Khoon ki dalali : Why “Special” Rahul Gandhi was the star of Taare Zameen Par

So, Rahul baba has done it again. He was mocked and tortured by a world that didn’t understand him. The shy, introverted little prince was deprived of his birthright by vicious street bullies. Until he could no longer bottle up his anger against the bullies and ended up calling them “khoon ke dalal”. You know, like this:

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The meat-headed and ham-handed bullies have responded to his outburst by charging back at poor Rahul baba with twice the intensity. They want the system to come down on him twice as hard, to hit him like a ton of bricks. They want to scream at him, rail at him and howl at him. They don’t want to understand him, they just want to punish him because they think that punishment is the answer to everything. As if that can do any good.

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Their imagination is limited by living for far too long in a straitjacketed, ruthlessly competitive world  with unforgiving rules of engagement. Now they think it is their turn to hit back at the Vice President of India’s oldest political party. This is the plane they live on: a world without compassion or consideration. What they refuse to see, or should we say, what they don’t dare to see  is the exotic world inside Rahul baba’s mind.

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I can’t help shaking in anger. When will people realize that every politician develops in her/his own way and becomes her/his own person? They want to fit everyone through the same entrance and just push them into the rat race. Yes, political parties have their compulsions. There is cutthroat competition on the political scene. Every political party wants their leader to sweep elections: 73 out of 80, 67 out of 70. Anything less is considered a grave sin. If political parties are so keen on racing each other, then why do they ask their current leaders to give birth to their future leaders…if they want to race, they should just breed race horses…damn it!

Has any political party stopped to think that the fingers on one hand are not all of the same length? No, they are engaged in pulling at each finger and trying to make them all equal. The average Congress cadre may look at the statement on “khoon ki dalali” and ask: what is the gain? How will this help Congress win elections? Because that is all it comes down to: winning elections. Has anyone paused to think about Rahul baba’s bold brush strokes with his use of language, the power of his feelings and the depth of his emotions? No!

But fortunately for Rahul baba, he has finally found good mentors who understand.

Exactly! We have to understand that when it comes to “special” politicians like Rahul baba, we cannot go by what their handwriting, or their spelling or their words. We have to go by our instinctive understanding of his feelings so as to properly appreciate his intelligence.

So true! “Special” politicians tend to roll things out the wrong way all the time. Instead of questioning them, we should roll with them. That is another enlightened person right there!

Even the principal of the school agrees:

Folks, this can be the moment. This can be the turning point when we extend a hand of compassion towards our “special” politicians. It will help us become a better nation, a better democracy and a better society. We can give them the understanding they need, so that we can finally see them for the gems they are:

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Kho na jayein ye taare zameen par.

Is miracle worker Prashant Kishore running away from the Congress campaign?

Prashant Kishore is a political genius. Prashant Kishore can turn water into wine (or, in Bihar…turn wine into water). Prashant Kishore is the mastermind of Narendra Modi’s electoral victory in 2014. Prashant Kishore is the mastermind of Nitish Kumar’s electoral victory in 2015. Prashant Kishore can win any election anywhere. Which must be precisely why the greatest electoral mastermind in history is running away from the Congress campaign in Uttar Pradesh.

You know what they say about who flees first from a sinking ship:

Click on that article and you will be treated to a litany of complaints about how PK can’t get this or that of his choosing, how other Congressmen are not cooperating, about uncleared payments and what not…

For weeks now, we have been treated to source based reporting on how Prashant Kishore is irritated with the Congress over this or that. Come on Prashant, you are the finest electoral mind this nation has produced and the best face saver for you is rumors of being “unhappy”? Come on, that routine has been done before. India’s best election strategist reduced to copying tired old UPA strategies? Are these Acchhe Din or what?

If Prashant Kishore knows that he can’t make the Congress win in Uttar Pradesh, he should have the courage to stand with the defeated side on results day and accept the impact his failures will have on his career. He accepted the charge, he tried and failed. PK should deal with it. No rational person will be convinced by the source based reports that are trying to shift the blame now. And I am pretty sure we can all guess who is trying to shift the blame and why.

But then again, Prashant Kishore  has had greatness thrust upon him. The ruling establishment in 2014, desperate to stop Narendra Modi, decided to wager it all on a newcomer with a remarkable record of shirking responsibility. That was Arvind Kejriwal. Again, after Modi’s massive victory, the establishment was desperate to give the credit to anyone but Modi and Shah. And Prashant Kishore was the right man at the right place at the right time : they offered him the crown of India’s greatest election strategist and he grabbed it with both hands. No questions were asked when Nitish Kumar, the man around whom PK had drawn up his Bihar campaign, actually finished 10 seats behind Lalu Yadav. For the media, PK had to be an electoral wizard, because otherwise they will have no choice but to give the credit to Amit Shah for 73/80 in Uttar Pradesh.

By the way, PK has no excuse that Congress is too weak in Uttar Pradesh. Here are the vote shares from Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha polls of 2009:

Indian National Congress: 18.25%

Bharatiya Janata Party: 17.50%

Ok, so the BJP was a miserable fourth from Uttar Pradesh in 2009. Today Congress stands at a miserable fourth in Uttar Pradesh. We hear that great strategist Prashant Kishore singlehandedly managed to lift that poor 17.50% to a massive 43% for the BJP, giving it a landslide of 73/80. So, why doesn’t PK do the same for the Congress party now? Have the siddhis and mantras of the great electoral master failed him?

I don’t think I say this enough (no one says this enough) but I respect politicians. Politics is a rough game and you have to be hard as nails to keep playing it day after day after day. Even a dynast like Rahul Gandhi who did not have to fight his way through the lower ranks, is persevering with his yatra in Uttar Pradesh. And when he loses badly in February next year, as he inevitably will, there will be nowhere for the Congress party to hide. There is some nobility even in that. The real losers are those who had been hoping to feast on the victory had it been forthcoming, but are now trying to escape quietly through a “patli gali” in a haze of rumors.

This is how a politically correct surgical strike will be carried out by Indian Army

Following is a leaked transcript of briefing for the ‘Operation Saboot’ – a televised strike in P0K to make sure so-called liberals and opposition leaders are happy and satisfied.

Commanding Officer: At ease, officers. We have been tasked to do another mission, another strike inside Pakistan. And it gives me immense pride to inform that our unit has been selected for the task.

Cries of “Yesss…”, “Je Baat.. “ and other exultations filled the room.  

Commanding Officer (over the din): Important thing is that strategic objectives have changed. Colonel XXXXXX from our Media Relations Cell has come to brief us about it.

Colonel:  The objective of this strike is to provide a video, audio, pictorial & documentary evidence of the strike, clearly demonstrating that Indian commandos began from Indian soil, crossed Line of Control, went across to Pakistan, struck the terrorist camps and came back to unit HQ, in India.

Major: And I suppose you are going to tell us how to do it?

Colonel: Sure I do. Here it is. There are several sub objectives of the strike, I explain in chronological order and you can ask question after each one.

First task is to establish that the strike or raid emanated from India, the operative word here, is documentary proof. Operation begins with the unit watching the movie ‘Border’ and rejoicing when Sunny Deol uproots that hand pump when you get the call for mission briefing.  That would irrevocably prove that you began from Indian territory.

Second task is to prove that you crossed the Line of Control.

Captain: That should be easy, we can show the barbed wire fence and the Pakistani towers across it.

Colonel: No. We need to establish beyond doubt.  Barbed wire & towers can be disputed and claimed to be staged. So, find the NDTV reporter lurking around LOC and ask him to confirm that this is LOC. No one would be able to deny that.

Next is to prove that you are in Pakistani territory. On your way, enter a village, any house would do, ask for their identification. Only government identification would do, no identity cards issued by private organizations, schools, colleges or any such. Obtain two copies of the proof, get it attested by the Gazetted Officer to establish the nationality of the Pakistani.

Major: Errr… Where would we get a Gazetted Officer?

Colonel: He would be accompanying you.

Colonel: Next is to get to a terrorist camp, catch hold of two terrorists, obtain a confession from one that he is a terrorist, get it printed on an affidavit, get the same verified by the Oath Commissioner. Second terrorist has to sign as a witness.

Major: Why affidavit? He is a terrorist, na?

Colonel: You know that, terrorist knows that. But who else would believe it?

Major: Where would we get a … Okay, forget the question. Carry on.

Colonel: It is important that you don’t use force to obtain the confession; you appeal to his conscience, his feelings of brotherhood & humanity, his craving for peace, development, his children’s need for education and jobs to obtain his confession. Any use of force would negate the moral ground we wish to claim.

Also please ensure that the reasons given by terrorist for becoming one are poverty, lack of economic opportunities etc. Even family disputes would do, but ensure that there is no religious bend given to affidavits. We need a secular confession, not a bigoted one.

It is also important that you take group photographs of the unit with terrorists, for the sake of secondary evidence.

Final act before you get out. Go to a post office, send a packet of pictures taken, one copies of affidavits, identity proofs by registered post to United Nations Military Observer Group for India Pakistan, stationed in Kashmir so that they can directly observe the evidence. Please obtain a receipt.

And then, come back home.

Colonel (continued): Now, on composition of teams:

Each commando would be accompanied by two video photographers, one still photographer, one lightman, one audio expert, one oath commissioner, one first class gazetted officer, one judge of sessions court, their assistants, attendants and orderlies. Any questions?

Captain: (sarcastically) Any other requirement, sir?

Colonel: Yes. The composition of the team; it has to have proportional representation, from upper castes, dalits, backward classes, minorities etc. We can’t be questioned on our commitment to social justice.

Major: Do you think that while doing all this, carrying a cavalcade of civilians along, in such inhospitable terrain, in enemy territory, at night, we won’t be discovered? Pakis would find us in minutes and wipe us out.

Colonel: It hardly makes a difference. No one asked you to join the Army, you did because you could not get another job. Didn’t you?

Major: Did you not miss the important part, Colonel? About eliminating the terrorists?

Colonel: Well, that is left to your discretion. Killing terrorists is not the primary objective. You may, if you are so inclined. Just ensure that no one from a family belonging to a school headmaster is among those you neutralize. And don’t kill anyone without an confession under oath, taken in presence of a Judge.

Captain: But why go to such lengths to prove that we did a strike? We can simply leave such a huge pile of dead terrorists that Pakistan cannot refute the claim.

Colonel: You are missing the point completely, officer.

Pakistan believes you. They know you can decimate them when you want.

It is India who does not believe you. The objective of this mission is to convince Indians.

Disclaimer: This is a piece of fiction and a figment of my imagination. Any hurt caused to any individual or institution is regretted.

Pakistanis trend #PakStandsWithKejriwal on Twitter to support Arvind Kejriwal over surgical strikes

Arvind Kejriwal’s demand of providing video proof of surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army has found backers across border. Realizing that this is exactly what they want, Pakistanis have come out in support of Kejriwal.

Yesterday Pakistani mainstream media termed Kejriwal a “hero”, and today was the turn of Pakistani social media. Hordes of Twitter users from Pakistan posted messages on the microblogging site in support of Arvind Kejriwal earlier today. The frequency and magnitude of these messages were so high that the hashtag #PakStandsWithKejriwal was on the top among Twitter trends in Pakistan.

Interestingly, most of these Pakistani Twitter users were supporters of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who is often called “Kejriwal of Pakistan”, and their messages had rhetoric that resembled those found in messages posted by Indian supporters of Arvind Kejriwal.

Take a look at some of the tweets posted by Pakistanis in support of the Delhi Chief Minister:

Arnab Goswami is often the target of attack by Indian supporters of Arvind Kejriwal, and coincidently he was attacked by Pakistani supporters too.

Arvind Kejriwal himself had claimed that he could be assassinated by Modi government, and the same rhetoric was repeated by the Pakistanis supporting him.

Ink attack was seen as a “proof” of intolerance in India and as truthfulness of Kejriwal

It was funny coming from resident of a country that has seen killings for questioning and for holding different beliefs.

Pakistani Twitter users didn’t fail to raise the Kashmir issue.

Statement by Arvind Kejriwal was used as proof that Indians were liars.

The Pakistani support for Kejriwal was top thing on Pakistani Twitter today.

And a note of thanks from Pakistan to Kejriwal.

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A common man who spoke what a common Pakistani wanted?

A soldier explains why “proofs” of Surgical Strikes need not be released

The Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) is the most important appointment in the Indian Army and amongst the most important in the government as a whole. He is custodian and executor of the operational plans of the country. Even within the tri-services milieu, he can be considered as Primus Inter Pares (first among equals) – the Airforce and Navy both have their counterparts in Air Operations and Naval Operations, but the DGMO heads Military and not Army Operations – a nuance that reflects the traditional primacy of the ground arm of the forces due to size and nature of operations so far. One of the better known aspects of his role is the fact that he and his counterpart in Pakistan have a direct hotline, used for a routine weekly talk and on special occasions to avoid unplanned escalations due to ‘noise’ in flow of information.

On 29th September, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, the present incumbent, picked up the hotline and spoke to Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, his Pakistani counterpart, to inform him of Indian Army’s operations against terrorist launch-pads across the Line of Control in PoK. Shortly afterwards, he addressed a press conference to give out the details of the operations to the media and through them, the nation. The operation, ever since being referred to as ‘surgical strikes’, has since generated varied reactions within the country and across the world. From complete denial, as expected, by Pakistan, to varying degrees of approval, support and disbelief from across the world.

The overwhelming response within the country has been one of pride and jubilation. Not because violence of any kind is a cause for celebration – but the people of this country had become accustomed to news of terrorist attack after another with no apparent response from our side except ‘strongly worded statements’. There is only so much beating people’s pride can take.

In the Bollywood movie ‘A Wednesday’, a middle aged common man, played by Naseeruddin Shah, hatches a devious plot to ensure just retribution to some notorious terrorists. He succeeds, and goes back to his ordinary life without ever being discovered. The immense popularity of the movie reflected the sentiment of majority of the people who were hungry for such revenge. And coincidentally, it was a Wednesday when the country did finally get its retribution.

New Delhi: Director General Military Operations (DGMO), Ranbir Singh salutes after the Press Conferences along with External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup, in New Delhi on Thursday. India conducted Surgical strikes across the Line of Control in Kashmir on Wednesday night. PTI Photo by Shirish Shete (PTI)
DGMO telling the nation what happened on a Wednesday night

It was no wonder that in the face of such overwhelming public approval for the action, all opposition parties expressed strong support for the government and army. Not only would it be extremely churlish to do otherwise, it would also be extremely damaging politically. Yet, in the low brow world of Indian politics, such uncharacteristic civility has a short shelf life. It hasn’t taken various opposition parties to climb down from the bonhomie in the flush of immediate aftermath of the operations, and initiate murmurs of disbelief while also trying to play down the significance of the operations.

The first, initiated by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in his typical sly and indirect manner, was the demand to release the footage of the operations as proof to the doubting Thomases in “Pakistan and international media”. It was school-boyish ploy (Teacher, I’m a good boy but he’s asking… can you answer him?) aimed at being politically correct and remaining on the right side of popular sentiment while trying to simultaneously plant doubts about the government in their mind. The thread was taken up by Sanjay Nirupam, an ex Shiv Sena and current Congress member and former MP, albeit in stronger language. Politics apart, such voices are truly inimical to the country’s interests. The fact that both these statements have since been played up in Pakistani media as evidence that the strikes never took place is ample indicator of this.

It’s not clear whether the two ‘leaders’ in question don’t really understand the issues involved, or whether they do but disregard them in the hope of political advantage. Possibly they don’t know the difference between a military operation and a sting operation – something that they’re definitely more familiar with. Hence the demand to release the video footage to ‘prove’ the claims.

Do they even realize that such footage, if released, has the potential of giving away critical operational and tactical information to the enemy, which could jeopardize similar operations in the future? Why should Indian Army provide ready-made training videos to their own enemies – showing them the mistakes they made, and what to look out for in the future?

If at all the army clears the release of any footage, it will have to be after detailed analysis and editing to avoid giving away any such information. And any edited footage would be open to question of being doctored. So, if the DGMO’s word isn’t good enough for these leaders, they should be allowed to remain in their skeptical world without any further attention being paid to them.

The other narrative being built up now is ‘This isn’t the first time such strikes have taken place.’ The Congress has given out dates on which similar operations were carried out under their regime. The difference, they say, was that they weren’t publicized. Fair enough. It’s for the army to do its job as per political direction and clearances, and for the government to decide what information to make public. This would depend on its policy and strategic imperatives, which are dynamic due to external and internal factors. And it’s an incumbent government’s prerogative whether to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors or blaze a new trail. And in doing the latter, if the past governments look weak and indecisive in retrospect, so be it.

Since the last word on this is far from having been said, we will witness many more twists and turns in the days to come. It would be prudent for the opposition to weigh their options and words carefully for two reasons. First, of course, it’s national security which is in question. And second, which should be of greater interest to them, in what seems to be an attempt to prevent the government from getting political mileage from military actions, they shouldn’t end up harming themselves irreparably.

(Author Lt Col Rohit Agarwal (Retd) is an Armoured Corps officer commissioned into 74 Armoured Regiment in 1989. Rohit took premature retirement from the army in 2010 to pursue writing and consulting. This article was first posted on his blog.)

Fact-Check: Did PM Modi ‘admit’ that surgical strikes were not carried out, as claimed by Pakistani propaganda?

Ever since India retaliated with the surgical strikes in Pakistan, some people have been extremely perturbed. Pakistan first denied any such attack by India, yet we saw their “experts” promising vengeance. Then they claimed that it was a minor LoC skirmish in which 2 Pakistani soldiers died. Finally, in a case which fits the bill for state-sponsored propaganda, Pakistani agencies shuttled journalists to an area along the LoC, to prove that the surgical strikes did not take place.

