Monday, August 24, 2015

Comparing governments:

Hum Sarkaar hum mai baap syndrome. Rogues gallery. With the cockiness and ferociousness of a bull dozer.
Consider Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh, Manish Tewari, Renuka Chowdhury, Veerappa Moily, Nominal head: see-no-good, do-no-good, speak-no-good-or-bad MMS.
Run with an iron hand by the woman with an iron fist and sardar of cockiness SG.
(Aside: her recent embrace with Sumitra Mahajan should be included as a must in psychology text books for the study of body language. Mahajan went all out and would have even touched her feet to get that hug; Ms G barely yielded, the stiff upper and lower lip intact)

Sarkaar ki aisi-taisi syndrome. Even when in sarkaar.
Persecution complex. Auto-tuned to revolt and rebel, whether it is against the government of the day or their own partymen. Even in government, their primary job is to demand rights, perks, privileges and when those are granted, to ask for some more. The world conspires and AAP fights them all.

Hum akele sarkaar banane ke liye kaafi hain. All work and no play as PM and PMO plays hawk. Sleepless nights syndrome. For the first time, ministerial berths and key bureaucratic posts are looking for takers. Incumbents are begging off work. Kursi nahi chahiye, neend chahiye!

Take your pick.

Friday, April 17, 2015

From the Truman Library and Museum in Independence Missouri, an unnamed source sent someone four telegrams that were between Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur on the day before the actual signing of the Surrender Agreement. The contents of those four telegrams below are exactly as received, not a word has been added or deleted!
(1) Tokyo,Japan
0800-September 1,1945
To: President Harry S Truman
From: General D A MacArthur
Tomorrow we meet with those yellow bellied bastards and sign the Surrender Documents, any last minute instructions!
(2) Washington, D C
1300-September 1, 1945
To: D A MacArthur
From: H S Truman
Congratulations, job well done, but you must tone down your obvious dislike of the Japanese when discussing the terms of the surrender with the press, because some of your remarks are fundamentally not politically correct!
(3) Tokyo, Japan
1630-September 1, 1945
To: H S Truman
From: D A MacArthur and C H Nimitz
Wilco Sir, but both Chester and I are somewhat confused, exactly what does the term politically correct mean?
(4) Washington, D C
2120-September 1, 1945
To: D A MacArthur/C H Nimitz
From: H S Truman
Political Correctness is a doctrine, recently fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Vinod Mehta was my first editor. We had a free, informal and easy work environment. He was known for picking the best available team and Independent in 1989 surely was the pick of the lot.
Everyone had funny anecdotes about him.
Among my funniest memories had me with a bunch of ticker copies in my hand held behind and leaning forward on the chief sub's desk, to look at some more copies. (In those days, we got PTI and UNI on a dot matrix printer which we had to sort. We also got them on our desktops but computers were new back then and sorting on a desktop was not that streamlined).
I felt a gentle tug at the files in my hand behind. I absently gripped my copies harder while continuing to look at something; another gentle tug and i again gripped it harder, refusing to let go, again absently, engrossed in whatever exciting stuff it was that I was reading on the desk in front of me. A third tug and I finally lost my patience. I straightened up, turned around and saw Vinod a foot away, bent almost double, completely focussed on the copies in my hand.
"Oh!" I turned red with embarrassment and let go of the copies which he attacked with great haste and greed. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a tableload of sub-editors, watching the scene with great merriment, some giggling at the weird sub-editor and her weirder editor. Later, one of them asked me, "For God's sake, WHY couldnt you turn and give him the copies??"
I wanted to know, "And WHY couldn't he simply ask for them instead of trying to prise them out of my hand? He is the editor after all?"
The seniors amongst us answered, "Well, that's Vinod." Indeed.


