CURRENT AFFAIRS 17.11.2016---Excell Career India IAS Academy No: 28, Sathya Complex, College Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai-600006
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CURRENT AFFAIRS 17.11.2016
1. Punjab, Haryana set for face-off over SYL canal
Punjab and Haryana are set for another face-off on the issue of sharing water from the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal as the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday passed two resolutions — one against the construction of the canal and the other demanding a levy on water to non-riparian States. Haryana called Punjab’s move “unconstitutional.” Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal moved a resolution at a special session, directing the government, Cabinet and officials, in public interest, to neither hand over any land of the State to any agency for the construction of the canal, nor allow anyone to work on the project or give any cooperation for this purpose.
Cong. MLAs abstain
The resolution was passed even as all 42 Congress MLAs, who resigned from the Assembly after the Supreme Court had on Thursday last invalidated the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, stayed away from the session. Mr. Badal said the State government would do everything possible to stop water from flowing to Haryana. “Any decision to rob the State of its legitimate rights would not be acceptable to the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government. Also, there is no need to construct the SYL canal,” he said. “The House takes a serious view of the fact that Punjab is already falling short of its canal water needs and farmers are facing a serious water crisis,” said Mr. Badal, adding that Punjab, India’s grain bowl, is becoming ‘barren’ and consequently posing a threat to national food security and the State’s economy.
‘Royalty for river waters’
The Assembly also passed a resolution, moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Mohan Mittal, directing the government to take up the matter of levying royalty for river waters flowing to Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi, which are the non-riparian States.
2. A challenge and an opportunity
A year and a half after China and Pakistan announced plans for an Economic Corridor, the CPEC, to connect “Kashgar to Gwadar”, the two countries operationalised the trade route this week, with the first shipment moving to Gwadar port and on to the Gulf and Africa. Many of the infrastructure and energy projects that are part of CPEC, worth an estimated $46 billion, are already under way. Of this, $35-38 billion is committed in the energy sector, in gas, coal and solar energy across Pakistan, with the combined expected capacity crossing 10,000 MW. This is roughly double the current shortfall the country experiences. In addition, the 3,000-km rail and roadway project is expected to generate 700,000 jobs by 2030. While Pakistan sees CPEC as a game changer, there are many challenges. There are some misgivings domestically, with critics questioning the project’s viability, and some accusing China of launching a second “East India Company”. There are the security challenges too, especially in the western areas near the key Gwadar port, where militants ranging from Baloch nationalists to the Taliban and the Islamic State have carried out attacks. Systemic challenges include project delays in the CPEC’s first year, which the World Bank warns could prove to be an impediment to Pakistan’s overall growth. Pakistan-India tensions, unless contained, too could endanger sectors of the project where Pakistani troops are engaged in providing security. Finally, the economic slowdown in China and the political instability in Pakistan could impact the project’s future as well. However, these internal considerations for Pakistan shouldn’t blur the bigger picture for India: CPEC is now a reality. In the past India’s reaction to the project, announced a few weeks before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in 2015, had turned from dismissal and disdain to disapproval and then to outright opposition. India even raised concerns over projects in disputed Gilgit-Baltistan at the UN General Assembly. Not only has the project gone ahead despite the objections, but China now sees CPEC as a physical link between its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project and the Maritime Silk Route (MSR). India has refused to be a part of either. That Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are all on board the OBOR and the MSR should give India pause. It is important for Delhi to also take a closer look at the security implications of the China-Pakistan clinch that is fast drawing in Russia in the north, all the way to the Arabian Sea, while China plans a floating naval base off Gwadar.
