Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Childish behaviour from Congress on Children's day!

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference. 

Often during the past six months, I have wondered when the bankruptcy in the thought process of the Congress will end. The petty issues they have picked up, the undignified language they keep using against the party in power keeps exposing this bankruptcy. However, what I read today in the newspapers gave me absolute clarity on why Congress will continue down the path of self-destruction.

On of the front page of The Hindu today “Anxious Cong. keeps PM out of Nehru meet“.
Children’s Day – Childish behaviour from Nehru’s Congress

However, what’s striking is the quote above it. It is attributed to Anand Sharma, spokesperson of the Congress.

“We have invited all those who truly believe in democracy and Nehru’s ideals.”

The Congress just called the democratically elected Prime Minister of India someone who does not believe in democracy! The party wants to commemorate India’s first Prime Minister and refuses to call the current Prime Minister of India to this function.

Words fail me! With such complete lack of respect for the democratic verdict of the people of India, it beats me as to what the Congress’s plans might be to revive itself in the future.

The story doesn’t end here. The news report accompanying the headline exposes the party even further.
“…the Congress fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will either appropriate the first Prime Minister or attempt to reduce him to a mere children’s icon.”
A mere children’s icon? The Congress named his birthday as Children’s Day, and celebrated it as such for the past 50-odd years. Why did they dedicate the day to him if they did not mean for him to become an icon for children? The usage of the word “mere” is so demeaning to the children – these people grow up to become responsible citizens of the country, so what exactly is the problem if Nehru is portrayed as their icon? Beats me!
What is their justification for this fear?
“The Modi Government, on its part, had confined the initial commemoration to observing a children’s cleanliness year and promoting scientific temper among children, sources said. The move has given rise to the fear that the government is trying to reduce Nehru to a children’s icon. “
Read it twice – the Congress is afraid that the children will be taught cleanliness and scientific temper! Which party in a responsible democracy fears such a thing? Congress-Mukt Bharat seems a bigger necessity now than in May 2014!
Now for the killer statement from Congress:
“This government is trying to usurp our leaders without subscribing to their values. [Mahatma] Gandhi isn’t just about cleanliness.”
First of all, Gandhi isn’t “their” leader. Second – this fear of “usurping of their leaders” is laughable. Pity that they have been reduced to this state.

These arguments are also proof of why Prime Minister Modi connects so well with the people. Cleanliness is something that affects us daily. I know what exactly I can do to contribute to #SwachhBharat. But if you give me lofty gibberish of “intellectual statesman”, “growth engine” – I can’t just connect with it! I know exactly who gets benefitted with Jan Dhan Yojana and how our banks are able to get more money deposited. Instead, if you tell me about the need for “inclusive growth”, I cannot imagine why I would want to continue listening to what you have to offer.

Or let’s take this latest example – 125 year celebration of Nehru. Another report in The Hindu tells us the plans Congress party had in mind, when it constituted a committee last year:
“Plans for the year-long commemoration included a coin and a stamp on Nehru and various chairs in universities, sources said.”

A coin? A stamp? Chairs in Universities? Whom does this reach? Who cares whose picture is there on a coin? How many outside the university care if a Chair is named after Nehru, Gandhi or Sonia?

Contrast this to the plans Modi has in mind:
“…to extend the Clean India drive to school and anganwadis and to inculcate scientific temper among children.”
This gets so identifiable with everyone – the children will enjoy participating in community events; they will develop a scientific temper; they will discuss this with their parents; and will go on to become responsible citizens of India. Commemoration and celebrations must mean that we get meaningful outcomes – not meetings and stamps! The day Congress party gets this, is the day they will start coming out of this abyss. Until then, enjoy the fall!

PS: The last line in this report cracked me up:
“The Congress had also planned a film on Nehru’s life on the lines of Richard Attenborough’s biopic Gandhi. A Congress leader said it would now have to be shelved for lack of funds.”

On TV :)

While working with Gangadhara Tilak Katnam from Shramadaan a couple of weeks back, the crew of Gemini News covered the event and spoke to us. From 2:30 to 7:00 in this video, myself, Tilak uncle and Ravikiran

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Crass, low-level and hooliganism to the core.

The following blogpost was carried on the website FirstPost too :). 
I have written in the past too, how Rajdeep Sardesai (and the channel he co-owned) have lied and spread lies about Narendra Modi. However, what transpired over at the Madison Square Garden at New York takes lying to an entirely new different level altogether! 

