Sunday, June 28, 2009

Natwar Singh's wisdom at full display!

If you are looking for any proof how stupid and ridiculous some of our politicians can sound, look no further. Read this article by Natwar Singh, a former Foriegn Minister of India and prior to that, a bureaucrat with "vast experience"!

At the end of the article, you will get confused as to what the message is! At the beginning of the article, he himself says that the recent election in Iran is virtually impossible to rig, and the end of the article he wants India to act cautiously! And he arrives at this awesome conclusion after narrating two incidents. In both these incidents, he tries to tell us how he "managed" diplomatic meetings with the Supreme Leader of Iran - the Grand Ayatollah. And then, in all his wisdom, he tells us that the Supreme Leader is very powerful and the West has to be very careful about this ( please stop wondering why the West came into the picture! ).

However, there is a small twist here. The Ayatollah he met, and advises us to be careful with, died in 1989!!! Actually it would have been prudent if Natwar Singh took the pains to explain to us how we should take the dead seriously while talking about world matters. Maybe he didn't get enough space to write about this ;-)

This is not the first time Natwar Singh wrote an article as "insightful" as this. Another gem of his was published last year, inviting the same kind of ridicule as now.

Also, I fail to understand why The Hindu is even accepting articles from this man who is clearly lost in his own world of irrelevant incidents. Maybe they want to give the reader a hearty laugh ;-) !

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coming soon - Reforms in our education system!

I was very excited today! Finally we get to talk seriously about education reforms! My full support to Kapil Sibal who has taken it upon himself to start ushering in some changes. Going by the recommendations of the Yash Pal committee ( which was officially named as the "Committee to Renovate and Rujuvenate Universities), the central government is now suggesting that the 10th class board exams be made optional; that we introduce grading system instead of the marks system; that we need to invest more in research in higher education; and that we work towards de-traumatizing ( I loved this word when Kapil Sibal used it) our education system.

The idea behind the 10th exam is that if the student is just going from 10th to 11th in the same school, then what is the point in taking that exam? These changes are presently being mooted for CBSE board schools. It is an undisputable fact that the 10th class exams have become a major source of tension for both the children and parents. A totally unnecessary hype has been created around these exams, and thereby the chldren become more susceptible to stress. When I wrote this exam in 1996, I did feel a little tension but there was not so much pressure on me, or for that matter my friends. We felt more pressure during our Intermediate exams though (12th standard). Intermediate education in AP is something that needs drastic alterations, otherwise it is just going to kill the apepitite in students to learn freely. I once wrote about Teacher-Student relationship in The Hindu. ( Click here for feedback that was published too :) )

Anyways, coming back to the point, our education system, especially in recent times does not encourage creativity; does not encourage free thinking; and advocates punishment as a mean to enforce discipline. I think what Kapil Sibal is now proposing will surely help in children getting more involved with learning than just mugging up. It is totally unfair to subject 13-15 year olds to such intense pressure and then admonish them as fit for nothing even if they get 75% !!

I haven't read the committee report fully yet, will post another blog when I get to read it. But was too excited today, and hence posting this blog!

Ohh, by the way, our media is at it again! "X board exam to be scrapped?" is what the "Breaking News" all about. Kapil Sibal was at pains to explain that he is proposing an optional system, and no decision has been taken yet. He is also explaining very clearly on TV why some of the recommendations are being considered, and I must say he sounded very convincing. Unfortunately, our media is looking for sound bytes even while discussing this issue too! Randomly interviewing students and not allowing them to complete what they are saying, ubruptly interrupting the panel members, and what not! Come on media, atleast while discussing such issues, let's try to be a little bit more practical and little less rhetorical!

By the way, this cartoon in The Hindu last week says it all !

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Congratulations Saina!

Well, I just wanted to congratulate Saina Nehwal for her awesome victory in the Indonesia Open. To be in the top 10 in a famous sport that is played in most countries of the world is no mean achievement at all. She is currently ranked number 7 and has clearly set her sight to greater heights. And I don't think those heights are difficult to scale if she continues her unflinching focus.

Maybe the lack of distractions due to stupid advertisements has helped her a lot. All along, she has let her game do the talking, unlike her other famous peer from tennis! And to top it all, she has had an excellent coach in P. Gopichand. It is also to Gopichand's credit that he set up an academy post retirement and is giving his best to groom more players.

