Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tehelka's secular meltdown

I must admit that I had a moment of schadenfreude when I read about Tehelka's headlong surge towards financial bankruptcy. Notwithstanding its grandiloquent maxim announcing "fearless" journalism, Tehelka, devoid of any distinguishing trait, was destined to be a media non-entity over the longer run.

Tehelkas of this world feed on being political hitmen for the prevalent establishment, always gunning for ascendant opponents. In return they are richly endowed with siphoned-off public money. An object of limited utility with low shelf life, such mediums usually rapidly unravel into intellectual irrelevancy.

Tehelka's problems, though, are much worse. The seemingly charitable testimony offered by patrons like Anil Dharker cannot take away the fatal conceit borne by Tehelka. It claims to speak for the putative aam aadmi in taking upon the establishment, but yet is propped up by the very same elite class, that always has had a symbiotic relationship with the present ruling dispensation. Tehelka's very goal thus undermines its own existence. Let's face it, Tehelka attracted monies from secularist establishment out of gratitude for coffingate. Of course the money was retrieved through public treasury once Congress came to power.

The intellectual class has no appeal for Tehelka's low-brow journalism, and the aam aadmi has a surfeit of secular news sources to access the predictable menu offered by Tehelka. Thus, those who fund it remain disinterested in its coverage, and those readers it attempts to target don't see any need to purchase it. Faced with such an existential dilemma Tehelka finds itself mortally cornered.

Tehelka cannot target ruling Congress, and every Congress term in office by default becomes a period of professional winter for Tehelka. There is the added danger that its liberal patrons will turn upon Tehelka if it ever were to sting Congress-- or the Sonia dynasty. Having shot itself in the foot and fallen wayside politically, Tehelka has to brace up for a secular(worldly) meltdown. ;-)

China's wallet- and its discontents

James Fallows of The Atlantic has a nice article on our present Trillion dollar question i.e., the supersized Chinese export economy and its minatory surplus.

He answers two key questions that laymen without economic background are bound to stumble upon, especially at every maiden attempt we make in trying to gauge the wide Chinese stance. Those being(in his words):

  • Why a poor country has so much money
  • The voyage of a dollar (how money travels)
Reproducing key portions is trivial, but might unduly impinge on the flavor of Fallows's narrative flourish. One also notices the deadpan structure of his article: Chinese economic divide and their ever widening inequality; key to its treasury; probably apocalyptic global impact of their fat wallet etc.

It appears that China has traded its people's savings for social stability and a relatively reliable growth for its economy. Apparently, this asymmetric trade-off is not to Chinese peoples' liking, and the resulting disparity is giving rise to social discontent as well as a growing clamor for efficient approaches to managing treasury notes.

Apportioned as it is, the article ends up by discussing the grimmer aspects of China's bulging muscles and the global conflict it might engender. But unlike the previous epic rivalry, this one seems to pitch its adversaries armed with a curious mix of financial weapons of mass disruption and a reciprocal economic reliance. The article prognosticates little as to how the game might unfold, for obvious limitations of course.

A worrisome denouement of the interlocked growth between these two global players, from Indian perspective at least, is the territorial deficiency or non-existent space for a new player, putting us at a severe systemic disadvantage. Indian moves are bound to run into a labyrinth of built-in measures that will inevitably aim at corralling us into a system designed to reinforce the extant balance.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Is Indian media anti-semitic?

A corollary of secular dissimulation by Indian media happens to be its overt flirtation with anti-semitic tendencies. This is only to be expected since the media secularism is unabashedly aimed at courting Muslims. Antisemitism, then, becomes but a handy ancillary tool to appease their minority constituency with.

