Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is the govt wrong in trying to mould a criminal into a society worthy person?

Slightly disturbed by reactions of some people that the nirbhaya case juvenile being given 10k by Delhi govt to start a tailoring set up is not just ridiculous but shameful. Heres another perspective. Our shitty law either way requires this devil to be released into our society. So we have 3 choices.
1. Sign petitions, raise voice and get the govt to change shitty juvenile laws to ensure that such people remain behind bars (one such attempt is already underway by AAP govt)
2. Since that will take time, we can choose to throw stones at this guy the moment he comes out of jail. Discard him from the society. Push him in a corner so he definitely retaliates and becomes a worse criminal. This makes us no better people, and he still gets to roam around with a chance of messing someone else's life up. Unless of course we become barbaric mobs and lynch him to death
3. We do something to mitigate the possible effect of having a criminally inclined person roam our roads. Giving this guy a job or a vocation and a constructive direction to his life is in the interest of our society. It will give him something to do, reduce time for criminal tendencies. There is nothing shameful in trying to make him a better person. If he doesn't grab this chance, he will either way stray and reach the jail again, or even the gallows someday. But if he does, and genuinely changes, won't that make all of us better people?

It all depends on whether we believe all criminals must be exterminated, or they should they be reformed and made society worthy. Whether we believe human beings deserve a second chance or not. Whether WE as people deserve a second chance or not, and upto what extent of a mistake? In my view, the mistake made by then HM of Gujarat Narendra Modi in consciously snatching away 10 years of life from 6 innocent people in Akshardham case (as stated by SC), and in turning the other way when 1000s of his own countrymen were being massacred, some of them in more horrendous ways than Jyoti Singh, is a worse crime than what this juvenile has done. Had we experienced that crime, or seen it ourselves, would we still make him the PM?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Bihar 2015 elections - A Mandate For The Lesser Evil

Modi may have been claiming to talk "Vikas", but his behavior, actions and speeches have been giving mixed signals. He is over-sensitive to criticism, believes that name calling and showing others as the villain is the way to become a hero, and is scarily comfortable with over-promising and non-delivering. His election speeches stink of dishonest tactics, devised only to get votes, by hook or crook. Electorate chooses the lesser evil. But they want the right to decide it for themselves. The one who calls others evil, ends up being questioned himself.

Happened in Delhi. Happened in Bihar. Happened to Kejriwal in LS. Will happen again in India in 2019 if Modi does not course correct.

Why is it all about "Him"? Because BJP/Sangh/Modi chose to make it so. This is clearly not a BJP or NDA govt. Even in the state elections, surprisingly and unfortunately, its been Modi all the way. India elected this govt on the name of Modi and he alone has to accept the brickbats and the bouquets. Hopefully he will do it with grace.

In my view, Modi's attitude and approach has pulled focus towards the larger leadership challenge that is staring at India. Not only do we need stronger leaders in each state, even at the national level there is a dearth of leaders who can take everyone together.

We need a leader who can soothe nerves rather than rile them up. Especially today, more than ever before.

Friday, November 06, 2015

In Response To The Confused Hindu

(A strong and wonderful viewpoint by Deepika Govind on the concerns of an average Hindu in India, is liberally strewn across my FB timeline since a couple of days.)

