Monday, April 20, 2015

Mr. Modi go after the corrupt

Mr. Modi, one of the great things of getting a large mandate is that you can afford to do big things. Unlike others, I will not talk about big bang reforms that may re-create the universe (simply because I believe in tipping points).

But remember, one of the big parts of your campaign was the corruption under the previous government.

As promised, we have no doubt you will deliver on the Imaandar sarkaar. But just having an imaandaar sarkaar won't do. If an imaandaar sarkaar means that they will deliver a corruption free regime from the point they took over, that is like saying your predecessor was integrity personified while the minions looted millions under his nose.

Yes, that comparison is odious, even to me, but on the ground perception matters. Your friends in the media are not your friends at all have slyly equated all governmental corruption as 'government' (read your government) at worst or started to ignore those corruption scams as if they existed in another century. So, those cases are in the background for all but the most astute of political watchers.

This is where a little bit of showmanship is required. It is important to be personally incorruptible, as you are. It is important to have honest colleagues, like you have. It is important to check the bureaucracy and its various elements who may try to slip in some dishonesty, as you have no doubt seen. But it is also important for you to be seen doing more than lip service in the process of eliminating corruption. There are two aspects - one is greater transparency in government procurement and so on and so forth and better policies. The second and if you ask me, more important part is to throw in news about making CBI independent, going after crooks and feeding news about the progress in the investigations of the various scams and scandals. And currently the impression is that other than Subramanian Swamy, nobody in the government is interested.

There are enough scams flying around.

2G and its offshoots like Maxis-Aircel.
The National Herald Case.
The curious case of the damad - which can significantly blunt the #zameenwapsi campaign.
The coal scam.
The CWG Scam (whatever happened to this).
The Westland helicopter saga.
Hasan Ali money laundering case.
Saradha scam (not entirely connected to UPA, but who knows)

This is just from my memory. And I am sure there are other scams in many of those government files under your office and others.

Please unleash those animal spirits and go after the corrupt. Believe me, if none of the biggies engaged in corruption find their way into Tihar, the media will ensure that the people believe that UPA was as clean as a whistle.

So, please go after the corrupt with all your legendary zeal. Godspeed!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Caste census in Karnataka

The government of Karnataka, is conducting a caste census exercise. Initiated by the Karnataka Backward Classes Commission, it is all about conducting an enumeration of castes. I haven't received it myself and will write in detail so when the form does reach my house.

But here is something that gives you an idea, a blog by a Congress ex-minister. The blog starts off well - with some promising thoughts on how reservation has kind of created a 'class' that thrives on this reservation and how reservation has not really reached its intended beneficiaries etc.

And then, this sentence sort of jumps at you.
"The court has spoken of transgenders but we must think of the minorities and sub-minorities too. What about, for example, poor and disadvantaged Christians and Muslims." [Jitin Prasada Blog]

And it ends well, honestly:
The time has indeed come to move ahead of an ossified categorisation based on caste, which has succeeded only in marginally improving the lot of the underprivileged. A new socio-economic bloc has to be identified cutting across all castes and religions, where only the deserving who actually need uplift should come under affirmative action.[Jitin Prasada Blog]

Now lets add 2 and 2 of the blog (which I think more or less reflects Congress opinion). Here is some background of the census etc. From what I read here

Any householder, whether Dalit-Christian, Dalit-Muslim or any non-Hindu denomination, can opt for a Hindu caste, thereby becoming eligible for benefits available to members of that category. The Dalit-Christian and Dalit-Muslim communities in particular have been clamouring for such rights.

So, what does it mean. It means, a few things. You can choose your own caste. And second, even after conversion, you get to benefit from your old caste (atleast on paper). 

Now ostensibly this is for a new social order, but knowing the Congress it will only pave the way for more clamour for quotas. An ever increasing race to be deemed backward. Like the Jats want to and the Gujjars want to. And also its a strategy to divide Hindus - I read someplace that Lingayats (or was the Vokkaligas) were portrayed or asked to portray themselves as non-Hindus and suchlike.
Yes, this is indeed Soniajis experiment for 2019. How to divide the country further in the name of reservation. Slice and dice and get the right vote banks.

