Archive for April, 2012

Art is in the eyes of the beholder. Is this art?

30 April 2012

As a thumb rule, state-sponsored “Public Art” in independent India hovers between the ridiculous and the obnoxious, as votebank politics meets diploma-level aesthetics. This cement monstrosity, which will pass off as sculpture in the Bangalore city corporation’s account books, has been installed at Vasanth Nagar circle on Miller Road, as part of BBMP’s “beautification” of traffic signals.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Who the hell wants a Mysore-B’lore bullet train?

30 April 2012

YOGESH DEVARAJ writes: Recently, there have been news reports about plans to introduce a “bullet train” between Mysore and Bangalore.

My question to the honourable industries minister and the State government is: why? Do we really need a bullet train between the State’s premier cities, or for that matter in any part of Karnataka?

As a Mysorean and a train passenger between Mysore and Bangalore for more than 25 years, as one who is aware of this rail segment’s history, understand its needs and track the progress of the infrastructure, my belief is we definitely don’t need the bullet train.

Passengers and commuters have watched with dismay their demands being put on the backburner by the railway ministry and State government for years. To see the talk of a “bullet train” is at once revealing and disappointing.

The conversion of the track (which was laid in 1882) from metre gauge to broad gauge took 14 years to complete but even when that was done, all the State got was a single line. Gauge conversion was budgeted in 1978 and completed in 1992.

C.K. Jaffer Sharief as railway minister takes credit for the gauge conversion but never owned up the failure to get the second lane. It made economical and common sense to lay a double track at the time of conversion than adding a second lane at a later stage.

In the last 20 years, several governments (both at Centre and State) have come and gone but very little progress has taken place in this segment. The doubling of the 140 km line is progressing at a snail’s pace with only 65 km complete (55 km between Bangalore and Channapatna, and 10 km between Mysore and Naganahalli).

There is plenty more to be done: Only a third of the land required for the project has been acquired. The single line bridge in Srirangapatna over the Cauvery river needs to be demolished and replaced with two new bridges. Tipu Sultan‘s armoury needs to shifted. Etcetera.

On top of all this, there are several demands crying for intervention. Like electrifying the track; like setting up additional ticket counters (right now buying tickets in both stations is a nightmare); like establishing a railway medical college (was proposed in 2009 Rail Budget but so far no progress, not even foundation stone laid).

Instead of addressing all these important and urgent issues, which impact thousands of passengers and commuters every day, the State government is talking of a “bullet train”, which will only serve a limited few because of the high cost involved.

The State government should push the railway ministry (we have one of our own K.H. Muniyappa as minister of state) to get the pending works completed instead of embarking on something which we don’t need and can’t afford. At least not at this stage.

Ajji: ‘The only thing to fear in life is fear itself’

27 April 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was reading Praja Vani, once owned by Netkalappa, which was a favourite of Bangaloreans along with P.R. Ramiah’s Tayi Nadu, a long time ago.

She was unusually silent. Normally Ajji slices and dices reputations as well as she does vegetables.

“What happened, Ajji? You are quite different this morning,” I teased her.

I was reading about the renovation of Niranjan Mutt in Mysore where Swami Vivekananda stayed there once.”

“Yes. He stayed there before he went to Chicago to address the World Congress on Spirituality.”

“It seems he said there, ‘Be not afraid of anything. It is fearlessness that brings Heaven even in a moment’.”

“That’s right, Ajji.”

“Our Prime Minister also has advised the boorokrats.”

Ajji, adu bureaucrats not boorokrats. What was the advice?”

Yeno sudugaadu.  He has asked them to be fearless in their work.”

“Isn’t that good advice? What’s wrong with it?”

“If you ask somebody not to eat onions, first you must not eat onions yourself. So goes a proverb in Kannada.”

“What have onions got to do with his advice asking them to be fearless?” I demanded.

Alvo! He himself chickens out on every occasion. He refused to confront A. Raja on 2G spectrum; also Kanimozhi. Didn’t want to sack Suresh Kalmadi on CWG. Wasn’t that lack of guts?”

“You have a point there, Ajji. But he attributed his lack of fearlessness partly to coalition compulsions.”

Ajji took no notice of my interruption. She had compiled a dossier on the PM’s lack of action like our home minister on Hafeez  Saeed’s involvement in terrorism.

“Then there was S-band scam in the ministry of space which is directly under him. Then there were the file notings of P. Chidambaram in the 2G scam. The Prime Minister kept quiet in public and in parliament. He chose to answer everything in his customary eloquent silence.”

“What you say is true.”

“He didn’t take Kapil Sibal to task when he declared that the amount of loss to the exchequer from 2G scam was zero, instead of Rs 175,000 crores as calculated by CAG. He should have sacked Sibal if he had worked fearlessly.”

“Hmmm….”

Rahul Gandhi failed utterly in the UP elections. Why is he not acting fearlessly and sacking him?”

“Looks like he has deliberately forgotten how to act fearlessly,” I intervened.

“It’s not that he doesn’t know how to act fearlessly. During Narasimha Rao’s days as finance minister he took bold steps to liberalize the economy. The economy boomed because of that. He was only a finance minister then, not a Prime Minister.”

“That’s true.”

“Though he is the Prime Minister now, I think he is taking orders from somebody. That’s why he can’t act fearlessly.”

“Do you think he is taking orders from his wife as all men do?” I  asked.

“I wish it were like that. Then at least outside he would have acted fearlessly!”

“Then who is he taking orders from?” I challenged Ajji.

“I think he is hemmed in both at home and from outside. That is why he is helpless. When he is asking the borokrats to ‘act fearlessly’ he is expressing his own wish. He remembers he acted fearlessly once. He wants to be like that again but realizes he can’t; that is why he is advising the borecrats to act fearlessly,” Ajji surmised.

