India going through ‘super emergency’ for the past five years: Mamata Banerjee attacks Modi government

India going through ‘super emergency’ for the past five years: Mamata Banerjee attacks Modi government

New Delhi: Taking aim at the BJP-led central government, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday asserted that the country went through a period of 'Super Emergency' in the last five years - Narendra Modi's first tenure as Prime Minister.

"Today is the anniversary of the #Emergency declared in 1975. For the last five years, the country went through a 'Super Emergency'. We must learn our lessons from history and fight to safeguard the democratic institutions in the country," Banerjee tweeted on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the 1975 Emergency. Banerjee, who has been at loggerheads with BJP, did not participate in the recent all-party meetings convened by Prime Minister Modi. She also skipped the swearing-in ceremony of the new government last month and did not attend the June 15 NITI Aayog meeting.

On the other hand, Modi said that the country saluted those who "fiercely and fearlessly" resisted the Emergency period. "India salutes all those greats who fiercely and fearlessly resisted the Emergency. India's democratic ethos successfully prevailed over an authoritarian mindset," he tweeted.

June 25 marks the day when then prime minister Indira Gandhi had declared a state of Emergency in the country for a 21-month period from 1975 to 1977. Officially issued by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed under Article 352 of the Constitution due of the prevailing "internal disturbance", the Emergency was in effect from June 25, 1975, until its withdrawal on March 21, 1977. The order vested upon the Prime Minister the authority to rule by decree, allowing elections to be suspended and civil liberties to be curbed. The Emergency is considered to be one of the most controversial periods of independent India's history.


Unseen 9/11 photos bought at house clearance sale

Unseen 9/11 photos bought at house clearance sale

Archivists who bought a stash of CDs at a house clearance sale found 2,400 photos of Ground Zero in New York taken following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

They appear to have been taken by an as yet unidentified construction worker who helped to clear up the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers and surrounding area.

The CDs were in poor condition but the data was ultimately retrievable.

The archivists have uploaded the photos to Flickr.

The digital albums include images of Ground Zero itself taken both at ground level and from above, construction staff at work and the damaged interiors of the blocks surrounding the towers.

Nearly 3,000 people died when four hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

"Generally these items are neglected at sales. It's very likely these would be in a dumpster by now had we not gone," said Dr Johnathan Burgess, whose colleague Jason Scott attended the sale.

"It's a miracle the discs transferred so well, CD Roms of that age are pretty spotty."

He used a CD recovery service to retrieve some of the images.

Dr Burgess said he and Mr Scott had so far been unsuccessful in tracking down the photographer or any relatives.

Many of those who worked in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks went on to suffer illness, with about 400,000 people believed to have been exposed to toxic contaminants, or suffered injury or trauma on the day itself according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr Burgess said sharing the photos was "about doing what's right for humanity" and suggested that people who are moved by them should consider donating to a worthy cause of their choice.

Here is a selection of photos from the collection on Flickr.


What every leader can learn from Navy chief Karambir Singh as he scraps 5 archival procedures

What every leader can learn from Navy chief Karambir Singh as he scraps 5 archival procedures

Vice Admiral Karambir Singh took over as the 24th Chief of Naval Staff from outgoing head Sunil Lamba at a ceremonial parade in the national capital on May 31, 2019. Recipient of the Param Vishist Seva Medal and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Singh is the first helicopter pilot of the Indian Navy to become the Chief of Naval Staff. The new Navy chief’s first diktat to the force said that a modern fighting force should follow contemporary social and ceremonial practices towards optimisation of resources.

Singh has been serving the Indian Navy for close to four decades now. After being appointed as the new Navy Chief, Singh has issued an elaborate guidelines that aim to curb subservient behaviour, restrict certain ceremonial practices, and ensure equality among the ranks.

Same standard of food, drinks and cutlery

Singh has announced that same standard of food, drinks and cutlery should be followed for all ranks of Navy personnel at all the official functions. He has also stated that refreshments and meals should be simple and devoid of ostentation.

No multiple stand-by cars for Navy Chief

The new navy chief has asked personnel to discontinue the provision of multiple stand-by cars for Chief of Naval Staff.

No bouquets

Singh has also discouraged presentation of bouquets to senior officials and their wives. The guidelines has also asked to avoid offering garlands to the guests and showering of petals. There will also be no quasi-religious functions including lighting of lamps, breaking of coconuts or recital of religious prayers.

