Thursday, June 6, 2013
A BIG THANK YOU
Continuing our efforts for participative support in the form of increasing subscription to ISSUES & CONCERNS we had tapped our editorial board member Mr V.K.Talithaya, as well. He agreed to sponsor 20 of his friends, relatives, associates and colleagues. WE PROFUSELY THANK MR V.K.T. FOR HIS GENEROUS GESTURE. We have pleasure in sharing some of our thoughts on the man as follows. Of course he had asked us to be brief.
In Bykamapdi Industrial cluster, there is a spic & span modern industrial unit, Primacy Industries Ltd., an ISO 9001 company making perfumed candles for export market, employing a 1000 personnel. Company has done very well and has opened another unit in Gujarat. Presiding over the destiny of this unique industrial enterprise is Mr Varkady Krishnamurthy Talithaya a former MRPL/ONGC Sr. Executive. Of course, his former colleagues were surprised how a task master, calling shots, in a Navarathna unit like ONGC/MRPL, could engage himself with a smaller organisation like Primacy. But they were not aware that, the owners of the Primacy were just waiting for Mr Talithaya to retire. Retired but not tired, VKT couldn’t refuse their offer when they agreed for all his terms including freedom from restriction to his freedom of movement. That’s the value VKT holds in the market.
Having born in Dec 1944 at Manjeshwar in Kerala, young Krishnamurthy completed his degree in St. Aloysius in Mangalore and Masters from Loyola, Madras. Having begun as a management trainee in Hindustan Steel, the present SAIL, he grew in position. Worked in many blue chip companies, last being MRPL/ONGC, in the outskirts of Mangalore, where he retired as Sr. Vice President (P & A). While in MRPL, he made the name of MRPL synonimous with service to all and sundry by reaching out to every section including infrastructure to schools etc. The lasting contribution of MRPL/ONGC under his leadership was the upgradation of Surathkal crematorium in providing the ultimate dignity to the dead and gone. Reacting to crematorium work some had quipped “Death has never been so beautiful and tranquil as in Surathkal crematorium. It made a death a pleasure”.
The same streak of reaching out made VKT readily accede to our request to become the part of our editorial board, some years ago. He continues to give his intellectual inputs in the evolution of I & C as a responsible and responsive journal of a different kind.
Intelligent, articulative and knowledgeable, its always a pleasure to meet him. We wish him good health and happiness. We take this opportunity to tell all our patrons that we do need participative support. Kindly respond positively - Editor
NB: Respecting his wishes we have not put his photograph.
We are into the first month of monsoon season. By the time this issue is in your hands, may be rain god is already ‘smiling aloud’. Of course there have been sporadic bursts in some places and temperature did come down in some parts but there are parts witnessing very hot climate. Deaths have been reported in Andhra Pradesh and some other parts of the country. Hope rain comes all over the place to announce the arrival of monsoon loud and clear.
Month-in-Perspective, as usual has covered quite a few happenings of the month. India is a place of myriad happenings of many kinds. We have covered some. Election to Karnataka Assembly attracted huge interest all over the country. The first BJP government in the south was embroiled in completely avoidable controversy from beginning itself. Started with literally buying MLAs to reach the midway mark followed by Lokayukata indicting Reddy brothers besides Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and his family, KJP formation to fix BJP and non-stop crisis of leadership, all contributed to the fall of the BJP government in Bangalore. The election result was on expected lines. Although Congress was pleasantly surprised at the windfall. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had come in for a lot of critical examination for both what he performed and what he failed to perform, in media as well as from opposition parties. His involvement in the allocation of coal leases, while he was handling the Ministry of coal, where allegedly no set rules were applied in granting mining rights, came in for harsh criticism. CAG had reported in its audit reports about the huge loss to the national exchequer. There was this comment in The Hindu-Business line, as 'Overheard in Delhi', which was stark, pointed and serious. We have reproduced the same for whatever it is worth.
As usual CBI has come in for lot of criticism for its selective action or inaction. Supreme Court was particularly harsh in commenting CBI as a caged parrot mouthing 'his master’s voice'. We have tried to retrace some of the happenings of the past to agree with what Supreme Court has, so unkindly certified the CBI as. Hope readers would find it interesting and worth their time. Do revert with your inputs. We do value them.
KARNATAKA: Election to Karnataka Assembly came and has passed into history. All had expected that the incumbent party shall be booted out for all the acts of omission and commission during all its 5 year term. That they managed to complete the term is a poor consolation, when compared to the drubbing they got. While winning back was out of question, the party itself was convinced that they would manage around 70/80 seats. In the event they managed just half of it. Fortunately, they managed to remain equal with JD(S) at 40 seats each. At one stage they were sliding towards the 3rd position. From 110 seats in the outgoing position to 40 is a near rout. Nobody, even its adversaries imagined such reversal of its fortune.
Of course, same is the case of other opposition parties. Congress got the bonanza completely unexpected, although it was hoping to do better than the outgoing strength of 80, to end it with more than clear majority of its own, is the best thing to have happened. Any fractured mandate could have had the history repeating itself with the menace of aayarams and gayarams, JD(S), the other beneficiary of the election could also improve its tally from 28 to 40, although sulking at only 40.
Of course result reflected the anger of the general public, the total disappointment of electorate towards the BJP outfit at Bangalore. It was a vote against bad politics rather than bad governance. Shall Congress prove better? is a question only time will tell. However it was a decisive election. Message was loud and clear. Perform or perish. Message has gone to KJP too. Yediyurappa will walk into slow but inevitable evening twilight of his political career. Moderation is the name of the game or people will show you the place you deserve. Whether corruption or ambition, people do judge sensibly at times, if not always.
After winning the Karnataka Assembly election, Congress apparently presented a picture of coherence and elected its legislature party leader and CM without any visible hiccup. That’s an achievement. But the newly elected legislature leader who was also elected as Chief Minister has already confirmed his style of working.
Rakesh Siddaramaiah, son of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, was booked under section 307 of IPC, among 14 others on the charge of attempt to murder.
K P Siddalingaya, the KJP candidate opposing Siddaramaiah had complained to the police about the attack by the group led by Rakesh.
Siddalingayya complained to the Mysore D.C. Ms Shikha, who asked him to complain the police commissioner, who in turn instructed the inspector of Nazarbad police station GN Mohan to verify the complaint and take necessary action.
On 3rd May Mohan files a case against Rakesh and others. So far everything is in order.
On 7th May results were declared and Congress romps home with one party majority. Rakesh Siddaramaiah’ s father becomes the Chief Minister of Karnataka on 13th May.
The new Chief Minister, who is a CM for the first time, sends a message to the state police that he is the ‘boss’.
K L Sudheer, the Mysore Police Commissioner, who was certainly in the loop, in registering of the case against Rakesh Siddaramaiah suddenly changed his mind, and put inspector GN Mohan under suspension ostensibly because “he had erred in his duty in several cases, including that of Rakesh, in the recent past."
Presently both GN Mohan, the inspector in the bulls eye and his big boss K L Sudheer are on leave.
Issue here is, can a police officer initiate a legitimate action against a politician or his son for any violation of law and order or not. If not, then the politician or his progeny are above the law.
The action of the police deptt. against one of their own men, under instruction from Chief Minister is not only demoralising for the police but also a gross interference by the Chief Minister. Not a right way to begin the innings for new Congress govt.
MAHARASHTRA: Rich and therefore powerful can ask for anything and be sure to be provided by the state. But for the common man, the poor and the marginalised, the govt is ever on slumber mode, like a cousin of legendary Kumbakarna. When a rich man makes a request to the government of the day, it acts with alacrity, as it happened with Mukesh Ambani of Reliance.
Senior Ambani is probably the richest Indian, can get anything he wanted. In an ever evolving India, security perception is an issue of concern for all, especially the super rich. He has his security cover through some private agency, all that he wanted was licence for arms. But the Union Home Ministry, in its zest to please the rich man went over board and sanctioned ‘Z’ category top-level CISF security cover, of course for a price.
But Supreme Court was not amused. Taking a suo-moto call on the press report on the government’s decision to provide Z category security to Ambani, it reacted rather sharply, “State has no duty to provide security to private individuals, especially when the common man is feeling unsafe”.
Hope, the powers that be are chastised enough to realise its duty and make the difference.
Most Indians remember that we are Indians first and last only on 15th Aug and 26th Jan. On other days, mostly the so-called patriotism is on a long holiday. Of course, if the above 2 dates are not holidays, then even on those days, our Indianness would not be on display.
Or else, what explanation can there be for printing and supplying text books with Arunachal Pradesh shown as Chinese territory outside Indian borders?
