Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Durga Shakti Nagpal: An IAS officer suspended for doing her job

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

In several of my blogs I have drawn attention to the criminalization of politics in India, particularly in the state of Uttar Prasesh which has elected a Samajwadi party as its single largest party. Mulayam Singh Yadava, the strong man of the party appointed his son Akilesh Yadava as the Chief Minister and this young man presides over a government in which  crimnals with serious crimes to their names were appointed Ministers. The case in point is the Rajput criminal, Raja Bhaiya who is known to be a thug operating in eastern UP, the bad lands of the state. There is a story, I wish it were not true, that this man feeds his enemies to crocodiles reared in a pond in his extensive "kotti" or bunglow. The Samajwadi party like its predecessor in power the Bahujan Samaj  Party under Mawawati is steeped in caste warfare and criome. The social base of the Yadava dominated Samajwadi Party is of courase the Yadavas, the Muslims, the Mallas and the intermediate caste. The poximity to the national capital has made NOIDA or Gautham Buddha Nagar an important centre for the booming real estate mafia. It may be woth recalling that Neera Yadava, the former Chairman of the NOIDA Development Authority an IAS officer is presently under conviction for crimes of bribery and misuse of power when she was in charge of the land development in the same district in which Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal was posted as Senoior Divisional Magistrate.

This young woman was palced under ssuspension two days back for having shown the courage in taking on the sand mafia. The term sand mafia may appear ridiculous to a western audience. However, given the building boom in New Delhi and Noida, river sand which is mixed with cement in order to make building concrete is in huge demand. The sand mafia was using sand dumpers to excavate sand from the dry river bed of the Yamuna and was selling it at a huge profit to the real estate dealers. The nexus between party members of the Samajwadi Party, the local power elites consisting of the usual Thyagis and Yadavas, and the real estate developers was so strong that when this young woman stated seizing the sand dumpers and confiscating the sand, the yelps from the yadava criminals soon reached Lucknow. Akileh Yadava, the son of Mulayam Singh immediately ordered the suspension of the woman who showed some courage. What is really surprising is that a week back I wrote in a comment in Times of India that this woman is taking on criminals and she is asking for trouble. And exactly as I predicted Durga Nagpal was suspended.

In western countries the officialdom is not takken to task for carrying out the law and implementing policy. The young woman was following the instruction of the Supreme Court of India which has laid down a strict policy of government regulation of sand mining because of its environmental hazards. Durga Nagpal perhaps thought that having the Supreme Court verdict on her side would strengthen her position. However, Akilesh Yadava's government resorted to a crude ruse inorder to have the officer placed under suspension. Citing law and order problems, the criminals of the Samajwadi party tries to give an "identity" colour to the issue by saying that Muslims were being targetted. This line was contradicted even by the local police. Thus, when people elect criminals to power one can expect anything and the suspension of Durga Nagpal shows the depths to which civil administration has sunk in India. In the neighboring state of Haryana, another IAS officer, Khemka who exposed the shady real estate deals of Robert Vadra, the son in law of Soniaji, faces similar problems.

The IAS Officers rallied to the support of the officer and even put out a feeble statment. However, the rot in Indian politics is so deep that honesty does not pay and hopefully in the next elections people of India will show more intelligence in their voting parrern.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rock Art Exibition in Pondicherry

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Indira Gandhi Nation Center for the Arts in association with Pondicherry University organized an exhibition of Rock Art on the campus of the University. Rock Art seems to be a fascinating area of research and the University has a well known scholar in the field of Rock art in Andhra Pradesh. The exhibition was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of Pondicherry University, Prof (Mrs) Chandra Krishnamurthy. She spoke eloquently about the importance of rack art as an aspect of Indian cultural heritage. The exibition on Rock painting contained select pieces from all all over India. The discovery of the Bhimbetka caves by Dr Wakankar in 1957 put India on the world map of rock art studies and the 450 sites associated with the Bhibetka complex of sites are inscribed as World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
The inauguration of the Rock Art Exhibition by the Vice Chancellor and the Director of the French Institute of Pondicherry, Prof. Pierre Grard was followed by a extensive collection of of impressive pieces of rock paintings from all over the world.

This is an abstract representation of a figure from Central India. Done with natural pigments, the ochre coloured art works are usually regraded as being earlier than rock art in white colour.

Stick figures in serried ranks shows that the paleolithic age when rock art was crated there was a rudimentary sense of social organization. A group like the one illustrated above imples some sort of hierarchy and social organization.

The early rock art which is found in India depicts only animals. We do not get any representations of flora in them. Were animals depeicted as a part of ritual to increase the hunt by praying to the goddess of fertility. This question is naturally raised when we look at the social purpose behind rock art.

The Vice Chancellor going round the hall which displayed the photographs of rock paintings. Pondicherry University is fortunate to have a very enlightened Vice Chancellor who is not only interested in the academic well being of the University, but is also helping the University scale new heights.

