Aamjunta’s Dilemma – whom to Vote in 2014 ?

We do acknowledge and understand that for ‘aam aadmi‘ folks to suddenly work on so many responsibilities (simultaneous or not) centred on the capital of India, there is tremendous pressure and hindrances around. But how can any ‘good’ party forget the usual law and order scenario, or even its very own principles ?!? Citizens should remember that nothing can change over-night; so also should any party holding the reigns of power, especially if it has no experience !

There is no point in comparing the present political parties in terms of ideology, political will, presence, discipline, transparency and leadership quality. None reflect any sincere ideology at the level of national consciousness. As an ‘aamjunta‘, I see no party having a true national agenda or any leader having the shades of a statesman. Almost all of them are interested to serve the nation – getting into power or remaining in power is the main motto. And the bad-taste remarks mutually hurled at each other by the political leaders are awfully making the puzzle dirty !!

Aamjunta is really in a dilemma…

Congress (UPA) – mired in multiple and mega scams /scandals and despite having enough time, absolutely nothing was done by it to redress those matters. With their able foreign policy, all our neighbours including Maldives and Bhutan are in ‘tu-tu main-main’ (squabbles) with us. Their idea of Swaraj and Social Empowerment is only limited to Rahul Gandhi’s speeches and their leaders are either busy in the coronation drama or with making derogatory remarks against Narendra Modi.

BJP (NDA) – still inducting back corrupt /indisciplined ‘netas‘ or being completely callous about rooting out corruption. It looks like the definition of India is still limited to some states in the north or central part of the country; with no or diminishing presence in the North-East region, Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, etc. ; even grass-root level politics is yet to evolve in many such states. Moreover, they cannot rely only on the charishma of Narendra Modi; fetching the magic number 272+ is still a huge task for them ! Major changes or re-structuring their vision should be their prime agenda while preparing for summer of 2014.

AAP – during its initial activism, very boldly raised several issues against corruption but never pursued any single matter to its solution; now the party’s daily stand on administration has made it synonymous with the term ‘U-turn’ !! And the jugalbandi with Congress is somewhat fishy ! Their leaders are still in dharanas, and/or verbal duel mode and their induction process is also not convincing. But the rise of AAP has definitely changed the political equations at the centre.

Third Front – for God’s shake this experiment should NOT be repeated; most disastrous governance in Indian history !! Their rise is definitely a danger to India’s democracy and growth.

If we want to standardize a yardstick in this regard, then (apart from tackling corruption, inflation, etc.) here are some more potential weights for us to assess:

(i) Is anyone really thinking of the nation or the society as a whole ? Has any national party or one aspiring to become so yet campaigned in or adequately spoken about the far-flung North-East region of India ?

(ii) How many have considered settling the issue of Indo-Bangladesh enclaves ?

(iii) Has anyone addressed these matters – growing incidents of rapes, juvenile justice system, human-trafficking, acid-attacks, improving care and financial aid for the orphans, old and destitute ?

(iv) Is any leader talking about revamping the current education system in the country ?

(v) How much has been achieved in diminishing judicial backlogs and increasing the police:public and judge:public ratio ?

(vi) What about the health care industry ?

(vii) Where do we stand in our external policy and defence preparations ?

The list can be endless but these are very basic current issues of the nation. Therefore, these must be substantially addressed by whoever wants to come to power or gets it. At this stage even, many ‘aamjunta‘ like me do not know with certainty whom to vote !

Does ‘right to reject’ or invoking ‘Rule 49-O’ of the elections conduct have any meaning ? Not really.

May be, we should be highlighting work of good performers like Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Mr. Manohar Parrikar, Dr. Raman Singh who have done really well; at least, in the recent past, if you consider the limited support and resources that they have got in-hand. Till date, they are not involved in any public spat ! So why don’t we speak in all positivity about their achievements and their desire to achieve more for the mass ? As some would have observed, these three men have known when a leader has to work at break-neck speed and when he has to go slow or even compromise for a greater cause.

Is there any way to give chance to such men at the centre ? Let us not forget for a single moment that what we choose today, we would be rewarding it to ourselves tomorrow and to our next generation(s) !!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

Yes to Telangana – Opening of the Pandora’s Box or another European Union !!

With the formation of 29th state of India – “Telangana” (carved out of 10 districts of earlier Andhra Pradesh, with some decisions pending regarding allocation of 2 more districts and the status of Hyderabad)… the political parties, the intellectuals, the political commentators are making calculated comments. Though there is a sense of pride and victory by some people of Telangana, the general mood of the people of remaining Andhra Pradesh (AP) and people of other parts of India is not happy about the way this particular issue was handled and the states are being created. One simple question always arises time and again – on what basis new states are being created in India – on political ground or, on language or, on religion or, on ethnicity or, on some growth-model or, on some kind of compulsion ?

