Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Essense of Everything


I was wondering where our world is going?

And this thought came when I studied how this planet was created and how it has evolved over time. It is the only living planet that we know of. When the representatives of countries meet in a climate change forum, they try to negotiate deals which enable them to get away with the least stringent, least binding commitments, so that the development is not hampered, and basically, the economic crisis that may worsen due to slowing down the current pace may not plague their respective governments, and ultimately they manage to stay in power.

So, we are getting sucked in a circle where we continue to accelerate our own demise, and this is the height of myopic thinking.

It is about survival, not development.

I am using a laptop to write this. There is no way in which I will ever be able to return this laptop back to where it came from, and when this becomes useless, it is going to stay permanently on the face of this earth. we have not even spared the space.

The question is- What constitutes development? It is today seen as the amount of goods we consume, the energy we spend, and the (adverse) impact we have on the earth. It is very true that a substantial proportion of humans live a life more derogatory than imaginable in the third world. For them, realisation of the human potential and a dignified living is to be provisioned, so that they can become independent and productive. China also has a huge population, as India, but it has managed to do two things- First- Control its population, Second- Employ most of its people in manufacturing jobs, becoming the manufacturing hub. But is this the solution? The major talk today is about energy security, job creation and voices of sustainable development. As a country like India, it is difficult for us to emulate the example of Bhutan, which has set up an example in Sustainability, as the scale is entirely different.

Then what should be our course of action?

I agree that development is essential, but what we are doing today will ultimately lead to permanent catastrophe on this planet, and if that is what all of us want, then surely we are going on the right path.

Our planet is a gift, to us. It sustains life, not just for us, but for a million other life forms, much of which are still undiscovered. It does not matter how much the human race progresses, it has to stay on the earth, as the earth will always be the one that offers the womb to the myriad life forms. Then, is it wrong to slow down, pause and see what wrong we have done, and mend it.

The time calls for giving a thought to distant future, and not immediate gains. For thinking about survival in the long-term, and not the current luxuries, otherwise we will end up loosing everything, and ruining the gift- The gift of Life, on this majestic planet.

Indo Pak Talks- Ms Hina Rabbani Khar

MEETING HER counterpart. courtesy NDTV

After a long freeze, there is a thaw in our relations with our beloved sibling, to sort out matters of sibling rivalry, dating back to their birth.

Pictures of Ms Hina Rabbani Khar shaking hands with Shri S M Krishna are all over the digital and print media, and I shouldn’t say this, but a big reason for that is the newly appointed gorgeous lady, who has arrived here as the Pakistani Foreign Minister.

One one side is this naive looking lady, meeting our Foreign minister and leaders of opposition, on the other side is our own lady- Ms Nirupama Rao, meeting her counterpart, Salman Bashir. Both of them (Ms Rao and Mr Bashir) are seasoned bureaucrats, and hold a greater sway in the foreign relations than their respective bosses (my personal opinion)

I got curious about Ms Khar on seeing her photos. Yes, she looks great (This is an understatement) and that fuelled my curiosity. being very blunt, I believe she has been made the foreign minister not merely because of her knowledge or stature, as there might be more deserving people in line. Should I call it a desperate measure on Pakistan’s part to attract funding from  the US during its troubled times, when aid is being slashed and there is little to bargain, now that Osama is dead.

I am not being a chauvinist. And commenting about Ms Khar’s credentials or the lack of it would need a much deeper knowledge about Pakistan’s affairs, than what I currently have, but still, there was no major breakthrough. It is too early to say things at this stage, lets see how it goes ahead. One thing I must confess- Indians, including me, have gone bonkers over her, and we may all start loving Pakistan if she visits often. 🙂 May the best happen to us and our brothers.

But there was something else for which I wrote this. I saw a video, , and this changed my perception about Ms Hina Rabbani Khar. She looked impatient and naive before opening her mouth, but when she spoke, everyone else kept quiet. She is confident, intelligent and knows what she speaks, You should listen to her. Our relations with Pakistan should normalise and extend towards cordiality, for a stable region, which will benefit both of us.

