Sunday, June 21, 2009

working on the chain gang

According to a new report, India isn't doing enough to combat human trafficking.

By Jason Overdorf - GlobalPost
Published: June 21, 2009

FARIDABAD, India —Teerath Ram came to Faridabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, to work in one of its many stone quarries. Recruited by a labor contractor who promised he'd earn much higher wages here than he could ever make in his native state of Chhattisgarh, Teerath Ram took a notional "advance" of a few thousand rupees to pay the contractor for getting him the job and agreed to work in the quarry to repay his debt. Fifteen years later, he's still there.

The high wages he was meant to receive never materialized, and at the end of the month when the rock he had risked his neck to blast out of the ground was weighed against the dynamite he'd "bought" from the company store, the owner told him that his wages were just enough to cover the interest on his debt.

"They just kept records of what they loaned me in a notebook," he said. And because Teerath Ram is illiterate as well as desperately poor, "They could change the figures anytime they wanted."

There are literally millions like Teerath Ram in India, which has failed to meet minimum standards to combat human trafficking, according to the 2009 Trafficking in Persons Report released by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week.

"India is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation," according to the report.

Because it has been on the “tier two” watch list — the second-worst category of offenders — for two years, India now faces the prospect of being moved to the “tier three” blacklist of egregious violators next year if it fails to improve its record in fighting human trafficking. Those countries face sanctions under which the U.S. can withhold non-humanitarian aid and oppose aid projects from agencies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Band, though it is likely India would receive a presidential waiver.

The sad thing for India is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Though they are still being cheated and exploited, laborers like Teerath Ram, for instance, don't even understand that they were the victims of trafficking, since nobody clubbed them on the head and threw them in the back of a truck. Nor do the police.

“The word trafficking has not been defined in India,” said Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer with the New Delhi-based Global March Against Child Labor. “There is no comprehensive definition, despite the fact that trafficking in human beings has been banned as [violating] a fundamental right.” That means when people are duped into migrating for work, rather than kidnapped, India's law enforcement agencies rarely recognize them as the victims of traffickers.

Technically, Teerath Ram is now no longer a bonded laborer. He knows exactly how much money he owes the quarry owner and the rate of interest on his debt. He can leave anytime, provided he finds someone else — which would mean another labor contractor — to grant him another loan to pay off his debt. But he still has to pay for the blasting equipment he uses from the quarry to which he's indebted, and the owner and debt-holder still assesses the value of the rock Teerath Ram blasts out of the ground. Naturally, the price of dynamite always seems to climb, while the price for stone plunges.

The quarry workers of Faridabad — only a 15-minute drive from the heart of Delhi — are victims of what some Indian economists are terming "modern bonded labor."
Unlike in the past, when agricultural laborers were forced to work because of traditional feudal ties to landlords or debts that went back generations, these modern bonded laborers migrate to new farms or industrial sites where wages are higher. They enter "freely" into loan agreements with their employers and sometimes even pay off what they owe at the end of the year. This has prompted some economists to argue that the laborers aren't the victims of traffickers, and that they opt to take these jobs because they are better than the alternatives available to them elsewhere, said Professor Ravi Srivastava, a labor economist at Jawarhalal Nehru University.

But, as Teerath Ram knows, the reality is very different. "This is the way the new bonded labor relationships are emerging," Srivastava said. These relationships are not purely economic contracts, even though employees may enter them due to necessity, rather than compulsion. And once employees enter into these relationships, there are high exit costs that the employees did not understand at the outset.

Bonded labor has been illegal in India since the enactment of the Bonded Labor System Abolition Act in 1976, and a series of progressive Supreme Court judgments expanded India's definition of bonded labor to make it more comprehensive.

India's highest court ruled in Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. the Union of India (1984) that all laborers who are working for below the nationally mandated minimum wage should be presumed to be bonded to their employers. The ruling recognized that economic compulsions can be as powerful as historical feudal relationships and even the threat of physical harm, and that proving exploitation can be a knotty problem when employers keep all the records and their workers are illiterate and mathematically ignorant.

While this law doesn't go so far as to define anybody who is working for less than minimum wage to be a bonded laborer, it shifts the burden onto the employer to prove that his employees are there of their own volition. But despite this progressive interpretation of the law, forced labor, debt servitude and even slavery persist, according to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector.

