Archive for May, 2010

CHURUMURI POLL: Target Sri Sri Ravi Shankar?

31 May 2010

The future Nobel laureate of India, Sri Sri Ravishankar (SSRS) of the Art of Living, is in the news.

According to a PTI report, the 54-year-old spiritual guru escaped unhurt when an unidentified gunman shot at his car shortly after he left his evening discourse on Sunday. According to the Economic Times, a man fired a shot at the car in which he was travelling. According to The Hindu, the target was SSRS himself, but the bullet fired from a .22 revolver missed him and hit somebody standing near him.

DNA calls it an assassination attempt. The New Indian Express reports that SSRS said the gunman could not fire a second shot because of the “positve energy” in the ashram. IANS says the incident was not a result of any enemity between devotees; CNN-IBN says it was not an “inside job“. SSRS himself says he has forgiven the attacker and appealed for peace. ANI quotes him as saying he fears a threat to his life and the Karnataka government has scaled up his security after BJP president Nitin Gadkari stepped in.

But did SSRS really have a narrow escape? The DGP Ajai Kumar Singh says it was not an attack on him, it was just an “incident”. The bullet was fired from more than 700 feet. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The incident appears to have taken place five minutes after Mr Shankar left the place where it happened.” Home minister P. Chidambaram says “it may not be correct, I underline, may not be correct to say the firing was aiming at him.”

Questions: Was there an attempt on SSRS’ life or not? What could be the reason for such a dastardly attack on a man of god? Is this all a publicity stunt to cover up something else?

Also read: The the great great Sri Sri NGO NGO scam scam

Who’s running the Feudal Republic of India? ANC.

30 May 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I met the Ace Political Expert (APE) at Cheluvamba Park doing his yogic walk. After a couple of rounds, he sat on the stone beach.

He beckoned me to sit and I asked him the question that was bothering me since the prime minister’s national press conference last week: “Who exactly is running our country?”

After taking a long breath, APE said: “There is a coalition government but there is collision at each and every step.”

It was a bad pun, but I let it be.

“Could you be more specific? Is Manmohan Singh running the country?”

“It is illusory to feel Manmohan Singh is running the country. He is running away from running the country, by visiting various countries. In effect, he is on the run most of the times.”

“He is not going anywhere. He himself said so during his press conference,” I interrupted.

“He meant Rahul Gandhi may have to wait a little longer to take his place as per the norms of the feudal democractic republic of India.”

“If Manmohan is not running the country, what about Sonia?”

“Well, Sonia is running the country and she is not! Let me explain. She wants the home minister to have a dialogue with Maoists. But Chidambaram is confused whether he should start a dialogue or act like Vedanta’s lawyer and box the Maoists for the bauxite. So he is doing nothing. Worse, he is doing a daily Q&A session with Barkha Dutt on 26 /11 forgetting there is an external affairs minister to do that job in S.M. Krishna.”

“This is all so confusing.”

“S.M. Krishna was busy monitoring and mentoring Shashi Tharoor who is anyway beyond mentoring and monitoring. That’s how he landed in a sweaty soup during IPL.”

APE continued: “Sonia wants the prices of tur dal and loki to be controlled but Sharad Pawar has apparently better things to do. He is busy getting new suits stitched for the post of ICC chief. So Sonia is not running the country either.”

“Sometimes it looks it is the opposition that is running the country.”

“That’s how it seemed to me too looking at the way Arun Jaitley supported the government to take tough action against Naxals and Maoists. I thought he was guiding Chidambaram. But Digvijay Singh’s bashing up of Chidambaram indicates neither UPA nor Congress is running the country. The much tom-tomed opposition unity on cut-motion fell flat on its face. So the opposition are not running the country either.”

I was getting desperate.

“The electronic media is all the time hysterical with their ‘Breaking News’ song-and-dance act. Are they running the country?”

“Sometimes I feel the troika of Prannoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami are running the country. But their agenda is mostly restricted to the Ruchika case, Aarushi murder case, etc, followed by a lengthy acrimonious debate. If they don’t have any agenda, they bring in Lalit Modi’s IPL3 which always has something to offer—-cricket, Bollywood starlets, midnight parties, millions of dollars, match fixing , N. Srinivasan’s homa before the finals etc.”

“Could the armed forces be running the country,” I wonder.

“It looked like that when we won the Kargil war. But the fudging of records of Kargil war, painting heroes as villains and villains as heroes, and the periodic selling of our defense secrets like in the Navy warm room look belies such thoughts.”

“What about the ministers,” I asked.

“Mostly they are busy with their scams or tantrums. DMK’s A. Raja, the telecom minister is known more for his 2G scam. Instead of being a rail mantri, Mamata Banerjee is in Kolkata trying to overthrow the Leftists there, be it in the state, municipal, or panchayet  elections, or even a local football match. I don’t think ministers are running the country either.”

I was getting exasperated.

“If Dr Singh is running away from the country’s problems, Sonia has no idea, ministers are not running the country, who is in charge or are we on auto-pilot?”

“ANC,” said APE.

“You mean African National Congress?”

“No. The ANC here  is Anarchy, Nepotism and Corruption!” said the APE.

“Are they running the country?” I asked.

“They are ruining the country!” concluded the APE.

Rahul Gandhi’s ascension: A foregone conclusion?

29 May 2010

It is rare for two columnists of diverse political leanings to begin their column on the same day in two different newspapers with the same words:  “On June 19, Rahul Gandhi will turn 40. That was the age his father became prime minister.”  But that’s how Minhaz Merchant begins his piece in The Times of India today, and that’s how Bharat Bhushan begins his piece in Mail Today.

Both articles are occasioned by prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s comments at his national press conference to The Rahul Gandhi question: when will you take him into the cabinet and, sotto voce, when will he replace you? The 2009 UPA victory and the Congress general secretary’s presumed role in it, plus the assumption that Singh has only been warming the chair for the scion of the family are a given.

So, which model will Rahul Gandhi follow as he enters the fifth decade of his life?

Writes Minhaz Merchant, author of a biography on Rajiv Gandhi:

“An intelligent and sensitive man whose common touch makes him a formidable political opponent, Rahul Gandhi concedes he owes his position to his birth. He is not proud of a system that allows such feudal anomalies and wants to bring internal democracy to the Youth Congress with transparent elections so that young men and women of merit can enter politics without the shoehorn of a surname.

“Rahul is silent about applying the same high standard to the top echelons of the party, including the post of president which his mother Sonia Gandhi has held for 12 consecutive years—a record in the Congress’s 125-year history…. If Rahul has his father’s sense of noblesse oblige-and he probably does-this is a situation that should make him feel uncomfortable. Does he have the political will to do something about it? At the moment, perhaps not.”

Bharat Bhushan, on the other hand, says Sonia will bring him to the forefront “only when he is sure of success because failure will unacceptable”. And three tests present themselves in the run-up to 2014.

“The first such opportunity may come with the elections in Uttar Pradesh in the first quarter of 2012. That is also the year when the presidential election is due in the month of June. Now, it has never happened in India that a serving prime minister has been kicked upstairs to Rashtrapati Bhavan. However, conditions can be such at that time that this might become conceivable.