The comical part was Pakistan took this media contingent to an area of their choice, after a few days had elapsed, and expected the world to believe that this was undeniable “evidence”. The world, of course, did not fall for this as even the European Parliament today backed India’s surgical strikes. The only one who seems to have got influenced was Delhi CM Kejriwal who demanded proof “so that Pakistani propaganda was countered”. He, however, did not fail to share the very propaganda he was trying to counter.

Now, some Pakistani media outlets have begun a new narrative. Some reports claim that India and PM Modi have admitted that the surgical strikes never happened:

ARY News
ARY News
A viral news site
A viral news site

These articles have been seen shared by some in India, especially those with leaning towards Congress and AAP, in an attempt to embarrass Modi.

So did Modi actually admit to this? Did Indian media completely miss this? All these Pakistani media stories are based on the Prime Minister’s statement at the inaugural ceremony of the Pravasi Bharatiya Kendra. The PM said:

This country has never been hungry for land. We have never attacked any other country. We are a nation that has laid down lives for others. During the two World Wars, more than 1.5 lakh Indians became martyrs. Unfortunately, we have not been very effective in telling this to the world

The second sentence in the above statement has been deviously twisted by Pakistani media. They claim that by saying India has never attacked any other country, Modi has admitted that the surgical strikes did not happen. What they deliberately do not highlight is that the statement was firstly not made in the context of the surgical strike. It was meant to show that India has a history of never being the aggressor country.

Even if one were to take it in context of the surgical strikes, the choice of words needs to be seen carefully. Modi says India has not attacked any “country”. This remains a fact even with respect to the latest surgical strikes. The attack was conducted across the Line of Control i.e. in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which is very much a part of India. The army did not venture across the international border into Pakistan’s territory.

Secondly, the DGMO himself has clearly mentioned that India attacked “terror launch pads” and in the process, anyone who was defending the terrorists within these pockets. This was never an attack on Pakistan or its army. Hence, the PM’s statement is not at all contradictory.

But how can we expect Pakistan to comprehend English? Pakistani school textbooks replaced “Good morning” with ‘Assalamo Alaikum’ to satisfy radicals. But can we expect some decency and thoughtfulness from our own Indians, be it from the Congress supporter base or AAP supporter base, before sharing highly misleading Pakistani media reports?

Questions that somehow our media and intellectuals never ask

ISIS in Kashmir
ISIS supporters in Kashmir

The foundation of credible journalism consists of various ethics which I don’t want to discuss here. I am concerned for just one aspect that is asking the right questions to the right persons. Are the tough questions really being asked to expose the hypocrisy of so called liberals or these questions are only reserved for the particular political leanings. Just one example I want to mention –

A few months ago in the mid of JNU row, India Today Conclave invited Kanhaiya as guest with a few other young budding leaders from ABVP and NSUI. As very likely, Kanhaiya was asked to explain the JNU incident. But one particular question which caught my attention was about Afzal Guru. He was categorically asked whether he believed Afazal as terrorist and, if he was indeed, why the programme was organized to celebrate his death anniversary. His answer was on a typical communist line. He replied that Afzal was convicted by the apex court so he did respect the judgment but was against the capital punishment. He further reiterated that he would oppose each and every capital punishment irrespective of the political ideology of the convict. The instinctive counter question came in my mind whether he wanted to celebrate the death anniversary of all the convicts of capital punishment including Nathuram Godse. Why the leftist opposition to the capital punishment had remained limited to only Makbul Bhatt and Afzal Guru? Anyone can imagine how uncomfortable this could prove. But this important question wasn’t asked at all.

We, by not asking some crucial questions, not only give the hypocrites (leftists in particular) an easy escape route but also serve as a catalyst to their political as well as ideological hegemony. This kind of journalistic generosity is more towards those forces which openly challenge the cultural and political unity of our country. The worst example of this partiality is Jammu & Kashmir. No one is willing to question the basic foundation of separatism in the valley.

The very first question must be asked why the separatist sentiments are prevailed only in the valley not in Jammu and Ladakh. The history of the accession is as much same for Jammu and Ladakh as much for the valley but why only the valley is suffering from the separatist syndrome? Is religion not among the major factors? Everyone talks about a political solution of the problem but I am waiting for someone who can tell what precisely the political solution is. What the Pakistani with ISIS flags and the slogans like “KASHMIR BANEGA PAKISTAN” (Kashmir will be made Pakistan) are doing to achieve the political solution?

There are three major voices heard in the valley. First one is of the ultra separatists who insist that Kashmir should be given to Pakistan , second one of the separatists who demand for an Azad Kashmir from both India and Pakistan and the third one of the political class which demands to strengthen Article 370. The voice of ultra separatists are Pakistani so I don’t have any question for them. I want to ask those separatists who demand for freedom what their dream about independent Kashmir is. Do they want to make it an Islamic nation or a secular one? What is the composite nature of their so called freedom struggle , secular or based on Islamic ideals? Where are Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhist in their struggle? Is it a freedom movement or a religious movement? Why there was a need to drive away Pundits from the valley and what purpose did it serve?

The political class which is the most beneficiary of the constitution of India often demand more liberty under Article 370. But will it ever tell us what benefit the article serves for the betterment of the Kashmiri people? Has it helped them to generate more economic and social opportunities? They often talk about political aspirations of the people but why their political aspiration is different from that of those who live in other parts of the country? Why I as a Bihari don’t have the same political aspiration? I also want to ask those Kashmiri leaders who (pretend to) request the Pundits to return their homeland whether they are ready to punish the perpetrators of the ethnic cleansing of 1990.

We know the Muslims of the valley in spite of being in majority opted India as their country ( which, I think, wasn’t the appropriate justification of the accession) but is it the valid reason for their distinct political aspirations. Have they done a great favour to India by opting it as their country? They demand everything, more or less, on the behalf of this factor as if India has a debt to pay. Have Muslims , Dalits , Buddhists and many other sects of Indian society done something wrong by not having the same political aspirations as the people of the valley have?

Kashmir has been facing a massive unrest for last 70 days after the killing of a terrorist. Many intellectuals have raised their eyebrows over the manner in which the forces are handling the violent mob. It is well within their right to raise questions but they also should question the manner as well as the goal of the protest. If it all is not sponsored then what do the protesters want to achieve? And above all can India, the largest democracy in the world, afford to institutionalise stone pelting as a democratic way to protest?

These are some questions which need to be asked before reaching to any conclusion of the Kashmir problem. I am not the expert who know all the right answers but I hope some day I will get the right answers. Only then we will be able to find the root cause of the problem. But the biggest question-

“Are the deaf ears listening?”

Kejriwal adopts Pakistan’s stand to attack Modi

Arvind Kejriwal
Arvind Kejriwal

It was just a few days back when Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had to face the ignominy of being rebuked by Pakistani and Bangladeshi citizens for toeing and anti-India line in respect of the tense relations between India and Pakistan after the Uri attack. Kejriwal had tweeted a farcical article by a little known author, which claimed that rather than Pakistan, India was getting isolated world-wide.

Not only did Kejriwal get severe criticism for this from Indians, a Pakistani journalist and a Bangladeshi activist also rebuked him:

 

Of course, as all SAARC nations boycotted the SAARC meet to be held in Pakistan and as countries from all over the world censured Pakistan and backed India’s surgical strikes, Kejriwal’s foolish stance was exposed.

As if that embarrassment was not enough, Kejriwal tried another trick, this time trying to be too clever. He put out a tweet saying he fully supports the PM, but his sugar-coated message in the attached video could be seen plainly:

In the video, Kejriwal referred to Pakistan’s move to ferry media outlets to the LoC in an attempt to prove that no surgical strikes had taken place. Kejriwal, very cunningly tried to portray it as if he wanted Modi to counter Pakistani propaganda, but it was obvious, that Kejriwal had once again strayed into anti-India territory from being anti-Modi. Even the principle national opposition party Congress, along with unbiased experts, have repeatedly said that India does not need to prove anything to the Pakistani side whose credibility is zero. But Kejriwal chose to play a different tune.

Even as AAP’s IT cell was busy trending hashtags which tried to demonstrate that Kejriwal was backing Modi, Kejriwal was busy tweeting videos which were shot under ISI supervision by journalists who were ferried by the Pakistani Government. If indeed Kejriwal wanted Pakistani propaganda to be destroyed, why was he tweeting and sharing exactly such propaganda videos?

Kejriwal tweeting anti-India video
Kejriwal tweeting anti-India video

No sooner did Kejriwal adopt the Pakistani stance, albeit using sugar coating, social media users from Pakistan began backing him:

Pakistani media also jumped at the opportunity of using an “Indian”, that too the  elected CM of the National Capital, to humiliate India.

This is the same Kejriwal who had demanded that PM Modi apologise to the nation for calling Pakistani investigators to Pathankot, when India was showing them the evidence of a Pakistani hand in the attack. Pakistan of course later denied any wrong doing inspite of voluminous proof presented by India. This time, Kejriwal is the one saying India should provide proof to the same Pakistan. This clearly shows that Arvind Kejriwal, in his blind hatred for Modi, is ready to take any extreme position even if it is siding with Pakistan, just to try and embarrass Modi.

Kejriwal gives Satyendra Jain a clean chit, but can Jain deny this?

Satyendra Jain says Ayushman Bharat will not be allowed in Delhi
Satyendra Jain and Arvind Kejriwal, image courtesy: Newsnation.in

The Income Tax department recently issued a summons to Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain, asking him to appear before it in connection with its tax evasion probe against certain Kolkata-based firms. The summons came after the IT Dept found a link between some firms being probed for black-money in Kolkata, with some firms in Delhi with which Satyendra Jain was linked.

Satyendra Jain on his part has made the following statements: “As an investor, I had made investment in these companies four year back, but I have nothing to do with these companies since 2013. Everyone knows it. It is a conspiracy “. In another statement, Jain even made a remark that he also held shares in Reliance Industries, hence his links with that company also need to be checked.

Delhi CM Kejriwal also was quick to issue a clean chit, much like the time he backed former AAP Minister Tomar in the fake degree scandal: “I summoned Satinder this morning. Saw all papers. He innocent, being framed. If he ws guilty, we wud have thrown him out. We stand by him”. In Tomar’s case, once guilt was proved, Kejriwal claimed he was shown fake documents by Tomar, hence one wonders about the credibility of such clean chits.

Satyendra Jain never denied links with the companies, nor did he deny owning shares at a point in time. But he painted a picture as if he was just a passing investor, with no say or control in any of the companies. And further he added that he had no connection with the companies since 2013. So are these statements tenable?

Four Delhi-based companies were named in the media, which were allegedly linked to Jain, three of which are: Akinchan Developers Pvt Ltd, Indo MetalImpex Pvt Ltd, and Paryas Infosolutions Pvt Ltd.

Akinchan Developers Pvt Ltd

According to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Jain was the founding promoter-director of the company, owning 25% of the company when it was formed. He himself signed the company formation application, and also signed the first audited Final Accounts of the company. Even the address used to register the company is the exact same address declared by Jain as his residential address in his election affidavit:

Address match
Address match

Jain continued to be a Director until July 2013, when he resigned due to “personal reasons”. In Feb 2015, Jain sold off his shares to his wife Poonam Jain, probably after he became a Minister in the Delhi Government. The address of the company was also changed in May 2015. According to the latest documents available on the RoC site, Poonam Jain continues to be a shareholder in ADPL and holds approximately 19% of the shares issued.

So when Satyendra Jain says he was just an “investor” at least in case of ADPL, he is plainly lying, and when he says he has “no connection”, it may be legally true, but the shares which he held, are now held by his wife.

As for ADPL itself, it is in the business of real estate and properties as per the MCA filings. The revenue from operations for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 is Nil. Income from other sources for the year 2014 is INR 3,08,90,001 which drops to INR 98,080 in the year 2015. As per the Balance sheet the Company holds an investment in agricultural land which costs INR 6,64,79,464. On 15th December 2015 1,00,916 shares were allotted for a premium of INR 190 per share to 7 Companies which are situated at Kolkatta or Howrah, one of which was raided by the IT Department.

Paryas Infosolutions Pvt Ltd

Satyendra Jain was first involved in Paryas Infosolutions Pvt Ltd (PIPL) from August 2007 when he was appointed as a Director. The Final accounts dated 31 March 2007 were signed by his wife Poonam. From August 2007 itself, the registered address of PIPL was changed to Jain’s residential address, the same which was used by ADPL. PIPL used this address till August 2015. In 2008, Jain and his wife owned the entire 10000 shares of the company. Both of them later extended loans to PIPL too.

As in the case of ADPL, Jain transferred his shares in PIPL to his wife in February 2015. Owing to shares being issued to other people, Poonam Jain’s net shareholding as on March 2015 was 1.74% in PIPL, yet even the latest Balancesheet was signed by her in her capacity as a Director.

Although the company’s name suggests otherwise, the Directors’ report of March 2015 stated that the main business activity of the company was pursuing investment in immovable properties. PIPL reported NIL turnover for the year ending 2014 and 2015. The only significant part of the balance sheet is that it holds agricultural lands costing INR 4,54,72,229.

Again, Jain cannot claim he was just an “investor” nor can he morally claim that as of now he has no connection with the company since even the latest available Balancesheet has been signed by his wife.

Indo MetalImpex Pvt Ltd

In Indo MetalImpex Pvt Ltd (IMPL) Jain and his wife were issued shares in March 2011. After this issue, they together held 23.53% of the shares of the company. In legal parlance, any share holding above 20% is considered to be of “significant influence”. The Final Accounts of March 2011 were signed by Satyendra Jain himself.

Again in February 2015, Jain transferred his shares to his wife Poonam. With this, at least till March 2015, Poonam was the single largest shareholder having 22.78% of the total shares of the company.

Again although the name suggests the company deals in import-export, the Directors’ report for March 2015 states that the main business of the company is to deal or invest in all kinds of properties. The balance sheet for year 2014 and 2015 shows Nil revenue from operations. IMPL owns agricultural land costing INR 6,90,49,527. The other significant point being it holds shares worth 56,00,000 in PIPL as per Balance sheet for the year 2015

IMPL also has about 31 other shareholders and most of which are based out of Kolkatta. 13 of these shareholders are companies sharing the same address: 85 Netaji Subhashchandra (NS) road. This was the address that was raided by the Income Tax Department in Kolkata.

Shell companies?
Shell companies?

All the above companies combined hold 18.33% in IMPL. Are these shell companies formed just to create a web of companies to avoid tracing the real person owning the company?

Again Satyendra Jain cannot claim to be a mere investor nor can he morally claim he has no connection with the company anymore since, his wife is the single largest shareholder, as per the latest data available.

Summary

Going by just the records available to public, one can say this: Satyendra Jain is intimately connected with these companies. All the companies are purely into the business of owning land properties in Delhi. Companies with the address 85 NS road, which were raided by the Income Tax for black-money and hawala transactions, own some portion in the above companies, either directly or indirectly. So if these Delhi-based companies are found to be involved in wrong-doing, it would be very hard for the Jains to avoid responsibility.

With inputs from @muglikar_

Income Disclosure Scheme – a “Tax” Surgical strike? Or is this just the lull before the storm?

“Hi, boss is quite worried. He feels he should do something. You know na those guys are roaming all around the city”.

Those guys” aren’t robbers, thieves, rioters, or terrorists. “Those guys” are Income Tax sleuths who were undertaking “surgical strikes” via raids at random business houses, during the tenure of the Income Disclosure Scheme, and the conversation is a real conversation which I had with a CFO of a firm.

A mission which lasted for 4 months just ended. The Income Disclosure Scheme of the Income Tax Department officially ended last night with reports saying more than Rs 65000 crores was reported as undisclosed income by various people in India, until 8pm on 30th September, and the amount is expected to increase. This is a very large amount, especially considering the scheme didn’t have a great start. This marks the end of scheme wherein the Income Tax officers used all tactics, saam, daam, dand, bhed.

The Income Disclosure Scheme was a scheme wherein people who had undisclosed income or assets (commonly called as black money) could come clean, pay tax and buy peace with the IT Department. The main benefits of this scheme were:

1. The tax rate was 45% on the amount voluntarily disclosed as opposed to a possible 60% (excluding interest) when the Income Tax Department detects tax evasion and issues penalty
2. Taxpayers were given the opportunity for staggered payment of tax in order to reduce hardships due to cash-crunch
3. It included an assurance of privacy to the people who came forward
4. Most importantly it promised immunity from prosecution and a few other laws, which would have been applicable if the Department had detected evasion on their own

So in a way, this was a welcome scheme for crooked businessmen, where they could buy peace of mind by paying a concessional rate of tax. But such schemes hinge on one crucial factor. When businessmen choose to evade taxes, they are playing the percentages game. They are betting that:

A. The Department will not be able to trace them and catch them
B. If at all they’re caught, they will get away cheaply either by hiring a hotshot tax professional or by bribing or a combination of both

Most crooked businessmen never even get detected or caught by the Tax Department. So the lure of an amnesty scheme would be low. Why give up my black money when the chances of getting caught and penalised are minuscule? Hence initially the scheme saw a lukewarm response. But then, some “surgical strikes” were required. The Tax Department played multiple cards to lure people to comply with the scheme:

1. They started off with a massive education cum awareness drive, with each officer being given a target of conducting at least a fixed number of meetings with tax professionals as well as businessmen, educating them about the scheme.

2. Businessmen were informally called to IT Department offices where the officers would flash the evidence they already had. The message was clear: We know everything about you, once the window closes, we will come for you. Better you get in line now and file under the IDS scheme. In some cases this might have even been bluffs, but it was a tactic.

