October 12, 2019

PMC Bank scam is indication of the systemic rot in India’s financial sector

 18 hours ago CSS Rao

Punjab & Maharashtra Co-operative Bank Ltd (PMC Bank) (Photo: Reuters) Representational image


The scam in PMC Bank is not the first and will definitely not be last, unless issues plaguing the banking sector are addressed. This article spells out dynamic prescriptions for safeguarding our banks’ resources and grievance redressal.


PMC (Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank) was founded in 1984, and has grown into a multi-state bank with over 137 Branches and a deposit base of Rs 11,600 crores and reported advances of Rs 8,383 crores as on 31st March 2019.

On the fateful morning of 23rd September 2019, account holders of this mid-sized, Mumbai head-quartered Co-operative Bank –- which has no previous history of serious default, no strictures passed by RBI or Government -– hit the headlines for all wrong reasons. Newspapers reported on their front page that RBI had placed operating restrictions on PMC Bank for a period of six months, but allowed it to remain functional.  Payment transactions by account holders were restricted to a mere Rs 1,000, later enhanced to Rs 25,000 in a phased manner. Barring this concession, money of all depositors and account holders stand entirely inaccessible to them until further notice.

Needless to say, this has resulted in grave hardship to account holders. There was the usual public outrage, media coverage, even threats of suicide by grief-stricken individuals. As expected, electronic messages of assurance by PMC Bank officials that their money was safe was sent to all concerned, notably sent by its erstwhile Managing Director, Joy Thomas – a wily, reticent long timer with PMC.

Joy Thomas, former Managing Director of PMC Bank. He has now been suspended. (File Photo)

The days that followed unravelled the grave crisis, initially brushed aside and played down by RBI as “nothing serious”. 

Positives of PMC: One of India’s top Urban Co-operative Bank

PMC Bank has been a compact, useful, service-minded institution, with a young and competent workforce, whose employment must be safeguarded at any cost. The Bank has moved with the times in terms of progressing towards electronic banking and value-added services, which match the best that PSU (Public Sector Undertaking) and large private banks provide. The staff are known to be efficient, friendly, helpful and service minded. 

There is always a functionally advantageous role for such co-operative banks pan-India, bridging as they do, the gap between shadow banking and the large PSU and private banks. The sad act of wrong-doing by a few dishonest people does not – and must not – undermine the valuable role of such banks in a progressive and growing economic environment.

Event and Scale of Damage in this scam

The direct loss resulting from the HDIL (Housing Development and Infrastructure Limited) linked fraud is presently placed at Rs 4,355 crores but it could be higher. The value of loss of PMC Bank’s reputation assiduously built over 35 years is hard to estimate and not easy to rebuild; the agony and inconvenience to customers whose money is blocked is incalculable. The uncertainty over their future employment looming large over the dedicated bank staff is bound to take its toll on them.

The Deeper Malaise

The simple prima facie diagnosis is that the top management of the PMC Bank discovered various systemic loopholes in the working of the bank and exploited them to the advantage of a select group of large and  unethical customers, and in turn, to their own.

The Board of any organisation is mandated to ensure that all major decisions concerning the conduct of business are taken collectively by the elected Directors with care and responsibility, thus precluding the likelihood of ad hoc decisions by those vested with operational powers to misuse them.  This role has, sadly, been compromised.

Who are to be held responsible and brought to Justice

Evidently, the scheming masterminds and abettors of the damage include–

the active Board Members led by the now infamous Chairman and his complicit Directors for their direct role in scheming to defraud their own  PMC Bank and its depositors the wily Managing Director for his skilful, clandestine criminal role to systematically defraud the PMC Bank wilfully over a prolonged period of 6-7 years as admitted by him in writing to the RBI the senior executives of the PMC Bank for their support role to carry out and fulfil the unlawful directions of the above Directors the management and senior staff of beneficiary organisations, most importantly HDIL (Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd) — for their direct role in collaborating with the Directors of the PMC Bank to defraud PMC and its depositorsThe Inspectors and other concerned officials of RBI responsible for periodic audit and statutory reporting of the PMC Bank’s performance supported by key records, for their complicity and for not promptly alerting RBI of serious discrepancies noticed during their auditThe statutory and concurrent Auditors of the PMC Bank — as well as of the HDIL — for their collusive role in certifying false annual accounts, consistently year after yearThe Independent Directors (if any) of the PMC Bank – as well as of the HDIL — for their apparent abetment and not discharging their duties as whistle-blowersThe working level PMC Bank staff (to a lesser extent) who chose to remain silent and not discreetly report (to RBI) the fraud-in-progress perpetrated by the MD and other executives over a period of several years, and for their support role in opening and operationalising nearly 21,500 bogus accounts discarding all stipulated norms of KYC (Know Your Customer) etc.  How they managed to systematically generate, collate and aggregate the names, addresses, ID proof, address proof, phone numbers, PAN Cards, photographs, signatures, other supporting documents of such a staggering number of people and commercial entities -– followed by covert operation of such accounts and maintaining secrecy over long periods of time, maintaining a holy facade all along, beats one’s imagination. Their exemplary “team-work” in this devious achievement truly deserves “praise” and even a mention in the Guinness Book of Records (pun intended).

