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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wah! Ustad! Its Humility Personified!

It was after 14 long years I was going for a live concert of Ustad Zakir Hussain, here in elegant Chowmahalla Palace at Hyderabad on 17th December. Last time, it was in Palakkad at Rappadi Amphitheatre, when it was organized by The Rotary Club of Palakkad and Association of Chartered Accountants. I had the privilege of accompanying him to the hotel after the programme, along with Dr. Prabhakar of SRI (Society for Rural Improvement). Having hosted the Maestro in the USA, Dr. Prabhakar knew him personally and wanted to meet him to discuss about a charity concert for his organization. Though we had to cancel that programme later, the meeting was very positive and I was awestruck at the humility of this legend.

The whole programme was a huge learning curve in my life! The fusion of Tabla (Ustad Zakir Hussain), Violin (Dr. Kunnakkudy Vaidyanathan), Ghatam (Vikku Vinayaka Ram) and the Kanjira (Selva Ganesh) was literally an amazing experience! However, the most unforeseen (for me, till then) happened towards the end of the programme, when Ustad conversed with the most ordinary audience through the medium of Tabla! Later, when we met him, it was the unbelievably modest behaviour of this great man left a permanent yard stick forever in my mind to look for, in any such celebrities!

One more incident on the same day left another deep mark on my sensibilities. In the hotel lobby, we met Shree Mattannoor Sankarankutty (The famous ‘Chenda’ artist), who was there with his twin sons for just taking the blessings of the Maestro! Ustad blessed the kids and talked about Chenda in length & breadth!  I believe that the depth of his knowledge on the various formats and technicalities of Chenda must have amazed Mattannoor as well! Years after, I witnessed the ‘Arangettam’ (Debut Performance) of these young kids in ‘Pallassana Pazhayakavu Temple’ and Shree Mattannoor was nostalgic about this meeting when I referred about it.

With these memories intact, I went to this concert on 17th December, 2011 at the beautiful Chowmahalla Palace and as expected, Ustad was at his magical best! Though he played many new innovations and unique improvisations, there was a deliberate effort from him to play himself subtle to give importance to young Sabir Khan (Son of Late Ustad Sultan Khan), who with his Sarangi, shared the stage. In fact, Sabir Khan was performing for the first time after his father passed on, a month back. The usual ‘takeover and indulgence’ of Ustad Zakir Hussain was missing, though there were couple of glimpses of it as rare exceptions. He, often forgets momentarily that there are others around him and indulges himself in a seamless journey of Ragas! However, he used to come back to his composure recognizing others respectfully and pass the baton to them, who in turn indulge themselves in pursuit of outreaching the set standard bar! This was deliberately downplayed in this concert to accommodate this youngster and as an ardent fan of Ustad, it was little disappointing for me. The young Sabir Khan also had his moments of glory when he enthralled the audience with his variations in Sarangi.

At the end of the programme, pointing at the beautiful Chowmahalla Palace, Ustad reminded the audience to preserve our rich heritage and culture along with the T20s and IPLs. He told: “There are numerous young artists performing around you. Google them and encourage them too, not just me alone”.

With every individual who touched his feet for his blessings, he too bent down to show his respect and it kindled my sensibilities to learn the DNA of humility from this great soul!

The Legends are those who travel beyond the stricture & frame work of their profession into virgin lands of exploration with an open mind and correlate every new experience to the well learnt basics of their profession to evolve new practices and bring freshness to it and thus contributing in transcending the same warmth to their listeners.

Every youngster has tons of lessons to learn from this great human being, who is humility personified!

Monday, November 21, 2011

An ode to a Legend

  “Let me keep a petal of silent prayer
          In front of his soul and legacy he left with us,
         To follow and to practice,
         Though, with broken hearts”

One of the most influential people in my life is my Dad. I know this may look like a cliché for many, but I can’t keep myself away from proclaiming it as I owe him so much for whatever I am, as a human being.

In Haridas Master, I lost the second most influential person of my life. He was Pallassana’s ‘Hari Mash’.

Haridas Master was my Mathematics Teacher in 8th and 9th Classes. These were my years of transformation as a Maths student since I hated Maths till then! He definitely had a magical wand to attract his pupils towards the most prejudiced subject. In fact, my Dad used to meet him every day during his evening walks and explained him about my perceived fear of Maths. I still don’t know what magical touch had transformed me, but the results were magnificent. I’m ever indebted to him along with all other lives, he had transformed in his life time.

As it is nostalgic to remember about those formative years of life, I can’t stop writing without mentioning about the unified efforts taken as a team by those self-less teachers with great dedication. During SSLC, it was like a very well conducted orchestra and I remember the Maths Team - Sudha Teacher and Sasidharan Master under the leadership of ‘Hari Mash’! From Santhiniketan (a Tuition Centre adjacent to School), there was Jayaprakash Master too, who contributed in introducing us to lots of innovative tools and methodologies. In fact, during those days we were given exposure to today’s work sheets by ‘JP Mash’. The most important point was that these new tools were immediately accepted and adapted by our formal teachers without any resistance as they found it was very useful for the students. I don’t know how many of such teachers exist today who adapt innovations, so quickly?! Predominantly we should thank the bold leadership of ‘Hari Mash’, who initiated and led this positive change in teaching.

Another factor was the inspiration to see and enjoy ‘Kathakali’ more seriously. Over a period of time, the ‘Kathakali’ in Pallassana and ‘Hari Mash’ became two inseparable entities. I remember the tiny ‘Krishnan’ along with him among the ‘Kathakali’ audience during the annual ‘Pazhayakavu Temple Festival’. Pallassana will definitely miss 'Hari Mash' a lot during next year's festival.

