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Remembering 26/11 – the Mumbai Terror Attacks

November 25, 2009

Tomorrow is the first death anniversary of those who died in the Mumbai Terror Attacks. A reader sent me this video, produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Dan Reed which I thought worth posting here. Clicking on the link will take you to the video.

Reed has done a brilliant job. Without saying it in so many words he has shown the terror and helplessness of innocent people, the ineptness of the police response, the crazed minds of the cold blooded killers who contaminated and bruised our Indian soil. He has also showed the VT attack in a fair amount of detail. He has not blamed or told. He has just shown – like any good filmmaker would.

What amazed me while watching the video was the number of times the gunmen talked of “God”. In almost every sentence they uttered God’s name. And it sent a chill through me to hear the Pakistani handlers urging the gunmen to kill while the telephone was on so that they could hear the shots and the screams. The handlers and the killers should all be in a mental asylum, locked up forever, given food only through a hole. No living thing should ever touch these “its”. Locked up not to seek revenge, but simply because this much evil needs to be locked up so that it doesn’t harm any other living thing. These killers are not human. As Kasab says, his instructions were to kill at anything that moved, all people. Just people.

This is not a new video, but I had not seen it before. And if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a see. It encapsulates the Mumbai attacks quite well without moralising, without too much gore, and the Police Dispatches reveal what actually happened, “hour by hour, from the perspective of the security forces, the terrorists, their masterminds and the victims”.

It is tragic that today, one year after 26/11, the names of the people responsible for procuring defective bullet proof jackets for the police are not known. Which politician and policeman made the deal? And even one year after 26/11 we do not know the names of those who were responsible for the confusion in the Mumbai police force at the time. No one took charge. After one year are we any closer to knowing WHO is responsible?

All that we know is that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra at the time Vilasrao Deshmukh was kicked upstairs, given a plum job for his “loyalty” to the party. RR Patil, the Home Minister got his job back, and as for the top cops, the bickering and the blame game goes on…

So many died in vain, but not a single person has taken responsibility for the carnage. We need to mourn the dead, but we also need to ask for the answers. It is the top cops and the politicians who are to blame. For the lack of coordination and action. It is really pathetic and in really bad taste to see television channels blast the foot soldiers. Try and shame those poor unequipped men who had rifles that were rusted, men who ran helter skelter because they had no leader to direct them. Men who weren’t even sure where the terrorists were, how many there were, what they were up to. Even in these circumstances there was a poor man called Tukaram Omble who grabbed Kasab’s machine gun with his bare hands and took the bullets. Facing an enemy with proper weapons, proper armour, and a proper leader may require bravery, but facing an enemy without any of these things means heroism of a superhuman kind. The foot soldiers in Mumbai had nothing. If some of them ran, let us not blame them.

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Some tips from someone caught in the Mumbai terror attacks
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The Indian government’s green channel for the corrupt

November 24, 2009
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The government of India allows corruption. How else could it have become the scourge that it has today? The Prime Minister may be thinking of removing a happy clause in the law, happy for the thieves that is. A clause supposedly put there to protect public servants from wrongful harassment which blatantly helps crooks.

Government departments and ministries have been misusing a constitutional provision (Article 311) in which the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) has to seek prosecution sanction from the government before beginning a formal probe against allegedly corrupt officials.

This law has a colonial tint. A seed planted then used by our own lawmakers during the drafting of the anti-corruption act. The clause has opened a floodgate for the corrupt with scores of officials escaping prosecution because of it. No one wants seems to have the will to get rid of it. At least not our elected representatives.

A politician suspected of corruption simply pulls a few strings and the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission (that a person should be prosecuted) is ignored!  In other words the government has laid out a red carpet for the thieves.

The facts and figures read like a horror story. Since 2004, in almost a thousand cases, the government ignored the findings of the CVC. In some cases, the accused have been “exonerated” without proper inquiry! You name the ministry and you can be sure that it has disregarded the advice given by the CVC, at some point of time. Whether it’s the Indian Railways or the Municipal corporations of different cities, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry or the Department of Telecom, public sector companies like the Delhi Development Authority or Oil India Ltd. And this is counting just those who were caught.

