Archive for August, 2008

Do only Gujaratis have asmita? Don’t we Indians?

31 August 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As we speak, the “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” of India is moving heaven, earth and everything else in between to conclude a civilian nuclear deal with the United States of America.

Yet, how is it that the same “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” of India is taking the disgraceful denial of a visa to one of its citizens by the same United States of America lying down?

The citizen I am referring to is Narendra Damodardas Modi.

The Gujarat chief minister, re-elected with a thundering majority by the people of Gujarat last December, has had to address the World Gujarati Conference in New Jersey by video because the US State department wouldn’t give him a visa, the second time this has happened following Gujarat 2002.

On what grounds can a visa be rejected for a person who applies for it through the proper channels on a passport issued under the seal of the President of India?

Judging from its silence, it appears the Congress-led UPA government of Manmohan Singh is “happy” that Modi has been barred entry into the United States. Else, it should have sent a stiff memo in private and raised hell in public for this insult to the democratically elected chief minister of a State.

So far, only Modi’s party, the BJP, has chosen to respond.

“Dictators can go there [the U.S.]… fascists, murderers can go there… but the democratically elected Chief Minister of a federal State of India cannot go there,” the party’s spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad has said. “Should America bow down to this kind of vilification campaign by a group of people whose agenda is anti-BJP throughout?”

Those are good questions, but why isn’t the government asking them? Why isn’t the Congress, which is not entirely populated by angels, not asking them? Why aren’t the non-BJP opposition parties, which too are not entirely populated by angels, not asking them? Why aren’t the media, which also is not entirely populated by angels, not asking them?

Do only Gujaratis have asmita?

Don’t we, as Indians, not have asmita?

Would the Chinese government and media react so sanguinely if one of its not-so-democratically elected leaders was denied a visa? Would the Japanese? If we are an emerging regional superpower, if we are supposedly getting close to the United States and standing shoulder to shoulder, how on earth does the US get away with such a stinging slap?

On the other hand, should this surprise us?

George Fernandes, as defence minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee team, was strip-searched and frisked down to his knickers, a fact happily reported by deputy secretary Strobe Talbott in his book, Engaging India.

If we could happily accept that national insult, obviously the “Rejected” seal on Narendra Modi’s passport is proof, full, firm and final, that while we as a nation bend backwards to please western countries, we crawl shamelessly, effortlessly when need be.

Especially if a nuclear deal is at the end of the road.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The Economist calls Narendra Modi a ‘disgrace’

CHURUMURI POLL: Should US restore Modi visa?

Watch the video: ‘Like it or leave it, Modi will be PM’

In my humble opinion, an ‘idiot’ is one who…

31 August 2008

SUDHEENDRA MURALI alerts us to a story in The Sunday Times of India in which the Supreme Court has, in its infinite wisdom, laid down three parameters on the basis of which any of our countrymen (and women) can be certified an idiot.

Yes, an idiot.

To mix metaphors in an idiotic sort of way, an idiot is one who, in the eyes of the long arm of the law which is an ass, an idiot is one who:

1) is unable to count up to 20.

2) is unable to list the days of the week.

3) is unable to remember the names of his parents.

“An idiot is one who is of non-sane memory from his birth, by a perpetual infirmity, without lucid intervals: and those are said to be idiots who cannot count 20, or tell the days of the week or who do not know their fathers or mothers or the like,” said the judgement by Justices Arijit Pasayat and M.K. Sharma.

But, as (most) non-idiots are aware, we are gheraoed by idiots who, in our biased eyes, are fully capable of lucidly circumventing these conditions and do so in perpetuity. What then are the other parameters the SC ought to have considered to separate “us” from “them”?

# Are those who repeatedly forget our names and birthdays idiots?

# Are those who ask us our mother tongue or caste idiots?

# Are those who piss, shit and spit on the roads, idiots?

# Are those who park their car on the wrong side idiots?

# Are those who write emails like snailmails, idiots?

# Are those who are hooked on to “reality” shows, Bollywood gossip, page 3 stuff, idiots?

# Are those who use their animal instincts to try to force us to turn vegetarian idiots?

# Are those foolish enough to be caught speaking behind our backs idiots?

In other words, what are the everyday parameters the non-legal world should employ to judge idiots?

Only the teacher turns up for all the classes

31 August 2008

The Indian Express, New Delhi, has used the Right to Information Act to obtain information about absenteeism from meetings of the Union cabinet since the United Progressive Alliance government came to power. And the findings are, well, predictable.

Only prime minister Manmohan Singh has cent-per-cent attendance in all the 217 meetings. Defence minister A.K. Antony and water resources minister Saifuddin Soz too have an impeccable record, but they joined the ministry mid-way.

Except home minister Shivraj Patil and law minister H.R. Bharadwaj no minister has more than 90 per cent attendance. Railway minister Lalu Prasad attended less than one in two. Many ministers were absent from meetings when a proposal from his or her ministry was up for discussion.

