Posts Tagged ‘S.M. Krishna’

POLL: Can Nandan Nilekani win Bangalore South?

18 September 2013

Kite-flying effortlessly replaces cricket as the nation’s favourite sport before every election, state or national, and so it is in the run-up to 2014, with “guided rumours” of Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani suddenly but not unexpectedly doing the rounds as a potential Congress candidate from Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency.

For the moment, there is no confirmation from the man, but he has certainly not denied the report which first appeared on the website of the business newspaper, Mint. “It’s speculative,” is how the Sirsi-born software mogul has chosen to greet the unattributed reports which clearly emanate from his “camp”, and all of which uniformally talk of his candidature having Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi‘s imprimatur.

On the face of it, Nilekani has plenty going for him. He is young (58), has a demonstrated track record as an entrepreneur and a technocrat, has ‘written’ an ambitious book on how he imagines India, and is a past-master at charming the pants off the media. On top of that, his wife, the former journalist Rohini Nilekani has pumped in crores into philanthropic projects.

Nilekani’s role in crafting “Brand Bangalore” is not insignificant. It is Infosys that largely put the shine back into Bangalore and made it the country’s unquestionable IT capital. Nilekani was also the brain behind the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) during S.M.Krishna‘s tenure. So, the Congress’s, if not Nilekani’s, calculation is: this is payback time.

The preponderance of IT types in Bangalore South, the large sprinkling of Brahmins, and a five-time sitting Brahmin MP (Ananth Kumar) who is not on the right side of the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate”, Narendra Modi, makes the Sai bhakt’s candidature look all very rosy—on a spreadsheet.

But politics is not a zero-sum, page 3 game as the similarly qualified Captain G.R. Gopinath discovered not too long ago.

It is not only software engineers who go to vote, in fact they can barely get their backsides off a spa table on the weekends. Plus, Bangalore South has a sizeable Vokkaliga population, and who doesn’t know H.D. Deve Gowda‘s antipathy to urban, educated, rich, IT-BT types?

Above all, for all the friendly media coverage of Nilekani’s “Aadhar” card, the fact remains he has essentially presided over an unconstitutional scheme which does not have Parliament’s OK, and which has actually taken millions out of the welfare net, while precisely claiming to do the opposite, by stopping leakage and pilferage. These are the people who vote and, sadly for Nilekani’s and Aadhar’s backers, there are thousands of them in Bangalore South too.

So, does Nandan Nilekani, who can just about speak Kannada, stand a chance, if he gets the chance, or is he like so many billionaires deluded about what his billions can fetch? If he does, could he end up being a potential minister in the next UPA regime, if there is one? And, while we (and he) fantasise, could he even be the kind of quiet technocrat who could be Rahul’s Manmohan Singh? Just kidding.

(Or, tongue firmly in cheek, could Nandan Nilekani’s nomination papers get rejected because his date of birth does not match the DoB on his own Aadhar card?!)

Also read: Dear Nandan, quit Infosys, join politics, start a party

Nandan Nilekani: the six things that changed India

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nilekani trounced NRN?

MUST READ: 12 things no one is telling us about namma Nandu

CHURUMURI POLL: Who should be IT minister?

31 May 2013

What qualifications must an elected MLA possess to become a minister? Whose prerogative is it to nominate a minister?  Who decides what portfolio a minister must be allotted? Should ministers of certain specific portfolios possess some certain attributes? And should external inputs be given consideration at all in the ministry-making process?

These are evergreen questions and they gain currency in the light of the decision of the new Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah to name S.R. Patil as the State’s information technology minister—and the quite extraordinary intervention of former Infosys man T.V. Mohandas Pai and Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

# “Surprised at choice of minister for IT/BT. Need a person who can work with global companies and a lot younger. Sad day for us,” tweeted Pai.

# “CM can’t afford to be seen to be viewing IT/BT lightly — these are priority sectors for Karnataka,” said Shaw on her micro-blog account.

In a report for the Indian Express, correspondent Saritha Rai writes:

“Pai and Mazumdar-Shaw were only echoing the widespread feeling in the industry — though no one else said it openly and even these two later backpedalled — that a suave, urban-educated, technology-savvy minister would have better suited.

“The industry was backing choices such as Krishna Byre Gowda and Dinesh Gundu Rao — both dynamic, articulate legislators in their forties. Patil, from backward Bagalkot district, is a lawyer by training with a background in the co-operative movement and is not exactly known for his tech-savvy.”

In a report for The Telegraph, correspondent K.M. Rakesh writes:

“I thought either Krishna Byre Gowda (son of former minister C. Byre Gowda) or Dinesh Gundu Rao (son of former chief minister R. Gundu Rao) would get the IT/BT portfolio,” said a Congress lawmaker.

Rahul Karuna, crisis manager with a BPO, said the IT/BT ministry deserved a heavyweight. ‘We were expecting a big name or a young minister. It’s not about the age or looks of the man; it’s that this portfolio deserves a more powerful politician.’”

Obviously, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but implicit in these statements are stereotypes that boggle the mind and should shame the likes of “suave, urban-educated and tech-savvy” Pai and Shaw. That a 65-year-old man from Bagalkot (still very much a part of Karnataka)  is not cut out for the likes of them in Bangalore. That his age, language and tech skills, and mofussil background are all against him in the slick world.

But above all, the arrogant assumption that the IT/BT industry shall decide the choice of IT minister, not the chief minister. If the children and women of Karnataka (whose number vastly outdoes the number of IT/BT professionals) cannot decide who the next women and child welfare minister will be, what right does the IT/BT industry have?

Yes, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna did wonders for the industry. But do M/s Pai & Shaw know if he knew how to switch on a computer via UPS, send an email or write a blog before he took over as chief minister? And didn’t he come from Somanahalli in Maddur taluk of Mandya district? And where specifically have the dynamism of Dinesh Gundu Rao and Krishna Byre Gowda been displayed for the industry to be batting for their case?

Question: is the pampered IT/BT industry batting out of its crease?

The Editor who foresaw Siddaramaiah as CM

10 May 2013

Photo Caption

K.B. Ganapathy, editor-in-chief of Star of Mysore, on the man who will be Karnataka’s next CM, in today’s paper:

“Back in November 2010 I had gone to Siddaramaiah‘s Mysore house with Mysooru Mithra editor M. Govinde Gowda to invite him personally for my second son’s wedding.

“As expected, the house was full of people spilling over to the road with many vehicles parked around. His aide took us to the dining hall where he was sitting at the head of the table alone, probably for our meeting.

“After the initial courtesies and platitudes I gave him the invitation and requested him to bless the groom in a customary way. As is his wont, he was expressionless and silent for a while and said that he would come.

“I did not believe him.

“I asked him about the political mess the BJP was in at that time and he mumbled something that I don’t remember now. However, I told him that it was good that he joined Congress and Congress never disappoints its loyal members in the matter of rewarding them suitably.

“He lifted his inclined head in slow-motion, looked at me and smiled. Who would not like to hear a positive prognosis of oneself?

“I continued. I said in Karnataka, in the past many years of Congress rule, I had seen that senior Congress members who were ministers and aspired to become chief ministers had realised their aspirations even if it was only for two or three years, and gave the recent examples of Bangarappa, Veerappa Moily and S.M. Krishna (who was deputy chief minister like Siddharamaiah).

“Therefore, you too will become the Chief Minister,” I told Siddaramaiah.

“Now I could see his lips turn elastic revealing his teeth from right molar to left molar with a twitch of his snubby nose. Eyes too twinkled for a fleeting second.

“I am happy to tell my readers, Siddaramaiah indeed kept his words and attended my son’s wedding held at Mysore Race Club premises.”

Photograph: Siddaramaiah gestures to the crowd after being elected as the leader of the Congress legislative party, at the KPCC Office in Bangalore on Friday (Karnataka Photo News)

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will be the next CM?

8 May 2013

Now that Congress has accomplished the easy part, it has to brace itself for the difficult part: choosing the next chief minister of the State.

Will the newly elected Congress MLAs really have a say, as they should, in choosing the leader of the legislature party? If so who will they opt for? Or will the high command impose its leader, who will be proposed and seconded, in true Congress style, by the other contenders? In either case, who is it likely to be?

Will Union labour minister Mallikarjuna Kharge get the green signal for his rock-like loyalty to the party? Or, will a younger aspirant like former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah get the OK? or will his late entry into the party and the party’s less-than-impressive showing in the Old Mysore region prove a deterrent?

Does the state Congress president G. Parameshwar stand a chance at all after failing to hold on to his seat in Koratagere, which he unbelievably first won by nearly 90,000 votes? Or will the high command fall back on dark horse, like former chief ministers S.M. Krishna and Veerappa Moily, to tide over potential dissent?

Will the next five years see just one CM or will the Congress change horses mid-stream?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Why Modi will address only one rally in K’taka*

25 April 2013

Photo Caption

Security personnel on election duty search a car at a check post on Hospet road in Bellary on Thursday, even as a new pre-poll survey suggests that the Congress, despite all its troubles, continues to maintain a healthy lead over the BJP in the assembly elections due in the “gateway to the south” next week.

