Saturday, May 03, 2014

Abki baar, questions to Modi sir-kar!

After having put forward my concerns to Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi, I now want to put forward my concerns to Shri Narendra Modi of the BJP, the only officially declared prime ministerial candidate. Modi sarkar, in all probability yours will be the alliance with the highest number of seats and you may form the government after 16th May, when the President invites you to do so. But, before that if you could answer a few of my concerns, then it would be nice.

  1. Why is your party against foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail?

    Your party's ideology (when it was formed) was to promote free-market practices, where the market forces decide who does business and who doesn't. To a certain extent, this still happens. That is why one mom-and-pop shop runs better than another, even when both are within half a kilometer's distance of each other. But then, why not extend this to multi-brand retail? Its advantages to consumers are well known and producers are well known. And why fear Walmart's entry? It may be an intimidating organisation, whose practices have partly been responsible for relocation of production sites to China, but then the same Walmart has failed in Germany. It wound up from there within ten years of first setting shop. So, there isn't too much to worry, they will succeed if we Indians allow them to succeed, else they will fail. By not supporting FDI in multi-brand retail, you are not only deviating from the stated ideology of your party, but also pandering to the small time traders, many of whom have cheated this country in millions of rupees in income taxes. Extremely few of them issue proper receipts. Most do not have a return policy in place.

  2. Why do you always sound "Me, myself and Irene" (although not in a comic, but a worrying way)?
    In all your interviews, you have been saying "I have done this in Gujarat", "in my Gujarat, I won't want this or that to happen", etc. I have rarely found you giving credit to the team that you lead. Yes, as a leader you are expected to be strong, clear and decisive, but then you bring yourself out as Superman, who is capable of performing difficult and multiple tasks single-handedly and successfully. But, people should understand that all the work is, at the very least, executed by a team (if not conceived in part or whole). Of course, your attitude, perhaps, helps them in performing their tasks without fear of interference, but without them none of your ideas would be executed. So, please show us that you have been successful in building a lean-mean poverty, corruption and many other evil fighting machine. Your interviews and speeches make you appear a Hulk, rather than a Eisenhower or Roosevelt.

  3. What is the obsession with the Ram Mandir programme?
    Your party couldn't resist putting the Ram Mandir programme in its manifesto. This, despite knowing that the matter is sub-judice. Of course, you did put in a rider saying that it would be through constitutional means, but then what is not revealed is most vital! Your party's plan to keep the Ram Mandir issue in the spotlight. This at a time when there are a large number of people who can barely eke a living out of their present occupations. Wouldn't it be more prudent to first work on development projects, like infrastructure, sanitation, encouraging industries boosting income, etc. before putting forth the Mandir agenda? I'm not speaking as a middle-class person who wants a job-security, but even those staying in Ayodhya (and Faizabad) are more worried about their current state of existence and end up looking at places out of their towns for employment, because of lack of opportunities there. The only ones successfully managing are the Mahants, the Hindu and Muslim organisations who solicit donations in the temple/mosque's name from tourists and pilgrims who come to visit Ayodhya and of course, the shopkeepers outside the temples. I would love to see Ayodhya developed as a centre of pilgrimage, but not when the centrepiece of all that matters is sub-judice.

  4. What is your stand on vigilance organs of the administration?
    The promise to fight against corruption has been a big trump card of your election campaign. But, in your own state the post of the Lokayukta has been vacant for quite some time and your government is in constant clashes with the governor on various issues regarding appointing a new Lokayukta. If this is your enthusiasm about the vigilance organs of the state administration, then how are we supposed to believe in your dedication to fight corruption? Indira Gandhi had once talked about having a "committed bureaucracy". Are you also looking forward to the same?

