Archive for July, 2008

The world’s worst-performing Olympic country?

31 July 2008

With the Olympic Games in Beijing scheduled to begin at 8 am on the 8th day of the 8th year, Foreign Policy magazine lists the “The World’s Worst Olympians“.

On top of the pile: India with 17 medals from 108 years of trying.

“Think of India as the Washington Nationals of Olympic sport. India is by far the worst-performing Olympic country—no matter how you slice it. It’s not for lack of trying. A games participant since 1900, India still ranks behind Nigeria, a country with an economy one-twentieth India’s size, in total medals. The country’s athletic ineptitude is so profound that a parliamentarian called for two minutes of silence to “lament the demise of Indian sports” after the squad failed to win any medals in Barcelona in 1992.

“What’s wrong? Few sports venues (roughly 33 stadiums and sports complexes for 1.1 billion people), a lack of school sports programs, stingy government funding, and a narrow talent base. The result? A country whose most celebrated claim to Olympic greatness is “The Flying Sikh,” a track-and-field star who broke hearts by placing fourth at the 1960 Rome Games. It’s not that Indians can’t excel at athletics. Since 1933, the state of Punjab has hosted its own “rural Olympics,” where competitors vie for glory in tug of war, mule-cart racing, sack lifting, tent pegging, and various feats of strength. And there’s hope in the air. Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal has established a trust to fund athletes’ training and medical care and “put India firmly on the medal grid” for 2012.”

Read about the other four worst Olympic countries here

Link via Anamika

CNN-IBN clarifies on role in cash-for-votes sting

30 July 2008

Caught in the cross-fire in the cash-for-votes scandal that rocked the trust motion in Parliament on July 22, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, has issued a statement on the channel’s purported role. Below is the full text:

“In the last week, there has been speculation over an alleged ‘sting’ operation conducted by CNN-IBN to expose allegations of bribery in the run-up to the trust vote in Parliament. Since the speculation is based on hearsay, conjecture and mere guess-work, we at CNN-IBN feel that it is necessary to set the record straight.

“As a journalist-driven organization, we value our credibility and independence above all else. We have always striven to raise the bar of journalism, to ensure that the highest standards and procedures are followed at all times. 

“The ‘sting’ operation conducted by our investigation team was part of  this commitment to ensure that the public interest is enhanced. Our team had begun the investigations at least a week before the trust vote [on July 22] and the ‘sting’ was to be part of a wide-ranging investigation across the political spectrum into allegations of  horse trading.

“Moreover, the ‘sting’ operation we conducted was unique in that neither were we participants, nor were we engaging in ‘entrapment’ by offering cash, nor were we under a false identity. We were, as is accepted in practices in the international press, ‘flies on the wall’, simply recording an alleged bribery operation, without interfering in it at any stage.  

“Why have we not telecast the story so far?

“Quite simply, we have chosen not to telecast the story yet because we did not feel that the story was complete. Credible journalism is based on accuracy not speed, facts not sensationalism, reportage not allegations and assumptions.

“Our rigorous editorial protocol demands that even a hidden camera shoot is absolutely water-tight. In this particular story, there were many loose ends that needed to be cross-checked, corroborated and investigated further before the story could be aired.

“As it transpired, even before we could complete the process of  investigation, three BJP MPs made allegations in Parliament of having been bribed and displayed cash in the House. In the politically surcharged circumstances, we felt that the more appropriate step would be to provide the recordings we had made till date to the Speaker of  the Lok Sabha as the appropriate constitutional authority.

“All the raw, unedited footage was placed before the Speaker within 24 hours of the parliament fracas. Not a single frame has been edited in any form. The Speaker has subsequently ordered an inquiry, which media reports suggest, is to be completed by the 11th of  August.

“We will fully co-operate with the parliamentary panel and provide them all information available with us. At the same time, as we have informed the Speaker’s office, we reserve the right to telecast the story as and when we believe we are in a position to do so. 

“As part of the process of due diligence, we also consulted several constitutional experts, including the country’s former solicitor-general and leading jurist Harish Salve. Mr Salve has strongly validated our editorial call in a written opinion.

“He writes, and I quote:

“‘I have reviewed the tapes as also a transcript created from the tapes. I would not like to describe in detail what I have seen, since the matter is pending investigation, but in my considered view the investigation was incomplete and therefore airing the tapes at this stage would necessarily involve arriving at some ‘inferences’. The investigation by the channel was not ready for telecast in the sense to be a cast iron story (which such stories should be), it did require some more enquiry into certain matters, which could have been done but was rendered impossible by the fact that on the afternoon of 22nd July itself, the three MPs raised this issue in parliament and then went on to make public the fact that this has been recorded by CNN-IBN. Obviously, after this fact became publicly known, all sources of information dried up’.

“Mr Salve adds:

‘The question to be considered is should the channel air the tapes as they are, without suggesting inferences, so that the unnecessary gossip as to its contents (as well as the innuendo as to the motives in not telecasting the tapes) is quelled, or should the channel await the completion of  the enquiry under way by the parliamentary panel set up the Hon’ble Speaker in response to a complaint received by him. In my view, the channel should await the results of the enquiry, atleast until a period of a fortnight or so is over… I believe that the Speaker has requested the panel to conclude its enquiry within a fortnight or so. If the report is received within the expected time, the matter would again be in the public domain and the channel can then review the situation and decide whether to telecast the tapes’.”

“We would like to reiterate that at CNN-IBN we remain committed to quality and independent journalism. Our commitment is to the truth. Truth that cannot be partial, inconclusive or sensational, but one that must adhere to exacting standards of fairness and accuracy.”

Also read: Was CNN-IBN right in not airing Amar Singh sting?

Biggest. Largest. Highest. Mostest. Anywhere.

30 July 2008

ASHVINI A. writes from Bangalore: The Bangalore edition of The Hindu has a piece today on the second unit of the Global Education Centre coming up on the Mysore campus of Infosys. And it takes your breath away: for the purpleness of the prose, and the megalomania of those articulating it.

Paragraph #1: “Independent India’s biggest structure that surpasses Rashtrapati Bhavan in size and equals it in grandeur…”

Paragraph #3: “For comparison, the floor area of the Rashtrapati Bhavan is 2 lakh square feet (as against the 9 lakh square feet of the new structure)…”

Paragraph #3: “The GEC has been designed entirely on classical style of architecture with similarities to the Colosseum of Rome, while the pillars are reflective of Parliament House…”

Paragraph #3: “…the structure reflects various ancient Greek and Roman architectural styles…”

Paragraph #4:”When completed, Infosys would have invested over Rs 1,650 crore… which is reckoned to be the largest investment ever on education at one place anywhere in India…”

Paragraph #5: “…keen to have the architectural styles of ancient Indian univerisities of Nalanda and Taxila too…”

Paragraph #6: “…the single largest residential unit anywhere in the world surpassing The Venetian at Macau…”

Paragraph #7: “…the country’s biggest automated laundry… with 175 individual washing machines.”

Paragraph #8: “…the world’s second largest synthetic tent structure… will accommodate 2,000 people.”

Going through the report, I was taken aback at a private structure being compared with the residence of the supreme commander of the armed forces—not once but thrice. Even if there is no law barring that, and even if true, I was struck by the company’s fixation with size.

Biggest. Largest. Second biggest. Most.

Anywhere.

This is good public relations, of course, and the flacks at Infosys would have broken into high fives this morning on seeing the seven-and-a-half column story, but should hacks of a seasoned newspaper like The Hindu so easily fall prey to the overdrive?

It can be argued that the kings of the knowledge economy, like N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani, at least do not go around building 27-storeyed residences for themselves like Mukesh Ambani. And what they do is it to educate people like us—and them.

But there is something decidedly offputting about Infy’s obsession with size.

Sure, size matters, especially if attracting and retaining topflight talent is proving difficult. Sure, it is a matter of pride that a company started on just a few thousand rupees has grown to this stature. Sure, this can be a major tourist attraction for Mysore (provided anybody can get in there).

But banging on and on about Rashtrapati Bhavan—and Greek, Roman and Venetian styles, and Nalanada and Taxila to boot—leaves you wondering whether those little children who will stay there for a few months will even have the time to appreciate it, enjoy it.

Or if the building, designed by Hafeez Contractor, is just about image building.

(A set of pictures circulating on the web show the fine facilities at the GEC, and everybody hard at work or sleeping, and not a single person using them at any time of day or night.) 

A friend in public relations wickedly suggests that Infosys is desperate to compare its new building with Rashtrapathi Bhavan as Narayana Murthy’s dreams of becoming President, and thus a resident of Rashtrapthi Bhavan, came crashing down after his goof-up on the National Anthem issue on the very same campus.

“Perhaps, unable to come to terms with that “historic blunder” of Murthy, this is the company’s way of making the mountain come to Murthy,” he says.

Unlikely, of course, but…

But when human resources director T.V. Mohandas Pai blasts the previous government which allotted the land for the GEC, for its “indifferent attitude towards promoting IT sector five years ago”, and praises the present government and asks for 300-400 acres in Bangalore, all in the same breath, you wonder.

Photograph: courtesy M.A. Sriram/ The Hindu

Read the full story: Infosys education centre is a grand structure

BCCI and Infosys: made for each other in Mysore

Also read: Madness, megalomania, or hard-earned fruits?

Whodunit? Depends on who you want to believe.

30 July 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The one crore rupees that were tabled in the Lok Sabha —the sanctum sanctorum of our democracy—has naturally created tremors across the world.

“Whodunit?” is the question newspapers and magazines are asking and providing answers too. Here’s a few of them who swear by their findings.