No use of third person in addressing senior officials

The Navy Chief said use of the third person in addressing senior officers will be discontinued and full title of senior officers need not be used repeatedly in speeches, except in formal correspondences and occasions.

No family line-up to receive dignitaries

The Navy chief’s guidelines also directed that women and children should not be lined up to receive or see off dignitaries. According to the new guidelines, sailors should not be deployed to open doors for dignitaries.According to PTI, the directives are being implemented with immediate effect.

About Admiral Karambir Singh

Before being appointed to the post, the Admiral has commanded an Indian Coast Guard Ship, a Naval Missile Corvette as well as Guided Missile Destroyers. He has also served as the Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet, as the Joint Director Naval Air Staff at Naval Headquarters, and as Captain Air and Officer-in-Charge of the Naval Air Station at Mumbai.

(With inputs from IANS and PTI)


Nearly 50 per cent MPs in new Lok Sabha have criminal records

Nearly 50 per cent MPs in new Lok Sabha have criminal records

The chances of winning for a candidate with declared criminal cases in the Lok Sabha 2019 is 15.5 per cent whereas for a candidate with a clean background, it is 4.7 per cent.

This is due to the fact that the 17th Lok Sabha will have close to half of its new Members of Parliament (MPs) with declared criminal cases.

Complete coverage: Elections 2019

Out of the 539 winners analysed in Lok Sabha 2019, 233 MPs have declared criminal cases against themselves. This is an increase of 44 per cent in the number of MPs with declared criminal cases since 2009.

Congress MP Dean Kuriakose from Idukki constituency in Kerala has declared 204 criminal cases against himself. These include cases related to committing culpable homicide, house trespass, robbery, criminal intimidation, etc.

As per the self-sworn affidavits submitted by the candidates at the time of filing nominations, the new Lok Sabha has surpassed the previous two in electing MPs with criminal records.

Out of the 542 MPs analysed during Lok Sabha elections in 2014, 185 (34 per cent) winners had declared criminal cases against themselves while out of 543 winners analysed during Lok Sabha elections in 2009, 162 (30 per cent) had declared criminal cases against themselves.

This time its close to half. Out of the 539 winners analysed in Lok Sabha elections 2019, 233 (43 per cent) MPs have declared criminal cases against themselves.

The figure is far more alarming when it comes to serious criminal cases. Around 159 (29 per cent) winners this time have declared serious criminal cases including cases related to rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, crimes against women, etc.

In 2014, out of 542 MPs analysed, 112 (21 per cent) had declared serious criminal cases against themselves. In 2009, out of 543 winners analysed, 76 (14 per cent) winners had declared serious criminal cases against themselves.

There is an increase of 109 per cent in the number of MPs with declared serious criminal cases since 2009.

Among the new Lok Sabha MPs, there are 10 who have declared convicted cases against themselves. There are 11 MPs with declared cases related to murder (Indian Penal Code Section-302) and 30 winners with declared cases of attempt to murder (IPC Section-307).

There are 19 MPs who have declared cases related to crimes against women. Out of these, three have declared cases related to rape (IPC Section-376) and six have declared cases related to kidnappings.

Around 29 winners have declared cases related to hate speech.

Among the political parties, NDA ally Janta Dal United (JDU) has the highest percentage of MPs with criminal records.

In their affidavits, 13 (81 per cent) out of 16 winners from JD(U), 29 (57 per cent) out of 51 winners from INC, 10 (43 per cent) out of 23 winners from DMK, 9 (41 per cent) out of 22 winners fielded by AITC and 116 (39 per cent) out of 301 winners from the BJP have declared criminal cases against themselves.

While, 87 (29 per cent) out of 301 winners from the BJP, 19 (37 per cent) out of 51 winners from INC, 6 (26 per cent) out of 23 winners from DMK, 4(18 per cent) out of 22 winners fielded by AITC and 8 (50 per cent) out of 16 winners from JD(U) have declared serious criminal cases against themselves in their affidavits.

The above report has been released by National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) after analysing the self-sworn affidavits of 539 out of 542 winners in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Elections in Vellore constituency was cancelled. Three winners were not analysed due to the unavailability of their clear and complete affidavits on the Election Commission of India website at the time of making this report.