Given the current public discourse, Deepika has put forward the expectations of a Hindu in clear, fair and logical terms. Leave alone Hindus, all Indians will agree with her, irrespective of their political or ideological leanings. “True Secularism” is the need of the hour; we must evolve into a society that does not treat people differently based on their religion. She decries the ‘Award Wapasi’ brigade at the end, and puts forth some expectations from them. Which, howsoever justified, unfortunately seem like a directionless end to an otherwise poignant commentary.
How do we achieve our goal of a ‘Truly Secular Society”? Who will help us achieve it? Partly its our own responsibility. Driving a change in mindset. However, had this been enough, we wouldn’t go around helplessly pointing fingers at INC for their regressive, unconstitutional-in-spirit, minority appeasement politics. In fact the politics of favoring some religious minorities, even ignoring their communal acts, is probably the second biggest reason why INC is a 0-45 party today (corruption being the first). So, it only makes sense to say that the Govt and the ruling party of the country will play a strong and leading role in achieving “True Secularism”. The massive mandate to BJP was also a mandate for the hope that BJP will herald this era of ‘Truly Secular’ ideology, and steer away from politics of appeasement.
One wonders though; Is an end to ‘appeasement politics’ all that there is to being ‘truly secular’? Is there more? If yes, then has it happened? Is it being done? What actions does it require on behalf of the Govt?
For a moment, lets assume that all of award wapasi is ‘manufactured dissent’. What do we expect the Govt to do? Convince the ‘Award Returnees’ to stop, or shut them up, or prove that they are mistaken? Ignore them? [add any other solution that neutralises the ill-effects of award wapasi propaganda on the Govt’s image, because thats what the Govt seems to be most worried about] Fine. But then what? Will we have moved even one step towards achieving our goal? Do we see any concrete actionable coming out of this debate at all?
In this light, ‘Award wapasi’ begins to feel like a dwarf of an incident in the larger quest of ‘true secularism’. And there are a series of many such incidents which get undue weightage in media, only because people in media are people like you and me. They tend to digress, and focus only on whats top of mind. We need to start realising one thing - we pay the Govt our hard earned money to manage the country, and improve our lives. If at all there is anyone accountable to us, its the Govt. So, instead of questioning the motives of some fellow citizens, which may or may not lead to actionable points, may be we should ask some tough questions to the Govt. Here are a few that I would like to ask in the current context of secularism -

