Archive for April, 2010

Has NRN bid goodbye to dream of public office?

28 April 2010

In 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee apparently offered him a ministership. In 2004, Manmohan Singh apparently invited him to be chairman of the investment commission.

Then his name apparently did the rounds for President of India (before the national anthem controversy singed him). There was an all-too-brief flirtation with reviving the Swatantra Party, and he himself expressed interest in becoming India’s ambassador to the United States.

Now, the business paper Mint hints that Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy may have decided once and for all that public office is not a good fit.

“I’m used to an orderly way of life. I’m used to a disciplined set of people. I’m used to delivering on promise. I’m used to working with civilized people. Unfortunately in public life in India these are not the attributes that you see.”

Read the full article: Narayana Murthy‘s new passion

Also read: Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor Prez

Cho Ramaswamy: Why NRN won’t wash as President

Narayana Murthy to revive Swatantra Party?

The Mahatma, Murthy and Information Technology

CHURUMURI POLL: Has Nandan Nilekani trouned NRN?

Jessica Lal verdict, proof that Indian media works

27 April 2010

The Supreme Court of India has upheld the life sentence awarded by the Delhi high court to Manu Sharma, the son of Congress leader and former Union minister Vinod Sharma, for killing Jessica Lal, who had declined to serve him a drink after the bar had closed in Delhi, in 1999.

Manu Sharma’s counsel, the noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani, had argued that his client had been specifically targetted and maligned before and during the proceedings by the media, which proclaimed him guilty even after the acquittal by the trial court.

Rejecting this argument, the SC bench said:

“Certain articles and news items appearing in the newspapers immediately after the date of occurrence did cause certain confusion in the mind of the public as to the description and number of the actual assailants/suspects. It is unfortunate that trial by the media did, though to a very limited extent, affect the accused, but [was] not tantamount to a prejudice which should weigh with the court in taking any different view.”

The veteran editor T.J. S. George writes that in his “misplaced protestations against the media”, Jethmalani lost sight of the fact that, for once, “trial by media” achieved something good, beyond anything he could have achieved.

“The media in India today is not exactly a clean entity. It has become, generally speaking, dubious in its motivations, mischievous in its pretensions, and plainly guilty in many of its practices.

“Large sections of it are corrupt.

“Amoral ideas have been institutionalised by the biggest players with fancy labels like “private treaties” and “paid news.” The guilty in the media too should one day be brought to justice.

“It is a bit of a miracle that a media that has abdicated its responsibility is still able to do some public good. It is the nature of its work that makes this possible.

“Malpractices, misdeeds and criminalities dot the activities of our governments, our politicians, our businessmen, our film stars and even our sports bodies. A great deal of this is brought to public attention only because the media, by default or otherwise, dare publish information the guilty try to suppress. We only have to recall the numerous scandals of recent times to appreciate the value of this service done by the media.

“The Jessica Lal case shows how the media, warts and all, and public spirited citizens and alert judicial authorities can work in tandem to keep at least a few of our influential criminals out of harm’s way. Justice is higher than a lawyer’s interest in his client. “

Read the full article: ‘Media is amoral, but it works’

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta

View: Karan Thapar‘s award winning interview with Jethmalani

Are Gavaskar & Shastri India’s only cricketers?

27 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As I went around the now-abandoned Chinnaswamy stadium, no thanks to the Bangalore police, I spotted the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS) sitting in the clubhouse restaurant.

I joined him for coffee and thought I could get my doubts cleared on some cricketing aspects.

“How come only a few names come out of the BCCI’s hat whenever the membership or chairmanship of any committee comes up? One or two occupying multiple positions of power in not uncommon. Is it a case of ‘Favored Few’? Or do others not qualify or they are not interested?” I started off.

“You are talking in riddles. Why don’t you be specific?” asked ASS.

Sunil Gavaskar is one of the most articulate and knowledgeable cricketers apart from being one of the all-time greats of the game. Naturally his services are sought by the ICC, the BCCI as well as sports channels like ESPN, Star Cricket, etc.”

“It is but natural,” ASS agreed.

“Sometime back when he was the chairman of the ICC technical committee, he had criticized ICC during a Test match as Star Sports commentator. There was a clear conflict of interest. ICC bluntly gave him an alternative, ‘either be with ICC or quit commentating’.”

“That’s right. He resigned from the ICC and kept the more lucrative commentator’s job.”

“Doesn’t ICC’s rule apply for BCCI too?  He is the chairman of BCCI technical committee and he continues to be the commentator for the cricket channels as well as an expert for the news channels? Isn’t there a conflict of interest? Even the captain or a member of the team is barred from writing when a match is on.”

“You’re right. I never thought of this before. BCCI always operates in an ad hoc manner most times,” blurted ASS.

Ravi Shastri was a ‘Champion of Champions’ once and hit 6 sixes off Tilak Raj in a Ranji trophy match.”

“Not bad kannaiah, Ramu! You have kept track of all the great records.”

I ignored ASS’S backhanded compliment.

“Aren’t Shastri and Gavaskar members of the IPL governing council too?” I asked.

“Yes, they are, along with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.”

“Don’t we have other cricketers of calibre who could have been given this job, like Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev, Bishen Singh Bedi, Syed Kirmani, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Dilip Doshi et al since Gavaskar is already chairman of technical committee and Shastri is chairman of the NCA in Bangalore? Why doesn’t BCCI even consider other senior cricketers as they too have served the country with distinction?”