Urgent Corrective Measures and Future Safeguards Recommended for ALL Banks – Co-operative or otherwise

The recent statement issued soon after the event by Mr Shaktikanta Das, Governor, RBI on PMC Bank, in which he states with unwarranted bravado that “Banking System, including Co-operatives safe, sound” is indeed incorrect and unfortunate.  There is great and urgent need for improving governance systems of our banks and financial institutions which are undeniably vulnerable and constantly susceptible to fraud, as later sections of this article validate.  A report in The Economist points towards this malaise.

Reserve Bank of India. (Representational image)

On the ground, the following series of important measures are therefore recommended for urgent and serious action by the Government and RBI, covering ALL Banks and FIs (Financial Institutions). These recommendations lay bare the extant faults, loopholes and weaknesses in our country’s financial systems and regulatory process, and provide the prescriptive ingredients to expeditiously develop a robust regulatory framework henceforth.

RBI should create a new, empowered Oversight Body to closely monitor the performance of all Co-operative Banks, NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Company) etc. Ensure, Stringent Monitoring of Bank Operations by Independent Entities reporting to the above Body with Quarterly Audit of all Branches and pre-audit of all loans approvals exceeding a defined threshold.Introduce new set of effective Oversight Systems and Controls. This could include a new cadre of empowered officials above RBI’s Inspectors to ensure the diligent performance of their enshrined duties.New Corporate Governance Systems needs to be implemented with duly empowered trained, certified and licensed Nominee Directors placed by RBI on the Boards and Committees of Boards of ALL Banks, with annual rotation.Develop a new system of handsomely rewarding diligent staff who spontaneously report incidents of real fraud-in-progress to RBI via new discreet, no-names basis  reporting mechanism via direct hotline to a designated senior watchdog official in RBI, upon veracity of report being ascertained.Institute a new Mandatory Annual Asset Disclosure Procedure by all Directors and senior executives of Banks, in new format. All assets of those declared guilty to be appropriated, sold and proceeds applied to pay affected parties, pro rata, from a pool of such realisations.RBI to utilise PMC Bank’s SRR (Statutory Reserve Requirement) funds to repay depositors and direct the Promoters and Directors of this Bank to recapitalise the Bank or face take-over following IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) route.Name and shame practice to be initiated, and permanently bar all such persons from accessing any Bank or other commercial credit facilities in future. Enhance punitive provisions for RBI officials and CA firms found guilty of collusion is bank frauds, following a fast-track process. RBI should compensate depositors for lapses in their regulatory role in not detecting and forestalling such loss in time by their Inspectors and other concerned officials for evidently side lining laid down Inspection and Reporting (I&R) practices set out in its Manuals.Amend existing Deposit Insurance Schemes to effectively safeguard depositors with the assurance of expeditiously settlement of claims.  Present relief limit of Rs 1 lakh is insignificant.  The Insurance Premium in this behalf can also be paid in pre-approved proportion by RBI from source recommended at para 15 below.Fix upper limits for single account / group exposures restricted to less than 3% of Bank’s total Deposit base or Rs 250 /500 crores (in the case of Urban Co-operative Banks), whichever is higher.Fix well-defined sectoral lending caps, industry-wise, geography-wise, reviewed and reset annually. Curtail discretionary lending powers of Bank officials and Directors.Appoint one nominee Director from among the Bank’s large depositors on the Board to safeguard their interests.Constant cross verification of all high value transactions, especially instruments of Documentary Credit which value-wise, do not correlate to the borrower’s reported income and GST and IT returns. Documentary credit are letters of credit and bank guarantees and letters of comfort, which have been brazenly misused by people like Nirav Modi and othersRandom check of borrower’s books of account to understand end use progression and realisation of revenues resulting from such payments.Improve loan evaluation process — including hiring outside domain experts to provide their expert professional inputs and unbiased views on each major loan proposal — and strengthen pre-release audit practices.Enhance internal intelligence system of working of Bank branches and controlling offices to detect and preempt fraud-in-process within the organisation, on any scale. Strengthen Bank’s external intelligence network. Competitors, employees, ex-employees and vendors of borrowers are valuable sources of information concerning covert malpractices which are not available anywhere else.RBI to prescribe Standard Operating Ratios, monitoring and reporting accuracy and quality  of which would strictly form part of the new role of its Inspectors on quarterly basis.RBI to apply money held in its custody received by way of penalties collected from various errant Corporates,  Banks and Financial Intuitions each year, and provide a portion of it to aggrieved parties following a phased time-frame and priorities for those who are more troubled than others by the  misdeeds of those in charge. Future profits of the concerned Bank can also be similarly applied.

