Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yet another loss

Yesterday India lost yet another dutiful son to the guns of the Maoists. This time the killing was extremely brutal. The unarmed policeman was beheaded ! During such times I wonder if compassion and mercy really exists in this world or is it just in the fables. The media stormed the house on hearing the news and captured visuals of the bereaved family. A little kid whose age was probably 7 or 8 was interviewed! The sobbing kid says “When I grow up I am going to be a policeman” and then addressing the killers he says “You guys killed my father and I am going to kill you”. This visual will probably stay in my mind forever.
As I understand, the Maoists believe that the capitalist economy has denied justice to them. They have not been provided land or any means by which they could earn their living. Hence they are fighting for their share in the pie. Does economics drive away the feeling of compassion or mercy or during instances as these “the concept of humanity”. I no longer understand what they are fighting for!
I am also totally appalled by the response of the govt. Platitudes such as “I totally condemn this attack….” no longer make sense. It probably made sense at a time when such attacks were uncommon and the perpetrators of the crime were not known. This is a blatant inhuman act and the perpetrators must be hanged.
Probably the victory of the Maoist movement in Nepal gave their counterparts in India a new confidence. They however fail to understand that while there was popular sentiment against the monarchy in Nepal, we Indians love democracy. After all we can do anything and get away with it scot free! By committing such acts, the Maoists are going against the sentiment of the very people they are supposedly fighting for.
So what next ? Do we continue to mourn? No. All of a sudden we hear about a heroic act by a teenage girl in J&K who single handedly kills 2 terrorists. We forget about the dead policemen and star thinking once again “Life in Beautiful” and “there’s no country like India”. The govt goes back to its old ways, policemen continue to fight with lathis and we live our lives until the next Maoist attack when we mourn yet again.

Monday, June 8, 2009

King Roger

"In an era of specialists - you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist... or you're Roger Federer" – Jimmy Connors

Roger Federer has just won his 14th grand slam. Ironically , it is the French Open where he has achieved this feat, a tournament that has eluded him for years now. Many of us believe that if not for Rafa , he could have achieved this feat a couple of years earlier. Anyways , its Roger’s time and we must speak only of him. Critics will continue to argue that had Rafa played the finals , the result could have been different. Well Roger can’t do anything about. He can’t choose his opponents.

All of us who have followed Roger’s game and have believed in his game have evolved as much as he did. First it was the time when Roger has to prove that he had the game to beat the best. As a youngster when he beat Pete Sampras , the World began to watch him. Then he had his many tournaments when he was still evolving as a player. This was also the time when no player could fill the gap left by Sampras. We had Roddick , Hewitt , Hass etc all trying to reach the top spot. We as tennis fans were also in search of the next Sampras. It was also the time when Roger started cementing his place amongst the finest players of the game.

Then came the era when Roger’s game was unbeatable. The backhands were punishing ; the ball from that backhand could go in any direction. The serve was big , the drop shots were added to his armour and suddenly we began to wonder if we are watching the most complete player the game has ever produced. This was the time when we watched his game munching popcorn and relaxing in a couch. After all he was bound to win. We were only willing to be overwhelmed by his game. This was also the time when we began seeing Roger chasing the French Open. All was still well, after all even Sampras never came close to winning the French Open. We always thought that if not this year then it could be next year. Rafa was still the player who could only play on clay. We were still chasing Roger because we know that we were witnessing something special.

Then came the 2007 Wimbledon finals. Rafa and Roger met in the finals. Roger had the game to beat Rafa but we realised that Rafa was improving his game by leaps and bounds and that there could be a player who would challenge Roger’s supremacy. Rafa in this match said that he would try and win the next Wimbledon. But how could he , after all our man was supposed to win the 6th consecutive Wimbledon and in his own way own the grass courts. The turning point was in the finals of 2008 French open when Roger lost the match and with it his confidence. We were suddenly alarmed because we knew that achieving a career grand slam would now be even more difficult and more importantly Wimbledon was at stake. We could no longer watch Roger’s matches munching snacks and with Roger’s victory on our mind. I think this was the first time, when as tennis fans , we began connecting with Roger. We cried when he cried during the Wimbledon finals , we skipped a beat when he missed an easy return of serve or was down a break. We were now truly Roger’s supporters and well wishers. When he lost his No 1 title , it hurt us more than it could hurt him. After all he believed that his No 1 title was not as important as the Wimbledon.

