Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Tribune-Chatterati-27th.June.2011

"If there is no work, pen a book!"

Junior ministers at the centre are always talking about being ignored by their seniors and delegated little or no work at all. However, Prof. K V Thomas is a very busy minister from Kerala. When Sharad Pawar met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to demand a lesser workload; Thomas was assigned all the work. Pawar had always given him a lot of space and on occasions, even files relating to very important subjects were first sent to him for his comments before they reached Pawar. Thomas is a Nehru/Gandhi loyalist which makes Pawar's faith in him even more complex.

Thomas is also a prolific writer and has authored nine books in Malayalam, including one on Sonia Gandhi. His tenth will be out next week and is titled Order, Order, Order. It is an anthology of the Lok Sabha under different presiding officers where he has reportedly spared none. This seems to be a message for the no-work grumbling ministers. If there is no work, give vent to it by writing a book instead of writing to the Prime Minister, which is what Gurudas Kamat and K.Muniappa did. That set them off even worse as Mamata Banerjee and A.Raja took away whatever they were even doing.

"VIPs visiting Tihar Jail"

Tihar Jail is being visited by a number of VIPs and many are staying there. It was Kiran Bedi in 1994 who won the Magsaysay Award for making Tihar Jail a kind of rehabilitation centre.

It all started with A.Raja going there and a whole lot of high-profile politicians/industrialists became his neighbours.

It is said that they have been asking for TV sets to watch their trials in court, morning papers to get the latest news and also computers.

It is said that Kalmadi and others have been asking for facilities such as making local and STD calls. Only if the DMK had realized all this and then they were making announcements of distributing colour TV sets to the voters, they could have donated some to the Tihar Jail also. Only if A.Raja had known his future and Kanimozhi's future, he would have made sure that facilities had been put in place for them and their partners in crime in jail. In situations like this though cops posted from your area can be of great help. But A.Raja did start the trend of orthopaedic mattress in Tihar. These men who lived a life of comfort have been complaining of backaches, so Shahid Balwa, A.Raja, Suresh Kalmadi and many others have now got orthopaedic mattresses.

The main problem is communicating with the outside world so they are looking for new excuses every day to be in touch with their families and lawyers.

It is said that some have even started writing their biography/book in jail. You never know you might have a great novel tomorrow from Tihar by one of the highfliers there.


"Powerless & lonely"

In politics, it is difficult to say for how long new equations will last, or, for how long one will rule

Power changes, equations change and for those who lose it, the situation is tough. When Jayalalitha was sworn in Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu the ripples were felt in Delhi’s Tamil Nadu house. Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi had walked out alone with a piece of luggage in her hand. No one came forward to help her or drop her to the car after she emptied her father’s Chief Ministerial suite. It can be very lonely at the bottom.

She was put behind bars on May 21. It is unfortunate what happened to her. What her future will be even she doesn’t know. How long will she be in Tihar? Well, as they say in politics, you never know what the future holds for you or how long one is going to rule. We are told that she has been on her best behaviour and facing the situation bravely. ‘To see who is who in DMK, go to Tihar’ may sound pleasing to some, but fact is that it is a sad state of affairs. One thing is, however, certain — the public will not forgive those who are corrupt.

Jayalalitha and Mamata Bannerjee are strong women. One sees them working on a daily basis and can’t help but notice that Jayalalitha has shed her famous cloak which she used to wear as Chief Minister in her last term. Though she has lost weight age, too, has caught up with her. On the other hand, Mamata now adorns a white chaadar over her sari. Is it superstition or just a new style of dressing?

While Jayalalitha seems sober, it is difficult for Mamata to hide her excitement. During the elections, Jayalalitha didn’t really have to work hard as she relaxed in Ooty, confident as she was that the people of Tamil Nadu would throw out the corrupt DMK Government. Mamata, on the other hand, had to streetfight with the Left till the very end. So, one expected plenty of action in the weeks that followed — new alignments to be formed over afternoon teas with leaders at the Centre. And why should this not happen. It is time they enjoyed their fruit of labour.

Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi has been working on her own projects that involve the poor and the downtrodden. Her problem is how to get them implicated. The Gandhis mean well. Political leverage, public support and sympathy is with them. Unfortunately, it is the people around them who can’t stop playing one against the other. The party because of its non-performance is losing ground. Wait and watch is the policy for the present.

