Rape happens in Bharat

January 14th, 2013

Bharat is coming out with its usual do’s and don’ts for womenfolk that have always been there and enforced strictly but the world of ours that works next to the men late nights, can probably do nothing but wonder when this Bharat will disappear.

Since those professing to be representing true Indian values in their khaki shorts and baton in early morning sermons and even those who are in power in the “real” Bharat, will probably continue to support rapists by being logical about criminals. Their logical thinking, though, fails them when it to comes to why terrorists in Kashmir or the Naxals behave in a particular way. Bharat to me is a misnomer. We were never a one country. We protect our women but we rape women of other communities whether it is in a communal riot or in a crackdown by security forces or in a big city where nobody knows you. Besides, rape happens only in ‘Bharat’.

Pick up the two greatest Hindu mythologies. One is about abduction of Sita and the other an attempt to molest Draupadi and then to avenge these, both these texts have long-drawn battles. The abduction and the attempt to molest were both acts of punishment, one meted by Ravana to avenge the insult his sister was heaped upon by Laxman, and the other by the Kauravs for Draupadi who made fun of her husband’s cousins, just as a BJP minister in Madhya Pradesh says women who cross “moral limits” should be punished. In other religious texts like Durga Saptashati, the women power is about Devi who kills the evil. Primarily, most Hindu texts are about violence though they always have a larger message about goodness and how good wins over evil.

So, when RSS’s Bhagwat, representing this Bharat, uses the Higgs Theory to explain rape, and Asaram Bapu says the Delhi gang rape victim should have called the rapists brother, one was trying to be logical and the other just reaffirming the age-old myth that brothers are meant to protect girls since, after all, it is Krishna who helps Draupadi when her five warrior husbands are gambling with cousins. What they fail to acknowledge is that rape is a crime that happens even at home and in small town Bharat. Fathers and brothers also rape and kill girls.

Hinduism maybe the only other religion, besides Christianity, where a woman is worshipped. But Sita, the Goddess, sacrificed herself to convince her husband, an ideal king, of her “purity”. Draupadi who actually went through an attempted molestation is not a God to the Hindus but a wife who provokes her five husbands to fight a war against cousins.

All religious texts are written by men and these were good men living in Bharat, but as an aunt who was a Hindi teacher told me, recently even texts of Tulsidas and Kabir have lines prejudicial to women. It is the Indian ethos that teaches you to treat men as protectors and women as taryacharit (one who is difficult to gauge, loosely unreliable thinking and character). It is the language that Indians speak that has a translation for prostitutes in feminine but not in masculine.

This is not to say that the liberal and educated Bharat, so-called India, is not a misogynist. There is a senior Union minister loved for his liberal thinking who allegedly acted fresh with a lady bureaucrat some years back but all he has got is promotion. There is an additional secretary in the government of India who explained rape many years ago as a crime which resulted from women going to the field to relieve themselves and is highly sexist in his remarks even now. There are journalists young and old who think some women colleagues get news not because they are hardworking and have good conversational skills but because men like them. Bharat has still not learnt to treat women as equals. It is comfortable treating a woman as a mother, sister, wife, and in adverse circumstances as Kali or Durga, Goddess representing the violent face of a woman killing the demons. It is this Bharat that insults, rapes and kills women.

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An execution and a farewell in Mumbai

November 23rd, 2012

Within a week of Balasaheb being laid to rest, Ajmal Kasab was executed. Mumbai city felt the sorrow of a leader’s demise and then soon enough probably rejoiced the death penalty to the one who wronged them. Death after all can evoke different feelings. And, a vibrant city like Mumbai does not like anything which comes in the way of business and the Mumbai way of living.

Balasaheb, whose roots have often been traced to Bihar, represented one side of the business capital of the country -— that of being a hardline Mumbaikar. He gave Mumbai a militant identity through his Shiv Sainiks. But, at the end of his life’s innings he got praise and tears from the citizens. In some respects, it was a typical Hindu way of thinking -— not talking ill of the dead. More so, when the person is a political leader who, without contesting elections, commanded a massive following by appealing to the marginalized Maharastrians at some point in the political history of the city though most of it was built out of sheer muscle power that usually follows such a one-world view.

