Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ramachandra Guha – ‘Eminent Distortian’on Ahmedabad

If ever Chris Nolan needed to make ‘Inception-II’ no one could be more handy than Ramachandra Guha. Planting of spurious theories and dreams, Guha excels at it. He passes himself off as a historian and a cricket commentator. Hmmm! ‘Distortian’ may not be a word you’ll find in a dictionary but that is what Guha and his ilk are. Distort facts, distort truth, write history from figments of imagination and see ‘windmills’ where there are none. Paint places and people in colours that thrive only in the most prejudiced of minds, sometimes bordering on hatred. (Read my post ‘Ramachandra Guha’s Paintings’).
Ramachandra Guha - 'Eminent Distortian'

As a school kid you may have written essays on your trips. My trip to the zoo, my first trip to the railway station or even my first visit to an airport. Ramachandra Guha has now written an essay on his visit to Ahmedabad, probably the 21st one. Well, it starts off with a few words on Ahmedabad and then as usual with the Distortians it degenerates into a rant about Narendra Modi. It’s called  ‘Delusions of grandeur - The curious transformation of Narendra Modi’ in the Telegraph. Delusions? Oh yeah! We’ll find out who’s deluded. Here are some excerpts from the distortian’s write:

Ahmedabad is a city I know well. I must have made at least 20 trips there in the last 30 years. Going back last month, I found signs marking the distance to a certain ‘Mahatma Mandir’..... What was this landmark that I had not heard of and which was apparently so important that it had to be advertised every so often on city roads? My Amdavadi friends supplied the answer.....The first major building had been completed in time for the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit held in early January; .....In this time, Modi has made a sort of reverse journey, from being a media-shy if hard-working Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak to the most self-confident and publicity-seeking of modern politicians. Viewing his position today, I am reminded of the one occasion, some 12 years ago, when I found myself in the same room as him. It was in a television studio in New Delhi, which was hosting a debate between Madhavrao Scindia of the Congress, Pramod Mahajan of the BJP, and myself (representing no party at all)....Now, of course, Modi is arrogance personified.....Narendra Modi may wish to compare himself to Mahatma Gandhi, but to this historian, he is more akin to another Gandhi, namely, Indira.....Between 1971 and 1977, Indira thought she was India, and vice versa. Modi merely thinks he is Gujarat.......Neither Mrs Gandhi then, nor Modi now, can allow that their critics may have a honest or valid point or two. By definition, all patriotic Indians had to be behind Mrs Gandhi, all Gujaratis (100 to 0) have to rally around Modi. The mandir being built 37.9 km from the hotel where I stayed in Ahmedabad is a monument not to Mahatma Gandhi, but to Narendra Modi’s megalomania....... Here is a tip to first-time visitors to Ahmedabad. If you go in search of the Mahatma, disregard the blue signs, and ask an autorickshaw to take you to the Sabarmati Ashram instead. The experience shall be nourishing, perhaps even transformative. For one thing, unlike that “mandir”, this ashram is on the human scale, with low, modest buildings and green trees around them. For another, there are no policemen either inside or outside the place. For a third, Gandhi actually lived there”.

I recommend you read the whole crap at the Telegraph so you know what this distortian is talking about. What starts off as a write on a trip to Ahmedabad turns into a deliberate and manufactured nonsense about Narendra Modi. Let’s see what Ahmedabad holds and I can confidently tell Ramchandra the spiteful that I’ve been to Ahmedabad a lot more than he ever will in his life. Here are some questions for the distortian:

1.   From your drive from the airport or railway station to your hotel, how many times did the traffic hold you up? Wherever you travelled in Ahmedabad or Gujarat did you find plenty of potholes on the roads? Was your drive smooth or was it bumpy? Did you discover that?
2.   How many beggars did you find in Ahmedabad during your stay? That’s right, how many beggars? Did they bother you all the time you commuted the streets of Ahmedabad? Unlike your communist states Gujarat does not breed beggars, no self-respecting Gujarati will ever beg. Did you discover that Mr.Distortian?
3.   How many times did the power go off in the hotel you stayed in? Did you see any UPS equipment or any generators asshole? Did you stay in comfort in your hotel with the power never going off? Gujarat is probably one state where generators don’t sell much except in case of emergency services. Did you discover that?
4.   Any average media man or so-called historian who follows the news knows about ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ and the Mahatma Mandir. Are you so dumb, ignorant and uninformed that you knew nothing about the event or the name of the place where it was being held? Are most of your writings laced with such ignorance of basic information about major events in this country? I feel confident that is how you write history too, with a jaundiced mind.
5.   In Ahmedabad, did you notice the BRTS (Bus rapid transport system) on the wide roads where good quality public buses run uninterrupted? Did you?
6.   Finally, since when did you become a shrink? You have diagnosed Modi as suffering from megalomania. What evil prejudices are you suffering from Mr. Distortian? So much that you made Ahmedabad all about Modi and nothing else! And all the other Gujaratis and other citizens are stupid puppets?

