Monday, September 30, 2013

60 days, Sonia forgets about AP !

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.
Ever since Kiran Kumar Reddy was appointed the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh by Sonia Gandhi, the Opposition has been constantly criticising him as being a “sealed cover Chief Minister”. As is the norm with the Congress, the CLP then took a decision authorising Sonia Gandhi to take a decision, thus giving rise to this criticism first. The several trips that the Chief Minister made to Delhi to have discussions with the high command only reinforced this criticism. Day before yesterday, the deputy Chief Minister of AP had this to say about the Chief Minister: “He is a sealed cover CM. What difference does it make if he stays in office or not?“! This serious outburst by the deputy CM was triggered by a long Press conference the CM addressed two days back.
Hours after Rahul Gandhi’s “daring” act of “defiance” against his mother, the AP Chief Minister displayed another act of defiance that went unnoticed by “national” media. The defiance was so strong that rumour mills are abuzz with talk that he will be replaced after the PM is back in the country.
In this Press conference, the Chief Minister has again raised various issues that he considers will be huge impediments in bifurcating the state of Andhra Pradesh. He explained about potential water-sharing issues that may arise (which the pro-Telangana groups have trashed); potential employee resettlement issues that may arise (currently one of the prime bones of contention); potential power sharing issues that may arise; potential revenue-sharing and generating issues that may arise; and various other issues. He insisted many a time that the CWC announcement was merely a “political” announcement. He said that when Digvijay Singh says “Everything will be looked into”, it is merely a political statement. It is the duty of the Government of India to address all the concerns he is raising in detail.
The views of the Chief Minister on this issue are quite well-known. He merely reiterated that he will forever fight for a United AP, even if that means giving up the post of the CM. The defiant tone expectedly set off a storm. However, in my opinion, what’s even more concerning is that the Union Government has still not bothered to address various concerns that are being raised by people and leaders of Rayalseema and Andhra regions!
The Chief Minister has been having regular interactions with the powers that be. He then addresses a presser in which he implies that the government has not yet thought about addressing major issues such as the ones mentioned above! Either the Home Minister of the country is keeping him in the dark on any progress or the Home Minister himself has no clue on how to go ahead! Either way, this lack of clarity is seriously concerning.
The Home Minister tells the Press that the Cabinet note is ready and he merely has to read it. Days after he said so, leaders of all three regions of the State met him. All of them came out saying the Home Minister told them that the Cabinet note is not ready yet. Why does the Home Minister give such conflicting versions of such a simple thing? Even before there was an inkling that Sonia Gandhi will decide in favour of splitting up of AP, we asked some basic questions that need to be addressed. It is fair enough to assume that the Chief Minister is in the know and is therefore urging that the Union Government put in more mind than it is doing right now.
Today marks the completion of two months — more than 60 days, since Sonia Gandhi announced her decision to split Andhra Pradesh. Two months since the State plunged into utter confusion and chaos. Not a single soothing message from either Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi has come. We continue to hear from discredited Congress leader Digvijay Singh that the Anthony Committee will submit a report after which there will be forward movement. He does not provide any timeframe for when this report will be submitted. In fact, various Congress leaders are urging the committee to visit the State at least once! Nearly 50 days after the committee was formed, it is a real shame that it has not thought fit to visit the State.
We have mentioned earlier the details of various departments under the strike. Not one of them has relented yet. Lakhs of employees are on strike. Lakhs of people are on roads daily. Thousands of buses are off the streets. While people are being pushed into hardship, political leaders are busy trying to figure out a good time to resign! One Minister met the Governor and urged him to accept his resignation. The Governor forwarded the resignation to the Chief Minister who okayed it. However, other Ministers have also met the Governor and then decided not to go ahead with the resignations! It is unclear why they need to meet the Governor and decide on resignations.
The pro-Telangana parties and organisations have upped the ante too. They are insisting that Hyderabad belongs to only Telangana and therefore any attempt to make it a Union Territory or a shared capital beyond 10 years is not acceptable to them at all. There is no clarity yet on what the status of Hyderabad will be. All we are told is to wait for the Cabinet note, without any clue on when it will be ready. These groups are also demanding the immediate sacking of the CM and are even urging Sonia to impose President’s rule in the State.
Meanwhile, Jaganmohan Reddy was granted bail. He has upped the ante on the United AP agitation — even asking the governor to convene the Assembly. Leaders of the Congress are worried that many of their ilk will join the YSRCP bandwagon.
The Chief Minister is urging MLAs not to resign, because only if they stay in office would they be able to defeat the resolution in the Assembly. Defeat of the resolution in the Assembly will set off a Constitutional crisis but that depends on the wording of the resolution. The Seemandhra MLAs quite expectedly outnumber the Telangana MLAs, so chances are very high that the resolution to split AP will be defeated in the Assembly. Though it’s not mandatory, would the Government go ahead with splitting the State when the Assembly is against it? Would the process be as smooth as Digvijay Singh says it will be? After all, sixty days hence, even the Cabinet note is not ready. How do they propose to finish this process in the next 120 days?