Cozying with Advani, who says NO. Just kidding. Courtesy-NDTV

Ms Khar is a young face, and she represents the youth of this sub-continent, who is ambitious, and forgiving. What happened in the past is not our concern, but how we build our future definitely matters. She said, ‘ We are here to create history, and not to be burdened by it.’

Form here, now that the talks have started, we would have to arrive at the point where we discuss the real issues which have plagued us over all these years- Terrorism, Kashmir, Nuclear Weapons, Border Disputes, River Water Sharing- moving via the talks on Trade, Transport, Pipelines, People to People contact and co-operation.

She is glamourous, NDTV

The recent Mumbai attacks have not derailed the talks, which show our commitment towards this issue. The government at Pakistan is relatively stable. Ms Khar and Mr Krishna have a lot of ground to cover, and I wish they do.

Trans Asian Railways

I love trains, all of them. The swanky Shatabdi Express, The Non-Stop Durontos, The Superfasts as well as their neglected cousins – The passenger trains, the metre gauge chug-chugs, the narrow gauge mountain rails, and the obscure trains struggling to stay alive, awaiting conversion or decommissioning. Also, the nostalgic Mountain Railways, Few of them still hauled by steam locomotives.

There are others for local transport. From the Kolkata Trams- Metro- and EMU, to Mumbai locals, and the swanky Delhi Metro, and its older sibling- The parikrama EMU.

For many days, there has been a talk of Trans Asian Rail Link, linking the nations of Asia, from Turkey (which is linked to the European Rail Network) to Iran, and then to the rest of Asia- The Northern Link going to Beijing and Korea, The Central Link connecting Central Asia, And the southern Link going upto Singapore via Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.

This Pan Asian Link will bring about a sea change in many aspects, and is the immediate need, as planning and implementation will take time.

What I feel is being summarised below:

Why Trans Asian Rail Link?

1) Rising oil prices mean that when oil dries up, there will be no immediate fuel for the aircrafts, and the rail connections between countries need to be strong, more importantly for the land locked nations. Though this will take some time, but for an efficient Rail Transport to develop, this much time is required, considering the present condition of Railways in South East Asia.

2) Railways act as an integrating force, bringing people together. China is investing on its Rail Infrastructure in a big way, and will play a leading role in this development. India is in a favourable position at the moment due to its existing Rail Network, and plain terrain in the Northern Plains. The part in the north East has to be developed, which is already a part of our domestic plans, and if linked with neighbouring Myanmar, it will lead to development in the region, reducing its remoteness. Side by side, integration with the Trans Asian Railway will make the north East Our gateway to the ASEAN, leading to development.

3) In the west, we already have a rail link with Pakistan, at Thar and Wagah. Pakistan is linked with Iran, and further, Turkey. Thus, this is the area where the Rail link already exists, and just completing the rail link between India and Myanmar, a functional link can be started very soon, taking the beginners advantage.

4) It will boost Tourism in India, and the whole of Asia, will come on a single tour iternary. Currently, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia- each of them attract more tourists than India. By providing a direct link from Europe to these countries via India, India can act as a stopover for those tourists, and become a popular destination.

The opportunities are immense in this Rail Link, but still, little progress has been made on India’s part. Terrorism can not be justified as an excuse of not taking up this project, as we already have rail links with Pakistan and Bangladesh. Talks are made on the development of North East India, but the true development can only be made by making the region less remote and more accessible, by creating more opportunities and there can be no bigger opportunity than making that region the gateway to India. If we sit and watch, an alternate route will come up in due course vis Central Asia and China, making it the prominent route, entirely bypassing India, or making India a side branch. Are we waiting for this to happen?

Initiative has to be taken. Confidence building measures with Pakistan are being talked of. High level meetings are going on. Our relations with Bangladesh are at their best. Mutual understanding and respect have taken the place of allegations and suspicion. Why not give this a try. All the countries- Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia should come together to start  a trans Asian Railway. There are gauge differences, but they will remain. At those points, trains can be changed, as we do for domestic rails in our own country. What is important is streamlining the visa procedure, and linking the trains according to their timetable.

