July 17, 2011

Commercialization of Grief !

It was very disheartening to hear about yet another terrorist attack in our financial capital Mumbai. The long reprieve from such attacks was short-lived atlas. The media was very fast in taking up the issue and started their usual rhetoric of assumptions, allegations, counter allegations etc. The usual cast of actors was playing their role well in the pre-set stage, grief anger and vengeance was encapsulated and sold to the masses. Scroll down text presuming to be authentic and update news played with our nerves.

Then they started their usual interviews of the witnesses, busy policeman eager to present their version of the story etc. It doesn’t stop there they loiter around the crime scene and make investigation a cumbersome process for the police. There was a convention agreed upon between the media and the security forces after the diabolic 26/11 attacks that media will not tread into the crime scene and destroy evidence or act as mouth pieces of the terrorist by publicising and exaggerating the crime. But all these was thrown into the wind and you see earnest anchors trespassing into the crime scene. We are already at the disadvantaged position with our lack of credible information sources and out-d

dated machinery and the invisibility of the enemy; this over reach of the media further worsens our scope of investigation.

Grief like any other human emotion is avery personal one. The media by exploiting it for their requirement is doing a crime against humanity. By encapsulating grief into 30 second clips they are commercializing grief and we end up as mute spectators to their tamasha. With every attack they follow the same procedure like they have a Standard operating procedure (SOP) to be followed under such circumstances. Like they have to look for gruesome bloody scenes to show in the screen, like they have to find an aggravated common man angry at the system, to show the victims of earlier attacks and reminding their loved ones about their loss. Loss of a loved one cannot be justified and replicated under any circumstances, why do they have to reminded about their loss and exposing their grief unnecessarily.

I’m whole heartedly grieving for the death of the blast victims and the lives destroyed and injuries survived by the 100's of its victims, but are we giving an undue prominence for terrorist attacks and deaths caused by it, in the same week we have had a devastating Train accident (which is assumed to be resulted by an IED explosion) and another wedding party accident at alevel crossing which killed a score of people. The death in both these cases were substantially more and the damage more gruesome and devastating.

Terrorist attacks are not a normal day to day event in our country unlike for our neighbour Pakistan, Like Rahul Gandhi said we have been able to thwart 99 % of the attacks but unfortunately one escapes our vigilance. You can’t tell this to someone who has lost a loved one, their loss cannot be offset with all the political gyan and intellectual analysis seen in the media. But it is true we have been able to control the menace of regular attacks to alarge extend. It was not long ago when we had regular attacks in every nook and corner of the country and resembled a war zone, listed in the red zone of no travel in the diplomatic circle.

Our media has got a special attraction towards portraying terrorist attacks, the business of selling organised grief to the masses. We have to also agree that the masses are a big consumer for grief, look at the headlines of newspapers for last one month or news bulletins in tv you will be surprised to see the extend of bad news (packaged grief, anger and pain) present in them. It is interesting to know that there is a term to describe this feeling: Schadenfreude Pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune. More people die every day dude to preventable causes, more infants are aborted, more unborn girl child are maimed every day in our country, but that doesn't sell like grief packaged as bomb attacks.

Meanwhile our political leaders have started their usual ploy of blaming pakistan and concluding role of banned outfits in the attack. The congress alleges that since the home ministry of the state is under the control of NCP it could not act in advance (rubbish), the opposition alleging the timidity of the central government, the coalition partners expressing their helplessness. In the midst of all these capsule grievance sharing statement send by world leaders arrive regularly, like it means anything to the victims or will help in fighting this menace.

It was interesting to see how the social medial i.e facebook and twitter reacted and constructively helped the victims and survivors. Within not time The mumbai attack was trending on twitter (though no idea how such things can trend !) and information for contacting police and helpline numbers to locate victims were being shared. And it was for the first time that a spreadsheet listing people who are willing to help, donate blood, provide transportation, provide accommodation food for the victims and stranded were being shared in the social media. Unlike their peers in the mass media, social media has matured to avoid rumor's like Kasabs birthday and aggravating the masses. lets hope that this trend continues and the social media plays a constructive role in the future also.

I know the thought process is hay wire in this post; it’s mainly due to the anger and grief towards our indifference.


July 13, 2011

There is nothing social about Social Networking anymore !

I have realized that if i keep writing about women empowerment and inclusive growth most of my friends will empower themselves to include me in the non-inclusive list (block list) very soon. And to be frank i am not so much in favour of these topics either. So i have decided to write something on a lighter note.

