Supine Salman
Suave” and “sophisticated” were the terms initially used when referring to Salman Khurshid. As he got more “political”, the preferred description shifted to “smooth”. In the last few months, however, his response to crises on the foreign relations front would invite charges of being spineless. A reluctance to up the military ante might have justified his underplaying Pakistan&’s beheading two Indian soldiers near the LOC in Kashmir, more so during the Chinese incursion into the Depsang Valley a few weeks back. Now he finds himself out on a limb for virtually giving a clean chit to the Obama Administration for its reported bugging of the Indian embassy in Washington ~ among several other diplomatic missions. It must have been deeply embarrassing for the official spokesman of the external affairs ministry on Wednesday to have ~ under obvious pressure ~ express “concern” over “disconcerting” reports and assert “we will certainly raise with the US authorities here these serious allegations”. That official must be credited with some consistency: When Snowden&’s revelations first surfaced, he had on 11 June stated, “If it is discovered that Indian laws relating to privacy of information have been violated we would find it unacceptable.” Several other nations, France and Germany leading the pack, were strident in their condemnation of the action of the US National Security Agency, even warned of it impacting major economic initiatives. Either ignorant of the international reaction, or indifferent to it (unacceptable for a minister for external affairs), Khurshid claimed there had been no “snooping” and came up with some “spin” about “this is not scrutiny… it is only computer analysis of patterns of calls.. it is not actually snooping specifically on content or anybody&’s message or conversation.” No White House spokesman could have done better. Since Khurshid went into some detail, his wimpy goof-up cannot be explained away as off-the-cuff remarks on the sidelines of other deliberations. Regardless of circumstances, ministers learn to speak with authenticity ~ even at the risk of missing their moments of glory on television. The larger reflection is on the leadership of the Prime Minister: there is little formulation of a “position”, each minister articulates his own opinion. There is, however, a lagging suspicion that Khurshid might have been “preparing” the Indian public ahead of a domestic snoop mechanism being put in place. How very “diplomatic”.
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The West Bengal Employment Bank, an upgraded variant of the employment exchange, has been reduced to a fizzle a year after its inauguration as an employment generation initiative. The nature of the crisis, as reported in this newspaper, points to the corporate sector&’s near-total lack of faith in the system. Ergo, this is a reflection on the government&’s handling of the network. It is a measure of the absence of effort on the part of the labour department that the portal has failed to achieve even a fraction of its objective; or to use computer terminology, it “hangs” in the face of those in search of jobs. This is yet another scheme of the Chief Minister that has gone haywire if the ratio of job-seekers and prospective employers is any indication. For all the claims at public meetings and the reference to the Employment Bank during the debate on the state budget, there is a glaring mismatch between the number of those who may have logged in to scan employment opportunities and the response of the corporate sector. The virtual collapse of the bank underscores the reality ~ the employment crisis in Bengal today is more critical than what the Chief Minister is prepared to accept. Of fruitful interface, there is little; of benefits almost nil. Two possible conclusions can be drawn ~ either the portal has not been sufficiently publicised to facilitate a meaningful interaction or there aren’t suitable jobs enough to replenish the bank&’s reserves, so to speak. A third conclusion could be a reflection on the inadequacies of the learning process ~ a certain segment of those who are recorded in the portals may be unemployable. The Employment Bank is almost as fictitious as the title of this comment.
Tripura Cong workout
The appointment of Diba Chandra Hrangkhawl as the new Tripura Congress Pradesh chief and the creation of the post of working president (entrusted to general secretary and MLA Ashish Kumar Saha) are unlikely to end the chronic infighting in the organisation, as no one has so far been able to establish sufficient credibility to stand as a leader and assert himself. Years of personal and factional rivalries have reduced the local unit to one where the Central high command has to decide matters, however minor. The changes were coming in any case following the party&’s humiliation in the recently-held Assembly elections when it could secure just ten seats out of 60, the same as in two previous elections ~ and the resignation of PCC chief Sandip Roy Barman, owning responsibility. The Congress ostensibly wants to better its prospects in the tribal belt where, unlike the CPI-M), it is not cadre-strong. The party must ask itself why it has not been able to strike roots in this belt despite the fact that during its rule between 1988-93 it had done some good work. Unless the Congress chief is given a free hand to restore discipline the party is headed for a long spell in political wilderness.