A Day in Ranthambhor

It was a hot summer morning in Ranthambhor National Park. Inhabitants had gathered around watering holes. Peacocks were trying to entice females. They had spread their feather widespread and strutting around.

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But deers around them had other worries. There was a rumour that a sambar deer has lost his life. In this era of social media, it is hard to hide bad news.

 

 

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Deer was murdered. Dead body was lying on a dried river bed. No body knows who did it, but people had some idea. A leopard was seen sleeping  on rock nearby.

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Without proof you cannot accuse anyone in even in a jungle. Problem was compounded by absence of scavengers like Hyena and Boars. Some said hyenas only worked at night. So most residents had to live with the smell of rotting body. Meanwhile a sambhar deer family decided to leave the park altogether. If there is no justice, why live in the park?

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So deers decided to call a meeting. A lot of members came. There were boars, crows, cranes and even a crocodile. It was decided to make a petition to the king.

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King was nowhere to be seen. One cub was seen sleeping in the shade.

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King himself was seen walking on a trail. He appeared to be weakend by the heat. King was in no mood to dispense justice. Last seen, was king lying on his back by water side on his summer cottage.

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There goes justice down the tube for residents of Ranthambhor national park.

 

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Gujarat Election, Hardly a Harbinger of a Different Narrative?

Bitterly fought election campagin for Gujarat assembly is now over. Bitterness quotient of campaign has been high. Allegations had flown thick and fast. Competitors, ruling BJP and challenger Congress, had thrown every thing at  each other viciously. Winner and losers will be decided by voters. Let us look at why Gujarat election was so bitterly fought.

Outcome of Gujarata state election may have the following long term consequences:

  • Victory for congress lead opposition may galvanise other opposition parties in different states of India, to come together under one banner, for next general election barely a year away.
  • Dislodging ruling party from fortress Gujarat may show that a different narrative of growth and development has takers in India.
  • Chief general of opposition force, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, has recently got a promotion. Thre is murmur of dissent that elevation of more selection and less election. Coming on the back of string of defeats, win in Gujarat will strengthen Mr. Gandhi’s position in the party. A loss, however, give further strength to dissenting voices.
  • Leader of opposition forces, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, has shed his reluctant politician image and shown  a certain combative ability. From visuals projected on TV, there is no doubt he had asked right questions and people have listened. There is no denying it is easy to challenge performance of incumbent government that is on power for two decades. May be that is why opposition strategists had exposed their leader more in Gujarat election compared to Himachal pradesh, where they were ruling.
  • If ruling party in Gujarat, BJP, can snatch a victory despite two decade long anti-incumbancy, it may vindicate prime minister Narendra Modi’s economic policy and spell a doom to opposition unity.
  • If prime minister can sell his vision to one of the more prosperous states and that is highly business oriented, then he can realistically hope for a victory in next general election.

Pollsters believe, election this time will be much more competitive. Ruling party (BJP) may retain power, albeit with thinner majority. Some others like Mr. Yogendra Yadav, predict an outright victory for opposition. There is no doubt opposition campaign has caught traction in Gujarat election. Only time will tell, which narratives voters of Gujarat buy. Will Gujaratis vote against a fellow Gujarati prime minister?

I think, whatever may be the outcome of the election, BJP has less to lose compared to congress. Because BJP, the ruling party at the centre will in all likelihood  retain control of same number of states, plus or minus one, if they manage to capture congress ruled Himachal Pradesh or lose BJP ruled Gujarat. It may be a matter of personal prestige of prime minister who had thrown his might behind winning his home state. Yes, there may be question on success of Gujarat model of development.

On the other hand, will result of Gujarat election be considered coming of age of Mr Rahul Gandhi, the President elect of congress party? There is no doubt, Mr Rahul Gandhi has shown combative trait, emerged from reluctant politician image, and asked many relevant questions. Many pollsters believe Congress campaign has seen traction. As described above, some believe congress may improve it’s tally of seats or may even score an outright victory in Gujarat. But it must be remembered that it is relatively easy to fight against two decades of anti-incumbancy. So far Mr Gandhi has been able to poke hole in ruling BJP agenda and claims. His own agenda, and success there of, will emerge only if Congress can retain Himachal Pradesh or Karnataka. May be that is why congress party elders have exposed Mr Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat campaign more, compared to Himachal Pradesh.

