Saturday, 31 December 2011

Anna Hazare's "anti-women" remark

Regular readers of my work will be aware that I regard the Hazare crusade as being at best well intentioned and at worst fundamentally misconceived (see my remarks on my Blog titled "Eliminating black money").

So there might be some surprise at my coming to Hazare's defense in relation to his supposedly "anti-women" remark.

But what did he actually say? Apparently: “banjh kya jaane prasuti vedana (what does an infertile woman know about labor pains).”

Clearly, this would have been "insensitive and coarse" (as is being alleged by women's rights activists, if he had said this about a particular woman.

But he was making a general statement, in our national language, and this was probably the easiest way of making his point, which was about the difficulties he is facing in his fight for a strong anti-corruption bill.

What are such womens' rights activists trying to argue? That words like "banjh" should be banned? If so, will that remedy the actual physical condition of such women? Or take away the stigma that quite wrongly attaches to them in our culture?

Or are they arguing that we need to invent a similar word for impotent men and create a social stigma for them as well?

Alternatively, are the activists arguing that Hazare should invent a new word for the condition which will somehow have less of a stigma? Or that the comparison is inappropriate?

The whole attitude and argument of these so-called activists is ludicrous.

More or less as ludicrous as the activities of "defendants" of Hindu traditions who are ready to see insults in paintings and films and the actions of governments. I can do without such defendants thank you, and I suggest that women can do without such poorly educated activists (the word was used by no less a novelist than Premchand, and is in common use in our media).

Let us by all means defend those of our traditions that are worth defending, and I don't think I am second to anyone in defending women's rights, but we need a bit more of objectivity and balance and indeed effectiveness in our way of viewing and doing things in relation to such matters.

The best defence of women's rights is not by launching protests against everyone who uses a word like "banjh" but by working and paying for the education of women and girls, and then struggling for equal pay in return for equal work.

Of course we need to keep in mind that if too many women work outside the home, that leads to weak homes and therefore to weak cultures and weak nations - though what the right proportion is and how one can keep to that proportion while allowing for freedom of choice (as we must) I must admit I haven't worked out yet).

Neither the remark nor the confession in the para above is going to make me popular with womens' rights activists, I'm afraid, but facts are facts, and no one gains anything in the long run by running from facts.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Poem for 2012: “ABOUT TURN! … ATTENTION! … DISMISS!"


A full-throated command to a drilled mass
I remember it dimly from parade grounds seen in childhood
the assembled drumbeat of feet disintegrating into hubbub, obscurity and dust.

But there is also a subtlety, addressed to individuals who turn their backs
to go boldly where the facts lead them astray
from the main stream of conformity, and its gathered strength.

So it was that two men, smiling, frowning, angry, polite
said to me, their minds and lips nimble
far from skirmishing with anything that might sound even vaguely like
that word strong, separating me from a field where I with them had toiled and struggled.

FAIR? No, sir!
HURTS? Yes, sir!

(Really, sir!)

Reluctancy turns me round and about
spins me dizzy
till I do, eventually, stagger to attention,
take the deepest breath
and, softly as asssisted strength, whisper
“Dismiss”, and shake from my feet the dust.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Can India's economy be rescued?

I had warned on the impact of the global economy on the Indian economy as global boom started turning to global bust from 2007. However, India withstood the bust so well (along with China and other perception-based economies)that it was even being looked to as one of the engines for continued global growth - which is of course entirely nonsensical.

Anyway our chickens have eventually come home to roost, and if India is not in full-blown panic already, it will be soon.

Is there any way forward out of the mess for India's economy? There are two ways, and only two ways. One is a strong way (political) and one is a weak way (financial).

The strong political way forward would be for all the political parties to come together (a call I had given nearly 3 years ago now, when I had said, contrary to every other commentator that I know, that India had only 3 years before disaster hit - someone can check through my public commentaries and provide the exact date).

What could the political parties do together? Take forward the programme of economic reforms which has been more or less stalled (for what, a decade?) at the same time as strengthening the basis of the Indian economy (education, infrastructure, power, environment).

That can only happen if the politicians can show the people that they have, at least temporarily, turned their attention away from exclusively focusing on looting the country and turned it instead towards building the country. What would that require? I'm afraid it would require a lot! It would require the smaller parties, on which Congress depends, to realise that their future is bound up, at least for the coming elections with the Congress. That requires the Congress to stop focusing merely on staying in power and moving attention instead to doing the right things for the country. And that requires the BJP to stop focusing on its electoral prospects and work together with Congress for the good of the country. In other words, we need a government of national unity, which can be signalled by consensus and progress on the issue of corruption which was, at least till the current crisis hit, the focus of public concern.

Having addressed that, a government of national unity could turn its attention to an agreed programme for economic progress. All this can only happen if there is widespread agreement with my analysis nearly 3 years ago that we must all swim together or we will all sink together.

I am willing to return full-time to India to serve such a government of national unity in any suitable capacity for a salary of Rupee one a month, providing minimum housing is provided and any necessary official travel is covered.

The public perception of any of the above happening is extremely small (though I hope that it will). So, you may ask, what is the other way forward, even though it may be a weak way forward?

It is for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to print more money, cut interest rates, and lower the amount of money that our banks are required to hold as reserves. That may be thought to be inflationary in the short term, but in the current global and Indian environment, that is highly unlikely. If the RBI does not move in this way immediately, what is much more likely to happen is deflation as the country sinks into a cycle of negative growth (or at least back to our usual "Hindu rate of growth" of 3%).

In addition, we could to pioneer, in a new development globally, non-inflationary complementary currencies for funding specific areas such as education, infrastructure, power and environmental projects. This could make India the country with the fastest-growing economy in the world, till other countries also start adopting such complementary currencies. Of course, complementary currencies will not cure the global and Indian malaise permanently by themselves, but they will provide a much-needed respite till the global financial system is put on a firm basis.

If India does not move politically and/or financially in the ways I have outlined above, at least three things will happen. First, global worries about how the nation can fund its current-account deficit in the absence of foreign investors (who have already withdrawn, and will continue to withdraw) will mean that we will have to devalue the Rupee. That will not help us in the long or medium term, but may simply meet short-term necessity. Least of all will it help the government's poor position fiscally (which is a key reason why moving to complementary currencies would be such a good thing). The government's poor fiscal situation is the second thing that will cause concern, and that cannot be helped in any way other than moving to complementary currencies to sustain growth in all areas which do produce taxes for the government. Eliminating black money without cost to the government (which means abandoning the current quest for a Lok Pal, which would anyway be ineffective, and adopting my proposals for this - see my separate posts on the subject) would be a key step to bolstering the fiscal health of the government.

If the above moves are not made: our banks, which have made huge loans to finance private, industrial and commercial growth on the basis of an optimistic scenario for national growth, are already be facing the fact of how many of these loans can go sour. Is even an implosion of our banking system likely? Probably not, but it is certainly possible.

I pray that the horrendous situation facing our people in the immediate future will cause us to turn away from our culture of competing elite-groups built on mutual back-scratching to a united move to save the country.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Eliminating Black Money in India

As the next issue of The International Indian is coming out soon, I take the liberty of putting here the entire text of my article on "Eliminating Black Money in India" which was published by TII in its last edition:


There are now at least three sets of proposals for dealing with corruption in India.

First, there is the government’s “weak Lok Pal” bill, which is considered by everyone (except the government) to be laughably inadequate.

Second, there is the Anna Hazare Team’s proposal for a “strong Lok Pal” bill, which would give unprecedented power to the new Lok Pal.

Finally, there is the proposal from the NCPRI (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) – a body which has a much older and more established track record in fighting corruption and arbitrary use of power, for example through its demand for a Right to Information law in 1996. NCPRI has expressed “a great sense of disquiet” with the Hazare Team’s proposal, not only “because it does not address … arbitrary use of power (but) because it is unrealistic (to think that a Lok Pal) can alleviate “all ills”. Indeed a single strong Lok Pal (as proposed by the Hazare team) will “concentrate too much power in the institution, while the volume of work will make it difficult (for the Lok Pal) to carry out its tasks”. The view of the NCPRI is, therefore, that “there should be multiple institutions and … a basket of collective and concurrent (i.e. separate) anti-corruption and grievance redress measures”. (Please note that, in the quotes above, the materials in brackets are mine.)

If I was forced to choose between the three proposals above, my sympathies would be with the NCPRI’s proposals.

However, it is striking that there is one thing common between all three proposals mentioned above: the creation of a new institution in the body politic for addressing corruption in that body politic.

The problem is the following: as we Indians are not only corrupt, but have also mastered the various arts involved in corrupting others (especially those in any position of authority), how do we know that the Lok Pal will not be corrupted as well?

In fact, it is because the NCPRI proposals create a set of checks and balances that I favour them rather than the Hazare Team proposals.

However, the crucial fact that we must keep in mind to evaluate this matter properly is that the checks and balances set out in an extremely thoughtful way in our Constitution have not prevented the corruption of all areas of government - so far, less so in the case of the Supreme Court and the Office of the President of the country - but even these have not escaped entirely unscathed.

Therefore I want to put forward the question: is it not time to take an entirely different approach?

