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All posts for the month September, 2014

India & The Great West : A Case Of Tinted Glasses And Ignored Narratives

Published September 29, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the second part of the article The Great West
THE BACKDROP

A cursory perusal of the coverage of a couple of websites from international media on the Narendra Modi US visit, and especially Madison Square Garden Event would show some rather interesting and more than a little irritating comments and observations : firstly, most articles explicitly mention the 2002 riots – get this : without any mention of the burning of the Sabarmati bogie with pilgrims in it, nor making any attempt to state a short summary of what happened, including the fact that subsequent investigations took place and court exoneration through an SIT happened. The way it is put forward, and its tone, is most damning; you are perfectly within your rights to mention any event – so long as you present a complete picture. But presenting it in an incomplete manner to an audience that is not aware of the full story is misleading in my opinion.

Secondly, there are clear references to him being viewed as a Hindu Extremist  by some {usually made in a most careful usage of words to ensure deniability}; references to the RSS being an Hindu Militant group {in at least one article}; and even a clear reference to the political agenda of extremist Hindu Militant Organisations! At this point, it would be worthwhile to take a peek at the dictionary meaning of the word Extremist : a person who holds extreme political or religious views, especially one who advocates illegal, violent, or other extreme action / Wiki : Extremism (represented on both sides of the political spectrum) is an ideology (particularly in politics or religion), considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of a society or to violate common moral standards…  

And Militant : favouring confrontational or violent methods in support of a political or social cause / Wiki : The mass media sometimes uses the term “militant” in the context of terrorism.[8] Journalists sometimes apply the term militant to movements using terrorism as a tactic. The mass media also has used the term militant groups or radical militants for terrorist organizations.[8][23][24][25] In this usage, “militant” is virtually a euphemism for “terrorist

Let us not get into semantics here; it is beyond question that the RSS etc are not extremists or militants in sense or usage of the term as it is commonly understood or used. What is more pertinent is the overall approach and tone that is being used; as well as the other side of this pathetic story, a pathetic and vulgar display of ignorance and callousness by The Great West. Call us by any name or term that passes your fancy; call us anything you desire. Being aware of the inglorious past of The Great West, we are not overly concerned about the emancipated views on display. I have dealt with this point quite extensively in another article : The Misunderstood Hindu
MY POINT

My point is completely different; if The Great West is so concerned about Right-Wing Hinduism, which they perceive as Militant, why arent they equally vociferous and vocal about the impact of Islamic Fundamentalism on the Indian Consciousness? Why did it take them the shock of their own blood being spilled to wake up to the reality of Islamic Terror? Why this totally one-sided and emaciated view of the situation? In article after article, whenever India’s name comes up, one of poverty / hindu extremism will always be mentioned – even totally out of context. And yet, whenever we talk of terror attacks in India, the involvement of the ISI & Pakistan is almost always downplayed with clever wordplay – in complete opposition to the direct wordplay in reference to the RSS!

We Indians have paid a heavy price, a point which I have been repeatedly making in several articles. This is a price we have paid in blood, quite literally rivers of blood that have flowed since 1985-1988, the period when the myopic leaders in the USA supplied and trained Pakistan in insurgency. The previous article gives a list of year-wise rise in incidents from the beginning. There is little awareness of this outside India, and few care to point this out outside of Indian Media. What is more, on most articles on India, you can spot out-of-context mentions of poverty, hindu fundamentalism and other such aspects –  but little or no mention of the impact of ISI & Pakistani sponsored terror attacks.  In the terror paragraphs or articles, this is routinely downplayed or buried in inconsequential trivialities! 

Interestingly, 9/11 and other Western attacks find a regular mention; as does, strangely enough, even the price {!!!!!} paid by Pakistan in the number of terror related deaths. But no acceptance of the huge cost of terror that India has borne, or the role of The West in creating this. In near-100% cases, this is equated to Kashmir without an attendant analysis of who is sponsoring the attacks, or without any mention of how the external hand, and CIA -> ISI had a significant role in it!

We are a highly emotive people, who place a high value on emotions and honour. These emotive aspects are bound to have a massive impact on our minds and our thoughts. The tinted-glass views on everything Indian, and the massive assumptions; the offensive views on our harmless religion; the complete ignorance of the terror aspect that we have suffered; the parochial, offensive and insulting views espoused by Westerners on various media; the irresponsibility, intolerance & ignorance of various official’s statements on social media {examples abound}; and other such aspects are together forming a very different and ignored narrative from the other side of the great east-west divide…


THE IMPACT ON THE NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS

The impact of this on Indian consciousness has been slow, steady but sure; more and more people are getting rubbed the wrong way in the new age of the internet, where it is hard to hide keep anything strictly localised. This is routinely felt as more and more Indians log into international websites and get exposed to such jaundiced, emacipated and biased coverage. 