The survey, conducted by the centre for study of developing societies (CSDS), for CNN-IBN and The Week, shows that the Congress could end up with at least 117 seats in a house of 224. Like other polls before this one, BJP comes second with 59 seats, JD(S) third at 44. KJP and others are also-rans.

Former chief minsiter H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) is the most preferred CM candidate, with 18 per cent people voting in favour of him. Ex-BJP strongman B.S. Yediyurappa is the second choice for CM (10%), followed by Congress leader Siddaramaiah (9%), S.M. Krishna (8%), and Jagadish Shettar (6%).

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THE POLLS SO FAR

CSDS-CNN-IBN, The Week (April): Congress 117-129, BJP 39-49, JD(S) 33-44

Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 105-122 out of 224; BJP 55-70; JD(S) 30-45

Headlines Today-C-Voter (March): Congress 114-122, BJP 48-56, JD(S) 32-38, KJP 10-14

Tehelka-C-Voter (January): Congress 133, BJP 63, JD(S) 19, KJP 5

Suvarna News-CFore (Decamber 2012): Congress 113, BJP 58, JD(S) 31, KJP 14

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* Search engine optimisation techniques at work

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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2013 election coverage

When a wife-beater campaigns for the Congress

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

They cry before the polls, so we can cry after

‘Diminishing returns from aggressive Hindutva’

Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka opinion polls go awry?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘?

It’s unofficial: our democracy has a bribe future

You’re too old for Dilli but not so for your Halli*

8 November 2012

The lord moves in mysterious ways in the Congress party. At the age of 80 years and six months, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna was overnight found too old to be the nation’s external affairs minister and packed off to the boondocks in quick time to usher in Salman Khurshid, 21 years his younger.

But at the same age of 80 years and six months, S.M. Krishna is still young enough for the verdant political landscape of his State, where the Congress is eyeing a comeback after six years in the doghouse. On Thursday, the “dapper” former chief minister, who is eyeing the CM’s chair once again according to the grapevine, was meeting independent MLAs who, having supported the BJP earlier, are now eyeing the Congresss.

Question: Can S.M. Krishna, the only Congress figure with Statewide appeal, make a difference in the assembly elections?

* To be sung to the tune of the old Amul jingle

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

5 reasons Gavaskar’s wrong about playing Pak

20 July 2012

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has criticized the Indian cricket board’s decision earlier this week to revive cricketing relations with Pakistan with a three-match ODI series in December this year.

Reason: he feels Pakistan is not cooperating in the probe into the November 2008 siege of Bombay despite the mountain of evidence that has been piled at its door.

“Being a Mumbaikar, I feel, what is the urgency (to resume cricketing ties) when there is no co-operation from the other side?”

Gavaskar is a great cricketer and a weighty columnist and commentator to boot. His views carry enormous weight in the cricketing fraternity. He can make or mar ties between BCCI and PCB having been part of the BCCI and International Cricket Council (ICC) administration for a long time.

However, “Sunny” is plain wrong in questioning BCCI’s rationale for resuming cricket with Pakistan three years after the dastardly attack on his hometown?

First: BCCI would have dared to approach Pakistan with a tour proposal only after securing the government of India’s clearance. Perhaps it was Pakistan which came up with the proposal first.

Either way, Union home minister P. Chidambaram and external affairs minister S.M. Krishna would have discussed the issue threadbare with the Prime Minister and only after his (and/or the cabinet’s) clearance would the BCCI have made the first move to invite Pakistan for a tour.

It is the Indian Government that will decide whether Pakistan is cooperating in the Bombay terror attacks, not BCCI and definitely not Sunil Gavaskar. At least we haven’t reached that stage in the BCCI.

So far.

Second: While one certainly appreciates his views that as a ‘Mumbaikar’  for the tragedy that struck on 26 /11, he cannot decide whether there is cooperation from the other side. Not even BCCI. That is again strictly the job of the government.

Once the Government gives its clearance after satisfying itself of all the aspects and give its nod, the board and the cricketers should do their assigned jobs, as rightly pointed out by Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a media conference.

Third: I am sure every player would have felt terrible about the attack, irrespective of whether he was a Mumbaikar or not. So is it with every Indian. In fact it was with that spirit that the whole team played a match against Andrew Flintoff’s England and both teams came in for huge praise from all over the world for their fantastic gesture.

However well meaning, parochial sentiments on a national issue like terror are better consigned to the dustbin, particularly from a cricketer of the calibre of Gavaskar.

Fourth: Sunny is on firmer ground when he questions BCCI with regard to squeezing this tour in a year which is already quite packed.  Here again, if he is questioning the tour on cricketing grounds, he should have also questioned the wisdom of selectors’ acceding to Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘pick and choose’ policy, especially in ODIs,  a subject which has been dealt by quite of few cricket experts and commentators at length.

This affects balance in the team, creates uncertainty in minds of younger cricketers about their future as they have to make way whenever he ‘feels’ like playing cricket. One would have expected Sunny to question the selectors or Sachin in his weekly column regarding this but that did not happen.

It is only Sanjay Manjrekar who has rightly dared to question this in the past.

Fifth: Why should cricket and cricket alone be the barometer of ties between India and Pakistan? Despite 26/11, the two countries seem to have started finding ways of doing business. Its politicians meet happily, its bureaucrats do, there are growing trade ties, etc.

So, why should cricket be held hostage to terror? It is, after all, a sport.

Also read: Gavaskar: India’s most petulant cricketer ever?

Save Indian cricket: keep Sunil Gavaskar out

Are Gavaskar and Shastri India’s only cricketers?

Gavaskar of 2010 is the same Gavaskar of 1981

Why some of us just love to hate Gavaskar

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

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

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

CHURUMURI POLL: Should S.M. Krishna resign?

8 December 2011

As the nation’s external affairs minister, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna knows that it is a small world he lords over—what goes around, comes around. So just months after he threatened to sue The Times of India, Bangalore, for suggesting that he was involved in the illegal mining scam comes news that he has indeed been named in a first information report (FIR) for issuance of mining licences during his tenure as the chief minister of Karnataka.

With all the faux sophistication he can muster, S.M. Krishna denies the charge. But for a Union government that is  trying to stave off a crisis involving another minister (P. Chidambaram) whom his detractors have tried to implicate in the 2G scam, the naming of Krishna comes at a particularly inopportune time. Krishna, for his part, says his “legal team” will take appropriate action at the appropriate time, but the Opposition has smelt blood.

With B.S. Yediyurappa having had to resign in the wake of the Lok Ayukta indictment in the mining scam, and having had to spend a fortnight in the cooler on the basis of a “private complaint”, the question is going to asked, why should not Krishna resign till he is proven innocent? Will Krishna’s protestations of no loss to the government, or no gains for himself, convince the BJP? Is a private compliant all it takes to bring people in power down?

And, tongue firmly in cheek, if Krishna quits, who is going to read the Portuguese speeches for the UPA?

Also read: Just one question I’m dying to ask S.M. Krishna

Our Man from Maddur is shorter than you think

CHURUMURI POLL: Will S.M. Krishna last his term?

Who is this man who has S.M. Krishna‘s left ear?

Can Maddur vade usher in peace in the subcontinent?

CHURUMURI IMPACT: A train for R.K. Narayan

24 September 2011

churumuri.com is delighted to record the renaming (and flagging off) of the daily Mysore-Yeshwanthpur Express between Karnataka’s two premier cities as Malgudi Express, to perpetuate the memory of India’s first globally renowned English writer, the Mysorean R.K. Narayan.

We are delighted for two reasons.

One, we believe that even as small a gesture as getting a train named after Narayan’s creation, although rather late in coming, is an important signal in giving our literary, social and cultural titans their due.

And two, the railway ministry’s decision is largely if not solely the outcome of the suggestions of churumuri readers across the world, who responded magnificently to our campaign which began over five years ago.

In many ways, therefore, this is a victory of online activism of a kind not generally known or seen in India.

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On this happy occasion, please allow us a moment of self-congratulation.

We would like to thank the then governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi, who took the churumuri campaign to the railway ministry in the centenary year of Narayan’s birth; the Union minister for external affairs S.M. Krishna who revived the campaign in the 10th year of RKN’s death; and the railway minister Dinesh Trivedi who gave the green signal.

Additionally,we are thankful to the late Mysorean icon, T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, and the writer Sunaad Raghuram who took the churumuri campaign to the governor of Karnataka. Several writers have kept the campaign alive over the years by writing pieces on Narayan. S.M. Krishna’s advisor Raghavendra Shastry, played a key role in reactivating the campaign this year.

Above all, we are thankful to our readers. Without you, this small salute for a giant Mysorean would not have been possible.

Coming up next: A stamp for R.K. Narayan.

