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Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Shaken Shillong Bids Adieu To Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam!

It was just unprecedented and a supreme moment of stupefied indecision for a quiet hilly city of Shillong in the state of Meghalaya of north eastern India. News of global proportions rarely happens in this city. The easy-going people here are not much bothered about breaking news or that kind of stuff and are happy with their daily chores—going to work, going to markets, going for their favourite dishes and worrying about rains or the lack of it and electricity or water supply or cleanliness. So nobody was ready for such kind of a huge news break that could go livewire globally. To confound matters, the media did not have a clue about this visit of an eminent personality, even in a small city like Shillong. Finally then, when the news broke around 8pm on that momentous day of 27th July, 2015 it was incredulity, sheer disbelief, indecisiveness and numbing inaction. The men here in power were mostly looking for protocol and for ways how to handle it. The Governor, the ministers, the bureaucrats, the police and army officers, the doctors—all found themselves rushing to the hospital without giving any thought to making an official declaration. The media acted on their sources and camped at the hospital waiting hours for the doctors or any authority to come down and make it official. The easy-going folks were shaken out of their reverie and took to the streets crowding the hospital campus and the surroundings.

Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was no stranger to Shillong or Meghalaya. He had been coming here since 2002 mostly for his lecture-interaction with students and some other official inaugurations in the role of the Indian President. This time he was scheduled to give a lecture here in the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Shillong on the topic ‘Creating a Liveable Planet Earth’. He had been in the faculty of the IIM and came for lectures quite often in the last two years. Accordingly on 27th July he arrived in Guwahati by a flight from Delhi and undertook a road journey to Shillong. Upon his arrival in Shillong after 5pm he was taken to a guest house for a little rest with tea and light refreshments. After 6pm he was there in the auditorium of the IIM for giving the lecture to senior students. He was his usual self—jovial, eager to interact and in full energy.

His Last Lecture
Barely ten minutes into his lecture the Missile Man fell silent suddenly and collapsed. The IIM doctor examined him and declared a medical emergency. He was shifted immediately to the nearest Bethany hospital and admitted into the ICU. Apart from the hospital doctors the Army doctors and the state government doctors were called in to treat the former President. Desperate efforts continued to revive the beloved teacher and the scientist. The mouth to mouth news went viral.

The Governor of Meghalaya, V Shanmuganthan rushed to the Bethany hospital and stayed there for hours. The state ministers, the top bureaucrats, the army commands and top cops started landing at the hospital. Meanwhile the reception lounge of the hospital got filled with hyperactive media personnel and the outer courtyard and the surrounding streets were filled beyond capacity with his ardent and anxious admirers—mostly young people and students.

Finally at around 10.30pm the body of the immensely versatile personality of utter simplicity, draped in the tricolor, was brought down to the courtyard to be taken in an ambulance to the military hospital. The large crowd looked on in utter disbelief and with a sense of profound loss, and then erupted into an endless chain of spontaneous reaction. The slogans of ‘Long Live Abdul Kalam Sahab’ rent the air around. Most of them were out with their mobiles and cameras trying frantically to record a last glimpse of their beloved and ever inspiring leader-teacher. Many of them were in tears.

The last journey of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam began. His mortal remains were taken on a helicopter to Guwahati in the wee hours of 28th July and from there to New Delhi by a special aircraft. Next day he was taken to Rameshwaram, his native place in Tamil Nadu. And today, the 30th July, 2015, the People’s President was finally laid to rest with full state and military honors. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ministers and top leaders of the whole country attended the funeral paying their soulful homage for the last time.

Popularity of Dr. Abdul Kalam has to be seen to be believed. Even in this farthest north eastern region of the country tributes were paid to him in almost every corner and the striking highlight is that everywhere it is the common people or the students who showed their pain at this great loss so emphatically. Yes, he has been a role model and source of inspiration for the youth to succeed in life, and his down to earth nature and incredible simplicity won millions of hearts all over. Long Live the People’s President. We pray for the eternal bliss of his noble soul.

Shillong in the meantime has been coming to terms with the reality. The state government had declared a holiday on 28th July, maybe to recover from the shock and prepare for the next course of action. There were mixed reactions all around here and in the social media. Some objected to the holiday declaration saying this was contrary to what Dr. Kalam stood for. Some found even a glory in this profoundly sad happening—a glorified death for Shillong. They posted or tweeted that the great scientist did a favour to Shillong by choosing to breathe his last here. Now, Shillong will figure prominently in Google searches and people all over the globe will come to know what Shillong is and where it is. The reason for this is simple. People here have always to contend with the nation’s colossal ignorance about the north east India and a sense of being neglected over the decades. People here struggle to come into the national mainstream not for the wrong reasons that usually include natural disasters or terrorism. Now at least, they have the best possible reason to be considered seriously—Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

About the media not having a clue to this visit the IIM sources said that Dr. Kalam came for strictly class-room lectures where no distractions could be allowed. Besides, in 2014 when he came for his usual lecture media came to know about it and the eager teacher was very upset at being disturbed in his mission. They have good reasons to block the media this time. But the loss is immense. Millions of his followers were deprived of the audio-visuals of his last lecture.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The IPL Aftermath: The Conglomerate Of Vested Interests!

Money continues to talk. Such is the extent of the dirty dough, the immense stakes and the clout of the stakeholders inherent in the scam-stricken Indian Premier League (IPL) that even a verdict from the apex court of the country does not prove to be enough to force the richest cricket Board of the world straight away into action. It has been therefore a natural follow-up that the Supreme Court of India had to intervene to make the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to see reason, to force its president to at least step away, to appoint committees to probe into the scam and finally give a verdict that should be binding where no other authority in the country commands such ‘authority’. The two franchises under suspension are the two super brands of IPL—CSK and RR—and it is quite clear how much money-powered clout these teams and the superstar cricketers playing for them command.

