Friday, September 28, 2018

Fact checking the Fact checkers on UDAN! How selective facts are being used to negate some unique programs.

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

A site published an article that another site named copied on their site, and then this story started to show up on my timeline because some AAP and Congress members started sharing it. The story is about “Were 35 Airports Built Over The Last 4 Years As PM Modi Claimed?
And the “fact check” concludes that “No more than seven airports were made operational over the last four years, according to official data.
Now, that’s some disturbing detail. It propelled me to do some searching, and I have found out some very interesting facts (actual facts) that I would like to share. Let’s first take a quick look at the summary of this “fact check” based on various official documents (annual reports and replies to questions in Parliament).
  • In 2014, Airport Authority of India (AAI) owned 125 airports  out of which 31 were non-operational.
  • In 2018, Airport Authority of India (AAI) owned 129 airports out of which 28 are non-operational.

In summary, 7 new airports have been operationalized. The “fact check” sites used PM’s tweet in which he claims 35 new airports were added (exact Hindi word he used was “jhud gaye”). The tweet also talks about how 9 airports per year got ready, since 2014. Let’s get back to this speech later. For now, let’s discuss the search results!
One of the first results I get is based on a reply by the Civil Aviation minister on April 28, 2016 in Parliament, as duly reported here - there are “25 airports across the country … were technically operational but did not handle a single scheduled flight”.
25 airports that are “technically operational” but did NOT handle a single scheduled flight! So that would effectively mean a total of 31+25 = 56 airports that are not being used. The terminology you want to use for this is left to you,  but according to the same official sources that the “fact check” sites are basing their reports on, we had 56 airports *owned by AAI* that are NOT in commercial use!
The next obvious question is if we can find out the list of these airports. Some more searching yielded even more interesting results. As of 2016, India had 16 “Underserved” airports (Annexure 1A). Underserved, as the name suggests, the frequency of scheduled commercial operations is very low.
 India has a whopping 398 “unserved airports/airstrips”. Yes, Three Hundred and Ninety Eight (Annexure 1B). What is as unserved airport? Typically it is referred so, if there are no scheduled commercial operations. We have 398 such airports/airstrips! Not all of them are owned by the AAI. Many of these would lie in dilapated conditions for sure. Many of them may just be airstrips.
So an airport that exists can be termed “operational”, and yet not have scheduled commercial flights thus making it “unserved”, or may have extremely low commercial flights, making it “underserved”. Therefore when ministers are asked questions on “List of Airports owned by AAI and the list of non-operational airports”, information pertaining to unserved and underserved will not be provided. If we were to follow only the Parliament speeches, then our base should be 56 and not 31 in the first place.
Let’s take a couple of examples. The airports in Kadapa (AP) and Bhavnagar (Gujarat) are owned by AAI (as indicated here) and are technically operational (because they are not present in this list here), but are “underserved”. Ludhiana and Jalagaon are “operational” airports but are “unserved”. All these airports got included into the RCS-UDAN scheme, thereby increasing the connectivity of residents of these towns. If the “fact check” sites simply did a search for “UDAN scheme” in the Lok Sabha website, they would have come to know that as of Sept, 2017, five airline carriers will operate from 43 airports (12 underserved + 31 unserved).  Regular flight services have begunfor 27 such airports (as of June 2018).  As of August 2018, 31 airports have been added to the RCS-UDAN scheme.
Wait, I keep mentioning the RCS-UDAN scheme, but don’t give any details regarding it. Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) is a unique and revolutionary scheme that has been introduced by the Modi government. The broad objective of the scheme is that the common citizen of India can fly (UDAN -Ude Desh ki Aam Nagrik). To achieve this (amongst other things) – airports that show commitment shall be included (Page 6, Guiding Principles), irrespective of whether they are owned by AAI. Irrespective of ownership!
So the basic premise of the “fact check” site (that when the Modi government is talking about airports, they automatically refer to the ones onwed by AAI) is fundamentally flawed! Let’s come back to original headline – “Were 35 airports built”?
I heard the speech too. The Prime Minister has said “35 airports have been ready for flying”. Elsewhere, he had also said that 35 new airports were ready. He had also used the hindi “ban gaye” might have led some to believe that he is talking about building airports from scratch. The PMO tweet clearly refers to “jhud gaye”, meaning they got added/integrated.
Should the PM have been more extra careful with the choice of his words? Before you answer that question, answer this: Is this what we want to debate? Would a Prime Minister use simple terminology to explain achievements or the exact legal terminology to sound politically correct?! Would you want to ignore the actual rapid strides we are making in aviation - Nearly 120 new routes are operational; nearly 30 airports have scheduled regular commercial flights. In the year 2017, the number of people travelling in flights was more than the number of people who travelled in AC trains! Domestic aviation has been witnessing a consistent month-on-month increase. All this can only point out to a robust economy and an equally robust connectivity – propelled by unique schemes such as UDAN.
 Or would you want to haggle over terminology based on limited “fact checks”?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Shekhar Gupta is the most pusillanimous and unimaginative master of propaganda India has ever seen