When i got back to Facebook after the self-imposed exile of six months, i realized nothing has changed. For starters i had to run through all the friend requests i had ignored off late. Sort out my friends, add my acquaintances to the friends list, add more people because you have common friends with them. Facebook has become paranoid about increasing my friend list it keeps suggesting friends with 1/2/3//10 common friends, i came across someone with whom i had a hundred common friends yet had no clue who it is.

All the silly game requests remains for a change all the farmers have left and new urban settlers have started popping their heads. Nothing has changed with respect to status updates and video link sharing. It’s funny to see someone sharing their anger and pain on their updates and people queuing up to Like it. I wish Facebook could include Unlike button or even an option of Disgusting which could be the only response to some posts.

I just realised i have 450 + people on my friend list and it’s a big number when i hardly know many of them. This list includes my school mates, college mates, colleagues of earlier jobs, teachers, uncles, aunts, sisters, cousins, neighbours, people whom i have no clue about etc. It’s a big puddle of senseless relationships. And i start to think when i put up something, who all are going to read this, what will they think about me. And being the quintessential hypocrite i fear to shed the masks i wear in different occasions and venues. Iam sure my long lost schoolmate who has migrated to north America and my friendly neighbour who idles away his time will have nothing in common, they don’t get the same jokes, neither do they comprehend the same languages.

Then there is the part where some idiotic friend with an old grudge will upload an old photograph in which i might have resembled a Precambrian primitive and start commenting about how stupid i looked then (nothing much has changed till now though) and the people i work with in front of whom i act polished and put up a fake accent catches me on the wrong foot. Iam sure iam not the only one who have had weird photos uploaded and teased about. Then there are the set of friends who pass comments and share thoughts in the local language which is as good as Greek or Latin or worse for some of my other friends, which makes me the translator in waiting. It is hard to convince my Hindi speaking friend about what my friend talks about (the salt mango tree syndrome).

Facebook developers have to urgently do something to segregate friends into as many possible sets to maintain the divide. Maybe something like an additional tab provision in new generation browsers that will cascade the friend list into different segments. So that my manager need not know that iam looking for ideas to give reasons to bunk office, or my family need not know about the secret road trip plan. If this continues there will be nothing social about social networking anymore.

And add to this the problem of envying friends holidaying in exotic locales, with their inverted photographs. It’s actually annoying to see that when you are slogging your ass you see your idiotic batch mate sun bathing and idling away. Add to all this new websites soliciting your presence in their new unique network, it’s like the snobbish hero in all his new movie interviews brags about the story being different and ends upto be the same stale dish.

In-spite of all this there is nothing as addictive or compulsive as social networking, a good friend put it up well, Facebook is like a fridge you keep opening to see if there is any new goodies. I have decided to take another exit from social networking maybe soon, but this is for sure, ill really miss all the senseless hype and action.


June 22, 2011

Women's Reservation, An Illusion !

To all the people who were hopeful that we will have a constitutional provision to improve the position of women in our democracy, things are looking a bit gloomy for now. When the Women's reservation bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha amid trans-party cooperation, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj and Brinda Karat coming together to get justice for womanhood, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Women have never had such dominating presence in the echelons of power with a President, Opposition Leader, the Guiding force behind the ruling party and more from the weaker sex. With maverick politicians like Mulayam Singh and Laloo Prasad out in the open protesting the bill in its original form and recommending watering down amendments, the bill looks a distant dream.

The history of women's reservation dates back to the Panchayati Raj Act of 1992 which provides for 33% reservation in local self governance. Then the Deva Gowda Govt in 1996 proposed women’s reservation in a similar form, which was followed by another ambitious attempt by IK Gujaral which was all stalled at its birth. The women’s reservation bill proposes to provide reservation of 33 % in the parliament, state legislature and local bodies. The reserved seats for women will be rotated in every two terms and the SC/ST reservation will mandate 33 % reservation for women within its fold. The proposal is only for a pilot period of 15 years.

Why do we need women’s reservation? The arguments for and against are various but one aspect that can be quiet compelling is our relative performance with regard to gender empowerment. You will be surprised to here that women in India is far behind their equals in Pakistan and Bangladesh and is ahead of only countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia. We consider ourselves modern when the representation of women in the parliament, in higher education, in the corporate sector is abysmal. The number of women who die during pregnancy and girls who do not complete schooling is alarming.

So is reservation a panacea to all the ills that the women in the country is suffering from, not likely but it could be a good start. Better representation will pave way for more sensible law making, more empowerment and more development to the country. But there are inherent flaws in the current proposal which is ambiguous in terms of reservation for women from backward classes; it will lead to proxy candidates in the form of politician’s kith and kin contesting. The proposal to rotate seats after two terms will not let to develop a relationship between the candidate and the constituency. The fate of the pilot period could be similar to the 10 year threshold kept for SC/ST reservation which continues even today.

