Friday, 24 December 2010

In the spirit of RTI

From: Anand Bala
Date: Thu, Nov 25, 2010 at 10:37 AM
Subject: In the spirit of RTI
To: Rajdeep Sardesai

Dear Rajdeep:

I write this letter to you in your capacity as an office bearer of the Editor's Guild.

The Media has successfully used RTI to expose corruption. I wonder if the fourth estate, a key pillar of our democracy, will be willing to expose themselves to the same scrutiny that they put our politicians under.

A key defence that media has given in light of the Radia tapes is the fact that there was NO quid pro quo. This is an attempt to verify that position.

Media is not obliged to share information under RTI. However, it would be in the interest of self-regulation to have some information in the public domain related to advertising revenues. This application is in the spirit of the RTI and is aimed at adding transparency to the current debate on the media becoming an intermediary between corporate houses and politicians.

The questions are to the large media houses in India (particularly to TV18, NDTV, Bennett and Coleman and The Hindu Group) and I am hoping that each of these houses will reply individually to these questions.

Each media house is requested to provide the following information in a clearly tabulated manner -

Question 1: What is the Advertising Revenue from Telecom Companies

  1. Data to be tabulated month by month for a period of 36 months ending in March 2010
  2. Data to be tabulated for each Telecom company separately
Question 2:  Who are your ten largest advertisers and how much advertising revenue have you received from each?
  1. Data to be tabulated month by month for a period of 36 months ending in March 2010
  2. Table for each month to include the top ten advertisers for each month.

I know that there is nothing that I can do or say that will force the editors to share this information. I am hoping however, that in your capacity as an office bearer in the Editor's guild, you will be in a position to i) lead by example ii) encourage others to put this information in the public domain.

Will wait 30 days for your response.

Anand Bala

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Yes or No?

1)      They say no to reservation
2)      They say yes to tax breaks and subsidies for corporates
3)      They say no subsidies for the poor
4)      They say yes diesel subsidies for their SUVs
5)      They say no to fertilizer subsidies for the farmers
6)      They say yes to biometric tagging
7)      They say no free water supply for the poor
8)      They say yes to tax payer money being used for airports
9)      They say no to tax payer money being used for power subsidies
10)  They say yes to import subsidies for agricultural produce

They then turn around and ask me why they shouldn’t criminalise poverty and lock up a destitute after labelling him a beggar. They create poverty, criminalise it and then want to hide the evidence. Do you still need to know why I have a problem with Dr Manmohan Singh, Dr Montek Singh and Dr Nandan Nilekani? 

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Custodial Deaths at Beggar's Colony

Context: Deaths of INMATES in beggar's colony.

  • Inmates are "detained" under the Karnataka Prohibition of Beggary act. This act makes "begging" a criminal act
    • On "suspicion" of being a "beggar", you can be picked up by the police and sent to detention after a magisterial enquiry. 
    • In reality due process is NOT followed. 
    • People are picked up and sent into the "custody" of the "Beggar's Home"
  • The inmates who have died were in the "custody" of the state. Therefore these deaths are custodial deaths.
  • Inmates of the "Beggars Home" - because they are in State custody, are entitled to some Civil Liberties which include - legal aid, visits from relatives, food and basic necessities such a portable water
  • None of these were made available to the inmates and the deaths should be treated as "homicide by the state".
  • This is not a administration issue, the way the media seeks to portray it.  It is a case of custodial death!!
My friend Arul Selva of Slum Jagathu gave me this argument and I agree!

My take:
  • The current laws make poverty a crime. The sentence for this crime is "detention" in the "Beggars Home". This is the equivalent of a death sentence. 
  • Did somebody say we were living in a democracy? Wake up and smell the SHIT!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Vedanta and Spin Doctoring

In spin doctoring timing is everything!

As the Saxena committee report on Vedanta's violation in Niyamgiri goes public, Vedanta announces the acquisition of Cairn India - a player in the energy space.

A quick look at Google News. Searched for "Vedanta"

  • 976 articles related to Vedanta Acquisition of Cairns
  • 72 articles related to the Saxena Committe report
 The timing is too good to be true.
Saxena committee report getting buried 10:1 on Google news.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wake up and smell the Shit!

64 years after independence we have scavengers who manually dispose of  human faeces for a living. If that is not enough (and shameful), these very same people, are being  intimidated, isolated and evicted because of their caste. Wake up and  smell the shit!

Savanur, in Haveri District of Karnataka, was  the site of a protest that should act as wake-up call for every citizen  and the government. Unfortunately, like every other warning signal that we  have seen about the issue of disparity, this too was either ignored or treated like  some shit on the road that we need to walk around.

While the citizens of the town need them for scavenging, they are not  willing to let them live in their home of 40 years. They are not willing  to let them access water - and if they do so - they are accused of  theft - or have to pay a fine of 2000 Rs - something that is beyond  their means. You clean the town's drains manually ...but are denied water to clean  yourself? A 'commercial complex' gets priority over their lives? 

Kannada papers did cover it, and one even dedicated an editorial. Vernacular news channels too touched upon it - but it got the treatment of something that came of the ticker. To Deccan Herald's credit, it did cover the story.

What about the national media? Why the hell did they not editorialize it? Why did studios not discuss it?

Did somebody say the caste system is dead? Is India anywhere close to shining? Not when people have to cover themselves in human excrement as a mark of protest against being denied access to water and being displaced from their homes.

If India has to rise and shine, we need to wake up and smell the shit.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Guerrilla marketing and TATA (trying to manufacture an image?)

Wikipedia on Guerilla Marketing:
Typically, guerrilla marketing campaigns are unexpected and unconventional; potentially interactive; and consumers are targeted in unexpected places.
The Google Advertisement on a page that hosts a Petition against POSCO

My problem with this
  • The Internet remains relatively free from "manufactured consent" when you compare it with the rest of the mainstream media. 
  • We have many studio anchors posing as experts on TV who know so little about so much. A good example is how little they know about the tragedy of Kalinganagar.  
  • Mining is tearing into the lives of Indian citizens in many parts of the country. Getting news and information about the violations by mining corporates has been an uphill battle.
  • It is not strange that the mining lobby and the main-stream media  including the Tatas are bed-fellows.
  • NOW, we have PR spin doctoring creeping rapidly into the Internet and on forums where one could get some independent and factual information. It's being hijacked by "advertising".
  • Doesn't matter where you pitch a tent - the spin doctors seem to creep up right behind you - and start screaming louder than you!
  • We need to start reclaiming some spaces. We will be foolish if we let every single space that we have be hijacked by people who have a horrendous track record like TATA
  • They may have the financial muscle to buy up google ad-space and bury the truth in Page 5 of a Google search and they are not afraid of using it. 
  • I would be naive to say that I did not see it coming. I was surprised to see it on the petition and the PR site that they have put-up.
Another example - search for "Kalinganagar" on Google

For folks who are interested in the other side of the story - and don't need to be fed information from a PR spoon coated in unadulterated cow dung - I strongly suggest that you visit -

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Aiyoo Rama!

Aiyoo Rama! Stumped Again!

The “liberal dharma” brigade is back with the Hindu Rasthra theme and this time it’s called “Ram Rajya”. I disagree with almost every one of their positions and this one in particular – that ‘Ram Rajya’ is an ideal to strive for.
The rare exceptions where I agree with them are in the area of universal themes (e.g. dynasty politics is bad for a democracy).