  5. Why don't you acknowledge the chinks in the Gujarat model?
    No model or government can be perfect. And, of course, in today's 27x7 media world governance is a game, more about perception than reality. But still, why have you not acknowledged that there are some goals still to be achieved. E.g. the water of the Narmada not yet reaching quite a few farmers. Or absence of properly functioning schools in some districts. The people of Gujarat are happy with the BJP government and hence have voted you to power twice over. But a lot still has to be achieved and you have to at the very least acknowledge that. And of course, there are unhappy people. It isn't without reason that the strength of the BJP hasn't been able to cross its tally of seats that it held in the previous assembly.
Sir, I sincerely hope that you will address some of these concerns of mine. Since your party hasn't been in power in the Centre, I can't ask you the questions that I put forward to Rahul Gandhi. But still, I hope I don't have to put those questions to you some time down the line.
Abki baar, questions to Modi sir-kar!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, April 13, 2014

And now, something for Rahul Gandhi

A friend of mine pointed to me that I should ask questions, not only to Arvind Kejriwal, but also Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi. Well, I want to, because no party is perfect, nor has any party in India provided a sustainable plan for India's development and progress. So, I decided let's start with the Grand Old Party of India's youth icon, Shri Rahul Gandhi.

Dear Shri Rahul Gandhi,
 With you being the Indian National Congress' de-facto nominee for the Prime Minister's post, the voice of the youth, the one bestowing the 9 rights, lone fighter of corruption I have a few questions for you. My only worry is the reply to most of my questions being "RTI and women's (or womens') empowerment." Or you lobbing the question back to me an asking me "what would you do about it?" But please, since your party aspires you to be the PM, I hope you will answer the questions of a concerned citizen of India.

  1. What is it with you being called "youth icon"?
    You were born in 1970. And you are being called a youth icon! Isn't that ironic? Don't you feel embarrassed by this? I mean, Sachin Tendulkar, who is three years younger than you has already retired from his primary occupation of playing cricket. And he is called a "senior sportsperson", an idol to be emulated and a role model. But where are you? I agree that the Indian constitution didn't allow you to debut before the age of 25, which gave Sachin a head-start of 5 years (he debuted in international cricket at just under 17), but then you were never seen involved with the students' wing of the Congress or its branch in Cambridge.  So, would mind shedding off the "youth icon" tag?

  2. Aren't you imposing a state's will onto people through the Right-to-food act?
    I agree that the intentions of such an act are noble. That those who aren't in a position to buy food for themselves, should receive the state's help. But then, isn't a better way of implementing this programme? By saying that we will give wheat, rice and millets at a cheap rate, aren't you imposing the state's will on to people, which goes completely against the tenets of a free democracy? There are areas where people rarely eat wheat or rice or coarse grains. E.g., Marathwada region in Maharashtra prefers to eat jowar and bajra, over wheat and rice. Or those in Konkan eat more of rice than wheat and millets. But then, because of the limits imposed by the food act, they would be forced to either buy the remaining from the open market or change their food habits. Is it morally correct to force people to alter their food habits? Moreover, by this act, you are also distorting the dynamics of agriculture, where you have ended up converting India into a wheat and rice country. Because farmers know that the government will buy their wheat and rice and hence aim to grow no other crop. Do you know edible oil is India's single largest agriculture import? An ingredient, without which no Indian dish can be cooked. That too, at a time when the FCI godowns are overflowing with wheat. With the government's procurements of wheat, rice and millets set to further rise, didn't you and your mother add another disturbance in the dynamics of the agriculture industry?

  3. Do you really, sincerely think that those nine weapons of yours will ease people's lives?
    You either tend to think or want people to believe that legislation is the best treatment for the malaise in public life. But, tell you what, once there is a system, there are loop holes. Everyone will exploit the loop holes in the system for his/her own benefits, thereby derailing the overall objective of the democracy. Please wake up from this day dream of yours, where you believe that legislation will cure the country of all ills caused by corruption. There is need for deterrence through prosecution and conviction of the accused, which the entire political spectrum in India today doesn't want to create. Even the Bofors case hasn't received closure and Sukh Ram got convicted by a lower court after fifteen years of trial! By contrast, Rajat Gupta's trial in the United States was over within 3-4 years right up to the Supreme Court.

