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Monday, December 29, 2008

A Dark New Year's Eve

A dark shadow looms over India as the year 2008 nears its end. Sadness and grief grips us all over those who lost their lives, not only in the Mumbai terror attacks recently, but all the other similar attacks that rocked the nation this year killing innocent people.

The situation in India is very tense after the very brutal and cold blooded open attack by the terrorist in Mumbai. People have suddenly realized their vulnerability and the fact that nobody is safe anymore. You may be rich, poor, Hindu, Muslim, or a Christian, it doesn't matter. You are vulnerable.

There have been further threats of possible attacks during New Year's celebrations in Goa, Mumbai and many other places. So, nobody wants to take a chance now. Better safe than sorry! As a result all the big hotels have canceled all their New Year's Programs. No Bipasha Basu, Rakhi Sawant, Katrina Kaif or Mallika Sherawat performances this year. The hotels, of course are suffering huge losses on account of these cancellations.

There is definitely a change this year. Everything is a low key affair. No blaring music, lights, fireworks etc. The place where I stay used to be lit up from one end of the street to the other during Christmas and New Years every year. All the houses too would be lit up right from Diwali onwards till New Year's celebrations before they were taken down. But, this year there are no lights. The houses too are not lit up. No Christmas stars to be seen in the verandas or balconies.

It's sad. This is a Dark New Year's Eve! What will the New Year be like for India and its people? Will there be a war? That is the question that is uppermost on everybody's mind right now. Or, maybe everything will die down as usual. The politicians will see to that. They will shift all the focus to the elections and then maybe we will just be where we always were: More attacks, more people die, and life will go on......

Solidarity? Celebrities Refuse To Refund Advance

Once again it is proved that behind every nice, compassionate, intellectual and famous face lies a monster which understands only one language; Money. Irrespective of the wealth one has amassed, what one says to the media and what one projects himself or herself to be, the lure of money has stood the test of circumstances.

All of us know that many celebrities were being paid obscene sums by various city hotels for performing at their New Year celebrations. The hotels subsequently had cancelled the functions citing the Mumbai Terror attacks. The news now, from a very reliable source is that the celebrities who had taken hefty advances for making an appearance in the functions are refusing to refund the advance amount to the hotels. So much for solidarity.

The hotels are in a bind. In a way the celebrities are right, they did not back out of the deal, it is the hotels which cancelled the Program, so ideally the celebrities should get to keep the money. But if the reason for cancellation is a show of support and / or solidarity with the victims of terror attacks, any self respecting person will throw the contract away and refund the money.

Not our celebrities. No sir, unless they are aware of the actual reason for the hotels cancelling the New Year functions. It is the economy, stupid. No one is going to pay upwards of Rs 10,000/- to attend a party in these times, especially when the hotel and the police of the city can not ensure safety and security. Remember, last year a girl was molested by a crowd right outside the Mariott in Juhu.

Coming back to celebrities, don't they understand that there utterances in Public and in the media are powerfool tools for building public opinion, even if it is totally unintentional. They sway moods and their behaviour and moral/ethical valkues are imbibed by the youth of this country. They are doing great disservice to the nation with their thoughtless actions.

In my opinion, celebrities in our country who behave in a manner unbecoming of a role model for the youth of the country should be black listed and be denied media covrage completely.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gupta Murder - Terrorist Activity?

On Dec 24 2008, a PWD Engineer by the name of Manoj K Gupta was lynched by a BSP MLA One Mr Tiwari and two other goons for refusing to pay Rs 50 Lakhs towards the Birthday celebration of Mayawati.

The story of the Gupta Murder goes like this, the MLA along with two other men went to Gupta's house in the night, locked up his wife and thrashed him continuously for a couple of hours. Then they left the unconscious man at the police station where the MLA told the police to register a case of hooliganism against Gupta and then he walked out, You read that right, the Police did not ask him the how's and why's, they let him go. Two hours later after the Police was sure that Gupta was dead, they took him to the hospital. The autopsy report says that Gupta was given electric shocks and chunks of hair pulled out of his head, there were 32 injury marks and one arm was fractured.

Mayawati straightaway denied any involvement, she went on to say that the murder was a result of professional rivalry and underhand money. The cabinet secretary Mr shekhar Singh has given a clean chit to Mayawati, even though it is none of his business, "A criminal incident should not not be given political colour,Chief Minister Mayawati has nothing to do with the case. It's a criminal case and those found guilty will not be spared."

