Posts Tagged ‘Politicians’

Frankly, I am getting tired of people droning on about standing in bank queues and the time they have to waste, and all the wonderful or terrible people they meet. What the fuck were you doing when there were no ATMs? Did God come down on Earth to dole out cash to you? I think one of the biggest crimes any government committed in the last 70 years was the launching of ATMs. It made us lazy, it made us impatient, and most of all it made us forget the pain of standing in queues.

In the last three weeks I have been reading about people allegedly dropping dead in bank queues because they’ve forgotten what it was like to stand in a queue. And I use the world ‘allegedly’ deliberately. I am sure there are genuine cases too, and it’s sad, but I am sure by the time things are back to normal the number of deaths will come down to single digits, and many of those too, this sexed up media will realise, were unrelated to standing in a queue. Maybe, we should shut down ATMs every few months to let people live a more realistic life of the 1970s and 1980s where they stood in bank queues that sometimes stretched to the street outside. I know there are problems. It is a mind-boggling exercise which could not have been done any other way. There have been problems many un-anticipated. I am sure, in hindsight, even the government realises the process could have been better planned. I am sure villagers are the hardest hit, but to make it a doomsday scenario is stretching the truth a lot. And in this one has to blame sections of the media who are deliberately misreporting to create a panic. If the villagers are having problems the state and district administration should approach the centre and make arrangements to disburse funds. The problem is when bankers, government officials and politicians are themselves are corrupt, who do you trust? I know of labourers who have bank accounts opened in their name all of a sudden, with funds being deposited in them. Since when did one need to deposit Rs 50,000 in a savings bank account, when one can maintain a zero balance?

And I’ll be honest, my family too felt the sudden shortage of cash with banks running short, and wondering how we spend the old denominations. Fortunately, all three of use debit cards and wire transfers. Maybe it’s called being smart. I also connected to Paytm and have never been more relieved, because I have to carry even less cash around now.  I too had problems with my account in a co-operative bank. I waited for the problem to ease, and when it didn’t because they were giving only Rs 2,000, I wired money from there into the nationalised bank account I have and withdrew Rs 20,000. We cut down our expenses, saved enough last month to ensure we could pay the maids on December 1. So stop cribbing so much, and move on. I did.

I also know that the entire country cannot go cashless and neither is the government forcing you to. But can those who want to, do so, instead of having to read planted reports by a subjective media demonising the plan? Indians are so gullible that they believe anything and that is what the media is hoping it can achieve in its efforts to ensure this plan fails. This country is littered with stories of idiotic Indians falling for a con. Look at the way people fall for the dumbest trick around – the spam mail telling you that you have won millions of dollars. Or someone claiming to be from a bank asking for your ATM card and pin. The fact that the government has to release commercials on TV channels telling people not to fall for it should tell us what a bunch of idiots we are.

Which brings me to this whole engineered controversy about demonetisation being a waste of time, money and energy, because black money will not go away. It is bizarre. No, black money won’t go away. If it did, we would all be living in Utopia. Let’s face it, a thief will remain a thief. He will find new ways to break the law. Years ago, when we moved to Gurgaon, I went to buy a lock. I told the shopkeeper I wanted a big lock for the front door and he smiled and said “Taala sharifon ke liye hota hain, choron ke liye nahin” (Locks are meant for the honest (to tell them you’re not home), not for thieves). I mean, the police put up traffic lights, road dividers and lanes, in the hope that we will follow traffic rules. But some people think they are above the law. We can only make laws tougher. And it’s not like all the people who had black money got away. We are reading about sacks full of money being discovered and the arrest of bank officials who have been helping the unscrupulous change their currency.

As for the opposition politicians who are protesting the loudest, it’s obvious they’ve been hit the hardest. Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stolen their ideas, reinvented them to suit his party, and put paid to their plans, they are hell-bent on getting rid of him. That is why people like Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh, Arvind Kejriwal, and now Mamata Banerjee, are indulging in hysterics. In which country did you hear of a state being taken over by the army, when there is a civilian government at the centre in power? You have to be a complete imbecile to come up with such an absurd fantasy. Rahul Gandhi accuses Modi of TRP politics, conveniently forgetting that he too was doing just that with his khat sabhas and the farce of standing in a bank queue to withdraw Rs 4,000. Doesn’t he know there is a bank and an ATM in Parliament House? Oh, but how would he, he is hardly there.

