Grandma's Tales

August 5, 2007

I’m not watching Bourne Ultimatum

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 2:38 am

I watched the first two of the Bourne adventures and when I heard of the third, I said, “Bourne Again!” I wanted to see what Matt Damon was up to this time. “This week-end,” I thought. And then the story of Ashok Malhotra hit the headlines, making my plan redundant, even unnecessary.
Here is the Malhotra episode in brief. It is based on preliminary reports and all of them may not be accurate but this is the broad outline.
Fifteen years ago, Ashok Malhotra made a living dispensing chai-pani to members of the Delhi Assembly. He did this out of a broken down auto rickshaw. He still delivers (did till a couple of days ago) chai-pani to his customers at the spot. But oh boy, how the colour of the chai-pani had changed! And he got a lot more than a smile from his satisfied customers, most of whom were political vultures wearing the MLA label of legitimacy.
Today, this chaiwala has a fleet of luxury cars in his compound. All of them wear VIP number plates – something for which you need to pay a premium for legal ownership. He also owns property (real estate) worth Rs. 100 crores. His wealth is supposed to have grown out of the land deals he was involved in. When the DDA made land allotments, AM used his political connections and got several prime plots allotted to him under various names. Did he forge documents? May be.
Why would the politicos oblige him? He routinely lent his luxury sedans with VIP plates to MLAs for free use. See the perfectly symbiotic relationship here? The allotment of VIP plates for which AM probably didn’t pay a penny goes very deep – right to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s office.
Dikshit has claimed she doesn’t know Malhotra. According to another report, she explained that she signed papers granting VIP number requests on the recommendation of the transport ministry. She had done it in good faith.
Malhotra’s shenanigans came to light when the CBI was looking into irregularities in DDA land distribution. They suspected AM was a middleman in the DDA land scam. They landed at Ashok Malhotra’s house in north Delhi’s Mukherji Nagar looking for documents in connection with a DDA scam. And there they were treated to a line up of luxury cars with VIP number plates.
AM made his money in the land distribution deal. Why would he continue to make chai in the assembly compound? The answer is pure hearsay now, spewing out of disgruntled Congress elements, some pro and others against Dikshit.
Having filled his bank accounts (do they ever get filled?), AM was aiming for political influence. He wanted to play king-maker. The grapevine news is, he had given luxury limousines to 15 MLAs in a conspiracy to overthrow Dikshit as Chief Minister. (What are plain earthen plots when you can lay hands on political ones?) The CMs office got wind of it and the CM herself is supposed to have initiated proceedings against the “rebel” legislators.
All this is in speculation zone. The question here is simple: How did AM go from canteen owner to VIP contractor? How did he get these cars?
I wish someone would collect this and similar stories (Telgi, Harshad Mehta?) of roguery and thieving in high places. And sell them to Hollywood screenplay writers. Any day, they will make screen plays far superior
to anything the Bourne writers can think of – in intrigue, chicanery and the brazen exploitation of a system and the people it is supposed to benefit. Matt Damon and company can look forward to a lifetime of roles. Can they fight these villains and emerge unscathed? That will be interesting to watch.

So, now you know why I’ve dropped the idea of buying tickets for Bourne Ultimatum. Why would I squander dollars when I can have better stories in my backyard?


July 29, 2007

Who profited more? Kalam or the country?

