This refers to your cover story on money-laundering auditing firms, How They Make The Ledger Lie (Aug 14). Having such a high volume of retail investors in the country, it is imperative that adequate awareness is also spread among the people who deal with financial institutions. It is a reality that the public is short of basic know-how in the norms and practices of banking and financial services, thus every possibility exists for exploiting their domain illiteracy. If the public at large has a basic idea of how finance works, there will be less scope of getting away with malpractice. However, big auditors are the ‘gurus’ of the financial world. They can blur the ledger lines without raising suspicion from even the authorities. Finance is such a dense field that it is easy to get away with quite a few things. Finance gurus have the knowledge-based advantage to manoeuvre any account they handle. But, it’s only their global credibility that keeps their job safe for the future. And your story puts a question mark on this credibility.
Ramachandran Nair, Oman
For the big auditors of this world, integrity and fair play are said to be a given since the world swears by their professionalism. The success of these finance-crunching giants is taken as a testimony of their ethics. But in actuality, a desire to amass more fame and fortune has led them to adopt ‘window-dressing’ methods for clients. Once such an approach is taken up, not much time is wasted before embarking on activities such as money-laundering and circulating money through shell companies started and controlled by the auditors themselves. Unfortunately, since these operations are so large-scale and involve so many powerful stakeholders, various wings of the State (police, judiciary, banking etc) could also be hand-in-glove with the auditors, enabling the Mundhras, Mallyas and other glorified crooks to get away with fraud.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
Global auditing firms are moguls of accounting, how does one make them accountable?
Anil S., Pune
The article on the tribulations of the Sharifs (Dynasty Under Watch, Aug 14) was an informative read. Indeed, it is a huge jolt to the Pakistan Muslim League (N)-led government. This is the third time in Sharif’s political career that he has not been able to complete his prime ministerial term. The development has left a huge power vacuum at the top in our hostile neighbourhood. And since all the fears about the army having a greater say in Pakistan are not ill-founded, India needs to be cautious. We should also not forget that it was Sharif who tried his best to have better bilateral ties with India, but his attending Modi’s swearing-in ceremony and the joint statement with India at the SCO summit in Ufa, Russia, didn’t go down well with the Pak army. But, the PML(N) has a clear majority in the National Assembly, so staying in power should no be a great issue for the Sharifs.
Bal Govind, Noida
This refers to The End of an Escape Artist (August 14), your story on the killing of the longest surviving foreign militant in Kashmir. Eliminating Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Abu Dujana in an encounter in Pulwama district after he refused to surrender is a big victory for the security forces and a big blow to the separatist movement. The forces need to keep up this tempo until the movement is liquidated in the Valley.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
It is unfortunate that Pakistan, which sponsors terrorism in India, refused to accept the body of slain Lashkar commander Abu Dujana. This is not first time that Pakistan has acted in this manner. During the Kargil conflict too, it refused to accept the bodies of their soldiers killed by the Indian army. Perhaps Pakistan wants the world to think that it does not support terrorism, but nobody’s getting fooled.
Lt Col (retd) Ranjit Sinha, Calcutta
I beg to differ completely with the views of Kanwal Sibal in his China Diary (Aug 14). Two statements: “Indian civilisation owes nothing to China” and “there is no such legacy of Han China in India”, appear to me to be erroneous. Firstly, the Lisu tribe is common to Arunachal Pradesh, Myanmar, Thailand and China. Secondly, a majority of Northeasterners are of Mongoloid stock, bearing a strong connection with China, resulting in many mainland Indians calling them by the pejorative ‘Chinkies’. Thirdly, the Mon Khmer language in the Northeast traces its lineage to Southeast Asia, with a strong link to China. Four, the names ‘Jiang’, ‘Kiang’ and ‘Chui’, all of Chinese origin, are prevalent in the Northeast. It’s a folly for foreign experts to be so ignorant of facts. It shows once again why India can never be a superpower, for it’s too self-absorbed.
H. Ghonglah, Shillong
This refers to your story Right Tied in Tangles (August 14). RTI activists say Aadhaar has not helped weed out corruption and the Act’s implementation has resulted in denial of benefits to lakhs of marginalised people. Also, when Nandan Nilekani, the former UIDAI chairman, has said that security will be a big concern, I wonder at the government’s Aadhaar mania.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Apropos Glitterati (Aug 14), the rare black-and-white photo of Nehru and Edwina, which exuded the deep personal chemistry in this “profound relationship”, was overshadowed by the glamorous Priyanka Chopra flanking it on one side and the alluring Scarlett Wilson on the other. The page gave the issue—otherwise caught up with corruption and misdeeds—a frothy touch. But do ‘frame’ such great, old pictures in the future!
