Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mumbai attacks and the lessons we refuse to learn

There they come again. Just like millions of Indians, I feel deja vu. The same feeling now haunts me as it did 31 months ago. The same apathy of the political elite, the same outrage of civilians, the same candle lights and then the same 'Mumbai spirit', resilience, blah blah blah..Every problem India faces today is reduced to a news story, consumed for a day and disposed the next, even the 17 dead and 131 injured on this black Wednesday. Perhaps, the story of the Minister, in-charge of Mumbai's security, best illustrates this point.

Raosaheb Ramrao Patil, as the home minister of Mumbai, infamously opined after 2008 Mumbai attacks " "They (the terrorists) came to kill 5,000 people but we ensured minimal damage". In a further proof of the callous stuff he is made of, he said after a few days "It is not like that. In big cities like this, small incidents do happen. It's is not a total failure." Just as it does, the government succumbed to public outrage over his comments and removed him from office then. When the heat is out, he was bought back in after 10 months. And here he is presiding over, as Mumbai is attacked again! And add to that this visual news 10 months ago that the honorable home minister was at a social gathering hobnobbing with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's aides. I am not implying having this guy as home minister made the attacks possible. What I am pointing at is the callousness and a lack of logical centre in playing around with such a vital portfolio. Why was he moved out and back in? Are there any lessons learnt for him from his previous experience? If so, it did not show. What did Indians do to deserve this? And what are the lessons terror in Mumbai and elsewhere in India teaching us which we are failing to learn?

The first lesson is that nothing now happens in India unless the government is forced to. The Lokpal bill is a case in point. Things seem to happen only when people come on to streets. We need the civil society to pressurize the state and central governments into coming up with any lessons they possibly could have learnt and the remedial measures planned. Let them come up with clear decisions on enforcing the measures and let the follow up to these measures be in public domain. The union home minister said "There were no prior intelligence inputs for the attacks”  and yet he adds it is not an intelligence failure! It is clear that projects like National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) and the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) aimed at bettering our intelligence gathering did not take off, even after 31 months. And that is despite a mammoth budget. It is a shame that the union home minister says the same 31 months passed without an attack because the authorities did well. That is like saying, on scales of efficiency, a next attack after 32 months is okay! In hindsight, I feel we were plain lucky for all these months.

The governments' lethargy and ill intentions in not acting on the existent laws of the land should be questioned. The government should be forced to answer on why Afzal Gurus and Ajmal Kasabs are not given the punishment the courts have condemned them to, after exhaustive trials. Why are the clemencies pending with the President for years altogether (In fact, it was reported Afzal Guru's clemency petition was not at President's office, despite news to the contrary).

The way he said there are 'inherent difficulties' in avoiding these acts of terror in Mumbai, because of its density, is appalling. Why does he think cities more dense than Mumbai have not become victims of terror? It does not a Harvard brain to answer that. The appalling attitude of Indian political elite shows just how irrelevant Indian politics has now become to the basic need in this country - security and the right to live. 

As long as Indians think their duty starts and ends with voting for one of the devils in election, these attacks wont stop, just as the corruption, nepotism and misgoverning in governments wont stop.The lesson Mumbai attacks teach us is that we can no more leave our welfare and security solely in the hands of these rogue politicians. We have to take a role. Any debate now should be on what and how that role should be, not on how the media stooped low in reporting, or how resilient Mumbai is, or which minister has to be booted out, which anyway would not avoid the next attack on us that is probably being planned somewhere at this very moment.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Manmohan Singh - The Manchurian Candidate

4 months after his disastrous meeting with electronic media editors, which I blogged about, Mr. Manmohan Singh decided to speak again, this time only with print media editors.  After all we are a democracy, unlike North Korea (where Kim Jong II is seen once in few years), so Mr. Singh decided to give darshan and speak to his subjects once in 4 months. And how!

The robotic, stoical Manmohan Singh reminds me of the character Raymond Shaw in Hollywood flick ‘The Manchurian Candidate’. Shaw, a soldier of the US army, also hailing from an affluent political family, is ‘programmed’ with an implanted chip in his body to campaign and become the president of the US. Shaw’s mother, a senator and a multinational company masterminds this operation. We all know how Mr. Singh is planted in as PM to do his Madam’s bidding. For all practical reasons, he is an ‘acting PM’ who did well not to apply his acclaimed mind over the affairs of this country. As in the movie, Mr. Singh is remote-controlled to work and deliver for someone else. But then in the movie, at least towards the end, the remote-controlled candidate realizes the trap he is in and applies his mind for once, bringing to an end the whole operation of a few powerful guys to control US. Unfortunately for us, Mr. Singh seems to be losing more of his mind with each passing once-in-four-months public appearance.