It is certain that the creation of Telangana is more due to political reasons than that of administrative or governance or people centric ones. With 2014 General Election in mind, the UPA-II government in general, and the Congress in particular, have played a game to win more seats in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, to counter the growing popularity of YSR-Congress and/or to take Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) into their coalition. This political will is yet to be ratified by the people in 2014 – time will be the best judge of course !!

Though it is being argued by TRS (in particular) that the creation of Telangana is to handle the (under) development of that region, it is not difficult to understand the political motives of TRS leaders. It is certainly a mix equation of power – hunger of power and abuse of power; hunger of power is more destructive than the the abuse of power though.  This also results in mistrust between common citizens or aamjunta, business men, companies, politicians in various degrees. The mistrust being created with the formation and demand of new states also have long lasting impact on the development of the states in particular and India as a whole nation. This is a very sensitive issue and needs to be handled carefully.

The impact of creation of Telangana is definitely not limited to Andhra Pradesh; its impact is being felt in Odisha in the form of Kosala, in Maharashtra in the form of Vidarbha, in Uttar Pradesh  in the form of Harit Pradesh, in central India in the form of Bundelkhand and in the East/North-East in the form of Gorkha Land… ! It may not stop there; it did not stop with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Goa before. The Pandora’s Box is opened now with many political compulsions, intentions and possibilities !!!

If we analyse the impact of creation of smaller states, we can certainly find two major points – (i) smaller states boost regional parties, which are definitely not a healthy sign for a democracy like India and (ii) smaller states bring political instability as in Jharkhand and Goa – 8 Chief Minsters in last 10 years (9  governments in last 13 years) in Jharkhand, and 14 governments in 15 years between 1990 and 2005 in Goa !! The instability can be frequently created by regional parties, especially in a coalition type of government.

Other than the above major points, smaller states give rise to intolerance, regionalism and selfish motives, which some times hinder the growth of India as a whole, and complicates the inter-state relations – water, mining, dams, power, etc. This also complicates the internal security as observed in New Delhi with many neighbours. Many fear that the anti-Maoist movement being carried out jointly by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattishgarh, etc.  may also get diluted resulting in more and more kidnaps, bomb-blasts, killing and loots in different parts of the country.

Other than the above points, what bothers aamjunta is the possible political instability towards which India is heading with the current developments. It is almost certain that in the next General Election, no single political party will get simple majority at the centre; a coalition government led by Congress or a possible Third-Front government led by smaller parties are definitely not ruled out, and hence the fear of scams, corruptions, horse-trading will definitely rise. Even a possible BJP-led government at the centre will have many compulsions too ! Someone has rightly remarked – this will bring demons with crisis in democracy !!

The way we are creating smaller states with the above motives, an European Union model is not ruled out in India in the future – with one or two major partners (states) and many smaller partners (states) with political and financial instability.

Chanakya’s  (370–283 BC) “akhanda Bharat” (undivided India) is becoming “khanda Bharat” (divided India) !!

Aamjunta needs to awake, arise and take the centre-stage as a voter, implementer, jurist, businessman, student, teacher, social activist and others – for, by and of India.

Uttistha Bharata” (Arise India) !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say and how do you react ?

Jai Hind…

Another article on Regional Politics in India: Regional Political Parties – danger to Democracy and India?

Mid-day (Midday) Meals in India – a Challenging Task !

With all the recent tragedies and controversies associated with the Mid-day (Midday) Meal Scheme in Bihar, Odisha, UP, MP, Chattishgarh and other states, many like me must be wondering whether there is a need to re-look at the effectiveness of the scheme and/or whether this program should be stopped altogether. Some say that these are just isolated incidents that happen at times (random theory) and some like Chief Minister (Bihar) Nitish Kumar say that there is a conspiracy behind these incidents !

The ‘mid-day meal in schools’ programme in India that started in 1960 had the main objectives of protecting children against hunger and increasing school-enrolment and/or attendance. Other than these main objectives, mid-day meal programme had also aimed to achieve equality or social harmony among children of various classes and castes, and to provide employment to the unprivileged women. Though the key objectives are still valid in the changed scenario of today’s world, the promotion of social harmony or equality is still a myth !

It is true that there are many points to be discussed, many issues to be solved and many things to be proved or disproved by the Government, by the Officials, by the Media and by the so-called social Intellectuals and human-rights Activists…

Instead of going to the mode of another commentary, let me narrate my own experiences on the mid-day meal scheme.

I studied in a village school in the early eighties. Those days, government schools were the only mode of schooling in many parts of India (a few private English-medium schools, mostly managed by Christian Missionaries were there in the cities). We had three Teachers only to teach five classes/standards, each class/standard having 50-60 students. Teaching curriculum was definitely exhaustive those days. Other than teaching, duties such as preparing voter-lists, census, checking village sanitation, etc., were day-to-day activities of our Teachers.

