Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

India has none but its own self to depend upon

Very thought provoking piece on what it means to be lonely at a geo political level. Its time for our nation to get its act together and be assertive about what our intrinsic needs and apprehensions are from a security perspective.

As someone rightly stated- 'People are neither for you nor against you. They are for their own selves'. Its so true for international politics as well.

Admitting the creation of Frankenstein: Kudos to the writer

We know how difficult it is to admit one's faults. Its a rare virtue. Mr Hussain, an eminent journalist from Pakistan has done justice by clearly and openly expressing the faults of its political and army leaders and the utter uselessness of the denial of the presence of the dragon which they themselves have given birth to and now which is bringing embarrasment to the nation from all possible quarters.

The earlier the government decides to take action against this 'terror child', the better it would be for the world in general and Pakistan in particular. I am sure a lot of Muslim brethrens would be wishing the same.

Do check this out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are the cynics right ?

There is a lot of cynicism on seeing the sudden flurry of response of people in Mumbai- particularly youth, who otherwise don't have a great history of actively participating in matters related to better governance. Most of the speculation is that its knee jerk reaction, more like shouting when your own backyard is on fire, contrived anger and self centeredness otherwise.

In the midst of all this noise, the important thing is to take all this in a positive stride. I have pasted down below (in italics) one of the mails sent by a Superintendent of Police from North India in one of the group mails amongst dozens that were exchanged after the terror episode.
Really liked his view point

Mr C*******,

While your angst and annoyance is correct, even these initial expression of views and sharing of advices is one step ahead in the direction in which envision things. Can anyone deny that people are slowing rising out of their slumber and are thinking more and more of their responsibilities and about their National interest than ever before? The huge turn outs in Mumbai are the best testimony to this fact.So, every person who wants changes to take place in the right direction will have to be more patient. Your works are bound to have more and more takers, sooner or later.

Amitabh Thakur

Crisis of civics education

It seems there is a competition going on between two biggest democracies on who is worse on civics education

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mixed feelings at the Gateway meet

I will recount my personal experience about the assembly at Gateway yesterday which was organized to express solidarity for a better political order and to express the grievance about the incapability of the government in power to take strong course of action against terrorism.

I received an SMS on 30th Nov about this gathering. I had no clue who had called upon the meet and neither was I clear on what to anticipate from this gathering.

Though I am cynical towards general human tendencies atleast in terms of their involvement with things which require sustained commitment in the direction of politics, I wanted to understand if there are people interest in putting in serious efforts towards awakened citizenship.

Some observations:

1. I took a train from Andheri towards Churchgate at around 5:20pm. By the time I reached
Churchgate, the compartment was almost empty. Local trains are generally used by the middle class and below.
Inference: Not many people from the suburbs were targetting to reach that place especially from the weaker economic class.

2. As I got down at the station, I saw several youngsters flocking in groups sporting t-shirts with certain messages related to this gathering. I waited for my friend right across the station at Eros and saw hundreds of people heading towards gateway. They were mostly educated people comprising of professionals, students and some older age group people too. It was really nice to see this current of people in one direction from Churchgate towards Gateway. They were majorly the English speaking class of the city.

3. Then we started towards Gateway and were joined by some other friends of mine. Near that place it was extremely crowded while everyone was quite well behaved in terms of not getting into quarrels with one another or exchanging slangs and so on. People were shouting all kinds of slogans mostly of peace and order while primarily talking about removing the corrupt politicians and some were anti Pakistan as well (not surprisingly)

4. In terms of the gathering there were flocks of people moving in all possible directions. This was a clear indicator of the fact that people had not assembled there to listen to one voice but simply to express their sentiments in small ways. Thus it was more of a leaderless gathering of groups of people with the common thread being the angst as a result of poor quality of politics and ineffective governance

5. I went there to understand the possibility of a long term action and hence questioned some people about what beyond this evening? What would they do from 4th onwards (i.e the next day onwards) They didn't have any answer but they showed interest when i asked them for their mailids to propose an extended course of action.
Inference: The scene was dominated more by emotion rather than an attempt at doing something on a sustained basis

6. Someone handed over to me a pamphlet about some group by the name Mumbai Magna
Carta asking for Mumbai to be made independent of India with its own form of Presidential System etc which I really found in sad taste. Here we were gathering against corruption and poor politics and then someone starts talking about separtist outlook as if Mumbai is what only mattered to them!!!