An alternative vision can only take on PM Modi

An alternative vision can only take on PM Modi

Now that the dust has settled on the General Elections of 2019, and we have a new government, in fact not new, but the same BJP led NDA Government in power, with Narendra Modi at its helm, let us pause for a bit and think what this mandate means for the future of Indian democracy and its institutions.

The plethora of glib opinion pieces analysing the ‘thumping mandate’ given to Modi’s brand of politics is flying around in the last few days, especially India morphing into a ‘New India’. Before we start dissecting ‘New India’ that elects a terror accused, Pragya Singh Thakur, to the Parliament, it is important to understand what was the ‘old’ (sic) India.

When India became independent on 15th August 1947, amidst the horror of partition, and displacement of millions of refugees in Bengal and Punjab, the national leaders who participated in the freedom struggle spent almost three years drafting the contract between the newly independent State and its people, i.e., the Constitution of India that came into force on 26th January 1950.

What did that contract entail? That India would be a democratic, secular, socialist republic (albeit the terms ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ were explicitly added in 1976, but the principles always existed in the Constitution) based on a written Constitution that guaranteed several fundamental rights to its people, including the right to equality, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, protection from arbitrary detention, right to life and personal liberty, and freedom of religion, amongst others.

Rule of law was the sine qua non of the independent nation, and all her institutions, whether the Parliament, Executive, Judiciary, or constitutional bodies of Election Commission, were to operate within the bounds of the Constitution. Electoral democracy was only an aspect of the democratic nation and not the whole of it, instead, the focus was on the deepening of democratic principles amongst the masses, and empowerment of the marginalised populations, through welfare policies and laws.

It is often argued that both democracy and secularism were alien concepts to the Indian masses, and were imposed on them, by the Constitution drafters. In fact, this was not at all true. Ambedkar was influenced by the Buddhist ideas of parliamentary democracy, as evident from the Bhikshu Sanghas that followed most procedures of parliamentary decision making.

Similarly, with regard to secularism, the Constituent Assembly members took secularism for granted and pledged that India would be a secular state, with no State religion, and no discrimination against any person on the basis of religion. The evolution of the Indian State included the evolution of its democratic institutions, including the Election Commission of India, Reserve Bank of India, enforcement machinery, universities, and other institutions.

Each was meant to act as a check on absolute power, advance freedom, and generate equality and scientific temper. Most importantly, the aim was to create a truly just and equal post-colonial society that eschewed caste atrocity, religious discrimination, and inequality. Of course, the emergency happened, where most of the fundamental rights were suspended, with a huge clampdown on opposition parties, and the civil society activists.

The last 69 years did not achieve all, but strives were made in all spheres to fulfill the aspirations of the people of India as well as the Constitution makers. Significantly, there was a consensus on what kind of majority the country wanted, i.e., the liberal secular democratic order was agreed upon and built incrementally over the decades. Communal harmony and co-existence were a cherished ideal, both in law and in practice.

But since the last 5 years, this liberal secular democratic order is under systematic attack by the current political regime, aided by the RSS. There have been more than a hundred cases of mob lynchings by cow vigilantes resulting in deaths of Muslim individuals, cases being filed against victims of mob lynchings and their families under cow slaughter laws, and

several cases of daily violence and harassment against Muslims all over the country, amongst others, thereby creating an entire atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Besides, there has been an exponential rise in Dalit atrocities, attempts to dilute the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Protection against Atrocities) Act, 1989, and introduce 10% quota for economically weak upper castes.

Besides, no institution is left undamaged, whether Judiciary in terms of judicial appointments and allocation of cases, financial institutions like RBI or Statistical Commission that generates the economic data, universities and scientific institutions, and even the Election Commission of India.

2019 witnesses one of the most divisive and communal election campaigns ever, with the EC taking action only against the opposition parties or the less important BJP MPs, but did not say a word against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had 11 complaints filed against him for violating the Model Code of Conduct (‘MCC’) or against Amit Shah, let alone taking action.

Both mainstream electronic and print media is completely biased in favour of the ruling establishment, with some exceptions, while the mantle of independent and fair reporting is carried by the online and non-corporate media enterprises. No sphere of public life has not been vitiated by the divisive and Hindutva agenda. Students have been arrested, universities vandalised, artists derided, violence against women and sexual minorities justified and encouraged, and the leitmotif of all, the bogey of nationalism has pervaded all spheres of public and private discourse.

