India, Society and Women

Greatness of a nation is appreciated by how it treats her women. Most modern democracies have given women equal rights to men. One can see women competing with men in all spheres of life. However, not many countries had so many women in such positions of power at any given time as in India. We had president of India, speaker of parliament, leader of opposition in parliament, leader of the biggest party in the political formation that is ruling India, chief ministers of at least three states in India. In India, we had our prime minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, as early as 1970. In our culture, source of power, money and knowledge are all women. There are several very prominent high profile Indian ladies in corporate sector as well.
All this information must indicate that status of women is very high in Indian society. Unfortunately, however, ground reality is farthest from truth. In this country, at many places a girl child is killed before birth. This practice is common not only among poor and uneducated, but also among rich and powerful. Such practice has resulted in skewed male to female ratio in many states. In many places, a bride is harassed and even killed if she does not bring sufficient dowry to her husbands place. Rape is commonly used by men to settle score by men over women, and in general show her place. To the extent, certain influential people in society, including a potential chief minister, claims that girls should be married early to prevent rape. Some even propagate ideas like rape is a consensual act between a man and woman. Sex starved women get themselves raped by innocent boys. In public transport system, many a times women are subjected to molestation. One lady chief minister even proclaimed that too much mixing between boys and girls lead to rape. Recently, a very powerful chief minister of a very prosperous state, equated another political opponents wife in monetary terms.
In a country with such long cultural tradition and with so many women in positions of power, why predicament of women in general is so poor?  Effort to give women power at village level have been successful to some extent. Villages that are headed by a woman, in many cases are better organised, less corrupt and common man’s issues are highlighted. A similar propostion to reserve 30% seats for women in Indian parliament had met with serious resistance. Although, post independence women have gradually come to many areas, earlier dominated by men, still compared to women in US or UK, in India women still have a long way to go. 
Women are considered a property of men, that should be considered a property worth protecting and when needed kicked around. Is it because women are financially dependent on men? Is it because our women in general are not in position of power in sufficient numbers to frame rules and regulations and enact laws? I think it is more to do with mindset of people. As we become more mature and civilised as a nation and as a human, we may start to appreciate long cultural heritage better, than we do today. However, there is no doubt that unless Indians start respecting half their population, no amount of economic growth is going to pull us out of our sorry state of affairs.


Indian Railways Need Visionary Leader

Fare hike will be accepted, provided service is also improved. Indian railway has a long way to go to become a modern, efficient railway system. It should not be looked simply as a medium to transport people packed like sardines, it should be looked into a mode of transport that provides quality transport and service. 

It is important to note that our politicians have been running railways as their personal fiefdom and as part of their vote catching politics. A lot has been said about why fare should not be increased for the sake of poor. Has anyone looked into the possibility that even poor may want a safe and secure travel in a train that runs on time? A train that is clean and serves quality food?  
A lot needs to be done to deliver good quality food, decent standard of hygiene and cleanliness, high level of safety and security all need a lot of improvement. It is difficult to imagine that in premier superfast trains like Duronto Express, Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express lunch, dinner, breakfast is rearranged on the floor right next to the toilet. Is our railways so incompetent / brain dead / penniless that it cannot think of a better way. 
Our railways need to clean up railway tracks in stations. Most of which is littered with human excreta. Is it so difficult to look into creating toilets along the same line as air plane or luxury bus? Entry to most cities and train stations are such an eye sore. Can railways not do some beautification by planting tress? Our railway platforms are most user unfriendly. Most platforms are not equipped with elevators and escalators. There is no connectivity with public transport system, except in Delhi. Waiting rooms are filthy and in a mess. Compared to any railway station in any developed country, our stations need a lot of improvement.
Can our minister, past or present, think of reducing travel time between Delhi and Mumbai or Kolkata to six hours or less? For this to happen we need high speed trains. Many people will stop using air travel. Minister must show vision to reduce time of travel between big cities by introducing fast trains. This may wean away people from air travel. Stations has a lot of scope to be modernised. People may not mind paying more, provided they get the service. …