# The New Yorker magazine which recently depicted Barack Obama in a controversial, below-the-belt cartoon, swore it was Obama: “The guards who once fought terrorists at their gate and lost some of their colleagues could never be bought to take the notes in. But it’s a different matter with the Indian MPs. The Democrats would have never wanted this Indo-US deal which is essentially a Republican idea.  They would do anything to scuttle it.”

# The Economist, which carried a feature recently that pirate-infested Indian Ocean was one of the most dangerous seas in the world, said the pirates were still no match for our MPs—offshore or in the high seas. The paper suspected China’s hand behind the spectacle. The Chinese would naturally be jealous of India’s proximity to the US through Levi‘s jeans, McDonald‘s and the day is not far when India would have US aircraft carrier Nimitz anchored at Chowpatty beach. “They wanted to kill the deal. Since commie MPs can never be bribed (according to their General Secretary Karat), they found some BJP MPs who are ever ready to be bribed and gave them the notes. The Chinese took the MPs to the bank, made them count the notes as they are not good in counting Indain rupees.”

# Pravda, which still runs both its print and dotcom versions, strongly believes that Condoleezza Rice might have had a hand in it. The paper which has alleged that George Bush and Laura Bush are ‘not in talking terms’ because of the Secretary of State, feels Rice might have influenced Dubya to drop the ‘flip flop’ Indians like a hot potato. Wrote Pravda, “Although Bush himself gets along famously with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Laura likes ‘Indian curry’, Rice might have had a say in this. So she would have arranged some funds through the Indo-American Society and since you can always buy MPs as vegetables in a bazaar, she might have engineered the whole thing. But to her bad luck, Indian democracy shrugged it off and just walked away. Unfortunately for Rice, her plan failed and Bush & Laura are still together.”

# The People’s Daily which is busy airing infrastructure created for Olympics feels that such shameless action could have been only planned and executed somebody within India. It condemned other newspapers for floating all kinds of theories. Wrote the daily’s Madras correspondent: “We are sure only an outsider who has become an insider would have done it. Naturally it has to be the Dalai Lama hand who knows how India and their MPs operate and can count Indian notes quite well by now.”

What about the Indian Media?

Did the newspaper nabobs, magazine moguls, and tsars and tsarinas of TV have anything to write or say about it?

Nope. Not yet.

They are happy that the stock market has logged over 800 points and are now waiting with bated breath for Sachin Tendulkar to become the highest run–getter in Test matches while waiting for the release of the release of Rajnikant’s blockbuster Kuselan!

Only Rajdeep Sardesai has a clue and he isn’t talking—yet!

One question I’m dying to ask Sushma Swaraj

30 July 2008

If the grisly sight of bombs tearing off lives and limbs in Ahmedabad and Bangalore doesn’t get your stomach churning, the conspiracy theorising by our political parties should. Sushma Swaraj, a member of the second rung of leadership of the BJP who once threatened to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi became prime minister, has alleged the blasts in the capitals of two BJP-ruled States were “a conspiracy to divert attention from the cash-for-votes scandal”. In other words, the Congress-led UPA engineered the attacks.

What is the one question you are dying to ask the Bellary ki bahu?

Also read: The Indian Express editorial: Is this opposition?

The Times of India editorial: Below the belt

Is the Kargil victory something to be ashamed of?

29 July 2008

At a little past 11.30 pm last Saturday, an SMS came from Sudheendra Murali, a friend in Bangalore: “Kargil Forgotten.” To a South Indian with not a single member of the family in the fauj, and therefore without that emotional connect with matters military, the message made little sense.

Truth to tell, with one beer too many at a restaurant called ‘It’s Greek to me’, the message seemed all too Latin.

A Google search the next morning cleared the haze in 0.13 seconds. The day gone by, July 26, was the ninth anniversary of the Kargil triumph—the day ceasefire was declared in the war against Pakistan in 1999; a day since then observed as ‘Kargil Vijay Divas‘.

What my IT friend was saying was that in between Blasts A and Blasts B—while we were selfishly, shamelessly, secretly wondering when and where a bicycle might knock us dead—an ungrateful nation had forgotten to salute a famous victory against Pakistan.

A victory in achieving which 562 soldiers had bravely, selflessly, unquestioningly laid down their lives for their country and countrymen, i.e. us, in the cold heights of Kargil.

Even for a “leftover liberal” with scarcely any militaristic sentiments, it seemed too obvious an event for the political class to miss, especially given the rap they had received for their disgraceful sendoff to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in June.

But the Sunday papers provided little proof that old habits die hard.

For starters, there was not a sentence about ‘Vijay Divas‘ in 78 pages of the world’s largest selling English daily. Not a word in its competitor with historic links with the Congress. Not a word in the house journal of the BJP. Not a word in the emerging (unofficial) mouthpiece of the CPI(M).

What little notice the Delhi media took, it took through the lens of its photographers.

The Asian Age had a single-column picture of BJP president Rajnath Singh offering a floral tribute to the martyrs at the party headquarters. The Indian Express carried a five-column picture of a solder in front of the flame at India Gate in its Delhi Newsline supplement. And The Hindu had a 3-column picture of the army chief, the navy chief, and the vice chief of the air staff paying homage.

Only The Sunday Tribune, had anything by way of text accompanying a six-column picture (above) of a Network18 cameraman filming naval officers lined up to pay tribute to the martyrs at India Gate, along with an accompanying story form Dehradun.

From a media point of view, the poor coverage was understandable, indeed even justifiable.

There was nothing newsy, nothing sexy about the anniversary, which had been overshadowed anyway by a dastardly attack that killed so many in two big cities. Television and newspapers cannot keep filling their time and space with something so maudlin, can they?

Yes.

But if, after 11 years, they can still squeeze their lachrymal glands enough on June 13 every year for the 59 who perished in the “Uphaar Fire Tragedy” in 1997, how difficult is to remember the 562 who died for cause and country In 1999?

But our crib is not with the media, it’s with our netas. 

Where were our “leaders”, the people who, by the nomenclature thrust on them, are destined to lead us, to show us the way, on Saturday, July 26?

Where was the President and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Pratibha Patil? Where was the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh? Where was the defence minister, A.K. Antony? Where was the chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit?

Yes, there was a celebration in the BJP office with Rajnath Singh in attendance, but was there any commensurate celebration in the Congress office? Was Congress president Sonia Gandhi present? Was there any celebration in the CPI or CPI(M) headquarters? Were Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan there?

And so on.

If the leaders and their parties did observe Vijay Divas, their media minders have done a splendid job of hiding it from public view. If they didn’t, the nation is entitled to ask why: Has the Kargil victory become something to be ashamed of for most of our political parties?

The Ahmedabad blasts cannot be offered as an excuse because they happened long after sunset on Saturday. The Bangalore blasts cannot be offered as an excuse because it killed but one (or two). Even so, since when did “national pride” fall victim to “national mourning”?

Or, has the Kargil victory, like so much else, fallen prey to petty, partisan politics?

Those who cover the defence beat say the Kargil victory is now viewed as “an NDA/BJP victory” with which the UPA/Congress wants to have no part. “The Congress has its 1971, the BJP has its 1999,” says one award-winning reporter.

(That the Congress which does not want to remember 1999 could not even remember the hero of the 1971 victory properly tells its own story.)

But if true, how pathetic as a people can we be getting, that we view the triumph of the nation, the sacrifice of our soldiers, not through a wide, collective prism, but through a narrow, constricted aperture of the government of the day?

Certainly, critics, sceptics and cynics in the military, media and polity have plenty of questions over how the Kargil victory was achieved: The intelligence and strategic failures, the antiquated techniques in capturing Tiger Hill (the site of most of the casualties), etc.

Plus, there is the coffin scam over which the Congress walked out of the House each time then defence minister George Fernandes got up to speak.

Much as those questions may be important and need to be answered, how do they take the gloss away from a great victory? And how do they make a meaningful observance meaningless?

What kind of signal is such peevishness sending to the jawan in the field, and to potential recruits? What kind of impact does it have on their morale and motivation to be reminded that they are not fighting for the nation at large but for the coalition in power?

Is this something over which our parties should try to score silly points?

Is this how we show how much we value the armed forces?

This is not to suggest that the President and Prime Minister and Defence Minister and Congress president must drop everything and break out into a bhangra every July 26 for the benefit of the television cameras. But what do they lose by gracefully acknowledging Kargil’s place in our contemporary history?

Especially at a time when insurgency, homegrown terrorism and cross-border terrorism are on the up?

# At the first anniversary of the victory, the then President K.R. Narayanan, vice-president Krishan Kant, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, defence minister Fernandes, and the three chiefs of staff were all present.

# At the second anniversary, in 2001, the vice president, Prime Minister, defence minister, minister of state, service chiefs and defence secretary were slated to pay homage at Amar Jawan Jyoti.

The gracelessness and tactlessness are obvious. What is not so obvious is the window something like this offers on our hopelessly polarised politics—and the manner in which the liberal-left is ceding ground to the right by turning patriotism and the national interest into the sole proprietorship of the BJP.

If TV channels can realise the benefits that can accrue to their TRPs by carting cinema and cricket stars for the benefit of the jawans, how difficult is it for our political parties and politicians to realise the jump their TRPs might see if they are seen and heard making a rousing speech or gesture?

Parties and politicians are divided the world over, and our country is no different. But does only the party which was in power in 1945 Britain celebrate V-E Day? Does the Labour Party boycott it because Winston Churchill was in charge?

Hopefully, this August 15, the BJP won’t return the favour and boycott Independence Day, just because that victory was achieved by the Indian National Congress.