The INGCA also conducted a  painting competition as part of the exhibition and the children of Kendriya Vidyalaya participated in the competition.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Noon meal Tragedy in Bihar: Callousness and Mis Governance

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Two days dack, in a village Chapra located 65 kilometers from the capital Patna 25 schoolg children all below the age of 11 died after having taken their mid day meals in school. In India, the mid day meal is a major incentive for families from poorer sections of society to send their children to school. Origally conceived in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu by the Cheif Minister M G Ram,achandran, the mid day meal program caught on and even in the mis governed states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar this welfare scheme is presently underway. The fiances for the scheme are part of the state budget and the school appoints a cook and an attender to run the mid day meal programme.

However, in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh there is massive corruption even in this scheme. In fact Bihar has the dubious distinction of having had a Chief Minister, laloo Prasad Yadava who was caught taking the money ear marked for animal welfare. The now infamous Fodder Scam is reaching its final stages in the courts and will end up convicting laloo Prasad Yadava. Even athug like this Laloo Prasad was not able to kill all the 347 witnesses. The current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, a past master in the old style identity politics rode to power on the strength of a very fragile social coalition consisting of intermediate caste, landed caste and the higher castes. After taking over the reins of government for the second time, Nitish Kumar began to feel the weight of his victory, but interpreted it as an endorsement of his personal "charisma". And this wrong and ill conceived notion was his undoing.

The tragedy in Bihar took place only because of mis governance. The last 2 years the state administration has been paralyzed due to national ambitions of Nitish Kumar. Ever since he declared his opposition to the Prime Ministerial candidature of Honnourable Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar regime has been floundering. Corruption, mal administration, scams and scandals have become the order of the day. The death of the 22 school children is a testimony to the plight of Bihar under Nitish Kumar.

The shocking facts have emerged from the news reports. The food itmes for preparing the noon meals were sourced from the shop of the husband of the Head Mistress of the school, a man who as it turns out is an activist of the Rasshtrya Janata dal whose leader is the fodder scam accused, :Laloo Prasad Yadava. The shameless state government sought to shift the blame to the RJD by implying that the RJD wasbehind the tragedy in order to undermine the regime of Nitish Kumar. The level to which politics has sunk in India can be understood from the fact that the Government refuses to see the tragedy as one caused by itts own failures, but is quick to see political conspiracies everywhere. Corruption in the mid day meal scheme is the real factor.

Even after the children took ill, it took over six hours for the children to be shited to the Primary Health Centre and there there was no nurse or doctor and there were no drips to provide immediate releif. This sate of affairs prevailing in Bihar is a national shame and  people must realise that identity politics will lead to the grave as it did for the 22 children

The World Bank and the IMF have given loans, soft loans to Bihar but the utilization of these loans is so poor that the international funding agencies are now wary of giving loans to Bihar. The country as a whole has slid backwards under the rule of the Congress Party and its allies and if India needs better Governence it must vote for change..

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Storm over Narendra Modi 's Interview

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The outrage industry is hard at work once again: pouring out anger, invective, hatred and scorn at the emerging national persona of Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Taking sentences out of context, distorting the meaning of his sentences and putting words into his mouth, the apologists of the Congress Party like Shoma Choudhary, the notorious Abhishek Manu Singvi, Sanjay Jha and scores of Congress friendly "intellectuals" came flooding to TV studios to have their fifteen minutes of fame. They tried to suggest that Naredra Modi had overreached himself and had exposed his "communal" ideology. The riots of 2002 are always brought out when the Chief Minister of Guharat is discussed. However what is ignored deliberatelyy is that the Supreme Court if India has monitored the investigations into the 2002 Riots and has declared Modi absolutely free of any fault either of omission or commission.

The liberals who vent their fury at Narendra Modi seem to forget that the Congress party organised the largest masscre of Indians in the post Independence period when in 1984 Congress workers led by Sahhan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, Lalith Makken and scores of other Delhi based politicians attacked Sikhs all over New Delhi and other parts of North India and killed 5,000 Sikhs in Delhi alone. The count of the dead in the rest of North India is not known. Yet these very liberals are silent in the issue of Congress complicity in the 1984 riots and earlier in the Bhagalpur riots ibn which nearly 1,500 men and women were killed. The reason why they vent their spleen on Narendra modi os only to polorise the electorate and harvest Muslim votes. Unfortunatley, the people of India have not forgotten 1984 and the Congress has neither expressed its anguish over the killings nor has the party apologised for the rampage of 1984. Yet when it comes to Gujarat the Congress men like to pose as if their hands are clean when in fact it is dripping with blood and the stains are there for all to see.

Certain remarks made by Modi have beeb twisted out of shape. Modi described himself as a "patriot", a "nationalist" and finally as a "hindu nationlist". The votaries of the fake secularism jumped at the last label and accused him of being divisive. What Modi meant was that he has a vision of India founded on the values and traditions that are associated with Sanathana Dharma and that forms the inspiration for his statecraft. There is nothing divisive or even politically damaging in this statement. Since he was speaking in Hindi, the Congressmen have created a good deal of confusion by deliberately distorting his remarks. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that Hinduism is not a religion but onlyn a way of life and therefore what Modi has said by no stretch of the imagination can be termed "communal".

