Monday, December 10, 2012
We are at the end of the year month. They say ‘all good things come to an end’ so shall be the bad ones. Anything that begins has to end. What the last month had in store for India and Indians has to be seen. Among the major events of the month has been the election of Barack Obama as the President of U.S. for the 2nd time. Death of Bal Thackeray brought to an end the life of one of the most charismatic parochial politician of the country. How politics of Mumbai shall change after the exit of Tiger shall be a matter of interest. Hanging of terrorist Kasab is another sad development that probably had to happen, whether right or wrong.
Month-in-Perspective has covered events that happened during the month, across India. As usual space constraints are limiting the coverage, of all happenings of relevance, to India and to the world at large.
Two events that took place during the month have been covered under Focus for its larger relevance. The attack on Malala Yousafazai, the Pakistani girl, was perceived to be an incident of a very serious nature and therefore deserved to be Focused. Similarly the continuity of Obama in the White House is another event of relevance to India, in our perception. Hence under Focus. Hope readers shall find them interesting. Do revert, with your inputs.
KARNATAKA: There was this book by Michael Lobo “Is Christianity a flawless religion?” released in Mangalore, the other day. He is a former physicist at IISc Bangalore. Book is expected to generate lot of debate since it seems to have favoured liberal over literal. Opinions are likely to be polarised, informs a source. However, clergy in Mangalore is confident, that since Christianity is a religion that believed in continuous corrections, if any, there will only be healthy debate with an open mind. Hope and wish that it remains so. The important thing is, all those who are practitioners of any organised religion, be it Christianity, Islam or Hinduism, should always remain open for its own sake. In a continuously evolving world there should be continuous and participative debate among the opinion makers within the faithfuls without any fear of diktats or fatwas. It is the diktats and fatwas which normally vitiate an open atmosphere especially in a country like India where we have at least half-a-dozen practicing religions with its own internal divisions. One important aspect all faithfuls should recognise is, that religion is a man made set of do’s and dont’s and therefore highly imperfect and hence should remain open for correction. This was made at a point of time long long ago, in the past. What was relevant then may not be relevant any more, in that we must have the openness to debate and accept the changed circumstances. Religion has to continuously evolve to the demands of changing times. Only then it will retain its dynamism. Hope, this latest book serves its positive purpose, starting with a premise that all religions are full of flaws.
Surely something may be happening to our great playwright Girish Karnad. Or else he can’t be in the news for repeated wrong reasons. For those who are not aware, Karnad was the 1st Indian after Jawaharlal Nehru, to be the Secretary of Oxford Debating Union (ODU). It was during his tenure, women were allowed, for the first time, to be the members of the ODU. After the Sir V.S. Naipaul bad mouthing episode, he is at it again. This time round our very own Nobel Laureate Ravindranath Tagore. Speaking in Bangalore, the local Jnanpeeth Award winner had reportedly stated that “Tagore was a great poet but as a playwright he was mediocre and second rate.”
Here the point is not whether Karnad is right or wrong. But it was an eminently needless controversy that he created. Even assuming that Bengal’s literary giant was indeed a mediocre and 2nd rate playwright as suggested by Karnad, there is absolutely no meaning in belittling a national icon, who was one of the earliest to get a Nobel Prize for literature, and who is long dead and gone. How is he going to defend himself of the accusation? Besides, this is not an earth shattering discovery, that this will make any difference. Only it showed the gracelessness of the man. It was a purposeless and an avoidable diatribe we could have lived without. Reacting to the Karnad outburst, one Bengali thespian reacted “may be Karnad is feeling insecure” while another remarked “very unfortunate”. Unfortunate, indeed, it was.
TAMIL NADU: The arrest of a small time businessman Ravi Srinivasan for tweeting against the Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s son Karti, is prima facie, appears to be high handed, for the simple reason, he was hauled-up by the police at 5.00 in the morning, while he was sleeping. All that he said was ‘got reports that Karthik Chidambaram has amassed more wealth than Vadra’. Although police in Puducherry justified quoting 66-A of I.T. Act of 2008, which deals with messages which are “grossly offensive” have “menacing character” or even cause “annoyance or inconvenience”, it was clearly a case of extreme over-reaction on the part of both police and the complainant Karti Chidambaram. In fact an editorial of a Mumbai based English daily called it “The arrogance of power” and accused police in Puducherry of subservience to power. It was indeed a sheer misuse of power by the police to please the son of a powerful Union Minister. Police, simply had no case of pulling a man out of his bed at such an unearthly hour of 5.00 in the morning, for an offence as a tweet, that too with a hit of just 16. The fact is Kartik has allegations of pushing his financial interests using his father’s name and clout. These allegations are still not cleared. So the tweet may after all be true, and if this Kartik does not like the truth, he had better ways to deal with this ‘irritating’ twitter. And police could have, at best called this ‘irritating’ twitter to the police station and warn him or ask him to remove the tweet. Instead they made a laughing stock of themselves by this primitive over-reaction. But then this is how Yeh Mera India is. Such things keep happening where rich and powerful use the law against powerless and police only play as their hand maiden. This has always been happening. Will it ever change? is a question staring at all of us.
GUJARAT: Narendra Modi may be the Best Chief Minister of India incorporated, but he too can put his foot in his mouth. He had absolutely no business to drag Shashi Tharoor’s wife into any political discourse. His comments of ‘50 crore Girl Friend’ was absolutely in bad taste. In his own way, he has earned respect, of course besides some brick-bats, but that certainly do not give him licence to talk anything he fancies. He must stick to his brand of development politics, where he is respected and taken seriously, controversy surrounding him apart. In fact, if he attacks less his opponents, and goes about in his inimitable style to portray as a no-nonsense political leader of Gujarat, he can forever remain, “Hriday Samrat” of Gujaraties. That can also do lot of good to the national politics, due to its multiplier effects.
MAHARASHTRA: There was this news that Maharashtra government decided to give an additional Rs: 10 lakh per jawan of CRPF and para military forces who died in action fighting Naxals in the state. As per the central government provisions there is a grant of Rs:15 lakh per person. And the decision of the state government is certainly wholesome one, to increase it to Rs: 25 lakhs. Among the depressing news of corruption and scandals of all kinds, this gesture on the part of the government in Mumbai, certainly sings paeans to the ultimate dignity and value of human sacrifice. It will send positive signals on the responsible public posturing by elected government. It bodes well for the society and should encourage all state governments to do its bit for all people who lay their life in the call of their duty.
The controversy surrounding the Nobel Laureate Sir Vidiadhar S Naipaul, an Indian origin person from Trinidad was a storm in the tea cup. He was being awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by Literature Live in Mumbai. He was always been a writer who inspired differing and sharp reactions. His views on India and Indian Muslims have been rather sharp at times. He was unsparing and unkind. His observations were stark. He could be right and wrong at the same time. He was right because what he said were true, but was partly wrong, because he did not try to reason out for what he stated. He said ‘India is dirty and dusty. Indians shit in open, almost everywhere and are not apologetic about it’. He had roundly called India an ‘Area of Darkness’. But he is a writer, and as writer, he has his opinions and he was entitled to it. By nature, we Indians are self critical. We accept criticism with a pinch of salt. We don’t generally react violently. But playwright Girish Karnad had his own take. He used the occasion to attack Sir Naipaul head-on. He was called to the function to present his views on theatre, instead it was a diatribe and strangely he took up the Muslim issue. His complaint was ‘Sir Naipaul accused Muslims as invaders, but did not talk about their contribution to the later day Indian music’. Quite frankly, if Girish Karnad was talking about the lack of appreciation of Indian music by Sir Naipaul, then his broadside had no relevance at all. He simply bad mouthed a guest who was invited by Karnad’s own ilk. In the event not only the organizers were deeply embarrassed but even Sir V.S. Naipaul left India with a bit of bitterness. When he said in the aftermath of this controversy that ‘I shouldn’t have come to India at all’, did convey his unpleasant memory of this ‘last trip’ to the land of his ancestors. Here it is important to note what Gurucharan Das, a former Corporate honcho and presently a writer of repute. Das had reportedly stated ‘The question we should be asking is why it takes us 10 years to build a road and 15 to get justice. The case of Rajat Gupta in the U.S. took only 2 years. If we fix the legal, political and bureaucratic institutions, China will have something to worry about’. Now this is somewhat getting real, isn’t it?
If the police in Puducherry are what they are, can they be different in Maharashtra? Aren’t both Indians primarily?
