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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Public Sentiments Again

When I wrote  on this blog about Rule of Law giving way to Public Sentiments , I never thought my worst nightmares would be forming up so soon.

While sentiments in Tamilnadu is for clemency to convicts in Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, Jammu and Kashmir is poised to fight for clemency for a convict in parliament attack case. In both cases, the majority view in the country will be in favour of  upholding the law of the land, while majority in the particular region is definitely for review of the law, in deference to public sentiments.

While J & K is ever volatile, Tamilnadu has a curiously disturbing culture of self-immolation at the drop of a hat. In fact the word for self- immolation is 'thee-kulithal ', meaning fire-bath , as if it is something like sauna bath. How can a young girl, kill herself, for a remote chance of saving a life ? The State legislative Assembly passes a resolution, under pressure from the public sentiments, and the pressure is further passed on to the the Supreme Court, Union Govt and the President.

What's worse is that, some panelists on CNN-IBN ask, "Hasn't Anna Hazare just proved that People's wishes reign supreme in a democracy ? "

I wish , I could read Anna Hazare's mind on what should be the right course of action for the State and Central Govts, in the face of such popular sentiments.  He can't even convert it to a debate against 'capital punishment , per se', as some people  do. He has gone on record supporting death sentence for the corrupt !

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anti Corruption Movement :La Anna Hazare Movement

Firstly, I must admit that, though the idea of 'India Against Corruption ' did appeal to me, I was never comfortable with the idea of fasting unto death to challenge a pillar of democracy . The idea that 'people's power is supreme' can be absurd at times. Today, it is the parliament under fire, tomorrow a judicial court may be expected to act in consonance with the popular sentiments while trying a particular accused. 

I still feel that, a very bad precedent has been set. In a country of over one billion people any popular leader can mobilize 20-25 lakhs of people in his/her support to threaten the very existence of an institution provided for under the constitution.  

Now, let us see how it all panned out. I am not calling it Anna Hazare Movement to begin with as he actively joined the movement somewhere in mid course, rather than initiate the movement. I have to mention that I don't mean to discredit Anna Hazare , since we have reached a stage where unless one is eulogising the great 'gandhian' you are accused of being a traitor and a congress stooge. 

It all started with Shri Santosh Hegde , Lokayukta of karnataka, sometime in mid 2010. In my humble opinion, Justice Santosh Hegde, though not so flamboyant, was to Lokayukta was TN Seshan was to Election Commission. A post which had been in existence since 1985, was suddenly in News Headlines. He made  a pedestrian appointment look like a high profile one. He was one of the founders of the Indian against Corruption Group. There is a recording of minutes of a meeting of India Against Corruption (IAC ) available here 

The following met at IIC on 10th August 2010 to discuss the deficiencies in present anti-corruption systems in our country and what steps need to be taken to address these deficiencies.
1.      Justice Santosh Hegde, Karnataka Lokayukta
2.     Mr J M Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner
3.     Mr P Shankar, former Central Vigilance Commissioner
4.     Prashant Bhushan, Advocate,  Supreme Court
5.     Mr Kamal Jaswal, Director Common Cause
6.     Mr Shekhar Singh, Eminent social activist
7.     Mr Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangthan
8.     Mr Arvind Kejriwal, Social activist
9.     Mr Sarvesh Sharma, Common Cause
10.  Mr Suhas Borkar, social activist and media personality
The basic Ingredients of the present Jan Lokpal Bill my be found in these minutes
This is the time Arvind Kejriwal , as an RTI activist was actively lobbying for appointment of Kiran Bedi for the post of Chief Information Commissioner ( CIC), along with baba ramdev, Anna Hazare and Amir Khan.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Is Majority always Right ??

Is Majority always right ? I don't think so, particularly when faced with a complex issue.

Let us not be carried away by the huge turn out at the Ramlila grounds 

At a Washington, D.C., press conference in 1952, Churchill was asked, "Doesn't it thrill you … to know that every time you make a speech the hall is packed to overflowing?"