Friday, September 20, 2013

51 days of unrest, no clarity yet!

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here for reference. 
It has been 51 days since the Congress Working Committee announcement favouring the splitting up of Andhra Pradesh was made. We were then told that the whole process can even be completed in 180 days! We were told that the first step in this process was preparing of a Cabinet note but even that step isn’t complete yet!
Over the last 50 days, in various articles, we have explained to you in detail how Sonia’s Congress is compounding confusion prevalent in the minds of the people of Andhra Pradesh. Instead of trying to assuage and soothe emotions, Congress still continues to operate on the same modus operandi — leak randomly, stir a discussion, and then disown the leak!
The latest in this leak saga is that the Cabinet note will recommend that an empowered GoM will take a final decision on the various contentious issues being raised! Now we are just waiting for the next leak which will say the exact opposite of this leak!
There is a Cabinet meeting scheduled for Friday and the bifurcation of AP is not listed in the business. There was another leak which said that the Cabinet will discuss the issue before the PM leaves for US on September 27. Now, we are left in the lurch again on when this will happen.
One newspaper reports that Ahmed Patel told leaders from Seemandhra that perhaps this decision was taken in haste! The Home Minister tells us that they are examining 2-3 options regarding Hyderabad. One week the leak says Hyderabad will become a Union Territory; the next week another leak says the proposal has been dropped! Is this the manner in which we expect the Government to tackle the issue? Change decisions every week?
Ever since this announcement was made, the Rayalaseema and Andhra regions have been burning. Nearly 7 lakh Government employees have been striking for more than a month. The Andhra Pradesh High Court took a very serious view of this strike. It has even questioned the Government as to why it is being very lenient on such a serious issue?
The basis on which the High Court posed this query to the Government has very strong foundations. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister (who is from Congress), Kiran Kumar Reddy, has himself raised a banner of revolt against his own high command. In the few instances that he decided to communicate with the people, he made it more than clear that he is dead against the bifurcation. Various news reports have also told us that he is scheming to defeat the motion to split the State when it comes up in the State Assembly! And because he supports the United AP agitation, there is widespread criticism that this is the precise reason why he is going easy on those who are on strike!
Day in and day out, we see lakhs of ordinary people out on the streets protesting against Sonia Gandhi and her decision to split the State! Schools and colleges have pretty much remain closed for this duration. Thousands of buses are not plying. Recently, employees of electricity department went on a 72 hour strike, plunging many villages into darkness!
Starting September 23, agitators want to intensify this struggle and have called for various types of bandhs (some even lasting for a maximum of seven days!).
The much-hyped Antony Committee is yet to visit the State. It looks to be sitting in Delhi and meeting a handful of Congress leaders, the committee is content with writing out whatever these leaders are telling them! All we get to hear is more leaks from Government committees!
Such a turmoil is something the State has not seen in a long long time. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary leadership. Instead, we get a mute leadership content with just leaking random ideas to the media. Please remember that the issue has been hanging in balance now for 51 days. FIFTY-ONE DAYS!

