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Tale of Two Americas

Its been many years since i have lived in the US, also commonly referred to as just ‘America’. For the most part what i love about America, is its uniformity and what i dont, is its lack of diversity. From east to west, north to south, anywhere, the US is literally the same. Be it food, clothing (subject to changes in weather), housing styles, cultures or any of the major characteristics of a society, it is all relatively the same. I have moved around and lived in many cities in the US; Racine WI, New Orleans LA, Indianapolis IN, Atlanta GA, Chicago IL, Washington DC, NY or Jersey City. My travels have taken me to nearly every one of the contiguous states of the US. I didn’t have to learn a different language, develop a taste for a different food, deal with newer customs, and or understand and comprehend a different culture of people in these places. Any diversity if any, ran along racial delineations, or maybe more pronounced based on class.
But in the recent years a stark divide, mainly on philosophical lines is visible to me. Philosophical is an appropriate word because that is the root cause of the divide, that is projected onto the politics of the US of A. People are divided, along political lines, leaning right or left; or let me bluntly say Republican or Democrat theology.
This division was always there, and has contributed in a very healthy way to growth and stability of the US. Coming from a multi-party democratic state, i had grown to appreciate the nuances of a dual party system. The process of electing a President directly, and the power of the Congress and Senate, that are not bound by party politics were all very appealing and fascinating. The principles upon which the two branches, legislative and executive, were constructed to form the government here, is simply altruistic. However the differences that seem to divide the nation today, has it genesis from this same strain that supposed to be its backbone. And since i started following the elections here, thats almost from the day i landed here, the political beast that i am, the divide seems to have deepened. The very last one, that we saw wind down, well almost wind down i should say, a few days back reached the very epitome. The protests after the election of Obama, and now after Trump, are testaments. It is like people live in two different America, support a different philosophy, swayed by different emotions, watch different news, and want two completely different end results. And it appears, the twain shall never meet.
I lean left, and i cant comprehend the right. And those that lean right cant comprehend the left. Gun control, abortion, LGBT rights, public spending on social causes, taxation, and the list goes on. On each of these issues, the positions are extreme in each camp, leaving no room for compromise, or so it seems. From the time Bill Clinton won the elections, with one of the lowest margins, thanks to Ross Perot, the people have revolted vociferously against the sitting President of time. Bill didn’t help his case or that of his party, with his sexual antics in the White House, and some of his past sexual escapades catching upTom Toles Cartoon to him. When the Democratic party closed ranks to support him, this set the stage for party (read philosophical) based posturing. It didn’t matter if we had a devil in the chair, as along as he was from my party, all else was irrelevant. Suddenly the very fabric of these two branches in this democratic system were being ripped and gashed, resulting in the usual, a lesser of the evils political system. Very similar to the rest of the world.
I have lived one half of my life in India, the largest democracy in the world, and the other half in the US, possibly the greatest democracy in the world. And my experience has led me to believe that the concept of democracy, is highly overrated in its ability to guarantee individual rights and freedom. I have held for sometime now that the best form of government is that of a ‘Benevolent King or Queen’. Hey why should you limit yourself when you are dreaming up an utopian world.
America today is divided between the dogma of these two parties, and has little room for another. In the past few elections, the options thrown up in this dual party system, has been unpalatable to the other side, that they refuse to accept. They also reject any third party influence, just to avoid the scenario of votes being pulled away, and causing the victory of the least acceptable option. The clout enjoyed by these two parties amongst the general populace is excessive, and hampers any third party or ideology to become credible option. Ross Perot was the only one in recent times to attempt to break this cast, unsuccessfully tho’. And unfortunately he didn’t bother to keep the momentum going, and simply gave up and retired to his business of making money. The stated objective to elect individuals to the Congress, Senate and White House. have all fallen prey to this two party system. Every election and choice is viewed from this narrow lens of the two party system.
Two countries within one state. One red, one blue. Equal and separate. If it weren’t for the Electoral College, every Presidential election would seem almost gridlocked. In most countries, the executive is controlled by the legislature.  However in the US, thanks to its nature of election, the executive and legislature can be at loggerheads; with the President from one party, and the Congress from another. And because of the stated differences, any and every action is delayed, and or compromised in its implementation and execution, that is almost guaranteed to deliver less than promised. The ideological separation, it appears, is complete and final, with no room for any compromise.
US Elections 2016
The current elections saw how angry and frustrated the republicans were with the two terms of the Obama presidency, and voted to outst the democrats. So, for sometime we will continue to swing from red to blue, and from blue to red, simply based on how angry one group is. So now we have a Trump in the White House, with a republican Congress and Senate. And in two years when the Congress seeks re-election, the now angry democrats will vote and create a different outcome to balance the situation. Maybe! If not, it will take the full four years of Presidency for the next round of changes in Government. And then the circle continues.
However the most interesting point to note is that of the 235 Million eligible voters in 2016 election, only a little more than 130 Million* voted in this election. So maybe there is yet another America? The one that votes for ‘Pizza’!

