Sunday, March 11, 2012

The economic turnaround of UP is round the corner

Some time back I talked about political padyatras going out of fashion, as a result of which we find today's politicians unfit & unhealthy. This was after watching the stage crash under one of these overweight leaders. Now as another overweight leader finds herself thrown off her throne, the thorn to prick her vain bubble is a politician who refrained from the automobile for his yatra.

Cycling over the roads of UP, Akhilesh realised what wold click with the voters. I am sure, the year-long cycling expedition would have made him fit enough to accomplish the task on hand within the next 5 years. That BSP, symbolised by the elephant (pls don't look for any puns today), did not succeed is evidence enough of the task being indeed mammoth.

Playing catch up with the rest of the country riding a bicycle on what are called roads in UP would only result in UP lagging further behind. This is why I like the realism & the brilliant thinking of Akhilesh. Giving every kid a tablet & his elder sibling a laptop is a game changer the likes of which we rarely see in Indian politics. Of course, Naidu strove to turn Hyderabad into a Cyberabad but found himself cooling his heels  on the opposition benches. Can this happen to Akhilesh too?

I doubt. This is not about handing e-toys to the kids in UP. The tablets & laptops would be the nucleus around which the economy of UP would grow. Many new businesses are bound to emerge from this single initiative. We shall see the dawn of bhaiya entrepreneurship. How?

The government would be distributing around 2500000 tablets & laptops, each every year. This would also result in not only increased sales for the hardware industry but also generation of additional jobs  & mushrooming of new businesses. 

The ancillary service providers in any thriving commercial zone would now be seen in UP too. The chief among these are the Kitlis or the Tapris, that are so common in the economically developed regions. Along the Mehsana-Vapi golden corridor, you will find a tea stall every 500-m in a town & every 5-km on the highway. Try doing so in UP & you will be able to quit tea easily. So why do I want the Kitlis to be a thriving business in UP, or everywhere? 

Once these watering holes are easily accessible, the other varieties (called theka's) shall lose business & close down. It is common knowledge that the revenues from these theka's are redeployed for electoral gains. If Akhilesh is serious about refraining from gundagardi, the theka owners should be more worried about lost political patronage than lost business. This would clean up the politics too. (The ethanol that provides the kick in country liquor can be blended with petrol for a cleaner & cheaper fuel, but this is irrelevant to this piece)

Why would people spend time at a tapri than do some productive work? This starts as a compulsion & soon turns into a habit. All these people who would now be gainfully employed in permanent jobs would need to go to the office every day as well as on job-related errands during the day. We can now look forward to more 2-wheeler showrooms coming up all over UP. However, riding these 2-wheelers on the roads of UP would take a heavy toll of the vehicles. 

The next industry that is bound to expand is the roadside garage. To attend to small problems of vehicles that require urgent attention, the mechanics presently at the service stations & assistants to mechanics at the garages shall start their own small shops to handle roadside emergencies. While the vehicles are in capable hands, the owners would go to the nearby tapri & drown a tea or two. 

When the business is slack, both the garagewala as well as the tapriwala would gather at Banarsi's to exchange notes & discuss the weighty issues being faced by the state & nation. Arre, Banarsi is the panwala who set up his shop soon after the garage flourished!!

The other job opportunities & businesses that would come up are:

  • Teachers in schools to teach students the basics of handling tablets & laptops
  • Training centres to teach students and other family members the basics of handling tablets & laptops
  • Service centres for tablets & laptops (after the end of the warranty period)
  • Training centres to train technicians for servicing tablets & laptops
  • DG set vendors as people would need electricity to power/charge their tablets & laptops
  • Diesel suppliers to deliver the fuel for DG sets
  • Technicians to tweak the DG sets to run on kerosene
  • Kerosene suppliers to deliver the fuel
  • Intermediaries to divert kerosene under PDS
  • State vigilance teams to ensure that kerosene under PDS is not being diverted 
  • Private scouts to monitor the movement of state vigilance teams & ensure that kerosene under PDS is diverted

Its not just the economy that would benefit from Akhilesh's brainchild. The social spin offs are even greater. Once every third home has a tablet or a laptop, the roadside goons would no longer roam the streets of UP. Rather they would be active on the social media. The FB wall would be the new battle ground, where you will receive your threats. The one with the largest followers would be crowned the biggest goon & no blood would be shed. 

