Monday, December 31, 2012

Is This What People Protested For?

Fifteen lakh rupees? Is that the value of a woman's body, mind and soul?

Our government seems to have shown, as has always been the mentality of the ruling elite, to value a dead woman. This shows how they are no different from the Taliban and khap panchayats, who indulge in somehow think that
  • Eating chowmein induces rape
  • Women's clothes induce bad behavior in men
  • Educated women are a danger to this world
There has been an utter failure of administration on all fronts, and this government, nay, most governments, have behaved like a rudderless ship when it comes to managing law and order in our society, our country. Law and order is restricted only to Lutyens' Delhi, Chandigarh and the seats of power that we see everywhere. And yet, why should we forget that the very ruling elite expressing sorrow has remained silent time and again, when violence against women has been seen at the very highest levels, in the corridors of power? Why was Karunanidhi never asked to apologize when he tried to derobe Jayalalitha in the Assembly? Why did Mayawati and Rita Bahuguna Joshi got away so lightly for valuing the dignity of women in the name of petty politics? Why should Sardar Prakash Singh Badal not be asked the reasons for giving molesters and eve teasers tickets for corporations and state legislatures?

I don't know if I can even call this a positive or a negative, for it shocked me so, but there have been twenty five cases of violence against women (yes, rape is nothing but violence of the most brutal form against women) reported to the police. Should it have taken place when there is such heightened attention on crimes against women? Making one case 'rarest of rare' will not solve the problem; nor will according death sentences. What will solve the problem is when three out of four rapists stop getting acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence, when judges stop coaxing victims to marry rapists, or suspend cases because a marriage takes place, and when cases stop getting dragged for decades, forget years.

What gets me angry is the fact that people start playing the same old games of women are safer in X than Y. Honestly, that is nothing but complete hogwash. Ask the women in these 'safe' cities and states just how many times they have been leered, jeered, touched, groped and molested. It is everywhere - the sense of shame however prevents women from talking about it, forget reporting. In the end, this stupid and flawed social set up tells our women, among the weakest members of our society, that they were 'wrong'. Honestly, some of these geriatric idiots could drown themselves for all I care, one would assume; unfortunately, a lot of the current generation too thinks thus.

Stop this quibble for God's sake, and look carefully under the carpet, for the very foundation of this country has rotted. It has been gnawed by the termites of our vacillation, ineptitude and shameful silence on crimes against those who cannot fight back for themselves. It is time a fundamental change in our souls is searched for.

Wake Up My Rulers! If we give you power, we can take it back from you as well.
Wake Up My Countrymen! Learn your own true power.
Wake Up My Nation, out of your deep slumber.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Storm

