Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The "Real" WMD Program

following are the excerpts from this article (and a more detailed report in pdf format is available here):

The budget is busted; American soldiers need more armor; they're running out of supplies. Yet the Department of Energy is spending an astonishing $6.5 billion on nuclear weapons this year, and President Bush is requesting $6.8 billion more for next year and a total of $30 billion over the following four years. This does not include his much-cherished missile-defense program, by the way. This is simply for the maintenance, modernization, development, and production of nuclear bombs and warheads.

...There is no nuclear arms race going on now. The world no longer offers many suitable nuclear targets. President Bush is trying to persuade other nations—especially "rogue regimes"—to forgo their nuclear ambitions. Yet he is shoveling money to U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories as if the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War still raged.

...Paine's report cites other startlers that have eluded all notice outside the cognoscenti. For instance, the Energy Department is building a massive $4 billion-$6 billion proton accelerator in order to produce more tritium, the heavy hydrogen isotope that boosts the explosive yield of a nuclear weapon. (Tritium is the hydrogen that makes a hydrogen bomb.) Tritium does decay; eventually, it will have to be refurbished to ensure that, say, a 100-kiloton bomb really explodes with 100 kilotons of force....

Saturday, April 24, 2004

...More on "Body Bags" / "Human Remains Pouches"/ "Transfer Tubes".... and now, Finally "Coffins"

...Lynn Cutler, a Democratic strategist and former official in Bill Clinton's White House, says this is the first time in history that bodies have been brought home under cover of secrecy.

"It feels like Vietnam when Lyndon Johnson was accused of hiding the body bags ....

"This is a big government and a big Pentagon and they could have someone there to meet these bodies as they come back to the country."

But today's military doesn't even use the words "body bags" — a term in common usage during the Vietnam War, when 58,000 Americans died.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon began calling them "human remains pouches" and it now refers to them as "transfer tubes."

Earlier the article says:

In order to continue to sell an increasingly unpopular Iraqi invasion to the American people, President George W. Bush's administration sweeps the messy parts of war — the grieving families, the flag-draped coffins, the soldiers who have lost limbs — into a far corner of the nation's attic.

No television cameras are allowed at Dover.

Bush does not attend the funerals of soldiers who gave their lives in his war on terrorism.

Buehring of Winter Springs, Fla., described as "a great American" by his commanding officer, had two sons, 12 and 9, was active in the Boy Scouts and his church and had served his country for 18 years.

No government official has said a word publicly about him.... If stories of wounded soldiers are told, they are told by hometown papers, but there is no national attention given to the recuperating veterans here in the nation's capital.

More than 1,700 Americans have been wounded in Iraq since the March invasion.

"You can call it news control or information control or flat-out propaganda," says Christopher Simpson, a communications professor at Washington's American University, "Whatever you call it, this is the most extensive effort at spinning a war that the department of defence has ever undertaken in this country."

Friday, April 23, 2004

Fired from Job for a Photograph

This Photograph!!!

"A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.

"I feel like I was hit in the chest with a steel bar and got my wind knocked out. I have to admit I liked my job, and I liked what I did," Silicio said.

Her photograph, taken earlier this month, shows more than 20 flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait. Since 1991, the Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of caskets being returned to the United States..."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Yeh Mera India!!! :-)

India becomes the first democracy in the world to conduct the National Parliamentary Elections through an electronic voting machine.

But where else in the world will you find an Electronic Voting Machine and the election officers being transported on an elephant?!!!... I personally find it both delightful and endearing....

Two interesting articles which describe the elections:

A High Tech Affair by Scott Baldauf (Christian Science Monitor):

"The world's largest democracy doesn't do anything small.

Just ask A.N. Jha. As deputy election commissioner, it is Mr. Jha's job to ensure that, starting Tuesday, 675 million eligible voters will be able to cast their votes from the smallest desert village of Rajasthan to the rain-soaked jungles of Manipur, and from the Himalayan heights of Uttaranchal to the dreamy aquamarine coasts of Tamil Nadu.

There is one complication. This will be the first all-electronic Indian election, with some 725,000 electronic voting machines in every voting station in the country. No small task. But no hanging chads for India, thank you.

An experiment in cutting-edge voting is only part of the story of India's election process. Democracy is still a passionate exercise here - full of gimmicks and movie-star glamour, high technology and cheap thuggery, and, quite often, serious ideas about India's future place in the world. All of this contributes to much higher voter turnouts than one sees in the US. The winners may be convicts or holy men or seasoned pros, but the end result - and the three-week process of voting - can be as entertaining as a Bollywood thriller.