“A mid-course change could also come about in the summer of 2012 as Congressmen are looking for change by that time — two years away from the next general election seems to be a reasonable time to put a new leader in place to create a buzz and see them through the polls at a time when they would be faced with 10- years of anti- incumbency. By that time Manmohan Singh would be past 79, pushing 80 and may opt for a smooth exit.

“The third possibility is that Manmohan Singh lasts his full second term. At the ripe old age of 81, he decides to hang his boots and appeals to the people to give a chance to the next generation. Manmohan Singh’s sagacity combined with the charisma and vitality of Rahul Gandhi would make for attractive electoral branding — especially because by that time, it is unlikely that the BJP would undergo any major revival.”

But what if Rahul Gandhi, too, hears the “inner voice” like his mother did in 2004?

Photograph: courtesy India Daily

Read the full articles: A role for Rahul Gandhi?

When will Rahul Gandhi come of age?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Sonia, smarter than Indira?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi

The only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

‘Media’s Congress bias is ominous for Indian democracy’

CHURUMURI POLL: Are Maoists “terrorists”?

28 May 2010

In theory, the motivation for the upsurge in Maoism in the second term of the UPA is said to be the hand over of vast tracts of tribal land to industrial and mining groups. In theory, the Maoists are said to be battling on behalf of the voiceless tribals who have suffered due to decades of neglect.

In theory, the Maoists are said to be smart, bright chaps who have sacrificed the good life to fight on behalf of tribals who are raped, kidnapped, and killed, and whose resources exploited, pillaged and robbed etc, without justice from the systems and processes that independent India has put in place.

In theory, from Arundhati Roy to Sonia Gandhi, and Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar in between, tackling the naxals is all about addressing the “root cause”. Which means, building schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, facilities that the rest of the country, or at least vast chunks of it, enjoys.

In practise, though, are the Naxals merely rebels without a cause? Is the plight of the tribals merely a figleaf for those who do not believe in the Constitution of India? In killing civilians, in Dantewada (Chhatisgarh) ten days ago and in West Midnapore (Bengal) today, have the Naxals exposed themselves as brutal, cold-blooded killers hiding using ideology for their own (or their masters’) selfish ends?

Are they “misguided ideologues”, or just plain terrorists who are now blinded by their recent “successes” that they cannot even spot their “class enemies”? Are the Maoists brutalising the masses in much the same way they accuse the State of doing? Are the Maoists any different from Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, LTTE or any terror outfit you can name?

Also read: ‘Either you are with us or you are with them?’

One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the State beat Naxals?

An open letter to home minister P. Chidambaram

Arundhati Roy: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress’

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Reddy brothers quit?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Mittal Steel get the land?

Is Manmohan Singh becoming a “Rollback PM”?

27 May 2010

Yashwant Sinha, finance minister in the former BJP-led NDA regime, had a well-earned reputation as “Rollback FM”.

Given the speed with which key policy decisions taken in haste are being “revisited” by the current Congres-led UPA regime—the creation of Telengana, the 33% women’s reservation bill, the insertion of a caste column in the census—is Manmohan Singh running the risk of earning the epithet of “Rollback PM”?

Cartoon: courtesy Prasad Radhakrishnan/ Mail Today

Also read: Anybody Dalit in the media and speaks English?

CHURUMURI POLL: Caste in the census or not?

Do it yourself: How to kill a City in 53 easy steps

26 May 2010

Future historians looking for solid, incontrovertible evidence on how a mentally challenged civilisation which couldn’t think beyond its arse, nose or purse, killed a fine City, need look no further than IT Halli,  Bengaloor.

On Wednesday, the sadomasochists began chopping the legs of the capital of the “knowledge hub of Asia” to construct an underpass at Tagore Circle in Basavangudi. Those who missed the macabre sight, can breathe easy: 52 more will such murders will take place in broad daylight in the next few days. Book your seat.

As the writer Paul Theroux, returning to the City he had passed through 35 years earlier, wrote in 2008:

“The proud, tidy, tree-shaded town of the recent past was now a huge, unfinished and deforested City sagging under its dubious improvements, where it was impossible to walk without falling into an open manhole or newly dug ditch. Most of the sidewalks had been torn up and the trees cut down in the interest of street-widening. The bypass roads and flyovers were all under construction, wearing a crumbled and abandoned look, and the skinny men working on them, poking the clods of earth with small shovels, suggested they’d never be completed.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: “A city whose soul has been clinically removed”

CHURUMURI POLL: Who killed Bangalore?

Paul Theroux: Bangalore’s idiots who speak an idiolect at home

‘If IT takes away Bangalore’s values, burn IT’

When only a low angle can convey its giant girth

When the reservation chart had a sack order

26 May 2010

Almost everybody seems to have an opinion, and not a good one at that, at prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s recent performance at his press conference in New Delhi, forgetting that governance is not about performance. And forgetting that not everything need be to the byte-sized expectations of television anchors.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, has a story on Singh’s precedessors who had a face for radio. Id est, they were just not media-savvy. Leading the list, Morarji Desai. But the father of the defamation bill, Rajiv Gandhi, who announced his foreign secretary’s replacement in a media powwow, and the mother of emergency, Indira Gandhi, were no better.

One of Indira Gandhi’s big boo-boos, according to H.D. Deve Gowda‘s media advisor H.K. Dua, involves Kengal Hanumanthaiah, the political architect of  the Vidhana Soudha.

“Unlike her son, Indira would never announce anything substantive at her media interactions, Dua said.

“He described how then railway minister K. Hanumanthaiah had sacked the railway board chairman, a certain Ganguly. The chairman refused to accept the sack order and set out for Delhi’s Sarai Rohilla station for his pre-scheduled trip to Jaipur.

“The minister had the sack order pasted on the coach Ganguly was to travel in. Ganguly did not budge and even held media conferences in the coach.

“At her news conference a few days later, Indira was asked about the situation. “She chose not to bite the bait but Hanumanthaiah was out in the next ministerial shuffle,” Dua said.

Read the full story: Manmohan waltzes where many slipped

Also read: All rise, the house is now called, and in session

CHURUMURI POLL: Caste in the census, or not?

26 May 2010

The Union cabinet meets this evening to decide on including a column on “caste” in the 2011 censu, a move seen as a tacit quid pro quo for the support of the the OBC leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav for their support in getting the cut motion passed in Parliament.

On the one hand, the Cabinet is said to have been divided on the caste issue when it was first raised following the announcement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the floor or Parliament.  On the other hand, the main opposition party, the BJP, which seemed to be in favour of the decision intially, is having second thoughts, too.

With sage voices within the RSS expressing themselves against any move to classify people on caste lines which will deal a blow to social harmony and, don’t laugh, “nullify all efforts of RSS and social organisations to bring about social harmoney”, the battle lines are drawn.

Question: Should the caste census go ahead or not?

Also read: Anybody Dalit in the media and speaks English?

Even Thomas Crown* has to doff his bowler hat

25 May 2010

Any fool can steal some money, and many do. But it takes sizeable cojones to steal the machine that dishes out the dough. Which is what a bunch of desperadoes did at an HDFC automated teller machine (ATM) in Anekal near Bangalore on Monday. According to the security guard on duty, 15 people arrived in two vehicles to lift the machine.

