New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?
Some thoughts on the historic Battle of Colachel
Supreme Court accepts idea of new Mullaperiyar tunnel

വായന എം.പി.നാരായണപിള്ളയുടെ രോഗം സാഹിത്യത്തിൽ നിന്ന് മറ്റ് വല്ല ഉന്മാദത്തിലേക്കും തിരിയാഞ്ഞതെന്ത്? കൃഷിഭൂമിയും കർഷകരും സംരക്ഷിക്കപ്പെടണം ക്യാമ്പസിൽ ഇടതുപരിസരം സൃഷ്ടിച്ച തലമുറ തുന്നിക്കെട്ടിയ എസ്.എൻ. ക്കോളേജ് ഓർമ്മപുസ്തകം

05 May, 2015

Half-hearted anti-graft measures

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The largest single factor that contributed to the resounding defeat of the 10-year-old Congress-led government in last year’s parliamentary elections was the corruption scandals that engulfed it. Some Congress party leaders and a former minister belonging to coalition partner Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam were facing criminal charges when the country went to the polls.

A Gandhian movement led by Anna Hazare and backed by civil society groups raised the issue of corruption high up in the national agenda, and Narendra Modi, as Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, cashed it in his vigorous election campaign.

Last week, nearly a year later, the Modi government announced a set of proposals to tackle the issue of corruption. It provides for enhancement of the minimum term of imprisonment for corruption from six months to three years and the maximum term from five years to seven years.

The higher penalties will raise corruption to the level of a heinous crime. However, some of the proposed changes may render the legal framework weaker than at present. For instance, there is a proposal to extend the protective umbrella of prior sanction for prosecution of public servants to those who have retired or resigned.

Under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, a public servant is guilty of criminal misconduct and liable for punishment if “he while holding office obtains for any person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage without any public interest.” Bureaucrats have long been unhappy that this provision as it renders them liable for action even when they have not derived any pecuniary benefit from their actions. One of the contemplated changes seeks to vest the power to grant prior sanction for investigation in such cases in the Lokpal or Lok Ayukta instead of the government.

On an average, trial proceedings in a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act last more than eight years. The government plans to fix a two-year time-frame for completing the proceedings. The cumbersome legal procedures and dilatory tactics employed by either of the parties involved may defeat the objective.

In the Transparency International’s global corruption index, India ranked 85th among the 175 countries surveyed last year. The authorities were pleased with the finding as the previous year the country was in the 94th position.

The licence raj which flourished under the restrictive economic policy which the country followed in the early years of Independence was widely believed to have bred corruption at the political and administrative levels. The 2G scam case in which the former DMK minister and several high-ranking bureaucrats are involved indicates that under economic liberalisation the situation has become worse. Not better.

Under the law, the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker are both liable for prosecution. A company official who bribes a bureaucrat can be prosecuted but not the company on whose behalf he makes the payment. An amendment under consideration envisages prosecution of the company as well.

Corruption takes place at the lower levels as well as the higher levels of the administration. At the lower levels, it takes the form of demanding or accepting illegal gratification to provide services which officials are bound to provide anyway. This hurts the poor. At the higher levels, it takes the form of payment of consideration for doing a favour. This benefits the rich.

When prosecution is rare and conviction even rarer, enhancement of punishment is an exercise with little practical significance. Except in rare instances like the 2G case, which, incidentally, was the result of exertions by constitutional functionaries like the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Supreme Court, only small fry are caught in the net.

Corruption is an affliction that affects many sectors. Studies have identified defence sector companies, all of which are government-owned, and the health care system, which is dominated by the private sector, as areas where ethical practices are extremely weak. 

The proposed changes are, at best, half-hearted measures. They cannot make any material difference since they do not address the core issue of political corruption, arising from the parties’ growing need for funds to fight elections. On the face of it, the BJP, which is now the main beneficiary of corporate munificence, and Narendra Modi, who used a business tycoon’s private aircraft for campaign tours and accepted a custom-made suit reportedly worth Rs 1 million presented by a businessman, are unlikely agents of change in this crucial area. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 5, 2015.