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 8:30 am

Not a kind question, but let it be.
I don’t know when so much was written about an outgoing Prez of India. To me it reflects the love and affection he gained while in office and the anguish that a lot of us (oh, so what if we are called the “SMS” group?) felt when he left it. Kalam is news. More column space for him than the first woman Prez of India.
But then what Kalam says is worth reporting.
“I’m going away with two suitcases,” he said in his somewhat emotional farewell speech. He added he would be carrying all the books he had brought with him to the R Bhavan. In words recognised by all booklovers he said, “They are mine.”
Turning on the teacher in him, he said, “Don’t accept gifts given with a purpose.” He then quoted words from Manusmriti that say accepting gifts extinguishes the divine light in us. Once again he touched on his pet subject – making India fully “developed” by 2020. “Let’s hope we will be a great country with moral values,” he said.
At Anna University in his teacher’s garb, he corrected a speaker who referred to him as President. “I’m a Professor now,” he pointed out. He insisted his considerable audience interact with him if they wanted him to proceed. “What will be the dynamics in the Parliament if the 33% quota for women is implemented?” he provoked.
At Gandigram University he once again wowed the students. Here is an excerpt from a report:
Kalam walked in to thunderous applause. And when he waved out to the students, as is his wont, is they went berserk with happiness, the decibel deafening. When he rose to speak after the prayers the noise again reached impossible levels. He asked if students in the last row could hear him, and only after they replied in the affirmative did he continue.”
Kalam then talked about PURA, a project he proposed in 2003, I think in the parliament. “PURA is providing urban amenities to rural areas,” he explained patiently. He invited the Gandhigram University and the TN government to take up the project. “Drinking water should be clean. The village should be clean. I once spoke on this in Parliament. I am climbing, where is the peak? I am digging, where is the wisdom? I am deep in the ocean, where is the knowledge?”
This is where I see Kalam’s gain in his stint as India’s Prez. From a rocket scientist with nose stuck in the drawing board, Kalam has metamorphosed into a very personable man of wide-spread wisdom. His duties as President have given him a broader view of India’s needs and made him think more deeply about the application of technology for the kind of people he grew up with in his small town. It has given him a more mature, enlightened perspective of the real India, the marginalised India, the India of the backwaters that could become a creative wave, given the opportunity. From up in the clouds his vision has turned downward and now traverses the remote, thorny bushlands of India’s outbacks.
See, he chose to talk of PURA to these Univ students, not of ICBM, not of Insat Z B. His view from the hill became different from the one from his DRDO lab.
Five years ago, Kalam went in as the first Scientist to occupy the R Bhavan. Now we have an ex-Prez with a mind that encompasses the harsh realities of life in India’s neglected villages. Now, relieved of the ceremonial duties of the high office, Kalam is ready to exhort people to see the nation as he does. A nation that is so capable, a nation that should think in terms of equitable opportunities engineered through better infrastructure and education.
So what if Kalam wasn’t thought fit for a second term at the Raisina Hill? In the final reckoning, the nation hasn’t lost out at all. The right people are listening to him. May be out of those students who squealed when he announced he would be teaching them a term, there will emerge politicos and government officials who will carry his words with them.

July 23, 2007

New info on Kalam

Filed under: Games People Play,Government — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:17 am

This information came to me from a friend. The writer quotes The Indian Express as the source, so I guess it is authentic. Read on…

Now another revelation — so far kept under wraps at Rashtrapati Bhavan (under presidential orders): In May 2006, President Kalam’s relatives from the south decided to descend on him (as relatives tend to often do). On instructions of the president they were welcomed by his staff at the railway station, and were looked after right up to the time they departed. But the Controller of Household was under strict instructions to keep a meticulous account of all the expenses incurred on behalf of the relatives — all 53 of them. Not once was an office vehicle used for any of them.
It was made clear by the president that he would pay — not only for the transport of all his relatives to and from Delhi, and also within Delhi, he would also pay for the various rooms occupied by them at Rashtrapati Bhavan and the food that was consumed by them — the rooms at the prescribed rate, the food on the basis of expenses actually incurred.
When his relatives left after a week’s stay, the president was of course sad to see them all go, but he was also lighter in his pocket: the total expenses debited to his personal account was Rs 3,54,924! As we practising lawyers often say in court “the facts speak for themselves”: President Kalam has set a high benchmark of rectitude in public office — worthy of emulation. And as a living embodiment of ‘Transparency-National’, his parting words of advice were: “Don’t accept gifts.” Delicately put: what he meant to say of course was: “Don’t accept gifts for favours in return.”
Of him it can be said, as Winston Churchill once said about his departed king: “He nothing common did, or mean, upon that memorable scene.” Memorable scenes are rarely re-enacted, but they are always remembered.

– Source: Indian Express
In this context, I remember a conversation with some friends. One of them asked, “The Prez nominee (at that time) is travelling all over the country to canvass votes for her election. Who pays for her travel and stay?”

