Monday 28 November 2016

Impacts of demonetization.

When the Prime Minister announced about the demonetization on 8th November 2016, it sent a wave of surprise to all in the country and a shocking blow to those who have amassed millions of unaccounted money. While the shock and surprise are yet to dip, the effects of demonetization are already beginning to show. While the hoarders of Black money are shedding crocodile tears about the sufferings of the common man standing hours together at the bank to exchange his old currencies, their allies in the guise of journalists and financial experts are finding loopholes in the arrangements. Many of them argue that this should have been better planned, so that the misery of the common man could have been avoided. This was not only a very bold and selfless initiative done by the government but also a very secretive one, to which only very few people are privy. And Modi baiters very well know that any level of planning and gearing up would have alerted the very men who are the real targets of this action. Don’t think that they are ignorant, they are only being complicit. Hoarders would have immediately converted their ill gotten money into any other form. But it is also not correct to say that the government caught the common man and small time traders unaware. If you look at the various steps taken by the present government you can very well understand that the government is taking a steady but sure step towards bringing the parallel economy to task. First it was the Jan Dhan Yojana scheme which could get a total of 25.51 crore new accounts as on 9.11.16, which basically comprises of farmers and people in rural India. This paved way for a direct link between the common man and the government getting rid of the touts and middlemen who are the reason for the pilferage in all of the government welfare schemes. As a result of this common man could get the benefits directly from the government subsidies. This gave a blow to the corrupt politicians who used to siphon the grants given to the public. This also brought a major chunk of our population into the banking practices.

Then the government announced the voluntary income disclosure scheme, giving a lengthy rope to the wrongdoers to correct themselves. A total of 65,250 crores were disclosed through this scheme. The demonetization step followed these previous actions, which is quite logical. Already around 5.5 lakh crores have been deposited in the bank within 2 weeks of this announcement and various reports are coming about sacks of cut notes being dumped into sewage canals. So if anybody is surprised by the government’s stern action it is only because of the corrupt and callous governance to which they are used to, for the past several decades.

Government is pushing the country towards more banking transactions and more transparent accounting. This may also be a step towards a cashless economy, as many are hinting about. The gradual transition towards digitization and a cashless economy will definitely help curb corruption in the long run. The increased transparency and record of transactions will make it considerably difficult to hold black money and carry out under-the-table deals. The added convenience of using digital payment solutions and virtual wallets can’t be ignored either.

While announcing this demonetization program, Government stressed that it is the only avenue available to curb the hawala market and the funding which comes to the terror groups. Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) network will be dismantled by the demonetization measures. Taking out 500 and 1000 rupee notes out of circulation will have a lasting impact on the syndicates producing FICN's, thus affecting the funding of terror networks in Jammu and Kashmir, North-eastern states and Naxalite hit states. But we seldom see any news channel, discussing about this intent of the government. They probably would have thought that even the very mentioning of the word terror, would hurt the sentiments of a “section of people”. And as if to assuage the wounded hearts of those people they are inventing stories of suffering to common man. It is not to be forgotten that many of these news channels are actually floating on very same corrupt money, which the government want to get rid of.

With nearly five state elections in 2017, demonetization has stunned political parties. Especially, in large states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, cash donations are a huge part of "election management”. In one stroke, big parties will find themselves hamstrung as cash hoards are often undeclared money. Parties will have to completely rejig campaign strategies in light of expected cash crunch
We should bow before the Prime Minister for taking such a bold decision, which he very well know, is going to get brick bats from his detractors and also could lose him favors from his own admirers. But he has taken a decision which no one has dared to before. This action has shaken many of our people. This action is intended to purify the national veins from the clogged pollutants it has acquired over several decades, an action to revitalize the values. This is a direct call to our conscience. A positive take away from this action is that many among the youth are welcoming this move. That gives a glimmer of hope about the future of our nation.