“There is something like being in ‘good books’ of BCCI; the names that you mention probably come under ‘bad books’,” ASS explained.

“I see. What about Arun Lal, Brijesh Patel, Shivlal Yadav,  Narendra Hirwani, Raju Mukherji?” I persisted.

“Look. BCCI must have forgotten most of these names. Sharad Pawar and Shashank Manohar may not even know who Hirwani is.”

“Again, how come only Ravi Shastri and Gavaskar were along with S. Venkataraghavan in a committee to select the coach for the Indian team? Shouldn’t senior cricketers like Chandu Borde, Ajit Wadekar and Gundappa Vishwanath be on such committees? Their credentials as players are any day better than that of Shastri.”

“The cricketers you mentioned may perhaps be too old to understand modern cricket, especially one-day cricket and Twenty 20 cricket.”

ASS had brought the newer forms of cricket into play.

“Look,” I said, “both Gavaskar and Shastri didn’t exactly set the Meethi river on fire in the shorter versions. Remember, Gavaskar scored 36 not out in 60 overs in the first World Cup! What about Syed Kirmani, Yashpal Sharma or Kirti Azad, the heroes of the 1983 World Cup final or Sadanand Vishwanth or W.V. Raman?”

“The names you mention are not from the western region.”

“I can’t understand. First you have to be in the ‘good books’ of the Board and then you have to be also from the western region to be eligible for plum positions! BCCI should encourage past cricketers from all regions and give them the chance to shoulder various responsibilities instead of choosing only its blue-eyed boys in all committees and academies etc. Are we talking of the board of control for cricket in India, the BCCI, after all?”

“Yes, but BCCI, which runs cricket in the country, is mostly BCCIWI,” said the ASS.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Board of control for cricket in India from western India!’ The other regions simply do not matter to them in the least,” replied the ASS is we left the Chinnaswamy stadium.

CHURUMURI POLL: BCCI—clean-up or cover-up?

26 April 2010

A fortnight of feverish “innuendos, half-truths and motivated leaks“—of corruption, collusion, conflict of interest, tax evasion, shady franchise ownership, fixed auctions, patronage, nepotism, sex, sleaze, drugs etc—has ended with the summary suspension of Lalit Modi as the commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) without giving him a chance to answer the charges.

The board of control for cricket in India (BCCI) waited for the last ball to be bowled in the third edition of the IPL before making its move, and did so just before the governing council of the IPL, a league which Modi created for the BCCI to applause all round, was to meet in Bombay.

Modi is the second victim of the storm he whipped up through a tweet, after minister Shashi Tharoor, who paid the price for mentoring the Cochin franchise a little too personally.

The BCCI has appointed a new commissioner, the very men who were singing in Modi’s praise are now slamming him, and there is now talk that Modi will be charged on “five counts“, including his “behavioural pattern“. The cycle of events reeks of deja vu, a similar drama having been played out to get rid of Jagmohan Dalmiya not too long ago.

Questions: Is the BCCI sincere in its clean-up, or this is just a cover-up to evade government action? Is Modi alone to blame for all the ills he has been accused of, or is he a fall guy, a scapegoat meant to sate the bloodthirst of the lynch mob? Are Tharoor and Modi alone guilty of misdeamanour, or are there more?

IPL’s thugs are no better than Maoists and Naxals

25 April 2010

SHAH ALAM KHAN writes from New Delhi: To qualify as an Indian, it is essential that you love cricket, it is important that you gossip, it is vital to fall in love with pelvic-thrusting actors and cajoling actresses on the celluloid screen, and it is quintessential that you make money the quick (and sometimes the wrong) way.

The saga of Indian Premier League (IPL), the beleaguered cricket league of India, is no exception to these general rules of Indianness. The vulgar display of money, power and beauty is there for all to see.

From selfish business tycoons to iconic players, all adorn the masala called IPL. It is surely entertainment at its best.

The kind of recipe which made a friend’s 85-year-old grandma vouch for a team (it’s a different matter that she can’t make out why the two brothers, called “mid off” and “mid on”, play for every team!)’. IPL is fun as long as it confines itself to the cricketing field.

Last week the game spilled over, flooding our fragile democratic institutions and drowning a lot in its wake.

To believe that all what happened in the last couple of weeks is the result of an ego clash between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor would be rather stupid and naïve. In fact are we being made to believe that a shrewd businessman and a newly crowned politician do have an ego? Doesn’t make sense to me.

In all its three years of existence, IPL was not about cricket. It was about money. About a lot of money!

The unprecedented value of the IPL was too much to be resisted by all—politicians, administrators, business moguls, cine stars. Everyone wanted a piece of this rich pie. But are we really interested in the Tharoors, Pawars, Ambanis and Modis?

Corruption in the IPL does not really worry me.

From the day of its conception the IPL was not a sanctum sanctorum. “Brand IPL” as it is tried to be labelled by those who believe in the politics and power of “brands” was a hot bed of vested interests. It was an outlet for black money. Yes, they also played cricket to keep the likes of us think that the league represented a sport so close to a billion Indian hearts.

The financial aspects of IPL are not only murky but an eye opener for those who thought that India was a poor nation with more than 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. The total value of IPL, which even Modi cannot predict with surety, is expected to be around Rs 70,000 crore.

This unaccounted money is available to the richest people of India. No doubt the rich got richer in the IPL.

