More than just Ayes: Why India needs to look beyond harsher anti-rape laws

16 year old raped, filmed and blackmailed for a year, India Times, August 2016.

The article hyperlinked above starts with the sentence “despite the enactment of the stringent anti-rape law”.
There seems to be a notion that harsher punishments will be an effective deterrent to crime despite innumerable instances where that notion fails. Harsh punishments are absolutely necessary steps to, well, punish the convicts. But what do we really want? Harsher jails or safer streets? (The former doesn’t necessarily lead to the latter). The problem with candle light vigils and week-long street protests is this: they’re consoled by paper legislation.

Tell me, after Nirbhaya did anyone see increased night time patrolling? Did you see more street lights in your gully? Did you stop seeing auto drivers driving autos in which the license on display is not theirs but someone else’s? Did you hear of psychological evaluation and treatment for rowdy sheeters and eve teasers? In short, did you hear of ANY solutions to the problem?

If we don’t stop discussing how to make more legislation and start discussing ideas about how to stop this insanity, cases like this one will continue to shock our collective conscious repeatedly until that one day when it won’t. That one day when these cases will just become numbers without faces.

A media house recently called the UP women’s emergency hotline, 1090, and found that it wasn’t operational due to some technical issues. 1090 has proved to be largely successful in terms of the number of calls it has received and resolved but the problem it faces is a depressingly familiar Indian story- lack of infrastructure and severe understaffing. We, as a nation, forget too often. Otherwise how did the 1000 crore “Nirbhaya fund” go unutilized for as long as it did? It’s a childish argument to say that the government shouldn’t spend money on the “Statue of Unity” when there are other priorities. But it isn’t too much to ask for the same pace and vigour of implementation with the Nirbhaya Fund. The Modi government has both increased the size of the fund and utilized more but with over 60% of the funds still untouched, even the Supreme Court had to step in.

Spending so much time and effort on debating if juveniles should get stricter punishment will not make the streets safer for women. Women’s safety can’t just be passed into law. It requires more effort than just a bunch of “Ayes” in parliament. We need to step our game up and look beyond punishment. Our goal shouldn’t be to punish crime. It should be to curb it.

Source: India Times through India Today

Voice of dissent

This is another article that is going to be lost in the large void that is the Internet. But, when a debate is on and there’s an attempt to suppress one side of it, at least a symbolic protest is in order. But first, a few things that need clarification:

  1. It is not possible for a democratically elected government of India to implement any restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression of any Indian. Sure, they can shut off mobile networks and the Internet for a small period of time but nothing of the magnitude that happens in other, more iron handed regimes around the world. The fact that my opinion and the opinion that I’m countering today and a multitude of others opinions are floating around is ample proof of this. The suppression of opinions is of another kind as I will explain in this piece. 
  2.  I’ve never been a fan of the Indian electronic media. They’re constantly in search of TRP-boosting stories that can raise tempers and keep people glued to a medium of news that is playing catch up with the Internet. But there are sensible people in the media who have a right to disagree with the “popular view” and often, that is a point that is missed.
  3. The way the incidents at Dadri and other parts of the country are being peddled as examples of religious intolerance in India are purely political games that every sane person can see through. India is a pluralistic, secular nation irrespective of the party in power. Look around you. There’s bound to be at least 2-3 people of faiths other than yours minding their own business and going about their works exactly like you are doing. It has been the unfortunate behaviour of political parties across the spectrum to incite communities during election time to polarise votes.
Having said all of that, one other thing needs to be addressed. And that, is the debate itself that surrounds all these issues. It has pitted journalists, writers, academicians and many others against a large number of people who feel that these journos and writers have sold out to the opposition parties and are trying to blame the Modi Government for everything. (Yes. Gen. V.K Singh did not call Dalits, dogs. That is the media’s absolutely ridiculous interpretation).

