Monday, July 17, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I Please - 2

Bits and Pieces – As I Please - 2

Choice between two truths: - The Presidential election is scheduled to be held on July 17, 2017. The two main candidates in the election are – Ram Nath Kovind of the ruling NDA and Meira Kumar of the opposition UPA. Both the candidates, to my mind, fully fit the bill and if elected will do justice to the coveted position of the President of India.  It is unfortunate that the main stream of the society and the media are, consciously or otherwise, giving a
caste colour to the election as both the candidates are dalits. It is obvious that the political outfits on both the sides have named these two dalit worthies for the top constitutional job on considerations of vote bank. But let it be. We are a democratic country and vote banks have a definite role in the system. It is interesting to note that the choice is between the two truths – Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar, both highly qualified and capable to adorn the high office of the President of India.  K.R. Narayanan was said to be the first dalit President of India. Of course he was a dalit but he was one of the best Presidents of India. Gopalkrishna Gandhi who is the UPA candidate for the post of Vice President of India worked as Secretary to President K.R. Narayanan and has recently written, “We need a President like Narayanan” He has narrated a dialogue between Mahatma Gandhi and K.R. Narayanan when Narayanan was just 25 and I quote “He (Narayanan) had just been awarded a Tata scholarship and was going to London. ‘You have simplified for us the choice between truth and untruth’, he asked, ‘but what would you advise when the choice is not between truth and untruth?  And, when in England I am asked about the untouchability issue in India, should I reply as an Indian or a Harijan?’  The election of Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar is a choice between two truths. Whosoever makes it to the high 0ffice of the President of India will have to prove him or herself. Given the electoral realities, it seems that Ram Nath Kovind will occupy the Rashtrapati Bhawan by the last week of July, 2017. I believe, he will fully justify the choice and hold the trust as visualized by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, “A president who can speak bitter truths like that (referring to Narayanan) is the President India needs, be he or she Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Dalit, OBC, Brahmin, political or non-political.” The truth has been sealed in the ballot boxes today.

The Argumentative Indian – Documentary on Amartya Sen:- The news about the Censor Board’s objections to a few words in the documentary film, The Augumentative Indian,  on the Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, is disturbing in the prevailing general impression that the government and the society at large was getting intolerant to dissent and other points of view. The CBFC required the filmmaker, Suman Ghosh, to beep out or mute words such as Gujarat, Cow, Hindutava view of India and Hindu India used by Amartya Sen in the narration of the documentary.  Suman Ghosh is not ready to agree to the dictates of the CBFC and rightly so. How will it help? In any case, the matter is already in the media. Moreover, Amartya Sen is “one of the greatest minds of our times”, as stated by Suman Ghosh. No one should doubt and challenge this standing of Amartya Sen. It has been reported that Chairman of CBFC, Pahlaj Nihalani has defended their action by saying, “here is the reason why – because we felt that a documentary on an Indian Nobel Laureate referring insensitively to our politics and religion could result in serious breach of peace.” It seems a gross case of stupidity to undermine both Amartya Sen and the Indian people. Are we living in a civilized society under democratic dispensation or some sort of dictatorship?
I wrote this piece yesterday. Meanwhile, Natwar Singh, my inspiration to write ‘Bits and Pieces’ has pleased himself and his readers on the subject in Sundays Tribune. I please myself by quoting Natwar Singh:-
Several newspapers have made fun of the CBFC. One editorial says, “Exactly what does the ‘Hindutva view of India’ have in common with, ‘bastard, saale and haramzade’”. The headline in another editorial is “Censor Board on Rampage”. A third one says, “By a thousand cuts”. Another editorial’s heading is “Censoring Sen outrageous.”Amartya Sen has taken a philosophical view, “even those who do not have an iota of interest in him will now see the documentary”. Amartya Sen is a man of undisputed learning, character, courage and lively charm.”

