Archive for January, 2011

Around the World in a Click

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 January 26th, 2011 Shibangi DasShibangi Das

Is too much information availability at the click of a button confining us in our personal space? But how does one define a personal space in an age when minute-by-minute updates of one’s life are available to people across the globe?

Looking back to 20 years ago, when newspapers and the hourly slots on the national TV channel were the only source of news and people kept aside an hour or two each day to gulp every scrap of it that came their way, I feel amazed at how means and ways of relaying news and information to others have progressed. Every moment of the day is spent knowing something new, getting updates on the political front, the real-time scores of any sporting event being held in any corner of the world and reactions to quotes of the numerous celebrities and leaders worldwide. Thanks to new age media, that as I am writing this piece, I know through posts on Twitter how the Republic Day parade is Delhi is taking shape.

With the popularisation of the internet and social networking, blogging, micro-blogging sites like Facebook, Blogger, Wordpress, Twitter, etc. the world has definitely become smaller, and it has made every individual a part of the huge media organisation as he or she is part of the chain of information flowing across closely spaced dots marking the information centres that seem to be taking over the world map in a hurry. When one is at an event and is telling his or her virtual friends about how great the event is and updating them with quotes and incidents from the venue using his or her iPhone, he or she is transmitting news; maybe not on a scale as huge as established media organisations, but he or she is acting as a reference point nevertheless.

A friend, whose blog ranks 56th among India’s top 100 blogs, writes about his travels and outings around the Western Ghats, and anyone who wishes to visit one such place would now google it to find out ways to reach it, accommodation arrangements, best season to visit there, and lo! My friend’s blog provides all the required information. What he does for pleasure becomes a guide for travellers and tourists. A cousin who actively blogs about business and commerce gets comments by random students who like his take on concepts of consumerism, value chain and the like, has his followers quoting him in their papers and presentations, and to the approval of their professors too. What he does for pleasure becomes a source of information and perspective for millions of people grappling with understanding these ideas.

Addiction to information seeking, or simply staying connected with people around the world is becoming rampant – but whether it is advantageous, or its limitations are affecting us in some latent way, we are yet to understand. While it is easier to stay abreast of what is happening around the world, the pile of information is growing at a rate which is soon going to make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. The competition to know more and be more aware is taking a toll on our interactions in the real world. Most of us are either logged in to Facebook, Orkut or Twitter or Googling to find out about Russian literature, or we are chatting up with friends just to while away time, when we can actually go out, meet people in the real world, experience live events in our true physical form and feel more enriched than what we come across in the virtual world. We’d rather kick our heels and assimilate experiences virtually. Maybe it is another effect of a tiresome competitive lifestyle that we are too tired to go out, but we are accepting it as a convenient alternative.

Stalwarts of the Indian media industry like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Pritish Nandy and Vir Sanghvi use new age media to raise issues, get reader comments and to get their views across to a wider audience. Tweets are also welcomed to be shown on TV programmes to show people’s stand on issues.  Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan give their fans much to rejoice about when they respond to comments to their blog posts personally. Celebrity tweets are making tabloid headlines. People recommend or slam the latest releases in their Facebook and Orkut status lines, and it works best as a word-of-mouth publicity platform. Lesser known celebrities and starlets create their own channel on YouTube to gain wider popularity. The examples are too many and the effect is for all of us to see.

Even business and advertising seem to have taken to the convenience of the internet. Ordering for a pizza and paying for it online is as simple as checking out potential life partners’ profiles online or searching for a house in a completely new city. Latest technical gadgets and automobiles are evaluated and the feedback is available for all within hours of their launch. Two days after the launch of Google’s Androis OS, even a sixth grader could rattle of its features and compare it with Windows or Macintosh. Geek-ism is in. Such is the power of new age media. We can choose the information we want and the people we want to stay in touch with.

Traditional media is still quite popular considering the internet and VAS on mobile networks are yet to make their presence as strongly felt in rural India. But for the fact that the resistance to change we look at and for information is dissolving. The smartness quotient seems to be climbing the charts, and clearly ignorance is no longer bliss.