30 April, 2015

ഒരു വി‌കെ‌എൻ കടിതം


Thiruvilvamala P.O.
Trichur Dt – Kerala
680588
1 January 1983

ശ്ശെടാ ബാബുഷ്കരേ,
                          ഉൻ കടിതം.
                           മെച്ചിനോം.
                            വരേൻ.
                                             വി കെ എൻ
   Scoop

                      ഇന്റയ്ക്ക് പുത്താണ്ട്.

29 April, 2015

On Veena Vidwan S. Balachander

                S. Balachander

One of the rewards of journalism is the opportunity it provides to meet interesting people.

Renowned Veena vidwan S. Balachander (1927-1990), whose acquaintance I made during my stint as a journalist in Chennai, was a very colourful personality who exuded much warmth.. He wrote very artistically. His signature was unique: it looked like a drawing of his favourite instrument, the Veena.

The Indian Fine Arts Society awarded him the title of Sangeetha Kalasikhamani during its golden jubilee celebrations. He sent me a personal, handwritten invitation to the function. 



Unfortunately I was preoccupied on that day and I wrote to him regretting my inability to attend the function. He wrote back thanking me for the letter.



Balachander is no more. But his music lives on. Now listen to the Maestro. Happy Listening! 

28 April, 2015

Ending judicial self-propagation

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

India has the dubious distinction of being the only country where judges appoint judges. This was not what the Constitution provided for. The Supreme Court converted the higher judiciary into a self-propagating entity, exercising its right to interpret the Constitution.

The Constitution envisaged a system of mutual checks and balances to keep the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary on the right path. It vested the power to appoint judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court in the President in consultation with the Chief Justice concerned. Since the President acts on the advice of the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister’s was the last word.

The Supreme Court reordered things through three judgments, delivered between 1981 and 1998. It whittled down the Executive’s role in the appointment and transfer of judges and made the Chief Justice’s the last word. The act of aggrandisement did not provoke much criticism because few believed the government’s intentions were pure.

Judicial inroads into the realms of the Legislature and the Executive began when they became weak after the death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In the first post-Nehru election in 1967, the Congress retained power but it lacked the two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha required to pass a constitutional amendment. That year, in the Golaknath case, the Supreme Court ruled that Parliament did not have the power to amend the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution.

In several previous judgements the Court had held that Parliament had unfettered power to amend the Constitution. After leading the Congress to a resounding victory in the 1971 elections, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi amended the Constitution to reassert Parliament’s right which had been extinguished by the court.

The Judiciary now moved one step backward. In the Kesavananda Bharathi case, the Supreme Court conceded that Parliament could amend all parts of the Constitution, including the fundamental rights chapter. At the same time, by a 7-6 majority it imposed a restriction: the amendment should not alter the basic character or essential features of the Constitution. These features were not identified or defined.

In both the cases the court relied on borrowed concepts. To save previous amendments in the fundamental rights chapter which the court had upheld, the Golaknath judgement applied the US principle of prospective overruling. The basic character concept was taken from a Pakistani judgement. While the Pakistani court invented it to limit the power exercisable by a military dictator the Indian court applied it to restrict the authority of democratically elected governments.

When the time came to appoint a new Chief Justice, Indira Gandhi overlooked the seniority of three judges who were part of the majority in the Kesavananda Bharati case. This was widely seen as an attempt to discipline the judiciary. The superseded judges resigned.

In the last 65 years Parliament has amended the Constitution about 100 times. The number of times the Judiciary has amended it through the process of interpretation, as in the Golaknath and Kesavanand Bharati judgements, remains untabulated. The most daring of the judicial amendments came through the verdict in the Judges cases.

The first of these arose after Indira Gandhi returned to power following the collapse of the Janata government. In it, the Court conceded primacy to the Executive in processes relating to appointment and transfer of judges. In the second case, which came up when PV Narasimha Rao’s minority government was buying up majority support, the Court granted primacy to the Chief Justice of India but laid down that he should act in consultation with a collegium comprising his two seniormost colleagues.

