Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two Decades of Reforms- where are the gains?

These days the political parties do not easily miss out on anniversaries. But one anniversary the Congress has failed to celebrate is the 2nd anniversary of reforms. Whatever be the reasons behind the Congress not celebrating it, let’s look at what we have achieved since the introduction of reforms way back in July 1991.
Mr Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister, in his budget speech declared that his new government had inherited an economy with such problems like the balance of payments crisis, high fiscal deficit and high inflation. He thought the reforms were the answer for India’s economic well being and thus ushered in an era of economic liberalization. But, what have we achieved through the reforms? 

Monday, May 23, 2011

The fall and rise with corruption

The recent election results in four states and one union territory have definitely given us a glimpse of an increasing intolerance and a growing public anger against corruption. Therefore, based on these results we could say that a corrupt and/or arrogant government (Tamilnadu, West Bengal) has a limited life span whereas a government that focuses on good governance and development (Bihar, Assam) gets an extended life span.

If it is true that corruption brings down a government what about Karnataka? The results from the recent bye elections in Karnataka indicate that a government can rise, not necessarily fall, and even thrive in spite of being the most corrupt state!

It is possible, as the government in Karnataka has shown, to even rise and thrive despite being corrupt. Or should we just ignore these bye election results considering them relatively insignificant? Or should we say that it is only during the Assembly elections a corrupt government is brought down? 
No easy answers! 

Hopefully the governments in other states, including Karnataka, would learn some lessons and focus instead on issues of good governance and development to increase their lifespan.
Let us also hope that there will always be a fall and no rise, of any government, with corruption!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Japanese lessons- are we ready to learn?

The tragedies in Japan caused by earthquake and tsunami have left us all shocked. At the same time they also have taught us many lessons. Probably many would have received a mail titled ‘‘Ten things to learn from Japan’’. Those who haven’t received it can find it below.

(Ten things to learn from Japan
Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.

The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn’t fall.

People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly)

The nuclear disaster in Japan ought to compel us to revisit our nuclear power policy. More importantly, given the adverse cost-benefit ratio and the adverse risk-benefit ratio involved in nuclear power it is indeed time to switch off nuclear power permanently and pursue alternative sources of power.

Are we ready to learn from Japan?

Friday, February 25, 2011

India- the land of rising deficits?

Fiscal deficit, current account deficit, development deficit, education deficit, health deficit, governance deficit, ethical deficit- Has India become a land of rising deficits? It seems to be. Or else how do we explain these ever increasing deficits and non-existing surpluses? Wait. Who said non-existing surpluses? What about our surplus population (which is set to overtake China by 2050) and surplus poverty (don’t we have more poor than Africa)? Well, these are definitely not the surpluses that we can be proud of. What we require is development surplus which flows from better governance or governance surplus.
Sadly, our post-reform era hasn’t witnessed a greater commitment to either reducing or eliminating any of these deficits. This is evident from our low rankings in the Human Development Index (HDI) for the past few years. Furthermore, in terms of the improvement in the HDI index we have grown at a slower pace in the reform process that began in 1990 than in the decade prior to reforms.  
If India is to be counted as a performing and functioning democracy, and not merely a namesake democracy, then we need to draw inspiration from the ‘jasmine revolution’ and replicate it in our own land by overthrowing the politicians and bureaucrats who have caused or perpetuated these deficits. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

This is real conversion!

Mr Mahendra Kumar, the man behind the church attacks in coastal Karnataka, was first disowned by the sangh parivar. Now he exposes the evil designs of the sangh parivar. Wonder if any of those who carried out his orders to damage/destroy the places of worship would now listen to his orders towards a conversion of heart! It is nevertheless heartening to see the man opting for a real conversion!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It’s Karnataka Rajyotsava- but what shall we celebrate?

It was on November 1, 1956 that the State of Karnataka was formed and every year on this day the State celebrates its birthday. Supposedly, it’s a time to celebrate State’s achievements. But what achievements can the present government boast of? Should we celebrate as the BJP government has ‘managed’ to win the trust vote? Or should we celebrate because the government has ‘managed’ to find 162 persons for Rajyotsava awards? If the former has, at least temporarily, freed us from political instability, the latter hasn't been free from controversy either. It is indeed sad that this present government cannot boast of any better achievement/s .
As the most corrupt State, with pathetic roads and severe power shortage, by forcibly displacing the farmers and by letting loose the Hindu fundamentalists, State’s failures have obviously outnumbered its feats and have pushed this State backward.
Congress cannot make Karnataka another Gujarat only the BJP can’ thundered Narendra Modi when he visited this State in 2008. It is true that the BJP government has selectively tried to replicate the Gujarat model by communally dividing this State but its a pity that it hasn’t embraced the development model of Gujarat.
Once a peaceful, politically stable Karnataka State has now turned into a hotbed of political chicanery and corruption of the lowest kind. Will this State soon join the ranks of BIMARU (acronym for backward states- Bihar, MP, Assam, Rajasthan, UP) States?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Why is India reluctant to improve its ‘PHC’ index?

