The “Inflation” Effect

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has completed almost four years in the office. Kudos to them for providing a stable government so far. The growth rate has been approximately 8.5 per cent according to the various reports. I don’t know what exactly this term “growth rate” means, but I have observed many changes in my daily life. The change has been very significant in the last few months post that populist budget.

Surging prices of vegetable, fruits and pulses hit the common man hard while dearer steel and metals pushed the inflation to a 40-month high of 7.41 per cent, prompting the government to take more price control measures like ban on cement exports, and now may be ban on steel exports as well. “Whatever I make, must be affordable to the common man.” These were the words of Chinni Krishnan, who is acknowledged as the father of the sachet revolution in India. But is the common man’s problem being addressed in our country?

Empty WalletBeing a student and living in the hostel, I need to manage my expenses well. Previously, my daily expenditure was Rs. 100, which has increased to Rs. 150 now, despite my having cut down my expenditure on some fronts. I have to ask my parents to deposit more money in my account now. My father, who has taken a home loan, has to pay more Equated Monthly Installments (EMIs) and the return period has gone beyond his retirement. The college has increased the fees citing more expenditure. The mess fees has increased following the rise in essential commodities such as vegetables, edible oils, etc. In all, my life has changed a lot in the last few months. It is not just me; in fact, all of us must have faced the heat of rising inflation week after week. The condition of the people who depend on the daily wages is much more pathetic because they are the first and the worst victims of inflation.

Despite this growth rate, the common man’s problems are not attended to. The cup of woes of the common man across the country seems to have reached its brim, with rising prices of fruits, vegetables and other essential commodities leaving a deep hole in the pocket, forcing us to re-frame his already back bending budget.

This is an issue, which is core to the Indian government right now as it knows that the soaring inflation, if not curbed will eat away the entire success story (if any), which it has woven since the past four years, certainly something it does not need when it is going to the polls. The Prime Minister has said that the government will try their level best to curb the inflation but that has not happened till date. The government needs to curb the growing price at the earliest; else it will have to face the consequences in all the upcoming elections scheduled later this year.

This government is definitely by the people but not for the people. I say that whatever reasons the government might give for inflation but the end of the story is that the common man does not have either the time or the money to read or know about that reasons. The failure to curb price rise and inflation has been a major blot on the government totally neutralising the 8-9 per cent growth rate. As the UPA completes its fourth year in the office, the government headed by PM, Manmohan Singh, may be known more for what it has not been able to achieve rather than what it has.

Image courtesy-Icelandexpress

Aaj Ka Arjun: Piggybacking the Indian Reservations

Arjun SinghEighteen years can be an eternity in politics: on September, 6, 1990, a stirring speech was made in parliament criticising the Mandal commission report.

“If you believe in a casteless society, every major step you take must be such that you move towards a casteless society. And you must avoid taking any steps which takes you to a caste-ridden society. Unfortunately, the step we are taking today in accepting the Mandal report, is a caste formula. While accepting this reality, we must dilute that formula and break it by adding something to it. Even at this late hour, there is time to pull the country back from caste division… ministers are provoking caste wars. Are we going back to the Round Table Conference for having separate electorates? That was designed to break our country. An issue like reservation cannot be treated in a piecemeal manner. We must look at the whole picture.”

The author of the speech? None other than the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Given Arjun Singh’s love for history and the Nehru-Gandhi family (every room in his house is dotted with portraits of the Congress’s first family), it is possible that he has read Rajiv Gandhi’s intervention in parliament on the Mandal debate. Yet, as the scriptwriter for Mandal Part II, Singh may well be having a quiet chuckle as he describes the Supreme Court order upholding 27 per cent quotas for Other Backward Classes (OBC) as ‘historic’ and a ‘vindication’ of the stand he has taken. After all, in a rare display of unanimity, not a single politician worth his vote has chosen to voice even the slightest disagreement with Singh’s formula. The ghost of the Congress’s posterboy PM seems to have been well and truly buried.

What explains this tectonic shift? The answer must be found in the rise of competitive politics in the last two decades and the end of the era of Congress dominance. So long as the Congress enjoyed a monopolistic position in Indian politics, it could afford to ignore the yearnings for greater empowerment at the bottom and middle of the caste pyramid. The backward castes in south of the Vindhyas had already been accommodated within the ruling arrangement through a pre-independence social revolution. It was only when the winds of political change began to sweep across north India that the real transformation occurred. Once the Mulayams and the Lalus shook the foundation of the Congress in the 1990s and captured power across the Hindi heartland, the party had little choice but to fall in line with the new order.

