Posts Tagged ‘politics’


I had tweeted this in a thread earlier today, but I just thought I’d put it in a blog…

I don’t know whether I could even call myself “middle class” in the 1980s and 1990s because I struggled to make ends meet with a salary of Rs 5000, from which I paid Rs 3500 rent, fed my parents, wife, son and myself with the rest. Later when we earned more I remember we paid for baby food and pampers for our son, paid his school fees, bought his books, while cutting out the ‘luxury’ we occasionally wanted, like eating out or buying clothes.

My first salary as a journalist was ₹660. It was ₹5000 in 1995 & ₹7000 in 1998. I used a decade as an average.

I’ve forgotten for how many years I wore the same clothes, stitched and darned because I couldn’t afford new clothes on my salary. If today, three decades later, I have enough to live a comfortable life and a little saved for a rainy day, it’s because I scrimped and saved, unlike third-rate upstarts such as Rahul Gandhi who lived off this country and his family’s fortunes.

In 69 years, if this is the state of the poorest sections of rural India, Rahul Gandhi needs to take a really good look at his own party and ask himself what it has done for the people before jeering at anyone else. He needs to introspect at the sheer callousness and incompetence of his government and his own family that has got rich beyond any Indian’s wildest imagination at the expense of the poor, the lower middle class and middle class Indian; for making promises they couldn’t keep, especially about eradicating poverty and illiteracy.

Yes, that same Indian who toils in the fields, factories and offices round the clock to put food on the table for himself and his family. For 60 years they were taken for the ride of their lives conned by the slogans and programmes they were promised would change their lives forever. Only, it made them poorer. Why didn’t the Congress party do more for the voter all these decades? Yes, the same voter who sent them back to parliament as their representative hoping they could better their impoverished lives. Instead, they never got anything more than a few hundred rupees and a sari during election time, which he or she gratefully accepted. Strangely, they never complained, accustomed to the five-year ritual, cynical that their lives would never improve but without options. Today we have that option.

But it seems we want to go back to the earlier option because, after three years of partying, the man who runs the government decided he wanted to help the others too. But so accustomed are we to living off government dole that we want him out because he didn’t give us enough and more. Maybe we deserve the earlier option where we stretched out our palms in desperation as our rulers dropped the pennies in, smiled indulgently and moved on, impervious to our plight. So, in 2019, let’s look ahead to another reign of the dowager queen and the clown prince. Long live the family, long live the ecosystem that survives on its crumbs.

And I know what I am talking about. Because for 30 years, I too was a blind Nehru-Gandhi loyalist.

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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.


(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?