Compare this to a cumulative expenditure of mere Rs. 27.59 crores in the prestigious national rural guarantee scheme of the government of India for the state of Orissa in 2008-09. The Orissa example is even more glaring as this is the state where hunger deaths are reported on a regular basis.

Some may argue, and correctly so, that it is foolhardiness to compare a government scheme with a privately owned sporting event which is meant for entertainment. Sure, but this is the best way to show how India entertains and Bharat survives under one roof.

The contrast of IPL money and the lack of it in governmental schemes shows the divergence of thought and responsibility which goes in making India a nation of such huge contradictions. It is this thought process which gives birth to Maoists, Naxals and other elements of state defiance.

With the muck and shame of IPL written large on the faces of corporate and political class of India, words of our honourable home minister, Shri P. Chidambaram, sound so hollow, “we shall counter the Maoists with force. They are the gravest internal security threat to our country”. How can we even expect to believe a word of what he says?

Maoists, Naxals, Naga Militia. Are any of these a bigger threat to the nation than the financial scamsters of IPL? Shouldn’t the equation be set right now?

May be one Maoist for every thug involved in the IPL?

How about “neutralising” the threat of Lalit Modi and his brigade before “neutralising” the alleged mastermind of the Dantewada massacre, Ramanna Paparao?

IPL even described socialism in its own new way.

According to a report released just before the end of IPL2 (2009) by the equity research firm IIFL, Rajasthan Royals, the team representing Jaipur would have made the highest profit of Rs 35.1 crore in the group matches of the second edition of the tournament even when their performance was below par compared to their champion status of 2008.

Kolkata Knight Riders, which finished at the bottom in the league table in South Africa, nevertheless ended up with the third highest profit of Rs 25.8 crore in IPL 2. King’s XI representing Punjab, which also did not make it to the semis, just beat Kolkata to second spot with a profit of Rs 26.1 crore.

How interesting is that!

Teams doing poorly in terms of cricket will not necessarily fare poor in their financial gains. It looks as if Lalit Modi and his gang of franchises have defined what could be called as “IPL Socialism”.

The IPL also represents a loot of public funds, my and your money, which doesn’t even get noticed.

Each day-and-night match of the IPL played under flood lights, consumes electricity enough to run 500 average Indian homes for a month. The provision of subsidised electricity doesn’t make things any different. It is believed that the average electricity bill for a single day and night cricket match of the IPL is more than $15,000.

For those interested in numbers, this is the government’s expenditure on health for ten adult Indians if they live up to an age of 70 years (at the rate of $21 PPP).

Water, a deficient resource in cities like Mumbai and Delhi is used to keep the fields green during the IPL. This, in a country which is now at the top of the childhood malnutrition charts of the globe with lack of clean water being the primary cause of a large number of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.

The money and its earthy use in the IPL is a matter of shame for each Indian.

We all love cricket but surely not in a way in which Lalit Modi packed it for us. The very fact that a large part of our society is still deprived of basic daily needs including food should always weigh heavily on our conscience.

Why are we as civil society becoming oblivious to the needs of the common Indian? How can we even accept an agriculture minister presiding over the functions of the IPL when hundreds of farmers are committing suicide day in and day out?

How are we justified in condemning the Maoists when the Indian society gives them an IPL every now and then? If the law of the land does not permit theft, how can it allow this unprecedented day light robbery? The vulgarity of IPL stands defiant.

If Lalit Modi and his band of filchers cannot feel for the poor they should at least respect poverty.

(Dr Shah Alam Khan is an orthopaedic surgeon at the nation’s premier medical college and hospital, the all Indian institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Visit his blog: India and Bharat)

Photograph: The ICC’s next chief, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, with his protege, BCCI president Shashank Manohar. The duo met home minister P. Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday in Delhi after which Pawar pulled the plug on IPL commissioner Lalit Modi (courtesy The Hindu)

Also read‘IPL threatens cricket’s democratisation trends’

TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

Making capital out of Ambedkar, Maoism, cricket

A leg-up for the one is a leg-up for the other

25 April 2010

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s long friendship with the State’s BJP chief K.S. Eswarappa is a heart-warming story in a cynical, political landscape. Bosom buddies hailing from the same district, both working their way up in the party, the shared scooter rides, the agitations, the jostling, the egos, and finally, power.

The kinship has went through rocky times when the Reddy Brothers raised a banner of revolt last year and Eswarappa was identified with the rebels, but this image at a foundation-laying ceremony in their hometown on Sunday captures a nearly half-century in one nano-second.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

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

Let the rebels know, the CM will not bow one inch

Even four pairs of hands can’t stave off the flak

Yediyurappa regime slips into yet another sandal

Behind every successful cyclist, there are a few men

Life’s a cycle. What goes up must come down.

They also dance who raise their hands in unison

24 April 2010

For those whose India is shining, the country’s population is a vital stat. A demographic, whose dividend should be reaped. Fifty-six per cent of India, as the cliche goes, is below the age of 25; 70% below 35.

But what of the rest? What, indeed, of those who are beyond the “working age population”—retired, over the hill, abandoned, unwell, ailing—and neither below 25 nor 35?

At the opening of a centre to help the elderly in Bangalore on Saturday, some very willing enthusiasts take part in a musical exercise to demonstrate that the future is ahead of them, too, if only we would notice.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Is it wrong for parents to stay in old-age homes?