Present opinion polls give the advantage to the current ruling coalition, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, but no election in India is ever merely about results.

First, getting voting machines to the masses is a Herculean task, requiring the organizational skills of a general, the energy of a long-distance runner, and the patience of the mahatma. "It's a huge number of people, a huge, huge exercise," says Jha, taking a breather between logistics meetings last week. "If things go well, and I'm sure we'll pull it off, as we have been doing for more than 50 years, maybe I'll take a break after that."

In India, "people, and especially the poor, see their vote as an asset that must be used," says D.L. Sheth, a political scientist at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in Old Delhi.

"There is a lot of enthusiasm at election time. It's turned into a carnival, and people go out into the streets and celebrate, take part in parades, with music and lights. Maybe it's because so many other things in life are not so easy, and here you can get a sense of one's efficacy, what one vote can do."

The other article in Outlook by Edward Luce decribes the colourful nature of this vibrant democracy:

"One of the principal challenges of being a foreign correspondent in India is to resist succumbing to the caricatures that still occasionally persist about the country-not least among commissioning editors back home.

Images of debt-collecting eunuchs, exotic fakirs and widows on funeral pyres unfortunately still excite many an otherwise well-informed mind. A more subtle variant are the cliches that surround India's electoral process.

One could almost write it blindfold: "As India's 675 million voters go to the polls...this teeming, vibrant, colourful democracy...the largest electoral exercise in history.

..India's 6,00,000 villages cherish their hard-won right to...often only by recognising the party's symbol can the illiterate...." And so on.

All of the above may well be true. But as George Orwell never tired of pointing out, when a writer resorts to cliches it is a sure sign he hasn't given the subject much thought. India is indeed going to the polls in what is indeed a daunting but evidently achievable logistical feat.

The problem is how to cover it. Most foreign newspapers have only one correspondent, occasionally two. Even if you possessed preternatural energy and a million air miles, there would not be sufficient days in the campaign to visit even half of India's states-and even then only for a short while.

Nor can one so easily deploy the time-honoured but perfectly respectable device of alighting on a small belt of the country to illustrate a broader national theme. As Yogendra Yadav, NDTV's ubiquitous psephologist (and required nightly viewing for Indian and foreign journalists alike) points out, India's democracy rarely experiences national waves. It can more accurately be seen as an agglomeration of 28 separate state polls.

In the UK, it would be a relatively simple matter-drop in for a quick pint and ask the pub regulars whether sterling should be abolished (but remember to bring a pair of boxing gloves). Even in the US it isn't rocket science: visit a suburb where a call centre has recently closed down and ask whether Kerry's message is resonating.

But in India it doesn't really work as well. I doubt very much the voters of Tamil Nadu are swayed one way or another by the NDA's peace process with Pakistan. How many people of the Northeast would care about whether or not a temple will be constructed in Ayodhya? Will the villagers of Bihar be weighing the same issues as the telecom executives of Bangalore?

Of course, two of India's 40 or so electable parties are conducting national campaigns. But the BJP's India Shining campaign-I'm still not sure what it was renamed when the party started paying for it out of its own pocket-is evidently customised for different audiences.

If proof of this were required, then go back over what Advani said to audiences on the various stages of his Bharat Uday Yatra. At some stops, India's deputy prime minister was full of shining. At others he talked of Hindu-Muslim amity. Then at the next one his ambition to build a "magnificent" Ram temple suddenly appeared again.

Congress is little better (actually it is noticeably less professional than the BJP in its media management). One day India is definitely not shining anywhere. The following day India is in fact shining in some pockets but only because of Manmohan Singh. On Sunday dynasty is irrelevant. On Monday morning its leader talks of her pride of being a mother when her son files his nomination for the family constituency.

Then there are the regional and caste parties. Do we take the DMK at face value when it says it is part of a secular front to defeat Hindutva? Mightn't it change its mind again if the NDA comes back to power? Then there are the Samajwadis and the BSPs whose shifting affiliations make Bill Clinton look like a paragon of marital fidelity.
And, of course, there is Sharad Pawar whose unshakeable opposition to lineal descent has suddenly gone all lateral. Nor should one overlook the CPI(M) whose ideological distaste for Mr Shourie's disinvestment programme in New Delhi is matched only by its enthusiastic privatisation drive in Calcutta.