The incident is terrible and raises more questions about the sad state of our country,

a) Tiwari, the MLA may be illiterate and a criminal and stupid but he would not be so stupid that he would ask someone who does not have Rs 50 lakhs to give him that kind of sum. Was Mr Gupta capable of giving that kind of sum? Being a government servant, If he was, then there is much more to be probed into than a plain murder.

b)How come we hear only the political parties making noise this time around? Why are citizens, celebrities, news channels not talking about enough is enough this time around, like they did after Mumbai terror attacks? Or a single man's death, howsoever unjust just does not deserve our attention?

c)The whole of Mumbai was up in arms against the government, the politicians etc after the terror attacks, but not a single person in Mumbai came to light a candle for Mr Gupta. Or, do we show our solidarity only with victims of terror attacks.

d)Police sources, according to many newspapers, have said that the MLA had criminal antecedents and that he was a history sheeter, What was he doing as an MLA then? Who permitted him to fight the elections.

e)Even though the incident has been termed heinous and barbaric no one is calling it to be terrorist activity. Was the MLA not employing terror tactics? Does the autopsy report not indicate that Gupta was tortured? Is it not sufficient to then declare the MLA as a terrorist? Or is it mandatory to be a Pakistani carrying an AK-47 rifle to be declared a terrorist?

f)Mayawati has refused a CBI probe into the incident as demanded by the family. How can a person who is a party to a crime decide what course of action to take? The congress which is in power at the center has conveniently decided to leave the issue to the state unit to handle.

g)Is someone investigating if other party MLAs were employing similar tactics with other government servants. It is no secret that Mayawati has amassed sufficient wealth most of which, she claims, is given to her by people out of love and affection. In April 2007 during assembly elections she had declared her assets to be worth 58 Crores. In assessment year 2008-09 she had paid an advance tax of Rs 15 crores. Why is no one asking her the means for acquiring this wealth. In light of this, it seems evident that Gupta's case was a routine case, of use of force for collection of money, which just went horribly wrong.

How long before our other politicians also see sense in following similar tactics for amassing wealth and power? It is sure to happen if the citizens do not wake up now.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Will India Step Up Please?

Opportunity knocks, but once. Opportunities are not lost, but are taken away by others. These are some phrases we grew up with. I remember them, so do many others, then why have the Indian politicians forgotten them.

After having faced the brutal terror attack on Mumbai and with the irrefutable proof that Pakistan was behind the attacks, the Indian governing class and the bureaucracy have taken actions straight out of a rule book or maybe a "How to handle the aftermath of a terror attack" article. Or, maybe the Britishers left some guide book with the Indian leaders when they left the country. Someone needs to tell these politicians that all their books are dated and they need to get some innovation and fresh ideas to handle the issue.

They have made the right noises to get the world opinion to side with the country, they have also got some of the world leaders to render advice to Pakistan, one which Pak does not care two hoots about and there has been some rhetoric on the Indian side as well. Ultimately the fact is that one month after the attacks the Indian leadership is hopelessly and utterly lost about what to do next.

Pakistan on the other hand, after some initial tottering, has taken an offensive stance and is challenging everything India says. There has been enough war rhetoric on their side and they could not care less about the world opinion. Sad as I am to say this, I must say it nonetheless, Pakistan may be taking a lead over India on this issue and the only thing which makes that country achieve this is their single minded focus on their primary concerns; the first being having to kill their own people on the western borders as well as to get the western forces out of their country. The only way they can achieve this is something like a war with their arch enemy India.

India, as usual has been too soft this time as well. For the last 60 years we have been facing the problem of the low intensity conflict waged by our neighbors and do nothing about it. We are ready to lose our men, civilian as well as uniformed, slowly over a number of years but are afraid to have them killed in action. We are always showing our maturity to the world and losing in the process. Few years back we released Masood Azhar during the IC814 Kandhar hijacking to save a a couple of hundred people, last month the same Masood Azhar may have ended up killing a similar number of people. We are still a mature nation and will do nothing other than make meek noises to Pakistan to hand over Masood.

The low intensity conflict and terrorism is not Pakistan specific. A similar situation exist in our eastern borders with Bangladesh and in the south with Sri Lanka. The whole region has become a cesspit of violence. What does India do? We are a mature nation and will stay so. Seriously after seeing the stance of the Indian Politicians, I have started wondering if even now they are taking decisions on all matters with the elections in mind. God, please, will someone tell them that this is a golden opportunity for India to stake and establish its role as a leader in the region and the world? Will someone tell them that America's terror war is for America as ours should be for us? We should not bother if America does not get Osama, we should instead make sure that we get Masood, Dawood and many others who are spreading terror not only in India but in the entire region.

Right now the entire region is looking for a leader, a country which will take charge of the countries in the region and guide them towards stability and progress. Some country will have to take the lead and show the others their authority in the region. Some country will have to tell the others that they should not be played around with. India is the largest in the region and the most powerful also. It is high time we shed our maturity and resilience and tell, if not the world, at least the sub-continent that we are a power to reckon with and the others can not fool around with us.