I choose not to make any comments about the nonsense Guha has written about Narendra Modi because it’s not worth it. However, imagine I had made a trip to New York sometime back and was writing about the place and my whole piece is dedicated to the sexual orientations of Rudi Guiliani. That’s how Ramachandra Guha has used his trip. He went to Ahmedabad for some purpose but the evil mind was so obsessed with Narendra Modi that he had to turn his trip into a rant against Modi. So much so that he could not see anything else about Ahmedabad and Gujarat that most visitors take back with them.

In implying ‘Modi is Gujarat and Gujarat is Modi’ like the sycophants of Indira Gandhi used to say about India, Ramachandra Guha chooses to insult the very intelligence of Gujaratis. Nobody in Ahmedabad or Gujarat puts Modi over the state. People respect him for his work, that’s all! It is Ramachandra Guha who has chosen to see Gujarat and Gujaratis through his evil obsession with Narendra Modi. Most of all Mr. Distortian, next time you go to a place, go to discover and not go with prejudices. If you want to write crap about Narendra Modi you don’t have to visit Ahmedabad, you can do that from a laptop anywhere. Which is what most of your likes do, don’t they?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Aviation: The Next Scam?

The fake pilot license scam is in the news for some days. News reports suggest that this was possible owing to some crooks in the DGCA itself. That doesn’t surprise anyone. There seems hardly any government department that isn’t enjoying its free run on corruption. That is just about breaking. Sometime in November 2010 neither the media nor the then Aviation Minister, Praful Patel, paid much attention but some passenger groups protested the extra-ordinarily high fares being charged by airlines. Fares between metros went up as high as Rs.20000 to Rs.30000. Praful Patel acted only after flyer groups forced him to.

Now this smoothing talking minister is on record calling Nira Radia an ‘economic terrorist’. This was probably in response to her statements about him in the leaked tapes. And this is what she had said: “But he [Patel] has destroyed the sector.....He’s worked as a minister for Naresh Goyal [Jet Airways] and now Vijay Mallya [Kingfisher]. He cannot brush off this charge”. (From Outlook)

Between Nira Radia and Praful Patel you can decide who you want to trust. That Air India has been bleeding and making severe losses is no big secret. One would have thought the Civil Aviation minister would be very concerned and involved in reversing the loss-making trend of Air India. However, since Vayalar Ravi took over the aviation ministry some news reports make alarming reading indeed.

Here are excerpts from an Outlook magazine (March 28) report which make sorry reading:

Killing the Maharaja gently! (From Hindustan Times)
As many as 32 routes, many of them believed to be profitable, have been abandoned by the carrier (Air-India) since 2004. (This includes those run by Indian Airlines and Air India, before they were merged in 2007)Union aviation minister Vayalar Ravi confesses his ignorance of why his predecessor, Praful Patel, would have cancelled profitable routes.....” The report also mentions Air India withdrawing from the busy Bangkok and Singapore routes.

Some union members of Air India have also complained of profitable time slots being shifted while private airlines had better and more profitable time slots. So your guess is as good as mine on who eventually benefitted from the profitable routes vacated by Air India. 

In  Good Times
 It seems the opening up of the economy and allowing private enterprise to take up major domains of previously government held businesses is now the primary source of revenue for political coffers. It is just as well that Praful Patel is out of the aviation ministry. 

Whether she is an economic terrorist or not, Nira Radia does have information and insight that enable her to make the statement she made about Praful Patel. The aviation scams may be just starting to take off!

Monday, March 21, 2011

2G Scam: There Will Be Blood

Newer scams, Wikileaks, Cricket, other crimes have helped push the Nira Radia case to the back-burner. This would, of course, come as a relief for the Congress which is still embattled on many other issues. As days pass the 2G scam cases get more curious coupled with the even more strange case of Hasan Ali in the black money scandal. The black money case is an entirely whole topic for a separate post but let me start with a refresher of my previous posts.

