Showing posts from 2015

India's Power Reform - New UDAY on the Horizon?

It has been a while since the Power Minister of Government of India, Mr Piyush Goyal, announced the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY). The purpose of the programme is to permanently resolve the crisis of indebted state owned power distribution companies (utilities) in India. The crisis is pretty severe - despite a 2012-13 financial restructuring package, the total outstanding debt on the distribution utilities is over INR 4 lakh crore. Most of the debt is ironically concentrated in just eight states, including notable names such as Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana being among these ignonimous leaders. UDAY tries to target the past legacies of debt by repackaging it as state debt instead of discom debt. This debt, upto 75% of which shall be taken over by the state, shall be repackaged as state bonds and shall be sold with first right to banks and pension funds. While the standard loan interest rate has been at around 14%, the bonds shall be giv

Are the Chennai Floods A Signal of Changing Climate?

An ariel view of a submerged Chennai (courtesy: NDTV) The recent washout that Chennai is nothing short of a catastrophe. It happens on a regular basis in other parts of India; however a Mumbai or Chennai does manage to get our attention in ways we cannot fathom. The severity of the low pressure system has ensured that rain stopped only yesterday, giving the city, the administration and the agencies involved in disaster relief a moment to gasp and bring some semblance of normalcy to people's lives. Of course, the real disaster danger lies once the rain stops and the water begins to subside, as the threat of epidemic manifolds itself in the city. Mind you, so far we have only heard of Chennai - many other cities in Tamil Nadu are faring much worse. Kanchipuram has been completely submerged, and other affected towns are still off-limits to many. While the rescue and relief operations are going on and the Chennaiites must be commended for rallying together in this time of crisi

Key Takeaways from Bihar's Elections 2015

In Alliance We Won _ Nitish Hugging Laloo (Courtesy: The Hindu) The verdict is out , and the combine of Laloo Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and the All India Congress Committee of Rahul Gandhi hanging by the coattails of the other two has swept across Bihar. There are several interesting observations that need to be made in order to understand the trend that was with their alliance against a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led coalition in what was perceived to be a tight race. It is very interesting to note that democracy, equality and liberty are nebulous terms, and their vagueness can be seen in the oddity of the alliances and the outcome of the results. As Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn points out in his book Liberty or Equality , the premise of what constitutes the sense of freedom and the freedom to choose are not necessarily concomitant, and the ideas are certainly at variance as exhibited in the result. That democracy can be

Sri Lanka: The New Country - A Fine Example of Good Reportage

In March earlier this year I had gone to Colombo in Sri Lanka for work. Coincidentally, it followed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's successful visit to the country that had elected a new President, Maithripala Sirisena a few weeks earlier. While I drove around in taxis and visited offices, courteous Sri Lankans, of Sinhalese and Malay descent, kept talking to me in pidgin English about how they find our new PM fascinating, and how Indians generally are seen as good friendly neighbors but for the destructive Sri Lankan Tamil politics practiced by Tamil Nadu politicians. I was witness to a post-engagement lunch in the restaurant where I ate of a Tamil couple, being served with prompt attention by the mostly Sinhala staff. Much of it then made me wonder whether much of the reportage as I saw for Sri Lanka and its problems in the post-LTTE phase deserved attention. In this context, I decided to pick up a book written by Padma Rao Sundarji, an old Indian hand of South Asian

Arun Shourie's Criticism - How Valid Is It?

Diagnosing the Problem - Arun Shourie (Courtesy The Hans India) Since yesterday evening there are words and acrimonious exchanges flying thick and fast within and without the right wing sphere. Much brouhaha has to do with Arun Shourie's 'criticism' of the Narendra Modi led government , and many Adarsh Liberal Presstitutes have been trying to give a spin to what he said (and did not say) to imply that there was nothing but bluster for Modi. Irony could die a thousand deaths because the very same bunch of people derided him for attacking holy cows of secularism in the past; such hypocrisy is indeed hard to miss. However, there are several layers of subtext that most people have conveniently ignored, especially if one has been following Arun Shourie's assessments over the past year. Arun Shourie has criticized the government on economic reforms repeatedly. His repeated diagnosis has been that not enough is being done to free the economy. Now it is no secret that th

