Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Once upon a time journalists reported news

That was many years ago. Decades ago. Or perhaps even earlier than that. Then, both sides discovered that journalists, media by virtue of putting out stuff in print - the very scarcity of it can create, sway and even modify opinions.

And it is true. Much of our opinions come from the media we watch. Very little of our opinion is truly independent - unless you have read about it, inquired about it and created your own line of opinion. Which is why we all think secular. We all believed in the Doordarshan news and the news that our papers printed. Which really explains a lot of our 'thought' positions. Unless you truly read beyond that, you will believe in what the herd writes.

Be that as it may, people realized that one could pay to put news in print. And thus it happened - beyond advertisements. We began to see agencies put our news slanted in one way to influence opinions in one way and so on.

Just before a movie released, a news item would talk about an 'affair' between the cast. That raises curiosity and people often went and watched the movie.

Just before a major brand of soft drink was launched in India, there was a lot of badmouthing of sugarcane juice - who they perhaps considered as their major competition.

These are just examples, but there are many such examples. Because of the scarcity, print media and electronic media held sway, because once you had access to that inner circle, you could print anything and get the public to believe anything - including fake revolutions, fake honesty and what not.

Now this has been taken further ahead by newspapers - which are happy to take paid news. They will carry news - because it is paid for or (hold your breath) because they have a stake in your venture which they will pay through 'planted news'. And then lobbyists discovered it - which is why often one finds laudatory articles on companies, missile systems, even cricketers - hoping it will sway opinions of people.

Enron famously declared that it had spent a few crores 'educating' Indians - most of the money went into hands of politicians and perhaps media as well.

The latest scam here is all about the Agusta helicopters where some 16m Euro was spent creating a favorable impression of the helicopters in the India media. Now while we wait for the list to come out - it is to be noted that this is nothing new.

Covers with notes were distributed before elections, in party offices - all so that coverage could be bought.

Along the way journalists also discovered that with their access, they could lobby, they could sway opinion and they became opinion maker instead of reporting the news. We have had famous examples like the Radia scam.

Since then media has proliferated, social media has boomed and the opinion of old media has waned like no other. And media hates it.

Now when the Agusta scam broke out, hardly has a journalist come out in the open that this is a unethical practice.

Accepting money, favors, trips - and then writing about it is unethical. But some think otherwise...
And the last word from Chitra SD - the one who broke the Bofors scam decades ago

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A gust of wind

The Agusta story is up in the air. Wiki here. Long story short: An Italian court has convicted the chopper company chief and many familiar Indian names are in it.

It is no secret that the UPA was corrupt. Many scams are in different stages of investigation. The Coal Scam, the 2G scam, the Airtel-Maxis scam, the National Herald scam and now the Agusta probe.  (I am sure there will be many many more scams that will come to light, but leave that aside for now.)

What is common to each of these scams? None of these scams was accepted by the Congress and they said it was all politically motivated, propaganda and what not. And their political minions in media often toed the line.

The Coal Scam was broken by Hansraj Ahir - a BJP MP. The 2G scam was broken by Gopikrishnan of the Pioneer. Not one of these was broken by the Lutyens cabal of journalists.

But leave that aside for the moment. The NDA government is ensuring that the probe is happening independently - though I am not sure if anything will come out of it. It may only result in mud-slinging a la Bofors or it may result in real convictions.Whether independent probes mean that bureaucrats will take the probes to its logical conclusion  or not is also not clear. Hopefully the government will ensure that these probes are taken to its logical ends - with the arrests of the accused.

Now, here is the situation today.

Most of our so called chattering classes never tire of reminding us that BJP and Congress governments are equal. They never tire of writing oped pieces that tell us this. Why, at the height of UPA corruption they wrote us this: Are Indians endemically corrupt? And this. There were many such pieces/debates and the subliminal kind of harassment that often passes off as intellectual speak. The essence of it was somewhat on these lines:

So what if the 2G license were sold off on the cheap and people made money on the side - that helped keep rates low. (A completely bogus if it were if you see the rates at which subsequent auctions happened)

In military deals, kickbacks are coming - everybody does it. Even if you took out the kickbacks, the cost of the equipment would still the same. (Ditto bogus - in the recent past, India itself has managed to renegotiate many a price)

The coal scam they told us was no scam at all, because the coal was lying there unused.