Another alternative to the cumbersome Women’s reservation bill is to bring changes in the people representation act making it compulsory of political parties to field 33% percentage of its candidate, women to maintain the party’s registration. There has to be some amendments to the structure of the houses as the current strength of 545 members in the parliament is based on the 1971 population which is actually half of the current population. More representation will let us yield more people which will to certain extend thwart the opposition put forward by the dissidents. The opposition is mainly arising out of fear of loosing sitting seats and lack of future opportunities to contest.

Let’s further look at the case of Pakistan, they have reserved 60 seats for women in the 360-member National Assembly and 17 in the 100-member Senate with a view to empower women. According to a report, 42 percent of private member bills, 27 percent of questions and 24 percent of resolutions in parliament came from women parliamentarians. If this can happen in the socially medieval (as perceived by most of us) so what’s stopping us from taking the plunge.

Like someone said if all the countries in the world were ruled by women, we wouldn't have any war, just a bunch of countries who don't speak to each other. It might lead to an end of the boisterous cacophony and all the drama prevalent in our parliament.


June 16, 2011

A Crisis of Democracy

"Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.

Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpetings, and farewells him with hootings, only to welcome another ruler with trumpetings again.

Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation."

— Khalil Gibran

Looking at the events unfolding we are either lucky to be witnesses to a revolution initiated by the civil society to rout out corruption from the society or spectators to the breakdown of established norms of democracy. Its true its high time we have to clean up our society or atleast do damage control to what ails us. The advent of corruption in the society and amount of money stashed away is baffling, but the question is, is this how we deal with it.

What is a civil society here ? A group of responsible citizens taking initiatives to guide and pressurise our democratically elected to implement regulations for effectively controlling the evils that ails our society. But who is this civil society, iam not doubtful about the credentials of these individual in their area of expertise, be it rural upliftment, policing, adjudication or yogic expressions. But what gives these people the right to talk on behalf of a billion souls, were they elected, nominated, decided by lottery or divinely assigned these duties. Iam aware of the history of earlier attempts to implement an ombudsman model Lokpal machinery emulating Scandinavian nations. How government after government presented watered down versions towards the end of their term to eyewash the society and claiming their helplessness with this regard blaming the opposition and parliament at large.

Iam neither supportive of this government, which resembles a confluence of parties neither with a clearly cut out agenda or the ability to implement effective policies. UPA 1 was a different story, it was instrumental in bringing out the fabled MNREGA, RTI acts. If you look at what UPA 2 has done in last two years, you will be reminded more about its scandalous corruption cases, Manmohan Sings helplessness and the NAC's ineffectiveness in promoting the food security bill or the communal violence bill, dilly-dallying between the PMO and Team Sonia. It was two years of rule when the judiciary has encroached into the ambit of the legislature, when judges have washed their hands of earlier allegations.

If we let the cicil society to guide policy making tomorrow we will have to expect more colourful characters entering Jantar Mantar ( The showroom of democracy ) and demanding for absurd regulations. Satyagraha has been commercialised with Air-conditioned tents and packaged drinking water, desecrating the precincts of places like Rajghat. Where are we heading when crores are spend on organising protests questioning black money, these peolple have to answer the source and justify its spending before they are made guardians of the society. And the past history of some of them and measures like thrashing to deaddict from alcoholism is questionable. When a member of the so called civil society calls for capital punishment for economic offences and proposes to assemble armed cadre to fight corruption, we have to be alarmed. Are we heading towards anarchy ?

What if tomorrow a mullah or sadhu or the khap , with a massive following demands for abolition western apparels and english speaking , what if someone demands for banning Facebook or something else, should we be pressurised to their tactics. We need responsible parliamentarians, in-depth analysis and smart policy making to fight social evils. Lets create fool proof financial systems, identity and banking services for the billion plus, give exemplary punishments to the defaulters. Its true this is not happening, but this recourse is not its alternative.

Let the government be truly reprsentaitive of the majority ( not the existing 10-15 %) let there be a change in this first past the post electoral system to more inclusive methods. Lets have a provision to abstain from not selecting the presented candidates ( negative voting), tomorrow political parties will be careful in selecting candidates to put forward to you. Lets reduce taxes and charges on land transaction, give tax concessions to people to bring back the hidden money. The money pumped back will create more investments and improve the infrastructure and trickle down to the masses. Let asset disclosure be mandatory and regular, filing returns be made a national exercise. Lets effectively shift election funding into the public domain, corporate and private financing will be controlled. We do have along way to go lets not be misguided by anyone.