Nice strike, but who do they call when the machine run out of money?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

*The Thomas Crown Affair

External reading: A condolence message for the ATM founder

One question I’m dying to ask Manmohan Singh

24 May 2010

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the ladies and gentlemen of the Indian media for the second time in six years on the completion of the first year of his second term today—and parroted the usual cliches about corruption, Naxalism, “trust-deficit“, inflation, 2G, Rahul G and Sonia G.

The only time Singh paused to ponder in his monotonous 75-minute powwow was when he was asked whose advice he valued more: his wife Gursharan Kaur or Sonia Gandhi.  Otherwise, the whole thing went as his media meisters would have hoped, with longhops being deflected to fineleg.

What is the one question you would have asked Manmohan Singh?

Keep your queries sharp and pointed. And, as per Press Information Bureau norms, “no supplementaries please”.

Why Manmohan should talk to the media more

24 May 2010

B.V. RAO writes from New Delhi: On Monday, May 24, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address a press conference in New Delhi to unveil the report card of his government’s performance in its first year.

The press conference is going to be unlike any other before it.

It will not be limited to Delhi journalists. Reporters from Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Lucknow will be present by video to pose questions to the prime minister. Maybe a few questions will be taken from foreign capitals too.

According to Harish Khare, the information adviser to PM, about 250 news channels and 1,500 print journalists will cram Vigyan Bhawan, the venue.

Admittedly, to use a common television phrase, it doesn’t get bigger than this. This is quite the manna from heaven for any journalist, so why is it that you sense a lack of admiration or gratefulness in our mood?

Because this will be the first time in three long years and only the second in his six longer years in office that the prime minister will have deigned to subject himself to open scrutiny by the media. His interviews to Indian media have been few and far between while he has been generous with foreign media.

So we have effectively had a prime minister who is not only thought to be a puppet but a puppet on mute.

For a government that boasts of ushering in the Right to Information era in this country, that’s a dismal record.

World over heads of government have well established and structured interactions with their peoples through the media. The president of the United States talks every day to the nation through the White House spokesperson and comes on himself regularly to face the media.

These interactions only increase, not decrease, when in the midst of a national emergency, controversy or crucial debate.

These leaders talk to the media not to help it fill space but because it is their duty to reach the people on whose behalf they govern. We love to refer to the iron curtain of China, but ask any reporter assigned the PMO beat what opaqueness in administration means. For most part covering the prime minister means waiting out on the road outside his residence or office looking desperately for a byte like a hungry dog looks for a bone.

Of course, prime ministers are busy people and can’t be talking to the press all the time. That is why they have press advisors, mostly senior journalists from the print media. Their job is ordinarily understood as having to facilitate the media’s interaction with the prime minister or establish a routine for giving out information on his/her behalf.

On the contrary, they busy themselves exclusively with planting favourable stories in a media that is hungry for any crumbs from the PMO. The media advisors themselves become the great wall of China between the media and the prime minister. They think nothing of the instant metamorphosis from journalists seeking information to information advisors blocking information.

There are three people who matter most in the country and all three of them hardly speak. They do not allow themselves to be questioned on their beliefs, their core concerns, their crucial decisions, how and why they arrived at those decisions, etc.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are politicians and can at least claim they talk to people directly and don’t need the media as middleman. But the prime minister is duty-bound to tell the nation why, for example, he decided to sack Shashi Tharoor or decided not to sack Jairam Ramesh or why he dare not touch A. Raja or reprimand Mamata Banerjee. Or why in three years his government has not written to the Swiss authorities asking for the details of the billions of billions of slush money stashed away there.

In the absence of first hand information from his office, all reportage of his work and thinking is hearsay. Right to Information does not mean the people of this country come in with their RTI queries only after the event is dead and done with.

A crucial component of right to information is the duty to reveal, duty to be answerable, sometimes even as things are unfolding.

So when on Monday and later you are told that this government has done something out of the ordinary by presenting its report card, don’t be swayed. Accountability is not a once-in-three-years media jamboree. It is being open every day of every year in office.

Sorry prime minister, we cannot be grateful for the crumbs that you throw at us.

Please talk to us more, prime minister.

Talk to us a damned lot more.

B.V. Rao is the editor of Governance Now, where this column originally appeared

Also read: Does Manmohan Singh not trust the Indian media?

If you don’t die in a tragedy, you are a nobody?

23 May 2010

Death—ordinary, unglamourous, “smalltown” death—increasingly catches the English media on the wrong foot. Unlike “26/11″, in which almost as many people were killed in the Mangalore air crash, you do not find the television and print journalists crawling on all fours or falling over each other to get to the spot.

As if death by any cause other than “terror” is no death.

As if death in any city other than Bombay and Delhi is no death.

As if death outside of a five-star hotel or two is no death.

The wisecrack of the day comes from Pritish Nandy, former editor of the now-defunct The Illustrated Weekly of India, as if the media is doing “anonymous people” a favour by giving them airtime on a day like 22 May 2010. Otherwise, they might as well not have existed.

As if, otherwise, the media’s mandate is to merely bring home “people like us”.

Full coverage: BASTARDS WHO HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS

Who says you can’t say what tomorrow holds?

Mangalore air crash: pictures that tell the tale

CHURUMURI POLL: Plane trouble or human error?

The VIP said: ‘Ondu condolence message kottbidi

Harshi wasn’t done becoming Harshi yet, won’t

Also read: Does death not count if it ain’t due to terrorism?

Question: what’s killed 96 people a day for 38 months?

BASTARDS WHO HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS

22 May 2010

The following is the full text of a press release issued by Environment Support Group, a Bangalore-based NGO, on the air crash in Mangalore.

Doubtless, it represents one side of the story, but it lays bare the complicity of governments at the Centre and in the States, the judiciary in Delhi and Bangalore, local politicians, businesses, corporate bodies—and the apathy of the “general  public”—that resulted in 160-plus lives being snuffed out, and hundreds of families being thrown in disarray.

What it also does is shine the light, and an ugly light at that, on the unquestioning thirst for “development” and the resulting cynicism of those who ask questions and are seen as obstacles in the path to progress.

***

MANGALORE AIR CRASH TRAGIC FALLOUT OF CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE OF PLANNING, REGULATORY AUTHORIES

An Air India Express Boeing 737-800 aircraft arriving from Dubai with 167 on board tragically crashed at Mangalore International Airport at 6.30 am today (22 May 2010). It is reported that the plane overshot the runway while landing and fell over a cliff resulting in this disastrous crash. Very few are known to have survived this horrific crash.

This was no accident, but the direct result of deliberate failure of officials at the highest level in the director general of civil aviation (DGCA), airports authority of India (AAI), ministry of civil aviation, and the government of Karnataka for allowing this second runway to be built in criminal negligence of applicable norms and standards.

Such a strong charge is being made as the likelihood of this kind of a crash (the worst case scenario) was predicted.

A series of public interest litigations (PILs) were fought by the undersigned to stop the construction of this second runway in Mangalore airport on grounds that the design simply did not conform to the most basic national and international standards of airport design.