* Votes are still being counted, but is not expected to sizably alter the total percentage.

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel

Everyday, when i see what is happening in India, i am aghast. Since i reside or split my life between two countries, the US and India, i see several parallels. The recent happenings in India, were similar to the reactions in the US, after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, US citizens  started reacting wildly, ready to give up their privacy and rights, or maybe the Govt simply usurped the rights. People felt that it was important to the larger cause. People who opposed this thought process were considered anti-national. The situation in India, is very similar. The Govt, here in India, clearly doesnt need any special laws like in the US, but has effectively employed quite archaic rules and laws, that were so widely used during the British rule of India. Or even without using any appropriate law, they are able to intimidate people, and divide them into nationalists and anti-nationalists.
The last couple of years in India with the advent of the Narendra Modi government, the RSS and and similar sounding outfits, have come crawling out of holes. They have been empowered and have started to echo similar sounds that hark back to the divide. The idea that if you do not wear the national flag on your chest you are a anti-national simply sounds ridiculous. The constitution or the laws of the nation do not be demand that you to keep raising the national flag, or invoke the soldiers that stand guard at our borders. Yes, these are patriotic duties of a citizen, but please don’t teach me these. I know when, and how, and where to display these patriotic feelings. I don’t need to prove my nationalism and patriotism to anybody.
Since I brought the topic of the soldiers I do wish to bring up another point. Before we talk about the soldiers who guard our borders, it is important to realize that their masters are the government. And by that definition, we mean the politicians that rule the country. This situation begs the question, why did we put them there? As in why do our soldiers stand guard at our borders? Borders on glaciers and mountains, where the cold kills more than an enemy’s bullet or bomb. Did we exhaust all political dialogue before we put our soldiers at risk? I understand the situation that we are in, and I realize the importance of the role, these soldiers play. And therefore you must be careful before we drag their name into every politically street fight. Don’t use their hallowed name to settle your local internal and petty scores.
This government, its agents and the vast fan following available to BJP and RSS, and others that support this rightwing ideology are busy on Twitter, Facebook and the multitude of social media outlets. Narendra Modi, elected to power on a platform of governance seem to have lost the plot. Instead of focusing on governance, passing bills in the assembly, working on the needs of the citizens, he and his government have instead kept the focus on ideology. The same ideology that divides the nation, instead of uniting it. Their so-called rights to the Hindu religion, in the name of hindutva, seems only serve a select few. It reeks off, the dark Middle Ages when the people were divided based on caste, class and other lines. The have single-handedly used this ideology to cast aspersion on anyone who would think different. They link every issue to patriotism, or the lack of it. They question thought, oppress speech that don’t concur to their views, and raise fake questions and doubts on people who don’t support these views. They do effectively use the internet to leave a trail, for anyone and all to pickup; whether it is true or not.
It is important to stay awake, and to question this stance. It is important for the rest of the nation to be aware of the plot and to resist this divide. It is not always a question of nationalism vs against. It is simply a fundamental right guaranteed by our constitution.
If we want to be patriotic, then lets be patriotic to our constitution. We have had the opportunity to create one after reviewing the Magna Carta, the constitution of the British Govt, the American and many others. We have, in all probability adopted the best of these and set a new standard.
The six fundamental rights recognized by the Indian constitution are:
  1. Right to equality: Which includes equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.
  2. Right to food; every citizen has right to food, which include right to non-veg food as well
  3. Right to freedom: Which includes freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, and right to practice any profession or occupation (some of these rights are subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality), right to life and liberty, protection in respect to conviction in offences and protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
  4. Right against exploitation: Which prohibits all forms of forced labour, child labour and traffic of human beings
  5. Right to freedom of religion: Which includes freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion, freedom to manage religious affairs, freedom from certain taxes and freedom from religious instructions in certain educational institutes.
  6. Cultural and Educational rights: Preserve the right of any section of citizens to conserve their culture, language or script, and right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  7. Right to constitutional remedies: Which is present for enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
  8. Right to life: Which gives the right to live with human dignity. This includes rights such as right to clean environment, water, education, health, livelihood, shelter and basic amenities that the state shall provide.
  9. Right to education: It is the latest addition to the fundamental rights
Lets start with these.
Jai Hind!

