Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Implementing Direct cash transfer in India - State is fighting back against corruption

Solving the puzzle called corruption

“If Central government releases one rupee for poor, only 10 paisa reaches them.”

These are not the words of any excited activist from the street, but that of former premier Rajiv Gandhi (Congress Plenary Session- Bombay).

Government disbursal system is so leaky that, a great deal of flesh will be removed from the chicken before it reaches its target. For accepting the application, moving the file, getting the signatures, at the time of disbursal... doors which will unlock after showing notes with Gandhi's face!!!

However, rising literacy and increasing awareness intensified the resistance against these practices. But people are still vulnerable, after all line of hope still passes through old veins only.

In such circumstances, direct transfer of subsides to bank accounts of beneficiaries by central and state governments will be a blessing for ordinary man. This progression will definitely eliminate the roles of middle men and ghost recipients from the system. As an added advantage a substantial section of rural poor will come under country’s formal banking system; this will also facilitate them to save their wealth in a systematic way.

At a time, when government subsidies are running above three lakh crore rupees, gains of direct cash transfers not only make the process straightforward, but also augment the efficiency of auditing and restrain the corruption at low levels.

Prime Minister's remarks on Direct Transfers

Let’s take a glance at Prime Minister's speech at initial meeting of National Committee on Direct Transfers,

"“We have just concluded a very useful round of discussions about a very important initiative that the government has taken.

The government today spends huge funds on schemes and programmes for the benefit of the common man and the under-privileged sections of society. These schemes have the potential to bring about improvements in the lives of a large number of our people provided they are targeted correctly and implemented effectively. The funds that are provisioned for direct benefits like pensions, scholarships and health-care benefits must reach the intended beneficiaries without delays and leakages. Apart from these direct benefits, the government also provides an amount of over 3 lakh crore Rupees in subsidies which too must reach the right people.

Direct Cash Transfers, which are now becoming possible through the innovative use of technology and the spread of modern banking across the country, open the doors for eliminating waste, cutting down leakages and targeting beneficiaries better. We have a chance to ensure that every Rupee spent by the government is spent truly well and goes to those who truly deserve it.

I am happy at the widespread support that I have heard across the table for Direct Cash Transfers. I have also listened carefully about the challenges that lie in our way in moving to a system of Direct Cash Transfers. In the coming days we will need to make every possible effort to address these challenges.

The twin pillars for the success of the system of Direct Cash Transfers that we have envisioned are the Aaadhaar Platform and Financial Inclusion. If either of these pillars is weak, it would endanger the success of the initiative. I would expect the Finance Ministry and the Unique Identification Authority to work in close coordination to achieve a collective goal.

To move closer towards the goal of financial inclusion, the banking system perhaps needs to integrate the post office network, especially in the rural parts of the country. It also needs to ensure that the front end infrastructure is in place all over the country, both through the existing modes of banking and through newer innovative ones, so that people have no trouble in opening bank accounts and withdrawing and depositing cash. Ideally, the common man should be able to open a simple bank account on demand if they have an Aadhaar number. This would have many other benefits too, beyond cash transfers. For banks, the increase in the number of account holders would be an investment in their own growth. The Unique Identification Authority must ensure that the coverage of Aadhaar is adequate as per the rollout plan and no one is left out. An Aadhaar number should be available on demand if beneficiaries are getting left out.

I would urge the individual ministries to work in right earnest for implementation of the Direct Cash Transfers initiative. They will need to digitize their databases, most of which are with the States, and seed them with Aadhaar numbers. You will be provided help by both the Unique Identification Authority and the IT Ministry. But, you will in turn need to assist the States.

This is a program in which the implementation capacity of our government will be tested. We must ensure at all times that there is no duplication of effort, and technology is used to the fullest for efficiency gains.

The timelines we have set for ourselves are ambitious. Fifty one districts are to rollout from January next year and 18 States from April. And the rest of the country later in 2013. I have no doubt we can succeed in achieving these goals provided we work sincerely and collectively.

I wish you all success in your efforts to put in place a system of Direct Cash Transfers.”"

State Can still fight back

Direct cash transfer may diminish the ineptitude of system and curb corruption, but it will not solve the challenge by itself. Direct Cash transfers will come in to effect, once the person submit the application for loans or subsidies and officials sanction the same – nevertheless an old process. In the same way system can’t itself settle on who is eligible and who is not.

Corruption has the ability to evolve itself and adapt to the changing circumstances. Ghost recipients may still be able to sneak in, middle men may re-appear in another form... Government, its auditors, communities need to keep a relentless vigil against it.



1. Government of India

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hindustan Copper - One arm is selling and another arm is buying?

Finally government resumed the process of selling family silver to fill the big hole called fiscal deficit. Aim is to generate 30,000 crores through the sale of government shares in PSUs. Last year government aimed 40,000 crores, but managed to get only 14,000 crores. This year also story may not be different.

Hindustan Copper Ltd

Around 800 crores came to treasury from recently concluded sale of HCL shares. At first look, this seems to be a success – after all shares were fully subscribed. But the million dollar question here is, who bought the shares? Whether its FIIs, foreign investors, domestic investors or government companies itself?

According to reports, foreign and domestic investors were not so enthusiastic about it, even after offering a discount of 41% over Thursday’s market price (auction was on Friday).

Kodak securities reports that,
“As per media reports, Life Insurance Corporation, State Bank of India and Punjab National Bank saved the day for the HCL today. During the first three hours, bids worth Rs 31 crore only came from investors and it was only in last 30 minutes that the issue got fully subscribed”.
If it’s true, then on Friday stock markets gave a serious blow to government’s dream of generating 30,000 crores this year through disinvestment.

Most probably what happened here is, in the last minutes Life Insurance Corp, State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank etc invested their own money to save the share sales. This is bad practice, if government's real aim is to generate money from market then it should come from market not from other government owned companies. LIC is one of the rare government owned company which successfully competed with private ones and hold their ground.

In emergency situations, government can use LIC to save the process. But it may not be appropriate to use it every time. Previously, during the auction of ONGC shares also, it was LIC who saved the government.  In short, one arm of government is selling and another arm is buying!!! How can we say that, such types of disinvestments are a success?


The question here is, whether investors are totally disinterested in putting their money on stocks? The answer may be no, it’s tough time, but investors are still active- e.g. Blue Dart Express's (offered a discount of 16%) shares were oversubscribed.

Before going further with the auctions of NMDC and Oil India Ltd (OIL) in December, government needs to sit back and think about valuation and other aspects.

Selling the shares of government owned companies is not a proper way to cover fiscal deficit. It’s not that, government should not sell PSUs at all, it should; but, money coming from there should be used for investments, not for filling holes. What we are currently doing is cooking the seeds for day to day food requirements...!!!



1. Economic Times
2. Kodak Securities
3. Business Standard

Collaborating with private sector on cyber security

Cyber warfare is one of the new frontiers in modern warfare. In future wars, governments (as well as other groups) will employ their cyber potential to cripple their enemy's defences and infrastructure. Recent incidents across the globe shows that, governments can start a cyber war without going through a formal declaration of war. In such a situation it is important for India to invest in securing her cyber systems, networks and other infrastructure.

A recent Joint Working Group (JWG) report indicates that, GOI is walking in the right direction to secure our cyber space.  JWG report on engagement with Private Sector for strengthening Cyber Security Architecture put forward some important suggestions.

1. Setting up of a permanent Joint Working Group under the aegis of National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) with representatives from government as well as private sector.
2. Setting up of the Joint Committee of International Cooperation of Advocacy (JCICA).
3. The private sector will set up information Sharing & Analysis Sector (ISACs) in various sectors and cooperate with the sectoral Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) at the operational level.
4. The Joint Working Group has identified four pilot projects for collaboration which include:
   (I) Setting up of Pilot Testing Lab.
   (II) Conducting a test audit of a specified sector.
   (III) Studying vulnerabilities in a sample critical information infrastructure.
   (IV) Establishment of the multi – disciplinary Centre of Excellence

In these days, when we are frequently hearing about breaches in various government systems by foreign elements, a tie up between government and private sector - harnessing the potential of private companies acquired in this area over time - may prove good in securing nation's cyber infrastructure.



