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Thursday, April 3, 2014

LokSabha Elections 2014

Leadership and ideas can change the working of institutions and affect policies in long term. Atal Bihari Bajpai is a name whose transformative leadership changed landscape of Indian politics. Mild nature of his personality led to partial reconciliation and negotiations of different ideology leading to the formation of NDA. Nehru's Unity in Diversity was the old idea that shaped India. Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi is creating big change in the thinking of new generation.

Eric Hoffer once stated that Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. That is the life cycle each political party. Indian politics scenario is always revamped in the period of nearly 20 years. Be it 1970's J P Narayan or 1989 Mandal commission has brought of youth into the politics. In 1977 elections, which ended the emergency and ousted congress from national power for the first time, three quarters of the electorate were either born or reached voting age after 1947. Indian Youths with age of 18-31will decide the fate of election if we look into census data. Most of the political parties lack leaders in their late thirties from whom one can expect disruptive thinking.

We are seeing decline of social engineering of caste and religion, twenty first century voting pattern gave the word Development a new importance. While Congress was giving illusion to voters with secular and inclusive image, BJP was projecting itself as development oriented and nationalist part. Regional parties were still caught in their own trap of caste based politics. India against corruption is the new talk of the town. Recent research by Toke Aidt, Miriam Golden and Devesh Tiwari (“Incumbents and Criminals in the Indian National Legislature”) shows there are other very problematic aspects of the Indian democratic system: a quarter of the members of the Lok Sabha, the Indian legislature, have faced criminal charges. Corruption, Transparency in election funding and Decriminalization of politics are big three pointers projected by AAP. AAP  has transformed a social movement to political party. With the absence of a thriving leftist scene, AAP is gradually filling the political vacuum. Despite of their all backing of Jan-Lokpal Bill, we all know that no law is strong enough to fight corrupt minds and methods. But they have given direction to the agenda of future elections.

Poverty, Secularism and Economic Growth

Public dissatisfaction continues to grow due to unprecedented rise in corruption under UPA-2. Deja vu is never so good the third time around. Congress always plans to buy loyalty of voters with an unprecedented expansion of what is an already generous welfare state. The "Congress is bad" defence does not exonerate the BJP; being equally bad is not good enough for our times. BJP has its own problem as it is not able to create a new cadre of leaders at national level. In the chaos like environment created by indecisive policies of UPA, there is fair chance of rise of Narendra Modi.

Each party irks at the mere mention of secularism because they really confuse its meaning with minority appeasement. If young people think that they can assess someone's viewpoint from social media branding, they're being naive. But a large number of Hindus to continue to believe in the developmental yet non communal image of BJP.  Muslims and Christians still vote for congress despite of poor track record in the safety of minorities. 1992, 2002 and 2013 riots affected Muslims but they are crimes on par with the 1984 genocide of the Sikhs. 1989 exodus and near genocide of Kashmiri Pandits must be described in the same line. There can't be double standards in a secular governance as shown by Congress.

There is a persuasive power in numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data shows that the percentage of population below the poverty line has come down from 37 per cent in 2004-05 to 22 per cent in 2011-12. Planning Commission has last year (in Mar 2012) announced that poverty percentage has come down by 7.3 per cent, which means from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 29.8 per cent in 2009-2010. This shows numbers related to poverty are manipulated for political benefits of ruling Congress Party rather simply becoming a statistical exercise.

Economic progress brings social and political change, eroding the political power of elites, who in response often prefer to sacrifice economic development for political status quo with a bit of welfare policies. Inflation has devastated financial growth of India. Let me quote Pai Panikkar for explaining this point - "India’s present concerns are of a different kind. Inflation is too high and instead of providing stimulus to the economy, it has actually weakened growth. The jump in inflation from 4 percent to 9 percent dragged growth down from 9 percent to 4.7 percent. Inflation beyond a point can be as detrimental to growth as inflation below a level is. It is generally accepted that 3 percent inflation is just enough to stimulate growth and prevent the economy from sliding into recession. At that level, repo will be about 5 percent and interest on bank credit 7 percent. This combination will be ideal for growth with relative stability, provided other components of growth are in place.What about political susceptibility of inflation? The government has expressed concern only when inflation exceeds 5 percent. It would appear that inflation below 3 percent may hurt growth and above 5 percent may not be politically acceptable. The inflation target for the RBI should be in the range of 3 to 5 percent to balance growth and consumer concerns."

Discontent is simmering under the surface but I had given above three reasons to ouster UPA-2. India is growing because of the institutions that we have built and sustained over the years. They are often under stress beyond their capacities but have never given right of way to leaders who thought they could subvert them. As per Prof Cornel West, Democracy always raises the fundamental question: What is the role of the most disadvantaged in relation to the public interest? But no political party is seriously working on this answer. The results of this election will have long term effect on the history of India. Embrace yourself Indian citizens, 2014 election is coming !