The Adarsh Liberal Nautanki - Nothing Akademic About It

The Nautanki of Nayantara Sahgal - Much Ado About Nothing (Courtesy - The Hindu) Of late, we have been seeing writers across the board returning their Sahitya Akademi award for great creations. It all started with the niece of the hallowed Jawaharlal Nehru, Nayantara Sehgal, followed by people like Ashok Vajpayi, Uday Prakash and many other people, including the likes of Surjit Patar joining the list, totaling to a grand number of twenty one. "Freedom of speech being throttled", "no space for free speech", "vitiated communal atmosphere" are phrases that are being bandied about as reasons for the protest. A cursory examination however demolishes many of the facts that are being loosely thrown around recklessly to vitiate the atmosphere. Most of the writers have just announced returning of awards. A news report by the Indian Express has specifically noted how many of these 'eminent' writers have been more than eager to announce in the media

वीर रस

नव युग के नव प्रभात में नव पंकज तुमको है खिलना रंग प्रकाश सुगंध भाव संग क्षण भर भी विक्षन्न न होना स्मरण करो उन बलिदानों को शूल छिन्न उन अपमानों को मत भूलो इतिहास की वेला क्या कुछ नहीं है तुमने झेला चक्र चला है आज अनोखा समय द्वार पर पालक देखा सत्य बधिर, मूक कण्ठ धारे चहुँ ओर माया का फेरा शब्द असत्य, चित्र असत्य कण कण में है घोर असत्य अंतःकरण को कर भ्रमित है मिथ्या की पाशों ने जकड़ा अवसर आज, अस्त्र भी साथ कर में थाम तू कर प्रहार मिथ्या के पाशों को काट कर स्वतंत्र तू सत्य को आज हुई पराजय बीते कल में छीनो उससे विजय को आज करके पलटवार पुनः तुम सत्य का दामन थामो आज देखना तुम, इस बलिदान से विजय पताका संग के साथ नित्य संघर्षरत रहो तुम अवसर मिलेगा फिर न आज नव युग के नव प्रभात में नव पंकज तुमको है खिलना रंग प्रकाश सुगंध भाव संग क्षण भर भी विक्षन्न न होना

Indian Media's Unprofessionalism Has Reached New Heights

Isn't it surprising that we have people shouting themselves hoarse on absolute non-issues in India just to ensure a slant in the coverage of India? Well it should not surprise anyone. However the examples are just so many that one can lose track of the shoddiness (perhaps deliberate) in presenting half-researched stories as an 'alarming Hindutva fringe attack on India'. Sample these: 1. A girl in Mumbai who works in a media house shouted herself hoarse claiming she was denied a house because she is Muslim. The media went overboard and pointed how intolerance is rising within India? We had editorials and discussions by the hallowed likes of Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai extolling secular values. However, research done by Mid-Day, a Mumbai based paper showed that the real matter was something else. Apparently, the girl had already lived in the same apartment for over two years and was having problems with the broker of the apartment. In fact, there were Muslim families c

Repo Rate Cut - What Does It Mean for India?

"My name is Raghuram Rajan and I do what I do" - Rajan in a decisive mode (Courtesy NDTV) Raghuram Rajan, the hallowed Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), caught everyone by surprise today by announcing a 50 basis points (bps) cut in the repo rate , which is down to 6.75%. While the corporate world can sing hosannas about capital now being available and bankers can go gaga in turn while slashing their own rates, there are a couple of points that can get overlooked in this hyperbole, and need to be seen at carefully. The RBI has clearly noted that the availability of capital can be a potential problem in pushing for economic growth, due to which the forecast was redefined. It is particularly telling that the cut has come at the time of the initiation of disbursal of loans to small and medium enterprises under the MUDRA scheme. The cut complements the initiative of the government and its funded banks very well. This also shows that the RBI governor, unnecess

The Overkill of Bihar Elections by Mainstream Media

I am going to stick my neck out and say that the Bihar elections are being oversold by the media as a mandate on one government or the other. There are several reasons to it, and we shall examine them in some depth as follows. 1. Bihar has a footprint on national politics Not anymore. With the creation of Jharkhand, the number of seats in the Lok Sabha from the state of Bihar came down from fifty six to forty. That makes West Bengal and Maharashtra more important (forty two and forty four respectively) in the national political scenario. Even in terms of Rajya Sabha, Bihar is no different from these states, and even if the state assembly elections are lost by the Bharatiya Janata Party in this state, they can make up for the Rajya Sabha numbers through smaller states that they seem set to sweep (Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir and Uttarakhand) within a short span of time. 2. Bihar will decide Narendra Modi's fate Bihar already decided his fate in 2014. It does not

Land Acquisition Amendment Withdrawal - Hasty Retreat or Canny Politics?