1. Government of India.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The damned discovery – Arrival of cheap shale gas in North America

US Natural Gas prices 2007-2012
You may be wondering, why I put the word ‘damned’ in the title. Well, the conclusion will explain that.

Shale gas boom in Northern America

Strategists, energy experts, news papers etc are celebrating shale gas boom in US. With the arrival of new oil & gas king – US – OPEC’s ability for giving another oil shock may reduce, even a temporary instability in Middle-East or a crisis in Venezuela may not take crude oil prices over the head. However, Asian countries will remain vulnerable to the events in Middle-East.

According to Energy Department in Washington, in the first six months of this year US met 83% of its energy needs. This year alone, US crude import has fallen by 11%. Forecasts states that, US will overtake Saudi Arabia in oil production by 2020; and North America will become net exporter by 2030. However, Saudi Arabia may reclaim its position as the top oil producer by 2030.

Not only US oil and shale gas boom, but energy discoveries in Canada, offshore production in Gulf of Mexico and re-entry of old oil mogul Iraq to the game will certainly increase the availability of oil and gas in international markets.


Europe is yet to enter the shale era. As far as energy is concerned, continent is living under triple fear.  They fear to introduce hydraulic fracturing techniques, for extracting gas trapped in shale layers; secondly, they fear about constructing more reactors and using nuclear energy – especially after Fukushima crisis; thirdly, they fear about gas and oil supplies from Russia and climate change.

The way out for them, may be investing in evergreen energy producer – Coal. I used the word evergreen here because, whenever people start thinking that age of coal is over, she used to fight back successfully and conquer the throne. Europeans can also increase the drilling in Arctic, but it requires heavy investments and not all European countries have arctic shores.

US may replace her dirty coal fired plants with cheap and clean gas fired plants for generating electricity. Such an event will force US coal to search for new markets; probably across the Atlantic – to Europe. Already struggling under the twin weight of high dependency on Russian energy imports and self imposed nuclear ban Europe may embrace cheap coal.


However, these events may not turn out good for India because of various reasons.

1. Even after struggling for a good number of years, GOI is yet to come up with a good, non-controversial piece of paper called – Price Sharing Contract. Ever shifting policy, priorities and other problems were visible in court cases with Reliance industries over KG basin.
2. The construction spree of Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPP), powered by coal – which we need to import from Indonesia, Australia etc – will keep the cost of electricity generation high.
3. Rising consumerism and number of fossil fuel powered vehicles will make the problem worse.
4. Even though gas prices are going down in US, we may not experience any such relaxation as gas prices are linked to oil prices; moreover governments are going for long term contracts instead of short term ones. So, if oil price remains high, gas prices will also remain high.
5. GOI is yet to form a comprehensive shale gas policy for India, it may come in 2013 or 14. Considering GOI’s problems in NELP (New exploration licensing policy) even after nine rounds, shale gas policy may take long time to consolidate. This will effectively make Indian shale gas exploration unattractive for international energy giants.

On the positive side, oil price may stabilize and go down. In future we may have more LNG terminals to receive cheap gas from Northern America, Russian Far East and Middle East – especially Qatar.


You may be wondering why I put the word dammed in the title. I am very much happy to see revolutionary changes in oil and gas extraction technologies in US, cheap oil and gas production and millions of new jobs created in US. However, this will reduce the incentives for US energy giants, automakers and the government to invest in alternate energy production techniques; especially the ones which can run cars and trucks.

I thought that, US dependency on Middle-Eastern oil and European dependency on Russian oil and gas will force them to speed up the research of alternate energy sources for utilities and vehicles. With the availability of cheap gas in US; coal, oil and gas (Russia in cooperation with EU energy companies is building pipelines to Southern Europe) will remove (or reduce) the strong urge for investing heavily in new energy frontiers. This will force India, China etc to depend on oil import for foreseeable future.

I sincerely hope that, GOI will find some time, in between building UMPPs, to take up commercially producible alternate energy - not only wind or solar plants spread over large areas but the one which can run small cars to big trucks. I can only hope that, there will be some breakthrough in this area. Till that time we may have to build more LNG terminals and try all we can do to delink gas prices from that of oil.

GOI needs to take this as a do or die fight; otherwise we may find ourselves totally helpless in front of rising oil and gas bills.



1. US Energy Information Administration
2. Bloomberg
3. International Energy Agency

Photo Courtesy: Energy Information Administration, US Government

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

‘Minute on Indian Educatione’ by T.B Macaulay

Macaulay was one of the prominent bureaucrats of British Raj, whose actions (along with Lord Bentinck) significantly altered the course of a country. Macaulay was ‘Secretary to the board of control’ (1832-33), under then premier ‘Lord Grey’ during the passage of ‘Government of India Act-1833’ (aka Saint Helena Act-1833). Later, Macaulay became the first Law minister in Governor General's council and came to India in 1834. From 1834-38 he was the member of Supreme Council of India.

One of the most famous piece of paper Macaulay produced in India was, his 'Minute on Indian Educatione' of February 1835 (basis for English Education Act of 1835). This act brought in to action, decisions by then Governor General of India - William Bentinck - to reallocate the funds ‘Company’ has to spend on education and literature, as required by British parliament. According to Charter Act - 1813, East India Company has to spend 100,000 rupees per year for the promotion of literature, knowledge of sciences etc.

After this act came into force, Company switched their support for education from the traditional one in Sanskrit and Arabic to western curriculum with English as the medium. Language of Administration and higher courts were also changed from Persian to English.

Changes under Lord Auckland

Later Lord Auckland, who succeeded Bentinck, reversed some of the policies (Lord Auckland's minute on 24 November 1839, suggested funding for Oriental colleges as well). Company also resumed the support for publication of Sanskrit and Arabic works, through a grant to Asiatic Society.

Indian Penal Code and more

Apart from contributing to ‘English Education Act of 1935’, thus became the architect of English Education in India, Macaulay also contributed to Indian Penal Code (1860), Indian Criminal Procedure Code (1872), nationalization of English East India Company etc... It is interesting to note that, Indian Penal Code(IPC) is still in use- in one way or other - in several former British colonies including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Zimbabwe etc.

It is true that, many of his statements are totally unacceptable to Indians. At the same time we can't ignore his contributions for the development of English education in India.

'Minute on Indian Educatione'

Please note that, even though I am publishing this minute, I can’t agree on most of the arguments put forwarded by Macaulay for selecting English as the medium of education.

There is no doubt that, English is a beautiful language with an excellent collection of literature. But, I can’t buy his arguments like – Oriental languages don’t have good literature, incomprehensible to convey the language of modern science, not good enough for trade etc. These were proved incorrect later in theory as well as in practice.

At the same time, we have to remember that this story unfolded in 1830s, long before the remains of Indus Valley Civilisation was discovered in 1920s; three years before James Prinsep deciphered Ashokan edicts; 41 years before Alexander Cunningham wrote ‘The Stupa of Bharhut’; 26 years before Alexander Cunningham founded ‘Archaeological Survey of India’; 69 years before R. Shamasastry discovered Chanakya’s Arthashastra. Practically at a time, even we knew a little about our own history.

