With All Due Respect

As Anna persists with his fast and the Government wobbles along in rudderless fashion, the media is actively courting sound bites from the well-known. Arundhati Roy and Nandan Nilekani are two famous names that have been drawn into the feeding frenzy of late. While Ms. Roy wrote an article on the issue, Mr. Nilekani gave an interview or two. Another blog on TOI did a thorough job of exposing Ms. Roy’s inaccuracies among other things. It’s deeply disappointing to see an acclaimed author and activist indulge in hurling unsubstantiated accusations. I suspect the unprecedented rise of Anna triggered her perennial “oligarchy alert” that momentarily confused and befuddled her thinking.

Mr. Nilekani, on the other hand, while raising some interesting points which are bound to get the techies to salivate, fell rather short on other issues by indulging in broad inane generalities. For instance, he says, “you don’t fix cars by having more guys to inspect cars.” This is a naïve characterization of the anti-corruption debate. Lokpal is not about having more “inspectors.” It is about having a place to lodge complaints with the guarantee that these will be investigated. Next he says, “I am not a great believer that if you pass a law, corruption will miraculously vanish.” This is a deplorable and most annoying canard being spread by the anti-Anna brigade. Who in his or her right mind would ever say that corruption can be wiped out with a single law?

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Top 10 things the UPA Can Do to Turn Things Around

I have heard that a number of Indian commercial films are made without a fully written script. In other words, the script falls into place as the movie is made. The current anti-corruption saga seems to be unfolding in a very similar fashion, with the UPA in the director’s seat. At the moment, the UPA seems to be completely clueless on how to end this film.

At every stage in this battle, Team Anna seems to be ahead of the game, and to make matters worse for the UPA, Team Anna clearly has tremendous public support that only seems to be growing by the minute. How can the UPA stem the rot? Having completely lost face multiple times in this battle, is there room for a comeback? The good news for the UPA is that the Opposition is still unable to take advantage of the situation.

Here are ten things the UPA could do to win back the hearts and minds of the people, pave the way for Rahul Gandhi, and set the Opposition on the back foot – a perfect happy ending after a lot of melodrama.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

All options should be on the table

Recent events have proven that there is clearly a groundswell of support for strong anti-corruption laws. The first phase of show of strength between the Government and Team Anna is now over. The government grossly underestimated Anna’s reach, credibility, and grassroots support. If attacking his credibility didn’t work, arresting him only made it worse. All the naysayers and Anna’s critics should now have their answer loud and clear. Like it or not, the vast majority of people in India back Team Anna.

Unlike what the UPA government would have us believe, the support for Team Anna is not a mass hysteria realized by false propaganda. The series of outrageous scams that have shocked the country have driven the average man on the street to rebel against a government that has failed to take effective steps to counter corruption. Team Anna has served as the catalyst to inspire our masses into action.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Is the UPA Government Driving Off a Cliff?

The Congress party’s handling of the Anna Hazare’s upcoming fast leaves a bad taste in the month. It is fairly evident, as pointed out by Kiran Bedi, that the Delhi police was acting on behalf of the Government of India. The terms imposed on Team Anna by the Delhi police – arbitrary limitations on number of people, cars, days, etc. – are downright ridiculous, besides being unconstitutional. It appears as though the Govt. is trying to derail the fast by imposing random roadblocks.

When Team Anna approached the PM, instead of grabbing the opportunity to assert himself, he responded with a typical, damp squib. “Talk to the Delhi Police.” This is akin to a school principal arbitrarily telling his PT teacher that the children can’t play in the playground, and when the kids take the issue to the principal, he sends them promptly back to the PT teacher! The least the PM could do is to treat our citizens like adults and be more forthcoming on where exactly he stands on the issue.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Age Limits Won’t Do the Trick

I came across a recent news report where Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys, said that politicians must have a retirement age of 60. For the longest time, we have had politicians all the way up to the upper echelons of India’s decision-making hierarchy, who are well into their 60s, 70s, and even 80s. If you apply Murthy’s newly minted law, an entire swathe of our top level political leadership across party lines will automatically be disqualified from their present positions.

