Haryana Violence : Administration Looks Bad

Chief of Dera Saccha Sauda, Baba Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim, has been convicted and sentenced to jail on the charge of sexually assaulting two women. After violence on the day of conviction, that took more than thirty lives and injured ten times more people, there has been no report of violence and loss of life. Rampaging followers of baba, who engaged in arson, mob violence and damage to public property, have been kept in check. Security personnel have come out fully prepared in battle gear and army has resorted to flag march in sensitive towns.

Question obviously emerges could these steps have not been taken earlier? Why did violence that broke out on 25th of Aug, not dealt with adequately and controlled? Why police force was not kept on alert, why section 144 was not enforced in all sensitive towns, why preventive arrests were not made, and why crowd was allowed to gather in the town where verdict was to be pronounced? There was information that violence may happen. Pictures were telecast on live TV how riotous mob overturned OB vans of media, attacked and beat up reporters. All the while police stood by, watched like a mute spectator and took pictures. In India police do not use force routinely. That is because politicians control police. Loss of life is not good for getting vote. Eventually, however, police was allowed to use force in Haryana. Court had also ordered government to use force to curb hooliganism. Majority of people who lost their lives, were supporters of Dera chief.

Haryana government has promised to compensate TV channels whose vans and equipments were damaged. Question is who will fund the compensation. Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered attachment of Dera Chief’s property to recover cost of damage to public property. Question is who will buy and then live to enjoy the property? So attaching property will not be of any use, unless Dera is closed down lock stock and barrel and property is sold. At the same time it cannot be ignored that Dera as an organisation does philanthropic work for poor people. It runs schools and hospitals.

Haryana CM Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar has come under a lot of criticism. This is the third major incidence of riot, that has happened under chief ministership of Mr. Khattar. Earlier, during quota agitation by Jat community also Mr. Khattar had been found to be indecisive like a deer caught under arc light.  Is Mr. Khattar a believer in innate goodness of human beings and tends to err on the side of caution? Or alternatively, as many critics tend to believe, Mr. Khattar is inexperienced in the matter of administration, which shows up under crisis situation?  It is also believed that since BJP took help of Dera chief to win assembly election in Haryana, he was lenient towards Dera chief and his supporters. No wonder, Dera chief appeared on judgement day in a convoy of more that 100 cars.

BJP has taken credit for taking measure to present Dera chief before court and his eventual conviction. It must be remembered that another spiritual guru in Haryana had many high profile devotees. This guru, Mr. Ram Lal, ignored more than forty court summons over a span of four years. Ultimately armed police had to break into his premises.

It is a matter of debate, if taking preventive measures taken in advance, can actually bring down nuisance caused by supporters of local chieftain. More so, when hooligans are ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of their leader. I think police should be prepared to tackle the eventuality even if that means using lethal force if necessary. For this to happen, police should be taken out of political control and given decision making authority.







Lt Col Shrikant Purohit : A Victim or A Villain?

After nearly eight years and nine months in jail, Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit came out on bail on 23rd Aug, 2017. An intelligence officer with the army, Lt. Col. Purohit had received many commendations for his job in the area of his operation. These came not only from his employer but also from those who arrested him. He had infiltrated organisations that have inimical intention against India. This included ISI, SIMI and MAOist organisations.

In Sep, 2008, two bombs, hidden in a motor cycle, exploded in muslim majority Malegaon town in Nasik district of Maharashtra. Seven people lost their lives, all muslims. On Nov, 2008, Lt. Col Purohit was arrested under MCOCA by Maharashtra ATS. In less than a month, chief of Maharashtra ATS, Mr. Hemant Karkare, was killed by terrorist bullet during 26/11 attack. Case was transferred to NIA in 2011. At the time of his bail in 2017, no charge sheet has been filed against Lt. Col Purohit.

Lt. Col Purohit was accused of the following charges by Maharashtra ATS in 2009 :

1. Setting up of Abhinav Bharat a right wing organisation. An organisation that was committed to creation of a Hindu Rashtra, with a distinct flag and constitution.
2. Transcript of a meeting attended by Col. Purohit has been retrieved from computer of a fellow accused. It suggested setting up of a parellel government outside India. Use violence if needed, if anyone comes on the way of creating a Hindu rashtra.
3. Arranging RDX that was used in 2008 Malegaon blast. The explosion resulted in loss of seven lives.
4. Arranging weapons and raising funds.
5. Training members of Abhinav Bharat in the use of arms and explosives.