The Indian Media has played a most laudable role in being relatively fair, positive and unbiased in these matters, and has routinely placed positive viewpoints and articles from international media for the benefit of creating a positive mindset, and create a strong self-image among the people. They have restricted themselves to lambasting The Great West only in cases when things get out of hand, and hard to swallow, which is a most sensible approach. Even then, increasingly, the odd article telling the other side of the story also reaches the audience, furthering the process of alienation and further hardening attitudes. 

The rise in popularity of Indian Writers has added fuel to the fire, with informed books that rip into The Great West, and the fiction books that clearly pitch The Great West {specifically the USA} as an out-and-out villain is another factor that is adding fuel to the fire. This is combined with mainstream economic media which do very well-informed analyses of economic issues, and rountinely point out the inacceptability of Western interventions and actions. 

This is not a narrative that is common; this is a side of the story of The Indian Consciousness that is not in vogue. India is known as an increasingly open and forward moving nation, friendly to The Great West. That the educated Indian mind might actually be exposed to realities and narratives that are highly critical of The Great West is not a commonly known thought. Furthermore, that the Indian Mind might be turning more nationalistic and far more critical of The Great West is not a thought that will have entered most Westerners minds. 

But that is the reality; while the other narrative- one of increasing business ties, friendship etc holds good as well, and is a powerful positive, the second aspect highlighted above is not one that can or should be ignored. The fact of the matter is that The Indian Mind is being hammered from all directions with a narrative of the developed world that is highly  critical, and completely negative in almost all aspects of normal interchange in public life. 

This, when combined with the highly emotive points  on religion and terrorism highlighted in the Backdrop segment, are a key driving force. Increasingly, The Great West is being clubbed alongwith Pakistan, and there is an increasing number of votaries of a complete look-east policy. More and more educated Indians, rather than viewing The Great West as a visionary land, view it as a problem, or with condescension and even open dislike. 

The popular narrative in international media has no awareness or conceptualisation of this; neither are they expected to have this, to be fair. That is the reason for this article – to point out the other side of the story; and clearly point out reasons why India is moving East, decidedly, clearly and emphatically. The Great West, due to its policies and its jaundiced view of us is increasingly alienating the Indian people. Given that the attitude in The Great West is not  about to change anytime soon, you can expect a further hardening of attitudes on the Indian side…

The Great West, and Its Great Legacy…

Published September 28, 2014 by vishalvkale


The Great West… The land of development, equality and the abundance of opportunity; in the eyes of some, the land of fairness and openness, the land of open markets and free trade, the land where dreams come true, and the land which defends world peace and comes to the aid of the downtrodden. This is  the land consisting of nations that try to take the message of democracy and free trade to the rest of the planet, carrying a message of peace, rule of the law and equality of people everywhere

This is the impression, most, or perhaps all of which are shared by most people in this Great Land, judging from the limited interactions I have had with people from those lands, their news reports and analyses, and an analysis of their policies over a long period of time.  Let us not get specific as to countries and nations, and restrict ourselves to the dream, the land called The Great West.

We are currently, as a nation and as a people, in the midst of unprecedented tumult in our immediate west {geographically speaking; as different from the Metaphorical noun The Great West} – stretching from Pakistan right upto the Middle East, with the emergence of shocking brutality and a blitzkrieg-like advance of the forces of the IS. We have been reading of the resolve of The Great West {as different from geographical west, which specifically refers to Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria,, Jordan etc with reference to India} to stamp out these forces, and of the commitment to peace and stability the world over. 

This brings me to a simple thought : how did this come to pass? How and why did these human beings rise to so much hate, and had to resort to such unforgivable brutality and bloodshed? What was the causative factor behind the rise, rise and rise of these jihadists, and the entire terror machinery? War is a costly affair, and high-tech weapons are not exactly available in the nearby supermarket. Where are these fighters getting their funds from? And where are they getting their weapons from? How did they originate? What were the factors that lead to the current situation?

