Dictatorship or Democracy!

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Currently, there is a trend or fashion, whatever you want to call the world’s largest two democracies, India and the US, as dictatorships or moving towards the dictatorship. I asked a friend who was vehemently arguing why these are dictatorships. When people are highly excited about their ideas, I generally don’t counter-argue. It is because their mind is not open.

Modi won the election initially in 2014 and then again in 2019 with a higher majority. Trump won the elections in 2016. Their immediate predecessors were Manmohan Singh and Barak Obama. Chalk and the cheese are the accurate descriptions of their style of working in comparison with the incumbents. Though Modi’s victory was expected, Trump was a surprise winner for many.

By no means, I agree with all what Modi and Trump are propagating. It is liberals, seculars in both the countries who are troubled by this development. But in India, at least, these people are happy when minorities are appeased and are given benefits. Both Modi and Trump are right-wing leaders. In a democracy leftist, left of centre, right of centre thought processes are reasonable and acceptable. But the extreme right of centre becomes a dictatorship. Then what does extreme left become?

The latest trend that I see is that the veteran politicians of various thought processes are not used to the so-called right-wing thoughts. Anything that does not match with their thinking is not acceptable, or it is evil. It is a dictatorship. These liberals are okay even with Maoist/Naxalite thought. Some of them take out marches to support convicted terrorists. The latest march was in Mumbai to support Sharjeel who is arrested on sedition charges.

So how is the health of democracy in these two countries? I think it is good. People may not agree with me. How does democracy compare with other forms of Government? Compared to dictatorships, oligarchies, monarchies and aristocracies, in which the people have little or no say in who is elected and how the government is run, a democracy is often said to be the most challenging form of government, as input from those representing citizens determines the direction of the country. The basic definition of democracy in its purest form comes from the Greek language: The term means “rule by the people.”

But when the “Opposition” wins, those in power don’t accept the result of the election gracefully. The ruling gentry is used to the benefits that they get when they are in power. Opposition for the sake of opposition is the name of the game. Many times it surprises me that others vehemently reject any action taken by the ruling party. How can two sides be never on the same page for any decision? Does it mean that either of the sides is antinational? When a budget is declared, it is natural to have different views on the same. The opposition should be giving a point by point reply. But since both sides are citizens of India, at least 20/30 per cent of budget points should be acceptable to both. But from the statements, it appears that their views are a 100 % mismatch. Is this the correct way of taking part in the governance of the country?

Democracy is a system where all and sundry are allowed to air their views on all the subjects in the world. Both in the US and India people can openly do this. There is an old joke about this. An American and a Russian are chatting over a drink. The American says, “In my country, I can easily say that our President is an idiot.” The Russian smiles and says, “ Oh! We also have that freedom. I can openly say in Moscow that the American President is an idiot!” Democracy gives freedom to pursue your right to live anywhere in the country. It means you can follow any religion, and you may dress the way you want. You may have political views which could be from far left to far right. The freedom that humans get has to be used within the guidelines or the framework of the law.

The last couple of months, we have continuous protests in various parts of the country. The legal system in the country ensures that protests are peaceful; at the same time, it makes sure that the police don’t go overboard when they act. But the unfortunate part is those parties which are discretely supporting these protests claim that the government is moving towards dictatorship. They write in newspapers, and they give interviews on TV channels. Is this not freedom? In the same breath, they keep on talking of dictatorship. Such acts indicate the thought process of “my way or the highway!” A couple of days back, the US opposition leader Pelosi, tore off the copy of the speech given by Trump in the house. It is absolute freedom that allows such an act. The tearing away of the address is seen in a video, but that is democracy.

Why does this happen? It is because of the myopic view that people take. In the US, people do not now that there is a large group of people in the Central part of America, who are called the rednecks. (These states are known as “Flyover” states, the word Flyover is a verb!) 🙂🙂 These are mostly white Americans from a poor background and were easily driven by Trump’s speech of “Americans First!” They get the feeling that new immigrants are taking away their jobs. They do not know that the US is mainly a high tech economy which needs high-end people to run the organisations. These experts move to the US from anywhere in the world. But rednecks voted Trump to victory because of the “feel” and not fact! A similar thing has been happening in the last few years in India where the middle class has got that “feel” which brought in the current government. Does it mean that there is a dictatorship? It only means that the prevailing ruling party could catch the nerve of the people and have a great marketing department. There are no Goebbels and Hitlers seen anywhere on the horizons. But how can the liberal and their ilk see dictatorship? Maybe, it is their marketing trick to create xenophobia to come back to power!

For democracy to sustain, nobody can enforce it the way dictatorship can be implemented. In vast countries like the US and India, in today’s times of social networking, dictators will find it exceedingly difficult to take over. There will be a mutiny in every other Facebook or Whatsapp group. Due to anonymity behind the screen, each and everybody is an expert on every subject. Democracy is a culture. We have the concept of local committees, panchayat raj, starting at the village level for a very long time. We had the concept of a joint family from time immemorial. Democracy is embedded in our blood. Indira Gandhi’s attempt failed miserably during the emergency.