Salman Khan, a Hindi film actor was reportedly summoned 82 times by the Bandra Magistrate’s Court since last 7 years but did not attend even once, however found time to perform at the police function during Diwali. This Khan was involved in a drunken driving case in 2002. Now its 10 years old and allegedly Mumbai police is just not interested in securing a conviction of this actor Khan. And come to think of it, this accusation comes from a former policeman, IPS officer-turned-lawyer Y.P. Singh. So, the rot in the system is all pervading. It is so very clearly visible. If Alister Pereira’s case can be finished, rightly or wrongly, in 15 months-time, and that of Nooriya Haveliwala’s case can be completed in 2 years time, why is Salman Khan case is dragging beyond 10 years with no end in sight? Isn’t Y P Singh right when he asked, “Who is the big boss of the Mumbai police, RR Patil, the Home Minister, or Salman Khan? Oh my poor Mother India.
And comes another news “Delay in filing FIR allows history-sheeter to get bail.” A Mumbai date lined news informs that an FIR was only registered after the cops were pulled up by Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP) (law and order) during a Grievance Redressal Day (GRD). Reportedly despite repeated pleadings by the landlord of a house rented to a known local crook, the police took 3 months to register an FIR, by which time the culprit managed the bail, instead of the jail, that he deserved. Chembur police station, a Mumbai suburb, had received a complaint from the house owner regarding the illegal activities by the tenant, who took it for residential purpose and claimed in court with the help of forged receipts that he paid for the property and has bought it. When the owner approached the police station with a cheating complaint, police just didn’t act until JCP pulled them, when owners met JCP at a GRD. Police, reportedly feigned ignorance of the past of this history-sheeter, which prima facie is unbelievable. As a matter of routine, their files are full of such details of habitual offenders, and this man R R Pandian had many cases in different police stations of the same North Eastern region of Mumbai. But, as is the rule, police are on friendly terms with these cheaters, who keep the police happy. This is another aspect of our police force. Keep police happy and they will let you do happily what you do, legal or illegal.
Hanging of Mohd Ajmal Amir Kasab brings down the curtain on the uncertainty on the lone accused caught alive in the 26/11 massacre in Mumbai. Of course death sentence per se may not be the solution to the problem of heinous crimes. But this is kept in vogue only with the hope that ‘a death sentence’ can act as deterrent. The debate about the right or wrong on the issue apart, the devastation caused by this Kasab and his gang is unprecedented. That Pakistan was the perpetrator of this crime was never in doubt, but if this Kasab was to be killed in action, India would have no case against Pakistan. Just like they denied Kasab being a Pakistani, or that Faridkot is in Bangladesh, they would have outright rejected that the 26/11 mayhem was made-in-Pakistan. Poor Tukaram Ombale’s soul, where ever it is, may now really Rest in Everlasting Peace, but for whose heroics of catching this Kasab alive, this case would have been largely an open and shut case. Of course, even so late in the day, after all details have been put in public space, Pakistan is still trying to find alibi’s, how not to receive the dead body of this terrorist Kasab. As expected, Kasab’s handlers in Pakistan are already on record having threatened India that they will attack Indians and Indian targets for having hanged Kasab. It is extremely sad that Pakistan never seem to learn any lessons.
Every one of us has to die one day, sooner or later. So did Bal Keshav Thackeray at 86, known to his admirers as Bala Saheb. The cartoonist turned politician was, by any stretch of imagination, a powerful force to reckon with. There is a whole lot to write about, the man and his life. His baby, the Shiv Sena was born in 1966 to serve the cause of Marathi Maanoos. There is absolutely no doubt that the objective of forming the Shiv Sena was indeed to serve the cause of Marathi people in Mumbai. For whatever reasons, it is indeed true that, youth among Marathi speaking locals were not getting the employment opportunities. They were not getting employed by the growing private enterprises of then Bombay. So, the son-of-the-soil theory was the only way to force the issue. Bal Thackeray through his party Shiva Sena indeed forced the issue, and as the cliché goes, rest is history. It was an emotive issue and it found resonance across the Bombay landscape. There is absolutely nothing wrong in the son-of the soil theory. Development must reach everybody and son-of-the-soil must get it first. Of course, this is a very simplistic view. In reality this can be more complex. Only problem with this theory is the possible violence and possible strong arm tactics. Shiv Sena is credited with using violence and strong arm tactics liberally. This approach did give result and slowly the incidence of violence and strong arm tactics became less and less, as the ordinary Mumbaikers were getting empowered. But violence unfortunately, remained a part of Shiva Sena culture and nobody complained, least of all Mumbai Police. Thus when Bal Thackeray died, the city, that never sleeps, went into coma, out of fear. The arrest of two girls for the so-called 'twitter offence' is a reflection enough about Shiv Sena & its chief. Anybody that did not keep their establishment closed were badly attacked to make them comply. Of course, Shiv Sena as a political party has grown from strength to strength, despite some Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams. Bal Thackeray despite his writings against the dynastic politics of Nehru/Gandhi family, ended up just doing that. First he promoted his nephew Raj Thackeray, when he tried to wield greater power, he promoted his son Uddav. Now he has even anointed his grandson Aditya. Of course the dynasticism is a national malaise of Indian politics. Probably BJP and communists are the only parties that has not openly practiced, except in few cases. Without Bal Thackeray, how Shiv Sena can proceed, is a loaded question. As we end it is appropriate to reproduce a tweet “No debate if he was a good or bad guy. At least he was a person who stood for his beliefs. May his soul rest in Peace!"
NEW DELHI: Kejriwal is everywhere from Robert Vadra, to Salman Khurshid, to Nitin Gadkari, in matter of weeks. Now he has hit the richest Indian Mukesh Ambani and his company the Reliance Industries Ltd. Whole of India is privy to the fact, that Ambanies have a great deal of influence on the working of central govt., whether Congress ruled UPA or the BJP ruled NDA. In the past there were instances of copies of legislative papers being found in the drawers of the resident RIL managers stationed in New Delhi, even before it became a public knowledge. These resident representatives are basically P.R. professionals, who are adapt in handling people and situation with appropriate baits. Their reach is long and very penetrative. So, if RIL has succeeded in getting Mr Reddy booted out of petroleum ministry, since he was an inconvenient minister, it only proves an obvious point. RIL is all powerful, like Arvind Kejriwal kept repeating in past few days that Mukesh Ambani has stated in private that “Congress is in my pocket”.
The famous K.G. Basin, where the national property gas is being drilled by Reliance Industries Ltd of Mukesh Ambani, is having a revenue sharing formula. This formula includes investment by RIL and the production target. Greater the production, greater the revenue for the national exchequer. But as is the wont, the private sector, especially RIL wants to make more money for itself. It has increased investment in the infrastructure, to deny larger share for the state, but increased infrastructure has not increased the production. So RIL wants to deny the govt share from two sides, one by increasing the investment unilaterally and then not increasing the production also unilaterally.
Of course, they can hide behind the ‘technical jargon’, and we have interested politicians and babus joining them in agreement. But fortunately for India, Jaipal Reddy did not fall in line and became a ‘foul’ guy for both the RIL and their obliging government patrons. He had to go, courtesy the Prime Minister. On the top of this subversion RIL is demanding a price rise. Any rise at this stage will only give windfall gain to RIL, and right enough, Reddy wanted CAG to step in to conduct an extensive performance audit, to see irregularities, if any, including the higher cost claim by RIL. But all came to a naught because of the ‘intervention’ by the aam aadmi government of UPA II. Having dumped the RIL ‘bêite noire’ Jaipal Reddy, the new incumbent Veerappa Moily was only too keen to drop the whole idea of audit, insisting to go by the ‘agreement’ between the Central Govt. & RIL, national interest or no national interest. This is exactly for the same reason that FDI is suspect and hence not welcomed. Do you harken Dr Manmohan Singh, the economist Prime Minister?
Problem with Ram Jethmalani is, his being a lawyer. He sees everything from the legal prism. While his stand about Nitin Gadkari, his party president, cannot be faulted, his observation on Rama, whom, most Hindus look upon as God and Maryada Purushottam, cannot stand the scrutiny. He should at least express regret to those agitated Hindus who are pained by his irresponsible utterance. As a responsible senior lawyer and an M.P., he is duty bound, not to tinker with religious feelings. It was indeed very provocative. There are ‘N’ number of explanations to prove Jethmalani wrong. But see the catholicity of this country. There have been no violent demonstration by any section of Indians, no death threat or even any diktats on Jethmalani not even complaints to the police that he has hurt the sentiments of people. Except one Mandeshwar Swami Shamdas Maharaj of Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, announced an award of Rs: 5 lakhs to anybody who spits on the face of Jethmalani. That, although very uncivil, is certainly a non-violent form of protest like throwing footwear. Of course, hurting the sentiments of Hindus in India or anywhere else is passé. That is how everybody who utters things against Hindus goes unchallenged. That makes some people and groups bold to keep tinkering with the feelings of Hindus. It was Habib Tanvir who had observed that ‘Brahmins are children of prostitutes’, and a periodical from Delhi carried stories suggesting that Rama and Krishna, the Hindu Gods, were gays. Except some public protest nothing happened. That is how this Syed Sarwar Chisti, of Ajmer Sharif Dargah, while addressing a socio-political forum Popular Front of India, in Mangalore used harsh words against some of the Hindu organisations like RSS saying it has to be suppressed and that if Modi becomes Prime Minister all Muslims will become terrorists. This is flagrantly provocative and unreasonable. Has any Hindu taken to street to condemn this, in a country where they constitute 80%? But look at Pakistan. An Islamabad date lined report informed ‘Hindu rights activist in Pakistan shot at”. And she is a lady. Her only crime was, she was fighting for human rights of minorities – both Muslims and non Muslims. Of course it is another matter that hardliners in Pakistan even wanted to kill a 14 year old Muslim girl, Malala Yousafzai, for advocating education for girls. But the tragedy is Muslims in India have not condemned it.