  1. Does the govt believe that pseudo-secularims is a problem, and a cause of social unrest in our country?
  2. Have the Govt leaders led by example, through speech and actions, that exude ‘truly secular’ attitude, so that the society can learn from it?
  3. Has the govt taken any concrete measures to bring in legislation or constitutional amendments that lead to equality across religions (rather, irrespective of religious inclinations)?
  4. Most of the points mentioned by Deepika fall under the purview of a Uniform Civil Code. BJP has been talking about it since forever. Has the Govt taken any action on it? Is there any draft law under process? Apart from Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill and Citizenship Amendment Bill, has the Home Ministry worked on any piece of legislation in the past 1.5 years. Why not? (Its interesting to note that in its 2014 Manifesto, BJP has limited its definition of UCC to gender equality and protecting rights of women. Absurd? Intentional? Either way, are they still morally obligated to implement UCC in this 5 year term? You decide.)
  5. Its understandable that the Govt could be worried/sensitive about the extremely wide ramifications of a Uniform Civil Code. In that case, should they at least bring a bill that will prohibit anyone from using religion as an eligibility criteria in any educational, professional or other institution?
  6. Haj Subsidies are provided by the centre . Many states provide subsidies on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, Jerusalem visits, and to Christians as well. Due to a Supreme Court order, PMO ‘initiated’ action in January 2015 to stop all religious subsidies (ideally Home Ministry should have initiated it). Has there been any movement on it at all? Shouldn’t the govt be doing more than paperwork follow-up towards achieving the dream of a ‘Truly Secular’ India?
  7. While above questions have to do with Govt inaction, theres another set of questions pertaining to alleged counter-productive actions by the Govt. Unfortunately, this is where we see the ruling party and the Govt being visibly active. While a hoard of Govt MPs (Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyothi, Mahesh Sharma, Sanjeev Balyan etc) have publicly made insensitive and communal statements, I’d like to put out 3 examples which should be the cause of maximum concern since they are coming from top 3 leaders of our nation -
    1. BJP President Amit Shah: In a rally in bihar, he said “agar Bihar mein BJP haaregi toh patakhe pakistan mein phootenge!”. In a country where public discourse equates ‘Muslim’ with ‘Pakistan’, will such a comment aid or harm the idea of “True Secularism”?
    2. Home Minister Rajnath Singh: His comment on “Love Jihad”, a campaign initiated by Bajrang Dal in Kerala, and included by UP BJP in its manifesto last year, was startling. Rajnath Singh feigned ignorance about what Love Jihad means (and the room filled with laughter). Can a Home Minister have an ostrich like approach to what was clearly a law & order problem in the country at that point? Will such comments, that can easily be seen as covert support to Hindu Extremists, aid or harm the idea of “True Secularism”?
    3. PM Modi in Bihar : “Dharm ke aadhar par aarakshan nahin dena chahiye. Bihar ke daliton, maha-daliton, pichadon aur ati-pichadon ko aaj main vishwas dilata hoon, ki aap mein se ratti bhar aarakshan agar koi cheenane ki koshish karega, aur kisi aur sampraday ke naam par de kar vote bank ki rajniti karne ki koshish karega, toh modi aapke aarakshan ki suraksha ke liye, apni jaan ki baazi laga dega!”. Now the context:
      1. There is no plan by the Bihar govt to give any reservation based only on religion, so why did the PM raise this point? Twice. Isn’t this another form of reverse appeasement? Is he ushering in “true secularism” through such comments?
      2. There is a constitutional debate around, whether only a Hindu backward class is a scheduled caste, or should the definition include all backward castes irrespective of religion. Surprisingly, the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 pertaining to Article 341 has been providing religion-based reservations for more than 60 years now (it states - “No person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”). Shouldn’t the govt work towards abolishing ALL laws that provide reservation based on religion, rather than proclaiming its dedication unto death for the backward class of one religion, thus inadvertantly ignoring the backward classes of other religions? 
      3. Shouldn’t all economically weaker and backward people (irrespective of religion) get Govt support, based on merit if need be? Isn’t that what a truly secular social fabric is supposed to be all about? By giving into the demands of Vote bank politics, isn’t the Govt itself playing to the gallery ironically created by the Congress.
We all sense that the environment is getting a little murky. Else this debate would not be happening. The question is, should the Govt be coming across as someone overtly or covertly encouraging it, or should they clearly be seen to be calming the atmosphere through sensible and strategic clearing of media cobwebs? Why should the PM & BJP President even risk using a language in state elections, that can be interpreted as an attempt to milk the secular vs communal debate? 
The final point in this debate is around Hindu extremism. Justified by many as a response to appeasement politics. We would be pulling wool over our own heads if we denied its existence. I won’t get into proving it. What I’d like to say is that the likes of Sanatan Sanstha, Bajrang Dal, VHP, Durga Vahini and other such Sangh parivar sub-units are only making it tougher for us to achieve true secularism. They are doing a disservice to the average Indian Hindu. It comes close to the disservice done by Congress policies.
While I realise I might have been a little harsh on the Govt, I believe that its a democratic necessity. The Govt is the most accountable entity in this debate. And as I said, we are paying them to manage our money and our country, to give us a better life. The fundamental questions I’d like to ask this Govt are -
  1. Is becoming anti-minority a constructive response to opposing minority appeasement? When do you plan to end all minority appeasement through legislative reforms and legal enforcement? What do you plan to do beyond ending minority appeasement?
  2. What are you doing in terms of legislations to ensure social parity irrespective of religion? Should social reforms, based on progressive legislation, be a higher priority for the Govt; or adept handling of the old school vote bank politics, to ensure the ruling party’s victory in elections?
I have no clue what this government’s response might be to either of the above questions. And that is what is making Hindus like me more tentative, not the Award Wapasi brigade. The govt could be using their massive mandate to bring in constructive legislations that will help do away with differences based on religion or cast and improve the social fabric of the country. I would go as far to say that, what this govt seems to have promoted so far, can best be described as a sense of "Pseudo Hindu Nationalism". It is upto us whether we want to go with this imposed flow, choose to get deeply hurt that our Hindu sentiments have been questioned, or seek a truly secular and Religion Agnostic Governance.