The Court’s third verdict was the opinion it rendered in a Presidential reference in 1998, when AB Vajpayee was heading a coalition of more than a score of parties. While asserting the CJI’s primacy, it raised the strength of the judges’ collegium from two to four.   

Last August the Narendra Modi government pushed through the two houses of Parliament a bill to scrap the collegium and set up a National Judicial Appointments Commission with the CJI as the chairman and two seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, the Law Minister and two eminent persons, who will be nominated by a committee comprising the CJI, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, as members.

The new system will end judicial self-propagation and provide the Judiciary and the Executive equal voice in the appointment of judges. Its constitutionality has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Hopefully, the Court will realise that the collegium system which it created is wholly undemocratic and the time has come to do away with it. -- Gulf Today, April 28, 2015.

23 April, 2015

Old photographs bring the light of other days around me



A set of photographs taken when I arrived at the Bombay regional office of United News of India in July 1973 after the agency's management revoked the order terminating my services following a five-day strike. The pictures above show Madhu V Shettye, President of the UNI Employees Union, Bombay, and colleagues welcoming me. (Madhu was a veteran journalist of Free Press Journal.) 


Inside the Bureau. On my right is S B Kolpe, President of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists, and  on my left is K K Duggal, who replaced me as Regional Manager at Bombay.

In December 1972 the management of UNI transferred me from New Delhi to Bombay. The UNI Employees Union, Delhi, was agitating for wage revision at the time. I did not involve myself in the Union’s work since, as News Editor, I was functioning in a supervisory capacity. However, as Vice-President of the Delhi Union of Journalists, I was active in the campaigns of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists.

UNI journalists got MPs to raise the wage revision issue in the two houses of Parliament. Based on information provided by the UNI management, Information and Btoadcasting Minister I K Gujral told Parliament the Union’s demand was unjustified as the news agency had implemented the Wage Board proposals the previous year. Under the law, the Union cannot raise a fresh wage demand for three years. The government’s response demoralized my colleagues at the Desk,who were looking forward to an improvement in their emoluments. I told them to challenge the minister’s statement which was not entirely correct. UNI had not implemented the Wage Board proposals fully. The agreement the management signed with the Union only provided for implementation of the pay scales proposed by the Board. The dearness allowance rates proposed by the Board were not being paid. Since the Wage Board proposals had not been fully implemented the UNI management could not invoke the clause about three-year bar. In the agreement signed with the management, the Union had, of course, agreed not to raise any new wage demand for three years. On its part, the management had agreed to revise the emoluments if the agency’s finances improved. Its finances had improved, and the management had an obligation to revise the emoluments in terms of this commitment.

Gujral was furious when he got the Union’s rejoinder to his statement. He blasted the General Manager for misleading him and rendering him liable to be hauled up for misleading Parliament. The General Manager knew he could no longer get the government to back his stand. He was aware that I had helped the Union to save the situation and decided to get me out of the way. The Union offered to raise the issue of my transfer. I advised them against it. I told the Secretary, George Mathew, that the management could not now avoid wage revision and the Union should not provide it an opportunity to bargain by taking up the issue of my transfer.

Having worked closely with the General Manager for more than four years, I had a fair idea of how his mind worked. I knew he was sending me to Bombay since there was a rival UNI Employees Union there. I was ready to face more trouble from the management. When I asked for a week’s leave to visit my family, which was still in Delhi, the management decided to strike. Within an hour of arrival at my Delhi residence, a UNI messenger delivered the sack order. It simply said “it has been decided to terminate your services, which is done herewith”.  An hour later T. P. Alexander, a reporter of the Bombay bureau, telephoned me and said K.K.Duggal had come from Delhi and taken charge of the office. Duggal, who had been News Editor before me, was flown to Bombay the previous night for the purpose.

“What happens to you?” asked Alex. “I have got a letter saying my services have been terminated,” I said.

“We are going on strike,” Alex said immediately. I told him I did not want colleagues in Bombay to stick their necks out. I would consult the Delhi union and the IFWJ, and there should be no precipitate action in the meantime, I said.

