PERSPECTIVE

Monthly Archives: JUNE 2016


Batwaara. After 1947, phir ek baar. Has the PM started a downhill journey?
24.06.16 - PREET K S BEDI
Batwaara. After 1947, phir ek baar. Has the PM started a downhill journey?



Since the PM has made a forceful intervention to reclaim yoga for Hinduism converting a good fitness routine into a Hindu ritual, it is time to bring some method into the batwaara madness so that we avoid the horrors of 1947. 
 
Since Hindus get yoga, Unnani naturally goes to Muslims and Christians naturally get allopathy. That leaves Sikhs high and dry, more high than dry actually. Only Gujarat and Bihar are dry; Punjab is not. So in order to safe-guard interests of the Sikhs who will be casting a vote in a few months, the government will sign a tripartite deal with Germany the home of homoeopathy and the many Drs. Mukherji of Calcutta who dominate the profession to lease homoeopathy to Sikhs in perpetuity. But on condition that every Sikh beyond the age of 12 undertakes a one-week course on how to say homoeopathy and not homopathy. 
 
To make up for the raw deal they get in therapeutic systems, Sikhs get to make the first claim in the foods category. But you know we are not greedy. Give us this day our makki di roti and sarson ka saag… and chikan curry, chikan tikka , chikan lajawab, chikan behisaab, butter chikan, masala chikan and we ask for no more. Hey sorry, also lassi please. 
 
While on lassi, we lay no claim on buttermilk. By all means give it to English knowing Christians with sexy phoren names. They also get to keep all forms of Italian food including pastas and pizzas. And all confectionary like cakes and pastries. Muslims get all the Kashmiri non vegetarian dishes, all kinds of biryani excluding vegetarian biryani, a non-dish that was created by vegetarians. 
 
The rest goes to Hindus including, as it does, the entire vegetarian palette including daal and vegetables and the Haldiram’s type of stuff but only if they undertake in writing that never again will they refer to kathal as vegetarian’s non-veg and publicly apologize for the existence of soya chunks which were originally a food for horses. 
 
No question about the next category. Ghazals, shers, naghmas and nazms must go to Muslims. They also get to keep Mohammed Rafi. Talks are on with Pakistan to see if we can have dual citizenship for Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan and the younger lot. The Sikhs get Gulzaar and Jagjit Singh, Mikka, Daler and the entire library of Punjabi music from Canada and the UK. However the overseas transaction will happen only if one out of a hundred Sikhs called at random can correctly understand words of any one of the British or Canadian Punjabi songs to be selected by him or her. 
 
Christians get all the songs from Julie, ‘na maanguu sona chandi’, ‘Michael daaru peeke danga karta hai’ and all the Hindi Christmas songs with occasional English words in them sung by Lata, Rafi and the rest. This is as punishment for having converted a few centuries ago. 
 
Hindus keep whatever is not covered by the above. That’s a vast library of music and includes Lata, Asha, Mukesh and Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar and is being offered strictly on condition that Hindus will agree in writing to accept and keep Abhijit. 
 
Muslims get Mughal-e-Azam, Anaarkali and Pakeezah songs and everything choreographed by Saroj Khan. Christians who have already bagged ‘Michael daaru peeke danga karta hai’ etc will also be able to keep everything that Terence has choreographed. As for Sikhs, they get the Bhangra, an honour and responsibility they have accepted with great humility. ‘O Biloo de papa, tussi vi dance karo na.’ Ghanta dance karega Biloo ka papa. Arms aur legs hilata thhaa aur log kehte thhe shayad Bhangra hi hoga. Ab Bhangra bhi gaya. Ab is umr mein Biloo ka papa kuchipudi seekhega? 
 
Now the real challenge. Who gets what in daaru? The easy part first. Wine shine toh Christians ko de do. Sunna hai church mein bhi laga lete hain. Good for them. Muslims are divided. While one set refuses to accept any daaru, there are many who want gin, vodka and Bacardi for their unobtrusiveness. Toh gin, vodka aur rum inki hui. 
 