In the last two years, the NDA government has streamlined procedures, made things transparent and even reduced the level of 'human' 'discretion' that was the euphemism for allowing corruption into deals, pricing etc. They have done this from coal and spectrum auctions to procurement of cement to military equipment.

(The earlier NDA government also completed their tenure without a single scam, for the record.)

And before I forget. Manmohan Singh was honest - they never tire of telling us. Tell me, which honest guy allows the loot under his very nose? In his office? Being arm twisted to change policies to enable money to be siphoned off?

With the Agusta and the National Herala scam, it is fairly proven that corruption is endemic to Congress. Even the famously silent Signora Sonia has come out facing a mike for the first time in many years.  TV channels are reporting on the corruption and asking questions of Signora for the first time ever. There are still a few that distract and divert, but leave them - because the Agusta story has a second chapter - that of money paid to journalists to help in 'positive' coverage. And one of Indias greatest journalists has come out defending it (ahem).

So, why are these worthies not highlighting the effort of the government to keep top down corruption at zero and ensure that it stays that way. Agreed the former is more of a function of ethics at the top - but the latter - to create processes in a place that was always (to use the words of the columnists) corrupt is really something.

Now, why aren't these same worthies writing about Narendra Modis honesty? Or of this governments resolve to eliminate corruption - both at source and also go after past cases without interference? And this is just at the center.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

New Start ups in Bangalore

Given all the civic issues in Bangalore, here are a few start up suggestions:

Horse taxis: These are the only things that can negotiate the current traffic in Bangalore. And environment friendly. They can also jump cross barriers.

Human Relay Race couriers: To deliver, even bikes get stuck. Human relay racers on the other hand can deliver stuff faster.

Advanced drone delivery: To begin with they can start for goods. Later on, this can diversified into delivering people into offices. Charging the drone may be a problem given the electricity, but at any rate, the person will fall on a vehicle stuck on a traffic jam.

Sleeper buses: Sleeper buses help people get a good nights sleep on the way back to home from office. Besides, the moment they reach home, they have to start the next days journey. And in the day journey the bus doubles up as work cabins with wifi. Book your space in it using an app.

Food delivery at traffic jams: You order in one signal and using GPS, the food delivery catches up with you as you are stuck and delivers at the traffic jam. This is also extended to restaurant booking apps. You book a seat based on where you are stuck and the restaurant books your place. Then once confirmed, you also give you order - and by the time you reach the restaurant, the food is on the table!

Traffic Valets: Special drivers who will drive you though the traffic and return the vehicle to you once the traffic is cleared.

Micro drones with a live update of road traffic: Drones continuously feed you images of the route to your home/office so you can decide if you can go or work or do something else.

Traffic auto pilots: These are not self drive cars, but just small self drive applications on cars which will move your car only in centimeters per second and only in a straight line (and at times in zig zag motion to confuse other drivers).

Private pot hole fillers: Using an app, private agencies fill up potholes and the bill is submitted to BBMP - who do not have time to do anything anyway.

Bangalore and Taxes...

Bangalore, much touted as Indias silicon valley, is perhaps the worst metro to live in these days.
Property taxes were hiked in Bangalore a few months ago. The hike almost doubled the amount property owners pay in Bangalore and as per zones. (The hike has since been rolled back - partially.)
The zones have been classified in BBMPs infinite wisdom along these lines:

The city is classified into six tax zones -- A to F, with A the high tax bracket, and reducing to F, the lowest bracket. As a result of the reorganization, some areas have been moved from the lower E and F zones to D, C, B or A zones, where the tax is heavy. "Owners of properties which have moved to higher tax zones have to cough up more tax. The recent property tax hike has come as an additional burden to them. In some cases, where properties have jumped multiple zones, the tax may go up 100% per cent or more.

The logic used seems to be the hike in property rates - mind you, not the civic amenities provided. So, if you walked into any of these 'posh' localities and expected to see a beautiful modern city, you would be wrong. What you would see are dilapidated roads, bad sewage, no water supply and erratic electricity. Traffic conditions are abysmal. Pollution is high. There is tons of dust floating everywhere  Yes, you will also see big cars, huge apartment buildings. 

Now let us see how this money is getting used. No, I am not in a mood at this point to dive into data and give you sources, but anecdotal evidence is sufficient. 