Sir Winston: "It is quite flattering, but whenever I feel this way I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big."

I remember, while in High School,  we had a maths teacher who used to make us solve entire sets of problems as homework. The next day in the class, he would call for volunteers to solve the questions on the blackboard. For easier questions, a number of hands went up, but for difficult ones, there were very few. There were no punishments for failure and the reward for solving a difficult question was the thrill of walking up to the blackboard and having the entire class listen to you. It is only logical that when faced with difficult questions , the majority is clueless and it is a minority which gets it right.

So is it in real life; the only difference is that while in a class room, the questions are objective and the minority which gets it right, is heard, whereas in real life situations, issues are subjective and the majority hogs the centre stage.

Regarding, Anna Hazare's Movement, be it on print media, TV Channels or even in the cyberspace you hear only the majority view and the few dissenting voices are dismissed as 'congress stooge' . Someone has compiled a lot of information on the subject , including voices of dissent ...

Since it is the dissents that are rare to find, I recommend the link

Then there is a well researched article by Mukul Sharma (science writer and journalist), first published in May 2006. The paper covers the developmental work organized by Anna Hazare, at his village Ralegan Siddhi .

Along with much publicized good work done by Anna Hazare, it also highlights some of his methods to deal with family planning and prohibition, which to say the least are highly questionable.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Fasts

There are many comparisons being made about Anna Hazare’ fast and Gandhiji’s fast.   I don’t intend giving a sermon, but just want to share my understanding of the circumstances that led to Gandhiji’s fast unto death on different occasions.

Gandiji has undertook fasting many times as a religious exercise or moral exercise, but only thrice it has been ‘Fast unto Death’ for achieving a ‘socio-political objective’.

These occasions were :-

1.    To stop all revolutionary activities after the Chauri Chaura Incident of 1922;

2.    Against the 1934 communal award giving separate electorates to Untouchable Hindus.

3.    In 1947, when he wanted to stop the bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal and Delhi.

 In all three cases,Gandhi succeeded in achieving his aims.

The first time, he fasted to stop the jaggarnaut of Indian Freedom movement, when he felt the movement had strayed away from his principle of non-violence. In other words he fasted till violence stopped even if it meant the freedom movement losing its momentum. The fast was against violence.

The second time was when he felt that the British were resorting to ‘dividing ‘ India into Harijan India, Hindu India and Muslim India. The British left it to the Indian leaders to mutually resolve the issue and come to an understanding. So the fast was not against the British, not against Upper caste Hindus, not against Harijans /Dalits. What was it against?  It was against polarization based on castes. 

The third time , it was in Kolkata, in an independent India when the entire population was facing terrible hardships due to  Hindu -Muslim  riots. The fast was obviously against all forms of violence.

It is the 1932 fast, also called as the epic fast, that is much criticized for Gandhi's 'pressure tactics' against 'Dr Ambedkar'

  If the pressure was on Dr Ambedkar to give up his demand for a separate electorate, the pressure was on the entire Hindu community to be more inclusive, to breakaway from the practices , in vogue for centuries. Let us see the positive fall out of the fast towards social change.

At the very beginning of the fast week, the famous Kalighat temple of Kolkata and Ram Mandir of Benares, citadel of Hindu Orthodoxy, were thrown open to untouchables. In Delhi, cast Hindus and Harijans demonstratively fraternized in streets and temples. In Mumbai, a nationalist women's organization organized a poll in front of seven big temples. Ballot boxes, watched by volunteers, were placed outside the gates, and worshipers were asked to cast their votes on the admission of untouchables. The tally was 24, 797 for and 445 against. As a result, temples in which no Harijan foot had ever trod were opened to all.

In villages, small towns and big cities, congregations , organizations and citzens unions adopted resolutions to stop discriminating against untouchables; copies of these resolutions formed a man high heap in Gandhi's prison-yard.

