Monday, December 31, 2012

When President Pranab Mukherjee’s son Abhijit Mukherjee, recently elected as MP from Jangipur in West Bengal, made certain snide remarks about women protesters in New Delhi clamouring for stricter action against rapists and molesters he drew  such sharp comments that his sister first and later he himself apologised for hurting the sentiments of women in general. Along with Mukherjee’s nasty remarks was also seen reported CPM leader and former WB Minister Anisur Rehman mocking the Trinamool government's compensation for rape victims, saying, "I would like to ask Mamata Banerjee what would be her fee if someone gets Rs. 20,000 after being raped." In the generally smouldering anger by the educated and media savvy women, this embarrassed the CP(I)M and it upbraided the erring male leader.

I was, however, reminded of a former Chief Minister of Kerala, and CP(I)M leader (late)EK Nayanar’s unbelievably ugly remark in the context of a rape case. A couple of US women tourists were robbed and raped on the famous Kovalam beach in Kerala and Nayanar said in front of the media: “Look here, my dear chap, rape is nothing for these American women. In their country it is such a routine matter as drinking tea is for us!” Since the so-called intelligentsia roots for Marxists in Kerala, protests by people on the other side of the political spectrum carried no weight and neither Nayanar nor his party bothered to apologise. Nayanar had this reputation for being an affable yokel, and after all, what he said was about American women, so why cry hoarse about it and also get blamed for being pro-imperialist to boot?

What Abhijit Mukherjee said in some colourful phrases was that he doubted the sincerity of many of those socialite protestors stalking the streets of Delhi waiting for politically correct causes. I have myself noticed the phenomena he described, and wondered how rooted were these people to the realities and how genuine were their concerns.

A newspaper this morning had a headline WE WANT TO BE NIRBHAYA. Well then, ‘Nirbhaya’ was the name given to the New Delhi  rape victim by the Time of India since the journalistic code did not allow the original name of the victim made known to the public as long as she was alive. The report said that actor Shabana Azmi led a march “with hundreds in attendance” from Juhu Beach to Kaifi Azmi Park to express angry sentiments against the administration and judiciary, and urging the “political class” to take action. There were photographs of Shabana Azmi, Jaya Bachchan and Deepika Pudukone tears smudging their faces or rolling down from eyes. I thought Shabana Azmi and Jaya Bachchan belonged to the political class and quite active that way, unless they were playing their roles on movies. Well, personally I have always doubted the sincerity of these people delivering their socio-political dialogues and expressing their sorrow because their histrionic skills are considerable; and I have always wondered, had I harried an actress, how would I ever have believed her emotions to be true! I am not saying that these people are insincere, but I suppose they have this professional jeopardy of being not taken seriously for their emotions outside the silver screen.

In the late Eighties when I used to work in Mumbai, somewhere on the side of the road leading to Colaba from near Brabourne Stadium Music was being blared out from a shamiana, and since I was walking that road, I went to see what was happening. Shabana Azmi, clad in jeans and a T-shirt, was lying there on a cot, protesting the removal of sugarcane juice vendors off the streets by the City Administration after publishing a series of public service advertisements warning the dangers of coliform bacteria, and harmful amoeba spread by the Ghana (sugarcane) juice made and sold on the roadside. Shabanaji’s worry was about the plight of the poor sugarcane juice vendors plying their innocent trade. To shore up the argument for their cause, she cited the possibility of the fruit juices served in ‘Five Star hotels’ having larger number of coliforms.  As someone who roamed the streets of Mumbai on my marketing calls, I had seen the “innocent” sugarcane juice vendors ‘cleaning’ the sugarcane piled on the dirty footpaths next to their hand-driven or motorised juice extractor by simply passing the blades of their long knives over their lengths in the most casual manner possible. Then the canes are fed to be crushed in between the toothed rollers of the machine, and the juice collected after removing solids using a cloth/plastic sieve. This juice is then served plain with a few drops of fresh lime juice or with ‘masala’. Mumbaikars used to superstitiously believe this as an anti-dote to jaundice and queue up (just as pregnant Mumbai women before the tender-coconut vendors) to have this elixir. As someone who studied biology, I used to take pains to explain to so many people that this sugarcane juice was a recipe for disastrous amoebiasis and jaundice, not too convincingly. Upset by a celebrity endorsing the sugarcane juice vendor’s cause and such pressure forcing the Mumbai Municipal Corporation to withdraw the ban on their trade, I wrote an angry ’Letter to the Editor’ and got it published in the Indian Express as well as the ToI. My comment was that I was more interested in the “aam aadmi” ingesting the dangerous bacteria and courting disaster drinking cheap sugarcane juice and I believed that those who got coliform bacteria served in their juices from the Taj or Oberoi (the two huge hotels in Mumbai then) could very well take care of themselves.

That incident made me harbour a deep prejudice against Ms.Azmi, and that spread to her tribe in Bollywood as well as to the ‘political class’ she represented.
While Abhijit Mukherjee’s description of the “dented and painted” women protesting against the gang-rape in New Delhi appearing to be staging something like a ‘nautanki’ (drama) was in bad taste, and politically incorrect as coming from a politician belonging to the party that ruled the State as well as the entire country, I too felt that the women protesters were too good looking for a spontaneous crowd, and did not exactly look like students. This is a free country, and I have my constitutional right to freedom of expression too!

Now, I have more controversial things to write. I hail from a State known for sexist behaviour by males of all ages, and it is generally explained away (!) because Keralites were sex-starved! When some Malayalam newspapers editorially worried about the Mumbai Underworld’s activities, writer, late MP Narayana Pillai wrote an angry article in one of them saying that Mumbai was the safest city and compared very well with any place in Kerala. He asked the editorial writers and readers of the newspapers whether a person belonging to the female gender between the age of six and sixty was safe in the streets of Kerala even in broad daylight.

So, when I moved to Thiruvananthapuram from Chennai, I gave detailed ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to my 13-year-old daughter like “don’t laugh to jokes made by males unknown to us”, “do not give your name to the same category” and so on. There were innumerable occasions when I had indeed to go to her help using my clout as a top media person. But in Mar Ivanios College, a co-ed institution she was absolutely safe. However, it was when she went out of Kerala for higher studies, and immediately afterwards on employment that I started breathing easy!

Not just in Kerala, everywhere, if I had to travel by auto-rikshaw, I would insist on getting in first, as a precaution against the driver speeding away with my wife or daughter! When a first cousin told me once how her father was against her engineering education, and when he pleaded and prevailed over him, he literally wrote out a long list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ before she headed for the hostel life. I told her that with just one daughter I was tormented by thoughts of her insecurity, and I could imagine his plight with three daughters. The point I am labouring here, is that I cannot understand how so many of these ill-fated girls casually moved about in late evenings and even unearthly hours sometimes, in crime prone areas made notorious by graphic media reports? While I accept this is a free country, enjoyment of this freedom is highly risky for those who have no power: money power, political power, or physical power. Remember, an affluent doctor’s family was totally helpless against a lecherous police officer lusting after their dear daughter when even the politicians sided with him.

The other day police men arrested a man and woman in Kerala for being seen together “under suspicious circumstances” though they tried to prove they were man and wife! Thanks to the story of the hapless Delhi girl, and the atmosphere of vigilance, the erring Sub-Inspector was suspended from service. But I am worried for the family because their address is known to the police officer. This is the law enforcement organization whose one senior officer had another one’s wife raped by letting a convict off from jail temporarily, in order to settle a score! (This was in a Malayalamanorama serial piece on the Police force in Kerala)

Let us, all those “dented and painted women” and the others and their men folk including me, not be fooled by this talk of women’s dignity, safety etc. A Prime Minister of India had thrown out her widowed daughter-in-law from the Prime Minister’s official residence, also asking the chowkidar to check her bags before she left the gates! That the remaining daughter-in-law who watched this atrocity in silence if not in collusion happens to be wielding ultimate power in the country now when the media is full of crimes against women is perhaps happenstance. But that is enough for Abhijit Mukherjee M.P. and me to be sceptical about this hoopla over Nirbhaya as it comes from some of those innumerable mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who physically and mentally torture women in India that is Bharath. Rapists and molesters are infinitely fewer in numbers.


