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Roma - 'Children of India'
2016.06.29 18:07:24

While reading a review of a film I was surprised to learn that it was made by a Roma about a large Roma family. The film is about a sunny day when the family with about 15 kids in tow goes out on a sunny day with tp celebrate their fresh start in Berlin. The name of the film is “And-Ek Ghes” in Romani (“One fine day” in English) which the reviewer found “visually chaotic” but telling an intimate tale of their “tumultuous uprooting” and yet of “strong hope, often contrived and staged”.



Tags: roma | children

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Corruption hindering growth and prosperity
2016.06.12 15:22:59

Rummaging through my collection of newspaper clippings I came across one that was of a fairly recent origin. Its sub-head said corruption remains major barrier to growth in India. This earth-shattering finding was made by as unlikely an organization as the World Economic Forum (WEF), a Swiss non-profit based near Geneva. Its mission is supposed to be "... improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".

What the Forum has unearthed has always been known to most of us although, perhaps, we could never pin point the extent of corruption in the country. The Forum has indicated that in more or less specific terms in its report titled “Building Foundation for Transparency” under its Partnership Against Corruption Initiative. Choosing to look into the sectors of real estate and infrastructure its investigators were told by the Indian protagonists that under the prevailing ‘system’ the bribes paid could be considerable and could account for as much as 50% of the project cost or even more. The prevailing system meant ambiguous norms for change of land use, dodgy land records and the need for multiple clearances and these reasons compel the project developers to pay speed money, presumably, to several individuals and/or outfits. Besides, one could safely presume, rules regarding change in land use are deliberately kept ambiguous to dole out favours by those in authority to big and influential project developers in exchange of big money. These findings, the Forum felt, have “strong implications for the competitiveness of the Indian markets”.

The Forum has used the hammer rather lightly and probably preferred to look away from the reality. That almost all the state governments in India are driven by the real estate and construction lobbies is an established fact. Even the prestigious magazine The Economist had once occasion to remark that state governments in India are more likely to be sold to these lobbies either because of the demands of the political parties in power or the politicians’ own venality. Real estate developers and infrastructure contractors are the ones who are really fat cats and buy off the ministers with their financial muscle. State governments are literally led by their nose and the proof prevails in big bold relief in almost all the cities. Forgetting all the environmental or civic norms, buildings or complexes come up with or without the necessary approvals. What if a project is not approved; money can buy the approval at a later date. Buildings, roads, drainage, dams and almost everything infrastructural are all of poor quality as these thickly line the pockets of officials, bureaucrats and politicians – the thickness of the lining being determined by the station of the recipient in the government. This has been the standard practice since the British days but has assumed huge proportions post-independence as those at the helm have been participating in the game with increasingly greater enthusiasm. The padding of 50% or more has perhaps been forced on the project executor because of the prevailing utter lack of ethical behaviour all over.

Findings of WEF apart, the country’s own Minister of Defence recently had occasion to state in an interview that the VVIP choppers that were procured from AugustaWestland during UPA rule at Rs.300 crores apiece should not have cost more than Rs.150 or 160 crores each. He said kickbacks paid to various people doubled the price of the choppers. All those reported to be mired in the scandal include the security establishment at the highest levels, bureaucrats, a number of Air Force officials including its Air Chief Marshal and a number of politicians including, reportedly, the then ruling party chief. An elaborate charade was played out to bring the AugustaWestland helicopters within reckoning. These were meant for the VVIPs to be flown to high altitude military posts. Even the parameters for the purpose earlier determined for selection were revised to bring in the AugustaWestland helicopters in the field for consideration. And even the test flight that was taken was reported to have been of a different helicopter in a different country- not on the heights of India.

Ever since independence there have been numerous scandals involving defence deals. The corrupt deal of buying jeeps in 1948, though trifling in comparison to the mind-boggling ones of current times, short-changed the Indian Army by as many as 45 jeeps as only 155 were received against 200 for which payment had been made. Only Rs. 18 lakh were eaten up. While Krishna Menon, the main culprit, was made a minister, the prime mister brushed the matter under the carpet. Since then, however, numerous magnum-sized defence deals were negotiated and billions of rupees were eaten up by unscrupulous politicians, bureaucrats, officials and middlemen which could have bought thousands of jeeps, howitzers fighter planes and VVIP choppers.

Why defence, every sphere in governance is infested with corruption. From allocation of coal mines to allocation of telecom spectrum, from holding the Commonwealth Games to even granting approval for opening of medical colleges, every sector of the government has somehow failed to remain untouched by corruption. At the central level the corrupt practices are fewer but the states are dens of corruption. So many chief ministers and other ministers have been caught with their hands in the till. In Bihar a former chief minister literally looted the state treasury as he allowed fraudulent payments from it for cattle-feed for personal gains. There are rackets galore and politicians and officials of the states make merry.

