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Book Review – Tales From Shining And Sinking India

Published March 15, 2017 by vishalvkale

Image result for tales from shining and sinking india amaryllisTales from Shining and Sinking India is a series of deep fascinating and interesting stories covered by a journalist during the course of his career. The selection is stupendous, meaningful, and a great value add, besides being interesting and largely of current interest. The eclectic selection includes stories on the Naxal problem, massive floods in Bihar, the 26/11 attack and its Media coverage, Air Accidents – YSR Helicopter accident & Mangalore, Chandrayaan, Tibet, A visit to Pakistan as a Media professional, West Bengal and the fall of the Left, and the two best ones – Anna, and a lovely article on Festivals of India
Tales from Shining and Sinking India is a book by a Media Personality – Akash Banerjee; it has its many good points; but let me depart from my convention, and first point out what I felt were its negatives. I want the readers to leave with a positive impression of this excellent work, so for once let me get into the negatives of the book before I delve into the positives. There aren’t very many, to be honest.
Image result for tales from shining and sinking india amaryllis

THE NEGATIVES
First and foremost, this is an out and out defense of the Media, start to finish. That is the impression I got from it. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing – the other side of the story does need to be told, especially in an atmosphere wherein the Media is often called up for its ways. The US example is present in front of all of us – and that is why, despite me calling this a negative point, this book needs to be read by all. Credit where credit it due. That said, the points raised in at least one article, maybe two or more, failed to impress me, especially the article on 26/11 Media Coverage. I didn’t buy the arguments put forward, sorry. But as this is a book review, I leave it at that. Read it yourself to form your own opinion. Suffice it to say that I remain singularly unimpressed by the defense stated.
Furthermore, the second negative – the point in the Epilogue on Paid Media, well – let me just say that I don’t buy it as an individual. The points raised by the author, while pertinent, do not tally with what I have experienced. I have read one-sided views on at least two scientific topics, with the brunt of the articles being on one side of the argument only. The other side – well covered in more than several researches – didn’t see the light as often as the other side. Now this may be due to opinion as well – not paid news; but unless these and such instances are analysed and explained, I just don’t buy the entire segment in the Epilogue, as it seems to me one-sided. I can also spot many other examples from memory, but science is fact-based, so I choose only science.
THE POSITIVES
Moving on to the positives, let me start be saying that there are so many that it will be difficult to list in a small Blog Article. The subject matter this book contains is so pertinent and varied that listing all pluses is not feasible. So let me just focus on the main points I noted. First and foremost, the depth of coverage of each article, and the entire presentation is excellent. This makes for riveting reading. Since these are personal experiences, depth refers to the complete experience of the Author, and the attention to detail. That is remarkable.
Next, the choice of articles and the subject covered deserves a special mention. You get a view of the on-ground scenario in a variety of contemporary and vital aspects of public importance or interest, ranging from Pakistan,  Natural disasters, Accidents, Terror aspects, Media, Politics, Science – topped off with a delectable number on India’s Religious Festivals. It is this top-notch mix of articles that make for a fascinating, riveting read; giving the book a lovely flavor – this is a very highly balanced book indeed!
Third, the articles, or rather memories, are so well presented in the book, that you get a birds-eye view of the entire scenario as it plays out. The follies as well as the good points have been fairly narrated, with a full coverage; this tends to lend authenticity to the work. The coverage is fairly in-depth, and it gives us an idea of the entire scenario. The articles on the Tibet situation, India’s Festivals, Bihar Floods, Naxal Menace, Anna – and The West Bengal Left’s collapse are the best of the lot.
Fourth, and perhaps the most significant, it gives us, the audience, an inside look at the career of a Journalist in the modern high-pressure world of constant 24*7 news, the pressures they work under, and extent of the hard work, trouble and hardships they have to go through to get us that vital news-bite. This is, in my opinion, vital – as the 24*7 atmosphere is here to stay; and rather than blandly criticize the Media, or take it for granted, we should all be aware of what they go through. This book is a significant contribution in that realm. All in all, a class book truly worth reading for all bilbiophiles, indophiles, current affairs followers and Media persons… 
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Punjab – AAP Debacle, Or Just The Start?

Published March 14, 2017 by vishalvkale

The recently concluded Elections in Punjab, in particular, returned a surprising result; few people had foreseen such a massive victory for the INC. While even the UP elections were rather of a surprise, the difference was that the UP results were not as suprising, given that on-ground reports from my friends in UP were very gung-ho about the BJPs prospects. But there was nothing in the air regarding Punjab that at least I read, with the result that I got a complete surprise.

