Thursday, January 31, 2013

Page 1: Allege freely Page 10: Denial

The Hindu published a front page article yesterday - in essence saying that Pakistan has lodged some secret complaint with the UN that the Indian Army killed its civilians and soldiers over the last 15 years. 

Remember, front page. 

Today, the Indian army denied Pakistan's claims. Which page was it published?

Page 10 - the last letter in "Letters to Editor" column.

The author says this denial did not come when he mailed them before publishing the story. How does that imply that they can publish such a story on page 1 and a denial in some obscure corner of the paper? 

This happened earlier too - Guilty, Page1. Not Guilty-Page 14

Monday, January 28, 2013

The "power" struggle in AP...

This article was written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here. 

Would the state be divided or not? Will the Congress buy peace with Jagan? When will Jagan come out of jail? Will TDP President, Chandrababu Naidu gain from his 114 day (and still counting) padayatra? Will PCC President buy peace with the AP CM? Will Cong-MIM rift affect peace in Hyderabad? 

These and many such questions might dominate dining table discussions across the state, but come first week of the month - the only thing every single family dreads is the power bill. The power of woes in AP are not some recent random occurrence - they have been around in a sustained manner since nearly 2 years. 

The woes first began in Aug-Sep 2011. There were production related issues (owing to strikes etc) and instead of trying to atleast resolve the issue, the AP government started imposing power cuts on hapless consumers. Matters did not improve even days after the strike was called off. Infact matters started to become worse, and the government increased the time of power cuts in the state. And when there was uproar from the hapless citizenry, we were given the ultimate explanation - the power situation is precarious in the entire country! A side note here: When the power scenario was "precarious" in the country, Sushil Kumar Shinde was the Power Minister! 

But am being vague about these power cuts, so please allow me to give you some details on the timings. It started like this - 2 hours in cities, 4 hours in district HQ, 6 hours in municipalities  8 hours in mandal HQ and 12 hours in villages. In November 2011, it was emphatically announced that there will be no power for villages during the day time. We were also told that if "If any village gets supply for one or two hours during daytime now, it may be by mistake of the field staff."

And since then, the power cut times have been slowly increased by an additional 2 hours. So the state was facing power cuts for 4-14 hours. 4-14 hours per day! Thankfully, since October last these power cuts are not happening (for long hours) but we are being warned that the upcoming summer is going to bring back those haunted memories! 

Domestic consumers will still survive these power cuts. What about industries? The power situation went so bad that the government, at one point of time had to tell industries to have a 4 day power holiday per week! That's right - industries were running only in 12 days per month! Their situation is still precarious. All small scale industries have been hit badly - since they cannot afford to have more man power than required for those 12 days, layoffs had to happen. And it takes no genius to understand that lesser number of working days leads to lesser production which leads to slower growth! 

It was widely advertised that the farmers though are still getting 7 hours of power supply; that there would be no compromise on that aspect (even if others had to compromise massively). With a situation as precarious as this, it is anybody's guess if farmers were getting 7 hours of power supply too! 

So now we have all sections of the society pretty much frustrated with long hours of power cut, for more than a year - unfortunately this situation did not receive as much attention in the "national media" as much as the TN power situation received, but that debate is not needed now. 

I mentioned that these power cuts have come down since October, so you must be wondering what is all the fuss about now? Amidst all this, the government first increased the cost per unit. Understandable, since no increase has been effected since 2004. And before the hapless consumer could grasp the repercussions of this increase, another bombshell was dropped. A new concept called Fuel Surcharge Adjustment (FSA) was introduced! Many consumers were even unaware of what this FSA even meant - all we knew is that an inflated bill started showing up and we had no option but to pay.  Simply put - the distribution companies are transferring the fuel charges incurred in 2009-2010 to the hapless consumer in 2012-2013. So even if one did not stay in that house in 2009-2010, one still has to bear the tax burden on electricity consumption that one was not responsible for! 

Let's leave the jargon aside. A snapshot of two different bills from two different consumers in two different months! below:

Consumers plan for a monthly budget of  Rs. 400- Rs. 500/- at the end of the month, a bill ends up at their home that says they hve to pay Rs. 1500! And this tax will be imposed till July 2013. So from October 2012 to July 2013, every single bill will have amounts that are 50-200% higher than the actual energy consumption bill. Explanations would not matter to small time consumers - to dish out Rs.1000-1500 instead of Rs. 450, all of a sudden is a burden many will find it difficult to take! 

As if this was not enough, early this month, the state government was presented with proposals to effect another massive hike in the power tariff itself! The uproar amongst political circles and the local media must be seen to be believed. Entire local media dedicated front page space for about a week on this topic, detailing how the proposals will break our backs. Ministers themselves were strongly opposing these proposals (Congress has an amazing work culture, no?) - for now they have been put on hold but it wouldn't be long that another tarriff hike will be effected. 