This systemic bias has subsequently seeped into the bloodstream of establishment intellectuals. Various commentators in major newspapers have displayed a contemptible attitude on op-ed pages of the Telegraph, Calcutta, and the de facto Marxist mouthpiece, The Hindu, Chennai. One only needs to google articles by the diplomat K.P.Nayar, communist ideologue Ashok Mitra, and several editorials in the southern daily The Hindu, on issues ranging from, or related to, Palestine, Hamas, Iraq, Hezbollah etc. Their apathy, and, quite often, antipathy for Jewish concerns is in striking contrast to their animated embrace of pro-Muslim causes, further reinforced by the alacrity with which they cheer it. Indian media attitude in such cases is "disproportionate," to purloin their pet epithet deployed after the Israeli action against Hezbollah last year.

Recently, the putative grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who goes by the name, Arun Gandhi, made, what largely amounts to anti-semitic remarks, on a blog, which itself is symptomatic of the prevalent Indian elite sentiment. Those remarks carried the now familiar slur directed at Jews that they, namely Jews, wish to exploit the memory of Holocaust by making everyone in the world feel guilty about it. This in turn is the same language employed, most recently, by the likes of Michael Scheuer, Pat Buchanan and traditionally by arch leftists.

Arun Gandhi has quit his position following the controversy over his remarks. Apparently, some people in the media are disturbed by this development, and have reported the event in a rather lugubrious tone.

Excerpt this:

"The alleged comments were made, media reports said, during an online discussion on faith..."

[When it comes to antisemitic comments, the happenings are somehow always "alleged", but can never be confirmed. Such restraint is utterly lacking when the issue involves Muslims.]

"Arun, whose comments ruffled the Jews' feathers"

[Poor construction, but the sentiment is clearly unfriendly.]

"But that did not pacify the angry Jewish community, which wanted the writer to resign, media reports said."

[The implication being: You see, the Jews are never content with mere apologies. They will not settle for anything less than total revenge.]

But then this perversity has been a staple of Indian media's discourse, even though the little Jewish state of Israel, and the Jewish diaspora in US, has been immensely helpful to India-- most notably, during hard times such as the Pakistani invasion of Kargil.

Deliverance from this crass vulgarity is not in sight though, what with the middle-eastern robber barons pouring petrodollars and bankrolling the English media in India. At this rate, such attitudes can only be expected to worsen.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

And the 'Bharat Ratna' goes to.....

Some people might feel offended by the title since it plays on a frequent delivery line used during inane Bollywood awards, which itself is lifted from Hollywood's Academy awards ceremony, much like everything else, in keeping with the rich Bollywood tradition. Arguably cheapening the award one might say.

Fair enough. But the rhetoric being ratcheted up on the issue, especially following Advani's appeal to the PM, has made this usually dour event into a tearjerker, with all the elements of your usual Bolly melodrama. There's villains galore with axe to grind(Sagarika, Churkha), sycophants of resident lord(Sonia bhakts), escapists who would rather do away with the award(Sanghvi ), with some inkling of jokers( 'Jug'ular), and then the central love tango(LKA , Atal) without which no Bollywood movie can be complete . There's also the completely irrelevant filler element(comrades), making for a complete recipe. Anyway, we digress.

Bharat Ratna, as the name suggests, should be strictly given to 'ratna'(gem) of Bharat. Since it is a public award, the criterion, and process, for finding a suitable candidate should be transparent. A quicklist would tell us that someone who has transformed the lives of significant chunk of Indians, for the better, should be a deserving candidate. Thus candidates can be drawn through all walks of life. If we scan through the list of previous 'Ratnas,' it becomes clear that political insouciance has let frivolous people end up as recipients, reducing the prestige of 'BharatRatna.'

Not surprisingly, most of the awardees are retired politicians. And those who sit in decision too are politicians. There's a disturbing conflict of interest at play here. The award is meant for outstanding citizens, for them to be recognized by their countrymen. Politicians, by virtue of the offices they hold, more particularly the top ones, readily hold this recognition, and in certain cases(Vajpayee) even public adulation. Rewarding them makes the whole process redundant. As a sad reminder of our stagnant, socialist past, one gets the feeling that politicians wish to corner even this little space that should be strictly reserved for private citizens.

