Tuesday, December 1, 2009

“Happy Anniversary” - Mumbai

12 months; 365 days;~9000hrs have passed since the most brutal and gruesome attack on Indian soil. Sadly enough, all who has won is the Indian Media. Recent analysis shows that the news channels and radio stations have gained TRPs, as have the newspapers gained readership in Mumbai over the last 6 months, mainly because of the election coverage, cricket and now the “first anniversary” coverage of the dastardly strikes that left a gaping hole in India’s coastal security. What hurt me more was the way a leading Telecom corporate which tried to cash in on this occasion for its PR exercise.

What was most ironic is that Maharashtra virtually celebrated this moment with brutal agony, by reinstating Mr. R.R. Patil as the Home Minister, a move which went virtually uncontested and unnoticed by public at large.

Quite unsurprisingly, on the first anniversary, many tall claims were made by the impudent Government of India on how security has been beefed up, how they remember the martyrs, the grief that they share with everyone and also that “we will not rest till we bring down the culprits”. An icing on the cake came from US – “If Pakistan does not remove LeT, we will!” – an ostentatious statement to pacify the Indian Prime Minister visiting USA, juxtaposed with talks of “India being important in the world map” – an effort to clandestine the ulterior motive of the visit.

Is writing blogs, calling for candle light marches or giving peace speeches enough to overlook what the families of the 173 people, who died in the attacks, are going through? What all steps has India – Government, people, you and I taken to ensure that such attacks do not repeat in the future? Sadly, the state elections was a reflection of our ‘ignorance is bliss’ attitude. As countrymen, statesmen, residents, we have a few fundamental rights like safety and security which needs to be demanded and expected by us from whom we elect as our representatives. If we continue to fail doing our duty, how do we expect the people we elect to fulfill theirs?

From the Government’s standpoint, a specific agency needs to be appointed to look after the security of the Mumbai coast, with superior armaments and adequate gear to counter such attacks. This agency should be directly responsible for all security lapses on the coast, with harsh punishment with respect to any lapse whatsoever. A special budgetary allowance needs to be put in place for providing adequate personnel and ammunition to guard our Indian coastline. Unfortunately, the Indian political system is too centered around their votes by pleasing farmers and the masses at the cost of the security of the lives of people in the metropolitan cities. In a country which has more than 42% people still residing below the poverty line, time and again there are “scams unearthed” worth thousands of crores a la Koda.

Last year we were lucky not to be at the spots where the attacks happened. Next time it could be us, it could be a well known multiplex, it could be any well known public spot. And we may not live to tell the tale of our great escape. JAGO INDIA JAGO!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Elections 2009: “Veil” done Congress! “Veil” done Media!

Indian News channels, the epicenter of the burgeoning Indian TV Industry, need to be adequately represented in the annual Star Plus Awards in the ‘Best Television Soap’ category. Truly, they have learnt the art of attracting viewers and generating TRPs better than the ‘Saas-Bahu’ serials of Balaji Telefims.

The Maharashtra State Assembly Elections, October 2009 have taken centre stage since 2-3 weeks now, with a unique build-up to the elections competing against the build up to the Champions League garnering the TRPs.

In the Assembly elections held every 5 years, Mumbai is represented by 36 assembly constituencies, out of a total of 288. A Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) to the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) is elected from each of the assembly constituencies. It is hardly a surprise that all parties focus on Mumbai for elections, Mumbai accounting for a significant share of the seats.

For the oblivious and incognizant Mumbaikars, while slum pockets in Mumbai cover a mere 6% of the land, they hold a staggering 60% of the population (2006 estimates). Dharavi, Asia's 2nd largest slum is located in central Mumbai and houses 800,000 people. The number of migrants to Mumbai from outside Maharashtra during the 1991–2001 decade was 1.12 million, which amounted to 54.8% of the net addition to the population of Mumbai (this is where the famous “Marathi manus” campaign springs up).