But here’s the problem with the debate. The killings in Dadri, throwing ink on people’s faces, threatening people who are visiting from Pakistan, threatening people who eat beef are indefensible acts. They killed a man because he ate beef. The guys who did ARE intolerant. They got a Pakistani artist’s show cancelled because he was from Pakistan. They ARE intolerant. They asked people who eat beef to go to Pakistan. They ARE intolerant (and self-defeating because you’re then painting Pakistan as the rosy heaven where people of all faiths and food habits are welcome). Notice how I keep saying “they” without adding political affiliations to them because it doesn’t matter! They are intolerant. Our Prime minister has not condemned these incidents and that is rather odd for a person who is extremely loquacious.

Unfortunately, the moment I ask MY Prime Minister to say something about any of this, I’m a congress agent. I have close relations with Kapil Sibal and Sonia Gandhi and I’m a “sickular” by association.  I have been paid off by them in 2003, I was given a Padma Shri for my troubles in 2006, I have been assured a plush bungalow on Marine Drive and I constantly hang out with Pakistanis (As if that’s a sin. So much for Aman Ki Asha). I’m all that because “where were you when the 1984 riots happened or when Kashmiri Pandits were chased out of their homes”.  
GUYS! RELAX. When journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai or artists like Naseeruddin Shah and Gulzar lament the vitriolic atmosphere in with intolerance growing by the day, you’re proving their point by attacking them for expressing an opinion. When Sahitya Akaedmi awardees are not only trolled for returning their awards but also labelled as congress agents and their motives are questioned by cabinet ministers, you’re proving their point about the growing intolerance for dissent. I don’t entirely agree with them returning their awards because the award is apolitical and must stay that way. BUT I will defend to the death their right to return it.
A large number of people are of the opinion that this kind of attention is only being given to a story because the victim is muslim and that issues that Hindus face are not addressed. The Kashmiri Pandits and the 1984 riots being the cases in point. They deserve to be condemned too and those who are responsible must be dealt with. The process, unfortunately, has taken ages and nothing has come of it. But should we repeat the mistakes of the past? The reason these “new incidents” are getting so much attention is because news and opinions are expressed on more platforms than earlier. Social media is capable of holding governments and institutions accountable for their actions. It is true that political parties have pandered to the needs of the minorities for electoral gains and in the process cultivated reactionary, extremist elements who get away with more than most people get away with. But notice how the extremist elements from among the majority have also mushroomed in recent times, bellowed by the belief that the government is on their side. A belief, that needs to nipped in the bud by the head of the government. The overwhelming majority of Hindus are peace-loving people. As are the overwhelming majorities of people of all other faiths in India. The extremist elements, irrespective of religious affiliations, are a curse upon the society and can’t be allowed to roam free. Which is why people like Sakshi Maharaj and his ilk who are now under the assumption that they are in power and can do as they feel NEED TO be restrained by the central authority in charge of them i.e The Prime Minister. It does create a vitriolic environment for everyone when statements like “those who eat beef can go to Pakistan” or “Muslims can stay in India but must give up eating beef” are made.
Condemn the bigots. The Dadri Killers deserve to be brought to justice. Everyone agrees. Should the Prime Minister make a statement on it? Some people feel he should. His supporters will say that he has indeed made a statement. But seeing as how that has had no effect on repeat offenders from his party, clearly he needs to do more. Some of us have posed that question. But that shouldn’t automatically trigger an attack on the motives of the person posing that question. It has become the go-to tactic of BJP spokespeople to question the credentials and motives of the person asking questions. Stop assuming that everything is a conspiracy! If there’s an issue, address it. And if there isn’t, then and only then, expose the conspirator. But don’t try to shoot the messenger when there really is a problem that needs to be addressed. In this case, the solution to the problem is the responsibility of the UP government. But shouldn’t the Prime Minister send out a stern message, in public, to those carrying out the dastardly attacks?
The last thing we need is to create a situation where people are afraid to voice dissent simply because they’re not sure where the next attack will come from. A situation where one must prove their patriotism by agreeing with all actions of the Prime Minister and in some cases, the lack of it. The fact that we’re slowly heading there is what bothers some of us. 

No country for rapists.

This picture has been doing the rounds on social media for a few days now. Some people have attempted to challenge the BBC’s “representation” of India with these figures. But are the numbers any comfort at all?