Let us look at basic stuff you need in a city. The first is water. The water situation in Bangalore as per this article is so bad that the city will have to be evacuated by 2023. BBMP (or BWSSB) does not supply water to the entire city. It supplies it partly to the part of the city. From the link above, see this:

Most residential properties then rely on water supplied through tankers, that have emerged as one of the most powerful lobbies in Bangalore. It is such a booming business, that there have been instances of the water tanker mafia using force to prevent residential societies from digging borewells to reduce their expenditure on water supplied by them.

While the last sentence may be a bit of an exaggeration - the point is that each of those so called high end zones where property prices have 'jumped' are on the outskirts of the erstwhile city and have no amenities whatsoever provided by the BBMP/BWSSB. The water supply is by water tankers - most apartments have no Kaveri connection.

(Now, don't get me wrong - I don't mean that we need to get precious Kaveri water from pristine parts of rural Karnataka so that Bangaloreans can flush it down their drains - but where is the plan for the city my dear government when you area collecting so many crores?)

So, water is in bad state.

What about sewage? Again from the earlier link: 

"The 850 km of storm water drains meant to carry surplus water from higher elevation lakes to lower levels in a cascading system of natural rainwater harvesting, now instead carry the city's sewage into these existing so-called lakes," said Balasubramanian.
"Only 30 per cent of the sewage is treated by the sewage treatment plants and the rest flows into the existing lakes," he said.
If this is not enough - given any few days there will be a sewage pipe leak in some part of these 'posh' localities. And it takes ages to clear those. 
Every single IT complex or kindergarten has its own generator in these posh areas. No, apartment buildings in Singapore or Mumbai do not have those. Because the state (or electricity company) supplies electricity. But no, not KSEB. 

Despite the country generating more electricity in the last two years, Karnataka is not interested in supplying it to its denizens.  This article is from September, but I can assure you it is not radically different now. 

That leave us with traffic, roads and suchlike. Most main roads in Bangalore are paved, but that about it. I have seen service roads laid in way that it forms asphalt waves, craters. I have seen roads cave in first and then vehicles cave into that. There are many other dust paths that also qualify as roads. 

What about traffic? Most of Bangalore gets up each day and simply stands in queue in a traffic jam. Here is one story about Whitefield (one those posh localities - hey, it even has a posh name), but no there is no white not field - there is just one massive traffic jam. 

What are the plans? Nobody knows. What is the mitigation to this situation? Nobody knows. The government is hardly interested except in collecting high property taxes. Lakes are dying. There is no water. There is barely any electricity. Untreated sewage goes into lakes on a good day - on a bad day it just accumulates on roads. The road themselves are another story. 

So, why are we paying such high taxes Mr. Chief Minister?

(Some stupid formatting issue - can't figure out what is the issue here)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The matrix of secularism

You are born secular*#@. (Read definition below first to understand what is secular, so that you are not confused with real secularism.)

Most likely, your parents were born secular too. In the unlikely event your parents are not born secular, you are most likely considered uncool by your society around you.

Your school was secular. They taught you a sanitised form of history. Your subjects were secular. In your school in all likelihood, they did not teach you Indian epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata. Neither do you learn much about Chanakya or Sushrusha. You learnt precious little about Hindu culture. You had zero exposure to the vedas if at all. You learnt in English. If at all, you may have ended up taking Sanskrit as a second or third language at best. Your mother tongue if you are lucky might have been another language that you took - but thanks to Central and other boards, this is on the way out. If you can read books in any language other than English, consider yourselves lucky. You learnt very little about the Indian freedom struggle - other than Gandhi and Nehru. You learnt even little about the Maratha empire, except in cursory terms. As regards the history of the South of India - don't even ask - it is not even part of the syllabus. You learnt about the greatness of the Mughal empire while their atrocities were sanitized. Jaziya? That was just a tax. The English? Again, you learnt that they oppressed, but very little of their actual crimes against the country. The Portuguese? No - not a word about inquisition.

As for your children going to school today - they are learning an even more sanitized version of the same.

Your relatives are secular. They are modern. They don't follow much of your archaic customs. If you follow too much of your customs - you are way uncool. Go to temples? Pah, thats for oldies. Satsang? Bhajans? No way. Rock concerts - oh yes. Bolly pop - yay indeed. Western classical - ah, now you are talking.