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MALGUDI EXPRESS TIMINGS

Train No. 17304: Leaves Yeshwanthpur daily at 11.35 am, reaches Mysore at 3 pm

Train No. 17303: Leaves Mysore daily at 12.10 pm, reaches Yeshwanthpur at 3.30pm

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Photograph: courtesy Simon Winchester/ The Guardian

Read: All the stories in R.K. Narayan campaign

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Also read: ‘Where is Malgudi? Where we all wish we lived’

R.K. Narayan on Mysore

Ved Mehta on a day in the life of R.K. Narayan

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

R.S. KRISHNASWAMY: A day in the life of R.K. Narayan

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY: As Mysorean as Mysore pak, Mysore mallige

S.M. Krishna revives Churumuri’s RKN campaign

23 August 2011

The minister for external affairs, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, may be creating news for all the wrong reasons in the year of the lord 2011. But he has struck the right PR note by reviving churumuri.com‘s acclaimed campaign for recognition for India’s original English writer, R.K. Narayan, in his hometown, Mysore.

When churumuri.com was launched in 2006, we made an all-out effort to get Narayan his due place in the landscape of Mysore, where he spent almost all his life and from where he gave the world, Malgudi.

A churumuri delegation comprising the photographer T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, and the writer Sunaad Raghuram even made a representation to the then governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi, armed with reader suggestions on how Narayan’s memory could be perpetuated.

After all the usual noises from the usual quarters, the campaign died a slow death.

Now, S. M. Krishna, a close friend of  RKN’s brother, R.K. Laxman, has given the campaign a fresh lease life in this, the 10th year of Narayan’s passing away. He has written to prime minister Manmohan Singh and railway minister Dinesh Trivedi to name a train between Mysore and Bangalore as Malgudi Express, and urged communications minister Kapil Sibal to release a stamp.

It might be too early to hail this attempt, but at least for trying, Krishna deserves some plaudits.

Also read: All the stories in R.K. Narayan campaign

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knews

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

Just one question I’m dying to ask S.M. Krishna

11 August 2011

Although former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna is in charge of what his handlers like to think is the weighty external affairs ministry, the consensus is that the “Son of Somanahalli” got the portfolio because he was considered a malleable lightweight who would just be glad he got the high-profile job and not come in the way of a prime minister who had made “foreign policy” his legacy issue.

(That, and the fact that the Congress high command had to repay him for his “contributions”.)

Nevertheless, Krishna’s MEA tenure has not been short of theatre. For starters, there was the well-advertised five-star stay in a hotel. Over the last few months, he has been bouncing into the public eye with one faux pas after another. In February, he read the speech of the Portugese foreign minister at the United Nations for a full three minutes; in June, got into a flap for extending an official trip to Britain to watch Wimbledon.

A fortnight ago ago, news of his threatening to sue The Times of India for mentioning his name as among those who would be indicted by the Lok Ayukta in the illegal mining scam, made it to TV news bulletins. Six days ago, the litigious advisors guarding his carefully coiffured image, advised him to threaten to sue the news agency PTI for calling him “absent-minded” in a news story which showed him, well, absent-minded in the Lok Sabha.

Now, as if to prove PTI right, Krishna has urged Pakistan to release an octagenarian doctor on humanitarian grounds, although the wheel-chair bound Dr Mohammed Khalil Chisti is lodged in a jail this of the border in Ajmer, Rajasthan. “We will, certainly pursue this at the level of the high commissioner,” he added.

Admittedly, one must take into account Krishna’s age. After all, at 79, he is the oldest member of the Manmohan Singh team. The fact that he still has the energy to fly off to distant countries speaks enormously of his stamina. Still, there is such a thing as calling a spade a bloody shovel, and it is clear that Krishna, used as he was to the kid-glove treatment at the hands of the Bangalore media, is being thoroughly exposed on the national stage.

What is the one question you are dying to ask the patron saint of IT-BT after his latest gaffe?

Like, is he the first human being who nods in agreement with what he is about to say? Like, does he demand frappe from his son-in-law’s Cafe Coffee Day whereever his work takes him?  Like, is it true that he turned down the Oscar award this year for the best performance in a foreign language?

Please keep your queries short, civil and “G category”.

Also read: Can Maddur vade usher in peace to the subcontinent?

Our man from Maddur is shorter than you think

S.M. Krishna on the kidnapping and release of Dr Raj Kumar

CHURUMURI POLL: One dish, fewer guests by law?

19 April 2011

Following the Bogus Austerity Drama of 2009, when ministers began flying “cattle-class” after S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor were caught in five-star hotels, the Union food and consumer affairs minister K.V. Thomas has floated the latest UPA kite: a one-dish law at social gatherings to prevent wastage of food.

“We have received many suggestions to control food wastage at social functions. A member of National Advisory Council (NAC) has recommended imposition of Pakistan’s one-dish law. We will look into that law and similar legislations of other countries,” Thomas told reporters.

On paper, few will deny the logic behind the move. Our weddings and social occasions are exercises in ostentation. Enormous quantities are made, eaten and also wasted. In a country where huge numbers of people go without food—India stands at No. 63 on the hunger index—it provides a sharp contrast.

Yet, is a new law with all its attendant issues the way to go about creating social conscisouness? Should the Guest Control Order, which also limits the number of people who can be invited, be revived? Or is this just pressure tactics, NAC-style, after having failed to convince the UPA government on the right to food clauses?

Also read: The Top-10 austerity moves India really wants to hear

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Is the Indian media losing touch with reality?

Let a thousand Anna Hazares bloom across India

8 April 2011

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: The fast-unto-death by the social activist Anna Hazare in New Delhi and the nationwide support it has elicited for cleansing the system, has enormous relevance to Karnataka especially in the present context, where the air is thick corruption.

One thing is clear. Politicians, cutting across party lines, are opposed to any measure to rein in corruption in public life. They have successfully evolved ways and means to torpedo any such attempts, or to emasculate the system which is put into operation, to ensure a free run for themselves.

While New Delhi has a history of dragging its feet on the Lokpal bill in general and on the question of bringing the Prime Minister under its purview in particular, Bangalore has a track record of dragging its feet on the question of strengthening the hands of Lok Ayukta with suo motu powers to investigate charges of corruption.

***

The common thread that runs in the attitudes of the central and State governments towards corruption, is the marked reluctance on the part of the the political parties, be it of Congress or non-Congress hues, including the BJP, to hold the bull by horns.

The intention is very clear: they don’t want to create any fetters which come in the way of their untrammelled enjoyment of power.

At the Centre, the main question which has been endlessly debated is whether the PM should be brought under the purview of the Lokpal bill, in whatever form it may be brought in.

The solution was/is simple: Had those who held the high august office voluntarily declared that they would subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Lokpal, the matter could have been resolved in a jiffy and a suitable law could have found a place in the statute books.

But none of the worthies, from Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh, and including Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Deve Gowda, and Chandrasekhar, could volunteer to suggest that persons holding high office should not only be honest but appear to be honest too.

For all of them, the authority and status of the PM’s office appeared more important than the need for probity in public life. It is the cumulative mess created by the Cassandras of corruption, which has resulted in the 2G spectrum scam, which has made the current Prime Minister squirm in his seat.

Manmohan Singh’s image as a clean and honest politician has taken a severe beating. He has paid a big price for his  vacillation.

If the prime minister of the country is unwilling to lead from the front in the fight against the corruption, how do you expect the lower minions in the political hierarchy like the chief ministers and the State governments down the line to act otherwise?

If  the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, could be investigated for the Watergate scandal, or the high and mighty be proceeded against for tax evasion in America, it does not stand to reason as to why the busy  bodies in India tht is Bharat should be placed above the law.

***

In Karnataka, there is a twist in the tale.

Since 1984, there has been a law and an institution to fight corruption. But it has been deliberately made ineffective. The Lok Ayukta has not been given suo motu powers to initiate action.  Such powers given when the Act was enacted by the Ramakrishna Hegde government, were subsequently withdrawn two years later for reasons not clear.

The Lok Ayukta, as an institution, was almost unknown (and unseen) for nearly one-and-a-half decades after its inception. The first time it caught the public imagination was when Justice N. Venkatachala, who was appointed during the S.M. Krishna regime in 2001,  became proactive in the discharge of his duties.

It was Justice Venkatachala who focussed attention on the lacunae in the law and took them up with the government. For all the sound and fury, his five-year term ended without his dream of the grant of suo motu powers being realised.

His successor, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, too has vigorously pursued the pending issue with the government, even going so far as to submit his resignation in the period. His five-year tenure is coming to an end in a couple of months and like his predecessor he has to retire with a feeling that the government ignored his plea.

None of the governments that have held office during the period of the present and previous Lok Ayukta have been able to restore the suo motu powers to the Lok Ayukta, which is a felt need.

And these include, the Congress government led by Krishna, the Congress-JDS coalitions headed by Dharam Singh, the  BJP-JDS coalition headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy and the present BJP government headed by B.S. Yediyurappa, which has been in office from 2008.

The message is quite clear: none of them is keen on doing it despite the public protestation of their commitment to fight corruption.

The Upa Lok Ayukta enjoys suo motu powers, which can be exercised over the lower echelons of the administration. The other higher-ups do not come under its purview. More often than not, the post is kept vacant.

When Venkatachala, started exercising the powers of the Upa Lok Ayukta in his crusade against corruption, the government woke up after a long gap to and felt the need to fill the vacancy. This was done more with the intention of reining in Justice Venkatachala than to strengthen the functioning.