The following article was written for OpIndia. Pasting it here for reference:

We had earlier discussed how Shekhar Gupta’s multiple rants have displayed his repelling hatred towards Prime Minister Modi. So I wasn’t very surprised when the headline for his latest rant read as follows – “The Modi government is the most faceless, nameless & talent-averse India has seen.”
While trying to decipher what is it that was bothering him so much, I stumbled upon another of his vacuous pieces– “Rafale deal is no scam. It’s just a glaring example of the BJP government’s pusillanimous, unimaginative, over-cautious and unsuccessful handling of defence purchases”
Pusillanimous. Unimaginative. Over-Cautious. Unsuccessful. Faceless. Nameless. Talent averse. Impatient.
That’s quite an exhaustive list of adjectives he has pulled out from his dictionary. Tucked away in his tirade, was a crucial line that perhaps explains Shekhar Gupta’s incoherent rants – “I do not believe I have seen a cabinet minister admonish and tick off journalists as this defence minister routinely does”.
One is forced to wonder whether this is the root cause of his anger. Now, if the Defence Minister of India is “routinely” admonishing journalists, shouldn’t Shekhar Gupta (who doubles up as Chairman of Editors Guilt, oops Editors Guild) intercede “routinely” on behalf of journalists and seek clarifications from the Defense Minister? Or is he merely content with making sweeping generalizations and passing the buck to nameless and faceless journalists?
One might be tempted to ask if that is the only basis for his splendid assertion of the nature of this cabinet. No, he has more serious reasons. Apparently when he goes to “public speaking interactions”, he asks his audience to name India’s ministers for Agriculture, Health, Chemicals and Fertilizers, Heavy Industries, Science and Technology, and MSME. And nobody from the audience can name any of them, and voila!
By this same yardstick, every previous government was as “faceless, nameless and talent-averse” as this one. But then Shekhar Gupta has a solution for that logic too – bring in the appointment of Dr C. Subramaniam as Agriculture minister by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Well, as is his wont, he goes on to credit Indira Gandhi also for appointments Lal Bahadur Shastri had made, but let’s give that a pass.
After being able to recollect the only “talent” from nearly 50 years ago, he is now left wondering who will lead India’s march towards Green Revolution 2.0? No one in government has spoken about Green Revolution 2.0. Shekhar Gupta is coining that term equating it to the PM’s goal of doubling farm income by 2022. Does Shekhar Gupta suggest an alternative name to Radha Mohan Singh? No, he doesn’t. Instead tell us this – “Indira Gandhi too ran her government from her office, but think of the talent she collected around her.”
Going by Shekhar Gupta’s yardstick, you would assume that his “diverse audience” would be able to name all “the talent she collected around her”. Unfortunately, he provides no such insights on this list and it is left to the reader’s imagination.
His article on the “pusillanimous, unimaginative, over-cautious and unsuccessful handling of defence purchases” is another treat to read and gives great insights into the hatred that seems to be building up within him.
Irked with the government not disclosing the exact price of Rafale jets, he tells us that “Today’s arms bazaar carries almost no secrets about platforms, weapons and accessories.” Then, isn’t Shekhar Gupta’s job very easy? He just has to go to the arms bazaar and get us an exclusive? Ok, let’s assume he is too busy to go the bazaar and needs to get the information from someone else. He tells us who that someone is –
“If you are buying the Meteor missile to go with the Rafale, not just the Pakistani and Chinese air forces, but any teenaged defence nerd with a smartphone can give you a tutorial on it.”
All you need is a “teenaged defence nerd” or a trip to “arms bazaar”. Shekhar Gupta does neither, because he doesn’t tell us what the actual price is. But he also tells that “What you can, and must, keep secret in this is sensitive electronics and tactics.”. Come on, Shekhar Gupta! That’s what the Government of India has been saying too – an itemized billing cannot be provided. It only sounds like he is very upset that Rahul Gandhi’s demands are not being met by this “pusillanimous” government.
Shekhar Gupta recently tweeted that the “deification of HAL” is the “worst damage” caused by this Rafale storm. In his article though, he tells us “Any reasonable person would know that HAL would still be better equipped for licenced production than any other company…” Now is Shekhar Gupta calling himself unreasonable? He goes on to say that HAL had a monopoly and has not done things “particularly efficiently”.
If your argument is that HAL is “not efficient”, then why would you call a government “pusillanimous” for not awarding a hypothetical contract? If in your belief, “HAL is an opaque, profiteering, license-production PSU monopoly”, then why would you call a government as “unimaginative” for not awarding a hypothetical contract? Because in Shekhar Gupta’s own words – “But nobody would diss a defence PSU”. So HAL is very bad but Modi is “stupid” to have ignored HAL, according to Gupta.
All of Shekhar Gupta’s rants are riddled with such contradictions. All of his rants cite an example here, an example there to make rank generalizations. And all of his rants contain so many lies that it is just difficult to keep track of them. Sample this for example – “Surely the prime minister is brilliant, has travelled through every district of the country as he says,”. The Prime Minister has never claimed this. In an interview with Zee News, he has claimed that he has spent at least one night in 80% of districts in the country before he even became the Prime Minister. Shekhar Gupta conveniently twists this fact to make sarcastic comments against Modi. Elsewhere, he blames the Modi government for the “cease and desist” notice that Anil Ambani has sent. Surely, we all must ponder who is being “unimaginative” here!