This piece also appears on rediff.com

Photograph: courtesy The Sunday Tribune/ Chandigarh

What if Kalavathi lived behind Rahul’s house?

28 July 2008

Each time they open their mouth, Indian politicians try to show how much they are in contact with the aam admi and aam aurat.

On election tours, they hop off their Z-plus security cordons and press some flesh. On the road, they stop by and eat at dhabas and thrust a 500-rupee note. And in their policies, they are forever trying to show that their heart is in the right place.

It takes a blast in Ahmedabad to show how insecure the life of the common man and woman is in the country. And it takes another 36 hours for a story like this to emerge:

New Delhi: Delhi Police wants a slum cluster located in the high security Tughlak Road area, where the home of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is located, to be removed as they pose a security risk to the high profile residents there.

Read the full story: Slums behind Rahul’s house, a threat

Hi-tech terrorism needs hi-tech public relations

28 July 2008

VINUTHA MALLYA writes: After the ‘blasted’ weekend in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, electricity transformers, unmanned bicycles and parked cars are drawing suspicious looks… until the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ invents its next bomb.

As we wait for the next attack, the State and central governments, the state and central intelligence agencies, are cutting a sorry figure in the eyes of the citizens. They continue to assure us that “all steps are being taken”.

One wonders: do these chaps giving these assurances even know what they are talking about?

Perhaps it is time for our governments and intelligence agencies to hire some PR expertise? Even if only to market messages that can build confidence among citizens that “all steps are being taken”— even if they are only platitudes.

Despite facing years of unrest in various parts of the country, our authorities show up on the crime scene looking like lost babes in the woods. The squad which was looking over the debris and muted bombs on Friday in Bangalore had no protective gear, and in Ahmedabad what was on, didn’t look very safe.

When one looked at the footage pouring in (thanks to TV9 which other channels were borrowing from), the method of cordoning off the area was itself so unscientific that one wonders if we are indeed a rapidly developing country.

Between Mumbai (7/11), Lucknow, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Bangalore (25/7), Ahmedabad and Surat, we don’t seem to have got our act anywhere near together.

Do we now need a deal with the FBI, CIA, and what have you, to help us with our internal security?

Or a Hollywood director of a film like Independence Day maybe?

The statements which were given out by the many secretaries, ministers, opposition leaders can now be scripted by a high school student.

Citizens deserve more than this. They deserve a concerted effort at combating 21st century hi-tech terrorism. We need the intelligence agencies to be more than intelligent. We need them to be smart and savvy. And we need this not just to boost confidence in our agencies, we need this to stop the targetting of innocents and entire communities which are typically the fallout of events like the ones in Bangalore and Ahmedabad.

This would mean a radical shift in the system. It means allocating resources, enhancing skills sets, R&D, whatever it takes. It would also mean that the government, the intelligence and the police will have to work together, understand the nature of this phenomenon, roll up their sleeves and socks and put their hands into the deep mud.

We need this to happen, and we need it now.

‘The mask of morality lies in dustbin of history’

28 July 2008

M.J. Akbar, the former Asian Age editor widely believed to have lost his job due to his opposition to the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, continues with his relentless assault on prime minister Manmohan Singh in Khaleej Times:

“There is enough evidence that the voter punishes corruption and rewards probity. Leaders like Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi have won support because they are believed to be personally honest. It may not be the only reason for re-election, but it is a primary reason.

“The Congress had that advantage in the image of Dr Manmohan Singh. That reputation has self-destructed….

“The Prime Minister cannot hold his nose above the stink anymore. He was personally involved in the purchase of MPs…. The mask of morality used to fool us for four years now lies in that great receptacle called the dustbin of history.”

Read the full column: The headmaster of a school for scandal

Also read: Editor charges Indian prime minister of sabotage

‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Shivaraj Patil resign?

27 July 2008

An astonishing aspect of the current political atmosphere is the complete lack of accountability—or demands for it. Heads are demanded and heads roll when a politician is caught in some minor sexual peccadillo, in a sting operation, or a corruption scandal. But the slaughter of scores of hard-working Indians in City after City across the nation, and the burgeoning fear “psychosis” that threatens to rip the country asunder, barely evokes a squeak either from the media or from the opposition.

Shivaraj Patil is a standout case. Rejected by the voters of Latur in the 2004 elections but resurrected by the Congress in one of those actions that beggars belief, Patil’s performance as Union home minister has been dull, lack-lustre and insipid. Not only has Patil presided over blast after serial blast, he has seemed as clueless as everybody else. Even the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi, whom he personally credits for helping him preside over an unruly Lok Sabha as Speaker, seems to be in no position to provide help at this critical juncture.

Question: Should the man who has helplessly watched the Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bombay, Hyderabad, Jaipur blasts and countless other incidents resign? And if the Congress high command is unwilling, should the “new, improved” Manmohan throw him out to show Singh is King after the trust-vote?

Do you have it in you to go hungry on August 15?

27 July 2008

BHAMY V. SHENOY writes: The attacks on two cities, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, in the space of two days, July 25 and July 26, is comparable to 9/11, if not in scale, at least in the manner in which they have pierced the conscience of an entire nation. 

How should “We the People” react?

Should we follow in the footsteps of our political parties and leaders who have already begun playing their favourite sport of pointing fingers at each other, or at their chosen targets? Or should we join hands and stick together to show the fear-mongers that nothing can drive a wedge between one Indian and another?

I believe we should desist from the unfortunate example of “an eye for an eye” set by President George W. Bush. We should, instead, follow the high ideals of Mahatma Gandhi in trying to find a solution to a global problem.

By trying to take revenge on a supposed enemy, Bush has unleashed thousands of Osama bin Ladens whereas by adapting the path of satyagraha and fasting to do introspection, the Mahatma succeeded in stopping the killings during Partition.

What would Gandhiji have done today had he been alive? He would have urged all of us to go on a fast, to show our solidarity and to do introspection rather than find faults with groups or individuals.

That is precisely what we should do to prevent more cities from being added to the list of Bangalore, Bombay, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur….

By finding faults with our brothers and sisters, most of whom are also victims of the terrorism that is laid at their door, and many have whom have been led to terrorism by our acts of omission and commission, we will not even begin to solve the problem.

We will only be helping trigger a chain reaction, an endless spiral of more killings as we have seen in Indonesia, Britain, Spain, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9/11.

So, why don’t we do what the Mahatma would have done?

Why don’t we embark on a symbolic fast on Independence Day, August 15, from 8 am to 8 pm?

Let us all—Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, everybody—let us all join hands, publicly and privately, and not partake of food and water for 12 hours on that day.

Let us send a strong message and an even stronger image to future terrorists that their cowardice doesn’t scare us, that their dastardly designs will not work.

Let us not follow leaders like Stalin, Hitler and Mao who used terror to gain power. Let us follow Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela who used the lesson of love taught by all the religions to put it down.

Let’s go hungry on August 15 to starve the terrorists of their oxygen.

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should POTA be brought back?

K. JAVEED NAYEEM: ‘All terror can be traced to injustice, inequality’

D.P. SATISH: ‘Globalisation and terrorism are closely linked’

HARI SHENOY: Machcha, why can’t we do what Israel does?

Once upon a time, it was Each One Teach One

26 July 2008

Generally speaking, public service initiatives are grim, boring affairs. But the “Teach India” campaign launched by The Times of India in collaboration with United Nations Volunteers—and modelled along the lines of the Teach for America campaign—is remarkable not just for what it seeks to achieve, but by the manner in which it tries to do so through a superlative TV commercial.

Also read: Yella not OK, guru. Nanna makkalu is not learning

Don’t gift them fish. Teach them how to fish

Can Azim Premji do what the government can’t/won’t?

What can Mysore University do with a windfall

The world’s ascendant education superpower?

FDI + Higher Education = Infinite possibilities?

Pakistan scares cricketers. Why doesn’t India?

26 July 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Another set of serial blasts in an Indian city. Ho hum.

Shrill and breathless reporters causing panic and confusion while telling people that there is nothing to worry about. Check.

Clueless police bumbling about the blast scene. Check.

Condemnations against nameless persons issued by anyone entitled to a lal-batthi car. Check.

Tenuous links to militant Islamic organizations drawn on flimsiest evidence (mostly by ignorant bloggers and the people who read them). Check.

Newspaper editorials bemoaning lack of protection for the ordinary citizen. Check.

Citizens picking selves up, brushing off debris and going back to following India’s miserable fate in the Colombo Test. Check.

International (read: white) players threatening to pull out of cricket tournament in Pakistan due to security reasons. Check.

No, you did not read that wrong. And yes, it seems to follow the rest of the above more often than you think.

By all logic and reason, if tours to Pakistan are considered “dangerous”, then India should have been a total no-go for cricketers around the world given the Delhi blasts, the Bombay blasts, the Hyderabad blasts, the Jaipur blasts and now, the Bangalore blasts (admittedly the new airport road kills as many people on a daily basis, but hey a bomb blast is a bomb blast).

Yet, the Shanes (Warne and Watson) were more than happy to fulfil their contractual obligations to their Jaipur based franchise even when the bombs went off in Jaipur smack bang in the middle of the IPL. And “security situation” is hardly a consideration when Kevin Pietersen whines about how the evil ECB is not letting him play in the IPL.

Besides the London Tube bombings happened during Ashes 2005.

Another useful bit of trivia: The only time a match was stopped due to a bomb threat was in, well you guessed it, England. Naturally, no one ran off to catch the nearest flight home, and the players continued after the police checked it out. And this, mind you, was at the height of the IRA bombings in England.