M.N. Bhartiya, Goa
True, Dagar is a major school of dhrupad, but there are others too (The Unheard Symmetry, Aug 14). You underplayed all of them. Also, there are factual errors. You cannot use Dagar lineage (which is the family) as a substitute for Dagarbaani (style)—Spic-Macay’s Kiran Seth, for instance, got inspired by the baani rather than the brothers. (Authentic texts spell one of the baanis as Gaurhar, not Gauhar.) As for the “four baanis”, none has any knowledge of their differences. Further, gharana is used with respect to khayal, not dhrupad. Since you quoted Deepak Raja, it could have been a more valid point from the scholar: Dhrupad was in its last stages of extinction even during Independence; it was later rediscovered in the West and then it returned to India, where it still feeds off interest in the West in a big way. Worse, the whole story misses the link between dhrupad and khayal, forgetting a gradual transition from the former to the latter in gharanas like Agra and Rampur-Sahaswan that still carry an elaborate aalap and nom-tom. If you went into detail on female participation in dhrupad, it’s owing to a political thought process, wherein one has to always keep a balance between the representations of religions, caste, gender, etc. Finally, let me say, there is no sign of dhrupad fading away—you need only take a deeper plunge in the art music to be convinced of it.
Yashwant Parashar, Muzaffarpur
This refers to your cover story The Black Hole in the Heart (August 7) on the so-called Bimaru states. Development may be the byword everywhere, making or breaking governments, but caste arithmetic becomes the deciding factor in the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Consequently, the political class spends most of its time and energy in getting the caste calculation right, whether in fielding candidates or allocating portfolios after the win; if expertise and development become a casualty in the process, so be it. Use of phrases like ‘politics of appeasement’, ‘polarisation of votes’, ‘votebank politics’ and ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ tell the same tale of communities and religion triumphing over the quest for a better life. To safeguard their narrow political interest, regional parties, whether in power or out of it, never think of the larger common good. Both UP and Bihar have been unfortunate enough to see only politics of greed and nepotism, with leaders whose vision was limited to winning the next elections. Now, with Yogi Adityanath and Nitish Kumar in the saddle, only time will tell if the tide is turning.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Various factors influence how high or low a state figures in the poverty charts. A state with an unbiased, progressive political leader at the top is likely to be better at fighting poverty, ensuring good governance, making optimal use of natural resources and getting the people involved in development work. This shows in rising average incomes and overall improvement in standards of living. Much also depends on social and cultural harmony, besides sustained efforts in healthcare, education and job-generation. If the loopholes are plugged with careful planning and guidance from the Centre, even the poorest states can make progress.
M.Y. Shariff, Chennai
Rather than meekly succumb to the Mannargudi clan, both Edappadi Palanisami and O. Panneerselvam must come together to retrieve the ruling AIADMK’s two-leaf symbol and jointly face the local body elections in Tamil Nadu (Rightward is the Glance, Aug 14). EPS has done fairly well thus far as CM. His restoration of water bodies, adept handling of the recent assembly session, increasing rapport with PM Narendra Modi (resulting in the release of 42 fishing boats and 75 TN fishermen from Sri Lanka) and new education policy show EPS’s capability to assert his authority over party colleagues T.T.V. Dinakaran and Divakaran. In their recent visit to Delhi, both OPS and EPS were urged by the BJP high command to kiss and make up.
K.R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Your analysis of the county’s political scenario was superb (Hypocrisy, Aug14). The BJP is of course fighting against corruption, but only that perpetrated by its opponents. In Bihar, the war was not against corruption, but for power. The BJP found Nitish Kumar a willing accomplice who, despite being the CM, remained a hamstrung runner (unlike Laloo Yadav, who can still sway the people by his antics). The BJP, naturally, wants to saffronise the whole country, just as the RJD wants to light the whole country by its lantern. The BJP will stand exposed once it allies with the AIADMK, whose leaders were convicted for corruption, an addiction in politics. The fight for power is the theme song of politics worldwide, but more prominent in India. Democracy is good theory, but fraught with flaws in praxis.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
This is with reference to Once Bitten, Twice Smitten by Giridhar Jha (Aug 07). In Indian politics, one can never predict which politician will be in which political party tomorrow and which political party will ally with whom. The general public is so accustomed to the unprincipled practices of its leaders that it has ceased to be shocked by politicians changing sides at the drop of a hat. As long as electoral reforms addressing this problem are not created and enforced upon politicians, ship-jumping will continue to be a regular practice. The mandate in Bihar was clearly in favour of the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) between JD(U), Congress and RJD and against BJP. But the JD(U) and BJP circumvented and upturned it in favour of themselves—it’s a travesty that the Election Commission can’t lift a finger at this. The voters elect their representatives after standing in long queues for hours, but their fate is ultimately decided by political games such as those played by Nitish and his party recently.