But much to the chagrin of those who had planned the move, the new Upa Lok Ayukta Justice Patri Basangowda proved to be a good foil rather than hindrance to Justice Venkatachala. After Mr Patri Basangowda retired the post in 2009,   the post has remained vacant.

The absence of suo motu powers has not been the only problem faced by the Lok Ayuktas in Karnataka, who have taken their job seriously. The government of the day has been blutning the efficacy of the institution and efforts put in by it, to trap cases possession of assets disproportionate to the known source of income.

In some cases, the officers trapped remain without being suspended and some of them have been quite powerful enough to wangle promotions and get good posting too. The government deliberately delays the question of granting permission for the Lok Ayukta to prosecute officers who have been nabbed.

The list of the governments acts of sins of omission and commission is quite lengthy.

***

A major development, which has occurred during the BJP government. stressing the imperative necessity of strengthening the Lok Ayukta, has been the surge of the scams.

The most important one has been the one pertaining to the illegal mining of iron ore, involving powerful politicians, in and out of office. The report given by the Lok Ayukta, which probed the matter, has been gathering dust.  The report has been relied upon by the Supreme Court but has not opened the eyes of the State government.

The inference is quite clear. But for the Supreme Court’s persistence in a case before it at present, the controversy over the illegal mining in Karnataka would have been pushed under the rug.

The second development is the scam over the denotification of the land, which during recent years has been openly regarded as a money spinner for politicians in power.

Going by the open charges being hurled it looks as if this has taken place one way or the either during the regime of almost all the CMs especially in the last one-and-a-half decades. A powerful minister of the BJP government has also been caught in the act. And chief minister Yediyurappa and his bete noire Kumaraswamy have been openly trading charges against each other.

Had a person like Anna Hazare been here, perhaps Karnataka would have witnessed the kind of  uproar that one is witnessing in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: ‘BJP’s lotus grows in muck, so do BJP’s people’

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CHURUMURI POLL: BDA sites for Dhoni & Co?

5 April 2011

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s alacrity in announcing the allotment of 50′x80′ house sites to each member of the World Cup winning cricket team is not surprising—nor is the tepid reaction to it. Politicians revel in making grand gestures, and a sentimental public applauds silently.

Still, with due respect to the achievement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys, the question must be asked: should a bunch of players who will not have a shortfall of anything for the rest of their lives be gifted this largesse, especially when not a single member of the team hails either from Bangalore or Karnataka.

The other question to ask is: is 4,000 square feet of land the only way to honour an achievement?

The charitable view of such a gesture is that Yediyurappa is not the first CM to see “returns” in it. Ramakrishna Hegde gave away plots to a whole bunch of artists and artistes, including a TV newsreader, to encourage them to make Bangalore their home and add to its cultural lustre. Closer home, S.M. Krishna gave away dozens of plots to journalists, obviously not for winning the World Cup.

But that was in another era; this is 2011. Land is at a premium. Bangalore is a magnet for all comers, but is not the only one. So should the cricketers be gifted land without question, especially if they do not use it for their own purpose?

Also read: What’s the best way to say, well done, keep it up?

Should NRN open world Kannada conference?

28 February 2011

The letters to the editor of Kannada Prabha carries this epistle from the Kannada writer, Baragur Ramachandrappa (translated):

“I am writing this letter against the backdrop of reports that Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy has been invited to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana (world Kannada conference), to be held in Belgaum from March 10 to 12, 2011.

“If there is any truth to these reports, my humble request is that the honour should instead go to Kannada cultural personalities or to VIPs like the President, prime minister or vice-president.

“I do not have anything personal against Narayana Murthy. He is a Kannadiga entrepreneur and we are justly proud of him. But that is exactly why we must be getting him to inaugurate the global investors’ meet, not the world Kannada conference.

“Outside of his entrepreneurship, what is his contribution to Kannada? Not even a Kannada font has come out of his multinational company. On top of it, he has been a vociferous champion of education in the English medium from the first standard itself. It is to be noted here that learning English and teaching in the English medium are two different things.

“It is also to be remembered that he had lobbied with the S.M. Krishna government to change the State education policy to open English medium schools to help children of his employees, and had even had a discussion with me when I was chairman of the Kannada development authority in this regard.

“Besides, the income-tax department has only just slapped Infosys with a demand for Rs 450 crore for wrongfully claiming tax exemption.

“Instead of Narayana Murthy, the invitation could have been extened to poet laureate G.S. Shivarudrappa, Jnanpith Award winners U.R. Anantha Murthy or Girish Karnad, veterans like Patil Puttappa, D. Javare Gowda or M. Chidananda Murthy, renowned poets like Chandrasekhar Kambar, Chennaveera Kanavi or Nissar Ahmed, etc.

“Or we could have called upon a folklore artiste.

“On the other hand, by calling upon somebody who is just a entrepreneur to inaugurate the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana is an insult to Kannada culture, literature and folklore. If the invitation cannot be revoked at this juncture, it is best Narayana Murthy is invited as a ‘guest’ to the inauguration.”

File photograph: N.R. Narayana Murthy watches and Infosys CEO and MD, ‘KrisGopalakrishnan, speak at a conference organised by the all India management association, in Bangalore in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Also read: Narayana Murthy and the Netaji Bose fixation

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Nossa krishns é agora um dos desenhos animados

16 February 2011

 

Três dias após a leitura de um discurso feito para o ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros português, o nosso Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna torna-se um ajuste de caracteres para os desenhos animados. Amul cortesia dos desenhos animados.

A cloud that passed through hell and came back

16 September 2010

"If you strip off all your material possessions, you are nothing but the sum total of your thoughts. You need something in life you have nurtured and watered with time or else old age will be a curse."

Arundhati Nag has been doing theatre for 35 years, but it took one successful Kannada film (Jogi) and one successful Hindi film (Paa) for Shankar Nag‘s wife to become everybody’s favourite celluloid-mom.

Honoured with a national award for “best supporting actress” yesterday, Arundhati’s name is synonymous with Ranga Shankara, a space devoted to theatre in Bangalore that she set up in the memory of her husband.

But it wasn’t always so.

When Shankar vanished from her life one night in 1990, debtors were lining up. She became the last parent paying her daughter’s school fees. Her friends handed down clothes for her to wear. She stopped cooking. She stopped doing anything. She was going to seed.

Till she picked up the pieces….

***

By KAVITA SHANMUGAM

In the serene, early hours of the dawn of the new millennium, Arundhati Nag was silently mulling over an unfulfilled dream.

As she sat alone in her home in a farmhouse in  Bangalore, waiting for her daughter Kavya and her friends to wake up after a New-Year party the night before, she suddenly decided to set this decade-old dream in motion.

She plucked the courage and called up the chief minister’s office, requesting an appointment. Half-an-hour later, the office returned her call asking her to come right away.

Arundhati grabbed her files and drove to the Vidhana Soudha.

She had not met chief minister S.M. Krishna before, but she confidently placed before him the file of a project conceived by her late husband, the film actor Shankar Nag.

“This proposal has been lying with your government for the past two years,” she told him. “If you think Karnataka deserves this project, do something about it. I’ve tried and have not been able to raise the funds.”

The CM quickly released Rs 20 lakh, another Rs 30 lakh a year later, and also requested the Jindal industrial group to provide the cement. Thus began Arundhati’s labour of love—building Ranga Shankara, an exclusive space for theatre in Bangalore.

She did not know then that it would take her another four years to raise funds to the tune of Rs 3.5 crore to complete it.

She recalls clearly the day she watched the earthmover drop the first claw into the 10,000 square feet plot of land which would house what is now the haunt of ardent theatre-goers.

That is when she said to herself: “Aruna, you have relinquished the right to abandon this project. You have to see this through, whatever it takes. You cannot run away now.”

***

Back in the early 1970s, when 17-year-old Arundhati feverishly ran from one theatre practice to another and simultaneously attended BCom classes in a college in Bombay, her father nicknamed her ‘Cloud’.

It was difficult to pin down this wildflower child of his, he would say.

Enchanted by the “timeless world of theatre”, she would leave home at 6.30 in the morning only to catch the last local train back home.

Arundhati, who was picked up by the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) by chance, soon became the toast of the theatre world. Being a polyglot she acted in Hindi, Marathi and English plays, and also grabbed a role in a popular Gujarati TV serial.

Those were heady days for this volatile young girl from a middle-class Maharashtrian background. Her parents, who usually went by the book believing that girls should return home before the street lights were switched on, did not somehow blanch at her lifestyle.

They were worried, but like all true Maharashtrians they also loved theatre and would eagerly join the snaky queues outside Shivaji Mandir to watch the plays of the late Marathi actor Kashinath Ghanekar. And it helped when theatre veterans from IPTA dropped by her house to convince her parents about their daughter’s safety and of her prodigious talent.

***

It was in theatre that she met and fell in love with another actor, Shankar Nag.

This larger-than-life actress was attracted to the quiet, rugged-looking actor, who would sit by himself in a corner solving crosswords and reading Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre.

He was so different from the sons of rich businessmen she knew.

Shankar quickly recognised Arundhati as his soulmate, but she held back yielding space for them to grow as individuals. After all, they were caught up in the high of youth, in the whirl of an exciting awakening of Indian theatre in the ’70s.