Go Saina go! We are raring to see you climb higher!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Finally, the ban has come!

Finally, the ban has come! Whether it is politically motivated or driven by genuine security concerns is something that I am not bothered at all. The Naxalites, who regrouped with some other similar groups, and formed the CPI (Maoists) political outfit, have finally been banned. Officially, it is the Maoists who have been banned, but we all know them better as Naxalites, and hence I'd prefer using that word.

I was watching this interesting discussion on TV9 (interesting and TV9 seems a weird combination right ;-) ), and there was this guy who made a very interesting point. Mao started the movement to protect and fight for the rights of the majority number of people who are being oppressed by the minority who hold land/power etc. But today, Maoists have become the minority who are waging an armed battle against the majority! The Peoples War Group has now become similar to War against People group!

Sattires aside, I think that diluting the original idea, which was born under particular circumstances, and then justifying the means of violence to "achieve" that diuted goal is never acceptable in any civil society.

The Naxalite movement is the perfect example of how a movement can get diluted. When the villagers of Naxalbari in West Bengal led by Charu Majumdar started a struggle against land owners demanding justice, the aim was to secure justice to suppressed class. The movement was not a knee jerk reaction to a one off situation that arose in that village. It was the culmination of a strong undercurrent that gripped the peasants. The movement took a violent turn right at the beginning and it was difficult to have organized protests as such over large geographical areas. The result being that some 30 separate naxalite groups were formed over different states. Peoples War Group was the prominent group amongst them. With all the groups taking only the violent path for seeking justice, the Naxalite problem slowly transformed from a social problem into a law and order problem. Naxalites have often justified their violent methods by naming their struggle as "anti-violence", and not violence!

The Naxalites were in constant touch with people in remote villages. They used hard methods to terrorize them. During the initial days, they even won over the villagers through their social activities. In some instances, Naxalites convinced the villagers that they were their true messiahs and it is imperative that the villagers support them in this fight against the government. Once the villagers started co-operating with the Naxalites, it became difficult for the government to obtain information on their activities.

In the past decade or so, state goverments have begun to step up their counter attacks on Naxalites. Some people objected to the violent means, but then when the social structure upon which the movement was built no longer existed, the government had no other option but to resort to violence!

Madhya Pradesh government unofficially supports Salwa Judum, an "organisation" used for counter insurgency operations. Creating counter organisations like Salwa Judum is not just detrimental to the quelling of this movement, but also to the social progress and development of that region. Creating organisations and programmes that will address the root of the problem and eliminate the feeling of oppression in people will help in curbing this unwanted menace.

I am also of the opinion that The Naxalite problem should be viewed in the same angle with which it began – social problem. But when these groups freely use violence as the means to achieve their objective, there is only option – ban them, and then quell the uprising. And I think we have to follow a two pronged approach for this. One is to continue the empower the strong police force to eliminate the threat, and the second point being that we have to keep long term interests in mind and therefore it is important to win over the villagers and peasants so that they stop supporting the Naxalites too.

Interesting tidbit I came to know recently. The Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana ( Prime Minister's Rural Road Scheme ) has helped in improving the connectivity of villages to the towns/cities. And because of this connectivity, Naxalites, a.k.a Maoists, are finding it difficult to hold to their forte! Talk about indirect effects on a well meaning initiative!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Then and now..

After reading this post, there is a very high probability that I will be branded amongst the most wierdest people on earth! But couldn't resist from posting this!

I voted on April 16, and then the ink mark has slowly been moving upwards on the nail. At first, I was like how does it move up like this?

And then, being the genius that I am, I realised the nails actually grow from the tip itself !!! Here's proof people ;-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

When will we learn?

Even a Mumbai type attack doesn't seem to affect the ones in power. Why blame other countries, when we ourselves are not serious about this? Read this story, and you will know the truth. Also, this is another example of how our TV media chooses to focus on the wrong issue. In contrast, the print media seems to be much more responsible..

"Action Taken Report, still no action"

Thursday, June 18, 2009

50 episodes in one hour!

My mom was watching MAA TV in the morning, while I was reading the newspaper. Then an AD comes up. This ad is about a serial titled "Laya" … apparently some 100's of episodes are over, and they are retelecasting the serial again….. hold your breath … by consolidating the story of 50 episodes in one hour!!! Some four such episodes are planned I guess…

Wow! Finally, I think even they realised they've been stupid enough to have telecasted so many serials ;-) ! I am not going to watch this, but I am pretty sure even that "one hour" episode can further be easily trimmed down to 30 minutes ! =)) =)) …

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The DGP of AP is at it again!

