POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 27, 2015 AT 20:52 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 27, 2015 20:52 IST

With less than twenty-four hours to go for the presentation of the Union Budget, all eyes are set on the Finance Ministry and subsequently on the corporate honchos for their expert analysis. 

In 2014, Outlook studied what CEOs and the captains of industry have been saying about the budget over a period of five years. The period covered three finance ministers as well as two political dispensations. Funnily, it appears that "there's often little to distinguish between each of these pronouncements, filled up with catchphrases and blind praise, often completely divorced from economic reality."

A sample:

Chanda Kochchar

2014 "As the decisions and plans are executed, I am sure the country will move back to a robust growth path." FE
2013 "The budget balances near-term priorities and long-term growth drivers." IE
2012 "The budget is a pragmatic exercise aimed at growth and stability in the backdrop of the challenging year gone by." BS
2011 "It recognises the long-term growth drivers for the economy and seeks to strengthen them further." BS
2010 "The budget focuses on leveraging the strong fundamentals for growth while committing to better fiscal management." HT

And here's another: 

Deepak Parekh
Chairman HDFC

2014 "Overall, Arun Jaitley has made a good beginning and one looks forward to bolder is a budget on an even keel." ET
2013 "It is a pre-election year. Given these constraints, the FM has presented a sensible budget." TOI
2012 "The finance minister has assuaged the fears (of drastic measures) by presenting a reasonable, equitable and balanced budget." TOI
2011 Did not comment
2010 Did not comment

Needless to say, this leaves one wondering why the media gives so much importance to what India Inc has to say when they could just use what they said the previous year.

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 27, 2015 AT 20:52 IST, Edited At: Feb 27, 2015 20:52 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 26, 2015 AT 23:41 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 26, 2015 23:41 IST

Five days after Nobel laureate Amartya Sen withdrew his candidature for a second term as Chancellor of Nalanda University claiming that the Narendra Modi government does not want him to continue in the chair, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy demanded that he be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. On Tuesday, Feb 24, Swamy issued a statement against Amartya Sen and Nalanda University. 

Full text of the statement:

I demand for four reasons that the now retired Professor Amartya Sen be sacked from the Chancellor's post in the newly set up Nalanda University.

  • Sen though paid an annual salary of Rs.50 lakhs (in US $ tax free) is normally resident in USA, and comes to India briefly in the winter months free of charge First Class on Air India. His total emoluments is far in excess of the service he provides. 
  • The CAG Report on the expenses incurred for building construction of the University and perquisites of Prof. Sen and others for administering the University and the delay in meeting easy targets for construction, is full of irregularities and is, prima facie, of corruption.
  • The former President of India, Dr.Abdul Kalaam resigned from the post of Visitor of the University in 2011 in disgust, objecting to Sen's arbitrariness and malafide actions.
  • The nodal Ministry of External Affairs for the University, objected in writing to Sen's arbitrarily and opaque manner of appointing as Vice Chancellor Ms.Gopa Sabharwal, an Assistant Professor. i.e., a junior lady faculty member, from JNU. Full Professors refused to join under a much junior-faculty member as Vice Chancellor.
    The CAG in its Report had also objected to the appointment and the salary fixed for her.
  • In 2013-14, the Ministry of Finance also objected to the irregular way Sen was operating the large Special Dispensation Fund of the University. There was no transparency or accountability of the use of these funds
  • So far about Rs.3000 crores of tax payers money has been recklessly spent by Prof Sen, for which he has to be made accountable.

Hence I demand that the Government prosecute Prof. Sen and his chosen few under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and under IPC Sections 120B, 406 and 420 or face a PIL from me.

According to a report published in the Hindu, the Nalanda University has denied Swamy's claims:

Professor Sen has received "no salary whatsoever from Nalanda University." All his work for the university has been done in an honorary capacity, it said.