An Emerging Economy Of Peeping Tom’s

Monday, January 24th, 2011 January 24th, 2011 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

The other day, I was at Taj (Bandra) attending a summit and tweeted about the session to my Twitter timeline (in simple words, it went to everyone who reads my updates on the micro-blogging site) and geo-tagged my location (with the in-built GPS function in my iPhone, I can add my location to every tweet/image/Facebook post). By the end of the summit, I got a tweet from 2 followers that they were in the same vicinity (in effect, complete strangers, who subscribed to my Twitter feeds and known to me just digitally). They had seen my location on their handsets! While in theory, I knew this happens but when it actually happened – tracing someone through geo-taging via a tweet — I have to admit it was a bit alarming to introduce myself to two strangers (who by the way turned out to be speakers from the summit I was attending).

And then some more startling conversation followed. One of the strangers, let’s call him Mr A, asked me about MY trip on a yacht that I had tweeted about, asked me questions on my recent experience as a panel moderator that I had shared on Facebook, and also discussed my story that I had shared on LinkedIn. He knew and remembered my digital updates. The second person, Mr B too enquired about a recent trip that I had shared on Twitter and pointed out what I should have included in my itinerary.

If you’ve been spending the past year or longer on the most popular social networking sites – Twitter and Facebook – then probably the above incidents have occurred in your life too. People like me log on every day, obsessively share updates on Facebook profiles and make it a point to check the status updates, tweets and what their online friends have been upto. In many ways, this is like reversing the peepholes on our apartment doors and inviting the world to see us in our natural habitat.

And I am not alone. Facebook is the 3rd most visited website in India, representing 5.26 per cent of all Indian Internet visits (according to Experian metrics). With search engines, social networks and email services clocking top ranks on the internet, it’s safe to conclude that most internet-savvy Indians spend a good amount of time reading up on what their friends are chatting, tweeting, scribbling, uploading, viewing and recommending on the web.Social networks have evolved is a classic example of how voyeuristic we have become (and there’s scope for more with 3G with people expected to start sharing videos etc on handsets).

Our every move, latest connections and most current whereabouts are up for everyone to see. And if you ever convince yourself that people aren’t paying attention to you simply because you don’t see a comment on your updates or photos of that party you attended, then please don’t fool yourself. When you comment on someone else’s photo or update, sites generate an email to let everyone else in your network know what you just scribbled. You “poke” a friend, take a quiz or survey and compare the results with your friends or upload a photo of your new car and wait for your friends to compliment you on your choice. You reach out to the site and it reaches out to you — keeping you glued.

The question I ask myself — can I stop social networking today? The answer stares right back at me.

Strange bedfellows

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 January 22nd, 2011 Aditi PhadnisAditi Phadnis

It’s tough to be a Congressman in Tamil Nadu.

Just consider. First, it is the Congress which is shoring up the government in the state, but it is the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which has all the ministers and the veto power at the centre.

Why isn’t the Congress part of the ruling establishment in the state? Because the party doesn’t want to be tainted by association.

OK, so the party has to both defend and criticise the DMK.

Now consider: A Raja used to be a nondescript lawyer until he became environment minister and then telecommunications minister.

Suddenly he acquired a palatial home, his family began to look prosperous, he acquired new friends…

Then there were all these stories of corruption.

And who defended Raja ?

Obviously the DMK, because he was a member of their party. But most vociferously? the Congress.

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal attacked those who were critical of Raja including the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). That refrain was taken up by party general secretary Manish Tiwari.

And what did the CAG say? He said the government had suffered a presumptive loss and pointed out that there were four ways in which spectrum could have been auctioned.

Oddly enough, the CAG’s criticism was also voiced by all those who were sympathetic to Niira Radia, a big player in appointing Raja.

So what should the Congress in Tamil Nadu say or do? One of their most senior ministers in Delhi is attacking those who are criticisng Raja’s conduct. Raja is not from their party.

Difficult position to defend? You bet. That’s why, it is hard to be a Congressman from Tamil Nadu….

Internet: a brainmelter?

Monday, January 17th, 2011 January 17th, 2011 J Jagannath

It’s a familiar pattern: A provocative piece with fragile logic and thin evidence but crisp writing and pungent examples goes viral followed by a storm of discussion. After all, it’s an assault on sacred cows. What follows is on expected lines: A lucrative deal for a book length extension of the essay. Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains” reinforces this syndrome. The book is an improvement on Carr’s bridge burning essay called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, which appeared in Atlantic magazine a couple of years ago.