Poverty of Vision

In India it appears that our political leadership always wants the easy way out. Being a democratic country, our politicians feel it is easier to ask for vote in exchange for bribe disguised as social justice. It is much more difficult to explain why a country needs to take hard decisions. Neither voter nor the vote seeker will realistically and voluntarily choose a difficult path.
What is our way out. Many of us understand that government and society needs to extend a helping hand to communities / castes / sections that are lagging behind socially and economically. Government starts with intention of subsidizing food and fuel for disadvantaged sections of the society. However, it does not want to do the hardwork of identifying poor and give them necessary subsidies directly to the needy. Because of our incompetence and laziness, we end up subsidizing all population, leading to gross imbalance in economy. This attitude also encourages corruption and intended subsidies do not reach the poor.
There are several such disconnects between government intent and government action. A case in point is the debate between generic and patented medicines. Government wants essential medicines available to needy section of population free /  subsidized / cheap. However, most of the time government subsidized medicines are sold in black market. Let us not forget the availability of spurious and adulterated medicines created by generic manufacturer.
Process of discovering a new medicine and making it available in the market place is very expensive and risky. As a result the cost of a life saving medicine is high. In order to bring down price of medicines, in India did not recognize product patent, but allowed process patent – in simple term, Indian companies could chemically synthesise the active principle of a new medicine by a different process. Major cost and risk of bringing a new medicine to market involves clinical trials. Any molecule that does not have to undergo clinical trial, is expectedly going to be less expensive than the original molecule.
In last decade or so, India has agreed to honor product patent. However, there is a caveat. In case of national emergency / need, government can give permission to allow manufacture of a medicine by a different process and make it available to general population at cheap price.
I think our government has good intention in mind. However, it is ignoring one point, that government is not honoring years of hardwork and risk taking of people that invest in business of drug discovery and development. An offshoot of this decision is ignoring complex research and development activity that is needed to understand basis of human disease and create a therapeutic option for it. Instead our decision makers encouraging people who just copy someone elses work, albeit using creative chemistry solution, and launch in the market. This is plain and simple unfair, even if it is permitted by  law of the land, morally this is wrong.  Moreover, generic medicine cannot be there in the absence of research on original medicine. If original medicine makers skip India, then people suffering most will be poor. It is agreed that generic players sell medicines cheaper than original player, but since their risk is low, they are still keeping a very heft price. Cost of generic medicine may be cheap, cost of a good generic medicine is still beyond the reach of poor and lower middle class. So how are our policies oriented towards poor?

In a diverse country like India, one size fits all may not work. Instead of simply encouraging generic medicines for the benefit of poor, our government must encourage research in new drug discovery and development. This will be good for Indian science in the long run. It is also important to note that the same politician who wants cheap medicine for Indian citizens, goes abroad for treatment. Becasue they have has no faith in our system. Yet they does not want to improve Indian system.

1. Generics: Superiorly or Spuriously? : Anoop Kohli 

2. GM foods considered safe in US, but not in India : SA Aiyar

Our Duplicitous Political Leaders

Tavleen Singh in her article in Indian Express laments how our socialist politicians are living way beyond their means. Our political leaders are staying in bungalows that cost nearly 2 lac per month in open market. Each of these bungalows in Lutyen’s Delhi cost around 400 – 500 crore rupees. Yet our politicians, their husbands, wives, relatives and cronies keep on occupying these prime real estates. They do not vacate bungalows even after they lose election, in the hope that next government will fall soon and they may win next impending election.  Many claim their security will be compromised if they live at any other place. Ms. Singh suggests that bugalows be sold to businessmen who can afford. Money generated can be used to construct low cost housing for mango people. Our honorable socialist members of parliament should stay where common people stay or they hostels should be created for them in Rashtrapati bhawan comples. 
Tavleen Singh is such a humorless person. She takes all enjoyment out of politics and winning election. She wants our leaders stay like poor mango people in one room tenement or hostel. She wants Air India privatised or dismantled. How will our leaders travel abroad first class?  Nevermind our honorable external affairs minister reads Portuguese delegation’s speech in the UN, but should not be reason to cut his travel expense. How will our leaders show India’s greatness at taxpayers expense? What is the point in being in politics if you cannot lord over people and spend their money as their own? 
It is one thing to preach, other to practice. For example, All India Trinamool Congress, is a party that follows socialist philosophy to the core. During their tenure as railways ministers, Ms. Mamata Banerjee and Mr. Mukul Roy, railway fare was not allowed to increase. Railway safety was abyssmal. Railway services were one of worst category. Dirty platforms, dirty tracks, dirty toilets in trains, bad food, unhygineic food, you name it our railways had no money to improve. Yet how does our socialist minister visits accident site at Nellore after Tamil Nadu Express fire? Look at the picture. Minister travelled with his entourage in a saloon car. There was a red carpet when he alighted from the coach. Platform was sanitised with perfume. The cost of all these was close to 1.2 crore. This in a cash starved railways. This, when minister could have driven 3 hours to the accident site. This when same facility was not extended to injured passengers that came to the same station.  This, when minister was unwilling to extend basic service to paying customers of railways. There was no guarantee that a person will reach home safe while travelling on raiways. 
 What hypocrisy! Such double standard is prevalent in all socialist economies. USSR had one standard for politbureau members and another for common citizens. We know how Chinese elite are amassing wealth while poor languish. In India highly vocal Trina Mool Congress, champion of poor, follow one philosophy for public consumption and another for their personal lives. People must teach these hyporcits a lesson.
But our politicians are enterpreneural. Even if they are evicted of their cushy house, or their body guard withdrawn or their perks curtailed, they can always lease out a mine or two to billionaires, in return to stay in the Lutyens Delhi Bungalow, or private body guard or private jet at corporate expense. Do not under estimate them. Afterall, why should any one give up perks that someone else pays for?

