Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Been finding it interesting (more so intriguing) to note that after encountering efficient, non corrupt processes in countries like UK, the solutions for India from Indians here are still mostly on lines of:
‘shoot the leaders’,
‘Congress corrupt, BJP will bring ram rajya’,
‘Anna Hazare is the saviour’,
‘we need a dictatorship’ (which both the above options might easily deliver), my etc.

No one, not even the most intelligent, insightful IIM educated folk I’ve met / read, suggest what I find to be the obvious: ‘strong, independent government institutions’.

So, either I’m highly mistaken and misguided in my understanding, or most people I follow are getting something wrong.

If you think I’m wrong, would really like to hear your point of view, and feel free to skip everything below this. Just jump to comments.

The strength of western democracies isn’t derived from non-corrupt leaders (they are corrupt here too, just not in such an open manner), or from being led by a god anointed party or leader (highly religious states in eu do tilt towards higher corruption), or from a great leader who has lead them into a shining future.

The strength of western democracy is (IMHO) derived from its strong institutions – institutions which deliver what they are responsible for irrespective of government of the day, mood of the populace and mood of the boss. More importantly, institutions which, while consistently delivering their responsibilities, rarely over reach.

About time that we stopped thinking in terms of individuals and personalities, and started thinking in terms of institutions, organisations, structures and processes. Yes, it’s boring, it doesn’t let you (or anyone) be a hero. But, it delivers. Time, after time.

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Been some time since I saw a good article in The Economist, with equally good (mostly) comments. This was one.

Some quotes:

“Americans are more hostile toward the idea of an atheist presidential candidate than they are to a gay, adulterous, marijuana-using or utterly inexperienced candidate.”

“The problem is seldom with the religion but the religious”

In fact, eight states still officially ban atheists from holding public office.

Btw, this bit of JFK’s speech is must read. How I wish these words could be enshrined, strictly, in constitutions across the world (and speciall, my India).

…where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the president—should he be Catholic—how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

Go read the article. And the comments. It’s worth your time, even if you are a jihadist / crusader / ram sene aspirant (tells you how the other side, we, feel).

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The world went from a decade when Muslims taking up arms got a largely sympathetic ear and a default label of ‘defenders against oppression‘ (Bosnia and Kosovo), to a decade (the noughties) when Muslims taking up arms got the most suspicious eye and default labels of ‘Islamic terrorists’ and ‘extremists‘.

Over a similar period, our neighbourhood troublemakers (NT) went from being a long-term strategic ally of the only super power, to having openly hostile relations with it. As a sign of their sinking economy, their GDP/capita went from ~50% higher than ours ($412 vs $218 in 19921) to 32% lower ($1007 vs $1476 in 2010).

Further, the neighbourhood troublemakers saw another democratic government thrown out and military take the reigns yet again, while J&K saw (relatively) successful elections and successive elected governments (something the NT rarely sees)

To repeat, over a period of 2 decades the instigators behind the troubles in J&K went from being a position of geo-political and economic strength to (almost) international outcasts and economic ruin. Their agents in the valley went from being considered defenders against oppression to extremist terrorists, and got banned in most countries. The valley itself went from being a violent hotspot ruled by a governor appointed by the centre running a largely police state, to a mostly peaceful state with successive democratic governments.

Seems to me like it was a damn good time2 to force negotiations, from a position of strength, and get the other parties to agree to a long term solution. Unfortunately, nothing like that seems to be happening, unless we agree that the best case long term solution for India is to freeze the conflict while establishing LoC as the accepted border.

Should the government have tried for more than just peace in the valley and banning of the terrorist groups? I believe yes. I would have sure liked to have them push for more, quite a bit more. I’m sure a lot of people, on both sides of the border would’ve like them to have tried a bit more and settled the issue once and for all.

Could the government have gotten more? Unlikely. The same factors that have lead the our NT from a position of strength in early 90s to such a position of weakness today – core interests of the populace, the military, and (lately) the Islamists running counter to each other – are also the ones that prevent them from behaving like rational, reliable actors on a negotiating table. That India’s domestic opposition, while largely agreeing on outline of final desired outcome, is always looking to score political points on any moves towards settlement, rather than support the government in achieving it, acts as a dampener as well.

Should this be considered a failing of the Indian government – for not pushing through a long term resolution – or a success – for pacifying a violent valley and establishing a stable democratic process in the state as a prelude to complete peace and normalcy? I can’t answer that, I don’t have all the facts and the insider info. May be the super powers of hindsight will help us answer this question in a decade or few.

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I always thought Ed Miliband to be a weakling who came to lead the Labour on support of the unions & further left wings inside the party. I thought he’d be a puppet in their hands, and that his election had deprived Labour of a much better leader in his brother Dave. Then came his presence and performance in the parliament. Against a confident bully in Dave Cameron, he looked amateurish and feeble.  However, In the current crises, he seems to be proving me, and lots of his other doubters, wrong.