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books Read in 2013

Literature demands something, not just from the reader but from society at large. It demands not just that we watch or cheer together, play or dance together, but that we take the time to understand one another. It demands that we create the institutions and the time to make this possible. It demands that we put in the effort. And it demands, most of all, that we agree that it is worthwhile to do so. - Hasan Altaf

History has showed us that leisured aristocracies tend to become bored, hedonistic and eventually decadent. This proves that power is not enough. One must set goals to excel in them, even if done slowly. I had set such goal and polish mental agility through the habit of reading. Reading books is an exercise in self knowledge and carries risk. These thought provoking books estranges our familiar landscape of settled beliefs into strange wonderland (may be dystopia) through new viewpoints. Good books open windows through mysterious ways. I had already listed down books by different authors of various regions, languages and backgrounds in  a wish list.

There are two articles worth mentioning here. I read about "Let them eat cake" phrase at the age of eight in a history book. It was the supposedly spoken by "a great princess" upon learning that the peasants had no bread and further events lead to the french revolution. That phrase always remained in back of the mind since that day. The Necessity of Atheism was an astounding article that I read as a young engineering student. It blow my world apart with the power of the words. The religion and society never remained same for me .

While the reading journey has been going on, it has been quite fulfilling till now. I grew old and wise with each book that I read. I enjoy rich earthy humor, satire and cultural essays. I even felt nostalgic with the death of Christopher Hitchens and Peter Roebuck. I miss their strong words, remarkable anecdotes and deep analysis. And. I found new gems like Ian Chappel, Martin Crowe and Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

Many giants of Hindi literature are still untouched by me.  I am living in the world created by Munsi Premchand in his short stories. I have no clue of the progress made in literature on last 30 years of Mandal, Kamandal & Dalit movements. I don't even know the names of Urdu books and their transliterated versions are out of my reach. I want to start reading more of fiction genre and real life stories more in upcoming months. '26 Books in 52 Weeks' is a goal for next year. I'm a super slow reader, but I usually get through ten to twelve books a year, mostly non fiction. I had accelerated pace of reading to utilize the time. And, the result shows in the reading list. I mostly try good reads and rarely best sellers. As well said by Frank Zappa : “So many books, so little time.”

Books Read in 2013:

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich :- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - (Russian) English - 9/10 - A brilliant and mind blowing description of just one day of prisoner in Gulag at Siberia

The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End :- Peter W. Galbraith - English - 8.5/10 - The name is sufficient to describe good work of journalism.

Tuesday With Morrie :- Mitch Albom - English - 8/10 - A beautiful memoir or discussion of teacher student on life, love and death.

Burden of Democracy :- Pratap Bhanu Mehta - English - 7.5/10 - : A very well written essay which discuss the reasons for which spirit of democracy is failing in India.

Lord of the Flies :- William Golding - English - 7/10 - A study of human behaviour through backdrop of group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island.

Patriots and Partisans: From Nehru to Hindutva and Beyond :- Ramachandra Guha - English - 7.5/10 - A honest attempt on showing builders of country across all ideologies in Independent India.

Bharat ka Bhavisya :- Osho - Hindi - 4/10 - A below average book even with Osho standard having collection of speeches.

Karmath Mahilayein :- Reethu Menon - Hindi - 7.5/10 - A book on the path-breaking Indian women who defined their fields through their works.

Ek Gadhe ki Aatmkatha :- Krishna Chander - Hindi - 7/10 - Satire written during Nehru era still holding true to its core.

Uncle Tom's Cabin :- Harriet Beecher Stowe - English - 8/10 - An anti-slavery novel to be read for emotional reasons only.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft :- Stephen King - English - 8/10 - A simple story of life with great tips on writing coming in patches.

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty :- Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson - English - 8.5/10 - man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success.

Joothan:- Omprakash Valmiki - Hindi - 10/10 - A personal account of a stalwart of Hindi literature describing caste system in Hindu society.

The Immortals of Meluha :- Amish - English - 6/10 - A below par average first part of triology with Hindu mythology background.

The Secret of the Nagas :- Amish - English - 6.5/10 - Second part of the book series with little improvement.

The Oath of the Vayuputras :- Amish - English - 7.5/10 - Third and Last part series is more mature and enjoyable.

And Quiet flows the Dons :- Michail Sholokhov - (Russian) Hindi - 7.5/10 - It depicts the lives and struggles of Don Cossacks during era of Soviet revolution.

Bitter chocolate: child sexual abuse in India :- Pinki Virani - English - 9.5/10 - Felt broken and depressed on reading about child abuse stories and awareness among our own Indian society.

Yuganta: The End Of An Epoch :- Irawati Karve - English - 9.5/10 - This study of the main characters of the Mahabharata treats them as historical figures and uses their attitudes and behavior to gain an understanding of the times in which they lived.