It was raining heavily that night, as if hell had broken loose, and was headed towards the earth to soak it in its pain, misery, suffering and torment. And it was a bad night, was this one, for reasons one can only feel, but cannot express to himself, herself or anyone else, even to the person who is really close to the person in question. But it was a bad night, and would get only worse.
He was standing under the ledge of the window that otherwise allows people from within to look outside, but usually allows everyone to look in normal times: nature, people, animals, everyone and everything that can be conceived of. There was a strange expression on his face, as he was feeling the raindrops fall on his outstretched hand. Why would he do that, one would ask, and what is so special about him doing that? So many people do it, and so frequently that we could ignore it totally. But this guy was different, you see. He could not see at all, so he tried to make up for his lack of the sense of sight (which most people mistake for the sense of vision) with his other senses. And he could sense that the rainfall did not augur well at all.
As he turned around to re-enter his house, he heard a familiar set of footsteps approach him. A smile drew across his face, as he spoke up
"So, you came after all these years."
This "you" was a man of about average height, and did not look anything exceptional. He was wearing a raincoat, with the cape removed from the head, as he strode forward to talk to the blind man, who was moving into his house.
"I had some business with you," he spoke tersely, as the blind man lifted his stick towards the switchboard to turn on the lights, which were bright and cheerful, in contrast to the otherwise dull and gloomy night's darkness.
The blind man turned right to sit down in a chair, even as the other man took off his raincoat to sit down. The blind man spoke wistfully, in a strangely cheerful mood, "For me, these lights are of no use-mine have been turned off since childhood. But one has to live a normal lifestyle, isn't it? And so I turn on these light for no purpose at all. But enough about me, lets hear you speak. Specify your purpose, Gustav."
Gustav looked at the blind man, and spoke purposefully, "All these years have passed, and yet you have retained your cheerfulness. How can you, with the history that lies behind you?"
"I do not live in the past Gustav; it is not worth it. I have to suffer for my sins, but should that stop me from being who I am? What I did should not affect what I do now. And I intend to keep it that way. But why dwell on what happens with me? Why don't you talk?"
"I have been sent here to inform you about something that recently happened. It is important, so hear me out patiently," said Gustav, as he pulled out from a briefcase that he was carrying, which remained out of notice till now, a set of papers, which looked suspiciously like a letter, but this long? He cleared his throat, as he began to speak.
“Andrei passed away last night. The cause of his death was the injuries he had sustained while assassinating the Prince of ___, and in his last minutes, he had dictated this letter to Sergei, the clerk of our outfit, giving details of what should happen after his death. And he had instructed me that I should personally go to you, Alexander, and read out the contents of the letter, and there should be nobody else but the two of us during this interaction.”
Alexander sat thinking, his useless eyes pointed towards the switchboard, as tears streamed down his eyes, and a bitter smile etched itself upon his face. After all these years, he heard the news that gave him such bittersweet feelings. What was he to do, he thought, as he wiped his tears away, and spoke up, “Read the letter out Gustav, and make it quick. We both do not have time, and I want to get this mess over with personally. Please start.”
Gustav looked at the letter, as he began reading it:
Mon cher Ami,
I am in the last minutes of my life, and want to let you know that I know that I won’t be able to survive the injuries that I sustained this time. I am old and weak, and injuries of this scale do not allow someone of my age to live for very long. But I think it is time for me to make an important decision, and give you some answers that you so desperately had been seeking from me for so long, before I found your questions to be so intolerable I dismissed you from my presence. The truth, Alexander is that I did not wish to re-open wounds of the past that still hurt me, but which are related to your life so deeply that I find it imperative for you to discover, so that I can rest in peace, and leave behind me people with all their questions answered forever.
The truth is deeper and stranger than fiction, they say, and in your case, it certainly was. For you are no ordinary person, my son; you are the person who had been entrusted to my care when you were only a few days old by someone I wish you were not the son of, for it has been a heartache for me ever since to see who you really are. You are my own son, my own blood, who was born out of the illegitimate relationship that I had with your mother, who herself was a married woman. In that scenario, she left you to my care. I myself was married, and had a son as old as you, whom I had named Gustav, and yet I had not the courage to face the truth myself.
From the minute that you came into my presence, I could feel something special about you. I knew that you would become something the world would have not seen before; neither would it see something like you ever. Your mother had failed to inform me about your blindness, which made me suspect my own intuition deeply. For, how could one associate greatness with a blind person, that too coming from a background such as yours? And yet, in the first few years of your life, observing you reassured my belief in my intuition. A professional killer’s instinct is never wrong, they say, and I could believe in the same again. And with a sense of reassurance, I could look at you, and see you develop into who you are.
You had a special talent which few people have in them. You could not see things, but could sense and feel them even without touching them. This helped you become a great killer, for more than one reason. Most of us require a proper sight to kill someone, but you just needed to sense someone around you, and the job would be done. Your aims were immaculate, and you never missed the target. Moreover, the world is full of fools who believe in empathizing with the “weak” instead of testing their mettle. They think that someone blind would not be able to see anything at all, forget even raising a finger. But you proved conclusively my son, that you do not require eyes to have a vision. We humans have been given a gift, which enables us to realize our true potential power, which is not subject to any limit in spite of what anyone might say. And you were a perfect example of all that human beings can achieve in spite of any handicap that they may be given. You mad me proud of whom you were, and yet I did not dare show to the world what I really was for you; why I do not know.”
Alexander smiled quietly, his blind eyes pointed towards the loud thunder that accompanied the bright streaks of lightning that flashed across the sky. His face held no expression, while Gustav on his face had an expression of a quiet surprise written all over his face. To realize that Alexander was a brother to him was surprising for him indeed, but for what purpose?
“Please carry on,” said Alexander, even as Gustav nodded his head in agreement and carried on.
“You did jobs no one could do; not even me in my best of days or anyone from the best assassins. You had gained the name “The Blind Whisperer”, and rightly so, for you needed nothing but a whisper to locate anyone and kill them. But all of a sudden I had discarded you from our force, without giving you a reason. Well, now is the right time, my son, for me to reveal why I banished you from my sight. My son, I was unexpectedly faced by a choice one day between you and Gustav, and I realized how partial I had been towards you, whereas I had treated Gustav as if he was a stranger, and not my own blood. How could I have discriminated between my own sons, I lamented, as I struggled to realize what to do next. And it was then that I had to take the painful decision, so that I could give Gustav a fair chance.
My sons, both of you are here today to decide amongst you as to who shall head the team that I had assembled with so much passion and zeal over so many years. But my sons, I could not decide whom to choose between the two of you, as for me the two of you are as good if not better than the other. So, I leave it up to you on deciding it. As for me, I shall be happy with whatever decision that you take amongst yourselves. May both of you realize your true destiny in life.
Gustav folded the letter, and kept it back in his bag. He leaned back in his chair and let out a deep sigh, and closed his eyes. Maybe he did it to hide the true emotion in his eyes; maybe it was to hold back tears that streamed down his face. Nobody can guess what went through his mind, for an assassin never allows anyone to get even a glimpse of what lies in their mind or their heart; it is closed for the outside world.
He opened his eyes to find Alexander standing at the door, looking lost, as if he was not even in this dimension, this sphere of life. There was a strange tension in the air, which was effectively being pierced by lightning and thunder like it pierces the rain-there was a lot of drama, and yet it resulted in anything. Gustav spoke up
“What next?”
Alexander kept staring outside, as he spoke up, “It is for the both of us to decide. What do you want to do?”
Gustav lit up a cigarette, as he began to speak up, “So, you are my brother, after all. And yet, my father found nobody else but his bastard son to compare me with. Really proved a point didn’t he?” he commented, as he puffed a circle of smoke out, as he continued to stare at the roof.
He picked up the bag that he had been carrying all along, and pulled out a long katana out of it. The sword’s sheath was beauty personified-ebony black with a gilding of ivory adorning it as the hilt. It was an extraordinarily exquisite weapon of murder, if you could call it one, and walked up to his brother.
“I cannot tolerate this insolence from my father, and the manner in which he has berated me. I am going to kill you right here, right now, and I shall lead the force. You, who ruined me, my family and my father’s life-who are you to lead this force?” he said, as anger rose in his voice, but a strange calmness pervaded his body and his hands in particular, that held up the katana along with its sheath.
Alexander smiled bitterly, as he walked out of the room, and into the rain. “I do not want to ruin my house with bloodstains. Come outside, in the rain, so that all our sins shall be washed away tonight.”
Gustav followed Alexander outside, with the two of them drenching in the rain. Alexander had nothing but the stick in his hands to match the katana, as both stood far apart, waiting for the other to break the lull before the storm.
Alexander was blind, but he had a vision. He could see Gustav breathe even n this thunderstorm, and could even estimate the distance between the two of them. But what he wanted to hear, he could not. And so he waited patiently to hear the sound.
And then, he heard it.
The flick, with which the sword is unlocked from its sheath.
The sound of the cold steel metal being pulled out of the sheath, as it drags along its insides.
The sound of the metal swinging in the open, as it struck the rain drops on the way.
Alexander put up his stick just in time, though there was not a flicker of an emotion that may have been passing his mind, but the hand movement was enough to prevent the katana from moving forward.
“So you are still good enough I see,” spoke Gustav, a bit of irritation rising in his voice, as he moved back to charge at him once again.
“Why do you want to do this?” asked Alexander, as he heard Gustav charge towards him, and deftly moved aside, even as he raised his stick in self defense to avoid the blade from cutting him up.
“My father,” spoke and angry Gustav, as he kept attacking Alexander, who kept attacking a defensive Alexander, whose face betrayed no emotion, making him angrier, “ruined my life and then as redemption decided to do this to me! How could he have done this? He made my life hell, just so that he could look after his bastard son! How could he? How could he? I’ll make you pay for doing this to my life,” he screamed, as he managed to slice a backward jumping Alexander’s shirt, who instantly realized how close he was to being sliced up himself.
“Do you think I am happy with the truth?” spoke Alexander, as he moved about his walking stick to prevent the katana blade from moving any further. “Let bygones be bygones; at least the man confessed to his crime.”
“Easy for you, not for me Alexander,” screamed Gustav, even as he managed to make an incision on Alexander’s arm, which started to bleed, and the trickling blood got diluted by the water that the rains brought from the heavens. “I will never forgive you. How do you think did Sergei die? It was me who let out the information, much to the blindness of Sergei, who still mourned your departure? How do you think that made me feel, huh?” he shouted, as he swung the blade, barely missing Alexander’s neck, as he moved back swiftly.
“Let it be Gustav, I do not want anything. It is unfortunate that you did it,” spoke Alexander, as he moved his stick to hit Gustav, who stuttered back a bit, surprised by the intensity. “But I do not want anything, everything is yours, just let me live in peace.”
“You cannot live in peace at the expense of mine, Alexander,” screamed Gustav, who charged fiercer than ever, only to be pushed back by a move from Alexander in the nick of time. “I killed him, and I will kill you, even if I have to die for it.”
“Then so be it,” spoke Alexander softly, who was standing at a spot, as if he was rooted to it, even as an anger-blinded Gustav charged like a bull.
Alexander concentrated; as he heard Gustav’s footsteps create the sloshing sound. Just a little more, he wondered, as Gustav came nearer and nearer.
He heard the blade swing, as he turned back, and twisted his own stick, and swung it from below just in time.
The blade sunk in deep, as the katana fell out of his hand, and Alexander caught hold of Gustav’s now limp body, even as his hands were awash with his brother’s blood, which was carried away by the waters that the heavens poured on them. He gently closed his brother’s eyelids, confirming to the night that his brother was dead, and sat down on the grass, even as the rains continued to fall hard on the two of them-him and his dead brother for a moment.