If an Immediate start has to be made, there is a link from Turkey to Iran, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. A ferry service to Rangoon from Dhaka will not take much time. And again, there is a link from Rangoon to Bangkok and ahead.

Time to Wake up and act.

Interns Call off Hunger Strike

After what can be call as a valiant effort on the part of Interns of Maharashtra, they finally called off their hunger strike, and before saying what I want to say, I’ll paste the news article from Times-

The DMER has agreed that it will look into the stipend issue and revise it to an amount which will be much less than what has been demanded. The government has its own limitations, and in this case, I believe that the following points would have been responsible for this decision-

1) The demand was of a six fold increase in stipend (though it was justified), and raising to this extent would have raised eyebrows across the cross section of government employees, which would demand a similar rise. The repurcussion would have created a ripple effect for many others.

2) If the government budges to a hunger strike, it looses moral ground. It then accepts that yes, we were wrong, and now we are conceeding to the demands. This Hunger strike was an after effect of Anna Hazare movement. I am aware from where it has started, and the intentions behind it are very noble, totally selfless and I should say altruistic. But if i look from the administrators’ point of view, they hate being challenged, specially by someone who is at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The government believes that if such increase has to happen, it should come through proper channels, with negotiations and not pressure (read hunger strike). There were negotiations. Letters were given even to the Chief Minister Mr Prithviraj Chawan, but no action was taken, and the stipend being paid was a cruel joke. WE ARE NOW BEGGING FOR A DIGNIFIED LIVING- WE, THE FUTURE DOCTORS OF THE COUNTRY- WE, FROM WHICH THE COUNTRY EXPECTS TO REDUCE THE INFANT AND MATERNAL MORTALITY- WE WHO, PEOPLE SAY, ARE CONSIDERED NEXT TO GOD.

Don’t call me God, let me be human.

I have a stomach to fill, a sister to marry. A father who retires next month, and a mother who is diabetic. 

My landlord asked for the rent today, and so did the mess boy. My stipend can pay only one.

The resident shouted on the emergency, said that I do nothing;

but its not his fault God, he hears the same thing.

A good thing happend the other day, at 3 am in the emergency.

An Aajoba (grandfather) came in pain, not passing any urine.

He had a stone in his bladder, blocking the way,

I passed a catheter, and the stone gave way;

The pain was gone at once, relief dawned on his face,

My work done, I came to my place.

Aajoba, while going back, came to my seat,

I looked at him, and he touched my feet.

I was in tears, and with folded hands,

I bade him goodbye, and looked up to you- my master.

Thanks for sending me here, no matter what I face.

I’ll manage everything- The mess boy, the landlord, the book  that I need.

Give me strength that I can be true to this Aajoba.

The strike was not a failed effort on the part of the interns. In their lives, when they achieve great heights, these days of struggle will be the most memorable days; they were told that nothing would happen- still they faught.

They were told that their career would be effected- still they stood strong.

They saw their friends admitted to ICU, still they stayed hungry, ONLY BECAUSE OF THEIR BELIEF IN THEIR CAUSE. The truth gives you strength that you never knew you had in you. I am honored to witness this spectacle, coming from the interns of Maharashtra. They are the true heroes that our country has today. I bow to their courage, their belief and their determination.

Stakeholders of Osama Aftermath

With the death of Osama Bin Laden, there has been an end to many things- An end to the seemingly never ending pursuit of The US for which it spent 1 trillion dollars, lost many lives and took 10 years, and end to the uncertainity that existed about him. I am writing this to show what implication this has for all;

The US- It got a boost with this face saving exercise, specially in the way this operation was executed, with surgical precision, without any complications or last moment glitches. Now it can think of taking a respectable exit from Af- Pak, specially when there is no oil beneath the sands of these nations.

