Friday, December 28, 2012

The political response to the mass protests - Part-2

In the first part, we discussed about the sequence of events and the lazy responses of the powers that be, to the ever developing crisis over the past few days. This part will talk exclusively about the top 3 people incharge of the country. 

1. Prime Minister's address to the nation.

One of the most fundamental things when a speech is written (at any level... from debate competitions in schools to the level of Prime Minister of India) is to start with a "Hello all" (or an equivalent phrase) and end with a "Thank You" (or an equivalent phrase). The audience will therefore know when the speech started and when it ended. 

In the early 90's, I was fascinated as to how Mr. Shanti Swarup of DD news (telugu) mugged up the entire news and is reading without looking at a paper (something he used to do before). It was then explained to me that they are reading from a prompter. Since then, a prompter has become a daily part of news reading. Leaders addressing the state/nation on TV have also started using this "technology". 

With this background, let's come to what happened on December 24th, 2012. (Part-1 explains what happened till the 23rd)

The press advisor to the Prime Minister, Mr. Pankaj Pachauri, tweets this

"Prime Minister to address the nation in a few minutes."

There were news reports since morning that the PM will address the nation that day, mostly at ~12pm. This tweet was sent at ~9:40 am. We were then told that the address would be at 10 am. 

Once the address started, I was surprised to see the Prime Minister of India reading from a piece of paper and not from the prompter. I was surprised as to why no prompter was provided to the Prime Minister. The speech began on a rhetorical note, and after about a minute, the PM stops and after a couple of seconds - asks the cameraman -"Theek"? 

The country watched as the Prime Minister mechanically read out a speech, looked towards the cameraman and said "Theek"? It spoke volumes about the intention behind speaking in the first place! There was considerable justified outrage against this goof-up. What was the action taken? 5 DD employees were suspended! ANI News telecasted this clip, because DD employees were late it seems! And because they were late, they were suspsended! 

Many questions started going through my mind -

  • Why did the speech end so abruptly? Why was there no "Thank you" or a "Jai Hind" at the end of the speech? How is the cameraman supposed to know the speech has ended?
  • I got a doubt and looked at previous speeches of this Prime Minister. In his lengthy address to the nation on September 21st, he ends with a Jai Hind. A randomly picked "statement to the media" , he ends with a Thank You. 
  • So why was this speech written in such a hasty manner? What was the crying hurry to go on air at 10am?
  • I first thought this was a live address, and there is no point in blaming the ANI cameraman. But reading this article on firstpost, I realised that this was recorded earlier and then aired. 
  • Which makes it even more embarrasing! Why did the highly paid press advisor to the Prime Minister not vet this clip before it was aired? Who approved the airing of the clip? Why is the highly paid press advisor not being questioned about this lapse?
  • Some questions that were going through my mind were posed in this Firstpost article too - why should 5 hapless employees be suspended for something that was massively goofed up by the highly paid press advisor to the PM? 
  • If this was not a goof up by the highly paid press advisor, why is he not coming clean on it?
Here's the link to the official video that was tweeted by the PM's office. Notice how at the end of the address, the PM looks towards the cameraman. Here's the link to the text of the speech - see how hastily it is written. The speech sums up the intention of this establishment - casual to the core. 

2. The Home Minister's interviews to multiple TV channels. 

The time management skills of the government was so superb that at the exact same time that the Prime Minister's address was being aired, the Home Minister was busy giving interviews to various news channels! First, I don't understand why a person as busy as the Home Minister of India should given exclusive interviews? Why can't he just call for a press conference (like he did earlier) and get done with it? 

Anyways, here's the first interview he gave. This one was to Rajdeep Sardesai - Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN. This was a very hard hitting interview. Rajdeep asks the Home Minister why they did not deem it fit to go out there and assuage the crowds? What followed was shocking beyond belief. 

The Home Minister of country says that he can't go and meet anyone and everyone who protests like this. He says that tomorrow Maoists will come and protest - "should we go and meet them?". He doesn't stop there - "If tomorrow 100 adivasis are killed in Gadchiroli, should the government go to them?

Note the choice of words - "should the government go to them?"! Baffling, shocking etc are all very small words to describe this low-level thinking process. Ofcourse the government has to go any place, where people are killed ! This man is incharge of the security of this country, and this is how callously he thinks. But since this callous thinking is not the "main issue", we are to simply forget about his utterances and move on. 