In my opinion, after studying the entire results data constituency-wise, as well as the history of elections in terms of results, the question that comes to my mind is this : were we guilty of expecting too much? Historically, Punjab has always been a two-way fight between Congress and SAD; and the AAP was a rank newcomer to the scene. This reality has to be kept in the backdrop. Second, the win in New Delhi for AAP was in a different political and ground reality, and the realities in Punjab were slightly different. Third, as others writers have also noted, there were mistakes committed in the run-up. Fourth, there was also the scepter of internal issues in the AAP. All of these were known to us.
Expecting too much is not the same as accepting defeat after a loss. By expecting too much, you let your ambitions and desires soar; the resulting crash leads you to ignore the benefits that have accrued, as you go into the mode of post-mortem. And the reality is that a new party has exploded onto the scene in the state with a significant vote-share; never in the history of Punjab has any party apart from these two won 20 assembly seats. Only the Janta Party in 1977 won 25 seats; even the BJP got 18 and 19 seats twice. Thus, this is a very respectable opening for a new party. Note that 77 was a different pollical atmosphere and 97/07 BJP numbers were from an established party. The AAP is a rank newcomer.
Looking further into the numbers, the AAP garnered a vote-share of 23.7%. Dig deeper, and both issues, as well as areas to focus on, start becoming apparent. In the seats which AAP won, it got an average margin of 9.58% over the 2nd candidate; this number is 19.79% for the INC and 18.99% for the SAD-BJP combine. The AAPs margin of victory is far slimmer, meaning that the other parties are deeply entrenched into the local people. This also goes to prove the splendid job that the AAP did achieve, given the circumstances and all that happened in the campaign.
It is noteworthy that they managed inroads in a state which has had only two major players since independence. The slimmer victory margin underscores the strong support for the existing parties, as well as shows AAP the way forward – Consolidate on the gains acquired, and grow from here. The Janata Party in 77 could not consolidate, neither did the BJP having acquired a similar level of strength. But what is truly in AAPs favour is its newness to the political scene. Far from being a problem, this newness is actually a great big advantage in its favour-  provided they develop their policies and their core base properly. Another data point also supports this contention – the SAD-BJP, despite having only 18 seats, had a vote share of 30.9%, again showing deeply entrenched followership.
What is more, when you go deeper into the data, what transpires is even more heartening. Of the 10 seats where the INC had the slimmest margins {upto 5.25%} over the next best, 9 were AAP candidates, who lost by a few thousand votes only. This indicates that it is feasible that the AAP is eating into the INC vote share and support base {though this cannot be a definitive conclusion, need more data and facts}. Again, this gives the AAP a strong starting support base which it can develop into a core base, from which it can grow in the years to come.
There can be no doubt that the AAP did not do as well as expected; in our first past the post system, yes – the AAP lost. But it wasn’t a comprehensive loss by any definition of the word. There are enough indicators of the way forward present, and it is now upto the AAP to pick up steam and develop their core base from here onwards. Given their overall strategic approach, I for one have no doubts. The AAP while it has committed errors, has also shown the ability to learn fast. In 2014, it tried for 432 seats pan-India. Since that experience, they have now altered approach in favour of a steady growth state-wise. The ball is now firmly in AAPs court.
The last point that I make here- these elections have been very heartening indeed, in that in three cases, the results was a clear one. That is what we need – two or three main parties in contest, which ensures stability of policies and governance. It was heartening to see the BJP emerge as the single party in charge; as also the INC in Punjab. We also need to keep track of NOTA… in Punjab, NOTA managed a share of 0.69% overall, emerging as the 4th or the 5th choice in 60 of the 117 seats. This again proves the contention above-  the emergence of two or three strong choices. This bodes well for our Demoracy!

REFERENCES : 
  
1) assembly elections 2017 results – HT  2) Punjab Assembly Election 2017 Results – Elections.in    3) Raisina Series – AAP’s Punjab post-mortem…    4) Firstpost – Punjab Election Results 2017: Congress wins 77 seats; Amarinder Singh to be next CM

The Absence Of A National Dialogue

Published January 19, 2016 by vishalvkale

The Absence Of A National Dialogue
The title will surprise many, but that is precisely my contention; that we lack a national dialogue; a consistent, strong and clear discussion on the matters that really matter to us as a people. We are very quick to discuss on Social Media issues relating to Religion, BJP Government, AAP {particularly denouncing it}, Rahul Gandhi / Congress, Arvind Kejriwal, Indians Abroad… but are almost totally silent on any number of issues that are far more relevant, important and critical to us


AGRICULTURE

You will not find many posts, mentions on agrarian distress, drought conditions in several districts, condition of Small and Marginal Farmers, lack of farm profitability, abysmally low farm-gate prices, lack of facilities in the agrarian belts, the problems faced by the farming community etc. And yet, even the smallest step taken for the emancipation of the above problems gets highlighted excessively.

That the positives are highlighted is welcome – but this happens without an attendant and equally vocal attention to the problems being faced by farmers. Therein lies the problem; you cannot have a complete picture of the ground reality without a full picture. What we see is an abundance of noise and adulation on steps taken for farmers – but almost zero attention to the reality of the farming scene in India…



THE ECONOMY

Similar is the case with the Economy; let me take just one small example to make my point. The structure of the Indian Economy is skewed heavily towards the Small and Medium Enterprise; as previously pointed out on my blog, the contribution of the unorganised sector to the Indian Economy is in excess of 40%, in the range of 45% – 60% {Refer the review of the book India, Uninc by Prof Vaidyanathan for full details}

And yet, a glance at the Pink Papers, Media, Social Media would completely belie the above in its totality. Rare is the article that goes deep into this aspect of our economy, which employs more people, contributes more to the GDP as well as to savings, and is the engine of India’s growth as well as consumption and savings juggernaut. Anything to do with Corporate Business gets immediate attention; is analysed threadbare – but not on this most vital of sectors of our Economy.