He took on the biggest political powers in this country – Murdoch Empire and David Cameron – and even the Met Police. He stood out practically alone shouting from the roof tops to all those would hear, which in this case was a collection of various non-Murdoch news media.

These – Murdochs, Dave Cameron & Met Police – were the people who had clipped Vince Cable, shut up the LibDems and had led from front the downfall of Gordon Brown. This trio had also helped stave off, and even project as evil, the thousands of student and union protesters who had opposed government policies earlier. Yet, he insisted, he carried on his almost alone in his assault on the corrupt trio.

The results are finally showing and the real evil empire seems to be crumbling:

  • Andy Coulson had long been gone from Dave Cameron’s entourage. Now, he was arrested and investigated.
  • News of The World itself was shut down, albeit partly in an attempt to protect Rebecca Brooks, James Murdoch and the BSkyB bid.
  • The BskyB bid was shelved. Again, it may just turn out as an attempt to buy time while the furore dies down.
  • Today, Rebecca Brooks, despite earlier defiant statements from Rupert Murdoch, resigned offering an apology.
  • And tomorrow, all News Int’l newspapers are to carry a full page apology on behalf of the organisation. Quite a bit of turnaround from the defiant, arrogant front page that the last issue of NotW carried less than a week ago.
  • James & Rupert Murdoch have agreed to appear before the parliamentary enquiry, along with in front of the independent judge-led enquiry.

Of course, this is just the News Int’l.

  • Dave Cameron has escaped practically unhurt, other than the loss of a strong supporter at News Int’l.
  • Despite repeated calls from Ed, he has refused to apologise for appointing Andy Coulson or even admitting any wrong on that account.
  • And he hasn’t even bothered to admit that he was wrong when he earlier insisted that both Brooks & Coulson were personal friends and that he believed their words.

Similar is the case with police – lots of irregularities have come to light but there’s been no apologies or prosecutions coming. None to be expected either, after all why will they want to charge their own? Moreover, they have the alibi of the fact that they can diffuse any wrong doing as having been cleaned with the change of guard at top, and inside, the force.

  • Still, they are on defensive. From brusquely dismissing any more investigations into matters involving the Murdoch empire or their own taking bribes, they have at least been forced to open new investigations.

Rupert Murdoch’s defiant piece in yesterday’s WSJ shows that this battle is far from over in his mind. Neither he nor Cameron are the ones to forget and forgive. They will want their power back and will fight back.

Ed Miliband will be their prime target and he can expect to face the full brunt of a combined assault – dirt being dug up by News Intl reporters and their hired dirty hands, published all over the Rupert media, being attacked in & outside parliament by Cameron & his allies and brought to charge on the flimsiest excuse by the Met.

It was the fear of this backlash that had shut up critics from all three parties. Till, of course, they realised that the Murdoch-Conservative-Met alliance was crumbling and jumped in to make their voice heard and gain a bit of credibility.

But, frankly, if there’s anyone who has come out looking strong and well in this episode, it is Ed Miliband. Bravo, mate. (Now, prepare for the backlash).

Topic for the day is: Who is your greatest hero of all time?

I will continue to break with convention and name many, instead of one, heroes. Helps me by not having to choose one as well :)

Let’s start with my long time, and still, hero – Gandhi. Gave up his entire life, family, possessions and even, when required, the cause he’d been fighting for, for the sake of his beliefs. What he achieved made him a legend. What I admire him for, is how he achieved it.

Next up is Nelson Mandela. Spent over two decades at the prime of his adult life behind bars on an island while his supporters were brutally oppressed with an unrestricted use of force. What I admire him for is that after suffering such oppression, he had the calmness of mind and greatness of stature to pardon the oppressors and dream of a united nation.

He may be controversial and much derided by many, but Julian Assange is a hero for me. The shortcomings of his personality are trivial compared to the his belief in an open society based on freedom of information. The world we live in is one where powerful governments and corporations have strong rights to privacy while they intrude further into individuals’ private domains every day. That he had the vision, tools and courage to see this duality and challenge it is what makes him a hero for me.

I love cycling. I know how hard the small London hills are for me. I realise that most people do not finish a single Etape du Tour every year. And I know that winning 7 TdFs requires not just a strong body but a really strong mind and immense character. But that is not why he’s my hero. I admire Lance Armstrong for being a great cyclist and bringing cycling into such limelight. But he’s my hero for taking on cancer, beating it, and, most importantly, encouraging and supporting the world to beat back the disease.