Thursday, October 02, 2014

My take onMission Swachch Bharat:

Mission Swachch Bharat: Move towards zero waste

Thursday, 2 October 2014 - 5:00am IST Updated: Wednesday, 1 October 2014 - 10:12pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Modi's Swachch Bharat initiative should herald rehaul of refuse disposal systems in our country

Two months ago, Maharashtra environment secretary RA Rajeev lamented at a workshop that no Chief Minister or Prime Minister had ever spoken of a litter-free country. As if on cue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken up. And how.
Modi is the first national-level politician to take up cleanliness as a national priority. He raised the issue first in his Independence Day address, then on Teacher’s Day, in Bangalore and even in the US. He will launch Mission Swachch Bharat on October 2, the birth anniversary of a person many believe is anathema to Modi.
Never before has such stature been enjoyed by the cause of cleanliness and sanitation -- issues that are joined at the hip and translate into health and life at the front end. Sweeping has always been a lowly chore in India, steadfastly so because of its unattractiveness as a vote-getting cause.
The solid waste problem in India is immense. Given our resilient yen for littering and high tolerance for squalor, Modi’s emphatic focus on garbage removal is not just necessary but essential. If we do manage to achieve the seemingly impossible target of garbage clearance at the street and the doorstep, we would have covered the first -- and biggest in terms of its scale -- stage of the waste conundrum.
There is much more to waste management than collection and dumping. Without going into the different types of waste or their hazard potential, the obvious steps in an integrated approach towards a more civilised and sustainable waste disposal system are reduction of waste, segregation of waste at source, local composting, treatment, recycling and re-use. Only the waste left over at the end of this chain should be incinerated, with an energy conversion component built in if feasible. Landfilling should be the absolute last option for non-recoverable waste, and when inevitable, it should be done in a sanitary way, not in open landfills. Incidentally, Japan has an island, Odaiba, constructed over a landfill site in Tokyo Bay.
In India, waste management has not evolved as a sector. A PIL by Almitra Patel against open dumping of waste in 1996 led to the drafting of rules by a Supreme Court-appointed committee to provide a legal framework for a range of activities such as generation, storage, collection, transportations, processing and disposal into a sanitary landfill, etc.
A detailed report by a technical advisory group set up by the government dwells on processing and disposal, cost-effective solutions, etc. Yet, most efforts at composting and treatment are individual and informal. India has waste-to-energy plants and recycling factories, many of which recycle waste from countries like Nepal and Bhutan. We also have some exemplary showcases. Suryapet in Telangana is India’s first waste-complaint city with zero garbage. Namakkal, a district town in Tamil Nadu, has privatised its waste management systems, enforces door-to-door collection with source segregation, vermi-composting of organic garbage and sale of recyclables. But what is needed is a macro overhaul enhancing, integrating, and streamlining all the cogs in the wheel.
To work our way up from segregation to re-use, an architectural framework comprising the government/local bodies, private sector and/or public-private partnership, NGOs and public needs to be put in place. Local municipalities can coerce compliance through a string of laws and levies on the creation and collection of waste such as a landfill tax, capping per capita waste generation, penalising certain types of inorganic waste.
Countries not just in the developed West but even in our neighbourhood have seamlessly moved to a system of waste reduction. Dhaka slums have taken to open-air barrel composting and collect $20 per ton carbon credits. Singapore, which faces land scarcity like most of urban India, has a recycling rate of over 60 %. In particular, its near-complete recycling of construction debris holds out hope for a rapidly urbanising country like ours.
Singapore’s charges for waste disposal disincentivise generation by construction companies.
European Union countries have done better than most in this area. The European waste hierarchy has five steps: prevention, reuse, recycle, energy recovery and disposal. Its directives include the principles of ‘polluter pays’ and ‘extended producer responsibility’.
Sweden, which came together as a nation for waste management, sees waste as a resource and not as a problem. Almost half of its waste goes into incineration with energy recovery. A world leader in food waste treatment, its food waste is separated and treated to recover biogas and bio-fertiliser. Sweden’s landfilling shrunk from 62 % in 1975 to just 1% a year ago. Measures such as landfill tax, ban on dumping combustible and organic waste, energy tax to make waste-derived energy more attractive, and lowering of taxes on use of bio-fuels drove the change.
On the other hand, the Flemish region of Belgium, Flanders, discourages incineration except for waste that cannot be controlled or prevented. It has one of the best programmes of waste mitigation and recycling. It recycles and re-uses three-fourths of its household waste while discouraging incineration. From about five decades ago when open dumping was common, it has closed most dumping sites.
Landfill and incineration restrictions were introduced in 1998. Half of its population today is into home composting. The Flanders waste management agency, OVAM, has developed a tool, Ecolizer, to help an enterpreneur work out the environmental burden of a product from design, make, processing, energy use, transport and recycling, thereby enabling a suitable change in its design. The cost of recycling is integrated into the product price.
Not technology or economy but a mix of factors woven into the administrative vision, coupled with public will, can deliver the progression to zero waste.
Modi has taken the first giant step by lending his considerable weight to the issue. It’s a good beginning. On our part, we will have to retrain ourselves to understand that waste management is not the exclusive domain of civic authorities. We are equal stakeholders and should do what we can right away -- reduce, segregate, re-use and compost at home.
The author is a senior journalist based in Mumbai 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's a joke, not what happened with me. Please!

