Saturday, December 13, 2008

Burn bastard burn.!

Acid attacks in Warnagal as well! And no it's not the naxalites but a 'lover'(I am sure he's a Sallu fan) who sprayed acid on a girl he supposedly loved. The girl,K.Swapnika has been badly hurt and is believed to be in danger of losing her eyesight.

It seems this is not the first instance of our hero indulging in these antics. He had actually been in prison for 5 days for burning Swapnika's father's two-wheeler. This of course raises a lot of questions from the guttural "What the f#$k does that chap think he is?" to "what kind of system let this guy on the loose considering his potential for such acts?". There have been accusations of the police moving slowly on the case although it's gratifying to note that they are charging hero with murder and nothing less.

I hope and expect there will be better analyses of incidents like this one and attempts at institutionalizing ways to prevent them. That said, the response of the 'public'(sigh!) has yet again been a bit disconcerting. For instance we have S Rani of the SFI declaring "Srinivas should be killed in an encounter to send a strong message to other culprits". We also have Warangal District Bar Association declaring its refusal to argue on the behalf of the defendant. I understand the fury and helplessness such an incident provokes in people. I comprehend the pettiness that spawned such inhuman cruelty and how one is compelled to respond to such cruelty and pettiness with what seems like a powerful enough gesture. However it's moments like these call on us to declare our belief in the system and strive, even if with clenched fists and gritted teeth to uphold it and strengthen it. 'Encountering' a guy like that doesn't help! It feels good but it really doesn't help.

Ps Of course it's a different story altogether if the lawyers decided to abstain from defending hero because they know the prosecution cannot convict him properly!
Ps.2 I could not find the articles which carry the responses of Ms. Rani and the lawyers that I have quoted. They are from The Times of India dated12-11-08
Ps.3 I will be away for a week(in Calcutta). So apologies in advance for delays in responses

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eyes wide shut?

Sonal Shah, a member of President Obama's transition team, has 'renounced' her links to the VHP and it's affiliate in the USA, the VHP-A. Those who have been following this controversy that began immediately after she was appointed to the transition team and picked up steam after Vijay Parshad's powerful article in Counterpunch will be all the more confused with this seemingly contrite statement. Ms Shah has the gall to say :

"Had I been able to foresee the role of the VHP in India in these heinous events, or anticipate that the VHP of America could possibly stand by silently in the face of its Indian counterpart's complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002 -- thereby undermining the American group's cultural and humanitarian efforts with which I was involved -- I would not have associated with the VHP of America."

meh! duh??

I am still confused as to what/who she is talking to here. Here we have somebody who has worked with the Clinton administration and Goldman Sachs telling is that she did not do even a most simple background check while associating with an organization! So we have the Disney princess-like well-intentioned Sonal Shah lending her name to the VHP-A because they were being charitable? A bit of a stretch isn't it? I mean you cannot really ascend the corporate ladder and actually work with the government if you are so wide-eyed innocent can you?

But of course that's not all to it. Ms Shah conveniently brushes aside the fact that her family ties to the VHP-A precede the work she did with the organization. The association with the VHP-A was a very natural thing for her to do. The key point is that she chose to, conscious or unconscious of the "rich" legacy of the VHP in contributing to India's communal fabric. So she's either a closet fundamentalist or a incompetent moron of the highest order(somehow that seems unlikely).

It's possible of course that Ms. Shah, in the best traditions of American insensitivity, just did not bother. However that's not an excuse. Those who are in the public sphere carry bigger burdens. That's a universal reality. Sonal Shah got caught. She better leave if she wants to save her already battered reputation in the USA.

Ps. Of course the joke in this is that things started heating up for Shah when former Republican senator Rick Santorum wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Enquirer criticizing her appointment. What was merely a 'lefty' fad suddenly became a 'bi-partisan' critique. Ms Shah's statement and her email to her 'supporters'(" I need to moblize [sic] people against the leftists and the right wing.") are merely desperate attempts to save her job. For some reason I keep getting reminded of Bill Clinton.

Friday, December 5, 2008

And while enough is enough....

                                 The Daily Pheesh
                                 saturday 14 may 2016

The 9/11 verification commission, in a special release yesterday, refused to grant the title of Sierra Leonne's 9/11 and Poland' 9/11 to the terrorist attacks that occurred in the first and second weeks of last month. It however officially certified that the attack on the 16th of last month in Baku can henceforth be referred to as Azerbaijan's 9/11. Mr. Wilkinson Blade, chair of the verification commision, while releasing the report in a news conference said that standards for granting the 9/11 title to terror attacks would have to be ramped up as "violent incidents which assault prominent national institutions are increasing both in number and in scope across the globe."
Mr Blade said that suggestions had been invited from governments all over the world on a new charter for 9/11 verification adding that the commission shall consider some of the after effects of the attack during the certification process. "I suppose unnecessary wars or say loss of faith in and abusive rhetoric against politicians could constitute some of the new criteria" said Mr. Blade. Interestingly, a member of the commission, on the condition of anonymity, expressed disgust with the recent proceedings of the commission and bemoaned the "importunate haste in claiming the 9/11 title as though that's the be all and end all of terror".
It is worth recalling that the 9/11 verification commission was set up following the international uproar over the decision of the State of New York to copyright the term 9/11 in January 2009. The members of the commission are appointed by the state of New York in consultation with the United Nations.


Image credits

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gems (almost always overheard)

(over)Heard on the train to Delhi from a woman reading an article on barack Obama:

"bahut honest admi lagta hain..bilkul fraud nahin..apna abdul kalam jaisa"
/floor

Friday, November 14, 2008

Incredible India!

I am usually a hesitant recruit to the ranks of the "Oh India is a such a miserable country"-"Things never change here" brigade. Partly because I do not believe in the selective use of information for the airing of what are often hollow/self-righteous arguments. However there are some occasions when information completely overwhelms you and sends you into a sea of despair. A classic example is reading the newspaper(today's TOI for instance) and getting buried in an avalanche of bad news.

The first article is on the death of 5 children in Ranchi because of the "adulteration"(technically poisioning) of the milk they got as a part of the mid-day meal scheme. The report is very matter-of-fact yet tugs you somewhere when you read it, especially the part on the warden thinking it was a prank. But it also points fingers at a larger reality. The Mid-Day meal scheme is one of the government initiatives that has been a roaring success. However it also reveals that the state is incapable of ensuring that children have the ability to come to school irrespective of such offers. It is an admission of a double failure-in the departments of food and education(connected as they are). When a scheme to remedy these failures is botched up and that too with a "phenyl-like substance", it really shakes one's faith in the belief that the state is capable of at least minimal steps for the welfare of the population.

On similar lines, is this article. The Indian government, rather the Mnistry of Health and Family Welfare(Anbumani Ramadoss again!!!), has concluded that an Indian can qualify to be below the poverty line only if he/she earns less than Rs 455.11/388.56(urban areas/rural areas) a month(some quailification eh?). That would imply an average of Rs 14.96/12.77 a day. It's not clear if this statistic is applicable to an individual or a family. What is clear is that our standards remain abysmal. It points to the hollowness of our entire paradigm of growth, stands as a mute witness as our Finance Misister releases statements twice a day to reassure stock markets and stares us right in the face when we argue in panels and school halls that after 61 years, India has finally arrived. 15 rupees a day!!! The poverty line for any country serves many practical purposes(eg distribution of welfare) but like the mid-day meal scheme, it exposes another reality. The poverty line is India's definition of what we consider poor and not-so-poor. It tells us that we can consider someone earning 16 rupees a day to be above the poverty line and it tells us that there are enough poor people in India to actually justify such a demarcation.