During the course of the interview, Modi referred to the pain he felt when even a small puppy is killed by being run over by a car. This remark was made in the context of the pain he felt for the suffering of the people of Gujarat during the 2002 riots. A man who can feel the pain of a small animal rum over by a car is certainly sensitive to the feelings of people. Contrast this statement with what Rajiv Gandhi said when the Sikhs were being killed in New Delhi during his watch as Prime Minister: When a big tree falls the earth trembles. Not only was the Army not called in Delhi to control the Congress thugs, but the Sikh policmen who would have protected the people were told not to report to duty. No police station filed the FIR against the Congress men responsible for the killings and yet none of the outrage mongers of today have a word of condemnation for the Congress and this silence exposes the political purpose in hounding Modi. On Gujarat on the other hand, the police restored Law and Order within 24 hours and there has been no riots since much to the chagrin of the Congress Party.

One last point. Modi rightly said that in democracies issues do get polorised and he went on to show the differences between the Republican and the Democratic parties. The Congress spokemsmanSanjay Jha seems to think that American politics is all talk and not much polirization in US politics. He is just an illiterate fellow who should know that the immigration bill and the Arms Control measures are deeply divisive even in American Society. These days the Congress party has begun holding the US as a torch bearer of value politics forgotting its own stand not that long ago. There is nothing wrong ibn polorising the electorate onto the side of good governance and corruption free India which Modi not only promises but has delivered in Gujarat.

The 2014 General Elections will be faught on the issue of corruption and mis governance and on both these issues the people of India have made up their mind and the Congress party wants to take the agends back to identity politics and is trying its level best to whip up passion against Modi. THe elections will see a total wipeout of the Congresss party.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A trip to Jharkhand: Rohini, a land time forgot

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books With great trepidation I set off for Jharkhand. I kept telling my hosts that it is unsafe to travel there and they in turn offered police protection from the West Bengal border. I politely declined as I felt safer travelling alone than with a police escort. After all a historian is not really a threat to the Maoists. I am glad I went as I had some memorable experiences there. The districts of Dumka and Devghar constitute the heart of the Santal land and there are well preserved markers of the heroes, Sido-Kunnhu, the two tribals who faught in 1856 against the creeping rule of the East India Company. I found the statue of the two in the heart of Dumka.
Jharkhand being on the border between Bengal and Bihar has been exposed to religious influences which have shaped the identity of the place. One can say that the geographical features and cultural attributes contribute to the making of spatial identities and the best example of this is the Baba Baidynath Dham located in Devaghar. This temple probably of the medieval period is a celebrated Dham of Hindu religion and the puranic lore of the place connects the shrine to the legend of Siva and sati. The heart of sati, the consort of Shiva is said to have falled in this place and the shrine commemorates that event. As a tantric shire this place is marked by animal sacrifices and the crowds there is indeed tremendous. I manged to find my way to the Linga with the help of a muscular panda. Here are some pictures of the Baba Baidyanth Dham.
Rohini, a small "princely" state spawned by the zamindari settlemnt in the late eighteenth century has had an interesting history. It was one of the first to introduce the concept of seed bank in the early twentieth century when the sate of Rohini subsidized the grain that was distributed to farmers during a particularly severe famine. This place was also the first major stop in the spiritual journey of Ramakrishna Parahamsa whose Ashram is still located in Devghar. The ruins of the old palaces of Rohini bespeak of an age gone by and here are some of the pictures which evoke a picture of the age that has disappeared forever. The descendant of the Rohini ruling family is a sociologist by training and an extremely gracious person. It was quite an honour to have met him and his two friendsmNandan and Chowdhury, dring my visit to Rohini.
Rohini has earned a footnote for itself in the history of the Mutiny of 1857. Though the residents of Rohini are all convinced that 1857 was a War of Independence, the fact is that the echoes of the Barrarkpore incident had almost an immediate echo in Rohini when three soldiers led by Salamat Ali killed a cavalry officer, Leslie. With some difficulty Nandan and Choudhury and Srinjeevi were able to locate the long forgotten grave of Leslie alongside ther Kolkotta=Mughalsarai Railway line.
1857 and the events around this landmark have fashioned commemorative practices which are kitschy as they are poignant. The place in which Salamat Ali and his two compatriots were hanged has been made into a Shaheed Sthal. a Martyr's Place, which was set up in memory of 1857. The statues of the 3 are found in this park.
Rohini is surrounded by hills and the hill ranges provided space for the early revolutionaries to try out their explosives and also a secluded place for nationalists and revolutionaries alike to seek refuge from the British Secret police. In a forested track located near the outskirts of Rohini is the mid nineteenth century building, the Grant Bunglow.
The trip to Jharkhand, particularly Devaghar and Rohini was a memorable one and I met some very good people there and was struck by the gracious simplicity of the family of the erstwhile rulers of Rohini.