Sep 202011

My column in today’s DNA


It has been a decade since al-Qaeda took the war in the Middle East to the doorsteps of the Americans. 9/11 became a watershed moment for the ‘War on Terror’, with the US and its allies recognising what countries like India had been facing for more than a decade before that: small groups of interlinked, highly motivated terrorists brining war to civilian populations, in civilian areas.
The US responded by bombing Afghanistan. A year or so later it went to war with Iraq, ostensibly because it had weapons of mass destruction, but somewhere that war, too was enmeshed with the war on terror.
In the next 10 years, the US and its allies have waged a bloody and brutal war against terror, striking at suspected terrorist cells across the world, incarcerating people without trial at Guantanamo Bay, making incursions into sovereign territories in order to attack and destroy terrorists. To achieve this, intelligence networks have been put in place, information systems are up and running, a large number of military personnel, arms and armament, and equipment have been deployed. Targets are continuously attacked. And, of course, Osama Bin Laden has been killed. But, despite all this, the war on terror is not over. Terrorists still attack.
It is estimated that the US alone has spent over $4 trillion since 2002. Over and above this, there has been a tremendous human cost — approximately 2.5 lakh people have died and over 7 million refugees are living in camps across the world.
Has all this reduced the intensity of terrorist attacks? Maybe it has kept the US and its allies safe, but the rest of the world does not have the luxury of invading sovereign nations suspected of harbouring terrorists. The rest of the world has to fight terror the old fashioned way. Step by step. Keeping in mind the laws of their land; keeping in mind international laws; respecting international conventions on sovereignty, and adhering to international codes on human rights. These countries simply cannot send crack assassination teams to nations that harbour terrorists. In many ways the anti-terror machinery in other countries apart from the US and its allies, fights with one hand tied behind its back. While these countries are able to stop most terror attacks, they have been rather unsuccessful in stopping the funding of terror.
One of the most lucrative sources of funding terror has been the production, processing, distribution and retailing of narcotics the world over. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, despite their rejection of modernity, terrorists have adopted sophisticated, modern techniques of using crime to fund the war. This includes drugs & arms trafficking, laundering the monies earned from this, and deep involvement in cross border organised crime.
An earlier 2007 report from the UNODC had pegged the total value of the previous year’s opium harvest in Afghanistan alone, earned by farmers, laboratory owners and Afghan traffickers at about $3.1 billion. Afghanistan is not the only opium producer in the world. Pakistan is another major opium growing country. The same theory applies to India. Large portions of Naxal controlled areas grow opium and others are used to traffic drugs in relative safety. Kashmir is another area where Opium is grown and trafficked.
The war on terror will not succeed until there is political will to cut off the money supply that fund terror. And a large part of not only the money supply but also the ground level organisation that plants terror is the narcotics trade. The last 20 years of the war on drugs have yielded nothing except to put huge profits — in cash — into the hands of those who seek to disrupt nation states. It seems ridiculous that while spending billions on fighting terror, governments across the world do not cut off the source of funds. The war on drugs is not a war that can be won by patrolling every inch of the globe and burning down every opium farm. There simply isn’t the manpower to achieve it, and growing it is far too easy, and the profits far too high not to be tempted. It can only be won by legalising drugs, monitoring it, taxing it and tracking it. Governments and various agencies across the world need to shed their dogma about prohibition of drugs. To fight and win the war on terror, the source of funds needs to be cut off. And that starts with legalising drugs.

Sep 142011

So Pakistan Published an Ad on 9/11. In the WSJ.


The trouble with laughing so much that your stomach hurts, is that there is no time to feel outrage 😀

And, then given that it is the net and there is a comic hidden under every ID – came the response


Boss, who ever you are, where ever you may be *claps* .. and thankyou
As Atal Behari Vajpayee once said poster ka jawaab poster se do 😀
(he didn’t, it was in reference to books, but hey, this is the net. if Pak can put out that ad, I can misquote ABV)

Sep 072011


And there is one more bomb blast. This time, outside the Delhi High Court. Many are dead, many more are injured. The excuses and accusations have begun. As have the high pitched, almost frenzied, coverage of news channels. Everyone has a view as to whether the bombs were type x or type y. Whether group ‘A’ or group ‘B’ was involved. The old excuses are dusted out of the cupboard – where they have been sitting since the 26/11  attacks on  Mumbai and used 5 times since then.   Intelligence Failure is a standard excuse – and that is apparent. Security apparatus like CCTV’s and scanners not working, is another excuse – and that is also apparent. One just has to go to a mall to understand how lax either security or checking mechanisms are. The accusations group says that the Government is soft on terror. That India needs better anti terror laws. While both sides may have a point – more attacks take place, more families are bereaved and the intrinsic sense of safety and security lies in tatters.