However, it may prove to be a fatal mistake. Contradictory statements must stop. Letting senior leaders sit on the sidelines and allowing new faces run after cheap publicity must also stop. Why is it that senior leaders are looking on haplessly?

For a Congress leader who has put in hard work, it’s a tough call. Will they carry their bags soon, is what they are asking? Will they, too, be walking alone soon? Not many answers are forthcoming.

Monday, June 20, 2011



Despite the vast quantities of Indian tourists descending to Bhutan, the place still maintains a certain placidity and calm. Besides Indians, the Bangladeshis also seem to have a free run into the place, obviously putting scarce tourism resources under some level of strain. But the fact that the far thinking Bhutanese royalty has long ensured that back packers, yet another global environmental threat, don’t arrive on account of expensive visas’ has helped keep the place still rather remote and totally desirable. Tourism , there is no doubt in the long run is going to be one of those renewable resources that pictures countries like Bhutan will rely on in the long term.
Getting to Bhutan can be tricky. The monopoly enjoyed by Druk Air puts you at the mercy of an airline that can be whimsical. For a family trip, which included an infant grand-daughter the vagaries of Druk seemed to test our patience even before we could fly into the magic kingdom. But the relief of arrival in instantaneous must be the pristine pure mountain air. This sense of purity follows you through an easy arrival procedure to the totally fresh mountain rivers that track the road on the drive from Paro to Thimpu. Tradition blends with occasional displays of modernity and yet the mountains and the forests dominate in a most welcoming manner. The towns are small, the villages smaller and most pleasantly a lot of the local understand either English or Hindi.
Bhutan’s relationship with India is both deep and close and the signs go well beyond the easy facility with Hindi with locals. For Indians the other great sense of comfort is the parity of the Bhutanese currency with the Indian rupee. This comes in handy everywhere. From the old style bakers in Thimpu to the weekend flee markets. Incidentally exquisite Bhutanese antiques rub shoulders with Ganeshas’ in the tourist shops, clearly a sign that spiritual links bind the two nations beyond the bonds of Buddhism.
The roads we drive on are clearly the efforts of the Indian Border Roads Organization - a vital contribution in a land locked mountainous country. And everywhere one goes the evidence of India’s presence in a friendly benign way is evident. The huge hydro electric plants coming up for example will soon be yet another renewable income source for the kingdom and nearby Golf Course the Bhutanese army’s Golf pros have either studied at the NDA or at Wellington.
Keeping this fabulous relationship between a big country and a small neighbour is a professionally daunting task. But it is one that our resident Ambassador seems to have managed with the practiced ease of a senior and seasoned diplomat. The King is a comfortable visitor at the vast 70 acre India Estate, close to the heart of town. And the Queen mother is currently over the moon with the way the literacy festival has further enhanced cultural links that have just been strengthened. This is a diplomacy that goes well beyond the routine. Influential locals insist that the Indian ambassador is almost ‘Bhutanese’ is making its usual aggressive inroads. So the future especially for a fledging democracy is not going to be easy on the neighborly front. Like all evolving nations the savvy royals of Bhutan have embraced democracy for the next sequence of social engineering.
Modernity is also marching in rapidly with the spread of Bhutan’s own T.V.channels, a South Korean channel invasion, ugly modern constructions and netizens with radical opines. None of this is going to go away and the Bhutanese get an uncomfortable sense that too much is changing too fast. But with the stoic attitude of a hardy mountain race that also has the advantage of its own special brand of Buddhism, they seem to embrace the future just as well as they respect and rejoice in their past.
Royalty reigns supreme even their new democracy. The biggest event locals are looking forward to is the King’s impending wedding in October- and yes, conviently for India to a girl who has schooled in Sanawar in Himachal Pradesh. Preparations are visible in the country’s biggest Zong in Punakha. Yet another sign that more things change more they remain the same.

The Tribune-Chatterati-20th.June.2011

"Lavish even by Bollywood benchmark "

Lavish even by Bollywood's standards was the wedding of industrialist G.V.K. Reddy's granddaughter to Indu Group's scion last week. It was more like a Bollywood's awards function where right from Shah Rukh Khan to Hema Malini performed on stage starting from the sangeet to the rest of the wedding. There were chartered flights free for the guests from Delhi and all over. And there were personal notes for each of the 6,000 guests who attended the wedding with their boarding passes.

