The PMO on Twitter

It’s been rather relieving ever since the Prime Minister’s Office decided to improve upon its work so far, and finally decided to step up on delivering effective governance to a yearning country by doing something so unforeseen, so unique, so pathbreaking, so example-setting, so sewage-pipe-auto-clearing-of-disease-carrying-rats in nature.

They opened a Twitter account.

Naturally, I found myself browsing Twitter Search (How-To guide) looking to monitor interaction between the aam aadmi (who exists on Twitter, yes!) and the PMO. I was keenly interested in finding out how the aam aadmi conveyed his grievances to the Prime Minister, and also wanted to know if the Prime Minister actually replied and took action upon those grievances.

Unexpectedly, I was overtaken by the flood of requests directed towards the @PMOIndia handle. Clearly, India had taken this new initiative quite seriously. Most expressed genuine concerns like asking him the direction to good drinking water. To which, the PM replied “Dude, I can only take you to the pond but I cannot make you drink water from there..”

Others merely asked him how his vacation was in Goa, hoping they would get a Twitpic in return of the Prime Minister by a pool with two women in bikinis nearby, like Shahid Kapoor’s #ShahidGoanCrazy birthday bash that involved such a humungous amount of puking which saw Goa sullied to such an extent that desperate teenagers in their final college years, ND Tiwari and his troupe and Amar Singh and Bipasha Basu bombarded Shahid’s Twitter account asking him to clean up the mess immediately or they will unleash Ranbir Kapoor’s attempts at stand-up comedy on him. Or Pappu Yadav.

Meanwhile, a mysterious Swamy Army – which at first I thought is a support group of some sort for Subramanian Swamy and features anybody who has ‘ANTI-CONgi, Flying Sickularist, Underwear-outside-wearing Nationalist, #PaidMedia Creetik’ or something like that in their Twitter bio – decided to go threadbare and launched a out-and-out-attack on the PMO Twitter account by declaring it to be the most boring Twitter handle in the country. Clearly, the Swamy Army has never opened a tab on Google Chrome and visited Shah Rukh Khan’s Twitter account. Moving on to some positives, others decided to congratulate the Prime Minister on coming up with stringent traffic fines. But the way the message was conveyed to the PMO makes you wonder if you’ll have to bribe the guy to explain in proper English what the message meant.

Several others decided to take up national causes with the Prime Minister. Like this guy. Clearly, his commitment to pursuing a Padma Vibhushan award for Sridevi is on par with a Chennai rickshawallah’s commitment to extracting maximum auto fare from you. He is warning the Government to WAKE UP, just like esteemed scholars have warned the Government to wake up and deliver infrastructure and good roads to those areas of our country that border with China. More importantly, I don’t think he understands that the value of the Padma is so poor currently in Indian society, that Padma should be applying to win a Sridevi award.

It is heartening to see the Prime Minister on Twitter, tweeting away like the rest of us and attempting to solve the problems that refuse to leave our country. Continue tweeting your problems, hopes, aspirations, needs, requirements, blood donation requests, house hunting without brokers, discounts on wholesale condoms, restraining order on Vilasrao Deshmukh’s requests at hosting any more lavish weddings for his sons etc etc.

There are only so many ways he can help you.

<This is me, on Twitter>


13/7–A Perspective

A few thoughts, following yet another terrorist attack on the city of Bombay.

1) An Indian reaction is overdue. It doesn’t matter if it has been 30 months or 10 years since we were struck by terror strikes. But it is high time India’s leaders understand that the buck really stops here. Two decades of suffering and loss of innocent lives cannot be put away under the carpet without a reaction that raises our dispirited levels, which are currently at an all-time low. The cycle of terror is currently unstoppable and we are all sitting ducks, waiting for that bomb to go off.

2) Yes, there has been improvement in India’s immediate reaction to attacks. The Home Minister was wise enough to not speculate which terrorist group was behind the blasts that killed 17 and injured over a hundred others. This helps avoid alerting the actual group that may be responsible for these vicious attacks. As of now, no group seems to have claimed responsibility and this blogger will also refrain from speculating who might be responsible.

3) News channels and newspapers have disappointed in their scramble for rating points, with gory images doing the rounds in both of these mediums. With the odd exception, most media sources crossed lines and it is unlikely they will ever learn when to respect the dead. Especially, given the way in which these lives have been lost.

4) While we await an official Indian reaction, it is distressing to note that the government admitted to having absolutely no intelligence prior to these attacks. One would expect that given the scale of the attacks in Mumbai less than three years back, India’s intelligence services would have learnt the lessons of failure and improved drastically. Instead, we were treated to question-mark faces. And these are the faces that are supposed to answer our questions in the first place.