Read the full story: The case of the missing cabinet

‘The world was his oyster for a Nehruvian Indian’

30 August 2008

CHANDRASHEKAR HARIHARAN writes from Bangalore: It is difficult to explain some cruel ironies of life.

Late last evening , a senior journalist called me out of the blue to ask if I had heard of the demise of Prof H.S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar.

Ironic, because here was a man I had known, off and on, for all of 26 years, but who had never once written about me or the work our company had been doing. Yet, in his very last column in life, published in Star of Mysore three days before the end came, he had chosen to focus his attention on the work we were doing.


I had known HSK for a brief while in the early 1980s when I was a journalist filing stories on business, economy trends and so on for newspapers/ magazines I worked for. Our first meeting was one where he abruptly stopped and asked, “You said you were an accountant, is that right?”

I nodded.

“You must be doing economics, young man! Why are you wasting time as a scribe?”

A year later, some chance events had me doing further studies in the area of economics. HSK had sown the seed. I have always played down those early years I spent learning because it’s been a ‘waste of time’ as far as I was concerned. They never came in handy for the directions I chose to take in the next 25 years.

HSK didn’t think so.

I met him a couple of years ago at a wedding of a mutual friend’s daughter. We could only exchange some pleasantries amid the noise and bustle. I was meeting him after nearly 15 years, and I could see he still did not approve of my moving away from academics!

Another senior journalist of the ’80s was with us, and HSK remarked to him that he thought I had wasted my years ‘doing business’.


HSK used to teach economics at D. Banumiah‘s College in Mysore. He counted as friends legends like Dr C.D. Narasimhaiah, who was a giant among English teachers of the world, without any doubt. Many of our current writers like A.K. Ramanujan were CDN’s students.

HSK himself had as many admirers, several of them professionals whom he mentored quietly, in his own self-effacing way. He was part of another generation. A person who couldn’t suffer stupidity; a ‘Nehruvian Indian’ who knew less of his own interest, as of the larger interest of the world and his country.

In June 1983, when I covered the series of meetings at the National Economic Forum that the then chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde had called in Bangalore, with V.K.R.V. Rao and other eminent economists participating in the colloquium, HSK came up to me on the third day and said, “You seem to be an indignant young man!”

I did not realize what he was saying until I went back to see what Business Standard had published that morning of my report with a byline.

I had said something mildly disparaging about Ashok Mitra and his ambivalence on market capitalism. It is another matter that the directions that people like Dr Mitra gave to West Bengal eventually made Bengal the strident pro-capital state that it became later under Jyoti Basu.

Oh, there was another time when P.R. Brahmananda, the eminent economist who propounded the seminal food-for-wages theory in 1969, was explaining a nuance of some recent economic development at a meeting I had at his sister’s house in Basavanagudi.

HSK happened to be there. And he sat quietly, observant, not offering any comment. But that was HSK. It was not easy to get him to ‘talk economics’. But when he wrote his column, in Kannada, he had a way of deriving simple homilies out of what would otherwise have been complex theory.


Twenty-five years later, I am still indignant about many things. I guess it is not easy for some of us to accept all that is not right in the world around us.

With HSK’s passing away, a part of me died yesterday. He was one of the last bastions of integrity and a larger sense of purpose. There will be some of us who will miss him in a time when a whole new generation of people who have not seen suffering, simply don’t understand what it takes to uphold such principles as this wonderful man did.

It was a strange feeling, personally, to read HSK’s last column. You can see that he has quoted me a fair length, although he didn’t meet me or call! He must have gleaned what he has written from what he had read in the news and on the web about our work.

HSK probably had a premonition of The End.

He was probably making amends to me by finally conceding that there is some good, finally, coming out of all my ‘wasted years’!

Here is that last column of his. Read it if you have the time, knowing that the man is no more. Wonder what he would have said to me, if I had had the chance to meet him.


‘Dalits assertion in Orissa unbearable for Hindus’

30 August 2008

R. Akhileshwari, Deccan Herald‘s veteran Hyderabad correspondent, quotes Andhra Pradesh activists working in Orissa as saying that the empowerment and economic improvement of Dalits is at the core of the Hindu-Christian face-off following the murder of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati:

“The anger against Dalits and tribals, who have been the main targets of Hindu fundamentalist groups and organisations, [is] against the increasing empowerment of the traditionally oppressed people….

“Dalit assertion that is visible in many ways like wearing better clothes and speaking English language is not to the liking of the entrenched merchant-fringe Hindu fundamentalist groups who have aligned themselves to ‘teach a lesson’ to the Dalits.”

Read the full story: Communal violence is sequel to Dalit assertion

The prince, the white crow & the philanthropist

30 August 2008

K. JAVEED NAYEEM writes: A little more than a couple of months ago, on 18th of May, to be precise, I attended a fairly well-attended story-telling session by Sudha Murthy, the chairperson of the Infosys Foundation, at the newly-opened Sapna Book House in our City.