I think there are three very distinct angles that we will need to discuss here:

1. The crass and low-level journalism of Rajdeep Sardesai in New York
2. The hooliganism of Rajdeep Sardesai in New York, and the response of his fraternity. 
3. The famous "eye witness FB account" that the fraternity of Rajdeep Sardesai shared massively. 

The crass and low-level journalism

India Today released an "official" video in which Rajdeep was heckled (as if heckling is a nasty crime). In an attempt to gain sympathy, they have unwittingly exposed the low-level journalism their high-level journalists resort to! Let's focus on the first part of the video. Rajdeep, taking a very demeaning tone, is seen posing many questions to the crowd gathered there. One of his first comments - "My worry is that the moment I ask them to be noisy, they will start with Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi". It just beats me - why should he be "worried" if the crowd (that is assembled to listen to Modi) praises Modi?!

And then very soon he comes to his agenda - Modi won 31% of the vote! First - that is an absolute lie. The NDA won 38.5% of the popular votes cast. That's a whopping 7.5% difference this guy is ignoring. But for a guy who ran a program called "Billion Votes" when there are only 800 million eligible voters, it's too much for us to expect that he values numbers well. He asks the crowd a loaded question, which when listened to carefully means this - "Modi doesn't answer my question, atleast you do it"! 

To a response that 1.25 billion people are with Modi,  here's the question he posed: "There are number of people who opposed Modi. What would you like to tell those who are still critics of Modi, who believe that Mr. Modi has to answer certain questions that he has still not answered" The youngsters there gave him a befitting reply - "Before elections, we may be divided. But after election, it is one Prime Minister (for all 1.25 billion people)". Not happy with the intelligent responses he has been getting, Rajdeep changes tack and asks if anyone paid to come to the event. Again not happy with the boisterous NO, he goes back to asking "Can one man change India?" to which he got another befitting response - "If one woman can loot India, one man can certainly change India"!

But this is just a prelude. The sickening part of the journalism starts at around the 4th minute. He first asks the crowd, "Will you go back to India?" as if that is the only measure to show appreciation of Modi. And then comes the killer question:

"Many people believe that the Indian American Community, the Indians here talk a lot but don't do anything". 

One person from the crowd shouted "Who are these many people"? To which Rajdeep quotes Jagdish Bhagwati (as if he is many people) and repeats the question multiple times "Why doesn't Indian American Community do more for India?" And he taunts the crowd with "Comon, answer me". It is a shame and pity that Rajdeep uses such a tone to demean the hard work of so many private individuals assembled there. Please watch the video to see how he stresses on this question so much, and in a tone unbecoming of a visitor. If you think this is some "contrarian questions" that a journalist is posing, here's a tweet that Rajdeep RT'ed on the same day:

"Very cute! Migrated willingly to USA, won't come back & yet chiming: "I love my India." Is their India Real or Imagined? Ancient or Modern?"

Why does Rajdeep and their ilk look down upon these people, who have made a choice to pursue other (and perhaps better) opportunities abroad? Is it their belief that you lose right to think about your country once you leave it for earning your bread and butter? 

Also, why preface *your* view with "many people believe", "number of people think"? I have written earlier too on this "many people" logic here - why can't you pose a question just like you want to ask, instead of prefacing it with "many people"? I, for one, am keen to ask Rajdeep a question on these lines -"Many people believe you practice gutter journalism" and would love to hear his response! 

At around the 5th minute, the "heckling" starts. Rajdeep takes us to the miniscule crowd that is now shouting "Rajdeep Murdabad". Perhaps they got riled that he is questioning their love towards India? He tells them, "I will ask you a question. I will ask you a simple question" but never gets to asking the question! And out of nowhere, he suddenly asks the crowd "Did Modi teach you to behave badly? Did America teach you to behave badly?". Whoa - what kind of crass and crappy generalisation is this?! Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India - like him or not, give him the respect he deserves for that. 

The hooliganism of Rajdeep Sardesai in NY and the response of his fraternity

Immediately after this, Rajdeep went to town saying he was assaulted, pushed etc. And then this 11 second video surfaced on the net. The video showed Rajdeep in a scuffle with another man. From the video, it was not clear who started the scuffle, so Rajdeep's fraternity (as is their wont) concluded that Rajdeep got assaulted first! And then they went to town. 