5) Twitter, significantly more than Facebook or any other  form of social media, played a heart-warming role in circulating information, aiding the search for missing people and in general, spreading awareness. The idea of creating a spreadsheet listing down all the people capable of delivering help of several kinds stood out. Obviously, Twitter is incapable of helping actual on-ground operations, but it’s importance cannot be understated given how spreading information during a crisis is absolutely desirable. The occasional misleading/erroneous information aside, most of it is generally intended to be useful. I am not sure or qualified to comment if it helped emergency response systems on the ground, if there were any at all.

6) At this point, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Narendra Modi have stressed the importance of unity. In my opinion, this misleads us. People are not empowered to do much, apart from the usual outrage and creation/circulation of public opinion. It is the leaders at the top who are supposed to make critical decisions that is supposed to justify why they were elected to be there in the first place. A mere statement like “India will not tolerate this” never saved our souls. Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has proved himself to be a top-notch humbug of a leader by claiming that the UPA has thwarted 99% of terror attacks, but 1% of attacks do get through. On what mathematical basis he has managed to come to this conclusion is sense-defying, and makes you want to pull your hair out. This is all the more worrying because this man is almost certain to take up India’s top job, come 2014.

In essence, it is disappointing, depressing and bewildering that yet another terror attack has managed to shackle up the Indian mainland and caused the loss of yet more innocent lives. It was supposed to be a perfectly normal day, with people going about their usual routines.

And suddenly, there came deafening sounds and blinding lights. And some blood.

Chaos Minus Progress

Women and children.

There were women and children in the crowd that was attacked by the police at a peaceful protest by Baba Ramdev and his set of followers. And it was absolutely disgusting that the UPA ordered a crackdown on something that is a constitutional right of any Indian. What is surprising (or maybe, not) is how several UPA leaders have issued statements and remain completely unapologetic about the events of yesterday night. It is important for other influential national parties to react in strong opposition to the UPA’s actions. And that has at least happened.

While I primarily disagree with Baba Ramdev’s methods (why – read this earlier post), which I believe is nothing but another example of an unelected civil society member seeking power and influence that he does not have any democratic right to, it is deplorable that the UPA sanctioned the interruption of a protest purely based on it’s own deluded suspicions surrounding the influential sage. There is absolutely no call for any form of brutal suppression of freedom of speech (even up to the extent of it being against the Indian republic and it’s functioning), unless it directly harms the safety and security of the people.

Histrionics are a part of mainstream Indian life. Every other day, there emerges a new figure demanding change without understanding the core of how a democracy is supposed to function. Hence, we are left to endure unnecessary drama that isn’t even helping our cause as a country. First, it was Anna Hazare. He is an admirable public figure, but seems to miss the point. Now, it’s Ramdev and a repeat of ‘fast unto death’. And he has thousands of followers, mind you. Not only is there so much confusion, but there is likely to even be a delay in the actual cause that the anti-corruption brigade is pioneering! [Link]

The problem is clear. Current laws remain unimplemented. Reforms aren’t even talked about. Unelected and self-styled spokespersons of the ‘People Cause’ want more laws. More institutions. The result is likely to put more people in government, something that we could and should avoid. The situation ends up being a round-about, and people watch yet one more reality show unfold. It’s even unfortunate when peaceful protests are cracked down on, and innocent women and children are police targets.


Will India ever nab Dawood Ibrahim?


Not in the near future, at least.

There are simple reasons behind this, and one does not need to dwell into deep thought to realize why India is unlikely to ever apprehend Dawood Ibrahim. Reasons like ‘Lack of political will’ and ‘We don’t have the capabilities (yeah right!)’ and others of this ilk have been repeated ad nauseum in the hyperventilating Indian media and have even been emphasized by several commentators.

To put it straight, I don’t think these reasons matter. There is a whole psychological argument that I intend to play in this post. It’s plain and simple – India gives it’s enemies too much time to scuttle away. Now a counter-argument can be made here. Some may say it is important for the credibility of Indian democracy that we deliver justice within the ambit of our ideals. Fair enough. But what about people who are our enemies, but not in any sort of direct or indirect control of the Indian state? Like Dawood Ibrahim.

Note that Ajmal Kasab does not come into the equation. I pray, hope and have ample faith in the Indian judicial system that justice will be delivered in the manner it should (i.e. in constitutional accordance) and I call for no urgency or portray any misguided patriotic fervor in hurrying up with the execution of the 26/11 terrorist.

