Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DeMOCKERYcies - The burning truth: Coal Scam

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This blog post is written by VIT University student NikhilChandwani, who is also a novelist and a poet. His first novel “I wrote your name in the sky….And Yours….And Yours too” was recently published.
THE BIGGEST ENEMY OF DEMOCRACY IS IGNORANCE: JULIAN ASSANGE
India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) released a contentious report last week, detailing its earlier claim that presiding officials including the prime minister cost the country billions of dollars by allotting coal mining blocks by fiat rather than auctioning them to the highest bidder.
-National Newspapers
 The distribution process was buried. Distributions were made on the root of recommendations by Screening Committees, in the lack of any evidence. Transparency was absent; it was illogical and gave enough space for secret corruption. It was contested within the coal domain. A digestible public sale policy was suggested.
Till 1993, there were no specific criteria for allocation of coal blocks. The process of bringing in transparency and objectivity in the allocation process of coal blocks, which commenced from 28 June 2004, got delayed at various stages and the same is yet to materialize (February 2012) even after a lapse of seven years.
142 blocks were allotted to government-owned and private companies since 2004, and 86 of them should have been producing ore by March 31, 2011. Only 28 of them were actually operating, at least in part because of local opposition and difficulty obtaining environmental clearances.
The financial impact of the benefit to the private allotters has been estimated at Rs 1.85,591.34 Crores as on financial New year (31st March 2011). The Government could have tapped a part of this financial benefit by expediting decision on competitive bidding for allocation of coal blocks.
All the giant companies are named in the CAG report: Reliance, Essar, Tata, are amongst the companies listed in the report. These are the same companies lobbying with Dr. Manmohan Singh to set away vacant environmental processes and legislation to help them carry out the mining in cheapest way possible.
These companies have, in addition to displaying gross discount for environmental concerns, been violating the rights of people – both forest dwellers and those dependents on the forests for their livelihoods. The Forests Rights Act, which ensures that the rights of individuals and communities on forests are recognized, has been poorly implemented, on rarest of occasions that it has been implemented at all. Every dirty trick in the book has been used to persuade, discourage, threaten, depress and bully communities to give up their land for coal mining.
All of this establishes that the government's promise to ensure private profit is supreme; even the government's own acknowledged purpose of increasing coal based power creation was not achieved. To explain its failure in this, it has been misdirecting awareness to delayed clearances in an intensive manner. But the burning truth is out.
The truth is hurting my intelligence.
It looks like a logical case of KISSING PRIVATE ASS for money and power! Or as they say in Congress, "ITALIAN KISS" and I say that with all due disrespect to you, INDIAN GOVERNMENT!
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Coal-Gate Scandal –Why CAG’s numbers are Wrong


