Thursday, December 28, 2017

Air conditioned trains and protests

I am sure that you must have read about the introduction of the first air-conditioned local train in Mumbai. Yes folks it is almost 2018 and we are getting our first air conditioned train. Wow!

Obviously, this introduction cannot be without drama, hoopla and insane protests.

Before getting down to the nitty gritty, let me point out my observation on the mode of protest in India. We have two broad modes of protest. Most protests, against anything, almost always fall in one of these two buckets.

Bucket one is what I call the “Exception should be the Rule”. Here the mode employed is to use an exception and protest that because of the exception, the rule should be scrapped. Let me give you an example. Take Aadhaar, this is a hotly protested issue. A small minority of people have worn out fingerprints. Reasons for this are many. For instance age makes fingerprints fade, as does manual labour. Out of the 1.25 billion people that we have, those with worn out fingerprints would be miniscule. But yet our die hard protesters will argue till blue in the face that Aadhaar in its entirety should be scrapped. This is what I mean that exceptions should be the rule. Needless to say, these protesters have perfectly readable fingerprints.  

Bucket two is what I call “there is another better way”. Take the proposal to have a Bullet Train. Cue to howls. Why spend so much money on the Bullet Train, you can have XXX trains with no air conditioning, dirty toilets and so on transporting the poor from Mumbai to Gorakhpur. Or, why have a Shivaji Statue as that money can be better used to maintain Shivaji Forts. Basically, in India we always have people who are poor, starving, diseased, and unable to afford medical care and uneducated. So whatever proposal is brought is met with an argument that there is a better way to spend the money, not this way.

Now let us turn to the air conditioned train. At this point the train has been introduced to run from Borivali at 12.42. As expected, howls of protest. A man who goes to work, yes folks, a man who goes to work at 12.42 has complained bitterly as his usual non air-conditioned Borivali train is now cancelled and substituted by this air conditioned train. He wants the grubby train back! Unbelievable. A man going to work at 12.42 cannot possibly, to my limited intelligence not be able to afford the higher fare of an air conditioned. But no, he will protest. He falls in bucket one. Also, and again to the best of my knowledge, there is a train from Borivali to Churchgate every 5-7 minutes. Mr Protestor, tomorrow try going in at 12.37 instead!!!

What has really intrigued me when reading of the imminent launch of the train was the absence of any noise from our Mumbai intelligentsia, you know who, the South Bombay chatterati and intellectuals. This lot has been saying, for years, that (i) in order to reduce vehicular traffic on our congested roads we should have comfortable air conditioned trains (ii) air conditioned trains across the city would further reduce cars as today we have several office areas and not just one CBD. You have seen the rise of commercial spaces in Lower Parel, the new commercial spaces in Kalina, BKC, Goregaon, along the Western & Eastern Highways, at Vikhroli. But, there is not a word of praise or appreciation from this lot. Of course, it would not be out of place to point out that none, and I mean none of these Bombay chatterati intellectuals have ever travelled by train in the last 10 years. But they are experts!

I think I know why they cannot get any praise out. Praising this would tantamount to praising Modi and that they cannot ever ever do. Of course, the truth of the matter is that all the work in starting the train was done way before Modi. But the Bombay chatterati intellectuals are still silent.

And the daft protests continue. We deserve the crumbs that we have. We deserve no better. The fault is our and our people. Just criticize. Remain in the gutter. This is sad.   

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Kulbhushan Jadhav, Bindis and the Middia

Over the last few days our ‘Middia’ has been in a real froth. The immediate provocation was Pakistan permitting the wife and mother of Kulbhushan Jadhav to visit him in the Pakistani prison where he is incarcerated for spying.

I am amused on one level. When the news broke that Kulbhushan Jadhav was in prison, our ‘Middia’ went blue in the face. I recall anchors thundering that with Pakistan’s human rights record [or lack of it] it was a distinct possibility that in fact he was dead, killed by the evil Pakistanis. Obviously he is not dead. But who is going to remind the ‘Middia’ of its rather incorrect strident views.

