Saturday, January 30, 2010

India happy with Sri Lankan poll results

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The results of the Sri Lankan Presidential polls will come as a good news to India. The government seems to be quietly happy over the victory of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. New Delhi believes understands India's worries and concerns and ill lead to political stability in a country still divided on ethnic lines. The government is also happy over the fact that doesn't need to deal with a new occupant in the Presidential Palace after showing signs of favouritism over Rajapaksa.

India and Sri Lanka had shared close political ties since independence but over the last two decades the relationship was strained first after India's military blunder with the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) and subsequent assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in 1991. These incidents made sure that India always made a measured approach when it came to the Sri Lankan foreign policy.

Certain political organisation regularly voicing the propaganda of the LTTE did not help the cause between the two countries either. India which had burnt it's fingers with the IPKF in the 80s did not want to militarily get involved with the Lankan issue. This meant that both China and Pakistan got an opportunity to establish military ties with Sri Lanka and increases their military sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean.

Rajapaksa's opponent General Sarath Fonseka had close ties with the Chinese especially people among it's too military brass. India's western neighbour Pakistan was also said to have shared warm relationship with Fonseka. From India's perspective Rajapaksa's win was very important not for the betterment of relationship between the two countries but also for India's influence over the Indian Ocean region. China had already shown keen interest in establishing naval bases in Sri Lanka.

News Delhi has now approached Colombo for the settlement of the Tamil refugees who have been torn apart by three decades of the civil war where they suffered both at the hands of the terrorist and the government. The Indian government has expressed its wish to open a Consulate in Jaffna in Northern Sri Lanka once a strong hold of the LTTE. Sri Lanka in return will open a mission in Kolkata.

Hope these ties go a long way for paving warm relationship between the two countries. India has to play a keen role in the post-LTTE Sri Lanka.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Shiv Sena doesn't believe in democracy

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

If you think under world is powerful in Mumbai read this “This is not Shahrukh, but the Khan in him that's saying all this. Let Shahrukh go and stay in Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad. He is not needed in Mumbai. Balasaheb has made it clear that Pakistani players wouldn't be allowed to play in the IPL or set foot in Maharashtra" Wonder what this is well this is nothing but Shiv Sena's reacting to Shahrukh's support for the Pakistani players in the IPL.

The Shiv Sena spokesman doesn't stop with that he also adds ““There will be dire consequences if Shahrukh defies the orders of the Sena chief. Shahrukh must think twice before speaking. This is Maharashtra and the Shiv Sena chief's writ runs here." Well it is for everyone to judge weather this is the language a political party is expected to speak in a democracy? Or the larger question that looms is weather Shiv Sena and its by-product the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena even believe in Democracy?

None of us unaware of the fact that Pakistan had a role to play in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and we should refrain from washing our hands from it. But is this the kind of language a person should expect in our democracy where the Constitution ensures us 'freedom of speech.' Over the last few years there has been a tussle between the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to be a saviour of the Marathi cause. Now when it comes to Pakistan and racial attacks in Australia, Shiv Sena wants to represent the Indian cause.

When Mukesh Ambani one of India's leading industrialists said Mumbai belonged to all Indians the Sena slammed him. They had earlier done the same to one of the greatest Marathi icons Sachin Tendulkar as he faulted saying he was an Indian first. Mukesh Ambani creates jobs and thus has the right to speak on it, MNS and Sena are just the hungry consumers of it. Sachin makes India smile and unlike the Thackreys can walk into any Indian home and would get the treatment of a king.

Do the Thackreys believe they run a dictatorial rule over entire Maharashtra and Mumbai? The drubbing they got in the elections should have been an eye opener for them but that seems far from true. The question is not just about Pakistani players being allowed to play in the IPL but of a political forces which seems to consider itself above the law? It is high time the centre and the state machinery take some strong measures against such militant political parties.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

North East snubbed at in Phir Mile Sur

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

It has been more than two decades that Indians first heard a song 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara.' Few would have realised that this song would be something next just to the National Anthem. In the single channel Doordarshan era it was one of the most sought after programmes. The song which represented India and had Bollywood stars, musicians, cultural icons, sportsman and ordinary people. Cut to 26th January 2010 and we get a remixed version of the original song which mesmerised us for more than two decades.

To spread the message of 'unity and diversity' once again in a rising and fast globalising India 'Phir Mile Sur' was conceived. But the question is where was North-East in the entire video? The original one at least featured a dance sequence which had all the major tribes from North East. The only representation of the entire region was through an immobile Bhupen Hazarika and Mary Kom packing a few punches.

Was that all about North-East? Although it is easy to blame the mentality of the people in the mainland behidn this, but the truth lies elsewhere. The entire 16 minutes video seemed to be a representation of Bollywood stars more than anything else. Where were our cricketers? Doesn't Sachin Tendulkar stand a place among Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Singh? Cricket has always been blamed for our failure in other sports but the fact remains it is the most popular sport in India.

Coming to the issue of North East, the region not missed out on the video but has surely lost percentage in the footage compared to the original song. The reason for this is very simple, the region doesn't have any major stars in Bollywood and it slipped out of the mind of video director whose only claim to fame has been directing Kailash Surendranath a Bollywood pot-boiler Love You Humesha. If lack of awareness and creativity needs any example Phir Mile Sur would be in the lead.

What was the director's though process behind the entire video? NE wasn't represented not because the director had some bias but because he wasn't even aware enough have a bias in his mind. Why on earth did the make the video in the first place? If it was to represent unity in diversity why is the end product to poor? The makers of the video should think back and reflect upon their idea, it this what they feel will unite India?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Phir Mile 'Bollywood' Ke Sur

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

15th August 1988 Indians heard a song 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara.' Few would have realised that this song would be something they would hum for rest of their lives. In the single channel Doordarshan era it was one of the most sought after programmes. The song which had Bollywood stars, musicians, cultural icons, sportsman and ordinary has its appeal even in the new millennium India. The song's popularity can be judged from the fact that it is one of the highest searched videos in YouTube.