The PILs also highlighted that the airport does not conform with the most minimum safeguards for emergency situations, particularly during landings and takeoffs, and could not have emergency approach roads within a kilometre on all sides of the airport as required.

It is truly sad that because of the failure of key decision makers at the highest levels so many innocent lives have been lost. It is quite possible that many lives were lost as emergency rescue teams could not access the crash site due to the difficult terrain (a valley) for over a hour after the incident, even though it was proximal to the site.

That such a crash has occurred at the Mangalore airport is unpardonable as a similar crash had occurred at this airport over a decade ago. (Fortunately the plane did not tip over into the valley and all passengers, including Union law minister Veerappa Moily, were fortunate to escape.)

Vimana Nildana Vistharana Virodhi Samithi (local communities alliance against airport expansion), Bajpe, and Environment Support Group had repeatedly highlighted the high risk expansion of the Mangalore airport during the late 1990s. The expansion was proposed to enable flight movements of wide bodied aircrafts, such as Airbus A 320.

Authorities were repeatedly informed that the proposal did not at all conform with the standards prescribed for runway design as laid down by the DGCA, national building code of India and ministry of civil aviation.

Further, considering that the airport was proposed for international flights, a case was also made that the second runway could not conform with international civil aviation authority standards due to terrain limitations.

No one in authority cared to listen to our fervent pleas. This, even when we demonstrated through a variety of representations that that the site chosen for expansion at Bajpe was surrounded by deep valleys on three sides of the runway and did not provide for emergency landing areas as required.

This neglect of our legitimate concerns forced us to move the High Court of Karnataka in a PIL in 1997 (Arthur Pereira and others vs the Union of India and others, WP No. 37681/1997). A key concern raised was that the second runway in Mangalore could not meet the standards required in dealing with an emergency, particularly during landings and takeoffs, a time when air crashes are most likely to happen.

AAI filed an affidavit in Court dismissing all our concerns and stated this, amongst other things:

It is submitted that as regards the apprehensions of the petitioner that the length and width of the runway is insufficient for a plane making an emergency landing, the same is without any basis. It is respectfully submitted that all the requirements as per the ICAO recommendation will be met and that there has been no infringement of any of the recommendation and limitation therein.”

On the basis of this affidavit, hon’ble chief justice Y. Bhaskar Rao and the hon’ble justice A. M. Farooq (as their Lordships then were) dismissed this PIL ordering as follows:

It is stated that the fear of the petitioners that the runway is insufficient for any emergency landing of a plane is without any basis since before the project is to proceed, the authorities will be meeting the recommendations of the ICAO. It is also stated that there is no basis for the allegations made by the petitioners to the effect that the various safety measures have not been followed. That on the other hand they will be getting all the relevant materials described by the petitioners which will be followed in letter and spirit without which the airport would not have been conceived in the first place.

Thus it can be seen that the expansion of Bajpe airport project is at the initial stage and the second respondent has in their objections mentioned above unequivocally stated that all the safety measures etc, stated by the petitioners in their writ petition will be followed during the progress of the project and nothing can be said before the lands are handed over to the second respondent.

Considering these facts, we are of the view that the petitioners have rushed to this court before commencement of the project itself and the writ petition is premature. It is not, therefore, necessary to consider the various grounds taken by the petitioners in the writ petition to allege that the respondents have been proceeding with the project in a casual manner.

There is nothing to doubt about the statement made by the second respondent in their objection statement and we are sure that the respondents will be taking all necessary measures under the different enactments etc.., before proceeding with the project in question. The writ petition stands dismissed.

***

Even though alternative sites existed, the authorities proceeded obstinately to expand the airport yielding to pressures from business, real estate and hotel lobbies who benefited immensely from an airport at Bajpe.

Politicians keen to make the expansion a part of their legacy overlooked all concerns raised. Even at the existing Bajpe alternative sites existed to expand the airport, that conformed with most safety norms, but this site was not pursued as it would affect large landholders and influential people. Consequently, nothing whatsoever was done to respond to the concerns we raised about the risks involved in the second runway.

AAI did not even have a proper feasibility study and claimed that such a critical information detail would only be prepared after the land was acquired for the airport. Surely this amounted to putting the cart before the horse, for the study, even if eventually prepared, would have been tailor made to justify the decision to so expand the airport.

Distressed by such a turn of events and the absolute lack of compliance with applicable norms and standards, we appealed to the ICAO to intervene in the matter. The ICAO claimed did not respond and so we returned to the High Court with a fresh PIL in 2002.

In this exhaustively researched PIL many significant concerns were raised and a case was made that the second runway could not conform with ICAO norms for the following reasons:

Minimum area for stop-way: At page 155 of the said (ICAO) report, para 2-1 prescribes standards for providing the minimum area for a stop way and/or a clear way in the event an aircraft undershoots or overruns the runway. For instance, if an aircraft has initiated take off, and a technical flaw requires emergency stop, the standard prescribes the minimum area that should be kept free to enable such a stop.

In the instant case, the runway distance itself is about 2400 metres, and even if the area left is most cautiously utilised, what is left is only about 300 metres on each end of the runway. By the prescribed standard, this is far below the required distance needed for an emergency stop way.

Therefore, the chances of an aircraft that has achieved the decision speed forcing an emergency stop are critically minimised, and the inevitable consequence could be that the plane would come crashing down the hillsides from a height of 80-100 metres on either side of the proposed runway.

(This safety standard of ICAO also applies to air crafts when landing. It is truly sad that today’s tragic air crash could be a consequence of the lack of conformance with this standard.)

The High Court of Karnataka dismissed this PIL initiative by their order dated 27 May 2002 (WP 20905/2002) stating the following:

No doubt, in an appropriate case, this Court can issue directions, if there is gross violation of fundamental rights or if the issue touches the conscience of this Court, but not for personal gain or political gain. The construction of second runway and terminal tower in Mangalore Airport will otherwise be in the interest of public.

Learned counsel has not been able to show how the construction of second runway and terminal tower in Mangalore Airport will be against the public interest. On consideration and in the facts of the given case no direction as prayed for can be issued in this PIL.

The authorities concerned have to complete all formalities as per law before commencement of the project. Accordingly, this Writ petition is dismissed. However, it is made clear that dismissal of this petition will not preclude the concerned Authorities to take all necessary precaution and to complete the formalities as per law before proceeding with the project in question.

In a desperate effort to stop the Mangalore airport from so expanding and needlessly exposing innocent people to unnecessary risk, we went on appeal against the High Court order to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

Dismissing the appeal, the Supreme Court ruled 07 February 2003 in Environment Support Group and others. vs. Union of India and others [SLP(C) 1172 OF 2003] as follows:

We see no reason to interfere with the impugned order. Accordingly, the special leave petition is dismissed. We, however, clarify that in constructing the airport, the Government shall comply with all applicable laws and also with environmental norms.

One hopes with the benefit of hindsight that the DGCA or AAI had complied with this order of the Supreme Court and ensured Mangalore airport was developed in full conformance with applicable laws, standards and norms. In case the current site was not feasible, they could have easily explored alternate sites, as such sites did exist – within Bajpe itself, or even in Padubidri, between Mangalore and Udupi.

