The causes and effects of the Rafale deal

So the ticking time bomb has triggered a full scale explosion. The endless debates and punches and counter punches that has been happening over the course of weeks and months has given way to a full scale war. Finally, some light has fallen on the shadows of the dubious Rafale deal and it is not good news for the Modi government. The fact that Anil Ambani has been the beneficiary of an unholy deal between the Indian and French government has been brought to light by none other than the erstwhile French President himself.

Questions are raging over how a weapons manufacturing company was started by Anil Ambani just weeks before the deal was signed, HAL was sidelined and Ambani’s company was proposed as the only option by the Modi government as partner for the deal. But my problems and concerns go much deeper. I did a one year MBA program with an international business school in Shanghai. There I met people from almost every part of the world. I used to have a good time with a young Pakistani lad who incidentally knows the band members of Strings and I used to tell him that one day I will be in Pakistan and I need his help to meet them. The college had given me a fellowship and I used to work actively with the college staff most of whom were Chinese. My point is, I was not fighting with that Pakistani guy and the Chinese people I know. It made me realize that citizens of India are not at war with the citizens of Pakistan and China. When we, the people have no problems with each other, why do we have borders and armed forces? Why are the governments buying and manufacturing all the weapons? To protect the people from what?

Lets take the case of Jammu and Kashmir. It became part of India during Independence and then the war of 1948 broke it into two parts. I see reports about separatists indulging in violence and the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits and I wonder, why can’t the people who want to be with Pakistan go to PoK and the ones who want to be with India come to this side of the border? Wouldn’t that solve the problem? Why are the Indian and Pakistani governments not trying to resolve the problem? Why is the UN not trying to resolve the conflict? Same goes with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Every time I hear and see about conflicts and problems, I always wonder why people are not working towards solving these issues.

Coming back to the Rafale issue, my next problem is in the way the government eventually decides from which country and which companies to buy the weapons from. The three wings of the armed forces are more than well equipped to do their own due diligence and decide what their requirements are. All the government needs to do is to provide them the required funds and clear all bureaucratic hurdles for the purchases. But when the government overrides the needs of the armed forces and initiates deals as per it’s wishes, then something murky is definitely happening in the shadows. This is what caused the Bofors issue and now the Rafale issue.

During the 2014 elections, there was a rumour that Modi’s election campaign extravaganza expenses ran upto Rs. 20,000 crore. He was always seen travelling for election rallies in private helicopters of Gautam Adani. Now why would a corporate businessman provide the services of this private choppers to a PM candidate? It doesn’t end here. Wherever Modi used to travel to for campaigning, be it as far as Thiruvananthapuram in the south or Arunachal Pradesh in the east or Jammu and Kashmir in the north, he used to always return to Gujarat the same day itself. Those journeys themselves must have cost a monstrous amount of money. Why was Adani spending so much money on Modi? So it was clear that Modi was going to be the next PM. Now Modi has himself admitted to being a chaiwala (tea seller). So how does all of this reflect on him? Like the story of Kalidasa, an ancient Indian poet. Kalidasa was a stupid and ignorant woodcutter who was found by some wise men cutting a branch of a tree he was sitting on. These wise men had a grudge on a princess because of her haughtiness at her wisdom. So they dressed up Kalidasa, asked him to keep quiet, spoke for him and interpreted his actions and claimed to the world that he was the most knowledgeable guy in the world and managed to defeat the princess in a debate. The same seems to have happened with Modi as well. The corporate seems to have installed him as the PM to be at their whims and fancies and to get their business deals signed off without understanding anything and without asking any questions. The Rafale deal seems to be just one of them. If there were scams during the previous UPA government the present government itself is a corporate scam.

Now how did Anil Ambani and the Modi government manage to pull off such a deal brazenly without the fear of any repercussions? They thrive on the ignorance of people. Most people in rural India especially in the North do not have even basic facilities like drinking water and electricity. They do not even have enough education to spell Rafale properly. Political parties have been exploiting them every 5 years by baiting them with the offer of basic amenities in return for their votes. They get nothing after each election and since they are all stuck inside vote banks, they continue voting for the candidates from their caste, religion etc. Most importantly, political parties ensure that people do not get proper education. Education increases our understanding of the world and we start asking questions. Questions are the biggest threat to the existence of political parties. This is why government schools are in dilapidated condition in many of the states and private schools charge such exorbitant fees. The objective is to keep people away from education. This is why Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP party had to go through all sorts of dire situations and repercussions when they tried to revive government schools in Delhi. Five of the biggest Indian states from where maximum representatives go to the Lok Sabha (lower House of Parliament) are stuck in this situation. BJP won maximum seats from these states in 2014 which clearly reflects the pathetic condition of Indian democracy. The consequence is that apart from the fragmented urban voters, no one will question Modi about the Rafale deal. He can happily go and campaign for the 2019 elections in the rural areas of India. This is what emboldens political parties and the corporate to take the country and the people for granted in their quest for money and power.

Finally, why a deal for weapons manufacturing? Which are the most booming business industries in the world? Weapons, drugs, prostitution and trafficking in that order. What generates maximum revenue in the world? People’s fear and people’s lust. We need to look at nothing beyond the first movie of the Iron Man franchise. What prompts billionaire businessman and playboy Tony Stark to become Iron Man? Because he finds the weapons manufactured in his company Stark Industries in the hands of terrorists and he realizes that weapons manufacturers sell weapons to both sides of wars and conflicts. The best commodity for sale has become the human life itself. Anil Ambani seems to be thirsting to enter that realm of business and make some money for himself at the cost of human lives. This is why Kashmir, Palestine and many other areas continue to be conflict zones. More is at stake here. Financial institutions move in into conflict areas once some sort of deal for peace is made, invest money and basically enslave people’s lives in that region. If all conflicts stop, financial institutions and weapons manufacturers will have to close down their shops. The stakes are much higher than the comprehension of common people and political class is just a puppet in the hands of the corporate all over the world.