"Accuracy" loving Karan Thapar lies

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here for reference. 
At first, I wanted to scan various newspapers and news channels to understand what new points they will pick up to oppose the candidature of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India. But to my surprise,Karan Thapar made my job easier by summarising all those arguments in his latest interview with Arun Jaitley in Devil’s Advocate.
The repetitive arguments of Thapar and his ilk have become boring now. However, his style of questioning or in fact, his style of being judgemental over the questions is equally irksome to say the least. Much has been written about his style, so we will skip over that part. However, his assertions at various instances are troubling and need rebuttals. Because these assertions are pretty much resorted to by members of ilk, on a regular basis.
After his touching concern at Advani being sidelined (we analysed earlier on the media’s sudden found love for Advani) and then espousing shock at the BJP not being able to win enough seats under Modi, Thapar moves on to say: “The problem that you face is that the concerns about Narendra Modi… don’t stop with the NDA, they don’t stop with the numbers, they don’t stop with LK Advani’s anger. There are many and multi-fold concerns”.
The TV journalists many a time resort to phrases like “many think so”, “many people believe”,”many leaders disagree” with no quantification of what this “many” even means? For example, if we tell Thapar that “many” people outright dislike his show, would he blindly accept it as a fact and cancel all remaining episodes of Devil’s Advocate? For TV journalists, even a single member of a political party sulking implies that ‘many’ are not happy and therefore, the decision is the worst possible decision ever to have been taken!
To justify his ‘many’ and ‘multi-fold’ problems, what issues does he bring in? DG Vanzara’s letter! Upon being snubbed, he reels out another gem, “If more people like Vanzara come out with such letters, the people of India will smell something fishy.”  If? So now, Thapar implies that political parties take decisions based on ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? Or is that the plan of this ilk? Make other accused release such letters periodically and embarrass Narendra Modi? This old trick has been done to death. Perhaps, it is time that these journalists come up with fresh ideas!
The best part of the interview was when Thapar tries to correct Arun Jaitley on ‘inaccuracies’ regarding the sequence of events the latter had laid out with respect to the appointment of the SIT and the amicus curiae.
“The Amicus did not support the SIT”.
“Your (Jaitley’s) words about what the amicus had to say about the SIT’s report is little inaccurate, because Ramu Ramachandran confirms….
“The SIT overlooked that. They included Ramu Chandran’s report with their report but rejected his viewpoints.”
Thapar’s great attention to accuracy and detail seems to have failed him when he got the name of the amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, wrong twice! An earlier blog post details  the Amicus curiae’s report and how he did indeed agree with most of the conclusions of the SIT (which Karan Thapar is obviously aware of too). The amicus did not agree on the SIT’s conclusion (arrived at after detailed investigation) regarding Sanjiv Bhatt’s claims. Based on that, he also concluded that ‘if’ Narendra Modi is guilty of any of the charges, then the court can proceed to take action against him under various sections. Isn’t it an elementary argument? But the likes of Thapar twisted it to their convenience. It is one thing to say that if you cheat, you will be punished under section 420 is one thing. Based on that, arriving at the conclusion that you are a cheat is a totally different league!
There was no direction to the SIT on whether to accept or reject the report, so, this insinuation by Karan Thapar is amusing to say the least! To this ilk, the court-appointed SIT’s investigative report has lesser value than the opinion of the court-appointed amicus curiae’s opinion! Moreover, to round up the interview, from the 16 minutes onward, Karan Thapar comes to the key question that “many” of his ilk ask, “Why doesn’t he apologise and regret for 2002 and once and for all bury that ghost.”
Jaitley gave a fitting answer to this shameless demand. Narendra Modi himself has given a fitting answer, many times to this shameless demand. Shameless because this ilk believes Modi to be guilty of killing people and is ready to be content with a mere apology/regret from Modi! Nothing can illustrate more the depths to which this ilk will plumb to, to satisfy their ego.
And then Thapar resorts to the biggest lie ever, “You know, if Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi can apologise for 1984 is Narendra Modi to arrogant, too big to be able to apologise”. This ilk has no shame in spreading this canard that Sonia Gandhi apologised for the 1984 pogrom. They hare shameless and feel proud that a mere apology will assuage the kith and kin of those dead. And they have no shame in eulogising Sonia Gandhi for something she has never done – seek an apology.
Left with no choice, Thapar resorts to another irrelevant argument – the BJP believes in one man, one post. Why is Modi holding three posts? Brushing this argument aside, Jaitley aptly said  that if these are the kind of objections, then they are happy with the decisions they took!
At one point, Thapar argues that the message the BJP is sending out is that the party has reduced itself to a ‘comic entity’ merely because Advani did not agree to this decision. I’d urge you to watch this brilliant interview of Madhu Trehan with Thapar, to know who has been reduced to a ‘comic entity’!
At the end of the interview, Arun Jaitley said, “I am very happy if these are the main concerns with Modi’s candidature, because this means we took a very good decision!

Why I changed my mind about Modi.

