Under the Sun

Now that the dreaded exams are over (and replaced by the even more dreaded swelter of summer) I figure it’s time to jump back into the waters of blogging. Especially since I have a backpack full of opinions (what else!) just to throw around…

  • On UPA’s Performance
    Amidst rumours that this phrase is being nominated – and perhaps eventually even win unanimously – the award for being the ‘Most Contradictory Statement of the Year ’05,’ I have to admit that I am surprised we are even ‘celebrating’ its first anniversary in power. Manmohan Singh’s self-appraisal at 60%, while heartening in the sense that he has not lost all his integrity, is still no cause for breaking out the champagne.
    Make no mistake about it, this government of sorts claiming that it is responsible for the economic growth seen today is about as truthful as the NDA’s claiming credit for opening up the market. While the latter was a fortunate accident that occurred because the communists did not have the requisite strength even to change a light bulb (as the joke goes) the former is despite the policies of this government. PC remains a confused and hen-pecked finance minister – and with whatever respect that should be shown to a member of this cabinet, managing a portfolio for a company is not quite the same as trying to establish a socialist state so that you can buy the votebanks.
    Which brings me to a two-headed tangent. Even as most people seem to concentrate on the two most visible fronts – economy (that field in which shoes last longest) or law and order (in which they end up flying the farthest) – and bemoan the level of mediocrity we’ve sunk to, other vital concerns like foreign policies, domestic security and social justice seem to have been swept under the carpet by the media which, for some unfathomable reason, still remains beholden of Manmohan Singh, he of the economic miracle of the ’90’s. Newsflash, this ain’t the nineties anymore, dah-lings!
    The foreign policy reminds me of a bunch of secretaries standing around a photostat machine waiting for the MoU’s to come out. All they have to do is fill in the other country’s name and the name of the visiting head-of-state.
    Then there was this joke I heard about the President (or Prime Minister, or whoever it is they have there) of Tuvalu (all of 10 sq miles big) arriving in India and, depending on the version, either gets raped in New Delhi or is kidnapped and taken to Patna where they hold him for ransom. No wonder then that the fellow has no intentions of coming here just to sign an MoU. Maybe he’ll just fax it in.
    Domestic security… but for the efforts of cops who eventually end up on the receiving end of strikes and soldiers who end up shooting themselves, we would have descended into anarchy a long time ago. Granted, some of them end up raping innocent girls, while others take their colleagues along for the one-way ride, but if you can plead extenuating circumstances for terrorists, then you can spare at least a thought for the Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams who earn a pittance and work ungodly hours with the earliest examples of weaponry just to make you feel safer. Ah, Attlee, why did you do it?
    And then Tarun Gogoi, CM of Assam (for those Indians who can’t find it, it’s in the north-east. Somewhere.) has the gumption to blame the RSS for driving out the illegal migrants from across the border back where they came from – or at least away from Assam which still has ULFA, NEFA, China, Manorama and the generous sprinkling of maoists to choose from. It’s kinda like those horror movies where people are hell-bent on releasing evil spirits so that they can eventually get killed. Ah, Tarun, I know what you are doing this summer.
    So we are having all this to contend with, when suddenly, at a table far far away, a man suddenly wakes up from a slumber and decides that the slums have to go. Arre yaar, that is what we’ve been saying for years. No objection, babusahib, but when government schools report a drop in the rolls to just a few percent attendance because the students have lost everything – their books, their identity, their address – when the future of an entire generation of unsuspecting youngsters is crushed underfoot, it calls for a moment of retrospection.
    I have said it once already, and I’ll say it again. Just because we don’t want slums in paradise doesn’t mean that we should kick everyone into hell. Instead of undertaking everything on a war-footing, the Mumbai authorities could have phased the programme, setting up temporary shelters for those who will be evicted and giving them say, a week’s time to rearrange their affairs. It could have been done; it just wasn’t.
    All in all, I’ll have to say 6 out of 10 is perhaps an overrating, kind of like Pakistan being the lynchpin in the American war on terrorism.
    Then again, I suppose it is better than failing yourself. It would be too much to expect Singh to be that honest.
  • Tainted Ministers
    I recently came across a scoop that Tihar jail was now underpopulated. According to the warden at the prison (not the one who’s an inmate now) most of the convicts had stood for elections and were now either in Delhi or in Patna. Some entrepreneurial reporter tracked the convicts down to Rabri’s outhouse in Patna before he was almost kidnapped. He managed to escape to New Delhi where, if today’s media is to be believed, he was killed for his notepad.
    Yatha raja, thatha praja.

