Thursday, September 24, 2009

The SignificanceS of Copenhagen Summit

December is a special month to each and everyone across the world. People irrespective of caste, creed and religion celebrate the birth of Infant Jesus in the month of December with traditional gaiety and fervour the world over. In the misty nights of December, stars come down to earth, illuminate houses and buildings, carrolls step down to the streets to the accompaniment of drumbeats, visit each house singing songs and hymns announcing the birth of Infant Jesus and Santa in red robes and snow-white beard make merry with children, distribute sweets to them and make each night memorable.

December becomes doubly sweet heralding the rise of a new dawn soon after the Christmas festivities – the birth of a Happy NewYear.

Soren Obeu Kierkegard, the father of Existentialist Philosophy – some prefer to call him a theologist since he put faith beyond reason. After going through the life of Kierkegard for a brief period during my academic years only on account of my interest in philosophy and with the passage of time my philosophical outlook on life shifted to another direction after going through Hegel ,Karl Marx, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simon De Bouvier, Gabriel Marcel, Ayn Rand, I had lost interest in Kierkegard with the passage of time, though not forgotten him.

This time December has already come into prominence not because of Kierkegard, but because of his birth place, Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Kierkegard also gains prominence in another sense. The beginning of 19th century which brought about Industrial Revolution in the West and with the spread of Industrial Revolution, the resultant dehumanization – man going down to the level of a nut or bolt of an engine in a factory – a desperate Kierkegard’s contribution to the emancipation of Man from that level and again regaining his importance to a higher level- and the birth Existentialism are still to feel proud about by all of us. Perhaps, not perhaps, whether he won or lost in his mission the speed with which Industrial Revolution moved on towards the 20th century and now in the early period of 21st century our planet has reached the edge of an abyss due to pollution – carbon gas emissions, global warming with depleting ozone layer resulting in alarming increase of temperature, rising sea-levels threatening submergence of land, even countries like Maldives under threat of disappearing from the planet in the not too distant future (President of Maldives, Muhammad Nasheed has already expressed his apprehension), the melting glaciers threatening the existence of even sacred Himalayas, factories along the river banks without any moral prick and disregarding the disastrous consequences to the people particularly the future generation pumping effluents into the rivers and causing destruction to the aquatic wealth and respiratory and skin diseases to those who take bath in them – the developed and developing countries equally aware of the consequences and are panicky too – all consequences of their own ruthless exploitation of nature and the nature’s fury striking back after its prolonged patience reaching the bottom level.

As a prelude to the epoch-making Copenhagen Summit in December, more than hundred countries took part in UN General Assembly Summit on Climate Change in New York the other day and ventillated their fears and apprehensions, also thought aloud about the steps to be adopted to rescue the planet from total extinction and in the process rescuing the mankind as a whole. Means regaining the value of each one’s life on earth.

Heartening in a sense that each nation has come to grip with the situation and the significance of saving the planet by afforestation, nurturing and preserving the rich bio-diversity, depending more on solar and wind power, dependence on non-fossil fuels, generous financial assistance by developed countries to developing countries, conservation of energy upto the maximum level thereby extending a future of hope to all especially the coming generation.

It is a co-incidence that this nature-lovers’ summit is destined to be held at the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, the birth place of Soren Kierkegard who prayed and wrote for regaining the lost glory and dignity of man.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

THE PAKISTAN DRAMA, CHINA AND POKHRAN II

JuD-LeT (Jamaat-Ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba) founder Hafeez-Al-Sayeed has been put under house arrest once again. The mastermind - evil genius is the apt word - behind the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack leading to the death of 166 innocent lives can lead a life of luxury and with the full security cover provided by the police apparently directed by the government of Pakistan. A lucky chap indeed! Even a common man like this writer had anticipated such a possibility just before the curtain was to go up at the UN General Assembly Annual Summit on the sidelines of a meeting scheduled to be held between the Indian Foreign Secretary Ms. Nirupama Rao and Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Basheer relating to Kashmir and other issues. This meeting will soon be followed by Indian Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmoud Qureshi as agreed upon by the Prime Minister of India ManMohan Singh and Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani at the talks they held at Sharm-Al-Sheikh in Egypt on the sidelines of NAM Summit.

