Archive for the ‘mumbai blasts Nov 2008’ Category

A quick and immediate protest that Mumbaikars can go for, is to make an income tax contribution of Re 1/- as advance tax, in December!

A token payment that is a slap on the face of the government, to protest against the betrayal of the city’s taxpayers. For the government’s apathy towards the city, for their inability to protect us.

Let’s spread this message. ALL tax paying Mumbaikars must pay only Re 1/- this December. The empty coffers of the Income tax will let the country know the real value of Mumbai’s contributions to the exchequer.

We have been admirers of our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. In the 90s, when he took over as a Finance Minister during precarious times for the country, he single handedly brought back the country from the brink of disaster. Even this time around, when Congress was to form the government, he was a good choice. Better he than the old foggies like Arjun Singh or Pranab Mukherjee or Shivraj Patil… !

But there has to be the right person at the right time! And at this time, Dr. Singh is far from being the right person!

One had to only hear him speak to the nation in the midst of the encounter, and you could sense that he was totally out of place. He looked like he was addressing some Global Conference in Economics, and he was presenting a technical paper there!

The time was to inspire, to motivate, to rekindle the nation’s patriotic fervour. To speak strongly and let the nation know that he was going to act, to let the world know that we will not be suckers anymore. And that had to come out in an emphatic speech.

Instead, he was insipid and boring.

How can we have confidence that he is the man to lead us out of this mess? When all this time, he has not been able to stand up to the Left parties, to his own party colleagues and ministers, leave alone to “Madam Gandhi”, how do we expect him to stand up to terrorists or to a fearsome neighbour, who is willing to go to war with us??

Surely, at this critical time, we need a younger PM, one who shows huge energy, one who can motivate us. A strong leader. I do not quite see a person in the horizon at this time. And in that, maybe our misfortune. But if we can find someone who fits this bill, we must go with such a person, and Dr. Singh could continue to be the Finance Minister, and wade us out of the economic crisis (hey, that’s not gone anywhere, just in case we forgot about it!).

Thank you, Dr. Singh, but not now, Dr. Singh.. Enough is Enough!!

Okay, so everyone has a right to this. And I exercise mine.

Rants!!

1. I am getting a little sick and tired of the following words:

  • Iconic structures (about the Taj and the Oberoi): good for a while, but gets on my nerves as they keep repeating these words,
  • Resilience and spirit: enough is enough. With these two words, I mean.. !

2. It’s easy for the rich and famous to say that there is no prejudice in society. Yeah, maybe it does not matter as to who it is that they party with, at the Taj or the Oberoi. The reality of prejudice is with the common man. So poignantly shown in Khalid Mohammed’s Fiza, when the educated Muslim youth, played by Hrithik Roshan, could not get a job in Mumbai! If some of these youth then succumb to brainwashing and go to the other side, who is to blame for that? This society, who else?!

Would YOU hire a muslim youth to work in your organization almost as comfortably as you would hire a Hindu? Is there an inkling of bias in the back of your head? Until that is there, let’s not pretend that the prejudice does not exist. Also let’s accept our role as a society, in this situation, then.

3. I have seen some very shocking reactions, which I hope, are only the result of these special circumstances and the stress caused on account of that. From highly literate Maharashtrians who are even more convinced now about Raj Thakeray’s anti-North Indian agenda, to celebrities like Simi Garewal advocating war against Pakistan and also advocating action against slum dwellers en masse, because few of them have been seen to carry Pakistani flags. When will we raise ourselves above all these petty matters, and take up the bigger challenges confronting us?

4. Is there anyway that a proper chain of command can be spelt out, on priority, just in case, such or similar incidents occur in future as well?? All of us who are familiar with government departments, including the police, are well aware of the heirarchies existing there. And how it takes ages for papers and files to move from one table to the next, just because of those hierarchies. About how the left hand does not know what the right is doing, in such departments. How then, will one government body interact with another, or take a person from the other department as his commanding officer, during such events.

