Scene of a Real Drama – Request: “No Repetition Please”!

One year, Durga Puja was a real vacation for me after a long gap – after some 8-10 years.

We have the usual Puja celebrations and in addition, we have a cultural function on the last day of the vacation – on the Poornima (Full Moon) day. Kids, young school/college going girls and boys, and even senior citizens of our village including our guests and relatives participate in that function. Small skits, competitions, cultural shows, quiz and many more events are arranged to celebrate the evening.  Like every year, that year also we had that great function.

The evening and the events were going on smoothly. I was asked to be a part of the organizing team but I opted to be an observer. The reason – “Drink “- every one in the organizing team were drunk, literally not on their feet; they were drunk so badly that they were not even able to speak coherently. They had beer, whisky, vodka etc. as a part of the “organization arrangement”. Initially I thought of raising a protest, but whom to speak? No one was in a mood to listen; every body was rather drinking. I maintained silence and was keeping an eye on the event.

More than 500 people (of which 60% were below the age of 12) were attending the event. Suddenly some one from the organizing team entered the dais and started shouting on the microphone. Shouting in fact is not the appropriate word !! He was abusing the anchor with all kinds of vulgar words. To that, the anchor (who was drunk too) started reacting – retaliating with equally vulgar words. In a fraction of a second, the dais became a battleground, the cultural evening became a farce and a travesty of what people name as “culture”. Audience watching the show tried to pacify the matter but in vain. The other organizers too tried their best (with their so called ‘wisdom words’) to pacify this. Nothing happened… no one stopped and we all were watching helplessly.

Finally they were taken away forcefully by the guests. Later, the chief guest, who happened to be a retired Head Master and a seasoned artist rose to the occasion and gave his gandhigiri speech which had the following content:

“Like many good and bad scenes of a drama, this (abusing scene) incident is a real scene of a real drama. However, the taste of this scene is bad. And there is a public demand, ‘no repetition please !!!’.”

Not only that, he took two Rs 50/- notes from his pocket and awarded the two battling organizers for their scene – for their action, their show in the drama, and the function continued smoothly afterwards.

But what surprised me then and now is the deteriorating social and cultural ethics. This is not the only story of one village… This is the common story of many villages and cities. No marriage ceremony or reception can be arranged without these bottles and their side-effects.  Not a single election can be thought of without the so-called ‘feast and foreign brand bottles’.

Just wondering… is this called modernization and development ? Is this the baton we are passing to our future generation ?

Aamjunta – think of it…

General Elections 2014: a Game Theoretic Analysis

With less than 20 days left for the first phase of elections, each party has almost finalized the list of candidates; giving a final touch (Congress has already declared) to their manifestos, busy in bridging the gaps between like (?) minded parties for opportunistic alliances, and making advertisements in the print and electronic media. Campaigning is becoming crucial for all political parties.

One strong trend which is emerging clear from the campaigning- candidate selections and the alliance formations – winning the election by hook or by crook –  that’s the ‘Game‘;  a zero-sum or/and a non-zero-sum game but mostly with opportunistic coalitions. The outcome of this game is the real face of our democratic form of government, in which some times the major national party sits in the opposition and a the leader of a small party with 20 odd members can become the Prime Minister of this country. (Please do watch the above video link to see a beautiful illustration of Indian democracy by (Late) Shri Pramod Mahajan.)

And the saying “every thing is fair in love and war” is becoming a reality for this election game-war. It is a game in which political Parties, Media, Election Commission, Police and the Voters are the major players with many strategies for a goal – ‘Rule’ – with and without coalition in which Nash-Equilibrium may not be guaranteed !!

Like every other game, here too, the strategies are very important not only to form a government but also to form a stable and sensible government at the centre and in the states. Strategies are mostly formed by the active players – Political Parties, many in number and extremely divergent in characteristics; propagated by the passive players – Media; judged by the unique players of the world’s largest democracy – the Voters.

Lets analyse few of the common strategies –

Candidate Selection: It is indisputable to say that candidate selection depends majorly on the polarization factor – caste, religion, outsider vs. insider, etc. More than qualities like honesty, capability, loyalty and integrity, importance is being given whether the candidate is from Urban or Rural area, a Hindu or a Muslim, a Brahmin or a Yadav or a Kurmi or a Dalit, a Lingayat or a Vokkaliga or a Kurba, a Jat or a Thakur, an Iyer or a Mudaliyar, son/daughter of some “big” man or an aamjunta, and many more. Change of parties to earn a party ticket are common; for many candidates getting a ticket is more important than the ideology of the party. If the political parties are to be blamed for this kind of polarization and division of the society, then the media is also equally responsible for generating their masala-news and live analysis.