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India’s journey from 2014 to 2019 and beyond

The general elections in India are a year away but preparations and build up towards it has already started. The recent state elections in Karnataka was dubbed as it’s precursor or the ‘final before the final’. The situation is identical to how it works in the corporate sector. In a Business to Business (B2B) relationship, one party will usually be the client and the other it’s vendor or service provider. If such a contract is created for say 3 years, the vendor will not wait till the end of 3 years before trying to extend the contract. By the half way mark the vendor will start preparations and by the end of the 2nd year, they will initiate discussions with the client. They have a single critical objective which is to ensure that the client does not start evaluating other vendors. If the client starts evaluating other vendors, it means the client is not satisfied with the current vendor and the most likely outcome will be the contract not getting renewed and going out into the market. This is all about perceptions and the vendor needs to ensure that the perception the client has about them is favorable to them. The game of politics is also about perceptions especially in India since politics in India is governed by religious, caste and community based vote banks.

The tone of 2019 elections was set during the elections of 2014 itself. The 2014 elections were dominated by two factors, the scams that happened and were subsequently unearthed during the 10 year rule of the UPA government and the rise of Modi and his Gujarat model of development. The UPA government’s tenure was plagued by the financial meltdown of 2008 and it’s after effects. Indian economy did not experience the full blown effects of the situation like most countries did but overall growth of the economy became grinding slow. The GDP tanked, inflation and unemployment flared up and when the scams came out in public view, discontent against the government soared to an all time high. BJP did not have a prime ministerial candidate until about 2012 and was a headless party. Modi’s team took advantage of both these situations and used the Gujarat development model as the premise to project Modi as a national leader which worked remarkably well.

But as the trail towards the elections heated up, I realized that what was being projected about Modi and Gujarat weren’t hunky dory after all. From my neighbours who had moved to Gujarat, I learned that except some cities like Ahmedabad, nothing much had changed. Ravish Kumar of NDTV ran extensive coverage of some of the major cities and villages of Gujarat where there were no signs of any development. Most importantly, the perception that Modi becoming the PM will make all the problems go away and bring the economy back on the path of growth did not sit well with me because this was explained away by his Gujarat development model and was not quantified enough by facts and figures. This, especially after the country’s economy and stock market were getting affected even by variations in the valuation of the US government bonds. Modi’s much vaunted plan to bring back the flushed out black money also sounded hollow after Arvind Kejriwal, in a televised interview mentioned that the more urgent need was to first stop the flow of black money before chasing the money already funneled out of the country.

To summarize, the Modi chant never rose high enough to become a wave. The country’s GDP no longer seems to reflect the ground level economic conditions. A country’s GDP and inflation are related in 5 ways as per Investopedia (https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/112814/why-does-inflation-increase-gdp-growth.asp) and none of these conditions match India’s present situation. When crude oil prices were falling globally, India’s fuel prices were still going up and inflation along with it. Yet the GDP was being shown as growing which makes no sense at all. GDP growth can trigger inflation but inflation can never affect GDP positively. Also GDP and unemployment cannot rise together. Two major initiatives of the government, demonetization and GST have failed completely in their stated objective to curb the black money menace. Money laundering and loan defaulting by big time corporate players like Vijay Mallya which started during the UPA rule continued unabated during the last 4 years as well. All banks are struggling to cope up with increasing NPAs. Possession and auction notices of houses and properties along with the auction notices of pawned gold throng the daily national and local newspapers which tells the sordid story of how common man is suffering from lack of employment and earnings. To add to the woes, farmers across the country are taking their lives. But the rich have been getting richer despite all of this. In the last 4 years, India has been successfully added to the list of countries where 99% of the wealth is under the control of 1% of the world’s population.

The deeper impact of what transpired in 2014 is only becoming apparent now. BJP did not seek the support of other political parties to fight the 2014 elections. Instead, they chose to go on their own with Modi as their face effectively making him a single point of success or failure. Given the circumstances under which the elections of 2014 were conducted, I am inclined to assume that the INC did not want to win the election because they were helpless to stop the downward slide of the economy and they did not want to continue taking the blame for the economic conditions. I had realized in 2014 that if Modi wins and fails in the next 5 years, it will unite the opposition and it will become a battle between Modi and the rest of India. The country has seen the fiasco that unraveled in Karnataka after the state elections last month. INC and JD(S) which had fought the elections against each other joined hands to form the government and then started bickering over allotment of portfolios. So if the condition arises that so many regional and national parties unite to form the government in 2019, bickering among them over portfolios would rise to preposterous levels.

For political parties in India, elections have always been more about seizing control over power and money and less about governance. In the supposedly fastest growing economy in the world, election manifestos are still filled with empty promises to provide clean drinking water, electricity and education. How can a country’s economy grow when a large part of it’s population still does not have access to clean drinking water, electricity and education? These are the fundamental rights of every citizen of the country and it is the primary responsibility of the government to ensure that people have access to their basic rights irrespective of which political party is in control of the government. People should not vote over promises to provide them their basic rights. Arvind Kejriwal and his government claiming success in transforming the lives of the people of Delhi with cheaper electricity, access to water and improving the education and healthcare sector actually reflects poorly on the country in the world arena because in spite of Delhi being the seat of the country’s government, the sordid and miserable┬ácondition of it’s population for such a long time is getting exposed.

What will happen in 2019 elections and it’s aftermath already seems like a nightmare to me. Modi and BJP seemed to have assumed in 2014 that governing his home state for 12 years was enough credentials to govern the world’s most diverse country. Their spectacular rise and fall in the last 4 years have proved that they do not have the firepower to govern the country. The alternative is a united opposition with possibly the INC at it’s helm, united only with the intent to grab power. When it comes to Arvind Kejriwal and his party, all other parties unite against them because they seem terrified of his people oriented governance agenda. So they will keep him bottled up in Delhi itself. 5 more years of uncertainty seems to be definitely in the offing.

About Nurses – The Downtrodden Caretakers, Sacrificial Pawns & Forgotten Heroes

The death of Lini Puthussery because of the Nipah virus should have thrown the spotlight on the precarious lives and living conditions of the nursing community in India, but beyond mere sympathies and as a news item and TRP booster for TV channels, nothing else has come out of her heroic sacrifice. The Government of India and Kerala seems to have already moved past her death. No cure has been found for the virus yet, even though outbreaks of the virus have happened in the past. In spite of this, Lini and other nurses were forced to attend to the people who had contracted the virus at the risk of their own lives.