Full text of Macaulay’s 'Minute on Indian Educatione' of 2nd February 1835
         “As it seems to be the opinion of some of the gentlemen who compose the Committee of Public Instruction that the course which they have hitherto pursued was strictly prescribed by the British Parliament in 1813 and as, if that opinion be correct, a legislative act will be necessary to warrant a change, I have thought it right to refrain from taking any part in the preparation of the adverse statements which are.now before us, and to reserve what I had to say on the subject till it should come before me as a Member of the Council of India. 
        It does not appear to me that the Act of Parliament can by any art of contraction be made to bear the meaning which has been assigned to it. It contains nothing about the particular languages or sciences which are to be studied. A sum is set apart "for the revival and promotion of literature, and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories." It is argued, or rather taken for granted, that by literature the Parliament can have meant only Arabic and Sanscrit literature; that they never would have given the honourable appellation of "a learned native" to a native who was familiar with the poetry of Milton, the metaphysics of Locke, and the physics of Newton; but that they meant to designate by that name only such persons as might have studied in the sacred books of the Hindoos all the uses of cusa-grass, and all the mysteries of absorption into the Deity. This does not appear to be a very satisfactory interpretation. To take a parallel case: Suppose that the Pacha of Egypt, a country once superior in knowledge to the nations of Europe, but now sunk far below them, were to appropriate a sum for the purpose "of reviving and promoting literature, and encouraging learned natives of Egypt," would any body infer that he meant the youth of his Pachalik to give years to the study of hieroglyphics, to search into all the doctrines disguised under the fable of Osiris, and to ascertain with all possible accuracy the ritual with which cats and onions were anciently adored? Would he be justly charged with inconsistency if, instead of employing his young subjects in deciphering obelisks, he were to order them to be instructed in the English and French languages, and in all the sciences to which those languages are the chief keys? 
         The words on which the supporters of the old system rely do not bear them out, and other words follow which seem to be quite decisive on the other side. This lakh of rupees is set apart not only for "reviving literature in India," the phrase on which their whole interpretation is founded, but also "for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories"-- words which are alone sufficient to authorize all the changes for which I contend. 
         If the Council agree in my construction no legislative act will be necessary. If they differ from me, I will propose a short act rescinding that I clause of the Charter of 1813 from which the difficulty arises. 
        The argument which I have been considering affects only the form of proceeding. But the admirers of the oriental system of education have used another argument, which, if we admit it to be valid, is decisive against all change. They conceive that the public faith is pledged to the present system, and that to alter the appropriation of any of the funds which have hitherto been spent in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanscrit would be downright spoliation. It is not easy to understand by what process of reasoning they can have arrived at this conclusion. The grants which are made from the public purse for the encouragement of literature differ in no respect from the grants which are made from the same purse for other objects of real or supposed utility. We found a sanitarium on a spot which we suppose to be healthy. Do we thereby pledge ourselves to keep a sanitarium there if the result should not answer our expectations? We commence the erection of a pier. Is it a violation of the public faith to stop the works, if we afterwards see reason to believe that the building will be useless? The rights of property are undoubtedly sacred. But nothing endangers those rights so much as the practice, now unhappily too common, of attributing them to things to which they do not belong. Those who would impart to abuses the sanctity of property are in truth imparting to the institution of property the unpopularity and the fragility of abuses. If the Government has given to any person a formal assurance-- nay, if the Government has excited in any person's mind a reasonable expectation-- that he shall receive a certain income as a teacher or a learner of Sanscrit or Arabic, I would respect that person's pecuniary interests. I would rather err on the side of liberality to individuals than suffer the public faith to be called in question. But to talk of a Government pledging itself to teach certain languages and certain sciences, though those languages may become useless, though those sciences may be exploded, seems to me quite unmeaning. There is not a single word in any public instrument from which it can be inferred that the Indian Government ever intended to give any pledge on this subject, or ever considered the destination of these funds as unalterably fixed. But, had it been otherwise, I should have denied the competence of our predecessors to bind us by any pledge on such a subject. Suppose that a Government had in the last century enacted in the most solemn manner that all its subjects should, to the end of time, be inoculated for the small-pox, would that Government be bound to persist in the practice after Jenner's discovery? These promises of which nobody claims the performance, and from which nobody can grant a release, these vested rights which vest in nobody, this property without proprietors, this robbery which makes nobody poorer, may be comprehended by persons of higher faculties than mine. I consider this plea merely as a set form of words, regularly used both in England and in India, in defence of every abuse for which no other plea can be set up. 
        I hold this lakh of rupees to be quite at the disposal of the Governor-General in Council for the purpose of promoting learning in India in any way which may be thought most advisable. I hold his Lordship to be quite as free to direct that it shall no longer be employed in encouraging Arabic and Sanscrit, as he is to direct that the reward for killing tigers in Mysore shall be diminished, or that no more public money shall be expended on the chaunting at the cathedral. 
        We now come to the gist of the matter. We have a fund to be employed as Government shall direct for the intellectual improvement of the people of this country. The simple question is, what is the most useful way of employing it? 
        All parties seem to be agreed on one point, that the dialects commonly spoken among the natives of this part of India contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude that, until they are enriched from some other quarter, it will not be easy to translate any valuable work into them.  It seems to be admitted on all sides, that the intellectual improvement of those classes of the people who have the means of pursuing higher studies can at present be affected only by means of some language not vernacular amongst them. 
        What then shall that language be? One-half of the committee maintain that it should be the English. The other half strongly recommend the Arabic and Sanscrit. The whole question seems to me to be-- which language is the best worth knowing? 
         I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works. I have conversed, both here and at home, with men distinguished by their proficiency in the Eastern tongues. I am quite ready to take the oriental learning at the valuation of the orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education. 
         It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England. In every branch of physical or moral philosophy, the relative position of the two nations is nearly the same. 
        How then stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands pre-eminent even among the languages of the West. It abounds with works of imagination not inferior to the noblest which Greece has bequeathed to us, --with models of every species of eloquence, --with historical composition, which, considered merely as narratives, have seldom been surpassed, and which, considered as vehicles of ethical and political instruction, have never been equaled-- with just and lively representations of human life and human nature, --with the most profound speculations on metaphysics, morals, government, jurisprudence, trade, --with full and correct information respecting every experimental science which tends to preserve the health, to increase the comfort, or to expand the intellect of man. Whoever knows that language has ready access to all the vast intellectual wealth which all the wisest nations of the earth have created and hoarded in the course of ninety generations. It may safely be said that the literature now extant in that language is of greater value than all the literature which three hundred years ago was extant in all the languages of the world together. Nor is this all. In India, English is the language spoken by the ruling class. It is spoken by the higher class of natives at the seats of Government. It is likely to become the language of commerce throughout the seas of the East. It is the language of two great European communities which are rising, the one in the south of Africa, the other in Australia, --communities which are every year becoming more important and more closely connected with our Indian empire. Whether we look at the intrinsic value of our literature, or at the particular situation of this country, we shall see the strongest reason to think that, of all foreign tongues, the English tongue is that which would be the most useful to our native subjects. 
        The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in our power to teach this language, we shall teach languages in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject which deserve to be compared to our own, whether, when we can teach European science, we shall teach systems which, by universal confession, wherever they differ from those of Europe differ for the worse, and whether, when we can patronize sound philosophy and true history, we shall countenance, at the public expense, medical doctrines which would disgrace an English farrier, astronomy which would move laughter in girls at an English boarding school, history abounding with kings thirty feet high and reigns thirty thousand years long, and geography made of seas of treacle and seas of butter. 
        We are not without experience to guide us. History furnishes several analogous cases, and they all teach the same lesson. There are, in modern times, to go no further, two memorable instances of a great impulse given to the mind of a whole society, of prejudices overthrown, of knowledge diffused, of taste purified, of arts and sciences planted in countries which had recently been ignorant and barbarous. 
        The first instance to which I refer is the great revival of letters among the Western nations at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. At that time almost everything that was worth reading was contained in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Had our ancestors acted as the Committee of Public Instruction has hitherto noted, had they neglected the language of Thucydides and Plato, and the language of Cicero and Tacitus, had they confined their attention to the old dialects of our own island, had they printed nothing and taught nothing at the universities but chronicles in Anglo-Saxon and romances in Norman French, --would England ever have been what she now is? What the Greek and Latin were to the contemporaries of More and Ascham, our tongue is to the people of India. The literature of England is now more valuable than that of classical antiquity. I doubt whether the Sanscrit literature be as valuable as that of our Saxon and Norman progenitors. In some departments-- in history for example-- I am certain that it is much less so. 
         Another instance may be said to be still before our eyes. Within the last hundred and twenty years, a nation which had previously been in a state as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades has gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken its place among civilized communities. I speak of Russia. There is now in that country a large educated class abounding with persons fit to serve the State in the highest functions, and in nowise inferior to the most accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London. There is reason to hope that this vast empire which, in the time of our grandfathers, was probably behind the Punjab, may in the time of our grandchildren, be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement. And how was this change effected? Not by flattering national prejudices; not by feeding the mind of the young Muscovite with the old women's stories which his rude fathers had believed; not by filling his head with lying legends about St. Nicholas; not by encouraging him to study the great question, whether the world was or not created on the 13th of September; not by calling him "a learned native" when he had mastered all these points of knowledge; but by teaching him those foreign languages in which the greatest mass of information had been laid up, and thus putting all that information within his reach. The languages of western Europe civilised Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar. 
        And what are the arguments against that course which seems to be alike recommended by theory and by experience? It is said that we ought to secure the co-operation of the native public, and that we can do this only by teaching Sanscrit and Arabic. 
         I can by no means admit that, when a nation of high intellectual attainments undertakes to superintend the education of a nation comparatively ignorant, the learners are absolutely to prescribe the course which is to be taken by the teachers. It is not necessary however to say anything on this subject. For it is proved by unanswerable evidence, that we are not at present securing the co-operation of the natives. It would be bad enough to consult their intellectual taste at the expense of their intellectual health. But we are consulting neither. We are withholding from them the learning which is palatable to them. We are forcing on them the mock learning which they nauseate. 
