Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Puerile Politics

Lal Kishenchand Advani - Born in Karachi, primarily a Law Graduate turned a journalist. Made it to the headlines for the first time in 1947 when he was given the position of the General Secretary, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Evolved from member to President of Bharatiya Jana Sangh from 1950 to 1970. Stepped into the Parliament for the first time in 1970. Then, there was no looking back! For the last 35 years, he has adorned several titles and occupied many positions ranging from a party President to Deputy PM. Written a couple of books too!
Makes for a genius, doesn't he? Sorrowfully, he is nowhere near it. Not stooping to the levels of revealing the traumas of the truth, let me just state that he has been the apple of the eyes of the frontpage editors for the past week.
When he embarked on his trip to Pakistan, probably he decided to be a paragon and went on a spree of quotes that made Pakistanis love him and the saffron brigade back home loathe him! He first said, "Dec 6, 1992 was the saddest day of my life!" and pat came the reply from one Mr. Togadia, "Shut Up!"(ofcourse the statements are not replecated verbatim). Probably the fear of Pakistani terrorists turning paranoid or the hell breaking loose, he went on to write in the guest book at a museum that "Jinnah is Secular!" (not that I don't agree. What I am trying to stress is that he doesn't really agree that). This unveiled the curtains for the Saffron Sonata!
From dharnas and rasta rokos nation wide to demands from the RSS chief himself asking LKA to resign! Voila, that must have been a pulsating ride!
Pondering upon the thinking and motivation that went into it, I probably think Advani made these statements because he was feeling insecure in Pakistan or probably he took the proverb 'Be a Roman in ROme' pretty damn seriously! He somehow made the statements and stood by them, all while in Pakistan. Politics!
Then, VHP Chief Ashok Singhal comments that Advani-Vajpayee era is over! An old man who can't even stand properly on his own feet comments on two persons who helped the country stand on its feet, properly or improperly, and no one has the guts to shut him up! Are we living in Hindu-chauvinistic state or Hindustan? Who gives these saffron sadhus the right to shout at people so respectable? Is it our chauvinistic love for Hinduism! No. Politics!
A seer is arrested in some town down south on charges of murder and the nation erupts. Did people really feel bad at that? No. It was only political parties that made all the noise. I pity all those people, especially the big shots and politicians, who once went to that seer and bowed to him! Ofcourse there have been considerable efforts from many politicians to put the seer where he was when he was arrested! Politics!
Today, when India and Pak are at least trying to attempt peace, the Advani row that enraged some section of politicians and their accomplices looks all set to eat the half baked cake thats still being made. Musharraf was beginning to lose sheen in Pakistan and Advani stormed up the name of Jinnah. Probably, he wanted to play safe! This could lead to wide spread resentment in Pakistan. After all will Indians keep quiet if someone accuses Gandhi?
Suppose, god forbid not, the Delhi-Lahore bus is attacked by an angry Pakistani mob and people killed, the reason being VHP and RSS criticizing Advani for complementing Jinnah, will the saffron brigade or the grand old man whose era is set to start as he thinks come forward and take the blame? Just to satiate their political hunger and just to feel sanguine of their fortune the next election, some people talk, rather bark and itz a nation that has to suffer!
It's not them but politics that is to be blamed, puerile politics!