Normally, one finds little reason to support the BCCI whenever it makes a decision, but it deserves a whole hearted back-pat for having supported Pakistan as the venue for the ICC Champions Trophy. An Asia Cup was organized there. India has been touring Pakistan every year or so for the last 5 years without incident. So what is really wrong with Pakistan as a cricketing venue?

Is it the media that seems to can mention Pakistan only in the context of bad news, and occasionally, for a change, worse news?

Is it Sir Ian Beefy Botham’s infamous categorization of Pakistan as a mother-in-law-holiday destination?

Or is it a simple case of “money talks, bullshit walks”?

If the Indian experience is anything to go by, shouldn’t the ordinary cricket fan in Pakistan, who has to undergo enough troubles to sit in a concrete hellhole passing for a “stand”, subject himself to numerous intrusive “searches”, give up on security so that the “players’ security” is taken care of, get a small opportunity to watch the best players of the world go up against each other?

I don’t know about you, but the more I think of this the more the words “DOUBLE STANDARDS” keeps popping up.

Also read: Victory off the field

When the mighty pen starts helping the sword

26 July 2008

Writer and lyricist Jayant Kaikini in Deccan Herald:

“I am angry at the way the electronic media is making use of the incident and hyping it with a view on TRPs. The TV anchors are so excited, and though there are not too many details, minor information is being blown up.

“My children returned home from college safely, and I went home without any trouble. But a TV channel was reporting as if Bangalore is burning. People from all over Karnataka as well as the country thought that the situation was very bad, and this is exactly what the terrorists want. Instead, if the media is more restrained and behaves more sensibly then we can defeat the terrorists.”

Read the full story: Bangaloreans react

Link via Anand V.

At this rate, rest assured, your number will come

25 July 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Terror struck the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11 and a few other  places same day. That was in 2001, seven years ago. A couple of thousand people were killed. Since then how many times has terror of that magnitude hit the United States?

Terror has hit the London. Terror has hit Madrid. And some half-a-dozen places around the world. In almost all these places it has never been repeated since, and definitely not of the scale when it happened the first time. Not even in Indonesia’s Bali Island, a predominantly Muslim state.

How is it in these countries the police and the security agencies are able to keep tabs on every aspect of militant groups, known and new?

How is it that the authorities in those contries are able to track the movement of terror gang  members, their bank transactions, their purchases?

How are their intelligence agencies able to intercept communication between members of different terror groups or with other groups and make preventive arrests?

Only such vigilance has helped these terror-struck nations to keep a step ahead of the terrorists and thwart their plans even after militant organizations declared their intentions to strike. Israel is a leader amongst countries which routinely stays ahead of terrorists.

Even when there is an attack, Western countries seem to be in a better position to keep their relief and rehabilitation efforts focused.

First, there is no blame game between various political parties. Medical emergency relief is arranged in quick time. The investigation proceeds without too much hindrance, with fervour, without any favour. Those that are found guilty face punishment strictly as per law of the land. Factors such as higher commands to ‘protect’ anybody on grounds of religion or ensuing election don’t come in the way or are not allowed to come in the way of investigation.

Can we say the same of India?

Why is it we fail again and again to thwart the next bomb blast in a temple, railway station or a crowded market?

Malegaon, IISc Bangalore, local trains in Bombay, the Sankat Vimochan temple in Benares, the Akshar Dham temple in Ahmedabad, the Sarojini Nagar market in Delhi, the Gokul chat centre in Hyderabad, the Mecca masjid in Hyderabad… the grisly showpieces” in our ‘Terror Gallery’ is overflowing.

Jaipur was three months ago. Now, it is the turn of Bangalore.

Even as we write this, it can be safely said that somebody somewhere is planning for the next serial blasts.

So far, we have not caught any terrorist alive so far, convicted any, nor have we sent any one to jail (apart from the 1993 serial blasts in Bombay which took more than 20 years to be cracked). On the other hand, we have the dubious record of having sent an external affairs minister (Jaswant Singh) to accompany terrorists to their safety.

Is there hope at all?

How do we fight terrorism in India?

Aren’t we following a sickening pattern in the way we ‘fight’ terrorism?

Let’s take a look.

1. Intelligence in any form doesn’t seem to exist. It is not present even after an incident has occurred. Otherwise how can we explain so many bombings all over India in markets, temples, buses and moving trains and have no clue at all before and even after the incidents? Members of terror organizations seem to freely move around with their timers, wires, crude bombs, etc, buying cycles along the way, planning their next target taking the help of local goons right under the nose of ‘intelligence’ wings’ of our Police departments. And they have ability to strike at will.

2. We seem to think that if no incident occurs on Independence Day and Republic Day in Red Fort and on Vijay Chowk, democracy is safe and kicking. No effort is spared in converting the one square km in that area filled with ministers, their families, bureaucrats and their families into another fort with a Z-category security blanket thrown in for the entire area. Meanwhile, Pappu and family in Benares, Jain and family in Hyderabad, Shinde, Arthi & Aziz travelling in a Bombay local can all be blown to pieces. Never mind! We seem to think “We, the people” are safe if the CM or Governor are safe.

3. A day after the bomb blast, the Home Minister warns still unknown terrorists, that India ‘will not succumb’ to the evil designs of terrorists. The Prime Minister wonders aloud after more than 20 years of bombing in most major cities whether we should have ‘a federal system’ to tackle this menace. Meanwhile photographs of the place where bombs were planted are shown whole day, with commentators boasting that ‘terrorists cannot stop the people from going about their jobs’ as if they had any alternatives!  Sketches are drawn and redrawn and released with great fanfare. Suspicious people working / living are rounded up and questioned long after the perpetrators have escaped from the very nose of police looking for vital clues.

4. The debates in Parliament end in a farce with both members of government and opposition “trading charges”, accusing each other of playing politics amidst such a ghastly tragedy. Reports pile up on bombings as well as the sympathy statements which suspiciously have the same tone of cyclostyled sheets kept ready to be used as and when a need arises which happens with monotonous regularity.

Meanwhile, experts rush to issue statements to the media that the latest bombing must have been the handiwork of Lashkar-e- Toiba which is pooh-poohed  by another expert who swears on God it is the work of  Harkhat-e-Azhm. A third one feels it could be a “Bangaldeshi outfit” or “Naga Insurgents”. More conjecture, mostly irrelevant , follows.

5. VIPs starting from chairperson of ruling party, heir-apparent, opposition party chief decide to visits the place and gather ‘First hand information’ from victims, their families and  eyewitnesses. Half the police who are supposedly on the ‘hot trail’ of terrorists’ are removed from the duty and ‘redeployed’ for the visit of VIP leaders.

6. Intellectuals are invited in hordes to various TV centres to give their opinion. Intellectuals, real or pseudo, do not condemn the anti-social elements in their community or their brethren across the border even when a militant organization has taken responsibility for bombing the place. The same applies when a Hindu organization or individual is involved. The only difference is across the world the ratio seems to be 1: 1000+ bombings as claimed by Muslim militant organizations themselves.

One can easily make out what’s happening. The government spokesman, with eyes set firmly on the next election, blames the Government in western countries for not having a dialogue with Muslim fundamentalists.

Leading Muslim organizations and personalities in politics, filmdom, press, though in majority, seem to lack the will to form a cohesive force and fight the handful militant organizations that is hell-bent on creating a perpetual divide between both communities.

If these groups come out openly against the negative elements in their community, it could be a starting point for a fight against the terrorism which cripples citizens of every community.

Finally, the media, especially the electronic medium, builds up frothy sound bytes as ‘Breaking News’ and drums up enough clamour whenever a bomb blast occurs, only to lose interest as the next wave of ‘breaking News’ appears.

With a limited span of interest, they do not want to go deep into the topic and nail the government as to what they are doing about the repeated bombings. For whatever reason, they seem to be playing safe. Where is the ‘investigative’ journalism here to unearth future blasts and sound intelligence agencies?

It looks as though terrorism has come to stay in India, mainly because there is only half-hearted attempt to prevent, investigate and punish the perpetrators. There is lack of political will to formulate policies because it will eat into vote banks, to enforce stricter laws.

Perhaps because of these factors even police and other agencies are lax in their approach. There is a sense of betrayal among population that the government cannot even ensure their safety.

Is there no hope for an Indian of any community in a shopping mall or in a local train or a restaurant or a temple or a mosque?

Do we have to live in a perpetual state of fear thinking ‘Mera number kab ayega /gi’?

Civilian security is a joke and the joke is on you

25 July 2008

Thirty-two months after an Indian Institute of Technology professor was killed on the campus of the Indian Institute of Science, “terror” returned to the pensioners’ paradise that no longer is, shortly after lunch this afternoon.

The question is not why Bangalore, but why did it take so bloody long?

Seriously.

Why did it take so long for these smart-assed sons of bitches to set off half a dozen bombs just as we were about to hit the sack for our afternoon siesta in our “sleeper cells”, when they could have done it yesterday, or day before, or last week, or last month?

The rocket scientists dressed as “intelligence sources” and “security experts” are already busy adding one and one and making it eleven: It was a Friday. It happened at 1.30 pm or shortly thereafter. Ergo, you know who was behind them.

Those bearded, fez-wearing, menacing-looking guys who procreate like hell, send their children to madrassas, and receive their cheques from strange places.

Any time now, the State government will blame central intelligence agencies for not alerting them. The Centre, in turn, will blame some unpronounceable outfit whose benefactors are across the border.

By primetime, the Prime Minister (depending on the toll obviously) will make a macho statement something to the effect of “We will not cow down to terror”. The Union home minister, whose very sentence-construction sends terrorists scurrying for cover, will pronounce that “such incidents will not deter the government from pursuing its policy of dealing with terrorists in a resolute manner.”

