Archive for the ‘india’ Category

Ever since the CNN correspondent reported the Gulf War from the trenches, no global event, no terrorist attack is an isolated incident anymore. All such events play to the gallery as a large reality television show.

The purists may not like it. But they cannot deny it.

It was no different this time around when, for an extended period of 4 days, terrorists battled the security forces in Mumbai. The plethora of news channels that have come up in India, all covered the events non-stop, round the clock. One had the choice to view the different perspectives and in that itself, there was a story.

While the events were going on, it was all about giving fresh news and inputs on the developments, post events, it was the analysis. Both of these aspects were important and showcased the values that the channels stood by.

During the period of encounter, there was temptation for the channels to give that bit of extra information, even if it was speculative to an extent. There was also the temptation to get that little extra peek into the happenings, and for the cameraman to move to a more vantage point compared to the others. In spite of the security restrictions. There was a temptation to get to the terrorists if they could, to get a scoop of a story in terms of the persons responsible for it, etc.

I was following the events, essentially on two channels. For a long time, I followed it on CNN-IBN. Over the years, one has generated some respect for Rajdeep Sardesai, and for regular viewing, this channel had become the default news source for me. So it was the channel that I kept watching for a long time, when the events erupted.
Prior to CNN-IBN, the favorite used to be NDTV. But this time around, due to recent habit, I continued to stay with CNN-IBN.

Till one evening, I turned to NDTV, just to see if they had anything different to offer. And I was amazed. I think NDTV, and especially Barkha Dutt and Sreenivasan, take reporting to a different level altogether. Their coverage was a clear notch above that of CNN-IBN. For one, Barkha manages to cut across layers, and gets interviews and soundbytes, where others are unable to. Secondly, she has amazing energy. She moves from place to place herself, gives a variety of perspectives, get the camera to go to different angles or different views, and in short, unleashes some great reporting for the benefit of viewers. Both she and Sreenivasan have excellent reactions, they gauge the situation well, ensure that politicians do not go into drivel. Besides that, they are also very concerned about the responsibility that they carry as a broadcast medium, and ensure that no randomness is picked up or pushed out through their channel.

In short, they provided some great coverage.

I tried Times Now briefly, and it seemed fine. The clout of the Times group was also enabling them to get some good insights including pictures and video coverage.

The defaulters who ran away with speculative stories, were the usual suspects, viz. India TV and Aaj Tak, although I did not really follow either of them closely. This conclusion is drawn from what others have shared about the two channels.

Its easy to be a great channel, with some principled reporting during normal days. It’s a crisis of this kind that really tests your resolve. I think NDTV sailed through the crisis well.

The citizens’ voice has never been heard louder than on this occasion. And the citizens are also, more or less, speaking in a common voice. Their anger is directed to the same one direction. And some results are there for us to see. And with the relentless focus of the citizen groups that have emerged, more action will be taken. It appears that for once, the government cannot sit on proposals, cannot wait endlessly.

So what was different about this time than before? Was it just that last straw that broke the camel’s back, or was it something else?

Cruel as it sounds, I think the terrrorists may have actually done India a favor by targeting the targets that they did. Surely, I do not belittle the losses of life at these luxury hotels, but I am viewing this from another perspective.

NEVER before had the rich and famous gotten so close to terrorist mayhem in India. The earlier occasions were all in crowded places, where the common man was to be found. In markets, on railway platforms, in buses. Even when the Mumbai blasts happened and places like Zaveri Bazaar and the Stock Exchange were targetted, it was still the sub-brokers and the day traders who got hurt and not so much, the business owners. Maybe a one-off case of a mid-sized business owner might have been there.

This time around, the people who have got hurt or killed in the 5-star hotels, other than the hotel staff, have ALL been a high profile category. Bank chieftains, eminent lawyers, large business owners, etc.

This has been a huge wake up call for the elite of the city.

When blasts happened at Ghatkopar or Mulund or even at the Gateway, it was still something to chat about, but for all practical purposes, the blast might as well have been at Malegaon or Jaipur or Bangkok, as far as the glitterati of the society are concerned.

This time, their comfort zone is broken through.

That terror could reach the plush comfort of their favorite hotels has shaken them up. Would a Simi Garewal have been so angry earlier? Would a Milind Deora openly taken on the CM, Dy CM and others earlier? Shobha De and Rahul Bose have never minced words. But their ire was only sharper this time, and this time around, we expect them to carry on their tirade, since they have proclaimed that ‘enough is enough’.

When no politician was willing to come and face the angry crowds on “We, the People” (Barkha Dutt anchored program on NDTV), the only exception was Abhishek Sanghvi, spokesperson of Congress. He had a rough ride against the citizens’ anger. But he made a huge commitment in front of the TV audience. He talked about 4-5 very critical changes, which have been pending for many months / years, to take effect within the next 3-5 DAYS! Yes, DAYS. The kind of speed that you can never associate with anything that has government written on it.

And we are already seeing the urgency at Delhi. Manmohan and Sonia realize well that this time, there is no running away. No way to let public memory die down. Because it will not die down.