 Red carpet welcome for Mukul Roy at Nellore a day after TN …

Time to move : Tavleen Singh

Choices Before India

In last several months in public perception images of major political parties have been going through a roller coaster ride. In continuity with 2G, CWG and many other scams, came coal gate scam. Despite government plea to debate the issue, the main opposition party did not let the parliament function. Many people felt this was grossly unfair. It was also believed that if a discussion had happened, stench of corruption would have touched the door steps of the principal opposition party. Already rumor was circulating about the president of BJP and his friend’s involvement in coal gate scam. Hence, this obstructionist strategy was adopted. In the midst of all these, prime minister risked his government and initiated reform measures to boost the economy. People felt, at last may be government is on track. Then came Kejriwal bomb. That son in law of Sonia Gandhi was making windfall gain through land deals with assistance from congress government in Haryana and in collaboration with DLF, the real estate major. Angry citizens had hardly had a chance to come to any conclusion, another bombshell exploded. This time, Kejrwal and company had exposed national president of BJP. His business interest,  his annonymous and manya times nonexistent share holders, illegal funding, causing benefit to companies when in a position of power, everything came into light. 

Initially, top political leaders from congress and BJP rejected charges. Minister, after congress minister, wanted to lay down their lives for Mr. Gandhi and defended Robert Vadra. May be rightly so, because if Vadra fell, Sonia Gandhi gets exposed. However, in the middle of all this storm, Robert Vadra never made a statement to public, other than deriding them through facebook. Nor was he asked to make one. Haryana government has already given a clean chit to Robert Vadra. However, it is strange why law minister who is so prompt in investigating BJP mess, is not even willing to do any enquiry into the matter. Why DLF is not being investigated on the matter of unsecured loan? 

BJP was no different from Congress. Top BJP leaders also defended Nitin Gadkari, the BJP president, whole heartedly and derided Arvind Kejriwal. However, as more and more people started doing independent enquiry. charges started to stick, and anomalies started appearing. Now it appears that Gadkari’s industry engages his drivers, peons, some astrologer as directors. Many of these people do not even know that they were occupying such a high post. I saw on NDTV that in many cases names and addresses of company provided were incorrect. What does this imply? Firstly, people may bring in black money through these companies and make it white. Gadkari himeself by virtue of his position as minister in Maharashtra government, as well as BJP president, may bring business to his company. He may get government fund for the work done by these companies. With this person as chief of BJP, can the party really take a holier than thou attitude against corruption? 
Question now comes, what are our choices as Indian voters and what are the choices for political parties? Now that Kejriwal and his people from India Against Corruption have shown that all parties, that have occupied a position of power, have been involved in some irregularity or other. Justice Santhosh Hegde, lokayukata of Karnataka, had also suggested in Karnataka mining scam, every political party had their hand in the till. 