As a matter of fact, in this world of Public Over-Display of Affection (it is no more PDA, now it is PODA), we shared a subtle relationship with lots of affection. We had numerous constructive discussions on various issues and on devising new techniques to introduce applied Mathematics to the young minds to inculcate a Mathematical culture and make them aware of its pragmatic applications in life.

Thanks Hari Mash…
Thanks from a million minds!
Inspiring mortals was your destiny
You will keep doing it in your absence too.
Through me and all of them, forever!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The disaster of political hoodwinking

Whether most of our politicians lack education or not, they have arrogance in abundance with little wisdom! However, to understand the pulse of the nation, you don’t need rocket science expertise, but sheer common sense. Many a times, in the eagerness to oppose the change, our ‘Netas’ tend to forget it or deliberately ignore it.

In fact, post Anna’s movement; there has been a polarization of political class across the party lines against it and against anyone who supports it. Though this is a natural phenomenon and response, well expected from this species, what I fail to understand is the height of their foolishness like any other frog in a small well! I apologize to my readers for these harsh words as I am helpless to find any lesser word from my vocabulary. If they carefully observe the political turmoil across the world and the bloody end of those dictators who were far more powerful and influential than our stalwarts of democracy, it is vivid and clear that neither these movements can be ignored nor that the relevance and the lessons it provided can be sidelined.

Every reference of these global movements by most of our political analysts and other scholars during the Anna’s Movement on a comparison note, was repeatedly thwarted by our political class  who came on discussions across the party lines and their reasoning for their stand  was that the political scenario in India is completely different from those countries and they went ‘gaga’ over the greatness of our democracy! Post 26/11 attack, as I have been repeatedly stating through various articles, the ire of the marginalized middle class was ever growing and culminated as the evident support to the Anna’s movement and thanks to Anna and his team mates who could channelize it in the most peaceful manner unlike in most of the other countries. To the people who refer to Anna’s movement as a threat to the democracy of the country, I have only one appeal and that is to understand the world around you more practically and not through those yellow spectacles of a politician who wants to cover his assets and his lost face. The fact of the matter is that this ire towards the political species is going to remain here as long as they don't change their ways and if you resist and try to bamboozle the people, by harassing and/ or dividing the team, which only reminds people of the British tactics of ‘divide and rule’, it will boomerang with added momentum.

Yes! They are correct that it is a threat to the democratic system of our country as our current system is built on the fragile framework of regionalism and religionist sentiments and the most influential middle class have been so far kept out of our electoral political process through deliberately clever and strategic marginalization, which is of late, losing grounds drastically. The system has consistently failed our people over all these years of independence and by shying away from each opportunity to mend their ways, our politicians are shutting doors to the enormous opportunities to avert the end of the road disaster, which is not too far! Moreover, the very agitating middle class are very much aware that no one is sacrosanct in this current system which has been on a sharp climbing curve of corruption for over 60 years and nobody is an exceptionally perfect role model! So, what they look forward is only a gesture of hope to keep their spirits up and they are all aware that one ‘Jan Lokpal’ is not going to end corruption overnight in this country. If our politicians fail to read these minds of the people and stop hoodwinking at them to divert their attention by attacking a few team members of the movement, the disastrous end to this glorified democracy and the politics of religious and regional divide, will come to a grinding halt.

It will be much easier to topple democracy in our country than those autocrats and monopolies of other countries as it is more delicate and internally displaced by any standards! If it took a much difficult blood shed to replace the authoritarian governments/ rulers outside, it will take no time in a factional, unrealistic and non – representative democracy like India. The only hope now is that there is still some breathing time left, to change and transform and if you don’t listen to these final calls, you are writing your destiny of disaster and in the end, whatever you wanted to cover – up and safeguard will be unveiled like in the cases of yester year corrupt world leaders.

Monday, October 31, 2011

End this Intolerance & Impatience…!

When you go through the media, be it Television, Newspaper and/ or Micro – Macro Social Networking sites, you get a feeling that no one is happy and everyone is intolerant towards others and everyone is impatient to accept and analyse their failures. They all find some medium to vent their ire towards almost everything they deal with in their daily lives!

There’s an air of suspicion and hatred and more and more people are becoming unhappy and bombs explode in regular intervals across the globe. Where’s this universe heading? Is it reaffirming the 2012 theory? Recently, I met one of the spiritual gurus after the ‘Navaratri Pooja’ and talked for some time. During his discourse after pooja, he was urging the disciples to have a self-analysis and a course correction to lead a healthy and happy life. I don’t know how many of them understood it, among those who were assembled there, as many of them were in the last phase of their life. I was going there after a long gap and earlier I had seen youngsters who used to be there to organize such events and now I observed that the vibrant presence of the youth is missing there. Later the Swamiji confirmed that those who used to be there had either got transferred in their jobs or got absorbed in their work pressure and not able to find time at all…!

Now, with the ‘wall street capture’ movement gathering momentum, it is evident that people across the globe have been suppressing their insecurities and intolerant desperations all these while. Given a chance, this is erupting and gathering the imaginations of millions across the globe. Where do we go from here? This is ‘the’ big question we need to ask ourselves and the answer is simple and within our inner selves!

The tolerance is always a relative term or act as it could be quite different for different individuals in a constant situation and it could also be different for same individual in different situations. It may also depend hugely upon the ‘bio-rhythms’ of the individuals as well. So the reaction to a situation can vary on the basis of multiple reasons, logic and facts. Above all, intolerance can be kindled by the act of external forces’ brainless attitude or sometimes, it can be deliberately programmed to execute.

