Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kerala This Week Ver 5.03, 2010

Our state got 9 new trains, got itself included in several new train routes, and a sanction for a new coach factory. Yet, there was no stopping the usual protests, and crying for sympathy on being ignored. Wonder if we can really accommodate more trains? But no harm in asking for more and complaining, especially when we get everything for free. There were also complaints about Kerala being kept out of the Freight Corridor. Brings back memories of when we were left out of the Golden Quadrilateral, perhaps due to our own indecision and inabilities. But then, remember that we were offered central assistance for the estimated Rs.6400 crore North South corridor many years ago, but we are still deciding whether it should be called a "byepass" (if done by lefties) or an expressway (if the righties have their way). Having such an excellent roadline would have eased our rail demands certainly, as well as reduced the accidents on our existing highways. But then we are a state running on political mileage, and have no great consideration for economics or such logic.

The response was same for the nation's budget as well. Opposition political parties were united in talking down the budget and its allocations, but most non-political bodies realized that the budget was very equally based for all financial classes, and the policies were made for taking India to the future, rather than for temporary applause, as is the usual case. And considering the recessionary times, the PM and his team needs a good applause.

Somebody else needs applause. The women of Kerala for bearing the sun, heat, chain-snatchers, and eve-teasers, and turning out in lakhs to offer Pongala - here is an interesting read. A record estimated 3 lakhs women came out to pray for their families and a blessed married life. More power to our women! And kudos to the district administration for keeping the day relatively safe and peaceful, barring random incidents of hooliganism and theft. Lets hope some of our men also take a cue and do something more productive than getting drunk so often and being so happily unemployed.

Scientists from the state have discovered a plant extract which can mimick the effects of viagra, and the plant is relatively common across the state. Well, lets hope it is going to be on sale only on the basis of prescriptions when it finally comes out!

Talking about dysfunction, has been identified that the state's ground water is getting rapidly depleted. This despite chasing out Coke.

There was also another kind of depletion evident from the ongoing spat between malayalam cinema industry professionals and the poet who appeared as an, allegedly uninvited, "interlocutor". That the interlocutor stooped so low on television to foul mouth the superstar Mohan Lal, that too by using filthy language linking the star with an actress, and the audience clapping and rejoicing the thought, was evident of the more alarming depletion in civil standards of our state.

Meanwhile, instead of pouncing on our beloved MP, Tharoor, at every given opportunity, it will be wiser if our leaders first went back and referred to what the word "interlocutor" really means. And no points to the mainstream media as well for conveniently misinterpreting his statements to simply create controversy. It is amply evident from the statements that he never meant or invited anyone to mediate bi-party talks, but simply meant to convey our demands to Pakistan, just as we have always wanted other nations to put pressure on our neighbour.

It is wonderful that the Indian team has won their first match at the Hockey World Cup today against Pakistan. The vicotry has fired up the campaign for giving our heart to hockey again. Many of us certainly did. And great to see that the goalkeeper from Kerala did his share (with the help of the crossbar, more than once!) to see that there was just one goal against India. Dhak Dhak, Go!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kerala This Week Ver 5.02, 2010

Some time back, one of the posts here queried the readers "Where is the only place in the world that a malayali will stand in a queue?" and there was a resounding flurry of correct answers - the state run alcohol shoppes! So this time we are asking a slightly tougher question. Where is the only place in the world that a malayali will show discipline as well as follow traffic rules? Ahh..This time we are giving you the answer as well instead of testing your 100% literacy yet again! The alcohol shoppe again!! Yes, most of the people in the line at the "beverages" outlet wear their helmets! What if it is for a certain level of anonymity. Yet, we refuse to wear it on the road..all because it is a law? What a shame it will be to fall in line, to obey, and all that silly stuff. Those are not for us greater beings, they say; those are just means to impose and restrict the "freedom" of the "common man".