  1. Gujarat Legislative Assembly election, 2017 – Wikipedia

     

Mr. Vijay Mallya, and His Worries

Billionaire business tycoon, Mr. Vijay Mallya, who ran an airline and a liquor business, defaulted on loans taken from nationalised banks in India. Amount of his due was believed to be upwards to 3000 crore rupees. Tycoon did not pay salaries to his airline employees, let alone the money that was due to banks. Finally, Mr. Mallya left with all his bags and baggages, twenty two large suitcases, in a private plane and settled in his mansion in London. Government of India is trying to bring him back to India to face trial. First hurdle being getting an UK court to let British government to pack Mr. Mallya off to India. Without going into intricacies of legalese, what has come to attention of a lay person like me is Mr. Mallya is contending that Indian prisons are not suitable to hold him. Mr. Mallya fears his life may be in danger in Indian prison.

My pure blue nationalist blood boils at such aspersions being cast against our jails. That too on a foreign soil. Though, Indian side has assured UK judge that Mr. Mallya will have good time in Indian jail, I think, it is time, Indian government must parade in front of UK court, the likes of

  • Shri Lalu Yadav, Ex chief minister of Bihar, convicted in fodder scam;
  • Ms Sasikala Natarajan, right hand person on Tamil Nadu chief minister convicted on disproportional wealth case;
  • Mr. Subroto Roy, a billionaire chairman of Sahara India, very much like Mr. Vijay Mallya, arrested in chitfund scam;
  • Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, sports minister accused of CWG scam;
  • Mr. A Raja, ex telecommunication minister in UPA II government, accused of 2G spectrum distribution scam;
  • Ms. Kanimoji, powerful daughter of DMK supremo, also accused in 2G spectrum scam.

These are only a few prominent names. Many others run a complete business empire from within jail with access to full privileges.

We must assert that if one has adequate money and access to power, both of which Mr. Mallya is not is short supply, one can have access to private toilet, personal office equipped with fax machine. Ask Mr. Subroto Roy, who owes a measly sum of 3000 crore to his clients. With adequate power, one may enjoy privilege of having snacks and chai with jail superintendent. Ask Kalmadi and A Raja. One may have a bungalow fitted with all amenities to rule a state, if you happen to be ex CM of a state. Ask Lalu ji. One may even go out for shopping, have a masseuse and home cooked food. Ask Ms. Sasikala Nagarajan.

Indian side must parade these worthies in London court to reassure the judge that Mr Mallya has nothing to fear. He may have his scotch whiskey, his mutton biriyani and a bevy of girls in attendance in jail. He will not have to face pesky reporters and answer their questions. In fact, Mallya will have a better life in jail, all expense taken care of by Indian tax payers. Is this not what is happening in London too?

Links:

https://occassionalmusingsblogpost.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/king-of-good-times-such-a-long-flight/

Vijay Mallya: Mallya will have good times in jail: Official – Times of India https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Dengue Death at Fortis Hospital : Medical Insurance not Enquiry is the Answer

A little girl was admitted to a super specialty hospital in Gurgao for treatment of severe form of Dengue fever. The girl was transferred from Rockland Hospital in Dwarka to Fortis Hospital in Gurgaon. Girl passed away after 15 days in intensive care unit. Her medical bill was close to 16 lakh rupees. Girl’s father said he objected to the insensitive manner the hospital dealt with him. For example, dead body was not released till all formalities were completed including full bill payment. Parents had to wait 8 hours to get access to the body of their daughter.

The story as it emerged, set the media on fire. Of the two issues such as (a) insensitive treatment and (b) high hospital bill,  media probably could not make a great story out of administrative indifference. As a result, media houses latched onto issue of high medical bill. Media highlighted how many gloves were used, how many syringes were billed, what was the cost of medicine, how much fee was paid to physician and how much to dietician etc.

Under relentless media pressure, central government and state government of Haryana has promised to look into the issue of high medical bill. Haryana government has formed a high level committee to investigate and will in most liklihood share its report with central government. There is also suggestion to create a mechanism to regulate private hospitals. West Bengal government has initiated such a mechanism by ensuring passage of a bill in state assembly.

It cannot be denied that many corporate hospitals operate for profit. More than patients, these hospitals probably own their allegiance to share holders. That is why doctors are given target to suggest expensive procedures. Doctors who meet targets are given a percentage of business accrued. This could be the reason why father of the patient was suggested plasmapheresis, even after doctors gave up hope.  Still, I think media is barking on the wrong tree when it accuses hospital of inflated bill, for the following reasons:

