Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rahul Baba

 Image: Mid day

Rahul Gandhi sees himself as an instrument of change. His prescriptions are overbearing: change the constitution and so on. The Congress Party waits with bated breath to listen to his sermons. He does that often, sometimes from the floor of the house, reading out prepared text like a school boy for fifteen minutes in a monotone, with his pseudo-intellectual coterie of advisers, young men of a similar description, some of them are MPs, clap in approval with sycophancy gleaming in their eyes. 

Rahul has said that he does not utter a word on an issue unless he has given it a due consideration, perhaps this explains why it took him this long, he is MP for last seven years, to realize that graft was at the root of the political system.

41 years old Rahul Baba, party general secretary in charge of IYC and the National Students' Union of India (NSUI), declared, "People talk about corruption,” we are glad to know that they do, further,  “The biggest corruption is in our political system," (now we know) he said addressing a two-day convention of Indian Youth Congress (IYC) attended by some 8,000 young elected office-bearers. 

He urged his foot-soldiers in the Youth Congress to join politics to cleanse the system.

Home minister P. Chidambaram, the oldest person present, whose election to the current Lok Sabha is still speculated as a fraud on democracy with allegations to this effect made by none other than the current chief minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalitha, said, "Elders at some point of time must step back and give way to younger leaders." As if he holding a position in the government is at the mercy of his sweet will. 

Anyways, lets deal with Rahul here. He called for a comprehensive change, youth should take charge, he asserted:  "Youth Congress has zero tolerance for corruption and we commit ourselves to fight corruption at all levels." 

He perhaps meant that old Congressmen do not. The senior congressmen who are running the the government, in fact, have great tolerance for corruption. We have seen the 2G scam. CWG scam was carried out with some kind of statutory impunity. No real action has been taken. Small fishes are being grilled while the real big fishes grin. Read my first cover story for Open Magazine WHY IS NOBODY TALKING ABOUT SHEILA DIKSHIT (http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/nation/why-is-nobody-talking-about-sheila-dikshit)  to understand what I am taking about. 

 Image: Paisawala.com

To me what Rahul now says about corruption is a rude joke. I appreciate his candour on corruption in politics, but this lip service is too late and too little. Nation wants to see government act against the corrupt. But people fail to understand how can a government act against itself? Rahul's misplaced candour lacks sincerity. He should first set his own house in order, that is the Congress lead UPA government, and not deflect the issue on opposition and civil society

This whole debate that “Constitution and the institution of Parliament” are being undermined by having a strong anti-graft law is so funny and farcical. He says,  “All attempts that are being made to denigrate them by Opposition parties and some civil society groups." The UPA government is doing a great service to “Constitution and the institution of Parliament”  by not acting against corrupt because most of the accused are the members of this august Parliament. 

It is a different matter, though, that in our Constitution 'we the people' is sovereign, not the Parliament. 

Hitting out at civil society that gave UPA--a very corrupt patronizing and conviction starved government--sleepless nights would not help. A strong anti-graft law that makes corruption a less safe crime is good for the Constitution and for the democracy.  Rahul should know that nearly a trillion US dollar of public money is stashed in foreign banks thanks to the unholy nexus of politician-corporate-bureaucrat. To get it back will require more than a considered opinion aired at a captive audience.

Rahul made certain politically motivated statements thinking that the people of Uttar Pradesh (will soon have assemble elections) in specific and people of this country in general are blinking idiots. He called for "inclusive politics" which is all about inviting a Dalit and minority communities on the podium to address the gathering. Mere tokenism. So banal, lacks imagination, thinking and vision.

He also defined the difference between Congressmen and their political rivals. "In other parties, senior leaders command and junior leaders obey. But in the Congress all members come to the party on their ability and strength. Not one of you has come from the sky through a parachute. You know what I mean by that," he said. Well we do know what he means by that. His entire youth congress office bearers, in all the states, are from some political family or the other. He himself would not have been a prime candidate for the prime minister’s post had he not belonged to the Gandhi dynasty. A dynasty driven party lectures others on internal party democracy is unpalatable.  

While Rahul was celebrating risibly internal party democracy, his own aid reaffirming that Congress Party and the Gandhi family are synonymous. AICC general secretary Birender Singh, also a Rajya Sabha member from Haryana, son of a renowned Congress leader Neki Ram (mini dynasty), made a strong case that the Congress was weakened whenever the hand of the Nehru-Gandhi family was not with it. “The party, which had witnessed many splits, had remained united since Sonia Gandhi took over as it chief," went on to say  "If anything can ensure Congress success, especially in adverse circumstances, it will be your (Rahul's) leadership."