Together they discovered colour, texture, multiple layers of life and a different way of doing theatre, in a milieu which bristled with intellectual questioning and uninhibited criticism of false values.

It was the time of Vijay Tendulkar’s political satire, Ghasiram Kotwal, and his sexually charged Sakharam Binder that shook up middle-class morality, Shambhu Mitra’s Raja Oedipus and Putul Khela, and Oxford graduate Girish Karnad’s attempt to stoke the larger truths of life in plays like Hayavadana.

Those were the heyday of Uptal Dutt, Vijaya Mehta, Dharamvir Bharati, Mohan Rakesh, Sulabha and Arvind Despande’s Chhabildas movement, and more. These were the stalwarts who had transformed the face of urban theatre in post-colonial India.

***

Shankar Nag’s destiny was not to remain in the backseat as a struggling amateur theatre actor hanging around his star-girlfriend. He moved to Karnataka to act in the epic Kannada film, Ondanandu Kaladalli, directed by Karnad and based on Akira Kurosawa’s famous Seven Samurai, for which he bagged a national award.

Shankar went on to become a king in commercial Kannada cinema but his passion and his lady love belonged to theatre. The actor started an amateur theatre group, Sanket, and continued to stage plays. During this time, he sent Girish Karnad’s script, Anjumallige, a story of incest and an immigrant’s struggle, to Arundhati in Bombay asking her to come down to Bangalore to act in the play.

Based on a true story, the play compares the pressure on Indians in foreign lands, uprooted from their familiar milieu, to perform or perish, to the ripping out of a mogra plant from its roots to show it to the sun and frighten it into flowering.

The incest angle in the play involves a possessive sister who loves her brother to distraction and makes his life miserable by following him to Oxford, and ends up committing suicide. Arundhati essayed this powerful role brilliantly, and subsequently figured in all the lead roles in plays directed by Shankar Nag, like Sandhya Chaaya, Barrister and Nagamandala.

***

All this while, Arundhati and I have been seated in the sprawling wood, brick and steel interiors of Ranga Shankara that strongly remind me of the avant garde ambience at Prithvi theatre in Bombay.

Raptly listening to this veteran actress’s narration of her life story, I am enveloped in her warm personality. Wearing an ethnic cotton saree, Arundhati brims with life, with a can’t-stop-me attitude, full of dreams, like a dam waiting to burst.

Keen to leverage the success of Paa, the recent Hindi film which won her awards and accolades, to attract more people to theatre, she is willing to patiently answer inquisitive queries from journalists.

“I’ve been doing theatre for 35 years and nobody knows me, but one Paa makes me famous nationwide,” she says wryly. The role came to her without her actively seeking it. It was director  R. Balakrishnan (aka Balki) who called her for a screen test.

“I agreed, but once they picked me I asked them to send me the script before I finally agreed. I assessed the length of the role first. I also decided to charge them handsomely. If they want me in the film, they have to pay for it,” says this actress who has also acted in Mani Ratnam’s film Dil se and the superhit Kannada film Jogi, and assisted David Lean in the direction of A Passage to India.

***

Theatre always comes first, however.

“Theatre is my sanity, my mantra and lifeline, and something I hold very dear. It’s a space where you can keep discovering yourself through impersonations, a zone where nobody wants to know who your parents are, how rich or poor you are. You are only as good as you are,” she strives to explain her love.

It’s also a zone in which she never ever fools around, she points out.

Her “on-off” relationship with Shankar did the final flip when he convinced her to marry him. Then 23, she was at the peak of her theatre career and her move to Bangalore must have dented her career in Marathi and Gujarati theatre. But after knowing him for six years Arundhati decided this relationship deserved more and felt that she could contemplate a longer life with him.

It is another matter that in the end she never really had that luxury of time with him.

“I’m not ambitious,” she says, “but since I worked with an oneness of purpose in theatre, it has paid off. It’s not as if TV or movies don’t come my way. But something had to be done for theatre. I’ve seen generation after generation moving to movies and not coming back. This is an Indian phenomenon, because in the West even a Meryl Streep returns to the stage once a while.”

Even when Arundhati took a break to have her only child, she returned to the stage with a 28-day-old baby to act in the lead role of the runaway popular comedy Nodi Swamy Navirodu Heege. She paid a tribute to her husband on his first death anniversary not with a shraadh or pooja but by staging a play he had discussed with her before his life rudely ended in a car accident in 1990.

She says, “The last conversation Shankar and I had in the car before the accident was whether I would do Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage. So when I was discharged from the hospital after nine months, our theatre-friends and I staged the play as a tribute to him. We had lost a central pole in our lives and this was the only way we could remember him.”

Her relationship with her husband was an equal one based on mutual respect.

It was with him that she had taken her first steps towards intellectual thought. “I discovered Fyodor Dostoevsky and Albert Camus with him. He had a high regard of me as an actress. He was my compatriot. In the 17 years I was with him, I know people will not believe me, he never once raised his voice with me even to say, enough! If I was angry, he would say, ‘Jaani, you are angry, we will talk later’,” she relates.

***

The hardest part was coming to terms with the physical annihilation. Accepting the unfairness of it all took time.

“You cannot understand when you are so young, why someone sitting next to you should go and not you. I did not see him after that.” She herself was badly injured in the accident with broken bones, and had to fight hard even to be able to walk again. Her sister never left her side even as her mother and theatre friends rallied around to help her recuperate.

Her mother-in-law managed to bring a sense of calm to their daughter, Kavya, then just five. But life took an even more difficult turn when she realized she had inherited her husband’s projects and the debts linked to them.

“It’s not like Shankar was foolish with money. Nobody expects to die before turning 35,” she says. “Shankar had great ideas. He had borrowed money to set up the Country Club project, a garment unit, and he had done the survey for an underground railway project in Bangalore. All he had earned was scattered among these projects but his dreams were arrested mid-air. All his projects boomeranged when he died.”

Worse, Arundhati was totally in the dark about what he charged for a movie, and sans any written documents she was staring at the prospect of a seriously depleted bank account.

The anguish dulled with time. Stoking long-forgotten wounds might be painful but she gamely carries on.

“I just had to learn quickly what was happening around me, and take strong decisions. People were changing around me with Shankar gone. In a flash, I had to learn, literally, to live life all over again – from walking, talking and understanding money.”

She took up the reins of the Country Club for five years with money borrowed from the market, and finally sold it off to pay debts worth crores. It took her ten years to get rid of all the liabilities.

“I was broke. I was the last parent paying the fees. My friends gave me hand-me-down clothes. I had just enough money to put petrol and drive my daughter to the bus stop,” she recounts.

“I guess once it hit me I had no choice, I had to pick up my life,” Arundhati continues. “I could not collapse because I had a young daughter who should not see me as a dependent and broken woman. I had to bring up a healthy, normal child. Anything for that!”

So, she filled her farmhouse with robust laughter, music, painting, flowers and books. A Mallikarjun Mansur tune would put a spring in her step. She learnt vegetable dyeing. She plunged into cooking, rustling up different flavours.

Kavya, whose greatest fear was to see tears in her mother’s eyes, never did anything to make her cry even as a teenager. If her school bag or shoe was torn she would reassure her mother that they could wait for the next term. “The child was completely sensitive to the situation. She knew her amma was in a tough spot.”

At one point, however, when the financial mess got too hot and she was constantly on the phone reassuring people she was not going to flee Karnataka but pay up her debts, she realised this was not an environment for a child to grow up.

“That was a difficult time. I stopped cooking, stopped doing anything around the house and let myself go. I would sit in office till 10 pm, not eating or sleeping. This went on for three months. But one day, I just got up and realised that I was going to seed. I berated myself: ‘Should I be finished when my husband dies or if my daughter goes to a hostel? Do I have such low self-esteem? It’s really about being nice to yourself first.’ You can give birth to beauty only if you nourish yourself.”

It also helped that Arundhati was inherently a happy person. “I guess I’m one of those people who cannot be sad for long,” she says candidly.

***

After this struggle one would think Arundhati would have dimmed the stage lights and got ready for a fadeout. But no, she still had her husband’s dream to fulfil.

“I was focused on Ranga Shankara, the theatre I wanted to dedicate to him. When I opened my eyes every morning I would think, who should I call up today for money? The money market was bad at that time. Nobody could understand why this woman wanted to build a theatre when people were pulling down theatres to build multiplexes,” she tells me.

She compares her frenetic hunt to raise money for the project to the ferocious intensity in Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts in Thus Spake Zarathushtra.

In a strong voice, she quotes from it: “…your room trembles when a carriage goes past. I, however, am sitting in the carriage and often I am the carriage itself.” During that period, she had no eyes or ears for anything or anybody except for someone who would give her money.

Once things got started after S.M. Krishna gave her funds, Arundhati remembers being overwhelmed by the enormity of the project. “My own house is a mud house with tiles. Here, the scale was so huge. I had never seen 75,000 bags of cement or 300 tons of steel,” she says.