Pakistan is breaking down from within, so is Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The whole region is suffering from strife. There is only one country which is stable and can show the others the way. That country needs to take charge. Will India Step Up Please?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Great Indian Corporate Political Bureaucrat Mafia

Few months back there was a huge cry about the multiplexes and malls in Mumbai charging much more than the listed MRP ( maximum Retail Price ) for products. It was brought out by a few concerned citizens, picked up by the media taken to consumer courts and the writing was clear on the wall. No one can charge more than the MRP printed on the product. The writing was clear on the wall, Selling a product over and above the MRP amounts to deficiency in service and exploitation of the consumer. There was the Weights and Measures department, the Packaged Commodities Act, 1977 (PCA) and the consumer courts to support the matter.

I thought that was the end of the matter and was feeling good about something being corrected in the country, till today that is. Today I realized how the Great Indian Corporate political bureaucrat Mafia "killed"the issue.

I had gone to the airport and since the person I had gone to pick up was late, i asked the vendor near the Departure terminal at 1B for a bottle of water. The man gave me the bottle and asked for Rs 30/-. Now, a bottle of mineral water across companies here in India costs between Rs 10/- to Rs 15/-. I straightaway told him that I am going to complain and that he better sell it at the right price. The man looked at me mockingly and told me to check the MRP. I did and found that it indeed was written there, Rs 30/-. Same bottle, same company same water costs Rs 15 all across Mumbai and here I was looking incredulously at the printed MRP of Rs 30/-. It also said, 'sale for in select CHA', Poor english too. Have a look at the photograph.

The vendor was not done rubbing it in. He picked up a PET 500 ml bottle of Maaza and said pointedly, "this costs only Rs 20/- elsewhere but here it sells for Rs 50/- and yes, the Rs 50/- is the printed MRP.” Now unless the vendor is having fake stuff, which is a possibility, someone, the general public, has been had.

What a complete solution? Ultimately the manufacturing company retains the right to decide the pricing? Since people and the activists and the courts were harping over not selling items above the MRP, they coolly changed the MRP itself. Now no one can complain. Slick!

Only if these smart asses used their minds to improve something in this country.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why Are We Feeding The Terrorists?

India has been the soft target for innumerable terror attacks for the last decade or so. So far our attitude towards these attacks have been very Gandhian in nature. In spite of irrefutable evidence in each and every case of these attacks that the people who did these dastardly acts are Pakistani Citizens, they are being disowned by Pakistan.

India has arrested many such perpetrators and found many clues that led to the soil of Pakistan, but all they do is deny all such evidence. So, what happens? We put these guys in jail in our country where they are being looked after by our policemen. They are being fed for so many years now in the same very soil that they came to attack!

They kill our people in cold blood. Innocent people, men, women and children who were not related to them in any way. People of different religion, and of the same religion too. Hindu, Muslims, Christians, it made no difference to them. So, what exactly did they want? They claim that they are ready to die. So, why are they still alive? Why are they being fed by our government?

I read a report in today's newspaper that stated that there were some perpetrators of the past who have served their sentence in India and now, they have nowhere to go, since Pakistan, the place where they came from, doesn't accept them anymore. They have denied their very existence. These same people for whom they were ready to die!

They came to India as Jihadis, waging a war! They were ready to die for their cause. What I can't understand is that why are they still alive then? Why are we feeding them still? If Pakistan will not accept them as their citizens, then we should hang them or shoot them in front of the media. There are many people in India who are dying every day of hunger. The government is taking the food out of the mouths of these hungry people, People of India, Indian Citizens, and feeding the Terrorists?!!!??? I am Shocked!!!

Why should we feed them? With whose money are they being fed? Are we paying taxes to the government so that they can feed these same terrorists who came here to kill and die? Why is Kasav the lone survivor of the Mumbai Terror attacks still alive? Will he too end up in the jails of India where we will feed him for free?

It is an ideal solution for the poor and hungry of Pakistan, Join the Jihad, as long as one is free the terrorist organizations will feed him, if he gets caught in India, the Indian government will feed him. Win, Win situation, ain't it?

Weight Loss Programs - A personal review

I have been trying to reduce my weight, or rather maintain my weight since the time I got married. For a woman who gets married in India, its very difficult to maintain one's weight especially if she decides to be a homemaker.

After a hectic and activity filled life of college and work at a big hospital, sitting at home can have many side effects; gaining weight being the uppermost. More so after the first child is born, as you are tied down to the child's requirements and hardly have time to look after your own health and needs. Well, needless to say, I did put on a lot of weight after a few years of the birth of my son.

I decided to do something about it and at that time I heard about Herbalife. There seemed to be a big craze about the product as it had newly been launched in India. I went to a distributor and signed up for the program feeling convinced that this could be the ideal solution to a fast and convenient and safe method to lose weight. I started on the full program that included a protein shake, some Multivitamin capsules and fat burner tablets. I was instructed to take the protein Shake twice a day and have just one meal in the day, along with the capsules and tablets given.