Its needs, wants, bottlenecks and requirements never reach the educated classes, So much so – it took me, an MBA with a regular reading of News and Books well over 14 years work experience to get introduced to the scale & scope of the Unorganised Sector and its contribution – and even that took a book that I spotted in a mall {mentioned above}



EDUCATION & HEALTH

This stands as the most neglected sector of all, with near-zero attention; in my opinion – even more neglected than Agriculture. The fact is that we spend very little {as a % of GDP allocation in Budget} on Education & Health gets a mention – but few people question this. Conversely, politicization of education – by any party – gets headline news for weeks – but the lack of attention to both these factors nationally hardly merits a few erudite articles and analyses in some select serious media outlets!

We rarely stop to think how can we improve the lot of the people among the not-so-lucky; how can they partake in the improved opportunities that growth brings without good health and education! Is it due to the blind spot we have – being educated, living in Urban Agglomerations, with good jobs {mostly} – leading us to forget that there are others who don’t have the advantages we have had due to our lucky parentage, which is strictly speaking an accident of birth?


THE CONCLUSION

Each of the points above ideally needs a dedicated article unto itself to do it justice; furthermore, there are other relevant issues that can be included in the list that get ignored. The list above is neither representative, nor is it exhaustive. Sadly, basis what we have seen and read till date on Media and Social Media both – you have to hunt for updates and information relating to these vital aspects of our nation.

How is Religion, Pro- or Anti-BJP, Pro- or anti-AAP etc going to influence the direction of policies in any way? Regardless of how much social media noise is generated, regardless of how much attention and coverage these generate, how is it going to help in any practical and definable way? In fact, in some cases it stokes arguments and verbal duels as can be seen in comments on facebook updates {as an example}

If we can focus so much attention on these frankly irrelevant and unimportant matters, post updates on them in Social Media, attempt to influence your readers, friends etc, or inform them – then why cant we also show due interest to real matters, matters of far greater relevance? We can update a deluge of updates praising one Government or the other, and yet maintain complete silence on real matters – Education, Agrarian Distress, Rural-Urban Gap, Health, Indian Armed Forces, Economy?

Similarly in the Media, one can read threadbare and in painstaking detail {or watch to be fair} news relating to so-called “current events”, in minute-by-minute breaking news and updates – but almost nothing by relative comparison on these real issues. How difficult could it be, just increasing space and/or time for analytical articles and snippets on these real issues, factors that will determine the pace of our growth?

What is happening is that as a result, there is a complete of a national dialogue around the real issues that matter to us as a people, as a nation. The lack of awareness of the people at large {basis personal experience of my own self} leads to a total silence on these matters, compared to a deluge of information on the other matters, which are relatively minor – and some might even be called debatable as being “matters” of relevance.

If the belief in the people is that by sharing updates on Religion and related matters, Historical wrongs, Pro- or anti- Government, Personality-specificity etc – one can influence public opinion, then the same holds true for the real issues. And if you don’t believe in the power of Media, then why share on your social pages, and why write or create on your Media?

And, if this medium does hold power – both Media as well as Social Media – then what does our silence on the real issues say about us as a people? Why are we sharing and reading avidly on Religion, Political Parties – but ignoring the really important issues, issues that are vitally important to the nation? What does this behaviour say about us? 

Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai?