And people write books like "Superstar India:From Incredible to Unstoppable"

As I hinted at before, this is not an attempt at vague moralizing or a summons to righteous indignation. It is only a perspective, one that is rapidly vanishing in our world of superstars and incredibles!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Katrina Awards

The citation

We are proud to present the Katrina Award to:
There is something very ironic yet fascinating in the fall of a 'chosen One'. That's because 1) the fall of a chosen One is a direct blow to the authority who made the choice and 2)there is often this inconspicuous and bumbling individual who ends up being the chosen One and it's really amusing seeing him/her strutting on a stage he/she does not belong to. That's the long and short of Uddhav Thackeray. Never a keen politico at any point of time, Uddhav has been thrust right into the centre of a controversy which has exposed his incapabilities as never before. There is, on one hand, the vast and tall legacy of the Thackeray Sr. There is, on the other hand, Raj Thackeray(handsomely aided and abetted by the Congress and the NC) who is stealing all the available thunder. One feels sorry as Uddhav is increasingly shut out from all public exposure, his statements(when he makes them ie) hardly provoking any response. Contrast this with Raj who has Maharashtra in flames and the rest of India fuming. On second thoughts, it's a relief. One Thackeray at a time is more than enough for India.


Image Credits

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"New era" and all...


Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America. The last 21 months have seen a fascinating campaign, which has even attracted skeptics like me. It has been really interesting seeing a vibrant democracy at work, its structures and institutions churning out the best, the worst and the lot in between. On a personal note, it has been a most illuminating exercise to witness the contradictions within me while trying to reconcile the hypnotic allure of 24x7 media coverage and my passion for electoral politics with my skepticism of the self-righteous hyperbole that seems to characterize a lot of American politics. The coming days will see a bevy of voices and analyses elevate the incidents of the recent past to an iconic status. Hence I shall desist from following such a course and content myself with links to certain perspectives that interpret the Obama phenomenon in their own ways. The diversity of these perspectives is an indication of the challenge the Obama administration faces and perhaps hints at the reasons why it is bound to fail!

Andrew Sullivan in a magnum-opus piece in December 2007 passionately arguing the historical necessity of an Obama candidacy.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel in "The Nation" on the 4th Of November lays down the battle lines.
And last but not the least.....
My own analysis of the situation in April 2007. It's not one of my better written pieces and some of the points are contentious but I still stick with most of what I wrote then.

It will be most instructive re-visiting these opinions 4 years from now.

Ps. Totally useless fact---Obama is the second President after Martin Van Buren whose name, when typed in a Google application(gmail, blogger etc), is shown to possess an incorrect spelling.
Image Credits

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A press release

                                 The Daily Pheesh
                                 saturday 2 October 2151

This is the text of the statement released by the Viva Human Purity(VHP) on the recent incidents in Sector 9* in Area 15091947.

The Viva Human Purity strongly condemns the murder of one of our activists at the hands of members from the Cosmic Human (CH) group. We would like to remind the dear humans of our planet that ever since the first of these dirty worshipers of the "double perpendicular" arrived on our planet in the last decade of the 21st century, there has been no peace for us humans. It must be remembered that we, along with our sister organizations all over the world, had managed to do away with 99% of all impure races by the middle of the last century employing tried and tested methods. Our acts have been driven by the very virtuous motivation of ensuring the triumph of the one-and-only-pure human race on this planet. However the CH, coming from the distant and foreign worlds seek to convert our our humans to their religion which emphasizes the worship of some unknown Cosmic being. All of us also know that these infidels promise our human brothers free trips to space to convert them to CH-ism. We have also seen how these calculating fiends managed to take away the life of our dear brother who was trying to conduct harmless experiments to enhance the purity of our human race. Friends, Brothers, we must wake up to attempts to defile our uniqueness.We must fight back! Down with this comic cosmic-isms we say. The CHs will burn in the fire of our pure anger and will be destroyed by the force of our sheer virtue.

We also request all our brothers to join in the vaporization journey of our beloved deceased brother. We would like to use this occasion to remember his work and perpetrate it further as a mark of respect to him. We urge all participants to maintain restraint. Let the world outside not know the full extent of our technical skill till we are completely ready.-DP




*Orissa is the 9th biggest state in India
Image credits

Friday, October 3, 2008

Terror Terror everywhere....

The Nanavati-Mehta Commission's report on the Godhra incident was released on the 25 of September. The report disputes the U.C Banerjee Committee's version of the incidents on the 27th of February 2002 and declares the incident to be the culmination of a "conspiracy", the intention of which was to "create terror and destabilize the administration." The report also exonerates Narendra Modi and his cohorts of any any wrong doing during the riots that followed and makes the even more fantastic claim that the Godhra incident and the riots that followed were not necessarily connected.

While the second and third conclusions have, with ample justification, provoked great outrage from most of the sane-minded populace, I would like to focus on the first point. Rather the sub-point of the first point. The part about "create terror" and all that.

(Let us for a second ignore the larger and most important issue of whether it was the Muslims of Godhra who set fire to the train and assume for merely "argumentative" purposes that the act was committed by them.)

Rarely in the recent past has terrorism and its manifold possibilities evoked such a powerful response in India. Even so, the Commission's charge that the Muslims of Godhra actually intended to create terror and destabilize the government is almost inconceivably stupid. The very thought that the extremist government of a state that is 89% Hindu(and very aggressively so) would be in any sense destabilized by a conspiracy by Muslims to burn Hindus(kar sevaks that too) alive in their own locality is to say the least, preposterous.

Come now, you would say, isn't it obvious that terror is nothing but violence inflicted mindlessly to instill fear and undermine the confidence of the people in their legitimately elected governments. By that standard, Godhra was definitely an attack of terror.

The above mentioned definition of terror is one that is gaining increasing acceptance. It is to be expected, for we live in a society where the impression of being under siege is cultivated with great ardor. As a society and a country we find it difficult to understand such bursts of violence. Therefor we attribute it to conspiracies and term the violence 'mindless'. The underlying assumption here is that conspiring and inflicting mindless violence are not traits that belong to our society, that we are victims. So we distance these traits and their perpetrators from our midst. As time passes and things grow more chaotic, the list of groups that fall under the umbrella of terror will increase. The communists, social democrats, trade unionists and all.

In the troubled times ahead, the biggest question will not be whether we will root out terror but what we will turn into in the process of rooting out terror. Will we keep in mind the fact that terrorism is not a disease but a weapon? Will we try to reason that the violence inflicted is never a mindless act but a strategy in a war being fought by sections of our own society against other sections? Will we restrain ourselves from linking every conflict, every issue with the "war against terror" ?

These questions linger on silent and unobtrusive, yet they will perhaps be the ones which determine the nature of the society we shall inhabit. After all how do you think Big Brother came to power?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In Memory of...

Today is October 2. Let us all rise and observe two minutes of silence in honor of....




Smoking in Public Spaces.
The Ramadoss has finally struck.
But there is the dirty 'I'* word still left as is obvious from this(click on the article "Govt in a spot on smoking ban")
But this is just the first step. "Kyonki battle abhi bhi baki hain."

PS.1 This post was written in a spirit of dispassionate, selfless concern for public welfare. I do not smoke.
PS.2 I can smell someone smoking right now on the floor beneath ours. Viva La resistance!
PS.3 * 'I' is for implementation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Of quandaries and conundrums!

This post has been brewing for quite some time(which implies that it's a bit behind its times) but as issues go, this is one of the "immortals", so...

The issue of course, is Kashmir. Now I know that half the world has written on Kashmir and the other half has responded in the past couple of weeks. Amidst this cacophony of (often unbearably sanctimonious) noises, the issues involved, the players concerned and the human tragedy of it as usual, gets merged with the innumerable sound-bytes, the live reports, the dramatization and the studio debates- a truly post-modern condition. An Indian(interested albeit) living in the South of the country, has few options besides trawling through tons of information and making suppositions in the hope of gaining insights most others would not mind missing.

Of the many voices(and noises), two articles fascinated me the most. Both are by writers I avidly follow and sometimes disagree with. The interesting thing about Arundhati Roy' article/essay in "The Outlook" and Praveen Swami' s piece in "The Hindu" was the way in which these two views encapsulated the dilemma of those who follow this country's story yet keep all eyes open for the many crimes that are perpetuated in the name of nation, progress and duty.

