ToI Insight Group (whatever that is) brings us
full-page (p.10, ToI, print ed, 08.09.05) detail of
HDR2005 view on Aid and Trade, key elements in global
strategy aimed at meeting UN millennium development
goals. Messiah-of-the-poor VP Singh, accompanied by
Comrade Bardhan, had declared open the revelries to
celebrate the Aid bit at the ActionAid do in Delhi on
2-3 sep. Revelries to celebrate the Trade bit are
neatly profiled in a piece in Pioneer by Chandan Mitra
from Lukhnow where CM Mulayam Singh Yadav threw a
dinner party for Clinton
(spectacular-even-by-Delhi/Mumbai-standards, an
out-and-out-Amar-Singh-show, attended by the
Bachchans, Hema Malini, Anil and Tina Ambani, Sahara
Shree Subroto Roy, ICICI Bank MD KV Kamath,
entertained by
and in a PTI release:  
PM hosts dinner for Blairs in grand setting of Humayan
It was a formal high profile dinner in an ususual
In a shift from tradition of hosting a reception in a
five-star hotel or the elegant Hyderabad House, Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh today hosted dinner for his
British counterpart Tony Blair and his wife Cherie on
the lawns of the historic Humayan Tomb here.
The romantically lit up 16th century marvel of Mughal
architecture presented a spectacular background as
Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur received the guests.

The Mughlai menu, including kebabs, added the flavour
to the ambience.
About 200 guests, comprising the who's who of Indian
politics and business, attended the dinner. Among
these were former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
and I K Gujral, members of the Union Council of
Ministers and top officials.
Blair was dressed formally in a blue lounge suit while
Cherie wore a light-green Indian salwar-kameez for the
occasion. Singh was in his typical kurta-pyjama and
his wife was draped in an off-white sari

Perhaps perked by the party season, MCD (whose website
currently hosts, purportedly for our comment,
USAID-sponsored legislative amendments to its Act and
which has stated on affidavit in MPISG
mehrauli-mahipalpur case that it has no role to play
in the farmhouse-zone) has moved Delhi High Court for
a review of the order of 6 July 2005 quashing its
pay-and-party policy for farmhouses. And perhaps
perked by the Blairs-bonhomie, Secretary of MoUD
(which has filed an inane reply to my petition against
metro-property-development including on riverbed) has
filed in Supreme Court an affidavit that has
reportedly returned a go-ahead for revival of our
Yamuna on lines of Thames. Secretary MUD and MCD
connect to the Aid revelry through the ActionAid Night
Shelter racket (including on riverbed) and
Mumbai-Model builder flats that Prince Charles had
visited in Mumbai (he also visited HumayunTomb in
Delhi) and that VP Singh and his cronies are pushing
in Delhi (for which Public Notice was curiously
issued, in pendency of DMP2021 Public Notice, on eve
of the ActionAid revelry).


