Posts Tagged ‘Shashi Tharoor’

Why Delhi gangrape victim shouldn’t be named

7 January 2013


The British newspaper Sunday People has outed the name of the Delhi gangrape victim, but the Indian media has not fallen for the bait—yet—although it has been trending on Twitter.

Here Rajeev Gowda, chairman of the centre for public policy at the Indian institute of management (IIM), Bangalore, argues why it is best not to name the girl.



Should the Delhi rape victim’s name be revealed? At least for the purpose of honouring her (with her parents’ consent) by naming revised anti-rape legislation after her, as Union Minister of State for HRD, Shashi Tharoor has suggested?

The issue is substantially more complicated.

The Indian media has been admirably restrained so far by not revealing the names of the victim or her companion. Instead, she has been given different monikers like Nirbhaya, Damini, Amanat and Jagruti to describe her fighting spirit.

But the media has also twisted Tharoor’s tweets as if he were interested in making public her name, thus causing needless controversy.

A more diligent media would have instead focused on what inspired Tharoor to make this suggestion. His inspiration comes from United States where names are often attached to laws, especially to add a poignant human angle to legislative changes.

But this little media episode demonstrates a key lesson on why it’s better for India to refrain from going down the path of honouring the victim by naming the bill after her.

Naming this victim potentially gives a license to name other rape victims and that can cause incalculable damage to victims and their families in an India where values are in flux and rape-related stigma is cruelly real.

Further, it is quite likely that we will get into political wars over the naming of future bills and parties that thrive on symbolic huffing and puffing rather than concrete content would just divert attention from the actual work that needs to be done and probably hold up parliament over such non-issues.

Various commentators refer to Megan‘s Law, named after a child killed by a released sex offender, as an example of how the USA names laws. In the USA, numerous other laws are named after the legislators who promote them. But in the American context, unlike in India, there is tremendous scope for individual Congresspersons and Senators to initiate and pass legislation.

Megan’s Law itself is part of a set of initiatives involving naming and shaming, which has also been raised in India as a policy option after the recent Delhi tragedy.

The recently deceased News of the World tried to launch a campaign for a Megan’s Law-type bill in the UK. This media campaign resulted in attacks on people who resembled the perpetrators of crimes and also triggered violent vigilante attacks. Such outcomes may satiate the anger and passions of mobs but certainly do not strengthen the rule of law.

In a decade-old book chapter, I had examined the political and media processes that led to the passage of Megan’s Law and similar laws across the USA using the Social Amplification of Risk framework. I emphasized the importance of politics and contrasted the American experience with how the British dealt with the News of the World campaign.

The British were suitably restrained, appropriately so.

Based on those experiences, I would assert that it’s better to retain the anonymity of victims (and possibly perpetrators too) and focus instead on the harder tasks of changing societal attitudes and improving governance to prevent such crimes from ever taking place.

Otherwise, the collateral damage from name-related moves can be substantial. The twisting of Tharoor’s well-intentioned tweets is just a hint of how counterproductive things can get.

Also read: Free, frank, fearless? No, greedy, grubby, gutless

Besides Pepper Spray, the Rape-Axe condom too

How TV ads turned us into a nation of voyeurs

Delhi gangrape, liberalisation and Godwin‘s Law

Facebook, Twitter, bloggers and now private TV

Ramayana, Upanishads, and the Delhi gangrape

Sai Baba couldn’t make Tharoor win. At least…

18 September 2012

Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who is also in charge of the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, throws a new challenge:

“If Uttar Pradesh becomes open defecation-free in 10 years, I can accept that Sai Baba is alive.”

Also read: Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win UN poll?

Chandrasekhar Kambar on our sense of history

19 September 2011

The Kannada poet, playwright and novelist Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar has bagged the nation’s most coveted literary honour, the Jnanpith Award, for 2009, becoming the eighth Kannadiga, the most for any Indian language, to be so decorated.

The former UN diplomat turned politician, Shashi Tharoor, wrote about meeting Kambar at a kavi sammelan in New York in 2003:

“One intervention that I found particularly striking was that of the Kannada poet, playwright and film-maker Kambar, who argued that the Indian cultural sensibility was marked by its non-linear notion of time: ‘Time is not a controlled sequence of events in our minds, but an amalgamation of all events, past to present’.

