Posts Tagged ‘UPA’


I am horrified by the death of Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide on January 17, 2016, by hanging himself from the fan in the room of his friend at the Hyderabad University. Whatever maybe the reasons for his death, enough has been said and done about the case for me to repeat here. He left a suicide note that has saddened and shocked the very conscience of the nation. And here is where I am even more horrified – by the behaviour of our politicians. I don’t mean all politicians, at least not the ones with a conscience, anyway.

What moved those politicians so much that they almost tripped over each other to be the first to land in Hyderabad? Surely, it couldn’t have been another Dalit student who committed suicide. Nor was it the votes that they could either see slipping away or coming their way. There have been almost two dozen suicides before this one. So, Vemula, for all practical purposes, was just another statistic. So what was it? Two reasons: The first, their visceral hatred for Narendra Modi and second, the fear that if he succeeds in these five years, they might as well pack their bags, lick their wounds, and limp away into the sunset. So, naturally they have to stop him. And I have no issues with that. After all, that is one part of the job of a politician. So all the best to them.

And what better way to do that than to crawl on all fours and prostrate themselves before the students at Hyderabad University, Rohith’s friends and his family. “Hey, remember me, I was there that day in Hyderabad University?” could well be the signature tune of these people in the days to come. I read on Twitter someone describing a politician rushing off to Hyderabad as a vulture. That is too polite. I would call them something else.

Now that Rahul Gandhi is back from Hyderabad University I hope he reads The Hindu of January 19, 2016, which had this to say indirectly about his government, which was in power at the Centre and in the State of Delhi: The Thorat Committee, constituted some years ago to investigate differential treatment of SC/ST students in just one institution, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, had come out with a damning indictment of the way Dalit students were treated. Forced into ghettos in the hostel, discriminated against by teachers, denied access to sporting and cultural activities, SC/ST students in India’s premier educational institutions walk into an environment that’s virulently hostile to them. Not surprisingly, according to one estimate, in the last four years, 18 Dalit students chose to end their lives rather than continue to battle on in these dens of caste prejudice and social exclusion.

Eighteen Dalit students committed suicide in the last four years, most of it during the rule of his party, while he was busy mouthing inanities, or holidaying abroad, or disappearing somewhere without notice. It’s also been happening at AIIMs right under his government’s nose and he did nothing. Another Dalit student, Senthil, committed suicide in Salem in 2008, and Rahul G. Prasad, a final year B. Tech student at IIT-Madras committed suicide in 2015, but Rahul Gandhi and those of his ilk weren’t interested then. Wonder why. And yet, this vacuous upstart, who has raced up the political ladder by hanging onto the saree of his mummy, has the gall to talk about helping the Dalits, Muslims other deprived communities? So the UPA of Manmohan Singh quietly brushed it under the carpet and now their vice president is pretending to be the champion of the downtrodden?

But, it’s not just the politicians this blog is about. I am also thinking of the 13 Dalit teachers who were struck with a pang of conscience or guilt, or whatever, and decided to resign in support five whole days after Vemula’s death. What were they doing for those five days, weighing their options? How considerate of them. More likely, they realised that they were going to be the next target of the students and the HRD ministry for keeping silent through the current unsavoury episode. If they had reacted in time, who knows, things might have been different. I can lay a bet that six months down the line the faculty will be back at their jobs. How? Your guess is as good as mine.

But there is a larger issue. While I completely understand and agree that all those lesser fortunate must be educated, looked after till they can be self-reliant, and be made a part of this country’s mainstream, the way the Congress governments have gone about it is not the way. All that has happened is that in many cases it has become a question of give and take from both sides. And the fallout of this is every marginalised and not marginalised community has now realised that the best way to get jobs and money from the government is to dangle the carrot of votes and watch the politician running to them with freebies. It is unfortunate, but this the reason there is an anger rising against all those who call themselves ‘marginalised’ either through caste, class or economics. I am waiting to see where this ends.

The other group that has really done itself no service is the media of which I have been a part for 30 years. Whatever I leant about the profession, I did on the job and from my seniors. My seniors always taught me that a journalist should be anti-establishment and at the same time be objective. I am afraid, today the media is neither. Their reporting in recent times has been nothing short of disgraceful. I am glad I am out of it.