Nehru, especially, was contemptuous of caste. In a circular sent to the presidents of all the Pradesh Congress committees in 1954, Nehru said:

“In particular, we must fight whole-heartedly against those narrow divisions which have grown up in our country in the name of caste, which weaken the unity, solidarity and progress of the country”.

Indira Gandhi, although much less ideologically inclined, was also discomfited by caste assertion, choosing to combat the rising power of the OBCs in the 1967 elections with her universal ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan. Rajiv Gandhi reflected an English-speaking public school educated mindset in dealing with caste politics: the speech in parliament in 1990 was only one example of his singular distaste for grappling with the complexity of caste equations.

When Gujarat chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki’s politically successful experiment in the mid-1980s with backward-caste alliances led to an upper-caste backlash, Rajiv was quick to dismiss him, an error of judgment for which the Congress is still paying a price in the state. Right through the Rajiv-Indira years, no attempt was made to push forward with the Mandal report commissioned by Morarji Desai’s government in 1977.

Why VP Singh resurrected the Mandal genie in the 1990 remains the subject of much debate: his supporters have suggested that the Raja of Manda was a genuine  revolutionary, committed to notions of social justice, and someone with the foresight to recognise the changing political landscape in the country. It is more likely that the Janata Dal PM saw the implementation of the report as a weapon to silence his critics within and outside his rickety coalition. VP’s Mandal operation was done by stealth, not conviction, designed to safeguard his own precarious position in the government.

Ironically, 18 years later, another upper-caste Thakur from north India, has chosen to make caste-based reservations his calling card. If VP Singh used the Mandal report to consolidate himself politically, Arjun Singh too has bolstered his stature by pushing ahead with OBC reservations. Both VP and Arjun cut their teeth in the Indira Gandhi school of politics: a politics of convenience, not always of conviction.

Both became CMs in the latter period  of the Indira era, neither showing any inclination in their home states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to engage in radical social engineering. Both were faced with shrinking political bases, Arjun Singh even facing the humiliation of coming third to the BSP in his pocket borough of Satna in 1996. In fact, both were recognised as good administrators rather than charismatic vote-gatherers or harbingers of a new political order. Both have masked their vaulting ambition under the guise of morality: if VP was the crusader against corruption, Arjun Singh has projected himself as the protector of Nehruvian secularism.

VP Singh at least managed to attain the ultimate prize. Arjun Singh, by contrast, has always been the also-ran, never the bridegroom. In 1991, he was a front-runner for the prime ministership, only to find himself being edged out by Narasimha Rao. As HRD minister in the Rao government, Singh showed no desire to push for reservations.

It was left to then social welfare minister, Sitaram Kesri, whose memory has now been virtually deleted from the Congress archives, to champion the Mandal report. Singh, by contrast, was identified  as the saviour of the minorities: demanding white papers on the Babri Masjid demolition, giving grants to minority institutes and organising seminars on secularism. With his nemesis Rao being seen as soft on Hindu communalism, it suited Arjun Singh’s political ambitions to emerge as a defender of minority interests.

Now, in his second coming as HRD minister, Singh has offered another alternative: If Manmohan Singh’s core constituency is the urban middle-class, Singh has appealed to the disadvantaged groups. If the PM is the symbol of the new economy based on merit and efficiency, Singh represents the older order based on handouts and patronage. If the PM wants to encourage private enterprise, Singh would prefer to strengthen the role of government through sops and entitlements.

If the left attacks the PM for elitism, Singh is embraced for chanting the mantra of equity. Reservations, be it for minorities or backwards, have been the Madhya Pradesh leader’s ultimate political weapon in his battle to retain relevance: having already worn the hat of secularism and socialism, he has now added the cap of social justice. It’s a triple whammy, the kind which should make it impossible to ignore or isolate him.

With such high political stakes, who then cares if the government’s flagship primary education schemes are in a mess? Who cares if the drop-out rate among Dalits, Muslims and backward caste students remains unconscionably high? Who bothers if the infrastructure is not in place to manage the reservation fallout in IITs and IIMs? Who worries if quality education continues to suffer?

Unfortunately, for Mr Singh, it may be too late now to achieve his ambitions: he is unlikely to be seen as a future prime ministerial candidate in a party waiting to see the emergence of a Rahul Raj. But there is compensation: Arjun Singh is the only member of the cabinet to have a road named after him. What Jamia Millia Islamia University has done today, pro-reservationists may wish to do tomorrow.

By Rajdeep Sardesai
From Hindustan Times dated 18/04/08

India today. Its been 60 years. Right??

Pride in being an Indian, nostalgia for what it must have been like in those heady days ahead of August 15th 1947. Looking at sepia-tinted images of Rajpath on the day India achieved freedom, one can imagine the frenzied crowds, the sense of utter joy at being a free nation. We take freedom for granted today. We couldn’t have been quite so bindaas 60 years ago. That perhaps is our greatest achievement, creating a sense of uninhibited freedom among millions (spit where you want, vote for whom you wish!).