There are lakhs of students in the 10th std., hence books required too would be in the same quantity. Report informs that Bal Bharathi, the text book for 10th was printed by State Press. Could it be that it was contracted out, and to get that printed at cheaper price to make a killing it would have been outsourced to some Chinese printer? And Chinese naturally print what is right for China. There is certainly a money angle. We are a people, at least some of them, who would give a damn for the country when money matters.
JAMMU & KASHMIR: Some time ago, there was this report from Srinagar “Militants kill youth inside mosque, Omar angry over selective outrage”. Reportedly, in a brutal killing, militants suspected to be from Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) pumped five bullets into an 18 year old youth Sofi inside a mosque in Sapore for taking part in sports events organised by police and the army. Sofi was sitting in the mosque compound when militants opened fire, but ran to take refuge in ‘Hamaam’. According to Imtiaz Hussain, the Sapore S.P., militants entered the mosque, where the congregation had assembled for night prayers, they pumped 5 bullets into Sofi.
Reportedly unlike the general response of people, whenever there was death allegedly because of police or army, there would be wide spread protests, stone throwing and breast beating by women. But no such protest was witnessed after the killing of Sofi by LeT, that too inside a mosque.
Reportedly the J & K Chief Minister questioned the double standard of people, opposition parties and social media in the ‘selective outrage’, on incidents of violence in the state. While Omar Abdullah was outspoken about the double standards, this sickness of ‘selective outrage’ is rampant all over India, especially private media enterprises, driven by agenda driven reportage. J & K Chief Minister was rather more honest than many in politics and in the media. This is a visible dimension of Yeh Mera India.
NEW DELHI: There was this book “I due maro: Tutto quello che non vi hanno detto”. ( The Two Marines: What They Haven’t Told You), by Matteo Miavaldi, a Kolkatta based Italian journalist.
He wrote the book primarily to remove seeds of doubt and suspicion among average Italian public, who were fed with all wrong and biased coverage by Italian media.
It is true that two Italian marines are facing murder charges in India over the killing of two Indian fishermen. Two fishermen from Kerala were shot by two Italian security guards on board an Italian Oil Tanker suspecting them to be pirates.
There are different versions of the story and somewhere truth could have been the casualty. Unfortunately, it was the racial dimension that took the better of the Italian media. Italians were made answerable to Indian law and its law enforcing authorities, that was the most disquieting thing for Italians and their media. Blaming right wing newspapers, for manipulating the whole story to cater to Italian ‘sciovinism’ as he calls it, he hopes that his book will be an ‘eye opener’ for Italians in general.
According to Miavaldi “Journalism is supposed to cut off emotions and build bridges of understanding between different nation’s people and culture. Our journalism in Italy failed to do so. This biased coverage is not journalism. It is propaganda”. Hope Italians back home shall look at things with more evenhandedness and shall serve the purpose of equitable justice.
May be there is lesson for our own media members and managers, who are more often than not, are busy building walls of suspicion than the bridges of understanding among diverse sections of the Kaleidoscope called India.
Post Dec 16, gang rape of a para medical student in Delhi in a moving bus, did get lot of notoriety to India’s capital. But then Delhi was always known by its sobriquet ‘Rape Capital of India’. This may be right or wrong, but media always negatively portrayed for its sensation quotient.
Many years ago, Fr. Henri D’Souza, who is currently the Bishop of Bellary in Karnataka, was the director of Sandesha, a church sponsored cultural outfit in Mangalore. He had asked this writer, “Is India unsafe for minorities?” Response was “It is as unsafe or safe for minorities as it is for majority”. But media fishing always for sensation described the attack on Mangalore's Amnesia pub in March 2009, as if it was a national catastrophe, while it was purely and simply a law and order situation with mischief caused by some alleged right wing communal outfits.
And comes this report from New Delhi. Ascribing to foreign visitors, it said “India is as unsafe as any other country. Sexual abuse is a global phenomenon, however some women visitors never felt unsafe here” was the take of some foreign women who lived in India for some time, which is very true. There are pockets of risk and if some minimum care is taken, one can always feel safe. Like it happened in Home stay episode in Mangalore. A group of youth had gathered to celebrate the birthday of a girl. But apparently there were more to it than just birthday bash. It was a planned overnight programme with questionable objectives. A birthday celebration does not require an overnight stay in a secluded house, thus came calling, the mischief makers. For sensation hungry media, it was god sent opportunity. Once again Mangalore was made a ‘God-damn place’, when it was only a law and order problem. It was a situation of both being wrong and police remaining inactive initially.
Thus, it was left to travellers from aboard to give the country a better name than our media. Yes ‘India has its share of problems, but its not a bad country’, that’s the message.
The arrest of 3 cricketers for spot fixing in IPL matches has exposed the underbelly of big time cricket. In fact it is less of cricket but more of greed in all forms and from all involved, whether players, franchise owners, IPL administrators and Board of Cricket Control in India or Board of Control for Cricket in India or BCCI. Here cricket may be in some kind of control, but what kind of a control BCCI exercise on the players and on itself is not clear in the public domain. But one thing is very clear, all stake holders, except the cricket crazy public, whether it is the players, or the administrators or financial investors are all without any control.
On the face of it, the traditional cricket, the 5 days test, itself is a weird form of sports. Britishers, with their colonial hang ups with more and more free time at their disposal probably designed this game of wasting valuable national mandays. An Australian thought of a better way by making it one day cricket, and then it was further reduced to 20 Twenty. While it was a welcome development, it increased opportunity to play more and more, which increased the potential to earn more by way of advertising. That was easy money. But more money more problems. And comes IPL, the brain child of Lalit Modi, and the whole cricket scenario underwent a world of change. Hundreds of crores of rupees were to be earned and spent. Cricketers were like commodities, auctioned and sold to the highest bidder. It attracted worldwide talents. An IPL would have not less than 200 players playing continuously for almost 2 months with lot of employment opportunity for all and sundry including the unwholesome cheer girls. Of course, there are many seamier side of the fixture, the 3 w factors, wealth, women and wine. Where there is honey, bees are bound to be there. All these attract bees of all varieties. Match fixing, spot fixing, betting bookies, underground elements are all there due to the big money. In this IPL, in the name of cricket, its only the business of making more and more money. Or else what is the role for Srinivasan, who is the CMD of India Cement or for Rajeev Shukla, who is full time politician. One is BCCI President, owner of Chennai Super Kings, and the other Chairman of IPL. From the details available in the media, the rot of spot fixing & match fixing has become badly deep rooted. Hence it has to be curbed. Can this format be temporarily stopped for a few years? Or as some suggest why not ban it?
The former railway minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal was probably the shortest to have remained as railway minister. He didn’t even last 6 months. He was forced to resign on immoral ground, although he claimed ‘he is quitting on moral ground’ like all tainted politicians. That he could preside over the sale of seats in the Railway Bhavan was an unthinkable development. The price of the sale of seat conveyed what was at stake.
Vijay Singla, a nephew of Bansal, had settled with Mahesh Kumar, the Western Railway General Manager for Rs: 10 crore to make Kumar, a member of the Railway Board. However, since Kumar wanted to continue as GM of Western Railway for some time even after joining the Railway Board, another Rs: 2 crores was agreed and Rs: 90 lakh was paid as down payment. So, the possibility of huge money at stake is very clear. Kumar, reportedly arranged the payment of Rs: 90 lakhs through a supplier to the railways. Payment was made to Vijay Singla personally, with the remaining Rs 1.1 crore to be paid when the order is issued, to hold the duel charge. Suddenly all hell broke, and the blue eyed minister of Dr Manmohan Singh was caught with his undergarments down.
“If Bansal’s kin have put a post in the Railway’s highest governing body on sale, the day is not far when the railway minister's post will also be sold off by such relatives" said Satyapal Jain, an opposition functionary, adding “Today he has denied links with his nephew. In the past, he had denied links to his own son. I wonder who he is going to deny relations with next. He should come out of his rat hole and give an explanation”.
Of course as usual, Bansal blabbered innocence. But the fact is, according to some political circles, value of Pawan Bansal and his extended family of nephews is Rs: 5000 crores.
Prime Minister Singh, somehow tried his best to protect Bansal, for whatever reasons, but had to accept the inevitable exit of Bansal from the union cabinet. But as he left, he left many disturbing questions about the big money changing hands in an ever widening scale of scams engulfing this country. Where are we heading? Indians need to know the secret of astronomically growing net worth of elected members of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Assemblies and State Legislative Councils, year after year. And our Union Finance Minister is always having to struggle with deficit in his budgets year after year with looting of the national resources going on unchecked.