(First Published by Roy Skaria in Cougar-Rides.com)
The CAG under Vinod Rai, seems to have made a habit of leaking to the media sensational figures just before a Parliament session. And there are people who may believe the fantastic figures being quoted, from 10 lakh crores (since corrected by Vinod Rai to a "lower" figure of 186000 crores). How many question these figures?
Here is the method Vinod Rai specifies that he used to arrive at that figure: extrapolate the best yield achieved by one coal-block IF SOLD COMMERCIALLY, multiply that best annual yield by 30 years(expected viable lifespan of a block), and then multiply THAT figure by the 70 blocks that the UPA government awarded between 2004 and 2006!!
So here is the basic assumption used in Vinod Rai's calculations: if the Governmentt had mined the coal on its own instead of "giving" it out, and the yield had been 100% of the max yield achieved in one good mine in one year, then across 30 years, the loss caused is 186000 crores! Impeccable logic indeed! So using the esteemed CAG's own logic(and using his own language), Sachin Tendulkar scored 100 runs in a SHOCKING 147 balls,
which means Sachin has caused a loss of 782 runs since run potential was 147*6=882 runs! Impeccable logic indeed! :)
Never mind that ACTUAL yield in 5 years has been less than one-fifth of the average used by Vinod Rai. Also ignored is the fact that these 70 blocks were awarded not for commercial sale but for captive use by power plants. i.e. Coal mined from these coal blocks could not be sold in open market but for use in power plants. Also ignored by Vinod Rai is the fact that mining has not even started in 90% of these blocks because
environmental and financial clearance has not been given for these blocks!
 And yet, despite all this, the CAG comes out with a fantastic figure of 10 lakh crores, then revises it downwards to 186000 crores! :) And the principal opposition party calls it loot/stealing/corruption and what not, and brings parliamentary business to a halt for one whole week!
This would not be the first time that Vinod Rai has shown these brilliant accounting skills and logic! The Delhi airport "scam" is another instance. In this case, the highest per acre rate for land in Gurgaon at the peak of the real estate boom was used as a base rate, which was then extrapolated across the 4800 odd acres given to the GMR led consortium for developing Delhi airport. To this figure was added the "what-if" figure
of the revenue "lost" because the airport was being operated by a private party rather than the state owned Airports Authority of India (AAI). Total loss quoted by this brilliant accounting: 163000 crores!
Again impeccable logic?
The principal opposition party, the BJP, torn apart by dissension from within, has clung to these CAG figures to build a case against the government. Having the propaganda network in the form of the RSS, with some stunning use of the social media like Facebook, certainly helped get their message across. The RSS and other right wing organisations know very well how to use the fickle social media for propaganda: where people share articles and photos without thinking. Repeating a lie 10 times till it is accepted as the truth has been a strategy perfected by the RSS and this has been the case here as well.
The 24/7 media starved of content also sees figures like these as a heaven sent opportunity: what would Justice Arnab of Times Now do if his friends in the CAG did not leak these reports to run as "Breaking News"? What would he debate on every night?
Its time for us, the average Chimpoo on the street to apply our minds and not jump to conclusions.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Parents, India, Olympics, Medal

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In London Olympics as expected performance of India was really poor. During major sports events like Olympics and Asiad – seeing the pathetic performance of Indian team, so-called feeling of patriotism of lots of Indians rise like anything and start making all hue and cry – some blame politicians heading the sports body, some blame the infrastructure, some blame the commitment of players and so on. All those who find reason for bad performance of Indian team never realize that they themselves are the problem.
Let me explain this with an example. This is about one of my friend – he has a kid that studies in 6th standard. After school she come back home by 4:00 PM. She is allowed to watch TV till 5:00 PM and after that till she goes to bed she is supposed to study. You talk to her father for 10 minutes and all he has time is to talk about how good his daughter is in her studies; good and bad stuff about her present school and the neighboring schools; why he is planning to shift his daughter to a new school 20 kms away from their home just because more students studying there are getting admission to medical school. I feel pity for that girl - only purpose of her school life is to get good grades so that her parents can boost about it.
One day after Olympics started, I met him and he invited me to his house. As usual his daughter was studying in another room and he switched on the TV. Olympics was going one and he started criticizing Indian performance in Olympics. He has so many reasons why India was performing badly. I patiently listened to everything he told and then told him – “I won’t blame anyone like you just did. I will only blame parents like you and me. In the mad rush to get a seat in a professional college we just don’t allow our kids to develop any other skills other than skill of memorizing stuff and vomiting the same in the exams.” I knew from his reaction that he was annoyed hearing that – at least he stopped complaining.
Countries like US and China keeps on wining medals one after another. I have lived in US and seen for myself efforts each parent takes to develop various skills in their kids. If you are above four and going to school, then Saturdays are for either football or soccer or baseball or reading books in library. The parents invariably go with the kids to encourage them while performing. There are interschool competitions right from the first grade.
See the video below. How many such videos we will get to see – shot in Indian schools?
Now if schools in India come up with such ideas majority of parents will change the school of their kids and put them in schools that only concentrate on academics.
As long as our attitude towards teaching kids do not change, never even dream of getting a handful of medals in Olympics or any other world event.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Resume Writing - Presentation

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The presentation Deepa and I did for the students about Resume Writing.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

"I wrote your name in the sky And Yours And Yours too" - Poetry on Teenage Emotions

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I rarely read fiction. I grabbed a copy of “I wrote your name in the sky And Yours And Yours too” just because the author, Nikhil Chandwani is a second year engineering student of my University and the book was released none other than the Chancellor of VIT University Dr G. Viswanathan.
Once I read it I understood – it is neither a novel nor fiction; it is a diary of a teenager I see daily in my University. It took me close to 90 minutes to read this book and in each page I could see the face of so many present generation students – their pain, their sorrow, their revenge and their happiness – all their emotions in those 100 pages of this novel.
This is a must read book for parents and teachers as it clearly illustrates how the mind of a Generation Y works; the way they view love, lust, romance, rejection and sex. The book is so fast paced and I am sure you won’t be disappointed reading this one.