All this has made the French Open victory even more sweet . The reason is that we see Roger’s resurgence as the resurgence of a man who was cheated by destiny. Had he not gone through his ups and downs , we might have only have rejoiced on his victory and spoken about his greatness but we could have never connected with him.

The most important facets of Federer’s game according to me are his elegance in executing some of the finest shots and the variety of shots he can produce. Many a times I end up arguing with my friends who say that Federer does not chase the ball unlike a certain Nadal. That is true and I am happy about it. I don’t want to see him rolling on the ground trying to chase the ball. It shows the confidence of a man who know that if not this point ,he will win the next. Why bother running around the court like a sprinter !

As I write this today , I hope that I read it when I am old. At that time, I might want to recall how I felt when I was still young. I know that I will remember Federer’s tennis and my memories associated with his game. I will remember the 2009 Australian Open when all of us cried with him. And I will certainly remember the 2009 French Open when Roger achieved immortality..

I read the following article posted on the Roland Garros website following Roger’s victory. I am sure you’ll enjoy it. I certainly did.

“The tennis gods brewed up a storm around Roland Garros on Sunday afternoon as they prepared to welcome a new member into their midst. Roger Federer repelled the rain, thunder, and a certain Robin Soderling to take his rightful place among the immortals of the game.”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

An Ideal time for the Women’s reservation bill

The new parliament following the UPA’s emphatic victory has started its session. We will see the budget being presented sometime in July. We will also see the ministry of foreign affairs playing a key role in rebuilding Sri Lanka and overseeing efforts to ensure that the interests of the tamil minority population are not clouded amdist the euphoria of the government’s victory. At the same time , with Meira Kumar having been appointed as the Speaker , all of us would like to believe that the government is trying to send a clear message that it is serious about representation of women in India’s parliament.

The empowerment of women must begin at the grassroots level. It wouldn’t matter to a woman in a village if Meira Kumar is the LS Speaker , however instead if the Panchayat had adequate representation of women , it would be easier to solve cases of domestic violence against women. Many of these cases in fact go unheard. Reservation for women in the Panchayat is a welcome move and we have to see if the government indeed goes ahead and implements the bill. This brings me to the Women’s reservation bill.

This women’s reservation bill has been long pending. Neither the NDA not the previous UPA government was able to pass the bill. The RJP , SP and LJP have already said that they are against the bill and would do anything to stop it. We recently heard Sharad Yadav saying that he would kill himself if the bill was passed. The BJP has indicated that it is willing to support the bill. Its leader , Shri Advani has clearly indicated that the 15th Lok Sabha will see a new beginning in govt-opposition relationship. Parties such as RJP , SP etc which oppose the bill received a drubbing the election and cannot conjure enough strength to stop the bill . Added to this is the support from the BJP for the bill. The UPA cannot get a better opportunity than this to pass the bill.

The significance of the bill stems from the fact that women are considered the wiser sex. Added to this is their experience is running a family. They are also considered to be less corrupt when compared to men. More than anything , in a land where crime against women has been rampant for ages now , this is all but a small means of seeking forgiveness.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Elections 2009 – Yet another analysis

It has been quite sometime since the results of general elections 2009 were announced. The dust has settled down. The new lok sabha session has also begun. So what can one conclude from the results ? We have all heard several knee jerk reactions to the results. We hear about the Left and the BJP facing an existential crisis. We also hear about Rahul Gandhi being the real winner in this election. We need a closer look at the results before we can conclude on any of these.

All of us heard news channels screaming loud that this was an issueless election. An election in which one cannot actually point a finger at the government for non-performance. Kudos to the previous government for having implemented the RTI and NREGS. The NREGS has certainly been the UPA’s flagship achievement. One must also take time to appreciate the state governments which have actually implemented the NREGS. States like Bihar and AP have certainly benefitted from this program. But we must also remember that Infrastructure projects took a backseat under the UPA regime. The telecom sector also did not see any technological advancement. The auction of the 3G spectrum was marred by chaos. The Nuclear deal’s success still remains doubtful in my opinion. India with its vast amounts of Thorium could use alternative techniques for meeting its energy demands. Nontheless , it’s better to wait and then comment on the Nuclear deal.

The BJP failed to highlight the failures of the UPA government. They instead chose to attack the mild mannered Manmohan Singh. The projection of Modi as the PM in waiting and the Varun Gandhi speech only added to the misery. The issue of India’s hiding their wealth in tax havens was raised a little too late. In addition to this, with the media strongly waging a battle against them , it was always going to be an uphill battle for the BJP. If not anything , they could have at least highlighted the incompetency of the Home ministry under Shivraj Patil, an inefficiency that gave us 26/11.