The Chinese managed to accelerate their economy at a rapid rate. The thinking was that if people have money in hand, they will not bother about dictatorship. But the Hongkong protests are showing the world that money is essential, but freedom is far more important.

As I write this, I read a news item that Trump has been cleared of impeachment charges! It is the beauty of democracy. In a democracy, there is a process to try and remove the head of the government which can go either way!

I think that everywhere Heil Democracy will work better than Heil Hitler!

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NRC – National Register of Citizens

NRC is the National Register of Citizens. The idea behind writing the blog was to make people aware of the overall scenario. During the year after independence, different situations have been existing. We started as a developing nation. In Nehru’s times, dams and Public sector companies came up. In Indira Gandhi’s time, we showed the courage to break Pakistan in two. But this act created its problems.  Rajiv Gandhi brought in computerisation. Narasimha Rao made the Indian economy open to the world.

A significant influx of refugees and people persecuted by the Pakistan army had started in early 1971. The movement of people began during the times leading to the 1971 Bangla Desh war. These people included both Muslims and Hindus. Majority of these were from lower financial strata and low social status. During such movement during the partition, the concept of India was just at the formation stage. There was no stable government, nor was the big army to handle a war-like situation. Hundreds of thousands of people, both Hindu and Muslims, were killed in the riots. There were huge refugee camps in northern India. Some of the refugees travelled down to Mumbai and Pune.  

It took years for these people to come to normalcy. But when a similar thing happened before and after the 1971 war, reactions have been different. People of the North-Eastern states had not merged with Indian culture even after 20 years of independence. They had their grievances, especially the people from Assam. They felt overwhelmed by the influx of both Hindus and Muslims from Bangla Desh and West Bengal. Assamese felt that their culture would be submerged in the Bengali culture. The exodus was the starting point of the discontent in North-Eastern states.  

I am not going to into various acts that have been promulgated, modified and remodified. It suffices to say that the problems of “outsiders” coming to India and going into North-Eastern states have started from 1950. Even today, people in other parts of India consider the Indians from these areas as “Chinese” because of their Mongolian features. Assimilation is not complete even today. It is because of the different cultures and physical attributes. There have been agitations and accords galore, especially in Assam. Assamese do not want anybody from “India” to go to those areas. They are afraid that “outsiders” will grab their opportunities, and grab the land and business.  

The agitations have been continuous, resulting in significant unrest in the year 1979. This agitation continued for six years.  

Given this continuing influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh into Assam, suddenly a group of student leaders in 1979 came out in fierce protest demanding detention, disenfranchisement and deportation of illegal immigrants from Assam. The events quickly developed into a mass movement which came to be known as Assam Agitation or Assam Movement led by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) and lasted six years. It was considered by various intellectuals and media forums as one of the most challenging mass movement in the history of the world led by students’ union, this six-year-long agitation left behind thousands of bleeding hearts, and bloodstained fields. The movement culminated in the signing of a landmark Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) – the Assam Accord, between the agitating parties & the Union of India on 15 August 1985, at the behest of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in New Delhi. 

The accord ended the agitation, but illegal immigration continued. There have been discussions about different cut-off points. They kept on changing due to various modifications in the acts. The actions of locating illegal immigrants kept on happening sporadically.  

The process of detecting and expelling immigrants suffered from teething problems for a considerable amount of time. The first attempt to systematically identifying foreigners by updating the National Register in Assam was through a Pilot Project which was started in two circles. 

The first attempt started in Kamrup district. The second one in  Barpeta district in the year 2010, which had to be aborted within four weeks amidst a massive law and order problem involving a mob attack on the Office of the IAS Commissioner, Barpeta that resulted in police firing killing four persons. For a long time, since the bitter experience in the pilot project, NRC update was considered almost an impossible task by the government agencies. 

It is here that the Supreme Court of India stepped in, the year was 2013, in regards to two writ petitions. Supreme Court has taken it forcefully and made sure that the work was taken up earnestly. But when the government of Assam started the job, they understood the enormity and complexity of the task. The staff went to each family with forms; six persons per family was the norm for the form. If the family was bigger, more forms were required. Supreme Court said that the speed of collecting the data was too slow. I will not go into details of how and what computer system was developed. It was a modern system which could be used both online and offline. It was essential as the Internet was a big problem. Many people were required to upload old documents as proof. Cell phone OTP’s were for people in India and for those who were outside India on travel, could connect using email. Writing about the creation of this system can itself be a subject for one blog.  

Finally, when NRC created the list, 20 lacs people did not have correct documents hence were declared illegal.  In the list majority were Hindus. The finding created significant unrest. The current government had already announced that India should be the land for Hindus of the world on similar lines like Israel is the land for Jews. 

