Wednesday, July 26, 2006

There was no mole in PVN's office. Nor was it there in Vajpayee's office. And not there in Manmohan's office tooo...................

When men who occupied important positions in a government decide to publish their memoirs, they are bound to send ripples and it will be a while before the stir settles down and such books are soon forgotten. This happens more in case of those memoirs are written by men who do not have a long tradition of struggles. In other words, memoirs by men who landed in public life to occupy positions in a government will not have a long shelf life. Such works, by their very nature, do not contain any honest attempt to chronicle the times in which the authors lived and instead deal with some half truths that they chose to convey.

It is a different matter that they create some sensation for a while and there will always be a bunch of gullible media professionals who will play ball because they know that their own existence will depend on causing such a sensation. Jaswant Singh’s book is no different from this.

It all began with the media reporting such silly things as Abdul Kalam and a couple of others, who at that point were running the Department of Atomic Energy, made to wear army fatigues to elude the spy cameras and other surveillance instruments of the US establishment from knowing that the Vajpayee Government was going to conduct a test in Pokhran on May 11, 1998. For those who saw the popular magazines of the times, this was nothing new. The image of Kalam in army fatigues is etched in our memory of that time.

And if Jaswant Singh wants us believe that this helped them hoodwink the US establishment then, we will then have to rethink on the level of intelligence of the US establishment. Without being one who looks at the US dispensation with awe, it is possible to conclude that this can be nothing but a fairy tale. Jaswant Singh could have written this story for primary school children and yet exposed himself to some ridicule.

Even if he dressed himself up in army fatigues, Kalam’s body language would betray his real identity. This is no fault of Kalam. The way he walks and also the way the other DAE men walked as well as their physical shape was such that anyone with an elementary sense of intelligence could have made out that they were not army officers. And it is strange that Jaswant Singh, who had been an army officer, wrote such things.

And then came the other ``truth’’ about the last minute decision by P.V.Narasimha Rao against conducting the tests. That Rao had thought of testing and this was called off at the eleventh hour is also a fact that has been discussed earlier. Raj Chengappa deals with this elaborately in his book and the Congress party has refused to react to all that all these days. And the reason, Chengappa attributes to the last minute decision is that things came to the knowledge of the US regime and Rao was arm-twisted into deciding against the tests.

Now, Jaswant Singh talks about a mole in the PMO and claims knowledge that this mole had conveyed all the details about the proposed tests to the US establishment. And he has gone further to even claim that he knew who this mole was. The Congress, meanwhile, is only daring Jaswant to reveal the mole. The cause for concern here is that the ruling party is unwilling to deny that no such tests were planned.

In other words, this is the fallout of a mindset that considers the explosion at Pokhran on May 11 and 13, 1998 as an achievement. The Congress party that had maintained, at least after May 18, 1974, that India stands committed to the idea of nuclear-tests-only-for-peaceful-purposes is now openly associating with the nuclear weapons programme that the BJP-led NDA had initiated. The Congress party that blamed the BJP for having deviated from the national consensus is now fighting shy of stating in categorical terms that the May 11-13 tests were against our national interests.

It is another matter that the Congress position on the issue has always bee guided by rhetoric than substantive understanding of the dangers and the unethical aspects of the nuclear weapons agenda. But then, it is sad that even this rhetoric is missing now. And that certainly is a cause for concern. The party seems determined in attempting to appropriate the BJP’s agenda and its ideology rather than reinventing itself as a democratic platform.

And before we forget about the mole and all other stories that Jaswant Singh has attempted to regale us with, it is important to make a statement. I will want to state here with all my courage and conviction in my command that there was no such mole in the PMO during Narasimha Rao’s time. And there was no one who acted as a mole in the Vajpayee dispensation too. And there is no mole in the PMO even now. I say this because a US mole becomes necessary only when the political establishment is committed to an anti-US idea.

The US establishment did not have to cultivate moles and does not have to invent moles because the political leadership of successive regimes in India had remained pro-US establishment. The manner in which Jaswant Singh conducted himself as Minister for External Affairs and the zeal with which Dr. Manmohan Singh is pushing the Indo-US nuclear deal should convince anyone that the US did not have to plant moles in the regime in India.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Is the society in Kerala moving backwards???

