The Vande Mataram controversy – II

Since I touched that sensitive topic – Vande Mataram controversy – only to state my hatred against the politics of religion, I have to add some more “balanced” opinions there.

I look at Vande Mataram not in context of the book it originally came from (Anand Math), but from the angle that this song has at times been on the lips of nationalists during the pre-independence days. That is the history that readily comes to the minds of many and myself. So I didn’t like the way Mr Bukhari was quoted – “a Muslim cannot worship … motherland”. That is being a bit too literal in my opinion.

But if Mr Bukhari had instead argued what this blogger has written here, there would be a more meaningful discussion. The song may have that big anti-Muslim baggage, I wouldn’t know because I have never read all of Anand Math, though I am tempted now to read and figure if that “baggage” claim has some merit.

And I do see the pain when Indscribe says

Muslims … unfortunately have to wear their patriotism on the sleeve all the time

[Note: Please, no hatred-preaching, you own all the comments you make here]

Come learn some obscenity

source rediffA movie that is filled with filthy language, and has song and dance sequences you cant watch with family, has been granted exemption from entertainment tax for three months in Uttar Pradesh.

… with the State Government saying the movie spreads the message of checking crime among youth

Who is that youth being targetted for such a message (assuming the movie carries one) here? Young people in their teens are supposed to be the “impressionable minds”, not grown up folks in their 20s and 30s. But oh o! Omkara carries an A certificate, so only adults are allowed to watch it.

Am I the only one who finds this “tax exemption” odd? Moreover, listen to what the maker of this movie has to say:

Critics have lambasted director Vishal Bharadwaj for excessive use of cuss-words in Omkara, but the director is unruffled by the criticism and says he didn’t make it “keeping audience sensitivities in mind”.

Damn it. If you can’t make movies keeping audience sensitivities in mind, you must not be allowed use of this public medium. Some one please exile Mr Bharadwaj for making such a statement.

The Vande Mataram controversy

[Update: Since you took the time, do read part II (a muslim view) and part III (an argument) as well]

I am no BJP supporter, nor anti-muslim guy. But I am not for appeasement either, and I just hate all this politics in the name of religion.

When I read this bit on rediff on Sunday, I could imagine all those smiling faces at BJP headquarters. They finally got some fodder.

“But when it comes to worship only Allah is given that honour. A Muslim cannot worship his or her parents, motherland and even the Prophet though they are held in high esteem,”

No wonder, 2 days later, we have a controversy kicking some serious dust in the Parliament.

But, why be so literal Mr Bukhari? The song is revered more for the history attached to it than the literal meaning. Please dont incite politics in an out-of context fashion like that. Actually, strictly speaking, Vandana (origin for word Vande) translates to the act of bending or obeying in respect or submission (Obeisance). The sanskrit word for worship is Pooja or Stuti.

And Bharat Maata isn’t a goddess mentioned in those Hindu scriptures. The concept is just a nationalistic creation.

A R Rahman sang Vande Mataram, you din’t say a thing.

The whole country sang “Allah ke Bande” and is singing “Ya Ali” without thinking about relegion even once.

We continue to love “Saare jahaan se achha” even though the poet didn’t prefer Hindustan.

And you are spending your energy trying to undo some history. Why? You might have a point here, but why cant you forgoe that for a bit of nationalism?

Shell shocked – most petrol bunks cheat!

[Disclaimer - I have no material proof for what I say here, it is all based on observations and "hear-say" at Pune and Bangalore. And I am not interested in a PIL or anything of that sort for this. Petrol distribution corruption is too dangerous a thing to dabble with, not my cup of tea.]

Baleno, Honda city or Santro, you car will be shell shocked to hear this.

If you fill up at petrol bunks run by Shell or even Reliance, you may notice your car giving 10-15% better mileage.

Why so, you may ask. I have concluded, it is ‘apparently’ because Shell does not cheat, when they say a litre, you get 1000 cc of petrol.

But this is not the case at many petrol bunks operated by PSUs. I have “heard” that these low mileage bunks ‘doctor’ their meters to give you anything in the range of .85 – .95 litre of petrol when you are told you are getting 1. Apparently, the modus operandi is like this. The ‘official’ who is supposed to give out the equivalent of “business certificate” to these bunks forces them to tamper with the meters, and then share the ‘loot’. If the person operating the bunk tries to sing tunes of honesty and ethics, this “officer” knows umpteen tricks to deny him the “business certificate”.

Essentially, most sarkaari petrol bunks cheat. So next time you want to fill up, do your bit to curb this ‘corruption’ by opting for Shell or Reliance.