If this is the way Rahul, Kejriwal, Mamata and the rest intend to push forward their candidacy to replace Modi in 2019, then Modi can be sure of another two terms as prime minister. Also, we don’t need comedy shows on TV channels anymore, these political stand-up comics will do just fine as replacements.

As a tax payer I am happy even if 2 per cent of the crooks in this country are nailed. I would consider it worth every minute I spend in a bank queue.


In this day and age, a lot of journalists are finding it difficult to hide their political leanings. However, newspaper editors, if not reporters, are supposed to be level-headed, calm and very balanced in their views on a public space, because after all, what they say is read by so many and can influence so many others. And today, Facebook or twitter is public space, for all practical purposes.

Unfortunately, there is also a new breed of zealots whose idea of freedom of expression is to lament the death of free speech in India, while continuously abusing the politician they hate. Take what happened today at the R Day parade. The vice president Hamid Ansari was abused by goons on the social networking sites for disrespecting the national flag. He didn’t salute the flag, while Modi and the president did. In effect, according to protocol only people in uniform are supposed to salute the flag, the rest are supposed to stand at attention. How many of us salute the flag when the national anthem plays even in a movie theatre? But then, there’s really nothing much one can expect from such people. In their favour, one can say that at least they don’t hide their hatred for someone or some communities. But it’s not as if such nutcases abound in only one community.

The other day while I was on Facebook a former colleague who claims to be secular tried very subtly to justify the massacre of the journalists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, with an extremely convoluted explanation. I read and let it pass. A little while later, in another attempt to justify the Paris massacre he asked what Indians would have done had celebrated cartoonist R.K. Laxman sketched India’s most popular leader and then described in some crude and graphic detail how (he didn’t name the leader, but it was obvious who he was referring to).

That’s when something inside me snapped. I really didn’t see any need to drag in India’s most respected cartoonist, especially when the man was near death. My question to him was ‘How different are you from the Hindu fanatic that you keep railing about?’ After which I added that he was as much a fundamentalist as the right-wing loonies he keeps blasting on his ‘personal space’ because the language he used to criticize people he hated was no different from theirs.

And this guy likes to call himself secular! So, in his secular world, it is okay to use foul language against anyone who he hates, whether it is the Indian prime minister, the government, the party, anything else with a saffron hue or anyone who even as much as says a good word against those he dislikes. My remarks obviously stung because he blocked me! I know he hates Modi with a passion for reasons that go back to 2002 and Gujarat. And I have no issues with that because this guy, like a lot of people in the country, hate not just Modi, but Amit Shah and everyone in the BJP and the RSS for the same reasons and more.

Even on earlier occasions, I have usually ignored his rants because there are others I know, who rant about the colour green and who believe all Muslims should be sent across the border or have unspeakable things done to them. A few days before this incident, he said something very crude on Facebook about finance minister Arun Jaitley and I was appalled. I prefer to read all such comments from both sides and ignore them. Heck, even I dislike some politicians, but you won’t find me calling them names on a public space. I’ve been a journalist long enough to know that.

This brings me to the question of free speech and freedom of expression that journalists keep shouting about that from the rooftops. Would this guy dare to criticise the government of the country where he was working? The people who criticise Sonia, Manmohan, Rahul and Modi and their respective governments also need to remember that it is because we have these rights and principles enshrined in our Constitution that we can say a lot and get away with it. One can get away with swearing at the vice president, prime minister or his ministers or for that matter anyone is because we have free speech.

The trolls and some politicians can say any crap they want because no one takes them seriously. That is why one expects journalists to be different. That is what distinguishes them from the genuine critics and the riff raff. I guess some journalists haven’t learnt the difference – or because their vision is so clouded they can’t see through it. So, how different are they from the riff raff?