Few gave this country a chance of survival 60 years ago. The prevailing wisdom was that India would crack apart into dozens of princely states, that the centre would simply not hold. By contrast, it was expected that Pakistan would be a more homogenous nation,united by religion. As it has turned out, Pakistan has become a nation undermined from within by religious fanaticism and an emasculated middle class. Sure, India too has its crisis points in the form of an imperfect democracy battling poverty, farmer suicides and unemployment, but despite the imperfections, it has been astonishingly resilient.

In the remarkable book, India after Gandhi, historian Ramachandra Guha had once tried to unravel the enigma of India.

“Why does India survive?”, he asked in his final chapter.

His answer, a sense of a shared symbols – cricket, cinema, music – a respect for diversity, and above all, a remarkable constitution that guarantees fundamental rights and enshrines the principle of one man one vote. I think this country owes a huge debt to the framers of the constitution. I cannot think of a more progressive document anywhere in the world, one that respected individual rights above all . We must be blessed that in the 1940s a collection of rare public figures came together to frame the constitution. It might be difficult to imagine this in our polarised times, but in the 1940s, Indians had the sagacity to realise that people of differing ideological persuasions needed to be brought together so that every possible talent could be harnessed. Maybe, we need to read our history books once again to understand the true meaning of freedom, of being an independent nation. Today’s young and restless I fear often have little knowledge or interest in history.

  • How many young Andhraites know of the sacrifice of Potti Sriramalu, the man whose fast unto death led to the formation of the modern Andhra Pradesh, and laid the basis for liguistic states?
  • How many young Maharashtrians know of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and the sacrifice of those who fought for their state?
  • Is any young Punjabi interested in reading the biography of Tara Singh?
  • The Forward Bloc may keep the flame of Netaji alive, but do young Bengalis bother to read his life story?

Sadly, we are becoming a country ignorant of our history. We seem more comfortable with the quick fix cinematic idea of Gandhi in Munnabhai, than doing anything to really try and understand the man behind the Mahatma. In the 60th year of Independence, we need to make a pledge: a pledge to try and appreciate our history a little more.Remember that old chestnut:

“Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.”

Rachit Chandra

YFE Vindicated as Supreme Court Up helds 27% OBC Quota

yfe.jpgTHE QUOTA row might hit the country again following the judgement given by the honourable Supreme Court today. With this verdict the court’s interim order of March 29, 2007, staying the implementation of the quota has now been lifted. The highlights of the verdict are:

* Supreme Court upholds 27 per cent Other Backward Caste (OBC) quota in educational institutions
* No to creamy layer in 27 per cent OBC quota
* Reservations in educational institutions now 49.5 per cent
* No decision on OBC quota in private colleges
* No harm in implementing OBC quota this year
* Review of OBC quota list every five years
* Children of former, current MPs and MLAs to be excluded from quota

Youth for Equality, petitioners who challenged the move of the government to introduce OBC Quota are not really ecstatic with the verdict, but they are not disappointed as well. The reason being that many things that have been challenged needs to be vindicated in the verdict. Most of you must not be aware, what happened exactly in the case and what arguments were put up by the government and the petitioners. The petitioners forwarded the following arguments.

1. The 2006 quota law was unconstitutional as the government went ahead with reservation for OBCs without identifying the intended Beneficiaries.
2. Non-exclusion of creamy layer from the purview of OBC quota law violated Supreme Court’s verdicts on the issue and went in favour of — The well off among the OBCs.
3. Caste cannot be the sole basis for identifying the socially and educationally backwards for the purpose of reservation as it ran contrary to — The constitutional objective of achieving an egalitarian society.
4. Reservation cannot be for an unlimited period.

The verdict has clearly mentioned the exclusion of creamy layer from the ambit of the reservation. This is remarkable because, the government was never ever ready to exclude them, I guess the reservations were mainly intended for them else, they could have given up to this demand them self. It is so because the well off among the backwards become like the upper class and avail of the benefits of reservation to the disadvantage of the most back ward segment of the OBC, which actually deserved the fruits of reservation policy.

But, now there is problem as who will decide the creamy layer. If the government is given the power then it won’t be good because government then can do some silly things again. In Maharashtra, the limit for Creamy layer is an annual salary of four lakh rupees per annum (which is quite much because before the pay commission report that was not the annual salary of high rank IAS and government officials). The other good thing is that the children of former and current MPs and MLAs have been excluded as well. This decision makes a sense as well because if you have all facilities, which are entitled to a MLA or MP, then there is no need for the reservations. The petitioners also say that the revision of OBC quota should not be done by the government, but an independent body if we really want to get rid of this reservation.