The funny thing is that the Supreme Court has interpreted the law differently! It has said twice, once last year and once this year, that the CVC need not take the sanction of the government to prosecute. It can go ahead on its own!

Supreme Court today ruled that prior sanction was not required for the prosecution of public servants, including chief ministers and ministers in corruption cases…

Apparently, sanction need not be taken if the wrongdoers do their thieving while on duty. I am not sure what that means, because don’t they all do it during the course of their duty? So what is this, another loophole? What is a layman to make of it? How much more confusing does the government want it to be?

The CVC should just quote this Supreme Court judgment and go ahead with the prosecution don’t you think? But if it doesn’t, it means that there are some factors are play that are not known.

The judiciary does not have a clean record in any case. I found a shocking report which says that in 1991 some Supreme court judges had passed an order that “the Chief Justice’s permission was mandatory for the filing of even a first information report (FIR) against any Judge of the High Courts and the Supreme Court.”  The Bench said this even though they “accepted [that] the sanctioning authority for prosecution was none other than the President of India.” Despite accepting this, the judges said that the President “shall act in accordance with advice given by the Chief Justice of India”. Hopefully this order is gathering dust somewhere. Or is it? What is the procedure for prosecuting of a judge? From what I have read, there was a case where a judge was accused and it was the judiciary itself which which set up a committee to look into the matter. I think the CVC should have a say in this, not just the judiciary. The CVC should have  the authority to be part of the inquiry commission which decides whether judges should be prosecuted or not.

There was a recent case of the cash-in-bag scam (Punjab and Haryana high courts) and suspicion fell on  justice Nirmal Yadav for accepting around 15 lakhs as a bribe. The CBIhandled the case but while the CBI (department) said there was sufficient evidence for her prosecution, the CBI head opposed it! Can anything be more pathetic? He said there was not enough evidence, and he sent his opinion to the attorney general (AG) of India. Guess what? Charges were dropped.

All in all, our corrupt government officials are looting the country or the public, and the government is giving them its blessings.

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Test Your Global IQ

November 20, 2009

What is your knowledge about global affairs, particularly in relation to India? I re-did some Pew quiz questions to suit India. The format is the same, but the questions are now India centered. So take the plunge and check your global IQ!

The answers to the questions are given below. It’s an upside down image. Save it and rotate it on your pc to get the correct answers. Most of the answers are from surveys carried out by Pew research and some are from news sources. All answers are subject to the limitations thereof.

After checking the answers what did you find out about your global IQ? I scored six on ten.

Read all posts based on Research Surveys
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Wishing and Hoping…My Bucket List – (Tag)

November 18, 2009

I was tagged by Minal, a new blog friend. She has tagged me to write my wish list. And my done list. So here it is guys and girls, and it’s not long,  but more or less encapsulates my life. I have done tags and memes before, but of late have been a quite lazy about them.  This one I did as it didn’t require much work!  🙂

My Bucket List:

TO DO LIST:-

1) I cannot help but start with what Minal has written, because it is on my agenda too. I do it off and on, but it’s always cooking on burning hot coals, and it’s the thing I am going to devote a certain part of my life to it. Social Service for Kids.

2) I  want to never ever stop working, and by that I mean writing and doing whatever I do, till the day I die. I pray that my body keeps up with my mind.

3) I need to finish my books. I have written a thriller and about 500 pages of the first draft are done. Unfortunately for the last two years I have not edited it and made it into a cohesive whole. I have also written a skeletal second book (psychological thrillier), plus a concept idea for a book on palmistry. I plan to finish these projects in the next 3-4 years. Just waiting for an important personal commitment to be over first. My day to day activities  are eating up my time right now.

4) I love to travel, and want to keep seeing new places, keep meeting new people.

5) I want to improve on my “tech-ing” abilities. I am not as hopeless as I was when I first started blogging three years ago, but I want to hone up on this skill a bit. I am being very patient with myself.

6) I love my blog and I hope I keep meeting wonderful people through it.

THE JOURNEY SO FAR:

1) I found the love of my life, my soul mate.