Cut to 26th January 2010 and we get a remixed version of the original song which mesmerised us for more than two decades. To cash on this popularity of 'Mile Sur Mera Tumhara' and to spread the message of 'unity and diversity' once again in a rising and fast globalising India 'Phir Mile Sur' was conceived. But did it do justice to the original song? Is it better than the original which still sounds catchy after so many years?

First and foremost it seems more like a Bollywood ke sur thing than the unity in diversity thing which it intends to be. At 16 minutes it seems never ending montage of musical beats. What was the entire idea behind the entire song. Wasn't it to show 'unity in diversity'? But the beats of the song which never matched from one transition to another and it showed more of diversity and no unity at all. Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan his wife Aishwarya, Amitabh Bachchan seem to be representing India to it's producers.

Cricketers have been snubbed. Can the producers explain why someone called Sachin Tendulkar doesn't find a space in the never ending video? Is there a bigger Marathi icon than Sachin? Or for that matter why leave out Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble or Rahul Dravid? Well bashing cricket seems to be the only justification of our poor performance in all other sports. When Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Kumar who feature in the video were buying peanuts outside their school Sachin was scoring runs for India!

And the never ending bias towards North East. In 2010 you would expect people to be a little more sensitive about such issues. But no NE is represented by a Manipuri boxer and Assam's Bhupen Hazarika. What about the six other states of the region? NE has lost not just in time but in terms of percentage from the original video. When a region feels alienated from the rest the people who conceived this video should shown some more sensitivity and intellect.

For all the hype it created, 'Phir Mile Sur' turns out to be a complete dud. It was more like an advertisement for Bollywood at international film festivals rather than a video which will unite India. The old Mile Sur still seems to be rocking.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Pawar becoming an embarrassment for Manmohan

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Sharad Pawar is turning out to be the biggest embarrassment for the Government. In there is one ministry in the UPA government which needs an overhaul it is the Agricultural Ministry which the Nationalist Congress Party chief is heading. Pawar's failure to control the price rise of essential commodities is seriously denting the image of the government which claims it to be a Government of the Aam Admi.

The big challenge for the Manmohan Singh now is how to save the face of the government without hurting the NCP chief. Congress had neutralised him in the Lok Sabha elections where they had gained more seats than the NCP. But the Maharashtra Assembly elections meant that Congress could not breathe in Maharashtra without NCP providing the oxygen cylinder.

What is hurting the government's image more is Sharad Pawar's aspiration for cricket which has become an embarrassment. When the country is recovering from one of it's worst financial crisis the person holding a key portfolio like agriculture seems to be too busy in paving a way for himself as the next ICC president.

Nobody doubts the intention of the Prime Minister or his abilities to run a government but he seems to be paying the price of running coalition government. Had Pawar still been with the Congress he would have surely lost his ministry but Manmohan's hands are tied. Taking any action against Pawar would be political suicide for the Maharashtra government.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Will Netaji's truth ever come out?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

He had once famously said "The greatest curse for a man is to remain a slave. The grossest crime is to compromise with injustice and wrong. The highest virtue is to battle against inequity, no matter what the cost may be.” As the nation celebrates the 113th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose we still wonder will the conspiracy surrounding his mysterious disappearance ever come out? It has been 63 years since we achieved independence India's biggest mystery still remains unsolved.

Many would like to believe in the crash theory that Netaji had succumbed to the injuries after the plane crash while many believed that there was a huge conspiracy behind his disappearance. Subhash Chandra Bose might have become a political victim and people who were threatened by his image as leader made sure that his life and death remained a mystery. Following are some reasons why many do not believe the plane crash theory:

  • The Taiwanese authorities have denied any plane to have crashed at the given time and date anywhere in their country. Can such a claim be out rightly rejected?

  • Declassified documents of British intelligence says British Prime Minister Clements Attlee decided ‘Let him remain where he (Subhash C. Bose) is now’. This decision was taken in October 1945. It clearly indicates that he was alive even in Oct 1945.

  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was looking out for Bose till about 1950s due to his closenss to the Communist block, If he was dead why were they doing so?

  • In 1946, Gallacher, a British communist party worker publicly criticised the then Irish President D’ Valera for welcoming Netaji in Doublin! D’ Valera didn’t deny this. He visited India after 1946 and even commented publicly ‘I expected to meet Bose here’!

  • The British intelligence has reported that Nehru knew where Netaji was. Nehru took the Foreign Affairs portfolio himself and appointed none other than Vijayalekshmi Pandit as the ambassador to Russia!

  • Former Indian ambassador Dr Satyanarayana Sinha once met Goga, the son of Abani Mukherjee, a revolutionist in the Russian communist party; who told him that his father and Netaji were prisoners in adjacent cells in Siberia. He also told Sinha that Netaji had assumed the name ‘Khilsai Malang’ there. The most shocking of all information it contained was that Netaji had posted a letter from Russia to Nehru, telling that he wished to come back and he also asked Nehru to make amendments for his come back!

  • One more British archive document also states that the entire theory of the plane crash, in Taihuku (Japan), was pre-planned and contrived. In fact as late as December 20, 1945, a Japanese newspaper even reported that Bose was on his way to the Soviet Union and passed through Tokyo.

  • Netaji was in fact very much alive till at least 1946 one full year after his supposed "death". Russian archives had yielded two precious documents. The first concerned a discussion that Joseph Stalin had with his defense minister Voroschilov and foreign affairs minister Molotov in 1946. The second was a report filed by a Soviet field agent stationed in India, also in 1946 .


