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"

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