The answer to most of these questions  lies outside the scope of this blog; and is a specialised subject. Having said that, I have not read anyone in any Media even trying to answer these questions. It is only in Indian writings  {and a couple of Western Books, to be honest} that these questions answers’ have been attempted. But there is a vast difference between public knowledge, popular Media and specialised, esoteric books on the topic. It is only in Indian Media that this  has been stripped nude, and the reality laid bare in the history behind the creation of the Frankenstien Monster that is the current situation

Be it diplomatic staff {I have carried a reference to an interview earlier on my blog as well}, or general populace all seem to be in denial in The Great West,  at least as far as my readings go. Whereas, in India, writers from both fiction {Mukul Deva, for ex} and non-fiction {MJ Akbar, for example} have dealt with this {or parts thereof} in detail. Normal news articles etc are also present regularly in mainstream media that testify to the fact that we Indians are only too aware of the role of The Great West in the creation of this monster. 

It is known that it required 9/11 for The Great West to wake up from its slumber. As I argue in my article Terror : The Guilty And The Innnocent, “You can call these guys Jihadists, or Extremists, or Terrorists – or whatever else passes your fancy. You can now label them as an international threat, a threat to world peace, and what-not. You can now pass judgement on them, and plan their extermination and defeat – now that they are threatening you. You can now call yourselves as fighting against terror, now that the terror has come to hit your nations – I am referring to the USA and any other nations that helped these terrorists in the early days. “. Collectively, I  refer to these nations as The Great West… 

The question is their origin : and no one can deny that is the penchant of The Great West for interference in other nations that lies at the root of this problem. In nation after nation, arms were sent in to disaffected elements, fomenting rebellion and unleashing factors that caused deep socio-cultural torment and wrought destructive change in their societies. In some cases, like Pakistan, arms were sent in to train Jihadists to fight foreign enemies of The Great West – I mean Russia – with the same results as above. 

As I mentioned in my previous article as well, undeniable proof exists. This is a message and a point that bears repetition : “In 1985, at a White House ceremony in honour of several Afghan mujahideen — the jihadists out of which al-Qaeda evolved — President Ronald Reagan declared, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers.” Earlier in 1982, Reagan dedicated the space shuttle ‘Columbia’ to the Afghan resistance. He declared, “Just as the Columbia, we think, represents man’s finest aspirations in the field of science and technology, so too does the struggle of the Afghan people represent man’s highest aspirations for freedom. I am dedicating, on behalf of the American people, the March 22 launch of the Columbia to the people of Afghanistan.”


Now take a look at this shocking data sheet from India : Annual Casualities


Reproduced here : 


Incidents
Civilians
Security Force Personnel
Terrorists
Total
1988
390
29
1
1
31
1989
2154
79
13
0
92
1990
3905
862
132
183
1177
1991
3122
594
185
614
1393
1992
4971
859
177
873
1909
1993
4457
1023
216
1328
2567
1994
4484
1012
236
1651
2899
1995
4479
1161
297
1338
2796
1996
4224
1333
376
1194
2903
1997
3004
840
355
1177
2372
1998
2993
877
339
1045
2261
1999
2938
799
555
1184
2538
2000
2835
842
638
1808
3288
2001
3278
1067
590
2850
4507
2002
NA
839
469
1714
3022
2003
NA
658
338
1546
2542
2004
NA
534
325
951
1810
2005
NA
521
218
1000
1739
2006
NA
349
168
599
1116
2007
NA
164
121
492
777
2008
NA
69
90
382
541
2009
NA
55
78
242
375
2010
NA
36
69
270
375
2011
NA
34
30
119
183
2012
NA
16
17
84
117
2013
NA
20
61
100
181
2014
NA
14
29
77
120
Total*
47234
14686
6123
22822
43631


The timeline is pretty damning, when you put the 2 together {the US interference in Afghanistan, and the rise in casualty rates}. We kept informing everyone of this duplicity, but no one was interested in listening to us; the focus was on a purely imaginary Russian threat, leading to disaster for us. 