        This is proved by the fact that we are forced to pay our Arabic and Sanscrit students while those who learn English are willing to pay us. All the declamations in the world about the love and reverence of the natives for their sacred dialects will never, in the mind of any impartial person, outweigh this undisputed fact, that we cannot find in all our vast empire a single student who will let us teach him those dialects, unless we will pay him. 
        I have now before me the accounts of the Mudrassa for one month, the month of December, 1833. The Arabic students appear to have been seventy-seven in number. All receive stipends from the public. The whole amount paid to them is above 500 rupees a month. On the other side of the account stands the following item: 
        Deduct amount realized from the out-students of English for the months of May, June, and July last-- 103 rupees. 
        I have been told that it is merely from want of local experience that I am surprised at these phenomena, and that it is not the fashion for students in India to study at their own charges. This only confirms me in my opinions. Nothing is more certain than that it never can in any part of the world be necessary to pay men for doing what they think pleasant or profitable. India is no exception to this rule. The people of India do not require to be paid for eating rice when they are hungry, or for wearing woollen cloth in the cold season. To come nearer to the case before us: --The children who learn their letters and a little elementary arithmetic from the village schoolmaster are not paid by him. He is paid for teaching them. Why then is it necessary to pay people to learn Sanscrit and Arabic? Evidently because it is universally felt that the Sanscrit and Arabic are languages the knowledge of which does not compensate for the trouble of acquiring them. On all such subjects the state of the market is the detective test.# 
         Other evidence is not wanting, if other evidence were required. A petition was presented last year to the committee by several ex-students of the Sanscrit College. The petitioners stated that they had studied in the college ten or twelve years, that they had made themselves acquainted with Hindoo literature and science, that they had received certificates of proficiency. And what is the fruit of all this? "Notwithstanding such testimonials," they say, "we have but little prospect of bettering our condition without the kind assistance of your honourable committee, the indifference with which we are generally looked upon by our countrymen leaving no hope of encouragement and assistance from them." They therefore beg that they may be recommended to the Governor-General for places under the Government-- not places of high dignity or emolument, but such as may just enable them to exist. "We want means," they say, "for a decent living, and for our progressive improvement, which, however, we cannot obtain without the assistance of Government, by whom we have been educated and maintained from childhood." They conclude by representing very pathetically that they are sure that it was never the intention of Government, after behaving so liberally to them during their education, to abandon them to destitution and neglect. 
        I have been used to see petitions to Government for compensation. All those petitions, even the most unreasonable of them, proceeded on the supposition that some loss had been sustained, that some wrong had been inflicted. These are surely the first petitioners who ever demanded compensation for having been educated gratis, for having been supported by the public during twelve years, and then sent forth into the world well furnished with literature and science. They represent their education as an injury which gives them a claim on the Government for redress, as an injury for which the stipends paid to them during the infliction were a very inadequate compensation. And I doubt not that they are in the right. They have wasted the best years of life in learning what procures for them neither bread nor respect. Surely we might with advantage have saved the cost of making these persons useless and miserable. Surely, men may be brought up to be burdens to the public and objects of contempt to their neighbours at a somewhat smaller charge to the State. But such is our policy. We do not even stand neuter in the contest between truth and falsehood. We are not content to leave the natives to the influence of their own hereditary prejudices. To the natural difficulties which obstruct the progress of sound science in the East, we add great difficulties of our own making. Bounties and premiums, such as ought not to be given even for the propagation of truth, we lavish on false texts and false philosophy. 
        By acting thus we create the very evil which we fear. We are making that opposition which we do not find. What we spend on the Arabic and Sanscrit Colleges is not merely a dead loss to the cause of truth. It is bounty-money paid to raise up champions of error. It goes to form a nest not merely of helpless placehunters but of bigots prompted alike by passion and by interest to raise a cry against every useful scheme of education. If there should be any opposition among the natives to the change which I recommend, that opposition will be the effect of our own system. It will be headed by persons supported by our stipends and trained in our colleges. The longer we persevere in our present course, the more formidable will that opposition be. It will be every year reinforced by recruits whom we are paying. From the native society, left to itself, we have no difficulties to apprehend. All the murmuring will come from that oriental interest which we have, by artificial means, called into being and nursed into strength. 
There is yet another fact which is alone sufficient to prove that the feeling of the native public, when left to itself, is not such as the supporters of the old system represent it to be. The committee have thought fit to lay out above a lakh of rupees in printing Arabic and Sanscrit books. Those books find no purchasers. It is very rarely that a single copy is disposed of. Twenty-three thousand volumes, most of them folios and quartos, fill the libraries or rather the lumber-rooms of this body. The committee contrive to get rid of some portion of their vast stock of oriental literature by giving books away. But they cannot give so fast as they print. About twenty thousand rupees a year are spent in adding fresh masses of waste paper to a hoard which, one should think, is already sufficiently ample. During the last three years about sixty thousand rupees have been expended in this manner. The sale of Arabic and Sanscrit books during those three years has not yielded quite one thousand rupees. In the meantime, the School Book Society is selling seven or eight thousand English volumes every year, and not only pays the expenses of printing but realizes a profit of twenty per cent. on its outlay.
      The fact that the Hindoo law is to be learned chiefly from Sanscrit books, and the Mahometan law from Arabic books, has been much insisted on, but seems not to bear at all on the question. We are commanded by Parliament to ascertain and digest the laws of India. The assistance of a Law Commission has been given to us for that purpose. As soon as the Code is promulgated the Shasters and the Hedaya will be useless to a moonsiff or a Sudder Ameen. I hope and trust that, before the boys who are now entering at the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College have completed their studies, this great work will be finished. It would be manifestly absurd to educate the rising generation with a view to a state of things which we mean to alter before they reach manhood. 
       But there is yet another argument which seems even more untenable. It is said that the Sanscrit and the Arabic are the languages in which the sacred books of a hundred millions of people are written, and that they are on that account entitled to peculiar encouragement. Assuredly it is the duty of the British Government in India to be not only tolerant but neutral on all religious questions. But to encourage the study of a literature, admitted to be of small intrinsic value, only because that literature inculcated the most serious errors on the most important subjects, is a course hardly reconcilable with reason, with morality, or even with that very neutrality which ought, as we all agree, to be sacredly preserved. It is confined that a language is barren of useful knowledge. We are to teach it because it is fruitful of monstrous superstitions. We are to teach false history, false astronomy, false medicine, because we find them in company with a false religion. We abstain, and I trust shall always abstain, from giving any public encouragement to those who are engaged in the work of converting the natives to Christianity. And while we act thus, can we reasonably or decently bribe men, out of the revenues of the State, to waste their youth in learning how they are to purify themselves after touching an ass or what texts of the Vedas they are to repeat to expiate the crime of killing a goat? 
        It is taken for granted by the advocates of oriental learning that no native of this country can possibly attain more than a mere smattering of English. They do not attempt to prove this. But they perpetually insinuate it. They designate the education which their opponents recommend as a mere spelling-book education. They assume it as undeniable that the question is between a profound knowledge of Hindoo and Arabian literature and science on the one side, and superficial knowledge of the rudiments of English on the other. This is not merely an assumption, but an assumption contrary to all reason and experience. We know that foreigners of all nations do learn our language sufficiently to have access to all the most abstruse knowledge which it contains sufficiently to relish even the more delicate graces of our most idiomatic writers. There are in this very town natives who are quite competent to discuss political or scientific questions with fluency and precision in the English language. I have heard the very question on which I am now writing discussed by native gentlemen with a liberality and an intelligence which would do credit to any member of the Committee of Public Instruction. Indeed it is unusual to find, even in the literary circles of the Continent, any foreigner who can express himself in English with so much facility and correctness as we find in many Hindoos. Nobody, I suppose, will contend that English is so difficult to a Hindoo as Greek to an Englishman. Yet an intelligent English youth, in a much smaller number of years than our unfortunate pupils pass at the Sanscrit College, becomes able to read, to enjoy, and even to imitate not unhappily the compositions of the best Greek authors. Less than half the time which enables an English youth to read Herodotus and Sophocles ought to enable a Hindoo to read Hume and Milton. 
        To sum up what I have said. I think it clear that we are not fettered by the Act of Parliament of 1813, that we are not fettered by any pledge expressed or implied, that we are free to employ our funds as we choose, that we ought to employ them in teaching what is best worth knowing, that English is better worth knowing than Sanscrit or Arabic, that the natives are desirous to be taught English, and are not desirous to be taught Sanscrit or Arabic, that neither as the languages of law nor as the languages of religion have the Sanscrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our encouragement, that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly good English scholars, and that to this end our efforts ought to be directed. 
        In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern,  --a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population. 
       I would strictly respect all existing interests. I would deal even generously with all individuals who have had fair reason to expect a pecuniary provision. But I would strike at the root of the bad system which has hitherto been fostered by us. I would at once stop the printing of Arabic and Sanscrit books. I would abolish the Mudrassa and the Sanscrit College at Calcutta. Benares is the great seat of Brahminical learning; Delhi of Arabic learning. If we retain the Sanscrit College at Bonares and the Mahometan College at Delhi we do enough and much more than enough in my opinion, for the Eastern languages. If the Benares and Delhi Colleges should be retained, I would at least recommend that no stipends shall be given to any students who may hereafter repair thither, but that the people shall be left to make their own choice between the rival systems of education without being bribed by us to learn what they have no desire to know. The funds which would thus be placed at our disposal would enable us to give larger encouragement to the Hindoo College at Calcutta, and establish in the principal cities throughout the Presidencies of Fort William and Agra schools in which the English language might be well and thoroughly taught. 
        If the decision of His Lordship in Council should be such as I anticipate, I shall enter on the performance of my duties with the greatest zeal and alacrity. If, on the other hand, it be the opinion of the Government that the present system ought to remain unchanged, I beg that I may be permitted to retire from the chair of the Committee. I feel that I could not be of the smallest use there. I feel also that I should be lending my countenance to what I firmly believe to be a mere delusion. I believe that the present system tends not to accelerate the progress of truth but to delay the natural death of expiring errors. I conceive that we have at present no right to the respectable name of a Board of Public Instruction. We are a Board for wasting the public money, for printing books which are of less value than the paper on which they are printed was while it was blank-- for giving artificial encouragement to absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd physics, absurd theology-- for raising up a breed of scholars who find their scholarship an incumbrance and blemish, who live on the public while they are receiving their education, and whose education is so utterly useless to them that, when they have received it, they must either starve or live on the public all the rest of their lives. Entertaining these opinions, I am naturally desirous to decline all share in the responsibility of a body which, unless it alters its whole mode of proceedings, I must consider, not merely as useless, but as positively noxious. 
     2nd February 1835.
     I give my entire concurrence to the sentiments expressed in this Minute.
     W.C BENTINCK. “