I would appreciate the way the students and few young professionals gave their best to fight for the next generation and achieved few things as well. They brought the entire issue in front of the nation and made people aware of the unknown facts.

The arguments forwarded by the government in the process of the verdict were:

1. The OBC quota law as being completely in tune with the constitutional requirements.
2. The government also defended the inclusion of creamy layer in the OBC quota law, but said it was for the court to take a final view on it.
3. Caste is a reality of the Indian society and it should, like in the case of reservation in public employment, form the sole basis for the identification of backwardness among the OBCs.
4. There cannot be any time limit for reservation.

There are few points that appear so brazen in the arguments forwarded by the government. The government said that the caste is a reality of Indian society. Agreed, we have so many instances where people of one caste have been targeted by another.
But, then the government says that it is the reality, and then it only shows the helplessness of the government and its failure in these 60 years that we haven’t been able to change the scenario. Who is to be blamed? The caste has become indispensable part of India’s politics and few states in country, where caste determines everything in an election, plays a huge role in general elections. The politicians are to be blamed the most who just not want the word “caste” be eradicated from our country.
Every assessment, which they make of national problems, policies is based on one factor and that is caste. The result of this is perpetuation of caste system rather than its eradication. The reservations are not the long term solution. The government also said that there could be no time frame for the reservations. Isn’t this argument stupid? If you implement a policy anywhere, first thing you see is– whether it will be a success? If government believes that its policy is not a successful one then why not choose for another policy. I just wonder that why can’t we have some affirmative actions based on caste free economic criteria? There can be just so many ways to bring the social equality and at the same time eradicating caste.

Let me tell you that ‘reservations’ was just one of the many recommendations given by the Mandal Commission. But our politicians have put the other recommendations in the dustbin and went ahead with the reservations as it provides them a ready made curry of “vote banks”.

A communal and caste based feeling and emotion can be easily aroused and we see the same thing happening before every elections held in India. The reservation system is being misused to create a privileged ruling elite, instead of creating an equal society. It is obvious that we cannot eradicate caste under the garb of caste reservation. The political mind of India has been ‘mandalised’ beyond redemption and the ghosts of Mandal will return to create further divisions in our caste-ridden society.
Arjun Singh says, “he has been vindicated” but the point from where I see that this has just started a rearward trend. The protests in the early April 2006 and there onwards some what divided our college campus and there was an awkward feeling in every one’s mind. If the government continues to play such dotterel politics then it will leave a scar on the face of India. The youth, which is the strength of our nation, is made to believe that in our country caste is the most determinative parameter for everything. The youth is carving for egalitarian society and such incidents hamper the spirit of the youth as well. Youth is the symbol of dynamism, growth and development and if we our older generation cannot change their mindset then it our responsibility to change it. Our political values have plunged so low that it needs to takes courage to do something right.

The verdict will have some reactions and counter reactions and we may see fresh grind in our country, which will be very unfortunate. Already there are so many instances of caste and class wars and it would have been better if we could have absolved the young population. It is high time for youth to come together and treat government a lesson. The best way is to come out and vote in all the upcoming elections because the ‘votes’ are the only thing our political parties care for. Nani Palkhiwala once said that the way class wars and caste wars are going on in India; we would see another divided India? Don’t we ever want to learn? It is time to stand up and get ourselves counted in the democratic process of India.

An open Letter to politicians of UP and Bihar

TruthWell in one of my articles “Political games being played all over”, i mentioned reasons about large scale migration from UP and Bihar. I was lacking some figures which i got in today’s HT Counterpoint written by Vir Sanghvi on page 10.

Here is an excerpt from that article.

My suspicion is that the disdain with which the Thackerays treat people from UP and Bihar – the so-called Bhaiyyas – is part of a wider trend. As India develops and transforms itself, UP and Bihar are increasingly being perceived as the laggards. Once, Bihar was India’s best-administered state (do not laugh: an international study came to this conclusion in the 1950s); now, it is seen as a wasteland. UP was the heart of India, the state that gave us the largest number of Prime Ministers. Now, it is a mess, treated on par with Bihar.

One look at the figures will demonstrate that UP and Bihar are the two states in India that are certainly not shining. The net state domestic product of Bihar was Rs 51,194 crore in 2004-05. In contrast, the state domestic product of Ma- harashtra was Rs 3,28,451 crore, over six times the figure for Bihar. Even poor, backward Orissa did better than Bihar at Rs 52,240 crore.