It is hardly a surprise then that Election Candidates conduct rallies and ask for support from the average Middle Class Mumbaikar (in the eastern suburbs and in maidans where you or me would never go), with no concern for the Upper Middle Class or the educated class of society. A day before D-Day, I inquisitively asked my servant and maid whom they intended to vote for. To my utter disbelief, they had a common answer and knew everything about the candidate they wanted to vote for! On prying further, I was told that a very senior person from Congress had personally come and given Rs.20,000/- per vote to every single family in the village / area where they reside. This is where the maximum amount of so called “Election budgets” is spent on, getting votes by hook or by crook. Does our vote really matter? Would it really make a difference to them if you or me go and cast our vote?

It’s a big “veil” cast around our eyes by the Indian Media, where TRPs and readership is all that matters. So while our TV channels and newspapers debate over “higher voter turnout” and “lower voter turnout” statistics with views from totally unrelated public figures and snapshots of leading film-stars hogging the limelight, we – the core educated intelligent “upper middle class” and “middle class” of Mumbai – take long weekends off and refrain from voting, well aware that our votes would scarcely make a difference. On the other hand, the political parties make “Mumbai migration” a chief issue for their election campaign, just to please the people from whom they will get the maximum votes, the slum dwellers. I often wonder, why hasn’t the issue of the ever rising Bangladeshis into Mumbai been highlighted by any channel or political party in their campaigns? Simply because they are the voter bank!

So what is the solution for this “epidemic”? Should we ignore our “fundamental right” and let things go on forever the way they are? Not voting doesn’t help anyone. At the same time, we need to realize that by simply exercising our right to vote does not help either. Together we need to create awareness of these facts in the minds of the 60% to 70% population in whose hands our future lies. There need to be mass awareness campaigns by leading industrial groups in India.

All large stakeholders in society – whether employers, society leaders, opinion leaders, film personalities, etc. – need to spread awareness on the various political parties, who all are standing for elections and represent these parties, from which district are they contesting, what is their background, what track record do they have in leadership, how are they capable of running our nation, amongst other details. We need to remove the farce negative image of elections from the minds of the people in general. The importance of our vote needs to come from within, and no advertisement or person can force you to come and cast your vote.

As a step forward, the government should also look at making certain educational qualifications like Masters mandatory for Electoral candidates, to bring in the next generation of educated youth to run the country. No steps or solutions are full-proof, but the above steps if implemented, should go a long way in addressing the permanent issue of lower voter turnouts amongst the educated youth in India.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Its a Shame!

Its now almost 7 months since the Mumbai attacks… 210 days, 5000 hours! And the result: Indian Media Industry has managed to salvage some money after what has been a dismal year for them, through continuous coverage on the event.

The candles have burnt away, the “we will not give up” cries have grown dimmer, and as expected, yet again the common Mumbaikar gets back to life. The other day, I met a client of mine and he was joking “I just came out of a meeting at Taj, and while I was there I was just hoping that no bomb blast takes place!” I am still wondering.. haven’t we contributed towards the brutal massacre ourselves?

After 6 months of “god knows what” evidence exchange between India and Pakistan (this is despite clear cut snaps of Kasab opening fire on the people, the boat coming from Pakistan, Kasab accepting that he is a Pakistani, we need to prove to Pakistan that he is a Pakistani!) and endless trials and sessions in court, Kasab finally admits that he was the culprit and that he is ready to be hanged and seeks no mercy. It’s a big black spot on India. It’s shameful to be part of such a country. What I fail to understand is that a man who was part of India’s greatest terror attack ever, is still alive and has the audacity to come in court more than 210 days after the event that “I seek no mercy. Hang me”

Also, there is a mystery surrounding this confession, there is something which is not right. Just how did things change overnight after the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani officials? Was there a compromise deal which was struck somewhere? Alas, no one will ever come to know the evils of Indian politics.