IFWJ Secretary General B R Vats and I met M K Ramamurthi, former IFWJ Secretary General who had left journalism and was practising at the Supreme Court.  He told us: “If the UNI union is capable of action, this is the time for it.”

The Delhi Union called an emergency general body meeting. Vats and Santosh Kumar, General Secretary, DUJ, conveyed Ramamurthi’s advice to the staff in spirited speeches in Hindi. While the meeting was still on, the Bombay Union announced it was going on strike immediately. The Delhi Union followed suit.

Santosh Kumar, in a report covering DUJ’s activities during the period May 1973 to January 1976, recorded as follows: “In July 1973,we faced another attack. This time, it was the management of the UNI which most arbitrarily terminated the services of another active trade unionist and a former vice-president of our Union, Shri B R P Bhaskar. The attack was met with confidence and strength. The executive held an emergency meeting and congratulated the employees of UNI –both journalists and non-journalists – who had gone on a lightning strike to protest against the medieval and despotic action of the UNI management. Our Union fully supported the strike and also organized a protest demonstration outside the UNI premises. At our request, the journalists and non-journalists of many establishments participated in the daily demonstration held outside the agency offices. The employees of the banks situated in the area also participated in the demonstration one evening, when it was heavily raining and we take the opportunity to specially thank the bank employees and their local organization, the Delhi State Bank EmployeesFederation, for the splendid demonstration of solidarity with us in time of need. Shri Rangarajan, Spl Correspondent of the UNI, played a notable role in this agitation.

“Ultimately, the UNI management relented and revoked the dismissal order served on Bhaskar.”

When the Delhi Union initially decided on a 24-hour strike, the management felt it could weather the storm. The following day the Union extended the strike by 48 hours and then by 72 hours.

On the very first day IFWJ President S B Kolpe and All India Newspaper Employees Federation General Secretary S Y Kolhatkar in a joint statement described the UNI management’s action as one of victimization for trade union activity and demanded that it be withdrawn. Shashi Bhushan, MP from Madhya Pradesh, who happened to be in Bombay on that day, also issued a press statement. So did a host of local politicians including Muslim League MLA G M Banatwala.

Bombay PCC President Rajani Patel sent a telegram to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asking her to intervene in the issue. Blitz Editor RK Karanjia visited the UNI Bombay bureau to express solidarity and dealt with the issue in his column in the next issue of the weekly.

While the strike was on, the Maharashtra Union of Journalist met at Pune for its annual conference. Chief Minister V P Naik, who inaugurated the conference, condemned the UNI management’s action and said the state government would not let the agency get away with it. State Minister for Information Sharad Pawar who was the chief guest on the second day also made a similar declaration. The MUJ designated the following Friday as UNI Day and held out threat of a statewide newspaper strike. The newspapers which are owners of the agency rarely take interest in its affairs. They were forced to sit up and take notice when S R Kulkarni, President of the All India Port and Dock Workers Federation, said dock workers would refuse to handle newspaper consignments of the newspapers which are on the board of directors of UNI if the sack order was not withdrawn.

On the fifth day the UNI management contacted Vats and sought IFWJ’s help to settle the issue. It offered to withdraw the sack order but wanted me to accept transfer to another centre. The management gave me a list of six centres to choose from. They were all in states where the chief ministers were displeased with UNI correspondents for one reason or another. From the list I picked Srinagar after making sure that N S Malik, who was then posted there, was ready to move. “If Iam going to get into trouble,” I told myself, “let it be in Jammu and Kashmir.”

What infuriated the trade union movement was the arbitrary nature of the management’s action. The termination notice mentioned no charges. Union Labour Minister K V Raghunatha Reddy asked the General Manager what was cause for action. He replied that the management had lost trust in me. He explained that the agency’s lawyer had advised against mentioning any charges since that would cast upon the management an obligation to hold an inquiry into the charges. Air India had dismissed a senior executive without citing any reason and the Supreme Court had upheld the airline management’s stand that it could not keep a person whom it did not trust in a key position.