Satyameva Jayate

‘Truth alone Triumphs’

Ever since, Anna Hazare and Kejriwal shot into fame on TV Screens, the media has been playing a cat and mouse game. They gave these anarchists that occupied the heart of Delhi due coverage, but also poured and allowed others also to spew hate all over them, in the name of balanced reporting. It made sense, these fools were out to upset the apple cart. Kumar Vishvas, Manish Sisodiya, Yogendra Yadav, and Prashant Bhushan to name a few, but in the process also doing injustice the many named and more importantly nameless faces that supported these people, blinded by faith in their vision.

They were at that time also joined a few, or more, who were to later be disillusioned by the step that the above named think tank chose to follow the political process. I clearly remember the so-called media experts and armchair critics, saying if these anarchists were so interested in bringing change, they should join politics. The politicians and mouthpieces from the various political parties that were being targeted said “let them join politics”. Renuka Chowdry, Ravishankar Prasad, Nirmal Seetharaman, and many more kept mouthing and challenging these people to join politics. I felt the same. Why not? If real change had to be brought about, politics and elections are the way.
But politics is a dirty cesspool. And politicians are dirty; hyenas, vultures, jackals, and cannibals come to mind. In India, like anywhere else in the world, they being are necessary evils of society. We put up with them, because in a democracy we believe in TINA – “There Is No Alternative”. Usually that is because we are afraid of making the choice, and have been repeatedly cheated by making a choice, which at that time was but a chance.

When the India Against Corruption movement, transformed itself into the Aam Aadmi Party, i immediately switched my loyalties from the grand old party of India, Congress. Again my loyalties were primarily a TINA factor.
They almost won their first hard fought election for the 2013 Delhi Assembly. But people blinded by a vision, and true to their creed, they were not after power or money. They chose to throw it all up, in favor of their word and honor. Sadly, most people considered that a grave sin. It is expensive to conduct an election, and it is also a chance given to you to prove yourself. But i think they again did the correct thing. With the clout they had in that assembly, they would have also been handicapped to perform. And the current political system was wanting exactly that. It seemed like it was all planned by all in the current system vs these anarchists. Die they must, because, if they survive it meant death to the current political system.

This 10th of February, i believe history will be created. The Aam Aadmi Party will be elected to govern the state of Delhi, with full majority to allow them to legislate and pass into law many of their ideas. They will only be limited by the current setup of Delhi, which does not have full statehood, and therefore will need the permission of the central government on certain matters. But the majority and the mandate given to AAP will embolden them to try hard and will hopefully scare the central government into participation. The BJP government in the centre can benefit if the cooperate and help this, and probably even take credit of some of the shine and glory.

When this assembly elections were announced, the BJP had unleashed the most ugliest and dirtiest campaign ever in the history of Indian elections. I don’t recall before this the name calling and dirt hurled upon the leader of the opposing party. The media simply lapped these up, providing these Dakaris (noun: one who belches, freakin a lot!) an avenue on national television. However it also provided us a view into the truth, to be able to know what they are worth. So much hate and untruth was brought up on the AAP, that it crossed the thresholds of decency, the moment they said hello. It started with the BJP chieftain in Delhi, Narendra Modi calling them Anarchist, AK49 (mixing up the AK47 and the 49 day stint), a Naxal, pakistani agent, lover of terrorists etc. The gibbons in his party followed suit, singing the corporate tune and spewing hatred for all to hear and see.

In the end, people saw through these, and decided that truth lies somewhere else. Arvind Kejriwal and his fledgling AAP deserves a chance to showcase its ideas. Not just that it must be given a clear choice to carry forward its mission. It shows in the turnout, a record 67% of Delhi voters showed up at the booths, to cast their ballot. I am positive, like the exit polls show a good majority voted in AAP’s favor. And in Indian elections, sometimes, a small 5% swing in your favor is good enough to give you a windfall of seats. Right now, the swing being projected is higher.