So far as the voters are concerned – we too are biased for our caste and religion sentiments. Remember- neither making a holy dip in Varanasi will make some one a Hindu-sympathizer nor wearing a skull-cap will make some one close to the hearts of Muslims.

Are we going forward to bridge the gap or going back to the era of un-touchability ? The choice is ours !!

Hate/Love Speeches: Making a hate speech is very easy these days. Reason – the conviction rate is very low and the convictions are not exemplary ! Hate speeches targeting religion, caste, community, migrants, etc. are threatening the peace and sovereignty of the country. The words or phrases used by the politicians are sometimes derogatory and flaring. Moreover, these days personalized comments are pathetic and in utterly bad tastes, mostly used to polarize voters and to stop some one from even doing good at any cost. What surprises me more is the negative publicity – parties are busy in finding out others’ faults, not in publicizing their own good governance. Criticizing others for their failures is not bad but laying the foundation of good future is more important. This is not only happening in party manifestos but also in reality. We fail to observe any party or leader sincerely or humbly accepting their mistakes and offering to find remedies for it; rather it appears from their statements that doing wrong things are their deliberate actions and their birth-rights.

If hate speeches are bad, then what about love speeches ? Saying “I love to be in the midst of tribal people” and doing nothing for them; or saying “I will go from home to home and sleep in villages” who had once mocked other leaders for eating and sleeping in Dalit homes. All for the benefit of TV cameras – these are merely romanticizing the election bids !

Freebies: We all love freebies and indisputably this becomes a major strategy during elections. The ‘one-kilogram per rupee’ Rice concept, re-adjustments in the number of of Cooking-gas cylinders, free Ration, Laptops, TVs, Cycles, Washing Machines, even free Electricity, free Water, loan-Waivers and many similar things are common these days. Irrespective of the class and affordability of the people, the freebies are very popular these days. Its as if these are all literally raining from the heavens. Political rallies, party manifestos and advertisements are saturated with freebies – “If you vote for me, I will give you this” ! … Are you really giving from your pocket ? NO !! Then who allowed you to do so ? … Let us understand that freebies are making us nikarma (indolent) and are being distributed from the tax-payers’ money which was meant for the development of the country. If any political party wants to give any substantial gifts to the society by making election-oriented promises, then let them promise us good governance – not generate or do nothing about tackling policy paralysis and corruption; let them create for us a system of quality education,  quality jobs, sustained opportunities to earn our livelihood at our native places (no migrant-labour), good roads, green environment, continuous supply of clean water, electricity, necessary and regulated material resources at reasonable prices, transparent accounting system, ample safety and security for all its citizens, and so on and so forth. Not freebies… Freebies will not eradicate poverty; rather it will keep re-orienting using foolish methods and then reinforce the downward-spiralling of poverty.

A true leader must have the vision to empower its nation by building on every available resource and not callously aim at the gaddi (seat of power) !!!

Alliance: Both pre-poll and post-poll alliances are becoming crucial these days. The pre-poll alliances we see these days are actually not based on a common agenda; rather these are based on political compulsions for a post-poll government formation. Moreover, no one (political parties as well as their leaders) is untouchable. On a critical analysis, we can see that most of the pre-poll alliances are actually converting a zero-sum game to a non-zero-sum game. Here are a few instances – LJP-BJP in Bihar, Shiv Shena-BJP-MNS (?) in Maharashtra, BJD-JMM in Odisha, RJD-Congress in Bihar, TDP-BJP in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, flip-flops of TRS-Congress in Telangana, DMDK-PMK-MDMK-BJP in Tamil Nadu, AIDMK-Congress, DMK-Congress in Tamil Nadu, BJP-BJD in Odisha.

Parties with a strong vote base sometimes do not form pre-poll alliances, so that they can get maximum window while forming the post-poll alliances. Examples – BJD in Odisha, AIDMK in Tamil Nadu, TMC in West Bengal, etc.

Alliances are good if they are formed to truly serve the nation or the state. But bad if these are formed to stop a party or a group to form the government, may be in the name of secularism, corruption /anti-corruption, language, regionalism, etc.

