Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I make out of the Lokpal issue

Anna Hazare led protest against the introduction of the Lokpal Bill and the corruption in general seems, at least to me, to have gathered the largest number of supporters to one single cause across the nation than any other non-political or non-religious cause. Emotions run high, as the government struggles to handle the juggernaut of India Against Corruption's (IAC) protest. But as any mass movement, the fundamental questions seem to be left unanswered in the most clear terms.

The most important question I find unanswered among the mayhem, of such emotion and hyper-reporting is "What specifically Anna Hazare fasting for (or against)? Is it to withdraw the government's draft from the parliament so that discussion for the consensus should continue? Is it to table the Jan Lokpal for discussion in the parliament's houses? Or is it to pass it?" Sometimes, I hear IAC say that ultimately they want a "strong" Lokpal Bill to be passed and sometimes, to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill by Aug 31. The fasting, protests and the mayhem has yielded the obvious result. Confusion and lack of clarity

I am clearly against, the present version of the government's Lokpal Bill which excludes the prime minister's office and thousands of other politicians from the Lokpal's reach. So, I am clearly against the passage of the government's version of the Lokpal. On the other hand, Jan Lokpal as explained in this slideshare seems to be pretty sound. For example, contrary to the popular allegation that the Jan Lokpal as proposed by the IAC would be an unelected entity, there is a chance to propose names for Jan Lokpal membership at least for the educated masses and those with access to the medium of electronic communication. I think it is better than the current scenario where the common man has no means to propose names for the vigilance departments like CBI or CVC. Similarly, I also welcome the proposal to empower the Loklpal to file FIR against High Court and Supreme Court judges without the permission of Chief Justice of India.

However these are just parts of the Jan Lokpal Bill, and despite spending some time searching on the Internet, I couldn't find either a draft of the Government's Lokpal Bill or a comparison of the bill with that of the Jan Lokpal bill by a neutral party (neither IAC nor government). So, (against all my gut feelings), I have to allow for the government's draft version to contain at least some element that is worth discussing to be part of the final "strong" lokpal that should be passed. So, I would support Anna's fast fully only if he does so to stop government's version of the bill from being passed thus keeping the Jan Lokpal alive and up for further discussions to take the best out of both versions. But if he wants the Jan Lokpal to be passed thus killing the Government's bill, I must conclude that Anna's (and the IAC's) intentions are "equal but opposite" to that of the government's intentions

Monday, August 15, 2011

National Anthem and Patriotism

Its The Indian Independence day. Today I witnessed the usual. A lot of Indian flags fluttering around, the chanting of the National Anthem (not always as it is supposed to be, but as was taught in school), distribution of sweets and inspired patriotic speeches amid local politicians. During the flag hoisting ceremony I asked a little girl, probably in her second or third grade, what language is our national anthem written and she promptly answered "Hindi". Now I can start judging things about her and her school, but I tried not to, because I am sure I wouldn't have known the answer to that myself at that tender age. And the schools (accepting the fact that they are business houses and are getting more professional about it with every passing day) would care more about her academic scores and extra-curricular activities than clarifying this particular detail.

But then I suppose we should know certain basics about our own national anthem. Like what language it is written in, and its meaning. The first one seemed easy. Written by Tagore, it has to be Bengali. But why guess, when we have Wikipedia! I looked up and it was indeed Sanskrit, but heavily sanskritized. As of the meaning, I must admit, this is the first time I cared to look it up despite conspiracy theories that the National Anthem praised King George V instead of God. Neverthless, here is what I found in Wikipedia

Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Dispenser of India's destiny.
Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sindhu,
Gujarat and Maratha,
Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal;
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,
mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is
chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea.
They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
The saving of all people waits in thy hand,
Thou dispenser of India's destiny.
Victory, victory, victory to thee.

But there is one question in my mind. Does the fact that a lot of us don't know about our own National Anthem or the details around it make us unpatriotic? I will struggle to answer this question all my life. I suppose we think about patriotism very less on a daily basis. But Independence Day is a good opportunity to think about it. The way I see it, National Anthem is an important tool to instill a sense of patriotism and however, wrongly we pronounce the words or how many ever times we sing the anthem without stopping to think about the language the Anthem originates from, the fact that we stand up, stay still, look at the flag and salute it should be testimony enough for the fact that we have some sense patriotism to the idea of India. But getting it right and knowing about the National Anthem better definitely shows that one is at least curious to be more educated and rational about her or her patriotism, which otherwise merely be an unexplainable psychological feeling.

Any piece of writing on India and patriotism wouldn't be complete without thinking of Mahatma Gandhi. But I don't want to use this space to praise him. But instead remember a piece of dialogue that Ben Kingsley delivers as he played Gandhi. The piece struck me because of its contemporary relevance.

Nehru: "But I thought you were against fighting"
Gandhi: "Where there is injustice, I always believed in fighting. The question is, do you fight to change things or do you fight to punish? I've found that we are all such sinners, we should leave punishment to God. And if we really want to change things, there are better ways than derailing trains and slashing someone with a sword"

Friday, August 12, 2011

"I keep reading your blogs!"

For the second time I hear within one week I hear from a friend "I keep reading your blogs Badhri", and I go blank, wondering "Did I even write a post?" The question should have been written all over my face. So they go on to provide highlight of my blog post. Apparently they show more interest in my blog than I do. I keep promising them to write more. I hope in its own self-referential manner, this does some justice! :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The India Story summarized!

I have my LPG at subsidized rate, while my servant maid pays more for the same since she takes a private connection. Solving her problem is tricky since she doesn't have a proper photo ID or a residence proof! She pays more for being poor, ignorant and migrant.