3. A pivot to China?
Till 1750, the Asian giants produced half of global economic output before gunboats and colonisation reshaped trade, and subsequently production and consumption. There is now a consensus that the locus of global wealth is again going to be in Asia. The implication of the interruption, or reversal, has not been explored as the strategic dimensions continue to be seen through a Western prism. Western analysts focus on the relative decline of the U.S. rather than on Asia’s re-emergence. The underlying assumption is that the world needs global institutions, rules and agreements to solve problems that countries cannot solve on their own, while not addressing the question that has now come centre stage — who sets the worlds standards and for what purpose? Containment, relevant during the Cold War, is not proving effective in Asia with China emerging as the largest global economy. Alliances are also losing relevance in Asia as countries are gaining influence more because of the strength of their economy than the might of the military. Moving away from global rules, for example the climate agreement, questions their relevance for meeting global concerns. Globalisation, driven by the ‘Washington Consensus’, dominated global policymaking, with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation as the institutional centres of gravity. Developing countries have complained for decades about the ‘terms of trade’, ‘conditionalities’ and intellectual property rights linked with trade sanctions. The limits to trade liberalisation are now also being raised in the West. David Ricardo’s arguments of comparative advantage of countries and Adam Smith’s emphasis on competition creating wealth are not relevant in today’s knowledge-based, urbanised world of middle-class consumers and global value chains. The problem is not trade, which has been happening for over 2,000 years, but the nature of recent rules going beyond facilitating commercial transactions. Donald Trump, recognising global trends, is reviewing the role of the U.S. based on alliances, rules and values. He prefers an “America First” approach, wants to “reset” ties with Russia around “mutual respect”, and wishes for the “strongest relationship” with China, with trade as the foundation of bilateral ties.
The thought leadership for shaping global politics, with Asia restored at its economic centre, should revert to the 2,000-year-old pattern of commercial transactions, with trade rules limited to standardisation and dispute settlement. Asian prosperity is more than a geo-economic or geopolitical concept, underlined by President Barack Obama’s failed attempt to prevent Asia from setting the new rules for trade. China and India have much in common, if we move out of the Western frame, as both are civilisational states whose contours were shaped by major snow-fed rivers. In both states, no strategic thinker advocated conquest of lands outside this sphere, in sharp contrast to Western strategic thinking on control of the seas, security alliances and rules pushing common values as the best way of organising international relations. In political thought also, Amartya Sen has pointed out, religious tolerance and human rights are not Western concepts. Chinese civilisation has had a more secular orientation than any other civilisation. In Indian political thought, authority was based on the interests of all. In both civilisations, the king was regarded as guardian and not creator of the law. The Asian giants have yet to reconstruct international relations theory around a global vision of sharing natural resources, technology and prosperity — issues they have together fought for over 50 years in the United Nations.
India’s strategic priorities
China took advantage of global value chains shaping long-term economic calculations, redefining global power and securing a head start over India. China will remain the world’s largest producer of goods and India can be the largest producer of services. The services sector will be the real driver of future growth in Asia, with affluence concentrated in cities, giving a younger India future advantage. India has the capacity for global leadership as the hub of the new knowledge-based order, including new pharmaceuticals and crop varieties, as it is the only country with both extensive endemic biodiversity and world-class endogenous biotechnology industry. Along with global leadership in software-led innovation, foundation of the new low-carbon digital-sharing economy, India is developing low-cost solutions for urbanisation, governance, health and education problems. Sharing solutions to common problems as a new form of international relations will provide legitimacy to reshape the global order with sustainability as the defining value. China is keen to have India on board its One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative for connectivity-led trade in Eurasia. It has suggested a free trade agreement and both countries recognise the synergies for achieving the ‘Asian Century’. India’s knowledge-based strengths complement those of China in infrastructure and investment. India should seek to ‘redefine’ OBOR, adding a stronger component for a ‘Digital Sustainable Asia’, and for Eurasian connectivity to have two nodes, as has been the case throughout civilisation. A mutual recognition of ancient special interests in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean should be a strategic objective. This step will enable an understanding on issues like membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, global terrorism, and Gwadar, which are irritants in the development of stronger ties. Prime Minister Narendra Modi must recognise that trade will trump security.