Although you may think that I was a few decades too late for such a session, I went there not because I wanted to listen to her stories, which is why almost every one of the hundred or so kids had gathered there, but for a different reason altogether.

I was there amid slightly differing circumstances too. While their mothers had brought most of the kids there, I had ‘taken’ my mother to the event. After having read a few of Mrs Murthy’s many books, my mother had become an ardent fan of hers, having been impressed by her philanthropy, simplicity and down-to-earth thinking.

So while she was away at our coffee plantation, when I told her over the phone that Mrs Murthy would be coming to one of my favourite haunts and I, with the help of my friend Thippanna, then one of the managers at Sapna, would be able to arrange a meeting with her, she immediately agreed to my suggestion and decided to come over to Mysore.

The meeting went of very well, with both ladies seeming very pleased with each other.

While Mrs Murthy was touched that an elderly lady fan of hers had taken the trouble to come all the way from distant Chikmagalur just to meet her, my mother was immensely happy that she could meet and spend a few moments with the person who had impressed her with her thoughts and ideas.

As an added bonus she was able to have a couple of pictures clicked with Mrs Murthy in addition to getting her autograph with a personal note on one of her books which she had taken along for the purpose with her.

Just as we entered the place almost towards the end of the story-telling session Mrs Murthy announced that she would be reading the last two stories for the day and asked if anyone had a copy of her book ‘The Magic Drum and Other Favourite Stories‘.

This is a book, which is a collection of some of the interesting stories she had heard from her grandmother and other sources as a child. Incidentally, this was exactly the book that we had taken along and I immediately handed it to her.

After reading a story called ‘The Costly Coconut‘ she picked another called ‘The White Crow‘ to end the session. This is an interesting story about the ‘rumoured’ appearance of a rare white crow in a small village, which settles down on the house of a poor farmer, and how the narration changes colour, along with the crow, as it travels from person to person by word of mouth.

A seemingly innocuous natural occurrence soon becomes the hottest news that engages the attention of almost everyone in the village and assumes unusual prophetic significance.

The anticlimax of the story comes when the poor farmer discloses to the perplexed villagers that it was he who floated the rumour about the crow visiting his house to show them how quickly a rumour can grow in size, change colour and spread like wildfire if not contained!

While this kind of a reaction seems pretty natural in a folk tale from a bygone era of ignorance and intellectual darkness, ironically, this is exactly what is happening in our midst today with a white crow having been sighted recently at historic Srirangapatna in our immediate neighbourhood.

While the colour of the crow does not seem to be affecting the rest of the modern world, we seem to be wasting precious time and thought over its effect on our lives. And, while the rest of the world just accepts the scientific explanation that albinism, a genetic disorder that is occasionally seen in humans can also similarly affect almost all species of animals and birds, we seem to be ascribing unusual mystical powers to it.

People are speculating endlessly over the exact appearance and the physical attributes of the unusual crow and while some say that it is completely white others tend to disagree. Not wanting to be left behind and unquoted, the lady tahsildar of Srirangapatna who reportedly arrived at the sighting spot in her official jeep, has stated, with perfect timing, that it has a black beak and black legs.

Whether this is just her observation or an official statement representing the view of the government she represents is unclear as yet.

Among the many things that many people with self-assumed wisdom are saying, a seer of some significance has predicted some disaster for the Mysore royal family and that too before this year’s Dasara that is almost upon us.

With all royal blood, especially Indian, having always been very prone to taking soothsayers and their sayings very seriously, the only surviving scion of our royal family naturally seems rather perturbed over this part of what the white crow seems to portend.

Very soon, we are bound to read about the precautions and pre-emptive actions that he certainly should and naturally would be taking to ward of the evil.

I will not be surprised if the government too steps in with its official explanation of the significance of this event, eventually attributing all its present instability and indigestion to the poor crow.

Incidentally, perhaps unknown even to most doctors, in medical parlance, a ‘white crow’ refers to any disorder that is so rare that a doctor is unlikely to encounter it in a lifetime of medical practice. This may exactly be one such case.

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

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: And, suddenly, two flew over the Yuvaraja’s nest

The Google before the real Google came along

30 August 2008

churumuri records with regret the passing away of the Kannada critic and columnist H.S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar in Mysore on Friday. He was 89 years old. A longtime columnist on matters economic with Praja Vani and Sudha, HSK wrote every week in Star of Mysore.

Admirers recall his “discipline, prolific output, and encyclopedic knowledge in the pre-internet/ Google™/ Wikipedia era”. The University of Mysore had decorated itself by honouring HSK with the honoris causa a few years ago.

In many ways, HSK was the typical old-style Mysorean: a full-sleeves shirt buttoned at the wrists but tucked out, simple leather chappals, and for a true man of letters, a residence in Saraswathipuram. Rest in peace.

