May 252009
 
out on bail

out on bail

…but out on bail on a personal bond.

The mark of a civilized society is that people are entitled to a fair trial. We are Independent. We have a Constitution. If some one is guilty, by all means arrest him/her/them. But follow due process. Don’t lock them up for years and not allow them bail. Justice doesn’t just have to be done, it has to be seen to be done. Not too much to ask for, is it?

From the tweets :

judge did not even want to hear prosecution lawyer! dismissed him in one sentence ‘bail granted’. Judge says Two years is too much.

Twice in a fortnight events that makes my heart bloom :)

May 232009
 

I was stuck in a massive traffic jam two nights ago – idiot drivers taking u- turns everywhere. Rick drivers, professional drivers, car owners – everyone in Lokhandwalla Mumbai decided that the roads belonged to their fathers, and behaved likewise. The result was no movement for atleast 15 minutes. A lockjam had taken place and the word that kept popping into my mind was gathbandan - a word popularised by the NDA Government led by Vajpayeeji to mean an alliance – but which came to mean a lockjam in the last UPA government. I know that gathbandan means alliance – but for me, for some peculiar reason, it always meant a lockjam. It possibly also reflects my own attitudes towards alliances :)

So in a way I am glad that this current Government doesn’t need a gathbandan - it needs support, it needs to carry the Parliament along, but it doesn’t need to go into battle blindfolded, and with its arms and feet tied.

Yesterday the new Government was administered the Oath of Office. some random thoughts :

  1. It must have been a bitter sweet day for the Gandhi parivaar – vindication of a long, hard struggle to reclaim lost ground. They have made the Congress electable by focussing on the Party – and letting a Professional run the Government. I would really like to see the Party revive in other parts like Karnataka, MP, and WB – before they start looking at Government. Let’s be honest – other people can run the Government – only the family can revive the Party ! Victory in the elections plus the surrender of the LTTE – must have made the 21st of May all the more poignant .
  2. What is the DMK upto – kids, nephews, nieces and loyalists. If they don’t want to go into wilderness after the death of Karunanidhi – he is not immortal – then they need to stop making it an extended family business. It was seriously embarassing to see such a demand for the Family !
  3. good to see the non performers go – the thought of Arjun Singh handling HRD ministry was enough to make one want to throw up. Hope that someone with respect for the nation’s Human Resources takes over the portfolio – with one of the younger baba log as MoS (Pilot would be so good for that)
  4. Interesting to see that 6 ministers took the oath not to ‘God’ but to the Constitution. makes my heart swell with pride.
  5. Good to see that tainted Ministers are not in. Atleast, so far ! would like that entire concept of tainted ministers to be history
  6. Would like to see Local Self Government – both the Panchayati Raj and City Governance – at the core of this Government’s policy. Decentralisation is the key to Development. And decentralisation is not to the State Government but to local Government
  7. Sad to see Mr.Advani walk alone into Parliament . I don’t like his politics, never have. If he had not moved so far away from his core sense of Values – he and his cabinet may have taken the Oath instead of MMS and his cabinet.
  8. i would like to see someone younger and more in tune with modern Economics and Financial markets in charge of the Finance Ministry. but, it looks like a Political appointment
  9. I saw a picture of Mamta Banerjee – she had combed her hair and was smiling :) gosh what a turnaround. If the women politicians smiled more , and tried less to be men, maybe there will be more of them in Parliament. Too much Testerone is an nasty trait in men, in women it is a complete and utter turnoff.
  10. Everyone loves a winner – i hope that the UPA sees this as a mandate for development – not for them, and doens’t get overconfident and trample on everyone around
  11. Finally, the citizens in the North Eastern States, Kashmir, and Naxal infested areas – have turned out in large numbers – braving militants, boycotts and the like – to vote for tomorrow. it would be such a beautiful gesture if the new Home Minsiter scarps the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, releases Dr. Binayak Sen – and brings socio economic development to the Naxal controlled areas. Open dialogue with those who want peace and development. Go after those who want violence. it is sad that in the nation that advocated non-violent protest – people like Dr.Binayak Sen and Irom Sharmilla are targetted !