1. Columbia University
2. Missoury Southern State University
3. Wikipedia

Monday, November 19, 2012

Divali - Celebrating the festival of lights

Te... te... te.... I woke up from bed and looked around. Sun rays were coming through the glasses of nearby windows. I tried to sleep again, but continuous sound of crackers didn’t let me do that. Finally, woke up and opened the door to balcony – a small one on fifth floor of a residential building. The open part of balcony was covered with iron grills in order to prevent monkeys from entering to the room.

Oh! I forgot to say about monkeys. In our locality, even though it is tens of kilometres away from the nearest forest, is an amusement park for monkeys. Around one year back, one of my friends forgot to close a window door. They came in, opened the packets and bottles which contained food items. I think they love sugar – after all around half a kilogram of sugar packet was cleaned properly. By the way they seem to be very intelligent; apart from food items these forefathers of humans didn’t touch anything else. Now-a-days we are really missing them!!!

Grills were painted in black with a light shadow of green. Through its 5 * 5 cm square holes I could see a small kid looking towards a cracker in her father’s hand. He held the cracker over a nearby lamp for some time and finally threw it away. It exploded with a vigorous sound. I slowly walked away from the balcony and walked towards the front room. In between, I took a look towards my roommate sleeping in the room. He was trying to pull the blanket over his head so that it would cover his ears as well.

After taking bath, I walked back to the room. S. K. Pottekkad’s African travelogue was there in a corner. I slowly took it and started reading an article about his journey through Uganda. Well, it’s the time to have some breakfast. By this time, my roommate also woke up and prepared himself for going to a hotel.
From the outer gates, we took a left turn and walked towards the nearby hotel – unfortunately it was closed. So, we took a U turn and started walking. Suddenly, one lorry came and went, waking up the dust particles from the ground and comfortably placing it on our face.

Road was tarred and straight, good enough for two buses to stand side by side; but not strong enough to escape from good rains. Some metres away, there was a gutter in the middle; last time, while walking late night, I barely escaped from falling in to it. If rained, this portion of the road will transform in to a lake – 12 wide and 15 metre long. Without any water to fill her deep cuts in flesh, she looked and smiled with her bare bones.

After walking another one kilometre we finally reached in front of a number of hotels – only to see their closed doors. Two stores were open; we went in to one of them and ordered two teas. There was a hump in front of that tore. Cars were coming fast, slowing down just in front and slowly flattening her.

Milon came with two glasses filled with tea. He comfortably settled in the next chair and jumped in to his mobile for reading news. Many BMTC buses came and went. After finishing tea we walked back to room.
One the way bought some biscuits and a packet of candles. As there was nothing much to see, I started watching the movie ‘Hera Peri’. After lunch, played clips of ‘V for Vendetta’, its dialogues were very much interesting; especially when the protagonist saves the heroine in the beginning. Don’t know when I fell in to sleep.

Again it was the sound of crackers which woke me up. Sun moved towards the western ocean and night in black gown started moving in to the city. We opened candle’s pack – there were around 50 to 60 in that box. Cold wind put out some of them placed outside the door. By the way, currently city is going through one of its coldest evenings.

After lightening rest of the candles placed inside the rooms we turned the lights off. It was a beautiful sight - tens of candles were shining and spreading her warm and shiny rays across the floor. In between I put one candle on the top of a bottle containing sun flower oil only to see the top of the bottle changed in to the shape of a waterfall with a hole in the middle!!!

Divali also known as Deepavali is a festival of lights. Divali starts on Dhanteras (Dhan means wealth and Teras means 13th day) - 13th lunar day of Krishna Paksha (Dark fortnight) in Ashivin month. Celebrations will end on second lunar day of Shukla Pasha (bright fortnight) called Bhaubeej in the month of Karthik. Divali is one of the most celebrated festivals for Hindus, for Jain’s it was day Mahavira achieved salvation. Apart from Hindu’s and Jains’, Sikhs and Buddhists also celebrate Diwali – although reasons are different.