excuse me while I puke. the party at HumayunTomb is
illegal. the last one, that PM attended as guest of
the Aga Khan, I had flagged for rare humiliation. This
I flag for others to label.
Aga Khan Award ceremony at Humayun's Tomb, 27.11.2004
In Delhi on 27 November 2004, flagged by astrologers
for rare confluence of favourable signs for weddings
and alliances, ostentation unembarrassed by riches
raged in Saturday night fever. The party to humble all
parties was hosted by no less than the Aga Khan at
Humayun's Tomb, a celebration that history has no
choice but to flag for rare humiliation.
Use of land and buildings in Delhi is governed by
Delhi Development Act, an Act of Parliament, through
stipulations of Delhi Master Plan (revised, 1990)
about activities permissible in various types of
premises. Activities not permitted - such as
commercial functions in residential farmhouses or
private functions in historical monuments - attract
penalties. Historical monuments in India are governed
also by the Ancient Monuments & Archaeological Sites &
Remains Act, 1958, also an Act of Parliament, that
guarantees public access and prohibits holding, except
in pursuance of a recognised religious usage or
custom, of any meeting, reception, party, conference
or entertainment except under and in accordance with a
permission in writing by Central Government,
permission that obviously cannot be granted in
contravention of other law. Moreover, access after
sunset, otherwise prohibited by law, presumably cannot
be permitted even under this rule. It has taken a
special Supreme Court intervention to open, for the
first time this weekend, the Taj for viewing on Full
Moon night, subject to several restrictions being
monitored by the Apex Court. Any use of historical
sites, in any case, must be respectful of history.
Humayun's Tomb is tomb, not pleasure pavilion, of the
Indian Emperor Humayun. It bears historical
association with the summary execution of three Indian
princes, sons of Indian Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, by
the British - surely a national tragedy if not
national humiliation. The Americans would not tolerate
a private banquet on WTC site; President Bush would
not preside over a private award ceremony in Ford
Theatre where President Lincoln was assassinated; even
the British would not allow a private banquet at Tower
of London or BBC to telecast live its occasion; the
Japanese would not permit such a thing in Hiroshima;
South Koreans would not allow revelries at Samjeondo.
But at Humayun's Tomb in Delhi, a celebration not
allowed by sovereign law or national sentiment was not
only hosted - by a party not only private but also
foreign, His Highness the Aga Khan - but also attended
by, among others, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi and, as
chief guest, Prime Minister of India, and telecast
live by DD-News, the government's news channel.
Though the official press release from PMO starts,
"The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh gave away the
9th Agha Khan Award for Architecture", His Highness
had already given away the first of his awards before
he remembered to give the Prime Minister seated
besides him on the stage any cue and for several
moments Dr Manmohan Singh was visibly confused about
what was expected of him.
None of the seven projects that won the 9th cycle
award being celebrated in Delhi are Indian. References
were made to the 7 Indian projects among the 97
awarded in the last 27 years of the award. Three of
these were inconsistent with sovereign law. The
honouring of an NGO for Mr Raina's professional work
in the 8th cycle is inconsistent with Indian
Architects' Act. The two projects honoured in Indore -
Slum Networking (7th cycle) and Aranya low-income
housing (6th cycle) - involve Indore Master Plan
violations. At the 9th cycle ceremony, Tilonia's
barefoot-architecture and Aranya were not mentioned.
Slum Networking, however, was - by Mr Rewal, by
DD-News commentator, and by Prime Minister. Prime
Minister and Mr Rewal mentioned it in appreciation of
the range of the award (with Mr Rewal erroneously
describing the city-wide project as improvement of a
slum area). The commentator's mention included name of
the awardee, Mr Himanshu Parikh, and was accompanied
by a visual - of a cluster of squalid jhuggis along a
nullah and two grubby half-naked children - as
incongruous in a dossier of awarded projects as was
the specific reference to Madhya Pradesh in news
reports about President's request to the Aga Khan to
expand his Network's work in India, reiterated in the
hope, expressed by the commentator at the end of the
telecast, about India receiving awards in future for
projects as in Indore and Bhopal.
This Indore incongruity might mean little to most. To
me it represents most extreme professional humiliation

DfID funded city-wide slum upgrading in Indore
affected directly 80000 slum families and the city as
a whole and was nothing short of civic disaster - with
choked drainage, ground water contamination, disease
and deaths - as established by the impact assessment
study commissioned by none other than DfID. In 1997 I
had done that study as senior consultant, reported my
findings to city, state and central governments,
lodged my protest with DfID, agencies that had
identified the project as Indian best-practice to be
selected as global best-practice at Habitat-II in 1996
and to UN-Habitat, also on account of Habitat Award in
1993, and quit the mainstream in protest against
all-round indifference to tragic truth. In 1998 the
project got the Aga Khan Award.
The plannerly position that Prime Minister appeared to
take in some recent speeches also disappeared in the
resource allocation reference, rather use of phrase
resource allocation for dole, in his speech (a
reference selected from it by the Foundation for
inclusion in its press release). Expressing gratitude
to the Foundation for its magnificient work on the
gardens of Humayun's Tomb, Prime Minister said, "This
effort has been an instructive example for us in
finding new and creative solutions to the age-old
problem of allocating scarce resources in a developing
country to the preservation of our heritage. I hope
that more public-private partnerships can be evolved."