There was this report in a Mumbai based daily ‘Big Fish and their Swiss Chocolates” describing the expose by IAC of some very big names in India Inc., and their money trails. According to Prashant Bhushan and Arvind Kejriwal, a list of some 700 names having some Rs: 6000 crores in Swiss Banks is with the central government. But govt. has failed to make it public for reasons best known to them. IAC alleges that govt. raided only some small fries and didn’t do anything with those big names. Big names are indeed big names – Mukesh & Anil Ambani, and mind you, in all the 40 odd years’ history of RIL no media men dared to expose any of the misdeeds of Ambani family. There have been small mention of big issues often, but like a storm in the tea cup Ambanies have always brushed them aside with nonchalence. It was given, only to the likes of Kejriwal, with that unquestioned integrity to put Ambanies and their ilk in dock.
Of course, as usual all cried hoarse, and denials galore followed. But strangely nobody decided to take any legal recourse for defamation. But why? May be there is more to it than what eyes can see. IAC even dragged the current incumbent in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Kejriwal dared the former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee “On what basis did FM decide who are to be raided and who are not? Why Ambanies were not raided?” Of course, the first citizen of the country may have to find some ways to explain it out, now that the cat is out. It has always been in the air that Pranab Mukherjee is a person who knew too much on too many people for too long a time, but frankly did too little to expose them and hence did too great a disservice to the country than any central minister.
As for Kejriwal, they were only allegations, may be well articulated and may be even very pertinent, but did not have solid evidence to prove his point. But there is absolutely no doubt that he has done what should have been done all along, expose the misdeeds publicly. He even accused the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) of money laundering, a charge Bank has not countered. But only issued a press statement that “it takes compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously”. Reportedly HSBC is preparing to pay $ 1.5 billion in fine, in the United States, for breaking money laundering rules. Besides, in its home country, Britain, it is being seriously investigated for Revenue & Customs violations reportedly against some criminal clients in their off shore branch in Jersey. So surely Kejriwal is not whistling for wind. His questions and accusations are loaded.
WORLD: The visit by former Bangladesh Prime Minister and the current opposition leader, Begum Khalida Zia is a welcome sign in the growing Indo-Bangladesh friendship under the present Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina. Ever since the assassination of Mujibur Rehman, and the rise of Zia-ur-Rehman, there has been a steady rise of Pakistani backed anti-India sentiments and activities by politically supported fundamentalists. There may be some differences between India and Bangladesh in sharing some physical resources like river water, or transit line for India to its north eastern states, so also the huge migrants issue around the border areas of India, the fact remains Bangladesh became a nation from being East Pakistan, was entirely due to Indian help. This fact should never be forgotten. Although this fact should not lead to any exploitation by India against the interest of its smaller neighbour. In fact India should try its best to make life comfortable to Bangladesh as an elder brother in the region. It is true, the MEA at New Delhi lacks imagination in trying to be proactively friendly with all our neighbours, it is also incumbent upon Bangladesh leadership to live up to its obligation to be supportive of India’s concerns, especially the one’s backed by Pakistan’s ISI, on the Bangla soil. Khalida Zia has been the one who lived by these anti-India support base. Her coming to India on her own is a welcome development and should bode well for both countries, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina actively involved in friendly dialogue with India. Yes there are irritants, as normally it can be, but nothing is beyond redemption. The reportedly successful visit of Begum Khalida Zia is a good sign. Long live Indo- Bangla friendship.
Hurricane Sandy came and wrought havoc to the devastation of New York and its neighbourhood, with some 60 dead and US $50 billion lost in destruction. Fortunately for Obama, his party, despite lingering doubts, was not spoiled. He scored an emphatic victory over Mitt Romney, the Republican aspirant to the White House. Did the incumbent president deserve another stay of 4 more years in the White House? Could only be of academic interest, in the aftermath of the Nov. election to the U.S. presidency. It is reported that among some 30 countries that made public its preference, 29 opted for Obama with only Pakistan not preferring him. So Sandy or no Sandy, the goodman has come back to the most powerful global address. Knowing the man, it can safely be said that, what he didn’t do in the first 4 years, unpleasant, but good for the country and for the world, he can be trusted to do it, this time round. Four years may be long in terms of days, - 365x4=1460. But everything needs an incubation period. In the event American-public-coloured, Hispanics and Asians, besides a fair number of whites-said a resounding ‘yes’ to the tall man with a funny name, Barack Hussain Obama. After all U.S.A belonged to all of them not just Anglo Saxons! Two cheers to American citizens for standing by a good man, who deserved to win.
MALALA YOUSAFZAI –
THE UNLIKELY HEROINE
9th Oct. 2012, can go down as the most-memorable date in the history of movements for EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN, the world over, especially those among the Muslim fraternity.
On that fateful day, two gunmen stopped an open-backed van carrying a dozen girls to school in Mingora, the largest town of Swat region in Pakistan. The gunmen asked for Malala by name, ‘Where is Malala? Who is Malala?’But she was the only one who never covered her face unlike the rest of girls in the vehicle, and she said, as if to challenge the gunman, ‘I am Malala’, and the world around, for those school going girls, came crashing down. Gunmen shot Malala twice, at point blank range. It was mayhem. This attack was carried out by TNSM which is an Urdu acronym of Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Sharia (Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi).
Stories of fundamentalism, many time violent, is as old as Pakistan. It has always been there in different forms and in different degree of intolerance. In initial stages of the newly formed Pakistan Islamic Republic, it was the minorities who were targeted to keep these fundamentalists busy from other mischiefs. Over the years Non-Muslim minorities became less and less, largely because, of forced conversion including forced marriage of girls from minority communities, to Muslim men. According to available statistics, minorities who were about 30% just after 1947 is around 1% in 2012. These fundamentalists were even making these minority men and women, more often Christians, as targets of blasphemy, in trying to get even with West. Most of these Pakistani fundamentalists, are of Sunny denomination. After getting even with non Muslim minorities, they turned their ire on Shias and other Muslim minorities including Ahmediyas. Ahmediyas in Pakistan are living a vulnerable life, since, court in Pakistan has declared them as non-Muslims. There are smaller Muslim minority groups, who have been trying to cross over to India in apprehension of these Sunny fundamentalist turned militant groups. Bloodshed between Sunny-Shia intransigence is well known. Despite all these openly happening on a continuous scale, Pakistani civil society or the government has not been successful in reigning them as better humans.
Former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton administration, Madeleine Albright, was spot on, when she called Pakistan, an ‘international migraine’. Because of the failure of civil society and successive governments in Pakistan these fundamentalist groups, disruptive and armed, have been spreading mayhem, all around. While Pakistan probably suffers to a larger extent, the tentacles of these militant terror groups have spread all over the sub-continent, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, North West China. Operations of these groups increased many folds against India after Zia-ul-Haq became the President of Pakistan, who not only killed Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, a former Pakistani President, but also vowed to wage war on India with ‘thousand cuts’. This was primarily an invite to militant terror group of Pakistan to attack India in small doses in different parts of the country. These militant groups, turned terrorists, did exactly that.
But unfortunately for Pakistan, the policy of encouraging terrorism against India–slowly became a Frankenstein Monster. It was a case of chicken coming home to roost. These groups, from being funded by the state, became self supporting by extortion and other intimidatory activities and slowly wriggled out of any government controls. While civil society in Pakistan was yearning for democratic reforms of the country’s socio/political life, it was these militant outfits who were truly enjoying the freedom.