Crackers were exploding outside. We went to terrace, and looked around. Rockets from the nearby building created bright patterns on air. Below, families from nearby buildings were trying their luck with various crackers. Kids were engaged in ground wheels – this after catching fire starts rotating in the ground spitting a combinations vibrant colours. Other interesting thing for them was sparklers.

At one end, another group was putting fire to their flower pots – on catching fire, this will start emitting lights of different colours as if lava was flowing from a volcano – some will rise as high as 10 feet and then come down. Another group were engaged in lightening their rockets. One went around 150 feet over my head and disappeared in to the darkness. In the middle people were trying to explode their noisy crackers – this type will create less light but heavy sound. Needless to say they are enjoyment for eyes, bit if not used carefully then the same will turn it to a lifelong agony. Even if you use properly, you may not be able to predict the destinations of rockets. Sometimes it may not work, but sometimes it may do some unwanted work as well.

We came down from terrace and walked towards the road, unexpected explosion of high sound crackers on right side really startled me. From the road we could see the rockets flying from nearby buildings – some of the balconies were decorated with colourful electric lights. LEDs emitting red, green, blue and its combinations were hanging from the top of a building in the right side. They are very much attentive to the tunes of the wind and dancing along with it.

There is one business which is totally insulated from recession – toddy/liquor shops. Within some three hundred metres there are two outlets for alcohols. These were open today as well; irony was hotel owners didn’t feel any such urgency for remaining open.

However, roadside pani-poori stalls were open. We went there and ordered two plates pani-poori. Opposite to us, two men in their middle ages were standing - one person on red Sikh turban, other one in white shirt and grey pants. They were talking with pani-pooriwala about the way divali celebrated in different parts of India. This way pani-poori stall can transform itself to a local communication hot spot – same as in the case of local barber shops.

Back in home, there was a barber shop located on the sides of a Panchayath road. This was the only barber shop in that area – a small room with two wooden stools in the front, two benches in inner room, two rotating chairs, and large glass plates on opposite walls, upper half of the wall facing the road was full of glass windows.

There were only two barbers, disproportionate to their client size. Because of this atleast half a dozen people were waiting at any point of time except on Tuesday, which is holiday for barbers. Hair cutting is a process which takes time – unfortunate guys came in the end has to wait for long time to get a chance to sit in that rotating chair.

Those who are waiting had nothing else to do – in those days mobile phones where an unknown entity. To spent time, some would read news papers, some others will read cinema magazines, enjoys Raja Ravimarma pictures decorating the calendar pages. Some may be engaged in talking about everything happening in the village, at their work places, condition of relatives in gulf countries, their own plan to cross Arabian Sea, state politics, prices of motor vehicles, recent marriages, number of coconuts in a coconut tree, last time police jeep passed through the area, instalments for TV, LIC; what more people will even talk about their adventures in fishing at the nearby river when they were young.

By this time, we finished two plates and left them with their memories. We walked forward and entered the business area – after crossing the gates of IT companies, KFC, ATMs etc we finally reached the main road and crossed to the other side.

There was a sea of people, engaged in exploding highly noisy crackers. That narrow concrete road was covered with a layer of newspapers pieces which was the outer layer of crackers. Suddenly there was a chain of explosion on my right side. Noise was so high that, I had to cover my ears using hand.

In front of us – some 100 feet away – kids were eagerly exploding whatever came to their hand. One was in full blazers; another one was wearing white shirt and black pant, still another one standing some 10 metres away wearing a facial expression that he was not part of any thing going on. They were lightening flower pots, which in turn created a small light hill of 8 feet. Interesting these kids were trying to explode the already extinguished crackers!!! One the other side, people in their thirties were exploding noisy bombs.

On the left side, there was a middle aged lady, who was watching the activities for a long time. Finally, she took out one ground wheel and lighted it. Instead of spiral motion the ground wheel started moving towards her, at first she was calm but then started running. After having a good laugh ground wheel took the other direction.

We pulled out two chairs from a nearby juice store and watched all these for some time. Pooja were going on in the juice store. The store was filled with many sweet items, biscuits etc. Garlands made of yellow coloured flowers were put here and there. Decorated photos of god were on hanging on the wall, a small lamp was shining in bright yellow colour in front of it. After having one glass of pomegranate juice, we walked back towards the room. This time we took another way - devoid of residential areas.
After thirty minutes we again reached in front of our residential locality. From a distance itself we were able to hear the sound of exploding crackers.

On a veranda, a small girl of around 5 years was standing along with her mother and brother. She was looking towards the lights and smiling happily... This may be the message of Divali...


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Indian ‘Intellectual Property Appellate Board’ revoked the patent for Roche’s ‘Hepatitis C’ drug ‘Pegasys’ – Propaganda Vs Facts

Pegasys - www.pegasys.com
In the latest patent encounter, Roche (F.Hoffmann-La Roche AG) lost the case for its ‘Hepatitis C drug called Pegasys in India. Thus, Pegasys also joined in the league of Bayer’s ‘Nexavar’ and Novartis’s Glivec.

Board’s observations

In the decree board observed that,

1. Public interest is a persistent presence in intellectual property law.
2. It was known that, pegylation of interferon reduces in vitro antiviral activity but increases anti-proliferative activity in human tumour cells. These are all admittedly common general knowledge on the date of invention and therefore improved activity could not have been a surprise; it was expected.
3. Interferons are known and known to be bi-functional; Preparation of PEG conjugates is known; Effects of conjugation are known; Variation of tissue uptake and distribution with variance in molecular weight is known; Effects on urinary clearance and liver clearance due to variance in molecular weights of the conjugates are known.


There were two important questions before the board;

1. Whether Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust is a ‘person concerned’ or not.
2. Validity of patent for Hepatitis C medicine called Pegasys.

Intellectual Property appellate Board’s verdict

Whether Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust is a person concerned or not?

 “...appellant claims that it is a society which works for the community of HCV and HIV sufferers. This is not challenged.  The invention is admittedly for the use in the case of hepatitis-C.  The continuance or removal of the patent will definitely affect the interest of the community for whom the appellant claims to work... if the challenge succeeds, the monopoly will be broken.  This is something that the appellant is interested in, since it will bring the drug within the reach of the community for whom it works, not only because of reduction in cost, but also because of increase in supply...

...Further public interest is a persistent presence in intellectual property law and will not melt into thin air, nor dissolve. We therefore hold that the appellant who works for a community which needs the medicine is definitely a ‘person interested”

In short board reached the decision that ‘Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust’ is a person concerned.
Chemical Structure of Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
Validity of patent for Hepatitis C medicine – Pegasys

Board observed that,

“The interferon is a pharmaceutically active protein which has antiviral and anti-proliferative activity. It was also known that interferonα2a which we are concerned with was in particular a similarly active protein with the same activity. Interferon was known to be useful to treat hairy cell leukemia and Kaposi’s sarcoma.  It was active against hepatitis-C... improved activity could not have been a surprise it was expected.”
Citing the work of Somak board reached a conclusion that, Controller erred in identifying the difference while granting the patent to Roche.
Board also cited United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision on Pfizer Vs Apotex.  In that case US court held that, 
“...obviousness cannot be avoided simply by showing of some degree of unpredictability in the art so long as there was a reasonable probability of success.   The Court held that indeed, a rule of law equating unpredictability to patentability, applied in this case, would mean that any new salt – including those specifically listed in the ‘909 patent itself – would be separately patentable, simply because the formation and properties of each salt must be verified through testing...”
Board further told that,
“Monfardini which is admittedly a prior art has acknowledged that Somack et al had recommended high MWPEg for protein modification. Then the inventor cannot deny that the person skilled in the art would have known the utility of using high molecular weight while PEGylating, he would not have thought that this was restricted to enzymes alone or only to Superoxide dismutase. The utility of high molecular weight for protein modification is in the prior art.  The comparison of the properties of the linear conjugated protein and branched conjugated protein was before the persons involved in the art. ”
“The specifications show experiments only with the unconjugated IFN, though this invention is said to be superior to the other conjugates and linear conjugates. For this we have no contemporaneous intrinsic or extrinsic evidence...  inventor claims surprising activity when compared to other conjugated interferon which is not shown. Hence the evidence for the “surprising activity “ is not adequate.”
However the Board rejected the attack on drug’s novelty. “To defeat novelty, the appellant should show that an earlier document, disclosed all that the patentee is seeking to patent. And that each limitation of the claimed invention is found in a single prior art reference. The appellant has not done this. So the attack on novelty is rejected.”