Justice delayed was always called justice denied. After 28 years justice is still crawling at snail’s pace for the 1984 riot victims of Delhi. On 30th April, district Judge JR Aryan acquitted, accused Sajjan Kumar. Of the three cases filed against him, police had already closed one case ostensibly for want of evidence. And now in the second case too he has been acquitted.
For all the 28 years, victims of worst Sikh riot had accused Sajjan Kumar along with Jagdish Tytler for having conspired the murderous attack on Sikhs, post Indira Gandhi assassination in 1984. Understandably there was visible outrage at the latest acquittal. Women were not only found crying openly, an angry Sikh even hurled a shoe at the judge inside the courtroom. “We are sad over this judgement. We never thought that Sajjan Kumar will be acquitted. Our hopes have been shattered” was the anguished words of some of the women protestors outside the court. “Sajjan murdered my family, kill me too” cried out Jagdish Kaur who lost her husband, son and 3 cousins during the massacre.
Why there is a strong perception of miscarriage of justice?
Is it because, there are forces working towards the denial of justice for these riot victims. Or some vested interest is at work to save some well connected people.
In any case, it is a sad day for India, that even after 28 years, justice is eluding the Delhi riot victims. In fitness of things, a few twitters going round are reproduced here for a perspective on the issue.
“With this verdict, our justice system has managed to protect Sajjan Kumar’s fundamental riots” tweeted one R.Srivats.
“Its taken 28 years to find Sajjan Kumar not guilty? Hmmm we have won two world cups since then,” was from Sri Sri Jhunjhunwala.
The argument that, its not subsidy on essentials to poor but the concessions to the trade and commerce, the crowd in the upper middle class and richer class is truly the cause of our deficit problem in the national financials, is not without basis.
There are activists and experts who are socially inclined, have, on and off, come up with arguments, and figures justifying their arguments.
The latest to appear in the print media is the report “Govt bans gold trading in SEZ”, highlighting that many SEZs were found to be indulging in trading gold instead of manufacturing, taking advantage of the zero duty.
By nature man is greedy, but some are more greedy and some are very greedy and some suffer from never ending greed. In India, there is a significant section suffering from never ending greed, always wanting more and more. SEZ was designed for such people, so that they can manufacture and export to their hearts contents, because the benefits are too many and too big. But greed being what it is, it stops distinguishing wrong from the right. Policy makers were always aware of such fit falls, but to the richer class, Govt. always give a chance. And those who are haves, have always misused the facility, more often than not. And then, some time, Govt. wakes up, and some upright official acts to stop the pilfer or can we call it a national loot of another kind?
Is Finance MinisterP.Chidambaram having some private agenda? How can one dare ask such a question? He is the Prime Minister waiting in the wings. At least that is what the 'Economist' of England prophesied, as a competent and intelligent minister. He is also a kind of voice favouring business in the cabinet of Dr Manmohan Singh. Of course, it is another matter, he is studiously keeping himself away from the PM succession talk. But he is an authoritarian, he does not like to take a ‘NO’ for an answer. There have been couple of developments which in the larger interest of the country may not bode well.
If some of the reports of the recent past is to be taken on the face value, a certain degree of disquiet is, what would follow.
Heaping encomiums on RBI, ‘ECONOMIST’, had written "Judging by the numbers, RBI is among the world's Best Central Banks. Unlike most Indian state bodies, RBI has more brains, muscle and integrity. It is about the only institution in the country you never hear accused of graft."
There is an apprehension in some intellectual circle that he is trying to pressure RBI to accept his diktats. A recent, well reported incident highlights a dimension of this concern. P.C as FM had publicly exhorted the Governor of RBI Dr. D. Subbarao to bring down lending rates on business loans and advances. But Dr Subbarao refused to play the ball.
And comes Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission (FSLRC). Reportedly FSLRC recommendations are trying to make RBI as a deptt of Finance Ministry, so that it falls in line. If that happens it may destroy the very identity of RBI as the country's banker of the last resort, a banker of Banks, whose canvass is the nation’s economy as a whole.
Then there were two reports datelined New Delhi in a national daily from Mumbai, appearing in the same page. One, “Reported cases of economic crime just ‘tip of the iceberg’: ED”. The other was “FM cautions ED against ‘mindless investigation’”. If one wants to look at it without any predilection, both are opposed to each other.
Finance Minister (FM) is a politician and ED is a bureaucrat. ED is expected to have greater integrity than the politician. Politician is believed to be an opportunist, at least until the aam aadmi party of Kejriwal, can make the difference. FM Chidambaram says, and report informs “all legitimate trading and investment activity must be fully respected and protected even when investigating crimes involving money and laundering money”. If what is reported is to be believed, FM means ED should be selective in investigation. He has also stated that “economic activity must not be hindered by mindless investigation and prosecution”.
He was reportedly addressing officials of ED, who are in the thick of FEMA violations investigation of Bharti-Walmart, and money laundering by Saradha Group and other high profile cases.
As a Finance Minister how does he distinguish what is legitimate or illegitimate when it comes to laundering money? Is this why “the Rs: 3 crore fees reportedly paid to his lawyer wife by Saradha group has gone under the carpet without much of a hype by the sensation hungry media?"
Most Indians, in the know of things, acknowledge that Reserve Bank of India, is a strong, disciplined & committed organisation of the country.
Earlier in December last, there was this report in the print media which informed that union Finance Minister has withdrawn the search & seizure power of the new elite criminal investigation wing of Income Tax Deptt. There is reportedly no explanation available in the public domain why this move was put in place. The Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was started only an year ago, and according to reports, it has already done a good job in such a short time with 128 search warrants executed in 2011/12 and already issued 8 search warrants upto Sept. 2012. DCI which was created to combat the black money menace and to identify cases of illegal funds of criminal nature, will only be doing, from now on, to develop data base to aid the regular investigation wings of I.T. Deptt. Clearly there is “Daal mein Kuch Kaala Hai”. Surprisingly none of the above have figured in the electronic media, ever on the lookout for sensation. Surely some unknown pressure group is at work to protect some unseen players in big bad money.
Isn't he putting the interest of the business community-both legal and illegal-above those of the nation and the ordinary Indians?
WORLD: So for long last, democracy seems to be inching towards realisation in Pakistan. First, it was the completion of full 5 year term of the last elected government, which, despite turbulent happenings, army didn’t take over the reins from the elected government of PPP. Now comes the latest election to the National Assembly.
So, for 60 long years, ‘controlled democracy’ of Ayub Khan somehow managed to bring Pakistan to almost a precipice. Some called it God forsaken country, many called it failed state, Medeline Albright called it ‘international migraine’. All of them do have explanations to justify the epitaph.
But hopefully, since army didn’t interfere for all the last 5 years. Hopefully, the present elected government of Nawaz Sherif should be able perform better internally, so also its relations with its immediate eastern neighbour. That the new Prime Minister has already reiterated his desire to visit India to restart the process of bettering the relation between our two countries, has only added to the hope that democracy would do good to Pak and to Indo-Pak relations.
With his beite noire Gen. Pervez Musharaff under house arrest, surely Sheriff is better placed to do what he likes, both for Pakistan and to Indo-Pak relations. Hope it happens.
CBI - The Caged Bird of India?
Giving a monumental, unprecedented rap to the premier investigation agency of India, the highest court of the land has reportedly observed “CBI is like a caged parrot, speaking his master’s voice. It is a sordid saga that there are many masters and one parrot”. By any stretch of imagination, it was indeed, as Shakespeare would have called it, ‘the unkindest cut of all’.
His master’s Voice (HMV), which is a synonym, used to describe a situation of repetitive statements from the spokespersons on behalf of a VIP, an organization or an institution of a corporate nature, is a brand owned by the Gramophone Company of the U.K. HMV is the picture of a dog, a Fox terrier called Nipper along with a cylinder phonograph. It was used on gramophone recordings of dog’s owner Mark Barraud. Francis Barraud, an artist and brother of Mark observed that the dog, Nipper, took a peculiar interest in the recorded voice of his late master from the trumpet, and hence conceived the idea of dog sitting before the phonograph and listening. Gramophone Company of UK purchased the rights of the painting’s usage in its publicity material. Now acronim HMV is very well known all over the world, but its longer form is presently used to describe the spokespersons in less than complimentary terms, if not outright derogatory.
Thus, when Supreme Court observed CBI as a ‘Caged Parrot speaking HIS MASTER’S VOICE’, it was indeed intended to be far less than complimentary in its reach and impact.
Continuing its observation, the apex court had remarked, ‘The CBI’s job is not to interact with government officials but to interrogate to find the truth”.