This determined woman knocked on every possible door to make her dream come true. She contacted the department of mines and geology for picking up rocks at a concessional rate, for someone to cut it and a builder to lay it for free, for someone to paint the walls inside and yet another for the outside.

Industrialists, working professionals, students, and even a daily wage earner donated money for the theatre to become a reality.

Ranga Shankara opened in 2004 after three-and-a-half years of construction. It is run by the Sanket Trust and Arundhati Nag is one of the managing trustees.

It is not a paid position but she works around the clock to keep the place buzzing with plays (300 performances a year), workshops, lectures, an ongoing children’s theatre programme and theatre festivals. It has forged partnerships with theatre companies abroad as well, such as the one with the Mannheim National Theatre of Germany that will lead to a play on immigrants called Boy and the Suitcase.

Launching in Germany in April 2011, this co-production will come to Ranga Shankara in July 2011. She has also signed an MoU with California Shak espeare Theater for a similar partnership.

Today, Ranga Shankara is supported by three major sponsors – Biocon, Titan and Infosys – which helps in keeping the cost of renting the theatre affordably low.

One of the best features of the place is the air-conditioned auditorium with a seating capacity of 320 and a thrust stage with a floor area of 1,750 sq. ft. It has four green rooms and the best of sound, lighting and other technical facilities.

Having just returned from travelling around India sourcing plays for the annual Ranga Shankara festival, Arundhati is also busy acting in plays like Girish Karnad’s Bikhre Bimb (Broken Images). The play revolves around an English literature professor swamped with guilt for her success in penning an English novel.

As she introduces her book on TV, she is confronted with images of herself questioning her betrayal to Kannada, her mother language. “A story Girish wrote for me, which is the ultimate flattery,” she says with joy.

As Arundhati enters another phase of her life with the marriage of her daughter Kavya and Ranga Shankara settling into its own rhythm, you wonder, what next?

But Arundhati has more dreams and it all has to do with theatre, naturally. She would like to make her role of creative director at Ranga Shankara a coveted paid position in theatre after her, to take theatre to corporates and school and make them alive to aesthetics, to ensure that the next generation will take theatre forward, and for more theatre to emerge.

Theatre, theatre and more theatre – but that’s not surprising considering this is one area she has not let go all her life.

As she rushes off to catch an English play being staged by a young theatre group, her words ring in my mind: “If you strip off all your material possessions, you are nothing but the sum total of your thoughts. You need something in life you have nurtured and watered with time or else old age will be a curse.”

She need never worry, for theatre will always be by her side.

(This piece appears in the September-October issue of the outstanding bimonthly magazine, Housecalls, edited by Ratna Rao Shekar and published by Dr Reddy‘s Laboratories)

Photograph: courtesy Dr M. Vivek/Housecalls

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‘Who told you I am a Tamilian? I am a Kannadiga’

18 August 2010

The hand of India’s most famous newspaper cartoonist, R.K. Laxman, lies still in a hospital in Bombay without a pen or pencil in its grip. Not even sure if (or when) it will regain the strength to pick up a pen or pencil to regale the millions who have woken up to the magic behind its mind for decades.

In this churumuri.com exclusive, Laxman’s grand-nephew, the journalist turned corporate manager Chetan Krishnaswamy, paints an intimate portrayal of Mysore-born, Kannada-speaking “Dudu”, with unpublished doodles and illustrations from the family album.

***

By CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY

After resolutely hanging on to the front page of The Times of India for close to 60 years now, it is perhaps difficult for the Common Man to remain in obscurity for too long.

Even as his creator lies in a hospital in Bombay recuperating from a series of paralytic strokes, the Common Man seems to have naively steered himself into the centre of a religious controversy.

A caricature of contemporary politics based on a biblical scene, with the Common Man occupying Jesus’s position, which appeared in ToI in July, hurt a section of the Christian community. Matters seem to have cooled off after the newspaper tendered an apology.

Many years ago R.K. Laxman had infuriated a group of Hindu fanatics when a cartoon showed  them setting fire to an automobile. The group had barged into his room and demanded to know how Lord Ram’s staunch followers could be projected as rabid arsonists.

Much to their annoyance, the quick-witted Laxman expressed his doubts on whether they had all really imbibed the Ramayana.  He went on to expound that the most ardent Ram bhakt was Lord Hanuman, who had gone about setting fire to Lanka with his blazing tail.

Rather confused, the group had trooped out awkwardly.

***

Suffice to say, Laxman has led an unconventional life. In 1960 he divorced his then dancer-wife Kamala and married his niece also named Kamala. Laxman did it on his terms and brooked no criticism.

The genius is prone to being eccentric and intimidating at times.

At a Bollywood party, a fawning crowd sought his views on actor Sanjay Dutt’s involvement  in the Bombay serial blasts of 1993. Laxman said that he did not think that the actor had played a major role in the terrorist act.

“However, the judge should pronounce the death sentence for the way he looks and the way he acts,” added Laxman brazenly.

There was a disconcerting hush that preceded this statement.

***

On most occasions when Laxman travelled into Bangalore or Mysore, I would be his privileged companion. I drove with him (and Kamala) to all his engagements and eagerly absorbed  his wry observations, sarcastic comments and comical anecdotes.

His world view was simple yet fascinating.

Laxman’s spontaneity and brilliance, was most visible when he held forth before an eager, awe-struck audience.

On one occasion, he recounted how he had mastered the art of slinking away from noisy parties that always began well past midnight. At an appropriate hour,  Laxman would sidle up to the host, mumble a vague incoherent excuse interspersed with words like “airport”, “appointment” , “meeting”  etc.

Invariably, the tipsy host would fall for the ploy and accompany him to the exit.  At home, Laxman would contentedly  slurp on his staple fare of curd rice and retire to bed.

Once in Mysore, after we finished attending a seminar, a leading business house was hosting dinner in Laxman’s honour that evening.

After a hot bath we headed to the venue, which was supposed to be at one of the offices of this flourishing  group. The minute we landed there, Laxman  noticed that people were already mid-way through their bisi bele baath and mosaranna.

The bigger crisis was that there was no whisky being served.

In a split second, Laxman grabbed the arm of his old friend, the legendary nuclear scientist Raja Ramanna (who hailed from Vontikoppal originally), coaxed him to abandon his plate and propelled him out.

All of us jumped into Raja Ramanna’s Mercedes and headed to Hotel King’s Kourt for Johnny Walker Black Label and dinner.

Of course, a magnanimous Raja Ramanna paid the bill.

Earlier that day at the seminar in Mysore’s intellectual retreat Dhvanyaloka,   Laxman was edgy while presenting his paper.

At one point, the academic doyen Dr C.D.Narasimhaiah interjected and commented: “You Tamilians have always been humorous….”

The Mysore-born Laxman bore into him from above his thick rimmed glasses and said: “Who told you I am a Tamilian, I am a Kannadiga….”

The loudest applause came from noted Kannada writer S.L.Bhyrappa, who was sitting by my side. I would like to believe that Laxman was quite genuine when he made that comment.

***

On another occasion, chief minister S.M.Krishna was felicitating the cartoonist at Bangalore’s Institution of Engineers. Soon after the event, there was a milling crowd that blocked me from getting to Laxman.

Even as the driver revved the State car with Laxman in it, there  was confusion all around, security was instructed to look for a certain Chetan Krishnaswamy.

Sensing an emergency, I rushed to the car and plugged my head in, he looked at me a trifle irritated  and enquired: “So where are we going?”

That evening, accompanied by my dear friend and former bureaucrat Pramod Kumar Rai, we sipped beer in his guest house.  The next morning the hospitable Chief Minister’s wife sent the Laxmans piping hot idlis for breakfast.

***

On a visit to a not-so-distant relative’s house in Bangalore, he irritatedly whispered into my ears: “Who is who here? The servants and the relatives all look the same.”

Thankfully nobody heard that.

Dudu , as Laxman is called in the family, was born on 24 October 1924, the youngest of six sons. His strict headmaster father Rasipuram Venkataraman Krishnaswamy Iyer was  imperious and remote, preoccupied with his work to bother much about his youngest son.

The mother Gnanambal, who was the Mysore Maharani’s favourite partner in tennis, bridge and chess, was the cheerful collaborator.

Not many know that in his working years Laxman unfailingly sent his mother a portion of his salary by post. When he came to Mysore on vacation, he would spend most of  his time sprawled on his mother’s cot.

The other great influence was his famous sibling R.K.Narayan, who, to young Laxman’s relief, underplayed the importance of academics, connected him to important artists in Mysore and allowed him to illustrate his short stories for The Hindu set in mythical Malgudi.

Interestingly, both the brothers had contrasting personalities.

While Narayan was a teetotaler, unassuming, patient and more gentle; Laxman was mercurial and quite a free-spirited rabble rouser. Narayan mentored his nephews and grand nephews; was always concerned about the extended family’s well being and future.

Laxman was affectionate but seemed more distant.

However, both brothers were non-ritualistic in their spiritual beliefs.  Laxman, though was a little more vocal in criticising established religion and sometimes refused to walk into crowded temples.

His favorite deity has always  been the playful elephant god Ganesha, which he drew with great dexterity and vigor. For his artist eye, the rotund form seemed to manifest itself everywhere: in a tree trunk, a weather beaten boulder, a drifting cloud, etc.

