Archive for May, 2012

On days like these, only Tamannah gives company

31 May 2012

Loaders relax on piles of onion sacks near the Cantonment railway station in Bangalore on Thursday, as work grinds to a halt owing to the Bharat bandh in protest against rising fuel prices.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

What Montek Ahluwalia can learn from Sir MV

31 May 2012

“I don’t think many Indians care about the country,” he (George Fernandes) said. “By Indians I mean those in the highest places. If they cared they wouldn’t have been looting the treasuries as they are and they wouldn’t be allowing the crooks of the world to treat this country as a grazing ground. Some day we will sink and this is not anything to do with China or with Pakistan. It is because this country is cursed to put up with a leadership that has chosen to sell it for their own personal aggrandisement.”

I was struck by the note of despair in his voice. It was hard to believe that this was the country’s Defence Minister speaking, a politician who had reached the pinnacle of his career.

Amitav Ghosh in his book ‘Countdown

***

By K.B. GANAPATHY

Reading an article some time back in India Today magazine, and on May 21, 2012 in The Hindu about Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the great Sardar, deputy chairman of the planning commission for the last nearly eight years, I was livid with anger and felt ashamed of myself as much as helpless for being unable to do anything to stop such alleged stealing and squandering of my nation’s wealth, created from the sweat of my countrymen for the development of my country.

Though a democracy, see how helpless we the Aam Aadmi are. And to think that his case of extravaganza in splurging our country’s wealth on himself is just a tip of the iceberg of a behemoth of Indian bureaucracy, frightens me.

I was suddenly made aware that what is bugging this country’s development is not just corruption but also a very highly indulgent bureaucracy rolling in luxury at State expense. Instead of helping build our nascent free-nation, these pseudo-intellectual, highly educated bureaucrats are bleeding our country of its tax and natural resources.

Thanks to the RTI Act and some of the newspapers like The Hindu and news magazines, this kind of ‘corruption by other ways,’ is also being exposed.

As I was reading The Hindu article by P. Sainath, I was reminded of bureaucrats of my own princely State of Mysore — some of the Dewans — specially two well-known ones: Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, legends in their own time and perhaps for all the time to come in the matter of administration and honesty.

About Sir M. Visvesvaraya it is said that when he was on official tour and stayed in the government guest house (also known as inspection bungalow) after his official work, he would switch off the electric light and remove a candle from his pocket and light it for his personal work! That’s the level of honesty.

What a contrast to the total degenerate conduct of Montek Singh Ahluwalia, as reported in The Hindu.

It is keeping this Sardar in mind, the renowned author and journalist Khushwant Singh, being a Sardar himself, with natural pride in such situations which anyone would display, had said, in a lighter vein I suppose, that the prophesy of a Sikh Guru that ‘Raj Karega Khalsa‘ had come true with three Sikhs in top positions ruling India — Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Army chief Gen J.J. Singh (Retd) and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

This was during the 2004 victory of Congress. UPA-1 rule. But now, the Sikh Army Chief is not there but the other two are there in office. However, the question is, doing what? Oh, yes. From June 2012 when the new Army Chief, Lt Gen Bikram Singh, takes over as Army Chief it will again be ‘Raj Karega Khalsa.’

But, what about Montek Singh Ahluwalia?

A real Sheikh of a country that is ready to fall apart, the Centre cannot hold. If you have not read the The Hindu article, here I give a sample of it.

The title itself is sarcastic in tone — “The austerity of the affluent.” And it gives a peek into the details of financial abuse of office, “A rural Indian spending Rs. 22.50 a day would not be considered poor by a Planning Commission whose deputy chairman’s foreign trips between May and October last year cost a daily average of Rs. 2.02 lakh.”

And this man tells the Supreme Court and the dumb Indians that an Indian who spends (or earns) Rs. 29 a day in urban area and Rs. 23 a day in rural area is not a poor man.

What cheek, what gumption, what audacity and what economics!

The man undertook, between May and Oct. 2011, “four trips [abroad] covering 18 nights [which] cost the exchequer [tax payer] a sum of Rs. 36,40,110; an average of Rs. 2.02 lakh a day,” according to The Statesman News Service, says the article.

At the time it happened, that amounts to US $4,000 a day. And we are a poor country? Absurd. This is a poor country for ‘Aam Aadmi,’ not for bureaucrats like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and politicians. The truth is that this is a rich country where poor people live, because of rulers like Ahluwalia and other corrupt leaders.