However, as I mentioned earlier in this article, the solution is very simple and this can be addressed by our own small acts! This applies to everyone from street side worker to the chair-persons/CEOs of large organizations. Understand the fact that the mother earth has resources to share to its children, but then we the children have a critical responsibility to use it with deep caution. Our needs, comforts and luxuries should not turn into greed and exploitation of these abundant resources, which is also meant for other cohabitants. Of late, what we witness is the thrust for more & more from every other corner and this is reflected in the agenda of the corporates and conglomerates as well! This agenda of corporate greed is well disguised in the name of ‘investor friendly’ approach and such beautiful vocabulary of jargons!

Whenever we forget those small recognitions of others’ needs, we are bound to face the music of the ultimate caretaker, who’s always watchful on all of us…! There are classic examples of this everywhere in the world and one such example is as follows…

Great Britain/ United Kingdom is one such country which was infamous for its successful invasions and also for looting wealth of the invaded countries. They successfully master minded and used technology to build systems to transport that wealth to their country. As I keep telling, the world is a full circle (easily told as ‘Duniya Gol Hei’ in Hindi) and to describe it more significantly, you start where you end! If you observe the current economic crisis, even after centuries of looting, they are not able to sustain the wealth they had looted from others and this is a pointer to the corporates to realize ‘Nature’s Justice’ and mend their ways to initiate partial distribution of this created wealth through well-conceived and genuinely executed social development programme. Then you become an idol in the minds of common people and in the process, refrain from marginalizing sizeable proportion of the population and thus keeping them under their tolerance levels.

This intolerance will vanish if each of us (individuals, organizations, establishments including governments) initiates a self-introspection and self-control to take course correction to recognize and empathize with others’ needs, thoughts and expressions. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My response to an email on Somnath Chaterjee's article on Jan Lokpal Movement...

Dear All,

This is very typical call by anybody who's part of our political system and nothing surprising about it...!In fact, the same sentiment was expressed by A B Bardhan during a procession at Gateway of India post 26/11 Mumbai Terror attack. Then M A Naqvi of BJP criticized that protest march as an elite class lip service and nothing deeper than that. I'm not going to technicalities of constitution and the parliamentarian politics now, as the issue they are projecting to size down is much beyond those narrow technicalities.

Though I respect the impeccable public life of Somnath Chatterjee, he along with all other politicians need to understand the pulse of the people and need to admit the fact that people reached at this point after being marginalised and pushed over long painful years of suffering..! In fact, the political class of this country have of late, hid behind the vote banks (in the name of region, religion, caste, etc.) and a common middle class who were vibrant society in the initial stages of independent India slowly turned indifferent towards the electoral politics due to predominantly two reasons...1) They felt that nothing is going to change as every one who came as new hopes took them for grand royal rides. 2) when they felt that they had been taken for ride, they looked at a constitutional provision for rejecting the entire list of candidates and realized that no such provision does exist. However, the hope resurrected when T N Seshan became CEC and brought in the provisions of his position to bring in radical changes to a system which was actually put to a slow death in the minds of the people. Hence, T N Seshan deserves a very important and immortal position in the sustenance of our democracy, whether the politicians agree or not. Unfortunately, like our society, our politicians also look at every issue with a short term vision unlike the visionary politicians of the early independence days and they were comfortable at the middle class alienation from the normal electoral process as they had to focus on those sectarian issues and influencing an illiterate, social, economical lower class was quite easy and there are time tested formulae to handle them. So middle class indifference was a blessing in disguise for every politicians to handle the system and whenever there was an awakening among this class, they mocked at them on their right to speak out as they hardly participated in the process and eventually succeeded to shut their voices. When A B Bardhan responded that the kind of politician bashing happened after 26/11 incident was dangerous to the democracy, he was 100% right! But the fact of the matter is that every colleague of him should have interrogated to find the root cause of the issue instead of not just responding at the symptom of the problem...!

No one from this political species understood that they are sitting on a boiling volcano and it can erupt at any point of time...!They were all the more interested and indulged in looting at unimaginable folds and ignored various signals this society started giving. Above all, they never sensed that this middle class is the one who actually contributed the major chunk of the taxes as most of their taxes were deducted from the source even before their earnings are paid to them. The ire of these genuine or partially genuine tax payers were growing as each scam was meted out to them and Anna's movement had provided them a perfect platform to vent their feelings and that is the success of this movement. The beauty is that it is the only movement of the recent past with complete peace and non violence!!

So anybody (I mean the entire political class) who talks about the sanctity of the constitution and the parliamentary system, I have only one answer: Had they kept up this very sanctity of the system with utmost integrity, they would not have reached this situation at all! I have few more questions to ask: 1) In the name of regions & religions and reservations & anti-reservations, when people kills people and burns public/ private properties and affect the normal public life, then it is called protests in a democracy just because it is organized by a political outfit. What's your take on this? 2) When people go for a peaceful protest fast completely legal under the constitutional provisions, that too after engaging and negotiating for months together, how can you call it as blackmailing?


Padmanabhan Bhaskaran

Skype ID: padmanabhan.bhaskaran

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Save! Save! 108 Services….?!