Which leaves us with beer and whisky. After much consideration the Adjudicating authority (samjho like Cripps Mission) has decided to award beer to Hindus and whisky to Sikhs even though both had laid a strong claim on it. This because after several rounds of testing, the committee felt that paneer tikka goes better with beer and chikan tikka better with whisky. But both parties have agreed that in a spirit of give and take they will be open to sharing. 
 
And finally BC and MC. 
 
Though the claim of the Sikhs was the strongest as was their inventiveness in literally taking BC/MC to the next level involving a variety of interesting relationships, the Adjudicating Committee felt that culture is like a flower bed with flowers of different shapes, colors, texture and fragrance and by just removing even one plant you may end up with a completely different flower-bed. Some aspects of a culture just cannot be split. 
 
And so BC, MC and a variety of other C’s must necessarily be shared. As a proud symbol of the plural but composite culture we have shared for 69 years. 




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'Let this be the last photo-op for drought'
17.06.16 - Civil society news
'Let this be the last photo-op for drought'



Two headlines on water have competed for mind space. The first was on a train carrying water to Latur, which has gone completely dry. The second was on an upcoming bountiful monsoon, which has already sent the stock market soaring in anticipation of rural demand.

As India swings between these extremes, we spoke to Anupam Mishra, India’s most respected thinker and researcher on water, on where water policies have failed. How is it that Latur runs dry when desert communities that receive much less rain than Latur manage so well?
Mishra has spent long years studying social traditions and ancient water systems. He is the author of a revolutionary book on community water harvesting. Excerpts from an interview:
 
We lurch from drought to flood. We have had two years of scarce rain and now we are told the monsoon will be bountiful. How should we manage our water so that we are drought-proof and flood-proof?

Drought does not come alone. It arrives after a drought of thoughts and ideas. But, sadly, we don’t see this. Nature has given us the monsoon. Even today those in positions of power think development is the panacea that will reduce our dependence on the monsoon. We have been listening to such talk since the days of the Bhakra Nangal Dam. Today, Punjab and Haryana won’t share water via a canal even though the BJP is in power at the centre and in the two states. So, thinking that this year we will have a good monsoon and all our problems will be resolved is like burying your head in sand. 

The monsoon experience isn’t like going to a Mother Dairy booth. You insert one token you get a certain quantity of milk. You put in two, you get more. 

It’s only when the rain falls that we know how much precipitation has taken place. That’s why since time immemorial our society, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, designed a range of water harvesting systems  to capture rain whether it was copious or scarce. This has been our tradition.

You could even say that we over-designed such systems. Perhaps, in those days, people estimated that 20 inches of rain would fall. Or maybe 35 inches. The system was designed to capture the extra 15 inches and not let rain run off into drains. So regardless of how much rain fell it was all carefully collected.

Drought would strike in those days too. There were floods as well. But the ability of an intransigent monsoon to cause devastation was blunted. People could continue to lead normal lives. 
 
Every year districts in Maharashtra are in the news for being the worst-affected by drought. Why have no lessons been learnt?

For the first time the question being raised is: should we hold IPL matches in Mumbai when the state is reeling under a drought?  It is a practical question. 

We have 48 stadiums where international cricket matches can be played apart from the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Is there a single stadium that has a water harvesting system? Around 50,000 people can sit in a stadium. We can harvest at least 50 million to 500 million litres of water. 

One minor drought in the state has bowled out the IPL. Every stadium should instal a water harvesting system so that it has surplus water which can water the pitch and supply water to Latur, if needed.  

Instead, trains loaded with water are being sent to Latur. Around 12-15 years ago, water was sent by ship to coastal areas of Gujarat. So, for Vibrant Gujarat or Vibrant India — since the same leadership now rules from Delhi with the same model — just one more feat is left: to send water by air in just two hours. We could also send water by Bullet train. That would be the apex of development in India!

The monsoon has the last laugh for it bestows us rain for four months. We don’t capture it. We let the rain flow into the ocean instead. 
 
Last night, I spoke to my friend, Chhattar Singh, in Jaisalmer. He laughed at the idea of trains loaded with water making their way to Latur. 

He wanted to tell me about the last two years of rainfall in Jaisalmer. In 2014, they got 11 mm of rain and in 2015 they received 51 mm. He said in 10 villages where they had revived old water systems none suffered a scarcity of drinking water, fodder or foodgrain. 
 