2) I’ve been a good mother to my two daughters. I feel happy at the way they have turned out. I am content that I spent time with them when they were growing up. I am proud that I worked hard as a mom. I have done what I loved in my life, been a mother and a writer although there is a long long way to go where my writing is concerned. And yes, even as a mother. I will never cease to be a mom.

3) My friends are like jewels on a necklace that I wear in my heart. They keep my heart warm and bright.

4) I have never hurt any person consciously in my whole life. I love human beings and see the positive in them.

5) I have worked full time in the best organisations in India and free-lanced for the best and am now  getting sick of this job!

6) I have also managed to write a decent blog. I have been true to it. I have helped people.

7) I have kept my mind healthy. This means that I do not harbour hateful or revengeful thoughts. I am not a bitter person and I do not have any guilt or any emotional burden. I can easily forgive and forget and love. But it’s not just my mind, I have managed to keep my body healthy. That takes hard work too, to ensure a nutritious diet and a healthy lifestyle. I don’t like to do physical exercise but I force myself to exercise.

8] I have traveled and enjoyed every bit of it. However many more places I need to go to!

(I think these lists are probably not complete, and therefore I will keep adding as I remember, but the major stuff is here.)

The first person I thought to tag was Sahaja, as she is just back from a blogging holiday. The others whom I tag are Nimmy,  Smitha, Kanagu, Rambler, sraboneyghose, Vishesh, and Soham. Would be quite interested to know what their life goals are.

What is Sachin Tendulkar really like?

November 17, 2009
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I am not a great fan of cricket but there are some sports people whom I am in awe of. Sachin Tendulkar is certainly one of them. A lot is being written about him of late, because he completed 20 years in international cricket. He’s lasted, unlike many others. However Sachin has always been a bit of a reserved person and I have always been curious as to what he is really like, inside.

[picapp src=”c/b/b/a/Sachin_Tendulkar_85de.jpg?adImageId=7548863&imageId=1661247″ width=”380″ height=”591″ /]

There is no way of knowing, unless ofcourse one knows him well. I had no hopes of doing that, so the next best thing was to see whether his hand revealed it. Some of my readers know that I am a palmist, but a palmist who firmly believes that you cannot tell the future from one’s palm. I do believe that the hand reveals one’s temperament though. I have analysed Sachin’s hand here, on this post, on my other blog.

Some of what I have written is known about him, but I have tried to explain why he is who he is. There might be some additional points here about him which people are not sure of. Here is an excerpt:

I saw him on television just a few days ago and he was saying something that he has said several times in the past. That money is not that important to him, and it is his passion for the game and his love for India which is more important. I looked for signs in the hand that would either confirm or contradict his words. Well, for one thing, Sachin’s fingers show that he is a straightforward person and he is unlikely to lie. However we can go on to see whether his hand shows a love for money.

Reading Sachin Tendulkar’s hand was fun, because there is always this curiosity that one has about famous people. I mean, is their public image just one big pretence? Or even if it is not pretence, then perhaps the media is misrepresenting them, for the better or for worse? Famous people are always at the mercy of the media. They have to be nice to them, or they well be chewed up. What I have written about Sachin is not all good, but then no one is perfect.

After writing that post, the controversy about Sachin saying that Mumbai belongs to India arose. For the Shiv Sena to claim that his statement is political is ridiculous. He has not talked about whether Mumbai should be made an union territory, if he had said that, then it would have been a political statement. All Sachin did was to say what the majority of Indians feel, that Mumbai belongs to India. Ofcourse it does, there is no doubt about that. His statement has been unnecessarily been given a political colour by parties who want publicity.

It is interesting to note that I had already said that Sachin had this habit of saying things he regrets. And there is no doubt that Sachin is regretting saying what he said now. Even though he knows that what he said was perfectly alright, he hates controversy.

Don’t be cheap, be smart

November 16, 2009
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Being cheap hurts. It hurts the earth, it hurts people, it hurts the economy, and it hurts you too. Ever think of the things you  buy just because they are cheap, some of them you don’t even need?

Cheap products are usually a bad decision. To keep their products cheap, companies break environment guidelines, bribe officials to pass cheap unsafe materials, hire non-qualified people, exploit workers, use child labour or use hazardous materials in the product or in the packaging.  These products not only harm consumers, they harm the image of one’s country as well, and this impacts its economy.