Image: rediff.com
Jai ho Rahul baba ki.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Incorrigible Sister

We are the most unlike twin.

She is the only one I have a license to misbehave. I can say things to her that she hates hearing, say it repeatedly. I take her for granted. I can afford to take her for granted. I know she will be there for me, always, whatever I may do, howsoever intolerable I may become.

I have been intolerable, lately. She calls me to inform something nice. I pick a fight. I react rancorously for my own reasons or failings. She keeps listening to my banter, silently. Then, reminds me politely, ‘I am in office.’ I counter remind her that I don’t care and that I have nasty things to tell her, I will continue to do that. She listens holding her mobile six inches away from her ear. When I take a breather after explaining why everything about her is wrong, she asks me calmly, “What is wrong with you?” I yell back, “Me!?”  "Get married," she commands and then declares, “I am going to put an advertisement in a matrimonial site or Times of India.” This predictably infuriates me even more. I yell back "it's my life!" saying horrid things to her. She continues her chanting: "get married, get married, get married……. get married………. get married.” 

She has done well for herself. But she has had her share of raw deals. She dealt well with them. She is strong and resolute. 

I will never learn to deal with her properly and will remain atrocious and absurd as always. 

Notwithstanding anything mentioned above, she is nowhere close to me in terms of grayness of matter inside the brain. She tells me “okay, if it makes you feel better,” and asserts after a pause, “but do get married.”

Will add more soon, after next fight, it is a developing story. 

October, 2011: with her daughter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


A column of a senior journalist I read this morning was objecting to the Media Trails. 

I agree, there should be no mudslinging. But, if the reports are based on facts, there should be no stopping them, either.

Transparency is India's only hope against institutionalised corruption that to me seems bigger than the formal government processes.

I don't think that there is any problem in bring facts, more facts, in public domain. It puts a cap on the government's ability, and that of its agencies, to cover up.  

The other objection to the media trail is that it creates a false perception in the minds of people at large. If the reports are based on facts than there is no such danger. Facts don't lie. 

As far as media trails putting undue pressure on the judges, specially lower judiciary, is concerned, i think the judiciary should be matured enough not to be guided by just media reports.

This is all true if and only if, and that is a big if I acknowledge, media reports are factual. If they are factual there cannot be any divorce between so called 'media trails' and the actual trails, as they both ideally are driven by facts, and not by some misplaced emotional drive.

Judiciary is in the best position to decide a case because they are presented with the complete set of facts, with the players and participants saying what they have to under no duress. 

Even though media does not have access to full facts, as judiciary, by bring out more and more facts in the public domain, it puts a cap on the ability of investigating agency to present a 'selective' factual premise to sell their, sometimes awry, conspiracy theories to judiciary. 

In long term it hurts no one to be transparent but for the notable exception of those who stand to benefit wrongly from the system.    

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bet its not Cricket!

Pakistani cricket players, former captain Salman Butt, opening bowlers: Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, are convicted in a match fixing case in UK, may end up 7 years in jail. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2011/nov/01/pakistan-cricket-trio-convicted-conspiracy?newsfeed=true).

So why do players do what these three did?

Cricket is just not another sport in Pakistan, like India, it is a passion. It is a very sad situation for any sport when the outcome of a match is decided outside the playing area. But in the case of cricket, when it comes to the Indian subcontinent, it is worse than treachery.

In the past, players from Indian Subcontinent, South Africa were found involved in match fixing. This is not new. It is an ongoing phenomenon that is only growing in scale with the every passing year.

Cricket-because of the kind of popularity it commands-is a money spinner like no other activity in India. That is why India is now the new powerhouse of cricket as 70 percent of the cricket revenue is sourced here. The focus is shifted to the Indian Subcontinent from England and Australia. It is no more a gentleman's game, cricket is the sport of the masses.

It is also the favorite sport for betting cartel in this part of the world. Some Rs 10,000 crore worth of betting took place during the one-day cricket world cup last year. The most recent, twenty-twenty format is very  conducive for betting: offers quick results, quick bucks!. The 'spot betting' has ensured that outcome of every delivery bowled is up for betting: would it be a hit for a six, or four, or will it be a no ball or a wide? Make your bet.  Every aspect of the sport is to play for in a gamble house.

The bookies are desperate. Lot is at stake. They have to, somehow, influence the outcome of the match in a way that makes them big money. They need to have prior knowledge of micro and macro outcome of a match. The bigger the match, more is at stake. India-Pakistan encounter in a cricket field is a golden opportunity for the match fixers that comes rarely. One such match can earn them hundreds of crores of rupees. Bookies will leave no stone unturned to caste their shadow on the match.