Are India’s elderly not being given their due?

‘Male & female ecstasy, including sexual energy’

23 April 2010

Wonders never cease in the wonderland that the self-styled paramahamsa Nityananda created before it unravelled through a full-colour video presentation of the swamiji in horizontal repose.

These, above, are two pages from non-disclosure agreement that “volunteers” at the ashram had to sign before they took part in “ancient tantrik secrets” as part of the “learning from the master” programme.

“Volunteer solemnly affirms that he /she is over 18 (21 years old, where 18 is not the age of majority) and have the right to access and possess adult material in his community…. that he/she does not find sexual or adult oriented material associated with the practise of any trantric rituals or any other adult material to be offensive or objectionable.

“Volunteer understands that the program may involve the learning and practise of ancient tantric secrets associated with male and female ecstasy, including the use of sexual energy for increased intimacy/ spiritual connection, pleasure, harmony, and freedom….”

Click on the images to read the full text.

Question is, can this NDA, purportedly signed in September 2009, and found by the police during raids on the ashram, stand in a court of law? Does this save the “piddling paramahamsa”?

Images: used for representation purposes only

Also read: Another good swami in the service of mankind

When the mountains spoke silently down below

Wanted: a uniform civil code for man and godman

Just one question I’m dying to ask Nithyananda

The truth, according to little Nithyananda

More truth, according to little Nithyananda

Now a major video: My experiments with truth

‘Initiator’ Nithyananda seeks spiritual seculsion

Gavaskar of 2010 is the same Gavaskar of 1981

22 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: During the IPL semifinals between the Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore last night, one minor incident proved that the more things change in cricket, the more things remain the same with one of our greatest cricketers.

In Melbourne, in 1981, Sunil Gavaskar, opening batsman and India captain, almost walked out of the MCG along with his partner Chetan Chauhan, peeved at the umpire’s LBW decision off the bowling of Dennis Lillee, much to the astonishment of Australian cricketers, the public and to the embarrassment of the Indian team.

Thankfully, team manager Col. Durrani came running to the boundary and was able to persuade Chauhan to go back and resume the innings that saved great ignominy for Indian cricket.

Imagine walking out of a Test match because you don’t agree with the umpire’s decision?

Yesterday, when Rahul Dravid stood his ground after Sachin Tendulkar had ‘caught’ him in the slips, the self-same Gavaskar remarked:

Dravid is not going! After playing for so many years with Tendulkar and spending time in the dressing room, Dravid should know what sort of a person Tendulkar is. He would never cheat. Dravid should have accepted the catch and walked.

Gavaskar’s fellow commentator, Robin Jackman was more circumspect. He was not sure whether the catch had been taken cleanly and felt that it was rightly referred to the third umpire.

Subsequently it was proved beyond doubt that even as Tendulakr’s hands grabbed the ball, a part of the ball had touched the ground and hence it was not a catch.

Cameras do not take into account the celebrations. The cameras had conclusively proved that it was not a catch and Dravid was right in standing his ground.

It is possible that a fielder may not know if the catch had been taken cleanly or a boundary scored, as it all happens in a micro-second. That is why more than 20 cameras capture the action to be played in slow motion. It helps umpires to give the decision, reverse the decision if need be, after getting the facts clearly.

The yardsticks are same, be it Ricky Ponting or Tendulkar.

However, what  must have been surprising to millions of viewers as well as Robin Jackman, was the unnecessary diatribe by Gavaskar against Dravid whose credentials for fair play is one of the highest order, if not the highest itself.

In fact, the cameras proved Dravid was right and Tendulkar was wrong.

Dravid and Tendulkar have played for India with distinction and are ranked amongst the greats of the game and have shared many a great moment in team’s victory.

Gavaskar is one of the all-time greats of the game; there is not an iota of doubt about that. But as in the Melbourne match when he lost his cool and reason, he seemed to have lost again last night.

A little bit of humility adds lustre to greatness. Always. Both Dravid and Tendulkar are examples of that.

Gavaskar doesn’t have to go far to see that. There is one in his family in G.R. Vishwanth.

Photograph: courtesy World News

Also read: From Bhadravathi, the Bhimsen Joshi of cricket

Sunil Gavaskar: India’s most petulant cricketer ever?

Once upon a habba, idol worship of another kind

The non-cricket picture of the IPL season, so far

22 April 2010

On the ground, the son of a businessman who owned a ball bearings and valve factory, who has been the breadwinner of his family of a mother and five sisters, and a bulwark of India’s bowling attack. In the air and in his arms, the petite wife of India’s richest, most powerful businessman. The occasion: the triumph of the Mumbai Indians against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first semi-finals of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Photograph: courtesy Samay Live

Also read: ‘IPL threatens cricket’s democratisation trends’

The only tree with more fruits is (perhaps) at IPL

21 April 2010

A stone’s throw away from the M. Chinnaswamy stadium, a worker at the Venkatappa art gallery in the back yard of Cubbon Park, ushers in the jackfruit season by climbing up to take stock of a bountiful harvest.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Provincialism is the last refuge of a tweet fella

21 April 2010

In his speech in the Lok Sabha, the disgraced diplomat-author-columnist Shashi Tharoor quoted the Malayali poet mahakavi Vallathol Narayana Menon:

“When you hear the name of India, your heart must well with pride; and when you hear the name of Kerala, the blood must throb in your veins.”