The contrast is more striking when you look at per capita figures. In 1993-94, the per capita domestic product of Bihar was Rs 3,037. Eleven years later, in 2004- 05, that figure had gone up to Rs 5,772 which, when you adjust for inflation, prob- ably means that income hardly went up at all, and may even have gone down.

Now, look at the figures for other states. In 1993-94, Maharashtra’s per capi- ta domestic product was Rs 12,183 – already four times the figure for Bihar. By 2004-05, it had gone up to Rs 32,170, nearly six times the figure for Bihar. Gujarat was at Rs 28,355 in 2004-05, and other states were booming: Kerala at Rs 27,048; Punjab at Rs 30,701; and Haryana at Rs 32,712.

Uttar Pradesh has fared a little better. In 1993-94, its per capita income was Rs 5,066. In 2004-05, it went up to Rs 11,477 (largely on the basis of Noida, but that’s another story). This makes it better off than Bihar but still worse off than every other Indian state.

Together, UP and Bihar are bottom of the list when it comes to per capita income. It takes four Biharis to earn as much as one resident of Maharashtra. And, UP’s current per capita income of Rs 11,477 is less than Maha- rashtra’s income of Rs 12,183 a decade ago in 1993-94. In those 11 years, UP has not even reached where Maharashtra was way back then while Maharashtra and other Indian states have surged ahead.

The economic disparity is matched by a political decline. In few states has politics got as dirty as in today’s UP. If it isn’t Mulayam Singh Yadav’s crony capitalism, then it is Mayawati’s shameless casteism and her naked pursuit of her own enrichment (her annual income is Rs 60 crore the saving grace is that she declares it and pays tax on it).

As far as the rest of India is concerned, Bihar has become a wasteland run by mafia dons who are pursued by Naxalites. The rule of law does not exist, and politics is largely a question of caste.

In both states, national parties hardly get a look in, unless they are alliance partners. Regional groupings based on caste share power with one another. Because these states have such a large share of Lok Sabha seats (UP has 80 while Bihar and Jharkhand together have 54), national politics is held hostage to these caste considerations and to the ambitions of regional leaders.

All this contributes to the lack of regard for UP and Bihar in many parts of India.
In Bangalore, a few years ago, a successful software executive told me that he had compiled a growth rate for south India and that it exceeded China’s. “It is UP and Bihar that let us down,” he said. Such sentiments are common. The face of India that we show to the world – hi-tech, Bollywood-glitzy and super-educated has nothing to do with UP and Bihar. For many Indians, the two states have become an embarrassment.

Now i have a question for politicians of UP and Bihar. Do they have any blue print of taking their state forward? The states have only caste politics nothing else. The people are so “innocent” that they fall prey to caste games. They don’t even understand the term development it seems. May be because they have never seen it. But one thing is for sure that whole India is developing at a brisk pace while UP and Bihar are crawling.  As Mr Sanghvi says–  I have respect too for the ordinary Biharis, who are truly the salt of India, going off to other states to create wealth for all of us. I doubt if West Bengal could survive without Biharis and Punjab’s crops are usually planted and harvested by Bihari workers. And oddly enough, whenever Biharis have travelled overseas, they have prospered: in Mauritius, Guyana and Surinam, for instance.

But then why can’t their own state take care of them. It is because we have not changed with time. Rest of India ignored the casteism and racism and rose to the top of the economic pyramid. And eventually India shed its old image and went from being perceived as an underdeveloped wasteland to becoming an emerging superpower. But the status-quo in UP and Bihar. I want to ask the politicians and people of UP and Bihar—- How long will they deny their citizens the benefits of the new India? And how long will the voters of UP and Bihar allow themselves to be ruled by a bunch of casteist crooks?

Amend Constitution to Regain Voter’s interest

It is an undeniable fact that some serious measures are necessary for the smooth functioning of Indian democracy. All our efforts should be directed to make electoral processes simpler and easier to understand, so that people vote, and vote for the right candidate.Voters in QueueIndia is the world’s largest democracy. We have the highest number of voters. However, in the last few years, the number of people participating in the electoral process has gone down by huge numbers. While residents of rural areas come in large number to cast their votes, the same cannot be said about the urban people. It is shocking to see that less than 50 per cent of the people participate in the democratic process in which India takes great pride.

The learned and the right-minded strongly feel that there is a need to amend the Constitution, in order to attract more number of people and encourage them to vote. The politicians can be blamed for this trend as they have discouraged the people from voting, having made false promises year after year. The Constitution needs to be more electorate friendly as times have changed. The young population of India is getting more alienated, as they are getting busier with their jobs and shifting from one place to another.