  •  First, though generally self curing, in some cases in children under 10 year of age Dengue fever can take serious turn. As in the present case, the child was suffering from septic shock syndrome. To treat such a serious condition she had to be admitted in intensive care medicine, and kept there for fifteen days. Charge of a day’s stay in intensive care unit  may be close to one lac rupee, depending upon seriousness of condition.
  •  Fortis hospital is a corporate hospital. It usually follows standard operating procedure for every action and maintains a record for the same. Because in case of a lapse, hospital may get sued and definitely it will get bad publicity.
  • Even in the present case, hospital has supplied a 16 page bill with break up of professional fees and consumables. As it has emerged through discussion on TV, hospital had informed parent / guardian of patient every evening of days medical bill incurred. According to Dr. Narottam Puri, an advisor to Fortis Hospital, in all likelihood signature of patients parent / guardian was taken on medical bill of the day.
  • Media houses that are complaining about use of so many gloves and syringes, will probably turn around and claim negligence if the same patient had developed an infection for not using fresh pair of gloves.
  • Compared to many government run hospitals, likes of Fortis, Apollo, Medanta etc., are comparatively high end hospitals. These hospitals cater to upper middle class and rich Indians and to overseas clients. High hospital charge may be to maintain exclusivity as well as to maintain a standard of efficiency in medical, surgical and diagnostic procedures and to execute in an orderly fashion administrative processes like cleanliness, hygiene, security, cafeteria and housekeeping  etc.
  • Instead of asking why hospital is charging high fee for specialist physicians, which they deserve based on their expertise, one may question could the hospital have supplied generic medicine compared to branded products?

Instead of blaming Fortis Hospital, opinion makers must direct their attention towards (i) creation of better government hospital and that charge less and / or (ii) creation of a system of universal insurance card for every citizens. Such that any individual can be treated in any hospital without worrying about buying a hole in his pocket.  In many developed nations, citizens are issued a health insurance card, free of cost or for a nominal charge. Such basic Medical insurance, Medicare, takes care of hospital admission cost for certain illnesses. Over and above Medicare, people are free to purchase private insurance, that cover more extensive coverage.

There are several commercial insurance policies available in the market. Most of them are beyond the reach of poor people of India. Dr. Devi Shetty of Narayana Hridyala had created a health insurance for 3.4 million farmers of Karnataka by paying Rs. 20 per month. The insurance will cover procedures for more than 800 common surgeries.

Links

After Lakhs Allegedly Billed By Gurgaon Hospital, Father Of Dead …

Fortis Hospital Dengue Death Case | Corruption in Private 

Dengue patient dies, parents billed Rs 16 lakh for 2 weeks in ICU

Health Ministry Demands Probe Into Fortis ‘Overcharging’ Family of Seven-Year-Old Who Died of Dengue  The Wire

Fortis Hospital dengue death case: Haryana govt orders probe

West Bengal assembly passes bill to regulate private hospitals in state …

Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty – health insurance scheme for Karnataka farmers

 

 

Padmavati Row : Myth of Benevolent Alauddin Khalji

The film Padmavati is embroiled in great nation wide debate. Right wing groups are demanding film should not be allowed to release. According to them, film has shown Rajput queen Rani Padmavati in a poor light and glorified the role of invader Alauddin Khalji. At the same time, those who want the film should be seen, are not only questioning the very historical existence of Rani Padmavati, but they are also claiming Sultan Alauddin Khali to be a benevolent ruler, who was a great general and an able administrator.

In an earlier article, I had tried to bring forward evidence and arguments in support of Rani Padmavati. In this article, I shall try to put forward my thoughts on the myth of Alauddin Khalji being a benevolent ruler.

Articles have emerged that claim Alauddin Khalji to be a brilliant general who had brought about reforms and no way he could have been involved in lustful pursuit of women :

In another article published in Siasat Times, it is claimed that India should be grateful to Alauddin Khalji for stopping Mongol invaders from pillaging and plundering India:

A third article highlighted administrative and agrarian reforms brought about by Alauddin Khalji :

A glance at wikipedia entries against Khalji Dynasty and Alauddin Khalji reveal the following traits that go against the image makeover of Alauddin Khalji that is being published.  Let us consider the following :

Ferocious and faithless: Historians note Alauddin Khalji was a tyrant. Alauddin Khalji had killed his uncle, who was also his father in law, by treachery to ascend the throne of Delhi. Alauddin also killed his own family members, and nephews,  after he suspected them of rebellion, by first gouging out their eyes and then beheading them.

Tyrant : Alauddin Khalji was known for his cruelty against attacked kingdoms after wars.   After capturing Chittor, Alauddin Khalji had ordered slaughter of 30000 citizens. In Delhi, Alauddin Khalji had executed between 15000 to 30000 newly converted muslims for suspicion of treason. Killing so many people, including his own family members, may not get him the tag of a benevolent king. Infact by todays standard, killing of so many human beings will be called genocide.