But then, CBI more often than not, took orders from its political bosses and their babudom. It is certainly not a secret and is well known in the public domain. However, the latest act of allowing political executives to doctor its probe report on coal scam was probably the proverbial ‘last straw on the camel’s back’.
So at long last, despite public posturing by many, the Supreme Court has confirmed it. Their observation has branded CBI, well and truly as ‘Caged Bird of India’. Believe it or not, it couldn’t have been more apt. If the Aam Aadmi movement of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal had cried hoarse about the comprehensive subjugation of the premier investigation agency of the country and therefore demanded its freedom from the political bosses at the centre, they were only telling the truth. And the truth is, that CBI was always used by the ruling political class, and they even rewarded those functionaries who play the ball to their diktats. Look at the appointment of Ashwini Kumar, the former Director of CBI, as the governor of Nagaland. This appointment alone, prima facie, exposes the nexus between the CBI and its political masters.
History of CBI informs us that it was established in the year 1963 in the month of April under a resolution of Ministry of Home. However prior to that, it was in 1941 that the government of India under British had set up Special Police Establishment (SPE) to investigate cases of bribery and corruption in transactions with the war & supply deptts. of India during World War II. The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was enacted in 1946, to extend the SPE to central govt. employees, which remained in force until 1963, April, when SPE formally became the CBI. The scope of CBI area of coverage kept on increasing all over India, as per the changing demands of the ever enlarging area of economic offences and financial misdemeanors.
Mr D.P. Kohli, a visionary officer from the then Madhya Bharat, was made the founder director of CBI. Reportedly he had told the delegates at the 4th Biennial Joint Conference of the CBI and state Anti-Corruption officers: “The public expects the highest standard from you, both in efficiency and integrity. That faith has to be sustained. The motto of the CBI-Industry, Impartiality and Integrity: these must always guide your work. Loyalty to duty comes first, everywhere, at all times and in all circumstances.”
Thus, the objectives of this premier investigation agency were clear. But unfortunately, like all public institutions, in India, with power to make a difference in public space, were forced by corrupt men who had the power to influence the course of events of these institutions. Slowly but surely these institutions degenerated from sublime to ridiculous. These are sad facts of Indian national life.
Hence, the observation by the apex court, deriding CBI has not come a day too early. There are any number of instances, where CBI was misused or used to the advantage of party and its men and women in power and truth becoming an easy casualty and justice flying out of the window.
Going back in time, it was on 16th April 1987, that the Swedish National Radio’s news programme ‘Dagens Eko’ broke the news that “Bofors paid 32 million Kroners to the a/c of LOTUS, in connection with the Indian – 155mm Howitzer Field Guns - deal worth US $ 1.5 billion.”
It was an incendiary fuse that remained lit for all the 27 years that followed. It is still burning, despite CBI closing India’s most infamous criminal investigation file some years ago.
It was on 26th March 1986, Govt of India signed the contract with A.B. BOFORS of Sweden for the supply of 400 Howitzer Field Guns, subsequent to the talk between Mr Olof Palme, the then Swedish Prime Minister and Indian Prime Minister Late Rajeev Gandhi, on 22nd Jan. 1986, on the sidelines of UN Assembly meet. But on 28th Feb, in just over a month of this meeting, Mr Palme was assassinated. Who killed him and why? are questions still shrouded in mystery. However what is intriguing and therefore mysterious was the noting by Mr Martin Arbdo, the then MD of Bofors, in his diary. On 2nd Sept. 1987, some 6 months after the disclosure by the Swedish Radio, Mr Arbdo had reportedly written. “Met Bob Wilson at Sergel Plaza Hotel. He understood I could be forced to tell the whole story. Q involvement was a problem because he came in close connection with R. There are no demands. W promised to find out what was said between P & R.”
The alphabets Q R W & P represent the whole truth, nothing but the truth. But how will India and Indians ever know the truth, since CBI has closed this file years ago?
Quattrochi representing Q, is an eternal Italian fugitive from Indian laws, who 'vanished' from New Delhi incognito, during the height of Bofors controversy. Rajeev Gandhi representing R, was tragically killed by Sri Lankan terrorists in Tamil Nadu. Win Chadha of W, died of heart attack in Dubai, without as much facing questions from CBI, since he was paid off as winding up charges to give up his middleman’s job in favour of Quattrochi. That brings us to P for Mr Palme, the assassinated Swedish Prime Minister. So, of the 4 persons named in the diary, 3 have died, and the only person living shall never come to India, courtesy the Caged Bird of India, the CBI. Hence truth of Bofors’ pay off will never be known to Indian public.
Coming to the latest rebuke of CBI by the Supreme Court, “a caged parrot speaking in its masters voice”, on its ‘sordid saga’ of taking instruction from its political masters in matters of Coalgate scam, shall pale, if one notes the remarks of Quattrochi’s lawyer in Argentina. “Indian case was incomplete and Quattrochi’s detention in Argentina was illegal from the outset. The CBI only brought half the papers relating to the case and neglected to bring the judgements from the Delhi High Court”, Quattrochi’s lawyer was reported to have observed. And Indian media had this headline in June 2007, on the Argentine debacle, “Judge Harichi Doi of the First Court of El Dorado (Buenos Aires-Argentina) ordered the prosecution (in this case CBI) to pay Ottavio quattrochi’s legal fees”.
This was probably the harshest humiliation suffered by CBI, in its handling of Bofors bribery scandal for close to twenty years. To lose a case is one thing, but to lose a case for inept handling (in this case very purposely) and then to be asked to pay the cost to the opposite side, is simply incredible and unthinkable.
Going back to the closure report of Bofors pay off case by CBI, there is one very pertinent aspect, which stands out clearly for the cover up effort of the then govt. It is true, by its own efforts, CBI managed to nail nobody as the beneficiary of this loot. But on the 22nd Dec. 2005, UPA govt. of Mr ‘Clean’ Manmohan Singh did the most unthinkable. It sent Additional Solicitor General B.Dutta to crown Prosecution Services in London. Dutta conveys the Indian govt’s permission to defreeze Quattrochi’s a/c. And Rs. 24 crores in equivalent in £ flies out of the window without any delay. How did this happen? Or on whose instruction this defreeze took place.
How was this allowed to happen? Where are the conscience keepers of our nation? Where is the media which is only waiting for sensation? Isn’t this episode sensational enough? And Left Parties, have they gone bankrupt? They have no comment to offer? For them national interest is only when it is opposed to United States of America!
An activist did file a PIL in the Supreme Court to stop this loot from getting into the hands of fugitive Q. But the apex court in its wisdom did not act fast enough in the name of procedure and propriety. When they acted some 24/48 hours late, there was nothing left to fight for. The money was withdrawn with alacrity. So you neither have the man answerable to the law of our land nor the money was available to the country.
In fact the public rap of CBI by apex court was not the first nail and may be not even be the last. That CBI was the ‘Convenient Bureau of Investigation’ of the government in power was never in doubt. The Delhi’s power corridors have used the highest investigating agency of the land to fix political opponents, as per the needs of politics of convenience, was an open secret.
Most governments, most of the time, have used CBI for their sinister purpose. Unfortunately even the men manning positions of authority in CBI have adjusted themselves to the needs of the government in power, subjugating their independence, dignity and sense of judgement. The latest scam involving the interference of union Law Minister, senior officers of PMO, and those of Coal Ministry has exposed the CBI completely. If, as report informs, that the court had directed the CBI in clear terms not to share its report with the government, and CBI did the very reverse, then it is a clear case of contempt of court. CBI director Ranjit Sinha is as much guilty as the Law minister. As some points out in the media “Politicians will be politicians, but should permanent functionaries of the state become raven factotums for the sake of plum postings and post-retirement sinecures?"
That brings us to the latest appointment of Governor for Nagaland, the former director of CBI, Ashwin Kumar. Surely there will be many questioning the rationale of this appointment, as to what favour has Ashwin Kumar done as CBI director and for whom he has done this favour. Normally such gubernatorial largesses are extended only to say ‘thank you for your services’, isn’t it!
According to U S Mishra, a former CBI Director, ‘there are influences to keep the progress report, of cases CBI is handling, to keep pending or present it differently’. He admitted his predicament while supervising disproportionate assets cases of Mayawathi and Mulayam Singh. He accuses the government of dangling before CBI officers, post retirement sops, such as NHRC or UPSC memberships, besides the gubernatorial postings.