Yusuf Shariff, On E-Mail
Nitish Kumar hasn’t resorted to anything new as a politician; the JD(U) chief minister has indulged in such tricks earlier too. Mayawati too had allied with the BJP, and that too soon after the 2002 Gujarat riots. The BSP supremo, who is now the sworn enemy of the BJP, had also campaigned hard for the saffron party. Consistency is no virtue in politics. To Nitish’s credit, he does score over others in political probity, and his RJD rival Laloo Yadav can’t alter the fact. Bihar has improved under Nitish, and the great alliance could have salvaged itself if the Congress had acted like a referee (not just as spectator) between the JD(U) leader and Laloo. In that case, a united opposition might have projected Nitish as an alternative to BJP’s Narendra Modi. Instead Nitish seems to have opted for chief ministership—a bird in hand—as against PMship, the bird in the bushes.
P.L.Singh, On E-Mail
We, hapless bank customers, have nowhere to go (May I Overcharge You, July 31). Earlier, only private-sector banks used to charge customers exorbitantly for basic services. Not any more. Last heard, the rate of interest on saving has been reduced without any reduction on the lending rate. The government’s only focus seems to be extolling the virtues of Digital India without caring for the hardship of the common man.
Siddharth Tharad, Calcutta
We have a former MP (now safely out of the country) whose firm—a major tax defaulter—was given loans despite financial issues. And there are many like him. When the common people miss a loan-repay instalment, they get all sorts of bank notices. Banks do all the scrutiny for small loans while the big sharks get VVIP treatment. So, are banks charging the public to recover the losses from these high-profile bank loans?
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Mumbai
In Right Tied in Tangles, the story on privacy and the Aadhaar (Aug 14), it was incorrectly stated that 1.6 billion Indians are registered on the Aadhaar network. The correct figure at the time of the issue was 1.16 billion. It has since escalated to 1.17 billion.
This refers to The Black Hole In The Heart, your story on laggard states of India (Aug 7). These ‘bimar’ states showcased in your story are all from north India. What is the reason for this? Referred to by many as the Hindi belt, cow belt, etc, north India claims hegemony over politics in India; be it pushing Hindi as a national language or the countrywide ban on beef. Delhi, the country’s capital, is located right in the middle of the north and is the true seat of power. But, although urban areas have developed at a rapid scale in the north, hardly any development has taken place in the rural areas. States like UP and Bihar hold great sway in the country’s politics, giving the maximum number of leaders to Parliament, but their own state of development remains in tatters. In general, the caste system’s inequities are also very alive in these states and no major reforms have taken place to change this. What alternative to the caste system can the government offer? Currently, there seems to be no alternative in sight.
Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum
It’s amazing how Kerala, a tiny state compared to other Indian states, with a manageable population of 35 million, is one of the country’s most developed states. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh, the state with a humongous population of 210 million, is lagging way behind in the human development index when compared with states like Kerala. Perhaps the solution for UP is the one suggested by former CM Mayawati—divide UP into four smaller states and see the encouraging results.
In the data given in the article, the per capita income of West Bengal is shown as being lesser than that of Orissa. This is incorrect. As per data given by the Niti Ayog, the per capita income of West Bengal is approximately 50 per cent higher than Orissa. Also, in terms of HDI, Bengal is nowhere in the bottom quarter but has an average all-India ranking. Bihar, your ‘bimar’, is also growing far faster than the national average and its per capita income has also increased considerably over the years.
Deepak Chopra, On E-Mail
Our Correspondent Replies: All poor states are indeed growing fast, as you mention. That’s more because of their low bases. To gauge prosperity, we used per capita net state domestic product (NSDP) at constant prices. Net, unlike gross, deducts consumption of fixed capital to offer a more accurate picture. We sourced NSDP for 2013-14 for Orissa from RBI’s Handbook of Statistics on Indian States. Orissa’s NSDP, it shows, was about 42 per cent higher than West Bengal’s.
The picture of north Indian states is not as bleak as painted by your article. There’s Himachal Pradesh, for instance, with an impressive human development index and per capita income. The tiny hill state is a role model for holistic and inclusive development. Between 1993-94 and 2011, the poverty level of the state dropped from 36.8 per cent to 8.5 per cent. Himachal also has a good and growing education system. Another positive achievement is that Himachal has the highest rural female work participation rates among states. The states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have become ungovernable on account of their humongous size. They must be divided into smaller states. The relatively new states of Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, which separated form UP and Bihar respectively, are many notches higher in terms of HDI and GSDP than their parent states today.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
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