Charges filed by ATS-Maharashtra, needs to be proven in the court of law. Besides, NIA had filed a supplementary charge sheet in May, 2016. Apparently, there was contradiction between two charge sheets. Nevertheless, if one looks at Maharashtra ATS charge sheet of 2009, the following arguments emerge:

  •  Mere participation in a meeting may indicate intent, but action emanating from such meetings did not actually happen. Lt Col. Purohit has also said as much in an interview.
  • Gap has also appeared in the charge that Col Purohit had arranged 60 Kg of RDX. There is some suggestion that the explosive might have been planted in the house of Sudhakar Chaturvedi, one of the accused in the case.
  • On his part, Lt. Colonel Purohit had maintained that he was a member of military intelligence. He had infiltrated different organisations inimical to interest of India. He had kept his superiors informed about his actions. On its part, a military court of enquiry had not found any evidence of wrong doing against Col Purohit.
  • Reports have emerged that Lt. Col Purohit mostly worked alone. He did not have clearance from his superiors. It is quite possible that in any covert operation, only a very few people are actually kept in the loop. This is to maintain secrecy of operation as well as to maintain deniability in case of a botched operation. The fact that army had kept Lt. Col Purohit it its payroll may suggest that he was an asset working for the army.
  • Lt. Colonel Purohit also claimed that he was abducted by his colleague and taken to Mumbai and handed over to Maharashtra ATS. He was tortured for extracting a confession. His family was also threatened.
  • A colleague from armed forces had written to Maharashtra Human Rights Commission about how a statement against Lt Col Purohit was extracted by Maharashtra ATS under duress.

Conspiracy angle emerges from the assumption that during his investigation as an intelligence officer, Lt Col Purohit might have come close to establishing nexus between powerful politician/s – criminals – terrorists? The fact that he was framed under MCOCA may have the following reasons :

  • First, an accused charged under MCOCA normally does not get bail. Remember it took more than 8 years for Lt. Col Purohit to secure one.
  • Second, he can be tortured to extract confession which will be admissible in court. Lt. Col Purohit has indicated that he was tortured by Maharashtra ATS to extract confession. This may also indicate that Maharashtra ATS did not have any concrete evidence against Lt. Col Purohit. Whether this conspiracy theories hold water or not, will have to be established in court of law.

There is a strong political undertone to the case.

  • The term Hindu terror / Saffron terror, coined by ruling UPA, had its beginning from the arrest of likes of Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya.
  • Congress Vice President Mr. Rahul Gandhi had discussed his concern about Hindu Terror with US Ambassador to India.
  • Congress general secretary, Mr. Digvijay Singh had alluded to involvement of Hindu Terror in 26/11 Mumbai attack and death of Mr. Hemant Karkare.
  • Ms. Rohini Salian, NIA prosecutor handling Malegaon blast case, had claimed she was asked to go slow on the case in 2015, after BJP lead NDA came to power in 2014.
  • BJP and the right had criticised that Col Purohit was framed and his arrest was part of minority appeasement.

There are many anomalies to stories of police and those of defence. If we compile them together, it appears that scale may be slightly tilted in favour of Col Purohit because evidence against his is at best circumstantial.

BRD Hospital Death and Enigma that is Dr. Kafeel Khan

Recently, as many as sixty children died in BRD hospital of Gorakhpur.As the news of tragic death of sixty children in BRD hospital of Gorakhpur appeared on national TV and from there sank into national consciousness, heroics of another gentleman Dr. Kafeel Khan emerged. Dr. Kafeel Khan was head of pediatrics department of BRD hospital. According to reports, Dr. Khan had made superhuman effort to save children. He went out of his way to purchase oxygen cylinder by spending his own money. He borrowed truck and volunteers from Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) to procure oxygen cylinders. His team of doctors and interns worked on patients using ambubag.