Rahul Gandhi has lied again and again on Rafale deal and no one has investigated deep into his lies

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference: 

I couldn’t help but notice how not a single Indian English media publication bothered to do even a single investigative piece of Rahul Gandhi’s continuous and absurd allegations on the Rafale Deal. In my opinion, that itself was a big give away that there was no scam involved. Because basic investigation would have revealed that Rahul Gandhi has lied again and again, in Parliament and outside. Publishing news that shows Rahul Gandhi is extremely poor light is highly detrimental to their agenda of bringing down the Modi Government, and therefore they have stayed away from questioning the government.
The best way to make my case is to cite the editorial, “The plane truth”, from The Hindu on September 24th, 2018. The Hindu is also a good example to cite because of their pivotal role in bringing out the actual Bofors scam. Given how they have a proven record of investigative journalism, one would have expected them to investigate deep into Rahul Gandhi’s lies. Instead, they make a startling claim.
“… the clarificatory statements issued — by the Centre, the French Foreign Ministry and Dassault — did little to clearly address what Mr. Hollande had said.  
But what did Mr. Hollande say? We don’t have to search elsewhere, because the editorial gives us an insight into the same – “…it was India that suggested the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence Ltd. as the offset partner for the deal.”
Serious charge indeed! To which all the involved parties issue separate statements (All of them captured in the article here). Dassault saying that Indian government had no role. Indian government reiterating that they had no role in Dassault choosing any partner. French government saying that this was a government to government deal – every one of them has reiterated oft stated positions. Every single statement has directly contradicted what Mr. Hollande has said. Leave all these – even Mr. Hollande has told an agency AFP that he isn’t aware of any pressure on Dassault.
Amidst all this – why does The Hindu think that the clarificatory statements did “little to clearly address what Mr. Hollande had said”? They go on to repeat the question yet again:
But all this merely begs the question: did the Centre suggest a partnership with Reliance Defence as Mr. Hollande said?
I am still trying to understand the question! The Centre has said NO. Why does it “beg” the same question again and again? Is The Hindu expecting an answer they want to hear, and will not accept any other answer? Because they continue their tirade.
Also, if so, what form did it take? A firm nudge in that direction? A quiet whisper in someone’s ear?”
If so? The answer is already a NO. Language such as nudge and whisper may make for good dramatic reading but is no substitute to hide the glaring agenda peddling happening in the garb of news! The tirade doesn’t stop
Who suggested to who? And when?”
When the clarification reads an emphatic NO, why this constant barrage of irrelevant questions? Why doesn’t The Hindu don the role of investigative agencies and grill Mr. Hollande on his alleged claim? But since a result of such a work will put Rahul Gandhi at a loss, The Hindu is merely happy with telling us that “It remains to be seen whether Mr. Hollande will now choose to complete his half-finished remarks to the French investigative website.”
We are also told that “the corruption allegations have persisted in the absence — unlike in the case of some other defence deals such as Bofors — of a financial trail
The allegations have persisted because Rahul Gandhi continued to invent lie after lie, and you folks found extraordinary pleasure in parroting all those lies. Your suggestion that “private briefings to Opposition leaders and the disclosure of all information that doesn’t jeopardize national security or impact the aircrafts’ operational capability are good starting points” is really amusing.
Amusing because do you really think the likes of Rahul Gandhi will stop peddling lies even after being briefed? Have you not heard Rahul Gandhi demand that every single point that will jeopardize national security be made public, so that our enemies know what exactly we are buying? Rahul Gandhi has persisted with the Doklam lie even after signing a report that said government did a good job with Doklam – yet The Hindu miraculously believe a private briefing to him will do a world of good!
Every single allegation was responded to, by the government. Counter questions were posed to Rahul Gandhi, and he just did not bother to respond to them. Instead of calling him out for his chicanery, The Hindu senses an opportunity to further his demand for a “Joint Parliamentary Committee”!
Amidst all this clutter, it is social media that rose to the occasion. Various articles have given us detailed explanations of the deal and easy to understand explanations of the allegations. The mainstream media meanwhile is searching for that elusive headline from their leader.