In such a scenario, ideally political parties, atleast the major formations, must work towards bringing systemic reforms. If our politicians have any vision, they should try to make systemic reforms. Make business dealing transparent and above board. Reduce the scope of bribing. Make bribing a criminal offence with hefty punishment. 
However, I doubt if our leaders will act. They know, as bad as they are, voters still have to come back to them. Kejriwal’s party is its infancy and without any name and form. Other than corruption and decentralisation, Kejriwal’s policies on economy and other matters of national interest remain unknown. Even if, Kejriwal wins votes and translates vote into seat, they are unlikely to have nation wide presence by 2014.  Both congress and BJP are tainted but they know no government can be formed without their support. Regional parties like SP, BSP, DMK, TDP are no better. One party against whom no scam has come up yet, is All India Trinamool Congress. However, this party’s economic agenda revolves around taxing rich and subsidising poor. No development is happening in their state. So there is no scope of corruption. Acid test for the party will be if it opens up to big development projects and still stays clean. Thus, even if a non congress and non BJP formation is propped up, India’s experience with such alliances have not been good. So Cong and BJP may sit pretty and let the storm pass, knowing that nothing can be done excluding them, at least till 2014.
Should India forsake economic liberalisation and go back to old socialist economy. Almost all political parties will favor such option. It is much easier to give dole to people, than explaining them hard decisions needed for economic reform. However, I think this will be a wrong decision. India needs development, India needs growth to pull people out of poverty. We have seen socialist economic model till 1992. Result was disasterous. So India has no choice but to liberalise. In the process it must create good transparent governance, facilitate good administrative reform, where people’s voices are heard and benefit of economic growth comes to people.

1.Nitin Gadkari’s Purti, and media’s culture of silence

2.  Will a new order emerge from these ruins?

It may be early days to say what kind of space Arvind Kejriwal has made for himself and his proposed party in the

Autumn : The Season When Good Prevails over Evil

Autumn is a special season in Indian calender. Clear blue sky with patches of floating white cloud and bright sunshine makes every morning beautiful and days worth looking forward to. This is the season of festivals. Starting with Navratri and Durga puja and ending with Deepavali and Kali Puja.

Navratri signifies nine nights and ten days when mother Durga is worshipped in nine distinct names and forms. Ramayana says during these nine nights Lord Rama prayed for the blessing of mother before is final battle with Ravana, the king of Lanka. On the final day, Lord Rama goes to battle against Ravana and defeats him. All through nine Navratri nights, Ramaleela is enacted and on the final day big replica of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Indrajeet are set on fire, signifying victory of Rama over Ravana, good over evil.

Around the same time mother Durga with her daughters comes to her mothers home. Arrival of daughter is celebrated with food  and festivities. After four days, on the vijaya dashami day, mother goes back to her husband – Shivji’s abode in the Himalayas. A pall of gloom descends over devotees, and wait begins for mother’s visit next year. 

Mother Durga, essentially signifies strength. Her ten arms carry ten weapons including a conch. She rides a lion and slays a demon. Mother blows her conch and invites demon, in the form of a buffalo – Mahishasura, to battle and comes out victorius. 

What does this battle mean to us? At this time in my life, to me this battle  means, as Indians we must declare our fight against corruption and the corrupt. Like proverbial Mahishura, corruption has made common man’s life miserable. Let ten arms of mother Durga emerge as ten different arms of government that must be unleashed against the corrupt. It is time good prevails over the bad.