So tell me, The Great West, answer a few of my questions – the questions of an Indian : 

  • Who asked you westerners to interfere? 
  • Who asked you westerners to butt your nose where it does not belong? 
  • Who asked you westerners to send arms into a tinderbox, ensuring eventual explosion? 
  • Who asked you westerners to fan the flames of Jihad that are now consuming the world? 
  • Who asked you westerners to help when there is a multilateral body such as the now-toothless and laughing stock of the developing world, The United States Nations Organisation {UNO}? 
  • Who gave you westerners the bloody right to send in arms to diverse areas across the world, and wreck havoc in the developing world? 
  • Who gave you westerners the bloody right to interfere in international affairs, and poke your western nose where it does not belong? 
  • Who gave you westerners the bloody right to fuel secessionist movements and Jihadi movements across world, leading to untold bloodshed in those lands, while you continue to sleep soundly in your fluffy bed? 
  • Who gave you westerners the right to fuel so-called democracy in far-flung peoples, leading to genocide, bloodshed, and total destruction? 
  • Who gave you westerners the right to interfere, when you do not have even the faintest conceptualisation of how your near-criminal interference is leading to socio-cultural churn in these target nations, unleashing destructive forces as a direct consequence of your intervention? 
  • And most critically, why cry peace now that the bloodshed has reached your western lands? 


You westerners have been the indirect {some would say direct} cause of wanton destruction and bloodshed in the entire world; so now enjoy the fruits of your labour! Sad to state, but the Frankenstein you westerners created and unleashed has grown so huge, that it is now not possible to contain it any longer without further bloodshed. 

    It is a known fact that funds and arms were diverted to foment trouble in Kashmir by Pakistan; the entire world was silent. The current crisis started years ago when the USA decided that Communism was its greates existential threat, and sent in its CIA to train ISI, who then together blundered into Afghanistan. They decided to train Afghanistani people and arm them against Russia. 

    In fact, more than a few westerners still argue for Pakistan, seeing it as an ally against terror, despite persuasive evidence of the reverse being present. At that time, no one was listening to us… problem is, no one is listening to us even today, when The Great West continues to  see Pakistan as an ally rather than the problem…

    Answer these questions, please… Just dont ask India to get into the act; we have not done even one thing mentioned above; maintained equidistance, and we are the ONLY land which is a relative peace while the rest of the Islamic World self-destructs. despite have more than 145 Million Muslim Citizens. We did the right steps, and got our deserved reward : peace. You westerners can now enjoy the fun of the Dessert that is the result of your intervention. Go right ahead. Have fun. We dont want any part of it. 

    Blunt : I cant see what The Great West has to be so proud of; so stop being so bloody condescending to us Indians, will you? Remember, what goes around, comes around. You show contempt, you beget contempt. Currently I am among the few Indians who treat The West with total contempt, disdain, an ill-disguised superiority complex {I am now getting increasingly certain we are better} and condescension. 


    With time, the number of people like me will increase exponentially. Think a little… but more of that in the second part…

    Book Review : And Death Came Calling by Mukul Deva

    Published September 15, 2014 by vishalvkale

    AND DEATH CAME CALLING…

    Mukul Deva is known for his edge of the seat thrillers on the topic of terrorism and/or Army-based thrillers, as shown in his books like Laskhar, Salim Must Die and RIP among others. Thus the expectation is that a Mukul Deva Book should be based on a similar theme; especially since we are used to Western Authors writing on similar themes for the entire career. Well, forget that expectation; the current book is nothing like any of his other books. 

    With this awesome work, Mr Deva has established his versatility and command over an entirely different type of book; one which can be classified as a deep and dark thriller. This is a masterpiece from the master of Indian Thrillers, one that is a must read for all Mukul Deva fans – and is a highly recommended read for readers of this genre.


    THE PLOT

    The plot can only be described as deceptively simple, yet pregnant with possibilities. This is based on a security outfit with a difference: one that peddles state-of-the-art smart homes with the entire  range of electronic surveillance and security devices, which include remote camera surveillance through the internet. This is an outfit run by an ex-Army man and a Electronics wizard, the 2 of whom combine their flair of the security business and electronic surveillance gizmos respectively, and combine into a seemingly perfect duo. 


    From their control room, they can see right into their client’s homes through these remote cameras – if they want to. Things go as planned, as the project takes off and they land some high-profile clients. That is, until the day one of them decides to save time money and energy by accessing the remote control system to solve a technical  glitch in one of the system’s at their client’s homes. From there, things go on a rapid chain of events that will stun you… 


    THE CHARACTERS
    Captain Ashwin Thakur {Retd} : Dynamic, Unscrupulous, Rough, but a far-sighted and highly intelligent man
    Ajit Rawat : Techie Genuis, Straight, Irritating, and yet..


    THE ANALYSIS

    This isnt a classic Mukul Deva. If that is what you are looking for, stop reading here and move on. But if you are interested in a good fast-paced book – read on. Major Mukul Deva {Retd} has just proven his versatility and his ability to write a  stunner on a totally different style. This is a completely different book in every sense of the term. A major, major diversion from the usual Mukul Deva classic.