Plundered and pillaged neigbhors: Alauddin Khalji had invaded many neighbouring kingdoms in an attempt to expand his empire. His army invaded Ranthambhor, Chittor, Gujarat, Devagiri and further down all the way to Madurai. At all places, invaders had looted treasury, looted temple treasure, destroyed temples and brought the loot back to Delhi. Thus Alauddin’s men were not really very different from the Mongol armies that were trying to invade India.

Capturing Women of Captured Kingdom : Generals of Alauddin had captured wife Kamala Devi of King Karna after capturing Patan in Gujarat. Kamala Devi was presented to Alauddin Khalji as a booty of war. Sultan had married Kamala Devi. This gives enough ammunition to argument that one of the objective of Alauddin to attack Chittor was to attain Rani Pamini.

Agrarian Reform : As described in Khalji Dynasty, Alauddin Khalji enforced four taxes on non-Muslims which included  – jizya (poll tax), kharaj (land tax), kari (house tax) and chari (pasture tax). He had created laws that would allow officers to seize by force half of all produce any farmer generates to fill sultanate granaries.

Anti Hindu Bias : Alauddin Khalji created “rules and regulations in order to grind down the Hindus, so as to reduce them to abject poverty and deprive them of wealth and any form of surplus property that could foster a rebellion the;

This article is not an attempt to demonise Alauddin Khalji. It is understood that Alauddin Khalji was an individual of his time, that is 14th century. He had his religious inclinations, his own beliefs, own ambition and prejudices. Judging by standards of 21st century he may be potrayed as a monster. In his own time and own world he was probably trying to remain true to his own self. We may champion his bravery in battlefield and praise his mastery in marshalling his forces, we should not try to paint him as a man washed in milk and honey.

References :

Stories of a Rajput queen | The Indian Express

Why India Should Be Grateful to Alauddin Khilji | The Siasat Daily

Beyond Padmavati row: 5 things Alauddin Khilji … – Business Standard

Khalji dynasty – Wikipedia

Ratnasimha – Wikipedia

Alauddin Khalji’s conquest of Gujarat – Wikipedia

Alauddin Khalji’s conquest of Devagiri – Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

Padmavati, Existential Debate Continues

The film Padmavati is facing a lot of resistance. First, Rajput Karni sena had vandalised the set of Padmavati in early part of 2017. Now at the time of release of the film, different Rajput groups have vowed to oppose release and if necessary vandalise movie theatres that screen the movie. As debate around release of the film Padmavati becomes more and more intense, threats are being issued to actor and director of the film. One of the most versatile actress and a prolific director are being called names. All the time law and order machinery is staying unusually quiet. In this scenario, three issues coming out in forefront:

  1. Did Padmavati actually exist;
  2. Was Alauddin Khilji a benevolent administrator; and
  3. Is protest around screening the film correct;

A concerted effort is being made to establish Rani Padmini to be a fictitious character. One such article suggests, according to historians, there is no evidence that Padmavati ever existed. The character Padmavati was created by Malek Jayashi, a sufi poet in 1540:

The author goes on to argue that image of Padmini was further polished in Bengal in 19th century to boost resistance movement against colonial power

The story of Padmavati has survived for more than 700 years, at a time when there was hardly much communication. Most likely it had spread by word of mouth by bards and became a part of folklore.

Even if we accept that Malek Jayashi created Padmavati, could it not be possible that poet Jayashi got his idea from folk history? Padmavati is etched in peoples memory, how many have ever heard of Jayashi beyond exalted academic circles?

Even if it is accepted that in 19th century Bengal, Padmavati was used as a symbol of resistance against colonial powers, how did the message spread? Communication had hardly improved from days of Padmavati in 14th century. There was no internet, no e-mail, hardly any postal service, limited train service?

According to historians, three Jauhars had taken place in Chittorgarh. One in 1303, and two in 16th century. Tale of Rani Padmini has remained etched in the mind of people. Not many know of other two jauhar.

Many of us have heard the story in our childhood, may be in history books, in India of sixties and seventies, when India was ruled by centrist congress and not right wing BJP. Yet the story survived..

As part of physical evidence, there exist a Padmini palace, a jauhar kund in Chittorgarh. These sites are authenticated by Archaeological Survey of India as national monuments. Were these structures built after Padmini? Is there any evidence to this effect?

No one disputes existence of Rawal Rattan Singh. Rattan Singh had fought battle with Alauddin Khalji and lost. Amir Khusroo, who happened to accompany Alauddin Khalji to Chittor, claimed, Rana Rattan Singh had surrendered and his life was spared. Other historians disagree with this point of view. Because on that fateful day, Alauddin Khalji had slaughtered 30000 people of Chittor. There is no reason for victorious sultan to spared the life of a vanquished rana. Amir Khusroo never talked about Rani Padmavati. Would a court historian document failure of his master to attain his objective? That too a person who never cared sparing lives of Hindus and Muslims alike?