There is also another misconception that the new government without the Left would introduce a flurry of reforms in sectors like insurance and retail. People who think so fail to understand that the Trinamool Congress is more pro-left. The people of WB have only voted for a party which was more leftist in its ideology.

Rahul Gandhi has been declared as the unofficial winner of this election. It is true that his decision to go alone in UP has fetched a few more seats for the congress. This was always going to be easy in UP , where the people have always voted for the Gandhi family. The same charm did not work in Orrisa where Rahul Gandhi camped for several days.

It is not easy to analyse the results of any Indian election and pinpoint to a host of factors that have led to a result. However we can safely say that the NDA lost elections 2004 and theUPA won elections 2009.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bridging the divide

The recent election campaigning by the TN political parties for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections underlines the fact that the common man there is not able to relate himself to the aspirations of the rest of India. The ongoing war in Sri Lanka between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army has polarised the scenario there and we have more cheer when a leader accuses the Sri Lankan govt for crimes against the tamils than when he accuses the central govt on failure to deliver on developmental issues.


Tamil Nadu seems to have this problem right since the 1960’s when there was the Tamil movement reminiscent of the current activities of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena(MNS). This tamil movement replaced the rule of the Congress party in the state with the DMK. Regional parties have continued to rule the roost ever since.


Primary and Secondary education curriculum have enforced Tamil as a compulsory language. There have been campaigns against using English as a medium of education. Such campaigns are usually spearheaded by politicians who send the children to Harvard or a Yale to pursue their studies. Such hypocrisy I fear will alienate the people of TN from the rest of India.


But thanks to India’s phenomenal growth since early 2001, we have a lot of employment generated in TN ; Madurai , Chennai and Coimbatore in particular. The Services sector has been a major contributor to this. Such employment opportunities have attracted youth from across the country. The movement of people I believe is India’s strength and helps in bridging the divide between people following different cultures and languages. I hope and believe that such a phenomenon will end TN’s isolation.


But when a Vaiko speaks for the secession of TN from the rest of the country and speaks of a separate Tamil nation, all such efforts of bridging the divide seems wasted. The sad fact is that parties like the CPI have also started speaking this language. All this for petty electoral gains.

I recently read about the Governor of Texas speaking in a similar language. He was speaking of secession from the USA if Washington’s tax policies would not be reformed. He was using a much milder tone although.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2 Landmark Verdicts

The supreme court of India came up with 2 landmark judgments yesterday. One was related to the petition filed by Bollywood actor and Samajwadi party candidate Sanjay Dutt , that his conviction in the Mumbai blast case be suspended and he be allowed to contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. The SC rejected the petition. With this landmark verdict, the SC has sent a clear signal to the parties that they should not field criminals in an election.

However, this judgement also raises a lot of doubts in our minds. Why was Navjot Singh Sidhu then allowed to contest in the Lok Sabha by-election considering his involvement in a hit and run case? Why do we have candidates in Bihar contesting elections from the Jail? Does the Supreme Court not ban such candidates? I know the answer only for the Sidhu case. He was a sitting MP, when he was convicted. He immediately resigned from the post. The Supreme Court considered this to be a great gesture and then went on to stay his conviction, when he appealed.

This also brings into picture, the role played by the CBI in this case. The CBI filed a petition in the SC seeking to ban Sanjay Dutt from contesting in the polls. Of late, many consider the CBI to be working in congress’ favour. So the supporters of Sanjay Dutt may say that it was a plot hatched by the congress and supported by the CBI. However, for a common man like me it is a symbol of hope. A hope that justice cannot be undermined to such a great extent in this country.
Sanjay Dutt might have played a charming role as Munnabhai and might have promoted Gandhigiri. Hell, he might have even reformed and inspired many with his roles. But does that change the fact that he was involved in a serious crime, a war against the country. The TADA court might have acquitted him but he is still booked under the Arms act. His confession to the crime has probably lessened his punishment. He has spent close to 18 months in Jail and has probably now spent a major part of his life in running to the court s. He looks like a reformed man now. But letting him contest the elections will set a bad precedence.

Another case is related to a petition filed by a student against his school. The student wished to follow his religious practice and wanted to sport a beard. When the school objected to this, the boy moved the Supreme Court. He argued that India being a secular country, an individual should be allowed to freely practice his religion. The Supreme Court dismissed his petition stating that the concept of secularism cannot be overstretched. It went on to say that the rules followed by an institution cannot be changed for the sake of one student and that he was always free to join another school which would not object to his sporting a beard.