    The book has a slow build-up; but interestingly, the suspense and the expectation  starts from almost the first page, and builds up page after page ceaselessly. An expectation of increasing tension, action and adventure that rides on the reader’s mind as he or she turns pages in the expectation that the next page contains the implied explosion into action; an expectation that keeps you glued to the pages. Some feat, that. Awesome! 

    The list of characters says it all : I have listed only 2. And it takes tremendous skill to write an engaging Novel based on only 2 main characters, with a wide variety of supporting characters and 2 major supporting characters, people who play pivotal roles in the story. Who are they? Read the book to find out : I dont want to spoil the fun! The character development is excellent, although in a minimalist style, and amply supports and further develops the story. 

    The writing style is very, very different – and yet, retains its punch. The only objection I can find is the vulgarity and open sexuality. I can understand the use of some bad words, given the overall character of Ashwin Thakur. That is entirely in keeping with the character, and its absence would have seemed out of place. But the overt sexuality and explicit description of female parts as well as inclusion of the sexual scene seems overdone. The same effect could have been had by a gentler approach. That apart, the book is superb.

    If you enjoy good writing, if you enjoy great fiction, if you enjoy a fascinating read, if you enjoy a rapid and fast-paced novel that is a captivating read – this is the book for you. It is unique, and is based on a superbly laid out near-flawless plot that will stay with you hours after you keep the book down. I rate it 4 stars out of 5…

    Our Forgotten Freedom Fighters : Do We Really Care?

    Published September 13, 2014 by vishalvkale

    Our Forgotten Freedom Fighters
    Do We Really Care?

    Place : Nagpur
    Location : Zenda Chowk, Mahaal

    I was visiting a prospective business partner in the Central Indian city of Nagpur, when my eyes chanced upon a well-constructed building lying nearly vacant unvisited, with a statue. In a spare moment I walked upto the statue : that of a freedom figher, inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Interesting part is, the featured person in the statue is Shahid Shankar Maahle, about whom there is no detail; only that the statue has been inaugurated by Pandit Nehru!


    I asked around the shops nearby; apparently this building – The Shaheed Smaarak – was one of 4 such memorials made to freedom fighters in India {I have not been able to find internet resources to support these 4 buildings; I can only report what I have seen with my own eyes}. The lament in the people nearby was that people have forgotten about this, and the building now lies unvisited, and is used for Ganapati Pandals. The unvisited part I know for a fact, for I saw precisely no one visit there in the 3 plus hours I spent in front of the building. This was also supported by the caretaker, who showed me around the building. 

    Well done, India.  This is how you value your freedom fighters, Keep it up. You cannot even spare a few minutes to visit such monuments {I have written another such memoir about a monument in Juhu Beach, Mumbai about a police officer}, even when you pass by it. How long does it take to stroll through such a building? These are the people who gave their lives, and their freedom so that we can have ours. And they lie forgotten 

    Take a look at these photographs, at least… spare that much time for your saviours, people who gave their all for you!


    The Building is a 2-storied structure laid with photographs and oil paintings on the freedom struggle; could it have been better? Decidedly so. But fact remains that there is zero interest in memories of the brave fighters for our freedom. It isnt my contention that giving attention to monuments and visiting them is a litmus test of patriotism; one can be equally patriotic without visiting them. 

    But that does in no way mean that we totally ignore these people and their memories… we can surely spare a few minutes from our schedule; or take an hour on a Sunday; or organise a school visit for the students… then and only then can we demand a better more modern and technically superior memorial; then and only then will there be an interest in creating modern memorials to our freedom fighters.

    The First 100 Days : Basic Infrastructure, Or An Inverted Focus?

    Published September 9, 2014 by vishalvkale

    It was a rainy day in Kalyan, on the 31st of August & the 1st of September of this year. I was busy in shifting my luggage from Kalyan to Indore via Railway Parcel Service. I took my luggage to the parcel office, and started the procedure. The first view I got was of 2-3 people using cardboards to clear the waterlogged parcel office. Remember : this is in Kalyan, in Maharashtra. One of the most developed areas in India. 