Palace on Wheels and Chamundi Hills on Rails!

27 April 2012

Is it a bus? Is it a train? Or is it a bus masquerading as a train? And does it run?

Whatever.

Gautamaditya Sridhara forwards a picture of an abandoned “bogey” on the outskirts of Mysore, on the railway line running parallel to NH 212 on the Nanjangud road.

Photograph: courtesy Greeshma Raghunath

Should Sachin Tendulkar accept RS seat offer?

26 April 2012

There is never a dull moment in the circus that is the Indian political league. As if the indecent clamour for a Bharat Ratna to be bestowed upon him wasn’t enough, the word is that the Union home ministry has recommended that Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar be nominated to the upper house of Parliament, the Rajya Sabha.

Coming as it does the very day Sachin and his wife, Anjali Tendulkar, called upon the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, in the company of the other IPL chief, Rajeev Shukla, the move has necessarily led to some tongues wagging.

Like, is a battered government trying to distract attention from the scams and scandals? Like, is the beleagurered Congress trying to shine in the reflected glory of a sterling cricketer? Like is the Mukesh Ambani hold on the Mumai Indian becoming all too clear? Etcetera.

Sachin hasn’t said yes or no, but obviously smoke like this doesn’t emanate without some fire somewhere. Simple question: does Sachin deserve the “offer”? Should he accept it? Will he be useful in the “house of elders” or will he just end up being used by politicians and political parties? And what can the BJP to match this?

Also read: Why Sachin should not get Bharat Ratna now

A true great, but a Mysore University doctorate?

Talibanisation of Kannada cinema and television

26 April 2012

VASANT SHETTY writes from Bangalore: Aamir Khan announced his entry into the small screen with “Satya Meva Jayate” a few days ago. The program was planned to be aired in several Indian languages including Kannada on Star India’s network channels.

In Kannada, Suvarna, the general entertainment channel owned by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, was supposed to air this program from May 6.

Now, this program will be telecasted in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil while Kannada gets dropped from the list, thanks to the ban on dubbing imposed by a few sundry private organisations in the name of protecting Kannada language and culture.

The same associations which ransacked the office of Zee Kannada last year protesting its move to air a voice-dubbed program on Jhansi Rani Laxmibai are at it again. Fortunately, this time Suvarna backed off before the associations took law into their hands.

This brings us to the question: Who are these organisations to ban anything in a constitutional democracy?

In a civilised democratic society, there is no place for bans of any kind even if it is imposed by an elected government. In a democracy, I, as a consumer, have every right to demand all sources of knowledge and entertainment in a language of my choice as long as my demands are within the limits of law.

Like me, there are lakhs of Kannadigas who may want to watch a Disney character speaking in Kannada, or a Discovery, Animal Planet program on Amazon forests being aired in Kannada, or watching Avatar 3D in Kannada. Why am I being denied my rightful access to all these in a language of my choice?

Has Karnataka ceased to be a democratic State any more?

Has it become a banana republic where unelected feudal people rule the roost?

Have you seen something similar in any other cinema industry?

Like any other trade, the trade of cinema runs on supply and demand. Where there is a demand for certain products and services, there will be suppliers willing to supply them for profit.

Plain and simple?

Sadly, it isn’t the case with Kannada cinema and television industry.

It runs on Taliban-like fatwas to TV channels to not air the dubbed content than going by the merits/demerits of demand for dubbed content in the market. It runs by sucking tax payers money in the form of subsidies offered to almost 60% of films made every year than going through the test of markets. And it also runs on blaming government for its failures day in and day out.

The Kannada cinema and television industry has failed to internalise the fact that it is a for-profit industry run by private individuals and not some government-funded public goods with a charitable motive.

The Kannada film industry, though small in size has bigger social impact when it comes to cinema as a linguistic register. Kannada films have a decisive role in keeping the language on the tongues of young Kannadigas.

The undemocratic and unconstitutional ban on dubbing has made sure that in a fast globalising world, Kannadigas are left with very little choice of knowledge and entertainment shows offered in Kannada. Except for the boring soap operas, fighting news channels, and macchu-kocchu movies, I do not have anything in Kannada that tickles my senses.

The Telugu, Tamil and Hindi cinema industries where no such dubbing ban exists, have way bigger market size in both cinema and television sector and are offering clear lessons on the importance of doing away with such undemocratic bans.

The media in Karnataka have a bigger role in building a narrative of how this ban on dubbing is turning out to be detrimental for the future of Kannada by engaging in debates, discussions involving everyone,most importantly the consumer who holds the purse strings deciding the future of everyone involved.

The flying bird always fascinates the young one

25 April 2012

A little girl clambers up her mother’s shoulder to catch a glimpse of Karnataka chief minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, as he arrives at Mudalapur in Koppal district on Wednesday during his visit of drought-hit areas.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Ayyo, Amma, Mama, Maami, tea is national drink?

25 April 2012

B.S.NAGARAJ writes from Bangalore: Planning commission deputy chairman Padma Vibhushan Montek Singh Ahluwalia has declared that tea would be accorded national drink status next year.

Those native to the south of the Vindhyas may ask why tea, and why not coffee?

Or, maybe, a Kashmiri may say why not kehwa?

In a country where dietary and culinary diversity is of continental proportions, is it fair to simply zero in on a particular beverage and link it to nationhood? Especially when India has had its share of bitter disputes over so-called national symbols like language. Hindi’s imposition on non-Hindi speaking states still ruffles feathers among many Indians.