I must say that the program worked wonders with me. I felt great at all times and energetic and did not suffer any side effects at all. I followed the instructions given to the dot and managed to lose 10Kgs in about 3-4 Months time. The products are very expensive and so I had joined as a distributor so that I could get the products for myself at a 25% discount rate and also had the privilege to sell the products to other people and keep the profit to myself. Therefore, I managed to sell just enough of the products to be able to afford my own weight loss program.

However, my husband being in the government sector, we do get transferred to small stations and way out places and so in the next few years, although I struggled to maintain my weight to what I had managed, I still kept putting on weight as my eating habits slowly went haywire.

So, no surprises that after a gap of three to four years I was back to square one. So, I decided to join another weight loss program. This time I chose Anjali Mukherjee as the place was within walking distance from my house and easily approachable. I signed up for the program with the goal of losing 10Kgs. It cost me about 10,000 Rs/-.

Well, for a start they gave me some herbal capsules to boost my metabolism or probably burn fat, I am not sure. Then they made me purchase a whole lot of diet products from their "diet store", which they said were all essential for the weight loss program. Brown bread, Soya Atta, Bran, Diet biscuits and snacks etc (the list is never ending). Let me tell you that they are not very cheap either. So, they were making a huge profit out of people like us!

To add insult to injury, the program also required me to purchase from outside some multivitamins, calcium supplements, and other such supplements that were again deemed to be equally essential towards the success of the program. These supplements were the most expensive ones that they could come up with! Can you believe that a single strip of tablets cost me around 500/-Rs. Well, it was too late now to retract as I had already started on the program, so I had no other alternative but to go along with all that they said.

To their credit, I did lose 10Kgs after about 4-5 months. But all during the program I must have cursed them a zillion times. I did not like their diet plan at all, and in fact it made me feel weak and tired and fatigued all day. I was sure that I was deficient (in spite of the supplements given) of essential nutrients after completing the diet. For, they don't allow you to take any milk or milk products for the entire program, other than just curd or buttermilk or Paneer. In short, I would never recommend this program to anyone.

History repeats itself, it is said. And so it is but natural that I again put on all the weight that I had lost in another 5 years time. It's been a total of 7 years now since I had lost weight with the Anjali Mukherjee diet.

Anyway, since I am back to square one yet again, I decided to try something else this time. I went to the VLCC center and signed up for their weight loss program.

For a start, it sounds promising as they don't give any kind of supplements. They have charted out a customized diet plan and encourage you to exercise your muscles with lots of activity during the day. They have some machines which provides electrical stimulus to focused body parts which helps in mobilizing the fat from the real troublesome areas like the hips and abdomen. Along with this they also apply heat pads and taps on those areas.

I joined the program this week and am feeling good about it. Let's see how it progresses. I will write my feedback on this program in subsequent Xombytes here.

Hope to lose another 10Kgs is my New year Resolution for 2009 and this time to maintain the weight for the rest of my life. Will I succeed with my goals, only time will tell. So, wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Were Mumbai Terror Attacks Postponed Because of This?

Kasab, the lone terrorist of Mumbai terror attacks caught alive has apparently said that the terror attacks were initially planned for 27 Sep this year, but were postponed for some reason. What was the reason?

On 24 Sep the Mumbai Police busted an Indian Mujahiddin cell and arrested five people, amogst them notably Mohammad Sadiq Sheikh, the founder member of the Indian Mujahideen. The Mumbai Police also claimed to have pre-empted a possible terror attack on the city. Mumbai police also stated that the arrested people had confessed to their roles in the blasts in Ahmedabad and in the local trains in Mumbai on Jul 11 2006. It was also stated that the terror module took instructions from Pak based LeT operative Roshan Khan alias Bhatkal, who in turn took orders from Amir Reza, a senior LeT man.

The Times of India, on 26 Sep had reported Police officials stating that "Officials said a dozen-odd members of the module were still at large and could wreak mayhem if Mumbai dropped its guard." Joint CP (crime) Rakesh Maria had also said, “We are still to arrest many from Mumbai and its outskirts who gave these people logistical support in making." In the same report TOI had reported ,"Police officials on Thursday said what they had learned about the Indian Mujahideen module’s plans for Mumbai had them worried. “These terrorists were planning to target a large business centre in south Mumbai as well as the upcoming festivities,’’ a senior police officer said. “A dozen or so members of the same module are still to be picked up and we cannot therefore say with certainty that Mumbai is out of danger,’’ he added."

TOI also reported that, "During interrogation, the five men revealed that they had decided to strike at crowded places in Mumbai, where large number of people assemble. The appropriate time was yet to be chosen."