AND TO THE YOUNG GIRLS CARRYING PLACARDS carrying: “Don’t you dare tell me what to wear: Teach him not to stare.” The slogan rhymes well, but you know, exhibiting your bodies is as rude as staring. Wo/men do not stare at the naked bodies of their parents, sisters, and brothers. You have a right to oppose unsolicited physical intimacy from others; but expecting them to look the other way is a tad unrealistic.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sri. Ram Jethmalani has a gift of gab that often runs riot like an undisciplined young colt, careless of what it bruises, and crushes. A man of immense talent as a lawyer, he is more often ruled by personal piques than an informed conscience. Currently he is up against the Party that he also strived to build and had several times tried to drag into disrepute as well, almost as a matter of right.

The whacky, weird and the wild charges/opinions of Mr.Jethmalani has indeed invited the attention of the media which is currently in search of balms and potions to minimise the damage it had done to the Congress Party and its government, besides the ‘ruling family’ the Prime Minister and many ministers for getting involved in corruption of unprecedented proportions. Mr.Jethmalani was never happy with the BJP leadership, and had criticised practically every eminent leader of the party, including the venerable L k Advani. In a recent interview given to Srinivasan Jain of the NDTV I was astonished to find that the great criminal lawyer was allowed by the interviewer only to speak against his party though he tried several times to drag Sonia G and Rahul G. He didn’t seem to get angry at all at the interviewer whose brief was obvious. But I remember distinctly Ram Jethmalani justifying his association with the BJP saying that it was the best option available to him in the country.

Years back I was dismayed and hurt when Jethmalani whom I respect so much had left the BJP after being asked to step down by Prime Minister A B Vajpayee from the Cabinet as Law Minister of India following his taking swings at the Chief Justice of India. In a Letter to the Editor to the New India Express I defended Jethamalani. But soon I found Ram Jethmalani taking up the defence of Laoo Yadav in the case of most brazen acts of corruption in the history of India till the time. He was spiting the BJP then too!

For a person who could defend a former DGP who had indulged in the most cruel act of sexual exploitation of an under-age girl, and misused his official clout to silence the girl’s family, saying that we had to go by the lower court’s finding, and not by the allegations raised by the interested parties, Ram Jethmalani exhibits considerable lack of respect for the due process of law in the allegations against BJP President Nitin Gadkari who had invited any probe into his alleged wrong-doing. As to his argument that he was trying to “save” the party, the less said, the better. You know it, Ram, just as us we all know, that this argument over ‘first principles’ do not take politics anywhere. The justification you gave to Srinivasan Jain about your association with BJP is the right one to adopt under the circumstances. The party by far is the most principled, the least-corrupt and led by the ablest and the most committed patriots, period.

Now that Ram Jethmalani has, sort-of burned his bridges with the BJP, he opts to spite the party further. He assaults the symbol of Indian manhood and God-head respected and revered by all Hindus - Lord Rama particularly in the context of the party’s Hindutva agenda. As someone trained a bit to be a literary critic, for me it is “taking a spade to a soufflé ”violent criticism and “deconstruction” technique the epic of Ramayana considered a great religious text instilling human values of filial duty, brotherly love, wifely devotion, princely dedication and even ethics of war and peace. Well, there is only a thin line separating myth and reality in our epics, and just as religious Hindus consider Ramayana as an epic of true stories, meant to spread dharmic principles, disbelieving deconstructionists can make a terrifying villain of it’s chief protagonist. Ramayana and Mahabharatha were written when there was no ready readership, no printing, no publishers, no royalty payments, no awards and such recognition; and it is logical and tenable to conclude the authors were inspired by higher motives and their works were intended to be read and understood for their values as parables and stories of exalted human beings if not ávatars’ giving dharmic education – fictional constructs emancipating facts and truths from perhaps their bondage to reality at times. The learned comment of a great man was that through Ramayana runs a whole gamut of emotions, like anger, absolute arrogance, jealousy, joy, passion, regal equanimity, tender compassion and violence, there is an underlying message that if one steadily hung on to one’s sense of duty one could triumph over the dark emotions which ruled the human heart.

Ram Jethmalani, nearly ninety years old, had just adiscovered the other day that Sri Ram was a bad husband. It may be noted here that Valmiki’s Ram was not an incarnation of Vishnu, while a student of Ramayana is never out of touch with its sanctity and its unequalled importance to the study of our culture and civilisation. Valmiki had his chief protagonist say the words “ätmaanam maanusham manye” suggesting that his conduct was that of a human being desirous of acting in conformity with the highest ideals of Dharma or the best traditions of his time. It could be sheer calculated anachronism to read present-day socio-political prejudices in to an epic that reflected the morals of Thraethayug, some 5000 years ago! 

It is true that Valmiki’s treatment of Sri Ram makes him for a while subject to a violent human passion, jealousy, combining with it his concern as a king for the slanders from his subjects, which sullied the yasas of the Royal House of Ishvakus. Then Sita undergoes the fire ordeal with the whole world and the Gods watching, his dead father Dasaratha himself watching from heaven, and they all testify to her purity and Agni delivers her back untouched.

Ram Jethmalani’s problem is that he started with what is called a Convenient Reverse Logic: the logic of a preferred point of view influencing his personal judgement. He is angry, and in a mood to inflict maximum hut to the BJP and therefore assaults one of their cause celebre, the Ram Jana Bhoomi movement based on the divinity of Ram and his personification as “Maryaada Purushottam’ and the bed-rock of our culture. It is said that there is nothing called objectivity, unless it can be of some advantage to us. In trying to prove his “secular” credentials attacking Lord Rama himself, Ram Jethamalani chose to that Sri Ram for millions of Hindus is no persona so much as personification of certain ideals and values. Not even the lunatic fringe among hard-core Hindus would approve Ram abandoning Sita. The South Indian Hindus play Sitaakalyanam (in Raag Sankarabharanam) during the crucial stage of the marriage ceremony not without any reason. They do not celebrate Ram abandoning Sita. They celebrate the ideal husband in Rama just as the loving wife in Sita. Ram Jethmalani’s criticism of Sri Ram falls into the category of the grotesque. If a person picks up a single flaw from among the many attributes of a great individual to the exclusion of others to bring him down in esteem, the point of view turns grotesque. Valmiki’S Ram is shown ascending steps of perfection throughout his life, in an essentially human document that Ramayana is. Sri Ram’s trials and tribulations, the many adversities he went through, the great changes of fortune that came over him, are vicissitudes of life that readers of Ramayana devoutly and earnestly endeavour to imbibe lessons from.

I am even more upset with Jethmalani for describing Lakshman as "even worse" telling the audience at the function organised to launch a book on a man-woman relationship, that "When Sita was abducted, Ram asked him to go and find her as she was abducted during his watch. Lakshman simply excused himself saying she was his sister-in-law and he never looked at her face, so he wouldn't be able to identify her"! Ramayana has no such incident at all. When Sugreeva found the ornaments Sita had thrown for help to follow the path as she was being taken away by Ravan, and asked the brothers to see whether they belonged to her, Ram fainted ass soon as he saw his beloved's arnaments. Lakshman's reply was“Na hum jaanami kaeyoore, na hum jaanami kundale / Noopurathve-bhijaanami nityampaadaabhivandanal”  that is, he had seen only Sita’s feet as he did pranam everyday to her, and therefore, could identify her anklet among the ornaments. This is what Jethmalani, in his anxiety to deliver a mouthful of nasty words against those whom millions of Hindus   consider immortals and role-models all their lives, misreads and misinterprets! In Valmiki Ramayana, Maaricha seduces away Sri Ram and Lakshman refused to believe that his brother was in danger even after the most pitiable counterfeit cries issued by the rakshas. That was when Sita forgot herself in a wild rage and abused Lakshman for harbouring ulterior motives after his brother’s death. Lakshman abuses her and leaves his watch in disgust. Many believe that what misfortunes befell her later was punishment for her suggesting that he had improper and unspeakable motives. So much for Ram Jethmalani’s erudition.