There is more startling statistics to come from RTI: “Dr Ahluwalia made 42 official foreign trips and spent 274 days overseas during a seven-year tenure. That is ‘one in every nine days’ he was abroad. And that is excluding travel days. The India Today story found that his excursion cost the exchequer [of our country] Rs 2.34 crore. This could be apart from what Indian embassies abroad spent on him on frills such as hiring limousines. Even a Moghul Emperor would not have had this kind of luxury, freedom and enjoyment.

Apparently, Ahluwalia was and is a law unto himself as much as a boss unto himself.

No one to question him, not even his de jure boss, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

And remember, all this when our ‘dumb’ Prime Minister pleaded for austerity in 2009 and his Cabinet responded handsomely to the call. The message was for the opposition too. But look at this. This is the spirit of austerity practiced by the ruling party, as also the BJP opposition.

Praful Patel (UPA-NCP) cabinet minister and Nitin Gadkari (NDA-BJP) have hosted two of the costliest weddings ever, says the report.

The Hindu article mentions many more instances of such spending of looted money by our netas, bureaucrats and industry tycoons as you and I watch the world collapse around us helplessly.

What did Chanakya say in his ‘Chanakya Neeti‘?

“Do not live in a country that does not allow you self-respect, honour, means of living, a family, kith and kin, friends, well-wishers, ways of education and self-development. Quit such country. It is not fit for living.”

Alas! Quit and go where?

Jeena yahan marna yahan

Iske siva jaana kahaan…

(K.B. Ganapathy is the editor and founder of India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: Deputy chairman of planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at a hydrogen energy exhibition in June 2007 (courtesy Manvender V. Love/ Press Trust of India)

***

Also read: Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

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

CHURUMURI POLL: Is the ‘dream team’ exposed?

The best advertisement for safety of Hyundai?

29 May 2012

Driving on Indian roads (and returning home safely) is a daily miracle. Motorists and pedestrians encounter all manner of beasts trying to send us intimations of our mortality at all times. At Nagarabhavi circle in Bangalore on Tuesday, a Hyundai car driver miraculously escaped unhurt after a cement concrete mixer turned turtle. Tomorrow is another day.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Can Veena Malik get as ‘dirty’ as Vidya Balan?

25 May 2012

The Pakistani “actress” Veena Malik, who has arguably done more for people-to-people contact with Pakistan than all the mavens of the ministry of external affairs put together, arrives for a press conference to announce the launch of her debut Kannada film Dirty, in Bangalore on Friday (top). Below, Malik is welcomed with a bagina.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: They gave us Veena Malik, we gave them Dhanush

Bird brain? Finally a Kingfisher in good company

24 May 2012

It speaks for the power of branding that Kingfisher is identified more for barley water and the mineral water after which a barely-afloat airline is named. But there is such a thing as the bird, too, and we don’t mean the tweeting kind that the Kingfisher owner’s son was infamous for till the out-of-court settlement was reached in the IPL molestation case.

On Thursday, near the central library in Cubbon Park, the bird of good times shows a penchant for good company by taking refuge on the statue of the visionary administrator, Diwan K. Seshadri Iyer.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why the queen sold her diamonds, jewels

Such a lot of water but not a lot of power (sigh)

Why does Mysore need Jamshedpur for water?

24 May 2012

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes: The price of water has gone up by at least five times in Mysore, which is a stone’s throw away from the Krishna Raja Sagara dam.

Those who were paying Rs 75 per month are now required to pay anywhere from Rs 400 to Rs 500.

Just a few months ago, a company called JUSCO completed installation of their pipes and meters in addition to the existing ones, promising 24×7 water and better customer service. Residents had to pay anywhere form Rs 500 to Rs 2000 to install T-sections, complete the piping from the curb to the water meter, and patch up the masonry.

I’ve always wondered why Mysore, home to Sir M.Visvesvaraya, one of the greatest civil engineers and water management gurus in the history of mankind, had to knock on the doors of a Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company Ltd for distributing its own water.

Why didn’t a MUSCO do this?

Would it have been too good for the consumer, or for the employees?

Anyway. Today, there is neither the 24×7 water (it’s more like 3×5), nor the better customer service. But there’s a five times hike in the water bill. The quality of water has reduced considerably in the last twenty years.

We used to drink directly from the tap twenty years ago, but today we’re forced to buy water filters or UV or RO machines or risk health problems – and these machines need maintenance to the tune of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per year, plus the electricity charge and the area they occupy in the kitchen.

Coming back to the issue at hand, corporators of the Mysore City Corporation, upon receiving complaints from a handful people like me are asking people to not pay the water bill, but are shying away from making public statements to the same effect.

MLA and Mysore district in-charge, S. A. Ramdas has issued a statement that the price hike will be withheld. But nothing has happened on the ground, as we just received the water bill with the increased rate.