Waiting with bated breath for the morning of Tuesday, 10th of February, 2015.

AAP Ki Party

Arvind Kejriwal and his motley crew were truly anarchists. The mood across the world was one of anarchism. And from out of the blue, Anna Hazare and Arvind arrived in Delhi, took the country by storm. For a billion plus people, who were then besieged by a new grand corruption scam every day, these people were heaven sent. For a year or more they toiled to make their voices heard. They succeeded in some measure, and the fruits of their success will only be reaped in the years to come. But this group themselves were unhappy with the attitude of the political parties, in power and in opposition. They also felt deceived by the watered down bill that was finally passed by the Govt.
In 2012, when the India Against Corruption movement decided to withdraw their protests, Arvind Kejriwal and a group of his close followers, decided to jump into the very cesspool that they were trying to reform. Swami Vivekananda had said something very similar, what if everybody walked away or around a dirty cesspool? Who would clean it? If it has to be cleaned, the good have to jump into this cesspool and clean it. Their efforts lead to the formation of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and their first test was the Delhi Assembly elections.
After their initial success, 26 seats in their debut Assembly Elections for Delhi, they were roundly defeated at the game of politicking. BJP cleverly, along with Congress playing a close second fiddle, fully leveraged the naivety of these people. A group of people who were suddenly faced with governing, when they least expected. Cornered, they mis-stepped. They did things, only because they didn’t have the Shakuni mindset, something that is considered vital in today’s politics. Narendra Modi the latest example of such politicking, sidelined many more capable and senior leaders within BJP to ensure that no one stood in his way to conquer the Lok Sabha.
But the question that is troubling me is: Are we ready for an AAP Government? Most of my friends and associates around me, may have some sympathy for AAP, but are more supportive of Modi government. They feel that AAP is not going to do any governance or add any value to our society. Also, to many in the middle and upper-middle class, it appears that corruption is an acceptable form of governance. Many of these same people are ready to and are willing to grease the system so that it runs along smoothly. People do react, strongly against, when they are personally faced with this syndrome, but are unappreciative of someone else attempting to subvert the system, by trying not to grease the system. I am not trying to distance myself, by indicating that i don’t participate in this. I do, unwillingly, but without hesitation.
Do we really want the corrupt system to go? Do we want a Jan Lokpal Bill? Do we want an Independent CBI? Do we want our government to setup transparent system that will disallow special treatment to Ambani, Tata, Adani, etc? Disallow the VIP culture? Are we ready to have a righteous group of people head a government?
I am. I want AAP to win this election. I want to see what Arvind Kejriwal and his group can accomplish. This is not about an individual or his group. This is an idea, whose time has come. I am not saying or thinking they will be able to eliminate corruption. But they should be able to leave behind a legacy of right and wrong – where we can expect the right to be rewarded and the wrong to be punished – within our lifespan.
Hoping, that this time, we have an AAP ki government.

MMS Speech

Below is the speech, our mumbling Prime Minister, MMS, made in the Parliament two days after India’s 65th Independence Day. I have officially named him as ‘mumbler on the roof’, as an ode to Nero. So while average Indias are boiling in anger, our mumbler on the roof, chooses to make mumbling speeches and statements. I’ve already blogged about MMS fall from grace in this blog before. Just to reiterate, he is a good example of how someone can be very literate (purposely use this instead of educated), but yet incapable of leading. Leaders are made of different mettle.

So, again, here is the speech, and my comments (in italics, so you dont mistake that for MMS’s diatribe against himself) and take on this. Since this is text, i am spared the trouble of providing comic relief on the monotone of the speech.

Hon’ble Speaker,

It is my painful duty to report to this House certain events that took place yesterday in New Delhi. Hon’ble Members are aware that after extensive consultations and discussions, including deliberations in a Joint Drafting Committee and a meeting of all political parties represented in Parliament, the Government has introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha on the setting up of Lok Pal. The Bill has been referred to the Standing Committee concerned.

Certain events ? Events, dear sir, were earth shattering. Something Free India hasnt seen, atleast at a national level, with possibly some exceptions during the period of emergency. Also your reference to inclusions of ‘all’ political parties in your consultations are suspect, at best. 