Numbers are hard to come by. The Bandhua Mukti Morcha (or Bonded Labor Liberation Front) claims that as many as 300 million Indian workers should be presumed to be bonded laborers, based on the Supreme Court's definition.

The working conditions for such laborers are grim. They handle hazardous chemicals — and even explosives — without any safety equipment. Crippling and fatal accidents are routine. The work is backbreaking, and the pay is miserable. For instance, the “rapaswala,” a kiln worker who buries the bricks before firing, earns only 8 rupees (or about 20 cents) for every thousand bricks he produces.

Things are no better for Teerath Ram and the other the “modern” bonded laborers of Faridabad, even though they have fought long and hard for their rights, and, according to some definitions, they're free.

Organized by the Bandhua Mukti Morcha (Bonded Labor Liberation Front) in 1984, they have secured a school and access to electricity at the cost of the life of one of their own — allegedly at the hands of company goons. But they still have yet to receive the legally mandated minimum wage for their labor. They handle dynamite and blasting caps without proper safety equipment because their employer requires them to pay for their gear themselves, and fatal accidents are so commonplace no one has an accurate count.

"I owe 20,000 rupees ($500), which I borrowed to buy dynamite and other equipment," said Resham Lal, another quarry worker. "Every month, I repay 250 rupees. Nobody has told me how long it will take me to pay off my debt at this rate, and I keep working and spending more money on equipment and the interest on my loan keeps growing."

Friday, June 19, 2009

everybody was kung fu fighting

South Indian prostitutes learn martial arts to protect against creeps and other bad customers.

By Jason Overdorf - GlobalPost
Published: June 19, 2009

CHENNAI — Scorned by society and ignored by the police, sex workers in the South Indian city of Chennai are learning karate to protect themselves against the beatings, robberies and rapes they say are part of a prostitute's daily life here.

“Sometimes I make an agreement with one customer, and then later he tries to bring his friends along as well,” said Kalaiarasi, a woman who works as a prostitute near the Chennai neighborhood of Anna Nagar. “Other times they want to have sex with me and they beat me up so they don't have to pay.”

According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, India has about 3 million prostitutes. But other organizations, like Human Rights Watch, suggest that the figure could be as much as five times higher than that.

Because of desperate poverty, high rates of unemployment and the low status of women in Indian society, these sex workers have few options. Prostitution is illegal, and, recently, efforts have been made to decriminalize prostitution and make clients — instead of just the prostitutes — liable to prosecution. But these efforts have had little impact.

Kalaiarasi is all too aware that it is rape, not business, when a client brings along his friends. But in the past she has never been able to do anything about it because the local police are not interested in the legal rights of a woman who takes money in exchange for sex. In fact, if the allegations of local sex workers and activists are true, the police officers charged with upholding the law are the worst offenders.

“The law never says the policemen can beat them up, they can rape the women, they can abuse them,” said AJ Hariharan, founder of the Indian Community Welfare Organization, a nonprofit that aims to protect the rights of sex workers and homosexuals. “The law doesn't say that. But the people implementing the law are taking advantage of it ... So no one can go and complain to the police.”

That's why, along with 75 other sex workers here, Kalaiarasi is learning karate so she can fight back. So far, Kalaiarasi has only taken a 15-day crash course. But as she and her fellow students kick and punch in imitation of their instructor, you can already see how the basic knowledge of karate — together with the recognition that they have the right to protect themselves — has given them a huge surge in confidence.

Dressed in white karate uniforms and wearing Spiderman masks to hide their faces from my camera, these women are clearly having fun. At one point, Valli, another sex worker, attacks Kalaiarasi with a wooden knife — haieeya! Kalaiarasi blocks the thrust with her nunchaku, or “numchuks,” catching Valli's wrist with the chain connecting the wooden sticks and twisting it painfully so her would-be attacker is forced to drop the knife. Everyone's Spiderman mask shakes with laughter.

While most karate students will probably never have to use their skills on a real attacker, the prostitutes' precarious position in society makes an assault almost certain.