Thursday 3 November 2016

Hindu festivals and the Indian guilt

A thousand-wala is laid on the ground; a shivering hand of a mother tries to fire it with a long Agarbathi; children make bluffing sounds to scare her for fun; the mother pretends to act as if she is scared and let down by the children; the father comes to her help; and when the cracker finally bursts, the whole family erupt in joy. In the darkness of the dawn, their faces are lit by the lights of the bursts; the loud blasts fill their ears leaving no more room for the disturbing noises of daily pressures. The moment when the string is exhausted, the family revels in silence with their minds resonating to the single note of togetherness. ‘Phatt!’ goes one piece left over in the string, cracking alone so late only to bring them back to their senses for the next round of fun. This is not a screenplay for a cracker commercial. This is a regular scene in every Indian household on a festive Diwali day. Clothes, pooja, temples, sweets and all others may add to the festivity, but Diwali will remain seriously incomplete without crackers. 

Type the word “celebration” in Google and hit on images. Result? Ninety of the hundred images thrown will have one thing in common – Firecrackers. Crackers are lots of fun. If there is one thing that can bring out the child in a stressed and worked up adult, it is crackers. While crackers can make even adults feel like kids, every Diwali, the champions of modernity run a campaign to make even the kids feel like adults. They would make a 6 year old child hold a placard and pose for a photograph. The poster would read “The Earth has enough problems already. Avoid crackers”. The poor kid would be able to sight only two of those words herself – “The” and “has”. These silly campaigners would conveniently forget how they advocated child’s rights when children were dressed as Goddess Durga for the previous festival. “Let kids be kids. Don’t burden them telling they are Goddesses”, they told.

Though this howling pack will never dare to suggest about reducing the tint of red in a Bakrid celebration, will rather come rushing to make Diwali green. Never mind. A Hindu is always sane enough to see gold for the sake of larger good. The proposal would seem really pink only if this brigade was forever consistent in fighting the air or waters becoming blacker. If bursting crackers for one day in a year is going to burn the planet to an irreversible state of destruction, one wonders if driving millions of cars everyday for the whole year emitting billions of tons of carbon monoxide, going to drive the planet away to a cooler galaxy? These children used in the anti-crackers campaigns would rather lose their cool if they were educated about the pollution caused from cooling systems at their homes and the mega malls, where the ultra-huge atriums that could have been left open to nature were first closed and then centrally cooled. 

The children are usually polluted with an overdose of the campaign feeds. The smart ones perhaps remain unmoved. Imagine, the mind-polluting demon trying to persuade a smart kid to give up crackers. 

With a hand around her shoulder, the tender child is asked “Well, you may find it fun but the others have a right too; they have a right to sleep, don’t they?” 

The soft-hearted child is moved but is quickly reminded of her brother. “Well, the sleeping ones usually don’t wake up anyway. Look at him! You can try firing this atom bomb below his cot”. 
“Hmm… Have you seen the smog early in the morning? Don’t the vehicles go and crash on each other?” 
Quite a reason! “But uncle, why don’t they stay back home and burst their crackers. Is life so hard to crack? Work from early morning on a festival day?” 
“Beta, what about other living beings, don’t they get scared and psychologically affected?” 
“Uncle, what about polished floor tiles, loud noise of your daily soaps, unnatural confinement to a corner of a house, is all these emotional massages?” 
“Forget all that. You love your fellow children. Don’t you? Think of them toiling in those cracker factories, denied of education, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions” 
“Ahaa… such an old story, the reason why my father skipped crackers for a couple of years. If you are really concerned about child labor, you should stop using that costly American phone of yours. They get made in China. You know? China is the biggest abuser of Childs’ rights. Now, don’t hurt the livelihoods of those parents working hard in the cracker units to get their children educated” 
“You’re getting rude. You don’t seem to have respect for elders. May be, that is why you won’t understand how sick the old and ailing ones feel about the noise of the crackers”
“That’s funny uncle. It always my grandfather who wakes us all with an early burst on the Diwali mornings.”
“Baby, so many fire accidents, so many lives lost. Is all the celebration worth?”
“So many road accidents, so many lives lost. Is all the road drives worth?”

The childish trials have exhausted. It’s time to get a bit scary with more serious stuff. “Okay. It’s time to confess. I tried telling you all those because you are a child. You seem to know more than I thought. So let’s come to the actual reason. Firecrackers release lots and lots of tiny toxic particles on air. Those can enter your lungs and damage the respiratory system. And they contribute so much to the global warming”
“Uncle, I think you need to get a lesson. Daily release of green house gases is the real concern. Not just the burst on one day. Emissions from Industries, automobiles, even from chemical fertilizers are far more dangerous. Moreover, the Diwali rains that the crackers bring along, will dilute the suspended particles if not completely wash them away”

When insignificant reasons are bloated and given mainstream media real estate, and when it happens in recurring patterns for every Hindu festival, we start to wonder if there is motivation behind it. One can keep guessing why the color green has come to signify envy, but the number of green-eyed monsters staring with disdain at anything giving elation to Hindus during their festivals is only increasing. 