3. Finally, as the deadline loomed, we heard news of raids being conducted, not only on the usual mid and large size suspects but even on roadside food stalls etc whose income would almost entirely be unaccounted. There were some concerns among the public that such small eateries were targeted, but reports say such people have declared over Rs 50 crores as black money, within Mumbai itself! Such raids have a ripple effect: You raid 1 guy and 10 other guys are woken from their slumber.

And all these efforts bore fruits, the kitty surged as the deadline neared. Some of the effect may not be captured in the IDS figures since many businessmen have chosen not to go for IDS, but just clean up their books, showing a truer picture rather than going with the same fudging which was going on for decades.

The key here is fear. For the first time in recent memory, the business community was actually scared that the Tax Department will screw them post the closure of the IDS scheme. How did this happen? It is obviously the impact of a clean no-nonsense leader, who is backing his tax sleuths to the hilt, who in turn know that they are being watched, because of which usual under the table settings wont work. The tax officers were also given targets, and would be held responsible for not meeting them, so any out-of-office “settlement” would mean trouble for the tax officers. Mind you, this is not a permanent shift in behaviour of businessmen and tax officials, but at least its a start.

With the IDS scheme and the way collections were augmented, by using fear as a tool, the Modi government has made its stand on black money crystal clear. At the same time, it is a huge political gambit from Modi. The business community is a traditional vote base and funding source for the BJP, which is seen to be a pro-business party. Already one can see some disgruntled voices in the medium-sized business lobby, the group which is not big enough to be fully clean, and not small enough to be immaterial, basically the prime target of the Tax Department.

And the amusing part is, all these complaints and grumblings came up during an amnesty scheme! Here a Government is giving crooks an opportunity to renounce their sins, pay up, and move on without getting penalised heavily, and on the other hand, a section of the crooked businessmen is crying foul. What they do not realise is that the real game will start now. Now that the window is closed, it is time for the IT Department to act on all the information they claimed to have. This was precisely the fear driven into the minds of the crooks, and now it is time follow-up on it.

Will the department do it? Does it really have all the information needed to go after the corrupt? They probably do have the information, since in today’s highly networked world, data flows seamlessly from sector to sector and the Tax Department has also sharpened its data mining tools. The only question remains will the Tax Department act? If they do act, will the cases be settled by “amicable settlements”  or will we see a new uncompromising side to the IT department?

The worst part of the upcoming storm would be the collateral damage. In trying to nail the crooks, one can easily expect a few honest businessmen being harassed. This will give rise to “Tax terrorism” and may affect the  ease of doing business in India, another pet project of PM Modi. It may very well become “Na khaaoonga, Na khaane doonga” vs “Ease of Doing Business”. This is where “surgical strikes” are needed, where the crooks are identified, isolated and brought to book without unduly harassing the honest taxpayer. One thing is for certain, if the Department decides to act on the massive information it claims to have, then business folk would have to endure a long and chilly winter. And if GST is on track for a release on 1st April, then the summer will also be painful for the tax evaders.

The Modi-Doval doctrine of “Offensive Defence” marks its arrival

OpIndia.com’s last post on the Uri attack, ended with this line:

At the moment, we must just trust our army to do what is needed, “at a time and place of their choosing.”

It was written in the backdrop of the reported counter attack which had taken place, but which was denied by the Indian army. Given the fact that no one could ever say whether it was a covert strike or it never happened, it was wise for all to just wait. Wait for the army to give it back. And now that time has come.

After more than two years in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally given shape to what the now National Security Advisor (Ajit Doval), had once famously described as the “Offensive defence” tactic of dealing with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The surgical strike in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) should be celebrated, for it displays India’s righteous resolve to inflict measured punishment, on those who seek to bleed India with terrorism. At the same time, attempt should be made, to place this strike, within the ambit of a wider foreign policy doctrine, which India has clearly adopted, in the last couple of months- one that has “Offensive Defence” written all over it.

The Diplomatic Offense

Ever since the Uri army base was attacked, Prime Minister Modi has stayed away from knee-jerk reactions, and mindless chest-thumping. He has stayed in the background, and allowed the experts to do their job. A level-headed Sushma Swaraj was sent to expedite Pakistan’s “diplomatic isolation” – at the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. As it turned out, the duo of a junior diplomat Eenam Gambhir, and India’s External Affairs Minister was enough to give voice to reason- something that was totally missing in the speech of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Any other government, and this would have been it. But little did Pakistan know that India had given up “strategic restraint”, in favour of “strategic retaliation”, and indeed “strategic isolation”. Top diplomats orchestrated the SAARC pull-out, by countries that matter, in the region. What is important to note is that the letters given by the likes of Bangladesh, and Afghanistan hold Pakistan just as guilty of spreading terrorism in their own countries. Therefore, what was “visible” was not arm-twisting by India, but the message that South Asia’s regional body- as a whole, had no place for Pakistan, given its establishment’s love affair with terrorism.

As far as the issues of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, and Indus Water Treaty (IWT) are concerned, the Prime Minister continues to be briefed by experts from the concerned Ministries. Chances are that the MFN status will be revoked. Business lobbies have also welcomed the prospect of such a revocation. So far as the IWT is concerned, India has announced its intent to scale up construction of dams, and move towards ending the unilateral concession, which it had granted to Pakistan. In doing so, India will not violate international law, for it will only be claiming its rightful share, as per the Treaty. Other options relating to a review of the Treaty itself, are also being considered.

Another major objective of our “diplomatic offense” has been responding to interference in Kashmir, by giving voice to the freedom struggle of Balochistan. In doing so, India has made it clear that the great game is not limited to Kashmir anymore. Open endorsement to the freedom struggles of Balochistan, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan was not made in passing. It is a discourse that India has held on to. Perhaps the first major step will be granting of asylum to Brahamdagh Bugti, whose application has been sent to Intelligence Bureau by the Home Minister, for vetting purposes. The final call will be taken by the Union Cabinet, soon enough.

The Military Offense

This is obviously not the first time that the Line of Control (LOC) has been crossed, but this is surely the only time (in recent memory) when the crossing has produced tangible results. This highlights the conviction that Prime Minister Modi has displayed. Gen (Retd) Bikram Singh, the former Chief of Army Staff, had the following words to say, in a TV interview:

“These kinds of operations have been done in the past. I’ll be honest with you .But, the scale at which it has happened, the political will after which it has unfolded is something to be appreciated. Earlier, it was left to the military to carry out. But this time the military operations have been supported entirely. I would say, they’ve been steered by political will, by political agenda.”[1]

The Indian Army, after Uri, clearly said that they reserve the right to retaliate at a time, and place of their choosing. The Prime Minister gave them the operational freedom, and the go-ahead to execute it as per their wish. Even so, the strike was a limited one, and conducted in a disciplined manner. The strike was on terrorists, and not on the military. The objective was not to take back the territory, but to send the message that such open attempts at infiltration will not be tolerated. What were the terrorists doing 3 kilometres away from the LOC, if not waiting for the opportune moment to infiltrate, quite possibly with the aid of cover firing from Pakistan Army? Such terrorist launch pads deserve to be targeted. Justice has been served, to the martyrs of Uri attack.

At the government level, immediate evacuation of border villages was ordered. This was done, quite predictably, to ensure that no civilian casualties are incurred, should Pakistan provoke India again, to save its face.

“Offensive Defence”

All this has been done, after engaging in more than two years of regular diplomacy. Attack after attack, PM Modi continued to engage. He paid a visit to Pakistan, and even laid a red carpet for a visit by their intelligence officers. All such efforts were subject to widespread condemnation by his own vote-bank, and yet he pursued them. This has helped, for the world can now see through the designs of the rogue state, which Pakistan is. India has converted its diplomatic setback into an advantage- one that it will now use to further justify its “offensive defence” doctrine.

The response of the international community illustrates that the world respects India’s choice of retaliation. In the statement by the United States (US), there was no condemnation, or censure of India’s strike. That NSA Doval was in touch with his American counterpart- Susan Rice, is further proof of the growing realisation that India has had it enough. Reports further specify that China, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have so far refused to issue statements de-legitimising India’s strike.[2] The fact that Pakistan is still giving contradictory statements regarding the surgical strike is causing further damage to whatever is left of its credibility. Till the time it doesn’t confirm, its so-called allies will have nothing to support it for. And if it does decide to confirm, it will end up implicating itself as a terrorist state.

The “boys” in Uniform have played well. And so has the man himself. Well done, Mr. Prime Minister.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5xy4R9VeIk

[2] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Surgical-strikes-US-slams-Pakistan-for-cross-border-terror-urge-calm-and-restraint/articleshow/54593508.cms

Jaane Mat Do Yaaron

It wasn’t very long ago that media (or press, as it was better known as) enjoyed near universal public trust and respect as the fourth pillar of democracy (the legislature, executive and judiciary being the first three). This because of its onerous role of keeping the other three pillars honest. It was rightfully considered as people’s watchdog, representing their voice against corruption, injustice, malpractices and all other forms of exploitation that the people were otherwise hapless to raise.

Not that there wasn’t cynicism against this even back then. Worries of big newspapers being in bed with politicians and bureaucrats have always existed. The classic Kundan Shah movie ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ was a tongue in cheek satire on this very relationship. The slapstick sequences including the hilarious Mahabharata scene apart, the movie portrayed mutual back scratching relationship between a newspaper editor and corrupt officials working towards the interests of some builders. Notwithstanding the huge success of the movie, the media continued to enjoy its high pedestal.

220px-jaane_bhi_do_yaaro_1983_film_poster

Possibly the reason was that before the era of social media, they had a monopoly on dissemination of information. So, as a common citizen if I wanted to express my disagreement with their point of view, the best option I had was to write a letter to the editor of a leading daily, and hope like hell that it would be published. Even in the off chance that such a letter, criticizing the very people deciding whether to publish it or not, was published, I had no way of knowing how others reacted to it. Of finding out how many people out there shared my opinion, connecting with such like-minded people and joining my voice to theirs to make a chorus loud enough for it to be heard over the raucous decibel levels of the mainstream media.

With the advent of social media on ubiquitous smart phones and other devices, powered by ever rising internet penetration, all this has changed. The stranglehold that newspapers and TV channels had long maintained on information has broken. And how. Today, a single tweet of some of the big influencers on twitter (many of whom are ordinary citizens) often has more views / impressions that the viewership of large TV channels. And this visibility is available at the low cost of a smartphone and internet connection.

This has resulted in a situation where the word of a media doyen is no longer above scrutiny, questioning and rebuttal. Somewhere along the way, scandals like the Nira Radia tapes affair and the Essar phone tapping scandal exposed the cosy, incestuous relations that the journalist – politician – corporate triad shared. Where favours, inside information and favourable reporting is fully convertible currency. This caused a major dent in the people’s confidence and belief in the word of all journalists. With information tools now available, it was much easier for Mr Average Singh to start questioning the duplicity of some journalists, who were seen as partisan, building their stories around a particular narrative they wanted to push to the public. Such as the narrative of 2002 Gujarat riots, Narendra Modi’s complicity in the same and the whole fear psychosis around the hell that would break loose if he became the Prime Minister.

And then their worst fears came true. Not only did Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister, he also got a majority in parliament on his own. The cabal that had so doggedly fought to keep this from happening slowly came to realize why this was even worse than they had feared. Because suddenly the gravy train came to a grinding halt. Government patronage in the form of junkets abroad and exclusive access to corridors of powers, allowing wheeling and dealing journalists to play power brokers, suddenly dried up.

The resulting backlash was in form of a concerted malicious media campaign to show the government in a bad light in any which way. So a stone thrown by a drunk miscreant became a communal attack on a religious institution. Stray, stupid utterances by unknown nobodies became indicators of the government and ruling party’s evil designs. The narrative of rising ‘Intolerance’ in the country was actively promoted. Deprivation made some so depraved that they were even willing to go along with the narrative of Pakistan against that of their own country, possibly forgetting the difference between opposing the government and opposing the nation. Some of them continued in the mistaken belief that their role was not reporting information but ‘shaping public opinion’.

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The backlash to the backlash was on social media, particularly on Twitter. The same people who had reposed their faith in the leadership of the prime minister questioned started posing counter questions to the journalists, tearing holes into the narrative they sought to build. These journalists reacted by dismissing those questioning them variously as ‘Sanghis’, ‘Internet Hindus’, ‘Bhakts’ and ‘trolls’. Instead of engaging in a dialogue and justifying their argument, they even threatened those who questioned them and their narrative. Possibly because the narrative itself was indefensible, being built on half-truths, conjectures and heresy.  The tone, tenor, and even the language used by some of these so called journalists would give even the most abusive of trolls a run for their money.

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There has even been an underhand attempt to try and stifle the freedom of expression on social media, ironically by the very people who are supposed to be the guardians of free speech.

The outcome of all this is that today, media has fallen below politicians, bureaucrats, police and judiciary as a profession in the eyes of the people. The following two polls are an illustration of this.

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Mainstream media is already facing a crisis of survival because of the shift in the way people consume news and information, relying more and more on crowd-sourcing online rather than conventional sources. While most media players are adapting to this change in form, they also need to take into account the threat to the credibility of the profession as a whole primarily because of the actions of a few desperate individuals who’re unable to stomach their own fall from the pedestal they had placed themselves on. Though unfair, it’s common for the whole herd being labelled because of a few black sheep. It’s time for the rest of the herd – those who continue to do their job honestly and in an unbiased manner – to disown the black sheep and cast them aside.

Jaane mat do yaaron – change or perish.

Intermediary Caste unrest: Is the nation sitting on a powder keg?

The silent Maratha protests in Maharashtra demanding reservation and repeal of Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (SC/ST Act) is unprecedented because it has brought together the Maratha groups that were till now widely regarded as too heterogeneous & diverse to forge any unity of purpose. The underlying motive is not the repeal of SC/ST Act; the alleged incident of rape and then subsequent burning of the girl belonging to the Maratha community by some Dalit boys was just the trigger needed for ignition.

Politics, the cooperative societies and the sugar industry have been largely dominated by the community in the state and Dalit politics is hardly in a stage to offer strong challenge to it. When we talk of the SC/ST Act, it is worth keeping in mind that out of 45000 such cases in the previous year, the conviction rate was less than 10 percent. So, to say, SC/ST Act is being misused to a large extent, is simply exaggerated.

The root cause of the Maratha discontentment is no access to reservation in public jobs & educational institutions. Disconnect with higher education & global process and agrarian distress have led to worsening of their socio-economic clout. The fact that the Maratha protests have kept distance from OBCs and dalits makes it pretty clear that they nurse some grudge towards the groups that are beneficiaries of reservation.

Let’s get out of Maharashtra and notice such mass uprisings & reservation demands in states like Haryana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan recently. The Patels, Jats, Gujjars and Kapus have been relatively affluent and dominant communities in agricultural hinterlands; they have enjoyed political power. All of a sudden, why they want reservation? Like the Marathas, they lack connect with global forces & higher education. Agriculture has deteriorated leaving public employment as the only viable option for the youths. When they see erstwhile marginalized groups doing better than them economically, their frustration multiplies.

The implementation of Mandal Commission report has legitimised the claims of dominant agricultural communities to reservation. It has widened the claims since reservation is now no longer confined to specific communities that had suffered historical atrocities. Reservation has become less about deprivation and more about political resource. All the communities think they can get reservation benefits if they have electoral numbers and strong community leaders. Since there is a ceiling of 50 percent imposed by the apex judiciary, the state governments can’t provide benefits to the demanding communities without curtailing the benefits of reserved communities.

This offers a Hobson choice for them. They are caught between the devil and the deep sea. The nation stands on the cusp of caste wars and it is high time, reservation policy is reviewed taking into account the changing socio-economic ground realities. Jats, Kapus, Marathas and Patels are feeling the pinch because there is a wide intra community socio-economic gap also.

The same applies to OBCs and Dalits. Only a small percentage has benefitted from reservation and the majority is still deprived. The reservation benefits have not evenly dispersed and have created layers within the OBCs/Dalits. Reservation boundary should have been process enabling groups to move within and move out based on socio-economic indicators but has any government thought about it? The status quo continues. No one wants to bell the cat.

Often one gets the lame excuse for inaction that reservation benefits can only be provided to those classes who are socially and educationally backward and economic criteria is simply unconstitutional. But then, how class became caste? Reasons for backwardness may not be caste alone but others also. The backwardness may stem from lack of education, lack of economic opportunities, lack of awareness and gender discrimination. Handicapped persons, transgender and displaced rootless people may owe their backwardness to factors other than caste. OBC reservation has a creamy layer which does not fall within the ambit of reservation; this layer is based on income which is an economic criteria.

Moreover, Mandal Commission while preparing the OBC list took 11 criteria into account – 4 were social, 4 were economic and 3 were educational. Economic yardsticks were always there and it would be naive to resist their introduction. Rather land possession should also be factored in economic yardsticks to strengthen the cause. Economic liberty is the very foundation of human emancipation and empowerment. If you want to empower a community, increase its economic choices & independence, education & health will see improvement and so will be the social standing.

Will the nation move away from the caste centric orientation of reservation and adopt the economic criteria and deprivation index? I doubt this will happen anytime soon. The judiciary, the civil society and sections of media may be nudging the political class to reservation review but our leaders seem too reticent and apprehensive of bringing the reservation genie out from the corked bottle. Don’t forget most of them are community leaders and adherents to vote bank politics. Social justice is akin to community justice. But then, portends are ominous.

More than ending backwardness and deprivation, the OBC reservation has acted as a political resource for the OBCs and the intermediate castes are annoyed, feeling cheated. The poor sections of the upper castes are also feeling victimized. Reservation benefits to upper OBCs whose socio-economic conditions are at par or even better than upper castes/intermediate castes in several states have led to intense heart burning. The unwillingness of the better off among reserved classes to abdicate reservation benefits in favour of their own less fortunate brethren, leave alone other social groups, has further muddied the waters.

