Monday, May 17, 2010

The Idea Of Small States

This is one of my recent posts for "Youth Ki Awaaz". It is available here

Over the last few months we have seen the demand for new states to be carved out of existing states. Telengana , Vidharba and Bodoland are a few examples. Carving out new states requires the creation of a new state machinery . This is a cumbersome task, one that can however be overcome over a period of time. What is however a matter of concern is the stability of governments that are instilled in these states. The state of Jharkhand perfectly demonstrates this issue. Because smaller states carry a fewer number of seats in the legislative assembly, even political parties that win very few seats have a say in government formation.

Large political parties have some sort of an inter party democracy that becomes important while electing good and capable leaders. However smaller parties are akin to independents. Corrupt leaders thrive as independents or in small political parties. Only regional parties such the DMK are capable of having the tainted A.Raja and Madhu Koda could never survive in any political parties. Since any of the new states that would be created are more likely to have such smaller parties in the government, I see that they are more likely to be exploited by leaders who know that they have a small shelf life.

National parties such as the BJP and the Congress need to act more responsibly in this regard. The behavior of the BJP in the current Jhakhand crisis is shameful. What makes matter more complicated is the lobbying by members of the state unit to choose a particular leader. Jharkhand, one of the most backward states in terms of literacy rate and healthcare standards has not had a CM for 20 days. The people who have voted for the BJP deserve better. Similarly, a few years ago the Congress with the help of a couple of independent MLAs was involved in bringing down the BJP government in Goa. Such incidents do not bode well for the idea of small, well administered states.

The committees that are created for carving out new states need to keep in mind the lessons learnt from the crises that have erupted in Jharkhand and Goa. Strict rules need to be imposed to ensure stability for elected governments. Parties/independents that pull out of the government need to provide a valid, justifiable reason for their decision. A trivial reason such as “not voting with the ally in the Lok Sabha” is not acceptable. This would ensure political stability for the newly formed state and the society that fought for this change would have their faith reposed in the Indian democracy. Certainly, a student who is fighting for Telengana would not be pleased to see 4 chief ministers in 4 years.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Posts for "Youth Ki Awaaz"

I’ve recently started writing for an online news platform “Youth Ki Awaaz”. That is probably one of the reasons for fewer updates in my blog. In this post I am pasting the links to two of my posts that have been featured at “Youth Ki Awaaz”

The First Post is about my opinion on the second bidding of IPL franchises.

The second post is about my opinion on awarding the Bharat Ratna to extraordinary sportspersons.

One of the reasons I started writing for “Youth Ki Awaaz” is that it provided a great platform to reach out to a much larger audience. However, I will continue writing my personal blog as well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Political Untouchability

At a time when the Indian society is slowly overcoming the problem of social untouchability, a new form of untouchability - political untouchability is emerging. Yes. You read it right. Amitabh Bachchan, India’s biggest movie star was recently snubbed by the Maharashtra government during the inauguration of the Mumbai-Worli sea link. This treatment was meted out to him because Mr Bachchan recently became Gujarat’s brand ambassador. Everyone knows that Gujarat’s chief minister Mr Modi has been considered a political untouchable by the Congress party. Post Godhra, they would not associate themselves with him at any event. And since Mr Bachchan promotes Gujarat tourism, the Congress party believes that he is associated with Brand Modi and hence deserves the same treatment. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi says that since Mr Bachchan has associated himself with the Gujarat government, the congress party has every right to not invite him at a government function/event. It is after all the discretion of the state government to choose their invitees. I would like to remind Mr Singhvi that the people of Gujarat have a similar discretion to stay away from the Congress party. That does not augur well for his party and for our democracy.

Mr Bachchan’s role
The Congress party says that since Mr Bachchan is the brand ambassador of Gujarat, he must clarify his position on Mr Modi’s role in the Godhra riots. I didn’t know that a brand ambassador of a state had to have clear cut political views and state them when asked. As a brand ambassador, Mr Bachchan does not charge any money for his work in promoting Gujarat. Isn’t that in itself an excellent gesture ? I am sure he could have used that time to make movies and earn money but he instead chose to use his brand to promote Indian tourism. If Gujarat tourism improves, the ultimate beneficiaries would be the people of the state.

Is the Congress’ reasoning flawed ?
According to the Congress’ logic, Mr Bachchan should be condemned if he endorses Mr Modi. In that case what about the people of Gujarat who have elected Mr Modi as their chief minister ? If we apply the Congress’ logic, they must also be condemned/dammed/sidelined ? This is not a valid reasoning and in fact makes a mockery of the people who go out to vote and choose their representatives.