  • Siddarth Varadarajan: "Just saw shocking YouTube clip of Modi Bhakts attacking @sardesairajdeep in NYC. Media, political parties must condemn this intimidation.
  • Namita Bhandare: "Assault of one journalist is an assault on entire press. Editors Guild must seek an apology fm the organisers."
  • Shiv Aroor: "Saw it frame by frame. The assaulter belongs to a prison cell"
  • Sunetra: "We journos are meant to ask provocative sometimes obnoxious questions, not warm fuzzy ones. Intimidation ain't gonna work #RajdeepAttacked"
  • Barkha Dutt: "Shocked to hear about attack on @sardesairajdeep. unacceptable to settle disagreements in this manner. Condemnable"
  • Suparna Singh of NDTV:"  @sardesairajdeep shameful attack.  We at NDTV stand with you. (And here she gave the link of their article) 

There are many more, but I chose only a few to highlight the response based on the 11 second video. It was conclusive enough for them to "Stand with Rajdeep". Infact, Sunetra went one step forward and said that they have the right to ask provocative questions but no one should get provoked. The provocative question here, by the way, was this" "Why don't you do anything for India?"

After a few hours, this 28 second video clip was uploaded to youtube. It is crystal clear from this video that it was Rajdeep who first manhandled the person after calling him an "asshole". I watched the video 3 times just to make sure it was Rajdeep who attacked first. Entire fraternity went silent. Namita Bhandare and Sunetra think this is not conclusive enough proof now, and we need a fuller video! I have asked Suparna Singh if she plans to update the NDTV article with the latest 28 second video; she responded back saying they don't plan to update any more videos because there are so many of them floating around! How convenient really!  Shiv Aroor doesn't tell us which video he watched "frame by frame". 

Rajdeep Sardesai then tweets this: 

"First, Kick and abuse while I am on cam asking questions, then release video selectively. Rule of the mob."

The official video released by India Today when Rajdeep was "on cam asking questions" does NOT show us that he was being kicked and abused. Why is Rajdeep not releasing the video where he claims he was "kicked"? Where he claims he was "abused"? He pompously also announced this earlier in the day: 

"Glad we caught the idiots on cam. Only way to shame the mob is to show them. "

But guess what - he hasn't shown the mob to us yet! If he means that those who shouted "Rajdeep Murdabad" are the "idiots on cam", then surely Rajdeep must learn to take criticism in his stride (as none less than Amitabh Bachchan once advised him!). The guy whom Rajdeep manhandled has posted his account on the blogosphere. He claims to have called Rajdeep as Newstrader number 1, and that got to Rajdeep who in turn called him an asshole. Amusing how Rajdeep thinks that he can accuse an entire community, right in front of them, of "not doing anything" for India but the same folks should not call him a "newstrader"! 

It was shocking to note this boorish and uncouth behaviour of Rajdeep Sardesai. Coupled with fact that he did not release any video to support his claim and the monstrous silence of all those from his fraternity who "stood with rajdeep", it was beginning to dawn upon them that they have been caught red-handed. 

The famous "eye witness FB account"

Confronted with such clear video evidence, and bewildered on how to react, the entire fraternity now started taking solace in an "eye witness account" posted on Facebook. Even Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken retweeted this account. 

Rajdeep Sardesai himself tweeted that we all read this account. This eye-witness account refers to an incident that happened way after all of the above happened. He says Rajdeep was surrounded by a mob who were hurling the choicest of the abuses and yet Rajdeep kept his calm and kept smiling. This happened for nearly 25 minutes according to him. There was pushing and shoving and ofcourse abusing again. The account says: 

"Despite my repeated requests to stay away from Rajdeep, the mob continued to shout pro-Modi slogans right in front of his face to instigate him"

Why does the eye witness think Rajdeep will get instigated by pro-Modi (who is now the Prime Minister of India) slogans? What kind of instigation strategy is this? By asking us to read the account, is Rajdeep also endorsing the view that pro-Modi slogans get to him? Is that why he said at the beginning of that India Today video that he is "worried" crowd will start "Har Har Modi"?

 Here is a 3 minute video that was posted on youtube about this incident. There was zero shoving and pushing in those 3 minutes. The very fact that Rajdeep was there for ~20 minutes without getting hurt meant that there was no pushing. It is in this video that Rajdeep declares that "kuch logo ke paas paise aate hai, class nahi". There were questions floating around though - "why are you afraid", "what about cash for votes" etc. If this is abuse, then I really pity the fraternity. 

There are other eye witness accounts floating around that talk about the boorish behavior of Rajdeep too (Example 1 and 2) – guess what, the fraternity will not talk about them!


Many fellow tweeters commented that if this is the kind of propaganda the newstraders are capable of, when there is strong evidence available against their argument, then imagine what they are capable of in the absence of such evidence. It is a pity that this fraternity wants to rake up non-issues at every available opportunity. It is a shame that this fraternity resorts to "whatever it takes" to deride Modi - now even actions of some random supporter on ground is because of Modi. 