Meanwhile before this is posted in my blog, yet another controversy in the name of freedom of expression and danger to peace and harmony has come up – the Congress party objecting to Madhur Bhandarkar’s film ‘Indu Sarkar’ – a film said to be on the emergency imposed by PM Indira Gandhi in 1975. What is the problem? Many films have already been made and many books have been written on the subject. Let it be one more. People of India and the world at large know the role and contribution of Indira Gandhi to the Indian politics and society.

Grin and beer it with cheers:- The July 17, 2017 issue of the Outlook magazine has carried a brief story on Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to promote low alcohol and locally produced beer as it is a healthier option than other forms of liquor. I think this decision makes a lot of sense and other states should understand and follow suit. Good drinking water is not available in most parts of the country and also to the poor masses. It is advisable to urge people to drink low alcohol beer or wine instead of hard drinks. It is difficult to change drinking habits of people. This decision to promote low alcohol drinks will not only save people from undrinkable water but also satisfy their psychological urge to drink. Popularity and availability of non-alcoholic beer and wine in some of the Arab and Islamic countries also ready availability of low alcoholic content beers and wines in Scandinavian countries is a good example in this regard.

Prohibition as a policy has failed not only in India but also in other countries. Prohibition, to my mind, is hypocrisy of human mind. In the 20th century, it failed in Europe, Americas and many countries in the developed world. Spiritual or moralistic convictions of various religions are the root cause of prohibition. But the consumption of alcohol has not come down and it cannot be stopped altogether, it appears.

In India, ancient scriptures like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and Vedas find mention of alcoholic beverages like Sura. The Ayurvedic texts recognize potency of alcohol for medical purposes. The constitution of India stipulates in its Article 47 under the chapter Directive Principles of State Policy – Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health. It says, inter alia, “The state shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medical purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.”  I think consumption of alcohol particularly low degree beers and wines consumed in temperance are not injurious to health. This is what the ancient Ayurvedic and modern medical science say. The
State has to play a role in leaving this unrealistic approach of general prohibition and end this hypocrisy. People shall be advised and educated about the good points of temperance and drinking culture. In India, people tend to drink to satisfy their inner and natural urges but not socially and in the family. They drink stealthily and that too hurriedly. It is not good. The nutritional and medicinal value of alcoholic drinks is lost in the process which leads to many social and health problems. The state governments in India are interested in easy revenue from excise duty and other taxes on alcoholic drinks. They are not interested in social and health considerations. They are also not interested in what the poor masses drink. One can see the hypocrisy and willful exploitation in Punjab. The listed and written retail price of a bottle of beer is something like Rs. 85/- but the retailers are selling it for not less than Rs.150-180/-. The rich who can afford may drink but what about the poor? They are condemned to drink spurious and harmful spirits. I read some years before that Punjab had started producing good quantity of grapes which were more suitable for making wines which would cost less than the cost of a bottle of Coca-cola. What is the problem? Let people drink beer or wine with low degree of alcoholic content and save them from undrinkable water. With this the intention of the Directive Principle of State Policy mentioned above will be taken care of in a more meaningful way.

Without comment:-

“PM Modi’s visit (to Israel) dispels the usual guilt-ridden trepidation in engaging Israel), as Indian policy in West Asia shifts to pragmatism”

Ambassador K.C. Singh in an article in the Outlook magazine (July 17, 2017 issue.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bits and Pieces – As I please

Bits and Pieces – As I please

I am a regular follower of a much senior IFS colleague and former EAM, Kunwar Natwar Singh. Natwar Singh is an erudite scholar
and a writer. I immensely enjoy reading his regular column ‘As I please’ in the Tribune. Taking a cue from this, I have decided to try my hand to write and make brief comments on matters of current importance and interest. This is the first such attempt.