Backed by evidence in neuroscience by pioneers like Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel, Carr crystallises the most important debates of our time: while enjoying the Internet’s bounties, we are sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply. Carr posits that the nature of the beast called Internet is that it is supposed to distract humans through its “ecosystem of interruption technologies”: a few chunks of text, video or audio stream, a set of navigational tools, various advertisements and widgets. He says that the 21st century man will be busy flitting among bits of online information while losing “capacity to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end”.  So piercing are his observations that I almost felt guilty for checking my Twitter timeline while reading the book and started wondering if the Net was indeed a digital Chernobyl: the air is fine, the water is fine but it is just not worth inhabiting.

While denouncing the mind-numbing nature of Net, Carr also doesn’t discount its multiple and attractive benefits: interactivity, hyperlinking, searchability, multimedia. The best part about the World Wide Web is that information is now literally available on fingertips. This blessing is inherently a curse in disguise too, according to Carr. “Whenever we, as readers, come upon a link, we have to pause, for at least a split second, to allow our prefrontal cortex to evaluate whether or not we should click on it. The redirection of our mental resources, from reading words to making judgments, may be imperceptible to us— our brains are quick— but it’s been shown to impede comprehension and retention, particularly when it’s repeated frequently.”

But the case that Carr makes for books tends to be simplistic. “By allowing us to filter out distractions, to quiet the problem-solving functions of the frontal lobes, deep reading becomes a form of deep thinking.” Carr fails to notice that a book too is a form of technology and not some organic object that was plucked from a tree. Let’s face it, a book also can no longer provide what our relentlessly connected age has made difficult, if not impossible: splendid isolation. But Carr tends to get mystical when the talk veers towards the brick and mortar: “There was something calming in the reticence of all those books (in the library of his alma mater Dartmouth College), their willingness to wait years, decades even, for the right reader to come along and pull them from the appointed slots.” Sadly, ‘The Shallows’ is beset by similar bouts of mawkishness that Carr never manages to shrug off.

While the book’s subtitle purports to talk about the impact of Net on human brains, Carr barely touches on the subject the half-way mark. In the first six chapters, I got the feeling that Carr was on literary auto-pilot with meandering accounts of Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter and Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures.

The Shallows breathes hard in the initial parts when Carr dons a historian’s hat and takes the reader on a guided tour on the genesis of paper to Google’s ascendance to Internet superpowerdom. A more careful editor could have curbed his indulgence. It’s not until the seventh chapter (The Juggler’s Brain), which is the book’s linchpin, that Carr gets down to business. Carr introduces us to John Sweller, an Australian educational psychologist, who explains that human brains incorporate two kinds of memory: short-term and long-term. While the former holds immediate impressions and thoughts, the latter stores all our conscious and sub-conscious impressions of the world.

Carr says that the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from the former to the latter. “When we read a book…. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory. With the Net, we face many information faucets (remember “ecosystem of interruption technologies”?) all going full blast…. And what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source.”

To say something so substantial about a technology that’s only two decades old, this thimble, faucet metaphor seems a bit farfetched. That said, there is much to admire in ‘The Shallows’, primarily for the brisk, vividly written chapters that flow with the swiftness of a river. If only Carr could match his magpie’s eye for detail with an insight that’s truly unique. ‘The Shallows’ is so packed with thrills that the reader doesn’t have a moment to breathe— or to enjoy the deep reading that he so strongly recommends.

The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
W W Norton & Company
276 pages
Rs 1,277

Helplessly educated and single

Thursday, January 13th, 2011 January 13th, 2011 Lipi Mohapatra

A friend of mine felt helplessly educated when her husband, while still married to her, secretly ‘acquired’ another woman 16 to 18 years younger. My friend was aware of her rights in such a situation, but was still groping for answers.

“What are the choices before me?” she asked me. My educated head said she should go legal and either end it or contest it.

The husband’s act was illegal, without a trace of doubt, although my friend’s ‘b(i)etter half’ kept proclaiming innocence, brushing this piece of information off as a rumour.

I don’t know what amazed me. Was it the age difference between her husband and the other woman? His casual approach to an act that invites criminal prosecution under Indian laws? The support he was getting from his family?  Or just the timid response of my friend who was a mere spectator to all that was happening in her life?

