Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘Indians never have and perhaps never will understand the concept of free speech’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Speaking up

Indians never have and perhaps never will understand the concept of freedom of speech and expression (“Assam: Congress files complaint after BJP MP allegedly equates ideas of Nehru, Gandhi to ‘garbage’”). Such complaints, made by both the BJP and the Congress in the past, are mostly unfounded and have no backing in law. It is natural for political leaders to speak foul of each other and they should not be booked for every thing they say, unless it is really defamatory in nature. The elitism and partisan attitude shown by the liberals of our society because of their own ideological leanings is sickening at times. As a fellow liberal feel that the discourse of our fundamental principles is now sadly lost in unnecessary ideological noise and the political slug-fest. We want our liberties and freedoms without state telling us what to speak,when to speak and how much to speak. – Akshay Arya

Take a stand

If standing up for the national anthem in movie halls is mandatory, can the government ensure that what is played is proper Anthem
(“Despite Supreme Court comments, you still need to stand for the national anthem in movie theatres”)? Some cinema plays a version of the song that does have Tagore’s lyrics but an altered tune. If changing the design and colour of the national flag is a crime, why is such distortion of the tune of our national anthem being allowed? I do not mind being arrested for not standing up for a song that is not the national anthem of my nation. – Mridula Menon

***

Patriotism, just like love and respect for parents, need not be demonstrated. It should be imbibed into the culture and upbringing of children. If you truly want what’s best for the country, stop corrupt leaders from exercising power. – NS Murty

For books’ sake

As a publishing professional myself, I started reading this article with interest (“If you’re wondering how to raise a feminist, Indian publishing houses might have an answer”). I think that independent publishing in India can do wonders, not just with regard to social issues but also with regard to overhauling publishing industry itself. However, this article seemed like a lazy attempt and read more like a promotion of a particular publishing house. What about others? What about other regions? What about vernacular publishing?

I rate Scroll.in very highly and the website provides engaging and informative content. I hope you will exercise more care in the future! – Aakash Chakrabarty

Syncretic roots

Haroon Khalid writes an important piece on a shared past and a composite culture that is being strangled to death on both sides of the border (“These banyan trees are proof of Pakistan’s roots in inter-religious peace and harmony”). May his pen have the strength to make more people aware of what they are losing, have lost. – Kulwinder S Rao

Foreign funds

FCRA laws must be stringent for organisations receiving foreign funds (“‘Aadhaar for NGOs’: Why nonprofits are uneasy about new order to obtain unique ID from Niti Aayog”). Financial transactions of such non-profits should be scrutinised closely and periodically to ensure the judicious utilisation of funds. – Sumitra Sarkar

Shutting shop

It made me very sad to hear about Pune’s Kayani Bakery being asked to shut down (“Pune’s Kayani Bakery, two other restaurants asked to shut down: The Times of India”). The eatery had made the famous “Pune cake” for decades, and is famous all over the world! Instead of letting it close down, the government should step in, look at its contribution to Pune’s culture and help the brand expand internationally. – Alifiya Noble Bandukwala

Bird watching

Several summers ago, when I was holidaying with my family in Sattal near Nainital, we had the privilege of meeting Nitoo (“Why birdwatching and writing poetry are strikingly similar for this poet”). I had my binoculars and Salim Ali’s Book of Indian Birds. I had inherited my love of birds from my father who was a member of the Bombay Natural History Society.

But meeting Nitoo, with her cameras almost as big as she was, was an exhilarating experience. We continue to follow her work. I hope she publishes her photos of birds for the world to see. Hats off to her for her incredible work. – Allan de Noronha

About time

I don’t have any bias against or towards any media person, but sometimes the intent and timing of a certain article are questionable
(“‘Hardly new’, says former NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt after channel takes down Jay Shah story”). For instance, why is Barkha Dutt talking about her reasons for parting with NDTV all this time later? There are many truths about one self, society, government and the media itself that even the most honest report will not reveal in full. Striking a balance is a part of freedom of expression. Moreover, one’s past mistakes always come back to haunt, usually at an inconvenient time. For Dutt, it’s her alleged involvement in the Radia tapes. These are all a part of the games the media and the government play, which viewers end up being easy prey for. – Arun Singh

Ways of seeing

Traditionalism is not the answer to current-day social and psychological problems (“‘Psychology syllabus must be tweaked for Indian context’: UGC panel member Girishwar Misra”). Let each department decide what it wants to focus on and model its courses accordingly. There are different perceptions of psychology even perceived differently by the senior and younger generation psychologists too. We have a tradition of unity in diversity. Uniformity in thinking across the country is not the answer. – Manisha

***

I am opposed to the idea of modifying the psychology syllabus to make it culturally relevance for many reasons. Psychology should not be looked at as a subject meant for Indian adaptation but as a course that meets international standards. Cultural adaptations can be made to any course without indigenising it entirely. course. Every psychologist across the world is trained to work with cultural sensitivity. This is perhaps what needs to be emphasised among psychologists in India, if at all it has been observed that they are insensitive to local culture. If psychology courses are completely Indianised, graduates risks being disconnected from a global fellowship of psychologists because there would be no common ground. This would also make it difficult for them to pursue courses abroad. It will also discourage foreign students from coming to study in India. Already, many foreign students are complaining about the fact that many lecturers in India universities use Hindi or other regional languages while teaching even when they have international students in such classes. – Diti Olawale

***

A similar exercise was conducted by the UGC about 15 years back. Under its direction, most of the universities adopted model syllabi in a wide range of subjects, including psychology. But the attempt went in vain because there has been a dearth of qualified faculty for in all higher educational institutions particularly, in the state universities, over the the last two decades. If the UGC is genuinely interested in reforms, it must first look into the appointment of qualified full-time teachers. – AK Srivastava

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.

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In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

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Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.