The other part which kind of goes unreported for secular reasons is that, conversions from Hinduism happen, ostensibly, because of discrimination within the Hindu  fold, as per the dominant discourse in the country. But the resistance to conversion is also because, once you convert, you lose the benefit of the reservation which is based on the Hindu caste system. But remember they have converted into religions that promise that there is no caste (and that is as blatant as a lie that you can get - because (atleast in India) there are places of worship denominated by caste and sect in both these global religions). Continue to offer these reservations and then, well, you give conversions a free run. 

Nowhere is the question that reservations are a product of shortages. And while affirmative action is required is this the right way and the only way to do it? By creating shortages? Or by giving equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcomes? And is it by dividing people by caste - which they ostensibly want to get rid of? Why not talk of reservation per generation only - so that if the parent avails it the next generation does not get it and so on and so forth...

A legacy of 60 years of Congress rule and misguided socialism has got us here. And every now and then Congress makes noise on quotas in private companies on the basis of religion - they had, after all, ordered a survey on religion within the Indian army. And of course, the meritorious leave the country at any rate. And this campaign is endorsed by leftists whose favorite party has a stellar track record of having Dalits in its politburo (the top decision making body)
Keep a close watch on this because this is Congress's Idea of India. An India divided sharply into vote banks. Divide and rule, Congress style...

Watch this space...

Caution: Undeveloped thoughts...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

India: Tipping point

In the book Tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell argues that small things in the right place at the right time and the right place make a huge difference and as one keeps on getting small things right, it tips the balance in favor of success.

The Narendra Modis government is working along these lines. This is early days yet, but if you take a look at his actions - and the actions that his government is following, it is all about tweaking the nuts and bolts, of filling up ditches dug by the previous government.

Lets go over a few things they have done. One, look at the coal block and the spectrum auctions. They have created a policy of 'transparency' - as opposed to the policy of non-transparency followed by the previous government. So, in both the spectrum and the coal block auctions, the government has made windfall gains which it passes to people instead of passing it onto cronies.

The Prime Minister has travelled far and wide since he took office - signing uranium deals with nations ranging all across from Canada to Australia.

Take both these things together and you will see an India that may very nearly have 24X7 power - which is far from the case today.

(The next step is to make reliable electricity and make consumers pay - which is not the case in most states in India because electricity is free. And what is free is unreliable.)

Top level corruption is gone. The lobbyists are busted. The corporate espionage scam is both a warning and a reality of how much 'middlemen', 'lobbyists' were making a mockery of the system - obviously in connivance with the powers that were. Corrupt bureaucrats are being shown the door - as are those who are shielding them. Laws are being tweaked - rather made simpler. Obsolete laws are being abolished. Add that to transparency? And what do you get? Ease of doing business.

And what will ase of doing business achieve? That means companies will open factories, offices, startups will flourish and employment will be generated. This is a generation that is hungry for jobs. And once 'Make in India' starts to take root, jobs will get generated.

Add to the emphasis of Make in India when it comes to defence and you have an entirely neglected industry that has the potential to make huge inroads into the Indian jobs market. This is one segment successive governments have neglected because defense procurement is the one area where cronies get to make, remake and multiply money. Closing the door on this is also about better defence preparedness for India among other things.

What about farming? And rural areas? Here is where the Jan Dhan yojana, direct benefits transfer (LPG money for urban folks, but much more for other parts of the country) will have a collectively greater impact than 'garibi hatao' slogans. Building skills for India - is another aspect in building employability in the youth

Every one of these are programs with vision, big ideas, but executed well, together they will transform India.

PS: Big bang reforms and those who want them are one thing, but we need a lot of small things also. Like a Swacch Bharat and a visa on arrival for tourists - Cleaner India and ease of entry - mean more tourists. More tourists mean more revenue. These are small things - as an example in one sector. And the Swacch Bharat initiative has had a viral effect - from entrepreneurs to corporates to housing bodies to children, everybody knows about it. Will India get cleaned in a day? month? But surely it will happen...

And this just a sliver of things that have happened...In 5 years, India will transform...

Sunday, April 05, 2015

An age of double standards...

