Sunday, April 23, 2006

A tale of two states

Last week I watched two different news stories. First was about the election promises in Tamilnadu election on CNN-IBN and second was an NDTV story on children dying of hunger in Maharashtra.
Tamilnadu's electoral scenario revolves around the promises of freebies being doled out. So if we have one party offering rice at Rs. 2/kg then the other is ready with rice (why don't they offer any other grain?) at Rs. 1.75/kg. The report told that TN government is already paying Rs. 1200 crore as subsidy on cheap rice and if these promises are indeed carried out then state exchequer would be set back by another Rs. 630 crore! As if the rice wasn't lucrative enough, someone is promising to give color TVs to all families below poverty line. The reason: the poor would expand their knowledge beyond their village!!!!
I couldn't understand that why honest taxpayers have to pay for the outrageous promises made by the vote-hungry politicians?
The other story was both heart-rending and shocking. Scores of children have succumbed to the greed of corrupt beaurocrats and politicians. A number of tribal children have died because the ration that is supposed to reach the ration shops of their villages and sold at subsidized rates is being diverted to open market and the poor tribals can't afford it. Complete official machinery (beaurocrats, politicians and even doctors) tries to make us believe that the cause of deaths is disease or anything else, whereas everyone knows it is hunger and malnutrition.
I was just wondering that what a land of disparities this country is. Where will this greed lead us?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Congress and BJP vs Bhagwati Patidar and Aamir Khan

Finally Congress and BJP have got something common to burn effigies of. And it’s none other than film actor Aamir Khan! He has become the target of violent protests (Congress workers stopped screening of ‘Rang De Basanti’ in Vadodara, Gujrat) because he visited the protest site of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists in Delhi.
But for once, forget these political activists. I was reading comments to a news item about Aamir’s visit and I was shocked that even some people think that he should not be supporting this ‘Blackmail’ and should remain out even if this was ‘a paid appearance’! Now I must clarify that I am no great fan of Aamir, just like his acting and support some of his views (including the ones he expressed about media).
I am unable to understand how can anyone term a rightful demand as blackmail? Those people are demanding only what even Supreme Court has directed governments to do. The fact that these people have to resort to protests to get their basic right is a matter of shame for the Governments and instead of rectifying their callousness they are painting the protestors as anti-development. Ideal case of shooting the messenger!
Aamir Khan’s visit ensured that the NBA protest keeps getting its due share of media attention, which was waning off slowly.
Congress and BJP can shake hands and burn effigies. Bhagwati Patidar is not listening!

Demanding right to live

We all are aware of the plight of Kashmiri Pundits. The natives of Jammu and Kashmir who were displaced due to terrorism in the valley in 1990s and then got nothing from any government except false promises and assurances. They lost their homes, their property and their land. They lost everything.
And the history is set to repeat itself. Not in Jammu and Kashmir but in the western part of country where many are going to be displaced simply because their own government is not interested in giving them an opportunity to live peacefully.
I am talking about thousands of people who are going to be displaced by Sardar Sarovar Project. The Government instead of following Supreme Court's order that first the affected people are given compensation and settled properly, is painting their valid demand as anti-development. Is asking for your right wrong? These people who gave their land to Government and agreed to leave everything for the sake of development (and I am not even talking about how viable this 'development project' is, considering the cost and dangers to ecology and environment involved) are now forced to take the path of protest to ask for something as basic as right to live!
And guess what, all our honorable PM can do is to appeal Ms. Patkar to end her hunger strike. Mr. PM, you are supposed to be a man of action. So why inaction in this case? After Supreme Court's verdict, even NBA has dropped demand for not increasing height of the dam; only thing they want is proper rehabilitation of dam victims. What is the problem in this? No development project should be allowed to plunge many others in the darkness of misery.
I appeal to the President and Prime Minister of India to ensure that people getting affected by this project are given proper benefits and they are rehabilitated properly. People of our own country must not be made to live like refugees in their own country.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Country / politics=0

Flashback to 1990s: Mandal Commission recommends reservations in jobs. Despite wide-spread anger and protests, V.P. Singh government passes the bill and India changes for ever.
Now back to 2006: Manmohan Singh government increases the reservation in educational institutes to 50% and introduces reservations in private sector jobs. India is nomore left to be changed!

The worst thing in this issue is that no political party is willing to initiate any discussion on the merits or demerits of the quota system and how it will affect the society. Time and again since Mandal-1 our sociologists and academecians have been saying that quota on the caste system is actually doing more harm to society and country than good. It is increasing the divide amongst castes, since people of unreserved castes look down to those getting benefits due to this system. And I am not saying anything about the quality of people coming in the prestigious institutes when quality is compromised.
BJP is only concerned about 'violation of EC guidelines'. So rest assured, the bill will be passed after the elections are over. It is another issue that only a few years ago, Atal Behari Vajpayee had raised the issue of doing away with caste based quotas. No party will oppose this, for the fear of being sidelined in the elections by the SC/ST/OBC voters. And if they are risking any violations of SC directives, an amendment in law will be made very swiftly.
I really can't understand why are these politicians so short sighted that they can't see the future of country, of so many people living in this country, beyond their short term political gains.