Monday, September 24, 2018

A R Rahman’s Harmony- Ode to unsung Musicians of India

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference: 

I do not recollect a single interview of A.R.Rahman that talks about music. Now don’t get me wrong – there are zillions of interviews that ask him about Roja, Bombay, Slumdog Millionaire etc. Zillions of interviews that ask him about “inspiration” for his movie songs. And of course, no dearth of commentators that tell us that Rahman’s music is finished, after every movie that is released!
I haven’t learned music either. Like many, I just enjoy listening and trying to appreciate some nuances. In this context, when my brother first alerted me to his new show titled Harmony, I was really hoping it will not turn out to be another of those “interviews” where we don’t get to learn anything new about Rahman. And when we watched the first episode with friends at home, I was literally speechless. Because not only was this was the kind of show I always yearned to watch Rahman in, it also involved Rahman hosting, interviewing and discussing music!
Harmony is a 5-episode series on Amazon Prime. Rahman visits “non-popular” musicians from different parts of our country and interacts with them on their music. He then blends in with his music, to give us all an unforgettable experience. In the final episode, he brings them all onto one stage and does a concert – Harmony! 
Why are these episodes and stories unforgettable? Because they give us a great glimpse into the grit and determination of exceptionally talented artists who have struggled against odds to keep alive regional traditional music. Because they make us feel humble in front of the great sacrifices they have made, in pursuance of something so close to their heart.
We first meet Sajith Vijayan, in a stunning shot – playing an ancient musical instrument called Mizhavu alone on a riverbed. We know that the show will be only about music when one of the first questions Rahman asks when introduced to Mizhavu, is where does the reflection of sound come from? And that sets the stage for an engrossing discussion between both Rahman and Sajith, and some superlative performances of Sajith that will take your breath away! As we hear the story of Sajith, we are also introduced to his guru Shri PK Narayanan Nambiar.
The genuine warmth and happiness in Shri Nambiar’s eyes when he welcome Rahman must be seen to be believed. We are then told  how Shri Nambiar bought Mizhavu to the masses. Prior to that, this instrument was only played in temples. Shri Nambiar explains how he faced resistance when he wanted to bring it out. His logic? “If we confine something to one place, it will only get ruined”. So when Rahman compliments him for being very brave to have done that in those times, you can’t help but nod your head along in appreciation of Shri Nambiar’s actions to break the conventional mould.
A similar story, of safeguarding traditional music, plays out in Episode 3 – this time in Manipur. This story is of singer Laurenbam Bedabati Devi! Am sure you will also fall in love with bubbly nature and her voice once you watch the episode! To dedicate her life to the Manipuri traditional folk song - Khunung Eshei, Ms. Bedabati Devi chose to stay as a spinster. As cliché as it may sound, her struggle, her music and her efforts are truly inspiring, and Harmony provided the perfect platform for the world to know about them! By the way, watching Rahman try to imitate Ms.Bedabati’s unique singing style brought a large smile too!
Since we directly jumped to Episode 3 from Episode 1, please do not assume Episode 2 was uneventful! Here, we meet Ustad Mohi Bahauddin, who prays to his rudraveena before beginning to play. I was amazed to know that he has only 6 students, and only accepts students if they can only spend around 8-9 years to learn just one or two ragas! The conversation between Rahman and Ustad Bahauddin veers around the depth to which one can go with just mastering one or two ragas, and has Rahman playing a music bit from Tu Hi Re!
The 4th episode takes us to Sikkim, where we meet Mickma who plays the Panthong (Bamboo flute)! We are even shown how this flute is made, from scratch! This was the first time I saw a flute being made and was fascinated by the whole process. Mickma’s story is similar to the others – he chose to further the art of using the declining traditional Panthong, amidst very trying financial circumstances. Mickma also doubles up as the singer in his small yet lively band! We are treated to a performance by them too!
In all the 4 episodes, A.R.Rahman introduces a new instrument, and plays that instrument along with each of the musician, without overpowering any of their performances. However, the final episode left me a little confusing – perhaps because am not familiar with many nuances of music! I was expecting an encore by all 4 of them together, but I felt that the chorus overpowered the 4 musicians. Or perhaps the expectations after 4 episodes were so high, that it was natural to be disappointed? Either way, this episode doesn’t take away the awesomeness of the first 4 episodes.
In today’s world of fake reality show, we are treated to an actual reality show that brings forth true talent sans any of the melodrama. Harmony brings to us, the untold stories of many brave heroes who have sacrificed much to follow their passion. Harmony brings to us many life lessons that can be learnt. Kudos to Rahman for travelling to them and then making us travel along with them.
PS: Another simple observation for which I believe Harmony stands out - the non-dramatic nature of how the participants react when Rahman is around. For example - Sajith introduces his students to Rahman, and going by their reaction, he had to ask them if they recognized Rahman!