Thus fundamentalists, who made a common cause with militants, started dictating the civil society, about the do’s and don’ts. Burqua was one of their first items of enforcement. While it may be true that Pakistan has far less people from civil society wearing a burqua or hijab, than their counterparts in India, these militant outfits targeted women, where civil society was not strong. Thus they started with boycotting and forcing banning of Indian Hindi films being shown in Pakistan. Cricketing world has not forgotten how Sri Lankan cricket team just got saved in time, when they were attacked by some terrorist groups.
Pakistan, ever since its birth, was an US ally in the war against USSR. They remained pliant for all the demands of US under all administrations, of both Republicans and Democrats. Huge funding was the necessary corollary of such a working arrangement. However, ever since USA realised that Pakistan is indeed a terror hub with tentacles spread far and wide, and especially after 9/11, it tightened the screw around Pakistani government and forced them to play the ball as per U.S design. To fight terror, U.S. government pumped billion of $ into Pakistan economy. Over the years, U.S learnt of the double game Pakistan was playing while using some money as U.S wanted, rest went elsewhere. However the crackdown by the Pak Army on these militant terror outfits did see its backlash. It slowly became a kind of internal war between Pakistan military and different terror groups. Now it was, as if, the chicken came home to roost, after all. The monster it created started getting back to it.
Harold Gould, a visiting scholar at the Centre for South Asian Studies of University of Virginia is credited to have written, commenting on U.S. Afghan Policy. “Over the years Pakistani public allowed itself to be hijacked by Islamic fundamentalists as a buffer to “Hindu India” phobia. According to him “Islamic fanaticism, conjoined with military authoritarianism has ripped Pakistan to shreds and will provoke its eventual political disintegration”. Harold Gould is an American writing from his perspective. How Pakistanis themselves look at the problems facing their nation state?
Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Professor of Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, is one of the bolder breed of liberal Pakistani thinkers, who has the gumption to take-on the extremists in Pakistan. Appearing in T.V., after the assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Prof Hoodbhoy called Mullahs as the self-appointed ‘thekaydars’ (contractors) of Islam.
As the sub-continent is privy to the knowledge, that Governor Taseer, who demanded change in the ‘Blasphemy Laws’ of Pakistan, was gunned down by his own body guard. Reportedly he pumped 22 bullets into the man whom he was deputed to protect, and became a bit of a hero to a large section of Pakistanis, including college students. This is a very serious development in the evolution of Pakistan. It is obvious civil society represented by the likes of Prof Hoodbhoy and deceased Governor Taseer is slowly losing out to extremists in Pakistan. This is a matter of deep concern.
In the growing cacophony of radicals and clerics, usurping the reins of power by radicals, is the reality of emerging Pakistan. It is in this context that militant groups decided to hit the vulnerable section of the society. Girl students are the easiest to hit.
However, in the context of hit and run case involving Malala Yousafzai, it is very important to recollect her evolution as an activist. Malala came into public attention, reportedly in 2009, when she wrote for the first time to the BBC Urdu service her collection of notings about life under Taliban. She was only 11 years old. Her father is the one who started a primary school in Mingora. He is an education activist. He along with his daughter were campaigning for girls’ right to education, which Taliban had opposed. For the record, Taliban militants had destroyed over 150 schools in 2008 alone.
According to UK’s Daily Telegraph correspondent in Pakistan “Malala Yousafzai was one of the few brave voices who spoke out”. She received support and encouragement from her parents, while recognising the risk involved in challenging Taliban dictats. Ziauddin, father of Malala, had received death threats from Taliban for his girls’ education activism.
Despite fear of Talibani reprisal, Malala started to appear on T.V. to publicly advocate female education. Pakistani government did a commendable job in publicly recognising her and awarded her with the National Peace Award in 2011, as soon as she was nominated by the Kids Rights Foundation for its International Peace Prize. Malala had indeed become a symbol of resistance to Taliban. For a 13 year old girl it was indeed incredible and highly inspiring. “Malala was the lone voice in that wilderness” wrote the local Express Tribune, commenting on Malala speaking live to BBC in Nov.2011.
Her shooting on that fateful day in October 2012 understandably shocked the entire nation of Pakistan. Writes New Statesman, “Her shooting has shocked the unshockable Pakistan”. “Malala rose to heights, few of us can aspire to” wrote Express Tribune. “Hers was the voice which made us consider that indeed, there can be alternative, and there can be resistance to all forms of tyranny” it continued.
Thus, the blood letting of Malala, her supreme sacrifice, of almost dying after being shot in the head, has given a credible life line for the surging hope, that Malala is being heard. Yes truly speaking, her valiant fight and fight back from her hospital bed in England is inspiring not just for Pakistani girls but the entire world for its sheer audacity in the face of extreme madness of Taliban.
The good news is, Malala is recovering. There has been a surge of enthusiasm among all average Pakistanis. They do hope that she can become the beacon of hope for girl’s education. There has been even talk of nominating Malala for Nobel Peace Prize.
But what is important is, the life of average girl in Pakistan’s interiors should change for better. Post Malala episode, can it happen? is the question that cannot be entirely answered. While it is true that efforts are afoot to ensure that this bloodletting by this young girl counts for something, whether it is Hollywood’s Angelina Jolie, or former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who suggested that 9th Oct. be declared “Education for Girls Day”, or even Madonna dedicating a song etc. But these are from western countries and unfortunately these responses are being taken in Pakistan negatively, to portray Malala as ‘Western Agent’, and is giving ‘Pak a bad name’. That, if true, is indeed very tragic. Hope the sacrifice of Malala is not wasted, but kept alive in the Pak media by the Pakistani civil society for the larger good of Pakistani women at least. “One girl stood upto the Taliban. Will the rest of the Pakistan join her?” asked Krista Mahr from Islamabad. This is a good question. And Pakistan must attempt to answer it with courage and conviction.
OBAMA’S RE-ELECTION &
LESSONS FOR INDIA
So, whatever the poll pundits have been saying, Barack Hussain Obama has made it to the White House for the 2nd and the final time. It was indeed a bit of dream run for the beleaguered first non-white Chief Executive Officer of the world’s most powerful country. The narrow margin predicted all along turned turtle by giving Obama a margin of 130 votes more than Romney’s, at 336 as against 203. Yes, despite all the negatives, Americans have voted for continuity. They gave Obama one more chance. And come to think of it, he is only the 2nd Democrat to have made it for the 2nd time to the White House since World War II. And all have tried to help him make it, American people, American media besides global opinion makers. He made it despite unemployment, price rise and recession being the serious problems of the country. Of course his opponent Mitt Romney tried his best to upstage Obama, by blaming him for all the economic ills of U.S.A. It is true Obama did not have answers to all questions. He could only partially address some of the problems. It is also true he did not perform well during his first 4 years, not because he is incompetent, may be because he inherited these problems. But sincerity, integrity and honesty are the qualities American’s value in public life. Obama is sincere, honest with impeccable integrity. That saw the day thru' for Obama.
So for four more years, ups and down of electoral politics, popularity charts, or writing balance sheet of the government in power, shall be consigned to the cold room, as far as Barack Obama is concerned. Of course next time round, past three years, there will be a talk about the next man getting elected by the parties and it will go on and on, in its relentless time bound cycle.
Coming to Indian elections, unlike U.S. presidency where ‘Two terms’ is the limit. In India, it is infinity. Putting limit to elected office is a very healthy practice. A practice Indians would never agree, despite knowing it fully that continuity of one person indefinitely has always eroded the fairness in the whole exercise.
A sitting Karnataka MLA sharing a platform with an activist, boasted of his 5 victories already completed and was contesting for the 6th time. The activist questioned the MLA, ‘what about those who toiled day in & day out to ensure your victory? When shall they get their turn to stand for election?’ was his articulated question. The question was very relevant. If our developments, both political and economic, do not make available, opportunity of growth and advancement, then there is something seriously wrong with it. Of course it is another matter that the MLA, in question above, felt very very angry. His dark face had turned red. He was deeply upset, as his applecart suddenly faced challenge from unexpected quarters.
This change of restricting every person to an-X-number of opportunities to contest should be nationally debated in the media and in legislative houses-both state and federal-for the fair play to be the norm, as it is in U.S. and some other equitable societies.
Around 2005, two representatives of a very prominent newspaper walked into my office and asked “Sir you must read our daily” I said “I stopped reading it, since you are very subjective.” “No-No things have changed at the helm, we are better now” was the ready reply of twosome. To take my argument further I said “this government at the center is only an year old, the last government worked for 5 years. Every govt. does some good and in some they fail to bring positive result. No govt can be accused of complete failure or negative. You didn’t write anything positive about the NDA, which lost power” “We hate BJP” was the quick riposte of one of the guys. I had to remind him of my statement that 'your paper is subjective', which he himself emphatically proved by stating “We hate BJP”. No media member, either print or electronic should have any bias in reporting the truth. Bias in judgement is bad, and media, prima facie loses its relevance. Of course two gentlemen left my office having failed to convince me to buy their paper.