“Against the Western notion of “history”, Kambar posited a view of “many ages and many worlds”, including the mythic, constituting the Indian sense of present reality. Krishna’s lesson to Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield, Kambar argued, is not remote for us; that is why the frenzied mobs in Ayodhya cannot be persuaded by those (like me) who want them to leave the past alone. (The intellectual who says to the Bajrang Dal thug, “leave the past where it is”, is confronted by the Hindu sage who replies, “the past is here”.)

“Kambar went on to challenge the notion that the ‘lack of historical consciousness is a shortcoming’, and declared that it was only an intellectual surrender to the British that led Indians to ‘consider living outside history an insult’.

“We imitated the West in creating museums to house the relics of our past, whereas traditionally we had lived with our past in our daily present. This British notion of history forced us, Kambar said, to see our own literature through a distorted perspective.

“We are obsessed with the ‘original’ nature of historic texts and with the need to separate them from later interpolations. Instead of swallowing the Western notion of the integrity of a text and its sole author, we ought to celebrate the way in which Indians continually told and retold the Mahabharata, adding to it and modifying it. It is a matter of pride, Kambar declared, ‘that an entire country has collectively created the epic over a period of 10,000 years’.

The other seven literary heavyweights who have bagged the Jnanpith are Kuvempu, K. Shivarama Karanth, Da Ra Bendre, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, V.K. Gokak, Girish Karnad and U.R. Anantha Murthy .

Photograph: Playwright Dr Chandrashekara Kambara, who has bagged the Jnanpith Award, being greeted by his wife Satyabhama at their residence in Bangalore on Monday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Da Ra Bendre on why nitrogen is nonsense

A desi colossus on a par with Yeats and Shakespeare

Karanth, Kuvempu & Gokak, and the one-by-three car

One for the album: a picture worth 7,000 words

Will Kannada literature climb Nobel peak again?

When Kuvempu didn’t want to write in Kannada

Sai Baba’s teachings haven’t touched his Trustees

23 April 2011

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: Satya Sai Baba is now reported to be in a critical condition and the battlelines to take over one of the wealthiest Trusts in the nation are being drawn.

The hysteria around Sai Baba’s health brings to mind an incident recounted in a book titled Begone Godmen! by the Sri Lanka-born rationalist, Dr Abraham Kovoor. He says when he once wrote an article mentioning about Sai Baba going through an appedicitis operation, many Baba devotees took offence.

Reason: they considered Sai Baba a godman who could not fall ill.

One devotee, who was a doctor, said that Sai Baba had not been admitted to the hospital to remove his own appendix but a diseased one that the Bhagwan had taken into his body from a suffering devotee.

Whether one believes such theories or not is immaterial because the fact is all men fall sick.

All men will die. And everyone is equal in death. Death does not discriminate, death does not disappoint. It will come. Be it godman or an ungodly man. Of course, supposedly, there are various types of deaths, but that is another matter altogether.

Then of course there is the soul, unseen, unexplainable, unbelievably overrated and exploited.

Before we go into the realm of the metaphysical or start talking of the netherland, we must notice the fact that while Sai Baba lies is in a critical state, so is the character of the people in his inner circle.

A few days ago, while Sai Baba was in the hospital, there were two groups having separate meetings the whole day. One comprised the family members of Sai Baba; the other were the trustees of the Satya Sai Central Trust.

It is being reported that there is a war brewing within the Trust.

The Satya Sai Trust consists of five Trustees—the Sai Baba himself who is the founder-Trustee; P.N. Bhagwati, the former chief justice of India; Indulal Shah, a chartered accountant; S.V. Giri, former central vigilance commissioner; V. Srinivas, former president of the confederation of Indian industry (CII); and Sai Baba’s nephew, Ratnakar.

There is so much distrust among the Trustees that electricity was cut off in Puttaparthi so people would not watch a particular programme on a particular channel relayed only by a particular cable operator as the programme being telecast was particularly critical of the Trustees.

Incidentally, Sai Baba’s nephew Ratnakar holds the cable rights to Puttaparthi!

But why this hullabaloo? After all, Sai Baba has said that he will leave his physical body only when he is 96 years old, that’s a good 11 years from now. Considering that people have put their complete faith in his hands, they should not worry. He should be back giving darshans soon.

During such trying times, it is disturbing to see a group of illustrious individuals, one of them a blood relative of the godman, indulge in mud-slinging.

Sai Baba once said:

“If there is righteousness in the heart,

there will be beauty in character;

If there is beauty in character,

there will be harmony in the home.”

Looks like there is trouble in Sai Baba’s home now.