On Dr. Swamy's suggestion that Professor Sen flying to India free of cost by Air India was part of his "emoluments" for "the service he provides" to Nalanda, the university said that though Professor Sen sometimes does make use of his free Air India pass, this has nothing to do with Nalanda or its "emoluments". The free pass was a gift from the Government of India. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave it to Professor Sen to celebrate his Nobel Prize. 

On Dr. Swamy's reference to a "CAG Report on the expenses incurred for building construction of the University and perquisites of Professor Sen" which pointed to "irregularities and.... prima facie of corruption," the university said there has been no such observation in any CAG report. Also, Professor Sen does not receive any "perquisites" from the university.

The Nalanda university statement sought to clarify all the objections raised by Swamy in his statement.  

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 26, 2015 AT 23:41 IST, Edited At: Feb 26, 2015 23:41 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 23, 2015 AT 19:58 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 23, 2015 19:58 IST

In an exclusive interview, Professor Romila Thapar, noted historian and Professor Emerita of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi spoke to social activist Teesta Setalvad in her special show on Communalism Combat and Hille le TV.

Prof Thapar emphasised on the importance of questioning and said, "The  function of the public intellectual is to make knowledge accessible and protect it from distortion, it is essential that knowledge advances through questioning."

An author of path breaking approaches to history, from Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas to Past As Present: Forging Contemporary Identities through History, Professor Thapar said: "Our early Indian traditions were questioning and skeptical always testing knowledge through the prism of rationality, and today faced with the political challenges dictated by the current regime in Delhi, it is essential that we proudly claim this tradition and not succumb to pre-dominant, irrational discourse...Young persons must learn to understand that the very purpose of education is that we have an intelligent approach to knowledge gathering."

Prof Thapar also delves into the sensitive issues of the gender dimensions of history, critical thinking and the constant duality within the Indian tradition that Megasthenes described as the two parallel streams represented by the 'Brahmans' and the 'Shramans' which offers a complex understanding of our past that is invaluable.

She also discusses Asoka’s Dhamma and the Kalinga War, the great monarch and his relationship with the people and the true historiography behind the narrative of the Somnatha temple and its destruction.

"The need of the hour in India is for a real History of Science to be attempted. This is needed to ensure that real achievements from early India are explored not as irrational claims but in understanding how true knowledge in all fields emerged from deep observation and evolved with rigorous scientific testing," said Thapar.

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 23, 2015 AT 19:58 IST, Edited At: Feb 23, 2015 19:58 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 21, 2015 AT 20:41 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 21, 2015 20:41 IST

Ya Rabb actor, Arjumman Mughal, seems rather upset with veteran lawyer Ram Jethmalani and late Kishore Kumar's wife Leena Chandavarkar's much talked about liplock at the Hum Log awards this week. Here is why.

According the Mughal, the 'controversial' lip lock diverted attention from the awards.

A release from a publicist says:

And just as we wonder whether the actress is serious or joking, she almost justifies the kiss. "It was cute and just a way of greeting each other. Maybe, he wanted to kiss her cheek, and missed," winks Arjumman.
The actress feels that Twitterati is jumping all over the so-called 'liplock' giving it more attention than it deserves. But she also defends it saying, "Where is it written that male testosterone is the prerogative of hot and happening Bollywood stars." True that!

Looks like Ram Jethamalni's obsessive celeb kissing is causing much stir. Perhaps even jealousy?

Why, once upon a time, he also kissed Dharmendra:

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FILED IN:  Kiss|Levity|Ram Jethmalani
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 21, 2015 AT 20:41 IST, Edited At: Feb 21, 2015 20:41 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 21, 2015 AT 00:33 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 21, 2015 00:33 IST

Amazon and Flipkart are at war again which as usual, is making quite a scene on Twitter

This began as a fun tweet showing Amazon's carton at Flipkart's front desk.  

Flipkart's explanation was: 

Amazon was quick to retort:

Let's see how this battle untimately unfolds. But for now, our controversy-loving tweeple seem to be deriving as much fun as they can out of this battle between the two most prominent e-commerce giants in India.

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Feb 21, 2015 AT 00:33 IST, Edited At: Feb 21, 2015 00:33 IST
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