Showing posts from 2014

Modi Sir Ki Paathshala

The afternoon of September 5, 2014 witnessed a landmark event: the Prime Minister's address to students across the country. The innovative experiment was largely seen as a success considering it was the first time a Prime Minister had taken a proactive step to engage with students and the masses through spontaneous speech which emphasised on the role and importance of teachers and their role in strengthening the nation as much as the exercise was aimed to engage with citizens to enroll themselves in the democratic discourse.

Children and youth are a valuable asset as the workforce is determined by the talent and knowledge pool of a country. In 1930, shortly after the celebrated Dandi March, Mahatma Gandhi had said that youth are leaders of tomorrow and it is the young who have to be the salt of the nation. If salt loses its flavour, where shall it be salted? An exercise like the Teachers' Day address will go a long way in making students an important part of the nation building…

Modi at 100: Not Out

The concept of "100 Days" was initiated in the United States of America when its President Delano Roosevelt borrowed the term "100 Days" from Napoleonic history to describe the workings of the 73rd US Congress which sat for 100 days from March 9, 1933 to June 17, 1933. Thus, the term came first to be used in a radio address on July 24 that same year. At this juncture, please note that 100 days does not refer to the then US President's tenure but the session of the Congress. 

Since then, 100 days has become an indicator of performance for all US Presidents and is now also being applied to an Indian Prime Minister. A period of 100 days in power is too short for anybody: more so, the Prime Minister of a country especially when Narendra Modi has sought five years to show some results in critical areas like power and the Ganga Clean Up project and ten years, in some areas like infrastructure. While I strongly believe that 100 days is too less a time for announcing ma…

RIP, Planning Commission!

In his maiden address to the nation on Independence Day, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Planning Commission would meet its end and will promptly be replaced by a policy research think-tank which will be constituted of eminent luminaries in their respective fields. The abolition of the Planning Commission, is a bold step by the government, as it is one of the most important signals which indicate changing priorities as the narrative structure shifts from left-of-centre to a centre-right perspective. The Planning Commission is largely seen as a Nehruvian socialist regime and hence, the end of the Commission is a symbolic gesture to highlight the generational change within the country's polity.

While the media-driven public opinion was certainly that the Planning Commission is an ultimate example for policy paralysis, the reality is different from what the narration says. It is important to clarify that the idea of the new government is not to deride or demolish t…

Movie Review: Rama Madhav

The 2014 Marathi film "Rama Madhav" by actress-filmmaker Mrinal Kulkarni explores the era of the Peshwa period and particularly from the angles of women. The film is an interesting take on life of Peshwa through a young girl's eyes. The film begins with a 12 year old Rama hailing from a middle-class background in Miraj and being married to the Peshwa prince, Madhavrao during her childhood. The film is a royal love story and it is set against the backdrop of politics, war and the rise of a new era. The film follows the life and coming-of-age Rama and as they grow older, the political scenario changes with the Marathas losing to Ahmedshah Abdali, the Afghan prince in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, their scheming uncle Raghunathrao who plots Madhavrao's death on not being selected as the heir for the Peshwa throne and the subsequent arrival of the British. 

Shot extensively on sets resembling the Shaniwarwada of Pune, the art direction by Nitin Desai once again sta…

Public Private Partnerships: The Road Ahead

The debate on public-private partnerships has largely evoked partisan views. As many developed nations now look at public private partnerships to fund major infrastructure projects, there has been a renewed interest in PPPs not only in India but also worldwide. A public-private partnership offers a wide scope for project financing and innovative delivery approaches through access to capital markets, implementation of new technologies, expedition of project delivery in time-bound phased manners, operations and maintenance in cost-effective ways. India’s experiment with PPP has been around for roughly 20 years where the focus has been predominantly on asset creation. There is no surprise that most of the PPP concessions have been given to development of national highways and ports. The World Bank cited in its 2011 report that private participation was highly concentrated only in India. It ranks India as the largest market for PPP in the developing world, accounting for over half of the t…

Gopinath Munde (1949-2014)

One of the best known faces of Maharashtra politics and former deputy chief minister, Gopinath Munde died early Tuesday morning following a road accident in Delhi. Munde, a senior politician from Maharashtra, was sworn in as the Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation on May 26. He was also until recently in the reckoning for the position of Maharashtra Chief Minister. His sudden and untimely demise is a rude shock to the turbulence prevailing in Maharashtra politics. Being an astute politician and a master strategist, he rose from the ranks leaving his imprints on every position he occupied in public life. Credited with the near-impossible task of neutralising the NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, Munde won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of 1.4 lakh votes from the Beed constituency after defeating NCP’s Suresh Dhas. Known for his organisational skills, his career in public life has been characterised by hard work and his ability to retain…