Aam vs Khaas Aadmi : Attitude Makes the Difference

India has many contradictions and many fault lines. It is a country that is burdened with thousands of years of history, yet a young nation that wants to spread her wings. Indians come in many castes, follow many religions, speak many languages, and exist in a variety of socio economic strata..
India practices democracy. Dilemma of Indian political class is it needs vote from majority poor to come to power. Polticians promise to tax rich and subsidise poor. They promise subsidised food, fuel and gasoline. Once in power, politicians need rich and powerful to run the country. Rich wants India to reform her economy and merge with global economy. This will create more wealth, more job and remove poverty. Anyone with a sense of economics believe this to be bad economics, but it is considered good politics.
Till 1992 India was following a socialist economic model, where government used to control all aspects of our lives. Post 1992, India could not afford to practice socialist economy anymore, opened the economy to capitalist system. Because of liberalization of economy, several avenues became evident. New business came up. Job opportunities improved. Many people could look at their lives in a different way.  Economic liberalization brought many people out of poverty, though many still remained poor. Transition was not total and government retained control of several key sectors. Using this grey area, many used their proximity to political power, for their personal gain by colluding with big business houses. Scams after scams came out in recent years that show complicity between politicians, big business and middle men, usually related to politician.
As more and more scams started tumbling out, exposing apparent collusion between politician and business man, people who have not benefited from economic liberalization started becoming angry at politicians, big business and fat cat middlemen. All such unscrupulous politicians, middlemen and business houses that prospered through a symbiotic relationship at the expense of common people, who demand special privilege, will be called Khaas aadmi, as against Aam aadmi, who is represented by common man on the street. However, we must understand that there is no water tight way to brand Aam and Khaas aadmi. Depending on where we stand in social ladder, we are Aam relative to many and Khaas in comparison to many more. We may not have red beacon on our car, yet based on our standard of living, our connection, our lifestyle we are also given preferential treatment at many places, provided someone bigger than us is not present there at the very moment.

In this context it is unfair to talk about aspirational India leaving poor India behind. It is probably not right to divide India among rich and poor, Aam and Khaas. Every Indian that pays tax, has a right to expect certain services. However, in our public lives most of facilities that we get, even after paying additional toll, is not good / efficient.

If we talk of traffic management, it is poor in Indian cities. Roads are bad. Full of pot holes, and bottle necks. Already congested road is made narrower by dedicating a portion as bus corridor.  People driving their personal vehicle spend considerable time on the road and may miss important meeting. As a tax payer, any person is within his right to ask why better assessment of the problem was not made before the corridor was assigned and why such a corridor not be abolished. However, such a petition cannot be construed as abandoning poor by aspiring class. If government is so inclined that majority of population must use public transport, it should provide the such transport facility first and then make use of personal vehicle unviable economically. Mere sermonising about virtues of public transport and curse the people using personal vehicle may not help.

However, it is also true that many people with a lot of money, are morally bankrupt. A case in point is owners of King Fisher airline. How come owners be out of the country, when their employees are starving and some even committing suicide? Such a behaviour cannot be taught in school, cannot be framed by law, but it has to come from heart.  The same goes for Robert Vadra. The guy does not feel any compunction about taking panchayat land, changing its land utilisation, and selling at ten times the price to DLF. All this time our elected representatives are at their beck and call. This indicates pure morality vaccuum.
Any one can appreciate that a diverse, huge, multilingual, multicultural country like India can never have one size fits all policy in area.  I am not a supporter of glorifying poverty. However, I am equally against someone flaunting his wealth on my face. It is equally uncouth.Here comes the role of law makers. They must frame laws that are objective, transparent and that have very little scope of individual discretion. As much as no one should go to bed hungry in the country, no should take away using money, muscle and network power national resources for personal gain. Poverty is not a blessing, richness is not a curse, the way we project either can make a difference.

1. Why aspiring India has started hating its poor

2.More equal than us: Why netas face the rage of the aam aadmi


Arvind Kejriwal and Hypocrisy of Political Parties

In last few years, several incidences of corruption involving very large amount of tax payers money have come to notice. In many cases, suspects were ruling party ministers and officials related to the ministry. As if that was not enough, evidence is emerging that people close to important political personalities of ruling party as well as opposition party/ies have also used their proximity to power centre for their personal benefit.

Opposition parties raised hue and cry about corruption associated with ruling party ministers. Several sessions of parliament were wiped out, because opposition demanded accountability and action from the party governing the country. Along with opposition, a group of anticorruption activists were also protesting against rampaging corruption that has made common Indian’s life a living hell. This group of activists were lead by Anna Hazare and his core team included Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan,  Santosh Hegde, Kiran Bedi among others. Chief demand of the group was creation of an institution of Lokpal (ombudsman). The office of lokpal will have the authority to register and investigate cases of corruption against high officers and elected members of government. Under public pressure, government initiated discussion with activists. After several rounds of discussion, as per agreement a draft lokpal bill was prepared and presented to parliament. However, it was not passed due to technical reasons.