4. Apex court refuses to lift ban on jallikattu
Questioning the need to “tame” a domestic animal like the bull, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea by Tamil Nadu to review a 2014 apex court judgment banning jallikattu . The court further held that the event had nothing to do with the exercise of the fundamental right of religious freedom. Rejecting the submissions made by the State government, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton Nariman said Tamil Nadu cannot explain it away as a mere act of “taming a bull.” It said it runs counter to the concept of welfare of the animal, which is the basic foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. The State, represented by senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, had countered that the event was defined as an act of “taming” of bulls under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act of 2009 and did not amount to cruelty. “The 2009 Act was introduced to stop any kind of torture. Taming a bull is not torture. You cannot banjallikattu just because there was torture long ago. It is like a bank stopping all loans just because somebody had cheated it once long ago,” Mr. Naphade submitted.
‘Cannot celebrate cruelty’
Appearing for the Animal Welfare Board of India, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, countered that “festivals cannot celebrate cruelty.” He argued that the 2009 State law was “repugnant” to the 1960 Central law
5. A sense of only itself
India’s middle classes have travelled a long way since the late 19th century when they planted the saplings of the freedom movement. On the way to India’s Independence, they filled the jails, and while they could not prevent the horrors of Partition, they wrote a unique document for the new nation: the Constitution of the Republic of India. After Independence, it was the middle class again that supplied the teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, administrators and the other builders of Project India. It was a very imperfect project and there were strong disagreements, but there was no denying the pride these middle-class servants felt in building the Republic.
Things have changed in recent decades. Beginning in the 1990s, India’s middle class — many times its size in 1947 and amorphous in its composition — started to have a sense only of itself. Gone is a sense of the nation as a country which, while divided, is still one where everyone has equal rights and where no one should be left behind. In its place, the middle class is now happy to wear a flag-waving nationalism on its sleeve and is concerned only about itself. The middle class as driving public action is now a thing of the past. The last time India saw mass protest by the middle class was after the horrific rape in New Delhi in December 2012. That did lead to new legislation. But December 2012 was an exception and mostly women marched on the streets. Middle-class activism, as it is now called, is usually only about matters of immediate concern — the neighbourhood, the locality, and the city.
It is not a caricature to say that the better off among the middle class are worried today only about their next gadget, next holiday, next car and next home. At one level, India’s middle class is now inured to the world outside its own class. At another level, it displays an aggressive nationalism and is completely disdainful of the idea of the community as a nation.
In the initial days after the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1, 000 notes, the middle class played to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s script. It was willing to put up with its own inconvenience for what it saw as a larger cause. But the middle class is impervious to how the members of India’s vast informal sector, the rural communities in unbanked regions, the savers of cash holdings and others were going to manage. Today, when middle-class concerns are expressed in strength, they are expressed on social media — with hate. The voices in anger are overwhelmingly directed against “anti-nationals”, religious minorities, and, if they are reckless enough, they can be casteist too.
Bhopal as a test case
Consider, for example, the shooting in late October of eight Muslim undertrials after they purportedly broke out of Bhopal Central Jail while killing a prison guard. Even a decade or two ago, a shooting of such a large number and so suspiciously in abuse of the law would have attracted a measure of anger from the middle class which is aware of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Not now. There has been the isolated statement by a civil liberties group and the odd statement by one or two political parties. Nothing more. In the media few newspapers have either editorialised strongly or sent their reporters in hunt of the true story. It has required the rare and fine exceptions like this newspaper to expose the lies. The silence of TV has been deafening. Instead, there have been online diatribes against those who question the official version. Here is one posted on Twitter on October 31: “Why [sic] people are raising questions whether the encounter was fake or not? Terrorists should be neutralised wherever found.” And here is one from the Letters column of the digital publication Scroll.in in response to an article questioning the official version: “These law-abiding SIMI terrorists stayed as state guests in a high-security establishment which relies on the tax payers money — and you’re okay with that? These people should have been shot dead a long time back”. India’s online population remains small, and on social media it is infinitesimally small. But it wields a power far beyond its size. What it says resonates with the political powers in ascendance. And what these political forces say resonates with this vocal social media population — drawn entirely from the middle class. This is not the first time that the murder of undertrials has evoked the barest of protests from the middle classes. In April 2015, five Muslim terror accused who were in handcuffs and were being shifted from one prison to another in Telangana were shot dead inside a van by the police because apparently one of them tried to grab a policeman’s rifle. (This happened within weeks of two incidents in the State in which two Students’ Islamic Movement of India activists and three policemen were killed.) A few questions from a few newspapers, a few statements, and one state Special Investigation Team probe which has gone nowhere. It does not seem to matter.