And this mandate is proof of all that more. The country that we grew up in and was quite proud of no longer exists in most sense. Now the question is what can be done? Should we all just agree that India has now become a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, and not fight for the constitutional ideals? Should we just the cede the ever limited space in media, academic spaces, public opinion, and political discourses that argue that this “New India” is destructive, divisive and in the end, will only result in implosion? There is no need for external aggression now, in another 5 years, if the present situation continues, we would be continually under ‘siege’.

I think what is required is another satyagraha, i.e., a fight for the basic: for humanity, compassion, liberty, and fraternity. It’s a fight to preserve the Constitution if we can still do it. The elected majority does not make a nation. Ideas make a country, and we have to get the ‘ideas’ and ‘ideals’ back in our democracy. It’s no use fighting the Hindutva forces if we only want to advocate ‘soft Hindutva’.

A clear unequivocal alternative vision has to be created, which is a polar opposite to the Hindutva agenda. If it is an ideological war between two visions, then let the rules be clear. We have to make it clear that those of us who have enjoyed the fruits of a liberal democratic secular regime, in terms of scientific education and civil discourse, cannot now deny the same to the future generation. We have to start young, and with young (not just in age, but in being open minded).

The 2019 mandate is neither against political dynasties nor against caste politics. It is a product of an RSS project in the works for almost 90 years, with thousands at work chipping away the contours of our secular social fabric, with each riot at a time, each institution at a time, and each seat at a time, which found its fifth gear only from 2014 onwards. It’s the hour of glory for Hindutva fanatics to decisively change the course of the country in such a short span of time. Shock and Awe. Of course, ably supported by the EC, media, corporate resources, and an overall decline in the institutional checks and balances in the country.

However, if we look at the data, only 39% of voters have voted for the NDA parties, while the 61% have not (definitely up from 31% in 2014). Therein lies the story that all is not lost, there is fight still left in the majority of India’s population and let us not undermine that, irrespective of the will and health of the opposition parties. We can’t lose hope. ‘New’ India is not ‘India’.

Amritananda Chakravorty is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.


Reassuring minorities

Reassuring minorities

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after being elected the leader of the BJP-led NDA on Saturday, struck all the right notes while addressing the newly-constituted ruling parliamentary party.  There was not a false note, no rancor, not even a trace of bitterness or partisanship. Modi was being prime ministerial. One of the highlights was his promise to take everyone along, particularly those who may not have voted for the NDA. In fact, he expanded the old familiar BJP slogan, Sab Ka Saath, Sabka Vikas to add an important layer, that is, Sabka Vishwas. Winning the trust of the minorities, particularly Muslims, ought to be a priority of the Modi Government. A huge and seemingly unbreakable wall of distrust separates the largest minority community and the ruling party. There may be historical reasons why the Sanhgh parivaar and Muslims look at each other with suspicion, even hostility. Much of it is to do with the division of the country on religious lines – and the inherent fellow-feeling that Indian Muslims have for their cousins and co-religionists in Pakistan. The tensions and recriminations between India and Pakistan gives the two communities an additional dimension for distrusting each other. Neither community is blameless. Muslims have made no effort to hide their animus against the BJP, invariably voting against the party in large numbers. For instance, in the recent election, the BJP failed to win a single seat in a Muslim-dominated area because the en-block vote of the community went against the party. On the other hand, if the BJP made an effort to woo the community, engaging it in dialogue, maybe it would succeed in whittling down its opposition. Yet, as Prime Minister Modi is expected to represent every Indian regardless of his caste or creed, his religion or political leanings. As he put it in his address to the NDA MPs, the government works for all 130-crore Indians. This must be reassuring for the community which feels fearful at the emergence of the BJP as the central pole of Indian politics. Modi, in particular, evokes harsh feelings among Muslims, given the controversy surrounding him as Gujarat Chief Minister.  He dealt with the post-result feared and insecurities of the minorities head-on.

Exhorting his MPs to demolish the ‘myth’ of fear of minorities, the PM reassured Muslims that those ‘who did not vote for us too are ours’, and we cannot leave them behind. Such a graceful message ought to help blunt the criticism that secularists-liberals routinely hurl at the PM for having reduced the minorities to a second-class status. But he did allude to the ‘deception’ of the minorities by the so-called secular governments as vouchsafed by the Sachar Committee report. Having used the minorities as a vote-bank, fuelling their insecurities by whipping up the anti-BJP fears, the secular parties did virtually little for their welfare, for their socio-economic upliftment. Modi’s words negate the propaganda about his party pushing a majoritarian agenda.