It is a sad reflection on this fraternity that they pursue an agenda and don't like to own it up fully. The agenda in this instance was to discredit not just the Prime Minister of India, but private individuals of India (or Indian origin) and their hard work in trying to live a good life. It is appalling and beyond belief that an entire fraternity can lie, stick to it, and even discredit those putting the truth out there. This is a very very scary side of the English TV media. 

Either Rajdeep Sardesai and his fraternity must release the video in which he claims he was "kicked while on cam" or apologize to their readers/viewers for wilfully misleading them, yet again. This incident will go down in the annals of the TV history as one of the most disgusting acts by Rajdeep's fraternity. 

Tailpiece: Rediff ran a story that claimed Gautam Adani spoke to Rajdeep on behalf of Modi, to tell Rajdeep that Modi is upset. Gautam Adani denied this. Yet, rediff is sticking to this ridiculous story. The Prime Minister of India has far better things to do than think about the likes of Rajdeep. 

Update: Rajdeep Sardesai finally accepts to have been the one who got violent that day. Something he could have done on day 1. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The farce that is Editors Guild

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.
It was amusing (to use a mild word) to see this report in The Hindu on Wednesday morning:
At first I thought this was some “eminent citizen” group that is ranting. But it turns out, the Editors Guild of India has issued this statement (and many more such gems).

“The Guild articulated the hope that Ministers and officials would continue to be as forthcoming with the media as they were while marking the government’s completion of 100 days in office”
This is a loaded statement. But to simplify it, this is what I understood. The 100 day Press conferences were very good. Now, here’s my question then – Can the Editors Guild of India point to five, just five articles/op-eds, that have dissected the Pressers by the Ministers? Just five articles that tell us in detail what the Ministers spoke of; how much truth lies in what they said; how they have measured up to the new challenges etc? They will fail to provide us with this data.
Secondly, why does the Editors Guild want a running commentary on matters of governance? All relevant information is being reeled out through Press releases and social media statements. Periodic Pressers are happening on matters related to the Ministry – in spite of all this, what more “special access” is this group demanding?
Next up is this statement:
“That the Prime Minister would interact with the Indian media as well on the lines of his interactions with the international media.”
The Prime Minister gave one interview to CNN. Just one. And that too, a short one. The Editors Guild of India suggests that he has had many more interactions with the “international media” than with our media. The question I wish to ask here again – Why does this group want running commentary from the Prime Minister’s Office?
When some random BJP leader made a comment on rape in some part of the country, there was a demand that the PM respond immediately. He responded in Parliament, and sought the help of leaders in stopping the psychological analysis of rape. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. The Prime Minister was on the ground, helping J&K Government with floods. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. He has had a loaded schedule on the foreign affairs front. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. He took questions from children all over the country. But too bad he didn’t talk to the Press. His Ministers have all given us a detailed report card of their 100 days. But too bad they didn’t talk 100 times in 100 days.
More gems follow:
” in restricting access to Ministers and bureaucrats in offices”. Guess what – the ministers and bureaucrats have work to do. What special access do you need other than access to regular Press briefings from the Ministries?
“Certain deficit in transparency in the functioning of the Government”. What exactly do they mean by this? Exactly which issue did they want to see transparency in and did not see it? Do they want the Government to give a running commentary on, say, the border stand-off with China?
“Diminishing access to information to journalists and the media runs against the grain of democratic functioning in an age of openness, transparency and right to information”.
Whoa! Such a heavily loaded compliment just for cutting down on unwanted access? Kudos Editors Guild and the entire fraternity you believe you represent. If you have any sense of responsibility, please cite at least five instances where you wanted to see more transparency from this Government and you were not able to. We will then have a discussion on them. Do not expect heavy usage of language will intimidate anyone!
The UPA has given sections of media this false sense of entitlement. And these sections of the media have basked in this glory so much that they are finding it difficult to get back to reality. Before I end, here are some nagging doubts in my mind — What is the exact relevance of the Editors Guild? What exactly do they do? Whom do they represent? Can we first gain some transparency into their working please?

Vijayawada as new Capital...