Nira Radia was considered central to the 2G scam case. The ED followed up with raids, interrogation etc. So let’s look at this post I made in Nov. 2010:

"Nira Radia has to be considered a real unwitting hero of sorts. The public has long suspected a politicians–corporate houses–media nexus in the ongoing season of scams. In one single stroke, with a partial release of her tapes, she has inadvertently exposed the powerful and the corrupt in the nation......... I can’t help imagining Ram Gopal Verma rubbing his hands in delight. He would have liked some blood, of course. And who knows, that might even follow."

Sure enough, there is blood. First is that of Sadik Batcha, a former aide of A. Raja. His death is reported as suicide. Only time and proper investigation (if any at all) will reveal if this was indeed a suicide. One does not know how many such Batchas are involved in various transactions or how many more will die in the course of the investigations and possible trials. It may sound far- fetched but it may be safe to assume Nira Radia herself may be in danger.

The phones of Nira Radia were reportedly tapped on a complaint to the Finance Ministry. Who indeed is that mysterious complainant? That single piece of information can solve a lot of puzzles surrounding the 2G scam. Is anyone in the media following up on that? Let’s go back to another post I made in December 2010:

"Hasty to call Nira Radia a spy. Thus spake Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister. The phone tapping was started precisely for that reason – spying.  If Pranab Mukherjee, the man in the middle of everything could say that, one can safely assume the complaint to the then Finance Minster, P. Chidambaram, on the basis of which the phone tapping commenced might as well be fabricated. Else, Chidambaram can and should reveal who the complainant was. That is neither a matter of national secrecy nor a matter of grave danger. I wonder if the complaint was signed by anyone or was an anonymous one.......It is extremely probable that the phone tapping was initiated and meant to be used by the Congress to embarrass, expose or even blackmail some businessmen, media-persons and political allies or enemies.  It seems more and more likely that the government may have no real case against Nira Radia. The exposures are welcome, but the motives remain suspect. Will the media now push Chidambaram for facts?"

In developments so far there has been nothing against Nira Radia. No FIR, no evidence of any conspiracy, no indication of an international spy ring. Nothing! The last report in January 2011 according to Rediff:A top official of the Central Bureau of Investigation, currently investigating the 2G spectrum scam under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court of India told this correspondent in an informal conversation that the bureau has not registered an FIR against lobbyist Niira Radia, because "there is no case against her....Asked why the CBI had then raided Radia's offices and residence, the official said, "The agency had conducted the raids in a bid to look for evidence in the 2G scam." The official, however, refused to answer questions relating to the kind of evidence the agency was looking for or whether they were able to pick up evidence that would prove useful to in proving its case in a court of law”.

Recent publication of the Justice Shah Commission reports (about the Emergency) also show Pranab Mukherjee in a very dark light. 2G, black money and other scams may well turn out to be a serious conspiracy of dangerous proportions. The likes of Nira Radia, A. Raja may just be small pawns in a much larger and dangerous conspiracy. Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, P. Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee have a lot to answer for.

Among other things the JPC is looking into, it must reveal who lodged the complaint against Nira Radia that initiated the phone-taps. It may not be good reading, but there will be more blood.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ad Nauseam

Stop Illegal Advertising!
 In my post ‘TV Pop-Up Ads: Fraudulent Invasion of Privacy’ on January 4, this is what I wrote:
“...TV channels must be free to make money during their commercial breaks. No one would grudge that. However, they should not be allowed to make money on your time. That’s the time you are paying for. Viewers should start sending complaints to the Ministry of I&B to ban this fraudulent and invasive practice. I have doubts if Ambika Soni is ignorant of these malpractices. In the US the increasing of sound volume during commercial breaks by TV channels is banned. Scrolling commercial ads, pop-up ads or button-banner ads that invade you during programs you paid to watch should also be banned”

It appears the illegal practice is far worse than it appears. A watchful reader (Georges) wrote to me about the legal time limit specified for advertising on TV channels. According to reports the maximum time allowed for commercial advertisements is 12 minutes for one hour of programming. There can be hardly any channel that is not violating this norm gleefully. This is particularly alarming in case of news channels which are supposedly the watchdogs. Greed and absolute greed is the only driving force behind our media. TDSAT (Telecom Disputes and Settlement Appellate Tribunal) had sent a notice to the I&B Ministry in January 2011 seeking an explanation on this violation of Cable Television Rules.