Of course, since it is the Supreme Court empowered Lodha Committee there was some pressure indeed for the BCCI and the IPL to fall in line. So the BCCI-IPL Governing Council held an emergency meeting in Mumbai on Sunday, the 19th of July, 2015 to examine the ‘implications’ of the IPL Verdict. What really about the implications? Do the cricket mandarins fail to understand the implications of a somewhat plainly obvious verdict? The cricket board had to say that “BCCI respects the verdict of the Lodha Commission and will abide by their decisions, in toto” and yet they went on to say “The members recognised that there is an urgent need to understand the impact of this decision and the wider ramifications for BCCI in detail, so as to uphold the paramountcy of the game in our country.” The so-called members are so erudite and elevated that they on their own must study the points to take action as they desire! And the BCCI-IPL themselves had drafted a clause 11.3 (c) of the franchise agreement that says the agreement can be terminated if “the Franchise, any Franchise Group Company and/or any owner acts in any way which has a material adverse effect upon the reputation or standing of the League, BCCI-IPL, BCCI, the Franchise, the team (or any other team in the League) and/or the game of cricket.” They have the rule and they have the binding verdict. Why cannot they act straight away? It is the delay or the need for buying more time which is of utmost urgency for this conglomerate of vested interests. And delay it was they managed in that meeting—at least by six weeks.

The BCCI so decided to constitute a working group to study the order and the recommendations of the Lodha committee within a period of six weeks. Then the report will be submitted to the BCCI’s all-powerful Working Committee and it is supposed to take the final decision on the decision of none other than the Supreme Court. And pray who are the members of the working group? It will be chaired by IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla and will have BCCI Secretary Anurag Thakur and Treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhary as members. Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly is the fourth member. BCCI's legal adviser U N Banerjee will assist the panel. It is so obviously self-contained and vested. What will they represent except the clout in the corrupt-confused Board? Ganguly does represent the players of course, but he has been getting ‘retirement’ benefits from both the BCCI and IPL. So it is extremely scary at the moment as to what ‘decision’ they will finally arrive at which may even cause disregard to the apex court verdict! It is the national cricket craze that generates all the money and this money in no time turns dirty big creating the Frankenstein of a clout. Therefore, anything is possible in this dirty business called IPL! Despite everything! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The IPL Verdict: Operation Clean-Up Indian Cricket!

July 14, 2015, a very important day for Indian Cricket. On the one hand the forcibly-constituted second-string Team India has crushed Zimbabwe 3-0 in the ODI Series being played in Zimbabwe. On the other the Supreme Court appointed Justice Lodha Committee delivered a historic and ruthless verdict on the IPL Spot Fixing scam. Operation Clean-Up Indian cricket has begun with a big bang. In these pages we have always opposed the sleazy cricket in the garb of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tracking all the important developments including the Supreme Court of India coming into the picture taking on the corrupt practices both in the tournament and in the Indian cricket board, BCCI. Now the IPL is in the worst crisis ever. Now, we stand vindicated, we say now…scrap the IPL.

Sans the superstars the second-string Indian team played freely in Zimbabwe under the ‘no-choice’ skipper Ajinkya Rahane. They have built up big partnerships that the main team was found lacking in recent matches; several key batsmen hit centuries and what is important stayed on for the team’s interest that many superstars of the main team could not do; they have pulled the team out of tricky and dangerous situations especially in the first and the third one day internationals winning both matches whereas as found recently under the same situations the main team would have given up meekly; without pondering over the ability or the lack of it of the opposition they have batted, bowled and fielded with determination winning finally in style. For the first time Stuart Binny got the opportunity to showcase his all-round abilities. He was in the World Cup-2015 team, but was hardly utilized. Within a few days the new team grouped well and delivered. And what about the superstars? They forced out the ‘rest’ because they were IPL-weary. Now, most of them find that they have no IPL teams to play for.

The sensational IPL Verdict has banned two major franchises—Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR)—from the IPL for two years. The axe fell on these two teams due to their two key officials—Gurunath Meiyappan of CSK and Raj Kundra of RR—who were found guilty of being involved in heavy betting. Despite their obvious complicity no action was ever taken against them by the concerned franchisee or the BCCI. Meiyappan and Kundra are banned for life from all cricket activities and from all cricket matters relating to the BCCI. Crucial evidence in this regard was submitted by the Mudgal Committee last year.

Question marks are also on the current one-day skipper MS Dhoni who also leads the CSK as to what he disclosed or hid from the Mudgal committee. He was found to be in close coordination with Meiyappan, the CEO of the franchisee, in all matters related to CSK. The shadow of doubt on him and several other star cricketers are bound to continue till further disclosure. Three players of RR were arrested for spot fixing and with the co-owner Raj Kundra also implicated nobody in the franchisee bothered to examine or take action. This is not the end of justice being done; this is just the beginning of operation clean-up Indian cricket. More is bound to follow with the Lodha committee set to take up the corruption and lack of transparency in the BCCI next.

And what about N Srinivasan? His team gone, his company Indian Cements debarred from any business with the BCCI and his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan banned for life. However, well known for his craze for power, N Srinivasan will not step down or resign from his ICC Chairmanship or other cricket posts. Questions will be raised again on his role, but the great cricket-czar is still looking for options expressing his disappointment at the ‘unfair’ verdict. One thing is sure though, Indian Cricket cannot be the same after today.
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