Perhaps, in a fitting tribute to the Mumbai leader, the local police acted against Shaheen Dadha for posting a seemingly innocuous update on Facebook. Innocuous because much harsher obituary pieces on Balasaheb had been published by newspapers.
The philosophy of intolerance had always found acceptance in the city and the police action was just a vindication of this belief. The action was obviously because the girl was a non-Hindu and the one who clicked like on the Facebook update though a Hindu was apprehended probably just to give it some kind of a secular hue.

Then, came Kasab’s execution. The Pakistani national was part of a conspiracy to kill and cause irreparable damage to the Indian state. Damage came in the form of a debate on whether by lodging Kasab in jail and not executing him, Indians were giving another proof of being a weak nation and by extension Hindus were a coward lot. So, with one execution, the government has debunked this allegation of being soft on Kasab. But how far this will work for Congress remains to be seen especially since, with one killing, militancy cannot be eroded. Besides, what do you do to those who vandalise and threaten common people every day?

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It’s Diwali, Mr Kejriwal

November 12th, 2012

After the firecrackers, it’s Diwali this time.

President Pranab Mukherjee was the target, though not for the first time but Mr Kejriwal, what about Diwali? Please do something about it. Crackers outside have caused smog, and gifts traffic jam. It is so difficult to make home these days and Dhanteras was here too, thankfully on Sunday.

Which car should he buy this time and who will finance it? No Ferrari ki Sawari but BMW for the son, my lord.

Daughter can choose from diamond that has no resale value. But copper-plated gold looks nice but her iPhone 4S is not working so the father has to buy that too. But over the counter it is expensive. So why not without the VAT and with some cash? But that too is dangerous these days even if it is in Swiss accounts.

Nobody knows this better than Mr Mukherjee this time. So ask the company and order one jewellery set and ask the other ones to give few gift vouchers for Croma this time.

IPhone 5 is home too. But the pen can tweak the policy in return. Though this time, none is sure. Mr Kejriwal is watching with his cap and he has the corruption recorder on. Media is playing the song.

But Mr Kejriwal, there is a complaint. Down the road and outside my office, gifts are troubling us. The flag bearer of courage on the Fleet Street has gifts piled in the glass chambers and some small fries who are yet to write big are crying foul. Hands are weak but gifts are heavy and the car is far.

Please Mr Kejriwal, do something. Needed, an expose on the street too. Mr Jindal too is crying foul. The next cracker should be from Radia tapes and why not in full. Do you like the TV camera or the cap on your head? Please let me know by the next Diwali.

Till then, at least keep the firecrackers on.

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Hold on, Mr Kejriwal

October 15th, 2012

There is more to the political discourse these days than just corruption charges. It has also come to be a repertory, devoid of inhibitions and full of newer and interesting phrases. So you had Vadra taking the help of “bananas” and “mangoes” to express his anguish against those questioning him and then law minister Salman Khurshid terming Arvind Kejriwal, activist turned politician, a “guttersnipe”. While every day is turning out to be a field day for Kejriwal, leaving the ones targeted by him quite exasperated, if not for these terms, a certain fatigue could have easily crept into the corruption debate.

Looking back, India Against Corruption may have very successfully put the corruption issue right in the front of us ever since the Jan Lok Pal agitation began last year, but at that time there was a lot of convincing that needed to be done. Doses of CAG reports too helped in building up the atmosphere. This year, the strategy of IAC has been to target individuals levelling charges against them and then actually running faster than probably it should to move on to the next man on the agenda. As has been with allegations against Khurshid, there has been a bit of mixing up of facts leaving many to believe that Kejirwal was relying more on a TV sting operation rather than his own independent verification. Coming as it did within days of an expose on Robert Vadra , it quite unintentionally took away the spotlight away from the Gandhi family’s son-in-law.

There is a certain pause which is missing, leaving one to wonder whether the everyday new expose policy is really serving any purpose. IAC needs to pause and stick on to issues and not probably jump on to another. Kejriwal seems to be a man possessed who is making things difficult for politicians but at the same time turning the pages too fast. It may not be wrong to say that in just about few days, his diatribes may not be taken seriously if this continues to be the pace.