The moral and ethical standards have plummeted so low that every government servant, high or low, wants to be a crorepati (billionaire). There have been cases where the employees of the lowest ranks have been found to have stashed away a billion or more. An aspiring society apparently is trying to satisfy its aspirations mostly by immoral and corrupt means and making no bones about it. If the entire governmental structure is predominantly corrupt can the country ever prosper? Narendra Modi, the present Prime Minister, may try his best but the progress, if at all, will be at snail’s pace – especially because of the states that will drag him down.

Once upon a time India was known as “Sone ki chidia”, a “golden sparrow”, because of its immense riches. Ancient India seemed to have had prosperous trade with the countries in West and South-East Asia. There was intense interaction with the peoples of its trading partners. Foreigners are reported to have wondered at the gold on temples and on bodies of women. The riches attracted invaders to come to pillage and plunder. Even Lord Clive was astounded to see the riches of Murshidabad in Bengal which was at that time richer than even London. Mark Twain too was stunned by the “land of dreams and romance, fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, splendour and rags, of palaces and hovels...”that was India

Whether Muslims or British, they all came and looted the country and took away its wealth. Now that the foreigners are gone, it is our “netas”(politicians) who are doing the same. Trillions of rupees have been siphoned off by them since independence in collaboration with their partners in crime. But for them and their nefarious gangs, the country could have quite possibly regained by now the sobriquet of “Sone ki Chidia”.



Tags: indian | corruption

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Sonia Gandhi's Congress is allergic to truth
2016.02.01 15:28:33

The Indian National Congress High Command has sent a show-cause notice to the Mumbai Congress chief, Sanjay Nirupam, for publishing an unsigned article in the November 2015 issue of “Congress Darshan”, a mouthpiece of the Party in Mumbai, denigrating the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the Party’s current president, Sonia Gandhi.

Tags: Sonia Gandhi

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Pakistani Terror Repeats History
2016.01.09 14:43:30

The attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station was expected. I am sure the Indian Government and its security agencies must have anticipated it. It had to happen as it had always happened after every initiative for talks between India and Pakistan. One wonders whether the perpetrators of these are really so dumb as to believe that their nefarious designs would not be anticipated despite the historical background.



Tags: terror | Pakistan

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Hindu far right is Modi's enemy
2015.11.26 19:13:19

Prime Minister Modi is reported to have said the other day while addressing G20 leaders at Antalya (Turkey), “We need to involve religious leaders, thinkers and opinion makers for a social movement against extremism, particularly addressed to the youth”. This was needed the most in countries where extremism was most prevalent, he said, and highlighted the urgency for promoting broader peace and stability in West Asia and Africa. He also said, “We don’t have a comprehensive global strategy to combat terrorism. And we tend to be selective in using the instruments that we have.”

Tags: enemy | right | hindu

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Wars - manifestation of Social Darwinism
2015.09.06 18:54:06

The last one hundred years were full of international strifes and wars during which two world wars were fought involving most of the countries of the world. Apart from them there were smaller regional wars or ethnic movements for independence. Barring Australia – a single country continent – no continent was spared the luxury of peace and tranquility.

Tags: darwinism | social | wars

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Hindu pilgrimages are now destructive of environment
2015.08.08 18:37:18

This year quite a few Hindu pilgrimages are scheduled. In fact, some have been gone through, some others are continuing and still others are yet to commence.  An ancient religion as it is, it has a number of auspicious days as prescribed by the scriptures and the same have designated a number of holy places.



Tags: enviroment | pilgrimages | hind

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India - 1.27 billion and counting
2015.07.31 16:02:22

W

e have hit the 1.27 billion mark. This only means that we are only less than three quarters short of 2 billion. In 2011 we were 1210 million and in less than four years we have added more than 60 million. It is now estimated that at this rate we will overtake the Chinese population by the middle of the next decade or thereabout.

Tags: india

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India's scam of the year
2015.07.17 15:26:07

This is one scam that the Hindu right wing party ruling in Delhi and in Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh, will have to live through for a long time. It is so big that most parts of the country are involved in it and its reverberations have travelled far and wide.



Tags: india

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Nestle's Maggi Noodle has a run in with Indian officialdom
2015.06.21 19:02:42

Nestle India got it out of the blue right in the neck. The “blue” in this surprising event was the innocuous state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). A stray safety test of Nestlé’s 2-Minute Noodles yielded lead content far too excess in proportion than what was permissible. And all hell broke loose – for Nestle India.



Tags: noodles | maggi | nestle

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Common Man's Party chief turns authoritarian
2015.04.23 19:48:49

There is something unstable in Kejriwal’s persona that makes him behave in the way he mostly does. He has that penchant for ‘self-destruct’ and, in the process, he betrays the faith reposed in him by hundreds and thousands of common, educated and well-meaning people as also civil society organizations. One wonders whether he has that inscrutable split personality like that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as it seems there has been a sea change in his personality and conduct since the days of the movement appropriately known as India Against Corruption (IAC).