Since we encounter a legal eagle like Ram Jethmalani in the issue discussed here, I am convinced of the need for a Blasphemy Law in India because people have a right to have their religious feelings protected from outrageous attacks of their beliefs in deities they revere, and it is in public interest to prevent offences which lead to civil discord. Otherwise, as Chandrasekhar’s supporters thrashed Jethmalani publicly when he chose to demonstrate his democratic protest to the Socialist leader’s ascendance to the Prime Ministership of India, violent Ram Bhaktas are likely to physically hurt our Scotch-fed tiger in the streets of India.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anti-corruption stand and Negativity
Speaking to the CBI officers and anti-corruption establishment of the country, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said that there was need to focus on the ‘Supply side of corruption”. He was obviously using a terminology familiar to economists making it sound as if the particular aspect was ignored by the laws and the law enforcement system in India. With report of rampant economic sabotage taking place under the very nose of our economist Prime Minister, is he now suggesting that corruption curtailment efforts have to be mainly directed toward the supply-side of corruption, i.e., those who make corrupt payments, and not to those who take bribes, like our A.Raja and company?

Most of us understood that at the root of corruption was the fact that complicated regulations and inefficient, inept and corrupt governance have the givers are persuaded or forced to fork out bribe. If in the beginning it was ‘something’ for getting undue favours, matters worsened over time to require ‘speed-money’ for any work done, any file moved; and then to the present state of affairs when you need to bribe powers that be to get your legitimate rights established and work done. Has our PM got another theory about the supply and demand factors that facilitate or influence corruption?

The whole world has accepted the fact that corruption ranks amongst the biggest threats to global economic prosperity. It is also generally believed that the emerging and developing countries pose a greater corruption risk due to weaker regulations. There indeed is an enormous ethical failure also involved here. Asking pompously for a “clear and unambiguous definition of corruption” at this late stage when corruption is corroding the administration and makes a mockery of governance reveals a certain lack of understanding the problem or a classic case of confounding and confusing the issue seeking an escape route for one’s own responsibility.

The most unfortunate aspect of our Prime Minister’s speech to the anti-corruption establishment is that he glosses over the required thrust on attempting to reduce or eliminate corrupt acts because of their harmful effects on our economy and the quality of life of Indian citizens. He is of course anxious that “ethical and responsible behaviour needs to become the corner-stone of corporate behaviour” but ignores similar behaviour from the executives and their political masters. From these platitudes one sees him jumping to what irritates him currently, and he is more concerned about: “The mindless atmosphere of negativity and pessimism that is sought to be created over the issue of corruption can do us no good. It can damage our country’s image and hit the morale of the executives…”God, if this is not cant, what is?

In another front-page report the newspapers that displayed PM’s speech prominently has BSP chief vouching for the poor performance of her party's political ally, the ruling UPA, but says she will continue to back it obviously because the dispensation had insulated her from the mammoth corruption charges against her. So is the case with Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Laloo Yadav. The people know very well by now that the Income Tax department, the CBI and the anti-corruption system in this country are tools in the hands of the UPA to influence and coerce its opponents as well as allies as needed.

Is the Prime Minister is truly worried about the Opposition seeking to sully his government’s image, or the country’s image? Has he not seen the accolades from the Opposition stalwart and elder statesman LK Advani who praises NREGA at the UN General Assembly as having indeed helped break-down social inequalities, empower rural people, build up rural infrastructure and revive economic growth. The man who campaigned against Manmohan Singh for his being the “weakest PM” was trying to prop up the image of his country at the UN meet on ’Social development’, knowing fully well that back home it was also largely a political gimmick to win votes spending government money, and local operatives of the UPA, and probably many others in power systematically drains money from it.

“Inattentional blindness” is the formal name given to the phenomenon in which humans fail to perceive major activities going on in front of their eyes because their attention is diverted to other things or captured by more interesting things. I strongly feel that our Prime Minister could be accused of this phenomenon.But what else is currently he is attending to?

Tail piece: I wish somebody had told our scholar PM that there are no B-pluses in ethics, it’s just pass/fail.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

India that is a banana republic
I am told that Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the country’s ‘first family’ has called India a banana republic and its common people (áam aadmi’) ‘mango people’ in jest. When the whole country is worked up over the way he was “handling’ his affairs, this guy could boast and jest is a sign of confidence reaching the level of arrogance. And why not? He is a VVIP who is registered all over the country’s airports as one who needs no security check. He is no ’aam aadmi’’ going by the size of the reputation, mango, though the king of fruits, is too small to define his ego, he should be called the ‘jackfruit chap’.

I for one, would once again be on Mr.Vadra’s side in the fresh controversy. (By the way, was he not a Vadera when he married Priyankaji? I cannot find any reason for changing the spelling of the surname unlike in his grandfather-in-law’s case. The clever Parsi lad had high-jacked not only a Banya surname but also the family name of the Father of the Nation in one go! It has to be numerology in Vadra’s case. And the divine numbers are working overtime to boost his wealth and well-being indeed.) Did he not tell the truth when he called this country a banana republic? Honest to God, yes. I feel just as hurt when former Singapore Prime Minister called India a ‘soft state’ for equally good reasons though. But truth shall prevail – Sathyameaeva Jayathae! This country is indeed a banana republic of sorts, though claims in official records as a Sovereign Democratic Republic.

Though unrelated, I remember a primary school teacher in Malayalam write late Karoor Neelakadapillai’s story, ‘ädbudhamanushyan’ or ‘Miracle Man’. The poor teacher goes to a fair ground and is attracted by a signboard announcing a ‘Miracle Man’ inside an enclosure. He byuys the entry pass with the only coin he had in his pocket, that too confiscated from a student who had ignored the ban on bringing cash into the classroom, with the only intention of informing the students all about the strange sight. What he sees inside was an ordinary mortal, idling his time. The teacher explodes in anger over being cheated; asking the fellow what was special about him. Theman evades the question and says quietly that he would return the money with a small increment, provided the teacher manned the position when he was having his lunch. Trapped, the teacher accepts this offer and takes the role. That was when the school manager and headmaster arrive to see the ‘miracle man’ and seeing the present incumbent they seethe in  anger. The Manager threatens  to sack the teacher for undignified behaviour, and asks him to explain what was miraculous about him anyway? Cornered, beaten, and dejected, our teacher then shoots off a number of unpleasant truths about his service conditions and remuneration to the manager, and asks whether it was  not sheer miracle that he survives, and supports a family of five?

Similarly, I am going to examine our country’s politics, economics and governance  to disprove its  claim to the status of a ’mature democracy’ and a Sovereign Republic when Mr.Vadra’s in-laws have been guiding the affairs of it. I bet you will agree with Mr.Vadra and me that India that is Bharat is indeed a banana republic.

By the logic of events leading our Independence, India that is Bharat should have been guided by Gandhian principles: Peace, non-violence, non-exploitative society, simple living and high thinking. Ha-ha, I feel like the blind grandma at her son’s funeral asking the grandson whether she was actually at the grave of her late son. That was when the priest spoke kindly of the dead man during the graveside service. He was actually a drunkard and a rogue. So is the case with our country. An old man in our village put the situation graphically for me. Had he been alive, Gandhiji would have died a miserable death akin to that of a salt stone at the seashore dissolving in wave after wave lashing at it.

Here is the scenario as it was enacted during the last phase of his mission: Nehru on Gandhi – from Freedom at Midnight (Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre): Nehru contemptuously told Mountbatten in his first meeting with the new Viceroy about Gandhiji’s work in riot-affected Bihar and Noakhali that “the man was going around with ointment trying to heal one sore spot after another on the body of India instead of diagnosing the cause of the eruption of the sores and participating in the treatment as a whole”. He was talking about the communal divide and Gandhiji’s objection to the partition! This lead the Viceroy to focus on partition as a ‘solution’. Lester Pierson, Prime Minister of Canada (1962-68) and winner of Nobel Peace Prize, mentions in his memoirs how shocked he was when Nehru spoke of his mentor Gandhiji as “an awful old hypocrite”. Great start it was for a Gandhian Ram Rajya!