  • Sale of F-16’s to Pakistan
    The first thing that I thought on learning this was that it was typical American businessmanship (if there is such a word) Their motto has always been, “The world can never be too volatile.” GWB Jr, the poster-boy against cloning, simply displayed his usual penchant for fishing in troubled waters. Still, as long as India does not have any oil reserves under its potholes and occasional roads, I suppose we are safe from an invasion from the New World.
    It’s not that hard to discover the cause for the perpetual American antagonism against India. Ever since 1947 (I find it a little difficult to use the term, ‘won our Independence’ because we never did. After WWII, we were a liability, not an asset. And by then, our resources were drained. In a word, useless.) we’ve been continuously on their blind side.
    Post-45’s, when the world was being carved up into two slices by socialist Russia and capitalist America, India stood up and said we belong nowhere (though I am sure it was put more tastefully) We stole the thunder then.
    Then, circa 1960s, we said no to American weapons and bought from the other side. Ouch, that must have hurt.
    Then America’s pal, Pakistan, lost to us on all fronts – despite American backup. Russia, India’s sole constant in its confused foreign affairs, under Nikita Krushev, simply placed an intercepting fleet between the Yankee’s Seventh fleet and our western coast and Nixon had to retreat in shame.
    And can anyone ever forget America’s attempt to subvert Maldives into their newest base? If it hadn’t been for India, China would have gone capitalist by now. And perhaps its citizens would have ended up with an extra limb or two from all that nuclear fallout.
    Returning to the sale, it struck me as funny that Washington could sell Islamabad over 3 billion dollars worth of air strength when it had just written off the latter’s debt at ten times that amount. The argument that it saved jobs at Lockheed was, is and will always be a joke.
    Why, you ask?
    I’ll respond with another question.
    Who will pay the salaries? Lockheed, which was in danger of folding? DC, which is always trying to cut down on defense spending so that it can spend $20000 on toilet seats and dna tests on presidents’ trousers? Islamabad, when it could find so many more destructive ways to spend it?
    Ultimately, by the time Pak gets its toys (after America has finished augumenting its arsenal) in mid-2010 (they start production by 2007) we would have far better weapons, or better yet, a remote control for all those tomcats on Pakistani soil (that way, all we have to do is shut off their engines once they take off. Or we could just sell them our Migs.)

  • Judicial Nosing
    My pet peeve for raising this issue is the recent SC clarification that anyone who claims to be a Hindu can find a place on the temple boards. This move, and I would not like to insinuate that the bench which upheld the decision of the High Court way back in 1999 was hasty/ misguided/ misinformed/ biased/ ignorant/ thoughtless, bears many serious ramifications.
    The PIL which had precipitated the latest ruling sought to ban leftist elements within the administration of the temple, and it was overturned because the bench felt that a Hindu “may follow any mode of worship, or maybe not all, but, being a Hindu, is entitled to the opportunity to engage in the” day-to-day affairs of a temple. “The management of a temple is a secular act,” insofar as Justice H K Sema and Justice S B Sinha are concerned.
    Sirs, how can a temple be even remotely secular if – and I quote general perception on this – every other aspect of Hinduism is ascribed to be communal? Leftists are, by ideology, atheists – unless you would like to have it on record that you do not believe our comrades are any more true to their faith than the average politician to his masses. In that case, Marx, who advocated dissolution of religion because he knew mere separation from the state was impossible as long as religion held sway, must be turning over in his grave. Unless he has disowned his Malayalee comrades already, for which VS Achuthanandan should not, at least for once, claim a foreign conspiracy.
    Secularism, in definition, is separation of the government from religion, irrespective of how broad the tenets may be. Hinduism may not have fought crusades or sought jehad, but that is no reason to term it as secular in itself. ‘Loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu’ is a message, a principle – but not a qualifier for non-religionism.
    For a decision that has important ramifications, it seems too simple and too restricted. What about mosques and churches, synagogues and educational institutions? If temples can be described under the banner of secularism, shouldn’t schools and colleges, which play at least as expansive role as temples do, be subjected to the same demarcation?
    To draw a perpendicular, the state government recently passed a bill identifying Aligarh Muslim University (a pre-Independence institution of great repute) as a minority institution (a hitherto unwanted qualification) despite the reservations on campus and even from among the community that it was merely a populist measure.
    Bah! Humbug!

  • Greg Chappel’s Appointment
    Personally speaking, John Wright overstayed his tenure. He had a good run as far the series in Pakistan which we won, and from there, it started coming down and it kept coming down. Granted, he pulled together a team whose sum was more often than not at least as much as the parts, he introduced – or to be more accurate, the team psychiatrist did – the huddle, though I doubt he intended on Big B popping out from it. He turned pepsi- and coke-guzzling stars and turned them into team-players. For a while there, we started watching a match believing India would win.
    But for all that, he overstayed. By a year. And the image that will forever remain with people when they think of him will be that he banged when he went out, instead of the other way around.
    Then there was the BCCI version of whodunit – whollbeit? For over two months, speculation and counter-speculation ruled the last pages of the newspapers who forgot about Karthikeyan’s consistency or the NHL’s skilful gameplay. Was a foreign coach better than an indigenous one? (I have two things to say about that. One, do we have indigenous coaches? Have we ever had truly professional coaches who were Indian? Two, why the fuss? If we can have a videshi PM…)
    Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, short of a coach and a national cricket board, talked to Tom Moody through a couple of senior players, and the bloke seems to have agreed pending, of course, the chance of coaching India. We had a full board, and even a patron-in-chief, and yet, we had to call a public interview a full month after Wright’s left (pardon the pun) to see who would promise an Indian trip on the road down Consistency Lane.
    Chappel won, and maybe he must have been foolish enough to promise consistency. That is what this team, above anything else, needs. Chelsea may have lost to L’pool in the Cup – a one-off loss – but they performed so consistently that they broke quite a few records in their successful run for the championship. Maximum wins, maximum goals for, minimum goals against, most clean sheets, maximum points.
    India holds the record in most categories. Yet, as a team, we could be just clearing relegation, were there such a concept in cricket. (threats to the Bangladesh team notwithstanding)
    Chappel’s the coachie now. Let’s just hope that we don’t end up with more of his namesake.