The Magazine Covering All Aspects of The Indian World
Editorial Business Forum Political News Spotlight Dispatches & Reports Letters Lifestyle Travel Health Spiritual India Sport Scene
August - September 2009
From Far & Near: Topics of Interest
Is Press working towards political meltdown?
The saying “Pen is mightier than sword” has never been truer than in the present environment when the media has created a mass hysteria against politicians in general and our members of Parliaments in particular. The public is willing to believe any accusation that the press may throw at them, due to damaging blunder made by a few MPs in claiming mortgage interest when their mortgage was already paid up. This could indeed be a serious offence if carried out deliberately. It seems all the MPs have been lumped together, put in the same barrel with a few rotten apples. I am sure these rogue MPs will not be standing at the next general election, no matter what political colour they may project.
When I received an email from Barry Gardiner’s office, inviting me to attend a meeting he was holding at Preston Manner School, I attended the meeting with open mind, as I knew Barry will be honest, truthful and will answer any question that we, his constituents may put before him.
What I did not expect was rogue behaviour from a tiny minority of the audience who were there solely to create trouble and give Barry a hard time, to go for his jugular vein in the hope of unsettling and agitating Barry. Objectivity in politics is an asset but only a few aspiring politicians display this quality.
I was indeed pleasantly surprised at the cool, calm, dignified and good humoured manner Barry employed to tackle his adversaries and answer our question, honestly and truthfully. that we may put before him. In the end Barry won over most of us with his honest approach and practical, truthful explanation.
As expected, two questions dominated the agenda, namely the profit Barry made on the sale of his flat and why he did not move to Brent, reside locally amongst his constituents as he promised in 1997 when he first stood against the popular and hard working Conservative MP Sir Rhodes Boyson when no one expected Barry to win.
As Barry explained, the local papers gave an enormous publicity on the profit he made on the sale of his flat but only one newspaper printed his explanation in full; that he paid Capital Gain Tax (CGT) at 40% against the advice of the feeble and ineffective Fees Office who scrutinises and approves all expenses. The CGT Barry paid was more than the interest he claimed on the mortgage, as Barry had put a substantial deposit out of his own savings.
If Barry had rented a flat, only the landlord would have benefited. But in this case, both Barry and tax payers were the beneficiaries. But most papers chose to ignore this fact, that he willingly paid 40% CGT, not a legal requirement but out of moral obligation.
As for moving to Brent, Barry informed the audience that he only promised to move locally from his Cambridge home. When one person challenged him that there was an article in the local paper printing his pledge, Barry pointed out that it was a mistake on the part of the paper, a misquote but the paper graciously apologised and accepted Barry’s version.
There were a wide range of questions, on the reform of the House of Lords, Brent schools, Kelly Commission and the reform of the expense claim charter. Barry had a perfectly good explanation for every question put before him and even his adversaries who came to the meeting with closed minds were not able to find faults in Barry’s replies. As Barry said shining a searchlight into one area of a person’s life is inevitably a very partial and poor way of judging that person as a whole. Every one living in Brent North knows how hard working and constituent friendly Barry is.
My only regret was that only a very tiny number of Barry’s constituents, less than 150 attended this very informative and educative meeting. But if the local press prints the true account of this meeting, then Barry’s trouble in organizing this meeting would be useful for the constituents. However sincere Barry may be, his or any politician’s troubles are not over. I am afraid many decent and honest MPs like Barry will have to work harder to retain their seat at the next electon.
Is BBC squandering tax payers’ money?
In a row over comments made by a panellist in “Question Time” programme while answering a question on the Luton demonstration, airing claims that MCB encourages the killing of British troops, when Muslim protesters greeted the returning soldiers with rage, BBC offered to pay £30,000 and post an apology on the Question Time website while MCB is demanding an apology on air.
This offer of apology has angered Mr. Moore, the panellist, as he was not consulted. The programme is recorded an hour before broadcast, in the presence of high powered lawyers who scrutinize every word that is being broadcast for possible libels.
If these lawyers are satisfied that no libel was committed, then why BBC is eager to throw away licence payers hard earned money. If lawyers failed in their duty, then surely the claim should be settled by these lawyers through their insurance policies and BBC should broadcast on the air apology. I wonder if BBC would have been so eager to settle out of court with any other ethnic minorities.
Wars always have collateral casualties
Although various ethnic papers have covered Sri Lankan civil war extensively, it seems not many readers who are not Tamils from that war torn country remember the main cause for this tragedy.
Tamil Tigers is the only freedom fighters or terrorist organization, depending on one’s persuasion that has operated within their zone of conflict with the exception of suicide bombing that resulted in the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Rajiv sent Indian troops at the invitation of both, LTTA and the Sri Lankan government, to act as a buffer between the two warring factions until the talks succeed. A tiny faction of LTTA had an altercation that resulted in the death of two Indian soldiers.
In a civil war, especially as brutal as this one, collateral casualties are impossible to avoid. These freedom fighters who are on most part dedicated to their cause, there are and always will be a tiny faction who may have joined the outfit for personal reasons, to settle private scores and to make mischief, some times even on the pay of the government to give the fighters a bad name.
The Indian army reacted badly and went on a killing spree that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Tamil civilians. I have a couple of Tamil friends here, whose entire families were wiped out by the Indian army, in front of their eyes, as they hid under thick growth that saved them from the butchery.
PM Rajiv Gandhi, instead of condemning this act of savagery on the part of Indian army, endorsed army’s role when they turned against LTTA and as a reprisal LTTA allegedly carried out suicide bombing killing Rajiv Gandhi.