Can’t the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka or Andhra take their chartered flights to these villages? And understand the strength of this wisdom?
 
I mean, much more rain falls in Latur than in Jaisalmer. I agree it’s not the Konkan but nature hasn’t deprived Latur of rain entirely. Maybe Latur’s population is more than Jaisalmer’s. But not a single tanker has gone to these villages in the desert that receive such scarce rain, for two years.

How did the villages in Jaisalmer district become drought-proof?

Jaisalmer has an unusual geography. Thousands of years ago, nature created gypsum in stretches and patches under its sand. Gypsum halts moisture and doesn’t let it evaporate. It also prevents sweet water from mixing with saline water below. 

Jaisalmer's villages have beris, kuans and talaabs with this gypsum belt. The sandy soil above blocks the sun and prevents evaporation. The sand feels warm if you touch it. But a few inches below you will find moisture blocked by the layer of gypsum.

You have explained the science to us. But what about the village community’s role?

Their success and strength lie in their tradition. They know how to care for their tanks and catchments. Catchment areas are kept clean and free from garbage, cow dung and animal droppings. They take great care to ensure that their drinking water isn’t contaminated. They say with immense pride, please come and see. 

And such a tradition isn’t just practised only in Jaisalmer, which is in a desert. Just five hours from Delhi is a village called Laporia which receives just 22 inches of rain. At one time three of their tanks were lying broken and it affected their lives. They decided to repair them.    

That year they received 35 inches of rain, more than what they normally receive. The tanks filled to the brim. Laporia had wisely made provision for excess rain. Neighbouring villages were flooded with water. But not Laporia.

In years to come, the area would witness drought. A mere six inches or eight inches of rain would fall. Tankers, fodder and foodgrain had to be sent to villagers near Laporia. 

But Laporia’s people said they didn't need any of this.  They have 103 wells and every year they say, please come and see. We have enough water in our wells and we have groundwater too. There is synergy between groundwater and surface water. If surface water dries up, you can tap groundwater. 

In Latur, in Marathwada, we have used technology to completely squeeze out groundwater. 

In Mumbai we see a 22-metre cricket pitch but we don’t see thousands of hectares of sugarcane in Marathwada.  We don’t see 125 sugar mills. 

In Laporia they took a decision not to grow crops that demanded a lot of water. The community decides wisely.  But if society stops making decisions, and then faces drought and then thinks it will learn from Rajasthan, it's not going to happen. You can’t copy what the villages of Rajasthan did. You have to first change the way you think.

There are places where water harvesting is just a charade. NGOs put up a board saying they have done it. All that they are doing is self-promotion. In villages in Jaisalmer they don’t put up a board announcing that they have carried out water harvesting. 

So it is part of their lifestyle? 

It is their way of life, their culture, their tradition, and a responsibility that they pass on to their children. In Haryana and Punjab they grow paddy today.  It was never their traditional crop. These states have the highest number of agricultural universities. What do those vice-chancellors do? What do they research? Why don’t they tell the government that we will not be able to undertake paddy cultivation beyond another five years because we will run out of water by then?

The traditional food of Punjab was makki ki roti and sarson ka saag. Today, it is wheat and rice and both are not of good quality. A sack of wheat will be invariably branded as wheat from Madhya Pradesh to emphasise its quality. Why don’t they write that it is from Punjab or Haryana? If you are using so much water, grow better quality wheat and rice. 

Many regions in India have turned water scarce. What should we do to make them water rich? 

Politics in India has sunk so low it can only sink our water tables further. Politicians seem to compete with each other in reaching new lows. The politics of today cannot raise water levels. Sure, in an emergency situation you need to send water by train. Send it by plane, by all means. But ask yourself, next year how many gallons of water can be collected from the monsoon when it arrives?

Maybe the monsoon will fail. But there will be some rain. We should start with Marathwada and ensure that from 2017 these regions never ever experience such drought again. This should be the last photo-op of drought in Latur. 

Urbanisation is increasing at a rapid rate swallowing traditional modes of water harvesting, tanks, lakes and wells.  Instead, we are depending on extracting water from rural India. Look at Dwarka in New Delhi.