I hope the parents of the 18 students who have committed suicide earlier get together and file a civil action suit for a few hundred crores (much like the one filed against the Ansals in the Uphaar tragedy) against the various colleges, their faculty, and the respective state and central governments, who have stood by as mute spectators during these tragedies. It’s time someone was made to pay.

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In the political history of India, this has easily been the mother of all elections! I think what we witnessed today was an earthquake in the political arena. One party winning a clear majority hasn’t happened since 1985. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this since 1977 when the Janata Party threw out Indira’s Congress Party after the Emergency was called off. After that, this has been the most exciting election I’ve seen. And remember, unlike Indira in 1971 or the Janata Party, Modi had no war or a tactical win to use in his favour.

For all of Modi’s claim of development, the 2002 Gujarat riots would invariably pop up. In a bizarre sort of way, the UPA’s plan to bring the riots to the forefront and make it their main poll plank, only helped Modi consolidate his support. As the campaign reached its crescendo, it had become Narendra Modi versus the Rest of India’s political fraternity. And in that context, to win more than 300 seats is truly astonishing.

The UPA and every other party raised the 2002 bogey. And every time they did that, Modi talked development, jobs and a better life for the poor. He did not talk about the Ram Mandir, Hindutva or the riots. Sure, he regularly poked fun at the Ma-beta-beti-damaad’.  The opposition had just one theme – ‘Modi is a murderer, fascist, Hitler etc etc’.  I am afraid that began to grate after a while. Secondly, that would have worked if the other side was as clean as a whistle. They were not. They had enough skeletons in their cupboard that they were desperate to keep stashed away. Also, if you keep hammering away on just one point even the electorate gets tired. Finally, even they wondered, like I did, whether this was an election about how bad Modi was, or how good the UPA is. And I’ve said here, time and again, 2002 was 12 years ago. People were ready to move on. The UPA didn’t want them to.

The fact is the UPA proved to be a disaster in its last four years. They had won a second term on the basis of a clean, honest and decisive prime minister, who somehow, could not keep up the tempo after that and gave up on his government. Then the mother-son duo and their sycophants started throwing their weight around and the prime minister retreated further and further into his shell, until one really didn’t know who was running the government. Then there is the issue of taking responsibility.

Also, what political parties must have realised, especially those like the Congress and others which divide voters on caste and religious lines, is that in the end they will lose. The fact that the BSP, JD-U, RJD, Left, NCP, SP were all but wiped out, should be a lesson to them that wooing one community at the cost of another isn’t going to work anymore. It was almost as if for these parties the vast majority did not matter. I guess that the vast majority showed these parties who have survived on their blinkered vision for this long, exactly how much they mattered. As for AAP, Arvind Kejriwal should have realised by now that drama won’t him get him votes. but his party still managed 4 seats, which is not a bad start for a new party. To be honest BJP never denied that they were a Hindu party, but they smartly never tomtommed the fact. There were those irritants like Giriraj and others but somehow nothing stuck.

The second and more important fact was the people (except those who think the Gandhis can do no wrong) realised that the First Family was running a parallel government. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was insulted and rebuked at various times. It had to backfire, and it did. Then there were the scams involving ministers, and ‘private citizens’ that kept popping up. The manner in which the government put a protective ring around the Gandhi family only showed them in very poor light. Secondly, everything was left to Sonia, Rahul and later Priyanka Gandhi, none of whom could take on the BJP’s well oiled machine.

If you think I have a problem with the family, I hope you watched the impromptu press conference on Friday, and the completely arrogant and condescending behaviour of the mother and son. There was no word of congratulations for Modi, but instead only for the party. Wake up and smell the coffee Mrs G. Your party got the worst thrashing in its 100 plus year history.  Bringing that nose down a little won’t hurt.  Even the impromptu press conference was a disaster, with mummy indicating to sonny to move his ass! If Sonia and Rahul took the responsibility for the defeat, shouldn’t they have resigned? Let’s face it, Rahul is a disaster as a politician, and the only one who can pull the Congress out of the mess it is in, is Priyanka – but only if she says goodbye to her husband! There are good people like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Shashi Tharoor in the party, but the sycophants of the party who owe their careers and their very existence to the Gandhi family, will never allow the good people to come up.

