Category: Politics

The Dance of Democracy, a decade later

Welcome Back

10 years and 9 days ago, I wrote my very first blog post.  I talked about how I voted for the BJP, and that we ought to value our democracy more. Over the course of the next few weeks, when it became clear that the BJP had lost, I expressed my doubts over what comes next.

But what stumps me is how the country forgets that the Congress hasn’t been providing basics for a lot longer than the BJP…could it be secularism? I don’t know. What I do know is that Congress is actually going to have to perform this time, because the people have had a taste of non-Congress governance, and they don’t completely hate it….

 

 

Sonia Gandhi? Yes or No? At one point, it seemed certain she would be the next (Official) PM of India. So, grudgingly, I accepted it. And then, some history was made.

Swiping power now means that by the time Rahul Gandhi comes of age, people really may be fed up with dynastic rule. This could simply be preparing the way for him to take the reigns when he is ready, by sacrificing herself.Better to rule by proxy now, putting Squeaky-clean Manmohan Singh up as the face, and she rules from behind….

More reasons for her decision should be posted in the comments section…
(and u could also see the BBC)

In the meantime, I think it would be cool to have Manmohan Singh as PM. The Business community would be in ecstasy if he does become PM – time to buy some shares in anticipation…

Political Schizophrenia. Even then, we knew what was happening and why – but we were still full of hope and optimism, that no government could arrest all the good things that were happening to the Indian economy?

So this brings us to the Prime Minister-elect Manmohan Singh. He’s been called a puppet, soft-spoken, Sonia’s pet e.t.c. e.t.c. but he may turn out to be different. After all, power corrupts, and ruling 1 billion people (with the help of some 545 elected representatives of course) is close to absolute power…

Or could it?

 

This voice hopes desperately that somehow, our new leader(s) will display some real leadership, and actually do something good for this country. As an upper-middle class salaried person, life is going to get very tough for me, and for all people like me. Higher taxes are certain. Petrol price rises are certain. Free power is certain (which means more power cuts). Re-nationalisation of private power companies? (tremble) Possible….

This voice expects this country to deteriorate in the next 5 years. It is unlikely that anything will get better. The only thing that may improve is ‘communal harmony’. Though frankly, I doubt it. If that were true, Sikhs would not have been slaughtered under a Congress government, even if they did murder Indira Gandhi. Secularism, my left foot. But the public has a short memory, and it seems so far, it only stretches as far back as Gujarat 2002…..

 

10 years ago, I was wrestling with the idea of The Common Man / Aam Aadmi. Now there is a political party that aims to speak for him. Hmmmm…..

In a country as diverse as India, There is no such thing as the Common Man. There are however, lots of Common Threads.
We are all Indian, regardless of caste, creed, income, whatever.

So let me make a suggestion: Instead of performing services that benefit this ugly, disgusting stereotype of a Common Man, let’s do things in the Name of India, and Indians.

If there are less poor people on our streets, then as Indians we can all feel proud.
If women are treated more equally and with respect in our country, we can all feel proud.
If everyone in our country has access to clean drinking water, we can all feel proud.

 

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Lest we forget…

There is a reason your country is still called a Democracy…and it’s a damn good one

In recent times, good ‘ol democracy has come under attack. Democracy in India, democracy in Pakistan.

Apparently, “We” are not ready for democracy. Democracy, they tell us, requires some sort of nonsense called an enlightened populace, i.e. Switzerland. Others will tell you that ‘pure’ democracies are nonsense anyway, when all you really need are Republics.

Some pompous armchair idiots even go so far as to claim that democracy doesn’t matter to the average Joe (or Ramu) when all he wants is to feed himself and his kids. (Then of course, they conveniently contradict that statement when it goes against their overall bias of hating India, but that of course, is another story).

Then there are the more conventional types of morons – the ones who first say that India was better off under the British, and also who cares about Democracy when you can host Olympic Games, and build flyovers. Besides, aren’t Indians just a bunch of indisciplined louts which need an Iron Hand?

Some people point to the latest atrocity in West Bengal to point out that Democracy is not working in this country at all. The irony is that everything that has happened in Nandigram just goes to show what A GOOD THING it is that India is a democracy, and not anything like China.

Shame. On all of you.

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2 minus 1 Nation Theory

I think we can all safely call the 2-nation theory an abject failure.

So we approach Diwali 2007. Another Diwali, another festive season. Went to the Great India Place mall yesterday, with A and her ‘sisters/cousins’ or they will be once she gets married. Her Fiance ditched me, leaving me at the mercy of so much oestrogen (or however that’s spelt). The mall is huge, the Metro line is almost built, and the DND toll bridge just keeps expanding westwards and eastwards. Ah progress

Speaking of Progress…

Dear Musharraf – thank you for declaring an Emergency in Pakistan. Will somebody please suggest the disbanding of Pakistan as a country? Please? Those people are better off under Indian rule. Pakistan and Bangladesh are both ridiculous jokes as countries go. It’s time they stopped pretending to be separate countries and re-joined the Indian Union. We all know this is the ideal solution for everyone, though nobody wants to say it. Why is it ideal (WARNING: MBA Bullet Points ahead)?