“Rapes are a shame but propaganda on it: WORSE”
Clearly, a section of our population, our media and our legislators believe that a “propaganda fueled documentary” IS worse than the fact that the rapes actually happened.
If the propaganda fueled documentary portrayed factual inaccuracies, go ahead, berate it. But if you think that reporting the darker half of our country should be banned, there really is no difference between us and North Korea, is there? 
We are by no means a country of rapists. Certainly not the kind that was responsible for the Delhi gangrape case. But think about. Isn’t it true that lots of people DO NOT disagree with the opinions of the defense lawyers? Isn’t it true that at least 94% of marital rape in India goes unreported? Isn’t it true that despite looking at the facts in that picture and much before that documentary was aired, almost every single girl you know is,was and probably will be for quite some time, afraid to travel alone at night on a bus or even walk on the street alone at night? Isn’t it true that some will question the very need for girls to walk alone at night? This isn’t a brush-under-the-carpet minority. It’s a lot of people both rich and poor, educated and illiterate, men and women, hindu and muslim and from other religions who have mindsets that are stuck in the 17th century. I’m not ashamed of India. I’m ashamed of those Indians.

The picture asks an important question: How many documentaries does the BBC do about the social system of the USA? From that question alone, 2 things are clear.
1) The person who made this picture has not watched the documentary. The documentary is a series of interviews of the people related to the Nirbhaya case.
2) The person who made this picture admits that the statements made by various Indians in the documentary is a telling reflection of our social system.

Why doesn’t the BBC do documentaries on the USA? Are there no problems there? Surely there are. And the BBC must be asked to do something about it. The BBC might have chosen this case purely for commercial interests and because they felt it would be easy to gain access to an Indian convict on death row as opposed to an American prisoner. But neither of those is a reason to ban it. Why are we afraid of debate? Of action? Why do we love big statements and promises? Why do we care so much for words and adjectives?

We’re all proud of India. But we will not blindly defend its people’s short comings. We will strive to fix it. And then if the BBC does a piece like this on India, 1.2 Billion of us will stand up to them and send them back with their heads hanging in shame.

Stay Safe. Stay Informed.

Anirudh Dinesh,
Editor-At-Large, Dudurudh.

The argumentative Indian’s right to speech.

A few weeks ago AIB (All India Bakchod), a YouTube channel created by 5 Indian comedians, put out video clips from one of their latest shows- The AIB Knockout- A Roast of Arjun Kapoor and Ranvir Singh. The video got around 8 million views in the 5 days that it was online. It was, as the name suggests, a Roast- A type of Insult comedy that is popular in the west which involves a group of “roasters” making honest, often rude, and sometimes outright offensive observations, albeit in good humor, about the celebrity being “roasted”. In this case the roast happened in front of a crowd of over 4000 people including Bollywood celebrities Sonakshi Sinha, Deepkia Padukone and Alia Bhat among others. The video was taken down soon after it launched after some people took offense to the language used in the video. The move stirred a debate that has long been dormant in India regarding the freedom of speech in this country- or the lack of it.

But if one were to look at this controversy in its entirety, there is only conclusion to be drawn from it. The freedom of Speech and expression hasn’t died in India. It is very much alive and kicking. People just need to understand one fundamental truth about India. We are, in Amartya Sen’s words, a bunch of Argumentative Indians. We’re 1.2 billion strong and everyone has an opinion.