In 2013 I had changed my mind about Narendra Modi, In 2018 my belief in Modi has strengthened.

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference: 

5 years ago, I had written an article for Niti Central on “Why I changed my mind about Modi". I detailed how I was among those who got carried away by the English media’s representation of Modi. I had viewed him as someone cold who was only winning election after election in Gujarat based on religious polarization alone.  His 2007 election victory in the State broke some myths about his governance model but did not shatter any of the serious allegations that gullible folks like me continued to believe. I always had one question on my mind — Of what use is this development if there is no security?
And then Social media happened. Reading various blogs and tweets, I often wondered – how could the big media players have done this to us? How could they have deliberately cheated us? Then the SIT report happened; social media revolution had picked up steam; Modi had started talking more, giving us a glimpse into his work – and the party finally announced him as its Prime Ministerial candidate. His candidacy energized both the cadre and outside supporters of the party – and the rest as they say is history!
Now that he was the Prime Minister, it is but natural that skepticism will clog the mind – How will he do what he promised? Or worse yet – will he do what he promised? Right from his first decision, which took the world by surprise, he has given us a glimpse into what can be expected! For the first time in our history, heads of all SAARC countries were invited to be part of the swearing-in ceremony of the new government. The Foreign policy had seen only rapid strides ever since – with India playing a pivotal role in the formation of the unique and prestigious International Solar Alliance; with India joining the many key alliances of the world; and more importantly the unique ways in which Prime Minister Modi developed a personal rapport with many world leaders.
During the campaign, he released a video in which he said “Mein Desh Jhukne nahi doonga”. Whilst many would want to show *the* surgical strikesare proof enough of his commitment to keep the country’s flag flying high, his most understated achievement is the improved internal security situation of the country. Outside of J&K and Punjab, we haven’t had a terrorist attack in our towns and cities. The violence in the North Eastern states has come down by 50%, which has also prompted the removal of the AFSPA; the drastic reduction in the number of naxals and their activities in the country – all point to a robust improvement that was precisely what was expected from this government.
Earlier, if you heard the name Bastar, it would have been only because of Naxal activity. Bastar was the hotbed of Naxal activity and counted as one of the most backward regions of the country. Today, the place where we could not even build proper roads, there is an operational airport in the Bastar region (in addition to many other programs)! Not just Bastar, in the last 4 years, through a unique UDAN program, 25 new airports have been made operational in the country (compare that to 70 airports in the 70 years since Independence!). The year 2017 saw more number of people take flights than those who travelled in AC Trains! If this isn’t reflective of our economic growth and improved connectivity, then I don’t know what is!
Many years ago, a friend once told me that a leader should be capable of showing the mirror to the society. In my opinion Modi did it twice – when he stood up in Parliament and asked – “Can’t we keep our country clean?”. Swachh Bharat was not a mere slogan – today we have nearly 75% of our villages proudly declaring themselves to be ODF (Open Defecation Free); we have toilets built across all schools; we have a healthy competition amongst cities to vie for the cleanest city award; we have schools imbibing this culture in students from a young age. Is this enough? Of course, there is a lot of work to do – instead of being cynical I’d rather we buck up and do whatever we can keep our village/town/city clean. After all, the question is indeed very pertinent – “Can’t we keep our country clean?”
The second time he showed us the mirror was both during the launch of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and one of his Independence Day speeches. He asked us – “Who gave you the right to kill a girl child before she is born?”. And also – “Why don’t we ever question the boy where he went to and what he is doing? Why do we always question the girl?” Beti Bachao, Beti Badhao was mocked as usual, but today nearly 100 districts across the country have shown improved sex ratio; increased enrollment of girl child is seen across the country; and significant investments are being made for the betterment of the girl child.
NO JOBS added screamed every opposition leader and the English media followed suit. Not one media wanted to point out the fact that the Modi government has put significant focus on entrepreneurship through revolutionary schemes like MUDRA and Standup India, and this data is traditionally not captured as parts of “Jobs”.
Make in India” was mocked to no end, but today when you buy a cell phone, instead of a “Made in China”, today we see a Made in India label. That’s possible because there are about 120 mobile manufacturing units in India, as opposed to just 2 in the year 2014. Make in India hasn’t been limited to phones alone – it’s across variety of fields ranging from mobiles to automobiles to aerospace! Friends, my knowledge on the full scale of Make in India is very limited but it feels very good when I see items of regular use prominently displayed in Made in India labels!
I can list out many such initiatives. I suddenly remembered that I missed talking about the significantly improved electricity situation in the country. A special mention needs to be made of a heartening and unparalleled achievement of the Narendra Modi government – the mainstreaming of the North East. The point is - One tweet or one article cannot do justice. Infact my twitter thread has already listed 88 such initiatives. These include the biggest disruptions of all time, GST and Demonetization; the 10s of benefitsto the middle class; financial inclusion; the small things that create a big impact; the resolution of long pending problems; the war on corruption ; and more.
In 2014, Narendra Modi had enthused the people of this country like never before, as is evident from the election results. And in the past 4 ½ years, he has shown us how he means business and beyond; how he is receptive to feedback; he has oft reminded us about our duties; questioned the status quo and has led from the front to bring in changes to our system; and has encouraged us to dream big to contribute towards a New India by 2022.
For him to guide us towards the dream of New India, it is imperative that he wins in 2019. The noise and the clutter created by the opposition must be drowned in the rain of his achievements. Narendrabhai - like in 2014, I will do whatever I can, to spread your message and help you w