For some time now, I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to ‘108 Services’ in Hyderabad for saving my life on 2nd August, 2008 midnight when I had an unprecedented, severe asthma attack and their fully equipped ‘108 – Ambulance’ reached exactly in 15 minutes and gave me the first aid by connecting me to the oxygen cylinder and took me to the hospital along with my wife with no time wasted anywhere…! I was unconscious and it would have been fatal, if it was any later..! It was an eye opener for me to understand about the services and later I did lot of research on the services provided by both EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) and HMRI (Health Management and Research Institute) and found out the brilliance of our veteran health scientists and their pragmatic approach. In fact, later we could refer this model of their ‘Hospital on Wheels’ with a Mini Operation Theater to some of our clients in African Countries, where medical health care is still an oasis…!

I’m extremely sad that I had deferred writing my thanks giving article about the services only to find me writing almost an obituary of this fantastic concept which, by now, has been implemented in many of the states of India partially or completely…! When Former CEO of Satyam Conglomerate came up with his confession on the fraud he had committed, nobody had thought that his dream project initiated and supported by Satyam will ever go through this phase in its path forward…!

When Ramalinga Raju and team had conceptualized and created this institution with the support of then CM of Andhra Pradesh, Y S Rajasekhar Reddy and  pulled in lot of eminent scientists and advisors like A P J Abdul Kalam, it was a dream coming into life for the common man. The people were really relating it to the ‘911 Services’ of the USA and it was a sigh of relief and there was a touching story like mine for everyone who used these services. As planned by the institution, it was replicated across the country in a phased manner at different levels…!

Withdrawal of Rajus & Satyam in the aftermath of the scam, who actually envisaged the entire project and later, demise of YSR had actually orphaned this project and with lot of reluctance GVK group had taken up the operations with a more reluctant Kiran Kumar Ministry, who had been grappling with lack of funds put these services in the dock..! Now, the quality of these services is quite pathetic and not worth to talk about…! Moreover, there have been a lot of blame games by GVK Group and the Government on this issue and the GVK Group categorically blamed that for months together they had not received the promised funding from the Government…?!!

Whatever may be the reasons, the current status of the quality of the services and the quality of the employees of the EMRI indicates the lack of interest and the incapability of both GVK Group and the AP Government and it is really a serious concern for the public??! If a single private firm is not able to run this, why can’t we discuss about involving more corporate houses as part of their CSR Programme (Corporate Social Responsibility) and make it successful? Why can’t we have value added services at an additional cost and thus bridge the gap in funding? Now with the introduction of the UID, the income groups can be identified & defined and a fees structure can be arrived at, accordingly. The need of the hour is to take this forward with top priority to save one of the most beautiful & important social health care milestones of our country…!

Note: If this issue is not addressed, this deterioration in the quality of the services may seep through to other states as well, like an epidemic...!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Politicians' Way Out....!!

The ongoing protest fast by Anna Hazare and millions of people are clearly an outcome of the vacuum in our political system and the leadership, either naturally formed or deliberately created for a prince’s crowning ceremony scripted well and executed to perfection, if you closely observe these political developments of last few months. As I had written earlier in my articles, it’s unbelievably stupid for the senior leaders of Congress (Digvijay Singh, Kapil Sibal etc.) to conduct themselves in the way they had, during this crisis since the beginning and the way this whole protest was handled by the PM and the Govt. as such. Otherwise, how do you expect a more than willing Manmohan Singh to come under the purview of the Lokpal to retract on his own statement passing the buck to his cabinet colleagues…?! Another signal we should carefully read from the ‘Aug—16’ episode of arrest of Anna Hazare and then later his release after so called intervention of ‘Prince Charming’ is the subtle, but firm effort of the remote controls to paint a picture of how capable ‘Prine Charming’ is, with his pragmatic sense of reading the pulse of the people…?! So before coming to a conclusion, we should wait for the final scenes where the induction process is expected…!

This also points out at an opportunity presented in a platter for any other intelligent politician to fill this vacuum and carry these aspirations of the millions forward as well! Inside the Rajyasabha, Arun Jaitley had used it beautifully and much elegantly. However, outside the parliament, there seem to be a lot of apprehensions to take up the mantle full heartedly as this huge support comes with lots of responsibility to perform. This is exactly what Anna Hazare also going to face as well and in addition, as the civil society don’t present any political alternative, there will be this question that who is going to perform for them…?! All such movements in the history of our nation were presenting a political alternative unlike the current one which is apolitical so far. Whenever there was a political alternative presented, the people had taken it in their hearts linking it to their aspirations of better governance. Each time, they witnessed that they are taken for a grand royal ride and later forced to go back to the old one since they had no other options…! The so called ‘middle class’ who are being mocked at, for their indifference towards the system, with lots of unwarranted sarcasm by every politicians and the media in every possible platform should actually remember that they also had a past of active political participation and vigorous campaigns for the ideologies and parties they had kept close to their hearts and trusted them to guide towards a better future. However, the same people repeatedly abused their faith and failed them miserably in elections after elections with the inherent arrogance and over confidence on the short lived memory of these people, had gradually alienated them from the entire system and made them indifferent towards every other institution of the country. I would call it a methodical move by our beloved politicians to keep them away as this will eventually make it easy for all the political class to bargain with the grass root vote banks on the basis of caste, community religion and other incentives! They have become indifferent towards all sorts of elections as they don’t find a single candidate eligible or clean to vote for and they are not given any option to express ‘No Vote’ to anyone…! The political class was enjoying this dis-interest of middle class in the system and whenever encountered, used to escape by accusing them of their indifferent attitude towards the system and conveniently shut them up…!