  • Those nukes will no longer be pointed at India, but a part of it. Safer.
  • With more Muslims as a part of India, communal violence will decrease, not increase
  • We’ll wipe out the stupid Taliban threat and send Bin Laden packing
  • The people of Pakistan/B’Desh will actually get a taste of economic growth, political stability, and RELATIVELY more AUTHENTIC democracy.
  • KASHMIR KASHMIR KASHMIR

And I’m sure you can come up with more advantages.

As a start, I suggest the Indian Government make this announcement on live television now.

And then, as step 2, we’ll rename both Countries Purav & Paschim Islam Pradesh or some such thing temporarily before reverting to the actual state names (Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, East Bengal, e.t.c) while the transition takes place.

Then we need to appoint some temporary leaders. Ambassadors, this is your chance. Make ’em the viceroys or Chief Ministers of the new states. Say you that you will give moral and diplomatic support to all citizens of the former Pakistan/Bangladesh in their fight to rejoin the Indian Union. Let them rally round the Indian Embassies as a focal point, and get rid of their existing idiot leaders. I’m willing to wager many of these people will happily join up.

Of course, there is the issue of whether we want this rabble to join our country. I say yes, we do. They will be much better off under Indian rule than not. But I’m no George Bush. I don’t suggest we walk in with an army and impose Indian rule on them. I think judging by recent events, it should be obvious which country these people want to be a part of. If we all get together and nudge them in that direction, maybe we can bring this transition about peacefully. I’m serious.

Yea, you can call it a crazy idea all you want. I know I’m right, and you know it’s the truth.

A coincidence and a yawn…

So let me hereby state that I am no relation to the CM of Delhi, nor do I have (ewww) carnal knowledge of er…

Interesting. I write a post about Delhi, and why it’s the best-maintained city in all India.

And then today, this article appears in Mint, where the Chief Minister backs me up (well sort of)…

 And the best that Bombay can muster is this, linked to by Dilip D’Souza also a few days after my post, no less. To begin with, we have some unfair criticism and mis-statement of facts….

This isn’t Delhi, where public outcry ensued after Richard Gere recently planted a public kiss on the actress Shilpa Shetty at a fund-raiser.

Now, if someone had actually read newspapers, this is what they would have found:

The pair had appeared at a press conference in New Delhi as part of a campaign to preach safe sex to truck drivers in India, the country with the world’s largest proportion of HIV sufferers.

‘No condom, no sex,’ Gere shouted in Hindi to thousands of truckers who roared his words back in unison at a dusty fairground.

They whooped and whistled as Gere swooped on Miss Shetty to kiss her on her hand and cheek. Nationally, however, the reaction was of violent disapproval

(Emphasis Mine). Now for those of you who passed your English exam, the above paragraph says that in Delhi, the truck drivers were whooping and whistling (I’m pretty sure you could take that as approval) however it is NATIONALLY, that the disapproval was voiced – why is Delhi being blamed for this? Further, where else do you think people will protest about something – in front of fucking Karan Johar’s house or Rashtrapati Bhawan. Public outcry in Delhi MY ASS!

After her fashion show, Dé explained to me Mumbai’s social architecture. “If you are in Delhi, it’s which minister you know,” she said. “If you are in Chennai, it’s all about which caste you are. In Calcutta, it’s what your grandfather did. But in Mumbai, it’s not about that kind of rigid social structure any longer. It’s about what you have done.

Yea. Right. “Mumbai” where people from the North are discriminated against – “You’re from Delhi?” / “You’re Punjabi with an upturned nose. A place where non-vegetarian people may be banned from living in certain neighbourhoods. Right. No caste prejudices here. No no no, it’s not who you know at all in Bombay. So what if you are related to Bal Thackeray> Oh yes, that’s right, he’s not a minister. How VERY different from Delhi. Ah yes, Dawood Ibrahim is not a minister either. Yep, it’s definitely not about who you know in Bombay, not at all. Oh you don’t know Yash Chopra, or have a Khan or Kapoor in your last name? Well then, let’s sign you on to my next blockbuster, because, of course, it’s what you’ve done. Somebody get a shovel and a gas mask please… 

Now the rest of article is just typical NYT trash. Example:

The culture seeks the kind of innocent enchantment Bollywood movies promote, yet the city’s red-light district, Falkland Road, is populated by prostitutes who pose in cages, and the country now ranks third in the world in people living with H.I.V. (roughly 2.5 million), according to a 2007 report from the United Nations.