The clinics & the hospitals would then attend medical cases, while the police would be able to sleep peacefully in their thana's. The doctors would happily treat people suffering from backaches due to riding 2-wheelers on the roads of UP, rather than those beaten up by the friendly neghbourhood goon. The police would be able to chat with their chums across the table rather than across the lockup bars.

People would increasingly resort to the social media to stay connected. Thus, they would go out of their homes less often. The government can then focus its attention to improving only the major roads & people would no longer complain about the other roads.

Thus, while the private enterprise would have filled in the Bijli gap, the Government would have provided the Sadak. UP has never had any problem of the Pani. With Bipasa all over UP, Akhilesh need not worry about the Maya's, Priyanka's & Uma's!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Law unto Themselves

Bollywood always had a fascination for the courtroom. From the classic Waqt to a crusading Damini & the lighthearted Kyonki Main Jhooth Nahin Bolta, the courtroom dramas evolved along with the changing mood of the cinema. In fact, the blindfolded Justice balancing the scale of justice is one of the most overused imagery in hindi cinema & falls in the same bracket as two flowers brushing each other or the lightning & rain as a cover for murder or other heinous crimes.

However, this may soon change. A more dramatic image of a lawyer with one hand holding case files & the other ready to hurl a stone is more apt for the movies being made now. The camera persons in bollywood can thank their counterparts in the media for discovering this new emblem.

Look at the picture closely... what do you see? A lawyer in his trademark dress, reflecting a pride in his fraternity & its culture. Left hand by his side holding his case papers, sign of a dedicated professional. Head level, eyes looking straight ahead, in a display of focus & determination. Right hand pulled back, holding a brick... an artist at work. This photograph was not shot by some movie maker or a fashion photographer after hours of rehearsal with the added luxury of choosing from the umpteen shots taken. This picture was snapped by a media person live, as it happened, capturing the full emotions of the person & his ethos.

Photography at its best. Especially as one considers that the photographer was himself the target of his own target! This happened outside the Civil Court in Bangalore where the lawyers hurled projectiles at the media persons. And later, the police too!! 

Like other privileged classes in India, the lawyers are also a law unto themselves. If You or I were doing this, we would have been accused of taking law in our hands. But the lawyers already have the law in their hands & their hands on the law. In fact, their hold on the law is so strong that it is difficult for a normal person to understand the law. So much so, this made Bernard Shaw proclaim "law is an ass". If Bernard Shaw was right & law is really an ass, should the lawyers be called as******?

Many film makers have educated us that "kanoon ke haath bade lambe hote hain". And when the reach falls short, the law(yers) in Bangalore Civil Court use stones, bottles, helmets... and whatever. The police of 11 nations were stupid to try & nab Don on their own. Had the task been assigned to the men in black from Bangalore, they would have made him come out of whatever hole he was hiding in. US is not fortunate enough on this count & it had send its marines to get hold of Saddam. But we have a long history of not utilising our resources judiciously. 

The police has always had an uneasy relation with the lawyer community. The police may be the protectors of law, but the lawyers are more conversant with its intricacies. Thus, most of the times the police apprehends those on the other side of the law, they are set free by the lawyers. This has made the police slow starters & late finishers.  In Bangalore too, the police were slow to respond & did so only after they themselves became the target! You see, the lawyers not only know how to outwit the police, but also how to make them work!

This incident also shows that the humble stone is now hot. From the valleys of Kashmir to the court premises of Bangalore, it has traveled a long way. Perhaps, "being bangalored" would soon acquire a totally different meaning! But I am not able to fathom the reasons for this transformation of lawyers into a stone throwing fighters & what this may lead to. 