CAA would facilitate Hindus from the list to become citizens from a particular cut off date. But Assamese don’t want this change. They are looking for much earlier cut-off time because they don’t wish to have so many outsiders to become legal citizens.  

Supreme court had given direction to make a list without considering the religion of the individual. Government has now passed a law based on faith.  

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/12/16/cab-now-called-caa/ 

My previous blog about CAB/CAA and this blog about NRC hopefully has cleared many doubts in the minds of the people. There is one more complexity that the government wants to apply NRC all over India. North-Eastern states don’t want permanent outsiders in their states. Now Meghalaya has requested the Central Government to shield them with ILP- Inner Line Permit. ILP is needed by even you and me if we want to visit these states as tourists.  

As I have understood, the situation is too complicated for the general public to understand. Students and political parties are opposing it and have come on the roads rioting. I don’t know how many understand the real situation. 

 

 

 

 

Was somebody raped? 

The title is similar to the title of a movie, “Nobody killed Jessica!” The movie was the real-life story of Jessica Lal who was murdered in a public place. But initially, the culprits were released because “there was no evidence”! All the witnesses had become hostile because the culprit was rich and powerful!

I was reading twitter exchange on the subject of Unnao and Hyderabad rape cases. People have become cynical about rape events and the ecosystem surrounding us, which includes various authorities and society in general. One person said in his tweet, “It is straightforward. If the victim is from financially lower strata and perpetrators are rich, kill the victim. If the alleged perpetrators are poor, kill them.” The whole of India was shocked when Nirbhaya was raped and murdered in Delhi in 2012. It was not about murder or rape. It was the way the event took place. The rapists were cold-blooded in the act and selected the victim randomly. Another shocking part of the story was that one of the culprits was a sixteen-year-old boy. Others got the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, the boy was a juvenile so, he was remanded to a juvenile institution for three years and is leading a normal life.

The boy had the gumption to insert a steel rod in the lady’s organs; he should have got the death penalty whatever his age was. But then that is the law of the country. Another institution that we talk about is fast-track courts. Today seven years after the event, the culprits are still to be hanged.

In the Hyderabad case, a different scenario came up. The police took the alleged culprits to the site where they burnt the body of the victim. Police claim that the culprits attacked them, and took their guns. They started firing. Police started firing in retaliation, and all four died in the exchange of fire. A couple of police officers had minor injuries which seems to be a very convenient story. But the reaction to this story was a celebration all over India. Even in the parliament in India, the MP’s congratulated the action taken by the police.

In the rape case in Unnao, the lady who was on her way to the court for the court hearing, and was caught and burnt to death.

We read about rapes all over the world, but the cold-bloodedness by the culprits appears to be unique in India. Any rape is a horrible event. The statistics show that relatives of the victims or people known to the victims are involved in more than 75% rapes. It is a horrible mental sickness that has spread all over the world. In most cases of rapes or indecent behaviour, the victims do not report the event, as they feel ashamed, though it is not their fault. The victim is treated as if it is her fault.

I feel both numb and angry at the same time. There are so many angles to such events that you feel frustrated. Let me assure you many of the arguments are right also. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bobde made a very valid point that justice can not be instant. When the event takes place, there is a need to lodge FIR. There is a facility to lodge Zero FIR as per law in case of events like rape. Zero FIR means any police station can register the FIR, and then that police station should transfer this Zero FIR to the appropriate jurisdiction. Such an action can save time in critical cases like the one in Hyderabad where time was of the essence to at least to stop the murder. But I am doubtful how many police people know this procedure. People are made to waste a lot of time locating the correct jurisdiction.

The second thing is social. In large cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune there is large migrated population. Such migration gives anonymity, and this anonymity allows people to act in whatever manner they think is right. No person will behave funnily in his or her village or town or city. It is because they fear that someone from the family or relatives or friends of the family might see you doing the wrong things. But due to anonymity, they don’t have that fear. They feel that they can get away with anything. The situation is common for both men and women.

In a housing society, where I was the Chairman, three young women used to get drunk every Saturday night. When they would come back in an auto, their condition was always very embarrassing to even security people. Security people complained to me. Once I gave instructions to stop them at the gate, took their photos. It was at midnight. I ten minutes, the father of one of the girls called me from Delhi and started throwing weight and told me that I would face the consequences. Once he finished talking, I asked if I could send him the photographs of the girls in their current condition. He realised what I was saying. Next day he called to apologise to me and requested me to give them a month to move elsewhere.

I am all okay with personal freedom etc., but the freedom comes with a responsibility. If one does not behave decently, anything can happen. We should not forget that in the patriarchal society, men treat the women in their homes and the community, poorly. The women do not get the respect they deserve. Parents should teach the girls to behave decently, but it is more important to teach the boys to behave. The boys are given undue freedom during their growth phase while girls are under unnecessary restrictions during the growth. These boys who have grown up in such households cannot handle when they see women doing work independently and confidently. The boys probably grow up, thinking they can get away misbehaving since they have gotten away to some extent in childhood. Such growing up ends in Nirbhaya 1 and Nirbhaya 2 and I don’t know how many more Nirbhaya cases.