In the case of India, what do poverty, hunger and corruption (phc) have in common? The common factor is that poverty, hunger and corruption have been rising rapidly! It is really deplorable that India’s non-commitment to curb its 'phc' has pushed down its ratings to levels lower than many other developing countries.
Why have our many ‘economic miracles’ like the surpluses failed to get us healed of these treatable and curable diseases? Is the bureaucratic-politician nexus holding this country hostage? I think so long as we do not rip this nexus apart, which considers government as a lucrative business, India cannot escape from this ‘phc’ tag.
Can we put our hopes in the young political leaders to redeem this country from the clutches of greedy politicians and bureaucrats and help this country rid of its ‘phc’ tag?
Is the rest of India ready to vote these greedy people out and let ‘youngisthan’ enter the corridors of power to improve its 'phc' index?    

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What is the Colour of Terror?

With the BJP and its right wing allies still sulking over the use of ‘saffron terror’, they have yet again let off an opportunity to rid themselves of the tag of ‘communal parties’ and thus further exposed and confirmed their non-commitment to and belief in secularism. Given their history (of repeated vulnerability to a secular ideology!) one cannot expect these right wing parties to accept even the existence of saffron terror, leave alone condemn it. On the other hand, the behaviour of the Congress party is also equally distressing. Instead of extending full support to the Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, the party has distanced itself from ‘saffron terror’ remarks and has been trying to play it down and safe. All this has left many people wondering as to whether the Congress is really committed to reigning in saffron terror or is it only engaging in empty rhetoric.
Amidst this drama, where we see a coexistence of both denial to accept the existence of saffron terror (BJP and its right-wing allies) and of playing down the threat of saffron terror (Congress), one person that stands out is Mr Sharad Pawar who, I thought, at least once has spoken some sense! Though he should not to be spared of his share of criticism (for neglect of agriculture which has not been his priority even though he is the Minister for Agriculture and for the corruption in BCCI-IPL), he definitely deserves applause for saying- ‘ If ‘green terror’ is fine with them, why should ‘saffron terror’ upset them so much? Isn’t green too a colour in our national flag?
So what really is the colour of terror? Is it saffron or green or white?
It shouldn’t be forgotten that terrorism by any name is still terrorism. More importantly these colours are part of our national flag and any instance of whether saffron terror or green terror (even white terror!) amounts to tarnishing the national flag. It is really shameful that we aren’t really passionate about protecting our national flag and have allowed it to be tarnished by different terror groups.
When will we let our national flag fly more often and in many places than saffron flag or green flag or white flag?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dangerous Rise of Saffron Terrorism

The Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram, while meeting the state police chiefs in New Delhi has expressed serious concern about the rise of 'saffron terrorism' led by radical Hindu groups. He has rightly advised the state police chiefs to be more vigilant. He deserves commendation for having highlighted this rising phenomenon. This observation, from the Union Home Minister, comes in the wake of a dangerous rise in the terror attacks linked to various saffron groups.
The Mecca Masjid blast in Hyderabad (2007), Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast (2007), Malegaon blasts (2008) and Goa blasts (2009) are some of the terror attacks linked to different saffron groups.
Besides, the saffron involvement can also be traced to the attacks on Christians in Orissa and in the church attacks in different parts of Karnataka.
Obviously this should have led to an all party consensus to restrict the further damage to the secular and democratic credentials of this nation. Unfortunately, the BJP and the Shiv Sena have objected to the use of 'saffron terror', which is a matter of grave concern. Unless the BJP and the other right wing parties stop being soft on these radical groups and distance themselves from such groups, there is bound to be more discord and disharmony.
Though one expects these police chiefs to take stringent action against those individuals and groups who spread hatred and cause division in the name of religion, it would largely be a 'mission impossible' in States ruled by governments that are perceived to be soft towards these saffron groups.
Anyone still hopeful of a change in a state like Karnakata?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happy or Unhappy Independence Day?