Photograph: courtesy Datta Peetam

‘A dispute between two sets of communalists’

30 August 2008

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph:

“In a letter he wrote to the prime minister, the BJP leader, L.K. Advani, described the ongoing conflict in Kashmir as one between the ‘nationalists’ and the ‘separatists’. In truth, this was a dispute between two sets of communalists, one Hindu, the other Muslim.

“Ever since the expulsion of the Pandits in the early nineties, it has become difficult to see the popular movement in Kashmir in purely nationalist terms—at the very least, it must be termed ‘national-communal’. It took 15 years after their expulsion for Mirwaiz Maulvi Umer Farooq to visit a Pandit camp in Jammu. Meanwhile, the other leaders of the Hurriyat also wear their religion on their sleeve….

“The current movement in Jammu is no less communal. Its central focus has been around a pilgrimage sacred to Hindus alone. It has consistently and explicitly used Hindu idioms and symbols. It has been peopled and on occasion led by cadres of Hindu chauvinist organizations. It has encouraged attacks on innocent Muslims in the Jammu region.”

Read the full column: The fruit of taking sides

Also read: Eight reasons why we should just let Kashmir go

CHURUMURI POLL: Is an ‘economic blockade’ OK?

‘What Pakistan didn’t in 60 years, BJP has in six weeks’

CHANDAN MITRA: ‘Advocates of Azadi should be tried for treason’

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Amarnath is about communalism not nationalism

When last did a politician have this effect on us?

29 August 2008

Justin Sullivan of Getty Images captures a superb slice of history at the Democratic National Convention in Denver: Moe Spencer, a delegate from Washington, being comforted by a colleague after the nomination of Barack Obama as the party’s candidate for the November presidential elections.

Besides the symbolism of being in the midst of a man who could be America’s first black president, Obama’s 46-minute acceptance speech apparently left many in the 80,000 audience teary-eyed with the promise of hope and change he held out.

When was the last time something in Indian politics left us reaching for our handkerchieves? When was the last time an Indian politician had us sniffing in joy? And when was the last time our netas moved us with their words, forget their deeds?

Photograph: courtesy The Virginian-Pilot via Innovation in Newspapers

Also read: Why are our brave, macho men crying so much?

The world’s first truly globalised president-to-be?

ALICE WALKER: Obama is the change America has tried to hide

‘In a rape, the rapists are on trial, not the raped’

29 August 2008

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: Early this morning, a Delhi-datelined news item in Deccan Herald made me pull my hair out in wonderment: the Supreme Court of India had ruled that nobody had the licence to rape a woman who appeared to be promiscuous in her sexual behaviour.

Yes, nobody has the licence to rape a woman who appears to be promiscuous in her sexual behaviour.

It might seem common sensical, but the beauty of common sense is that it is so uncommon, even in the rarified echelons of our higher judiciary.

When a 17-year-old girl was raped in Uttar Pradesh, the trial court had justly convicted her rapists. But the perpetrators went in appeal. Stunningly, the two men were let off by the Allahabad High Court on the grounds that the “girl was promiscuous in her sexual behaviour and had already lost her virginity”!

Basically the Allahabad HC ruling implied that a woman who was previously accustomed to sexual intercourse at the time of a rape cannot be believed when she screams rape.

In other words, only a virgin has a case against rape.


The insensivity and the sheer injustice in the HC ruling made me wonder if the case pertained to India or to one of our Islamic neighbours where such barbaric judgments are routinely pronounced.

Thankfully, the UP Government challenged the verdict and Supreme Court trashed the HC ruling and ordered it to rehear the case. But the mere fact that the victim could have undergone such a criminal miscarriage of justice in a high court, and on such grounds, beggars disbelief.

Does it require the Supreme Court of India to remind the High Court in India’s largest State of the basic point in the case: that it is the rapists who were on trial, not the raped?

While we must be relieved by the rightful intervention of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Mukundakam Sharma of the Supreme Court, the HC ruling raises a number of troubling questions that the judicial system must be made to answer:

# How did the High Court arrive at such a judgement in the first place?

# What if the UP government had not challenged the HC ruling in the SC?

# How can the HC judge/s in the case be made accountable for the astounding judgment?# How much faith can the people place in the judges given such an open-and-shut case?

# And is such “jungle law” a nation-wide phenomenon of which we hear little?

I am sure I speak for the women of the country, virgin and otherwise, when I say that basic human rights were raped by the Allahabad HC and those responsible for it, virgin or otherwise, must be brought to book.

But then T.N. Seetharam just loves the M factor

29 August 2008

“Beware of the three Ms: Mamata, Medha, and Mayawati.”

—A shareholder’s advice to Ratan Tata at Tata Steel’s annual general meeting in Bombay yesterday

True? False? Sexist stereotyping?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Should Tatas scrap the Nano?

SMS poll gimmick kills T.N. Seetharam‘s Mukta

God save a University which can’t find itself a VC

29 August 2008

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The high-power committee in search of a vice-chancellor for the University of Mysore was busy doing what it is supposed to be doing: searching for a suitable vice-chancellor to head the once-great University.