 If you are a teenager or just graduated from college, you can identify very closely with all the characters of this book. I am sure you may be reading your story, your room mate’s story or your class mate’s story or story of your best friend.
The cover design has a troll guy on it and that can easily identify with the Facebook generation. This book by Nikhil is full of life and highly recommended to understand the present generation teenagers.
This is a book for the “Gen Y” by the “Gen Y” of the “Gen Y”.
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Friday, August 03, 2012

Democracy Delivers It!


This blog post is written by a fellow blogger Rachit Seth who blogs at “Everything for India”. I am cross posting his latest blog post - an excellent analysis of “Team Anna” and their drama.
It has been an extraordinary intellectual journey as a student of politics. The charade has ended. Indian Democracy emerges victorious. Yet Again.
Winston Churchill has been quoted in countless history books lampooning Indians (on the eve of their Independence) saying "Power will go to the hands of, rogues and freebooters. All Indian leaders will be of low caliber and men of straw. They will have sweet tongues and silly hearts. They will fight amongst themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles."
In Modern India of 2012, This is far from true. I have no doubt whatsoever that there have been shortcomings. Some Big, Some Small. There has been rampant Corruption, Communalism and Casteism
(The Big C's ) in our socio-politico-economic existence. But when one sees the larger canvas, there is undoubtedly a feeling of sheer pride. A small sense of achievement in the eyes of every Indian.
Democracy is Collective Co-existence with Diverse views. India is perhaps, one of the most diverse nations in the world. It is said in India - Culture, Religion, Ethnicity, Language, Creed - All changes every 10 villages. Imagine a country having 6.5 lakh villages. This is humongous diversity.
Indeed. At the heart of all democratic theories is the concept of popular power. It refers to a situation where power and authority ultimately rests with the people. A democratic government is contrasted with an authoritarian one, on the basis of consensus created by the people to take decisions. In an authoritarian regimes the 'will of the people' is not concerned. Periodic Elections are not held, with un-elected elites controlling the reigns of power. In India, its just the opposite. Elections are frequent - on each level of governance. India conducts on an average at least 15 state elections per year, elections of urban local bodies are held in different cities throughout all seasons, elections are held at grass root level - Gram Sabha- panchayats to imbibe direct democracy. In fact, elections are so frequent, that it has prompted many critics of "India's low growth" to say that there is too much "Democracy" in India. Sometimes, People of India, do suffer from Election Fatigue. More so when democracy impedes growth. (That is however a deeper question to reflect on, and a separate discussion is required on it)
No, wonder The world calls India - The Largest Democracy on Planet Earth.
Constitution and its ethoes, in India are credited to social reformers like Raja Ramohan Roy - One of the First Indians to speak his mind on socio-political issues concerning India. Later when the British Rule ended- Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajgopalachari, B R Ambedkar, K M Munshi, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad and others gave a structure to the idea of India. Nehru, undoubtedly as the First Prime Minister of India is credited for the strong foundations of India's constitutional and institutional traditions. B R Ambedkar gave us the largest ever 'written' constitution in the world - which had all the basic ingredients of Equality, Liberty, Justice, Secularism essential for a Liberal-Socialist Regime. Later Ram Manohar Lohia, who had significantly different views than Nehru's model of centralized welfare democratic socialist state also had an indelible impact on contemporary Indian politics. Lohia's views assume importance because there is a renewed focus on decentralization as a way back to tackle bureaucratization and centralization of power.
The wheels of power started turning. Institutions were established. Institutions took time to deliver too, but nevertheless delivered, some still delivering, some trying to deliver, some did not deliver and so on.  Civil Society and Pressure Groups played their role from time to time. From Jyotirao Phule to Vinoba Bhave, From Baba Amte to the great E. V. Ramasamy 'Periyar', From Jayaprakash Narayanan to Swami Vivekananda.
The one social reformer which India will perhaps never forget was of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was truly original.