And finally board stated that, “In the end, the invention is held to be obvious.  The appeal is allowed and the grant of Patent No.198952 is set aside...”

In short, patent for the drug was revoked based on board’s observation that, new drug is not a revolutionary invention as the activity of similar structures were already known.
1RH2 Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha 2b - Structure
Compulsory patent decrees from other countries

“President (Indonesia) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono quietly issued a decree in September 2012 authorizing government use of patents for seven HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B medicines held by the likes of Merck and Co, Glaxo Smith Kline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Abbott and Gilead” – Asian Tribune

“...amended patent law allows Beijing to issue compulsory licenses to eligible companies to produce generic versions of patented drugs during state emergencies, or unusual circumstances, or in the interests of the public” – Asian Tribune

“...Thailand had issued 3 compulsory licenses way back in 2006/2007, for the heart disease drug clopidogrel (patent: Sanofi-Aventis’ - Plavix), HIV/AIDS drug, lopinavir/ritonavir (patent: Abbott - Kaletra), and HIV/AIDS medicine, efavirenz (patent: Merck Sharp and Dohme’s Stocrin)” – Asian Tribune

In India

“ Earlier this year (2012) in March... compulsory licencing approval... to manufacture and sell a generic version of Bayer's patented anti-cancer drug, Nexavar (to treat kidney and liver cancer) bringing down its price from INR 2.8 lakh to INR 8,880 for a 120-capsule pack for a month's therapy—a reduction of 97%. Natco will pay a 6% royalty on net sales every quarter to Bayer and is also committed to donating free supplies of the medicines to 600 patients each year. The licence will be valid till such time the drug's patent is valid, i.e. 2020.”

“Novartis appeared to suffer a setback in the Supreme Court of India in its attempt to obtain a patent for its anti-leukemia medicine imatinib mesylate, which the company markets under the brand name of Glivec" – Asian Tribune

My Remarks

1. It is easy to dump Intellectual Property Appellate Board’s decision; to set aside this particular patent is in line with strengthening India’s compulsory patent system. But I am of the view that, board reached its decision after going through evidence presented in front of it.
2. Many media outlets combined excessive cost of medicine with verdict; but it is to be noted here that, board took the social angle only in answering the question ‘whether Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust is a person concerned or not?’ Not for arriving the final verdict on drug.
3. Generic medicine is not a wholesale solution to the problem. If I am not wrong, for manufacturing generic medicine industry needs an established formula. In other words some company somewhere has to go through painstaking research, long clinical trials, maintaining qualified staff, research breakthroughs, overcoming costly failures, long drawn approval process etc. Remember that, they have to face more failures than success.


I am neither an expert on drug formulas nor commenting on technical validity of board's decision. Appeal court may or may not repeal board’s verdict. What I am trying to say here is, before adding this verdict to the list of India’s compulsory patent system, people should go through the judgement. Verdict’s focus is on patentee’s claims about the originality of their innovation, obviousness of drug formula, novelty of the claims etc.

For society, generic medicines may sounds good. Unfortunately, they can’t replace the original ones. Trying out hundreds of solutions for a disease, finding out a set of promising ones, trails on animals, failures, retrials, fixing on a formula, long clinical trials, administrator’s approval are long drawn process and required huge investments. But generic companies don’t have to go through all these process.

It’s not the manufacturing of tablets that costs but finding out the formula.

At the same time, we need to find a balance between society’s needs and original manufacture’s interests. We can’t allow people to die, simply because they are not able to buy life saving medicines because of its cost. According to ‘Sankalp’, Pegasys costs 4, 36,000 INR for 48 weeks (also available at a discounted price of 314,496 INR). However, you have to take this medicine along with ‘ribavirin’, which costs another 47,160.

So, government needs to find a balance between cost of medicines and generics. I believe that, compulsory patents for life saving medicines are necessary, at the same time there should be some way to compensate original manufacturing companies as well- if Intellectual property board observes that innovation is original and patent is valid.



1. Intellectual Property Applete Board - GOI
2. Patients Overturn First Ever Product Patent On Medicine In India - Asian Tribune
3. FirstPost - India revokes Roche patent in new blow for Big Pharma
4. Peginterferon Alfa-2a - National Library of medicine

Photo courtesy: pegasys.com. wikipedia

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The brutal face of honour killings

Honour is not something which can be gained by killing their own daughters. Yet, many people are dishonouring the society by doing exactly the same.

People are raping others, pouring acid in the face, beating the victims, what more they are doing everything they can do, for a phrase whose meaning they don’t understand.

According to a recent BBC report, "A mother and father in Pakistani-administered Kashmir have been arrested for murdering their 15-year-old daughter by dousing her with acid "in the name of an honour", police say."

Reason? According to the local police officer, "girl's father became enraged when he saw his daughter "looking at two boys" riding on a motorcycle outside their home on Monday." It was enough for him to suspect that, she has an illegitimate relation with one of them.

He took her inside, thrashed her and poured acid over her with the help of his wife. The cruellest part is yet to come, until next morning they didn't take her to hospital. Just imagine the degree of pain that little girl suffered during that interval. In this serious condition - with 35% burns - she lasted till next day evening.

According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in last year alone 943 women were killed in the name of honour.

Honour has many different meanings, but killing own daughter based on wildest imagination is not one of them. If parents’ imagination is taking this outrageous turns, then there will not be much daughters left to live.



1. BBC - Girl killed in Pakistani-administered Kashmir acid attack

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) Crisis – Triangle love story of Haldia Bulk Terminals pvt Ltd (HBT), Workers and Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT)

Haldia Dock Complex Office
Kolkata Port, especially its Haldia Dock Complex (hereafter referred as HDC or simply Haldia), is continually grabbing headlines due to recent difficulties faced by ABG Haldia Bulk Terminals (hereafter referred as HBT) - a joint venture between ABG infralogistics and French firm ‘Louis Dreyfus Armateurs’ - LDA. After the recent development - kidnapping of three company officials, wife of an official and their one year old daughter by around 50 unidentified persons - HBT decided to pull out from dock operations.

In this situation, it will be quite meaningful to go through what happened at HDC.

Kolkata is blessed with its geographical position; it became a natural gateway for eastern India and Himalayan countries (Nepal and Bhutan). However, simply having geographical advantage will not produce any results, unless backed by firm and decisive actions on ground. Unfortunately, recent developments in Haldia Dock are not sending any encouraging signal for industries interested in West Bengal.

Dredging and silting

According to a TOI report, HDC’s problems started when administration “... stopped bothering about dredged silt being dumped back in the water.” This got worse in 2008, when draught level fell in to an all time low. Construction of a pipeline from Paradip to Haldia by Indian Oil Corporation, cutting Haldia port in between also slashed a part of its traffic.

HBT obtains the contract

At this point, Kolkata port trust (KoPT) decided to go for mechanised handling of cargo(at berth 2 & 8)  and awarded a 10 year contract to ABG Infralogistics in 2009. “Accepting the terms, HBT invested around 150 crores on acquisition of modern handling equipment, such as six mobile harbour cranes, 50 dumpers, 26 payloaders and other equipment, and creating certain facilities before starting operation in September 2010”.

However, it was not a smooth sail for the company. Rates posted by company were low; on top of that, amount of cargo coming to HDC itself showed a declining trend. In addition to that, “for nearly six months the handling equipment(s) for the berths were not allowed to enter the dock by a section of workers. Only a court order directing administration to provide police escort saved the situation” – This may be a trailer for what was in store.