However, as situation evolved Dr. Kafeel Khan was suspended along with principal of BRD medical college Prof. Rajeev Sharma. It was alleged that Dr. Kafeel Khan apart from having a chequered past, was running his own clinic and he was stealing oxygen from BRD hospital for his private business. All his effort to procure oxygen cylinder was aimed at replacing cylinders he had taken from the hospital.

As Dr. Khan’s suspension came to light, many people argued that because he was a muslim, he was an easy target for suspension by right wing BJP lead government. Without absolving government in delaying release of payment to hospital despite repeated reminders, without denying that there may be an element of bias in suspension of Dr. Kafeel Khan, can we look at the issues at hand from a different angle?

  • If one gets out of Hindu-Muslim narrative, it may be possible to look at suspension of Dr Khan differently. May be Dr. Khan was suspended because he was the head of pediatrics department and not because he was a muslim. Principal of the college, Prof. Rajeev Mishra, a Hindu, was also suspended /resigned. Both head of department and principal of college are much closer to ground zero. So they must accept their responsibility.  If chief minister who is sitting in Lucknow can be asked to resign, those who are running the hospital and paediatric ward can also be held accountable.
  • Kafeel Khan’s past is immaterial and has no relevance to BRD death. Like many of his peers in BRD, and many other government run hospitals, Dr. Khan ran a rival clinic / hospital. This is illegal but a widespread practice. What is important is did he steal from hospital for his private business? Investigation by a TV channel has shown that many private clinics running from staff quarters use supplies meant for poor patients of BRD hospital.
  • BRD hospital does not supply oxygen from cylinder. It supplies liquid oxygen kept under pressure in a reservoir using pipeline. Why Dr Kafeel was in a hurry to collect cylinder when there were enough cylinder in the hospital, according to hospital staff.
  • It is also a matter of curiosity how did DIG of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) give out his men and his truck at the request of a civilian. No matter how urgent the situation may be, paramilitary forces do not act without explicit instruction from the powers that control them.
  • According to report, Dr. Khan had used Ambubag to pump air into patients. Now ambubag does not supply oxygen but ambient air. If ambient air was good enough in seriously ill patients, why would hospital invest in oxygen? May be Dr. Kafeel was using best available option under his control in a desperate situation. According to report he had brokendown at the loss of life. Alternatively, did Dr. Kafeel tried to cover his track by showing that he had done everything he could to save patients.  Did he also use friendly journalist/s to sing his praise? If all these innuendos are proven to be correct, the act would be construed as diabolical.
  • Did Dr Kafeel or Prof. Sharma apprise CM of the dire strait of oxygen supply, earlier or during the time chief minister visited on 9th Aug?  Could principal and head pediatrics department have convinced the chief minister and health minister to release money earlier? A chief minister, all said and done, can only act on what he is informed of. I doubt chief minister has time or understanding of complexity of running a big hospital, even professional CEOs do not.
  • It is important to note that money had actually reached the hospital on 7th of Aug. It was released on 11″th of Aug? An electronic transfer hardly takes 30 min depending on network.
  • According to report the bill was pending since Nov 2016. Who was in power in Lucknow then? In this whole episode only person that is intact a soft target is supplier of oxygen. A business man whose bill of 50 lac rupees remain unpaid for more that 8 months is expected to supply oxygen for free. Otherwise he may risk having a criminal case is filed against him.

BRD Hospital Death, A Few Observations

Recently, as many as sixty children died in BRD hospital of Gorakhpur. As National Media camped in Gorakhpur, a few facts emerged and many questions arose. Gorakhpur in Eastern UP is the place from where sitting chief minister of UP has won as many as four parliamentary elections (from 1998 to 2017). Despite that Gorakhpur remains a dirty township with uncollected garbage strewn all around.

Gorakhpur and sorrounding regions of Eastern UP are endemic to Japanese encephalitis. Also known as brain fever, Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito borne disease. Disease spreads during monsoon season, when mosquito breeds on marsh lands and ponds. Pigs and birds like herons and storks are reservoir for the virus. Virus spreads through mosquito. Disease can ben controlled by taking appropriate measures like providing clean water, proper sanitation and controlling mosquito breeding. Pictures of dirty open drains, uncollected garbage, lack of basic sanitation may suggeste that despite electing a leader election after election, nothing much has been done to improve situation in Gorakhpur.