PMC is not the last Case

Judging by the numerous large-scale and widespread frauds detected in India’s banking and finance sector during the last several years resulting in massive write-offs, it is evident that the rot is very deep in India’s Financial System. Beyond doubt, replication of several PMC-type frauds are already in the making, perhaps on a larger scale.  Yes Bank is a classic example of misuse of bank resources, as their own records acknowledge.  Their shares have lost 96% of recent market value.

A recent report mentions a staggering loss of nearly Rs 32,000 crores in just one quarter of FY 2019-20 collectively in 18 PSU Banks. A total of 2,480 cases of fraud were detected.  Is this a small amount? Isn’t the latest claim by the RBI Governor that “all is well in our banking system” wholly falsified?

Political Parties not responsible for Bank Misconduct

It would be inane to connect the present bank fraud with any political party. Dishonesty, like its twin corruption, is a human weakness inbuilt in the psyche of the vast numbers of unethical people in positions of authority or financial power.  As stated above, frauds of varying magnitude in banks and financial institutions throughout the country have thrived and enlarged since Independence.  Unless prevented via a series of strong deterrent measures, they are very likely to recur.

State Machinery Adequate for Redressal

The State machinery ought to deliver justice within a maximum of six months, following a compressed timeframe using a specially designated fast track court, with day-to-day hearings. 

The State law enforcement and judicial authorities are certainly competent and well-equipped to deal with such relatively small scale and compacts of fraud.

End Note

Acts of unbridled greed are wont to turn aspirations of Joy to lives of unmitigated, enduring Sorrow, which, it is hoped, will be valuable lessons and deterrents for others perhaps busy sketching similar fraudulent actions in other parts of our great motherland.

Finally, PMC as an Institution and the employment of its loyal and trusting employees who helped built the Bank to its leading position it enjoyed must be saved.

The co-operative banking sector must be well supported by the Government, RBI and the public to grow and serve millions of small, micro and medium size customers.



Mr. CSS Rao is an Eminent Member Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS). He is an Economist, Inventor and Senior Project Management Specialist with over 45 years of international work experience. A staunch nationalist, who is committed to support India’s rapid economic growth and development, he has authored several valuable monographs that include, India 2025: Attaining Global Leadership–the Way Forward; National Skill Development in India; Developing India’s Steel Industry; and most importantly, Global Financial Restructuring and Economic Development. He holds several Patents and other Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) for globally pioneering and bespoke inventions in the field of IT.


Ignoble Don — The Lies, Prevarication, and Mischief of Prof. Amartya Sen

Ramesh Rao

Oct 12 · 11 min read

Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor Emeritus at Harvard, won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. The award citation said that his research was on “… how individuals’ values can be considered in collective decision-making and how welfare and poverty can be measured. His efforts stem from his interest in questions of distribution and, in particular, the lot of society’s poorest members”. A Harvard Gazette report on him winning the Nobel Prize says he earned the prize for his work on poverty and famine. The good professor’s net worth is now calculated at $16 million, and we can therefore surmise that studying poverty pays well. To supplement that income, he is now married to Emma Georgina Rothschild, a professor of history at Harvard, and an heiress to the Rothschilds’ family fortune, which is estimated at $400 billion.


This is not the introduction that you would see in the latest interview of the 85-year-old Prof. Sen in The New Yorker which is titled “Amartya Sen’s Hopes and Fears for Indian Democracy” or any of the many, many adulatory articles on the much feted economist/philosopher. Of course not, for “Marty”, as he is known to his close European/white friends, lovers, and fans, is a “brown sahib” — a smart, handsome (once upon a time), garrulous interlocutor from the “sub-continent” who has tilled the European and American academic ground well, and has leveraged his status in the US and Europe to enjoy power and leverage back in India, whose passport he still carries, and whose ire and wrath against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) government since it came to power in 2014 pours out regularly and finds prime Western media space without fail.