So what if we overtake from the left, or park in front of a No Parking sign, cut through a one way lane? Is it not this attitude and arrogance that converts into road rage and sheer disregard for traffic sense that makes our state one of the toppers when it comes to road accidents and related deaths? Last week there was a report that a 75 kilometer stretch of highway down south kills nearly 150 people every year and injures others several fold. The state police needs to be commended for initiating several awareness programs as well as enforcement plans. However, it is important that we the people cooperate with these great initiatives. If you get caught by a cop, dont bribe him, dont say your dad is a politician, and dont make excuses - just pay the fine, get the receipt and remember the rule. Thats progress and the educated response which will take us forward.

According to an official report given in the news, Kerala has nearly 55,167 people infected by HIV. This information dissemination was a prelude to the arrival of the Red Ribbon Express, a wonderful awareness initiative against the spread of HIV, in the state later this week. Wonder if some people are perhaps misinterpreting the color red. As the saying goes, spread love and peace, not the virus!

Taking the piracy-walas head on, cops have initiated a strong campaign. According to reports, nearly 2,500 raids were made in a single month which fetched over 18,000 fake CDs! And apparently, repeated offenders will be booked under the Goonda act! Looks like someone is showing guts, and it is no wonder the cell is headed by a woman. Lets hope they also show the same mettle and turn on the heat against organized crime and the goons as well.

Talking about heat, the weatherman from our little state says that the sun is already blazing and the temperatures are rocketing along with the prices. There is no instruction yet on what we are allowed to drink this summer. Colas are banned, milk is short, and someone told me water is yet to come from Japan. No wonder theres a long line in front of the "beverages" outlet. Alright, let me get my helmet and go stand in line.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

My Name is..Kaun?

The Pathology of the Politics of Intimidation and Intolerance

Congrats to SRK, all the Indians living in Maharashtra and its capital city, earlier known as Bombay, and the chief minister of that state. SRK for standing up to what he believes and expressing his opinion as an Indian, the Indians for going out there to watch MNIK and reiterate we are Indians First, and the CM of Maharashtra for holding it all together. But if we look beyond (or beneath, if you prefer) the politics and publicity aspects of the MNIK saga, we can easily see why the politics of intimidation and coercion work, and why, more often than not, we cannot enjoy the privilege of the fundamental rights, assured by our nation's founding fathers to every Indian. Why do we think twice before doing what is right? Why are we coerced into silence when our hearts yearn to speak out? Why are we living in constant fear and threat, but left with the feeling nothing can be done about it?

Under normal circumstances, no law abiding Indian citizen should be afraid to express himself or herself, voice opinions, and perform duties or obligations, so long as all these fall within the framework of legality. Yet, we realize this is not the case in our cities and towns. The main reason is because the system has been hijacked by vested interests and corrupted (not just financially, but ideologically and politically as well) - the system, which is meant to protect every citizen, the system on which every citizen should have founded his or her faith, courage, and patriotism. And most importantly, the system which interprets, upholds and delivers the law and justice.

For example, lets take a bandh call by a political party, for a cause or reason that you dont support. Ideally you want to go to work and ignore the call, or perhaps you want to oppose the call because you feel they are wrong. But you cannot. Why? Because you get out, and they will burn your car and beat you up. Why? Because the system connives with them, instead of protecting you. Because the law enforcers and the civil administration are forced to become operators of the political agenda rather than justice. Why? Because they are taught to be loyal to divisions rather than the law, because they are polarized instead of being committed to the neutrality of the constitution. Because they are rewarded only for their allegiance to these forces, and not for their honesty and courage. Why? Because most politicians and their politics survive because of divisions, not because of their committment to the nation or its citizens, and these are the kind of people who can justify violence against women and Valentines day one day and call it an "attack on democracy" the day they get the same treatment. Why? Because people still support them and vote for them, instead of isolating them and shunning them!

Majority of the bandhs and hartals (and along with it, politicians and their parties) would go un-noticed, and definitely fail, if the police and the government machinery ensured there is no violence and coercion. Yet, this doesnt happen because tomorrow it may be the government's own party that may call the bandh. And the police and civil administration frequently get penalized for delivering justice and protecting the citizens, without taking sides.

Or let us take the example of an official demanding bribe. We would think twice before acting against him or her? Why? Because chances are that you will get isolated, be made to suffer, and ultimately become the only loser in the end. Why? Because the wrong-doers become mighty the moment the system is on their side.