In the same interview he says that the protestors should have withdrawn after Sonia Gandhi spoke to them. He says all the action (meaning good points) that was taken by the UPA was after Sonia Gandhi telephoned him. He does not commit anything on the violence on Saturday and Sunday - he justifies what happened and says that an enquiry will be held. He abruptly ends the interview because of some hard hitting questions by Rajdeep. 

Next up - NDTV. He repeats this same stuff, but the interviewer, Barkha Dutt is less shocked about this. After that, I stopped viewing any further interviews! Later in the day we are told that:

Sh.Shinde: Govt has taken firm action on all demands of the protesters. Appeals them to return home.

Firm action = setting up of a committee to come up with recommendations for stricter laws; deciding to fast track this particular rape case to ensure speedy justice etc. Not a single word on the violence on both Saturday and Sunday. It's almost as if nothing happened on both the days. 

3. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA. 

All we know is that:
  •  she met some "protestors" and promised that action will be taken. 
  • she demanded speedy justice. 
  • she telephoned the Home Minister to take "action". He followed her orders (he himself said so, in not so many words)
  • she wrote to the Chief Minister of Delhi "demanding" action. 
Such has been the political response to the mass protests that rocked the capital city of the country, right under their nose. Imagine the callousness if this happened at a place far away from them. Be scared, very scared that we are being led by these people. 


Anonymous said...


The entire population of Delhi, sans politicians, can go and protest at Jantar Mantar or where you will, I don't believe it will make an iota of difference. Oh, THEY (politicians) will make the right sounds, in response, once THEY feel pressured to do so in face of the so called 'will of the aam aadmi'. But these are merely empty words without the collective will to bring about meaningful change.

Protests in Delhi have been happening for quite a while, Anna Hazare, Ramdev, Kejriwal etc. THOSE in power have grown familiar with this phenomenon and naturally contempt has been breeding.

Women of India, if you truly want your opinions to be heard, for positive action to take place, you can go and protest and yell all you want in front of the Parliament, Raisina Hill, 10 Janpath etc. The record for success with such a plan is spotty and suspect. You may gain words of sympathy and empathy but meaningful actions following those words have been hard to come by.

The real question is will you be able to keep it up for days on end, if required? We all have lives apart from fighting for a cause we believe in. Politicians don't. That is THEIR LIFE. Protesting against or for something. THEY can truly go in for the long haul. We can't afford to. That’s why I truly don't believe that this is a struggle the 'aam aadmi' can win. Politicians know that it is only a matter of time till the number of protestors drop. THEY can make some cosmetic changes and then brush off the remainder as a fringe group trying to be obstinate and unreasonable.

What are other modes of protest? Complete peaceful civil disobedience is one. Stop going for work, both in the public and the private sector. But given that a majority of employees are men (who may or may not sympathize) the likelihood of that succeeding in creating a more drastic effect, is slim. Also it wouldn’t be fair to ask of others to put their careers or monthly pay checks in jeopardy.

The only thing that makes sense to a majority of THOSE in power is not ideals or morals but money. Truly your purse strings will have a better chance for THEM to dance to your tune than any other mode of protest held anywhere.

If you can truly and collectively make a decision from today onwards to stop visiting and spending any money (apart from the bare minimum which may be essential and unavoidable) at malls and shopping centers, discos and pubs, movie theatres and multiplexes, you would be having a profound impact. You would then be speaking THEIR language. Given the slowing economy and high costs of running any such business, it would immediately have an effect. Not a good one either. These business owners will sit up and take notice. The necessity to stave off such a response will be considerable with true action following shortly. When the ‘money bags’ start speaking on your behalf, perhaps then and only then, will THEY be willing to sit up and listen.

Go on an economic embargo till you feel there is sufficient response and change in laws to ensure prompter action and stricter punishments.

This might mean putting off b’day parties, buying gifts, eating out, weekend splurges and more for some time. Not easy but if you want THEM to pay attention, put that ‘middle class Indian consumer – the growth driver of the Indian economy’ label to use.

If this happens, there will be immediate dissenting voices stating that you will needlessly slow down the economy. It doesn’t matter, if the so called ‘economy’ could withstand 2G scam, Coalgate scam, CWG scam etc (all of them the well nurtured babies of politicians), then a postponement in spending for some time is most certainly not going to kill it. Nevertheless we all are participants in the economy and if we don’t feel like spending that is our prerogative. The incentive for us to resume spending will be convincing action from THEM

-Just a lowly but concerned citizen-

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