Those who cannot afford to buy a good quality product can ask themselves: Do I really need that cheap product? And if I consume it will it harm me? Will it harm the earth?

When it comes to abnoxious plastic, sure, it’s a valuable material of great use to mankind (duh) but the truth is that humans have got carried away with their love for plastic. Everything is plasticky nowadays. Even things that needn’t be. Take the bucket. I didn’t see anything  wrong with say that steel bucket or mug we used not so very long ago. It lasted forever, so it was value for money. Plastic bags have flourished because consumers are too lazy to take along cloth bags and in any case why should they make the effort when the manufacturer provides a cheap alternative?

I was angry with myself for buying a cheap bottle of phynyl. There was something wrong with it, because it was difficult to open. Once I managed to get the lid open, I found I couldn’t hold it without spilling it. Bad buy.

This Diwali, I was shocked to see the plastic kandeels (lanterns) and decorations in the market. Everywhere I went I saw shiny plastic paper used indiscriminately. All very cheap ofcourse. Wonder what happened to good old paper and cloth. Sure, paper depletes the environment, but at least it’s biodegradable.

And why have people started to use plastic visiting cards? How much money are they saving?

It’s irritating to see companies giving away plastic items for free with their slow moving consumer goods. Do they expect us make a garland out of the plastic items and hang them as decorations? I mean, how much plastic can we take?

Video piracy and book piracy hurts the authors. It flourishes because we want to buy cheap, even if it is illegal and unethical. We don’t want to think that it deprives the owners of income, although if the shoe was ever on the other foot we would make a fuss. The argument often put forward is that well, if it wasn’t for pirated books and CDs people wouldn’t be able to buy them. We know that this is false logic, because  people can always borrow. Ever wondered why (in India) we don’t have too many good libraries for books? Not even private ones? Well, who is going to go there when the majority of well-to-people buy pirated stuff off the streets? Yes, I have been guilty too, but I don’t do it now.

There’s cheap food, and I don’t mean just the food on the streets. Cheap food might even be fresh if you are lucky, especially if it is cooked in front of your eyes, but remember that the cheapest ingredients go into it. Bad oil, often re-used, use of unpermitted colours, or too much of permitted colour and flavour, too much sugar and cancer causing packaging. You get what you pay for. Cheap for cheap. Cancer treatment is expensive though.

You can always make  a healthy sandwich at home if you feel too lazy to cook.

Other food products, whether grains, masalas or packaged foods, can be harmful if you buy them cheap. Don’t think that that the tea powder which you can buy for half the price, or the aam ras (mango pulp) which is being sold for Rs 35/- a kg is actually what it says it is. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the affordable juice in cartons is actually fresh juice. Manufacturers add plenty of sugar and water to dilute and they make it from concentrate too. Real packaged juice costs much more. I prefer an orange.

Countries and economies suffer too for all of the above reasons, and more. At a broader level, you know what happened when companies started to offer cheap and easy loans. It didn’t just hurt people who took the loans, but also those who gave them. In India we didn’t get the brunt of it but we do have companies who send out goons to recover the loans they gave away so easily and so cheaply.

There’s cheap education. But good education does not come cheap. Ofcourse, the issue is a complex one and there is no one reason why our education policies need a re-think, and I have written about it here, here and here, but I do believe that the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity. True, it is not only money that influences quality, but being cheap can be harmful. Hiring teachers because they come cheap even if they are not qualified or capable, is just one example. Each teacher influences thousands of young impressionable minds, so just think of the harm that can be caused.

Ever had a bad experience yourself? Ever regretted buying cheap?

Any solutions?
While each one of us can do our bit and try and not be cheap, it’s worth checking out this one organisation which I stumbled across. It’s mobilising consumers in a novel way, although not in India. It’s a great movement called carrot mob:

Carrotmob is a method of consumer activism that leverages consumer power to make the most socially-responsible business practices also the most profitable choices. Businesses compete with one another to see who can do the most good, and then a big mob of consumers buys products in order to reward whichever business made the strongest commitment to improve the world. It’s the opposite of a boycott.

