Posts Tagged ‘Parliament’

(With due apologies to the sage Confucius)….We live in depressing times. You might smile as you read that Saina Nehwal has won another badminton tournament or India has beaten New Zealand in cricket or that Bhupathi and Paes have reunited. But the story next to these is all about a certain Raja and the 2G scam. And the one next to that one is a point-by-point rebuttal by one industry captain to accusations by another. Below that is a story on the hillside project that is suddenly in rocky terrain. And somewhere on the inside pages there are reports of generals who’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar and journalists being accused of being fixers and lobbyists.

The smile has by now vanished. Even the most die-hard optimist must feel a little cynical about the state of the nation. Is there even a semblance of a government in place? Rule of law seems to have disappeared. It’s almost as if the country is floundering like a rudderless ship in stormy waters. No one is in control and no one really seems to care. That Parliament hasn’t functioned these past three weeks is of little or no consequence. It’s not governance that is the priority. It’s who blinks first, that is. It’s not about nailing the guilty. It’s about deflecting the blame away from oneself.

No one cares how many crores of the tax-payers’ money goes up in smoke. No one cares how many farmers commit suicide because unseasonal rains destroyed crops; No one cares how many died in terrorist violence. No one cares that industry captains with their own agendas, backed surreptitiously by their political benefactors, are indulging in a public slanging match. No one cares that people have died in bomb blasts and instead they blame each other. No one cares that the country is being sold to the highest bidder for thirty pieces of silver by pimps and charlatans in white pyjama, kurta, dhoti or business suits. And the ones who care have no voice.

Politics is being played out over a hillside project and a multi-storey building. Crores of rupees have already been paid by bankers and private investors into the projects. Suddenly everything about the project is illegal – so says the ministry. Tax-payers have put in their life’s savings to own a piece of prime property at this hillside haven, in the hope that they can spend their retirement away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Suddenly they can see their savings disappearing downhill. It’s the same story with a multi-storey building and land deals across the country.

Everyone’s asking the ministers why they and the governments before theirs approved the project if they knew it was illegal. Surely they knew that. After all, the projects weren’t conceived or executed with the wave of a magic wand. Can someone just run a bulldozer over multi-crore housing projects, without a thought for the investors and residents? Anyone who is anyone is on the take – from ministers, local goons, to politicians, to so-called environmental activists to NGOs – all with their own agenda. Does anyone care? Is it an ethical, moral, legal or political issue?

Parliamentarians, who are supposed to be squatting on the benches inside the august house, have been squatting outside raising slogans. And, for what? Just a little one-upmanship and a few hundred crores wasted in public money. It’s been three weeks since they last met to discuss the problems plaguing the country and its people. They’ve been extremely busy doing nothing. When they aren’t protesting, they are spending crores chartering private planes to attend weddings of politician’s kids. How do they manage to get the money to indulge in such pleasures? No one’s asking.

To add to the gloom are reports of Indian army officers involved in cases of corruption, nepotism and sexual harassment. This is the one institution you believed was above all that. Not anymore. I remember a colonel, whose flat I had taken on rent in 1994, because we didn’t have a place of our own. When I met him for the first time he laughed derisively when I told him that so far only the army was ‘clean’. “They make money even on spectacle frames.” That was in 1994.

In the midst of all this mayhem, the government has quietly increased the price of fuel. It’s a good way to make up for the losses they have forced on us. Who says they aren’t working?


Was President Barack Obama’s speechwriter an Indian MP? His speech in Parliament was liked by the politicians and one can well understand why. It had references to Mahatma Gandhi, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, UN Security Council seat for India, 26/11 attacks, terrorism, Pakistan and even the Panchatantra! I am surprised he didn’t quote from the Vedas, Ramayan and Mahabharat! Or did he?

So just like the finance minister’s usual ‘please-all’ budget speech every year in Parliament, Obama too seemed intent on pleasing everyone. When the MPs who usually show their displeasure by either walking out or ‘rearranging’ the furniture in the House, were all praise for the speech, it could only mean one thing – that it was a truly political speech. And except for the Leftists, who anyway seem nowadays to subsist in a cocoon, everyone loved it. Were they expecting Obama to praise the Chinese?

Obama also made all the right noises. He rapped Pakistan and demanded they bring to book the culprits of 26/11. But please note, he did not tell the Pakistanis to hand over the perpetrators. He also praised the Indian Constitution which of course, made the parliamentarians very happy. Never mind, if they usually tear it to bits on most days during the proceedings and don’t care a hoot about Dr Ambedkar, except during election time.

Even the BJP, after the initial idiocy by Rajiv Pratap Rudy, fell in line. I, for one, couldn’t understand Mr. Rudy’s displeasure at Obama’s speech at a purely unofficial event at the Taj Mahal Hotel. I think Obama spoke well and recognised the bravery of those who were involved in the rescue attempts in Mumbai. Why should he politicise the event by dragging in Pakistan? And, anyway, why are we so hung up on forcing world leaders to spell out P-A-K-I-S-T-A=N every time one of them comes here. What purpose does it serve?