However, now that the results are out and the National Democratic Alliance is all set to form the government, can we put all the rancour behind us? Sixty-four per cent of Indians voted this time, of which more than half voted for Modi. So, for the sake of all those who voted and want a government to run the country, can we let them? Those who didn’t vote (and I am not talking about the lot who were legally denied their right by the Election Commission) really don’t have the moral authority or the right to criticise. Of course, that won’t stop them from vitiating the atmosphere, because that is all they are good at.

This is the time for Narendra Modi to walk the talk. To show the rest of the country that the Gujarat development model is what he claims it is and can work everywhere. And if it can’t, then find another model that will give jobs to people, and help the desperate farmers and those living below the poverty line. They need security of a job and income and not government largesse. Let’s see what he can do.

Oh, and by the way, all my friends who stopped talking to me because they thought I am either a BJP supporter, or worse, a Hindu fundamentalist in the making, I am not. I didn’t even vote for Modi or his party!


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have all but anointed Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, but the only way he will ever get there is if he steps out from under the shadow of Lal Krishna Advani. Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? However, everything that has happened in the last few weeks seems to point in that direction. The only way Advani is going to give up his claim to the PM’s chair is till the verdict for 2014 stares him in the face. And maybe not even then! And don’t be surprised if he plots and schemes to ensure that Modi is discredited and disgraced, even after the party has backed Modi.

Observing the manner in which everyone – from media to politicians, both from the opposition and the BJP – has been gunning for Narendra Modi, reminds me of the days after the Emergency in 1977, when the Janata Party set up the various Commissions to inquire into the excesses committed by Mrs Indira Gandhi, her son Sanjay and their cohorts during the Emergency.

The Shah Commission was set up soon after the Janata Party came to power in the elections declared after the Emergency was lifted in 1977. Unfortunately, instead of putting Mrs Gandhi and her son in the dock for the manner in which they ran the country in those 21 months, the proceedings were hijacked by the duo and won for Mrs Gandhi the elections when the Janata Party collapsed.

What was interesting was the manner in which the wily Indira Gandhi garnered tremendous sympathy during the Commission hearings. I was then still in my teens but I remember pouring over reports of the Shah Commission proceedings in the newspaper. I think I got the Indian Express at home, and it was full of reports about the Turkman Gate incident, children being sterilised, people dying during such operations, the disappearance of P Rajan, a student from Kerala who had protested against the Emergency (incidentally, his remains are yet to be recovered). To a teenager it was riveting stuff. And then there was Vidya Charan Shukla, the then information broadcasting minister who had his stooges stationed in all newspaper offices that he believed were against his leader Sanjay. He also destroyed all (so he thought) copies of a film (Kirsa Kursi ka), which was a satire on the government.

When the Commission started its hearings, the wily Mrs Gandhi, ever the astute politician, played the victim so convincingly that midway through the proceedings the tables had turned. She attended the hearing everyday dressed in a simple cotton sari, sitting on a hard bench and even refusing water. It struck a chord. People began to feel that it was not her but her son who was the culprit, which in many ways he was. By then the newspapers too (we didn’t have 24×7 television news then) began to portray her as a woman wronged and from the accused she became the victim. It was now the Janata Party that was in the dock! What is happening today with Narendra Modi comes pretty close,

Look at the way everyone – politicians, activists, media – is going after Modi every time he opens his mouth. It borders on paranoia. It is either about his role in the Gujarat riots of 2002 or his claims of a development in the State or his remark about being a ‘Nationalist Hindu’ or the very loaded puppy remark. Anything he says gets mercilessly flogged by the politicians and picked up by the media. According to the dictionary the word ‘nationalist’ is defined as ‘Devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation’. So what did Modi say that was so abhorrent, ask his supporters. Or for that matter his puppy remark. There is already a large segment of the population that believes Modi is being unfairly targeted. Just like the original Mrs G was. They would also have us believe that it was not Modi but others around him who should be held responsible for the pogrom in Gujarat.

It’s not like he is the only politician in the country who has allegedly ‘engineered’ a riot. Some former Congress prime ministers and chief ministers have watched as mobs have gone on the rampage, and quite a few ordinary politicians who are today part of the ruling dispensation, have been accused of not just inciting riots but playing an active role in them. What this is doing for Modi, is that it is making him a hero in the eyes of a large chunk of the population that believes that he is articulating their angst against everything that is wrong today.