July 13, 2007

On the masterplan for Chennai

Filed under: Consumer caution,Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 7:43 pm

Reader Jayasimhan T writes this note. Thank you Mr. Jayasimhan, for this informative comment. From all this, it is clear a lot of work is yet to be done to create a masterplan that will benefit all.
We should certainly appreciate the efforts taken by ‘The Hindu’ for the discussion and The Hindu’s aim towards creating a better society.
Though there was sufficient information from CMDA – there was no opportunity for discussion. We would have been glad if they could have provided the opportunity to discuss the master plan, which was the very purpose of the meeting.
I am an Architect. I have the following points to convey regarding the Draft Master Plan.
1. First of all, CMDA is incompetent to draft a Master plan. The correct approach would be to get town/city planning solutions from the best professionals across the world (in this field) and thereby arrive at drafting a suitable Masterplan.
2. A vision from hard-core professionals is needed for this purpose. Govt. officials are unsuited for this purpose – their (CMDA’s only job would be coordinate this and try to get the best professional input).
3. Architects or town planners from the US, UK, etc. who have in-depth knowledge of cities and its growth shall be able to deliver wonderful solutions taking into account the likely future technological advancements. They will study our socio-cultural context and then arrive at solutions. Moreover there are so many good town planners within India too, especially in Delhi.
Important requirements for this MasterPlan which demands to be provided:-
1. Land banks for the following public purposes:-
a) Huge Lung spaces within cities – which is the most essential requirement to fight pollution.
b) Land for Schools and Colleges – Educational requirements.
c) Land for Hospitals – Health requirements.
d) Land for Parks and Playgrounds – Recreational requirements.
e) Land for Temples, Mosques, churches, etc. – Religious requirements.
f) Land for Govt. offices.
g) Land for Community purposes – Community halls, etc.
h) Land for theatres.
i) Land for public shopping complexes and markets. Etc.
The above lands will have to be provided by the Government – no private promoter can be expected to provide these facilities.
These are social requirements – where the land has to be free (or very cheap) so that different strata of people (including poor) will be facilitated.
Too much of reliance upon private development will lead to chaos – as their only intention is profit – whereas a city does not necessarily run on profit motives.
2. Trees and vegetation – nowadays one can find that builders don’t plant huge shade giving trees (as they consider it a maintenance problem – (falling leaves, crows, etc.) – whereas trees are most important for climate control and exchange of O2 and CO2. Govt. should compel to provide shade giving and other useful trees.
3. Contour – the contour levels are very important in any Masterplan. Natural courses of water and water bodies, water channels should be recorded and further development should be based on contour restrictions – otherwise there would be flooding in developed areas where water will not find a way to go. This itself is a big topic and the CMDA, Corporation are presently floundering on this subject greatly. A great, great lot could be saved, if only there is some professional input in these agencies’ work.
4. Unapproved layouts – this causes real mess in city planning. The city should grow as planned. This is the curse of any city which allows it. The entire Master plan will fail if this is allowed or recognized. Strict action to enforce Masterplan should be taken.
There are several important issues as above, which can be resolved only by dedicated Town Planners who can give a Good form for the Masterplan to create a much better and lovable city.
N.B.:- Since, it is a huge topic, I’ve highlighted only some salient aspects. I’m cutting short my note for brevity. In short, one can say that the Draft Masterplan prepared by CMDA is severely lacking and hence should be scrapped in entirety.
The best City planning consultants from across the world should be involved in preparing the Masterplan for such a Culturally rich city like Chennai.
Compiled by:-
Jayasimhan T

July 10, 2007

Rape of my city 4

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Language,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:28 pm