Tags: india

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Heavy poaching of Indian rhinos
2015.03.15 19:18:09

Whether in South Africa or in India poaching of rhinos has assumed alarming levels. In South Africa, which has the largest population of rhinos and which is an important country for their conservation, poaching has reached a crisis point so much so that if the killings continue at the current rate, it is estimated, the species could be pushed close to extinction. In 2014 as many as 1215 rhinos were killed and the South African Department of Environment calculated that that amounted to poaching of one rhino every 8 hours.

Tags: india | poaching | rhino

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Vulnerable Indian rhinos
2015.03.14 19:05:58

Whether in South Africa or in India poaching of rhinos has assumed alarming levels. In South Africa, which has the largest population of rhinos and which is an important country for their conservation, poaching has reached a crisis point so much so that if the killings continue at the current rate, it is estimated, the species could be pushed close to extinction. In 2014 as many as 1215 rhinos were killed and the South African Department of Environment calculated that that amounted to poaching of one rhino every 8 hours.

Tags: india | poaching | rhinos

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Tigers endangered despite rise in their numbers
2015.02.05 19:26:56

A lot of cheer has been brought to tiger and wildlife lovers by the latest Tiger Census conducted in late 2014. There seems to have been a revival in its numbers after the dismal count of 2006 when it had registered 1411 tigers. A marginal increase to 1706 was registered in 2011.



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Gas lamps of London
2015.01.23 15:05:32

The feature on lamplighters of London in the Times of India of last Sunday literally dug out from the deep recesses of my mind the memories of gas lamps and their lighters in my birthplace Gwalior in Central India. More than 60 years ago in the early 1940s Gwalior was a small town of about 80000 or so but it used to be the capital of the princely state carrying the same name. Its maharaja was the third richest of all the Indian maharajas after the Nizam of Hyderabad, and Maharaja of Mysore. Being the capital, it had stately buildings, a beautiful palace that was built in the 19th Century on the pattern of the palace at Versailles and broad roads. While most of the roads were illuminated at night by electric incandescent bulbs many lanes, including ours, had gas lights to light them up.



Tags: gas | lights | London

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Modi's clarion call for cleaning up India
2014.10.15 18:40:52

About thirty years ago while on a visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China I used to watch Chinese films on the small black & white TV set having nothing to do in the evenings. True, I did not understand a word of what was said and yet, for understanding emotions one does not need to know the language. The films used to be mostly about peasants and workers with young boys and girls working together.

Tags: clean-up | india

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Modi's victory proves leadership is vital in elections
2014.08.27 18:24:41

The recent statement of the chief of much-maligned Right-wing Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS), Mohan Bhagwat on the massive win of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the last General Elections was true but only partially so. Bhagwat is reported to have said that the victory at the hustings for the BJP was not because of one man, as claimed by many, but because the people wanted a change. He went on to say that an individual alone could not have ensured the Party’s victory unless people were keen on a change. He went on to ask why is it that the Party was not voted to power when the same individuals and the party existed earlier, too? The Party won because the people desperately wanted a change.



Tags: india

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Angry Gods of Himalayas
2014.08.03 15:52:16

The pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath as also to what is known as “Chaar Dhaam yatra” in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhad has come to a halt on account of heavy incessant rains, both in the Shivaliks and on the Himalayas. Consequently, there have been floods and landslides; the roads are blocked and the pilgrims in thousands are stranded at various places on the way up to the temples of Badrinath and Kedarnath at the elevations of more than 10000 ft. and more than 11500 ft, respectively.



Tags: Himalayas

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Indian Railways need profile-change
2014.07.14 19:08:31

Derailment of the prestigious New Delhi- Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express the other day near Chhapra in Bihar is virtually a wake-up call for the Indian Railways and its newly appointed minister. It is not yet certain what caused the accident that reportedly took four lives. Whether it was sabotage or plain neglect and incompetence on the part of the tracks inspection staff is yet to be ascertained. Inquiries are going to be conducted but a later report said that the Intelligence Bureau had sent an alert about a Maoist threat. The area is Maoists-affected. Nonetheless, it would be premature to arrive at any conclusion.

Tags: india

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Neymar's injury: increasing aggression in sports
2014.07.13 15:20:29

The Colombian Zuniga’s downing of football’s superstar Neymar that broke the latter’s vertebra took away bit of sheen from the “Beautiful Game”. The violence of this kind does not quite mix with sports, be it football or sport of any other kind. The Brazil game against Colombia was particularly rough with as many as 54 fouls whistled down and of them 31 were committed by the Brazilians. If this is reckoned as beautiful, one wouldn’t know what beautiful is. Fouls are certainly committed in inadvertence but, as one noticed, players were being pulled away or being deliberately downed to prevent them from carrying on with the game. And this happened not once, or twice; it happened umpteen numbers of times in the games I happened to watch. To me, this does not appear like sport. One plays a game, after all, for pleasure and to extend pleasure to the spectators. It is neither a matter of life and death nor is it a matter of national prestige. Then why go and do something like breaking somebody’s back – literally?

Tags: aggression | sports

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