There is break in Sisodiya lineage,  that was started by Bappa Rawal, after Rawal Rattan Singh. Historians account for Mewar dynasty from 1326 onwards. What happened in 1303 and beyond can be authenticated by family members of Mewar royal family. One can find Sisodia family lineage on the net under Rajasthan Royalty. Kunwar Vishvapratap Singh, a member of royal family, has said on TV that Rani Padmini was his ancestor. He has also written a letter to I&B minister and Prime Minister on the matter.  Other kings of Bappa Rawal family existed, but historical records are scant.

In the event of doubt, who should we trust more? Historians or family member who claims Rani Padmavati was his ancestor?

References

Stories of a Rajput queen | The Indian Express

Khalji dynasty – Wikipedia

Udaipur (Princely State) Homepage with Pictures and Map : Rajput …

Padmavati Controversy: Rajasthan Royal Writes To PM Modi

Violent People and Turbulent Sky

It is generally accepted that air space around India’s crowded airports is not ideal. We have heard horror stories of aircrafts coming dangerously close. We have heard incidence of computer in air traffic control failing and manual management of busy airports often become difficult. All said and done, by gods grace, we have not seen many or any major accident.

On the other hand, space within aircraft is also becoming very dangerous. We have heard of a privileged and entitlement conscious passenger beating an airline employee for being slighted. The incident forced government to bring law that would empower airline employees to handle unruly passengers. A side effect of such a law has manifested itself, when a middle aged passenger was body slammed in the tarmac after an alteraction in New Delhi.

A video of the event has emerged in public domain. In the video, the following can be seen and/or heard:

  • one can hear Mr. Katiyal using abusive language, “F-word”;
  • employees, it can be heard, objected to use of such a language;
  • an employee was shouting stop him from boarding the bus.
  • It can be seen that Mr. Ravindr Katiyal was prevented from boarding a bus that would take him from tarmac to terminal.
  • It can be seen that an employee was physcially restraining Mr. Katiyal.
  • When released of the vice grip, Mr. Katiyal was seen attacking another employee on charge of pushing him.
  • In turn, the employee tackles and throws him on the ground. We can see employee was restraining Mr. Katiyal by holding him by his throat.
  • Mr. Katiyal, lying on the ground, can be seen hitting the employee.

As the video went viral and picked up by TV channels additional information emerged.

  • Mr. Katiyal was travelling from Chennai to Delhi by Indigo airline. His plane landed in Delhi at noon when temperature in the tarmac was close to 37 degree celcius.
  • Mr. Katiyal allowed elderly, ladies and children to board the shuttle bus.
  • Mr. Katiyal was waiting for the bus, under shade of the plane. His conflict started when an employee asked him to come out of the shade. According to Mr. Katiyal employee spoke to him rudely.
  • The person with whom Mr. Katiyal had physical conflict was not even the person who instigated the initial fight.
  • To add insult to injury, in police station Mr. Katiyal was told whole incidence was his fault. Katiyal’s wife was told her husband was psychotic. They were threatened with a counter law suit by Indigo.
  • To be fair, keeping in mind passenger safety, no one is allowed to come close to the aircraft. A member of ground staff, of an airline was sucked in by engine of a jet liner in an Indian airport.

Even if we agree that Indio ground staff did not hit Mr. Katiyal, despite being attacked and abused, and Indigo staff were going by the rule book that a passenger is not allowed to go near the aircraft for his own safety,  a few points must be considered:

  •  Mr. Katiyal was not allowed to board shuttle and physically prevented him. This cannot be permitted. Does Indigo has any right not to let a customer board shuttle bus to settle score?
  • Even if Mr. Katiyal, a 50 plus year old passenger, had thrown the first punch, Mr. Katiyal was no match to airline staff. Could trained staff of airline have not handle him better? One can see a tall guy holding and restraining Katiyal. They could have simply resorted to such a tactic.
  • Airline staff should be trained to deal with all kind of passengers. One thing is a rowdy client on board a flight and another is dealing with a passenger on tarmac. More so under peak mid day sun. Indigo staff should have controlled themselves, let the passenger move to cooler climes of bus and terminal. That is how a mature and trained staff behave.
  • Mr. Katiyal was thrown on the ground. He could have been seriously injured in the process. Mr. Katiyal was a paying customer. He certainly did not bargain for sucha treatment when he boarded the flight. Indigo could have handed him over to CISF. The person who instigated had left. In 40 degree heat if a passenger was waiting for bus, he could have treated much more professionally.
  • If Indigo was on the right side of legal and moral divide, why did they sit on the video for so long?