It is true that neither of these writers can be compared. Arundhati Roy is a "professional dissenter", an individual who has made a career out of asking questions of the state(often in most eloquent/dramatic terms) and going for the jugular of the state whenever she has perceived it going against a specific moral standard. Praveen Swami is the quintessential establishment journalist, a prolific writer on issues of terrorism and Kashmir and often quoting what Ms Roy contemptuously refers to as "the inevitable "Intelligence" sources". Swami, on most occasions is an "unbiased" journalist-he critiques the state, Hindu/Muslim/Sikh fundamentalists, opportunist political figures, in short everybody. Roy, on the other hand, is at her best when she attacks the very foundation of the state, the very beliefs that a lot of the middle class cherish-in fact a reader often feels that the attack sometimes becomes a theatrical device with a will of its own.

The last paragraph was necessary as an explanation to the very obvious difference that shouts itself out when someone reads the articles. Arundhati Roy sees the protests over the Amarnath Shrine Board as reflective of the overwhelming anti-India sentiment among the populace of Kashmir. As she puts it "The separatist leaders who do appear and speak at rallies are not leaders so much as followers". Swami on the other hand, writing a lead-page article, analyses the whole issue through the angle of two of the prominent separatist leaders of the movement, Syed Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Roy advocates the separation of Kashmir from India(for the sake of both entities). Swami writes in the tradition of the classical analyst, seeking damage control, solutions short-term and long-term but never for a moment even considering the idea of any radical change to India's territorial integrity.

It is unfair(especially to Swamy who has analyzed many other aspects of the struggle) to compare these two articles. Yet these two, in some senses, embody the split that often characterizes the thinking of an "open-minded" individual. A cursory reading of Roy is enough to feel the intensity of the struggle, her arguments on the stupidity and malice of the "Deep State" are to say the least, spot-on. Yet it is obvious (even to her?) that the Indian state cannot let go of Kashmir. Doing so will endanger the very concept of the country. The fragile glue that holds it together will vanish, leaving acrimony,vengeance and despair in its wake. India will cover Kashmir with a blanket or grip its throat and render it mute but will never let go of Kashmir. To do so will take the lid off similar cans of worms and spark off a million mutinies. We are all complicit in this act of silencing. We who enjoy the facilities of the Indian state, we who choose to disagree with it in the forums provided by it, Ms Roy who accuses the state, I who accuse her of being complicit in it....

This is not an attempt at constructing a Foucalt-ian nightmare. Nor is it a cry in the wild about "who will change the system". What I am wondering about is where to place the appeal to the "moral" that Roy excels in, in the context of our own explicit/implicit involvement and approval of the mechanisms of the Indian state. Or perhaps the question is whether dissent of Arundhati Roy's kind is of any value except as a theatrical prop. Swamy represents a line of argument which enables one to avoid these issues. According to this, Kashmir becomes a multi-player chess board. All players make mistakes, others take advantage of them, our job is to examine our mistakes, redress them and ensure victory. This argument begins and ends with the proposal that Kashmir is ours and we must keep it although we must also treat the Kashmiris as we would want them to treat us.

Swamy's argument seems like the best of two worlds. India gets to keep Kashmir and also keep it on "civilized" terms. It is convenient and enables one to take on the moral aura of being an honest critic. It is classic journalism. Roy' stand is, if I may say, convenient as well. Things have not reached a state where advocating the separation of India and Kashmir will get a writer thrown into a state dungeon. Her stand is that of the ultimate radical. It is pointless to pose, in that context, whether what one suggests is realistic or not. Or even whether radicalism of this sort is, at the end of the day, a way to just wear a bigger moral aura by criticizing the ones who wear them.

The problem is when one realizes that the present and the future are a combination of what the both of these divergent views suggest. The problem is when one sees that what is "morally" obvious is politically impossible and what is politically advisable is "morally" disreputable. It's not a new quandary. In fact it's as old as politics itself. Just that every once in a while it hits you hard leaving you bleeding and worse completely in the dark.

My profound apologies if these sounded like existential moans! That was not the intention.

P.S. A pretty powerful article by a critic(note the Indian-occupied Kashmir at the bottom) also beginning from an analysis by the media and going on to making some effective points(and some disputable ones).

P.S 2- I am generally bad with typos but this post had an unbelievable number of them. Most of them have been sorted out(I hope).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Failure and its benefits

J.K Rowling delivers the commencement address at Harvard. Nothing spectacular, nothing dazzlingly new...yet kind of powerful in its own way.

After all it does take some courage to go to Harvard and talk of failure, especially when much of what you write is still derided as children's stuff. Some sections of the audience weren't pleased. One wonders why!

(HT. PHD Comics)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Indian Century.

                               The Daily Pheesh
                               saturday 20 August 2050
In a shocking development, Sardar Bhumiputra Singh, the President of the Republic of India announced his resignation from all political posts today. In a moving and eloquent speech broadcast on SBS TV, the much respected SBS said “I am bored with running this country and its people. These people don’t deserve me.” This caps a Presidential career of 25 years for the majestic SBS who emerged from total anonymity to power after the communal riots and military coup of 2025. The resignation is especially significant in the context of the 2 houses of Parliament and the assemblies of India’s 32 states passing resolutions urging the noble SBS to continue as President till the end of his life.

Sources have reported that huge crowds have gathered in front of the statues of the picturesque SBS all over the country. An atmosphere of mourning prevails among these crowds with occasional slogans of “SBS Nahin to Kuch Nahin” , “Our path, SBS path” etc rending the air. There have also been rumours of suicides and attempts at self-immolation across the country. Further reports are awaited.

The first pan-Indian President (the ethnicity, religious background and even the name of the humanitarian SBS, Sardar Bhumiputra Singh being a pseudonym, are not known yet), the visionary SBS presided over the golden age of post-independent India as the erstwhile poor nation derided for its “Hindu rate of Growth” achieved new highs. The leadership of the visionary SBS saw the tricolor flying over Islamabad, Dhaka and Colombo, China adopting Hindi as its national language, India winning all the gold medals on offer at the 2032 Olympics in Patna and the landmark Bhopal Treaty on Greenhouse gases (which gave India a clean, unconditional and exceptional waiver from using only renewable energy sources). The multi-talented SBS also won the Nobel Prize for literature for his best-selling classic “LIFE”, the Nobel Prize in Economics for the immortal “SBS Theory of Poverty” and the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Medicine for his “SBS meter” which is the ultimate measure of the possibility of life on a planet in space. The reign of the remarkable SBS also saw Bhumiputra becoming the most popular name for young boys and girls as an entire generation of children was named after the inspirational SBS .

The Indian Government and the Shimla-based United Nations have declared a month’s mourning and have asked all flags(including plastic flags) to be flown at half mast. The legislatures of the 32 states of India conducted emergency sessions and issued identical appeals to the post-partisan SBS to take up residence in their respective states. However it is more likely that the stellar SBS will, as recorded in his will, travel to the space colony on Titan and take over the rule of the International Space Colony Agency. The issue of succession is already irrelevant since the Indian Parliament had, in an extraordinary Bill, declared the feisty SBS the last President and political authority of India.
We salute the gallant SBS who to quote a MP’s poetic description “many long years ago made a tryst with destiny and redeemed that pledge, not wholly or in full measure but substantially”

DP special—On this momentous yet sad occasion, we dedicate a whole month’s issues of the The Daily Pheesh to a detailed biography of the life and times of the historic SBS. We hope this will enable our dear readers to gain a greater perspective on the achievements of the magnificent SBS. --DP




PS-1. A special word of gratitude to the good people of India and Pakistan for providing me some peripheral inspiration.
PS-2 As should be gathered from above, the main source of inspiration is something else. I am 3 pages into Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Autumn of the Patriarch” and it seems immensely promising.
Image credits

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Transformational Humanities?