The Missing Faces

The swearing-in of a Prime Minister holds the promise of a new growth cycle as much as it illustrates how transfer of power can happen peacefully. May 26, 2014 too heralded the arrival of a new government helmed by Narendra Modi. As curtains fell on the world’s largest democratic elections, the swearing in of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India brought forward the possibility of renewal of ties with representatives of SAARC countries. While the event was attended by the who’s who of Indian politics, there were some omissions who did not make it to the swearing in: J. Jayalalithaa: The Tamil Nadu CM, J. Jayalalithaa, had hoped that the new Government would be sensitive towards the Tamilians. The CM refused to attend the swearing-in due to the invitation extended to the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapakse, who allegedly oversaw the genocide in Sri Lanka and remained President while innocent Tamilians were killed in the crossfire. Siddharamaiah: Siddharamaiah, the Chief Minist…

The Audacity of Change

The 2014 General Elections have been unique in several ways. With the highest number of first time voters, campaigns that focussed on personalities, with elections being fought for the first time on the plank of an economic slowdown, there is little doubt that these general elections have been the most interesting and analysed general elections of recent times. In more ways than one, democracy has triumphed again, though this time with a new accent. In the massive victory of Narendra Modi in 2014, we see the triumphant emergence of a single party rule for the first time after 1984.

The past five years were marked with corruption, inflation, policy paralysis, bad governance and supreme arrogance which were seen as the hallmarks of the UPA-2 regime. In what was clearly a mandate for hope and change, the voice of India's democracy spoke again in a new accent. The BJP-led NDA became the first government to cross the majority mark of 272 seats in the Parliament since 1984. Thus, it brou…

Pluralism vs Prejudice

The past few months have witnessed several "intellectuals" writing petitions on how India's next government is likely to be. With exit polls predicting a victory for the BJP-led NDA, the discourse has largely revolved around protection of India's "secular" ethos and the projection of Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat and his administration's alleged role in failing to control the distressing communal riots of 2002. Since then, there have been many manufactured debates on the road ahead and the supposed polarisation of India's electorate.

Editorials and columns that routinely warn about the manufactured dangers of having Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister have grown even as the general populace eagerly awaits relief from a scam ridden government which presided over unbridled inflation, ensured policy paralysis and a list of unending factors which contributed to an economic morass. There is little doubt that India's intellectual narrati…

Election Lexicon-II:

In the first part of the Election Lexicon, we covered letters A to O. Now, in this second part, as some of the most important seats of the country go to the polls, the elections have significantly enriched to the political lexicon, spicing it up with a mix of marketing, branding and management terms which have also caused a fair degree of heartburn. These expressions are unlikely to be forgotten soon.

P: Paid Media. Given the highly polarising nature of the elections and with every news channel doing their bit to keep themselves relevant by defaming one politician or admiring the other, there is always an agenda news channels seem to follow. With social media gaining prominence, paid media remains a favourite hashtag which emerged after the public disclosures of the Niira Radia Tapes

Q: Questions. This applies mainly to Arvind Kejriwal who mainly asks questions and never suggests an alternative to the question. It can be something as silly as why is Narendra Modi not responding to his 1…

Election Lexicon-2014

The 2014 elections are underway. These elections with the highest number of first-time voters and campaigns that focus more on personalities rather than the issues confronting us make it one of the most colourful spectacles and the most interesting Indian election in recent times. On that note, here is a rough dummy's guide to the lexicon of 2014 elections:
A: Adani, a conglomerate with business interests in resources, logistics and energy sectors. The conglomerate's role in the ongoing elections has been discussed widely due to the incumbent government's allegations that Adani is the best example of crony capitalism in India especially given how land was given to them at Re. 1/- to which representatives from the Adani group have consistently denied.
B: Baap Beta Government The BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi referred to the incumbent Samajwadi Party government as the baap beta government owing to the Samajwadi Party being led by the father and son duo of…

The Mirage of Free Speech

The true test of a society's commitment to freedom of expression lies in its defence of marginalised forms of speech. Yet, there is a certain amount of fear within me as I choose to highlight that a Delhi based publishing house "Navayana" has withdrawn the English translation of Sahitya Akademi recipient and Tamil writer Joe D'Cruz first novel originally published in Tamil called "Aazhi Soozh Ulagu", which is based on the lives of catamaran fishermen. The reason for withdrawal cited by the publisher is that the said writer declared his support for Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial aspirant of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The book's translator V. Geetha, in her statement said, "I was terribly distressed when I read Joe D'Cruz's statement of support for Modi. He is entitled to his political opinion but I don't want to be associated with anyone or anything linked to Modi. We can't forget Gujarat 2002--no one must be allowed to either.…