Anticipating international pressure on the question of initiating stern action against Mumbai terror culprits and the criminal mind behind the gruesome massacre Hafeez-Al-Sayeed (he is a “philanthropist” too) Pakistani government decided to enact a drama by putting the criminal under house arrest and the fellow must have been intimated already by the rulers themselves. They are very adept masters at that. Our Home Minister P.Chidambaram is somewhat satisfied (though not fully) as he is almost certain that it is just an eye wash. Anyhow he can draw more satisfaction, if the Pakistani government takes positive measures to cross-examine Hafiz-Sayeed. As to the demand of proof from Indian government by Pakistani authorities, Chidambaram has retorted by pointing out that “the proof is in the Pakistani soil itself”. He was reportedly answering to the queries of media persons soon after flagging off Nizamuddin bound “Turonto Express” from Chennai yesterday. So far, so good!

Let’s move on to the reported Chinese incursions into India now. For the moment’s sake it is better to put aside the matter. Even the great and intimate friend of China, since 1977 while Morarji Desai was at the helm of affairs, Subramanian Swamy- he is also a Harvard educated gentleman- was entrusted with a trip to China to better the relations between the two neighbouring nations. Morarji Desai had great faith in Swamy and in Desai’s words “you are a man without rose-tinted glasses”. Swamy met Deng Hsiao Ping, the then greatest leader of Peoples’ Republic Of China, after Mao Tse Tung, with a different mind-set on economic reforms which reportedly led to a ‘quantum jump’ in the economic growth of China (his much quoted statement on economic reforms is worth mentioning here- be the cat black or white, the only thing is that it should catch rats) and had cordial talks about the border matters particularly Tibet and Kailas Manasarovar Yatra and pave safe passage to Indian pilgrims through the Chinese occupied territory. Subramanian Swamy holds the firm opinion that reported border incursions by some media persons are not worth discussing. And the government level talks still go on without reaching anywhere since early 70’s.

M.K.Bhadrakumar, the veteran and ebullient former foreign diplomat inspite of his obsession with looking through the prism of leftist ideology on matters of international importance holds the opinion similar to Swamy’s. While writing on certain matters relating to countries with leftist leanings, Bhadrakumar has a knack for hiding from certain inconvenient questions, so I feel (despite myself being a leftist).

Nowadays on a daily basis controversies relating to the 1998- Pokhran-2 thermo-nuclear explosions hog the lime-light. Nuclear scientists across the scientific spectrum have like two warring political groups of a party have got divided into two groups. Caught in between them is none other than our National Security Adviser, M.K.Narayanan. The can of worms was opened by former DRDO Scientist K.Santhanam and Ashok Parthasarathy, the then principal scientific adviser to the Prime Minister. It took eleven years for the controversy to reach the boiling point. Santhanam is reported to have told media persons yesterday that soon after the “reported” failure of the experiment he had prepared a 50 page letter to the authorities in which he had mentioned that if the experiment had be to be hailed as a success a 72 meter crater should have been formed at the site, instead no such crater was visible at the site. He had also demanded two more explosions needed to be conducted but ‘unfortunately’ it didn’t materialize as soon after the tests a unilateral moratorium was put in place. Regarding M.K.Narayanan’s assertion that the experiment was a great success and that he swore by it Santhanam is reported to have said to the media that Narayanan was not the National Security Adviser in 1998. Santhanam has demanded a commission to be formed to investigate and let it go deeper into it and file a confidential report to the concerned authorities.