It's 64 long years since we got ourselves freed from the British raj. This long journey is laden with ups and downs. We can certainly feel happy and be proud of our great achievements- increase in life-expectancy, literacy rate and Gross Domestic Product. We are now among the elite trillion dollar economies. India has produced world class scientists, engineers, journalists, doctors, sportspersons, artists, industrialists, actors and politicians who have left an indelible mark on the world stage. We have a lot of billionaires and there are at least 56 Indian firms which are among the world's 2,000 most powerful listed companies. Lately, with a new rupee symbol India has joined the club of few elite nations to have a unique identity for their currency. But this progress has been asymmetrical. The country is still plagued by corruption, poverty, communalism and other human rights abuses. Haven’t many of our billionaires made money by their proximity to government?
If the British looted this country prior to the Independence, today our own politicians, bureaucrats and corporates are looting this country through their unholy nexus. The situation of farmers, Dalits, minorities and the poor is indeed deplorable. All over the country many farmers are rendered homeless and their fertile agricultural land is acquired for industrial expansion. There are growing cases of atrocities against the Dalits and Minorities in different parts of the country. According to the Multi dimensional Poverty Index there are more poor people (421 million) in eight Indian states- Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal- than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). 
In this context, can we really wish these homeless farmers, Dalits, minorities and poor of this country ‘Happy Independence Day?’
Only with a stronger political will and a resolute commitment to the values enshrined in the Constitution the entire nation can think of celebrating ‘Happy Independence Day’ on the 15th of August, every year. Or else it would continue to be a ‘Happy Independence Day’ for the few billionaires of this country and an ‘Unhappy Independence Day’ for the rest of the Indians.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

MSEZ might crushes yet another farmer!

Until recently Gregory was a passionate farmer, happily cultivating over 50 kinds of agriculural n horticultural products in his 15 acre land. He was also equally passionate about protecting his land from the likes of Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) and Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) who were eying his fertile land for their industrial expansion. As the vice president of the Bala Panchayat, he was also very keen on preventing the acquision of fertile agricultural land in his village and thus he would go around to advise many of his neighbours not to yield to the pressures of MSEZ and not to sell their fertile agricultural land. He was sad that many of his neighbours had succumbed to either the pressures or the attractive packages of the MSEZ and sold off their fertile agricultural land. Even when many his neighbours collected their compensation by selling their fertile land, he remained as one of the very few defiant faces in the area not yielding to either the pressures or attractive packages offered by the MSEZ. Needless to say, his defiance earned him many friends and enemies too. Many were fascinated by his passion for agriculture (at a time when many were distancing from it) and also by his courage to take on the mights of MRPL and MSEZ. On some occasions he had even been invited to some seminars that discussed the pros and cons of MSEZ and he also appeared in local tv channels explaining his stand against MSEZ. He even featured in NDTV. (watch it here). Also read my earlier post titled 'braving the onslaught of MSEZ' here.
All that has changed now. On 28th April, KIADB officials demolished his house rendering him homeless. Though it should have made national news, sadly only a few papers reported this inhuman incident. (i had even sent a message in twitter to Barkha Dutt (of NDTV fame!) to cover this issue but probably the message has not reached her yet!). For those interested in going through some of the newspaper links click here, here, here, here and here.
Good to note that even daijiworld reported this incident, which was a huge surprise. As i had written in my earlier post, daijiworld had all along appeared to be promoting MSEZ and to find this incident in the pages of daijiworld was a great surprise. Moreover, tvdaijiworld had even uploaded a video. Hats off to daijiworld and tvdaijiworld.
Personally, i am sad that there was no church official either to express solidarity with the family or to condemn this gross violation of human rights. On the other hand, i was happy that at least a swamiji was around to express his solidarity and to condemn this attack. 
Now what is next for this family? The family claims that the demolition was carried out illegally without serving them any notice, without giving them alternate accommodation and sufficient time to shift their valuables. The family also claims that many of their valuables like money and gold have been stolen. With the family refusing to move out from the place it appears that the family is determined (rightly so) to carry on the fight. 
Will this family get justice? or will this incident be soon forgotten to prove yet again that in India only might is right? 

Monday, April 12, 2010

BBMP Elections- Did the BJP really win?

The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) election results have indeed surprised many people, including the BJP, which managed to win 111 seats out of 198 seats. Given the communal conflicts that have rocked the State ever since the BJP government came to power, one would not have expected such a massive win for the BJP. It’s therefore a surprise (equally shocking!) that BJP has managed to win the BBMP elections handsomely. What is even more intriguing is that the BJP had fielded a few candidates from the minority communities, though only one managed to win a seat. 
Let us now look at each Assembly Constituency and see whether the Bengalurians have consciously voted for the BJP.

