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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chit Fund Scam: Cheating At Grassroots!

Trinamool means grassroots and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party with Mamata Bannerji as its leader romped home in the 2011 elections of West Bengal seemingly winning the votes at the grassroots and rescuing the poor commoners from the ‘clutch’ of the long ruling Left. The masses of the state had hailed the win as a kind of revolutionary, not knowing what would follow. In fact, a whole lot of shockingly bizarre events followed with Mamata Bannerji as the Chief Minister ranging from Baby Deaths, Rape controversies to curbing of freedom of expression. The Merciless Mamata syndrome showed no signs of stopping. And now, the grass-root reality of her government gets exposed again with the Saradha Chit Fund Case that looted the poor of their lifelong savings. 

Chit Funds (Ponzi schemes) are very common in India flourishing with the investments of fallible and vulnerable commoners and with rampant political patronization. Scores of poor investors went bankrupt as the Saradha Chit Fund was proved a Cheat Fund with its kingpin fleeing first and then getting arrested. The scenes of the poor people of West Bengal and Assam losing their lifelong savings were heart wrenching and so far two poor investors reportedly committed suicide. The people of West Bengal erupted in protests all over the state demanding immediate refund.

Fighting complicity of several politicians of TMC in the scam and with the continuing crackdown of the Government of India on such fraud chit funds Mamata became desperate. She wanted 50 million bucks to somewhat compensate the poor investors and in her efforts to raise that money she created more controversies. She started making donations that were allegedly donated earlier to her government only by the fraud Chit Fund. More bizarre happenings were in store. Mamata imposed a ten percent local tax on cigarettes to raise some amount of the money needed and in a media conference advised people to ‘smoke as frequently as they could’ so that she could compensate the poor. Her ‘smoke joke’ has shocked all and irked particularly the medical fraternity.

In India the poor provides the vote banks to most political parties and the ‘gratified’ political parties offer sops in return. But, in the final bargain the poor only stands to get looted, looted and looted.  

Is this just the tip of the iceberg?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gaylestorm Gone, Hurricane Gayle Now!

Watching Chris Gayle in action the thought often comes to our mind, what will happen if he gets just uncontrollable like the unstoppable bullet train or the speeding bus! That’s exactly what happened yesterday, the 23rd of April 2013, in Bangalore in his team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)’s match against Pune Warriors during the on-going Indian Premiere League—2013 (IPL-6). His bulldozing yet effortless shots all around the park created world records not just for IPL or T20 Cricket, but also for the world of cricket.

Gayle raced to his century in just 30 balls, a world record in all formats of cricket. He hit 13 fours and 17 huge sixes in his unbeaten knock. His tally of 17 sixes created another world record in all formats of the game, and RCB had also achieved a new high of 23 team sixes in a match. He did not seem to end his innings at 175, but the allotted 20 overs were over by then. This became the highest individual score ever in the history of T20 cricket. He helped his team reach a total of 263—the highest ever team score in the history of T20 cricket. In fact, Gayle has also completed a century with the help of sixes only (17 * 6= 102!). By then the result of the match was a forgone conclusion with the hapless Pune Warriors losing by a huge margin of 130 runs. Gayle already holds an IPL record of scoring four big hundreds.

Chris Gayle’s unbelievable knock of 175 in 66 balls created ripples throughout the world of cricket. India captain and T20 specialist MS Dhoni got overwhelmed by the superlative display of flawless batting. Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, had reportedly expressed his ecstasy saying Gayle was “not human, he’s a tsunami mixed with a nuclear bomb”. Yes, he is definitely Hurricane Gayle. His knock assumes great significance in IPL-6 where most of the matches played so far are low-scoring and choked with the bowlers enjoying an edge and achieving several hattricks already.

It is another wonder that despite having a player like Chris Gayle as the opener RCB has not been able yet to lift the title or rather any kind of T20 Championship titles, though they have proved to be the most consistent team in IPL reaching the knockout or semis stage several times.