Up till now we were waxing eloquent about the sad plight of fifty percent of our population suffering from malnourishment and now let us be more intellectual and discuss about more credible nuclear deterrent along with the problem of poverty and malnourishment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A VIBRANT DEMOCRACY SHOULDN’T BE LIKE THIS…

Thank God, Prime Minister ManMohan Singh occasionally gets enlightened over sensitive matters concerning economy, rural development, poverty, law and order situation which is deteriorating with the passage of time and certainly the “Welfare of corporate class”.

In the three day annual conference (DGPs/IGPs Confernce-2009) held in Delhi of the country organized by CBI he expressed serious concerns over the naxalite menace threatening the country. Mr.Singh unlike his junior P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister didn’t term or castigate ‘Naxalism as a product of an outdated ideology’. Mr.Singh, though an economist with a capitalist bent of mind like his colleague who also thinks on the same wavelength on economic reforms, took time to delve deeper into the roots of this growing ‘menace’ as the outcome of socio-economic disparities prevailing in the country and √©lan it still retains and the role of intelligentia in the propagation of it among the masses in solidarity with their hardships like poverty, starvation, malnourishment and lack of safe drinking water. Mouthing slogans like ‘Right to food security’ and doing practically nothing for alleviating the problems won’t carry much water. That is another truth.

Instead our Home Minister views the naxalite menace only as a law and order problem. A simple man in pure white dhoti and shirt most of the time (unlike his predecessor during whose tenure as Home Minister always obsessed with changing coat and suit atleast thrice a day and practically helpless and careless in the face of intermittent terrorist strikes across different parts of the nation) our efficient Home Minister gets smart only when he flies abroad, still carries with him the ‘lessons’ he inculcated during his days at Harvard.

Our Prime Minister in the course of the three day conference didn’t forget to lavishly shower praises on his Home Minister for the betterment of the law and order situation in the country and also for his wizardry as Finance Minister while he was occupying that prestigious portfolio.

In future, we, the citizens can expect more from our Home Minister as he has returned from USA with ‘newer ideas’ obtained from top American Intelligence Agencies.

Moreover he took time to present before Hilary Clinton, US State Secretary, his anger and ire against Pakistani authorities for not practically doing anything positive to stop infiltration from across the border, frequent border skirmishes and for letting loose the Mastermind behind 26/11 Mumbai terror attack the LeT Leader Hafiz Al Saeed. I think US authorities have listened to his grievances and in right earnest US Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer’s direction to Pakistan to book the Mumbai Terror culprits might be due to this reason.

In the course of the three day conference, Prime Minister turned his attention to North-East as well. The volatile situation brewing up in the North-Eastern States and the militant strikes causing loss of lives and destruction of property have caused much of an alarm in the corridors of power.

But the painful news stories pouring in from media point to some other grim realities. Killing of innocent civilians on a daily basis and categorizing them as ‘encounter deaths’ causes much heartburns across the nation. Inspite of years of demands for AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) to be repealed which was recommended by Jeevan Reddy Commission during Mr.Singh’s UPA 1st is still in force. Irom Chanu Sharmila is still on her ninth year of hunger strike. Masses live in perpetual fear of uncertain future.

Naxalite menace, a bleeding Jammu and Kashmir, burning North-East and terrorists waiting in the wings to strike at any time at any part of the country, I fear our nation sits on a time-bomb.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NUCLEAR POWERS – EITHER CLIMB DOWN OR KEEP MUM

Chinmaya R. Garekhan is right. Different countries cherish different perceptions covering a wide variety of interests in the fields of “defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty, enhance the economic and social well-being of the people, promote opportunities for profitable trading relations with other countries and exploit the ‘soft power’ through propagation of the cultural assets” (Article by Chinmaya R. Garekhan titled “On Pursuing Independent Foreign Policy” published in The Hindu dated 12-9-2009). Nobody will contradict him on these counts.

This is not to elaborate on his writings as that will be most unbecoming of a novice like me in the field of international relations.