Proponents of tea may say a majority — according to Ahluwalia, 83% — of Indians prefer the brew over everything else. But are numbers sufficient reason to do what Ahluwalia is seeking to do?

By that argument, should we declare roti or tandoori chicken as a national dish?

Ironically, Ahluwalia’s announcement has been welcomed by tea growers in the Niligiris. But will they dare go to Madras’s Mylapore and ask the mamas and maamis to give up their kaapi and take to tea?

Or go to Bangalore’s Basavanagudi with their campaign?

We haven’t heard a response from the Coffee Days and Baristas so far. Wondering if V.G.Siddhartha will use his pop-in-law S.M.Krishna‘s influence to stop Ahluwalia in his tracks.

Also read: If it works for the young man, it sure works for us

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not?)

Who’s to say filter coffee OK, Starbucks yaake?

When coffee-tasting gets a whole new meaning

Look, who’s ordering by-two coffee at Wipro

Hydrogen, oxygen and a world of difference

23 April 2012

As a mini-City gets built in front of (and under) the temporary address of those who shamelessly glug water out of bottles when millions of those who elected them go thirsty, a Metro worker lugs a can to quench the parched tongues of his heroic colleagues toiling away silently.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The complete Namma Metro portfolio

‘Most Hindus and most Muslims are communal’

23 April 2012

Even as his observation that “90% of Indians are fools” flatters the other 10%, Justice Markandey Katju, the retired judge of the Supreme Court turned chairman of the press council of India, offers a ten-point defence in the Indian Express.

Defence #9:

“Most Hindus are communal, and most Muslims are also communal.

“As I have repeatedly pointed out, they were not communal before 1857. Before 1857, Hindus used to celebrate Eid, and Muslims used to celebrate Holi and Diwali. Muslim rulers, like the nawab of Avadh, Tipu Sultan et al used to organise Ram Lila, give grants to Hindu temples, etc.

“It was after suppressing the Mutiny that the British decided that the only way to control India was by divide and rule. Hence a deliberate policy was laid down by the British to generate hatred between Hindus and Muslims.

“All communal riots started after 1857. The English collector would secretly call the local panditji, give him money, and ask him to start speaking against Muslims, and he would also call the local Maulvi secretly and give him money to speak against Hindus. This poison was systematically spread year after year, decade after decade, until it culminated in the Partition of 1947 .

“Even now, there are powerful vested interests promoting communal hatred. The truth is that 99 per cent people of all communities are good, but it will take a lot of time to remove the communal virus from our body politic. Today the situation is that whenever any bomb blasts take place, immediately Muslim individuals or groups are blamed for it.”

Read the full article: Ten ways of being foolish

Also read: Tipu Sultan and the truth about 3,000 Brahmins’

Are 90% of Indians “mentally backward”?

CHURUMURI POLL: Abdul Kalam for President?

20 April 2012

It is a reflection of the current state of Indian politics that even as boring an exercise as the presidential election has all the markings of a heart-stopping show, which, to use the sage words of Ravi Shastri in an IPL season, “can go all the way down to the wire”.

The elections are still two months away, but the battlelines are getting drawn between the UPA and NDA, with more than a few aspiring (and perspiring) partypoopers lining up alongside. Result: Hopes of a “consensus” in the “national interest” are quickly getting “elusive”.

The Congress-led UPA, whose electoral victories are few and far between, obviously wants its candidate (vice-president Hamid Ansari, according to the prevailing wisdom) to get in, especially with general elections due in 2014. Ansari is suave, erudite, secular, has friends on both sides of the political fence, and oozes plenty of presidential air.

The problem is his conduct as chairman of the Rajya Sabha in the Lok Pal debate—when he called of the session without giving time for a vote—which seems to have rubbed the BJP on the wrong side.

Worse, as a “left wing intellectual” Ansari is anathema to the current diva of Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee, who is part of the UPA. She, it appears, is talking with Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajawadi Party and exploring the possibility of propping up former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once again. Mulayam it was who had first suggested Kalam’s name in 2002.

Kalam’s name did the rounds at the end of his first term in 2007, but when the parties couldn’t reach a consensus, he dropped out. “Kalam Iyer” has given no indication that he is interested in a fresh tenure but by floating his name at this juncture, regional parties like Trinamool are giving every indication of a faceoff between a Tamil Muslim and a UP Muslim.

Questions: Will Kalam agree to enter the presidential race again? Should he? Does he stand a chance when the numbers are loaded against the Opposition? Could he end up becoming a pawn in the hands of small parties? Or, should the UPA consider him as the “consensus” candidate this time round given his role in defusing the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests?

Do we really need these super-slick bus stops?

20 April 2012

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: As all of us have noticed, the humble bus stops that we had all over the City have started undergoing some drastic cosmetic changes. This is due to the new policy of the City Corporation in allowing them to become sources of good revenue through paid advertisements.

Until very recent times bus stops were just staid, charmless places, announcing meaning-less bus timings where seemingly bored people stood under a concrete shelter cursing their seemingly endless wait. But now they have become very bright and colourful with translit plastic boards all around, announcing the virtues of the new products or services of the advertising sponsors.

It is a different matter though that I have still not noticed any marked change in the dull expressions on the faces of all those who stand and wait there!

Nevertheless, from the increasing difficulty that I face every passing day in avoiding angry buses while driving around the city, I have naturally surmised that the number of city buses has certainly increased, making waiting for them a little less painful. However, the priorities behind this ‘plastic surgery’ of our bus shelters seem rather lopsided.

Last Tuesday night I happened to see one bus stop in the process of such a make-over (in picture, above).

It was getting a set of exactly thirty-three fluorescent tube lights of 40 watts each.