The introduction to this passage talks about the 3C's that confront India. Corruption being the most relevant today, since we have started witnessing an Anti-Corruption Movement- A First of its kind. Sections of educated Indians were on streets when last year in August - Anti-Corruption crusader Anna Hazare was taken into preventive custody. The story that followed is well known. More known via the media- the 24x7 news channels that flashed every detail of it. Newspapers reported it in kilometers Suddenly a sense of detest crept in.
Every institution was mocked and criticized by a bunch of 6 people branded as - 'Team Anna'. There was some genuine anger against the disproportionately big scams by the Govt of the day. Some Allegations, Some Real ones. Also vested interests in the opposition- started actively supported the movement. Initially, some opportunistic politicians wanted to share stage with this "Gandhian" crusaders, but were shunned.
Some members of the team, never failed to entertain us too with their Anti Politician angst. Some called MP's as looters, rapists, thieves. Media was vehemently covering and showing every little act of this team. Their sound bytes got in the TRP's. Suddenly a Nation had awaken to this new magic wand called "Jan Lokpal" which was touted as the cure of all its problems of corruption and loot of taxpayers money.
Rest story, if repeated- would make this passage too long to read. To cut the long story short.
Lokpal passed by the Lok Sabha, got stalled in the Rajya Sabha ( the one adopted by the sense of the house resolution and recommended the Parliamentary Standing Committee)  Presently it is with the Select Committee of the Parliament. Every person, who was unhappy with any politician or institution was painting the entire political class in one single brush - CORRUPT !
He says "Fast, as an instrument, must come from the depth of one's soul. It is, therefore, always rare. A Satyagrahi should fast only as a last resort when all other avenues of redress have been explored and have failed. There is no room for imitation in fasts"
Anna Hazare fasted for several times during the past one year, and have been covered by the main stream media as the "Modern Gandhi".
As a student of political science, I watched every action of Team Anna and their supporters. I realized that in all this noise- some essential points were being forgotten. Particularly the Lokpal Bill. Most sections of the media had failed in their prime responsibility of educating the people about the bill. When Parliament started debating the provisions of the "Lokpal", media slowly followed, but got people confused. There were deals within deals- between Govt, between Opposition and of course with Anna on key provisions. Some climb downs, Several changes. This to my mind still portrayed that Democracy prevailed.
To my part as an upright citizen, I created a website -www.whatislokpal.in to create awareness in whatever small way- I could contribute to the cause. As a citizen of this Nation- I too wanted a Lokpal for this country, Not supporting the Anna version - But clearly a practical version. I created presentations listing comparisons between various versions of the Bill - Team Anna's Bill vs Aruna Roy (NCPRI) vs Lok Satta (JP) version vs the Govt's Lokpal Bill
In the summer of 2011, Team Anna started their direct indulgence with electoral politics, in the Hisar Bye-Elections. Hisar is a dusty town in North India. It was founded by  Firozshah Tughlaq of the Delhi Sultanate. Now Hisar became the rallying point of Anti-Ruling-Party forces, supposedly used by Team Anna to flex their electoral muscles. They pleaded to the people to defeat the ruling party, had letters signed by the president of the opposition party, in favour of the Lokpal. The opportunistic opposition gladly obliged, giving a written assurance that if their candidate won- they would support Lokpal. The Opposition alliance candidate won. The drama played on.
Reality was different, Team Anna got bitten by one of the "C"'s of Indian Politics. "C" - For Casteism. Hisar voted for the pedigree. Kuldeep Bishnoi retained his fathers seat - Bhajan Lal - One of the most prominent Non-Jat leaders of that area.
Subsequently, when the Lokpal went to the standing committee. Another "C" of Indian Politics, gradually and incrementally started biting Team Anna. That Team Anna- for whom every Indian Politician- was corrupt. Got bitten by "C" for - you guessed it right ! Kiran Bedi was allegedly found inflating travel checks. Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan in a bribe CD and for evading stamp duty. Arvind Kejriwal for not maintaining the accounts of IAC, and for not returning his IT dues. Anna Hazare- Himself -indicted in the Sawant Commission report, and on several statements - like "I support Flogging for Drinking", "Sirf Ek Maara" ( when  someone slapped Sharad Pawar ) etc.  In Aside, I should also mention their partner in crime - Baba Ramdev whose story I have explicitly mentioned in my previous blogs)