Hum Saath Saath Hain - NDA Chief Ministers Talking to Narendra Modi at a NITI Aayog Meet (Source: Indian Express) In the din of the last three weeks in Parliament, the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act (2013) was shelved without much notice. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, during his meeting at NITI Aayog with the respective state Chief Ministers clearly stated that states will have to take the lead on this matter, since the issue cannot be resolved at the federal level very easily. The numbers in the Rajya Sabha would never allow the passage of such a bill; also, constituents of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) expressed their reservations on the bill repeatedly. Contentious clauses such as the ones on Social Impact Assessment and minimum compensation amounts were hot potatoes that most political parties think were too problematic to their electoral prospects.While it is a pity that electability has become an excuse for not taking decisions on 'se

Can We End This Mexican Stand-Off in Parliament Please?

Last Man Standing - Sonia Gandhi Protesting Outside Parliament During this Monsoon Session In Parliamentary democracy, it is not that we do not see stand-offs. Taiwan and South Korea's National Assemblies are notoriously famous for the brawls that the elected representatives regularly indulge in. Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria are quite famous for their punch-ups, and Jordan has the unique reputation of a member of parliament firing an AK-47 in the building. Kicks, slaps, moshes (oh yes, they look no different), blockades - you name it, they do it. Despite this confrontational approach of the opposition benches, irrespective of who occupies them, business eventually does get done. Vibrancy of the democratic set up gets displayed in a rather perverse manner however; brazenness is considered to be an undesirable trait by everyone, and efforts are never stopped to reconcile the various parties. The effort never stops - not only because there is no intransigence on the part

Nitish Kumar - Thy Name is Blind Arrogance

The Original Ghar Wapasi of Nitish Kumar (Courtesy BBC News Hindi) In the Mahabharata, Kurukshetra Parva brings to highlight the aggrieved arrogance of Dhritrashtra. He let the war happen not because he wanted his son to be king; rather, it was his love of power and his perceived right to be king that was the dharmaprasna that needed resolution. Blindness was not just physical in his case. One must also realize that Dhritrashtra's blindness was not just physical but symbolic too - he became blind to the decay of Hastinapura by becoming oblivious to the affairs of the state and instead indulging in holding on to power at any cost. The reason why I draw the analogy of the Mahabharata is because of recent happenings in Bihar. In a spur of the moment, Laloo Prasad Yadav, that great scion of politics, compared Narendra Modi to Kamsa , a character overlapping between the Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagvatam. In the midst of it all, Nitish Kumar started playing his own mindgames wit


बोलो, किसने करी आज पंजाब की ये फ़सल ख़राब? मिलता नहीं आज मुझे कहीं से भी कोई जवाब डाल किसने कालिख़ आज ये मिट्टी करी यूं अज़ाब किसने ज़हर के धुएं से आज धुंधलाया पूरा दोआब? ये कैसी खाद लगा गए है लहलहाते खेतों में के रोती रहीं है अगलों की मौत पे सैंकड़ों माएँ आज ये कैसी सांसें ले रही है आज की गुमशुदा पीढ़ी सरसों ने भी खिलखिलाने से किया आज यहाँ है इनकार? ये दरिया में आज घोला किसने है ऐसा जानलेवा सा अज़ाब के सुबह सवेरे आज लेता हर कोई घूँट अंग्रेजी शराब? पनीर दूध दही मक्खन की रोटियाँ हुईं कहीं ग़ुम बस चाहिए आज तीनों वक़्त वो मीठे ज़हर की एक ख़ुराक बाजरे की इन सिट्टों को आज कर गया है कौन राख़? ये काँटों की सेज कैसे बिन जाने बिछ गयी आज? किसकी बुरी नज़र लग गयी पंजाब को सूख के मिट्टी हो गए उम्मीदें बेहिसाब बोलो, किसने करी आज पंजाब की ये फ़सल ख़राब? मिलता नहीं आज मुझे कहीं से भी कोई जवाब

The Facetiousness of Arvind Kejriwal

I am Big Brother - Arvind Kejriwal in an Accusatory Moment at the Auto Rally in Delhi (courtesy Financial Express) For all those people who do not quite grasp logic on the subject of Arvind Kejriwal, please close this webpage right now. This is not meant for you, as stinging arrows of criticism are something that thin hides cannot protect. Or you may wish to continue, provided you are no different from a pangolin. The last ten days have been spent in an unnecessary wrangle, where the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi have shifted from purging people from the Party to finding newer more exciting ways to stay relevant in the media. A ten day temporary posting has been selected for the battleground, and swords have been drawn against constitutional bodies, using such aide-de-camps as five star legal activists to prove that Mr Arvind Kejriwal is being prevented from ushering in utopia into Delhi. Of course, the truth is far removed from what Mr Kejriwal and his men