Without once mentining the buzzwords of the week—Indian Premier League, Sunanda Pushkar or sweat equity—the Trivandrum MP waxed grandiloquent:

“I am proud to represent the capital of Kerala, a State that in so many ways is a traiblazer for India’s progress. Keralite ethos with its cultural unity admist religious diversity, its high educational standards and respect for democracy, its commitment to the empowerment of women and wellbeing of the poor embodies the best of India.”

No problem with all that, except that it comes from the mouth of a man who has taken to explaining globalisation from every podum and pulpit.

Kanchan Gupta, associate editor of The Pioneer, finds fault with the inherent parochialism:

“By repeatedly referring to Thiruvananthapuram and Kerala, the “ethos of Kerala”, the people of Kerala (with whom he had no association at all during his growing up years in Kolkata and Delhi and the many decades he spent at the UN) he has tried to link high issues of ministerial probity with low politics of provincial identity.

“The unstated though clear message he has sought to send out is that an elected representative of Kerala is being unjustly penalised. That’s balderdash and Mr Tharoor, more than anybody else, knows it.

“It’s strange that a suave, accomplished person with an impressive track record of serving an international organisation with distinction, and whose last tweet sent out at 11.16 pm on April 16 reads, “U folks are the new India. We will ‘be the change’ we wish to see in our country,” should fall back on the discredited ‘old’ politics of provincial pride and prejudice in his time of trouble. That’s as distressing as his fiancée benefiting from a cricket franchise deal that he ‘mentored’. “

Read the full article: L’affaire Shashi Tharoor

Also read: TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

Shashi Tharoor on globalisation

Shashi Tharoor on saving the saree

How KSRTC hopes to cut down road accidents

21 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Recently I read something regarding the Karnataka state road transport corporation (KSRTC) which caught my attention.

It highlighted the efforts of its Tumkur division to reduce accidents in its jurisdiction.

Since there are deaths by the dozen these days, I was keen to learn how Tumkur’s KSRTC tackled the problem. I decided to meet the PRO of KSRTC at their double-road office in Shanthinagar in Bangalore.

The PRO welcomed me with akshathe and thambittu prasada.

“I understand your Tumkur division made an initiative to bring down accidents in Tumkur. Could you please elaborate?”

“Sure. There were 198 deaths due to accidents from January to July in 2008-09 in Karnataka involving KSRTC buses out of which 46 deaths were in Tumkur alone, which was rather alarming. Tumkur decided to do something about it. In a proactive step, they organized homas  to reduce accidents. The homas were conducted non-stop from six in the monring till nine in the night at various localities.”

Homas? Did they budget it in their annual plan?” I asked.

“No. It was drawn from the non-plan expenditure. When they explained their mission to the headquarters, we readily sanctioned Rs 5 lakh for the specific purpose of homas. They also raised money among drivers and conductors for prasadas.”

“I see. What is the next plan?”

“Since the pilot project is a success, we are going to replicate this in the entire State.”

“I wonder how you will go about organizing in such a large scale. Surely audit will not allow such huge amounts to be debited to ‘non-plan expenditure?  CAG will raise a big stink.”

“I know. The homa kundas and ghee alone will cost us a fortune. We have approached JNNURM for funds. Such projects are always approved by JNNURM. We are ready with a draft plan.”

“JNNURM is named after Jawaharlal Nehru. Our first Prime Minister always insisted on scientific temperament. Could you share some salient features of your plan?”

“Sure. Here are the details.”

1) Permanent homa kundas are needed in each City.  Because of its size Bangalore may need four or five. The municipal corporation in each City will be our co-partners, stakeholders if you will. BBMP will be our partners in Bangalore. MCC in Mysore and so on.

2)  KSRTC will have its own staff purohitharu on their roster who will do homas before each trip. Khaki panche and shalya will be their uniform. Traffic police in consultation with some mutts have suggested yellow and black thilakas for men and bindis of similar colours for women.

3) The driver and conductor will make sure the passengers do a pradakshine of the homa kunda and the bus before they get in. Prasadas like rasayana or kobbarisakkare will be distributed before the bus leaves the stand.

4) After the conductor blows the conch, the driver will start the bus.

5)  The tickets will have permanent red and yellow colours in the corners. It will also match with the Karnataka flag colour which we use during Rajyothsava.

6)  Only appata Nandini fhee will be used throughout for the homas.

“These are some of the features. Initially we are restricting these only to outstation buses. Later we will take a call on bus travel within city limits. But we could make changes as we go along,” said the PRO.

“Very well thought-out plan, I must say. But there could be accidents along the way. How will you prevent them?”

“Good question.  Our ‘Circle Inspectors’ enroute will do a ‘dhrishti nivarane’ as the bus enters their area. The circle inspector will break a coconut in front of the bus as his assistant will light an incense stick. A small aarti will be performed by female members of the circle inspector’s office. It is the responsibility of circle inspectors that aartis are done as soon as the bus enters their jurisdiction.”

“Fine. There is often complaint that stray cattle come in the way of speeding vehicles and busy intersections and are sometimes responsible for accidents? How will you tackle these?”

“This remains a serious problem. Neither the cattle nor their owners have done anything regarding this so far. By our experience we have found, most of the cattle are harmless and just stand in the middle of the road if they are left alone. The traffic police have advised us to get the cattle painted with alternate yellow and black stripes like zebra stripes. They will help as ‘road dividers’ on single lane roads.”

