Lest We Forget!!!

In his seminal work of 2005 – “The Argumentative Indian” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, “argued” that the understanding and use of the argumentative tradition of Indians are critically important for the success of India’s democracy and its other ethos. However between 2005 and now, the argumentative Indian has matured into “The Outrageous Indian” I guess.  In India presently, the economy is under tremendous strain permeating pain all over. Ergo, the GDP has fallen off the cliff and not sure how low it will get by the time this fiscal year gets over. However no such problems for GDO – “Gross Domestic Outrage”!! In the last few years there has been no paucity for outrage in this country. Many opportunities have been presented to us in meticulous frequency and we have all faithfully shown our outrage whether it is on the streets, on Twitter, on Facebook or on WordPress.

Lest we forget, I wanted to do a reality check on if things have got any better post the pouring of outrage.  Here we go:

Lokpal bill: In the August of 2011, a frail Gandhian by name Anna Hazare and a group of argumentative Indians bandied as Team Anna by the media brought thousands of middle class Indians to the streets.  The cause was to get a “Lokpal bill” passed in parliament. At the peak of its movement Team Anna moved the country and was inexorable. Today, Anna has been pushed to avail VRS (voluntary retirement scheme), Team Anna on losing steam got dismantled and Lokpal bill is in cold storage.  Once again.

Delhi Gang Rape: The heinous act by a few thugs in the capital city in the Dec of 2012 ushered in Outrage 2.0. India’s political class made all the right noises (political noise i.e.) in the aftermath, Nirbhaya became omnipresent, Justice Verma was commissioned to suggest suitable amendments to the Crime Laws, he rose to the occasion and submitted his recommendations in record time, the Govt. passed a law with supposedly stiff provisions to prevent rape,… ,…So far so good.  7 long months on – the guilty have not been punished yet. If this is the situation on one of the most visible crimes in the country, I shudder to imagine what would be the state of affairs on lesser known crimes!!  Justice Verma in the meantime passed away and to me, the cause which he furthered all his life (Justice System) failed once again. And for the Govt. closure was achieved when in the Budget it set up a “Nirbhaya fund”!!! Did we hear anything on that post March???

Coalgate: Till then CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) in India was just another “babu” whose department did audits of Govt. departments and released reports, mostly harmless. But this time the then CAG Vinod Rai decided to do a “Seshan” and released a draft report which accused the Govt. of a scam of epic proportions in allotment of coal blocks to public and private enterprises arbitrarily thereby causing loss of ( I forgot ) so many lakh crores!!! The opposition duly disrupted parliament for a whole session. And where are we today? There is a power shortage in most parts of the country. Power plants need coal. Mining has been stopped in most of the states. A Congress MP and a young scion Navin Jindal has been accused to be in the thick of action in the scam. A minister does “proof reading” of the status report prepared by the CBI (He ceases to be a minister now). And frankly I’ve lost track on what’s happening in this front!!! At the end, are there now clear guidelines on allotment of coal blocks or for that matter any natural resource??

Pakistan’s dastardly act in LOC: 2 Indian soldiers were captured, killed, beheaded and their body mutilated allegedly by Pakistan army in the LOC. The outrage here in this part of LOC was spontaneous. I’m not privy to the steps our Govt. took subsequently. We hope some steps have indeed been taken to ensure this doesn’t repeat.

Blasts in Hyderabad: Yesterday, 13th July marked the 2nd Anniversary of the serial blasts that shook Mumbai. Few months from now, it will be the 1st Anniversary of the twin blasts that rocked Dlisukhnagar in Hyderabad in February. Anniversaries such as this come and go and Candles do brisk business on these days. We are yet to figure out the cause, the perpetrators of the crime or any mechanism/process to prevent such acts in the future. In fact last Sunday the Bodhi temple in Bihar was the centre of another blast!!! That Buddha in his time was considered an apostle of peace completes the tale of irony.

Match fixing: For long Indians were supposedly good at match fixing. The only way Indians got married was when their parents “fixed the match”. As things changed in that space, we turned to a different Match fixing it seems. It emerged that in IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket, players were involved in betting and fixing the outcomes. It turned out later that even owners were also in the ring. Another rage. From everyday dose of investigative revelations few months back to complete peace in that front, we find that the whole saga has been fixed and buried with no outcome!

Uttarakhand flooding: This is the recent one. We don’t know if the floods have actually receded there but the nation’s attention and mindshare already have, already. Actually now starts the act of reconstruction. If done with vision, here’s an opportunity to create a new “Chardham” experience. Will it happen? Ground evidence doesn’t provide any play for hope.

So as can be seen, for the aam admi it’s been just OSOT – Outrage Se Outrage Tak (From one outrage to another) and they have not yielded any tangible result.  In a democracy as ours, our opportunity to “materially” intervene comes once in 5 years. Post that intervention, we have no choice but just to show outrage.  At the same time is there a way by which while we keep moving on, get the attention focused on the earlier issue and obtain closure? Can the leading news channels/newspapers devote a weekly slot on re-visiting “Open issues”?  Is it too much to expect of the opposition to demand action on older issues?  Can we have constitutional amendments paving way for the President to intervene on outstanding issues? Gurcharan Das in his piece in TOI today goads us to spend 1 hour a week in the neighbourhood as an answer to our increasing political disenchantment.

This is my small attempt to keep the fire on, lest we forget.