  • All India Bakchod organised the roast in front of a large crowd who thoroughly enjoyed the show. AIB made some money from the show (which was donated to charity). The intent of the show was to introduce India to a form of comedy that isn’t already popular here and to make some money for charity in the process. Part of that objective was achieved. But, AIB successfully introduced the new format to India. Whether it was well-received by Indians or not can not be gauged by the reaction of a few ( or by the over-reaction of some others) but AIB have done their bit. They were free to conduct the show, make money from it and upload it on YouTube. It was, by their own admission, taken down voluntarily. So AIB was free to do what they pleased. 
  • Some people who were offended by the roast took to facebook and twitter and made themselves heard. They were free to do it even though some of them were extremely abusive and sometimes even threatening and should’ve been stopped. But, they did what they pleased as well.
  • Many celebrities came out in support of AIB, saying that artists should be free to express their opinion without fear and the atmosphere being created in the country didn’t allow for it. They were free to make those observations and do as they pleased as well.
  • Aamir Khan took a slightly contrary view and said that he didn’t enjoy the roast because it was “too aggressive and violent”. He also said that he had formed those opinions on the basis of small clips of the roast and admitted that he hadn’t watched the whole video. No one stopped Aamir from saying what he wanted to say. He did as he pleased.
  • It didn’t stop there. Russell Peters, one of the world’s most famous stand-up comics came out strongly against Aamir Khan, saying that he should “shut up and mind his business”. Despite the fact that what Aamir did was “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it”, Russell was free to say what he said. 
  • Apart from these, some people went ahead and filed FIRs against Arjun Kapoor, Ranvir Singh, Karan Johar, Alia Bhat, Sonakshi Sinha and Deepika Padukone because, well, they wanted to do. They were free to do what they pleased. 

Apart from these “celeb” examples, millions made their opinions clear on facebook and twitter. It isn’t for any of us to decide who is right and who isn’t. Primarily because there are valid arguments on either side. Arguments, that the opposite side thinks holds no water. But that’s true of any public debate EVER. The truth is, the debate is happening. Everyone is free to do what they please.
There are reasonable restrictions on the right to speech. But one of the guarantees that comes with it is that one will not suffer from unreasonable consequences as a result of their opinion. The FIRs filed is certainly a shame. No one should go through a humiliation of that kind. Not least people like Alia, Deepika and Sonakshi who were simply in the audience. But one can trust the judiciary to be more sensible than the overly-sensitive haters and that the legal system will put that FIR where it belongs- shredded into a dustbin.
But one thing is clear. Everyone in India has an opinion. They are always free to express passionate opinions. But when you make a passionate argument in India, just remember that there is someone, somewhere with an equally passionate counter-argument. Take it on the chin and move on. This is India and “we are like this only”.

Stay Safe.Stay Informed.

Anirudh Dinesh.
Editor-At-Large, Dudurudh.

Voting Day

It’s a beautiful summer morning. It’s 7 in the morning- the sun hasn’t woken up fully yet. Far, far away on the horizon, he’s just peeping to see if anyone else is awake. In no time, he’s going to be up and ready to warm the earth’s graceful soil and thankless humans with his radiance. But for now, a soothing breeze has got here first. She flies around playfully, bringing some short-lived yet much needed relief to the people who don’t realise how fortunate they are to be there and experience it.
By the roadside there is some activity, unusual for this time in the morning. People running around busily, wearing scarves and shirts that have printed on them symbols of political parties. Other people walking into a building, a school. Again, unusual for this time in the morning. Slowly the crowd increases. A young lady walks out of the school and smiles at me. I smile back. And then she showed me the finger. No. Not that finger. The one that was marked with indelible ink- The mark of democracy. It’s voting day.

The sun seems to know that. It’s not as hot as it usually is. The breeze is still playing around, keeping the sun’s heat in check. The sky for the last few days has looked like a damsel’s eyes in distress- swollen with tears ready to pour out. Those clouds in the evening bringing joy in the summer heat. Nature seems to be doing her bit to get you to vote. The question then is, have you done yours?

This is the largest democratic exercise in the world. Be proud of it. Be a part of it. Go out and vote. Get inked with the mark of democracy.

Stay Safe! Stay informed!

Anirudh Dinesh
Editor-At-Large, Dudurudh.

The change we seek

28th December 2013 will go down in India’s history as the day when a common man rose to become chief minister of its capital.
Arvind kejriwal’s isn’t a story of someone who shot into the limelight out of nowhere. He’s one of those people who has dedicated his life to the cause of the nation. A man who, like many of us, was fed up with the menace of corruption and took it upon himself to rid India of it. Long before the much publicised Lokpal agitation, he was involved in pushing for another anti corruption tool. The right to information. He’s a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay award for emergent leadership for his contribution to the enactment of that law.