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Congress-NCP sing the Marathi song

By: Subhadeep Bhattacarjee

Well if you thought on the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are the only saviour of 'Matathi Manoos' they have a new competitor. Well it is none other than the State Government or the combination of the Congress and the NCP. If the migrants in Mumbai (read Biharis and UP walas) thought that the grand old party of Indian politics would stand for their rights it has back stabbed them and played the language card.

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday framed new rules for taxi drivers to get permits in Mumbai. According to the diktat, taxi drivers must have residence proof of 15 years of domicile in Maharashtra. New taxi permits will only be given to those who can speak, read and write Marathi, as per these rules. This in a city where more than two-third of the taxi drivers are migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The The Mumbai Taximen's Union (MTU) said it would move the Bombay (opps Mumbai!) High Court to challenge the government's move as this new rule is undemocratic and discriminating. Congress-NCP's move is simple, its pseudo-Marathi stand means that the Shiv Sena and NCP won't be able to play the Marathi card against the government. Both these parties thrive on the polarity in the state and if the government doesn't back the migrants then Shiv Sena and NCP might die a slow death.

The message from the government is quite simple “We are not welcome to migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bhiar”. Well many might argue that people from Maharashtra go unemployed due to the constant migration but the question arises why can't a Marathi drive the Taxi in the first place in his home state with the Home Ground Advantage while migrants (or better known as Bhaiyyas) can do it coming thousands of kilometres from their homes?

The other side of the story is that migrants thrive in business where the locals don't want to get their hands dirty. Why don't the Marathis sell milk and vegetables in Mumbai? Who has stopped them from competing with the migrants? If still the political parties say that the migrants are snatching the job than then they should stand up and applaud that migrant who has been able to do this thousands of kilometres away from home.

Now the big question is who will stand up for the rights of these migrants with the Congress and NCP also having turned their back on them. Well with Nitish turning the tide in Bihar migration might come down. NREGA has made Biharis stick to their state creating problems for big farmers in Punjab who don't get cheap labour any more. Hopefully the same happens in Maharashtra too for such politicians to wake up and realise the importance of migrants.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Deemed to Doomed University!

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal seems to be in a mood to revolutionise higher education in India. He started with the argument for single board from the country, then scrapping of exams at the matriculation level and went to suggest 80% of marks as a criteria for seeking admission to the IITs. Now he has dropped a bomb on more than 2 lakh students by de recognising 44 deemed universities across 13 states in India.

Although nobody doubts Sibal's ability or his intent in changing the face of education in India he might be taking too many harsh steps which will pressurise the students more than change the educational system in India. There has been panic in the minds of the students studying in these deemed universities which seems to have become doomed overnight after the Central government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court requesting de-recognition.

It's a known fact that most of the Deemed Universities de recognised by the Centre ought to have been de recognised. Many were granting degrees at will and have become money laundering in wake of the autonomy granted to them and represent teaching caf├ęs rather than universities. Some have upped their intake level beyond their permissible limits while most don't have experienced faculty to teach students in professional courses that they have started.

But the big questions that arises is who is responsible for granting them deemed status? Sibal's predecessor Arjun Singh's tenure as the HRD ministry is one of darkest phases in India's history. The controversy surrounding his reservation policy meant that the faulty process of accreditation that went under his nose went unnoticed. And the results are here for all of us to see. The Centre is in a Catch 22 situation where it has to de-recognise the deemed status even though it doesn't want to do so.

The biggest victims here have been the students who have flocked to these institutes seeing their deemed status. Now these people are uncertain about their future. These people who have invested their time and money in these institutes are in a panic mode all due to our bureaucracy and faulty educational system. Now will anybody from Arjun Singh to his bureaucrats to people running these institutions face any legal action?

Although Sibal's action was inevitable he could have approached it in a different manner. A time frame could have been set for revoking the deemed status so that the future students to these institutes could have a better choice at the same time the present crowd would have been spared. Monetary compensation to each student could have been a good idea to punish these institutes. As for Arjun Singh and his team nothing much can be done as all politician and bureaucrats in India enjoy immunity from legal action.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

IPL 3: The fight begins with auction

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

A noticeable difference between the first auction in the Indian Premiere League and the one today has been the maturity shown by the franchisees. One lesson that the teams have learnt in the last two seasons is big name don't necessarily deliver match winning performances. The bits and pieces cricketers and the lesser known names are the once who have generally excelled in the two editions of the tournament. New stars have taken birth in the last two years while some stars failed to sparkle.

Some teams like the Kolkata Knight Riders suffered heavily having too many big international names while most of their Indian players failed to perform in both the seasons. Having too many international stars also did not help cause as only four could be fielded. Deccan Chargers Hyderabad learnt the lesson in the first season where Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Shahid Afridi and Herschelle Gibbs could not be played in the same team.

Value for money seems to have been the mantra for most of the franchises in this auction and some of them have made smart and logical decisions. Kolkata Knight Riders have bought out the contract of Australia skipper Ricky Ponting who is unlikely to figure in this season's tournament. KKR who had made a mockery of themselves last years buying Bangladesh all-rounder Mashrafe Mortaza for $600,000 (Rs 2.7 crore) and played him in only one match made a sensible decision this time going for New Zealand all-rounder Shane Bond for a whopping $750,000 (Rs 3.42 crores)

Royal Challengers Bangalore followed KKR's footsteps and ending its relationship with Australian bowler Nathan Bracken. Explosive Caribbean all-rounder Kieron Pollard also went for a whooping $750,000 after a four-way tie breaker. Pollard has impressed all with his display in the inaugural Champions League was brought by Mumbai Indians. Mohammad Kaif who was released by Rajasthan Royals was picked up by Kings XI Punjab.