Angst of a Pained Mind

Today, I have never been sadder. It has taken such a gruesome crime to remind us of what we have reduced humanity in this country to. I should perhaps stop calling people human, for the behavior we see everyday, against women, elderly, children and all the weaker sections of society, we are worse than xenophobic chimpanzees.

And yet, every day, the cases are just beginning to come out - of absolute barbarity, of absolute horror and utter shamelessness. Those who call themselves our leaders get away abusing women in Parliament, outside it, on television channels, and none of us actually were stunned by it. Our leaders continue to hold up the status quo and assure us that things for the better, and yet, what do we do with this status quo? When will things get better for us? When will our women feel safe? When will the weak in our society feel safe, and emboldened enough to come forward and complain on such instances without the fear of shame, humiliation and further victimization?

There have been cases of journalists being felt up at the protests. There are victims everywhere in this country who die everyday - physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically - when they are subjected to utter rebuke instead of sensitivity. No one can understand the pain the victims undergo - no one can. And yet, no one tries to share her pain, get her out of the trauma that these victims undergo everyday of their lives.

Why are we demanding death for rapists? What will it achieve? Where are we headed to as a society? We behave like a banana republic and exhibit absolute duplicity about 'justice', when justice should begin at our homes, in our lives. Blood curdling shouts for death sentences does not help anyone. I still am not scared, because the case will certainly be botched up so badly I will most likely walk out a free man. In a country where crime against the weak remains a mere statistic, what else can you expect? A society that is imploding from within - that is all that can describe the state of affairs of this 'great country' today.

When I was a child, I was told that we are all equal. I also wrote that as an answer in an exam. Why then do I not see that in practice with my own eyes? Why then should I be asked to feel numb when the National Anthem plays out? We can call our country our mother, but see its daughters and children raped, assaulted and brutally murdered every day. How hypocritical can we get? Why should I see my nation a country under whose skies people die repeatedly every day?

I do not want any rhetoric today. My heart is too pained to see the hyperbole and the self righteousness on display. What I want is a healing touch for my heart, for the heart of the millions who die every day. Who will give it to me? This political class, which has shown us just how out of touch it is? This police force, who ask questions that feel like a sexual crime unto itself? This bureaucracy, that rapes our souls every day by just fossilizing themselves into their official shells? I long for that healing touch for myself and all those who are tortured, weary, tired and weary souls, souls much sadder than mine. Had Gandhi been alive today, he would have been pained to see our people so devoid of the inability to share the pain. Who will be that person who will share my pain?

My fellow citizens, my countrymen, you are the ones who can share my pain. You are the ones who can lessen my burden. You are the ones who can make me feel alive again. All you have to do is to accept victims as our very own. Treat them with respect and dignity. Treat them as equals, and not as children of a lesser God. Fight for their justice in whatever way you can. Intervene when they are being harassed and bring to light incidents where the weak, the meek are not given dignity. Share the pain, and treat them because they are also human beings; because they are not different from you, except for gender or caste or socio-economic status. Know that they are as much worthy of respect and dignity as we feel we are, only that we are more privileged than some of them. Let us not be murderers ourselves in all these ways, and we shall truly be a great nation - because its the flag that deserves faithful loyal and honest law abiding citizens; because its our Constitution that deserves good citizens; because Fundamental Rights  are as much for 'them' as they are for 'us'. And because we are all children of the same God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Letter to Justice Verma Committee

This time around, I am putting up the letter that I wrote to the Justice Verma Committee set up by the Government of India in wake of increased violence against women. Hope you like the ideas I put forward.


Respect Members of the Committee,

You have been appointed by the Government of India to deal with the aforementioned subject pertaining to changes in criminal laws. As a concerned citizen who believes in the democratic process, I would like to put forward by point of view on the same.

A large number of crimes take place against women across this country. The nature and type of these crimes varies drastically, but in the end women are always bearing the brunt of a large number of social ills. The issue is much larger than just changes in the Criminal Procedure Code. There are enough legal provisions, though some more could be brought in. There is a thorough administrative process needed to deal with crime against women. The Criminal Procedure Code already warrants death penalty; however, as rightly said by many, it is not a necessary deterrent. If that were the case, terrorism would have been wiped off the face of this planet. Any how, there are policy matters that need urgent attention. I propose a three step overhaul in the overall law and order machinery of our country, which is easily implementable if a time line is followed:

  1. In the immediate run (time span of next eighteen months) we can usher in the much needed police and judicial reforms, while filling the vacant posts in police and judicial forces with urgency. Independence of the police is necessary, since we have seen a major leadership failure in the manner in which there is utter lack of seriousness for dealing with crimes against women. Once an accountability system independent of political intervention sets in, we can see improvements. Moreover, inability of the judicial system to move cases will not necessarily be solved by fast track courts unless there are enough judges - a major hurdle today. The judicial process needs to be overhauled by setting timelines for not just conducting cases but even for recording statements - the judge should go meet the victim to record her statement, and there should be utter anonymity about the victim's identity and the evidence collection process, just like in Singapore and Australia, both of which also follow the Commonwealth Judicial System, and whose judicial processes with regards to cases involving sexual abuse can be looked at for vital lessons. Case should be registerable in any district - there should not be any district jurisdiction involved in the matter. Moreover, cases where publicly recorded events of sexual harassment/abuse of women have been observed, judges should be enabled to take the case up suo moto.
  2. In the intermediate terms (eighteen to thirty six months), a major overhaul in policing techniques is needed. This would involve procedures of evidence collection as well as monitoring and patrolling techniques. There is no point in installing CCTV cameras if they are not going to work. Major cities across the world are using IT and the tools it offers not just to find criminals but to even prevent crime e.g. United States. These are certainly worth an examination.
  3. In the long run, gender sensitization programs for people dealing with the victims - medical, police, legal and judicial -personnel included. It will be a social project that the government can run for the police forces on the lines of workshops, and can be linked to their performance incentives esp. promotion.
Apart from that, no parole for criminals should be made mandatory if they have been convicted for crimes against women. Also, such cases should be non-bailable offences in toto - it should not be applicable only for cases of rape or murder. A large number of crimes are also part of a larger milieu of social inequality, hence the same should be accounted for in the form of laws. Here is where attention also needs to be given to stricter implementation of such laws as the SC/ST Atrocities Act as well as the Domestic Violence Act needs to take place. Additionally, we need to ensure that people with criminal records should be ineligible for professions dealing with public masses, such as driving licenses.