Little things are big things :)

May 202009
 

life in the shadow of the smokey mountain  2

Mount Merapi is an active volcano in Yogyakarta (Jogja), Indonesia. It blew last a couple of years ago.
the villagers are very proud of the fact that no one died in the eruption, nor was there major disruption to livelihood or major damage to property.
the reason being that they adopted good practices from Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
Prevention is always better than cure – and the confidence that it gives local communities that they can battle the elements and win is huge.

old & young

In the village at the foothills of the Volcano, a grandmother and her grandson watch us shoot

water filing

The water supply for the village is from natural springs that arise near the volcano. Plastic pipes deliver it to the village, and plastic pots (and women) deliver it to the house

foggy mountains

the mountains on the other side – the day we visited, it was over cast and cloudy. Terrace planting or ‘Terasering’ – is a speed breaker for oncoming Lava. at the same time it prevents soil erosion !

more on Jogja in a few days. for now the footage is getting edited !

May 192009
 

Lots of people, lots of personalities – and some very random thoughts :

  1. Did anyone do a dimple share analysis. I wonder how many youth votes got converted by Rahul & Priyanka’s dimples :)
  2. Can Modi’s speeches attract entertainment tax – he is possilby one of the best orators – if you like the equivalent of a Head Prefect in a school debate, score points.
  3. Was there a shoe lash vote?
  4. Is the difference between Rahul and Varun, the difference between Sonia and Maneka ?
  5. Should we all buy shares in TV set manufacturing companies – given that it swung TN to the DMK ?
  6. Has the South Mumbai chaterati realised that outrage is not a substitute for involvement. Get off your collective butts and do something. shooting your mouth off in a TV studio is not action, it is hot air.
  7. Do Pranay and Barkha own shares in the Congress Party – why were they behaving as though they won. Distance, sweeties, Distance.
  8. If the CPI(M) does not believe in resignations – does it mean that their inept leaders will turn up in a gunny bag somewhere – in lots of pieces  ?
  9. Will Advani actually turn up on the first day of Parliament and face MMS on the other side – especially after those terrible personal attacks ?
  10. Will Lallo be the speaker ? it will be good fun to see him control the House :)

Dekthe rahiye, the Dance of Democracy – only on Parliament TV :)

May 182009
 

Dear Government,

Good to know that you are off life support and on your own two feet. One hopes that you can move full steam ahead and deliver things that your earlier version couldn’t. Given that you are fighting fit, here are somethings that i would like from your current avtaar

a) Education - If you haven’t noticed – there is a caste system been created in education. The way the system is moving there are one set of institutes for the middle class and one set for the poor. The former delivers jobs, the latter doesn’t.

This has arisen because the State School and University system has stopped delivering. The policy towards schools has encouraged a mushrooming of private schools – many of which don’t deliver any of their promises. My driver’s sons and maid’s daughter go to schools like these – the kids come out functionally illiterate. Their parents are skimping and saving and depriving themselves to give their kids a better education, but they don’t realise that the schools are not worth the monies that they spend.

Can you please strengthen the State School System. I studied in a state funded school – my education was great. I would like to see more Kendriya Vidyalaya and comparable schools that create a meritocracy.

Can you please stop dragging your feet on this and deliver quality education for everyone. Education that doesn’t just get everyone into class, but also give them very real learning, skills and vocations.There is no reason why parents should sent their children to high fee private schools that don’t deliver. Can you also take a relook at the University system – drag it into this century. There need to be more Universities.Linked to this is the strengthening of ITI’s. More IIT’s are great, but how about good vocational training.

Can you move language out of the Wren and Martin or equivalent space and teach communication instead?
I don’t really care if they are private, public or foreign school/universities – excpet that Publicly funded Universities/schools need to provide world class education. Other Public Sector Undertakings do this – why can’t the education system ?

b) Public Health -The mark of a civilized society is that people who fall ill, will get treated, without mortgaging everything that they have for treatment.

We already have a Public Health System – why is it so shoddy? Why do state funded hospitals look like patients will get Gangrene. Why am I – the tax payer -subsidising medical students – if the same medical students will not go and work in rural India ? Why aren’t there more LMPS – License to Practise Medicine. You – the Government need to evolve a private public partnership to ensure quality health care reaches all, and crack the whip.

Instead of giving ‘free’ medical care – can you please evolve a system of health vouchers & health insurance. Indians don’t value anything that is free – if it is free it must not be good :) Change the policy to suit the people. We aren’t the British – we don’t see free as entitlement, we see it as substandard.