Now, this translates into 1,280 watts of electricity consumption per hour, which to me seems rather wasteful considering the fact that each bus stop is illuminated for almost five hours every day. Although our government can easily say that the sponsors pay for it very willingly, can we as an energy-strapped nation afford it?

In an environmental sense, electricity does not come cheap to us considering the strain its generation imposes on our already scarce natural resources like coal and oil. Is this kind of progress not totally unmindful of the future?

Year after year, for almost half the year, we regularly go through an energy crisis that cripples our industrial production and puts every housewife and student to much inconvenience with untimely power cuts, especially during exam time. We curse our fate and the summer heat alike, both at home and the office and yet we never learn the simple lessons that life tries to teach us.

I think our government should look a little beyond just its ledger books while giving permission to business enterprises, shops and especially malls, our new found pride, to indulge in the wasteful use of electricity. We can certainly cut our energy use in half if we do this and this can be the best that we can do for our planet and our progeny.

(K. Javeed Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore, where a longer version of this piece appeared)

One rule for ordinary Indians, another for SRK?

19 April 2012

The temporary detention of questioning of the actor Shah Rukh Khan by immigration authorities in the United States has, as is usual, created a small tsunami in the media tea cup. Everybody went into a frenzy and the external affairs minister S.M. Krishna adjusted his wig and demanded an apology.

Shashi Baliga has some searching questions in The Hindu Business Line:

“Why should US Immigration treat Shah Rukh or any other star or celebrity differently from you and me? And why should the MEA demand an apology in this case and not on behalf of thousands of other Indians who are similarly singled out?

“News is that Shah Rukh is seething at the “humiliation”, especially since the others travelling with him — among them industrialist Mukesh Ambani‘s wife Nita Ambani, who was accompanying him to Yale — were cleared without a problem.

“Would it help him to know that thousands of other Indians have undergone a similar experience?

“Actor Irrfan Khan, who is actually more widely recognised in the US because of his many roles in Hollywood movies, has been detained more than once because of his surname. Irrfan has taken it in his stride, Shah Rukh decided to talk about it.

“Because that is Shah Rukh’s I-take-things-head-on style.

“And because superstars don’t take kindly to obstructions in their path.

“Film stars are our new royalty; they are used to sweeping grandly through doors held open for them, protected by their mobile entourage, much like the maharajas of old. They are accustomed to people fawning over them, fighting to offer them gifts, begging for an audience in the manner maharajahs’ subjects used to. Many of their nicknames are telling — King Khan and Badshah of Bollywood for Shah Rukh, Shahenshah for Amitabh Bachchan.

“They live life king-like, if not king-size. Many of us travelling on an Indian passport have been asked to undergo a body scan or an extra search at airports abroad. Problem is, here in apna Bharat, there is so much bowing and scraping before ‘big names’ who get so accustomed to rules being bent or at least disregarded for them that they expect the same everywhere else.”

Read the full article: Mujhe pehachano, mein hoon Don

Finally, some ‘commodification’ we are OK with

18 April 2012

Not some jewellery exhibition, not some garment store, not some IPL match. The Bollywood actress Sameera Reddy lends her image to create awareness about cancer in Bangalore on Wednesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

***

The commodification of women portfolio

RamyaOne more example of commodification of women

RamyaAnother example of commodification of women

Anu PrabhakarAnother example of commodification of examinations

RamyaLike, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

RamyaNow, what will those fools do with these kids?

Aindrita RaySurely all that glitters is more than just gold

Jennifer KotwalThe best ice-candy melts before nice eye-candy

RamyaWhat it takes to smoothen some rough blades of grass

Nicole FariaDenims, diamonds, Miss India and the Mahatma

Priyanka TrivediSee, a brand ambassador always gets good press

RoopashreeObjects in the mirror are closer than they appear

Gul PanagYou are almost tempted to say ‘Intel Inside’

RamyaDon’t ask us what it is, but it sure costs a bomb

Mandira BediIt ain’t so easy to woo an iPhone4 user, sister

Tejaswini Prakash: As if we didn’t have traffic diversions already

Pooja Gandhi: Why Vodafone subscribers experience call drops

Raveena Tandon: From a flower of stones to a stone of flowers

Once, such a man walked this land we now ruin

18 April 2012

Editorial in The Hindu on 17 April 1962, on Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya, who passed away 50 years ago this week:

“Dr Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya is no longer physically with us, but the noble record of his work will long endure and continue to inspire succeeding generations. He was truly of his time and yet far ahead of it, a living synthesis of old-world courtesy and simplicity and the dynamic qualities of a pioneer of planned progress.

“As a professional engineer, he achieved monumental feats of design and construction, like the Krishnaraja Sagara Dam. Mysore has good reason to cherish him for his many services to the State as both engineer and administrator, his six years as the Dewan of the former princely State being marked as much by his genius for organisation as by a passion for service.

“Though industries and education were his major concern (he was the founder of the University of Mysore), rural uplift that is so much in the air to-day was also among his early preoccupations. His book, Reconstructing India which has been greeted as “a thorough and comprehensive statement of India’s requirements” provides a blue print for social reform and uplift of women and the depressed classes, as much as for building a political and economic system from the village upwards.

“The idea of the Mysore Government to make the native village of Dr Visvesvaraya a model village is appropriate, though the centenarian did expect every village in every State in India to be so reconstructed. It is significant that he won his early laurels as an engineer under the Bombay Government, before his home State claimed him.

“The heritage of his example is there for posterity to cherish and emulate. India has much need of more men of his calibre, wisdom, vision and above all his unshakable integrity.”

Also read: Sir MV on India’s 11 basic wants

Sir MV: The 7th most famous Mysorean in the world?

The finest (English) passage on Karnataka?