But then, IPL-6 is not even halfway through, only 33 match have been played and in all there are 76 scheduled matches. With the participation of many greats and veterans this extravaganza of money spinning tournament has invariably managed to inject some amount of genuine cricket too. By the way, today India cricket giant Sachin Tendulkar turns 40. Wishing him a Happy Birthday the cricket-crazy nation must be geared up to see some fascinating cricket from the little master in the rest of the IPL-6 matches.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Delhi Gudiya: The Rape Capital Shames India Again!

This time it was a five-year-old baby girl, lovingly called 'Gudiya’ (Doll), who fell to the perverted and fiendish greed of the rapists. She was reportedly abducted by a 25-year-old neighbor of her building on the evening of 15th April, 2013. The distressed family informed the police, but nothing was done except for registering an FIR with lot of delay. The point here to note here is that the family was a poor one with no political or influential connections to impress upon the police. And naturally, the ‘investigating’ officers never bothered to conduct a search in the building complex.

The baby girl was raped and tortured for more than forty hours. Finally, somebody heard her crying from inside a locked flat and she was rescued in a most precarious state. The neighbor seemed to have fled the premises as the noise over the abduction grew. The police arrived, and instead of taking the serious girl to a good hospital tried bargaining with the family for a cover-up. The family was allegedly offered 2000 bucks to remain silent and thus close the case. The 'magnanimous' police officials allegedly told the family that there was nothing now to worry about since Gudiya was found alive. 

Yesterday Gudiya was finally shifted to the best hospital in the city and protesters took to the streets creating a national outrage once again in the Rape Capital of India—Delhi— where only four months ago a brutal gang rape shook the government of India forcing it to consider the issue of crimes against women more seriously. Action, ordinances and draft bills followed in quick succession. Within three months the anti-rape bill was made into a law that aimed to cover a whole range of crimes against women prescribing the death penalty in the rarest of rare cases. But, unfortunately, all rape-related cases in a country inhabited by an overpoweringly large class of male chauvinistic monsters could only be commonplace occurrences while in most foreign countries such cases would be immediately termed as 'rarest of rare'. 

A team of specialized doctors started treating Gudiya. One of them said that he had never seen such barbaric torture inflicted upon a little girl.

More was in store. The same day yesterday some protesters barged into a police station demanding action and immediate punishment to the culprits. The police officers, true to their feudal colors, became oblivious even of the camera persons present there. Before a shocked nation one of them slapped a girl repeatedly and shoved the protesters out. The visuals went viral and angry reactions began to pour in from all quarters.

Even as the Prime Minister of India expressed his anguish and asked for stringent action to be taken Delhi Police showed little concern. The top cop never showed up and only a local Deputy Commissioner held a press conference last night. The Indian society, particularly the feudalistic northern belt, refused to change even after the most horrific Delhi Gangrape and the revolutionary aftermath. Another incident occurred at the same time at Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh where the body of a five-year-old girl with torture marks was recovered. When the mother of the child went to the local police station to lodge a complaint she was beaten and thrown out.

Money, power, corruption, perversion and degeneration have penetrated the Indian society to the core. If you do possess all these attributes you are fit to live in this country, if you try to be different better leave India.  In such a situation even strict laws, severe punishment and fast-track courts fail to act as deterrents. The only solution is a deep-rooted revolution. The Young India Movement for Change that started after the Delhi Gangrape must not be case specific and must go on without letup till it changes the ‘male-volent’ society.

Hope must still be kept alive in all our hearts. Gudiya is doing well as per the latest medical bulletin, but would need long-term reconstruction. The fiendish accused has been arrested in Bihar. A few police officials were suspended last evening, but suspension is only a stop-gap measure. All male monsters must be dismissed from service and arrested.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Terror Returns To America, Then Revisits India!