The Unnao case is a classic case. First, there was an error by the court. The court released the perpetrators on bail with a warning that they should not harass the victim. The victim was from a low-income family. These people doused the girl with petrol while she was going to court and burnt her. They were so confident that they did not even run away; they were found at home when police came to search. They had expected police not to act as they were from affluent families. How do we handle such errors? Should the judge be punished for a severe lapse? But will this punishment bring the girl back to life?

I have already said above that I feel both numb and angry at the same time. How will this vicious cycle stop? How does society learn to respect their daughters? What needs to be done by all to improve the situation? There are comments made that girls wear revealing clothing, but how do you explain when someone rapes four or six-year-old girl? The child does not even understand the meaning of sex.

There is a cynical joke. Two families go on a picnic, and their children are a 4-year-old boy and a girl. They play in the lake water while changing the clothes they see each other in nude. The girl next day tells her friend in school, “Yesterday, I came to know the difference between Protestants and Catholics!”

The more I think, the more I am getting confused and worried. How is this going to stop? Why are people becoming cruel? In one case I read today, a girl was held hostage by a boy and his friends. They regularly raped her. They demanded ransom from her parents. The girl’s family did not have the means to organise the money. The boy decided to kill and burn the girl. The mother of that boy helped to organise the killing and burning.

I am now more numb, more angry and cynical! Friends, how to change this trend? How to make this mass change in society? Police, Courts come later. How to ensure the rapes will not happen? We refer to rapists sometimes as beasts. Sorry! I disagree there. Beasts never rape; they mate only during their mating season. They do not wait at the toll plaza looking for a victim. They don’t travel on the buses at night, and create a Nirbhaya! Fast-tracking of the cases is after the event has happened. Nobody seems to have the solution to prevent the events!

Let us all pray and hope that things will start changing slowly in future!

The change of mindset! 

It is commonly said that change is the only constant in life. I generally believe in this statement, but some things do not change, they remain constant. Why do some things not follow the universal law of change? These constants are mainly about human behaviour. In these constants, methods might change, but basic things don’t change. Some changes happen stealthily, and others happen fast. 

You must be aware that technological changes appear to be happening fast, but they have their development cycles from 10, 20 to 50 years. People are working in the background; many trial and errors take placeThese inventions bring out changes. But this is about the technological and other changes. Social and human behaviour change takes much longer time to change, and some of the things don’t change at all. Attacks on women and rapes continue to happen 

You must be wondering why I am writing about rape and cashless transactions, together, in this blog. Cash transactions in India are our habits and, we don’t want to go away from them. There are reasons. In business, cash transactions are done to cheat on tax. But the small transactions which I am going to discuss can easily be changed by providing technology and making it mandatory.  These changes will change the mindset of people once the benefits are understood.

RFID tags are mandatory to pay toll on highways, from 15th December. There will be only one lane available for those vehicles without tag, and they will be charged double the amount. Tags will change large number of cash transactions happening daily to cashless. But how to change the mindset in cases of rape? It has to start from home, and the boys should be taught by their mothers and sisters to respect the ladies in society. In a patriarchal society, males think that they can get away with anything. But during growing age, the boys must be taught that it is only human species that rape the ladies. All other species do consensual mating and that too during mating seasons. The law of the jungle does not apply to the sex life of other species. 

Take the case of Nirbhaya 2 that has happened in HyderabadThe news has shaken India because people of India had hoped that events like Nirbhaya would not happen again. I am not saying that there will be no rapes, but the actions after that, killing the victim, burning her body are horrible. I was hoping that this kind of brutality will not happen again after the Delhi event in 2012. But it has happened! I am not sure if such incidents happened while we were an undeveloped society say, 2000 years back. Now there are laws in place. It is known that culprits of such events get the death penalty. Still, how do such ruthless attacks take place 

Mind you; I am not talking about the rape but the methodology. Rape is one social behaviour that is going to be a constant in human lives. Majority of rape cases happen to involve known people or relatives. That is even more dangerous. Some people argue that women wear provocative dresses. In these two Nirbhaya cases, the ladies were wearing day to day clothes. The common factor in both these cases is that the rapists were all from the transport industry, uneducated, and young (One in Delhi case was a 16-year-old boy)About provocative dresses, the definition of each individual is different. Some (in)humans rape even babies! It is more to do about mindset. Writing on this subject makes me very uncomfortable and sad.  