Several days ago, as I left a meeting, I desperately gave myself a personal search. I was looking for my keys.

They were not in my pockets. A quick search in the meeting room revealed nothing.

Suddenly I realized I must have left them in the car. Frantically, I headed for the car park.
My husband has scolded me many times for leaving the keys in the ignition.
My theory is the ignition is the best place not to lose them. His theory is that the car will be stolen.

As I scanned the car park I came to a terrifying conclusion! His theory was right. The car park was empty.

I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, confessed that I had left my keys in the car, and that it had been stolen.

Then I made the most difficult call of all.
"Hello My Love", I stammered; I always call him "My Love" in times like these. "I left my keys in the car, and it has been stolen."

There was a period of silence. I thought the call had disconnected, but then I heard his voice. He barked, "I dropped you off!"

Now it was my time to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, "Well, come and get me."

He retorted, "I will, as soon as I convince this policeman I have not stolen your damn car."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Indian Muslims must support Prime Minister Modi 

Syed Ata Hasnain

A roller coaster of an election has led to a result exceeding people's expectations. For India's Muslim population, the largest minority in the world, it is more of a shock. Their worst fears have come true, especially those who view Indian politics from a narrow prism of ideology and faith. The BJP, the supposed ultra nationalist, right wing, anti-Muslim party, will rule India with a majority of its own. This was unimaginable a couple of years ago when the common refrain was the assumption that the BJP could never go beyond the Hindi heartland and, therefore, could never secure its own majority.
The Indian Muslims, confused as they are, by the plethora of political parties that woo them and treat them as a vote bank, were so thunder struck by the electoral results that an ominous silence marked most of their gatherings. 
There are a few things that the Indian Muslims must keep in mind. First, that they are Indians by choice and, therefore, enjoy the fruits of India's democratic success and stability unlike so many others in the neighbourhood who share their faith. Secondly, the Indian political system has matured over 65 years, as has the electorate. The appeal of narrow issues such as faith and ideology does not matter as much as the attraction of social and economic progress. This inevitably happens in multi-faith and multi-cultural societies where the initial gains of nationhood are selfishly acquired. As systems mature the common goals and the common good are realised.
The initial sulk by the Indian Muslims after Independence was a result of their lack of confidence in their own decision and the initial euphoria in Pakistan about a land dedicated to the subcontinent's Muslims. The euphoria diluted over a period of time and today the psyche of an average Pakistani is reflected in Mahwash Badar's bold article - 'Jinnah made a Mistake and I am 
Ashamed of being a Pakistani' recently published in a prominent Pakistani blog. She writes: "What analogy do I draw to represent the utter misery that is being a Pakistani in this super-power dominated world?" No one puts labels on Indian Muslims when they travel internationally and no one profiles them in the manner which Ms Badar describes her countrymen. A prominent US Air Force General once in a discussion with me online stated: "What, 175 million Muslims and not one with Al Qaida!" It was difficult for him to understand this. The Indian Muslims have rarely looked upon themselves in this light because not many leaders have ever cared to explain to them the distinct advantages of their Indian label.
There have been aberrations in the journey since Partition as would be in any aspiring and dynamic nation. There have also been many success stories which have helped cement their place in society. They have won adulation for winning the highest military gallantry awards, given Presidents, Vice Presidents and Service Chiefs to the nation, achieved the highest honours for scientific and cultural activities and worn their patriotism proudly. Why should they then be thunder struck by the simple change of government which has been elected with many a vote from within their ranks?
Mercifully, within a few days of the electoral results the hushed whispers have started emerging as voices of assent; heads have started nodding and Indian Muslims are re-emerging from their self-induced perception of doom. Much of it is driven by aspirations of youth who had the courage to vote with their minds but also much of it is being driven by people who were opposed to Narendra Modi but now see in him as their collective hope for the future. Some introspection is leading to the deduction that it is scientific temper, education, power of investigation and living by rationale which will militate against the status-quoist attitude with which the community has lived for long. They have to be led into believing that as a patriotic, non-radicalised, proud segment of the Indian society, they hold out a beacon to the rest of the Islamic world. This is what the leaders of the Muslim society need to dwell on.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's victory signifies one of the most historic changes in world history. This has been the largest electoral process ever to have taken place with a system to monitor fairness and strict electoral norms. Not many are absorbing the fact that after 30 years stability has returned to India. Indians had forgotten the meaning of stability and have now to get used to it. That India could achieve high growth despite coalitions in power should encourage all Indians about the positives which augur for the future. The electoral rhetoric is over. Wishful thinking among India's adversaries would involve the anticipation of large-scale subjugation and wilful acts against the minorities resulting in increased antipathy and turbulence in society. Triggers may be planned to force the minorities to perceive danger to their safe existence.
However, a government which has won a single-party majority and commands a huge majority as a coalition will inevitably leave behind rhetoric of the electoral process. Governance is too serious a matter to allow it to be mired in political criticism and minority bashing. Narendra Modi's emergence should send that clear message to the Indian Muslims. This is the moment to seize, unshackled from vote banks. Even if they have voted for other parties that was their democratic right; it does not prevent them from now strengthening the hands of the most stable government in India's recent history.
On the part of the new government no one doubts its intent of taking united India to the next level. It has received not only a thunderous approval from the electorate but also an acceptance by an international consensus that this is the best thing which could happen to India. Leaders who are decisive, clear-headed and resolute rarely take decisions against the run of progress and Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to fit that bill quite appropriately. Perhaps the 21st century will still be the Indian century and the chance of giving it that label in letter and spirit has arrived. The Indian Muslims must not miss the bus, in fact they should get into it lock, stock and barrel.
The writer retired recently as a Lt.General, having commanded 15 Corps in Srinagar