As background, let us keep in mind that corruption is about self-interest. By contrast, public office is about public service (usually for a relatively small monetary compensation). So public servants need to have an extremely high sense of morality, duty and public service if they are to offer genuine public service. No doubt, we have people with this sort of character but they seem to get systematically corrupted (or, if they refuse to conform, they become sidelined). That is why public service may be considered to have proven itself too weak to counter the self-interest of corruption. Which is why it may be time to consider whether the market (which is about self-interest) is not a better means, in our culture, for countering the self-interest of corruption.

Clearly, if black money, inside the country and outside, is anywhere near as massive as is being suggested, our current systems of public service are entirely unable to deal with the issue. What is needed is fresh thinking, from outside our current ways of organizing ourselves politically and legally.

Historically, in India, the overwhelming proportion of black money was generated and owned by business families. Now, a huge amount of black money appears to be also with politicians, bureaucrats, defense officials and perhaps even judges.

Justice has not merely to be done, but also to be seen to be done: as all our political, judicial, bureaucratic and business classes are under suspicion, rather than creating a Lok Pal, it may be better to create a National Clean Money Authority (NCMA) which is at arm’s length from all current police, army, navy, air force, and central as well as state investigation and prosecution agencies. The NCMA must be independent of political control so that the functioning of this agency cannot be stopped or interfered with by anyone in the country for any consideration.

Further, the Authority must be asked to do a very tiny number of things transparently under gaze of the public, TV, etc. That will be easy, as say three Members of the NCMA will be appointed by our country’s President from a global pool of people of high repute, and the Authority’s work will consist primarily of making the rules, advertising the tender, and then opening the bids for the work of the proposed 15 new Investigating Agencies. In time, the NCMA’s work and performance would have to be evaluated, and it would be best for the evaluation to be done by a Committee of Parliament, where the Terms of Reference would be simply that of evaluating how the NCMA had done its job.

Why should the NCMA not create just one Investigating Agency? Because, if only one Investigating Agency exists, it may be bribed or pressured relatively easily.

So why at least 15 Investigating Agencies? In order to ensure sufficient competition and prevent cartelisation: if more than a few Investigating Agencies need to be bribed for investigations to be stalled, the guilty will find it less than worthwhile to offer bribes.
The Investigating Agencies will not be paid a single paisa by the Government, rather they will bid for the contracts on a 3-yearly basis, with the highest bidders winning. However, any of the Agencies which successfully collects enough evidence to convict someone of having black money, will be given a specified proportion (I suggest 25%) of the black money in question, once a trial is successfully concluded.

Naturally, there is the key problem of how to eliminate delays in court. This is best done by establishing a new set of courts for the purpose, bound by the rule that there will be only one public hearing of each case, which will continue in unbroken session (allowing for working hours and holidays) till the trial has been concluded. Evidence selected by the Agency must be presented in one go, with a maximum of three working days for the submission of all the evidence and the arguing of the case. This will concentrate the minds of the prosecuting team, so that only the key matters are presented. Similarly, the defense will have two months to prepare its response, but it will also have a maximum of three days in which to present its defense. The Judge will then have two weeks in which to prepare the judgment. For those convicted, of however small an offence, there will be a compulsory period of five years in jail, which will be non-bailable, in addition to the financial penalty of losing 100% of the black money in question, along with a fine of 150%. This will probably mean lots of separate cases being filed by the Investigating Agencies in order to get quick convictions, but that is better than waiting years for Agencies to complete rather more thorough investigations - which may or may not ever be completed.

To be eligible to be one of 15 Agencies, candidate organisations MUST be publicly quoted companies, have global operations, and have headquarters outside India (but not in any of our neighbouring countries, where black money information could be used more easily for blackmail or terrorist purposes). For example, detective agencies, security companies, and accountancy firms (or some combination of these) could be candidates for appointment as Investigative Agencies, provided they have headquarters in a location that suggests sufficient distance and objectivity as well as the likelihood of probity.

As it may be too difficult for too many people in power if the Investigative Agencies were to trace and prosecute on the basis of black money in the past, there should be a “National Clean Money Day” (NCMD), announced say a year from the creation of the National Clean Money legislation. Up to that NCMD, everyone is free to declare their assets abroad or in the country. No tax needs to be paid on these assets and no prosecution will result. However, the Clean Money Laws (as proposed above) will apply from the NCMD.

No one, including the President of India, should be outside the reach of the Investigative Agencies. If any official or dignitary of the nation is convicted under the Clean Money Laws, that person will be considered to have been impeached from office, and a replacement would be sought according to existing or new arrangements in our Constitution, laws and regulations.

Versions of the above piece were declined by Civil Society, Economic Times, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Mint, Tehelka, and The Hindu.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

In Indian tradition and thought, is war justified?

Very interesting and helpful post on "Is War Just"

But how is the term "dharma" (usually translated misleadingly as "righteousness"), in the Mahabharata, to be defined?

Moreover, if there is no such act as killing, why are murderers considered bad?

And if there is no such act as killing, is there such an act as stealing? If not, why should thieves be considered bad?

Ditto lying...

And is there such a thing as adultery? Or, more deeply, lust or jealousy or anger or spiritual laziness or....?

In other words, what is a "just cause" and what an "unjust cause"? Sadly, the article referred to above, leaves us in the dark on this matter.

And why is the action of defending "dharma" (however defined) any better than refusing to defend dharma?

Finally: Gandhiji was certainly a "great soul", and Rajmohan Gandhi is a man that I have admired ever since I met him in the Sxities, but it is not clear why Gandhiji should be considered an authority on Hindu thought, or on the Gita. Certainly, Gandhiji had his view and his interpretation, and I treat them with respect, but why should Gandhiji's interpretation be considered "correct"? In fact, do we have such a thing as a "correct" interpretation in our traditions? If, as far as I am know, we do not have such a thing as a "correct" interpretation in our traditions, why should Gandhiji's interpretation be considered worthy of more respect than the interpretation of those who have argued that, in the Mahabharata, war and violence are justified when struggling for whoever one considers the rightful or legitimate ruler?

I guess another question remains: tradition is the basis on which the order of birth is the key factor determining whether the Pandavas or the Kauravas should rule; is primogeniture such an important principle to uphold that it justifies destroying the millions or at least tens of thousands that the Great War is supposed to have killed? And is primogeniture relevant to producing governmental competence in the modern world?

The Mahabharata is of course a beloved epic. But why should we pretend that it offers any morality whether in its own time or in ours? Epics have never been morality tales in any culture. The Indian preoccupation with finding morality in our epics may be simply, via Western-style education and the influence of globalisation, a result of the influence of Christianity on our culture.

Let morality be morality, and stories be stories, I say. Perhaps we should look elsewhere for guidance regarding whether or not war in any circumstances may be justified?

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

India does not allow visitors "quick re-entry" (under two months' gap). Why?

I will be grateful if someone can explain to me the logic or benefits of denying visitors "quick re-entry" into our country?

That is, if you are in India right now and propose to stay let us say up to December 31, you will not be allowed to enter the country again before March 2012.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

India sinks to a new low in the global corruption ranking

Though the article here
talks about this new low only in terms of India's image, it strengthens my argument that we are sadly becoming more and more corrupt as a nation.

No doubt some will counter with the question which is meant rhetorically: "But what about the current anti-corruption drive?"

My answer: first, it is not entirely evident that the anti-corruption movement is itself willing to free itself of corruption; and second, it is true that, at the same time as we are becoming increasingly corrupt as a nation, a few hundreds of thousands among us are becoming more actively committed to the fight against corruption.

I hope and pray that the number of those fighting against corruption increases, but that will only happen as each of us recognizes that the line against corruption passes through each of our hearts: what is important is not only to be "against corruption" in some verbal sense or in terms of being willing to go on political demonstrations; rather, what is important is to be willing to face the fact that, in our increasingly corrupt culture, if one is to act against corruption, one must be prepared to pay the cost in terms of delays, losses, inconvenience, ostracism, harassment, and perhaps even violence against one's property and person.

Thankfully, an increasing number are becoming willing to pay such a price. That that is not yet showing up in the rankings is evidence of how small that number is still. May their tribe increase.

Science and Technology in the Vedas

I'm afraid that I have only just got around to reading a book by the above title, published in 2007, Dr. R.V.S.S Avadhanulu.

It exemplifies all the strengths and all the weaknesses of the conservative view.

Strengths: it is clear, well organised, makes excellent distinctions, and is based on sound knowledge of Sanskrit as well as of our traditions.

Weaknesses: it is not willing to question any of our pieties. The problem is that if one is not willing to ask questions, then one cannot really grow that body of knowledge. Further, as there are different traditions in our country, one cannot explore the differences between our traditions in any substantial way.

Here is a simple example of the sort of thing I mean. Dr Avadhanulu provides an instructive (one might even say exhaustive) account of the Vedic and Vedantic views of the importance of the Vedas themselves. He also documents how much of the Vedas have been lost (as far as can be deduced). However, he does not ask how is it that a body of knowledge that was held in apparently the highest esteem by our people came to be lost by our people? Or perhaps it was the case that only a few of our people held the Vedas in that high esteem? If so, how come that even those few did not hang to the most precious thing in their lives? Further, as the majority of the Vedas have been lost, how do we know that what we do have is as important as that which we have lost? If I lose just the last few pages of a novel, that novel is not much use to me; if I lose several chapters from different sections of any book then surelythat book (whether fiction or non-fiction) is not much use to me? Please note that I am not arguing that what we have of the Vedas is not of much use; I am simply raising the sorts of questions that we must ask if we are to grow beyond our pieties.