Undoubtedly, a number of BJP leaders have made no effort to hide their suspicion and distrust of the Muslims, often using inappropriate language against them. This, in turn, has further hardened the stance of Muslims against the BJP. This cycle of abuse and counter-abuse can be broken only if the PM consciously tries to co-opt the community in his administration. The fact that not a single Muslim was elected on the BJP ticket speaks for itself. It is now for the PM to reach out to over 20 crore Muslims by inducing a tall figure from the community in his government. Tokenism practised by successive Congress governments being highly avoidable, Modi should pick a widely respected Muslim from the academic and/or cultural fields for induction in his ministry. Such a large community should not go unrepresented. An inclusive government will grant representation to all sections, including, crucially, the largest minority community. Meanwhile, the miscreants in Gurgaon, a town in Haryana bordering Delhi, who allegedly harassed a Muslim youth at the week-end for sporting a skullcap must be dealt with sternly. Given that a hostile media invariably blows out of all proportion such stray incidents of misconduct by misguided individuals, an example out to be made of those who harassed the 25-year-old man from Bihar who had come for job training to Gurgaon. The way the local police handle this case will serve as a warning to other misguided elements not to intimidate minorities for extortion or just for ‘fun.’  Modi’s reassuring words to his newly-elected MPs ought to be heeded by his flock who must treat every citizen, regardless of his religion, equally with due respect and dignity.


Ailing airlines: Victim of the government’s meddling hand

Ailing airlines: Victim of the government’s meddling hand

By now, almost every industry analyst has begun to write-off Jet Airways. Jet had big dreams. It had benefitted from many favourable government policy decisions – right from being granted favourable slots to having a policy crafted by the government which allowed its vessels to fly overseas.

But then, like so many industries which were once backed by government favours and largesse, Jet also fell.  A similar fate could afflict Air India as well. It remains the biggest beneficiary of government largesse. It should have been privatised or even closed down long ago. Yet it survives, burdening taxpayers with more write-offs. That could be because it would not have suited the privileged.

Ministers get upgraded to first class automatically without having to pay for it. Ditto for senior government officials and select national award winners. Such benefits would not have automatically been extended to them by private airlines. The payment terms would have been more transparent.

And yes, occasionally, you have the unsavoury incident of an award winner flying executive class after paying economy class fares, yet billing clients’ business class fares for reimbursement. And you also have elected representatives beating up airline crew (and breaking their spectacles) without even being jailed for violence – a cognisable offence. Such opportunities too might have been denied by private airlines.

The price at which planes were bought, the manner in which ministers were not even charge-sheeted, even though there was court documentation overseas of bribes being paid to the aviation minister, were matters that successive government have sought to overlook – unless of course political considerations demand that the person be called a crook, and media hype against him orchestrated accordingly.

In fact, the airline industry in India remains one sector where the heavy hand of the government is constantly visible – right from granting licences, to framing policy, to even granting bank loans. When an airline does fold up, eventually, it could mean that the promoter has fallen out of favour – politically.

Logically speaking, neither Kingfisher nor Jet should have faded into the sunset. They were favoured airlines. They got more money from banks than warranted. That is how Kingfisher and Jet could notch up outstanding over Rs 5,000 crore and 8,000 crores respectively.

Someone twisted the arms of bankers without any written orders. Somehow, when the airline promoters fell out of favour, the bankers were left holding the sack. And – as always – the common man will eventually pay the price through higher bank charges and additional taxes. Did someone talk of transparency and ease of doing business?

Look at the table alongside. There was growth in passenger traffic – both domestic and international. Airlines don’t normally fail when demand growth is strong. Yet, it happened in India. One factor could be the way the government chose to price aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

As a CARE Rating report points out, during FY 2019, the price of crude oil decreased “by 7.3% whereas the price of ATF during the same period has gone up by 3%.

This clearly indicates the entire benefit of reduction in crude prices is not passed on to the industry even though an increase in prices is more dynamic. This despite the Government reducing excise duty on ATF by 3% from 14% to 11% in November 2018.”

The table shows how ATF globally was much cheaper than ATF in India. So flying overseas would allow an airline to purchase ATF at cheaper prices. That could lower costs for some routes. Logically, therefore, airlines flying overseas should have made more money. But Jet obviously didn’t.

