Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

New Delhi: Since the shock announcement on August 4 that India’s most powerful politician Sonia Gandhi was to undergo surgery in the US, barely a word has leaked out about her health.

The silence in most of the Indian media about the 64-year-old’s condition and the refusal of the ruling Congress Party to divulge information has raised some uncomfortable questions about transparency in the world’s biggest democracy.

The independence of the media and the country’s openness – it passed a Right to Information Act in 2005 – are a source of national pride, often contrasted with conditions in secretive regimes elsewhere in South Asia.

“I was really shocked to see in regular Congress Party briefings, the media present there did not seek information, did not demand information,” the editor of the Business Standard newspaper Sanjaya Baru says.

“We have had silence from the media… There is nothing about Mrs Gandhi’s health and she’s the most important politician in the country,” he said during a debate on the CNN-IBN news channel.

The Business Standard has been the most aggressive of the Indian newspapers – it demanded answers in an editorial – and Baru believes they are entitled to information.

On India’s boisterous cable news channels, which are normally quick to pressure and criticise the government, Gandhi has featured rarely, with news and debates focused on corruption or the national cricket team’s recent defeats.

Gandhi is the widow of assassinated former premier Rajiv Gandhi and wields enormous clout from her power-broking position as Congress Party president and coalition chairperson.
Since she was admitted to hospital, aides to the leader have confirmed she spent 24 hours in intensive care and was recovering from successful surgery at an undisclosed location, believed to be New York.

The government has argued that further disclosures would be made by the famously media-shy political boss if she desired.

“Only that much information would be shared which they would want to share,” Information Minister Ambika Soni said last week.

Speaking on Monday, Gandhi’s politician son Rahul, who has been left jointly in control during his mother’s convalescence, told journalists that “she is much better” without elaborating.
In the absence of concrete information about the woman who heads the ruling party and chairs the ruling coalition, speculation has been rife on social networks.

A few anonymously sourced news reports have attempted to fill the void.

The investigative current affairs magazine Tehelka reported that Gandhi was operated on at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre, while the Deccan Herald newspaper said she had undergone surgery for cervical cancer.

“When you are in the public domain… you cannot claim the benefits of privacy of the private citizen,” the editor of The Hindu newspaper, Siddharth Varadarajan, told CNN-IBN.

“I think it is something that people have the right to know. What we have heard so far is wholly inadequate.”

Others have suggested that the cosy relationships between top journalists and politicians in India means the Congress Party has been able to impose a code of silence among senior editors.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a political analyst and journalist, said he believed the Indian media had done their best to cover the story, but were being wrongly starved of information.

“Do public figures have a right to private lives? Most journalists believe they do,” he said. “But as soon as your personal life in whatever way starts impinging on your public life then everyone has a right to know.”

He contrasted the handling of Gandhi’s problems to those of 78-year-old Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who underwent a highly publicised heart bypass operation in 2009 which was fully disclosed.

Singh, a diabetic, had previously undergone surgery for prostate cancer.

“Everybody speculates. Nobody has the foggiest idea,” Thakurta said of Gandhi’s condition.

(Source: AFP)

Qatar has reported a higher average personal income and the highest number of people satisfied with their current salary within the GCC countries, according to a Middle East salary survey conducted by Bayt.com.

The results of the survey, conducted in January this year covering 13 countries, were discussed yesterday at an employer round table event organised by the leading job site.

The survey participants were from Algeria (516), Bahrain (97), Egypt (1229), Jordan (570), Kuwait (332), Lebanon (289), Morocco (420), Oman (119), Qatar (289), Saudi Arabia (1677), Syria (247), Tunisia (143), and UAE (1646).

Qatar had the highest percentage (10) of people who earned a personal monthly income of $8,001 or more, $5001-8000 (15%), and $3001-5000 (17%).

Qatar, along with Bahrain, had the lowest percentage (8) of those who earned under $500 per month. Qatar reports a higher number (53%) of senior level employees, and UAE, Qatar, and Oman a higher employee turnover.

If 43% respondents from Qatar held two jobs over the past five years, it was 40% in UAE and 35% in Oman. Markets with higher expat labour (UAE, Qatar, Bahrain) shows greater acceptance of fixed pay structure.