In UNI, there was also a third Union -- in Kerala. It did not join the strike. Its President was Vayalar Ravi, MP. When I met Ravi later I asked why his union had stayed away. He said he was told by a senior UNI journalist that the issue had been resolved.

I had been with UNI for seven years at that ime, and that was more than I had spent in any institution previously. After my reinstatement I believed I had an obligation to stay on as a large number of colleagues, both journalists and non-journalists, had stuck their necks out for me. In the event I remained with the agency for a total of 18 years, nearly half of my working life. Since I enjoyed considerable professional freedom in the agency, the strained relationship with the management was not much of a problem. (A Facebook note prompted by a set of old photographs)

21 April, 2015

Opposition set to take on BJP

BRP Bhaskar

India’s Opposition parties are gradually recovering from the impact of their stunning defeat at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party in last year’s Lok Sabha poll and trying to put their act together.

The BJP won an absolute majority in the lower house of Parliament on its own in the elections, thanks to the vigorous campaign run by its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. In the later Assembly elections too he personally led the party’s campaign, chalking up a series of victories.

The party seized power for the first time in Haryana. Its spectacular performance in the Hindu-majority region of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir compelled the largest party, the People’s Democratic Party, to accommodate it in the coalition government, also for the first time.

Only in Delhi state did the Modi magic fail. An unprecedented consolidation of non-BJP votes in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party there broke the party’s run of successes.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which played a key role in the BJP’s election campaign, has since strengthened its hold by inducting some of its leaders into important position in the party and the government. Flush with power, some RSS-affiliated outfits have been making efforts to convert poor people belonging to the minority communities to Hinduism under a ghar wapasi (homecoming) programme, offering allurements.

Desecration of churches has been reported from several places, including Delhi. Government spokesmen have claimed that the attackers were thieves and that there was no religious motive. 

BJP members of Parliament have called upon Hindu women to produce more children. A leader of the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s partner in the Central as well as Maharashtra governments, recently called for sterilisation of members of the minority communities. Following criticism, he withdrew the statement.

While opposition parties have formally condemned such statements, there has been no organised resistance to Hindutva activists’ attempt to polarise society on communal lines. By and large the secular parties have been unwilling to confront the the BJP and its affiliates.

Last week, for the first time, the Opposition showed signs that it is ready to take them on.

The party that has suffered the most damage as a result of the BJP’s rise under Modi is the Congress, which had led the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre for 10 years. It did not win enough seats in the new Lok Sabha for its leader to be recognised as the Leader of the Opposition.

In the Assembly elections that followed, the Congress lost power in Haryana, in Maharashtra, where it headed a coalition with the National Congress Party, and in Jammu and Kashmir, where it was a partner in the government headed by the J and K National Conference.

For long the country’s largest party, the Congress has now been pushed to the second position. Modi makes no secret of his dream of a Congress-free India.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi had made her son Rahul the party’s Vice-President in 2013 amid speculation that she would soon hand over the reins to him. As the party’s main campaigner, he earned the most criticism for the electoral reverses from inside as well as outside. With the party in a state of paralysis, the expected transition did not take place.

Last week Rahul Gandhi returned home after an eight-week sabbatical abroad. On Sunday he appeared with his mother at a farmers’ rally in Delhi to protest against the Modi government’s plan to turn over agricultural land to industries. This may well be the issue on which the Modi government faces the biggest challenge.

Also on Sunday the Communist Party of India-Marxist picked Sitaram Yechury as its General Secretary in place of Prakash Karat whose tenure saw a sharp decline in its fortunes. Yechury vowed to mobilise resistance to the BJP’s neoliberal policies and communal agenda.

Earlier this month six breakaway factions of the Janata Party, which was put together by eminent freedom-fighter Jayaprakash Narayan to challenge Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime, announced their decision to reunite to take on the BJP. They include the Samajwadi Party, the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh, the Janata Dal (United), the ruling party of Bihar, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Indian National Lok Dal and the Janata Dal (Secular), former ruling parties of Bihar, Haryana and Karnataka respectively.

In the Lok Sabha poll the BJP had established supremacy over these parties in their strongholds. They have come together to protect their turf.