The Tribunal's direction came over the plea of an NGO 'Utsarg', alleging violation by all leading broadcasting houses and channels by exceeding the limits of the commercial timing in their TV programmes.  (Business Standard). Much of the issues raised in my post on January 4 have also been covered in the petition by this NGO. And rightly so. It is time to protect the rights of the viewers.

The I&B ministry recently finalised new rules and guidelines that will become laws for the print media and are framing more laws for the digital media as well. Laws apart the ministry doesn’t really seem interested in enforcing any of these laws. Don’t be surprised if the next scam comes out from the very ministry that is supposed to regulate the media. Some ministries like Home, Finance, Telecom, Aviation are flamboyant by nature. The I&B ministry may not be that flamboyant but it certainly holds the same potential to generate as many scams as the others. Don’t wish for it!

TVS Wego - Mental Imbalance!
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a toothless organisation governed by corporate advertisers and agencies themselves. Thus, bad advertisements will continue to spam your TV channels endlessly. The new TVS Wego campaign is one such exercise. Some young females dancing or doing aerobics on two wheelers without helmets is not exactly a great model for your kids. All this is supposed to indicate ‘body balance’ of the vehicle. Sure, body balance supported by ‘mental imbalance’! Of course, don’t forget our advertisers simply love criminals. Salman Khan was dropped by CocaCola after the court conviction for killing protected animals and for the drunken hit and run incident. He should be in jail but he is happily in your face everyday doing dangerous stunts for a Pepsi brand. Far from expecting any ethical practices from advertisers and TV channels the least we can expect the regulators to do is to enforce basic laws and rules. The 12 minute commercial ad limit per hour must be enforced. The entertainment channels can pass off these ads. Why should news channels support such advertising?

Whether its body balance or mental imbalance, it sure is Ad nauseam!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Politicians Need Not Fear The Media

If you were out on a vacation like me and came back to find things a bit different there is nothing to worry. It all remains the same and you are guaranteed a new scam any day. The ‘Cash for votes’ cable leaks by Wikileaks is now on channels everywhere. While all the channels are having a good time with the new story there is one channel that stands out – CNN-IBN. They still claim to be the first to have exposed the cash for votes scam in 2008. The sting-tapes they did not air on July 22, 2008.

As most people know now, CNN-IBN actually buried the video tapes of the sting operation they carried out. A truncated version was aired only much later. In between there was this drama of BJP MPs showing up suitcases with cash in the parliament.

In this particular story, there were many loose ends that needed to be cross-checked, corroborated and investigated further before the story could be aired. As it transpired, even before we could complete the process of investigation, three BJP MPs made allegations in parliament of having been bribed and displayed cash in the House”.  That’s not a statement from the CBI or the ED. That was the statement in a post by Rajdeep Sardesai defending not airing the tapes. You can be forgiven for a moment for thinking CNN-IBN is an investigating agency and not a news channel. It is anybody’s guess why the tapes were not aired or what pressures came upon CNN-IBN to avoid the telecast.

Typically, politicians and other diplomats and spokespersons are on all the news channels at each others’ throats. One statement from Pranab Mukherjee stands out. He stated ‘cannot confirm or deny” the contents of Wikileaks. At least one thing is clear now. The leaked cables are far more reliable for facts and accuracy than the reports in our media. So it’s no more our media that exposes anyone, while they can’t help falling over each other in claiming credit for the expose or ‘impact’!

Suddenly, it’s not the media that our politicians have to fear anymore. It is the breed of politicians and diplomats making statements through classified channels that might scare them more, especially with Wikileaks doing what the media should have been doing. This could well be a trend and the future might see more sites like Wikileaks that expose the truth. As for our media I am laughing at their comic attempts to scavenge. I am tempted to tell them:  ‘go take a leak’!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Radhika Tanwar Murder: The Scavengers Are Out

Within a couple of days of the horrible murder of Radhika Tanwar, a Delhi college student, our News channels were out screaming for justice.  The constant screams were  ‘48 hours and no arrest, 72 hours and still no arrest’! While one sympathizes with the victim and the family nothing can explain this outrageous behaviour by the media. CNN-IBN has even announced a special program ‘Justice For Radhika’! Looks like they seem convinced Radhika won’t get justice or that CNN-IBN would be the one to force police action to render justice to the victim. All this within three days of the incident.