But as a world citizen, particularly as an Indian citizen (India- a nation always claiming and boasting about its democratic credentials) I am puzzled and appalled by the adoption of double standards being followed by our nation as also several other nations like USA, Britain, Germany, France, China- a long list indeed in their approach to various countries relatively occupying seats below their levels in various fields like nuclear arsenals, reprocessing and armament technology. Similarly a nation like China, which is claiming to be a fast growing People’s Democratic Republic of China (on what criteria, I am yet to know) keeping a close rapport with Myanmar, a nation under military yoke since decades incarcerating a democratically elected opposition leader Aung San Syuuki for 14 years- can this friendship be justified only because Myanmar remains a fertile ground of resources for the growth of some industries in China? True, interference in other country’s internal matters cannot be condoned. But even that logic does not prevent Hu Jintao from prevailing upon the ruling junta to have a merciful attitude toward Aung San Syuuki. Hu Jintao keeps mum, even now. Not at all surprising. Even its approach towards a ruthless and authoritarian African nations like Sudan is still warm and cordial as these countries generously export oil to China, and that is the reason why Sudan’s ruler Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who is indicted by International Criminal Court is a great friend of People’s Republic of China. It is pertinent to note here that this tyrant is responsible for massacring millions of Sudanese, internally displacing lakhs of them and forcing them to flee to other countries and set up refugee camps and putting billions to starvation deaths and mal-nourishment.

In a sense, why blame China alone? Our own nation under the great democratic leader Sardar Manmohan Singh dares not confronting Myanmar’s military ruler Than Shew on the issue of restoration of democracy and release of its opposition leader Aung San Syuuki, the sole logic being non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries.

Won’t India interfere in the neighbouring nations of Nepal and Bhutan if such a situation warrants? Especially Nepal where the situation gets more and more volatile with the Maoists turning more and more aggressive day by day? Isn’t Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s ongoing visit to that country, a last ditch effort to avert a showdown?

While flexing muscles and trying to prevail upon smaller neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bhutan, India- the largest democracy bends its knees before the “greatest democracy” – USA. Will Barack Obama’s visit to India a non-event like the visit of the Prime Minister of Nepal Madhav Kumar Nepal’s five day visit? Even the visit of Hillary Clinton, American State Secretary to India was a high-profile one, a celebration by media as well as business tycoons including film-stars. And she flew away with what she wanted by persuading India sign on the dotted lines. The End-Use Monitoring Agreement relating to the civil-nuclear deal was only one among them.

While Barack Obama remains on a high pedestal Bhutan’s Jigme Thinley and Nepal’s Madhav Kumar Nepal remain at the lower pedestal. Might is strength in this world. Mahmoud Ahmedi Nejjad type rulers know it better and hence they proceed on their terms. Israel proceeds along (with American blessings) their terms.

Perform or perish- thus we say. But in an era of nuclear arms race who will gain the upper hand? One-upmanship or the race for one-upmanship must go if the human kind have to have a future. Otherwise float about like this amidst mounting tensions, terrorist attacks, famines, unemployment and go on shedding crocodile tears.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A post-modern neo-liberal story

Aswathy moved aimlessly down the road. It was half past 10 in the morning. The city was reeling under the scorching Sun, like a towering inferno. In the peak hours of the day the traffic was gaining momentum with the horns blaring. The to and fro movement of people was like a mad rush, typical of a vibrant throbbing city.

She knew, she was sweating like anything. Beads of sweat on her forehead and the blazing Sun up above made her dizzy. A nauseating feeling was about to overpower her. She wanted rest. Atleast a few seconds to sit somewhere and relax.

“I need something cold” – She told herself. Moved to the first cool-drinks shop she noticed. There were so many like her around her to have drinks, some sipping leisurely, but she didn’t feel like noticing anybody. She felt like somebody left alone in a turbulent sea. A sort of drowning feeling.