Sheher - Ek Nazar

कभी जागते, तो कभी सोते देखा है इस शहर को हमने ग़ुम होते देखा है   ईमारतों के पीछे छुपे हुए वो बाग़ हवेलियों महलों के टूटते हुए टाट अजी दो मंज़िले को ग्यारह मंज़िले से उलझते देखा है इस शहर को हमने ग़ुम होते देखा है मोटर और टांगों की खीँचातान भी है शोर-ओ-ग़ुल में सुकूँ भी कहीं है नवाबी शौकियों को भी ख़ार खाते  देखा है इस शहर को हमने ग़ुम होते देखा है सच का जामा ओढ़े झूठ को बेपरवाह गश्त लगाते देखा है तहज़ीब के दायरों में लिपटी जिस्म की नीलामी को देखा है रात के सन्नाटों को दिन में हमने ग़ुम होते हुए देखा है चाँद की चौदहवीं को कुछ यूं अमावस से गले मिलते देखा है बस, चंद लम्हात में हमने कई ज़िन्दगियाँ गुज़रते देखा है अजी सभी कुछ यहां होते हुए देखा है इस शहर को हमने ग़ुम होते देखा है  

कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था

कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था कुछ ख़्वाबों से भरके झोली गोया ज़मीन पे उतर आया था कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था यहीं राह पर उस मुसाफ़िर को हमने गश्त लगाते देखा था जाने किस कूचे की फ़िराक़ में यूँ रात की गहराई में वो अचानक चला आया था कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था चंद तारों को काली बुक्कल में उसने नगीनों से जड़ रखे थे उस बुक्कल की टाट खड़ी कर झोली खोल उसने अपनी ख़्वाबों का बाज़ार लगाया था कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था कुछ निराश, कुछ हताश और कुछ सुस्तायी आँखें उससे नींद उधार ले गये थे कुछ यादों ने भी उसी टाट में अपना ठिकाना बनाया था कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था लम्हों की गुज़ारिश थी की कुछ देर और कारोबार चले पर चाँद ख़ामोश इतराया था और बिन कोई निशां छोड़ सेहेर की अंजान राह पे उसे हमने ग़ुम होता पाया था कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था कुछ ख़्वाबों से भरके झोली गोया ज़मीन पे उतर आया था कल रात यहाँ चाँद आया था

The Whole Language Debate is Redundant

I have been reading for ages about how English is killing off other languages in India, and how Hindi hegemony is being used to bully non-Hindi speakers. To me, these myths have no standing in today's India. Let me illustrate my own experiences to explain how. I essentially belong to a family that has Pahari culture. Our ancestors hail from a region called Kangra. However, Kangra has for the longest time been a part of Punjab, and so both our local Pahari dialects and Punjabi have a lot of cultural and linguistic affinity. Since the Pahari culture extends all the way up to Jammu and Bhaderwah, we can even communicate, and have familial links all the way, with Dogri and Bhaderwahi people. My father speaks Punjabi with his Dogri cousins, who respond in Dogri, and laugh at the same jokes and cry over the same sad stories. I grew up studying with English being the medium of instruction for all my schooling and English is what I say my first language of thought. I had been a long s

आज सिंह गुर्राया है

आज सिंह गुर्राया है वन में गर्जन छाया है छुपे श्वान सब अपने बिल में एक नवयुग उदय कराया है कर प्रहार, हुए अनेक वार चोटिल हुआ है बारम्बार पर अवसरवाद कर तुमने केसरी को ललकारा है आज सिंह जो दहाड़ा है वन में गर्जन छाया है करो प्रत्यक्ष पर पर्दा किन्तु दर्पण आज दिख आया है क्षीण भाव का परिचय बनकर अपना स्तर तुमने गिराया है फेर पंजा वनराज ने किन्तु क्षद्मों को धूल चटाया है आज सिंह गुर्राया है वन में गर्जन छाया है छुपे श्वान सब अपने बिल में एक नवयुग उदय कराया है

मृत्यु तू आरम्भ है

मृत्यु तू आरम्भ है एक अनभिज्ञ आभास का अभय हो अब आलिंगन कर करें त्याग हम श्वास का जो ज्ञात न हो हमें क्यों व्यर्थ चिंतन उसपर करें अंतिम क्षण तो पूर्वविधित है हर मनुष्य के प्राण का भ्रांतियाँ घेरें अनेक हैं इस जीवन के दर्पण पर मात्र एक सत्य कर स्वीकार करें आह्वान धर्मराज का मृत्यु तू आरम्भ है एक अनभिज्ञ आभास का अभय हो अब आलिंगन कर करें त्याग हम श्वास का