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here for reference. 
At his massively attended rally in Hyderabad recently, Narendra Modi told his listeners an interesting factoid. September 17 happens to be both his birthday and Hyderabad’s Liberation Day from the Nizam’s rule. I made a mental note of this so that it will be easier to remember his birthday!  However, at that point of time, none of us in the crowd had an inkling that by the time his birthday comes, he will have been crowned the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP — an honour that only Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani have had so far.
The rise and rise of Narendra Modi in the BJP is exceptional. It must have been an overwhelmingly emotional moment for many people within the BJP to see the journey of Narendra Modi from being a part of the cadre to being their leader. We read about such stories in novels, but this is reality. Realms and realms have been written about his rise; his achievements; his vision; his habits; and even his kurtas!
This article does not aim to revisit those points, but will be a more personal account of how, over the years, my skepticism with regard to Modi changed to overwhelming support for his model of growth. I strongly believe there must be hundreds of people out there who have undergone a transformation like me in how they viewed Modi then and how they view him now.
Before the 2002 riots in Gujarat, I guess Modi was not well-known outside of Gujarat. Post those dastardly riots, Modi became the topic of discussion everywhere across the country. The allegations against him flew thick and fast. He was portrayed as someone who deliberately allowed the riots to take place and did little to stop the violence. The allegations just never stopped coming.
Those were the days when ordinary, gullible students like me relied more on the existing big players in the mainstream media than anyone else. We believed almost every single allegation to be true and could not figure out how Modi managed not only to stay in office but even win an election by a two-thirds majority. Even at dining table discussions, I used to argue that Modi doesn’t fit into the larger scheme of things of our country (don’t ask me what that even means — it just sounded fashionable then!). His 2007 election victory in the State broke some myths about his governance model, but did not shatter any of the serious allegations that gullible folks like me still continued to believe. I always had one question on my mind — Of what use is this development if there is no security?
The influence of blogs started picking up during this time (2007-2008) and that’s when gullible folks like me, for the first time ever, started to read about the counter view-point. I still found it hard to believe these arguments. I always wondered how big media could be so wrong. How can they deliberately cheat their readers or viewers?  Then I started hearing Modi’s speeches. Most of the times, I found them to be full of content, as opposed to rhetoric. This content ranged from his views on specific developments in agriculture to power sector reforms to strong leadership in the country. Though impressed, and sometimes inspired by his achievements, the question of 2002 still hung heavy on my mind.
In 2009, I wrote in my blog that Modi can never be the Prime Ministerial candidate because of the 2002 riots. I wrote this while admitting that he was the best administrator in the country. My assessment then supported Sushma Swaraj. Then social media happened. First, the lies of charlatans like Teesta Setalvad were beginning to get exposed on these platforms. The SIT report explained in detail that every single allegation against Narendra Modi by this ‘cottage industry’ (one of the many famous coinages by folks on social media) was outright false. That SIT report brought to closure so many doubts I had in my mind (and am pretty sure, the minds of hundreds of people).
Narendra Modi started interacting more with people and started listing out his Government’s achievements in detail. There was little rhetoric and more substance when he spoke. It amazed me to see one leader have such great command of the nuances of the implementation stage of various projects. Some called it micro-management, some called it dictatorship, but for those who enjoyed the fruits of those projects, all this didn’t matter. Their lives got better, not worse!
Then the Congress Government in our State (Andhra Pradesh) started imposing two to fourteen-hour power cuts in Andhra Pradesh in various areas. At one end, Modi was declaring to the world that he provides 24-hour power supply to all households in his State and on the the other, here we were, enjoying up to 14 hours of power cuts every single day! Now the speeches made more sense to us. There is development in Gujarat, and more importantly, there is security too. There has not been a single riot in Gujarat since 2002. In a State torn by such strife for long, to have no riots for 11 years is no mean feat.
Looking back, Narendrabhai’s persistence and patience amaze the likes of me. What does it take to have such a single-minded focus for development amidst such a vitriolic atmosphere? How does one get the perseverance to wait for such fantastic results to counter (many baseless) allegations? However, there was this small doubt that I had in mind — is this pro-Modi wave limited to social media?
I had the opportunity to visit his Hyderabad rally where I was bowled over by how one man can inspire so much participation, enthusiasm and hope! Coming from a State where film stars (with two films) are accorded demigod-like status, I found it hard to swallow that nearly one lakh people turned up and celebrated the arrival of a political leader, that too in today’s age of political cynicism (the ‘all politicians are bad’ argument).
Is he perfect? Obviously not. No one is perfect – everyone makes mistakes. Everyone says things they shouldn’t have. He would have had his share of goof-ups and failures in developmental governance, but from what we have seen, he learns from them. He is very receptive to feedback and tries to make the best of the resources. A case in point would be the malnutrition campaign against him by these charlatans. Modi has given them a befitting reply in one of the media conclaves recently.
He has himself asked to be hanged if he is found guilty of the crimes the likes of Teesta Setalvad and the ‘cottage industry’ accuse him of. One cannot disagree with Modi’s statement – if he is found guilty, he must be punished. If not, the people of this country have a right to be administered by a man of fine acumen. Is this a fan mail? Perhaps. But I have no qualms if you wish to classify it so. Narendra Modi has transformed people like me through his sheer willpower, development work, and achievements. The transformation in our thought process is not because a few bloggers have tried to interpret a few reports. It is because Narendra bhai has actually achieved substantial results, making it easier for us to take a decision.
Happy Birthday, Narendrabhai! In whatever small way I can, I will put in my earnest efforts in helping you and the BJP win the 2014 election. That is the least I can do for a man who has taught us so much. Happy Birthday once again!

Flawed media narrative of Muzaffarnagar riots

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here for reference. 
Most of us woke up to the news of nine people killed in riots in Uttar Pradesh. One of those killed was a journalist from IBN7. From the past few hours, only one question has been nagging me – would the media have covered this riot if the IBN7 journalist was not killed? You might wonder, what is the basis of this doubt?
Let’s take a look at some of the tweets from media celebrities since last night. First off-the-block is this tweet from Editor-in-Chief of IBN networks, Rajdeep Sardesai.

Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots

Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots

Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots

Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots

Not to be left behind, Group Editor of NDTV says this:
Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots
Did you know that riots were happening in UP “for last few months”? Rajdeep Sardesai is talking about Lucknow, Faizabad, Bairelly – does any of you know what even happened there? Ashutosh also enlightens us that “small riots are engineered all over UP” – here’s an open challenge to him – Can he point out to detailed reports on IBN7 over the last few months that expose this blatant transgression of law and order in the State? Barkha Dutt talks about a “series of recent religious riots” – are there series of programmes on NDTV where we can watch and get enlightened on these riots?
What does Ashutosh even mean by “attempt to repeat Gujarat in UP?” Is he trying to incite passion? Does he want something bad to happen in UP so that he can pinpoint it to Gujarat? What kind of cheap mentality is this, where the stupendous failure of one Government is interlinked to an event that happened more than 10 years ago? And no – I am not exaggerating when I used the phrase “blatant transgression of law and order”. One of IBN’s reports said that over the last one year, at one point of time or other, 22 districts in UP have been under curfew! 22 districts!! And yet not a squeal from these editors during the last one year.
And on top of all this, these editors somehow blame this transgression to the “abuse on the net”? Don’t believe me?
Look at Rajdeep’s tweet on Sunday -

Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots
And then the best excuse of all – politics and political parties are being blamed. IBN’s reporting is just based on politics. They don’t even care to explain to us in detail about the politics. In fact, Ashutosh goes a step further and asks us to think!
Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots
It always beats me as how these people would want to get away with such escapist explanations! For the past few months, riots are being engineered and these people are obsessed with hatred on social media? The “we” in his tweet should point out only to the journalistic community – do they really care? The report tells us that there was a conglomeration of people to discuss how to handle recent incidents of “eve-teasing” in a village and that spiralled into these fresh riots. What exactly is this “eve-teasing” problem? These same editors continously lecture us on the need to maintain restraint in reporting clashes. So much restraint that “100s of communal clashes” go unreported!
This Indian Express report tells us the Akhilesh Government has officially agreed to 27 riots in its tenure so far. Then why is Ashutosh resorting to rumour mongering of “100s of communal riots”? What is the source of his ‘Government records’?  The Government also says the three major riots have happened in Mathura, Bairelly, and Faizabad. I bet none of the viewers watching these news channels would have had any clue on these riots when they happened.
Back in 2011, NDTV claimed that their coverage of 2002 riots helped in the quelling of the riots.
Media's double standards on Uttar Pradesh riots
One can’t help but wonder why they have stopped playing such a proactive role in quelling of riots after 2002? Especially in the present instance, their group editor herself has enlightened us that there have been a series of riots in UP in the last one year. These same editors do not get tired of talking about how “2002 riots were the first one to be covered live on TV”. What these people fail to tell us that those were the last ones to be covered live on TV too! Everything starts and ends with 2002 – no riots and TV before and after that!
This is precisely, why I strongly think that if not for the unfortunate and sad death of IBN7 reporter, the media would not have bothered to pick up this round of violence in UP too. Why else would any responsible media in any country ignore more than 100 communal clashes in one year? In Ashutosh’s own words, think!