Last Thursday I was at Pune International Airport on my way to Kochi via Bengaluru. Since I had just some hand luggage I ran it through the scanner and as I stepped forward for a body check, I was watching the face of the security personnel. It was 5.30 am, and he was either completely bored with his job or still only half awake, because he ran the metal detector over my person, in a manner that suggested that he would rather be back home in bed. He was anything but sleepy, as I realised later. At one point as he ran the device under my arms he asked me what was in my trouser pocket! Taken aback, I pulled out some pieces of mint. He ran the device over it and then I wondered whether he was going to ask me to swallow one, just to see if I would self-destruct! He then opened my wallet and saw my PRESS card and decided that I was harmless. But he still ran the device over it before letting me through.

At the Bengaluru International Airport, the same afternoon, as I was passing through security, to take the flight to Kochi, I watched very interestedly as an elderly but dishevelled gentleman with a slight speech disorder argued with the security personnel about the aftershave in his bag. The uniformed chap just pulled out the aftershave and a canister of deodorant and asked the old man very quietly which one he wanted to retain. As the man argued on, the security guy, silently, picked up the deo and flung it on the floor, where it lay with a dozen or so more such canisters. He then picked up a cigarette lighter and flung that down as well. By then the old man had turned red and sullen. He turned sarcastically to the security man and asked if he wanted the cigarette packet too. The guy smirked and stuck out his palm. The old man realised he was beaten and quietly left.

Even more interesting was the scene a few feet away. A bearded young man was asked to open his bags and remove everything. The securityman then opened a Bournvita bottle which was among his stuff. He then stuck a pin-shaped metal detector inside, then pulled it out and inserted into a machine with a computer screen. He did that with each bottle and this kid had quite a few. He was obviously a student going back to college loaded with goodies his mom must have packed for him. Very patiently the kid opened each bottle and shut it after it was checked and repacked all his stuff. But he didn’t once lose his cool and even thanked the security personnel as he left.

Yesterday, as I watched the scenes of the carnage at the Delhi High Court, I thought about the scene at the Pune and Bengaluru airports and thanked my stars that at least someone cared for our safety. What is even more tragic is the fact that the incident could have been avoided if the cops had been more vigilant and had there been CCTVs installed, the procurement of which was still in the tendering process, since July last after a bomb was discovered at the same venue. Unfortunately, what’s more important for our officials is to clear a ward of ‘unwelcome’ relatives visiting the seriously injured, because some politicians want to indulge in their five minutes of PR activity.

And then today, a Pune tabloid had a front-page report about the Pune Railway station, which said that conscientious passengers got their baggage scanned on their own since there was no experienced person manning the x-ray machines! So when did you last hear about a bomb-carrying terrorist putting his baggage through a scanner? Well if the Pune Police is to be believed, that’s probably what they are expecting. Also, that there was no security paraphernalia at such places even two hours after the blast in Delhi. So much for terror alerts and messages on being vigilant! And this in a city now recognised, as a sanctuary for terrorist sleeper cells.

I am appalled at the complete lack of urgency being shown by the cops. I understand that they are severely short-staffed and are jittery about the mayhem that could be caused if something untoward occurs at the Ganesh mandals, but to leave a railway station or a bus terminal completely unguarded is asking for trouble. When will our cops learn that it’s no use checking bags after a blast? I guess this happens because of the general attitude of “jab hoga tab dekha jayega” that pervades every strata of our society. But they’re not alone to blame. A lot of us are like the old man, when we should be like the young guy who I saw at Bengaluru airport.

I know that many of my students are aghast that I speak in favour of Anna Hazare’s movement. They believe the man is crooked, cantankerous, slightly unhinged, and totally eccentric. They also believe he is encouraging a revolt and is hell-bent on destroying democratic institutions such as the parliamentary system of governance. I completely respect their views and admire their stand on this whole movement. They are also quite surprised to see me talking a different language and not one of cynicism!

They believe that Hazare, through his agitation, is looking to usher in a sort of parallel government – something akin to what happened during the French Revolution with Hazare becoming something of a Madame DeFarge, the fictional character from Charles Dickens’ epic ‘Tale of Two Cities’. So why am I supporting this man and the movement? Okay, so here’s the truth. If it had been Mickey Mouse instead of Anna Hazare orchestrating this anti-graft movement, I would still have supported it. Why? Here are a few reasons.