Choice is ours.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Chase Of Thoughts

O Shit! He had to run. There was no other option. The strange looking stranger had just picked up his laptop bag and was making a dash for the platform exit. Or so he thought in that split second. For he didn't know where the platform exit was. He managed to glide the almost filled plastic tea cup straight into the dust-bin, as he craftily picked up his stylish blue backpack on the way, and sprinted with all his wind tearing power, towards the moving figure threatening to merge into the crowd. While he was ducking and darting like a bullet on auto pilot, a million thoughts ran through his mind. What would he do if the bag was stolen? It contained most of his critical documents, his cellphone hands-free, the borrowed Dostoyevsky book, the chosen 10 movies from his Woody Allen collection, and of course his e-ticket. He had once lost his bag which contained his LIC policy, Driving Licence, Passport, Chaos Theory & two other books he had just purchased from Blossom, and 4 new movie DVDs. He had gone through hell to get all the documents back but on hindsight it seemed easy.
Suddenly he didn't feel as scared just in case the bag was stolen. Another thought that ran parallel to this was, that she was going to call him soon. And he wondered what if she called him just now while he was running.
The strange stranger was quick but the distance between him, and the fluttering white kurta which was feeling left behind in the midnight chase, was decreasing. He was glad he had been running thrice a week lately, and it showed. He finally decided to go for the flying dive. It was a big risk. Even if he managed to grab the ankle he was sure he would pin him down. But what if he fell short?
And as he felt his grey jeans preparing to soak in some action, he dived. Almost in slow motion, he was holding the cell phone in his left kurta pocket to keep it from hitting the ground, his backpack nicely hung by his shoulders and flying with him, and his right hand outstretched as far as his 6 foot 1 inch frame would allow it to go. He blazed towards the stranger's foot and his fingers just about got hold of the bottom edge of the cloth around the ankle. That was good enough. His strong grip brought the stranger to ground, as they landed on the hard floor with a thud, and slid to a stumbling halt.

And the phone rang.

"Hey! had your tea?"
"Uhm... Not really."
"I was lost in some thoughts baby, and by the time I could realise it, you called."
"What thoughts sweety?"
"You know, as I was looking for a tea stall nearby, I realised I might need to leave my laptop and backpack at the mercy of this strange looking stranger sitting next to me. So I started wondering. What if the moment I begin to have my tea this guy picked my laptop bag and made a dash for the exit? What would I do? How would I chase? And then... while I was thinking about all that could happen, you called!"
"I don't believe you boy! You better get back to writing."
"I guess I'll go and have my tea first."

An old draft, which I somehow didn't publish.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Development for the people and against the people

"Ban on new industries in critically polluted industrial areas lifted; pollution index-based moratoriums stopped"! - NDA eases green rules to push investment

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. This entire article is nothing short of scary. This approach is similar to the approach of those people who will dump their garbage in the neighbours yard and feel happy about how easily they have cleaned up their own. We should realise that we don't live in isolation.

Many public hearings that I have read about have apparently been more of a hoax than a fair hearing (Tribals kept out of public hearing: Vedanta showed its anti-people face once again). Filled with party workers and paid crowd, they are an irritating formality that the govt official has to get over with. Some of them don't even happen on ground. Easing of these norms will get this irritant out of the way to a large extent! Clap, should we?

Easing environmental clearances with no logic or without proper checks and balances can cause disasters. (Building in old river courses magnified Uttarakhand disaster, Why north Bihar residents remain vulnerable even as Kosi waters recede)

And every once in a while, a smaller group of Indians (read farmers/tribals) sacrifice their life, home, comfort etc and are forcefully displaced without fair compensation so that someone can make money in the name of development and to benefit a larger group of Indians. Now the district administration can consent for a project, on behalf of the affected smaller group, and declare that the rights of the villagers/tribals affected have been "settled". This declaration can happen in 60 days irrespective of the settlement status!


All this in the name of development.

As time passes, you realise that corruption at every level is eating so much into this development money that the larger group pretty much ends up with a "thullu".


So what should the govt do? While announcing the easing of norms, they should also talk of enforcing an environmentally favourable triple bottom-line reporting for all industries affecting the environment in a big or small way! The amount of damage done has to be compensated with same amount of Eco-restoration. Get them to balance out their carbon footprint.

However, there is no answer to the settlement declaration rights being given to district administration. That's just pure sham. Distt Administration is a representative if the govt and not a democratic body. They will not work on the interest of the affected people but of the govt decision. This decision is like taking away the walking stick from the blind.

Bottomline - An unbalanced pro-development but environment and people-unfriendly approach by Modi govt. Who are you doing the development for if some of the people are left unhappy and homeless while others don't get to live in a healthy environment?

Intellectual Property - Beware