Circus tents pitched at different foras on the internet use the concept of “Hindutva” to ridicule the left. People in these circus tents drop conservative phrases like “liberal dharma” (which I have written about in the past) and “Hindu Rashtra”. The latter never fails to send a chill down my spine.

To borrow a phrase from their own lexicon, most of these circus tents are populated by “handmaidens” of the BJP. They chose to begin their critique of the Bandh call by first declaring the BJP guilty by associating itself with the left. This is not surprising as their definition of liberal makes them extreme conservatives – intolerant of anything/anybody that seeks to protect public wealth and resources from being exploited by private interests.

Now they are claiming that self-interest is in national interest and that we need to move towards a “Ram-Rajya”. They quote heavily from some scripture or the other on the rules that Lord Ram had for the his kingdom. Their argument for economic liberalization comes not from contemporary analogy but from mythology that did not consider both genders equal and all people equal.

They are welcome to quote from these scriptures and texts. These texts are not allowed to be disputed in discourse because of their religious status. This makes the quoting of these texts a dogmatic exercise.

We are on the brink of another Hindutva wave and the left (very worryingly) seems to be oblivious. The left response is weak because it suffers from a similar problem. Leftist political parties in India are also dogmatic. They discuss Marx and Trotsky but react to every critique of the two with an ad hominem response. Marx had a set of economic recommendations for a nation state– but to treat them as indisputable and as the only approach is dogmatic. A typical debate tends to slip into polemics and rhetoric faster than the blink of an eye. The Hindu Rashtra brigade says that the left uses dogma and they explain this by being dogmatic themselves. This is a game that the Hindutva brigade will win based not on content but on decibel levels.

My take on the bandh
  • Everybody has a right to dissent and protest. That said, one cannot be coerced or forced into participating in dissent. 
  • I refused to participate in the Bandh because Sanitary workers in Bangalore could not participate – they needed their daily wage. They have been fighting for fair wages for months now and I believe that it is India’s national interests for its citizens to align with their cause. When they go on strike – I will be striking with them.
  • Inflation is a problem across every state in India including states ruled by the BJP and the Left. We need to look at how we can manipulate fuel subsidies to reduce the burden on the poor. Inflation is about big business interests and BJP is aligned with those interests as much as the Congress is. 
  • The congress will not give a dam about the Bandh. Fuel prices WILL be de-regulated. MMS is from the Brentton-Woods school which means his polices are neo-liberal.
Allow me to leave you with a small take on "Ram Rajya" -
Disclosure - I have used this poem in another post as well.

जो पुल बनायेंगे,
वे अनिवार्यतः
पीछे रह जाएंगे
सेनाएँ होंगी पार
मारे जायेंगे रावण
जयी होंगे राम
जो निर्माता रहे
इतिहास में
बंदर कहलाएंगे।

'अज्ञेय'  |

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Life as a Pedestrian (or living with urban development)

There was a tragic traffic accident yesterday between the State Bank of India ATM and entrance to CPWD quarters on Sarjapura Road [Koramangala II block]. A pedestrian who was trying to cross the road succumbed to injuries at the scene of the accident.

  • There is a traffic constable posted at the entrance to Kudremukh colony, but I am not too sure how much that person can handle things during peak hours. The constable was posted after a neighbour visited senior officials of the traffic police a few weeks ago.
  • Another tragedy waiting to happen are the median blocks that keep getting moved onto the road by two wheeler drivers who want a short cut into/out-of III block Koramangala.
  • Ambulances keep getting stuck in the jam thanks to the diversion for the underpass. It takes an eterinty for the traffic to be moved for the ambulance. 

    Crossing Sarjapura Road on foot or on vehicle between II and III block Koramangala is life threatening. It's not a hypothesis any more.


    Wednesday, 9 June 2010

    The Bhopal Verdict Presents an Opportunity for Reform

    For over twenty years now, most of us have been outraged by the lack of justice for the victims for the Bhopal Gas tragedy. The judgement, which was on expected lines if you were watching the story closely, was a bitter disappointment. Other cases that are being dragged at a snails place like the 1984 riots or Bofors case also come to mind. 

    The Bhopal judgement has triggered a groundswell of outrage cutting across party and political lines. The condemnation is almost universal. This decision, if used intelligently, could turn out to be the straw that will break the camel’s back.

    Judicial reform has been on the back-burner. Nobody has had found the right opportunity to take on the system, clean it, and give it the infrastructure and support it needs to dispense justice and uphold the constitution. Any sweeping change, targeted at such a key institution,  needs to have a massive groundswell of public support. There is no time like now to build that support!

    The Bhopal case presents us with an opportunity to clean out the stables and strengthen the system. We can use it as an opportunity to reduce political interference in the dispensation of justice, reduce the misuse of law, reduce the backlog burden, and address the large number of under-trials waiting for a day in court.

    The moment has presented itself. It will be difficult to oppose reform that will make justice more accessible to victims. Can parliament unite, cut across party-lines and drop hidden agendas? Will the law ministry seize the moment? I hope so.

    Call to action:
    Let us use our anger and outrage constructively. Let us force the Indian media to start asking about Judicial reform. Let's dig up reports made at the behest of Parliament and the Law Ministry on Judicial Reform. Let's start getting our elected representative to demand a reform in the judicial system. Anything that can add momentum to the call for sweeping reform should be don and done before the issue fades from public memory. 

    Hopefully folks on the left, right and centre of the political spectrum will see eye-to-eye on this one.

    Tuesday, 1 June 2010

    Final Solution

    One of my Favorite Blogs – The Idea of India, had a documentary embedded in this post. I am embedding the documentary "Final Solution" at the end of this post. It is a well known documentary about Godhra and it's aftermath. This was the first chance that I had to see it and it lived up to it's reputation. I am not surprised that the censor board (at the time) wanted it canned.

    The last 30 minutes had me scared. I am sure that it will scare you too (unless of course you are a religious fundamentalist, in which case you will be salivating at the prospect of more death and violence)

    Allow me to leave you with a poem that appears at the end of the documentary
    Mandir bhi le lo
    Masjid bhi le lo
    Magar tum hamare
    Lahoo se na khelo
    mandir se gar jo
    khuda hai nadardad
    aur masjidion mein
    nahin hai jo ishwar
    to phir aadmi ke liye dharm kya hai
    jahan aadmi ke liye uthne hain khanjar
    khuda ko bhi le lo
    ishwar ko bhi le lo
    tum ram le lo
    babar bhi le lo

    Build your temple, have your mosque
    But don’t play with our blood for it

    If a muslim god has no space in your temple
    If the Hindu God doesn’t reside in your mosque
    Then why have a religion that preaches murder

    You can have all our Gods
    But don’t play with our blood for it

    You can have Ram and Babar
    But don’t play with our blood for it

    Final Solution - the complete documentary


    There have been some subtle changes on some right wing sites recently. Probably an attempt to whitewash their Hindu Rashtra leanings. This leaves me stumped. Have they been stumped? Has the "liberal dharma tag" been buried? Have they realized that they are far from liberal and extremely conservative? The circus tent still seems to be around. That said, I have not seen any new circus tricks lately. The only exception was support for Israel in the name of 'real politics' or some such thing. Journo sena folks seem to be less engaged with them as well.

    Tuesday, 18 May 2010

    Think Tanks

    Begin Rant --|

    India has started spawning self-proclaimed "think-tanks". These collectives typically have a sprinkling of NRIs and  like to deal in subjects that hover at about 30,000 feet (e.g. - Foreign Policy). Their credentials are a well formatted blog with a steady readership of other members of the same choir. Areas of interest include salivating over the prospect of war, privatization, Hindu victimhood and anything that can crawl under a giant blanket called "national interest".