Along with Anna Hazare, he led one of India’s largest post-independence movements to get the Lokpal bill enacted. Two years hence, that bill is a theoretical reality. But like all laws, its success lies in its enforcement.
But that movement was the beginning of a meteoric rise to power. Armed with nothing but good intentions, Arvind broke away from Anna’s principle of staying outside the political system and took the plunge into the dirty world of Indian politics. It’s been anything but easy for the man, but he’s handled it all with grace. The people of Delhi loved his ideas. Who wouldn’t. Electricity at half price, 700 litres of free water, legalising illegal colonies and a corruption free reign. His Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats of the 70. A close second to the BJP with 31.

On being offered outside support by the congress party, Arvind in one of the most refreshing thoughts of recent times, went back to the voters  to seek their opinion on whether he should accept that support and form the government. An overwhe

lming majority gave him the go ahead. Everybody wanted to live in the city of their dreams and he had promised them that.

Is there anything wrong in what Arvind kejriwal is doing? Can you find fault in any of his promises?
Is it wrong to promise free water and cheap electricity?
Is it wrong to promise safety for women and a house for the homeless?
No. Nothing wrong at all. But that’s the reason populism is hard to beat. The majority opinion isn’t always the right opinion.

A lot of people might find it ridiculous but the “The great Indian Middle class” is an unnecessarily pampered majority. True, we’re burdened by price rise, harassed by corruption and bogged down by poverty. Why would anyone call that pampering?
Here’s why.
A precious minority really does anything for the poor. Everyone talks about the poor, no one actually helps them. Beggars are ignored, homeless girls are forced into prostitution. If society doesn’t care for the poor, who will?
Everyone is corrupt. You break the rule, you should face the consequences and not bribe your way past the law. It could be something as small as riding without a helmet or a much more serious crime. But that doesn’t actually mean anything in India, does it? Where you flash the cash and get away with anything. “I’m fed up with bribing government employees for every small thing. I can’t afford to spend so much on bribes”. THEN DON’T! We have 120 crore people in this country. Let’s say we have 20 crore government employes (an extremely exaggerated number. A 2001 census put the number at roughly 2 crore.) Say all 20 crore of those are corrupt. What in the world are the other 100 crore people doing?! Wake up India! Stop giving bribes! If the giving stops, the taking will too!

Nothing comes free in life. Someone needs to pay for the electricity you use. Either you or the government. The government gets its money from you. In the end, you’ll either pay more taxes or more electricity bills. But you’ll pay. Or it has to borrow money. And it puts the finances of the state through a shredder if those debts are too high.

We’ve all been taught our fundamental rights over and over again. When was the last time somebody reminded you of your fundamental duties? When have these been followed? Don’t spit on public property, don’t disfigure monuments and so on.
But the beauty of our constitution is, it enforces your fundament rights and makes sure you have them but doesn’t force you to perform your duties. That’s why we’re pampered. Nobody ever has the guts to tell the people of this nation what they are doing wrong.

Where does Arvind kejriwal feature in all of this?
He’s won an election on the back of extreme public anger against the political class by promising things that people want to hear. By promising to pamper people more. Not once in his campaign has he, or anyone else, reminded people of their role in this process of change. Until the people of this country change, excuse the cynicism, nothing will change.

This isn’t to say that he won’t fulfil his promises. He obviously has a plan that gets all that to work.
But this nation has pinned all its hope on this new brand of politics. Everyone is waiting for the Aam Aadmi party to change the nation. Everyone is watching. Praying.
But suppose he falls short, this nation must not lose hope. Its all we have.
What will change this country is its society. Is the people. Is us.
Jai Hind. 

NOTA : Complete the story please.

With much hype and celebration, our news channels reported a landmark Supreme Court decision recently.


NOTA or None Of The Above has been made one of the options for a voter in an election. Basically, if you’re not happy with any of the candidates being presented to you, you can register your protest by voting for ” none of the above”. It’s a landmark judgement, no doubt. But does it deserve the kind of applause it is getting?
But first, let me give credit where it’s due. The option to register your protest isn’t something new. We’ve always had it but for three reasons it wasn’t very effective.
1) Not everyone knew about it.
2) To exercise it, you’d have to go to the presiding election officer and register your protest vote there. An unnecessarily tedious process and, more importantly, one that compromised your right to a secret ballot.
3) It had no effect on the outcome of the election whatsoever.

