Land acquisition bill deferred!  Coal and mines bills passed!

Narendra_Modi_PTIThese are surprising wins for the government. Given the first flush of enthusiasm and Sonia Gandhi leading a  delegation of 14 Opposition parties, the Rajya Sabha  or rather the Rajya Sabha ‘managers’ succeeded in pushing through two crucial bills.

It looks that given the time and tactics a ruling party is capable of the land bill too could be pushed through various devices that are available to a government.
And let us not forget that the Opposition is never a united voice, already the Congress members at the upper house ‘conveniently’ absented themselves!
So, this is political reality.

Prime Minister Modi won an absolute majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. This is a historic event. As such the whole country must understand its full significance.

Indian Constitution has given the elected Prime Minister almost unlimited powers and had reposed great faith in his or her wisdom. Our 67 years of democracy have given the Indian people   certain mindset and maturity to judge the rulers. So, in our wisdom, this journal also moving with the times and with a sense of moral responsibility gives the PM the benefits of doubt and we are sure he would discharge his duties fully in a sense of detached commitment for truth and justice.

The latest session of the Parliament saw many new developments. Though the Congress seemed down and out in the wake of the absence of Mr.Rahul Gandhi, the Vice-President of the Congress, the only credible Opposition party, though with just 44 MPs, the absence of Mr.Gandhi really came as an embarrassment to the party.

Mr.Gandhi’s mysterious disappearance is perhaps the major upset for the old party and perhaps this might have given to Sonia Gandhi a new found deeper sense for self-survival.

So, she showed many new unpredicted courage and energy, the ultimate step was her march towards the Raisina Hills and she really scored a major victory by managing to lead the 14 party delegations.

Yes, please note this was just a delegation and it was by no means any Opposition unity, let alone a new trend towards any political alliance.

But then this new found assertion of unity seemed to have unnerved Mr.Modi. He deployed Mr.Nitin Gadkari, a veteran of sorts to come with a new strategy. Mr.Gadkari had asked for the Opposition parties to come on a common platform to debate the Land Acquisition Act.

In this he had asked Mr.Anna Hazare too.  As we write it is not clear how Mr.Gadkari’s opening gambit would pan out. Land Acquisition Act is only one legislation. There are other legislations too. We are sure that given the time and deliberations across the political spectrum Parliament would rise up to the occasion, now and later.

Agriculture is one vital subject where there must only be wider convergence of views from all parties. Agriculture has been the backbone of Indian economy. Modi had made so many promises during his election campaign. We should not be childish to expect all such promises are easy to deliver.

Minimum support prices, timely kisan credit, subsidies where they are fair and due are all old issues and there can be any variations depending upon the particular states also. Now, farmers in UP and Haryana in particular have expressed their apprehensions as well as disappointments over the unseasonal rains recently and the damage to their crops.

Mr.Ajay Jhakkar of the Kisan Krishik Samaj and others have conducted farmers meet and they have expressed certain positive views and called for new policies. Now, farmers are better informed and even the All Indian Kisan Panchayat that was met by Niti9n Gadkari over the Land Acquisition Act have expressed their views rather forcefully.

India needs developments at a fast pace, no doubt. You go to China and see giant steps in infrastructure, giant airports, giant, high speed trains, and bullet trains are only the latest additions. In India the government had taken up also giant projects like cleaning Ganga and also linking rivers.

So too make in Indian campaigns. The UPA introduced the rural jobs scheme, What we need as a new departure is not just targets for food production but also innovative projects like urbanisation, urban governance and also rural roads and delivery of rural services; he is kisan credit cards to other services through IT tools.

Farmers need healthcare insure cover and also modern governance tools like computerised land records and also pragmatic land reforms which must ensure their lives in villages decent families with a higher land ceiling.

Today farming calls for new investments. No one would invest money in farming unless there is an incentive to earn an assured income from farming enterprises. Poverty is still a great issue and we need a new expert committee to reduce the incidence of inequality and also persistent poverty in the rural areas. So to slum poverty levels.

Urban governance is in shambles, as for instance in Bangalore, the IT hub. Urban governments are now unable to support the heavy weight of challenging problems. So too, corruption.

Corruption is killing the poor more than the well-off, the rich and the middle classes. So, why not the Lok Pal and the Lok Ayuktha.