Naturally, the question also arises: do we actually need to grow beyond our pieties? One way of answering that question is to consider the following.

Though Dr Avadhanulu does not demonstrate this, it is clear from even the most cursory knowledge of the subject, that early Indian technology was developed to a height greater than anywhere else in Asia (perhaps in the world, though that is a different matter, and can be argued about). How come we lost that technological lead? By the way, it is clear that we did not lose that lead simply because others overtook us - we actually degenerated in our level of civilization. I am referring of course to PRE-Vedic technology. Then, in another phase of our history, the Vedic phase, we again developed technology to the highest degree in Asia - but without building on the pre-Vedic technologies at least in some aspects. However, we lost not only Vedic technologies, we lost most of the Vedas themselves! Then we had Buddhist technology (which, again, if not in all aspects at least in many significant aspects, did not build on Vedic technology). At a specific point, perhaps as a result of the violence of the campaign to eliminate Buddhism from among our people, we lost Buddhist technology too. From this simple history, a basic question arises: what is wrong with our traditional way of dealing with knowledge that, highly technologically gifted as our people can historically be seen to be, we have lost our edge again and again? Did we lose it each time for fundamentally different reasons or for similar reasons? In what ways do we need to grow beyond our traditions so that we don't lose again whatever edge we are developing now? Those are the sorts of questions, and they are important for our children and grandchildren, that the conservative approach is not merely uncomfortable with, but specifically forbids one from asking. At the same time, I am deeply grateful to Dr Avadhanulu and other conservative scholars and researchers who have done and are doing so much to preserve and further our knowledge of our traditions.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Poem written some two years ago, on approaching my 60th birthday


My hairs are counted down
As I am counted up

What when they both reach zero?
An eye is on that sparrow!

So when I, ripe, fall
I will find (imagine!) the ground beneath it all:

Is there a friend who is closer than a brother?
Anyone who cares when no one is around?

Can the scales ever balance for those who are poor?
Cloudless skies, will those really be found?

Well, at least I know that he
Who up-ends tables, uses the whip,

Arranges, where the weights are imponderable
And the books can no longer be cooked

For even my hairs to be counted up
While I am gently counted down

And neither will amount to zero (imagine!)
When I can touch and kiss him, who is
the ground beneath it all.

Prabhu Guptara
7 June 2009

One indication for prospects for business in India in comparison to other parts of the world

Please see my post at:

Poem written in April 2011: "On a Visit, near Lucknow"

That chandelier you see, Sir, is Belgian.
True, one bulb is missing, some are cracked,
And all are – ahem – dusty
From the labours of servants who were ignorant or overenthusiastic.

That clock, sir, like this simple toast rack, doesn’t work any more.

But in our heyday, Sir, can you imagine how much it would have cost
How many years’ labour for how many of our people
Not only to buy these beloved things, but to transport them from Belgium to London
From London to Calcutta, thence by boat to Kanpur
(The river is blocked, nothing comes that way now)
And then by road the half-day journey to Lucknow.

Today, Sir, we can get anything everything direct from Sharjah.
By air. Direct.

But, Sir, Naseeruddin, Naseeruddin, Naseeruddin Haider!
He was something else!

What a vision he had of linking the Gomti and the Ganga!

If Kanpur and Lucknow had been connected, what a city Lucknow would have been!

Who would have cared for Lahore, Delhi and Calcutta?
Or even London, New York or Beijing?

Would there have been aircraft?
Might we, using ancient knowledge, have leapfrogged to a different propulsion system?

But, Sir, our nawaabs and thaakurs may be no more, their propulsion was the same
As that of our netas, only we are faster and harder - and more devious.

They all thought, Sir, they all think, themselves to be masters of the universe.

It is like - you know the story of the Naag Temple down the road, Sir?

No? Ah, then you must know! The most incredibly rich Jaat of the area
Had a dream in which he was granted a vision of the Naag Devta.

You must be knowing, Sir, Naag Devta, Shivji, Vishnu?

Yes yes of course, you live abroad but you are Indian, my apologies!

I’m sorry, Sir, but I must ask, I must not assume!

Nowadays, Sir, even Indians living in our own country don’t know anything about our traditions!

Anyway, the visionary demand was that a temple be built to the Naag Devta.

In the morning, trembling, the Jaat went to a pundit he knew a bit
And retailed the story, whereupon the wily pundit demurred:
building a temple is no small endeavour!

The terrified Jaat fell at the pundit’s feet and offered to sell everything he owned.

So, today, a beautiful cobra’s head overshadows the road, as you have seen,
The temple is splendid, overpowering. The pundit does very well.

The Jaat? I wondered if you would ask.

He volunteers at the temple, surviving gratefully on whatever is offered to him.

Yes, indeed, Sir, so what is the point of the story? That is what I am telling only.

This Jaat, Sir, was also a master of the universe.

All these masters of the universe had dreams.

And their dreams required them to sacrifice themselves and all they had.

But even at the height of their success, Sir, they were merely poor servants of their dream
Only imagining their mastery of the universe.

I am sorry, Sir, I fold my hands, I am an aged servant, not a philosopher
But we who've lived an age, even if we are uneducated, sometimes do reflect.

Many thanks, Sir, you are very kind. The master is good
But we have fallen on hard times, and everything is so expensive nowadays,
Thanks to today’s masters of the universe.


Monday, 28 November 2011

More and more impressive: Forward Press magazine

The magazine started boldly, struggled to find its voice for several months, but has for about a year now being doing better and better.

The current issue is outstanding:

- Bihar: Who Got How Much Land and for How Much?

- Which castes have what percentage of faculty positions at India's premier university, JNU?

- should one version of the Rama story be imposed on everyone - and if so, which?, by Ram Puniyani

- Is the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr Ambedkar, now outshining Gandhiji?, by Prof Kancha Ilaiah

- Nuclear energy: does India need it? by Ratan Mani Lal

- The monumental dalit response to "national" memorials across the Yamuna from Delhi

- Call for splintered Dalitbahujan movements to come together

- Chandra Bhushan Prasad Yadav, Editor-in-Chief, Yadav Shakti, asks "the Mulnivasi castes... the original inhabitants" of India to read and to think

- Progress-prone versus Progress-Resistant Societies: Why Real Change is So Hard, by Thom Wolf

- review of Jagdeo Prasad's Complete Works, by Dr Sanjay Navle

- Srilal Shukla: a tribute by Prem Kumar Mani

- our national language, Hindi - how was it created?, by Vishal Mangalwadi

- the story of the creation of the first-ever Hindi thesaurus, by Arvind and Kusum Kumar

- should 27% of all government purchases and contracts be awarded to dalitbahujans?, by an Indian professor

- Mayawati and Nitish: Similar Path, Different Destinations, by Rajnikant Vashishtha

- Waman Meshram calls on all SCs, STs n OBCs to oppose the hypocrisy of both the Congress and the BJP

- On Phule’s death anniversary, Truthseekers International's honour to the unrecognized work of farming

- Mahishasura and Macaulay: The Limits of Postmodernity, by Ivan Kostka

- case study of decision-making in a family, by Hansraj and Kasturbai Jain

- and more...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Eye-witness account of the situation regarding the current elections in UP

A friend writes from UP:

"All major political parties are now actively campaigning. The amount of money being lavished is visible and frightening. Regular and organized ‘daawats’, distribution of silver toe rings to women, large amounts of cash being given to agents and leaders - these visuals are unabashed and open!" (sic.)

There are many kinds of bribery.

May God grant to our people the elementary commonsense to see that anyone who is willing to bribe you to get your vote, is not the kind of person for whom you should vote...

Fraudunlent "Swiss Bank Corporation" note regarding accounts allegedly held in Switzerland by Rajeev Gandhi, A Raja and others

A relative of mine forwards to me a note claiming to be from "Swiss Bank Corporation" showing that accounts there are currently as follows:

"Rajeev Ratna Gandhi - 1,98,356/-Crores
Andimuthu Raja - 7,856/-Crores
Harshad Mehta - 1,35,121/- Crores
Sharad Govindrao Pawar - 28,956/-Crores
Palaniappan Chidambaram - 33,451/-Crores
Suresh Kalmadi - 5,560/-Crores
Muthuvel Karunanidhi - 35,009/-Crores
Ketan Parekh - 8,256/-Crores
Chirag Jayesh Mohini - 96,455/-Crores
Kalanithi Maran - 15,090/-Crores".

My relative asks how authentic such a note is likely to be.

Naturally, the named people may have this much or even more money in accounts outside India or possibly in Switzerland(though the latter is highly unlikely, for reasons I have written about on my Blog and elsewhere).

However, my reply to my relative consisted of this one line: "Swiss Bank Corporation stopped existing in 1998".

Simple tests regarding the authenticity of any such note would be: What is the date mentioned on the note? Does the company actually exist from which the note claims to originate? Why would they send such a note to the person who claims that the note has been sent to her/him? Would such a note ever list more than one person? Why would the amount of money held by her/him be listed? Is the list at least in some sort of order? (Above, the list is neither in alphabetical order nor in the order of amounts held..., nor is there any other indication of why the list should be in this particular order - rather the order might indicate the preoccupations of the people fabricating this note).