Overall, the airline came out in very bad light. In the US, a passenger was injured when security personnel tried to deboard him forcefully. United Airlines had pay a hefty compensation to the passenger. I think the Incidence merits serious compensation and criminal investigation.

References

1.IndiGo incident video: What led to passenger, ground staff fight; who …

2. My Colleagues Were Trying to Prevent a Serious Mishap: IndiGo Prez …

Demonetisation, One Year Later

One year has passed since the decision to demonetise high value currencies was announced by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Nov, 2016. A lot has been said both for and against demagnetisation. Nobel laureates Prof. Amartya Sen and Prof. Paul Krugman have denounced efficacy of the mechanism. On the other hand, Prof Jagdish Bhagwati had praised demonetisation as a bold move, and S. Gurumurthy, an idealogogue of RSS, has claimed demonetisation to be a paradigm shift. In the political front, former finance minister Mr. P Chidambaram has called demonitisation the biggest scam, while the current finance minister Mr. Arun Jaitley has enumerated numerous benefits of demonetization on the posterity.

As the GDP figures on second quarter of financial year 2017 -18 came out, opposition and media had attributed low GDP numbers as an adverse effect of  demonetisation. Though economists have advised not to link demonetisation to low GDP growth, critics were relentless. Many of the expected deliverables of demonetisation were not achieved, for example:

  • Terror funding was not affected as incidence of stone pelting in Kashmir did not come down.  We know, however, that post demonetisation there had been several bank robberies in Kashmir valley. Could this not indicate there was cash crunch and terrorists ran away with cash?
  • Black money was not affected by demonetisation. Not only almost all money had come back to bank, no one has been arrested and or prosecuted for holding black money. There is no doubt that people that had black money, had peddled it ingenuously. But consider this fact that 30 thousand crore has  emerged as black money and 290 thousand crore of unusual transactions are under scanner. This may suggest around 320 thousand crore unaccounted money under scanner. Is that not nearly one fifth of Indian currency in circulation?
  • Economy has crawled back from cashless to cash driven. Prior to demonetisation, cash to GDP ratio was more than 12. This ratio has come down to 9 one year after demonetisation. Some data suggest, there is definite increase in cashless transaction. All said and done, bringing behavioural change takes time. Government has made an effort. It must persist by giving incentive to using cashless transactions.
  • Many people had to endure a lot of hardship. As many as 120 people lost their lives directly or indirectly due to demonetisation. Post demonetisation, I had visited Haryana and Assam on my personal capacity. I did not see the type of misery, and devastation being propagated by TV channels and news papers. In addition, ruling party had scored significant victory in many village panchayat, municipality and state assembly elections, most notable being landslide in Uttar Pradesh.

As I hear debates for and against demonitisation, it appears that both sides are speaking the same thing. While pro demonitisation group is putting emphasis on long term benefits, opposition is not denying exactly long term benefits, but they are focusing on short term inconveniences. Pro demonitisation groups claim hardship came with the package, and people were warned. Nature of the move did not allow great preparation. Anti demo group claim perceived benefits could have achieved by different means without causing less discomfort. Who is right? Indian people will decide, may be in 2019.

References:

 

  1. The-poor-have-embraced-modi-and-the-vote-merchants-still-dont-get-it

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/all-that-matters/the-poor-have-embraced-modi-and-the-vote-merchants-still-dont-get-it/articleshow/57597948.cms

2. From-harvard-to-house-how-notebandi-naysayers-got-it-so-wrong

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/right-and-wrong/from-harvard-to-house-how-notebandi-naysayers-got-it-so-wrong/ http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/right-and-wrong/from-harvard-to-house-how-notebandi-naysayers-got-it-so-wrong/

3. Demonetisation was a fundamental corrective to the economy much like liberalisation of the 1990s : https://t.co/FM77jLjX8p

4. Why DeMo, GST are not to blame for slowdown – Times of India Blogs

5. Modi’s Mission 2022: Government is methodically shattering the glass ceilings that trap Indians in poverty

 

 

 

 

Padmavati, Controversy’s Child

The movie Padmavati seems to be getting entangled in protests and controversies. In the earlier part of the year, set of the movie was destroyed by angry Rajput Karni Sena. Now that the movie is about to be released, Rajput groups want the movie be shown to them before it is released to general public. The bone of contention being a dream sequence where Alauddin Khilji is believed to fall in love with Padmavati. Director of Padmavati has denied such a scene exists. Protestors, however, are not ready to buy any assurance.