So, governance reforms, willy-nilly, might take its own shape and Modi might succeed after all.

A new class of barbarians?
The display of American brutality and barabarism?

British-soldiers-on-a-joi-001This is an education journal. Not any political or other public affairs journal. So, we have to look at the Indo-American diplomatic rupture over a young Indian Consul-General in New York subjected to public humiliation, an official who enjoys protection under the Vienna Conventions.

The details of the humiliation are so disgusting that any civilised media report must avoid further elaboration. The most distressing feature is that an young women who takes her small child to leave at school and just then the American police comes forward and arrests her, hand-cuffed ,she is taken to a holding room and then subjected to a series of further   humiliations.

In the USA it is called standard procedure, go to hell, we like to say. Since America is a big dream in India, among the growing educated middle classes and the 21 million and odd Indian families are settled in the USA as their great last hope of Nirvana, it is really a thought topic to discuss and analyse the psychology of the average American citizen.

As the newspapers in the USA had reported the incident, it is clear that not many Americans are simply bothered and there are no editorials except one or two comments briefly. Major newspapers have skipped, in fact, though major newspapers have reported “there is little evidence of sympathy for the arrest and the subsequent strip search of the Indian deputy consul general”.

So, what does that convey?

In other pages of this very same journal we have reported what the visiting Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, had said about the way the American troops in Afghanistan had done their duty. The American troops brutally went about killing children, two instances of a   4-year old child who lost his face (the Afghan President went to see this child in a hospital and he had narrated the visit in some graphic detail to the Indian journalists, then there is another child, this time it is a girl child and here too the details are gory enough to further elaborate.

The American troops go about shooting down the entire passengers in a bus if they suspect there is one Taliban there. So, Hamid Karzai said: Referring to a letter written by Barrack Obama to the Afghan President: You don’t trust us, we don’t trust you!”

Is this the way Obama diplomacy is carried on? To what end?

Already, the world has started to wonder how the second term of Obama is going to end. It might be a total wash-off! This is one side of the American leadership. The poor Americans call themselves an exceptional people!

What is exceptional about them?

It is no consolation that we in India have retaliated by removing the barricades and cancelling their IDs and other cards etc. The Americans, let us recall, have no history other than what they have in the last 250 years, right?

But then, it is imperative on the part of the Indian people that we, on the other hand, have a history that stretches into the millennia. And now, let us come to the more serious issues of history, culture and civilisation. Though on the surface, many of the skilled and gifted Indians might be settled down in the USA. Any Harvard and other leading universities we have some luminaries. But then, for what end?

Let us say some unpleasant things. We have gone there for jobs and a livelihood, right?

Let us recognise that. We Indians needn’t learn from the Americans any lessons in civilisation. The Americans have no civilisation as we have here in India. From Greek to Rome to China and India, these are some of the oldest civilisations.

What they Americans have is just material wealth and also military might. But then, it is time we in India realise that Indian culture is very different, Indian traditions, value systems are very, very different. It is time we have to take some new lessons to take pride and deep feeling for Indian values.

Americans can never come near us. It is like going back in time, to reach out to the classical worlds and get related to the great many ideas and ideals. We can now teach the American eopel certain political culture, public conduct. India is a classical country. America is a new country of migrant population.

America was built with slave labour. It is said that we treat our domestics with poor pay. What about the exploitation of the poor in the USA. And, pray, what about their schools, school system?

The gun violence (see the Essay) and the day to day issues, the materialistic society copes up with. Yes, we have to enforce our rule of law to every American citizen residing in India.

Tit for Tat?

Not necessarily. But there must be a sense of equality in these matters. Let us hope the Americans would be behaving with extra caution. Otherwise, they would go down in the long-term, as a new class of barbarians who are put to storm the civilised world. Thank you hon’ble Hamid Karzai! You brought to Indian so much goodwill. We share with you the agonies of the tragedies your children had had and our own outrage in the way the American barbarians conducted themselves.

Surely, US President has to seek an international consensus!
That only can save his legacy as a Peace President!
India’s voice must be more positive and assertive!

syria-protests_0This sort of weak responses, often too late in the day, doesnt helps enhance India’s foreign policy legacy and our own sense of worth and meaning in an otherwise weak world leadership everywhere!

