Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Less than two weeks to go. Teams from some Countries are already here. Is Indian ready - for what is easily one of the biggest events she has ever hosted in her history? An show that every Country would pride itself in putting up. A show that every guest attending would remember for a long, long time...
Less than two weeks to go. Construction in stadia and the games village is still incomplete. And whatever is supposedly complete - some towers in the games village which houses the living apartments for the participating teams - have been clearly and unambiguously been certified as 'un livable'. Because animals are roaming around inside apartments and 'shitting' on top of the beds. Electrical systems are faulty and therefore there is danger to life.
Yesterday, a foot bridge meant to be used by the team members and officials collapsed, injuring 23 people.
A foreign journalist manages to purchase explosives - enough to organise 200 different explosions, stuff all of that into a large suitcase, and then slips in, into the games premises. So much so, for security, two days after a firing incident in which two foreigners were injured, and the message from a terrorist organisation clearly stating that the Games will be targeted.
Amongst all this, the Organising Committee, The Minister for Urban Development remain shamelessly unfazed. Jaipal Reddy termed the bridge collapse as a 'minor incident'. In his definition any incident in which people didn't die, is minor !
Bhanot - a senior office bearer of the Organising Committee dismisses the mess in the games village by stating the standards of hygiene are different for Indians and foreigners. Let me ask him - how would his Indian sensibilities respond when he checks in, into a hotel or a guest house, and finds dog poop right on top of the bed? Or when female members of his family look out of the window and see the staff urinating in front of their eyes? Is all of that fine with him, because he is Indian?
Indian hosted the Asian Games in 1982. And we put up a damn good show, by any standards, thanks to an organising committee who were bothered about India's reputation and prestige. The OC was led by Rajiv Gandhi and supported by two of his everyday political supporters - Arun Nehru and Arun Singh.
The story goes that one evening, just two or three days before the games were to begin, they got to know that the roof of one of the stadia was leaking. The three of them mobilised a team, and stood guard the whole night, and left only when the problem was fixed.
Twenty eight years have passed between then and now. And the extent to which our character, values and sense of responsibility as a Nation, has eroded is evident to one and all.
While all of us wait and watch, what's left now is one by one, teams will take a decision and not attend the Commonwealth Games 2010, because they are being hosted by India- a land, where a guest is supposed to be regarded as God.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
(This blog post has been adapted mostly from the book titled:
"Leadership in the Indian army: biographies of twelve soldiers"By Major General (Retd.) V. K. Singh)
Friday, September 10, 2010
But then I also wonder at Mr. Satyendra Garg's decision about imposing a fine. To me, it is unfair. There would be a handful of drivers, who are totally insensitive and do not move out of the way, when an ambulance or a fire engine wants to pass. And such drivers should be punished.
I am certainly not insensitive. But I have a problem with this decision taken by the police.
This is the normal scene on a typical road, at practically ANY time of the day. I travel on such roads daily, as do thousands of drivers. Just for a moment, imagine you are the driver of any one of those cars you see in the picture. And imagine that there is an ambulance or a fire engine behind you. ....
My question to you is - HOW - do I move out of the way to give way to that emergency vehicle? I along with others am 'packed' like sardines on this road. I cannot move towards my left, and I certainly cannot move to the right.
Where do I move??
Mr. Garg - I would like you to look at this photo also and answer my question please !
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Lately, there has been a lot of debate about he dilution of the 'Armed Forces Special Powers Act' of the AFSPA as its popularly (or infamously, now) known. The people of Jammu & Kashmir, as well as the State Government are strongly lobbying for dilution, repealing or at least diluting this Act. Others - champions of human rights, NGOs and so on, have also found opportunity to 'drift with the flow'. The Army, on the other hand feels, that rather than diluting the Act, it should be made even more stringent, thus enabling the Army to be more effective in dealing with the task that it has been entrusted with - that of fighting insurgency.
There is however, one dimension to this issue that sadly gets ignored always. In recent times, it is the Army that gets pulled in, at the drop of the hat, in almost any kind of civil emergency situation. The kind if situations that our soldiers are called to help in, are communal riots, natural calamities - floods, tsunami earthquakes etc, and now on a kind of permanent basis - counter insurgency.
It needs to be emphasised that the primary role of the Indian Army is to guard the frontiers of the Country. And, in a situation where the enemy States act in a manner that threatens the sovereignty of India, the Army fights to ward off any such threat, and this might mean killing enemy soldiers.