Contrary to pre-poll alliances, post-poll alliances are formed mostly with a compulsion (with political excuses) and with invisible agendas – which are selfish in nature. The compulsions of post-poll alliances will rise with the increase in small and regional parties, and the undesired effect (w.r.t. voters) will be echoed as in 1989, 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2009,… and the recent post-poll alliance of Congress and AAP in Delhi which only lasted for 49 days !!

For an ideal case, alliances should not be dictated for egoistic and selfish reasons but should be committed only and only for the benefit of the people !!

Reservations based on Caste and Religion: This is another big strategy the political parties play, both before and after the elections. To gain vote shares, parties promise reservation for particular castes and religions which needs to condemned right away. Though the concept of reservations was decided and rightly offered for creating a short-term balance in the society, now it has become a major political sword for winning elections after elections, without actually balancing the caste and religion differences in a society particularly like India.

Division of States or Special Status Category: Recently, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, and the demands for ‘special status category’ to Bihar and Odisha have fuelled this strategy of forming a coalition (pre or post) and winning sympathy-votes based on “step-motherly” treatment by the Centre. If such divisions and categorizations are not justifiably carried out by the Centre (but only for coalition parties to gain sympathy-votes), then we will soon see further territorial divisions and non-beneficial alignments.

Bribing: Bribing voters and candidates are not new. Wine, Women and Wealth play important roles in bribing the voters and political rallies. Critics and analysts say that any thing in the range of Rs. 700/- to Rs. 10,000/- is being spent per vote by many of the candidates. On an average, some of the candidates are reportedly spending more than Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 crores per constituency. I still remember the punch line “Give me 10 votes and take a new bike” – very commonly seen and heard during the Local Bodies Elections-2012 in Maharashtra.

As mentioned before, the political parties are playing the election Game with their positive and negative strategies, and the media (paid or fair) is a party to it in propagating the political agendas in various forms. Both positive journalism as well as negative journalism are part and parcel of the game.

But the outcome of the Game depends on our ultimate decision- whether to fall for the cheap and divisive politics or rise and stand-up for a self-reliant, stronger India which can give corruption-free governance and sustained employment ! If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a selfish and baseless favour or meagre cash or a bottle of wine or freebies,  or a reservation based on caste /community /religion, or a loan-waiver… then whom should we blame but ourselves ? And therefore, it also lies in our hands – what ways we pave for our children – the future of our society !! In this regard, we must appreciate the efforts of countries like Japan and China which have been utterly careful and diligent to correct wrong practices and sustain good ones.

This is the right time or opportunity to show our strength, to redress defects in the system and make it clean and strong. Its our time to play our own Game; let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of “MCR” – Money, Caste and Religion but on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morals and right knowledge. We need to do something substantial, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let us prevent corruption, bring in good governance and create sustained jobs for a better life. Let’s respect our dignity, our state and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!! It is not that far… just couple of weeks more!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Jai Hind!

Reflections: Part-I

Reflections

Reflections

 

In the series of Reflections, I wish to present collection of inspirational quotes, thoughts, speeches, poems, photographs, etc.

1. What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.
-Henry David Thoreau

2. Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
-Abraham Lincoln

3. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
-Winston Churchill

4. Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eyes.
-H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

5. Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear but around in awareness.
-James Thurber

6. That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.
-Albert Einstein

7. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
-Tom Stoppard

8. Art is pattern informed by sensibility.
-Herbert Read

9. If you want to be incrementally better: be Competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: be Cooperative.
-Author unknown

10. Those who do not learn lessons from History, will be condemned by it.
-George Santayana

11. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
-Serenity Prayer (originally untitled prayer by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr)

12. I had the blues because I had no shoes,
Until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet !
-Denis Waitley

13. When it is obvious that goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals; adjust the action steps.
-Confucius

14. I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
-Rudyard Kipling

15. Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement.
-Henry Ford

16. It takes two people to make a lie work; the person who tells it, and the one who believes it.
-Jodi Picoult

17. What is done to the children, is done to the society.
-Buddha

18. Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein, and whoever recommends and helps an evil cause shares in its burdens.
-The Quran

19. The Giver of peace is eternally blissful.
-Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

20. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
-Roy L. Smith

Aamjunta, please share your thoughts and ideas.