This article has been in the works for weeks now and so is likely to be a bit of a zig-zag post.Readers Beware! More of meandering and sauntering through links and posts than my usual "sterling/piercing" social commentary ;)

        I start from this post by asmokescreen on English in India in the context of the recent decision by the Government of Andhra Pradesh to make the CBSE syllabus(and English medium) compulsory for 6,500 schools across the state. A bit of digging around gave me these three articles which did not tell me anything about the logistics but did point out the one of the culprits was a World Bank(aha!) aided project called Scheme for Universalisation of Access to and improvement of Quality Education at Secondary Stage (SUCCESS) also known as the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.

        The press release which accompanied the launch of the program(RMSA) last year clearly stated its objectives as well. A huge increase in funding, emphasis on infrastructure and the very specific aim of enhancing the quality of scientific/technical education in the country. This initiative seems to have been tailor-made to address complaints of lack of investment in education. However the operationalization of this proposal has, as usual, provoked a hornet's nest of what seems to be very valid issues about both implementation and principle. Of course the SUCCESS/RMSA also raises issues about what the government has in mind when it comes to the humanities or the social sciences. I suppose they don't mind at all.


        This issue takes me back to last year when the government of Kerala proposed a radical overhaul of the secondary and higher secondary education systems. Languages were to become optional, vocational courses were to be introduced, schools were to come under the jurisdiction of local self-governing bodies and so on. Unsurprisingly enough, considering the radical nature of the proposals and the utter cluelessness of the of the government regarding possible break-downs in the system, the proposal seems to have been shelved. There were a lot of teachers I knew, who saw a huge threat to their existence and many others who firmly believed in the necessity of the "humanities" subjects for the promotion of a greater cause and for the exercise of a more civilized influence on coming generations of students.

        Now we go this article by Steve Fuller, a professor of Sociology, who takes off from the growing emphasis on science and the decline of the humanities before presenting his own take on the essence of the humanities. While there is a considerable danger when one starts speaking of the humanities as one homogenous unit with homogenous values, I guess there is some relevance to his argument about the the humanities being about getting the "upright ape" to read ,write and think. I also agree that the impact of the humanities is more difficult to assess and is more long term.

        Many of the issues raised in this post have existed since time immemorial and "solutions" are almost impossible. However while moral outrage is spewed out on these issues, it is worth remembering that those who let out all this angst and those cherish and venerate the humanities are often directly responsible for the devaluation of the humanities. There is no doubt today that reading,writing and thinking are essentially "taught" in a very literal sense. These three attributes(in the way they are taught) do not possess, in any sense of the term, the value that is ascribed to them by Prof. Fuller and the innumerable champions of the "humanities as civilization" argument. Thus those who want to fight for the humanities must seek newer paradigms for justifying it or newer paradigms for showcasing it. The New Humanities Initiative seems an interesting way of going about it. But I personally am a bit sceptical of education itself as an suitable medium for social transformation (I know that bucking centuries of educational theory). It is inevitable that the educational systems of the day reflect established notions of society and unless one believes in the effectiveness of certain people and certain times, an overall transformational effect is well-neigh impossible. This has pretty much always been the case. That we have been told otherwise and that we have believed is as much a commentary on our search for engines for transformation.

Here
is an article in the Hindu bemoaning the death of the Humanities in Andhra Pradesh.

PS 1. This is not a claim that education is unnecessary or that pursuing academics is a waste. I do not contest that education can have any transformational value. There are always certain people and certain times which make considerable differences. This post is primarily directed at the notion that education as a whole always has or always should have a trasnformational value.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Katrina Awards

The citation

We are proud to present the award to:

Uma Bharati was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, one of the largest states in India. However her true glory days were in the early 1990s as she(along with certain others) rode the crest of a huge wave on the way to power at the centre(they also demolished the Babri Masjid and instigated a huge wave of riots on the way). She had emerged, at that time, as an iconic representative of "female hindutva" and that too at a very young age. However it's the tragedy of youth that unless he/she dies young, a youth icon often fades into oblivion, or worse, infamy. Uma Bharati spent the rest of her life in an increasingly impossible attempt to stay relevant and match up to the role she had carved out for herself during the Babri Masjid movement. There were some bright spots, her chief ministership and the flag raising controversy being some but on the whole, it was a losing battle. She finally gave up in 2004 and was thrown out of the party. Ever since, life has just grown harder. So can you blame her if she did this?

However, the once-fiery sadhvin found out the hard way that you can't beat common sense!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Saddam Karadzic











What is with mass-murdering, genocidal, human-rights violating etcetc dictators in hiding and osho-like beards?

Image credits-1, 2 and 3

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to not win friends and not influence people by Public Speaking or Why Rahul Gandhi should hire a ventriquolist!

         I try to not to be too offensive to specific individuals in my musings in this blog(fine! The Katrina Awards are an exception) but every once in a while there is the occasion that really gets on my nerves and necessitates a "focussed" personal assault :). I refer, of course, to aRahul Gandhi's speech in parliament yesterday. It was a most mortifying experience and to someone who has a had a brief career in public speaker, a speech full of badly missed opportunities and calculations.

        I suppose it is nothing surprising to find a bad speaker in Parliament. However the context is important. Here was a vote most important to India's future, where parties fielded their most experienced speakers to express their views. Mr.Gandhi got a chance solely because he is the son the Congress President(and the son of the former PM and the grandson ...). He was one of the youngest speakers, especially from a major party. Considering the so many hymns sung to the youth of India, there was a brilliant opportunity to speak for this huge demographic of the Indian population. It is not that he lacks education or a skill in language either. His CV lists some of the most prominent educational institutions.

        To begin with, it was a most uninspiring speech, delivered in the most deadpan tone possible. The interval between words was monotonously long. Mr.Gandhi was obviously disconcerted by the interruptions which were not even directed at him and he kept re-starting his sentences every time he was interrupted. His location was most unsuitable for some one whose speech would be so closely examined and worse of all, he looked most baffled. There were occasional flashes of irritation and amusement but most of the time he looked heavily under pressure and so maintained a very grim face.

        Each one of the mentioned points is in itself not a problem but together they badly tilt the scales against any speaker. What finally cooked Rahul Gandhi's goose was his subject and the way he chose to approach it. His limitations would have been bearable if he had chosen a technical approach to the debate. He however chose to personalize it. He declared he was speaking as an Indian and not as a politician. He tried to bring in the pain of other Indians to the debate. He specifically brought in Sasikala and Kalavati, two women whom he had visited. He then tried to appear bi-partisan, continuing his earlier narrative of speaking as an Indian, by praising A.B.Vajpayee. He tried to paint the picture of the new Indian century urging the MPs to think how India could change the world rather than vice versa.

         When a speaker personalizes an issue, he/she takes a considerable risk. The risk is that the gravity of the issue becomes inseparable from the speaker's credibility. The speaker must be credible enough and sound credible enough to convince the audience of the highs and lows of the experience he/she describes. It is not necessary that the audience buy the speaker's message in full, it is enough that the speaker opens up the audience. This requires experience and skill honed by long years of practice. Else the speaker sounds like a bored teacher reading out a story. The tone descends to condescension both for the subjects of the story and the audience. That is exactly what happened yesterday.

        Again, a good speaker's greatest ally is not his/her talent but the context. Even the most insipid speaker can be carried by the wave of the situation. On the other hand even the most well-intentioned speaker will turn out to be a damp squib if he/she mistakes the mood of audience and the context of the speech. Rahul Gandhi's speech would have worked well if he were addressing, say, corporate employees who would have marveled at the initiative displayed by him. But there he was, talking Kalavatis and Sasikalas to people who had spent a lifetime among them, who had worked their way up by working(at least in name) among people like them. No wonder there were snide comments while he was speaking! A confidence vote is a battle-field, platonic appeals won't even be audible. The context requires a specific amount of combativeness, you are defending your own government after all, not delivering a "Distinguished Lecture". Bi-partisanship is not (as Barack Obama would seem to suggest) a magic potion to solve all ills. A skilled politician/manager realizes that and utilizes the odd sectarian message at required intervals to perk up his own people, to enthuse them and to prepare them for the battle ahead.