Finally, out of sheer exhaustion, the chairman of the committee, standing atop Crawford Hall with high-powered binoculars in his hands, sighed in defeat: “I can’t see a single candidate in the whole of Manasagangotri who can take the place of Dr Shrimali, Dr Pannikkar or Kuvempu. We should tell our chancellor to enlarge the scope of our search.”

“Why can’t we look around and shortlist some candidates from our neighboring States?” asked the junior most member of the committee. Though wet behind his ears, the junior had come up with a simple but workable solution. It would have been an excellent QED, but it was met with a cold triple negative.

“We can’t take anybody from Tamil Nadu. They are against Kannada getting classical language status and naturally we won’t touch anybody from there. Moreover, if rains fail next year and Tamil Nadu demands its pounds of flesh, er, its tmc of Cauvery water, a VC of Tamil origin will be a security risk in our campus. Any professor from Kerala will be a Leftist and we can’t have Karl Marx going about as VC. Andhra Pradesh is a strict no-no after the hungama created by the nomination of a Telugu member during Governor’s Rule.”

The junior wouldn’t give up yet.

“Why don’t we zero in on somebody from industry? Somebody who has some prior teaching experience?”

“We just can’t sell off our ideals to a fellow who is always looking at the bottomline. Most of them are reverse-engineers or body shoppers who serve western countries. Even if a starting software engineer gets 3 to 4 times our salary, can there be any pride in that sort of work? He might have been a teacher once but by now he would have thrown his principles out of the window. Industry is out.”

Our young professor was just not giving up. He was like M.S. Dhoni with a ‘never say die’ attitude.

“What about a professor from a foreign university who has made a name in his field? Somebody from Mysore itself may want to come back?”

“Why should we fall back on someone who ran away years ago to earn a few dollars more? Clearly, he had no interest to serve his country like the rest of us. We will lose self-respect if we now call him. Moreover, he will be an insufferable snooty snob with a matching funny accent. It will only harm our great university and put us back by several years.”

“Why don’t we look at our own Legislative Assembly? After all our Prime Minister himself taught at London School of Economics who has done very well, of late, as Prime Minister. We could ask our CM to suggest somebody suitable from Vidhana Soudha.”

Junior was again pointing at the bright rainbow, but sitting in their comfortable seats, the standing committee members would only see the dark clouds.

“We should do no such thing. First, our CM will think we are useless and will dissolve the Committee. I don’t want to lose this job. Second, he may suggest some Brahmin which our senate is against. Third, even if he suggests a non-Brahmin, say somebody from the schedules castes and scheduled tribes, most of our teaching staff will object to it even if the clerical staff will be delighted. We will be opening a Pandora‘s box of caste which we should avoid at any cost.”

“Then what’s the solution?”

“Even if we select someone meeting all the criteria, our chancellor is sure to reject our choice. So let’s go slow on this and take our own sweet time. A vice-chancellor’s term is for five years. We have an acting VC. There is no fixed term for an acting VC.  We should let sleeping dogs lie. No point in speeding up things unnecessarily,” concluded the senior pro.


Help the “High-Powered Search Committee”. Who do you think should be considered for the post of the vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore? Name names. Join the debate.

And, suddenly, two flew over the Yuvaraja’s nest

28 August 2008

An eagle sails over the main Amba Vilas palace in Mysore (and another hovers around) on Thursday. The scion of the erstwhile royal family, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, is reportedly spending sleepless nights pondering what the appearance of a white crow portends for him, his property and the people of the region.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

41 is still a good average on the cricket field

28 August 2008

Four immediately observable facts from the latest Pepsi™ commercial starring Mahendra Singh Dhoni that in a roundabout sort of way reinforces every tapori‘s belief that life is not all a-aa-e-ee:

1) A sparsely populated classroom, more girls than boys

2) A teacher with an unusually good throwing arm despite his height

3) A globe in a mathematics class

4) It takes two cricketers (Robin Utthappa and Rohit Sharma) to get one bottle out of the fridge

5) There is more inside Brett Lee‘s head than Shantakumaran Sreesanth‘s.

Also read: Pepsi chief Indra Nooyi‘s Mysore connection

Yum Ess Dee has the bat. Do you have the balls?

CHURUMURI POLL: Ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal?

28 August 2008

A wave of communal violence and retribution has gripped the poorest districts of Orissa following the dastardly murder of 84-year-old Vishwa Hindu Parishat (VHP)  leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, known for his campaign against the conversion of tribals to Christianity, and four others.

The police blamed Maoists for the killings but the VHP sees the hand of local Christians and has gone about extracting revenge. Over a dozen people have been killed; one woman has been burnt. 41 churches have been attacked, some have been pulled down (some even bombed, according to one allegation), and mobs have targetted Christian homes, schools and orphanges run by missionaries.