A casual look into the tradition of the social reforms movement in Kerala will bring out two features. One is that the ``other’’ was located within each of the social groups. In other words, the Backward Castes mobilization was not so much against the Nairs or the Namboodiris. Sree Narayana Guru, for instance, did not campaign against the others. His campaign, instead, was against irrationality within the Ezhava community. And his prescription was that if the Ezhavas were denied entry into the Shiva temples, then it was imperative for the Ezhavas to set up their own Shiva temple.

The second aspect of the social reforms tradition in Kerala is the foregrounding of the women’s question. In a sense, the strength of the reforms tradition in Kerala was derived out of this. By locating the discrimination against the women as the ``other’’ the reforms tradition in Kerala did not end up in any exclusionary framework. This perhaps is the reason why we do not find caste clashes in Kerala today as it happens in many other parts of India.

The tradition of reforms thus belonged to the cross section of social groups in Kerala. The Yogashema Sabha, set up and steered by a group of radical young men born in the Namboodiri community plunged into a campaign for reforms within the community and the focus of the movement was the emancipation of the Namboodiri women. E.M.S.Namboodiripad (who led the communist movement later) along with M.T.Bhattadiripad and I.C.P.Namboodiri steered the Sabha. And they achieved a lot by way of changes in the status of the Namboodiri women.

In the Nair community, similarly, a generation of men from within the community took up the battle against practices or customs that discriminated the Nair women. And this ensured the liberation of the Nair women from inhuman customs that reduced them into mere objects. Though the Nair women were victims of a social order that reduced them into objects to satiate the Namboodiri men, the reform movements did not place the Namboodiri as the ``other.’’ And this ensured that the reforms agenda did not end up into an exclusionist movement.

The provocation to recall all this now is the absurd debate in the Kerala society in the past two weeks over the entry of a few celebrity women into the shrines in Sabarimala and in the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvanthapuram. The point at issue are different in each of this. In case of the Padmaabhaswamy temple, it is about the entry of a non-Hindu. Well, if Meera Jasmine decided to worship the deity there, she must be at liberty to do that. For belief in God qualifies someone to be a Hindu. The tragedy is that Yesudas, whose rendition of the kirtanas and devotional songs are played in almost all temples across Kerala is denied the pleasure of entering those temples and worshipping the deity there.

It is, however, a different matter that he is not denied entry into Sabarimala. Let us thank Lord Ayyappa for making it clear, several hundred years ago, that anyone who wanted to worship him was welcome to Sabarimala and that the devotees religion did not matter. Lord Ayyappa was also against discriminating men on the basis of their caste inasmuch as entering the shrine is concerned. The Lord was a social reformer even in such ancient times.

That the society in Kerala today is caught in a sickening debate on the entry of women, particularly two starlets of yesteryears into the Sabarimala shrine is sad. But then, the larger cause for concern is the deafening silence from the leaders of the various political parties in Kerala. And this is more so in case of the Left parties given their record in this regard. Recall the fact that A.K.Gopalan, an atheist by conviction, was in the forefront of several agitations demanding the right of the backward castes and the Dalits to enter temples!

For all this and for the sake of carrying forward the tradition of social reforms in Kerala and rendering this into an integral part of the political discourse in Kerala, it is imperative for the communists and their fellow travelers to speak out against the irrational customs that deny the women their right to worship a deity and enter shrines that they want. Any hesitation on this will only take the Kerala society back into the dark ages where women were treated as mere objects. This will be unfortunate.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What did they achieve???

Well. I have been debating with myself on the issue of violence ... let me rather be more specific on the issue of violence in politics. And this has been happening with me only in the past few years. Until say five years ago, I thought I was clear on this as much as I was on many other issues such as use of nuclear fission/fusion for generating power, the need for big dams and industries to take the nation forward and that such progress cannot and shall not be stalled!!! Yes. I was not bothered about the large-scale destruction that such a development process would cause. I thought I was a Marxist and hence I must condone such destruction for the sake of progress and also condone violence in a definite context. The Russian, Chinese and the Afghan revolutions were violent and bloody and that was inevitable even if it was undesirable.