If you celebrate Karwa Chauth  - that is patriarchal. Ganesh Chaturthi is noisy. Diwali is polluting. Holi wastes water. Jallikattu is bad for animals. Navratri is bad because it causes abortions (somehow). Everything else is regressive.

If you are lucky, you may have learnt classical music and dance - atleast in the South of India that is prevalent. Though for some reason, piano classes and western classical is preferred as cultural education these days. Like German and French are cooler subjects to take in school.

Your media and news are secular, brought up as they are in leftist beliefs. So, you learn that your festivals are to be celebrated silently, preferably in your closets. They tell you that discriminatory laws depending on which false gods you worship are the norm in all countries. They tell you that despite nearly half a century of encouraging religious terrorism, Pakistan is a secular state. They still tell you that we need peace with a country like Pakistan. Why secularism is linked with Pakistan, is a mystery I haven't figured myself - except for the fact that ISI is a good paymaster.

The media divas and journo tycoons find nothing wrong in anything that Congress does or ever ask Soniaji to give an interview or write an oped asking for her statesmanship. Again, don't ask me how is this connected to secularism. They almost whitewashed all of Congress corruption by painting all Indians as endemically corrupt.

Your media is driven by leftists who will never tell you the truth - about Rahul Gandhi for instance. Or Kamlesh Tiwari. Or Rafique Taliparamba. Or Sanal Edamaruku. Or Saif Ali Khans and Sharmila Tagores secularism for that matter. Because it is uncool to talk about the Christian and Islamist aggression in India. They will never tell you about them. If you talk conversion - you are immediately branded RSS (and somehow RSS is a bad word - despite its service to the nation from time immemorial). And somehow talking about Christian interference in politics from Kerala to Mizoram is bad. Or about calling Islamists out - that is also bad for some reason.

Even the Gita and Vande Mataram are deemed unsecular. Yoga is getting there. Ayurveda - well, they have told you that is mostly made of toxic metals that are bad for you. Hindu pilgrimages are bad - for the environment (Amarnath), patriarchal (Sabarimala), corrupt temples(Tirupati) or unhygienic (Kumbh Mela). Besides donating to temples is bad - they want you to donate to Christist NGOs.

And after all this, you rebel in your teenage years - against any imposition of Hindu culture on you - little realizing that you are playing into the very hands of what Macaulay wanted you to be. Read this Minute - point 7 onwards and you will know what I mean.  Point 16 stands out:

Another instance may be said to be still before our eyes. Within the last hundred and twenty years, a nation which had previously been in a state as barbarous as that in which our ancestors were before the Crusades has gradually emerged from the ignorance in which it was sunk, and has taken its place among civilized communities. I speak of Russia. There is now in that country a large educated class abounding with persons fit to serve the State in the highest functions, and in nowise inferior to the most accomplished men who adorn the best circles of Paris and London. There is reason to hope that this vast empire which, in the time of our grandfathers, was probably behind the Punjab, may in the time of our grandchildren, be pressing close on France and Britain in the career of improvement. And how was this change effected? Not by flattering national prejudices; not by feeding the mind of the young Muscovite with the old women's stories which his rude fathers had believed; not by filling his head with lying legends about St. Nicholas; not by encouraging him to study the great question, whether the world was or not created on the 13th of September; not by calling him "a learned native" when he had mastered all these points of knowledge; but by teaching him those foreign languages in which the greatest mass of information had been laid up, and thus putting all that information within his reach. The languages of western Europe civilised Russia. I cannot doubt that they will do for the Hindoo what they have done for the Tartar. [Macaulay Minute]

Now, Imagine this matrix. You are born secular. You are taught secular. You are fed secular.  You red secular books  in general. How can you read anything indic? The great authors were all Westerners after all. How will grow up to be anything but secular in this matrix?

Except that there is the internet. And you can choose to take the red pill - rather the saffron pill of real secularism. If you don't, you are a product of the matrix of secularism. Congrats.