Laxman’s  other enduring  subject has been the common crow, whose quirks have held him spell-bound  since childhood. Curiously, Narayan’s obsession was the owl: he had accumulated a collection of statuettes  over a period of time.

As kids, my cousins and I would be intrigued by this strange collection every time we were able to sneak into Narayan’s  airy room in Mysore.

Is there an explanation for one family spawning two such outstanding creative figures?

N.Ram, the present chief editor of The Hindu, had attempted to respond to that question:

“It happens very rarely but it has happened elsewhere. They express individual genius, which has always defied explanation, but they are also products of a particular family and social milieu that has been congenial to creativity: liberal and modern in outlook, yet imbued with strong values and laidback integrity and respectful of independence and originality.

“The link between childhood and adult creativity is now well recognised in the social science, especially psychological, literature: that is, the importance to the creative mind of a childhood in which exploration and curiosity are encouraged, not restricted or stifled.

“Laxman, a decade-and-a-half younger than Narayan, is very different in make-up, temperament and experience. But he is a product of the same kind of upbringing and social milieu that have fostered creativity, although they cannot of course ‘explain’ it.

“Further, Laxman (who, in his autobiography, tells us that ‘I do not remember wanting to do anything else except draw’) has clearly benefited, from the beginning, from having Narayan around him: to mind him as a child, to encourage his independence and creativity, to have him illustrate his Malgudi stories and novels, to take pride, without ever making a fuss, in his gift and accomplishments. I have observed the two brothers together: so close, yet so different, and so independent from each other—creative contrasts from one distinctive, difficult to replicate, pool.”

***

Although Laxman never wore a wrist watch in his entire life, he had a fondness for tweaking watches and other mechanical contraptions. He was the quintessential man about the house repairing gadgets that had broken down and fixing other knick knacks.

A born engineer!

As kids he would regale us with magic tricks. Coins would disappear and appear, sometimes dropping out of our noses and ears. He always had a bundle of tricks up his sleeve, and was the most awaited guest in our houses.

In the later years, brother R.K.Srinivasan’s home  kept a brown hardbound book for Laxman to doodle everytime he came on a vacation. The book, a family heirloom, has a range of Laxman’s caricatures.

They are whacky, whimsical, political, absurd – perhaps  reflecting Laxman’s relaxed mood. A whole bunch of them are ball-point scribbles, but with the distinctive stamp of the artist.

***

In November last year, Laxman visited Bangalore and Mysore and patiently posed for pictures with the entire family. It was painful to see him wheel chair bound and cheerless. A paralytic stroke had rendered his left side completely useless.

I had lunch with the Laxmans in their hotel room in Mysore and took them for a quick drive around Laxman’s old haunts in the city. He rode with me in silence, periodically making uncharitable comments about the city.

He cursed the lack of street lights, the  bad roads and shoddy planning of what was once his most beloved city. This time,  I was careful not to make unnecessary small talk or embellish his views with my own banalities.

As darkness set in, he wanted to be dropped back to his hotel. Unlike in the past, it seemed evident that the genius  had not enjoyed the drive.  As his helpers heaved him out of the car and placed him on  his wheel chair, he thanked me quickly and cursed the flight of stairs that appeared before him.

***

Recently, actor Akshay Kumar visited him at the Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai to talk to him about his latest film that was based on the Common Man.

Wonder whether Laxman will ever regale an audience about this encounter with the same fervor and zest.

***

Author photograph: courtesy Facebook

View unpublished doodles/ illustrations: here and here

***

Also read: Has namma R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

Laxman & Narayan: How one family produced two geniuses

Look, who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Chidambaram a saboteur?

17 July 2010

Of all the millions of words that have been expended since Thursday night to examine and re-examine the collapse of the Indo-Pak talks into a slugfest between the two subcontinental S.M.s—Krishna and Qureshithe most incisive 1,042 words come from the editor of the Madras-headquartered New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha, who lobs the grenade the Delhi media cannot fine the ball bearings to: did Union home minister P. Chidambaram sabotage the dialogue?

How?

Even as Krishna is flying into Islamabad, Chidambaram’s top bureaucrat, home secretary G.K. Pillai, accuses the ISI of being behind the 26/11 attack in an interview with the Chidambaram-friendly Indian Express. Predictably, at the mention of ISI, Qureshi flies off the handle and accuses Krishna of taking orders on his cellphone, etc, and soon enough taglines like “Big Chill”, “Tu-tu-main-main“, “Aman ki Ashes” start crawling on TV screens.

Sinha’s entirely plausible theory sparks a bigger question: is the veshti-wearing, Harvard-accented Chidambaram what he is cracked up to be—a high IQ dude competently running his ministry unlike the bandgala-worshipping Shivraj Patil? Or is he just pursuing an agenda all his own that is often at odds with the weltanschaaung of the Congress and is perhaps even deliberately intended at causing discomfort to prime minister Manmohan Singh who has made foreign policy the signature tune of his second term?

The suggestion could have been dismissed off-hand if only if were the first such indiscretion. It isn’t.

# Witness the Telangana tamasha, manufactured mostly by Chidambaram’s breakneck speed in announcing the formation of a new State after TRS chief K. Chandrashekar Rao‘s fast-unto-death, that has turned Congress’ most profitable state into a liability.

# Witness the  operation against Naxals that has turned vast swathes of the hinterland into a graveyard posting for CRPF jawans. (Arundhati Roy has called him “CEO of the war” because he appears to be furthering the cause of his former clients by using State power to clear tribal land for their mining and business interests.)

# Witness the upsurge in violence in Kashmir after the CRPF, which is getting slaughtered in the Naxal badlands, opens fire on teenagers throwing stones and plunges the State into the kind of chaos not since the militancy began in 1989.

# Witness the Afzal Guru issue which again gained traction following a report (obviously in Indian Express) that the Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit is sitting on it that causes further embarrassment to a party bending backwards to avoid it.

Chidambaram has, for long, been a slightly distrusted individual in the Congress. Partymen salute his obvious brilliance in dealing with complex issues like the Bhopal gas compensation, but he is seen as a bit of an upstart who left the party and became finance minister in non-Congress Third Front and United Front governments. There are some who whisper that the careerist very nearly joined the BJP.

Even if you put all that down to professional jealousy, it cannot be denied that he enjoys a fair degree of middle-class sympathy, especially among the NDTV viewing sections of it, especially for his muscular stance against Naxals and his “proactive” approach to policing by mouthing hollow American tripe like the “Buck Stops Here”. He is, in a manner of speaking, the English-speaking Narendra Modi, without evoking the same visceral venom.

Nevertheless, the Indo-Pak kerfuffle is a good time to ask if Chidambaram is playing his own tune in the government, (which is why he routinely runs afoul of party loyalists like Digvijay Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar). Is he doing it on his own volition or to some higher power’s script? On the other hand, if Chidambaram is eyeing the “7, Race Course Road” address on his visiting card should such an eventuality arise, will such antics necessary earn points on the Congress high command’s scorecard?

Did Manmohan Singh miss a golden opportunity by not accepting Chidambaram’s resignation (not since offered) after the first Dantewada massacre of CRPF jawans?

Or is there something here that falls short of logic?

Also read: Is Chidambaram positioning himself for PM role?

6 + 1 questions after the return of Santosh Hegde

4 July 2010

The Karnataka Lok Ayukta, Justice N. Santosh Hegde‘s decision to withdraw his resignation will surprise a few and not surprise those whose literature major was drama.

But his invocation of the “former future prime minister of India”, L.K. Advani—”he is like my father” just two days after he had stated that “he will not influence me“—as justification for his move is sure to spark a few questions:

1) Like, despite his public protestations, is chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa entirely happy with Justice Hegde’s decision to stay back? After all, it was he who had thanked Justice Hegde for his services without even going through the courtesy of requesting him to continue in office for fear of embarrassing him, and wasn’t even inclined to meet him?

2) Like, despite its contempt for the high command-driven politics of the Congress, is the BJP too firmly in its grip? After all, it took the persuasive powers of Sushma Swaraj to put an end to the last rebellion of the Reddy brothers last November after every other method had failed. And now, the “former future prime minister of India” has had to step in to resolve a State issue.

3) Like, despite his decision to quit as BJP president, is L.K. Advani still running the party, be it in putting up Ram Jethmalani as a party candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls, wooing back Jaswant Singh, cosying up to Uma Bharti, and now in intervening in l’affaire Hegde? And is the RSS entirely happy with his enhanced role, or is this an admission that its candidate Nitin Gadkari has  flopped?

4) Like, given Justice Hegde’s earlier resolve to quit come hell or high water, are we to assume from the trajectory of his return that the “former future prime minister of India” is more powerful than the chief minister and his colleagues, former chief minister S.M. Krishna, governor H.R. Bharadwaj and Union home minister P. Chidambaram, all of whom tried to woo him back but in vain?

5) Will Justice Hegde get another term as Lok Ayukta or will he remit office as scheduled later this year? Either way, will he share the dais with politicians after saying that he did not trust them, and that there were only three-and-a-half honest ministers in Yediyurappa’s team?