I would like to see compulsory health insurance for every single citizen. For the poor – pay the premium. Unleash the LIC’s and the National Insurance corporation on this task – they are truly efficient and they will deliver.

c) SME Policy - I run a small business – and i have to follow the same statutory and tax requirements as a MNC that spans every single continent. One of my business partners is for ever filling out multiple tax details. Yet when it comes to Government policy there is little or no support in terms of policies. Can we have a single tax window? Can we have easier access to working capital? can we have a system that is slightly more pro active to our requirements? We, as a sector, generate more wealth and create more employment than the Big Boys – treat us well. We are your wealth generators.

d) Urban Renewal /Slum Rehabilitation – When you are moving out slums into pucca constructions, can you make sure that you don’t create inner cities that become the hotbed of crime 15 years from now ! Learn from the European and the American Cases. Build housing that fosters & nurtures community, that has public congregation areas. Create parks and greenery. Don’t create ghettos, help create strong, vibrant communities. Drainage, water, lighting is going to be a key. Ensure that new constructions have rain water harvesting, have solar panels that deal with basic energy requirements.

Ensure that there is adequate public transportation – look at China for the right things. I don’t want Mumbai to be Shanghai but i wouldn’t mind their high speed bullet trains :)

e) AgrarianTransformation – We are an agrarian nation. Our farmers deserve better.

The reason why farmers are committing suicide is because their input cost is greater than their output price. This won’t change unless the land holding increases and the farmer has some control over price. You can waive loans year after year after year, but no good will come from it – unless you seriously look at increasing land holding size and at price support.

I understand the historical reason for small land holdings – but can we please look at a decent co-op policy that builds economies of scale while purchasing inputs – seeds, fertilizers etal – and can command a price while selling. And, which above all allows the farmer his ‘do bhiga zamin’ yet allows him economies of scale.

Subsidies here need to get replaced with vouchers – i don’t see why the tax payer is subsidizing the rich farmer.

f) Energy - As India develops we are going to require more energy. The most basic energy that we need is electricity. Stop issuing advisories and start implementing the law on renewable energy sources. Why can’t every village in India be lit up – solar energy works perfectly well in countries like Sri Lanka – why doesn’t it work here ? Why do cities like Patna or Hoshiarpur have to spend so many hours in darkness or using inverters – solar power will light them up.

g) Community Relations - you need to appreciate that the reason why organisations like the VHP, the RSS, the MNS and SIMI have gained prominance is your own policies over the last 62 years in general, and the last 25 years in particular.

Our spiritual needs are taken care by our religious books, our legal needs by the Constitution. Every citizen has the same rights and it is the job of your Government to safeguard those rights. It is actually quite simple. If in doubt, check how Nehru shoved the Hindu Marriage Act down the collective throats of a Hindu Patriarchy to protect women.

You have failed to protect minorities by pandering to their most virulent and violent fundamentalists. Be these fundamentalists linguistic, religious or ethnic. There is no reason why girls in Rajasthan should be married off pre-puberty, there is no reason why Muslim women ought to hear ‘talaq, talaq, talaq’ without support or redressal, and there is no reason why UP’s and Bihari’s ought to fear for their lives in Mumbai. You have failed by not implementing the law.

h) Human Rights – The mark of a civilized society is protection of Human Rights. What are these Rights -these are those Rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution.The Right to Be oneself, the Right to Practise one’s faith, the Rigth to oppose your policies, The Right to speak out against Institutions, The Right to Question, The Right to Enquiry, The Right to Expression, The Right to Redressal…. you get my drift.

The way the system is structured -most of these Rights are violated. You need to do something about it. At the centre of your policy should not be Caste, Community or Vote Banks – it needs to be the Individual. Your job is to protect us. Not the mob that is baying for our blood.

Often Justice Delayed is Justice Denied. And, in the Republic of India – there is no single greater violation of Rights than delays in delivering justice. You need ot seriously overhaul the Criminal Justice System. Bring efficiencies across the board. Pay the Police well, pay Public Prosecutors decent monies, computerise the system, clear the backlog. The way we pay our Police – especially the lower ranks is a disgrace. How do you expect a honest police force when you pay them less than what a driver or a maid makes ? Unless these are done, Human Rights will continue to be violated. We may not have a problem the way China has, but it is still a violation. Justice has not just to be done, but seen to be done.

and finally,

i) Governance - you, the Government , have Good Policies. Make sure that they reach the people. Make sure that the system is simplified so that people understand it. Have a look at all the 3 zillion forms that are needed to do anything with the Government and ask if it is needed. Single window should work for most things. Put in place checks and balances – but do not ritualise them. Crack down on Leakages. Stop them. Prosecute those who are corrupt.  Let everyone in the country understand, appreciate and internalise – that if they commit a crime they are going to be prosecuted to the full extent of the Law, and go to jail if found guilty. Governance is not a concept. It is practise. Good Governance needs to be seen.

You have a mandate. If you don’t deliver, we may have to find someone else who does :)

Thankyou,

Harini Calamur, Citizen of India