Times have changed and people are at the threshold of their tolerance and Anna struck a chord with these sentiments of these people across the nation. But in the process, this protest had slowly seeped into a section of lower levels of the people as well! Every Government in this world who pretended to represent the people had tried to suppress such protests and tried to ignore the anger of the middle class as they are considered to be indifferent to the electoral politics and hence will not be a threat for them during next elections…! However, I request everyone in politics to remember that every revolution happened world over, were initiated by this so called indifferent ‘Middle Class’…!

To conclude, as I mentioned above, it’s going to be ‘Advantage Intelligent politician’, who takes the platter offered by Anna…!

Note: The congress MLAs in Andhra Pradesh threatened to resign against the CBI raids in the offices of Jagan Mohan Reddy and his associates. When they do this, it is not blackmailing because they belong to political class, but when a simple man sits on a fast for a national cause with the support of millions of people, it is called blackmailing…??!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oh!...My Lord Shree Padmanabha…!

One Hundred Thousand Crores and still counting….?!! I don’t know whether Gandhiji, his predecessors and his successors who started and led the freedom movement realized the magnitude of the wealth looted by British at that point of time! But, for sure, the common man of India had neither realized nor recognized the essence or spirit of wealth we had as a country of many Kingdoms…! We, as kids learnt that there was a ‘Kohinoor’ diamond which was transported to Britain along with many other precious metals. But what we really don’t know is the total estimated worth looted by all invaders, right from the predecessors of Mughals up-till British, apart from our modern day corrupt politicians, who are no different from those invaders!

Understanding the fact that ‘Travancore Dynasty’ was one of the smallest Kingdoms of India, one should be able to imagine the quantum of wealth we would have had in our country, as Kingdoms in northern parts of India were much larger in terms of geographical jurisdiction and power?! Now, it is time for us to thank the 'Travancore Dynasty' for safe guarding (for whatever reason) this wealth from all those invaders, with remarkable intelligence/ wisdom! If we could measure the age of these ‘Nilavaras’ (Store Rooms/ Vaults) and their last closure, we can actually arrive at a hypothetical probability of reasons and geo-political compulsions of this cover up…!!

What is important, is to have an extensive research initiated to get information on all the dynasties of India and accordingly each of their ‘Paradevata’ temples (Family Temples) can be checked for any such storage places, which may lead us to more hidden treasures across the country and enrich the GDP of the country.

What need to be done with this wealth is to be discussed in length & breadth with the awaited Supreme Court verdict as the base of the discussions. However, the heritage values of these assets are huge and there can be a world standard museum built under the temple trust with advanced security systems in place. We may require international expertise to implement this with strict timelines and clear deadlines for completion.

There are many interpretations regarding accumulation of this wealth in the temple. The Kings of Travancore Dynasty were known as ‘Padmanabha Dasa’ (The Servants of Lord Padmanabha) as they had dedicated their Kingdom to ‘Lord Padmanabha’ and when every dispute was resolved by the ‘King’, the penalty was donated to the ‘Lord’ and hence obviously the wealth would have got accumulated in the temple. This contradicts my earlier view of possibility of having such treasures across the country with various dynasties as their practices were different. However, my point is to open a thought process towards a huge opportunity for establishing our supremacy not only in the knowledge, cultural and spiritual spheres, but also in the areas of craft and wealth and of course, more such exposures truly will enrich and inspire our growth as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jan Lokpal – Know the facts about the differences…

In India, anybody can misinterpret any subject and take a billion people for a grand royal ride!

In the pursuit of knowing facts, we keep exploring the unexplored and get hold of some vital information to support an unbiased thought process. As discussed in the media, there are six major differences between the Government representatives and the civil society members, apart from the much larger structural issues. Let’s go through the facts of both the drafts as follows….

(The proposal by Anna Hazare group (The Civil Society Members) is referred as 'Jan Lokpal' and proposal by Government body is referred as 'Govt. Lokpal' hereunder…)

Issue – 1:

Jan Lokpal: All the representatives including the Prime Minister and the Judiciary should come under the jurisdiction of Lokpal and a seven member panel should conduct investigation in complaints against such senior offices.

Govt. Lokpal: Prime Minister and Judiciary cannot be investigated by Lokpal. Though there is an agreement that the MPs can be brought under Lokpal’s jurisdiction, the debate is that being the members of the House of Representatives, they get a constitutional protection against such investigations by an outside agency like Lokpal.

Note: These protections have caused several roadblocks in prosecuting many of our politicians in the history of independent India. It is high time to remove such privileges to effectively execute the law of the country with equal opportunity and impartiality.

Issue – 2:

Jan Lokpal: The Lokpal selection committee will include…

1)   The Prime Minister (Chairman)
2)   The Opposition Leader – Loksabha
3)   Two Supreme Court Judges
4)   Two Chief Justices of High Court referred by Supreme Court
5)   Chief Election Commissioner
6)   Comptroller and Auditor General
7)   Former Lokpal Chairmen

Govt. Lokpal: The Lokpal selection committee will include…

1)   The Prime Minister (Chairman)
2)   The Opposition Leaders (Loksabha & Rajyasabha)
3)   The member of a house, where the Prime Minister is not the leader
4)   The Home Minister
5)   A high Court Judge
6)   A Chief Justice of High Court nominated by the Chief Justice of India
7)   A Cabinet Secretary
8)   The President of National Science Academy

Note: The difference of opinion is about too many Govt. representatives in the Govt. proposed panel as it will influence/ bias the decisions of the panel, which may eventually lose its impartial stature.