“The clients feel that the women are vulnerable,” Hariharan said. “If they pay, they can do anything [they believe]. We want to pass on a message that this is enough. That the women will protect themselves.”

“I have to keep going out after dark [because of my job],” Valli said. “Sometimes clients misbehave. Sometimes they refuse to pay. What we want is to be able to protect ourselves from hooligans.”

Hariharan hopes that learning karate will not only help protect these women from abuse, but also raise awareness about their plight and cause others to realize that sex workers, too, deserve basic human rights.

“When you look at the [total] number of sex workers, the number who know self-defense is very less,” he said. “But we want to send this message across the country, (to) women in Kanyakumari and other districts of Tamil Nadu, or elsewhere in the country, maybe Rajasthan or Delhi or Gujarat. We want this message to be taken that sex workers can equip themselves to prevent violence against them.”

Thursday, June 18, 2009

can the indian government end hunger?

That's the new plan, anyway.

By Jason Overdorf - GlobalPost
Published: June 7, 2009 12:04 ET

NEW DELHI — In a move some are hailing as the boldest — and most needed — action taken by any administration since the country gained independence in 1947, India's new government has promised to eliminate hunger and malnutrition nationwide with a powerful National Food Security Act.

In her June 4 speech to parliament outlining for the first time the agenda for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's new United Progressive Alliance government, President Pratibha Patil said, “My government proposes to enact a new law — the National Food Security Act — that will provide a statutory basis for a framework which assures food security for all. Every family below the poverty line in rural as well as urban areas will be entitled, by law, to 25 kilograms of rice or wheat per month at three rupees (about 6 cents) per kilogram. This legislation will also be used to bring about broader systemic reform in the public distribution system.”

Even usually trenchant critics of the nation's policies toward its farmers and its poor were cheered by the pledge. “After independence, this will be the most important program any government has ever thought of launching,” said agriculture policy expert Devinder Sharma. “It should at least allow us to put our heads up for the first time of being a democracy. How could democracy coexist with such appalling hunger?”

India's starvation and malnutrition problems have always been as perplexing as they are horrifying. With more than 200 million people classified as hungry by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, India has the world's largest population of the starving and malnourished — despite being the world's second-largest grower of rice and wheat and boasting a surplus of 56.5 million tons of food grains in government warehouses.

“If you put one bag of grain over another bag of grain, you can walk to the moon,” Sharma said. “That's the quantity of food lying in India, and we have the largest population of hungry also in India.”

Sharma gives credit for this program, last year's massive farm loan waiver, and a jobs scheme that guarantees rural laborers at least 100 days of work each year to Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi. And he points out that the scale of these programs is unprecedented. “She has launched the world's largest social security program with the NREGA, and this is the world's largest food security program,” he said. “I can tell you she deserves the Nobel Prize.”

Part of a breathtaking array of landmark changes to public policy — many of which will also present a hefty bill to the exchequer — the new food security law will cost the government more than $10 billion at today's exchange rate. To foot the bill, the government will need to push forward with the sale of stakes in state-owned companies in the oil and gas sector and complete the sale of 3G telecom licenses. In a sense, therefore, it is both the mother of all social welfare policies and the biggest impetus for the growth-spurring economic reforms that business has long demanded.

More importantly, together with the UPA's groundbreaking Right to Information Act, which was passed in 2005, the national food security guarantee will be used to bring about broader systemic reform in the Public Distribution System (PDS) through which India already distributes subsidized food to the poor. Notorious for corruption — yes, people steal from the starving, too — the PDS was vulnerable to exploitative vendors because nobody was able to track where the food actually went.

But with the introduction of national identity cards with biometric and radio frequency technology to prevent fraud, which is also part of an anti-terrorism initiative of the home ministry, many believe there is a real chance of plugging the holes in the sieve.

Not everyone is convinced. According to Bibek Debroy, an economist at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, the vague plan to reform the PDS doesn't go nearly far enough to succeed. “It's a terrible idea,” Debroy said.
Citing the silence about just how the distribution system will be reformed and drawing attention to several past efforts that have failed ignobly, he argues that the solution is actually much more simple. Instead of funneling even more money through the PDS and making an unwieldy behemoth still larger, he said, India should put the monster out of its misery.