While there is a lot to be desired of our police services they are surely not magicians to trace a killer in what was almost a ‘hit and run’ murder in a public place, with no witnesses coming forward. Little does the media seem to appreciate that investigating crimes is painstaking work and requires a great deal of scientific and logical process. Chest-beating by the media is more a hindrance than any use to an investigation. Have they forgotten the Aarushi case already?

CNN-IBN now has egg on its face for prematurely trying to run a campaign called ‘Justice for Radhika’. This is almost akin to scavenging. At the time of writing this the Delhi police have already arrested a person called Vijay alias Ram Singh in what seems to be an outcome of some sensible investigative work. Due process will reveal whether Vijay was indeed the killer but all evidences and history seem to add up.

There is a need for the media to report but equally important to allow reasonable time for police officials to do their jobs. Excessive breast beating only hampers investigations. One hopes CNN-IBN learns a lesson and shows restraint and patience.

A word on DCP Dhaliwal. He comes across as a level-headed and well meaning police officer. But he would do well not to speak to the media when he is in the middle of an investigation of a terrible crime. This is best left to the PRO of the police department.

The pattern appears to be clear. Nothing works like a good crime for our media. A good sensational crime and the scavengers will be in great business. Sick! Venal!

Another Silly Fatwa: 48 Mile Travel Limit For Muslim Women

Pardon me for being ignorant. I just learned that the Darul-Uloom of Deoband has a ‘Fatwa’ department. And here’s the latest fatwa from those who would like some people to go back to stone-age:

From TOI: Darul Uloom Deoband has issued a travel advisory for women. The latest fatwa by the Islamic seminary rules that a single woman must not venture beyond 48 miles unless escorted by a 'mehram' — defined as a close kin with whom marriage or sex would be considered incestuous. Apart from this, a husband also qualifies as 'mehram'. The fatwa has invited derision from activist Muslim groups. The edict was in response to a query to Darul-Ifta (Deoband's fatwa department): "Is a married woman permitted to travel to another country with her female sibling?" The response (511/308/d) posted on the Deoband website on March 2 said: "She cannot travel without a 'mehram'. It's mentioned in the Hadees that a woman should not travel for more than 48 miles except in the company of a 'mehram' relative.

While silly maulanas keep issuing ridiculous fatwas it is heartening to note that the objections and protests are now rising from the muslim community itself.

TOI Mobile: ".....The ruling, made public on the eve on International Women's day, has raised the heckles of activists here who have strongly condemned the attempts to "shackle womenfolk by insecure maulanas". The issue was discussed threadbare at the meeting of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) and each of the 253 participants vowed to ignore it completely. The bid to impose 1,400 years old restrictions, when people travelled in kafila, is simply ridiculous, says Naeesh Hasan, the founder president of AMMA "specially in an era when a woman pilot can take a planeload of men across 14,000 miles without her father or husband lurking in the cockpit". Beghaum Shahnaz Sidrat, president of Bazm-e-Khawateen, 76 years old well-known progressive outfit of women, wanted to know what happened to women who had no meharam. "I was a lone daughter of widowed mother and have been moving alone since the time I remember. The maulanas must think of better ways to make their presence felt," she said. This is yet another attempt to subjugate women, said president of All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board, Shaista Ambar. A woman cannot be expected to be tied to her husband or father forever. What do maulvis have to say about long distance relationship, she asked and said such rulings only bring disrepute to clerics".

Fatwa against even 'Emoticons' - How silly can you get?
The policies of appeasement have emboldened idiotic maulanas to almost run a parallel state within India. Only recently the SC had emphasised the need to bring Indians under a uniform civil code. It should be made clear to the mullahs that any fatwa that runs contrary to the basic freedoms of an individual under the Constitution is illegal. We need to go a step further and completely ban the ‘fatwa’ culture of the mullahs. The only ‘fatwas’ our country requires are those enshrined in the Constitution. And though this suggestion may sound extreme I would encourage fatwa-happy mullahs to leave India and go live in Iran, Libya or Saudi Arabia and join their counterparts in proclaiming more ridiculous fatwas. 

If there can be a fatwa against even ‘emoticons’ one can imagine how silly these mullahs can get. As for the fatwa itself, I had to pick up the news from a foreign newspaper and found it on the TOI mobile site. The rest of the media has decided to stay within the 48 mile limit.