*Secular: This means that you are modern. You hate most Hindu traditions - but on the other hand, you are ambivalent towards most Abrahamic traditions. You hate many Hindu practices - like putting a bindi on your daughters forehead, or tying a thread around the wrist or worshipping at temples. You hate yourself for being a Hindu. You believe in soft Hinduism - that should not raise its voice about anything, but others are entitled to burning down things at the slightest non- provocation. You believe in limited freedom of speech - especially if some people get offended, then that freedom of speech is not good. You are perfectly ok with Hindus discarding their practices and religions, and equally at home when the other religions go down the opposite side. It is perfectly ok for someone to insult Hindu deities, but it is not ok for someone to do the same for other religions. It is ok for someone to question Hindu traditions, but not ok for someone to do the same for other religions. It is ok  for books written that denigrate Hindu practices, but not ok for books that do the same to other religions.  MF Hussain paintings are good, Hebdo cartoons were of course, provocative. Hindu fasting on Ekadashi are bad, but Ramzan fasting is good. A sufi, qawalli night is cool - but a bhajan, satsang is uncool. Hindus abstaining from alcohol is bad, but Lent is good. Beef bans are bad, pork bans are good. Halal meat is great - you don't know that Jhatka exists. Most likely, you rebel against Hindu practices at home - after all they are old, meaningless and patriarchal. You believe Congress is secular, BJP is communal. You think celebrating a cracklerless Diwali, waterless Holi, noiseless Ganesha is a great idea, but not so for minority festivals - after all, you believe that minorities in this country are under threat. You do not support any Hindu superstitions like fasting on eclipses - but other superstitions are fine. Indeed, you believe that there are no religions which have any superstition including Santa Claus. You believe in feminism - but only for Hindus. You don't believe in bull- fights which are, of course, cruel to bulls - but chicken lollipop and beef burgers are cool.  Uniform civil codes are a bad idea - after all minorities need to protect their own culture, however regressive. Urdu shayaris are good, so are Urdu medium schools, but thank god they don't impose Sanskrit in schools - that would make your French so bad. I suppose you get the drift here.

#Disclaimer: You may not be entirely an extremist in the above continuum, but you may believe the above in varying degrees.

@Not to be confused with real secularism for any rhyme or reason. Real secularism is where "God is one, but their routes are different". Where one has to give up old practices - and take to newer ones - without bringing in religion. Things like equality to women, financial assistance to all regardless of religion, scholarships to all regardless of religion, equal footing to schools run by any religious denomination - these are for everybody.  Real secularism is all about live and let live and about keeping religion out of politics and governance. Real secularism is about respecting the culture of the country that you grew up in - and that means everything. It is also about reading History and Culture with an apolitical lens and that means swallowing some harsh truths. Again, you get the drift.

Yes, this blog is unsecular too. If you are reading this blog, congrats, chances are that you may start thinking about finding your way out of the matrix. 

Meanwhile on intolerance

One media diva is rounding up filmstars -  possibly the most privileged ones in our society and telling the minions why boycotting movies is intolerance. This, after, a bad movie by a victimized superstar - who later claimed that his victimhood was misconstrued - flopped. What is next? Compulsory watching movies of victimized superstars? In response to this, the diva has put her mike to a privileged star who is now ranting intolerance. Somehow, that never got eyeballs - though she is still trying.

While that is happening - a certain person by the name of Kamlesh Tiwari is being hounded (he is actually in jail). A certain section of peaceful people want him to be beheaded - because he insulted someone (ya, ya, hints are enough). However, when a certain MF Hussain insulted some Hindu gods and goddesses - these liberals went all out to support him. Somehow, they are all missing for Kamlesh Tiwari. (Never heard about him? Google him.) Meanwhile protests have happened from Uttarakhand to Karnataka. Very peacefully. All they want is is head. Literally.

And in Kerala - that well educated state. A mans studio was burnt down by peaceful Islamists after he opposed a very progressive practice on a whatsapp group. No, no, this chap is not RSS. Here is a link.

Meanwhile all those who ranted on intolerance have stayed silent on this one. No Aamir Khan, No Shah Rukh Khan has spoken. Why is that? Your guess is as good as mine.

And oh, by the way, the lovely great students studying in the JNU - atleast a section of them do not want Baba Ramdev to give a speech in their university. The university stands by its invitation - but well, such great display of tolerance by students is heartening. Again, no media debates, no FoE under threat - nothing.

And btw, a Congress newspaper fired their editor for writing a few truths.

A few days ago, a Chief Minister who is ostensibly fighting corruption on the eve of a CBI raid on his officer accused of corruption used words like psycopath (sic) and coward for the Prime Minister. But no, he is not a troll - the so called 'internet Hindus' are trolls.

A Congress member from Assam insulted Smriti Irani - the HRD minister with words that are sexist at best and crass and vulgar at worst. Again no intolerance.