According to Statesman, “The crisis at Haldia port erupted about a month ago (in September) when HBT threatened to suspend operations at berths 2 and 8 because they were losing money.”
Kolkata Port Trust
Kolkata High Court Judgement on September 12

KoPT took the issue to Kolkata High Court; on September 12 both parties reached an agreement.
Two important points in agreement were,

"1) Dry Bulk vessels calling in at Haldia Dock Complex (HDC, KoPT) for cargo handling operations will be allocated to berth 2 or 8. However, if both... 2 & 8 are engaged in ship-shore operations... next arriving vessel may be allocated to berths other than 2 or 8 of HDC.

This will be implemented without affecting; a. the existing Minimum Guaranteed Tonnage (MGT) offered by BOT berth operators at HDC's Berth nos.4A & 12... b. the existing marketing agreement entered into between the BOT operator for berth no.4A.

2) KoPT will maximize the utilization of HBT's equipment by relocating them from Berth No.2 & 8 for working at other berths when Berths No.2 & 8 are vacant..."

However, this doesn’t go down well with workers in HDC’s non-mechanised berths. They objected and tried to block this arrangement. Hindustan Times reports that, “Trinamool backed workers of private handling agencies obstructed the HBT operations from September 15”

Sacking 275 workers

Problems got worse when, HBT sacked 275 employees on September 24 (in some reports date is 25). Company also terminated a sub-contractor, under whom 450 others were working. According to Hindu Businessline,

“In a statement, Gurpreet Malhi, chief executive officer of HBT, said: “In view of the continuing losses and unrest created by certain factions which is affecting operations, HBT had decided to right-size its workforce with the retrenchment of 275 personnel from September 24.” The company said the unions forced regular employment of 650, when requirement for the operation was 350 workers. The company also employs 350 contractual workers. The port authorities, however, said they were not intimated about the decision.”

Suspension of work at HBT controlled berths

Citing law and order problems, company suspended work on berths 2 and 8 from September 25 onwards.

Ultimatum from Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT)

The KoPT board of trustees met on October 11, and issued an order asking HBT to restart the operation within a week. Apart from this KoPT also issued a tender (MTO/G/HBT/1/2012) for the evacuation of stored cargo at the HBT- operated berths.

HBT going to court

HBT again approached Calcutta High Court saying that, “275 workers the company sacked and some manual labourers were not allowing work at the two mechanised berths (2 and 8) it operates at the Haldia port. The petition said the police had failed to provide HBT employees adequate security”.

Surprisingly, in reply state government pleader told that “Everything is peaceful there (Haldia port). HBT and the port authorities are trying to malign the government," – Telegraph.

Telegraph report further states that “During a visit to Haldia earlier this month, Mamata Banerjee had said the situation at the port was under control”

Later, “Haldia Bulk Terminal deposited Rs 17.5 lakh to East Midnapore district administration for ensuring security for their cargo operations at the port as directed by the Calcutta High Court”

It looks like this measure didn’t bring any real improvement in the ground. “... although they had provided the money to ensure security, not a single senior police officer visited the dock complex, despite repeated complaints of disruption in operations.” – Indian Express, Oct 27.


On October 28, company told that, “... its three management officials and two of their family members were kidnapped early morning and later released, adding that there has been a complete law and order breakdown at Haldia dock complex.”

Following this incident ABG-LDA decided to pull out from west Bengal, alleging a complete breakdown of law and order in Haldia port.


According to the latest developments, KoPT stated that, HBT won’t be allowed to withdraw its equipments (currently worth around 140 crores); in case of termination of contract KoPT will also try to claim financial damages for rest of contract years. It is yet to see how far KoPT will succeed in this, if Calcutta High Court allows HBT to terminate its operations because of law and order situations.

Government’s reply

Most of the time state government was in a mode of denial. West Bengal CM said, “It is the false propaganda of the CPI (M), Congress and media because they are jealous of the industrialisation in Bengal...”. “ We have given full police protection. The CPI (M) is running a misleading campaign along with one or two media houses for their self interest”.” "Nothing has happened in Haldia. Everything is peaceful there. The administration and police are doing their work. A section of the media with vested interest is exaggerating things and trying to malign the government,"

According to NYDaily news, “East Midnapore Superintendent of Police... rubbished the allegations, saying "investigations have proved nothing to suggest abduction".

My remarks

Notwithstanding all media reports, allegations and counter allegations, it is difficult to understand what actually went wrong in Haldia. Whether it’s the business model adopted by HBT as accused by workers and KoPT or union problem and law and order issue as accused by HBT?

Statement of East Midnapore Superintendent of Police, “investigations have proved nothing to suggest abduction” is more confusing and making the matter complicated.

However there are certain things I like to point out,

1. Standoff at HBT operated terminals was not started today or yesterday. It commenced when people hindered the passage of HBT equipments to HDC two years back. Government had adequate time to prepare and find a solution.

2. Excessive union involvement needs to be checked. If we can believe company version and various reports, then why HBT was forced to accept more workers than it required?

3. Isn’t it the profession of companies to attract more business, in this case traffic, rather can asking administration to give them more cargo because they have more processing capacity?

4. Reduction of traffic at Haldia was a sign of a much bigger issue, which needs a through follow up. Look at Singapore, it’s a small country - Haldia planning area (761.26 sq. km) itself is slightly larger than entire Singapore (710 sq.km)- with very less hinterland to serve. Still they developed the land to such an extent that, Port of Singapore is the second biggest port in the world. In this case KoPT, West Bengal Government and other concerned parties needs to sit together and find solution. Instead of redirecting cargo from one berth to another.

5. What Police was doing, when it become clear that situation can attain much bigger proportions? According to reports company even deposited 17.5 lakh for deployment.

6. HBT is not the only private operator in Haldia. Tata Martrade International  Logistic Ltd (TMILL) operates berth 12. Berth 4A coming under 'International Sea Ports India Pvt' on BOT basis. In both cases, contracts are for 30 years and allotment was done on 2002. I am very much eager to know, what is happening in these berths? 

7. ABG is not a new comer in the league. They are already operating in many other Indian ports. It will be better for the company to sit back and check what went wrong in Haldia? Whether it’s only a law and order problem or their business projections also went wrong?

8. Why government is in perpetual denial mode? If administration is not at all accepting the existence of a problem, then how we are going to find a solution for that? If you close your ears, then you may not hear the voice, but it doesn’t mean that there is no voice outside.


One of the major problems here is dwindling traffic at Haldia. This issue has direction connections with consumer/ industrial output generated by West Bengal. If WB is not able to (or atleast trying to) generate more demand and transform themselves as an industrial hub, then they have to live with dwindling traffic.

As, many more ports started operating on eastern shores of India, Kolkata no longer remain as east India’s single gateway.

Rightly or wrongly, West Bengal is getting branded as grave yard of business. Government has to walk the extra mile to remove that tag, Instead of closing the eyes and saying that nothing happened.



1. Kolkata Port Trust
2. Haldia Dock Complex
3. Ministry of Shipping, GOI
4. Ministry of Finance, GOI
5. Wikipedia
6. The Hindu Businessline
7. Times of India
8. Hindustan Times
9. The Statesman
10. Kolkata High Court
11. MSN
12. IBN Live
13. Indian Express
14. Telegraph
15. Kolkata Port and its Docks (Kolkata and Haldia) - Astitva - Search for an Identity
16. Protests on, HBT pays Rs 17.5 lakh to administration for security - Indian Express
17. Haldia Bulk Terminal moves court against KoPT - Hindu Businesline
18 CM accuses media of fabricating Haldia row - Asian Age
19. Officials, kin ‘abducted’ at Haldia dock - Indian Express
20. Mamata blames CPI-M, media for Haldia deadlock - Business Standard
21. Mamata says Haldia row 'exaggerated', opposition slams her - NYDaily News

Photo Courtesy: Haldia Dock Complex, Kolkata Port trust, Wikipedia