This is an idea that should catch on in India, considering that we are fans of  Gandhigiri. We can certainly do it because there are at least about 200 million of us who have sufficient money power to make a difference. If we come together we can make a difference to help the earth. And ourselves.

(Photos are by me an copywrited)

(Although I wrote this post, the idea came from Minal. She is a long time blog friend, who does not blog nowadays. Minal did the majority of the research for this article.)

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Should women spend their income on family expenses?

November 9, 2009

A reader, Rohit, sent me an email asking me my opinion on an issue many couples face. This problem afflicts a small section of urban educated couples, but it does seem to have become a serious source of conflict and at times it can lead to a break-up. The question is:

Should a working couple share the financial burden equally?

A part of Rohit’s email:

With changing times in educated urban class dowry is no more. Since the girls are also working and earning more the Indian girl has to share the marriage, honeymoon & family expenses equally along with boy. But Indian girls are using word tradition and demanding the guy is responsible for expenses.

Rohit feels that this is most unfair.

Minal, a reader, has contributed to this post. She writes:

This would be a classic case of what you would call pseudo-feminism. These women, and some men coolly forget the fact that rights come only with responsibilities and duties. If you wish to equal the men you should be prepared to equal them in their burdens too.

Minal calls this a “selective form of feminism.” On one hand women are freed from the pressure to perform traditional household duties like cooking and cleaning, and yet they are unwilling to share other responsibilities, and this could mean financial responsibility or “outside” work which is traditionally a man’s job. For example taking the car to the garage or fixing things around the house or spending her salary. Minal believes that the total responsibility of the house, should be shared equally and that each partner has to come to an understanding about what he/she feels more comfortable doing. It’s not what one partner does, but how much she/he does that counts.

Well, if a woman is earning and the man is sharing the household chores equally with her, it makes sense that her salary be considered a part of the joint income.

What I feel uncomfortable with is the squabbling over the division of duties, and the reasons are personal. My experience was very different. For my husband and me sharing fell into place naturally. When it came to my earnings we never discussed it but I spent as well as saved it. My husband never asked me as to how much of it I spend and how much I save. Now when I look back I think we spent about 90% of his salary and about 60-70% of mine, and well, my salary was less than half of his. However if we ever needed money for a major expense, out came my cheque book and it was never a big deal. It could be a washing machine or a small out-of-town trip, but if we fell short, as we invariably did in those days, the money would come from my savings. In any case, both of our accounts were joint accounts.

The responsibility of the house was entirely mine, which meant supervision of household help, grocery shopping, supervision of workmen, cooking and looking after the children. This was not because my husband didn’t want to help, but simply because his job at the time involved a lot of travelling, often 15-20 days a month. His working hours were almost double that of mine even when he was in town. If he was home he was always willing to help with breakfast and invariably made the morning tea. I never resented the fact that I had to take on the major share of the household responsibilities (and no, we had no cook and no ayah) because I knew my hubby was working very hard. And I was too, although it was at a different thing. More important, this had been my choice. If I had chosen full-time work my husband was ready to support me. And in fact he did, about five years later, when I decided to go back to full-time work.

But I can see where couples can run into trouble. When there is no compromise, from one or both sides.

I believe that feel this issue of women being reluctant to share their income is more about personalities rather than anything else. If one partner is more selfish he/she is likely to shirk his/her duties and it may have nothing to do with “modernity” or “feminism” or “working women.” Just as there will be men who will not lift a finger in the house even if their wife is on her feet the whole day, and sometimes half the night if there are small children, there are women (who could be housewives) who expect their husbands to come home from work and cook for them. Just as there are men who expect their wife to bring in the salary and hand it over to them, and also have a hot meal ready for when they come home, there are women who refuse to think of their salary as that belonging to the family. Maybe it is because they feel insecure, but the result is that her spouse may start to resent the fact that he is working inside and outside the home, but his wife isn’t.

I am quite sure that there are far more women at the receiving end of the stick than men, but amongst the highly educated young middle class, it is possible that both men and women are equally guilty. However I have no numbers to provide here. One will have to delve into all the recent divorce cases amongst modern urban couples which have taken place due to a rift caused by the division of responsibilities and see whether it is the man who is to blame for not contributing equally to the household (financially or otherwise) or the woman.