What nurses do is social and community service and I have observed that such people are treated with far less respect than they deserve to get. Arvind Kejriwal is probably the only head of any state India has ever had with a distinguished background and credibility of social service (for which he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award), yet people does not seem to have much respect and regard for him. Same goes for the nursing community as well. Hospitals are the only places where people forget all divides and unite irrespective of age, gender, skin color, caste and religion and nurses are the guardians of these hospitals and the angels who sacrifice their lives for the patients. But I grew up seeing guys eager for hospital visits if anyone they know are sick, to eat food from the hospital canteen at the expense of the relatives of the sick person and to ogle at nurses. Nurses are treated as so downtrodden that most of them become extremely strong mentally and emotionally otherwise they wouldn’t be able to survive without any self esteem. Nursing is a profession that is always in demand and the need for qualified and experienced nurses is perpetual. This has propelled millions of families in Kerala to educate daughters in their households in nursing courses with the hope of sending them abroad for jobs. The onus of taking these families out of their dire situations and bringing prosperity are burdened on the shoulders of these young girls. Their trouble doesn’t end here though. Many guys look to marry these nurses working abroad as their visa to a life abroad without having to work and earn, a fact that has been highlighted satirically in many Malayalam movies.

Nurses and soldiers belong to the same category of citizens of any country, the ‘Expendables Community’. They are the ones who are supposed to lay down their lives in the line of duty to protect the people of the country. It is said that the people of the country sleeps in peace because of the soldiers who protect the country’s borders. I have often wondered, from what or whom? Apparently, India does not have friendly relationship with China, yet I got the visa to travel to Shanghai to do a one year MBA course with an international business school. I have made many friends and contacts there and the hostility between countries never extended to the human to human level. This hostility is limited only to government and political levels and soldiers have always had to give up their lives at the behest of the rulers of the land.

But the nurses partake in wars at a very different level. The war of survival of humanity. These are wars every living being is part of in nature, to survive and be a dominant species. We still do not know the purpose of more than 90% of our DNA which clearly shows how little we know about the bacteria and viruses that inhabit our world and their evolution. The more medicines we are finding for diseases the more viruses are becoming resistant to medicines along with evolving themselves into new unknown strains. The war we are waging with nature is for the survival of our species rather than for victory and nurses are the pawns who are sent out to the front to protect us and die for us.

It is the nurses who deserve the highest respect and honor any country can bestow upon it’s citizens. Instead, they are struggling because their profession is one among the lowest paid in India and not every nurse gets to make a life abroad. Many of them are not even getting enough salaries to repay the educational loans they have taken to study the nursing courses. The country should not forget the poignant letter Lini wrote to her husband before her death and her sacrifice should not go in vain. The Government of India should honor her with the highest possible civilian award and the Government of Kerala should extend it’s support to her family and children in every possible ways. This I believe will be the stepping stone towards a brighter and dignified future for the nursing community of the country.

Another scam in India: why it should and doesn’t matter

Indian economy has been limping after the twin strikes of Demonetization and GST implementation which came on top of sluggish economic growth and ever rising inflation. The economy did not take that hard a beating as most of the other countries in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008 because the RBI had smartly manipulated the value of the Rupee. But I realized our currency is not so robust after all when I read about how a change in the value of the government bonds in the US had triggered tremors in the value of the Rupee. To add to all of this, two diseases have been plaguing the Indian economy and have prevented it from growing to the levels it should have long back. Black money and scams.
Tax evasion is a part of daily life in India and all that money goes underground immediately which then flows out to bank accounts in countries like Switzerland and Monaco. There is a reality check that can be done with regards to tax payment in India and it can throw up staggering details. The agricultural class and religious centers do not have to pay taxes, business class evades tax as much as they can and unemployed people and people below the poverty line cannot pay tax. So where does the majority of tax money come from? Just the working middle class. What is their % in the total population of India? 20% max. So taxes from 20% people run the entire country and also supports the rest 80% of the population. There is another catch here. There is no country in the world that is free of corruption. In developed countries, 80% of taxpayer’s money goes back into the development and maintenance of the infrastructure and 20% goes into corruption which happens at the highest levels. In India, the percentages are just the opposite. 80% of the money goes into corruption from the grass root to the highest levels and with 20% of the money we have still developed so much. Imagine where 80% could have taken us. The black money ends up in the black hole which is lost forever. Some of it is being speculated to be flowing back into the country as FDI.

 
Scam is like a fashion statement now. Everyone is trying to pull off scams in their own ways. Nigerian scamsters are constantly sending spam mails to trick unsuspecting victims. One reason why the erstwhile Congress government fell away in the 2014 elections was because many of the scams that happened under the noses during their 10 year regime were brought to light. But no political party can wash their hands off and plead innocence here. For a big scam to succeed, the entire system has to be corrupt and corruption can nurture where there is unaccounted money. So it all ties together. The recession of 2008 was completely scam driven. Just like black money fraudsters, these scamsters find loopholes in the banking and financial systems to avail massive loans and get away from paying them back resulting in financial collapses of banks and other lenders. Vijay Mallya is the biggest fish under the scanner now and now a new one called Nirav Modi has leapt into limelight in the past week.
Banks in India are struggling to contain loans of all categories from becoming NPAs. Most of their pain is because of business loans that become NPAs and they are simply not able to get even their principal amounts back. This is how the corrupt system rears up it’s ugly head here. All loans are disbursed through one of the branches of the banks. For normal loans, branches initiate strict checks and ensure that either through timely repayment or recovery procedures, loans can be closed. But business loans never go through the same channel of verification. The top level executives of the banks are connected to the political and business class so they ensure that loans are disbursed without enough verification because it is common knowledge that such loans will never pass a thorough verification. No business deals are completely clean and transparent so business loans will also have a dark side to it. Vijay Mallya reportedly told the lending banks that Kingfisher airlines was running on losses and there was no way he could turn it around but the lenders kept pumping in more cash with the hope of making it profitable again. I am not aware of Nirav Modi’s background yet, if dug deep enough, he may be connected or related to the top 1% of the population who call themselves the elitists who control all the major businesses and financial institutions in their countries. Without such connections it is impossible to pull off such big scams and escape from the country so easily.
Now what is the impact of black money and scams on the country’s economy? If the GDP numbers are good, it indicates a thriving economy where people are earning and spending more and this translates to substantial cash flow in the system. The central banks increase the quantity of currency based primarily on 3 critical factors:

1. GDP growth rate

2. Bullion reserves

3. Foreign exchange (FOREX) reserves
When GDP growth rate is good, central banks get enough cash flow to buy gold and silver and expand their bullion reserves. When international trade is on the upswing, FOREX reserves will grow. Central banks use bullion reserves to settle international debt and also lends to bullion banks which in turn does trading in the precious metals market thereby generating cash flow. This entire cash flow gets adversely affected when money goes missing through laundering and scams. Central banks will have to lend out more from it’s bullion reserves to stimulate cash flow thereby shrinking the bullion reserves. Reduced cash flow will affect trade and stall the growth of FOREX reserves. All of this will decrease GDP growth rate and reduce the value of the currency which in turn will shrink the FOREX reserves. Central banks cannot simply print more currency notes because it will lead to inflation.
Back in 2014 during the heat and din of the general elections, when the present PM was claiming to bring back all the laundered black money stashed away in foreign banks, the present CM of Delhi had let out pearls of wisdom to the people and to the media which no one had cared to even hear. He had said that the need of the hour was to first stop any further laundering of black money. There are banks in India that aid the flow of laundered money to foreign banks. These banks have to be neutralized first and their operations have to be decapacitated. Going after stashed money is the next step. The system we are all in is a Matrix and no one bothers about anyone who goes against the system. So a Vijay Mallya or a Nirav Modi will be in the limelight time and again. I am sure there are gigantic fishes with billions or trillions of dollars in debts to banks but are happily living their lives because they are well protected by the system. This is where the imbalance in the economic structure of capitalism has taken the world to. Nothing exemplifies this better than a palatial mansion in Mumbai right in the middle of a large slum area.
Now how does any of all of these matter to the common people? It does but no one has time to know about it or ask questions. A struggling economy fraught with inflation and unemployment means people are having to constantly and tirelessly work to find ways to make their ends meet and find even an ounce of prosperity. This effectively neutralises the educated middle class, the ones who are most likely to understand what is going on and ask questions. Questions are the biggest threat to the system so engage people to a level where they do not even have time to understand what is going on. Use the media to blank out truth and reality from the public. Keep the rural population largely illiterate and maintain unemployment and BPL levels. Politicians effectively secure their vote banks and the elitists have total control over the system. 

Critical thinking – the worst anti-social activity

Couple of days back, I was watching Prakash Raj, a very well known Indian actor on TV expressing his views in a conclave conducted by a news channel. He was taking on every question, openly criticizing the current political scenario in India and putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the PM and the President of the political party he belongs to. He is someone who is well entrenched and seasoned in his profession, has contacts wherever it matters and has a prosperous life, so he may have sounded arrogant to many. But then he explained why he is taking such a stand. A well known journalist and a good friend of his was murdered in cold blood last year and supporters of the ruling party were exploding crackers and distributing sweets to celebrate her killing which neither the PM nor any other party leader condemned. He just couldn’t take it and is letting out the rage that has been seething inside him.

The scourge of any establishment and what scares establishments the most is critical thinking. In one of my previous jobs a long time back, my team leader used to constantly tell the team that the work we were doing could be done by someone with just high school level knowledge. It used to feel like he was underwhelming us but he was right. We were just following set procedures and we were not required to wrack our brains to solve problems. We were not required to invent anything new. Simply put, no critical thinking was required. If we look at it closely, the entire corporate, political and religious spectrum works on the same principle. In the corporate, it’s just do the work as you are told to do, take your salary and go home. In politics, vote for one of those people who have been put before you and that’s it. In religion, read, listen and follow what’s written in religious texts.

If we look at all the greatest inventors in history, relatively very little is known about them other than about their inventions and their work. This is because the way they think is a complete mismatch to how the society works. Their behavior and lifestyle has never been considered as normal as per society standards and they were always treated as outcasts during their lifetimes. This is because critical thinking has always been the biggest enemy to the norms of society. Gautam Buddha had to renounce his kingdom and regal life because he understood that only critical thinking can make this world better. But he had to live his life outside the walls of the society. Jesus Christ tried to be a critical thinker within the society and we all know what his fate became. This is how society has always treated critical thinkers. Either keep them out and limit their sphere of influence and if that doesn’t work, eliminate them.

Religious and political establishments have realized long back that critical thinkers are their mortal enemies. When do people start doing critical thinking? When they are content with their profession, earn enough to live a prosperous life and most importantly have access to information and they fully know and understand what is going on around them and in the world. Deny all of these to people and they will struggle to manage their lives and take care of their families which will give them little time to seek out and understand what is happening in the world. First the concept of wealth was introduced, then financial institutions came along and introduced the concept of money. The Renaissance gave rise to industries and jobs and money got linked to jobs as salaries. Thus began our continuous struggle to eke out a living and seek out the elusive prosperity that always seem to be out of our reach. The establishments are also fearful of education which is why rural people in countries like India continue to have less access to schools and colleges and very little practical know how and true knowledge of the world is included in the education curriculum.

The establishments have also ensured that people who can do critical thinking are subjugated to them thereby effectively neutralizing them. A simple example of this is wealthy and distinguished people of the society flocking the establishments of God men. Once they are all brought together under one umbrella, none would dare to go against the establishment. This is also how we find plenty of well educated people being part of and supporting political parties. All of this would explain why the political establishment in India is riled and up in arms against Arvind Kejriwal and his party. He is well educated, had a prominent government job and has a pedigree in social service. That is why when he launched a political party, the entire system went into shock. When the system tried to take him down, he found a way to win elections and become a Chief Minister. What he talks about and the work he has been doing has been clearly highlighting and differentiating what elected representatives have been doing for the people for so long and what elected representatives should be doing. Solving existing problems in society is another huge setback for the establishments. If there are no problems, what is there for the leaders to highlight and talk about? They have no vision for the society and people, they are only concerned about taking care of the needs of the establishments. This problem exists in the corporate world as well.