They would share their fascination for the Spanish festival of Catalonia building huge human towers while dismissing Dahi handi during Krishna Janmashtami as inhuman and uncivilized. During Navaratri, they will deem Durga as a prostitute while at other times they will work to redeem the prestige of sex workers. Images of polluting broken Ganesha will be flashed after the immersion rituals at the same time maintain a deafening silence about how every river gets sucked and dried due to the soft drinks and breweries industries. Chath pooja will be deemed backward and repressive while burqa will be celebrated as minority rights. They will get Jallikkattu banned calling it animal abuse while enjoying Biryanis made of animals whose throats have been slit and allowed bleeding until death. Ravana will be celebrated on Diwali accusing the Aryan Rama for waging war against the Dravidian Ravana, Mahabali will be paid respects on Onam while Vamana who tamed Mahabali in the very same legend will be declared a fictitious character. 

The pattern attempts to instill a sense of guilt about celebrating Hindu festivals by taking away sheen that nurtures and nourishes its continuity. Dear secular uncle! You may not come with a white gown or a green hat. But your designs are clear. You are caught red handed. We have evidence in black and white. You want to break India exploiting the cracks. We want to celebrate India with fire crackers. 
A. Sudarshan,

Uri, Unity and Understanding

News:At around 5:30 a.m. on 18 September, four terrorists attacked an Indian Army Brigade headquarters at the town of Uri near the Line of Control in a pre-dawn ambush. They are said to have lobbed 17 grenades in 3 minutes. As a rear administrative base camp with tents caught fire, 13-14 army personnel were killed. A gun battle ensued lasting six hours, during which all the four terrorists were killed. Additional 19-30 soldiers were reported to have been injured in the attack. Combing operations continued to flush out additional terrorists thought to be alive. Most of the soldiers killed were from the 10 Dogra and 6 Bihar regiments. One of the injured soldiers succumbed to his injuries on 19 September at R&R Hospital in New Delhi, followed by another soldier on 24 September, bringing the death toll to 19

Another terror attack. Another case of loss of lives. Another set of condemnation. Another case of getting back to Business as Usual. Are we reading it right. Yes I am afraid. But the initial look of it, the case looks like “one more added to the list”. But it is not just another terror attack and not just another case of loss of lives. This attack is right inside a Military base. The losses of lives are of our soldiers. This tantamounts to an act of war. Not that a soldier’s life is more precious than that of a normal civilian. But the signals and intent are different. When 19 army personnel lives are lost, it’s a huge embarrassment to the security establishment of a country. And immediately you hear a round of condemnation from those in power and positions. And then after a week everyone gets back to their routine. We hope that the routine is disturbed at least this time, as this is a case of war and this is the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades.

Soldiers do not join the forces signing up to die. But a former Editor of a leading National Newspaper thought so and tweeted that way. The same thought was put across previously by a couple of secular politicians during previous attacks. There seems to be complete lack of sympathy or empathy in the hearts of a huge percentage of our citizens when it comes to the attacks on security forces. Let it be the cases when Maoists have attacked and killed our security forces or when during these types of terror attacks, the general public doesn’t seem to feel the pinch or the pain or share their anguish. The usually active social media which keeps buzzing at the drop of a hat was busy discussing mundane stuff post this attack. Rightly social media erupts at any injustice or crime. If a woman is raped or killed, rightly women and men rise up in anger and fill the social media and the streets with posts and protests respectively. If anyone from any underprivileged section of the society is attacked or assaulted, rightly the rest of the citizens stand up for them and criticize such attacks. If a dog is thrown from a terrace by two psychopaths, the animal activists and the rest of the society too rightly vent their anger in social media and create pressure to nab those culprits.