(Photo is copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: What kills a marriage quicker: A physical affair or an emotional one?
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Where do developmental funds go?

November 4, 2009

15 years ago the Indian economy kick started but the bad news is that the north eastern states (and some others) didn’t ride along. The most recent news is that the north eastern states are “on a downward spiral.” While this may not be quite correct, what is true is that certain states in India did not keep up. At one time the income of the seven north-eastern states was above the national average and today it isn’t. Mizoram and Tripura are doing better and I wondered why. Well, these two states are the most dependent on agriculture, with 75% of Tripura’s economy dependent on it, and  70% of Mizoram’s economy.

The states which are only half dependent on agriculture and depend on exports, tourism, cottage industries, food and timber products, chemicals and other industrial products have stagnated. Considering that the north eastern states are poor on infrastructure, whether it’s power, roads, airports or hotels, this stagnation is inevitable.

No returns
The central government is pumping money into the north east. In fact for over a decade now, all central government ministries have been setting aside 10% of their annual budgets for the north-eastern states. When it comes to actual figures, from 1998-2006, upwards of Rs 42,600 crore was given to the northeast. So, what’s happened to the money? Here are some ways it must have been “used”:

  1. Some of it has been underutilized, simply not spent due to inefficiency and tardiness.
  2. Some has been eaten up, a sorry tale of the whole of India. Whether it’s government babus, officials, politicians or contractors, in India it is some sort of a rule that a slice of developmental funds is set aside for thieves and anti-nationals.
  3. Some funds are diverted. Funds meant for rural development find their way into urban development, to build luxury hotels and malls. This creates a lopsided development model.
  4. Some developmental funds land up with terrorist outfits who do not allow any developmental works unless they are fed. And from businessmen to government employees, they all seek “protection” from terrorist groups. It’s becomes a vicious cycle of expenditure for the government, which is then forced to spend on increased security.
  5. Illegal Bangladeshi migrants not only add to the infrastructure woes of the state, these foreigners are often used by Pakistan based terror outfits. This creates a communal divide and more security problems. Politicians do not get rid of these foreigners due to vote bank politics.

It’s not as if these problems are restricted to the north east alone. All states in India are infected with the corruption virus and many are afflicted with the insurgency bacteria as well.

How much does money help?
Clearly the solution is not to stop giving away funds, but I could not help comparing this to the controversy over foreign aid to poor countries. In fact criticism about foreign aid to poor countries has increased. Foreign aid has not worked well in sub-Saharan Africa.  Studies have shown that just as countries with abundant natural resources tend to be laid back, countries dependent on foreign aid (which can be viewed as a resource, although an unnatural one) also tend to be laid back .

What’s worse, political and business factions vie with each other to control the flow of resources and this leads to more corruption and infighting. In Africa for instance it is believed that Somalia’s civil war was caused by the desire of different factions to control the large food aid that the country was receiving.

Ofcourse one can argue that foreign aid to developing countries and central government funding for poorer states are two different things, but I do think that there are lessons to learnt here.

Demarking funds and handing over money to government departments is not enough. Unless good political and “policy” environments are developed, an unlimited flow of funds into the state coffers will not be used effectively.

Why not do other things, like the central government increasing their efforts to find good domestic and export markets for the goods from the north-east and ensure good prices? More efforts can be made to lure reliable private parties into the states. Microfinancing can be expanded as well.

The quality of educational institutions needs to be improved to ensure that people from the northeast get all the opportunities at their doorstep. Literacy is high, but the region does need good quality higher educational institutions.

I am not an economist, and these are just my thoughts which readers are welcome to expand on.

(Map from The Economist)

Related Reading: Read all the other posts on the North-East of India
Read all posts on Development in India and the Indian Economy.
More posts: All of India’s 8 north-eastern states are not disturbed areas!
Naxalism – some reasons and some solutions

London Dreams Movie Review

November 1, 2009

This is an average film for those who don’t mind a bizarre story, sitting through a long (almost three hours) film and Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan, the two lead characters. For those who shy away from Bollywood kitsch, this film is bad.