Of course, the “who-cares” attitude or the “they-deserved-it” reaction is most obvious when Muslims are involved. It is not just the professional trolls who are venting spleen on the Net. Visit any story of any English newspaper or magazine and see the comments on a story about India’s Muslims. You can only despair for the future after reading the venom being spewed there. The online comments on “SIMI men had no guns, say witnesses” in The Hindu of November 2 are a representative sample.
Anti-minorityism out in the open
It is time to stop pussyfooting about what the middle class (Hindus) think about some of their fellow citizens. We have to accept that a creeping anti-minorityism has now become full-blown among the middle class. From a whispering conversation among the like-minded it has now entered everyday conversation among families, friends and office colleagues. It is there all around us. The disdain for everyone else is the outcome of the very successful build-up of Hindu majoritarianism over the past three decades. This has now reached a new peak under the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It threatens to march even higher in the run-up to the next round of State elections in 2017 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The majoritarianism of the middle class reflects the essential philosophy of the party in power and in return it strengthens this exclusionary philosophy. It has been a long journey since the beginning of the freedom movement and the drafting of the Constitution.
6. Violence that’s not gender-neutral
The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Harsora v. Harsora on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) is of great concern as it deletes the words ‘adult male’ in Section 2(q) of the Act. The PWDVA is a gender-specific law enacted to protect women against domestic violence at the hands of men. The core provision in this law is that complainants can only be women. The law also restricts under Section 2(q) that complaints can only be filed against adult males, or their relatives, who could be women. But it cannot be filed solely against the relatives of the husband. Section 2(q) states: “‘Respondent’ means any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under this Act. Provided that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner.”
In this judgment, the constitutionality of Section 2(q) was challenged. The court, while referring to domestic violence, held that “it is clear that such violence is gender neutral. It is also clear that physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and economic abuse can all be by women against other women. Even sexual abuse may, in a given fact circumstance, be by one woman on another. Section 3, therefore… seeks to outlaw domestic violence of any kind against a woman, and is gender neutral.”
Reality of domestic violence
With utmost respect to the Supreme Court, it is absolutely incorrect to state that domestic violence is gender-neutral. It is not. The world over, a vast majority of domestic violence is experienced by women at the hands of men. It is not a random event of violence but is a consequence and a cause of women’s inequality and is linked to the discrimination and devaluing of women. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, reported cases of domestic violence in India went up from 50,703 in 2003 to 1,18,866 in 2013. These are all cases of domestic violence against men. The U.K. Violent Crime and Sexual Offences study of 2011-2012 reported that 80 per cent of offenders in domestic or sexual violence were male.
In 1983, Section 498A was introduced in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and for the first time made domestic violence to married women a criminal offence. Section 498A is only against the husband and husband’s relatives because it recognised the gendered nature of the crime. When the PWDVA was drafted, the question as to whether the definition of ‘respondent’ should be restricted to men or should be gender-neutral was heavily debated and finally Section 2(q) was drafted to keep it consistent with Section 498A. The judgment does not consider this history and background of domestic violence legislation. It goes on to declare that even the word ‘adult’ in Section 2(q) should be deleted, because a 16- or 17-year-old can also cause domestic violence. The court reasons that in the context of the object of the PWDVA, there is a “microscopic difference between male and female, adult and non-adult” and hence these words should be deleted.