New Milestone in Corruption

Milestone is a very positive term, used when man landed on moon, when the genome code was unraveled. But when the concept of corruption is being revamped with such radical corrections, i couldn’t find a better word. We have truly emerged in all the global indicators of progress including corruption .

The biggest scam as far as i know was the Madoff Ponzi Scheme which proved him guilty of misappropriation of 17 Billion $.If the current accusation of 1.7 Lakh Crores in lost revenue( Approx 38 Billion $) is to be believed then we would have overshoot the current record by double. This is something the Chinese would take some time to beat. We are becoming unbeatable in the infamous segment of Corruption, Population Explosion, Poverty etc.

The basic aspect of Indian Jurisprudence is to consider the accused as not guilty until proven otherwise. So we have to give the benefit of the doubt to The Telecom Minister. The Minister states that the telecom licenses for 2G and 3G has been given at a lower price to increase penetration of telecom services and make the service affordable to everyone. But the confusing aspect is on why guidelines as provided by the department of telecom were not followed.

The crux of the issue can be summed up as follows ( Copied from NDTV, Verbatim)

  • 2G licenses issued in the year 2008 at 2001 Prices
  • Telecom Minister insisted on “First come first served “ policy
  • 9 companies were given licenses for nearly 10,800 Crore
  • Some firms sold partial stakes for much higher rates
  • CAG: Govt lost between 1.4 to 1.76 lakh crore
  • CAG: Raja ignored advice of Law, Finance Ministries

In the nitty gritties of coalition politics it becomes very difficult to implement and adapt fool proof review mechanism. DMK which is a major ally of UPA 2 with a grand contribution of 18 MP’s, it is diffiult to displease them. The Status of the minister as a Dalit also adds to the problem, since he claims the whole issue as a dalit targeted act. And the party’s official stand which vindicates the minister from any wrong doing makes it a harder task for the Congress led coalition to act. It won’t be as easy as the way it dealt with Mr. Chavan and Kalmadi.

The coming days will unravel the complexities involved, will the minister be sacked, will there be an investigation which brings out the truth etc. The larger implication out here is not on the future of the minister’s career, but the widespread social apathy and the lackadaisical attitude existing among the people. I recently overheard a young lady calling her father a fool, as he did not take bribes. The new generation aspiring for a public sector career is considering corruption as a means to correct the public-private pay scale difference. Its like a fringe benefit that makes the job more lucrative. If you don’t have ideals in your youth, the future is looking much bleaker than ever.

Corruption has become institutionalized and a normal characteristic like hunger, fear, courage etc. I think the government can give us some reprieve by listing standard rates and charges (under the table) for all relevant activities. At least this could stop the additional charges ( over and above the current) levied by some opportunistic officers.

So where do we go from here, deeper, slimier, dirtier or do we see an end to this, only time will tell. But one thing i can guarantee, the scams will get bigger, the people will get more indifferent and the already disturbing polarity will increase.


Post Script

When i wrote this, The minister had not resigned, so when i woke up today and found him to have resigned and to be replaced by another member of DMK. Same wine in a different bottle or labeling. SO lets see what happens now.

The Messiah The Message, The Cronies and Their Conspiracy !!

The topic is too complicated to write on, but its too tempting not to write too. The whole world is talking about him, the messenger with the message, the initiator of the first world war on cyberspace. The implications of Julian Assange's leak on foreign diplomacy is still unfurling, with Russia even recommending him for a Nobel Prize hehee He is the boy who called the emperor naked and facing the consequences for it. From Extradition threats to hit squad intimidation, from being labelled as the Information Terrorist to a fatwa from the western intelligenzia.

For a change US has to heed to the policies of China in terms of internet control, the same leaders who preached about Online liberty and how Internet should be left on its own is eating its own words. The trend is very disturbing, US forcing Amazon, Paypal, Mastercard etc to act as per its wills can give us a sample picture of the future free world. The good thing is that there is an entire army of cyber guerrillas taking revenge on the Messenger, they have already disrupted Mastercard, Swiss Govt portal etc. The modus operandi is very discreet, they even have them denoted as Anonymous, leaves no trace and leaves the victim perplexed.