When the Mysore turban gave way to the roomal

A small lesson from Sir MV for our munde makkalu

When R.K. Narayan went to see a ‘blue’ film

16 April 2012

Khushwant Singh in the Hindustan Times:

“Once while attending a writers conference at Hawaii the only participant I knew was R.K. Narayan. He was a saintly sort of person, not great company for the likes of me. He was a strict vegetarian.

“In the evening he would buy a carton of dahi and go from cafe to cafe looking for plain boiled rice. He insisted I keep him company.

“One evening I tried to shake him off with the excuse that I wanted to see a blue film. ‘I come along with you,’ he announced. So we went to a locality where there were a few cinemas showing blue films.

“After an hour I got bored. So did he. We came out and resumed our search for dahi-chaawal and place where I could also get a meal of fried fish. I have not been able to find out why sexy films are called blue films. Why not red, yellow or green?’

Read the full column: Lost romance of candlelight glow

Is M.G. Road the world’s longest mausoleum?

15 April 2012

Bangalore’s most prominent thoroughfare, Mahatma Gandhi road alias M.G. Road, looks more and more like Bangalore’s longest mausoleum, one iconic establishment after another dropping dead or lying comatose at the feet of fatcat chains and real-estate bandicoots.

Coffee house one day, Plaza the next, Brindavan the third, and now Gangarams, the book store.

Like the drunkard at the crematorium who is numb to the sight of death—and laughs at those who have a tear in the eye—the long line of accumulating casualties barely activates the lachrymal glands of locals who have “moved on” to a new world sans a sense of history.

But rest assured, they will be sitting at Koshy‘s and gassing about Notting Hill or You’ve got mail and tch-tching about how much concern westerners have for these things.

Also read: Oh god, what have they done to my M.G. Road

Saturdays, girlfriends, popcorn and other memories

ARAVIND ADIGA on Mangalore’s circulating libraries

External reading: Manney’s closes down in Poona

‘Praja Vani’ special issue guest-edited by a Dalit

14 April 2012

Many Indian newspapers now invite a “Guest Editor” to create some buzz.

Usually the guest is a boldfaced name: a cricketer (Yuvraj Singh), a godman (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar),  a businessman (N.R. Narayana Murthy), a news maker (Amartya Sen) or a celebrity.

Take a bow, Praja Vani.

On the birth anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the Kannada newspaper from the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald group has brought out a special issue, guest-edited by the Dalit writer and social activist, Devanur Mahadeva.

Eight broadsheet pages of the 16-page main edition—plus seven out of eight pages in two four-page broadsheet supplements—have pieces commissioned by the guest editor.

In all, there are 37 pieces of text, led by an introduction from the paper’s editor, K.N. Shanth Kumar.

Each of the pages carrying the pieces has a common panel that reads “Swatantra, Samanathe, Sodarathe” (freedom, equality, fraternity) and each article carrying the piece has an icon of Ambedkar.

Among the articles, a business page report on India’s first Dalit bank; a metro section story on why Bollywood ignores Ambedkar; and an edit page piece on the need for social police.

Robin Jeffrey, whose lament on the lack of diversity in Indian (read English) newsrooms, prompted the experiment would be pleasantly surprised at the spunk of a leading regional-language newspaper.

Image: courtesy Praja Vani

Also read: 6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for ‘The Family’

Anybody here Dalit and speaks English?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

An image and an icon worth their weight in gold

12 April 2012

On Raj Kumar‘s sixth death anniversary, we republish an outstanding picture of the thespian at a thulabharaa in Dharmasthala. Veerendra Heggade, the dharmadhikari of the temple-town, is at left. This photograph was shot by the Mangalore photographer, Yagna, who bagged the T.S. Satyan memorial award for lifetime achievement, instituted by churumuri.com and Karnataka Photo News.

Belagere vs Bhat spat in television free-for-all

11 April 2012

The front page of 'Kannada Prabha' on Tuesday, in which a Hubli journalist claims to have broken a story long before 'Hi! Bangalore' editor Ravi Belagere, who is claiming credit for it from the makers of the film, 'Bheema Teeradalli'

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: A veritable dogfight has broken out in Bangalore between a 24×7 Kannada news channel owned by the MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, and the owner-editor of a weekly Kannada newspaper.

On the surface, the dispute is over credits for a recently released Kannada film.

But, deep down, the spat has served as a platform for some unabashed shadow-boxing between two leading Kannada journalists that has already seen plenty of bile being spilled on the tabloid editor’s parentage, his sexual exploits and financial dealings, not to mention his journalistic vocabulary and targets.

And everybody from film folk to co-journalists have been happily indulging in a slugfest that has also become a TRP battle between the two leading Kannada news channels.

***

When the Kannada film “Bheema Teeradalli” opened last Friday, Ravi Belagere, the editor of the popular Hi! Bangalore  tabloid popped up on the No.1 Kannada news channel TV9.

He claimed it was he who had unearthed the story of Chandappa Harijan, on whom the film had allegedly been based, but he had neither been consulted by the film makers nor acknowledged in the credits or compensated for it.

All through the TV9 show, the film’s producer, director and actor hemmed and hawwed on where they had suddenly found the inspiration for the film while Belagere, a regular face on Ramoji Rao’s ETV, tore into them.

***

The moment the two-hour TV9 show ended on Saturday, the scene of action shifted to Suvarna News 24×7, Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s news channel whose editor-in-chief is Vishweshwar Bhat and whose friendship with Ravi Belagere has seen better times.

(Belagere used to write a weekly column for Vijaya Karnataka edited by Bhat and Bhat played a guest role in a film produced by Belagere that didn’t quite see the light of day.)