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

How would I describe Gopinath Munde, who passed away today in a road accident? There are many adjectives that would describe him well but not fully.
There are so many memories of the man, the mind is cluttered. Let me capture some random thoughts here. I have seen him in countless assembly sessions, sitting on the front row, head held back and high, always but always leaning behind in his seat, chest out.
Every few minutes, he would wipe his mouth briskly and comb his hair, yes, comb his hair. This habit stayed with him for years. In the house, he spoke very well and to the point.
As deputy chief minister, he handled home as well. He was surprisingly clued in about internal security matters in a way few have been before or after him. He supported many good cops and bureaucrats much against the wishes of many in the Sena and within the BJP as well. He tried hard to get rid of illegal Bangaldeshi immigrants in the city as it was a major menace to the peace and economy of the state as well as that of the country. However, Mamta Banerjee and Ajit Panja, then in NDA government, intervened and refused to let him move.
There were times I could sense his frustration at the way his hands were ever so often tied behind his back but he would rarely confide in journalists, howmuchever some Marathi journalists like to boast that he did. He was known not to drop too many hints our way and was in fact not as media friendly as many other politicians who were always waiting to vent their grievances and share some meaty gossip about their rivals.
I cannot forget how he reacted to the news of Pramod Mahajan's death. He was shattered. Munde rode on Mahajan's stature all his political life and suddenly he found himself alone.
Though fully capable of shouldering not just his political role but also carving the Maharashtra BJP's political future, he continued to feel Mahajan's loss for a very long time. It was a rare sight to see a seasoned politician like him sobbing like a child at Mahajan's funeral. After Mahajan;s death, Munde supported his family as much as he could. He tried very hard to get Poonam Mahajan a ticket in 2009 even so much as to put his political career at stake for her. But Poonam was a political rookie with an absolutely blank slate. And there was no Modi wave at that time to bail her out.
At a recent Modi rally in Mumbai, the one person on the dais to clap when Poonam Mahajan's name was announced was Munde.
His rivalry with Nitin Gadkari made a lot of sense as the two are temperamentally different and come from different backgrounds. Munde was a grassroots, man about village, politician. He knew where his bread and butter came from, and understood politics but couldnt play it as well for some time after Mahajan's death. Mahajan had always shielded him from the harsh arclights of party politics. So, it took a struggle for Munde to come into his own, but that he did. And how. Faced with Gadkari's rising stature with Modi and the BJP's national brass, he carved out his own niche to the point that Modi made him a union minister as well.
A big loss to the BJP for sure. RIP, Gopinathji.