Now when the sangeet was hosted by Karan Johar himself, you will obviously see the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Mallika Sherawat performed on stage. Not many politicians were present from the Capital or the state as one would have expected in the wedding of showman M.P.Subbarami Reddy's granddaughter. But the stars like Amitabh Bachchan and family, Anil Ambani with Tina, Boney Kapoor and Sri Devi were all there in their finery. The wedding was outstanding as almost everything was designed by Mumbai designers Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla. They also designed the outfits of the family along with the mandap. The air was filled with the fragrance of Jasmine flowers. The reception in Delhi was also a grand affair. The gate of the venue was a car lover's delight.

The greatest of cars - Bentleys, Phantoms and BMWs all the way.

"Highflying jailbirds "

Tihar is the latest hotspot of many bigwigs in the country. As it is getting VVIP visitors to meet the inmates, the waiting rooms have been installed with air-conditioners and comfortable sofas. It seems all the politicians across the party lines agree to spruce up Tihar. After all you don't know if the government is serious on the anti-corruption drive. Who may be the next then? The room is equipped with CCTVs, magazines and a small canteen for tea-coffee and snacks. Also now PROs will be there to escort all.

Dozens of trained men waited on the VIPs and industrialists who are now huddled together at the Tihar Jail in tiny ten by eight cemented rooms.

Expensive and extensive wardrobes mostly dry-cleaned at 5 star hotels only are now lying neatly stacked in their cupboards at home. Dining and wining at the most expensive restaurants was the done thing for the high-profile guests at Tihar. These highfliers no longer travel in luxurious cars, but travel with the police escort sharing seats with the ordinary criminals.

The highflying jailbirds are now getting used to sleeping without the best of the linen in the world and basic washroom to keep themselves clean. These guys were used to air-conditioners in their toilets and now have an old rattling fan. Most of them have become vegetarian in Tihar. They are all old business associates. They spend most of the time going through the CBI charge-sheet rather than reading books and magazines. For A.Raja, special Tamil papers are available.

I do hope the younger lot of industrialists/politicians does learn something from these examples. The law will catch up with you sometime or the other and then the embarrassment, inconvenience and the hurt to the rest of the family.

The poor of this nation vote you to power to give them facilities and make their everyday life easier not to fill your own coffers and forget them. And to cap it all, inflation takes a toll on them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Tribune-Chatterati-13th.June.2011

"Grand, but private alliance"

Many of Delhi's honchos were a little disappointed that they were not included in the biggest of the South Indian matrimonial event in recent times. The coming together of the Infosys chairman's son with the daughter of Venu Srinivasan of TVS was a grand alliance, but totally private. From Delhi the only big names were L.K.Advani, Anand Sharma, Kamal Nath, Chidambaram and Jayanti Natrajan.

The absence of Jayalalithaa and the DMK supremo Karunanidhi were clear signs that both the well-respected business families did not want any high-voltage distractions in an intensely family moment. Of course, the grand reception that followed was going to be a more public affair.

Business, of course, was better represented than politics. Business associates like Nandan Nilekani, Captain Gopi Nath and Adi Godrej and the Reddys were present.

To complete the family feel, the wedding itself was held at the bride's mother's ancestral home.

The bride's mother belongs to the well-known Amalagations group, which is in the same ranks as the TVS group, where the father Venu Srinivasan is a head honcho.

As for Infosys, though Narayana Murthy has stepped down from his official roles, his ownership and imprint on the country's largest Infotech giant is unmistakable.

The bridegroom dressed in his sherwani was able to tie the Mangalsutra to the Vedic chants from a hundred priests from Tirupati. The guests who attended the wedding were gifted scented candles from London as presents.

All the decorations were done with orchids, lilies and carnations.

The card clearly stated that no presents will be accepted and instead contributions be made to the Akshaya Patra Foundation, a charitable organization that provides children in public schools with lunch.

"Time to deliver"

As rumours of the central cabinet reshuffle get ripe, a lot of things seem to have gone wrong. Hopeful MPs are busy making their rounds. Some ministers may be dropped. It is a known fact that Rahul and Sonia are trying to get the youth in.

Murli Deora who is ill may be out while his son Milind will be adjusted.

The question is: are the youngsters showing any results? Well, their real test will only come once they have to sit in opposition. Governors are sure to change.

So, hectic lobbying is going on there also. Bhardwaj from Karnataka wants to come to the Union cabinet, but they say he may shift to Rajasthan as Governor. Margaret Alva may go to Chennai from Nainital.

