Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just for a Thought

Recently over 13000 infants in China fell ill after they consumed toxic milk. The repercussions?

  1. The country’s highest ranked Quality controller chief resigned.
  2. The Communist party chief of the region where the main office of the rogue company is located was removed from his post.
  3. The country Premier asked for forgiveness from the affected parents.

Just for a thought can we expect the same thing to happen in India? Not the milk contamination; that happens everyday but the fixing of accountability, both legal and moral?

Judiciary is one of the four pillars of the Indian democracy. Until recently we thought that higher judiciary was free from ills that are somewhat rampant in the lower judiciary. Though people who dwell “in the power of corridor” will say that even the higher judiciary is fallible.

But then came Justice Soumitra Sen. Mr.Sen, who is accused of misappropriating 32 lakhs of rupees when he was still a practicing lawyer decided to ‘defend’ himself in the parliament against the impeachment proceeding that was recommended by Chief Justice of India. He will now become only the second high court judge in post-independence India who will face impeachment.

Accountability… moral-ethical- legal? You decide.

With elections looming large, political parties have decided to come to party. So should then be the news of the Centre asking some of the states to maintain law and order failing which president rule under article 355 would be imposed, seen in the same light?

This was after the activists of Bajrang dal allegedly carried out violent activities against the minority section.

I, by no mean intend to alleviate or justify what was done in Orissa, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh. Violence of any kind on any ground against any religion, caste or creed should not be tolerated.

But just for a thought was Article 355 not applicable to Maharashtra. What about the region-based-violence that was carried out by the MNS goons? Doesn’t that warranted a firm stricture from the Congress on the same lines as was done in the recent case?

No it didn’t. Reason? The victims in Maharashtra were not from any minority religion. Secondly ,in case of Maharashtra the state was being ruled by Congress, unlike in the recent case where BJP was in picture.

Political opportunism-compulsion- hypocrisy? You decide.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

the road to Kerwa

the now closed Bhadbhada
the ever lightened Shetu
the majestic Nja
and the ancient Sakshi

the red old Block
the sprawling Som
and we reach NLIU home

the affable Mindori
the up and down to Kerwa kothi
the hot tea at 'Senti'
and some tales of old days

the trees of Kerwa
the road to Kerwa
old memories come back to life
I wish I was back to those carefree times again...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Who am I to question Raj ?

Who am i to question Raj
when even the Sarkar didn't have the courage to ask

might will prevail
rights will be trampled

why talk about democracy
lets enjoy Manus'cracy

equality,unbiasness are the words of weak
throw them aside for they are 'cheap'

enjoy the 9 percent growth
let the meek and weak rot

India will change is a dream to large
bound to be broken with the ranting of Raj

I beg forgiveness for the words above
coz the courage in me has finally gone

I add one more to those who are already dead
and we sleep till Jawahar's India awakes.

1. Raj- Mr.Raj Thackrey
2. Sarkar- Mr.Amitabh Bachhan
3. Jawahar- Mr.Jawahar Lal Nehru

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A question of dignity

“Bharat Mata-an art of work: SC” screamed today’s The Times of India. A Supreme Court bench yesterday refused to entertain a petition in which the petitioners had pleaded the Supreme Court to initiate proceedings against M F Hussain for depicting a nude woman as Mother India.

Supporters of the artist have time and again evoked the freedom available under the right of freedom of expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution to justify the works of Hussain. Is this the purpose of right to freedom of expression? To offer immunity to work of art that shows a woman who is in nude as Mother India? If yes, then for me this is nothing but a gross violation of the reasons for which the above said article was added into the constitution.

MF Hussain while commenting on the Supreme Court judgment applauded the decision and said ‘At last they (Supreme Court) have understood the ‘dignity’ of contemporary Indian art. Dignity? Whose dignity? Does the dignity of Indian art is upheld by depicting India in nudes? I don’t know how many of us would like to practice this definition of dignity as stated by the artist in our personal life. Will the artist himself practice what he preaches? I doubt it.

Imagine a scenario where an artist from European country paints a picture in which he depicts Indian without clothes and in tatters. How would we react? More specifically how would the ‘liberal intelligentsia’ which till date have not condemned Hussian’s work of art, react?

Nationalism, love for ones country, is not defined anywhere nor can it be forced on anyone. But I am sure that the definition doesn’t say that not getting offended by paintings that depicts the nation in nude is one of the essences of showing respect towards your motherland. Have I stated something that is too lowly or rural for the ‘intellectuals’ to understand?