For example, the tax-payer is angry with the UPA politicians for filling their pockets while they, the public, bears the brunt of rising prices. And no politician is bothered about them. Modi has, very smartly, stepped in to fill that breach. Like Raj Thackeray in Maharashtra who deliberately takes on the ruling establishment – be it the politician or the bureaucracy – Modi’s rhetoric has touched a nerve. And just yesterday I read that India Inc prefers Modi as prime minister to Rahul Gandhi. Must be a bitter pill to swallow for the Congress party.

Tomorrow he might turn out to be just another politician, but for now Modi seems to find support. And that worries the political class, including those in his party like Lal Krishna Advani. Coming from a politician who is part of the RSS, which has been known for its discipline, it speaks volumes of Advani’s desperation to become PM. Let’s wait and see whether Modi’s opponents who have been taking pot shots at him, find their target or just end up shooting themselves in the foot.


I am depressed, very depressed. There is so much cynicism all round. It’s difficult to take anything at face value. As journalists we have been mentally tuned to disbelieve anything we are told. Often, that penchant for taking with a pinch of salt anything we are told, has transgressed from our professional lives into our personal.

You can’t really blame people for feeling the way they do. The ordinary citizen is getting squeezed for his last rupee while the corrupt politician is busy raking it in. The ordinary citizen is paying his taxes and then he finds the government blowing it away in daft populist schemes that are only going to increase the burden on the tax-payer.

Of all the hair-brained schemes (MGNREGA, Aadhaar?) this UPA government has come up with, the Food Security Bill has to be the stupidest. I don’t say this because I have any antipathy against the poor and the downtrodden, but because I am convinced that not even five per cent of those living below the poverty line will benefit from this idiotic scheme.

Just like the funds meant for NREGA are being siphoned away by the contractors, the food meant for the poor will be forcibly taken away by the landlords, hoarders and black marketers and sold at double the price in the open market. The worms in white Gandhi caps and their cohorts will steal even the rice that the government promises to give to the poor for three bucks. That is their mentality and that will never change. Scum they are, and scum they remain.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand that the Food Security Bill is just a squalid vote-grabbing exercise. No government scheme for the poor since Independence has helped improve their living standards, and neither will this. The PDS is a good example.

There is another troubling fact. Where are we going to find the funds to feed so many? If one heard Sonia Gandhi, it would seem to the whole country that it is not her problem what happens to the tax-payer. The implication in her speech was clear. She needs the money to buy the votes and if she has to ram more taxes down the throat of the tax-paying citizen, so be it. And all this when her son-shady in-law is busy making crores through even shadier deals! So can you really expect the middle class taxing paying voter to trust this government, anymore? More importantly, can you expect them not to be cynical?

And it is not just silly schemes that are leading to this all round depression. In 2008, Mumbai was attacked by a bunch of Pakistanis. Yup, never mind the cock and bull story about “irregulars”. They were Pakistanis and they waded in and set the ‘maximum city’ on fire. The Centre and the State promised a lot to make its citizens feel more secure. Then there were more bomb blasts. We were again told that the State government would (metaphorically speaking) stand on its head to ensure the safety of citizens. Then some idiots with backpacks blew up the German Bakery, killing seventeen people who were probably enjoying their Chocolate Latte or Mocha or whatever. More promises. Then the bombs went off on Jangli Maharaj Road. More promises. If that wasn’t enough, the Pakistani Army kept up its relentless barrage of gunfire on the border, pushing in terrorists into India. And Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet keep telling us that all is well. In this situation, expecting the honest tax-paying citizen not be depressed and cynical is asking a lot of him.

Even an earnest 21-year-old asking for help is looked upon with disdain. This young girl, who teaches in a school for children of the economically weaker sections, sent me an email a week ago to ask me whether, firstly, I could find a journalist to address a bunch of 11-14 year-old from her school on what the future holds for them, and secondly whether she could bring them over to our office to show them what the inside of a newspaper office looks like.

My first response: What does a 14 year-old know about journalism? I was just being me – cynical and condescending.

