Reality Check India

Liberhan Ayodhya commission report online – read it

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 28, 2009

The Liberhan Ayodhya Commission report is online.

Read it for yourself at http://mha.gov.in/uniquepage.asp?Id_Pk=571

I suggest a slightly different reading order.

First read Chapter 12, where the author ambitiously takes on the “Definition of Secularism”.

Here is an excerpt :

Religion and state have thus been separated so that people are polarized by the electoral process on any ground other than those of religion, caste, culture, or creed.

146.9 Page 872 (emp added)

This is where the report is a massive let down. No Indian wants to pay 8 crores and wait 17 years to hear Mr Liberhan’s philosophical takes. He should have stuck to analyzing the Babri Masjid case and then to look for criminal culpability. Almost all the BJP leaders claim they did it, so whats the point in saying ‘Yeah, they are right’ ?  He goes on to define Hinduism, gives us a history lesson including such gems as how the Mughals were “hinduised”, we get to hear his vision of casteless India.  There are umpteen instances of such high sounding theorizing.  After every such instance, the enemy is projected as the one who wants to attack the innocence of this system. A lot of rants are actually not against the demolition but against the “political format” the movement took.

This my friends, is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

Do we really have such a system in place ? What if the opposite were true and that the Indian state has been carefully guided into a gorge over the years by the pillars of democracy who have failed us. A gorge where the state engineers inequality, prevents rational examination (strict scrutiny) even of compromises sought to made to fundamental rights, and eventually  fixes your position in society.  In such a gorge, the only power worth having is a place on the table where such engineering takes place. Is it not ? Wont we be forced to see the following in a different light ?

Murli Manohar Joshi admitted  that although the issue had the propensity to divide the country, the religious issue had to be put in a political format.

149.10 Page 885

Elsewhere, the author draws heavily from Amartya Sen. There are about a dozen quotes attributed to him in the chapter titled ‘Secularism’. Such as this one :

Sen wrote that, Even among those who see themselves as religious Hindus, a great many would dispute Ram’s divinity.  The identification of Ram with divinity is common in the north and west of India.

146.3  Page 869

Actually, there is no place in India where Ram’s divinity is disputed. The best Mr Sen has is probably the Dravidian movement. Only those unfamiliar with the Dravidian movement will fall for this.  We happen to be in the know.  It is a plain fact that people of Tamilnadu are deeply religious and have the largest and most elaborate temples to Lord Ram. You could probably put all the Ram temples in Delhi combined into Sholingar or Suchindram.  The dravidian movement is about castes jostling for space at the ‘engineering table’.  Just come to TN and you will find that almost every Sumo, Scorpio, Endeavours with the Dravidian parties flag in the front will sport a  Hindu God sticker montage at the back.  It will be easy to dismiss such things from a distance, but people see this and draw the correct conclusions. In any case, I dont think anyone really wants Mr Liberhan  to pronounce his grand judgment on Lord Ram. This is an example of straying off the track.

Even if we concede that  Lord Ram is considered divine only in the North and West. What is the point he is driving at ? Almost all the hindu “fascist leaders” and illiterate kar sevaks were from the North and West.  Are their actions then understandable because in their regions, Mr Sen says that Ram really is considered divine ?

I never thought I’d agree with anything Vir Sanghvi says. But here is his verdict :

24 Nov 2009 “RT @virsanghvi: If I was the government of India, I would ask Liberhan for my money back. 17 years, 9 crores spent and complete rubbish . via Twitter.

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Best way to remember 26/11

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 27, 2009

The best way to honour the brave security men who laid down their lives is NOT to merely remember their sacrifice. The nation should take a pledge to make their sacrifice worthwhile.

Remembrance is FREE, change takes EFFORT.

This brings us to the two most inane talking points on TV channels.

  • What has changed since 26/11 ?
  • Why is there no private + public partnership to tackle terrorism ?

These two points were repeated ad-nauseum by all TV hosts, especially Rajdeep Sardesai. Lets start with the ‘private/public’ partnership issue. This is a silly extension of the private – public partnership concept in infrastructure projects which was mostly due to capital investment requirements. Mr P Chidambaram rightly popped this balloon within two seconds in an interview to the CNN-IBN editor. In the follow up, the issue immediately deflated to a pathetic matter of citizens approaching the police for help. The only way I see private involvement in national security issues is for citizens to bear arms. I am not saying that is good or bad, but thats  it, everything else related to security is public.