1. In general, I dislike politicians. They have reduced this parliamentary system of democracy to something that we normally flush down the toilet every morning. Which parliamentary system allows MPs to be so easily be bribed to vote for or against a party? Where a government is stopped from functioning for almost a month by MPs who stage walkouts? Where crores of rupees are spent in inquiries which yield zilch; Where MLAs destroy furniture and beat up their colleagues? Where investigative agencies are instructed to protect the guilty instead of uncovering the truth; Where the prime minister defends the same crooks? Where reforms meant for the people have made the poor more impoverished, and the rich even richer; Is this is the ‘parliamentary democracy’ some people wish to preserve, and citizens don’t have the right to question?

2. I dislike the Congress Party. The people who have been a part of this 100 plus years old party have very subtly and covertly destroyed every tenet of democracy so carefully nurtured and put in place by the founding fathers of Independent India – all in the name of parliamentary democracy and good governance. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and others must be turning cartwheels in their graves watching this rape and subversion of parliamentary democracy. Where Nehru encouraged debate and welcomed criticism, today’s politicians send out hit-men to silence critics. The person who set the ball rolling in this respect was Indira Gandhi. She hand-picked politicians who would always vote for her; chose committed judges – committed only to her; destabilised State governments that did not toe her line; encouraged charlatans in sadhu’s robes…I could go on. And that has continued to date.

3. This is the proverbial last straw – the petty corruption that is around us. Forget the corruption of the politicians and look at what we face every day. From bribing to get a learning licence to bribing an I-T official to bribing to get a ration card. Then there is the crumbling infrastructure – bad roads, lack of power, water etc – which gets worse every year. And while we fret and fume, we read about politicians sitting in the State and national capitals who acquire huge mansions, properties and luxury cars, just a few years after getting elected. But we don’t have the right to question them or the officials on how our money is being utilised.

If the government was honest would people have cared to listen to someone like Anna Hazare? Can one blame the common citizen for backing him? Not everyone may have read the Jan Lokpal Bill or the government’s version of it, but it doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure not all of the 540 + MPs have read it either. At the end of the day, the end justifies the means. Respect for a system, be it the law or parliamentary system of governance, has to come from both sides. When the politician doesn’t respect it, can he expect his electorate to do so? So far this movement has been peaceful and that is what is worrying the government. There is no provocation from the protesters, so how can the police resort to the lathi? This agitation may fail, but if it can achieve even 30 per cent of what it has set out to do, I think the people of this country would have won a resounding moral victory.

And, finally, before accusing Hazare of resorting to blackmail and destroying democracy, and criticising those who back him, people should look really hard at their own lives. Before taking the moral high ground and accusing others of being morally bankrupt, they should ask themselves: Have they not resorted to threats, blackmail and agitations in their quest for, what they presumed, was justice, when all avenues of discussion and dialogue had failed? Have they not criticised institutions and reviled those who headed them? Think real hard before answering this question.

According to Wikipedia “A protest is an expression of objection, by words or by actions, to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take numerous forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations.
Where protests are part of a systematic and peaceful campaign to achieve a particular objective, and involve the use of pressure as well as persuasion, they go beyond mere protest and may be better described as cases of civil resistance or nonviolent resistance.”

So which one of the definitions would best fit what happened in Delhi and other parts of the country today? And why did the UPA Government react in the only way it knows – with brute force? Because someone, in this case, a septuagenarian, had the guts to stand up and ask the government some very uncomfortable questions and demand accountability? What did he do wrong?

The UPA’s rabid reaction didn’t surprise me at all. Right from the time of the dictatorial India Gandhi, the Congress has never been known to tolerate dissent, be it from their party or from the people. And what happened today in Delhi and the rest of the country have only confirmed this view.

What I’ve also been hearing lately is that while Anna Hazare’s demands are justified, his methods are wrong. I beg to differ. If a worker doesn’t like his job he has two options – swallow the crap and continue to work, or protest. Which of these is the wrong method and which the right one and at which point of time do we decide which form of protest to adopt?

So, since Hazare or his fellow protestors aren’t employed by the government of India, they chose the last option of peaceful protest, which is their fundamental right, according to the Constitution. And then they never threatened violence nor did they ask people to resort to it. So what was the government worried about? I guess Messrs Singh, Chidambaram and the rest believed they could do to Hazare, what they did to Ramdev. Unfortunately for them, Hazare is not Ramdev. He doesn’t have an ashram built with dubious wealth and he wasn’t going to flee the place dressed in a salwar kameez!