Now, what makes this verdict so important is that it solves the first two problems. By putting the NOTA option on the voting machine, people will automatically see it when they stand to vote. And since no one will know what button you pressed, secrecy is preserved.

But the real issue is, that it doesn’t solve the most important problem. The thought behind a vote of protest is that if a majority of the voters in a constituency feel that all the candidates presented to them are undeserving, the parties concerned must change the candidates and present new ones for a re-election.
Hence, giving people the option to reject incompetent candidates who hope to win by calculated, divisive political tricks.
As of now, even if 80% of the voters were to press the NOTA option, the election would be decided by the remaining 20%. That gives the candidates more reason to manipulate the gullible 20% by offering money, clothes, alcohol and other incentives. That also gives the cynical bunch who rarely vote the chance to say that they’d anyway vote NOTA and so it makes no difference whether or not they actually vote.
One of the major arguments doing the rounds praising the NOTA button in it’s present form, is that if the majority of a constituency were to “register their protest” against the list of candidates, the party hotshots will have some bollywood-esque guilt trip and that’ll “shake up” the political class.
Umm. Sure. Remember how we “shook up” the political class with the Anna movement when lakhs of people gathered on the streets and registered their collective protest? I wonder in which government office that lokpal bill is currently gathering dust.

These shake ups are utterly useless. The only way to improve our electoral process is to change it. Take NOTA to its logical conclusion. Make an election in which a majority rejects all candidates, null and void. Conduct a re-election in which a new set of candidates are presented.

People aren’t stupid. If they get a chance to reject a convicted criminal from standing for the election, they will do it. NOTA in its present form won’t let them do that. The other Supreme Court judgement that disqualifies an MP if he’s convicted will help. But a modified NOTA will make sure that such criminals don’t see the corridors of power in the first place.
No punishment in the history of mankind has ever deterred anyone from committing the same crime again.
The solution to corruption lies not in punishing the corrupt but in not allowing them to engage in it at all or to take it a step further and select people who won’t engage in it.

Why hang them when you can punish them?

All countries are defined by their cultures, their heritages and their values. 

India is no different. We’re defined not just by our culture, heritage, and values but also by the diversity therein. 
We’re taught to respect elders, women in particular. We’re even taught to respect cows. And trees. 
How is it then, that crimes against women are on the rise in a country like ours? 
We respect our women so much, that a majority of them in previous generations, spent most of their lives serving their husbands and raising kids. They did a magnificent job of it too. Without complaining. We, men, did precious little to change that. ( We made a quota to reserve 33% seats in parliament for women. Bravo! ) Many women, in any chance they got to step out and do something different, have done wonders. Yet, that’s a trend that’s picking up agonisingly slowly. 
It’s our fault as a people that we refused to treat women as equals. If we did, there would be more women in parliament than that women’s “quota” allows. 
Given that history of contradictory heritage and value set, is it really any surprise that there are crimes against women? These men aren’t psychopaths. They’re completely aware of what they’re doing. They find it unnatural for women to be outside the kitchen. To their minds, a women adventurous enough to wander the streets of India freely, is a rebel who won’t complain if anything were to happen to her. 
People debating on national TV, must choose their words carefully. Calling these men psychopaths or sociopaths or mentally ill is affording them an excuse they just don’t deserve. They’re extreme manifestations of a school of thought that has ruled minds in this country for too long. 
By ” these men “, I mean Stalkers, molesters, eve teasers and obviously rapists. Also included in that list should be every single man who’s ever looked at a women disrespectfully. 
I’ll come to what must be done with these men in a bit. But what do you do to stop this menace?
You’ve got to teach kids to respect not just women but their freedom too. That women can do everything men can. Education is the biggest weapon we have to change mindsets. There is an old generation in parts of our country doing things like getting kids married at 16. The generation after them, must not make mistakes of that kind. 70% of our population is under the Age of 35 or 40. Surely, that’s enough people to make sure that our country’s future promises women a safe place to live. 
Meanwhile, what do you do with the guys who’re still stuck in 1653 when kings made women dance for their pleasure? 
Hang them to death?
Death is an escape route for them. 
Why would you pass off the chance to torture them mentally?
Besides, death is an act that god almighty controls. Mere mortals have no right to take another’s life. But they do have the right to take away another’s sanity.
Solitary confinement. 
Put the rapist in a 10×10 room that has only window. Don’t even let him see the prison guard’s face. 
Loneliness and complete disconnect from society has, in the past, turned people senile. Well, good riddance. One day, he’ll die naturally. But not before he’s turned absolutely looney, to the point that he’s waiting for someone to kill him. But we’ll keep him waiting for his own death. And then his punishment is complete. Bury his remains, with the respect it deserves and as our culture mandates. 
Lets not become murderers. Lets isolate criminals. Quite literally. 