What about others who are investing their time/resources in Gujarat ?
Several activists believe that industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani , Ratan Tata etc who are investing in Gujarat need to take a clear stand on Mr Modi’s role in the Godhra riots. They believe that such eminent personalities need to voice their opinion because of the influence they have on the young minds of this country. This argument is flawed. I believe that Industrialists who prefer to not be dragged into the petty politics of this country should be left alone. They are doing their job of creating jobs for the people of this country and of contributing to our exchequer. Similarly it would be great if our activists do not base their arguments on false ideologies.

Where are the thinkers ?

Isn’t it possible for a person to praise Mr Modi for his brilliant economic politics and at the same time criticize him for poor governance during the riots ? Or should he be criticized all the time without any reason or logic ? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the congress party praised Mr Modi for his economic policies and infact replicated them in congress ruling states but continued to pressurize the Gujarat government on the probe. Similarly wouldn’t it be great if the BJP praised the UPA for the nuclear bill while criticized them for inflation. The women’s reservation bill was a landmark bill because our two national parties came togther on the issue. It would be great if they could find more common ground. To conclude, I think our country would be much stronger if we agree to disagree on issues and maintain our ethics/decorum while standing firm on our beliefs. I am sure Mr Bachchan would have received better treatment if we followed this.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Microfinance and RangDe

This post is about “Microfinance” and my association with, a non-profit microfinance organization in India. I am a volunteer with the organization. The views presented in this article are entirely mine and do not represent the views of the organization or of its members.

What is Microfinance ?
Microfinance is the practice of providing loans to microentrepreneurs(owners of small time business) to help them setup/run their business. These entrepreneurs typically find it difficult to obtain the same loans from big financial institutions such as banks. This is because banks typically require a collateral or surety on which the loan is provided. This becomes a bottleneck for the microentrepreneurs who then go to the local money lenders(who charge exorbitant rates) to borrow loans. Another factor to be considered here is that since these are very small loan amounts banks find the overhead very high for a very small transaction. This is where microfinance helps provide low cost loans to entrepreneurs who need not shell out a major portion of their earnings as interest for the loans. I believe the average loan amount in India ranges between 5000 and 7000. You can read more about microfinance at .

Are all microfinance institutions non-profit institutions ?
No.I volunteer for , a non-profit institution. The whole objective of microfinance is to provide low cost loans to borrowers. An organization that doesn’t seek to gain profit from the venture can provide loans to borrowers at a much lesser rate.

About RangDe
Loan collection and Disbursal
As I mentioned previously, RangDe is a non-profit organization. It is an online platform to connect investors (you and me) with borrowers. Investors have an option of choosing the borrower at the time of investment. Typically more than one investor loans to a borrower. Say, I see that a milk businessman wants Rs 5000 to buy a cow, I would loan say Rs300 and another investor would loan some more and so on till the entire amount is collected. The total loan is then provided to field partners (NGOs) who provide the loans to borrowers. Borrowers use the money to establish/grow their business. It is important to remember that this would be unsecured loan.

Borrowers repay the loan in parts over a period of time. The exact details are available at . So eventually the investor receives the entire loan amount with 2% interest.

Operating Principle
RangDe provides ensures that loans are provided to groups of borrowers. The advantage of this approach is that this ensures collective responsibility. Even if one member of the group defaults on the repayment , the others in the group would pitch in to ensure that the credibility of the group is not lost. This approach also fosters a spirit of competition among borrowers who would with all sincerity use their business acumen to grow their business.

Microfinance has the power to transfer rural India and would ensure the much talked about inclusive growth. People who can run a good business in villages and towns would no longer have to travel to cities for a livelihood. This in turn would help reduce the overcrowding in cities.

Another important factor to note is that microfinance has greatly helped women lead better lives. Most microfinance institutions would admit that women dominate their borrower base and women are also less likely to default in their repayment. While a man might spend his money in a village liquor store, a woman would save money to send her child to the village school.

You can learn more about RangDe by visiting the Official RangDe blog at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Controversy surrounding the BSP rally.

Most of us are aware of the controversy surrounding BSP leader Mayawati’s public display of wealth during the recent BSP rally in Uttar Pradesh. For those of you who don’t know, the BSP members recently celebrated the 25 year anniversary of the founding of their party and the birthday of founder Kanshi Ram. Roughly 200 Crore was spent for the event. During the event , UP chief minister and BSP’s tallest leader Mayawati was presented with a garland of 1000 Rupee notes. The value of the garland is estimated at 21 Lakhs. The question on everyone’s mind is – “Was this required and was it appropriate at a time when the Stage government citing paucity of funds even refused to compensate the families of those who died in a recent stampede”

Most political parties have condemned the incident and some have even gone to the extent of seeking a CBI enquiry to investigate the source of funding for the garland and for the event. All these parties have placed themselves on a moral high ground and members seem to indicate that they have a clean slate. I don’t buy the argument that only people who display their wealth have looted the country and the others haven’t. Everyone(well almost) is corrupt. Mayawati’s supporters were quick to retort that at least their leader does not hide her wealth unlike others who rob the country after dusk.