The DGP of AP is at it again!

Ok, first let me give you some background.

S.S.P.Yadav was appointed as the DGP of AP in 2007, superseding three officers. And from then on, he did not let go of any opportunity to praise the CM. So much for trying to be neutral! And then elections were announced. It is plain common sense that officers have to be impartial when the election code of conduct is in force. What does our DGP do? He again praises the Chief Minister! And then he goes to Singapore, without obtaining necessary permission from the Election Commission (EC).

So, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of AP sends a report to EC recommending that this DGP be changed, because his impartiality is in doubt ( to anyone with even half a mind!). EC promptly removes him, and appoints AK.Mohanty as the DGP. The CEO, Mr. Subba Rao and the DGP, Mr.Mohanty did an exceptional job (click here).

Now, the elections were over. The results are not yet out. What does S.S.P.Yadav do? He accompanies the Chief Minister on a tour to IIIT in Cuddapah!

Now, the results are out. We have a new CM. Within 24 hours – yes, within 24 hours, A.K.Mohanty is replaced as the DGP and S.S.P.Yadav is reinstated! Anyways, it is a freshly elected government, so we cannot protest much, but YSR's contempt to almost all constitutional bodies is pretty much known.

Let's come to the present day situation. DGP writes a letter to CEO asking him why he was removed! Isn't it "elementary, my dear Watson" ;-) And then he is not satisfied with the reply, and writes the letter a second time. The CEO sends him a copy of the EC order explaining why he was transferred. And still the DGP is not happy with it. He writes a third letter, asking for the recommendations CEO made. He apprently wants to know the specific reasons the CEO gave!

What will you do with that information, Mr. DGP? Will you modify your body language, or will you change your line of thinking? Or will you sue the CEO? Or will you frame a copy of that reply and put it in your office?

Isn't it pretty evident to you why you were transferred? What good are you even going to get from that reply? Wasn't it pretty evident the CEO was doing his job? And it was evident to all people in AP that the EC did an exceptional job (well, only the politicians differ with this opinion ;-) ), so pray what it is that you want to prove to us now? That you "wrongly" targetted for "rightly" praising the CM during elections?

The CEO has rightly referred your letter to the EC… I sincerely hope get you the strongest of replies that will kill your king-sized ego!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

11 of them recovered..

Yesterday, all channels were showing "Breaking News" - Health Ministers asks people not to panic. I thought this was just another routine statement, but I happened to read his full statement later in the day.

He very clearly said that 11 out of the 23 people who contacted Swine Flu till yesterday ( today the number is 30) recovered! 11 people recovering is not "breaking news". Swine Flu cases rise to 30 is "breaking news". Now, if 11 of the recovered, why will the number still be 30?

Also, I was watching news last night and this morning. There was just a passing reference to this 11 number. What would really have been great was that if the media also concentrated more on how these 11 people recovered. But, that's not "breaking news" right?

Monday, June 15, 2009

And so we exit this “World Cup”

I woke up this morning, and all channels were going gaga over India's exit from this "World Cup".

The first thing that came to my mind was Boris Becker's second Wimbledon victory! After winning it for the second consecutive time, Becker said that this was much sweeter than the first one, because the burden of expectation was much much higher than the first one, and to win under such conditions was much sweeter :)

When we won the World Cup in 1983, the team did play consistently well till the 1987 WC (we lost in the semi-finals then). Maybe the young brigade this time found it just too much to handle the burden of expectations this time (especially with our media).

TIMES NOW reporter was walking while reporting, with some fans behind him. His voice is choked with emotion ( like India just lost a war; actually it was more like he lost his job for unfair reasons :D). And then he tells us - "The honeymoon period has ended; this has been very disappointing; this has been a very disappointing way to end the honeymoon"

A disappointing way to end the honeymoon??? What would have been a "satisfying way" of ending the honeymoon, Mr. Reporter? Lose in the Finals? Or if we lost in the semi-finals, it would have been a not so disappointing end to the honeymoon? And ohh by the way, Mr. Reporter, there was no need for you to ask the question "Should M.S.Dhoni be replaced? Is he the right man for the job?" You and I know very well that there is no one else who can lead Team India better than Dhoni now. Maybe you should find a way to control your false emotions!