More Reflections to follow…

The Chaste of Liberty

Last week, it was reported that the Maulanas in Aligarh (India) are opposing burqas that are trendy with laces, studs, gems, etc. Reason – they fear it will ‘attract the attention’ and ’embolden’ the evil-eyed people !

Many ordinary persons, social or religious organisations and celebrities have also held similar views in the recent past.

Well, I think statements as these are not baseless in view of certain present circumstances as long as they mean to protect women in unknown zones (physical or social) or when they go out alone in places lacking proper gender awareness.

Many may not agree with my opinion but I would still request them to take a look at my reasons, even briefly.

In this regard, I would first of all like to make a small but very appreciative note on my recent observations of some foreign tourists (mostly westerners) visiting south-India. I found everyone of them to abide by certain directions, probably issued from their respective Embassies, in their attire. They all wore traditional Indian dresses and cast a very lasting impression on the native folks by respecting their values.

The gruesome Nirbhaya incident in December-2012 led to some modifications in India’s rape law. Even then, numerous such cases of either rape or molestation or eve-teasing or brutal murder after a sexual assault or acid-attacks have been reported. Sometimes it appears as if these occurrences have rather increased exponentially, like a severely infectious or viral disease ! To add salt to the diabolic wounds, age of the victim or the offender seems to be no more restricted to the country’s present definition of an adult, that is, a biological age.

With regard to rising rape cases, a year back, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Delhi Police to find out the root-cause of such brutal incidents happening every day even in the capital of India. Many psychiatrists like Dr. Nimish G. Desai are of the opinion that rapists are not mentally ill but attribute sexual perversions or psychopathic behaviour to them due to rapidly changing and non-monitored social mechanisms. They recommend institutionalization of gender studies wherein such people of inherent or acquired violent behaviour and/or having feelings of disengagement from society (work or family) can be identified and reared towards a positive direction before they commit such an offence.

In this context, let us delve into a bit more analysis. We all know that nudity is a form of both ancient and modern art expressed as any gender type, and it continues to be unblemished in some regions or societies. It is unblemished with regard to gender studies and characteristics of art itself. There it is accepted and appreciated as a normal, genteel perception. Now here is the sharp contrast. In other regions, a fearsome trend persists or has emerged of late – women (yes, mostly women and young girls) in attire like tight-fitted outfits, jeans, flashy tops, kurtis or even salwar-suits, are being watched with lustful glare. It happens anywhere, at any time and at any age in a society that is not well-versed with gender-related chapters. Formal education, high social status or financial riches are not always a dissuasion to check grossly misconstrued sexual desires. Rather some people’s disengagement from society combined with their lack of awareness of gender studies can turn out to be extremely distressful for others, as rightly cautioned by psychiatrists.

Now consider juveniles and how susceptible they are to committing crimes, the degree of which is comparable to that done by adults. In this post-modern age, juveniles, almost everywhere find quickly streaming information and easily accessible hi-end gadgets. These gadgets are often provided to the young generation either by unsuspecting parents to make them merely happy or by irresponsible parents to promote through the gifted devices a sign of their proud possession or affordability in the neighbourhood. With swiftly changing times, today children are more intelligent and smart enough to use these gadgets, irrespective of whether the usage is right or wrong. If both the parents are working, then there is hardly any one at home to guard against its misuses; and this may further worsen matters. Sometimes, family woes stir the mud in already troubled waters. Unless duly checked, it is possible that the unwanted or violent behavioural trends of juveniles would continue to get perpetrated across their peers or younger groups.

Perhaps, the same logic would apply for potential eve-teasers, molesters, acid-attackers and other type of abusers or violence instigators, abettors or perpetrators.

And obviously, with rising crimes the already feeble police:public and the judge:public ratios will also further deteriorate, thus delaying justice !

Now let’s explore two of our crucial roles in a society that is not only waiting to get adequate lessons in gender studies but having to already confront frequent crimes ridden with sexual components.