Notwithstanding the introduction of the Bill, Shri Anna Hazare and his supporters have persisted with their demand that the Jan Lok Pal Bill drafted by Shri Anna Hazare should be introduced in Parliament and that the Jan Lok Pal Bill should be the Bill that must be passed by Parliament. In support of this demand, Shri Anna Hazare had announced some time ago that he would undertake an indefinite fast beginning August 16, 2011.

In April, when you conceded to meeting with Anna Hazare and team, your party and government were clearly aware that the govt version of the bill was not going to cut muster. Yet your party and ministers stage performed a script to attempt to listen to external voice of reason. You and your party were very clear, that while a bill will be introduced to the Parliament, you will introduce one that will be meaningless to start with.

On August 2, 2011, an application was made to Delhi Police by an organisation called India Against Corruption for permission to hold a month-long fast beginning August 16, 2011 at New Delhi. Delhi Police held discussions with the applicants in order to identify a suitable place and to formulate the conditions under which the permission could be granted for holding a fast at that place. Eventually, on August 13, 2011, Delhi Police informed the applicants that permission would be granted for the protest at Jai Prakash Narayan Park, near Ferozshah Kotla, subject to permission being granted by the land owning agency and subject to certain conditions.

Delhi Police also informed the applicants that they would have to give an undertaking to abide by the conditions.

However, on August 15, 2011, the organisers refused to accept six of the conditions, including the condition that the protest fast would be limited to three days. Hence, Delhi Police informed the applicants that, since they had declined to accept some of the conditions and refused to give the undertaking to abide by all the conditions, permission would not be granted to hold the protest fast at Jai Prakash Narayan Park. Prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC were also imposed on August 15, 2011 in and around Jai Prakash Narayan Park and some other areas.

A good narrative. You have stated most if not all of what is common knowledge. But sir, we all know, how this process works in India. We all know how much power you (politicians) bestow our poor police force. It is unlikely that any of these decisions were carried out by the Police Dept, without the involvement of trusted accomplices from your party. But given that you will blame me for speculating, and nothing can be proven, we will agree to disagree, leave it to common wisdom.

On the evening of August 15, 2011, Shri Anna Hazare, through public statements, made it clear that he and his supporters would converge at Jai Prakash Narayan Park and defy the prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC. Yesterday morning, Delhi Police reviewed the situation. Delhi Police came to the conclusion that it was clear that Shri Anna Hazare and his supporters would commit a cognizable offence and there was a likelihood of a breach of peace. Hence, Shri Anna Hazare and six others were arrested, as a preventive measure, under section 151/107 CrPC. They were taken to the Delhi Police Officers’ Mess at Alipur Road and, subsequently, produced before a Magistrate. Delhi Police did not seek the police remand of the arrested persons. The Magistrate offered to release the arrested persons on their personal bonds subject to the condition that they would undertake not to violate the prohibitory orders. However, Shri Anna Hazare and others refused to give such an undertaking or furnish personal bonds. Hence, the Magistrate remanded the arrested persons to 7 days’ judicial custody.

So by this fact, would you be willing to turn in Rahul Gandhi to the UP Police, in the event Mayawati makes the same case. She knows fully well that Rahul Gandhi will appear again in areas where she is going to declare 144 CrPC. All politicians, now including you, are masters at double speak, and are fully aware that you will conjure up scenarios that are purely favourable to you, in every instance. Interestingly there is no evidence till date, that Anna Hazare’s protest would have disturbed the peace.

Oops, i’m sorry. It has disturbed your peace and that of your goverment and party. So that must mean something.

Meanwhile, during the course of yesterday, about 2,603 persons were detained in Delhi when they were proceeding to or were in areas where prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC were in force. All of them were released later in the evening yesterday.

Late yesterday evening, Delhi Police received information that Shri Anna Hazare intended to move the Supreme Court challenging the orders of Delhi Police. Delhi Police also received information that the petition was likely to be mentioned before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, i.e. today, for urgent hearing. Since there were reasonable grounds to believe that Shri Anna Hazare had opted to seek legal remedies, Delhi Police did not apprehend any imminent breach of peace or imminent disturbance to tranquillity if the arrested persons were released. Hence, Delhi Police moved the Magistrate concerned to review his earlier order and the Magistrate was pleased to release Shri Anna Hazare and the other arrested persons at about 7 p.m. yesterday. The jail authorities informed Shri Anna Hazare and others that orders for their release had been received. However, Shri Anna Hazare and others (except one) declined to leave the jail premises unless the Government gave an undertaking that they would be permitted to hold their protest fast at Jai prakash Narayan Park without any condition.