The came the violent movements in the Punjab, Assam and in Jammu and Kashmir. I did take positions against each of them but was not perturbed by the violence as such. I was opposed to the idea of dividing India, once again because I thought I was a Marxist.

All this has changed. I don't think it is imperative for me to stand up and speak up for the Indian state and its machinery, repressive and barbaric most often, when it comes to dealing with anyone who challenges it. It is another matter that I am still not convinced about the core issues that were raised by the Khalistan movement, the AASU and the anti-state agitators in Kashmir. I am against both the Indian state and the groups that challenge its mite in Kashmir today.

And as for violence, I have turned 180 degrees. It's indeed an about turn. I am convinced that violence does not settle an issue. And when that happened in Bombay yesterday, I was pre-occupied with just one concern. And that was about the number of human beings I know and with whom I have got close over the years who happen to live there in that city. I was desperate to speak at least a word with each one of them. Well, this must have happened with several people when the Khalistani partisans set off explosives in Delhi during the Eighties... or when PWG men set off land mines somewhere in Andhra Pradesh or in Chattisgarh. And when the LTTE sends one of its cadres strapped with explosives to kill someone whom Prabhakaran does not like!

What did they achieve yesterday apart from killing 200 innocent people and sending many more into a state of panic and shock? I think they managed to terrorise ordinary citizens. Like those who brought down the WTC towers on September 11, the men who orchestrated the terror in Bombay killed ordinary citizens of this country. The powerful men, in any case, do not travel by trains in Bombay.

Well, I still consider myself a Marxist and am clear now that it is imperative for a Marxist to deny any place for violence in politics and fight for a world where human beings are not killed by fellow human beings...A world where there is no rancour, no ill-will and no space for revenge. bhass pyaaar pyaaar rahe....

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Dr. Venugopal had to go... but more needs to be done.....

Dr. P.Venugopal, Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences until July 5, 2006 is indeed an eminent medical professional. And the sack orders he received may do him some good. His eminence and his experience should land him in one of Delhi’s multi-speciality clinics and make him richer than he would have been if he had continued in the AIIMS. And the state run AIIMS is indeed a loser having lost yet another professional of his caliber.

All this, however, does not mean that Venugopal must have been allowed to remain Director of AIIMS. For, his role during the recent strike by medicos against the Union Government’s decision to implement a reservation formula for Other Backward Classes in institutions of higher learning amounted to conspiracy against the Constitutional scheme of things. And no democratic nation can afford to condone such an act.

Article 340 of the Constitution makes it imperative for the Government to appoint a Commission and investigate measures aimed at ensuring that the Other Backward Classes are brought into the mainstream of the national life. And the Mandal Commission, set up in 1979 was only a step in this direction. After the 1990 decision to reserve 27.5 % of Central Government jobs for the OBCs, it was necessary that such a formula be implemented in institutions of higher learning too.

Hence, Venugopal or anyone else for that matter had to necessarily do everything to effect these measures. And when he refused to do so and used his office as Director of AIIMS to defend those who sought to frustrate this measure, it was the duty of the Union Health Ministry to sack him. This was important in defence of the Constitution.

It is a different matter that such eminent professionals have not internalized this national duty. The reason for this is that our curriculum framework in the professional colleges do not contain any activity that will enable the students, all of them bright students, to internalise the unequal socio-economic order that prevails across the country that denies the right to education to a whole lot of people simply because they were born into castes that are considered Backward by others. In other words, Dr. Venugopal would have behaved differently if only he had an opportunity, in his college days, to realise that caste based discriminations lead a number of children to drop out of schools.

The point is there is a pressing need now for revising the curriculum framework in our schools and colleges and the revision will have to be done to ensure that the youth are made aware of the inequality that guides our social set-up even now and that this is something that each one of us must detest. Social sciences cannot be dismissed as an unwanted discipline in our professional colleges.