Before talking about the losses, I want to make one more point. Why can't the BCCI handle things better??? Why doesn't it step up when the situation demands?? The recent stand off between the team and the media could have been handled much better than it was. Why do you have to burden the captain with strategizing for the match and also strategizing on how to face the media?! You could see there was negative energy around, so what just was the BCCI doing?!

And now for the losses. Dhoni himself agreed that his calculations in today's match went wrong. Apart from that, I also think the team was not in right frame of mind while coming into the tournament, and the fight with the media didn't do it any help either. The IPL fatigue, the Sehwag issue, the lack of practice before yesterday's match - all hurt the team.

Anyway, given that this T-20 World Cup is going to happen next April, the champions will not have too much time to celebrate ;-). The 4 year World Cups are so much better. You wait for them in anticipation, if you don't win in one, you have to wait for a full four years, and it gives you time to plan better. Atleast the Cup should be once in 2 years. Definetely not within 10 months of the previous one!

I don't feel any strong emotion after this loss... for given that another "World Cup" is coming up just next April, I think we need not wait too long before the same media will get a chance to sing paens for this team! The defeat is disappointing no doubt, but then it is not the end of the world, is it?


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stagnant Policy ...

Though the content in each of the letters is different, the intent in all these letters was the same – how long is our foreign policy going to remain as stagnant as this?

Take the latest instance. From the day Mumbai was attacked, day in and day out, we were told that we will not talk to Pakistan. And then suddenly, we hear news that our Prime Minister might meet Pakistan’s President next week in Russia. And that too at a time when Pakistan released the mastermind behind Mumbai and many other terror attacks.

When I first heard the news of Hafeez Saeed’s release, I thought it was the court’s fault and maybe we should not blame Pakistan for it. But when
I read the reason for this release, I was plain baffled.

After detaining a person, the police is supposed to let him know in 15 days explaining why he was detained. Can you believe that the government did not follow this rule, and therefore he was let off!!!

Here’s more shocking news. When the notice was served finally, there were no specific charges mentioned against Saeed in it. The notice talked about the UN ban on Saeed’s outfit, JuD (formerly LeT) had links with Al-Qaeda and… that’s it! Nowhere was a mention made that JuD is involved in Mumbai attacks.

And here’s the most shocking news of all. The court then asks the government lawyer, has the Al-Qaeda been declared a terrorist organisation in Pakistan, and guess the answer – NO!!! The Court therefore held that LeT having link with Al-Qaeda is not an offense! Read the full story on
rediff here.

And we are willing to talk to this country at this juncture! We have neither bought this glaring glitch to the notice of those who can pressurize Pakistan, nor have we been able to achieve anything substantial in limiting Pakistan’s role in terrorist activity. That country is burning now, and every blast in that country is of its own doing. This is the moment when we try to impress to the whole world that Pakistan is itself responsible for the chaos. Yet, somehow we miss that opportunity.

Instead, we are told that we accept the reality and are willing to pursue the path of dialogue. Why don’t we just accept the reality that there is no credible leader in Pakistan and we have to come up with alternate strategies? Why are we making a fool of ourselves by saying “we will not talk” on one day, and saying the exact opposite, literally, the very next day?

Our whole foreign policy in recent years has just centered on the Nuclear Deal and trying to please the US.
Read this article in The Hindu, on how so many of our companies have lost out business in Iran.

After so many years, I am still confused as to what our Prime Minister means when he says we will adopt a “zero tolerance on terror”. We have lacked a clear political direction in the ministry of external affairs. The show has primarily been run by the Foreign Secretary and the NSA, and by the time the new Foreign Minister gets a grip of happenings in the ministry, we would have missed another bus.

By the way, Outlook magazine has called the new External Affairs minister as the right man for the job because he is “suave, urbane and western educated”! Wow – when did job requirements get so simple?! I got a feeling of déjà vu after reading that – a la Shivraj Patil!

The Next Vajpayee for BJP ...

I will come straight to the answer. It has to be Sushma Swaraj. Let’s consider the second rung leaders in contention for the top posts in the BJP.

Rajnath Singh – We have clearly seen that he has failed as the President of BJP. Not just because of this loss, but because he was not able to lift his party in his home state, UP. On top of that, he doesn’t possess a pan-india appealing personality. There is a higher probability that the neutral voters will reject him instead of siding with him. He has a very hardliner image, and has practically overseen the disruptive opposition over the past few years. His presence as the BJP head might enthuse the cadre, but his presence as the Leader of Opposition will dampen the citizens. For sure.