Ancient temples that have been for long used to justify any work of offensive art have been reduced to just mere examples. The sculptures of nude king and queens are frequently equated with religious sculptures. How much is this justified is a question that needs to be dwelt on much.

Earlier the same artist had depicted Hindu goddess in forms that are undignified by even the farthest stretch of imagination.

Those who raised their voice against it were called ‘Right wing individuals’. Agreed that the violent way in which they protested was condemnable but what about the work of Hussain that incited the reaction? Is that not condemnable? The price of being the majority population cannot be so much.

If the same artist had painted religious pictures of other religion, he would have been running from one county to another for asylum, but for Hinduism. For Hinduism embraces everyone and ‘everything’ with open arms. Some section of the ‘learned’ feel that it’s imperative for this religion to not be offended and to smilingly embrace the dignity stated by Hussain. Is the Hindu god-goddess and mother India ‘children of the lesser gods’?

The more I force myself for searching reasons to look at Hussian’s work rationally, the more I feel that our Constitution has been taken for a ride. The fact that the Constitution also prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion has been conveniently forgotten.

Majority, like the minority, too value their religion. Just being numerically strong doesn’t mean that a particular religion cannot get offended by offensive things. We cannot have a double standard for deciding the dignity of the majority and the minority.

Where are the classes of the intellectuals that throng the street on the slightest pretext? Do they only represent those who are less in number? What about those who are humiliated because they are more? Who will speak for them? Artist like Hussain or the activists like Babu Bajrangis? Both of them are the extremes and sadly the middle path has been hijacked by the ‘Liberal –intelligent-class’, who not only believe but also practice double standards.

The time has come to follow secularism not just in the minority spirit but also in a spirit that was the force behind drafting the word 'secular' in our constitution.

A nation of hypocrites we are speaking only when the situation is favorable, let’s stop our tread for a minute and question ourselves. Questions which are not that hard to answer.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bihar's sorrow

Northern part of Bihar is swarming with reporters and media personnel. With the who’s and who’s of print media and the electronic media converging on the swollen banks of Kosi, the might of the sorrow of Bihar and the plight of those affected by it is now being witnessed by everyone.

Before 18th of August no one including me cared about what was happening in Supaol or Saharsha. It is nothing more than perhaps the law of our society that only in times of extreme sorrow that the poor hogs the limelight. And then also the affected victims have to share their 10-15 days of ‘fame’ with the politicians who are one among the first to reach such places.

In the past too, old women were swept away, children died of snake bites and man drowned, but who cares for a few numbers. In the end it is all about the eye catching numbers; huge number. In the present case the 29 lakh people that were affected was too big a number to give a miss.

As soon as Manmohan singh after a ‘quick response’ that took 10 days to come, declared the flood a national calamity, all hell broke loose. The flood affected regions of Bihar which till then were ‘immune’ from the presence of even a reporter from a local news-channel suddenly found itself facing familiar faces of our vibrant media. You name them and they were there.

No one can take away the fact that the media did and is still doing a commendable job of covering the calamity ,but the point is that is presence of ‘huge numbers’ the only criteria for making a news a national news?

Reporters after reporters are taking great pains and efforts to visit the areas that are still out of reach for the state officials. Heart rendering footage has become the order of the day. Some have taken great pain to cross over to the other side of Nepal and dig out stories on how the breach occurred due to the negligence on the part of the irrigation department. They also declared that the breach was a result of long period of negligence and the breach didn’t take place overnight. Agreed that the breach developed over a period of time. But why wasn’t the breach brought in the public when it was still in its initial stage?

Its not that the dam was kept out of bounds for the journalist, it’s just that at that point of time it was not worthy of being shown on the national television. Who would have watched a ‘eroding dam’.

Post the ‘national calamity’ declaration things have changed. Now even a glitch in a minor embankment is making news. I guess the top management of the media that moves and shakes in Delhi have their own idea of a news-worthiness.

Calamity or no calamity, politician are flowers that bloom throughout the season. The Below the belt remarks that have been coming from the political leaders of Bihar has highlighted the sad plight of the level to which the leaders can fall even in the worst of time. Not even the catastrophic effects of a swollen Kosi, could stop these leaders from indulging in political war at a time when they should have been attending to the rescue of the millions that have been affected by the raging Kosi.

The political game that ensued saw Nitish Kumar calling himself an unsung hero and terming Lalu, a dramatist, who was moving around the flood affected areas with a train of TV reporters. Lalu replied back and declaring that Nitish has lost his mind.