    Then, I talked to a couple of poorly clad employees who packed my luggage in the standard plastic bags. These said bags were torn in several places, and required my intervention to get things right. After this was done comes the piece-de-resistance of the memory. A clerk gave me a format to fill, which  I did. Then the person took my packages and weighed them on a mechanical scale. Thereafter, the clerk filled up a form in triplicate on his invoice book in classic 80s fashion, pasted a copy of the detailed booking on the back of the invoice, and handed a faded copy from this rather torn looking invoice book. I glanced inside, and saw rows upon rows of dilapilidated files and torn books piled up; I saw my luggage being kept in a godown which lacked even the most basic amenities… 

    This was when the incongruity of the entire BJP Central Government plan hit me hard : in this scenario, when our railways lack even the most basic systems, we are planning for Bullet Trains!  The experience above is just an example; I can do the same for other areas like education, by comparing our primary and secondary education with higher education. This lack of basic systems in so vital an aspect, in addition to being a source of revenue loss and leakage, is also a glaring example of the inverted focus of our polity; what do we need first : basic infrastructure and a solid foundation, or a superstructure founded on suspect foundations? Arent we, as a nation, building the superstructure that can be the envy of all : Bullet Trains, Smart Cities, Higher Education etc without having solid functional basic systems in place? Is this model of development sustainable? Frankly, I very much fear that it isnt sustainable. 

    This does not mean that the current NaMo Government has not done any good tasks so far; neither is it my contention that they are as bad as the UPA was. As a matter of fact, they have already chocked up a series of very laudable steps that have won them the admiration of the majority of the people of India, almost. But that does not mean that we ignore their weak points, or their frankly disturbing moves, neither does it mean that we over-hype them. In fact, with a Government that is visibly doing some good deeds, the onus is on us as a people to set the bar as high as we can, and bring their focus to where it should rightly be. 


    THE GOOD

    • Replacement of the planning commission
    • One Government, One Voice; No Noise; United Facade
    • Iron-Clad control, as is only right : a PM should be in complete control
    • All bodies, from RBI To Commerce Ministry working in relative cohesion; any disagreements handled discreetly. This is a Government in total control of the nation, which is a pleasure to experience. 
    • This extends to every department of the Government, and this is a genuine pleasure to watch
    • House-Cleaning of the Government departments; discipline in the Bureaucracy; offices functioning; focus to some extent on implementation; some clarity in appointments; less indication of favouritism at least so far
    • FDI Cap limit raised in Defence and Insurance
    • Tax Reforms promised; efforts on to solve GST tangle 
    • Federal  Structure strengthened by promise of attention to states, and their earning and taxation shares
    • Obsolete Laws, Redundant Laws being listed for modification and/or deletion
    • Functioning Parliament
    • A stronger, clearer and far more assertive foreign policy with the proper attention to the immediate neighbourhood
    • A more business-friendly outlook, fast decision making, economy focus and unrelenting attention on developing India as a business destination. 


    DISTURBING

    • Armed Forces Reforms : No sign on CDS appointment; No sign of MoD improvement
    • No sign of any movement on even one single Arms and Equipment purchase  plans, despite it being common knowledge, highlighted by innumerable Armed Forces Officers right upto CoS level – that there is a a critical shortage of weapon systems, ammunition and allied support equipment. If there has been an improvement, we havent heard of it
    • Judicial Reforms & Judicial Appointment Bill
    • No indication of political reform, or serious administrative reform, or police reform
    • No action on improving and modernising supply chain in food and agriculture, with steps such as repealing of APMC Act, or adopt some other method to reduce cartelisation
    • No sign of action on the Fertilizer Subsidy front
    • Hurried action on Gadgil Report on the environment, and undue haste in RLP despite there being manifest concerns on the ecological front
    • Excessive centralisation of decision making in the PM office – have we gone to the other extreme?

    WHAT IS PLANNED VS WHAT IS MISSING

    Do  we need Bullet Trains, Smart Cities, Bank Accounts and such  like? Budgetary allocations for higher education, new IITs, etc? If we do, then do we need them more than some other vital aspects, basic facilities, amenities and requirements that go completely ignored? Shouldnt there be some level of focus on the core foundation, the core building blocks of any nation? As I said on my blog before :
    And that is where the problem lies. In Skill Development, there is no mention of primary and secondary school education or its quality – let alone plans to address this. The focus lay elsewhere. There is no mention of this serious issue. The vision statement of the GoI on Independence Day was  totally silent on health issues, and lack of facilities in rural areas. It made no mention of these vital parameters, and related aspects – schools and PHCs in villages – taking education and Health to the masses; this is where the real concentration should have been. It made mention of Bank Accounts and Toilets – but no hint of education and medicine. This is worrying. No mention of rising prices : the single biggest issue facing us in the near term. 