This time there are howls of protest, complete indignation at some of what I consider, minor aspects of the visit. Reports suggest that the terrible, heartless [add your chosen adjective here ______________ ] Pakistanis had the temerity of removing the “Bindi’s” from the two Jadhav ladies foreheads. In addition, their clothes were taken away and they were given replacements. The jewellery the Jadhav ladies were wearing was also removed from their person. Shoes were removed. All this, according to our rampant ‘Middia’ was a huge insult, was inhuman.

My view, or as they say, take, is different. I am sure that none of my readers have ever been to a prison. I have been, not once, but on several instances. Therefore, I believe, that puts me in an informed and somewhat advantageous  position.  There is nothing secret about this. I had written about this in an earlier post entitled “Going to Jail”, which you can read here. 

Well, like the Jadhav ladies, we too had to empty our pockets, remove our watches, and carry nothing except GBP 10 in coins. Not a shred of paper was allowed in. The reason being that paper is often impregnated with drugs. This is then slipped to the prisoners. Yes, we were allowed to wear the same clothes and our shoes remained on. But we were properly frisked and properly sniffed by drug dogs. Did we feel insulted? Not in the least. And, I suspect that the Jadhav ladies clothes were substituted, as were the shoes, since these could have carried listening devices or cameras or some other espionage equipment. According to me, perfectly legitimate suspicions on part of the Pakistani authorities.

I do find the opinions of the ‘Middia’ wholly provocative and in the realm of propaganda. This is disturbing. Further, the panels put together by the ‘Middia’ seem to know nothing, or, more disturbingly, seem to not want to point out the very logical explanations for the so called indignities heaped on the Jadhav ladies. An explanation much like I have put forward in the preceding paragraph. Sad.

Anyway, before I am accused of being anti-national or pro Pakistan, let me say Mera Bharat Mahan. Bharat Mata Ki Jai!

What do you guys think?      

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How to bash India and win - Learn from Dr Mallya

Dr. Vijay Mallya, the King of Good Times is certainly enjoying himself. I have been reading reports on the hearings presently on in the UK Courts. The Indian Government would like Mallya extradited to India so that he may be tried in India for the crimes he has allegedly committed. Mallya, obviously does not want to be extradited.

Reading the reports leaves me amused and disgusted at the same time. From what I know, these proceedings are not to prove Dr Mallya’s guilt, but, to show, prima facie, that he has committed an offence in India and should therefore face trial. Obviously, in line with the highest standards of equity, Rule of Law and human rights, the UK will be concerned that if they do order extradition, Dr. Mallya should not suffer on account of lower or less than ideal standards.

It follows, that while the hearings are on, the Crown Prosecution Services, briefed by our Government are arguing that of course India has the highest standards of equity, Rule of Law and human rights. On the other hand, Dr. Mallya’s team is busy stating the exact opposite.

This is where the fun starts.

I am rather surprised that our wise and overly Nationalistic and patriotic government had not realized what would happen in this case.

When presenting its side Dr. Mallya’s team has a free hand to take potshots at India. Over the last few days they have freely and fearlessly presented “experts” to expound on the position as it exists in India. On one day an expert came on board and said that the Judges of our Courts, when nearing retirement, are looking for post-retirement benefits. “Angling” was the word used. They would like to be given some posts, chairmanships and so on. So, according to the expert, our Judges are reluctant to displease the Government, hence would rule in the Governments favour. This would mean that Dr. Mallya would not get a fair trial.

Then, next day other experts came on to say that the CBI is a joke. This was based on at least two grounds. One was several instances of botched up investigations, then the allegations of corruption and lastly, the famous “caged parrot” phrase was bandied about.

On another day Dr. Mallya’s team waded into the Indian banking system. The team said that Indian banks had no idea of how an airline business ran. Since they did not know, they gave the loans. The money was lost plain and simple. There was no fraud.

So as of now, pot shots have been taken against our Jails, our legal system, our banking system and our investigative agencies. Great fun. I wonder how much more there is to go.

Watch this space.