We will now look at one change that is happening in IndiaWe Indians love to do commercial transactions in cash. Any attempt to change the mindset is resisted, and people try to find loopholes. What I am writing about is not a significant technological change, but it is the application of the existing technology which will reduce cash transactions in a big way. I am talking of RFID tags to be made mandatory for vehicles to pay the toll on Indian highways. The technology has been in existence for a long time, and I have seen this used in the US 15 years back. Every day people travel on highways in large numbers. If we check the collective wastage of fuel, time of people while waiting in line to pay the toll, it is colossal wastage. When you have a tag pasted on your vehicle, the vehicle needs to reduce speed to approximately 15 Km at the toll plaza. The system will do the work. Hundreds of Crores of rupees of cash transactions will get converted to “cashless’’. If we calculate fuel and time saving on all India basis, the numbers will justify the mandate.

What we need to do is to provide changes which will save time and energy and cover large number of people. When Metro starts to run in a big way in Mumbai or Pune in next ¾ years, there should be system of providing common pass to Metro, “current local trains” and BEST (in Mumbai) and PMPML (in Pune). It is a common system world over. In a “small” Metropolis like Montreal with a population of 1.5 million, the scanning cards for monthly, weekly duration are provided. Metro in Montreal carries 1.3 million passengers a day, very smoothly. These scanning systems work efficiently. When I went to see World Cup final at Melbourne in 2015, the scanning system for tickets easily handled entry of 93000 plus spectators in a short time. There were hardly any queues. The change I have suggested will eliminate vast number of cash transactions in these two cities; it will make life easy for people. PMPML is currently facing an issue of disposing off coins (2.5 million) which are lying with them because banks have refused to accept such a huge number of coins. It is the change in mindset that it is crucial. Mindset change should be in people as well as officials who run these organisations. 

We need to change the mindset in every field. The societies which are open to accept the change improve, or else they remain uncivilised. In India, you look at any area; we don’t want to use the “queue” system. We quickly break traffic rules; motorbikes are driven on footpaths when there is a traffic jam. We drive vehicles on the wrong side, nonchalantly. It is our mindset that needs to change. Leave your home 10/15 earlier instead of breaking the rules.  

What do we need to do, to change the mindsets? To me, social studies should be a mandatory subject in every field like engineering, medicine, economics. It should be compulsory for all courses. Parents should be the role models to the children. If mothers break traffic rules while going with their children, it is guaranteed that the child will break the rules when he/she grows up! Mom is always right! Large organisations are helping in some way by making it mandatory for their employees to wear a helmet while coming to the office! But some employees put on their helmet only two minutes before they reach the office. It is my head, who the hell is my office to make it mandatory? Such an attitude is a result of not wanting to change the mindset.  

My definition of developed country is a country where a small minority breaks public rules! You get different feeling on the roads in such countries. Why we Indians do not want to change? We take pride in not following the basic rules in a society. Is this because of British rules we had? In the last 50 years of British rule, we started doing everything against the government to make their life miserable. We seem to have forgotten that now we have our own government for the last 70 years. So we should stop the non-cooperation movement, change our mindset! To me, this is the biggest challenge in India!  

Ever the optimist, I discussed with an Uber driver, about the fast tag. He said, “Modi is going to make our life miserable. Fast tag, camera-based traffic violation fines! But sir, we deserve this! We will probably take five years to see the dramatic effects of these things. We need this. In the last six months, I can see the effects on traffic violations!”

Mumbai saga!  

Recent political saga brings questions to my mind! Is this typical human nature? Is everybody so powerhungry? Where do voters like you and me remain relevant? Many voters had voted for the alliance between BJP and Shivsena, but they fought about the chief ministers post and split. Shivasena joined the opponents, and it has formed a government in alliance with the “secular” former opponents the Congress party. Shivasena is strong proponent of Hindutva principle, and Congress has always been a “secular” party. Secular is defined as not connected with religious or spiritual matters. 

In between, Ajit Pawar of NCP “joined” with BJPFadnavis and Ajit Pawar took oath as Chief Minister and Dy Chief Minister. That was another episode from the saga. The government formed lasted only for a couple of days, thanks to the Supreme Court. 

Saga1 

All these happenings appear to be a stolen script from the Epic of Mahabharata. We have two Epics, Ramayana and MahabharataRamayana is the epic which follows utopian text and Mahabharata has the reallife script. The last three days story of Fadnavis taking the oath was a shame on the democracy. One felt like shutting the eyes or not putting the TV ON. One felt like not even reading the newspapers. It was a shameless behaviour. It can be compared with the disrobing of Draupadi in public by DushasanaHer modesty was saved by Lord Krishna by supplying an endless supply of sarees! Similarly, the Supreme court’s order to prove the required strength of MLA’s within 24 hours saved disrobing of democracy in Maharashtra.  

saga3

Ajit Pawar openly went against his leader Sharad Pawar and tried to break the Chakravyuha set up by his uncle Sharad PawarAjit Pawar like Abhimanyu thought he had the knowledge to break through the vyuha. Like Abhimanyu had learnt half knowledge about breaking of chakravyuha while he was in his mother’s wombAjit dada thought that he had learnt all the tricks from his guru and uncle, Sharad Pawar. But he did not know that he had only half the required knowledge.  