    It {The  15th Aug Address} was totally silent on Corruption – not one word. Not one single word; not even a homily to the masses to stop paying a bribe. If you can exhort the masses to treat women better, clean your cities etc- why cant you attend to this as well? It would have been a relatively easy thing to do; and yet – it was totally ignored. It made not even one observation on the quality of politicians who govern our nation and on the criminalisation of politics. Nothing, nada, zilch. I wonder why?” 
    We are, yet again, building a vibrant superstructure, while the main problems of our society go ignored. The outlay on Education for Primary and Secondary Levels as a percentage of GDP is still abysmal; there is no hint, no mention or no intention of doing anything on the absolute basics. It seems to me that the Government has its priorities wrong, at least for now. 
    • Defence and Security needs of our country is still a cause of deep concern. 
    • Police Reforms are still forgotten, despite there being a Supreme Court Order on it. 
    • Judicial Appointments now have a Government say on it – if the bill is passed {if it already hasn’t been done} . 
    • The GST still seems light years away. Major Structural reforms are still pending on the economy front.
    • No additional focus or allocation on Primary and Secondary Education
    • No focus on improving the quality and knowledge of Government Staff in key areas, one of which I shared below
    • Total silence on Health, Malnutrition, Farmer Suicides etc
    • No efforts to break down crony capitalism, middlemen in trades, or even to dismantle the laws that make this possible, like the Agriculture Produce Marketing Act, or introduce stern measures to remove cartelisation, liberalisation of agri-markets etc as an example
    I could state more areas, but these should suffice. My point is simple : how will bank accounts, bullet trains, IITs, IIMs, Skill Development etc solve the problems our nation faces? Will these ensure education for all? Will these remove the cartel on food procurement at mandis? Will these remove crony capitalism? Will these solve our health problems? Will merely allowing FDI in defense solve the urgent pressing problems our Armed Forces are facing, with around 20 days ammunition only, and a manifest need – an urgent need – of weapon systems and platforms? Can the nation afford to wait that long? 
    Can the police be a better, fairer organisation without freeing it from political control? Why hasnt this been done, when even the Supreme Court has called for it? Can the Judiciary function independently under the new dispensation – and has this worry been thought through, and its doubts in the minds of some people removed? Can our economic challenges be truly removed, can projects truly get implemented without core structural reform, and a focus on stringent anti-corruption measures? 
    The worrying aspect is that these hard-core basic questions have not even occurred to the majority of even the most highly educated people, who are tending to eulogise the current government without sufficient cause, and on barely 100 days of performance. Few people have given thought to these serious questions that are the real challenges India faces. People are satisfied more about Hinduism, or simple cosmetic changes – or even about the most basic discipline like coming to office on time.
    But no one is willing to set about asking this visibly performing and good government – one of the best we have had – to do the things we really need. No one wants to set the bar high for them, and demand what is ours by right. We are happy and satisfied with what little has been dished out to us. But the little that has been done will not suffice; the onus is now on us, the people of India, to drive this Government towards the proper  goal through direct contact with the PMO, through Media and Social Media. Let us get together and demand the basics that any Government ought to give us!

    Ayodhya Kaa Rajaa, Indore

    Published September 8, 2014 by vishalvkale

    Ayodhya Kaa Raajaa, Indore

    Mumbai is known as the land of Ganesh Festival – rightly so. There is no town in India that can match the fervor and the sheer scale and joy of The Ganeshji Season in Mumbai; pages and volumes have been written about the Mumbai festival, and its gaiety; its images are now part of our folklore almost, an integral part of India, such is the joy and the magnificence of the festivities at Mumbai. 

    But India exists outside Mumbai; and I recently {yesterday as a matter of fact} noticed a Ganeshji Pandal in Indore that literally took my breath away, despite having been in Mumbai since 2012 June. I could recall nothing of this sort anywhere in India {this is not to state that something like this does not happen elsewhere : India is way too large for that to happen}. 

    It occurred to me that this is something that India should know; and I hope more people like me from other parts of India also highlight the beauty and unique aspects of our culture, our country, our festivities and our celebrations so that the beauty can be seen and observed by all Indians. This is a first effort for me, so any lack in clarity of images will, I hope, be overlooked by readers. 