  4.  You really feel that "Congress does not talk about one individual"?
    Yours is a party, whose president, D. K. Baruah, once said, "India is Indira and Indira is India." Now, you would say, that is history and the Congress has changed. That is difficult to understand. At least your grandmother had worked at various lower levels in the original Congress before she rebelled against that party and formed her own Congress(R), which was known as Congress(I), with I for Indira for quite a long time. And you have become the party's vice-president, before proving your mettle at lower or state levels, which many of the current AICC members have done. Do you still feel that Congress doesn't talk about an individual.

  5. For empowerment of women, will you do anything to undo the constitutional amendment emanating from the Shah Bano judgement?
    How about beginning from there. Your father had created this amendment, perhaps under pressure or wrong advice. His government overturned the judgement of the Supreme Court. If you want to empower women, can you begin from there. You will receive the BJP's support for that very easily. And your party will not go against what you say. So why not restore the rights of Muslim women for an alimony after divorce as per provisions of the civil law? This would be a great example of women empowerment that you keep repeating.
Sir, I sincerely hope that you will find the time to answer the questions.  They aren't  too many, because you are a busy person, but I would be grateful if you can answer them.
And now, something for Rahul GandhiSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Political fever catches me: My questions to Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Arvind Kejriwal. You have got me in the game. Since every body is asking politicians questions, I felt like asking you as well. I hope you will find the time to address those. Here are my questions. They are not too many in number, like those you submitted to the Chief Minister of Gujarat. So, I hope they won't take too much of your precious time.

  1. Why did you resign as the Chief Minister of Delhi?
    Only 48 days into the government, you gave up! In the drama of a resignation speech that you gave outside your party office, you claimed that it was because the Congress and BJP ganged up against you on the behest of Mukesh Ambani. But, you didn't bother to present any proof of that. We were supposed to believe that since the opposition put hurdles in passing an anti-corruption law, you resigned. And also because you filed an FIR against their (according to you) super boss, Mukesh Ambani. Then, you said that you didn't flee the responsiblities, and again repeated that they were colluding and not allowing the government to function. But pray, would you tell us what activities of the government were they stalling? Only the introduction of an anti-corruption bill, for which you too weren't following the procedures requested by the LG of Delhi! You haven't bothered to tell us what other activities were stalled! At least, the UPA claims that the opposition didn't allow passing of key bills, which is a valid point, doesn't matter what those bills were.

    Do you want to know what is not quitting and fleeing? Sachin Tendulkar batting in the second innings of the 1999 test match against Pakistan in Chennai, despite an aching back. He would have got his match fees even if he retired hurt, but he gave his best and though India lost, he didn't give up! Or fours years later, Anil Kumble bowling in a test match in West Indies, with a broken jaw. And claiming Lara's wicket. You know why they are considered role models? Because they didn't give when they felt things were going against them.

  2. Why weren't people consulted before you resigned as Delhi CM?Before forming the government in Delhi, you claimed to ask the opinion of the citizens of Delhi whether they wanted you to form the government. Then, you said that since there is an overwhelming majority of people wanting you to form a government, you are doing so. But then, what happened to the people's desires when you resigned? In my opinion, you have gone against the people's desire to withdraw from governing Delhi. You didn't ask for their opinion before resigning. You simply wanted them to believe that you resigned because the Congress and BJP were colluding to not allow the AAP government to function. Again, without a proof to back your statement.

  3. How did you determine that the KG-D6 gas costs US$ 1.00 to be extracted and hence shouldn't be priced at more than US$ 1.20?What is the basis of these figures? You are an IIT engineer. You must have done some project costing and analysis to come up with this figure. Why haven't you presented your analysis to the people? You are quoting final results without showing your procedure of calculations. Remember, as engineers we used to ask the professors about partial credit for correct procedure? Even the letter where you claimed that Narendra Modi himself wrote a letter to the centre to hike gas prices, turned out to be one written by the chairman of the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), and not by the Modi government. Sir, the GSPC is a listed company, headed by a civil services (IAS) officer. How do you say that the chairman of a listed PSU is same as the government?