My argument is that at a time when the participation of the people in our democracy is at an all time low and when people have begun to give up on politicians because of the amount of corruption, Mayawati’s brazen display of wealth further strengthens their belief that Indian polity cannot improve. We need people to believe that our political system can improve. Such incidents undo any progress made by citizen groups to get people to vote. We must remember that corrupt politicians are elected by good citizens who choose not to vote. If we want our system to improve, we must make sure that participation in the electoral process improves. An argument that such a display of wealth by Mayawati inspires members of her community is flawed and mocks the intelligence of our people.

The irony is that Mayawati has done a fabulous job of improving the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. She has an amazing political acumen and as woman belonging to a community that has been oppressed for ages, has fought against all odds to reach her current position. She must not squander it all away. Uttar Pradesh is certainly the most important state for political parties in India. The state has given us the maximum number of prime ministers and it is very likely that UP’s current political leaders would in the near future play a greater role in Delhi. If Mayawati plans to play an important role at the center, she cannot afford to indulge in petty politics such as asking the police force to see if the beehive at the rally was part of a political conspiracy against her party!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The elephant , the tiger , the cellphone and my musings – III – The Finale..

This is my final post on this splendid book. It is a culmination of what would first come to my mind when I think of it.

In one of the first few chapters of the book ,Mr Tharoor speaks about the “soft power” of a nation. For the uninitiated, this means the bargaining or influencing power that a country has earned through its actions. For Eg :- India ,Mr Tharoor says has lost its soft power in speaking about the minorites in Pakistan or Sri Lanka because of Kandhamal , Babri Masjid, Godhra etc etc. Similarly he says that movies play a big role in influencing international perception. He gives the example of one of the Indiana Jones movies in which India is shown as a land where children are mercilessly killed to satisfy a deity and as a land of monkey brain eaters. Mr Tharoor says that this movie did considerable damage to India’s soft power in the eyes of the Westerners, who simply believed what they saw. I am eager to know what Mr Tharoor thinks of Slumdog Millionaire and all its worldwide glory. After all, the movie portrays several gory aspects of India.

The final essay in the book is about Mr Tharoor’s visit to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves. Here he writes elaborately on the beauty of ancient Indian monuments. However he also  takes us through the most common scenes in such tourist spots – young children trying to sell Camera film rolls , people providing palanquin service for elders and tourist guides providing great guided tours.

One of the highlights of the book is about the emphasis that Mr Tharoor has given to ancient Indian science. Essay after essay he reminds us that several concepts such as gravity ,  planetary motion etc were known to early Indians centuries before the apple fell on Newton’s head or Copernicus got a telescope in his hand. Although I remember reading this in my school, I never appreciated it much or gave much thought to it, because year after year, syllabus after syllabus we were reading the same thing and it seemed pretty normal. However at this point in my life, I am really beginning to appreciate the richness of Indian civilization; Maybe more so because I don’t have to worry about remembering these for an exam.

People who attacked Mr Tharoor for his cattle class comment should have read this book and the chapter on Political humour. It is clear that Mr Tharoor loves humour (of course those that are in good taste). While most of India would remember Sarojini Naidu as the nightingale of India, I remember her for her famous comment on Gandhiji’s austerity – “if only he knew how much it costs us to keep him in poverty”
I am pasting the link to one of ST’s article in Hindu where he speaks about Indians’ sense of humour and the lack of it.

To summarize, I’ve had a great time reading this book. I am eager to follow up by reading several of his other books. I end this article with one of the best phrases I came across in the book – “India is not a developing country. It is a developed country in an advanced state of decay”.


Monday, February 1, 2010

The elephant , the tiger , the cellphone and my musings - II The two sides of the Vindhyas..

I’ll continue with opinions on ST’s “the elephant , the tiger and the cellphone”. Mr Tharoor several times in his book states that he sees only South India making economic progress. He feels that it is South India that is India’s economic engine and is carrying the baggage of the rest of the country! Mr Tharoor , being in the government must surely have his facts right when he says this but somehow my opinion on this issue differs from his.
North India has produced some of India’s finest businessmen. These business leaders have generated wealth and employment for Indians. This fact certainly cannot be ignored. It is widely accepted that Gujarat has contributed more to the country’s economy than any other state could even imagine. Gujarati’s have gone on to assume important positions in several countries. Gujarat contributes to a major share of India’s diamond exports. The Gujarati and Punjabi Community in the USA have contributed a great deal in improving ties between the US and India. That is one of the reasons we are seeing so many NRI’s being awarded by the Padma Bushan. The current government’s mantra is simple – Anyone who helps improve India’s standing in the world would be awarded. The Sikh community has a significant presence in the UK and have generated ample employment and revenue. It is after looking at these facts that I am surprised with the stand taken by Mr Tharoor.