    Let us get real about these collectives. These folks are social networking addicts who spin some mediocre content after watching a couple of prime time news shows and reading some verbal diarrhea on their preferred feed reader. They then come up with a piece that sounds intelligent to no one but themselves and maybe a handful of die hard followers. If they get retweeted a few times and pick up a few dozen anonymous followers on twitter they anoint themselves with title of "think tank" or something vaguely similar. The ones that have a semblance of intelligence typically ape American think tanks and have journos engaging with them on social networking sites whenever they need to mount an attack (always happens when they are talking about the "other" India).

    These collectives are nothing more than a bunch of frogs living in a well. This picture by my friend Suresh Awasthi sums up my opinion about these folks.

    Think Tanks: As progressive as frogs in a well?

    |--End Rant

    Note: I believe that freedom of speech has to be absolute and I defend (i) my right to criticize and (ii) their right to publish whatever the hell they want to.

    Saturday, 17 April 2010

    An Open Letter to the Editor's Guild - Coverage of a Natural Disaster

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Anand Bala balasubramanyan [at]
    Date: Sat, Apr 17, 2010 at 9:43 PM
    Subject: An Open Letter to the Editor's Guild - Coverage of a Natural Disaster
    To: rajdeep.sardesai [at], rajdeep.sardesai [at]
    Cc: editor [at]

    Dear Rajdeep

    I write to you in your capacity as an office bearer of the Editor’s Guild.

    Has there been a collective decision by the mainstream media to ignore the devastation that killed 120 people in West Bengal? Over 100,000 people are left homeless and the coverage is conspicuous by it’s absence. Even the BBC devoted more space and time to it than our national dailies and news channels.

    Do the lives of the victims of the storm not merit a report from the ground, or a question to a spokesperson of a national party or even an update on the number of homeless, missing and dead?

    I am not asking you to stop covering the skeletons of the IPL and entertainment. I am asking why a natural disaster of such magnitude cannot get a fraction of the same bandwidth.

    Citizens have been let down completely by the media. We don’t even know the status of rescue operations and what relief is required and how much has reached citizens. As a reader and a viewer I am pained but not surprised. This must be a new low. 

    I don’t know if the Editor’s Guild has the will to do something about it. I hope they do. Your readers and viewers deserve better.

    Anand Bala
    तूने बोया पेड़ बबूल का, फिर आम कहाँ से खाए?
    - Sant Kabir

    UPDATE 1: A rather candid and short response received from Rajdeep

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    From: Rajdeep Sardesai
    Date: Sat, Apr 17, 2010 at 11:38 PM
    Subject: RE: An Open Letter to the Editor's Guild - Coverage of a Natural D isaster
    To: Anand Bala
    Cc: editor - The Hoot

    U raise an issue of impt and national interest. I agree we have failed. Will definitely try and stir some consciousness on it within the editor community. Tks


    UPDATE 2: This letter and it's response is all available on the website here. Please post any comments that you may have over there

    Monday, 12 April 2010

    Man Kunto Maula | मन कुन्तो मौला | Qawwal Ghous Muhammad Nasir & Party

    Song: Man Kunto Maula | मन कुन्तो मौला

    Artist: Qawwal Ghous Muhammad Nasir & Party

    Lyrics: Hazrat Amir Khusro Dehalwi | अबुल हसन यमीनुद्दीन ख़ुसरौ

    Album: The Great Sufi Qawwals (Super Series Company, Charminar, Hyderabad)

    Sunday, 11 April 2010

    Operation Sitting Duck and trying to move forward

    • Folks calling for war, are the least likely to be called to take up arms in the forests of Dandakaranya
    • The Indian Government and Maoists have one thing in common. They are both equally foolish. Only fools of the lowest order think that they can win a war (any war). 
    • Tribals and Jawans are sitting ducks in Operation Greenhunt. 
    • Nobody and I mean nobody is talking peace. Particularly in parliament. (If they are, they are not visible).
    • The Jawans killed were sacrificial lamb.Just like the people of Kalinganagar.
    • Why can folks not condemn violence on both sides without having to qualify, rationalize or justify violence?
    • If there is a revolt, only the government can be blamed. 
    • You take a jaw for tooth. Very mature. What next?
    • By asking for people who want a halt to green-hunt to be "locked-up", the media (like the maoists and the Home Minister) has completely lost the plot.

    • Government's Confidence Building Measures
      Complete and total moratorium on ALL mines
      • That are less than 5 years old
      • All future mining projects
    • Create a negotiation team
      • A group of 7-10 people
      • No present or past bureaucrats/para-military/maoists/high profile politicos
      • Should have corporate, tribal, academic and civil liberties representatives
      • Group mandated to bring both sides to the negotiation table by any means other than physical force.
      • Immiediate goals
        • Paramilitary forces remain in the red corridor, halt all engagement and retain their current strength
        • Maoists call an immediate and complete halt to all violence and cadre movements.
    • Start moves to create local tribal councils that
      • Has purview over all land acquisition and related compensation (no project of tribal land can happen without their explicit consent and participation)
      • Council should have a LARGE number of elected members from tribal communities
      • Decides on whether specific mines should be nationalized or localized or privatized
      • Need for constitutional provision and democratic mechanism to make this work.

    Friday, 9 April 2010

    Discovered a CD Shop in Bangalore (for die hard Sufi and Qawali Fans)

    If you are a die hard Qawali fan in Bangalore and are looking for a place to buy some music, head towards Dargah Hazrat Tawakkal Mastan on OTC road and near Chikpet.

    • As you approach the Dargah from Chikpet you will see HTM Cassette Centre a few meters before the Dargah.
    • The shop also serves a clinic for Unani Medicine - SO you might get a bit confused with the signboard.

    The HTM Cassette Centre - Don't Get confused by the Sign Board

    • Inside you will get an interesting collection of Qawali/Sufi CDs - If you can be specific about what you are looking for - Aleem who manages the shop will be able pull out some gems from behind the shelf.
    The Best ones are hidden in the back
    •  I picked up some amazing Aziz Mian and Fariduddin Ayaz and a some CDs of other performers who I had never heard of. 
    • I have uploaded a snippet from one of the three Aziz Mian CDs (see below) (Bhala Hua Kabira Bhala Hua)
    •  There are other shops along the lane. By the time Aleem Mia lined me up - I had no money left. Will be headed there again soon to figure out what the other shops have.

    Monday, 5 April 2010

    Dear Ranbir - (for your Youngistan challenge) | #pepsithegame |

    Dear Ranbir

    My challenge to you is -

    • Get Pepsi Co, it subsidiaries and partners to stop extracting ground water in bottling plants anywhere in South Asia
    • Reference - | NDTV | Kerala: Cola giant Pepsi exploiting ground water? | Dated - Thursday March 18  2010, Raw Link :  
      Many folks have taken on this challenge and success has been difficult to find. I hope you enjoy the challenge!

      UPDATE: Link above seems to be disappear every once in a while.  Just in case link not working here is a .pdf version 

      UPDATE 2: It comes as no surprise that this entry to the #PepsiTheGame contest got rejected.  I don't blame Indiblogger, they have a business to run. I will however, still object to the beverage companies profiteering from our groundwater.

      UPDATE 3: Have written a post for @mohanbn's blog about Pepsi's Games.  Do read and comment. There is an interesting debate brewing.