And worse of all, there have been no words of solace from the Chief Minister. All that we keep hearing from him is that the consumer has to bear this burden; we keep hearing that the power situation is precarious and the consumer has to support the government (as if we have a choice). Sometime in these 2 years, we were also told that the problem is because of Reliance also, but frankly will the consumer care? 

So whilst the political unrest and machinations make good dining table discussion points, the woeful power management in this state is what will spell doom for the Congress government. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A compilation of all his rants!

This piece was written for Niti Central. Reposting it here

In the summer of 2007, Rahul Gandhi uttered these sagely words: "I belong to the family which has never moved backwards, which has never gone back on its words. You know that when any member of my family had decided to do anything, he does it. Be it the freedom struggle, the division of Pakistan or taking India to the 21st century"

In the spring of 2011, Rahul Gandhi enlightened us by saying: "Corruption is taking place because doors of the political system are closed and the average person who wants to do good is not allowed in"

In the winter of 2013, Rahul Gandhi further asserted, by saying this (amongst many other gems): "All our public systems....are designed to keep people with knowledge out. They are closed systems. They are designed to promote mediocrity."

Ever since that summer of 2007, Rahul Gandhi has been dishing out such rhetoric on a very regular basis. Rahul Gandhi's latest Jaipur speech would have been just another repetitive rant against the "system", but for the fact that he was appointed as the Vice President of the ruling party of this country. And hence it becomes imperative for us to understand what exactly he wanted to convey. There was a lot of anger in the speech. A lot of "we" don't do this, "we" don't do that etc - but ranting is what we mere mortals would do. "Leaders" like Rahul Gandhi and "his family" have been given the opportunity to show us the solutions for these rants - which they have spectacularly failed to do. 

In his Jaipur speech, he also says "Power is grossly centralized in this country. We don't believe in empowering all the way to bottom." Who exactly is "we" here? His family? His party? Or the wretched "aam aadmi"? 

There was a lot of anger that poured out in his speech. At the fag end of his angry rant, he says thus: 

"The time has come to question the centralized, unresponsive and unaccountable systems of decision making in governance, administration and politics....The answer is to completely transform the system".

Perhaps this is the time to take a quick look at who led this wretched "system".  Rahul Gandhi's great grandfather headed this "system" for 17 years. His grandmother headed it for 16 years. His father headed it for 5 years. His mother has been heading it for 9 years (and still continues to head it). That makes it a grand, 17+16+5+9 = 47 years. The ever magnanimous Rahul Gandhi always fails to mention 2 other Prime Ministers (who are not from his "family") from the Congress, who have ruled us for 7 years. So, that makes it 54 years out of the 65 years we've had independence! 

So essentially the bulk of his speech is a damning indictment of the very same political system nurtured for 47 whopping years by his own family! Strong words were used left and right - no accountability, no respect for rules, all mediocre leaders - yet this speech is being hailed for it's "emotional" value. In the entire speech, there is not a single solution he proposes for all the ills his family has thrust upon us. He makes the cursory reference to Aadhar cards, MNREGA, RTE, DCT etc, but that's about it. He even rues that the very same Congress party headed by his family gives little regard to rules, and yet somehow manages to win elections because "India is in it's DNA". 

9 years is long enough time to bring in massive changes - we have leaders who have shown us what can be done in 5 years only! Yet, Rahul Gandhi does not have a single achievement to boast of (as an MP, as general secretary of his party). He seeks more time to bring in changes, telling us that he learnt that we have to correct things however long it takes! Irony died a million deaths when Rahul Gandhi rued that mediocre people become powerful in this country. 

It might not be a big deal for many, but when a "leader" reads out even personal anecdotes and experience from a written speech, it speaks volumes about his articulation abilities. Flawless articulation comes when there is clarity of thought - something that's missing in Rahul Gandhi, as is evident from his rant at Jaipur. Remember he said " You know that when any member of my family had decided to do anything, he does it." Are we to infer that his family decided to to bring in all those ills he is frustrated about? 

The speech is merely a compilation of all his incoherent rants all these years, and has failed to convey anything to the people of this country. The compliant media doesn't seem to question him on any of these aspects - they are just happy to tag along with his "emotional" speech. A cursory reading of various newspapers and viewing of various news channels only create the impression that he is the "eternal opposition leader" waiting and wanting to usher in the much needed change and relief to our "system". Or maybe that's the gameplan - to isolate Rahul Gandhi from the ills of UPA 1 and UPA 2 and set the stage for UPA 3 based on anti-incumbency of UPA 1 and 2! If that succeeds, we have no one else to blame, except us. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

అదే మాయ, అదే మాధుర్యం

"గోవుళ్ళు తెల్లన గోపయ్య నల్లనా, గోధూళి ఎర్రన ఎందువలన" - సప్తపది సినిమా లోని ఈ పాట జానకి గారు పాడి దాదాపు 30 ఏళ్ళు కావొస్తుంది. చిన్న పిల్లల గొంతుకి జానకి గారి గొంతు మాత్రమె సరిపోయేది ఆ రోజుల్లో.