First and foremost of all, we must sensibly regulate or restrain certain type of entertainment and media channels, both print and electronic. Films and documentaries should be more censored, very strictly categorized according to various age groups and then distributed with immense precautionary measures. Particularly, women, young girls and eunuchs depicted on reels or magazines must always be shown in a respectable manner; it should not bear the slightest hint of any vulgarity or obscenity just for maximizing commercial profits. Here I want to highlight a very important point – where gender studies profusely lag, mindless projection of any sensual element for promoting modernity or liberalism, or for gaining commercial goals, further exposes the ‘aam aurat’ (ordinary women) and the eunuchs to sexual glares, pounces and pats !! Instances in an elite society may be rare but the ‘aam aurat’ generally bears the bigger brunt. Surely, there are other factors to be reasoned out but the one of mindless projections is definitely very crucial. Such projections can have an immediate negative impact on the minds of both the adult men and young boys; more severely, if they are disengaged from their family, friends or work-place and/or are already associated with anti-social elements or unhealthy environments like taking banned drugs. When every day we get to hear numerous crimes against women, then as responsible citizens, should we not check certain filming or broadcastings ? By preventing thus, we can help a meek society to muster fortitude, act and practically care for preserving the dignity of its weaker sexes.

Secondly, comes our role as parents or guardians or teachers of the current generation of children. It is a gradual effort. Right from an early age, we must educate them on various aspects of gender, and teach them to dress, converse and behave as suited to our culture and society, that is, where we live. Wearing full-length attire (whether oriental or occidental) should not make us a judge in our own minds even; we are not supposed to be labelled traditional or modern merely by our clothes or appearances. The terms are antonyms but it is wise to interpret them such that adhering to one outweighs the other according to relevant occasions. We should thus adequately put bridle on what we wear and appreciate. We should not fall into any sort of crazy rat-race. Our matured thoughts must do the smart talk and walk. Young boys and girls must be taught to equally respect each other and accommodate their issues. Gone are the outdated ways of gender-based barriers and patriarchal dominance ensnared by attitudinal issues!

Similarly, social or official guidelines must be adhered to by all groups of gender in corporates and other social gatherings. These are awfully necessary safeguards in our very own interests.

Well, now consider the provisions and protection sought under law. If enforced properly, it can take a tougher stand against mere violators of law and criminals. But it should not be just to punish them or deter potential offenders. It should also be because children witnessing depictions in any form of media or offences in society, that has sexual components or differential roles of man and woman, imbibe an awful sense of gender inequality at a tender age, and it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet scurrilous or violent vent in some form of anonymity at a later stage !! Moreover, changing rules should be in accordance with the definition of gender, the attributed social patterns of which are changeable over time. Hence, it needs thorough discussions and debates and cannot be simply listed over-night.

Nevertheless, law is definitely one of the greatest tools of social transformation. But legal reforms must be supported by an efficient administration, institutionalization of gender studies, holistic understanding of other socio-economic issues by the people of the land, their active participation in large numbers in associated programmes and awareness generation by a responsible media. Without all of us realizing these various aspects and acting in a co-ordinated manner, it would be quite impossible to root out the causes of such diabolical crimes and prevent these in some present societies.

As a well-known Indian columnist has aptly remarked yesterday in a leading newspaper- ‘Empowerment doesn’t work without maturity‘ !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Tyre Kharido, Car Free :)

“Tyre Kharido, Car Free” (Buy one Tyre, Car is Free)!

Sounds funny? Might be, but believe me, it is true !!.

Couple of months back I came across with this advertisement in a national daily. Was curious to know the deal, on a close look found an * mark with conditions apply. And you can imagine the “condition”... the usual ones… “On purchase of so many tyres, your chance to win a car doubles up and blah blah…”. Quite usual advertisements in print media or in electronic media. Not unusual these days !

The interesting part is the “conditions apply”  – in almost zero font size :); quite similar to the statutory warnings on Cigarette Packs. Not only that, the price of the selling items are hiked considerably in general, which go un-noticed by the customers as the attention gets diverted to the free tag. One should be very careful while going for these kind of deals and should understand the Conditions carefully. Else…. But unfortunately the conditions are never explained properly in the advertisements.

On a similar note, I came across with another advertisement “Cooler Kharido, Refrigerator Free” (buy a cooler and get a free refrigerator); during the hot summer days of Delhi. Was fascinated by the advertisement at that time. Next morning I went to that shop (spend some 4 hours to locate the shop and Rs 200/- by auto) to get the air cooler and a refrigerator. But, to my surprise the Air Cooler which normally costs Rs 3000/- in the market, was labelled with Rs 6500/- and the free refrigerator was of no use for me as it was very small. Came back home on a sad note 😦 . I should have understood the conditions applied well before spending my time and money.