Seeing the House of Commons debate on Syrian war was a lesson!
The other day, on a Thursday afternoon, we got switched on to the BBC, without knowing it was a Thursday and in London, you always turned on to listen to the Prime Minister takes questions and the House of Common debate on various issues.

This time, it turned out to be a debate on a motion moved by the ruling Tory party on going to war on Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons on its own citizens.

Oh, the House of Commons?
The debate lacked seriousness of purpose. The Syrian war is going on for two years and one lakh people were killed.

House of Commons and Indian Parliament a contrast
This particular debate came on the heels of the Indian parliament meeting and debating and passing a series of bills in record time and also getting disrupted and also getting adjourned almost every day!
So, what is the sanctity of parliaments in today’s world?

Almost every country has a parliament; China has a very large Parliament, the number of members run into a few thousands? We don’t know right now the exact numbers but the numbers are very large.
Of course, we don’t hear about the Kremlin’s Dumo but we know often that parliament also gets some important legislation passed. What we remember about the Russian Parliament is the role it played during the Yeltsin years.

He was the first elected president in Russia’s long history. So, his name would be long remembered. Of course Khrushchev and later Gorbachev also would be remembered for long for he voluntarily gave up power and it was revolution of all past revolutions. A Communist leader paves the way for a peaceful change and in Russia’s case it was historically much more momentous than, we can say, even the French revolution.

Of course all revolutions lead to much bloodshed and it is still true, unfortunately. Now, with Indian parliament has the distinction of being the parliament of the world’s largest democracy.

The House of Commons on the other had is the most historic of all parliaments, it is rightly called the mother of parliaments.
For Indians, British House of Commons is the model, in our Constitution; it is clearly written down that when there are doubts in any of the clauses in the written Constitution, we have to refer back to the House of Commons for guidance.

Such is the greatness of the unwritten British House of Commons.
We had studied British Parliamentary history and also visited and observed the actual working of the House of Commons. Once when the great lady, the iron lady, Margaret Thatcher herself was replying to the questions at the Question House.

This time, when we witnessed the House of Commons debate on the subject of going to war the debate was on the principle of going to war against Syria with its alleged use of chemical weapons, we saw David Cameron thundering with words that didn’t sound genuine. It all seemed to be a shadow boxing. Why?

First, the UK must only know well, rather too well, is no longer a big power. No longer an economic power. But the House of Commons debated as if they were called upon to go to war! This looked a bit laughable!

Second, once, yes, the House of Commons looked great. There were really great men and women. Even the Labour party of those days had great many very competent women members. Not anymore, it looked.

The few women members seemed very docile. They seemed to be content with participation. Yes, one or two spoke. But that is all. It was very brief intervention.

Even the member from the treasury Benches didn’t show much enthusiasm.
Even the foreign minister, once a big job, today looked very docile, he as much more a small boyish-like figure.

Why, even the Prime Minister looked very timid. His words sounded quite hallow!

Some members raised the question: what was the British national interest? What is the national interest involved?

No clear answer. Nor the PM’s argument that on humanitarian ground we have to war and assert the international human rights violations?
The whole tenor of the debate looked school boyish and they debated for the debate sake.

There didn’t seem to be much seriousness in the House of Commons debate and its supposed role in international opinion making. Of course, the entire debated puffed off, the voting that was taken in the end of the debate gave an equal divided opinion ,vote for war(that is Britain sending its war planes!) 272,against going to war, 285!
It all ended up as a joke, to put it mildly.

The leader of the Labour Opposition, Ed Multiband (an old family, his father was a migrant from Europe and was a Communist-turned Socialist?)

Anyway, Ed miliband looked like a boy himself, his speech too sounded rather too academic and very insipid to say the least. One didn’t get hearing any great oratory, once the House was associated with great mean and great leaders.

In contrast, the EU nations, Germany being the most economically powerful expressed its opposition from the beginning. France cut a sorry figure, first coming out in favour o war and then getting thorou8ghly isolated. Hallande, the President cut a sorry figure.

Now, as for US President he had great many difficulties and dilemmas.
As an American President, he has a responsibility to maintain world balance among the leading powers.

He is now in his second term. Clearly he doesn’t want to risk another war. The historic precedent is that an American President has the ultimate power to say yes and then war planes take off!
He is the Commander o the armed forces f America.