In the coming days, there may be some sort of realignment of social forces as the upper castes & intermediate castes may come together for their cause. The options before the policy makers have constricted. With 50 percent of the population below 25 years and dwindling employment avenues, disconnect of the majority from globalization & education required for private sector entry and revival of identity politics based on caste & culture, the reservation politics may lead to more fractures in an already fragile social structure.

The importance of being Sushma Swaraj

This will be hard to believe today, but there was a time when Narendra Modi was a near-nobody in national politics. Way back in those times, a ‘Chintan Baithak‘ was organised in Shimla, post-2009 loss. It ended with the announcement that L.K. Advani will make way for the next generation. Sushma Swaraj, and Arun Jaitley were chosen as the new Leaders of Opposition. Both of them lacked the mass base that Modi can today boast about, but once ‘chosen’, they tirelessly gave voice to the anti-Congress , anti-Left perspective that was so badly needed in the country.

I strongly believe that the Anna movement was an important page in the history of BJP. The movement was a wake-up call. It made the party realise the importance of transforming itself from a ‘cadre-based’ to ‘mass-based’ party, and from an ‘ideology-driven’ party, to an ‘individual-driven’ party. The failure of traditional Left in India can be attributed to the failure in having successfully transformed, along the same lines. From introducing ‘membership by missed call’, to the search for a truly mass leader, a lot changed. Anna movement’s biggest success was making the masses realise the importance of leveraging their collective strength. It made politics ‘interesting’ again. It introduced a new generation to politics- a generation that BJP was eager to tap into its own party.

Modi’s sudden elevation in BJP was nothing short of magical. It was a carefully orchestrated ‘mission’. Nitin Gadkari got discredited due to leaked files (charges which turned out to be false later). Soon after becoming the President (almost overnight, following Gadkari’s fall), Rajnath Singh appointed Modi as the PM candidate, and Amit Shah as the incharge of UP. For the elections, Arun Jaitley was given his favourite seat, so was Rajnath himself. How they orchestrated this ‘mission’, will be a subject of history writing in the years, and decades to come. But the fact remains that while all of this was happening, there was someone who ‘allowed’ Modi to rise. She may not have had the mass base to win as big as him, but she had enough political positioning, to deny him one, by involving him in a prolonged internal feud of succession. She could have revolted, but she instead placated the ones who were revolting for her. She was the first one to rush to Advani ‘s residence, when he shook the nation by momentarily resigning from the party he not only founded, but built- brick by brick, and made it the national force that it eventually turned out to be. Mrs. Swaraj went to Goa, where Modi’s name was announced as the campaign committee chief. She gave him her stamp of approval, soon enough.

Sushma Swaraj was no Modi fangirl, something that looks like a criteria, to rise in this “new” BJP. But she understood the jolt that the party, and the country would have faced, had she acted as irresponsibly as the likes of Advani. So, the de-facto, ‘chosen’ PM-in waiting (who until a decade back was the prime challenger to the Gandhis) stepped aside, and made way for Modi. This was probably because she understood that while she may be the ‘chosen’ one, Modi was the one the cadres, wanted to ‘elect’.

During General Elections, reports came that she was fighting a lone battle for her own seat. Only insiders can tell if this was true, but what no one can deny is that she was not a part of the ‘core’ team. Arun Jaitley turned out to be everything that the fictional Frank Underwood initially wanted to be (that is, be the one who sends his man to the White House, and act as his Deputy). Rajnath Singh made himself available to Modi, when he needed someone like him the most, and this gave a fresh life to his dying political career. As for Mrs. Sushma, she quietly campaigned, and earned herself the External Affairs portfolio. As External Affairs Minister, she has been eclipsed by Modi completely- to the extent that he decides the high-profile officials of her Ministry. Yet, there has been no visible sign of resentment. I do not suggest that Modi has wronged her; for this was unavoidable. As PM, his stature is higher, and deserves a central position in India’s diplomacy. Even so, given the egos involved, I cannot imagine Modi giving this kind of leeway to his internal competitors (of the same age).

Today, BJP has changed. “Modi Mantra”, and “Modi for India” booklets can be seen in the hands of all National Executive members. Two men from a single state (Gujarat), have, in a short period of 3-4 years, established their rule over the now-country’s largest political party.

sushma-swaraj-greets-vajpayee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a proud moment, to see her become India’s voice, at the UN General Assembly. The whole country was looking forward to the speech, and she did a fine job with it. She gave it hard to Nawaz Sharif, and in a language that he can very well understand. Had Atal Bihari Vajpayee been healthy today, he would have surely seen a bit of himself in her, for he too gave some of these fiery Hindi speeches, at the United Nations.

Many will argue that the Bharatiya Janata Party has evolved, and transformed for good. Maybe it has. But even so, the journey is one memorable story- one that deserves to be told, again and again. For lovers of Indian politics like me, the “old” BJP’s transformation will remain one of the most fascinating subjects of study. And so, this is to the woman, who is the last of the crop of leaders, who really believed in “Nation first, Party second, Individual last”.

Well done, Ms. Swaraj. The country stands behind you. As for BJP, only Lord Ram can predict what lies ahead, once Modi retires. That will be yet another important page in BJP’s history.

Rafale deal: Is it really an ‘exorbitant deal’ as claimed by ‘experts’

A French fighter aircraft backs away after refueling from a KC-135 Stratotanker March 17, 2013, over Africa. The 351st Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, which flies the tankers, completed the 100th refueling mission of French fighter aircraft conducting operations over Mali. Airmen and aircraft from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, deployed as the 351st EARS to a location in southwest Europe on Jan. 26, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jason Smith)

Last week, the Union cabinet cleared the long-awaited purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation. With this Rs 58000 crore deal, the nearly two-decade-long Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) saga finally comes to an end. All 36 planes will be delivered to India in a span of 66 months.

The deal was inked after negotiations that lasted close to 18 months, with the Indian side finally bringing down the price by approximately Rs 2460 crores, according to Defence Ministry sources. Even after this, we saw some memes on social media claiming that this was a very bad deal financially:

A sample of the memes floating around
A sample of the memes floating around

Even defence “experts” like Saikat Datta and Ajai Shukla raised their doubts. Saikat writes (emphasis added):

Some have claimed that the Indian government managed to bring the price down significantly to about Rs 58,000 crore. But different figures have been provided by the defence minister. The original price for 126 aircraft was pegged at Rs 90,000 crore, he said in an interview to Doordarshan on April 13, 2015. He revised this figure to Rs 1.3 lakh crore in a subsequent interview to PTI. How this figure was escalated by the defence minister has not been explained. However, if the earlier figure of Rs 90,000 crore is correct then the 36 aircraft are nearly double the cost of the original deal to buy 126 of them.

Ajai Shukla wrote in his first blog, parroted an identical argument, as if both he and Saikat were fed by the same source  (emphasis added):

Speaking to Doordarshan on April 13, 2015, Parrikar had revealed Rafale’s bid for 126 fighters, stating: “When you talk of 126 [Rafale] aircraft, it becomes a purchase of about Rs 90,000 crore”, i.e. Rs 715 crore per fighter after adding all costs. Now Parrikar would be buying 36 Rafale fighters for Euro 7.8 billion (Rs 58,000 crore), which is over Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft — more than double the earlier price

So is the latest Rafale deal really a bad one? Not really, considering that the UPA’s Rafale Deal and the latest deal are incomparable as far as the details are concerned, hence comparing the costs of the two without factoring in the differences is basically intellectual dishonesty.

The original deal for the Rafale was indeed pegged at around Rs 90,000 crore during the UPA era sometime in 2012. But from there till now when the deal was actually finalised, many terms and conditions have changed. India has managed to squeeze in many add-ons into the new deal.

1. Dassault has agreed to make India-specific modifications to the planes, allowing the integration of Israeli helmet-mounted displays. The aircraft will be customised in line with the requirements of the IAF which include radar warning receiver, Doppler beam radar, infrared search and track among others.

2. The deal includes the supply of Meteor, an air to air missile, and Storm Shadow (also known as SCALP), an air-launched cruise missile with a range of over 560 km, with the Rafales. These additions mean the IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and Tibet while still staying within India’s own territorial boundary.

3. The deal is said to include a provision for a complete transfer of technology, including for the Thales RBE2-AA radar and software source code, spare parts and maintenance. The French have agreed to supply spares for a period of seven years at initial cost.

4. In addition, the French are also guaranteeing performance-based logistics support, which means that 75 per cent of the fleet will have to be airworthy at any given time. Till three years ago, only about 48 per cent of the Sukhoi fleet was able to fly at any given time, because of poor maintenance.

5. The deal provides for free training of 9 IAF personnel, including three pilots. The IAF will also get a guarantee for an additional 60 hours for the trainer version of Rafale fighters, and a concession to keep the weapons storage in France for an additional six months without any charge (in case the Indian infrastructure is not ready for storing the weapons).

6. The deal comes with a 50% offset clause which means that Indian companies, big and small, will get businesses worth over €3 billion. One main point of the offset was that 74% of it has to be imported from India. This means a lot of business and job opportunities in India, people familiar with the matter said.

7. The deal price was calculated on actual cost (price as on today) plus European inflation indices. In order to further reduce costs, the MoD has capped the European Inflation Indices to maximum 3.5 per cent a year. Thus, if inflation indices go down, India will have to pay less. Even if it goes up India will not pay more than 3.5 per cent increase. By negotiating the inflation at actual indices, but limited to 3.5 per cent, in comparison to 4 per cent or more in earlier deals, we are said to save Rs 4,000-14,000 crore over the deal

8. In the original proposal, the first batch of 18 planes were to be manufactured in France, and the next 108 were to be manufactured in India. Later, as negotiations began, it was discovered that the cost would go up substantially (in fact to the tune of Rs 150 crore per plane) since the cost of labour man hours in India were 2.7 times higher than in France. In contrast, the new Rafale deal is for purchase of 36 aircraft in ready to fly condition meaning the planes would be made in France, eliminating the above price escalation.

Thus, in the original UPA Rafale deal, as the graphic above shows, the price for a Rafale jet itself, just the aircraft, as fixed in 2012 odd was approximately Rs 629 crores per aircraft. This is excluding the estimated price increase of approximately Rs 150 crores per aircraft due to difference in labour rates, as explained

In the latest Rafale Deal which has been finalised, the “plain vanilla price” (of just the aircraft, excluding above add-ons) is about Rs 712 crores per aircraft as per the Economic Times and about Rs 687 crores as per PTI.

Ajai Shukla, in his first blog, claimed that the new price was “over Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft”. In the same blog, he then deducted some amount for all the add-ons and arrived at “price of each at over Rs 1,000 crore” per aircraft, Finally, in his second blog he conceded that the bare-bones price of each aircraft would be around Rs 686 crores per aircraft:

ajaishukla rafale
Rapid cost de-escalation?

So this defence “expert” Ajai Shukla has pegged 3 different prices per aircraft over the span of 2 blogs over 2 days. What caused this change of facts? In the second blog he claimed to have talked to MoD Officials. So are we to conclude, the assertions in the first blog were largely ill-informed “facts” which were not verified?

Saikat Datta too had made similar claims:  “the 36 aircraft are nearly double the cost of the original deal to buy 126 of them”. While Ajai Shukla at least mentioned some of the add-ons which were obtained, which explained the change in cost, Saikat Datta was completely silent on all these aspects, even though they were in public domain. Being a journalist on the defence beat, one would expect him to surely know about these. In fact other journalists had a faint idea about the add-ons even back in May 2015. Certainly strange that Saikat Datta completely failed to mention them and in fact even claimed “How this figure was escalated by the defence minister has not been explained”.

Irrespective of above ramblings by “experts” the point is this: The price of just the aircraft, has risen from about Rs 629 crores in 2012 to about Rs 685 crores in 2016 which is a paltry CAGR of 2.16%, and can be easily attributed to inflation and currency fluctuation. Only a fool would expect the price to be constant over 4 years.

In totality, the Rafale deal seems to be a good proposition. Of course just 36 aircraft will not suffice and India will soon have to start negotiations for further procurement, but this indeed is a good deal to close. In the mean-time, it is advisable to take unverified opinions with a truckload of salt, especially after revelations of the existence of “Agusta Patrakars”, journalists who were on the payroll of defence companies during the Agusta-Westland scam.

How the ‘intellectual mafia’ works every time there is terrorist attack

After carefully following the discourse in the mainstream media and social media and especially the comments of those who set the agenda and affect the mindset of people, I am shocked, yet not surprised, to note how some people function in India and how their action is not in the interest of the country, people, and our army. I am using the phrase “Intellectual Mafia” to describe these people. They work in a group though it will appear as if they are working as individuals.

People like Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Rajdeep Sardesai, Karan Thapar and many other mushroomed “intellectuals” and their minions who are sympathetic to the Indian version of the Left (which believes in: hate India, hate nationalists, hate Indian culture and of course, hate oppressive Indian army), function in two stages every time there is a terror attack. I followed their discourse just after the Uri attack and these are the observations:

Stage 1: Just after the terrorist attack, they will show that they are in sync with the larger consensus of the country, which is to punish those who carried out the attack. See tweets of Shekhar, Barkha, and also debates just after the attack:

Note the topic of debate by Dutt just after the attack. This will change as we move to stage 2:

Stage 2: As the days pass, people tend to forget or rather get involved with their own work and life, and this is when the intellectual mafia subtly start changing the narrative. Many minions will keep quiet during stage 1, as their opinion would invite severe criticism. Now Barkha, through her debate and others through articles and tweets will start talking about how we should show restraint and not hurt Pakistan. It is now when the minions will come out of their holes and start voicing their opinion in support of narrative being set by the likes of Barkha.

Now such minions will find themselves invited as guests on many TV shows. During stage 1, you will hardly find people in debates who will suggest restraint, because the media house was simply pandering to the national mood. In stage 2, someone like Jyoti Malhotra will now appear as an expert and talk about restraint and how a particular way of hurting Pakistan is not good. It is also the time when confused souls, like Rahul Kanwal, will follow the agenda of Barkha.

Taking the agenda forward, Barkha through her show tried to bring down the idea of teaching Pakistan a lesson by breaking of Indus Water Treaty. Of course she invited the kind of people who will toe her own line of thought. WSJ columnist Sadanand Dhume confronted her and pointed out how she had carefully chosen her guests:

We also had a columnist suggest the use of pen instead of a sword. I fail to understand why geniuses like herself don’t relocate to border areas in the Valley. For their safety, we should give them a bag full of pens of all shades and varieties and for the shield, we should give them books written by Arundhati Roy, or a report prepared by Amnesty International. We can even set up a fund for these geniuses to buy pens and books for their ultimate service to the nation at the border.

In my opinion, this is how it works: These so called experts and opinion makers wait for few days and see if the Government is going for direct action. If it does not happen and it is unlikely it will happen in next few days, they will take down all the other ideas which may hurt Pakistan by saying this is not a correct way. We should have gone for direct action.

Seen-on-TV Jyoti Malhotra, in her article in Indian express, asks Modi to start talking to Nawaz again. After countless attacks and when it is clear that Pakistan supports terrorism and unrest in India, how come this “expert” comes up with this fantastic idea? It is India’s tragedy that such pathetic losers with no sense of reality are treated as experts. Here is the confused soul Rahul Kanwal who invited her in his debate on Indus Water Treaty. No prize for guessing whether she supported breaking down of a treaty or keeping it intact.

The behaviour of our pseudo-liberals is not surprising. During the pan India discussion about JNU incident on 9th February 2016, it was clear that these people supported those who chant “Bharat tere tukde honge”. Of course, they used Freedom of Speech argument but it will be foolish in our part to not miss the message and their mindset in supporting such a statement.

Finally, I would like to apologise to the martyrs of Uri attack and all other attacks on behalf of all citizens of India that we allow intellectual mafias in our land.

I hope one day we will see India where the likes of Barkha, Rajdeep, and Co are not setting the agenda. India must have wasted countless attempts at trying to please these so-called experts on such matters of foreign policy, without realising that their agenda was not in the best interest of the nation. Sooner the masks fall off such people, sooner Indians realise that they are being fed propaganda in the name of unbiased opinions.

What happens in Kairana stays in Kairana – How the media turned the truth into a lie

Earlier in the summer of this year, a renowned writer of military-themed fiction tweeted thus:

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So true. Someone has to stop people from making exaggerated claims like Malda once being a part of India. And someone really needs to stop crazy Hindu males from making claims about the existence of some fabricated place called “Kairana”, where Hindu families used to be allowed to stay.

Oh wait, those things will be tweeted by the Shekhar Guptas of a future generation, perhaps 50 years from now.

For now, this Shekhar Gupta is saying that nothing happened in Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana. Hopefully, that villager type BJP MP called Hukum Singh has learned a valuable lesson about the importance of verifying facts, preferably by studying the standards set by The Indian Express.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw this story yesterday.

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Now since I do not happen to be a published author with information about secret movements of Indian Army units, I felt it was necessary to verify what has really been said and what hasn’t. This journey took me to the website of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), where I found this report:

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(http://nhrc.nic.in/dispArchive.asp?fno=24109)

Let’s the NHRC explain in its own words what triggered their enquiry:

The Commission received a complaint from Miss Monika Arora, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and convener of an NGO stating that families of a particular religion are leaving Kairana area of Western UP due to fear of criminals. It had been alleged that a woman belonging to Kashyap caste was abducted, gang-raped and killed, yet no action was taken by the police against the offenders.

I am getting ready to read about how “senior BJP voices” lent credence to all this kind of “complete fabrication”, aren’t you? Let’s keep reading the NHRC release:

It was found to be correct that the victim Smt. Guddi @ Surendri (Kashyap family), as mentioned in the complaint, was kidnapped on 4.4.2016 and was subsequently murdered by Kurban, Mohsin and others.”

