Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Ubiquitous Chair - OoP Chairs - continued

I did discuss in one of my previous publications the Office of Profit chairs which some of our Parliamentarians hold. As expected, there seem to be a deal between the Prime Minister and the President resulting in his signing on the dotted lines in the Bill to suit the Parliamentarians on the one hand and on the other constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to discuss the suggestions made by the President. The purpose is served. The MPs can continue to enjoy the OoP as before and there will be more than enough time before the JPC submits its report. In any case what is JPC? It is again the same type of gentlemen – you scratch my back and I will scratch your back. The result of the JPC may be to include even more number of Offices so that every MP can have another OoP chair. Instead of all this fun, it is best if the Constitution of India is amended to indicate that every MP can occupy as many chairs as he pleases. Nothing wrong. In any case they do not seem to draw enough salary and perks as MPs which has resulted in the recent Cabinet approval to increase their salaries and perks. To stretch the argument further, it is perhaps better that every Political Party writes a Constitution of India afresh, put it before the public, and let the public choose. Better still we do not have a well written Constitution but have a one line constitution “government of the party, by the party and for the party” so that whichever party that comes to power can handle the affairs without arguments and counter arguments. It is perhaps increasingly becoming clear that the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India are the only two who can control the alarming decisions of our Parliament and its occupants.

More to follow....

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Ubiquitous Chair - continued

A friend of mine to whom I referred the blog and with whom I discuss occasionally, has the following to offer:

Public opinion is supreme for democracy. Democracy is organization of opinion as against other forms of government, which are organizations of power. Public opinion should not be confused with popular opinion. Public opinion most often is not unique or single. Often these opinions reflect interests of the groups that express them. Media takes the responsibility of giving publicity to various opinions. Debates must be organized on various opinions, either by media or by government involving experts (impolitic) in the appropriate disciplines.

Will try to add....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

the ubiquitous chair - continued

Chair Superior – Here, I am trying to find out who sits in this chair? The law enforcement authority? The lawmakers? Who is it, with reference to the Constitution of India, that can and should sit in this chair? Or is there no such Chair? I am not trying to interpret the Constitution of India but only trying to highlight the debate as reported by the media quite frequently – in the name of constitutional crisis.

Parliamentarians say that Parliament is supreme and the courts should not interfere, to amply confirm that it is their prerogative to amend the constitution at their will. It may be a fact that since they are the elected representatives of the people, they are bestowed with the powers to amend the Constitution. But did they tell the people when they seek votes that they are going to do so many things to protect the people by bringing in amendments to the Constitution in Parliament when they come to power? If they have not put before the people their thinking or their ideas and their wish list and when such amendments are not debated openly before the public or through the media, how can they amend the constitution? Who has given them the right? Obviously they assume such rights once they come to power. It is true that the opposition party can raise questions in the Parliament when any amendments are discussed but then they are all birds of the same feather, aren’t they? Also when the ruling party or parties command the required numbers to pass an amendment, where is the question of dissent?

Secondly, Parliamentarians say that they are the lawmakers, or so describe the media. For argument, if the lawmakers themselves are lawbreakers, who can sit judgment? Assuming a problem is posed to the Supreme Court to obtain clarity with reference to a constitutional crisis, such matters go before a constitution bench to give judgment. Does this mean, the judgment pronounced by the learned bench is sacrosanct? If such a judgment is not to the liking of the ruling party, another amendment will be passed by the Parliament?

What is the role of the President? Has he to simply sign any papers sent to him, if not the first time, the second time? If that is so why there should be a President? Why not such matters be referred to the Supreme Court instead of to the President. President has no way of showing his dissent?

All the above may be apprehensions not necessarily to be answered or debated. May be the matters are not as serious as they appear to be. However, doubts remain as doubts unless clarity is available.

More to follow....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Prestige Chairs

There are several prestigeous chairs, some real, some imaginary, some just for satisfying one's ego. A few of them are attempted here. All the same they too are Chairs.

Autonomy Vs Autocracy has been a subject of the current media highlight, the parties involved being the Health Ministry and AIIMS. The ignition for the fight having been provided by the HRD Ministry bringing in Mandal-2 for the have-nots(?) in higher educational institutions. Egos seem to rule the roost keeping aside the principles, natural justice, commitment by the government in the form of social justice, and commitment of the one of the highest health institutions which provides everything from research, education and practice in health sciences. When the justice intervenes and provides judgement in favour of the government, that will yield votes for the ruling party. On the other hand, if the judgement is in favour of the autonomy of the institution, the government will push down the throats of the institution all such policies which are dear to the vote catching formulae (whether they are right or wrong) through legislation, amendments to the constitution and so on. In any case the victor is the ruling party of the day - the rulling chair.