మొన్న శనివారం నాడు "మా మ్యూసిక్" అవార్డ్స్ కార్యక్రమానికి మేము వెళ్ళాము. జానకి గారికి జీవన సాఫల్య పురస్కారం ఇచ్చారు ఈ కార్యక్రమం లో. దాదాపు 30 ఏళ్ల తరువాత కూడా గొంతు లోని అదే మాయ, మాధుర్యాన్ని వినిపిస్తూ, జానకి గారు చిన్న పిల్లాడి గొంతు లో మల్లి ఇదే పాట  పాడి వినిపించారు. ఒక్క సారి గా సభ  మొత్తం ఈలలు, కరతాలధ్వనులతో  తో మారు మొగిపోయింది. నాలుగు గంటల పాటు జరిగిన కార్యక్రమం లో ఏ ఒక్క సారి కూడా సభ మొత్తం ఒకే సారి ఇంత పెద్ద ఎత్తున చప్పట్లు కొట్టలేదు!

మా అదృష్టం అంతటితో ఆగలేదు. సభ కు విచ్చేసిన వారి కోరికను మన్నిస్తూ, జానకి గారు "మౌనమేలనోయి" పాడారు. సభికుల పులకరింత చూదాల్సిందే తప్ప, చెప్పలేము ! ఒక్క సారిగా అందరు లేచి మరి చప్పట్లు, ఈలలు !

మా అదృష్టం అంతటి తోనూ  ఆగలేదు. జయసుధ గారు మాట్లాడుతూ, "సిరిమల్లె పువ్వల్లె నవ్వు" పాత కి జానకి గారు నవ్వింత అందంగా తను నటించలేక పోయాను అని చెప్పారు. తరువాత జానకి గారు మాట్లాడుతూ, అప్పటికి ఇప్పటికి జయసుధ సిరిమల్లె పువ్వల్లె ఉంది అంటూ కితాబు ఇచ్చారు. ఒక్క సారి నవ్వు అని జయసుధ ని అడిగారు. జయసుధ గారు "మీరు నవ్వండి, నేను నట్టిస్తాను " అని చెప్పారు -జానకి గారు  ఆ పాట లో నవ్వినట్టే నవ్వేసారు ! సభికులు ఇంత కన్నా ఎక్కువ ఏమి ఆడగలరు చెప్పండి!

ఇంకా కొంచం సేపు ఈ సన్మానం కొనసాగి ఉంటె బాగుండు అని అనిపించింది. ఇంకా కొంచెం సేపు ముందే మొదలు పెట్టి ఉంటె బాగుండేది.

కాని,  అరగంట పాటు "ఐటెం" సాంగ్స్ కోసం కేటాయించారు :( . బుర్ర వేడెక్కిపోయింది  అసలు - అర్ధం పర్ధం లేని బాష, అంత కన్నా అంతుపట్టని , చెవులు మీద భారం వేసే "బీట్స్"! ఎప్పుడు ఎప్పుడు అయ్యిపోతుందా అని వేచి చూస్తూనే ఉన్నాం ! ఈ అరగంట మోత అయ్యిన తరువాత చెవులకి వినసొంపు గా ఉండే జానకి గారు పాటలని పాడి వినిపించారు, ఈ తరం గాయని మణులు. హమయ్య అనుకుంటున్నా తరుణం లో , సమయాభావం వాళ్ళ ఆ పాటల్ని ఆపేసి సన్మాన కార్యక్రమం మొదలు పెట్టారు!

ఈ కార్యక్రమం లో మేము ఆస్వాదించిన మరో ఘట్టం - చిత్ర గారు 6-7 పాటలు పాడారు. ఎంత ఎదిగినా ఎలా ఒదిగి ఉండాలి అని చిత్ర గారిని చూసే నేర్చుకోవాలి. ఆవిడ మాటల్లో లోని నిజాయితి బహుశా ఇంకా ఎవ్వరిలో ఉండదు ఏమో. జానకి గారికి సన్మానం జరుగుతున్నప్పుడు కూడా ఆవిడా అందరికంటే వెనకాలే నించున్నారు! "నాకు అమ్మ లేదు, జానకి గారే నాకు అమ్మ" అని ఆమె జానికి గారి పక్కనే కుర్చుని చెప్పారు! చిత్ర గారు పాడుతునంత సేపు సభికులు పరవసిన్చిపోయారు! ఇంత కన్నా ఇంకేం కావాలి అంది ఒక సంగీత కార్యక్రమ నుంచి :)