On Monday, April 15, 2013, it was Boston when terror returned to America after nearly 12 years. Two bomb blasts tore up a colorful and spirited Marathon. Three innocents were killed and scores injured, maimed and incapacitated for life. It could be matter of great concern considering the frightening perspective. 

On March 13, 2013, Terror returned to Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir in India after a gap of three years. The terror-ravaged northern state has been rudely reminded of the ugly evil. 

And today, a high intensity blast rocked Bangalore in Southern India. More than 15 innocents including several policemen were injured and fortunately no one got killed. 

The terror industry seems to be gearing up for another offensive against humanity. A selflessly united global initiative must happen now to stop terror on its track. 

For India the the situation is more terrifying with intelligence reports indicating possibility of more terror strikes. The apparent political  instability in the country with the ruling coalition and the opposition alliance both hopelessly divided, and the opportunist fringe groups regrouping for the General Elections-2014. 'Divide and Misrule' seems to be the slogan of all the political parties so as to fall in step with the vested interests for lobbying, corruption  and laundering. Divided and opportunistic politicking is the natural ally of terrorism. 

Beware of the Terror! Counter it before it is too late. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mumbai: The Strange Case Of A Missing Police Officer!

An inspector of Mumbai Police goes suddenly missing. Interestingly he has been working for the Missing Persons Bureau of Crime Branch. The cop left his office at around 2.30 pm on Saturday, the 13th of April, 2013 and never returned. He reportedly told his colleagues that he was going out for a walk. The Bureau specialized in finding missing persons went on an overdrive trying to search him everywhere including his native place in Solapur, Maharashtra. But for two days the cop could not be traced.

The inspector’s family was very much alarmed, because the cop has not been keeping well for the last few years and he had a brain hemorrhage surgery in 2007. Due to that surgery he was not allowed to carry a mobile phone and was advised not to exercise his vocal chords unduly. His wife ran from pillar to post filing complaints and meeting cops. But to no avail. It became a situation of hoping against hope.

Monday morning, the 15th of April, 2013. The office building’s security people switched on the power to light up the lobby and also to run the lifts for a normal workday. As the doors of one of the lifts opened up they were shocked to find the missing inspector inside, sprawled up, pale and ghastly. Fortunately he was alive. He has survived for more than forty hours in there without food, water or fresh air, and faced with an overpowering stench. The missing parts of the story then fell into place.

On that fateful Saturday afternoon the municipal workers checked the lifts after doing the service work, and decided to switch off the power because of the weekend. As they checked the lift the cop got into it on the third floor, and got trapped between two floors as they switched off the power. He banged on the doors and used his vocal chords to permissible limits. But as the office was already near empty. For two nights nobody thought of checking the lifts.

This strange tale speaks volumes on the pathetic condition of the once top-in-the-country Mumbai Police. Lack of modernization and proper facilities including better pay, repeated terror attacks, continuing political interference, growing corruption, shortage of staff and lack of modern weaponry have set in a wave of demoralization in the forces. This classic tale reveals the ridiculous inability of the Missing Persons Bureau to find its own officer missing for two days.Where was the search focused?

If Mumbai is to face up to the increasing challenges the trend must be reversed. Mumbai Police must be restored to its past glory.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mumbai Dreams!

Enjoying a rare off on Sunday today I also had the rare luxury of going for an afternoon nap. To my surprise I managed some sleep, however in fits and starts. And, I had a series of dreams mostly taking me back to my native land Assam which was only natural because I paid a visit there recently and maybe also because our Spring festival (start of four seasons) Bohag or Rongali Bihu has begun—today being Goru Bihu when we worship cattle and tomorrow Manuh Bihu that is our New Year day. In Mumbai we hardly get the ambiance.