Pakistan- I feel sorry for them. They have to live in that region and have no other option. Now hangs the sword of perpetual fear of retaliation from Taliban on their heads. Zardari must be turning in his bed. In the international community, they have lost whatever remaining clout they had. The people will face the brunt of attacks as the leaders will go hiding behind their covers. Pakistan, as a country got sucked into a whirlpool when it decided to allow the US to carry actions against Taliban from its soil, and now, it has fallen in direct line of fire from both sides, its people being the worst sufferers. The leadership, for their personal interests [read billions of dollars of foreign aid] sold the sovereignty of their country and now faces the consequences. God save the people of Pakistan, as they suffer for the ill-deeds of their masters.

India- India is currently away from the picture and should keep quiet instead of showing pleasure at the developments, as in no time, it can come under the ambit of terrorism which currently has its focus elsewhere. We are as vulnerable as before- no misconceptions should be there in this regard. One important issue is the bilateral relations with Pakistan. Any statement given now will fall back when both sides will sit for a dialog, and I don’t think India needs to react to this. Taliban has threatened attacks against Pakistan and The US. India should brace itself for any spill over effects and persue its own interests. Nobody has asked for its opinion. We have work going on in Afghanistan, our missions there need more security, so do our goodwill efforts. We can not think of carrying out such attacks on Dawood Ibrahim, so why gatecrash another’s party. If at all we are consulted on Afghanistan, then only our role comes. Also, all the 3 nations0- India and Af- Pak are part of SAARC, where India holds much clout. Involve them over there, and concentrate on our internal affairs. Also, first locate the missing CM and then do anything else. It is a shame that Mr Khandu is still missing.

Afghanistan- For a nation which is trying to collect the pieces and come back towards normalcy, this news will have a greater impact. Now that Osama is dead, there will be a tussle among the factions of Taliban to reclaim his place. One way to do so is carry on more attacks, which will escalate the situation. Now America has an excuse to leave the country when it wants, as the symbolic revenge has been taken. The Government in Afghanistan has to work to build the nation out of scrap.

South Asia- Long term impact of the killing of Osama in particular is negligible, but the future is elusive as always. The word of caution here is to give statements wisely, keeping in mind the long term perspectives and ensuring stability in the region.

China- China openly came out in support of Pakistan and few days back, even Pakistan told Afghanistan to sever ties with the US and move towards China. Now here is the real news. In the future, China seeks a greater role in this region as it has little presence in Afghanistan, which is culturally alienated from it, and closer to South Asia. Meddling in the affairs of Af-Pak will leverage the position of China in South Asia. Economically, the region will be a ready market for dumping cheap Chinese goods, destroying local economy, also providing access to Iran and the Arabian sea.

Rest of the World- It is a news item which managed to shift the focus away from the royal wedding. When there is another news item, this too will move out of public memory and the news papers alike.

Gaddafi and the dissidents against The US- They will be spending sleepless nights and making plans for an honourable reconciliation with the US, sparing them the anxiety that accompanies each sound of an airplane or a helicopter in their vicinity.

By the way, the talk of the town is the relative comfortable situation in which the most wanted person on earth was living, just under the eyes of Pakistani military, Mr Zardari and Gen. Kayani, you have questions to answer to your boss in Washington, be prepared.

Jairam Ramesh- The Activist Minister

It is not very often that a minister in the government becomes dear to activists and a cause of concern for his own council of ministers, but Mr. Jairam Ramesh fits into this rarity, rarer than the Indian Tiger, which the minister has been keen to revive.

What prompted me to write this is a video depicting him braving the filthy waters of Yamuna in Delhi to check the quality of water. Come on, he needs an applause for this. Braving the sludge, stench and sewage infested water and actually dipping a hand in it to smell it, Mr Ramesh, you rock, all previous faux pas pardoned (like the comment after he took up the soil of Bhopal factory to say that it was safe!!!).

The work by him has brought recognition to a ministry which was unheard of previously; and it is a fact that the ministry has provided environmental clearance to >95%of he projects that came to it, but rejecting the remaining 5% has brought him into limelight (for the first time) – The bauxite mining issue in Niyamgiri Hills by Vedanta.