Instead, the authorities preferred to view the Supreme Court order as a victory, as did the Karnataka Government and Mangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industry which had systematically campaigned for the expansion.

Without any further hesitation the second runway construction began in 2004 and was commissioned in May 2006. No techno-economic assessment, feasibility study, or even an comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment was ever done for the second runway. Simply put, the runway was built in comprehensive violation of applicable laws, standards and direction of the Supreme Court.

On 8 March 2004, we wrote to Dr. Naseem Zaidi, chairman (additional charge) & joint secretary, AAI, ministry of civil aviation, reminding him of the need to comply with the Supreme Court direction.

In particular we highlighted that:

…such action would jeopardize passenger safety, put local communities to risk, needlessly dislocate people by acquiring land on a location that in no way could comply with the said provisions and thereby contributed to gross wastage of public money and resources.

We did not get any response.

Six years later today we are mourning the unfortunate death of so many people who should have been alive. We are clear that this is no accident, but a direct result of the series of deliberate failures of officials and key decision makers at the highest levels of all authorities connected with the decision to allow the 2nd runway to be constructed and commissioned. Of course all sorts of explanations will be on offer, but none of that can bring lost lives back or cure the tragedy that has wrongly befallen so many families.

India today is frenetically building airports all over, and for all sorts of flaky reasons. Such is the political, bureaucratic and corporate pressure to build and expand airports that anyone questing the rationale is quickly dubbed as a “busybody”, “useless interloper”, “promoted by vested interest” and raising “frivolous” concerns.

To ensure such incidents do not recur, we demand that the Union minister of civil aviation orders an impartial commission of enquiry into the causative factors of this crash, especially investigating the absolute lack of conformance with basic runway design standards and emergency approach measures.

As a small tribute to those who lost their lives in this tragic air crash, ESG offers to assist crash affected families to initiate a damage suits against the Government. We will also initiate criminal negligence proceedings against all authorities connected with the decision to commission the second runway at Mangalore in violation of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

We take these corrective actions in the hope they would serve as a deterrence against the lackadaisical approach to critical decisions by key decision makers.

***

Leo F. Saldanha, coordinator, ESG, phone: 9448377403, leo@esgindia.org
Arthur Pereira, trustee, ESG and spokesperson Vimana Nildhana Vistarana Virodhi Samithi, Bajpe,
Mangalore, phones: 9449208264/9481439921, arthurjpereira@gmail.com

Photographs: Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel, with member of Parliament D.V. Sadananda Gowda at the site of the crash (top); survivors who were thrown out of the aircraft after it split (Karnataka Photo News)

The VIP said: ‘Ondu condolence message kottbidi’

22 May 2010

Death manages to inspire only cliches even among the best amongst us. But it takes a particular genius to be inured to it; to be so unmoved as to only offer a cyclostyled statement.

Below are the condolence messages issued by two weighty Karnataka worthies—Uttarakhand governor Margaret Alva and Union labour minister Mallikarjuna Kharge—in the wake of the Mangalore air crash.

They offer a small insight into the creative juices that lubricate the mind of the average Indian politician; but they also throw a giant spotlight on the value they place on human life also known as voters.

First, Margaret Alva’s statement, issued under the letterhead of the “information wing” of her Raj Bhavan:

Raj Bhavan, Nainital, 22 May 2010: Mrs Margaret Alva, governor of Uttarakhand, has expressed deep shock and grief at the heavy loss of lives in the air crash at Mangalore Airport today morning. She has wished speedy recovery for the survivors who have been injured due to the mishap.

“Mrs Alva expressed her deep sense of sorrow and sympathy for the deceased and their grieving families. ‘May God grant strength to their families to bear the irreparable loss,’ is her prayer.”

Next, Kharge’s statement, issued under the government of India’s ministry of labour:

New Delhi, 22 May May 2010: Mr M. Mallikarjuna Kharge, minister for labour, has expressed deep shock and grief at the heavy loss of lives in the air crash at Mangalore Airport today morning. He has wished speedy recovery for the survivors who have been injured due to the mishap.

“Mr Kharge expressed his deep sense of sorrow and sympathy for the deceased and their grieving families. ‘May God grant strength to their families to bear the irreparable loss,’ is his prayer.”

Who says you can’t say what tomorrow holds?

22 May 2010

Death scribbled an ugly autograph at Bajpe Airport today, but the book of life is really about life.

Tens of hard-working men and women who shackled their seatbelts after dinner last night, with their children in tow, hoping to have breakfast with their near and dear ones, didn’t get to see them although they were waiting just a few minutes away; although they whizzed past where they were waiting.

So, who is to say what tomorrow holds when we don’t know what the next minute does?

***

Tiziano Terzani was an Italian foreign correspondent based in New Delhi for several decades. In 1976, a Chinese fortune teller, whom he had come across by sheer chance in Hong Kong, warned Terzani against flying.

Not in 1976 or 1977, but precisely in the year of the lord, 1993.

Beware! You run a grave risk of dying in 1993. You mustn’t fly that year. Don’t fly, not even once.”

Terzani, a correspondent for the German weekly Der Spiegel, was a un-believer. He admitted he was momentarily taken aback by the fortune-teller’s prediction but not deeply disturbed. But by 1992, he had grown tired of his job and was beginning to question the value of his work.

He saw the 1993 prophesy as a chance to see the world through new eyes.

So, when the fateful year dawned, Terzani submitted to the warning despite the nature of his job. All that year and a month more, he travelled, sometimes with wife Angela Staude in tow, by ship, car, bus and train through 11 countries, including Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Mongolia.

The result was a 13,000 miles of journeys, and a book called A fortune-teller told me.

“The prophecy lent me a sort of a third eye with which I saw things, people and places I would not have otherwise seen. It gave me an unforgettable year.

“It also saved my life.

“On March 20, 1993, a UN helicopter in Cambodia went down, with 15 journalists on board. Among them was the German colleague who had taken my place.”

Terzani passed away in 2004.

Image: courtesy Amazon.com

Read The Guardian obituary: Tiziano Terzani

Also read: Harshi wasn’t done becoming Harshi yet, won’t

Mangalore air crash: pictures that tell the tale

CHURUMURI POLL: Plane trouble or human error?

Harshi wasn’t done becoming Harshi yet; won’t

22 May 2010

The tweet sent by 19-year-old Harshini Poonja before she boarded the Dubai-Mangalore plane last night.

The profile on her blog, last updated yesterday, reads:

I am not done becoming me yet.

Her location on Twitter reads, “Infinite Universe”.

Link courtesy Shamit Manchanda

Mangalore Air Crash: Pictures that tell the tale

22 May 2010

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

CHURUMURI POLL: Plane trouble or human error?

22 May 2010

Aeroplane technology has unquestionably improved by leaps and bounds. “Fly by wire technology” is a phrase that trips off the tongues of airline executives and experts, hacks and flacks. But, globally, there is a sad pattern to air crash investigations: in the end, because there is nobody to defend themselves and because the aircraft companies have well-oiled PR companies with enormous lubrication powers, it is all pegged to “human error”.