The major problem with this film (directed and produced by Vipul Shah)  is the mismatch between the actors and the story. The story is about two young aspiring youngsters, Arjun (Ajay Devgan) and Mannu (Salman Khan) who enter the world of pop music and form a band which plays Indipop. What is completely unbelievable is to see two middle-aged men playing this role. They look middle-aged, particularly Salman. This is a film which called for young actors. The days when middle aged actors in the film industry played young men in their twenties is long gone. Thankfully Asin, who plays the role of Priya, a part of the band, looks her part. However her characterisation is woefully inadequate. She comes across as a paper cut-out. Not that the characterisation of the other two is anything special. They come across as unbelievable characters.

Another drawback of the film is that although the film is about music, it isn’t really about music. One keeps getting the feeling that Arjun, who wants to make it in the music world, wants success, and it is not music that he is passionate about. This is so unlike Rock On, where all the characters’ lives revolve around music! I am sure that the director wanted to convey the impression that the film is about music, but it didn’t come through, not through the characters. And then, when a film is about music, one expects awesome music. While the music is good (Shankar Ehsaan Loy) , it is nowhere near awesome. Again, I couldn’t help comparing it to the music of Rock On.

The theme of this film is a good one. It’s about how the relationship between two friends changes once they grow into adults and enter the same profession. It is also about how one can sabotage one’s own success because of one’s own insecurity and jealousy. Being successful is all about concentrating on one’s success, not destroying another’s. The film is also about the self-centeredness of one friend and the selflessness of the other. The theme is an interesting one, but executed poorly. Sure, the film is not an absolute bore (again, if you don’t mind Bollywood) but it did drag in several places. It was too long.

I don’t know why directors continue to make films where the “hero” acts in a crass way with women, even in 2009. Sure, the “hero” who does this in the film is a village bumpkin but why portray villagers this way? I mean, making lewd remarks, staring up their skirts (even in adulthood), staring at their bodies in an obvious way and propositioning every good looking woman? There is also another guy in the band who refers to women as “butter chicken” and this is supposed to be humour, but when will directors realise that women don’t find this type of humour funny. The scene in which Mannu is shown misbehaving with an airhostess, in real life, the airhostess would have complained to the Captain and the person would have been offloaded or perhaps cuffed to his seat.

All in all, this film is an avoidable one. The most stupid thing about it is the story. Yes, there is a story, but it’s too ridiculous to even mention.

(Movie poster is from bollywoodworld.com)

Related Reading: All Movie Reviews

What are China’s intentions towards India?

October 29, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just met the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and they talked peace. Strangely, there was no mention of the tensions over Arunachal Pradesh.  But why avoid the issue? According to the Indian army chief, between 2006 and 2008, Chinese intrusions doubled from 140 incidents to 270. That’s not all. China keeps screaming if our politicians travel to Arunachal, and keeps making claims about Arunachal being part of China. The British drew a disputed Line , but they left a long time ago, so why the sudden aggression?

We should thrash out this issue soon. Or are we going to do it at a later date, when things get worse? Are we going to wait until China brings it up and react defensively?

Funnily, Arunachal is more integrated with India than most other north eastern states. Its people speak Hindi as a link language for one thing. And even otherwise they have a strong Indian identity. Plus, in the latest assembly election they had a 72% voter turnout! In fact Arunachalis are willing to fight and give up their lives to keep China out. They know that joining China means complete obliteration of their indigenous culture. The trouble China will face if it ever annexes Arunachal will be much more than what they are experiencing in Tibet.

I am sure China knows this, and with their present problems with the Uighurs in Xinjiang and in Tibet, the last thing they want is more violence. Ofcourse China’s AP hysteria maybe a long term strategy, but on the other hand China might have another agenda.