Harshal Patel, Harmeet Singh and Ashok Menaria are the U-19 players who have a fixed price of Rs 8 Lakh. For the first time, Under-19 players have been introduced to the franchisees. This means that a lot of young blood who haven't even made their debut at the Ranji level will be seen in the company of the giants of international cricket. Although an excellent opportunity for this youngsters, these players have to be handled carefully to avoid them from getting overboard with the fastest version of the game.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The man who said no to a PM's post

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

CPM patriarch Comrade Jyoti Basu is no more and his well wishers and supporters mourn his death. If for them he was no less than a messiah there is a certain section of the Bengali society who grew up criticising his policies he was a villain. But his death saw a trend which is hardly seen in Indian politics. From friends to foes all visited an ailing Jyoti Basu better known as Jyoti Babu at the hospital. On January 17, 2010 when the nation heard the news of his demise cutting across party lines leaders paid him tribute to one of post Independence India's most powerful and influential leaders.

There is no denying the fact that Jyoti Basu's hurt the educated middle class people from West Bengal in a unprecedented manner. West Bengal once India's shining economic model suddenly turned into what not to do in business and industrialisation. Left's opposition to education in the English medium cost the youth of the state hard who failed to find employment opportunities in the IT and the ITES sectors. The absence of industries and employment meant that West Bengal saw one of India's largest brain drains within the country.

But there was one instance in history for which Jyoti Basu would be respected for years to come and that was his decision to say NO to the Prime Minister's Office as that was mandate in his party. Jyoti Basu was not a by-product of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), he was the party himself. Had he not respected the mandate of his party leaders, there was very little that could have stopped him from becoming the PM. But it was perhaps a decision only Jyoti Basu could take putting party before self ambitions.

Had Basu become the PM it would have been a historic moment not in India but in the context of Global Communism. The PM of the largest democracy having Leftist background would have definitely had fired in a new zeal of life into the dwindling ideology. Basu could have easily become the Stalin or the Mao of the new millennium. So when Basu termed it his party's decision in 1996 as a 'Historic Blunder' he wasn't referring to his personal ambition of missing out the top job in the country.

Had Basu been the Prime Minister than, Sitaram Kesri would not have had the courage to pull down the United Front Government as he did twice, once in 1997 with Deve Gowda and than again in 1998 with IK Gujaral. Gowda and Gujaral were no match for Basu's towering image. So it was very much likely that Jyoti Basu would have pulled off the first Non-Congress government at the centre to last it's full term, a honour that later went of another towering politician Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Jyoti Basu was no accidental politician but a politician out of choice. He followed his own conviction to become a trade union leader. A tag of St Xavier's School and Presidency College in pre independence India was equivalent to an IIT plus IIM today. Add to that a law degree from London School Of Economics and Basu could have gone high up in bureaucracy. He rather chose to fight for ideology and poor people. He represented a class which he was aloof from being the son of an US returned Doctor.

Jyoti Basu's legacy will always be debated and he will be criticised by many but one fact is true about this man, he was a staunch idealist and believed in what he did till his last day. He could have become a PM if he had wanted but he kept party above self greed. This is one precedent perhaps some of most successful politicians will find hard to emulate.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sportsman versus the administration

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Barely had Indian fans digested the fiasco around the Indian hockey that a new controversy has broken. Olympic Gold medallist and one of India’s biggest medal hopes at the Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010, Abhinav Bindra has threatened to quit saying he was tired fighting with the system. This after the ace shooter had been in a tussle with the NRAI (National Riffle Association of India) over attending selection trial for the mega sporting event. Now with both the parties sticking to their own ego Indian sports is emerging to be the biggest looser and Indian fans are getting used to the ugly face of sports than the glittering medals.

The NRAI seems right on its part asking Bindra to attend trials for his selection. There is a fair argument as why should an exception be made in the case of any player. Bindra may have touched the pinnacle with his Olympic gold but most of the players in the Indian shooting team are medallist in other international events too. Making an exception for Bindra due to his star status post Beijing Olympics might set a wrong precedent in the sports. Even cricketer stars like Sachin Tendulkar has to participate in the domestic tournaments while making comeback into the Indian team post injuries. So why is Bindra making such a fuss about the entire issue many would argue.

The other side of the story is that NRAI has had very little role to play in Bindra’s success. It is well known that Bindra has practiced on his own over the years in his personal shooting range as India doesn’t yet have standard facilities to train its shooters. So if Bindra wants to prepare for the event on his own, overseas what is the problem with the NRAI? Isn’t winning a international medal more important than following the bureaucratic procedures? Can the NRAI guarantee Bindra the same standards of coaching which the ace shooter gets access to overseas.

Karnam Malleshwari, Rajvardhan Singh Rathore, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar and Abhinav Bindra have won medals at the Olympics more due to the individual talent and hard work. Their sorts associations have hardly played a role in their success. In all the above case the facilities provided to the athletes in India is of school or university level in many developed countries. The sports administration being run by politicians and bureaucrats rather than former sportsman themselves doesn’t help the cause either. Most of these bureaucrats and politicians have hardly anything to boast off in their own professional lives and they inspiring sportsman cannot be even thought of.

The easiest way in India for sports bodies to justify their failure has been to blame it on cricket. BCCI is perhaps the only sports body in India that doesn’t depend on the government for its functioning. Isn’t it a story of inspiration for other Indian sports bodies to follow? Team India might have recently become No.1 team recently but as far as branding and marketing the sport is concerned BCCI has been No.1 for almost a decade and flexed its muscle world over. Although, BCCI which isn’t aloof to political pressure but it can become a case study for other Indian sports bodies. It’s high time sports bodies in India start learning the tricks of the trade from cricket rather than bashing it to conceal their own flaws.