With the opposition in tatters, TRS led by KCR is all set to sweep Telangana in the upcoming Elections

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

One of the biggest conundrums of Indian politics is the unpredictability of our political parties. Just days after submitting to the Law commission that the TRS party supports simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, Chief Minister KCR called for the early dissolution of Telangana Assembly! This also shows us why it will be near impossible to get anywhere closer to simultaneous elections, in the near future. However, this article is not about the concept of simultaneous elections!
Chief Minister KCR is riding a wave of popularity currently. The party has already scored impressive victories in various by-elections held so far too. Along with MLAs who have jumped ship from other parties, the TRS currently boasts of nearly 90 MLAs in the 119member Assembly. An earlier articledetails how TRS has increased its strength from 63 in 2014 to nearly 90 by 2016! There is no constitutional crisis in sight. No one has threatened the downfall of the government, nor have there been widespread protests – so the obvious question anyone would have is, why now?
For starters, KCR would want to very strongly delink the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections for the moment. The agenda setting would get so confusing, and potential allies at national level would pose a big problem if simultaneous elections are held. For example, TRS is so strong that they would not want to ally with anyone at the state level. But there is also this possibility that the BJP would want to ally with TRS for the Lok Sabha polls (KCR and Modi enjoy a cordial relationship). If simultaneous elections are held, this alliance cannot take place.
But then why would KCR, who thundered angrily that regional parties are the future and he will lead an anti-Congress, anti-BJP front at the center, want to ally with the NDA? The answer is simple – no regional party is ready to fight at the national stage without the support of the Congress party. As of today, KCR and the TRS detests the Congress party. KCR did not even attend the swearing-in ceremony of H.D. Kumaraswamy because he did not want to be seen sharing stage with the Congress party.
Secondly, KCR and the TRS would want to cash in immensely on the popularity wave they are riding on, currently. This is their best chance to decimate the opposition parties and establish a strong hold – the decision has not been a sudden on and has been on the cards from around April-May timeframe itself.
Now comes the next obvious question. Why is he so popular? Because he is solving the basic problems of Water and electricity for Telangana. Today, Telangana supplies 24 hour free current to agricultural lands! At one point of time, we were reeling under a severe power crisis and the turnaround has been nothing short of a miracle.
He has also put a massive focus on water, through two flagship programs – Mission Bhagiratha, that will supply drinking water to every home. KCR claims that 46% of homes already have this supply. When reminded about his promise that he will not ask for votes if 100% is not done, he shot back asking why the questioner is worried – if people don’t like it, they will anyway vote me out!
The second program is Mission Kakateeya – a project aimed at restoring lakes and tanks in Telangana. This has been a huge success, with nearly 25,000 lakes and tanks revived, which in turn have provided for water to lakhs of hectares. 25,000 lakes and tanks friends! No mean achievement this, and no wonder English media doesn’t evince any interest.
In addition to these there have been many programs that disbursed money to farmers, poor and the weaker sections. KCR infact is claiming that he has done things that he hasn’t even mentioned in the manifesto!
KCR and the TRS party were also blessed with another advantage – a heavily compliant media. I do not recollect any detailed articles in any regional media that had criticized any single policy or even utterance of the Chief Minister or the ministers. In fact the only time any uproar was seen when the government proposed to implement some law for using “harsh language”. I had even wondered that though Andhra Pradesh also has a compliant media, there is at least Sakshi channel run by the YSRCP. Anyone wanting to protest in Hyderabad were placed under preventive house arrest!
The opposition is anyway in tatters. Only the Congress party has shown a minimum semblance of being an opposition party. Even then, it is no position to win the state. The BJP, for reasons best known to local leadership, has not been as active as it should have been. This was a golden opportunity to grab enough opposition space at least. Meanwhile, KCR is all set to regain power by end of this year.