What could China’s agenda be? Here are a few theories which I gathered from reading on the subject:

  1. China wants to expand its territory, it wants Arunachal Pradesh. And eventually plans to annex it. Sounds ridiculous for a country in 2009, but is China in 2009?
  2. China is acting like a big bully and flexing its muscles because it has now become an economic power.
  3. China doesn’t want Arunachal at all, but it surely covets Tawang, which used to be a part of Tibet. China annexed Tibet, but the British had made Tawang a part of India. A lot of Tibetans live in Tawang and China fears that this is where they could create trouble for China. So, China’s plans (at a later date) would be to agree to give up claims on AP in exchange for India giving up Tawang.
  4. What China really wants to do is destabilize India because it doesn’t want a powerful neighbour. Is it worried that it won’t be the only powerful country in Asia? Is China insecure about it’s own growth? Is it worried that its export-led economic model is not as good as India’s more balanced economy? Or that India will gang up against it with the other democracies once it  becomes economically stronger? And is that why China is using the same destructive strategy that Pakistan employed for the last two decades to try and destroy India? Here are some examples:
    • China clandestinely supports anti-India groups in India (Assam, Kashmir and the North East). Sure we don’t have hard proof just as yet, but then we didn’t have it of Pakistan’s involvement for many years either. China is friends with Pakistan, which everyone knows is the hub of terrorists activities of the world. China has also helped Pakistan with its nuclear capabilities. And it has helped Pakistan with weapons.  You can read more about China’s growing role in PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) here.
    • China was reluctant to support the U.N. sanctions against Lashkar-e-Taiba and its front, Jammat-ud-Dawa, the organizations responsible for the Mumbai hotel attacks. Finally China was forced to give in.
    • China is opposed to India being made permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
    • There have been news articles in the Chinese media about breaking up India. No articles in the Chinese media appear without the government’s approval.
    • Chinese supports anti-Indian factions in Nepal.
    • The Chinese has had a “String of Pearls” strategy for India for some time now. This strategy basically refers to China’s geo-political influence around India. The Chinese pearls are Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Pakistan and apparently a signals intelligence unit has come up on Cocos Islands, near the Andamans. You can read more about this subject here.

5. China wants to divert the attention of its citizens from its own social and economic problems. Apparently China has a rather serious problem on its hands in Xinjiang, far more so than it is letting on. China is also facing economic problems and it’s not just due to the economic disparity in its country, but also because many factories have closed down recently, forcing labour to go back to the countryside.
6. China is worried about Indo-US ties and wants to weaken India.

You can take your pick but if you ask me I think that China has little understanding of democracy (it saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s campaigning in Arunachal during the elections as threatening to it) and has no idea as to how the world has changed. It will never be able to manage the Arunachalis, who love India and love democracy and have been a part of India for more than half a century.

Countries with political systems such as China’s are naturally aggressive. In any case, I doubt that China will really take Arunachal Pradesh for reasons mentioned earlier in the post. Sure, it wants to dominate in Asia but they know that they will have to brutally suppress the culture of the Arunachalis to rule them and that is not something they want to tackle. At least not now. I believe that China is simply playing a game, in the hope of getting India to give up Tawang and back off from its claim on Aksai Chin. India says Aksai Chin is a part of Jammu and Kashmir and China which is holding Aksai Chin, says it’s part of China.

The Future
Pessimists like Gordon Chang (writes a weekly column for Forbes), author of The Coming Collapse of China, feel that the Arunachal problem could erupt into war, but there are others, like B. Raman, a retired Additional Secretary from India, who feel more optimistic and believe that “expanding economic relations between the two countries will ultimately moderate the Chinese position and facilitate a mutually acceptable compromise”. I think the truth lies somewhere inbetween. As I mentioned earlier I doubt that China will want war but I also doubt that China will want to compromise in any way except in a way which will benefit it.

The Solutions (from what I have read)
Pursue diplomacy aggressively. Misunderstandings and miscalculations can often escalate the issue.
Stop sensationalisation of the issue. Sensationalising the border issue, whipping up jingoistic sentiment amongst the public can be dangerous.
However, make the public aware. Give out the correct information.
India needs to be militarily prepared because China is.
We need infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control. China has it.
We need to ensure that our side of the story is told to the rest of the world.
The security forces should police the Indo-China Border, but do so without any noise.
Development of Arunachal Pradesh should be undertaken.
India should address the issue. Speak up and use all diplomatic means to solve the issue. There has been a beginning. For example, India has recently said that China must stop all its activities in Pak-Occupied Kashmir, which is a disputed territory. India also spoke up against Chinese objections to our PM’s visit to our own state.

(The photograph is from China.org and was taken during the 2008 meeting and map credits: travels.talash.com))

Related Reading: All posts on China.