The key department in the war against terror is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). However, if you look at their portfolio that is not all that they do. The MHA is divided into various departments and divisions that handle different aspects of the ministry’s portfolio.  The departments include :

  • The department of Border Management – dealing with management of borders, including coastal borders.
  • Department of Internal Security dealing with police, law and order and rehabilitation
  • Department of J & K Affairs –  dealing with the constitutional provisions in respect of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and all other matters relating to the State
  • Department of Home dealing with the notification of assumption of office by the President and Vice President, notification of appointment of the Prime Minister and other Ministers.
  • Department of Official Language – dealing with the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution relating to official languages and the provisions of the Official Languages Act, 1963.
  • Department of States – Dealing with Centre-State relations, Inter-State relations, Union Territories and Freedom Fighters’ pension

If you thought that wasn’t enough – there is more. The MHA is split up into 17 divisions –  each with its own area of expertise. These are the Administrative, Border Management, Centre State, Co-ordination Division, Disaster Management, Finance, Foreigners, Freedom Fighters & Rehabilitation, Human Rights, Internal Security, Jammu & Kashmir, Judicial, Naxal Management, North Eastern, Police, Police Modernisation, Policy Planning and finally Union Territories Divisions. Also, divisions like Internal Security & Police are further sub divided into discrete divisions with very different scope of work. For example, Internal Security 1 deals with internal security and law & order, while Internal Security 2 deals with Arms & Ammunition, Narcotics, and the National Security Act. Similarly, Police 1 is the cadre controlling authority vis-à-vis the IPS while Police 2 deals with Central Police Forces.

Essentially, if you were looking at this through the point of view of management – then what you have on your hands is Ministry that is creaking under the weight of all that it manages. Its span of control is too high, there are too few people at the top managing it – and it is muddled in terms of all the things that it does. In all likelihood a department that is supposed to co-ordinate between states is possibly keeping secrets from the division that is in charge of intra ministry co-ordination work & vice versa . Similarly, the Human Rights division may be in direct conflict with the Internal Security division.  From a management perspective such diverse roles are possibly going to end up in paralysis – and it actually shows from the way the ministry has been functioning. Centre State relationship is possibly at an all time low. Internal Security is in shambles. Police reforms are in cold storage. The judicial division seems to be suffering acute paralysis – be it in terms of the IPC or the CrPC. The Police Modernisation Division seems to be a figment of bureaucracy’s imagination.

To be effective the Ministry has to be restructured and re constituted. There needs to be coherence in the role of each ministry that is created.

  • The Minister for Home & Internal Security – Ideally speaking it will have 3 ministers of state reporting into the HM – the minister for law & order, the minister for Int. Security, and the minister for ‘borders’ including coastal boarders. it is responsible and accountable for law, order & security within the borders of the country. It could include both the Internal Security Divisions, work relating to Crime & Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), The Policy Planning Department, the Naxal Management Division and those aspects of J&K and the North East that deal with security. Ideally speaking it should spin off VIP security – also under its remit – as a separate department – with its own hierarchy – and let the police focus on Law and Order. Also this ministry would have the judicial division that deals with the IPC and the CrPC. It may also want to contemplate the setting up of a Central Prosecution Service. The ministry will also continue to look at   passport, visa, immigration, citizenship, overseas citizenship of India and related issues.
  • The Ministry for Federal Affairs – Possibly one of the most important ministries in the coming years. The role of this ministry is to ensure that there is adequate co-ordination between the states in terms of legislation, taxation, economic policies. This ministry should also look at the non-security related issues of J&K, the North Eastern States and the Union Territories. This Ministry will also look at the  implementation of the Constitutional and legal provisions relating to Official Languages.

Divisions such as the Human Rights Division could possibly move under the ambit of the NHRC – a statutory autonomous body, and the Disaster Management cell could move under the ambit of the NDMA – which in any case reports to the Prime Minister.


India is not Great Britain. The Ministry of Home Affairs based on the British Home Office may have worked in kinder gentler times. But, in an era of complexities you need specialized ministries. Better to split the function and deliver on each count rather than keep it all together and fall flat on all counts.


for those who are interested, the organisational chart for the MHA is here

Jul 272011

I grew up learning Carnatic Vocal music. Learnt the Veena for a while as well. But, today most of my music listening tends to be Hindustani Classical Music. Especially Vocal music. I find the form – which is non regimented – a delight to hear. Here a typical raga – let’s say Bhairavi – sung by two different exponents from two different gharanas – and the experience will be completely different.

Generally the full form of Hindustani Classical music is often forbidding for a new comer. It seems to be a lot of “aa aa aa aa” (as my brother once told me). That is the singer exploring and expounding on the Raga. Its a pleasure and a revelation. For example, one of my favorite ragas is Miyan ki Todi and my favorite singer is Bhimsen Joshi. I have 9 long forms of this Raga sung at various concerts, at different points of times in his life. Each is a different experience for the listener, but also in the way the singer explores and weaves his magic.