The events were tragic. But if they have put the entire country into positive action, there is hope for the future.

If there was any time when this phrase made famous by Obama, could also be used in context of Mumbai, then its NOW!

Can we come out of the mess that we find ourselves in?

Can we ensure that sanity is maintained and knee jerk outbursts do not put us into more chaos?

Can we show good-for-nothing politicians the door? Get them out??

Can we come up with worthwhile alternatives?

Can we get the city back in order?

Many more questions…. of this kind. Challenging us for what we are. Challenging our being, challenging our capabilities.

And the answer can only be one, “YES, WE CAN”.

For mere words to convert to action, and that also not action that is “high in the air” and which “someone else needs to do” (read politicians, policemen, security agencies, industrialists – in short, everyone other than oneself), a thought that I shared with few others on an email (most people were from online businesses) is reproduced below:

———

It will only be repetitive to state that its been the most painful
experience of life, even at a distance. That something of this kind
could happen to our city is shocking. But as I said, that would be
repeating things.

Here is a specific thought though:
1. Till date, we have been stuck with these as***les of politicians,
simply because it was not possible for a good alternative candidate to
make any kind of decent penetration. To go from door to door, muster up
support, generate a following.. it all seemed impossible to do. When up
against old time penetrations of the party, and the ways and means that
they have followed to generate their so-called support bases.

2.But its a different world today. An online, connected world. One where
you do not need to go from door to door to get your point across. One
where a message can have a viral movement and a following can be built.

3. We might have just hit the tipping point on the online viral push of
messages - Facebook, Twitter, blog postings, emails of this kind are
evidence of that fact - with this incident.

4. On this mail list, we have people who have managed to get their
brands and businesses inside large number of homes in the country. They
know how it's done. Till date, this knowledge has been used to pursue a
commercial motive related to their business.

So here's the opportunity then! Can some of these leaders of the online
world, get together, along with other management experts, technocrats
and the like. And plan out a strategy, perhaps even a clear alternative
(if not for all the constituencies of the country, begin with a few; a
start has to be made somewhere, and any small penetration will put the
current lot of politicians on high alert), and then generate a clear
online campaign (with some offline support) and convert all these well
sounding words into action??

To borrow a phrase that became very popular recently, "Yes, We Can!".
----------------

YES, WE CAN!!


									

India, the world’s second largest country with a population of about 1.1 billion, has just 126 police officers per 100,000 citizens. The United Nations’ recommended standard is 222.

Well, be it 126 or 222, why is it sufficient to have just that small 3 digit number of police officers taking care of 100,000 citizens.

This ratio comes out of a simple logic.

That fundamentally most people are “good” and there is only so much “evil” in society. The ratio being the way it is, a handful of police personnel are sufficient to quell those challenges, and the large proportion of the good people in society take care of themselves.

But the danger that the world faces today, I believe, is in the increasing percentages of the ‘evil’ component of society. Due to various factors – the politics of the US, the breaking down of the communist world, the rich nations getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and on top of that, this global economic crisis, and perhaps many other factors – the world is not getting any safer. Simply because the evil section of society is getting larger.

The same happens when there are large scale epidemics. The medical practitioners to citizens ratio is also equally tightly balanced most times. Any unusually large demand of that expertise is just not available on call. For the ratios to change, takes years. There is no quick alternative.

The ratio of good vs evil in society, and based on which the ratio of police vs citizens is based, is equally tightly balanced. If the UN guidelines and India’s numbers are anything to go by, we are in worse shape there. In this scenario, if the balance tilts any further, it can lead us to chaos of the kind that we cannot imagine.

It clearly shows that besides policing and security efforts, there is a need to cleanse society. To convert the evil back to good. Its not an answer enough, just to combat evil. If simultaneous efforts to cleanse the evil are not done, we will always be just so-close to disaster!

As the drama has unfolded in front of millions glued to their TV sets, like a terrible reality show, the media houses have covered all conceivable aspect of the story. From live relay of the actual encounters, to human interest aspect, to the Pakistan angle, the politics of it, the loss of lives of security forces and especially some of the well known officers, etc. etc.

In spite of this extensive coverage and probing, I think some matters have escaped attention, or at least adequate attention, as I have not seen these discussed at length, on the channels that I have been following:

1. One of the fishermen folks, rather a 15 year old boy from amongst the fishermen there, has pointed out on camera that he saw 10 persons with big bags, get down from the boat, and split into 3 groups, that went to different directions. And then someone tool that small boat away.

So did someone go after this boat? What happened to it? I am not referring to the MV Alfa which was tracked and followed. I am referring to the smaller rubber boat or a trawler perhaps, that transported these ten terrorists into the city.

2. Along with the terror that happened in South Mumbai, there were also blasts reported in Vile Parle, near Santacruz and at the Marriot in Juhu.

Is anyone tracking those at all? Or compared to these bigger events in South Mumbai, those were smaller and trivial and are ignored for now?? Hey, besides everything else, we must remember that the terrorists who caused those blasts in the northern parts of the city, would be some other chaps. And they are moving about freely somewhere in the city. And if they have half the amount of ammo that those guys at the Taj or the Oberoi or at Nariman Bhavan had, then we continue to be at very high risk or some other large event now! Why does nobody track this story now?