On a slightly different note, every one of us have experienced the famous “Buy one and Get one Free” deals in malls, in cinema halls or in eating joints like Pizza-Huts, Dominos or McDonalds etc. These tag lines are to lure the customers to and to sell more. Customers buy more and spend more — it does not matter whether the need of the free item as well as the first item is there or not!

The tag line “Buy one and Get one Free” is just another marking concept and a sales promotion method for shops, companies and dealers. Companies/dealers usually adopt this method to clear the stock or to quickly reach the market. One should not get lured by the word FREE, instead should realize Nothing is Free, some thing or other has to be paid to get that which appears to be Free.

Selling something and giving something free is becoming a regular marketing concept; either buy one get one free (of the same or different item) or “buy two get one free” or “buy this get that free”, are free flowing tag lines now a days. Be it “buy one and get one free” or “buy this get that free”, these lines are usually profitable to the company and can be profitable to the customers if they buy the items judiciously. It is profitable for the shop/company in the sense that, shops usually hike the price of the first item to a certain extent (off course not by 100% !!), such that the price of the free item is covered to some extent. They earn profit from the huge amount of sales due to the promotional offer.

The customers too can make the deal profitable, only if there is a need to buy the items both first and the free item. Else, the customer will end up paying more not only for the first item, will waste the second item (happens mostly in food items). Being aware of the cost of the individual items definitely help the customers to decide, whether to go for the deal or not.

Saying that, let me narrate some of my experiences on the free purchases….

Recently, I went for a magazine deal and ended up paying Rs 1500/- for 3 years subscription, which was almost 50% of the regular price. Yes, it was profitable to me in one sense that I saved 50% on the price, not only that I also got a pair of shoes FREE 🙂 . But, when critically analysed, I realized that, it was not at all profitable to me. Because, neither I’m a fan of that magazine and nor I need a pair of shoes at this point of time. Not only that, the same magazine is also available for reading in my Hostel/Office for free.

So, what do you say? Profit or loss for me? But, it is definitely a profitable deal for the publisher. Not only the publisher got some money as investment (by bulk number of 3 years of subscriptions), but also, it got some sure-shot number of readers or customers, which can be priced to the advertising agencies in their future issues as the magazine reaches out for wide circulation.

Same thing applies to free credit cards, where the joining fee is mostly waved (or  pay the fee and get free vouchers), with a substantial 2nd year renewal fee (with or without free shopping vouchers). But, the question is why should we pay and then get a shopping voucher in return? Forcing the customer to buy some thing? and most important is to forcing the customer to visit a shopping mall for that? Interesting 🙂

In another case, one of my friends bought a washing machine for Rs 14000/- using his credit card (as he was short of money at that time). The reason being, he got a free item of Rs 700/- (got a Coffee maker by the scratch card) and a discount of 2%! Yes, by doing that the shop cleared the stock and sold many washing machines in a month’s time; naturally increased its total profit.

But, my poor friend, has a habit of forgetting paying the credit card dues in time — paid a fine of Rs 1500/- (including the interest and late fee) to the bank. Not only that, he never uses his coffee machine (as he does not drink tea/coffee). So for him, the deal was a total loss (which might be a profit for some one else!). He hardly realizes and repeats his mistakes again and again !!

Those are just some of the experiences; which every one of us have experienced in some or other context. So next time when you see “Buy one Get one Free” or “Tyre kharido, Car Free”… do not get fascinated, keep cool, think twice whether you really want to buy this and do you really need that free item or not… Else, you will end up with same stories…

Aamjunta … what do you think?

PS: A shortened version of this article was published in July 2008.

Election in Karnataka: a Semi-final or Practice Match before the next General Election!

It is Election Day tomorrow (5th May, 2013) for the State Assembly of Karnataka, India.

The country as a whole is struggling with corruption, rape and murder cases. One should not be surprised to know that Karnataka too is not far behind from the national average. The significant rise in criminal cases particularly in the city of Bangalore and mega corruption, mis-governance, routine in-fights in Parties and poor infrastructure are the major worries of the common man or aamjunta. Election in Karnataka is also important due to IT-industry’s presence in Bangalore. Every political party is definitely looking for a share – major or minor, that time will say. With General Election due in 2014, remember, the election in Karnataka may be the semi-final or a high temper practice match for all major political parties. No political party wants to lose; their fate lies in the hands of aamjunta.