Published December 15, 2015 by vishalvkale

The title says “Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai?” That is my question to all of my readers. Insaaniyat kahaan gum ho gayi hai? Where is our feeling of humanity, of oneness, of compassion, and of love-  all those lovely feelings humans are supposed to have – heavy emphasis on the word supposed? For, even a cursory glance at contemporary society would prove beyond any shade of doubt that not one of these is in common prevalence…
This is a society that can watch a Nirbhay {May God Bless Her Soul and Grant Her Moksha}  lie naked and bleeding on a road in a cold winter morning; this is a society that can watch a wounded man writhe in agony on the road, or can watch a man bleed to death – and yet do nothing.These are just examples;  does no remorse ever touch such people? Doesn’t their conscience prick them, and say anything? How is it that we as a society have become so insensitive?
This is a society which can rise and raise a hue and cry when a question is raised on a political leader – any leader with a following, to be frank; the level of the noise rises with an increase in popularity. This is a society that can cry themselves hoarse, throw insults and worse on the slightest criticism of a political leader, or party, or perceived national image {intolerance, anyone?} – and yet remain totally silent on such callous and insensitive displays of so-called “human” behaviour as we have seen in the above examples!
Where is our indignation when such things happen?  Where is the high-decibel shock, condemnation and disgust that was in evidence earlier – when such {and many other} displays of apathy and insensitivity occur? Where is our collective conscience? Why the profound silence, and why the noise when someone – whether famous or not – criticizes the Government, any party {note – ANY party}, our culture, our nation, our heritage? Or is it the contention that such finer feelings are reserved only for such idea, notions and feelings rather than clear human tragedies?
A couple of days ago, a similar such {similar, not comparable – please!} incident occurred in New Delhi, which might also have resulted in the sad death of a baby {matter sub-judice, we don’t know}. A clearly legally correct action on people occupying Railway Land; they had no right to that land. I don’t think that is in question here. But the manner this was done – destroying settlements in mid-winter – has shocked me to the core of my being. What is going on?
This was done without any alternative arrangement – and that is the true horrifying shocker in this entire sad tragedy. Other questions – like was it too hurried {the death of the Baby – why it happened etc} are there; but they are more to do with administrative and legal matters; and we cannot comment without more information. The Honourable High Court is now looking into this matter; and its initial scathing observation and questions on The Government is telling, but we cannot and should not comment till more information is available.
The reason was : A Passenger Terminal, among other things. A passenger terminal is more important than providing for those poor people who have nowhere to go? Couldn’t someone have found a way to do both? Where was the need for such horrifying and mind-numbingly shocking action on a hand-to-mouth people, who have no hopes and nowhere to turn to? Is this the excellent implementation culture we have been hearing about? I am stunned at this action, and could not sleep all night, as I recalled that incident, my mind was numb with disbelief, A Passenger Terminal!!!!! Couldnt it wait? Couldnt someone have first made alternate arrangement – this is mid-winter, man! Shocking!
And now where all those indignant noises that we heard against Aamir, or against those who were saying we are intolerant? If we believe that raising a voice against a perceived or real event can be effective – then why the silence now? Where are all those people who were raising a voice that India is Tolerant? Where are those people who were saying India is Intolerant? Where are all those people who talk of GDP growth, amenities and facilities? Where are all those people who chat about inclusive growth? No, Nothing, Nada, Zilch, Cipher, Zero, Silence. Absolute, Complete and Total Silence.  
Or are such niceties reserved only for important things, like Culture, Tolerance, GDP Growth, Amenities, Facilities? What happens when you see such sad examples as above? Every odd day, we hear a news of bystanders doing nothing as accident victims bleed – everyday examples of apathy. Why the silence  – the total silence – on every social media of note on such issues? Why we ignore such mind-numbing cruelty? For this is cruelty – letting someone die, and doing nothing.
This is also poor implementation – not making arrangements. But  I forget – good implementation is only for your swank malls, large factories, lovely roads, big ports, isn’t it? You put pressure on the Government for these; high time you also put pressure on the Government for the other aspect – good implementation in terms of displaced people in projects, good and hassle free implementation of accident victims treatment, and lessening the fear of the people.
But no, that isn’t important, is it? Your GDP, Factories etc are far more important, right? I am not talking of the Government – I am talking to you, the people of India. Frankly, this pusillanimous display of lack of plain humanity in the people is only convincing some among us that this Government is A Suit-Boot-Ki-Sarkar. I would like to remind everyone here that this Indian behaviour has been in evidence, this apathy has been present regardless of the which political party is in power!

I can only ask : Insaaniyat Kahaan Hai? Where is our feeling of being Human? Aapas me gam baante, Jo ham phir na rahe aise  sitam… Kahane ko insaan hai… Insaaniyat kahaan hai??????? 

The Intolerance Debate – Two Sides, and A Silver Lining

Published November 28, 2015 by vishalvkale

THE PREAMBLE

In the previous part of this article, I concluded by stating “… One cannot argue or speak logic in such an atmosphere, when the tiniest comment leads to taunts of Go To Pakistan and/or personal insults, when even the most simple article or statement leads to massive arguments with some of my close friends and family”… This is the main theme of this concluding third part on Intolerance; this article is more of a heart-searching, a regret and a lament than a contribution to the debate. As previously stated, I have no intention of muddying the waters anymore.

I cannot recall any instance in my life when such an impassioned, and completely biased debate has been the mainstay – and from both sides of the spectrum. While one side is admittedly far calmer and collected, the fact remains that Newton’s third law – action/reaction, is ensuring a slow degeneration. That said, it has to be stated that despite the most cutting barbs, one side has not descended to such abysmal levels of public discourse. This is not about the Government – I am exclusively talking about we, The People; I stated earlier that I have no intention of writing on any political angle as of now. I intend to keep my promise as far as possible.



SELF-EXAMINATION OF US AS A PEOPLE

What causes us, as a people, to express ourselves in such ways? What has the Intolerance Brigade done that is so bad that justifies the Tolerance Brigade  {Some members at least} calling people who express their opinion from the other side with deep insults, give vent to extreme taunts and cutting barbs? Where is the need to show such scathing condescension? I admit that this is present only in some people – but it is present, and for everyone to see. This development is unlike anything I have seen in my life; and has caused to me to be shocked into silence by the unbelievable contempt and lack of understanding on the other side.

Even the more conservative have been, this time, scathing in their vehemence and at times even condescension. The stunning stridency of the defences mounted by the Tolerance Brigade beggars belief, so galling is the high decibel levels of the defence; so much so, that I can only call it a counter-attack. Even the remotest suggestion of a public figure – any public figure – venturing anywhere near the term ‘Intolerance” sets off a  massive spate of protests on social media as well as the regular media outlets!

If this was only about Public Figures, it could be a political matter; the problem is that this even extends to the personal sphere. Whatsapp forwards that poke barbs at the Intolerance Brigade, anti-BJP or Pro-Congress or Pro-AAP people are pretty much the routine. The odd-article or comment from the other side almost immediately  results in someone or the other countering with views of their own. This is, by itself, welcome; I have been privileged enough to be a part of such debates on Facebook as well as Whatsapp with some of my closest friends as well as relatives.