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Muslims for secular democracy

A brave article, "A different sort of Valley ‘protest’", by Javed Anand of the organisation, Muslims for Secular Democracy is in The Indian Express today:

All I can say is that we also need Christians for secular democracy, Hindus for secular democracy, and so on.

Most of all we need upper castes committed to genuine democracy for dalitbahujans.

That will come only if we are all committed to education and freedom of thought for all.

Free markets in goods and services are only as important as free markets in philosophy, religions and ideologies.

That is the only way we can arrive at our own conclusions - and change our minds about these and other matters, if we feel that necessary or desirable.

Freedom of thought, of association, and of action is the only way we will grow beyond the sort of development that our country is experiencing at present, and grow into the kind of national development that we all, I believe, really desire.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Are our various Hindu approaches absolutist or relativistic in ethics?

The question has come up as I see mention of a particular event where three views of ethics are to be presented from the platform: that of the Gita, that of the Koran, and that of the Bible (I should say that none of these presentations are by me, in this particular instance!).

One's view of ethics is always related to one's view of God, since without God no real "ethics" are possible, only rules that individuals may or may not make up for themselves (because individuals are also then free to live not on the basis of rules or principles but even on the basis of whims and fancies).

I guess it is fair to say that the Koran's view of ethics, like its view of God, is absolutist. God is totally sovereign, His will is immmutable, and we can either comply or face punishment. Perhaps some Muslim friends will correct me if they feel that I am being too extreme or partial in my portrayal of the Koran's view of God and of ethics.

The Biblical view (again, I hope that readers better acquainted with the book than me will correct me) seems to me neither absolutist nor relativistic. I would describe it as "aspirationalist" or "idealist". Yes, certain absolutes are presented (e.g. Thou shalt not commit theft or adultery or murder...) but these are negative absolutes, which leave enormous room for positive things. In other words, it is an ethic which emphasises freedom within limits (yes, there was a tree in the Garden of Eden from which one could not eat, but that was only one tree; Adam and Eve were free to eat the fruit of any other tree, and they were free to cultivate and shape the garden as they wished). The New Testament continues in that broad vein, giving very few specific positive commands, and those are mostly to do with aspiring towards ideals that are impossible or rather difficult (such as the total purity of "Look at every woman without lust in your heart" or the total generosity of "if anyone begs you for a coat, give to him your shirt also"). In other words, ideals are presented to us (most fully in the person of Jesus the Lord) and we are urged to grow towards those, with the associated need for self-examination, and the motivation against discouragement provided by the forgiveness for our failures and shortcomings extended to those who are willing to accept that on the basis of the Lord's death on the cross, as well as the encouragement and enablement made possible toward that ideal by His resurrection and the relationship which is therefore possible with Him today. The ideas is that His power working in us can continue to transform us in spite of weaknesses and failures, if we are willing to get up and run again towards those character ideals.

As in the case of my discussion of the Koran and the Bible, I hope that friends who know the Gita better than I do will correct me if my view of ethics in the Gita is distorted: so far as I can see, the Gita's view of ethics is one that is based on the various dharmas (systems of duties, rules and obligations) associated with one's caste as defined by varnashrama provided one has bhakti towards Shri Krishna. The idea is that one is born in a particular caste, which has defined duties and one should do everything one can to uphold those duties and obligations, however illogical or immoral those may seem, provided one has faith in Shri Krishna.

I should also immediately point out that this is only ONE Hindu view of ethics. Overall, we could say that we Hindus are absolutist in terms of our personal orientation (we may owe allegiance, for example as above, to Shri Krishna) but outside that we are relativistic.

What I mean is that while we will not be ashamed about our devotion to our Kuladeva or Ishtadeva, we have no problem with others having their own Kuladeva or Ishtadeva or guru or whatever.

Why do have no problem with that?

Principally because we regard all bhakti and all philosophy and all tapasya as operating at a lower level than the mystical flash which we associate with becoming "fully enlightened" or "self-realised". The mystical flash can certainly come as a result of tapasya or philosophy or bhakti or whatever, but these are mere routes, and they do not by themselves guarantee that one will have the mystical flash, which may even come entirely unbidden. The important thing is not whether we try or don't, the important thing is whether the flash comes. As long as the flash does not come, we should long for it and work towards it, but if and when it comes, it obliterates for us any and all the routes we may have pursued towards it.

Moreover, specifically in terms of our topic: if and when one has such a mystical flash, one is considered to have immediately transcended the earthly level where ethics and morality apply.

That is why so many of our gods and gurus have the liberty to indulge in behaviour that would be, for the rest of us who are not yet enlightened, regarded as immoral or unethical. If they are at a spiritual level beyond ours, they have the liberty to do things that we unenlightened ones cannot - whether in ethics or in the realms of miracles, curses, boons and so on.

So, what is my conclusion?

Some of us simply accept and continue in what we were taught as children, some of us reject everything that was taught to anyone, but some of us do want to study and think properly about the different views of divinity, reality, personality and - in this case - morality or ethics.

In ethics, some of us tend more towards the idealist, some towards the absolutist, some to the traditionalist (which ultimately, in the case of our tradition, eventually becomes relativist).

The important thing, as Jesus put it, is that we seek passionately for the Truth, combining that with love not only those who disagree with us but even those who may consider themselves our enemies. That is what makes democracy and indeed actually in the end even personal/social/political freedom possible.

Cheating, Rationalism, Rationalisation and Rationality.

No this post is not merely a play on words, as has become so beloved in our country.

So what is it about?

Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto says that "research on ethical decision making has been heavily influenced by normative decision theories that view intelligent choices as involving conscious deliberation and analysis". In other words, research has been done on the basis that conscious deliberation is the most important part of ethical choices.

The question is whether this is so primarily in the West or, as Western influence has spread, whether it has become increasingly true also of other parts of the world?

In any case, current research (not only by Zhong) suggests that ethical decision making may depend on more metaphorical and embodied factors.

Zhong's own research suggests that deliberative decision making may actually increase unethical behaviors while reducing altruistic motives.

His findings highlight the potential ethical downsides of a rationalistic approach toward ethical decision making and he calls for a better understanding
of the intuitive nature of moral functions:

However, Zhong may be confusing deliberation with rationalism and rationalisation.

As rationality, rationalism and rationalisation have become increasingly intertwined in the West, is it possible that the rationality of less educated people, whether in the West or in India or other "developing countries", is more in tune with global ethical ideals?

After all rationality is not the exclusive province of educated people!

Moreover, educated people may be rationalistic rather than properly rational for reasons to do with the rise of rationalism rather than with deliberation itself.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Action against black money internationally

Do you know any country in the world as thorough and rigorous against black money as Switzerland?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

On the government's generosity to itself, but meanness to our citizens

Why is 100% tax deduction allowed to the PM's National Relief Fund (for example) while only 50% deduction is allowed to non-government-run charities?

Is there any evidence that the government-run charities do 200% as much good as other charities?

My guess is that the performance of the government-run charities has never been assessed.

Friday, 11 November 2011

My proposals for Eliminating Black Money in India

Presumably I am a very bad writer.

My proposals for eliminating black money in India have been turned down by Civil Society, Economic Times, The Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Mint, Tehelka, and The Hindu.

But I am glad to inform you that The International Indian magazine (published from Dubai) has published them - please see pages 54-57 of this month's magazine -

I will be glad to respond to questions or suggestions, and indeed to discuss my proposals further

My proposals for Eliminating Black Money in India

Presumably I am a very bad writer.

My proposals for eliminating black money in India have been turned down by Civil Society, Economic Times, The Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Mint, Tehelka, and The Hindu.

But I am glad to inform you that The International Indian magazine (published from Dubai) has published them - please see pages 54-57 of this month's magazine -

I will be glad to respond to questions or suggestions, and indeed to discuss my proposals further

Statue of Mahatma Gandhi gift of Indian community to France on 11/11/11

A 2-metre high statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled in the presence of the Indian Ambassador to France, of the Maire of Vauréal and of the Pondicherry Minister of Tourism.

The statue (for which the French could find a site only in Vauréal, 50 km from Paris), is a gift to France from the Indian community in France "as the Statue of Liberty was offered to the USA by France 125 years back".

However, a statue of Mahatma Phule or of Dr Ambedkar would have been better as they were more enlightened and did at least as much for India.

Brace yourself: India will do badly... but better than most countries

So car sales last quarter were down 24% in October, hitting an 11-year low, according to SIAM (the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers)?

And the October trade gap was the widest in four years due to exports slowing sharply amid weakening global demand, while import payments surged due to high crude oil prices and a rise in coal imports?

Just two signs of the difficulties facing the Indian economy - about which i warned at the start of the current crisis in 2008; thank God, it has taken 3 years to hit us - so we should have been well prepared. Are we?