Being a developing, populated country, India is addled with enormous problems. Fortunately, we also have a significant number of strivers who work towards easing of problems. A Sridharan who cuts through congestion of our capital; a Tata who makes the dream of family transport a reality; a Seshan who brings government to its righful owners-- the people; a NarayanMurthy or Ambani who brings honest, honorable living to our multitudes; an old HD Shourie who stoically, and with admirable forbearance takes upon the neglected causes of society; such doers, both men and women, deserve public recognition. It is they who have touched the lives of many, in ways that we now take for granted.

Let there be no cash associated with the award. Its monetary worth will be decided by people who will undoubtedly weigh it in gold. But such value will come only if the award goes to meritorious achievers, not meretricious group-thinkers. Avoiding a decision by abolishing the award is a cop out. Quitting simply won't do.

I started with the silverscreen world line, but frankly, I don't know whom the award will go to. I just hope that it will be a private Indian.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ratnas galore

Bharat Ratna....

....Congress Ratna

[the abominable personality in bottom photo is former MP, Ganga 'Sonia' Charan Rajput.]
PS- Post best viewed in Firefox

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why are you lying Mr.Bidwai?

If there were any 'Hall of Shame' dedicated to Indian media, Comrade Bidwai would be its star attraction. He has displayed an admirable consistency in getting things wrong. It is only recently that his dominance is under threat by Yogendras-come-lately, who are being just as consistent in the failure dept., if not more.

Mr.Bidwai came up with this piece, hollering excitedly, "BJP on a downswing in Gujarat," on Dec.14, 2007 i.e., barely 9 days before the official results were declared. Read it for yourself and laugh out loud, for it is futile to excerpt that one and deprive you of precious humor.

Now, undaunted by the results, Comrade Bidwai is at it again. One would think that the severe rebuke served by Gujarat's electorate will moderate our comrade, but no such luck. There's no stopping him. He comes up with an equally ridiculous piece, titled Why Gujarat , heaping abuse on Gujaratis; panning, what just a week ago, was his favorite party, Congress(Italy); and, finally, torching the reputation of Gujarat state itself.

Apart from the hyperbole that's expected from Mr.Bidwai, obviously in the Marxist mouthpiece, Frontline, this article is riddled with misleading facts. Let's visit few instances that give up his conceit. Mr Bidwai says-
Consider development. Despite high GDP growth, Gujarat’s rank in areas such as health, literacy, education, and hence human development and gender empowerment, has been slipping, according to the official Human Development Report (2004).
You wonder why anyone would look into a 2004 report when it's 2008 already (download report here). Well, the reason is not difficult to see. The report, funded by UN, has been co-authored by some Mrs. Mahadevia, who says , "Gujarat under Modi has fared worse than most states in almost every index of human development. Hunger, disease and death are chronic in the villages."

Clearly, she's a fellow-traveler. It also helps that the report is supposedly deemed official, while there are a multitude of such official reports that attempt to take stock of state's progress. But Mr Bidwai just chose this one.
But this is not all. The crowning glory of the Marxist charade here is that the whole report is based on data from 1991-2001 at most, certainly before the appointment of Narendra Modi as CM. In some cases, which Mr.Bidwai cites conveniently, the numbers are solely from one or two years as you will just see. Raising the pitch a notch higher Mr.Bidwai tosses this nugget at us-
Nothing bears more eloquent testimony to Gujarat’s unbalanced and warped development than the fact that 74.3 per cent of its women and 46.3 per cent of its children are anaemic.
Makes you sit and take notice. But wait, don't be fooled just yet. Mr.Bidwai misquotes the figures. It is 46.3 per cent women and 74.5 per cent children. Check out the figures of other states too.[Table 71 and 69, from pages 315 and 314, for women and children resp.]
Figures below, States:: % women anaemic:: % children anaemic
  • TamilNadu 56.5 69
  • Gujarat 46.3 74.5
  • West Bengal 62.7 83