For taking on politicians , who have been in power and know the tricks of the trade fully well, an emotive Kejriwal without a strategy may just end up being media’s source of latest in breaking news rather than an actual game changer. With corruption already a well-accepted thing among many Indians who either pay their way to get their work done or are themselves deep into easy money with loads of tolerance and envy for relatives who flaunt their ill-gotten wealth, corruption may just end up being a topic for television discussions. Between now and last year, in any case, Kerjriwal’s barbs, modelled on media’s investigative style, have overtaken the Anna phenomena, Jan Lok Pal demand has been forgotten and now it is just a race for elections where someone is sticking on to the corruption issue without realising politics has no one shade.

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Question Mark Media

August 6th, 2012

When YouTube and television channels beamed a hapless girl at Guwahati being molested by men looking into the camera, it did see a current of dismay and anger run inside me. At the same time, I suspected that the attack has been orchestrated by the one who caught the incident for million others. This suspicion stemmed not so much from the facts of the case but from instances of television channels provoking people to do something to build up their ratings in the past.

Though such cases are dangerous and counterproductive to the cause of restoring human dignity and deploring sexual assaults, what is more frequently witnessed are incidents of media creating issues when there are none. These could be in any form including corporates planting liners on television channels to push up their stocks or rivals bringing it down with equal speed. Naturally, a large section of people desist media and rightfully so.

Yet, sometimes the dislike for media gets carried too far. There is one incident that I particularly remember. As a reporter covering energy sector, I went to meet a director on the NTPC board some years back. It was a first meeting with him but he began the conversation with a usual disdain for media and how it was playing in the hands of Ambanis to deny NTPC natural gas which it wanted to source from Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. Well, this I thought was rude behaviour. First, you agree to meet and then all you say is that how media is the culprit, but as reporters we are used to this and I had an answer to it too. If one of his former chairman decided to go to court and readily play into the hands of one of the Ambani brothers and then subsequently join him, then isn’t his criticism of media misdirected, I asked him. Probably, media reports are not as harmful as such actions of the powerful that go unnoticed. Though I came out of his room with a terrible headache, he became a very reliable source of mine later.

There is media bashing of another kind as well, which reporters encounter both in their personal space and during news gathering. It often manifests in the form of `who are you to comment’. I do question myself on this very often and then I come out of it and say well, isn’t everybody entitled to her opinion? The advantage I have is that my opinion is based on the information which I gather after talking to more than one person central to a particular story and some research on the background. The other advantage I have is that I can write it. My opinion is published and voiced publically. And of course the most important point here is that just as a software engineer knows his job and yet can be criticized by a user for the flaws, I know my job yet I am not infallible. Media persons can indeed be openly criticized unlike many others—some of this is manifested in opinion writings that are contrary to our own and some of it through hate mails and media bashing from those who rely on media for all the information.

 

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I want to forget Narendra Modi

June 21st, 2012

Not so long ago, when we were students, colourful ethnic prints and lehengas were a rage among young Delhi girls. Saying bought from Gujri or got from Gujarat, could make one feel special among friends who relied on Regar Pura, a historic locality next to Delhi’s Karol Bagh, said to have been set up during Muslim rule, and made famous in the late 1980s by cheap ethnic fabric sellers. The charm of Gujarat and its rich culture has been replaced by Narendra Modi. Somehow, the very mention of Gujarat brings to mind his face and the post-Godhra riots. The man is certainly bigger than Gujarat for me, now. Bigger than even the State, that oversees citizens and provides for them.

Gujarat is, of course, a province with great potential which most coastal states are naturally endowed with, and over the years its enterprising people have wonderfully exploited this potential. Its culture has been preserved very well too, so naturally, I want to forget Modi.

Many perceive him as the best chief minister and Gujarat as the best administered state. Maybe. For me, Modi has replaced everything that I liked Gujarat for, as a student and now as a professional who tracks infrastructure building. And, I am not liking this.

For me, he is akin to dinosaurs and that is a great achievement–a leader bigger than a federal state or a country that have become extinct. Even Indira Gandhi could not achieve this. Despite India is Indira slogan, the former Prime Minister could not live to be bigger than the State. She comes to my mind for the Emergency and a violent death. But if Nitish Kumar’s conditions for NDA prime ministerial candidate do not work out and the UPA, with its unpopularity, facilitates NDA’s return to power, Modi may replace Manmohan–a change from a Prime Minister, who prefers to remain silent most times, to one who speaks out a language of hate directly in public forum. Some may argue, Modi is a popular leader and one of the most powerful in the biggest Opposition party so has all the right to grow out of Gujarat but I do not want to remember him—for Gujarat and for India.