Coming to cases involving Mayawathi, Mulayam Singh and that of Lalu Prasad Yadav, they have only added to the negative role of CBI vis-à-vis political interferences. All the above three, the lady and gentlemen, are known anti BJP politicians. Hence all three are cultivated by the ruling dispensation at present in Delhi for whatever it is worth. All of them have cases against them being pursued by CBI and CBI blows hot and cold at intervals on all these three, depending upon the climate in the Delhi’s corridors of power. Of course for discerning observers, the political wheeling dealings are apparent. Whenever these three play difficult with the rulers, CBI issues statements about the status of case against them and plays cool when it is vice versa. The latest episode of CBI raid on the residence of Karunanidhi’s son Stalin is a case in point. Prime Minister Dr Singh, M/S Chidambaram and Kamalnath expressed shock at this ‘untimely raid’, almost meaning ‘how could you do it without our clearance’. These reactions from the political bosses have exposed overbearing attitude of ruling dispensation on CBI.
Here it is interesting to add that the present CBI director Ranjit Sinha, is the same officer, who as in-charge of the investigations into the Rs: 800 crore ‘Chaara Ghotala’ had given Lalu Yadav a clean chit, obviously in a wheeling dealing consideration. He was made director of CBI despite resistance from opposition. So it is an ongoing quid-pro-quo!
Here, there is an interesting story which all should know, which was in the media only as a news, without the scam dimension discussed. Air India is our national carrier, but it is in the media for all wrong reasons. For many decades, it has been in financial ill health, due to many factors, like unionised work culture of its staff, both flying and non-flying. Among the major factors that ruined the health of the Maharaja, is the political and personal decisions of Ministers and babudom, either in buying of aircrafts or in marketing of routes. The recent deal involving Jet Air & Etihad of Abu Dhabi, where the later bought 24% of the former, reportedly with the blessing of Union Aviation Minister Ajit Singh. According to information, the minister had allowed the grant of 40000 seats per week to Jet, which was otherwise the most profitable sector of Air India. That huge money must have changed hands in this deal, is left to one’s imagination. But it will only hasten the doom of Air India. There has got to be a CBI investigation to not only this deal but for all previous deals of all kinds involving Air India where hundreds of crores of tax payers money is involved. This is nothing to do with the aspersion cast by the Supreme Court on CBI, but the loot of public money for private gain of politicians and babudom.
Another recent case is that of Pawan Kumar Bansal, the former Railway Minister, the fastest one to relinquish office on corruption charges. Details are all there in public domain. But CBI in its over enthusiasm, to please the ‘Master’, has already told that there is no case against Bansal. This shows, as LK Advani had famously observed long time ago, in the context of emergency, “asked to bend they crawled”
Exhoneration of Bansal by CBI, without going into the case of selling Railway Board membership, especially when the king pin is the minister’s nephew, is a clear case of CBI crawling, when only asked to bend.
Misuse of CBI by politicians have made even CBI brazen. That is a sad fall for the premier investigation agency, and a very sad day for India in the 21st century.
The science of learning from nature.
Prof. B. M. Hegde,
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world"
I keep reminding the readers about our wrong efforts at learning science by teaching nature a lesson or two. We could have a better science by understanding nature’s working better has been my hypothesis. I was introduced to some work being done at the Karolinska Institute in this direction by an old student of mine, Dr. Sunder. He wrote to tell me that my pet theory of learning from nature has now been taken up in the west and they also think it might yield better results. We shall discuss just one area for this write up.
Chronic kidney failure (CKF) has been a very lucrative medical business for the corporate lobby next only to cardiac interventions and keeping dying patients in the ICU for the last ten days.In the US there are many “dialysis only” facilities. They are like the hair cutting shops. Patients walk in and remain there for a few hours and get dialysed and go home to come back again at periodic intervals. They might have about a dozen beds at a given time used for dialysis. Reports say that this is such a good business that these doctors do not advice their patients kidney transplant at the right time when it could be more beneficial to the patients. Instead they wait till the last minute when transplant could be more dangerous and less useful. All this is because they want their clients for longer time to make more money. This is the audit report. Kidney transplant is another big business which all of us know in great detail.
But look at nature. American native bear (ursidae) is a good example here. These bears hibernate for months without any food or water. They do not make any urine and have no exercise at all, they remain immobile for months. They sleep all the time. But when they wake up they are as fit as they were and might even attack their enemy with the same ferocity as they could do while they were ambulant. It is interesting to note that when they wake up they have very low urea nitrogen levels, healthy lean body mass, very strong bones, and no evidence of any thrombotic complications! If only our scientists could find out how and why these bears do not develop uraemia, muscle wasting, bone density loss (osteoporosis) and atherosclerosis and thrombotic complications we will have found out novel and easy methods of treating chronic kidney failure patients without dialysis and transplant as of now!
Million dollar question here is who will fund this “rice bowl breaking” research effort? If successful this will demolish the very lucrative dialysis and kidney transplant businesses. Please understand that neither dialysis nor kidney transplant is a cure for chronic kidney failure. They are only quick-fix solutions of modern medical science, like many others like them. But the industry likes these quick fixes in place of permanent cures!
Contrast this with our science where we create disease models in animals, mostly rats, dogs and pigs. We try and study them to gain our present wisdom. What we do not realise is that they are in no way closer to human physiology and when we create human diseases in them they react , sometimes in a diametrically opposite direction. One example would do to explain. We produce heart failure in rats and then use our new chemical molecules on them to see if they work and if they do we use them in humans. Some years ago there was a wonder drug called, Milrinone, a cousin of amrinone. This showed wonderful results in rats in the treatment of heart failure, one of the biggest problems of old age. The company was so impressed that they convinced (lobbied) the FDA to pass it even without human studies. Indian “great” cardiologists used to get the drug from USA for their rich patients quite a lot of whom met their makers prematurely but the death was blamed on the bad heart failure. Soon enough the first human study PROMISE (Prospective randomised milrinone evaluation study) was started. Within six months into the study the preliminary report showed 37% extra unexplained deaths in the milrinone wing of the trial compared the placebo and the study was stopped and the drug withdrawn from the market. Lots of people had died by then. Later physiologic studies showed that the drug, in fact, helps a rat’s heart while it is dangerous for the failing human heart! We do not go into the details here.
Respect nature as your mother and learn from her; if you abuse nature she will kick you in the teeth! Scientists! Are you listening? Long live mankind learning from nature as our Indian scientists of yore did.
“In all things in nature there is something of the marvellous” Aristotle.
INDIAN IN COWBOY COUNTRY
THE FINAL EXAM
The book “An Indian in Cowboy Country” is the story of a fictional hero Satish Sharma, an IIT graduate. Migrates to US in search of better pastures, from the then Bombay to Houston in Texas. Satish feels out of place naturally, ‘An Indian in Cowboy Country’. He feels personal, professional and romantic challenges, but manages to overcome all of them to eventually flourish.
The author Pradeep Anand, the story teller has lot in common with the protagonist Satish and shares his unique experience in this book. Nandan Nilekani, the poster boy of Indian Information technology scene, has recommended the book, as a must read.
Hence we at I & C thought that we let this unique book be read through our pages. Hope our readers will like it. – Editor
Ferocious and furious screaming was a common release of pre-exam tension at Sathish’s engineering school campus. The serene surroundings of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, nestled in the hilly area between Powai and Vihar lakes, belied the cumulative stress that the students carried around on their slouched shoulders in their effort to fulfill Indian society’s expectations of being the smartest engineering students in the country.
He and his mostly male fellow campus inmates (as they called themselves) led tortured lives, attempting to meet higher and higher academic standards thrust on them by exemplary fellow students and professors. When the pressure to perform reached a crescendo, especially late at night before an exam, an inmate went to his hostel window or balcony or to the terrace and let out a loud, painful scream into the night.
That anguished scream reverberated and resonated through the wings of the hostel, drawing sympathy from similarly stressed-out students, who in their turn screamed. Within minutes, a wave of agonized howls and yells, interspersed with the choicest multilingual cusswords, moved along from hostel wing to hostel wing, then from hostel to hostel, till every soul, flustered with his pursuit of high-quality engineering studies, had vented his frustration to the gentle but unmoved environs. Then silence and serenity descended on this campus of six hundred and sixty acres.
It was three AM on a hot April night. Satish Sharma sat at his desk, studying for his last exam on this campus. Clad in unbuttoned shorts and a T-shirt, he read his marked up textbook and his almost illegible notes, both illuminated by a limited cone of light emanating from the dim bulb of his table lamp. He had switched off the light bulb that dangled on a wire from the ceiling, but still the luminance in his room attracted mosquitoes and other insects from the campus’ pastoral surroundings.
He had a table fan set at its highest speed and pointed at his bare legs to further ward off errant mosquitoes. Yet, involuntarily, he slapped various spots on his thighs and calves, hoping to dispatch an astonished vermin to its maker.
