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April 27, 2016

Three politicians in a Bombay local train

Filed under: bombay, democracy, governance, India, jaago rey, politics — neosurya @ 17:42

Three politicians got into a fast local as it was pulling out of Kalyan headed towards CST: Left, right, and Congressi.
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Stop 1. Kalyan: Hardly any people sitting on the seats, mostly empty train.
Left:   This is an abomination. In the name of development, the Govt has stolen land from farmers to build useless trains.
Right:    Can we sell the empty seats to Reliance?
Congressi: All hail Indira. The train should stop at minority railway stations like Thakurli, Diwa etc.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
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Stop 2. Thane: All seats had been taken.
Left: What about the poor farmers outside Bombay? These trains have never created any benefit for the poor people outside Bombay.
Right: Can we sell the standing place to Reliance?
Congressi: All hail Rajeev. What do you mean the train is fast? How do the other stations develop?
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
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Stop 3. Ghatkopar: There are four people sitting on each bench that is meant for three. More than 50% of the standing space has been taken up.
Left: This is a class struggle !!! How can the trains have seats for only three people when clearly the public demand is for four seats.
Right: Can we remove the seats completely, and sell them to Adani?
Congressi: All hail Sonia. We have to protect the interests of minorities in Ghatkopar. They rarely get a window seat. There must be reservation and special law for all stations after Thane.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
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Stop4. Kurla: All the standing space is taken up.
Left: This is clearly the time for revolution !!! Farmers and villagers have spilled their blood for the train, now they have no space left.
Right: This train is not serving the purpose. Let us invite consultants from private sector to build a new train.
Congressi: All hail Rahul. Rahul baba will come to supervise the conditions of trains. He will connect with the youth and the marginalized.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?
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Stop 5. Dadar: There is no place in the compartment. People hanging for dear life from outside the train.
Left: We have to open the eyes of the world to see this oppression !!! We will write editorials and documentaries about the unjust Indian society, culture and history that has lead to this sad state of affiars.
Right: We will build a bullet train from Kalyan to CST, covering this distance in 10 minutes. There will be no crowds, and it will not stop at any of the pesky stations on the way. It will cost 6000 crores which will be repaid over the next 50 years.
Congressi: We have convened a national convention that has recommended common minimum seat demand. Accordingly, we will have a high power commission that will commission separate trains for each station. There will be reservations for each station on each train. There will be separate ticket collectors for passengers from each station.
Common man: Will this train reach on time?

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Last stop. Between Dadar and CST: There is a blast in one of the compartment.
Left: This violence is the expression of people supressed by fascist, regressive policies. We stand in solidarity.
Right: Attack Pakistan. Enter Burma.
Congressi: We realize your pain. Gandhi family also made a huge sacrifice for the nation.
Common man: Will I get to work and return to my family after work? Can someone please kill these three politicians?

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Distance between Kalyan and CST is about 70 Kms. There are about 25 stations between Kalyan and CST. The fast local trains in Bombay stop at about 6 of them. Slow trains stop at all stations. People from all religions and walks of life travel in complete peace and harmony. A banker rubs shoulders with a dabbawala, and a student all in the same compartment. There are rarely any fights, and certainly not for seats.

Kanhaiya Kumar spoke about “fights” for seats in the local trains of Bombay. I grew up in the lovely city, went to school and college. I travelled in these trains and BEST buses for a major part. Politicians like Kanhaiya can only fabricate divisive issues. It is a sad state of affairs that the common man gets crushed between these selfish interests.The media routinely replay words from these politicians. Who will replay the true emotions of people?

September 23, 2010

The Commonwealth dRain…

Filed under: common man, democracy, India, politics, social change — Tags: , — neosurya @ 09:56

A few days down the line, we would have headlines that say – India is largest Gold medal winner at the commonwealth games. Guess why??? None of the leading athletes from other countries would attend, that is why. Several top athletes have pulled out of the games – some citing health reasons, some security, and still others – “personal causes”. These are but euphemisms to hide the true cause: (i) Unscrupulous contractors have used this event as a money making mechanism. True, media may have blown some of the problems, but we have to admit that there is no guarantee of good construction. The main Stadium, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had been constructed in 1982. Most of the costs have been toward renovation. Renovation can be expensive, but not Rs 70,000 crores. (ii) Delhi has become an unplanned mess, with the local populace considering the event not as something to be proud of, but as another Government activity that they have to bear. This event could have been held at a place like Bhopal, or Nagpur, or some other town that needed infrastructure. (iii) There is likely to be little audience for the event. Maybe the Govt. could bring in truck loads of people promising them biriyani and a packet of hoonch like they do for the elections. Some of these “common” people could even participate in a game or two – maybe high jump, to leave the stadia and run from the boredom. (iv) Organizing machinery that exudes absolutely no confidence to attendees [1].