A spirit of reform, penance and self-purification swept the land.During the six fast days, most Hindus refrained from going to cinemas, theatre, or restaurants. Weddings were postponed.

A description of the scene in Yeravada Prison, in the words of Louis Fischer goes like this;

"Gandhi lay on a white Iron cot in the shade of a low mango tree in the quiet prison yard. Patel and Mahadev Desai sat near him. Mrs Naidu had been transferred from the women's ward to nurse and guard him against excessive exertion. On a stool were some books, writing paper, bottles of water, salt and sodium bicarbonate.

Outside, the negotiators were racing with death........"

The major differences between then and now;

1.    Then, there was no Us and Them.....everyone was with Gandhi. Nobody vilified anybody, nor anyone gloated over the discomfort of another. Dr Ambedkar  and the Hindu leaders bargained hard and the public did everything to prove that there was  an earnest effort to abolish untouchability; and all were aware that they had to find a lasting solution to a national problem  or be prepared to lose Mahatma Gandhi for ever.  There was no sabre rattling from any quarters, you did not see anyone, bragging of his capacity to fast, or boasting about brownie  points scored.

2.       Every one of Gandhiji's  supporters at any point of time would have been only too happy to see him breaking his fast. There was no crowd to applaud with every 'hour' on the score board as if it was a T-20 match.

3.      It was an occasion for the entire public for self-purification . There was no  festive air that we see today.  

There was a news item today that there is heavy betting by bookies on how many days the fast would last and as to what would be the outcome.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fast Forward Anna Hazare Way : Some Crystal Ball Gazing

A poser before getting down to details....

Did TN Seshan require any enhanced Powers for Election Commissioner to do what he did ?
In fact suddenly people found that he had too much powers and it was diluted by having a panel of three members instead of all powers being vested on just one person. Do we lack laws or just the will to enforce the laws ?

Anna wave is as strong as ever and at the time of writing this Anna Hazare has given the clarion call for the second freedom struggle.

So for he has been getting his way, thanks to low credibility of the Govt and the huge wave of public sentiments. There is no sign of the wave abating and we may safely assume that he will continue to get what he wants.

So far, the Govt has agreed to his demands, in deference to the public sentiments and just to keep anna Hazare alive. Govt has agreed to :-
  • co-opt civil society members in drafting the bill
  • let anna hazare protest  mostly on his own terms
Further along the road, with similar tactics:-
  • He will coerce the govt to table his version of the bill in the parliament.
  • Coerce the parliament to pass the bill (Bill or my life ?!)
 Anna hazare and his team will claim a great victory and go home. Public will be jubilant.

Then the Act will become effective and it it is time for people entrusted with the job of implementing to have good hard look at the various clauses.

I am cynical, but this cynicism  is not unfounded. Till the time there is a change of hearts, change of value system, what can mere laws do ? Why is it that we routinely see vehicles jumping traffic lights ? Why is it we see people travelling ticket less on trains ? Why is tax evasion not considered a serious issue ? This is a land of speed breakers not sign postings. I hope some Anna Hazare can change that.

The political parties will look for ways and means to fix their adversaries through this new found weapon. There will be intense lobbying at all levels for being part of the Lokpal or on the right side of lokpal, the new power centre.

Janta will continue to bribe their way through, particularly when making unreasonable or illegal demands. Simplest example is  jumping the queue for anything from a  gas cylinder to college admission. (It is the shortage of gas resulting in corruption, not lack of laws). 

This new law may create another layer of absolute power. It may create a Frankenstein monster. If that happens who will take responsibility ? Not the Govt ? Not the parliament ? As for Anna Hazare, will he repeat his moves this time to amend the law ? Very doubtful.

There is no dearth of unresolved conflicts in our great country. Delhi Police will receive a bunch of applications from Telengana movement, Hurriyat, VHP, etc to follow the footsteps of anna hazare and get their agenda through. Everyone of these movements will whip up public sentiments locally if not at Delhi. Smaller communities / states like Manipur will be left high and dry , after all democracy works on the will of the majority.