Wait, what? How can that be? Doesn’t the NHRC know that senior media voices have already lent credence to the fabrication theory? Oh and for the sake of Indian secularism, I do hope that the real name of Mr Kurban is Krishna and the real name of Mr Mohsin is Mahesh.

What else is in the report?

The matter was reported to the police of PS Kairana on 5/4/2016 by Sh. Sangat, husband of the victim Smt. Guddi @ Surendri, but the police neither registered an FIR in this regard nor started to search for Smt. Guddi @ Surendri the same day i.e. on 5.4.2016.

Come on UP police. You have been acting as if this woman wasn’t killed by Gau Rakshaks. Perhaps the local infrastructure in Kairana is incapable of handling high profile visits from India’s Chief Minister, Shri Arvind Kejriwal. Or maybe it’s just that India’s intellectuals don’t have any awards left to return.

Here is point number 12. from the NHRC release:

At least 24 witnesses stated that the youths of the specific majority community (Muslims) in Kairana town pass lewd/taunting remarks against the females of the specific minority community in Kairana town. Due to this, females of the specific minority community (Hindus) in Kairana town avoid going outside frequently. However, they could not gather the courage to report the matter to the police for the legal action.”

Ok, ok, this kind of compromise solution where Hindu women cannot get outside their homes and cannot talk to police is not ideal. But, have you considered that Hindu women being forced to stay indoors actually keeps men of the peaceful community from having to murder them? Please read the AIMPLB report on triple talaq for more on this line of reasoning. You may also like to consult eminent feminist Ms Flavia Agnes. She is a renowned expert at finding the “positives for women” in situations such as these.

Here is point 15 from the  NHRC release:

The police record reveals that both Sh. Shiv Charan and Sh. Rajender (two businessmen) were threatened to pay protection/extortion money by the notorious gangster Sh. Mukeem Kala. Similarly, four other prominent businessmen of Kairana Market shown in the list issued by the Hon’ble MP Kairana at Sl.No. 2,3,5, & 17 have made the same allegations.

So, the businessmen in the list issued by the “Hon’ble MP Kairana” admitted they were being threatened by gangster Sh. Mukeem Kala. But why was the NHRC wasting its time on a list that has already been rejected by honourable members of the media?

Here is point 16 from the NHRC release:

The notorious dreaded gang leader Sh. Mukim Kala had committed at least 47 cases of Robbery/Murder/ Dacoity/Extortion/Violation of Arms Act during the span of just 05 years from 2010 to 2015, in the States of UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand involving the amount of crores of rupees and robbing of Govt. Arms/Ammunition.

Hmmm… seems all that Mr. Mukim Kala is missing is a guard of honour with 400 SUVs. He needs to expand his activities slightly further east to obtain that distinction.

Here is point 18:

In 2013, the post-rehabilitation scenario resulting in the resettlement of about 25/30 thousand members of Muslims Community in Kairana Town from district Muzaffarnagar, UP, the demography of Kairana town has changed in favour of the Muslim Community becoming the more dominating and majority community. Most of the witnesses examined and victims feel that the rehabilitation in 2013 has permanently changed the social situation in Kairana town and has led to further deterioration of law and order situation.

And the all-important point no. 19 :

Most of the witnesses stated that many families migrated due to threats pertaining to increase in crime and deterioration of Law and Order situation.

End of story. Yes, Hukum Singh was right. But more importantly, the truth became a lie.

That bitter taste in our mouth is the price we pay for having allowed the left wing to monopolize the media space. This has turned into a standard operating procedure for the secular brigade each time they are faced with obvious wrongdoing of their own. They start a crazy rumour about the story being “fabricated” and fan it all across the public discourse with the help of eager media surrogates. The right-wing ends up responding to the crazy conspiracy theory and then charges fly back and forth. In this din, the original story gets muddled and is forgotten.

This is what happened in JNU and this is what happened in Kairana too. In JNU they said the videos were fake and in Kairana they said the list was fake. The right wing ended up responding to the accusations and the story got muddled. The truth in both cases emerged months later, but by then the left had succeeded in its purpose. The story had been forgotten and no one cared any more.

What to make of the report that 20 terrorists were killed by special forces across LoC

Indians across political affiliations, regions and backgrounds were asking for only one thing after the ghastly Uri terror attack: That India must hit back. Sure they differed on the nature of the retaliation, but no one wanted the Indian army to sit back and let the enemy gloat.

And then late last night, we got the news that at least 20 terrorists had been neutralised in a daring cross-LoC operation by the Indian Army in response to the Uri attack. The story was broken by a web magazine named The Quint. The report said:

Two units of the elite 2 Paras comprising 18-20 soldiers flew across the LoC in the Uri sector in military helicopters and carried out an operation that killed at least 20 suspected terrorists across three terror camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). Total casualties, including those injured, could be as high as 200, sources said.

As soon as this news broke out, social media began debating whether it was true. Questions were raised as to how such a big news was not broken by any of the usual mainstream media suspects. So what could be the truth?

Quint on its part has stuck to the report. The Quint Editorial Director fully backed the report. In the original piece, Quint had mentioned that military sources revealed this information to them, which was further confirmed with two other independent sources. Today, an update to the story says:

In light of the reactions to this article, The Quint decided to reconfirm the information from its sources. We stand by our story.

Going by general media standards, it is rare to see a media house openly declare that they have confirmed a story from multiple sources. Quint also pointed to some circumstantial evidence. Pakistan’s national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had cancelled flights to northern Pakistani cities due to “air space restrictions”. The PIA called off flights to Gilgit and Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Chitral in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

No reason  was given for the closure of air space but officials said that Pakistani warplanes might be in the air to keep vigil due to Indo-Pak tensions after the Uri attack. Were they Pakistani warplanes or did they know that Indian ops were on?

Quint also chose to highlight the Defence Minister’s statement:

“Won’t go into details of what India can do, but sometimes knee-jerk reaction is required.”

Surely the Defence Minister cannot reveal details of covert ops, so was this just a hint of the operations being carried out?

The reaction on social media was mixed. Some users who had tweeted indications of such action 24 hours before the story broke, claimed vindication. Yet some other dismissed this report as untrue and based on a WhatsApp rumour.

National Security Analyst Nitin Gokhale said he had no information about such an operation:

Journalist Shiv Aroor who has been on the defence beat also trashed the report as a Whatsapp rumour, saying that the army vehemently denies it:

On the other hand a defence correspondent Sumann Sharma fully backed the Quint report:

She claimed that the report was “fully checked” and that troops had been flown back to safety as well. She claimed that a denial from the army was obvious since it was a covert operation.

The entire episode was reminiscent of the cross-border strike in Myanmar last year, where details of the event were shrouded in secrecy. While media reports and sources claimed it was a cross-border attack, the army had stated that the operations were at two locations along the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Nagaland. It was only later that Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said that it was a cross-border operation. One report mentioned that many such operations had been conducted in the past, but “Only a few of these operations have been acknowledged so far”.

The reason for this is easy to understand. Firstly, no nation would like to openly admit that they violated the sovereignty of another nation by intruding into their territory. In Kashmir, crossing the LoC would mean defying the Simla Agreement of 1972, which said that both sides must respect the Line of Control. Any such transgression would allow Pakistan to cry victim. Secondly, revealing details of such operations can endanger the men involved in the mission. Hence secrecy could be key.

Coming back to the current case, it is indeed difficult to say either way. It is understandable that the army would not like to confirm covert operations, especially during or soon after the operations take place. It is highly possible that once they came to know that news had been leaked, they began leaking news to deny the existence of such an operation in order to secure troops and maintain the covert nature of the operation.

On the other hand it is also possible that the entire thing never happened. Indian media has been earlier found cooking up stories. But in this case, the media house Quint categorically states the number of sources it has confirmed it from, plus the circumstantial evidence. Generally when a media house gets it wrong, these two factors are missing.

All said and done, at this moment all we can do is wait. Wait for the army or any official source to confirm any such news. We may get a Myanmar-esque confirmation that the operations were within Indian territory and not PoK. Or we may not even get any confirmation of the incident anytime soon, since it was a covert operation. Or we may get some news once the UNGA meet ends. And it may even so happen that this attack is never confirmed, owing to the Simla Agreement issue. At the moment, we must just trust our army to do what is needed, “at a time and place of their choosing“.

Kejriwal – the making of an insecure leader – a personal experience

Last week was quite an eventful one. I had received a criminal defamation notice for damaging Arvind Kejriwal’s reputation as a ‘World Renowned Leader’. I giggled after remembering what I thought of him as a leader. The notice was apparently for a tweet I had put on 20th Aug 2016. It had said

‘Kejriwal had 11.5M followers till few days back, now 8.7M! TOI says twitter suspended 2.4L accnts 4 promoting terror!’

Twitterati seemed to have found this association meaningful. The tweet got 800 retweets, 470 likes & of-course dozens of abuses from self proclaimed Kejriwal supporters.

I had learnt during my management days that insecure leaders dislike alternate voices and are likely to crush such people using force to muzzle their voice. A simple search on linkedin threw some more information.

What does an insecure leader look like?

  1. They surround themselves with people they can control.
  2. They misinterpret other people’s motives to fit their story.
  3. They look at those who work for them as employees, not their team.
  4. They consider anyone “disloyal” who disagrees with them.
  5. They mishandle conflict

Few leadership experts further share : –

The root cause of insecurity is a lack of character development. Insecure leaders never develop people. They replace them. ~ John C. Maxwell

A quick look at Kejriwal’s actions of last few years shows a theoretically perfect match. I need not repeat his daily rants of ‘he not being able to do his work because of someone else’ or ‘the unceremonious ousters of those in party who were more capable or smarter than him’. His new core team consists of those sycophants who would just echo everything he says.

The insecure leader got threatened by the tweet & with a purpose to intimidate, a legal notice of criminal defamation was sent to me which i received on 7th Sep

Pt 6 of the notice said

Your tweet is a direct attack on Mr Arvind Kejriwal who alongside of being the National Convener of Aam Aadmi Party, is also the Chief Minister of Delhi. Mr Arvind Kejriwal is a world renowned political leader and public rights activist who holds very high repute & public standing not only in India but across the world. By attacking Mr Arvind Kejriwal using fabricated and malicious content you are not only damaging his untarnished image but also hurting sentiments of millions of voters and supporters.

Pt 9 had this warning

I on behalf of and for my client will initiate legal proceedings including but not limited to pursuing a criminal defamation case against you. Further, you will be held liable for any monetary and legal damages which my client seeks on behalf of his organization and it’s office bearers. Please stand informed, that your liability and exposure under such legal action would be considerable.

If one doesn’t consider the insecurity angle for this ‘world renowned leader’, it is still hard to believe that he is the same leader who contested the defamation law in supreme court as being against freedom of expression would get rattled from a tweet by an ordinary person.

My reply may have further rattled the gang, if the use of choicest of words by them is any indicator. The reply went viral. It was retweeted more than 2600 times and got covered by few online portals including IndiaTtoday, Catch News, OpIndia, Shankhnaad etc. Kejriwal’s IT team unleashed their most abusive of trolls on me. Next three days there were regular attempts to hack my twitter account.

Kejriwal’s calling Shekhar Gupta a ‘Dalal’, LG Jung to be BJP agent, PM Modi a Psychopath & Coward, using phrases like ArnabModiKaKuttaHai would not utterly surprise someone who has spent some time with him and knows him significantly well.

Being Insecure isn’t Kejriwal’s only problem. He is utterly unimaginative & perhaps suffers from low self confidence out of this. I confidently put this up, as learnt during a random meeting with Mr. Kejriwal few years back. The surrounding was calm, and he was in his true self. It was in Aug 2012 during a railway travel in Bhopal Shatabdi from Delhi to Jhansi. Although it was after the Anna protest but no one seemed to have noticed or recognized him in the train. He was sitting with his entire row lying vacant. I recognized him but since no one else was paying attention so I went & verified with TTE. His name was mentioned as ‘A.Kejriwal’. I quickly went & requested him for the seat next to him, after all  he was an emerging leader and the youth had started looking up to him.

It was 7am and for the next three hours I got an opportunity to know him as a person. Within ten minutes into discussion he flashed his blackberry mobile to show me the kind of response the movement was getting from youth across the country. The intensity of his enthusiasm was visible. In the same breathe he also put forth his concern. He said these youth have to be kept engaged otherwise they will again hook to some other movement/ person. Much of the time afterwards was spent bouncing off ideas which would keep youth engaged. He was in his true self, in rage but with no concrete idea or thought to work out issues that the country is dealing with.

At Jhansi railway station there were 15-20 people waiting for him with banners & drums. He went in haste but left me in thoughts. I was deeply shocked at his thought process. His only focus during the entire discussion was to keep youth engaged so that they stay in tune or in control. Nowhere was he interested in utilizing their energies for some constructive work or nation building or anything positive. That was nowhere in the agenda. The entire agenda was very selfish and self centred. I prayed he never gets a position where youth have to look up to him for direction otherwise he will just dis-orient them for his personal gains. I was disheartened by this meeting. It was a second coincidence that our return was together and separated by few seats only. Since many people had come to see him off, after the train started many passengers wanted to meet & get clicked with him. I was otherwise also not interested in continuing any further discussion. The initial meeting was enough for me to form an opinion about him.

Almost four years after that travel journey I see the horror unfolding especially on social media. He is singularly responsible for pulling down the level of discourse. His consistent and shameless use of cuss words to incite youngsters for his political gains has permanently dented the power of this medium for any constructive use in participative democracy.

However, with the unfolding of events in last month one can atleast take some sigh of relief that Kejriwal is finally getting exposed. Finally a section of media as well as public are asking for his accountability. Finally his tongue is getting trimmed.

Wars have Failed us, so has ‘Aman ki Asha’, but we still have an option

The idea of a sovereign Pakistan was based upon a hate-filled two-nation theory. The idea was realised by successfully executing a mass cleansing programme, called ‘Direct Action Day’. Even before the boundary lines could be drawn, Pakistan infiltrated into the independent kingdom of Kashmir. India rushed to Kashmir’s defence, when invited by Maharaja Hari Singh. Seven decades later, it is still the same story. They continue to infiltrate, and we continue to defend. A sum total of seven major terror attacks have been conducted against the Indian Armed Forces, in the last one year. This calls for introspection; for our policy vis-à-vis Pakistan, lacks coherence. The government has to stop flirting with the various possibilities that exist, and show some resolve. In simple words, it must act, keeping in mind a long-term plan.

When I say India must act, I do not suggest that we go for a full-scale direct war with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We have fought (and won) many of them. And Pakistan must remember, that were it to engage in any sort of territorial adventurism, India will treat it no less than an invitation to re-draw the territorial map of Pakistan. But the point is, a war (especially when one is the aggressor) cannot lead to a sustainable solution. Barring the satisfaction of having stood for Bangladesh’s freedom, there is not much that India has achieved. This is also because the ‘Indian’ advantage gained in the Bangladesh war (1971) was heavily compromised in the Shimla Agreement. Further, given the realities of today’s world (politics, economy, diplomacy), there is very little that India stands to gain from a full-scale direct confrontation. Given our aspirations, we cannot afford to be caught up with the economic and diplomatic consequences of a full-scale conflict.

We must, however, remember that if wars have failed, so have the attempts at peaceful cooperation. India-Pakistan relationship is a bit like business cycles, in the sense that it exhibits a predictable pattern. When we fight, we suspend all relations. Then, we get back to the ‘table’, with the utopian dream (Aman ki Asha), that all of our conflicts can be resolved by hugs, and handshakes.

But even before plausible ideas can be discussed, we are forced to walk away, the moment India’s integrity is challenged once again. At some point, we have to ask ourselves, some very uncomfortable questions. Given all that India has set out to achieve, can we afford to drain our time, energy, and resources on restoring our relations with one failed state? Let us take a few examples. We granted Pakistan, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tag, with the hope that trade, and commerce will usher in normalcy. Till date, Pakistan has not returned the favour. It has categorically stated that it has no plans of doing that, anytime soon. India invited Pakistan to investigate the Pathankot attack, hoping that it would yield something that sharing dossiers (on 26/11 Mumbai attacks) didn’t. But all in vain. From the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), to a seat on the UN Security Council table, Pakistan opposes every move that India makes, to realise its true potential. Sartaj Aziz openly takes pride in the fact that Nawaz Sharif wrote to 17 countries, to prevent India from getting the NSG membership. For him, all I have, is Vajpayee’s warning- एक नहीं, दो नहीं, करो बीसों समझौते, पर स्वतंत्र भारत का मस्तक नहीं झुकेगा |

This is not it. Some of Pakistan’s agents also work in Kashmir. They meet the Pakistan High Commissioner, but refuse to engage with the democratic leaders of their ‘home’ nation. Pakistan continues to sponsor them. On 5th February, each year, the state of Pakistan observes Kashmir Solidarity Day, as a national holiday.

It will be preposterous to assume that every Pakistani is an enemy of India. But facts prove that the Pakistani establishment is one, and should be treated as one. The ‘state’ openly allows the ‘non-state’ actors to do as they please. It is, therefore, complicit in the campaign to break India into a thousand pieces. And anyone who operates with a design of that sort, deserves just one ‘status’- that of an enemy. This is a fact that we should make it clear to the world by-and large, as loud and clear as we can.

