While the media demands special privileges because they claim that the press is the fourth pillar of Indian democracy and serves a national purpose, the sad reality, especially over the last two decades is, social conscience and pursuit of public good have been replaced by total commercialization of media. "As Rekha takes oath, the camera kept focussing on Jaya Bachchan’s priceless expressions"... Thus went the first few lines of articles on the first pages of all national dailies the day after Rekha took her oath in Rajya Sabha, and that is exactly what TV channels had done the day before! Add to that the shameless gossip about Amitabh and Rekha. What national purpose does this story serve? And that too as headlines in the front pages of respectable dailies? Or even as the key stories of TV channels? Yes, Rekha is a big star, and her swearing in makes news. But is this the way to cover the event? Aren't there enough Bollywood shows on TV and entertainment pages in newspapers where such news could have been easily showcased? For that matter, a few days before this incident, the biggest stories were to do with the ‘hurt’ of our so called respectable MPs due to some cartoons in NCERT textbooks. Or for that matter the front page outcry over SRK’s detention in the US airport or Salman Rushdie not being allowed to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival or whom Oprah Winfrey met during her India visit or Robert Vadra saying he wants to join politics or the entire Sunny Leone saga or the scores of lines on who killed Aarushi Talwar or the two kids taken away by welfare authorities in Norway or for that matter even the entire big deal made out of Rahul Gandhi’s UP campaign!
Children in India are increasingly being subjected to full array of targets from groups like Naxals and North Eastern insurgents to join them as soldiers! The consequent fallout is devastating for the children as it is robbing them of their innocence, education and a thriving environment for growth and development. Historically, these problems were brooked mostly in African countries like Sierra Leone and Sudan but slowly and surely the phenomenon is finding its feet on the Indian soil.
Come summers, and the nation is set to face erratic power supply, frequent power cuts, and inflated electricity bills, once again! In spite of having myriad of sources for electricity, India has failed to provide its citizens with non-stop power supply. Leave aside the state of power supply in villages, even in the capital city, electricity cuts is a norm.
Just back from a lecture tour of American universities, there is so much to write about. But what I wanted to share this time is something about which I have had strong feelings quite a few times in the past, but never as strong as I have now! Crisscrossing the US of A twice from the West Coast to the East Coast, I met one after the other Indians and their families over lunches, dinners and other meetings. And I do feel sad to say that perhaps the only thing that I found common between most of them was their hidden bias against the Blacks in America. A number of times in the past, I had heard my friends from the US speak derogatorily about the African-American population, often even pejoratively referring to them as Negroes and saying that they wanted to stay in a locality which had no Blacks. I couldn’t really accept this sentiment as a normal phenomenon, and rather used to wonder whether it was mere coincidence that I had so many friends with such an unabashed bias. But after this American journey, I am sure it was never a coincidence.
The President of Bombay Goods Transport Association (BGTA) recently said, “The scam of money collection at toll plazas is bigger than the 2G scam. The government has sold off major national assets, our National Highways, to contractors.” Most of other transport agencies in the country are biting the bullet as ever-increasing burden of toll plaza corruption are palming off the truckers with deceit and coercion. The rage is all across the nation, as the same story keeps on repeating itself, and the trap is affecting strangling and commuters alike!
Fundamental rights and human rights are two aspects of governance that goes into making the perfect blend for a democracy. On the hindsight, these two may look discreet but for all practical purposes they are the two side of the same coin. Obviously, a country can’t be called democratic if it fails to protect the fundamentals rights of its citizen. On the same lines, a country is said to have a flawed democracy if there is blatant abuse of human rights, in spite of the nation promising all fundamental rights.
Did the word ‘Authoritarian’ shock you? Well, political correctness aside, there is at least one unique quality of the madman Hitler that is followed by leaders of some of the most successful corporations across the globe – an authoritarian leadership style – a quality that has been a significant reason in ensuring that such corporations are viewed as being amongst the leading business units of this world! This is because while leadership styles which are more democratic are wonderful to read and be applied, such styles can be successful only when the people you are leading are most mature, responsible and ambitious. And despite what one may wish or imagine, finding such people to work with is near impossible!
This Sunday (April 8), a small company changed its fortunes forever. Instagram was started two years ago, but this Sunday, it became more valuable than even The New York Times. The reason being Facebook acquired it for $1 billion few days back; causing quite a flutter among industry watchers. Why did it invest so much in a company, which hardly made any profits, is a fresh start up, and to top it all, is just an ‘app developer’ and its claim to fame is a ‘photo-sharing’ application that it developed for the iPhone? Add to this the fact that it does not even have a website to call its own, for all its features are designed for the mobile phone.
Unlike T. N. Seshan, when you meet Vinod Rai, the current Comptroller and Auditor General of India, he comes across as a very suave and soft-spoken bureaucrat. At the recent convocation ceremony of our graduating students, when our institute’s Director Dr. M. K. Chaudhuri challenges Vinod Rai and says that he isn't bold enough like Mr. Seshan and is not as strongly taking the government head-on as he should, he very firmly says that he is doing what he is constitutionally allowed to do. So what does Vinod Rai have to say about Pranab Mukherjee’s public snub that 90% of CAG findings are dropped in the first stage? "Yes, Mr. Mukherjee is right in some sense. CAG raises questions and it’s true that a large proportion of issues do get answered to our satisfaction in the very first stage," he says very politely, yet very firmly; and at no point in any self-doubt about whether he was doing less than he should be. Does this sound slightly lame? Perhaps. Specially because, being slightly aggressive about such issues myself, I might have personally liked Vinod Rai to stretch his constitutional limits slightly more, redefine them, and take the government head-on perhaps more loudly. But then all human beings don't have the same approach to dealing with identical issues. Our current election commissioner Dr. S. Y. Quraishi is a very soft-spoken, music loving man; but he is the man behind bringing democracy to the killing fields of Bihar, Bengal and UP! Similarly, Vinod Rai is a man who again is soft-spoken, abhorring the limelight, but doing his work with amazing sincerity, courage and commitment. Similar to what T. N. Seshan did with the Election Commission, Rai has made CAG a household name in India and a body that Indians are now looking up to with respect to exposing our government’s corrupt practices! Today, our government fears his reports like nothing else, for in these days of heightened social activism and rampant corruption, those are CAG reports that are giving the maximum ammunition to critics of the government. So what is the CAG authority doing and why is its role so important? Well, CAG is bringing to public the sham and the shame behind India’s Blood Billionaires – the saga of corruption and transfer of national wealth into private hands at the cost of the tax payers’ money and the country's national interests.
Lately, India has been witnessing quite a progress in its pharmaceutical sector, especially in production of generic drugs. Not only there has been increase in number of big pharma players but also the production capacity has been growing at a brisk pace. The unholy nexus between medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies and rampant corruption in drugs control have had a direct impact as a whole on the pharma business, which stands at a staggering annual turnover of Rs.20,000 crore. The manufacturing of spurious drugs have increased by leaps and bounds in recent years with World Bank estimating 35 per cent of the global production of counterfeit drugs emanating from India! Almost Rs.4,000 crore of the drugs produced in India are estimated to be spurious, that’s causing a havoc on the international market too, where it is exported. US has already taken steps by putting India in 301-watch threat list.