Anyway, one of the dreams was very interesting. I was walking out of some place in Guwahati and a man suddenly touched my shoulder from behind. I ignored it first thinking it was by mistake. But as I felt being touched again I stopped and the man came around blocking my way. He said,
“You live in Mumbai, no?”
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“Well, I see only posh high-rise buildings there with spacious balconies. I’m planning a visit there and don’t know where to put up!”
Shaking off the fear of an impending stranger guest in my humble lodgings I said,
“No worries. Around the railway stations and airports there are many hotels and lodges.”
“But are they affordable?”
“No problems even if you cannot afford. You can stay and sleep in the railway station platforms, in the pavements and even in the streets. You see, people of Mumbai sleep everywhere!” The man gave a bemused smile and dissolved away.
I laughed out as I woke up with a jerk. I realized how the very essence of a city where you live for long years gets not only into your conscious system but also into your subconscious.

Dreams in Mumbai get continuously shattered by the hard realities. Owning a flat here is now getting out of reach even for the upper middle classes. With population pressures increasing all the time thanks to immigration to the dream city people are occupying every possible place for living. Such has been the demand for sleeping and squatting facilities in the city and around that vested interests have been taking up illegal constructions, particularly in the satellite towns of Mumbai. On 4th April, 2013 a seven-storey building constructed illegally and completed in mere months in Mumbra came down crashing killing 74 residents. The building was constructed to house people of labor class who, as per reports, were also illegal immigrants. In fact, nearly ninety percent of buildings in this satellite township are reportedly illegal. Some other reports reveal that even the bungalow of the town mayor was constructed illegally!

The tragedy rocked the Maharashtra Assembly in session, and the system had to wake up again as is usual after a mishap. A demolition campaign ensued in Mumbra and the municipal authorities cut off water and electricity supply to many other illegal buildings. To confound matters the inhabitants of the town called for a Mumbra Bandh against the government action. Well, they have to eke out their existence, housed legally or illegally; they hardly have any choice.

Mumbai—caught between dream and reality. Life goes on though.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Movies: Legendary Bollywood Villain Pran Gets Dadasaheb Phalke Award!

Pran—a name that terrorized us as little kids; a name that we loved to adore as we grew older and a name that has remained with us till now and forever. We were struck with awe by his villainous portrayals and yet we could not stop liking him—his gait, his style of talking, his looks, his smart dress code and the eternal cigarette in his hands. That time we were not capable of judging him as an actor, but the way he kept us spellbound was only due to his intensely powerful and effective performances. Since we loved him so much even as a villain we longed to see him as a good guy on the side of the fighting-for-truth hero. And, we got that hugely satisfying and gratifying experience too.

Pran Krishan Sikand (born 1920) turned 93 in February this year and yesterday, the 12th of April, 2013, he was chosen for the supreme honour of Indian cinema—the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2012. Maybe a little late as the classic Bollywood actor is almost unable to walk around or talk articulately. But, never too late. As a media person I tried to capture his expressions and possibly his byte on camera on this momentous occasion by all means, but was advised against it by his closest kin. Quite understandable.  The superstar of the millennium Amitabh Bachchan responded immediately to speak on phone about the legendary villain of the millennium. Incidentally, in most of the 15 movies Amitabh acted with Pran the legendary villain invariably played the good guy or bad guy turned good roles. Some of these movies were runaway hits as we cherished two great superstars—one as the super hero and the other as the staunch and unflinching supporter.

In his six decade long film career Pran never had a low. Hits and super-hits followed him from the early forties to the late nineties. He had been the typical villain with all the classic heroes of those times—Sunil Dutt, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Shammi Kapoor. For our generation a few of the most memorable movies of Pran as a villain that we watched much later were Gumnaam (1965), Ram Aur Shyam (1967), An Evening In Paris (1967), Sadhu Aur Shaitaan (1968) and as late as in 1983 in Andha Kanoon (with Amitabh Bachchan) where Pran played a villain still as lethal . In between he played one or two odd positive roles. 

However, his landmark positive role came in Manoj Kumar’s Upkar (1967) when his prowess in a strong supporting role got noticed. And then, Zanjeer (1973) happened.