As for us, we will continue to live life under terrorism, life under threat from Pakistan and life under “security breeches or lax in security” from the Indian government. Its quite an irony that the confession comes on a day which is the darkest day in over 140 years, not just for India but across the globe.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Ghajinitic" changes required

Its more than a month since the Mumbai attacks happened. The memories hardly seem to fade away; the scars are deeper than the ones on Aamir Khan's forehead in Ghajini; the hatred 10 times more than Sanjay Singhania. But alas! The difference remains! Its real life v/s the reel life.. and the story ends there. The steam seems to be running out of the "fight against terrorism" campaigns in India; 1000s of NGOs have come forth to help raise our voice, committees are put in place, people have protested through candle marches, signature campaigns and what does our government do? replace the outspoken RR Patil with a "effervescent" personality, Mr. Chagan Bhujbal, whose outstanding track record speaks for himself. And not to say the least - India has more or less finally concluded that Kasab is indeed a Pakistani - congratulations India. Now we need to start convincing the world and Pakistan of it!

Sometimes, I really wonder, while US leaders are MBAs from top-notch schools, the Indian leaders arent far behind when it comes to exceling in their qualifications, just that the benchmarks are different. Rape, Murder, Scams, etc. are only the most obvious one of those! People say India is today not a part of the 3rd world nation. Analysts bring forth statistics showing India to be the amongst the top economies of the world. For once everyone is ready to believe that India has truly come of age. Yet we continue to have similar people leading our country since the last 51 years, exposing the truth about the veiled face of "New India".

Unfortunately, none steps being taken currently are aimed at restoring peace and harmony in India. Whatever has been done will ensure that time is bought till next elections and that sooner or later people will forget about the incident as a cruel act of terrorism, only to resurface a year later when the next event happens.

Should India do an Israel to eradicate terrorism from India? A few touch questions need to be asked here. I guess India needs the 8 packs of Aamir Khan to muscle its way into the "Gang's hideout". Otherwise the government would need to solely rely on Indians having a "short term memory loss" syndrome to avoid any uncomfortable situation arising for them at the elections!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Mumbai Siege Ends: Or Does it??

The Mumbai Siege Ends: Or Does it??

They say the Mumbai siege has ended; all remaining hostages have been rescued. The hotels are now ‘in control’ of the Indian forces. From what were once ‘epitome of Mumbai’s riches’ have turned to mere ‘edifices of stone’. The face of Mumbai’s metropolitan area has changed; add to it the rashes of smoke with black spots on the Taj Mahal hotel that will remind us of this day for eons to come.

The event has seen the death of some of the bravest soldiers India has produced – Mumbai underworld still shakes with the names of ATS chief Karkare and Salaskar; fallen victim to deceit by the terrorists. This is apart from the 100s of innocent lives which have been lost, families of whom are left gasping with disbelief and anguish with what has happened at the most high class locations in Mumbai.

Once again (as time and again has happened) “The spirit of Mumbai” continues to rule; people are back on the roads, back to their offices and back to business to overcome the gouge left behind by what has transpired over the last 3-4 days.

Once again, the Government sets-up meetings to review what has happened, to condemn the actions, urge people to “unite against terrorism” and to “take steps so that this does not repeat in the future”.

Once again, the opposition party takes full advantage of this moment, condemning the actions of the ruling party, ensuring that they gain maximum coverage and pinpoint the “irresponsibility” shown by the ruling party – it’s a different issue what actions they would have taken in similar circumstances had they been in power.

Is it the end of the story? Will something finally be done about the matter by those in power? Sadly, there seems to be no end to the phenomenal rise of the Jehadis across the globe. I am not a critic or an expert, but I feel the experts need to do something drastic; some unprecedented event needs to take place to take control of the situation.

Otherwise what is the “biggest act of terror in Indian history” will become the benchmark for many to come. Once again the sense of “déjà vu” will prevail in the minds of the Mumbaiites. From “hope it does not happen again” people will chant “hope I am not a part of it the next time it happens”. The world will never be free of all atrocities, but let us not become preachers of "Destiny" when there can be a more logical solution to it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mumbai rocks!!

Do you feel that Mumbai rocks? OR that the city is the best place to live in?? OR want to talk about the most hot and happening topics in the city??

Come! Share your views!

The City of dreams - or is it??

Many call Mumbai the place to be in.. the city never sleeps.. its a common man's dream to live in Mumbai.. but are we as citizens ensuring that we let the trend continue for aeons to come??

Come.. express your frustration and share your experiences!