Thrust on formal equality
The entire thrust of the Supreme Court’s decision is ironically on the principle of equality because it restricts the reach of a beneficial statute meant to protect women against all forms of domestic violence whether by men or by women, adult or minors. Our Constitution, however, has interpreted equality to mean substantive equality which, as elaborated by Oxford University professor Sandra Fredman, has four dimensions: redressing disadvantage; countering stigma, prejudice, humiliation and violence; transforming social and institutional structures; and facilitating political participation and social inclusion. Therefore, formal equality of treating all persons equally as ‘respondents’ is not sufficient and we need to look at the disadvantage and violence faced by women at the hands of men. The same principle of equality also mandates in Article 15(3) of the Constitution that special provisions can be made for women and children and the PWDVA was enacted as a special provision for their protection. It does not need to be gender-neutral. While the judgment relies on the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, where there is no restriction on the respondent being male, it surprisingly fails to observe the criminal offences of sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and rape under the IPC which are all gender-specific and against men. This does not mean that men may not be victims of violence, but when women are victims of domestic violence, evidence shows that such violence is largely perpetrated by men. With this judgment, there is a real danger that the PWDVA would be used against women and minors and not against the real perpetrators of domestic violence. It could lead to a further dilution of the PWDVA and also dilute other women-centric laws. In her 2015 Report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, pointed out that the shift in domestic violence laws from gender-specificity to gender-neutrality is regressive as it disregards the need for special measures that acknowledge that women are disproportionately impacted by violence. The Supreme Court’s decision will have serious repercussions on the lives of women in India.
7. Commerce Ministry for blanket ban on FDI in tobacco sector
In what could lead to a complete ban on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the tobacco sector, the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) is finalising a Cabinet note on the matter. The department has now proposed a ban on FDI through the trademark or licensing route. “FDI in manufacturing of tobacco products is already banned. We are now proposing to extend the FDI ban beyond manufacturing to all activities, including licensing for franchise, trademark, brand name, management contracts and other technology collaboration,” a government official told BusinessLine. With both Health and the Finance ministries on board, efforts are on by the DIPP to ensure that the matter is taken up by the Cabinet soon, the official said. If the Cabinet gives its go ahead, it could affect business of companies such as Godfrey Phillips India, a flagship company of the KK Modi Group, which has a licensing arrangement with US-based Philip Morris. “We want to plug all loopholes through which FDI could come into the manufacturing of tobacco products in the country,” the official added. Some argue that the objective of discouraging tobacco consumption cannot be served by only a ban on FDI. “A decision also needs to be taken on phasing out existing investments in the sector made by domestic companies,” another official said. A number of non-governmental organisations such as Crusade Against Tobacco have a different point of view. They claim that as long as powerful foreign tobacco companies have some interest in the Indian market they would keep using their influence to slow down tobacco control efforts. Cigarette stocks on Wednesday fell up to 18 per cent. Shares of Godfrey Phillips India tanked 17.68 per cent, ITC by 2.94 per cent and NTC Industries went down by 0.65 per cent on BSE.