After Kosi river broke all barriers and flooded 15 districts of the state, affecting more than 29 lakh people, it took 10 long days for the union government to decide that this time it was not ‘just another regular flood’ that affects Bihar every year but a national calamity.

Then came the initial statements of no politics in time of sorrow. But later the whole nation stood witness to the troika of Lalu Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar engaging in political statements and counterstatements over fixing the responsibility for the floods.

Initially it was Lalu who started the fistfight when he announced in a press conference that the state government had failed to pay heeds to the instructions from the Centre and had not repaired the Kosi barrage. Pointing out to the callous attitude of the state officials he came out with documents that pointed out that the walls of the barrage was breached a day after the State chief engineer (Irrigation) had reported that all barrages were in good condition.

In reply, Nitish came out with a set of his own documents in which it was said that the state government had been regularly corresponding with the centre and asking them to take the issue of repairing the barrage with Nepal.

Paswan too joined in and rapped Nitish for failing to take timely actions to plug the breach. In between all this, the plight of the victims was forgotten and they were left to themselves. Even now many are still stranded and marooned and fighting a loosing battle.

Old timers point out that in a way the 15 years that preceded this government is also to be blamed for this failure of government machinery. During the earlier rule, the whole of the state machinery was left to stagnant and officers found themselves being molded in a way that required them not to venture out in the fields but to stay in the comforts of their offices. The same disease continues to plague some of the current lot.

Till last year the engineers of the water resources department were punished by the DMs in the flood hit areas. Whenever any breach occurred in the embankments the concerned executive, superintending or chief engineer was instantly arrested on the orders of the DMs and sent to jail. But now it seems that, Nitish who is an engineering graduate, has realized the bureaucrats too are at fault.

The CM suspended district magistrates of Supaul and Saharsa districts for Negligence in flood relief work. He was so infuriated with the officers that he ordered on the spot transfer of the two DMs when he visited the flood affected areas.

He also sent three of his cabinet colleagues in the worst affected areas with direction to stay there for a fortnight and not come to Patna. Three senior IAS officers from State Secretariat were also sent as special DMs in the three worst hit districts to monitor and supervise the relief and rescue operations.

Nothing can absolve Nitish because as a CM he was responsible for the state machinery but the bureaucrats too have let down the chief minister.After the flooding the Bihar chief minister was told by his officers that Nepal was responsible for the floods in Bihar as the embankment was breached from their side. Later the foreign minister of Nepal Upendra Yadav denied the charge and claimed that dam in Nepal was still intact.

Such was the mismanagement that rescue boats and rescuers had to wait for six hours for supply of diesel as the BDO of the concerned district was busy with the PMs Program. Then came a statement from a senior official of the state disaster management asking the flood victims not to come to Patna, and return back to their submerged homes through the same special train that had brought them to the capital.

The fury of Kosi continues unabated but for these representatives of people it has boiled down to who gets the maximum accolades in this time of sorrow. And not surprising it’s Lalu, accompanied by the ever swelling entourage of reporters who is winning hands down.

Madhya Pradesh- August

When Uma Bharti quit BJP 30 months back and announced the formation of her own party (Bhartiya Janshakti), political pundits predicted that she would give BJP a run for their money in the Central state of Madhya Pradesh. After all it was she who was wholly responsible for BJPs sweeping win over Congress in the previous state elections where Digvijay singh led Congress was completely routed.

But now seasons have changed and so have the predictions. After successfully defeating Congress, Uma Bharti conveniently forgot that it was the BJP wave that had played an important role in her fight. Not only MP, but Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan were also won convincingly.

She was made to think by her inner coterie that it was she who had led the BJP into power and without her BJP will find hard to survive. Nearly 2 and half years later, it’s her party that is finding hard to breathe. The maverick leader is learning the never ending political lessons the hard way.

Her party is on the brink of collapse just three-months before the Assembly election in the State. And the proverbial rats are jumping off the sinking ship. Recently her one of the most trusted confidant and party general secretary Bhagwandas Sabnani came back to the Bharatiya Janata Party fold.

Sabnani’s revolt came as a bolt of blue for Uma who had still not recovered from the twin shock of desertion of the then party national president Raghunandan Sharma who deserted her after he was promised a Rajya Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh with support of BJP. Before that party's national general secretary and former Union Minister Prahlad Patel too snapped his ties with Bhartiya Janshakti on issues of contesting the Gujarat state elections. And before that, it was Madan Lal Khurana, a former Bhartiya Janta Party Chief Minister who went back to BJP.

Those of few who are still in BJS are counting the days when the inevitable will happen and Uma too will crossover to BJP. Sources feel that the wait will be over by the time the dates for the state elections are announced.

