Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Man, the Words



Who the hell is he?
Who the hell on earth really is he?
Free at last
An ear on his generation
Protesting against the pedestal of idolism he created

Finding his own voice, writing his own stories
Having something to say
Writing, singing, thinking
That is all he is doing
Asking questions not meant for answering

That transparent substance
Around him
Hiding his real you
What’s wrong with him today?
They are left puzzling

Not knowing what who when how why
They stood all there, looking him today
Searching him today
And yet, unchanged stands he
Unchanged to they who seek to
Change him their way.

-          Inspired by Bob Dylan and his story in No Direction Home and the content in it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Chinta Shivir - The Futility of Durbar Politics

Chanakya had warned in his supposed sutras that rulers should always be wary of sycophants and subservient members of administration. However, what we have seen at the Chinta (not chintan, since there is more worry than thought being discussed in Jaipur) is exactly this very durbari mentality that Tavleen Singh has copyrighted (wish people were intelligent enough to see it).

A few candid admissions came from people like Chidam-broom (thank you Mr. R Jagannathan for the wonderful twist) about the Congress' inability to gain absolute majority on its own were refreshing for a change. However, as if on cue, news channels (especially those self styled conscience of nation who are always demanding answers) started discussing whether a certain OBC leader from a state of 6 crore Gujaratis could create deep fault lines in the Indian democracy. This debate got accentuated further by comments from a politician who still fancies Railways his personal fiefdom about 'secular' and 'communal' compartments. However, a few important points came out, thanks to the ex-officio spokesperson of the Grand Old Party, also known as Hindustan Times. A careful analysis of the statements coming across from the chinta shivir clearly shows that the Congress party has belatedly understood the true mood of the nation. That it took them so much time to realize the change in ground realities is typical of the durbar shahi mentality we get to see everyday. But power is important at any cost, so there will be attempts to cobble up alliances.

The alliance shall be a secular combination (honestly, that is the joke of the year even before it ends), and will have to accommodate a large number of regional parties; however, it would be more than difficult to get these new alliance partners as there are enough people still delusional about a declining party's influence by bragging fake enrollment figures to impress upon the forcefully imposed youth icon of this country (ironic, cause he is neither young nor has any iconic achievements to his name except for a surname and an address). How will they justify allying with parties like Telugu Desam, Biju Janata Dal and the Left Front without upsetting their own regional prospects in the states where they are vying for power from these people? Therein, the Congress party thinks, that the secular card will play out. However, a few people seem to have forgotten that the secularism card does not absolve parties of absolute misgovernance that they have indulged, be they regional or national. If Congress was secular, I wonder whether allying with parties Indian Union Muslim League, Majlis-e-Muttahadil Muslimeen, All India United Democratic Front and Abdul Hassan Madhaney is a badge of secularism.

Another important thing that was candidly admitted was that the party does not know how to deal with social media, and admitted that they were losing popularity in urban areas. Well, if the party was so concerned about people, it should scrap the draconian Sec 66(A) of the IT Rules, 2008, under which people who have criticized Congressmen or potential allies like Shiv Sena and Trinamool Congress (oh yes she is important) have been thrown into prison. Hence, talking about fundamental rights works only if the ruling party decides step outside the durbar and meet, something which they failed to do repeatedly in the past four years. Moreover, social media is a hydra no one can control, so they better start accepting criticism from an increasingly aware generation of young people that does not accept doles as governance. And durbaris most stop trying to be more loyal to the throne than the emperors.

Last, but not the least, economy will be important, and reforms need to be thought about seriously. While its better late than never, the absolute lack of ideas of the current Cabinet to rescue the country from the absolute doldrums we are in should serve a lesson to parties across the domain - money does NOT grow on trees, and the sooner they accept it, the better it will be. No party has had the guts to call the Food Security Bill bluff, and whatever reforms have happened is only to pay for another white elephant. It is time parties, especially the Congress, realize that the people of this country do not want to be treated with empathy, but want the government to work to fulfill the aspirations of a rising nation. And durbaris cannot be the answer to good governance of this country.

The only way out of our country's mess is to end the durbar culture, but I do not see it happening. Till then, the Congress can only pray that Shahenshah ka parcham buland rahe (may the Emperor's flag stays afloat).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Time to Change the Rules of Engagement With Government

As human beings, we bear the ability to reflect on events that went past us. Hindsight is the best vision as they say; however, it is imperative for us to learn important lessons that the past few days, months or even years have on offer for us to learn.