I am sure time went by, just in straightening these things out, when events transpired this time. And when we had the Mumbai police, the ATS squad, the Naval Forces, the Coast Guard, the Army and the NSG, all involved in this exercise. Who was calling the shots? And if there was no one person, it was bound to be chaotic. At least in terms of their press briefings, all of these agencies were interacting on their own with the media, and giving out at times, different messages!

Please let us have a defined chain of command in place, for the future.. !!

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.

So, are YOU afraid?

Posted: December 1, 2008 in mumbai blasts Nov 2008
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Amitabh Bacchan wrote in his blog, after the Mumbai terrorist attack started, that he took his licensed revolver with him, to bed. Albeit in discomfort, but that was HIS reaction.

I cannot quite identify with his response, but perhaps as a targeted celebrity, his concerns could be different from those of common citizens.

But all of us have been afraid. Some more than others. Any of us could have been in the Taj or the Oberoi, any of us could have been at the VT station, or in the train when the earlier train blasts happened. Our loved ones could have been there. In some cases, they might already have been so.

Sends a shiver down the spine to even think about it. What if??

Yes, the fear is there.

I remember as a child, in 1971, when the war in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was going on. And there were air sorties going above the skies of Mumbai (then, Bombay). We would have the periodic sirens going on, and we were asked to shut all lights so as to not give out the fact, looking from the sky, that this was the city of Bombay. Anti-aircraft combat was regular.

I was around 7 years old at that time. I still remember quite vividly, crouching in the balcony of our dark apartment, looking up into the sky, to see if we could spot any aircrafts. In fear as much as in curiosity. Even as my mom kept telling me to come inside the apartment, and not stay in the balcony. As if there would have been more harm done being in the balcony, should a bombing have actually happened.

But such were the reactions of fright. I was afraid then. But over time, those thoughts became fuzzy, and the larger exposure gained over the years, made me realize the folly of being afraid.

But we are afraid again.

Would I feel safe for my daughter to go to South Mumbai today? Would I worry for her if she had to? I guess so. Will I be wary of stepping into the Renaissance or the Hyatt today? I presume so. Will I worry to be at crowded places like multiplexes, airports, railway stations, malls? Again, I suppose I will (I flew from Delhi to Mumbai, on Friday evening, even while the Taj encounter was still on).

We may need to do, what we have to do. Life will not stop. But there will be new fears that we will live with now.

An Amitabh may sleep with his revolver by his side. We may just make more calls on our cells, to check on our loved ones, to let others know that we are okay. And perhaps pray some more..

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!

While we have all been angry and upset, and have poured out our anger against the politicians and the powerful, we have also been hearing from various experts, the challenges of combatting terrorism.

The long coastline, the large number of porous boundaries that the city has, the big gap between the arms that our police carry and those which the terrorists have access to, the fact that sympathisers for some terrorists’ causes exist within our own country, that we have vote bank politics and due to which reason we have allowed safe passage to people coming in from Bangladesh and elsewhere, etc are pointers to reasons why the challenge of terrorism is a very tough one to face.

Do we conclude that its not possible to quell it? That come what may, we may remain vulnerable to a terrorist attack? A return to the “good old days” might as well be accepted to be as much of a possibility, as it is to have paradise on earth now!

So how do we cope with this reality of life?

Well, we have to start counting the number of sudden-death situations in life, and add terrorist attack to that list.

So we now have cancer, heart attack, stroke, road accident,.. and “Terrorist deaths”. One could be hale and hearty and yet be vulnerable to any of these.

Yes, it’s sad to come to such a conclusion. But really, do YOU feel safe? Do you feel that you cannot be a victim of terrorism? It’s clear now that terrorism can hit anywhere and at any time.

It will require a new world order to emerge to put this threat away, and I do not see that as being realistic. So until then, we have no choice but to accept this reality – cancer, heart attack, stroke, road accident, air accident….. , terror strikes!!

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… !