      Sunday, 4 April 2010

      |Press Release| The Nuclear Liability Bill is in our National Interests

      It has been proven that Global Warming was a liberal conspiracy to screw us over. Out of every 1000 pages of scientific reports published on global warming you will find two complete sentences that quote an inappropriate source! After such monumental oversight, the urban Naxals now want to deny us a right to nuclear energy by criminalizing industrial accidents incidents. Why should we let them have their way?

      Nuclear incidents pose NO threat (e.g. Chernobyl)
      • After the minor leak in Chernobyl, the dirty red communists in Russia used scare tactics to evacuate residents from the area.
      • The real reason for evacuation was not nuclear radiation but faulty Geiger counters produced in socialist factories that showed up vast quantities of radiation when there was actually no radiation. We all know that factories with unions produce faulty goods. 
      • Since all residents were evacuated there is no way to prove that several generations will be affected by the incident. Any genetic mutation amongst animals in the region has to be put down to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
      • More importantly, Chernoby happened before Google (BG) putting it so far in the past that it loses all relevance.
      Nuclear technology is safer than air-travel
      • More people die when travelling to the airport than do people of nuclear radiation. (If there is such a thing as death by Radiation).
      • For the enviro-terrorists reading this – apples and oranges are both fruits. They can and should be compared. By the way..some cancers can be cured and to include them as a potent side-effect is unfair.
      Bhopal is a Red Herring
      • Bhopal remains a vibrant city with great music, art and even a theatre scene.
      • Like in every other Indian city, a few people in Bhopal are blind and few more have cancer.
      • Dow chemicals and Union Carbide have never been convicted with criminal liability in any court and are hence innocent.
      • It’s been 25 years since the disaster, it’s time we admit that Union Carbide has a halo around their heads.
      • The fact that reputable senior lawyers defend Union Carbide vehemently in trial courts in criminal proceedings proves their innocence. Lawyers such as these should be made into spokespeople for the Nuclear Liability bill. They understand how painful criminal proceedings can be for companies that act in India’s National Interests. 
      • Union Carbide may have known that the technology that they used in Bhopal was risky. So what? Every business has risks. Do you want us to become a society where the general public gets to participate in business decisions? Financial business risks have nothing to do with their lives! Only shareholders and management should have a right to opinion in such matters.
      • Business leaders have said that it is unfair to make Dow Chemicals clean up the mess at the Union Carbide plant. We need to put our faith behind such stalwarts who are leading the fight against anti-democratic elements (such as illiterate filthy tribals who don’t want to give up their land for the cause of development). There will be resistance when we need to open up more open-cast Uranium mines and we need to be prepared.
      Why worry about the water table? There are alternatives!
      • We all know that bottled water is the future. So what if we drop a few chemicals into the water table – Beverage companies will be able to give us amazing drinking water from places like Plachimada.
      • Privatizing our water distribution system and giving it to folks like Bechtel can guarantee urban India all the water they need. 
      • Rainwater harvesting is for the communists.
      • E.g. - A recent incident where contaminated heavy after was mixed with drinking water at a nuclear plant was contained very well. Nobody died from drinking heavy water in that incident.QED.
      Seizing the competitive advantage
      • For more than a few years now, the US has not commissioned a new nuclear reactor.
      • This shows their lack of foresight when it comes to growing energy needs. 
      • We need to beat China at everything and at any cost.
      • In case of the highly unlikely event of a nuclear incident, we have the medical skills to cope with things like cleft-lips, genetic deformities and cancers. IF they occur, we can cure them. 
      Let us be democratic about Nuclear Liability
      • When we can’t demand a guarantee from our watermelon vendor, why should we demand a guarantee from the guys who build a nuclear reactor?
      • Democracy is about equality and furthering free enterprise isn’t it? All vendors should be equal in the eyes of the law. 
      It’s about Dharma and Karma
      • Let us for a second assume that Nuclear technology is risky. If there is an incident, we know that vendors will take measures to fix the problem in future power plants. Everybody makes mistakes and can learn from them. Nuclear technology vendors need not be made into criminals for accidental mistakes. 
      • Based on the above assumption, a few people may be exposed to radiation that is supposedly dangerous. If anything like this does happen we must assess the karma of the people who are affected. Dharma demands that people who have bad Karma face the consequences of their actions in previous lives. You can’t blame the vendor for that. Such blame-games would harm the sentiments of the majority. 
      • We all know that opponents to the bill are either violent naxals or enviro terrorists or ISI agents.
      How can you help get the Nuclear Liability Bill passed?
      • Corruption is illegal but lobbying is not!
        Get your MP to stop listening to Indian environment groups and scientists. The EPA is giving grants to people who can work within the system to create civil recourse as opposed to criminal recourse. Please get you parliamentarian to listen to people who have funding from the EPA. After all if they are supported by American EPA, they must have our interests in mind.
      • Direct Action! Talk to your local Resident's Welfare Association, MLA, MP and Corparator. Ask them to set aside land for a Nuclear Reactor in your neighbourhood. We must lead by example! It would be wonderful if the good folks of Koramangala, Banjara Hills and Cuffe Parade show us the way by proving that nuclear reactors are safe for their children.

      • Do not attend any Communist and/or Naxal Events. We need to become a nation of pragmatic realists concerned with National Interests. Urban Naxalities are romanticising the nuclear liability debate. They are doing this by incorrectly focussing attention on the risks associated with the complete nuclear lifecycle. Organizations like the Environment Support Group, The Corporate Accountability Desk and The Alternative Law Forum may organize seminars to discuss the Nuclear Liability issue. Please spread the word about these events and encourage people not to attend.

      Issued in Public National Interest by

      Society for The Prevention of Cruelty to Nuclear Technology Vendors

      Note – STPCNTV was Established on April 1 and is an unregistered institution with one member.

      Tuesday, 30 March 2010

      Open Letter to Mr Bachan

      Dear Mr Bachan

      You have every right to endorse any brand. It is perfectly legal and nothing should stop you.

      Smoking cigarettes is perfectly legal. You cannot however deny that cigarettes are a cancerous idea. Your endorsement of Gujarat Tourism’s brand falls into this category. You did after all accept the offer at Mr Modi's invitation.

      Corporate India will not be able to thank you enough. The corporate world has been looking for somebody who can help them move to Gujarat without having to be embarrassed or apologetic about dealing with Mr. Modi. You made it look like the right thing to do.

      The timing is equally bad. Just as the law is catching up with Mr. Modi, you start making Mr.Modi look like a victim rather than the accused, You have the media batting for you as well. You managed to begin the process of changing the general perception about Mr. Modi. He, more than most, needs as much help as he can get in managing his image.

      You have done nothing wrong as far as this episode is concerned. This is not about right or wrong. This is about the shades of grey between the two. That said, you will be judged by the company you keep. Some people will applaud you for keeping such company and some people will not approve (me). At the end of the day it is a choice that you will have to make. Whether you like it or not, choices that you make publicly do influence others.

      I disagree not just with the choice but your vehement defence of the choice.

      Monday, 29 March 2010

      Yugan Yugan Hum Yogi

      I have uploaded a Song from Shabnam Virmani's Album "Songs of Kabir" (with her permission).

      Happy listening!

      Saturday, 13 March 2010


      I made it to the Kabir Mahotsav!

      It’s difficult to write about the experience of the last 10 days. Therefore, let me cut straight to the chase.

