Friday, March 10, 2017

Need of the Hour - A Strong National Opposition Party

Disclaimer: I am a great fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 


I admire him for what he tirelessly & intuitively does for the nation and for the people of India. I admire him for his ability to awaken the feeling of 'being proud of who we are' amongst most ordinary Indians, from all walks of life. I admire him for his plain speak, without dishing out uncalled for 'freebies'. I admire him for his ability to connect with ordinary Indians and carry them along, despite hardships - how else would an exercise like demonetisation have gone through trouble free, despite all political parties and media houses protesting against it and trying to build public opinion against it. I admire him for taking all the criticism & barbs thrown at him as PM without letting up on his work.

I don't see any other person on our political landscape who has the capability and the will to lead India out of the mess that we are in. The reason for this is not far to seek. Narendra Modi, a chaiwallah, started from a very humble background, worked his way up the political ladder, and more importantly has not forgotten his roots, like most politicians (and most of us too) do when they get a foothold on the political ladder. What is the mess we are in? 

We have one of the fastest growing economies but we have the poorest people too who do not have access to basic needs of survival - clean potable water, adequate food to survive, basic shelter, rudimentary health care; in short the basic means to live a decent life as humans. Leaders and Prime Ministers over the years have brushed aside these facts and have been content with mere slogans like 'garibi hatao' while filling up their own already full coffers, without ensuring implementation of the major part of those slogans. They permitted money to be siphoned off from schemes and encouraging corruption. Corruption came to such a pass that the Prime Minister and his cabinet, in UPA-2, instead of hanging their head in shame, kept justifying the same in terms of coalition politics, as also negating the charges and misleading the nation. Our national scene could not have been more dismal.  

A leader comes on our national centre stage who does not feel ashamed to galvanise the nation on these basics. He starts his term with bowing his head at the portals of the temple of democracy, our parliament. He lives by the tenets of our Constitution. He has no charges of corruption against him. He works tirelessly. He has ignited the imagination of the people of India and also of people living all around the world, on to the possibilities that India holds. He is a workaholic who works tirelessly to take India to its rightful place in the comity of nations, while ridding our nation of the various ills, the major ones being lack of self confidence, corruption, and putting the equations right - he calls himself the pradhan sevak, and demands the same of his government. Jawahar Lal Nehru had coined the phrase 'public servants' but in due course all government functionaries turned into rulers with the citizens treating them like mai baaps. The symbols of the state started serving themselves while ignoring the needs of the citizens that they were required to serve.

PM Modi is working hard to change this equation and make his government function 'for the people', the actual raison d'etre of democracy, phrased centuries ago in the words 'by the people, of the people and for the people'. We have followed the first two meticulously over the years, except during a short duration of emergency, but the third one has somehow been forgotten over the years. Our rulers demand protection from the same people they are required to serve and protect. What an irony?

I found this video in which actor Anupam Kher gives out the reasons for his being a Modi fan or chamcha (spoon) as he puts it. My views are nearly similar.

I am also aware that PM Modi is human too and must be having a lot of shortcomings, like all of us. However, his actions as PM are totally above board. The BJP is like any other political party and would resort to the same things without a strong leader like Modi. It is thus important that we have a strong opposition in the country. The Congress has not done anything to listen to the voice of the people of the country who have rejected them time and again. This speaks of very poor or self centred leadership. 

The UP election results are awaited but all exit polls are pointing to a rout of the Congress. Except for Punjab, the results in the other four are also expected on similar lines. Punjab may be a face saver for the Congress because of Capt Amrinder Singh. There is a crying need for the Congress to revive under new leadership, but the Congress thus far has not believed in introspecting about why the people are rejecting it; they are too busy plotting, and trying to find holes in whatever the government does, whether it is demonetisation, the strikes across the border, the ISIS, etc. 