As many as 60% of the respondents from Qatar expressed a medium level of satisfaction with their current salary, taking the country to the top slot in this segment.

Relatively higher proportion of dissatisfied employees are in Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon.

Qatar has respondents who save a relatively good sum of their salary, with 7% saving 51 to 75%, 16% saving 21 to 50%, and 13% saving 16 to 20%.

More than half of the total respondents are of the opinion that their current pay is lower than other companies in their industry.
Only Tunisia and Oman have one third of the sample stating that their pay is competitive with the market. In Qatar, 27% felt their pay is competitive with the market, 56% said their pay is lower than other companies in the industry, and 5% said it is higher than other companies in the industry.

(Source: Gulf Times)

The Economist magazine has accused India of hostile censorship after officials prevented the distribution of the latest edition because of a map showing the disputed borders of Kashmir.

Customs officers ordered that 28,000 copies of the news weekly should have stickers manually placed over a diagram showing how control of Kashmir is split between India, Pakistan and China.

Both India and Pakistan claim the whole of the tiny Himalayan region and have gone to war twice over its control since 1947.

New Delhi imposes tight restrictions on all printed maps, insisting they show all of Kashmir as being part of India.

“India is meant to be a democracy that approves of freedom of speech,” John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, told AFP. “But they take a much more hostile attitude on this matter than either Pakistan or China.”

He added: “This is an act of censorship, and many wise and sensible voices in India see it has no point.”

The map is used as an illustration for the front-page story of the latest edition of the magazine on “The world’s most dangerous border” between India and Pakistan.

The Economist still hoped to distribute the edition once the stickers had been added. The map is available on The Economist’s website.

Kashmir is divided between the two nuclear-armed neighbours along a de facto border known as the Line of Control. It closely matches the frontline of fighting at the end of the first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir in 1947.

“We are just told ‘it is the law of India’,” Micklethwait said. “The map is impartial, accurate and fair. We show everyone’s claims, and it is also realistic as it shows where the unofficial border actually falls.”

The magazine has clashed in the past with Indian authorities.

In December an entire issue of The Economist was pulped on the censors’ orders over a map of the region, and its publishers predicted the May 21 edition was likely to hit trouble.

Offending maps in The Economist and other foreign publications are routinely targeted by the censors’ office, which stamps each page stating that the borders as shown do not reflect India’s claims.

“As a point of principle we are against changing our articles,” said Micklethwait, speaking by telephone from London on Monday. “So we mentioned the problem in a piece pointing out how touchy India is on this.”

The magazine also printed a warning saying the map was likely to be censored. “Unlike their government, we think our Indian readers can face political reality,” it said.

Sham Lal, a senior official in India’s ministry of information and broadcasting, declined to comment on Micklethwait’s remarks. “We have no knowledge and no comments to make on this matter,” he told AFP.

Wilson John, a Pakistan expert at the Observer Research Foundation think-tank in New Delhi, said that the map was seen as a national security issue by the Indian government.

“This is about sovereignty,” he said. “I’m not surprised as this behaviour is an accepted norm in India.

“Mapping in this region has been an issue for many decades and, because the territorial dispute is far from resolved, maps will remain a problem.”

He added India was generally proud of having a free press but that Kashmir “always creates sensitivities that have to be kept in mind”.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been a flashpoint since it became part of Hindu-majority India at partition in 1947 when British colonial rule of the subcontinent ended.

India and Pakistan nearly went to war over the region again as recently as 2002.

Relations between the countries have improved since then, but were hit by the Mumbai attacks in 2008 when Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.

Micklethwait said India was now an increasingly modern economic powerhouse with a growing number of Economist readers.

“Other publications have had the same problems, but perhaps we have been more in their face,” he said.

“China will not distribute whole issues for other reasons, but there is no country I know in the world that takes the extreme attitude that India does.”

