Thursday, July 24, 2008

Article on Indo-US Nuclear Deal

Here is the link to Appa's article on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal and the Power of the Government to Enter into International Agreements, on the Lokrajsangathan web-site. I am reproducing it below for fear of link rot:


The Indo-US Nuclear Deal and the Power of the Government to Enter into International Agreements

C. A. Balasubramanian

[Additional Controller General of Accounts, Government of India (retired)]

Readers may kindly recall that a majority of the members of Parliament, eminent Political Analysts, our nuclear scientists and engineers who had spent a lifetime of dedicated service in building our nuclear power stations and operating them, besides working on R&D programmes, veteran journalists, social workers and former Prime Minister Mr. V. P. Singh have all come out against the agreement relating to the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, in no uncertain terms.

The 1-2-3 Agreement has been extensively commented upon by strategic analysts, experienced commentators and scientists, who do not have any axe to grind. They have pointed out that the deal goes against the strategic interests and energy security of India.

The official response to the various weighty criticisms or doubts have been dismissive and deplorably inadequate. The Hindu, in its editorial dated June 16, 2008, while commenting on the Government's efforts to persuade the Left Parties to let the Government go to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and negotiate a draft safeguards agreement, without showing the draft to them, said that the IAEA safeguards agreement is part of a project that vitally concerns India's nuclear energy and strategic future over the long term.

But non-consultation, non-transparency and a secretive mindset have characterized the handling of the nuclear deal by the Government from the time it was initiated in July 2005. It passes one's comprehension how, in spite of the horrendous consequences which will flow from the Deal, and which various experts, nuclear scientists and others have pointed out at great length, the Government has the brazenness to go about finalizing this Deal. It is as if the people of India and the members of Parliament that represent them do not exist, let alone have the prerogative of telling the Government what they think of the Deal - and order the Government what to do about it. According to the minority Government at the Centre, the Government thinks that the Deal is in the `national interest', and that should be sufficient for the Parliament and the people. The Government chooses to ignore the fact that whatever action it takes on any matter has to be in the national interest: that is the bottom line. If any action they take is not in the national interest, the Government will be guilty of treason, and will have to face action accordingly. If the adverse consequences of any action of the Government outweigh the presumed benefits expected from it, the Government is duty bound to drop the same.

It will be relevant to consider briefly the provisions of the Constitution of India regarding the Parliament and the Executive (that is the Government).


Traditionally, the main functions of a Legislature are to legislate. Parliament has the power to make laws within its area of competence, as defined and delimited under the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States.

Parliamentary control over Government:

In a parliamentary system of Government and under the scheme envisaged by our Constitution, Parliament has to ensure Executive or ministerial responsibility, financial control and administrative accountability. Parliamentary control over the Executive of the Government is based on: 1) the Constitutional provision of collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers to the popular House of Parliament, and 2) Parliament's control over the Budget (Articles 75, 114-116, 265). Parliamentary control over the Executive is political in nature. The answerability of the Executive is direct, continuous, concurrent and day to day, points out Subhash C. Kashyap in his book Our Consitution - An Introduction to India's Constitution and Constitutional Law.

There is a clear distinction between the functions of the Executive and those of Parliament (Art. 75) as defined by India’s Constitution makers. The Parliament deliberates, discusses, legislates, and has also a legitimizational role. The Executive governs - on behalf of Parliament and the people. The Executive has unlimited right to initiate and formulate legislative and financial proposals before Parliament and to give effect to approved policies unfettered and unhindered by Parliament. But Parliament has unlimited power to call for information, to discuss, scrutinize and put the seal of approval on proposals made by the Executive. The Government seems to be acting on the premise that, under Art. 73 (a), the Executive power of the Union extends to matters with respect to which Parliament has powers to make laws, and as Parliament has powers to make laws relating to agreements with a foreign power or foreign organization, the Government has power to enter into agreements on its own, as in the case of the Indo-US Deal. This is not a tenable argument.

The Government has no inherent powers. It can exercise powers which it was exercising before the Constitution came into force, and the powers vested in it by laws made by Parliament in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. As no law has been passed by Parliament about the powers to be exercised by Government in matters of international agreements, etc., all such agreements have got to be approved by Parliament. It is the fault of Government not to have brought in legislation to govern such matters. If hundreds of agreements have been executed by Government with foreign Governments / organizations (since 1950) they have all to be legitimized by ratification by Parliament.

One of the arguments put forth is that there are no provisions in the Constitution which say that Government should not enter into agreements with foreign Governments, institutions, etc.. But powers cannot be claimed by Government on the basis of `non-existence'. Powers to be exercised by Government have to be specifically provided for in the Constitution and / or in the laws made by Parliament. And if there is any ambiguity, the interpretation should be in favour of Parliament and for strengthening Parliament and democracy, and not in favour of Government which will only lead to erosion of the Constitution.

The writer had in an earlier article on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal on this august web-site drawn attention to the statement issued by two former judges of the Supreme Court of India, J. J. V. R. Krishna Iyer and P. B. Sawant and a former Judge of the Bombay High Court Justice H. Suresh. They had unequivocally opined that the Executive has no power to enter into any agreement with a foreign Government or organization, which is binding on the nation. The agreement will be binding only when it is ratified by Parliament. There is an underlying assumption that, before the Union Government exercises its Executive power, there is a law enacted by Parliament on the subject concerned.