Nehru the Prime Minister (he was the External Affairs Minister, and also in charge of most important portfolios) surrendered the country’s British-inherited extraterritorial rights in 1954. Later we gave back the strategic Haji Pir after the 1965 war!  Indira Gandhi had this country foolishly return the territorial gains of the 1971 war and the 90000 Pak PoWs without securing any tangible diplomatic reciprocity. Now after all the atrocities being committed by Pak-sponsored-trained terrorists peaceniks in India are recommending the unilateral transfer of Siachen Glacier to the attacker of Kargil. Under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 India agreed to give 80.52% share of the 6-river Indus system with Pakistan, the downstream state. That is more than what the United States agreed to give Mexico under the 1944 US-Mexico Water Treaty. According to the 2030 Water Resources Group, India confronts a 52% deficit! In the 1996 Ganges Treaty India offered an almost equal division of down-stream Ganges flow, guaranteeing minimum cross-border flows in the dry season, which is a new principle in international water law. It may be remembered that tiny Bangladesh has an average 8252 cubic meters of annual per capita water availability while India has just 1560 cubic meters. Now Manmohan Singh government is anxious about a Teesta river treaty to Bangladesh’s advantage. It may be remembered that India is most dependent on Himalayan-Tibetan water for a dozen important rivers flowing down, getting almost a third of the yearly water supplies of 1911 cubic kilometres from Tibet. But China now challenges India’s interests with its extensive upstream infrastructure.

Have a look at our record in the field of diplomacy. No less a person than Nehru, the ‘international leader’ had designed our foreign policy. Panchsheel signatory China first attacked India and snatched away a large swathe of land. They now demand return of Arunachal Pradesh because Tawangs had paid tether to the Ming Emperors! We do not have anybody in our neighbourhood as a close ally or friend, period. Our External Affairs Minister had just made a trip to Pakistan as a confidence-building measure, as he reached back, they confidently raised the Kashmir issue in the UN Security Council. That is rotten egg on the face of our great diplomacy.

There are no two opinions regarding when the country was on a fast down-slide in every field. Corruption, institutional emasculation, moral decadence, poor governance, everything peaked since 1970. She played politics with everything. Following her sad demise, her son who had absolutely no political education or administrative experience succeeded her as PM. Power inflated this young man’s ego and he fumbled along to destroy the country, and on to his own assassination at the hands of a militant group he had our army train and  arm.

PV Narasinha Rao government was perhaps whiff of fresh air in the matter of democratic succession. Though now credited with “opening up” the economy (people forget that one year after the opening up, his party which lost some by-elections had him return to the old ways mostly) the PV government set up a paradigm of misgovernance by giving the country its first major scams – the bank scam, the urea scam, the sugar import scandal and the telecom scandal. It was during this infamous chapter of Indian history that P.Chidambaram, the Present Finance Minister had his Rs.2.5lakh worth shares in Fair Growth go up to Rs.75 lakhs within 8 months thanks to Harshad Mehta’s manipulation. The present Prime Minister, and his party, who selectively remember the period’s economic reforms and achievements, forget his preposterous comment after going into hiding for about a week after Bank Scam that it was on account of “systemic” defects.
1993 December 6 – Motilal Vora, Governor of UP promulgated an ordinance repealing the Anti-copying Act enacted by the former BJP government. With 16000 cases pending against students who copied in the annual exams of 1993 April, Congress party thought they would get votes. When BJP didn’t come back to power, The Times of India reported the Act as a cause, and editorially condemned the “perverse opposition by students and teachers” to the Anti-copying Act.

It was during the regime of scholarly PV that Soniaji complained of the CBI assiduously pursuing the Bofors Case, and the Minister in charge of the department of Personnel, which ruled the CBI was changed, and soon Octavio Qattrocchi fled the country. Does anybody with even a five-year-old chimpanzee’s brain wonder how an employee of Snamprojetti  in the business of power-fertilizer projects could get a 3 per cent commission on the Indian Army’s purchase of Bofors Hovitzers from Sweden? That Qattrocchi family was friends of Prime Minister Rajiv’s and they had holidays together was no secret. That was the beginning of big money corruption which now has gone up from Rs.64Cr to Lakhs of crores. In 2006 ONGC Videsh Limited acquired Block No.128 in South China Sea and spent $50 billion exploring oil till 2011 and assessed the prospects of finding oil "limited”, and took a “technical” decision to end further investment or abandon it/return to Vietnam! I wonder whether that much money was actually spent or just accounted for !.

Half of the 71292 Cr spent on Andhra Pradesh by the late Christian Chief Minister YSR’s Jalayagnam irrigation project is feared swindled. Documents obtained under the RTI Act show the irregularities that were committed range from violation of the common tender document to illegally made excessive payments for the works done and fraudulently claimed to have been done. Irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh involving a combined outlay of Rs 1.8 trillion is reported to have come under the scrutiny of the Prime Minister’s Office following corruption charges. The PMO has, reportedly, sought details of the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts awarded by the AP irrigation department, spelling potential trouble for the projects undertaken in the past five years. But then the PMO is answerable to unheard of levels of scams and corruption! In Maharashtra, another congress-ruled State, where an equally impressive line-up of irrigation projects have swallowed some Rs.70000. Corruption in India comes in many more forms. NREGA wages are paid to beneficiaries only after a cut. Fictitious beneficiaries are enrolled as below poverty line and paid. Roads and sanitation are not built although they are paid for or built poorly.  The pay-out proposed in this year’s budget proposals is 31000Cr, it may be remembered.

On November 8, 1993, the Times of India reported that the CBI had implicated Congress MLA Ms.Santokben S.Jadeja, and Mr.Kandhal S.Jadeja in gun running for the ISI, connections with Punjab-terrorists (associated with the dreaded Lalsingh alias Manjit Singh and ISI agents). In July 1992 Rs.2 Crores worth arms were seized in Ahmedabad (Paldi and Juhapur). That is Gujrat Congress party’s brand of patriotism.

Do you remember the Mandal Commission Report and Nani Pakhiwala’s fervent plea before the Supreme Court of India not to divide the country once again on caste-lines? The author of the Mandal Report recommending reservation for the OBC, Bindeswari Prasad Mandal the scion of 5000 acre land lord was the only student who had his personal servants in the Patna University College Hostel, eminent historian RC Sharma, a contemporary, remembered. Mandal was a Yadav from Madhepura (Rome hai Pope ka, Madhepura hai, Gope (cowerds or yadavs) ka !)

Secularism is a great concern for most political parties seeking power in India. But it is some kinf of “minoritysm” that is played out. Which country, which democracy, will have a PM make “cringe-inducing, dhimmi-like remark” that the minorities of the country have the first charge of nation’s resources? Yes, this is the political culture of vote-banks, of course.  Bihar has an Arabic University established by Laloo dispensation and for 13 years no student was admitted to it, I read sometime in 2005 or so. Later Laoo offered an Urdu Directorate to the Muslim voters! In the context of the entire liberal Left and secular people bending over backwards to be nice to Muslim fanaticism, even to the point of condoning the sporadic bomb blasts all over the country, someone had said that compared with the murderous Muslim fundamentalists, the Hindu extremists in India offered the liberal secularists and leftists a “lover cost of dissent” as  it costs them much less in terms of personal danger  to life, limb and property to cock a snook at the so-called violent Hindu than at the Muslim terrorist! 

For all that you see, the Sangh Parivar tries to use the glorious past of India and fuse tradition with modernity to reinvigorate a society that has lost its moorings thanks to the long foreign rule and the British education. It is a fact that in spite of the alien rule and a democracy guided by communist fellow-travellers, the ideal of a ruler guided by ‘dharma’ exists in the Indian imagination even today, because of the astonishing continuity of Indian civilization. A majority of the people of the Indian sub-continent are yet deeply religious, and it is not inappropriate to turn to tradition to seek that moral core that can shape our polity and civic life. As Gurucharan Das said, “Fusing tradition with modernity could help restore the moral core in a meaningful way in support of the modern rule of law to re-invigorate India’s democracy.” But The Sangh Parivar is the most reviled and despised group in the country. The Left liberal pooh-pooh patriotism as a base sentiment.