Absolutely and where are the tankers drawing their water from? From villages. For how long will rural India supply urban India with water. If we can build stadiums, a Metro station and shopping malls in Dwarka, then why can’t we plan and build four large tanks? There will be rain in Dwarka and there will be flooding too. Gurgaon floods so much.  

The definition of a smart city should be that the city’s management of water is very smart. Instead of depleting villages of water, cities can load up on rainwater and take what they need every day. 

Whether it is Chennai or Mumbai, our cities will lurch from flood to drought. People are condemned to suffer because they are not changing their ways. The politics of this country is not changing either. And then we want water harvesting to be a success? It won’t happen. In Jaisalmer and Laporia people show immense courage.  

What about globally? Water harvesting is a part of modern infrastructure as well. 

It is so globally.  Frankfurt airport installed water-harvesting systems around 15 years ago on 10 of its runways. They did not do it out of moral compulsion. The municipality told the airport that its water needs were huge and that it would have to pay the highest cess. 
Frankfurt airport did not have the money to pay. Somebody suggested rainwater harvesting. Today they don’t need to ask the municipality for water.

So why can’t Jaipur, Jodhpur, Delhi and Mumbai do it? The T-3 terminal in Delhi Airport was built in 2010. The arrival segment has been waterlogged four times since. We broke up 10 tanks to make this terminal. So can we make up the loss of 10 tanks by designing water harvesting structures? If we don’t then the monsoon will arrive and say I will drown your airport. 

Chennai airport drowned for seven days. The monsoon warned its citizens, 'my strength isn’t limited to drowning bus stops, I can drown your airport too.'

Apart from Latur there is an industrial township called Dewas near Indore. Twenty years ago, they witnessed a devastating drought. Indore used to receive a pipeline of water from the Narmada. It was decided that a train ferrying water would travel to Dewas from Indore to provide relief to its citizens. The water used to be emptied from the train and with booster pumps the municipality would supply Dewas with water.

The railways said that it cost them `16 lakh to carry water to Dewas every day. Who was going to pay, they inquired.  Why only the MP government should pay, said its citizens. After all various industries, central government employees and so on were also beneficiaries of this water. The municipality was broke.  

So it was decided to construct a pipeline from Indore to Dewas. How many cities will the Narmada supply water to?  How much will you store in the Sardar Sarovar Dam? How many cities will draw water from the Ganga?  

The UPA government allotted 1,100 acres for an IIT in Jodhpur. Among the team of architects shortlisted to build the new IIT was a person who asked the municipality how much water it could supply the new IIT. The municipality retorted that it could just about supply water to the citizens of Jodhpur.

For the first time, a group of architects decided to build 30 tanks for the new IIT. They decided not to grow extensive lawns. Instead they opted for agriculture to add greenery to the campus. 

But what about the other IITs? Smriti Irani has started Unnat Bharat in the IITs, a programme by which the IITs are supposed to adopt villages and develop them. I was invited to speak at a meeting at IIT Delhi. 

I told them, forget villages and adopt yourself. You suffer from a shortage of water. Of what use is technology and degrees when one drought in Latur overwhelms us?
 
(Courtesy : Civil Society News)




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Assessing Rajiv
16.06.16 - PREET K S BEDI
Assessing Rajiv



For those of us who lived through the period, Rajiv after Indira Gandhi was like passing out from a dark dreary tunnel into sunshine. After 18 years of his mother’s efforts to block out the world, Rajiv did just the opposite. He wanted India and Indians to participate and be counted globally.
 
Long before the term ‘demographic dividend’ had been coined, Rajiv understood that our population may be our problem but our people are our asset. This may sound a cliché today but in the mid eighties it was a radical new thought. "India is an old country, but a young nation; and like the young everywhere, we are impatient. I am young and I too have a dream. I dream of an India, strong, independent, self-reliant and in the forefront of the front ranks of the nations of the world in the service of mankind.” 
 