Was the arrest of these people the reason why the terror attacks in Mumbai were postponed? Were these same people supposed to provide support to the 10 terrorists who eventually carried out the attack? Did the Mumbai Police give up too soon on the interrogations or did the arrested people succeed in misleading or evading the interrogation of Mumbai Police. Was the Large Business centre meant to be the Taj or the Oberoi? Did the crowded places mean Mumbai CST? Were the other members of the module ever arrested? Did they finally regroup and assist in the Mumbai attacks? Are the Police even working on this theory, that they probably patted themselves too soon on arresting the five members of the IM and that their failure to follow up the arrests could have eventually led to the Mumbai attacks? That they did pre-empt the attack on Mumbai but could not prevent it?

Finally did the Mumbai Police know of the targets but did not know the dates and that's why the advisory to the five star hotels (especially Taj) to step up the security?

The statements reflected in the article have been sourced from Times of India, Mumbai Edition.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Voting Contests On TV - Organised Crime?

Yesterday i was moved to tears listening to Javed Akhtar and Sonali Bendre, both judges on the unreal reality show, Indian Idol. Both of them gave some (made up) emotional diatribe on air to the public exhorting them to vote. Javed Akhtar even went to the extent of comparing the voting on Indian Idol to the national elections saying we don't vote and then complain what kind of person has been selected. Then he continued again talking about being an Indian, he said he wondered when we will be non partisan, when we will cross the boundaries of caste, region, language, religion etc. His hidden message please vote, if you like a singer don't vote only once, keep voting till the deadline ends. Sonali Bendre on the other hand picked out the oft-repeated line of conspiracy against the girl-child and even shed a few tears, Please vote for the girls, she begged the TV audience.

Coming back to my tears. It was not because I believed in these two stalwarts of our country, it was because I was ashamed that a personality like Javed Akhtar could stoop down to such levels that he would compare the selection of Indian idol to something of national importance or any importance for that matter. Obviously the show is not doing well. Maybe the TRP's have gone up, but people must have have stopped voting. How long can they fool the people? Do Javed Akhtar and the other judges even realize that they are being party to an organized crime which is looting the people of this country ad they call themselves nationalistic.

Organized crime it is, all these voting contests on TV. Everyone who is part of the show is a party since everyone knows that they are putting on an act. An act to cheat the public in cohorts with the producer and the directors. Then the TV channels are roped in who will be the medium for delivering the criminal content. Then there are media patners like FM radio channels and news channels who will spread the word and keep reminding the public about the contest. Then come the phone companies, private sector as well as the Public sector companies like MTNL and BSNL. They will be the carriers for the vote irrespective of whether they are counted or not. These telecom companies are the ones through whom the money will be siphoned from the unsuspecting public. Whereas a normal SMS these days costs less than a Rupee, the vote SMS can cost anything from three to five rupees. The cartel splits the profit from each SMS amongst themselves.

This is sheer looting of Public money. Why should the public pay extra for the voting SMS's? If the voting SMS at the same rate is going to put extra load on the telephone network, the phone company should ask the Producer of the show or the TV channel to pay for their service. Are they not making enough money through advertising? They must be since there are other shows which are being telecast, which are plain soaps. There comes the bureaucracy into the loop. They do not get money directly or officially, but i am sure they are getting paid in some manner to permit a concept which is clearly against all moral, economic and social ethics. A small print at the bottom of the message exhorting people to vote is not enough to escape the legalities. Do they ensure that the people who are voting are above 18 years of age and hence independent? Do they ensure that the children are not wasting their parent's hard earned money on voting for contestants because of being misled by the 'in your face' canvassing by the likes of Javed Akhtar. If they do not they are robbing people covertly, which is a crime and everyone in the chain is an accessory to the crime.

I have never voted, still do not vote, but fail to understand why other people vote? Hey you or your parents are already paying for the TV, the cable connection and the channel subscription. You don't need to give any more money for those people to show you content. Stop wasting your money. Your vote does not matter. If it did the channel would have shown the counting and the program in real time. They fudge everything, the program is scripted just to fool you. When will you all understand?

I have a feeling people have slowly but surely started understanding this. The number of votes received must have gone down drastically. That is why Javed Akhtar had to stoop so low as to literally beg people to start voting. A respectful and successful personality like Javed Akhtar ought to stay out of this organized crime. Are you listening Javed? By the way you are a very good actor too, have you ever considered acting?

It is high time the Government or the Courts of this country banned this concept completely to save the people from unnecessary expenditure in the face of an already troubled economy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Home Loan Rate Cut - Election Gimmick

Under severe pressure from the Government the Public sector banks announced a rate cut for the home loans upto 20 Lakhs. From now on Home loans upto Rs 5 Lakhs will carry an interest rate of 8.0 % and those between Rs 5 - 20 Lakhs will carry an interest rate on only 9.25%.