Another fact that cannot be ignored is that people from the north of the Vidhyas assume significant positions in the government machinery. The enthusiasm to join the IAS is greater among the youth in Bihar than in any other state. So it is important that Mr Tharoor clearly defines a metric with which he measures a state’s contribution to a country. In my opinion, it cannot be simply measured by the number of jobs generated by the Information Technology Sector, something that Mr Tharoor does. After all , the IT sector only caters to a million jobs in a country of 1.3 billion.

Another fact that cannot be ignored is that India allows the free movement of people. Hence it is impossible to state that South India’s progress or North India’s progress is only fuelled by people of that region. The Reliance and the Tata empires are run by some of the brightest minds from South India while some of the brightest engineers from north India contribute to the IT sector growth in Bangalore.
If you have read thus far, you would assume that I am a person from North India and hence my opinions. No I am what most people would call a “Madarasi” and I call myself a “Bangalorean”.

It would have been very glad if the whole concept of North Indians and South Indians and their respective contributions to the country would not have featured in the book. After all we are all Indians first.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our Republic Day Gift- Phir Mile Sur...

In my previous post , I had mentioned that I would write a few more posts on ST’s book but I am going to break the continuity and instead write on the recent gift i.e “Phir Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” that we have received on our Republic Day ! What a shame that this song is a pathetic sequel to the fantastic “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara”.

One set of people are fuming that megastars such as Rajinikant are missing from the video. I understand that the makers did not want to have the same cast as the original because this video also symbolizes the previous generation passing the baton to the current generation. But then the casting for the video is deplorable. Industrialists such as Narayan Murthy and Ratan Tata have been left out. So are the Ambani Brothers. If they don’t represent India then who does ? In sports how could they ignore Vishwanathan Anand, Rahul Dravid , Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly ! Instead of them we have folks from the film industry who haven’t even fully made their mark !

The second flaw with the video is that, there is no focus on the “national integration concept”. Why is each film star given separate screen time. It would have been much better if Shahrukh , Aamir and Salman all came and sang together. This is what the song would have represented, people coming together inspite of their differences. Imagine having Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi coming together in the video. The whole of India has lamented that their differences have cost India several Olympic medals. They could have atleast been cast together in this video. Or we could have had warring politicians come together to share screen space. All this to the common man symbolizes people coming together for the cause of our great nation. Instead we have an “Aamir Khan” singing in that horrible “Aati Ka Khandala tune” and Shahrukh doing his trade mark “Streched Hands”. All these stars have had their own solo screen time shifting the focus from the actual purpose of the song. Sportspersons have been pushed to the very end and have very little presence in the video. This reminds me of the time when all the bollywood stars were invited to Delhi to carry the Beijing Olympics torch and P.T Usha and several other eminent sportspersons were ignored !

The third flaw in the video is the lack of emotion in several of the actors. Ash with her trademark plastic smile is just one example. I appreciate these actors spending time for this video but the effort simply wasn’t good enough. I don’t think actresses need a 2 inch makeup all the time. Ash and Shilpa are you guys listening ?

After the Aman Ki Asha blunder on New Years day , TOI has successfully spoilt a legendary song on the eve of Republic Day. I shudder to even think of what they are planning for the next big event. The makes of the video should understand that “India is not just about Bollywood”.

Several years down the line I would be ashamed to show my children this Phir Mile Sur video and hence would instead show them the original.

To end the post on a positive note I would say that A.R Rahman starting the song is really nice. Our Oscar winner deserves all the accolades that he gets.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The elephant , the tiger , the cellphone and my musings - 1

I am reading Shashi Tharoor’s “the elephant , the tiger and the cellphone”. The book is all about India, Indians and Mr. Tharoor’s experiences in India. I am not attempting a book review, for I know I would fail miserably. Just a few ramblings about some ideas expressed in the book.

Mr Tharoor speaks several times about India’s pluralism and Indians’ acceptance of this idea. He gives several crisp examples to prove this. I am arguing against one of them in this post. Mr Tharoor says that when Mr Deve Gowda, the “mannina maga” of Karnataka became India’s PM, his Independence day speech was in Hindi and this is an example of India’s pluralism. He goes on to explain that since Mr Gowda , who at that time couldn’t speak or read Hindi , achieved the feat by writing the Hindi script in Kannada , it showcases India’s pluralism ! I certainly don’t agree with this reasoning. I am proud that a person from modest beginnings worked hard to climb India’s political ladder and being a farmer, represented the whole of rural India. But I don’t agree with Mr Tharoor’s reasoning.