Was it because the political price for this favour became too high? Maybe, forensic examination of Jet Airways’ books will reveal some details. But it is best not to count on it. The ways in which governments make disclosures are usually strange and mysterious.

That is why CARE Ratings’ recommendation is important, “There is an urgent need to address this difference in the price of ATF for domestic and international airlines as it gives an advantage to international airlines.” Sadly, even a government that called itself nationalistic, could not even the pitch in favour of domestic airlines! This could happen to domestic coastal shipping too (http://www.asiaco nverge .com/2018/10/indian-shipping-grows-overseas-not-in-india/).

So what does the future hold out for the remaining airline survivors? A lot will depend on whether the new government continues to create policies that favour select airlines. Logically speaking, the reduced competition – thanks to Jet Airways’ demise – could translate into improved airfares.

That could mean better profits. But then logically speaking increased passenger traffic should not have allowed Jet Airways or Kingfisher to collapse. Logic does not always work with the airline industry in India. The heavy hand of the government is always visible.

The writer is consulting editor with FPJ.


Phooey! The phoneyness of these mobile phones

Phooey! The phoneyness of these mobile phones

It was the famous acrobat Arjun Dasgupta who said, ‘Life is too short’. Of course, a passerby hecklepublicd the 3foot-7 inch Dasgupta by yelling, “But you are shorter than life”. This led to a fistfight, in which 36 members of the public, including seven women and fourteen children, all ferociously thrashed the miserable Dasgupta. In fact, the last words uttered by the till then inscrutable Dasgupta were, “Oooh er, arghhhh”.

Initially this was thought to be Bengali, but to this day, linguists are unsure of the actual origin. Now, you are obviously asking your friend, what is the point of this anecdote? This is a mighty good question, but sadly, I just can’t remember why myself. Ah yes, the point of the story is, life is strange, just like all the buildings on Palm Beach Road, Navi Mumbai. Which brings us slyly to today’s topic, ‘Mobile Phones’.

Before we enter into a deep, layered discussion, may I put it out there, that I absolutely hate mobile phones, actually all phones in general. So let’s be clear, I am completely biased and partial. My feelings for mobile phones are exactly the same as Kim Jong Un’s feelings for democracy, or Vladmir Putin’s feelings for hair care products.

In his book, ‘The Phoniness of Phones’, Edgar Arthur points out — the word phone itself is wrong and misleading. What is the need to spell phone with a ‘ph”, when an ‘f’ would make more sense — FONE. FONE would be the correct way. The very usage of PHone, has a ring of fraudulence and artificiality. And a house built on fraudulence cannot stand by itself. It all kicks off with colours, shapes and designs.

Today’s phones are loosely based on animal crackers. Pink, yellow, light green and mustard? I’m not a phone racist, but where’s the government now? Who is supposed to stop this rampant abuse of colour? Recently, I saw a phone shaped like a helicopter.

Another one was an actual ladybug! Tell me from what angle are we a ‘gareeb desh’? How can you call yourself a poor country when people are walking around nonchalantly, with ladybug phones? Worse still, imagine if your close friend had such a ‘ladybug’ phone and suddenly a common friend calls on it, and then you, my dear, have to answer the phone. You have to pick up, hold, and place on your ear, a phone that looks like a ladybug! You think your parents will be proud?

Then we have the smaller matter of the conical phones — like all things conical, (ice-cream cone, referees’ microphones, Hardik Pandya), being used to dig the users’ various orifices. And by various, I mean ears. Both ears. Today’s mobile phone spends too much time in the user’s hands.

It stands to reason it’ll be up to no good. And land up in places, er….where no man has gone before, and in any case, should never go, again. Which brings us to phone etiquette. When I was a young man, millions of years ago, people spoke very softly and politely on the phone. Now, being on the mobile is like playing cricket in a Bombay maidan, where seventeen matches are happening around you at the same time.

So, while you are fielding at gully in your match, you are also midwicket, for your neighbour’s match, or third man for his neighbour’s match, in turn. Just go to a mall and you can kill time participating in all the various conversations. Mobile phones have killed all subtlety. Along with etiquette, they have eliminated grace, poise, tranquillity, and above all, civility.

Luckily, none of these traits have really been known to us Indians, but still the mobile phone juggernaut rolls on. Don’t you miss the time at airports, when you could stare at someone, and they would stare back? Till one of you felt victimised and walked away in disgust. Those were happy times. Lovely times.