Given that we are a responsible power, we will deal with Pakistan responsibly. Here are a few points, that could become a part of our Pakistan doctrine:

  1. Open support to the freedom struggles of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and Balochistan.
  2. Use of all available intelligence assets, to aid and support the achievement of the stated objective.
  3. Directing that the Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan, officially invite the pro- Balochistan leaders, for ‘meet and greet’, till the time his Pakistani counterpart in New Delhi does not stop doing the same with Kashmiri ‘leaders’.
  4. Re-assessing our economic, political, and diplomatic relations with each and every country, that knowingly or unknowingly, becomes a part of Pakistan’s anti-India designs.
  5. Reciprocity should be the norm on economic issues. ‘Most Favoured Nation’ tag should be revoked. That India will never be the first to blink the eye, on such concessions, should be made clear.
  6. Pakistan should not be invited to collect evidence related to terror attacks, till the time there is no visible progress on punishing the offenders of the previous ones.
  7. A strategic alliance with all major military, and economic powers, including but not limited to the United States, should be pursued more aggressively, to isolate Pakistan.
  8. The idea of joint control, and administration of ‘India-administered Kashmir’ should be dropped from the Indian diplomatic lexicon.
  9. Intensifying efforts to drum up required support for the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and use the occasion to segregate the rest of the world into terrorism-loving, and peace-loving nation-states.
  10. Pakistan Army positions that aid, and facilitate the infiltration of fidayeen groups, through the Line of Control (LoC), should be strategically targeted by the Indian Armed Forces, in a disciplined manner – to send the right message.

India has the capacity to absorb, and endure losses. But this is not enough. To be great, we have to show that we also have the courage to inflict punishment, in the most disciplined of all ways, should the need arise for the same. Ending this piece, by borrowing the following lines from Billy Joel:

We Didn’t Start the Fire;
No, We Didn’t Light it;
But We (Will Try) to Fight it.

AAP Goa plays politics when India needs to be united against Pakistan

After the Uri Terrorist attack on our armed forces, the world has sympathised with our country and its continued fight against Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Russia, France, Canada and Afghanistan on Monday joined several other countries in condemning the Uri attack which claimed the lives of 18 Army personnel even as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon+ hoped that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Russian foreign ministry, in a statement, directly attacked Pakistan for their role: “Regarding the Pathankot Indian air base attack in January 2016, we are very concerned about the terrorist attacks near the Line of Control. We are also concerned about the fact that, according to New Delhi, the Army base near Uri was attacked from Pakistani territory.”

But even as the world was united with India, some sections within India were seen using this tragic incident to score political brownie points. The Goa unit of AAP, issued a press release on the incident, but a closer reading made it clear that AAP was less bothered about the attack, and was more concerned with scoring political points:

The press release started with expressing “shock” over the incident and extending sympathies with our armed forces. But the real “shock” was how AAP stayed clear of naming or condemning Pakistan for the attack. They also felt it necessary to call the terrorists as “militants”. Coincidentally this was very similar to Pakistan ally China’s response to the attack where they avoided naming Pakistan but expressed “shock”. In fact one could say China’s statement was superior, as the rest of the contents of AAP’s statement will indicate.

After 2 sentences regarding the attack, AAP Goa unit went into election mode and chose to rake up some “security paper leaks” from the Defence Ministry. If they were referring to the recent Scorpene leaks then this is a self goal because the “leaks” happened in France, that too in 2011. But such facts did not matter to AAP Goa which just wanted to get even with the Defence Minister, who is also from Goa.

And from here on, AAP dedicated the rest of the release to taking pot-shots at the Defence Minister. In a short statement, just 2 sentences focused on the actual incident. Even those sentences were inadequate as there was no condemnation of Pakistan whatsoever.

The real intent of the press release was now revealed as they chose to hit-back at the Defence Minister Parrikar for his statements against Arvind Kejriwal. Parrikar, addressing a BJP function a day before the Uri attack, had jocularly said that criticising PM Modi made Kejriwal’s tongue bigger, hence it had to be trimmed. This statement probably got the goat of AAP Goa leaders even more than the cowardly terror attack by Pakistan, hence their guns were aimed at the Defence Minister and a clean chit was given to Pakistan.

Giving a political response to a political attack by an opponent is fair, but the unfortunate shooting of the shoulders of dead soldiers by AAP Goa, meanwhile giving a clean chit to Pakistan, is a cause of serious concern.

The India I discovered after traveling across it to spread knowledge on gravitational waves

India and its dreams can be fulfilled only by strengthening university research. This is where we need grand reforms.

Lecture

 

“Three of the five sockets in my office are not working. Do you really think we can build world’s most sensitive detector?” – Director of a Research Institute

Why I chose to lecture on this topic?

Exactly a year ago, on September 14, 2015, one of the grandest scientific instruments ever built, LIGO, whose team I am a part of, detected a signal that came from collision of black holes some 150 crore years ago. It took us about six months to be sure that this signal was exactly a phenomenon Albert Einstein had predicted 100 years – gravitational waves or in more trippy words, ‘ripples in the four dimensional spacetime fabric’ on which resides stars, galaxies and everything we call “our universe”. This is hailed as the discovery of the century, and a new chapter has since opened in mankind’s quest to understand the universe and its origins.

When we announced this discovery in February 2016, the first world leader to congratulate us was our Honorable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. In a series of tweets, he also announced what scientists in my field were eagerly waiting for – the LIGO-India project. Picture with PM ModiA 16 sq. km. gravitational wave detector, and only third such in the world, this project was stuck in bureaucracy for years, and within days after Prime Minister’s tweets, the project got Union Cabinet approval. In what can be regarded by future historians as the largest science outreach by any government since moon-landing, the Prime Minister in his Mann Ki Baat discussed at length about the discovery of gravitational waves and India’s plans to invest in this new scientific field.

For a young scientist, this was a fairy tale moment! One of the most abstract scientific theories – Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, one of the most complicated instrument on earth – LIGO, and this was capturing interest of the top office of my country! When Prime Minister visited Washington DC in March 2016, India and the United States signed an MoU, and the LIGO-India project is now ranked as the highest S&T priority between the two nations. During the signing of MoU, the Prime Minister interacted with four of us LIGO scientist who were part of this discovery, and it was his suggestion that young scientists like us should visit more often the universities in India and inspire students to be part of such mega-science investment of our country.

A Bharat Bhraman For Gravitational Waves

My original plan was to hold a two-week long summer school at a national university, so we can invite about few hundred interested bachelors-masters students from across the country and the experts can give them mini-projects with them on astrophysics and experiment related to gravitational wave. Karan JaniBut sitting here in the US, I simply could not find funds or convince any Indian university to take a lead on this. So I decided to visit as many national universities, colleges, research institutes and high schools I possibly can in ~four weeks in India.

In this way, not only I reached out to almost 5000 students, and hopefully got them curious about gravitational waves, but also got to closely observe the scientific research environment and curriculum at all levels of universities (private, state, national), and every major research institute of the country. And being at this very grassroots level, discussing with students from canteens to pubs, with professors to deans to vice-chancellors to industry honchos, I am so convinced that the innovative solutions that India demands from her 65% youth populations, so that we can resolve our incredibly complex issues and make the world say Jai Hind, can happen only and only by strengthening research in colleges and universities (and not just national labs and institutes).

Think Beyond IITs & ISROs 

When I mean colleges and universities, I mean the one next door in your hometown. IITs, IIMs, IISERs are doing great. But that is not representative of entire India. This year, like every other year, ~88% of total JEE qualifiers were male, and with coaching fees for entrance exams soaring lakhs of rupees, it should not surprise your ‘elite’ institutes are really catering to only urban-centric folks. So we can’t be expecting them to solve water crisis in the villages. While in the universities – be it local, state or national –  enrolls your 65% population of India under age of 35. One of the senior professors at Delhi University mentioned to me, “In early 90s, the M.Sc students would be the English speaking youth from Stephen’s, Xavier’s or kids of bureaucrats. Today 75% of the entering class is from small towns and humble roots.” This to me seemed the proudest outcome of our democratic economic development. Now provide them with research opportunities, give them the chance to innovate during their Bachelors/Masters, and they will come up with solutions to problems that affected their day to day life, and of countless Indians (one day, this may help limit the ever increasing flux of funds spent on social welfare schemes).

On the other hand, the research institutes and national labs in India are profoundly disconnected with higher education. At one of country’s most elite research institute, I inquired why they don’t collaborate with the local state university. The answer was quite typical, “Haan toh humney kab naa bola?”. Yea sure, but you have an army at your main gate! Barely anyone in that city knew what research goes inside this facility. It infact took me 15 minutes to convince the guards that I was invited here to speak and not ‘just a curious citizen’. And such security beefing was purely bureaucratic than for national security! This to my surprise was rather common for every research institute. The public cannot easily enter the facility. We spent thousand of crores making Express Highways and metro trains, but not a single R&D outcome is gained from it if our national labs don’t open its doors to the interested youth.

While national research labs and institutes are supposed to work on priorities set by the government departments, the universities have the flexibility to foster more creative approach. And it’s not that our universities don’t do research. But, (a) it is not a norm beyond central universities, (b) university research resources are focused only for PhD students (c) heavy lack of facilities compared to research institutes (d) don’t have many collaborators (e) professors have insane teaching load (f) unnecessarily heavy coursework for graduate students! This is a preliminary list of issues, each of which has a history and justifications behind it. Though if you keep going on with status quo or incremental policy changes, our universities are going to become irrelevant in few decades. The massive online course moment has the world’s leading experts teaching semester long courses on every possible topic out there. With internet streaming now at its peak, and admission cut-offs reaching quantum limits, we will end up catering our youth resources to private online courses. The only way to keep universities relevant is by strengthening its research and innovation facilities.

Need for Grand Reforms In Research & Outreach

One of the questions I asked to every emeritus professor and higher ups in science bureaucracy that I had opportunity to interact, “Why couldn’t we predict importance of such megascience years ago, and in fact decades back when the a prototype of this detector was proposed?” This question is particularly important for young researchers like us who have to plan the career and also build human resources from this very instance to prepare for the next big scientific breakthrough. And if we don’t have a system in place, like the US has National Science Foundation, which funded LIGO research since 1980s, we will end up producing one more generation of frustrated Indian scientists whose very hard work is not seeing light for absolutely petty reasons. For the long term visionmap of making India the next science leader, we need to think beyond relying on wisdom of few eminent academic personalities and elite institutes. Only then research groups in universities will be able to take lead in initiating exciting new science in India.

Kids

During the interactions with the science bureaucracies, I learnt about so many other megascience projects of the scale comparable or beyond LIGO-India that our taxpayers funds are being invested in. But only if the students in the 10th grade social science class were aware of the experiments our scientists are conducting from the Indian Ocean to Ladakh that will help understand origin of earth, so many of these students will go on to enroll in undergraduate geology programs in colleges across the country!

After the Independence Day parade in my school in Vadodara, I asked the NCC cadets how many of them will like to one day join DRDO. To my jaw dropping surprise *they didn’t know what DRDO was!* And on a diametrically opposite instance, a farmer from a village with a population of just 450, travelled with his son for 3 hours one way to attend my public lecture. His son, Rahul, currently in 12th grade, mentioned that he first heard about LIGO-India project on All India Radio from the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat, and plans to join B.Sc Physics program. Our discovery was on the front page of New York Times to most national dailies, every major news channel reported it, every big university and city had public lectures on it, but none of that could have reached this Rahul. What reached to him was the very sincere attempt to convey a highly complex science, in a language that was familiar to the citizens, and by a leader whose stature vouched for the authenticity of this information. This should be a motivation in every single government department that invests in R&D to form a framework where students and their parents become aware of national opportunities beyond enrollment in typical engineering/medical colleges.

And some other important learning …

Out of the 20 academic institutions that I visited, not even dozen students from the ones I interacted were on Twitter! So probably a lot of us should reanalyze the amount of time being spent on trends and twitter wars, and may be just go out and concretely solve a real life issue. Also, for love of god, there is no intolerance anywhere in the Indian academia! If asked, I was always vocal about my positions on pseudoscience to ancient science, and everywhere the students and public at-large enjoyed the ‘orders of magnitude calculations’ to disapprove astrology. Everyone in my country can appreciate scientific temperament, you just have to present examples they can connect with.

While I was driving from Shantiniketan to Kolkata, there was suddenly a burst of rainfall. In the middle of the fields next to the highway, there was a woman worker who was holding a small plastic to protect herself from the rain. The rain must have went on for an hour. What must be going on in her mind at that instance, holding a plastic and seeing a puddle being formed around her? We cannot stand even few minutes of idleness without checking phone. She must be looking at the cars passing by too, dreaming that one day her children be traveling in that. There are billion dreams, of billion Indians, some want to detect black holes from India, while some simply desire basic human necessities. And there is one man whose every breath goes in making those billion dreams a reality. We live in truly blessed times.

—————-

Karan Jani is a co-recipient of the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, a Senator Nunn Fellow on National Security and the Student Vice-President at the Georgia Institute of Technology. You can contact him on twitter @AstroKPJ.

 

After OpIndia report, NDTV withdraws Sagarmala petition. Read why.

On the 7th of September, our columnist Ashutosh Muglikar had revealed a dark secret of NDTV. An organisation which was claiming to be a media house, and slowly slithered into the dangerous territory of becoming an NGO which is blocking India’s developmental leap. The matter was largely unrpeorted by media for a long time, and we highlighted this.

NDTV, a media company, filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) making a “Direct Attack” on the Modi Government’s Sagar Mala plans. An Analysis of the proceedings together with news items threw some interesting details. NDTV in its petition has prayed for:

  • “stopping of work” on all new ports as an interim measure,
  • “civil and criminal action” be taken against authorities, governments and private companies
  • formulation of a “national coastal policy”
  • creation of a restoration fund
  • cumulative environmental, economic and social impact assessment

We asked some pertinent questions on this matter:

  1. How does a media company become an expert on environmental issues?
  2. On what basis did NDTV conclude that Governments deserve civil and criminal action for their “neglect, over-sight, and complicit actions”?
  3. Did NDTV submit any “reports” from “experts” to back their claims?
  4. Has NDTV challenged the Environmental impact assessment” as done by ministries?
  5. Is NGT empowered to direct formulation of “coastal policies”?
  6. Is NDTV’s demand for a blanket scrapping of the Sagarmala projects justified? Or does it reek of some obstructionist tactic?
  7. How is NDTV “empowered” under its Memorandum and Articles of Association” to take up “environmental issues”? A quick analysis of the Memorandum of Association of NDTV shows they have a vague power under Clause 3 (B) (32) to investigate value of any “asset” but it is still not clear if they can file a case or not.
  8. Are all the shareholders of the company aware of these antics of NDTV, which is clearly drifting away from its stated goals of being a media house?
  9. Any spend on legal and other fees on an activity which NDTV is basically not supposed to indulge in, is justified?
    Does NDTV itself being embroiled in numerous tax scandals, have the moral right to be pontificating on other issues?

The only tenuous link of a media company like NDTV to this NGO-esque action could have been their 2011 “Save The Coast” campaign which “highlighted” how developmental activities are hazardous to India’s coastline. But most of the above questions were extremely valid.

Now, on 16th September 2016, within 2 weeks of our scathing report, NDTV took a U-Turn.  According to the order passed by the NGT, NDTV had filed an application to withdraw the petition.

ngt-ndtv

What made NDTV change this stance suddenly? The stated reason is:

Applicant wishes to withdraw this Application with liberty to file a fresh Application after averring proper facts, grounds and relief that would squarely fall within the ambit and scope to Section 14 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010

NDTV claims that they now wish to withdraw the application, keeping a window open to file a fresh petition after verifying the facts and ensuring that the matter would fall within the ambit of NGT. So even if we go by this stated reason, does it mean NDTV had not in fact studied the facts before filing this application? Which means it was a premature move? Is this how they practice their journalism too? Writing reports and opinions before studying facts?This was one of the points we had raised in our original article revealing this petition.

The Sagarmala project was at a stage of infancy when NDTV went for the petition. Worse, they demanded a blanket scrapping of all the sub-projects on a flimsy ground. The Government had not even put out detailed plans. How and why had NDTV felt the urgent need to stall this project at such an early stage? This much they have admitted themselves that they had not done a thorough study. So what was the motive?

These are the stated reasons. The unstated reasons could well be legal and market driven. As mentioned in our questions, it was unclear whether NDTV’s Memorandum and Articles of Association empowered it to get into NGO mode. A violation of a company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association is a serious issue.

Secondly, as we had asked earlier, were the shareholders of NDTV, a public company, taken into confidence before NDTV departed from its publicly known business? Did any major shareholders apply pressure of NDTV to stop this anti-development petition once our report exposed NDTV?

Thirdly, the Sagarmala project will benefit practically every industry in India, and in turn Indians. Large corporates are also major sponsors of NDTV’s advertisements and various events. Did such corporates turn the screw on the loss-ridden NDTV and force their hand?

Whatever may be the reason, we must continue to remain vigilant. NDTV has kept the door open to come back and threaten Sagarmala again. Whether it is a face-saving escape route or a statement of intent is yet to be seen. But givens NDTV’s track record of being anti-India on many occasions, one cannot sleep in peace.

Delhi will not forgive Arvind Kejriwal and AAP for this

Arvind Kejriwal
Arvind Kejriwal

Second time CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal has been facing a torrid few weeks. Multiple issues have hit him and his party even as they are working to expand their footprint beyond Delhi. AAP, has been under attack from opposition parties, a section of the media, and even their own MLAs and disgruntled workers, who have been shown the door.

It is not as if AAP was immune from criticism before the past few weeks. There has been intense scrutiny of the various aspects of the party, the Government and its leaders. To begin, Kejriwal has always been attacked for his numerous U-Turns: Will never contest elections, will never take support of Congress, will never take “sarkari” accommodation, will not take security, will not take extravagant salaries etc etc.

Then came the criticism around his Governance. The Delhi Government’s Rs 526 crore budget for advertisements was scrutinised. The numerous full page ads all over India which could very well be in violation of guidelines set by Supreme Court were questioned. AAP’s tacit alliance with the Nitish-Lalu combine in Bihar also raised many eyebrows. Also his politicking and extracting of political mileage out of incidents such as Vemula’s death or the JNU episode.