It seems many years of exposure to the godman’s godly teachings has had no effect on the Trustees. Even more disappointing, these Trustees are closer to him than a regular devotee. So, one would think they would be much more righteous and immune to greed.

This is another example that God or godmen can never dictate morality.

We are taught that God is omnipresent and that God is always watching us and so we must be at our best behaviour at all times. But in spite of this 24×7 divine surveillance, the most God-fearing or religious nations in the world are the most corrupt, most immoral, most hypocritical and also most prone to violence.


Is it because religion has a provision for forgiveness? Is it because when convenient to us, God is all-forgiving? Is that why these nations have some of the wealthiest religious establishments? Forgiveness seems to be a big business.

While the Gods have gotten wealthy by dispensing forgiveness, godmen have gotten wealthy by peddling hope and filling the emotional void and indulging in spiritual reconnaissance.

At the same time, the equation between a Guru and his devotee is a personal matter, as long as it is within the legal framework of the nation.

When six boys were shot dead in Sai Baba’s residential area, the statement made by Indulal Shah was, “The matter is purely internal and we do not wish to have any law enforcement agency investigating into it!!!” Six people have died and an educated chartered accountant has the audacity and arrogance to say that law enforcement should not investigate? Even godmen are not above the law.

Yes, indeed many have questioned the legitimacy of godmen. In fact, Sai Baba who was termed Man of Miracles for materialising gold chains, rings and holy ash has been questioned many times. Most famously, for producing gold chains out of thin air which breach the gold bullion import regulations of India. That is, if he actually produced gold out of thin air.

Then there are questions such as, instead of producing gold chains and ash out of thin air, why doesn’t Baba produce food and water and save the poor?

Or even better, tie up with the Reserve Bank of India and pump up the national economy with gold.

We also ask, why don’t godmen, who claim to have telepathic abilities, communicate or visit their political and bureaucratic devotees in their dreams and tell them that they have to stop being corrupt and sadistic? Is it because all these acts are not miracles but well-executed stage shows?

In fact, there is the controversial footage of Sai Baba fishing for ‘something’ under a trophy that he was presenting to an individual and later that something turned out to be a gold chain! The controversial footage was never broadcast as back then Doordarshan was the only TV channel. Of course it is now back, thanks to internet and YouTube.

Whatever it may be, Sai Baba has found mortal ways to achieve what he cannot materialise. There is the water project that has provided water to 750 villages, and medical and educational establishments that have greatly improved the life of millions of people. His charity and tenacity has done what governments have not been able to do.

Yes, godmen or spiritual guides may be accused of manipulation and trickery which rationalists can prove and the law must deal with. But godmen deserve recognition for the work they have done for society. However, they will win us over completely only when they can change the character of their devotees, especially the high and mighty ones.

We wish they could convince their bureaucrat-devotees to work with the same vigour and whole-heartedness at government hospitals as they do at the “god’s” health centres.

We wish they could request their powerful devotees to bless public projects with the same pro-activeness and creativity that they so easily bestow upon holy projects approved by gurujis. After all, isn’t government’s work God’s work? Well, at least that’s what’s proudly proclaimed on the entrance of Vidhana Soudha.

Also, godmen will win everyone’s affection and trust only when they are open to enquiry, even by the highly critical, scientific and the most mundane.

For now, while praying for Baba’s health, we better start investing on real estate in and around Mandya. Why? Because in 11 years, Sai Baba is going to be reborn as Prem Sai somewhere in Mandya. This is going to increase real estate prices and after 11 years, it is going to be a fantastic return on investment.

For others who do not have money to invest in land, they need not be disappointed because with Prem Sai, we will have access to superior educational institutions and medical care. Of course, this will come with a heady dose of miracles and spirituality. But be warned. Take only what you need and only in healthy doses.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of the evening daily newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Photograph: Children take out a march for the recovery of Satya Sai Baba at Puttaparti, in Andhra Pradesh on Saturday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Should a former president fall at a godman’s feet?

Should a President rub shoulders with godmen?

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win UN poll?

Do our gods sanction our politicians’ silly games?

Another good swami in the service of mankind

CHURUMURI POLL: One dish, fewer guests by law?

19 April 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should SUVs be banned?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Sure, austerity begins at home, but not at my home

Is the Indian media losing touch with reality?