There is a strong undercurrent against Alauddin Khilji and several other muslim kings who had invaded Rajputana and India. Stories of Rajput women sacrificing their lives by jumping into fire, rather than submitting to victorious muslim army, is a matter of great pride and part of folk tales, It is, thus, very difficult to reason with protestors that even if a dream sequence exists in the movie, it is the dream of Alauddin Khilji and not of Rani Padmavati. One cannot control what Alauddin Khilji is thinking. A man who can march an army to conquer wife of a neighbouring king, can he not have a lurid fantacy? But this cannot be held again Rani Padmavati. Because she had no soft corner for the Khilji king.

As the debate around Padmavati intensified, some scholars claimed that Padmavati never existed.  How could a princess from Ceylon become queen of Chittor in Rajputana? Some doubted occurrence of Jauhar. Some even suggested Padmavati was a loser, who chose death over life? According to scholars, historians who accompanied Alauddin Khilji in his conquest, never talked of Padmavati. It can be argued that, history is written by victors and not by the vanquished. Indian history has traditionally been spread word of mouth by bards. Over a period of time and loves spread by word of mouth, exaggeration might have crept in, but actual occurrences probably remained undisputed. Thus story of Rani Padmavati is part of hindu folklore.  Jauhar kund exists in Chittorgarh fort. Historians report of three jauhars that happened in Chittorgarh, after Sultan Alauddin Khilji of Delhi, Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat and Emperor Akbar of Delhi. In the middle of all this, I want to see Ranveer Singh as Allauddin Khilji.

People have tried to potray Alauddin Khilji as a benevolent general, who  administered his kingdom well, expanded  it, and protected it by keeping invading mughals at bay. Others think of Alauddin Khilji as a ruthless person who killed his own father in law, coveted a neighbouring king’s wife and generally cruel against vast population of hindu subjects.  By the way, Alauddin Khilji was not a devout muslim by his own standard. He had a lover in Malik Kafur, his trusted general. Practice of homo-sexuality is a heresy for devout muslims even today.

Without condoning Alauddin Khilji and muslim invaders after him for their cruelty against majority hindu natives, is it fair to judge the man of 1306  by todays standard of 2017? Both Alauddin and Rani Padmavati were products of their time. Their morality, their value system, their concept of honour, and their outlook to life were totally different. We may not like them, but we cannot change them. That is history. We can make better history by letting others watch Padmvati. I am dieing to watch Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji. I loved the way he portrayed Peshwa Bajirao. Let us hope good sense prevails.

 

Should Society Dictate Personal Choice

Akhila was a hindu girl in Kerala. She converted to Islam while staying away from her family during her college studies. Her name post her conversion was Hadiya. Hadiya fell in love with a muslim boy and married him. Hadiya’s (Akhila’s) parents lodged a police complaint and moved Keral High Court. Court had no problem with Akhila’s conversion, but court annulled the marriage. Hadiya moved supreme court claiming she was made to stay at her parents place against her will.

Amid protests and petitions by right wing groups, Supreme Court of India had asked NIA, (National Investigating Agency), to investigate terror angle to Hadiya’s love story. NIA had suggested that there is a pattern to convesions. Meanwhile, Court has commented that one can marry a criminal, if he /she does it as an adult. Court has also asked Hadiya to present herself and narrate her side of the story.

Right wing hindu groups had claimed that Akhila was converted as per design called Love Jihad. According to Love Jihad theory, non muslim women are persuaded to convert to islam and marry muslim men. All this towards creation of a global islamic state. On a recent debate on NDTV, the concept of love jihad was ridiculed and trashed as offensive by anchor, Nidhi Razdan, and activists like Farah Naqvi and Sadia Dehlavi. Indeed, argument put forward by Farah Naqvi was much more rational and cogent, where she argued case of Hadiya was that of choice made by an adult woman, and her parents and courts have no business interfering in the matter.

Later, I came across another TV program on India Today TV channel hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai. I would tend to believe what was shown, because Rajdeep Sardesai is generally not a supporter of the Hindu right. Sting operation carried out by journalists of India Today group, confirmed assertion of Hindu right that a design exists to convert non muslims into islamic faith. An organisation called PFI (Peoples Front of India), aided by petro dollar, was engaged in such an activity. On India Today sting, it was shown that operatives were openly claiming conversion is one of their agenda. The activists claimed that their intention is to set up a global islamic state. It is also alleged that women are converted and taken to war zones of middle east to serve ISIS fighters. In this context, can we connect the dots between Hadiya’s conversion and her marriage to a muslim man? The man had expressed his intention to take Hadiya to middle east. Kerala High Court was not amused upon hearing the news of marriage. Many believe Hadiya case is one such case. NIA believes there is a distinct pattern in such conversions.

