Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Politician & ponzi schemes

Why SEBI did not act tough against Ponzi schemes in West Bengal when it was going after a corporate house in UP, is a mystery. Politician is ultimate beneficiary of these unaccountable flow of thousands of crores
In the public agitation over the recent Saradha ‘chit fund’ scam, a key fact that is being overlooked is that it is a political crime after all, not just a financial swindle. Sudipto Sen, the mastermind of the Ponzi scheme that went bust, might have had started his operations as early as 2006, when the CPM-led Left Front was in power in West Bengal. But its final term, 2006-11, was the wobbliest in its career, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress being the ‘rising force’ of the day. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A shameless police & citizenry

Public apathy to individual misery is dangerously rising. And if police jobs are auctioned, which is indeed the gruesome reality of India, it is time that policemen are written off as guardians of public safety As one French diplomat said, a country gets the government it deserves, yet another French scholar commented that a society gets the criminals it deserves. Both are correct. The poignancy of the latter, in particular, is evident from the spate of brutal attacks on women and children, unparalleled in barbarity, that is unfolding now, and the business-as-usual fashion in which these incidents are being treated by all the concerned parties—particularly police, politicians and witnesses. It seems that our fellow Indians, far from being rattled by so much inherent cruelty and violence in the society, is busy devising ways for turning it into opportunity—a TV opportunity for the politician, an occasion for the cop to show his "effectiveness" by shooing off the protesters with kicks and blows, and the moment for the witness to look the other way as though his neck is sculpted from stone.

I can't help resorting to the cliché that there is a conspiracy of silence, one which is guaranteed for the safety of the violent psychopaths on the loose. In the process, it is lowering the cost of crime against women and children, and giving the country a permanent stigma for being unsafe to live in. It is worse than the reputation of being dangerous for terrorism or foreign aggression, like living in Syria or Afghanistan.
A test case is the recent Delhi incident of a five-year-old's captivity for two days, in course of which the girl child was not only serially raped but, in a bout of depravity that calls for cure in eternal hellfire, a plastic bottle and some candlesticks were inserted into her genitals. Apparently the little girl was playing somewhere around her house when the very devil, the tenant on the ground floor named Manoj in this case, called her inside his room, and nobody knew what happened in the next 72 hours. Long after the beast had fled, locking his room, that the child's relatives heard a groan from there. They broke open the door and found the child lying in a pool of blood, barely alive. When her father approached the local police, the officer offered him two thousand rupees and ordered him to thank his lucky stars for having got his child back, and get lost. When some protesters gathered near the hospital, a policeman was seen punching an agitator, thus adding a new element to the plot, that of police apathy and culture.

The question that comes first to mind is, what were the child's relatives doing in the 72 hours of her kidnap? Were the police informed? If so, how much effort did the men in uniform make to trace the missing child? One need not be a Sherlock Holmes to guess that the police investigation ought to have begun from a place no other than the child's residence, and, if a room was seen locked, the first thing the police would have done was to knock it down with a practiced shoulder blow and thereafter save the child and handcuff the criminal. It seems nothing of that sort happened and it is doubtful if the police would have taken even the preliminary measure to trace the child until the news hit the television news channels, and that got the police their goat for having to face the unpleasant task of facing questions from equally nonchalant superiors. The political parties, on the other hand, were playing their own games. Shiela Dixit wanting control over Delhi Police and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde asking for a report. The young women protesters who were roughed up badly by cops were meat for the 24X7 and forgot the story after the ACP was suspended. The sequence of failures/apathy relating to this incident is as follows: (a) When Manoj, the dangerous child molester, was let in as tenant, the landlord never kept the police informed, as it was his duty under the law, (b) the victim's parents were obviously not careful about their child's security, particularly in a city notorious for its crimes against women and children, (c) the police have no system of regular patrolling of areas within their beat; if they had, they'd have got the news of a child missing long before the complaint arrived, (d) police are interested in extortion, not service, and (e) the public are ready to shout as long as there is an OB van in sight, (f) a scared government offers all help to the victim and her family after the gory incident with VIPs lining up at the hospital and her home but nobody has thought about an NGO, or an effective organization, to help trace missing children.

Public apathy to individual misery is dangerously rising. In Aligarh, a woman is gang raped and when women protest, the police batter them with canes. In Nagpur, a girl is targeted by molesters, and when her friend comes forward to protect her, their forceful ire leaves him dead on the street; others pass by without any show of sympathy or offer to help. In Jaipur, in a traffic accident in a tunnel, a woman dies on the spot and two others are gravely injured, but not a soul comes forward to help. In fact, this is the n

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Penitence in Public Life

Emperor Asoka is one of the biggest achievers in ancient India. He carried Buddhism from a local faith to that of being a global religion. But his other big achievement was in abjuring violence in a dramatic manner and accepting peace. He got this story told to the posterity in powerful language in his edicts that say a lot about the mayhem he had himself caused in Kalinga, and his thoughts thereafter. The longest among the edicts reads: “150,000 persons were thence carried away captive, 100,000 were there slain, and many times that number died”. His penitence followed. “Directly after the annexation of the Kalingas began His Sacred Majesty’s remorse for having conquered the Kalingas, because the conquest of a country previously unconquered involves the slaughter, death, and carrying away captive of the people.

