitter posts fly thick and fast — to bring about change, but who is a pragmatist, even befriending the bad guys as a means to an end, Manav could have been a well-rounded character. But, after a few sketchy flourishes, he also reverts to type. And the end is chaos, very far from the non-violent satyagrah that the film propounds: gun-toting hooligans and cops run around the town, ending predictably in noble deaths and lectures on morality and goodness.

"A problem that has beset Jha's recent films is back to haunt Satyagraha as well. The principal characters do not converse like you and me. They make speeches from a rostrum. When they are not letting out hot air from a pedestal, they deliver grand statements of intent to each other and everyone within earshot. It is an approach that is better suited to street theatre than to the big screen." 

The film would have become interesting if the story had allowed for some nuance. A few more ups and downs in the characters as well as in the plot which went plain and sober most of the time, but this would may have made the movie bit complicated and who wants complications in a movie! 

In turn it left lot of questions unanswered. No doubt that the movie upbrings the issues which seek importance on a common man's grund, there had to be more into it than a abrupt and a calm ending.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara - A Commentary

I was 10 when Dil Chahta Hai was released. But I saw it much later. The movie marked one of the most important stages in my understanding of cinema. It gave me something that I had never seen before. It glorified friendship without romanticizing it, it chose banter and quick-wit over slapstick comedy and told a simple tale of three friends, without being a captive of comedy, romance or any other genres that were prevalent in Bollywood, with such effortless ease and honesty that the movie went beyond what any Hindi film had previously touched, it and remains, to this day, as one of my, if not the, all time favourite movies.

I am not sure if Farhan Akhtar gave us Dil Chahta Hai or Dil Chahta Hai gave us Farhan Akhtar but Hindi film industry would be indebted to both Dil Chahta Hai and Farhan Akhtar for giving it so many things it was deprived of till 2001.

Well, I am undoubtedly a fan of Farhan Akhtar and at the same time have always believed that Farhan could never touch within himself what he did while making that gem of a movie back in the day. However, he has been close to brilliance in Lakshya, experimental in Rock On and acceptable in Don. Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara, the movie this article is supposed to be about, is perhaps the closest he and his sister Zoya have come to the legend of Dil Chahta Hai but the comparison of, and the similarity between, the two movies would be the toughest challenge ZNMD would have to face.

The brilliance of the movie lies predominantly in its gentle character and lovely screenplay. The performances, along with the ravishing locales in Spain, embellish the movie to a spectacle. Farhan Akhtar is spontaneous, funny and a live wire as Imran, Hritik Roshan puts forth the best performance of his life after Lakshya to create an Arjun who is both stylish and materialistic for a reason. Abhay Deol's Kabir is not as fantastic as his other two friends but he adds an element of sobriety that compliments well to the crazy scenes created by the other two leads.

The adventure sports, especially free-falling, are awesome and really enthralling. One of the greatest achievements of the movie is that while the three friends look fascinating together and their humour is of the kind one can easily relate to, their personal stories and troubles - which we can call subplots - are captured with great care and grace. May it be Arjun's silence after meeting a quarantined part of himself after the sea-diving incident or Kabir's memory of a marriage proposal that happened by mistake, all the subplots are respected equally. Yet, the best to me was the one that features Imran's search for his real father. The meeting between Imran and his father Salman (played by Naseeruddin Shah with remarkable grace) is one of the most influential scenes in the movie.

The small flashbacks - a trademark Farhan Akhtar style - are used as effectively as always. Zoya Akhtar extends her talent from Luck By Chance (which itself was a good attempt) to direct with greater freedom. Imran's poetry, written by Javed Akhtar, appears at apt moments and reads very well to the poetic ear. Katrina Kaif looks beautiful as Laila and is marginally better than the dull actor she has usually been. Kalki is decent as Kabir's fiance. The music flows well through the movie. Dil Dhadkne Do and Senorita are particular nice tracks. The effect of Der Lagi Lekin is enhanced by its fantastic timing in the movie. The stallions running parallel to the vintage blue Mercedes seemingly compete with the beauty of the latter in that obscure, surrealistic, extravagant location in Spain.

Overall, ZMND offers a type of sanguinity that it can justify. It is an honest attempt to glorify life without glamourizing it senselessly just like the masterpiece of Dil Chahta Hai was in a certain way. Although Dil Chahta Hai still remains, and perhaps will always remain, the best movie Farhan Akhtar was part of, ZMND can very well come second, and being a Rahul Dravid is no small feat in a system where ranking starts from second.

Food Security Bill – Combating Hunger!

A huge percentage of the Indian population lives below the poverty line where getting one square meal a day is a challenge. The food security bill aims to satisfy this basic want and in that sense although it encourages welfare economics, the intention is noble. This is what would need to be weighed against other roadblocks.

Before we comment or discuss the bill, it is indeed very necessary to understand the Food Security Bill.