Monday, March 15, 2010

First they came- a revolutionary poem by Martin Niemoller

This is a popular poem which is attributed to the German Pastor Martin Niemoller. I find this truly revolutionary. It perfectly fits into our present context, especially Karnataka where we have witnessed a series of attacks on the Christians, Muslims, Women and Dalits. Its time to believe that 'silence is crime'. Hopefully this poem would motivate all these groups to come together and fight the divisive and hate ideology of the present government.

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The real culture of the 'culture police' exposed!

I don't think many would have forgotten about the infamous pub attack in Mangalore. The men who were invovled in the attack were some goons claiming to be members of Sri Ram Sene. To some extent, the real culture of these 'culture police' was revealed in the way they ill-treated, assaulted and molested those hapless women but now their real culture has been further exposed. Two senior functionaries of SRS, Prasad Attavar and Arun Puthila, have been arrested for their alleged links with anti-national underworld elements!
There is yet another report which states that Arunkumar Puthila has been arrested in connection with incidents of desecration of Gandhi Statue and gutting petty shops in Puttur.
Moreover, there is also the allegation that Mr Prasad Attavar was 'helping' many young men in getting jobs and in return demanding their 'services' for various anti-social activities.
Now that the real culture of these men has been exposed, it remains to be seen whether my Hindu brethren get convinced and enlightened that these men are merely extortionists and cultural goondas and have absolutely scant respect for any religious practices or would their 'hindutva mask' be too deep for my Hindu brethren to recognize the real culture of these 'culture police'?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Open Letter to the Home Minister of Karnataka, Mr Acharya

In the wake of frequent attacks on churches in Karnataka the home minister has come out with a master plan. He has suggested that the managements of religious institutions make their own security arrangements. In this open letter to the home minister I wish to mention how and why he has got it wrong.

Dear Home Minister, Mr Acharya,
I hope that you don’t need to be reminded of the fact that you are not the first home minister of this State. Many have preceded you and many will succeed you. But you would go down in history as the first home minister of Karnataka to make such an irresponsible and insensitive statement. My question is ‘what would have been your reaction if there were repeated attacks on Hindu temples?’ I don’t intend to say that temples should have been attacked or desecrated. But my point is whether your reaction would have been the same if there were repeated attacks on temples? I am highly inclined to think, therefore, that probably your RSS links have blinded you to such a degree that you are no longer capable of making responsible statements!
Perhaps you will remember that there have been many attacks on churches already. But sadly and strangely you have been consistently downplaying such attacks and declaring them as nothing more than robbery cases. But why would a robber break those religious idols/statues into pieces if his/her sole intention was theft?
It is good to know that you are aware of the number of police personnel in the state and the number of religious institutions. As you sayThere are 1.25 crore houses, 43,000 temples, 3,000 mosques and churches in the State. The State has only 90,000 police personnel and it is difficult to provide security to all places of worship’. But more importantly are you aware of the number of attacks on churches ever since you became the home minister of this State? Are you aware that there haven’t been any arrests of those involved in these attacks?
I would like to bring to your kind attention, in case you are not aware of this, that some sangh parivar groups like Bajrangdal, Sri Ram Sene etc have attributed these attacks to activities like conversion and attacks on Indians in Australia. In Batkal, for example, some members of Sri Ram Sene had even threatened to attack all the churches if violence against Indians was not stopped in Australia (Varthabharati, January 21, 2010 pg 3). So your argument that these attacks are only instances of robbery carries no weight.
One of the major achievements of the BJP government in Karnataka has been the budgetary support to religious mutts. With that support, mutts are definitely in a better position to provide adequate security arrangements for their religious structures. Why are mosques and churches deprived of such support? Isn’t it only fair to extend such budgetary support to mosques and churches to help them in their security arrangements? With that support, I am sure, they would be happy to accept your suggestion.
It appears that you are not very serious about your job as home minister. As you are a doctor by profession, the State would indeed be better off if you are relieved from your present responsibility to allow you to carry on with your practice as a physician. In fact some say that you did a lot of good as a physician.
Therefore, in the greater interest of the State, Mr Acharya, shouldn’t you quit as home minister and listen to those who say ‘physician heal thyself’?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Church attacks in Karnataka- Oh CM and HM when will you stop it?