(Source: AFP)

The Bombay High Court’s decision to reject Ajmal Kasab’s appeal against the death penalty for his involvement in the 26/11 terror attacks is indeed a major milestone in the legal history and triumph of democracy. Though evidences against the lone surviving terrorist of the 10 Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives who had carried out the attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 were enormous, Kasab pleaded guilty initially, only to retract it later. Maybe he was well trained by his handlers to shift stand if caught alive to confuse investigators. But nothing worked and over 650 witnesses testified against him. Besides, there were fingerprints and DNA evidence as well as CCTV shots of him walking around the scene of the gruesome attack, with an AK-47 rifle slung on his shoulder. He frequently attempted to misguide the prosecution and investigators, changed his statements at regular intervals and even pleaded for a life term at the fag end of the trial. He reportedly never showed any remorse during his time in jail for the terrible killings he carried out. Many have felt that he should have been hanged long back and question if it is really worth to spend crores of rupees on the security of a terrorist? The same amount could have been utilised to tighten the security of the country. But one wonders if the quick closure for the incident by hanging Kasab will bring any justice to the families of the victims? If he is hanged, will he not become a hero for the fundamentalists and would be the next example for recruitment? Young children could be recruited citing his example and how brave and valiant he was. Children coming from very poor family background can easily fall prey to such elements. It is not time to make judgements based on emotions, but tell the government to act against Pakistan for harvesting terrorism. Killing Kasab will make him a martyr. Sentence him to prison, rehabilitate and let him know what he did was wrong so that he can guide other misguided people.

Do we have more jobs and less aspirants? Is it the same country where young graduates cry for employment and a few even end their lives when they fail to get one? While the new economy is creating more jobs that never existed before, it is also transforming older, more traditional work. Earlier, secretaries and assistants took dictations, typed and filed them, but now, the same positions require an ability to work with computers and business productivity software. The result is a growing demand for a higher-skilled workforce. But there it comes with its negative aspects as well. It always poses a big challenge for low-skilled and less-educated workers. Even in a growing economy, many jobs may be inaccessible for aspirants with low levels of education. In fact, rise of the digital economy has reduced employment opportunities for less-educated world-wide and it comes as a sweet surprise that the Central Placement Cell (CPC) has more jobs to offer for not only graduates, but also to undergraduates in the State. It’s not utopia! It is indeed good news that the State has more non-tech jobs to offer. Kudos to CPC for building a bridge between the employers and the prospective employees.

I always wondered how United States President Barack Obama and his family get time to go on vacations. In India, our leaders hardly get time for their personal affairs during power to go on such vacations and here is a family which makes time to have their own time!

As expected, I stumbled on a report which compared Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States, to Marie Antoinette.

Yes, I remember learning about Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and Queen of France in my History classes. How can anyone forget her? Every student who has gone through History pages despise her, or teachers make them to despise her, for a simple reason that she uttered the most insensitive remark after hearing peasants’ complaints that there wasn’t enough bread to go around. Maybe she would have not remembered today if she had not said “Let them eat cake”!

And today, Andrea Tantaros has penned a scorching editorial for the New York  Daily News pointing a finger at the First Lady’s luxurious vacation with daughter  and friends, and compared her to a “modern-day Marie Antoinette”.

Michelle will spend the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her ‘closest friends’. They will occupy 60 to 70 rooms in the hotel.

Tantaros criticized the First Lady for travelling abroad instead of within the United States, something that would help the U.S. economy. “Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette – the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects’ plight, than an average mother of two,” she wrote.

“… I don’t begrudge anyone rest and relaxation when they work hard. We all need downtime — the First Family included. It’s the extravagance of Michelle Obama’s trip and glitzy destination contrasted with President Obama’s demonization of the rich that smacks of hypocrisy and perpetuates a disconnect between the country and its leaders,” she added.

On the other hand, the White House said that Michelle Obama is travelling with minimal staff and a small group of family friends for a mother daughter trip.

And the important thing to note here is this is not the first time that Michelle has been criticized and compared to Marie Antoinette. On May 20, Glenn Beck remarked on his radio show that a state dinner at the White House in honour of Mexican President Felipe Calderòn made him “feel like I am watching King Louis and Marie Antoinette.” Beck said “we could be much more frugal” and that “there’s no need for all of this extravagance.” Beck then asked, “How are these people treated as the common man? This isn’t the common man.”