        The Congress and the UPA did not require much from Rahul Gandhi. A simple but effective speech, delivered in a firm,precise and decisive manner. The emphasis on power was a great idea and it should have been presented as a macro-message, a statement on the behalf of the youth for instance or any other over-arching statements conveying determination and great pride in his government, even his disappointment or confusion on the way things were happening. This speech would have inspired his fellow MPs and even enabled him to claim moral high ground by not attacking anybody. But disappointingly all the Government got from the MP from Amethi was a bland narration of personal anecdotes! What a waste and what a Shame!!

votes notes-4

The last and not least post of this series.

7:19 The PM rises and so does Md. Salim. He seems to be running for "Most visible MP of session" Award

7:20 The PM cannot be heard at all. Hardly any surprise as there is a very powerful female voice, among others heaping abuse on him

7:21 The PM files his reply. What a shame! The Speaker calls for voting and calls it for the "ayes"(the government). Demands for a division.

7:25 NDTV is running a list of viewer responses to the cash-for-votes scandal. Sample quote-"Today is the darkest day in Indian democracy"-;)

7:26 Another vote. The Speaker calls it for the ayes again. There will still be a division

7:30 The division is on
Ayes-253
Noes-232
Abst-2
Total is 487??? What happened to the others? Mass boycotts?

7:31 Looks like all the MPs who couldn't cast their votes will be filling in slips. This is going to take ages! The UPA is celebrating already though things actually still seems close.

7:48 A lot more of uncertainty. More outrage on the networks..."Can't our MPs press a switch".."In a country so well-known for its achievements, can't we have a proper system in Parliament" are common sentiments.

7:54 Rajdeep Sardesai at CNN-IBN calls the situation a tragedy and a farce and asks everyone's favourite question "Why don't they change the system"...Too many "Singh is King" jokes...

8:23 (by which time even this blogger lost patience)- The Speaker calls it for the Government-275 for and 256 against with 10 abstentions. Seems like some majpr cross-voting has happened.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

votes notes-3

The events from 6:30 pm onwards:
6:30-Power is back...A lot seems to have transpired.The Lok Sabha seems to have been adjourned and a new money for votes scandal has come up-damn!

6:32 Some "small-small parties" have been called to speak. A. Owaisi the MP from Hyderabad from the MIM is speaking. He can hardly be heard though. It seems like some MPs were offered money to abstain. Too much noise. It won't be surprising if even the PM will not be able to speak.

6:40 Mehbooba Mufti freely concedes she hardly knows anything about the deal. Lalu was very accurate when he said that. She concludes as shouts of "Pradhan Mantri Sharam karo" fill the air.

6:43 Maneka Gandhi and Ram Vilas Paswan have declined to speak and Omar Abdullah is in full flow " I am an Indian and a Muslim!" His speech seems to be getting a great reception and he does deserve it too. It is unfortunate that his party has only two MPs. He deserved some more time. He ends with a rousing declaration that the Amarnath yatra will continue as long as Muslims are there in Kashmir.

6:44 M.P. Virendra Kumar M.P, M.P from Calicut is raising technical issues aganist the deal. A bit late in the day one thinks.

6:48 Sansuma Bwismwthiari from Assam can hardly be heard. He brings in the issue of reforms for Bodoland.

6:51 Speaker urges members to listen to MPs from the North-East. It's pretty sad really. Two MPs from Kashmir speak and 2 from the whole of the North-East! Mani Charengemi from Manipur claims that the PM has assured him the revision of the territorial boundaries of the North-Eastern States will be looked into.

6:58 Yerran Naidu has been called and is abusing the government at an amazing volume. Manmohan Singh looks physically hurt. This must be a scene from his worst nightmare-"illegal, immoral, unethical"..sigh!

7:06 Yerran Naidu has been cut down in full flow and Ranjeeta Ranjan from LJSP begins. She seems as vociferous and is a Punjabi for sure. There are frequent shots of Govinda who looks as though he has not recovered from last night's hangover. Aoww..Ms Rajnan goes a bit overboard as she compares Rahul Gandhi's tours across India to that of Mohandas the Gandhi.
7:07 She is now attacking the Akalis. A Punjabi woman MP from Bihar lecturing the hidebound Akalis on Sikh principles. Great fun!

7:14 Hemlal Murmu from the JMM seems to be an amateur yet compulsive shayar while trying to pretend that his party was always an intimate friend of the UPA. What tosh!

7:19 The PM has risen.

votes notes-2

This is the post-lunch session and was analysed (:) with some more care

2:05-15 The session has begun and Brijesh Pathak claims that BSP MPs have been instructed to vote for the government if they are to save Mayawati from the CBI. A lot of MPs expressing outrage on this issue. Is this, as Beni Prasas Verma from the SP is suggesting a prelude to the opposition losing. Anyway this exchange is better than Rahul Gandhi .!

2:20 The Left also demands a house committee to enquire into the charges as does the NDA. The Speaker has an amazing sense of humour no doubt and seems to be especially good at snubbing MPs from the Left.

2:25 Rahul Gandhi has been called again Horror Horror!!

2:26 This guy is really bad..we can expect an entire self-sustaining round of jokes from his speech. He is trying to praise Vajpayee’s role in the process. What is this- a lame attempt to be Obama-like bipartisan?

2:30 Rahul Gandhi is trying to redefine the debate by bringing in the aspect of a great Indian century with nuclear energy as the key. Problem is-He is not convincing. But still the UPA applauds especially Sonia Gandhi who applauds longer and more fiercely than others.

2:35 He is concluding, having established nothing. Feel sorry for the guy. It seems he believes in what he says. But that is all he has for him.

2:36 Rahul’s Kennedy moment- worry not how the world will impact us but worry how we will impact the world.

2:40 He is done..Hardly any reception. I guess even I over-estimated him

2:40 Ananth Kumar of the BJP begins. He apparently has only 5 minutes.

2:43 He brings in Bofors as a comparison to the deal….interesting!

2:45 He too brings in the moratorium on future testing. Why on earth is the BJP so insistent on future testing. Pokharan II was bad enough. He is out of time and has hardly started..good riddance though. This was a classic bad speech which just consisted of repetition of speech points with no new perspective or even proper examination of already mentioned perspectives.

2:50 Accuses PM of not upholding sovereignty of India and promptly gets chastised by the Speaker. He quotes Chidamabaram who was quoting Keynes to prove that inflation is bad. Why make all that effort!

2:55 Lalu is on. Translating Laalu is impossible. Simply speaking he is hilarious. He is clinically scathing comparing the Left to Kalidas cutting the branch he was sitting on.

2:57 “Chaar Saal Pehle Tumse Hamko Pyaar Tha..Aaj Bhi Hain, Kal Bhi Rahega”…amazing. Specifically brilliant is his ability to mock all players in one single sentence!

3:00 Anand Geete rabble-rousing again. No clue why!

3:08 Cites the refusal of the NDA to condemn the Iraq war. Damn!! I lose elcectricty at home it will come back only at 5 or 6.

Lalu is a great orator. I do not identify one bit with the politics he espouses and I too have often joined in the community Lalu –bashing but I realize for the first time that the guy is a classy speaker. His voice modulation is splendid and he has the very useful ability to muster arguments which fit together perfectly like pieces in a puzzle. Even better he is great at instant repartee and has the gift of delivering a most hilarious comment with a straight face. Rahul Gandhi…are you watching???

votes notes-1

A freak sporting accident (fine I will be honest –I twisted an ankle on my second day of jogging) resulted in my actually being able to watch the “historic” confidence vote in Parliament. So I shall try to address on my own mourns yesterday attempt some live (well..almost) blogging. Most of the observations were noted/scribbled while watching the debate although the matter for the post itself was recorded during the Lunch break. The post-lunch session is in the next post.

P.Chidambaram speaking... He seems very subdued relying mainly on facts while defending the performance of the government, especially in the field of agriculture. His take on the nuclear deal is from a classic legal perspective trying to bring out the finer points of various aspects of 123, the Hyde Act and Vienna Convention on treaties
He seems to be targeting the NDA so far rather than the Left.