So it was in Bangalore in 1991, when an Airbus A-320 fell short of the runaway at the old HAL airport in broad daylight and bumped off the golf course into a blazing ball of fire. And so it will be in Mangalore, where this morning, a Boeing 737-800 either fell short of the runway or overshot the runway, depending on your news source.

For a couple of days, the talking heads will froth at the mouth about safety standards, airport infrastructure, etc, before it is business as usual. Few will talk of the extraordinary role Praful Patel, the civil aviation minister, has played in singularly bringing Air-India, Indian, and Indian Airlines to the ground, as the competition soars.

So, what do you think caused the Mangalore air crash that turned the dreams and hopes and prayers of 160-odd people and their families into a pile of ash in minutes? And will things ever change in India?

Once upon a time, when my doctor was an angel

21 May 2010

No profession in India—not even journalism, perhaps—has plunged into the abyss of disrepute with the speed and determination of medicine. Across the country, doctors, once seen as saviours next only to God, have attained the notoriety reserved for crooks and charlatans.

Hospitals and nursing homes have become big businesses, slot machines in the constantly whirring healthcare “industry”, brazenly throwing every norm to the winds with scarcely any accountability, and rare is an Indian today who hasn’t had a first-hand experience of being ripped off.

The former president of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has  said doctors must possess six virtues—Generosity, Ethics, Tolerance, Perseverance, Concentration and Intelligence. How many virtues does your doctor possess? There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.

And they are mostly in the past tense.

***

By K. JAVEED NAYEEM

Two weeks ago, while on a holiday at a rather remote place, I happened to meet a person who, on discovering that I was a doctor, said that he had been referred by his doctor after a battery of tests to a higher medical centre for establishing a diagnosis.

After listening to the account of his symptoms, I felt that the diagnosis of the problem was very evident and straight forward. Even a para-medical worker who happened to be there with us immediately came to the correct conclusion of what the problem might be.

But since I did not want to interfere with a case that was being treated by another doctor, I asked the patient to go ahead and get himself investigated fully.

While pondering over this matter later, I could not help wondering how much family medicine has changed over the brief span of time between my childhood and adulthood. I also could not help remembering our own family medicine-man who saw us all through our not so infrequent health problems.

He was Mysore Venkatsubbaiah Subba Rao whose name was conveniently abridged to ‘Subrao Dakatru‘ by almost all his patients. He actually came to me as a family legacy from our remote village of Aldur perched rather precariously on one of the crests of the many hills of Western Ghats in Chikmagalur.

It may seem like a rather improbable coincidence that a doctor who started his medical career and looked after my grandmother there, long before I was born, should end it with retirement here in Mysore, looking after me and my siblings till I myself became a doctor.

My grandmother, who admired him as a personification of selfless service, used to tell us how he used to walk barefoot for miles together in the leech-infested slush of the Malnad rainy season with his leather chappals in one hand and an umbrella in the other, closely and faithfully followed by his equally dedicated compounder Rama who used to lug a heavy medical kit and a light tiffen-carrier that used to meet the frugal needs of both servant and master.

It seems the duo used to subsist on a working diet of chappatis and pickle or dry avalakki, the steamed and beaten rice which they used to soften by soaking in water for a few minutes before consumption. The late evenings meant for a little rest before the next day’s grind began would be spent in painstakingly picking away the leeches from their legs and feet and then applying ash and alum to stop the bleeding.

It appears, Dr Subba Rao used to cycle the full 20 kilometres from Aldur, his place of posting, to Chikmagalur, the district headquarters for the weekly malaria review meeting with his boss, the district surgeon.

Although there was a bus facility between the two places, he would not avail it as the infrequent buses then would not permit him to return in time for the evening out-patient session at which his patients would be waiting.

To catch errant field workers, it seems he would tell them that he had a meeting to attend at Chikmagalur and then quietly arrive at their designated places of work to check if they were present there!

After completing nearly half his service in the nooks and crannies of Ghats, he was transferred from Agumbe, the place with the highest rainfall to Chitradurga, the place with the least rain in the then Mysore State. He continued to work there till he was transferred as medical officer to the Mysore Jail from where he retired. That was the time when my father set up a house in Mysore for our education.

As soon as we moved into it, he went looking for his good old family doctor to entrust our health into his safe hands as he would himself be away at the estate in Aldur most of the time.

The frail and elderly Dr.Subba Rao was such a sincere friend to my father that he would never fail to visit our home on his equally elderly Raleigh bicycle at least once a week to enquire about our health and well-being. He never charged us a rupee at any time for his services and would dispel our slight sense of discomfort by telling us that our grandmother had already paid for his services to us in advance with her hospitality in Aldur!

His visits were something we all used to look forward to as he used to tell us fascinating accounts of how life was during the “good old days” of his youth. After I became a medical student, he would love to exchange notes with me about what was being taught in medical colleges now vis-a-vis what had been taught in his time as a medical student and he would surprise me with the amount of clinical knowledge he possessed despite being only an LMP or Licenciate Practitioner.

His medicines were only a few but his practical knowledge was immense and that was his strongest weapon. He was so meticulous that even in the tiny private clinic that he had set up in his house at Saraswathipuram after retirement he would maintain detailed notes about the symptoms of all his patients and the medicines he had prescribed at their last visit.

Investigations were never the forte of medical practice then and all his patients used to seek his services in good faith and absolute trust and would accept his judgment with its limitations.

With old age taking its toll, he faded away from the scene quietly unsung but not without goodwill and gratitude. I still miss him.

Now a doctor is not only likely to be considered outdated if he does not show his knowledge of the latest diagnostic tests available but he will also be hauled up before a consumer court for not using them.

Establishing a precise diagnosis instead of giving immediate relief from pain with common sense has become the need of the hour. This has ushered in the era of “referral medical practice” by virtue of which a patient is shunted from one specialist to another till they all collectively decide that there is nothing seriously wrong!

Doctors have indeed become helpless and so I can only say “God help the poor patient.”

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

Also read: If a doctor can be called a glorified drug-dealer…

Once upon a time, when doctors were like angels

In today’s hospitals, the patient does the rounds

Do Mysore’s doctors have any ethics left?

Writing the Future* on the ‘Joga Bonito’*?

21 May 2010

* Write the future

* Joga Bonito

An open letter to home minister P. Chidambaram

20 May 2010

Dear Shri Chidambaram

This is in response to your repeated taunts in your NDTV interview that “civil society” must respond to the wanton killing by the Naxals. It appears that the interview was tailor-made for getting the consent of the Union Cabinet for more firepower and airpower to combat the Maoists.

The diabolic support of Arun Jaitley, by describing you an “injured martyr”, was designed to achieve his ambition through the support of the mining barons of the BJP-ruled states.

As a member of society, I hope I am being civil in disagreeing with you on your hard line approach against the innocent tribals. I also hope you will not find it too shocking for being accused of being largely responsible for the rise and growth of naxalism, as the following happened on your watch as finance minister.

# Is it not true that naxalism grew exponentially in the last 10 years to become the present menace ? In fact you have yourself identified the time frame of the last 10 years in your interview with NDTV.