A good starting point for the newbie to Hindustani classical Music is the myriad Hindi film songs composed in a number of ragas and sung by popular singers and for a variety of moods and seasons. Atleast that is the way I began. there used be this morning show on All India Radio – its still on – called sur sangam. It explores a raga. It tells you the unique aspects of the Raga. It discusses the raga with a classical singer. It plays a classical piece and it plays a film song. A great primer and a great introduction to the genre. Semi classical music – such as Thumris, classical Qawalis and classical Bhajans can also be a great way of picking up various ragas. Thumris are love songs. They look at various aspects of love – from the anticipation of meeting the lover, to the joys of being with the lover, to the throes of despair on separation. Depedning on the Gharana – the thumri can be sung as a yearning for the lover or yearning for God (the bhakti ras).

One of the most famous Thumri’s in Hindustani Classical music is Babul Mora. It was composed by Wajid Ali Shah (played by Amjad Khan in the film Shatranj Ke Khiladi) the deposed ruler of Oudh during his exile in Calcutta. It is supposed to be the longing of a woman for her maternal home. Having said that the best renditions of the song have been by men.


This is Bhimsen Joshi – live in concert at Baroda – singing Babul Mora

Part 2 is here

And, of course, the version that made it popular amongst the masses. Kundan Lal Saigal singing Babul Mora in Devdas



I actually didn’t manage to get the camera out today. Completely busy. Started the morning by signing a contract with Film Orbit for running Jhing Chik Jhing on their site. Also interesting conversations on content. interesting possibilities.

this is one i shot yesterday

30 day Project Day 20 -rings


Pakistan has sent their young and extremely photogenic foreign minister, Mrs.Hina Rabbani Khar,to India. the Indian news media – which has the collective IQ and sense of a retarted hedgehog seems to be fida on her. Completely forgetting the Bombay Blasts, 26/11 and all the other dead from all the other blasts and other terrorist strikes that have originated across the border. She arrived on the day of the Kargil victory and promplty met Kashmiri separatists in Delhi. Maybe we should let her host a dinner party for Dawood Ibrahim in Parliament grounds … after all it is important to achieve peace for our time.

Jul 242011

Strange sort of a Sunday. A domesticated sort of a Sunday. Can almost hear myself go Moo.

I cooked – Pasta with tomato and veggie sauce. Something deeply therapeutic about assembling a dish from fresh ingredients rather than opening a bottle of pasta sauce and pretending to cook.

Chopping onions, pureeing tomato, mincing garlic, slicing carrots, dicing capsicum, nuking corn ….So much better than beating up people :D. I wonder if this is why women are so much calmer than men. The inner desire to commit homicide is sublimated through violence against vegetables (or meat).


I read quite a bit – lots of articles. and the next chapter in “Poor Economics”

Some good reads today:

The Murder of Linguistic History -in the Express Tribune by Dr Tariq Rahman. Fascinating insights into Hindi and Urdu. here the author talks about the various names of Hindi :…

… emerges that the ancestor of Urdu and Hindi was called by the following names: Hindi, Hindvi (13th-19th century); Dehlavi (13th-14th c.); Gujri (15th c.); Dakhani (15th-18th c.); Indostan (17th c.); Moors (18th c.); Rekhta (18th-19th c.); Hindustani (18th-20th c.).


“Nowadays we use the term ‘Urdu’ for Persianised Khari Boli written in the Perso-Arabic script and Hindi for Sanskritised Khari Boli written in the Devanagari script. “

both languages are equally alien to me – my mother tongue is Tamil, I have been brought up in Maharashta, and schooled in English. I can understand the simpler forms of other Indian languages – including Gujarati or Bangla – even able to follow films with out sub titles. but, flounder at the more purist form of Language

I completely understand the Hindi of the older Hindi films – Hindustani. But give me a series like Chanakya – which uses heavily Sanskritised Hindi, or a film like Taj Mahal – which is highly Persianised urdu and my eyes glaze over. I know the essence of what is being spoken, but not what is spoken in its entirety . Mostly its a guessing game – fuzzy interpretation of language.

There was a piece in on how the Mumbai suburban train system is adopting small steps to reduce death on the tracks. (LT- @pragmatic_d)

On average, 10 people die daily by being hit as they’re crossing the tracks. Track trespassing is the largest everyday cause of unnatural deaths in Mumbai.
For just over a year, however, an experiment at Wadala station, on the Central Line, has been hinting at unorthodox solutions to this problem. On the surface, the experiment involves small, odd changes. Certain railway ties have been painted bright yellow; a new kind of signboard has been installed near the tracks; engine drivers have modified the way they hoot their warning whistles.