Genius Q from NDTV!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference. 
You have to hand it to the editors at NDTV. For the last 36 days, Andhra Pradesh was burning. Day in and day out, the chicanery of the Congress was being exposed. On Wednesday evening, NDTV’s Left Right and Centre innocently asksHas the Congress failed to get even it’s own people on board for a new state?
Only the likes of NDTV are capable of rephrasing a plain fact as a question, and make it a debating point! The Chief Minister of the State is impressing upon his Ministers and legislators from the Seemandhra region not to press for resignations. The reason? He says it is crucial that the Bill be defeated in the State Assembly when it comes here, and for that they need the numbers!
So here you have Congress’s own Chief Minister scheming against his own high command and NDTV, ever so innocently asks, “Has the Congress failed to get even it’s own people on board for a new State?
Notice how the debate begins. Nidhi Razdan, with her trademark serious expression, asks Shashi Tharoor the same question and he replies thus: “I am sorry to say this, but I have been told that I will be participating in a discussion on the Indo-Bangladesh border issue and not on Telangana.
The seriousness with which Nidhi Razdan’s team approached this issue is quite so evident from this stupid goof-up. Nevertheless, Shashi Tharoor then enlightens us by saying that the process involvesextensive consultations. Multiple articles on NitiCentral on this subject have summarily exposed how the Congress has done the exact opposite of ‘extensive’ consultations.
Then Nidhi Razdan gives us her expert opinion, “We’ve actually been seeing this decision being deferred and deferred and delayed all the time because there has been so many consultations. How much more?” After giving this cue to the TRS leader on the panel, Nidhi then goes on to ask, “But why are people so against the decision?“!
All through the discussion, Shashi Tharoor looks very disinterested. Nidhi suddenly brings him in and he starts his reply with: “Well, I am still here to discuss Indo-Bangladesh border issue.” and then lectures us on how all citizens have an equal right on Hyderabad.
Here’s some advice for Nidhi Razdan. Have Uma Sudhir (who will have a much better understanding of the issue) handle a discussion with proper stakeholders and not uninterested folks like Shashi Tharoor!
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told us on Monday that the Cabinet note on Telangana will be ready in 20 days. Union Ministers and MPs of the Congress from Seemandhra region rushed to meet the Anthony committee last night to ask him if their demands are even being considered, given that a note will be ready in 20 days?
Late last year, Shinde told us that a decision on Telangana will be taken in a month. As the deadline was nearing, we were told by Azad that one month does not mean 30/31 days! The decision came nearly 7 months after the one-month deadline expired! Will the 20-day deadline meet the same fate?
While Digvijay Singh continues to lecture the people of Andhra Pradesh, more Government employees have now joined the strikes! For the last 36 days, thousands of buses have not plied. Lakhs of people are on the roads protesting every single day. The pictures in the newspapers are testimony to the participation of the people. Lakhs of Government employees have been on strike — and I am not at all exaggerating when I say lakhs!
Needless to say, governance has gone for a toss. The wretched power supply problem is back — domestic consumers in various parts of the State have started to take a hit. Ministers have either resigned or have stopped coming to work. The worst part is that the agitations by Government employees have started intensifying in Hyderabad. Every single day, outside various Government offices, employees belonging to Telangana and Seemandhra are resorting to competitive protests! At some places, the police is having a tough time maintaining peace. The divide has intensified so badly that it will take divine intervention to resolve the differences!
It’s a freefall for various political parties too — TDP President Chandrababu Naidu has gone to the people. He is currently touring Seemandhra regions to explain the chicanery of the Congress to the people. He hasn’t announced support for a united State. He still feels bifurcation can be worked out but the process has to be much smoother than what it is now. He is having some trouble explaining this, but at least he is amongst the people and talking — unlike Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh who are neither amongst the people nor talking!
The YSRCP has announced support for a united State. Needless to say, this was part of the Congress gameplan too — that YSRCP will sweep this region and then of course support UPA 3.0! The other parties in the State have more or less nothing to do right now!
The stage is now being set for a showdown in the Assembly. This much is evident from the patience being advocated by the Chief Minister. It is expected that some time in October, the Union Cabinet will send its resolution to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly — and the fireworks will only intensify again.
It is very important to note that the Congress has failed to bring its own people onboard. It has also miserably failed in communicating well with the people of this country and continues to demonstrate it’s arrogance by having Digvijay Singh still lecture the people of the State.

Airtel SIM Free, if you shout...

The following article was written for Niti Central. Reproducing it here for reference. 
UPA chief Sonia Gandhi to media: “The process is underway. There is Anthony Committee. The Government will also setup a committee soon.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visiting Andhra Pradesh Non-Gazetted Officers Association members: “There is Anthony Committee, please submit all your grievances and representations to it. The committee will guide the Government.”
Sonia Gandhi talks about the Government Committee, and the head of the Government says that party committee will suffice! This epic level confusion summarises everything that is wrong with the way Congress is handling the entire bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh saga. The situation in the State has only worsened since the last time we wrote about it. 