The protests over the past few years have shown the emergence of a new urban population that numbers significantly and is spread uniformly across the country. This population, predominantly young, may not be be considered rebellious, even though it is aspirational and angry about the status quo in this country on many fronts. This population is apolitical so far, since no one has appealed to them significantly, or has quickly belied their expectations, as was demonstrated by the fizzling of support for Arvind Kejriwal's disastrous Aam Aadmi Party experiment. This population is however ready to fight it out on the streets for what they perceive are their rightful demands, what they deserve as citizens across this country. This population, sub-consciously aware of the caste equations, is slowly trying to demolish the differences that have existed, one brick at a time.

With the changing profile of India's population, there is now a need to change the context and the paradigm of the engagement and the nature of political dialogue of our country. However, how will that change is important to understand. Long awaited political, legislative and executive reforms that have been in cold storage for over two decades have to be brought forth, since a significant chunk of electorate, which has started to blur the perceived divide between India and Bharat, will demand for it at every such occasion that will shock, horrify, anger or sadden this new populace, this new 'class' of this country. Moreover, the divide will have to be crossed over from both sides. On all such occasions, we have seen that the elected representatives have proved unable to engage with the protestors. It is also a failure of sorts on front of the so called protestors, as one would have to admit, since no attempt has been made to continuously engage with the ruling class. This is where both sides will have to bridge the barrier.

Protests are good to awaken consciousness, but they cannot always be the only way to force change, since it will only dampen their impact. One will have to engage more with the various levels of government. Let us discuss an example, say, the issue of street lighting. It is an easy tool to visibly reduce crime, as has been consistently demonstrated in literature on urban ecology. This is an area on which the local municipal councillor and the member of legislative assembly can take decisions. How many of us have actually approached these representatives in any form - be it personal, or even through letters? Trying to talk to these people will make the elected representatives understand more about the demands and the expectations of the new 'class' from its elected representatives. Due to its significant number, no one will be able to ignore them - however, to make this understood, one will have to come ahead and vote at all levels.

Another interesting area is that we have very few think tanks that talk about issues beyond health, environment,and rights of the weaker sections of society. A glaring example is the complete absence of people researching and talking about policing affairs and techniques of our country. Similarly, economic think tanks that actually discuss development are few and far between. While NGOs are doing a lot of work in this engagement process, people have to come forth as responsible and concerned citizens. We need to actively read about new laws and policies, participate in discussions and contribute our thoughts and reflect our level of awareness and concerns as well as our beliefs, thus helping change the dialogue of our political discourse, forcing everyone to talk development seriously, and not allow populist discourses in our country. It is thus time to engage with the ruling class - in fact, we need to change the rules of engagement and discover newer, more innovative ways to engage both ways. It is time to become the kind of ideal citizens we are expected by our Constitution, that wonderful document that envisioned an ideal idea. Change begins not at home, but in the heart. Let us do it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Law in Her Name? How Low Can We Get?


There is something special about Shashi Tharoor and his ability to put his foot in the mouth when it comes to saying all the wrong things, while pretending to be messiah like. Then again, it perhaps stems from his Stephanian legacy which he shares with equally iconic people like Mani Shankar Aiyer, Rahul Gandhi, Sandeep Dikshit, Barkha Dutt and a list that makes me shudder (except Ramchandra Guha). This time around, Mr. Tharoor, Human Resources Development Minister in the Government of India, has said that we should name a law after the victim of the gruesome inhuman act, as a mark of respect to her bravery. I mean, just how low can someone, who has served at the very top levels of international diplomacy, stoop in their thoughts?

What has alarmed me even more though is this whole battery of Limousine Liberals for whom it seems a great idea. There could have been no better a sign of intellectual bankruptcy in our 'intelligensia' than the support that some of these liberals had made. I remember the same set of people gunning for a certain politician from the banks of the Sabarmati when he had caustically remarked about a 50 crore girlfriend. What these elite men and women fail to figure out is a simple fact - you cannot buy people's conscience by throwing peanuts such as this at the people.

The people on the streets are not monkeys dancing to your tunes, much to your rude shock and horror Mr. Tharoor. They may be looking for a law, but what good will a law named after a girl do, when its implementation is going to be as shoddy as the so called law and order machinery is today? The mentality of this Limousine Liberal clique reeks of their absolute disconnect from reality and the mood of the people. Mr. Tharoor and his ilk need to roam around Delhi for one day without the average 20 officers dedicated to him, and only then will he realize just where does he live. Instead of giving fancy, long winding, innovative names to laws, which seems to be the favorite hobby of our politicians, one could do better with better preventive policing, swift dispensation of justice and creating a sense of security in this country.

We are not fools Mr. Tharoor. So stop being a fool yourself. If I talked to you in the parlance of today's youth Mr. Tharoor, I would say this -

Your idea sucks Mr. Tharoor! Get a life!

The Economic Slowdown Needs Immediate Address

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