In his bid to create new and innovative ways of governance, Arvind Kejriwal has been forced to go against the establishments and that is why all of them have ganged up against him. He has made himself a threat to their survival and existence. Similar is the case with Prakash Raj. These people have risen above all influences of the establishments and cannot be subjugated. They cannot be allowed to flourish within the realm of the society. In a Malayalam movie called Red Wine, there is a character who was a students leader in college and fights against the corporate trying to usurp tribal land. The head of the company says he belongs to the firebrand category who will not sway under any influences and can never be subjugated so he has to be eliminated.

Critical thinkers continue to be the bane of the establishments. LinkedIn has introduced a concept called Influencers. These are mostly leaders from the corporate world. Hundreds and even thousands of people follow them. People have to understand that everyone is capable of having their own views and opinions from their experiences in life and do not necessarily have to follow anyone. Until this enlightenment happens, we will all be under the slavery of the establishments and will continue living the miserable lives we have become accustomed to.

 

 

A shameful murder and disgraceful soul shaming

India is aghast and agitated over the cold blooded murder of noted journalist Gauri Lankesh. I am coming across many theories being put forward as the motives for her murder. That she was staunchly allied towards the left and was extremely critical of right wing ideologies. That she was also in the process of hunting down the nefarious activities of some business houses and was planning to bring their veiled secrets to light. Looks like she was fighting battles on many fronts simultaneously.

It does not seem like she was killed for political vendetta. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were incarcerated as political prisoners when they could have been easily bumped off. Reasons for assassinations run much deeper. When a friend and ex-colleague informed me a few months back that he had got in touch with some people in Bangalore who were working to start a union for IT employees in the state and the state IT minister was actively taking interest in resolving issues of employees who were being fired by IT companies, I immediately grew apprehensive. How was it that no IT union was formed for so many years? How did IT companies manage to come under the Shop and Establishments act under which they could hire and fire people at their will? These IT companies must definitely be funding political parties especially during elections so I told my friend not to have any expectations from the IT minister. He eventually washed his hands off claiming there were only performance based layoffs and he had no control over it. He cannot be blamed though. He is just a pawn in a system that is designed to work in specific ways for specific purposes and entities. Politicians are just the front men who clear all the hurdles for the corporate to set up and expand their business interests. Political equations change and politicians come and go so there are no long term interests in any particular politician big enough to order a hit on noted and well known people, that too a senior journalist on their behalf.

Corporate gets into elimination mode only when there is an imminent threat to their existence and sustenance. Gauri must have got her hands on to something extremely sensitive and damaging and if she did, she may have been warned enough to let it go and stay low. A case in point here is Arvind Kejriwal. He had made quite a few sensational revelations about businessmen in the past but never backed them up with enough proof. Now he has gone on silent mode and is working wholeheartedly on developing and improving Delhi. I do not know if commonsense prevailed on him and he decided to focus on governance or he was warned off to not pursue his expose agenda.

Left leaning ideologies seem to have their roots in their comrades attaining martyrdom to strengthen and further their cause. There is a movie (Red Wine) in my native language (Malayalam) about a social worker who works for the betterment of tribal people and is warned off from interfering in a business proposal to build a resort on forest land which he brushes off with disdain. The business tycoon is shown telling his people that the social worker belongs to the firebrand category of leftist leaders who can never be swayed from his chosen path, even with the threat of death. The only way to move forward is by eliminating him. Looks like Gauri belonged to the same firebrand category and because of her left leaning tendency she was probably never afraid of death as she knew she would be honored and remembered as a martyr by the people and the journalist community. Maybe she should have chosen a wiser path of discretion and bided for the right time, but none of us including her supporters and detractors have lived her life to judge her and make comments. She knew what she was doing, what she was up against and what could possibly come her way. I wish all of us could become a bit more sensitive and would not resort to stooping low and shaming someone even after her death. Those who are claiming to be the protectors of Indian culture are not doing themselves any good or to the country by abusing her unabashedly.

In her death, she has once again proved that there are no weapons more powerful and scary than the pen and an iron will. Amen to her soul.

World, here is the real life version of the Matrix

Something extremely interesting is happening in India at the moment. The political scenario in India is on the boil and a wind of change is slowly starting to flow, not just across the country, but also through the minds of people. But the reason that made me write this blog is something else. The more I think about it, the more I am seeing the story of The Matrix unfolding in India. The most striking similarity is the existence of the system. We know how the system works in the Matrix, but it will take a bit to explain the system in India.