Opinion Polls

The elections of 2014 are widely considered as a watershed election. India today finds itself in a cusp of change confronted with political parties who have no particular ideological anchor or are backed by strong state leaders in national parties, which in many ways, are a blend of regional parties. With the strengthening of intra-party coalition set-ups, it would be safe to say that political parties in India are undergoing a process of major churning. As India goes to polls in less than a week, the role and debate around opinion polls is back in action. 

Opinion polls shape public opinion as much as they reflect it. Opinion polls affect expectations about the outcome and expectations which further align with preferences and parties. Public opinion polls now play an important role in influencing voters. They are used throughout the course of election campaigns by candidates and by the media to see which candidates are ahead and who is likely to emerge victorious. The results of these…

Book Review: Aavarana: The Veil

The act of concealing truth in Sanskrit is called "Aavarana" while the act of projecting lies is known as "vikshepa". The 2007 Kannada novel "Aavarana" by S.L. Bhyrappa, recently translated into English by Sandeep Balakrishna, therefore, is one of the few revolutionary novels that deals with an explosive storyline in times where political correctness dominates the public discourse. Aavarana is a compelling read, mainly due to its raw appeal that hits readers at appropriate places like a jolt. On a macro level, the book deals with the constrained relationship between Hinduism and Islam, which as everyone knows is best left unsaid. 

Aavarana's agenda is to restore truth, at all costs. In more ways than one, the book is like an eye-opener which shatters many of our conceived notions that we have been fed with school history textbooks. The debate of truth vs lies has been explored in detail while the objective of the book largely looks like an attempt to r…

National Character

The political scene in the country today has reached a stage where it is inevitable to take sides and work on unity of the nation acquires utmost importance. There is an urgent need to develop a national character. How can national character be developed if there is no nation? We know that individuals are the target as well as the means for social and political change. To bring out basic change in society, the process begins with reformation of the individual and thereafter changing the nation is quite a viable option.

By making politics as the nucleus of change, it can bring about change in all spheres of life as it influences every aspect of life. It has the power to change and control society and individuals. It is unfortunate if those who have authority and those who rule refuse to think in the national context, if they ignore national interest, then how can we expect the common man to develop national character? The government is the root of the state and if the root is diseased, …

Minimum Government, Maximum Governance

In reality, our states need a new system of governance. A system that says: minimum government, maximum governance. A political system which will rise above petty political ambitions and unite the nation into one republic: one family. States are indivisible limbs of a nation. Yet, we see states fighting with each other for survival. Don't we feel the pain when a family member is in pain?  Don't we help our family members in the time of distress? How can we remain aloof from the joys and sorrows faced by our family members? Individuals sacrificing for the good of the society is deep-rooted in our culture. Why did Shiva swallow poison? Why did Sage Dadhichi sacrifice his bones? 

Then, why are individuals not eager to make a sacrifice for society and the society for nation? Why does a society feel that it's progress lies in the downfall of others? Why does a state feel that progress of another state will hinder its own progress? Why does one person feel that it is necessary to…

Movie Review: Gabhricha Paus

The 2009 Marathi film, "Gabhricha Paus" has a plot that addresses simple aspirations of Indian farmers, the eternal urge in the human race to survive against all odds. The film is temporally set in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra against the backdrop of a drought. In Marathi, the film's title would translate to "The Bastard Rain", which is mostly hurled as an abuse given the unpredictable nature of rains. 

The plot of the movie rotates around the farmer Kisna (Girish Kulkarni) and his struggle to grow cotton. Farmer suicides have become commonplace due to failed rains. Hence, his wife Alka (Sonali Kulkarni) sends her son along with him wherever he goes. The complex and tense character graph of Kisna is portrayed really well by Girish Kulkarni. Girish is effortlessly expressive, moving the audience to feel with him for the failure of the rains in an intricately woven fabric of rural India. The young son too does not over-act unlike other films. 

The film also a…

Developed India

On this republic day, I'd like to discuss something else. The concept has been on my mind since late last year . It's funny how we tend to think elections are a general thing but when they are not. Come to think of it, it is our one vote that goes on to decide the kind of governance we would have for five years. This elections, however, brings us to an important threshold not just in our life but also in threshold of India, a threshold that divides the best from the rest. 