What if you have been brought up believing that everything around you is bad. There is nothing good in anything that you do. There is nothing good about the rituals, observances, traditions. There is nothing good in anything that your parents (or grandparents) do.

What if this was done, not actively, but very subtly, by poking fun at everything at you are. Or by ignoring it. That you believed that your culture was only something that happened behind closed doors. Right from your language to your food...What happens to you then?

A logical next step is rebelling, followed sometimes by rejection. Rejection of culture, tradition and then some. It is a rejection of who you are.

And once you have to got to the point of hating yourself, from then on, converting you to a different belief is not very difficult in general.

Once you are converted to a different belief, the self loathing continues.

The reference to the gentleman in the last post was a post conversion loathing of what one has left behind. And this continues.

So what is conversion? Conversion is all about rejection.
Rejecting the land - that land which you and your forefathers worshipped as your mother.
Rejecting the culture - the culture that states that your mother and father are your gods, as are your guests and teachers.
Rejecting the tradition - and while this may not mean much in an urban environment, it means much in a rural environment. So, when the same faith which guards animals and forests as sacred wealth is suddenly rejecting it and goes on to destroy those groves and animals for food? What happens?
Rejecting the language - the language that your forefathers spoke.

And all this in favour of what? A foreign tongue. A foreign god. A foreign culture. All built on rejection and negation of your land. If this is not cargo cult science, I am not sure what is.

And by the way this is where we are today - an age of double standards. Saying the Saraswati Vandana (or even using Sanskrit words or shloka) at a function may invite the ire of secularists. I remember when I referred to Ramayan to cite an example, the worthy leading the class said, he could not comment on the appropriateness of the comparison. Lighting a lamp is deemed offensive. Doing an aarti is deemed superstitious (while the number 13 is a secular, liberal superstition). Worshipping an animal is bad, but devouring the same killing it rather brutally is good. There are people in this country (from Mangalore, Kerala), who actually call English their mother tongue (yes, like really) and do not recognize any Indian language or festival as theirs. And while they celebrate English festivals with gusto (like Halloween for example) or festivals involving sacrifice of animals, most Hindu festivals have earned their ire. Recall crackerless Diwali, waterless Holi, idol-less Ganesha and so on.

Now, don't get me wrong. Acceptance is not blind acceptance. Faith is not blind faith -though one can argue that all faith is blind faith. And it does not mean that one does not question. It does not mean one does not change. But for sure, the old and the new can coexist. Clearly, you can embrace the new and keep the good things while rejecting the bad. One may not wash the ceramic floor with cow dung, but if you do have a mud floor and access to cow-dung, it may work well. The Indian closet works very well despite your own limited appreciation for it and preference to the western one. Convert by all means (hopefully not fraudulent), but you can still worship a specific god or one more god without having to reject everything here.

My limited point is, to borrow a psychological term. I am Ok, you are ok. This is the central tenet of Hinduism. There is no need to self loathe. Please don't loathe yourself or me. Let me be as I let you be. This is all I ask. Is it that difficult?

(Perhaps it is, because monotheistic faiths are built on a singular premise - my god is the only way. Unlike polytheistic faiths which say, all roads/gods lead to the truth...)


An article on Varanasi

This piece is worth reading. Its about Varanasi. For those who came in late, it also happens to be the constituency of PM Narendra Modi. The headline screams, Swachh Bharat: PM Modis promise of cleaning and beautifying Varanasi doesn't appear to be an empty one.

Doesn't appear to be an empty one. Right. The insinuation is something else. But lets go on.

Two paras in, we find this gem:

Look how Assi Ghat (the southernmost of the 84 ghats of Varanasi which is known to accommodate over 20,000 people during festivals like Shivratri) looks today — as clean as a new one. Modi is here and changes are visible. There may be some delay in work but transformation of Varanasi looks inevitable," says Praveen Kumar, an employee of Banaras Mercantile Bank, whose T-shirt with Mai Narendra Damodardas Modi emblazoned all over doesn't exactly leave you wondering about his political leanings. 


Nothing wrong with it, but how difficult is it to put up a picture of the ghat without slogans emblazoned across it? Twitter has been abuzz with it for a while now, but hey...