Tomorrow morning, the Congress which is in the opposition in Karnataka will blame the BJP, which is in power, for being interested in anything but governance. The BJP in turn will blame the Congress for revoking POTA and making this a soft-state. Editor types will stand up and say it is time for “moderates” to speak out.

And just when the TV guys were rubbing their hands in glee that something finally had happened to keep them busy over the next 36 hours, bam, the toll is just two. How do they fill “We, the People” and “Big Fight” and “Weekend Edition” this weekend?

Yes, it sounds all too flippant.

Two people have killed, several more injured, how can we be so joyful and jokey about such a serious “menace” like terrorism that is “eating into the vitals of our system” and taking “innocent lives”?

We would.

If they would.

The truth is security in India is a joke. You know it, the terrorists know it, it’s just that our political and administrative and police masters think that we don’t. So, like Pavlov’s pups, we are supposed to feel concerned about what happened in the “IT capital” this afternoon; we are supposed to slam terrorism “in no uncertain terms”.; we are supposed to light a candle in our hearts and mourn.

For what?

Truth is we have been there, done that, and bought the lousy blood-stained T-shirt several times before: in Hyderabad, in Bombay, in Delhi, in Jaipur, in Coimbatore, and not necessarily in that order. In buses, in trains, in markets, in temples, in auditoriums.

And you don’t need rocket scientists dressed as “intelligence sources” or “security experts” to tell you that it will happen again in Hyderabad, in Bombay, in Delhi, in Jaipur, in Coimbatore, and not necessarily in that order, in buses, in trains, in marekts, in temples, in auditoriums, some time soon.

Hopefully, later if not sooner.

The truth is security in India is a joke. Unfortunately, it is on you.

This piece also appears on rediff.com

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The diabetic, the valve pin, and the little finger

25 July 2008

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: It was a day like any other and I was going through my daily routine of halting at every traffic light as is usual at the morning peak hour.

I had stopped at the traffic lights near the Mysore Railway Station with my eyes intently focussed on the countdown timer waiting eagerly for the red to become green. I noticed him only when he asked me in his very soft and apologetic voice, “Sir, if you don’t mind, can you please drop me off at the Railway Hospital?”

I turned my head to see a stooped, tired looking, elderly man with bright eyes and a prominent and meticulously applied vermillion caste-mark on his wide forehead.

The green light was still a good minute away and that gave me enough time to weigh my reply. A hassle-free and yet honest answer would have been to tell him that I was not headed that way. My destination clearly lay in an altogether different direction. But it seemed like it was going to break into a steady drizzle anytime now and the entire one kilometre stretch from where we were now stationed to the Railway hospital was an uphill road. Therefore, I decided that a slight detour from my intended route would not be too much trouble and opening the offside car door I asked him to get in.

He got into the car slowly and settled down; keeping on his lap the tattered cloth bag that was hitherto slung on his left shoulder. “Thank you very much sir. It is very kind of you. I hope it is not too much trouble for you.”

“No, not at all. Are you a retired Railway employee?” I asked.

“Yes sir, I am a retired Office Superintendent. I re-tired a good seventeen years ago and since I am a diabetic, I go twice a month to the Railway Hospital to collect my Insulin and other tablets. I usually take the city bus from my home to the place from where you picked me up and then I change buses there or ask some kind soul to give me a lift up to the hospital. People usually oblige. Buses on this route are usually overcrowded at this hour and these days an autorickshaw would be prohibitively expensive.”

The slight wheeze in his voice gave me the impression that he was perhaps an asthmatic too and made me relieved and happy that I had taken the trouble to give him a lift.

“Is the treatment at the Railway Hospital good enough for you to go there all the way from your home twice a month?” I asked.

“It is not too bad and besides, we get all the drugs free of cost. You know, these days no specialist will see me for anything less than a hundred rupees at least.”

He was right. That was my consultation fee too.

“Sir, in the good old days doctors used to feel a patient’s pulse before treating him. Now-a-days they only feel his purse. All the nobility that was attached to their profession is now gone, but I do not blame them. This is Kaliyuga and this is how things are destined to be. It has all been predicted long ago in the puranas and worse days are yet to come. We cannot and should not blame anyone for following what is predestined. We are all just helpless pawns in this game of life and death. By the way sir, what do you do?” he asked abruptly.

It was a rather sensitive question for me, especially after he had just told me about his not-so-high opinion about us doctors but I knew it would come up eventually. I pointed at the red-cross sticker on my windshield. That was expectedly an unexpected jolt for him and I could see his discomfort through the corner of my left eye even as I was driving. He immediately turned to me with both hands held up in a Namaste and said “I am extremely sorry sir; I did not mean to hurt you with my rather careless remarks. I sometimes talk too much.”

“Don’t worry, you have only uttered the truth,” I reassured him with a smile. But he still seemed very ill at ease and perhaps to switch to a more comfortable subject for me he asked me about my family and also briefly told me about his. He also told me where he lived and how he had very good and helpful neighbours and when I soon turned into the driveway of the Railway Hospital, he seemed to be greatly relieved.

After I stopped the car and as I was helping him to open the door, he said, “Sir, you have done me a great favour today. May God bless you.”

“I have done very little to help you and it was really no trouble at all,” I said.

“But sir, very often it is the little things in life that matter most. For example, your car is a very expensive thing but can you please tell me which is its most important part?”

That seemed like a not-so-simple question but to get the right answer from him quickly I said, “The brakes.”

“Pardon me sir, but you are wrong. It is something much, much smaller than that. It is the tiny valve pin that holds the air in your tyres and it costs only a rupee each. Without it, this car that costs so many lakhs of rupees would be useless. Your little act of kindness is just as important to a helpless man like me.” This was a revelation indeed and I nodded my head in agreement.

“Good deeds always bring their rewards sooner or later. You see, I was always a very obedient son to my parents. When I was a little boy, my grandmother was very sick and bedridden for a very long time before she died. I was the one in our family who used to bathe and feed her before going to school every day. She used to always bless me and say that one day I would get a secure job, a very caring and affectionate wife and two obedient sons.”

“Every one of her predictions came true. I now have my own small house and my wife and children look after me very well. My sons who hold good jobs offer me money very liberally but I always refuse, saying that I am not able to spend even my monthly pension fully. For having such a caring heart, you too shall be blessed with everything good in your life. Please mark my words and do visit my humble abode sometime with your wife and kids. There is a lot more to tell you and it will be a pleasure to have you as my guest as every guest is just ano- ther God.”

With these words, he got down from the car and with his hands held in a second namaste he said, “As I already told you, I sometimes talk too much but there is one last thing I would like to tell you to illustrate the greatness of small things, before you go.”

One day very long ago, it appears the five fingers of a man’s hand began to quarrel. The thumb claimed that it was the most important as without it the other five fingers were almost useless. The index finger said that it was the most important as it was the pointing finger. The middle finger remarked that it was the most important as it was the longest. The ring finger proudly said that it was the most important as the most expensive gold and diamond rings were always worn on it.

Hearing all this the little finger felt deeply hurt and tearfully complained to God that he had never given it any role and had also made it the smallest. God smiled and said: ‘do not feel bad little one. You may be small in size but when a person folds his hands in prayer and stands before me, you are the one that is always closest to me!’

With these final words of wisdom and comfort, my self-made sage took leave and turned away. I sat mesmerised for a long while, blankly gazing into the distance and pondering over our brief but enlightening interlude before driving away.

Life might have indeed become a rat race for most of us but the good thing about it is that if we take time off to do an occasional good deed it often ends up offering us unexpected nuggets of happiness and comfort.

K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a column in Star of Mysore where this piece originally appeared

Link via Nikhil Moro

How Kannada films can help spread Kannada

24 July 2008

RAVEESH KUMAR writes from Bangalore: Can Kannada cinema be the ambassador for Kannada language? This question has been in my mind for some time now although there have been lots of debates on the issue of the language.

The trigger was how Hindi, as a language, has spread all over India. I am sure all who speak Hindi are not well versed in reading and writing the language. Yet that does not stop anybody from conversing in Hindi in almost any part of India.

What, then, is the magic ingredient that helps India’s largest spoken language to enlarge its footprint?

And can Kannada tap that too?

***

Hindi cinema or Bollywood has played a big role in helping spread Hindi language. Though learning Hindi as a third language in schools in most States has helped its cause to some extent, it is the charisma of Hindi films which makes it easy for any person to learn and speak the language.

That applies partly to movies of other languages, too, like Tamil or Telugu; at least they have a presence in South India outside their home-States, if not across the country. I got introduced to Tamil when I was in Mangalore; it was through the song Chiku buku raile from the movie Gentleman. Kaadalan, Roja, Bombay were next in line to cast their spell.

People readily admit that they learn the language by watching movies. Does that open a window of opportunity for Kannada?

Here are a few questions for Kannada cinema to ponder upon: How often are Kannada films released outside the State, if not outside the country? How many films are screened, say, in Kasaragod district of Kerala, with a sizeable Kannada and Tulu population? How many before they become blockbusters like Yajamaana or Mungaaru Male?

Big cities like Bombay, Poona, Madras too have a good number of Kannadigas as do the border districts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where Kannada is spoken. Why can’t we screen our films there?

In Bangalore, movie halls show languages of six different languages every day. Can’t we screen Kannada movies in places where there is a significant presence of Kannadigas when Tamil and Telugu films travel to places where there is a much smaller presence of Tamilians and Telugus, sometimes not even that?