I’ve also heard quite a few people say that he should contest an election, be a part of the system and then usher in change. I beg to differ, again.

Since 1947, elected representatives have always taken a solemn oath to serve the people, the country and the flag. Till around 1960 that is what they did. After that things went steadily downhill. Now the 542-odd MPs are doing everything to subvert the very process, they have sworn to protect. So let’s forget about being a part of the so called system. It hasn’t worked in decades and even two dozen Anna Hazares will fail to bring about an improvement in a system that is rotten to the core.

And then, it wasn’t as if Hazare and his group just got up on August 16 morning and decided to launch an agitation. They had gone through all the due democratic processes, like discussions, meetings etc and only after the government threw out their recommendations that they decided on this form of protest. All they wanted from the government were answers and a commitment. Answers to why it was unable to control corruption; Whether the people who were being accused of corruption were questioned about the source of the ill-gotten wealth; to explain who were the Indians with foreign bank accounts; how much was the figure supposedly stashed away in foreign banks; demand accountability with regard to the Jan Lokpal Bill.

For all these questions, they got no answers. On the contrary, the defiant government built a protective wall of silence, and selectively released information that did not, in any way incriminate itself – till the courts stepped in and asked the government to clean up its act. Even then the government refused to cooperate – till the courts again stepped in. Only then did they get moving and put people like A Raja and Suresh Kalmadi behind bars.

One may agree or disagree with Hazare and his ways. But one cannot disagree that it was brought on by the attitude of this government, which has been one of total condescension against any form of criticism. As if they believe they are answerable to no one – not even the courts. What is shocking is the sanctimonious blabbering of Chidambaram, Tewari, Sibal and Co. about disturbing the peace, breaking the law etc. Could they tell us how they allowed Mamata to sit in protest against the Singur land acquisition? Wasn’t that against the law?

This agitation and the government’s ham-handed response has proved to the people of this country that it’s time for this ineffectual government led by an ineffectual prime minister to pack its bags and look for alternate employment.

It’s clear that the Committee has agreed that your new policy is really an excellent plan. But in view of some of the doubts being expressed, may I propose that I recall that after careful consideration, the considered view of the Committee was that, while they considered that the proposal met with broad approval in principle, that some of the principles were sufficiently fundamental in principle, and some of the considerations so complex and finely balanced in practice that in principle it was proposed that the sensible and prudent practice would be to submit the proposal for more detailed consideration, laying stress on the essential continuity of the new proposal with existing principles, the principle of the principal arguments which the proposal proposes and propounds for their approval. In principle.”
– Humphrey Appleby in Yes Prime Minister

This is exactly the kind of mumbo jumbo one has come to expect from whichever government is at the Centre, when it comes to taking a decision that adversely affects their political career and livelihood. The unanimity the members of parliament have displayed in the case of the Lokpal Bill is astounding. They might abstain from parliament, throw cushions at each other in the Central hall of Parliament, call each other names inside and outside the august house, but there are two things on which they always stand united – the hike in their salaries and the Lokpal Bill! I can understand why no member of parliament wants the bill passed. Can you fathom how an MP would survive if he was caught and banished from political life? Telling an MP to stop making money through illegal means is like asking Sachin Tendulkar to stop playing cricket! Sorry for the odious comparison but I couldn’t think of anything more apt! It would mean a virtual death sentence to the khadi clad criminal.

Briefly, the jurisdiction of the Lokpal under Section 10 apparently covers the prime minister, ministers and MPs, MLAs, chief ministers etc. But at the same time it nullifies the same by stating that the Lokpal cannot enquire into any allegations of corruption against any member of either House of Parliament unless recommended by the Speaker or Chairman of Council of States as the case may be. So who’s going to squeal against his own?