Prof. Jagdish Chander Joshi of Jalandhar - It is one and a half year since February, 2016, I met Prof. Jagdish Chander Joshi at a lecture on India- Pakistan Relations delivered by Ambassador Sharat Sabharwal at DAV College in Jalandhar under
the aegis of Prof. Manohar Lal Sondhi Memorial Trust. It was nice to meet this son of the soil who is actively associated with the intellectual and educational life in and around Jalandhar.  I again met him at the second lecture in the series in February, 2017 on India China Relations delivered by yet another Indian diplomat, Ambassador Ashok Kantha.  In the process, we became friends by succumbing to the natural human urge of mutual respect and regard. Our common friend Ambassador Bal Anand, also an alumnus of DAV College Jalandhar further cemented our bonds of friendship. Prof. Joshi is not only an academician of high caliber but also a prolific writer on matters of interest and concern pertaining to contemporary political and social history. He is a scholar of Urdu language and a poet of sorts. He impressed me further by his down to earth but very humble manners and conduct. I am a little slow in taking initiative to carry forward the connection and friendship. Prof. Joshi, though much senior to me on all counts, thoughtfully fills the gap by talking on phone. We remain on track. He keeps me alert and alive with regard to matters of current importance.  Last week, we exchanged notes on the on-going face off between Indian and Chinese armies at Doklam, the tri-junction of India- China and Bhutan. One pertinent question was raised by Prof Joshi. If China does not recognize Sikkim as an integral part of India, why should India recognize Tibet as a part of China?  It is a difficult question to answer in the current scenario. Isn’t it? Prof. Jagdish Joshi is a treasure trove of knowledge. I would tend to educate myself by interacting with him in the days to come.

Grammar of anarchy: - Retired IPS and ADGP of UP, S.R. Darapuri along with his associates was arrested by the UP police at the Lucknow Press Club premises where they were to meet and
address a press conference with regard to the law and order situation and recent incidents of atrocities on dalits in UP and the country at large.  I know Darapuri sahib and interact with him on social media almost daily. He is a dignified and responsible member of the society. Whatever he would do, I think, would not be out of context and senseless. Darapuri sahib knows the law and the system. Obviously, in a democratic country, he is entitled to his views and their expression as guaranteed by the constitution.  What is the problem? Why the administration and government should get perturbed? Do they intend to kill the dissenting voice? Why the so called vocal and free media has not taken due notice of this? It is shameful. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s warning of pushing our polity to “Grammar of anarchy” if democratic methods are not adopted to run the country immediately came to my mind. May the saner elements take over and save the country?

Aap Ki Adalat – It is a weekly show of Rajat Sharma on India TV with considerable following. The participants (main accused) in the Aap Ki Adaat easily make ‘Who is who’ of the elite segments of the society. Last week (July 8-9, 2017), Kashmiri separatist leader
Yasin Malik was in the Box (Katgaraha) to face questions. Obviously, the show was of topical interest in view of the prevailing situation in J&K. Yasin Malik is a leader of Kashmir by his own right. It was confirmed by his conduct and articulation. Rajat Sharma, Janta’s advocate, and also the audience clearly failed to pin-down Yasin Malik, I felt. We may not like his views on the Kashmir issue but he made of lot of sense. Interestingly, the show was edited to such an extent that the ‘Judgment’ by the Judge Journalist Naqvi was not shown and the show was abruptly closed. May be Judge Naqvi’s comments were not soothing to the ears of Anchor Rajat Sharma and the audience. Is it not a self inflicted censorship?

Without comment:

“It is one thing to glorify a professional soldier dying while doing his job, wrapping him in the national flag and carrying his corpse on our shoulders shouting slogans, and quite another to see our cities, small towns, farms, factories and schools turn into a wasteland. No war is worth misery, particularly with neighbours, because they always remain neighbours and every fresh layer of hostility will only add to bitterness that will last beyond generations. It is no surprise that the Chinese chose to remind us of 1962. Every war is a milestone in memory. I wish would never have to experience a war or an earthquake or a riot.”

Rajesh  Ramachandran, Editor-in-Chief of The Outlook (July 17, 2017 issue).