That is followed by the mandatory lines which say, oh, this work began long ago. Remember, how they never tire of telling you that Gujarat was progressing because of Gujaratis - yes, this is exactly along those lines. 

There are those like Deepak Madhok who runs the Sunbeam chain of schools in the city who will tell you that the cleaning of Assi Ghat began before Modi chose Varanasi as his constituency. "Our school kids were working on the cleanliness of the ghats on a war footing since September while Modi came in December," avers Madhok. "When our boys and girls were doing the work on Assi Ghat, not a single BJP man visited the place and the moment Modi entered Banaras, throngs of them came in overnight and  .. 


The rest of it is secular balancing act - with a picture of some naysayers and doomdayers and so on. 

Scepticism of course can be found in generous doses, and from predictable quarters. "Third-grade material is being used for all the construction work. Besides, most of the work is the initiative of the state government and the Nagar Nigam. Where is Modi's contribution in all this," asks Congress' Ajai Rai who had contested the elections against Modi in 2014 and is a five-time MLA. Remind Rai about the regular visits by ministers from Delhi, such as the one last week by Union finance minister Aru .. 



About a 150 kilometers away enroute to Lucknow, from Varanasi, are two constituencies of Rae Bareli and Amethi - the pocket boroughs of the Nehru families next generation. These two constituencies are great examples of how a prestigious constituency nurtured across generations by the leading political family can progress. They have good roads, great human development indices and in a largely rural constituency, one can find, reasonably urban amenities. Except that they are not. The roads there are bumpy, there is hardly any progress discernible. 

But the article writer did not find it useful to point this out. Space constraints - oh yes, surely in a newspaper. But on the internet? There is no space constraint. Why not put up pics and compare? Oh, well, that may show up Rahul baba and Sonia madam in poor light and then again, why take the risk with making madam unhappy. 

As they say, the glass can be seen as half empty and half full. In this case as half dirty and half clean - and especially if the glass was fully dirty when it began, then, some credit can be given to the guy trying to clean it  - and hey, he has reached half way.  

Friday, April 03, 2015

India did not have a culture

During the height of UPA corruption, there were a spate of opeds from very intellectual people that often argued that we were corrupt as a culture. The headlines and analysis went something like this, South East Asia (a lumpen term at best) is the most corrupt area in the world (or thereabouts).

As speculative and random as this is, the self loathing of some was used to extend it to the next level. It was, somehow, therefore, used to justify corruption in the then UPA government.

Here are a few samples, thanks to the memory of the internet.

Are Indians endemically corrupt? asks a blogger who is known to be neutrally aligned to UPA.
Why does corrupt India grow fast? asks an eminent columnist I used to respect once upon a time. And it is fairly obvious that a non-corrupt can grow faster.

This is just a small sample and you will find eminent people appearing intellectual on twitter by making such statements.

It was during this time that I was engaged in debate with a gentleman who shall go unnamed, obviously. And as the attention of the nation was focussed on corruption, notably the 2G and other scams, we ended up speaking about the corrupt government. And this gentleman went to use theories like the ones expounded above and tried to prove that corruption does not matter, but actually communalism does or something along those lines.

The line of argument he took to prove this was that Indians are endemically corrupt. That the culture of India is corrupt. That this is how we are. Of course, he included himself in that circle. This sounds fair and reasonable especially considering that he indicted himself in this process.

But it is not that straightforward if I put in some more factors into this equation. The said gentleman then went to add that until European values were instilled in India, the country was like this only. Now, on further investigation, European means Christian values and it takes the road the Britishers came in with - to civilize the natives. That means, pre- Christian, India, and its Hindu culture, was a barbaric culture that deserved to be civilized. Needless to say, the gentleman was a Christian who took much pride in denigrating anything that was remotely good about India before 'Europeans'.

That means, our sages and seers from the ancient times - those who gave up everything in search of self realization - from Buddha to Ramakrishna Paramahansa to Vivekananda were insignificant. Our entire independence struggle and its leaders from Tilak to Gokhale to Rammohan Roy were insignificant. All our brave kings from Shivaji to Ashoka were all insignificant. All the teachings from time immemorial are insignificant. Indeed the post freedom struggle generation - an entire generation that lived on 'Gandhian values' of honesty.