The Government needs to think on new lines and make amendments with respect to the right to vote and bring some changes in the electoral process. In India, we have at least four to six elections every year. The expenditure incurred to carry out these elections results in sheer wastage of public money. Considering the present case, after the 2004 General Elections, there have been elections in at least eight states and there are a few more lined up before the 2009 elections. In this scenario, what happens is that the political parties are busy working on strategies for the next elections and cannot concentrate on the developmental policies and issues of national interest. This can be done by having all the elections at the same time, which will save public money, their time and enable our ‘netas’ to work on some worthy issues.

In India, the participation of young people in the election process is declining. One reason is that many young students move from their home location to other places for studies and subsequently get jobs in different places. Therefore they are unable to vote. Hence, proxy voting facility should be introduced, so that the people living in states other than their home states can also use their right to vote in that state. They are earning in that state and equally share the advantages and disadvantages of that state.

PAN cards could be an effective solution, they could serve as personal identity for all purposes and several offences could also be controlled.

The other important thing is that we need to make elections a simple process. For the convenience, we may think of introducing Internet voting. Healthy skepticism about Internet voting is good, but Estonia has shown how it could be a shot in the arm for a democracy. During the presidential elections this year, Estonians sat in their homes and offices, logged on to a particular website and used a smart card reader to vote. This can be introduced in India too. Though this media is vulnerable, but we can at least give it a try in the municipal elections.

Some serious measures are necessary for the smooth functioning of Indian democracy. All our efforts should be directed to make these electoral processes simpler and easier to understand and practice so that we can choose the right leaders.

Political Games being Played all Over!!

MUMBAI IS in headlines for last few days and we have seen some very parochial politics being played in Mumbai and in the country over all. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists are on rampage against North Indian migrants in Mumbai and Maharashtra.

Amar SinghThe ‘bhaiyyas’, common pejorative for North Indians living in Mumbai, are being targeted because MNS believes that these migrants, especially from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar are creating nuisance in the city and are taking the share of Marathi people.

Raj Thackeray is struggling to gain some political relevance and ahead of 2009 assembly polls, he has aroused regionalism to meet his vested interests. He wants to project himself as a true saviour ‘Marathi manus’. But he has touched a new low in the politics by pitting people of one region against another. Such tactics can be very deadly and may lead to total chaos and unrest in Mumbai.

RajThe state government also kept quiet for a week, chief minister and deputy chief minister were busy attending functions, while police commissioner of the city hosted Thackeray at his daughter’s wedding. There is an allegation that Congress-NCP (National Congress Party) kept quiet because it knew that it would be difficult to regain power in Maharashtra after ten years in the office. If Thackeray can eat some of the Marathi vote bank of Shiv Sena, it will ultimately help Congress-NCP.

Mumbai ViolenceOn the other hand, Samajwadi Party (SP) wants to expand its base in Maharashtra following the large population of North Indians in the city, and this tirade of Thackeray has provided SP a golden goose they were looking for. They are leaving no stone unturned to project themselves as saviours of North Indians.

Both MNS and SP are at loggerheads in order to woo the voters. BJP, a national party that is struggling to project its pan India outlook, is reluctant to change the hollow and illiberal outlook in Maharashtra. The criticism of Thackeray by BJP appears hollow. Instead of mentioning Thackeray for his ugly remarks, they demanded the resignation of the chief minister. It seems that they are on some other track. They need to be told that the resignation of the chief minister is not going to diffuse the tension, which is primary at the moment.

The notion that a particular city belongs to its natives and the people from other states or regions cannot work in that city is totally against the very essence of our Constitution and concept of national unity. Our Constitution has given right to every citizen to work and earn living anywhere in the country. But the recent incident has made me think on two points.

Firstly, what makes people leave their homes?

Herein lies another aspect of our politics. In the last 60 years, our political leaders and political parties have succeeded in enjoying themselves in the politics of non-development. The national parties are mainly responsible for this. They never paid heed to the development of India as a whole. In fact, the little development that has happened is centered around the state capitals and mostly around Delhi and Mumbai. The non-development in the other cities leads to birth of regional outfits and parties, which have no sensitivity towards the nation as a whole. No one can deny the fact that maximum job opportunities are available in these two metros only. Therefore, people migrate to make better living. In Mumbai, there is 70 per cent population of migrants who have come from every nook and corner of the country. Thus, Mumbai, South Asia’s biggest city, is choking. Everyday over 40 families arrive in Mumbai.

United Nations (UN) report says that Mumbai will have 30 million people by the year 2015, which makes it the world’s second most crowded city after Tokyo. This rising population stretches the infrastructure such as roads, water, railways, electricity, residences, law enforcement, etc. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is considered to be the best in the country, has failed miserably to create better infrastructure. The hindrances from various political outfits are also making life difficult for BMC. If it tries to replace slum, there are protests; if it takes action against illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, there are protests; if it takes steps against unauthorised settlements, it is not allowed to do so.