Unfortunately, it is generally believed now that the core values of the present Indian Civil Service happen to be self-aggrandisement, non-accountability, turf-protection, and a divine right to rule over others. They seem to have lost integrity as well as the sensitivity to discharge their functions. There is no system of performance-monitoring or efficiency-linked compensation as in the private service. Matters have worsened to a situation having a politician-businessmen-bureaucracy-criminals nexus firmly in place. The credibility and legitimacy of the Union government has fallen to unprecedented levels thanks to the governance deficit and disconnect between people and politicians in power.

Air India, the so-called national carrier has over Rs.40000Cr debt. Knowledgeable people say that this money is enough to start 80 airlines! Overstaffed – 475 employees per air craft (IndiGo has just 70!) On an average 30% of AI planes are grounded on account of slack maintenance. Air India’s Cost per Available Seat Km (CASK) is probably the highest in the world. CASK is the industry benchmark globally for measuring airline efficiency. This sort of colossal mis-management of scarce national resources through-out the entire public sector barring a few, is allowed/encouraged when according to recently published poverty metrics of the National Planning Commission show that 29.8% people of 360 million Indians out of the 1.2 billion population are below the poverty line.

Everywhere in the world, the laws of economics drive the geography of business activity, more and more in the difficult times. Not so in India, this banana republic. Politics, and political advantages to the Congress party alone, decides the course of economic policies of the Government of India. It is not just the Congress, but take the case of the CPI (M) which ruled West Bengal for continuous 34 years  and Kerala every alternate 5 years besides terms in Manipur where they have cultivated and exploited  a grievance-guilt syndrome and nurtured a romance of poverty and suffering to sustain it, to come in power. In West Bengal Jyoti Basu’s 23 year-old rule saw destruction of education, collapse of infrastructure, de-industrialisation and an exodus of professionals. MA Baby, Kerala’s Minister for Education during the previous government, had chosen to set the education bar lower and lower offering perhaps an unintentionally terrifying example of the spread of lowest-common-denominator culture and education with high passing percentages. The CPM-led government was rewarding students who are increasingly unwilling to devote time and attention to reading books and learning with educational qualifications and freeing a salary-obsessed and politically active teaching community from teaching. The CPM has the largest Student-Teacher’s Unions in the State.

GARIBI HATAVO: Why was not poverty banished from India? Everybody knows that poverty can be removed by home-grown methods by our domestic reformers groping their way towards more democracy, cleaner and more accountable government, and free markets. It has not happened in India, the banana republic. Most of Congress Party promises to people have been akin to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi schemes: remember, Madoff’s pedigree was great too; and that indeed was the reason for his success. In India too, pedigree is what decides leadership. Who become national leaders? The ability to connect with a broad swath of people—across political, religious and other lines – is an attribute a national leader must have. Does the Congress president have these? What about her son? Sonia G, after all, is the idol of only a crawling swarm of small souls like PC, Salman Khurshid, Manish Tiwari and the likes.

Democracy presumes that all are created equal; experience proves we are indeed not. We talk about a level playing field because that is perhaps the least we can do in the face of nature's injustice. Some people are born strong or stretchy, or with luck that takes them places, positions them in exalted perches. Some of us have inflated egos, or else with a permanent inferiority complex. Robert Vadras of our world have everything going for them. The “cordial hypocrisy” of media enterprise will see him soon let off the hook. As it is, by sheer force of habit, aided by massive propaganda, we Indians have been posthumously adding a few inches each year to the height of leaders from the Nehru family. Nehru, Indira, and Rajiv were overrated in their prime and bizarrely venerated by acolytes even now. We also forget and forgive fast. Someone from that family is waiting in the wings to assume “higher responsibilities” in Government.

Satyameva Jayathae: Mahatma Gandhi would be turning in his grave as the Indian rulers hold forth with blatant lies, terminological inexactitudes, half-truths and damned lies, every day.  So tell me, my friends, aren’t Vadra and I right about this country being a banana republic? Where else you can find an apparently clean Prime Minister governing a ministry which the CAG insists had doled out largesses to private corporate bodies floated in some cases only to trade in coal, huge blocks of coal for mining to cause revenue losses amounting to nearly Rs.2lakh crores? Where else in this world a cabinet minister over-rules the PM and ignores practices and rules to give away communication spectrum licences to his favourites, some of them in real estate business etc. to make money for himself, his party, and for those who chose to look the other way, and eventually to cause the Exchequer over a lakh and quarter crores of rupees, and the PM defends him till he had to be thrown out of the Cabinet and put in prison? Where else in any decent system of democracy with a responsible government even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Judges of the Supreme and High Courts happen to be admittedly, not above board? Where else in the whole wide world a foreign woman with apparently minimum education and practically no communications kills apart from reading speeches scripted for her, ruling a country of 1.2 billion people using other people as cats paws, simply because she was the wife of a former Prime Minister, and he belonged to a dynastic family in a curiously democratic polity?

 And what do we do about it? I remember reading that Gandhiji said once that if all Indians spat in unison, we could form a puddle large enough to drown 300000 Englishmen who ruled us. Something like that should be tried to drown the ruling elite of this banana republic.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Indian Citizens who abide by (their Private) Laws
Robert Vadra, belonging to the ruling dynasty of India, (i.e. the Nehrus who have quite unobtrusively, inconspicuously taken over the Gandhi surname to establish a permanent bond with the Freedom movement, and a place in public minds) is in the midst of a storm, a smaller one. Like the storm in a tea-cup compared to the many storms raised by scams worth billions of dollars.  [Now do not blame me for calling this family a ‘dynasty’ arguing that they are elected to power. I somehow hate the “Centrality of The Family” which even a journalist of the calibre of TJS George accepted (NIE article by TJS George 5/9/04 ‘Cost of Power, the enigma of India’).] It is thus: India Against Corruption activists Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal alleged that reality giant DLF (and yes, big-time Cricket promoter) gave the husband of Priyanka, daughter of Soniaji, properties currently valued at above Rs.500Cr as a possible quid pro quo for the favour of Congress-ruled States of Haryana, Rajastan and Delhi allotting prime real estate for the DLF.  This, for us Indians, is not entirely an astonishing or unbelievable story in the current political climate. Rs.500Crore bribe is small change these days. A blunt, brutal, inept and corrupt regime run by a decent gentleman who has a reputation for being incapable of personal corruption is heading a virtual empire of corruption, my sources say.

I am, however, on Mr.Vadra’s side. If somebody like Jagan Mohan Reddy, whose father was a two-time Chief Minister of not-so-rich Andhra Pradesh (2004-2009, could have amassed Rs.3000Cr by way of bribe, Robertji should be chastised for under-performance in Indian economy that grew 9-10% annually as his mother-in-law masterminded its destiny. This man is moderate and humble. It is a crying shame that Robertji did not demand/receive bribes commensurate with the overall performance of his family in governance. This man is a gem. Remember, he had modestly mentioned in private to the Press that given the proper opportunity, he wouldn’t mind taking the plunge into the service of the nation. An unfair comment on this was a report I read in a magazine with a headline: “UP polls 2012: Robert Vadra bids for a place in Gandhi family power structure”. We want such modest people. Jagan, you impetuous upstart, take lessons from this fellow-Christian!

Bhushan and Kejrival, appear tough guys who do not fear libel-infamy-black-mail laws of the land and freely allege that Robert and mother promoted five companies with a combined share capital of Rs.5 million and before long, without the benefit of any obvious revenue stream, acquired around 31 properties in the three States mentioned earlier between 2007 and 2010 with the help of an unsecured and interest-free loan of Rs.65Cr. Priyaka, Robert’s wife and the daughter of the dowager empress living in No.10.Janpath was insulated from the deals after introducing her as a director in the companies. That was indeed thoughtful of Robertji, not dragging Priyankaji into business deals.