About face !! Seeing the response of ordinary citizens across the country, i can truly say, your peace was surely disturbed.

Our Government acknowledges the right of citizens to hold peaceful protests. In fact, Delhi Police have allowed several such protests, but in each case appropriate conditions have always been imposed and the organisers were always required to give an undertaking to abide by all the conditions. Shri Anna Hazare and his supporters would have been allowed to hold their protest fast if they had accepted the conditions under which the permission was granted and had undertaken to abide by the conditions. Since they declined to do so, Delhi Police was obliged to refuse permission to hold the protest fast.

This is a political chess game. You and your government and the party have been clearly check-mated. Anna Hazare and team, have clearly identified the weakness, and will fully leverage this. The sad thing is, you still believe you have the upper hand.

Sir, please look out of your window, see the people. They are not paid hands or other party hopefuls who show up at your speeches and rallies. They are ordinary people who are giving up a day’s worth of wages or salary and joining cause with a man, who they think will lead them to a better tomorrow. Trust me, Economic Times, Dow Jones and Sensex alone, do not make up this India.

The Government wishes to stress that the issue before the nation is not whether a Lok Pal Bill is necessary or desirable. All of us in this House are agreed that a Lok Pal Bill must be passed as early as possible. The question is, who drafts the law and who makes the law? I submit that the time-honoured practice is that the Executive drafts a Bill and places it before Parliament and that Parliament debates and adopts the Bill with amendments if necessary. In the process of adoption of the Bill, there will be opportunities for Shri Anna Hazare and others to present their views to the Standing Committee to which this Bill has been referred by the Hon’ble Speaker. The Standing Committee as well as Parliament can modify the Bill if they so desire. However, I am not aware of any constitutional philosophy or principle that allows any one to question the sole prerogative of Parliament to make a law. In making a law on Lok Pal, the Government has faithfully adhered to the well-settled principles. As far as I am able to gather, Shri Anna Hazare questions these principles and claims a right to impose his Jan Lok Pal Bill upon Parliament.

Traditions do not constitute law. And also, the time honored tradition you so lovingly speak about is fraught with the same corruption. I assume you used these same traditions to allow Maran, Raja, Kalmadi and the many others to run rout in the government. Just like how you ask Anna Hazare to seek a judicial remedy to a breach of law, why dont you also seek the same remedy for a breach of tradition. The farce enacted by your party and government, in seeking views and then ignoring them completely stands naked, in full public glare.

To sum it up, it was neither your principle to do something good through a Lok Pal bill, nor in your tradition, to do something honest by incorporating valid views. 

I acknowledge that Shri Anna Hazare may be inspired by high ideals in his campaign to set up a strong and effective Lok Pal. However, the path that he has chosen to impose his draft of a Bill upon Parliament is totally misconceived and fraught with grave consequences for our Parliamentary democracy.

You and your party constitute more danger to our democracy and Parliament than anything else. Your party, and coalition partners, the opposition members, all of you, have been elected to safeguard it, but in your time honored tradition, as you say, are raping it every day.

Our Government does not seek any confrontation with any section of the society. But when some sections of society deliberately challenge the authority of the Government and the prerogative of Parliament, it is the bounden duty of the Government to maintain peace and tranquillity. Delhi Police, as the authority charged with the responsibility, took the minimum steps necessary to maintain peace and tranquillity in the capital city. Inevitably, though unfortunately, it led to the arrest and subsequent release of Shri Anna Hazare and some of his supporters. I sincerely hope that the incidents of yesterday will not be repeated today or in the future.

Proven false. The about face was clearly showcased on national TV. Thanks to you, the following for Anna swelled into thousands and lacs.

I should also make it clear that the issue between the Government and Shri Anna Hazare is not one of different attitudes to fighting corruption. In my independence day address, I spoke at length about the need to deal effectively with corruption. I would like to assure the House that we are determined to provide a Government that is transparent, accountable and responsive at all times and determined to fight corruption. But as I said on 15 August at the Red Fort, there is no magic wand by which, in one stroke, we will get rid of menace the of corruption. We have to work simultaneously on several fronts. In my 15 August address, I have outlined some of the measures we intend to put in place to strengthen our fight against corruption. I invite all sections of this House to join hands with us to deal with the cancer of corruption.

