chief enforcer: p chidambaram. why am i not surprised?
i wrote an article recently saying that p chidambaram and manmohan singh should resign, taking moral responsibility for the satyam scandal. i thought that was quite reasonable, them being the alleged 'economists' in charge.
surprise, surprise, the article never saw the light of day. i am sure the editor was afraid of being strong-armed by the censors from the kkkangress.
An open letter to the PM
The government has lost all credibility with the people, and the buck stops with Manmohan Singh
Athreya December 10, 2008
Mr Prime Minister, you were selected, not elected by the people, for just one reason, that you posed no threat to anyone in the Congress party. You were not selected for your excellent PhD or for your integrity; not even for your competence as a civil servant. You were considered the least of all evils. Yet, the educated middle class, including I, celebrated your appointment for we all respected your integrity, credibility and competence, and thought you would bring these to bear on your new job.
Today, after four years in office and after India has witnessed an act of war on its own soil, your government has lost all credibility with the people, and the buck stops with you. You are scared to even name Pakistan in your speeches in spite of the so-called irrefutable evidence you claim to have; nay, in fact, each time you say something publicly about this now, it sounds like a condolence message, not something that inspires confidence. Economic reforms stopped long ago, for your allies didn't want them; there are many ministers in your cabinet who have perfected Wal-Mart's cash-and-carry model and you can't do a damn about it. You have failed on all counts as a leader. So, at least now, when India is under attack on its own soil, please act. And if you can't act, please get out of the way and allow someone more effective to run the country.
In any district, where there is any act of violence, normally the district magistrate and the superintendent of police get shifted out. As PM, can you not sack or transfer your national security adviser, the Intelligence Bureau chief, the Coast Guard director general, the navy chief—can you or can you not get rid of your entire top brass and send a signal down the line? The signal you are now sending with your inaction is: don't bother doing your job, for even if the country gets attacked, we won't touch you.
You have personally demonstrated integrity, but what use is that alone, when almost every key minister in your cabinet is treating every file as an opportunity for cash flows? Are you telling us you don't know that your telecom, environment and shipping ministries are the home of organized mafias looting the exchequer? What use is it telling us, "Look, I am personally honest, but I'm presiding over a band of dacoits, murderers and thugs. I am only the prime minister and can't do anything about it"?
What use is it to head a government, Mr PM, when you can't even protect your citizens from terror, which is the first function of any government? When you can't act against incompetence or organized corruption in your own cabinet? Is the PM's job so important beyond the call of your conscience that you want to hang on to it at any cost? Sir, may I remind you that you are holding a trust, not just an office.
Economic reforms stopped long ago; many ministers have perfected the cash-and-carry model
Rashid Ahmed, a prominent minister under Pervez Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif, boasted on Pakistan TV just a few weeks ago that he ran camps to train fighters. Our actors and assorted builders all seem perfectly capable of accessing Dawood Ibrahim at will, yet we don't have the guts to take him out. Your home minister kept combing his hair and did nothing more as India reeled under attacks and you tolerated him because loyalty to a family was more important than the blood of innocent people.
Scores of journalists have published details of the terror network including names and addresses and every time, the Pakistani government has brazenly denied them. Don't forget it denied the existence of its nuclear programme, too, for years. How can you expect it to suddenly confess, when for most of the previous two decades, ISI and Pakistan's army have nurtured jihadis to fight its proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan? Today, the monster is so big that ISI can't control it even if it wants to.
Even with the most sophisticated intelligence and security systems, history suggests that you cannot stop an indoctrinated suicide bomber. But that doesn't mean we don't put those systems in place, at least to serve as deterrents to many more who would otherwise be tempted to take a shot. Convince the nation, give us one good reason to believe that such an attack won't happen again.
We don't need a Rambo today, so please don't attack Pakistan in the heat of the moment, for we all know the limits of hard power after the US misadventure in Iraq. Can you not pour money into technology and arm our security agencies (the Chinese spent $6 billion on security during the Olympics alone), invest in setting up a highly sophisticated counter-intelligence agency, get the Mossad to train our commandos, step up the diplomatic offensive at every forum to isolate Pakistan and, most importantly, come down heavily on corruption at all levels, starting with your cabinet? Can you not ensure simple reforms in the criminal justice system (which scores of committees such as Malimath have outlined) to ensure certainty of punishment for any offence from pickpocketery to terror? Can you not lead legislation to keep criminals out of politics and try to stem the flow of illegal money into campaign funding?
If not, then what use is it being a prime minister if, even after reaching the very top, you can't do a damn in an hour of national crisis? Soon, all this will be forgotten and it will be back to business as usual. But then, history will judge you. If you have some conscience left, please do something. Don't forget, "mind without heart, intelligence without conduct, cleverness without goodness are all tools, but only for mischief".
The author is an IAS officer. The views expressed here are personal. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
An open clarification about an 'open letter'
Mint does not lie to its readers or knowingly mislead them. Period.
In a Lok Sabha discussion on India's economic slowdown on 18 December, Ananth Kumar, a four-term member of Lok Sabha representing India's main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), from the Bangalore South constituency, quoted a Mint Views page article, titled An open letter to the PM, which ran on our editorial pages on 10 December.
