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Indian elections 2014

The 2014 elections of India are over, the verdict is out, the process of getting the mandate from 500+ million people across 930,000+ polling booths have been completed, the happiness of the victors and the despair of the losers are out in the open. Yet, as a common man, I find this particular election fascinating – specially with the verdict that has come up. Not going into the technicalities (the percentage vote swings, the conversion of these vote swings into actual seats, etc), my personal point of view of this election is based on some trends that I tried to think through from the results.

Let me start with the overall verdict – the BJP and NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi has got a thumping majority of 333+ seats and the main other party, Congress party, that has ruled for maximum number of years in Indian history have been reduced to shambles with 44 seats only. So, the verdict has been strong and clear – a change after so many elections that has happened in last 15 years. To me, this verdict has established or challenged many things that we have been used to for last so many years:

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This has challenged the very concept of “dynasty politics” – a modern era “quota” system followed by Congress party. I find it strange that such a big and historic party still believes in the principle that the leader of the party has to come from a family with a surname of Gandhi, irrespective of the fact whether the person is capable enough to lead or not. The general perception of the leader was “weak” (which was apparent in his many speeches and “deadly” few interviews) – but still a majority of more capable leaders of the same party still believes that the name “Gandhi” will mesmerise the voters even in today’s world. Only time will tell whether this thought is eliminated or whether we see another member of that family trying to steer the ship in the future.

People are always sick and tired of corruption and scams – this has been true in the past, in the present and will be true in the future. But the frustration increases when scam after scam are exposed and millions of taxpayer’s money are siphoned off, the government, the ruling party leadership either remains mute spectators, or tries to “defend” the same as the first reaction, or tries to do some “lip service”. Add to the event of the head of the country remains silent or looks for inspiration to the party high command before uttering a word. In effect, corruption with “proxy governance” was something that happened in last few years and people have had enough of this, I believe.

The personal charisma of a leader counts heavily – sometimes much more than the party he/she represents. That happened with Narendra Modi. In spite of having some controversial past, the branding, the dreams spelt out by that person appealed to most of the people, including the 100+ million of new voters. Of course, there has to be a vision, a concrete plan to transform the nation – but at the end, you often tend to go with the perception of a person when you feel “Yes, I do think this person probably can transform the nation better than the others”.

It is also time to move on from the past that is more than 5-7 years old. New generation, today’s youth hardly believe in drooling on history (does not matter whether it is perceived as “good” or “bad”). Lives have changed, tha pace of life has changed – hence, we do want things to change fast and very often, the time period allocated for the change is in 1-2 years, if not in months. Yes, history is important – but more important is the vision for tomorrow, vision for our own lives – rather than the rich or not-so-rich history of the parties. So who cares what has happened 7-10 years ago – let’s discuss what will happen in next 1-2 years ! This probably scored heavily in the decision-making process as “development” took more priority than “RTI”, “women empowerment”, etc – rightfully so. Because with “inclusive growth”, other parameters like empowerment will come automatically.

The delivery contrast between two main persons help differentiate the difference much strongly. Hence, the more one leader failed to articulate the vision and instead kept on harping on non-priority things, the more strong the other leader was becoming in the minds of the people. So, a poor performance of a main player helps the others – now add to the fact that the other person by himself had more charisma and vision — then it becomes a double whammy to the poorer performer. So, field the best candidate who is best suitable for the role –> basic stuff, but often forgotten by some.

Finally, my belief that “development is more important than caste, creed & religion” got  more strengthened in this election. In a country like India, where the culture, the dialect of the same language, food habits, etc change probably every 50 km across the length and breadth; harping on religion, appealing for votes from a particular religion or caste do have an impact on votes. And probably this happened this time as well – but overall, I have a hunch that people disregarded this caste/religion play much more as compared to last few elections. I find it sickening when this divisive play, this polarisation of people is even attempted by so many parties.

Probably, this is the time when all of us should introduce ourselves to the external world as an “Indian” instead of a “Bengali, Marathi, etc” or a “North Indian, South Indian, etc” or any such classifications. That way, we will not allow anyone trying to “divide” us going forward.