Overall perception and feeling- The fact that we all could come together and express our sense of solidarity is a big first step since I have never seen anything of this nature ever in Mumbai by the educated class.
I am afraid that if this move doesn't get a vision and a focussed approach to long term action, the wave would subside. That is my biggest area of concern.

Considering the population of this city is close to 1.8 crore, for a strong social movement we need a much more inclusive and rigorous effort to improve the political order. We have to figure out ways of taking masses of people together with us.

Lets look for the next steps now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Appeal to known and unknown people of Mumbai

It has been really heartening to understand so much of fervour and ideas that are being floated all over. I buy in to majority of those. Sharing few humble thoughts from the bottom of my heart during these sensitive times.

As a polity, we are realizing how difficult it is to actually have a concerted opinion and action on tried and tested values of honesty, courage, democracy, liberty, perseverance, equality, universal brotherhood, secularism etc

We need to realize that despite having able successful people in different spheres of life- Business, NGOs, Medicine, Education, Law, Art, etc we have failed miserably on leadership at mobilizing masses of honest people towards a common goal of a strong democracy. Individually we are experts but collectively it seems we lose all our capacities. Everybody says that its not their business. So let the gullible people become hostages to ideologies of these grossly incompetent politicians who have mastered the art of winning elections but pathetically failed on the true Battle Front- Governance.

I sincerely admire the efforts of Karmayog to really do so much in this direction of governance since its inception.

This episode has made me realize that a lot is left undone.We have critized government time and again but have not done anything to counter their tactics. That the current creed comprises majorly of parasites is a no brainer.

When Kumar Ketkar criticized the government in June this year about taking a decision to erect a statue of Shivaji Maharaj worth 200cr taller than statue of liberty, his house was vandalized. We didn't see any strong protest from citizens. Wasn't he correct in assessing the fact that there were important areas to spend that money in. Probably that statue must have wept today to see how his name was being used for narrow sectarian ends while the police forces were left to face the terrorists with their weak weapons and were made to die.

When Raj started his North Indian tirade were we somewhere smiling within our sleeves that probably that would relieve the city off some over population. How do we explain our silence during that time. Was it tacit support? Were we piggybacking on the same genre of politics that we are whipping now? Was it lack of political will (yes from our side too)? Was it lack of courage? Politics of the worst order was being played even then. The government was late to act even then. Today I receive smses of Commandoes being from North India and all. Why don't we act without any such phenomenal human tragedy like this terror attack. Couldn't we have sent a strong message by coming onto the streets in peaceful gatherings?

We felt that our children would be secure by economic prosperity and hence have prevented our children to do anything on the lines of civic activism. Today we are showing our anger when that assumption is being challenged. Children are no more safe. They are at the peril of unknown, highly trained and highly motivated breed of HUMAN BOMBS. Scary isn't it?

When incompetent people go for votes on the lines of religion, region, culture and all kind of idiotic capabilities other than governance what do we do??I remember a time when an emerging party in Mumbai organized a debate amongst college students on Police Reforms. The participation was poor. The finals were held in Mumbai university with judges like Julio Rebeiro, M N Singh, Brijesh Singh, Mr Prasad, Bharat Dhabolkar etc. During evaluation these judges stated that the quality of debate was sad. Can you imagine the size of audience? It was less than 25 people in the college auditorium. No one was interested. Look whats happening today- Lay men with no technical competency on these lines are talking about what police should be doing. Isn't it ridiculous? During that time Shania Twain was performing in the city and our youngsters were gathering in thousands to listen to her. Yes the other program was free of cost while the concert had sky high ticket rates. What are our priorities after all? I lament.