However, be of good cheer: in the short to medium term, we will be hit even more by the current crisis, but we will do less badly than almost all other countries (except the US and the UK - I have an open mind about the Euro). In all these cases, the good news is no thanks to the national governments involved. Rather it is global forces at play.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

"Interesting Facts About India"

A friend sends me the following "Interesting facts about India":

The Official Figure of Mother Tongues Spoken in India is 1,683, of which an estimated 850 are in daily use. However, only 21 are officially recognized languages in India, namely :
01. Assamese,
02. Bengali
03 Bodo
04. Dogri
05. Gujarati
06. Kannada
07. Kashmiri
08. Konkani
09. Malayalam
10. Maithili
11. Manipuri or Meithei
12. Marathi
13. Nepali
14. Oriya
15. Punjabi
16. Sanskrit
17. Santali
18. Sindhi
19. Tamil
20. Telugu
21. Urdu

• The famous board game, called Chess, was invented in India.
• In India's 100,000 years of history, it has never invaded any other country.
• India is the 7th largest country in the world, the largest democracy and one of the oldest civilizations.
• India was one of the richest countries in the world before the British invasion in 17th century.
• The value of "pi" used in mathematics was first calculated by the Indian mathematician Budhayana in 6th century.
• India is one of the largest exporter of computer software products. It exports software to over 90 countries.
• India originated Yoga about 5,000 years ago.
• India has the most number of mosques. It has 300,000 mosques which is much more than the Muslim world.
• Christians and Jews have been living in India since 52 A.D. and 200 B.C. respectively.
Unusual Facts About India
• India has the highest bridge in the world . It is called Bailey Bridge and is located in Ladakh between the Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayas.
• Before 1986, India was the only place in the world where Diamonds could be found.
• The world's first University was established in India . The University was established in 700 B.C. at the place of Taxila.
• The biggest and the largest employer in the world is Indian Railways which employs over a million people.
• India has the biggest cricket ground in the world. It is located in the northern state of India called Himachal Pradesh. The cricket ground is 2444 meters above the sea level and was built in 1893.
• Most important studies of Mathematics like calculus, trigonometry and algebra were originated in India.
• Taj Mahal which is among the seven wonders of the world is in India. Taj Mahal was built over a long period of 11 years.
• India has the most number of post offices in the world.
Funny Facts About India
1. There where no plastic bags in India before 1985?
2. Over 1000 elephants were used during the construction of the Taj Mahal?
3. The mobile users of India grows every month with about 2.5 million people?
4. There are over 1500 software companies in Bangalore India?
5. The number of births that occur in India each year is higher than the entire population of Australia?
6. The word mongoose comes from India?
7. The airline company Air Deccan was the first low-cost flight company in India
8. About 50% of the residents in India are under 25 years old
9. Indian Railways transport about five billion passengers annually
10. The longest station name on the Indian Railways is Venkatanarasimharajuvariapeta
11. The only country in the world that has a Bill of Rights for Cows is India
12. India is the world's largest mango producer
13. Hockey is the National Game of India
14. In India nearly 1200 species of birds can be found
15. Indians go out to the cinema about 3 billion times a year
16. India has about 800 dialects and 15 major Languages
17. Algebra, Calculus, and Trigonometry comes from India
18. India has health laughing clubs where people get together and laugh
19. India is the largest tea producer in the world
20. The biggest ant in India is about an inch
21. India used sugar before any other country
22. 4 major religions has India as birthplace Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism
23. India buys more gold than any other country
24. Curry powder gets its yellow color from a spice, turmeric
25. The number system and decimal system was invented in India
26. Before 1896 India was the only diamonds producing country in the world
27. Films made in Bollywood are often seen by people in South Africa
28. India is home to about 200 million cows
29. India is the world's number one producer of vegetarian cheese
30. The first bathrooms is said to have been built in India about 4500 years ago
31. India is the second most populated country in the world
32. Shampoo is derived word from Hindi

I responded to him as follows:

Dear ...

Interesting indeed - though, like most such compilations occasionally inaccurate or tendentious. For example, the list of languages entirely ignores the most important regional language Hindi (which is, with English, one of our two "official languages"), presumably the compiler of this list did not want Hindi to be included in the list of Indian regional languages - and did not want to put Hindi on the same level as English! Or consider:"In India's 100,000 years of history, it has never invaded any other country". First, India does not HAVE a history of 100,000 years (in fact, our historical records were badly preserved and actually distorted since we deliberately started suppressing and mythifying our past. Second, of the historical records we do have, whether or not we invaded any other country is a matter of how we define "India". What is currently "India" is a creation of the British in 1947, and whether or not we invaded Tibet to start the Indo-Chinese war, invaded Kashmir, and invaded what was then East Pakistan to create what is now Bangladesh, are matters of opinion (I still have not been able to make my mind up about them - it depends on what facts one considers how important). What is certain is that we invaded the independent states of Hyderabad, Goa, and so on, immediately or soon after independence.... Finally, we may or may not ever have invaded "any other country" but we have a most shameful record of internal violence against our own people through the invention of the cruel doctrine of untouchability and the wicked theory of Karma - and, if we forget that, then our record is not entirely without blemish in the matter of our treatment of "Indian Kashmiris", Nagas, Mizos, Tribals, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists since Independence. This is not to say that I am ashamed of my country. Rather, I am proud of many positive things in our country. But pride in our country needs to be balanced by honest recognition of the wrongs that we have done and are still doing, some of them deliberately, and some without realising it.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Do military and para-military actions reduce civil unrest better than policies that foster more equality in society?

In "Redistribution, Inequality and Political Conflict", a paper quoted by The Economist and published on the website of the Households in Conflict Network, School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, UK, Patricia Justino analyses the relationship between redistributive policies and civil unrest.

According to her, empirical data for 14 large Indian states during 1973-2000 shows that, in the medium-term, redistributive policies have been significantly more effective in reducing civil unrest in India than more direct solutions,
such as the use of police and military forces.

Further, putting the right (more equitable) policies in place also causes the economy to grow, whereas merely sending in the army/police produces negative results on economic growth.

The lesson is: where there is social unrest, RESIST the urge to send in the police and/ or the army.

Instead, put in place those policies (the rule of law, just taxation, investments in social and physical infrastructure...) which create greater equality and better sharing in the benefits of growth.

Letter to President of India REJECTING objections to the performance of Hon Shri Salman Khurshid's play The Sons of Babur


Madam President

It has come to my attention that some Hindu organisations have decided to protest the performance of the Hon Shri Salman Khurshid's play, The Sons of Babur.

These so-called Hindu organisations are creating huge disrespect for our religions, philosophies and cultures by their mean-mindedness and incompetence.

What do I mean by "incompetence"? While they do of course have every right to protest, that right is valid only if they know what they are protesting against.

But have any of them seen the performance of the play in Goa? Not so far as I can work out from the information that I have been bombarded with....

Have any of them read the text of the play? No, they have not read it (again, as far as I am informed by them).

So what are they protesting against? They don't know what they are protesting against! They are protesting simply for the sake of protesting!

They would simply like to oppose everything that is, in their definition, "not Hindu".

Of course that fits in with their agenda of trying to create a spirituality of hatred.

But that is not Hindu.

At least in the understanding of this Hindu.

Yours respectfully

Professor Prabhu Guptara
Analyses, forecasts and comments:

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Should we or should we not celebrate Diwali?

Of course Diwali is very much a North Indian festival but, leaving geographical considerations aside (as my mother was from the south, my father from the north). But I have never earlier really thought about the question.

I was forced to confront the question yesterday when a friend of mine, a prominent Indian professor, wrote to me as follows on receiving my Diwali wishes:

"Dear Prabhu, Thank you very much for the mail. I do not celebrate this festival as this is a festival that the Hindu celebrate for killing Naraka Suura, the great Dravidian king."

The professor is a Dravidian, so his sentiments are understandable. However, I had never come across such a strong anti-Diwali reaction earlier. I wondered whether he was simply an "eccentric professor" so did a Bing search, which revealed that Dravidians, Dalits and OBCs are now increasingly taking this perspective and such actions - see, for example

Anyway, here is my response to my friend: "I did not realise that you did not celebrate Diwali - but would it not be better to celebrate the death of Narakasuura (and Mahishasuura? And Raavana?) in the same way as Yesubhaktas celebrate "Good Friday" - though of course, the death of Jesus the Lord can be celebrated only because that had both a purpose and a resurrection - but you could name "your" festival as the "martyrdom of Narakasuura/ Mahishasuura/ Ravana" or the "Sacrifice of Narakasuura/ Mahishasuura/ Ravana" because he was willing to die rather than to surrender to tyranny? That way, you would still be able to celebrate but for your own reasons, in the same way as I celebrate Diwali as a follower of Jesus the Lord, the Light of the world....NOT joining in festivities seems somehow negative, whereas having your own name for a festival and your own reason for celebrating at the same time, seems somehow much more enlightened and positive (not to mention, FUN)!

By the way, I am reminded by my son Jyoti (working on his fourth novel, with which I think you will be very pleased) that "Naraka" is of course "hell" in the dominant Indian traditions (but literally "of man" = "of the people with the manly virtues"? - and therefore presumably "heaven" in your tradition?).

On the other hand, Asuras were originally the "wise and powerful" in the Zendavesta AND the Vedas (and continued to have positive connotation in the Avesta but came to acquire negative connotation in our dominant traditions..), presumably because the asuras were originally admired in the same way as Indians were admired by Europeans when they first came to India but later came to look down on us as we came to be ruled by them?

Jyoti and I were also speculating whether the term "asura" comes from the same root as "Assyrian" - these people were the descendants of Asshur, the second son of Shem and the builder of the greatest cities in the ancient world, according to the Bible - which would fit with the theory that the Dravidians/ suuras/ asuras built the great cities of Mohenjodaro etc - and would also explain why they were admired as "great and wise" - "wise" because you need wisdom to build cities, and "great" because of the power associated with them....