This brings to bigger question. Can society, and state decide whom an individual chooses as life partner? I think it is obnoxious and intrusive for anyone to interfere in another persons private life. If state has solid proof of criminality, they must do everything to stop the same. But state cannot decide who should marry whom. At the same time, one must consider if a person is marrying for love, why should one partner has to abandon his / her faith and convert? I think, both marriage and religious belief should be held private and sacrosanct as an individual’s personal choice. It seems there may be some truth to the assertions of Hindu right about designs of islamists.

References

1. From Akhila to Hadiya: What exactly is the Kerala ‘Love Jihad’ case all …

2. Is ‘Love Jihad’ just a political campaign

3. Operation Jihad Mafia: Kerala’s conversion factories unmasked : India …

4. Kerala Love Jihad: India Today Exposes Zainaba And Popular Front …

Fun has gone out of Train Journey

In my childhood day,  I used to like train journies. I was fascinated by engines. Earlier there used to be steam locomotives of two different models. One with tapering front end with headlight at the centre. My aunt told me once, this engine was called Canadian engine. I never asked why, but I was attached to this model. With a deep booming whistle, I felt, the engine had a personality of its own. Second engine was called Chittaranjan engine. This engine was manufactured in Chittaranjan locomotive factory in West Bengal. I did not like this model with headlight on top of the body of engine, like hood of a snake. Then came a third kind. The diesel locomotive. Madras mail, travelling from Howrah to Madras and back, was pulled by this engine. I saw one in Balasore. Though sleek compared to a steam engine, I never did like diesel engine. I felt it was too impersonal and lacked character.

I would travel at least three times a year from Kanpur to Howrah and back. Those days our favourite train was Toofan express. It was not the best train or the fastest train. Those in a rush could avail  Howrah – Delhi – Kalka mail or Deluxe express, nowadays called Poorva express. Rajdhani express had just been introduced into service. But most people from our social strata felt Rajdhani express was for the rich and powerful and was beyond our reach. A bogey would be attached to Toofan express, as it came from Delhi, at the Kanpur station.  Most people like me who were travelling from Kanpur would avail a booking in this bogey.

Unlike the name suggested, Toofan express hardly moved like Toofan. It would take close to twenty four hours to travel from Kanpur to Howrah. Most often it used to be late, much to the annoyance of people that would come to pick me up at the Howrah station. Those days there was no internet, no SMS, basically no way to tell if train is coming on time or not. There was rudimentary landline phone service, which no one bothered to pick up at any government office, including railway stations. Families, of our socio-economic strata, usually did not own a telephone set at home. One had to be physically present at the station to know the status. Except when there was an accident, people would hear it on radio and much later see it on TV, those who had access to a set. For me, I did not care if train ran late. From my perspective if the train ran late, my vacation would be extended that bit longer. 

Most of us used to travel in a three tier compartment. These compartments were not air-conditioned. Not that I ever felt the need. All I cared was to have a window seat. So that I could see the engine chugging along at bends from my compartment window. I would crane my neck and strain my eyes to watch the engine whistling all the way. Engine smoke would carry coal dust. By the time I reached Howrah station my face would turn blackish. 

Engine would be changed at Mughalserai and at Asansol. I also remember between Jhajha and Shimultala, in present day Jharkhand, Toofan expressed would be pushed by a second engine from behind. I would pray to god please let our engine/s be a Canadian engine. I would make it a point, as I got out of the train and moved towards the exit at Howrah station, to see which engine was pulling us.  If I saw a Chittaranjan loco was pulling our train, I would feel really sad and humiliated. How is Toofan express different from an ordinary passenger train, if it is being pulled by a Chittaranjan engine?

These days life has changed. I do not travel by train as much. Whenever I do, I travel by A/C two tier or three tier. Toofan express still runs and runs late often. Not many people I know travel by Toofan express. Most people do not even consider travelling by  Delhi Kalka mail and Poorva express.   Most of us prefer Rajdhani and Duronto express. Reduced travel time and improved convenience have become major determining factors.   Steam engines have been replaced by  diesel and electric locos. There is no way of watching the engine from compartment because windows are sealed. There is hardly any scope for face getting blackened by coal soot. Tea vendor or snack  vendor cannot be accessed sitting inside compartment.   Trains do get late even today. But that is more of inconvenience and less a matter of fun. Fun actually has gone out of train travel.