The Corporate Chairs: Dhirubhai Ambani built the Reliance empire from scratch. He died and the Chair became vacant. Then started the misunderstanding or what have you that resulted in slicing the Chair through the middle vertically. The chair which had four legs is now with eight legs, the inevitable two Chairs, each of the brothers satisfied with the division of properties brokered by another industrialist. The investors too did not lose faith in the industry irrespective of who heads which wing and kept the banner flying high. Here, perhaps there is no loser other than a bit of entertainment for the media. Here too the reason for the Chair seems to be simple – ego and/or one-upmanship.

Chair of the Champions: The Wimbledon Championship Chair is one which I very passionately adore. I have been either listening to the radio when TV was not everybody’s living room item in India or subsequently viewing the play on TV. I simply love John McEnroe for his play, tantrums on the court and his competitive spirit. I liked to watch several others too like Pete Sampras who is by far the best player in those days. Earlier to his period, Ivan Lendl was another whose endurance was great but never won a Wimbledon while he won all the other grand slam matches. When the end of his time with tennis was on the horizon, he seems to have said “grass is for girls”. There is only one Indian among the tennis players whom I respect most – Vijay Amrithraj, a gentleman to the core on and off the court. My personal view for what it is worth is that there is no parallel to Vijay Amrithraj in Indian tennis. There was a hint in recent times that there was a match-fixing in Wimbledon tennis which I don’t believe and if it is conclusively proved, I would be one among those who would be very disappointed. As of now, the Wimbledon Championship Chair is the one I love most.

More to follow....

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Rocking chairs - continued

An attempt has been made here to briefly analyse the problem in a different perspective as quite frequently some of these luminaries mention that the salaries provided to the research scientists in government institutions are inadequate and not comparable to the salaries offered by private bodies such as IT industry. Did some one really try to find out the kind of security enjoyed by the government employees? Does the government have a policy of hire and fire? What has been the government doing with non-productive scientists/researchers other than giving them periodic promotions, sending them abroad for attending seminars/conferences. Is there really a difference in their promotional policies to differentiate good from bad/indifferent scientists/researchers. These are perhaps debatable. How can they compare themselves with the IT industry which is earning billions of dollars and creating wealth both for themselves as well as to the personnel employed by them. Their success is measured, their quality of work is tested by their clients, efficiency is appreciated and inefficiency is shown the door. One thing may be certain, but for the establishment of research laboratories, unemployment may have been even higher. At the same time one has to agree that a fair amount of infrastructure has been provided for the really good scientists to do research who made a name for themselves. It is true that the government pays little in terms of salaries to their employees in the research laboratories, however one has to deeply ponder but for these research laboratories what would have been the fate of the student body coming out of academic institutions. These views could easily be disagreed but they are views all the same.

More to follow.....

Rocking chairs - continued

Rocking Chair draws my attention to the recent lamenting by the Chairman of the SAC-PM. I wonder if some one was trying to rock his Chair? I have been hearing for decades now the inability or insensitiveness of successive governments for providing enough funds for academic and research institutions. The last nail in the coffin by the Chairman of SAC-PM is of course his statement as reported in the media - “science is dying”, “I am really worried”, “I am saddened that the best of us in government and public affairs may only consider science as a budget item, possibly as a non-productive expenditure”. Be that as it may, has SAC-PM or any other sacred body assessed what has been the output of the academic institutions or research laboratories? Has it been commensurate with the inputs so far made? Yes, the academic institutions are churning out student body year after year thereby the country has become very rich in producing high caliber scientists and research professional but what is the product development commensurate with the inputs provided to the research institutions or research laboratories of the government? How many of the so called patents that have been filed have really been utilized by the industries and how many of the so called scientific/technical papers that the research institutions are producing are referred to by the academic/researchers elsewhere in the world. Is the number of such papers commensurate with the number of scientists/researchers employed by the government. Incidentally how many of the research papers have been published in reputed journals say Nature, Scientific American or similar well referred journals from Britain? What is perhaps important is quality and just not just quantity. If the answers are negative, there is a problem with the governance of the institutions or policies, or if positive, what are the results in terms of products and what is the value. Some statistical data in terms of input versus output may be worthwhile lookiing at. But for the fact that a large number of students have found placement with the information technology industry, what would have been the fate of the large number of professionals coming out of the academic institutions? These are some questions that need to be looked into as well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

the ubiquitous chair - continued

The rocking chairs

For politicians, the Chairs keep rocking every time elections are announced. The causes of rocking keeps changing from time to time, some times it is ‘onions’, some other time it is ‘farmers suicide’, India shining, and so on but never on mundane things like better education, better infrastructure, better quality of life, control of corruption, etc. Heavier subjects like ‘mandal, ‘masjid’, minorities, etc. bring in handful dividends in the form of number of seats won in elections. Once elections are over and a government is put in place, every politician tries to rock every other politician’s chair, some times same-side goal. To keep their chairs in tact, the phrases such as ‘law will take its own course’ and when the legal luminaries in the courts find fault with any government functioning or any outwitting of law of the land, they conveniently express ‘regret’ ‘unfortunate’ and so on but never really regret. Presidential references too some times pushed down his throat in the name of collective wisdom – again to keep their Chairs in tact.