It is my firm belief that if these steps are taken in the right spirit, we will certainly see a sea change taking place in the way not only cases of violence against women but

Thanking you in anticipation,

Yours faithfully,

Monday, December 10, 2012

Secularism - The Ideological Confusion of India

What is secularism? Frankly, people who keep blabbering about secular values in India get my goat. I am fed up of the continuous rant that I have been hearing about 'secular' values of India. Our concept of secularism is so warped that we should be rightfully declared laughing stock of the world. We are a nation of minorities, since everybody is an aggrieved minority in India.
Why on earth is there so much confusion about minority-ism in India? Our political class has failed this nation due to its inherent confusion with the understanding of what and who exactly constitutes a minority in India. Are Sikhs a minority in Assam? Yes. Are they a minority in Punjab? Hell no! Similar situations arise in states like Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland, and yet, our political class is pandering to votebank politics, thinking that people vote en masse in India. Apparently, they think India is a nation of cattle (since we do have our fair share of holy cows, goats, pigs, buffaloes etc. etc.), the only probable explanation to the herd mentality our political leaders think our people possess.
Secularism is not a principle to be practiced. It is a pier that lays foundation to what a State fundamentally stands for. The inability to separate affairs of the State from religion is a failure of our Constitution. While protection of minorities is perfectly valid, why are we not standing to the intertwining of state's affairs with religions? Why is religion or community brought into the identity of a citizen? If we are so rooted into our multiple identities why are we even claiming to be secular? It is time we dispensed off with this term from our Constitution if we cannot follow it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gujarat - Why it is important

Gujarat elections are due soon. While the Indian media has never behaved so excitedly even about the Uttar Pradesh elections (because of you know who), it is silly to be stuck around the cult of Narendra Modi and not pay attention to what the real gist of this election is.This election is truly important. While the media keeps talking about this being the last chance to contain Modi within Gujarat, this election is even more important than Modi's ambitions and Congress' nervousness. Finally there is an election that talks issues and has led people on either side of the pole named Narendra Modi to discuss threadbare the economic surge of Gujarat.

I will not get into numbers and statistics, but the fact remains that while there has been polarization in Gujarat and major environmental degradation (which is now being given attention), Gujarat was written off in the eighties and nineties due to the incessant labour unrest and the consequent flight of capital and business. With an economy whose debt was ballooning, it was no mean feat on the part of Modi to have turned the economy around to the extent that he has, considering the fact that he manages to get such good figures of growth on a big base like Gujarat's. One statistic is telling enough - Gujarat has achieved complete electrification and does not see power cuts except for absolute emergencies or unnatural situations.

This election is important not just because of what Modi stands for, but also for what he is pitching himself as. A manifesto that does not promise freebies is a refreshing change, unlike the list of freebies unleashed by the Congress that can only ruin the economy of the state. It is this vision of the Congress that needs to be challenged. Are we a country so weak that subsidies and freebies are the only thing that can save us? This election is finally talking about a vision for a state, one that can also be translated for the country. 'Cash transfers' and 'targeted subsidies' are fine, but who will tackle the existing white elephants in the room before bringing to life new ones? Food Security is utter nonsense when all that is needed is universalization of PDS and plugging loopholes. Aadhar related cash transfers are absolutely useless if access to banking services just does not penetrate. Moreover, we have to ask if subsidies will help us reduce poverty or push people further down. It was a telling fact that prior to the introduction of MNREGS (India's largest scam) Gujarat had lower poverty rates than Maharashtra, whose program was drawn up on the national stage.

It is this fight of visions that is needed the most, and that is what I see happening through Gujarat. Whatever way the people of Gujarat will vote will be a good indicator of what this country's citizens now want. Whether they want an economy in tatters drawn up by freebies, or whether a robust economy that gives opportunities to all is what they want shall lead the way for this nation. Hence the import of this election is unparalleled in India's politics. Perhaps it will lead to a turnaround that India needs the most. Or perhaps it shall cause us to rot even more. But this election is important - make no mistake about it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Congress Rally - Bugle for 2013 Polls

Congress had a massive rally today, November 4, 2012 in Delhi. While many people are trying to read the aggressiveness in the Congress' stance, particularly the stance of the top three - Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan Singh ji, are tea leaves that need to be read again.

This was an attempt to recharge the ground level cadre of the Congress party, which has been beleaguered by the incessant spate of corruption charges, many with credible grounds, going all the way up to the top. A defensive Congress is a weak, directionless Congress, and hence, the rally is a war cry. Sonia Gandhi is a combative person by nature, and she believes that offense is the best defense, and hence this rally.

Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh's roles are being given a revamp within the party set-up. Manmohan Singh can no longer be apolitical, and the set up of the Congress is being re-written ala the People's Action Party (PAP) of Singapore, which has not lost an election, but had Goh Chock Tong between the the two Lees' tenures. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi will now have to engage more regularly with the party and its cadres, who seek inspiration from their 'charisma' and 'leadership'.

This rally is a clear sign that General Elections are going to happen earlier than 2014. Many reasons can be seen if a pan-Asian scenario is scanned. Junichiro Koizumi staked his government on privatization of postal savings scheme of Japan, and came back with a 'mandate from the people' to undertake the reform measure. The Congress party tried selling hard their 'reform' agenda, being pursued after wrecking the economy, and having recognized that it cannot get worse than a defeat, the Congress party shall call for an early election to minimize the damage from self goals scored every day by incompetent middle level leadership of the party. My assessment is that the elections shall happen anywhere between May and August of 2013, while the snap elections shall be announced in March 2013. Moreover, it can have the surprise element on its side with a reluctant Opposition, including an ill-prepared 'political-civil society'.

In short, this rally is a war cry for the party to its cadre - The bugle has been blown! Get ready for elections!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why the Red Tape is Tied to India

For all the brouhaha that we have been witnessing from the politicians in outshining each other in their indulgence in corrupt, unethical practices, an important issue keeps coming back to the center of the discussion table. This issue is the issue of how Corporate India has been equally complicit in promoting the quid pro quo way of doing things in India.

I remember an interview of Ratan Tata that took place at the time when crisis of confidence in journalism ethics began to surface. The Radia (or is it Radiia?) tapes that had 'leaked' had pointed the complicity of a few Kashmir expert news editors as well as some medium term analysts (I will not take names) among many others. Ratan Tata had joked that work starts after six in the evening in India because Dubai is two and a half hours behind us. This was followed by an interview of K P Singh, owner of DLF, who discretely admitted to having bribed his way to 'success' (or whatever you may call it) and was in fact strangely proud of displaying his money power. That we can talk so lightly about such issues is difficult to digest, especially when the world over corporates are getting a bad reputation for their indulgences at the cost of the ordinary citizens' money. We often tend to forget that the spectacular growth of the past few years is a bubble that needs to be punctured before we even talk about it. This growth that we saw was founded on two basic premises:
  1. Getting away with the loot of natural resources with the connivance of several members of the political class; and
  2. Absence of scrutiny on the behavior of corporate businessmen (many of whom are also in politics) just because of their status.
  3. Belief in entitlement of the 'clique' at the cost of those who can only stare at their 'meteoric rise' through their 'hard work' (yes, paying bribes through agents is indeed a difficult job) and 'steely determination' (to exterminate anything or anyone coming in the way like locusts).
In the light of all this, we also had 'thoughts' being circulated by eminent economists and 'advisers to government' like Kaushik Basu who wanted to decriminalize bribe giving in India. While the thought was interesting, the ramifications in India would be devastating, since bribes (read party donations, gift boxes and the traditional mithai) have been a favorite tool for building up the kind of political-business-bureaucrat nexus that we have built up in our country.