When Indians fought for freedom from colonial rule, we fought for just that. Freedom from our colonial masters. When we eventually got our freedom, what we missed out was to seek and eliminate the reasons for which we had to fight for our freedom. Societal differences based on religion, caste and numerous other reasons prevailed for centuries and Indian Kings were constantly at war with each other. These were the factors which allowed rulers from foreign lands to keep invading India. These societal differences were then written into our constitution with the objective of protecting and uplifting the most downtrodden people of our society. In a way, this was the ultimate seal of approval to continue with a divided society. When the colonial rulers and Kings before that ruled India, ultimate authority was vested with them. Many of the leaders of our freedom struggle were in fact power hungry despots. But since India was created as a sovereign, democratic republic, it was not possible for ultimate authority to be vested with any single individual or a body of people. The people who got their hands on power slowly started misusing it for their own gains or for the gains of someone in their network of people. That is when corruption took its roots in the society.
In a democratic country, the people have the authority to elect the people to govern them through elections. Political leaders in India knew this well, but they also had the loopholes in place. They exploited the differences in our society to polarise vote banks. The divide and rule policy never left India along with the colonial rulers. Our own leaders inherited that legacy. On top of it, these leaders used the power of money and muscle to overcome any resistance from people and enslave them. After a while, the goons who used to work for political leaders themselves started wearing the white garb of political leaders and entering politics. These leaders have made politics as their career because they were never inclined to sweat even a bit, be it for education or occupation. They have no interest or experience in social welfare activities and are nominated by their respective parties and thrust upon the people to vote for. Once they get authority, its easy. Massive funds gets released as part of the budget for social welfare, infrastructure development and numerous other reasons. They loot this money incriminately. Then they milk the people out of their money with inflation, rising taxes and force people to pay bribes for anything they need to get done in government offices. The same people who elect their representatives to govern them have to then pay bribes to their representatives to get the exact same things done for which the people elected them. We pay taxes from our toothbrush to everything we buy, then we pay taxes on our salaries and on our homes. We get no social security or benefits in return from the government. We pay all the taxes, then we have to foot our medical bills and save for the old age. This is the system that was created and has been maintained in India for close to 7 decades now.
Lets do that comparison with the storyline of Matrix now. Enter Anna Hazare a.k.a Morpheus who took to the streets of Delhi in 2011 to oppose corruption scams that were spiralling out of control. With him was Arvind Kejriwal a.k.a Neo, an income tax officer with many years of experience in social welfare. I am sure this comparison is going to draw a lot of jeers but I am vindicated by his rise in the political system of India. As the anti corruption movement was roaring into success, all political parties came together to oppose them. This is when we truly saw for the first time how the system would react when it was threatened. The leaders of the anti corruption movement were challenged to enter the system to clean it up. Anna Hazare opted out and Arvind Kejriwal and the people with him chose to take up the gauntlet. He has been at war with the system led by Modi a.k.a Agent Smith since then. Just like Agent Smith represents the Matrix, Modi is representing the system in India. In spite of all the obstacles and hurdles he had to face, Arvind Kejriwal won the mandate of the people of Delhi, a quasi state whose authority rests partially with its elected state government and partially with the central government. Every move by him to tackle corruption is being resisted and retaliated fiercely by the central government and the war is escalating with each passing day.
Now, how do we clean such a system? Outside of it, Arvind Kejriwal was just an activist with no powers to have any influence on the system. Now that he is inside the system, what is the way forward? People have told me that he needs to work with the system in order to change it. Let me compare this with an example. The caste discrimination in Hindu society was at its zenith when Buddhism was formed, to alleviate the sufferings of people. But Buddhism never sought to change Hindu society, with the result that Buddhism became a new system which coexisted with the system prevalent in Hindu society and is now sometimes referred to as an offshoot of Hinduism. So all that happened was, people got an opportunity to change┬áreligion rather than eliminate what were wrong in Hindu society. Switch to the present time and we cannot have a system that runs on corruption in tandem with a system that is transparent and accountable. Arvind Kejriwal’s political motto is to end corruption, so he has no option but to travel on that road and create a new system that will replace the existing system. Since he is inside the existing system now, the effect is similar to that of a foreign body entering our body and destroying it from within. Our immunity system will fight tooth and nail to stop the disease. This is exactly what is happening inside the system in India now and that is what is visible as see saw battles in Delhi.
What Arvind Kejriwal is doing and trying to do has far greater ramifications than what meets the eye. That is why the system is responding so fiercely because it is desperate. He knows that he cannot rely on any government machinery including the judiciary. So the true objective of his anti corruption crusade is to expose the political leaders before the people of the country. If he is not controlled or checked, it’s abundantly clear who the people will vote for in the coming elections and the system knows it will get destroyed. A far greater threat is looming before the system. Until now, there was no umbrella under which people could unite to take on the system. Arvind Kejriwal has taken on the system, entered it with a political party and has also got the mandate of the people from one state. People from all other states are getting increasingly drawn towards his party and his fight against the system. His people centric approach devoid of any religion or caste based differences is the cause for more alarm bells to ring within the system.
My comparison of Arvind Kejriwal with Neo does not mean he is the One to rescue Indian society. Just like Neo, he has his own fallibilities because he was and is still a part of the system. The people with him were also part of the system before they joined him so it is still not apparent who can be completely trusted and who cannot be. He has had his own share of Cyphers along with him in the forms of Vinod Kumar Binny, Shazia Ilmi, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, people who had their own agenda and were willing to be influenced by the system. It remains to be seen if he can eliminate the system, but he has proved that a system considered to be invincible till now can be cracked. The implicit message he has been trying to pass on to the people is that this is the people’s war against the system and he is just an enabler. The first Neo has risen for sure and time will tell how many Neos will have to be unplugged from the system to fight the war until the system is completely annihilated. World, keep an eye out on India. What is happening here and where all of this goes can change the world in itself. We never know.

The rise and rise of Arvind Kejriwal

He was derided, ridiculed, dared, taunted, written off and threatened on his life. Remarkably, he has shrugged it all off like dust from his attire and has risen, like the Phoenix from the obscurity of it’s own ashes. Today, Arvind Kejriwal stands taller than most of the political figures the country has seen, but he is showing the commonsense to attribute the credit of his elevation to the people who have voted for him. The shadow of being a populist leader, of someone rallying people around him may never leave him, but ironically, it is this shadow that has captured the imagination of people and catapulted him to unprecendented glory.

The last one year has been a roller coaster ride for him. From riding an unexpected crest of success to hitting the bottom of a trough and rising stunningly to the peak again, he has seen and done it all. He has stretched the patience and imagination of even his staunchest supporters, but his middle class upbringing and family values, his untarnished character and his one-among-the-common-man image made sure that some people still showed patience in him, embraced him when he went back to them and accepted his mistakes and understood that he has the integrity to work for them.

The role of the opposition parties, especially the BJP has been immense in his elevation. From calling him a Pakistani agent to a naxalite who should live in forest and that too coming from the Prime Minister of the country, they mounted a no-holds barred barrage of abuse and venomous spite at him. But gone was that impatient man who wanted to run matters at his own pace. When dared to enter politics to clean the system, he had jumped in with all his zeal. The experiences of dealing with the highly treacherous political system and a few tough blows seem to have made him wiser and mellowed him down. He decided to take all the jabs, punches and kicks that were raining on him and little did BJP realize that by swaying away without responding, he was creating the impression of a harassed and anguished common man which stuck a vital chord with the masses. Trying to vilify him further with fake claim of money laundering in the name of election funds and his timely response to it with definite proof only seems to have endeared him even more to the people.