Incidence at BRD hospital demonstrates the sorry state of affairs in Indian healthcare. People travel 200 km or more, some from adjoining districts of Kushinagar and Deoria and even from adjoining country of Nepal, to reach BRD hospital for treatment. BRD hospital has dedicated ward for treating encephalitis patients including those with Japanese encephalitis. These patients have very little money. Definitely they do not have health insurance. Otherwise why would they land up in BRD hospital? According to pictures shown on TV, dogs roam in pediatric ward, children with feeding tube stuck through their nose take bath outside by a dirty drain. A reporter asked a father “why are you bathing your child in this dirty place?” “Where else can we go?” came the reply.

Then comes corruption. Most doctors do private practice. They probably take away hospital resources that include precious medicine, surgical supplies and medicines meant for poor. Several news report have suggested that the principal and head of pediatrics department were hand in glove in corruption. Head of pediatrics department was member of purchase committee. He would not clear any purchase without commission and share his loot with his principal.

The apathy shown by government has been discussed extensively. Noted journalist Mr. Sharath Pradhan has written how government and chief minister must accept responsibility of death as ministers sat on repeated reminders, a total of eight from April till August of 2017. This definitely reflects very poorly of the government. According to some report, dues to oxygen supplier was pending from Nov, 2016. For some unknown reason, dues were not cleared. Yogi government had come to power in April of 2017. May be Yogi knew about the state of corruption in the hospital and that is why he refused to release fund for liquid oxygen that was purchased during tenure of past government. In hindsight it was a grave error. May be Yogi government was incompetent and inexperienced.

There is also report that health minister wanted his own vendor to supply oxygen. As a result he did not clear the bill.

Is it fair to expect a non technical chief minister to understand gravity of oxygen shortage in a hospital? To apprise him of the acute distress, there is local hospital administration.  Did the hospital administration fulfil their responsibility? Apart from writing a few letters, why did the principal not approach health minister or chief minister for dues? Chief minister had also visited the hospital in recent times. Why was urgency of the matter not brought to his notice? As per report if the money was released on 7th of Aug, 2017 why did an electronic transfer took four days? It should not take more than 30 minutes with proper internet connectivity.

Government has initiated a police case against supplier of oxygen gas. A dealer whose 50 lac rupee was pending for more than 6 months, a dealer who had written 8 letters to recover his due, is expected to supply free oxygen. Is this not another instance of government high handedness and incompetence? Is the oxygen supplier only soft target in the whole shoddy mess that is BRD hospital and health ministry of UP government?

It is important to discuss  sorry state of healthcare in India. Sanitation and hygiene are poor. Living condition atrocious. Poor patients travel 200 km to avail hospital facility only to face institutionalised corruption and misery. Definitely, situation in BRD hospital did not happen in last four months. This has been a practice since long and the tragedy has only pointed finger into eyes of people that govern the state. Unless drastic improvements are brought about many more BRD hospital like situation may erupt anytime. Provide affordable medical insurance, open primary healthcare, create many more hospitals that are affordable, clean, and humane. Create municipality that clears garbage, cleans up drains such that easily avoidable diseases can be prevented. Bashing Yogi may help create brownie point, but will not solve issue.

  1. No country for children : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUdX-UCVuGU

India At 70 : Many Questions, Very Few Answers

As India reaches seventy as a free democratic nation, we have a lot to celebrate and a lot to feel sad about. Like one fly is enough to discard a pan of milk, any incidence of corruption, mismanagement, nepotism, narrow-mindedness makes all our proclamations about our achievements sound so hollow.