Should we all read the Gita? Or any other scripture?

Shri B.C. Bose, IAS, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Defense, is reported to have said at a meeting at the Jawaharlal Nehru University a couple of days ago: "We should read all the so-called scriptures once at least. I have read the Gita and learned one thing: Don't bother reading it again".

While it may be fine for Bengali intellectuals to say such a thing, I doubt that the rest of us can say such a thing with any conviction.

We need to have reasons for reading OR not reading the Gita or, for that matter, any other so-called scripture.

The Gita is, in any case, according to our traditions, not at the same level as the Vedas.

So the rise of the Gita's popularity due to Western influence is both astonishing and sobering.

Why "astonishing"? Because one would not have expected Western influence to be so influential. Why "soberting"? Because the phenomenon demonstrates that anyone can get away with anything in our culture - without regard to truth or even to religious authority.

When the public is gullible, democracy is unreliable. The alternative is not to abolish democracy, but to wean our public away from gullibility to critical thought.

Monday, 24 October 2011

helping put Indian politics on the straight path

I am very encouraged to see the following report from the Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party, which is the true inheritor of the Gandhian legacy in India:

Growing, as the day draws nigh – Training Report October 10th 2011:

This month’s meeting was held in our previous location of APS Lawns. It was good to be back in comfortable surroundings after some months of nomadic wanderings. Nearly 250 persons attended, which implies more and more numbers are being exposed to the ARVP vision and are keen to understand and absorb what this movement for change is all about. A separate training programme held for these new and potential candidates was expansive – necessary, because the news of the elections will draw people for the wrong reasons.

As we draw closer to election-day and as our people realise that all finances and resources necessary for their grassroots work has to be raised by them through membership, there is a natural tentativeness whether this is workable. We have constantly reiterated to our workers that this is a radical movement which calls for a different type of political party if we are to bring decent people into politics. Leadership necessary for this kind of movement is based on a genuine heart to serve the people with sacrificial intent and hard work. Such seemingly novel ideas are therefore received rather tentatively, raising obvious questions in the minds of the candidates. It was thus heartening to see so many of them resolving to walk this path, knowing the difficulties, hardships and risks.

Since July 2011, we have been focusing on the padyatra and it has been extremely difficult to motivate, challenge and help these candidates to undertake this strenuous activity. Many of them have not entirely lived up to expectations, however at least 40- 50 have displayed integrity of purpose. The padyatra will continue until December 2011. We are encouraging our candidates to complete at least 2 or 3 rounds of the padyatra in every village of their constituency. The success of our movement will depend a lot on this preparatory work involved in the padyatra. This whole month is focused on this aspect and the training programme was designed to reinforce this activity by assigning our voluntary workers, mandal leaders and team leaders to be with these candidates on a regular basis. The meeting itself was intense, starting at 8.30 in the morning and finishing at 7 p.m. The sathya nishta training covered the aspect of team building by utilising a game which helped them to understand the importance of team work. They were joyful like little children in a playground, laughing and learning.

General comments

As we draw nearer to the election dates, we are more acutely aware of the difficulty of the task. The intention to fight this election without using much money and without resorting to the use of caste or religion is a challenge and a very necessary requirement if we have to change the political framework of U.P. For this to become real we need not only to fight these coming elections using this format, but we need to show the way towards belief by winning seats. Please continue to advocate and help financially for posters and banners which is vital publicity for the Party.

Special field report - First public meeting

On the 16th of October, we held our first small public meeting in the district of Ambedkarnagar. The candidate fighting from this constituency is Manbod Yadav - a young, passionate leader - whose life has been transformed through ARVP in the last 18 months. The meeting was the first of its kind where people had to come on their own and all expenses had to be raised through contributions at the local level. About 1,000 people came on cycles, tractors and some on foot. They come because they are attracted to the vision and are convinced that this is the only way forward. We were particularly touched because most of these were the poorest of the poor. They came because they hope that ARVP will live up to its promise of making a difference to their lives. Beholding such response and witnessing their dire need has made us stronger in our resolve that we must win this battle for their sake. The audio of the speech and the photographs of the meeting will come up on Facebook shortly. We request you to advocate this cause for change through all related media... i.e. Facebook, blogs, Twitter etc.

Below are the various links for ARVP in the digital space.




We value your commitment in standing with us!

The ARVP Team

Monday, 26 September 2011

On Indian media

Following Dilip Mandal's detailed analysis of the Bihar’s media non-performance on the Forbesganj firings news story (FORWARDPress, July 2011], the Press Council of India issued a notice to Hindi & Urdu newspapers for partisan & biased coverage of the police firing in Forbesganj on 3 June 2011.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

We are not as clever as we think we are

In THE GLOBAL TALENT INDEX REPORT: THE OUTLOOK TO 2015, written by the Economist Intelligence Unit and published by Heidrick & Struggles, India was, as could be expected, NOT in the top ten countries.

But it wasn’t even in the top twenty countries, or in the top 25 countries or even in the top 30 countries. It scrapes in at number 35.

K.A. Narayan, President of Human Resources, Raymond Group (India) was one of the team of five overseeing the Report, so the Report cannot be dismissed as being ignorant of Indian realities.

Isn’t India doing a lot to increase the supply of talent by investing in education? Maybe or maybe not, but clearly not enough!: ‘Mr Narayan believes that the rapid pace of economic growth means that Indian employers will still have a tough job on their hands finding the right people. “Despite the great increase in supply, the shortage of critical talent will only increase,” he predicts. “GDP is currently growing at 9%, and rural India is suddenly opening up, sucking in a lot of talent”.’

To make matters worse, the Report expects India to continue in 35th position, while China for example is expected to leap from its current 33rd position to 31st place in 2015, and Canada, Chile and Turkey are also expected to gain.

So we had better wake up from our arrogant laziness and do much more than we are doing if we expect to improve our competitiveness and our performance.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Finally, a source of POSITIVE news on our country!

I am delighted to have discovered a source that provides not merely propaganda on the part of one party or group, or mere sensationalism, but positive news!

So cheer up as you click

Saturday, 3 September 2011

India's cabinet members declare their assets

Well, the Anna Hazare campaign may not have done actual good so far, but one positive result is that the Indian cabinet has (mostly - excluding 5 people) declared their assets.

This is a positive step, and should have been taken long ago.

It not only gives a good signal, it sets an example.

Let us see when all members of Parliament, all senior Judges, and all senior government officials (specifically including members of the Police forces and Armed forces) declare their assets.

Meanwhile, it is interesting that the power of the Prime Minister, and the peer pressure of 72 colleagues has not been enough to persuade 5 members of the Council of Ministers to declare their assets.

What are they hiding?

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Congratulations to Zubin Mehta for continuing in spite of disturbances

Zubin Mehta is one of the foremost conductors in the world and I admire the way he continued despite organised disturbances of "his" performances at the world-famous BBC Proms in England yesterday

Pro-Palestinian protestors have every right to protest, but they need to have a better sense of what sorts of protests will win them public sympathy and what sorts of protests will lose them public sympathy.

As far as I can see, disturbing classical music concerts is going to lose them public sympathy - at least I am going to be marginally less in sympathy with them from now on.

Meanwhile, my admiration for Zubin Mehta has grown. He has proved himself unflappable as a human being and as a conductor.

When everything becomes war, small civilities matter even more - and classical music (for me, Western as well as Indian) is one of the things that enriches life.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Inspiration on Independence Day yesterday

Speaking to a group on India's Independence Day, and given the job of saying something inspiring, I had prepared a considered speech.

However, as there was an extensive programme of Bharatanatyam and (even more) of Bollywood dancing, there was the question of how to follow that!

No point in giving a speech, I thought, a few remarks would have to do.

So I extracted the juicy bits, and offered the thought that the most important Indian contribution to democracy worldwide consists in two legal innovations:

1. The Right to Information Act (RTI) which requires government officials at all levels and divisions (excluding the Cabinet Office and Defence) to respond to requests for information within 30 days. As always, there are caveats regarding the functioning of the law (and there is some legal history for the functioning of the law, which was originally created in 2005, if memory serves). In some ways similar to the Freedom of Information Act in the USA which was created some ten years earlier, RTI goes well beyond it.

2. Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which was created not by India's Parliament, but by India's Supreme Court - which decided to proceed on its own account or in response to a request made to it - not because an individual was aggrieved but because the public is affected. As far as I know, there is no precedent for this innovation, nor has any country so far followed India in this unique form of judicial activism. I conclulded by giving an example of how PIL had contributed to ameliorating Delhi's air pollution.

So, while the country is sick of hearing about scams and frauds, it is worth reminding ourselves that there are some things that we have achieved: here are at least two areas where we have not merely avoided degrading the good institutions which the British left us at independence, here are two areas where we have actually improved upon what the British left us!

We may have a long way to do (we DO have a long way to do!), but on occasions such as Independence Day, it is good to stop and rest and be encouraged by the positives that have happened - and the many initiatives that are being taken to improve things, which are too numerous to mention, though the Indian media won't report them as the matters are neither scandalising nor thrillingly entertaining, and neither for nor against the interests of any one in a powerful position.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

India comes 62nd in the Global Innovation Index

The Global Innovation Index 2011 ranks India only 62nd out of the 125 countries/economies across the world included in terms of their innovation capabilities and results.