Beck’s criticism didn’t stop just at this. He continued his attack on his show on  July 14. He highlighted the outfit of Michelle on her visit to the Gulf Coast. He  even claimed he’d “never been more embarrassed for the First Lady” and said, “this is the biggest outrage I think I’ve ever seen from a First Lady.” Beck said Obama was wearing “a white designer dress with black splotches — splotches — all over it.” Beck then suggested “if that doesn’t look like Marie Antoinette saying ‘oh you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to relate to the problem. I’m going to have a designer dress that’s all white but looks like it has oil spots all over it. Let them eat cake. I’m just like you, oh peasants!’”

Now it was time for me to check out some other small, but significant facts on how did she reach the place, which flight, how much did it cost, etc etc. Then, I saw the report of CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who said the C-32A (757), Michelle used to fly to Spain is one of the planes that usually serves as Air Force Two, and sometimes Air Force One and operates at a Department of Defense reimbursement rate of $11,351 per hour. So a 6.5 hour-flight to Spain costs $73,781.50, double for the round trip!

According to policy, official trips by the first family are paid by the government, but all personal elements are paid personally. Since the White House has termed it as a private trip, maybe be it seems to suggest that the Obamas are personally paying all the costs associated with the vacation.

But still, there is some confusion here, as the Secret Service is supposed to protect the First Family and the cost to taxpayers would presumably go up during their travel! So, I wonder if the Obamas are living very large at the taxpayer’s expense without even giving it a second thought?!

The Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) looks to be financially a rich party and presenting a cash garland of Rs 5 crore on the anniversary bash and another one of Rs 18 lakh just show it.

Wonder who presented it to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati? It is none other than Karnataka party unit chief Marsandra Muniyappa, who gave her a garland made of hundreds of Rs 1,000 notes worth Rs 5 crore at a BSP rally marking the 76th birth anniversary of its founder Kanshi Ram on Monday.

When channels flashed the pictures of the garland, we all mistook it to be made up of  some shiny, imported flowers. But no! Close-up shots showed that the garland was made up of currency notes and it took nearly three months to prepare it in Mysore.

The event was indeed a white elephant, costing the party a jumbo affair. Reportedly, the cost of BSP’s silver jubilee rally was Rs 200 crore, and Rs 5 crore was spent of catering. Not to be left behind, as many as 2,400 buses were hired to ferry audience and 1,00,000 kg flowers were used in the venue, besides deploying 10,000 policemen on duty.

But what is surprising is, Maya had openly told that her state government was not in a position to pay compensation to the victims of stampede recently. And everybody is busy criticizing her ugly show of wealth and power. The party of the state is bankrupt to pay compensation to the victims, but has lot of money to celebrate the anniversaries or birthdays.

Now it is official, and no wonder if Maya is welcomed everywhere with garlands made of currency notes.

Many political parties, including the Congress, is condemning this shameless show of money power. The Congress is getting outside support of the BSP for the UPA government at the Centre. If Congress is an ally, why can’t the party members, or say chairperson Sonia Gandhi or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tell Mayawati openly that they don’t need her support, as she is indulging in the so-called ugly show of money power?!

But I doubt if the Congress can ever tell Maya to withdraw her support. For, indirectly, they too are indulging in the same kind of game. The Congress is spending crores of rupees for the glorification of  former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and even Priyanka Gandhi Vadodra through various advertisements all these years. There are several statues of Nehru, Indira and Rajiv in many parks across the country.

If the Congress points finger at the BSP, they will in turn get pointed from others and they are aware of it! So, the question remains. Who is indulging in the ugly show? Just the BSP or even others?!

While I was wondering if it would be right to have a separate Telangana, I stumbled upon US President Baracak Obama’s Cabinet. Unlike our country, they have 20 Cabinet members and here goes the interesting list.What is more worth reading is the factor which is quite funny and unique of each Cabinet.

1. State
Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton
With a staff of 28,053 employees: 11,467 foreign service officers, 7,802 foreign service nationals, 8,784 civil service employees, the department is responsible for any and all foreign affairs activities.