In Ramayana, when Lord Rama went for 14 years of vanvas, his brother did not take a quick jump on the throne. Bharat’s mother Kaikeyi had played her cards well to send Rama to vanvas. But Bharat was loyal to his brother, and for all these 14 years he kept Rama’s paduka’s (footwear) on the throne as a gesture to show his respect to Rama. He looked after the administration under the tutelage of Rama’s paduka’s and was representing Rama. BJP and Shivsena fought the election under the leadership of BJP. Once the results were out, they took the role exactly reverse of Bharata. By breaking the partnership with BJP, Shivasena has sent BJP on five-year-long vanvas! While doing so, they have accepted the terms of their “opposition” of not making Thackrey’s son the Chief Minister! If they had shown the same maturity in discussions with BJP, they would not have broken their pre-poll alliance!   

In all this saga, where does the common man like you and me stand? People voted to the BJP-Shivsena pre-poll alliancePeople voted the candidate in their area irrespective of his party. The vote was for the alliance. They had faith in the coalition and not on individual party. They now feel cheated 

The show was the politics at it’s best or the worst! One crucial point comes to mind. These parties run on donations given to them by their cadre and some other organisations. The money is given to run the affairs of the party. But they have shown so much faith in their MLA’s that these guys were put “under house arrest, in fivestar hotels. These were about 150 people. They were in hotels for about ten days. If we consider an average room rate of Rs. ten thousandthey spent Rs. 1.5/ crores minimum. The first thing is why fivestar hotels are needed to keep these people “under arrest”? The second thing is why these MLA’s are required to be kept under “arrest”If this is the faith the parties have in their MLA’show will they ensure that in future MLA’s will not rebel? Once the government is formed, there will be dissatisfied soulsBJP sitting on opposition benches is not going to keep quiet. There are 26 independent MLA’s, so they probably need additional 15/20 MLA’s. In Karnataka, BJP showed patience and got a chance to form government after a couple of years! Poaching of MLA’s is nothing new, but now there are good laws like anti-defection laws in place! Maharashtra saga may show the way for creating some good laws against breaking alliance after elections have been won with pre-poll agreement 

Politics world over is the same. It is the methods of handling the situations that vary. Brexit is a classic case of the political mess in Britain. Young people, who are affected the most by Brexit did not take part seriously in the referendum. When the results were out, Britain had opted for going out of the EU (European Union). There was enough time for Britain to exit smoothly, but the successive governments handled things poorly. The result was that a Prime Minister had to resign. Second Prime Minister who thought that he could sail through has been stalled at every stage. He was finally left with no option but to call for an early election. What the election results will do, is anybody’s guess. I am sure there must have been many internal offers to switch votes for the MP’s. But in Britain, they don’t “arrest” their MP’s against the fear of revolt. But the result has been the same, confusion.  

Both democracy and dictatorship have their pros and cons. But democracy has more pros than cons. People prefer to live in political uncertainty rather than living under the fear of tyranny. Look at what is happening in Hongkong. China is trying very hard to push her ways and take control of Hongkong, but the people of Hongkong are fighting tooth and nail against the changes China is pushing!  

Besides election troubles and chaos, governments world over are experts in creating a mess. Currently, there is big story going on in the Parliament in Ireland. A huge printer worth 1.3 million pounds was ordered. When the printer arrived in the parliament house, they realised that it could not be taken inside the building because of the size. The printer was moved to a storage godown at the cost of two thousand pounds a month for almost one year. The location was corrected to accommodate the printer that cost another twenty thousand pounds. Finally, the printer was installed and got ready to print about two months back. Not a single paper has been printed, yet!  

Saga2

All activities in a society reflect on some other action. We have difference of opinion at home, in the place of work. We bicker with friends and relatives.  So why bicker about what happened in Mumbai. It has been happening since the days of Mahabharata! We rarely see things happening in the Ramayana way. Yudhisthir had to give that famous reply “अश्वत्थामा हतो नरो वा कुञ्जरो वा” to deceive Dronacharaya. When Dronacharya was told that Ashwathama died, he asked Yudhisthir as Yudhisthir always spoke the truth. But अश्वत्थामा हतो नरो वा कुञ्जरो वा meant that he was not sure if it was the human or the elephant of the same name! In short, he also discretely lied! But we have only one in a million  Yudhisthirs, so what more can we expect from our society and from our politicians? 

 

 

 

Better India!

My dear friend Shrikant wrote a message on our WhatsApp group, which truly reflected his frustration. But It is not only his frustration but all of us have the same feelings. I will briefly write what he said. “Since I remember, I feel as if I am living in a vicious circle of development and expansion. First, the roads are broken, then later they are broadened because of capacity issues. Then comes tarring, and then the time comes to build flyovers! After that, the time for concretisation comes. All the time we have pollution and traffic congestion. Now at the age of 70, I am looking at the Metro project coming up. There are so much indiscipline and chaos that I am fed up, mainly because I have to go Chakan every day! I hope now at in this phase of my life I will sometime see everything going smoothly with regulated traffic and less chaotic life!”