Civil servants in charge of the event may be able to pull off a magic trick or two. But people of calibre, like top athletes rarely not put their trust in magic tricks. They trust planning and strategy. The only people adopting strategy seem to be contractors who have come up with methods to fleece tax payers. About Rs 70,000 seems to have been spent on the games [1, 2], while the original budget seems to have been for Rs 11,494 crores [1]. The games had been awarded seven years ago[1, 2]; there was no need to have delayed construction for so long. Even the smallest component could have been finished well in advance.

Like in a dark, paradoxical comedy, a saving grace could be that  Dilli has floods, and the Yamuna is a meter above the flood level. The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is about 2 Kms from the Yamuna (View map here). It is also the stadium that would host the commonwealth games, if they happen that is. Officials behind the commonwealth games can now blame a likely sham on the Gods.

A list of athletes who pulled out: Australia: Stephanie Rice, Dani Samuels. Kenya: David Rudisha, Edwin Soi, Asbel Kiprop, Linet Masai. Jamaica: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell. England: Andy Murray, Lisa Dobriskey [1, 2]. Some of these withdrawals are due to injuries.

July 4, 2009

Times of India ads on You Tube

Filed under: ads, common man, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — neosurya @ 09:05

The media houses have some really great ads these days. The Lead India Campaign “Tree” video is popular anyhow, but here are some more:

Ad about the Indian national anthem:

Aaj Tak ad on Eve-Teasing:

Aaj Tak ad on Smoking:

A video on Bombay (More nostalgic than real tho):

TOI take on a nakli 100-rupee note:

TOI hockey ad:

Commercial cricket, not a commercial on cricket:

Indian independence day (Dont know the source):

Corruption works:

May 21, 2009

News summary May 21 2009

Filed under: democracy, India, news — Tags: , — neosurya @ 06:37

‘Ultimate fighting’, a sport with few rules, has raised a storm in Germany
TOI, Bangalore Edition, Editorial page

Just when I was beginning to think that news has become boring, did something very titillating appear in the editorial pages. Apparently:

‘Ultimate fighters’ are men who maul each other with bare knuckles and feet in octagonal cages, a setting straight out of Mad Max. And they can go all out in terms of brutality. About the only thing a UFC participant can’t do is bite his opponent or gouge out his eyes.
….Why do men no longer kill each other in duels, sword fights and other blood-andgore exploits, as they once did with little or no social disapproval? The reason is a civilising process that turned man from savage to human being.COUNTER VIEW:

That the level of violence on display in the mixed martial arts franchise can be difficult to stomach for some people is understandable. But the contestants are willing participants and the viewers are not coerced. They are acting out of free will and there are simply no grounds to deny them that right. Fears that it will contribute to a culture of violence are overblown.

There is an element of hypocrisy on display as well. If Ultimate Fighting is to be reviled, what of boxing? The contestants in the latter wear gloves but it can be every bit as bloody. There are well-known instances of serious injuries and even death in the ring. Or what, for that matter, of bullfighting? It does not make it any less of a blood sport because animals, not humans, are being butchered.

One author wrote against the Ultimate Fighting sport, while the other wrote for it. I wonder how much the prize money would be for the winner of this game. And also, which ads would appear during the “breaks”.

An unfinished agenda
TOI, Bangalore Edition, Editorial page

The article is mainly about decentralizing power from Delhi, and the oft-repeated quote that democracy has to come from bottom up. It claims that the Congress will lead to increased strengthening of the Panchayat and Nagarpalia (local governments). Excerpts from the article:

It has long been obvious that India needs more decentralisation. The freedom movement required rallying an entire nation. A centralised political organisation fighting for one cause was needed. After independence, a different political pattern was required. Mahatma Gandhi convened a meeting of Congress leaders in Sevagram in March 1948 to discuss how the organisation could reform itself to meet the challenges of social and economic development. Though he was assassinated in January, the meeting was held as he had desired. The record of that meeting was published in 2007 in a fascinating book, Gandhi is Gone. Who Will Guide Us Now?
In the meeting, Vinoba Bhave made a case for a new form of organisation unlike the hierarchical entities then considered necessary for government, political parties and large businesses. It would be a network of local organisations. He explained that only such an organisation could preserve the spirit of service whereas hierarchical entities would dissipate their energies in internal matters and power politics.
Acharya Kripalani supported Bhave’s argument. “Without decentralisation, democracy is an empty falsehood,” he said. “Centralisation brings bureaucracy. Bureaucracy and technocracy are both equally the enemies of democracy.” Others in the meeting, however, wondered how activities managed in the loose manner Bhave proposed could ever be ‘scaled up’ to have a widespread effect.

India is diverse and has huge challenges of sustainable social and economic development. Unlike China, it also has political plurality and democracy.

But the critical requirement is to decentralise power. Rajiv Gandhi moved amendments to the Constitution to pass on power to panchayats and urban local bodies. Politicians and bureaucrats, however, will not let go of the power they have. Therefore, it is for Congress leaders to fulfil the unfinished agenda.