Today is day 30 of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) announcement. Thirty days since Rayalaseema and Andhra regions have been up in arms against Sonia Gandhi’s clarity-less decision. Even today, most parties are are asking the Congress to atleast give a time frame as to when clarity can be expected! It has been over a month and there is a no Cabinet note over the issue. If the process of Cabinet note only is taking so long, how did the genius of Ghulam Nabi Azad even contemplate that the process will be over in 6 months?
Major political parties have all hardened their stance against the Congress. But more importantly, last evening, the Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy in cryptic words, derided the decision making process of his own high command! He said that parties and the Government have to work for the people; in case they don’t do that, then the people will send them home! He has sought to derive strength from Telugu talli(mother of Telugu) to help tide us tide over the crisis! The Hindu is even speculating that he will resign in October once the Bill comes to the Assembly for discussion.
Let’s take a look at what various parties (political and otherwise) are saying/doing:
1. The TDP president has decided to travel with the people. He will start his Atmagourava yatra from September 1. He wishes to bring to the fore the chicanery of the Congress. He has written a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister questioning him about his silence when lakhs of people are on the roads. But then I guess the Prime Minister doesn’t care a fig leaf about the letter or the questions!
This move by Chandra babu to travel amongst the people is being seen as a bold one – given that he still stands by his support for the bifurcation and wants to tour the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, where protests are at their peak for a united State. It definetely augurs well for a leader to communicate with the people – something our Prime Minister doesn’t understand. It remains to be seen what he will be communicating and how people will receive it. More commentary on that after the tour begins.
2. YSRCP president, Jagan Mohan Reddy took up an indefinite fast in jail itself. Last night, he was moved to the Osmania hospital because of falling sugar levels. Actually his mother started the fast and ended it in three days. Jagan asked her to end it, so that he can take it up further! The demand of the YSRCP is ‘Equal Justice or United AP’. They seek clarity from the UPA on the bifurcations process – something that lakhs of people are waiting for! They are now questioning how the capital city can be given away to those who seek a split of the State! YSRCP seems to be gaining traction in the Seemandhra region, because of their pro-united AP stance – something that the Congress is banking on!
3. Central leaders of the BJP are in a bigger hurry than anyone else. Sushma Swaraj demanded that the Centre introduce the Telangana Bill in this Session of Parliament! The demand is ridiculous at so many levels that it is just not worth to counter it here. There is a long process to be followed even before the bill comes to Parliament, so it beats logic as to how the Bill can even be tabled in this Session!
4. Telangana parties and JAC (Joint Action Committee) members are all warning that any attempts to procrastinate will only increase the agitations in this region! They are questioning the intentions of the protesting employee unions and are urging the Centre to expedite the process! Peace rallies and dharnashave already begun – and there is unanimous support that Hyderabad must stay with Telangana only. There is no chance of conceding to the demand that it become a Union Territory!
5. And finally the Congress. The Telangana Congress leaders want the high command to either appoint another Chief Minister or impose President’s rule! Some Rayalaseema leaders are ok with the idea of Rayala-Telangana while some want only a united State. Andhra leaders are insisting on a united State. None less than the Chief Minister has more or less derided his own high command for this decision. Thirty day since they started this confusion, the Congress is in no absolute hurry to even give a basic clarity on issues.
The protests on the streets have only intensified further.
Lakhs of people continue to come onto the roads. School and college students too are taking out rallies. Shops/business remain shut during the day. Four lakh Government employees, two lakh teachers continue to be on strike. Over 1000 of buses continue to be off roads. Thirteen out of the 23 districts in the State continue to suffer, and novel ways of protests are emerging everyday. Sample the image below, which when translated reads:
“Say Jai Samaikyandhra (United AP) thrice, get an Airtel SIM free” ! 

Congress's indecision on Telangana puts Andhra in peril

Food Security Bill.

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference. This is a rehash of an old blog already published here. Added details of the final bill passed by Parliament. 
The current Public Distribution System classifies card-holders into three categories.
» Above Poverty Line (APL)
» Below Poverty Line (BPL)
» Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)
AAY was launched on December 25, 2000 for the “poorest of the poor”. The scheme was intended for about 1 crore families (equals ~5 crore people) at that point of time. As of June 2011, ~2.43 crore familieshave been issued AAY cards. It was estimated that ~5 per cent of our population are so poor that they cannot afford two meals a day, and therefore need food at highly subsidised rates.
What are the subsidised rates envisaged in the year 2000? Rice at Rs 3/kg and wheat at Rs 2/kg (with an upper limit of 35 kg per family). For the “poorest of the poor“, whose number stands at ~10 crore as of 2011, these rates are being dutifully followed.
In the same year, the National Food Security Bill was first envisaged. We were told that the number of poor people will now be:
Food Security Bill is Sonia's ploy to keep people dependent on Congress
Eleven years after the AAY category was defined, the Central Government wants to increase this 5 per cent to 46 per cent rural and 28 per cent urban “poor people”. Is this progress? Is this what we have reduced the aam admi to?
Not happy with increasing the number of poor people to such a large extent, the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2013 takes a big leap forward:
“The entitlements of the persons belonging to the eligible households referred to in sub-section (1) at subsidised prices shall extend up to seventy-five per cent. Of the rural population and up to fifty per cent of the urban population.
Now, the upper limit of 46 per cent rural and 28 per cent urban poor is itself gone! State Governments are free to declare even a whopping 75 per cent of their rural areas as being so poor that the subsidised rates envisaged for 5 per cent of the population in the year 2000 will now extend to them also, in the year 2013!
In this context, we need to talk about ‘visionary’ States like Andhra Pradesh. Please take a look at the image below. It talks about the boon to the poor – Rs 1/kg rice scheme. Apologies for the angle of the image. Nevertheless, I marked in red the important point in the hoarding, which when translated reads thus: “7.5 crore poor people will benefit”
Food Security Bill is Sonia's ploy to keep people dependent on Congress
The census of 2011 puts the population of AP at 8.46 crores. Doing some complicated math, we can conclude that the AP Government has classified a meagre 88.65 per cent of it’s population as ‘poor’. The Civil Supplies Minister also announced that about 25 lakh applications for a white ration card are pending. Because the Chief Minister does not want “anyone to sleep in hunger“, he reduced the cost of rice from a whopping Rs 2/kg to Rs 1/kg!