And when a controversy broke about this very modest (did you mutter that this guy had a lot to be modest about?) person another modest and suave gentleman, the Union Finance Minister joined this affair wise-cracking to the media that ”transactions between two private individuals (?) could not be questioned on the basis of imputed or implied act of corruption”. Another legal luminary, the Law Minister of India, Salamn Khurshid shed light on the controversy “rubbishing” the allegation that DLF giving soft-loans to its competitor in business, the Skylight Hospitality was quite suspicious. Arrey bhai, if your mother-in-law was ruling the country anybody would give you a loan, give you a directorship, and try to make you happy with cash or kind. You don’t have to do anything in return. They are just happy you were at the receiving end of those nice deeds! Congress Party’s spokesperson the irrepressible Manish Tiwari took the political line that Kejriwal and company were the B-Team of the BJP in the grand old tradition of the GoP that only it could use anything politically against the rival political groups.

As a private citizen, I have only personal regrets that I did not have the good fortune to marry into a dynasty or a business family that flourishes. I however, do not grudge Robertji who is fortunate enough to own the Artex (exporting jewellery and handicrafts) the Sky Light Hospitality Pvt Ltd (owned partly by his mother Maureen Vadra, which incidentally, is a partner along with DLF Hotel Holdings in a company that owns Hilton Garden Inn in the posh South Delhi business district Saket;  the Blue Breeze Trading Pvt Ltd (aircraft chartering), North India IT Parks Pvt Ltd, Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd, Sky Light Realty Pvt Ltd. From the family export business to the unrelated realty-hospitality areas and air-chartering, and IT Park are progressions in tune with the improved economic conditions under Manmohanji. This is how one should “make a difference” outside politics. And if he comes in, sky is the limit, not only for Skylight, but for the mother India’s earth, its un-used, un-mined ores and the blue sky above us, and the blue breeze blowing over us. 

Robert Vadra is quoted saying that he was quite capable of handling this or any controversy, and also that he was a private law-abiding citizen who is engaged in business over the past 21 years. And he says Kejriwal and company are spreading malicious and utterly false lies against him for cheap publicity. That is a pretty tall talk and a very arrogant statement. While I like Robert Vadra for his kind thoughts on the lost loved ones, his cheerful face, and his business acumen, what I do not like is this kind of confidence that comes from a category of people who believe that they can abide by only certain private laws made by their money and influence; that is, those who have become a law unto themselves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I spent the 20th August evening most enjoyably in Kolhapur in company of members of the families of my cousins (late) Chnadran Menon and Ram Menon. The occasion was the debut Bharat Natyam stage performance by Saranya, daughter of Ram Menon’s son Sachin, the Managing Director of Menon Pistons Limited.

Saranya’s Arangettam or Rangapravesham was a professionally managed event at the Sahu Sanskritik Mandir which started at 6pm after high tea at 5.15. I knew nothing about Sarany’s Guru, Kavitha Nair or the dance school Narthana School of Dance at Kolhapur. Truly, therefore, I had not anticipated the splendid performance I watched from a debutante. Well, it was an enthralling experience I would like to acknowledge and narrate to those who read my blogs direct and through the Facebook:

Saranya performed on the stage to live music by Nandakumar Unnikrishnan (vocal) Lingaraju (mridangam), Madhusudan (violin), Narasinhamurthy (flute) and Prasanna D V (rhytm pad) all Bangalore-based artists and Kavitha Nair at nattuvanga. The program was in the concert format, starting with Pushpanjaly, and then on to Ganesha Stuthi, Alarippu, Jathiswaram, Lakshmi Stuthi, Varnam, Shiva Panchakshara Stuthi, Bhajan, Thillana and Mangalam. It was indeed an enchanting recital in which Saranya glided from pose to pose effortlessly, forming visual compositions with great perfection. In the lyrical, curvaceous flow of movements on the stage, appealing mudras and mukhabhinaya, footwork, the commendable stability of poses, and the expression of adavus Saranya performed beautifully to the rhythmic syllables of the remarkably good music. It was difficult not to notice the great artistic spirit and nuances she exhibited during the entire performance. I therefore felt that though she would before long qualify as an engineer, and eventually join management of one of the Menon Group enterprises, she would certainly carry forward the great tradition of South Indian classical dance, and love doing it

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The upgrading

The Upgrading business
Upgradation is nice and welcome. I used to get myself upgraded on long-distance trains, more often than not, to get that great feeling of travelling “upper class” when Indian railways do not give you reservation readily and wait-list you; but on the train ask you politely whether you would like to be “upgraded” to more comfortable classes/compartments. I have jumped from “Y class” to “J Class” on Indian Airlines flights occasionally when I was a corporate boss. My wife travelling Air India national route Mumbai to Chennai once had the great opportunity to get “upgraded” and sit next to former actor and currently an MP, Jayaprada. After many years of that trip she is still not tired of describing the lady’s beauty. As for me, I had to decline an offer of upgradation recently when at the check-in counter at Pune airport for a Jet Airways flight to Hyderabad, a young man told me with an adequate gesture that for a mere two thousand odd rupees i could be upgraded to Business Class. I said to him with a similar gesture that at my age. I was aiming higher, and that was to be in higher realms, at the Lord’s feet. He laughed comfortingly and said that I had many years to go.    

We, the people, are used to reading the new incumbents to the Cabinet positions in Union governments demanding several crores of rupees worth “repairs” and renovation of the palatial bungalows allotted to them. Furniture, bath fittings, toilets, curtains, and more often than not the doors and main gates are changed at will.  A Marxist Home Minister of Kerala was known to have spent Rs.24 lakhs on renovation of a government bungalow before moving in. People made fun of the famed austerity of his party in power, particularly when the minister’s son was seen shopping around for suitable bathroom fittings, and when it was known that the so-called renovation included relocating the gate according to Vastu. The Minister immediately abandoned the government bungalow and chose an opulent  house belonging to a rich and controversial man not particularly known for his allegiance to CP(I)M.

I therefore appreciate the handsome, suave Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission clarifying that there was nothing wrong or unusual about spending Rs.3.5 million on upgrading a couple of toilets in the 50 year-old Yojana Bhavan. He was candid to admit that this was only the beginning, since all the toilets were going to be upgraded. In fact I was convinced even before Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia justifying the expenditure that we, the people, shouldn’t grudge our President, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Prime Minister, the dowager empress who runs our democracy from a Janpath residence, the scores of Union Ministers, hundreds of MPs, the Chief minister, hundreds of State Ministers, MLAs and the other appurtenants of our democracy spending large amounts of public funds for “cleaning up” facilities that they \re entitled to use, and also for living and travelling in style at the expense of the exchequer.

Funny, people worry about the Planning Commission spending a few paltry millions on upgrading their toilets when the establishment itself is one of the useless remnants of the Socialist past kept alive as a museum piece of great ideals forgone. Great chaps sitting in Yojana Bhavan used to make or mar the industries, infrastructure, and everything in India that is Bharat. Allocating and disallowing funds for various activities was their job and pastime. They were the “higher-ups” in the “permit-quota-licence Raj” that pulled the country down as it tried to grow. Once a TI Cycles boss told me how they were pulled up manufacturing a few thousand cycles more that what they were “licensed” for! All other industries will have similar stories. The National Planning Commission, run by Nehruji, Indiraji and their acolytes knew what was good for the people; what had to happen or not to happen in India. I remember Prime Minister Indiraji telling a forein interviewer rather exasperatedly that how sorry she was when say, libraries were established and the rich people made good use of them to her great dismay. I thought she almost meant that her government was reluctant to fund more libraries in the country for this reason!

Ahluwalia’s Planning Commission is a weak vestige of those glorious days of controlled economy. I would say, the Planning Commission was always a fifth leg, now a dangling one. Ahluwalia and company could be expected to blurt out sanctimonious humbug from their high perches in Yojana Bhavan trying to defend all that the Union Government does or decides not to do. Half of the budget allocations will be spent on non-plan expenditure during any Five-Year Plan, with the planners looking the other way. Was the upgradation of toilets planned earlier or it just occurred to the planners that they needed to do their own bit in the context of such spending spree by all and sundry in the government. A mere Chief Minister of a permanently sick State spending Rs.89 crores plus to renovate her house, and the Dy. Chairman of the Planning Commission enjoying cabinet rank is not allowed to spend a paltry three and a half million rupees upgrading the toilets of a 50-year old office building of his? Where is equity, guys?