India is at times a confusing place. But complexity should never be the enemy of clarity. As an outsider, the foreign correspondent has the perfect excuse to take a bird's eye view every now and then.

Here is mine, for what it is worth: Nobody owns economic reform-when in power everyone embraces it, even Mulayam does so nowadays. So whoever comes to power, India's economy will or will not continue to shine, depending on your perspective.

The same cannot be said of India's history of liberalism and tolerance, which shines-or should shine-out of every school textbook in this country (it should also be part of the curriculum in Britain, my own country, which was morally humiliated by India's inspiring freedom struggle).

I am married to an Indian and I am proud of her political heritage. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this legacy is being challenged and that all those who cherish it will see this election as an important moment in India's political odyssey. When I was asked to write this piece, my instructions were to keep it light-hearted and to write it from a foreigner's perspective. I'm afraid the first proved too hard.

In fact, this has been always the flavour of Indian elections, as this article from the 1999 issue of Christian Science Monitor shows:

"Wild and footloose pachyderms that stampede local voters. A desert border so remote that polling booths arrive by camel caravan. One jungle district so inaccessible that only three voters are registered. (Known as the "callous trio," they didn't show up last time.) A candidate for parliament who dispatches trained parrots to drop tiny leaflets with his party's insignia stamped on them.

Welcome, as it were, to India's national elections - or rather what is left of them. On Sunday the final votes are cast in what, if not the most orderly elections in the world, are certainly the largest and most colorful.

In the past month, India has cast its ballots for the fourth time in five years - a sometimes literally riotous affair, with nearly 5,000 candidates, 550 million voters, and 850,000 polling booths spread across a subcontinent that includes the 35 Andaman and Nicobar islands sprinkled over 600 square miles.

Actually, this election - a face-off between the secular Congress Party and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party - has been alternately grim, banal, and ignored. News tracks what can be called the downside: widespread voter fraud. Scandals. Low turnout. The ugliest rhetoric Indians can remember. Election eve drunken bashes designed to keep voters happy and "voting right."

The killing of several candidates - and one near Bombay who was charged in mid-campaign with murder.

Yet in India, that isn't the whole story. The 50-plus-year-old democracy is simply rife with funny, quirky, charming, and just plain unusual vignettes that could match any candid-camera home-bloopers script in the United States. There is the magician in Calcutta who blindfolded himself in a car pasted up with campaign posters and tried to drive through the city. There's that chief minister in Uttar Pradesh whose helicopter pilots couldn't find the right town and landed red-faced in a village in the wrong state.

Of course, there are plenty of good elephant tales. Those wild tuskers in Meghalaya who stampede voters were countered this year by locals wielding cymbals and drums, and fortified by tame elephants who know how to "calm down" their ancestral pachyderm friends who come out of the hills hungry in late summer. A local candidate may have said it best however: "Elephants have strong senses and can distinguish between good and evil. So they will not harm my voters." (Obviously, he's been accepting pach money.)

Not to be, um, forgotten, is the "victim" elephant in Uttar Pradesh. Pushpakali is a government "employee" at a national park who gives rides to tourists. Having just given birth to a tiny trunked calf, she was to be transferred to the local zoo. Yet Pushpakali's maternal transfer was postponed due to a government "code of conduct" rule that disallows employees to be shifted during national elections. Mother and son stood by while local officials deferred their interpretation of the code to the national Election Commission. What's clear is that after Oct. 3, the final vote, Pushpakali will take a year off with maternity benefits that include free treatment, food, and a shed with two attendants.

The scale of the elections brings unforeseen problems. With a low literacy rate in the villages, voters make their choice by stamping a party symbol on the ballot. BJP, for example, appears as a spreading lotus flower. To vote for Congress, you ink the symbol of an open palm. Yet for practical reasons, election officials have limited the number of symbols to 128 - tiny line-drawings of everything from apples, to lanterns, to bangles, boats, pillows, combs, bananas, and computers. Still, last year 1,033 candidates bid for the allotted 128 symbols - most of which had already been claimed, creating a symbolic crisis in many constituencies.

Nor are public events here complete without a whirl at the stars. The heavenly kind. India is a land of the fey: Horoscopes hang heavy on astrological charts. Planetary relations, numerology, gravitational fields, calendars, and constellations are calculated prior to speeches and big events. Nostradamus's apocalyptics are ever more popular. A leading BJP consultant "consults" him. The key question is always: Is this or that date "auspicious"? Auspicion is something greatly to be desired.