चलें हैं फिर आज हम तो पुनः सत्य के शूलों पे उतरें हैं फिर आज हम तो पुनः अग्नि के कुंडों में अवगत थे न हम कभी जीवन की किसी सरलता से मरुस्थल में पुष्प को खिलाना वीरों से सीखा है हमने


वीर निराश तू कभी न होना युद्ध से विचलित कभी न होना अवगत हो अपने साहस से अंतिम समय बंधे ढांढस से अन्त निकट अभी नहीं तुम्हारा उगा सूरज, हुआ उजियारा जलती चिता में बुझते प्राण काल आहुति मांगे बलिदान किंकर्तव्यविमूढ़ न होना हँसमुख होकर आगे बढ़ना जीवन नाव कर तटस्थ तुम पृथ्वी पे फूलों सा सजना घाव अनेक, पर मृत्यु एक स्मरण रहे यह क्षण प्रत्येक वीरों को शोभा नहीं देता रणभूमि की वेला छोड़ना रथ सवार कर धर्मराज का अंतिम चरण में भागी होना वीर निराश तू कभी न होना युद्ध से विचलित कभी न होना

नव इतिहास को फिर दोहराएं

थका तन, निराश मन अश्रु और लहु के कण अनगिनत बार हमने बहाये यत्नाग्नि में हारे जाएँ स्वप्न असंख्य टूटे हर बारी चिता बुझी छोड़ चिंगारी रात्रि के अँधेरे घेरें करें श्वान मृत्यु के फेरे पथ प्रतिष्ठित मगर हैं त्यागे पग पग कर बढ़ते हम आगे आशा के सूरज की ओर एक पग हम अब और बढ़ाएं भय को अट्टाहास मान हम व्यर्थ की चिंता दूर भगाएं सिंह की भाँति जीवन को अपना उपवन हम पुनः बनाएं विजय पराजय संज्ञान करके नव इतिहास को फिर दोहराएं

Delhi Elections and the Silly 'Power Games'

Among utter mudslinging, maligning and language spins, elections to the legislative assembly of the state of Delhi are going to happen on February 7, 2015. It is impossible to believe that to elect members of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (which includes the Chief Minister) we are seeing right now competitive populism at its worst taking place, with no estimates of money being given from anyone. One key area that we need to examine is the electricty scenario of Delhi, whereby everyone wants to power their autorickshaws to the chair of Chief Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had ridden the first bid at power on the protest of power tariffs in Delhi. Fact is that the power scenario of Delhi is a mess to begin with, encouraged by the political opportunism of hooligans of the likes of AAP who believe that freeloading is the way to go. Seeing this, both the Indian National Congress (INC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also been m

The Iranian Blind Spot of Intellectuals

The death of the Saudi King Abdullah has generated a lot of debate heat across the world. In love, as in death, the Kings have always been a point of much debate for a large number of those vying to be called intellectuals who decry Saudi Arabia's human rights violations. We are being three days enlightened over Rauf Badawi's shocking sentence, whereby a ten year prison term is to be supplemented with fifty lashes per week every Friday after evening prayers in public. Stories of daughters being imprisoned or of terrorists being funded in some way or the other keep surfacing. Much ridicule is hurled at the kingdom for its medieval thinking about women rights and the rights of modern day slaves. The problem with much of this much justified criticism is just one. What is sauce for the goose is just not sauce enough for the gander in the eyes of liberal intellectualism. 'Intellectuals' often talk glowingly about Iran's defiance of the West, particularly the ho

Ten Lesser Known Places to Visit in Delhi This Winter

It is that time of the year again when the pullovers, shawls and trendy jackets come out in full flair, as people flaunt their stuff across the national capital of Delhi. People love to sit out and bask in the sun, and weekends can see popular destinations dotted by people across the city, like India Gate, Qutb Minar, Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, Akshardham and Humayun’s tomb among other perennial shopping destinations like Chandni Chowk. But step aside from these popular jaunts, there are innumerable sites that few know about, and tend to be free of the crowds that throng the otherwise popular places. Chunnamal Haveli, Chandni Chowk Being the only preserved haveli or old bungalow in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, it belonged to Lala Chunnamal, a Khatri businessman who went on to become the richest man in Delhi and whose wealth was envied even by the likes of Mirza Ghalib. Do check it out for its beautiful architecture and lavish interiors, that take you back in time, thanks to the desc