‘A heady confluence of crime, business & politics’

28 August 2010

In his column in The Telegraph, Calcutta, Ramachandra Guha compares the IT frenzy in the Bangalore of 2000 and the mining frenzy in the Karnataka of 2010. The two phenomena, he says, represents contrasting shades of globalisation, the benign and the brutal, and contrasting forms of capitalism, progressive and barbaric:

“When the world economy offers opportunities for knowledge workers creating products that do not use much energy and do not damage the environment, these must be grabbed with both hands. When the world economy instead invites us to exploit scarce natural resources quickly, and without a thought for environmental sustainability, then we must be more sceptical.

“In their search for the big buck, the Bellary mine lords have shown a profound lack of concern for the law and for their fellow citizens. On the other hand, the best among Bangalore’s software entrepreneurs have made their money fairly and legally, spent a small fraction on themselves, and a larger fraction on various charitable and philanthropic causes.”

Guha also quotes Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, the New Delhi journalist who is making a documentary on the Bellary mine lords:

“According to him, the case of mining in Karnataka represents the first time that such close links have been forged between the worlds of crime, business, and politics. In the past, a Mumbai mastan occasionally fought and won an election; other mastans funded the odd politician. But never before have those who made money by illegal and even violent means so brazenly and effectively taken over the politics and administration of an entire Indian state.”

Read the full article: The best and the worst

Also read: Shashi Tharoor on Princess Diana and Globalisation

TWEET THIS! Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

Aloo mirch, tandoori chicken and globalisation

Who’s running the Feudal Republic of India? ANC.

30 May 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I met the Ace Political Expert (APE) at Cheluvamba Park doing his yogic walk. After a couple of rounds, he sat on the stone beach.

He beckoned me to sit and I asked him the question that was bothering me since the prime minister’s national press conference last week: “Who exactly is running our country?”

After taking a long breath, APE said: “There is a coalition government but there is collision at each and every step.”

It was a bad pun, but I let it be.

“Could you be more specific? Is Manmohan Singh running the country?”

“It is illusory to feel Manmohan Singh is running the country. He is running away from running the country, by visiting various countries. In effect, he is on the run most of the times.”

“He is not going anywhere. He himself said so during his press conference,” I interrupted.

“He meant Rahul Gandhi may have to wait a little longer to take his place as per the norms of the feudal democractic republic of India.”

“If Manmohan is not running the country, what about Sonia?”

“Well, Sonia is running the country and she is not! Let me explain. She wants the home minister to have a dialogue with Maoists. But Chidambaram is confused whether he should start a dialogue or act like Vedanta’s lawyer and box the Maoists for the bauxite. So he is doing nothing. Worse, he is doing a daily Q&A session with Barkha Dutt on 26 /11 forgetting there is an external affairs minister to do that job in S.M. Krishna.”

“This is all so confusing.”

“S.M. Krishna was busy monitoring and mentoring Shashi Tharoor who is anyway beyond mentoring and monitoring. That’s how he landed in a sweaty soup during IPL.”

APE continued: “Sonia wants the prices of tur dal and loki to be controlled but Sharad Pawar has apparently better things to do. He is busy getting new suits stitched for the post of ICC chief. So Sonia is not running the country either.”

“Sometimes it looks it is the opposition that is running the country.”

“That’s how it seemed to me too looking at the way Arun Jaitley supported the government to take tough action against Naxals and Maoists. I thought he was guiding Chidambaram. But Digvijay Singh’s bashing up of Chidambaram indicates neither UPA nor Congress is running the country. The much tom-tomed opposition unity on cut-motion fell flat on its face. So the opposition are not running the country either.”

I was getting desperate.

“The electronic media is all the time hysterical with their ‘Breaking News’ song-and-dance act. Are they running the country?”

“Sometimes I feel the troika of Prannoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami are running the country. But their agenda is mostly restricted to the Ruchika case, Aarushi murder case, etc, followed by a lengthy acrimonious debate. If they don’t have any agenda, they bring in Lalit Modi’s IPL3 which always has something to offer—-cricket, Bollywood starlets, midnight parties, millions of dollars, match fixing , N. Srinivasan’s homa before the finals etc.”

“Could the armed forces be running the country,” I wonder.

“It looked like that when we won the Kargil war. But the fudging of records of Kargil war, painting heroes as villains and villains as heroes, and the periodic selling of our defense secrets like in the Navy warm room look belies such thoughts.”

“What about the ministers,” I asked.

“Mostly they are busy with their scams or tantrums. DMK’s A. Raja, the telecom minister is known more for his 2G scam. Instead of being a rail mantri, Mamata Banerjee is in Kolkata trying to overthrow the Leftists there, be it in the state, municipal, or panchayet  elections, or even a local football match. I don’t think ministers are running the country either.”