Harish GuptaAfter annexing Kalingas in the 3rd century BC, King Ashoka understood the virtue of penitence in public life. Why leaders do not understand it today
That is a matter of profound sorrow and regret to His Sacred Majesty”. It is doubtful if history would have remembered Asoka for his conquests alone. But since the discovery of his edicts and coins by 19th century British civilians in India, he captured the imagination of Indians as a king who not only felt remorse for his past wildness but could turn his repentance into an ideology which traveled far and wide.

His story acquires relevance in today’ context, against the background of the travails of Narendra Modi, a leader whose governance talents and iron will undoubtedly makes him a deserving candidate for the post of prime minister. Yet he is in a limbo because he has not thought it necessary to show any remorse whatsoever for the horrendous 2002 riots in Gujarat under his charge. True nothing has been proved so far to implicate him personally in the communal holocaust killing 1,200 people, mostly Muslims. Nevertheless, one of his ministers, a woman,  has been sentenced with prison term; another is facing trial; and the allegation that the police took too long to appear on the scene is an accepted fact. Maybe much of the violence had happened without Modi’s knowledge, as mob fury has its own dynamics, but he still remains morally accountable as the state was under his charge and it was his remit to maintain public order.

With Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whose JD(U) is a coalition partner of Modi’s BJP, absolutely unwilling to accept Modi as the alliance NDA’s candidate as prime minister for the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, what has come into focus is the importance of penitence in public life. The value of atonement is not merely derived from the Bible, or the life of Asoka. If Modi had in all these eleven years made a single public gesture to express grief for his administration’s failure to prevent the riots, the atmosphere would have been different altogether for him. Instead he issued a half-hearted apologia before the assembly elections last year, with no mention of what was it about. A heartfelt “sorry” for the 2002 massacre would have erased many bitter memories from public mind of his own vitriolic utterances, including his citing, at the height of the violence, Newton’s law of motion about each action drawing an “equal and opposite reaction”.

One understands why it is so difficult for Nitish to accept Modi as NDA’s candidate for the post of prime minister and yet remain in the coalition. Far from its being a refusal born out of jealousy, it is an expression of helplessness. Bihar’s capital, Patna, is the place from where Emperor Asoka ruled over a vast empire in the 3rd century BC. In today’s Bihar, Muslims are 17 per cent of the population and are a community known to vote en bloc. Despite protestations to the contrary by Modi’s influential advocates in the media and elsewhere, the fact remains that Muslims have not pardoned him after 2002, not to speak of voting for him or his party. It is no wonder that he does not field a single Muslim candidate in the state’s assembly elections. It doesn’t matter as Gujarat has just 7 per cent Muslim population; they are scattered, and are too timid to matter electorally. But Nitish presides over a broad alliance of Muslims, a section of OBCs and dalits. In 2005, he managed to show the door to Laloo Yadav and his RJD precisely because Muslims as a community had switched sides. There could be other reasons too that had led to the ouster of Laloo Yadav, but getting Muslims over to his side was Nitish’s trump card. And now the BJP is cajoling him to give up his hard won constituency by riding the Modi bandwagon.

The 2002 Gujarat riots may be an old story but it has an unending recall value, somewhat like Stalin’s gulags, Hitler’s pogrom, or, looking closer to our times, the three-day-long massacre of Sikhs in Delhi and some other places in early November 1984, following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards. Its long shelf life in public memory is evident from the allegation against former Congress minister Jagdish Tytler that he played a key role in the riots near a Gurdwara in the capital leading to the death of three persons. Like Modi, Tytler never publicly regretted his role. He is of course not a gifted leader like Modi but he has the same arrogance of power, which people would neither forgive nor forget. The day last week when a Sessions Court ordered reopening of the investigation against him, 29 years after the incident, there were sizeable crowds of ’84 riot victims and their relatives who had assembled outside the court to demand his fair trial. Modi’s plight is on a larger scale. He is unlikely to get powerful allies in states with 15+ per cent Muslim population, like Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Kerala. These states account for 36 per cent of total seats in the lower house.

Asoka had ruled two millennia before modern democratic states came into being, but he understood the virtue of penitence in public life, and that of moderating one’s pride of power with a credible concern for the welfare of every section of the populace. It is a pity that Modi has not cared to understand the message of Asoka’s edicts. Maybe India will be the loser, for it genuinely needs the leadership of an “iron man”, or perhaps an “iron gentleman”.

(The author is the National Editor of Lokmat group)