Meanwhile, in Kanpur, on Sunday, two youths associated with the Bajrang Dal were killed in an explosion at a private hostel for students, allegedly while they were assembling bombs. Following the incident, Union minister of state for home, Sri Prakash Jaiswal, has said “Hindu fundamentalist groups” were under suspicion. Journalist turned social activist Teesta Setalvad has said the Orissa attacks are “nothing short of terrorism” and demanded a ban on VHP and Bajrang Dal, a demand also echoed by railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Question: Is there a lunatic Hindu fringe just like a lunatic Islamic fringe, bent on fomenting trouble, piggybacking on contentious issues like conversions and cow slaughter? Are the VHP and Bajrang Dal as dangerous in their intents and methods as the Students’ Islamic Movement in India (SIMI)? Should the Centre ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal for their “anti-humanist and racist” attacks just as it did SIMI?

Also read: Pope plea for Orissa peace

The Orissa conversion debate

Conversions at the root of the carnage

CHURUMURI POLL: Are all conversions voluntary?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should conversions be allowed?

10 more revolutionary steps to make roads ‘safe’

28 August 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: If it was an automotive vehicle, the “Ban Wagon” would have been India’s best selling model. Ban this, ban that, and ban the other thing too is the national mantra. Ban tight jeans on campuses, ban hugging on campuses, ban pillion riders in sarees, ban the bandhgala…

OK, not the last one. Yet.

Now, Delhi police are considering a ban on playing music in cars because, well, music distracts and causes accidents. And, as always, there are some loosely worded laws to back the ban masters. Apparently, Section 102 of the Delhi Motor Vehicle rule says traffic police can regulate the use of audio visual devices in vehicles by issuing notices (emphasis added).

But does only music take people’s eyes off the road leading to mishaps? Of course, not. So, in the spirit of public service, is pleased to offer suggestions for a ban on some of these other detrimental but lesser known in-car on-the-move personal activities that endangers public safety.

1) Ban nose picking, ear-picking or beard-stroking

2) Ban eating, drinking, chewing or smoking

3) Ban glancing at or talking to co-passengers of either sex

4) Ban eye, lip or body contact with co-passengers of opposite sex

5) Ban the windows on the left and right

6) Ban driving with the ‘wrong’ hand on the steering wheel

7) Ban driving in chappals and sandals

8) Ban automakers from leaving slots for music systems

9) Ban watching hoardings and other roadside signs

10) Ban gawking at good-looking men and women

The ‘sleeper cells’ a soft State doesn’t try to bust

27 August 2008

All the world is a bed, and there is no mattress softer than stone, for the tired limbs of coolies and loaders aching to catch a few winks after a morning of hard work, below the Mysore road flyover in Bangalore on Wednesday.

The empty bamboo basket serves as a pillow, staving off the dust and sound of vehicles whizzing past, but it is also an insurance to prevent somebody from making away with the device that helped stuff a few rupees in their pocket.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Stop cribbing about how little you make. Now.

Quick, spot the real face of India that is Bharat

27 August 2008

Amitabh Bachchan, of course, thinks that India is no longer a third-world country; that it is a developed one. But have economic reforms—the process of liberalistion, globalisation and privatisation that began in 1991—reduced poverty?

The World Bank’s latest estimates of global poverty show that every third poor person in the world lives in rising, shining India. Of the total 1.4 billion global poor, 33 per cent are here. Worse, poverty came down much faster between 1981 and 1990, than between 1991 and 2005.

According to the new estimates, 828 million people (or 75.6% of India’s population) live on less than $2 a day (approximately Rs 80). In contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, 551 million people (or 72.2% of population) live on less than $2 a day.

1980: 421 million (60% of population) live on less than $1.25 (approximately Rs 50) a day mark

1990: 436 million (51% of population)

1999: 447 million (45% of population)

2005: 456 million people (42% of population)

Map: courtesy earthtrends; data from World Bank working paper 2003

Also read: Everybody loves a good number: 93, 77, 54, 33…

‘Rising India’s share of world’s poorest is growing’

Indians should never ask where on earth Gabon is

Iyengar Tiffin Centre’s benne biskath is ITC’s…

27 August 2008

The new ‘benne‘ biscuit on the block may be rich in proteins, rich in omega 3 fatty acids, rich in fibre, and may claim to stave off the dreaded insurgent inside our borders—cholesterol—but just the memories evoked by the name should have Kannadigas rolling their tongues in their cheeks.

How ‘BBC’ turned Bhiwani into ‘Kashi of Boxing’

27 August 2008

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha writes of how specialisation works in sport as it does in business, in Mint

“Online encyclopedia Wikipedia quite aptly describes Bhiwani as “the Kashi of boxing”. Three pugilists from the town — Akhil Kumar, Vijender Kumar and Jitendra Kumar — went through to the quarter finals while Vijender Kumar went on to win a bronze medal in the recently concluded Beijing Olympics….

“The gutsy boxers of Bhiwani have perhaps never heard of Alfred Marshall.