As Ambedkar said while introducing the Constitution in November 1949, once the Constitution came into force, we should avoid all non-constitutional methods like protests and satyagraha, for they are the grammar of anarchy. If two persons go on fasts until death for two opposing reasons, we cannot decide the issue by allowing one person to die first.

Yes, Anarchy it is... it all seems so nightmarish. If I am awake I want to go back to sleep and If I am asleep , it is time I woke up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Public Servants and Public Sentiments

    These days sentiments are running high and it is very fashionable to say 'I am with Anna Hazare' or 'I am anna' . Even media persons suggest that the Govt should take cognizance of the public sentiments. Taking cognizance is desirable but taking actions in line with these sentiments can be disastrous.

    Public servants should never be swayed by the prevailing Public Sentiments. Here's an example from History.

    In May 1948, Nathuram Godse was tried , for murder of Mahatma Gandhi. The assassin was not a member of the mafia but was some one who had many things in common with the mahatma. He was well read, he was patriotic, his motive was selfless and he was idealistic. Only difference was that he did not believe in the absolute ahimsa. He believed that any one on the wrong side of dharma should be fought, as In Gita , Lord Krishna himself motivated Arjuna to kill the reverred Bhishma for being on the wrong side of Dharma ...!!!!

    So Godse gave a long deposition in the court on his motives for his actions. He quoted extensively from the scriptures to justify every action of his.

    The speech had its effects on the small gathering in the court.

    Justice Khosla, who was a member of the jury, wrote after his retirement:

'There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs... I have no doubt that had the audience of the day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse's appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of 'not guilty' by an overwhelming majority."

    And the place was not Pune but Shimla; far away from the birthplace or stronghold of RSS or Hindu Mahasabha.

     Godse did not have the benefit of a public trial, Media, Facebook or Twitter. Had he had all these, it was quite possible that the sentiments in the court could have spilled over to cover the entire country, and the then Govt would been in a tight spot.

    In the actual course of events, Godse was sentenced to death and hanged . Among those calling for commutation of the death sentence for the defendants were Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as Gandhi's two sons, who felt that the two men on trial were pawns of RSS higher-ups, and in any case, executing their father's killers would dishonour his memory and legacy which included a staunch opposition to the death penalty.

    There was no place for sentiments and the law of the land prevailed.

    This is not a defence of Godse,, just an example to show that Govt, The Police and Judges have to act in consonance with the law of the land, not in line with the prevailing public sentiments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Women, Work and Identity

     I have always wondered how the gen-next is going to handle the issues of family , work and gender-equality. About 25 years back, women still had an honorable, socially acceptable designation as ‘housewife’ or home maker’.  Today, even if they call it ‘CEO , Home Inc”, there would be no takers for the title. 

       Women do need an identity, outside their home, just as men have always needed. Even in my 32nd year of service, I can’t say enough is enough. I keep hearing  “What do you plan to do for a second career. ?”

        Read a book, 'When Work Doesn't Work Anymore' by Elizabeth Perle Mckenna. This book was written in 1997, but is just right for the social scenario in India today. It is about a successful career woman, who after 20 years of relentless pursuit of success on ‘man’s terms’ realizes there was  something missing in her life despite achieving everyone of  the goals she set for herself in personal and professional sphere. She still liked her work alright, had what she calls 'rock solid marriage'; yet this was not what she had thought her life would be like.

Just as the title is, there are a number of interesting oneliners  to describe the situation of women today.  

Some examples:

“ women soon realized, going to work involved having to work” 

“without the privileges or good financial rewards, work was just that - work.”

“ and worse, women are faulting themselves for not being enough of what they don’t even want to be”

“she has arrived at what she calls her ‘something gotta give period’ which means either her career or her personal life is going to get smaller for the good of the other”

     The author narrates the stories of women with similar predicaments, to illustrate each point she makes. Then there is a liberal dose of Gloria Steinem (GS) Quotes to add weight to her case.