Making a detailed analysis of the Indo-US Deal, a former Prime Minister had posed the question: ``Is there a deal behind the Indo-US Deal?'' The time has also come to ask: ``Who is or who are behind this Deal?'' which is sought to be signed and sealed, circumventing Parliament, public opinion and the people of India. One of the top leaders had expressed the view that the Deal is not for the public interest, but for personal gains. Perhaps the leader has succeeded in hitting the nail on the head?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Some more thoughts on Teaching vs. Research

There is one amazing thing that just struck me today. This was thinking about the recent conferment of the Fellowship of the Royal Society on Girish Agarwal. And not so long ago on Goverdhan Mehta. These two recepients of this greatest of recognition are both essentially teaching institute people. Although both of them were directors of Research Institutes towards the end of their formal retirement in India (Agarwal has now moved to the US where there is no retirement, and Mehta has an endowed chair in IISc), both of them spent bulk of their important scientific years at teaching institutes. And both of them were at the University of Hyderabad, a Central University for considerable number of years. In other words, data points such as these completely muddy the waters regarding any generalization that can be made regarding getting research accomplished or not, at teaching institutes or elsewhere. Comments welcome.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ashwini Kumar Rath --- In Memoriam

I heard the shocking news of the passing of my friend and post-doc colleague at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, years 1992-93, Dr. Ashwini Kumar Rath. He visited Bangalore last year and dropped by my office. It never seemed like it was years since we met last; on an earlier visit to Bangalore. I remember the cups of tea, lunch, and the laughter and fun. He came to Anand with me when I visited Anita there along with some other friends. He was at Sambhalpur University in Orissa. I cannot believe I am writing this obituary already for a friend. His classmates from Institute of Physics Bhubaneshwar must all be as shocked as I am. How must his wife and son feel? And other relatives and friends. Let me observe here a minute of silence.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Striving for relevance

Here are a few muddled thoughts about striving for relevance, a subject oft discussed at coffee tables, faculty lunches and the like here in scenic IISc and I am sure in other research Institutes in the country, and certainly on blogs. The main issue issue is research institutes vs. teaching institutes / institutions / Universities. The first question that pops to mind is why "vs.". There is a general trend now to believe that these should assist one another. I, on the other hand, want to talk about something completely different: this has to do with a certain implicit assumption that those in reserach institutes have plenty of time on their hands, while those in teaching institutes do not, as they are busy preparing for classes, tutorials, lab sessions, etc.. The latter may very well be true, but my question is whether the former is true. One thing that I can simply say off the bat, is that if one is spending a lot of time teaching, it is going to be very hard to find time for research. In a given subfield, it would be easily demonstrable that if number of publications of a given individual is taken as a yardstick, then those who are very busy teaching will have smaller numbers. Conversely, those who are in research institutes will have rather long list of publications, relatively speaking. Now my contention is that in order to actually accomplish this latter, one really does have to work very hard indeed. In fact, even in many of our research institutes, one has to really slog like crazy to get even a piece of work done, do the reading and research, finish the work, write up the results and publish. If one were to do all this sincerely, it would certainly not leave much time. Atleast that is my experience. In other words, it is clear that if one is teaching (a lot) then there is no question of having to strive for relevance, as the work you do justifies what you are paid for. It is my contention here that if one were to work very hard on research and publications,
which are what we have to show for work (not silly gross numbers --- but publication in the sense of the dictionary meaning: the act of bringing before the public; announcement.) then why this anxiety about relevance? Working in a research institute is just like any profession, terms of which are fairly clear. If one is true to this mandate then is there a real need to strive for relevance?

Caveat: I am not getting into the quagmire of those who are inactive in these research institutes. Such subjects are being discussed elsewhere on the blogosphere.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Krishna Kumar on Democracy and childhood school curriculum

They refuse to recognise that democracy in a stratified and highly unequal society requires its citizens to possess a large heart and the capacity to apply individual judgment. These prerequisites develop best in common schools where children of the rich and the poor study together.

That is from Krishna Kumar's article in the Hindu.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Some light reading: Giraffe leads circus breakout.

Even though Rsidd warns me against cutting and pasting articles, I think this will not violate any copyright laws (and the fear of linkrot, of course!) The original is here.

By Saeed Ahmed

(CNN) -- Fifteen camels, several llamas and a potbellied pig broke out of a circus near Amsterdam on Monday. The ringleader? A giraffe who bolted, too.

Police said the giraffe kicked open a fence and walked out.

"The other animals walked out with him," said Amsterdam police spokesman Rob Van Der Veen.

The animals were part of a traveling circus that had set up its tents in the city of Amstelveen, six miles outside the Dutch capital.

They made their break about 5:45 a.m., wandering about a residential street and riling up a neighborhood dog, police said.

Officers and circus employees rounded them up before they could get too far and returned them to their pens.

"It must have been a funny sight," Van Der Veen said. "Waking up in the morning and looking out the window to see those animals walk through the streets."