Issue – 3:

Jan Lokpal: A 10 member search committee under the selection panel to be constituted to shortlist the candidates for becoming Lokpal members, which will then be presented before the Selection Panel, so that the efficiency and the selection process will be adhered within the stipulated time lines.

Five members in this society should be recognized social activists and eminent people from the society and other five members should be from former Chief Justices, former Chief Election Commissioners, former CAGs, etc.

Govt. Lokpal: Govt. does not think that this search committee is inevitable. However, after multiple discussions with civil society members, Govt. took a stand that it may be constituted if necessary.

Note: This committee is one of the essential requirements as the Lokpal selection process is not going to be easy. This committee can keep shortlisting the candidates without diluting/ shortcutting the process by adhering to the inbuilt check points and audits.

Issue – 4:

Jan Lokpal: The broad outline of the selection process should be as follows…

Thrice the number of required candidates for the Lokpal should be shortlisted by the search committee on time with maximum consensus. The Selection Panel shall select the final list from this list with maximum consensus and if three Selection Panel members disagree on the selection of a particular candidate, then he/ she stands rejected.

Govt. Lokpal: The selection process should be completely formulated by the Selection Panel. However, the process should be transparent.

Note: For any committee to start with, there should be a broad outline of the process and any amendments can be brought in after discussion as it evolves.

Issue – 5:

Jan Lokpal: The Anti – Corruption wing of CBI shall be merged into Lokpal and shall further function as investigating agency under Lokpal and as this division gets transferred, Government will cease to have any influence on this division thereafter.

Govt. Lokpal: Govt. does not agree on the merger of CBI division.

Note: When Lokpal is formed as a separate agency to handle all the corruption related issues, then there is no relevance of ‘Anti – Corruption Division’ under CBI at all.

Issue – 6:

Jan Lokpal: Provision to be made for protection of the people who were forced to give bribe in certain cases and protection for people who exposes corruption.

Govt. Lokpal: There are no such provisions.

Note: It is obvious that there should be protection for people who are victimized and for those who volunteer to expose corruption. These kinds of provisions are already there in various other segments under various investigating agencies and we should follow the same standard process here as well.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Are our Kings (or the ‘Queen’) Arrogant?

It was exciting to read the article (The link referred above) of Chetan Bhagat in Times of India (Hyderabad Edition) a few days back and it was exactly in line of my thought process and I had religiously shared this link in the facebook forum called ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’ as well!

However, I wanted to add a few additional points to this article to comprehend the entire perspective on the psyche of the modern day ‘Kings’ (or a Queen) and others.

We all have self – respect and those who don’t have it are considered losers in life and the society looked at them skeptically and often, would take advantage of their stature as much as possible! However, there are various support groups, who are working on such people exclusively to bring them out of their cocoon and make them confident about their potential as individuals.

Now, this term ‘self-respect’ is always little tricky as people mistake this very easily with their egos! The line between actual self-respect and ego is very thin and many of them fail to recognize this and act upon their egos and say that they don’t want to compromise on their self-respect?! Easy way to identify both of these, is to understand basically the ‘self – respect’ is purely within, whereas ‘ego’ is exhibitive. So when you strongly feel that you need to exhibit the self –respect (for the sake of anything), then it is the beginning of the ego and you really need to nip it at that stage for resisting it from growing big!

I was quoting this argument of mine, which I present in each forum I participate, with reference to the Govt. action at Ramlila Maidan recently. History reminds us that the people with power, who had been corrupt, were blinded by their egos since ages?! This is carried forward in the modern times, even in the so called Civilized Society as the civilization had by and large failed to handle these ballooned up egos of the human animals! Though the nature attempts to lash out and burst out these balloons of egos by various mammoth acts, the effect of such calamities/ lessons are short lived in the memories of the people and they move on to their ballooned up self, sooner than later!

Coming back to the context, what happened in Ramlila Maidan is nothing but an exhibition of egos of a few individuals (or a single individual?) who have power, on behalf of the ‘Government’ and they feel the future protesters will learn a lesson out of this episode. The statements by most of these foolish ministers of this country made it look like silly and had worsened the effect??!

There are few points, I wanted to underline in this context…

1)   I have been advocating all the politicos to realize the danger of public ire against each of them for their senseless and selfish actions to amass wealth and in the process, they marginalize sections of people who are waiting for a spark to burst out and attack, which will bring a bloody twist to the democratic values of this country, as a consequence.
2)   By keeping cool on such protests and engaging these protestors on dialogue to reach a common platform to amend, reform the necessary laws by understanding the pulse of the nation will enable the Government to project their transparent image and help in long term perspective.
3)   Actually, all these politicians were escaping the public ire due to the usual indifferent attitude of the middle class, who were always busy struggling to meet both the ends and next new breed of urban middle class, who are happy living their life on their own terms. However, post 26/11 attack in Mumbai, there had been a huge difference in the psyche of the people, thanks to media and the inevitable had been happening as given a platform, people from both the segments mentioned above, are coming out strong to express their ire and suppressed emotions against what they had undergone due to the indiscriminative pushing by all these politicos.

If the Government doesn’t do it now, obviously because there are many among them who will be affected if they give in, the people ire may not remain suppressed forever.

People evolve as they grow old and their wisdom shine eventually. Digvijay Singh was one of my old heroes as Chief Minister of MP along with Naidu of AP in late nineties as both were promisingly dynamic on their own terms and actions! When Naidu was advocating technology in Governance and a vision for AP, Digvijay was the one who took up a gutsy decision to implement Panchayat Raj strongly in most of the rural parts of MP and I remember reading articles on how he used to visit the most un-approached rural hamlets of MP, where even the local district collectors never bothered to visit. I also came across quotes of local leaders of BJP (then opposition in the state), vouching for his efforts in such villages, which was amazing!