“That is good. It will also give some traffic sense and pride to the cattle too.”

“These are only some aspects of our draft plan. We have to refine it further before we finally launch.”

“I understand. By the way, are you giving your drivers some hands-on training on things like driving, traffic rules etc?”

“We have to. We cannot sit back and feel everything will be hunky-dory just from homas.”

“That’s true,” I agreed and left after one more helping of thambittu.


Postscript: Today’s Deccan Herald (Mysore edition) carries a cartoon and a story on page 3 titled ‘Clueless, cops turn towards’ divine intervention’.

Apparently, the Krishnarajendra police station on M.G. Road, located near the famous Ganapathi temple, are doing homas as they are unable to catch chain snatching and two-wheeler theft of more than 70 cases. A priest cum insurance agent conducted a homa at 4.30 am on Tuesday next to Lord Krishna deity with full attendance from inspector to constables.

Making capital out of Ambedkar, Maoism, cricket

20 April 2010


We as a people have gifts no other people have.

Italy and New York, for example, are celebrated for their great mafia leaders. But those leaders could only think of routine stuff like kidnapping and smuggling and murder and protection money.

Only an Indian could think up the non-violent idea of making millions from the humble, rarely noticed stamp paper. Telgi never harmed a fly.

Indians have the rare genius to turn everything into an item of trade. Who else has turned God into such profitable commerce? We discovered early that this line of business required the least investment. And the returns are huge.

All it takes is the right kind of uniform—saffron robes or bishop’s cassocks or a neutral white that looks now like a saree, now like a winter shawl—and some kind of marketing mantra. Then you get enough believers around the world to keep you in eternal wealth, not to mention attractive fringe benefits provided by young devotees.

The God industry will remain by far the most widespread and lucrative of all business ventures in India. But ours is a vast and fertile land. There’s plenty of scope for all kinds of growth industries. So we have been busy developing the commercial potential of various other previously innocent ideas.

Like Ambedkar, Maoists, Cricket.

B.R. Ambedkar is one of the greatest, bravest men who shaped our country’s destiny. K.R. Narayanan becoming President and K.G. Balakrishnan becoming chief justice of India are 20th-21st century phenomena and therefore not altogether uncommon.

Ambedkar was born in the last decade of the 19th century into a family that was not only Untouchable but described openly as such. For such a boy to get a scholarship to Columbia University and then to London was an almost unbelievable feat.

Instead of hailing him as an Indian of supreme vision and value, we have reduced him to a convenient bargaining chip of Dalitism. Mayawati today claims exclusive proprietorial rights over him. Rahul Gandhi, on a mission to out-Dalit Mayawati, is not allowed to garland Ambedkar’s statue in Ambedkar Nagar area.

In this one-up-manship game, Mayawati and Rahul Gandhi may or may not score points. But Ambedkar will lose. Because Ambedkar is no more than an item of political trade in their hands.

The Maoists of Dandakaranya are not very different. Home Minister Chidambaram‘s hawkish policy has run into opposition from his own party colleagues who see the futility of a militaristic approach to what is fundamentally a social-economic problem.

Unfortunately for Chidambaram, his earlier association with Vedanta, one of the companies that will benefit hugely if the Maoists are suppressed, has brought his motivations into question. It won’t be easy for him to avoid the impression that the lives of tens of thousands of adivasis are being traded for the commercial advantage of mining companies.

Cricket, of course, beats all other trading programmes, almost challenging the God business in scope and turnover. So many lakhs of crores of rupees are involved in the cricket business that the IPL presents its numbers in dollars and millions. Confidentiality, another word for secrecy, has been its watchword.

Could such vast sums be clean? Could they include black money, terrorist money, underworld money?

It is amazing that such issues attracted the enforcement directorate’s attention only when Shashi Tharoor and the Kochi franchise got into the picture.

Tharoor is a natural magnet for trouble, as a playboy who wants to be everywhere doing everything. But he is a bumbling Batman before Lalit Modi‘s scheming Svengali. How many political VIPs are interlinked with Svengali? Will they ensure that any investigation is yet another eyewash?

Tragically cricket is no longer a sport. It too has become an item of trade, flourishing in a fish-market culture. May all the money-makers burn in hellfire in due course for destroying the decencies that made cricket cricket and the values that made India India.

* tweet courtesy Ramesh Srivats

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Reddy brothers quit?

20 April 2010

After having secured the resignation of minister of State for external affairss, Shashi Tharoor, over the Cochin IPL fracas, the Congress is turning the screws on the BJP. If Tharoor had to go due to guilt by association, then what about the Reddy brothers in Karnataka, is the constant refrain on TV.

The reasoning: Tharoor went although the extent of his “mentoring” is unclear. The main charge is (still) limited to his “close friend” Sunanda Pushkar, who was magically gifted Rs 70 crore, and some odd SMSes in which he allegedly “operated” through his officer on special duty, Jacob Joseph.

On the the other hand, there is a mountain of evidence against Gali Janardhana Reddy and his siblings Karunakara and Somasekhara. The children of a police constable have pillaged Bellary, raped the environment, paid next to negligible taxes, threatened opponents, etc.

The Lok Ayukta report indicting them lock, stock and barrel, is the icing on the cake.