Be aware of another trick they play at a few bunks in Bangalore, especially if you are riding or driving alone. Say you want to fill up for Rs 1000. The guy says zero. You nod. He then starts the meter. Now, as soon as the meter reaches the 700-800 mark, an “accomplice” tries to engage you in a conversation. You get engaged, and while you attention slips away, the meter magically races to 1000.

The farce called ‘office of profit’

Did you follow all the hulla (english: noise) around this Office of Profit bill? What a farce! This OOP bill is a perfect example of a law with just the letters and no spirit.

Let me guess the spirit behind not allowing MPs to hold any office of profit (OOP). They could misuse their public office and profile to make even more profit in their so called OOP. And, the OOP can take MP’s valuable time and energy that he/she should be spending around and inside the Parliament.

Now consider this. Sharad Pawar runs BCCI, the richest and most powerful cricket body in the world. why is that post not considered an OOP? It sure distracts him from his main job. And he is certainly setup well to use his public profile to influence the business of cricket. Suresh Kalmadi runs various Olympic associations that have been doing our country proud. His public profile sure helps him win the so-called elections for these sports bodies year after year. That is neither good for sports – as we have seen over last so many Olympics and Asiads – nor for the Parliament as these roles are a distraction for him. Why should people of Pune not expect Mr Kalmadi to spend every minute thinking about problems of Pune?

Ditto for MPs in the business of providing education. Wont they purposefully make public educational institutions deteriorate in quality so that private colleges run by them do better business?

Why do film stars give Parliament a skip, prefer their ‘business’ over public service, (Read: Govinda attended only 31 out of 168 sittings) and yet, nobody talks about disqualifying them?

Think of a businessman like Vijay Mallya as an MP, and tell me if he would miss an important business meeting to attend Parliament?

And why the hell do MPs get Rs 500 allowance each day they sign the attendance register at the Parliament? What is their regular salary good for? Why keep incentives for coming to “work”?

Instead of debating these issues around disqualification, our lawmakers have spent quality time debating over a farce called the Office of Profit bill. Time well spent, is it?

Hema Malini’s cheeks – how to get there?

PuneRoads4Quality of roads in our cities tell us something is not happening right. What exactly is that? A decade ago, one may have said our cities don’t have enough money. But today, at least cities like Bangalore and Pune are not short on resources.

The so-called “system” is setup well enough. Local government allocates money to upgrade or construct roads. Tenders are floated with description of work that needs to be carried out. The best bid – I assume the “cheapest” one – is selected from a contractor that “qualifies” certain criteria. And then, this contractor carries out the work.

And what usually is the quality of such work? Drive on Marathahalli – Sai Baba Ashram road, talked about as the perfect example of PPP. Nice road, built in part contributions from local Real Estate developers. But, take any right or left from this beautiful road, and you will see roads even worse than the ones I showcased from Pune. And at Pune, even the arterial roads have severe quality issues. The pictures in that post are from Junglee Maharaj Road, Fergusson College Road and University Road.

When the budget-tender-contract-execute “system” seems well setup, why do we have these quality issues all around? Of course corruption, no prizes for guessing that. But let me tell you about the two pieces in this overall processes where it hurts the most:

  1. Selection of contractor: Who decides whose bids are valid and whose bid is the best? How easy it is for a random contractor to complete the documentation “required” to submit a valid bid?
  2. Who inspects the quality of completed work and signs off saying the work is done and payments can be made?

Most egovernance initiatives target problem #1. A completely online and transparent tendering process should fix this. The word “completely” is important, for if any human has the power to delay anything, you could be inviting corruption.

How to fix problem #2 though? You can’t computerize here as it is not easy to quantize quality. So who should decide whether the quality of work is billable and good or not?PuneRoads2

Road building is a “service”, right? Then, who is the end user or beneficiary? Local government, no? You and me, the citizens, yes! When you pay for a service and get it, isn’t it you who decides how the quality is, right? So why does this happen different in case of road works or any “public” work?

Imagine a process where after finishing his work, a contractor is required to get sign-offs from a fixed percentage of “beneficiaries” of the service he provided. To go hand in hand with this system, imagine a law that calls for penalties if an identified beneficiary does not respond to the quality questionnaire.

Beneficiaries must be identified upfront. This will be the toughest hop in the process. But this process could solve the quality problem. It puts the onus back on the citizens, and that is how it should be. Or else, people like me and you will just crib around and create negativity without doing anything meaningful.

Us and them

A highway interchange in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.

ft lauderdale int

Another in Mumbai, Maharashtra

mumbai int

Did they burn him alive?

Read this news on NDTV webite. They talked about it day before yesterday: Man attempts self immolation in Gaya.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of development, a person immolated himself in Bihar’s Gaya district because he has not received his salary for the last one year.