Today we whine and go out in the streets with candles and tears in our eyes which is ok. But it will not get translated into anything beyond regular life if we don't think hard.

Quoting Martin Luther King Jr at this moment:

........ Uniting social action with educational competence, Jews became enormously effective in political life. Those Jews who became lawyers, businessmen, writers, entertainers, union leaders and medical men did not vanish into the pursuits of their trade exclusively. They lived an active life in political circles, learning the techniques and arts of politics....

The other important statement from his side:

How shall we make every houseworker and every labourer a demonstrator, a voter, a canvasser and a student?

Imagine that these people gave their lives for these ideals simply because they held these ideals close to their heart. They could see their value which escapes our eyes. If we try to evaluate our own efforts in this direction then our democracy would not score anything other than a ZERO. And who would be held responsible. WE THE PEOPLE. Why? Because we got our education on all possible lines. We got a chance to visit countries. We read the best of the books. We got the best of the infrastructure at our homes atleast. And then what did we do with all that???

I know that I am getting too cynical. Yes I am. Its great that we as NGO professionals are doing our bit but lets realize that and also ADMIT it with complete humility that whatever we are doing is not going to sustain a safe and peaceful world because there are too many variable emerging every day and most of them are beyond our direct control. We have to do more and more. And yes I am confident that we have the capacity to do that. Thats the ONLY hope.

If we really want to have a better tomorrow and if we are really not just befooling our own selves then we have to stand tall and understand whether we are really prepared to do more than what we have just been doing.Are we prepared to create a huge mass of concerted effort through all the possible citizen forums that are exisiting today to get people to go beyond their narrow identities and egos to fight divisive tendencies, identity politics, corrupt practices, violence, unjustified expenses by the government etc. Are the able men in the city- the who's who of the city of Mumbai prepared to give directions. There are a lot of foot soldiers who would be required and the preparation can be done to take it ahead.

The politicians only listen to swings of public opinion. And in a city with 1.8 crore population even a swing of 1000 people can't bother them unless it has a multiplier effect to touch the heart of probably 10 lakh or more people. It seems too difficult to me also just as it might seem to you. But thats the task at hand. No less than expecting our soldiers to release Taj Hotel along with its hostages. Isn't it? Or probably even tougher.Can we create an organized order of people whereby each housewife, each student, each artist, each professional, each general manager, each finance expert, each pani puri wala etc understand their possible roles and do the best in it.

Its only a healthy democracy with best leaders at the top who will have the understanding of what needs to be done and when. How to prioritize activities. How to get our population to work in tandem towards true NIRMAN. Can we draw out a plan for bringing people in units, hundreds, thousands gradually into a fold of awakened mass. Give them clear responsibilites and direction and energy to act upon. The same ideal of Prabuddha Bharata. Vivekananda roared long back that when our own internal constitution is weak, we get prone to diseases from outside. And thats what is happening today. Have we really understood what those people warned us against?

One of the things that left me dumbfounded about these terrorists was the phenomenal killer instinct with which they came. Just 10 of them. And yes, all less than 25 yrs. If we are to work towards a better order, we need the same instinct to enter into our blood across all sections of society but here the enemy should be divisive politics, corruption, criminals entering into politics, poor styles of administration, local parasites trying to support the terrorists, violent practices by political parties, sectarian tendencies against civilians, narrow discrimination in our own homes and premises, apathy etc.

Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and form a city level mass force with the sole end being a just and peaceful society? Lets remember that any movement towards democracy would be successful only if its tenets appeal to the uneducated as much as they do to the educated. An elitist idea will surely die. Thats why I say- a mass mobililzing force. The Times are asking us 'Can we do it?'

Let me know your thoughts please. Its not a mere opinion that I am stating. Its a statement on which I genuinely intend to act upon. But again, can't be done single-handedly .