“Marshall was one of the first economists to ask why certain occupations and industries tend to cluster in a particular town: cutlery in the Sheffield and pottery in the Staffordshire of his times, for example. “When an industry has thus chosen a locality for itself, it is likely to stay there for long: So great are the advantages with people following the same skilled trade get from near neighbourhood to one another. The mysteries of the trade become no mysteries; but are as it were in the air, and children learn from many of them unconsciously.”

Read the full article: Alfred Marshall in Bhiwani

Aamir or Shah Rukh, Khan it get better than dish?

26 August 2008

Scores of actors have done double roles and triple roles and quadruple roles, even ten roles at one time. However, most of those have largely been prosthetic ventures, the protagonist dressed up in a different costume for a different role. But has anyone carried off two roles on the same frame at the same time in the same shot as adeptly as Aamir Khan does in the latest Tata Sky TV commercial?

Surely more convincing than Shah Rukh Khan exhorting us to “wish karo, dish karo“?

Also read: Isko laga dala tho life jhinga-la-la

Kamal Hassan: Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic? The greatest?

Aamir Khan or Vikram: Who’s better?

Eight reasons why we should just let Kashmir go

26 August 2008

ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Lawyers love being contra. I am a lawyer. Ergo this post is about being contra.

Since the “majority” opinion according to The Times of India, CNN-IBN, and just about any reporter with a microphone to thrust in someone’s faces seems to be that we should not let Kashmir “go”, an irresistible urge demands that I oppose the majority and give good reasons for it (unlike those who base their arguments on “self-determination” and silly liberal bullshit like that).

And since I am in a good mood these days, I will also tell you why whichever option enlightened Kashmiri separatists choose, Pakistan or bust (i.e., “self” rule), we should happily open the door for them, and send them off with a cheery wave and a goodbye kiss.

So, here goes: four reasons why we must let Kashmir go to Pakistan:

1. Pakistan has a favoured way of dealing with troublesome mountainous border provinces with strong self-determination streaks. They let the Americans bomb them. Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his ragtag ilk will soon long for the kid gloves of the Indian military establishment.

2. We already have enough ethnic-cleansing, appeasement-hating, persecution-complex bound “minorities who are actually majorities” (the Sangh Parivar) and maybe Pakistan could use a few (more).

3. Pareto Efficiency. It saves us a lot of money to put one less national language on our currency notes. Of course it won’t cost the Pakistanis any since there is only one national language, and last I heard, Kashmiri it wasn’t.

4. Once it realizes that the “Kashmir problem” is settled, Pakistan will realize that it has no reason to exist. Two birds with one stone.

Of course, there is a strong section of the Kashmiri separatist movement which believes that “independence” is the best course for the Valley.

If the tender ministrations of Pakistani “administration” does not convince them to stay on, and they decide “we don’t need an unresponsive foreign government to make burdensome laws, we can make our own”, well I say we let them.

So, here goes: four reasons why we must let Kashmir claim independence:

5. Military: Their neighbours will be India, Pakistan and China. No country can claim such a host of dangerously unstable, nuclear armed, overambitious, territorially hungry nations. Even NATO membership won’t save you. As Georgia is still finding out.

6. Economy: It saves us the blank cheque that we write them every year, and we can actually have greater control over them since we will be their biggest and only trading partner (no routes in from China, and Pakistan doesn’t have an economy). We will control the only safe air routes into Srinagar, and the only all weather road and train link into Kashmir. Man, we can make them dance like a monkey on a stick. Maybe they’ll even provide as much entertainment as the erstwhile “Royal” Nepal.

7. Politics: Watch as Geelani and his ilk find that fasts, bandhs, marches, strikes, threats to sign up with militants is not exactly a popular way to run a Government. It’ll be great fun on a slow news day.

8. They get to keep Arundhati Roy.

There, that’s 8 good reasons to let Kashmir go.

In a year or two, watch this space for “8 reasons why we should let Kashmir back in”.

Map: courtesy University of Texas at Austin

Also read: ‘What Pakistan didn’t in 60 years, BJP has in six weeks’

‘BJP today is the best friend of the Lashkar-e-Toiba’

CHANDAN MITRA: ‘Advocates of Azadi should be tried for treason’

CHURUMURI POLL: Is an ‘economic blockade’ OK?

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA: ‘Amarnath is about communalism not nationalism

Hopefully, the number of capable MLAs is larger

26 August 2008

“Chief Minister comes down heavily on bureaucrats”

“District in-charge minister warns babus”

“Minister takes officials to task”

These are the kind of headlines that crowd the newspapers whenever a new dispensation is in place. Most such fulminations are for effect. To show voters that the newly elected broom is trying to sweep the stables clean and is only being held back by unaccountable, good-for-nothing bureaucrats.