Like many other schools, we too had mid-day meal programme, though not regularly. There was only one item – wheat kheer (porridge). We used to bring our own utensils from home and assist our Teachers in cooking the meals, cleaning the utensils and bringing the stocks from the local Block or Panchayat office; never received the full-quota – as these offices reserved their shares !

No external help or cook was appointed for this programme.

Every student was asked to bring some firewood from his/her home for the cooking (now I realize, that in fact, it was a punishable offence). I remember, some of my class-mates used to steal firewood from their neighbour’s backyards to avoid harassment in the school.

Since there was no tube-well in the school premises, we used to walk at least 2 km (to and fro) to bring drinking and cooking water; a very tough job during the hot summer and the rainy season.

I still remember… There were some broken-wheat supplied by the government for the programme; at least half of the stock used to go to the Teachers’ homes directly for their own use – like making sweets or feeding their cows ! Oil and Salt were also supplied; more than half of the oil was used at the feasts and for preparing snacks during the School Sub-Inspector’s visit or Village Committee’s visit to the school.

And the quality of the wheat was sometimes horrible; worms were almost certain and it was an every day affair. To handle the mid-day meals in schools, Village Workers and CDPOs (Child Development Project Officers) were appointed by the government. It is true that these officials used to visit school for inspections followed by a grand feast and a holiday for all of us. But these officials also had their shares in the mid-day meal programme !! We or our parents did not know whom to complain ?!? It was therefore hardly discussed even in casual get-together of our parents or guardians.

Speaking about social harmony and equality – there were high differentiations among the students based on castes (at least religion was not involved in our school) even while preparing food, bringing water and eating those meals. This ill trend reportedly continues in some schools even today !!!!

The mid-day meal program has continued for years… worsening day- by-day. For some, it is a business; for some, it is a mode of earning; and for some, it is just a single meal in the whole day !!

Taxpayers’ money is being regularly spent on such a programme, whose effectiveness is much debatable and it is still not made clear who is accountable for these tragedies; no proper monitoring system is yet in place ! There is definitely a huge lack of administration and accountability in this. Officials or Social-Workers, even when enabled with sufficient power, seem to fall short in carrying out or meting their responsibilities, and taking initiatives to prevent mid-day meal tragedies. There is an indifferent attitude in most of the cases – no one is really bothered. And the blame-game goes on as usual…

But is the government only to be blamed ? We too are responsible in many roles as – parents, teachers, village committee members, Sarpanchs, ward-members, officials, social observers, social activists, etc. We have been sleeping on the mega loopholes for years, even though we knew it was meant for our innocent little buds !!

Aamjunta – what do you think? It is time for you to act too…

Chit Funds or Cheat Funds – the Recent Saga of India’s Investors

The recent Chit Fund fiasco in West Bengal has not only pushed the panic button for the Indian Investors, but also opened the Pandora’s box of our corrupt system and the state of awareness of the aamjunta. This is a case in which all the three parties are to be blamed equally – the Investors, the System or the Government and the investment Agencies. Though the issue of cheating and fraud came to light because of Saradha fiasco in West Bengal, Odisha is not far behind in any sense. More than 85 companies are operating in Odisha with a turnover of roughly Rs. 20,000 crore, and there are more than 100 Chit Fund companies (mostly Ponzi Schemes) operating in West Bengal alone with a turnover of roughly Rs. 75,000 crore.

With CB-CID investigations, the list and the amount of fraud and cheating is bound to increase in both the states. Interestingly, some of the Schemes /Companies are old, operating in multiple states, run by well known politicians or their relatives, with a huge capital investment. Coming to Investors – most of them are poor rural people, unaware of the Ponzi Schemes, and are lured mostly by the young unemployed Agents. On the contrary and surprisingly, a good percentage of the Investors are also well-educated, well-aware about the recent happenings or uncertainties. They too could not resist the temptation of becoming rich or richer over-night… and lost their money in the process. In many places, there are numerous reports of suicides both by the Agents and the Investors.

The Chit Fund empire is so complex and so big that it has forced the Government to consider scrapping the Chit Fund Act of 1962 in entirety. Though the pressure is mounting on the Government to order a CBI inquiry of the entire process, in my opinion, CBI inquiry may not be useful as the CBI’s reputation is also at stake in the wake of recent developments; some of their own Officers have been accused and sent to CBI custody for allegedly taking a bribe from a businessman regarding settlement of a land dispute case. In fact, one of these Officers was heading the Coalgate scam probe !

Moreover, why do we have the “reactive” mentality to each and every problem ? Can’t we adapt the “proactive” mentality ? Let’s check where exactly the problem is ? Is there any remedy for these in future ?