I was getting exasperated.

“If Dr Singh is running away from the country’s problems, Sonia has no idea, ministers are not running the country, who is in charge or are we on auto-pilot?”

“ANC,” said APE.

“You mean African National Congress?”

“No. The ANC here  is Anarchy, Nepotism and Corruption!” said the APE.

“Are they running the country?” I asked.

“They are ruining the country!” concluded the APE.


17 May 2010

On May 22, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) completes one year of its second term in office, and it would be fair to say that the hype and hoopla about the Congress getting 200 seats and forming a government on its own without Left support has well nigh dissipated and disappeared.

Instead, there are questions marks, big question marks, over several of the policies ushered in by the government, be it the women’s reservation bill or the nuclear liability bill, Over the Telegana decision taken in a hurry, the approach to Maoists, and the charges of wholesale and retail corruption.

In the absence of any kind of opposition from the Left or the Right, Congressmen (from Digvijay Singh to Jairam Ramesh, from Mani Shankar Aiyar to Shashi Tharoor) have been providing all the pinpricks, even as allies like the DMK and NCP have been happily riding merry on the spectrum scam or the IPL.

Question: How has UPA-II fared compared with UPA-I? On current evidence, does Manmohan Singh seem like he will last out the full term? Will Sonia Gandhi‘s return to the helm of the national advisory council restore a sense of balance? Is the BJP poised to exploit the situation?

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

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

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?

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’

‘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.”

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?

Aloo mirch, tandoori chicken and globalisation

6 April 2010

At the annual convocation of Mangalore University in the land of Diana ice-creams, minister of State for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, flogs an old horse on the real Diana.

Link via Ramesh Perla

Also read: Shashi Tharoor on globalisation

Shashi Tharoor on saving the saree

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Shashi Tharoor survive?

1 March 2010

If Shashi Tharoor wants a title to flaunt  along with his myriad accomplishments, he might like to consider “Row Bahadur”. The minister of state for external affairs in the Manmohan Singh team has led what can only be mildly termed a charmed existence in the first nine months of the second innings of the UPA government.

After his failed bid to become secretary-general of the United Nations,with the backing of UPA-I, the youthful son of a journalist has been rarely out of the limelight, slipping from one 140-character controversy to another. His election campaign in Trivandrum was marred by reports that he had disrespected the national anthem.

Inducted into the council of ministers, the first-time MP’s five-star accommodation made embarrassing headlines and set the tone for a week of breastbeating over his tweet on travelling “cattle-class”. His reported comments about Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at a book launch ruffled a few Congress feathers. His senior, S.M. Krishna, has had to publicly draw the lakshman rekha for his Twittermania. And now comes the gaffe about Saudi Arabia being an “interlocutor” in the India-Pakistan theatre.

Question: Will Shashi Tharoor survive the first reshuffle of Team Manmohan?

Also read: Can Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

Shashi Tharoor’s definition of globalisation

Shashi Tharoor on saving the saree

Ranji Trophy & the David Coleman Headley chase

27 December 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I saw the the Ace Political Expert (ACE) near Nalpak Restaurant in Vontikoppal.

It was a long time since I had had the benefit of his political insight. I jumped at the opportunity and we sat down at Nalpak’s new open-air lounge where you can eat while looking at the traffic passing by.

“What do you make of the David Coleman Headley issue?” I asked as we started attacking the bisi bisi ragi roti with two different types of chutney.

“Headley traveled all over the country planning terror attacks left, right and centre. He freely met film and filmy people in Bollywood who gave him a red-carpet welcome. He even spent a night with his wife at the Taj Mahal Hotel, ate at the Oberois. Yet our intelligence knew nothing about his visit.”

“Don’t we have intelligence bureaus precisely for such things?” I asked.

“And we will not give visa to known Pakistan cricketers. What’s more, our Karnataka Police arrested a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Ranji Trophy cricket team member under the impression he was a terrorist! KSCA and police thought he might terrorise our players and win the Ranji tie!”

“How come our intelligence totally missed any information on him and our external affairs ministry cleared his visa?”

“It can happen only in a  Mahesh Bhatt film! We had no inkling until US authorities caught him and all the information is coming during his interrogation in Chicago. There’s one more thing…,” continued APE.


“It appears their FBI had clear information about the impending attack on Bombay, but our supposedly closest friends kept quiet about the whole thing! Now we know how close our friendship with the world’s strongest democratic power is!”

“This is a crying shame! Our Prime Minister swears friendship with all US Presidents after the nuclear treaty.”