Ooops he uttered the C-word and the Left is up in arms! This strategy always seems to work, mention China and all comrades go red in the face. A lot of mallu MPs including N.N.Krishnadasfrom my district) rising and shouting. The prize however goes to P.Salim who is in full flow. I am pretty curious about Mr.Salim since I haven’t heard much of him. He was the first speaker for the CPI(M) to yesterday. Mr. Chidambaram ends with a exploration of the contradictions between the Left and the NDA

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee seems to be on a roll. After all those issues with his party, he seems to have acquired a greater aura and is on the way to becoming a new media icon.. His conduct of the house seems almost similar to that of a school teacher. How else would you explain-“Silence in the House!!”

Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP seems to have taken up the role of the chief attack dog of the BJP since L.K.Advani has become Prime-Minister-in Waiting and by default elder-statesman. He is bringing in all the dirty linen. Nuclear energy won’t be very useful, it is mainly a corporate ploy, even criminals are being brought into parliament….wow even the speaker got angry on that one…the opposition is getting more agitated……and the house is adjourned. sigh!

Somnath Chatterjee delivers an impassioned request for order and a clear expression of disgust….and then goes on to say “…Power is not everything”!!??

Mr.Malhotra continues. He seems to be on course to taking up all his party’s time. He quotes Mani Shankar Aiyyar declaring in “The Devil’s Advocate” that the UPA needs a course correction. Aiyyar rises to clarify. Why would anything said in that show be considered as a valid statement in the first place..it's like a stress interview anyway. Why isn’t MS Aiyyar one of the speakers? He would really have risen to the occasion.

Sonia Gandhi seems to have a blinking disorder. She blinks furiously every time the camera is focused on her.

Aha! Amarnath has been introduced..and soon is followed by its conjoint twin for the BJP-the Haj subsidies. Renuka Chowdury and an NDA MP are engaging in shout-match where the latter’s sole response seems to be “Hindu hain to zameen lotao”.
Malhotra levels accusations of softness on terrorism, a demand for the return of POTA .Boy! I really hope there are no elections. Malhotra has exceeded his time limit but goes on.
He concludes by calling the Government Dusshasan! ;)

Rahul Gandhi has been called….
This guy is going to get a full post. He is phenomenally bad. The response he is getting seems to be mainly snide remarks.
A huge uproar suddenly..no clue as to what is happening. At least Rahul is not saying anything offensive. A lot of BSP MPs waving documents and the session has been adjourned for lunch with Rahul Gandhi’s speech still incomplete.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Of confidences and nons

        The confidence motion is being tabled by the government. As a corporate employee, it hurts me that I am in no way able to witness this historic occasion. What is sad about this situation is that there are no blogs/sites which can provide frequent updates like the ones which do the same for cricket scores. Speaks volumes about our national priorities. It would be so nice if we had sites which posted details of the stirring debate:

1:03 pm. Rahul Gandhi calls opposition a bunch of uncomprehending nincompoops.
1:03 pm. The UPA benches rise up and applaud the statement
1:04 pm. Rahul Gandhi says the government exists only to serve the nation.
1:04 pm. The UPA benches rise up and applaud the statement
1:05 pm Rahul Gandhi pauses because he has nothing else to say.
1:06 pm ....
You get the drift.

        The US primary season saw loads of bloggers covering every single utterance, gesture and non-gesture during the debates between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Considering the importance of this moment in Indian history, it truly is sad that there is no such thing of this sort.

PS.The NDTV website has an article on the responses of Indians settled in America to the crisis. A typical extract:
".. politicians of any party should stay away from national security interests. They can politicise internal issues,''

PS2. People who appreciate the sentiment expressed in this post would surely remember the 1996-98 period as the high-point of No-confidence motion debates. The 13- day government debate and the Gowda and Gujaral debates saw a bevy of distinguished and non-distinguished speakers in a series of slug-fests which were truly exciting. Sigh.. those days!

PS3. Actually I just noticed that both NDTV and CNN-IBN(possibly other media organizations as well) have constant updates on the debate on their websites. However they exist mostly in the realm of reporting with none of the analysis or reflection that blog-reporting would bring to the debate.So...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Ambani Theory of Conflict Accentuation

Thomas Friedman has always been such an incurable optimist. I mean which sane person, on observing the world scenario could come up with theories such as this!

Allow me to propose a very valid derivative(at least as valid as the original)-"The Ambani Theory of Conflict Accentuation"

It goes like this:
"Any country whose industry is populated by two sibling corporate moguls will invariably witness rampant corporate influence on government and will descend into political chaos and ultimately civil war!"

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Poof!!!

                                The Daily Pheesh
                                 Saturday 11 July 2030
The Union Health Minister Ms Chintamani Anbumani Ramadoss (d/o ex-Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss s/o PMK leader late Dr. P.K Ramadoss) has revealed the latest set of proposals designed to "remove the scourge of tobacco from India". The minister revealed this plan in an exclusive interview with the Daily Pheesh yesterday. These steps are part of a larger anti-tobacco drive that has been championed by the Government ever since the Minister's father occupied the position of the Health Minister in the first decade of the century. Some of the proposals include:

1) All male citizens whose annual income is less than Rs 1,80,000 per annum have been prohibited from marrying. According to the Minister "..this will prevent these people from spreading their genetic material among the populace of India".

2) All male citizens whose annual income is between Rs 1,80,000 and Rs 6,00,000 per annum(henceforth referred to as "subject") have been given permission to marry on the fulfillment of the following conditions.
a) The woman who is to marry the subject has to sign a No Objection Certificate(NOC) which shall state that she is responsible for all ill-effects that shall affect the subject,herself and whatever offspring that are emergent from the marriage.
b) The subject shall pay a "Special Tobacco Tax" of Rs.60,000 per annum and shall carry around a sign with a "skull and crossbones" on his neck.

3) All male citizens whose annual income is higher than 6,00,00 per annum are exempted from any restrictions on smoking. This exemption also extends to all employees of ITC which is one of the largest and most successful corporations in India.

The Minister, during the course of the interview, spoke out against "special interests and business corporates" who were preventing the proper implementation of the anti-tobacco drive. However she went on the defensive when asked about the ITC exemption and her only response was "Health is very important but business must also go on". When the Pheesh asked the minister about the growing number of women smokers in India, the Minister sported a very pained look and declared in a stern voice "Indian women do not smoke". ---DP


Exaggeration? Paranoia? Over-reaction?? Check this out!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sport.

         When it comes to sport, I am on most occasions, a sceptic. Perhaps it is the result of years of being the goal-keeper and wanting to be the wicket-keeper where I could observe the match from a (at least I thought so then) vantage point. Or perhaps it's the result of being told, trained, indoctrinated(all very stupidly of course) from a very young age that 'cranius' was always better than citius, altius and fortius. It must be added though, that the coverage of "sporting glory" didn't help. Sport and sport journalism thrive on the overstatement, the sudden construction of a narrative of brilliance, the constant reinforcement and the establishment of a legend. However, the greater they are made, the harder we feel the fall and as sting operations and drugs brought down one hero after another, I was a part of that generation which could not watch a good game without speculating who had been bought and who was injecting what. Later, age;) and another layer of political socialization prompted me to look at sport as another manifestation of the various phenomena that were causing "harm" all around. While I tried not to be one who would watch a match in nervous anticipation and then pen down a stringent critique of corporatisation and sport, I still did cultivate (and continue to do so) a "healthy" degree of cynicism with regard to sporting "greatness".

        However as always there are those days, those moments, those magnificent displays when you cannot help but put aside every bit of various baggages and stand in awe of sheer genius. These are the moments when you forget how exclusive some sports are, how they are a stage for this, a reason for that and what not and feel your your entire soul being carried on a huge wave with those of innumerable others-up, down,up again and again down. Your speech turns guttural, your analysis loses all relevance and turns into a mere parody and the faint of heat and the truly passionate lose all ability to even glance at the contest. These are the briefest of moments, a flash and then, the world is the same again. Yet for that small instant in time, you feel something that is very difficult to describe, something that definitely varies from person to person yet calls on something similar. As Rafael Nadal said while answering a senseless question, “It’s impossible to describe how I feel,...”,. That moment of being at a loss for translation has to be brief, it would be sad otherwise and it is a never-ending pilgrimage in search of such moments that represents sport to me.