Marketing would have made sure that it reaches places unheard of in mainstream media. Can we have the same marketing for namma Kannada films too?

***

Prakash Belavadi, the playwright and director of the English movie Stumble, said in a seminar recently that we Kannadigas are a lot more emotional about the script we follow. He said we give importance to lipi (script) rather than nudi (language).

Have you observed that Hindi ad punch lines are always written in English?

Bollywood movies in the late ’90s began the trend of putting everything from film name to ‘The End’ message in English and that is not without reason too, as most of the movie goers could read English, so it was easy to understand.

Can we have a similar thing for Kannada cinema too?

Along with the name in Kannada script can we have it written in English so that non-Kannadigas too able to read the title, in turn learn a few Kannada phrases!

Interestingly we find most times, captions after the film title in all English! Big hoardings in Bangalore now have Kannada written in English sometimes. If only they could be more meaningful it would serve the purpose.

I am making it clear that it is not to replace the beautiful Kannada script but it is a temporary solution to the “don’t know Kannada” problem.

A few days back, I was asked by a non-Kannadiga colleague to translate ‘Ninnindale’ song from the movie, Milana to English. Songs like Beduvanu Varavannu from Jogi and Anisuthido Yaako Indu from Mungaaru Male and most recently Jinke Marina from Nanda loves Nanditha are liked by every Bangalorean no matter whether he is a Kannadiga or not. FM radio plays its part too.

Good things are always appreciated devoid of language barriers. When that is the case, should we take steps to make Kannada more accessible?

Having said all that we have to make more ‘good’ movies and market lesser popular but technically good movies. One Mungaaru Male or one Duniya is not enough to make a huge difference. Firstly filmmakers have to come out of their Bangalore centered approach while making films. Then there should be good marketing to explore new markets and in turn spreading the language of the land.

Also read: How Kannada filmdom is killing Kannada music

When breath is scarce like the sound of whisper

The speech that blew away an entire nation

23 July 2008

The spectre of Barack Obama hangs heavy over young Indian politicians. Can they talk as well? Can they be as spontaneous? Can they inspire as many? Can they strike a chord as well as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee without sounding too smart and supercilious?

Or will they just turn out to be a chip off the old block?

During the two-day special session to discuss the trust motion, only Omar Abdullah among the genuinely young pols held his own. Squeezed for time and drowned by the din, the National Conference president called the left bluff on secularism and the right bluff on communalism, refused to view the Indo-US nuclear deal through the Muslim prism, and voted for the motion.

“I am a Muslim and I am an Indian, and I see no distinction between the two. I don’t know why should I fear the nuclear deal. It is a deal between two countries which, I hope, will become two equals in the future. The enemies of Indian Muslims are not America or deals like these. The enemies are the same as the enemies of all those who are poor — poverty, hunger, lack of development and the absence of a voice….”

Was CNN-IBN right not to air Amar Singh sting?

23 July 2008

Tuesday’s disgraceful scenes in the Lok Sabha—when three BJP MPs heaped currency notes of nearly Rs 1 crore to show that they were being bribed to abstain from the trust vote motion moved by the Manmohan Singh government—has a media angle to it.

The buying and selling of legislators, it turns out, was captured on film by CNN-IBN at the instance of the MPs. But the channel declined to air the “sting” and said it would hand the tapes over to the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee.

The media website Hoot speculates that the channel did not air the story either because its contents did not pass muster with editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai or because Anil Ambani, a shareholder in Network 18 which owns the channel, leaned on bossman Raghav Bahl not to air the footage meant to discredit Amar Singh, a politician close to Ambani.

Media commentator S.R. Ramanujan asks a few questions on The Hoot:

1) Is it the job of a TV channel to provide proof to any Constitutional authority, in this case the Speaker, before it could telecast the news to its viewers?

2) Does this not give handle to critics to allege that the channel was silenced? In fact, in a panel discussion in another channel, this was hinted.

7) Is the reluctance to telecast due to the fact that the concerned MPs preempted the channel by disclosing the “Cash for Votes” operation on the floor of the House violating an understanding?

8) “Publish and be damned” is the idiom mediamen are taught right from the journalism schools. How far is this relevant today?

The sight of the BJP, whose president Bangaru Laxman was stung by Tehelka, demanding that the latest sting be made public, is not without irony.

In an editorial on the issue, The Indian Express joins issue:

“The relationship between sources and reporters is always tricky business and that’s why the need for strong editorial filters. The TV channel made an error of judgment when it claimed, just minutes after the MPs rocked the House, that it had the “tape” of the incident the MPs were allegedly referring to and then argued that it didn’t meet its editorial standards. The channel has the opportunity now — and the responsibility — to take the right call.”

Read the full story here: To sting or not to sting?

Rajdeep Sardesai on why the sting wasn’t aired

Also read: Why the Indian media does not take on Ambanis

Is this man the new media mogul of India?

Why Rajdeep, Barkha must decline the Padma Sri

Cross-posted on sans serif

Eight-and-a-half lessons from trust vote tamasha

23 July 2008

1) Before the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement (not “deal”, as Pranab Mukherjee pointed out) lights up a single 60-watt bulb, it has caused a tectonic change in our politics. There is rancour, there is mistrust, there is suspicion. As the sociologist Dipankar Gupta writes, there has been “a wholesale structural adjustment of our polity.” And the ‘laxman rekha’ of political morality hasn’t been crossed; it has been wiped out.

2) There is nothing very national about “The National Interest”. There aren’t enough Hindutwits or Commutwits (to use Ashok Desai’s delightful portmanteau) who have bought into it yet. And the 275-256 margin suggests that neither will become its sole proprietor any time soon. It requires some really dodgy characters and even more dodgy tactics to keep the flame burning. It’s not a pretty sight but what is after 22 July 2008?

3) The Congress is “tainted” in victory, of course, but make no mistake, so is the BJP in defeat and the Left in defeat. ‘Hamaam mein sab tainted hain.’ Only the naive will believe this hadn’t happened before because the TV cameras weren’t around. The 19-vote margin may make it a “numerical victory” or a “pyrrhic victory” for the opposition, but even a one-vote defeat for the government would have had them proclaiming a total rejection.

4) Of course, Manmohan Singh doesn’t come out smelling of roses, but the next time some lawyer in spokesman’s clothes, whether of the Congress or the BJP, clears his throat in the comforts of an air-conditioned television studio and exudes fragrantly about the media sowing cynicism about politics and politicians, tell him or her to take a long, lonely walk in Effingham.

5) It is impossible to compute human daftness, of course, but it requires mind-numbing daftness, or arrogance in equivalent measure, in the post-Bangaru Laxman era for a politician/fixer to be giving or taking money when the OB vans are parked around the corner of their drawing rooms flashing the latest rates as classified by A.B. Bardhan and Munawar Hasan.

6) The fear of losing the nearest election is the only thing that motivates our netas. There is no higher, no greater, no nobler objective. And that applies to the Left to the Right and every shade of centre. Which is why so little of the two-day debate was about the intricacies of the agreement, and so much of it was about making the most out of now.

7) If this is how our distinguished parliamentarians behave when they know that the whole country is watching them, when such an important issue is up before them, how must they be behaving when they know we are probably gawking at Sai Baba opening his left eye on India TV, or Amitabh Bachchan catching a cold on Aaj Tak?

8) Rahul Gandhi may be the best thing since sliced bread for Congressmen looking for their rozi-roti, but he is no Obama. Heck, he is not even Omar or Owaisi. Talking extempore may make for better viewing than reading from a prepared text as he did the last time round, but Rahul baba‘s public speaking skills suggest that he has a long way to go before he even utters “hame yeh banana hain” like papa Rajiv.

And this half-point:

We are a nation that seems to be living reality as lived on the ‘Truman Show’. If it is not IPL, it is Aarushi. If it is not Aarushi, it is the no-trust vote. If it’s not the trust-vote it is the cash for votes. We want our reality to be played out real time in front of our eyes and we want it now.

So, what do we do from today?

This piece also appears on rediff.com

The reply the PM wasn’t allowed to deliver

22 July 2008

The Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India’s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.

As for Advani’s various charges, I do not wish to waste the time of the House in rebutting them. All I can say is that before leveling charges of incompetence on others, Advani should do some introspection. Can our nation forgive a Home Minister who slept when the terrorists were knocking at the doors of our Parliament? Can our nation forgive a person who single handedly provided the inspiration for the destruction of the Babri Masjid with all the terrible consequences that followed? To atone for his sins, he suddenly decided to visit Pakistan and there he discovered new virtues in Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Alas, his own party and his mentors in the RSS disowned him on this issue. Can our nation approve the conduct of a Home Minister who was sleeping while Gujarat was burning leading to the loss of thousands of innocent lives? Our friends in the Left Front should ponder over the company they are forced to keep because of miscalculations by their General Secretary.

As for my conduct, it is for this august House and the people of India to judge. All I can say is that in all these years that I have been in office, whether as Finance Minister or Prime Minister, I have felt it as a sacred obligation to use the levers of power as a societal trust to be used for transforming our economy and polity, so that we can get rid of poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions of our people. This is a long and arduous journey. But every step taken in this direction can make a difference. And that is what we have sought to do in the last four years. How far we have succeeded is something I leave to the judgement of the people of India.

