Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Freedom annexed.

The terrorists have done it. The have anhillated the freedom of speech from India. They have won. They have won over India's soul. They have converted the government at the center to one of their own miserable totalitarian regimes, fueled by hate and intolerance to anything even bordering on the free.

Banning blogs is so Talibanic an act that one cannot but worry. India is an example of the fact that developing countries can still live by the guiding principles of developed nations . Freedom of speech is something that keeps the morale of the people high. A government that allows itself to be cursed is a government that can be loved genuinely. This ban reinforces the age-old sterotype: Indians cannot take criticism of any sort. And it also tells us: Dr Singh should have paid more attention in his high-school civics class, especially when they were talking of fundamental rights. That might have saved us this embarassing moment of spotlight in the world press.

Democracy is something that India loves. Remember what happened to Indira Gandhi in the elections after that paranoid farce called "the emergency"? A defeat that reinforced the very notions that the nation was built now. Our system really works. If the government ever becomes a Taliban, WE WILL BOOT IT OUT. Dr. Singh: you're on notice.

But the current trend is massively disconcerting. It is not beyond the realms of likelihood that laws will be passed by the government to force women behind the terrible purdah, to encourage mutilation of petty theives, to condone intolerance, to have big-brotheresqe public execusions in public stadia.

Perhaps Orwell should have written a book in Hindi called " Do Hazzar Cheh".

Of course, only three blogs have been blocked by the government. Not such a big deal, really. But I'd like to know who gets to decide which blogs are to be blocked. Must be one smart-ass. He thinks he's better than us?

Have I said enough to be banned? Will I be arrested if I make a trip home? Or will the government actually tolerate my blog? Or will it not know about my blog because very few people read it and acutally not do anything? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Return of Terror

Every couple of months or so, India seems to have a tryst with terror. Innocent people die for no fault of theirs; the cities descend into a state of more chaos than usual; international media takes notice; politicians derive political mileage.

And in a day or so, India bounces back; as if nothing ever happened. People are scared, no doubt; but feeding the family is imperative. India is a patient nation. It does not bomb the living daylights out of Pakistan. Nations such as Israel (and my host nation, for one) would have let the Pakistanis have it, if they were in India's unenviable shoes..

Yesterday's blasts should act as a rude wake up call to India. Tackling terror should become a political priority. Reason seldom works with Terrorists. If it did, then they would probably be bank clerks or mathematicians or something. You can't address their real concern.

Intellegence is certainly one soultion, but that's easier said than done. Another solution is surveillance. All railway cars and railway should be under 24 x 7 surveillance by the police. Crowded streets, street-sides, pavements, vegetable markets - anywhere lots of people accumulate must be under permanent surveillance. Suspicious people can be traced, events can be investigated if not prevented entirely.

We need to take a leaf out the US's book, as well as from Britain. The US enforces really tough security laws. Getting such bombs into any US town would be almost impossible - especially large ones! Mumbai security on the other hand is really lax. Something that needs some urgent looking into.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Great Migration

It was the biggest migration of people ever; an unprecedented event. It happened continuously between the years 2029 and 2037. The demographic distribution of India changed suddenly; a change that brought along with it both hope and sorrow; a change that many people felt was imminent, given nature's tendency to equalize.

The seeds of this were sown back in 1991, when Manmohan Singh, then India's finance minister did the inevitable: he liberalized the economy. Foreign investement came in, lifted parts of India from a stagnant rut of inefficiency and corruption. Peninsular India, given its lower population densities (and its higher literacy rate) responded way sooner than North India to this sudden stimulus. South India developed at a whooping 11% every year; North India at a slower 6% (bringing the overall rate to 8%).

So, the Inevitable happened. The states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and certain North-Eastern states had excellent individual macro-economic indicators. South India became a cultural and Industrial hub. The Tamil and the Telugu film Industries put together made more money than the Hindi film Industry. Population in the southern states began to saturate; poverty started going down - and soon extreme poverty became history. Life expectancy began to tough the 70s.

The Indian cricket team began to be dominated by people from the South. A private company called "southern sport" started a regional cricket league, where 20-20 matches were played between cities. Matches between Mumbai and Bangalore became a significant fixture.

Dharavi, formerly Asia's largest slum colony in Mumbai had disintegrated. High rises replaced the slums; labourers lived in centrally air conditioned homes in sea of humidity that Mumbai is. Even Chennai grew in popularity. Hyderabad had hosted the olympics, India had won sixteen gold medals in the same. Universities in South India had gained international repute; Chennai itself housed 8 Nobel Laureates.

Up North, things were miserable, save the Delhi Region, which housed lots of call centers for the people down south. Delhi was the world's largest urban agglomeration now; It had overtaken Tokyo recently in 2029. People from all over North India used to come to Delhi for Jobs. North India had a lot of mines - and the miners in Bihar lived in slums. North India's population, in stark contrast with South India was still on the upswing. Nearly 800 million of India's 1.4 billion hailed from Bihar, UP, Uttaranchal, Chattisgharh and MP. Finding a job was tougher.

Down south, migrant labourers from the North started finding jobs that paid well. They could easily support their families up north. Students from the North applied to universities in the south; and were more often than not, accepted with financial assistance. The economy of the south consistently grew faster than the North.

A massive influx (100 million or so) of Hindi speaking people to the south of the Arravalis meant a permanent change in India's demographic make-up. Laws were passed to stem this migration; but were soon negated by the supreme court. A cultural dilution of massive proportion took place.

India is now a more homogenous, if not happier place.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

We Love a Boring Game

This is a re-hashed version of an old post. Self Plagiarism?
This has been posted due to its pertinence; and also due to the fact that very few people will actually read the original post now, since it is buried in the bowels of this blog, a region as inaccessible as - Alpha Centauri for the average humanoid from Earth.

It takes two hours for a foot-ball match to happen.
It takes roughly the same time for a basketball match to occur.
Tennis matches seldom take more than the same couple of hours.
But cricket, in its purest form, takes five days. Its "shorter" form takes a day.

India is in love with cricket; like it is in love with no other game. Football is popular in pockets (and in the upper middle class); tennis is elitist; basket ball is unheard of.

India ( a nation of 1,00,00,000 people) pins its hopes on 15 people. These 15 people are celebrities. And to get to be one of the 15 people, one needs to be a bloody genius.

Sports is certainly not a career option for any Indian. There is no money in sports; there is very little incentive for the poor person to actually try to be a part of any sporting team. With a success rate of 15 / 10000000, only an idiot would not err on the side of safety. Only an Idiot (or a very rich guy) would harbour notions of playing for India one fine day. Playing state level will not put enough in your wallet.

If India wants out of this rut, then India will have do one of the following:

1. Discard cricket as the de-facto national game. Foot-ball seems promising?
2. Change cricket to a more compact, watchable format. Turn games between states and cities into popular commercial ventures. Make people of Tamil Nadu (say) cheer for their team in the stadium / at home. Games between Mumbai and Delhi should elicit similar emotions that games Between India and Pakistan do. A more interesting game will draw more viewers; more advertising opportunities; better salaries; better talent - and finally a team that no one can beat.

And don't say that the Indian is poor. Don't say that he cannot afford to watch these matches. He watches movies, doesn't he? He watches regional TV channels, doesn't he? The viewership market in middle class India is Tremendously undertapped.

I tell you, we're sitting on a goldmine here. We're still in the License-Raj era of sports in India. The rules of cricket need some liberalization. It will take an equivalent of Manmohan Singh to do something. Perhaps we could take our humiliation by the West Indies as a balance of payments crisis.

Sherry, are you listening, or has the fat lady sung for Indian sport?