saidapet_forest2_reduced_resolution-1.jpgThe time has come to write about it. The Civil Society Group consisting of members extremely concerned about the lovely avenue trees being cut in Chennai city, allegedly to make way for a better flow of traffic, met last Sunday. After the merciless cutting of trees in front of Raj Bhavan, apparently for road expansion, a member of this group used the RTI to find out how many trees would face the axe in the coming months. The meeting was to discuss the information she got. Read the result of that RTI first.  I corrected the mistakes as much as I could, but you get the idea.
Chief Engineer (General) & Public Information Officer,
Corporation of Chennai, Chennai.
Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar
Yellow Building
Damodar Gardens
(The School-KFI Campus)
Besant Avenue
Chennai –600 020.
C.E (GI).C.No.A 1/449/06 Dated: 24-5-07
Sub:- The Right to Information Act furnishing details of mass felling of trees — Reg.
Ref:- I) Letter from Dr. Suchitra Ramkumar, dated 24.11.2006 Requesting to furnish details.
With reference to your letter cited above, it is to informed that the
details requested by you are enclosed herewith.
I) Details of any letter circular received seeking action on trees.
i) Letter received from Joint Commissioner of Police Traffic Greater
Chennai, Vepery Chennai — 7.
ii) Ref. No.C.No.347/JCTlCampus/06 3.8.06
iii) No. of Trees about 793 situated in all the Zones of Chennai ‘
Corporation (List enclosed)
iv) Action requested to take action to removal/transplant trees to ensure free flow of traffic and to avoid accidents.
v) No. of trees (List enclosed) & location. Details regarding the cutting of trees in Besant Nagar. As per the orders of Commissioner based on the remarks received from Zonal Ofticer-X, 5 Nos. of trees were earmarked for relocation in Besant Avenue and two odian trees were pruned meant for transplantation on 12.10.2006.
Public Information Officer & Chief Engineer (General)
Sunil Kumar, IPS
Joint Commissioner of Police
Traffic, Greater Chennai, Vepery, Chennai – 7
The Commissioner, Corporation of Chennai. Chennai -3
C.No,347/JCT/Camp/06 Dated 03,08,06
At several places in-Chennai City there are trees, which lie on the road. This straight away cuts upt 03 mts of !he road at many places, thus reducing the space for the movement of vehicles, The trees itself have been found to be a cause of accidents, including fatal ones many a time.
2. With a view to provide safe travel as well as to increase the road space in the already congested roads, it is requested that trees which lie in the middle of !he road (list enclosed) may kindly be transplanted/ removed at the earliest to ensure free flow of traffic. It is therefore requested that early action may kindly be taken in this regard.
Yours fai!hfully,
Joint Commissioner of Police, Traffic, Greater Chennai