When I look at the composition of the opportunistic group opposed to us, it is clear to me that the clash today is between two alternative visions of India’s future. The one vision represented by the UPA and our allies seeks to project India as a self confident and united nation moving forward to gain its rightful place in the comity of nations, making full use of the opportunities offered by a globalised world, operating on the frontiers of modern science and technology and using modern science and technology as important instruments of national economic and social development. The opposite vision is of a motley crowd opposed to us who have come together to share the spoils of office to promote their sectional, sectarian and parochial interests. Our Left colleagues should tell us whether L.K. Advani is acceptable to them as a Prime Ministerial candidate. L.K. Advani should enlighten us if he will step aside as Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition in favour of the choice of UNPA. They should take the country into confidence on this important issue.

I have already stated in my opening remarks that the House has been dragged into this debate unnecessarily. I wish our attention had not been diverted from some priority areas of national concern. These priorities are :

(i) Tackling the imported inflation caused by steep increase in oil prices. Our effort is to control inflation without hurting the rate of growth and employment.

(ii) To revitalize agriculture. We have decisively reversed the declining trend of investment and resource flow in agriculture. The Finance Minister has dealt with the measures we have taken in this regard. We have achieved a record foodgrain production of 231 million tones. But we need to redouble our efforts to improve agricultural productivity.

(iii) To improve the effectiveness of our flagship pro poor programmes such as National Rural Employment Programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Nation-wide Mid day meal programme, Bharat Nirman to improve the quality of rural infrastructure of roads, electricity, safe drinking water, sanitation, irrigation, National Rural Health Mission and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. These programmes are yielding solid results. But a great deal more needs to be done to improve the quality of implementation.

(iv) We have initiated a major thrust in expanding higher education. The objective is to expand the gross enrolment ratio in higher education from 11.6 per cent to 15 per cent by the end of the 11th Plan and to 21% by the end of 12th Plan. To meet these goals, we have an ambitious programme which seeks to create 30 new universities, of which 14 will be world class, 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 20 new IIITs, 5 new IISERs, 2 Schools of planning and Architecture, 10 NITs, 373 new degree colleges and 1000 new polytechnics. And these are not just plans. Three new IISERs are already operational and the remaining two will become operational from the 2008-09 academic session. Two SPAs will be starting this year. Six of the new IITs start their classes this year. The establishment of the new universities is at an advanced stage of planning.

(v) A nation wide Skill Development Programme and the enactment of the Right to Education Act,

(vi) Approval by Parliament of the new Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy and enactment of legislation to provide social security benefits to workers in the unorganized sector.

(vii) The new 15 Point Programme for Minorities, the effective implementation of empowerment programmes for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, paying particular emphasis on implementation of Land Rights for the tribals.

(viii) Equally important is the effective implementation of the Right to Information Act to impart utmost transparency to processes of governance. The Administrative Reforms Commission has made valuable suggestions to streamline the functioning of our public administration.

(ix) To deal firmly with terrorist elements, left wing extremism and communal elements that are attempting to undermine the security and stability of the country. We have been and will continue to vigorously pursue investigations in the major terrorist incidents that have taken place. Charge-sheets have been filed in almost all the cases. Our intelligence agencies and security forces are doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances. They need our full support. We will take all possible steps to streamline their functioning and strengthen their effectiveness.

Considerable work has been done in all these areas but debates like the one we are having detract our attention from attending to these essential programmes and remaining items on our agenda. All the same, we will redouble our efforts to attend to these areas of priority concerns.

I say in all sincerity that this session and debate was unnecessary because I have said on several occasions that our nuclear agreement after being endorsed by the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group would be submitted to this august House for expressing its view. All I had asked our Left colleagues was : please allow us to go through the negotiating process and I will come to Parliament before operationalising the nuclear agreement. This simple courtesy which is essential for orderly functioning of any Government worth the name, particularly with regard to the conduct of foreign policy, they were not willing to grant me. They wanted a veto over every single step of negotiations which is not acceptable. They wanted me to behave as their bonded slave. The nuclear agreement may not have been mentioned in the Common Minimum Programme. However, there was an explicit mention of the need to develop closer relations with the USA but without sacrificing our independent foreign policy. The Congress Election Manifesto had explicitly referred to the need for strategic engagement with the USA and other great powers such as Russia.

In 1991, while presenting the Budget for 1991-92, as Finance Minister, I had stated : No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come. I had then suggested to this august House that the emergence of India as a major global power was an idea whose time had come.

Carrying forward the process started by Shri Rajiv Gandhi of preparing India for the 21st century, I outlined a far reaching programme of economic reform whose fruits are now visible to every objective person. Both the Left and the BJP had then opposed the reform. Both had said we had mortgaged the economy to America and that we would bring back the East India Company. Subsequently both these parties have had a hand at running the Government. None of these parties have reversed the direction of economic policy laid down by the Congress Party in 1991. The moral of the story is that political parties should be judged not by what they say while in opposition but by what they do when entrusted with the responsibilities of power.

I am convinced that despite their opportunistic opposition to the nuclear agreement, history will compliment the UPA Government for having taken another giant step forward to lead India to become a major power centre of the evolving global economy. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision of using atomic energy as a major instrument of development will become a living reality.

What is the nuclear agreement about? It is all about widening our development options, promoting energy security in a manner which will not hurt our precious environment and which will not contribute to pollution and global warming.

India needs to grow at the rate of at least ten per cent per annum to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions of our people. A basic requirement for achieving this order of growth is the availability of energy, particularly electricity. We need increasing quantities of electricity to support our agriculture, industry and to give comfort to our householders. The generation of electricity has to grow at an annual rate of 8 to 10 per cent.

Now, hydro-carbons are one source of generating power and for meeting our energy requirements. But our production of hydro-carbons both of oil and gas is far short of our growing requirements. We are heavily dependent on imports. We all know the uncertainty of supplies and of prices of imported hydro-carbons.

We have to diversify our sources of energy supply.

We have large reserves of coal but even these are inadequate to meet all our needs by 2050. But more use of coal will have an adverse impact on pollution and climate. We can develop hydro-power and we must. But many of these projects hurt the environment and displace large number of people. We must develop renewable sources of energy particularly solar energy. But we must also make full use of atomic energy which is a clean environment friendly source of energy. All over the world, there is growing realization of the importance of atomic energy to meet the challenge of energy security and climate change.

India’s atomic scientists and technologists are world class. They have developed nuclear energy capacities despite heavy odds. But there are handicaps which have adversely affected our atomic energy programme. First of all, we have inadequate production of uranium. Second, the quality of our uranium resources is not comparable to those of other producers.Third, after the Pokharan nuclear test of 1974 and 1998 the outside world has imposed embargo on trade with India in nuclear materials, nuclear equipment and nuclear technology. As a result, our nuclear energy programme has suffered. Some twenty years ago, the Atomic Energy Commission had laid down a target of 10000 MW of electricity generation by the end of the twentieth century. Today, in 2008 our capacity is about 4000 MW and due to shortage of uranium many of these plants are operating at much below their capacity.

The nuclear agreement that we wish to negotiate will end India’s nuclear isolation, nuclear apartheid and enable us to take advantage of international trade in nuclear materials, technologies and equipment. It will open up new opportunities for trade in dual use high technologies opening up new pathways to accelerate industrialization of our country. Given the excellent quality of our nuclear scientists and technologists, I have reasons to believe that in a reasonably short period of time, India would emerge as an important exporter of nuclear technologies, and equipment for civilian purposes.

When I say this I am reminded of the visionary leadership of Rajiv Gandhi who was a strong champion of computerization and use of information technologies for nation building. At that time, many people laughed at this idea. Today, information technology and software is a sun-rise industry with an annual turnover soon approaching 50 billion US dollars. I venture to think that our atomic energy industry will play a similar role in the transformation of India’s economy.

The essence of the matter is that the agreements that we negotiate with USA, Russia, France and other nuclear countries will enable us to enter into international trade for civilian use without any interference with our strategic nuclear programme. The strategic programme will continue to be developed at an autonomous pace determined solely by our own security perceptions. We have not and we will not accept any outside interference or monitoring or supervision of our strategic programme. Our strategic autonomy will never be compromised. We are willing to look at possible amendments to our Atomic Energy Act to reinforce our solemn commitment that our strategic autonomy will never be compromised.

I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing. Thus the nuclear agreements will not in any way affect our strategic autonomy. The cooperation that the international community is now willing to extend to us for trade in nuclear materials, technologies and equipment for civilian use will be available to us without signing the NPT or the CTBT.

This I believe is a measure of the respect that the world at large has for India, its people and their capabilities and our prospects to emerge as a major engine of growth for the world economy. I have often said that today there are no international constraints on India’s development. The world marvels at our ability to seek our social and economic salvation in the framework of a functioning democracy committed to the rule of law and respect for fundamental human freedoms. The world wants India to succeed. The obstacles we face are at home, particularly in our processes of domestic governance.

I wish to remind the House that in 1998 when the Pokharan II tests were undertaken, the Group of Eight leading developed countries had passed a harsh resolution condemning India and called upon India to sign the NPT and CTBT. Today, at the Hokkaido meeting of the G-8 held recently in Japan, the Chairman’s summary has welcomed cooperation in civilian nuclear energy between India and the international community. This is a measure of the sea change in the perceptions of the international community our trading with India for civilian nuclear energy purposes that has come about in less than ten years.

Our critics falsely accuse us, that in signing these agreements, we have surrendered the independence of foreign policy and made it subservient to US interests. In this context, I wish to point out that the cooperation in civil nuclear matters that we seek is not confined to the USA. Change in the NSG guidelines would be a passport to trade with 45 members of the Nuclear Supplier Group which includes Russia, France, and many other countries.

We appreciate the fact that the US has taken the lead in promoting cooperation with India for nuclear energy for civilian use. Without US initiative, India’s case for approval by the IAEA or the Nuclear Suppliers Group would not have moved forward.