I do not blame the school in this regard because any school would like to bring uniformity amongst its students. Not all the students of a school may be economically strong. That’s the whole purpose of a school uniform, to bring about uniformity and to avoid any feeling of jealousness. Similarly, in every other regard, a school might want to have uniformity and equality. Nothing wrong.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bringing back India’s wealth

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K Advani today addressed the media and addressed the issue of Indian’s saving their wealth in foreign banks. Now this issue has 2 aspects, it involves fraudulent money amassed by the people and also the money which people have genuinely saved.

This issue comes in the wake of the recent announcement of the foreign banks such as the Swiss Bank that they are ready to share their investor’s information with the govt if requested. The US government has promptly reacted to this by taking the necessary steps to obtain the required information. This issue becomes even more important in view of the recent economic crisis. Mr. Advani also said that he had written to the prime minister about this but no action was taken. This issue comes in the wake of the G-20 Summit to be held in London in the coming days.

So how important is this issue? There are 2 sides to this issue. First of all, it would bring about a lot of transparency to the political system in India. The wealth amassed by the political class in these tax havens would be out. All of us speak about the wealth amassed by Mr. X or Mrs. Y in these banks. Let us know the truth. It would bring about a political renaissance in India.

The second aspect to this is that the money which people have genuinely saved can be brought back to India and can be invested in the country. The estimated wealth of the Indians in these banks ranges from $500 Billion to $1400 Billion. This is huge money and would greatly strengthen the Indian economy if invested properly.

But is this really implementable? The political babus would never allow anyone to investigate their wealth, let alone passing a bill to legalize this procedure. This is because every political party has to then revealing the skeletons in its cupboard. At the same time, no party can openly oppose this law as it would show the party in bad light.

The RTI was implemented by the UPA amidst great fanfare. It has been implemented in several situations and has brought a positive change. But it is still plagued by the fact that its failures greatly outweigh its success. The Information officers as they call are mainly ex Government Officials. In such a situation we end up in a situation where in one corrupt man is trying to investigate the cases against another corrupt man. In most cases, the person who appeals is framed with criminal charges and the matter is closed.

We certainly hope that the RTI continues to evolve into a much more effective law. We have made a good beginning and we can’t afford to lose steam mid-way. Similarly, we need to make a beginning to get back India’s wealth and invest the money wisely. It will take a lot of political will to do so and it is achievable.

A Victim Of Diversity

India has been the cradle of civilization. Several religions trace their origin to India. We have more than a hundred languages with about 30 of them being recognized as official languages. Great thinkers and philosophers, the several invasions of India and travelers from far off lands have contributed to India’s diverse religious beliefs.

In a land where people of different beliefs live together, there seems to be a fear in the minds of Individuals that their beliefs and customs would not find a place in modern India. There is a fear of isolation , an isolation probably not during their lifetime but during the lifetime of their children and grandchildren. The demography of India is constantly changing. That is because unlike China, India allows the free movement of its people.

The so called original inhabitants of a land , dare I say aborigines , fear a change in the demography of their land. We have seen such behavior in North East India where in there have been clashes between Muslim migrant workers and the native bodo population. We have seen Hindu Muslim clashes in Uttar Pradesh. Even outside India we know of clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The list is endless. It is not only religion. We have seen bihari and U.P workers being targeted in Mumbai, the tamil population being targeted during the Cauvery water crisis of the 1990’s etc etc.

So what we achieved with diversity? I would really want the people who speak so greatly of India’s diversity to answer this question. They might speak greatly about the art and literature in the various cultures. Fine valid point. But is that enough? More importantly has any culture taught people that they need to respect the other cultures equally ? Great thinkers who have started religions probably never felt the need to intellectually argue and amend the flaws of an existing religion instead of starting a new faith. I wish they had!

India has been the biggest victim of diversity in religion and culture. We might have guided the world with principles and religions. Every nation chose to keep one religion and prosper. We chose to prosper with many. Unfortunately we have failed in execution.