He is right, and he has hit the bull’s eye with his thoughts. All of us have the same feelings. There have been responses saying that the development is a never-ending cycle; the fruits of work done by grandfathers are for the grandchildren to enjoy etc. These responses are also correct. The phenomenon of development cycle happens all over the world. But to me, Shrikant’s frustration has a different connotation.

British rule ensured that our infrastructure remained poor. In the US, highways were built in the 30s /40s of last century. Hitler built autobahns in Germany in 30s of the last century. In India, this cycle has started in the last twenty years!

We as Indians have diverse culture, 25 main languages, snow-clad mountains and lovely beaches; we are a nation of diversity. But we have one common culture that of personal and public indiscipline, and I care two hoots attitude! It is not only on the roads; you go anywhere in public place; things will be chaotic. We at heart have remained villagers from the time of Baba Adam! This attitude continues irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. One can give many day-to-day examples. In the cities or towns, one basic rule is followed, not to follow any rule. Shrikant was talking of Chakan. In Chakan and many towns, there is an excellent four-lane road. But the divider in between is sometimes breached “officially” under pressure from politicians, and at other times unofficially. For taking a U-turn, people do not want to drive a Km or two more! Cutting corners where ever possible is there in our DNA! Add to that indiscriminate parking in such towns along the roads. Driving on the wrong side of the roads is also very common!

If you drive on Mumbai Pune Expressway, which is like an expressway, anywhere in the world, we sometimes see people driving Motorcycles on the road skirting! The road is meant only for four-wheelers and multi-axle vehicles! There are two places where you pay the toll. Near these toll booths, there are washrooms. But we invariably see a few men relieve themselves in the open about 100 to 200 meters away from the urinals. In the main city areas, there is a thought process that vehicles used by the government departments can be parked anywhere, including on footpaths. Cutting the red signal is a norm rather than the exception. The police department tries to discipline, but when a significant % of people start breaking the rules, how many police can you deploy?

These aspects should be taught to children right from KG schools. But when their mothers break the rules, children grow up thinking the same way. I was waiting at a signal to cross the road in Montreal a couple of weeks back. My granddaughter Rhea was with me; she is six years old. She asked me a question, “Why don’t people in Pune wait for the signal to turn green?” I had no answer. When there is a traffic jam in Pune, we see people driving their motorcycles on the footpaths to move ahead! All of them are “busier” than the Prime Minister of the country and have no time to wait!

World over in most cities, there is work in progress for an extended period! In Boston, the tunnel work was going on for ten years. In Mumbai, flyovers were built over a few years. Same is true with Metro. But if the primary discipline is not followed, the indiscipline and chaos will never go away. The problem is not city-specific, it is India specific.

In today’s newspapers in Pune, there was a news item. A car used by an officer of the Municipal Corporation was parked on the footpath. It used to be at a specific place, with the driver sitting in the car. The driver was told to park it in the right zone. The driver said, “The car is used by Asst Commissioner!” The police were not impressed. After the same suggestion for a couple of days was ignored, on the third day, they put a jammer on the car and fined him Rs.2000/. The officer tried to pull rank on the policeman, but they were not impressed. He had to pay the fine.

As against this, I had read a story. Commissioner of Tel Aviv was found talking on a cell phone while driving his car. A police officer stopped him; he did not recognise the commissioner. He fined him but later came to know that he was their biggest boss! The next day, he was called to the commissioner’s office. The policeman was worried and was trying to find a way out of the situation. To his surprise, the commissioner received him in his office, and there was a two-minute ceremony. The Commissioner congratulated the policeman for doing his duty, issued a special commemorative certificate for performing his duties in an exemplary manner! It shows the difference between developed and undeveloped societies.

In India, we are lucky that because of the temperate weather we can do all our development work almost round the year. In cities like Montreal, because of the snow in winter, the road work can be done only during 6 to 7 months in a year when there is no snow. So, every year, on many roads, some repair work or the other is going on all the time. New development work is also going on during this period. Traffic gets choked, it gets slowed down, but no motorcycles are driven on footpaths! On the street where we lived, pipeline work was going on for almost four weeks. Car parking was not allowed from 7 am to 7 pm. Not a single car was ever parked during this period!

So Shrikant, it is about self-discipline, it is about the implementation of rules. Improved traffic rules have been created by the Central Government; hefty fines have been suggested. But the state governments don’t want to implement this because of expected public backlash. It is the will of the people, will of the government that needs to change. Development thing is going to be WIP all our life!

I am an absolute optimist, but I told a 25-year-old boy the other day, that if the primary self-discipline does not become our culture, India will be at the same place even after 50 years! (Of course, I won’t be around!)