“What I am to do? A total stranger in the city…Whom to approach for canvassing deposits.” Whom to approach, cajole into availing loans from her esteemed bank? To achieve a target of four crores in a year! – the very thought made her run out of senses.

“When I took up the post of Officer-Marketing and Recovery I should have been aware of the responsibilities of this post. Why didn’t I think about it then? No point in wailing now. Or I can quit the job and get lost. But…but…no I can’t I can’t leave a family of four helpless faces in the lurch…Their only solace is me…The peanuts I get from my employers at the month end…”

“Madam, may I?”- the waiter in white uniform awoke her from her thoughts.

“Lime-juice, please” – she ordered in a feeble voice.

“Enough”?

“Enough” – She looked outside. The city still burns. The mad rush further gaining momentum. Vehicles roaring past. Crowds pulling in different directions. She fervently prayed for a resting place ‘far from the madding crowd’.

The Manager’s authoritative arrogant tone was still reverberating in her ears like frequent bouts of explosions. His face matching his rough, arrogant tone…

She came to the bank from the ladies hostel at 9.45 AM. A few already present. As usual. The sweeper after her daily chores gone outside. Being reticent, she occupied her chair not much talking to anybody, keeping a smile to herself. A few brochures, files and papers were already kept safe there. She took up a brochure, flipped through the pages relating to the history, growth of the bank over the years, evolving reforms in the banking sector, profit-sector banking, the neo-liberal reforms in the business sector across the world and growing privatization, all in detail.

Sharp 10 AM. The Manager appeared in black-suit, coat and white-tie, with a serious look carrying a brief-case. Some woke up from their seats to show respect, some kept their seats not caring much, (who cares, they might be talking to themselves). The very sight of him made Aswathy wake up from her seat, being quite new and also on a contract basis.

After taking up his seat and passing necessary orders to the peon, quite unexpectedly, yes it was quite unexpected, he called a peon to summon Aswathy to his AC cabin. Her heart-beat missed a second.

With thumping heart Aswathy woke up and moved to his cabin. She felt her mouth drying up. Beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. She was quite anxious and also curious.

“Sir?” – In a whispering tone, she stood before him.

“Aswathy, take your seat” – In a baritone voice, also arrogant and rough, Manager gestured.

“Aswathy, you know, you are a marketing-cum-recovery officer. That also on a contract basis for two years. During this period you are expected to achieve a given target for deposits, advances and insurances. You have to go outside, meet influential customers and canvass deposits and advances. From today onwards after signing attendance register, go outside and do your maximum. Got it? You must have already known about the tough competing going on in the banking world and what all banking institutions demand from their employees. Got it?”

“Sir”

“All the best Aswathy” – Manager didn’t wait for a response. His eyes were already on the file on his table.

Within moments Aswathy collected the necessary papers from her table. She felt like sobbing.
“What I am to do in this strange city” – a total stranger…devoid of any identity? - with her eyes welling up she was asking herself.

While stepping out from the cool-drinks shop she was thinking about finding a serene atmosphere to relax for a few hours freeing herself from the maddening thoughts.

She walked down a not so crowded interior road walking as far away as possible, empty-headed and aimlessly. On finding a peaceful area with paddy-fields and lush greenery all around resembling sylvant settings Aswathy saw a temple, heaved a sigh of relief – “Yes, this was the place I was searching for a spiritual ambience.” Aswathy smiled to herself. She put all her belongings near her resting place and sat beside it. A dejavu.