“And we signed a nuclear treaty with Russia without breaking in to a song and dance! We have to get this straight. To the US, we come after their security which means keeping Pakistan in good humour with billions of dollars as a toffee so that they don’t hand over the bombs to the Taliban and others to the target US. We come after China because of their huge economic interest; forget human rights, Tibet etc.”

“That’s true.”

“India isn’t even protesting why the US didn’t share the information on Headley. They will say he was a triple or quadruple agent and they will use him to their advantage. Thanks to our bureaucratic bungling we are not sure if we have his visa papers.  S.M. Krishna, Shashi Tharoor and MEA spokesman say different things on different days on the same subject!”

“It’s pathetic. Maharashtra Government did the same thing with protective tunic of Hemant Karkare feeding contradicting bits of information to the media.”

“This is an expertise that is developed over the years. Reject the charge outright and gradually admit it step by step.”

After we had coffee, I asked him who will become the next CM as one hears the BJP government might fall any minute.

The APE said, “That’s a long story. We will keep it for the next time as so many are aiming for the position. We have to find a process of elimination before we zero in on one,” as we walked out.

‘Twitter has 140 characters. Lok Sabha has 545.’

25 September 2009


Maybe this is what minister of state for  Shashi Tharoor had in mind when he was expressing his desire to travel cattle-class in solidarity with the holy cows, the sacred animals which supply the milk for the high tea and cutting chai of the aam admi?

Photograph: M.K. Vidyaranya

Are you being served, Mr Foreign Correspondent?

23 September 2009

The Congress-led UPA government’s Bogus Austerity Drama (BAD) has seen ministers move out of five-star hotels, party leaders move around in economy-class planes and trains, and a Twitter comment about the “cattle-class” and “holy cows” sending the country all atwitter.

In the midst of all this, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has embarked on his annual pilgrimage to the United Nations with a band of diplomacy correspondents in tow.

Naveen Kapoor of the news agency Asian News International (ANI), who is accompanying the PM to New York, has this telling line in his report on day one:

“Following the [austerity] order to a tee, the [airline] staff did not serve expensive biscuits and eliminated caviar, but in a concession to the media accompanying the delegation, served all those on board the choicest of liquor en route to Frankfurt, where there will be an overnight halt.”

Link via Mahesh Vijapurkar

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

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Censorship in the name of the national interest?

21 September 2009


PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The coverage in the Indian media of conditions along the India-China border from where reports of “military incursions, shooting incidents and even imminent conflict along the Line of Actual Control” are being reported on an almost-daily basis has invoked a strange reaction from the government.

On the one hand, there has been a denial from the very top of the government and armed forces, with the national security advisor even uttering the words “media hype”, even as the two heads of the external affairs ministry (S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor) are battling the after-effects of five-star comfort and Twittermania.

And, on the other hand, the Union home ministry has reportedly decided to file a First Iinformation Report against two reporters of The Times of India. The reporters, Nirmalya Banerjee in Calcutta and Prabin Kalita in Guwahati, filed a front-page story last Tuesday, September 15, of two soldiers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) being injured in firing by the Chinese in northern Sikkim.

The reported quoted “a highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media” and also mentioned that ITBP officials in New Delhi “declined to confirm the incident”.

The disclaimer notwithstanding, ToI carried this clarification on the following day on its inside pages:

“Responding to a ToI report, ‘2 ITBP jawans injured in China border firing’, the ITBP had clarified that no such incident of firing has taken place on the India-China border and no member of the ITBP had been injured.”

Clearly, the clarification failed to cool the embers in the corridors of power.

On Sunday, September 20, The Hindu carried a news story, bylined “New Delhi Bureau”.

“We have taken this story very seriously. We are going ahead with our decision to take criminal action against the two reporters and we will soon file an FIR. They have quoted some highly placed intelligence source in their story. Let them appear before the court and tell who is this source who gave them information,” unnamed “top home ministry sources” were quoted as saying in The Hindu.

The reporters’ crime according to the unnamed top home ministry sources?

Indian law proscribed promotion of enmity with other countries.”

The rest of the Indian media has ignored the travails of the The Times of India‘s reporters, and as has become the norm these days, the Indian Express, which reports the story on its front page today, doesn’t even bother to name the paper.

The attempt to tone down the war mongering in the media is understandable. After all, the sight of two gigantic countries , both nuclear powers, staring eyeball to eyeball in a confrontation is not a very pretty one.