Now in India this ambivalent or partisan stand is the fact of life, something, in U.S. it may not be found. Because media’s treatment of issues is fair, the fight in the hustings was so much closely fought, yet the electorates gave another chance to Obama. This shows, the innate goodness and honesty of the candidate, became a rallying point for Americans to give him continuity, thus another chance. Coming to Indian result of 2004, when NDA was given thumbs down, it was definitely felt that they should have been given another chance for the positive work they did. They were there only for one full term, and to say that they have done nothing good, except put all blame ostensibly for Gujarat violence, was an unfair judgement. One of the best projects of free India has been the Golden Quadrilateral Road Connectivity. This was a project deserved to have been taken up in 1950s & 1960s, when Congress was in power for all 45 years or so. Added to that are 10 more years that it got in 2004 & 2009. All have acknowledged the multiplier effect of this mega project which truly opened up the country as never before and affected most Indians all across the country. There have been other positives as well, but also there were negatives, including the Gujarat violence. And most media gave NDA thumbs down even before the election of 2004.
However one more chance in 2004 to this NDA govt. of full 5 years could have been the better barometer of performance, which our electorate, influenced by different quarters did not give. But Americans being certainly more educated and fair did give Obama another chance, despite his colourless performance, for his innate goodness and the hope that he ignites.
Another game changer is the unaccounted black money that, in India, is allowed to play its pre-eminent role in election spending, unlike U.S. elections, where all contributions are open and accounted for. So, greater is your money power, black or blacker, better the chances of winning in India.
Then there are religious diktats by Temples, Churches and Masjids in India, who appeal to voters to vote according to the agenda of vested interest, which is not the case with the United States. People who voted for Obama were not just his black compatriots, but also Indians of all religions, not just Christians, since Obama is a Christian or even Muslim, since he is born half Muslim to a Muslim father, but all Indians cutting across the religious divide besides other Asians. And of course Hispanics and even Anglo Saxon Whites. His being a Christian, was never an issue in getting so emphatically elected with over 62% seats. This shows the innate maturity of American’s in voting for a person of integrity and value rather than his irrelevant baggage of the past.
Look at the way Obama spoke at his victory rally. Mark his words. Quote “I just spoke with Gov. Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign. We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight. In the week ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Gov. Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward”.
This is what a leader is expected to say, when it comes to his opponents. What do we witness in India! Running down the opponent in a wholesale fashion! Our leaders even condemn them while on a foreign soil. Aren’t we privy to such utterance by a Prime Minister against opposition and its leaders! This is out and out negative politics. The bonhomie which American politics offers is a lesson in co-operative co-existence, which India seriously lack. This is an important lesson for India. Our leaders need to update their learning in the larger national interest to improve the working relationship across the political spectrum.
This is not an attempt at surmonising. There will always be guys who will brush aside all these remarks with a ‘as if we do not know it?' syndrome. Hope all concerned take this in appropriate spirit for the national goal of Sarvodaya of Mahatma Gandhi or the Sarve Janaa Sukhino Bhavantu of our scripture, rather than the 'Greatest Good of Greatest Number' of John Ruskin, certainly not the 'greatest good of smallest number' as is the norm in India of contemporary times.
GANG LEADER FOR A DAY
The Stay-Together Gang
The breakdown of the gang affected Ms. Bailey as well. When the gang didn’t make money, Ms. Bailey didn’t make much money either. And with demolition so near, she needed all the money she could get to help the tenants she wanted to help. She paid for day care so single mothers could go look for new apartments. She hired a car service to take tenants on their housing searches. She helped others settle their outstanding electricity bills so they’d be able to get service once they entered the private market.
But as the money ran out, some tenants began to turn on her. Even though the CHA was supposed to provide relocation services, it was Ms. Bailey who had stepped into the breach, for a fee, and so she was the one who now caught the blame. She was widely accused of pocketing the gang’s money instead of using it for the tenants.
I had never seen Ms. Bailey cry until the moment she told me about these accusations. “I have lived here for almost my whole life, Sudhir,” she said mournfully.
We were sitting in her office on a hot spring day. The old bustle was long gone. It used to be that we couldn’t sit and talk for ten minutes before Ms. Bailey was interrupted by a needy tenant, now we had the room to ourselves for well over an hour.
“You’ve been told before that you work too closely with the gangs,” I said. “Why does it bother you now?”
“Out there they don’t have anybody,” she said. “Out there they think they can make it on their own, but…” She tried and tried but she wasn’t able to finish her sentence.
I wanted to say something worthwhile but couldn’t think of anything. “They’ll be okay,” I sputtered. “Hell, they lived through the projects.”
“But you see, Sudhir, I know that and you know that, but they sometimes forget. It’s like I told you many times: What scares you ain’t what scares them. When they go to a new store or they have to stand at a bus stop in a place they never been to before, that’s what scares them. I wanted to help them feel okay. And just when they need me, I can’t be there for them.”
“You can still do things – “I started to say. But I stopped. The pain on her face was evident, and nothing I could say would console her. I just sat quietly with her until we’d finished our coffee.
I saw Ms. Bailey a few more times, but she was never again the same. For health reasons she moved into her nephew’s home in the middle of West Englewood, a poor black community about two miles from the projects. I visited her there. She had several ailments, she told me, but it was hard to sort out one from the other. “I stopped going to the doctor’s,” she said. “One more test, one more drug, one more thing I got to pay for. And for what? To live here?”
She waved her hands out at the miles and miles of poor tracts surrounding her nephew’s house, tracts that held far too few of the people from her old high-rise home, the people who’d once given her life meaning.
Winter in Chicago comes fast, and it comes hard. The cold delivers a wallop, making you shudder longer than you’d expect. The first blasts of chilling wind off the lake feel like an enemy.
It was a late Sunday morning in November 1998, and I was waiting outside J.T.’s building one last time. About a half dozen Robert Taylor buildings had already been torn down, and his was due for demolition within a year. Nearby business had started to close, too. The whole place was starting to feel like a ghost town. I had changed as well. Gone were the tie-dyed shirts and the ponytail, replaced by the kind of clothes befitting an edgy young Ivy League professor. And also a leather briefcase.
I leaned against my car, stamping my feet to keep warm while waiting for J.T. I was just about to get back into the car and turn on the heater when I saw his Malibu charge down Federal Street.
J.T. had called the night before to request a meeting. In his characteristically ambiguous way, he wouldn’t divulge any details. But he sounded excited. He did tell me the federal indictments were probably over and that he wouldn’t be arrested. I wanted to know how and why he had escaped arrest, but I didn’t have the guts to ask. He’d always been secretive about his contacts in law enforcement. He also asked a few questions about what kind of research I’d be doing in New York. I mentioned some possible ideas, but they were vague at best.
We greeted each other with a handshake and a smile. I told him he looked like he’d put on a little weight. He agreed; between his work and the needs of his growing children, he said, there wasn’t as much time to exercise. He pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to me. There were several names and phone numbers printed in J.T.’s scratchy handwriting. Among the names was that of Curtis, the gang leader in Newark we’d talked about before.
“You should call these people,” J.T. said. “I told Curtis that you wanted to see how things worked out there. He’ll take care of you. But Billy Jo, that’s the one who really knows what’s happening in New York. Here, give him this.”
J.T. had often talked about his friends who ran drug-dealing operations in New York. But what with the federal indictments, the demolitions of Robert Taylor, and my own career moves, I had pretty much forgotten about them. Also, given how things had turned out with me and J.T. – it was pretty obvious by now that I wasn’t going to write his biography-I was surprised that he’d go out of his way to put me in touch with his contacts back east.
He took out another sheet of paper, tightly folded over in fours, the creases a bit worn, as if he’d been carrying it in his pocket for a while. His hands were so cold that they shook as he unfolded it. He gave the paper to me and blew on his hands to warm them up.“Go ahead, nigger, read it,” he said. “Hurry up, it’s cold!”
I began to read. It was addressed to Billy Jo: Billy, Sudhir is coming out your way. Take care of the nigger…..My eyes scanned down and caught a phrase in the middle of the page: He’s with me.
I could feel myself breaking into a wide smile. J.T. reached into his car and pulled out two beers.
“I’m not sure I’m ready for another big research project just yet,” I said.
“Oh, yeah?” he said, handing me one of the beers. “What else are you going to do? You can’t fix nothing, you never worked a day in your life. The only thing you know how to do is hang out with niggers like us.”
I nearly choked on my beer when he summarized my capacities so succinctly – and, for the most part, accurately. J.T. leaned back on the car, looking up at the high-rises in front of us. “You think niggers will survive out there?” he asked. “You think they’ll be all right when they leave here?” “Not sure. Probably, I mean, everything changes. You just have to be ready, I guess.”