It is indeed true, and we have heard it a lot (and frankly to the point that my ear drums may burst one day) about the amount of red tapism that we see in India when it comes to 'economic' issues. Red tapism belies our country's potential to grow even faster than some of the other fast growing economies in the 'race'. It is a joke that it takes an average 128 days to enforce a contract in India, and 152 to pay taxes. However, the real reason why red tapism will never be reduced is that it would mean greater transparency in the way businesses shall be run in the country. Any attempts to regulate business is nipped in the bud (case in point, the real estate industry's shenanigans). Our business class revels in secret meetings and shady transactions so much that they are confused today when asked questions about morality and ethics. Moreover, a more business friendly environment leads to two additional scenarios:
  1. It spurs competition (shock!horror!) and forces the existing players to either change the way they do business (for which they are too lazy and miserly) or bow out of the market
  2. It exposes the level of many companies in India and shows just how the people of this country are being fooled with sub-standard goods and services
Status quos never change at the top, for it means hurting self interests. It can only come upwards. However, this country is so steeped in the delusions that we have spread about ourselves that none have the courage to stir the hornets' nest (save a few individuals, whose motives too can be suspect).

Let the red tapism prevail!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The General Elections of 2013

Yes you read it right - all four of us reading this blog! Much water has been held up along the Cauvery delta (even as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka squabble over who gets the water), and the political climate of this country has been getting uncertain with each passing day. With Sharad Pawar speculating about 'offending allies in November' and Mulayam Singh and Mayawati loathe to play the 'secular' card at the risk of eroding whatever little electoral respect people have for them, the set-up is perfect to precipitate an early general election.

With the government in a suicidal mode (judging by Salman Khurshid's angry exchange with journalists) we have a situation that can only explained by the word hilarious, the only way Congress can salvage its present downfall is to call early elections so that the yuvraaj can take charge and save the party from a severe rout. However, yuvraaj is in no mood to take charge of the party, and would rather go surfing and rock climbing.

BJP is in  fighting mode. No, it is not ready to fight its political rivals - rather it is busy trying to control its infighting. There is nothing family like about the Parivaar, with everyone wishing to be Prime Minister in 2014. The problem is this - who will become a Minister in the government? Moreover, being roiled in corruption, it has been reduced to nothing more than another major party on the decline. The Opposition, or lack of it, is going to hurt India, and soon will need to be filled up, else the country's democracy is in danger.

All the smaller parties are salivating at the prospect of forming a Third United Front/Alliance that can push the country into further uncertainty. What they do not understand is that they cannot survive without the national parties supporting them. Moreover, how can bitter political rivals within the federal set-ups be expected to come together for 'supporting' each other? Can a Jayalalitha and Mayawati come to the aid of a Karunanidhi and Mulayam or vice-versa? It is just impractical. Newer parties will hold the key, but they will certainly end up eating into the votes of all parties, thus causing major upsets that we cannot imagine.

Elections are going to happen for certain in the middle of 2013 - make no mistake about it. May the luckiest alliance win!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anaar (Pomegranate Raita)

Yogurt is a favorite in almost all parts of India, and it also manages to transcend communal barriers. Some of the best yogurt sauces (called Raitas in India) are served with one of my favorite meals, the dum ki biryani at the biryani outlets. South Asia is full of examples of these raitas being served in some form or the other.

Now let me be honest. I have no special love for pomegranates. I think they are one of the more boring fruits out there, and it is an extremely laborious fruit. However, they go wonderfully well with yogurt, as I am going to discuss in this recipe. Try it with anything, and I hope you like the combo.

1 pomegranate - Kandahari ones are amazing for it, but any other will do as well.
about 400-500 gm of yogurt
1/2 tsp salt - if possible use something called sendha namak, other wise used for Hindu fasts
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp shahjeera - its a shorter cumin seed, but regular cumin will do just as well
Few pinches of raita masala

Just whip up yogurt nicely. If it is thick, try to thin it with about 4 tbsp of water till it attains a creamy texture.
Peel a pomegranate and collect all the seeds.
Mix in the seeds with shahjeera, salt and half of the sugar till it all mixes well
Add to this the raita masala and the remaining sugar and mix well
Chill to serve.

Don't mind the color. Its a reddish tinge because of the lighting.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Manmohan Singh - the Myth of a Man

Our media channels have been living in a delusion all this while. They love to deny certain facts (though it is difficult to say why). Manmohan Singh, a doctor in economics, is always looked up to as someone who has been the original reforms man, and who can be the only one who can promise reform. However, there is more to the story than what the eye can see.

Most people tend to forget that Manmohan Singh was the governor of the Reserve Bank of India during the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, where a certain Pranab Mukherjee was the finance minister. Prior to that, he was in the IMF and was also on the Planning Commission.  The crisis of 1991 was precipitated by decision making during that decade (with the Left and Right doing no good either). It was a group of people, including P V Narsimha Rao, Dr. Subramaniam Swamy and N Govindarajan, all of whom were given Cabinet Minister level ranks by Rao, the unsung hero of India, who steered the economy around from a position of national bankruptcy that was brought about by the disastrous socialist leanings of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty (which went to the extent of inserting the idea of socialism in our Constitution through an Amendment). Manmohan Singh, clearly, never had the political mandate to even advocate reforms, forget bringing them in, unless his hand was strengthened. We are pretty much at the same position as 1991, where, despite denials, this country is facing another bankruptcy, thanks to the white elephant money siphons devised by the extra constitutional National Advisory Council (NAC) led by an unaccounted for power centre (read them as NRHM, MNREGS and the now proposed Food Security Act). Moreover, allowing the high level of losses to the country by avoiding auction of national resources, we have seen that a man who can just stand aside and watch without any emotion while Rome burns. Letting the government to spend beyond its means in attempting to provide First World welfare schemes on borrowed money just shows that he was never really the boss here.

One thing that he should certainly be credited for is the politician that he is. Having survived the spate of scams and still being supported by people who talk about the laughable ideas of secularism shows just how smart a man he is. Moreover, the manner in which he staked the UPA's power throne to get across his favorite Nuclear Deal just goes to show that he can also play the brass tacks when it comes to his own prestige. That there are so many people who can jump to his defense any time is testimony to the careful image cultivation that he has undertaken over these years, that enable him to get away with almost anything that could possibly lay on his doorstep.

Overall, let us stop idolizing Manmohan Singh as a man of reform. He can only do things that can help him survive in the political arena. He can be the Man Friday to sell ideas at the best, but to expect him to run on borrowed crutches when he can barely walk is absolute fallacy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Thought and I

The rain and the dark clouds make for a gloomy day for everyone but writers it seems. Writers are a lot like earthworms – they function only on these gloomy days, churning the earth of their minds to make it a fertile place for the crop of thoughts to grow on it.

The clouds seemed to be getting darker and darker with each passing moment. The weather is a great excuse for people in India not to work. I guess it’s the gloominess of the dark clouds that play on our mind. That perhaps explains why people in certain parts of the country don’t work at all; it can be traced back to the incessant amounts of rainfall that they witness.