They appear late in the list, but are the ones I admire most – my parents.
Ma, for working so hard, so many years, with that broken back, while raising us and taking care of her not-so-supportive in-laws.
Pa, for his ever cheerful spirit, his optimism against odds and his goodness of heart. A bit too good, at times, for his and our sake.
Both of them, for bearing with me through my rebellious, arrogant, stubborn years (still on). For never letting us feel a pinch while they cut back on everything to give us the best they could afford. For being there whenever we wanted them, even though we were not always there when they needed us. For having such a strong bond of love & trust. For giving me the spirit to go for what I wanted. For being my biggest inspiration.

Last, but never the least – those common, faceless people who keep our world running. The tube drivers, the bus drivers, the cops, the cabbies, the street cleaners, the drivers, the Charlie who grits the side-walk every time there’s a chance of snow or ice, the Kusum who use to calmly clean the house while we slept, the shack workers who threatened off eve teasers and even the the security guard who shares a kind word and warm smile every time he sees me pass by, the ski instructor who dove into freezing river to save 20 odd people, the soldiers who drove of the invaders but didn’t cross behind them because the orders said so… While the leaders – corporate, political, military and community – get the accolades, my heroes are these every day people who keep things working to make our lives better, easier and more secure.

So, there. Those are some of my heroes – some having had a bigger influence on me, some more celebrated, some even hated and others barely known – and I look up to all of them.

Cheers!

Over at the dailypost blog, the question for yesterday’s post (I’m running a day behind) was:

If you had your own reality show, what would it be called? What would it be about? Who would the main characters be?

I use to be a regular watcher of MTV Roadies back in India but haven’t picked up any reality show here. Never got interested in any other shows back home either so not sure I am qualified to do this. However, since I accepted the challenge, I’ll try to throw a couple of ideas I have.

The first idea for a reality show that I have is around conflict resolution. Let’s call it ‘Survivor – in peace or in pieces’. It’d be about inserting specific people into the conflict situations that they have strong views about. For instance, certain BJP & VHP politicians would be made to live in and do night patrols around Sopore, Baramullah, Anantnag, Srinagar and Shopian. For company they can take along a selection of their senior party functionaries. In exchange, the soldiers they replace will be allowed to live in their bunglows, be driven around in their cars and, say, attend parliament on their behalf. This would be run, without breaks, for at least a summer. End of the summer, surviving members will exchange back their places.

Writing this, I’ve even got ideas for follow-up seasons. Select a handful of common youth who’ve been identified in the stone throwing actions in Kashmir and let them live their wish for a few months. Send half of them to live like common folk in, say, Karachi where they can choose to align themselves with the militia of their choice – Mojahir, Pashtun or Baluch. The other half will be sent to live in the sinful heart of a kafir India – Bombay.  Preferably living in a gujju hindu society with strict ban on consumption of meat. They get to live the life they have so come to hate and disdain. Like in the first season, the survivors, willing or not, will be then brought back at end of season.

For the third season, we go international. Ms. Palin, Mr. Beck and people selected on a call-in show hosted by him will be shipped off to a village in Marjah to defend US interests and protect the Afghan civilians. In their stead, a detachment of US soldiers will be allowed to enjoy the hospitality provided to Fox’s finest. In exchange, select leaders of Pakland’s ISI, TeT and LeT will visit the US on an exchange program. One of them will serve as an understudy to Rev. Terry Jones while suffering the mild temperatures in good old California. Another will be sent to work on a Christian outreach program in, say, Texas. And the remaining would be made to run guns and illegal aliens across the Arizona-Mexico border. Should be fun. Of course, end of season, survivors (willing or not) return back to their home locations.

For further seasons, we could transplant some CPM/CPI/Maoist leaders to a few mines in North Korea, send Mr. Ahmedinejad to live in a settler township in West Bank, some settler leaders could be relocated to Janjaweed infested villages in Darfur, ex-BP CEO would live and work in an oil spill, Chevron/Conoco/Exxon leadership may be made to work on oil fields in Iraq (without security cover), Japanese whaling-fleet workers be set out on little dinghies in southern Pacific (with bits of flesh tied at bottom) and Steve Bucknor could be made to live in a cricket-crazy slum in Bandra.

I had another idea for a reality show but this one is already into 3 seasons and going strong, so I guess I’ll stop here. :)

Cheers!

Our Tricolour

Based as it is on dialogue, compromise, reciprocity and accommodation, the idea of India does not appeal to those who seek quick and total solutions to human problems.

Interesting, though long, essay by Ramchandra Guha on the state of our nation.

I don’t agree with everything he states and dislike his use of certain cliches and extrapolation of possibly unique events, but overall, the essay does carry itself. In a way, the essay is also a reflection of how, and where, the modern, urban Indian citizen looks at himself and his country’s problems.

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