There were some ministers sacked on allegations of corruption and forgery. Some like Gopal Rai were shunted from the Transport Ministry which is being investigated for corruption. The issue of the legality of the 21 parliamentary secretaries was recently decided by the courts, which came as a blow to AAP. Their disqualification is still a matter of debate and is pending with the Election Commission.

More recently AAP was in the dock for internal issues. AAP’s Punjab unit was in disarray as their convener was sacked for accepting cash in a sting video. AAP’s Women and Child Minister in Delhi was caught in a sex racket, which was aggravated by absurd defences. This opened a Pandora’s box as allegations after allegations surfaced of alleged misbehaviour of AAP leaders with women.

While all of the above are serious issues, an average voter may just ignore them. All said and done, these issues are found either in totality or in parts, in most Indian political parties. And most importantly, they have no bearing on the day-to-day life of an aam aadmi. His life is not affected by Kejriwal’s ad spree or a sex CD of a minister. But now, Kejriwal Government has got embroiled in an issue which has severely degraded the life of the common man.

Delhi is crumbling. Delhi’s roads are in pathetic condition, and are prone to floods. Sewage water overflowing in the capital city of the country is never a good sign. Just half an hour of rain brings Delhi to a complete halt. This problem does not only affect those using vehicles on the road. Such mismanaged dirty water is an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of pests. Perhaps this explains the sudden spurt in vector borne diseases in Delhi. These diseases like malaria, chikungunya and dengue, affect not only the upper middle class, but even hit the poorest of the poor in Delhi.

There has been a spike in the cases of Chikungunya in Delhi. Media reports suggest this is  the biggest outbreak of the mosquito-borne viral disease in the city. Delhi authorities reported 1,057 cases of chikungunya and 1,158 cases of the mosquito-borne Dengue this year with hospitals overflowing with patients complaining of fever and joint pains. At least 5 people have succumbed to these, and the number can increase.

Sure all of this isn’t AAP’s fault. There are multiple agencies at play. The Delhi Jal Board, which is under the AAP Government, is the authority responsible for planning, designing, and execution of water supply and wastewater management facilities. The Health Department, again with the AAP Government, is responsible for controlling of the spread of diseases and medical facilities. The local municipalities which are under other parties like the BJP must also take a share of the blame for not getting their act together. Oddly enough, Kejriwal has not been kind to his officers as well, giving terse warnings such as “‘Like it or not, we are here for 15 years”. Any CM would realise the fallacy of threatening the very bureaucrats who will actually execute all your work. To top it all, Delhi has an acrimonious relationship with the LG of Delhi, who for legal purposes, is the final authority in Delhi. And thus the blame-game has started.

This blame-game may interest some party-loyalists. BJP backers will blame the state government, AAP supporters will blame the MCD and the LG. But what will the common man say? What will the average Delhiite who is currently feeling abandoned say? Does he give a damn about all this?

He will naturally compare his situation today, to his condition a few years back, when AAP was non-existent. Kejriwal cannot claim to be in a unique position where the LG and the MCD are not of his choice. Chief Ministers of Delhi have always faced this quandary. Sheila Dikshit worked with opposition party appointees and delivered the goods. That too when her Government had nowhere near an absolutely thumping majority of 67 MLAs.

This brings us to the main distinguishing feature between Kejriwal’s Government and others: the AAP Government seems to be in a perennial state of war. The LG has been abused and ridiculed far too often. Ministers as well as the CM have written highly disrespectful letters to him. The MCD too has not been handled well. If only Kejriwal had read the constitution, he would have realised he had no choice but to work along with the LG, and not by constantly being at odds with him. Further, local municipalities are an essential authority for any state government across India, which must be taken into confidence, to ensure that the Government’s schemes reach the common man.

All this needs some back-pedalling, some compromises, some humility, some understanding. 67 MLAs do not give the right to Kejriwal or his Government to be brash, arrogant and confrontational. And with the latest health hazards in Delhi due to the spread of diseases, this attitude of the Kejriwal Government has been exposed.

When questions are asked of Kejriwal or his ministers, the answers have ranged from evasive to abusive. The CM is portraying himself as helpless, ministers are blaming the LG or the MCD, the Health minister is claiming deaths from chikungunya are a figment of imagination even while blaming the media for over-hyping the situation.

All this is leading to a very tragic yet hilarious situation. The health minister has been caught in an Odd-Even situation, saying “all is well” as well as “LG has messed up everything”. Any one statement can hold true:

Odd-Even
Odd-Even

Tweets of Manish Sisodia indicate that the Delhi Government was happy to claim credit for all the work done last year, but this year, they are looking for a scapegoat during Bakri-Eid festivities:

Sisodia's credit
Sisodia’s credit

Again all this is politicking, and if you tell this to that Delhiite infected by chikungunya, sleeping in the over-filled ward of a Delhi Government hospital, he would probably lose his cool. As a common man, he isn’t interested in the saas-bhau-esque squabbles of AAP with the LG. He doesn’t care who is responsible for what. He knows only one thing: One and half year ago he elected the strongest Government across India. This was formed by a party which claimed to be different. He gave the keys of Delhi to this party. He expected them to get things done.

He doesn’t care how they do it. They may have to compromise, beg, plead or even sleep with the enemies for it. But at the end of the day, he wants Delhi changed for the better. Sadly, that is not happening. While all authorities will be blamed, he will have no choice but to lay the lion’s share of the blame squarely at the feet of the state government, for failing to work with all the agencies, despite all the power. He doesn’t care if Kejriwal roams in business class or economy, he just doesn’t want to be bitten by a disease-spreading mosquito.

The latest victory of Left in JNU polls also reveals their biggest weakness

As yet another election in the Republic of JNU concludes with a huge victory for the Communists, the ‘right’ can continue with the air of arrogance (myself included) and downplay these developments as “light entertainment”. We can roll our eyes and choose to laugh at the doomed soldiers of the last red battalion holding fort on an ever shrinking island in a rapidly modernising society. After all, JNU is the punchline to so many jokes. The political landscape is somber enough. Do we really want another source of humor to go away?

Or we can be humble and choose to learn. The JNU student union may not be a huge focal point in the right-wing/BJP scheme of things, but it is the nerve center of the Indian left. With the BJP’s ever expanding footprint finally coming into direct conflict with red pockets in Bengal, Kerala and even Tripura, understanding what goes on at JNU can help size up the enemy.

Let me point this out very clearly: JNU takes in students from all across the country. The electorate in a university students body changes heavily every single year. In a scenario like this, the chances of having “permanent vote banks” and “legacy voters” are extremely slim. Now considering the fact that the extreme leftists make up a vanishingly small percentage of the overall Indian population, the chances of JNU students every year coming from this microscopic percentage are very slim.

But the extreme left has been winning in JNU for decades. This seems highly implausible without outright intimidation of incoming students by faculty or worse, some kind of funny business happening in the admissions process. This deserves a full investigation. That’s what makes the ABVP folks at JNU into heroes. The least we can do for them is learn from their experiences. Can you imagine what it must be like to put your entire career on the line and go into open revolt against the faculty at your university?

However, for me, the most interesting aspect of the JNUSU polls this year was the rise of a new student union called BAPSA (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association). It’s an extreme left wing group,  but it differs crucially from the “mainstream extreme left” in that it is led by Tribals and Dalits. The BAPSA made a scintillating debut, which had earlier pushed AISA and SFI to put up a joint fight to defeat the new entrant. No surprise that the extreme left winger who won the president post is one Mohit Pande, yet another ‘communist’ Brahmin who continues the tradition of upper caste males showing Dalits and Tribals the way of the light. For the record, no Dalit has become a member of the Communist Politburo in 50+ years. No Dalit is allowed to enter the temple of ‘progressive’ values.

But BAPSA exposed (again) a fatal weakness of the Communists and their cheerleaders in media and academia. The Dalits and Tribals that the Communists are fighting for are simply absent within their so called movement. They are absent, but not conspicuously absent. It is the job of the right wing to make that absence conspicuous. It is the job of the right wing to point out to the Dalits and Tribals that the Communists will accept them only as cannon fodder but never as Generals. The onus is on the right to offer a vibrant political platform and change the game of “Dalit politics” in the country.

Babasaheb Ambedkar was not a Communist, not even remotely so. He was neither a war criminal like Che Guevara nor a mass murderer like Stalin or Mao. Babasaheb was a brilliant economist and thinker. The onus is on the right to give Ambedkar the stature he truly deserves.

I cannot end this article without a comment on the intellectual bankruptcy of the left and Indian pseudo-secularism in general. Is there anyone who recognizes this person (image below)?

Kavita Krishnan during her JNU days

That’s Kavita Krishnan. The year is 1997. The documentary is “ek minute ka maun” (one minute of silence) in memory of a former JNUSU President called Chandrasekhar Prasad (Chandu). You can see the documentary here. I have never been to JNU, but being a political junkie, I have heard about “Chandu”. And what is Kavita Krishnan doing here in this video? Well, she has come to Bihar Niwas in Delhi along with a large group of students to protest against the murder of Chandu in Siwan in Bihar. Who is the man accused of the murder? It’s none other than Lalu’s infamous gangster MP Shahabuddin, who is now out on bail.

Their own “Chandu” belonged to AISF (the same union to which Kanhaiya belongs) and later to AISA (Kavita Krishnan’s group). And what were these shameless Communists doing when the same Shahabuddin was all set to walk out of jail inspecting a guard of honor by 400 SUVs? Well, the Communists were doing this:

Kanhaiya touches Lalu's feet
Poster-boy of JNU left Kanhaiya Kumar touching feet of Lalu Yadav, boss of Shahabuddin.

There you have it folks. In two photographs you can see the intellectual bankruptcy of the Indian left. And don’t blame the Communists alone. There’s Lalu Yadav, the child of Emergency, who is allied with Congress. Every single one of the Janata factions (with exception of BJP, of course) is currently allied with Congress. Born of opposition to Indira, united in support to Sonia.

One of the first acts of Nitish Kumar after being sworn in last year was to expunge from the Bihar government website the references to ill-treatment of Jai Prakash Narayan by Indira Gandhi. The Congress ordered it, Nitish carried it out. No eminent historian protested. A grand total of ZERO awards were returned in protest. The same Nitish Kumar, whose mentor George Fernandes had removed Sonia Gandhi’s photograph at the Constitution club. He would not stand to see the “lootera Nehru-Gandhi dynasty” (his words, not mine) celebrated.

This is where the left and the allied forces are exposed – they have not only compromised on their own self-respect, but they have failed to provide self-respect to the Dalits and Tribals. And that’s where the opportunity for the right lies.

Karnataka rivers issue – No winners here

While the national media continues to be in love with games played by Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi’s “khat”s, Karnataka is in a mess – political and agrarian. Few months ago, the states of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra were embroiled in the demand for their shares of the Mahadayi river water. Now, the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, who have been at the loggerheads for ages, have resumed their demand for their share of the Cauvery water.

Let us get some context here. Cauvery serves southern Karnataka region, while Mahadayi serves north Karnataka. Struggles by farmers in both the areas are for the use of river water in specific periods of the year – during the traditional farming months. Having said that, these have remained issues in a normal monsoon year. However, this year passions have been ignited due to the shortage of rains and increased farmer suicides leading to agrarian distress.

While one can blame many governments – states and central – of the past, it is a fact that these issues need to be solved to soothe the uneasiness of people in the region. However, this is where the political class has failed miserably.

That Siddaramaiah government has been incompetent is well known. However, in these issues, they have been guilty of misleading the people. Before the Mahadayi issue boiled over, the Siddaramaiah government ministers gave statements early this year, that things are under control and enough water will be provided for the crops. In case of the Cauvery issue, Siddaramaiah government assured people that no water will be released this year due to the drought situation. However, the government did a spectacular U-turn in the Supreme Court, by volunteering to release 10,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu. This, obviously, did not go well with the people in the farming community. This has led to 2 days of statewide bandhs and umpteen raasta rokos, train rokos and such means of protest.

One would expect the key opposition parties in Karnataka – BJP and JDS – to use this situation to win over the affected people or at least act as a strong opposition to the government. However, both these parties have been reduced to reacting to situations than proactively engaging with farmers. Needless to say all parties are facing the wrath of the people here.

The joker in the pack is Prime Minister Modi. CM Siddaramaiah has repeatedly deflected his responsibilities by blaming the situation on the historic mess (and he is partly right here) and also by writing letters to PM Modi to intervene in resolving these issues. On the river water front atleast, PM Modi is not winning many friends here. He (and/or his ministers) has not given any message or spoken on this topic whatsoever. The local media is left with no option than keep running Siddaramaiah’s letters on the loop. The message is slowly creeping in that Modi is not acting in a fair manner – that he isn’t asking his fellow party CMs in Goa and Maharasthra – to talk about Mahadayi water and neither does he show any courage in countering Amma of Tamil Nadu.

The local BJP leaders – BS Yedyurappa, Pralhad Joshi, CT Ravi and many others – are actively engaged in showcasing projects by the central government. But they are powerless in this entire Mahadayi and Cauvery situation. Other than staging customery protests and supporting farmers, there is nothing they can do. This does not auger well for the next Karnataka elections – where Congress is expected to be routed. JDS isn’t showing any signs of expanding beyond the southern Karnataka region. May be this has convinced BJP that people will vote for them for the lack of credible alternatives. Karnataka may well do that – but then BJP will have no option but to resolve the Mahadayi water dispute at least.

I would rather have preferred Modi take the lead now and then let the Karnataka CM work on bread and butter issues. Repeated calls for bandhs does not auger well for the commerce of the state. Needless to say, the daily labourers are the worst affected in such situations. When efforts are being done to revive the economy, helplessness cannot linger around in one of the economically largest states in the country. If state leaders and Modi, in particular, do not act fast this may turn contagious.

After praying for relief from defamation, Kejriwal threatens defamation against netizen

Arvind Kejriwal has the bad habit of making unsubstantiated claims. He has often spoken nonsense about several politicians and business people, and hence finds himself in the dock for defamation cases often. When Arun Jaitley had taken him to court, he had performed a U-Turn. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari too had taken Kejriwal to court for defamation.

In all of this, probably seeking immunity from all these court proceedings and thus the liecense to spout whatever he wants, Kejriwal had petitioned the Supreme Court of India to scrap defamation laws claiming that they are not needed as the Constitution imposes reasonable restriction on freedom of speech and expression.

Now in a fresh U-Turn, after being vehemently opposed to Criminal Defamation cases against himself, Kejriwal, via AAP IT cell chief Ankit Lal, has threatened to sue an ordinary twitter user with criminal defamation charges. He has further said in the legal notice that he will extract monetary and legal damages as well, if the social media user fails to comply with the notice.

It all started with some innocuous tweets by an “aam aadmi”, asking “Is it true” style questions, which have become a trademark of Arvind Kejriwal:

Most notably, Arvind Kejriwal had used this modus operandi, during the JNU debate, to spread a blatantly fake video, trying to pin the blame on ABVP. We had exposed him and his cabinet back then as well. Now, Kejriwal, who was against defamation proceedings, is using the trigger to shoot common people.

In the notice, Kejriwal’s credentials are mentioned as “holding very high repute”, across the world. It further demands an unconditional apology from the user, failing which he will be sued. The social media user in turn has replied to the notice, and it is quite hilarious. He first conducted the following Twitter poll:

And then replied with this:

The reply

It remains to be seen how Kejriwal’s legal team will respond, since now Kejriwal is the person suing, rather than the person being sued. Also, it must be seen whether Freedom of Speech activists will stand up and support the user, or will he be given the cold shoulder? It is possible that the user was being jocular even in his original tweet as it appears from his witty reply to the notice. But whatever be the intention, it has betrayed hypocritical behavior of AAP supremo, who argues against criminal defamation inside court and supports it outside

NDTV stops Sagarmala project – from making losses for shareholders to making losses for India

Ministry of Home Affairs under Modi Government has issued Notices to 10,300+ NGOs. We have seen earlier how these NGOs obtain foreign funding and are actively involved in scuttling developmental projects at the behest of their foreign masters. Till date all opposition to any infrastructure or other projects was from NGOs. The media’s role was limited to reporting these cases. Apparently now Modi Govt has to fight even non-NGOs if they are to execute ambitious projects. Here is the story how an alleged media company “NDTV” is acting like an NGO.

History of Sagarmala Project:

We know that India enjoys enviable coastline of 7500 kms which touches upon 13 states and union territories and some islands. With India’s strategic location in the Asian Continent, there indeed is no doubt that a string of “pearls” or “sagarmala” would help India play a pivotal role in international trade. Every developed Country has ports which can handle huge capacities. Somehow India lags behind in port facilities in comparison to China or other nations.

Keeping this in mind Modi Government undertook the ambitious Sagarmala Project to deliver impact through over 150 projects which shall lead to an estimated annual logistics cost saving of 35,000 Crores! These projects are estimated to boost India’s merchandise exports to $110 Billion by 2025. It is further estimated that 1 crore new jobs out of which 40 lakhs will be direct employment shall be created from these projects.

The Cabinet approval for the project was given in March 2015. The Shipping Ministry is the nodal ministry which is implementing this ambitious project. Shipping Ministry also released the project reports which can be accessed here and a notice inviting comments from the stakeholders was also released with last date of submissions as 31st August 2016. The Ministry also formed a “Special Purpose Vehicle”  under the name and style of Sagarmala Development Company Limited which was incorporated on 31st August 2016.