Jayalalitha, one of the most powerful female politicians in South India, always starts elections with a lucky or "auspicious" number. Last election, for example, it was "five." This led to numerous reorderings of priority where the number five could resonate fully. Jayalalitha gave all her allies five seats. One chief ally was required to change his first name from Vai to Vaiko - to make it five letters. And so on.

Back on earth, the campaigning ended yesterday. By Indian law, petitioning stops 48 hours prior to voting. Most exit polls, which were first banned from publication then allowed by the Indian Supreme Court, suggest the BJP will win. The question for either major party will be how strong a coalition it can form. A weak coalition could mean another election in the near future.

These elections have been characterized as the first "presidential" style race in Indian history - with the personas of Sonia Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee far outweighing party loyalty and issues. It also has witnessed the emergence of Priyanka Gandhi, Sonia's daughter, Indira Gandhi's granddaughter, and a possible heir to the Gandhi-Nehru political dynasty. The final results, auspicious or not, are expected to be announced Oct. 7. "

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Ground Reality

This is not US-bashing, but just an example of the realities, which a high GDP growth, a strong currency, a strong international economic and political presence, and an enviable life-style can hide....

to quote:

"Every day in America, 85,444 workers lose their jobs. 14.7 million people are jobless, underemployed or have given up looking for work. 43.6 million people have no health insurance. 4,227 people file for personal bankruptcy. 12,878 workers are injured or made ill by their jobs. 6.8 million people are in the workforce but are still poor. 11 million children attend broken-down schools. ... "

What is true of US would also be true of many other fast growing economies... just to highlight that measures of growth can be pretty misleading!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Investor Survival In The War Without End

[One knows that there are creatures which survive on carnage, but this one takes the cake!!!... this is an actual letter sent to real investors by a real stock advisor to profit from $500bn investment "opportunity"... read on]

The three scenarios below are real... they represent a $500 billion opportunity.

From a mile away, a coalition tank fires a single round and destroys an Iraqi tank. The speed of the projectile is so great (1 mile per second) that when it hits, the tip of the shell and the armor on the target behave like liquids. The depleted uranium shell passes through the armor of the target and breaks up into shrapnel, shredding and burning anything inside the tank.

Lunatic North Korean leader Kim Jong Il attacks South Korea. Immediately, U.S. Special Battle Plan 5027 goes into effect, calling for total retaliation and the capture of North Korea. F-15 fighters hurtle over the 38th parallel at 1,600 miles per hour, using futuristic high-tech weaponry to blast 1 million North Korean troops, artillery systems, and tanks that sit just 90 miles away from U.S. troops in the Demilitarized Zone.

Over Africa, Asia, the Middle East and even America, unmanned drones patrol the skies at 20,000 feet. The shadowy government group that gave you the Internet will soon be fielding waves of these vehicles for special reconnaissance -- both home and abroad. (Bush just asked for $1.2 billion more to develop these drones.) Billions of dollars are being committed to similar high-tech defense projects for all branches of the military or in the name of Homeland Security.


Dear Investor,

All of these situations are real possibilities, and all of the weapons are real. And they represent the biggest investment opportunity there is today. A $500-billion investment opportunity, as the United States takes on what will be the fiercest and longest war in its history, and leads the world in developing new and futuristic weapons, redefining the very nature of weapons and war as we go...

[the letter to investors then goes on to sell tips for "Profiting From the American Warfare State"...

American Warfare State!!!???

do read this letter...

The fiction of Israeli 'withdrawal' from Gaza

"...."withdrawal."... use of it is designed to dress up Sharon's unilateral action as some kind of selfless gesture designed to improve the chances of real peace and address Palestinian and international concerns despite the absence of a credible Palestinian negotiating partner. Sharon's word is "evacuation," designed to create a similar image.

But the images of withdrawal and evacuation are flagrantly false.... The so-called withdrawal will not include a 200-yard-wide strip connecting extreme southern Gaza to Egypt, which Sharon insists be occupied by the Israeli military (as opposed to the UN or even the United States) to combat widespread tunneling for smuggling purposes.

It will not include any change in the Israeli insistence on controlling every inch of Gaza's airspace and patrolling at will and monitoring all ship traffic along the Mediterranean coast. This "external envelope" on Gaza's land will continue.

Gaza must be free of "armaments," and Israel reserves the right to enter militarily any time it wants for security reasons. Gaza's government will not be permitted to invite any international forces into its territory unless Israel agrees.