If you watched this news item (the image here is from NDTV website), you must have cursed Bihar government, cracked a few Lalu jokes and switched back to your favorite song-and-dance channel.

Now, read this article from the Indian Express: FIR against unnamed media persons in self immolation case:

Police superintendent A K Jain said here on Tuesday the FIR was lodged at the civil lines police station against a private TV news channel … for aiding and abetting Mishra to take up the extreme step.

Jain said the mediapersons, who were aware of the plan of Mishra, accompanied the youth and brought diesel and match box to execute his plan. The entire scene was shot by the news channel and was later shown on the TV.

Hmmm. The person immolated himself. But media persons brought him the fire gadgets.

TV media will be “innocent until proven guilty”. But, what is your verdict here?. One incident, two different perspectives, which one you take to be right?

Pune vs Bangalore – 3: Moon Landing

When I arrived here earlier this week, I thought I had landed on Moon. Isn’t Pune a city of craters? It is shocking and amazing to see that a city as big and important as Pune does such a shabby job of repairing and maintaining roads. And each year, rains are used as excuse. Give me a break, Pune isn’t the only place in the world where it rains. And there are umpteen ways to make rain-proof roads.

Bangalore roads are crowded, but man, they have never been as bad as they are in Pune, yuck!

PuneRoads3

God knows who all are making money in this scam. Its like the old scooter mechanic trick – make sure the scooter comes back to the garage in a few months. Lay the roads – they break in 3 months – float tenders for road repairs again – contractor X comes in – Roads are laid again. Come to Pune and see this endless cycle of corruption at work.

Enjoy some more random samples from around this “city of craters”.

PuneRoads1PuneRoads2PuneRoads4

Egovernance @ Bangalore – new BMP website is here

The new look website of BMP, built by the Egovernments Foundation is online! Looks good, and I am trying to do a detailed review. But writing anything in detail takes time. Moreover, the new BMP site is due for big updates real soon (Sep 15). So for now, here is a quick look at this exciting initiative!

[Note: A press release said that the "complaints" page was already up on this site. But that is not the case, as "Public Grievances" module is listed under the "Coming soon" section].

One basic question first. All these egov sites seem to assume I know where I live. Ward numbers, CMCs and all, it gets a bit technical. How do I know for sure that I live in Mahadevapura and not Bangalore and what exactly is my ward number? I need to know this to figure whether to go to this BMP site, or Mahadevapura city site.

Even the list of wards, where presented, has user interface quirks. Go to Property Tax Id page. You have a drop down with all ward names here. If you live in Domlur, you may want to type D and find it. But the wards names are listed with their number prefix. So you have to scroll through the big list and find Domlur, and that will be # 72.

Talking of user interface, go to the “know your property tax details” page. In here, try finding a specific address in say J P Nagar. You have to go through a page by page listing of all properties to find yours.

What I am alluding to is this. User interface for these city portals seem to be very ‘academic’. First up, all these sites need to be hosted under the umbrella of a “Karnataka state” page. There could be an entry point that asks you for your location, which I could provide by clicking on a map, or by typing in the name of the area where I live. Based on my answer, I could then be redirected to the website of the appropriate town, city or ward.

Next, what is up with all those “pdf”s? It is a bit annoying to run into “pdf”s even for simple bits of information.

Ward map with work details is nice and wonderful. But I wish this could be a query driven page, and I could get to see details of all types of works, not just the roads. That may be headed our way in form of the “ward works” module. That could go hand in hand with the complaints (aka grievances) page so that citizens will have ready and reference-worthy context for their complaints and suggestions.

List of legal hoardings is cool! I can now easily figure the illegal ones and hopefuly soon, report these to BMP right on this website.

I clicked on the “building plan approval” link with hopes of finding an electronic way of submitting soft copies for approval. But the page is merely a collection of addresses and phone numbers.

Also, as a layman, I am bit confused as to what things fall in jurisdiction of BMP vs BDA vs BMRDA vs BWSSB and what have you. For example, if I find a road flooded due to a broken water pipeline, who do I call for help? BDA or BWSSB or BMP? I wish BMP could provide links to “related” egovernance sites, and offer some guidance on jurisdictions. A ‘true’ city portal (bangalore.gov.in like thing) would be the best.

All in all, a good beginning in the form of an organized site that presents whatever information I assume BMP and eGov are in a position to present right now. It is just a beginning however, a directory of information of sorts. For us, the citizens, real fun will begin when the modules listed in the “coming soon” section will come online. Because then, there will be a real chance that the BMP portal could become a medium for two-way dialogue between residents and BMP.

Let us wait and watch.

[PS: "Ward works" link on Mahadevapura CMC site produced a pdf with garbage characters. I hope that is because I am missing some kannada fonts on my PC]

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