The problem is if someone from the other side automatically assumes me to be a member of the Intolerance Brigade without affirmation of my views; or if someone comes back with a barb and straight insult – or even a show of deep contempt. Fine; you don’t agree – but does that mean my patriotism is in question? Does that imply that only one side of the debate is patriotic? I refer to various updates questioning the same! Or that I deserve contempt or insults? Is this the way to conduct a civilized discourse? Not all discussions degenerate like this  – to be completely fair; but some do. And it is those few that cause intense provocation and soul-searching.


THE FRIENDS AND FAMILY ANGLE
Luckily, in my case, soul searching has managed to overcome the provocation – and for that, I have to thank The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta and the Kathopanishad / Kenopanishad which I am currently reading. Credit where credit is due. That I have managed to overcome the bitterness is not due to my innate abilities, or my self-control, or my personality; it is due to the wisdom that I have found in the Holy books I am currently reading

How do I argue with my relatives – close ones at that? How do I discuss with my closest friends without spoiling the relationship? How do I  discuss this with the benefactor who has helped me? It cant be done; so divergent are the differences, so different the views that any discussion is a recipe for certain heartache and disaster, given the strongly held positions on both sides. It would also be a stupid thing to do – at times, silence is golden and preferable to proving your point.  That seemingly simple, clear and straightforward bit of common sense holds great promise…



WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY?
And that is what is worrying me; at the same time – that is also pointing a way out of this quagmire. I cannot recall anything in my 43 years {well, 25-27 years if you count from the late teens} that has aroused so much passion and debate in the people. Why is it that anything remotely questioning the Government this time is inducing so much vehemence and stridency? Why the extreme levels of defensiveness to debate and questioning – and on just about any aspect of the Modi Government? Is it the assumption of the people that Mr Modiji cannot do any wrong? Conversely, why is it so difficult for the other side to give praise where praise is due?

Take Shashi Tharoor, Arun Shourie and Shatrugha Sinha as perfect political examples. Does their praise of  or questioning or their political stance vis-a-vis the Government make them any less committed than what they are? Why is this so much of a problem? Why cant we accept that Modiji is doing fabulously great in some aspects, not-so-great in others, and abysmally bad in others? How does that statement call for anything other than an informed rebuttal on the negative aspects basis facts? Where is the need to bring in insults, barbs and taunts on this? Why cant we, or rather, to be harsh – why are we totally unable to – think in a calm fashion on this? Why the stunning stridency?


SHADES OF GREY
And no side is bereft of errors in this debate; this is the real world, and both sides are shades of grey. But you will not find even one participant on either side willing to admit they are anything other than the purest , most pristine shade of the Whitest White! At this juncture, it is pointless asking who is more responsible; that is an exercise in futility. Never in my entire life have I encountered such cast-in-stone views on any political matter… and that is the biggest question in my mind. Both sides are blaming the other, and neither side is willing to cede even one inch of ground, taking the debate to ridiculous levels, with the hardened positions on both sides now causing mirth and humour to people like me, who are now shaking their {our?} heads in disbelief.

The Tolerance Brigade is either quick to discount totally the ridiculous utterances of the fringe elements, being insultingly dismissive of the societal as well as political impact of the said statements; either that, or some members of this brigade actually defend the above as logical, which is a really sad tragedy. To these people, these are non-events; and they will brook no question of intolerance; some of these people also maintain the Government is picture-perfect and can do no wrong. To this sub-set, any question of anti-Government, critical appraisal is nothing short of sacrilege – so much so, that insults and taunts fly on the mere hint of criticism.

The Intolerance Brigade, on the other hand, is vehement on proving their point. Separate issue that some of their points requires no proof; the fringe elements and their statements are proof enough of the existence of some elements that buy into the intolerance. Furthermore, the way the protestors cut across the socio-political kaleidoscope is mute testimony of the facts as they exist on the ground. 


They however, tend to forget that a fringe does not a nation make! They too, like their friends above, exaggerate – though not to such an extent; some of these people regrettably extend the intolerance claim to the entire nation – which is a highly debatable assumption. Do we, as a nation, really require to prove to anyone our tolerance? I don’t think so.


SILVER LINING AND HOPE
But most critically, what most sides miss is the most vital aspect of this entire pro and anti BJP thing : the fact that this {larger pro and anti BJP debate} has politically revived the nation, and especially the thankless and lackadaisically selfish middle class. For the first time in my memory, political debates are in friends, family and society; for the first time in my memory, politics is not some esoteric rocket science that does not impact us as a people; for the first time, politics is seen as something that interests us directly. And that, to my mind, is a powerful plus, any which way you look at it. And it would be a capital insult to call it a communal affair-  the issues discussed are political, economic, business, and development based

Indeed, for the first time, we have a charismatic leader who has fired the imagination of Indians across religious and political divides. For the first time, we can see passion and devotion towards a leader. For the first time, we can see an involved and committed Indian Citizen, almost entirely fired by one or two leaders. For the first time, we can see, spot and feel the hope that is transparent in Indians wherever you turn your eyes. And for the first time – we have not one – but two clear leaders. One on a national level, our PM; and one on the Regional Level – Mr Arvind Kejriwal. For the first time, we can spot a range of other leaders emerge that can take India to the next level, apart from the above two.