We saw a glowing stretch on that pilgrimage yesterday!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jeevan the What??

        The mallu in me keeps nagging me to write something on the textbook crisis in Kerala. This issue has already spawned hartals,bandhs, marches, strikes and what not besides tons of righteous indignation both online and off. Considering my inclinations and background I too am supposed to write a flaming post and dispatch a lot of forwards but there are times when you feel like you and your "dialogue-partner" are too far apart. You cannot even agree to disagree. So I shall restrain myself to providing links to some of the debates/outbursts. :P

Here's C.Gouridasan Nair at the Hindu. Here is his translation of the controversial chapter. Notice that the lesson is translated as "Jeevan the casteless" instead of "Jeevan the one who does not follow any religion".

Here's an article from "Pragoti" which goes into some detail on the merits of the textbook

An acquaintance who is obviously a strong Party supporter
to
BVN as usual is tongue and cheek.

A very bad attempt at being neutral.

The most intriguing one of them all. The blogger first posits that there is nothing objectionable in the controversial chapter. However in the next post, he studies the rest of the text and comes up with certain objections.

If you have already noticed that I haven't expressed my own view yet, I shall shield myself by emphasizing the fact that I haven't seen the entire book :P. However from what I have seen online..what terrible artwork!!

(HT:Alex for most of these links :)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dream Team!!

                                  The Daily Pheesh
                                  friday 4 July 2008
The Daily Pheesh has come into possession of a classified document which reveals the Samajwadi Party's master plan with details of the true demands of the party and its vision of the future, Contrary to popular perception, the master-plan(which was approved at the Parliamentary Board meeting of the party) does not involve the replacements of the Finance and Petroleum Ministers alone. The SP has, in fact, outlined the contours of of a new-look cabinet which they believe, is the need of the hour to solve the multitude of issues the nation faces. Here's a sneak peek into the SP "Dream-Team".

1) Prime Minister-Hon. Sri Mulayam Singh Yadav(purely honorary position)
2) Finance Minister- Sri Subroto Roy Sahara
3) Minister for Home Affairs- Sri Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya
3) Minister for Human Resource Development- Sri Amitabh Bachchan
4) Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas- Mr. Anil Ambani
5) Minister for Law and Justice- Mr.Vikas Yadav
6) Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Women and Child Development- Srimati Jaya Bachchan
7) Minister of State for Environmental Protection- Mrs. Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan
8) Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports- Mr Akhilesh Yadav (son of Hon. Sri Mulayam Singh Yadav)
9) Minister of State for Migration, Immigration and Emigration(MIE)- Sri Abu Azmi
10) Special Government Coordinator on Youth Inspiration and Promotion of Poetry Effort (YIPPE)- Sri. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

i)Chief Executive Officer, Chairman of Governing Coalition, Chief Spokesman, Chief Motivator of the Armed Forces, Minister for External Affairs, Chief Negotiator (to be addressed as Chief)- Sri Amar Singh

Government of India Notifications:
a) The Ministry of Defence has been formally abolished. The three armed services will deal with all necessary details. All defense contracts shall be a part of the mandate of the External Affairs Ministry. All foreign trips for diplomatic/trade/defense purposes shall be undertaken by Chief Amar Singh in his capacity as Chief Negotiator
b) The Revenue Department which deals with taxation, unauthorized wealth etc has been detached from the Ministry of Finance. The HRD Minister Sri. Amitabh Bachchan has kindly consented to take charge of the department
c) President's Rule has been declared in Uttar Pradesh. The Government has issued a special order declaring ex-CM Kumari Mayawati guilty without trial and sentencing her to death by "statuification"(use of human body as mold for a bronze statue.For historical parallels re.Mughal-e-Azam) for her crimes against the nation and its people.
d) "Kya Aap Panchvi Pass Se Tez Hain", hosted by Shah Rukh Khan on Star Plus has been declared an obscene, immoral television program and the the host shall be prosecuted for endangering the moral health of the nation.
e) Mrs. Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan has been appointed the Indian Ambassador to France. She will shoulder this responsibility in addition to her position in the Union Ministry.
f) The Government has decided to confer the Bharat Ratna on Sri Amitabh Bachchan for promoting culture, Mr. Anil Ambani for promoting entrepreneurship, Smt Jaya Bachchan for promoting family values and Chief Amar Singh for promoting Chief Amar Singh.

The Daily Pheesh has also come to know that Mr. Vikas Yadav(guilty in Nitish Katara murder case, co-guilty in Jessica Lal murder case and prospective Law Minister) has resigned from the BSP, the party which he joined recently with his father D.P.Yadav. In an exclusive interview to the Pheesh he said "Kumari Mayawati is power hungry and does not care for the people. I share the vision of Hon. Sri Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chief Amar Singh."---DP

Of Ministers and Governors

        Rumours soaring in the air on the hit-list of the Samajwadi Party. The Finance Minister, the Petroleum Minister and The Governor of the Reserve Bank!

Never in the field of Indian politics was so much demanded of so many by so few.

        While I do not think that any(or for that matter, all) of these demands will be accepted, it's a fine time to reflect on the Finance Minister, whose position, for the first time, seems a bit shaky(yes..the you don't know what you have till you lose it time ;). Mr. Chidambaram has not done the best possible job as the Finance Minister. His policies have more or less remained on the same track as that of the NDA with certain sweeteners like the NREGA and the loan-waiver scheme added for public satisfaction. The defects of this strategy have come back to haunt the government now. A couple of days ago, Mr.Chidambaram appeared on Karan Thapar's show "The Devil's Advocate" with a one word mantra to salvage the current scenario-"communication". Unfortunately this mantra(we are actually great...why don't people see it?) has become the standard tool employed whenever a government realizes that the people are turning against it. One remembers L.K.Advani, in the waning years of the NDA government, consistently bemoaning the inability of the Government to educate the people about its achievements.

        The elementary answer to the Finance Minister's flawed argument is that there is nothing to communicate. The Government has reached a dead-end. Any substantial development will have to involve a considerable policy-shift by the government and the Congress Party. This is something neither of them can/will do. They are too far gone. So the only option is to sit back,hope/pray(check out the CM of Andhra's solution--"CM relies on rain to save reign") that the various 'crisi' will subside over time and talk about vague,generalized solutions like communication.

        However the removal of the Finance Minister or the RBI Governor is no solution either. Their removal will in no way bring about any change in policy implementation or the framing of policy not to speak of the underlying assumptions that give rise to policy. Mr.Chidambaram will most probably be replaced by another Sonia-bhakt who will walk the very same path. The governor of the RBI will be succeeded by another career office with the same training and approach. This is one case where a symbolic gesture could not only not improve things but possibly make them worse. Better a Chidambaram than an Arjun Singh any day I say!


PS. The real fun will be if this rumour is revealed to be just that ! A rumour.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Katrina Awards

The citation


We are proud to present the Katrina Award to:

Despite what chauvinists would say, Kashmir does not comfortably fit the position of the crown jewel of the "Wonder that is India". It is true that Kashmir's accession to India was as valid in legal terms as that of many other princely states, where the wishes of the people were not consulted. But it is also true that few states have been the site of so many controversies and violence as J&K has. J&K has also had the misfortune of possessing and having to interact with leaders who have had no sense of the complexities of the issue.Some members of this glorious group have been almost deliberately blind whereas others have stumbled and bumbled along like bulls in a china shop. Our awardee of the day belongs to the second category. An absolute lack of foresight in managing his own cabinet, a bureaucracy led by a seemingly diabolic-ex-governor, the PR of the government and the protests on the street has ensured that Azad has come out with an egg on his face, communal forces on either sides of the spectrum have got huge breathers and whatever superficial normality that Kashmir seemed to be limping to, is again, a thing of the past. Well since he was the hand-picked by 10 Janpath, I guess it was bound to happen.