He needn’t consult the Congress, it is the convention. But Obama is a wiseman, He didn’t want into the trap of the delusions that is being built around the American President.So, though he took a touch position in public asserting that USA might consider an air strike at any time, soon cooled down took a step back and said he would also consider the Congress.

Now, where does India come in?
We have failed miserably.
India didn’t open its mouth! This is to voluntarily surrender our moral duty to stand up. What a shame!

India must have articulated its stand and must have at least diplomatically taken a stand. Why not say we will consult with the great power and take stand?

Neither diplomacy, nor any moral commitment is in the Indian scheme of things. What a pity?

Now, surely, the UN must come out with its articulation. As for Russia and China, they only fall in their stature in the eyes of the world.
Why not jointly send out weapons inspectors to the Syrian country and jointly verify the allegation of the use or no-use of chemical weapons.

As for the British, they exposed themselves as good for nothing great power. They, the British are supposed to be a great expert country in international diplomacy.

This time, perhaps, from onwards, the world leaders must shed their timidity in the face of wards and violations of international law, as far as such acts like the deadly use of dangerous weapons of mass destruction in wars.

Not good for the world! Not good for him either!
Are we all living in a surveillance-ridden world?
Inside India too, there are worrisome trends!
That could trip India into unexpected territories!

obamaUS President Barack Obama is now in the mid-term of his second term! Increasingly, he seems to be more silent that he used to be. And the world is witnessing some unusual turbulence.

In the US itself, there are developments, Edward Snowden, 29, is in asylum in Moscow. Another youngman, the army man, 24, Bradley manning, got a 35 year jail term. Of course there are others who leaked the US intelligence gathering leakages. It is not a good time for USA or the President.

The US stands exposed not as an open society, as a free society but one paranoid about snapping every citizen inside and also outside in the whole world. This is not a sign of a liberal and civilised society, right?

No less is the UK. Now, the British power and prestige is under attack for various factors. Britain is seen by Indians of this generation as a shrinking economy and a diminished power. Yet, Britain is pretending to be otherwise.

The new migration rules make Britain as again a paranoid country. How can a country demand 3000 pounds deposit to visit it while other countries, more smaller gives visa on arrival.

This is how the world is opening up. Much more serious are developments in Russia and in China. In Russia, Putin is not willing to play his role as a great country. China is faced with its internal turmoil with the trial of Bo Xilai who is likely to trigger an internal trouble politically and otherwise.

See in other parts of the world. In Syria there is a brutal killing by alleged chemical weapons and the pictures on the BBC are really intolerable and yet the UN is seen as more weakened and no agitations around the world for this barbarian acts.

In Egypt, things are out of control. Yet, the USA, a big funder, is silent again. So, what role the USA as the world’s great power, both militarily and economically, is playing?

None? None at all!
There is a recent book on JFK, the charismatic US President. The title of the book is the legacy of JFK, the promises and much else.
Who knows, Obama is running the risk of squandering his legacy.
This is the time to play crucial role for the American President.
May be the President has his own deeply thought out reasons.
Who knows why get the USA involved in some new interference that might prove to be too much a price for the remainder of his term?
Now, inside India?

The UPA is facing troubles for its own making. The trouble here is that the UPA, this term, has too far in twisting the polity beyond recognition.Are we living in an open society? A liberal; society?
Are we a free country? A demcoracy? Are our freedoms secure?

A series of acts, on the part of the party and the government, PMO, are denying many things, withholding from the public. There is surveillance in India too, the citizens feel choked by denying information that is in public interest. You seem to amend the RTI, the party funding, the criminalisation of politics, now the Coalgate files, now the very disagreement to come before Parliament and intervene effectively when the PM’s name itself is bandied about in the Coalgate files disappearance.

What is this? What is the sanctity of Parliament?
Mark Tuly, the British newsman has said well. While he hates to advise Indians, it is something Indians themselves must adopt some healthy British Parliamentary practice like once a week the Prime Minister must have a day or a time to appear before the Members of Parliament and answer questions.

This is one of the many other healthy Parliamentary practices in Britain. We are supposed to follow the Westminster model, right?
Then, why this refusal? The Indian Prime Minister operates, as of now, under very serious questionable Parliamentary practice. He is not an elected member of the Lok Sabha.

So, let us, discuss and debate about the basic Westminster model.
Lately, there are much more negative trends and practices. Even some quixotic practices. A disgraced minister is sent as a special envoy of the PM to Japan!