Now tomorrow if I read out a French speech in Paris by reading out from an English or Tamil script , am I showcasing my pluralist mind? We are forcing our PM to read something he does not totally understand. Just try writing a Chinese language script in English and reading the script in a public function in Beijing . Would you be comfortable with it? I am not a language chaunavist and I don’t believe in the superiority of one language over another. Neither am I propagating jingoism. Just trying to reason out. I would be glad if proved wrong.

Pluralism is all about allowing a wide range of thoughts, beliefs, languages ,customs, religions etc to flourish freely in a land and allowing a person to practice them freely. Had we appreciated our PM ‘s speech and his emotions whilst he delivered his Independence Day speech in his mother tongue , it would have showcased our pluralism.

For people who say that the rest of India wouldn’t understand , “ we could have always allowed a translator” or any other senior member of the cabinet could have re-delivered the speech in Hindi. Anyways most of the people don’t watch the Live telecast on TV. For rural India that still listens to the speech on the “All India Radio”, the AIR could have been provided the copy of the script and the speech can be delivered in the language of the land .

I am glad that Mr Tharoor’s book has provided food for thought. I am thoroughly enjoying the book. Several of my further posts would be my musings on this wonderful book.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

About snubbing and making sound financial decisions

IPL auctioned its players yesterday. As we all know, after the event everyone cried foul that none of the 11 Pakistani players was bought by any of the franchises. The Pakistani media has described this as an insult to their country and players. I found it really funny that the sports ministry of Pakistan has sent a notice to the Pakistani Cricket Board asking them as to why none of the players were bought, event hinting that the PCB is responsible for the fiasco ! It was the Pakistani govt that issued a security warning to Pakistani players for travelling against India for IPL2. The net result was the franchises that had Pakistani players suffered. KKR and their superb performance can vouch for that. :-) This has cascaded to the current scenario.

Our news channels really know how to rub it on an already furious Pakistan. They used the word “snubbed” in every sentence they used to tell this story. The Times of India went one step further and said that they suspect the Government of India asking the teams not to buy Pakistani Players. Ya rite ! Now why on earth would the GoI even bother about IPL, after all the security arrangements for players is handled by the IPL and not by the government. If anything, the govt would earn more revenue from tax in the event of greater success of the IPL. And when poor Mr Chidambaram and team are busy tacking the Naxals, they are dragged into a needless issue. Barkha Dutt of NDTV tweeted that Pakistani players should not have been invited in the first place instead of insulting them in such manner. I believe that such an action would have been very wrong on the part of the IPL. At least now, the players have a chance to being a part of the event. And if we understand the policy of IPL, the players sign a contract with IPL for which they earn a certain sum and then IPL sells them to Franchises. So in the current scenario, every player associated with the event would earn a certain base sum. Why snatch that away?

People who understand the event and the sport have rightly said that the entire event was a case people making financially sound decisions. Why invest on a player who is not sure to play? It is for the same reason that the Aussies who also are unavailable for most of the games, were not taken by any franchise. Because of immature reporting by sections of the Indian media , I am sure the Pakistani media would be printing statements such as “ The Indian media also suspect foulplay…. Sections of the Indian media have also sympathized with the ill treatment to our players….Our suspicion has been vindicated by reports in the Indian media that this was a well planned…” etc

I am pasting below one of the very few sensible tweets I read regarding this issue.

Suhasini Haidar of CNN-IBN tweeted – “I know many are upset with the IPL rejection of Pak players- but isn't that giving cricket too much leadership role in bilateral relns? “ This turned out to be one of the very few sensible opinions from the media.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Legacy Of MGR

Until now, I’ve never felt compelled to blog from a cyber café. But today after seeing the celebration of MGR’s birthday in Chennai , I am compelled to pen down my emotions before I lose them ! For those of you who don’t know about M.G Ramachandran (MGR), he is one of Indian cinemas most famous actors , or should I say tamil cinema’s ? I don’t know, you can decide for yourself. He is also the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu. You can read about MGR here

To me, he is a very important personality in Tamil Nadu’s politics because he moved out of the only Dravidian party, DMK and created the AIADMK. He thus gave an option to Tamils who weren’t very happy with the policies of the DMK but who also weren’t ready to vote for a non-Dravidian party! (I am disappointed that people here still believe in the Aryan theory and vote for only the Dravidian parties. Anyways that is for another post).