Systems and Institutions were clearly catching up. Team Anna kept on using fasts and anshans as an instrument to keep up the pressure. Pressure for what? Pressure for getting - Their and Only THEIR Version of the Lokpal Bill passed. Democracy too was catching up. Politics clearly is and was the centre of this entire movement. They invited some politicians across the opposition ( no-ruling party member was reportedly invited ) to share stage with them.
All this was a clear demonstration that Team Anna was highly political in its purpose. And It had lost all its rights to act as Pressure Group of Civil Society. It also lost the right to abuse the system and the politicians, because slowly and surely Democracy and Constitutional Institutions were catching up with them.
There cannot be 5 people dictating a duly elected government- pressing for their own law. Using fasts to blackmail it. Interesting to note that, in all these fasts- Young members of Team Anna never fasted- They only made 73 year old Anna Hazare to fast ! (sic)
In the monsoon of 2012, Team Anna has politicized its agenda. Now it wants a SIT (Special Investigation Team) to probe charges of "corruption" against 15 sitting ministers, including the Prime Minister and the President of India. That too with 3 eminent jurists of their choice. This decision by them, didn't surprise me, but  has surprised his supporters. The movement which they had supported so zealously by buying all these "I Am Anna" Gandhi caps had let them down. Team Anna launched a fast yet again, this time an "Indefinite One" for their demands. Lokpal, for the time was kept aside.
Flashback - Mahatma Gandhi. He said - " Fasting cannot be undertaken mechanically. It is a powerful thing but a dangerous thing, if handled amateurishly. It requires complete self-purification, much more than what is required in facing death with retaliation even in mind. Ridiculous fasts spread like plague and are harmful"
Young members like Arvind Kejriwal fasted. No sizable crowds came at Jantar Mantar, this time. Ramdev was roped in for a day ( a cameo with his supporters indeed- he did get some supporters)  Supporters started misbehaving with the media, alleging that this time they were not given due coverage. Team Anna supporters and actor - Anupam Kher told Karan Thapar- "Media should consider Anna as their friend, since both benefit from it" This meant that Team Anna and the Media had a symbiotic relationship last year, which they could not enjoy this year. So the Media Charade got exposed.
Anna Hazare also plunged in. Desperate, Disgruntled and Directionless the movement had become. Supporters pelted stones at Prime Minister’s residence. Maligned its walls with the word"Chor", demonstrated at other residences too.
Meanwhile, Another "C"- Communalism came to bit Team Anna. Albeit, in a different kind of a way. On the day - Baba Ramdev (Now a collaborator of Team Anna- a marriage of convenience) shared stage with the mascot of Communal Violence- Narendra Modi in Ahemdabad, Team Anna retaliated against him. Abused Modi and said that they would never support him. This was the last "C" in their "C" -Coffin !
When a Fast unto Death is withdrawn without either objective being achived it becomes a Farce. Now Team Anna has promised to break their fast tomorrow ( 3rd Aug 2012) at 5:00PM and Anna has announced that they are now open to the idea of forming a political party.
I whole heartedly welcome this decision.
They were in Politics from Day-1, But were calling themselves Apolitical and "Civil Society" crusaders. All the fundamental "C"'s of Indian Politics bit them. The phrase "Team Anna" crafted by the media should be extinguished by it too, so that a New "Anna Political Party" could come up. An Alternate which people of Hisar also aspired for. Despite being an active participant in that political campaign, they failed to provide that alternative. This proved the adage "Those who live by the media, die by the media", True.
Indian Democracy triumphed. Now it will have another political party with some strong ideas to benefit from. If Indian Democracy can bring dreaded insurgents and their leaders in states like Assam and Mizoram to join mainstream politics- Anna Hazare was pretty easy. Indeed
Several Questions Still Remain Unanswered.
Fast unto Death was a political ploy to garner publicity for their action? Did they abuse the pure and Gandhian ritual of fasting for their political purposes?  Why did they fast if they knew that a duly elected Government would never investigate its own PM and President?
Some even deeper questions.
Will the 3 "C"s that bit Team Anna - Corruption, Communalism and Casteism be ever defeated. The answer is yes.
If calibrated reforms - Social, Political, Economic are carried out- that is possible. But When and How? 
Let Democracy Be The Judge!
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