Mumbai is crumbling but none of the politicians are taking any comprehensive review of this chronic situation. They are unable to act tough, as they may loose something politically. Mumbai requires Rs 2,34,000 crores for infrastructure development but New Delhi has budgeted Rs 35,100 crore for whole Maharashtra. We need to be more practical and focus on the solutions rather than aggravating it. A more inclusive approach is required, and driving away immigrants is not going to help anyway. One of the approaches can be to decentralise the jobs from Mumbai to nearby areas such as Panvel and Vasai. The world’s largest cities like New York, Shanghai, Tokyo that faced similar problems have successfully implemented this solution. Then why can’t Mumbai? Political will is required.

Secondly, why people from UP and Bihar migrate most?

If you observe closely, you will find people from these two states all over the country. Punjab, Assam, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, to name few. One reason is that the labour from these two states is cheap and hardworking, ready to do jobs such as driving taxi, housekeeping, milkman etc. The main reason, though, is that the politicians of UP and Bihar are worthless with no self respect. The elections in these two states are never fought on the agenda of development, but on the petty issues of caste, community and religion. The politicos are so corrupted that they eat all funds diverted by centre for development. Mayawati government stalled Anil Ambani’s power project in Dadri, probably because it was cleared by her political rival. When a private player is meted with such a treatment, how can you expect him to set a factory in the state? This politics of ‘vendetta’ has led to dearth of private sector in UP and Bihar. There is no infrastructure in these two states and the politicos have no knowledge of the economics. For them, development is restricted to opening of new parks, lawns, memorials, etc. They never ponder to encourage the growth rate, number of private players, boosting agriculture, small-scale industries, and power plants in the state. With no option left at their disposal, the people of these two states are also needed to be blamed for the condition of the state. They always fall prey to vested motives and are very happy with underdevelopment in the state. Otherwise, they should have made their elected representatives more accountable.

The politicians from UP and Bihar are baying for Thackeray’s arrest but if they feel so insulted, then they should take the daunting task to provide job opportunities to people in their own state. Instead of expanding their political base in other state, they should concentrate on the well being of the people in their own state. Every regional party wants to go national but their motives are regional centric only. I would be more happy if Amar Singh, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad, who are ‘true saviours’ of the people from their state, do something to improve the living standards in UP and Bihar. The people of UP-Bihar have immense potential and are showed by their success stories with reference to number of engineers, doctors, and civil servants. But unfortunately, their own state cannot tap their talent. I will be happy to sacrifice my multinational corporation (MNC) job and work for upliftment of my state, provided government shows some positive signs.

Whatever is happening in Mumbai is very sad. It is basically part of regional chauvinism and parochial politics played at the expense of some very poor people. Nothing will come out of this situation and only poor will suffer. Political games are such that the people never understand these but they do play and become a part of it.

Indo-US Nuclear Deal is DEAD?

HOW OFTEN we have seen the Indian cricket team being beaten in the game after getting on top of the opposition. The same thing is happening with the Indo-US nuclear deal, which was cleared by Senate in the United States and then Indian Prime Minister went on to risk his government to move forward with the deal. But then some behind-the-stage drama led to curtains on the deal. Where is the nuke deal heading now? The issue, which dominated foreign policy in 2007, has lost its way somewhere after Left parties threatened to withdraw support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) if the deal was finalised.

Nuke DealUS ambassador David Mulford has said, “If this is not processed in the present Congress, it is unlikely that this deal will be offered again to India. It certainly would not be revived and offered by any administration, Democratic or Republican, before the year 2010, which is after the life of this administration.”

Flash back to 1950, when India was offered the permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council but the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru refused to accept the offer because he believed it was aimed at “creating trouble between India and China.” Ever since, India has been trying very hard to get the place in Security Council. That seat eventually went to China. China grabbed it with both hands and now is the staunchest opponent on the expansion of Security Council. It seems that time has rolled on and we are back at the same stage as before. The government might have bought time to convince the dissatisfied colleagues of UPA on the deal. But till date no positive step has been taken towards the finalisation of the deal.

The top nuke scientists believe that India has got a fair deal. A major component of any clean energy strategy must be nuclear power and I strongly believe that the civil nuclear agreement that was negotiated was good for India. India is already facing crisis on the energy front and the deal could have solved the problem for India. There are several other advantages, which have been highlighted time and again.