But many good things are happening! Metros are made ready in ¾ years, ISRO is doing a great job, online payments, online railway bookings are improving day by day at breakneck speed! Many good things are happening, but people’s attitude is not changing. The problems we face daily are the result of this unchanged attitude! Let us hope at some stage this will also change.

What is democracy?

Last month’s election in Maharashtra was the first time Jaya, and I missed the voting as we were in Canada at that time. From the results point of view, it looked straight forward. There was an alliance between BJP and Shivsena. It was expected to win by a high margin, but though the win was comfortable, NCP and Congress won more number of seats than expected. There was a lot of horsetrading before the election, and many stalwarts switched over to BJP or Shivsena.  

The usual bickering of sharing the power was expected, but Shivsena wanted their 29-year-old, inexperienced prince to become the chief minister at least for half the period till next elections after five years. Some give and take was expected, but suddenly the alliance reached a stage where both sides became very rigid in their stand. The partnership at present looks as if it will take time to mend if at all, it restores.  

Many times we forget who these politicians are! We treat them as different species; it is mainly because of the methods they use and wealth amassed by the corrupt ones. But like any group of people, not all are the same. The percentage of dishonest people whom we don’t like in this group is more than any regular group. But lately, it has been observed a similar percentage of corrupt people is found in the business domain also. The methods of corruption in both groups are different, but at the end of the day, the corrupt practices are mainly about making money with fewer efforts. If possible, the politicians make money using their influence in the government to push the papers quickly, sometimes tweak the policies or help people to find loopholes so that people can perform illegal things. I am talking about the regular business, not the nasty business of drugs or psychotropic stuff.  

Till the BJP government came into power in 2014, all the illegal ways were taken for granted. Some smart investigative reporters would find a few scams that were taking place. Then these would all go to committees and courts! Things continued as usual. A few of these scams were investigated, but the majority remained in limbo. 

What is politics? I don’t know how to define politics. To me, it is an activity where people with different ideologies and thought processes come together, form a group which is called a party. Then they fight local elections, some graduate to state elections, and in 2019, 552 of these people fought national posts in Loksabha. So, it is a gradual process for most people, but some of these people come in a helicopter and directly get into national politics. These are special people from elite families who are “born” to work at the national level! The process of directly reaching the federal level causes significant issues at some stage. These parties remain democratic only by the constitution but are dynastically run organisations. Some of these people are wealthy people, and nobody knows how they make so much money. Looking at these leaders, other leaders also start looking at ways of making money without doing any work. They know that nobody is going to challenge their ways.  

Over a period, it has been observed that many politicians and business persons are hands in glove! So many times, the main work of politicians, of running the nation efficiently with the help of government servants, is forgotten. Some of the government servants join hands with this nexus. The classic method followed by business persons was to have a large number of shell companies to hide the trail of black money. The present government has made an exclusive drive and shut down three lacs shell companies. There were so many such companies, but no one was bothered. Everybody was busy in their own game of making money!  

With such corrupt ways, it was a real surprise that India grew very fast during the last twenty years. That means the Indian economy was large, but a sizable percentage of the money in the system was black money i.e. in the parallel economy. The black money is used for business within the country, but it also encourages nefarious practices! Black money cannot come into the formal banking system. Hence banking systems get stretched.  

Such things are difficult in non-democratic countries like China and Russia. In such countries, only a selected group of people can do whatever they want. Under such system, China has shown tremendous growth but without checks and balances. Now the effect of not having checks and balances are coming out, and the Chinese economy is also showing a tremendous downturn.  

Democracy is a sound system where people have freedom, but there are checks and balances too! India did not implement the checks and balances properly for many years, and that has caused the political system to become more corrupt.  

The logical conclusion of what is happening in Maharashtra should be re-elections! There should be some method of ensuring that alliances which are declared before elections, must form a government if they win the election. Trying to form a government with coming together of diametrically opposite parties is a mockery of the system. It is an insult to the voters who voted for the alliance and the candidate. A friend told me the other day that he voted for a candidate because he was representing the BJP-Shivsena alliance. In the ordinary course, he would have voted for a candidate from a different party who had proven a track record in social work. An average person like you and me feel cheated because of what is happening in Mumbai. Since the ideologies of the other parties are the opposite, they will make an alliance based on the common minimum program. Should the most advanced state in India, Maharashtra, be run on a common minimum program, just because in democracy, things are pretty loosely defined?  

Maharashtra deserves better than this so-called solution of the hotchpotch government. Maharashtra is paying a massive price due to the ego of certain individuals. But to me, it is not only the ego but arrogance. Most of us are hoping that the government will not be allowed to form. Is this the democracy we are looking for? Maharashtra elections for me are comparable with Brexit!

I sincerely hope that no government is formed with presently elected reprentatives. In the next election, those parties who have gone back on words would suffer as people will vote against them.  

My hope is that we have re-elections in April 2020, where we the people will show to these politicians who are the real kingmakers!