“The simple point I'm making is that it's far more efficient to have direct cash transfers,” he said, echoing an argument that has recently gained credence in international development circles.

Through the NREGS, India already has a database of the working poor, including their bank accounts, so it would be easy to transfer food subsidy money directly to them in the form of cash — a move that would slash the government's bill by as much as two-thirds and put thousands of corrupt officials out of business overnight. It would also eliminate an internal conflict between India's food policy and its farm policy: For farmers, the government continually tries to push prices up, while for the poor it struggles to push prices down.

india: the coming defense boom

With a new government, and a new nuclear deal with Washington, Delhi turns to the U.S. for military hardware.

By Jason Overdorf - GlobalPost
Published: June 10, 2009 17:44 ET

NEW DELHI — With India's new government firmly in place, a top U.S. envoy landed in New Delhi Wednesday to discuss some key pacts to remove roadblocks for arms and aerospace companies keen to tap this country's $30 billion market for military hardware.

United States Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns visits New Delhi and Mumbai from June 10 to 13 to meet senior government officials and industry leaders and discuss “a broad agenda to further strengthen the partnership between the United States and India,” according to a State Department spokesman.

Following last year's pivotal Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement, which freed India from limitations on technology transfer imposed after its Pokhran-II nuclear test in 1998, the two nations need to hammer out an agreement that will allow U.S. companies to sell arms and high-end military electronics to India. Now that India's political left is out of the equation following last month's elections, Indian defense analysts expect these pacts to go through smoothly. India has a powerful desire to upgrade its military hardware and U.S. defense companies are more keen than ever to tap its potentially huge market — which could be worth as much as $80 billion by 2020.

According to Rahul Bedi, India correspondent for Jane's Defence Weekly, India has already started the ball rolling for some big purchases from Boeing and Lockheed Martin, including 126 multi-role combat aircraft, eight maritime reconnaissance aircraft, 22 attack helicopters, 15 heavy lift helicopters and a Patriot missile defense system.

The completion of these deals would mark a substantial shift in India's military spending. “Broadly, India's largest supplier remains Russia,” said Bedi. “The second-largest over the last eight or nine years has been Israel. The U.S. is the new kid on the block.”

But there is more at stake than money. “An arms sale purchase relationship is a long-term relationship, and that has a political commitment to it as well,” said Dipankar Banerjee, a retired major general in the Indian army who is now a defense analyst with the New Delhi-based Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. “If an aircraft is purchased, it has to last three to five decades, so that relationship remains, not only between companies, but also it leads to a type of partnership between companies and countries that are important, are long-term, and are in the interest of both countries to sustain.”

Laying the groundwork for a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July, Burns will also be keen to discuss two more controversial pacts, a logistical support agreement (LSA) similar to the one the U.S. has signed with the members of NATO and the proliferation security initiative (PSI), which is intended to prevent the spread of technologies used in nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction. Both of these agreements faced heavy opposition from India's communist parties.

According to analysts at New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, the LSA would require both countries to provide their bases, fuel and other kinds of logistics support to each others' fighter jets and naval warships. The left believed that this arrangement would compel India to adopt America's foreign policy goals and participate in its military adventures, but defense analysts say that is not how similar agreements with NATO countries have played out. Similarly, under the PSI, the Indian Navy would potentially be required to board and search vessels suspected of transporting sensitive nuclear technologies in the Indian Ocean.

“We should have an understanding on the PSI sooner rather than later,” said Banerjee. “It started off with only a small number of countries, and India was asked to adhere to some of its regulations. But India would like to be part of the organization that sets out the rules. That is the primary issue involved in the PSI.”

The stickiest part of the discussions won't have anything to do with Indo-U.S. agreements, however. India aims to wring some promises out of Burns (and, later, Clinton) regarding the ongoing U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where New Delhi perceives its interests are being undermined by America's eagerness to end the war on terror.