While I have not met Prof. Sen, I have been interviewed by one of his close friends/collaborators (Martha Nussbaum), who dropped this little nugget of information when she was interviewing me (a poor professor teaching at a regional university in Missouri and then earning a meagre $50,000 a year) — that “Marty is busy getting the apartment ready for his daughter in New York City, for which he paid a million dollars” (I am paraphrasing from what I remember from the interview 16 years ago at the Des Moines airport Hilton hotel). I don’t know if it was meant to impress me or bamboozle me, but Prof. Martha Nussbaum went on to write a caricature of a book on Indian politics and democracy, titled, “The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future”. She is one of his staunch admirers and has collaborated with him on many of his poverty ventures. Poverty porn sells well in the West, whose liberals and progressives in the media and academe, as well as in elite policy circles, assuage their civilizational guilt by feting and rewarding the articulate snake oil salesmen from the old colonies.

Another friend, whom I have known for more than two decades, and who was both Prof. Sen’s junior colleague at the Planning Commission in India, and knew him in the late 1960s and early 1970s, told me that Prof. Sen shushed my friend’s young wife when she challenged him about Sen’s left/Marxist sympathies, and that my friend, when in Delhi, was really troubled by the sexual and other peccadilloes of Prof. Sen and some of his colleagues at the Planning Commission. I suppose that tall, handsome brown men have purchase that others don’t, and this remark, by a Bengali writer should therefore be read in the context of my friend’s discomfort with Sen’s public and private morality: “One also chuckled at stories of how in his heydays he could have given the likes of Tharoor stiff competition in a certain department.”

But this commentary is not about Prof. Sen’s personal foibles and proclivities, but is about his campaign of lies, half-truths, and scare-mongering against the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. I will highlight a few of the assertions that Prof. Sen makes in the latest interview published by The New Yorker, and unpack the same to show Sen’s proclivity to exaggerate if not lie:

1. “Then there is quite a large proportion of the Hindu population that is skeptical. Many of them have been shot. Many of them have been put in prison.”

2. “Gandhi was shot by an R.S.S. [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Fascist Hindu movement] member, which is the dominant influence on the B.J.P. today. But they were not in office. We didn’t feel threatened because they seemed like a fringe.”

3. “I was quite surprised how the business community, not just two or three that are often quoted as the big donors, they got support from the bulk of the business community.”

4. “People are afraid now. I have never seen this before. When someone says something critical of the government on the phone with me, they say, “I’d better talk about it when I see you because I am sure that they are listening to this conversation.”

5. “The newspapers don’t get government ads, and they probably don’t get many private ads, either, if the government is against you.”

6. “One of his big successes has been to get the court to squash the case against him and the Home Minister, Amit Shah, in the Gujarat killings of 2002. And so lots of Indians do not believe it.”

7. “I saw Hindu-Muslim riots, including a Muslim day laborer who had come to our largely Hindu area and got knifed by the local Hindu thugs. I was playing in the garden, and he came in profusely bleeding, and he came looking for help and water. I shouted to get my father and I did get a glass of water. He was lying on my lap. My father took him to the hospital, and he unfortunately died there.”

Let us take each statement, seriatim, and show how cussed Prof. Sen’s comments are and how The New Yorker interviewer does not bother to challenge or question Prof. Sen on any of these assertions. The first assertion is that the Modi-led government has put “many” Hindus, opposed to the BJP, either in prison or they have been shot (killed). He does not give any numbers, any names, anything at all. Readers who may not know about India in any detail are sure to buy this nonsense from the Nobel laureate. What is the truth? In this report, published in the mainstream English-language newspaper, Hindustan Times, we are told that seven people — activists and journalists — all Hindu — were killed between 2013 and 2017. When we read the list, we find out that four of them were killed before the Modi-led government took office! Of the seven killed three were Hindi-language news reporters who were killed by Maoists, or by those affiliated with other regional political parties. These murders had nothing to do either with the BJP government, its policies, or its politicians. So, the only two people who were killed after the BJP government came to power were M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh, both of whom were killed in the south Indian state of Karnataka, where the BJP government was not in power. Four years after the murders (one in September 2015 and the other in September 2017) there has been only partial progress in one case and no real progress in apprehending the assassins/killers in the other case. This, even though the government in Karnataka was a Congress Party/Janata Dal (Secular) led government, which put a very large investigation/police team to hunt down the assassins. As to the case of Gauri Lankesh, who has been given hero status in European and American newspapers, including The New York TimesThe Columbia Journalism Review, and the BBC, it is also known that she was collaborating with a variety of extremist/murderous organizations and that her family-owned newspaper was nothing more than a scurrilous tabloid, and that she was quarreling with her brother over the ownership of the tabloid.