But the question is about the likes of Dawood, and so many others. Here is a man, directly responsible for the carnage of Mumbai 1993 that cost us the lives 257 Indians, who lives and roams around freely in our neighboring nation (?) with no insecurity whatsoever. He marries off his daughter in a five-star Dubai hotel, and we Indians just watch the action.

What is this, if not some sort of intelligence failure? Oh wait. It’s not even intelligence failure. It’s failure of action despite the necessary intelligence. More so, should we wait for inspiration from the Americans before we undertake any action of our own? “Oh, the Americans took down Osama Bin Laden. Time for us to ape them”?

A counter-argument here would be about the threats of retaliation we face from Pakistan, as has been made clear by the Pakistani Army and the ISI, that if we do conduct any operation (covert or not) in the country. In fact, the whole idea about India having to face consequences of any action from the Pakistanis is a despicable farce that is extremely well played by the Pakistani establishment.

The only consequence we face is the time the Pakistanis get to stock up the necessary resources. Pakistan will then go on a series of denials and eventually become stronger in several aspects – diplomatically, in military terms and many others. Yes, stronger. By the minute. By the hour.

So here is a man, wanted by the CBI and the Interpol in connection with 1993 and several other ‘Bleed India’ events, who has no worries whatsoever. A potential superpower sits and watches, weak-kneed all the time. The whole scenario begs the question – Do we eliminate any of our enemies?

No, we don’t. At least, not the ones who matter. And it is not just about the lack of political will or the lack of military logistics (both of which may be fair reasons). It’s more about a basic Indian duty, to instantly counter any attempt made to destabilize the lives of it’s people and convince them that the Indian state does have the necessary power it can portray that will put us to sleep at night with the knowledge that we are safe.

And this is the least we deserve. Just like food, water and shelter.

The Narendra Modi Conundrum

Two sides to a coin.

Narendra Modi – chief minister of a state that has recorded economic growth far greater than so many parts of the country, voted to office across successive terms, effective administrator, investment magnet, rose the ranks through a difficult system primarily on the basis of merit and genuinely works for the benefit of Gujarat.

Narendra Modi – alleged architect of the post-Godhra riots that killed hundreds of innocents, communalist, propagandist, pretends to be moderate center-of-right in politics and policies but isn’t.

Clearly, there may have never been so concrete ‘two sides of a coin’ than there are in the case of BJP leader Narendra Modi. He has firm admirers and staunch opponents. He has wild fanboys and blood-thirsty critics. None of the people in all these categories are ever likely to lower their stands, and will continue to create a lot of noise (a lot on Twitter, these days) when a Modi issue becomes a headline event.

Inherently, it can be very easily observed that fundamentalism prevails in their minds. Pro-Modi folks won’t glance an eye over any writing/commentary that attempts a critique of the CM, while anti-Modi folks continue to believe that he is a major threat to Indian polity and there is no second way about this. Once in a while, if these people read/understood opposing views, we might have a moderate and more composed (but unchanged) understanding of the Modi ‘situation’ rather than just wild rhetoric from either side.

Now, the point I’m trying to make from my writing here is the ‘price’ of delayed justice. India, clearly, has failed its people when it comes to delivering justice. The problem is that it takes so much time to deliver justice that enough rhetoric has been generated, resources lost and new topics born to take light away from the initial issue of concern.

Imagine this. The post-Godhra riots are avoided. Narendra Modi ends up being the man to deliver effective policing in areas which noted violence. He lives up to his constitutional obligations and morals. People don’t die. The perpetrators of the Godhra train burning are brought to book. Modi continues to administer the state effectively. Nope. Didn’t happen.

Imagine this. The Gujarat riots happen (as they did). Narendra Modi is proven to be involved. The court says, with ample evidence, that he played a direct role in whatever carnage occurred and pronounce him guilty on various counts. If this doesn’t amount to a serious sentence, he is freed after serving whatever sentence he was charged with. Nope. Hasn’t happened.

Imagine this. If he is proven to be innocent, he gets a clean chit and goes back to doing what he does best – politics/administration/governance. Nope. Hasn’t happened.

But he is still accountable for 2002, as any CM would be when in command during a major crisis and holding all constitutional powers to administer control and simply prevent loss of lives. He is still responsible for effective governance. He is still administering a state that is making India proud, in most ways. So, we are in a permanent fix with solutions to problems both happening and not happening. It becomes difficult to make any sense of the Modi ‘problem’ and one is merely left to endure two conflicting sides clash in the extreme of terms when the spotlight hovers over Modi.