SLNo. Name of the Road No. of Trees
1) Road Near Post Office 2
2) Road Near H3 Police Station 1
3) Tondiarpet High Road Near M.R.Nagar Market 3 
4) Tondiarpet High Road Near 2 K.S.Kalyanamandapam 1
SLNo. Name of the Road No. of Trees
1) Vepery Hiqh Road Near Jain Temple 1
2) Jermiah Road in front of Girinetra Schoo1 1
3) Perambur High Road in front of Railway Station 1
4) Perambur High Road in front of Door NO.8/1B, Saraswati Square 1
5) Perambur High Road in front of NO.100/79 Bharathi Bus Stand 1
No. Name of the Road No. of Trees
1) Tailors Road Door NO.14 1
2) NM Road in front of Omsakthi Travels 2
3) NM Road in front of D.No.31/138 2
4) NM Road infront of D. NO.132 1
5) NM Road in front of D.No.51, Perivar Plaza 2
6) NM Road in front of D.No.106/64 2
7) NM Road in front of D.No.126 & 128 Spencer 2
Food world
8 NM Road in front of 84 Trinitv Gas 2
9 1st Avenue D.No.30 & 30A 2
10) 1st Avenue D.No.K-24 1
11 1st Avenue D.No.33 & 34 2
12) 1st Avenue near Chintamani 1
13 1st Avenue D.No.D1/3 Chandra Medicals 2
14) 1st Avenue Valli Dental Clinic 3
15 3rd Avenue Near GRD 1
16) 2nd Avenue Near TNSC Bank 1
17 6th Avenue near Anna Naqar Police Station 1
18 100 Feet Road ODD18th Main Road 1
19 100 Feet Road ODD.19th Main Road 1
20 VinaVaqaDUramtowards Games VilaDe D.No.54 3
21 Games Viliage – ODDUTI Bank 1
22) Near Andal Alagar Kalyanamandapam 2
SL No. Name of the Road No. of Trees
1 Dr. Swamy Sivananda Salai 5
2 Bells Road 4
3 Walajah Road 8
4 Whites Road 9
5 Cathedral Road 17
6 Royapettah High Road 2
SLNo. Name of the Road, No. of Trees
1 Ethiraj Salai 6
2 Pantheon Round about 2
3 Haddows Road 3
4 Nunaambakkam High Road 7
5 Kodambakkam, High Road 1
6 Matralii1Ca.Duram Road 2
7 Valluvarkottam High Road 3
SLNo. Name of the Road No. of Trees
1) Venkatanarayana Road near Burkitt Road In. 4
2 Burkitt Road X Dandapani St., In. 1
3) Burkitt Road infront of Andhra Bala Bhavan 1
4 Burkitt Road In front of Hotel Sudha 1
5) Venkatanarayana Road In. in front of Lion Hospital 1
6 North Usman Road in frontof Saradha School 1
7 North Usman Road in front of Sundar St., 1
8 Thiagaraja Road in front of Bala Bhavan 1
9 Anna Salai Anna Rotary Nandanam 18
10 TTK Salai Music Acadamy to Park Sheraton 35
11 GN Chetty Road. Anna Rotary to Vanavil 4
12 Chamiers Road 8
SI.No. . Name of the Road No. of Trees
1 Sardar Patel Road from Rai Bhavan to Halda 29
2 Anna Salai from Soic to Little Mount 5
3 From Little mount to YMCA 15
4 Velachery Main Road 22
Right. Did you take a good look? Once the saws have done their job, T.Nagar is going to look naked. 35 trees off TTK Road?
Look, I’m all for free flow of traffic. Who isn’t? But I have a few questions on the need to cut all these trees.
[1] Do all these trees jut into the roads?
[2] Do they have to be removed completely? I mean a little bit of pruning (as they do so well in Denver) won’t be enough to solve the problem?
[3] Ours is a hot city and driving (riding bikes) through many of the roads mentioned above is a pleasant experience simply because of the canopy offered by the avenue trees.  Should we lose this?
[4] Most importantly, how about those who walk?  Are the rights of vehicle drivers more  important than the rights of those who walk? The Corporation wants to make driving easier, more comfortable. How about the comfort of those who prefer to walk? Is walking a sin in this city?
[5] Scores of people do small businesses under the trees. All of us buy stuff from them. Do they have rights?
[6] The point about trees causing fatal accidents. Trees do not cause accidents. People’s carelessness causes accidents. People are hit by vehicles, there are head-ons where there are no trees. And there will be accidents even after all these trees are gone. What will the Traffic Commissioner do then? Stop vehicles from plying?
[7] Transplant: Where are all the transplanted trees? What is the percentage of their survival? Does anyone know?
[8] How will the cutting of 35 trees on TTK Road improve traffic there? You mean, the trees are gone and hey presto, the traffic flows smoothly? Or is it for building a flyover?
[9] And this question: The number of vehicles keeps increasing. Very soon even tree-less roads will be choked. What then? Is this a permanent solution?
[10] And this dark question: Who gains from the cutting of trees? I have a reason for asking this question.  A friend took a photograph of Sri Ram Colony near the Saidapet Court last week. You can see the how trees have been chopped off there. How come this area has not been mentioned in the RTI note? Are there any laws governing the felling of trees in theis city?
The CSG is preparing a petition in answer to this RTI. They have been consulting with experts on this matter. In the meantime, Exnora is organising a meet on “Global Warming”. Here are the details.
Dear friends, EXNORA is organising a meeting to find out measures for combating Global Warming. This is a mammoth meeting where children from different schools are participating; it is learnt that buses will be arranged for transport of children  This meeting is scheduled to be held at The Nehru Stadium on 20 July from 3-00 p.m. to 6-00 p.m..This is likely to be chaired by Shri Stalin. You can get more details of this meeting from Shri Ranganayakalu Cell 92834 13467 or #99410 07064 or you can speak to shri Nirmal #98400  34900.
please consider making some placards for this meeting and obtain signatures of children as we discussed the other day.
Sincerely M. SUNDARARAMAN Tel#24461660
So the minister is going to address a meeting on Global Warming! Pinch the baby and rock the cradle! Cut the trees and attend (help organise?) a mammoth meeting on Global Warming! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

July 8, 2007

The Taj Mahal is a “new” wonder!