As pointed out before, there are three broad parties associated in any kind of investment. They are:

1. The Investment Agency

As per the law of the land, the investment Agencies are supposed to be operating under RBI’s guidelines and State /Centre’s special Acts or Amendments. But in most of the cases, the Agencies are not even registered to offer the Schemes, which they simply roll out in the market. Apart from this, most of the Agencies are either owned by a family or a group of relatives or politicians. Sometimes the companies are created to transform the black money into white, without paying any heed to national economy or security. The investment Agencies select their Directors in such a way, that it becomes easy for them to hide the crucial facts to the people; most of the time the Directors of such Agencies are none other than their drivers, cooks, house-maids, and the like, even without their knowledge !

While India is struggling with unemployment, getting Agents at a low salary is not difficult. Hiring Agents is also tricky; first enrol them as Investors and then lure them with perks, AC train-tickets, gifts and sometimes air-tickets for holiday trips to work as Agents set with achieving a certain amount of “target” i.e., number of Investors and Investment.

I remember, some of my friends who were hired by a similar Agency in 2009 were taken to Malaysia and Singapore (with their family) for a free holiday trip. Not just that; some Agents were gifted with Maruti-800 cars by their Chairman !! Tempting ! Seeing them  make good money in a short span of time, other Investors get attracted and deposit their savings with them, without casting any doubt.

In the initial days, the Agents never fail giving back the monthly interest to the Investors; the payments are always in time and sometimes, even in advance. The one in advance is mostly to give an impression (false) to the Investors that their business has been doing extremely well or performing above expectations ! Surprisingly, the interest rates are almost 24 – 36% per annum; whereas the Post Offices, Life Insurance Policies, and other well-known deposit Schemes give interests not more than 8-10% per annum.  The greed of easy money and becoming rich / richer overnight are the prime factors for both the category of Investors.

Other than giving direct interests to the Investors, companies like Hi-tech in Odisha and Rose Valley in West Bengal later started providing lands/plots in the prime localities of Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Kolkata, etc., based on small monthly instalments. The Schemes are so attractive and the Agents are so adept in opening heart-to-heart conversations with the Investors, that no one ever has an iota of doubt while investing. And that too, even in obtaining a plot in the capital cities at a cheaper rate. Surprisingly, in the last raid on Hi-tech in December-2012, it was found that in Bhagya Nagar (outskirts in the city of Bhubaneshwar, Odisha) alone, Hi-tech had promised to give plots of 484 hectares while they actually owned only 4 hectares of land. They are not the only ones doing such business in the market !!

Other well-known companies like Rich Mind, Saradha, Artha Tatwa, Seashore, Safex Infra, Ashore, and many others – almost 200+ odd Agencies have been active in the states of West Bengal and Odisha. Their main target is always the border districts of Odisha, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh. As it happened in Saradha’s case of quick closure and disappearance, most of the other companies also simply shut down their entire operation over-night and disappear with the entire money, leaving behind many Investors and Agents on the cross-roads to awfully suffer at various personal levels, to bear public wrath, face legal charges, police harassment, etc.

2. The Investors

It is obvious that the high rate of interests in the range of 24-36% per annum offered by the Agencies are tempting to invest in such Schemes. In addition, more than 95% of the Investors deposit their savings on the face value of the Agents working with those Companies, without checking a single document. ‘You know he is like my cousin… he has ensured the amount and promised me by the name of God that his Company is genuine, and they have their local branch here in my town, where my niece is a clerk. Where will they go ? We will get the money without any problem, and everybody is investing… so what is the big thing here to check ?’ – is the usual reaction, if you ask the Investors at the time of making their investments, whether they have checked the credentials of the Company or the Agent !

No one checks the credentials even though all the documents can be apparently verified by a couple of mouse-clicks in this age of Internet. What surprises more is the mode of transaction ! Most of the times, the entire transaction is by cash only, without any proper receipts or deposit certificates. As long as the Investors get their returns, no one bothers (including Media and the Regulator bodies) to check the validity of the Schemes, the mode of incomes, the mode of operations, etc. Rather, Investors bring in more Investors, hoping that the company will flourish and will give more and more returns, gifts, free tours to Singapore or Switzerland, etc.

Only when the problem starts and Investors complain, the Media becomes active with their ‘24/7 breaking news‘, demands of CBI investigation starts with public strikes, dharnas, attempts of suicides, etc. With such an ignorance, greed and attitude, do you think any fool-proof solution can at all be provided to the Investors ? I doubt…

3. The Regulators

India of course has many Rules, Articles, legal Sections, Court rulings in place to handle these kind of problems. However, the implementation of such Rules is the key. As per the Government, Chit Funds are a traditional business, strongly regulated by the State Governments and Central Government, Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). If that is so, then why have so many issues cropped up, whether out of the blue or not ? There are definitely many disorganised, unregulated Companies operating right under the nose of the Regulator bodies. They mostly operate Ponzi Schemes or Chain Investment Schemes, and take deposits promising unrealistic rates of return- double return in 2.5 years, prime land or flat in a posh locality at a cheap rate.