On the Bindra front the outcome of this tussle is quite well known. The association and the player will reach a compromise after the intervention of the Sports Ministry as it will not want to loose a medal hope. But the face of Indian sports gets tainted with every such incident. Sports is studied as a science in the west where as in India we are still having such ugly tussles over petty issues. From Adolf Hitler to Americans to the Chinese, sports has been seen as the best statement to superiority in peaceful manner. We in India should wake up to this fact, the sooner the better it will be for us.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Solar Eclipse: Science, Superstition and Spirituality

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

15th January 2010 will be remembered as one of those days which has involved one and all in a majestic celestial occurrence. The Solar Eclipse has something for everyone, a huge opportunity for the scientific community to do some research on the sun and the solar system, an god sent opportunity for the astrologers to make some extra buck and above all opportunity for the ultra superstitious to practice some traditions which have been followed over centuries with very little or no questioning.

The solar eclipse is also has turned mythical as well as a spiritual event in India coinciding with the ongoing Mahahumbh Mela. Haridwar which has seen a huge rush of people for Kumbh mela took a holy dip during the solar eclipse as it is a very pious act. It is very auspicious, it is very fruitful and it can get one salvation. Others stayed indoors meditated and performed havan in what they believed to be a inauspicious period.

No one perhaps enjoys a Solar Eclipse more than the scientific community for whom it is an opportunity to study rare phenomena in the solar system. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launched a series of rockets from its two centres to study this solar eclipse and its repercussions. These were launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh and Thumba in Kerala. Other international space agencies like the NASA were taking pictures of the Sun and broadcasting it for the audience to see.

For thousands of shutter bugs around the world it was a never to be missed opportunity to capture a magnification celestial event through their lenses. Many video journalist and photo journalist armed with their equipment had thronged to those parts of the world from where the Eclipse was best visible. Astrologers were not left behind in making this event to make their wallet bulkier. After all, even the non-believers don't mind reading astrological predictions.

For the media it was another opportunity to soar its TRP ratings by giving humongous coverage to the event from across the world and giving them the bits and pieces of the eclipse. There was a sharp contrast in the reporting style of the vernacular media and the English media in India. While the folks speaking Queen's language stuck to facts and slammed myths, those broadcasting Hindi and other regional languages tried to cash in on myths and superstitions.

One thing which is true to all these groups is the fact that most of them won't witness such a Solar Eclipse in their lifetime. This solar eclipse was the longest solar eclipse of 21st century and also he longest ring-like solar eclipse of the millennium. So for all those who have missed this majestic site today you might have to wait a little longer for the next such event which NASA said would occur only after December 23, 3043!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Luring the money minting machines

By: Reetasri Bhattacharjee

Giving voting rights to NRI’s, the Indian government is taking too big a step in making them part of our political system. True that they have been born and brought up here, it is their motherland. But they have been out of the country for too long to even understand how the country works today. The political system was changed over the years; the system is more complex and complicated now. There are more political parties now then there ever was. Regional parties are making a huge splash into the political scenario and have changed the way politics is envisaged here.

These non-resident Indians has been living in another system and naturally are more aware of that country’s political system. As human nature, they have adapted to a different system and understand that more easily. Some of them still do have strong ties with the country, but that no way means that they come here regularly or are part of the country like they had been before.

Some of the NRI’s are claiming that they have always been trying to improve the condition of the schools, hospitals and other facilities in the villages and that they should get the right to also have a say into the election. What they are doing is indeed noble and worthwhile, but how can they ask a favour back for that? Why can’t they contribute to their villages, towns and cities selflessly? Are they not contributing solely on humanitarian grounds or do they have some ulterior motives behind their support?

Even if they are given the voting rights, what will they benefit from it or as a matter of fact what will the people living in this country benefit. Will their contributions increase, can they ensure that corruption will decrease or can they ensure that the common man’s voice will be heard? What will they achieve by being a part of the political system when they have nothing to do with this system. Financial support is not the only thing that needs to be looked into, there are other factors too that are equally important for a politically active country like India.

The Indian government is obviously trying to appease these rich Indians as they can pour in a lot of money. Giving them voting rights is like luring them to pump in more money to fill in their coffers. How much will the money actually be used for the people is known to us. We only have to wait and watch what else will the people in power do to attract the people with money.

This blog has been contributed by Reetasri Bhattacharjee a dear friend of mine. She is a regular blogger on blogspot and maintains the blog My Passing Moments


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Someone said Hockey is our 'National Game'

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

If any sports enthusiast from abroad lands in India and decides to study the sports culture in India he will find a stark contrast between the India's most popular game 'Cricket' and our National Game 'Hockey.' While Cricket is played and followed throughout the country, Hockey's popularity is limited to certain parts of the country. If cricket has gone onto become a religion in the country, Hockey has been punctured by the administrators, the government and above all people like us for whom Hockey is what we academically study as India's 'Nation Game.'

Although the recent crisis may be seen as the biggest shame for the game in India, the slow poisoning has been going on for ages and players like Pargat Singh and Dhanraj Pillai can tell the entire story. A teaser from a Dhanraj Pillai's interview used to do rounds of Doordarshan some years ago where the ace striker had said “Hockey ne mughe naam diya, shauhrat diya par daulat diya” (Hockey has given me name and fame but hasn't given me money)

Although some administrators may see this article in bad taste but this remains a hard fact of Indian hockey. Although playing for the nation and the tri-colour should be motivation enough for any international sportsman he should get what he deserves. India's hockey players are paid much lesser than what a cricketer at a domestic level earns. Are they wrong in demanding for a healthy sum of money from the Hockey India? They have added the 'PERFORMANCE' clause in their demand which should be praised rather than criticised.

The administrators of all sports major sports in India apart from cricket are retired bureaucrats and politicians and insane remarks from them for the players is nothing unexpected. How many of the administrators of Hockey India dedicated their service to the nation during their youth without wanting a good pay? How many of these administrators know what effort does it take for a player to break into the national circuit? Why was a strike required for the administrators to listen to the just demand of the players at the first place?