Now don’t ask me whether upgrading the toilets at such high cost means upgrading the activities in toilets for higher purposes. (By no means using the distal end of the alimentary canal for purposes of in-take!) There is scope for providing for closets containing edibles for nibbling during the month of Ramadan in these hyper-secular times. Eating and drinking openly during the Holy month when our Muslim brethren undertake day-time fast will be a good idea. In KSA, it was done so till the government and the Muslim inhabitants of the Holy country thought it fit to ban non-Muslims from eating and drinking when the Muslims fasted. That perhaps a couple of elections away, but the provision for imbibing fluids and edibles without hurting the religious sentiments of minorities is a good idea. I am sure necessary upgradation for the purpose would be made immediately. One advantage of such a move will be that it will have universal support.

With all his cleverness, the Dy. Chairman of Planning Commission could not avoid criticism for spending Rs.35 lakhs for “upgrading” two toilets in his office building because of his earlier defence of the official poverty line claiming that an individual above a monthly consumption of Rs. 859.6 in urban and Rs. 672.8 in rural areas cannot be considered poor. Ahluwalia’s would not have faced the negative propaganda and upgraded the facilities in his office at ever higher costs had the concerned officials done what generally many ministers and politicians in power do: ask the PSUs under them to share the cost of renovation. CPWD would oblige taking money from various interested parties for jobs undertaken by them in NCR. Or the Planning Commission could charge a small “commission” in kind from beneficiaries of their largesse - such as State Governments – by undertaking renovation in the interest of the nation in the same manner pointed out earlier. Surveillance equipment, smart cards for users etc could be similarly “outsourced” from the IM, the UIDA establishment and the likes! Continue the Good job, Mr. Ahluwalia. I love the cordial hypocrisy of the babudom which made you forget that the establishment you run defended the that put persons earning over Rs.32 a day above the 'poverty line' while you could show "inattentional blindness" towards the Central Government's pension of Rs.6.66 per day to the destitute Senior Citizens of the country. Great job indeed!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


One decision the Union Cabinet is likely to take as per media reports has my whole-hearted support. I am sure the largest Opposition party will also back the decision. The UPA Government is thinking of introducing a bill in the Parliament to make sexual intercourse and even “contact with sexual intent” with a person below the age of eighteen illegal. I have always wondered why a PIL was not filed in the Supreme Court by some conscientious social worker or Women’s body to urge use of its special powers under Article 142 to make the “age of consent” 18, not 16 as now when for all practical purposes a person under eighteen is considered a ‘minor’. When parents marrying away a girl under eighteen invites prosecution, a someone who forces a girl of sixteen to have sex with him escapes the punishment for ‘statutory rape’ because clever defence lawyers manage to convince judges that the girl had consented more often than not with a retraction of the girl’s statement in the court under threat or offer of reward.

A girl under eighteen has no right to exercise her franchise for election to Punchayaths, State Legislature or the Parliament; she has to wait for attaining ‘majority’, meaning 18 years of age for property transactions; but is supposed to have come of age to give consent to someone for ravishing her virginity and unintentionally producing her own offspring in the process! Larger number of girl children is coming under the ambit of exploitation with their attainment of puberty down from 13-14 to 10 years. Adolescent behaviour characterised by raging hormones and physical changes are thus advanced to younger age-groups. This catapults such immature individuals to higher levels of physical and mental risks following their appearance in the catchment area of exploiters. It is in this very alarming context that certain judges and sociologists are asking for reducing the age of content.

In my opinion the above anomaly with respect to majority and age of consent being rectified is a great thing. Particularly with the lax morals thanks to the leakage of the worst of Western values into our society the youth find it adventurous and ‘modern’ to experiment with physical relationships. With so much contemporary literature including magazine-newspaper articles extolling the normality of gay, lesbian activities and sex with multiple partners as almost the norm we are facing an avalanche of uninhibited sexual behaviour that our cultural moorings would pronounce unbecoming. Incestual relationships are on the increase. Young people joke about relationships which were considered a taboo in the past. Consensual sex even in the Supreme Court chambers of senior lawyers is being defended these days as a right. Police officials and politicians are known to trap/lure minor girls using threats and rewards or both. Domestic helps of all ages are known to be routinely subjected to sexual exploitation. The earlier bill, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Bill (2011) had indeed a provision for consensual sexual activity between the ages of 16 and 18, but the new one drops the caveat, effectively incriminating under-age sex. The proposed law, very aptly include workplace harassment of women employees including domestic helps (who, I understand constitute 30% of the working women), and also sexual assault on male children.

It seems such a statute was under consideration since 2006, and a bill was tabled in Parliament in 2010 and a Parliamentary panel sat on it so far. Being moved by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the proposed act brings all sexually-determined behaviour including physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography or other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature under the definition of “sexual harassment”.

There indeed are sociologists who oppose the proposal to make sex with the under-aged an offense making such sexual behaviour some kind of a teenage right. It is this type of sociology that invites trouble to the present generation in the name of psychological evolution and physiological changes. Their averment is that since puberty arrives early young people are getting sexually active at an early age. They say, “Charity begins at home” and rightly so. Similarly, such high thinking should be implemented at the homes of these sociologists over a period of time and studied meticulously, before they exhort the general public to approve it. Actor Rahul Bose’s The Foundation argues that when many boys will go to jail for under-age sex offenses, their partner girls are left back at risky sexual behaviour, and increasing health risks, whatever that means!  There are some psychiatrists worrying about the children “denied” teenage sex “using more dangerous ways of experimenting.” The cacophony goes on like a massed chorus, a campaign of course: “Are they going to punish young people for pre-marital sex?”, “will they now insist on girls wearing chastity belts?”... there are legal pundits quoting statistics since 1860 to 1973 showing the age of consent and consummation were much lower at 10 years, rising to 16. Don' they realise that the progression was due to greater awareness and evolution of human thought. You cannot oppose Rajastan’s child marriages as decadent, and support under-age sex, they  forget.

A Delhi judge appears to be the first to fire in favour of a lower age of consent in his anxiety to let off an Ashok Vihar boy (that has a particular connotation in Delhi – it is neighbourhood accommodating the rich and influential!) rules that he cannot take a hyper-technical view to punish a young man who has sex with a girl under 18 and punish him for statutory rape, agreeing with the defence lawyer that the girl had eloped with the boy and not abducted by him as the prosecution argued. The judge avers that the girl being happily married, though not with each other (!) exposing the culprit and the victim of October 2008 incident the future of both could be destroyed. Being not a High Court/Supreme Court judge, I do not thing this judicial officer has the right to go beyond the scope of the law as it exists today, the far-reaching consequences and visionary projections being not the prerogative of the lower judiciary.

Sadly, the day the report of this welcome statute made the news, the newspapers also reported that the former Haryana Director General of Police S P S Rathore, the classic example of a police official misusing his powers to subjugate a minor girl, Ruchika Girhotra to his sexual desires asking for his with-held pension ordered to be released by the CAT, while celebrating his wife’s birthday gifting her a Mercedes Benz car for which he paid Rs. 9,05,001 for just the fancy number plate CH 01 AM 0001! Rathore was awarded six months' rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 1,000 by the Chandigarh CBI court in December 2009 for molesting the 14-year-old tennis player on August 12, 1990. Sessions Court, which enhanced the sentence to 18 months imprisonment and on revision the Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed the sentence. Rathore served his jail term from May to November 2010. He was released on bail by the Supreme Court on November 11, 2010. However, he was asked not to leave India and the case is still pending in the Apex Court. The girl committed suicide three years later unable to withstand his constant sexual harassment, using her brother’s plight as bait, booking him falsely under several offences. Rathore had in total 12 cases registered against the family which eventually moved out of Chandigarh. All that the heartless policeman had got as punishment for the most heinous crime committed was Rs.1000 fine and 6 months imprisonment!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When your shoe pinches...