“Contest,” I egged her on. “The case is in your favour and you’ll win.”

“It’s murky,” said a common friend. “Just let it go.”

“Do it on mutual basis,” said someone else.

Understandably, her family was troubled with the fact that she would soon be ‘single’. As feminist write Erica Jong puts it, ‘Singularity shows something wrong in the mind.’

I discussed the situation with my mom for some elderly perspective. Her view was this -“In India, being single is losing the choice to be spontaneous and secure.” Being single is like unprotected sex, where you are vulnerable to many questions, glances and hush talks.

My friend will soon figure out what to do next. But, according to Deepak Miglani, Advocate, President Legal Point Foundation, here are a few choices a woman in her situation has:

  1. Seek legal advice
  2. Register an online complaint with the National Commission for Women at www.ncw.nic.in.  Here investigations by police are expedited and monitored.
  3. If there is still a chance to rework the reunion, seek the help of family, friends or a marriage counselor.

If her husband seeks divorce, she can claim maintenance under:

  1. Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code,
  2. Section 24 of Hindu Marriage Act,
  3. The Domestic Violence Act,
  4. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act

A few points to note:

  • Maintenance is granted keeping in view the financial capacity of husband and his source of income. The Income Tax return is not final authority for deciding the quantum of maintenance, though it is taken into consideration.
  • Where maintenance is admissible the woman usually has to merely state that she is wife. Strict proof is not essential in every case.
  • Maintenance can be granted u/s 125 CrPC as well as u/s 24 simultaneously. Generally, however a wife cannot claim more than 50% of his income.
  • In case of settlement of assets jointly owned, she can claim half the amount, where she has not contributed, and the full amount that she spent, if her contribution was more.

‘The people of India’ – a much-abused term

Saturday, January 8th, 2011 January 8th, 2011 Joydeep Ghosh

The term – ‘The people of India’ – seems to have caught the fancy of everyone. Yesterday, while panning the CAG report’s estimates on the financial loss to exchequer in the telecom scam, minister Kapil Sibal kept on saying ‘the people of India’ have to know the real numbers.

BJP’s Ravishankar Prasad also uses this term quite often while criticising the government.

“The loss incurred by the exchequer is humungous; the people have the right to know how could the government allow this to happen?” Or “The consistent rise in food prices shows that the government was unable to anticipate the shortage. The people of India are asking ….” And so on.

Who are these people of India that our politicians are referring to all the time? – Is it the voter? In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the average turnout was around 60 per cent. I would think that the majority of these voters are rural, and not urban.

I really wonder how many of their issues have been handled well by the government. And for that matter, any Indian government.

As a Mumbai tabloid reported, during the peak of the onion prices crisis, farmers were being paid as little as Rs 4 per kg while it was being sold at Rs 60-80. Then, there has been a sugar shortage. Garlic and tomato prices on the boil.

In spite of the rotting food grains in Food Corporation of India godowns all across the country, the public distribution system has been unable to distribute them to the people. Television channels reported that some of the food grains being distributed had to be fed to dogs because of bad quality.

It’s not just food. Recently a woman killed a politician in Bihar for allegedly raping her for three years. Wasn’t this politician supposed to be a representative of people? Villagers, and most likely, voters are consistently targeted, raped, maimed and killed.

Unfortunately, the politicians representing these so-called ‘people of India’ have let them down miserably. And it is across parties. At the end of the day, barring a very few, most politicians suffer from the lack of a clean image. So much so, that the expectations from politicians are going down by the day.

‘The people of India’ want simple things. You can have your scams, let us have our food. Is it too much to ask?

Where did it all go wrong, Ron?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 January 4th, 2011 Aabhas Sharma

Once every few years comes a moment of magic from a footballer that is forever etched in your mind. Diego Maradona’s brilliant individual goal against England in the 1986 World Cup (no, not the Hand of God goal), Roberto Carlos’ banana free kick against France, Zinedine Zidane’s gravity-defying volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final are a few examples. For me, however one of the moments of the last decade has to be Ronaldinho’s goal for Barcelona against Chelsea in the 2006-07 Champions League quarter final. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijR1WX2bLIo).