We have to be happy that such inhuman and criminal acts aren’t acceptable in our society and hence the citizenry is reacting rightly with frustration, anger and anguish. But when it comes to the lives of our soldiers and police, all these real life activists, social activists and armchair activists go into hiding. The youth of the country keep themselves busy with cinema, cricket, their own state related issues, memes, forwarding jokes and what not. Some Tamil dailies carried the suicide of a suspected murderer in its front page as Headline news pushing the martyrdom of these 19 soldiers to a smaller space in the newspaper. This is kind of apathy is truly shocking and worrying especially when its seen amongst the youngsters of this country. This is kind of non-reaction doesn’t make them less patriotic or less human. I am not here to certify who is more patriotic and who is less patriotic. But these are the times when one has to stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder for the sake of our security forces who are braving against many odds and are ensuring that we sleep peacefully daily at our homes. Lack of sympathy and empathy and having no anger or pain at such times demoralizes our security forces. They feel let down at the most important and crucial juncture. 

Such a callous attitude from the citizens encourages the government of the day too to not react in a manner that is expected out of them. There has been lack of accountability and responsibility after every terror attack. There has been either lack of intelligence or in this case intelligence inputs weren’t acted upon. No heads have rolled post any attack. Fortunately this government is showing at least some kind of stronger intent (which we are hopeful will get translated into action) when it comes to dealing with situations like these. The number of terror attacks has come down sharply. The Prime Minister in his Independence Day address, made stunning remarks on the problems in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. We would still have to wait and watch what the follow up steps are in this regard. Pakistan has openly stated many times in the past that their strategy has been to bleed (weaken) India through a thousand cuts internally. It can never afford to go for a direct war initiated from its end openly. It will continue to push for covert operations, infiltrations and terror attacks. The time is ripe for India to pay back Pakistan similarly by giving a taste of its own medicine. And the Prime Minister’s statements on Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pashthunistan looks promising. For a tooth, an entire jaw must be the approach that needs to be followed. For every attempt on Kashmir by them, should be countered with strong actions from our side on Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan Pashtunisthan.

The attack was preceded by a phase of disturbances and violence in the Kashmir Valley clearly supported by the forces across the border. For the first time our security forces after lot of thought and consideration, used pellet guns to put the violence to rest. But shamelessly, some of the mainstream media channels, pseudo-intellectuals, secularists, pseudo-progressives and pseudo-liberals attacked the government and the security forces instead of condemning the violent protestors. They didn’t dare to questions as to what role do children play in street violence and protests. The Indian state was portrayed as a rogue state to the outside world by these criminals. That the security forces put at risk their lives and they too were getting injured and killed in the violence was completely hidden by these criminals in their coverage, posts and statements. Worryingly though the number was very less, anti-national Tamil forces organized and drummed up support for the Kashmiri cause during this troublesome phase. Similar acts were enacted from Bengal and other places too. The Uri terror attack has followed up these disturbing events. That’s a very important point to note. Sections of mainstream media and the other usual suspects after initially expressing caution, have now gone back to the old ways of building bridges with Pakistan by ask for talks, people to people engagement, Bollywood and Paksitan cine industry engagement in each other’s countries and playing cricket. And sections of the youth and sections of mainstream society not being bothered or not being anguished, pained and angered with the Uri attack is calling for some radical steps to change the narrative of the country.

There definitely needs to be a change in the curriculum at both school and college level by including our rich and victorious military history in the syllabus. More exposure about the life in the Armed forces and interest in the armed forces should be given to the students through the National Cadet Corps (NCC) by increasing the strength and budget for the NCC cadets. The cine industry must be encouraged to make more movies about our victorious military campaigns and war heroes. The novel idea of Param Veer Vandanam being done in the annual Hindu Spiritual and Service Fair in Chennai where school students offer their respects and salute to the Param Veer Chakra awardees recognizing their supreme sacrifice for the nation should be encouraged to be practiced at least once in a year in all the schools in the country. The government should reach out the senior Military officers and retired military personnel to get inputs and novel ideas to bring the armed forces much closer to the civilian population’s heart and mind. These and many other radical and sensible steps must be taken by this government to ensure that its citizens are on board at all times for the sake of the armed forces. The government should also come out with a stronger message and action which will ensure that not one more life is lost in this nation to Pakistan’s designs. So it’s a two pronged strategy that the government should think about and play out – one will be internal to change the narrative and two will be external to set the narrative. Our best wishes and support to the Indian government in this regard.
Sreenivasan .B.R