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, now in the midst of a raging controversy involving some sexapade on video that circulated on the Internet, particularly the most popular Social Networking sites, the Facebook and the Youtube, is no simpleton. Dr. AM Singhvi has one of the most impressive educational career I know of – Schooling in St. Columba's, college education in St.Stephen’s College, Delhi, Trinity College, Cambridge and the Harvard University, leading to B.A.(Hons), M.A., and Ph.D under constitutional lawyer Sir William Wade of Cambridge University.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi is no innocent in public life either. He is a highly successful and highly paid Supreme Court Lawyer. He must have been on Congress Party’s Legal Cell for a long time. Presently a he is Congress Member of the Rajyasabha from Rajastan, and Congress Party’s spokes person who wields the power of his legal acumen, political savvy and catch-as-catch-can argumentative skills fielding questions with an agility that is admirable and abominable at the same time if you happen to be on the other side of the political spectrum. I happen to have been on the other side, like his late father, Dr. LM Singhvi, a renowned lawyer, author, and India's former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, who belonged to Bharatiya Janta Party, and its Rajya Sabha Member too.

My dislike of AM Singhvi begins with his Ph.D theses, which was on the Emergency Powers. The expression ‘Emergency’ takes me back to the dark days of Indian democracy, 1975-77 (26 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 to be precise) I was working in Mumbai then, and went to Kerala for getting married in end-May 1976. As I was going through the process of inviting my friends, I got some “underground literature” of the period, brought out by the RSS. (How many people know that of the nearly 5000 political prisoners in Kerala 5/6th belonged to the RSS, and most of the remaining, to the Naxal movement. That was reason for The Economist to describe the movement as “the only non-left revolutionary force in the world”, I am told. I heard Panyan Ravindran, former CPI Member of Parliament often claiming that he started growing his hair during the Emergency as a mark of protest. His party had actively supported the Emergency and CPM passively opposed it!) When I went to my friend Raju (late P.Rajendran), the first thing he did was to snatch away the anti-Emergency stuff from my pocket saying “with this you will go the Viyyur Jail, not to Guruvayur Temple tomorrow for your wedding. So whenever Dr.AM Singhvi spoke unapologetically of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime, I used to feel like throwing a stone at the TV screen. His job indeed was to defend the indefensible Congress policies.

Now, he appears to have come on video screens across the world in some sleaze stuff. The picture that immediately comes to my mind is the famous lawyer casting aspersions on the leadership of the Country’s largest Opposition party on moral grounds when two or three Karnataka legislators were caught watching pornographic stuff somebody had sent into their mobile phones as MMS message. Those who had sent the stuff had obviously arranged videographers recording the proceedings of the Karnataka House to point their cameras on cue at the legislators curiously viewing the sensational clippings, forgetting for a while that they were being framed. The pity is that even later, their party and they themselves were frantically giving ridiculous explanations for their behaviour which is criminal according to the Cyber laws. They were not media-educated.

Now, I have not seen the video stuff implicating Dr.AM Singhvi, fortunately because I am not very active on these social networking sites, and they seem to have removed the video footage following complaints. As I have written earlier in one of my blogs, if only I had downloaded the said video or passed it on to someone for viewing, I too was liable for prosecution, because it is not just libellous stuff but also pornographic. Though as viewers many people may not be driven by any criminal intent as the affected person Singhvi would like to believe. But then who do you and I stand up against!

Now, I surmise that there was this a sex tape released of Abhishek Singhvi where (allegedly) he was seen having sex with a senior female lawyer in his Supreme Court Chamber. Singhvi claimed that such a CD either does not exist or if it does, it is clearly and obviously morphed, fabricated and forged. On 18th April, Congress Party, releases a statement declaring that the CD was a personal matter of the senior lawyer. In common parlance this is termed as “distancing”, if you ask me. It was only on 19th April the video went public on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites, after Singhvi got an injunction from Delhi High Court against its public airing.  Singhvi naturally blames social media sites for sensationalism On 23 April 2012 he quit as chairperson of Parliament Standing Committee on Law and Justice and as the Congress spokesperson. Dr.Singhvi, said as he resigned as Party spokes person and head of the key parliamentary panel, not because he admitted guilt. Then he said that if he had done (he did not) what he is alleged to have done, it was private and consensual affecting only members of the two familes (who luckily stood by him). He resigned because he did not want “even the slightest parliamentary disruption” which is stuff and nonsense he knows. Parliament will be disrupted seeking a probe into the authenticity and reliability of the video tape. It is gist for the mills of the Opposition because Dr.Singhvi used to be such a virulent upholder of moral and professional standards, and never restrained himself from those rapier thrusts against the Opposition. It si slightly intriguing that the Congress Party statement referred to the unpleasant event as a purely personal matter of Mr.Singhvi while understanding their relief that he has “taken the right step” to avoid embarrassing the Party.

Why did Abhishek Manu Singhvi resign as Congress spokesperson and from the prestigious Parliamentary panel on personnel, public grievances, law and justice? If only he had asked another famous lawyer who is now also a member of the Union Cabinet, he would have perhaps clarified that moral AM Singhvi’s turpitude (if any at all) and his professional/political integrity (or sex-life and professional and political lives) could be kept as water-tight compartments. Had he not told the Indian Parliament when asked for clarification as the Addl. Solicitor General of India in V.Ramaswamy case he told them that “personal integrity and financial probity can be separate”. Application of that logic with minor alteration of words here would allow AM Singhvi to walk head held high, chin up. Or, if there are similar tapes involving high profile professionals or politicians available, one could play that before higher judiciary as Kapil Sibal did when he played the tape of actor Sanjay Dutt talking to don Chhotta Shakeel in Court as journalists listened on, to convince the Court that his client (a richest diamond merchant who used to finance Bollywood movies in partnership with dons) was not the only one who talked to the underworld, if that is a crime! 

The Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mr.Arun Jaitley, sounds highly restrained in his comments on this issue involving a colleague in the Supreme Court Bar. But Mr.Jaitly’s party has asked for verification of the video tapes at the CFSL. Ha! They do not know that Congress Party can get the report they want from CFS, if they could manipulate the CBI as they have so often done? Under the circumstances, the maximum negative publicity to the Congress is the only politically ‘usable’ outcome from this ugly episode. The Opposition should ignore Mr.Singhvi’s appeal to stop “gleefully watching, promoting or participating in a person’s natural and understandable discomfiture... respecting privacy issues” and go for his jugular! This is the Congress Party’s regular trick: they can milk every communal issue in this country during every opportunity in the most banal manner for political advantage; but when there is something the BJP can exploit, the Congress will shout from the rooftops “not to exploit communal issues for political purposes”. In the past they have drummed up non-issues and cooked-up stories to vilify Opposition politicians and parties for political purposes at will. As the lawyer (whose annual income is Rs.50 crores) understands, he is entitled to seek relief from the Courts. If the CD was doctored by his former driver Lal, he should have been booked under law and punished. Why did Dr.Singhvi go for an “amicable settlement” with such filthy people?

This is what Rajiner Puri writes in The Statesman: " Is it not fair to surmise that the out-of-court settlement was made on the basis of this petition and a certain sum of money exchanged hands between Mr Singhvi and Mr Lal? If not, what were the terms of the settlement? It is truly astounding that a role model for legal probity in Parliament should openly settle with his former employee after being blackmailed. Blackmail is a serious crime. Mr Lal even confessed to committing that crime by creating a fraudulent CD... What Mr Singhvi has accomplished therefore is the virtual legitimisation of blackmail as a weapon..."

There is a lesson for many of us in this. As long as other people’s shoes pinch, you “gleefully watch” and enjoy their discomfiture. When your own shoe pinches, even if you are the Ethics Committee of the Parliament...
Abhishek Manu Singhvi' last reported remark is This: "Either the CD is morphed or it is not. In either case, it raises no public interest issue." Matlab, "therea kya jathaarrey?" Public interest kya, how do you know the public is not interested, some way?