Yet, as the educated youth become the majority and slowly "wrests the politics" from the politician, we are seeing signs of great change and glimpses of great hope. We dont need to respond to every violent politician by inking him black, and we wouldnt need to declare war every time a movie is released if we can free the system from the selfish, intolerant, divisive forces, and instead reinstate a system that will respond in the same way and remain neutral, whether its Khan, King, Karan, Kursheed, or anyone other Indian. Because, we are Indians First.

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Kerala This Week Ver 5.01, 2010

As always, the beginning of the year is an opportunity for us to think differently and make resolutions for a more happy, peaceful and progressive life. One would have got the same same feeling browsing through the events of the first few weeks of the year in Kerala. There was a pervasive sense of positivity creeping in slowly, even in governance and in the mindset. Whether this is in preparation for the elections happening in 2011 (all parties are now trying to project a progressive attitude and appear to be pro-development with the polls in mind - at least they started a bit early this time!) or a true understanding that only a progressive attitude can save our little "heaven" does not matter as long as it sustains.

It all began with the honorable Prime Minister of India visiting the Trivandrum to inaugurate the 97th Indian Science Congress. It was wonderful to see this great person in the city, delivering his speech filled with his vision and aspirations for the nation. What would we have done without a leader like him? Special attention to the code of conduct he has released for our minister babus! Thats a great start! Our CM also needs special appreciation for his speech delivered in good articulate English and good style, appropriate for such an international gathering of over 7000 people. The presence of the flamboyant MP of Trivandrum was additional inspiration for the gathering. Altogether there was so much positivity and a real feeling that we can build the nation together.

Well let us hope that the feeling and spirit does not go down, and we can really embrace change. There is a lot of dirt that has accumulated and there needs to be a lot of extra work to stem the rot, get ourselves out of the pit, wash away the stink and clean up, before we actually get on with real progress.

Talking of dirt and stink, I cannot fathom whats happening in our good old Bombay. To say Mumbai is only for Maharashtrians is anti-national and fanatic. And to think it is being done (and supported) for the sake of power and politics shows how dirty the system has become. Special kudos to Mukesh Ambani (not for his company's style of functioning), Shah Rukh Khan (not a fan of his general attitude or acting) and Sachin Tendulkar for being bold enough to speak out against these polarizations. It is obvious that if such voices are not heard and Maharashtra does go the regional way, the commercial and business establishments will soon pull out and move to other cosmopolitain cities. Jobs, money, and gains made over decades will go waste. But what do they care really?

Back in Kerala, the Battle for Munnar has started again and people are joining sides again to fight over government land. One cannot but wonder who answers for the crores of property so easily destroyed last time and what good use was done with the land "recovered" such ways? And if, as they now say, there are fresh encroachments and constructions, then what was the whole initiative about in the first place? Now that the elections are here, we can only sit back and say "Let the games begin".

During the Nishagandhi Festival held recently in the capital city, most of the people were parking their cars and SUVs on the interlocking tiled, footpaths, which the corporation apparently spent lakhs to develop. The policemen on duty were also actually giving directions for these cars to be parked properly so that more cars could be accommodated on the footpath! This is despite the fact that the location has the best parking facilities in the city in and around the palace area, and people need to walk just around 100 metres from these parking spots to the venue.

A recent report from a reputed research center says that the Central Government pumps in nearly Rs 275 crores to the school education sector in Kerala. But that nearly 3661 government schools in Kerala are unviable, and that more parents are opting to send their children to private schools for education. This is a no brainer considering that our politicians have let politics ruin even our schools in Kerala, allowing political party youth wings take over the school campuses, and adding to it is the stagnant, jurassic era syllabus, which does not prepare our kids for tomorrow. But instead, our "analysts" have painted this as Kerala's "Love for English" and also attributed "low fertility" as the underlying cause! Putting it like that ensures that nobody, particularly our rulers, understands anything and so "Aal is well". But every time one sees a school kid, there is an overpowering sense of hope for tomorrow and a genuine promise that at least they will be different. Let us make sure we do everything to ensure that.

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