Congress Party needs to listen to ManMohan Singh on oil prices before spreading Unrest for political gains

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

It would be my failing if I didn’t give a hat tip to Shri Anand Ranganathan, for pointing out to the snippet from Prime Minister’s Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation in 2008. The tweet prompted me to look for the full text of his speech and I stumbled upon two seminal addresses to the nation by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The address on June 4, 2008
This address was necessitated because of a steep sudden increase in Petrol & Diesel prices. I will only be pasting snippets, but you can read the full speech here.
My Fellow Citizens,
I know that the price increases we have had to announce today will not be popular, even though they are only modest. 
The modest increase Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was talking about is as follows:
Price of petrol has been raised by Rs 5 per litre, of diesel by Rs 3 per litre and of an LPG cylinder by Rs 50. Prices of kerosene, a vital fuel for the poor, remain unchanged.
The increase during those times was greater than 10%. Dr. Manmohan Singh also gave out some vital statistics as to why this increase had to be necessitated and tells us that our Oil companies were stressed because – “You must remember that the Government is bearing the burden of issuing Oil Bonds.
And then the sagacious Prime Minister tells us that this comes at a big risk. What is the risk? In his own words:
“However, I would like the nation to remember that issuing bonds and loading deficits on oil companies is not a permanent solution to this problem. We are only passing on our burden to our children who will have to repay this debt.”
Please read, remember and spread this information. In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has clearly told us that “we are only passing our burden to our children who will have to repay this debt”.
Friends – that time has come now. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh passed the burden to our children. Prime Minister Modi is repaying that debt and the same Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, that is responsible for this mess, is hitting the streets. A compliant media of course will not tell you about this seminal speech by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It was left to social media heroes to unearth the source of today’s problem.
The address on September 21, 2012
This address was necessitated because of another steep increase in Diesel prices, cap on LPG cylinders and some chaos over FDI in retail. Addressing the nation then, the sagacious Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told us:
…the subsidy on petroleum products has grown enormously. It was Rs. 1 lakh 40 thousand crores last year.  If we had not acted, it would have been over Rs. 200,000 crores this year. 
Where would the money for this have come from? Money does not grow on trees.
Actually, one should spend time to read one full para that paints a very very gloomy picture of our finances at point of time:
Where would the money for this have come from? Money does not grow on trees. If we had not acted, it would have meant a higher fiscal deficit, that is, an unsustainable increase in government expenditure vis-a-vis government income. If unchecked, this would lead to a further steep rise in prices and a loss of confidence in our economy.  The prices of essential commodities would rise faster.  Both domestic as well as foreign investors would be reluctant to invest in our economy. Interest rates would rise.  Our companies would not be able to borrow abroad.  Unemployment would increase.  
The last time we faced this problem was in 1991.
Repeat the last time – “The last time we faced this problem was in 1991”.
So what are the amounts we are talking about? In 2008, we were told that the burden is close to a whopping Rs. 1,80,000/- crores because of the Oil Bonds. In 2012, we were told that the burden is close to a whopping Rs. 1,60,000/- crores.
Imagine yourself in such a situation where you have a large debt, because you are paying for your family, and suddenly find that you now have a steady source of income through which you can pay off this debt. Will you splurge more or will you prioritize clearing the debt so that your family can prosper better? Think about it – which course of action is prudent?
Since 2014, the oil prices have reduced. Any government that would want to put the country first will look at clearing of these dues. Remember the scale of the debt – Nearly Rs. 1,44,000 crores when NDA took over in 2014. The burden that was sought to be paid by our children, has been paid back with interest now.
I’d urge you to read both the speeches in their totality. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has laid out the source of today’s problem is great detail. The same source that his party is protesting today!

Monday, September 10, 2018

This is how Thiruvananthapuram M.P., Shashi Tharoor helped the Kerala Victims - by travelling across the world and tweeting