Now what the writer of this article CONVENIENTLY forgotten to mention (because it would have ruined his oh-so-flowery contrast) is that this statistic is DOWN from ranking NUMBER ONE in the world with the most number of people with AIDS. Why? Because the UN counted wrong the first time, and a more comprehensive count revealed what some people already knew – THAT HIV IS NOT AS PREVALENT IN INDIA AS THE SCAREMONGERS WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE. But let truth not stand in the way of good journalism, as the Times Of India would say. This is further backed up by the Daily Mail quote from above (the description of Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty) which states “in India, the country with the world’s largest proportion of HIV sufferers“. Between the Daily Mail article and the NYT article, the numbers were revised downwards….

And then it just gets funnier and funnier:

Despite the fact that she was raised in a palace with 30 servants, India’s culture then, she said, was not one of constant acquisition

Oh man, what a riot. Asking a real-live princess to comment on the daily-lives of Indians back in the day. Gee, when I was a feudal lord living in my palace, I didn’t see many of my subjects indulging in ‘acquisition’. WHAT AN INSIGHT! Not a culture of acquisition. This is just great…

Yes.. a Mumbai Moment alright.

Sens(eless)ex

Where I do a little pre-emption

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, the Rupee & GDP are rising, and so are Indian stock markets, namely the Bombay Sensex and the NSE-50 (or Nifty, for short).

Along with the unprecedented increase in the stock market, the communist/socialist/”I must stamp out any good news”-ists e.t.c. will now start using the stock market as another club to hit you with some guilt.

All new articles by these characters will start off with mentioning how the Sensex is at an all-time high, make a brief mention of a mass-consumerist culture, and how the reforms have benefitted “the Few at the expense of the Many” somewhere, and terminate with guilt-inducing stories about people in Bombay slum-dwellers/Suicidal farmers or Hindutva crimes.

When they use the stock market to contrast with these other issues, they reveal the entirety of their ignorance.

Stock Markets 101 (Simplistic view)

What is the ‘Sensex’? Well it’s the short form of Bombay Sensitive Index. What is an index? It’s basically a way of measuring a percentage change in a group of somethings.

In this case, it is measuring the change in the prices of publicly-listed companies’ shares. SPECIFICALLY, THE SENSEX MEASURES PRICE CHANGES IN SHARES OF 30 COMPANIES. Nothing more, nothing less. If the Sensex is ‘up’, it means that on average, the share prices of these 30 companies is up. If it is down, then naturally the opposite holds true. That. Is. All. It measures JUST those 30 shares. These 30 shares are considered to be representative of the entire share market, based on a whole bunch of financial indicators (i..e what is the size of the company, does the public hold a large amount of shares in the company, and other factors). So therefore, it should be no surprise that Reliance industries is one of the 30 shares whose price is measured. In fact, a big jump in just Reliance’s share price will cause the Sensex to go up quite a bit. So the ASSUMPTION is that if there are price rises in these 30 shares, then in general, there must be price rises in all shares in the Stock Market. This assumption holds true for most of the time, and if it doesn’t, the company shares used to represent the market are changed.

Why is a rise in the price of shares considered a good thing? Well what are shares, and what is the Stock Exchange?

A Stock Exchange is place where people can buy & sell SECOND-HAND shares, i.e. shares already owned by other people.  

A ‘share’ is a chunk of ownership of a company. If I buy 100 shares of Reliance, I OWN a piece of Reliance. That means that if Reliance makes a profit, it can choose to give me some of it. If it decides not to, and I get pissed off, I can sell my chunk of Reliance to someone else.  If Reliance loses money, I can again sell my chunk of Reliance to someone else. Of course, if everybody thinks Reliance is stinky, I won’t be able to sell my shares for a good price. So the price of a share represents (amongst a WHOLE BUNCH of OTHER THINGS) how “good” a company is (THIS IS A VERY SIMPLISTIC VIEW). So naturally, I get happy if the price of the shares I own rises. Just like owning a house (AGAIN, SIMPLISTIC)

Now the media, being as sensationalist and as misinformed as it can be, attributes a rising share market to the general mood in the Country. It is not hard to see why this is so. If the shares prices of all the companies in the stock market are rising, it means a lot of people are viewing these companies as ‘good’ or ‘performing well’. If these companies are performing well, that means the economy is performing well. And that means all is right with the world. ALSO, if lots of people are buying shares on the market, it means people have money to buy things, which means incomes must be high, which means the economy is performing well, which means all’s right with the world.

Thusly, a rising sensex makes it to the front page headlines. Now it shouldn’t take much to realize why the above extrapolations aren’t always correct – Pakistan’s stock market is the second best performing in Asia. But there you have it.