The pheesh swims again!(well hopefully)

After a month's sabbatical(ya ya laugh), I am back. Not very sure what happened. I was blogging pretty prolifically(April-14/6, May-24/31, June-0/30!!!) and suddenly I couldn't gather the critical mass for a post anymore. I guess the PM's latest gamble has had its effect on me as well. As usual this has been a terribly "happening" interval...

I guess I better get down to business before this sounds like one of my diary entries.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The pheesh just keep coming

Two new additions to the list of "Bigger Pheesh"----Ben Appleyard, a man of many interests who 'writes' :)

Neuroanthropology is a blog maintained by two professors who manage to cram in a lot of engaging stuff in that blog. Their weekly reading lists are special attractions.

Cause the Twain shall never meet?

The Binghamton University in New York has come up with what seems to be an interesting perspective on the age-old "humanities vs science" issue. Here's a New York Times article on the proposal.

Neuroanthropology, a blog whose authors seem to possess a certain amount of credibility, post on the topic-here and here.The latter post has a link to the projct statement that was referred to in the Times article.

Promises to be interesting reading. I haven't gone through the proposal myself. Something left for the weekend.

HT: 3quarksdaily

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bored beards and bloc-ed bards?

9 very very dry days. Sigh!!

The least I can do is to post an interesting link and hope that it will spark off another post binge.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nepotism Notes

An Outlook cover on dynasties in India. We just can't ignore them can we?
Finished reading Catch-22 for the second time yesterday(the first time was 4-5 years ago when I still didn't have a gmail account;)

Clevinger's trail in the 9th Chapter in one of the most amazing pieces of writing I have gone through in recent times.

Some other selected gems:


Yes, sir,’ Yossarian agreed carefully. ‘I guess you’re right.’
‘Of course I’m right. You’re immature. You’ve been unable to adjust to the idea of
war.’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war
and might get your head blown off any second.’
‘I more than resent it, sir. I’m absolutely incensed.’
‘You have deep-seated survival anxieties. And you don’t like bigots, bullies, snobs or
hypocrites. Subconsciously there are many people you hate.’
‘Consciously, sir, consciously,’ Yossarian corrected in an effort to help. ‘I hate them
consciously.’
‘You’re antagonistic to the idea of being robbed, exploited, degraded, humiliated or deceived. Misery depresses you. Ignorance depresses you. Persecution depresses you.Violence depresses you. Slums depress you. Greed depresses you. Crime depresses you.Corruption depresses you. You know, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re a manic-depressive!’
‘Yes, sir. Perhaps I am.’
‘Don’t try to deny it.’
‘I’m not denying it, sir,’ said Yossarian, pleased with the miraculous rapport that finally
existed between them. ‘I agree with all you’ve said.’
‘Then you admit you’re crazy, do you?’
‘Crazy?’ Yossarian was shocked. ‘What are you talking about? Why am I crazy?
You’re the one who’s crazy!’ Major Sanderson turned red with indignation again and crashed both fists down upon his thighs. ‘Calling me crazy,’ he shouted in a sputteringrage, ‘is a typically sadistic and vindictive paranoiac reaction! You really are crazy!’

This is an absolute stunner.

"Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian’s fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them"

Now where have we heard this before??

That’s right,’ Colonel Cathcart cried emphatically. ‘You’re either for us or against us. There’s no two ways about it.’
‘I’m afraid he’s got you,’ added Colonel Korn. ‘You’re either for us or against your country. It’s as simple as that.’


A 1984-ish tang:

What sort of things?’ Yossarian interrupted with belligerent misgiving.
‘Oh, tiny, insignificant things. Really, this is a very generous deal we’re making with you. We will issue orders returning you to the States—really, we will—and all you have to do in return is...’
‘What? What must I do?’ Colonel Korn laughed curtly. ‘Like us.’ Yossarian blinked.
‘Like you?’
‘Like us.’
‘Like you?’
‘That’s right,’ said Colonel Korn, nodding, gratified immeasurably by Yossarian’s guileless surprise and bewilderment. ‘Like us. Join us. Be our pal. Say nice things about us here and back in the States. Become one of the boys. Now, that isn’t asking too much, is it?’

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spot me if you can!!

Some fascinating pictures on the alignment of the blogosphere.

HT:Andrew Sullivan

New look Conservatism

David Brooks in the New York Times on a new-look conservative party in Britain.

Relevant in the context of a new feature I plan to introduce in this blog. Keep Watching.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A VJ and PJ!

Karan Thapar on salutations.

Reading the piece unfortunately awakened a devil that I had constantly sought to suppress(in the context of this blog). So apologies for this. I couldn't resist.

Q---What is common to the daughters of Dhoni and former Election Commissioner Gill?
Ans---They are-Ms Dhoni and Ms Gill

Thursday, May 15, 2008

POTA and Sons Inc.

        It's one year since Dr.Binayak Sen was arrested, a full year during the course of which almost every wing of the Indian state combined to put a committed social worker behind bars on the basis of flawed evidence and coerced testimonials. Dr. Sen, who campaigned relentlessly against the extra-constitutional "Salwa Judm" in Chattisgarh, was/is accused of colluding with terror-the one charge that will ensure that institutions/individuals normally accustomed to voicing their opinion keep silent and entrust everything to the Government.

        The strange case of Dr.Sen slithered to the underside of public(you know what I mean) memory, kept alive by a few voices which were generally ignored. In April, The Supreme Court expressed its disapproval of the basic idea behind the
creation of an organization like the Salwa Judm, thus vindicating the stand of Dr. Sen and his comrades.

        The state government however, not only refused to relent on Dr.Sen's case, but carried out another arrest in almost similarly shocking circumstances. The arrest of T.G Ajay under the CPSA (Chattisgarh Public Security Act) on the 5th of May and the conferral of The Jonathan Mann award for Global Health and Human Rights on Dr.Sen have seemingly awakened erstwhile silent sections of civil society to this issue. The demonstrations, petitions and marches have begun and will hopefully intensify. However there is one broader trend that must be isolated and resisted, since it goes beyond these particular cases and contexts.

        I am referring of course, to the CPSA and its brother laws.

        The blog for the "Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chattisgarh" has a link to the copy of the Act as well as a review of the Act by the People's Union for Democratic Rights.

        A very cursory reading of the Act itself indicates the immense potential for the misuse of this act and the severe restrictions on review of decisions made under this Act(The Government is the only agent empowered to call for an Advisory Board). The CPSA is yet another bastard offspring of the "War on Terror" and its true significance can only been understood when studied in the global context. Of course oppressive laws abounded even before, but 9-11 and the incidents that followed proved to be a boon for those believed that tough measures like POTA or CPSA are the solutions to issues of public security. The recent bomb blasts in Jaipur saw a great deal of noise about the need to act tough on terror. There were even calls for POTA to be brought back from the place it was rightly consigned to after the NDA was thrown out in 2004.

        The most important temptation to be resisted is this-the belief that a hastily-crafted law without any of the proper safeguards necessary can, on its own, solve all those issues that give rise to terrorism. Statistical evidence aside, common sense alone is enough to tell one that centralization in law-making is not the strategy to combat terror structures that are getting increasing de-centralized. Centralized(those that effectively end up concentrating power in fewer hands), coercive laws invariably end up affecting those at the margins, alienating them further and stretching the fabric of the state to its breaking point. However this is something that happens over a longer period of time and the myopic comfort provided by harsh and effective sounding laws often trumps considerations about the society of the future.

        A cautionary note must be sounded here in the context of liberal voices associating a preference for these kinds of laws with "communal forces". While it's true that the Sangh Parivar has been in the forefront of advocating such laws, it is also to be remembered that there is as great a mass of the populace, which while distancing itself from the Parivar's agenda, firmly believes that the nation must take a "strong" stand against terror. This group is the "swing group", the one which must be engaged if we are ever to be saved from the indignity of our Democratic state transforming into a complete Police State.