MGR is called “Vaathiyar” (means Teacher in Tamil) by his fans because most of the roles he played in his movies involved inculcating good thoughts and behavior amongst the viewers. In a country where movies greatly influence the lives of people, I believe this is his greatest contribution. He was also a philanthropist. There is a very famous saying in Tamil Nadu , any hungry man who goes to Vaathiyar’s house would come out with his stomach full. Several decades after his death , people still remember and celebrate his life. The highlight of the celebration is that young people who have never seen him but have only heard him and have watched his movies, are celebrating his life.

I was visited a couple of temple towns in the outskirts of Chennai and In the 100 Kms I travelled, I could see posters of MGR in every nook and corner , people garlanding his statue , his songs blaring out of every fan club meet etc. People seem to connect with him so easily. I guess that is the reason we see both the DMK and AIADMK claiming their association with him , during every election. Anyone who claims to have felt the true Madrasi spirit must know how it feels to walk on the street during Vaathiyar’s birthday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Time to act human...

Please read the articles in the above mentioned links. This is the news of how Vetrivel , a police officer was attacked by a group of gangsters and who subsequently died on the street when onlookers(read ministers of the TN government , bureaucrats and a cameraman) chose to watch him die instead of saving him. Yup. It is shocking and shows how insensitive and cruel these onlookers have been. The incident has been handled in the most shabby and shameful manner. The policeman’s family deserves better and so do we.

I don’t want to speak about the role of the govt officials and bureaucrats in this case. Frankly speaking, I am tired of rambling about their attitude. May God save them and us. I instead want to understand the role of the cameraman in this case.

I totally understand that a cameraman sees the world through his lens. But does this mean that he fails to act when he really needs to. He seems to be keener on adjusting his lens to capture the right frame of the policeman’s suffering. What was he trying to show by capturing the video and what has he achieved .Did he want to expose the callousness of the ministers and bring them to shame ? Or was he trying to show us how people die? Why did he choose not to act? Did he think that we would appreciate his professional skills ? Didn’t we feel sick after seeing Kevin Carter’s 1994 Pulitzer winning photograph of the girl child and the vulture? He too was severaly criticized for having focused more on his photo than on the life of the child.

There is one message for the cameramen and the media – We the people know that there is lot of pain and suffering around us. We don’t want to see pictures or videos that lack a certain sense of sensitivity or humanity. That is not way to make us act. We are not thick skinned and in most cases, a slight nudge is sufficient. So when you see people suffer in front of your eyes, help them out instead of capturing a video for the rest of us !

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Debate and discuss...

“Unity In Diversity”. Any child who has attended school in India would be taught to use these words to describe India and appreciate her diverse languages , cultures etc. However it seems that we haven’t been taught to appreciate the diversity of thoughts and opinions of people. An opinion that doesn’t stick to the norm is often crushed and the person with any such opinion is made to retract.

Take the case of Shashi Tharoor and his latest controversy regarding his opinion on India’s foreign policy during the Nehru era. Sections of the media have rejected his opinion because it is against the policies of our founding father. However no one really thought of engaging him in a meaningful debate and discussing why he said whatever he did. I repeat in every of my posts that we need to think and debate if we are to grow intellectually as a nation. If we decide to suppress the opinion of the Shashi Tharoors and Jaswant Singhs we would end up much poorer.

I want to discuss the role of media in this case. First they seek out for an honest politician and when such a man does come, they drive him away. Mr Tharoor is an expert in his field and has served a countless number of years in the UN. He understands what he is speaking of and is not merely reading a speech prepared by his writer. While the US discusses Roosevelt and Lincoln, we simply seem to shudder at the thought of discussing the rights and wrongs of the Nehrus and Gandhis. The point to be understood here is the no one is out there to question the contribution of these leaders or lessen their historical importance. It is just a revaluation of our decisions that would help us avoid past mistakes. Since these decisions include several foreign policy matters , it assumes even more importance in the current scenario when in an every shrinking world , we need to carefully coordinate with other countries both politically and economically .These discussions and debates are also a means of learning for our politicians. Mr Tharoor himself would agree that he is not correct all the time and hence when we can influence him for the better through discussions , he would discharge his duties much better. Driving him away though smear campaigns certainly doesn’t help.

I also strongly believe that political parties need to be more tolerant to the views of their members. When they disagree with a member they can merely say that the views of the individual do not conform to operating principle or ideology of the party. We certainly understand that Mr Tharoor does not single handedly decide India’s foreign policy and the Ministry of External Affairs comprises of several people who would discusses the ideas with him. In my opinion , all Mr Tharoor was doing was to voice his ideas and opinion to the rest of us . We don’t want political parties to treat people like cattle and march them in a line. We want a set of people who agree to disagree and who at the end of the day can negotiate and chalk out the smartest policies and decisions.