6) Who will emerge stronger from this episode? Justice Hegde or Yediyurappa or the Reddy brothers? Will Justice Hegde getting the backing and cooperation he is seeking, or will he find that he will be found dispensable after the storm subsides? Will the Reddy brothers raise a fresh banner of revolt if the heat gets to them?

Bonus question: Like, where do all those who insinuated that Justice Santosh Hegde was acting at the behest of the Congress in resigning on the eve of the BJP government’s’ sadhana samavesha and making charges of corruption, stand now that he is back at the behest of the “former future prime minister of India”?

Photograph: Karnataka Lok Ayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde along with BJP national president Nitin Gadkari and chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa at his residence in Bangalore on Saturday. ( Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: ‘In Ram Rajya, hamaam mein sab nange hain

Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

In ‘Ram Rajya’, hamaam mein sab nange hain

1 July 2010

Justice Nanje Gowda Venkatachala and Justice Nitte Santosh Hegde. Both former judges at the Supreme Court of India. Both Lok Ayuktas of Karnataka, under four different chief ministers; the former cleaning the augean stables loudly in front of TV cameras; the other less visibly but more effectively.

On paper, the two “could have transformed Karnataka and set an example for a cleaner, more honest India, whose official motto, inscribed below the national coat of arms, is ‘Satyameva jayate’ (Truth alone prevails),” writes Samar Halarnkar in the Hindustan Times.

In reality, though:

“For years, successive Congress chief ministers [S.M. Krishna and Dharam Singh], and the Janata Dal (S) of former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda [through son H.D. Kumaraswamy], ran administrations that ensured only deceit and dishonesty prevailed in Karnataka.

“Given its pledges of delivering a righteous Ram rajya, the BJP was the great political hope against corruption. That hope even led Justice Venkatachala to the BJP in February 2009. “You need political will to fight corruption,” Venkatachala had said then. “Such political will is there in the BJP.”

“Instead, the BJP has joined in the plunder of what was once India’s metropolis of the future. Crooked politicians and bureaucrats drive SUVs and own multiple mansions and businesses, as corruption worsens, the city crumbles, and the revelry begins over Justice Hegde’s impending departure.”

Read the full article: Those tears of doom

Also read: Getaway of the Louts in the Gateway to the South

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

Why has corruption become such a small issue?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Whose Global Investors’ Meet is it anyway?

2 June 2010

An extraordinary advertising campaign—comprising hundreds of mediocre advertisements in newspapers and tens of silly spots on television, all obviously paid for with taxpayers’ money—has been unleashed by the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa in the run-up to the global investors’ meet (GIM) in Bangalore on June 3 and 4.

The media, while quietly accepting the advertising windfall, has done little to question the grandiose, even quixotic claims, which seem more intended at creating a favourable perception among the public of a regime marred by dissension, scandal, corruption and non-performance, and less about attracting “global investors”.

The government, it appears, has done little to learn from the ongoing protests in various parts of the country or from Karnataka itself, and it seems to tilt with the windmills of experience of similar investors’ meet, like S.M. Krishna‘s, where most of the promised investments never fructified and only served as a PR exercise.

A bunch of peoples’ organizations is organising a token protest against the global investors’ meet in Bangalore on Thursday, 3 June. The venue is the town hall, the time 5 pm. Below is the full text of the joint press statement issued by the organisations to explain their opposition.

***

OPPOSE AUCTION OF KARNATAKA

Demand people-friendly and environment-friendly development

***

The chief minister of Karnataka has announced that the two-day global investors meet in Bangalore will bring in Rs 3 lakh crore of investment as well as around 300,000 new jobs.

The promise of 3 lakh jobs to be created by the GIM and the prosperity it will bring to Karnataka does not appear to be true. The government is happy peddling false promises of invesment and job creation while ignoring the jobs lost.

***

As per government data from the department of industrial policy and promotion, the total foreign direct investment (FDI) approved in Karnataka between 2000-2010 is around Rs 30,000 crore and the actual amount invested less than that.

So how will Rs 3 lakh crores be realised in two days, if the last 10 years brought in only Rs 30,000 crore? And if Further , the 3 lakh crores were supposed to bring in 3 lakh jobs. Now if the actual amount will be much lesser, how many jobs actually get created?

Also, here, each job is being created for an investment of Rs 1 crore (Rs 3 lakh crore = 3 lakh jobs). However, for the same Rs one crore which is invested in the small and medium industries, 20 jobs can be created.

***

The government has approved MS Zuari fertilisers and chemicals ltd. to establish a urea plant in Mastihole village, Hukkeri taluk, Belgaum, with an investment of Rs 4,565 crore. It is supposed to create 1,560 jobs. It means an investment of Rs 3 crores for each job!

Similarly, the government has approved a proposal to India Cements limited to establish a 2 MTPA cement plant and 60 MW coal-based thermal power plant at Ganapur, Burugupalli of Chincholi taluk, Gulbarga district, with an investment of Rs 850 crores. The promise of job creation is only 175. It means that Rs 5 crore are invested to create one job.  (Sources: government orders—CI 27 SPI 2010, CI 32 SPI 2010)

***

The State government has already acquired 50,000 acres and is in the process of acquiring another 100,000 acres of land. Hence a total of 1,50,000 acres are being acquired.

Even by conservative estimates, farming on 1 acre of land can support at least five people. Hence the 1,50,000 acres of land being acquired will support at least 7,50,000 people. Now once this land is acquired, all these jobs are lost.

Even assuming that the GIM really creates 3 lakh jobs and that all these jobs (including managers, technical experts etc) are distributed amongst those who lost jobs, it still leaves 4.5 lakh people jobless as a result of the land acquisition for the GIM.

In its defence, the government has stated that mostly non-agricultural land has been required. However seeing the gazette notifications for the land acquisition, we see that the government is lying.

For instance, one of the government orders (CI66SPQ2010, Bangalore, dated 17 February 2010) says that 1,542 acres of land has been acquired in Bailahongala, Belgaum. Out of 1,542 acres acquired just 25 acres of land is barren, the remaining 1,517 acres or 99.8% land acquired is agricultural land.

***

There is a net loss of employment due to GIM. In addition, we will also lose valuable capital, water and electricity.

The Rs 3 lakh crore investment will not come directly from private firms. A large part of that will be from bank loans. Money in the banks consists of the savings of people of the state or is tax money which is with state owned banks. So in effect it our own money being diverted to them and coming back in the form of FDI.

All these industries will require water and electricity. No new water can be created. So even though there is an existing water crisis, billions of litres will be divested to these new industries.

We also already have an electricity crisis with many rural areas having 16 hour power cuts. Where will we get more power to supply to these industries? It is also a matter of shame that many of these destructive industries are provided massive subsidies of water and electricity, while the farmers in the state are committing suicide.

***
Hence, by organizing the GIM the state government has sold Karnataka, piece by piece. People voted for a government to rule the state, and not sell the state and its resources.

The entry of special economic zones will be a major blow to the lands, environment and labour relations of the people of Karnataka. Already Orissa stand as a glaring example for us to understand what is going to happen in the investment friendly states like Karnataka.

Posco and Tatas have been targeted by the activists for their role in police firing and lathi charge on innocent people in Orissa. Over 100 people resisting Posco in Orissa were injured recently and even their medical care is being denied.

Over a dozen people were killed by police firing in Kalinganagar earlier and recently the police killed one more adivasi. We strongly object the entry of such a model of development which sheds human blood instead of human welfare.

If the state of Karnataka is going ahead with the this kind of a development paradigm at the cost of the life and livelihood of the dalits, adivasis and farmers, the global investors’ meet raises a set of questions.

Like, what will be the social, environmental, economic and political costs involved in this entire process? Like, why is this whole process being rushed through without public consultations and political consultations ?

In order to achieve overall inclusive development, we need to look at it from the perspective of increasing the purchasing power of the people of the state. However, these foreign direct investments will actually decrease the purchasing power of the people.

Keeping this in mind, people from across the country need to oppose this form of investor led development. We demand that the state works towards a development approach which is based on strengthening local economic systems.

The GIM however does not do anything to strengthen the local economic system or the people and hence the government should immediately stop this mode of development.

It is the responsibility of all of us, the people of Karnataka to force the government to abandon this destructive mode of development. We appeal to all citizens of Karnataka to join this resistance for a people friendly and environment friendly development policy.

Ultimately, it is matter of our jobs, our money, our natural resources and our lives.

***

Peoples’ Solidarity Concern, Social Action Committee, Stree Jagruti, Sichrem, SCM, Radical IT Domestic Workers Union, Alternative Law Forum, Pedestrian Pictures, NAPM, Janasahayog, National Alliance for Peoples Movement, Karnataka Janapara Vedike, Samanatha Mahila vedike , Swabhimani Dalitha Shakthi, PUCL-Karnataka.

Photograph: Chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa inspects preparations for the global investors’ meet at the palace grounds in Bangalore on Wednesday, with minister Murugesh Nirani in tow (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: An open letter to P. Chidambaram

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Mittal Steel get the land?

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

An open letter to Chetan of Chikkabasavanahalli


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