It was also ironical to see from corporates to state government to celebrities queuing up to sponsor the players. Where were these people when these players were forced to go on a strike. Giving a sum of a few crores now is in the interest of all these parties. With the issue having become a national shame and attracted millions of eyeballs a few crores is not a bad advertisement after all. In a quite environment tens of crores would be required to gain that much popularity.

Many may wonder why Hockey was chosen as our National Game. Well when it came to Olympics we are still the best in terms of records having won 8 Golds, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze and the next best record held by Netherlands stands at 4 Golds. Post Independence we had won three consecutive Olympic Golds. The irony is our National Animal 'Tiger' and the National Bird 'Peocock' both are endangered and so seems to be the case with our 'National Game'


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Virat Kohli: The boy has come of age

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

December 24, 2009 is a day spectators at the Mecca of Indian cricket, Eden Gardens would remember for a long time as they witnessed the birth of a new champion in Virat Kohli. When Kohli had come out to bat India were spot of bother at 23 for 2 chasing a huge target of 315 against Sri Lanka. If there was disappointment among fans, cricket administrators were worried as Eden's emotional crowd had in the past given Indian cricket some ugly sights when India had been in a loosing situation. The World Cup semifinal of 1996 versus Sri Lanka and the 1999 Test match versus Pakistan where the stands had to be emptied comes back to haunt India cricket fans till date

But Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir not only gave some relief to the administrators but also made sure Eden witnessed one of Team India's best ODI chase. Kohli the former U-19 World Cup winning captain took charge of the situation and played a stunning knock to steal a match from under Sangakara's throat. India's most loved cricket stadium which saw many records break during the encounter got a glimpse of the Kohli's talent. He dominated the innings playing proper cricketing shots through the ground hardly giving any chance to the bowlers. Gautam Gambhir's gesture to hand over the Man of the Match award to him was perhaps the greatest honour coming from a team-mate.

If anybody thought that Kohli's performance at Eden was fluke the the tri-series in Bangladesh has given Kohli a chance to prove his class. With scores of 9, 91, 71 n.o. and the latest 102 n.o Kohli has emerged India's most reliable batsman ahead of champions like Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gambhir and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Another thing that strikes is Kohli's performance is the fact that all his knocks have come in the second innings and along with Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni he forms a rare club of cricketers who can perform under pressure while chasing.

Another interesting thing that is notice worthy in Kohli's game is the fact that he can score at brisk pace even though he doesn't seems to be a slam-bang cricketer. He is a run accumulator of the likes of Michael Bevan and Michael Hussy. Being a part of a star studded line-up which has big hitters of the ball Kohil perfectly fits the bill. The only thing that Kohli has to keep in mind is not to get complacent with his superb performance ans maintain this consistency. He certainly has been a find for the Indian team ahead of the World Cup in 2011.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Why can't we crticise Jawaharlal Nehru?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor is in trouble again. This time not for his Tweets but for his nature of free speech. The controversy when Tharoor while attending the Indian Council of World Affairs in London commented “foreign policy of Nehru and Gandhi was more like a moralistic running commentary.” This was enough for the sycophants in the Congress party calling for Tharoor's blood. If Tharoor acted like a unread politician in his Tweet controversy his latest comments were more scholarly in nature.

Now the question is where did Tharoor go wrong? The gravest mistake that Tharoor has done in this he has criticised the Congress' holiest cow Jawaharlal Nehru and his foreign policy. In a country claiming itself to be the largest democracy in the world there is no room for courage of conviction. How can someone in this country question the decisions and policies made by the First Family of Indian politics. Congress won't ever criticise Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi and it is a sin for anybody else in the country to do so.

It is a well known fact that our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's foreign policy failed on many counts notably in regards to China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1948. Has the Congress party forgotten all that? He had failed to understand the Chinese intention before the outbreak of the 1962 war. His foreign policy miserably failed leading to India's biggest hour of national shame. Can the Congress today defend the failure of our foreign policy then? Can anybody deny the losses India and its armed forces suffered during that period.

Being a Kashmiri, Nehru thought he was better suited to handle the Kashmir issue and took charge of the situation from Home Minister Vallabhai Patel. His decision to stop the advancement of the Indian army and agreement on a cease fire and reference to the United Nations gave India with its biggest issue of foreign policy 'Kashmir.' It handed over more than one-third of the Kashmir Valley in the hands of the Pakistanis a fact that no student in India drawing the map of the country realises. It was perhaps done intentionally to make sure people never recognise Nehru's blunder.

Can the Congress come out and defend Nehru in both these foreign policy blunder? Nehru was not only about failures and his greatest achievement with respect to foreign policy was his instrumental role in setting up the Non Aligned Moment. If we praise Nehru for his achievement why can't we criticise him for his failures? He was no god after all. We might have got independence from the Britishers 63 years ago but we yet to be freed from the clutches of political sycophants.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: The finisher

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Before the start of the 2007 World Cup in West Indies India's most successful captain Sourav Ganguly said that the biggest difference between the 2003 runner-up squad was the presence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Although India crashed out of the tournament in the first round Sourav's quote spoke volumes of the swashbuckling wicket-keeper batsman from Jharkhand. It is no wonder that in the same year Dhoni was handed the responsibility of leading in the inaugural T20 World Cup. Rest they say is history as Dhoni's men lifted the cup defeating arch rivals Pakistan in a dream final.

Cut to January 2010 when Bangladesh have set India a stiff target of 297. Chasing India struggle at 53 for 5 when Captain Cool walks into the middle. He starts rebuilding the innings with Virat Kohli, stays till the end unbeaten on a hundred ensuring the Bangla tigers don't have any reason to dance in the streets of Mirpur. Only half a decade back India used to choke under pressure while chasing but MSD along with Yuvraj Singh has changed the story completely. Dhoni belongs to a rare breed of cricketer who perform better under pressure. He is rightly being tagged as 'Finisher.'