      The Musical Highlights
      • Mura Lala and Parbhat Jogi
        Mura Lala and Parbhat Jogi are from Kutch. The biggest highlight of the trip was travelling with and listening to these two perform both on stage and to over 12,000 people (at Roopakheda in Dara District) and in the impromptu sessions that they obliged us with on the bus and at Tipanyaji’s residence.
        Mura Lala is a vocalist with a booming voice. You will be moved every time you listen to him.
        Parbhat Jogi accompanies him on the Dholak (never heard the Dholak played so well and in such a unique style). BTW - Jogi Saab has an amazing voice as well.
        Shabnam Virmani has recorded their music and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. I did find a short sample of Mura Lala's music on the net here
        Mura Lala
      • Bus Trip from Ujjain to Roopa Kheda
        Kaluram Bamaniya, Mura Lala, Parbhat Jogi, Shabnam Viramani and Narayanji sang through a six hour bus journey from Ujjain to Roopa Kheda! The words “kabir ki gaadi” had a totally new meaning. This Satsang was once in a lifetime experience. The cramped seats, the heat of the mid-day sun, and the sounds of the highways could not drown out the tempura, dholak and most importantly the voices of these artists. For some part of this trip I was sitting next to Mukthiyar Ali!!
      • Kaluram Bamaniya on the Bus (Mura Lala is holding his Tanpura)
      • Shabnam Virmani
        Her performances at Luniya Khedi and Ujjain gave me goose bumps! It is very rare to come across such an open voice. Her ability to connect with the audiences and get them swaying would have made most artists proud. Listening to her was Paisa Vasool!
        Shabnam Virmani recording the Jam Session
      The Personal and Political Highlight
      • Finding a friend: Suresh Awasthi
        Made an amazing friend is Suresh Awasthi. At his age, most of us would not have the courage to take public transport. He however, was not only braving the elements but was making sure, that we had it comfortable. The principles with which he has led his life are things people like me can only look at in awe and aspire towards.
        He is exceptionally caring and made sure that both Sudha and I were taken care of (more often than not at his expense). His sense of humour that had me rolling on the floor laughing on more than one occasion. Some of the conversations that I had with him, merit an independent blogspost.
      • Narayanji
        Narayanji was the most politically vocal and articulate of all the people I met. Maybe it was his background with Ekalavya or maybe it was just his own experiences with being brought up a Dalit in a caste dominated society that made him so vocal and articulate. He shared some very interesting anecdotes including one about his planned work with Dalits in Ahmedabad where untouchability is still practiced in some pockets.
        Parbhat Jogi (in turban) and Narayanji (centre)
      • A lesson in courage - “Saathi” Saheb
        When you have 2000 people gathered together, your are bound to attract a few flies (read as Godmen and politicians). On the second day of the festival at Luniyakhedhi, there was a “pravachan” by a godman followed by some gyaan from the local BJP politicians. The audience gave a cold response to both the Godmen and the politicos.
        Then came Saathi Sahed. He took the mike very politely and in under 6 minutes neutralized everything the BJP politicos and the Godmen had said. His argument was simple but precise – the root problem is the caste system and it needs to be cut at the roots. He took the suggestions that the politicos had given and showed exactly how it made the problem worse. He then delicately put the Godmen in place by explaining the danger of institutionalizing the work of Kabir. Unlike the BJP and Godmen, Saathi Saab got the “Jai Ho!” and ovation from the audience. #EPICWIN
        It takes a certain amount of courage and conviction to stand up and speak your mind the way he did. He was an inspiration and a lesson. 
      Suresh Awasthi (left) and "Saathiji" (right)

        Acknowledgments and Thank You to
        • Prahlad Singh Tipaniyaji 
          What a host! He was dealing with 1000s of visitors but made sure that each of us was taken care of. He saw me without a shawl on the first evening and was headed to the stage for his performance. He stops, turns around, walks all the way back to his house to get me a shawl.I was touched.
        • Ajay Tipanyaji
          I do not know how he did it. Event managers charge in lakhs for events a fraction of this size. This person organized the logistics with the least possible infrastructure and resources at his disposal.
        • Shabnam Virmani
          The bus ride and Yatra would not have been possible with out her. She was willing to accommodate me and tolerate my "pile on" presence. Thank you for having me on board for a small part of your journey with Kabir.
        Parting thoughts
        The language of peace and tolerance is deep-rooted in India. People in the thousands walked miles to attend a function dedicated to the work of a man who said “break down the temples and mosques and find the god within you”.

        Many of these people, and for that matter even some of the artists are illiterate. However, based on the way they lead their lives they seem to be far more educated than most people who are at the centre of  political discourse in India.

        Jai Ho Kabira!

        PS- For a few snaps from the event -
        KabirMahotsav Photos

        Wednesday, 17 February 2010

        A liberal in the name of Dharma? (or a conservative by another name)

        "You can’t be neutral on a moving train" – Howard Zinn

        There is a movement that is gathering groundswell, particularly in India's virtual world. I have been hearing a lot about them lately, have listened to some of them and read a lot of what they have written. They call themselves "liberal". I have my doubts.

        Their first claim is that they believe in "Classical Liberalism". Every time you hear them speak, you are not too sure where they fall. All you can make out is that they are somewhere in between the Maoists and the Shiv Sena. There are two issues on which they seem to have a clearly articulated political position i) the need for war and ii) transferring wealth from the public to private sphere. (I call that conservatism).

        They use the words "Liberal", and "Dharma" in the same sentence. This sends a shiver down my spine.. If we look a little closer at their tonality and content (of what they say) it gives a very different perspective. My fear is that we will not have to wait long for them to start selectively quoting about Dharma from the Bhagavat Gita. They will say... Yes! They are our brothers and friends, but we need to kill them in the name of Dharma.

        They gift wrap and/label what they say with the phrase "Our Interest". For example "it is in India's  Interest to send combat troops to Afghanistan". The vision is, apparently, to become some sort of global/regional power. Colonizing, bombing and jumping into the hell-hole created by America in Afghanistan is not my idea of a smart move. The equation - "Going to war" = "super-power status"  is a reflection of neo-liberalism and not liberalism. War has always been and will be about stupidity (even if you cloak it with labels such as geo-politics and strategic analysis). India is already at the receiving end of blow-back caused by American occupation and aggression in countries where it is not wanted. Above all, we are coping with a host of internal problems. We don't need the added distraction of a war.

        Privatize they say. For every public sector company that they point at with a significant problem....I will show you five private sector companies with exactly the same problem. They will never talk about improving efficiencies in the public sector or profiteering in the private sector. All they talk about is transferring wealth from the public sphere to the private sphere. Why should the benefits of development HAVE to "trickle" down? Why can't we talk about letting it flow? They key, in my opinion, is to increase efficiencies in the public sector so that the government can off-set it's subsidies without having to turn to debt or tax-payers. Selling a public enterprises has only short-term benefits for the general public.

        I am a big advocate of private participation. At the same time, I do not believe that there is anything like a "free market". There are only markets with unequal players. The government through controls and selective participation is able to level the playing field. They call for social equality but believe that in country with over 400 million people living below the poverty line, education and health care should be in private hands.

        Do I agree on anything? Yes, but I will qualify it as well. First, there is a lack of political leadership in India. The disagreement begins when we start talking about the kind of leaders that we need. The second is around the need to tackle the issue of Naxalism and the futility of naxal violence. Their strategy, true to a neo-liberal approach, calls for a targeted para-military campaign. I (for reasons mentioned in other posts in this blog) believe it's about dramatically changing how Indian citizens in the Naxal belt participate in development.

