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Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M DOES the budget matter any more? Articles 112 to 117 of the Constitution are still there on paper, and the convention continues of presenting, first, the railway budget, and, following a gap of a couple of days, the general budget in the final week of February. But the convention, ever since Shrimati Gandhi returned to power three years ago, has been denuded of its content and significance. The budget is supposed to be the deus ex machina for fulfilling the Constitutional requirement of obtaining prior Parliamentary approval for government's income and expenditure. Shrimati Gandhi has dispensed with this requirement, Two months ago, immediately after the Asiad had ended, auxiliary import duties, as well as the rates of excise duty on cigarettes, were adjusted upwards to net for the government something like Rs 500 crore on an annual basis. Last week, on the eve of the budget session of Parliament, diesel and kerosene prices were increased with the object of swelling government revenue to the tune of Rs 800 crore annually. Such revenue- raising without the leave of Parliament has now become habit-forming; more than Rs 5,000 crore have been raised in this manner in the past three years. While such exercises are grossly in breach of etiquette, Shrimati Gandhi's spokesmen would still assert that what is being practised cannot, in the strictest sense, be dubbed as unconstitutional. Enabling legislation exists which permits the government to adjust import and excise duties within given limits. Raising administered prices of petroleum products

Calcutta Diary

February 12, 1983 Calcutta Diary A M THEY are not a genus, but a species. One should not question either their integrity, or their idealism. They are of course unhappy with the state of national affairs. But, going by the evidence oi their written or spoken declamations, they are, it would seem, more particularly unhappy with the Left Front government in West Bengal. Tripura is not mentioned, it is much too small an entity. It is only events in West Bengal which raise their ire. Their public comments, sweepingiy condemnatory, concentrate, on the various acts of commission and non-commission on the part of Jyoti Basu and his ministerial colleagues. What is happening at the Centre or in the rest of the country, or, more specifically, in the states run by Congress(l) regimes, does not interest them. The fires that rage elsewhere, the killings that take place, the thievery and the manifestations of crookedness going on all the while, the grim social oppression which is the staple of everyday existence there, belong to the category of non-events as far as these ideologue commentators are concerned. Their eager anger has a single focus : down with the Left Front regime in West Bengal.

Calcutta Diary

Calcutta Diary A M INDIRA GANDHI is livid with anger. She was, according to press reports, addressing an election meeting in Delhi: how dare the opposition parties suggest there has been but meagre improvement in the condition of the masses during her regime; she has foreign testimony to disprove their contention; two duriitaries

Calcutta Diary

January 29, 1983 Calcutta Diary A M THE results of the State Assembly elections, held in the first week of the New Year, have provided a somewhat dramatic confirmation of what was already generally known ; there is a deep-set discontent, all over the country, with the way things are being run from New Delhi. By the choice of the Prime Minister, these elections were converted into an opinion poll on her government. In each of the three States, the entire responsibility for running the election campaign was assumed by Union ministers and by other leaders from New Delhi, with Indira Gandhi to the fore. The voters in the three States were asked, as nearly categorically as was possible, to vote either for, or against, Indira Gandhi and her administration. It was, truly, a referendum on her.

Calcutta Diary

A M IF rusticity was all, Promode Das- Gupta's passing would hardly have called for separate comments. These are any number of rustic politicians strutting the national scene, one indistinguishable from another, flaunting as a virtue the label of crudity. External sophistication too is a mere veneer, it cannot atone for the dross at the base, it cannot conceal, for example, the outrageous nature of the gyrations Indira Gandhi is indulging in to ensure the succession of her offspring . No, Promode DasGupta's rusticity could hardly be dismissed as crudity. It was, on the contrary, the outcome of understanding of a rare refined genre: in this dishonest milieu, directness has a cathartic virtue, common people appreciate plain talk, and a communist party is nothing if it does not stay close to the vocabulary and emotions of common people.