Every time a big-ticket leader from the West comes to India and utters the P word, the media and political class here get a virtual ‘high’. It’s almost as if Pakistan has been nuked! Then some idiotic copy editor writes the headline “US names Pakistan”. It makes one wonder whether they’re being blamed or knighted! So let’s stop behaving like five-year-olds who go crying to papa because someone ate their lollipop. And Papa admonishes the culprit gently, because after all, he is dealing with five-year-olds. Then he goes back to reading his newspaper! Let’s grow up.

Does Pakistan care? Heck does even the US care? They’re sending our neighbours billions of dollars in cash and weapons, most of which is used against us. Look how the President fumbled when a kid at Xavier’s asked him about why US was hesitant to call Pakistan a terrorist state. What a way he hummed and hawed, before giving an answer that would have made any civil servant proud. Wake up and smell the coffee. Pakistan is important in their scheme of things. By their virtual presence in the sub-continent the US is keeping China’s territorial ambitions in check. Russia is no more the power it was, and never will be. China is the only country that can challenge the US, both economically and militarily.

The other thing we keep reading about is India in the UN Security Council. The media ask very pointed questions on India’s hope for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and then ‘interpret’ the answer. Take a look this: “In the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member” followed by “The Obama administration wants to ‘send as clear a statement as possible’ that the United States sees India as a ‘rising player’ on the international stage” followed by “the US is ‘not getting into’ details about the time frame” followed by “the administration will let the key details be ‘hashed out’ by the United Nations itself.

Do any of the remarks make “as clear a statement as possible” that the US has or will support India’s bid? The Americans have very cleverly worded each statement leaving it open to conjecture and interpretation. Basically India could keep reaching for the sky, but all it will get is a fistful of cloud – and little or no help from the Americans. And that it could happen anytime between day after tomorrow and the next century – if it happens! But the Indian media has already decided that US “has backed India.” Let’s not forget that before that happens we have to cross the biggest hurdle – China. And knowing China’s love for political chicanery, our chances look pretty bleak. But that’s another story.

Do women need to be reminded on a particular day every year, that they are stronger than men? I don’t need some silly ‘Day’ to tell me that women are a damn sight smarter and stronger than men – except when they are on a two-wheeler or behind the wheel of a car! Then they’re positively scary! And this is not my opinion alone but also of some women I know! Not that the men in Pune are any better, but this post isn’t about them.

Sorry, but all these absurd ‘Days’ that some international bodies dig up and make a lot of noise over is really a lot of hot air. Look at Monday, for example – International Women’s Day. I haven’t understood why they celebrate this as some sort of international event. What purpose does it serve? It’s not like a birthday or an anniversary.

It’s for the same reason that I dislike Valentine’s Day, Father’s day, Mother’s Day etc etc. and all the damn days some smart greeting card manufacturer drums up every year so he and his ilk could do some business, or some international body can blow up somebody else’s money. With the Internet and the ubiquitous mobile phone ruling the roost, greetings card manufacturers must be going out of business. So what else can they do except launch some idiotic day?

And, now, if that’s not enough, all the men (and a sprinkling of women) in Parliament want a legislation that will give 33 per cent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha. Some men are pushing for the Women’s Reservations Bill while others which include women, are refusing to do so. Even on that point they don’t agree. Bit of a farce isn’t it?

And they are calling it some great event that needs to be commemorated ever year, even if it means the government has to drag the MPs, kicking and screaming to pass a legislation that most of them are dead against, for whatever reasons. Look at what happened in the Rajya Sabha on Monday and Tuesday. Even the members on the treasury benches, who aren’t even elected, were engaging in pitched battles. How did it matter to them?

And the chatterati is raging against the dhotiwallahs for flinging papers at the Vice President. What do they expect – they are dealing with scumbags not some page 3 socialites being asked about the pay disparity between their maids. Most of the politicians probably don’t even know what they are protesting against! (“Kaa ho, tablewa naa tod na hain. Ee konchi badi baat hain!”).

Secondly, can the Act guarantee that the quality of women who enter Parliament will not be the likes of Phoolan Devi or Rabri Devi? Sorry ladies, if and when this Bill becomes an Act, you’ll just have become part of a larger ‘caste’ system, where just like the other prevalent categories you too will become one. So a deserving woman candidate will lose out to some illiterate angootha chhaap with dubious connections to the top. And that, according to this government is how politics in this country should be and will be conducted in the future.

I remember what a colleague, who was an OBC, remarked bitterly after the Mandal Commission report was implemented. “I feel like the animal which gets branded. I am going to carry the mark for the rest of my life.”