        It will take time for this movement to gain significant presence in the mainstream. If, the movement hits a tipping point before the next general elections, we will be in for a phase of policy-making where we end up aping the Bush doctrine. Nobody deserves that kind of Karma.

        Thursday, 28 January 2010

        Telangana, Naxalism, Green Hunt and a bad Kichidi

        First up – The Rant

        There has been a boom in manufacturing recently. The boomers are retired bureaucrats and police officers who have participated (with their fair share of collective negligence) in India’s democracy in the last 30 years. What do some of them manufacture? They manufacture superficial analysis with prolific proficiency. The manufacturing product of choice is analysis of terror, war, and security. It always comes without a warranty of being anywhere close to accurate. You get neatly packaged experts who are about to get celebrity status. Suhel Seth and Shobha De…WATCH OUT! You are not the only folks who believe that constables with automatic weapons are the equivalent of a solution.

        Everybody has a right to an opinion. I just find some opinions extremely disagreeable.

        Second – The Example –

        The example is from the article “Telangana Liberated”. It appears in the January 2010 print edition of Pragati. Mr Ram Avtar Yadav, the author, “is a former director-general of police of Andhra Pradesh” (sourced from the original article in Pragati).

        Here is a piece of domino style analysis that appears in the article.

        Begin Quote --
        Telangana is not only being formed with the support of the Naxalites, but will be encompassing the districts that are their stronghold. The security situation is bound to worsen further. It is likely to play out in the following manner.

        During the next panchayat elections, the Naxalites will put up candidates and capture village panchayats and other local bodies in the fledgling state. Once the panchayats are under their control, they will have effective control not only over the people in the villages but also substantial funds from the exchequer. Then, in the assembly elections that follow, they will again put up candidates and win a majority—by intimidating and coercing the electorate—in the assembly and form a proxy government.
        --End Quote

        I am probably not the only one who fails to see the brilliance of this analysis. The following facts seem to be missing –
        • Every mainstream political party is fuelling the Telangana agitation including the Congress and BJP.
          E.g. - Chidamabaram has made enough U-turns to perpetuate a vicious cycle and Sushma Swaraj wants to table a bill in Parliament in support of Telangana. Based on the author’s logic ….both parties must be Naxal controlled. 
        • Naxals do not contest elections despite pleas to join mainstream politics from all sides. To theorise that they will not only contest (by proxy or otherwise) a Panchayat election but will win the legislature is like putting a truck on thin ice.
        • Let us assume that the first half of this far-fetched analysis is spot on. If they control the legislature, why would they need an armed rebellion within Telangana after that? Why have they not done this in other states already?
        The analysis that A will lead to B and so on and so forth till we reach F (where state elections will be won by Naxal proxies) is naïve. The argument lacks logic. I just hope that the people who mange our intelligence have a greater understanding of complex problems and how they are likely to play out.

        The police, bureaucracy and political parties through their collective negligence, brought about the current state of affairs. The lack of effectiveness in their past strategies is evident. After all, if they were effective, we would not have an armed insurgency within the country and there would be no need for a para-military intervention. I am confident that I am not alone in saying that the police and bureaucracy is in need of urgent reform. You will find people on all sides of the political spectrum saying this. So why should I take a doomsday prophecy from within their ranks seriously?

        Third, driving the theory home

        Mr Yadav and Pragati have their rights. They are allowed to say what they say and do what they do. They are not breaking any laws in the process. Mr Yadav can not be faulted for having an opinion. Pragati can not be faulted for publishing it.

        That said, Mr Yadav’s article provides no supporting evidence for any of the domino theories presented in the piece. It is at best, an effort at fear-mongering that may catch the interest of a Hollywood director who admire's Collin Powell’s arguments on WMDs in Iraq.  So how do you make it look like a realistic prophecy?

        A photo of a protest against operation green hunt is used as a visual in the article’s print edition.
        • There was no wording/caption to clarify the context of the image (in the print addition).
        • The article is about Naxalism and the creation of Telangana.
        • The picture of the protest was about green-hunt. In ‘green-hunt’ civilians get caught in the cross-fire.
        • Stitching the article and the image together and sliding it in as directly related is misleading,
        The protest, according to this letter to Pragati, took no position on Telangana and/or Naxalism. Yes, they were on the left of the political spectrum – but they were protesting against violence.

        The image fell into a trap. If they carry a red-flag … they must be plotting violence. This is a dangerous approach to take as we may end up pushing more people to the fringe.

        A person who figures in the image in question is Dr. Ashley Tellis. His letter to Pragati is blunt and does not hold back any punches. I thought the letter was rude. But then, if my photo were to appear within the same article (because I am not comfortable with the idea of operation green-hunt) I would have probably used strong language myself. The use of the image was wrong because it was not relevant to the hypothesis that the article was making i.e. Naxalites will win elections in Telangana by hook or by crook. I do not blame Pragati. Finding something substantive to back the domino theory in the article is challenging.

        Wednesday, 20 January 2010

        Tourism and the art of murder

        Some states are now bending over backwards and rolling out the red carpet to the tourism sector. This is a scary thought and sends a shiver down the spine. The tourism industry is a leading expert in exploiting natural resources for personal short-term gains.This is always done at the cost of local interests.

        For starters the industry is an expert at green washing. We fly people halfway around the world for an eco-holiday and completely ignore the fact that long haul flights are probably one of the biggest culprits when it comes to pollution. We mow down a tract of pristine forest to construct a "luxury" camp-site so that a visitor can view wildlife through the comfort of an air-conditioned tent. We kick out the tribals from a core-zone in the name of conservation and macadamize roads inside forests in the name of infrastructure. To top it all off, we wear an armband that says we are “green”. Eco-tourism has become about as green as my car battery.

        The tourism industry is one of the loudest proponents of neo-liberal policies. Crony capitalism has become an essential part of the industry. You can not succeed unless you have land. You do not have land unless you are well connected with folks in government (for e.g. forest officials). Once you are well connected you need to be willing to grease the wheels. If you succeed in doing so, land is yours for the grabbing. You can then be-rate all the small operators who work for “Indian” tourist.

        It does not matter if the land belongs to tribals. It makes no difference at all that people were evicted to accommodate the dam that creates a reservoir where "water-sports" can be promoted. The words "eco-tourism", "adventure", "large-dams" and "Public-Private-Partnership" are now used in the same sentence to invite "investment". At who's cost are we doing this? Have 1000s of people not been evicted to build the dam that holds back a reservoir? Does the land in the valleys not belong to the tribals? Who gives a trans-national the greater right to this land? Who are we to waltz in and sign MoUs on hot-air balloons to declare that these national assets are for sale? Can we stop dancing on graves in the name of Incredible India!?

        The Indian media loves the tourism industry. They have hours of programming and reams of supplements dedicated to the largest industry in the world. They will, as usual, not have the courage to upset their advertisers and launch into a critique of everything that is wrong with the industry. They will watch in silence as wild-life and experiential travel become a playground for the elite while locals suffer the burden of unwanted "guests".

        Mining has been notorious for it's impact on locals. Maybe the PR guys in mining need to lift a page or two from the tourism industry. Their impacts are similar - environmental degradation, loss of local control over land and locals are never long-term beneficiaries. How does the tourism industry get away with it? I guess tourism goes where mining can't go.

        Monday, 11 January 2010

        Critquing the Media: Rules of Engagement

        Firstly, there is ONLY 1 rule when it comes to critiquing the English print and broadcasting media.
        Secondly, the one rule has three parts -

        Rule 1a) The English media is ALWAYS right.

        Rule 1b) If the English media is WRONG refer to rule 1a.