Ravi Belagere (centre), in happier times with Vishweshwar Bhat, at the mahurat of the film 'Mukhya Mantri, I love you', in Bangalore in November 2007

For months, the two Bangalore journalist-friends turned foes had been at each other throats, more in private than in public. It’s been open season since the film row broke.

On one night on Suvarna News, Pratap Simha, the news editor of Kannada Prabha (a Kannada daily owned by Chandrasekhar and edited by Bhat) and who had been the attacked in a cover story in Belagere’s publication earlier, threw a series of challenges to the tabloid editor.

On another night, the publisher of a competing tabloid pulled out love letters allegedly written by Belagere. A telephone caller, who claimed he was a police inspector, called Belagere “loafer” and “420″ on-air.

***

Ravi Belagere again reappeared on TV9 to explain the many photographs and videos he had shot to prove his “intellectual property rights” over the disputed film, but the film’s key men had parked themselves in the Suvarna studios.

In between, Kannada Prabha jumped in to the action.

On page one on Tuesday, it led with the account of another journalist T.K. Malagonda, who claimed he had written about Chandappa Harijan long before Belagere, and that he had provided all the information and photographs to him and that he had not been acknowledged for his effort—the very claim Belagere was making.

On Tuesday night, Suvarna News went one step further. As the two-hour show went on, a crawler ran on TV screens: “If who have been harassed by Ravi Belagere, please dial 080-40977111.”

A long and famous friendship, it seemed, had come to an end in full public view.

At IPL matches, not every placard reads 4 or 6

9 April 2012

Passersby and professional photographers get trigger happy as PeTa (people for the ethical treatment of animals) activist and model Ashley Fruno holds up up a placard to draw the attention of cricket fans near the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The cruel, repressive regime of Colonel Saunders

Leaves so large you could serve a thali on them

What Mian Musharraf can teach our corporators

9 April 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Once upon a time, Karnataka used to be known for the arts, culture, and the no-nonsense administration. Bangalore, in particular, revelled in this image, in part because of the pioneering work under chieftain Kempe Gowda, whose 497th Birthday  is being celebrated this week.

But in circa 2012, the brihat Bangalore mahanagara palike (the greater Bangalore municipal corporation, BBMP) is making news for all the wrong reasons.

In keeping with the spirit of the times where greed and opportunism have made Karnataka more or less the No. 1 corrupt State in the country, BBMP wants free tickets to watch IPL matches at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

BBMP’s deputy mayor has rather shamelessly has demanded 450 tickets, 400 for each for the 198 corporators and his wife/girlfriend,  and a kosuru (a little extra) for some officials of the corporation.

The deputy mayor who came on national television demanded that they should be given free tickets and that they were not beggars to go and ask the Karnataka state cricket association (KSCA) for them.

But anyone who has followed cricket in Karnataka knows that this is a regular ‘custom’. It has been going on for several years now and looks suspiciously like a typical  ‘mamool’ issue.

Why don’t the corporators buy the tickets and watch the match and keep their self-respect intact rather than making fools of themselves on national TV? If there is an iota of self-esteem and honesty left in them, they wouldn’t grovel for better seats and then threaten KSCA with regard to some unpaid taxes etc if denied.

Chinnaswamy stadium belongs to the people of Karnataka and not Corporators.

At this rate, KSRTC, KEB can also demand free tickets.

BWSSB can demand FOC tickets for their entire staff / wives/ dogs and cats  or threaten to cut off water supply.

Ditto the police.

It may be interesting to recall here General Pervez  Musharraf.

For all his negative image, the former Pakistani president set a shining example which not only our corporators, government officials and even BCCI officials should follow.

When he was invited to watch an India-Pakistan one-day match, Musharraf went to the counter and bought a ticket for himself. When asked why he was buying ticket he told, ‘I am the patron of Pakistan Cricket Association. As a patron, if I don’t buy ticket who else will?’

Well said Musharraf, saab!

Whether Pakistan allows you or not, please come to Bangalore and drill this into the heads of our BBMP officials who have a made it a policy to live life free of cost.

Welcome to Kempe Gowda international airport?

6 April 2012

In the simmering caste cauldron that is Karnataka, a nice dollop of masala has been added by the reported decision of the Union civil aviation ministry to name the Bangalore international airport at Devanahalli after Kempe Gowda, the purported “founder” of the city of baked beans in the 16th century.

Coming as the confirmation does from the mouth of the Union external affairs minister, S.M. Krishna, and apparently on the Congress leader’s recommendation, all the requisite signals will be received by all concerned. The civil aviation ministry decision, however, awaits the approval of the Union cabinet.

Is the decision to name the airport after Kempe Gowda, who was born near Yelahanka, the right one? Should it have been named after Tipu Sultan, who was born in Devanahalli? Or some other worthy—like the 12th century Basavanna or the 20th century visionary, Sir M. Vivesvaraya?

Should it have stayed as BIAL since it is neither in Bangalore nor very international? Or should it have just been named after Rajiv Gandhi to erase all confusion?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda

CHURUMURI POLL: Bangalore airport: a disaster?

After all, an airport doesn’t open or close every day…

 

I have seen the future in Hyderabad and it works

Country cuisine crashlands at new airport

The doctor who dissected the body of Haldane

6 April 2012

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: Last Sunday I was at Salem in Tamil Nadu with my family. We were there just for a day and it was a journey of only about 270 kilometers each way. But for me it was actually a long voyage back in time, spanning over more than 35 years.

It was a journey back to the era of my days as a young medical student in distant Gulbarga, then and sometimes even now, considered by all those in government service as the most befitting punishment posting.