Lets see how the major political Parties are talking about this Election-

Congress: Party chief Sonia Gandhi in an election rally at Gulbarga said that the “BJP Government has looted Karnataka and incited communal feelings”. In addition, she further lamented the BJP’s record on communal harmony by saying “we have always believed in communal harmony and are against forces which disrupt communal harmony.”

BJP: Star campaigner of BJP, Narendra Modi blasted at the UPA’s foreign policy and  criticized the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi. Apart from this, the other campaigners of BJP including the current Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar have been talking about the level of good governance the Party has delivered in the past and deploring the UPA for its corruption at the central level and step-motherly treatment in case of distribution of  Cauvery water and allocation of central funds to Karnataka.

JDS: Both the father-son duo, ex-PM Deva Gowda and Kumar Swamy have been talking about a clean and transparent government, ruling out dynasty in politics.

KJP: B S Yeddyurappa formed the KJP with two aims – to ensure BJP’s loss and be a part of the next government if the situation arises, such that  legal cases against him can be handled without any major drama or hassle. He too has been promising for a clean and transparent government and is ready to provide financial support to all religious places; all, which he could not do while he was in power.

But, what is ultimately going to rule the election?

Simple answer to most of the questions – “MCR” : Money, Caste and Religion PowerCritics and analysts say that any thing in the range of Rs 700/- to Rs 10,000/- is being spent per vote by many of the candidates. On an average, some of the candidates are reportedly spending more than Rs 30 crores per constituency.

This kind of bribing existed in the 2008 election too. After analysing the affidavits of 347 candidates who contested the 2008 Karnataka elections and are contesting this time too, the recent report disclosed by the Karnataka Election Watch indicates that in the last five years, their average asset increased over 72% (Rs 12.62 crore or so) !! It clearly shows that indeed politics is a very profitable business.

Caste is also playing major role in Karnataka politics. All political parties are busy in appeasing the voters of two major castes in Karnataka – The Lingayats and the Vokkaligas, comprising nearly 18% and 13% of the state’s electorate respectively. This divides Karnataka into northern and southern power bases.

Religion too plays a major role in Karnataka politics. Both the majorities and minorities are being lured in the process. All parties have promised to give special packages to religious activities; however, in reality it may not be true in future. Appeasing the minors or the other backward classes is quite apparent.

Muscle power too is holding some of the reigns of this Karnataka election. While the Congress has filed 55 candidates with criminal charges, the BJP is not far behind with 48. When the entire country is struggling with rising rape cases and sexual abuses or harassments, there are 2 ‘contesting’ candidates from the KJP with pending rape cases against them !

While every candidate is fighting for a win, political analysts term this election as the “Semi-final for 2014”. A win by BJP in Karnataka will definitely boost the morale of Narendra Modi’s candidature for the next Prime Minister, and a loss by BJP will augment the doubt on BJP’s ability to retain power outside its traditional political base in the north and hence, become a stumble for its run up to the 2014 National polls.

If Congress wins tomorrow’s election in Karnataka, it will definitely brush up the party’s image ahead of 2014 National elections and lift its sagging spirits; it may also alleviate an anti-Congress mood prevalent in most parts of the country mainly because of rising corruption, incidents of rape and meek or poor bilateral issues with our neighbouring countries. It may lead to early National elections too.

On a different note, a win by JDS will definitely increase the speculation of the formation of a 3rd Front in the next National election.

Irrespective of whoever comes to power, all the above factors will play major roles in the government and the governance. With rising corruption at the Centre and in many States, it looks like there is no solution of this particular issue in a single day. Like cancer, it has already spread to the roots of our system, our existence, our daily lives. Very often, we do not have an option but to pay bribes, small or big, if we need to get our work done smoothly or quickly, or done at all ! Such bribes are sometimes labelled in sugar-coated terms like ‘commission’ or ‘chai-pani’ (refreshments), mostly to stay away from legal implications. Though it is hard to accept, it is a fact. With corruption largely being a moral issue, Law Enforcement agencies have always found it hard to eradicate it through either use of force or preventive surveillance.

The worst thing happens when the common man, the aamjunta or the voter becomes corrupt. If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a selfish, baseless favour or meagre cash or a bottle of wine or freebies, then whom can we blame ?