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I like the petrol price hike

June 1st, 2012

I find myself in minority these days. Perhaps, the only other person who seems to be speaking out my thoughts is Jairam Ramesh, the rural development minister who raised green concerns on coal mining when he was in the environment ministry but was moved out to rural pastures soon after. I also find that I have started disliking cars on the road except for the one I drive.

Just outside my office these days the constant factors are the heat and the cars. Well, the heat will go away but the cars will not. They seem to be growing and threatening my existence. The so-called Passport Sewa Kendra just few doors away, with no facility to park humans standing in long queue, has only added cars on the Fleet Street of Delhi. Bharat Bandh came as a relief though. Thank God for the petrol price hike. But why do people hate petrol price hike?

It only means that we are paying little more for the luxury of car and two-wheelers as we deny ourselves the company of millions who still use public transport. A vehicle does add to travelling convenience and it did so this year for me but I am not cribbing about petrol price hike. I am cribbing about the cribbers.

Coming back to my street, there is an additional construction woe that has been added by the Delhi Metro Road Corporation but I like metro just as probably Jairam Ramesh does. But I do not like the way, DMRC, the local authorities and many others among the city slickers treat our hawkers. They want to clean my street by doing away with the hawkers who sell cheap food and water. All this for the convenience of the construction affected drivers, of course. But it is making space only for the steel cars that have only grow bigger in size and more in number by every passing day. Yet, people hate petrol price hike. They go for bandh and then they expect a rollback too.

The hawker, who sells chewing gum to me and chips and juice to us when the office boy decides to shut his little shop or is out of stock, is meanwhile shifting his shanty every other day. There are some famous parathawalas  too who are finding the construction inconvenient. They run a good business otherwise and have employed at least three people each. But who cares? It is only the convenience of car owners and inconvenience of the bandhs to political masters that is making headlines these days.

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Prime problem at the RCR

April 19th, 2012

Earlier this week, while driving in front of the Prime Minister’s residence which I normally do, I came across a minor traffic jam. It was unusual considering that it is a high security zone and policemen do not allow people to stop or create confusion on the Race Course Road. Yet, there was jam caused by none other than state chief ministers and their entourage.
They were probably there to meet the prime minister, I guessed since the number plates on the vehicles were from different states. Let me admit, at the onset, though that I have not verified about the meeting.

Across the Prime Minister’s residence, there is a dedicated parking for OV vans of television channels and media cars. Exactly outside the secured premises, though, there is a kind of service lane where usually escort vehicles of ministers and other dignitaries are parked when the bosses are in important meetings inside. The space probably was less this time and the number of vehicles was more.

It became a prime problem at that hour for any office goer especially if you are in a rush to attend an office meeting. Yet, from the other end of the prism it is not such a prolonged one since policemen ensure that the confusion does not last long.
But the speeding vehicles with power brakes and power-headed drivers are a dreaded lot for any driver in the Lutyens’ Zone.
Government vehicles are as aggressive on roads as an upstart driver of a SUV on the Mehrauli Road who has recently tasted easy money from land deals. Money and power, after all, behave similarly when it comes to flaunting.

Besides the vehicles themselves, what struck me was the lack of parking space at the Prime Minister’s residence for the democratic heads of Indian states.

Some time back, when the media was all out against the mess-up in Commonwealth Games preparation, a senior bureaucrat ranted how pessimistic our reporting was but while cursing the newspapers for saying one side of the story, he acknowledged that a lot of money was being thrown around without much thought and planning.

Citing the example of Shastri Bhawan that houses many important Union government offices and is in the much pampered Lutyens’ Delhi, he came straight to the core issue which was disturbing him, the lack of parking space. The only good example of a modern building with no such woes, he said, is the India Habitat Centre.

“We should bring down all these government buildings that came up some time in the 50s and 60s or earlier, and have basement parking just as in IHC.” A point well-made, most Delhi’ites would probably say.

If the Prime Minister’s residence with sprawling lawns that have peacocks and black cats moving around does not have any planned parking for an event like chief ministers’ meeting, then the shabby Shastri Bhawan with its smelly corridors that go dingier or rather pitch dark due to frequent power cuts can be no better.

Forget about private colonies or housing societies in which powerless citizens reside. As a country, we do not create or plan for future. But, if the government really decides to pull down buildings and create parking space and plan better for the Prime Minister’s residence, at least the Race Course Road will be able to live up to its name of being a planned track not only for horses that race right opposite the Prime Minister’s house but also for government vehicles.