Still, some questions need to be asked:

1) Is the government over-reacting to one story in one newspaper? Have other newspapers and other TV channels been calmness personified?

2) By targetting ToI, is the government trying to send signals to other bellicose media which have been itching for action? Is this pre-war media management?

3) Is this story on injured Indian jawans the only “wrong” story on this issue, or any other issue, that merits government reaction? If so, why?

4) Is the government implicitly accusing the media of making up stories? Or is it trying to find out the media’s sources? If it is the latter, isn’t the government chasing the wrong end of the animal?

5) Is The Times of India‘s responsibility to the reader or to the home and defence ministries?

6) Is The Times of India‘s reporters within their rights to not reveal their intelligence source/s, if any, even in a court of law?

7) Does threat of an FIR and criminal action amount to censorship in the name of “national interest”?

8) Who in the government decides whether a story is acceptable or not to the “national interest”, and on what basis, and how often?

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: Because your TV cannot devote 23 minutes

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

18 September 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The “Kitchen Cabinet” meeting began although the chairperson Sonia Gandhi was yet to arrive.

Since it was already past lunch hour, the “Kitchen Cabinet” decided to have a working lunch.

Just as the stewards of the Parliament canteen were getting ready to serve the heavily subsidised lunch, finance minister Pranob Mukherjee aka Pranab Mukherjee put up his hand and asked them not to serve him anything.

“I should practice what I preach,” said the affable FM as he opened his lunch box, the size of a geometry box, and took out pieces of Rui maach (carp fish) marinated in pungent mustard along with a small matka of mishti doi.

“This should keep me going up to evening when I am ready for tea,” Pranabda said, pointing to his hip flask which had two salted biscuits stuck with adhesive tape.

The Prime Minister opened his Jalandhar cloth bag and out came a caserole containing Hilsa fish curry with aloo and pudina parathas wrapped in silver foil.

“Pranabda, don’t look at me like that,” the PM said as the FM’s eyebrows shot up when he saw very expensive hilsa in Manmohan’s dabba.

“The Hilsa fish is free and it is due to the courtesy of Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia from Bangladesh. She keeps sending me two to three refrigerated cans of Hilsa every month due to the rising prices of hilsa here. I have not spent any money for this lunch except for the parathas which my wife Gursharan Kaur made last week. Since they were kept in the freezer, they are still fresh.”

The home minister, used to rava idli with chutney from Sivaganga and thairu sadam, and lemon pickle from home, took out a plastic packet and opened its contents, a hamburger with an apple and an economy size cola.

“This is free and courtesy of Continental Airlines when I allowed them to frisk me. I asked them for a doggie bag and emptied my plate in to it. Though it is more than 36 hours, it still looks fresh and tastes good. That’s the beauty of Aemrican grub,” explained Chidambaram.

Labour Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge got up and took out a crumpled paper packet from his left kurta pocket and opened and out popped a ragi mudde. From his other pocket, he took out an onion. “This was grown by me while I was busy canvassing for election. Both ragi and onion are the symbols of the aam aadmi.”

Environmental minister Jairam Ramesh took out a bushel of herbal leaves grown in Assam and started chewing with gusto. Of late he had started this both as austerity measure plus as an effort to save his teeth.

S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor, the ‘external affairs twins’ were seen sharing a one-by-two masala dose from Karnataka bhavan and puttu from Kerala Bhavan. Ever since they vacated the 5- star hotels they had begun mostly sharing their breakfast, lunch and dinner brought from their Bhavans free of charge as they are ministers from Karnataka and Kerala.

Just then the door opened, and in breezed Sonia Gandhi all flustered as she was rushing for the meeting direct from Mysore.

“Madam you please rest and have your lunch .You have had a long flight.” offered the Prime Minister.

“Bene, bene, la sono ok (I’m OK). I am ready. I had asked N.R. Narayana Murthy at the Infosys campus in Mysore to pack my lunch for the flight. He has given bisibele bath and Mysore pak. So I have not spent any amount towards lunch. This should make our finance minister happy,” she said as she opened her bag.

Just then Prime Minister’s secretary buzzed him and said the Commonwaelth President Michael Fennel wanted to have a dinner appointment with him to discuss whether Delhi would be ready for the 2010 Games.

“Oh, no! What shall we do? These people come as a delegation and they are usually used to a grand 10-course dinner,” wailed the PM.