Excerpt #2 — Amartya Sen charges that Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, was a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member, and the RSS is a “fascist Hindu movement”. While it is true that Nathuram Godse and his brothers were members of the RSS, they had basically moved over to the Hindu Mahasabha, got disillusioned, and had specifically chosen to work in the political arena, which the RSS had forsworn from, and that it was a small group of conspirators from the Hindu Raksha Dal who carried out the assassination without any knowledge of others in the RSS or the Hindu Mahasabha. A careful accounting of Godse’s rationale and impetus for assassinating Gandhi is a must but then someone like Prof. Sen, known for his political gamesmanship, cannot be the one to do so. As to the label “fascist”, much beloved by left/progressive ideologues, we have to wonder that if indeed the RSS movement is fascist, and why the BJP government, inspired by this “fascist” movement, has allowed for regular elections (state, local and national) and in which it has participated, lost some elections, put no constraints on political campaigning, and has maintained the federal structure of the Indian state. But then, labels can be flippantly used without consequence by ideologues who have no reason to fear pushback from a democratic government or by the media/academic establishment which has been completely owned by the “left/progressive” groups in India.

Excerpt #3 — It shows how easy it is for Amartya Sen to get away with a smear against India’s/Hindu business communities. That he can snidely charge the Hindu business communities of aligning with the BJP, which he accuses of Hindu extremism, and get away with it goes to show how acceptable it is to make these kinds of charges, allegations and characterization of Hindu business communities without any consequence — moral or legal. Yes, indeed, in modern Indian politics caste affiliations, allegiances, and accommodation is a terrible bane, but it is the BJP that has sought to transcend caste/jati affiliations to appeal to all Hindus/Indians.

Excerpt #4 — Prof. Sen claims people are afraid now to even talk over the phone fearing that their calls might be monitored by the government — a “Big Brother Hindu State” as it were. But phone tapping has been done by different governments over the decades and the Congress Party governments, whose largesse Prof. Sen has enjoyed much, were some of the worst culprits when it came to tapping phones for political purposes. In fact, the Congress Party he so very much supports has been the least coy in the history of post-independent India to exercising political muscle, having dismissed state governments for political expediency, and for the internal emergency it imposed between 1975–77. The communist government that ruled his home state, West Bengal, has also been known for political violence, and the present government in that state is equally complicit in perpetrating the worst kind of violence on its citizens. All these governments have used the state government machinery and phone tapping for surveillance of the opposition. In the instance of Karnataka, one of the south Indian states, phone tapping has led to the fall of governments over the past three decades. But what Prof. Sen asserts, without an iota of evidence, about the Modi government is merely meant to provoke, cast aspersions, and gain political mileage without cost.

Excerpt #5 — Regarding the BJP government’s decision to freeze government advertising in specific newspapers for a while, it is indeed true that the Modi government had briefly stopped advertising in three major English language newspapers, but it is in the nature of the quid pro quo between newspapers and the government, both at the state level and the central government level, that such use of government leverage has been par for the course over the past seven decades. To single out the Modi government therefore is pure mischief on Prof. Sen’s part. What he also fails to note, however, is that the three major newspapers that were targeted by the government had over the past five years received some of the largest amount of government ad spending., with the Times of India group receiving the largest amount of government ad money. The Congress Party spent huge amounts of tax-payer money on ads in newspapers on the twenty-seventh anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s death, clearly a ploy to win influence, seduce media coverage, for example. The story of how Ramnath Goenka, the publisher of the Indian Express group of newspapers, withstood the pressure from Indira Gandhi’s government is easily forgotten by Prof. Sen who seems to conjure up fears about the BJP government to distract people’s attention from the crimes of ones whom he has supported and whose party leaders he has supped with. Ironically, it was the BJP-led government that in 1999 bestowed the highest honors on Prof. Sen, the Bharat Ratna! That people are angry at Prof. Sen for his non-stop attacks on Prime Minister Modi and the BJP government should be no surprise, and that a few of them have asked that he be stripped of the Bharat Ratna should also come as no surprise. Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, who has done more substantial and sustained work in economics, and who has been among the short list of nominees for the Nobel Prize in economics, has mocked Prof. Sen for saying that he would return the highest award if the former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked him to do so!

Excerpt #6 — Prof. Sen claims that Prime Minister Modi and his now Home Minister Amit Shah have pressured courts to squash cases against them in the Gujarat 2002 riots cases. This is such balderdash and a bald-faced lie that we wonder how The New Yorker would countenance such lies. Prime Minister Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, and Home Minister Amit Shah, as home minister of Gujarat, complied with edicts from both state courts and the investigation ordered by the Supreme Court of India, during the time when the Congress Party was in power between 2004 and 2014. The Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court of India absolved Modi of any wrongdoing.