I sat there, staring at the window outside. There were thoughts making circumambulations outside the periphery of the conscious mind. All that resonated in the mind was a song, which I kept humming along. It is a fairly popular song, though what stood out for me were the lyrics. Being a man of the word, that is what attracts my attention all the time. The rhythm of words, the fluidity of language – that is what captures my attention nowadays.

I don’t drink tea or coffee. Not that I don’t like it; my body does not allow me to. However, the tune in the mind more than made up for it. The weather kept me humming. The strange thing about humming is that people keep staring at you as if there is something wrong with you. But I don’t mind. In a bunch of fools, one who stands out does not become a bigger one. And so the hum kept on. Even as I moved around at work, and with a distracted mind as mine, the song persisted. It was just one of those pleasant moments that do not offer anything exceptional, anything exciting. One however does not mind them; it is a good state of mind, one that helps to deal with several circumstances and situations at work that are not necessarily great and do not inspire confidence.

All of a sudden, I spot a figure moving around me. I spot it as a shadow falling over my shoulders, flitting around. Puzzled, I look around to see who it is, and I am shocked.

A figure is standing, looking down at me. This figure looks exactly like me, though he perhaps decided to wear glasses to look distinct from me. There is a smirk on his face, though it is impossible for me to guess the reason for this contemptuous look. Have I done something wrong? Who is he? Questions swirl around in my mind even as I begin to notice a strange thing – everything around me is standing still. By everything, I mean everyone around me stands frozen in time. Nature though trails it own course as usual. The rain falls with its usual rhythm, humming away gently. Wisps of vapour continue to rise from the mugs of coffee that endless people held frozen as they were.  He keeps staring at me, and then starts walking. I know he wants to follow me, though the visible motion is absent. Somehow, it is a connection of our minds – no, our souls – that resonates and communicates signals, that makes up for the absence of words or any human sound that could have existed, but which got frozen in time.

We walk out of the building being guarded by a frozen body with a stoic expression. I wonder what the guard must have been thinking at that moment, since the face revealed nothing but a sense of deep thought. I wish this moment would enable me to also read the frozen thoughts like reading parchments of paper. Our thoughts, I think, are like those old time parchments that roll up, which used to carry messages for people of yore. No, they are rather like framed photos on a long shelf; we have a look at them, and then put them back to where they belong.

The raindrops wet me, and yet there is a kind of warmth in them I never experienced.  The tingling sensation that the drops cause on trickling down the various contours of the body is conspicuous by its absence; rather, the rain seems to have hugged me, taken me into its fold like a long lost kin meeting after a long time. This sense of comfort is hard to come by amongst humans today. Perhaps I was missing it, as he kept staring at me with a faint smile, the glasses hiding the true intent of the smile by covering his eyes.

“Who are you?” I wanted to sincerely ask the question, and yet the warmth of the sheets of rain comforted me, as if substituting for the answer, trying to satiate my curiosity in ways that I could not have known till then. The question seemed to hang in mid-air, reverberating with the rhythm of the weather. The eyes had a strange depth to them, and yet they had a warning flashing in them. It felt as if they wanted to say – do not go any further; you are in for a terrible shock. The silhouette of the rain was invisible on him. And yet, yet he exuded an expression that felt familiar, comforting.

“I am Thought,” said the guy, as if reading my mind. 

I woke up with groggy eyes, only to see my boss staring at me with a stern look. How did he get to know what I was up to? I scrambled, only to spill reams of paper all over the floor.
He walked away, staring at me, leaving a horde of guffawing people. Soon, they were back at their desks. But the sensation was still there. It refused to go away. Is this what thought is like? I thought, even as I realized that my hair was wet, which is strange, because I did not recall going out.

Or was the dream another dimension of reality?

Monday, August 27, 2012

The 'Coalgate' Primer

So much coal wash slurry has flown into the Yamuna because of the serious washing of dirty coal in public by the premier Ruling party and the principal Opposition party that the whole debate is becoming confusing to follow. Here is a lowdown on what is the whole matter all about.

There was allocation of mines between 2006 and 2009 by the UPA government after discussing the matter with various state governments. So what? One may ask. Well the devil, as they always say, is in the fineprint of the whole allocation process.

There was briefly talk of allotting mining leases based on auction prices. Eventually the government abandoned in the 'face of stiff resistance of the states'. It is an excuse of convenience, because as quite a few former CAGs have pointed out (and which I also pointed out thanks to their observation) that Seventh Schedule under Article 246 of the Indian Constitution defines the subjects on which Centre and State governments can legislate, and it clearly specifies that it is the responsibility entirely of Central government (Subject 54 under Central List and Subject 23 under State List). All the opposition can be overruled because the government at Centre has the power to do so.

There is no zero loss as is being bandied about by a few people. These economists, industrialists and ministers who are trying to confound the debate are lying through their teeth. Naresh Gujral had pointed out on Times Now how companies like Jindal Steel, JSW Stainless and GVK Infrastructure among others saw a major boost in their market valuation on receiving these mines at throwaway prices. Moreover, these very people are now complaining about coal shortages by not mining coal from these blocks. So it is not just a loss to the government but it is also a subversion of the Competition Act that this government has been pretending to strengthen for the past four years. Surjit Bhalla who talks so much about crippling fiscal deficit needs to be harshly reminded that this is one of the reasons why the government will continue to have a huge fiscal hole, and can get away with doing nothing as long as Benthamians like him exist.

CAG is not exceeding its mandate at any cost, as Jawaharlal Nehru's speech about the role of CAG during the Constituent Assembly proceedings will vouch. Moreover, if the CAG is wrong, why is the Coal Ministry now using the very assumptions to price coal mine blocks for future competitive bidding? Self contradiction has got this government to score another own-goal.

There is no way out for this government, since after 2G and Commonwealth, the media (hyperbolic as it may be) knows that corruption sells well with the Indian masses, and will leave no opportunity to hound out the story at any cost.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

India Against Corruption, a Political Party? A Welcome Idea

Much sewage has flown in the channels of the Yamuna, and several hours have been wasted trying to discredit Anna Hazare and his 'team' (though they do not have a lot to their credit except for their work). News has now said that these guys will enter politics. In my opinion they already were in politics, though their contest in the electoral foray is certainly welcome.
It makes sense that they contest. In this age of live Lok Sabha telecasts, it would make sense for them to come into the Parliament and expose the corrupt deeds of the people who are disconnected from the ground reality. Till now, they had just an urban audience; they can now get even the rural audience's attention. Moreover, all they need to win elections is the anti-corruption agenda. The urban voters are angry and need the kind of alternative that this group can provide.In this day of coalition governments, even a handful of seats can make a huge impact. My personal assessment is that IAC can win about 20-30 Lok Sabha seats in the urban centers based on appropriate candidate selection, and that is good enough to wreck havoc in Parliament, where they can force parties to toe their line without much difficulty. Moreover, all political outfits would have to treat these guys with more respect and be more cautious as the people will speak with their ballots if IAC gives them a chance.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When Solutions Become Problems

For some time now there has been talk about how indoor air pollution kills more people than anything else in the world, and how this is prevalent in rural India. A lot of it has been attributed to cookstoves, and while it is true that they are a major cause, the solutions that have been bandied about for some time now are all in the same direction. Let us improve the cookstoves is the unanimous voice that resonates across the world. But there seems to be more to it than this. A recent paper by Esther Duflo, Rema Hanna and Michael Greenstone has been doing rounds for a while now. For those who have seen the program upfront as well as others who are familiar with it, the paper seems to have confirmed the worst - the problem of women's health in rural areas has not been mitigated in any way. The paper goes on to highlight how the distribution of cookstoves has been an abysmal failure because people stop using them within a year.