Let’s make our country proud by taking this first step together !

I can’t talk anymore

When I grew up, I was told by my parents, my relatives, my teachers that expressing your own opinion is a fundamental right and unless you discuss and exchange ideas, you will not enrich your thought. Sometimes, you tend to differ with someone on a particular topic, you tend to argue and even might have a verbal fight, but you still appreciate the different perspective and respect people’s different views on a topic. Each influential decision on life has different sets of positives and negatives – nothing is perfect ! But, still amidst the imperfect world, people tend to sit and discuss together to come up with what can be described as the ‘best within the current constraints’. And that is how life is supposed to roll on …. each decision has a time-stamp associated with it – a decision without a time-stamp is absolutely irrelevant – hence a decision taken at this point of time might change after 10 years … and that is why decisions are to be taken after discussions.

I grew up by believing and reciting a poem written by Rabindranath Thakur – ” Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, Where words come out from the depth of truth, Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit, Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action, Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”

But for that, you need freedom of speech in the form that is prevalent at that point of time. Whether you actually talk and voice your opinion or whether you write something, or whether you sing a song, or whether you type your thought in the internet world – all these things do not matter. The thing that only matters is that you are free to share your thoughts and in that process can get challenged or challenge someone else’s thoughts. That is how we mature as human beings and that is how ‘tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection’.

However, my rulers are deciding to stop talking and hence, I can’t talk any more ! Sorry, if my voice is never heard … I can’t talk any more !!

 

Reveal the money, honey !

I was going through the global headlines in the net, when I saw this news in The Telegraph, UK and I quote an excerpt below along with the link to the detailed news:

The US government has warned 10 Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse, that they must hand over confidential information exposing tax cheats by tomorrow or face legal proceedings.
URL : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8740641/US-warns-10-Swiss-banks-to-hand-over-information-on-tax-cheats.html

This struck me quite hard and forced me to look at the intention of the governments of world’s two largest democracies, US and India, on the topic of corruption – which strikes any country with varied intensity levels. Before I express my views on this ‘intention’ and ‘body language’ of the two governments, let me share some facts on the ‘illegal capital flight’ that impacts India.

There is the body of “Global Financial Integrity” (http://www.gfip.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=80) which promotes “national and multilateral policies, safeguards, and agreements aimed at curtailing the cross-border flow of illegal money”. In one of the reports available in the site, the name India comes quite often (along with some other countries) which by itself is an embarrassment for me, but again is the reality – so let’s face the data points mentioned therein:

  • The five Asian countries with the largest total illegal capital flight during 2000-2008 are: China ($2.18 trillion), Malaysia ($291 billion), Philippines ($109 billion), Indonesia ($104 billion), and India ($104 billion). On average these five countries account for 96.5 percent of total illicit flows from Asia and 44.9 percent of flows out of all developing countries.
  • Other reports (as available in Wikipedia as well as other sources) indicate that the total amount of black money deposited in foreign banks by Indians is to the tune of a staggering $1.4 trillion.

Whatever the exact number, it is a fact that everyone understands that we are talking of huge amount of money, accumulated through years of corruption at all levels and potentially benefited by a few powerful citizens of India. And everybody will acknowledge that – even the Indian parliament – that this issue is a big issue which needs to be tackled at a war footing. However, what has the Government and our Parliament doing on this ?

While US is taking tough stands with the banks and trying to take on the problem head-on, the world’s largest democracy and it’s parliament and politicians have been taking their own time to act. This actually puts a big question on their basic intention – whether they will really like to do this is a common question all of us have ! Why ? Because you will never know how many skeletons might suddenly tumble from the cupboards of our many respected politicians or other famous personalities. Perhaps that is why the body language of the government has been quite ‘soft’ when compared to our counterparts in US. To take a tough stand and talk the walk does not take much effort, but do our politicians have the will to do so ? I sincerely doubt … instead, the parliament has been busy in sending breach of privilege notices to a group who had been most vocal against corruption and who spearheaded a huge mass movement to fight against corruption. In this case, the parliament has been quite proactive and fast to send the breach of privilege notices, but they suddenly lose their energy and proactiveness when it comes to getting the black money criminals caught !