        Rule 1c) If you question rule 1b you are: a socialist, a country bumpkin, anti-national, and a threat to freedom of speech.

        Living Down Under: My experiences with Racism

        Between Early 1997 and late 1998 I lived as a working-student in Adelaide. The town has a reputation of being conservative and is very different to Melbourne and Sydney.

        I had Australian-Asian relations as one of my papers and I am aware of Australia’s history. It has a horrendous record - particularly the relationship between the white immigrants and indigenous Aborigines. There is also the infamous White Australia policy.

        When I was in Adelaide, Pauline Hanson was active in politics. She is an Aussie version of Raj Thackeray and her claim to fame is xenophobia. I witnessed over 300 Australian students carrying out the equivalent of a “gherao” of Pauline Hanson.

        To add some balance to the current discussion around racist attacks in Australia, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight 3 incidents.

        The “Indian” Cook
        I was qualified as a cook. I had worked in 2 luxury hotels in India and would have earned my Chef De Parte Scarf in a matter of months if not for my admission in the University of South Australia.

        When I landed in Australia I went knocking on several Indian restaurants. Every one of the restaurants that I interviewed at was owned by an Australian Citizen. They were also all persons of Indian origin. They were unwilling to pay anything close to a market wage (15-18$/hr). They wanted to pay minimum wage (6$/hr). In exchange, they would allow me to cross my permissible limit of 20 hours a week. You do the math.

        There were several Indians in my course. Some of them were working in such sweat-shop. These conditions were being encouraged by owners – all of Indian Origin. These owners would have never had the guts to make such an offer to a local.

        I had reached a situation where I had no money for my next meal and was a couple of weeks behind on rent. An Australian classmate who was working with the Adelaide police at the time, offered to lend me 400$ to get over my “settling down pains” .

        I eventually landed a job as an orderly at the largest hospital in South Australia. It was a job nobody wanted because it involved working Friday and Saturday night. Because I was working during the night and weekends – the hourly wage of 12$ went up to around 22$. I grabbed the job with both hands.

        A few months into the job, a patient was flown in on a chopper after a car-wreck. I was asked to move the patient (who had more than a broken bone or two), from casualty to X-ray and bring him back. When the patient saw me, his reaction took me by complete surprise. He said “I don’t want this blackie touching me. Get me one of my own!”

        A senior nurse who was standing next to me (a tall and extremely well built caucasian woman) reacted instinctively.  She pushed his stretcher into the wall (ouch!). Gripped his wrist and swiftly yanked off a canula. She then looked him in the eyes and said “Oops! How can I send you to X-ray without getting painkillers into you?” She then nudged me out of the bay.

        It transpired that he had to wait for the next shift which was a good six hours away to get his drip back, get the painkiller and be taken to X-ray. Both the nurse and I never mentioned it again. I never filled out an incident report.

        Go Back to Your Own Country
        One Sunday evening our entire shift from the hospital decided to meet up for a drink at the Exeter Pub on Rundle Street. It is normally a quiet place, not much noise and a great place to sip on a few -pints of Cooper’s Pale Ale. There were 6-7 of us and I was on my 3rd round when two of us left the table to take a leak. On the way out of the loo somebody said something. I didn’t catch what he was saying and kept walking assuming that it was not directed at me. My colleague (a Caucasian and a 3rd generation Australian) had heard exactly what he said. At the top of his voice with one hand blocking the loo door he called out to me and asked the person to repeat what he said. The person promptly turned and said “Go Back to Your Own Country”. My colleague showed him the middle finger and headed straight to the bar-counter. The red neck moved into the loo. I headed back to the table not knowing what to make of the situation. A few minutes later three bouncers were escorting the red-neck out of the premises. I was restraining my colleague from heading out onto the street to pick up a fight with the red neck.

        In Conclusion

        These were the three racist incidents that I encountered in Australia.

        There was nothing in the environment that I studied in or worked in that made me feel I was living in the midst of racist people. Every country and city will have it’s crack-pots and racists. But the overwhelming majority are not like that (both in India and Australia).

        The common man in Australia does whatever they can to nip racist behaviour in the bud.
        Note to the media: Make your claims but please be balanced. This story has two sides. My personal experience does not allow me to say that Australia is a racist country.

        Friday, 8 January 2010

        A Note to NRIs who want to Vote

        Some NRIs want to vote in Indian elections and the government is going to make it possible for them to do so. (?@#)

        On 8th January 2009, at the annual NRI extravaganza (which is partly tax-payer funded) the Prime Minister of India said:
        "I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India......
        ......We are working on this issue and I sincerely hope that they will get a chance to vote by the time of the next regular general elections”.

        I have some problems with this.
        1. If a person does not live in India, how can that person participate in a process that decides who will govern me here in India? It seems unfair to me.

        2. An exercise of one’s franchise comes with consequences.
          * If a person is not living in the country, he/she does not have to bear the consequences of his/her vote.
          * If a person does not bear the consequences of his/her vote – why should they be given the privilege of a vote?
          Owning property in India does not bestow extra rights on a person under the representation of people’s act. In other words, a bank account or house does not entitle anybody in India to a vote.

        3. Voting is not an exercise in jingoism. Exercising one’s franchise is serious business. It’s about electing a representative who is responsible for delivering on governance. If somebody needs to find an armband that proves their ethnicity, they need to look elsewhere and not on a voter’s registration list.

        4. If you eat the cake – you won’t have it any more.
          An Indian has every right to settle in any country that will have him as a resident. One does not and should not lose his/her citizenship for that. They are also welcome to give up their citizenship.
          I have no issues even if someone was educated on government subsidies in premier institutions such as IIT or AIIMS and then took the first plane abroad. Good for them. They have every democratic right to pursue a path that they chose for themselves. We have enough and more people to make up for the folks who leave for greener pastures. Family and friends will miss NRIs. Not the country. Nobody is that indispensable.
          Indian democracy affects everyday life. Participation in Indian democracy is not about pressing a button once every five years.

        5. There is an entire ministry that is dedicated to the affairs of NRIs and Persons of Indian origin. This is, in my opinion, adequate representation. NRIs should do whatever is possible either individually or collectively to increase the scope, power, authority and efficiency of the Ministry of NRI affairs.
          Don't ask for a seat in parliament. If you want voting right, you will have to show up at the booth like the rest of us.
        Here is my solution:

        Why should an NRI be any different to a migrant worker within India? An NRI needs to treat an election-day like an other migrant worker in India

        •  They need to comply with all the provisions of the Representation of People’s act. (citizenship, qualification to vote, age etc)
        • They need to reach the constituency in which their names figures on the voting list. Or they need to pre-register their name on the Voter’s list with all required documentation.
        • On voting day - they need to walk into the appropriate polling booth and show the appropriate Identity card (none of which are green) and vote for a candidate of their choice. 

        Thursday, 7 January 2010

        Narayanathe NaMo NaMo (Not in praise of Gujarat)

        If listening to M S Subbulakshmi tapes was a part of your childhood then you are probably familiar with Annamacharya and/or his composition Narayanathe NaMo NaMo.

        The phrase Narayanathe NaMo NaMo immediately came to mind when I heard that Gujarat's infamous NaMo (Narendra Modi) was inviting a Narayana i.e N.R.Narayana Murthy of INFY fame to advise the Gujarat Government on their recent electoral reform initiative to make voting compulsory. [Image from Indian Express]

        I do not know if Mr. Murthy has accepted the offer or not... but both Mr. Murthy and NaMo were sharing the same dais when NaMo made the job offer. To be honest, I doubt if he will accept this specific offer. He will bide his time for something more grandiose than "advisor". That said, , if you can share a dais with the man who authored the Gujarat riots, you will not find it difficult to accept a job offer from the same man.