When I contacted the MCC (Mysore City Corporation) public relations officer, M. V. Sudha (mobile phone number: 9449859915), she explained that the MCC is basically out of funds, hinting that revenue from water is inevitable. K. S. Raykar, commissioner, MCC, didn’t pick up the phone.

If what M.V. Sudha says is right—that the MCC is starved of funds—and I have strong reasons to believe that she is, then everything falls in place.

The MCC is starved of funds because it is not allowed to make revenue to even sustain itself, because of the lopsided ‘democracy’ in which we live, where the concentration of power increases with distance from the people: New Delhi wields more power than Bangalore which, in turn, wields more power than Mysore, over Mysoreans!

Is this democracy?

***

Barely ninety nine years ago, in 1913, right here in Mysore, His Highness Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar concluded a treaty with Edwin Montagu, under-secretary of State, government of (British) India.

According to the treaty, which clarified the relationship between the State of Mysore and the Government of India, the Maharaja obtained full powers of internal administration, subject only to the general supremacy and paramountcy of the British government – something his father, His Highness Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar did not enjoy.

But in less than 34 years, amidst the waving of flags in New Delhi and elsewhere, and the bursting of crackers and some meaningless riots near Lahore and Calcutta, His Highness Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar lost all the power his father had obtained in the treaty with Montagu.

It appears that he became worse than the corporator I called today, in terms of the power he came to hold. Of course, some money was thrown in into his kitty, going under the name of privy purse, in return for agreeing to a slight change of job description: king to pawn.

Sir M. Visvesvaraya saw with his own eyes how the Maharaja of Mysore was relieved of nearly all his powers by the Government of India (the free one, the Indian one) which consequently reduced the autonomy and powers of internal administration of the State of Mysore.

What was the State of Mysore has today literally transformed into a municipal corporation, and this municipal corporation is not even the ‘glorified municipal corporation’ that J. Jayalalitha recently talked about when she accused the Central government of undermining federalism.

That glory goes to the government of Karnataka, not to the municipal corporation of Mysore.

Wrote Sir MV, expressing hope that things would change and decentralization would happen as the passing phase passed:

The States are now, for all political purposes, closely integrated with the Centre and though they are units of the Federation, they occupy, in actual working, a lower subordinate position than what they held under the British administration. It is hoped that this is only a passing phase in the evolution of the new democracy. (Sir. M. Visveswaraya, Memoirs of My Working Life, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1960, p. 58)

Clearly, Sir MV had hoped for too much. The ‘phase’ has neither passed, nor shows any signs of passing. New Delhi continues to be the new Paramount Power in India – with a paramountcy surpassing that of the British.

***

In the meanwhile, the greatest minds of Mysore – Engineers, Doctors, CAs, MBAs, etc., have all gone away, or have all turned away, while their aged parents are waiting for money orders to pay the increased water bill with.

Also read: If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row

‘A magic, moving, living part of the very earth’

If stomach is the shortest route to a man’s heart…

21 May 2012

B.S. NAGARAJ writes from Bangalore: Here is Udupi Pejawar Mutt seer Sri Vishvesha Teertha swamiji‘s reasoning for his opposition to “sahapankti bhojana” (people of all castes eating together).

“Among other castes (non-Brahmins), there is the practice of eating meat and drinking liquor. If people used to eating satvik food start eating in such company, they run the risk of developing friendship with other castes and take to eating meat and drinking liquor!”

ROFLMAO, as they in Internet slang.

News reports have quoted the swamiji thus at a conference of Brahmins in Shimoga. The conference was debating the topic, “How to retain our (Brahmin) identity while developing harmony with other castes?”

It may cause mirth in some quarters, but it is more likely to evince rage among the usual suspects who by taking him on frequently for his periodic verbal excesses bestow him with undeserved importance.

Reports say that the controversial seer has for the first time “explained” why Udupi’s Sri Krishna temple doesn’t have an arrangement for people of all castes to eat together. He went on to defend the denial of opportunity for sahapankti at Udupi saying “even Basaveshwara didn’t approve of “sahapankti bhojana” with meat-eaters.

Vegetarianism was one way of “saving Brahminhood” and “vegetarianism promotes virtue,” he told the conference.

The inspiration for Hindutva rabble rousers like Uma Bharati and a leading light of the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign, didn’t stop at that. He went on to decry the trend of inter-caste marriages, saying they tend to interfere in the way people live and create imabalances.

There was more such nonsense from the seer.

According to him, if Muslims and Christians are in the habit of being regular in their religious practices it is because of Brahmins. He didn’t explain how though. But in recent times, Brahmins were not regular in daily practices like sandhyavandane, he bemoaned.

Controversy is the Udupi seer’s second name.