In Zanjeer we had the best of both worlds. We accepted the new angry superhero Amitabh Bachchan who became a household name after this movie. We were overwhelmed by the strong supporting role as the hero’s aide by Pran. For the first time we had two superstars fighting for a common cause—our cause rather considering how emotional and impulsive we were. In fact, Pran recommended Amitabh in the hero’s role for this blockbuster, and the close association between the two superstars that started then never ceased. In the late nineties when Amitabh was going through a crisis Pran helped the Big B by agreeing to act in two movies with him despite his deteriorating health.

We congratulate the perfect villain cum Robin Hood on screen and the perfect, soft spoken and amiable gentleman off screen, Pran Saheb, for this great honour that finally recognized his immense contribution to Indian cinema. He has won many other laurels and awards throughout his career, but this supreme honour just proves again how much he is still loved by people of all ages and walks of life. We hope he will have good health soon and will receive the Award in full flow and in full glow. We salute the great actor.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Politics: The Appalling Insensitivity!

The ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’ of democracy has been fast reduced to a myth, and the emerging truth being ‘of the politicians, for the politicians and by the politicians’. We have seen public eruptions of ire against the politicians regularly over the years in various parts of India, but the politicians remained stoic, incorrigible, uncaring as ever, and active in their usual way. Two recent instances just prove the point on democracy.

Firstly, the western state of Maharashtra has been facing the worst drought in forty years and the accompanying crisis of load shedding has made life difficult for the farmers. In a situation like this when immediate relief was the basic need, none other than the Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) of the state—Ajit Pawar—in a public rally recently chose to ridicule a fasting farmer by uttering that it was pointless to demand release of water from the dams since most of them were running dry, and even urinating in the dams would not solve the problem because without drinking water it was hard to do that. As some of the audience laughed largely due to servility, the Minister got bolder and his darkest of dark humor vented itself on the problem of load shedding too. The atrociously humorous politician opined that thanks to the long dark hours in the powerless nights the birth of children increased, because, the erudite leader added, people naturally had no other ‘work’ to do.

Following a national outrage the DCM apologized and admitted it was the biggest mistake of his political career. However, the opposing politicians got another opportunity to do politics and stall the proceedings of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for days demanding resignation of the DCM. Farmers of Maharashtra responded by holding protest rallies and burning of effigies.

Secondly, the North Eastern state of Assam has been under the absolute siege of illegal Syndicates for over a decade now. The politicians there feigned ignorance of the very existence of the Syndicates all the time and… suddenly there was action.

The Syndicate is not exactly a cartel and it is closer to being a mafia. Criminal minded people blessed as ever by the politicians constitute a Syndicate by taking in businesspersons and dealers of everyday commodities like fish, eggs and vegetables. The criminals extort money from the members assuring them of protection from any government action or income tax raids or other calamities. Leaving the Syndicate is dangerous and there was one case where the defecting businessperson was murdered. The protection money allegedly benefits all the politicians, agents and bureaucrats and the common buyers already under raging inflation suffer more in terms of artificially increased prices as the extorted money is always passed over to the customers.

Suddenly the Government of Assam cracked down on the illegal Syndicates and arrested one criminal who progressed from a poor vendor to a millionaire in quick time running his Syndicate on vegetables. The crackdown continued, but the people were not happy even as prices of many items actually fell particularly in a time of the Spring Festival or Rongali Bihu. They saw through the government action. There was a crisis of dissidence in the government with negotiations not leading to a solution. So then, all the Syndicates that were affected by the government action allegedly benefited the dissident politicians ranging from Ministers to Members of the Assembly.

Kaziranga National Park in Assam has the largest share of the great one-horned rhinoceroses of the world and Assam is proud to have the rhino as the state symbol. Therefore, it is only natural that politicians there develop rhino skin and become oblivious of all problems related to the common human beings.

In a way, Indian politicians do differ in terms of party ideologies or manifestos, but they always pursue their objectives unitedly. That is to say, in the largest democracy.
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