True. You did speak at length. You also moaned that you didnt have a magic wand. Well sir, please fly to Britian, you may be able to meet Harry Porter and or visit his school, and acquire a wand for yourself. Or simply, steadfastedly implement laws of the land. Your government is yet to chase the black money trail. What are you waiting for – an order from the Supreme Court ?

Humor me for a moment. Do you believe for a moment that ‘all sections of this House’, including you and your party are even sincere about this? Because, you all seem more sincere and concerted when it comes to fighting Anna Hazare and the team, and waiting for ‘magic wands’ when you have to fight corruption.

With respect to the events of yesterday, I will only say that a functional democracy must allow multiple voices to be heard. But differences of opinion must be resolved thorough dialogue and consensus. Those who believe that their voice and their voice alone represents the will of 1.2 billion people should reflect deeply on that position. They must allow the elected representatives of the people in Parliament to do the job that they were elected for.

Sir ! Please think before you speak. Because, if not, hot air may come out from different parts of your body. Do you really think the elected representatives are fulfilling their duties honestly and diligently.

India is an emerging economy. We are now emerging as one of the important players on the world stage. There are many forces that would not like to see India realize its true place in the Comity of Nations. We must not play into their hands. We must not create an environment in which our economic progress is hijacked by internal dissension. We must keep our mind focused on the need to push ahead with economic progress for the upliftment of the ‘aam aadmi’.

You really are using the word ‘aam’ very lightly. Maybe, like they said in a movie not long ago, you too think we are all just ‘mangoes’. Sir we may be mango-people, but we can surely pack a punch, when and if required.

You may have heard this before too – you cant fool all the people all the time. Did you have similar sense and thoughts when you decided to fool the nation, by trying to slam a flawed Nuclear Regulatory Bill, through the Parliament, as desired by a few friends in the ‘Comity of Nations’ ?. 

I appeal to all sections of this august House to ensure that the Government and its processes, and the Parliament and its processes function smoothly and effectively. There is no substitute for that. If some people do not agree with our policy, there will be a time when they will have an opportunity to present their points of view to the people of India.

Rightly said. Unfortunately some of us, believe we cant wait that long. Many people are sincerely hoping the Election Commission conducts an election today or tomorrow.

I request all political parties to ensure that Parliament functions smoothly. There are very important legislative measures that are required to be passed. If we do not pass them, we will do great injustice to the people of India and in turn hurt the ‘aam aadmi’. We are willing to debate every issue in Parliament, and we have demonstrated that we are co-operating with the Opposition in every possible way to ensure that Parliament functions smoothly.

Very thoughtful and considerate words. If only the deeds of your party and government mirrored these. And additionally, if only you paid more attention to the job at hand, than trying to singularly push economic reform. Sir, economic reform is no magic wand either.

We as elected representatives of our people should do nothing to weaken our people’s faith in the capacity of our democracy, our institutions and our social ideals and values to overcome all difficulties. We should have faith that we can build a promising future for ourselves. Let us unite in that faith.

Thank you. Finally you are done. I was wondering if i had to endure more of this mumbling. I do hope you use this opportunity to reflect on your role in this government, and more importantly the legacy you are leaving behind. Today you are possibly the most tainted man, simply because of your refusal to act. Your legacy should have mirrored your education and experience prior to joining politics. Think sir, time is still on your side. You can still correct and clean up this mess. You will be able to earn your respect back.

Corrupt Governance

Growing up in India, one always was aware of the corrupt environment. It was difficult not to see or interface with it. India of the 80’s, was vastly different from the India today. Teaming population, that included a huge middle class that had little or no purchasing power. A structured economy, where most employed and working people held on to their one job and employer, and a majority of it was still in agriculture. License Raj was in its prime. And a disastrous 70’s, when the governance in the country oscillated between democracy, monarchy, anarchy and oligarchy, gave way to a more stable, but debilitated government. Stable because it was able to last its term, but required support from multiple factions, and owed it survival to the power it influenced and money it controlled.

Corruption rared its head in my life, for the first time in this period, and attained a persona in the form politicians, police, bureaucrats, corporate business men and landlords. Press, literature, arts, cinema and to a limited extent judiciary, focused attention on highlighting this scourge. It was no different from cancer, that affects our body. There was no cure. For how does one fight it? Our brethren are the medium, used by it, making it difficult to distinguish between the affected and the unaffected.