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Right to Leakage

March 30th, 2012

It may not be anybody’s case to hide information these days. Many make business out of information and interpretation of information is even bigger business. Naturally, just like any product that carries a value, the tendency of those who have the information is to hoard it especially if the release of information could work to someone’s disadvantage.

Those with firsthand experience of corporate rivalry and diplomatic manoeuvring probably realise the importance of information even more than media. Often media is just a conduit to reach the larger audience and cause a larger impact. No wonder, leakage of information and reports have been at the centre of upheavals globally as well as in India since last year.

Leakage of information has assumed such importance that findings of an auditor report take a backseat to the question of how did the cat get out of the bag. So we have the Comptroller and Auditor General writing to the Prime Minister an elaborate letter dwelling on the embarrassment caused due to the leakage without really thinking twice about why should it matter whether the report is out even before it was suppose to be? And lo and behold, the letter too gets leaked.

It took years for the country to realise the need for a Right to Information Act. The use or misuse of this right is a subject of much debate in government offices, but the dangers of not knowing far outweigh the dangers of knowing or not knowing fully. Keeping away information probably gives its officers a sense of power. In fact, from a government perspective, most of the things that it announces “formally” have already been in public domain. Take the case of recent Budget. The decision to increase excise and service tax and many other proposals were already known. Someone somewhere didn’t give a damn about secrecy.

The only person in recent days who seems to have held on to the oath of secrecy is Dinesh Trivedi. He kept away probably the biggest decision of his life from his “leader” Mamata Banerjee, who asserted her right to know as a coalition partner. In the end, Trivedi lost his job, Banerjee her credibility and the Railway Budget its relevance.

Sometimes, the plea for not revealing information is that it is in formative stage—a proposal and not a decision, an idea so delicate that if revealed can be lost completely. While that may be true, why should any proposal that matures to change the course for some people or company should not be discussed? Revealing information is all about exposing it to public debate. And in hiding it, the only intention is to quell protest and prevent lobbying. But if a decision or a decision maker succumbs to criticism and lobbyists then obviously the fault lies not in the revelation but in the system’s resilience. Such a system that does not live the test of criticism needs further strengthening and so, hail the Right to Leakage and down with iron curtains.

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Normalcy management: Are there any tests for it?

February 27th, 2012

In many qualifying exams and even in organisations, a worst case scenario or the most problematic situation is always the normal thing for testing a rookie. Even if worth of an individual lies in how best he can handle a crisis, there is a strong case for normalcy management. Take the case of journalism, writing a good routine copy for a reporter is a real challenge than doing a follow-up of a news report missed to other newspapers. Or for that matter, driving safely on a clear road where the speed limit can cross 100 kmph easily is probably tougher than moving at a snail pace in a jam.

Could it be that the false sense of measuring an individual’s competence in dealing with crisis stems from the pessimistic approach towards work? Is this the reason that many heads of organisations would like to keep their subordinates always in a crisis situation? Does this brings out the best in them or puts a jammer on creativity.

Recently on a test for a driving licence, I realised that over 50 cars were lined up in a place that could well have been a dumping ground for carcasses. Besides mud and pot holes, there were stones and humps and a dusty wind over which no one had any control. Amateur drivers had to slowly move in a round queue on a rocky surface and then proceed to make an eight around two circles created close to each other under a watchful eye of an inspector. There was nothing wrong with the test, except for the track itself and the examiners. All the candidates were like one herd of animals being barked upon by the inspectors. Some like me were spared rude language on gender consideration, perhaps. The more down the social ladder you appeared, the ruder the behaviour was.

It wasn’t after all just a driving licence test. It was about a worst case scenario on the Indian roads. Anybody coming out of it obviously will be inspired to treat everything in a similar fashion, if not always, at least for few days. This was in Gurgaon, but most cities in the country probably to do just the same.

So, while one came out with a sense of fulfilment at having cleared the test after flunking it once, happiness was missing.
It only meant coming out of a crisis with a reasonable amount of success. It brings out a thought that while managing a crisis may be very important for the event itself but dealing with normalcy is the bread and butter. Perhaps, many may not agree but certainly there is a dearth of people who can manage a normal situation in the best possible way.

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