The "eloquence" of Bengal doesn't seem to bother our comrade. Bidwai carries his selective outrage further-
Gujarat’s indices of patriarchy are frightening. The sex-ratio is an abysmal 487:1000 in the 0-4 age-group and 571 in the 5-9 age-group (national averages, 515 and 632 respectively).
Firstly, it is 467:1000 not 487 as Mr Bidwai quotes. Abysmal? Yes. But check the competition. [Table 57, sex-ratio, page 308]

States :: 0-4 age group ::5-9 age group
  • Gujarat 467 571
  • Maharashtra 496 565
  • West Bengal 481 629
  • Kerala 329 408
Mr Bidwai makes it a point not to talk about the Marxist utopia of West Bengal? Makes you wonder why. But, he's not finished, not just yet. He drops another number.
Gujarat’s health indices are barely higher than Orissa’s. The proportion of children under age 2 who receive complete vaccination fell from 53 to 45 per cent between 1998-99 and 2005-06.
Okay, the report doesn't talk about vaccination figures. I am not aware where Mr Bidwai got his numbers. However, what Comrade Bidwai doesn't tell us is that in almost all health indices , numbers from Gujarat are barely higher than Waste Bengal too. Further, they are barely lower than Kerala's in most cases.

One more:
In social sector spending as a proportion of public expenditure, Gujarat ranks a lowly 19 among 21 major States.
This is slightly tricky. Lesser spending doesn't necessarily mean bad. It can also mean that taxpayers are losing lesser on wasteful policies or that the efficiency is better which warrants reduced spending. Ah, but then we're talking about comrade Bidwai here. Such inconveniences are quietly buried under the rhetoric that follows.

Read it, it's quite entertaining. All we're left to do is to wonder why Mr Bidwai prefers to lie repeatedly! The tone of the article is unmistakably hostile to Narendra Modi and Gujarat. While the CM, Mr Modi, cannot be held accountable towards index figures prior to his tenure, the populace of Gujarat does not fare anywhere close to the dire picture that Mr Bidwai has painted here.

Anyway, I don't think our comrade is listening. You can bet he will persist with his tunnel vision.

Update Jan 14: Figures from Kerala added.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

President's paycheck

President Patil's register rang aloud ka-ching, today. Apparently GOI doubled her paystub. That's nice. No complaints. Well, except one.

President Kalam, the previous guy in Rashtrapati Bhawan, was notorious for his honesty and ascetic lifestyle. True story: Kalam paid 3 lakh rupees( worth 3 Tata Nanos) towards the bill, for one, O-N-E, visit by his relatives to his official residence in Delhi, his secretary Nair disclosed after his retirement. Those poor folks visited him only once during the five yrs.; taxpayers would have happily lifted that burden, as a recognition of Kalam's remarkable record in office-- but no, the proud President would've none of it.

But as luck would have it, it was too good to last. I mean having a President like Kalam. Vengeful fate thrusted clueless Pratibha Patil on the nation. And this lady has been making full use of her office ever since...for personal purposes. Patil recently took her family, 15 people in all (some family!), on a taxpayer funded trip to Andaman. Not just that, few trees had the misfortune of coming in way of family revelry and had to be sacrificed. Of course Patil won't disappoint us by paying even a dime for her family junket, shrewdly undertaken alongside some official trip, but you would think that the heavily burdened aam aadmi would desist from rewarding such Presidential indulgence. Not quite.

Representatives, elected by the very common man, have decided to richly reward Patil. While there's no one to rescue the farmers on suicidal binge(Vidarbha), children dying of hunger(Vidarbha again), from Patil's backyard no less. Neither the PM Manmohan Singh nor the President, are bound to loose sleep over it.

Do we people really deserve them?

Since many people seem to reach this page looking for American President's paycheck, please check this for the same.