If you have been following this manufactured news closely, there is a pattern. That pattern is that FoE is one sided in India. When it comes to the Islamists side - whether it is a fatwa on Rehman or a Rafique Taliparambas studio being burnt down or Kamlesh Tiwaris head being sought for a comment or Baba Ramdev not being allowed to give a speech - these things are met with silence. And this is a short list.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The 'False'man Show

The Truman Show has been a recurring theme here, and here. The movie is a well known one -  with the whole story revolving around one man whose life is made up in order to create a TV show.

From the wiki entry,

To prevent Truman from discovering his false reality, Christof has invented means of dissuading his sense of exploration, the most drastic of which was "killing" his father in a storm while on a fishing trip to instill in him a fear of the water. Christof also floods the channels with news reports and commercials about the dangers of traveling, and television shows about how good it is to stay at home. The actor that played Truman's deceased father sneaks back onto the set as a homeless man, but is whisked away as soon as Truman notices him. Despite Christof's control, Truman has managed to behave in unexpected ways, in particular by falling in love with an extra, Sylvia, known to Truman as Lauren, instead of Meryl, the character intended to be his wife. Though Sylvia is quickly removed from the set and Truman marries Meryl, he continues to secretly pine for 'Lauren'. Sylvia becomes part of a "Free Truman" campaign that fights to free him from the show and to reveal his identity.

This is how media controls our life.

Or controlled it - until the internet and social media. They showed us the 'right' kind of news,  kept us away from the news that may hurt their narrative, created a set of intellectuals we would admire, demonised another set of intellectuals who were challenging the system. There is a larger story there, by virtue of our education have been colonized, history sanitized and perhaps even the actual story of the freedom struggle narrowed down to one set of people with the other set being reduced to side characters.

So, in their narrative, the majority Hindu religion of the country is a bad religion - that often puts its minorities into trouble. Any news that adds up to this is trumpeted and any news that does not (and these days most of the news does not) is suppressed. So, Hindu godmen are bad. Christian and Muslim fathers and imams are perfect. Hindu festivals have campaigns against them - either they are patriarchal (Karva Chauth) or polluting (Diwali, Holi, Ganesha) or both. Some of the customs are sought to be ridiculed - actually most are. There is never a word on any religions festivals in a bad light.

All riots are caused by Hindu majority - and even when there is evidence to the contrary, this is not brought out. Recently, in the last few years, there have been so many communal incidents of the 'secular' kind and our media has kindly kept them away from us. In Kashmir - which honestly, is the only incident in the country where the majority (guess who) has ensured that the minority has been terrorized into leaving their homes - is never highlighted to push their narrative forward.

They created a set of intellectuals who we were supposed to admire - while the others like Subramaniam Swamy, Gurumurthy, Bhyrappa were supposed to communal. Why, many of our reporters,  writers, Bollywood actors (only those who sell the snake oil of communal Hindus) are supposed to be intellectuals.

The common factor was that all these subscribe to leftist belief systems - among other things. Even our history has been slanted to further this narrative.

I can go on and on.

Except that social media has been successful in breaking the monopoly of this narrative.

The current intolerance debate - a manufactured one at that - which everyone in the room is able to see - mainly thanks to social media is one such example.

Every video that the media puts out (selectively edited) has been countered by an unedited clip which shows how the media lies. Every tweet that the media puts out - is countered by a response by the same media when the tables are turned (for example, when they threaten to sue bloggers that is freedom of speech, but when someone counters them they are trolls or bullies). And so on.

So, well, media, the days of your 'False'man show have ended. Social media will challenge you at every step. Get used to it...

Oh intolerance...

The tolerant folks of the country, are telling us that we are intolerant. To prove their tolerance, they have been using, hold your breath, not tolerance, but intolerance. 

Vikram Sampath - who was organizing the Bangalore Literature Fest - who held views that were not acceptable to the tolerant had to step down to prove his intolerance and their tolerance - whereas in reality it should have been vice versa. 

A TV anchor who shouts much about tolerance asked a renowned and reputed historian to take back a word that he had learnt through his scholarship and he refused. Now if the anchor was tolerant, would she have done that? Who is tolerant and who is intolerant?

People returned their awards protesting against intolerance. A larger section has not returned. Is it a question of numbers - this intolerance? 

Or it it based on what superstars who make billions feel? Or what?