It is an incredible goal which leaves you speechless. The ball at his feet, he swayed his body like a dancer and rifled in an exquisite finish. Petr Cech, the Chelsea goalkeeper and their defence were left shellshocked and millions of fans just shook their head in disbelief at what had just happened.

That goal summed up Ronaldinho in his prime. Pulling off some of the most incredible moves with subliminal ease. That however was five years ago when the buck-toothed Brazilian was easily the best football player on the planet. Now at 30, his career is all but finished. As a football fan I feel robbed, and not to sound like a drama queen, the way his career has folded left me heartbroken. Watching him in his prime is easily amongst the best things I have seen in football (no I was too young to see Maradona in his pomp).

At Barcelona from 2003-07, he was head and shoulders above the rest. He won titles with a Barcelona team where Andres Iniesta was a greenhorn, Xavi Hernandez barely made it to the first XI and Lionel Messi was a promising youngster. All three of them ironically are now on the shortlist for FIFA’s best player in the world award while Ronaldinho heads back to the beaches of Brazil and play for Gremio FC. Though he could even end up at Blackburn Rovers. A few years ago, “Ronaldinho to join Blackburn Rovers?” would have been apt for April Fool’s joke but it is a possibility now.

Not that Ronaldinho wouldn’t be remembered as a great player but he will always be remembered for being a great player at one point in his career, whereas he could easily have been talking about one of all-time greats who dominated his era. At Barcelona, he was what Lionel Messi is today. Rarely had a bad game, struck fear in the opposition’s hearts before the ball was kicked and always, always played with a smile. He moved to AC Milan after he was considered a “disruptive influence” at Barcelona. He showed glimpses of his brilliance but never did it consistently. He clearly had the ability but the desire was missing. The desire that made him win two World Player of the Year awards couldn’t be rekindled. He is likely to end up in Brazil where the pressure will be less, he will be treated as a hero and quietly walk away from football. The old maxim ‘it’s easier getting to the top than it is staying there’ sums up Ronaldinho’s career. At his peak he was untouchable and had unmatched talent. But that wasn’t enough. The desire, the mentality and the application required to stay at the top was missing.

Ronaldinho’s story reminds of another iconic player – George Best. Best was supremely talented, one of the best player that the British Isles have ever produced but he succumbed to the “good life”. Best regularly told the story of how a room service waiter found him in bed with a stunning Miss Universe with thousands of currency notes scattered around the room. The waiter looked at him and reportedly said “Where did it all go wrong, son?” We could easily be asking the buck-toothed Brazilian genius the same thing: where did it all go wrong, Ron?

When Citi was sleeping

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 January 4th, 2011 Joydeep Ghosh

“Citi never sleeps” is the famous campaign of the bank. But then, it was sleeping like Kumbhakarna for almost a year.

If one were to go by news reports, a Citibank employee and his accomplices were investing monies – almost Rs 400 crore – of high net worth individuals through brokerage houses for a while now.

Corporate houses like the Hero group and 20-odd people invested in schemes which were sold to them by showing them forged letter of the market regulator, Sebi.

While the bank may argue that bigger scams have taken place all across the world, including India. But one would expect the bank of this size – another Kumbhakarna feature – to have better due diligence systems.

Aren’t there supposed to be quarterly audits, at least? How do they prepare their results otherwise?

It is slightly difficult to believe that there only one person involved. If the employee was issuing cheques on the behalf of a client, there had to be a second signature.

It is easy to understand that the clients were offered super normal returns (high returns at higher risks) and they fell for it. No wonder, they are cheated often because they do not understand the nuances of the product.

But can a bank, which is supposed to be specialising in these things, plead not guilty of the same? Can Rs 400-crore be diverted/ invested by one person without any scrutiny?

My fear is at a very basic level…

The Softer Approach

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 January 4th, 2011 Shibangi DasShibangi Das

I saw a new face of the custodians of Mumbai local trains today. I quite liked it.

There were three ladies from Mauritius, for their first time in Mumbai, soaking in the experience of travelling in a local train. From whatever little Gujarati I understand, but with no intention of eavesdropping, I couldn’t help but overhear their gleeful statements about getting the feel of India head on. It was quite amusing. An old man in a kurta stood next to the gate. Since he already seemed quite uncomfortable, or for whatever reason, no one bothered to ask him why he was in the ladies compartment.