I analysed and found out that the environment ministry has a lot of work to do, and it was merely a rubber stamp most of the times. I want to ask how many environment ministers do we remember before him?

Kaam karo to bahut kaam hai, na karo to kuch nahi.

– Controlling pollution- in all its forms, Emission targets, regulations and environmental clearances, forest dwellers’ rights, maintaining and preserving biodiversity, national parks, sancturies, dealing with man- animal conflicts, keeping rivers and lakes clean, dealing with industrial disasters, afforestation, wetland management. In short there are many things to do. And the tussle between economy and ecology is coming up more in these days, as on one side, India wants to sustain its 9% economic growth, on the other side the issue of Environmental Impact Assessment has gained momentum, and due to the spread of activism and role of media, gone are the days where villages could be submerged without raising a hue or cry.

The minister has been vocal to the demand of civil society to make public statements against big hydropower projects coming up in the North East, but this has also invited the wrath of his colleagues, where I must mention the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, as it is on their shoulders to maintain the pace of growth.

Mr. Ramesh has also been on an all India tour, visiting the Tiger projects, National Parks- This delights me; rather than sitting in his office, here is someone who goes out there and cheers his sub-ordinates, also making them aware that a visit is just round the corner, keeping them on the toes. The tiger must be happy, and yes- its count is increasing.

His work is difficult, I agree, and he has done a good job. Not that all his policies are correct, but such checks and balances are needed, and now, at least the environmentalists have faith in him (I believe). Just adding a tit-bit, he is an IITian from IIT Mumbai and has studied at MIT.

One parallel to him- Dr. Ambumani Ramadoss, remember him? He was the one who stressed for pictorial warnings on cigarette packets, wanted the doctors to serve in villages compulsorily, fought against The AIIMS director. The similarity is that even he did not have many supporters in his government and wanted to take the decisions that need courage; whether they were correct or not is a different issue.

India needs leaders who think independently, and work with a free hand. For change to happen, the beginning has two occur from either of the ends- one is the top- that is the Executive (council of ministers) and other is the people- the grass root level. The correctness of decisions is determined by the circumstances that follow, but those taken by a rational mind, under the free will are blessed to turn out as the better choice.

Reservation in the Indian Context

After talking about the press, alcoholism, railways and economy, this issue could not be left untouched for a long time.

Reservations and the caste system are unique to the Indian Society. Ours is the only civilization where we have preserved our history of past 5000 years in the living form, and we can find each part of it somewhere or the other. Various forms of Hinduism (which I believe is a way of life more than a religion), from The vedic to the ritualistic to the reformist- all still coexist today. They say, ‘older the society, more complex are its problems.’

After independance, makers of our constitution felt the need for participation of all the communities in nation building, but a large chunk of the population was having a sub-human existance. Thus came the concept of reservation for the backward communities, which, as a method of affirmative action, tried to bridge the discrimination of centuries. On looking back, it has succeeded overall, and as the world has changed rapidly, the backward communities in India are in a better state than their forefathers. But taking a closer look, and looking at the prevailing conditions and sentiments in Indians, the issue has wider ramifications.

If a piece of meat is thrown to a pack of wolves, the strongest among them would take it, leaving the others as they were before, and increasing the gap between the strong and the weak. Earlier, all the opportunities went to the upper classes, now the benefit of reservations is taken mostly by the better offs among SCs and STs.

It is understood that the political parties have vested interests in continuing reservations, but are the stakeholders actually benefitting from it? If I avail reservation, become an officer, why should my son get the same priviledge again? And such measures, if explained to the public, will fetch more votes for those who implement it. Also, the upper castes will feel less dis-satisfied as the beneficiaries of reservations would be those who deserve it the most. Times are changing, and someone has to take the initiative. The prevailing Status- quo might look comfortable, but is certainly not in the interests of the nation, as well as individuals.

Now comes the issue of Merit v/s Reservation- The present dis-satisfaction over reservation is because it gives undue advantage to particular community. The argument does make sense. I need your comments in this regard, to put more light on the issue.