State of the economy.

I have blogged about this before, rising petrol prices are good for the country.
What is not good for the country though, is the depreciating rupee, the rising CAD and all the problems that come with it.
Dr Manmohan Singh, in parliament recently said that ” we must control our appetite for gold and economise our use of fuel”.
Now what good is an economist prime minister if he can’t run the country’s finances without asking the people of the country to ” control their appetite for gold and economise their use of fuel”,
Think about it. We’re a large country blessed with a lot of resources. Unfortunately, we don’t have gold or oil reserves. Well not enough of either anyway.
So we need to import both. And we can only buy in dollars. When we don’t have enough dollars, we need to buy that first and then use that to buy gold and fuel and what not. 
Now that’s the government’s problem. They must’ve screwed up in ways unimaginable to send an economy en route to 9-10% growth to spiral down to 4.5%. Yes? Definitely. 
Why should that bother us? Primarily because onions cost 80Rs/Kg and restaurants now only give you one slice of an onion in your salad. 
Now what can solve that? One of the multiple solutions, Increase the price of diesel. Ofcourse, that’ll make things worse because transporting onions will become more expensive and onions will cost even more and before you know it, you’ll be investing more in onions than in gold. 
That’s why they subsidise diesel. So that transportation isn’t expensive. Now you tell me, why a bloke in a gas-guzzling, CO2 emitting, road blocking, noise making, 25lac SUV needs that subsidy. ( Useful to remember at this stage that the subsidy comes from taxes that you pay. Yes. Now get angry).
Selective subsidy isn’t easy to implement. But it’s probably worth giving it a shot. I’m not aware of the adverse consequences of such an act and I’d love to know. 
Petrol is a luxury. So is diesel. But gold, is more than that. Gold is an investment. The fact that gold prices have risen sharply recently means that people who invested in it a few years ago, would’ve made a considerable amount of profit. It’s obvious that more people want to buy it. It won’t go up forever. 
There are other avenues to invest money. Use them. Don’t buy gold for a year. 
Does it ever anger you that the government is increasing fuel prices? THINK. It’s YOUR country. It runs using YOUR money. They buy crude oil using YOUR money. It’s a government not an MNC. Their revenue is YOU. 
Not buying gold and paying more for fuel won’t solve this almost-crisis. But it’ll certainly help. This isn’t to say that government should wait for your help. They can do plenty that they haven’t done already. But what kind of sleepy democracy only wakes up ( partially) every 5 years only to vote and then sits back and hopes for the best? 
Don’t vote for someone who claims he’ll bring petrol prices down. He won’t. Don’t boo someone who paints a realistic picture. Encourage them. Bite the bullet. Swallow the bitter pill. 
I’m not an economist. I know nothing of economics. There are smart people in Delhi to handle that. 
You voted them with your votes ( or with the absence of your vote). VOTE. Do those little things that you can do. And then complain. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t be cynical. Lets get this economy back on track and pointing in the right direction.

“Be the change you want to see “

India is one Huge country . We are a country of argumentative indians . Everyone has an opinion on everything . And because of that argumentativeness , what finally comes out of a debate in this country is generally the right choice .
We have an imperfect , yet beautiful democracy . We elect our representatives who make laws for us and who run the country on a daily basis . We gave them certain privileges because running a country of 1.2 billion is not an easy task . They come back to us (atleast) every 5 years to seek our permission to carry on in office . We have the choice of giving them that permission or denying them that permisson .