The Food Security Bill is a bill for consideration before the Government of India. The bill aims to provide subsidized foodgrain to around 67 percent (75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population) of India's 1.2 billion people. As per the provisions of the bill, beneficiaries would get rice at INR 3/kg, wheat at INR 2/kg, and coarse grains at INR 1/kg. These rates would be valid for three years. Every pregnant woman and lactating mother would get free meal during pregnancy till six months after child birth. They will also get a maternity benefit of INR 6,000 in installments. Children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years, the Bill guarantees an age-appropriate meal, free of charge, through the local anganwadi. For children aged 6-14 years, one free mid-day meal shall be provided every day (except on school holidays) in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided schools, up to Class VIII. Children who suffer from malnutrition will be identified through the local anganwadi and meals will be provided to them free of charge “through the local anganwadi”.
The Bill states that central and state governments “shall endeavour to progressively undertake” various PDS reforms, including: doorstep delivery of foodgrains; ICT applications and end-to-end computerisation; leveraging “aadhaar” (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries; full transparency of records; preference to public institutions or bodies in licensing of fair price shops; management of fair price shops by women or their collectives; diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS; full transparency of records; and “introducing schemes such as cash transfer, food coupons or other schemes to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements” as prescribed by the central government. In case of non-supply of foodgrains, states will have to pay food security allowance to beneficiaries.

The central government has pushed the Food Security Bill with amazing alacrity. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that rules India, has got the Bill passed by an ordinance, not through the usual parliament route. Within six months from the date of promulgation, the government will have to seek the approval of this Bill through parliament to avoid the ordnance falling through. 

NSSO surveys show that the proportion of hungry people fell from 15.3% in 1983 to 2% in 2004. By now, it is probably 1%. So, forget the notion that hungry Indians are crying out for cheap grain. No, per-capita consumption of cereals has fallen steadily in all income groups, including the poorest. They are shifting to superior foods: proteins, milk and tea.

Besides, the NDA launched the Antyodaya programme for the very poorest back in 2000, providing wheat at 2 and rice at 3 per kg. The Bill simply repeats the dose - nothing new at all for the poorest.

The main problem for the government is the resources for implementation of the bill. Can we produce such a large amount? Once the cheap food is available, people will consume more and more increasing the burden on supply side. Can we store such large quantities of food supply? India presently has provision only for 30 million tons but this act will need 60 million tons of storage. In order to meet the increased requirement of foodgrain for PDS, export of cereals should be stopped immediately. If basmati rice is to be exported, an equal amount of ordinary rice must be imported. It is highly unethical to export foodgrain when our own people are dying of starvation. And we congratulate ourselves on record foodgrain exports at a time when the per capita food availability at home is declining — and we lose money on every tonne that we export. 

Secondly, actual distribution cannot begin unless the eligible households are identified. The Bill does not specify criteria for the identification of households eligible for Public Distribution System (PDS) entitlements. The Central Government is to determine the state-wise coverage of the PDS, in terms of proportion of the rural/urban population. Then numbers of eligible persons will be calculated from Census population figures. The identification of eligible households is left to state governments. The allocation of foodgrains is arbitrary and is neither based on population nor poverty. The final results of the Socio-Economic and Caste Census will not be available for all the states, especially the larger states like UP, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, until the beginning of 2014.

Thirdly, The Bill encourages states to reform the PDS, including doorstep delivery of foodgrain, end-to-end computerisation; and leveraging "Aadhaar" (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries. The progress is extremely slow, though not in all states. Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan have undertaken state-level reforms by extending coverage, improving delivery and increasing transparency. The best results are seen in Chhattisgarh. Here, private dealers have been replaced by panchayats, commissions have been increased and more than 80 per cent of the families have been covered under the scheme (as opposed to only 40 per cent who are officially recognised as being Below the Poverty Line or BPL under the Central government). A regular monitoring and grievance redressal mechanism leads to swift action if foodgrain does not reach the people. The fear is, unless something miraculous happens to inject life and energy to the PDS, it will get bogged down under the bigger load to serve many more customers. The result will be chaos of catastrophic proportions.

Most importantly, buying such huge quantities of food at higher rates and selling them to consumers at very low rates will need government subsidies. Already the huge food subsidy has weighed down India’s public finances pushing the budget deficit to unmanageable proportions. When the Bill’s intended provisions are rolled out across India, the food subsidy burden of the government will jump three times. It will run to Rs. 125, 000 crores per year. Even a school boy would say that India simply does not have so much money. How will the government manage to keep the subsidized scheme going?

The BJP condemns the Bill as a pre-election gimmick. But it will surely fail. Many states already provide cereals more cheaply than the Bill. Tamil Nadu provides 20 kg of free rice to poor families. Other southern states provide rice at 1 per kg. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are going to have state elections, and all three now offer wheat or rice at 1 per kg. So, in several states, the additional subsidy of the Bill will not mean cheaper food for consumers, simply less subsidy at the state level. The Bill may mean cheaper cereals in some states, like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. But the Public Distribution System (PDS) is in terrible shape in these states. To the extent the PDS improves, the chief ministers will get the credit. 

So looking at this we understand that the bill may be brought on with a noble cause but need lot of reforms and a very strong planning commission in order for rightful implementation of the bill. Lets hope to watch if Rajya Sabha brings light to this aspects of the bill in its session.

In the ultimate analysis, the constraints to food security and hunger are rooted in bad policies, faulty design, lack of appropriate monitoring and evaluation, poor governance and lack of political will. Action is needed on all the fronts.