High time the Congress re-invented itself under new leadership, to provide a viable opposition to the juggernaut of the BJP. This way they would  be doing the greatest service to this nation. I had blogged about this earlier too, immediately after the Maharashtra civic poll results were announced at the following address:

A strong national opposition party is needed in India 

The most relevant point has been as follows: "11 March 2017 will be a watershed day for India. In case the BJP makes further progress in the five states and the Congress trips even more, it would time for the Congress to immediately call for a change of leadership at every level; preferably changing over to a leadership that is connected with the grassroots level. Suave, urban, Delhi based 'leaders born with a silver spoon' who are totally out of touch with India will have to be sidelined. This would be in the best interests of the country. India deserves a better opposition." 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Brilliant Article by a Thinking Mind - Dawn Newspaper

I have always felt that every thing in our universe is interconnected, maybe because my belief system has always emphasised 'Vasudaiva Kutumbukum' (a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu texts such as the Maha Upanishad, which means "the world is one family". Anything that I do to hurt you will eventually come back to hurt me too; such is the nature of our interconnectedness. 

Also, it is my belief that human beings are the most intelligent species. However, we humans may do irrational acts for sometime to spite some one else, but in the end when the 'chickens come home to roost' we will perforce have to come together to find solutions to problems that are actually common, but may have seemed to be disparate. 

There is nothing more precious than the God-given gift of life; my belief system has nothing to do with this gift; my belief system is based purely on my family at birth, in nearly all cases. 

Terrorism today is trying to snuff out that precious gift, based on a mistaken or misshaped narrative that has not kept pace with time and place. Also, there is no such thing as 'good' and 'bad' terrorists, as some have opined and that too professionally. There is a need to change/ reform these mistaken/ misinterpreted narratives.

It is also true that change/ reform cannot be imposed from outside, but has to happen from within - be it a country, religion, or a person. The external stimuli can only provide the trigger and spur the change/ reform, if one is perceptive, and positive. Anjum Altaf's article in the Dawn is one such internal voice of reason that I do hope will resonate with the people of Pakistan. I can only hope that such voices grow in numbers, and in strength, such that the large, and loud, chorus can help transform his nation.

This brilliant article is very logical and is trying to hold a mirror to his nation, and to its institutions and people. I reproduce the same below, in full.

Locating the Enemy

Anjum altaf

I SPEAK as a layperson not as an expert on the subject and so may be missing a lot but I have a strong feeling something is very wrong with the way terrorism is being combated in the country. If I am mistaken, and I fervently wish I am, I would really appreciate someone explaining what might be going on.
Ever since the recent spate of suicide bombings a feverish campaign has been launched against terrorists and if reports are to be believed over a 100 were eliminated in just a couple of days.
What puzzles me is how the terrorists who have been eliminated were identified and located so quickly. Did we always know where they were but were letting them be for some reason? If we were letting them be was it because we did not have enough evidence they were involved in terrorism? If that is indeed the case, how could we just go ahead and eliminate them without conclusive evidence? And, if we did have the evidence and knew where they were, why did we not arrest them and establish their involvement in some sort of a normal civilised manner?

It is quite hard to believe that our enemies convinced us to create these monsters.

These questions, as I have said, are very confusing and I cannot help but think that we are not being told the truth. Either that or our rulers have attained such a unique state of incompetence that they too do not know what they are doing. Both alternatives are frightening and frankly unacceptable. Once again we are faced with what we might call our enduring condition, the Bin Laden phenomenon — did we know or didn’t we? Neither answer does us any honour.
It seems to me that the frenzy of maniacal activity is just intended to convey an impression of steely determination and purposeful action in order to placate the public and buy time. Who knows how many innocent people are being sacrificed to keep up this charade. In the meanwhile, we are subjected to inane statements that the opening of the new Islamabad airport would promote the soft image of Pakistan and holding a cricket match would convince the world that the country is safe from terrorism and bring superstars flocking back to the country.
I fail to understand how spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe a handful of foreigners to play a game in a nuclear bunker can be convincing proof that the country is back to normal. Or how announcing that a permanent force of 15,000 military personnel needs to be deployed to protect a trade corridor would reassure investors that the country is safe for business. This is self-delusion carried to absurdity.
And what should one make of the resolve that terrorists would now be pursued into other countries? How would one respond if some other country takes that as a licence to pursue terrorists into our country? This is jumping from the frying pan into the fire, potentially pushing the entire region towards a conflagration. Is there someone thinking before shooting off at the mouth?
Add to that the spate of accusations that our enemies are exacerbating our problems because they do not wish us to succeed or even to hold a cricket match.
Much as one would like to swallow this line it is really hard to believe that it was our enemies who convinced us to create these monsters in the first place.
Or that it is our enemies who are forcing us to discriminate between good terrorists and bad, between real terrorists and mere sectarian killers, and between terrorists and philanthropists who rush to help the poor and needy in times of floods and earthquakes when the state fails to do what it is supposed to do.
Is it all that difficult to comprehend that people can be philanthropists and terrorists at the same time if an ideology can be made to seem ‘compatible’ with both activities?
It is hard to understand why we can’t approach these matters with the normal process of state-to-state collaboration to eliminate terrorism from the region which would be a win-win outcome for all.
Or maybe it would not. Otherwise why do we seem to be in this game of ranking terrorists along some scale of goodness or usefulness? If that is indeed the case, could someone have the courtesy of taking the nation into confidence, explaining how some terrorists are better than others and what we are aiming to do with the good ones?
And while we are being made wise to that could we also be told if we are succeeding or not and how far we are from the grand objective we have set for ourselves, whatever it is?
A failure to provide convincing answers can only lead to one conclusion: We have met the enemy and he is us.
The writer is an economist.
Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Arvind Kejriwal - The Anarchist.