The article, which ran under the "Their Views" folio, a page where outside, non-Mint contributors write, ran under the byline of Athreya, who was then identified at the end of the article as: "The author is an IAS officer. The views expressed here are personal."
In his parliamentary response to Kumar's statements, P. Chidambaram, the former Indian finance minister and now minister of home affairs, had this to say about the article published in Mint:
"He (Kumar) cited an article allegedly written by an IAS officer. I have read the article. I do not know whether the name of that author given in that article is a true name or a pseudo name. I do not know whether he is an IAS officer. All I know is either he is a disloyal officer or a coward or both. If he had the courage, he should write the letter, sign in his own name and send it to the Prime Minister. But I hope they (BJP) do not encourage such officers; they did not encourage them when they were in power. So what is the point of citing a pseudonymous or anonymous author's article taking shelter under it and running away when the reply is to be delivered?"
(Source: Parliament's official reporters' draft transcript)
Since, on the floor of India's Parliament, Chidambaram has raised questions about an article published in Mint and since his comments will remain a matter of public record forever, we would like to clarify some facts for our readers as well as the minister.
Mint does not lie to its readers or knowingly mislead them. Period.
Athreya is the pen name, or a literary pseudonym, that the author of that article requested. And, as unambiguously stated at the end of the article by Mint's editors, he is indeed an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and the views expressed in that article were the officer's personal views.
Mint's journalism is governed by a clearly spelt out Code of Journalistic Conduct that all news employees are required to adhere to. While most of it applies to our "news" coverage and not the paper's opinion pages, we would still like to reiterate a key tenet from its preamble on What We Stand For:
"In our society, the press enjoys a remarkable degree of freedom. With that freedom comes the responsibility to practise our craft in accordance with the highest standards, to be accountable for what we publish, and to avoid conflicts of interest. We will strive to fulfil these responsibilities... It means we will always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information—not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable."
Indeed, in our news coverage, Mint's code doesn't even allow the use of "pseudonyms, composite characters or fictional names..."
While these guidelines apply to our news coverage, the specific opinion page article in question was internally discussed between Mint's editorial pages editor and the editor of Mint. Because the author's proposed article raised significant and valid questions to spur a national debate, and precisely because the author is from the IAS, a group of Indians charged with managing the affairs of our country, a decision was made by the editor to run the article but let our readers know that it was by an IAS officer so they can appreciate the context.
We encourage our readers—and Chidambaram—to review our code, which is available on Mint's Internet home page under "Mint code" at www.livemint.com.
We understand it is the prerogative of those who follow media ethics and standards to potentially debate our editorial decision-making. And Mint is happy to measure itself against any prevailing practices or standards that exist in India's print media today, and our journalistic track record so far, especially our policy of promptly correcting any errors we make. We would encourage such a healthy debate because our decision is based on bedrock principles that Mint strives to "serve as an unbiased and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian Dream".
We hope this explanation helps our readers get complete clarity on this issue. And, since this debate, spurred by the publication of the open letter, is an opinion on matters of national importance, we would now like to join the debate.
It is Chidambaram's prerogative to not address the issues raised in the open letter or the reasons why the BJP's Kumar cited it in the first place, and focus on whether the author should have been more loyal in not writing it at all or had more courage in signing it and sending it directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Here, Mint would like to remind Chidambaram of the long tradition of anonymous articles, starting with this particular example.
In November 1937, the Modern Review, then India's most well-regarded journal of opinion, published an article on Jawaharlal Nehru written by Chanakya, an obvious pseudonym. The author hit out at Nehru's latent dictatorial tendencies and his "intolerance for others and a certain contempt for the weak and inefficient". Its author warned: "Jawaharlal might fancy himself as a Caesar." There were howls of protest from loyalists until it was revealed much later that Nehru himself was the author of this piece.
Today, many members of Parliament, including cabinet colleagues of Chidambaram, as well as IAS officers in both the finance ministry as well as the home ministry, often insist on speaking to the news media only anonymously on many issues, including key issues that the author of the open letter raised. Whether all of those conversations are disloyal or cowardly is up to the minister to judge.
But if Chidambaram wants to help change the pervasive culture of anonymous comment that is so prevalent among politicians and bureaucrats alike, he might be better off publicly encouraging opinions and debate, rather than label those who try to speak up, even if anonymously, as "disloyal" or "cowards" and thus add to the culture of a fear of reprisals and, thus, more anonymity.
Mint, for one, believes being critical about India isn't the same as being negative, as the government would like us to believe, and the only way our nation would progress is if there is honest debate about issues confronting all of us.
So what we would have hoped for is that, if the Indian government wanted to engage the nation on the basis of issues, including those raised in the open letter, it would have responded to the issues and not diverted attention to the act of writing the article. But that too is the prerogative of the Prime Minister's Office.
Meanwhile, because of the now extensive debate this opinion article has raised—visit www.livemint.com/lettertopm.htm for reader comments on the article—we are also republishing the entire piece below and welcome comments from our readers at email@example.com.
— Raju Narisetti, Editor