I sincerely apologise if my understanding is wrong, but shouldn’t any self-respecting Government do more to bring people out of poverty instead of pushing them into poverty? The National Food Security Bill mandates that the upper limit for the eligible households should be 75 per cent – what will a visionary State like Andhra Pradesh do now?
The NFSB also says that rice is to be provided at Rs 3/kg. But “visionary” States like Andhra Pradesh already provide it at Rs 1/kg! A topic for ‘Face The Nation’ – Is AP breaking the law?
Let’s now take a look at the provisions for the 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban poor.
“Every person belonging to priority households, identified under sub-section (1) of Section 10, shall be entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month at subsidised pricesspecified in Schedule I from the State Government”
For families under AAY:
“…entitled to thirty-five kilogrammes of foodgrains per household per month at the prices specified in Schedule I.”
What are the foodgrains that will be distributed? The Bill says thus:
“…foodgrains” means rice, wheat or coarse grains or any combination thereof conforming to such quality norms.”
Please note that the eligible quantity has been reduced from 7 kg in 2011 to 5 kg in 2013. But please also note that, that the 2013 bill does not talk about a split of the 75 per cent (the 2011 Bill says that a max of 75 per cent are eligible out of which 46 per cent are poor and the others belong to general households eligible for 3 kg per person). The 2013 Bill merely extends this courtesy to 75 per cent or rural and 50 per cent of the urban population!
But how much will people save?
Currently, various states (with the exception of “visionary” States like AP) give rice at Rs 3.50 – Rs 5.50 range to BPL families. Assuming a four-member family gets 15 kg of rice at Rs 3 instead of Rs 5.50, they are saving a whopping 15×2.50 = Rs 37.50 per month. Wheat is sold at Rs 7/kg in AP. Assuming that is the national average – there’s a further saving of 5×5 = Rs 25. A total of Rs 62.50 per month per family (4 members). Other combinations can yield savings upto Rs 90 per month per family (5 members).
Is our country in such dire straits that 75 per cent of our rural population and 50 per cent of urban population are thrilled at the prospect of saving about Rs 2 to Rs 3 per day? Is it is not a grave setback that we are actually encouraging them to entitlements like this and giving them false hope that this price will remain low for a long time? The Bill says that these rates cannot be changed for the next 3 years!
If the next Government even contemplates increasing the rates by Rs 1, imagine the furore that five-star activists will create. Oh and by the way, these five-star activists have eligibility to become members of the State Food Commissions because one of the eligibility criteria includes “a proven record of work relating to the improvement of the food and nutrition rights of the poor.”
The best part of the bill is yet to come!
“In case of non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons under Chapter II, such persons shall be entitled to receive such food security allowance from the concerned State Government to be paid to each person in such manner as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”
So there you go – these people will be paid money if they cannot be given foodgrains. And it has not yet been decided how much! Obviously, you can’t give them Rs 60 in lieu of the 15 kg rice and 1 kg wheat they are entitled to, because you will get zilch outside with that money. More importantly, the Central Government will decide how much funds the State Government will get to pay – thereby enabling Rahul Gandhi to go into Opposition-ruled States and say “Your state Government is not spending the money our Central Government is providing.”
The next small detail – Rs 1/kg for coarse grains.
“The average shelf life of coarse grains is limited, making them unsuitable for long-term storage and distribution under PDS. The inclusion of coarse cereals under PDS cannot be taken up as a national level programme since there is no standard variety of coarse grain. However, initiatives on part of State Governments catering to the needs of specific localities are possible.”
It is an observation made by the planning commission, in it’s 10th Five Year Plan (2002-2007). Just about 10 years ago, the Planning Commission observed that coarse grains cannot be distributed through PDS. But this is 2013, which means two other Five Year Plans have come up. Neither the 11th nor 12th Five Year Plans even talk about coarse grains!
The Food security Bill also provides for nutritional food for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Nutritional food to children from 6 months to 6 years, every day, free of charge; and mid-day meals at schools. Certain aspects of the Bill will definitely go a long way in fighting malnutrition among kids and that is precisely what laws have to aim for. Schemes have to reach those who are in actual need of it. This hare-brained one-size-fits-all approach will not work. It looks like the aim of Sonia Gandhi-led UPA is to keep people poor and thereby dependent on the Congress.
The Food security Bill also provides for nutritional food for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Nutritional food to children from 6 months to 6 years, every day, free of charge; and mid-day meals at schools. Certain aspects of the Bill will definitely go a long way in fighting malnutrition among kids and that is precisely what laws have to aim for. Schemes have to reach those who are in actual need of it. This hare-brained one-size-fits-all approach will not work. It looks like the aim of Sonia Gandhi-led UPA is to keep people poor and thereby dependent on the Congress.