When we are finally seeing good politicians enter the fray, we don’t want trivialities to drive them away.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My response to Chetan Bhagat’s article on "Fighting for a Common Cause”

The original article can be found in the following link

Chetan Bhagat in this article beautifully articulates that we have not been successful in introspecting about the targets we had set for ourselves a few decades ago. A very valid point and this is something we need to introspect on. After all, we cannot keep pushing the timeline by which we must achieve a measurable , sustainable growth.

The second part of the article speaks about what we must do in future to achieve the desired growth. Mr Bhagat speaks about voicing our opinions for a collective common cause to achieve a desired result. To a lay man this means that we need to voice our demands and opinions through a single channel or in another sense , vote on common grounds. Although this is a great idea ,this seems impractical in a country such as India. The reasons are mentioned below

- India’s economic growth has resulted in a skewed growth for certain sections. Now these sections that have already made some progress cannot blend their thought process with people from other sections of the society. For Eg : A man who has children studying in school and who has runs a successful business would be impressed by the thoughts and ideas of Kapil Sibal who wants to rope in Harvard and Stanford into India and might want him. Whereas I would rather want the government to provide goof healthcare insurance options to me and my family and might lean towards more of the leftist policies. The servant maid in my apartment would want a government that would provide better rice or what flour in the ration. She would be impressed with the policies of the DMK government in Tamil Nadu. Now , how on earth would we get all of them on the same platform to speak , debate and conclude on a common cause ? An anology to this is what Mr Bhagat specifically mentions about various NGO’s targeting different causes and the need for them to unite together !

- The second reason is India’s land size and the sheer impossibility to get everyone on a common platform. Let us consider the decision to vote to achieve results as a linear equation with a certain number of variables- now the greater the number of variables (causes we fight for) ,more difficult and time consuming it is to solve the problem(achieving atleast something if not everything).

I would like to quote several other reasons but would stop at this point. I am thrilled that intellectuals like Chetan Bhagat and Shashi Tharoor are thinking really hard to solve our problems and I hope they do succeed. This article is not to condemn Mr Bhagat’s line of thought. It is merely a counter argument. I strongly believe that arguing and debating would make us more intelligent individuals. I am also not sure if this article would reach all the people I intend it to reach. I certainly hope it does.

My Solution to the Problem

The problems faced by an area (typically a legislative assembly )can be addressed by forming an Area Association comprising of really smart and hardworking people located in the area. They can understand the needs of the people. The landscape of the area would be uniform and the professions of the people would not be very diverse. For Eg : In an urban area we can elect a person who is ready to solve issues of sanitation and roads . Similarly in a village , a person who understands the minimum support price concept for crops and issues of fertilizer prize can be elected.

So the real solution is to group people by area or locality rather than by their demands. Why should a farmer in Maharashtra who is fighting (for or )against BT cotton lose his sleep over the issue of farm land flooding near the Cauvery Delta ?

I hope I am atleast partially correct :-)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar - My Experience !

I watched Avatar yesterday and boy O boy, I am yet to recover from the hangover ! I would have loved the movie even if I had watched it in 2D instead of 3D. I am not going to ramble here about the story because I know that most of you would have watched it. I am just gonna list things I loved about the movie
- I loved the fact that our protagonist continues to enjoy his life despite his disability.
- I loved the moment when he can feel his legs again in the body of the Navi man and shows us how thrilled he feels about it.
- We see a clear contrast of 3 personalities – the scientist Dr Grace who wants to understand the people and Pandora. It is her quest of knowledge that motivates her to stay. We see the mission director who is there for the valuable mineral “unobtanium” that would fetch him money back on earth. We see the Colonel Miles who wants to destroy the Navi people to avenge the scars on his face ! We see three clear contrasting human emotions, all well etched out and well portrayed.
- The scene when Neytiri, our “heroine” shoots an animal for food, releases its pain by killing quickly and then thanking the animal its flesh and life is sufficient to tell us about how the Navis treat the nature around them.
- The concept of a mental/emotional connection between the Navi people and the animals and birds that they ride on is clichéd. Reminded me of the several dragon movies in which the dragon rider has to have a connection with the dragon. Nonetheless the visual graphics made up for this and gave us a visual treat.
- Continuing with the visual effects – the Navi people , the hanging mountains , the machines used by the humans , Pandora’s animals and scenery are all breathtaking and would blow the viewers away.
- The fact that the protagonist seeks “divine” intervention and help to succeed and their eventual success thanks to help and guidance from their mother goddess “Eywa” makes us think about our belief in God.