It is a known fact that a cabinet when formed has to have representation from area, caste and seniority.

It is high time the Prime Minister formed a cabinet of people who deliver. If you have a look into the UPA-I and compare it with UPA-II, a lot of people who have substance are out while some of the ones who are in the cabinet or in powerful places are just sitting there with all the facilities.

On the whole, UPA-II is in a worrying position over many issues. Some hurried immature decision have given the opposition a new life and the Congress sleepless nights.

"Fun for some at fast"

Satyagrah was a serious thing for the government and the yoga guru Ramdev. But for lots of Delhiites and the other people who had free time went to Ramlila Maidan for a good time. It had enough entertainment with Bhojpuri singers on stage and lots of sants and Jain gurus.

It was just fun time for many as they sipped lemonade, learnt a few yogasanas, children made merry and the poor got to sit in AC pandals. Some even slept there in comfort. While the Baba came in style from the airport, received by senior Union ministers.

In the end, the Baba was made a hero and pushed out of the Capital. But it is sad that whoever wants a look into corruption or black money, they are flooded with cases by income tax and enforcement. The government is thus losing respect in the eyes of the common man.

Pioneer-Dilli-Billi-12th.June.2011-"WE NEED GOOD GOVERNANCE"


People of this country need only those politicians who have a clean image and can deliver the goods

The Cabinet reshuffle rumours are making rounds and the Ministers and their coterie are spreading stories about their extraordinary achievements. One, of course doesn’t understand why only the High Command knows about who is to be sacked or promoted. The insecure Ministers are busy lobbying for themselves. Some have even hired professionals to help spread the good work that has been put in by the Minister. Others are making loud noises about the work not done by the Government.

It is a known fact that whenever a Cabinet is formed has to be on the basis of seniority and merit alone. The Prime Minister knows that the UPA-II having completed two years will now be forced into forming a Cabinet which is clean and can achieve goals. If one compares the stint of UPA-I with UPA-II, one will realise that many people who had put in hard work are out while the new entrants are just sitting pretty without doing any work. They either do not have the necessary experience or are too scared to take a decision in case it back fires and they end up taking the flak for it.

What we need today is governance. We don’t want people who keep running around looking busy but deliver no results. A people’s movement like fighting corruption is an extremely sensitive issue and any hasty decision should be avoided at all costs. What happened at Ramlila Grounds last week was unfortunate. And even it was necessary, it could have been done in a much civilized way. In fact, some self-appointed spokesperson from the Congress should not be allowed to speak with the media. Many people know that the entire drama that was played out could not have been carried out with the consent of the UPA chairperson. Sonia Gandhi is too sensitive to issues and would not have allowed this midnight drama.

It will probably take a year to sort out the mess that the scams have created. During this time many other self-proclaimed Civil Society rakhwalas will organise satyagrahs for the sake of publicity and self-importance. Our news starved media will give them 24X7 coverage. It is almost funny. Will the Government never learn? Senior Ministers running to the airport to receive a Yoga guru. They should have sent Baba Ramdev back from the airport and not given him any importance.

The Government says one thing, the Congress contradicts it and the National Advisory Committee gives a different picture. All we need is politicians who are civil and respectful. For the time being the stars of the Prime Minister and the Congress are good. As our Yoga expert turned into activist would say grah dasha and karm are good. Also our opposition is not united, there is too much infighting. If today they decide to form a united front and put forth a suitable name for the Prime Minister’s candidature, the UPA-II will definitely be history.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pioneer-Dilli-Billi-5th.June.2011-"LIFE & TIMES OF TIHAR VIPs"


Lifestyle of the VIPs in Tihar has undergone a drastic change. Daal, roti & early nights is their routine now

Luxurious lifestyle, flying in private jets for business or pleasure or even for a meal if one so desired. Late night parties hence, late morning cups of strong coffee. For the health health conscious it is lukewarm water with lime. Dozens of trained help to wait upon them is the lifestyle of most of the biggies who are now lodged in 10 by eight cemented Tihar Jail room. Workouts with personal trainers, expensive and extensive wardrobes which are drycleaned in the best of places, dining and wining at the most expensive restaurants across the country are only a few things that these high profile people took for granted.