At Mahim Junction, a lady got on to the train. After settling in, she showed her TC badge and gently questioned the old man as to what he was doing in the ladies compartment. He apparently was escorting the three ladies from abroad, and since they were new, he did not want to leave them alone for the fear of losing them in the infamous Mumbai crowd. Very gently, the lady reprimanded the old man and the three ladies for not checking the rules. One, they were travelling in first class with second class tickets; and two, a man was travelling in a ladies compartment. The ladies reasoned that they were new to the city and did not know the rules properly and that the man was from a village and illiterate.

The TC told them in clear terms that the fine would include the difference in fare between stations they had travelled and a penalty. She said she would give them a concession since they were new to the city and unaware, calculated for a bit and mentioned a perfectly reasonable amount. I was surprised for I was expecting her to quote an astronomical sum since the ladies appeared very well-to-do and did not seem to know what the penalties are like.

She made made them get off at Bandra to avoid the difference in fare from getting any bigger, which was quite considerate. Beyond the point they got off, I do not know how the interaction ended. But it left me liking the way the lady gently but firmly took charge of the situation with such grace and without being harsh or rude with anyone. She also exemplified Indian hospitality and did not disappoint or anger tourists, giving them reason enough to not feel cheated.
We may turn around to the regular arguments that she may have been trying to be polite because the people were foreigners. But there was something about her demeanour which said she would be the same with anyone else. It was a refreshing change from the cops, TCs, babus flouting their clout and trying to fleece whosoever is available. The crude language and the criminal-like treatment meted out to unwilling and unknowing offenders leaves a bad after-taste, making cynics out of even the most positive and hopeful person.

Even in the corporate scenario or our regular personal interactions, we seem to respond more positively to elders, bosses and colleagues who make it sound like they mean well and are not just out to be vindictive for the heck of it. I remember being most affected by my father and teachers who were gentle but firm and never loud, angry or harsh. Firmness in speech doesn’t have to include use of invectives, a loud volume or a nasty tone. Yes, there are many who would take advantage of such a seemingly mild reproach and continue to openly disregard rules and the law.

But I only wish more people would use the softer approach first.

The landed question

Monday, January 3rd, 2011 January 3rd, 2011 Devjyot Ghoshal

Winters in Kolkata are fascinating. Almost magically, just as ceiling fans become redundant during the nights, the non-resident Bengali intelligentsia, both authentic and imaginary, return to the city for great food, good music and copious amounts of intoxicants.

Last week, a noted city barrister, over dinner and sufficiently greased, recalled his last meeting with the CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury a few winters back. Clasping his wine — and in a manner typical of gentrified storytelling — we were told of Yechury’s plea to him for an assessment of what the Left has got right, and wrong, in West Bengal.

The barrister’s reply, essentially, was that the CPI(M)’s much-vaunted land reforms was possibly the worse policy that the party had implemented. And, of course, Yechury’s subsequent displeasure over the particular thought was why the story was told in the first place.

Admittedly, the merit of the argument is debatable, but the Left has inadvertently created a monster for itself by significantly reducing the size of the land-holdings in the state, thereby making it difficult to acquire large tracts at one go.

It was, ironically, the radical land reforms movement that created the electoral bedrock for the CPI(M) in rural West Bengal, although the question of land, and the rightful acquisition process for industry, has been the incumbent governments’ nemesis in recent years.

But if the Left hasn’t got it right on the land issue, what is the alternative? The state’s principle opposition party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which is widely tipped to topple the CPI(M) after over three decades in government, has itself put forward an ambiguous land policy.

Despite the fact that TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has vociferously pitched against the certain provisions in the Land Acquisition and Relief and Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bills, the ministry under her purview — the Railways — is going full steam ahead with land acquisition, even as she had repeatedly said that this will not be done ‘forcefully’.

Resistance, however, is bound to crop up when Banerjee attempts to secure land for industry, if and when she heads West Bengal’s next government next year, as both the masses and the Left will scrutinise every detail of her modus operandi.

Moreover, it will be fascinating to see how Banerjee deals with a demon of her own creation, and how the Bengali intelligentsia reacts to it next winter, when, as usual, the great and good of the clan shall congregate here again.