Kapil Sibal was another very knowledgeable politician, who was considered by me as one of the dynamic and promising member in the cabinet and he had been convincing as congress spokesman as he used put across logic with lots of common sense.

Of late, I’m witnessing that not necessarily ageing should bring more wisdom to both these gentlemen as they are in news for all the wrong reasons of the world and it seemed like they speak and do so many things which do not suit their personalities at all! In the Baba Ramdev episode of events, it emerged as Digvijay, apart from all his idiotic comments early on, he peaked when he was seen hitting a journalist, who had shown shoes to Dwivedi like a rowdy who fights on the streets?! The funniest factor is this crazy journo, who was manhandled didn’t beat Dwivedi, instead he had just shown the shoes, despite having enough time on the stage to do the act before he was pulled down by two people who went up the stage to rescue Dwivedi!! Who’s smart and wise in this entire episode? Kapil Sibal was arrogantly justifying the Ramlila Maidan incident as a lesson to be learnt by other protestors in future…! Hey dude, what are you speaking? Are you in your senses?

However, as one of my friends suggested, I have a very strong feeling that these were not their ‘own’ selves reacting at all. It is centrally scripted and both these characters were playing their roles as they are directed/arm twisted to enact it. The end result is that they looked like fools and clowns in front of the entire nation!! Do we have a Home Minister to react on this issue? Why he had been silent so far and not making any comment on the Sunday night extravaganza? Even Pranab Mukherjee’s reactions were halfhearted and there were rumours on his dissent for being sent to airport to receive Baba Ramdev as well….! All these indicate that there is someone who is arrogant at the helm of power, who wanted these people to do whatever is dictated to them? The final question to ask ourselves is…Are we really living in a democracy?

To conclude, every arrogant people with power in the history had to meet a very sad end and it is not going to be different in our country as well!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

India Infrastructure Blues…!

It’s happening in India…! Against all odds, India Infrastructure keeps growing/ expanding and when I mention ‘against all odds’, it is really few many problems as you all know… There are politics, mafias, corruption and sub-standard exposures, expertise and equipments, etc..!
Opportunistic politics has been a major hurdle across the country in the disguise of very many varieties of reasons and the fun is that the same party may have different opinions on the same issue at different states based on pure opportunity?!
Land mafias are one of the most vivacious social evils across the world and our most vulnerable nation is no better. They have clinically specific interests and they would go to any extent to achieve that and they kill, they bully, they bulldoze and they manipulate to get their way through!
Corruption in Governance is another largest road block in infra development and one of the surveys conducted by an international organization reflects that only 10% to 20% of the total money spent on various projects goes to the actual development as the rest of the amount is eaten away by the licensing agencies and the contractors even before they commence the projects! Of late, there have been a slight improvement in the scenario as BOT/ BOM models had evolved in infrastructure development. However, there have been cases of inappropriate and exorbitant rates charged & collected as user fees.
Lack of exposure, expertise and right equipments are still visible in terms of building rural roads and infrastructure as those works are carried out by smaller organizations and even in certain large projects undertaken by corporate infra development organizations, it is evident that they lack expertize and vision to optimize the utilities as the work had been sub contracted to multiple small players at multiple levels. In each of such projects, there are certain political/ politicians’ vested interests and under currents playing villainous role?! Whatever it may be, the end result is that we end up with inferior quality of the projects and unjustifiable associated costs, which is borne by the users.
I have been advocating on the need for changed mindsets for adopting and accepting BOT (Build, Operate & Transfer) model since long time under a proper Govt. mechanism for monitoring and regulating practices in the infrastructure front. When NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) was empowered to monitor highway development and expansion in the country, I was one of the staunch supporters of the move. When I travelled from Kerala to Assam by road in 2006, I experienced the convenience and safety of the four lane drive from Vizhuppuram (just before Chennai) till Panagad (Apprx 50 KMs after Kolkata) and started quoting my wonderful experience at every available platform. Of late, I came across various 4 lanes and found it spell bounding as it made every traveller’s life much easy, though the user fee was little too high than what was expected! Still, it was acceptable to me for the time, energy and maintenance cost I would have saved due to this development. I was convinced on this till my last Hyderabad – Palakkad trip by road through a beautiful 6.5 hrs drive till Bangalore and then another 3.5 hrs drive from Bangalore up to somewhere just before Avinashi! 
However, what disturbed me is the fact that despite charging relatively high user fees for these ‘express high ways’, there was an alarming deterioration in the quality of road between Bangalore and Krishnagiri, which is one of the oldest of its kind?! To the limited knowledge I have, the user fees have been collected not only to have built these roads, but to maintain it well and operate till transferring it to NHAI after the stipulated long period of time, by when the contracting company would have made enough profits according to a clear business plan conceived, submitted and approved by NHAI and all other concerned authorities, well in advance. Hence, it becomes natural responsibility of NHAI to monitor, correct and enforce superior quality of such roads and to intervene whenever required.
Seeing the pathetic condition of these pilot roads under this scheme makes me feel suspicious as I smell a corporate foul play behind it…! I’m sure in the near future another scam will be out in this regard as NHAI is responsible for expanding the infrastructure and entrusted with huge amounts of exchequer’s money to act fast to sustain our growth curve ticking…!