Filed under: Consumer caution,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 7:37 am

There wasn’t much doubt that the Taj would make it in the end. It has been a leading contender in this particular poll since early 2006. So now the Taj Mahal is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. It sits there along with Peru’s Machu Pichu, Jordan’s Petra, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer, Mexico’s Chichen Itza (pyramid), The Great Wall of China and the Colosseum of Rome.
I have very mixed feelings about this. I don’t know what the yardsticks are for choosing a “wonder”. Is it the size? The difficulty level of building it? Is it the workmanship? Looks like this time popularity was the major consideration. Popularity and the population.
Let’s look at how the choosing was done.
The campaign to find the “new” wonders of the world was launched in 1999 by a Swiss gentleman called Bernard Weber. I guess he started this non-profit organisation, New7wonders and sent out messages asking people all over the world to nominate “wonders” for the contest to choose the 7 best. It seems 200 nominations reached the officials organising the poll. After scrutiny, the most-voted-for 21 nominations were short-listed. This list was announced in the beginning of 2006.
Do you see the problem here? A lot of people might have voted for their nominees repeatedly. The organisers admitted there was no way (at least no foolproof way) to stop this. For nearly a year and a half people have been voting for their favourites.  You could e-mail your preference through various websites or you could SMS your choice.
In a glittering ceremony today, the winners were announced. The ceremony was held in a soccer stadium in Lisbon, capital of Portugal.  Nearly 50,000 were thought to have been present to cheer the winners.
A 100 million people cast their votes, boasted the organisers. And that made the poll worldwide and gave large groups of people a say in what the new 7 wonders should be. Pretty democratic, you would say, considering the ancient wonders were chosen by a single writer.
So which structures had a fair chance of winning? Those in countries with large populations; those in countries with a large telecom penetration; with large numbers of educated people; with a globalised population… guess the rest.
Significantly, UNESCO has distanced itself completely from this selection. It is a popular poll, not a scientific one, whatever that may be.
Yes, I’m happy the Taj made the cut, however informal, unofficial this poll may be. There are now 7 new wonders, and the Taj Mahal is there. Bipasha Basu and Ben Kingsley announced the name. The Mayor of Agra went on stage and received the prize, the plaque, that says so. May be those who want to build commercial corridors around this mausoleum will think twice before embarking on a similar project. May be there will be more visitors to view the Taj in the coming months.
I have a couple of niggling thoughts, though. Will it pursuade the powers that be to do something about the surroundings of this new wonder? Will Agra get a serious face-lift now? Will it now be a clean, well-drained city of gardens and well-laid roads? Will it have better, cleaner facilities for stay?
The second one comes from my daughter: “I voted because of peer pressure Mom,” she said.  “But who are these guys who organised it? They say they are non-profit. Should we believe them?” Right. The guys now have 100 million e-mails and telephone numbers. How do we know they will not be passed on for a consideration?

June 27, 2007

Oops, she did it again!