NDTV Approaches NGT

Curiously, NDTV, a media company, filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) making a “Direct Attack” on the Modi Government’s Sagar Mala plans. An Analysis of the proceedings together with news items throws some interesting details. NDTV in its petition has prayed for:

  • “stopping of work” on all new ports as an interim measure,
  • “civil and criminal action” be taken against authorities, governments and private companies
  • formulation of a “national coastal policy”
  • creation of a restoration fund
  • cumulative environmental, economic and social impact assessment

A few quick questions:

  1. How does a media company become an expert on environmental issues?
  2. On what basis did NDTV conclude that Governments deserve civil and criminal action for their “neglect, over-sight, and complicit actions”?
  3. Did NDTV submit any “reports” from “experts” to back their claims?
  4. Has NDTV challenged the Environmental impact assessment” as done by ministries?
  5. Is NGT empowered to direct formulation of “coastal policies”?
  6. Is NDTV’s demand for a blanket scrapping of the Sagarmala projects justified? Or does it reek of some obstructionist tactic?
  7. How is NDTV “empowered” under its Memorandum and Articles of Association” to take up “environmental issues”? A quick analysis of the Memorandum of Association of NDTV shows they have a vague power under Clause 3 (B) (32) to investigate value of any “asset” but it is still not clear if they can file a case or not.
  8. Are all the shareholders of the company aware of these antics of NDTV, which is clearly drifting away from its stated goals of being a media house?
  9. Any spend on legal and other fees on an activity which NDTV is basically not supposed to indulge in, is justified?
  10. Does NDTV itself being embroiled in numerous tax scandals, have the moral right to be pontificating on other issues?

The only tenuous link of a media company like NDTV to this NGO-esque action can be their 2011 “Save The Coast” campaign which “highlighted” how developmental activities are hazardous to India’s coastline. But most of the above questions, still remain unanswered and valid.

Proceedings Before NGT

A quick glance at the proceedings before the National Green Tribunal show the following:

NDTV filed its petition in 2015 against the Ministry of Shipping, MoEF, and 11 States as well as Union Territories. Initially in an order dated 20th January 2016 the Bench ordered a bailable warrant against the Resident Commissioner of Daman and Diu at New Delhi which was subsequently cancelled. It imposed costs of INR 50,000 each on Maharashtra state and Gujarat State for non filing of replies. Maharashtra later complied with the order. The case, as per the orders, has not been taken up on “merits” as yet. In fact as per the latest order some respondent state has also challenged the time limit of filing this petition before NGT (6 months as per NGT Act,2010) which is pending. All in all the orders show that a flurry of activities is happening in this petition.

What is intriguing is that hardly any news channels or for that matter even NDTV published any articles on this until recently. In fact this is probably the first case where a media Company has taken up an “environmental issue” with the Courts. In this era of micro news, an action as this didn’t attract ANY attention?

Counter Views to NDTV Claims

It is pertinent to note that any project undertaken by the Government together with the assistance and partnership of State governments and private entities will not be implemented without proper studies. Amongst other things the government appoints independent experts to study environmental impact of projects. This EIA forms a very important part of the “project feasibility”. It is still not clear how NDTV has come to a conclusion that these projects are not feasible. It is clear that a single TV campaign will not give deep insights which government/private agencies undertake while deciding project feasibility. So did they carry out their own independent analysis? Which is that agency? Who paid for these reports? Why should report by NDTV be given weightage and not that by other agencies? Did NDTV provide its suggestions to the Ministry of Shipping on the draft plans they put forth for pubic comments?

“Stop Work” and its ill effects

Here is a small anecdote: while constructing an expressway between two cities, a group of environmentalists (pre NGT era) approached the High Court stating that the mountains which are to be cut are homes to a certain variety of “rats”. This delayed the project by 6 months causing monetary losses etc but nevertheless it was built. Today in 2016 these same “environmentalists” use the same highway to commute and the “rats” be dammed. None of these guys care for them anymore.

There indeed is no doubt that development should be sustainable and that both development and preservation of nature should be balanced. However going to Courts and challenging every power project, every mine, road port dam has become a quick and fast route to achieve fame.

It is clear that many “protests” are done at the behest of foreign hands/money and guidance. This not only hampers the economic activity it also leads to huge monetary losses. Take for example this Sagarmala project. While the Government has clearly put the  project reports in public domain the Petitioner NDTV has not clearly and specifically mentioned why and exactly how these projects are dangerous for the coast line. They haven’t even spelt out how NDTV as a media company is concerned with this issue in first place.

Now that we have a brand new NGO like NDTV out in open waging a war on a project which is ensuring capital flow, cost savings and 1 crore jobs, it is time for us citizens, for whom the projects are being executed, to rise up and ask them, what is your problem.

The implosion of AAP – churn or crash and burn?

Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is still in stages of infancy if we are to compare it with the other political parties in the fray. Less than 4 years into the game, AAP has racked up considerable successes in its repertoire. The biggest success of course is its unprecedented landslide victory in Delhi. In other places across the country, it hasn’t tasted much electoral success, but has been trying to position itself as the go-to party for someone who doesn’t want to vote for the BJP or the Congress.

Being Delhi centric, and owing to the friendly disposition of many top journalists towards Arvind Kejriwal, AAP has got more than its fair share of limelight. We have seen occasions where even PTA meetings have been glorified by “journalists” as a landmark moment in governance. Given the over-the-top positive acclaim received, AAP has also faced a higher level of barbs and attacks from its critics as well as opponents. Countless U-Turns, allegations of corruptions, frauds, donations scams, all have hit AAP. But all said and done, AAP has braved the fire from outside well.

Now, AAP is facing a different challenge. This time the enemy is within. We had last seen this when the founding fathers of AAP like Prashant Bhushan, Shanti Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were unceremoniously booted out of the party. At that time, they claimed they were unhappy with Kejriwal’s dictatorial attitude, while Kejriwal’s coterie suggested they had other grudges. It was in the end painted as an ego battle.

This time though, things are much worse. AAP has faced one of its toughest weeks in its short political existence. Their own leaders have been the reason for much of the discomfort and this time, one cannot dismiss it as mere ego wars.

It started in Punjab, where AAP’s state convenor Sucha Singh Chhotepur was allegedly caught in a sting operation, accepting some sort of bribe. If some rumours are to be believed, it was an inside job from within the AAP. This eventually led to Chhotepur being sacked. Chhotepur episode had a ripple effect in Punjab, the full impact of which is yet to be seen, but till now these are the scalps it has claimed:

Firstly Siddhu’s much touted entry into AAP did not materialise, partly because his demands were rejected, and also possibly because of the mess that AAP Punjab was in.

Secondly, AAP’s credibility was obviously damaged, since their top leader in Punjab was caught in a sting

Thirdly, Chhotepur caused many splits in AAP Punjab. Factions loyal to him have threatened to leave AAP, and already, 80% of AAP office bearers of Amritsar zone have quit citing “dictatorial behaviour” by party observers from outside Punjab.

As mentioned, the full extent of the damage is yet to be seen.

If Punjab was one big pile of mess, Delhi has been worse. Yet another AAP cabinet minister had to be sacked and this time for extremely embarrassing reasons. Women and Child Development Minister Sandeep Kumar was sacked after his sex videos with 3 different women emerged. It was also reported that he misused his official position to secure a US citizenship for his newly born son.

Although Kejriwal tried to limit the damage of Sandeep Kumar by sacking him before the news broke out, the aftermath has been more damaging. AAP leader Ashutosh brazenly defended Sandeep Kumar’s sexcapades by trying to pull down national icons like Nehru, Gandhi and Lohia among others. A former colonel and AAP MLA from Delhi, Sehrawat opened another can of worms by writing a scathing letter to Kejriwal claiming that women are being used duped and exploited in Punjab too. He even went on to name leaders like Sanjay Singh, Dilip Pandey and Durgesh Pathak. Singh now is considering filing a defamation case.

The other state where AAP was trying to grab a foothold was Goa. Even here it has been been weakened. A few months back 9  members of the Vasco Unit of AAP left the party alleging that the party had fallen prey to the real estate lobby. Just yesterday, 2 more AAP leaders and former activists quit Goa’s AAP unit, making very similar allegations. Local developments coupled with the national developments have resulted in a loss of momentum here too with AAP supporters openly lamenting their party’s downfall.

To top all of this, now Arvind Kejriwal’s mentor has come down hard on AAP and Kejriwal. He has said he is very angry and very disappointed at AAP and Arvind Kejriwal, because of all the scandals it has been embroiled in. Anna further said that he had warned Kejriwal about a dilution in quality thanks to his ultra-ambitious moves. This in fact the same as what Prashant Bhushan was saying when he too was on the verge of quitting.

In all of the above, there is no Modi hand. There is no Modi controlled LG or Modi controlled ACB, which is tormenting AAP and Kejriwal using fake allegations. This is no external element to this who can be called “Sanghi” or “paid media” or “bhakt”. There is no escaping this. And hence this is AAP’s most testing time.

If an analogy can be drawn, we can look at numerous tech start-ups in India who are now facing rough times. They started off with promise, innovative techniques which threatened to disrupt existing market forces. Valuations soared as a select few players backed them. The race for revenues began as all these startups tried to expand aggressively, scaling up operations. But the internal systems, practices, goals of many were not mature enough to handle such massive growth plans, resulting in an implosion. Many of these start-ups have now begun their way downhill, sacking many employees, and boasting of much lower valuations.

AAP too has gone wrong in the same way. It tried to expand its foot-print beyond Delhi too soon. Systems were not in place, and in order to expand, they had to compromise severely on the quality of its inductees. Traditional parties have undertaken years of struggle to reach their current status. They have toiled from the bottom-up, creating a strong cadre, making their stand on issues clear, winning local elections, then state elections and finally heading for the central level. AAP on the other hand is more interested in the flash-bang method which demands quick results. And it has gone very bad for them. The chickens are now coming to roost.

The question now facing us is this. Will this be the 2nd round churning from within the AAP, when all the unwanted elements will desert AAP, and AAP will continue its march ahead? Or will AAP this time lose its absolute core, and with it, its charm and charisma? Only time will tell, but this time, AAP only has it’s own self to blame.

Women’s Maternity Bill – Boon or Curse in the Career Ladder?

#MeToo revelations, Maneka Gandhi orders for probe

Recently the Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Maternity Bill in the Indian Parliament.  The bill mandates that any private establishment with more than 10 employees will need to give six months maternity leave to women and every company with more than 50 employees must establish crèche facilities for children. Companies such as Microsoft and Flipkart have already begun providing such facilities for women to be able to retain talent for the long-term. While the Bill is seen as a welcome move by feminists groups it didn’t bring a smile to all the entrepreneurs including the incoming President of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Executive Vice President of Apollo Hospitals, Ms. Shobhana Kamineni.

The Bill text is of six pages with very little information on why or how should this Act is expected be implemented by companies. The Bill in the current form may appear to be empowering women, and the Government hopes to increase women participation in work force with this Bill, but the reality may be far from it. Women employment is intrinsically linked to multiple gender issues. Following are some scenarios that can occur due to this Bill-

1. Small and Medium scale enterprises typically have 10-50+ employees with each employee doing specific important tasks. If an employee is to remain absent for 26 weeks the work would need to be allotted to someone who already is handling a responsibility. If the woman is in mid-managerial position there is a likelihood that a small enterprise doesn’t employ more than one or two managers of her skill sets. Absence for such a long period of time will impact the productivity of the company since seamless takeover and handover of responsibilities in such a small team doesn’t happen. During performance appraisal, long absence will definitely reflect on the percentage of pay raise. Already, many companies give a minimal 1% pay raise for absence due to pregnancy. In the same firm, if the lady is in the lower pool of talent and if there are larger number of women in the group, multiple people going on such long leaves will again impact the company’s salary budgets. Fresh graduate women may get hired with no pay disparity with their male counterpart but with progress of time pay disparity will develop due to large duration of absences.

2. Long maternity leave and transfer of responsibilities to other team members can create friction between members. Male employees may feel burdened with extra load of work while a female team member is away and still being paid. Gender sensitivity trainings cannot necessarily handle every type of hostility that can occur in such scenarios. Young female employees may be kept away from critical missions to avoid any delays or team friction impacts. There have been cases where women are kept on the bench in IT companies as they approach their maternity leave or are kept on it when they come back from the leave so that termination laws can be applied easily to fire them.

3. Long maternity leave may be the best answer to hold talent for large IT companies and multi-national companies which spend a good part of their budget on employee training programs. For these companies loss of talent due to personal issues is a high risk. But what happens to companies that require low skill or abundantly available skillsets in large numbers e.g. shopping mall attendants, large chain-store shop floor employees, security guards, customer service representatives, medical nurses and related personnel, data-entry operators? Large numbers of women are employed in these sectors. With such laws being placed, manpower servicing companies will shy away from hiring women as permanent employees. Permanent employees enjoy far better benefits like medical insurance, EPF and gratuity etc which a temporary employee may not get. A good example of companies using such tactics in the West is Walmart which is well known for lower number of permanent employees compared to its temporary hires. Larger number of temporary or part-time hires helps the company keep its employee benefits costs down and thereby lower their sale prices.

The below graph developed by Pew Research Center shows that more parental leave is linked to higher gender pay gap.  European countries with liberal parental leave policies have higher pay gaps between men and women in ages 30 to 34.

Leave-Wage gap link
Leave-Wage gap link

In earlier paragraphs I listed a few economic impacts of the law for companies and thereby salary of the female work force. The economic impact will affect social and cultural aspects of the Indian society too. Well educated women in order to rise in their career paths will tend to push the decision to have children further or have only one child. While one may feel such a forced decision will reduce the population growth in the long run such decisions will impact future generations and their social well-being.  To understand the situation one can look at Japan or some of the other ageing European countries with lower total fertility rates (TFR).  India has been a vibrant country and one main reason for it is the abundance of young generation through every decade.

The answer obviously does not lie in abolishing of maternity leave for women but in adopting a middle path. The decision to have children should not be a burden on the hiring agency or a trade-off for women. Parenting and baby rearing is not necessarily meant only for women. Men should and need to play a significant role in it. For this article, I tried to find out the status of paternity leave given by Multi-National Corporates to small scale companies- the answer varied from 2 days to two weeks post birth of the child. No amount of gender sensitivity workshops can bring in change in men’s perception of the work involved in child rearing unless they are also involved in it personally. It would be prudent to keep maternity leave to the current 14-16 weeks status and increase paternity leave for men. This would reduce the burden of career challenges due to child birth being faced by women and be shared by the working couple. If men are allowed to take a month or two from work when the baby is four months or above it will help the woman get back to work early. Any drawbacks a woman suffers in terms of reduced pay rise due to leave of absence will be reduced or shared equally by both.

Women empowerment does not mean you give more leave so that she can continue to deal with child rearing. It has to mean shared load.  As mentioned by Sheryl Sandeberg in her book “Lean In”,  women aren’t “maternal gatekeepers”. Child rearing has to become a shared responsibility and such laws do not help towards the goal. As the discussion on enhanced paternity leave is gaining prominence, Maneka Gandhi apparently has said such a legislation will have little impact in India, where men do not even avail their existing leave entitlements to share the responsibility of child care. Paternity leave can be considered only if, once the woman goes back to work after her 26 weeks of leave, we find that men are availing their sick leave for a month to take care of the child. Let me see how many men do that. I will be happy to give it but for a man, it will be just a holiday, he won’t do anything.”

Such denigration of males will not help in development of society on humanist principles. Firstly, it is wrong to casually pass off all males as being uninterested in child rearing. With rising awareness there are many men who would be keenly interested in child rearing activities.  Secondly,  sick leave rules in companies aren’t as straight forward as mentioned by the minister. Few companies will give sick leave if demanded in advance and nor will it be approved for a full one month unless a serious illness is involved. If a company has a defined paternity leave of five days there is every likelihood that the company will deny one month’s sick leave in advance for the new Father.

In the 1965 Daneil Patrick Moynihan published a report titled “ The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”. In this report he argued that the high rate of families headed by single mothers would greatly hinder progress of blacks toward economic and political equality. Based on this conclusion President Lyondon Johnson signed the War on Poverty Act which gave considerable economic package to single mothers.  Since then, the percentage of Black single mothers has gone up from 23% in 1965 to staggering 70% in 2016 while the poverty numbers have not reduced at the same rate.  There has been a significant breakdown in the social structure of the Black community in the past fifty years. While there may be several reasons for this breakdown the key take away for the Indian context is the aspect of effect of a law -that while being well meaning when one tries to alter the social structure with economic gains thrown in as a carrot it can affect the family fabric considerably.

Based on news reports of past weeks it seems Maneka Gandhi’s thought process in tabling the Women’s Maternity Bill has been- women participation in work force is low–> because they have children–> men are lousy selfish fathers–> ergo increase maternity leave. The conclusions are being poorly supported by a study conducted by NCW with very little industry input.

The social and economic structure of every country is different. While European countries and the USA have high percentage of women employment USA does not have strict laws for maternity leave. Most US Universities and private industry do not provide paid maternity leave. India has a large number of small to medium scale industries which employ more than 80 million people and contributes about 8% to GDP. Women are typically employed in the IT, Banking, Retail and Tourism sector in India which contribute about 70% of GDP.  It is essential to have a dialogue with these industries and work towards a favourable solution. A long paid maternity leave will increase the salary budget of a company and the only way for it to recover cost will be through increased sales price. In order to survive any company will want to sell its product at lower costs and can do so only if it reduces its internal costs. The first blow in such scenarios will obviously be women employees who might be potentially requiring paid leaves.

While it is true that “It takes a whole village to raise a child” the current Women’s Maternity Bill attempts to put the onus of social and psychological upbringing on the Mother and the financial responsibility on business enterprises . The decision of a couple to have a child should not necessarily burden the business entity or only the woman. A Legislative Bill should consider the impact of the rules on the complete society during the formation of the Bill even while favouring one section of the society.  It is necessary to learn from the debacles of those countries which already have liberal paid maternity leaves versus those that don’t and develop laws that will not create more problems for the women employee.

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