India is expected to take a tough line on the recent release of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed — which New Delhi cites as evidence of the emptiness of Pakistan's promise to crack down on terrorists using it as a base of operations. And officials will also express concerns about the large military aid package that Washington has offered Islamabad as an incentive to take the fight to the Taliban on Pakistan's eastern border. India argues that Pakistan has in the past used U.S. aid to bulk up the conventional hardware it would need in a military confrontation with India, rather than the quick-strike gear needed for fighting terrorists.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Singh's 100-day plan to revolutionize India

He may be shy, but his 100-day plan for India is strikingly bold.

Jason Overdorf and Sudip Mazumdar
From the magazine issue dated Jun 15, 2009
For much of the past 15 years, Indian politics were so chaotic that a prime minister would spend most of his first 100 days focused on a single objective: holding onto power. But Manmohan Singh's surprisingly decisive victory in last month's election—coupled with the global economic crisis—has suddenly put him on an American president's schedule: you have 100 days, now get to work fast.

Believing that the Congress Party's near-majority in Parliament will free Singh to slash red tape and spur growth, bankers, columnists, lobbyists and think tanks have spent the time since the poll results were announced on May 16 issuing a torrent of to-do lists for the prime minister. But probably the boldest and most innovative agenda has come from Singh himself. Conceived during the election campaign, at a time when nobody else had much faith in him, his 100-day plan is filled with specific, substantive measures that range from selling stakes in state-owned companies to restructuring rules on public-private partnerships to removing bottlenecks that have delayed some $15 billion worth of road projects to enacting a new food-security law. Together, the advances might just amount to the big-bang reforms that India has been awaiting for nearly a decade now. And having vanquished his foes on the left and the right and earned the unquestioning faith of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, his party's leaders, Singh might even manage to get it all done.

Not everyone is happy with his plans. Despite being best-known as the architect of India's economic opening in 1991, today the prime minister's got other things on his mind. He, Sonia and Rahul are intent on reforming—or transforming—India, but not in a way prescribed by international moneymen or CEOs. Instead, under the shorthand "inclusive growth," they aim to carve out a new path that, if successful, could provide a road map for developing countries worldwide.

Central to their goal are measures some people might not consider reforms at all. First among them are a National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and a Right to Information Act (RTI). Decried by some economists as a populist sop, the NREGS is in fact designed to revolutionize India's leaky bureaucratic mechanism for dispersing money and to free the poor from exploitative middlemen by channeling an unprecedented level of funds (and decision-making power) to village-level elected officials. Singh believes that, like Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, this stimulus plan will put money in the hands of the people most likely to spend it well and will create a social safety net that will help unleash their productive capacities. Meanwhile, Congress plans to expand the use of the RTI, which was enacted in 2005, and to pass a few new laws to make bureaucrats, politicians and judges more accountable by shining a bright light on their activities.

In a country where even the trash in a government wastebasket is frequently considered classified information, the RTI is groundbreaking. Under the law, ordinary people can for the first time get a look at the books of their local ration shops, say, or at government departments—and see what corrupt officials have been skimming off the top, delivering to fictitious beneficiaries, or just plain stealing. And because the information must be made available within 30 days or the official in charge will face immediate punishment, whistleblowers get results from RTI cases much faster than they would from India's progressive but slow-as-molasses legal system.

Still, until recently, no one has pushed RTI far enough to enjoy its full potential. Now Rahul is striving to do just that by urging youth to storm the barricades of the bureaucracy with an ever-expanding number of RTI cases. The effects could be revolutionary. In Uttar Pradesh—India's largest state and a place where the Congress Party made a huge and unexpected surge in the recent election—Shailendra Singh, a former police officer who now heads the party's RTI cell, became such an irritant in September that the state's chief minister, Mayawati, had him arrested. With the rise of Rahul's youth brigade, there could soon be thousands of other gadflies just as irritating.

This isn't to suggest that the prime minister's 100-day agenda is only aimed at the poor and destitute. It also includes controversial measures that bankers have been advocating for a long time, such as the sale of state-owned enterprises. Though Singh himself has only said that disinvestment of public-sector units "will be tackled by the finance minister in the budget," sales of shares in Oil India Ltd. and the hydropower firm NHPC Ltd.—which were approved for IPOs of 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in 2007 but then blocked by the left—are reported to top the agenda. Deregulation of the oil industry—another move the left opposed because it would mean higher prices at the pump—is now also expected to be put before the cabinet within six to eight weeks. Instead of a vague pledge to increase capacity, the Power ministry has promised to deliver 5,600 megawatts of new power by the end of August and to unveil three 4,000 megawatt projects in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Orissa within 100 days. Investors have already taken note, pumping more than $4 billion into Indian equity markets in May and sending the benchmark Sensex on a 28 percent climb.