If vision is the art of seeing what could be, Rajiv was by far the most visionary leader we have ever had. Being a quintessential outsider in Indian politics was both his strength and his weakness. Strength because it enabled him to dream bigger dreams unshackled by possible constraints and weakness because his lack of experience made negotiating through the officialdom that much tougher. Tough for today’s generation to understand but after decades of having our hands tied, we had actually begun to believe that India will always be a laggard; he was the first leader to publicly disagree with that assumption. 
 
At a time when even mid-sized corporations had just about issued calculators to their staff and procured electric typewriters for the MD, Rajiv evangelized the computer. This was an extraordinary leap of faith when most people, including this writer felt that computers were too expensive, too complex to use and basically inappropriate for Indians. Banks and Railways and several other departments went on strike. There was an uproar in Parliament. Atalji turned up at Parliament House on a bullock cart in a misguided protest against computers. Even the most radical among us would smirk at him and his so-called ‘computer brigade’. But he bashed on regardless. 
 
Whether by design or by default, Rajiv seemed to understand that computers and telecom will go together. He invited Sam Pitroda to help herald a telecom revolution. Interestingly after IT, the telecom revolution is India’s biggest success story and the two together lie at the heart of our positioning as one of the knowledge leaders of the world.
 
Something that is hardly ever spoken about. He identified a few critical issues where absence of coordinated and focused effort retards progress and set up inter-disciplinary ‘missions’ like the Drinking Water Mission, Education Mission, Telecom Mission, Watershed Management Mission which would and so on. This was the first time any Prime Minister had tried out a structural change in the bureaucracy. To the best of my knowledge no one tried it after him either. 
 
Having shut ourselves for decades, India had been forgotten by the world. In an effort to represent a new face India to global audiences, he organised Festivals of India in several countries. He was the first PM to use mass media to create a sense of nationhood with the ‘mile sur mera tumhara’, the ‘40 years of Independence’ series and several other similar initiatives under Mera Bharat Mahan, though that line was misused later.
 
The first wave of structural reforms in the economy happened in 1985 after he took over. Several commodities and categories were de-licensed, duties reduced, and foreign currency controls eased. Then there was the focus on the Panchayati Raj and devolving power and financial autonomy all the way to the village level. Whether this worked or not this writer is not qualified to say but yes it was again a structural change the likes of which no one else has yet tried.
 
By the time he took over, with countless killings, Operation Bluestar and the 1984 Sikh pogrom in Delhi, the Khalistan movement had reached a dead-end. To his credit despite a resentment caused by his perceived inaction during the 1984 pogrom, Sikhs found him to be more approachable and transparent. What is often forgotten is that he actually managed to break the ice with Sant Longowal and signed a hastily-drawn peace accord. Some say the accord would never have worked out but the assassination of Sant Longowal made that a purely hypothetical issue. Having said that, the issue which his mother had compounded with virtually every action she took was untangled largely by Rajiv.
 
Having said that, on three critical issues of the day, he messed up. One of them took his life. 
 
By first sending in an unprepared Indian Peace Keeping Force to fight a jungle warfare and then withdrawing it without achieving anything, he managed the impossible feat of being hated by Tamils and Sinhalese. It was lack of judgement of a high order even if he was misled by babus around him which many say he was. He had been in office for barely a year and a few months and probably did not understand the complexity of the issue involved but it was easily the most pointless waste of human lives.
 
The second cost him his legacy. No one knows what exactly happened but seems certain money was made by some middleman in the deal. It was utterly naive of him to believe that middlemen can be entirely done away with. In fact the current government has brought back the idea of a fixed remuneration for the middlemen only because it understands that their role cannot be eliminated. 
 
And the third was a set of complementary decisions that would lay open the deep divide within Indian society that should never have been exposed. Whether his intentions were genuine we will never know but the way the Shah Bano case and its aftermath was handled was retrogressive to the core. Impossible to believe that in the twentieth century the Indian Parliament passed a law which provided loopholes to men to not pay maintenance to divorced wives. Some say his decision to open the gates of the Janmabhoomi was a kind of reverse appeasement to the majority community. Both have left deep scars on the Indian body politic. 
 
And last, but not the least. 1984.
 
Till late evening on 31st Oct he was a pilot whose mother had been assassinated. Became the PM at night. By that time the rioting had well and truly begun. Contrary to what is now claimed, the anger against Sikhs was not limited to Congressmen alone. The divide was across the board. 
 