Arun Jaitley – He is Urban, and that's what will hold against him. He cannot sway a gathering of rural people with his oratory. He is more of an organizational man than a people’s man. He hasn’t won too many elections till now. He has been incharge of some really succesfull party victories in Assembly elections, but his recent behaviour during 2009 polls doesn’t inspire any confidence about his performance at the national level. His choice for the post of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha did raise a few eye brows (justifiably so), but it's best he remains the stragetist because that's what he can do best.

Venkaih Naidu – He too has the image of a hard liner. I have heard him speak many times, and I must say he has a lot of clarity in his thought process. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen an electoral success for fairly long time. His failure to build the party in the Southern states is a black mark, and it was under his presidency that the BJP lost the 2004 elections. Venkaih Naidu can be best used to articulate the policies of BJP, but it is difficult to envisage him in a role wherein he will decide on their implementation.

Narendra Modi – Arguably, one of the best administrators of this country, but his entire political life will be haunted only by the anti-Godhra violence. None of his developmental programmes will take a front seat while in campaign for an all India election. The Congress, the Left, the media will all focus only on one single issue, and that is what will become his bane. Outside Gujarat, it is extremely difficult for Modi to obtain votes based on developmental agenda.

The likes of Vijay Malhotra, Naqvi, Javedkar can never be serious contenders for this post. The “lost generation” of the BJP – Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Murli Manohar Joshi are automatically out of contention. That leaves us with Sushma Swaraj.

Sushma Swaraj has been Chief Minister of Delhi for a while. She was also a minister in the Vajpayee government. More importantly, she is now the most moderate face and the only strong woman in BJP. She has the capability of gaining an All India appeal. A case in point is when she gave Sonia Gandhi a very tough fight in Bellary, Karnataka. She learnt Kannada in no time, and started speaking fluently in no time! Her presence has a much stronger appeal than the combined presence of the other leaders mentioned above.
She cannot enthuse the cadre as much as Vajpayee did, or for that matter she might be the ideal person the cadre wants to see at the top. But, there are enough leaders to cater to the cadre. It is not the cadre that the BJP should fear of losing; it is the undecided voters that it should fear. Sushma Swaraj should be made the Leader of Opposition. There are rumours going around that Rajnath Singh might become the LOP if he has to step down from the post of BJP President. Nothing will be more suicidal than that.

After becoming leader of opposition, Sushma should start touring the entire country and start building an image for herself. The speeches should not be negative, but promising in content. Her approach in Parliament has to be co-operative, and at the same time should not be seen as mellowed down. Being a good orator, she can win many debates hands down, but the important thing is to carry that message outside of Parliament too.

BJP lost partly due to the bad image that was projected in the media too. The media managers did not draw up plans to counter attack the ruling party, once they were attacked. This cost the BJP a lot, especially with the urban voters. Sushma Swaraj is the only person in BJP who can bring back those votes, because she is the only person who can show a lot of promise. The rest of the lot cannot. The neutral voter is looking for a fresh face that can bring back the previous sense of decency to politics, and from BJP only Sushma Swaraj has that image.

What about the next Advani then? The answer to this question was lost along with Pramod Mahajan. Only time will tell now...

Unique "World Cup" ..

Take a look at the format of the Twenty 20 Cricket World Cup. I find the format of this tournament is seriously funny!

If you win just one game, then you are in "Super Eight". And then if you win two games in that league, you are in semifinals !!! All it takes is 3 wins to be in semis, and 2 more to lift the cup!!!

I think no other team in any other sport will have to win so few matches to be claimed "World Champions" !

And it's not like all 5 wins will be against quality teams, chances are also there that 2 of those wins will come against minnows !!

I just wonder how such logic skipped ICC. Atleast in the Super Eight, each team should have played with the other team. That way, each team gets to play 7 matches. And we get to see some quality cricket.

Like my friend was saying, this tournament should be renamed, Knockout World Cup T20!

... And then there is Roger Federer!

I am reminded of this line from McEnroe ( i think sometime last year )..

"There are clay court specialists; there are hard court specialists; there are grass court specialists; and then there is Roger Federer"

I guess this summarizes everything :)