A. Ramadas, the Krishnaraja MLA who became S.A. Ramadas just before the assembly elections this year, and is now the chief minister’s political secretary, has gone one step further. He has revealed that the BJP government of B.S. Yediyurappa had prepared a breakup of IAS officers soon after coming to power.

The officers were apparently broken down into:

(i) Officers who are incapable of doing any work

(ii) Officers who are efficient and can do work

(iii) Officers who are honest and do work if encouraged

(iv) Officers who can do work under any Government by utilising their strength and intelligence.

According to Ramadas, the number of “capable” and “efficient” IAS officers is: 14. Yes, ten plus four, fourteen.

There are 244 IAS officers in the State. So, 14 out of 244 translates into roughly 6 per cent. There are 224 MLAs in the Assembly.


Also read: A snapshot of a simple devotee of Lord Ram

‘Honest wives are rarer than honest IAS officers’

First the father, then the son, all in a month

25 August 2008

Mother Aleyamma Thomas (left), and wife Beena Thomas and daughter Meghana Thomas (right), pay their final respects, in Bangalore on Monday, to Col Jojan Thomas who died along with three of his colleagues during an encounter with militants in Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir last Friday.

Col Thomas’ father P.A. Thomas, who served in the Indian Army as a mechanical engineer, had passed away just a month ago. The eldest of four sons, two other brothers of Col Thomas were in the forces, one in the Army and the other in the Navy.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Is the Kargil victory something to be ashamed of?

3 questions our NRIs might like to ask their AKKA

25 August 2008

BHAMY V. SHENOY writes: In Non-Resident Indian circles in the United States, the first word that escapes the lips of NRIs when they start fashionably talking about the factors hindering the rapid development of the motherland is “corruption”.

Even those who have long since lost touch with the ground reality back home start waxing eloquent, outlining grand strategies to “weed out the menace”. They also give examples of how the US is fighting corruption and how it is successful due to “individual” involvement.

But how many of these NRIs reflect upon the role they, as “individuals”, can play in fighting corruption even when they are thousands of miles away from India id est Bharat?


Even as we speak, many NRIs from Karnataka are getting ready to take part in the fifth World Kannada Conference 2008 to be held by the Association of Kannada Kootas in America (AKKA) in Chicago, Illinois, on August 29, 30 and 31.

How many of our Kannada bandhugalu and bhaginiyaru who are packing their bags for the jamboree are even aware that they have a rare opportunity this time to get directly involved in fighting corruption in their home-state?

As our well-informed NRIs must be aware, the decision of several dozen MLAs and officials (not to speak of their families) to participate in the meet has created a major controversy back home. A Public Interest Litigation has also been filed in the High Court.

Cornered, the government has clarified that only the expenses of a few are being picked up by the State; the rest are making do on their own.

Question No. 1 that our NRIs might like to ask: From where and how do so many of our MLAs and officials suddenly find the funds for such an expensive trip? Can they assure us that each rupee is honestly earned and audited?

In 2003, some seniors in the Kannada community had asked AKKA’s heads not to invite politicians as chief guests or honoured guests, and not to be seen as currying favour. This was a welcome initiative. Unfortunately those in power did not pay heed nor have they done so this time.

Question No. 2 that our NRIs might like to ask: If as NRIs we are so concerned of corruption, why do so many politicians of doubtful integrity continue to get invited to AKKA meets?

Of course, not all the invited politicians are corrupt but, as the saying goes, one rotten apple can spoil the box. Surely, there must be a few socially-conscious NRIs who are attending AKKA who can hold a silent demonstration to show their disappointment at the organisers for inviting corrupt politicians?

In fact, the NRIs, who otherwise breathe fire and brimstone against corruption, should get together with more of their ilk and demand that a resolution be passed during the AKKA meeting to stop the practice of inviting political leaders, irrespective of their rank and affiliation, if they are known to be corrupt.

Above all, the AKKA conference this time takes place against the backdrop of the BJP coming to power in Karnataka, and there is understandably a fair bit of excitement among NRIs about this. Nonetheless, this development has not been without its blemishes.

Question No. 3 that our NRIs might like to ask: Have any of the visiting leaders used or okayed the use of money to lure elected MLAs to resign from their constituencies and join the BJP? If so, on what basis do they justify such a subversive, anti-people operation?

These NRIs should ask the visiting leaders how they can justify such an immoral act even if the Congress might have done so during the recent no-confidence motion. And they should ask the visiting leaders how they support corruption in private while delivering lectures against it in public.


Admittedly, there isn’t too much time left. But there are enough days to start an internet campaign among AKKA participants to fight corruption in Karnataka, if not raise awareness about it.

Let us not get cynical and state that no strategy, especially something symbolic like not inviting tainted politicians, will stop corruption. Corruption is not in the DNA of Kannadigas. It is a virus spread by greed of those who join politics for the sole purpose of self-aggrandisement.

No step is small in fighting corruption.

Arise and awake, Kannadiga NRIs, and take up the challenge.

Also read: 81% NRIs have paid a bribe. Are you one of them?