The year was 1975 and it was Monday the 18th of August, perhaps the best time of the year, after the soothing rains had cooled and greened the place a little, to introduce the unwary and the uninitiated to the vagaries of a land that is famous for having only two seasons: summer and very hot summer.

We were a batch of 67 students who were all seated well in time for our first class of the MBBS course.

It was a bright sunny morning and all of us were at the peak of our happiness and eagerness, as only those who become medical students will perhaps know.

At the stroke of eight, a dark, bespectacled man in a long white coat, looking every inch a professor, entered the hall, automatically muting every one of us and sending the hall into pin drop silence.

He introduced himself as Dr Vissa Ramachandra Rao (VRR), the professor and head of the Department of Anatomy and from his language and bearing it was not difficult for me to quickly surmise that he had acquired much of both in Britain. He had served in many medical colleges in Andhra Pradesh and had joined our college after retirement from government service.

He was so impressive that what he said in one hour on that day is still so deeply etched in my mind that I can reproduce it verbatim even today although many things which I learnt much later have faded from my memory.

Fortunately for us, we had many very great teachers almost in all subjects who were all able stalwarts in their fields to whom we owe all our learning and professional abilities. But Dr VRR, as we all affectionately called him, perhaps by being the first one of them to teach us a difficult subject like Anatomy for a full eighteen months, soon became our favourite.

Beneath his stern exterior he was a very warm and understanding person who was always very sensitive to our problems which he tried to set right with great concern.

***

Once, while on a college trip to Ajanta and Ellora we happened to reach Aurangabad early in the morning after an overnight journey.

We stopped for breakfast at a hotel where the prowess of the cooks somehow could not match the appetite of a busload of hungry youngsters. I decided to do my bit to ease developing tensions by becoming the self-appointed coordinator between the two groups.

Unnoticed by me, Dr VRR, who had been accompanied by his wife Lalitha and his daughter Usha, was watching me closely and after all the students had had their fill he asked me to join them at their table for breakfast. He then asked me where I was from and appreciated my patience and helpful nature.

After our return to Gulbarga he recommended my name for nomination to the students’ council as the representative of the pre-clinical batch. With this beginning, my relationship with him became very close and he would always turn to me whenever some responsibility had to be entrusted to someone.

***

With my interest in writing and photography he used to be very happy to ask for my help in preparing scientific presentations for seminars and conferences.

In those days our college could get this done only by approaching M/s Vaman & Dastur, a firm of photographers on Mouledina Road in Pune which was a rather long and cumbersome process. I used to then process Ekta-chrome slide film along with black and white film in my bathroom which on weekends would do double duty as my darkroom!

With the strong and lingering odours of Metol, Hydroquinone and Sodium Thiosulphate overpowering those of my soap and shampoo, all my friends used to say that on Mondays I would always smell very strange!

Dr VRR although quite friendly with me was always a very unforgiving taskmaster whenever it came to academics and would always keep himself and my parents too updated about my progress as a student. His classes used to be both sessions for the learning of anatomy and also for the inculcation of the essential values required for leading a good life.

During my frequent periods of personal interaction with him he used to tell me all about his life including the time he spent in England in the company of some of the most well- known stalwarts of medical science, especially the trio of embryology: Hamilton, Boyd and Mossman.

I still have a picture of him standing with them which he gave me.

He was invited by the Royal College when he, along with his assistant at the Guntur medical college, Dr G. R. K. Hari Rao, discovered a new blood vessel in the heart which was later named the Rao & Rao Artery.

While working at Kakinada he was the man who dissected and preserved the body of the noted British geneticist J. B. S. Haldane who donated his body for the advancement of science when he died in the year 1964. He was instrumental in creating and developing anatomy museums in most of the medical colleges where he worked.

When I completed my MBBS and it was time for me to leave Gulbarga, Dr VRR invited me home for lunch which his wife and daughter had very painstakingly prepared taking into consideration my favourite dishes. He then gave me a bundle of manuscripts which were his most important notes and his trusted German camera saying, “I think I have no use for them now but I know you will value these.” He could not have been more right.

I have preserved them among my most treasured things even to this day.

***

We were always in touch over the years after that and I would never fail to send him a birthday card every year on the 21st of March. After he lost his wife he settled down at Salem with his daughter Dr Usha Sri who has done a commendable job of looking after him through the ups and downs of old age.

About five years ago when I had to attend a seminar at Yercaud, the hill station near Salem, I called her up and informed her that I would visit them in a couple of days. It appears he was so eager to meet me that he was constantly asking her exactly when I was expected and had insisted that she should prepare my favourite custard which her mother used to prepare and which I used to relish as an young boy.

I visited him with my family and for both of us it was a very emotional reunion.

When we were about to part he smiled and said, “I have taught thousands of students over the years but I cannot expect every one of them to remember me or be in touch with me. But now that one Javeed has come and spoken to me so many years after my retirement, this Ramachandra Rao can die in peace and happiness.”

We visited him a second time a couple of years later with my brother’s family and my mother accompanying us and this time too he was overjoyed. At both these meetings I discovered how much joy a teacher gets when he meets his old students and I think this holds true for every teacher on this earth.

As usual, this year too I called him up on the 21st of March to wish him on his 95th birthday.

He felt very happy talking to me but this time it was a one sided conversation because his already bad hearing had deteriorated so much that he could not understand what I was saying. His daughter Usha said she would convey my good wishes to him and said that the Tirupati Temple authorities in recognition of the contribution of his father Vissa Appa Rao and his father-in-law Veturi Prabhakara Shastri to the field of classical music and Telugu literature would be honouring Dr VRR on the 1st of April at a function in Salem. She said it was his desire that I should be there on that occasion.

***

Three days later there was another phone call and this time the grand old man himself was on the line.