While some players cannot deal with the temptation that quick bucks offers, the match fixing cartel does not operate only with the support of some of these unscrupulous players. The cricket management, umpires, referees, even players' support staff and groundsmen all have their part to play, all have their claim to the booty.

It is the parallel economy of cricket. It is not about the game, but manipulation of the game. Cricket match is a like a stage where players (read performers) enact their preordained part.

This is really not going to stop because of the big money is involved. A friend in the income tax department told me that cops, politicians, industrialists and other categories of respectable citizens actively indulge in cricket betting. There is little hope.

There can only be a deterrence value if match fixing cases are investigated and players punished/convicted, as is happened in this case where three Pakistani players are staring at 7 years of imprisonment. They can at best make cricket match fixing less safe a crime. 

Till then, all Indian victories, or lossess for that matter, would appear fixed to some reasonably skeptic fans. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What do you say when you have nothing to say but you have to say something?

Describe weather! But alas the weather is inclement, already a freak snow storm hit the North Eastern America, too early in the year, and power cuts followed, the east coast was engulfed in darkness (reportedly will continue for a week) as the temperature dipped low. This winter promises to be very severe. So talking about weather is not essentially a polite talk about good things in life.

I read a banal piece that reiterated that India is a country of contradictions: Formula 1 car race happen in a country where the poverty line is Rs. 32 per capita per day (technically some one who makes Rs 33 per day is above poverty line and is relatively richer). 

The newspapers celebrated the birth of 7 billionth living human being of the world, Nargis-a girl, 1.2 billion of them are Indians anyways. It is a reason to worry.

A German friend was cursing Indian middle class, now about 250 million people, for indulging in wasteful expenditure. "They are worse than Europeans," he said. 

I would call it complexities of urban life in a fast changing society. The need to look good is intense. People are willing to pay huge price to get structural changes done to their bodies to look fancier. The need to seek external references seems to be the most potent motivator. It can really get nagging.  

The amount of success achieved in life is directly proportional to the size of the car one owns. Richer people move in bigger cars. Very rich people have private jets. 

While the middle class (this term is used very loosely, i must say as lose is the whole concept of middle class) is busy setting new standards of material success, the streets in the bigger towns are traffic jammed by big cars, as there number of successful people is on a rise, is rising all the time. Delhi alone buys a thousand vehicles every day, air therefore is polluted, food is contaminated for different set of reasons. It is normal for young men to die of heart attack because they demand a lot from themselves and they take these demands rather too seriously. Consumerism is become rapacious. The hate crimes, passion crimes and incidents of road rage is far more brutal. The number of stab injuries inflicted per murder is exponentially higher. It is not happy times as people carry huge amount of latent anger within, waiting to explode.

And what do we do about it? What can we do about it? Those who survive another day are glad they did. Ignore the rest of humanity as if it does not exists. People are happy because they are immune to the miseries of others, also to the collective miseries. It is perhaps a survival tactics. 

A brat in his late teens makes a passionate case: all beggars should be shot down as they are parasites. The civic agencies are committed to the beautification of the cities, considers homeless people an eyesore, dump them in sub-human conditions on the peripheries of the cities. 

Prices of essential commodities are at a all time high, living is expensive, death is getting dirt cheap. 

The economy is sliding down. Economist prime minister is busy playing political games. 

Corruption: kingpins roam around freely, scapegoats are send to the jail.  Whistle blowers (opposition MPs) who exposed MPs were bribed millions of rupees to vote for the government in a crucial no confidence motion in 2005 after Left parties deserted Congress lead UPA, are in jail. The mastermind, the most powerful political wheeler dealer in the country, is doing what he is best at, making money for the party fund and to buy MPs if need arises in the future. Corrupt are protected. Government even makes a case for special immunity against law to certain industrialists who indulge in shady deals, in other words it should be an acceptable practice to bribe ministers and babus to get government to act, if the country is to maintain double-digit growth trajectory. 

Corruption crusaders over bill fraudulently to pay for their charity.  
China is belligerent against India. Pakistan, a rogue state, loves to hate in India. Friendly Bhutan's king is on an official-honeymoon visit to India. 

Right winger RSS is meeting Mawlanas to assert essential unity in diversity before elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati, a Dalit, rules with iron fist.

So much is happening but really nothing is moving forward.

What do you say when you don't want to say anything but have to say something? Keep maun vrat (vow to keep silent). Silence can get deafening, sometimes.