More to follow

the ubiquitour chair - continued

One very important chair associated with only one name:

Here is another Chair. The Congress Chair proudly owned by the Gandhis' minus the father of the nation who probably never had a chair to call his own. But, for the rest of them, the name ‘Gandhi’ launches a thousand chairs in Congress which are perhaps the strongest, unbreakable, and uncompromising chairs in the world. There is a slight difference of course, the earlier occupants of the chair more often said “foreign hand” for any and every man-made calamity. This phrase has stopped now. I wonder what happens if the Gandhis’ migrate to another country? May be no Gandhi, no Congress!

Still to come..

the ubiquitour chair - continued

To continue with the chair saga further:

Let us look at some of the very senior Scientists of the country. Some of these gentlemen have brought glory to the country with their research work or by managing some of the very important research institutions. It is but natural that such people too should retire from service when they attain the age stipulated for retirement. However, some of these very important people, instead of pursuing research without occupying any specific chair, normally tend to convince the government into creating newer institutions so that these institutions have the necessary chairs for these senior scientists to occupy and continue to be important people in their own sphere of activity. Should we then say that these gentlemen too are politicians with a difference? Government of India is always starved of funds when it comes to funding the existing research institutions and academic institutions. However to keep these set of gentlemen in reckoning funds are provided to build institutions of their choice with the choice of researchers left to them. The Chairs are retained and their names continue to ring bells in learned circles lest they might be forgotten. There are other Chairs that keep popping up every time a retired scientist who has made a name for himself needs to be accommodated after retirement. Some of these are the positions of Vice Chancellors or some Chairs named after some eminent persons. Yet another avenue for these gentlemen is nomination as Members in the Upper House of Parliament. Thereby they become Parliamentarians but cannot play politics as other mortals elected or nominated do. Like these, there may be a number of achievers who keep looking for chairs of their choice. It is not that eminent scientists should not do research after their retirement, the irony is that they can not do so in the absence of a Chair. Is there a system deficiency in such matters?

My own chair – I enjoy occupancy

Incidentally, I too have retired from service but have no Chair. So I too occupy a Chair in my own home in front of a computer whenever I feel like and at other times relax quietly in one of the other convenient chairs mulling politics and amused at the way the news papers keep reporting some of the events that are described above. I like my Chair next only to the Chair I occupied for a number of years in the government. I am not a scientist and I do not envy those who are occupying the other Chairs.

Still to come....

the ubiquitour chair - continued

Double trouble – Office of Profit, Member of Parliament

Let us look at the recent happenings. Constitutionally in India, elected representatives are not supposed to occupy any other office of profit when they become Parliamentarians. However, many of our elected representatives be they from the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha have been occupying such offices of profit illegally. The current Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had to resign from the post of office of profit as well as she vacated the seat she won in elections. She re-contested and won the election as an MP is another matter. Both Houses of Parliament have tried to amend the constitution by bringing in a Bill which included quite a few institutions as exempt institutions in order to accommodate the current elected representatives to occupy both the positions, one as a Member of the Parliament and the other to hold on to the Chair which is described hitherto as Office of Profit. The President of India in his wisdom did create some ripples among the elected representatives by referring back the bill to the Cabinet for reconsideration with a few remarks, more importantly with reference to the clause of “amended clause to become retrospective” which only will enable the Members of Parliament to retain the seat as well as the Chairs they are occupying. The Cabinet however decided to place the bill before both the houses of Parliament without any changes, and with the majority it commands, with the interests of the MPs being not to lose their seats and the Chairs. If the Bill is defeated and if the Election Commission takes action as per the Constitutional provision, it is likely that the present UPA government will lose power and the elections may be round the corner. However as expected the Bill was not defeated. But the Chairs that the present team is occupying are so important for them, the bill in all probability will be sent back to the President for his assent without any changes. It remains to be seen how the President would prefer to deal with the situation. If he sits on the bill for considerable time, the Election Commission will have no choice but to take action on the complaints and the result will be reelections.

More to come.........

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Ubiquitous Chair

The chair is a very important item in one’s life. History has it that the kings fought to occupy neighbouring countries chairs (thrones) with large armies at their command and with the zeal to concur and rule. This fact remained history. In modern world annexation of neighbouring provinces (Iraq trying to annex Kuwait) has been attempted but timely intervention of the powers that be spoiled the attempt. There could be many such incidents in the history that precede the current writing.

The attempt now is confined to Indian Chairs. India’s own iron lady, the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, did manage to continue in her chair as the Prime Minister of India at a time when the rest of the country was trying to overthrow her government. This she achieved by declaring emergency in the country. This unprecedented action resulted in discussions across the country and, subsequently, she had to declare elections where she lost her hold on the chair, although briefly. She came to occupy the coveted Chair once again is a different matter altogether. All the same it shows the importance of the Chair.

This blog will first attempt to understand the Indian penchant for chairs and our own politicians’ keen deathgrip upon this simplest of all furnishings.

Still to come, some opinions of how many chairs one can occupy at the same time.