Lawyers have always been crusaders. Our notable freedom fighters were trained lawyers & they took on the might of the British empire. As a result, lawyers have always been involved in active politics. Even today, most political parties have an army of lawyer-members to represent them in chatfests conducted by the news channels. Those feeling left out (like Prashant Bhushan), join other crusaders (such as Anna Hazare). 

Imagine a discussion on a news channel, say Times Now. Arnab Goswami, out of sheer habit, is needling the panelists. As the debate fires up, so do the passion of the panelists. Today, we find them shouting at each other & outshouting each other. If the panel consisted of lawyers from the Bangalore Civil Court, we would watch them take out stones and hurl these at opponents. Soon mikes would be yanked out, shoes would be removed and used as missiles. Today, one finds a battery of OB Vans outside TV studios. Tomorrow, ambulances would be assembled while a debate is being conducted inside.

If the lawyers themselves start hurling stones, where will that leave our traditional politicians. Politics has been a useful tool to channelise the time & energy of those with violent tendencies. Now that the lawyers have joined the fray, what would those people do? Today, for want of enough prison room, the courts release inmates so that they can go out & be a part of our democratic process. They become the vital cogs that make our democracy vibrant, bringing voters to the booth & when they run out voters, taking this task upon themselves. If the lawyers take this responsibility upon their capable selves, the courts would no longer need to release the inmates. There would be no space to hold the Kalmadis & Kanimozhis... 

This is a scary thought, let's hope the Civil Court in Bangalore is able to civilise its lawyers.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

India's Olympic Champs

The country is rejoicing on the qualification of Indian Hockey team for the Olympics after a gap of 8 years. Hockey has given us, as a country, the most occasions to follow & celebrate the Olympics. There have been other performances, individual & team, that have cheered us over the years. London 2012 would bring alive more such stories.

However, the unsung hero of India's Olympic Story is the Indian Olympic Association. The IOA has been religiously participating in each & every games irrespective of the prevailing political & economic environment. The hockey team missed the 2008 games, but not our officials. They were very much there, keeping our flag flying.

And they are somewhere near the top, if not at the top, if the metric is no. of officials per sportsperson or even the no of officials per medal won. In fact, it goes to the credit of the global sports official fraternity that they award medals only to sportspersons! Despite all the efforts the officials do to make the games a success.

Before departing for the games, the sportspersons get to meet & be photographed with the President & PM. Would this ever be possible, if the contingent does not include the sports officials? While the sportspersons are busy practicing in their camps, it is the officials who do all the running around & manage appointment with the country's leaders.

One is not grudging the sportsmen their glory. But the guts & grit displayed by the sports authorities should be equally appreciated. It was the single-minded focus of the organisers that made the Commonwealth Games possible. When the entire country was clamoring for their heads, they managed to keep their heads on their shoulders & eyes focused on their Goal. And they did achieve it, unfortunately (for them) this objective was discovered.

The authorities also possess the highest professional ethics. When the Indian cricket team loses a few series, the differences within the team are put up for all the world to see. But the selectors & the administrators have never been known to debate in the public domain. All discussions are capped at the meeting & the public sees a united face. This despite the fact that most of the officials across different sports bodies have conflicting political affiliations.

They also beat the sportsmen in terms of fitness & longevity. Sachin has been trying to hit his hundredth century for too long, in vain. Even the great Kapil Dev reached his landmark only after Kumble consistently bowled wide outside the off stump. But not the officials. At an age when most sportsmen would find it difficult to execute a straight drive or hit a penalty corner, the officials are healthy enough to occupy their chair & represent the country at the Olympics.

As a protest against Dow Chemical being the sponsor of the Olympics despite it being linked to the Bhopal gas tragedy, the Indian government is considering boycott of the opening & closing ceremonies of the games ( But our sports administrators would be there in full strength along with the sportsmen. While the sports people have spent the last 4 years for this, the officials have spent a lifetime! No one deserves to participate in the Olympics more, for they are our true Olympic Champs! So what if there are no medals for the oldest, the longest ruling or the most ignorant sports administrators?

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