In his last appearance with news editors, Mr.Singh compared the 2G scam losses with ‘losses’ due to food subsidies. This time, Mr. Singh gave use few more gems. This post has his latest opinions, marked in blue. My comments follow. The full Transcript of the meeting is here.

Considering newspaper reports about scams and investigating them would ‘greatly weaken the (entrepreneurial) forces that we have unleashed’ and ‘install a police raj’.
So the 2G scam is unleashed by ‘entrepreneurial forces’! And investigating them would make this country a ‘police state’? Is there no need in this country to at least pretend being honest anymore? Such a blatant stance by the supposedly ‘clean PM’.

He tells us he trusted his cabinet colleague after he assured ‘utmost transparency, fairness and objectivity’ in 2G allocation. Even after this scam, he conveniently forgets there is something called ‘collective responsibility’.

Bringing prime minister within ambit of Lokpal will make the country ‘instable’.
Earlier, talking about TRAI, he said ‘Quite frankly, I felt TRAI exists to advise the government, it is an expert body. And therefore, I left it at that.’ As frankly, why can’t he just trust the Lokpal? His faith in institutions set up by constitution and legislation seems literally blinding. He can use some of that faith for Lokpal. At least 1.2 lakh crores is not at stake here.

Besides, his ‘concern’ that foreign powers would take ‘control’ over Lokpal and destabilize the country is laughable, excuses which even his grandkids won’t buy.

The Prime Minister of India ‘is equally covered by the anti-corruption act’ and that he can be ‘dismissed most easily’.
Oh really! How many corrupt ministers ended up in jail? CBI, the investigative agency is under PMO’s control and Mr.Singh wants us to believe the Prime Minister himself would sanction CBI to investigate against him and his cabinet colleagues! And the CBI is retrained under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which requires it to get Central Government’s prior approval before it can start any investigation against Joint Secretary or higher level bureaucrats. Obviously, all scams like 2G are executed with active connivance of these babus – (who Mr.Singh considers experts in policy making). CBI cannot investigate them without PMO’s approval and without access to these executives, Mr. Singh says ‘we have mechanisms, much more effective mechanisms, in place’ than Lokpal to tackle corruption. Who is Mr.Singh kidding?

CAG should not hold press conferences on the reports they tabled and should not comment on policy decisions (even when crores are being swindled as in case of KG gas)
It is this ‘selective amnesia’ we are trying to fight against with Jan Lokpal bill. Madras High Court  in 2005, in the P.G. Narayanan vs. CAG case (W.P.No.23408 of 2004 [2005] RD-TN 714), said salient features of an Audit Report can be explained to the Press by the auditor to make the public know about the same after the Audit Report is placed before the law-making bodies – parliament or assemblies. So Mr. Singh lied when he said CAG is overstepping its mandate. And yes, the CAG must have commented on policy issues because Mr.Singh admits, quite pathetically, at every step that he is not an expert.  In his latest briefing, he said he is neither an expert in law nor ‘telecom matters’. He even said ‘As Prime Minister, it is not that I am very knowledgeable about these matters. Or that I can spend so much of my time, to look after each and every ministry.’ So why complain about a helping hand from CAG!?

How will the Supreme Court pronounce on complex issues, if it is subject to restrictions of the Lokpal? I am not a legal expert.
If ‘pronouncing on complex issues’ means what retired chief justice KG Balakrishnan did, these restrictions are just what we need. According to advocate Prashanth Bhushan, half out of the last 16 to 17 Chief Justices of India had been corrupt and he produced documentary, oral and circumstantial evidence, material and information to back his claims. So why stonewall bringing the judiciary within the ambit of Lokpal?

This 'clean' weak PM worse than a corrupt PM

Mr. Manmohan Singh should instead realize to pronounce his real self rather than singing the lines his political masters are imbibing into him. Notwithstanding his personal integrity, he is doing more damage to the nation than any other PM ever did, by serving as a Trojan horse for the real perpetrators of financial crime and public treachery. We hope Mr.Singh removes the political chip on his back and regain his conscience, just like the presidential hopeful Raymond Shaw did in ‘The Manchurian Candidate’.