I don’t enjoy movies that shout out a message to me. The directors of Avatar don’t want to teach us anything. The might want us to think. There is a scene when the Colonel shouts out to his soldiers “Lets defeat Terror” when referring to fighing the Navi people. Everyone would surely be reminded of a certain “War on Terrorism” when they hear that ! Like in any other movie, there are always good people even amongst the bad guys. Here we have a security force pilot who is pained when she sees the destruction of the Navis home tree and eventually abandons her duty to help our protagonist. This makes us think that we can do a good deed even if we live amongst criminals.
I loved the movie and would certainly watch it again to relive the “avatar experience”. Yup. It’s an experience , not a mere movie.
Movies can certainly be classified as being in 2 eras- “Before Avatar” and “After Avatar”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Glimpses of India’s politics – 2000 to 2009

It’s a brand new year and also a brand new decade. This post is a compilation of what I felt were the most important events of Indian politics and matters that affected Indian politics in the previous decade.

- Flight IC814 Hijack
Certainly the most difficult time for the BJP led NDA govt. I still can’t understand how the flight was allowed to fuel up and leave Indian soil. Released terrorists have since then planned and executed major terror attacks against India. The incident came back to haunt L.K Advani in the 2009 general election.

- The Godhra Riots
I won’t take sides on a sensitive issue as this. But this certainly changed NDA’s composition. A lot of BJP’s allies deserted them citing this as the cause resulting in a very weak NDA fighting a strong opposition in the 2004 election. The riots also set the Indian media against the BJP. The BJP is certainly paying a price for this.

- The rise of the 24 Hour News Channels
I still remember the days when NDTV news was aired between 9 and 10 PM on Star Plus. I watched it regularly. The 24 hour news channels have ushered in a new style of news reporting. They added to the existing chaos of the 26/11 attacks ! We saw news reporters (famous ones !) troubling already grieving families , distracting the police with incessant queries etc etc . But at the same time , Ruchika’s family could have never got our support without the help of the media! Great job guys. We also see news channels favouring certain political parties ! So what has all this led to ? An overdose of information from which we need to intelligently select valuable and right information.

- Sonia and Rahul Gandhi revive the Congress party
The congress fought and won the 2004 election thanks to a super human effort from these individuals. Smart choice of alliance partners also helped. Can never forget 13 May 2004, the day when the result was announced and I was stunned to see the NDA lose. The media was harping on the loss and since I have been a big fan of Vajpayee never accepted the defeat.

- Pramod Mahajan Dies
The untimely death of Pramod Mahajan left a big void in the BJP. He was the man touted to be PM in waiting. The man who changed the shape of the telecom sector in India , forged a great alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra was no more. We certainly lost a great leader.

- Nitish Takes Over Bihar and Modi drives Gujarat
JD(U) and BJP rode to power in Bihar ending the Lalu Prasad era ! Nitish revived a state which was known for lawlessness. Kudos to the JD(U)-BJP government for having done a great job in Bihar. 11% growth is commendable. At the same time Narendra Modi rode BJP to a second victory in Gujarat. He was helped on the way by Sonia Gandhi’s “Maut Ke Saudagar” speech and by some excellent development measures that he implemented. I would certainly rate him as one of the most intelligent and hardworking chief ministers.

- PM Manmohan Singh drives the Indo US Nuclear deal
PM Manmohan Singh risked the life of his government to ensure the success of a deal that he believed was needed for the country. The country stood behind him and watched with awe a very intelligent man negotiate with his allies , convince his party members and wrestle his opponents to finally taste success.

- Birth of the MNS .
The birth of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has certainly changed Maharastra’s political scene. The BJP and Shiv Sena have a big chunk of their vote bank to the MNS. This change in dynamic ensured the victory of an underperforming government ! I still cannot believe that the Congress was never punished by the people of Maharashtra for 26/11/ They seem to be very benevolent !

- 2009 Elections and the end of the Advani Era
The BJP lost the 2009 elections and the party was at a crucial juncture. It was imperative that they next generation of BJP leaders took over the reins of the party and drove its growth. The BJP in the 90’s was the party of the Aam Aadmi and somehow they have managed to throw it away. It is important that they revive themselves. A true democracy needs a healthy competition among intelligent politicians with diverse ideologies. I look forward to this in the second decade !

- Shashi Tharoor and the entry of the intelligentsia into Indian politics
Successful and Intelligent men such as Rajiv Pratap Rudy of the BJP and Shashi Tharoor of the Congress have entered politics. We always hoped that we are ruled by really intelligent people. We have made a beginning and I hope the trend continues in this decade.

- Telengana and the division of India
The decade ended with major protests for and against the creation of Telengana. This led to several groups voicing their opinion for the reorganization of several areas into new states. Ghorkhaland , Vidharbha , Coorg are some of the regions I can remember. A Chinese analyst wrote that splitting India into smaller states would ensure its deterioration. He must certainly be smiling !

India’s democracy is past its nascent stage. It is high time our political parties align themselves on an ideology rather than on religion or caste. This is imperative to our success and I hope we succeed.
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