As per an RBI study, Co-operative banks are more suitable and bankable for the poor. If that is so, tailor made Schemes should be implemented in the rural areas under the supervision of RBI, not the Ponzi Schemes. There should be a blanket ban on Schemes promising unrealistic returns. This can be done by the Regulators, and the Investors should inform the Regulators without any delay or fear, when they are approached with Ponzi Schemes or the like.

The other important point RBI, SEBI and other Institutions of the State and Centre should consider is the amount of moveable and immoveable property of the Companies operating in rural areas. If these Companies are merely collecting money and promising lands/plots or flats on the Investment, then they should have enough assets to honour those promises. Government should ensure that this provision is satisfied at all the times. But that does not happen, and most of the claims made by Saradha, Seashore, Ashore, Hi-tech, Artha Tatwa, and many others are simply a sham without any real assets. They just create an illusion, which the finance watch-dogs should have sensed in time. And now, the poor aamjunta (Investors and Agents) is suffering and repenting to the core !

The most surprising post-reaction came from West Bengal on Saradha fiasco when the CM wanted to levy more tax on Cigarettes and distribute the extra money thus raised, among the Saradha Investors. I do not observe any logic in it at all… Instead of curbing the cheat Chit Funds / Ponzi Schemes and forcing all the associated Companies to return the money to the Investors, if the authority takes a short-cut perhaps for sake of retaining or reinforcing vote-banks, then no doubt aamjunta will again suffer eventually. Vote politics does not work all the time. If Investors money is compensated in this way, then in crude terms it just means- someone (a duped Investor) is going to be paid from his own pockets and other’s also who are not involved in any way !!!!

Aamjunta…what do you say ? Planning to invest ? I strongly suggest- say no to Chit Funds unless they are properly regulated through transparent policies. In general, regarding any Scheme, be very careful and keep your eyes and ears open all the time.

Jai Hind.

India’s current issues – Aamjunta’s quandary

India’s current issues are so rampant and some so cumbersome that I found it better to pen these crisply for quick attention of my readers… for all that precisely matters to Aamjunta.

1. On grant of Extension for surrender to Sanjay Dutt:

Well, we have to accept the Hon’ble Superme Court’s verdict… but in my opinion, even admission of Dutt’s mercy plea for an extension to surrender should have been rejected at the first instance (having already been acquitted under the stringent TADA charges), or in the ruling that granted him relief, number of days extended should have been appended to his remaining prison term. That way, it still could have acted as a deterrent and also been like an equivalent proposition with regard to initially rejecting the 71-year-old ailing Ms. Zaibunissa Kazi’s plea ! The 1993 Mumbai blasts had caused huge damage to lives, property & many other national interests.

So, how can shooting of seven films worth Rs 278 crore form “humanitarian” grounds to grant this partial relief to Dutt ? I am not inclined to pity the producers or other actors whose fate might otherwise get affected. Weren’t they (including Dutt himself) or their advisors aware of his upcoming case in which his arrest was apparent ? Why were the contracts not signed accordingly ? At least, there should have been a provision to bail out the technicians, spot boys and the remaining crew members who actually face the heat if they suddenly go out-of-work ! Then perhaps, Dutt would not have had the need to apply for such a plea on any “humanitarian” grounds for extension to complete his shootings. With this ruling, there ensues a high probability of tough decision-making on part of the Courts in similar cases ! As we all know, in order to maintain the balance of justice, the apex Court has subsequently granted an equal 4-week relief to the seven other citizens who were convicted on similar charges.

2. On Regulation of Industrialization in certain States /Regions:

Considering industrialization being regulated by Policies… the emphasis should be on clarity, uniformity, neat documentation, co-ordination among its various departments and stakeholders (including the local people), time-bound completion of tasks, legal monitoring, timely action against breach of contracts, etc. Needless to mention that it should also take into account environment-safety, cleanliness, providing compensatory alternative land and rehabilitation programmes, protection of religious & cultural rights of local people (especially of Tribals) as per Constitutional principles and National “green” agencies. However, this should not mean that all industrial proposals get stalled due to “green” grounds !! For a developing state to progress on modernization scales and the country to emerge as an economic power as a whole, it is necessary that such a State should have “at least” a certain number of industries.

Let us take the case of Odisha. Most of the natural mineral resources are located along or in the forest areas where Tribals dwell. The catch is not to overlook their rights and at the same time, to look into the progress of the state whose vast mineral riches lie underutilized. Perhaps, the best option would be to let go the critical ones or explore only to a limited extent those regions amply pertaining to Tribal rights but seal clearance on the less disapproving ones. Further, intelligent usage of the latest clean technologies would alleviate harm to the environment & local people, and also will generate the much wanted jobs. Otherwise, due to insufficient industrialization, a serious fallout in the near future would be rapid migration when many people of such a State would need to relocate in search of employment. That will create a situation of extreme urbanization as is already happening in many cities ! So, it lies in the best interest of the stakeholders, policy-makers and industrialists to envisage a “balanced” approach while taking decisions in this regard. And there should not be any vote-bank politics on this !