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

While reading the Central government’s press release that listed out the sequence of events and details of assistance provided to Kerala, the date July 21st stood out. At first I thought there is some typo error, because we have only been hearing of Kerala floods in August 2018. However, it wasn’t a typo. The Kerala government submitted an interim memorandum to the central government on July 21st, 2018 because the state was by then already affected by floods and landslides.
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju was visiting the state on July 21st. Following the memorandum, a committee visited Kerala on August 7th to August 12th. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh visited Kerala on August 12th. Which means much before the English media woke up; much before the liberal gang could plot how to use this tragedy to divide the country, both the state and central governments were already on the job. And finally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Kerala on August 17-18.
There is someone else also who visited Kerala from August 15th to August 18th. Thiruvananthapuram MP, Shashi Tharoor tweeted on August 15th that he is boarding a flight from Darjileeng to go to his constituency, Thiruvananthapuram.
While by that time, the people of the country were beginning to already know the severity of the floods situation in Kerala, Shashi Tharoor was still busy tweeting self-images of him wishing a Happy Independence Day and critiques of the Union government. Amidst more Independence day tweets that included taking a potshot at “Sanghis”, Shashi Tharoor managed to insert a couple of tweets on “Images from rain-drenched Thiruvanthapuram today” and how he was “running around to take stock”.
At this point of time, it didn’t bother anyone that he showed up so late into the crisis. Long time residents of Thiruvananthapuram told him that they haven’t seen so much rain ever! It gives you, the reader, an indication of the severity of the crisis. A crisis, during which, their MP was missing.
Amidst all the “running around”, Shashi Tharoor suddenly found both the time and inclination to tweet this:
Quite expectedly, he was taken to task by the netizens on the need to divert his attention towards repetitive messaging when his constituents were facing the crisis of their lifetime. Shashi Tharoor then moved his attention to the media, and accused them of not covering the Kerala floods enough.
Understandably, most time on twitter on August 16th and 17th was spent on tweeting about the Kerala floods. With ofcourse a couple of Congress eventsthat were honouring “young achievers”. Why Congress wouldn’t postpone such a program is beyond me, but then that’s Congress.  On August 18th, he even tweets that “today is the last chance to be saved alive”
And then on August 20th, we see a message from Shashi Tharoor that he has landed in Geneva! Apparently to meet with UN agencies. 
You might be tempted to ask, why am I questioning this act of his, when it seems to be borne totally out of goodwill. Because on August 17th, the same Shashi Tharoor has told us that he cannot approach the UN because only the Indian government is authorized to do so!
What rules and laws have changed between the 17th and 20th that Shashi Tharoor infact rushed to the UN to seek help? Why did he tell us that he cannot seek UN help, on August 17th, and then on August 20th, we suddenly get to know he is in Geneva?! Why doesn’t anyone find this odd that the Thiruvanthapuram MP, who tweeted non-stop on how bad these floods even as late as August 18th (remember the line, last chance to save lives?), suddenly found it fit to leave the state and go to Geneva?
Next, he says he is in Geneva in close consultation with the CM of Kerala. Shashi Tharoor himself tweeted a media link that summarized his “efforts” in Geneva (we’ll come to that in a short bit) – and the media link he gave tells us that the CM hasn’t authorized Shashi Tharoor to talk to UN of the government’s behalf! Who then was Shashi Tharoor trying to fool?
Now, let’s still assume Shashi Tharoor went to the UN and achieved a lot. Here is a summary he has himself tweeted out on August 23rd :
Read through them carefully folks. And think. Think if we really needed an MP to go to UN and then come out with a “recommendation” that the “State Govt could carry out rapid needs assessment, sector-wide damage and loss assessments for recovery planning”? I mean, arent’ those some of the basic things any government would do? Or any agency in times of crisis would do? Is this what his trip to the UN achieved? Three recommendations? Three recommendations that are so basic in nature?
If you are still not convinced that Shashi Tharoor went out of Kerala purely out of goodwill and has been talking to the UN from August 20th (when he landed in Geneva) to August 23rd (when he tweeted out his “recommendations”), then here’s his tweet from August 22nd. Yes, August 22nd (I haven’t mixed up any dates).
Tell me friends – what warranted his jump from Geneva to Germany now? What possible value addition has he bought to both Rahul Gandhi and Kerala by his travel to Germany during these difficult times? Shashi Tharoor has confirmed on twitter that he has left Thiruvanthapuram on 18-19. Which means he was in his constituency for just 4 days, tweeting out images of significant destruction; telling us on August 18th that today is the “last chance to save lives” and then he leaves on the same night?! He even tweeted about his interviews to a couple of English channels and quite expectedly they didn’t find it fit to ask him about his absence in the state.
Let’s take his “I was in Geneva for Kerala” statement at face value.
Then what was he in Germany for? Was he also in London accompanying Rahul Gandhi? Because Shashi Tharoor only tweeted today (August 25th, 2018) that he is back in Delhi. Back in Delhi. Not yet been to Kerala.
So in a nutshell – during Kerala’s most devastating floods that became severe prior at ~August 12th, the Thiruvananthapuram MP visited his constituency on August 15th, spent 4 days, left the country on August 19th, visited Geneva on August 20th only to submit a “recommendation” that asked the state government to prepare a report, visited Germany on August 22nd, returned to Delhi on August 25th, and is yet to go to Thiruvananthapuram.
Whilst central minister were already on the job from July 21st, Shashi Tharoor didn’t even find it fit to tweet about the severity of the floods from July 21 to August 14th. He tweeted about Kerala MPs meeting with Rajnath Singh on August 10th. Rajnath Singh himself visited Kerala on August 12th, whilst Tharoor could only make it by August 15th!
Perhaps instead of blaming the “national media”, it is time for Shashi Tharoor himself to reflect what difference his presence or absence even makes to his constituents? After all, why blame Delhi based media when you yourself cannot be there for your people? Hopefully you had enough time in your foreign tours for this reflection, Dr. Tharoor.