3. It is clear that the operation was well planned and executed. That the terrorists knew exactly where they wanted to go, and what they wanted to do. Be it the Taj, Oberoi or the Nariman Bhavan. They did not reach these places accidentally.

So the question then is, where was the Skoda headed out to? Those two guys had been to VT, had done some indiscriminate firing on the streets, and then reached outside the Oberoi. Instead of walking in, like the other terrorists did, they exchanged the vehicle and decided to drive somewhere else. So was there another destination that they had planned to reach? Which one was it? Would those other terrorists (or Vile Parle, etc.) who are still roaming the streets in Mumbai, reach to that fourth planned destination now? Whenever they see an opportunity?! Again, this factor has not been brought up by any channel, at least when I have been seeing these.

Questions that remain unanswered… !

Why do these politicians not worry about the people, after they get elected? Why do they think about their constituents only during election times? And in between, they behave irresponsibly, and do what they jolly well please.

The reason for this is that once elected, these MPs or MLAs are quite untouchable. They could commit crimes, they could be insensitive to public needs, they could be fraudsters. They still retain their seats. And while they may be called in old British style terms, as public “servants”, they are anything but that!! In fact, they make all service providers dance to their tunes, be it the airlines, the police, the bureaucracy.. everyone.

So what is the potential method to make them more responsible? If any?

Yeah, sure, there is the threat to re-election, if they are seen to be grossly messed up. But most times, things are not that clear. Also its a five year term, and by the time the elections come, some of their misdemeanours might have been forgotten by the people too.

The only weapon that the people could potentially have, in such cases, is the right to “recall” an elected representative. To let it be known, that the constituency as a whole has lost total confidence in the concerned MP / MLA, and would like him / her to be recalled.

This article has some background on the subject. It clearly shows that its not easy or perhaps not possible at all, in India. But as a germ of an idea, and even if there is a slim chance of it being implementable, its something that is worth considering. Especially at such difficult times… !

Even if there is ONE case of recall in India, that may be a strong message to all other elected reps, like no other message could ever give, I suspect!

This time around, the anger is huge. All and sundry have expressed their frustrations against the politicians.

Politicians who have sat on the need for a federal agency against terror, politicians who took their own bloody time to act even as the dastardly act was happening at multiple locations in Mumbai, politicians who repeat the same stupid words after each event (“we are investigating”, “we condemn”, “we will get those responsible”, etc. etc.), politicians who use up high profile security for their own selves leaving the citizens unprotected… the list is endless.

Citizens have made comments on live television saying that let the politicians not come here, as they will be killed by the peple here!!

This angry voice has finally reached the powers to be, and we can now expect actions to be taken. While many may call these actions as too little and too late, the way I see these are, being better late than never!

The first head to roll has been that of Shivraj Patil, the Union Home Minister.

Great! Finally! Phew! He has been one of the most impotent and uninspiring Home Ministers that India has had the misfortune to have. So I am glad that he is gone.

I also hope that other heads roll – soon. Prime candidates being Vilasrao Deshmukh and R. R. Patil, the CM and Dy CM of Maharashtra. Besides their inaction and inability to protect the state and the city, their totally insensitive attitudes convey how completely disconnected they are from the citizens and their feelings. The CM took his film star son and his director friend, Ram Gopal Verma, on a terror tour through the Taj. R. R. Patil put his foot in his mouth when he conveyed on camera that such “small incidents” happen in big cities like Mumbai. BOTH HAVE TO GO. Sooner rather than later.

In fact, there is no real ability factor that could justify a Shivraj Patil as Home Minister or a Vilasrao Deshmukh as the CM. Its clear that they had their positions due to reasons other than capability. Vilasrao is supposed to be one of the biggest “fund raisers” for the High Command, and even Shivraj Patil holds some similar aces in his hand, with respect to his relevance in the Congress. These are the only reasons why these people get to their chairs and hold them for long too.

There will be few other bureaucrats who will also have to go. One of the prime candidates for such a removal is the National Security Advisor, who has been exposed as being a total misfit, time and again.

But the other point is that in spite of such resignations, do these politicians really suffer at all? If past is anything to go by, maligned ministers lie low for a while, and since public memory is short, they make a quiet comeback after a while. Or in some cases, they are given a plush Governor’s position (if one is lucky, they could even aspire to be President), and can enjoy the good life!

Why so? If Shivraj Patil has resigned for being responsible for his inability to prevent such terror happening on Indian soil, its clearly a performance issue. Why should he be rehabilitated? If a CMO of a company has been proven to be not performing well, would you still make him a Branch Manager, or would you just give him the walking orders?? In fact, in other cases, politicians have been accused of being corrupt or being linked to violence, or of embezzlements, and they have STILL been rehabilitated!! Why do politicians never have such problems? Because of their “fund raising” ability?? When will THIS change in our country??