Without Patel the party is under financial crisis and is heading for a major split. The Bhartiya Janashakti has witnessed mass scale desertions recently and paucity of funds and resources have ensured that the party workers will have to put no extra efforts to break the 30 months old ties when time calls.

Shivraj Singh Chauhan continues to enjoy the good luck that has been working for him from the day he took over as the CM. Chauhan who was the third CM after Uma Bharti and Babu Lal Gaur recently celebrated 1000 days in office.

Experts feel that with no major controversy, except the “Dumper deal” to court him, Chauhan has performed well in the run-up to the elections. The BSP ( Bijli – Sadak-Pani) which was the main issue in the previous election has been negated by the work carried out by his government. This has resulted in the opposition Congress futilely searching for an issue.

The various people friendly scheme that has been launched in the state like the Kanyadaan Yojana for marriage of poor girls, Ladli Laxmi Scheme for girl children and Annapurana Yojana for subsidized food grain, which has been quite a hit in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh too has ensued that Shivarj will have issues to share with the electorates once the electioneering begins.

Though some section feel that corruption has eaten away the political benefit that could have been gained as the ground level implementation has not been quite up to mark for the schemes to make their total impact. But with the CM putting his foot down before the code of conduct sets-in the desired result will soon trickle in.

Also the party on its part has asked its entire ministers to pay attention to the district that have been put under their charge and spend at least five days in week in these areas.

A high profile meeting of the top leaders of State Congress in Chinndwara on August 22 grabbed quite a few eyeballs in the state. Almost all of the senior leaders of the party including Kamalnath, Digvijay singh, Jamuna Devi, Jyotiaditya Scindia, Ajay Singh, V Narayan Swamy and Suresh Pachori were present at the meeting.

During the meeting Digvijay singh and Subhash Yadav caused a flutter among many feathers when they announced that they were in support of Kamal Nath being projected as the CM.

Later it was reported that the AICC has taken serious note of floating Nath’s candidature as future CM and summoned both Yadav and Singh. Union Minister of State Jyotiraditya Scindia too had strongly objected over the announcement. It is no secret that Scindia, Kamal Nath, state Congress President Suresh Pachauri and Ajay Singh, son of Union HRD minister Arjun Singh all are CM aspirants and they have started their efforts to see to it they get the coveted chair if the Congress wins power.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The mystic gaze

Memories are gateway to the moments that are not lived again

Times are rare when one experiences the proverbial “time freezes” moments; when everything stops as if a magic spell has been cast.

I have been through this magical moment twice in my life. In both the circumstances the cause for the phenomenon (a girl) was identical and the place of occurrence was also the same. I first experienced this when I was in class 10th and then again in class 12th.

It was lunch time and after having filled my stomach I went to the water cooler to wet my beak. As I reached the coolers which were kept at end of the famous “corridors of Jawahar”, I heard a shriek and as I turned back I saw two small boys, probably 2nd grader, writhing in pain.

Presumably both of them were running towards each other through opposite direction and had collided into each other. One of the boys was lying on the ground, his head bleeding while the other was struggling to stand on his feet. The fallen boy was holding his head and the shaky one was covering his mouth. Apparently the teeth and the head had taken the maximum brunt of the collision and now both were in pain.

As the boy with the painful teeth swayed and fell he was held by a girl. And that’s when our eyes met.

The time stopped, everything came to a stand still and nothing moved. Our eyes refused to blink. It was as if everything except the two of use had ceased to exist…..the spell had been cast. It was those ‘once in a lifetime experience’.

It's difficult to say that how long the spell lasted, because remember the ‘time had stopped’. But when finally it was broken, I found myself staring at her and I could experience the numerous sounds and the various melee that filled the corridors of Jawahar.

The second of the incident happened nearly two years after the first and it occurred at the classroom gates of my class, 12C.

After the first lecture ended, I went out for a stroll and when I came back, I found the classroom doors closed. The English subject teacher who was Anita Chaturvedi mame (popularly known as AC madam) had already started taking the attendance.

Not wanting to miss the class, I opened the door and stepped in. But my steps stopped in mid-air as the moment I pushed the door it was pulled from the other side.

Standing in front of me was she and we were just an arms length apart. Our eyes met and the time froze again. A hush fell over the school, the murmuring stopped and so did the teaching. As some great writers have often described it was like as if “I was floating in space; lifeless and weightless”.

More than 8 years later I still yearn that spell to be cast again…and to be spell bounded by her eyes again.


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