Dwell on this for a minute and you will find this reveals a deeper fissure in Indian society.  In a normal democracy, you would expect that since the private elects the public, we would not have to get all worked up over a partnership. In other words, the private public partnership already exists, it is called democracy. The middle class is confused, or rather the free agent middle class is a confused lot. They realize their pet big ticket issues like terrorism or even back breaking price rise or rapidly diminishing living standards are not electoral issues.  So what is ? Large swathes of people trapped by a system that holds them hostage to group incentives.  No group will defect from this system – not because we are evil or like to leech. It is a simple matter of the price to pay for defection. We support group incentives but only under the control of evidence not under the control of life stories of individuals.

The media is unable to articulate the above. The fervent appeal for a private public partnership is a way of beseeching the public people (elected largely to validate the incentives ecosystem) to include the private people in the game. Even though they have been given a chance to vote on the issue and the verdict is out for all to see.

Long time readers of this blog may sigh, ‘Here he goes again’. I can understand the fatigue of despair and the non stop pessimism. The unfortunate fact is, you cant have any of the benefits of democracy unless you honor all of its pre-requisites.

The next issue is : What has changed since 26/11 ?

What the TV channels really mean by change is material change. New guns, new vehicles, new groups of commandos. All this is welcome but nowhere near the type of change required to make the sacrifices of our security forces worthwhile. All forces not just those involved in the 26/11 operation.

The biggest change will be to compromise the existing political ecosystem and put big ticket issues like this on the voting block.  That is only possible if enough people are moved into free agent hood. More free agents also means more social justice, even under the quota system. The trillion rupee difference is a system based on evidence (data) will replace the whim of individuals.

Will it make a difference if more South Mumbai voters turned up to vote ?

I am afraid it would make little impact. There is no evidence to suggest that rich people automatically mean free agents who would always vote on big ticket issues.   Maybe the same winners would be voted in with a higher absolute number of votes.

While we are on the subject of election mechanics,  the way we handle electoral rolls need to be changed. For example, almost no hostel student was able to vote simply because they were away. At least in the general elections, people should be allowed to vote from any booth for their constituency. People who stay put in their home constituency are more likely to develop a liking for the stationary bandit or be involved as a beneficiary of this or that scam.

 

To conclude :

Here is to all the brave men who laid down their lives fighting the frenzied terrorist bastards. The victims had no option, you guys did.

Let us take a pledge to support any policy that will contribute towards putting such big ticket items on the voting block. That is the kind of change we want, the kind that is good enough to honour the dead.

 

 

China’s non democratic path not for us

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 24, 2009

Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at an interaction with CFR, the American think tank.

‘There is no doubt that the Chinese growth performance is superior to the Indian performance,’ he said in response to another question on why the Indian economic performance was lagging behind that of China’s.

‘But I have always believed there are other values which are more important than the growth of gross domestic product like respect for fundamental human freedoms, respect for rule of law, respect for multi-religious, multi-ethnic rights,’ he said.

Source : Yahoo

 

In the true spirit of “Democracy for the sake of Democracy”, we present the intangible as a substitute for the tangible.

 

 

Serendipity and the new age entrepreneurs

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 19, 2009

Normally, monsoon time means rains and fog, but it seems like this season it is smoke and mirrors.

Here is Rajeev Chandrashekar’s latest article titled “Connection Errors“. He really takes DoT and TRAI to town while also saying the new age licensees simply found themselves in an “interesting situation”.

Read on.

 

The protagonists in this tragicomedy — DoT and TRAI — have by now developed a perfect track record of ‘doublespeak’. Phrases like consumer benefit, common man and competition when emanating from them take on an ominous hue. It’s not the first time that the TRAI and DoT (seemingly acting in concert — when the opposite should be true) have used the common man and his benefit to roll out scams.

Source : HT

 

Tragicomedy ? Hardly a term that fits here.  He says, “TRAI and DOT used the common man and his benefit to roll out scams”.  So, we are to believe that the  TRAI and DOT rolled out the scam and not the Congress led UPA government.

Essentially this whole thing boils down to the death of nuance in Indian public life.  In report after report, the main talking points are along the lines of  “but there was no note from TRAI asking us not to do that”. “The FM and PM did not raise any objection”, “There was no XYZ note asking the government not to do ABC, so we did ABC”. Is it fair to say that in the Congress led UPA government, the absence of a note devoid of any nuance will immediately lead to a massive compromise of a national asset. Its like a 10 year old claiming there was no label on the cookie jar with his name on it telling him not to enjoy its contents.