This argument stunned me and I did rebut it quite forcefully, but the argument did stun me as to the kind of thinking we have encouraged about ourselves. Well, you can't blame the gentleman for it. And even if the said person was a Christian, I have heard enough Hindus (usually educated) espouse similar argument systems. Our education system, largely European, teaches us very little about ourselves, except in a passing cursory  way.

(More about this is another post - what is worth thinking about it is that there are elements in our society that hate everything they are. A culture of self loathing. Leading to what?)

So, well, what you can do is to educate yourself and your kids about Indian culture. Perhaps the only culture that actually wishes well for everybody in a prayer as opposed to asking their god to take care of his followers!

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhina indeed...

The Old Temple

Those wide roads of yore looked suddenly shortened. The lake of waste water where we once bounced stones on the surface seemed shrunk. The old path through the water was gone - but the road by the side remained - again, it looked narrow. The long distance that it took to walk to the
temple seemed so less today. The cycling path where we spent hours also seemed quite small today. And then the temple appeared in the distance. Everything we see when we are a child, seems smaller when we visit the same place once we are grown up. Distances shrink and sizes reduce...

The temple. Old memories revive as I walk in. The mind registers the changes and the constants. Starting off with the place to keep the chappals and the Ganesha at the door, it seemed familiar. The flight of stairs that once took a long time to climb were today over in a jiffy - why were they so strenous then? And then, as I moved up, "This place used to be slippery, now it is nice". "They have a roof in place" The mind makes mysterious jottings - though I know it does not completely
overwrite the older memories. I might be as intrigued of it now as I would, if I visited a few months later perhaps. Some memories are best in black and white sans the jazz perhaps.

From the main deity to the next one - it all followed in a pattern that seemed to be etched in memory. Like visiting a childhood haunt, which is what it was. From childhood to teenage years, the temple was my haunt. Where I shared all my thoughts, feelings, wishes (some fulfilled, some
not). I had made god work or so I thought. I smiled as my mind wandered past the wishes - marks I wished to secure in each subject, college admission or that I got a chance to beat up the bully at school or asked god to get lightning to strike him (twice - just to be on the safer side).

Many things were the same - the deities, the offerings and the atmosphere. The hand raised to ring a bell whose position was shifted. Eyes searched for nonexistent people. The priests who were young when I was a kid now looked old. The older ones looked wizened. Would they recognize me? No, they did not, as the tantri offered me sandal paste in his usual nonchalant way. But he would smile at me when I was a little boy - he does not recognize me. I smile.

However, there are no wishes this time. As it was the last few times. I wander around the temple in gratitude with sparks from each of the hundreds if not thousands of visits coming to my mind. I smile to myself. I sit there in quiet solitude. I bow in reverence one last time as I head back.

I will come back once again, I tell, mostly to myself.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Grapes are sour, social media edition

The old story of the fox and the grapes is well known. The fox reached for the grapes and despite several attempts, did not get it. He finally walks away with the famous expression, "Grapes are sour".

Times have changed since that. That was a long time ago.

At that time, the vineyard was close to the jungle. The jungle was filled with animals. Over time, the vineyard owner has extended his land into the jungle. The only animal that has access to the grapevine is the fox. That was because his grandfather befriended the owners dog. Over generations, the owners dogs and the foxes have been friends. With his cunning, he is the one who conveys the news between the corrupt owner and the poor jungle animals. The animals cannot come anywhere near the vineyard for fear of the owner and besides they have to earn a living each day. And the dogs are fierce as well.

The grapevine is the juicy news. The fox is the journalist. The vineyard owner is known to the fox and all the grapes in the vineyard is his for the asking. The vineyard owner allows the fox to come in to various parts to the vineyard and the fox does his bidding. Eats a few grapes and conveys the right news to the animals. Each time the owner extends the vineyard a little, the fox tells the animals that everything is alright. The owner uses more pesticide, more water,  than he should but the fox tells the animals that everything is alright. Ever so often, a few grapes are sent to the animals as well. The owners promises to send a large share of the water and the grapes, but rarely are those promises fulfilled.