“You hungry?” he asked.
“Let’s go down to Seventy-ninth. There’s a new soul-food place.”
“Sounds good,” I said, chugging the beer quickly. “Why don’t you drive?”
“Oh, yeah,” he said, jumping into the car, “and I got one for you! What would you do if you were me? I got this new bunch of guys that think they know everything…” He began telling me about his latest management dilemma with a gang he was running in Roseland, a neighborhood where a lot of the Robert Taylor families were relocating. As he spoke, I became lost in his voice. His steady and assured monologue comforted me; for a few moments anyway, I could feel as though little had changed, even though everything had. He turned on some rap music, opened up another beer, and kept on talking. The car screeched out of the parking lot, J.T. waved to a few women pushing strollers in the cold, and we sped down Federal Street.
Within a few years, J.T. grew tired of running a gang. He managed his cousin’s dry-cleaning business, and he started up a barbershop, which failed. He had put away enough savings, in property and cash, to supplement his lower income. Once in a while, he did consulting work for Black Kings higher-ups who tried to review their citywide hold on the drug economy. But this effort never came to fruition, and with the crack market severely depleted, Chicago’s gangland remains fragmented, with some neighborhoods having little if any gang activity. I still see J.T. now and then when I’m in Chicago. Although we’ve never discussed it explicitly, I don’t sense that he begrudges my success as an academic, nor does he seem bitter about his own life. “Man, as long as I’m not behind bars and breathing,” he told me, “everyday is a good day.” It would be hard to call us friends. And I sometimes wonder if we ever were.
But he was obviously a huge part of my life. For all the ways in which I had become a rogue sociologist, breaking conventions and flouting the rules, perhaps the most unconventional thing I ever did was embrace the idea that I could learn so much, absorb so many lessons, and gain so many experiences at the side of a man who so far removed from my academic world. I can still hear J.T.’s voice when I’m on the streets far away from Chicago, somewhere in the unruly Paris suburbs or the ghettos of New York, hanging around and listening to people’s stories.
Prof. B. M. Hegde,
“When I see some of the people who are glorified in magazines these days - who are so thin it's bordering on sickness - I just feel exhausted.”
And, sells very well. Every hour in the US the TV adverts for drugs runs around 80 drugs! Many of them who see these do discuss the drug with their doctors as most drugs are advertised as if they are tailor made for you hypochondriasis. Nearly half of all those that see their doctors get to take the drug, some for the rest of their lives. Sickness sales are the highest in the world today from the commercial point of view. The Pharmaceutical companies laugh all their way to their banks!
What is the result? Every symptom, however trivial it might be, gets blown out of proportion. Many of life’s normal physiological processes like menarche, menopause, pregnancy, child birth, sexuality, sorrow, old age maladies and death have all become medicalised today, thanks to the bogey of long life, and at times, immortality that these advertisements propagate. Today anyone who has enough money and/or insurance does not die in dignity. S/he has to, per force; pass through a hospital intensive care unit en route to heaven! Do not get alarmed if I told you that 90% of the hospital profits in the USA come from keeping dying patients in the ICU for the last ten days of their journey through this world! The relatives are told that they have done their best. Relatives are happy that they do not have any guilt feeling of not looking after their near and dear ones.
The screening industry is the richest of them all. The catchment area for the screening industry is the whole population of this world. They have sold the wrong idea that getting screened is the best way to remain healthy. I am told that the Govt. of India has even given income tax rebate for screening insurance. I am sure there is some screening gate (scam) waiting to be unearthed. One has only to read the educative article on the screening Industry by the former celebrated editor of British Medical Journal, Richard Smith, to remain here in good health as long as one is destined to be here. While one is healthy (health is enthusiasm to work and enthusiasm to be compassionate) one should NEVER go for screening.
Do not go to the hospital or doctor to get health? Do not go to the police to get honour. Do not approach the court for getting justice. You will be in for a shock and some trouble. But when you are not well, when you have lost your honour and when injustice is done to you, you have no choice but to go to them. Similarly going for screening when one is healthy could be very, very dangerous. The reason is not far to seek. Medicine is not a hard science. It is a statistical science where averages are equated with normality. We have no definition of NORMAL in medical science. When average is normal where false positives and false negatives are 50%. Now imagine your position when you go for a heart check-up. You will certainly end up on the angiogram table if not on the bypass table!
What is the fall out of all these cacophony? Medical establishment today has become the leading cause of death in the west, especially in the USA followed by cancer and heart attack in that order. Inside the medical establishment adverse drug reactions (ADR) take the cake with 400,000 deaths a year, which keeps mounting by the day as more and more drug advertisements are allowed directly on the popular TVs. Hospital infections come next due to super bugs in the vicinity. Medical errors, over investigations and over interventions are to follow.
We need fresh thinking in this area with a new science of man of non-linearity and CHAOS. That will end the menace of the present screening industry. Let us call that new integrated system as Post Modern Medicine.
“Three-quarters of the sicknesses of intelligent people come from their intelligence. They need at least a doctor who can understand this sickness”
A hospital where doctors have TB
Mumbai : This year’s civic health budget is Rs 2,345 crores but resident medical officers live in such squalor in Sion Hospital that 11 of them have contracted tuberculosis.
Confirming this, dean Dr Suleman Merchant said, “Funds have not been sanctioned to house the resident medical officers (RMOs) properly.’’
Two of the RMOs, the backbone of civic hospitals, tested positive for multi drug resistant TB, which is lethal. RMOs, however, claim that this could just be the tip of the iceberg as several of them are hesitant to admit that they have contacted this airborne disease because of social stigma.
Health activist Ravi Duggal said this was the result of the BMC’s apathy towards the health sector. “With the middle class opting for private hospitals and the unions of doctors and nurses growing weaker, there is no one to raise concerns about the deteriorating state of public hospitals,’’ he said.
In the old RMO quarters of the hospital, four to five doctors live in a 10’x 10’ room meant for two. There is not enough sunlight in the rooms even at 2 p.m.
Dr Nilkanth Awad, head of pulmonary medicine department in Sion hospital, said overcrowded and unhygienic conditions coupled with long working hours, stress, poor ventilation and irregular eating habits, makes one susceptible to TB, especially since they are exposed to TB patients in the hospital.
RMOs at Sion hospital have been living in such pathetic conditions for three years despite several protests. “Every other month we are given false assurances by the hospital that we will be given better accommodation but the 38 rooms in the new Out Patient Department building are still lying vacant,” said a member of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, requesting anonymity. They are scared of being victimised by the system.
The new OPD building was constructed on the premises of Sion hospital in 2010 but it has not been made operational because BMC has some issue with the contractor.
Resident doctors said they were promised extra rooms in a Vikhroli school building but even this has not materialised because funds were not sanctioned.
Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar, who is in charge of health, dodged the TB issue and said, “We are in the process of providing the top two floors of the new OPD building to resident doctors at the earliest. Along with that, the funds will be sanctioned for the Vikhroli building as well.”
Consumer forum refuses to recall its order against BMC
Mumbai: Rejecting the BMC appeal for recall of the order imposing cost on it, the State Consumer Forum has ruled that the state or district forums are not mandated to recall the order passed by it. Only the National Consumer Forum is empowered to recall the passed order.
The ruling was related to the case in which the State Consumer Forum had imposed a cost of Rs 5,000 on the BMC and directed it to pay the amount to the original complainant Sakharam Ghaste. The BMC did not comply with the order and instead filed an application with the forum for its recall. While dealing with the matter, the state forum said, “Power of recall is not vested with the District Consumer Forum or the State Consumer Commission; it is vested only with the National Commission as per Section 22 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Moreover, there is a judgement of the Supreme Court delivered in the case of Rajeev Hitendra Pathak & Ors v/s Achyut Kashinath Karekar, wherein the apex court had clearly held that the district forum and the state commission have no power of review or to set aside the ex-parte order.”
“In view of the order passed on 27/09/2012, this appeal does not survive for consideration since we passed the order that if cost is not paid within one week, the appeal shall stand automatically dismissed without reference to this bench”.
Army Hospital & rats in attendance
New Delhi : The feet of a paralysed Special Forces officer was bitten by rats in the Base Hospital here after which the Army has ordered an inquiry into the incident to fix responsibility.
The young Lieutenant belonging to an elite Para (Special Forces) battalion of the force was admitted here in the Army Base Hospital after he was injured in a counter-terrorist operation in Jammu and Kashmir.
The incident came to light when the hospital authorities found the paralysed legs of the officer bleeding due to rat bites, Army sources said. An inquiry has been ordered into the incident and strict action would be taken against whosoever is found to be responsible for the incident, they said.