Dhoni is one of the rare batsman who averages more in the second innings than in the first and the only captain to average over 60 in One Day Internationals. What makes this feat even more special is the fact that after becoming the captain, Dhoni has played more as a floater and not any permanent position in the batting order. Such flexibility might have adverse effect even on the most seasoned cricketer but Dhoni's performance remains consistent.

One thing which separates Dhoni from all the other Indian batsman is his ability to perform under pressure. Even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag have shown signs of choking under pressure by Dhoni never shows an iota of nerves. Dhoni's approach to pressure matches seems to be more Australian than Indian. Although an aggressive cricketer by nature, Dhoni is never seen loosing his cool on his team-mates and opponents. No wonder he was handed the baton to lead the team ahead of experienced campaigners like Yuvraj, Sehwag and Harbhajan.

In the early part of the decade Indian team learnt to win against the best of the opposition and Sourav Ganguly was said to have brought in the aggression to the team. Players like Sehwag, Harbhaja, Zaheer and Yuvraj came from what became known as the 'Ganguly School of Cricket.' Dhnoni seems to have put his feet on the accelerator and the team seems to be pulling out victories from near impossible situation. Virat Kohli, Ravinder Jadeja seem to excel under pressure and we can rightly say the 'Dhoni School of Cricket' seems to have arrived.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kashmir: A land of great ironies

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The West says if there is one place on earth from where the Third World War could begin, it is the beautiful valley of Kashmir. Such tags of volatility of brutality attached to a place about which the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had once said “Agar Firdous Bar Roi Zamanast Tho, Haminasto, Haminasto, Haminasto" (If there is ever a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here). But Kashmir has been a land of ironies for the past two decades. It is an irony that all world leaders and diplomats know the beautiful Kashmir like the back of their hand for all the wrong reasons.

It is ironical that the terrorists attack in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar came on a day when J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah declared 2010 to be a 'Visit Kashmir Year.' The fundamentalists could not have dealt the state's tourism any better blow. Just days before this J&K police chief had figures to prove that violence in the valley in 2009 had been lowest in the last two decades since the conflict started. But statistics and figures don't always reveal the ground situation. However, it is no irony that the militants chose to target Srinagar's most famous landmark the Lal Chowk. After all a trouble territory tag serves many vested interests both within the nation and outside it.

Incidents like this questions the regular demand for troop reduction and even question the presence of such a huge number of security forces. Although militancy has been curbed to a certain extent but Kashmir still remains the most troubled territory in the country. Even though our neighbour on the west bleeds at the hands of the self created 'Frankenstein monster' it's support to infiltration of terrorists remains undeterred. It also seems highly ironical that Pakistan still hasn't gotten over its obsession with Kashmir even though every inch of its territory has been painted with stains of blood in the last few years.

Kashmir valley which was once the most favoured destination for the honeymooners and travellers wanting to escape tropical heat of the plains is the most common posting for an armed force personal today. The Chinar trees have given way to police and army pickets and Dal's beauty has be ruined by the barbed wires. There is anguish among certain groups of people towards the government but majority of Kashmiris seem to have become tired of violence. The irony however is even a minute law and order incident is enough to bring people to the streets and halt normal life in the valley for days.

The biggest irony of all is that the entire idea of 'Kashmiriat' seems to have gone for a toss. Ordinary Kashmiri people are sandwiched between the separatists, the moderates, the government and it's biggest instrument the military. Another irony is that all these groups claim to represent the people of Kashmir but ask any ordinary Kashmiri his conviction may be as varied as the shades of grey. Somewhere in all these irony 'Paradise on Earth' is dying a slow death. Wonder if there will come a time when someone will again stand up and say “Agar Firdous Bar Roi Zamanast Tho, Haminasto, Haminasto, Haminasto”


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jyoti Basu's legacy is worth a debate

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

There are two breeds of politicians, one who rule a state or a nation and the second who change it's fate. Former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu belonged to the rare second breed. It is not too often in India that a leader is unchallenged for decades but Comrade Basu is perhaps the only leader in the country to have held his chair for two decades virtually unopposed. Even the towering Gandhis cannot claim such a feat. Basu virtually never saw a low in his political career after taking on as the Chief Minister in 1977.

A testament to his towering image came to light in the last few days of his life when leaders from across party lines visited the Communist patriarch who lay on his death bed. Such gestures are not common in Indian politics anymore when mudslinging and abuses is the order of the day. The exorbitant courage of his conviction can be understood from the fact that he rejected the post of the Prime Minister as his party did not want it. Honoring party's mandate came first for Jyoti Basu who was not a byproduct of the party by the party himself.

In his hay days Comrade Jyoti Basu stood like a pillar which did not show an iota of tremor even when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi tried to shatter the Left out of West Bengal. The politics of the state seemed to be insulated from the national political fever and Basu was instrumental in building this insulation. It would have been interesting to see what would Jyoti Basu have been as the Prime Minister after almost making it to 7, Race Course Road in 1996 only to be denied a swearing in by his own party. Basu later termed it as a historical blunder.

When in 2000, Basu decided to call it quits with active politics he had already served 23 years as the Chief Minister of one of India's most politically active states. A testament to his success can be measured from the fact that he served five consecutive terms as Chief Minister unopposed. His decision to leave the chair and pass it on to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was more like a seasoned batsman retiring hurt after getting tired with his long innings. Idealist to the core, Jyoti Basu symbolised what Indian Communism is, having been a member of the Politburo from the time of the party's founding in 1964 to 2008.