When lokpal bill was not passed despite repeated pleas, pressure and entreaties, a part of anticorruption group decided to contest election by forming a political party. Leader of this faction was Arvind Kejriwal. He was supported by  Prashant Bhushan among others. The tactics adopted by this group was to bring names of ministers involved in corruption out in public. Aniticipation was people will recognise corrupt ministers and not elect them. Idea also was to demonstrate a collusive relationship between different political parties cutting across party lines for personal gain. As a result of this effort, the first disclosure made was of a business relationship between Robert Vadra and DLF. Subsequently, the team also accused Nitin Gadkari also of using cross political manipulation for personal gain.

Political class have reacted predictably by calling Arvind Kejriwal and his group as publicity seeker, upstart, usurper etc. Motive has also been attributed to actions of Arvind Kejriwal and his group. Both ruling party and principal opposition party have dubbed Arvind Kejriwal’s group as B team of their opponent. Most bizarre accusation, however, has come from spokesman of Congress party. It has been suggested that there exists an unwritten code of silence, Omerta, among political parties not to target family members of each other. Under such a code of silence, it is mandatory to keep quiet about Vadra – DLF deal with the help of Haryana government. It  is also alright to take away farmers land at throwaway price citing public interest –  building dam and canal, but build something else or nothing.
This collective complicity between big business, political parties and families and friends of politicians is what Kejriwal and company are fighting against. May be their method is different, but goal is similar. One may disagree with Mr . Kejriwal’s approach of naming and shaming politicians, their family, friends and associates. Obvious drawback can be these crooks have thick skin and may not be put into shame that easily. In the process, people will get inured to repeated revealation and shock value may recede. The politicians may resort to violence in the absence of media glare in remote areas of their constituency. Politicians may close rank, gang up against activists and defend each other. Moreover, politicians may take the same approach as that of  Kejriwal and make allegation against activists.
 Our political class, mainly the congress party, because they have governed India for bulk of years, is singularly responsible for scratch my back politics. When these people could have created open and transparent rules, clear unambiguous policies, could have created administration, law and order machinery that is independent and upright, they worked towards making these institutions subservient to government. Other parties have taken cue from Congress. What is sauce for gander, is also sauce for goose. In today’s India, honesty and integrity are considered a joke. Doing ones duty following rule of law is considered wimpish. Most corrupt always throws law book at the honest for violation of procedural detail. Let honesty, humanity, etc go to hell. On top of that Mr. Digvijay Singh talks about unwritten code of not touching nonpolitician relatives of politicians. Who gave such right to  politicians to arrive at their Omerta code of conduct? I thought such a code exists among mafia groups. So are our political leaders actually part of self centric mafia groups, or they are here to serve us and the country? At the end of the day, it is our money, it is country’s resource these politicians and their non politician relatives are playing with. The desire that no one should protest must be a joke!
A stellar achievement of Arvind Kejriwal and his team is that they have shown Indians that what politicians say are not necessarily correct. It is alright to question the authority.

Lest we forget : Ode to fallen soldiers

India is a predominantly peace loving country. Our internal strifes notwithstanding. Our military strategy is defensive. We want to protect our territory. However, do we remember or even honor our heroes that give their lives to protect our boundary? How many of us even know the names of jawans and officers that protected us from Chinese aggression, war against Pakistan in 1971 or during Kargil invasion? We do not even have memorial/s for our soldiers. Wherever, there is one, these memorials are an example of apathy and neglect. 
Mr. Shekher Gupta  reminds us bravery of a company of 13 Kumaon Regiment led by Major Shaitan Singh Bhatti and his 114 men. These brave soldiers fought the Chinese in the western front in 1962. They fought till the last man and till last bullet.  These people could have simply fled, but they did not, even in the face of great adversity and inclement weather. Valor as this, for a losing cause, should be material of history books. It is a pity, that we hardly ever hear about Major Shaitan Singh and his exploits. People should be motivated to serve their country and lay down their lives following example of Shaitan Singh and his company of soldiers. Some gratitude we show to our soldiers that fight for our today and tomorrow. 
What we remember is the then defence minister Shri Krishna Menon, many think of him as an unmitigated disaster as a defence minister. General Kaul, a man who got the post because of his proximity to Pandit Nehru, a man who could not take the heat of war, fell sick and returned to the safety of Delhi. We name avenues after Krishna Menon, may be tomorrow we shall also have a road named after Robert Vadra, but we or our posterity will never hear about Shaitan Singh. Remeber this immortal song by Lata Mangeshkar, ” Jo shahid huein hain unki, jara yaad karo kurbaani…”.