Hold on! Don't rush to the bank yet. Read the fine print. The rates will be valid only for new home loans and the existing borrowers will continue to bear the burden of the older interest rates. To top it all the new interest rates will not even be passed on to to the floating rate customers. The SBI chief announced that there won't be any PLR cut soon. PLR is the factor dictating the rate of interest for the new loans as well as the floating interest loans. Last option.... that too is taken care of by the financial wizards of this country. The new rates will not be effective if you swap your loan account with some other bank. Last nail in the coffin, The rates are effective only for first five years and will subsequently be brought up to match the existing market rate.

It is evident that this measure has been promulgated to tap onto the general voting public since these days even in the tier two cities the homes of two bedrooms and more are costing much more than 20 Lakhs. The PLR not being brought down can only mean that the existing borrowers will in effect be financing the new borrowers to some extent. Thanks to the scheme one can generally forget a rate cut in PLR for a long, long time unless there is a drastic improvement in the economy. Rob Peter To Pay Paul. Haven't we heard that before?

However the scheme gets murkier especially if one has to believe the news reports doing the rounds. Apparently the PSU banks have reduced the loan limit to about 50% of the cost of the house. That essentially means that if you want to take the full advantage of the lowered interest rates, you have to pay almost the same amount of money as the down payment. That is, if you want Rs 20 Lakhs loan you have to choose a house worth Rs 40 Lakhs and pay Rs 20 Lakhs as down payment. Where does one get that kind of money? Same goes for the poorer(relative) section of people also. Where does a man who can afford only a Rs 10 Lakhs house get Rs 5 Lakhs to make the down payment. Therefore we can safely assume that no one is going to benefit from this announcement other than the feel good factor amongst those who are not planning to buy a house. They are the only ones who will appreciate the efforts of the government to help the economy of the country as well as help the citizens in getting their dream house. They might just even vote for the incumbent government in the forthcoming elections.

What will it take for the Powers that be of this country that the economy is more complex than just interest rates?

Phew! So much of print space, time in meetings and public money must have been wasted to decide and announce this seemingly useless exercise which does not seem anything more than an election gimmick.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Lawyer For Kasab - Wrong Again

The good or the bad news, as you like it, is that the Shiv Sainiks after a long hiatus have found the courage to come out in the open again. Painfully missing for such a long time after the Mumbai attacks, I had begun to wonder if they had been terrorised for life and will stop their own terror tactics for good. Unfortunately that was not to be.

After the decision of the Mumbai Lawyers Association not to defend Kasab, the courts had nominated Lawyer Dinesh Mota to defend Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive. Mota refused, apparently because of his conscience and moral values, though I suspect it had more to do with the internal extremists. Lawyer Ashok Sarogi then came forward and volunteered to defend Kasab, his logic being, if Indira Gandhi's assassins could get advocates, why not Kasab? Bravo Mr Ashok Sarogi. That is what woke the Shiv Sainiks from their post 26/11 deep slumber and they came out in large numbers to protest the good man's decision.

The Chief Justice of India had also observed that and I quote from Times of India, "The collective decision by the Bombay Association of Lawyers affects natural justice and free trial." Holy Cow! Two men who understand what is good for the country. Make it three, because I also fully understand the implications of a trial of a defenceless person, even if he is a terrorist, more so if he is a terrorist. This is where eminent lawyers of Mumbai and most of the concerned and understandably agitated citizens of Mumbai have got it wrong.

Tha act of terrorism or any other crime for that matter is a result of failure of the society and/or state organisations meant to tackle these crimes. Hanging a terrorist or a criminal with or without a fair trial is not going to bring out the weaknesses in the system meant to stop these mishaps. It will definitely send out a strong signal to the future perpetrators but someone who has lost the fear of death is hardly going to bother about repercussions. More than the need to convict and punish Kasab for the heinous act, we need to understand the genesis and the entire process of the act to find out the how's and why's of the process. We need to find out our systemic weeknesses and failures.

Kasab is a foreigner and in the safe hands of the police. He does not pose any further danger to the society. But who does, are the people whose complicity, negligence and incompetence led to the success of the Mumbai attack. These people are still at large and if allowed to go scot-free, will definitely end up compromising our security again.

Another point which comes to my mind is that for 60 hours no one in the Government, bureaucracy or the Police stopped the media cameras from whirring and allowed the whole world to see and hear the goings on in the three sites, but now when the danger and the action is over, the media is being given filtered information on the entire proceedings. It has been more than 15 days since the situation was brought under control. How long does it take to present irrefutable and damning evidence to the public and to the world in what is supposedly an open and shut case? Why is it not happening?

Back to the matter of Kasab getting a lawyer. In my opinion the best lawyers of this country should get together and form a defence team to fight the case of the terrorist. Kasab is guilty, was caught red-handed and any prosecution team worth it's salt can have him given the maximum punishment. However this kind of prosecution will not bring out the systemic failures on our side. Having a good defence team for Kasab will ensure that the failure of the various personnel and the state agencies are brought to the fore and the real culprits on the Indian side are exposed, who then can be handled in accordance with the laws of the land.