The only sense I could make out of all of this – Whatever you think of Narendra Modi, it doesn’t change what he once did and it doesn’t change what he is doing today.

The rest, as they say, is history’s undoing.

The Indian Revolution

So, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is out. End of tyranny. Toppled by a no-matter-what-they-say-but-this-was-genuine peoples’ movement. The Army takes over. But is the future secure?

Probably, no.

Revolutions are characteristic of radical changes. And Egypt is certainly witnessing the best of one. While a whole country celebrates a triumph of a kind, the world watches on with great interest.

And so does India.

The peoples of this republic will certainly be wondering, while glued to their TV sets or chatting away in coffee shops, what it would be like to just get together on the streets of thousands of cities and towns, waving the India flag with much joy and calling for the ouster of hundreds of those corrupt, senile office-bearers in this supposed-to-be-great institution called the Government of India.

And that is even our right. We have a right to protest, which must be used. We have a right to speak our mind against the perennially erring, which must be used. We, however, do not possess a ‘right to revolution’ simply because this is a constitutional democracy that calls for sorting out all of our problems through constitutional means. There is absolutely no need for a revolution, which may cause loss of lives, time, public money and property and even bring the nation to a halt.

So what do we do, one asks. Reforms. In a democracy, reforms is the way ahead. And while we may have a set of people (in Government or otherwise) entirely dedicated to ensure reforms don’t go through, we must persist. And there are solutions. Corruption? Cut government spending and reduce the size of the institution. Scandals? Firmer implementation of the Rule of Law (which in my opinion, must be linked directly to growth), and consequently the implementation of punishments handed out to offenders while respecting their democratic right to appeal.

In a democracy, a ‘revolution’ may be slow but it mostly always is for the better. In a dictatorship, one cannot predict which way the ‘swing’ will happen. And many countries around the world offer opportune examples of failed ‘revolutions’. Structure must be maintained, and for that the idea of a revolution is redundant. And that is what makes it entirely absurd to consistently maintain a thought like ‘People must topple the Government’. What, even when the people themselves are responsible for the Government? And if there does actually exist a sincere willingness to change leaders – Vote.

The republic must be protected from a revolution by firmly implementing exactly what our cynical selves struggle to believe these days – that politicians (who are elected representatives of the very same people who complain again and again about the lack of change) can work for good and the ones who don’t must be shunned entirely when elections come calling, that the problem of corruption can be overcome by reforms implemented with speed and conviction, that the Constitution of India has all the solutions and can bring in more solutions through civilized, democratic means.

That there can, and will, be change.

Let’s Just Do Our Job

Approximately 1,600 people are reported to be dead in the depressing floods that have ravaged Pakistan in the last couple of months [NYT – Flood disaster may require largest aid effort in modern history]. This speaks of a disaster of enormous magnitude and deserves sympathy and (more importantly) aid in all forms from national governments across the world.

Including India.

And India has rightly obliged. The Government of India had announced a $5mn aid package that Pakistan, shockingly, took a while to decide whether to accept or not. They have finally accepted the offer [Times of India – Pak accepts India flood aid offer], but are unlikely to issue visas to around 400 Indian medics to travel to the country and play a role in treating the millions affected and displaced by the floods. [Economic Times – Pak unlikely to issue visas to Indian doctors]

Now, we have several issues that directly damage us and that directly involve Pakistan. But this is not the time to talk about those issues, and instead offer as much help as possible to the Pakistani people. This is believed to earn India some goodwill and one would expect that it would blow the lid on the image of India that the ISI-Taliban-Army nexus tries to create every now and then, and make it persist in public discourse.

However, it would be wise of us to not get carried away. Public memory is usually short and it is unlikely that Pakistan’s civil society will ever have a ‘clean’ opinion on India. This is largely because the textbooks in their schools are agenda-based, an agenda that is directly anti-India.

There is also the possibility that since hardliner elements in Pakistan are always likely to blame India, even for natural disasters, opinion is always likely to end up divided [Times of India – Pak hardliners blame India, US for floods]. The fact that Pakistan failed to accept our offer of aid for so long, speaks of enough scepticism about India that exists in the neighbour.

My point is that we must just do what the human being in us calls for (offer maximum possible aid, doctors) and then resume normal service, once things stabilize. Expecting any drastic change in public opinion or even return-goodwill on the part of Pakistan in strongly dealing with various terrorist elements is unnecessary.

And unlikely.