He was intensely focused on the complexities of electrolytic production of copper powder when the next wave of screams went through his hostel and his concentration snapped. He slammed his books shut, put his feet into his wellworn rubber flip flops, stood up, and buttoned his shorts. He grabbed an empty, cleaned-out glass ketchup bottle & stormed out of his room to get another refill of cold water from a water cooler in the hostel dining area.
He ran down two stories, three steps at a time, to the corridor. He walked past the dim fluorescent lights that had attracted a layer of assorted insects. He sniggered as he recalled a particular lamp’s role in a Bollywood movie. Its hero, a student moonlighting as an electrical handyman, had pointed to a lamp & said that it was the culprit behind the power outage at the heroin’s hostel. A loose connection was creating a surge, & the entire hostel had to be rewired.
The movie had been a big box office hit, but for Satish & his engineering mates, the “tube light” was the symbol of people’s naiveté and gullibility in dealing with electrical products & services. Every time they passed the tube light, they repeated the dialogue from the movie in Hindi and chortled and guffawed, but tonight he could only break into a slight, sardonic smile as he went past it to the mess hall.
He acknowledged the sleepy uniformed security guard who sat on a steel chair at the entrance of the dining hall, and walked past him to the water cooler. As a faint dribble of slightly cold water slowly filled the bottle, he wondered how he was going to cover and cram so much material within the next five hours before the exam.
He was very sleepy and exhausted, and he wondered if he had enough energy to not only pull an all–nighter, but also be able to write an exhaustive three-hour exam early in the day. He decided that he would study for another hour, get about three hours of sleep, and write his exam after a refreshing shower and a full breakfast in the morning.
He had a swig of refrigerated water, splashed some on his face and his weary eyes, refilled the bottle to the brim, and rushed out with renewed determination. He noticed that the guard had fallen asleep, joined in this endeavor by two sleeping pariah dogs that subsisted on crumbs from the hostel cafeteria. Their emaciated bodies were testaments to the quality of the food at his hostel.
For the next hour, he studied his notes, hallucinating that he was assimilating at an astounding rate. At about four AM, on schedule, he shut his books, switched off the table lamp, and set his mechanical alarm clock for seven AM. He hoisted his table fan onto his chair and set it to oscillate from his head to his toe.
He got into bed. As he turned and curled up, he involuntarily listened to the usual sounds of a late April night: a steady drone of crickets and grasshoppers and a lone dog, perhaps a wolf, howling in the distance. At four AM, the campus was in a deep sleep. Just as he was about to sink into oblivion he heard an unusual sound, a muted scream that came from the terrace above his room.
Satish awoke with a start, listened carefully, and realized that it was the sound of someone crying ferociously and uncontrollably, but attempting to quiet himself. He jumped out of bed, instinctively slipped his feet into his flip flops, and ran to the bathroom, which had a dangerous metal ladder to the terrace- one slip and he would plummet down three floors to an unforgiving concrete base. Brushing aside his usual sense of caution, he heaved himself to the ladder and climbed up to the terrace.
As his eyes emerged over the terrace’s edge, he saw someone sitting on the floor, crouched in a fetal position. His head was buried in his lap, and he was sobbing vigorously.
Despite his best effort to approach the crouching figure stealthily, his footsteps made crunching sounds as his feet crushed the gravel that covered the tarred surface of the terrace. The crouching figure turned to the approaching silhouette and yelled, “Who is it?” He sprang up, rushed to the edge, and stood there, as if poised to jump off.
“Stop. It’s me, Satish,” he replied urgently, his voice sufficiently loud to reach the intended recipient but not loud enough to wake students sleeping a few feet below them. The figure turned away from the low ledge, came to the middle of the terrace, and sat down. Satish rushed up and saw a familiar form, dully illuminated by a nearby streetlight.
“Kutty? What are doing here? What happened?” he asked. Kutty lived four rooms away from his; they were buddies.
Kutty put his face into his crossed arms and began to bawl unashamedly. Satish sat down next to his friend, put a consoling arm on his shoulder, and asked him in a soothing voice, “What’s wrong?”
Kutty’s feeble voice came from within the uncontrollable sobs. “I am going to fail my final exam.”
Kutty’s formal name was Thomas Koshy. An only child, he was raised according to the Syrian Orthodox Christian faith in a small seaside town in Kerala. His father, a tailor by profession, had died two months earlier. Kutty had been inconsolable since his death, and had to be regularly monitored by his friends, including Satish.
“I am going to fail tomorrow’s exam,” Kutty said as he reached out to his friend’s outstretched hand to raise himself. “I was thinking about throwing myself off the terrace when you came”.
Satish’s six-foot athletic frame easily pulled up Kutty’s diminutive, light body, and, when he heard of Kutty’s intentions, his large hands gripped his friend’s tightly. Appealing to Kutty’s common sense, he asked, “That would have been stupid, wouldn’t it? Who would have taken care of your mother after you were gone?”
In different circumstances, Kutty was the quintessential rational debater. Satish’s assertive, rhetorical questions sparked his tendency to respond and deliberate. Kutty talked about how suicide was not quite a “Stupid choice,” quoting Nietzsche and Sartre, as he was kept away from the edge of the terrace, led to the ladder and carefully down to bathroom and safer grounds.
As the two of them walked to the dining room for some cold water, Kutty continued his monologues about how nihilism and existentialism had the right answers to life’s questions. He ranted, “Engineering studies were the most constricting education that could ever be imposed on us at this creative stage of our lives, when our minds needed to be expanded and exposed by the greatest thoughts in humankind.”
When Satish saw the sleeping security guard, he shook him awake and told him to fetch Johnny, a mess servant, adding in Marathi, “Tell Johnny that I asked him to the mess hall quickly. Tell him it is urgent”. The dazed guard ran into the interior of the hostel while the two of them made a beeline to the water cooler.
Both splashed some cold water on their faces. They walked to the mess tables and sat on the worn, right-angled metal chairs.
to be contd...
To Tread the Untrodden Path
Every time I hear someone banter about being new, being DIFFERENT, a certain voice echoes in my mind – that of Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O’Toole), an animated character so flawlessly weaved into the quaint little story of the Oscar-winning Animated Feature film ‘Ratatouille’ – “There are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defence of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.”
The ‘new’ certainly needs friends. Being or doing something different is somewhat like making yourself vulnerable to questions and criticism which can often compel the one with the different thoughts and actions to become flock-minded, that is, to tread the trodden.
Since two years or so, I’ve set my heart on taking up Arts as the stream through which I’d like to pursue my career. For anyone who is fresh from passing out of class 10, it’s rather common to be bombarded with a whole set of questions on what stream he or she has opted for, concerning higher education. And when it dawns on the inquirers, the fact that I’m going to set my foot on the so-called “no-scope” stream, most of them (not all, I must mention) make up their mind that I am a dunce student (which usually upsets me, because I am not one!)
As much as I admire all the doctors and engineers who are coming out of the esteemed and not so esteemed colleges and universities, I believe that there is just too many of them! It pains me to know that many of my friends have settled up for courses which they are uncomfortable in, just because of parental pressure.
So opting a different course in life – be it concerning education or any other choice you’ve got to make in life – is no crime! I genuinely believe in the words of the famed fashionista Coco Chanel—“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
I, like many who take up a different path, have made this choice because I want to and not because I’m being conditioned to do so. I’m not being different just for the sake of being different. I’m being different, because I don’t want to gamble with my happiness and satisfaction by taking up a course which I don’t have my interests set on.
I’d like to quote the very famous lines from the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, very enchantingly penned down by the magnanimous English poet Robert Frost –
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.”
And that shall hopefully make all the difference, indeed.
Toilets in Mumbai Railway stations
Mumbai: Male commuters somehow use stinking railway toilets but women commuters have found a way round the problem. They avoid railway toilets and use the ones in eateries. Perhaps railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had pulled up Central Railway officials on Tuesday for the stinking public toilets at Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) does not know this.
Tehmina Sabuwala (24), a market researcher who travels around the city because of her work, said, “I travel around the city to meet clients, both on Central and Western Railway but I never use public toilets. Instead, I buy a coffee or a burger at in a eatery with toilets, no matter how costly it is.”Many women do the same, no matter the how severe the emergency, “Have you seen the toilets on stations?” asked Ruhi Agarwal a resident of Dadar and working with a media firm. “The stink is so overpowering that on several occasions I have been unable to use public toilets at railway stations even after paying the Rs 2 charge,” said Agarwal.