1. …

Ashok Khemka : Hero or Villain?

Till recently, Ashok Khemka was Director-General of Land Consolidation and Land Records-cum-Inspector-General of Registration in Haryana Government. Khemka had detected serious irregularities in land transactions involving transfer of panchayat land worth several hundred crores of rupees to newly created real estate companies. Incidentally, this irregularity also included land transfer deal involving Mr. Robert Vadra and DLF. Mr Khemka went on to cancel land mutation deed for irregular transactions.

 Mr. Khemka had been transferred 40 times in his 21 year service with Haryana government. Mr. Omprakash Chautala, the honorable ex chief minister of Haryana, of girls should be married by age 15 to avoid rape fame, had even removed his official vehicle. Mr. Khemka walked to office. In Bhupinder Singh Hooda government, Mr. Khemka had been transferred 14 times in 7 years. So when he received his transfer order on 11th Oct, 2012 at 10 PM at night at his residence, within 3 days of initiation enquiry on land transfer irregularity, it was no surprise.
However, Mr. Khemka this time protested with chief secretary of Haryana government that Mr. Khemka had completed only 3 months in his present post, and service rule suggest that minimum tenure of an officer should be 2 years. Mr. Khemka did not get appointment with Chief Secretary, but got his transfer order at 10.00 pm at night of 11th Oct, 2012. Mr. Khemka did not relinquish his position on 12th Oct, 2012 but went on to cancel mutation of land transaction he found to be irregular.
Mr. Khemka is no ordinary IAS officer. He is a graduate from IIT Kharagpur, got his PhD from TIFR, and cleared his Indian Adminstrative Service examination. He also has an MBA degree. Mr. Khemka is a crusader for honesty. He has been awarded S R Jindal Prize for Crusade against Corruption. Because of his dedication to honesty, Mr. Khemka had been penalized by various governments by transferring him from one post to the other..
Mr Khemka appeared on TV channels to put forward his side of the story. He also informed through TV that he had been getting death threat. Opposition politicians, activists and TV channels welcomed Mr Khemka with open arm because Vadra DLF relationship had started emerging, and it was too much of a coincidence that Mr Khemka was transferred as soon as he started nosing around Vadra affair.
There are two schools of thought on the affairs of Mr. Khemka. First group believe, which include Haryana government and central government of India, Mr. Khemka should have complained through proper channel if he had a grievance. Mr Khemka should have never come to TV channel and must not have discussed official secrets. These people also believe, that Mr. Khemka had not right continuing in his office and taking action that he did when he was no longer an officer in the department. Government also claimed that transferring an officer is its prerogative – 40 times in 20 years!!! It was also claimed that Mr. Khemka was an worthless and incompetent. officer.

However, the second school of thought suggest that Mr. Khemka had seen a much bigger crime that was leading to loss to state exchequer. There was evidence of illegal activity, involvement of high officers of government, and undue gain to politically influencial individual and a business house. So it was nothing but his duty to act in the way he did. Mr. Khemka also felt that since he had challenged his transfer and not actually accepted the new posting, he was technically still an officer in the department. Moreover, Mr. Khemka was getting death threat. If he had not come out in the open, he might have been dead by now.

Irony in all this is the same government that is throwing law book at Ashok Khemka, was totally blind about blatant irregularity in land transfer deal in favor of Mr. Vadra. The file was signed in an expeditious manner by the honorable chief minister of Haryana.  In India, most corrupt are always well versed with law. They may do all wrong, but will catch you on technical ground. Morality and ethics has become secondary for these people. If government is so concerned about law, why did it transferred a land withing 24 hours to Mr. Vadra? If government felt everything is correct and pure, why did they transfer Mr. Khemka and why did government not initiate an enquiry onto the matter of land transfer?

I think highly educated, passionately honest and dedicated officers like Mr. Khemka are our national heroes. They have fought every day of their lives under very unpleasant circumstances, but never gave up. A person of Mr. Khemka’s qualification could have easily got a job in private sector. I think, India needs officers like Mr. Khemka. I wish I had the courage to be like Mr. Khemka.


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5. “Officer with impeccable integrity”