Only recently, he had subtly defended “madesnana”, the disgusting ritual of non-Brahmins rolling on the plantain leaves off which Brahmins have eaten. After protests against the practice intensified, he altered his stand saying if the government bans it he wouldn’t oppose it.

And before that, he had begun visiting Dalit colonies only to be rebuffed by Dalit leaders. The head of the Nidumamidi Mutt had then countered that visiting Dalit colonies would change nothing, telling Vishvesha Teertha that he would bow before him if he allowed a Dalit to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Krishna temple in Udupi and offer pooje there.

Incidentally in 2010, the Krishna temple had been denotified by the BJP government in Karnataka and handed over to the ashta mathas (eight seminaries of the Madhva order) at the instance of Vishvesha Teertha, even while there was a claim to the temple by the backward K uruba community.

Conferences of Brahmins were not like the meetings of other castes, according to the Pejavar seer.

“Here we discuss the welfare of the entire Hindu society,” he declared.

But far from showing concern for the larger good of Hindu society, reports seem to suggest that the focus of the conference was more on uniting Brahmins owing allegiance to the three (trimathastha) different philosophies more than anything else. As if they had done something revolutionary, the 13 Brahmin religious heads present resolved to promote the idea of marriages within the larger Brahmin community, irrespective of its sub-sects.

File photograph: Activists of the centre of Indian trade unions (CITU) eat €˜jawar rotis™ at a protest rally in Bangalore in July 2011 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: ‘Brahmins need a deeksha to awaken empathy’

How religion met politics while you were asleep

For one good turn deserves another and another

What’s in a name? The key to a casteless society

What to do after ravaging our natural resources

Why Adiga’s wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

21 May 2012

Vasudev Adiga, whose parents started the legendary Brahmins’ Coffee Bar in Chamarajpet, wants to take the Adiga’s chain beyond Bangalore, take it beyond the South, and take it to the highways—and standardise South Indian vegetarian food like other fast food joints.

Saritha Rai throws light on his delectable plans in the Indian Express:

“For generations, instinct and experience have guided the cooks who prepare the dosa batter and sambar mix. But a determined Adiga wants his brand in India’s metros by 2018. He wants the Adiga’s sign to beckon travellers on major highways, though McDonald’s and KFC have already preceded him there.

“So, conquering his twin fears of losing control and of outsiders meddling in his business, Adiga has brought in venture capital (Infosys co-founder N.S. Raghavan’s VC firm New Silk Route has invested in the chain.)

“South India’s idli-vada-dosa restaurants have remained largely standalone or single-city brands. Their owners’ ambitions have been thwarted by the challenges of standardising recipes and sourcing ingredients. For example, the dosa batter, a ground mixture of dal and rice, depends on such variables as the quality of water, grinding time and fermenting time, besides the quality of the dal and rice….

“But all that cannot see him through the risks of expanding countrywide, acknowledges Adiga. He is hiring a chief operating officer to take charge of the expansion. The chain is corporatising on many others levels. Like the multinationals, all sourcing will be centralised, except for perishables like vegetables and milk.

“The back-end will be automated by bringing in industrial-style machines to chop vegetables and wash dishes. Just like the MNC chains, which get outside agencies to dice the potatoes just so, Adiga’s too wants to “outsource” such tasks.”

File photograph: The BJP’s Ananth Kumar dives into a plate of idli-sambaar in Basavanagudi while campaigning in the 2009 elections (Karnataka Photo News)

Read the full story: Sambar, extra tangy please

Also read: Real-estate sharks gobbling up our best eateries

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

India 2012: happier and more relaxed than 1975?

18 May 2012

Media freedom in India id est Bharat has never been a more scarce commodity than in the year of the lord 2012.

The fourth estate is under concerted attack from all three pillars of our democracy—the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Organisations mandated to protect media freedom (like the press council of India) are happily chomping its heels. Every day the sound of some distant door closing echoes through the internet chamber.

On top of it all, or because of it all, the sparks of public cynicism about the media and its practitioners (thanks to paid news, private treaties, medianet, and this, that and the other) has become a wildfire, its faceless flames licking the very hand that feeds. Regulation and self-regulation is the mantra on every lip.

(Why, supposedly courageous practitioners of journalism themselves don’t hesitate to intimidate those who expose their warts.)

The illiberalism, the intolerance, the control-freakery that have become a part of the accepted discourse in 21st century India was most evident last week when parliament—the so-called temple of democracy—committed the ultimate sacrilege: a Harvard-trained poet agreeing to remove newspaper and magazine cartoons from school textbooks because they could hurt the fragile egos of faceless mobs back where they go out with their bowls every five years.