8. Farm turnaround
The long overdue increase in minimum support prices (MSP) announced for the rabi crops, the highest since 2011-12, is a welcome measure to transfer higher incomes to farmers. Better prices, after a good monsoon, should encourage farmers to bring more acreage under cultivation of winter crops such as wheat, certain pulses and oilseeds. The MSP for pulses and oilseeds have been increased between 10 and 16 per cent, while that for wheat has been raised by 6.6 per cent on the recommendation of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. Assuming sowing happens as projected, a second bumper crop can be expected this agricultural year. Good monsoon rains, increased acreage and high MSP have already led to a record harvest in the kharif season. Two bumper harvests in the same agricultural year can have a transformative effect on the farm economy, which has been suffering for nearly three years due to unseasonal rains and sub-par monsoons. Farmers have also been under stress due to higher production costs and low returns on their yields as MSP has almost stagnated since 2013-14. With food inflation under control, an increase in MSP was probably warranted. Higher MSP, resulting in higher incomes, is also necessary to revive demand from rural areas for manufactured goods. However, it is not enough to just announce higher procurement prices. The announced prices need to reach the farmers. That will happen only with robust procurement infrastructure. Wheat farmers will have no complaints on that front. However, the government’s record on procurement of pulses has been disappointing. Farmers were forced to sell a lot of their produce below MSP in the last few months due to the failure of procurement agencies to reach out. A repeat of that experience when the rabi crop is harvested could lead to loss of faith in the system and reverse the gains made this year on increasing acreage of pulses. Farmers faced with losses will prefer returning to cultivation of wheat, paddy or sugarcane in the next season. That can prove disastrous for the government’s efforts to reduce pulses shortage and keep prices under control. Increased production of wheat and paddy would also put more strain on the grain holding capacity of the procurement agencies, and once again, foodgrain stored in the open would either rot or get infested.
Many of the calculations for the current rabi season can also go wrong due the ongoing currency crisis caused by the demonetisation of the ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes. If changed money does not reach farmers in time, they may not be able to buy enough seeds and fertilisers needed in this current rabi season. Finding labour to work in the farms may also prove to be challenging in the current scenario when farmers do not have money in the accepted denominations to pay wages. The government needs to take cognisance of the ground realities to ensure farmers suffer minimum hardship.
9. New world order
Brexit! CETA in trouble! And now Trump! These headlines have become reference points to argue that globalisation is not just at a standstill but is in reverse. Donald Trump is known to have stated that climate change is a ‘hoax’. He is widely expected to review a scientific report issued by the Obama administration that provided the basis of much of the regulation the current administration undertook. And just this month, 105 countries ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is the least of the upheavals expected on account of Trump’s election. He has called the NAFTA regional trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico a ‘disaster’ and has voiced his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement that is awaiting ratification. Maybe it is time to take a deep breath before rushing to announce the demise of globalisation. The most visible forms of globalisation have been trade, the environment, and migration. All three are likely to take a hit under a Trump administration.
Europe has also been stirring in the direction of nationalism and navel gazing. The migration of refugees, mostly from Syria, into Europe has instigated many nationalistic parties to talk of sealing borders. The fear of many of the refugees coming into the UK was a tipping point in favour of the Brexit vote. Yet, nobody claimed that globalisation has to follow a smooth secular path. Many countries with less significant footprints on the planet have introduced speed bumps off and on in their path towards global interaction. Sharing and interacting transnationally in the pursuit of their own objectives is the hallmark of globalisation and does not mean integration. When the rich and developed world sold the idea of free trade and lowering barriers to everyone they met, it was from a position of strength. They were well positioned to benefit from it. The poor bought it with some sweeteners thrown in. Then they got better at it. The rich world has now woken up and realised what has happened. Trump, during the debates, did not mince words when he accused China of ‘raping’ the US in trade and of stealing US jobs. When Britain voted to exit the EU, apart from concerns about immigration, Britons felt that they had relinquished control of their country to EU bureaucrats and wanted it back. These events are nothing more than the first order and second order effects of globalisation. In an initial enthusiasm, we rush to accept new developments and take two steps forward. Whether it is WTO agreements or climate rules. Then on reflection, we realise some of the negative effects of what we agreed to and take one step back. This is the second order effect. It gives us time to pause, reflect, and consolidate. While Briton wants its sovereignty back, it still wants to trade freely with everyone in the EU. It has to, in order to survive. After all the reviewing by the Trump administration is done, the lobbyists of major US corporations will sit down with the new President and explain to him, off the record, why he should leave most things alone. And that is what the tiny Walloon region of Belgium realised when it finally gave approval to the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA).
CURRENT AFFAIRS 17.11.2016---Excell Career India IAS Academy No: 28, Sathya Complex, College Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai-600006 Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 6:49:00 PM Rating: