Monday, September 06, 2010

Food for Thought - Justice in a Rotten System

One only has to pay a casual visit to India's commercial capital, the City of Mumbai, to see what disparity lies in this land of great diversity. You find skyscrapers built over slums and you find footpath dwellers soaking in non-stop rains, overlooking tall and imposing structures housing corporate Head Quarters. It is a harsh irony that hits you hard - when millions starve below poverty line, there are thousands who showcase their flamboyance. That's life - and life is in display in all its colours in India.

While not much can be done by the political class that is handicapped by its desperation to survive and by the systemic flaws that grace the society, there is good news - the Supreme Court has, time and again, proven to be one sensitive and sensible institution that doesn't flinch from muscling its prowess and converting political inertia into action. But for the interference from the Supreme Court that pronounced its "Order" over media remarks of food grains rotting in the open, directing the Government to distribute the grains to the poor rather than letting them being fed to rats, the Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, would probably have been busy encashing his IPL links.

It is perplexing even to normal intelligence as to why it is that the Government hasn't provided for adequate storage of foodgrains, in a nation that prides on its agricultural produce. Have we been too busy laying highways and building IT parks to process outsourced orders, to earmark some resources to store the foodgrains that farmers struggle to produce? Would it be a sustainable system to have a section of the society reeling in exuberance while millions of poor go to sleep with stomach full of hunger? Is it fair for a Minister in-charge to label a Supreme Court directive as "impractical", when he has failed in his responsibility to make sure the hard-earned produce is at least, stored properly for distribution?

How is the order to be implemented? There are those who emphasise the impracticality of the solution, those who accuse the Court of playing the populist tune to the gallery. If the courts are to implement policy issues too, if courts are to chalk out plans of action as well, what are Governments there for? It's a question of putting the horse before the cart - deciding what needs to be done leads the way to the "How" part of the equation. We may never have a perfect solution - but there would be at least some headway in the right direction!

Life was never fair - nor would it ever be. It is only hope that would take us forward in this struggle to mitigate the relentless disparity between the towering surplus and the abysmal deficit - hope, that such few institutions as the Apex Court, have enough teeth to have its say over rotting foodgrains, and push the rotten system into action.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Air India Plane Crash - Where is the System?

So, it has happened again. It is natural, it cannot be predicted, it can never be prevented, and it just happens. Accidents are just those things – accidents, nothing more, nothing less. And it is humanly impossible to stop accidents from happening, when people are doomed to die, tied to their fates and find themselves in the wrong places at the wrong time.

That’s why such accidents as the one involving Air India Express Flight IX-812, where all fingers seem to point out towards the Pilot who overshot the runway by about 2000 feet, is almost deemed to be at par with a natural disaster, with no one else to blame at all. Could it be that there can be no one to blame in such a fatal crash that consumed 159 lives? The Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel, is prompt to point out that there have been innumerable flights landing and taking off from the same airport at Mangalore. Does that make it just another accident, a bad twist of fate?

In such a simplistic view of an accident as an isolated incident, the role of the system is forgotten – and conveniently ignored. A mistake is a symptom, an indication of something bigger that needs to be fixed in the system. In a country like India where contingencies, off-hand approaches and impromptu actions in accordance with lobbying and political wish lists take precedence over strict adherence to systems and standards, an accident stays in the news for a week, becomes less audible in the course of a month and then, is archived forever. Then, the system goes back into hibernation – till it gets jolted by another incident that grabs eyeballs and becomes breaking news.

There are some uncomfortable questions though, which the authorities would wash down the drain resorting to their usual political rhetoric.

- How many Indian Airports adhere rigorously to standards prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Authority?

- What are the contingency measures put in place, in case a pilot overshoots the runway, as has been in this case of Air India Accident?

- Talking specifically of the Mangalore Airport, television channels and News reports have been labeling it as a “Tricky Runway”. If it is indeed a tricky runway, why have flights been allowed to operate from something “tricky” in the first place? Civil Aviation is not a gimmick or an adventure game to play with, when hundreds of lives are at stake!

- How does it justify waiting for an accident to happen before analyzing why things went wrong? Why do we always wait for something to happen, rather than making sure standards are met with and that the system is fool proof?

Things can be left to fate, when the system is set to function. But, loopholes in the system are not to be tolerated. Well after 159 lives have been sacrificed, can the Government swear that every airport in the country is compliant with International Standards? Can the Prime Minister testify that the system is in place to meet contingencies? Will those airports that have “Tricky Runways” be closed for good, till they are branded as “Safe”? Can passengers know for sure that the system actually works so that where they land does not become their Final Destination?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mayawati Interview - See it First on Clearway!

Following the news about Mayawati's Multi-Crore Garland, Clearway, as usual, sent its Reporter to have an Exclusive Interview with the Iron Lady of India, Ms Mayawati. Since any news about Mayawati's Garland means a lot of currency, Clearway wanted to be the first website to publish an Interview with the "Queen of Garlands", the simple woman who fights for India's freedom from corruption and ignorance. The excerpts from the interview are presented here.

Reporter: Hello Mayawati ji, first of all, we wish you a very Happy Birthday.
Maya: But today is not my Birthday. Why do you ask wrong questions?
RP: But they presented you a garland made of money in the stage. So, I thought it was your Birthday.
Maya: Arrey, they give me money garlands daily. That was just one more occasion.
RP: Oh, sorry about that. But Mayawati ji, I have heard that you love your garlands so much?
Maya: Yes, this is just a way to make our workers work and at the same time, make their work easy. Two garlands in one neck!
RP: How is that?
Maya: You see, I give them targets for number of currency notes. So, they should first collect the amount. Then, whatever is short, they will print. And then, they have to make garland with money. So, this is work for party workers.
RP: Oh, ok. But how do you make their work easy?
Maya: Normally, workers have to go to the market to buy garland with money. Now, with money garland, they don’t have to waste time buying garland, they can simply make garland with money!
RP: Oh, Alright. But, you said your workers also print the money, is that true?
Maya: Ah! When did I say that? It was printing mistake . . . er, spelling mistake . . . whatever, slip of the tongue. And how dare you print what I never said? I never said workers print money. Don’t print wrong news about me!
RP: I’m sorry, Mayawati ji. I won’t print again . . . I mean, I won’t say that again. How did you collect all that money?
Maya: Good question. But a silly one that! See, we have supporters all over India. And our symbol is elephant. We erect elephant statues in all places, and people drop their donations in the elephant's mouth. Mostly, our party followers are villagers and they donate generously. So, we get donations and make garlands.
RP: But, during election, you said you would give good life for your voters. Now you say your voters give you money. How is that?
Maya: This is just a gift. How can I not accept gifts from villagers who give with so much of love?
RP: But what did you give them in return?
Maya: They give me love. Love is priceless. How can I give them something in return? It would be insult to love.
RP: There are many cases of amassing wealth in your name.
Maya: See, you can give only if you have it. Just now you asked me, what I have given them in return for love. How can I give them if I do not have it? That is why I amass wealth, so that I can give them.
RP: Where is that money garland now?
Maya: That is safe in a safe. I will use it for public welfare.
RP: When will you use it for public welfare?
Maya: I will use the money for fighting the next elections. When I get elected again, I will use the money for public welfare.
RP: But, why don’t you use it now?
Maya: I told you I have already used it. I bought a new safe with the money to keep the next money garland. So, both the garlands will be safe. The first one will be the safe, and the second one will be safe.
RP: Okay, got it. Why do you like elephants and have it as your symbol?
Maya: See, elephants have large mouths. Big mouths are good for elephants and for people. With large mouths, elephants eat whatever is available very fast. And with large mouths, people can keep talking. Big mouths eat and talk. So, I like elephants.
RP: Are you the next prime ministerial candidate?
Maya: Yes, of course. The elephant has already started walking towards New Delhi. And this time, I have ordered a medium size garland for Sonia ji also.
RP: Are you not afraid to take such big money garlands in public?
Maya: I am never afraid to serve the society. And if someone objects, I will send them a garland.
RP: One last question. That was a very expensive garland, may be a few Crores of rupees. How will you explain to the Income Tax people?
Maya: Simple. I earned the money and purchased the garland. Whatever money I had, I invested in the garland, because it was a very expensive garland – you yourself said that now. After I spend so much money in buying the garland, I have no money now. And the garland is safe, because, as I said, the garland is the safe. I bought the garland with the money, and then, I bought the safe with the garland. Now, the safe is safe, but I have no money. Without money, why should I be afraid of income tax people? And I have the next garland ready for Sonia Ji. So, I invest only in garlands. And it is not my money at all. I accept donations, but I donate garlands. Do you understand?
RP: Well, I think I have understood one thing. I will definitely vote for elephants in the next elections.
Maya: Good, So, why don’t you donate a thousand rupee note for my next garland? You can also write your name in the note so that I will always remember you, and serve you when I become elected again.
The Reporter Disappears!

Update: Read the second "Mayawati Interview" on the WikiLeaks / Julian Assange Revelations here 

Monday, March 08, 2010

Terrorism, Zero-Tolerance and the Iron Hand

I was confused to begin with, then, as I grew up listening to it, I got used to it. Nowadays, I find it rather funny. What exactly is this “Dealing Terrorism with an Iron Hand” or “Having Zero-tolerance for Terrorism”?

I was confused because I did not know, when I was young, what terrorism exactly was, except that it was bad and we should not tolerate. I got used to it later, because I found these statements following every terror attack in the country – the next time terror strikes, I used to think, I would hear this statement from the President or the Prime Minister of India. Now, I find it plain funny. What I would feel about it in the future? Irritating? Disgusting? Or would I find it too commonplace that I stop giving terrorism a damn thing?

A present, however, it is funny because it carries no meaning in the first place – I normally laugh when someone says anything that doesn’t mean anything at all! Then, the people who say this do not actually mean it – they just read it out of a written script. I find it funny because the script-writers have run out of imagination and creativity that they repeat the same words after every terrorist strike. Then, I find it funny, as everyone seems to say the same thing – that they have zero tolerance for terror. The Prime Minister, the president, the Home Minister, the Quasi-Prime Minister, and every other politician in this holy country of non-violence, make it abundantly clear that they will never tolerate terrorism, but they keep tolerating it, just as the buffalo would tolerate the vultures that feed on its wounds. Well, not that I compare anyone with buffaloes here, anyway – that was just an analogy that came to my mind.

But then, to think of it, what should the Government actually do, if its policy really is zero-tolerance to terrorism? It should beef up security, make its border security fool proof, be ultra-smart in intelligence gathering and sharing, never acknowledge anyone who Indulges in terrorist acts, and refuse to negotiate with any organization or institution or country that abets terrorism, as part of its overt or covert agenda. And a country that has zero-tolerance for terrorism should be prepared to face the consequences of terrorism with a brave heart and a drawn out sword, willing to sacrifice for what it believes in, without flinching or stepping back from what it stands for.

Terrorism is war declared by the terrorists on a nation – and when it is war, there will be pain. A country that has no backbone to bear the pains will never be able to deal with terrorism with an iron hand. And a country that has zero-tolerance for terrorism would not have let terrorists walk out of a hijacked airplane that was landed at Kandahar! If terrorists hijacked the plane, an uncompromising nation would have ordered blowing up of the plane along with all the innocent lives, whose fates were badly intertwined with that of the doomed terrorists. If terrorists want to negotiate holding a bunch of ill-fated passengers for ransom, the Government should refuse to acknowledge the terrorists – and challenge them to blow the plane into pieces themselves, or offer to do it for them!

Now, that would be dealing with terrorism with an iron hand; that would be zero-tolerance for terrorism. And if the Government had done that, there would not have been a 26/11 master-mind, who merely shifted the battleground – and its cannon fodder – from one place to the other, from Indian Airlines flight IC 814 to the Taj at Mumbai.

Terrorism cannot be fought against with zero casualties. When we have a dangerous neighbour, there is something better than living in fear – and that is to be ready to die with courage. Somehow, there has not been a single Government at power in the Centre in all these years of Indian Independence, which has shown the courage and the conviction to deal with terrorism with an iron hand, to have zero-tolerance for terrorism. And even as I write this piece, I find that it is not funny anymore – it is only pathetic. It is a pity that of all the people in power, over all these years, of the thousands of people who have only grown fat in politics, there has not been a single man who had the balls to deal with terrorism with an iron hand!

So, my dear terrorist, you may feel free to bomb the living daylights out of our country. Our politicians have all the tolerance you may expect from them for your terrorist deeds – and they would only deal with you with a feather touch, never with an iron hand.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Carlton Tower Tragedy - We Need No Terrorists!

The Carlton Towers tragedy demonstrates the level of preparedness that our emergency response services are in. If fire services are ill-equipped in a city like Bangalore, that states enough of the state of affairs! - Facebook

The Home Minister

We hear politicians talking of deterrents against terrorism. Mr P Chidambaram, Honorable Home Minister, you say India is only as vulnerable as any other nation in the world! Sounds good to hear, Sir, but to think that our emergency services are planning to bring in state of the art equipment only after a group of people jumped to their deaths from atop a multi-storied building in the IT City of Bangalore doesn't talk of vulnerability in the system. This is a gaping hole that is broadly termed complacence, where we are not yet ready to meet a contingency that may arise in the heart of the city.

There is a problem with the basics, at a very fundamental level where things are taken for granted. So, you may not yet pat your own back for having averted terror strikes, citing the number of bombs that did no go off. The fact is that there are no bombs needed to kill people en masse' in India. All it takes is a short circuit in a high rise building, and our emergency crew would turn into mute spectators with no proper equipment at their disposal to watch people drop dead, live and exclusive!

We need an overhaul, a shake up of the system and we need our politicians and bureaucrats to wake up from their slumberous delusions. Mr Chidambaram, could you please make that happen?

A Different Format - One More Step

I am guilty as charged - I have not been regular at my blogs. But then, what do I state of a country that is buried deep in a mess of its own creation? And what's the point in lamenting on and on, if we have nothing to do about it? Is blogging going to change the world?

Nevertheless, since these are questions that should have been asked before I decided to blog, let me not ask them now, a good few years since I posted my views at Clearway.

Clearway was not meant to be stopped - so, it shall go on. But there would be changes. Since everyone talks of social media these days, Clearway would heed to the trend that rocks the cyberspace hard! Clearway would, from now on, feature what I have to say about what I see around me, in two other places on the World Wide Web - Twitter and Facebook.

In effects, there may be posts as per the regular standards that Clearway has featured till date, but the majority of the posts in here would be extracts from my Twitter account and from my Facebook page. Why so? Well, it basically is much easier to be on Twitter and Facebook - and I feel there is much more to be done to the state of affairs than just posting on blogs and boasting of verbal skills (is there anything more to blogs than words?)

Well, as someone said, "Words are worthless - because, actions speak, anyway!". But if words can bring about some action in the long run, may be, words are not all that worthless after all!

Welcome to the first post of the New Year on Clearway - and there will be more!