The GII is a collaborative effort of INSEAD, Alcatel-Lucent, Booz & Company, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the World Intellectual Property Organization, supported by an Advisory Board of nine international scholars and representatives of IOs and NGOs.

The top 10 countries in the GII 2011 are dominated by six European countries: Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom(UK). Other countries in the top ten include Singapore (3rd), Hong Kong (4th), the USA (7th), and Canada (8th).

Inspite of its tiny size and obscurity as a country in these contexts, Israel comes 7th overall, and leads the Middle East.

Our country comes a miserable 62nd.

That the CII is one of the key sponsors of the GII should indicate that our industry at least has become aware of the need to do something about this.

As always, industry fights with its hands tied in such matters, as it is really the role of government to create the right national environment for innovation.

That is why politics is so important. And that is why I am so glad that, beyond the hype of certain individuals, there is at least in UP, the start of a political party committed to ethics and social as well as ecological responsibility, the Adarsh Rashtriya Vikas Party.

Its fortunes will indicate whether there is real hope of reforming our nation politically.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Food on the Mumbai-Pune Express Tollway

Travelling from Mumbai towards Pune:

Soon after paying the Toll, one arrives at a Food Track (eatery, with street food as well as restaurant-type food). There are lots of smaller kiosks and a main eatery (one can't really call it a restaurant, as there are no places to sit, only tall tables at which one has to stand and eat).

The "Special Tea" in the main place was delicious.

Almost every item of food was quite reasonably priced in all the outlets here (I find street food at any half-respectable place in India is now Rs 40 an item, which isn't cheap).

The best buy is the Thali, in the main outlet, available at Rs 100.

Recommended for a family or friends.

(I have no financial interest in the Tollway or the Food Track!)

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Should the Bhagavad Gita be taught compulsorily in schools?

Most Indians don't care about this question, since their first (and in many cases, only) concern is survival.

Other Hindus take the view that the Gita should be taught. This is, actually, a sectarian Hindu position, as the Gita is not universally revered by Hindus. The scriptures that are universally revered by Hindus are the Vedas.

So, in sofar as we Hindus want a religious text to be taught in schools, we should not support the teaching of a religious book revered by one section of Hindus, we should support the teaching of the Vedas, which are revered by all Hindus.

Of course, there are secular Hindus who oppose the teaching of any and all religious scripture in our schools.

And that is the mainstream and official position in our country.

My own view is that all religious scriptures should be taught in schools, as that is the only way of creating a genuine secularism as against the superficial secularism we have at present.

Let the leaders of all religions be invited to send their authorised teachers to our schools. And, in order to ensure freedom of choice, let all students freely choose in which THREE religious texts they wish to receive instruction.

Of course, we should ensure that it is the texts themselves that are being examined - as the time should not be wasted on hearing merely the views of any religious teacher.

As students nowadays do not have unlimited time, I would suggest that what is at present the time given to Moral Instruction should continue, but that, within that time, provisio is made for at least one alternative lesson each year from each of the six major traditions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh - not in any particular order but simply the order in which they spring to my mind at this moment)

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Terrible situation for those who apply for Indian passports

At least, the situation is terrible in Hyderabad.

I have a friend whose existing passport is due to expire in August and, to apply for a visa, of coure needed it to be valid for at least 6 months beyond his scheduled date of departure for work abroad.

He applied for the new passport under the so-called emergency quota in May this year.

He still has not been able to get the renewed passport.

According to the staff at the office, his file has been "misplaced" in the passport office.

Apparently, there are about 100,000 files in the office, and the backlog keeps growing every day.

The staff claim that they have been searching for his file for the last five days.

My view is that the staff in the office are simply looking for a bribe....

WHY do we allow this ridiculous situation?

Why is it that we long ago automated the process of applying for OCI and PIO cards, but even now not for passports?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

sexual morality in India

A friend asks: Has Biblical morality on sexuality influenced India today or in the past?

My response:

The simple way of answering your question is: there was no uniform sexual morality in India (and there still isn't). That is because our gods are not primarily moral (unlike the God who is revealed to us in the Bible). As our gods are not primarily moral, nor are my people (Indians). Polyandry was practiced, as was polygamy - at different times and contexts. The idea of faithfulness between one husband and one wife was a direct import as a result of the influence of the gospel from the coming of St Thomas to India in the 1st century - at that time, monogamy was practiced primarily among christians. Monogamy became more widespread only after missionary influence from the 18th centruy onwards. Now, with the influence of the Bible in retreat in the West as well as among the educated and powerful in India (though growing among the less educated and less powerful), monogamy is less influential at least those classes (though still increasing in cultural influence among the other classes).

The British presence had rather mixed influence, as it was spread over somd 350 years - in the first phase, lasting till about 1820, the British took to Indian lack of sexual morality; in the 2nd phase, to about 1890, the idea of monogamy was firmly established, both among the British in India, and among Indians; from then on, monogamy has weakeened though it has become more widely dispersed as an ideal.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

In IT, we are not as good as we might think!

The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011, just released, puts Sweden and Singapore at the of top the rankings of economies adopting and implementing ICT advances for increased growth and development. The official statement of the 10th anniversary edition of the report says that it "focuses on ICT’s power to transform society in the next decade through modernization and innovation".

Finland now comes third, while Switzerland and the United States continue to be fourth and fifth respectively.

India’s position is not miserable, but it is not what you and I should expect.

We have dropped from 43th to 48th overall, while China comes 36th.

We come 21st in Individual Readiness, 33rd in Business Readiness, 41st in Market Environment, 45th in Business Usage, 47th each in Government Readiness and Government Usage, 52nd in Political and Regulatory Environment, 81st in Infrastructure and 98th in Individual Usage.

That's out of 138 countries....

The full report is at:

Is caste discrimination making a comeback in our largest cities?

One of indfia's top executives tells me of an incident when he went to one of Mumbai's upscale shopping areas, with a short list of items to buy at one shop while his wife was busy in another shop and they were under time-pressure.

At "his" shop, there was a well dressed woman customer already in the shop, with five or six items packed in front of her, and she proceeded to ask for another ten or so - with the shopkeeper and her chatting in the most animated and friendly fashion.

Having got all she wanted, she asked the shopkeeper to ring it all up, and he did so on the till.

She reached into her handbag to pull out her purse to pay and, as she did so, asked him his name.

As soon as she heard his name, she dropüed her purse into her handbag, said "Thau tho hum tumsay naheen khareegenge", turned around and walked off.

What was the shopkeeper's sin? Simply having indicated, through the name that he gave, that he was of untouchable origin.

The shopkeeper threw up his hands in despair and said to my friend, "What am I to do now? I have already rung up everything on the till!"

My friend immediately offered to buy the lot, and added whatever else he needed from his list, and went home with much more than he had thought he was going to buy.

A not-so-bitter ending for the shopkeeper as it might have been, but I am sure it is not an experience that he would like repeated.

My friend's comment on the incident was: "And this in one of the most upscale shopping malls - and in the middle of India's most cosmopolitan and Westernised city!"

I was even more shocked than my friend: even though I am well aware of caste discrimination in the villages and even in the small towns, I have long harboured the idea that caste discrimination is declining in our largest cities.

But perhaps, if guruism and idolatry make a comeback, we should not be surprised at caste discrimination also making a comeback - at least in those parts of the population.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Report of a visit to a training session run by the Adarsh Rashtra Vikas Party (ARVp9

Last month, I mentioned that I was going to check out one of the few systemically hopeful signs that I can see for India: the Adarsh Rashtra Vikas Party (ARVP).

In Lucknow, off a side road, next to a “marriage lawn”, I arrived at a typical Indian building: run-down though it can’t have been very old.

I found the entrance draped with a temporary banner proclaiming in Hindi the equivalent of “Not to rule, but to serve”.

Such a sentiment emblazoned on the masthead (so to speak) of an Indian political party, raises in an Indian either a skeptical guffaw or a moment of epiphany.
In my case, I confess, it was a mixture. I wanted it to be an epiphany, and I wasn’t sure how skeptical I should be. I decided that all I could do was to keep an open mind.

I was slightly late, as my train had been delayed. The meeting had started with lunch and it was now a short while after proceedings should have started.

Discovering that the ground floor is used as a dormitory and that the meetings are held on the first floor, I trudged up the stairs – the building has no elevator. The entrance area was relatively clean and well maintained, at least for an Indian structure. Coming on to the first floor, I found in front of me over a hundred people (the exact head count, I was told later, was 120) in small groups, seated Indian fashion on a carpet on the floor, in intense discussion.

Mr Mohan Philip, the President of the Party, came to greet me, and walked around to the back of the hall with me, inviting me to take a seat on one of the chairs that were lined up at the back for observers, guests, and so on. Apparently, there are enough chairs to seat all the participants, and they bring the chairs in for speeches, but the room is too small to have chairs if they wish to have small group discussions, so they take the chairs out for those.

Mr Mohan explained to me that the ethical training programme takes place every month, and all the leaders are expected to spend their own money to come. The Party has provided at least some minimal training to some 3000 people. Giving me a copy of the programme for that day as well as the next, he showed me what was in progress.