What is happening in India? To the Indian democratic norms and values?
Citizens have a duty to think.

What a surprise and miracle!
Soon after this rare event comes the pope’s voluntary retirement!

First time in 600 years of such a unique history such a thing happened! The Pope we saw and got his blessings, within a month went on to announce his resignation!

Yes, the year 2013 held out so many unexpected prospects and events!
First came the family journey to Rome and Italy. This was a long-planned and long pending dream journey.

As a student at Oxford I planned a trip along with my British friends a journey to Greece and Rome. This was the typical, British-born tradition of the Grand European tour. However, this didn’t come through. Then, there was the one trip in 1971 when I took my family to Paris. On our way back I stopped for a few days as the guest of one Roman Catholic father, name, I remember, Father Blewett. At the Roman Cuio, the head quarters of the Jesuits we were given all the hospitality and I remember some site but not much.
For the last half a century and more I have been reading, at our home this is often the topic, Greece and Rome! So, when the opportunity came at last we seized upon it.

Thanks to meticulous planning everything went on smoothly as planned.

Ten days in Rome! So much to see in Rome alone. And that too when the opportunity came we combined trips to other cities. Naples, Pompeii and then to Florence one day and other trips were to the Hadrian Villa, outside Rome at Tivoli. Once at Hadrian Villa and Tivoli how can you miss the famed Tivoli gardens!

The Este estate, that is the famed owner, a high placed cardinal who owned and developed the gardens extensively laid out, at the fall of a small mountain head, the water falls, all so beautifully planned as artificial fountains, it is worth a wholesome sight in order to fully appreciate what the famed Renaissance Italian gardens came to represent for the world’s appreciation of culture and arts.

Of course, the great event for us in Italy was to have got the opportunity to attend the Pope Benedict XVI audience.

This is a weekly audience every Wednesday. We had booked the tickets beforehand but on that particular day it was raining heavily in Rome and we missed the tour party!
So, what? Our gut feeling was that we could still walk in!

So, in such heavy rains that caught us unaware we talked all the way from Octavian metro to Vatican city!

This is not strictly a city! But a historic site, just less a few acres within right inside the Roman city given under a treaty to the Pope and recognised a sovereign city state! The Pope is a head of a state! If you know the history of the Roman Catholic Church, then you know that the Popes, since the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 4th century, till the very end of the Roman Empire in 1454, there were many times Popes assuming secular power as emperors! So, Popes are not just religious heads as they have become lately.

And if you read more of Italian history then you will know that during the Florence Renaissance times, (the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries) there were many who were rich and powerful like the famed Medici family, the members of the Medici family also became Popes!

The Cardinals are the next in importance in the Catholic hierarchy! So, one Cardinal who could make it to the Pope built the Tivoli gardens which we visited!

What is remarkable this time, for us, is the rare historic fact that on January 16, 2013 we saw the Pope face to face, almost so closely, the CCTV showed the Pope so closely. There were some 5,000 visitors in the largest (so far as I have seen) hall, named after John Paul II, another very popular and widely respected Pope. It was Pope Paul who brought down the Communism in the world!

So, Popes are not just representatives for one particular religion in the modern day world.
Popes, the institution, is very much help up as a symbol for upholding the conscience of the world, the world people, the entire world.

History is so strong and so in favour of the Pope. The Vatican City, the St.Peter’s Church, the very architecture, the very many artistic treasures housed in the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel with the mind-boggling Michel Angelo’s breath-taking paintings on the ceiling, you can sit all day there and get your necks pained in such upright looking at the ceiling! The Last Judgment, The Creation of the World paintings can’t be done by a human being. Such a divinely inspired man was the artist Michel Angelo.

We saw all his paintings and his world beating, David, 18 feet high, David marble statue in Florence at the Academy Museum.

Only in Italy we saw so much public importance accorded to artists and sculptors. There is no peace the number of names we had studied and collected!

In Florence, we saw such marble sculptures displayed in the open air, in public squares! They are standing there for some 500 years! So too in Naples public park, right on the most beautiful Bay of Naples!

So, when we had come home we read Pope Benedict XVI, bidding goodbye and boarding a helicopter for a peaceful exit from the outside world.

When we read this and when we saw his pictures we also shed tears like thousands of others, all across the globe.

Adieu, Pope Benedict XVI! Long life to you!

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