As far as I know, this magnificient work cost just
Rs.50 lakhs and there was neither comparative
appraisal nor competitive tender (required in any
democratic public-private partnership in general and,
in case of heritage, irrespective of who pays because
we are all only custodians, as also stated by both His
Highness and our Prime Minister) to ascertain either
investment optimality or priority vis-à-vis other
sites. What a systematic cost-benefit appraisal might
have thrown up then no one knows, but an unfortunate
calculation that must now be made is of net worth or
damage of allowing (with gratitude), in lieu of
magnificent work of Rs.50 lakhs, the Aga Khan to
violate sovereign Indian law. In a matter no different
in principle, Hon'ble Delhi High Court has issued
notice the previous week to authorities to explain
their "policy" to allow misuse of farmhouses for
wedding parties against a fee.
What happened on 27th suggests I might have been
mistaken, but on 24th I did receive a call from the
Foundation to invite me, as a friend of the
Foundation, and to confirm my postal address, inquire
if my husband would like to come, etc. Perhaps because
I declined to join the banquet and also inquired if Mr
Raina was invited, or perhaps because some
"recognized" one declared me unfit for an imperial
gathering, I did not receive the card. It did,
nevertheless, become a fact that the Foundation became
aware on the 24th that both the venue and the omission
of Mr Raina's name in the guest-list remain
Meanwhile, following the reports of 23rd about the
award ceremony Mr Raina (on suggestion of his
children) invited professionals to join / arrange a
party at his house on the occasion. I volunteered to
be secretary and in that capacity wrote on 25th to
invite the Prime Minister. In explanation of what
would obviously have seemed an odd invitation, I set
out the reasons for the venue in terms of Mr Raina's
experience of the award, for my sending the invitation
in terms of mine, and for it being addressed to him in
terms of, besides him being chief guest at the other
celebration, what I think the support of Indian Prime
Minister to the award meant, together and separately,
to global and Indian professional fraternity in view
of GATS, etc.
On 26th my call to PMO was returned and I was told
protocol did not permit the PM to attend a private
party and I pointed out that also prevented him from
attending the function at Humayun's Tomb. The point
seemed to be somewhat conceded and I pressed further
that my letter be read carefully by someone
responsible to brief the Prime Minister so that no
further embarrassment or humiliation occurs  
In comparison with the meagre magic I had hoped might
happen as a result of the phone call returned by PMO,
the Prime Minister's speech seemed to me like a rap on
my knuckles. He went beyond expressing privilege and
honour about His Highness's decision to host his award
in India to reverse cause and effect to appreciate
"this gesture of support" since the "event puts our
Capital city in a league with some of the great cities
of the world, which have hosted these prestigious
award ceremonies". Beyond expressing gratitude for the
work in the gardens of Humayun's Tomb in implicit
defence of His Highness's privilege to use it, perhaps
in justification of the lavishness of it all, he spoke
of our "embarrassment of riches" as something getting
in the way of preserving our heritage for posterity.
He mentioned the awarded projects in India as benefits
of the support of His Highness and, though he named
only four, he named the Indore slum project. And he
even said, "every right-thinking citizen of the world
bears a debt of gratitude" for His Highness's efforts.
At Mr Raina's party I received a call about a
It seems that as His Highness's guests and security
personnel arrived at Humayun's Tomb, bulldozers and
police force had arrived at a settlement near Minto
road. While concern and ideas for housing the poor
were expressed and screened and telecast at an illegal
party at a historical site, illegal Pushta-like
demolition was going on - for a twin-tower for our
municipal corporation, a project for which tenders had
reportedly been advertised in Wall Street Journal last
year but which might well need to be reviewed in light
of the recent decision to split the corporation into
smaller parts. While those who had chosen to be
unembarrassed by riches and more settled down to a
candle-light sit down banquet following a musical
extravaganza, those forcibly unsettled by bulldozers
made arrangements for the night with no choice but to
be unembarrassed by lack of riches. On Sunday, when
the city savoured the stuff of page-3 party-stories
migrated to main pages by Prime Ministerial grace and
mysterious-techie legitimacy of prestigious
professional award, demolition near Minto Road
With this demolition, the National Common Minimum
Programme, already quite comprehensively flouted in
Delhi, was most graphically demolished - on
half-anniversary of its adoption on 27 May, making the
celebration at Humayun's Tomb also that of the
betrayal of the mandate of the nation widely regarded
as the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy.
nearly none of what is in this chronicle is
exceptional in itself. What I do take serious
exception to is what is in effect a Prime Ministerial
diktat to be unembarrassed by riches, to honour
illegalities and inefficiencies in this endeavour, to
be grateful for opportunities to be able to practice
it, and to feel indebted to instruments of such
Nothing in the Constitution of our sovereign nation
either requires this of us or allows a Prime Minister
to suggest it to us. By our Constitution we are
entirely free to entirely disagree with this, free to
express our disapproval, free to expect our
authorities and our representatives to take note of
our sentiment and address it to our satisfaction. And
if our democracy falters for a moment in history, we
are still free to feel not forced to relish that
moment and free to hope that it will pass.
We are free till we are free - and that is why history
had no choice. It is flagging 27th November 2004 for
rare humiliation. Here, it has done it.
Post script
(Text of letter dated December 16, 2004 from PS to
Prime Minister)
"Dear Ms. Verma,
I write to acknowledge receipt of your letter of
November 25, inviting the Prime Minister to a function
at the residence of Mr. Neehar Raina.
I regret that due to prior commitments, the Prime
Minister was unable to attend the function.
The Prime Minister conveys his best wishes to Mr.
Raina for his future creative endeavours.
With regards.
Yours sincerely..."