Sunday, July 03, 2005

Interesting Day Indeed!

Very interesting day indeed today.

First, the Venus-Davenport final. As I said yesterday, I was really keen on the final, for it featured a rejuvenated Venus versus a smooth in form Davenport, who both have similar technique and comparable power. I was rooting for Venus to win and she did, after a gruelling encounter dominated mostly by Lindsay. Venus though, to her credit, never gave up and always came out on top from innumerable dicey situations in the final set which included saving one matchpoint on serve. Venus had some luck going her way, because Lindsay hurt her back/knee in the last phase of the final set, but again, such situations always work both ways..because the fitter player assumes that by making the unfit player run, one can win points and Venus tried some risky passing shots which resulted in quite a few unforced errors. Later though, Venus realized her fault and played a percentage game forcing Davenport to give in, in the end, owing mostly due to injury.

The other interesting game for the day featured England vs Australia. England had the best of the first half, with Harmison and Flintoff really giving the Aussie lineup a very hard time with some accurate, fast and aggressive bowling. Michael Hussey, though did very well for yet another 50, scoring a polished 62, keeping the Aussies in the hunt. The second half started with McGrath and Lee showing their worth by emulating Harmison & Flintoff with some really accurate and quick stuff of their own. England down at 30 odd for 5 very quickly, and then came in Geraint Jones and Paul Collingwood with a very steady partnership. I expected them to stay on till the finish, but some shrewd bowling by Brad Hogg and Hussey (again) got the Aussies back on top. The finish was yet another nailbiter, but the Dazzler Goughie with his big heart helped England tie the game with the Aussies. This Natwest Trophy Final was the ideal curtain raiser to the forthcoming Ashes series, which promises to be one rollicking test series.

Late in the night, a delegation of students, intellectuals, workers, farmers, labourers, artisans led by renowned economist Jean Dreze paid a visit to JNU. They were part of the Rozgar Yatra, which visited several areas in Rural India to check out the feasibility of implementation of the Employee Guarantee Act. One of my pals, Aparajay was part of this motley grouping. I have been rather interested deeply by this EGA thingie, for The Hindu featured a series of Op-Ed pieces which included a sort of debate between eminent economists, Amit Bhaduri, T.N.Srinivasan, Prabhat Patnaik, each representing a certain section of discourse in economics academia. JNU also paid host to a seminar on the implementation issues of EGA which included Prof Bhaduri along with others such as Prof G.S.Bhalla and members of the Planning Commission. The Rozgar Yatra was recently in news during the Chattisgarh incident, where the participants were mistaken for Naxalites and were treated to lathicharge by the errant police over there.

My friend was part of a team surveying Purulia district studying aspects such as corruption, trickle down of intended benefits to the rural poor, other data and what he told was rather depressing to hear. Enormous leakage of government expenditure to the pockets of middlemen, mostly political party "henchmen", corruption in the ranks of the bureaucracy, very impoverished conditions of the rural areas, were the norm, he said rather ruefully. Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy, the main entities of the entire team, are part of the National Advisory Council, headed by UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi. They were instrumental in framing the recommendations for the Employee Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act. The EGS has yet to be passed, as it is been referred to a parliamentary standing committee which is under the chairmanship of none other than Kalyan Singh, the CM who presided over the Babri Masjid demolition (allow me to digress!). The tentative EGS has been so much diluted and has some such drowned down provisions that Dreze and others have complained that the scheme has been reduced to a bureaucratic exercise, losing the very essence of Guarantee of Employment, which is seen as very essential and necessary to alleviate the deep and long suffering rural poor.

Estimates of expenditure vary from Rs 25000 crore to Rs 40000 crore and the pro-EGA supporters affirm that this is very much affordable provided only if the Government shows some real enthusiasm in getting the EGA passed. Besides, they say, EGA is the foremost item on the National Common Minimum Programme.

The question remains though, with the FRBM act in place, and the Finance Minister and Prime Minister, slowly but surely committed on reform of the Indian economy very much in tune with Neo-Liberal Policies, will acts such as EGA see fruition?

Prabhat Patnaik, in his lecture during a seminar which preceded the CPM's 18 Party Congress, talked about how implementation of EGA is a step toward socialism, defying the dictates of the WTO-IMF-World Bank led structural adjusments policies (SAP).

Surely, an issue which has really intrigued me. Pity, that I haven't ventured into direct detailing by participating in the Yatra or in the surveys!:-(.

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