పండిట్ జనార్ధన్ అని ఒక సితార్ కళాకారుడు ఒకళ్ళు ఉన్నారు అని నాకు ఆ రోజే తెలిసింది. నేను ఎంతో ఇష్టం గ వినే ఘంటసాల భగవద్గిత కి సితార్ ఆయనే వాయించారు అని తెలుసుకుని మురిసిపోయాను ! కార్యక్రమం లో సితార్ కళాకారులు అందరు, ఆయనకీ ఇచ్చిన మర్యాద అపూర్వం ! కాకపోతే అయన పక్కన ఒక్క సినిమా తీసిన గబ్బరి సింగ్ డైరెక్టర్ కూర్చోవడమే నాకు ఇబ్బంది అనిపించింది!

మొదట్లో కోటి గారు కొన్ని పాటలు పాడారు - "ఈ పేట కి నేనే మేస్త్రి" లాంటి "మాస్" పాటలు పాడారు - ఈ మధ్య వచ్చే "ఐటెం" సాంగ్స్ కంటే ఎంతో వినసొంపు గా ఉన్నాయి అలనాటి "మాస్" పాటలు!  మొత్తానికి ఆ రోజు సాయంత్రం చాల ఆస్వాదించాం - ఆ అరగంట "ఐటెం" సాంగ్స్ లేకుండా ఉంటె, జానకి గారి సన్మానం ఇంకా బాగుండేది ఏమో :)

చివరిగా ఒక మాట. ఒక కార్యక్రమం ని నిర్వహించాలి అంటే,  సుమ ని ఎవ్వరు దాటలేరు. పక్కన ఉన్న వాళ్ళు ఎవ్వరు ఆమె తో సరి తూగరు .


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blow to media, not to Modi!

This article was written for Niti Central. Reposting it here for reference :).

I am no legal luminary, nor am I a wannabe lawyer. I mostly rely on written articles available on the web/newspapers, to understand Court judgements.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of India gave its ruling on the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat. The popular site has a detailed timeline of this case. Immediately after the verdict was out, news media was out in full force. The celebrated "Blow to Modi" headline was back!

Let's take a look at the initial report in NDTV. Snapshot below (thanks to tweeple - sharmarohitraj):

To make it easier, I will zoom into the operative portion of this report:

The image might not be clear, because I had to zoom into this a lot. So I will just paste below the text (emphasis mine):

"Mr. Modi challenged the appointment on the grounds that the Governor has not consulted his cabinet. The Supreme Court disagreed. The judges said that the Governor must seek the advice of the cabinet to select the Lokayukta, and this was done. "

Pretty plain english. Easy for any layman to understand. Essentially, according to the report, the SC was saying that the Gujarat government lied to them when they said they had not been consulted. I was wondering why such a simple factual case had to go all the way to the Supreme Court - after all, all correspondence between the Governor and the cabinet will be documented well! 

Please note - this report was filed moments after the verdict was given. And told us that the SC said that the cabinet was consulted. 

Guess what! NDTV changed their report by the evening. 

Let me present to you a zoomed in version of the operative part:

"Mr. Modi has argued that the Governor did not consult his cabinet for the appointment. The Supreme Court appeared to agree with that."

Whoa! In the morning - "The Supreme Court disagreed.". In the evening - "The Supreme Court appeared to agree with that". How is this possible? The only way this is possible is that NDTV was in a tearing hurry to put up an article without checking on the facts! And what does "appeared to agree" even mean? What kind of a language is this?

The Supreme Court judgement can be found here: . The staff at NDTV must really be some geniuses, to have read and filed in a report in no time! 

It details out the reasons for the delay so far in appointing a Lokayukta. (Just FYI - NDTV merely says "The post has been lying vacant since 2003.")

On pages 55 and 56 of this exhaustive 82 page judgment, all three judges agree (and not "appear to agree") that the Governor has to take the advice of the council of ministers. There are other nuances in the case, which I will leave it for the legal experts to explain to all of us. My understanding is that though the cabinet was not consulted, the CM was in the know of the discussions between the Chief Justice and the Governor, and since majority of the stake holders agree with the appointment of Justice Mehta as the Lokayukta, the Gujarat government's request was not accepted. 

The limited point I am trying to make here is the media's overzealousness in reporting anything remotely negative on Mr. Narendra Modi. Most NDTV scrolls refer to "Governor" and "Modi". Why not name the Governor, if you are naming the Chief Minister? This was a case filed by the Gujarat government, not by Mr. Narendra Modi in his personal capacity. So why is the uniformity lacking in the media, while reporting such stuff? That's all, Your Honour :)