Things have changed for them now. Today, these highfliers don’t travel in luxurious cars but are escorted by the cops in police vans sharing the space with other common criminals. They have to get used to sleeping without the soft linen, pillows and no fancy mattresses. They sleep on a plain blanket with basic washroom facilities. Used to centrally air-conditioned houses or ACs in their rooms, the VIPs now have to make do with only an old rattling fan.

A basic meal of bread, butter, daal and chapattis is their daily diet. They get `2,000 per week to buy personal items from the prison bakery. There have been reports that many of the VIPs have turned vegetarian, some have taken up new hobbies like reading. Others have started to play some games and sports with other VIP jail inmates.

Of course, they are all old friends and business associates and they keep each other company. But most of the time they spend going through the CBI’s chargesheet which was been filed against them rather than read books or magazines. It is understandable if they miss their luxurious lifestyle. After all there is no late night parties, no travelling from one city to another and definitely no exotic food. In a way, this is good, It may change them into trimmer, healthier and wiser people. It is another matter that the question that is doing rounds is: Who is the next VIP to go behind bars?

Meanwhile, the drawing room high class society is not very impressed with the Anna Hazare’s protest against corruption and it is justified. But the younger generation and the middle class are heaving a sigh of relief sensing that justice may finally prevail and the guilty will be punished.

One hopes that the young industrialists and politicians learn from those who are behind bars. The law will catch up with you sometime. The question is, is the the embarrassment, inconvenience and the hurt worth it? These views may be very archaic but at least one would not be in jail or running after the lawyers. The common man doesn’t understand the complexities of the cases, but he knows that the corrupt should be punished. One is not voted to power so that the politicians can fill their own coffers.

The Tribune-Chatterati-6th.June.2011

"Position see-saws in politics"

Jayalalithaa adorns jewellery again and a wide smile greets all after 14 years.
The newly sworn in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa has been forced to start wearing her ear studs again by her party cadre. Since 1997, Jayalalithaa had given up wearing any piece of jewellery. After the results, her colleagues and party workers requested her to start wearing jewels, and threatened self-immolation over the issue. When her jewellery was seized in the wealth case in 1997 and she was mocked time and again by Sun TV, the AIADMK queen had stopped wearing ornaments altogether. It was to stop the Karunanidhi government any mileage by letting them paint her as a politician who lived in opulence.
Now the supremo of Tamil Nadu always has a polite smile to all and no one can find a match for her impeccable mannerism and choosing of correct words at her press conferences. She is a true convent-educated lady with everything in correct order.
On the other hand, Karunanidhi didn't celebrate his 88th birthday as his daughter is in jail. A sad Karunanidhi seems to be reflecting on how so much can go wrong so soon. He has lost his election, reputation and the family is in so much trouble.
"‘Insecure’ government"

Delhiites were shocked at the sight of three Union ministers - Kapil Sibal, Pawan Kumar Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahay -- receiving Baba Ramdev at the Delhi airport on Wednesday and were more surprised to see Pranab Mukherjee later join them for talks at the airport. The yoga guru, having interests in various TV channels, reached the Capital for his 'satyagraha' against black money and corruption.
There seems to be a kind of a strategy behind this whole drama. Delhiites are questioning the role of civil society representative Baba Ramdev. Is all this done to take the attention of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption stir? Delhiites feel how every second self-proclaimed civil society representative is going to come to the Capital to go on fast and dharna. What will their life be like? Traffic jams and harassment of the common man by cops too. But what seems to be annoying the public is that their Union government feels so insecure that it has to designate its senior ministers for such a threat. Is it a threat? And why is the government so scared? Or is this a strategy to derail the whole Lokpal Bill?
It is sure to boomerang as more and more publicity is given by the media and the UPA-II seems to be just going from bad to worse. Delhiites suffer due to these agitations, but if the message is clear and the demands are based on reasons and ethics, it's fine by them.
"Some austerity drive!"

In UP, Chief Minister Mayawati is obviously taking a cue from the Congress in trying to initiate an austerity drive. But the move has become a joke in the opposition and bureaucracy.
There is now a ban on government receptions and dinners at five-star hotels. On New Year or Divali, there is no distribution of calendars, diaries and greetings. There are no ads for publicity by the departments.
On the other hand, Madam is spending thousands of crores on memorials and parks. When she moves, there is a fleet of two dozen vehicles and then she expects others to practise austerity. Is this a genuine austerity drive, one wonders.
Explaining the necessity for the decision, the Chief Minister said that the implementation of recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission had put a massive burden on the state exchequer.