3. On having educated Electorate & good number of intelligent Parliamentarians:

Next year (may be this year itself !!), there would be the much awaited general elections in India and so time again to decide our fate for the next 5 years ! Though, we are the largest democracy & the largest electorate in the world, two basic and very important facts need to be pondered. First, how many of the white-collared professionals among us actually go to cast our vote ?… Second, with rapidly changing times, how significant has it become for us to have good number of intelligent (not necessarily formally educated) Parliamentarians who can not only feel the pulse of the nation but act effectively & efficiently in that direction ?

Keeping these two facts in mind, henceforth, let each one of us take time out to wisely cast our votes and elect our Leaders. It is also our duty towards the Nation. Let’s not leave the ball in the hands of the poor & uneducated electorate who does it according to the freebies or favors it receives from corrupt political parties !!! We hardly have any time left in this term to educate such illiterate masses or generate that huge amount of awareness (though people like Anna-ji, Mr. Kejriwal and others are trying their best to do it). The least we can do is to elect good Leaders by casting our vote. Let us ALL make our destiny better…stronger.

4. On Education & Health-care:

Recently, I came across an interesting article in a leading newspaper of India… Analysts had mentioned therein that as the Indian society in general, continues to inch up well on the overall economy-ladder, surprisingly its Education & Health sectors (rungs?) would decline !! Initially, I was confused but with only a few observations, I could soon see enough reasons for that, at least for urban-based families…

With growth of IT, most of the white-collared jobs are in this sector which also churns huge profits, high salaries, perks & incentives. In some instances, we get these even as simple graduates. But the minus points that also come packaged with it are long, stressful hours at work ; it doesn’t matter whether one works at office or works-from-home… For most of the time, we are glued to our systems. The remaining hours are spent in getting some last-minute sleep, in the traffic, in the malls, partying with friends, racing-to-finish household chores or on the social-networking sites. On Facebook, I have posted several significant articles in different months for almost a year. In my observation, except one or two folks, the e-socialites who are generally prompt in liking their friends’ personal albums or shared links on jokes or pictures of film-stars /sports-stars, do not seem to even open the “awareness generation” links or write-ups ! In the society, nowadays you would see only a few Moms sit with their children at home-work or go the extra-mile in inculcating academic habits in them. Let alone books, many do not even think it necessary to check news (on-line or newspapers) !

On the health-front, how many of us even in the educated society make it a definite point to wash our hands after coming from outside or before going to the kitchen or handling cutlery ? How many of us exercise regularly ? How many of us visit the Doctor in time- for mired in apprehensions, we wouldn’t post-pone deliverables in office ? When I try to hint at things as these, most people rather remark “kyaaa itna sochte ho, choddo na…chalta hai” (why do you think so much, forget it…its okay)…… Its so essential first, to develop at an individual level. Community service or CSR activities need a greater drive, a greater passion- it cannot be 100% instructed.

So, is it lack of time or energy or indifference to matters related to education and health ?

Aamjunta… it is time to think judiciously and act intelligently.

More to follow soon…..

Short-Term-Memory-Loss !!

“Earlier, the Bofors was a talking point. People forgot about it. Now it is coal. This too will be forgotten. Once hands are washed off coal, they again become clean.”

– Union Home -Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Pune, 15th September, 2012

Does he really mean that we all Indians have short-term-memory only? Whether he is right or wrong, that will be proved in the due course of time in 2014 and in subsequent elections, but I would like to remind him and many others like him, that we do not forget, may forgive… and here is a small list for their information and aamjunta’s notice.

Black Money

As per the recent statement given by the CBI Director, Indians have an estimated $500 billion of illegal funds in foreign tax havens, more than any other country. Other media reports claim that the total black money exceeding $1.4 trillion are stashed in Switzerland alone. Whose money is this and who are the beneficiaries — politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists, real-estate mafias or gundas? Even with Supreme Court’s intervention the Government neither provides the list and amount, nor ensures transparency in the investigations. They only bring white papers… 😦 Does it not show how weak our system is ? If yes, then we need a drastic change in our administrative policies to check such unaccounted transactions, negating the economic-position of India !