The sources said the bite wounds of the officers have been dressed and all possible attention is being paid towards his health condition. Army Base Hospital is a referral centre for several trauma-related cases of the Services personnel.
A detailed report is being sought from the Base Hospital also and strict instructions have been given to maintain hygienic conditions there.
Bonded labour & states' insensitivity
New Delhi: Regardless of the complexion of all state governments, they had drawn together Rs 4.94 crore from the Centre to conduct survey of bonded labourers but not a single state has accomplished the task.
This fact has emerged from the Supreme Court’s judgment that directed all the states and Union territories to conduct a survey on bonded labour and take steps to rehabilitate them.
While disposing of a PIL filed by the PUCL in 1985 seeking directions for rehabilitation of bonded labourers and action against those who keep impoverished poor people in hostage, a bench of Justices KS Radhakrishan and Dipak Misra said all the states should submit their bi-annual reports to the NHRC.
The Centre filed an affidavit in 2011 stating that the ministry of labour and employment provided Rs 494 lakh as assistance for conducting surveys to various states between 2001 and 2010. However, in a majority of the states, no surveys have been conducted after 2002-2003. It was stated that only a handful of states have conducted surveys in subsequent years.
ED attaches assets worth Rs 20 cr in Citibank case
New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate has issued orders attaching assets worth about Rs 20 crore in connection with its money laundering probe in the Citibank Gurgaon fraud scam.
The attachment orders, freezing two bank accounts of relatives of main accused in the case Shivraj Puri and two properties of two other of his associates, had been issued by the agency recently, sources privy to the development said.
Several depositors and high-networth individuals (HNIs) were duped in the Rs 460.91-crore alleged fraud engineered by Puri– a Global Wealth Manager of the bank and was working at its Gurgaon branch.
The ED attachment order ensures that the accused are not able to use or derive any benefit out of these properties as they are termed as “proceeds of crime”.
The accused can challenge the order at the Adjudicating Authority of the anti-money laundering law based in the national capital.
The ED had registered a Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) offence in this case last year.
The Haryana police had earlier this year filed a charge sheet against the fraud accused and capital market regulator SEBI too probed the matter as the fraud money was invested in the stock market.
As per a SEBI report, Puri had allegedly taken an exposure of Rs 1.13 lakh crore in the equity market using Rs. 236 crore of 51 high networth individuals and corporates and lost everything following decline in stock markets.
The government had earlier said the fraud in the Gurgaon branch of the bank had been going on since September 2009 but major transactions only took place between May 2010 and November 2010.
Russian vessel carrying 700 tonnes of gold ore missing
Moscow: A Russian cargo vessel, the Amurskaya, went missing in the Sea of Okhotsk with 700 metric tonnes of gold ore, the Far Eastern transportation supervising department said in a statement.
“The bulk freighter was en route from the port Kiran to the port of Okhotsk with a cargo of gold ore weighing 700 tonnes. There supposedly was a crew of nine people,” the statement said.
The number of people on board of the missing vessel differs according to various sources as earlier media reports said there were 11 crew members, while the emergencies ministry puts the number at eight.
An emergency beacon sent a call of distress at 8.15 a.m. near the Shantar islands in the southwestern portion of the Sea of Okhotsk. The tanker Novik, which arrived at the scene of the beacon’s distress call, did not discover the vessel.
The Novik, accompanied by an amphibious Beriev Be-200 aircraft, continued the search operation, which is complicated by stormy weather conditions.
3-year course for rural ‘doctors’
New Delhi : A pledge by the government more than two years ago to produce rural “doctors” with a shorter course is finally taking shape. The Medical Council of India (MCI) has just approved a syllabus for a proposed three-year course to create rural health workers who can deliver emergency and out-patient care for simple complaints.
The ball is now in the court of the health ministry to take other key steps needed to roll out the course primarily intended for rural students who have passed Class XII.
The course will include basic elements of anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, pharmacology, but only at a simplistic level, so that the health workers are able to provide emergency care to patients and refer them to doctors if required.
They are expected to be trained to assess fever, bandage wounds, control bleeding, splint simple fractures and provide first-aid to patients with convulsions. They could also supervise care recommended by doctors in primary health centres or district hospitals.
The course will be offered by universities in association with district hospitals.
Many formalities are, however, to be completed before the course becomes a reality. These involve identifying the district hospitals with a minimum number of beds and patient load, developing appropriate teaching materials (textbooks), and selecting the faculty.
The health ministry had accepted the proposal for the course from a medical task force more than two years ago amid continued shortages of doctors in rural areas as high as 76 per cent.
The proposal was put into cold storage because of strong objections by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), but it was only after a reprimand by the Delhi High Court last month that the MCI drafted the syllabus.
The IMA had opposed the proposal, saying it will produce “half-baked” health care providers who will not be adequately trained to practice medicine.
“There will be no competition with doctors,” said Vinod Paul, head of paediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who was on a panel of doctors that prepared the syllabus.
He said the government is looking at health sub-centres where there are no doctors at all today.
India has about 1,46,000 sub-centres, each catering to a cluster of five to 10 villages. People in such villages typically have to travel up to 30km to seek doctors’ advice.
The existing health workers, such as midwife-nurses in sub-centres, can also upgrade themselves through this course.
That will help health care reach faster in areas with no doctors at all, say public health lobbyists.
The course will provide a relief to the villagers throughout the country sparring them the long travels in search of doctors.
Fukushima radiation in fish '100 times' above norm
Tokyo: Radiation levels in fish caught near Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant are 100 times above normal, local media report.
Japan's Environment Ministry carried out the tests over June-July this year, in the river Niida to the north of the Fukushima power plant, and also in the village of Iitate. The results showed that fish caught in waters in these areas contained levels of radioactive cesium 100 times above the government-set "safe" limits.
The levels found ranged from 4,400 Becquerels per kilogram to 11,400 Bequerels per kilogram , against the maximum "safe" level of 100 Bequerels per kilogram.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster was the worst in 25 years, since the Chernobyl accident in the USSR. It came after North East Japan was hit by a powerful earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011
Hold back RIL investment plan for KG-D6: CAG
Mumbai : The CAG has asked Oil Ministry not to approve any of Reliance Industries’ investment plans for the flagging KG-D6 gas field unless the company gives it unfettered access to audit its spendings. In a strongly worded letter, Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) referred to media reports about the ministry giving nod to RIL’s annual capex for KG-D6 that have been pending for past three years, to advise the ministry not to approve any investment except those of ‘emergent nature’.“It is well within the knowledge of the Ministry that any increase in capital expenditure is likely to have significant adverse impact on government’s financial interests,” CAG wrote to Oil Secretary on November 9.
Sources, however, said contrary to reports, the ministry is yet to sign on resolutions approving capital expenditure on the KG-D6 block for 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal pending resolution of CAG audit of spending on the block.
The development comes a day after the ministry’s technical wing, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH), approved the drilling of the development well of RIL at the KGD-6 oil and gas blocks off Andhra Pradesh.
Presidential concern over arrest of Muslims in terror cases
New Delhi : President Pranab Mukherjee assured a CPI(M) delegation to order appropriate action on the innocent Muslim youths being allegedly falsely implicated and arrested in the terror cases.
The assurance came in response to the delegation led by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, urging him to direct the government to stop victimisation of innocent Muslims in the name of probing the cases of terrorism.
Karat said Dr Mukherjee also agreed to the need to have a policy to compensate and rehabilitate victims of the fabricated charges and promised to speak to the concerned departments and state governments in this regard.
A memorandum submitted by the delegation demanded repeal of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, conclusion of trial in terror cases in one year, compensation and rehabilitation for the innocent persons implicated in such cases and penal action against the police officers in case of fabrication of evidence.
Karat pointed out that the CPI(M)’s fears expressed over the draconian provisions in the Act at the time of its passage by Parliament have come true with the bitter experience of how the innocent waste their youth behind the bars as terrorists. “We specially drew the President’s attention towards the deliberate targeting of the Muslim youths in the terror-related offences,” he said.
Terming fabrication of cases as dark spot on the secular democracy of the country, he said the arrest of innocent people results in the actual culprits going scot-free. The delegation also included some persons acquitted of the terror-related charges after languishing in jail for years like Delhi’s Mohammad Aaamir and Srinagar’s Maqbool Shah remaining in jail for 14 years each and Kanpur’s Syed Wasif Haider for eight years.
Five die over a goat
Islamabad - Five people, including four members of a family, were gunned down in a feud over a stolen goat in Pakistan's northwest, police said.
The exchange of firing took place between two groups in Dogdara area, reported Online news agency.