The secretary of state serves as the president’s chief foreign policy adviser. The department represents US interests in the international community, operates foreign assistance programs, fights international crime, provides foreign military training programs and provides services for American citizens abroad.

Established by an act of Congress in 1789, the department is the lead institution for American diplomacy. Six secretaries of state — Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren and James Buchanan — went on to serve as US president.

The US Legation building in Tangier, Morocco, is the oldest diplomatic property owned by the United States. It was a gift from the sultan of Morocco in 1821.

2. Treasury
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner

With a staff of more than 100,000 employees, the department is responsible for the financial security of the United States. Its responsibilities include managing federal finances; collecting taxes; producing coinage and currency; managing the public debt; advising on domestic and international monetary policy; and investigating and prosecuting tax evaders, counterfeiters and forgers.

The Treasury secretary serves on the boards of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Inter-American Development Bank.

The secretary of the Treasury is one of the original Cabinet-level posts. Famous secretaries of the Treasury include Alexander Hamilton, whose image appears on the $10 bill, and millionaire industrialist Andrew Mellon.

In the early years of the nation, the Treasury’s security system at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia was a watchdog named Nero, purchased for $3 in 1793. If the night watchman could not make the rounds, Nero patrolled the property on his own.

3. Defense
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

With a staff of 1.3 million active-duty military, 669,281 civilian personnel, 1.1 million in National Guard and Reserve forces, 2 million military retirees, the department oversees branches of the U.S. military (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps) as they engage in military operations on behalf of the United States, provide humanitarian aid and peacekeeping, supply disaster relief and secure the homeland. The National Guard and Reserve forces provide wartime military support as well as fulfill key homeland security missions like relief from domestic natural disasters.

The department’s military and civilians are stationed in every time zone. More than 450,000 employees are overseas. The U.S. Army operates in 50 countries; the U.S. Navy is stationed in the Persian Gulf, the Far East and the Mediterranean Sea, among other places; and the U.S. Air Force flies missions each year into all but five countries worldwide.

The department is the United States’ oldest and largest government agency, with its roots dating back to before the nation won its independence. Called the Department of War until 1949, it was among the original Cabinet departments.

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the Department of Defense, has three times the floor space of the Empire State Building in New York. It has 45.5 kilometers (28.3 miles) of corridors, but it takes seven minutes or less to walk between any two points in the building.

4. Justice
Attorney General Eric Holder

With a staff of more than 100,000 employees nationwide, the department is the world’s largest law office, responsible for enforcing all federal laws. It is charged with combating terrorism, apprehending fugitives, locating missing persons, managing federal prisons and inmates, protecting civil liberties, investigating fraud, preventing crime, prosecuting crimes and helping victims of crime.

The Office of the Attorney General was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789 as one of the original Cabinet posts, but was intended to be a one-person, part-time position. As the workload increased, the number of assistants grew and much work was contracted to private attorneys. In 1870, Congress established the Department of Justice.

The Department’s motto is Qui Pro Domina Justitia Sequitur, or “who prosecutes on behalf of justice” (or literally, “the Lady Justice”).

5. Interior

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar

With a staff of more than 67,000 employees and 180,000 volunteers at 2,400 operating locations throughout the United States, the department is the principal conservation agency of the United States. It manages land, water and energy needs. It also is responsible for scientific and geological research and works to conserve fish, wildlife and other natural resources.

Congress created the department in 1849 by combining parts of the existing departments of State, War, Navy and Treasury to form a new agency that exclusively would handle domestic affairs.

The department manages the U.S. National Park System, which includes cultural and recreational sites like monuments and national parks that attract millions of visitors every year. In addition, it provides services to the 562 federally recognized American Indian tribes that are treated as nations within a nation under US law.

The Department of the Interior manages 200 million hectares of land, or about one-fifth of all US sovereign territory.

6. Agriculture
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

With a staff of more than 100,000 employees, the department operates more than 300 programs in farm aid, food safety, nutrition, sustainable development of rural communities, expanding global markets for agricultural and forest products and services and many other tasks.

The department was established by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 when farmers made up more than half the country’s population. The secretary of agriculture was elevated to the Cabinet in 1889.