Whether or not you like one or the other; whether or not you concede the status of AK, or whether or not you are in agreement with the policies of either; you cannot deny that each has a dedicated followership; and never mind that as of now, AK cannot compare in any way in terms of dedicated and unreserved passion unlike NaMO. For the biggest plus that we have as a  nation is the slow emergence of  a set of future leaders. Now we can be assured, that even if AK does not meet the promise, the holy land of India, Bharat, Aryavart will not fail her children. She never has, and she never will. As I said earlier – Mehendi Toh Mehendi Hai, Rang Laayegi. Khoon Apnaa Rang Dikhaa Kar Rahegaa. That much seems certain.



In conclusion – I just wish both sides would tone down the needless rhetoric, focus on development, acknowledge that real problems exist, and move on.  If this article sounds disjointed and confused – it mirrors my mind in letter and spirit. I cant put it any better than I have above…  

Make What In India? {Narrative Series}

Published September 28, 2015 by vishalvkale

An article in TOI today tells me that GOI is primarily focussing on 3 sectors : Services, Manufacturing and Agriculture! Now this is primarily a large scope contained in this statement, impossible to go into detail as is. The question is and remains, where is the plan 15 months down the road? Where are the specifics, the what and the how – namely MWII? It should be MWII now, not MII which is fine as a slogan, but means nothing as a strategy.

MWII : Make What In India?

Identify specific sectors, industries where we can build capabilities; identify what is needed in each sector and each area. Then go to market for whatever is needed. Without the specifics, it is mere sloganeering.I do not decry the value of slogans to drive a diverse population : but slogans can only carry you so far. And, as on date, I cant see much beyond slogans. If there is a specific plan in the public, please bring it to my attention : this is an honest request.
I dont for a moment doubt that there must be some sort of a go-forward plan; why keep its distribution limited {if it has been revealed – as I request above, please call my attention to it}? Why not translate it into a national vision for and of and by the people? Why not ensure buy-in from the citizens? Surely if you can coin slogans like MII, SBA, DI you can also do an equally bang up task of selling your specific vision to the people? That will ensure a burst in innovation, ideas and action as more and more people buy-in.
Slogans wont help beyond a certain point; you have to outline your vision for Indian Manufacturing, and drive that vision – not in isolated silos of Government Bureaucrats, Politicians and Industrial bodies {although that is admittedly a vital part of any successful plan]; but in the public discourse. And the public discourse, sorry to state, is far more concerned about Caste, Class, Language, Religion and other aspects that are not conducive to the overall vision of Make In India, which is now beginning to lose its sheen.
I can only hope this is in the works. India needs it. What is needed is the building of a national narrative around Manufacturing In India. A narrative perforce means aspects far beyond sloganeering; it involves a shared vision, a plan and a shared confidence and belief in its eventual success, as also a shared realisation of obstacles. A narrative is a story, a set of connected events that move in a particular direction. It requires a vision, a goal, a set of rules & processes to take it forward, an action plan, and a shared acceptance of resources and their limits.
So far, we only have a slogan; one slogan cannot be a narrative; the slogan has now outlived its utility. 15 months down the road, high time we started building a narrative. High time the Government got into details, and built momentum basis facts and ground scenarios, not slogans. That we can do the building of a narrative is beyond debate; within the past 5 years we have seen two or three excellent examples of a narrative in the public discourse in India. The reason why this is vital is because the building and nurturing of a narrative on a national scale requires buy-in by large segments of the population with the divergent interest and needs. The moment you attempt to do this, some hard questions will emerge, as also a clear direction, which will ensure eventual success.
Once you try to get into specifics, questions will emerge, that will eventually need answering not in slogans, but in hard realities. This is not a negative approach, but a practical one. Any path towards success will need circumventing questions : we cannot run away from the questions. While the Government is certainly not running away from the questions – recent events are proof {more in later articles}, some segments of the public certainly are, as by and large, any questions on MII are met with either a stoic silence, summary ignorance, or worse.
THE INPUTS REQUIRED :
To identify questions, we will have to get into brass tacks, and look at what MII requires :
* Business Environment {Study the Indian Economy, its structure as well as the global/local Macro-Economic Environment; Excise/Customs duties & their structure}
* Land
* Labour {Not just skills; skills are dead easy to impart with training; legal landmines need attention; socio-cultural parameters need attention, socio-political matters need close attention and so on and so forth}
* Markets
* Enviromental Impact and its related issues. This is not a small point; the impact of large-scale industrialisation on the environment in a democracy is certain to lead to massive, massive issues. Combined with socio-cultural & political landscape, it is a major stumbling block}
* Corruption Eradication {Subvention of any point above, in a high vigilance atmosphere of both law enforcement as well as Media means regular and consistent exposure of scams and unhealthy tactics. Certain to stall projects fully and finally}
Let us consider just one or two questions or scenarios :
More than 44-58% of Economic Output is from unorganised sector; More than 70% employment is in Non-Corporate Sector – quoting from Memory. Large range of products and industries are controlled by Non-Corporate Sector {Think point of Markets}. Corporate India is less than 19% of the Indian Economy. Large – Millions – of units are SSI and MSI; What happens to these units if large-scale unplanned industrialisation happens? Their manpower is not employable in your class manufacturing units. Translation : displacement of labour on a national scale – leading to social unrest, and rising tensions amid unemployment. This is not a scaremongering scenario, but a statement based on absolute and verifiable facts of the current Indian Economic Structure.
I have yet to read one word in any English Media outlet or Newspaper that has raised this issue, which is gung-ho about MII. Vernacular is another matter, where a few articles have appeared, although they seemed a bit strong on rhetoric. What do you think will be the impact? The large majority lead the vernacular. What happens if MII does succeed? Look for a problem after the horse has bolted?
Thrice between 2000 and 2010, a body of Indians conducted an experiment, which called for construction of scenarios of development. These experiments were conducted by three unrelated sets of people; and the result of each was the same. In each and every case, the only path that lead to true development – given the ground realities of society as well as economics – was the one that concentrated on the small scale sector in India. All other modes and methods adopted led to an increase in the Gini, with much slower impact on the people who have real need for development. The poor of India. And all other methods delivered lesser GDP growth. Does Make in India cater to this?
This sounds so nice, so decent : “Slower pace of growth” – doesnt it? This slower pace of growth means Millions of people will continue to be poor for one more generation, perhaps more. Please try and explain to these Millions
It isnt about large or start-ups; it is about the structure of the Indian Economy & Democracy & Society, which does not support MII. The roadblocks are tremendous; one such – just one – resulted in the central government devolving the matter to the states. Land.
The presence of large – humongous – numbers of companies in the SME sector is another factor. The ecosystem revolves around these small companies. What happens to them if large scale industrialisation happens? What happened in Mumbai when the textile mills closed down? Who paid the price for development? Watch either Lalbaug – Patel : Zhaali Mumbai Sonyaachi {Mumbai becomes a city of Gold}  , or read S Hussain Zaidi. Are we saying that these should pay the price for development?
There is a way out; plan for the industries, and their manpower, so that a smooth transition is made. I have certainly heard absolutely nothing along those lines being talked about in Public. Which is why what Arvind Kejriwal says – education, health etc need priority attention if the needs of the entire nation are to be catered to. The reason is simple : only an educated and healthy person will be in a position to cash in on the benefits of increased manufacturing jobs opportunities. Both have to g hand in hand for true success. Is this happening?
Another alternative is to focus not on Large Industries – but on purely Indian Start-ups, Indian companies that want to grow, as well as the Small and Medium Sector. Invest in their capability development, enhance their competitiveness. This will generate employment in all classes, as well as focus on technology and skill upgradation; this will generate consumption internally, generate cash internally, meet far lesser resistance as well as require lesser resources.
Large Scale can be looked at on a case-to-case basis, as the economic structure matures & societal development parameters like education etc mature, and companies grow in size and capability. Special case approval for notified sectors can be looked at, where large size is an imperative, like the core sector as an example. This is an eminently feasible solution to the quandary we face, and easier to do than what we are currently attempting.
But let alone seriously consider it – we arent even willing to discuss the feasibility, and intent on ignoring any serious questions that may be asked of MII. Few people are even willing to engage in a fruitful dialogue with those who are objecting basis facts and not rhetoric, with the attendant focus on FDI and FII, which is not entirely supported by numbers. By and large, people ignore – or worse –the ones who raise questions and consider it an attack on the GOI. Well, it isn’t an attack : these are just genuine questions that are arising, and will need urgent attention… Is anyone listening?

