Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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 the pace of reforms of this government has not been up to the desired mark. However, his points of criticism were and still are primarily restricted to certain key issues - ending tax terrorism, unnecessary political engagement on land acquisition bills, freeing up of the banking sector through reform, appointment and autonomy, and letting public sector companies realize their true worth through the divestment (direct or through holding company method) so that asset capital can be mobilized. In these respects, Mr Shourie has been consistent, and in my own assessment these are things that need redress.

While it is no secret that I do not think much ground has been lost in the fight for the land acquisition amendment, there has been considerable political energy spent in getting through a bill that even sections of the ruling alliance could not digest despite their state governing units saying otherwise. The government did get some things going, like amendments in the Apprentice Act. R Jagannathan has noted how rectification and progress within India's power sector, transparent coal block allocations and even movement within the road and railways sectors has generated enough praise across the board. However, current stalemates to be seen across this particular problem is entirely self-created. Mr Arun Shourie has repeatedly and rightly said that Parliament is not needed for getting the land issue resolved, and economic corridors can easily be created, provided that governments there are friendly and eager to do so. If labour law amendments can be accepted by the Union government as was the case with Rajasthan, there is no reason why the same strategy cannot be adopted for land reforms. .

It is no secret that many public sector companies lie leaderless in this country, and that has impacted their performance. Public sector banks in particular have been victim to this rudderless steering, and cronyism prevailed through much of the past decade of UPA rule. This government launched INDRADHANUSH, the seven step banking reform programme, with much fanfare in August this year, and that is one good step in the right direction; however the ineptness of the finance ministry was evident when within days of appointing outsiders as directors, Arun Jaitley announced a freeze on lateral hiring. In the name of divestment you cannot force Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India to continue investing in rubbish FPOs.

On the tax terrorism issue, much effort is being spent on issuing stupid notices and fighting useless battles in courts and appellate tribunals even now in an effort to boost revenues. As the economist Omkar Goswami rightly pointed out in the book Getting India Back on Track, our effective tax-GDP ratio is already above 30%, thanks to state levies and duties that are never accounted in central fiscal figures, making us one of the most taxed economies. Thus to discover new money (unless hoardes of black money comes back somehow) is not going to be possible in the near future. Instead, ensuring appointments and autonomy in the public sector companies, banks and enterprises through a holding company pattern could help raise far more capital. However, not much has been done by this government except announcements and cabinet approvals.

Another area where Mr Shourie said the government has failed has been the perceived atmosphere of hatred and minority persecution. Mind you, Mr Shourie has repeatedly used the term perceived about it, and has said that the government needs to say much more. However, as R Jagannathan of Firstpost and Swarajya has noted, despite Prime Minister's repeated statements, there has been an attempt to vitiate the atmosphere by harebrained personnel within several media houses. Also, another points of observation made by him was the absence of enough empowered personnel within the government - political and bureaucratic. However, he has noted in the past how we generally have a lack of administrative talent and performing bureaucrats across the board in government. So on this he should have some patience or exhort the government to rely on talent present but unutilized within the BJP like Yashwant Sinha, other Chief Ministers like Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Vasundhara Raje, and push for lateral recruitment within ministries for key administrative and bureaucratic positions instead of just talking about it.

Much has been said about his analogy of this government with the Congress+Cow epithet and his jocular vein on Dr Manmohan Singh being fondly recalled. However, sometimes it takes style to get attention to key points, and Mr Shourie has also in the past repeatedly criticized the Congress, United Progressive Alliance and even Dr Manmohan Singh for being absolutely ineffectual. Overreading the tea leaves only causes dizziness, and acerbic wit has essentially been misread by a bunch of intellectual pygmies as much more than scathing criticism. An old saying by Chanakya goes that keep those who praise you close and keep those who criticize you even closer to your self, and this government would do well to reach out to him and his prescriptions for serious consideration and action. Narendra Modi needs to perform as promised and not get distracted by unnecessary distractions by stamping his touch, which many people today miss.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

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 their protest rather than actually formally notifying the Akademi. In fact, hardly any of them have returned the cash reward they received to date. Ironically, many of them who received the award who are also Padma awardees which is awarded directly by the government, have steadfastly held on to them. Manufactured protest, as Arun Jaitley pointed out, is exactly how one can hence describe it.

The major reason why many of these writers are shrilly protesting is the ending of the culture of patronage that had existed since the time of independence. Patronage in fact went to the extent of allowing a free run on encroaching properties. In August this year, Hindustan Times had reported how artists of 27 families including emiment artists like Birju Maharaj and Jatin Das (father of Nandita Das), who had overstayed in government allotted properties by two decades, were finally shown the door by the government. Also, a Parliamentary panel had noted last year how the functioning of cultural bodies associated with the government of India in some way or the other needed clean-up. In the words of the Parliamentary panel (headed by Sitaram Yechury),

"But, unfortunately, these institutions over the time are alleged to have developed the vested interests monopolised by a few persons or groups who have earned titles of culture vultures or culture czars. Their products are described as being uninspiring, not showcasing the composite culture of India,"

which points to serious foul-play going on within these organizations, of whom many of these eminent writers and personalities are active participants, as governing board members, presidents and many other positions of authorities. Clean-up has clearly been initiated, and those whose hands are the dirtiest are perhaps the ones who are screaming the loudest.