According to the statistics released by the department in 2000, the average American drinks 87.4 liters of milk each year.

7. Commerce
Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke

With a staff of 39,000 employees, the department’s diverse responsibilities include promoting business and industry within the United States and facilitating international trade. It also conducts the U.S. Census, updates weather and atmospheric conditions through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), maintains economic statistics and houses the Patent and Trademark Office, which provides legal protection for intellectual property.

Originally created as the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903, it became the Department of Commerce when a separate Labor Department was established in 1913. The department’s longest-serving secretary (7.5 years) was Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer who went on to be elected U.S. president.

The nation’s oldest public aquarium is housed in the basement of the department’s Herbert Hoover Building.

8. Labor
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

With a staff of 16,800 full-time employees, the department administers federal labor laws pertaining to worker safety and benefits, overtime pay and minimum hourly wage, freedom from employment discrimination and unemployment insurance.

The first executive department with authority over labor issues was the Department of Commerce and Labor, created in 1903. President William Howard Taft signed legislation to create a separate Department of Labor hours before he left office in 1913. The first woman to serve in a U.S. president’s Cabinet was Frances Perkins, who joined Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration as secretary of labor in 1933.

The department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and publishes detailed information about how Americans spend their time, such as this summary of Thanksgiving Day activities.

9. Health and Human Services
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

With a staff of more than 64,000 employees, the department administers more than 300 programs that address public health, social science research, disease surveillance and prevention, and food and drug safety.

Originally created as the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953 under the Eisenhower administration, the department was reorganized in 1979 into the Department of Health and Human Services.

The department’s headquarters is the 1977 Hubert H. Humphrey Building, the first federal office building named for a person still living at the time of its construction. Humphrey, a former U.S. senator and vice president, died in 1978.

10. Housing and Urban Development
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan

With a staff of 10,000 employees, most of whom work in 81 field offices throughout the nation, the department aims to ensure decent living environments for all Americans. It administers mortgage and loan insurance, grant programs to foster economic development and housing rehabilitation, rental assistance, public and subsidized housing, homeless assistance and fair housing public education and enforcement.

The department was created in 1965 by combining existing agencies in older federal departments as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

The department’s Federal Housing Administration is the world’s largest mortgage insurer, guaranteeing the mortgages on more than 34 million homes since 1934.

11. Transportation
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood

With a staff of 53,500 employees, the department promotes the safety and reliability of the various modes of passenger and cargo transportation — by air, rail, highway and pipeline. Key agencies include the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Established in 1966, the department once included the U.S. Coast Guard, but that service, along with other security-related agencies across the federal government, was transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

Maintenance of the 75,000-kilometer U.S. Interstate Highway System is made possible by the Interstate Construction Program administered by the Federal Highway Administration.

12. Energy
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu

With a staff of more than 11,000 employees, the department promotes energy security and scientific and technological innovation in energy policies, and works to ensure the environmentally safe disposal of nuclear waste.

Created in 1977, the department consolidated the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission and other energy-related agencies into one department.

If Chu is confirmed, he will be the 78th Nobel laureate affiliated with the Department of Energy or its predecessor agencies.

13. Education
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

With a staff of 4,200 employees, the department sets national education priorities, collects and distributes research on education, distributes federal financial aid for education and works to ensure equal access to education. In the United States, state and local governments have primary control of education, and the department supports their efforts.

The original federal agency for education was created in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching and to assist states in establishing effective school systems. The Department of Education was established as a Cabinet-level entity in 1980 by combining various agencies from other departments.

The department provides more than $91 billion each year in aid to college students.

14. Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki

With a staff of more than 240,000 employees, the department provides benefits and medical and rehabilitative services to 25 million military veterans. The department also manages the National Cemetery System, the final resting places for the bodies of veterans and their eligible family members.

The first U.S. Congress enacted a law establishing veteran benefits in 1789. Various government agencies administered veterans’ pensions and other benefits until the Veterans Administration was created in 1930. In 1989, the administration was recast as a full-fledged department and elevated to Cabinet rank.
A system of veterans’ benefits first appeared in the future United States in 1636 when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, at war with the Pequot Indians, passed a law stipulating disabled soldiers would be supported by the colony.