The US is continuously warning India that it is “now or never” for India as non-proliferation groups may force additional conditions on it, considering that they are too unhappy with the deal in its present form. The political atmosphere in India and US is changing and we might not get another deal in near future if it fails this time. The backing down from the deal has also caused an international embarrassment to the Prime Minister and he will have to personally face a two-sided attack for this foreign policy failure that he himself had nurtured and gone against the tide.

The times have changed but it seems that the Left are still living in the past. The Left, which has its presence only in the three Indian states and with only 60 MPs in Parliament, has caused the government to change its stance on such an important issue.

The lack of will on the part of Congress is also surprising because it was Congress’s government that refused the Security Council seat in United Nations in 1950 and now this deal in 2007. The inability to operationalise the deal would hurt the government’s image. The prime reason for silence over the deal is that every step taken in Indian politics is backed by political mileage and economy and international business has never been on that list. I don’t think political parties think about India’s benefit while they take a stand.

Lead India Contest: Who Do You Want to Win?

Amul’s Take on Lead India Contest

Amul’s Take on Lead India Contest :)
Well, to be honest I have not been meticulously following the contest trail till recently.

Nevertheless, Lead India contest gives hopes to incorrigible optimists like me. It is an initiative by Times of India to give opportunity to a honest, enthusiastic citizens within 25-45 age group to dream a leadership project.

The prize? One year leadership programme at Harvard University and a grant of Rs. 50 lakh towards a project of the winner’s choice.

Out of 32, 682 applications received from all over India, now 8 finalists from 8 cities have been selected. The selection is based on 50% jury judgment, 25% audience jury judgment, and rest sms poll. Here is a brief about each of the candidates:

1. Sanjiv Kaura, Delhi: A 42-year-old who served part-time as Territorial army, with a track record of being in public service. This social entrepreneur is said to be “a perfect blend of experience and idealism.”

2. Abha Singh, Lucknow: 42-year-old Director of Indian Postal Services division at Lucknow. Her dream project is to curb corruption. Other issues she feels strongly about are communalisation and castism, gradual erosion of systems and values, educational backwardness, especially rural areas and particularly women, and terrorism. She believs we can do it.

3. Devang Nanavati, Ahmedabad: 36-year-old top notch lawyer from Gujrat. He is a senior partner in Ahmedabad’s leading law firm of Nanavati & Nanavati, Advocates. Likes of Arun Jaitley and P.Chidambaram have fought cases on behalf of his firm. His interests: Billiards, human rights, and constitutional laws. Plans to embark a political career.

4. Dipayan Dey, Kolkata: 44-year-old environmentalist. He has indisputably won expert jury points, audience jury points and sms polls. He is a biotechnologist trained in sustainable development from the United Nations University in Tokyo. He has founded a NGO called SAFE that aims for poverty alleviation and protection of natural resources (such as water bodies) are judiciously exploited and the local population can earn more money. His take “curb defense budget, first fight hunger and poverty.”

5. Soumya Mishra, Hyderabad: 40-year-old IPS officer at Warangal. Has first hand experience of leadership and counseling at work. Her dream project? To start a community welfare project primarily to help redress the problems faced by people at the grass-root level due to naxalism. Not surprising choice, as she is a police officer from Naxalite-rampaged Warangal.

6. Rajendra K. Misra, Bangalore: 42-year-old entrepreneur. He retired willfully at 40 when he was MD of a successful company to devote time to public policy domain. Writing a book called Retire at 40 And Do What? Inicdentally, more can be found about him at his blog.

7. Ranjit Gadgil, Pune: 36-year-old programme director of Janwani is a technocrat-turned social activist. He returned to serve India quitting his IT consultancy job in US for. He was involved in education of underprivileged children. involved with organisations like the Nagrik Chetna Manch (NCM) and the Pune Traffic and Transportation Forum (PTTF). Talks about solid waste management and ragpickers issue (something you can read more about in this blog.) With his Lead India prize money wants to set up an organisation that can deal with urban planning and act as a source of information and support for slum dwellers.

8. Ujjwal Banerjee, Mumbai: 27-year-old, married to lawyer is an engineer-cum-MBA. Like most of us, started with MNC (in his case, TCS) and then later switched to work in a NGO after a through thoughtfulness. HE is now serving as an HR Manager in a NGO Akansha that shelters and educates street kids. He was involved to protect innocence of kids in a murkly world of brothels. His dream project? Opening internet kiosks in a couple of Indian villages to educate, benefit farmers, schoolchildren and adult learners.

My personal picks:
Abha Singh from Lucknow who aims to fight corruption. Ujjawal Banerjee from Mumbai, who gives up full-time lucrative job at young age to work for NGOs. Ranajit Gadgil for handling solid waste management system and rag picker’s protection.

Source: Check out more about finalists from Lead India contest.

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I also write at Visceral Observations.