Filed under: Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 12:26 am

First it was the purdah. Now it is the spirit (some would say ghost) of a Baba she had communed with. Prez nominee Pratibha Patil definitely knows how to keep herself in the news.  She goes to Mount Abu, has a session with the Brahmakumaris there, comes out and says, “”I had a very happy experience here. The Baba came into the body of Hriday Mohini Dadiji. I did not know that he still talks. I thought he will say something and I will listen. But he had a chat with me and put me into difficulty. He also made me very lucky.”
You can see how this is totally in contrast with the way we have been trained to think by Kalam, the outgoing Prez who has spent considerable time and energy promoting Science and progressive thinking.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against faith. I think one’s faith (or religion) is a very personal choice. To be able to pin our faith on whatever we choose to – temple, Baba, guru – is an inalienable right. It is uncultured, even boorish to make fun of people for what they believe in. If you find comfort in Irsha Yoga, I feel better listening to jazz and blues. To each, his own.
But PP is not you and me. She will soon represent a very important part of the world map. She will be anointed as the first citizen of the country. She will be seen as the model for the billion + of this country and as its representative abroad. When Kalam went out and spoke to world leaders about emerging technologies and India’s pre-eminence in rocket science, what did the world leaders think of India?
I’m not saying the Prez of India has to be standing on the cutting edge of technology. All I’m saying is that Kalam is a right-thinking person. From his position as President of the country, a position that would get him publicity and wide coverage here and abroad, he talked of:
[1] Good, well-rounded education for children.
[2] Hard work and encouraging achievement in fields that matter.
[3] A scientific temperament – the need to question things before accepting them.
[4] The importance of encouraging fine arts – he plays the veena.
[5] Pride in what is truly Indian – he grew a herbal garden.
[6] Total inclusion – in education and employment. A lot of disabled people met him and came away feeling he was their friend.
In the five years he occupied the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Kalam created certain benchmarks for what a Prez is all about. He stood for probity in public life, he stood for using power with responsibility, he stood for an India that was technologically clued in, an India in with the world without giving up its best practices. An India proud to join the world ranks without compromising its values. His insistence on interacting with kids wherever he went sent a clear message – this is where the future lies. Oh, yes, he was a people’s President.
Now we have PP.
How come we hear so many negative stories about her? She’s involved in shielding a relative charged with murder, said one report. She ran co-operative banks that folded without repaying creditors, says another. Her own pronouncements at public functions are not stuff that would endear her to all.
What bothers me most is this: After centuries of being thought of as a country of snake charmers, rope tricksters, oppressors in the name of caste and creed, we have emerged as a people who can take on the world. Our ability to learn, to adapt, to do business and be a part of the world community are all being recognised now. Our ancient systems, be it Yoga, the ayurveda or the Vedic chanting, our emphasis on mental equanimity and the need to live a detached life are all being appreciated. 
The world now sees India as a country of energetic, young people who are raring to make a mark no matter what the field is – tech, art, movies, cuisine – you name it.  We’ll soon have the maximum number of young people proportionate to the population. We are ready to take risks and go out and prove ourselves. Wherever they are, our young people are doing well.
Who should be our spokesperson now?

June 22, 2007

Is it “Bye, Kalam”?

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 7:42 pm

All right, folks. Here is a lesson for all of us. When Kalam said he would agree to be Prez again if there was no contest over it, we took it to mean he was above petty politicking. We took it to mean that he would be willing to extend his energies and time to doing something he did so well. As Karishma put it, he would give direction to the country – direction that would stay above politics of any kind. But that’s not the way politicians saw it. Here’s what one of them said:
“The match is over for Kalam…we do not expect the game to be started again. We are very clear about that,” Pawar said. “I know him. We have worked together and he will not be there (in the fray),” said Pawar, under whom Kalam served as Scientific Adviser when the former was defence minister. Describing Kalam as an ‘honest person to the core’, Pawar said, however, it was a ‘pity’ that a person occupying the highest post had suddenly started talking of a contest after having declared he was not interested in anything. The NCP leader took a dig at Kalam for saying that he would contest if he was sure of victory. “In a democracy, anyone interested in public life can contest Lok Sabha elections from whichever constituency one likes. But one cannot say that he will contest only if he wins,” he said. And the Left said that e-mails did not constitute popular opinion. ???
So you are an e-mailer? Digest this. Your opinion is not worth a 5-paisa coin.
What Pawar neglected to explain was why people who lost direct elections were inducted into the union cabinet through the backdoor.
Anyway, stung by these words, Kalam has decided to withdraw from the contest. He has made a statement to that effect. Kalam said he did not want to drag the office of the Prez of India into controversy. All the efforts of the UNPA have been thwarted as of now. So I guess, it’s good bye APJ the Prsident.

June 21, 2007

APJ Kalam in the hot seat!