SO – when one of our guilt-inducing brethren decides to contrast rising stock markets with suicidal farmers, what they want to say is this:

A small, select band of greedy, high-caste capitalists pigs with a sense of entitlement are making money in a way I know nothing about, and celebrating it as though it is good for the country, while farmers are dying in Vidharba.

But what they end up saying is this: 

The share prices of 30 publicly listed companies is on average higher these days than it was a few years ago, but there are farmers comitting suicide in Vidharba.

Yes. It is as stupid as that.

Riots & Terrorism

They aren’t the same thing

The Head Typist equates people killed in bomb blasts with those killed in riots .

Demanding justice for all victims, is fair enough, but because of the very nature of the two, it is easy to see why one bunch got justice, and the other didn’t. That in itself should be a clue as to why you cannot equate the two. Equating these two very different forms of violence is dangerous thing to do, for the simple reason that you end up diluting the impact of both riots and terrorism (in terms of the damage they do).

Terrorism arises from a backlash against the status quo. Terrorists fight against the establishment, they attempt to change the existing order, and for this, they use death as their weapon. Crazed Communist says – I want to make a statement. So s/he straps a bomb to his/her chest and stands in the middle of the Virar Fast. Kaboom. Statement made, damage done. It is for the most part, and individual act, or that of a few individuals. They may have the blessing (i.e. “moral & diplomatic support”) of a large group of people, but the acts themselves are individual. One man’s terrorist is another’s martyr. HOWEVER, if a watchful commuter, or an efficient and effective police force do their duty, there may be a way to prevent a terrorist incident from occurring. (If the security guard standing by the metal detector actually felt for bombs instead of messing with my ‘pistol’ he may actually be able to save a few lives). While you cannot prevent terrorists from arising, you can prevent the damage they do, and the number of lives lost in terrorist incidents.

Firemen and policemen saved the lives of many people by climbing up the WTC to help people go in the opposite direction. The 6 policemen who foiled the attack on India’s Parliament prevented a much worse incident.

Riots are not so simple.

Yes, the end result is that people end up dead but for very different reasons, and this matters if you are going to address the problem and to solve it. A riot is the collective breakdown of the system. Riots can be controlled with water cannons, and with teargas. But they aren’t because the people who should be doing the controlling are usually part of the riot itself. Again, it is a collective failure. Who do you blame for the murdered Muslim? The man who incited the riot? The man who pulled the trigger? Or the 5 men who held the Muslim in place while he was castrated? What about the 10 men who ran for cover instead of coming to their fellow human being’s aid? And the 15 people who watched from their windows, and did nothing? All of them you say? That’s probably correct. Now go and round up all 5 million people involved in the riot, and prosecute them to your heart’s content. Not very easy is it? Of course, you would be happy with a few murderers, thugs, and their leader as a ‘symbolic gesture’ to satisfy the ‘sentiments’ of the victimised community. But you haven’t done a thing to prevent a riot, because you haven’t even addressed the causes. Why was the state machinery in cahoots? Why wasn’t it neutral? Why do Hindus and Muslims still hate each other so much? Arresting a firebrand leader isn’t going to change a thing the next time 12 people are burnt alive on a train. Not one thing, because a riot is systemic breakdown.

Terrorists need weapons, like guns, bombs, fuel-laden airplanes to do their thing. They need large flashy targets for their symbolism. An army base, a 110-storey building. Riots need nothing but a lot of simmering anger. Sentencing 5 terrorists to death (or life imprisonment, depending on you political leanings) prevents at least those 5 terrorists from causing anymore harm. Sentencing the person who incites a mob, does nothing whatsoever to prevent a riot. Prosecuting the policeman in charge at the time does nothing either, if the chief minister encouraged rioting. Prosecuting the Chief Minister doesn’t prevent the frustrated majority from killing the minority, because in the case of riots, none of the root causes are addressed.

Equating these two issues, looking at them purely in terms of black and white (“people are dead”) does not help in getting justice for the victims, but maybe helps to ease one’s own conscience.

Independence Day, 2047

How old is our country? A toddler, at best.

This long rambling post is where I weigh in on “India at 60”, a day late so that I can spring a surprise on my unsuspecting readers (assuming there is more than 1).

So anybody who knows me knows that I tend to take the optimistic view on this country. Lots of people have listed the achievements, then added a “BUT”, and then concluded with a “things are still precariously balanced, and hopefully the future will be positive”.

I put no BUTs in my post. This is simply because none of the BUTs are new ones. We had poverty in our country 20 years ago. We had poverty in our country 10 years ago. We have poverty in our country today. We will have poverty in our country 10 years from now. We will have it 20 years from now.

Replace the word poverty with discrimination or corruption, build up a lather, rinse and then repeat.

Here comes my BUT:

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