15. Homeland Security
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

With a staff of approximately 180,000 employees, the department protects the nation from terrorist attacks (foreign and domestic) and provides emergency services after disasters. Bureaus within the department include Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The department, the newest in the executive branch, was created in 2003 in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The Department of Homeland Security takes a leading role in ensuring domestic security, but more than 87,000 different federal, state, and local jurisdictions have responsibilities in this effort.

16. White House Chief of Staff
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

The chief of staff is a senior aide to the president in a post that has been described as a gatekeeper and the second most powerful man in Washington. He typically is involved in the president’s major decisions and frequently represents the president during negotiations with congressional leaders. Within the White House, the chief of staff manages the staff, sets the tone for the office operations and coordinates the work of the many offices within the Executive Office of the President.

The position, which is filled at the discretion of the president, was first established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and, for a time, Jimmy Carter opted not to have a chief of staff.

Actor Martin Sheen has played both the president and the chief of staff in fictional accounts of the U.S. presidency, playing the chief of staff in the film The American President and the president on the popular television show The West Wing.

17. Environmental Protection
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson

With a staff of 17,000 employees, the agency develops and enforces regulations to protect and improve the environment, administers grants to support environmental programs, studies environmental issues and educates the public on environmental issues.

The EPA was established as an independent agency in December 1970 in response to widespread concerns about environmental degradation and pollution.

At the first “Earth Day” on April 22, 1970, some 20 million peaceful protestors demonstrated for more environmental stewardship. Earth Day now is observed annually in the United States with a variety of “Earth-friendly” activities.

18. Management and Budget
Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag

With a staff of 489 employees, the office, known as the OMB, prepares the president’s annual budget proposal, which is submitted to Congress each year in early February. To do so, the OMB evaluates agency programs, assesses competing funding demands and sets funding priorities. The office also oversees the administration’s procurement, financial management, information collection and regulatory policies.

The Bureau of the Budget, the precursor to the office, was established in 1921 under the Department of Treasury. The office moved to the Executive Office of the President in 1939. It was given its current name, as well as expanded oversight authorities, in 1970 during the Nixon administration.

Charles Dawes, the first director of the office, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.

19. U.S. Trade Representative
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk

With a staff of more than 200 people in offices in Washington and Geneva, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is the president’s chief adviser and spokesperson on international trade policy. The USTR negotiates directly with foreign governments to create trade agreements and resolve disputes, and participates in global trade-policy organizations.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative was established by the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Since then, 15 individuals, including three women, have served as U.S. Trade Representative, which comes with the title “ambassador.”

The United States is one of the most open markets in the world, with average agricultural tariffs of 12 percent (compared to the global average tariff of 62 percent).

20. U.S. Mission to the United Nations
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice

WIth a staff along with members of the UN delegation, which includes Ambassador Rice, there are about 100 staffers in the New York City office, located near the United Nations headquarters, an important function of the mission is to keep the Department of State informed of events at the United Nations. Mission officers report on meetings and make recommendations to the State Department on courses of action the United States should pursue in the world organization. Different sections of the mission represent the United States’ political, economic, legal and social interests at UN meetings.

The United Nations, a term coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was established in October 1945 by 51 countries who agreed to work together to maintain peace and security. Today there are 192 member countries. In 1947 the U.S. Mission was created by the United Nations Participation Act to assist the president and the Department of State in conducting U.S. policy at the United Nations.

U.S. missions to UN offices are also established in Vienna, Rome, Geneva and Paris.

Now, that TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao has succeeded in getting the nod from the Centre for a separate state for Telangana, he will be considered to be a hero. Earlier, Potti Sriramulu had resorted to the same method and Nehru had to yield to the demand for Andhra Pradesh and bifurcation of states on linguistic basis.

Sardar Vallbhai Patel brought 500 provinces together after Independence and gave us one united India. And now, leaders, rather say, separatists are hell-bent on making separate states.