AAP, Delhi, BJP : Why The NDA has failed

Published May 25, 2015 by vishalvkale

The events in Delhi, with the confrontation between the ruling NDA Government and the AAP Government over the matter of who has the say in Delhi is a vital one, one that holds almost paramount importance and priority for us as a people and as a nation, and for more reasons than one. It is the 2nd test for a fledgling government at the center, a test of their skills in democracy.


NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE
I refer to the NDA Government. It is an acid test of their ability to take along diverse and at times conflicting interests towards a common goal – which is, I respectfully submit, the single most vital ingredient for a good and successful central government in a land as diverse as ours. In order that all programmes get smoothly implemented, it is vital that the centre handle even state opinions opposed to them; it is also a test of their honesty and integrity as well as their maturity.

In only the first year, we have already seen major flare-ups in two states : Jammu & Kashmir, and New Delhi. In both cases, it is manifest that it is an intransigence on the part of the BJP that is at the root of the flare-up. The point isn’t that who is or who is not right : the point is firstly, the irresponsible statements of party members and leaders, and secondly & more importantly, the inability of the center to bring diverse opinions on board for the greater common good. Being the leader, you have no right to complain about the intransigence of the other party : you are the national government, the prerogative to exacerbate or solve the issue is yours and yours alone. You cannot devolve that prerogative on your political partner and/or opponent.

Being the national leader, if you take a confrontational stance once – it is ok; quite understandable, given the challenges and difficulties, as also the diversities involved. But if you do so again and again, the suspicion will arise that you are a party that is good at the state level, but a failure when it comes to the question of running a diverse nation with variegated political ideologies and views – a task which requires political maturity of a very high grade, as well as an empathy towards and respect for local issues, ground realities and problems. This has now happened twice; and only in the short space of 10 or 11 months.