Excerpt #7 — While Prof. Sen remembers a Muslim man stabbed and stumbling into his childhood home bleeding, sometime in 1944 (?), 1946 (?) in Dacca, and dying in the hospital, he does not remember the 1946 riots in Kolkata (then Calcutta) when Muslim leaders instigated the riots, and thousands of Hindus were massacred, raped, and bludgeoned before Hindus began to retaliate and brutalize in kind. It was the call for “Direct Action” by the Muslim League Council that led to one of the bloodiest massacres in twentieth century history. What Prof. Sen also conveniently forgets or ignores is that the war of liberation of Bangladesh in which a large majority of the people killed and women raped, by Pakistani soldiers and their East Pakistan abettors, were Hindu. What Prof. Sen also conveniently masks is that the Hindu population in Pakistan, which was about 20 percent in the West Pakistan part of Pakistan in 1947, and 35 percent in the East Pakistan part of Pakistan has now been reduced to about 1.5 percent in Pakistan (West Pakistan) and about 8 percent in Bangladesh (East Pakistan). Prof. Sen sheds no tears for his fellow Hindu but harps on the “protection of minorities”. There have been no communal riots in any BJP ruled state or in the country over the past five years. How come? That he fails to mention the work of Gary Bass, the American envoy in Dacca, who wrote the book, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide”, in which he estimates that at least 300,000 people were killed, a vast majority of them Hindus, by the Pakistani soldiers and their many local Muslim abettors, is another indicator of the blinkers Prof. Sen continues to wear, and which allows him to magically target Hindus as perpetrators and Muslims as victims. There is no accounting for this Humpty-Dumpty world of Prof. Sen and his “progressive” ilk.

Prof. Amartya Sen, many felt, did not deserve the Nobel Prize for Economics. And his concoctions about “functionings” and “capability” have also been challenged but in the carefully curated and managed public websites, much of the criticism of Sen’s gobbledygook does not find mention. And that Amartya Sen not only ignores the massive undertakings of the Modi government — to build toilets and stop people from open defecation, to offer cooking gas connections to millions of households, to offer simple, direct access to banking services to the poor and marginalized farmers and small businesses so that they can escape the vicious grip of the middleman and corrupt government bureaucrats — goes to show that he is not just an unfair evaluator of government policies but an unethical manipulator of public sentiments. Fie! Begone, Prof. Sen!


October 08, 2019

Guest House for Young Widows: The Women of ISIS

Guest House for Young Widows: The Women of ISIS

Asadeh Moaveni. Random House, $28 (330p) ISBN 978-0-399-17975-4


In this searing investigation, Moaveni, an Iranian-American journalist (Honeymoon in Tehran), explores the phenomenon of Muslim women—many of them educated, successful, and outwardly Westernized—choosing to travel to Syria in support of jihad. She follows 13 women and girls who were radicalized by news, by recruiters on social media, or within their social circles. Many of them naively dreamed of handsome warrior husbands, “camels trudging through a glowing vermilion sandstorm and Moorish palaces set against the moonlight.” In Syria, many found that “the militants [were] no better than the tyrants they claimed to oppose” and their new husbands, assigned immediately upon arrival by ISIS, were often alarming (some described as “swiping through phone apps for sex slaves”). The guest house of the title, which most women come to know well, since the men die so quickly, “was a place of such deliberate uninhabitability that few women could stay long without going mad. This was precisely the intention.... Refusing to marry was recalcitrant behavior that would not be enabled by a comfortable private room with en suite bathroom.” In concise, visceral vignettes, Moaveni immerses her readers in a milieu saturated with the romantic appeal of violence. The result is a journalistic tour de force that lays bare the inner lives, motivations, and aspirations of her subjects. (Sept.)

*Asadeh Moaveni.* Random House, $28 (330p) ISBN 978-0-399-17975-4

About the author (2019)

Azadeh Moaveni is a journalist, writer, and academic who has been covering the Middle East for nearly two decades. She started reporting in Cairo in 1999 while on a Fulbright fellowship to the American University in Cairo. For the next several years she reported from throughout the region as Middle East correspondent for Time magazine, based in Tehran, and also covering Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. She is the author of Lipstick Jihad and Honeymoon in Tehran, and the co-author, with Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, of Iran Awakening. In November 2015 she published a front-page article in The New York Times on ISIS women defectors that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist as part of the Times’s ISIS coverage. Her writing appears in The Guardian, The New York Times, and The London Review of Books. She teaches journalism at NYU in London, is a former New America Fellow, and is now senior gender analyst at the International Crisis Group.