On the one hand, the Sharon scheme's claim is... that "there will be no basis for the claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory." On the other hand, it says that the existing means of providing water, power, sewage, and telecommunications to the Palestinians will be maintained -- an acknowledgment of Israeli responsibility commensurate with occupation.

In short, the "withdrawal" from Gaza by the end of next year will leave Israel in control of Gaza by every mechanism of control except occupation itself. There can be arguments about the security issues behind all these exceptions, but there can be no argument that they don't amount to direct control of Gaza."

Outsourcing of a Different Kind

"They have come from all corners of the world. Former Navy Seal commandos from North Carolina. Gurkas from Nepal. Soldiers from South Africa's old apartheid government. They have come by the thousands, drawn to the dozens of private security companies that have set up shop in Baghdad. The most prized were plucked from the world's elite special forces units. Others may have been recruited from the local SWAT team.

But they are there, racing about Iraq in armored cars, many outfitted with the latest in high-end combat weapons. Some security companies have formed their own "Quick Reaction Forces," and their own intelligence units that produce daily intelligence briefs with grid maps of "hot zones." One company has its own helicopters, and several have even forged diplomatic alliances with local clans.

Far more than in any other conflict in United States history, the Pentagon is relying on private security companies to perform crucial jobs once entrusted to the military...

...some military leaders are openly grumbling that the lure of $500 to $1,500 a day is siphoning away some of their most experienced Special Operations people at the very time their services are most in demand.

...Mr. Rumsfeld has praised the work of security companies.... the government recently advertised for a big new contract — up to $100 million to guard the Green Zone in Baghdad.

"The current and projected threat and recent history of attacks directed against coalition forces, and thinly stretched military force, requires a commercial security force that is dedicated to provide Force Protection security," the solicitation states.... "


Wednesday, April 14, 2004

History is Repeating Itself!!!

Mark Twain wrote long time back that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme....

... and it is rhyming again in Middle East.

The following is a Report by TE Lawrence (or Lawrence of Arabia), written in 1920 about the British occupation of Mesopotamia:

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows....

...Our government is worse than the old Turkish system. They kept fourteen thousand local conscripts embodied, and killed a yearly average of two hundred Arabs in maintaining peace. We keep ninety thousand men, with aeroplanes, armoured cars, gunboats, and armoured trains. We have killed about ten thousand Arabs in this rising this summer.... The Government in Baghdad have been hanging Arabs in that town for political offences, which they call rebellion. The Arabs are not at war with us. Are these illegal executions to provoke the Arabs to reprisals on the three hundred British prisoners they hold? And, if so, is it that their punishment may be more severe, or is it to persuade our other troops to fight to the last?

We say we are in Mesopotamia to develop it for the benefit of the world. All experts say that the labour supply is the ruling factor in its development. How far will the killing of ten thousand villagers and townspeople this summer hinder the production of wheat, cotton, and oil? How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

George Orwell - Revisited

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it. Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”

“A world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.”

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever.”

“Power-worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

“That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or laborer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.’

“Rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon--so long as there is no answer to it--gives claws to the weak.”

“The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.”

“It would mean the division of the world among two or three vast super-states, unable to conquer one another and unable to be overthrown by any internal rebellion. In all probability their structure would be hierarchic, with a semi-divine caste at the top and outright slavery at the bottom, and the crushing out of liberty would exceed anything the world has yet seen. Within each state the necessary psychological atmosphere would be kept up by complete severance from the outer world, and by a continuous phony war against rival states. Civilization of this type might remain static for thousands of years.”

How to Market War and Aggression

Here are some examples:

1. It was a candid slip of the tongue when the White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, explained why US announced its intention to invade/liberate Iraq in September 2002. Explaining the rationale of the timing, Card told the New York Times: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

2. From an interview with James Harff (director to Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, a Washington DC-based public relations firm that had been hired by the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the parliamentary opposition in Kosovo). Ruder Finn was the firm which made the story of Serbian Camps (though it was never verified later) the reason for invading/liberating Kosovo. He says:"Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it widely known that Newsday affirmed it. ... We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to moralize."

1. In 1996, John Rendon, a PR consultant hired by the Pentagon and CIA on Iraq-related projects, told the cadets at the US Air Force Academy, he said: "I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician. I am a politician ... I am an information warrior and a perception manager." He then asked the cadets if they remembered when victorious US troops rolled into Kuwait City after the first Gulf War and were met by hundreds of Kuwaitis waving American flags. "Did you ever stop to wonder," Rendon asked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hold of American flags? Well, you know the answer. That was one of my jobs then."