Soon, it was time for that group discussion to close. Mr Mohan went forward, took the mike and said in his soft voice “Shaant ho jaayen” (“let’s bring the discussion to a close”) a couple of times, and the discussion swiftly stopped. Then he asked the participants to sit in lines, and they did so comfortably but quickly. I was impressed. In most Indian gatherings, few people respond to any instructions ….

I was also astonished to see how punctually everything ran, in spite of the fact that most of the time was spent in small group discussions. All the speeches too, though they all seemed spontaneous, were delivered with a sense of time – again, astonishing in an Indian context.

The training uses stories (excellent for grassroots people) which pose ethical dilemmas and have questions for group discussion. The stories seemed quite realistic to me – and, I suppose, to the participants, or they would not keep coming month after month at their own expense. However, the ethical dimension is not confined simply to the “story-discussion”, which actually took up only one session. Rather, the ethical dimension imbues all aspects of the event, as the Party seems to want to structure that into its very DNA.

I later asked how leaders are chosen. Mr Mohan drew my attention to a large poster-type display in the front of the hall, and explained that the Party worked systematically through all the administrative districts of the State of Uttar Pradesh, visiting key officials and community leaders in order to identify people who had a reputation for ethics and social responsibility. They approached these people to challenge them to join the Party on the basis that if good people do nothing, then the less good will end up dominating the political process, and that all the good that NGOs and civil society organisations may do is as nothing compared to the power and reach of government for good as well as for ill.

Everyone who joins (as well as observers and guests) are taken through the Party’s strategy - which is to reject the use of the four bases on which politics is at present conducted in the country (money, muscle, religion and caste) and to stand instead for a secular, anti-caste and clean government, working on the basis of financial transparency, and the good of the people.

At the next elections (in 2012), the Party intends to field candidates for 160 or more seats, and to appeal to the electorate on the basis of the Party’s track record of relationship-building and service to the community.

Each leader is asked to identify 10 men, 10 women, 10 young people, and 10 people with an ethical reputation in each village in “their” territory, and to visit these individuals in order to explain the Party’s vision and strategy, and to invite them to join the Party. The membership fee of Rs 2 a month is so low as to be laughable. Mr Mohan explains that it is set low so as to be affordable even by the poorest in the country - and the fee is meant to be only a token of the commitment. Each month, the leader visits these members in order to collect the membership fee, to communicate new developments, and to explain and encourage the implementation of the Local Self-Government System (“panchayat” system) which has been subverted and “captured” by unethical people in most parts of the State. Local members of the Party work to improve the functioning of the Panchayat System and to make the Party better known, using the 40 members in each village as the core. The membership fees that are collected are properly receipted and used to defray expenses for activities approved by the local membership. Mr Mohan explained that it was not normal for people at this level to keep accounts, and to be accountable for the use of money, and that this is part of the training that is essential to inculcating the right habits in the Party.

At the monthly meetings, all the local leaders report to the next level's leaders what activities they have organized during the last month, show the receipt books and account books, and share what issues they have discovered or they are facing in “their” area. This is then consolidated and reported up, till the top group has a monthly face-to-face report and discussion with Mr Mohan. I was interested to see that, at each level, the “reportees” were challenged if their books were not properly maintained, or showed evidence of the work not being done properly. Laggards were introduced to best-practice leaders, if necessary from other groups within the Party, so that performance could improve. The Party appears to be trying to create a culture of performance that is entirely alien to every other Party that I am aware of in our country.

It was also interesting to note the sense of urgency that the Party is inculcating. Right in front, on a board was the number 375 written in large letters. That’s how many days are left to the next State elections… On the 2nd day of the training, the number was adjusted to 374, with a powerful emotional appeal to the participants, reminding them that if they did not work hard enough to succeed in the next election, the State would continue to go down the wrong path for another five years, damaging even further the health and prospects of their family and neighbours.

The Party’s openness to outsiders is fascinating. Everyone who is new to the gathering is asked to introduce themselves. I (a non-member) was asked to share a bit about myself. My nephew, who happened to be there along with a family friend only to see me, was asked to read an inspiring poem that the family friend took the occasion to show Mr Mohan. Outside speakers, well known for having paid a cost for ethical actions, are invited to share their experience, even if they are determined not to be supporters of the Party. For example, on the second day, a top executive of one of India’s largest companies, having explained that the company never supports any political party, presented the company’s position, structure and activities in the field of ethics as a demonstration of the fact that no individual or business is forced to pay bribes and that it is perfectly possible to be successful and honest, provided one is prepared to be patient.

Party members were thus encouraged in their quest for ethics and justice. People who have retired from senior levels in the administration, law, police and the professions, are also invited to share their experiences and wisdom, even though they too may never become members or support the Party in any other way.

I can’t pretend that everything went well or that there are no deficiencies in the Party. I happened to speak to a Deputy Superintendent of Police in the city, and he had no idea that the Party existed. Not surprising, given that the Party’s real base is in the rural areas at least at present. And the Party does not even have a proper website. Nor does it have anyone able to issue Press Releases, so it can’t communicate its existence via the print and broadcast media either. At one point, the programme had a film, but the technology did not co-operate, even though everything had been “checked twice”, and everyone ended up wasting perhaps as much as 30 minutes.

The programme lasted till 11.30 at night, and started again at 6.30 a.m. In the 27 hours or so that they are together, they pack in a lot. It is clear that the event is no picnic. Their low-decibel passion to see things improve is impressive. Their strategy is right, their planning is incredibly detailed, their implementation is thorough, and their view is that, if they keep their focus on the main task, then others with the right skills and abilities will be motivated to support them.

Will I?

I have certainly become an admirer.

And I am thinking about what sort of support I can best offer.


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Three kinds of Indians

One of my relatives tells me that there are only three kinds of Indians:

- those whose homes are dirty inside, and outside which there is filth (the poorest, mainly in urban slums)

- those whose homes are clean inside, even though there is dirt outside (the vast majority)


- those whose homes are not only clean inside, but they live in a context where there is cleanliness outside too.

He opines that the last and most privileged category may number only a few hundred thousand, at most.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Indian Christians and Idolatry

An acquaintance from the West, knowing that I am in India, but not knowing how completely anti-Christian I am, sends me a sort of newsletter with news of how some poor preacher has been harassed, how another has been killed, how a third has disappeared....

Terrible stuff.

I am moved by the dedication of these people. They must be heroes. Or they must be desperate. Either way they deserve some attention.

Then I notice that the Newsletter has, on its banner, an idolatrous picture of someone's completely false view of what Jesus the Lord looked like!

The Bible is clear: no images!

Let alone a "false image"!

So I move my naturally indolent frame sufficiently to write a short and probably more than usually ungracious note commenting on the matter.

Later, I ask myself: is it more important to comment on an idolatrous picture or to do something to support heroes and desperadoes?

Well, perhaps I should do something for them too. But how many of them are there? How does one get to them? Is it fair to support those whose stories reach me via their lifelines to the West - what about those I bump into here who have, for whatever reason, no such lifeline? And do I not give enough already? How much should/ can I give?... Difficult questions....

Then I start analysing why I am so upset at the false idol. I reflect that we Hindus, though most clearly with Swami Dayanand Saraswati and the Arya Samaj, had starting rejecting idolatry under Muslim influence long before that, and that rejection of idolatry had the makings of a mass movement from the nineteenth century. Sadly, this was aborted in the 1970s but, for something like a century, idolatry declined in our country.

After that, it was guruist influence, recycled to us from the West, allied with the elite seeing in the resurgence of idolatry an avenue for consolidating their power, that resulted in large-scale patronisation of new and increasingly more monstrous size idols.

I am sure that any historical analysis will clearly indicate two things.

First, that there is a parallel between increased idolatry and increased corruption.
Second, that the use of idolatry by the elite to consolidate their power in the period from roughly the 2nd to 9th centuries AD is matched by their use of the same technique in the period from the 1970s to today - the main difference is that what took centuries then has taken only decades now.

And suddenly I understand why I am upset: these new preachers/ heroes/ desperadoes (whether Christian or Buddhist or Marxist) represent a revolt against the classes/ castes that have oppressed them for thousands of years. Their liberation lies in freeing themselves from lies of all sorts. In particular, the lie of idolatry, by which the entire consciousness of whole peoples can be manipulated.

If these new movements too slip into idolatry, they will much more easily sell out to the classes/ castes/ cliques who are already tempting and terrorising them.

Giving in to idolatry amounts to subversion and betrayal of their own movement - and every other movement like theirs.

No wonder I am upset. I should be even more upset than I am.

Bollywood, Cricket and the Issues Facing India

For the last 4 decades, I have visited India preoccupied with an agenda of some sort - usually, visits to relatives! That always means less time to simply look around. What little time was left, was spent at least partly on the tourist sites - one can't come to India and avoid seeing the Taj or visiting Kovalam Beach!

So, visiting India after retirement, and that for nearly six weeks, I have had a chance to re-connect with old friends and to explore and ask questions.

One interesting thing I notice is: how completely stupified the country is by the game of cricket. One cannot go anywhere without news of the score being thrust in your eye or ear. One can't even have a decent meal in the house of someone you haven't seen in 40 years without the TV being turned on simply to see what happened during the daytime!

Cricket too is a type of Bollywood.

Encouraging an obsession with cricket seems to me one of multiple ways in which the country's elite distracts the people of the country from engaging with the real issues of the country.