A seperate statehood during 1968-69 was meaningful and possible because most of the Telangana area was predominantly occupied by locals and few people were settlers from other states and Andhra region. People of Telangana are not on par with the people of Andhra and Telangana is backward compared to Andhra in various factors. Now, after 40 years, a sea change has taken place in Andhra Pradesh, including Telangana.

The creation of Telangana state will definitely have a ripple effect on the length and breadth of the country, leading to further balkanization of the country. It will encourage regionalism, linguistic chauvinism and fanaticism. Though smaller states with compact areas may witness better development, the experience with Chattisgarh with huge mineral resources, has taught a good lesson to people. It has witnessed unparalleled looting of state’s mineral resources by politicians, who have feathered their nests by leasing the mines to private parties.

When the whole world is thinking in terms of globalization, people in Andhra Pradesh apparently seem to remain local and don’t want to move ahead with the rest of the world in race for development.

How genuine is the demand for a separate state? Unlike Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh is geographically not that vast. Telangana may lose the advantage of unified Andhra Pradesh, as the coastal Andhra is rich in agriculture and Rayalseema has vast mineral wealth. The new state may not be economically viable.

Now that the Centre has agreed to the political pressure, there will be a demand for a large number of such new states like Rayalseema, Vidarbha, Saurashtra, Hareet Pradesh, Bundelkhand, Purvanchal Pradesh, Bodoland, Gorkhaland. Not just there, even in Karnataka, people will seek separate states for Coorg and North Karnataka, which will only further jeopardize the integrity of the country.

Creating a seperate state will not solve the problems of Telangana, but will add additional problems for the new state. Instead of creating a new state, the Centre could have generated more employment opportunities, establishment of large and small scale industries, eradication of illiteracy, child labor, poverty and gender equality. It could have supported agricultural sector and helped in bringing down the prices of essential food grains and meet the basic needs of a common man.

The Centre should have thought of resolving the issue which is acceptable to all regions instead of unilaterally imposing a decision. Anyways, it is time to roll up sleeves and get down to smart work. It is time for leaders to develop all fields — education, science and technology, trade and commerce — to make Telangana’s economy a strong and vibrant one.

I was shocked to see the picture of notorious gangster Vikas Dubey, taken like a dog, to file his nomination for Vishrampur Assembly seat in Medininagar, Jharkhand, on Tuesday.

Notorious gangster Vikas Dubey before filing his nomination for Vishrampur Assembly seat seat in Medininagar, Jharkhand on Tuesday.

Why does it happen like this in India? Gangsters, dons, mafia and people with criminal background often use their muscle and money power and emerge victorious in the polls. Why do parties filed such candidates? Is it only because they get unlimited funds to fight polls? In return, they give criminals protection from the law and respect in society. Where is India heading towards? Is this the kind of Ram Rajya which Gandhiji often dreamt of?

Candidates facing over dozen criminal cases, including murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, loot and land grabbing, also file nominations.

The country has indeed come a full circle. Yesterday’s criminals are today’s honourables with their “bullet-proof vests.” They are the law and are very powerful. Some dons get elected from prisons, some hold meetings in jail, with all comforts, and instruct their followers by mobile phones and rule their empire, issuing orders that few dare to disobey.

When our politics is filled with candidates with criminal backgrounds, how can we expect to remove crime from the country?

I wonder why does the Election Commission makes it mandatory for candidates to disclose details of their criminal background, if any, along with their assets and liabilities while filing nominations? Is it really meant to weed out criminals or a mere disclosure?

Sometimes, I seriously feel that the laws mentioning about the word ‘criminal cases’ are not properly defined. When is a person called a criminal according to the law?  When he is punished by the court as a criminal. As everybody knows, fighting legal cases in India is a marathon process. It takes years, sometimes decades, after a person is arrested. So candidates come out clean and file nominations.

Normally, permission for going abroad or appearing in any interview cannot be granted to a person against whom a case is pending in the court. Then, how can the law allow criminals to run the affair of the state?

India is filled with illiterates and poor people. All they need is some hope, a hope which keeps them happy, even for a short while! It is time for voters, who are in a slumber and are easily swayed by the lure of lucre, to wake up before things go out of control.

Pic courtesy: Google