For a nation like India, you cannot pontificate sitting in New Delhi – you cant even do that for New Delhi, let alone the whole country. The great leaders who wrote our constitution wrote a Union with a federal structure for a reason; there is a reason why there are segregation of tasks and powers between the center and the states. Ground realities require someone close to the people, who can understand the issues and craft solutions. And pontification is precisely what any number of NDA leaders have been doing – with comments like people should forget caste and vote for progress and things like that. The entire Article 370 brouhaha is yet another example of pontification and irresponsible talk, given the well documented opposition to the same in several parts of India as well as Jammu & Kashmir.

A third example was seen in New Delhi, with statements calling the ability of the State Government, and that they have to be taught. Such remarks in a situation as razor-edge {constitutionally} as New Delhi only make a solution that much more difficult as both sides of the debate further firm-up their positions. A fourth example is the repeated statements that can be called polarizing statements from various BJP leaders, compounded by the centers inability to reign in their own people – leading at least me to wonder – just who is in command? We have already seen what happens when the PM is not in total but mature command; I certainly do not want a repetition! While the PM is certainly in command in terms of programmes and tasks, he is not doing anything overt to control the people within.

High time the NDA learnt that confrontation is not the way forward, of which there are any number of examples. Where was the need for the recent statement of a leader on how we shall tackle terrorism, leading to a rejoinder from Pakistan that we are fomenting terror there? Cant this have been implemented quietly? What good has been served? And, in matter relating to Center-State relations, given the nature of the division of duties of each, it is absolutely vital that the center shows the maturity in handling states, which so far it hasn’t, and this is a manifest fact.

Such matters cannot be sorted by irresponsible nonsense – which BJP leaders are wont to do {and which the Government simply is unable to crack down on}; they require building a consensus, and crafting a quiet path away from polarizing statements, utterances and Media glare. As things stand, New Delhi is a relatively minor matter; and this Government has completely failed to craft a solution with its manifest confrontational stance, which is debatable given the divergence of legal and constitutional opinion on this matter, as well as the past history, wherein even an BJP Government has asked the LG to consult the Chief Minister, and in a case which is already in the President’s House.

THE AAP
It cannot be blamed in this entire matter : it is merely asking for something that is available to all other State Governments as a matter of right. It is also a democratically elected Government, and no one – especially not the center – has the moral, ethical right to say we can teach them {or words to that effect}; that is the task of the people through the vote. You cannot teach; you can guide, help, direct – but not instruct; that is the task of the election and the people. Such statements only underscore the impression of arrogance.

Neither is the claim of New Delhi being a special case valid, given the manifest ambiguity in the matter in constitutional terms, as has been brought out by the remarkably diffused legal opinions we have read, as also this excellent article in the Indian Express : Explained Kejriwal v Jung. The need of the hour was a mature handling : sitting with both, conceding some demands of AAP, as was done with previous governments of Delhi,{ Discussed here on how reverse was done earlier } and crafting a permanent solution to end the ambiguity, or letting the President or the Supreme Court settle the matter.

The AAP, on the other hand, has shown incredible maturity in handling the situation; sure – it is confrontatational as well  – but first, it is a new party, and is only learning the ropes. You have to cut them some slack for that. Second, you have to understand the promises they have made- which requires a level playing field, and independence. Third, you also have to account that historically, there has been a precedent of cooperation between the LG and the Delhi State Government, as also a historical precedent of the ruling party backing the full statehood demand : BJP’s volte-face on full statehood for Delhi and The State of Delhi Bill in 2003

As things stand, the BJP is the one that is being exposed as being opportunistic, and two-faced in this matter, as also confrontational, given the historical precedents. And the AAP comes out clean as a whistle despite is confrontational stance, which was in fact in predicated upon the constant treatment by the centre and the overriding to its objections; it was that over-ride that precipitated the problem – this could have been avoided and nipped in the bud had the NDA shown the maturity to step in at the start, rather than precipitate a problem- this would have proven itself as far ahead and mature of a confrontational AAP!

THE CONCLUSION
In conclusion, it seems that the more experienced and older party, with extensive experience of Governance, is being taken on by a newer party not used to administration, and learning the ropes- and is being exposed for its confrontational mindset quite conclusively. In light of the events of the 90s and the early 00s :  { deputy prime minister LK Advani who had stressed that the consultation was not just a formality in 2002 when then chief minister Sheila Dikshit asked Shailaja Chandra be appointed to the top post. }. Why this duality of stance? Why grant it to one State Government, and deny it to another? On what basis? Why this ham-handed approach? And what does this confrontational, ham-handed and immature handling of center-state relations hold for us as a nation? I cannot recall such unbelievable duality in my memory; this exposes the BJP, as also raised serious questions on its ability. 


This is one of the most important reasons why I regard this Government as a failure and as a zero, despite its many successes that are far ahead of most governments! We need mature handling from the Central Government, not duality, partiality, opaque decision making and confrontation! The NDA Government has some explaining to do in this matter; quite a bit in fact. The AAP – I can only say it has grown a lot of maturity in the past one year, and is now learning the ropes very fast indeed. With time and experience, given their focus, I am sure we have a national party that can deliver the governance India needs. All the best to the AAP!