Cast In A Completely Different Mould

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
Vijay Kelkar
Let us talk about it in the new year, suggested the advisor to the Union minister for finance and company affairs, when we finally got through to him at his transit residence in New Delhi on a Sunday afternoon (because at North Block, he is usually at a meeting when not with the minister). Not an adequate response at all to our stock query to newsmakers of 2002.

The doctorate in development economics from the University of California has been in the news before. He was secretary, Union ministry of petroleum and natural gas, when the proposal to decontrol oil and gas pricing and distribution was being chiselled for the Union cabinet.

In the recent past, he has been striding into newspaper offices and chambers of commerce and industry for pow-wows on proposals to streamline the excise duty structure. That surely is the workaholic, known to pursue his missions (be it freeing fuel prices or lowering interest rates) with the zeal of a zealot, rather than the abettor of the limelight

The glare of flash bulbs and television cameras really turned on him when a task force, which does borrow his name this time, made screaming headlines for wanting to take away tax concessions (given as a bait for saving) from salaried Indians. The fine print, which said that tax exemption limits for personal income tax would be raised as well, got buried in the deluge of verbiage for a while. For the first time Dr Kelkar chose to speak, both in camera and into it.

But getting Dr Kelkar to talk on Dr Kelkar is another story altogether!

James Earl Carter
It is with deep gratitude that I accept this prize. I am grateful to my wife, Rosalynn, to my colleagues at the Carter Center and to many others who continue to seek to end violence and suffering throughout the world, said Jimmy Carter as he received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002.

James Earl Carter, Jr, as the ex-US president was christened, was born on October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. Peanut farming, talk of politics and devotion to the Baptist faith were the mainstays of his upbringing.

The ex-president was said to be a long deserving candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. As the Nobel Committee itself said, it had decided to give the award to Mr Carter for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.

Mr Carters mediation is considered a vital contribution to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. Nearly a quarter century after Mr Carters Camp David meetings with Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian prime minister Anwar Sadat, peace in West Asia remains a distant dream. Yet Camp David was a landmark event. Mr Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 in part for the work he did there. His unprecedented efforts brought Arabs and Jews together, establishing a framework for peace.

JM Lyngdoh
I have no religion, I am an atheist, he quipped with conviction. James Michael Lyngdoh, chief election commissioner, hit the headlines a few months ago for his criticism of the bureaucracy in Gujarat.

The Khasi tribal, born in Shillong took over as chief election commissioner on June 13, 2001. And though he seemed unusually quiet in the beginning, he came forth this year with unusual power that won him accolades. His handling of the elections in Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat, the countrys two most troubled states, saw him firmly in the limelight.

Two crucial decisions, to hold the elections in Jammu and Kashmir and postpone them in Gujarat, placed him in the eye of the storm. But Mr Lyngdoh handled the crisis with the utmost conviction, standing powerfully against criticism from politicians. We have received hundreds of letters and e-mails appreciating the CECs stand, an EC official was quoted as saying. A further controversy was stirred up when he banned the Vishwa Hindu Parishads Gaurav Yatra in Gujarat, which sought to revive communal tensions there.

The CEC was also widely appreciated by people and criticised by politicians (understandably!) when he suggested that the format of nomination papers be changed so that contestants were required to reveal their assets, educational qualifications and, most importantly, whether they had criminal cases pending against them.

Jyotiraditya Scindia
Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of seasoned politician Madhavrao Scindia shot into the limelight soon after his fathers tragic death in a plane crash. Scindia Jr was crowned maharaja of Gwalior last year, soon after his fathers death. After studying at Harvard and Stanford and with stints at Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, Mr Scindia had set up his own investment firm in Mumbai, Scindia Investments Pvt. Ltd. Working on a different tangent at a safe distance from politics, the Scindia scion was nevertheless forced into politics after his fathers death.

But the young man took up the challenge rather bravely. He won the Guna parliamentary seat after defeating his Bharatiya Janata Party rival, Desh Raj Singh Yadav, by a margin of over 4.5 lakh votes. Mr Scindias victory margin is one of the highest ever in Indias parliamentary history.

Jack Welch
His book didnt make as much news as did his perks. Jack Welch, former chairmnan of GE, was in the the eye of the storm this year after his wife brought to a judicial courts notice the perks he was getting from his office.

First came the former chairmans admission of an affair with the editor of the Harvard Business Review. Then came the divorce proceedings, which only threw up rougher edges. Jane Beasley Welch brought to the courts notice the lavish perks-for-life deal GE gave Mr Welch. Ms Welchs lawyer stated that her annual income was $136,320 and the additional $35,000 a month Mr Welch was paying her was patently inadequate.

Court documents from the divorce detailing Mr Welchs lavish perks from GE after leaving the company in September 2001 forced the former company chieftain to pay for the services and facilities that he had availed of from GE.

Before taxes and other liabilities, Mr Welchs assets stood at $456.1 million. He raked in roughly $2.1 million a month, with $618,687 coming from his company pension, $808,500 from dividends and interest and $1,500 from social security. He also made $685,400 in consulting fees. Monthly expenses totted up to $366,114, with $51,531 going for the upkeep of his five residences. Country club dues added another $5,480, while restaurant bills, groceries and wine made up $8,982 more. He spent $52,486 on gifts each month and kept $2,917 on hand for pocket money.

Osama Bin Laden
Osama bin Laden continued to be in the news this year, even if it was for just lying low. The most wanted man in the world has become an enigma, thanks to the US failure to either kill or capture him. There were unconfirmed reports that he was hiding in Pakistan.

On his part, bin Laden did release a few tapes exhorting his followers to engage in jihad. In fact, incidents like the Bali bombing and the killing of two diplomats in Kuwait were attributed to his network.

Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden, born in Riyadh, 17th of 52 children sired by Saudia Arabias wealthiest construction magnate is a qualified civil engineer from King Abdul Aziz University in Jiddah. One wonders if his formal engineering has anything to do with the way he is engineering terrorism.

Manisha Koirala
Actress Manisha Koirala was upset by some bold scenes that were performed by a body double in the film, Ek Chhotisi Love Story. The movie, directed by Shashilal Nair, was to be released on September 5, but Ms Koirala obtained a stay order on it until October 6. Aside from approaching the National Commission for Women, she also took her case to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. His activists promptly ransacked theatres and disrupted shows.

The Mumbai high court not only censured the actress for this extra-constitutional appeal, but also went on to revoke the stay order after deciding there was nothing objectionable in the film. In the whole process, Ek Chhotisi Love Story received more viewers than either Mr Nair or Ms Koirala had bargained for.

More recently, Ms Koirala was invited to Harvard University to lecture students on the portrayal of women in Indian cinema. She is also being praised for her forthcoming act in Escape From Taliban.