Corruption today in India, has attained new heights. Many are surprised, rather shocked, to see and read about these in today’s India. It was not as if it had disappeared from our society, during the time the country was gaining wealth. The vast middle class of the yesteryear, had been transformed, to a capacious spending machine, that was focused entirely on distributing its new found wealth. All of the mechanism that thrived on showcasing the evils of this cancer, had lost its  ground. Instead all of them, save the judiciary, reveled in indulging this large segment of the population. Corruption also had kept pace with this rapid change in economy, and like most other businesses, it too had grown in size. It also seemed to have matched the same finesse, that was found in the developed economies of the west; bigger and larger. From stealing sugar and rice from a local ration shop, it morphed into the 2G spectrum and CWG scams of today.

Corruption is not a new phenomenon. It is not unique to India, except for levels to which it has permeated and more importantly how it is accepted as fact of life in the society. Chanakya, the man who wrote one of the earliest manuals of governance, has suggested it is ‘difficult to detect an official’s dishonesty’. By no means, does he mean that is to be tolerated. But he does indicate that ‘corrupt officials’ are somehow parts of any governance structure, and is genuinely difficult to eradicate completely and fully.

Corruption does not have to be eradicated. But it has to be punished, and punished severely.  Meaning, when discovered, it has to be dealt with swiftly and sincerely. The corrupt official and that particular ecosystem has to be eradicated completely. Just like you would treat cancer, the tumor is removed and so also are any cells around it, to eliminate any contamination.  The people have reached satiation point, and are willing to devote some attention to matters not concerning their credit card and bank balance. Attention is returning to this core issue and the size of each scam is becoming so obscene that people simply cant ignore. But, it is clear that no party in power is willing to tackle this issue.

The current government is impotent and cannot be dependent to take on this issue. The powers that be, which are in opposition today, are yelling and screaming so loudly only because they are being denied their share in the loot. Dont assume for a moment that a change in government is going to yield any result. Well thats not true, we will get some good news. The face of the corrupt will change. Atleast the loot will flow to a different set of individuals.

The diagnosis complete, all we are missing is a skillful surgeon to wield the scalpel.

What were we thinking?

The planners and masters that run the government were hard at work for the last many months, in try to get the Nuclear Liability Bill passed. But unfortunately they had a series of mishaps that resulted in a circus, exposing the real workings of a democracy. A government of some people, by some people, for some people.

The unintended 'Intent'

The unintended 'Intent'

The path and intent of such a bill, was highlighted in the pages of The Hindu, almost as soon as it was first conceived. I had at first ignored it, trusting the government to be a bit more careful on its approach, knowing that it is being watched. The issue really came to blow when the court ruling on Bhopal Gas Tragedy was pronounced a few months back. This really woke up the media, drawing parallels and creating the frenzy that is usually required to bring necessary attention and focus.

The opposition parties and some allies that were part of the alliance, chose to oppose the bill, giving the ruling government some chills. Well the opposition’s job is to oppose, immaterial of the facts surrounding the issue. The left parties (CPM, CPI etc) would never have supported a bill that even faintly supported a western cause, but would gladly write their home away to China in a heartbeat. The BJP who was an active proponent of this concept, when they lead the government, simply had to be different this time.

All this posturing lead to some dialogue, so they say. Parts of the bill were rewritten and compromises made. But the government and its agents were too smart to be scared off this opposition road rolling. They used a few words, that were small, simple, innocent and seemingly inconsequential. Sprinkled like an after thought. Akin to the salt and pepper shaker on a dinner table, they added little spice, thinking it wont affect the delicacy prepared by the chef.

The media as usual went into a frenzy again, highlighting this issue. Most of them had just found a topic to talk for the next 24 hours, before some flood, earthquake or another scandal broke out somewhere. Poor committed readers of less self-serving newspapers and magazines were left to wring their hands, and fume thinking and acknowledging these shameless acts.

All this stress levels begs the question ‘what were we thinking?’ Did we think we could influence this government to write a law that will actually put people before business? Were we expecting that we would learn from past mistakes? On seconds thoughts strike that, actually they did learn something, and wanted limits to the liability clause. It was foolish of us expect that change if any will benefit the people.

On a positive note, if there is any,  one must also thank the same democracy for ensuring that the law didnt pass in a form that would fully please the some people it was written for.

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