So, should the Reddy brothers resign from the B.S. Yediyurappa government? Or is their case different? Is the Congress right in demanding their resignation? Or, slighted, is it just entering a tu-tu-main-main much like the BJP, which can barely discuss Gujarat 2002 without referring to New Delhi 1984?

Also read: How China changed the politics of Karnataka

Those who live by the Reddys shall by them

CHURUMURI POLL: Reddy brothers and Lord Balaji

Criminalisation of politics or politicisation of crime?

A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa

19 April 2010

The passing away of journalists and editors barely gets a mention in Indian media outlets these days, not even in their former or current places of work, under the rather specious and cynical belief that journalists and editors should report the news, not make it.

It’s even worse, in the case of faceless non-journalists, like advertising, printing, circulation, technical and other allied personnel, such vital cogs in the giant wheel, who spend the best years of their lives in the service of their masters, only to be forgotten like a fly.

As for the carefully crafted obituary, forget it.

Chottangada Ponnappa Chinnappa, better known as C.P. Chinnappa, the long time publisher of one of India’s most successful evening daily newspapers, Star of Mysore, breathed his last on Friday. His friend and partner of 40 years, Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy, pays a royal salute.



Erich Segal‘s famous novel Love Story began with an immortal opening sentence: “What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me.”

In the same refrain I would say, with appropriate change in words, about my friend C.P. Chinnappa, my partner in business and later director of the publishing firm, Academy Newspapers Private Limited, till his last breath on 16 April 2010 at 5 pm.

What can I say about a seventy-nine-year-old man who died? That he was handsome. And disciplined. That he loved racing and dressing. And newspapers. And me.

Yes, all these attributes fit him well like a cap.

And I would add one more—hospitality.

Chinnappanna, as I called him (for my children he was Boji) loved hosting parties to his friends and, as a bachelor, was caring to his vast extended family members. Always immaculately dressed, he attracted attention in a group by the magic of his mature looks and handsome personality. Rather conservative in speech, he won everybody’s love by his gentle manners.

For a time, in his young age, he worked in the then Kodagu state’s chief secretary’s office as the latter’s close confidant. Probably it was here that he imbibed the virtues of a good officer: the British sense of punctuality and discipline which he practised in his daily life.

This stood us in good stead while establishing our printing unit and later the flagship of our venture Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., publishers of Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mithra.

As the editor and managing director, I have an erratic daily routine. It is not always possible to be punctual to the office. It was Chinnappa who filled the space most competently by his punctual presence in the office at 8.30 am, thus disciplining even the wayward employees of the firm without uttering a word of reprimand.

He led the staff and workers by his personal example, always. I don’t remember a single day when he had left the office without releasing Star of Mysore to the presses, for printing.

His mere presence made a difference.

Sadly, his health began to fail about a year ago and I personally perceived the deterioration.

His suffering during the last days was also my suffering, only I was unable to share it.

Such was our bonding that he was not just a business partner or a director of our company but a loving member of my extended family, so much so nothing in my family happened without his benign and gracious presence and participation.

With his passing away, Academy Newspapers Pvt. Ltd., has lost a mentor. And personally, while I feel a bit diminished myself, my family has lost a well-wisher.

Chinnappanna is no more, but the glorious happy memories of the times we both spent together as friends and entrepreneurs will linger with their subtle fragrance all my life.

May his soul rest in peace.

Also read: Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: journo who broke Dalai Lama story

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

Do NRIs deserve an exclusive medical college?

19 April 2010

Prabhudev of Austin, Texas, in a letter to the editor of The Hindu:

“The Karnataka government wants to invest Rs 500 crore for a state-of-the-art medical college targeting NRIs. When did the people elect a government so they can provide state-of-the-art facility for foreign nationals or residents with no apparent benefits to the population that elected it?

“The result is inflation and cannibalisation of faculty from other medical schools. What a disgrace! They are equating medical education to firms that export IT services. The Karnataka government should focus on improving facilities that benefit the local population.”

Also read: How NRIs help India while desis crib about them

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

‘All NRIs aren’t as rich as you think we are’

‘NRIs embarrassed by Indians and Hindus in India’

Anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine…

18 April 2010

Rajiv Gandhi didn’t have to go for the Bofors scandal.

A. Raja wasn’t asked to go for the spectrum scam. Kamal Nath stays despite the rice export scam. P. Chidambaram stays after presiding over the biggest mass murder of his own men. Neither the relentless suicides in Vidarbha nor the rise in food prices or a multitude of scandals, said and unsaid, can dislodge Sharad Pawar. His crony Praful Patel stays despite running Air-India into the ground.

Shashi Tharoor?

The New Indian Express goes to 523 Thiruvananthapuramkarans to get a feel of what the people in his constituency think of the IPL hungamam.

The answer? “Verum anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine ozhivakkanamennu aagrahikkunnulloo.”

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Watch the video: Stephen Cobert with Shashi Tharoor

Also read: TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

CHURUMURI POLL: Is there a scam in the IPL?

‘Business is now just an extension of politics’

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s best of us all?

17 April 2010

Dog lovers pose with some Pretty Young Things at a puppy adoption programme organised by Let’s Live Together at Sankey Tank in Bangalore on Saturday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Tongue-twisters of the canine kind

Stray dogs now boarding from Gate No. 6

This is my turf, you cross it at your own peril

3 minutes 22 seconds on the coming skirt rivalry

17 April 2010

Author-columnist Anand Giridharadas, the former Bombay correspondent of the International Herald Tribune, on the wedding of the year (so far).