        Today, women have entered every field, well, almost every field, and have tasted success in every field they have ventured into. But after, working for 20-30 years, in a man’s world , playing by the rules set by men, there is a kind of emptiness. There is a  perceived sense of failure, which is best expressed in the words of  GS, " If you meet a woman who's doing wonderfully well professionally, doing great creative things and is completely happy with her work, but does not have the personal life she thinks she should have, she may think she is a failure. Men are the reverse. They can have great personal lives, and think they are failures if they don't have the job success they think they are supposed to have."

      Another GS Quote from the book ' The working world remains a place built for men with full time wives to take care of the rest of the life'. In the present times men are also equally handicapped to succeed in such a working world. Talking of full time wives, the Indian scene is indeed quite confusing. There are housewives/home makers, ladies and  working women who may be categorized as full time wives, part-time wives or of any shade in a broad spectrum.

      Years ago, I saw a hand bill  inviting 'housewives, working women, and ladies ' to join a computer training course. After some deliberation, I translated 'housewives, working women and ladies' to mean 'women who work only at home, women who could work also at home and women who wouldn't work even at home'

         The last category is possible in India , thanks to affordable domestic help. That is where the 'CEO, Home Inc.' steps in.

Recently I read an indian version of similar ideas in HT

        The book is a good read for any woman looking to balance work life and personal life. Another quote from GS " I still get young women in audiences, asking,'How can I combine career and family?' I always tell them, 'you can't until men are asking that question too '." Well, men  will start asking such questions , if only they are allowed to go easy on their work life, by the society, family and themselves.

     For whatever reason, men haven't made much progress in work-family balance. At best you have the cooperative husband who is prepared to put up with cold dinners or even no dinner, cheerfully. Don't expect him to cook or wash for the whole family. On the other side is the prickly type (no pun intended) who simply cannot accept any situation where the woman is not at home.

         Let's say, one has decided on how much to give to one's career, still there is a need to decide the time line. There are two schools of thought; one is to first establish yourself in your work place and then raise a family. The other is to take a break, complete your family and then get back to the rat race .

           Unfortunately, a woman's most productive years coincide with her reproductive years as well. Oh God ! isn't there any easy decisions at all in life?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tamil Resources on the net

           There was a time, when it was so difficult to locate a Tamil book , dating back beyond 50  years; after all no publisher wants to be stuck with unsellable stock. Once, with great difficulty, I found a compilation of Aathichudi, Konraivendhan etc, published by New Century Book House. Only the communists would bring out books on “No profits, only losses ' basis.

          Today, it is the other way around, more ancient the work, easier it is to locate; courtesy 'the internet'. E-books are available, for free and freely on all works of Avvaiyaar, Thiruvalluvar, Bharathiyaar, or for that matter, Kaniyan Poongunranaar. Thank God, Thiruvalluvar and his like didn't copyright their works. Even books by Kalki, Naa Parthasartahi, Pudhumaipithhan , Thi.Janakiraman , Jayakanthan and Sujaatha are available; and I believe there are no copyrights issues on books downloadable from these sites.

           It is the Srilankan Tamils who have been most active in the cyber-world. May be they fiercely cling to the Tamil virtual world as their 'real world ' has always been under seize, particularly so since the Jaffna Library went up in flames. Seeing the happenings in Srilanka, the Virual World is all that will be left. It was sad to see, literally the last post of LTTE or no LTTE; this site had one of the best contents on Thirukkural.

Some of the popular sites, to name a few, are, Project Madurai Chaennailibrary, Noolagam,,, Viruba, and

I had a mind to collect all Tamil resources and sort them into, E-books, Blogs, magazines and so on. But I realized that the resources are so vast and that there are so many blogs dedicated to compiling of these resources. Links to some of these blogs are:-