While it is essential to make an informed opinion based on the predictions of economists, the opinions of leaders and also the voices of businessmen from across the world. The global investment banking and investment management firm Goldman Sachs in 2008 claimed that India will be the second global economic superpower by 2050. Does being the "second best" bring about a mood of elation and pride? Ask yourself is being the second best enough? Is this what we as Indians would want? Is being second the …

Movie Review: Chingaari

Celluloid realism makes waves. Kalpana Lajmi's "Chingaari" is one such film which pushes for socio-religious reform and the ugly nexus between sexual oppression and religion. Based on an Assamese short story titled "The Postman and The Prostitute" by the late. Bhupen Hazarika, Chingaari is filled with flaming colours such as red, green and black. The film explores rural fanaticism through the miseries of a prostitute. It further explores various facades of womanhood. 
Set in Rangpur village, the film revolves around a group of prostitutes with Ila Arun as the main head. The house is a feast of raunchy repartees and has terrifying sexual innuendos which reach blood-curdling proportions when the village priest Bhuvan Panda (Mithun Chakraborty) pays a visit to Basanti (Sushmita Sen). The scenes of sexual repression filmed on Sushmita Sen and Mithun Chakraborty become too repressive and graphic. 
To a point, I felt that subtlety in depicting their sexual friction wou…

Empowered Governance

In reality, our states need a new system of governance. A system that says: minimum government, maximum governance. The idea of empowered governance recognises this conflict between dreams and practice and is shaped by our vision for a developed India. The past ten years in India have seen a stagnating growth rate, policy paralysis, a complete breakdown of communication among the government, industrial slowdown and constant inflation. Thus, making it nearly a wasted decade.

Change is not impossible and it most certainly does not require miracles to get things back. Common sense and political will are the key points that are required now and three months is the minimum time gap to be given in order to reverse the despondency the country is in now. The idea, of course, is to ensure empowered governance. A few ideas that can be implemented to ensure that empowered governance is possible are:

* Subsidies: Our socialist leanings ensure that we cannot deviate from our welfare policies. Howeve…

Cultural Slavery

A nation's ruler depends on the ambitions, aspirations and faith of individuals of a country. Rulers too are bound by the decisions that individuals of a country take. The future and progress of a nation are determined by the dreams few visionaries dare to dream. If the government is incapable of protecting the nation, then it is up to teachers to rise and awaken the nation. We must give up self-interest, pride and petty quarrels for the nation.

If we do not rise above our quarrels and pride, cultural slavery will slowly overtake our society. A nation is not defeated until it can safeguard its culture and values. Can the nation be torn into pieces in the name of caste and religion be able to safeguard its culture from invaders? If conquerors wish to spread their roots here, then they will have to attack our culture that binds our people and they will, if we are not careful. If we let go our cultural heritage, then our downfall is certain. Experience teaches us that defeated nations…

Movie Review: Digant

It is not always that one finds movies made in regional dialects. Hence, the 2012 Konkani movie "Digant" based on the Dhangar community is originally based on an adaptation by a story written by Prasad Lolayekar. 

The movie title, "Digant", translates to boundless in Konkani revolves around a man from the Dhangar or shepherd community who is content with his life. However, his seemingly ordinary life takes a turn when his son joins a school and grows to be an architect with an intent to settle down in the city. Movies with such storylines often tend to slip into a preachy mode. Issues such as identity or about the need to be in touch with one's roots are often raised through the medium of movies. Thankfully, Digant is a refreshing change and does not venture into that space. 

There is certainly no doubt that the definition for freedom for each individual is different yet the film tries to define the concept of freedom and stability at multiple levels. For the fat…

Movie Review: Amrapali

The story of the legendary dancer Amrapali, renowned for her extraordinary beauty is an immensely fascinating one. For the uninitiated, Amrapali was the royal courtesan of Vaishali, situated roughly around present day Bihar in 500 BCE. Prince Ajatshatru, the king of the Magadha empire, who falls in love with her after he attacks Vaishali. The story of Amrapali and elaborate descriptions of her extraordinary beauty find mention in old Pali and Buddhist traditions. 

The 1966 film made by Lekh Tandon featuring veteran dancer-actress Vyjayanthimala in the title role as Amrapali makes considerable impact. While the story of the film is not built on the standard tale of star-crossed lovers but a clash of ideologies. Ajatshatru (Sunil Dutt), the emperor of Magadha has been unable to get Vaishali into submission. He announces an attack on Vaishali against the wishes of his commander-in-chief Veer (Premnath) citing that the Magadhan army is not ready for full blown battles. He promptly informs …