The following article was published in Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference.
As was widely expected, the Andhra Pradesh Government, led by Chandrababu Naidu, has announced in the State Assembly on Thursday that the new capital of Andhra Pradesh will be built around the city of Vijayawada. Speculation was on for a long time that this will be the most widely accepted choice. The 20-page statement of Chandrababu Naidu deals comprehensively with detailed plans for all districts.
A brief history before we get into the statement – In her unexplained urgency to split the State, Sonia Gandhi did not bother to announce a new capital for the State of Andhra Pradesh. As was the wont of the UPA, they set up a committee, headed by Sivaramakrishnan (former Urban Development secretary) to recommend the best city that can become a capital.
All this while, there was near unanimous opinion that the new capital city should not be a centralised one like Hyderabad. Over-dependency on Hyderabad is what precipitated the crisis of bifurcation — something that the new State of Andhra Pradesh will have to cope with. Contrary to some people’s argument that Chandrababu Naidu concentrated only on Hyderabad, it is my view that the fault for relying excessively on Hyderabad lies with the Congress. Naidu lost power way back in 2004, when he was still setting up the new Hi-Tech City. There was no way to have started decentralisation at that point of time. Congress, in power since 2004, set up every notable institute only in Hyderabad ever since – even the Ocean Studies institute is in Hyderabad!
Anyways, learning from the mistakes of the past, people wanted this Government to decentralise the operations of the State Government across the State. This is also what the Sivaramakrishnan committee broadly recommended too. The committee has chosen five benchmarks to study the viability of various cities in AP:
1. Availability of Water
2. Scope of Natural Calamities
3. Connectivity
4. Land availability
5. Regional development (around the city)
Vijayawada scores high on 4 out of the above 5 points. The river Krishna flows through the city. Vijayawada is a major railway junction, and is centrally located. The city is reachable within 4-8 hours from various parts of the State through bus or rail. It also has a regional airport which, given the new status now, might get upgraded to international. The city is metropolitan in nature too, and the income levels are comparable to any decent city. However, the place where Vijayawada doesn’t meet the criteria is the land availability. There is a shortage of availability of Government lands.
Here is where the wording of the statement becomes crucial – it is proposed to develop the region around Vijayawada as the capital of the State. Guntur is another town that is very close to Vijayawada. The problem of land availability is not as severe. The plan of the Government is to develop the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri stretch as the capital region, but that is very long-term (~10 years as stipulated by the Act). However, there is also criticism that this region was chosen only because of land mafia! Ever since the speculation started on this being the capital, land rates have increased manifold. And since a lot of big shots will suffer losses, the government had even more reason to choose this region!
While there might be some truth to that story, this region trumps all other regions on various other parameters too, as is evident from the committee report. However, the focus of the Government is not just on developing the capital alone. Chandrababu Naidu has a detailed a plan for every single district in the State. Broadly, he has proposed/promised the following to almost all districts:
1. Three Mega cities (Vizag, Vijayawada and Tirupati)
2. A total of 14 smart cities spread across 13 districts.
3. A total of 14 airports for these 14 smart cities!
4. Industrial parks to some of the cities (includes manufacturing hub, electronics hub, IT hub, cement industry at various places)
5. To add 10 more ports to the existing 4 ports in AP, thereby making the state a logistics hub.
6. Food parks (to some district headquarters a.k.a smart cities).
7. One institution of excellence per smart city too – for example, A school of Architecture to one city, Fine Arts academy to another, IIM, IISc; AIIMS; Petroleum University etc)
8. Various pending irrigation projects to be completed on priority to all the 14 districts.
9. To utilize the mineral wealth of the Rayalaseema region.
10. Metro rail to the 3 Mega cities
Overall, the vision looks very good. Some look over the top too (the 14 airports, for example).
However, it was very important that such a document came out of the earliest, and the TDP Government has definitely scored well on this count. The direction is now clear – we know what priority has been set for each district headquarter. The next biggest challenge is to overcome the huge revenue deficit (Nearly Rs 15,000 crore) and move ahead with the massive plans that have been envisaged. Another challenge is the farm loan waiver – a burden of nearly Rs 35,000 crore. It is obviously not going to be an easy path. Naidu must know it better than any one of us. He will try his best to complete in the next four years, whatever he thinks will give him a second majority in 2019.

The Telangana Survey...