O Jerusalem ! :- Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins - English - 8.5/10 - A great book capturing the events and struggles surrounding the creation of the state of Israel.

My Days in Prison -: Iftikhar Gilani - English - 8/10 - A shocking story of trial and triumph under the framework of exploitative power of state.

The Idea of India :- Sunil Khilnani - English - 7/10 - Comprehensive account of India's economic and political journey from the independence to the liberalization.

I Too Had a Dream :- Verghese Kurien - English - 8.5/10 - Dr. Kurien's life story is chronicled in his memoir and must be read by teenagers and youths.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist:- Mohsin Hamid - English - 8/10 - A political thriller set in Pakistan but will appeal to the globe with sharp focus on fundamentalist mentality.

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break :- R Fields - English - 6.5/10 - A simple book on managing daily business through example from movies of WC Fields.

Quotes for the Year 2013 -:

“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.” - Carl Sagan

Great stories agree with our world view. The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place. — Seth Godin (Author, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us)

You have to understand, my dears, that the shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story. — Anthony de Mello, from One Minute Wisdom

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New face of Indian Cricket - 2

I read a lot on cricket still publish rarely an article on the cricket. New face of Indian Cricketwas written 5 years ago. This is the second part dedicated to our young team for having luck on the road ahead. 

Any game is often about not doing what your opponents want you to do. Test Cricket is no exception. I always consider One Day and T20 Matches as an exhibition while Test cricket is an examination. There will be 13 test matches(2 in SA, 2 in NZ, 5 IN ENG & 4 in AUS) in upcoming year. Great players will emerge in upcoming foreign tours through baptism by fire of fast bowling. Our young crop of batsman play aggressive brand of cricket what was termed as 'Australian Way'. Prudence is never the virtue of the new generation. Scoring at high run rate is essential for winning is good but not necessary applicable for all conditions. It is best to attack and play pretty when it suits; claw and fight like hell when it doesn't. Our batting and bowling line up has to display grit, temperament and determination . Test cricket have all sorts of ups and downs, collapses and fightbacks and some gritty and skilful performances.

The Gavaskar phenomena preceded the Tendulkar phenomena. Tendulkar has given same bantle to Sehwag as a spiritual successor. I am sure that baton has been passed from Dravid to Pujara and Sachin to Virat. And, Virat is proving to be new Richards as I am writing this on the close of 1st day of India South Africa test series. As batting collapses are not unknown in Indian cricket, still I am hoping for consistent performance. Our batting lineup seems strong with the rise of Dhawan, Rahane and Rohit. Natural talent is abundant here, but performance overseas depend on application and discipline.

India has no place for fast bowlers. We never groom fast bowlers for long duration and thus Zaheer Khan became an exception, not regular product of the system. Our battery of fast bowlers (Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami & Bhubaneswar Kumar) is slowly building. Lanky MP pacer Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron and old hand RP Singh are present in the scene. Even then, things always had looked bleak on the Indian yorker scene. Craig McDermott and Lillee are guiding Australians while Allan Donald is nurturing South African talent. India desperately need guidance of Zaheer and Venkatesh Prasad as Javagal Srinath is more involved in administrative work. Kapil's spiritual heirs are none. With Irfan Pathan a spent force, Stuart Binny and Rishi Dhawan can take his path in limited overs. Yes, we have good wicketkeepers in the domestic circuit but none of them touch bar set up by Caption Dhoni. Saha, Karthik and Parthiv are really good choices in case of back up.

The Tendulkar, Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid Laxman era is over now. Even Zaheer khan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are only remaining faces of the next phase of cricketers. Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Irfan, Gambhir and Sehwag are good cricketers but out of form currently. That has not happened with the stalwarts once they were well established in the team. When players are out of form and low on confidence, they can rely on technique only. Hence, there is even chance of return of Gambhir and Harbhajan. We are having good players like Vijay Zol, Manpreet Juneja, Jiwanjot Singh, Sanju Samson, Baba aparjit and Unmukt Chand in domestic tournaments. Selectors are not in panic state with the exit of seniors. They are choosing suitable candidates and even players of high calibers like Saurabh Tewari, Pragyan Ojha and Manoj Tewari are in waiting line.

Any team with ambitions to rule the world must vanquish challengers on all continents. Youngsters doing well in short formats is a good sign for Indian cricket. And if they do the same in test, then India will become a champion side.  In a great piece of refined writing, Martin Crowe expressed a great advice for everyone. "Wisdom is priceless. When you get on a learning path, it is the best time of your life. Every day means something, every lesson provides the clarity you clamour for. You move forward, evolve, grow, and become more fulfilled as the big picture, the dream even, emerges from the shadows and into the light." Hoping Indian team transform into great team one day.

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