Why is it so? The question does not have a difficult answer. Sunita Narain had adequately found the reasons three years ago.A survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research found, in many cases, the stoves were not appropriately designed or had broken with use; over 62 per cent of the respondents said they did not know who to contact for repairs. Technology deployment in poor and unserviced households is a job the market does badly. 

So what is the solution? The solution is not a simple one. What is needed to understand is that there is no single silver bullet. You need multiple bullets. You need to understand that one size does not fit all. You need to design products that pay attention to market needs. You need to realize how different fuels have to be addressed by it. You also need to understand how people behave. Most importantly however is the need to give up this high handed manner in which 'developmentalists' (as I call them) think of when it comes to understanding how solutions are to be developed, and refuse to hear what is needed the most - a patient ear.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Mess of Basic Infrastructure

Seeing the amount of hot air over the various issues of chalta hai attitude that afflict this country, I wonder why people think this is appalling. Anyone who has travelled across the country would tell you horror stories of the terrible infrastructure (or mostly lack of it) in this country across a range of public services that would otherwise be considered a public right in developed nations (I do not count the United States in this). Lack of beds in hospitals, horrifying mental asylums. incessantly long queues at hospitals, strips of roads in potholes (and not the other way round), open manholes and deep flowing drains. no remediation of the annual breakouts of dengue, malaria and chikungunya across the country during monsoons - you name the problem, you find its evidence in abundance across the country. Nobody however seems to be trying to diagnose the disease.

This country has a law that can declare strikes of people working in 'essential services' illegal. There are also layers and layers of legislation on how hospitals are to be run, how disabled people are to be treated, and we have a lot of precedents in the civil law domain (also known as the law of commons) that can be invoked anytime to declare the lack of facilities as contempt of court, since it seems now that the only thing that people in our country is scared of seems to be the upper echelons of judiciary. However the real reason we do not do anything is because our political interests do not seem to get served. Votes it seems will not be gotten by getting the bijli sadak pani (electricity road and water) issues being solved; they can only be won by shrill warmongering and finger wagging. Talking to the people on the road reflects a sense of absolute despair in the elected representatives who are still believed to have the power to bring about the change that they seek.

It is time we changed the political conversation of our country, right from the grassroots level, especially in the urban areas. Howsoever much we may blame corruption, the problem is that we the people have refused to determine the agenda of our people, and have let a few men drive the debate in this country while the others stand absolutely baffled by the turn of events that they are witness to every day. Let us force our politicians to spell out what their vision for this country is for the next ten years. Only if we force them to do so will we make them think of our problems and understand that the people are not going to be fooled anymore by the shenanigans that some people think can continue to fool the common man. One should not forget this memorable statement:

You can fool some people all the time, you can fool all the people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Only Way Out of the Kashmir mess

Reading the comments given by the interlocutors on how to deal with the issue of Jammu and Kashmir (sometimes it feels like a cottage industry enterprise of a handful of people), I am forced to question the 'breakthrough' Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M M Ansari really achieved by churning out lassi from the yakhni (yoghurt) that was all over in the first place. Many mistakes have been committed, but the biggest mistake is being committed right now by the Indian media by not discussing the report of the interlocutors threadbare.

Keeping the state united in my opinion is not an option now. The regions of Ladakh and Jammu are financially supporting the Kashmir valley, but there is a lot of anger and hatred in these areas for the Kashmiri separatist sentiment, which goes beyond the religious divide. Go to places like Bhadervah in Doda, and you realize just how fed up the Muslims there are of the incessant calls for bandh issued by the Hurriyat, and the unrelenting hatred they have for the 'Kashmiris who kept fooling us for the past three decades'. Similarly, Ladakhis too are not happy with the arrangement amongst them and the Kashmiris, when there are three Central universities in Srinagar, but there are not even diploma colleges in Leh. They feel cheated and outrightly discriminated within the state.

The only way out, and people hate to even consider it because it is a polarizing solution, is to divide the state into three regions along these natural divides. Jammu and Kashmir as it stands today (in any case divided) was never one contiguous cultural region to begin with. A break up of the same will make them prosper better. The manner in which the economies are run can be addressed properly. Moreover, Article 370 needs to be revoked permanently (and 371 as well before you hang around my neck) and all land reform laws need to be applied with immediate effect in the Valley, as the real reasons of the 'strife' are economic, and people have been taken for a ride by mainstream and separatist politicians of the Valley alike.

For those suspecting me of communalism, one should remember that Jammu and Ladakh have significant Muslim population, and so there is no divide along religious lines. What about the Kashmiri Pandits then? The Pandits will have to be given a place in Kashmir, a Union Territory similar to what Chandigarh which shares capital with Punjab and Haryana), and yes I am affirming that I agree with Panun Kashmir's idea. But that should be kept the last option, after efforts to bring back the Pandits and other Hindus of the Valley (Dogras, Punjabis etc.) and the Sikhs and fully re-integrate them fail. (Wish I can be proved wrong, but I think the Union Territory will be created eventually).

Will there be bloodshed? No. It is a mutually acceptable idea. The people of these three regions in any case do not think of a pan J&K identity in spite of sixty years of attempts to push one down their brains, and so we might as well stop trying to do so. Will this help reduce the problem? Yes, because the other regions suffer due to the 'Kashmiri separatist sentiment', and that holds back their economic potential. Will this solve Kashmir issue? Yes, because land reforms will show the people just how they are being fooled and toyed with by people. Its not an option.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Its the Economy, Stupid!