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
The erstwhile Congress Government in the undivided Andhra Pradesh took massive pride in increasing the number of poor people in the State. One hoarding announced that a whopping 88 per cent of the people in the State are poor. Various announcements by Ministers at that point indicated that they are striving their best to even raise this number to beyond 90 per cent!
After the bifurcation and the formation of new Governments, the Chief Minister of Telangana, K Chandrashekhar Rao announced that there are many people who took massive advantage of this lax approach of the previous Government (and got benefits through various Schemes) and he would like to weed out all the pilferage. His solution? A comprehensive one-day household survey in the entire State.
KCR announced that this survey is only to identify those who will be eligible for the various schemes of the Telangana Government. He and his entire Council of Ministers held a daylong meeting with the entire Revenue Department of the State to come up with the modalities for the survey – what needs to be included, what needs to be asked, what are the logistics needed for completing this in one day and so on.
Meanwhile, the KCR Government announced a scheme – FAST – according to which only students whose ancestors were living in the region before 1956 are eligible for a fee reimbursement. All hell broke loose — Opposition parties and others have started to see a sinister design behind the motive of the survey. Is this survey intended to find out all those who came from Seemandhra regions, and make them ineligible for any welfare scheme of the Telangana Government? This fear had a strong foundation in the fact that the KCR Government has already started to redefine the rules of nativity for students to be eligible for one scheme. Therefore, the question was — is this survey aimed at identifying the poor, or identifying those from Seemandhra?
This fear was further compounded when it was revealed that we have to submit copies of birth certificate to the enumerators (along with many other copies of many other certificates and cards). The initial survey form put up by a website had a question: “Which State you are from?” Fears were also ripe (especially in the Hyderabad region) that this survey was meant primarily to identify those from Seemandhra and make them ineligible for schemes of the Telangana Government. Leaked tapes (perhaps edited too) of KCR’s meetings revealed that his Government was purposely creating an environment that will not be conducive for Seemandhra region employees working in the Telangana Government. This again revealed the intense hatred existing in TRS with regards to the employees of Seemandhra region.
Next, there were concerns regarding privacy also. The form was seeking many details – people expressed fears regarding how safe this data was going to be. A PIL was filed in the High Court seeking proper guidance on this survey. Only after that did the Government declare that this entire survey was voluntary! We were also told that the survey does not intend to question the nativity of any person living in the State.
Ministers and officials started appearing on TV and speaking to the Press on the “benefit” of taking the survey. Most of their responses were quite vague – this will benefit you; this will help in building a “Bangaru Telangana (Golden Telangana); this is voluntary, but it will be good if you take it; you
might become ineligible later if you don’t take the survey now – and so on and so forth! The big message though — if you don’t take the survey, you may become ineligible for any Government scheme. But, it is voluntary!
Then we were told that there is no need to submit proofs. That there was no need to even show proof to the enumerator. A holiday was declared. All those who intended to get benefited from the scheme were asked to be home that day. If you lived elsewhere, you needed to come back home. If you work in a field that requires you to be at work, you need to get an authorisation letter from your place of work. No bus will be on the road that day — August 19. There was a massive influx of migrants back to their homes. The entire State was in a state of shut-down.
Finally, on Tuesday, the survey happened. The survey had a lot of Yes/No questions. The form can be found here. Do you have property – Yes or No. If I answer Yes, I need not show proof of it. If I answer No – my word is taken at face value. The survey required that we give details of bike, car, and even number of air conditioners at home. I think the logic was that if the family has enough money to own a bike/car/AC, they will not be needing a BPL card. Good idea – but if I do own and say “No” – there is no way for the Government to verify this claim!
For rural areas, the form had details on the livestock one possesses, details of agricultural lands etc. It also had details that needed to be filled regarding the pensioners. Again, everything was voluntary! One can continue with their false claims and still remain a false beneficiary. No one, absolutely no one, in the Government told us what would happen if one chooses to not reveal personal data. But people would still like to claim benefits at a later stage. The fear of misuse of data is genuine and something that was not effectively countered.
The form did not have any question regarding nativity. We were not even asked to show a copy of the birth certificate! It merely sought Yes/No answers for a lot of questions – information that is generally available with the Government.
Chief Minister KCR addressed a Press conference at 6:30 pm on Tuesday (with the survey still not complete), and made a few observations that seem very weird.
1. He claimed that from the survey results so far, it looks like the population of Telangana will be around 4.5 crore as against the estimate of 3.5 crore! First, the survey was not complete – it was a manual exercise with no one entering hourly data into a computer to claim these numbers. Second, large number of people came back from other States just to be present at their home for this survey. They will go back. How can they be classified under the population of Telangana?
2. KCR also claimed that at the time of his speaking to the Press, some 15.8 lakh homes had been enumerated in Hyderabad. With nearly 30 per cent homes still untouched. He tells us that their data showed 15 lakh homes, but it now looks like there are 20 lakh homes (Note: This is not based on empirical data, just his estimate). He also tells us that the actual population of Hyderabad will be around 1.2 crore as against 75-80 lakh (currently recorded). He will now plan for drinking water estimates to the city based on 1.2 crores and not 75 lakhs. Again – where does he get this data from? And how about the floating population?
3. Filmstar Pawan Kalyan refused to take part in the survey. It is voluntary after all. KCR goes all out against him – “Those who want to stay here as tourists and guests, have not taken part in the survey.” He went ahead and called it a social crime to have not taken part in the survey. Why declare and advertise the survey as voluntary and then use such language? Is this the language one expects from the Chief Minister of a State? No wonder that there continues to be a fear amongst certain sections of people.
4. It is unclear as to how these claims (whopping numbers even before the survey is totally complete and before data of the completed survey poured in) will serve any purpose.
Pilferage and bogus beneficiaries rule to roost because they declare false information. Monday’s survey also allowed full opportunity to continue declaring false information. This was evident from how KCR lay claim to population numbers. KCR and TRS are quite gung-ho about this survey. From a management perspective, this survey has apparently been a great success. Only time will tell if this is a success from the governance perspective too.