These are just a couple of examples on how this manufactured dissent has snowballed into a faux agitation...

And the intolerant who are claiming intolerance want our country to be a place...

Where the mind fears them and wants some heads to be bowed low, 
where knowledge is owned and distributed by them, 
where the world has been broken up into fragments defined by them
where they build those narrow walls
where words come out from the depths of falsehood, 
where tireless publicity results in stretching its arms towards donations,
where the only stream of reason should be their murky stream
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit,
where the mind is led forward by only those who are certified
into ever narrowing thought and action,
in that heaven of despondency, they want our country to awake...

(apologies to Rabindranath Tagore)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A note to Namo Supporters

Its all over social media these days. The very same set of people who assiduously supported Narendra Modi in his nothing less than historic 2014 victory are now tut-tutting his chances for 2019.

Yes, it has been a turbulent 18 odd months for this government. For the most part, it is due to no fault of theirs. They have done the right things - tightened up processes, left less scope for discretion, opened up industries, worked on development (electricity, cities, transport), ramped our foreign policy engagement, kept Pakistan on a tight leash, engaged with the neighbours, worked on improving internal security.

But the media has been shouting with its own agenda. There are no guesses as to whose agenda is the media playing. The media is playing to the person who owns their precious ecosystem. The ecosystem which gave them sources - sometimes resources. Which allowed them to lobby for positions, spin - why some journalists are 'dealers' or 'wheeler dealers'. They own companies which get lucrative contracts. Some are family members of the ecosystem party. They used to get free foreign trips both from the government and sometimes from an 'ISI marked Fai'. All in all, life was good.

Now, Modi has broken this ecosystem. Broken, but not completely. Because the same channels which throw muck on the government is rewarded with government ads, interviews from top ministers. Modi himself has been praising them, attending their functions.

So, there is good reason that they are shouting. They shout that Modi is not doing enough. He is not talking enough. That the communication strategy of the government is all wrong (and maybe there is some work required there).

But to take all this noise and feel despondent as a supporter on SM is a little too much.

Think about it.

Most of the agenda driving has been aimed at Modi (and Amit Shah). As a social media supporter, what you see and experience is a fraction of fraction of wrath that Modi has been at the receiving end of the ecosystem. Of course, this is nothing new to Modi - who has been at the receiving end of this ecosystem - from fake cases to bought witnesses to slander to insinuations to abuses from eminent people who once ruled the country to security threats.

And yet, he did not give in then and he has not given in now. Giving in, would mean capitulation - which is what the ecosystem wants. The way that Vajpayee was brought down from the inside - is not possible since there are very few moles.  So, interesting old but new, improved strategies are being used to distract him from jailing the crooks, going after the corrupt among other things.

If Modi can stand this for over 12 years, why cant we stand by him for 5 years?

Sure, he can do more and he will. Right now, no one, not even his worst enemies can argue that he is not doing the right things. There are many more things that he wants to push - but Parliament (led by stateswoman of the ecosystem is not cooperating). Even here he could have taken the easy route of 'deals' or 'CBI inquiries' but he has not. He is trying it the hard way of winning elections, getting the numbers and moving the needle...

So, we need to stand by him...because nobody else has and nobody else will...

Is Technology making us dumber?

The latest question being asked in intellectual circles is this. They don't mean, technology like washing machines and baking ovens - though it could get there as well. They mean technology like whatsapp and Facebook and all that.

Did TV make us dumber? You bet. The 80s were the idiot box generation. Hours lost because people sat in front of boxes that emitted electrons and newspersons that spouted nonsense. This, apart from tele serials and the like.

Did newspapers make us dumber? Yes, the leftist liberal claptrap that has been drilled into our heads is primarily because of the news we were fed when we grew up.

Yet, one can argue that both TV and newspapers also made us smarter. Because, for one, it made us aware. And two, there were good articles and programs that did make sense.

Ditto for books - much before TV - there were books. One can safely argue that not all the books printed are worth reading (and I don't mean textbooks).

But books did make us smarter? Without doubt. And there are books which continue to make people dumb - and those books are not even banned.

Truth be told, this has nothing to with technology and making people dumb. Hitherto, people sat in front of idiot boxes, watched programs, believed most of it, talked to their neighbors, shared it in post morning walk conversations or spoke about it over lunch tables in offices...