# Is it not true that the rise in popularity of naxalism is also coincidental with the rise in iron ore mining profits which increased from around Rs 50 per tonne to over Rs 5,000 per tonne in the last ten years?

# Is it not true that the map of naxalism is also the map of the Indian minerals. These minerals belong to the people of India but have been handed over to mining barons and corporate in a relationship of mutual benefit, more appropriately described as crony capitalism. It is for this reason that Arun Jaitley is your staunchest supporter because the fate of four State governments ruled by the BJP is dependent on the money from the mining mafia.

# Is it not true that during your watch as finance minister for four and a half years, corporates raked in profits of over Rs 2,00,000 crore through legal and illegal mining, mostly in the iron ore sector? How was this profit shared?

# Is it not true that during your entire tenure as FM, the royalty on iron ore was not revised and remained at a ridiculous Rs 7 to Rs 27 per tonne ( depending on the type and grade of iron ore) with the average of around Rs 15 per tonne. This royalty was neither made ad valorem nor was it revised from year 2000 onwards when the international price of iron ore rose to dizzying levels.

# Is it not true that the minerals are owned by the people of the State? Is a meagre 0.5 % royalty on iron ore profits adequate compensation to the owner of the resources? Would you sell your Rs one crore property for Rs 50,000?

Did your fulfill the oath that you took as a Minister to abide by the Constitution, in particular Article 39 (b) and (c) of the constitution which directs the government to use natural resources owned by the people of the country are used to subserve the common good?

Would the Naxal problem have been there if 25% of the mining profit was spent on the poor and the tribal living in the mining area and whose life was uprooted by the greedy corporate/mining mafia with active connivance of the law enforcers and policy makers ?

What prevented the government from nationalising the iron ore mine industry and handing it over to a PSU or the national mineral development corporation (NMDC) whose shares of one rupee were lapped up at a premium of Rs 300 (30000% premium) and using the profit for benefit of the people?

Are you aware that even a resource-rich and affluent country like Australia with a low population base is imposing an additional 40% windfall tax on mining profits?

Can a poor country like India afford to forgo these windfall profits?

Will you reveal as to how many times you have defended the public interest through a public interest litigation (PIL) and how many times you have defended corporate interest during your professional career as a lawyer? The question is relevant because of your empathy for the corporate sector is in apparent conflict with that towards the toiling masses.

Is it wrong for “civil society” to conclude that both as home minister and finance minister you have been protecting corporate profiteers (by first allowing them to loot the mineral wealth belonging to the people and now securing these mines for them) and not protecting the interest of the poor and tribal people who are victims of corporate greed and crony capitalism of the political parties?

You in particular should have known better having been a director of Vedanta Resources!

In your appearance on NDTV you talked about the two-pronged approach and one of them having been weakened. It is the prong of development which has been weakened and is non-existent. The royalty collected is not sufficient to pay for the various types of direct damages done by the mining industry (health, environment, water, roads, rehabilitation etc) let alone the cost of security forces.

Is it not true that the killing of innocent security forces and tribal is the direct result of the policy of securing the mineral wealth for the corporate profiteers and political parties who share the loot?

It was shocking to know that you were more concerned about your CV falling short by a few months of completing five years as finance minister when you met your maker (refer the NDTV interview) than about the blood of the innocents that has been spilled on both sides as a consequence of corporate profiteering.

It is not surprising that all the State governments which get reelected on the money of the mining mafia are interested in using air cover to make mining safe and profitable ever after. You should know better the role of money in elections after having managed to squeak past the post while the DMK MPs romped home with handsome margin. Mr A. Raja retained his portfolio!

What is at stake is the credibility of the State: that it is using force to benefit the mining mafia and that it has a vested interest in the profiteering of the mining mafia which is prospering because of crony capitalism.

To restore its credibility the government should resume all the mines which in any case belong to the people and give a solemn pledge that a minimum of 25% of the mining profits will be used for the benefit of the local people. The solution is not only just but one mandated by the Constitution. It is only after restoring its credibility that the State will have the right to act.

That one hopes, will not be necessary because honest development based on the resources belonging to the people is the best contraceptive against the Maoist ideology. (One is happy to note that according to newspaper report the mining minister has made a similar proposal and not surprisingly facing resistence.)

What happened, Mr Chidambaram, you used to be a nice guy? You resigned over the Fairgrowth affair when you were not even guilty.

Life is not about arguing a brief in court for money. It is about arguing for what is right. You have wrongly accused us of being “neither clever nor being devious “ (refer interview with NDTV), because we are not capable of it. We cannot argue the way you do.

Your arguments in Parliament over the oil for food programme while shielding Reliance from being referred to the Pathak Committee were indeed “brilliant.” Were you being clever or devious in your arguments? ( Refer the book Reliance the Real Natwar written by the undersigned for deciding the issue).

Please do not use “civil society” as an excuse for your omissions and commissions. We have no vested interest except that what belongs to the people should go to the people and that innocents, whether the security forces or the people forced to join the Maoist, should not die for corporate profits.

We are not powerful to tie the State governments with legal cases on police excesses. Those trying to uphold human right violations do so at considerable risk to their life and liberty and deserve our respect and not condemnation as misguided romantics.

On a personal note, Sir, will you resign and argue my PIL before the high court involving Rs 3,00,000 crore of iron ore being gifted by the State to Posco and Arcelor-Mittal (as Nani Palkhivala did to argue the Minerva Mill case) . It will be difficult to lose the case because law, facts and most important you will be on the same side.

If you agree to do so, Sir, I am sure He will give you far more credit than He would for the extra six months that you missed out as Finance Minister!

In case you are interested I will send you a copy of the petition.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

For far too long you have been shifting the blame on “civil society”. We too need answers.

With warm regards

A.K. Agrawal, Bangalore

***

Also read: ‘Either you are with us or you are with them?’

One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the State beat Naxals?

Arundhati Roy: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress’

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Reddy brothers quit?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Mittal Steel get the land?

Why super stars will always remain ahead of us

20 May 2010

Exhibit A: Sachin Tendulkar

Dalbir Singh, who was Sachin’s room-mate when they were 15 years old, is grievously hurt in a 2002 motorcycle accident with a tanker. He suffers multiple brain injuries and is in coma for eight months. His “tormenting wife” allegedly keeps him locked up in a tiny room for a year before he is rescued by police.

Sachin hears of Dalbir’s plight, gets in touch with him and refers him to his orthopaedic, Anant Joshi, for hip surgery. Sachin visits the hospital (in picture), spends time with him, and picks up the bill.

***

Exhibit B: Garry Kasparov, Vladmir Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen

For Vishwanathan Anand‘s chess title defence, Kasparov, who beat him in 1995, and Karmnik, whom he defeated in 2008, “connect, consult and conspire” for the downfall of Veselin Topalov.

Topalov had been using a 112-core computer cluster (Blue Gene/P) working at super speed and spent close to 100, 000 euros to secure it. Anand, on the other hand, had just 4 to 8 core computers but his human cluster comprising of Kasparov (in picture), Kramnik and Carlsen proved that there is nothing to match the human angle. The man responsible for bringing Vishy, Vlady and Garry together was Frederic Friedel of ChessBase.”

Photographs: courtesy Mid-Day (top), and ChessBase

‘Either you are with us, or you are with them’?