The owner sets the narrative and the fox conveys it. The animals live their life. That was some time ago. 

But a few enterprising monkeys built a new platform (they call it the social media platform) from which they are able to see everything the vineyard. They have even built vines through which they can swing into the vineyard at will.

With this sort of a view, they are able to see what the owner does. Within a short time, they have  and are able to both get (news) grapes at will, plus see that the fox is really in cahoots with the owner. And also figure out that the fox only gets the grapes which the owner allows it to. 

Thanks to this platform, every animal can get up and see what is going on in the vineyard. The animals share this with each other and every animal knows what is happening in the vineyard. There are a few animals who still listen to the fox intently, but they do it more out of habit.

The fox does not like being questioned. The fox does not like that his monopoly over the vineyard is being challenged. For now, he has been trying to influence the influencers in the animal world and convince them that the monkeys platform ought to be demolished. The influencers aren't buying that, but the fox is still trying to paint the monkeys and the patrons of the social media platform black.

Grapes are sources, he said, as he walks into the vineyard...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The oped you won't see

/Begin fake oped.

Parliament sessions are in progress. The government, now nearly a year in experience is experiencing its first major difficulty. That of passing bills in the Rajya Sabha. The government has resorted to the ordnance route to get the bills, but have now come back to Parliament to seek backing for these important legislations. The biggest stumbling block is on the Land Acquisition bill (though other supposedly minor bills have been sent to a select committee - which is essentially nothing more than a delaying tactic).

The Congress (and the rest of the communal gang) which has a majority in the Rajya Sabha, a legacy of its sweeping victory in the 2009 polls, has two choices. Act churlish and stall the bills (as it seems intent on doing) or adopt a bipartisan approach and work with the government as a responsible opposition.

Sure, the Rajya Sabha is the Congress playground at this point - but the numbers will change and the tables will turn. And the BJP knows it well too - having disrupted Parliament during the UPA rule and   now the boot on the other foot. (A minor point here is that BJP disruptions were over real scams - 2G, Coal blocks missing files and misappropriated money and a certain private citizen - apart from Telangana - whereas the current disruptions are all about self preservation.)

Perhaps, just perhaps, this may be a time for the Congress to start working with the government.

Rahul Gandhi, who has just taken a photo opportunity less vacation away from the generally photo opportunity laden vacations that he takes, might do well to come back and announce that he has decided to take this important step in Indias development and strengthen the hands of the government.

It may also be a golden opportunity for Ms. Sonia Gandhi, to come out and show some statesmanship. The famous inner voice can come out of the confines of 10 JP and perhaps make a speech (and virtue) of helping the BJP pass these bills so necessary for development.

The other minor point to remember is that Congress has not exactly done well in the state elections - actually in no state elections post May 2014. It is also at the lowest point of electoral victories at any point in its history. So, while the Congress can make a big show around land acquisition bill and act as it is acting on farmers interests where even it knows that the new bill is a huge improvement over its flawed bill, it is fundamentally on quicksand.

Modi has won the elections on the basis of development - and a successful projection of Congress is both corrupt and anti-development. Indeed Modi has won the election on a pro-development platform which has decimated the communal stands of the other parties (yes, we are 'supposed' to call that secular, but I am bypassing political correctness here).

Remember, this government is indeed taking real steps to help last mile delivery - which is perhaps the best work done in this area in 60 plus years post independence. Well executed projects like the Jan Dhan Yojana, Pahal are just the beginning. Getting targeted subsidies via Aadhar into bank accounts will help reduce leakages and fraud. These are projects where the poor can see a real difference.

It does not take a genius to figure out that Modi will take that question to people, in say, the Bihar elections and all his other communication platforms and use it to paint Congress as opposed to any sort of development for the poor.

Right now, the Congress is playing on expected lines. But it has a golden chance to confuse the NDA strategy, plus earn the rah-raahing of the Lutyens club on statesmanship and bipartisanship.

Will Sonia Gandhi rise to the occasion?

/End fake oped

PS: No media will write something like this. Ever. Ask yourself why.
PPS: Media will go ga-ga over Congress for anything and everything. The emperors new clothes syndrome it is called. They don't need to do anything. And won't.