The public toilets at stations ask women commuters to pay Rs.2 to use facilities and do not charge the men any. The caretaker at women’s toilet at Churchgate said, “It is easier to maintain facilities for men less cleaning the women used enclosed toilets so the work is more,” Only four of the six women’s toilets at Churchgate were open. The caretaker gave no reason for keeping the other two closed.When asked why facilities are not maintained despite the charge only to women commuters the chief public relations officer of Western Railway (WR) Sharat Chandrayan said, “The problem is that we charge according to a policy which is very old but regarding the refusal to use the two toilets at Churchgate I will look into the matter,”
The Central Railway (CR) chief relation’s officer did not respond to this reporters message. CST station too was not in a better situation, when you enter the toilet the caretaker hisses at you putting up two figures to indicate to pay up Rs.2. After 10 minutes of standing in the line the toilet one you enter is not usable and is unhygienic.
Kurla station is said to be the worst public toilets on the Central line, “When the train stops at Kurla the first ladies compartment stops right outside the toilet, that one or two minutes of halt is complete torture,” said Manisha Chitale a BPO employee who travels from Vikhroli to Vashi. Chetan Kothari an activist had filed an RTI before the Railway budget in which he found that there are of 38 toilets and urinal facilities at Andheri and only four were for women. The RTI also said that of the 83 urinals and toilets at CST, 10 were for women including two urinals.
CR’s Main line has 29 stations between CST and Ambernath, with a total of 299 toilet and urinals, of which only 62 toilets and 13 urinals are for women commuters. The WR has 676 restroom facilities across 30 stations and only 119 are for women, including 86 lavatories and 33 urinals. “The only communication I received after I filed the RTI was a mail of the Railway Budget,” said Chetan Kothari. “Till date I have not seen or been informed of any increase in urinals or toilets for women,” said Kothari.
Transfer book of records or Record book of transfers
Luckbnow: Creating a record of sorts, a senior Uttar Pradesh cop had to pack his bags as many as 59 times in his 30 year-service giving him and his family very little time to get adjusted to the place of postings in different parts of the state.
K L Meena, a 1983-batch IPS officer, may not have any record in his name other than this one, a dubious one for sure. Meena, however, can take solace from the fact that he is not alone. There are many others who, like him, have been on the move throughout their service period.
There are at least 43 IPS officers in UP who have been transferred more than 40 times in their career. They included two DGs, 14 ADGs, 13 IGs, 10 DIGs and 4 SPs. These facts were revealed by the government in response to a query under the Right to Information Act. RTI activist Dr Nutan Thakur had sought to know from the state home department about the transfers of senior police officials.
While the record for maximum transfers among IPS officers in UP is held by Meena, he is closely followed by Kamal Saxena (48 transfers) and Vijay Singh (47). Due to these frequent transfers, the average number of transfers of 14 DGs in UP comes up to 36.4. An IPS officer becomes DG after around 32 years of service. Hence, on average these DGs were transferred at least once in a year, if not more. Similarly, ADGs in UP have been transferred on an average 35.9 times so far in their career. This figure stands at 31.8 for IGs and 29.7 for DIGs, said Thakur.
“This is the ground reality in UP, as opposed to the Supreme Court order in the Prakash Singh case which says that the minimum tenure of police officers shall be two years,” she added. Mass transfers of police personnel have now become a routine of successive UP governments.
W Rly realised Rs 71 crore from ticketless travellers
Western Railway General Manager Mahesh Kumar addressing a meeting at Churchgate, flanked by C P Sharma, Chief Commercial Manager, Western Railway. Intensive checks against ticketless travel were conducted from April 2012 to March 2013 on the Western Railway resulting in detection of over 19.16 lakh cases of ticketless/irregular travel including unbooked luggage cases and an amount of Rs 71.03 crore was realised -19% more than previous year's Rs 59.65 crore. Mahesh Kumar reviewed the status & progress of various commercial and passenger amenities related works in a recent meeting at WR headquarters, in which he stressed upon the need to continue suitable action against ticketless travel and ensure smooth travel for genuine passengers.
This Mahesh Kumar is the same person who allegedly bribed Vijay Singla Rs: 12 crores, for a berth in Railway Board as well as retaining the position of GM of Western Railway.
Illegal property of corrupt public servants to be seized
New Delhi: Property illegally acquired by a corrupt public servant will be confiscated and a time line has been set for securing sanction to prosecute serving and retired public servants under a bill approved.
Sweeping changes to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 have been approved by the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram said provisions have been incorporated to confiscate and forfeit property illegally acquired by a corrupt public servant. A timeframe has been set for getting sanction of competent authority to prosecute serving and retired bureaucrats and reasons will have to be specified giving the nod or refusing it.
For the first time, a provision for liability of a commercial entity for failing to prevent bribery of a public servant has been incorporated. The amended bill has also laid down a “clear definition” of different forms of bribery in line with international practices, Chidambaram said. In what is being seen as a reprieve for retired bureaucrats, they would not have to face prosecution for acts of omission and commission while in office without the prior sanction of competent authority.At present, the government’s protection in the form of prosecution sanction does not extend to retired bureaucrats.
A need was felt to bring the amendment to extend this protection to retired officials so that it would be mandatory for the prosecuting agency to get prior sanction before prosecuting them for something which they might have done with good intention while in office.
13 escalators on main WR stations
Mumbai: Similar to the Central Railway (CR), the Western Railway (WR) will now be installing 13 escalators at stations that witness heavy commuter traffic. The WR has identified Dadar, Vile Parle, Andheri and Borivili stations in the first phase of the project. WR's chief public relations officer, Sharat Chandrayan, said, "We are hopeful that the work on the first phase will be completed by July end and the public will be able to use them within the set date." Other stations that have been identified are Bandra Terminus, Mumbai Central Terminus, Bhayander, Mira Road, Mumbai Central local, Virar, Jogeshwari and Goregaon. A total of 25 escalators will be installed at 13 stations, whereas the stations in the first phase will have one escalator per station. The 13 stations that have been identified have the heaviest traffic on the WR on local as well as outstation trains.
Online: File RTI application & pay fees
New Delhi: In a step towards greater transparency, the government has started a unique facility of submitting RTI applications and fees online.
The portal – www.rtionline.gov.in – has been created with an aim to help people exercise their right to seek information through online medium, said officials in Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as nodal department for the implementation of transparency law in the country. An information seeker can submit a fee of Rs 10 via Internet banking through SBI and its associated banks. One can also use credit or debit cards for payment of the fee, they said. “At present, people can file online applications and appeals for information related to the DoPT only. They can also make payment of RTI fee using this platform,” a DoPT official said.
Saudi Arabia to retain ban on non-Muslim places of worship
Riyadh: Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia will retain its longstanding ban on non-Muslim places of worship, Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa said in comments reported by the Saudi media on Wednesday, according to AFP.
As Saudi Arabia is “home to the Muslim holy places, it does not allow the establishment of non-Muslim places of worship,” the Al-Hayat newspaper quoted Issa as telling European MPs in Brussels. Saudi Arabia, home to the holy Kaaba — the cube-shaped structure at the Grand Mosque in Mecca towards which Muslims worldwide pray — has come in for repeated criticism for its ban on non-Muslim places of worship. Although Saudi Arabia’s citizen population is Muslim, the kingdom is also home to millions of expatriates of various beliefs. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s Gulf Arab neighbours allow the building of churches and the celebration of non-Muslim feasts.
Swiss Govt moots laws to combat illicit money
Bern/New Delhi: Facing demands from India and other countries for banking details of persons with alleged black money in Switzerland, the European nation has proposed new rules for combating money laundering and mandating extra due diligence by banks before accepting clients’ money.
Switzerland’s Federal Council, the country’s top-most policy making body, has proposed that these norms would be put through an extensive consultation process till June 15.
The proposals come within days of Switzerland promising deepening of dialogue with India on administrative assistance and exchange of information about suspected illicit wealth stashed by Indians in the Swiss banks.
At the same time, Switzerland’s Finance Ministry has also made it clear that it would not entertain any banking information requests that are based on stolen or illegally obtained account details, while it has also refused to consider any fishing expedition for Swiss bank details.
Switzerland has also refused entertaining requests that are based on information “obtained through acts punishable under Swiss law, such as the illegal acquisition of data.”
This comes in the backdrop of requests from countries, including India, which are in possession of account details of Swiss bank customers that were allegedly stolen or gathered through illegal means and passed on to governments.
Obama vows to close down Guantanamo detention facility
US President Barack Obama vowed to make a new push to close the American military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the US military sent extra medical personnel there to deal with prisoners on a hunger strike.
The prisoners are protesting conditions and their long detentions. Guantanamo Bay is “contrary to who we are”, unsustainable and harmful to US interests, Obama told reporters at the White House, pledging to “go back at this” and work with Congress to close the facility, which since 2002 has housed suspected terrorists and enemy combatants, captured in the US-led war on terror.
