Posts Tagged ‘Manmohan Singh’

Obama in India: Day2: Networking aplenty but no new contracts announced today

November 7, 2010

Plenty of activity and a full schedule for President and Mrs Obama in Mumbai and Delhi today. There were no new announcements of any agreements or any business deals but no doubt these will be saved up for the final, ritual press conference.

Fielding questions from students on issues ranging from Pakistan to jehad, establishing an e-connect with farmers and breaking into an impromptu jig, US President Barack Obama got into the groove in more ways than one as he ended the first leg of his India visit here before heading for New Delhi Sunday afternoon. Obama took on a host of sharp questions from eager students at the St Xavier’s College this morning in Mumbai.

Obama met hundreds of American and Indian business leaders yesterday at the USIBC event. “India is the United States’ 12th largest trading partner. It could be number one or two if the conditions for trade between these two giant economies continue to improve,” said The McGraw-Hill Companies Chairman and CEO Harold Terry McGraw III, who is also the Chairman of the US-India Business Council (USIBC). Along with the USIBC Chairman, the meeting was attended by GE CEO Jeff Immelt, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Honeywell Chairman David Cote, Reliance Industries Ltd Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Bharti Enterprises Vice Chairman Rajan Bharti Mittal.

Having mixed serious business with interactions with schoolchildren and a town hall-style meeting at St Xavier’s College, U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama began the second leg of their Indian trip in New Delhi.

President Obama has now arrived in Delhi where he was met at the airport by the Prime Minister.


Humayun's Tomb, Delhi:


It was as close to the slum-dog moment as the Obamas could get in their India tour. The US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with 16 children of labourers at  Humayun’s tomb in New Delhi today. The children, aged between five and seven, do not go to a regular school because they are too poor. They receive informal education due to the voluntary efforts of Mr K.K. Mohammad, the Superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India who has taken upon himself to get some basic literacy tools to these kids. At Humayun’s tomb, the children attired in uniforms of checked shirt and shorts spoke in Hindi to the U.S. President and the First Lady. They had small slate tablets in their hands and scribbled with white chalk on those tablets were the words “Welcome to India, Obamajee”. The President spoke to one eight-year-old Vishal, whose father Ram Das is a restoration worker at the Humayun’s tomb.

On the eve of their formal talks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama had a meeting in New Delhi on Sunday during which the two leaders are understood to have taken stock of bilateral ties and ways to push these to higher levels of strategic partnership.  Singh and Obama had a one-on-one meeting for about 25 minutes before the private dinner hosted by the Prime Minister for the visiting leader and his wife Michelle at his 7, Race Course Road residence.


Commonwealth Games: The inquest begins

October 17, 2010

The “last minute syndrome” is a unique and peculiar asset in India

The Games were supposed to cost under Rs 2,000 Crores (about 450 Million$).

The actual cost is likely to be around Rs. 30,000 Crores (about 6.7 Billion $).

About 500 Million $ has probably been paid for fictitious work, over-invoiced and overpaid to contractors, skimmed off or pocketed by individuals connected to the Organising Committee headed by Kalmadi. Some individual fortunes have been made and squirrelled away into Swiss and Channel Island and Caribbean bank accounts.

CWG Delhi Closing ceremony: image


The investigations have begun. Some scapegoats will have to be found. Shrill voices are questioning whether it was worth it or not. There is no shortage of suggestions about how all the money could have been better spent.

For example Vir Singhvi writes in the Hindustan Times:

We could have overhauled healthcare in our cities. We could have built thousands of new schools. We could have overhauled the chaotic traffic system. We could have spent that money on recruiting more policemen and giving them the facilities they need. We could have built hundreds of new courts and recruited more judges to reduce the backlog in our judicial system.

But I have a somewhat different take.

None of the predicted or feared catastrophe’s occurred. There were no terrorist attacks. There was no epidemic of dengue fever. The facilities at the Games village largely functioned well.  The logistics were chaotic to begin with but also largely functioned satisfactorily. As the performance of India’s athletes started bringing in the medals at the Games, the crowds which were initially absent started showing up. The opening ceremony was well carried out but the logistics on the opening day were chaotic and stressful for many athletes. But this was transformed by the time of the spectacular closing ceremony in front of a packed house.

In transforming an apparently hopeless situation into a qualified success by means of India’s patented “last minute syndrome” some heroes appeared. Sheila Dikshit the Chief Minister of Delhi and Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister can I think be credited with the success of the final mobilisation of effort. Politicians who were busy distancing themselves from the Games the week before it started were clamouring to be seen at the closing ceremony. The Delhi Police must take a bow not only for the security aspects but also for the handling of traffic. The organisers (and even the newly activated Committee who were now under the whip) and all the officials and “volunteers” and even the Delhi population pulled out all the stops. Many private contractors with their contract labour carried out a minor miracle on the last few days.

And this brings me to my point. One of the key issues in India is not – in the first instance – the availability of funding. The Indian weakness is in implementation, in using the money available well. Whatever the Games cost, the money was forthcoming when needed. About 10% was probably wasted. But because of the attention and pride (or more accurately the potential loss of face), a fiasco was averted. The “last minute syndrome” was activated. Implementation, and rather effective implementation, took place.

Even if there had been no Games and even if all the money had been poured into health care or traffic improvements or overhaul of the judicial system it would have achieved virtually nothing. Without attention and without visible deadlines to create a potential loss of face and -therefore – without a means of activating the “last minute syndrome” the money would have been frittered away.

It would be much more constructive if, instead of moaning about what could have been, every project being implemented in India could figure out a way of creating the real deadlines which could activate the “last minute syndrome”.

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