The writer is quite supportive of the Congress. When I woke up today morning, DD had a long infomercial about Rajiv Gandhi and the Panchayati Raj. Here is an excerpt from his speech: PDF file. NREGA is a good scheme created by the Govt. But it also has a dole out model built in. I wonder if these well-meaning ideals may turn socialist.

Hillary trashes 30 years of US policy towards Pakistan
TOI, Bangalore Edition, page 18
One more reason why humans fight:

“I think that it is fair to say that our policy toward Pakistan over the last 30 years has been incoherent. I don’t know any other word to use. We came in the ’80s and helped to build up the Mujahideen to take on the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis were our partners in that. The Soviet Union fell in 1989, and we basically said, thank you very much; we had all kinds of sanctions being imposed on the Pakistanis,” Clinton said at a White House event where she announced an emergency $ 110 million aid to Pakistan for the humanitarian crisis in Swat.

Nearly 20,000 slots still left in H-1B visas
TOI, Bangalore Edition, page 18
I guess one can still go to Buffalo after all !!!

7-yr-old found dead in state BJP chief’s car
TOI, Mumbai Edition, page 1
The excerpts of this article should say it all:

Maharashtra’s BJP boss Nitin Gadkari was embroiled in a nasty controversy on Tuesday following the discovery of the body of a seven-yearold girl from one of his cars and allegations that the class III student had been raped.

a local doctor had been summoned to Gadkari’s home immediately after the body was discovered. The doctor declared the girl dead and Yogita’s body was then taken to her home in a rickshaw by her mother and sister. The girl’s father Ashok Thakre said that he was shocked when he saw his wife Vimla entering their home with Yogita’s body. “We rushed her to the Government Medical College and Hospital,’’ said Thakre. Surprisingly, no one bothered to inform the police and a case was filed only after a local activist, Kishore Ingle, intervened late at night.

“It was hot and she (Yogita) could not endure the heat with her frail heart. All other theories behind her death are politically driven,’’

May 1, 2009

Forms of Democracy

Filed under: democracy, India, politics — neosurya @ 02:07

Democracy was introduced in several of our history or civics books as “Government for the people, of the people, and by the people”. The statement came from Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. Most arm-chair politicians in India (The middle class has scores of them) have passed judgment that democracy has ceased to serve its intended purpose. But has it? Is there nothing we can do to improve upon what we have? There are several variants of democracy; some are practiced, and some are in theory (These subjects are poorly studied *). We follow a parliamentary democracy with first past the post system of elections. A few salient repercussions of our form of democracy, and how we could improve:

  1. A representative is elected by a very large population of people; it is unrealistic that the representative can directly interact with even a small percentage of people that voted for him. For a population of a billion people, we have 543 representatives [1, 2].
  2. It is difficult to dismiss or replace the representative. I think the only legal option for people to demand that an Lok Sabha MP step down is to file a Public Interest Litigation. The executive (Rajya Sabha / President) positively does not have any powers to recommend that an Lok Sabha MP should be fired. The speaker can suspend a Lok Sabha MP (Rule 374A). The only conclusive, and fast way is for an MP to resign voluntarily. In such a scenario, our rules specify that another MP may be delegated the functions of a resigning MP, or a request would be sent to the election commission to organize bye-elections. Bye-elections are often expensive [1]. A Rajya Sabha MP may be disqualified if he changes his political affiliations after getting the seat; he may not even vote against his party opinion.

The US has a presidential system, and you can read about the differences with a parliamentary system here. A couple of interesting democracies are:

Direct Democracy [1]: This is a system where all citizen directly participate in the decision process for their community. A partial version of this is present in the California Government.

Liquid Democracy [1, 2]: A concept where people can transfer their votes to each other. For example, 100 people decide to give their votes to X. Then X will have 101 votes (100 votes given by others plus his own vote). X can also transfer these 101 votes to another person. Further, a voter can take his vote back at any time. Variations of liquid democracy have the ability to solve problem 1 given above, and to a certain extent even 2.

Primaries among political parties: Political parties hold internal elections to determine who their candidates for a particular constituency should be. LokSatta is one such party in India; when two or more LokSatta members wish to contest elections from a single seat, an election is held by the party in that constituency, and the member who gets most votes is taken as the candidate [Example: 1, 2].  In the US, primaries are held slightly differently; only members of the political party get to vote during the primaries. This is a simplistic explanation though, there are rules like for example senior members of the democratic party having more weight [1].

One model is better than the other in certain aspects, and some could be very useful to enhance the system in India. But until the electorate get interested in their society, no system would help.


*The formal study of politics is limited to humanities or social sciences.The low market value of these studies is stark in India, but it is equally true elsewhere. Typical US University budgets allotted to areas like the humanities are lousy; humanities cannot be “sold” unlike an ipod and this makes it a less attractive magnet for funding.

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