The BJP recently conducted a membership campaign and claims it is now the world’s largest political party. The strength of a party cannot be measured only in terms of number of members. The opposition parties need to improve their working from the grassroots level upwards to pose an effective challenge to the resurgent BJP. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, April 21, 2015.

14 April, 2015

Action plan against NGOs

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s open exhortation to the Judiciary to guard against “five-star activists”, the government last week launched a direct attack on Greenpeace, the global non-government organisation whose Indian chapter is spearheading the people’s campaign against some of his pet projects which endangers life and livelihood of the poor.

Modi delivered his warning against activists at a conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers, a periodical exercise aimed at sorting out matters of mutual concern to the Judiciary and the Executive.

The Judiciary, he said, should be cautious about delivering perception-driven verdicts, especially when perceptions were sourced from five-star activists.

Indira Jaising, a former Additional Solicitor-General, in a forthright response, said Modi seemed to be targeting his opponents and those critical of the development policies of the ruling dispensation. “The message for the Judiciary,” she added, “is: ‘Don’t mess with me or my development policies.’”

The attempt to intimidate the Judiciary into taking an anti-activist line came a few weeks after the Delhi High Court quashed a government order which prevented Greenpeace campaigner Priya S Pillai from boarding a flight to London. Her mission was to draw the attention of British parliamentarians to a mega project of a UK-based company which threatens to destroy the environment and uproot tribes in a forest area.

Last week the government launched a fresh attack on Greenpeace. This time it sought not to restrain an individual activist but to immobilise the entire organisation. It suspended Greenpeace India’s licence to receive remittances from abroad for six months and blocked its bank accounts.

Some of the government’s allegations against Greenpeace were couched in vague terms. For instance, it accused the NGO of campaigning, protesting and lobbying against the government policies and attempting to delay and obstruct energy plans. One charge was downright frivolous: it accused the NGO of holding talks with the Aam Admi Party, the ruling party of Delhi state. Another was hilarious: it said the NGO had placed a full-page anti-nuclear colour advertisement with a sarcasm-laden header in a leading English daily.

Greenpeace India accused the government of conducting a smear campaign against it and vowed to continue campaigning on issues fearlessly. It also said it would challenge the government order in court.

Following a Supreme Court directive, the Central Bureau of Investigation wrote to all state governments in 2013 seeking information on non-government organisations registered with them. Not all of them replied.

Based on the replies received the CBI estimated that there were about two million NGOs in the country. Uttar Pradesh topped the list with more than half a million and Kerala came next with about 369,000. Most of them are actually voluntary organisations engaged in social work with grants from the government and meekly toe the official line.

Unlike them, the Indian chapter of Greenpeace, formed in 2001, is an advocacy group which seeks changes in policies detrimental to the interests of the people, especially the poor, and provides constructive leadership to grassroots-level campaigns against disastrous policies pursued by the government. Since 2010, it has been promoting sustainable agricultural projects and solar-based energy models.

Former Delhi University professor Achin Vinaik, prominent environmentalist Ashish Kothari, leading lawyer Vrinda Grover and G. Gautama of the Chennai-based Krishnamurthi Foundation are among the members of Greenpeace India’s executive committee.

Greenpeace India receives funds from abroad but local donations finance most of its activities. It spent about Rs335 million in 2013. Of this, Rs200 million came from local donations. Foreign grants amounted to Rs132 million. Greenpeace accepts donations only from individuals and foundations. It does not accept donations from governments and corporate entities.

The hunt is unlikely to stop with Greenpeace. Home Ministry officials were ready with an action plan against a whole range of NGOs even before Modi took office. The day before he took oath as Prime Minister, a Delhi newspaper reported that good days may be over for NGOs operating in sectors like participatory democracy, advocacy, action research, innovative communication, inclusiveness etc.

It quoted sources as saying the Home Ministry’s Foreigners Division was tightening the noose around NGOs and that those who organised workshops on regulatory frameworks, developing communication strategies, people’s participation, policy analysis etc were being screened. Modi couldn’t have asked for more. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, April 14, 2015.