Monday, June 06, 2005

My Icon

An election is won by a co-alition. The party that held the highest stake wanted to give the highest seat to it's own prima donna, its President. But, due to some nationwide protests because her being a foreign national, the party chose a laconic in political sense, an austere aging intellectual to the highest title of the Election. Just because he got the seat which a woman threw away and just because he does not indulge in unnecessary political banter, people tend to term him "the weakest prime minister" ever and when I saw this phase being attributed to my icon Mr. Manmohan Singh in a blog of my friend, I felt a sense of pity for all those who consider him that.
As do many Indians of my age, I don't like many politicians around, but two exceptional and outstanding figures whom I like and adore are Mr. Manmohan Singh, Honorable Prime Minister of India and Mr. P. Chidambaram, Finance Minister, Union Cabinet, India. Mr. Manmohan Singh may be silent, may not have command over the Left, yet the work he has been able to extract out of ministry is awesome on comparison with the previous cabinets we have had. Ofcourse, I am not talking of JawaharLal Nehru and times when I say cabinet. I only intend to speak of say around 5 cabinets before this.
The first funny thing about terming Mr. MMS "the weakest PM" is the short memory we Indians have. Otherwise how can that title be snatched away from one Mr. Gowda who slept away to glory while India was rustling in chaos.I don't say Mr. MMS has shown us the elixir of prosperous India, but with intelligent team setting analogous to a formidable team in sports, he has proved that he is a man of less words and more actions. We want more people like him.In his one year at the helm of the Indian nation, he might not have worked wonders, but he has done more good than bad.
Any other PM with Left in his coalition would have told and compelled his FM to go for a Communist budget so as to keep the four legs of his chair intact. But, the PM showing his first act of prudence in selecting the FM, chose Mr. Chidambaram and encouraged him to come up with a moderaltely reformist budget, where the government took enough care to pierce a hole into pockets of people who spend in 5 figures and some big time corporates that enjoy unnecessary benefits among others.
Later, after the budget session came the news of selling portions of PSUs including ONGC and BHEL. The increasinf FDIs in telecom and Insurance were already there and now comes the news of FDIs in Retail too, which means we could soon see some success stories like Walmart in our own countryland.When in an argument people tend to leave aside the economic reforms, because he himself is the father of Indian Economic Reforms, aptly termed so because of his reformist Budget under the P.V.Narsimha Rao regime in the early 90s. But, he has done much more than economics to the country.
From peaceful relations to prosperous planning, he has done it all. And none of them is a shot in the wild because the positions he held speak for him. He held some highly esteemed positions like President, RBI, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commision, Advisor to the PM etc... in his long career.The way he selected his cabinet shows his prudence and eye for detail. His apt selection of Mr. Arjun Singh for HRD ministry is one of the reasons IIMs are at freewill today. The Indian Entertainment Industry has time and again expressed its happiness over Mr. Jaipal Reddy, I&B Minister. Then the young and powerful guns like Mani Shankar Aiyer, Petroleum, Dayanidhi Maran, Miniter of Communications and Information Technology are worth a mention.
Mr. Maran especially has been instrumental in some constructive reforms in Telecom sector and the points of highest priority in his agenda today are Calls all over India at local rates and To sell or not to sell 3G Spectrum. Not to forget this is the cabinet that passed the 'Right to Information' bill which means every Indian is now entitled to know all the information of government working and structure. This is the PM who suggested a report card system to beaureaucrats to hold them answerable to the public.
On the flipside people may comment inclusion of Lalu Prasad Yadav in the cabinet. But thats the price you need to pay for being prudent.
All in all, Mr. Manmohan Singh is a role model and is "one of the strongest Prime Ministers" we have ever had.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Rajdeep Sardesai, the icon of NDTV, has announced today that he is putting his papers. He has also been quoted as saying its anti-incumbency and drive to start something own that are throwing him out and that there are no hard feelings towards NDTV or anyone there. Rajdeep has been a great reason by NDTV's roaring success and his knack of handling biggies won him rave reviews. Big Fight was one of his success stories on NDTV.
It is also being speculated that Rajdeep is on plans to go on his own by launching a channel in collaboration with TV 18. Raghav Bahl of TV 18 and Sameer Manchanda of NDTV would help him out in matters of the new channel.
TV 18 is a channel to be floated by Bennett Coleman&Co, with inputs from Reuters which tentatively would hold a 26% stake in it. Bennet Coleman is the same group associated with Times Of India. Probably, this should improve TOI's quality too. TV 18 already has ties with CNBC and also runs a Hindi channel, Awaaz.
All in all, while Rajdeep explores newer arenas, its for people like us his fans to wait and watch for more action from the idol.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Whatz the Fouth Estate doing?

Sometimes its disgusting to see things heading the wrong way in your favourite profession. I consider Journalism a sacred profession and a powerful tool. I don't say there shouldn't be a lighter side to it. There should be one, but the aesthetics has to be taken care of. Everything must be put in the proper place. But, what I see everyday at 8 in the morning baffles me.

I feel that the publishers in a ravenous hunger for circulation have let go of all that what is called as Journalism. Newspapers like Times of India have rather stuck to Sensationalism. True, Internet and TV have taken away a large news-seeking share of population, but a profession need not stoop to such levels to remain in the race.

TOI especially publishes celebs' pic in the main paper everyday. TOI never forgets to cover an occasion where Sania Mirza is a guest, be it even a funeral. In the games, it publishes photos of (woman)players in sexy, flying skirts. Their achievements, their determination are never counted for. Why did Sania Mirza hog so much of the lime light and Anju Bobby George, in her haydays, did not? Only because she is young and sexy. Of course, no offence to Sania. She is where she is today, only because of her determination and hardwork. But, after all she is not to be hyped so much. I am sure someday she will stop playing and settle for Item numbers and sleazy videos, if things continue the same way.