The tsunami of Arvind’s victory has left a trail of wreckage in it’s way. There are no heads to roll, the only ones responsible for this debacle are Modi and Amit Shah, no matter how hard the BJP tries to deflect the blame from them. Implicitly, Arvind’s rise poses serious problems for traditional political parties that have thrived on divisive caste and community based vote bank politics. People who believe Arvind is boxed in Delhi are completely misreading the situation. If he starts fulfilling his poll promises and I am sure he will, not just the people of Delhi, but people all over India will start seeing him as the messiah of the common man and approach him for his support in the fight for their rights. This is enough for AAP seedlings to sprout in different states. This poses a very real threat to all parties leading to the next Lok Sabha elections in 4 years. In a way, he has shown Modi the way ahead. By going time and again to the people, he has proved that in a democracy, true power is in the hands of the people and the people can make or break a political life in a single day. People want to know their leader well, they want to touch him and know him just like a common man. Unlike Modi who keeps a safe distance away from people, even in his own state, Arvind wades into crowd, even at the risk of threat to his life. He says the shadow of his death is always with him and the people are his best protectors. I am sure this is a very vital and poignant reason why people accept him so easily.

What I like about Arvind now is, he has started enjoying his stint in politics. He loves being called the mufflerman, a word coined by the BJP to poke fun at him but has since become his trademark symbol, he laughs a lot more, appears relaxed in tough interviews and has even appeared in a spoof video which makes fun of him. A man who can laugh at himself becomes a juggernaut that cannot be stopped and which today’s election results will amply support. What has drawn me to him completely is his ultimate objective in politics. He is looking forward to the day when all of his efforts will result in political and governmental reforms to such an extent that it will make AAP irrelevant. I fell head over heels with that perception. He wishes to live and die like an ordinary man. This shows how grounded the man is and after all the trials and tribulations of close to 70 years, looks like a simple, common man and his rag tag army of educated people is the ideal choice to lead the most diverse country in the world.

Why India needs to look beyond her current political system

This is the year of general elections in India. It is the biggest electoral process in a democratic country and the largest democratic country in terms of population will be casting their votes and choosing their representatives. Every five years, the world stops to watch this amazing spectacle. But the reality on the ground is far from being spectacular. India is plagued by vote bank politics because of which votes are fractured based on religion, caste, community, urban and rural divides. People are baited to vote for candidates by luring with money, alcohol and other “gifts” or are bullied into voting. Before that, people are paid money and then herded like cattle into vehicles and transported to election rallies to hear the leaders speak. This election has taken on new dimensions and is generating incredible interest and heated debates among people because of several reasons. An analysis of the major political parties will show why.

Congress, the ruling party for the past ten years has been in steady decline partly because of the turmoil in the world markets. But their bane has been corruption. The first five years of their government was considered to be good which is why they were voted back into power. But those five years were littered with scams in several industrial sectors which emerged out of the shadows during their second term of government. It is still a mystery why Congress needs to be under the umbrella of the “Gandhi” tag to stay relevant. They have strong and well educated political leaders in their ranks, but their party leadership under Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is weak and has lost touch with the ground reality of the country. Rahul, who is leading the party into the elections is inexperienced, has been disinterested in assuming leadership of the party, shows no inclination to speak on national issues and is showing complete immaturity when handling situations and when speaking to people.

BJP, the principal opposition party in India for the past ten years has largely been in political hibernation. They seems to have forgotten the rule of thumb of democracy. When a party is not elected to power, it means they had their shortcomings in understanding the needs of the people and the country and by sitting in the opposition, they have been given a chance to learn and prepare themselves for the next elections. When all the scams were going on, they chose to be silent partners with the Congress and only made noises inside the Parliament. They forgot that they were also responsible for going to the people and spreading awareness of the government’s misdeeds. A year from the elections, they suddenly found themselves faceless because of serious infighting among their own leader. So, one fine day, they decided to project Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat as their leader. Then, funded by the business class who has plenty of their own interests in Modi coming to power, the BJP launched a massive media campaign to falsely project Modi as the messiah of development in Gujarat into the psyche of common people. Modi, a largely uneducated man, rose from the lower strata of society by working his way up through the ranks of the party and with the help of a Godfather turned foe. He wears designer clothes when addressing people below poverty line in large rallies and travels by helicopters provided to him by the business class which clearly shows his proximity to them. He maintains an army of people, to provide governance in Gujarat and even to write his speeches. Never comfortable talking to people other than addressing them in rallies, he avoids interviews with the media like a curse and has never shown his leadership qualities and inclination in standing up for national issues.

AAP, the new kid on the block born out of democratic turbulence. When scams and corruption reached their peak, a respected social activist by the name of Anna Hazare kicked off a mass civil movement by going on hunger strike to protest against the decay of the country. The educated urban community started pitching into the movement and from that cauldron rose a leader called Arvind Kejriwal. Not only did any political leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Modi show any inclination in taking a stand against corruption, they joined the chorus of the political system in ridiculing and deriding Kejriwal and taunted him to enter the political world and prove his worth. Thus was born AAP, a party made by the people for the people. Starting with a stunning debut in Delhi state elections after which they were coerced into forming an unholy coalition with the Congress, they were forced to quit after Congress joined hands with BJP in thwarting them from implementing key proposals in their election manifesto.

The political system has been fooling the common people of the country for the past 67 years. Nothing really changed after India’s independence, the country moved from colonial rule to the rule of the indigenous political class. The people are still treated as slaves. The only time people have power in their hands is when they vote and after that, for the next five years, they are largely left to fend for themselves. These political leaders, who are supposed to represent the people, rise up through the ranks of the political parties, not with the credibility of working for the people and the country. Every election manifesto of parties highlight growth, development and good governance. These are the basic reasons why we elect our representatives by exercising our votes. No parties are able to even fulfill their manifestos and they have nothing more to offer. Neither the political parties nor the people know what true democracy is.