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 7:25 pm

Oh, this is absolutely rich! Survey after survey by TV channels and newspapers and the mail to his own website clearly indicate the nation (at least the thinking population  of the nation) overwhelmingly wants Kalam to continue to occupy the R Bhavan for a second term.
The third front christened UNPA (ha!) has chosen him as its candidate. In some ways this is a masterstroke. The alliance’s first move, and they look like they are reflecting popular opinion, the choice of the people! The opposition NDA is sitting on the fence. The UPA is of course solidly behind Pratibha Patil. A woman for Prez! Look what we are doing for women’s empowerment!
And Kalam has agreed to be Prez if there is “certainty” whatever that means. In my previous post I had said that he wouldn’t want to “contest”. Consider this as the latest missile from the Kalam camp. Political it may be, but we’ll hope it has the same firepower as the ones he developed at the DRDO.  
This should intrigue all of us. Why is the union government so vehemently opposed to Kalam’s candidature? Why didn’t they want thim for a second term? How has Pratibha Patil become so crucial to the nation’s welfare now? Let’s think about it.
One thing seems fairly certain. In a democracy, is the government supposed to reflect “popular” opinion? If it resolutely refuses to do so, what can we do? I think we should start talking about it in every forum we can find. We can start by bombarding the Prez’s website. We can send letters to the press, wherever we are. Talk about it in public places. We need to make our opinion count. The government cannot arrogantly think that the people are incapable of thinking and the thinking for the people must be done by the 70+ guys sitting in the cabinet.
That brings up another question. Why can’t they take a poll in the parliament itself? How many of them want Kalam to continue? They are also people’s reps, right?
Pratibha Patil, meanwhile, has resigned as Governor of Rajasthan. We live in interesting times, as I said.
And MK has gone on record saying the third front has insulted Kalam by choosing him without taking his consent. By this logic, all of you guys rooting for APJ have insulted him too! Mmm…

June 18, 2007

Pratibha Patil, BS Shekhawat and now Kalam!

Filed under: Games People Play,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 9:37 pm

We live in interesting times. The third front met today (they are going to call themselves United National Progressive Alliance, mockingly, I feel) and have decided to throw their weight behind APJ for another term! The UNPA (hey, that sounds global!) is against any Congress nominee. They cannot be seen as supporting an NDA candidate either, can they? So who better than Kalam who has distinguished himself as a purposeful Prez and endeared himself to the nation?
Will Kalam agree to join the”race”? Not likely. Remember, five years ago he was the consensus candidate.
There was this hot debate on NDTV about Pratibhatai’s nomination as the Presidential candidate. “What do we know about her?” asked Shoba De. “”Where was her name during the process? She’s a convenient candidate,” bristled Madhu Kishwar. “Let’s give her a chance,” appealed editors of DNA and Outlook. “Why didn’t the media suggest a woman’s name?” asked a member of the audience. “She has impeccable credentials. How can you say all this about this most suitable candidate?” thundered Renuka Chowdhary. She didn’t have a very good answer for why the Congress did not bring up her name during the discussion stage. Give her a chance, yeah, may be, I thought. After all, Indira Gandhi was a (default) consensus candidate and what a PM she turned out to be!
But, did you read the news today?
Governor Pratibha Patil goes to Udaipur to take part in this function to mark the 467th birth anniversary celebrations of Maharana Pratap Singh. There she chooses to talk about Indian culture and the Muslim veil. She says the system began during the Mughal times, “to save women from Mughul invaders”. She then adds that there is a need to put a stop to such practices. “That alone will ensure real respect for women… It is our duty to discontinue such practices.”
Ms. Patil did not sound like a Congress woman at all. Comments like these are more likely to come from you-know-where. Also, her statement could be factually incorrect. As a person occupying (when she does) that stately building on Raisina Hill, this is the kind of remark she must keep from making. Who is the last person who said “she is non-controversial”?
If she felt compelled to talk about women’s progress, shouldn’t she have touched on equitable opportunities and the freedom of choice? She could have talked about education, she could have recommended healthcare. Instead she talks of the veil!
“This will ensure real respect for women” indeed! Has she talked to people who are imposing dress codes on women?
What if I want to wear the veil? Can I exercise that choice, please? Ok, there may not be Moghul invaders charging down on us, but how safe is my life now? You mean I throw off my veil and bingo, I am free, safe with assured opportunities for education and jobs and am allowed to exercise my rights? The glass-ceiling will come crashing down?
Just one last doubt, Pratibhatai. If the veil is so restrictive for you, shouldn’t that pallu over your head get the same treatment? What is that for? What is the need to cover your head and parts of your face?

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