Members of Sherbaz group proceeded to Haya Gul Gujar's residence to inquire into the theft of their goat. But they were fired upon following which a shootout took place. During the firing, Gujar and three members of his family were killed on the spot while Badar Munir from Sherbaz group was shot dead.
Two people, Umar Muhammad and Jumma, have been arrested.
No more ‘mother’ and ‘father' in France
London: France is set to ban the words 'mother' and 'father' from all official documents under its controversial plans to legalize gay marriage.
The move, that has outraged certain sections, means only the word 'parents' would be used in identical marriage ceremonies for all heterosexual and same-sex couples.
The draft law states that "marriage is a union of two people, of different or the same gender", the 'Daily Mail' reported.
All references, according to the draft, to 'mothers and fathers' in the civil code - which enshrines French law - will be swapped for simply 'parents'.
The law would also give equal adoption rights to homosexual and heterosexual couples.
“Who is to say that a heterosexual couple will bring a child up better than a homosexual couple, that they will guarantee the best conditions for the child’s development?” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told France’s Catholic newspaper La Croix.
Two pilots fell asleep during flights they operated
London: Two pilots working for an airline in the United Kingdom (UK) were found to have fallen asleep while operating a flight mid-air.
Both men were alone in the cockpit when their co-pilots left the flight deck, the Civil Aviation Authority revealed.
The authorities refused to name the airlines, claiming it would breach confidentiality. But the British Airlines Pilots Association say the problem is common.
It revealed that 43 per cent of members polled admitted sleeping in the cockpit.
In one of the incidents uncovered after a Freedom of Information request, the captain had left the cockpit to use the toilet but had to use a code to get back in the cockpit because he found the pilot "slumped over the controls", The Sun reported.
Another pilot also found himself unable to get back in the cockpit and used the entry code. His first officer had to be shaken awake.
A third pilot also fell asleep, while his plane was on the ground.
German pen pal’s postcard reaches destination 49 yrs later
London : A postcard by a German pen pal to her friend in the UK was finally delivered almost half a century after it was first posted! Jason and Anna Crabtree were astonished when the letter – originally sent from Germany – fell on their doorstep in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The postcard was sent from Bad Godesberg near Bonn and was posted on March 13, 1963, the Daily Mail reported. Now, the couple have tracked down the rightful recipient, Derek Lewis, 71, a retired grandfather who used to live in their house. “We were surprised that the original stamp was intact and it was in such good condition.
We thought it was pretty funny that the Royal Mail decided to deliver it and that there wasn’t even a note on it,” Crabtree, 37, said. “We are also wondering where it could have been all these years. It would be quite interesting if we could track its very long journey,” Crabtree added. A delighted Lewis said the card had come from an old pen pal, Gudrun Rentrope, who he’d been writing to since he was 17. Gudrun had sent the postcard as a thank you after Lewis had looked after her father during a visit to England.
However, the card never turned up and Lewis, a retired finance worker, said it was then that the pair lost touch. Lewis, who also lives in Maidenhead, said he was “totally surprised” when it finally reached him 49 years after it was posted. “The postcard thanked me for looking after her dad and passing on gifts. She was a very dear friend. It was quite a pleasant time in my life,” Lewis said. “In those days people didn’t have postcodes and I think this could have been one of the reasons it went missing.I can’t imagine how it got back into the system again,” Lewis added. The card was stamped by Royal Mail in Swindon on Monday, October 29, 2012. The Royal Mail has dismissed the possibility that it had gone missing in their system and suggested it must have been put in a postbox recently. “It is extremely unlikely that this item of mail was in our system all this time,” spokesman Candice MacDonald said. "It is difficult to speculate what may have happened, but almost certainly it was put back in a postbox very recently, as we regularly check all our sorting offices and machines are cleared,” MacDonald said.
UPA-IIs DISMAL RECORD
Dr. M. V. Kamath
With the UPA government now still in power after six long years of turbulence, is it not time to assess some of its “achievements” – such as they are? As The Times of India rightly noted, all these months it has only been raining scams. It started with 2G spectrum allocation and Commonwealth Games, continuing to Adarsh Housing allotments, coal allocation bungling, misuse of discretionary quotas….and the list is endless. But what has largely gone unnoticed is the collapse of law and order and the delay in delivering justice. As of December 2011 as many as 4.322 million cases have been pending before the country’s High Courts. The situation in the lower courts is truly horrifying with pending of 26.8 million cases of which 19 million are criminal cases and 7.8 million civil. It may take over 300 years to dispose of all the pending cases, presuming that no further cases are filed in any of the courts. Even as things are, the ratio of conviction are as low as 6 per cent which means that 94 per cent criminals go scot free. That should partly explain why crime is increasing and criminals get elected both to Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies. And to think that Salman Khurshid was till recently the Law Minister! Wasn’t he the one who literally told Kejriwal that if he dared to visit Khurshid’s constituency, the possibility of his leaving alive was doubtful? The approved strength of appointments of judges to 21 High Courts and the Supreme Court is 895. As of now, 22 vacancies remain to be filled. This, in the field of law. In the field of Education, according to the Department of Education there are 5,23,00 vacancies for school teachers at elementary school level and, to fulfil the pupil-teacher ratio laid down by the Right to Education Act, an additional 5,10,000 teachers will have to be hired. That adds up 10,23,000 jobs lying vacant. At the Secondary School level there is a crying need to freshly appoint 1,79,000 teachers. Why have these jobs gone unfulfilled? To the best of one’s knowledge, it is not because of lack of financial availability. And yet, Naxalism with as many as 270 districts affected. In the field of international affairs we are doing no better. India’s closeness in recent times to the United States and Pakistan’s importance in Central Asia have brought Russia closer to Pakistan, unbelievable though it may sound. Wasn’t it Pakistan which for decades was a declared enemy of the Soviet Union and its violent opponent, with Islamabad, actively supported by the United States, financing jihjadists hired form all over the Islamic world, to get rid of Soviet influence in Afghanistan? If any one country can be held responsible for the dismemberment and break-up of the Soviet Union, surely it is Pakistan? For all that, Moscow now is looking away from Delhi and Russian President Vladimir Putin is hesitant to visit India as was once scheduled. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh obviously does not know how to differentiate between friend and foe. We even losing out to China in Central Asia to which the External Affairs Ministry is giving low priority. As a former Indian Ambassador to Uzbekistan M.K. Bhadrakumar recently noted “Eurasia sticks out like a joker in the pack”, even when leaders of every one of the six Central Asian countries come to Delhi to seek cooperation. Trade with Tajekistan, for instance is near a paltry sum of £ 10 million which is roughly 9.6 percent of China’s £ 1.5 billion. Why doesn’t India take a more active role in the development of all the Central Asian States, which are economically, strategically and geo-politically of major importance to India? And to think that of all nations, far away South Korea has signed economic deals with Uzbekistan alone worth $ 4.2 billion! We are slipping, slipping, slipping. We are slipping so badly that according to Indiaspend, if there are 406 Public Sector Units (PSU’s) in India, 378 of them are in operation with a government equity investment of Rs 1,88,661 crore and again, out of the 406, as many as 127 have reported a loss of Rs 23,264 crore! Over 75 of these are “legally sick”, with an accumulated loss Rs 1.80 lakh crore. This is a staggering cost to pay for neglect and indecisiveness. These PSUs have hardly any managerial leadership. While global prosperity levels have increased over the past three years, despite the financial crisis, India comes 101st, slipping from 78th position three years ago, dragged down by government indicators, according to a new report by a London Think Tank Legatum. Then again India has slipped four places in a ranking of 62 leading financial systems and capital markets because of institutional and business environment, according to a report of the world Economic Forum. India is now ranked 40th in the fifth edition of the Forum’s Financial Development Report 2012. India’s overall score was pulled down by low scores on financial sector liberalization, contract enforcement, infrastructure and cost of doing business. And finally, another indicator to show where we stand. A report by Tax Justice Network estimates that the amount of black money deposited by ‘Global Super-Rich Elite' in Swiss Banks is of the order of £ 13 trillion. Indians are major depositors among developing nations and “the value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since 1970 would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world”. How’s that for governance of India by UPA-II? There is a lesson here for the Congress to learn: Simply put it means that it has to re-invent itself if it wishes to survive. It may be that it has to dissociate itself from the Family and the very concept of dynasticism that has now become the bugbear of the party with descendants or close relatives of former leaders treating Parliament as their natural heritage. The people have to take over the Congress if the Congress wants to take over the people. The lessons of the 1967 fourth General Elections have to be absorbed if the Congress does not want to be penalized and treated as an organization that has long passed its relevance. The Gandhis will not leave their chairs on their own. But they have to go. The reasons are there for all to see, but, as the saying goes, who is there to bell the cat?