Outrage

Tailpiece : When he was “outraged”, Bharathiyar said:

thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil jagathinai erithiduvom” (if there is no food for a single person we will destroy the whole universe)

Today’s Govt. says:

thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil Food Security Bill kondu varuvom” ( If there is no food for a single person we will bring the Food Security bill)!!!

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Uttarakhand Tragedy and the “Asafal Yatra”!!!

“Had gone for the Kedarnath yatra, returned home safely today” texted a cousin of mine few days back as the Uttarakhand disaster was unfolding.  My cousin and her group members were lucky but many were not.  She would tell me later that their group heeded to the announcements made in the PA system to turn back as the shrine would be closed due to flash floods. However many didn’t. They didn’t want their ‘Chardham Yatra’ to turn into an “Asafal Yatra” (Unsuccessful trip) and decided to either stay put or proceed ahead.  Having come thus far they didn’t want to take a U-turn without completing the yatra. It is not very difficult to guess if they had a successful trip or not. Should we call this as the indomitable spirit of Indians or Indians’ submission to Faith sometimes irrationally? I don’t know.

As more details of the disaster started emerging, as in the case of any backlash of Nature heated debates started on the environmental neglect, administrations’ apathy, mindless growth pursuit…,… The same continues to this date.  Let’s look at the responses, reactions from different quarters of the society as the tragedy panned out:

Political Class:

  • Blame game by politicians – Opposition party BJP pointing finger on the ruling Congress on the construction,… and ruling Congress giving it back saying these were started during erstwhile BJP rule
  • One-upmanship by different Chief Ministers in carrying out rescue and relief efforts for their own state people without bothering about a coördinated effort and ofcourse the mad rush to take credit!!!
  • Top politicians including our PM, Sonia Gandhi carrying out neatly televised “Aerial Surveys” of the flood hit areas!!! Aerial surveys???
  • Politicians of different hue using the choppers which were the only mode of transport available for relief work for their own “Aerial Surveys”
  • Narendra Modi doing what is now known to be called as the “Rambo act” in rescuing 15000 Gujarati pilgrims with a fleet of vehicles and Boeings!!!
  • TDP and Congress politicians coming to blows at the airport on who will take the credit for rescue of their state people!!!
  • Congress doing a “Flagging off” of the relief trucks in Delhi again in a PR coördinated event!!! When did relief measures become a F1 event???
  • The Chief Minister of the State – getting into belligerent arguments with the media instead of showing that he is in charge and allowing all and sundry to take over relief operations in his state
  • National Disaster Management Authority which has a politician as its Vice chairperson (Why, why, why???) not meeting even once between 2008 and 2011 and met once post 2011!!! What kind of disaster management do we expect???
  • The Prime Minister of the country in the midst of all this – continuing his stoic silence!!!

Media:

  • It’s not just the politicians playing the one-upmanship game. The media were not far behind. How many times were we told that “The 1st channel to reach Kedarnath shrine” or “1st channel to show live pictures from,..,..”??? Do we need a race here?
  • News Express TV showing visuals of a shameless reporter sitting on the shoulder of a young man as he wades through waist deep water and reporting “live”!!! Do we need such crass “Live” reporting??
  • In the competition for exclusive dispatches, media crew hopping on to the choppers – which meant that so many needy common people, would have been left behind!!!
  • Many times reporters screaming over shoulders of people and jostling in the limited space available
  • In all this, Times Of India’s news report of Narendra Modi’s Rambo act takes the cream. Can’t believe how the country’s oldest and leading newspaper can carry a planted news item without verifying the facts! The same newspaper carries an editorial few days later questioning the veracity of its own news item!!!

Industry/India Inc.:

  • Considering the fact that choppers were the only means of transport available – did we see any of our industrialists who fly around in their own choppers, sparing theirs for relief work?
  • Did we see the new economy companies and their promoters who are normally very articulate in pushing their interests in policy matters coming forward with their support?
  • Or for that matter the so called august members of the “Bombay Club”?  Except for Mahindras I didn’t see any contribution announcement!
  • Isn’t it just plain business expediency if a chopper company starts charging few lacs per person for transporting people to safety?
  • While on Industry, where were Bollywood and its famed stars??? If rag pickers in Delhi and inmates of Tihar can come together and contribute for the flood relief, why not the Kapoors, Kapurs, Kumars and the Khans???
  • On winning the Champions Trophy, BCCI was quick off the block to announce Rs.1 crore as prize money to each team member. Great. Did you hear any such largesse for Uttarakhand relief?
  • What about the players themselves? I saw ofcourse Harbhajan (he was rescued by the army) announcing his contribution.
  • How it would have been if our great captain Dhoni had refrained from the usual champagne popping after the win and instead expressed solidarity with the victims of Uttrakhand?  I’m sure the respect we have for our cricketers would have gone up few notches.

We the People:

  • We live by double standards. We expect high idealism from politicians, administrators but show little of that in our own conduct
  • Littering places with plastic leftovers is our National common pastime. The choking of drainages in flood situations like this never deters us from doing the same next time!
  • Had people heeded to warnings may be the human lives lost would have been much lower
  • In the midst of all this, I am told water was sold for Rs. 100, wafer packs were being hawked for Rs. 400,…
  • In social media some were lamenting about the possible wash out of the Champions Trophy final last Sunday when few towns and villages have been washed away from the maps in Uttarakhand!
  • On the flip side, I was touched seeing a story of a group of Sikh volunteers who reached Uttarakhand with a sole purpose of performing last rites in mass funerals. Amidst the cacophony this story Continue reading