At this moment, one incident come to my mind. One is observation of an All Star Basketball player from the US, who was visiting India. I quote what he thought about India during his limited stay, “It’s a country that’s 20 years behind in terms of knowledge and experience. You see cows in the street, monkeys running around everywhere, hundreds of people on the side of the road, a million cars and no traffic violations. Just a bunch of underprivileged people there and they want to learn how to play basketball. That s— was really, really dope to me”.  The basket ball player was Kevin Durant. For me he is a neutral observer, and not necessarily an Indophile. He is used to certain standard of governance in his native place. To his unaccustomed eyes, India appeared very odd may be dysfunctional. Subsequently, Kevin Durrant has been forced to apologise for his statement. When it comes to money, individual opinion becomes so insignificant. We may castigate Kevin Durrant as a privileged, pampered American. We may point out several social evils of America. But we cannot deny what Kevin Durrant felt while on his trip to India.

Around the same time I read an article written by Mr. Akaar Patel, a very well known journalist and writer. At the 70th anninversary of Indian independence, I had expected a more nuanced appraisal from Mr. Patel. Alas, it came out as an hagiography of congress party and its leaders and a brutal indictment of BJP and Indian right. At the time when Mr Patel was so effusive about contribution of leaders of Indian freedom fight, read leaders of congress, we must ask why any average non indophile, like Mr. Kevin Durrant, sees India in such a different light?  If this is the state of affairs after more than 50 years of congress rule, if this is the state of affairs at the 70th independence day of the nation, then certainly Mr. Patel is disingenous when he wrote his piece on leaders that gave us independence and ruled us for greater part of our freedom. Mr. Patel should explain despite a beautiful picture he painted, does job of a leader end with independence or one has to steer new born nation by formulating policies and administering them without fear and favour? Mr. Patel must explain, why India looks so shoddy to a neutral observer? Why India has 600 million very poor people? Why did a very poor country like India not unleash creativity of captains of industry?  Why did India nationalised banks and unleashed licence raj? Finally, India did not liberalise her economy in 1991 out of a grand dream, but because she was bankrupt. All because of faulty policy, practice of nepotism. practice of an entitlement culture by our policy makers. Happy seventieth birthday mother India.

Dakshineswar Temple, Where Every Dust Particle is Holy

Dakshineswar is a small town in north 24 pargana district of West Bengal. Located in the north of Kolkata, today Dakshineswar is a suburb of Kolkata. It is here, Rani Rasmoni of Jan Bazaar royal family had built a temple complex in 1855. Built by the river Ganges, with temple of mother Bhavatarini (other form of mother Kali) occupying centre of place, the complex had other temples, of Shiva, and Radha – Krishna, around a central courtyard.

Rani had hired Ramkumar Chattopadhyay as the head priest of Kali temple. Along with Ramkumar also came his eccentric or some say crazy, brother Gadadhar Chattopadyay. Gadadhar had only one desire in his life. That was to see mother Kali in real life. Such was his intoxication that Gadadhar would plead with mother Kali to reveal herself. Gadadhar felt his human life was futile without a vision of mother, so he tried to end his own life using mother’s kharga (sword). Finally, Gadadhar was blessed by mother kali.

Here in this temple complex and around it, crazy Gadadhar emerged as Thakur Sri Rama Krishna. He attained ultimate spiritual experiences pursuing vaishnava, tantra, vedanta practices. He attained both savikalpa and nirvikalpa samadhis. He also practiced islam and christianity and had visions of the prophet and Jesus.

The room where Sri Rama Krishna had spent his time has been preserved. Just behind the room of Shri Rama Krishna is the small room in Nahabat where holy mother Sri Sarada Devi lived for more than a decade. The place was also frequented by future direct disciples of Sri Rama Krishna and Holy Mother Sarada Devi in the monastic order of Rama Krishna Math and Mission. Lumineries like Narendra Nath (Swami Vivekananda), Rakhal Chandra (Swami Brhmananda) and many others used to frequent the temple complex to see Sri Rama Krishna and Holy Mother. Many of theses young men were blessed by Sri Rama Krishna here and had experience of the ultimate.

Today, as I go to Dakshineshwar and stand in front of mother Kali, I get goosebumps. Hardly less than two hundred years before Sri Rama Krishna used to stand here and cry, cajole, plead with mother for a Darshan. On this holy premises, so many sleepless nights Sri Rama Krishna must have spent seeking a vision of the divine in his god intoxicated state. For a devotee, every inch of the Dakshineswar temple complex and beyond is blessed with touch of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sarada Devi. Dust of this place is holy and air sacred.