The ostensible provocation was a 1949 cartoon of B.R. Ambedkar, the Constitution framer and Dalit icon, drawn by P. Shankar Pillai, the legendary cartoonist, in his now-defunct magazine Shankar’s Weekly that had been included in an NCERT textbook in 2006.

But it was clearly a smokescreen to sneak in the scissors to cut out all cartoons about all politicians in all textbooks.

Shankar’s Weekly shut down on 31 August 1975, the very year Indira Gandhi declared Emergency, on whose back rode a beast called Censorship.

In circa 2012, as her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi thumped the desk when Kapil Sibal eloquently ushered in Censorship without the formal proclamation of Emergency, it’s useful to go through Shankar Pillai’s farewell editorial, which shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

***

FAREWELL

“We started with an editorial 27 years ago. We will end with another.

“The world was different in 1948. The Cold War had not taken the sinister overtones that it later did. The atom bomb was in our midst and there was scare of war. But there was no apprehension that life would be wiped out from the earth in a nuclear holocaust.

“The United States was riding high with sole possession of the atom bomb. Communism was to be rolled back by its strength and Time magazine’s brave words. But monolithic communism was already breaking up. In 1946 Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform.

“Less than a year after Shankar’s Weekly was born, Mao Tse-tung took over mainland China, for ever changing the dimensions of international affairs. While Europe was still struggling to get over the aftermath of a ruinous war, Asia stood up for the first time as independent entity.

“Soon after Africa emerged from colonial darkness. The old imperialisms watched uneasily at Bandung and Afro-Asian solidarity. Perhaps there was something in Nehru’s non-alignment after all.

“The world of today is very different. The Cold War is still there but played according to already laid ground rules usually. West Europe has been integrated in a sense, although the sense of nationalism is still strong. Africa by and large has not steadied itself except in one or two countries.

“White supremacy is still unchallenged in South Africa and Rhodesia. Asian politics has become uncertain largely due to Sino-Soviet rivalry. Latin America seethes with unrest, but the CIA and multi-nationals are trying to contain discontent. Economically, the world is somewhat better off than 27 years ago despite runaway inflation and drought and so on. But the quality of human life cannot be said to have shown any qualitative change.

“This is what brings us to the nub of the matter. In our first editorial we made the point that the our function was to make our readers laugh – at the world, at pompous leaders, at humbug, at foibles, at ourselves. But, what are the people who have a developed sense of humour? It is a people with a certain civilised norms of behaviour, where there is tolerance and a dash of compassion.

“Dictatorships cannot afford laughter because people may laugh at the dictator and that wouldn’t do. In all the years of Hitler, there never was a good comedy, not a good cartoon, not a parody, or a spoof. From this point, the world and sadly enough India have become grimmer.

“Humour, whenever it is there, is encapsuled. Language itself has become functional, each profession developing its own jargon. Outside of the society of brother-cartoonists, an economist is a stranger, floundering in uncharted territory, uncertain of himself, fearful of non-economic language.

“It is the same for lawyers, doctors, teachers, journalists, and such-like.

“What is worse, human imagination seems to be turning to the macabre and the perverse. Books and films are either on violence or sexual deviations. Nothing seems to awaken people except unpleasant shocks. Whether it is the interaction of the written word and the cinema on society or not, society reflects these attitudes. Hijackings, mugging in the dark, kidnappings, and plain murder are becoming everyday occurrences and sometimes lend respectability by giving it some kind of political colouration.

“But Shankar’s Weekly is an incurable optimist. We are certain that despite the present situation, the world will become a happier and more relaxed place. The spirit of man will in the end overcome all death dealing forces and life will blossom to a degree where humanity will find its highest purpose discharged.

“Some call this God. We prefer to call it human destiny. And on that thought we bid you good-bye and the best of luck.”

Published on Sunday, 31 August 1975

Hat tip: D.D. Gupta

Image: A facsimile of the front cover of Shankar’s Weekly

India’s most photogenic former CM strikes again

17 May 2012

If only B.S. Yediyurappa wasn’t striking this pose in flesh and blood while visiting his new office in Malleshwaram (that will be inaugurated in Bangalore on Friday), his fans and followers could have accused us of morphing his pictures.

That’s picture no.33 in the world’s best portfolio of photographs of the former Karnataka chief minister.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also view: The world’s best pictures of B.S. Yediyurappa

How to launch a Kannada channel for Rs 25 cr

17 May 2012

On the New York Times site India Ink, Raksha Kumar writes on how the Kannada news channel Public TV got launched:

“I got these lights for just 40 rupees each (76 US cents) when Wipro closed one of its branches in Bangalore,” said H.R. Ranganath, chairman and managing director, pointing at the ceiling.