Congress party has lost it’s face before the country and do not even have the credentials to stand in the elections. The Modi propaganda team has created the so called Modi wave and people across the country have been made to believe in it. Smaller regional parties and politicians tainted with corruption and crime are making a beeline to join BJP in the hope of gaining power. AAP, the only party that has pledged clean politics is plagued by people joining with an eye on contesting elections and it is becoming a bane for Kejriwal and his men to manage the burgeoning party. In his crusade against corruption, he seems to have missed the point that the political class will never allow him to have a level playing field. He will be ultimately pushed into playing vote bank politics after all. That is why the business class is in silence when he accuses them in public for being in connivance with the political class and creating large scale corruption. AAP is yet to formulate it’s views on many of the key issues of the country. Their only agenda till now has been tackling corruption, which I believe is right to a large extent because corruption has almost stalled growth in the country. But they have to do a lot more to be a national party with very less time, under the enormous weight of expectations and a burgeoning population which is increasingly getting disgruntled with them by surpisingly showing no patience towards them while they chose to stay mum through the tainted ten previous years.

The country needs strong leadership and someone educated, intelligent and wise of the world at the helm. The current vote bank politics, which has become an epidemic, must be eradicated. Election manifestos should cater to only four classes of people, the farming class, the business class, the working class and the class of people below poverty line. Development projects targetting these four classes will automatically result in the development of the nation. All government projects are now initiated only with the objective of reaching into the coffers of taxpayer’s money and there is no intent to do good for the country. A simple financial analysis will show how feasible any of those projects are provided true numbers are available but government numbers and calculations will largely be manipulated. This system has to be purged. The country desperately needs innovative strategies to get out of the hole it is presently in and none of the parties or their leaders seem to be capable enough to do that. Even though Modi is touted to assume power, his task of repairing the country is momentous which he doesn’t look to be capable of and he does not have a magic wand to wave off all the country’s woes. The way up looks to be slow, long and excruciating. This is why the country has to look beyond the short term and the existing political system for a better future.

The burning Indian political cauldron

My dad can’t stop gushing these days that politics in India has suddenly become interesting. He has good reasons for it too. What has been traditionally a two party battle with smaller parties eating the fringes of the vote pie has suddenly turned topsy turvy. One man, along with his band of a few good people have taken up the challenge to blow the wind of change across the land. What was branded as a motley crew is rapidly turning into millions and arrogance among the political class disintegrating into disbelief.

India, in all her glorious diversity, was a land ruled in parts by many and divided over every possible petty issues. In a way, colonial rule made us understand the importance of central governance and that was how we were able to form a central government after independence. It is fascinating to see how the pattern of freedom struggles in different countries from colonial rule looks so strikingly similar. People join hands in their blinded devotion for independence from foreign rule, but amazingly, it changes nothing about their mindset and the differences they have among themselves. Freedom fighters they were all, martyrs for the cause but ignorant about discussion, negotiation and governance. From this melee was born our own indigenous political class, to whom was passed on the baton of power and who have successfully maintained the legacy of colonial rule and added diabolically innovative dimensions to it.

These political leaders wanted and allowed the nation to be divided, so they could get their hands on power without stomping on each other’s foot. When children in schools are taught about this glorious freedom struggle and are told to idolize it’s leaders, they grow up without knowing that it was these same leaders who kept the country’s armed forces from procuring arms for the fear of military coup and it was the same leaders who tickled a neighbouring country into invading the land and then sent the unarmed forces to be butchered. More indignity was to follow, right from the time of independence when people were divided on the basis of their caste with the intention of polarizing vote bank and culminating in government declaring emergency to assume unlimited powers to stave off opposition to good governance and oppress it’s own people.

Opening up Indian markets to the world drove the final nail in the coffin. Corruption, that was in vogue became rampant as businesses started flourishing and money started flowing. New dimensions were added to polarising people, such as upper class, middle class and below poverty line. Corruption bred on the great Indian money rush, a diabolically sinister version of the great gold rush. In the unholy marriage, bureaucrats play the central role and politicians sign away documents favoring businesses and go home to keep staring at their burgeoning international bank accounts.

In these times of darkness and void, when people were forced upon the indignity of choosing between the less of the corrupt to represent them in government and then helplessly watch as their lives were slowly taken apart, a few people, people who paid their taxes and silently lived out suppressed lives stood up against the decayed system. They were outraged, humiliated and when none of it worked were challenged to enter politics and then practise what they preach. The political class made just one cardinal mistake. They challenged the free thinking, educated and enlightened people, catapulting the nation into a free wheeling battle of wits between the political class and the common man.

The supposed next generation leader of the grand old party of Indian politics accepts responsibility for the latest poll debacle, admits that much has to be learnt from the common man’s party and finds himself relegated to the political sidelines. The main opposition party, who were secretly in cahoots with the people in power and was on the cusp of a resounding election win on the anti incumbancy of people finds itself challenged by the same bunch of people who had requested for their help for better governance in the country. Their projected leader, a strong candidate not withstanding, albeit weakened by power hungry people in his own party has been handed a double edged sword. If he is wise enough, he would know by now that if his eulogized enigma doesn’t take his party to power, he will be banished to perpetual political oblivion by his own people.

Amidst all of this clamour, one man, an educated unassuming common man who stood up to the challenge when he was thrown the gauntlet to get dirty to clean dirt is rapidly becoming the beacon of hope of a nation desperate for change. He was derided by the political parties for the promises he made to people, but when he became the chief minister of the capital state and started putting his promises to action, political parties still keep deriding him and questioning his credentials while shamelessly trying to ape his ways of governance. It will not matter to him if he ultimately finds himself as the leader of the country or other parties finally adopt the ways of good governance and makes him and his party irrelevant. The objective will always be the greater good of the country and the people. World, behold as the greatest democracy prepares to extricate itself from the mire of the past and transcend into a new beginning.