I feel LTTA missed a golden opportunity when they were offered internal self rule, a constitution similar to that of India and USA whereby the states with a Legislative Assembly and Chief Minister are virtually independent with the Centre Government controlling the army and the foreign affairs. This was the best deal LTTA could achieve, under the pressure from Norway who was acting as an honest broker.
A complete independent, division of the island is impractical and unsustainable as is the case in Cyprus and Timor where the Northern Cyprus and East Timor are financially dependent on Turkey and Australia respectively.
How LTTA now wish that they should have accepted this settlement and developed their region in line with Gujarat which is the envy of the world. After all Tamils are the most hard working, well educated and capable people in Sri Lanka. That is one reason why Sinhalese envy, hate and tolerate Tamils at the same time.
Is Indian democracy a curse in disguise?
Now that the elections are over and results declared, which was totally unexpected, not only by the losers but by the winner as well, it is time to analyse and scrutinise the impact of Congress victory which may be far reaching. This also reflects poorly on the quality of the biggest democracy in the world.
Although the West praises Indian democracy, it has created vote-bank politics, a biased, so called secular constitutions which favours one section of the population at the expense of others and enormous religious subsidy that is not only a drain on the national resources but is also detrimental to the wellbeing of the nation and good race, religious and cultural relations.
With a clear-cut mandate, such unfair practices and anomalies are bound to increase which will ultimately lead to polarization of the communal divide that was common place before 1947 and may lead to the second partition of India and creation of another Pakistan. The ancient Bharat has been divided and subdivided numerous times leaving only a skeleton of a great nation that was the cradle of civilization for thousands of years.
The nation was divided in 1947 on religious and cultural ground so that Muslims can live in peace in Pakistan and the Hindus in a secular India where Sikhs, Jains and other tiny minorities have a secure future.
Instead Pakistan has become a hotbed for religious intolerance, even between various Muslim sects and ideologies which has brought Pakistan on the verge of collapse while terrorism from across the border plagues India on a regular basis.
It seems people are not worried or bothered by the corruption that infects every layer of the administration. The Indian money stashed away in secret Swiss bank accounts are so huge that it dwarfs the amount deposited by the rest of the world put together.
The Congress can logically argue that the corruption is no longer an election issue, as the Congress was the only major political party that did not promise to bring back these hoards, as they knew who the culprits might be. Subverting investigative agencies and misleading courts to favour your friends is logical and acceptable. Afzal Guru will not be hanged for the terrible crime committed against the nation, as long as the Congress is in power and depend on the vote bank for their political triumph.
Nationalism, love for motherland, for traditional Indian culture and values which stand in good stead for Indians in the West is labelled as communalism, anti secular but Hajj subsidy and some Sharia laws incorporated in the Indian constitution are not.
Any one singing Vande Mataram, a patriotic song adopted by the Congress in pre independent India is now dismissed as a rabble-rouser and hate-monger by the Western controlled Indian media.
In most educated and well informed countries democratic process is a means to better governance but not in India where democracy is a playground to steal, loot and build dynastic rule, create vote bank by bribing people. If you oppose, then you belong to a lunatic fringe of political right or left.
Hindus are the most docile people when it comes to politics. It is argued that they would wake up when the real emergency, serious troubles arise. But it would be too late by then.
Indian identity cards, scam for making money ?
Many writers in the West have raised a question how could India even think of introducing identity cards (ID) for some 1:1 billion people when we in the West find it practically impossible to cover our 60 million populations. More to the point, would it be effective, affordable and practical?
We had ID cards in Tanzania back in 1965 along with photo driving licences in the late sixties, although they were primitive compared to present day technology. We can not even compare the cost, as it would be a tiny fraction of India’s GDP.
It would be impossible for any one in the West even to understand the complex nature of Indian politics which is geared to making money, grab and retain power, create dynastic rule, at any cost, by any means, fair or foul. Truth, honesty, work ethic and love for motherland do not come into equation. If any thing, such qualities are a hindrance rather than as asset in an Indian politician. In a land of one eyed Jacks, two eyes are a hindrance rather than a blessing.
The Congress has already created an ethnic vote bank, with bribe, appeasement, threats and propitiation, even appeasement of terrorists. ID card is yet another scheme or rather a scam to mint money and create a second vote bank.
ID cards will be as easily available as Rs 100 note, even to Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and the British citizens. It has nothing to do with security, terrorism or illegal immigration, as any one caught by the police without an ID card will be able to get away with bribe or bakshish.
Wasting public money, whether on religious subsidy or political posturing is a way of life for Indians. In fact more notoriety a politician gains, better chance he has for being re-elected, even from a prison cell. More than half of the Indian Member of Parliaments (MPs) are multi millionaires and before their term of office expires, they would more than double their wealth, thus having more ammunition to fight the next election.
We can not help but wonder how the descendents of one of the noblest civilizations in the annals of human history that gave the world some of the finest and noblest of mankind, the likes of Lord Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Ashok, Chanakiya, Shivaji and Gandhi, a few amongst many, could stoop so low, sell their own motherland to the highest bidder, to fatten their bank balance and to gain a political mileage.
Indian democracy keeps India down, foments constant strife and restricts economic progress as against China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and many other South Asian tiger economies that enjoy much higher living standard than Indians. In India wealth is in the hands of a few, the likes of Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas and Mitals, Premjis and their likes who are the standard bearers of the Indian dreams of success, power and richness beyond comprehension, while a significant proportion of the population livese on bare minimum, sleeping on footpaths beside open sewage that would not be acceptable in any Western democracy.
Then again without these tiny minorities of entrepreneurs who can beat the West at their own game, India would not be where it is today in the economic league. They have progressed in spite of Indian bureaucracy.