On the eve of India’s 61st Republic Day, as the Nation was preparing to celebrate the 60 years of its Constitution, some goons in Karnataka engage in ‘celebrating’ this event by vandalizing two churches. Though a shame and disgrace to the nation’s constitution, such attacks/vandalism have become a regular feature, ever since the BJP has come to power in Karnataka. It’s a great mystery that on the one hand we have ever increasing attacks on churches and on the other we don’t have a single instance of any arrests relating to these attacks! No doubt our chief minister and home minister deserve special mention for promising that the guilty will be punished! At least they have been gracious in making those ‘promises’. One must really admire their great capacity to make such promises in abundance!
Though there have been promises by CM (Chief Minister) and HM (Home Minister) of arresting the culprits, strangely there have also been attempts to downplay these attacks. The cops consider it robbery and Chief Minister thinks some outsiders are behind these attacks. But A. K Subbaiah, former MLC, has termed these attacks as sponsored offence.
This is really scary- rising attacks, absence of any arrests and empty (but unlimited) promises by the leaders!  Add to this the recent appointment of Mr Eashwarappa, allegedly a hardcore RSS man, as the state BJP chief. Well, it can’t get worse as some think!
Yet another development in the state has been the rise in Hindutva conventions (though they are called Hindu conventions actually they are Hindutva conventions). What is the real purpose behind these conventions? To further polarize the people along religious lines or to promote peaceful coexistence? Unfortunately the focus seems to be the former with many speakers at these conventions making inflammatory speeches.
So the important question is whether the CM and HM are really serious about establishing peace, religious harmony and unity in this state? If yes, they should immediately arrest the persons responsible for church attacks and those who vitiate the peaceful atmosphere by making inflammatory/derogatory speeches.
On Republic Day, though the Governor has sought stringent action against the people responsible for church attacks will the CM and HM act responsibly and soon?

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Year Wish-list!

The year 2009 was pretty bad on many counts. The list of things that we would like to forget is definitely large, if not endless! But the question is ‘have we learnt any lessons from our mistakes?’ Joseph Stiglitz says that ‘the best that can be said for 2009 is that it could have been worse’! But he thinks that the world has learnt some important lessons. Well, is it optimism at its best? After all, economists are fond of assumptions!
Coming to India, the country has had many highs n lows in the year 2009. Among the lows, most distressing is the report of increase in poverty levels. According to the Tendulkar committee report, which was established to make a realistic assessment of poverty after the government faced criticism about its official estimates, poverty levels are 37.2 % which is much more than the official figures of 27.5 %. (some articles relating to this report are here and here.) We must not forget that even this report is faulty and therefore, the actual poverty rates would be much beyond 50 %.
Coming to Karnataka, I wonder if there are any great achievements to boast about. A peaceful state till recent times has sadly witnessed a steady growth in communal riots ever since BJP government has come to power. The recent data suggests that Karnataka has the dubious distinction of topping the list of communal clashes in South India. It has even overtaken Gujarat at the national level. No doubt a distressing trend. 
So, would 2010 go down in history as a year of great achievements- demonstrated by decrease in both poverty levels and communal riots?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Decoding Daijiworld's loyalty to MSEZ!

Time and again I have been baffled by daijiworld's style of reporting on the controversial MSEZ. It appears as though the daijiworld is blind to the excesses, read abuses/highhandedness, of MSEZ. If not, how else would one explain the selective reporting on the MSEZ that (so easily and frequently!) gets squeezed into daijiworld's pages? 
Let me elaborate. Lets take for example the very recent public audit of the MSEZ. This was indeed 'newsworthy' for Deccan Herald and among others and not for daijiworld, even when people like Aruna Roy and Medha Patkar were part of the programme! But strangely (or selectively) daijiworld reported the disrtribution of property title deeds just a day prior to this public audit. Its not that this didn't deserve publicity. But my point is why daijiworld attempted to be selective in its reporting on the MSEZ? Now if daijiworld were to be fair and unbiased in its reporting, what prevented it from reporting on the public audit of MSEZ? Is it because the audit took place on a sunday (read holiday) and therefore daijiworld didnt have men/women to cover the event? 
When we dig deeper into the pages of daijiworld, the extensive reporting on MSEZ becomes all the more evident. Thanks to Ms Florine Roche, MSEZ has made it to the pages of daijiworld in diverse ways- interview with the MD and Chief Executive Officer, interview with the Cheif Opearating Officer , report on the R and R colony and many others. At the same time, one wonders why daijiworld has not carried any report on the farmers' struggles/protests, or interviews with the farmers? Even NDTV carried a report on an illustrious farmer from Kalavaru, Mr Gregory Patrao, who has proved to be a real threat for the MSEZ expansion.
Well, it is said that a problem/issue has three sides- the victor's side, victim's side and the right side! Hasn't daijiworld's loyalty to the MSEZ deprived the legitimate space for the other two sides?