Times when your Jet privilege card stood for something. Then came mobile phones, just like the bubonic plague. But in different colours, and the good times are gone. Yes, let’s all hate mobile phones, there’s so much to hate about them. And all this, before we even get to what’s inside them.

Cyrus Broacha is a comedian, TV anchor, theatre personality, satirist, podcaster and an author.


IIP: A time for confessions and atonement

IIP: A time for confessions and atonement

For months the government has stonewalled criticisms about job creation and economic growth. But now there is a grudging admission that economic growth has indeed stalled, and that, maybe, job creation could have been better. Even people like Rathin Roy, member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and Director of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

Acknowledge ( that India could be entering into a “middle-income trap” like Brazil or South Africa. However, nobody wants to acknowledge that the cattle slaughter mayhem unleashed on the country was a big contributor (http://www.asi 2018/ 05/cattle-slaughter-ban-missteps-may-factor-bjps-electoral-woes/).  This act alone did three terrible things:

It prevented farmers from earning Rs 20,000 or thereabouts per old cattlehead. They would then add another Rs 20,000 and get young cows/buffalos. The ban impoverished farmers prevented them from augmenting incomes, and instead burdened them with additional expenses of tending to old animals. The state should have guaranteed payment of Rs 20,000 for each old cattlehead before calling for a ban. That would have saved farmers. Frenzied gau-rakshaks worsened matters by stopping meat wagons claiming (often falsely) that the contents comprised cow-meat. Thus even old buffaloes were not saleable.

In turn that hurt the beef business, even carabeef which deals with buffalo meat.  But worse was the impact on the leather trade, which is a big employer. Overnight, the government killed jobs instead of creating them.  That added to the farm crisis. And as the old saying goes, when the farms get hurt, it isn’t long that industry too gets hurt in India. With 50% of people living on farm income, any impact on rural livelihood reduces purchasing power for industrial goods.


This is precisely what the latest IIP figures indicate (see chart). Just a year ago, most economists were still confident about economic growth reviving. But industrial output slumped to its lowest in two years; it slipped for the third consecutive quarter (see chart). It even moved into the negative territory — (-) 0.1% in March 2019, much lower than the 5.3% growth witnessed in the corresponding period last year.

The components to IIP further explain this (the chart can be downloaded from 2019/05/2019-05-12_IIP-components.jpg). The biggest drop was in the growth of capital goods (-8.7%). That augurs poorly for industrial growth. That, in turn, means that additional job creation will be difficult. India needs jobs desperately.

The second biggest drop was in d consumption goods (-5.1%). This points to lower purchases by consumers. This could be because of income constraints, or it could be on account of unemployment. It could also point to households holding on to their money because they see difficult times ahead. Not an encouraging sign for the economy.

True, there was growth in the infra/construction sector (6.4% in March 2019 over am already a high base of 9.1% in the corresponding period last year). But infrastructure helps only if industrial goods can travel on them. That isn’t happening.
Electricity appears to have done well. But not really. It went up by just 2.2% compared to 6% in March 2018. This low growth took place when urgent steps were taken to provide power to every remote household.

When election results are out, expect some states to have no money to purchase power from NTPC. That will slow down industrial production further.  Add to this the woes of slowing exports and rising imports. You now have a worsening industrial climate and a troubling fiscal scenario. Combine this with the worsening dispute redressal climate which frightens away investors, and the worries could become migraines (

But just three solutions could remedy the situation: First, stanch the electricity losses by switching to rooftop solar (http:// 2019 /03/no-clear-focus-on-rooftop-solar/). Tripura has already shown the way ( 2019/03/biplab-kumar-deb-has-big-plans-for -tripura/). Other states may have to
follow suit.

Second, focus on affordable housing, because that too uses domestic material and is less import-dependent, and also creates jobs. It also gives people a dwelling that contributes to greater dignity ( 2018/ 04/smiles-sorrows-world-bank-forecasts-india-gdp-rise-raises-unemployment-concerns/).

Third, a focus on methanation might offer a solution ( 2019/03/trade-crisis-looms-india-sun-waste-can-prevent/), but it will need greater planning than has been possible until now.  All the three translate into jobs, wealth generation, and a reduction in subsidies.

Ignore these methods, and the pain for the economy will only increase. Reduced government spending post-elections, in keeping with past patterns (, will sharpen the pain. The only way to neutralise the reduction in government expenses is to woo foreign investments.