“These cubicles, which my reporters and editors use, were bought from a shut-down office of Kingfisher,’’ he added, while doors were purchased from a Siemens branch that closed….

“We bought the cameras we use for 200,000 rupees each,” said Shashi Deshpande, facilities manager at Public TV. “Each of them would have cost us one million or more if purchased new.”

“According to Mr Ranganath, the cost of starting up a regional television news channel in Karnataka is anywhere from 45 to 50 crores, or 450 million to 500 million rupees ($8.5 million to $9.4 million). He figured that if he could cut capital and operational costs at least in half, then he would be able to build a network without any outside financial help.”

Photograph: courtesy The New York Times

Also read: Editor declares assets, liabilities on live TV

Is there room for another Kannada news channel?

This is your chief minister and here is the news

POLL: Can Congress beat BJP in Karnataka?

16 May 2012

There is nothing like counting your naati chickens before they hatch and licking your fingers in expectant glee.

On the day sleuths of the CBI escorted B.S. Yediyurappa one step further into the dark, deep hole that he diligently dug for himself over four years, exultant Congress workers take out a “funeral procession” of the BJP government in Bangalore on Wednesday, although the grand old party’s ability to capitalise on the BJP’s continuing strife is unclear.

***

In the Indian Express, Sandeep Shastri of the centre of research in social sciences and education writes:

“The Congress clearly senses an advantage in the coming assembly polls. Given the state of the BJP and the record of its government, it could well be a political climate that will work to their advantage. However, the record of the Congress in Karnataka shows that it has the skill of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

“In the past, it has often managed to defeat itself. While the party has made a concerted effort to demonstrate a show of unity, this has still to be reflected in the behaviour of its senior leaders. There are too many claimants for a chief ministership after an election that is yet to be won.

“Given the trend across the country, it may be a good idea for the Congress to declare its chief ministerial candidate and get the party solidly behind that leader.

“In the past, when the high command declared its chief ministerial candidate, the campagin acquired clear direction and there was visible enthusiasm among party workers. It would give them an advantage in preparation for the polls.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Read the full article: Karnataka free for all

Sugata Raju is new editor of ‘Vijaya Karnataka’

15 May 2012

Vijaya Karnataka, the Kannada daily from The Times of India group, has a new editor: Sugata Srinivasaraju, the former associate editor, south, of Outlook* magazine. He takes over from Vasant Nadiger who was officiating as editor following the sudden death of E. Raghavan in March.

Raghavan had taken over VK from the paper’s longstanding editor Vishweshwar Bhat, who has since moved to Kannada Prabha, the Kannada daily owned by the mobile phone baron turned parliamentarian, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

ToI bought Vijaya Karnataka in 2006 from the truck operator Vijay Sankeshwar, who launched a new title called Vijaya Vani following the end of the five-year no-compete clause with Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd. Vijaya Karnataka also faces growing competition from former market leader Praja Vani (from the Deccan Herald group).

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Ex-TOI, ET editor E. Raghavan passes away

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

What should BJP do about Yediyurappa problem?

14 May 2012

The BJP’s disgraceful nataka in Karnataka continues without a pause. Nary a fortnight passes without TV viewers and newspaper readers being woken up to the now familiar anthem of name-calling, muscle-flexing and shadow-boxing. And so it is this May in the year of the lord 2011.

After breathing fire and brimstone over the CBI probe okayed by the Supreme Court into B.S. Yediyurappa‘s wheeling and dealing, and after merrily slapping their thighs all weekend, the nation’s most ethically, morally, financially and sexually challenged bunch of legislators have now tucked their tail between their legs for another day.

Which will be some day soon.

After praising Sonia Gandhi one afternoon and threatening to resign from the party and bring down the government, the former chief minister has said he will not quit party for now and assumed his familiar position as the nuisance maker whom the BJP cannot swallow or spit out if it doesn’t want to lose the keys to the gateway to the South.

So, it’s back to status quo ante. A severely hobbled State government which doesn’t know if it is staying or going. A chief minister who doesn’t know if he is talking to friend or foe. An administration that is driving the State down to the dust, in a season of drought and despair. And a State whose reputation is being wrecked on a daily basis.

Question: what can the BJP do to get out of this hole?

***

Photograph: Former chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa leaves the Siddaganga mutt in Tumkur after calling on Sri Shivakumara swamiji  on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: All over for Yedi?

How much longer will BSY stay in BJP?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will BJP dump BSY?

CHURUMURI POLL: Yediyurappa as CM again?

An open letter to Aamir Khan from a Kannadiga

11 May 2012

VASANT SHETTY pens a letter to Aamir Khan on the undemocratic ban on the dubbed version of his Sunday morning TV show  Satyamev Jayate programme from being shown on Kannada television channels.