However, I feel helpless as a common citizen of India as I don’t know where to express my grievances and how many times I should do it as I come across such illogical and unacceptable issues on a daily basis across the country. This is called real marginalization of common man and I'm sure this is the exact feeling in the minds of those millions, which is dangerous and may outburst any day, anywhere, any time in our country of chaos! 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No Value for Human Lives!

I resumed my morning walk a few days back after a break of 12 days and came across this incident, which is boiling inside me and I wanted to share this to all my friends and if anyone could do something in this regard, I will be a satisfied soul!
As usual, we (me and my friend) started at around 5.30 AM in our regular route, which is about 5.5 KMs. Approximately, 2 KMs down the route, we had seen a small crowd and when we went near them, we could see an old man lying on the road with blood oozing out of a wound on his forehead and someone said that he was hit by a vehicle and the vehicle sped off without stopping. Though the man was conscious, he was neither able to tell us his address nor could he remember any phone number. He seems to have come for walking and had only a ‘heritage’ milk card on his pocket. I immediately called up “108 Service” and they took 20 minutes to reach the spot. They gave the first aid and it was shocking for me to know that they don’t take the patients to the hospital without an attender?! By then, our man managed to tell us his address and we arranged an auto and another youngster who was standing by initiated to go with him to his house.
However, it was really absurd as the very purpose of ‘108 Service’ is to provide quick service to the accident victims by minimizing the time delay in hospitalization and to provide ‘First Aid’ to save lives! If such a service has to wait for an attender to accompany them to go to the hospital, it will delay the process further and defeat the very purpose of this service. Apart from this, the quality of the call center had gone down to the extent that I struggled to explain the location in English and had to ultimately hand over the phone to another person who knew the local language!
We as a nation give more value to all paper works, rules and regulations than for the ‘Human Life’ in every institution we come across! In the process, most of the times we conveniently forget all these rules and laws are made to safeguard the life of every human being, who are in the jurisdiction of this country. The life is the most precious one to be protected regardless of Nationalities, Regions, Religions and any other factors for that matter! Every rule/ law of this country intends only to protect it and not to neglect it under any utopian pretext!
I feel terribly sorry and guilty for the helpless situation I was put in on this morning and I want every sensible activist to take this issue up to discuss with concerned authorities to make necessary amendments to the rules and in my level, I’m initiating to meet up concerned authorities to discuss this issue as soon as possible.
For all those walkers and joggers, kindly carry some identification details and emergency phone numbers with you for empowering others to help you better.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Open letter to all my ‘Netas’…

Dear Netajis (Respected Leaders),
Anna Hazare’s, the hero of ‘Jan Lokpal Bill’, struggle saved you all (temporarily) from the ire of the youth by constructively channelizing the bubbling energy of the Country’s youth into a most peaceful ever, way of protesting in the modern times…! Have you ever seen such a refined struggle or dharna in our nation in recent times? How will you know it? Because you always practiced to unleash your paid goons to destroy public property to show your strength and thought that you are a winner!! Even for a regional bandh, you make our youth (in general) throw stones at the public properties and burn buses and block the travel of the most common people, even if it is a pregnant woman going to hospital or a critically ill patient begging for emergency care!
After every bandh/ hartal, crores worth of public properties are looted, destroyed and vandalized with your support and here is a 72 year old man, who had shown (Once again, after another man had shown it to British Govt. 64 years back) that there’s no need of violence to achieve our rights! Instead we only need guts, conviction and determination on your demands and goals! Only cowards need to take the path of violence and I know you don’t want to be called cowards! Millions of youth across the country participated in the fight by supporting this old warrior to make the so called ‘elected’ representatives (you & your colleagues) bow your heads in shame!
In the recent past, you and your species made sure that the country witnesses many outbursts in the name of religions, regions and castes! Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujjar etc., are few examples of such incidents and the whole nation witnessed the impacts of each of such protests. Every Telangana Bandh had millions worth of loss of public property and indiscriminate violence unleashed by miscreants and it was frightening for common man to come out of his house during those days! Is this the right way of protesting or fighting for your rights? All of you from various political parties should introspect this at the earliest as the youth is becoming wiser to distinguish between the genuine struggles like Anna’s and other manipulated protests where violence is unleashed not by common people, but by the goons promoted by you and your colleagues?!!
I have been repeatedly stating every now and then that the youth power of India is becoming restless as they are marginalized in various aspects and if we don’t channelize their energy to constructive ways, it’s going to be disastrous for all of you, who are engaged in manipulative politics! Anna Hazare’s gesture is a wonderful example set in front of all of you to follow and mend your ways of abusing the power given to you by the electorate! Remember, the same electorate across the country had supported Anna’s noble fight against corruption! So, if you don’t learn the lesson this old warrior had attempted to teach you, you will have a disastrous end in the near future!
So, my dear leaders, it is time to wake up and concentrate on some nation building with no other strings attached! I understand that it will be a difficult task for you as you had never thought about doing anything constructive, but I request you to be practical to survive and serve the nation, because, I know without you and your species, we the citizens of India would become leaderless and direction-less!! Hence, help us by waking up to the reality and mending your ways by adopting transparent processes for the betterment of common man's life!
Just to conclude, let me request you to kindly not to under estimate this achievement of Anna and go back to your favourite divisive political games as usual, since what happened in Jantar Mantar in last few days was just a wakeup call and as I had already mentioned, you were lucky to have received this call from an old warrior who believes in true values of ‘Ahimsa’ and peaceful norms of protest. It need not be like this always; if you don’t change your ways…Beware!!
Anticipating a positive and matured reciprocation from you and your colleagues,
With Love & affection,
Me – Aam Aadmi (Common Man)