  4. Why are Delhi MLAs being given Lok Sabha tickets?
    You mentioned in the end of February that no sitting MLAs of the AAP will receive a ticket for the 214 Lok Sabha elections. But then, as of March end, Rakhi Bidlan is your candidate from a seat in Delhi, you are contesting against Narendra Modi in Varanasi. Pray, why this change in stance and why is there no explanation for this change? What if the Delhi LG invites the AAP to form a government in Delhi? Surely, Somnath Bharati can't become the CM!

  5. How are corruption and communalism two sides of the same coin?
    You said this in your speech, didn't you? But how did you reach to this conclusion? Are you saying that a corrupt person is communal and vice versa? Or that communalism leads to corruption? And corruption leads to communalism? Pray, how? I am at a loss to understand this!

  6. Is a letter signed by a PSU chairman an order of the government?
    You released a letter, written by the chairman of the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation, which is a public sector undertaking, claiming that it was a Gujarat government letter. Is it true that all PSUs are a part of the cabinet of any government? You were in the Income Tax department. Can you tell me then, is it possible that the profits that the PSU earns can be claimed as income by the government to which the PSU belongs? If yes, then fine. But if no, then how come a PSU chairman's letter becomes the letter of the government. No, if you say that the Gujarat government didn't stop the GSPC chairman from writing such a letter, then you are saying that governments should interfere with the business matters of the PSU. If you say, the government is forcing the PSU chairman to write such a letter, then please prove that. Further, the gas price that has been sought is for the GSPC's gas field, which will earn "windfall profits" for the PSU itself, not Mukesh Ambani!!
Sir, I know you are an extremely busy person, since you have to expose a lot of corrupt activities of politicians and business persons. However, I would be extremely grateful if you could answer these questions. 
Political fever catches me: My questions to Arvind KejriwalSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

India After Gandhi: Ramchandra Guha

After a pretty long time I am writing about a book. India After Gandhi, by Ramchandra Guha, takes us in the era, which history books in school end at. For most of us, India's history ends with Nehru's famous tryst with destiny speech and the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. But, in reality India's history as a nation, begins from 1947, when her existing boundaries and shape came into being.

The book talks about all the major events that have shaped the present situations in the country since 1947.
The enormous tasks and challenges presented by the independence, partition and the British mandate to the princely states of being free to join either union or declare independence from both. The country's first cabinet faced challenges from different directions at the same time. These ranged from rehabilitation of those displaced by the partition; uniting people who were divided along all imaginable lines like religion, caste, language, territory, etc.; presenting to the country a set of rules and regulations that would govern them with fairness and most important of all, food and shelter. 

The book very nicely describes the way Nehru's cabinet negotiated through the amazingly complex maze and labyrinth. Negotiations, persuasions and debates were the only ways used in resolving almost all disputes. Guha describes the challenges faced by the constitutional assembly and the bureaucracy in turning the nation into a democratic society based on universal adult franchise. With the benefit of hindsight that we now have, the book makes us realise how fortunate we were to have leaders of the calibre of Nehru, Ambedkar, S. P. Mookerjee, J. B. Kriplani and others. Nehru's staunch belief in democratic process meant that many of his favourite ideas and views were critically debated and he was constantly ready to accommodate the concerns of the opposition too. Several proposals of his were modified and watered down but each was fiercely debated in Parliament.