The hypocrisy of these people who are returning awards is more than evident. Sample this statement from Nayantara Sehgal. When asked about why she never returned the awards during other riots, she stated that "this is different, now we have a Hindutva government' which can only be described as bizarre if not downright inane and only makes the 'eminent' writer look like a dolt. Another writer returned in protest to say that MM Kalburgi was murdered by Hindu fanatics, whereas none of that has been proven to date. In fact, the person of interest who should really be questioned is the Karnataka state government which could not ensure his safety despite repeated threats. Law and order is a state subject, for which the Union government CANNOT be held responsible. The so called vitiated atmosphere rather is being created by a bunch of retarded media professionals whose ethics along with those of the writers have been rightly questioned by others repeatedly. None of these people had a conscience clearly when Taslima Nasreen was threatened by Akbaruddin Owaisi, when Joe D'Cruz's book was withheld by Navayana as he stood publicly against their position on Narendra Modi, and many other situations where their presence was marked by their repeated silence.

What makes it even more laughable is the fact that all this protest on free speech threatening is generating so much debate and deliberation that the logic flies back into the face of these buffoons. The nautanki of the Adarsh Liberal is more than evident here, and there is clearly nothing Akademic about it. The sooner they stop, the faster they will stop becoming the laughing stock of common people who find them absolutely facetious.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

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 comfortably living in the building complex, thus throwing cold water on preposterous claims. However, no follow up or apology given to the people for misrepresenting facts.

2. The media lost their mental stability last year over purported vandalism and attack on churches in the capital city of Delhi. News channels such as the shrill Times Now and groups like the Times of India did not even bother to look at statistics when they screamed that Christians are under attack in Modi's India. Protests were also carried out due to the constant screeching that all news channels indulged in, making people wonder what is going on. Particular person of interest in this case was a certain Sreenivasan Jain, who has been known for selective statistical games, which either betrays his poor understanding of mathematics and statistics or shows some vested interest in generating falsehoods. Contrary to the fiction generated however, the cases were just random incidents of robbery or accidental fire. In fact, far more temples and gurudwaras in Delhi have been subject to robbery and vandalism as they cannot afford CCTV cameras unlike the plush churches. Again, we have had not one retraction, apology or even correction on the reports.

3. The whole beef eating controversy raging right now in Dadri is another prime example of really irresponsible, shoddy and vindictive journalism vulgarly displaying itself. Just looking at the khap panchayat of the 'morally conscientious'  Barkha Dutt has once again relied on not even a ground report from a place barely seventy kilometers away. Of course, there is just no chance to believe that the FIR which has no mention of beef eating as a cause for the skirmish, has no validity in Modi's India, even if the police is under the jurisdiction of the 'secular' Samajwadi Party ruled Uttar Pradesh. Of course, there is no need to research - let us just write obituaries to the dead  tolerance of this country, as beautifully worded by Sandiy Roy. Of course, personal vendetta cannot be a cause, since only liberal journalists are allowed to have it, that too against Narendra Modi. The media also does not, in its usual shabby style, tell us that in many states the ban is High Court enforced, and has nothing to do with the government that is now in power either at the Center or in the State. Previous government orders did not even catch the eye of jounalists who are always thinking of 'fine lines and rising intolerance at this point in time', as evidenced in this tight slap that Devendra Fadnavis delivered, if there ever was a literal version of it on the whole Paryushan restriction in one ward of Mumbai for respecting Jains, a miniscule minority with significant population in Mumbai. Neither is there ever any coverage of how mid-day meals were stopped in Malabar region in Kerala during Ramzan.

These are just three cases that I think are essential to highlight just how irresponsible the Indian media has been. The only plausible explanation to it is that some 'eminent journalists' are just blind with rage on not having access to corridors of power anymore. Frustration can lead to lack of attention at work, which is evident in the absolutely facile journalism on display. However, creating an atmosphere of intimidation and spewing venom incessantly based on sheer rumor and misinformation is not only irresponsible but also liable to criminal action, which seriously needs to be examined. It seems like an attempt to create a polarized environment where there is none, and concoct a divide that is artificial just to influence certain events. However, behaving like cretin, the English language media and its eminent personalities are being nothing else but irresponsible. This is not the first time; however it has reached new heights and needs self-censorship. These incidents are just a sample to demonstrate precisely why media's credibility has reached a new abyss of which they are clearly not coming out any time soon.

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