Thieves, dacoits and killers are being arrested and punished since time immemorial. That has not stopped robberies and murders and it never will. Hanging Kasab is not going to stop the terrorist activities. What will, is an honest and fail proof security or defence mechanism. We should all work towards that rather than taking accolades and seeking 15 minutes of fame or satisfaction on a single case. Remember it is the immunity of the body which prevents sickness and not the absence of germs.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Is A Bigger Issue Being Reduced To Just A Fight Against Terror?

I am not saying that the terror attacks in either India or elsewhere in the world are not a big issue. It definitely is. But a terror attack or a terrorist is something you have to be prepared against, not something you can necessarily control before it takes form. It is like putting a lock on your house. Compared to terror attacks, a theft in someone's house is a minor thing. But people do keep themselves prepared against theft. I can bet my last buck, that today if the police declares that all theft and thieves are under control, people will still put locks and CCTV cameras in their houses. They are being prepared.

So what went wrong here? We were not prepared. Not prepared for the terror attacks, just like we were not prepared for the Tsunami, for the earthquakes, for the plane hijacking incidents, for the stampedes, for the train accidents, for the riots and millions of other incidents that have time and again shaken the very idea of a nation state capable of looking after itself.

Someone, rather most of us failed in our primary duties and responsibilities, professional as well as social. The politicians, the bureaucrats, the corporates, the religious institutions, the professionals, the NGOs, the public sector etc. Each one of the so called premier and esteemed institutions failed in their duties and responsibilities because of the failure of people serving such institutions.

And now after umpteen incidents we are still talking about preparing ourselves against the last incident. The fight against terror. In the process all the other issues get sidelined. What happens to the fight aginst poverty, fight against corruption, fight against illiteracy and so many other fights. Many websites and news channels are soliciting support from people to sign petitions, and join them in the fight against terror. That is not what we want. The people will register, the petition will be submitted and then everyone will forget about it.

What will it take for people to realize that the need of the hour, it always has been, is to retain the power with themselves. In this case, wrest the power back from the politicians. They are our representatives. That does not mean that once we have voted them in, they can follow their own agenda. Hello, the vote or the election is just a means of putting a representative in the council or he senate or the house. It in no way means that we trust the elected representative. He is just an office bearer who should take inputs and the public opinion from his constituency and represent it in the relevant forum.

So what should we do? Politicians once elected, forget the power of the people. We have to have a way of telling them that we retain that power. Villages, districts, cities and states should have public forums which can address the issues most important to the people. When we feel any government official or office is not doing or doing something against the interest of the people, this forum should allow people to get together and rally around the cause. Imagine if people wanted action to be taken against an errant official or an erring office, the politicians or the powers that be will know that if they do not take concrete action the people will take to the streets, at least the fear will be there. The crowd that was there near Taj a few days back would have forced any politician or a government official in Mumbai to bend to the public demand. If your representative knows that the public is not powerless anymore, he will do his work and try to retain the confidence of the public throughout the term, rather than making promises and doing some lipstick work only before the elections.

Any movement which is started now, should work towards preparing ourselves, our cities, our states and our country towards the future and we, the people have to ensure that the government does not falter on any account. Let us get into a habit of collectively building this nation and be involved at each and every step. And for God's sake let us not restrict ourselves to one incident or aspect of our lives.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

49(O) - Power To The People

After the attack on Mumbai, like it always is, the public outcry was loud and pretty clear. People started shouting Enough is Enough. Campaigns, petitions and blogs were started on public's lack of trust in the office bearers across barriers and departments. The noise is steadily and surely dying down. The media house which put the words "Enough is Enough" in the mouths of the public is now vehemently exhorting people to go shopping to India's biggest shopping festival.

One small ray of hope which came out of the Mayhem, and which in my opinion is the key to wresting back the power from the politicians and the political parties was the viral-e-mail about section 49(O) of the THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS RULES, 1961 ( ) The e-mail said that if the number of voters opting for not voting in accordance with rule 49(O) was bigger than votes secured by any of the candidates, it would result in a re-poll. Alas, this very bit of information which gave some hope to people was quickly put down as false by those most concerned by the implications of the misinterpretation of the rule. And they were right.

Section 49(O) of THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS RULES, 1961 states that,
Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

In the above rule, Form 17A is the Register of Voters. As per rule 49(L) before a person is allowed to vote the polling officer is required to enter the electoral roll number of the elector in the Form 17A and then take his signature on the said form. Only then the elector or the voter is allowed to vote. Rule 49(O) was made for people who changed their minds between signing the Form 17A and voting. In such a situation, the voter's name is registered in Form 17A indicating he has voted, whereas he does not want to. That is why he has to record the fact of not willing to vote in the same form and countersign it again. If this is not done, there will be a mismatch between votes recorded by the Electronic voting Machine and those recorded by the Register of votes.