The country has never been without challenges. Right from independence, there have been movements aimed at seceding from India, external invasions and internal troubles. The book talks about some of the successes and failures that the nation has seen in this regard. It also talks about the way India went on to build its economy and the push and pull from within about the direction of the development. As we read the book, we realise how leaders with strong grass root connections can actually give a good shape to discussions and debates on various issues. Of course, this has its pitfalls, like Indira Gandhi responding to the masses' disappointment with her infamous garibi hatao slogan. One of the most glaring examples of not being connected to the masses and acting on suggestions of coterie is that of Rajiv Gandhi reversing the Shah Bano judgement and then opening the locks of the Ram temple/Babri masjid in Ayodhya.

Guha also talks about the statesmanship of opposition leaders like J. B. Kriplani, A. B. Vajpayee amongst various others, which sort of makes the reader a little sad when compared to the politicians of the present. He talks of the deterioration in the democratic processes since Indira Gandhi's time, which has continued till date. Increased instances of governments trying to become more populist and trying to enforce their mandates (and views) without thorough discussion in the legislative platforms provided by the constitution. A very pertinent point, which stands out till date, was made by Nehru and is quoted in Guha's book, which sums up the democracy that we are:
 The quality of men who are selected by these modern democratic methods of adult franchise gradually deteriorates because of lack of thinking and the noise of propaganda... He [the voter] reacts to sound and to the din, he reacts to repetition and produces either a dictator or a dumb politician who is insensitive. Such a politician can stand all the din in the world and still remain standing on his two feet and, therefore, he gets selected in the end because the others have collapsed because of the din.
The book ends with the results of the 2004 elections, considering the fact that since 2004 till date it was a contemporary period for Ramchandra Guha, rather than a history. The book is a great reading for those who want to understand the country and its political and economic discourse since 1948. It definitely helps in reshaping our views about the decisions that were taken at that time, which of course continue to affect us till date.

India After Gandhi: Ramchandra GuhaSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mumbai crowds understand their cricket, Virat!

Virat Kohli is unhappy about how the crowd jeered him in Mumbai, during the Mumbai Indians vs. Royal Challengers Bangalore game. And, he lashed back at them during the post-match presentation and press conference

He wants the crowd to remember that he plays for India too!! And hence, he should not be booed. Since when did representing India become a certificate that will prevent booing? He doesn't understand why is there so much "hatred" at this particular venue. And he feels people should be aware of their cricket. Well, Kohli, you are the vice-captain of the Indian team, and captain of the Royal Challengers' team, but your statements certainly reveal your ignorance of the historic passion the Mumbai crowd has for cricket. This is a crowd that has booed and jeered visiting teams when they play Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy matches. For them, when Mumbai is playing they are passionate and take every win and loss of the team almost personally. So, instead of actually enjoying the fact that city-based leagues like IPL are creating local fans who feel an attachment to their team, Virat wants these fans (and consequently all those others watching the IPL) to be magnanimous and remember that players representing other cities play for India too and hence shouldn't be jeered/booed.

No sir, that isn't what city-based leagues are supposed to do. They are exactly supposed to do what the Ranji Trophy does. Create a loyal base of fans for your team. That is what happens in other leagues like everyone's favourite the EPL. And it is the same with (American and Canadian) football leagues here and ice-hockey matches. Fans root for their city/state/province and if they feel like, boo the opposition. It doesn't matter if there are players in the opposition who represent their country. Right now, you are a rival of our home team! And you will be viewed as one. Doesn't Virat passionately advertise for the Bangalore team? 

Yes Virat, Mumbai cricket fans are a passionate lot and when Mumbai plays, they take it personally. And they will cheer for you, when you appear for team India, but when you play in the IPL, you are a rival. Try to take it sportingly. Perhaps the IPL is successful in creating city-based loyalties, which is necessary even for franchisees if they want a marketable fan-base. Ask your boss (and his son), they would be happy to see a Bangalore crowd which demonstrates fierce loyalty towards its team. Right now, your 'viraat' verbal diarrhea against the Mumbai crowd doesn't give you any brownie points and shows that you do not have it in you to stomach such opposition with a large heart. Perhaps, you might want to learn a few things from your RCB predecessors- Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble.
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