The controversial detention facility “is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists, it needs to be closed,” Obama said.
He blamed Congress for the fact that the detention centre was still open and holding 166 detainees.
Nearly 100 detainees at Guantanamo were on a hunger strike, and 21 of them were being fed through a tube, US Army public affairs officer Lt. Col. Samuel House was quoted as saying by international media.”I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama said, defending the decision to force feed some of the detainees. He insisted the best way to try suspected terrorists was in the civilian court system, and reiterated his conviction that Guantanamo must close.
China’s local govt debt out of control: Auditor
Beijing: The spectre of massive local government debt threatens to haunt China, with a senior Chinese auditor warning that the debt is “out of control” and could spark a bigger financial crisis than the US housing market crash. “We audited some local government bond issues and found them very dangerous, so we pulled out,” Zhang Ke of accounting firm, ShineWing, told Financial Times
Zhang, who is also vice-chairman of China’s accounting association, said “most don’t have strong debt servicing abilities. Things could become very serious”.
Local government debts soared after 2008, when Beijing loosened borrowing constraints to soften the impact of the global financial crisis. Provinces, cities, counties and villages across China are now estimated to owe between RMB 10-20 trillion ($ 1.6- 3.2tn), equivalent to 20-40 per cent of the size of the economy, the Times said in its report.
IMF rating agencies and investment banks have also raised concerns over Chinese government debt. “But it is rare for a figure as established in the Chinese financial industry as Zhang to issue such a stark warning”, the report said.
“It is already out of control. A crisis is possible. But since the debt is being rolled over and is long-term, the timing of its explosion is uncertain,” he said.
Last week, Fitch cut China’s sovereign credit rating, in the first such move by an international agency since 1999.
Moody’s cut its outlook for China’s rating from positive to stable. Since local governments are prohibited from directly raising debt, they have used special purpose vehicles to circumvent these rules, issuing bonds under the vehicles’ names to fund infrastructure projects. Loan disbursement soared with China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, saying China’s loans touched a whopping $441 billion in the first quarter, up $ 47 billion.
China’s new yuan-denominated lending stood at 2.76 trillion yuan ($ 441 billion) in the first quarter, up 294. 9 billion yuan (over $ 47 billion) year on year. Analysts pointed that almost half of the recent growth in credit has taken place in China’s loosely regulated and largely opaque shadow banking market. The rapid expansion has been driven largely by corporate and local government borrowers. Despite the heavy money supply China’s growth unexpectedly slowed to 7.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2013, reports PTI.
5-year-old boy shoots his 2-year-old sister
Chicago:A 5-year-old toddler in the US accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister with a rifle that was given to him as a gift. Police said the girl's brother accidentally shot her with a rifle which was kept in the corner of a room. According to police, the gun was loaded. The coroner said that the boy is used to shooting the gun, and that the boy often goes shooting with his father on their property.
US air passenger detained for talking about ‘bomb’ sandwich
New York: A traveller was detained at the busy John F Kennedy airport for mentioning an explosive device, only to be later found out that he was actually talking about a ‘bomb sandwich’.
Jason Michael Cruz, was on an escalator when a Transportation Security Administration officer overheard him tell a friend he “had the wrong kind of bomb”. She reported the conversation to her supervisor, Robert Haddok, who sent officers to a security checkpoint to question the pair, the New York Post reported.
Officials ushered Cruz and his friend, Matthew Okumoto, to a holding area, where they learned the pair was talking about a sandwich called ‘The Bomb’, airport officials said.
Cruz told officers he was chatting about wanting to bring food on the airplane, sources said. The TSA agent who reported the bomb comment explained that she had only caught a snippet of the conversation.
Tobacco pouch alerts quake
A tiny tobacco pouch tied to the hand of an elderly man saved the lives of nearly 800 people in a remote Chinese village when a powerful earthquake struck Sichuan province last week, killing about 200 people.
The incident took place in Fujiaying village in Longmen township, just five km from Lushan county, the epicentre of the 7.0 magnitude quake.
68-year-old Li Xianhe has being hailed as the saviour of Fujiaying after he pulled out this miracle, all thanks to his humble tobacco pouch. Li carries the pouch everywhere he goes, securing it to his wrist by a piece of string when he lies down to sleep.
Just before the quake struck, Li was woken by the violent rocking of the tobacco pouch hanging from his arm. "It's really weird, you know? I experienced the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 and my instincts told me just one thing earthquake. I yelled out 'earthquake, earthquake' and rushed my family out of the house immediately," he told state-run China Daily.
Rather than trying to re-enter their house and collect valuables, Li and his family rushed along the village road and shouted to their neighbours, warning them of the impending disaster.
"Run! Quickly! Leave everything behind and run!" yelled Li in the hope his voice would alert those still indoors. As his cries rang out, many villagers ran from their homes and joined him in the road.
Fearing a large number of injuries in the village, Li and the other residents went from door to door, calling out and checking to see if anyone was trapped inside. Li let out a long sigh of relief when every one of the more than 800 villagers was gathered unscathed outside.
"Thank goodness, we were all alive and fine," said Li, his voice still hoarse a few days after the disaster. Li served as a village Communist Party chief for three decades and helped villagers to organize the cleanup operation in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.
Over 90,000 were either illed or went missing in the 2008 quake.
Shirts for 100 days without wash!
New York: Who needs laundry? A US company claims to have developed an incredible shirt that can be worn for 100 days straight without needing a wash or ironing.
Manufacturers claim the wool-blended shirt remains wrinkle-free and resists odour so effectively that it even smells fresh after being worn during rigorous exercise.
“We wanted to create the perfect staple shirt for a modern wardrobe, which is why we have developed the oxford solid blue fabric and a small navy and blue gingham check pattern,” the company said on its website.
The US company Wool & Prince claims that people can wear their wool button-down shirts for days on end without them wrinkling, smelling or showing any dirt, ‘Gizmodo’ reported. Testers recruited by the company all claim that no matter what they do, the shirts look fresh from the dry cleaner all the time.
The company says wool is six times more durable than cotton plus it naturally fights wrinkles and odours and no chemical finishes are needed.
A video also shows the company’s founder Mac Bishop wearing the shirt for 100 days and talking to people on the street, who all respond favourably. The material for the shirts is woven out of fine wool thread and there’s a lot of “Wool Science” about temperature, wicking, thread dynamics and cotton comparison.
Wool&Prince is six days into a Kickstarter and is already collecting for stretch goals because it has exceeded the initial USD 30,000 target. The shirts are USD 98 each, which might be worth it if there’s really no dry cleaning or washing needed for months at a time, the report said.
“We stuck to what everyone wants for the shirt they can wear everyday. A simple button-down collar, clean cuffs with pleats, and standard back pleats and yoke to ensure great fit,” the website said.
Want to quit smoking? Slap a policeman !
A woman slapped a sheriff’s deputy in the US state of California so that she could get arrested and be put in jail, where she would not be allowed to smoke cigarettes.
Deputy Matt Campoy said the 31-year-old woman, Etta Mae Lopez, blocked his way as he left his shift at the Sacramento Country Jail. “All of a sudden, she stepped into me & slapped me in the face,” he said.
Lopez was detained at once. She apparently wanted to use California’s ban on tobacco in prisons to kick the habit.Lopez reportedly admitted having waited in front of the jail for hours to hit an officer, get arrested & be put in jail, where she would not allowed to smoke.
Lopez pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery on a peace officer. She was sentenced to 63 days in jail.
Briton to carry on licking cathedrals!
London: A Briton, who works for a government-backed group that protects the historic environment, has embarked on a bizarre quest of licking all Anglican cathedrals in the country. He has licked 42 cathedrals in England, and has vowed to lick eight more in Scotland and eight in Northern Ireland.
Lawrence Edmonds, 27, works for the English Heritage, which protects and promotes the historic environment and ensures that its past is researched and understood. Edmonds thought he had already completed a bet with friends after licking all 42 Anglican cathedrals in England, the Daily Mail reported. But then he discovered there are eight in Scotland and eight in Northern Ireland, and so he vowed to lick them too. The challenge came about in January 2011 when Edmonds accepted the bet. He thought he had finished his tour in June this year. But then his friends told him about the rest, and all had to be visited by Dec 16. If he fails, Edmonds will have to streak around the cathedral in his home town, York Minster. Edmonds’ antics have become a global discussion, thanks to his Facebook page “I bet I can lick every Anglican cathedral in the UK” and his “Cathedral-Licking” blog.”