October 07, 2019

Measuring Country Image: A New Model

The CPD Blog is intended to stimulate dialog among scholars and practitioners from around the world in the public diplomacy sphere. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect CPD's views. For blogger guidelines, click here.


Sep 16, 2016


Alexander Buhmann

The role of country images and knowledge of their constitution and effects is of major interest not only for scholars and professionals in the domain of public diplomacy, but also for various adjacent fields such as international relations, international marketing, or inter-group relations. As an antecedent of people’s behavior, country images influence:

exports,foreign direct investment,the stability of international relations,the prosperity of national tourist industries,the attractiveness of domestic labor markets and education systems, andthe degree of a country’s political and economic influence in the international system.

Under the conditions of a globalized world and modern media societies, the image of countries is becoming more important compared to territory access and raw materials. As a result, leaders around the world are increasingly concerned about their country’s esteem abroad. This has led to an institutionalization of image and communication management practices in various countries, as quantitative measures, indices, and rankings for country image, brand, and reputation have become tremendously popular.

It is still an open question how...to develop a comprehensive model of the country image suitable for analyses in public diplomacy.

Research domains such as marketing and social psychology have devoted considerable empirical attention to understanding the constitution and effects of country images from their field perspective. In public diplomacy, however, there is no widely accepted model and measurement instrument available. While the practitioner literature strongly relies on aggregated indices (such as the Nation Brands IndexBest Country Score, or Country RepTrak), academic literature (much like the seminal works of Kunczik or Nye) so far favors a conceptual or historical focus. It is still an open question how the available empirical approaches from other domains, such as marketing, PR, and social psychology, can be gainfully applied to develop a comprehensive model of the country image suitable for analyses in public diplomacy. Such a model is needed to clarify the constitution of this central target construct in public diplomacy and understand how its different dimensions interrelate and affect each other and how they may ultimately lead to the facilitation of behavior in investment, consumption, political support, or travel and cultural exchange.

Figure 1: The four-dimensional "4-D Model" of country image

To work towards a new model, researchers and professionals in public diplomacy can draw on and combine established approaches from specialized fields such as attitude theory, national identity theory, and reputation management. As an attitudinal construct, the country image can be conceptualized based on Ajzen’s two-component model of attitudes, comprising of cognitions (specific beliefs) and an affects (general feelings) about a county. In his seminal theory in National Identity, Smith describes countries as named human collectives consisting of a distinct territory or homeland, common history and traditions, a domestic economy, a public culture, a set of common norms and values as well as a sovereign political organization or state. When combining Smith’s model with a common differentiation of image dimension used in reputation management, the attitudinal construct of the country image can be defined as consisting of four different but closely interrelated dimensions: a functional, a normative, an aesthetic and an emotional dimension (see Figure 1 above, c.f. Buhmann & Ingenhoff 2015Buhmann 2016, pp. 40–45).

The functional country image dimension, which covers beliefs regarding the competitiveness of a country, is specified with reference to Smith’s attributes of national economy and political organization. It consists of beliefs regarding the state of the economy and national businesses, the competitiveness of a country’s products and services, its labor markets and educational system, the competencies and effectiveness of the political system as well as the country’s performance in research and technology.

The normative country image dimension, which covers beliefs regarding the integrity of a country, is specified in relation to Smith’s country attribute of norms and values. This dimension consists of specific judgments regarding both the social and the ecological responsibility of a country.

The aesthetic country image dimension, which covers beliefs regarding the aesthetic qualities of a country, is specified by drawing on Smith’s attributes of public culture, traditions and territory. It comprises judgments regarding the attractiveness of a country’s culture and traditions as well as the beauty of its landscapes and scenery.

Finally, the emotional country image dimension, which constitutes the effective component of the country image construct, consists of general feelings of liking and fascination for a country. It is thought of as an outcome or result of the cognitive beliefs that people hold about a country.

Figure 2: Analyzing the constitution and affects of the country image using the “4-D Model”

This four-dimensional model can be empirically applied using survey instruments. Based on respective data, statistical analyses (using Structural Equation Modeling) can show how functional, normative, and aesthetic beliefs about a country affect the formation of the emotional country image dimension—showing the country’s “ability to attract”. Furthermore, we can see how the emotional dimension of the country image mediates the effect of the cognitive dimensions on people’s behavior. Such behavioral effects can be analyzed regarding a wide variety of outcome variables such as the willingness to politically support a country, invest in a country, or travel to a country.