How The Hindu played along with Rahul's agenda

The following article has been written for Niti Central. Pasting it for reference:
I could not watch Parliament proceedings yesterday, but heard from news that Rahul Gandhi charged into the Well of the House. Channels were excited and in their happiness regarding “Rahul taking charge”, forgot that this was Parliament behaviour at its worst. In fact, from watching the channels, I didn’t even know why he charged into the Well of the House.
I get two newspapers at home in the morning. The Hindu and Eenadu (largest circulated Telugu newspaper). I could not but feel a sense of disbelief after looking at the coverage of this issue in The Hindu.
Rahul Gandhi's tamasha in Parliament, The Hindu plays ball
Rahul takes on Government”. The report conveys to us that after this “protest”, the Speaker has allowed for a discussion on “Communal Violence” in the country. Rahul Gandhi, in his brief interaction with the Press, complained that they were not being allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha!
Then I read the front page of Eenadu. It is not a banner headline, but is a front page headline.
Rahul Gandhi's tamasha in Parliament, The Hindu plays ball
The headline reads: ‘Rahul gets angry’. Five bylines are given. I will highlight the last three bylines here:
Venkaih Naidu asks Congress to list out the places where communal clashes have happened. Puts Opposition in a spot. “
Now, when I read the report from The Hindu, I had no clue, absolutely no clue that Venkaiah Naidu posed this question and the Congress did not respond. Only after reading Eenadu did I come to know that the Government gained the upper hand.
Story is not over yet. I move to the inside pages. Here’s The Hindu telling us in detail how Sonia Gandhi “orchestrated” the entire protest.
Rahul Gandhi's tamasha in Parliament, The Hindu plays ball
Ms Gandhi was seen instructing her party members….”
“She was also seen urging TMC members to join the protest”.
Nice choice of words — “Instructing”, “Urging” — it’s almost as if The Hindu is excited about Sonia Gandhi’s and Rahul Gandhi’s actions. The two supreme leaders of the Congress behave in a manner unworthy of the positions they hold. And not a squeal from our media on this!
Then I read the entire report in Eenadu. I will paste the crucial part here, and give you a rough translation:
Rahul Gandhi's tamasha in Parliament, The Hindu plays ball
Eenadu tells us, “Of late, there have been increased instances of communal clashes only from Uttar Pradesh. This explains the silence of Mulayam in the House. He cannot afford to join hands with the Congress on this protest. Despite repeated requests from the Congress, the TMC has also refused to join the protest
Eenadu has bothered to tell its readers that increased communal clashes are seen only in UP and SP is in power there. The Hindu tells us that Sonia “urged” TMC to join the protest. Eenadu tells us that the TMC has ignored this request.
BJD MP Jay Panda tweets: “LS adjournments due to disturbances by the largest oppn party (including their leaders). Sm1 asked me what they want. My guess: relevance.”
Even this tweet finds no mention in the report by The Hindu. I am glad I have access to various sources of information. What about those who don’t have this access? This was pretty much the coverage style of the entire English language TV media as well. Instead of calling out the boorish behaviour of the party President and Vice-President, we are treated to a “Rahul takes on Government” and “Sonia supports Rahul” report.
Congress, with its communal agenda, seems to be raking up passions. Sections of the media seem more than willing to play their game. Pity our discourse is stooping to new lows daily.

The pangs of separation..