***

To
Aamir Khan
5 Marina Apartments
Pali hill, Bandra West
Mumbai 400050

Dear Aamir Khan,

Congratulations on your successful TV debut with Satyamev Jayate and a huge round of applause for touching upon a topic as sensitive and heart rendering as female foeticide in the very first episode.

You even went a step further by meeting the Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and requesting him for a fast track court to bring the killer doctors to justice at the earliest.

To me, you seem to be a man committed to bring social change in India and I truly appreciate your efforts.

You may have 12 different issues to highlight in the weeks to come, but today I am writing this letter to you to highlight the highly undemocratic ban on dubbing content to Kannada that is affecting millions of Kannadigas living in Karnataka and elsewhere.

Let me explain this.

As you know, there is an unconstitutional and undemocratic ban imposed on dubbing content to Kannada by a few trade organisations in the name of protecting culture. Due to this ban, the dubbed version of the first episode of your programme was not telecast on Suvarna TV.

Earlier, thousands of people like me wrote to you on Twitter and Facebook requesting you to get this ban on dubbing your Satyamev Jayate to Kannada removed. As a result of that, you wrote a letter to Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) requesting them to let your programme in Kannada on Suvarna TV but we have not heard about the response of KFCC to your letter.

Suvarna TV uploaded the Kannada webcast of the first episode of your programme on Youtube three days ago.

The video received 30,000 views in just three days busting all myths around lack of demand for dubbed content in Kannada and even sealing the mouth of all those naysayers in Kannada film / TV industry who ridiculed demand for dubbed content in Kannada as fringe.

But yesterday, even this video on Youtube was taken off by Suvarna TV.

From the circumstances, Kannadigas feel that this might have been done because of the pressure put by the same anti-dubbing associations, who were scared after seeing the popularity of the video. With that, even Internet is under seige in Karnataka, where a few private people decide what people should watch and in which language.

A lot of people who believe in democracy, the Constitution, and the freedom to choose are again writing to you to know how on earth a content creating social awareness be banned even on Internet just because it was dubbed from Hindi to Kannada?

Aamir, if you truly believe in transforming a society, bringing a social change, it’s time for you to talk and act.

Please raise your voice supporting the legitimate demand of Kannadigas demanding knowledge and entertainment in their mother tongue.

Please stand  up and say that in this free country, every individual has freedom to watch any cinema, any TV program in any language of their choice and no vested interest should dictate terms to voiceless citizens in the name of guarding culture.

For four decades Kannadigas have been deprived of knowledge and entertainment in their language of choice due to this illegal ban on dubbing and now will Satyamev Jayate change that?

After all, truth alone should prevail.

Thank you
A Kannadiga

Also read: Talibanisation of Kannada cinema, television

CHURUMURI POLL: Mandira, Archana or Shibani?*

9 May 2012

Yes, it is the silly season.

First we had Mandira Bedi, the wide-eyed Punjabi girl who gingerly learnt the game with experts while she adjusted her noodle-straps. Then came along Mayanti Langer, the Kashmiri lass whose breakneck diction did not distract conspiracy theorists from wondering if she was a surreptitious product placement for Adidas’ Jabulani ball.

Now, in season five of the Indian premier league, we have been served up Archana Vijaya and Shibani Dandekar as eye-candy to beat the summer heat. Sports television’s admirable quest to make cricket coverage sexy and expand the viewership by empowering women anchors continues relentlessly.

Who gets your vote?

* Please feel free not to take part in this poll should it offend your (soccer and/or gender) sensibilities.

Girish Karnad: J.P. Nagar to China via Singapore

8 May 2012

Girish Karnad in the Daily Beast:

“Only 20 years ago, when my wife and I decided to move to Bangalore from Bombay, we could visit a new suburb, buy a site of our choice, and then sit down with an architect to design the house we wanted. No more.

“As the demand for housing overran the availability of land, the estate developers took control, eating into the villages surrounding the city, occupying farms and open spaces, razing houses to the ground, and installing multistory apartment buildings in their place, with little regard to the city’s existing infrastructure.

“The current joke is that the only buildings to remain unscathed by the onslaught may be Vidhana Soudha, the building that houses the legislature, and UB City, a complex that is a hideous combination of the Empire State Building and Internet kitsch, built by a liquor baron….

“Twenty years after we built our house in a residential zone, we have now been informed that the road in front of it needs to be widened to accommodate the traffic. Any day now an entire swath could be cleared from our front garden, and the wall of our living room knocked down.

“A city planner told me: ‘Every day 400 four-wheelers and 1,200 two- and three-wheelers are added to the roads of Bangalore. We have to compete with Beijing.’