Jaago aamjunta, jaago… the wake-up call to the electorate…

This is the right time to show our strength, and make the system clean and strong. Let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of “MCR” – Money, Caste and Religion, rather on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morals and right knowledge. We need to do something substantial, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let’s respect our dignity, our state and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!! It is not that far … just couple of hours more!!

Jai Hind!

Give me 10 Votes, I’ll give you a Bike!

Jai Hind!

While watching the live telecast of our 63rd Republic Day celebration from Delhi, the background music of क़दम क़दम बढ़ाये जा, खुशी के गीत गाये जाये जिंदगी है क़ौम की, तू क़ौम पे लुटाये जा (Qadam Qadam baṛāē jā, khushi kē geet gāē jā… yē zīndagi haiñ qâum kī, tū qâum pē lūtāē jā) made me nostalgic and for some time, brought the mighty feeling of a soldier  of the Indian National Army (INA).  On a personal request from Netaji, Ram Singh Thakur composed this  song for the Indian National Army. Way back in 1942, when Ram Singh Takhur composed this extremely patriotic song, he never would have thought that this will make him eternal.

While marching for a free India, Netaji declared his motto “Give me blood, I will give you freedom“. That attracted many Indians to not simply participate in the freedom struggle but even sacrifice their lives for the honor of their motherland. Gone are those days….. India is a democratic republic celebrating its 63rd Republic Day today.

Over the years, many things have changed, so also our “leaders” and we “the people”. Not that all the changes are negative, there are of course many positive ones that have shaped the country. Still, I believe that many more things could have uplifted our status as a welfare state. Today, what bothers most Indians like me is “Corruption”! With the logjam in Parliament and politics over Lokpal Bill, a “corruption-free India” may not be possible in the near future.

Even if a strong Lokpal Bill is passed, corruption is no way going to die in a single day. This is because it has spread to the root of our system, our existence and our blood.  Except a few people, I would say most of us are corrupt and involved in favoritism in some way or the other. Very often, we do not have an option if we need to get our work done smoothly or quickly. Though it is hard to accept, it is a fact.

Corruption during the election reaches its peak. Political parties, irrespective of their national or regional strength are involved in various forms of corruption. In most of the cases, corruption is also closely linked to crime and underworld activities. The power of MWMW (Money, Wine, Muscle power and Women) takes the centre stage. MWMW is becoming the general norm and eligibility criteria for party candidates.

Black money, country made liquors and drugs are being poured into the game from different sources. Even though the Election Commission is very strict and has put many officials as observers, there are several eye-opening cases that come to light every day. Huge amount of cash has been recovered en route to the poll-bound states. Drugs and country liquors are becoming a strong weapon to woe the voters. Recent raids in Punjab and UP led to the discovery of huge amount of drugs and liquors.

With corruption largely being a moral issue, law enforcement agencies have always found it hard to root it out through either force or preventive surveillance. Moreover, sometimes the observers and the law enforcement agents are also corrupt. But the worst thing happens when the common man, the aamjunta or the voter becomes corrupt. If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a meagre cash or a bottle of wine or drugs, then whom can we blame! Neither the Election Commission, nor the Lokpal Bill can bring any solution for this.

For an example, in the recently conducted Municipal elections in Maharashtra, money took the centre stage to buy votes. Many political parties had bribed the voters a meagre sum of Rs 5,000/- per vote. Irrespective of the rich or poor, literate or illiterate, educated or  uneducated, people across the society were involved in this kind of dishonest activities. House maids, vegetable vendors, daily workers, factory workers, auto walas, school teachers, and many others including polling officials went for holidaying or picnics on election black-money. New bikes without registration were kept in petrol pumps; one could take a bike free-of-cost, just on the condition of arranging 10 votes from his/her family and/or friends. The new motto now being “Give me 10 votes, I will give you a bike” !!!!

The actual election process and the common man’s attitude is very pathetic. As long as we do not cure ourselves of this shameful attitude, no legal process or authority can prevent unethical practices like bribery, intimidation and  misuse of office and power. These huge malpractices combined with casteism, communalism and regionalism are going to ruin the election system and the fundamental structure of Indian democracy. It is going to let India’s face down as a world leader in practising true democracy and being its ambassador.

Jaago aamjunta, jaago… This is time to show our strength, and make the system clean and strong. Let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of MWMW but based on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morale and right knowledge. We need to do some thing unique, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let’s respect our dignity and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!!

Jai Hind!

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