Considering this role, every single jawan or officer recruited into the Army, is trained from his first day of existence in the force, to fight a war and kill. For that is his 'raison de etre' in the Army. Over a period of years, his entire mental and physical make up, his psyche is that of a warrior.
Any Government however, will not hesitate even a little, in taking a decision to deploy the Army in situations where close civilian contact is warranted. In many such situations, the Army is helping out civilians from 'near death' situations.
And why does the Government trust the Army more than the thousands strong police forces and the para military forces? Because the Government knows that because of the strict code of discipline and chain of command, the army is the most effective in all such situations. This was also the reason why the Army first got deployed to fight insurgency and terrorism. The army did not want this, because this isn't the role of the Army. More importantly, this is certainly not what an average army man is trained for.
And when in the process of fighting terrorism, there is collateral damage by way of some civilians becoming causalities, it is the same Army that is blamed squarely.
Isn't this unfair?
It isn't the Army that's doing anything wrong. Its the political decisions that are all wrong.
The Army is tired of doing jobs that it wasn't expected to do. So therefore, by all means, repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. But at the same time, pull the Army out of all such situations, where you first depend upon them and ask for their help, and then blame them.
Its time the the para military forces - thousands of jawans, move in, to take over that job that the Army finds itself 'reluctant' to do. These jawans need to be trained, properly equipped with arms and weapons, and then deployed. If necessary, raise a specialised force to combat terrorism. But for God's sake, leave the Army out of this.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar is- well -even older. I wish her a long life too.
The contribution of the two sisters, to Indian cinema, and to music in India,
cannot be praised enough. For over 60 years, both Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle sang virtually every song as playback singers, that was recorded for a Hindi movie.
They sang for regional language movies too - Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali and Marathi, and sometimes even in South Indian languages. They won numerous awards, and generally enthralled audiences wherever they sang.
Lata Mangeshkar's and Asha Bhonsle's contribution to Indian music has been immense.
However, its high time both sisters called it a day. And I say this, not out of spite or jealousy or any other bad intention.
Over a period of six decades, their voices and singing capability has undergone a change, and not for the better. And this can easily be gauged, by simply comparing songs sung say 30 years ago, and those rendered recently.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Thursday, September 02, 2010
One day, news came around that two truck loads of biscuit, manufactured in our sister Branch – Calcutta, and being transferred to our Branch – Delhi, were held up at a Sales Tax check post on the Bihar UP border, at Balia. The officials suspected something was wrong with the documentation accompanying the stock on the trucks, and this practically amounted to violation of sales tax rules. The official threatened to formally seize the stock, and this would mean a complete loss because biscuits being food products, were perishable.
My Boss – a seasoned sales professional of twenty years, and normally a very confident and dynamic decision maker, faced a predicament this time – a rare occasion. And my counterpart - the Sales Manager for UP, who should have, in the normal course of things taken the responsibility and the initiative upon himself, chose to keep a low profile. Getting out of this problem was going to be tough – there was no doubt about that. And who wanted to face a tough situation ?
I felt bad for my Boss. I felt like helping out for the sake of the team and the Branch. And then I made that one big mistake. I lent words to my thoughts, and spoke up offering to help. My boss was actually looking for such an opportunity, and he grabbed it. Within moments, it was decided that I along with a clerical assistant specialising in sales tax matters, would go all the way to Varanasi to meet the Assistant Collector of Sales Tax, and plead our case to him. We were confident that this would work, as we were on the right side of the law. More importantly this seemed a one day job.
Seemed easy. But what started then, was to become one of the most tough and challenging assignment that I undertook, in the early years of my career.
I rushed home, and after packing a bag in fifteen minutes, reached the railway station. Those were the days when tickets for long distance travel on trains could never be available at short notice. And this was asking for for a bit too much.
When I hit the ticket queue, there were fifteen minutes for the train to leave.
Due to some Divine intervention, two chair car seats were available. We barely managed to board the train coach when it moved. Destination was Mughalsarai twin city to Varanasi. We would drive from Mughalsarai to Varanasi and check into a hotel.
At 4.30 am next day, we landed at Mughalsarai. And the moment we landed, we got the first shock. The entire city of Varanasi was under curfew due to communal disturbances.