Even the Supreme Court of India expressed its frustration in Jan’ 2011 when they found that the government was reluctant to publish the names of potential 26 Indians who hold accounts, allegedly for black money, in Germany’s Liechtenstein Bank. The court remarked ” It is a pure and simple theft of national money. We are talking about a mind-boggling crime, not niceties of various treaties… This is the plunder of the nation”

But still, our government, our politicians are not showing the will to try to stop black money generation; they are not even showing the intention and body-language that they mean business when it comes to corruption. They speak great things on this topic, but unfortunately their action (or at least the sense that they are trying to act) does not match with their great speeches. So, is it that they are fearing some of the powerful, famous people will be exposed if they pursue to take this issue head-on ?

Connecting socially, but virtually

Most of us (by us, I am referring to you who is reading this article) have an account in a social networking site – in all probability, we all are in Facebook. It has been reported that more than 30 million Indians are in Facebook and they interact socially with their ‘friends’. These ‘friends’ are a part of our lives – whether we like it or not. For a teenager or an individual just in their 20’s, if you ask ‘how will be life without Facebook ?”, they will respond “are you mad ?”

The growth of Facebook has increased rapidly in last couple of years not because the big growth in conventional internet access, but because of mobile internet access. You are always ‘connected’ and hence you almost respond on a real time basis to your friend’s posts or questions. And I am sure with this growth in mobile and ‘cheaper’ smart phones, this phenomenon is bound to increase – specially in non-urban areas within India. With regional language access, this will be much adored by all sections of our society and hence the year to year growth figures should be quite an astronomical figure in the recent future.

I was thinking that why did I joined Facebook as an user ? Basically one of my college friends encouraged me to join with the USP of “we can meet daily even if we are in different parts of the world physically”. I tried, I got addicted. Soon, I was in virtual touch with my classmates with whom I did not have any kind of contact for last 20-25 years. Fantastic feeling and hence I started campaigning for Facebook to the rest of my friend who did not have such an account. Soon I found myself surrounded by not only my school and college friends, but also with my relatives, office friends, colleagues. My participation on Facebook increased because of easy mobile access and it has now become a habit to check on Facebook postings, with the same frequency of checking my mails.

Then came online debates – whether you discuss why Argentina failed in last world cup or Jan Lokpal, you are sharing ideas and perspectives from people physically located at different places in today’s world. This can never happen physically, but now you can do that so easily and so cheaply. This indeed has become part of our lives and you do really keep connected with the people with whom you want to keep in touch.

It is very easy to do a profiling of a person by studying his/her participation in Facebook. Whether you like cricket or football, whether you like to read books, whether you are in Kolkata or in Paris, whether you support a political or social view or not, whether you like to drink beer or not, whether your favourite sports club has won or not – you can do that easily, provided you have the data points. Even you can calculate somebody’s movements – whether he will be travelling to Bangalore or whether he will not be at his residence next week as he is going for a vacation – you can do that quite easily. You need not be a Sherlock Holmes for doing so …

When this is so easy, then comes the scary part. What will happen if your facebook data is “shared” with a person or group who is not your friend but a sworn enemy ? What will happen if your profiles of likes and dislikes are shared with corporations, who then can lure you with your merchandise or can even push you to an extent with your weaknesses ? What will happen if your personal information is shared with someone who intends to use your data for forgery and commit crime ? What will happen if your personal perspectives are shared to political parties or other organisations who can call for vengeance as you had opposed their views ?

Sounds quite scary now ? Yes, definitely. With more hackers, with more flaws in privacy safeguards in Facebook, are you sure that you are ‘safe’ with the assumption that only your trusted ‘friends’ knows the secrets of your life ?

The answer is quite obvious and I now sign-off from this topic with the inference that you will decide what to do next. After all, it’s your life in question and you know what is best for you.

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