Today with whatsapp and Facebook, they post it on the internet (yes, the internet is making us dumb) or on whatsapp groups (which are really extended conversations with family, friends, random people etc).

Trouble with posting this on the internet is that the sanctity of narratives are being questioned. Earlier, in those good old days we believed anything that was printed. Not any longer. We also believed anything they said on TV. Not any longer. Why? Because for every article they write, there are countless rebuttals. For every clipped video that they air - there are citizen sourced videos that people put up - so that people can see the truth for themselves.

Today when a superstar claims intolerance, people express themselves (earlier also they did - but in closed circles). Today they express their feelings on the internet. That, by the way, is social media. Get used to it. They also, see what the superstar said last year and what he is saying now - and they ask him - rightfully - hey what changed. They also see soldiers dying on the front for our security and liberals outraging about ink attacks - and they question it - rightly so. They see news anchors (journo tycoons) take positions - that contradict their own tweets from a few months ago. They see media building up fear mongering - and question it. They also see media holding up Rahul Gandhi as an icon of intelligence  and they question  it.

This is what bothers our intellectuals.

Earlier, they spoke and we believed them. Often, because they spoke, we were ashamed of what we thought. They set the narrative and we believed them. Today, social media questions that and these faux intellectuals are upset.

Instead of saying "Is technology making intellectuals upset" it is now framed as "Is technology making us dumber".

Fire burns - can also be used for cooking. Internet has junk  - but you can also learn from it. TV is useless on all counts. Newspapers carry enough junk that I don't want my kids to see - and a few good articles. One can argue that any technology is dangerous and making us dumber.

No it is not. Depends on how you use it. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Deja vu for NDA

To the NDA under Modi government,

The Lutyens liberals will not let you rule peacefully like they never allowed Vajpayee. Just before Delhi there were some loud noises around Church attacks. Just before Bihar, there was loud noise, not about church attacks - but about a lynching that happened - not in Bihar, but in UP. And its Chief Minister got a free pass and you got blamed.

There is a pattern here as we saw during Vajpayees tenure. First distract you and your government with all sort of things like the above. And more important, repeat this so that the people get distracted. And the swing voters will not swing. And while they press for you and your government to respond to this nonsense, the opposition continues its way ahead in canvassing for the elections. This is classic distraction strategy.

What happened in Bihar - is basically an extension of what happened in Delhi and what will happen in UP for 2017. Note - trial balloons have been floated for their favorite Chief Minister already. 

First the so called opposition will unite. Then they will distract the swing voters and create a loud noise demanding that the Prime Minister do this and do that and so on. And this was just the beginning, there may many other events that may get orchestrated.

Note: Even as I speak, the veterans have already been roped with an eye on Punjab.

So,what can be done?

1. Take off that Statesmanitis garb of yours. And gloves. And kick some political ass. Announce fast track corruption courts. Get the corrupt into jails. That will ensure visibility of the government. Open other pending cases - there are tons of them inside. Let loose classified files - like the Henderson report.  (Remember Congress never suffers from an attack of statesmanitis. Vajpayee succumbed to statesmanitis. You needn't - you have staved off the vultures during the Gujarat tenure.)
2. Have strong leaders in every state - Raman Singh, Shivraj Patil and Raje are not enough. Fadnavis was a good discovery. But Bihar had no credible name. Ensure that there is a name for UP/Punjab now and get them working on the ground now.
3. In your ministry, get rid of underperformers.
4. There are some interesting cases under your radar - including some media houses that seem to love you so much. Also some politicians have left a neat paper trail for your ministries to follow. Fast track every single one of them.
5. Throw out each of your spokespersons and their TV channel visits. Restrict them to a press conference each day. Disregard random people who put the wrong part of their anatomy in front of TV mikes while wearing a BJP badge.
6. And yes, work on getting as much work done as you can with the Lok Sabha majority. As for Rajya Sabha, point #1 will take care of the crooks.

Remember this is just the beginning. Pakistan is yet to deliver a gift to you - like they did for Mr. Vajpayee. Kargil, Kandahar were just Pakistan gifts for the NDA1. They will likely send you another one. And then we all know, how the media will react if something happens along those lines - see this link from 2008 by the venerable Kanchan Gupta. They may not do it - only because you are not pussy footed - and may elicit a stronger than expected response - but the recent episodes should gladden them. They have forced you to make many a statement - and that may embolden Pakistan to try a trick or two.