Soutik Biswas/ BBC: A cross-border marriage stripped of romance

CHURUMURI POLL: Double fault by apna Sania?

If you’re the sort who looks for symbols

Everybody loves a good affair between celebs

Will this picture appear on Page 1 of your paper?

16 April 2010

Candle-light vigils have emerged as one of the crappiest, most vacuous, celebrity-driven made-for-TV phenomena of our times.

Well-fed, good looking men and women, speckled with the star dust of a few out-of-work celebrities, holding smart alecky banners and placards; delicately lining up to protest, express sympathy, etc; getting their mugs in the paper; and then going back to doing whatever they were interrupted from.

Well, here is a candle light vigil we would like to see on the front pages of our newspapers and supplements tomorrow. Real women from the garment factories of Bangalore and its outskirts—their eyes, faces, bodies showing anger, anguish, bewilderment, concern, confusion, hope—at the town hall in Bangalore on Friday.

Their demand: a probe into the death of their colleague and compatriot, Roopa.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Like, bombers get scared looking at bombshells?

‘Business is now just an extension of politics’

16 April 2010

Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“At one time, politicians saw business as the milch cow of election funding and nurtured crony capitalism to ensure a reliable source of resources. Today, many politicians have begun to see business as an extension of politics and are less inclined to respect the relative autonomy of business. The IPL is in danger of falling prey to this shift in priorities and the hurdles put in the way of the Kochi franchise is indicative of the blurring of lines.”

Seema Chisthi in The Indian Express:

“[Shashi Tharoor‘s IPL saga] chips away at the myth of a solid government which UPA-II seemed intent on creating just under a year ago. The National Advisory Council, the emphasis on the right to education, then the right to food, gave signs of a government keen to appear empathetic and listen to real concerns. Days of endless visuals showing its members linked to the biggest tamasha with mind-boggling team prices and alleged “proxies” would be bad news for even mediocre regimes and most certainly so for governments which wish to set high standards, or at the least talk of being focused on the aam aadmi.”

How R, R, R & R look before they put on makeup

15 April 2010

At the Jog Falls in Shimoga, Raja, Rani, Roarer and Rocket take a much needed summer breather on Thursday before their monstrous tanks fill up.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

2009: A trickle at first, then the great deluge

2008: The misleading calm before the storm

2007: When Raja and Rani roared and rocketed

CHURUMURI POLL: Is there a scam in the IPL?

14 April 2010

The words of war between the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and the minister of State for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, over the Cochin IPL team and all the stories emerging from the fracas suggest that there are serious questions before the much ballyhooed Indian Premier League.

Details have emerged of massive conflict of interest between the IPL administrators and the franchises; convoluted ownership patterns with links to offshore centres like Mauritius; political and other skulduggery to push handpicked corporate houses and cities; open and underworld threats, and so on and so forth.

As it is, the farcical quality of cricket in IPL, the overriding commercial interest, the cheergirls, the Bollywoodisation, the betting, have already attracted reams. The promotion of “IPL Nights”—after-match parties with players in attendance—have also sparked fears of a sex scandal looming around the corner.

Question: Do you sense a scam in the IPL? Do you believe the astronomical numbers mentioned in the auctions for teams and players? Will IPL survive all this and thrive? Or will it sink itself and Indian cricket into irrelevance?

Also read: ‘IPL threatens cricket’s democratisation trends’

TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor & Globalisation 2.0*

13 April 2010

The minister of state for external affairs, “Row Bahadur” Shashi Tharoor, often uses the Princess Diana analogy to explain globalisation to the great unwashed:

An English princess with a Welsh title leaves a French hotel with her Egyptian companion, who has supplanted a Pakistani; she is driven in a German car with a Dutch engine by a Belgian chauffeur full of Scottish whisky; they are chased by Italian paparazzi on Japanese motorcycles into a Swiss-built tunnel and crash; a rescue is attempted by an American doctor using Brazilian medicines, and the story is now being told to you now by an Indian visiting Berlin. There’s globalisation.

On the day the effluent discharge about the Cochin franchise in the IPL reached the upper reaches of stratosphere, here’s how “Tweetiya No. 1” could describe Globalisation 2.0 using Dame Sunanda Pushkar:

“A Kashmiri beautician who migrated to Jammu marries a Delhi man, divorces him and goes to Dubai;  she runs a spa there and marries a Kerala man who dies in a road accident in Delhi, after which she moves to Toronto. Now in advertising, now in construction, now in IT, now also in travel business, now also in automobiles, she divides her time with Mumbai, and makes friends with a electrical appliances company based in Gujarat and a diamond jewellery company with offices in Antwerp.

“Introduced in society gatherings by a London-born, Calcutta-schooled, American-educated United Nations executive assistant—with twin sons in Hong Kong and London—who had a column in a Madras newspaper and trusted a godman in Puttaparti before he was elected from Trivandrum, as a “friend from Canada”,  the girl from Sopore magically lands a free 18% stake worth between Rs 70 crore and Rs 100 crore in the Cochin franchise of the Indian Premier League run by a Marwadi hailing from Uttar Pradesh who is deputy chief of the Punjab cricket association. The deal is signed in Bangalore. There’s globalization.”

* Tongue in cheek

Photograph: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Shashi Tharoor on globalisation

Shashi Tharoor on saving the saree

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Shashi Tharoor survive?