An Indo-Pak match is highlighted in every paper, but the honour given to CV Raman makes it to the inner pages on Science, where nothing but Viagra and Marijuana are discussed.

I read somewhere that papers are doing such stuff to attract the population to read their papers. But is this the only way? At least India is n't so enervated of talent that it has to depend on second grade tactics to retain its one of the most intellectual industries. Ideas are all what are needed. Someone listening???

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Budget Blues

Ya! I know Budget week is long over, but it is better late than never. Dunno why, but a subject that has always appealed to me is Finance. Sometimes, I also wonder how I landed in Engineering instead of pursuing some CA or some Journalism course. I am addicted to them. But, having landed in a place as busy as DA-IICT, I just dabble on them here.
Back to business. If one has to list two highlights of the budget that have caught the eye of the storm, they would be:
1. Withdrawal Tax.
2. Fringe Benefit Tax.

Since one has heard and read a lot on the former, let me choose the latter. Rather, the rationale behind my decision is that I would be paying the Withdrawal Tax very soon, but Fringe Benefits, nope, not so soon. Before I comment, lemme tell you Fringe benefit tax (FBT) is a tax on benefits that employees receive as a result of their employment, including those benefits provided through someone other than an employer.

To quote the FM himself, The benefits that are usually enjoyed collectively by the employees and cannot be attributed to individual employees shall be taxed in the hands of the employer; transport services for workers and staff and canteen services in office or factory to be outside the tax net; the tax to be called Fringe Benefits Tax; rate to be 30 per cent on an "appropriately defined base".

This means employers giving perks other than conveyance and canteen will have to shell out a new tax to the tune of 30%. The reason for levying this tax according to P.Chidambaram, Finance Minister, India, is neither the employer nor the employee pays any tax on these benefits, which are of considerable material value.

At present, where the benefits are fully attributable to the employee they are taxed in the hands of the employee, that position will continue. In addition, the Minister has proposed that where the benefits are usually enjoyed collectively by the employees and cannot be attributed to individual employees, they shall be taxed in the hands of the employer. However, transport services for workers and staff and canteen services in an office or factory will be outside the tax net.

All these sums up to business giants in India shelling out bundles of money to the National Treasury. This means all those executives who happily wandered the world in Executive Class for meetings and conferences(I did that just a fortnight ago too ) will now have to settle for the Economic Class.

This, according to me, is a sensible decision on the part of the finmin. Tax all the benefits that provide luxuries and take care of common needs.

Coming to the budget as a whole, I feel even I would rate the budget at the same rank it averages in many forums... 7-8. This is a very superior ranking by any terms. The only thing that this budget did not speak of was Disinvestment, strictly according to me.

Actually, Chidambaram-Manmohan Singh combo raised the expectations of huge reforms. But, it was not too much to be seen in the budget. I guess the reason for this must have been the trade-off between need for political stability and a visionary budget. The Finance Minister cleverly avoided terms like disinvestment in the budget, thus appeasing the Left and also taxed the private spending sector through fringe benefit tax. He also lent a helping hand to the savings of the rising Middle Class of India by rising the Income Tax slab.

And for all those looking for reforms in privatisation and disinvestment, don't lose heart , he has announced a sale of share in large PSUs like ONGC a couple of days after budget. He announced the reason to raise funds for National Investment Fund (if I am not wrong) that would aim at fulfilling the promises of UPA in the Common Minimum Programme.

This is the perfect balance anyone could have struck and whatelse, the markets have responded wonderfully with the sensex zooming near to 7000 mark (6892.82 at the time of this post). All in all, a perfect budget for a great financial year from a visionary ministry.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The party begins

'Anjuman ' is my blog dedicated to everythign except me... While Enigma covers myself exhaustively, Anjuman is the kacheri of my interests. Pardon me for the blog address, as I couldn't get Anjuman, I had to satisfy with anzuman... Anyway, Anjuman is all about the assembly of thoughts, passions and interests. Topics here would include Spirituality, India, Journalism, Democracy, Technology and a lot more.... Though most of them would be adaptations and reproductions, my comments would be appended to each one of them.

And ya, the reason for this Anjuman is that people have mistaken my adulation for Lord Byron as my feelings for some girl. I don't want that to repeat. Thats why this bifurcation of interests and feelings.

I shall kickstart Anjuman asap!
and ya if someone interested for a community blog here, pls do contact...

Signing off

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