It's no small irony that all these measures are being driven forward by such a humble, soft-spoken man. At public gatherings Singh often seems to step backward and offer the microphone to someone else. The modest prime minister was denigrated during the campaign as the weakest leader in India's history. But he has turned his apparent shortcomings as a politician—his poor oratorical skills and incapacity for court intrigue—into strengths. His reputation for honesty is unparalleled in a country where a fourth of the legislature faces criminal charges or investigations and politicians have come to be generally reviled. Singh's name has never been mentioned in association with any scandal. And his refusal to trumpet his achievements or play political games has endeared him to the public and given him a reputation for impartiality, which has allowed him to build consensus and should help him implement his agenda. "He's been a very good arbiter when two departments disagree, or there's a disagreement between ministers," said Transport Minister Kamal Nath, who was Commerce minister in charge of World Trade Organization negotiations during Singh's first term.

The prime minister has another big weapon helping him in his current campaign: he knows what he's talking about. The Oxford-educated economist has served as governor of India's central bank, head of its planning commission and as finance minister—a unique résumé for a world leader and an especially potent one during the current crisis. "Others have to depend on so many inputs, and have to be briefed and have to try to understand. He briefs the others. He's a man who understands the subject better than any world leader today," says Nath. In these economic times, it turns out, you can afford to speak softly—if you carry a big calculator.

Just as important as his own qualities, though, is the degree of support that Singh now enjoys from Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul, the dynasty's emerging heir apparent. Singh today is not so much India's prime minister as the leader of its first triumvirate. Yet the clear division of responsibilities makes him more powerful, not less. With Sonia managing the internecine rivalries within the party and Rahul focused on rebuilding Congress's grassroots network, the prime minister can concentrate on policy, not the party's next campaign. It's a unique political formulation for India and, as the recent election showed, a formidable one. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was derailed by divisions among its various leaders, Sonia and Rahul squashed internal efforts to undermine Singh's candidacy, performed the heavy lifting for him on the campaign trail and protected him from opposition attacks. Since concerns about her Italian birth forced Sonia to make Singh her surrogate in 2004, the two have developed a strong relationship built on mutual trust and respect. That good feeling facilitated Rahul's entry into their troika and should help when he someday assumes the top spot. "Singh needs Sonia as much as Sonia needs him. And they work very well in tandem," says a senior Congress leader who asked not to be identified.

Singh is far from Sonia's puppet, as some allege. This became especially clear during the negotiation of the nuclear pact with the U.S. last year. Though there was much domestic pressure to scrap the deal, Singh managed to convince Sonia that it would end India's isolation and make it a much larger player in world affairs, even offering his resignation if the pact were scuttled, according to one of his former aides. Since then, with the emergence of Rahul, the team has become more effective. Though outwardly very different, the three leaders have much in common. For example, all are sensitive to the plight of India's minorities: Singh because he is a Sikh, Sonia because she was born a Christian and Rahul because he is linked through his grandfather to the tiny Parsi community. All three share a loathing for the Hindu supremacist rhetoric of the rival BJP. And all three are courteous and humble, traits that have endeared them to an electorate accustomed to imperious behavior from its pols.

Now the triumvirate's big challenge is living up to expectations. They face a slothful political system that is a holdover of the colonial mindset and they must contend with a culture of bureaucratic obstructionism that has outlasted many previous would-be reformers. Entrenched interests within Congress itself will also no doubt seek to derail Singh's programs and the Gandhis' efforts to make the party more democratic and to allow fresh faces to emerge. But with his newly enhanced grip on the reins of government, Singh knows that his 100-day deadline is a nominal one intended to light a fire underneath his subordinates. He has a full five years to perform. That said, the stakes couldn't be higher. This is more than Congress's big chance; it is India's. Failing to capitalize on it would be costly indeed, for the party, the country, and most of all, for its citizens.