Yesterday, I was watching news on the Sahara Samay National channel. The news broadcast had the usual advertisement breaks in between. Nothing out of the normal thus far. What was different was that during the ad breaks during this entire news bulletin there were only two advertisement clips, which were repeated ad nauseam. Both had only one actor - the CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal. What he tried to convey to the people at large was shocking to me.

He was trying to highlight his achievements - AAP is Kejriwal, and Kejriwal is AAP. He stated that he had promised 'free water, and half electricity bills and that he had fulfilled his promise. He also went on to give you a breakup of what that electricity would have cost, if you lived in another state. He also bragged about providing free water.

In the second clip he spoke about Mohalla clinics - air conditioned with free medicines for all. The Delhi government hospitals have been upgraded, and again free medicines. Government schools being brought up and that teachers are being sent abroad with an aim to providing quality education to all in government schools. A very noble thought indeed.

In essence, his justifications were only the 'free' that he had provided the people of Delhi.

I have been thinking on this issue of 'free'. How can some one give any thing free in this age, in India at least. Every system costs money in terms of capital costs involved in setting up the infrastructure for the system; the normal wear and tear, and consequent replacement costs; employees to run the system, and their salaries; day to day running expenses, including office and other space; transportation costs, etc. How can some one setup, run and maintain all this without charging at least the actual cost to the consumer. Instead of educating the consumer, it is politically expedient to provide free stuff but how long can this continue. Every system needs to be maintained and replaced someday. Where will the money come from then. I thought a person who has worked with the IRS would at least understand all this. However, his advertisements have convinced me that he is hood winking himself and the people of Delhi. How can rational people be so gullible, as voters? There are indications, from the punter community, that he is likely to form a government in Punjab.

Taking the case of water. In case one is permitted to go to the Yamuna and tap the water directly for himself, then no costs are involved. However simplistically speaking, if you collect the water in a reservoir through pipes and pumps, treat it, and then supply it through pipelines laid on the ground and finally dispose off an equal amount of the same, now as waste water after duly treating it, THEN surely large capital and running costs are involved. Who is paying for those costs? Where are you subsidising these costs from? Some revenue has to be generated to offset these costs. How are you going to generate that revenue or you once again going to agitate that the Central government is not covering your irrational expenses, without caring to balance the books of your own state.

Courtesy: Google Images

I cannot forget his image of climbing up on a electricity pole and fiddling with the electric wires. Those images have now all been acquired by Gettys Images and are not downloadable. This one is on a similar pattern - a person aspiring to lead is asking and showing people how to sabotage systems. Beyond me!

He is an anarchist, and he himself confesses to it. Is he fit enough to lead as an unconventional person and an anarchist?

I would love to hear the views of the people of Delhi.

Worth Repeating - An Insightful Quote, from September 2008

M J Akbar in the Times of India, September 2008

 "Terror is testing the resilience of the Indian government and the sagacity of the Indian people. The first is in shambles, but the second is holding up. The will of the people has become the safety net protecting the Indian state from the wont (a slightly archaic English word for normal behaviour) of Manmohan Singh and Shivraj Patil". 

Very well said Mr Akbar.