Monday, September 7, 2009

RIDING THE ONAM CYCLE

Malayalees across the globe celebrate ‘Thiruvonam’, Kerala’s national festival, though with less enthusiasm in contemporary times. The commemoration of a golden era when there were no traces of untouchability, theft, robbery, black-marketing, hoarding or gambling. An egalitarian society a la socialist model under the rule of an ‘Asura’ (demon) King Mahabali, a benevolent dictator. King Mahabali is supposed to visit his beloved land, Kerala, on the occasion of Thiruvonam, seeking the welfare of his ‘Prajas’(subjects)- the Malayalees. I do not think such a benevolent King ever existed in history- must have been something connected with a harvest season when everybody is believed to be leading a life of satisfaction and happiness, heralding the arrival of Spring season with flowers of different hues in a verdant landscape after the lean month of ‘Karkidaka’ characterized by famine, starvation and diseases.

So be it. I am not much overwhelmed with the nostalgic memories related to Onam and for that matter, any other festival.

News streaming in from media or from day to day direct experiences almost on a daily basis from every corner of the world are shocking as also mind-boggling, to say the least. Wailing over the sorry state of affairs, shedding crocodile tears, paying lip service, platitudes or keeping mum like a detached ‘Yogi’ (Saint) calling everything around ‘Maya’ (illusion) or remain a helpless witness with a sort of impotent rage.

Take for example, newspapers carrying small box items with photographs, mostly children from poor families with self-introduction, humbly beseeching the philanthropists among the readers to extend contributions to help them to continue treatment or for undergoing surgeries. How many among us go through such fervent requests or how many of us care to do something for these hapless children? We can very well understand the predicament of those with compassionate hearts with their pockets empty. What about fat cats undertaking pilgrimages to temples, churches or mosques and offering precious jewels, elephants and lakhs and lakhs of money to attain divine blessings from God Almighty and at the same time turning away from those sitting with their outstretched hands or begging bowls seeking the ‘divine blessings’ of these ‘blessed souls’.

I was in Mumbai for a few years- a city of the powerful rich, not so rich and those at the bottom-line like slum-dwellers, beggars pulling on their lives at railway platforms sitting in long queues under blazing sun with begging bowls seeking alms infront of churches, temples and mosques, the underworld-hoodlums, murderers, robbers, thiefs, prostitutes- male and female - , eunuchs for their daily sustenance, the tinsel world of Bollywood- the shining stars in crowning jewels and the behind-the-scene dramas of love, separation, treachery, all happening within split-seconds and here I am reminded of Aravind Adiga in his Booker-prize award winning novel, “White Tiger” for reasons best known to some of us. Mumbai is a cross-section of India and for that matter the world. Even in the posh areas of South Mumbai like Church Gate, Marin Drive, Gateway, to name a few, we can see shabbily clad children who do not know even their roots even not at all bothering to dig deeper into their parentage with no dreams left in their eyes of a bright future playing merrily, wandering through the streets merrily, often falling easy prey to paedophiles.

Even the news of the Premier of a country who is supposed to be accountable to his people- who incidentally is a media-baron also- at present running on 72, is sleeping with teenagers and aspiring models has no qualms about his amorous activities, keeps pouring in. What is so surprising about the goings on in our world? Praise the Lord!

Go deeper into the interiors of India. With a severe drought looming large the farmers have already lost the Kharif harvest and without any irrigation facilities they are engaged in distress sales of their cattle suffering huge losses. These emaciated, starving ones, find their way to abattoirs! Even when undergoing such a pathetic situation, our benevolent rulers keep on boasting about the rising GDP and high growth trajectory. With the coming into the full-scale implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement, recently signed at Thailand, farmers across India can have a speedy “salvation”.

Heartening indeed that Mahabali’s annual visit on the auspicious day of Thiruvonam has been confined to the borders of Kerala, his once beloved kingdom. With the sort of ‘equality’ and ‘prosperity’ his stomach must have been full here itself. And if ‘Vamana’ ( incarnation of God Vishnu) had not limited the Asura king’s role to Kerala, and had allowed to spread his jurisdiction beyond Kerala, Mahabali’s enormous paunch would have been…? Hard to imagine even. Let’s wait for another Onam with all ‘gaiety’ and fervour’.