But this does not mean that there is any explicit or implicit constraint on India to pursue an independent foreign policy determined by our own perceptions of our enlightened national interest. Some people are spreading the rumours that there are some secret or hidden agreements over and above the documents made public. I wish to state categorically that there are no secret or hidden documents other than the 123 agreement, the Separation Plan and the draft of the safeguard agreement with the IAEA. It has also been alleged that the Hyde Act will affect India’s ability to pursue an independent foreign policy. The Hyde Act does exist and it provides the US administration the authorization to enter into civil nuclear cooperation with India without insistence on full scope safeguards and without signing of the NPT. There are some prescriptive clauses but they cannot and they will not be allowed to affect in any way the conduct of our foreign policy. Our commitment is to what has been agreed in the 123 Agreement. There is nothing in this Agreement which will affect our strategic autonomy or our ability to pursue an independent foreign policy. I state categorically that our foreign policy, will at all times be determined by our own assessment of our national interest. This has been true in the past and will be true in future regarding our relations with big powers as well as with our neighbours in West Asia, notably Iran, Iraq, Palestine and the Gulf countries.

We have differed with the USA on their intervention in Iraq. I had explicitly stated at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC in July 2005 that intervention in Iraq was a big mistake. With regard to Iran, our advice has been in favour of moderation and we would like that the issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme which have emerged should be resolved through dialogue and discussions in the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I should also inform the House that our relations with the Arab world are very good. Two years ago, His Majesty, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was the Chief Guest at our Republic Day. More recently, we have played host to the President of Iran, President of Syria, the King of Jordan, the Emir of Qatar and the Emir of Kuwait. With all these countries we have historic civilisational and cultural links which we are keen to further develop to our mutual benefit. Today, we have strategic relationship with all major powers including USA, Russia, France, UK, Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa. We are Forging new partnerships with countries of East Asia, South East Asia and Africa.

CONCLUSION

The Management and governance of the world’s largest, most diverse and most vibrant democracy is the greatest challenge any person can be entrusted with, in this world. It has been my good fortune that I was entrusted with this challenge over four years ago. I thank with all sincerity the Chairperson of the UPA, the leaders of the Constituent Parties of the UPA and every member of my Party for the faith and trust they reposed in me. I once again recall with gratitude the guidance and support I have received from Jyoti Basu and Sardar Harkishen Singh Surjeet.

I have often said that I am a politician by accident. I have held many diverse responsibilities. I have been a teacher, I have been an official of the Government of India, I have been a member of this greatest of Parliaments, but I have never forgotten my life as a young boy in a distant village.

Every day that I have been Prime Minister of India I have tried to remember that the first ten years of my life were spent in a village with no drinking water supply, no electricity, no hospital, no roads and nothing that we today associate with modern living. I had to walk miles to school, I had to study in the dim light of a kerosene oil lamp. This nation gave me the opportunity to ensure that such would not be the life of our children in the foreseeable future.

Sir, my conscience is clear that on every day that I have occupied this high office, I have tried to fulfill the dream of that young boy from that distant village.

The greatness of democracy is that we are all birds of passage! We are here today, gone tomorrow! But in the brief time that the people of India entrust us with this responsibility, it is our duty to be honest and sincere in the discharge of these responsibilities. As it is said in our sacred texts, we are responsible for our actions and we must act without coveting the rewards of such action. Whatever I have done in this high office I have done so with a clear conscience and the best interests of my country and our people at heart. I have no other claims to make.

1991 liberalised economy, 2008 liberalised polity

21 July 2008

Towards draw of stumps on day one, Team Manmohan looks like it might score 271 in 20 hours. Or it might not.

But sometime in the year 2025, seventeen years from now, will we look at 2008 the same way we now look at a year 17 years before this one: 1991. As the year that altered our mindscapes and the landscape of our country.

As the year of Liberalisation 2.0.

With the benefit of hindsight, 1991 now seems like such an important, even essential thing for the country to have gone through. Out of compulsion if not choice, kicking and screaming, we opened our doors to let a blast of change blow through.

As Parliament burns the midnight oil on nuclear physics tonight, ponder this: would “Liberalisation 1.0” have passed muster in 1991 and would we be looking back at it the same way we do now if our MPs had adopted the same “rigorous” methods back then?

The biggest changes back then came within the first 100 days of the minority P.V. Narasimha Rao government taking over. There was no trust vote, therefore no debates like what we are seeing now.

It was a page straight out of “Shock Doctrine”.

There are plenty of honest critics of liberalisation even to this day, and it can be asked if it has really managed to erase the inherent inequity and inequality of our society, but there can be little doubt that 1991 was what Intel’s Andy Grove called the “strategic inflection point”.

Somebody had to do it.

Whether you are pro-nuclear deal or anti-nuclear deal; a Congress, BJP or Left supporter; an America lover or baiter, we are at a similar strategic inflection point.

1991 liberalised the economy; 2008 is poised to liberalise the polity. Behind both is Manmohan Singh. As benchmarks go, “India’s weakest PM since independence” has set a daunting one for all prime ministers in waiting.

Even an aye-vote on Tuesday might not help the Congress to win an election as it did not in 1996. Indeed, in giving Mayawati a pan-Indian image over just one weekend, the nuclear deal may have already taken the Dalits away from the Congress.

Add to that a tieup with Mulayam Singh along with an existing one with Lalu Prasad, and the Congress is staring at a mountain in the Hindi heartland, on top of a dozen or more defeats in State polls across the country.

But in achieving a perceptional shift in the minds of the middle-classes, in exorcising the ghost of the United States bang in the middle of our drawing rooms, Liberalisation 2.0 is as significant as Liberalisation 1.0.

It’s the sequel to beat all sequels.

True, the defections, the wheeling-dealing, the horse-trading, the favour-dispensing—and the sight of thugs, criminals, the sick and the dying being hauled in—make a joke of the “national interest”. But that applies as much to those pushing the deal as those opposing it.

Only Shibhu Soren’s support to a minority government, it seems, is the common strand between the two rounds of liberalisation. How odd can that be—and how very revealing of the maturity of our democracy, or the lack of it.

Maybe, it is too early to sing hosannas in praise of the liberalization of our politics. Maybe. But make no mistake. Tomorrow when the red and green buttons are pressed, Manmohan Singh’s vision is on test, sure, but it’s a bigger test for Prakash Karat & Co.

Liberalisation 2.0 doesn’t answer the grave questions about the independence of India’s foreign policy, about the subservience to the United States, about the deliverance of promises and so on, but in that respect it is no different from Liberalisation 1.0. It’s not the finished article.

It is possible that the impact of Liberalisation 2.0 will never be as personal and direct as Liberalisation 1.0. Against malls, mobiles and materialism, protons, neutrons and electrons don’t stand a chance.

Still, in 2025, the textbooks, unless they have been reworked, will have the same bold fonts for 1991 and 2008.

This piece also appears on rediff.com

Lok Sabha TV: Programme highlights for July 22

21 July 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN scoops the programming highlights of the Lok Sabha channel for Tuesday, 22 July 2008:

***

Highlights for 22 July 2008

0000 Movie: Dealwale dulhaniya le jayange (continued)

0130 Midnight Masala (parental guidance advised)

0330 Batwara: Independents (special appearance: RLD, JMM, JDS) 
0400 Gupth Samaveshan: videoconference with MPs in jail 
0430 Blood money: Meeting with fixers

0530 SuprabhatHum ko shakti de bhagwan (Congress)
          Low power transmitters to delink and play Loh Purush ( in BJP states)
          Better red than dead (in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura)

0600 Live coverage of leaders’ visit to  Swami Malai Mandir, Birla temple, Gurudwara, Jama Masjid

0700 Classroom: What is this nuclear Deal? ‘123’ classes to MPs by Anil Kakodkar

0730 What the czars foretell: live from Dalal Street

Behind the Scenes
0800  Deve Gowda with Mayawati
0810  Deve Gowda with Amar Singh

0820  Trailer: Deal tho pagal hain

0830 Business breakfast

0930 Amne Samne: Manmohan Singh with L.K. Advani
1000 Hum aap ke hain kahan?: Advani with Atal Behari Vajpayee 

1100 Live telecast of vote of confidence moved by honourable prime minister (In the chair: honourable speaker)

1300 Aap ka swasth: Medical checkup for all MPs

1400 Lunch: courtesy Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group

1500 Audio-visual: ‘How to vote & cross vote in Lok Sabha’

1530 Lecture-demonstration: How to abstain

1600 Topsy Turvy: How to cope with last-minute changes in agreements

1700 Closing Bell: Live from parliament

1800 Uranium 360: A 235-degree take on the day that was

2000 Cocktail-dinner: courtesy Mukesh Ambani

2100 Movie: Pati, patni aur woh

2200 Yeh kya hua, kaise hua?: Fixers from various parties

National interest is a very dodgy business indeed

21 July 2008

M.J. Akbar in Khaleej Times:

Dr Manmohan Singh can now be held responsible for both economic and political inflation, a rare achievement….

“There is already an SMS doing the rounds which does not make pleasant reading for those in power: “Wanted: convicts, murderers, mafia, jailbirds, criminals 2 vote 4 Trust Vote. Parties need u if u r any of the above. U will get CM’s post, Ministership, airport named after ur father etc. Good citizens need not apply….

“Dr Manmohan Singh began with a majority of nearly a hundred. In four years, by becoming a one-point Bush-entranced Prime Minister, he has reduced that majority to a variable that could easily slip into a minority. We will soon see who wins the numbers game. What we do know already is that the government has lost its credibility”

Read the full column: Inflation hits Delhi politics


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