Having said that, it still figures that the electorate or the citizens do not have any power to ensure that good candidates are fielded by the contesting parties. In most elections the elector has to choose between the devil and the deep sea. Therefore a rule akin to what the viral e-mail purported rule 49(O) to be , is required. The obligation or the most important responsibility of any party is to field a candidate who is suitably qualified to undertake the task. Only way to ensure this is to have a rule, rather eligibility criteria for the candidate. Even though the political parties will overcome these eligibility criteria with ease, what with all the instruments of convenience being in their hands. A rule which neutralizes the election or insists for a re-poll is essential to let the people retain the power of electing their representative with themselves.

In my humble opinion, whenever the total electoral votes registered is less than 50% of the total registered voters, the election should automatically be made null and void since less than half the population has voted and it should be concluded that the candidates have not made the effort to even meet the people of their constituency, leave alone convince them to come out and vote on the D-day. The corollary to this rule should be that if more than 50% have indeed come to vote and more than half these numbers have chosen none of the above, all the candidates should be disqualified and the political parties should be forced to field more qualified and worthy candidates to that constituency for the re-poll.

The detractors of this proposal will say that it would amount in wasteful expenditure. I would like to remind them the only money lost will be that of the candidates and the political parties who go about fielding goons and thieves. As per the latest figure available on the authorized amount of expenditure for elections; Election expenditure for each Assembly constituency is restricted to only Rs 6 Lakhs. If that goes waste once or twice, it would definitely be worth it if it helps us in finding a suitable boy or a girl to represent us. In any case the losses accrued by an unqualified or unworthy candidate during his tenure by the way of looting the state, inefficiency and corruption will far exceed this miserly amount of Rs 6 Lakhs, many times over. The people of the constituency should also be given the right to demand that the elected representative prove that his majority stands amongst the electorate of the constituency.

Only when the above powers are given to the people, this would mean that the people have retained the power. The power to elect, the power to reject and the power to change. Only then we would be able to truly say that the Government is by the people, of the people and for the people.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Enough is Enough" - People Protest in Mumbai and Delhi A Week After Terror Attacks

It is exactly a week ago that Mumbai was attacked by terrorists and held to ransom for three whole days. The people all over the country watched helplessly as the events unfolded live on the television news channels. The whole country was witness to the utter confusion and chaos that followed the terrorists attacks.

The people watched the Mumbai police trying to get a hold of the situation, but failing as they too ran for cover in the wake of the bullets being sprayed at random by the two terrorists. There were but a few brave men among many that made a difference in apprehending the culprits and managing to take one of them alive.

People of India watched in shock and horror as the carnage and massacre continued for three long days and many innocent people lost their lives. Among those killed were rich, poor, middle class, Hindus, Muslims (in fact majority were Muslims), men, women, children and foreigners of different nationalities too! So what was the agenda here? Why had the terrorists done this? It made no sense to anyone. There were no demands coming from them either.

To top all this, the people of India also watched and noticed the lack of presence of the politicians in the whole scenario. Where were they? Why were they not taking any action? Why did it take 10 hrs for the NSG Commandos to reach Mumbai?

For the first time in India, thanks to the media coverage, the whole nation watched all the three forces in joint combat operation to smoke out the terrorists. For the first time the citizens of India have woken up to the fact that it is always the armed forces that come to their rescue from any kind of situation it may be. They all witnessed the confidence and the bravery of these men as they went about their task in a determined manner.

The positive thing that has come out of all this is that the people of India have woken up and are finally not afraid to say, "Enough is Enough". They have suffered enough at the hands of these ruthless, insensitive and highly corrupt politicians and now want a change. For once the whole nation has seen the true face of our politicians.

Today, we see the change. What started as a small procession of about 10 people with candles out in the streets of Mumbai to express their grief for those who lost their lives in these terror attacks, turned into a huge rally today. Today, thousands of people gathered at the Gateway of India with candles and slogans of "Vande Mataram" and posters expressing their solidarity and their anger at the inaction of the Government. The Times Now news channel took their views live on television where they expressed themselves about the change that they were looking for in the country and Government.

Hundreds of people also came out on the streets in Delhi to express their sentiments against the inaction of the Government. It is quite evident that the people are really angry this time and this will not die down soon. It promises to slowly engulf the other parts of the country too.

Is this a revolution of sorts? I certainly hope so. It is high time that we took matters into our own hands and shaped the future of our country the way it should be. We need to remind this Government the true meaning of "Democracy". Of the people, By the People, For the People.

I see hope ahead. The youth and the educated masses have been stirred from their state of sleep into wakefulness. I hope that this becomes a turning point in the history of India and its future. Are we finally united? Only time will tell. If you want to be a part of this movement then come and join these people, or start a march in your own state or city and show your unity. Show that you care. Show that you are angry. Show that you want a change. Its Now or Never!

"Enough is Enough". Politicians are you listening?

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