“It was not so long ago that the city was competing only with Singapore.”

Read the full article: Karnad on Bangalore

***

BANGALORE‘A city whose soul has been clinically removed

C.N.R. RAO: If IT takes away Bangalore’s values, burn IT

PAUL THEROUX: Bangalore’s idiots who speak an idiolect at home

CHURUMURI POLL: Who killed Bangalore?

Bharat as seen from the City of Baked Beans

Has the IT boom quelled Bangalore’s tensions?

How China changed the face of Karnataka politics

Adolf Hitler reacts to Indian Express ‘C’ report

2 May 2012

Just as the world was consigning the Indian Express ‘C’ report—the full page, three-deck headline, three-byline story of the coup that wasn’t—to the dustbin of history, the Fuhrer steps in.

Also read: Indian Express ‘C’ report: scoop, rehash or spin?

Indian Express stands by its ‘C’ report

How the media viewed the Indian Express ‘C’ report

Aditya Sinha tears into the Indian Express ‘C’ report

Should the censors tighten Savita Bhabhi’s hook?*

1 May 2012

GAGAN KRISHNADAS writes from Bangalore: With the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 in place, internet censorship has gone high and degree of criminality has fallen down. Be it Kapil Sibal or Mamata Banerjee, the people at the helm of power are trying to gain a control over internet.

The effect of existing law: To put it in simple terms, if anybody finds a particular post on this blog illegal, he/she may bring it to the notice of the owners of this blog. If the blog owner does not take any action within 36 hours, the liability on the content immediately shifts to the owner of the blog.

If at all there are about 200 ‘take down’ requests in a day, the blog owner surely cannot ascertain the legality of the content within 36 hours. Surely, the owner will find it convenient to remove the content instead of contesting the claim.

Resistance: The resistance for the said rules was not strong until recently when Kapil Sibal became vocal on pre-censorship on internet.

On April 21, there was a press conference in New Delhi by Knowledge Commons, Software Freedom Law Center, Delhi Science Forum, Save Your Voice Campaigm, Internet Democracy Project, Center for Internet and Society, Free Software Movement India, IT for Change, and Alternative Law Forum.

Two events were organised in Bangalore on the same day to voice against Internet Censorship. Let me juxtapose how media professionals and Free Software Movement people respond on the issue.

Senior Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurtha said: “This is a matter of considerable concern. It is known to a relatively small section because; ordinary people do not understand the intricacies. It is a matter of freedom of speech and hence it concerns not just the netizen, but every citizen. At the legal and larger philosophy, Article 19 lays down reasonable restrictions like public order, national security and so on. But who decides these reasonable restrictions on the internet?”

Mahesh Murthy, went a step ahead to declare: “I feel there should be no censorship of any kind of information, be it Savitha Bhabi or pornography or a hate speech. All such information already exists in the society. By censoring them, you are not achieving any results. The Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s alleged sex video was removed from Youtube just within 5 hours, but if someone hosts it on Piratebay, it’s almost impossible to censor.”

Na Vijayashankar said that the internet cannot be left unregulated and at the same time the regulation should not take away the basic rights of the citizens. He recalled that right from the initial days of the internet, he advocated for an internet law made by the netizens themselves, because the lawmakers hardly understand the technology.

Soon after the meeting, I moved to the town hall to participate in a protest convened by the representatives of Free Software Movement of Karnataka (FSMK) along with Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC). The crowd predominantly comprised of Engineers and Engineering students.

I was surprised that the Engineers also had acquired a good understanding of the rules which are in detriment of their interest. While the group of media persons was more worried about censorship and freedom of speech, the ambit of concerns was larger with the Freedom Software advocates.

Senthil from the Free Software Movement of Karnataka was skeptical about similar laws being passed in other jurisdictions. Recently, USA was on its way for passing the controversial SOPA/PIPA legislations which was halted due to public pressure.

People have used internet to question the established governments, be it wikileaks, networking during the Egypt revolution or Lokpal movement. Senthil feels that the intermediary guidelines would be a hindrance in taking technology to the people.

Member of Parliament, P. Rajeeve has introduced a motion in the Rajya Sabha calling for the Internet censorship law passed last year (“Intermediary Guidelines Rules”) to be annulled.  This motion will be taken up once the Budget Session 2012 reconvenes, and will need the support of the majority of both Houses to be passed.

Until the Parliament meets again, we the netizens and citizens need to ask our MPs to support the motion when it is introduced.

(Gagan Krishnadas is a post-graduate student at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore)

* Search Engine Optimisation techniques at work

***

Also read: Say ‘No’ to India’s blogger control act


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,708 other followers