Calcutta Diary

December 18, 1982 Calcutta Diary A M WE are an inward-looking nation. In any event, the Asiad has been claiming more than fifty per cent of the space allotted for news by the daily papers. Thus it was only natural that when Edward Hallett Carr passed away in Cambridge last month, the month of the Revolution, sixty-five years after the event, there were only a tew mentions here. Some newspapers carried a short, perfunctory obituary note; the large majority did not. In the notices that got published, naturally his magnum opus in eight volumes, ''A History of Soviet Russia", received the most prominence. This was as it should be. "A History'' exemplifies, the quintessence of meticulous, dispassionate scholarship. It does not deviate from observing the conventional rituals of Anglo -Saxen historiography, Its author however belonged to that rare species to whom grammar as a discipline is worth cultivating only as long as it does not, put into shackles the global view; "A History of Soviet Russia'' therefore transcends the historiography. It remains a critique and an interpretation; it is an invaluable source of reference; but it has an idealistic structure of its own, and even Marxists of the classical genre, while retaining the freedom to dispute this or that particular analysis of events

Calcutta Diary

December 11, 1082 Calcutta Diary A M MARGARET THATCHER tok time out to have him for lunch at Number Ten Downing Street. She cannot be faulted; she must have been advised that the successor to the Indian throne must be properly humoured.

Calcutta Diary

A M THE rumpus over the report of the Second Press Commission is providing some free entertainment It all adds up to quite a charade; there is the main body of the report; there are several notes of dissent by a minority of the Commission's members, jointly as well as severally; there is the foot- dragging by the authorities over pub- lishing the report; finally, there is, the for-the-present final event of laying of copies of the report at the last session of Parliament, with the curt announce ment that recommendations contained in it are to be sifted by an inter-minis terial committee, which is another way of saying that the government is yet to make up its mind what to do with them.

Calcutta Diary

A M THERE are certain legalities and statutory provisions. No doubt proper obeisance will be paid to them. In any event, they cannot pose any major problems. Where difficulties of this nature have arisen in the past, amendments have been rushed through in Parliament. The issue however is not one involving legal quibbles; it concerns basic social and political attitudes. A subsidiary unit of a multinational corporation has in one case proposed to merge with a major industrial house. In the other case, the Industrial Development Bank of India has sold oft the shares it was holding in a cement manufacturing unit to a subsidiary of another multinational corporation. Some forms have to be maintained before these arrangements are completed; inevitably, the Union Ministry of Law and Company Affairs will come in. But in such matters negotiations would not have proceeded beyond a point unless some individual or other had first talked to x, y and z along the catwalks of power; the implicit concurrence to go ahead must have already been received. There could of course be references to the judiciary; in the case of the proposed merger, there has already been one such reference. Irrespective of how the legal issues are sored out, the significance of the two developments however lies in the light they throw on the changing political mores in the country.

Calcutta Diary

November 13-20, 1982 Calcutta Diary A M HOW goes the text of the authorised version of the different Articles of the Constitution of India? The question is not quite as frivolous as it sounds at first. Consider Article 31C This Article was introduced by the Constitution (Twenty-fifth Amendment) Act, 1971 and came into effect on April 20, 1972. It was subsequently amended, during the Emergency, through the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976; once the Emergency was over, a further amendment was introduced through the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978. In the latest official version of the Constitution, stated to be modified upto January 15, 1980, and published by the Union Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs, Article 31C now reads:

Calcutta Diary

November 6, 1982 Calcutta Diary A M EITHER tile Ministry of Finance, or the Planning Commission, or perhaps both, are in the habit of addressing, from time to time, stern letters to the state governments: they should set up special cells with the explicit responsibility of preparing projects which could be pressed with the World Bank, or its soft-loan affiliate, the International Development Association, for possible financing. In matters involving finance, suggestions emanating from the Union government are as good as commands. Most state governments have set up such cells. The Ministry of Finance could not be any happier. The shelf of 'bankable' projects will henceforth be full; the Ministry will now be in a position to present to the Bank or the IDA, one after another, project after project, for loan or credit, loan if from the World Bank, credit if from the IDA. Once loan or credit agreements for individual projects have been signed, foreign exchange accrues to the Ministry, and all becomes right with the World.

Calcutta Diary

is an independent fount of power, and has the prerogative to differ from aspect of official economic policy and could even dermind that they he modulated.

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