TRAI and DOT as institutions cannot be expected to issue a consultation paper for every possible avenue of corruption. Look, if the government wants to undersell – it will. If the government had the goodwill to extract fair price for the airwaves, which do not discriminate between Hindu, Muslim, OBC, Dalit, it would not require the DOT and the TRAI acting as schoolteachers exhorting it not to cheat.

What really takes the cake is his recap of the events leading up to the great black swan event in Indian history:

A set of companies gets spectrum and telecom licences at Rs 1,600 crore apiece. The market value for this spectrum is much more — Rs 4,000-9,000 crore — depending on the market transactions of Unitech, Swan, and Datacom and the reserve price for 3G licences).

The DoT requires a lock-in period before the licences can be sold and holds these companies to their network rollout obligations. But the TRAI has come out with a consultation paper to do away with the restriction on sale of licences to allow ‘consolidation and M&As’.

That leaves all the new licensees in an interesting situation — they have licences worth far more than what they paid for and there’s no need to roll out or invest further. They can sell their licences to make a lot of money for doing nothing. Where does that leave the government and people for whom these new licences represented affordability and competition? Basically nowhere. The government loses money from spectrum and the people see the market going back to the same structure as before.

Source : HT

This is a very ambitious maneuver even for an Indian capitalist. He wants to you believe that the new age licensees (most of whom did not even have a website)  just happened to be “left in a interesting situation“.  Well, how many believe that !!  Did these new age licensees know before hand that they would be left in the aforementioned  “interesting situation” ? If not, they would have to be crazies  to pony up 1900 Cr with no telecom experience and a strict policy lock in period of 3 years.

Any idea of a windfall tax is silly because we are talking about a finite natural resource here.  It is highly disappointing that Mr Rajeev Chandrashekar chose to attribute the minus to DOT and TRAI and the huge plus to pure serendipity.

On a related note : The CEO of Telenor was on TV a few days back. He was refreshingly candid. He acknowledged the whole allocation process was a bit strange, but he had worked with such countries (markets)  before and was extending full co-operation to the CBI authorities investigating the case.  (Sorry no URL, I saw the show)

 

 

Where are the CPI-M leaders ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 12, 2009

Faced with massive defeat in Kerala and West Bengal at the hands of their erstwhile UPA buddies, the Congress Party. You would think the left leaders would huddle up.

Brinda Karat – Brazil
Prakash Karat – London (Brinda will join him at London after Brazil)
Sitaram Yechury – Spain

Like them or not, India needs the left to check the Congress party which is the primary custodian of the status quo (read third world corruption empire characterized by a vice like grip of vested interests).

Their four and a half years in support of the Congress party shone unprecedented media spotlight on Brinda Karat, Prakash Karat, Yechuri, D.Raja etc. How many of us heard of them before ? For four and a half years they had it easy in TV studios, they were able to cash in the “secular” voucher in every TV debate. For a moment, they thought the “secular” voucher could be used by all parties not just the Congress. They made a fatal mistake. Secular is a synonym for the Congress Party. These three leaders seemed more and more like the Congress leaders, at least in terms of viciously attacking the other primary opposition the BJP. You could easily mistake Yechuri for a Tharoor.The left let the Congress define or place them inside TV studios and outside.

Would you like to spend your money to watch Michael Jackson dance or an imitator ? The voter has spoken.

“BJP leader joins Congress” and newspaper editing

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 10, 2009

A simple news story, “Mr Thirunavikkarasar of the BJP joined the Congress party”. When asked by newsmen, he clearly laid out the reasons for his decision.

 

Can you spot the difference in how these two newspapers carry this story ?

Specimen 1 : Deccan Chronicle

 

Mr Thirunavukarasar said that he had resigned from the primary membership of the BJP and also from the Rajya Sabha. Speaking at the AICC headquarters he-re, he said that he had joined the BJP because of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee but since his exit, the party had “totally surrendered to the RSS.”

“The state leadership of BJP is not keen on developing the party. Also, it is difficult for the BJP to grow here (Tamil Nadu) by alienating 40 per cent of the population comprising the minorities. Hence, I decided to quit,” he said denying that he switched over to the Congress only to protect his own business interests.

Specimen 2 : The Hindu

 

Mr. Thirunvaukkarasar told The Hindu that he was joining the Congress without any pre-conditions as he was fed up with the BJP’s movement towards “communal politics” guided by the RSS. Moreover, former Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, to whom he was attracted, had retired from active politics. In his more than three-decade-long public life, he always wanted to be close to the people. But Tamil Nadu people were not ready to accept the BJP’s policies and the Congress was the only hope for them.

 

Were you able to spot it ?

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