The problem is compounded by the fact that, we have a media which is focused only on the TRP’s. It is clear to them that an issue of religion would get them more viewership and they milk this concept. The result is that we end up focusing on personalities rather than real issues which the country faces.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The ghost of Nadal

Alas. Federer has lost the Australian open and before this disappointment makes me lose my mind, I need to vent it out. During the presentation ceremony, when Roger federer spoke , he was crying and he simply said “ Its Killing me”. What else do I say , the emotion was simply overwhelming. When the person whom you idolize has been brought to his knees, you feel like you have lost a battle. I feel that and I am sure that many of you feel the same. What was most disappointing was seeing Roger being mentally drained out in the deciding set.


He looked crestfallen during most parts of the fifth set and when Rafa broke him in the fourth game of this set , it was evident that he was going for the kill. Incidentally, Roger lost this deciding game with four back to back unforced errors including a double fault. It was evident that Rafa had got into Federer’s psyche. If the match was physically daunting for Nadal after an epic 5 hour semi-final against Verdasco , it was mentally daunting for Roger. He needs to defeat the ghost of Nadal comfortably residing in his mind  before beating Nadal  the sportsman. It is clear that Nadal remains a roadblock in Federer’s road to greatness.


What differentiates the two in the the ability of Nadal to raise his game with every passing tournament. He started off 2007 as a player with a weak serve but as one would play incredible winners from the baseline. He has worked on his serve and has greatly improved it.   He has added the top spin to his game and his uncanny ability to chase the ball to its death makes him a great champion. He now goes to the French Open as the clear favourite.


Skeptics continue to say that Roger would not be as great a player as Sampras. One should remember that Sampras was never able to reach the Semi-Finals of the French Open ! I am not trying to belittle Sampras and can’t dream of doing that either. It's just that Statistics speak for themselves.


So , what can Roger look forward to during the rest of the year ? He has a 7 – 12 record against Nadal and has lost his Number 1 position to him. He must realize that he nothing to lose anymore. He must get Nadal out of his mind. He must also realize that champions don’t break so easily. ( I am referring to the crying ! ).  


So what do I predict for the year. Rafael Nadal will comfortably win the French Open.He might not even drop a set in the entire tournament.  Roger has his best chance in the Wimbledon grass. The Wimbledon this year will for the first time be played under closed courts. So the wind factor which tormented Roger during last year’s final will no longer harm him  As for the US open , if Roger continues to be intrigued by Rafa , then we will see Rafa win the US open as well making him the only player in modern era to win all four grand slams.  

Sunday, January 18, 2009

India's failed diplomacy

The NSG and the security agencies played a vital role during operation “Black Tornado” and were successful in saving many lives. This I will call Phase 1 in coming to terms with the Mumbai carnage. Now Phase 2, is to get the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. Outsourcing of terrorist activities seems is very much favored by terrorist organizations. On the one hand, they have with them people who have already been indoctrinated and on the other hand escalates between the victim nation and the country of the perpetrators. Strong diplomacy is needed to handle such situations.

India faces a tough task in deporting the Pakistani nationals involved in the 26/11 carnage. We need intelligent people who can negotiate well with hard bargaining foreign nationals. We have sacked our incompetent home minister and in Chidambaram have a man who isn’t very keen to take this post. The external affairs minister on one day tells a local daily that it would be okay for Pakistan to hold trial for the 26/11 accused, and retracts his statement the very next day when quizzed about his statement.

I strongly believe that India lost the early advantage when Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation post 26/11 said that Pakistan was as much a victim of terror as India is ! Dr Singh might be an intelligent economist but his reactions and actions post 26/11 prove the fact that he is not prime minister material.

The recent visit of the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his comments that about Pakistan’s involvement in the 26/11 carnage speaks volumes about the governement’s weak foreign policy . Miliband very clearly said that Pakistan had a very effective judicial system which can try the accused and that there was no need to deport the accused to India. He also went on to say that he did not believe in the involvement of any Pakistani agency in the attack. The government did not do anything to rebuff his statement. Instead, plans were made for Rahul Gandhi to accompany Miliband to visit Congress’s playground (Amethi) and stay in a village overnight. No government in any country would have reacted in such a lackadaisical manner.

Are we missing something here. Yes. Its election time and Congress is starting of its campaign with this political stunt in Amethi. Many a times when I feel helpless reading such news , I comfort myself by dreaming of the day when smart people like Arun Shourie , Arun Jaitley , T Parthasarathy etc play a prominent role in running the day to day affairs of the country.

Also important in the current scenario are the comments made by the new J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah , who feels that the West needs to intervene to solve the Kashmir Issue. The PMO was expected to issue a statement to condemn such remarks from an elective representative of the people. No such thing was seen.

India deserves better.
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