        Mr Murthy's ex-colleague from Infosys is working with the UPA government on the UID scheme. It would make business sense for INFY to spread their bets between the NDA and UPA. Industry captains, have endorsed NaMo's genocidal credentials for Prime Ministership. Examples -

        NaMo's exploits in the form of pogroms against muslims do not seem to trouble the conscience of these industry captains. [For more on Gujarat you can read this piece by Harsh Mander.]

        Mr Murthy is not the only person working on a job offer from NaMo. It looks like Mr Amitabh Bachan, while promoting his film Paa to NaMo also offered to be a Brand Ambassador for Gujarat. I guess there is no harm in endorsing the NaMo's pogroms between his endorsements for Pepsi, ICICI, Parker pens, Nerolac paints, Reid & Taylor suits, and Dabur.

        Mr Murthy is not media shy. He is an independent director in NDTV. Omkar Goswami, a well know journalist in India is an Independent Director in Infosys. There is no doubt that he will have some big names in the media batting for him whenever required.

        It is a matter of time before Mr. Murthy makes a foray into respectable politics. Respectable politics is not the kind of politics that requires you to contest an election and win a democratic mandate. It is the kind of politics that allows you to use your media and industry connections to lobby for a constitutional office. It's about taking the concept of capitalism and converting it into crony capitalism. I hope I am wrong about Mr Murthy's goals.

        Wednesday, 6 January 2010

        Oil Slick along East Coast Road? Does the media care?

        Picture of Oil Slick from

        An unknown ship emptied bilge (which included oil from the engine) off the coast of Tamil Nadu. A 3KM stretch of beach along the ECR is now soaking in the oil. This is not just a health hazard but an environmental disaster as well. The Hindu and New Indian Express have both covered the slick that seems to have taken place around Jan 01, 2010. Unfortunately, it looks like that is where the coverage ends.

        This incident proves that when it comes to the environment, lip-service is the preferred approach within the Indian media. An oil slick, irrespective of size, should have attracted a more vigorous response from the media. Where they hung-over with their coverage of 3 idiots and the New Year? What if the clean-up was sponsored and part of a media Green-wash...would the slick have provoked collective outrage?

        We still do not know if the slick has had an immediate impact on local health and the environment. We do not know, from existing reports, if the government is doing anything about either cleaning the slick or tracking down the offending vessel. No spokesperson of the government either at the centre or at the state has been questioned by the English media. (I will be happy to stand corrected on this if somebody can provide me with a link).

        The impact zone appears to be fishing villages dotted along the East Coast Road. Would the media response have been more pro-active if this slick had happened on the Worli or Juhu coast? 

        • G K Vasan is the minister for shipping in the central government and lives in Chennai (not far from the spill site). I wonder if he is doing anything about bringing the owners of the offending vessel to book? 
        • Jai Ram Ramesh our minister for Environment and Forests is probably still recovering from the COP15 disaster that he helped engineer.

        I am hoping that the Tamil press would have done a far better job in giving the slick the negative publicity it deserves. Based on the way the English media (both electronic and print) are approaching the story it looks like the slick will be buried on the beaches.

        On a side note - Dumping of bilge close to the coast line is illegal. Does this mean that ships can dump such toxic wastes in high seas?

        Introducing Media Subbudu

        Media Subbudu has promised to contribute occasionally to this blog.

        Media Subbudu suffers from a permanent state of paranoia and is petrified of what his employers may think if they find him "blogging". I have agreed to keep his identity partially cloaked. His content will give his identity away to people who know him. 

        It will be my privilege to host the scathing pen of Media Subbudu.

        Friday, 1 January 2010

        Outrage and then be outraged

        The Kannada film world (a.k.a Sandalwood) lost two key family members in the span of two days.  

        C Aswath 20th December 1938 to 29th December 2009  
        • To get an idea of why he was popular for his music take a look at Banthu Shravana on YouTube 
        • I have been a die-hard fan of C Aswath ever since I heard him perform at the World Spiritual Music Festival in Bangalore. That concert ranks as one of the best performances that I have ever had the privilege of attending.
        Vishnuvardhan 18 September 1950 - 30 December 2009
        • I confess I have never seen a Vishnuvardhan movie.
        • I am very aware that that he was the undisputed heavy-weight champion of Sandalwood and he inherited the crown after the demise of legendary Rajkumar. [A YouTube link via @churumuri that has clipping of these two men sharing screen space]
        • Like Rajnikanth, Shivaji Ganesan and Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan would not have been able to reach such stardom without being able to connect to his huge fan-base through his films.
        Media Coverage of C Aswath's demise:

        In the National Press, the demise of C Aswath received less coverage than Amitabh Bachan’s birthday. But then, C Aswath does need the coverage. He does not support brands neither does he require a brand-building exercise. The people who wanted to mourn him did not need sponsored reminders that he was a precious gift to music fans. His music celebrates his life and his fans don’t need any other reminder (sponsored or otherwise). It does pinch that that the national media did not pay adequate attention to his contribution to Sugama Sangeet.

        Media Coverage of Vishnuvardhan's demise

        • Vishnuvardhan’s death in NDTV was repeatedly announced with a two part headline (in the same breath). Part a) his death part b) The fact that schools and colleges were being closed.
          Note: most schools and colleges were already closed as a part of the Christmas/New Year break. Why the emphasis on the closure right at the very beginning of the announcement?

        • As rumours went around like wildfire around violence, one got the feeling that Bangalore was about to burn. Here is an example of how the news media were part of the rumour-mongering (courtesy Times Now)

          Elaborate police arrangement were made for the procession, however, protests erupted in large scale. Police even resorted to firing in numerous accounts, which reportedly could have lead to death of few. The entire city was brought to the edge, even as mourners continue to pour in numbers to pay their last respect to the legendary actor. 
          It transpires that there was no "firing" other than tear-gas. This incident took place near the site where the body of the actor was laid in state. Nobody was ever injured or killed by police bullets. Certain specific parts of the city were affected by violence but the entire city was NOT on edge. Bangalore was being pushed to the edge by media reports that were forcing people to "safety".
        • Incidents of violence were most common where the police failed to control crowds trying to get a last glimpse of their idol. A few trouble makers were mixed in with the crowd and it was proving difficult to control the crowds.

        • When I started getting SMS messages that Madivala in Bangalore was getting affected, I decided to take a walk. The vegetable market was it's usual self, Total Mall was closed (with signs saying mall is closed), half the shops had their shutters down and traffic levels were normal. A crowd was gathered around a poster of Vishnuvardhan and there was loud music blaring from speakers. Before I knew what was happening, cops had pulled up in a jeep and the crowd promptly dispersed. There was NO sign of "violence". It was not a tenth as bad as the rumours that were doing the rounds.

        • Three regional channels were relaying the funeral "live". We can be crtical of the fans, but I think the channels went overboard in their continuous coverage. Before we look down on the thousands that came to the funeral, I think we should also question the need for such a broadcast.

        • There WAS violence. Trouble makers were at work in Gandhi Bazaar and Jaynagar. But, media coverage and speculation around the city grinding to halt was perpetuating a vicious cycle.

        There was a cameraman who lost his camera and the above image says it all. I condemn the violence, but I also see a role that the media played in increasing tensions.

        That bring me to this last gem.