The empirical example in Figure 2, taken from Buhmann (2016), shows how the country image of Switzerland and its individual dimensions influence people’s intentions to buy Swiss products. In this case the aesthetic dimension is strongest in forming emotional attitudes towards Switzerland, while all three cognitive dimensions (functional, aesthetic, and normative) jointly explain over 80% of the variance in the emotional dimension. The latter is strongest in influencing people’s actual intention to buy Swiss products, followed by the functional dimension of the Swiss image. Additionally, the values for the various “cause indicators” of the three cognitive dimensions show which items are the strongest “value drivers” of the Swiss country image and thus contribute most strongly to the formation of the overall image and its effect on behavior in the analyzed group.

This example shows how the “4-D Model of Country Image” and a respective survey instrument provide a novel approach for county image analyses in public diplomacy research. Furthermore, such analyses can enrich insights and monitoring in public diplomacy practice and help improve the development and evaluation of cross-national communication strategies.

October 06, 2019

Changing a mindset: Why the Jamat-e-Islami is teaching Telugu in Hyderabad's old city


The rapid growth and urbanisation of the city over the last two decades has made it necessary for the people of old city to learn the language.

Wajeed Ullah Khan 

Saturday, October 05, 2019 - 12:15

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Aiming to popularise and change the perception of Telugu in Hyderabad's old city, which predominantly has Urdu speakers, the Jamat-e-Islami has been holding spoken Telugu classes for those who want to learn the regional language.

Thanks to this initiative, several techies, students, youngsters and people from different age groups are now able to speak Telugu fluently. The classes are conducted in the Khilwat area in the heart of old city, by noted Telugu pandit MA Samad.

Speaking to TNM, Yusuf Ali Khan of Jamat-e-Islami's Khilwat unit, who has been instrumental in conducting the classes, said that the idea came about as the youth of old city only spoke Urdu, and there was a need for them to learn Telugu, not only for communication, but also to attend job interviews and other career prospects. 



After discussing the issue, the Jamat came up with a plan which has appeared to work.

Changing a mindset

Dr Faheem Uddin, Assistant Professor Translation Department, School of Languages, Linguistics and Indology at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, said that the common perception among the masses in this part of the city is that Telugu is an insignificant language in the area, and that this is why many are not inclined towards it.

Urdu was the official and common language used by the people of Hyderabad during the Nizam regime until the early 20th century. All official communication was in Urdu, and there was a great stress on the language. In fact, even when Osmania University was set up in 1918, Urdu was the medium of instruction.

"Apart from the common people, an elite group which included Hindus and Muslims, used Urdu as their conversation language. This negative attitude towards Telugu continued even after the merging of Hyderabad State with India. In contrast, the Urdu speaking people residing in the districts of Telangana easily adopted Telugu as a language," Faheem added.

In the old city, however, there's still resistance towards learning Telugu. According to Dr Faheem, in pockets of the old city, there are several Hindus too who don't know Telugu as they only speak Urdu at home.

Though the residents may have spent decades in Hyderabad without knowing Telugu, the rapid growth and urbanisation of the city over the last two decades has made it necessary for the people to learn the language. Many people from the old city travel to other parts of Hyderabad either on business or to their workplace.

Poet and comedian Munawwar Ali, who has conducted several Urdu programmes over the decades, said, “The people of the old city are narrow-minded about learning Telugu and they're distancing themselves from it because they have a contemptuous attitude towards the language."

Munawwar said that in the Nizam era, the Hindus also learned Urdu and they were very fluent as Urdu was the official language of the State. "One should learn the language and no discrimination should be meted out to any language as it is a platform of communication," he said.

The result

Mohd Fareed Uddin, who works in a software company, is among those who've benefited from the Telugu classes. He said that previously, he was not able to understand any Telugu. However, the learning experience was good for him and his colleagues.

"Now, when we go to our workplace, or even places like a hospital, government office or a police station, we are less lost and feel more comfortable speaking Telugu," he said.  "As far as vocabulary is concerned, it needs time and practice. However overall, it was a good experience for me and my classmates as we can now understand Telugu and are trying our level best to speak it  as well," he added.

Fareed had earlier studied Telugu till Class 10 but had not taken an interest in the language after that.

"After several years, my interest towards Telugu has increased as it is the official language of the state and the people whom I meet on a frequent basis speak Telugu. So, I felt the need to learn the language and I have benefited greatly," he said.

About 40 people in the age group of 25 to 40, which includes young graduates, freshers, students and IT techies, have benefited from these classes.

Buoyed with the overwhelming response, the Jamat-e-Islami is contemplating extending the classes to other parts of the old and new city. 

As far as the syllabus is concerned, Samad has designed the curriculum according to age, abilities and skills. The classes for the first batch went on for about 45 days.

He observed that after successfully conducting the classes, the students began initiating conversations in Telugu. To improve their ability, they started a WhatsApp group and now share their day-to-day experience of learning the Telugu language through it.