Did he delay sending in the Army? Was he aware how bad it was? Most unlikely. To have to undertake such a serious intervention when you have no access to data as everyone is busy saving their backsides and there is a funeral to attend to is beyond any individual, no matter how miraculous. Modi had been at his job for over 5 months when the riots happened but wasn’t able to control. 
 
My verdict: Not guilty. If anyone should take the blame, it is Narasimha Rao, Home Minister.




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A formidable journalist, India has lost its most outstanding chronicler
13.06.16 - By H K Dua
A formidable journalist, India has lost its most outstanding chronicler



As a young man of 17, Inder Malhotra was there somewhere in the multitudes of people who went up Raisina Hill to watch the birth of free India at the stroke of midnight of August 14-15, 1947.
 
From then, the careers of both India as a free nation and Inder as an aspiring journalist ran parallel to each other — until Saturday, when he breathed his last.
 
Over nearly 70 years, Inder watched and reported on the shaping of a new India, and analysed and commented on the nation’s travails of Partition, its ups and downs, its hopes and moments of despair as faithfully as he could — first as a young reporter in UPI, precursor to the UNI, and later, in The Statesman and the Times of India.
 
When I joined the profession, Inder Malhotra was a big name as the political correspondent of The Statesman, a job to reckon with in those days of the early 1960s. He went on to become its Resident Editor before migrating to the Times of India to work with two other giants of the newspaper world, Sham Lal and Girilal Jain. Later, he branched off as a syndicated columnist, a Nehru Fellow and a writer. All along, he continued to report India for the most respected British newspaper, The Guardian. He also wrote a substantive political biography of Indira Gandhi.
 
During his last few years, he regularly wrote an immensely popular column called ‘Rear View’ in The Indian Express, where he was Contributing Editor — a gripping narrative of some of the most significant events of the history of contemporary India, curated from the pages of his reporter’s notebook. He looked back and forth like any good chronicler ought to, commenting on how Indira was facing succession battles, the making of the Constitution, the course India had chosen in the 1971 War, the Emergency and its aftermath, the era of coalitions and instability, the rise of dynasties, and much else that goes with a big emerging nation’s career.
 
He also recorded the plus points and shortcomings of leaders, their ego clashes, and how these had an impact on decisions. Politics, ambitions, at times behind-the-scenes intrigues, did not escape his sharp eye.

He closely followed the war with China in 1962, the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan, and the negotiations with Pakistan on Kashmir with a rare objectivity that can be emulated even now.

By 1965, he had become a formidable journalist. I was just two years into the profession, when UNI told me to cover infiltration in Kashmir. I found myself on the same flight as Inder Malhotra. For a while, I did get a kick that I was on the same assignment as Inder. But later, some trepidation sneaked in that Inder, with his immense contacts, would do a much better job. Luckily, he was too senior to stay away from Delhi for too long.
 
I spent three weeks more in the Valley, and went on to cover the Hajipir Pass battle. On my return, I found him very appreciative of my efforts, which was encouraging.
Besides being an outstanding political correspondent, he has been perhaps the best defence correspondent since Independence. His commentaries on India’s defeat in the 1962 China war were unsparing. Despite being a Nehruvite — who wasn’t those days? — he was critical of the policy and the flawed decision-making at high levels.
 
Unlike these days, Inder never mixed comments with news reporting. He never got too close to a political leader. He chose to be a detached observer. He never disclosed his sources.
 
It is not just Prime Minister Narendra Modi who can call President Obama ‘Barack’, Inder would not hesitate to call his interlocutors by their first names, sometimes surprising his colleagues at press conferences.
 
During the last two or three years of his life, he was in and out of hospital, fighting a battle against the odds. However, he did manage to write his columns whenever he was able to physically, drawing from his tremendous memory and lifelong habit of keeping notes. At the end of the day, he would still like to write a column or two more.
 
The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. However, there comes a time when even the spirit gives in.
                                         ----------

(Mr H K Dua is Adviser in Observer Research Foundation (ORF). He is a former Editor-in-Chief of the Indian Express.)




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