Monday, April 05, 2004

IIM, the accidental brand

This is an interesting perspective...
March 23, 2004

Which side are you on in the IIMs versus Murli Manohar Joshi battle?

Personally, I am on the side of the spectators, who are getting their money's worth of action and drama, despite competition from cricket and politics. I find it difficult to root for one side or the other because neither has earned it.

In any controversy of this kind, the easy thing to do is to let the combatants define the issues and then allow ourselves to be persuaded by one argument or the other. But the real issue is different.

Ask yourself: which side has actually done something to further the cause of management education? That is the side worth backing. Arguments about fees and autonomy are red herrings.

If I may oversimplify things for a moment, the broad objectives of management education should be to develop competent managers to run various kinds of institutions (profit-oriented corporations, non-profits, government and social sector organisations) and create intellectual capital through cutting-edge research that can influence practice. There can be several other objectives, too, but these are certainly the most important.

In these two crucial tests, the IIMs -- and other B-schools in India -- have flunked. As their financial backer, the government shares the blame in equal measure.

True, we have corporates willing to pay IIM-brand MBAs lakhs of rupees merely for passing out of these institutions. But is that success? Contrary to popular impression, the IIMs do not produce great managers; it is cut-throat competition for IIM seats that ensures high-quality MBAs.

On the other hand, given the amount of government funding received by them, the IIMs have been complete failures: they have not produced the kind of managers we need to run government or social sector organisations. Nor have they produced a single piece of research that can be called cutting-edge.

My argument is that the reputation of the IIMs has been built on the quality of its students and alumni -- not the other way around. This fact can be easily checked out: Indians with means would anyday opt for a Harvard or Wharton -- and they would even find it easier to get admissions.

If at all the IIMs need to be complimented on anything, it is the huge entry barrier they have put up to prevent average students from getting in.

So, if I were Murli Manohar Joshi, I would cut off all IIMs from any government grants for failing to do what they are supposed to. And if I was on the other side -- a dean or chairman of an IIM board -- I would say that the objectives of management education cannot be met within the limits set by government babus -- and would walk away to set up fully private or charitable institutions that would train the right kind of managers for different kinds of institutions -- for-profit or non-profit.

And if I were a corporate, I wouldn't look beyond the CAT preparatory schools for recruits. If you merely want candidates who have the right mental skills for success, a CAT ranker is as good as an MBA -- and without the arrogance.

Why wait two years for him to earn an MBA, spend another year teaching him business realities, and live all the time with the fear that he may abandon ship at the slightest opportunity?

Groups as big as the Tatas or Birlas may actually find it cheaper to put candidates through simple IQ tests, organise customised learning on the job and create an internal campus where the faculty would be a mix of in-house managers and academics who understand the Tata or Birla ethos.

Such students would also come cheaper, since they would not have wasted two years trying to acquire an MBA that's far removed from reality. I wouldn't be surprised if many corporates start thinking along those lines shortly. The growing popularity of executive MBA programmes is a foretaste of things to come.

Quite clearly, if the IIMs and other B-schools are to be relevant at all in the Indian context, they have to reinvent themselves. They are succeeding today only because the people who buy their products -- corporates, primarily -- are too lazy to do the job themselves.

Seen in this perspective, it matters little whether the IIMs charge Rs 30,000 per annum or Rs 1.5 lakh. Either way they don't produce the kind of managers India needs.

Equally, it matters little whether the IIMs are autonomous or not. They have done little with whatever autonomy they had so far. The unvarnished truth is that the IIM brand was not the creation of a far-sighted government or of the people managing these institutions.

It was an accident resulting from the sheer quality of students getting in. The issue before both the government and the faculty is simple: accident or otherwise, they have a good brand on their hands. Should they acknowledge their undeserved good fortune and make joint efforts to make the IIMs really worthy of their reputation or should they destroy it, since they did little to create it anyway?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

From Noam Chomsky's Blog

...But any of this requires constructing the basis for democratic participation, which has been very badly eroded in the US, creating what's often called a "democratic deficit" when we refer to others -- in our own case, a huge democratic deficit.

People in the more civilized sectors of the world (what we call "the third world," or the "developing countries") often burst out laughing when they witness an election in which the choices are two men from very wealthy families with plenty of clout in the very narrow political system, who went to the same elite university and even joined the same secret society to be socialized into the manners and attitudes of the rulers, and who are able to participate in the election because they have massive funding from highly concentrated sectors of unaccountable power that cast over society the shadow called "politics," as John Dewey put it.