No, I am not merely recalling Bill Clinton's unofficial slogan for his presidential re-election bid of 1996. This is what I want to tell a host of mandarins (elected and unelected ones, ruling and opposing ones) sitting in South and North Block who have decided to bury their heads like ostriches into the sand. If I do not see the hunter, he is not there. Similarly, they can wish all that they want to, but any complaints about the more than 7 rupee hike in petrol prices is just a signal of the financial mess that we have created for ourselves right now, thanks to myopic work done by the ruling dispensation. Add to that the oversell of Manmohan Singh, Kaushik Basu and Montek Singh Ahluwalia. three 'progressive' economists who just seem to be warming chairs, and outsiders fail to understand where we went so horribly wrong.
If one wants to put the economy on track, we need economic reforms. That does not stand only for FDI in retail (which by the way does NOT need Parliament's approval - it can be brought out as a notification, and Mamata Bannerjee can cry herslef hoarse about Monmon Shing, but she will not pull out of the government). What about divesting stake of PSUs and selling off stake in those where it is already in a minority? (case in point - Maruti Suzuki, BALCO)  Piyush Goyal's argument in Rajya Sabha was bang on when he said that the low hanging fruit that need to be gathered first. What about inviting FDI in such sectors as aviation and perhaps selling off Air India? (since it does not manage to find a way to run the airline professionally) Nope, and here again is a case of political bluffs that scare people in their trousers.
Petrol hike will not save the oil companies (another sector where the government is hell bent on bleeding itself). It is a much needed diesel hike that will save them, for diesel consumption is far higher in India.What is really needed instead is to hike diesel prices and raise standards for fuel efficiency in the trucks while modernizing railways by making it the source of transporting goods. What stops the government from enforcing better efficiency standards in the heavy moving vehicles? That will help prevent the skew in balance. Moreover it is time that we all realize that public transportation is the way to go. 
It is high time people got some sense. If the economy does not survive, this country won't either. After all, its all about the economy stupid.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Path

The soul is a wanderer
Why weep for its loneliness?
Free yourself from the bonds of life
Such that nothing then affects

Were you born with something in your hands
That you seek to hold on to?
Raise yourself past the six limitations
And then on your senses you can hold onto

Know that this too shall pass
Permanency of the world is a myth
Delve deep into the depths of the soul
And you will find the absolute truth

Tread the lands as if walking on water
Be in this world but not of it
See everything to be equal, but judge nothing
Identify what is the crux of this world, the gist

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

एक नदी थी बेतवा

एक नदी थी बेतवा
एक शहर था ओरछा
समय ने जिन्हें आँचल में ढांप लिया
और ढांप के जिन्हें वो भूल गया
हरबोलों चन्देलों की वीरभूमि
पतझड़ जंगलों के बीच कहीं गुम गयी
राम भूमि जिससे याद है वो इतिहास
पर इस भाग्य का फेर देख लेता बस एक आस
खजूरों की नगरी खजुराहो
जहां कर्णावती नदी धीमे धीमे चलती है 
सैलानी यहाँ दीखते अनेकों
मंदिरों की वासना मई मूर्तिकारी देखते सभी
भूल गए सब चंदेलों को

Monday, April 2, 2012

Food Security - All that is wrong with our polity.

I was talking to a friend of mine, who has been working in the public health sector to understand a report recently brought out by the Public Health Foundation of India about rising non communicable diseases, especially those brought in by trans fats. She explained patiently (contrary to her nature of blowing the fuse off with dimwits like me) why people are already malnutritioned and stunted due to lack of vitamins and nutrients by the time they are able to earn and how they are interested in getting 'tasty' fatty food with their incomes, which translates into exposure to huge amounts of trans fats. This led me to ask her the question then - why is the food security bill so hamstrung with carbohydrate exposure when people need more of the other essential nutrients?
Well, her answer was clear and concise. The food security bill is a monstrosity that is going to be shoved down people's food, which is not going to do anything different from what the aid agencies are already doing in India. All we will achieve, I concluded, was another spate of taxes and retrospective taxation schemes to fund these idiosyncrasies. And this stems from a particular problem. Our political class loves to portray itself as pro-poor. Ironically no one calls themselves as pro-people. There are vested interests, as Tavleen Singh repeatedly points out, in keeping people poor, for they are desperate, and desperate people do not ask questions.
Long live populism; long live Indian democracy.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sri Lanka -Why raise the China bogey?

A lot of verbal diarrhea has flown into the sewers of the press since India voted for a watered down, non binding resolution over human rights abuses that was passed by the UN Human Rights Council. All of it can pretty much be described as paranoia, and we are certainly stuck in the foreign policy mess that we got as a legacy from Jawaharlal Nehru and his ideals of Non-Alignment as rightly pointed out by Sadanand Dhume. Again and again the China-Pakistan bogey has been raised. But all that is frankly nonsense if you were to ask me. Here's my counter to reasons due to which this move is being counted as a foreign policy failure in major sections of the Indian media.
India has pushed away its most trusted ally

Not true! Its a fallacy to think that any of the South Asian countries except Bhutan are trusted allies. One need not forget the double game that Ranjana Premadasa and TS Jeyawardene kept playing with our mandarins and leaders over the Tamil issue for decades, because of which we even lost 1000 soldiers in a disastrous Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) mission where LTTE and Sri Lankan government were hand-in-glove. Similarly, to think that we have pushed away Sri Lanka, remember that we are the single largest trading partner, so any effort by Sri Lanka to push us away only causes them more harm. We have tried the gentle way, and honestly, it has failed. So it was high time to up the ante.

China and Pakistan are going to take advantage 
This whole China Pakistan bogey is total hogwash. The links with China and Pakistan predate the whole voting issue, and were very much there during the 30 year civil war. G Pramod Kumar has written an excellent analysis on why this China-Pakistan bogey is nothing more than mere posturing. There is a very interesting Chinese legend about Zheng He, the eunuch admiral taking the King of Ceylon prisoner for refusing to accept the dominant status of China. To avoid history to repeat itself, the only way Sri Lanka can hedge its bets for the long run is to stay as far away from China as it can.

You are allowing China to draw a "string of pearls" around India

Frankly, this string of pearls theory should go into the dustbin. Do you really think India is silly enough to not do anything about it? Belated as it may. alliance with Vietnam, US and Japan amongst other countries allows India to draw a counter string of pearls around China. Allies of the US would be more than eager to "contain"China in every sense. Moreover, Russia and China do not see eye to eye on the foreign diplomacy front. Chinese history tells us that only those countries are respected which display their might effectively, and we will never be considered equal to China unless we hedge our bets in the right direction by allying with countries having issues with China, and not some random countries.

We do not interfere in other countries' affairs

Well, we have been on the wrong side of history far too long. Looking at the state of affairs in Libya and Syria has shown India, the world's largest democracy (albeit a flawed one) supporting absolute tin pot dictatorships (seriously, what common did India have with Muammar Gaddafi?), which leads to considerable international embarrassment when we start talking about human rights. It is this aloofness that has led to the formation of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, and also has led to the whole nuclear crisis surrounding Iran and Israel.

India will have to face similar resolutions on Kashmir and problem areas of the North East

There are major flaws with this argument. What it assumes is that a Pandorra's box shall be opened, and a host of resolutions and counter resolutions shall be launched. One tends to forget that these are "non binding" resolutions and have to be discussed threadbare. To think that they really matter is quite laughable at times, especially when countries like Pakistan move them. In any case, the truth is that India's record may not be golden, but it is certainly much more open to criticism nationally, and there have been enough international observers have been allowed into such conflict zones to let them realize first hand who's the real violator. Which other country who raises this bogey allows foreign observers in the conflict zones? Moreover, the human rights records of a majority of our South Asian neighbours leaves them open to severe criticism from the international community, and so we should stop fearing it.

It is high time India dropped the whole bogey of the Non-Alignment policy that has time and again raised its ugly head in an era where our national interests should be to rectify our past mistakes and stand on the right side of history. We shall not be sacrificing our national interests in any way by going with the majority, and we have nothing to hide. It is high time that we came out of our cocoon to really claim our rightful place in the world, and even before that, in South Asia.

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