A manifesto for a Muslim-free Europe, an Infidel-free Middle East – by Imran Khan in the Al Jazeera Blogs – makes for a chilling read. The author compares two hate manifestos – both available freely.

The challenge for us who believe that violence – religious or otherwise – can never be justified, is how we stop lone figures and small cells from attacking us without destroying the very freedoms we care for.

Should these documents be somehow wiped from the web, or should they be allowed to exist? Not easy questions.

Do our governments have a solution?

And while we are on the subject, should I even be writing about the documents?

Yes, is answer to that one. As I said earlier, free speech is an absolute. And so is social cohesion. Which is just ‘political speak’ for “Why can’t we all just get along? Evil will always exist in the world, but we are not born that way.”

Incidentally, Al Jazeera blogs has some of the best writing on the web – you may not agree with everything. But, it is kind of boring to only read things that you agree with

Predictably articles from across the globe were focused on the massacre in Norway. Among the more interesting columns were

Obviously more in the next few days …

The BBC website had a fairly interesting piece on famous musicians who died at the age of 27. This was obviously in response to Amy Winehouse’ accidental death yesterday.

There was a fabulous piece on Transmedia in the MIPBLOG

There were some great columns on Murdoch – Press Ownership and Press Regulation – this and this in the Economist, and this by Christopher Hitchens in the Slate and this by Carl Bernstein in the Newsweek where he asks if phone hacking is Murdoch’s Watergate

No. before you ask – I didn’t read too many Indian papers today – I need a break from the combative style of communication. I don’t live in a war zone where everything is screwed up, and I don’t like being made to feel that way. Tomorrow – well tomorrow is another day 😀

And, of course on the 20th anniversary of Economic Liberalisation, I read the speech of the then FM – and the current PM Dr.Manmohan Singh. do read – it is brilliant.

barriers to entry and limits on growth in the size of firms, have often led to a proliferation of licensing and an increase in the degree of monopoly. This has put shackles on segments of Indian industry and made them serve the interests of producers but not pay adequate attention to the interests of consumers. (pg. 3)

it has therefore become necessary to take effective measures so as to make the public sector an engine of growth rather than an absorber of national savings without adequate return. (pg. 4)

India stands at the cross-roads. The decisions we take and do not take, at this juncture, will determine the shape of things to come for quite some time. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that an intense debate rages throughout the country as to the path we should adopt. In a democratic society it could not be otherwise. What can we learn from this debate? The most important thing that comes out clearly is that we cannot realise our goal of establishing a just society, if we abandon the planning process. But India’s future development depends crucially on how well the planning process is adapted to the needs of a fast changing situation. I believe that without an intelligent and systematic coordinated resource use in some major sectors of our economy, development will be lopsided. It will violate deeply cherished values of equity and it will keep India well below its social, intellectual and moral potential. But our planning processes must be sensitive to the needs of a dynamic economy. Over centralisation and excessive bureaucratisation of economic processes have proved to be counter productive. We need to expand the scope and the area for the operation of market forces. A reformed price system can be a superior instrument of resource allocation than quantitative controls. But markets can only serve those who are part of the market system. A vast number of people in our country live on the edges of a subsistence economy. We need credible programmes of direct government intervention focussing on the needs of these people. We have the responsibility to provide them with quality social services such as education, health, safe drinking water and roads. (pg.7)

we must restore to the creation of wealth its proper place in the development process. For, without it, we cannot remove the stigma of
abject poverty, ignorance and disease. But we cannot accept social misery and inequity as unavoidable in the process of creation of wealth. The basic challenge of our times is to ensure that wealth creation is not only tempered by equity and justice but is harnessed to the goal of removal of poverty and development for all. (pg.8)

my purpose is not to give a fillip to mindless and heartless consumerism we have borrowed from the affluent societies of the West. My objection to the consumerist phenomenon is two-fold. First, we cannot afford it. In a society where we lack drinking water, education, health, shelter and other basic necessities, it would be tragic if our productive resources were to be devoted largely to the satisfaction of the needs of a small minority. The
country’s needs for water, for drinking and for irrigation, rural roads, good urban infrastructure, and massive investments in primary education and basic health services for the poor are so great as to effectively preclude encouragement to consumerist behaviour imitative of advanced industrial societies. Our approach to development has to combine efficiency with austerity. Austerity not in the sense of negation of life or a dry, arid creed that casts a baleful eye on joy and laughter. To my mind, austerity is a way of holding our society together in pursuit of the noble goal of banishing poverty, hunger and disease from this ancient land of ours.(pg.8)

Do Read – 31 pages of the most significant course correction in Modern Indian history. And, a lot that is said here is still valid today.


No. I didn’t shoot anything worthwhile today. Tried to shoot droplets of oil  floating on water but was too afraid of the lens getting steamed up.

But I heard some great music. The fabulous Kaushiki Chakraborty singing a thumri in raga Mishra Chraukesi