19 May 2010

As night follows day, Monday’s naxal attack on a civilian bus killing civilians has predictably led to the usual finger-wagging against rights activists and, in the quote-unquote patois of home minister P. Chidambaram, “civil society”, as if they, and not the Maoists, are the real cause of the continuing bloodshed in Dantewada.

“Condemn the killings,” is the cry of shock jocks firing from the ramparts of TV studios, as if that will somehow change matters either for slain. Harvard-trained Chidambaram, who’s clearly alien to the thought of cross-questioning in a democracy, spares no opportunity to single out jholawalas who do the questioning.

Predictably, in this Bushian “either you are with us or you are with them” realm, there is talk of the latest incident being the “game-changer”, the “tipping point” which will “turn the tide” against the Maoists. With Chidambaram claiming he is hampered by the “limited mandate”, there is talk of the use of “air power”, even while Congress president Sonia Gandhi talks of addressing the “root cause“.

Lost in the tu-tu-main-main is the condemnation of the Naxal attack (here, here, here), something “uncivil society” now expects and demands of civil society, pro forma, pretty much like it expects moderate Muslims to stand up and make themselves heard whenever there is a terror attack by Islamist fundamentalists.

Doubtless, the discerning will notice that having offered it once before, wise Mr Chidambaram is not offering his resignation this time.

***

K. Subrahmanyam in The Indian Express:

“An anecdotal story has it that as soon as the Constituent Assembly passed the resolution on universal adult franchise, a wise senior statesman said since they had made the masses their masters they should start educating them. But one section of our politicians felt and continue to feel that they will be in more effective control if the masses are kept poor and uneducated.

“Maoism is an offshoot of this politics. You find this politics in the opposition to the Right to Education, land acquisition for highways and industrialisation, women’s empowerment, globalisation, and every progressive measure to uplift the population — as they shed crocodile tears for the common man.

“Maoism is a political creed meant to subordinate the masses to an authoritarian and tyrannical regime by a self-nominated coterie, as also happens in some religious extremist dispensations. It has to be fought politically. But one finds the political parties — except one or two, targeted by Maoists — are themselves passive about taking the Maoists on ideologically.

“In fact what is happening is an ideological struggle between those who want to see India as a 21st century knowledge pool in the world, and others who will sacrifice national interests at the altar of their parochial and partisan politics and personal gain.”

Read the full article: Bleeding heart cynics

Photograph: Members of the campaign for justice and peace stage a protest at Gandhi statue in Bangalore on Wednesday against forcible displacement for the Posco steel plant and the resulting police brutality in Orissa  (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

Arundhati Roy: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress’

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the State beat Naxals?

They also serve who hang and dangle and wipe

18 May 2010

In the good old days, “government service” meant everybody in the service of the government, from the boss babu to the head clerk to the peon. But in new fangled industries, in the era of “outsourcing”, some of those traditional constructs disappear as specialistation kicks in.

So, a worker who cleans the glass facade of a building housing information technology offices in Bangalore is a cleaner, not an IT worker?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: They also serve who hang and swerve and swab

How our TV networks are killing the golden goose

17 May 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: One of the popular scraps doing the rounds on Facebook is:

“Thank God, India failed to scrape through to the semifinals of the Twenty20 World Cup! Otherwise Vishwanathan Anand’s 4th World Cup title victory in chess would have been confined to a one-liner between ‘other news’ and the ‘weather report’, courtesy our national networks!”

Even now, India reaching the finals of the Azlan Shah hockey championship in Malaysia has been consigned to a similar fate as TV time is  hogged by reformed match-fixers and one-Test wonders who are pontificating on how Mahendra Singh Dhoni must put Indian cricket ahead of club cricket.

So far, no expert on chess has come on TV to explain how Anand won the crucial final game, what moves he made, etc. But every move and tweet of Lalit Modi is being scrutinized and Virender Sehwag’s mother’s reaction is being studied in anticipation of Sehwag supposedly becoming India’s captain, courtesy our froth-in-the-mouth networks.

With the BCCI reportedly seeking an explanation on a brawl involving the players in a St Lucia pub after India lost the match against Sri Lanka, we can be sure reporters will soon be interviewing Rohit Sharma’s naani in Bombay to find out if Rohit was always a problem child even in his kg classes!

Not to be outdone, a rival channel will dispatch half its staff to get ‘whatever it takes’ about Yuvraj Singh’s diet due to which he has put on some weight. I won’t be surprised if the network also interviews ‘aloo chacha’ from Yuvraj’s favourite chaat shop, with a few words from Gulfi of  ‘Gulfi’s kulfi’ about Yuvraj’s kulfi eating habits.

What have the so-called national networks reduced themselves to?

Do they know:

# At Wimbledon, only a few from England have won the men’s or women’s, singles or doubles, championships for the last 50 years?

# At the French Open in Paris, only a couple of Frenchmen and women have managed to bag the title in more than 50 years?

# That, despite hosting the first three World Cups, England had never ever won a major tournament, and its Twenty20 win on Sunday was a first?

Winning and losing is a part and parcel of a game.

Whining and crying is not when the team loses.

And non-stop yapping and going over the top is not when the team wins!

Had the Indian team won this edition of the Twenty20 World Cup, even God would not have managed to help viewers and cricketers. Money would have flown like IPL funds, and crores would have been spent on cash prizes, awards and rewards such as cars, prime lands and what-have-you.

Dozens of reporters would have been vying with each other to interview Dhoni’s hair-dresser, Raina’s milkman and Gautam Gambhir’s second chacha! There would have been a nonstop yapping on the TV by former test discards on how “Captain Cool/ Courageous” conjured up this victory.

This is being intolerable in victory.

We don’t find BBC reporters running to the bar frequented by Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pietersen to know whether their drinking habits were in any way responsible for England not winning anything worthwhile till Sunday.

If Pietersen were to be playing for India, by now the major networks would have camped at the hospital, interviewed, the doctors and nurses who delivered his baby and shown the  baby’s cries live, all because Pieterson helped England to reach the semifinals and the win the finals!

India did not win the super8 matches because they didn’t play short-pitched balls that came up to the chest. Period.

It’s a simple as that. This is not something new; this weakness has existed in Indian cricket over the last 50 years.

Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid are the only two who have mastered the short pitched balls, especially while playing overseas, and their records speak for themselves.

The BCCI should use the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and train our batsmen how to play short-pitched balls. Unless this is taken care of, Indian cricketers will flounder against bouncers on a lively pitch in any from of cricket. Again and again.

Most of the reporters can’t differentiate between a ‘leg glance’ and a ‘short leg’ but can yap hours at a stretch at ‘extraa yap’ sessions, before and after the match, prying in to lifestyles of cricketers, etc, and splash any teenie-weenie bit of trivia as ‘Breaking News’.

Cricket, hockey or for that matter chess are all games, among others, which deserve ‘equal opportunity’ from the media. By being partial to cricket and sensationalising when India wins or loses, the media is doing singular disservice both to the cricketers as well as to other sportspersons who don’t get any recognition or coverage at all.

The networks should ponder over this and give a more balanced coverage to all sports.


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