Jyotirindra Basu, the third child of Dr. Nisikanta Basu and Smt. Hemlata Basu born on July 8, 1914 wrote the modern history of Bengal. In the two and half decades of his tenure as the Chief Minister, Basu changed the entire image of Bengal. If the industrial image of the state took a huge beating there was cheers from the poor agricultural community who benefited from Left's Land Reforms and shared cropping. Today, even though Bengal might not be as industrialised as Maharashtra but there are no farmer suicides in Bengal either as in Maharsahtra. So the Left rule and Basu's legacy studied only from an urban perspective might not reveal a true picture.

If his life of staunch communism is a case study in Indian politics his political legacy is debatable. For a poor farmer in a remote area of Bengal, Comrade Basu might have been a messiah who freed him from the clutches of landlords while for an educated middle class youth from urban Bengal, Basu might be a villain who managed to push the once flourishing state into the dark ages. Basu's life remains a chapter of personal conviction where there is no single truth. He was a messiah to some and a villain to others. A fact that stands out is Basu changed the fate of Bengal and his political career has no parallels in India.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Govt. should deliver justice, not boosters

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

One country, one law but it seems to take different course from time to time. Dhananjay Chatterjee is sent to the gallows for raping and killing a girl but for the same offence Santosh Kumar Singh is still doing rounds of the Supreme Court. This after Santosh was given a 'benefit of doubt' by lower court until the media virtually pressurised the government, the courts and the police to take up the case. But it has been three years since he was awarded the death sentence but the case still looms in the corridors of the magnificent structure of the the Supreme Court of India.

Similar has been the case of Ruchika Girhotra where the media blow up has meant that the Home Ministry, the Law Ministry, the Police and the Courts all have swung into action. Decisions and judgements are being pronounced in advance and former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore has been be stripped off his medals and awards. This is what the system has done to console the family and friends of Ruchika who have been victimised for 19 long years by it. Does stripping medals and awards give peace to Ruchika's soul? The government might have an answer after having delivered such a booster.

Now a bigger question arises, thousands of cops in this country await their trial for molestation, rape, murder, corruption etc., what does the government do with them? Former Punjab DGP KPS Gill who is a role model for policeman in this country might have to be stripped off his medals too. He too is convicted of misbehaving with IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj in 1996. So will the Government strip the most decorated police officer of all his medals? Will it do same to the thousands of other cops and armed force personnels charged with cases? If not why such a cosmetic cover-up to the administrative failure?

The argument here is not for Rathore to be not stripped of his medials but the the grossly shady act of the government. Rathore deserves the harshest of punishment possible for not only having molested Ruchika but having molested every level of the administration. From having harassed Ruckhia's family, delivering faulty electricity bills, ouster her from the school and finally forcing her to commit suicide, Rathore has to be tried for all his offence. He deserves to be sent to the gallows for having molested the entire system.

The government should stop give judgement like in reality shows. When it had slept for 19 long years why is it setting precedents like stripping him of his medals knowing very well it will not be able to do the same to other men in khaki people convicted of crimes. The government should act and not enact what public sentiments in the country want it to. It has to ensure that justice is delivered rather than trying to deliver such cosmetic boosters.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Bihar's growth should inspire Bengal

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Once termed as the king of 'cow belt' and the 'bimru state' of India, Bihar after decades of being in the news for wrong reasons has something to cheer about. What seems more out of a Bollywood script than reality, the state once regarded as the most backward in the country has grown at an average of 11.03% in the five-year period between 2004-05 and 2008-09 against a national average of 8.49%. It is second only to one of India's most developed states Gujarat, which recorded a growth-rate of 11.05%. Now that's what is called resurgence.

RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav might not agree but Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who assumed power in 2005 finally has figures to prove his success. Nitish has successfully countered the 'Jungle Raj' which was going on during his predecessor's era. Not only the crime rate in the state has come down during his rule but the state has started taking giant steps towards economic development. What's more remarkable is that the 11.03% growth comes after a negative 5.15 % growth in 2003-04 during the Lalu-Rabri era.

Bihar's story has the potential to inspire other states in its proximity. One such is its eastern neighbour West Bengal. Once the glittering jewel of Indian industrialisation, West Bengal has also had the same sad story to tell which Bihar was telling five years ago. A wind of political change is blowing across Bengal similar to the one in Bihar five years ago. Three decades of the Left Rule has hampered the image of the state in terms of industrialisation. The once flourishing state has been pushed to the dark ages by a bunch of politicians whose policies were too narrow in thought and did not take into account the fast changing global environment.

Although the Left Front government might have done wonderful deeds with their Land Reforms moment in the earlier part of their rule but on most other indicators they have miserably failed. It is quite a shame for the West Bengal government who calls itself pro-poor pro-farmer to have fared miserably when it came to NREGA. Their trade unionism meant that West Bengal did not figure in the investment map of India. Post the LPG (Liberalisation Privatisation Globalisation) era when the country too giant steps in economic reforms, Bengal Government seemed to have only snored.

Even though West Bengal's law and order situation hasn't been as bad as Lalu's Bihar but it is no better either. In the last three decades Left had made sure that in rural Bengal, police and administration was replaced by its party cadres. Nandigram and Singur showed us the ugly face of the Left hooliganism. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee might have tried his best to revive the image of the state but Bengal's grave was dug long back by the Left Front.

The people of the State have to leave the pessimism behind and look forward to growth and development. If Bihar can do it under the leadership of Nitish Kumar why cannot Bengal do the same when change finally comes in 2011? Left has been in the power for too long to be trusted any more. Mamata Banerjee and Pranab Mukherjee might just do the turn around story in Bengal. After all if Nitish had to counter 'Jungle Raj' Mamata and Pranab will have to encounter 'Andhera Raj' that's what the current regime can be defined as.


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