Coalgate

Coalgate or Coal Allocation Scam is a multi-party scam involving PMO directly and indirectly, MPs of multiple parties, bureaucrats, corporate biggies and many more. As per CAG’s estimation and argument, the inefficient and malafide intentions behind the coal block allocation resulted in Rs. 185, 591 crore ($33.59 billion) “windfall gain” to the allocatees. With the highest amount, it became to be known as the mother-of-all-scams ! While the BJP-led opposition is gunning for the government, PMO in particular and the UPA managers led by Kapil Sibbal in general, have been hitting out at the CAG, incumbent and ex- Chief Ministers (CMs) of Chattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. While arguing against CAG’s report on policy making, the government should also remember that wrong policies with malafide intentions, inefficient and slow decisions can be more harmful and disastrous for the country. Kapil Sibbal may deny that no one benefited from the coal block allocation, and Congress Party may again bring the zero-loss theory, but it can never prove itself clean. Other parties too are involved; not just Congress is to be blamed. Moreover, if their claim that coal allocation was scam-free, then why the CBI is filing FIRs after FIRs and why is the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) busy in de-allocating coal blocks ? With Supreme Court of India having taken the coal-allocation issue seriously, it would be no wonder if you see ministers and bureaucrats in jail very soon.

2G Spectrum Allocation

Kapil Sibbal’s Zero Loss theory was again proved wrong by the Supreme Court of India and Dr. Subramanian Swamy… an estimated loss of Rs. 176,645 crore ($31.97 billion) is not at all a small amount for a country struggling with poverty and malnourishment. While the Supreme Court declared allotment of spectrum as “unconstitutional and arbitrary“, and quashed all the 122 licenses issued in 2008 during the tenure of Mr. A. Raja, it further said that A. Raja “wanted to favour some companies at the cost of the public exchequer” and “virtually gifted away important national asset” ! Are Raja and his bureaucrats to be blamed alone ? Definitely no. The then Finance Minister and the PM too are to be blamed equally. In addition, the PM must be answerable for the failure of his office to take appropriate action against the culprits. According to Time Magazine, 2G Spectrum Scam leads the number two position on their  “Top 10 Abuses of Power” list. 

CommonWealth Games

Though it was a matter of prestige to host international sporting events like the CommonWealth Games in India, it became a national shame due to corruption and malafide intentions of our politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and corporations. The total value of the estimated scam in this is Rs 70,000 crore!! In a country where more than 40 crore people live below the “official poverty line” of Rs 32/- per-day income, can we forget and forgive the culprits? The question arises in such situations – “Who is to be blamed” ? The Government, of course – the then Sports Ministry and the PMO, which is directly or indirectly involved. With concerns at national and international level, how do we say that the the game was a success and India has the power to host games of Olympic standard in future ?

Land and Housing Scams

Grabbing Government land, and House/Flats meant for the poor and needy people is not new in India. It was there before independence by Jamindars or Land Lords, and now by the politicians, gundas and bureaucrats. However, the point what hurts most is grabbing the land used for religious activities, and flats meant for war-heroes or their families and poor people in the name of :

  • Adarsh Housing Society Scam: Though the government land was allocated for the construction of a housing complex for “the welfare of serving and retired personnel of the Defence Services“, over the years top politicians (3 ex-Chief Ministers and many more ministers figure in CBI’s list), bureaucrats (Senior IAS Officers) and military officers (of GOC and Brigadier Rank) bent several rules and committed various acts of omission and commission in order to have the building constructed and then got themselves allotted flats in this premier property at artificially lowered prices in their own name or relatives’ names..

  • Karnataka Wakf Board ScamAlmost 50% of its land has been misappropriated by politicians and board members, in collusion with the real estate mafia for a fraction of its market value; alleged misappropriation amount of Rs 200,000 crore ($36.2 billion).

And the list continues….. Bofors scam, Fodder scam, Karnataka Mining scam, Cash-for-Votes scam, National Health scam and many more !!

Like Sanjay Singhania (Amir Khan) of Ghajini movie…. with short-term-memory-loss,we Indians also keep a note that ensures a long-term-memory. Moreover, the point what aamjunta would like to bring here to the notice of fellow aamjuntas and to the Politicians of this country is very simple :

We are not to be taken for granted for all the misdeeds, corruptions, communal violence and regionalism; when time comes we will show what we can do. We have done it before with many corrupt politicians and national traitors… The power of an ‘aware’ electorate can change the course of a nation’s history. The key to root out all such vices lies in spreading ‘Social Awareness’ among the masses. Then, who knows what is stored in 2014 !!!

Corruption and Regionalism :- Commas and Semicolons in India

While watching the debates of our Parliamentarians and the discussions of so called activists and intellectuals on the three important issues of Lokpal Bill today, one could sense the uneasiness of the politicians, reluctance and ego of the ministers and the technicalities of our intellectuals standing between a Strong Lokpal and no-Lokpal.  However, we still believe on the constitution and political system and still have faith on the aamjunta’s struggle –  a Strong Lokpal will come into force very soon.