He said, “Javeed, I am already 95. I do not know if I will live long enough to see you again. So I want you to be here for this function with your family. It will make me very happy. I cannot hear what you are going to say but I am sure you have heard what I had to say. Thank you.”

I had heard him right but I had nothing to say. He was my guru and I was his sishya and this is how the relationship had to be between us.

His wish was my command and so I went. It was a very touching occasion. A few other old students who had come there like me narrated their experiences of his generosity and greatness. A few friends had sent me messages on my cell phone which I read out.

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) board had sent two representatives with a citation and a shawl to honour him and much to our surprise he rose to the occasion by making a brief but most impressive speech in reply.

Then turning to me, he clasped both my hands in his and said, “Ah, my favourite student from Gulbarga is here. I feel so proud and happy.”

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

Photograph: courtesy Star of Mysore

Also read: From Guruswamapalyam, a lesson for all shishyas

If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row!

5 April 2012

The Cauvery as viewed through a fish-eye lens at the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam, near Mysore, in September 2011. Photo: Karnataka Photo News

ROHIT BATNI RAO writes from Bangalore: Come summer and the two south Indian states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, inevitably start the year’s quota of dialogue on Cauvery river water sharing and people get soaked in political arguments about water related negotiations and political engineering or the lack of them.

This has become a pattern etched in stone, with the two States repeatedly being pushed into the arena by the sheer failure of political machinery on all three sides of the table—the two riparian states and the Centre.

This year the cry heard in some Karnataka voices is the need for a national (river) water sharing policy stemming from an apparent belief that such a ‘national policy’ could magically uncoil the tension among riparian states just because a third party, the Union government, proclaiming itself to be just and equal, when given the funnel, will help direct the waters to the riparian states in a fair manner.

That is pure fiction.

Regardless of the fairness in this deal between States and the Union, these are the things that need to be deeply pondered about:

# (River) water sharing between states is a characteristically local problem, limited to the interests of the riparian states and the people within them directly influenced by the river waters. A solution to this had rather not come from outside of the problem domain for those would not really address the problem!

# The farther removed a government is that is arbitrating river water sharing between states, the little it can do to benefit the riparian states, and the lesser jsut and equal its policies and decisions come across to some of them. ‘The reason why this is so often the case is that bureaucrats and technicians base themselves mainly on political considerations external to the region in question: the needs of the local population rarely feature at all’ (pp 161). Hence the Union government which is further removed than the governments of the riparian states is much poorly disposed to do justice to these states. (In fact it is better disposed to favor either of the states over the other!)

# The strong adverse impact such remotely-designed policies bear on the hydrology of various river basins in question. Historical tribunals of such remote origins and their verdicts on river water sharing in India have proven this point amply.

Keen on catching up on this debate?

Here’s a trivia (along with my interpretation) I thought we’d rather help ourselves with before we dive-in, hoping it’ll expose whatever sense exists in this argument (about the consequences of a national river water sharing policy).

1.) The preamble to the Indian Constitution offers justice (social, economic and political) and equality (of status and of opportunity) to the citizens of India.

Literally interpreting: Among other things. the citizens of this republic are secured social, economic and political justice. Likewise, the citizens have also been secured their equality of status and of opportunity in this sovereign democratic republic.

2.) Item 56 of the Seventh Schedule of our constitution places regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys under the Union List. This officially strips the riparian states of their (otherwise natural) political right to regulation and development of the rivers flowing through the respective states.

How can political justice be secured by stripping one of the rights to govern oneself, to develop oneself?

3) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu elect 12 and 18 members to the Rajya Sabha respectively and to the Lok Sabha they elect 28 and 39 members respectively. Hence on every vote in Delhi, there are 17 extra Tamil Nadu voices roaring to mute us!

How can Karnataka’s equality of status ever be secured by such unequal representation at the Centre?

How can equality of opportunity be secured by a denial of one’s right to engage in constructive negotiations with neighboring Union members targeted at deriving mutual gains?

How can any government, removed from this list of members, secure this equality any better?

4) Article 262 of the same Constitution conveniently assumes the Centre (Union government) to be the responsible body to arbitrate disputes related to inter-state river water sharing. But it has been found in several occasions that the agreements and tribunals arrived and awarded by the centre have only provoked the States to execute massive reservoir projects purely driven by hoarding intentions laden with greed and fear.

Such greed and fear are a synthesis of non-federal siphoning of responsibilities from the States to the Centre, which is not better disposed than the states themselves to decide on matters of such immense local nature.

One instance of Andhra Pradesh describing river waters flowing into the sea as wastage (pp 331) is a clear indication of how such tribunals have bred greed & fear to dangerous proportions at the state level. Not only has this led to hydrological degradation of various river basins, but also led to intra-state conflicts  (pp 14) not unseen till then.

5) The battle between state and central politics complicates the equation.

A national party allying with local parties of either riparian state is inclined to pamper its ally state (TN for example) with a better deal in its tribunal thereby starving its own victorious state (Kar for eg.) of precious water, which is later lured with other political mirages like ministries and such other sihi-tindi (confectionery)!!

Of special importance in this context is the wide gap in quality of local political representation in Karnataka and Taminadu, with Karnataka falling severely short of good local representation, which in turn severely handicaps its ability to negotiate deals in Delhi.

These items vividly elucidate the reasons why central overruling on inter-state river water sharing could be hazardous to the river basin itself, and hence to the riparian states in question. But it is seriously dependent upon public education and political acumen and will-power in the system if strong cries have to rise, demanding decentralization of power with respect to inter-state river water sharing. Like someone said, the next big war in this world will be fought over water.

Let’s not sow such seeds that can only speed up this war crop!

Also read: Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?


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