Another email from her turned the whole issue on its head. It won me over: …8th is an extremely crucial year as that is currently when free education stops. If the kids and their parents aren’t invested enough in the idea of education to pay for a private school, they may drop out. So, because of the limited opportunities the kids already face, we start conversations about achievement, college and opportunities with even a 3rd grade class. Most of my students haven’t ever seen an office of any sort, and apart from what I have told them, have no knowledge as to how a newspaper works. So, I think that this would be pretty beneficial for them.”

Her earnestness won me over. I personally offered to talk to the children at her school and also got an immediate approval from the Editor to show them around the office. And then I thought… if the poor children from this school can actually get out of the cycle of deprivation and poverty and make a better life for themselves, it would be a fitting reply to the idiotic schemes launched by this government for the poor – ones that would only end up making beggars of them, instead of giving them a better life.

So cheer up, things can only get worse from here on…!


It’s been over a month since I penned my last post. Been so busy with personal and professional work that I never found the time to write something here. And then nothing really caught my interest, until now…

I remember seeing an episode of Yes Prime Minister titled ‘Hacker’s Grand Design’ where prime minister Jim Hacker invites his rather eccentric defence advisor who suggests scrapping the nuclear missile plan and enlist in conventional forces.

Hacker can already visualise himself as the messiah who gives jobs to everyone and end the unemployment problem and refers to it as ‘Hacker’s Grand Design’. His Cabinet Secretary Humphrey Appleby is appalled because there’s money to be made under the table in buying missiles from the US and Hacker is unknowingly spiking the plan, while the Chief of Defence Staff is delighted because it means the Army gets larger – until he learns that Hacker intends to launch conscription or permanent military service for unemployed youth.

“You mean we’re going to have a million strong football hooligans on the streets of London?” is his comment. The very thought is painful and so he and Appleby get together to hatch a plan that sees the prime minister and his grand design self destruct!

Running along similar lines is Dr Manmohan Singh’s grand design of the unique identification data card (UID), popularly known as the Aadhaar card. More and more I wonder whether the prime minister plan of one identity card for all, which in effect is a pretty good idea (if he can pull it off) will ever be completed and then implemented.

I am pretty certain that this project isn’t going to be completed till 2014 by which time the country will go to the polls. And unless the UPA returns to power the UID will surely be dumped and so will Nandan Nilekani, who has been entrusted with the job of carrying this humongous task through And the way this government is stumbling from one disaster to another, their survival post- 2014 seems bleak. And since vested interests in the government are hell-bent on derailing the plan it I’m even more sceptical about its success.

We, as in the family, all have UID cards and were quite thrilled to get it sometime in March this year. After all, a card that Nilekani claimed would be the last word of my identity had to be something special.

The first look was disappointing, because I couldn’t figure out how anyone could carry around a card that was around six inches long in a wallet! Then I noticed a perforated line that advised me to ‘cut here’. That put my mind at ease. Once cut and laminated, it would be a snug fit in my wallet. Needless to say, I was delighted with my new acquisition.

My son got one too with a rider. In May he turned 15, it seems he would have to get a new one because it stated that after attaining the age of 15, the old card would have to be replaced. Couldn’t the department have made a rule that all minors whose birthdays fall within six months of making the card should wait till they’re 15 and then make a card? How much money and effort would the government and us have saved? I guess no one in babudom thought of that. Or probably they did and let it be. After all, every department needs to justify its budget!

Leaving aside all the quibbling I decided to find out how useful it was. Since we moved house in April I decided to get a new phone connection from one of the private service providers. Since BSNL didn’t have a cable a private service provider seemed to be the only option. Off I went to one, where I produced my Aadhaar card as ID proof. It was refused. The reason given was that they had not yet got an ‘official notification’ on whether they could accept it.

Then last week I went to an authorised agency that deals in documentation for issuance of PAN cards. Over there, I once again produced the Aadhaar card because I wanted to update my residence home address and phone details and was once again, snubbed. Here too I was told that they hadn’t “received any notification”.

According to the RBI Gazette the UID card can be used for opening bank accounts, LPG connections etc, and there is no ‘notification’ required to announce its usability, so why are some agencies making an issue of it?

I haven’t tried the other places yet, but more than the phone operator it’s the PAN Card guys that made me laugh. And I thought the Aadhaar card was going to replace the PAN! Or is that why they’re fighting it tooth and nail? It seems here too, PC has the upper hand on Nilekani!!