“We will call them for our iftar party. The whole delegation can come; there is no problem. For breaking the fast, we will serve pakodas, dahi pulkiyan, chana chat and fruit juices. For dinner, we will serve mutton biryani or pulav, chicken, vegetable, kebabs and naan. For dessert, there will be kheer, ras malai, gulab jamun and sheer khurma. It will be a 20-course food park,” said health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Azad was entrusted with the task of organizing the government’s iftar party. It was some kind of promotion for him after his bloody bouts with state health ministers against the rampant H1N1 virus.

“There’s goes my austerity plan to the moon,” sighed the Finance Minister.

The Top-10 austerity moves India wants to hear

16 September 2009


The Bogus Austerity Drama (BAD) has so far been confined to a) S.M. Krishna and Shashi Tharoor moving out of their five-star Rs 1.5 lakh-a-day suites, b) Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee travelling economy class, c) Rahul Gandhi taking the Shatabdi, and d) a flood of drought-inspired sanctimony all over.

But the dictionary tells us that austerity is not just about hotel rooms and flight tickets. And it can’t just be about the Congress and its leaders. In its truest form, austerity needs to be a pan-national phenomenon in which everybody, everywhere, does less more even if it costs more to do less.

As Sarojini Naidu is said to have remarked about Mahatma Gandhi: “It costs a lot to keep him poor.”

Here are the top-10 austerity claims we hope to hear soon.


modi1) Narendra Modi: “Bhaiyon aur behenon, thanks to the lafda, what you urban, English-wallahs call kerfuffle, over the abrupt termination of oxygen intake by Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jahan, I promise Vibrant Gujarat will have fewer fake encounters to protect its asmita. Or your trishul back, sharpened.”

2) Mukesh Ambani: “Arre baba, if nimma Nandan Nilekani who is worth 1.3 billion dollars has to shift to Karnataka Bhavan as part of the austerity drive, you think I am so greedy as to not respect my neighbours wishes and knock out the bottom-two floors of my ready-to-occupy, 2 billion-dollar, 27-storey mansion?”

janardhan_karunakar_bro_200908103) B.S. Yediyurappa: “In the name of development and governance, as per the honourable wishes of our poojya former future prime minister, I will have one Reddy less breathing down my neck. And I will ask them to use a helicopter pool instead of flying into Bellary individually whenever they feel like eating biryani.”

4) Arundhati Roy: “Instead of 6,000 word essays which I impose on Indians twice a year, I will impose 3,000 word essays on Indians eight times in two years, which is the same thing, of course, so I will get the systems wallahs to reinsert the “Wordcount” button I had gotten removed. No wait, ‘gotten’ is American imperial English, the “Wordcount” button I had got removed.”

arun_shourie_illus_200909075) Arun Shourie: “Instead of a 5-part series on Alice in Blunderland, Humpty-Dumpty and Tarzan which even I don’t understand, I promise to write a one-part series which even you won’t understand, but you will be too ashamed to admit that you didn’t understand because I quoted the great ascetic Swami Vivekananda with Edward Rice Burroughs in all CAPS bold with triple asterisks***, footnotes¼ and accent gravuresˆ to leave you confused to the power of ∞.”

6) Nayantara: “Since the well-meaning folk at churumuri want the world to do “less more”, I promise to wear “more less” clothes in my next Telugu film, ‘Noovu isthe, nenu tees konta‘” so that there is more fabric left to cover the uncovered masses in drought-affected Andhra Pradesh.”

namitha-37) Namitha: “The men are going in for six-pack abs. The women are going in for size zero. You look at me (go on, look at me) and you tell me honestly where I should start to do my bit for the country, and I will dutifully oblige. Let’s make it a totally interactive exercise. After all, I was born in the vibrant state of Gujarat which produced the great Mahatma whose interactive programmes won us freedom.”

8) Sagarika Ghose: “I will reduce fazing the nation with my hi-decibel, St Stephen‘s rat-a-tat which even the class teachers of Ishan and Tarini are saying they can no longer comprehend anything because they don’t know where the main clause ends and where the subclause begins, especially when Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Gurudas Dasgupta are all trying to sneak in a word between the end of the second sentence and the beginning of the third one, by which time we have to go for a short commercial break, while you watch the lively website, you keep on voting, while we keep on counting.”

9)Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Gurudas Dasgupta: “As part of the austerity drive, we promise to be a little less economical with the hair-splitting.”

KPN photo10) Ambarish: “I will take less, work more. I will take less, work more. I will work less, take more. I will work less, take more. I will take less, work more. I will take more, work less.”

Photographs: courtesy, Karnataka Photo NewsOutlook,