According to what I’ve read up, “even when Lokpal finds that any of the charges have been proved, against the members of Parliament, all he can do is to send a report of his finding to the Speaker and Chairman, of the council of States, and they alone will determine what action to be taken – obviously it may include rejecting the report of Lokpal. Of course the presiding officers have to place the report before both the houses of parliament. A formal courtesy is to be done by informing the Lokpal as to what action is taken or proposed to be taken which includes the rejection of findings of guilt by Lokpal.”

So you can take a good guess why the issue has been put on the back-burner since 1968! The UPA government should stop talking through their hats (There’s another and more apt four-letter word I could use here, but I won’t) on the entire Lokpal Bill issue. They’ve been deliberating for the past 43 years on the clauses of the Bill and every time it comes up in Parliament, it is deferred for one silly reason or another. For a Bill that should have become an Act over 40 years ago, for the Congress government to say that ‘important’ decisions cannot be taken overnight and “need deliberations” (according to Ms Jayanthi Natarajan) is classic Humphrey Appleby mumbo jumbo! And instead of accepting that it’s their fault the government is trying to bully their way through. All through from 1968 to 2011, they’ve been delaying the Bill, and it took someone like social activist Anna Hazare to say enough is enough.

No better day than this for a few thoughts on the state of the nation and where we are headed. Sixty-one years after India became a Republic it’s on the brink of disarray. There is no government worth its name. Politicians, hoodlums and so-called Maoists are generally running crooked parallel governments everywhere in the country. We have a prime minister who seems to suffer from a form of paralysis and who no one listens to anyway. Are we on our way to becoming, what some industry captains have referred to as a banana republic?

The finance minister says it would be ‘difficult’ to reveal the names of corrupt Indians who have Swiss bank accounts. Why, are they friends of his, or is he protecting someone? We also hear the Prime Minister saying that it’s next to impossible to check the influx of black money. Is that because politicians and ministers in his cabinet are the biggest culprits? A journalist friend tells me about a well-known and extremely corrupt cabinet minister who has done the next best thing – he’s bought a bank somewhere abroad, so he can stash away his loot!

Here’s an interesting nugget I picked up off a site about Indian black money in Swiss banks.

India—- $1456 billion
Russia—$ 470 billion
UK——$390 billion
Ukraine–$100 billion
China—-$ 96 billion

Mind-boggling? According to this website, the amount is enough to put Rs 50,000 in the hand of every Indian and still have enough left to pay off all foreign debt and account for the annual budget!

So the gap is widening and the anger and frustration building between the have and have not. When you drive past any of the crowded intersections in the city have you noticed a huge group of people milling around or standing in a queue? This is India’s daily wage worker waiting for his employer of the day. He gets paid a paltry 20 or 30 rupees (or is that too much?) for putting in twelve hours of work in a day, so he can feed his wife and kids.

Why does he have a wife and kids when he can’t even afford to feed himself? Because he got married in the village at a young age and then suddenly the village is too poor to support even his meagre needs. So he migrates to the city with the hope that it will rescue him from the poverty he faces. Only here, he is still leading a hand-to-mouth existence because the 30-odd bucks he makes won’t even buy him a kg of onions. And while the nameless daily wager struggles to make ends meet, there are people making money through illegal means like there’s no tomorrow.

Is this what our leaders have conditioned us to do these past 61 years? I once asked a few youngsters from a small town in UP this question: Why do you want to become an IAS officer? The answers: ‘I want to make money‘ and ‘I’ll get a huge amount of dowry‘. Do you wonder who they are emulating and can you blame them?

I am supposed to get a substantial refund on my Tax Returns for the past two years from the income tax department. My tax consultant advises me to pay the 10 per cent in cash to the I-T officer, if I want my refund. And don’t bother complaining. According to the rule, if any Income-tax officer is found to have delayed submission of refund cheques it can be deducted from his annual increment. But does it bother too many of them? Incidentally, the status of tax returns can now be checked online and once online, the I-T dept must submit the cheque to the bank. So I go online to check the status which says, “Your assessing officer has not sent the refund cheque to the banker.” Why hasn’t my cheque been sent to my banker when it is ready and they have my account number? Take a good guess.

Yesterday, an honest assistant collector was set ablaze in Manmad because he tried to take on the oil mafia. Will the culprits be punished? Who controls the oil mafia? Your guess is as good as mine. This is the India we live in after 61 years. Happy Republic Day, is it?