 We have a constitution .  It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 450  articles in 24 parts, 12 schedules and 96 amendments, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version. Our constitution gave us ,among other things , the right to freedom of speech and expression and that to protest against something we don’t like . It gave us certain duties to perform for the betterment of the nation as a whole and consequently for our own welfare . These duties are mere moral obligations , not legally enforceable . Which means , even if you didn’t do any of them , no one can take you to court . That is the beauty of our constitution . It gives us all our rights and leaves it to you whether or not you want to do something in return for the country .

We have a system of parliamentary demcracy . We set up a loksabha and a rajya sabha . Our Loksabha and our Rajya sabha . Inside , our representatives debate laws , amend laws , make laws and basically run our country for us . Contrary to popular belief , chair hurling and abuse exchanging is not what happens inside parliament . The proceedings in parliament are telecast live on Loksabha TV so that people know what is happening inside the walls of parliament . Nowhere else in the world is such a facility available for citizens . The debates that happen are of high quality , of substance , of grit and determination to get the best possible solution to whatever the subject . The critics will call all debates politically motivated and biased,  but , if out of that political motivation something good comes out , is it bad ?

There are corrupt politicians . True . But there are those who genuinely concerned for the nation and who are doing great work . How did the corrupt ones get there ? Somebody voted for them . Somebody gave them the numbers to get there . I hear SO much talk about money power winning elections . Ask yourselves one question . When these corrupt people bribe voters into voting for them , shouldn’t the voter reject the bribe and vote for the right person ? Isn’t that bribery ? If the voter took a bribe , shouldn’t he go to jail for it ? That voter is as guilty as the passport office clerk who wants money to clear your file . Infact more so because the passport clerk asking for a bribe is harrassing only one person , the voter’s vote on the other hand ,sends that candidate to parliament , where he will then decide the nation’s future .

Corruption is a menace . Think about it . If you were patient enough , better still if everyone was patient enough , can we get our work done in a government office without paying a bribe ? The reason you paid a bribe was because you felt , in your wisdom , that too much time was being taken to get a simple file passed . Say we were all patient enough . How long will they hold your file ? How long will they hold all our files ? If you showed up everyday at that office and waited patiently for your turn , eventually it will get done . If everyone did that , it would become the norm . Overtime , the waiting time will reduce once the clerk realises that no matter how long he made everyone wait , NO ONE will pay him a bribe . But those words are crucial . No one should pay a bribe . The Gandhian way of protest is not hiring a posh Mumbai ground for 7lakh rupees and making a 74 year old man fast for 3 days . The heart of the Gandhian way of protest was non-violence and patience . That virtue called patience is the most rarely found trait in people nowadays .

” Be the change you want to see in the world ” . It’s the most important message the father of our nation left us . Try getting some work done without paying a bribe . It’s not easy . It’s a struggle . But that is what our fight is against . The sense of satisfaction you get when you know that you did not pay a bribe is extraordinary !

The point of this post is simple . The current system is bad , probably rotten , destroyed ,mutilated . The easy way out is to run away from it and call for a “participatory democracy “and what not. But what we must do is to make the system work . Force it to work . Clean up the system . Years of corrosion has made the system the way it is today . No one ever said that this fight against corruption was going to be easy . It is going to be a struggle but if 1.2 billion join hands , nothing is impossible .
The lokpal bill will be a useful tool in this fight . But let us not make it our trump card . Lets us not overestimate the lokpal and understate our own roles in the process .

We must be thankful for the democracy we have , for the constitution we have ,for the rights we have, for the freedoms we enjoy .At the same time, we must be aware of  the duties and the responsibilties  that come with that . Let us not be naive and think of the lokpal as the game-changer or think of a group of 5 people to be the agents of change . 1,180,274,332 proud indians are the agents of change . 1,180,274,332 are the ones who will make a difference . That is our trump card . The power of the indian people . That inherently indian trait of a strong will power to make a change , that single-minded determination that brought the british empire to it’s knees . That is our trump card . That should be our trump card !