A few hours into the day were enough for me to conclude that it was going to be impossible to meet the Sales Tax commissioner. He was deputed on special judicial duty in the riot hit town. Then began the longest three days of my life – days full of trial of patience, frustration disappointment, sometimes hope, but no positive result. We just waited and waited in our hotel, doing nothing except making occasional calls to the commissioner’s office to check on his availability. One morning I kept vigil outside the District Magistrate’s office hoping to meet him, so he could issue a curfew pass to me, so that I could move around in a car and meet the one official that eluded me.
On the afternoon of the fourth day, we decided that we had to change our strategy. We decided that we would reach the Sales Tax check post in Balia, and tackle the issue ‘on the ground’
The UP Roadways bus took something like 5 hours for a 150 km journey, on a rather cold, misty afternoon, that December. When we reached, we were tired, cold but still anxious to solve the problem as quickly as possible.
We reached the only contact we knew in this old sleepy town of UP. And that contact was the Company’s distributor. We introduced ourselves, and naturally he didn’t know me. There was no question though, that after gaining proper references from the Office, he would help us in any way possible – physically, with money etc.
We checked in, into the best rooms of the only decent hotel…and the owner of the hotel? Surprises of all surprises – it was our distributor. We then decided to waste no further time, and reach the check post.
The Sales Tax check post was on the Bihar UP border, about 20 kms from the city of Balia. The road was dark, obviously without any lights, with dense forest on both sides. It was in the middle of this forest that we found the check post. A small round cemented cabin on the road side, and a barrier on the road. A few trucks were parked along the sides, and we wondered which ones were laden with our biscuits.
It didn’t take long to identify the trucks, and almost as soon as we did that, the drivers came to meet us. They had been parked there for ten days now, had run out of money, and were completely nearing the limits of their sanity. For a moment I thought they would attack us. But I guess in a sense they were relieved to see us, for now there was hope for them.
Then came the bad news. The check post officials had initially held up the trucks but when no one landed up in time to clarify their doubts, they had gone ahead and formally seized the material. The only way now, was to pay the fine at the check post and have the trucks released.
The fine to be paid was 1 lac rupees in cash for each truck, and there were two. That was a huge amount of money those days. One lac rupees was the value of one full truck load of biscuits !
So now the question was, where to arrange for two lac rupees, and that too, in cash.
The distributor after having completed his check of our antecedents was ever willing to help, by making the payment on the Company’s behalf. But like I mentioned before, the amount was huge, and the distributor would need almost the whole of the next day, to arrange for the money. We left the check post that night, promising the officials as well and the crew of the truck, to return the following evening.
It was 5 pm the next day, and already dark, by the time the distributor returned to our hotel and announced that the money had been arranged for. I sensed a certain air of anxiety and nervousness about him. This was a very very dangerous area he explained, infested with criminal who wouldn’t hesitate to kill for even a hundred rupees! Therefore carrying two lac rupees in cash in the dark, through a jungle would be suicidal. I began to feel nervous too.
The half hour drive to the check post seemed like ages. We all sat on literally on the edge of our seats.. At nigh, the scenario around the check post was even scarier. The check post had only one kerosene lamp. And that one lamp seemed to be the only light around for miles. A perfect setting to invite trouble !
Even after depositing the cash with the check post, we remained nervous, anxious to get ourselves and our trucks away from this scene. The clerk commenced a long rigorous paper work procedure to complete the formalities of releasing the material. Everything was hand written. And if two copies were needed – well, they had to be hand written twice over. There was no question of a computer or a photo copier!
We finished the formalities at 3 am. The trucks on their way, we returned to our hotel.
Next morning, we commenced our return journey to Delhi. We landed at Buxor Station by car. We had just about bought tickets when we saw a train waiting, about to pull out and head towards Mughalsarai. With our suitcases on our head, we jumped on the tracks, crossed four of them to get to the train, and just about made it.
At Mughalsarai, we enquired about tickets on the Rajdhani express which was to arrive at 930 pm to reach us to Delhi the next morning. Divine intervention again ! We got two seats for Delhi.
Now – all we had to do was to wait. From noon till 930, for the train to come. But we had got used to waiting, going by the experiences of the past week.
The next afternoon, we met the Boss. “So – what happened” he asked, anxious to know about the outcome.
So much had happened in the last one week. So many experiences, so many events. All I could say in reply was “It’s done. Problem solved”