    The snaps have been taken with a Nokia Lumia 720 in autofocus mode; it has a flash, and a 6.7 MP camera. These were taken in overcast conditions at around 6:00 PM during the daytime. Any advice on how to improve the snaps and my photography is also more than welcome… I hope everyone enjoys the beauty and scale of this magnificent Ganeshji Pandal. This was at Dussehra Maidan, Annapurna Road, Indore

    The entire structure is temporary; it is built on a wood plank foundation, and has a bamboo framework, with the rest being built with judicious use of cloth and thermocol. That is it. Of note is the strength and the durability of this structure, as it handles the load of thousands of pilgrims from all over Indore {maybe from nearby towns too, you never do know}. Of further note is the internal decorations used to decorate the Pandal, as well as the temporary mini garden in front of the massive pandal… enjoy the images…

     
    {Following single image taken from google I was unable to capture a clear image on my camera 
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    Security Of The Customer – Corporate Concern, Or The Regulators?

    Published September 5, 2014 by vishalvkale

    I have been marking a clear absence of security of ATMs in several places, cutting across 2 or 3 banks at the very least, and in more cities than one. I did see guards deployed at some places {a select few, mind you}; unfortunately, even at those places, the “guarding” {for want of a better word} being done was less than optimal. 

    I spoke to 2 Branch Teams in 2 different cities several hundred kilometers apart, and the response was most lackadaisical, to say the least. The first instance I spoke up, around 6-8 months ago, the Branch Team told me “they will do what they can” : whatever that means. The second instance floored me; I appreciate the Branch Team’s candid approach, but his response did stun me into  silence. 

    The second guy bluntly told me that nothing will happen unless the RBI takes this up, and issues directives to banks to make security at ATMs mandatory. This person went further, and told me that it was unlikely that there were security at any ATM in the industry In fact, he categorically stated that no bank provides security. Furthermore, he also clearly stated that ATMs have been outsourced {he obviously meant their servicing}, and it was not in his power to do anything! 

    On being told of the risk, and the possibility of customer loss or worse, he said that this can only be done when the RBI makes it mandatory. In other words, you are firstly leaving huge amounts of cash in your ATMs without any security, you are also exposing your customer to risk; we have seen incidents happening in ATMs in broad daylight – so no one can say that this risk is non-existent.

    Well, firstly, on reaching home I looked at 2 major banks and their ATM network; in both cases, I took the number of ATMs from their websites. Next I assumed the CTC of each guard as Rs. 10,000/-, and further assumed one guard per ATM, which is what I was asking for. I then went on to take the net profit figures updated on Moneycontrol.com for these banks, and cross-checked one of these from Economic Times. I then calculated the total expenses on guards as a percentage of net profit, which in both cases came to less than 0.01%. 

    Think about that : 0.01% {If I have made an error in my thinking, please educate me}. Of course, other expenses will be incurred : a supervisor and a chain of command, some infrastructure etc. I have not taken these into account. Even if you add up the other expenses that will be incurred, the figure will not be too significant. And a moments thinking can reveal several ways in which these can be minimised, like having Branch Operations supervise the guards, or some other such method or process, perhaps even involving outsourcing. Point is that it is doable!

    Why then is this shocking laxity on the parts of the banks? The ATM is bank property; it is located on a location that is given to the bank as per my understanding. And even if that isnt the case, an ATM is like an extended bank branch. Logically, when a customer enters an ATM to partake some of the bank’s services, he is in the bank premises. He is using your equipment, your facilities for which he is paying. Can the bank just shrug off its responsibility towards its own customers in such a perfunctionary fashion?

    Even if it isnt the bank’s responsibility {unlikely, but you never do know the legalities involved} how much of a dent will it make if you provide security? The customer visits the ATMs out of trust – trust that he will get his hands on his own money, and be able to use it for his needs. So long as he is in the ATM, or  on his way out of it, he is in the care of the bank {in a manner of speaking}. It seems to me as a customer, that the very least the bank can do is provide some basic security that can ensure that we customers are not harmed or looted while in the ATM or on the way out of the ATM. I am not expecting anything more than this basic feeling of trust. Just  as we freely count the cash in the open in a bank branch – since there is a basic trust invested in the relationship between the customer and the bank. We would not dare do that out in the street! 

    In this scenario of manifest risk, when incidents of looting in ATMs, physical harm or worse, or even ATMs being looted and carried away have been known to occur, it seems a stupid way of building trust in the customer. It seems even more strange when you consider that the bank is leaving large amounts of cash locked in ATMs unguarded! In fact, that is so idiotic, it isnt even funny! 

    And all for less than 1% of net profit…