Next, you have a stratum of future leaders who have grown up the ranks through traditional “goondagiri.” In most cases, these folks never got a formal education and joined the various political parties early on in their lives because it was an easy way to earn a basic livelihood. By doing nuts-and-bolts party work, they have established loyalties for various leaders and owe “everything” to their party bosses. This group, unfortunately, forms the backbone of our political establishment and if it moves up to take over the leadership of our country, then all bets are off.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Deewar 2.0: Team Anna goes to Parliament

My deepest gratitude to Minister Khurshid Alam Khan for injecting the 1980s Bollywood blockbuster “Deewar” into our public discourse during his latest speech in Parliament. His speech served as the inspiration for this piece. What you read below is completely fictional and tongue-in-cheek and is not intended to offend anyone or accuse anyone of any wrong doing. So sit back, relax and enjoy .  (Knowledge of Hindi and Tamil will be a huge plus in appreciating the intended humor).

Anna ambles into Parliament for a joint session with both houses, accompanied by his team of Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan. He begins rather softly, “Mere pyare bhaiyon aur behanon, Jan Lokpal bill hamare desh ke liye bahut zaroori hai …. Mujhe yakeen hai ke aap sub log Jan Lokpal bill zaroor sign karenge….”

After a brief speech, he turns to Sharad Pawar and says, “Pawar sahab, aap pehle Jan Lokpal bill sign kar dijiye, kyunki aap desh ke senior minister hain.”

Pawar looks at him and says rather dolefully, “Anna-ji, yaad hai, jab aap Ralegaon mein ……” Sounding a little irritated, Anna interrupts, “Pawar sahab, aap sign karoge, ya nahin?”

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

Pappu Can’t Dance, Anna Can’t Fast

The Chief Minister of Karnataka, home to India’s Silicon Valley, who was buried in corruption charges, finally resigned from his post and promptly proclaimed, “I am a free man.” How long will it be before our judicial system puts him and his cronies behind bars? The Telecom scandal of the 1990s featuring Sukh Ram took over 10 years to wind its way through our legal system, so Yeddurappa is probably a free man for several years to come. Meanwhile, the king-pin in the multi-crore CWG scam, Kalamadi, is claiming dementia.

Appalled by this and a litany of many more such scams, we have Anna Hazare, with an illustrious life dedicated to the service of the nation, on a war-footing to eradicate corruption, backed by scores of supporters. He wishes to fast unto death and our government won’t let him do that. If you ask me, given the dismal state of the country, we should be thankful that a man of his credibility, stature and deep sense of patriotism does not actually kill himself in despair!

To read the rest of the article on the Economic Times site click here

Lokpal Na Milega Dobara

Ok, that’s a rather tacky title. I’ll be the first to admit that. But jokes apart, the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara has some interesting takeaways for most people. So I couldn’t resist the title. This movie is about three friends who decide to reconnect and go on a road trip across Spain. There is plenty of banter, some hilarious comedy combined with some clever dialogues that make the film truly enjoyable, though it was a little over-stretched, especially towards the end. Hrithik Roshan plays Arjun, a workaholic financial broker, who wants to rake in all the moolah he possibly can by the age of forty and then take it easy. Farhan Akthar plays the role of Imran, a free-spirited advertising copywriter, while Abhay Deol plays Kabir, who runs a construction business and is engaged to be married to an interior designer.

During this road trip across Spain, they meet a half-British, half-Indian girl, Laila, played by Katrina Kaif. Laila and Arjun hit it off despite their general difference in outlook towards life. The film essentially highlights the importance of seizing the day and living in the present rather than planning for a future that may never exist. It also illustrates how breaking out of our day-to-day routines and doing something completely different for a while helps one get out of the rut, so to speak, and view the world with a different perspective and in a totally new light. Arjun, for instance, realizes that there is more to life than just making money. Kabir comes to the realization that he does not have to follow through on a commitment just because he was caught in a situation merely by circumstances.

To read the rest of the article on the Economic Times site click here

Individual Goodness Alone Won’t End Corruption

One of the common arguments put forth by many is that anti-corruption must start from within, at a very personal level. “When you are stopped by a policeman for a traffic violation, would you stop paying a bribe? When you want to get ahead in the line in a government office, would you stop paying a bribe?” they ask. In other words, they believe that in order to eradicate corruption, everyone must pledge not to encourage corruption in any form themselves — it is a question of our personal values and the culture of our society as a whole. Extending this view, they argue that this is the ultimate solution for our corruption woes and that no law is going to have any impact as long as this change does not take shape in the minds of each one of our citizens.

In an ideal world, these are truly noble, idealistic intentions that can certainly help alleviate corruption. The reality in today’s India, however, is very different. A policemen accepts a bribe because he simply can’t make ends meet with the salary he receives. Besides, he knows that this is a safe and easy way to make money without getting into trouble. The reason why he is looking to make extra money is because the salary he receives is not commensurate with the increasing cost of living.

To read the rest of the article on the Economic Times site click here