The following article was written for Niti Central. Pasting it here for reference:
When the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Bill was first approved by the UPA Cabinet and sent to the Andhar Pradesh Assembly for its views, I wrote in Niti Central on why this Bill is a contentious one. The Bill provided for a common capital, common High Court, common Governor, and common entrance exam pattern. If everything substantial remained common for a period of 10 years, I wondered what exact purpose is this bifurcation achieving? Some of these are basic contentious issues that were supposed to be resolved ‘before’ the State split.
As has been predicted, the issue of common Governor and common exam pattern has kicked up a storm between the two new States – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Let’s examine these issues now.
Who is a “Student of Telangana”?
One of the biggest reasons for YSR winning in 2009 and YSRCP garnering 67 seats in 2014 is the Fee Reimbursement programme introduced by YSR. Under this programme, economically backward families will be fully reimbursed with the fee they have incurred on their child’s education in degree colleges. Needless to say, even well-to-do families utilised this scheme by producing fake certificates. Since this heaped good electoral dividends, it was expected the new Governments of Telangana and Andhar Pradesh will continue with the programme.
The Telangana Government re-christened the programme to FAST (Financial Assistance to Students of Telangana). Who is a “student of Telangana”? According to the Government, anyone who traces back his ancestry to Telangana before 1956! Let me give you a couple of examples (most plausible ones):
1. If I was born in Hyderabad in 1991; if my dad was born in Hyderabad in 1961; if my grandad was born in Tirupati (or Chennai or Delhi) in 1931 and moved to Hyderabad in 1957 – then I am ‘not’ a “Student of Telangana”.
2. If my dad moved to Hyderabad anytime after 1956 (say as early as 1958), and I was born and bought up in Nizamabad from 1993, then I am ‘not’ a Student of Telangana”.
Essentially, students now will have to face hardships because their grandfathers have not settled in Telangana region before 1956! One argument being put forth is that this is for “economically backward” students, who form a miniscule portion anyway. The counter argument is that why should even a minuscule portion suffer because of the whims of the party in power? The second most important point is this – will the Government extend the concept of “Student of Telangana” to the admission process too?
For example: Osmania University guidelines suggest that if a student has studied for four continuous years prior to admission into degree colleges, in Hyderabad, he/she automatically qualifies to be a “local” for admission purposes. What does the new rule imply now? The Government has refused to give any clarity on this so far.
The Reorganisation Act calls for continuation of the existing pattern of common entrance exams. The Telangana Government is seeking more time to come up with the guidelines for admission process. The engineering, agricultural and medicine entrance test got over in May itself. While the AP Government is insisting on speedy counselling process, KCR wants time till October 30, so that the “process of bifurcation” is fully complete! The Act is very clear, but the Telangana Government insists on wanting more time. There is fear that his Government is contemplating such hare-brained rules for domicile status, as the one decided above.
UPA, in its haste, has left open the question of domicile. The pangs of separation are beginning to hurt students who will suffer for no fault of theirs, but for a decision of their grandfather or great-grand fathers! Quite obviously, the AP Government is taking up the issue. The sad part is that KCR continues to fan the “our children” versus “other children” rivalry.
Who controls Law and Order in Hyderabad?
The Act is very clear – “The Governor shall, after consulting the Council of Ministers of Telangana, exercise his individual judgement” with respect to issues of law and order in Hyderabad; and “The decision….shall not be called into question”.
One of the first things the Government of Telangana did after coming to power was to demolish illegal buildings in certain areas of Hyderabad. The TDP took up this issue saying that KCR is purposely destroying properties of people belonging to Andhra regions! They immediately called for handing over of law and order in Hyderabad to the Governor because the properties of people from Andhra are at stake! While the Act clearly states that the Governor exercises control, it is yet to be seen to be happening on the field. The Telangana Government is insisting that the control should lie with them and not the Governor.
For the record, it is a welcome move to demolish illegal buildings – so please don’t see this article as supporting the argument of TDP! The key issue is that the issues mentioned in the Act are not being implemented on the ground.
What about power?
The Act stipulates that all existing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) shall stay – power distribution will be according to usage and not according to population. This essentially means there will be little or no change in the power distribution process too! However, one of the first things that the AP Government has asked is to cancel these PPAs and enter into new ones! AP will be a power surplus State if they get to use all the power generated in AP. To avoid such a situation, the Act basically stipulated a status quo argument. However, AP is not happy with it and is insisting on new agreements. The Modi Government has rejected this move by AP Government, but this issue continues to be a bone of contention.
It’s been just about 50 days since the new States have come into being. A clarity is yet to emerge on various issues – something that both the Chief Ministers make at every available opportunity. Both CMs are trying to instill confidence in their respective States by speaking of a glorious future. The day-day functioning though inspires little. It remains to be seen how the States will cope up with the pangs of separation.