Over the years, there is an exponential rise in Corruption by the Government, Sate/Central Officials, Politicians, Media and the Corporates – the level of corruption has crossed all its limits. The reports of CAG on Common Wealth Games (CWG), 2G Spectrum auction, Adarsh Housing Society scam, ISRO deal, KG Basin deal, Hasan Ali‘s case and Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) soft approach to the entire episode, black money and Swiss Bank accounts by politicians and others, Land deals by Karuna’s, BSY’s and their families, Jagan Mohan’s disproportionate and unaccounted rise in wealth, Reddy brothers’ mining mafia, BSY’s drama on resignation, Mayawati’s Taj Corridor and Birthday celebrations and many others… have proved that India is in its neck deep of corruption. Saying all this, one should not undermine the level of corruption in lower offices, where every day the common man is harassed and taken for granted, that no file will move unless the officials are bribed, no gas connection if you do not bribe, no telephone line if you do not give mithai and no ration card if you do not pay for chai pani

These definitely have sparked the uneasiness among the people like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan and many others. This has led to protests, slogans, dharanas and above all Anna Hazare’s fast and determination to bring a strong Lokpal. To this the “Sense of the Parilament”  has definitely brought a sense of relief among the aamjunta. In a country like India where democracy is prevailed, Constitution is supreme and Parliament and Judiciary are the two faces of a Check-and-Balance system, corruption to this extent is really not acceptable. When there are protests by the common man, by the majority of tax payers and by the intellectuals, there is definitely a sense of seriousness and urgency to be dealt with. But, these protests should not be limited to just protests only!! These should laid the foundation of a corruption free and developed India. Moreover, instead of only participating in the protests and raising slogans the aamjunta should also participate in the system – getting elected through the system, exercising their voting rights and clearing the mesh.

Protests of these kind in-fact are taken seriously. However, there are serious comments and oppositions by the Media, so called intellectuals, activists, and our legislators – that this movement has undermined the supremacy of Parliament and is a threat to our democracy and constitution. Even there are attempts to divide the protests in line of caste and class – that the protesters are confined to only middle class and to upper castes. Religious cards are also played.

These kinds of accusation and attempts to divide the society are selfishly motivated and are signs of immaturity. Before accusing and dividing the protesters, the media, the MPs and the activists should introspect on (i) is there any other alternative when there is no seriousness by the politicians for the last 43 years to pass this bill; 8 failed attempts so far, (ii) why more than 4 ex-ministers and MPs and 20+ senior bureaucrats (pointing their fingers to the Prime Minister and Home Minister in court) are in Tihar Jail ; only after Supreme Court’s intervention and Dr. Swamy’s serious attempt, (iii) why do you appoint some one as Chief Vigilance Commissioner, when he is an accuse in a serious corruption case, and (iv) when MPs are booked for “Cash for vote scam”??

With so much corruption in place, what other option is left out for the aamjunta? In-fact the protesters should be appreciated and thanked for keeping the protests so far non-violent. When the entire world is struggling with violent protests (fighting for power in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, riots in UK and many others are just few recent examples), we the Indians still believe and adopt non-violence. One thing I would like to point out here, that, the protests and dharanas of such type are not threat to our democratic setup as reported/targeted by Barkhas/Sagarikas/Arnabs/Arundhatis/Arunas… and supported by the pseudo-activists, rather a check-and-balance mechanism to our political system which can strengthen the democratic setup. Otherwise, every one including the PM and the leader of opposition will keep on saying that “we want a strong Lokpal“, but will not pass the bill and would not have even discussed in the parliament!

Many a times our honorable PM has blamed the political compulsions of the coalition government at the center for the current state of our country. This is in-fact true. With the rise in the number of regional parties like NCP/DMK/AIDMK/TMC/BJD/BSP/SP/Shiv Sena/MNS/TDP/NDF/Akali Dal/TRS and many others with their regional interests, there is definitely no chance for a single party like BJP or Congress to rule the country; no single party in the center will have the majority and hence cannot pass a bill on its own. It is true that many regional parties which are part of the Govt., force the Govt. (some time even at the gun point) on various issues – in cabinet formation, in inter-state issues, in development related to individual states, using CBI for political gains and in bringing family legacy into power….

Moreover, some time the threat issued by these state parties have really threatened the structure of Indian union and the civil rights of the common man; be in Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad or in Jammu. One can argue that the regional parties are born with the philosophy of a particular culture or a political compromise or because of the discriminatory feelings of the local “sons of soil” population, and hence are not bad for India’s democracy. Then, why is the political compulsion and PM’s inability to control corruption and other serious issues?

Every one should remember that we need to move ahead and move even with the hurdles of corruption and regionalism – corruption and the regionalism are just commas and semicolons in a sentence of a big essay called “India and Indianness”; they can neither stop the “India” nor the “Indianness”, though may put some punctuations or hurdles into it.

Aamjunta, what do you say? – do share your thoughts.

Jai Hind!

Note: The title of this article is inspired by Mark Tully’s Book – “No Fullstops in India“.

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