But that means ensuring investment and investor protection, which also means taking a fresh look at arbitration ( 2019/ 05/ effective-dispute-resolution-needed-for-increase-in-fd/).With the shrinking investment, increasing imports, declining exports and worsening unemployment, the new government that takes charge at the centre will have to move very quickly. The above measures could be a good short-term solution.

(RN Bhaskar is consulting editor with FPJ)



Uttar Pradesh results will give biggest jolt to BJP

Uttar Pradesh results will give biggest jolt to BJP

Uttar Pradesh which is considered as the kingmaker state in terms of formation of a government at the centre after every Lok Sabha election might repeat its feat when the results come out on May 23 indicating the nature of the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha. In 2014, BJP set a record in getting 71 seats on its own out of the total of 80 seats in UP and that along with another two seats won by its ally Apna Dal, facilitated in a big way the formation of the BJP led NDA government at the centre.

Despite continuing rise in the influence of BJP in the Hindi heartland during the second tenure of the UPA, especially in the last two years of Dr Manmohan Singh’s rule, the victory of the saffrons in 73 seats along with its ally Apna Dal in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, was something unprecedented and just Modi wave could not explain this.

It was apparent that some convulsions took place in the polity of Uttar Pradesh in 2013 and 2014 before the eve of the Lok Sabha poll which completely transformed the old caste combinations and favoured the social engineering which the Modi-Shah duo experimented in UP during the 2014 poll.

In 2019, the ground reality is completely changed and if the feedback from some of the reliable exit poll raw figures for the six phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh is any indication, BJP is facing a Tsunami in the face of the alliance of Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party which have acted in complete collaboration despite all the insinuations from the BJP leaders and misgivings by the friends of the secular forces including the Congress.

The reports from the ground level suggest that there has been a near 100 per cent transfer of votes from the BSP to SP and vice versa and even where the Congress was the strongest fighting both the alliance candidate and the BJP, there was a last-minute understanding in some seats for averting the division of anti-BJP votes.

Further, the analysts have noted that the Congress in some seats, have helped the SP-BSP candidates by dividing the Brahmin votes which would have gone to BJP. In effect, the Congress in some seats might have cut some votes of SP-BSP alliance, but in many more seats, the GoP has helped the alliance by cutting BJP vote banks.

A group of experts under the banner of have analysed in details the polling behaviour of the last six phases in Uttar Pradesh from all aspects and have observed that the BJP is facing an earthquake in UP and all its calculations have gone haywire.

This analysis shows that the polling trends in favour of the SP-BSP alliance are so aggressive that it will be surprising if the BJP’s tally in Uttar Pradesh comes to the range of 15 to 25 seats as against 40 to 55 tally of SP-BSP-RLD combine. In fact, the Athro experts are more positive about the alliance getting around 55 and the Congress getting five plus seats.

This means that the BJP will range around 20 seats which do not seem unlikely since its social alliance has been shaken and the BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath has become uniformly unpopular covering all religions and castes. Apart from the impact of Gathbandhan, the maladministration of the BJP CM has also contributed to the embarrassment of the BJP candidates during the Lok Sabha poll in UP.

The very nature of UP’s caste combination and minorities concentration make it evident that it is not possible for the BJP to have completed domination in electoral support under normal circumstances, In both 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP secured seats compared to its strength in that particular period.

But in the run-up to 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP took full advantage of the non-functioning of the UPA government in the second term‘s fag end, The BJP leadership capitalised by wooing non-Yadav OBCs and non-Yadav Dalits. There was disenchantment with both the Congress at the centre and the SP in the state as it was in the government after 2012 state assembly elections.

The people who felt left out and disenchanted with the Congress and the SP came to the BJP fold. Narendra Modi was looking attractive as the new leader and this gave a good opportunity to the BJP leaders to build a perfect consolidation of a social alliance consisting of both Yadavs, Yatavs, Dalits and upper castes. That consolidation got totally dismantled in the last two years of Yogi Adityanath’s rule in the state.

In 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP got 10 seats from Uttar Pradesh as against 35 by SP,19 by BSP and 9 by the Congress. This time, the situation might be better for BJP compared to 2004, but for all practical purposes, the BJP’s supremacy in Uttar Pradesh in the political domain is in for a big challenge and this will have its impact on the future of the Adityanath government, though the next assembly elections are still three years away.

Nitya Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.