The greater question in this whole episode is the future of internet freedom and the liberty of investigative journalism. How what we write, what we read and what we see can be subjected to propagandists scalpels. If things go like this very soon US and China will come into a mutual agreement to rout out the crusaders. On a lighter note the whole episode has a bond movie imitating life aspect to it. Global powers fighting for sensitive material hacked by an International spy storing it in nuclear proof bunkers, add to it a trans national chase, disgruntled bond babes filing rape cases hehe. So much like a movie with more humor added to it, calling Putin and Mededev as Batman and Robin and more hehehe

On the national front the Media is on a bad foot, renowned TV presenters and journalists accused of being agents of a vicious corporate lobbyist. The whole Nina Radia tape leak was a shocker, bringing to light variants of highly esteemed public figures. I read the whole episode with disbelief and a pinch of pain, because it has questioned my faith in these people. It was evident earlier too, but the level of involvement between the media corporates and the politicians in rigging cabinet posts, setting agendas for news content and tilting opinion of us the public was in a bad taste. Whatever reasons they can give on the pretext of cultivating contacts or nuisances of investigative journalism, it is unacceptable. When we listen to their version of the news we expect it to be independent, unbiased and above all not to be selling us a pre-packed junk meal.

On the other hand a personal conversation will never have the finesse of a media statement or a planned debate, A tapped conversation of any of us can be construed in a particular tone to demean a persons image. I want to believe the same in case of Mr. Tata. i have too much respect on his integrity to doubt his intent. Hope in the nd everything turns out well.


I know the post is a bit long, but couldn't control my fury and interest on these news.

I will be disappearing from the social networking scene as the year ends. I know it is a good news for all the people suffering from the indignation of reading my posts. But let me assure you the hiatus will not be too long. Hoping to write a farewell before the month ends. Thanks to all my readers for their evaluations, criticism, comments and above all the experience of social networking

No Resolution But some Re-solutions !!

Its the time of the year when we usually make up the resolutions, that we expect to fullfill in the coming year. Its the time when we look at last years promises aand its shortfalls and end up expecting a better year to come I have decided to differ this year,not that i have no resolutions left , its just that this year deserves better. Not promises for time to come, not repentance for a year gone or expectations for the future.

The arm chair reformer and social observer in me has decided to go a mile ahead. I have decided to chart out some possible solutions/recommendations for some of the problems perturbing me for sometime. I know many of you will close this page if you know what is to come, pondering about the relevance of this content. Iam not trying to be a disgruntled idealist who is venting out his frustrations on the apathy in the society. What Iam going to share is basic things, some of which are already in practice but needs some changes. So these are inspired solutions which can be easily implemented. I cannot promise it can change a lot but it will be a good step forward.

This information is already available and accessible to the general public but rarely scrutinized or published dude to the kind of muck it will expose. I had the chance to run through an annual report posted by Mr. Shashi Tharoor for one year of his role as an MP to Thiruvanthauram ( The original diplomatic prodigy, apparently the report he wrote on Indian foreign policy for his post graduation in his early 20's was used as study material for the Indian IFS officers for last three decades, pure genius) The report was very comprehensive, every initiative taken, every penny spend in the last one year. It also had a special mention that he spend his entire allocation (a rarity). Such reports should be made mandatory, should be published debated and discussed. What gets measured gets improved. It will help us to identify our shortfalls and provide solutions. It is a simple proposition, no rocket science, just an RTI made mandatory and evaluated.

Mandatory Annual Report for Member of Parliaments and other Houes of representative

Call Back- This is system where an elected representative can be withdrawn if his performance is not up to the mark or meet minimum standards. This is being practiced in matured democracies like Switzerland (Direct Democracy). In order to avoid frivolous and vexatious initiatives, a minimum representation of 40-50 % of the electoral of the constituency should express their opinion through a referendum. This will make our representatives more accountable and responsible, rather than waste their time on unnecessary activities. The parties will yield better candidates in the future too.

Mandatory Asset Disclosure Annually

Since the majority of corruption is visible from the pubic sector, all citizens enlisting in government employment should disclose their assets and also all tangible assets belonging to spouses, close relative etc. This should be a compulsory procedure and and repeated every year, any windfall gains or additional incomes should be updated. A watered down version is already in practice but should be made mandatory and fool proof. The people who cheat the system are not from outer space a fool proof system can ensure transparency. I wouldn't deny the aspect of Binami transactions, but to a large extend it will become difficult to hide.

Have some more suggestions in my mind, but due to time, constraints and considering the festivities around, dont want to bore you a lot. So till then let me bid adieu. Hope to write a sequel to it if the response is good.

OK on a more Jovial Note, Resolutions for 2011

I hope run a Marathon (Yes A full Marathon)

I plan to read more and more and more

Hopefully talk lesser ( silence is truly golden)

Write more (hopefully better)

Thats too much for now