Be that as it may. This is also an occasion when we may consider changes in the Oath that medical professionals take when they pass out of colleges. A revised oath has been formulated and administered by Dr. Leo Rebello, a Mumbai based medical professional since 2003.

Dr. Rebello formulated this in 2003, since Hippocrates Oath is now partly outdated being centuries old. This revised Oath has been widely circulated, accepted and appreciated. And here it is!

I, -------------, do hereby swear on this solemn day that :- I shall NOT prescribe unnecessary medicines and tests to my patients;
I shall NOT give false counseling; I shall NOT overcharge and accept cuts and gifts;
I shall NOT rape tiny tots with mercury laced innoculations or vaccinations, for they pollute the blood stream leading to serious diseases like AIDS, Cancers, Autism, etc;
I shall NOT prescribe lethal drugs, like anti-retrovirals, chemotherapy, or give ECT to my patients;
I shall NOT indulge in human organ thefts to the detriment of my patients;I shall NOT be afraid of any authority and fabricate medical records or give false evidence;
I shall NOT exploit students studying under me;
I shall NOT manipulate findings or results to win grants.
I, -------------, further solemnly affirm that:- If I cannot treat a disease, I shall not say that AIDS, cancers, diabetes has no cure. But will tell the patient to try other systems of medicine.
I shall treat health practitioners of other systems with respect and not tell deliberate lies to prove my importance.
I shall study Holistic healing modalities to increase my knowledge and wisdom.
I shall not even by mistake say that "HIV=AIDS=Death" or cancers cannot be treated. I shall not frighten my patients with unnecessary comments, opinions or advice.
I still remember what Hippocrates said, namely, "Let diet be your medicine" and shall accordingly prescribe fresh fruits, vegetables and good diet to my patients, rather than tonics, syrups, synthetic multi-vitamins, especially to children.
I shall NOT perform surgery, unless it is absolutely must and will not indulge in rackets like amniocentesis, caesarian section, silicon implant or liposuction.
I shall work to ban the useless and cruel animal experiments in the name of medicine. I shall participate in periodic workshops, seminars, conferences at my expense or on scholarship (no pharma funding) to educate myself and speak from my conscience if I am called upon to speak or preside.
Finally, I shall not consume alcohol, smoke tobacco, or take other narcotic and psychtropic substances. As far as possible, I shall also not take animal proteins. I realize and aver that a great responsibility of people's well-being is upon my shoulders and I shall carry on my onerous task with utmost dedication. This I swear in the name of God on this solemn Doctors' Day and I shall repeat this oath daily lest I forget that I am in a divine profession to heal the world.

Dr. Rebello has a website :

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Feudal Democracy!!!!!!!!!!

Most political leaders in Delhi love to hold court. And the media does not hesitate to make news out of this. This happened recently when V.P.Singh celebrated his 75th birthday. Well. Singh has all the rights to celebrate his birthday and in the way he wants. He could have cut a cake, gone to a temple, hosted a feast to his friends and others or fasted through the day. He could have let the day pass off as another day in his life. And there was no way anyone could have sat on judgment.

But then, Mr. Singh decided to convert his 75th birthday into a public event. And hence it becomes imperative to discuss the celebrations in the public realm itself and bring out some of the disgusting aspects in the character of this former Prime Minister. Those familiar with the political scene in Delhi will know that Mr. Singh loves to be addressed to as raja saheb whenever he holds court: And this behaviour that belongs to the culture of the feudal era is indeed inimical to democracy.

The fact is that contrary to pretensions that he was committed to democracy, V.P.Singh had hardly made an honest effort to live up to this. He insisted on running the Janata Dal in the same way a petty vassal would do; and scuttled all efforts to convert the party into an organization. He willingly participated in palace intrigues in the Janata Dal as long as it ensured his self preserving ends and did everything to promote regional chieftains in the same way as the Delhi Sultans did in far flung areas or as Indira Gandhi did with her Congress after 1967. It is another matter that some of them carved a space for themselves and grew up to survive without his patronage. Lalu Yadav whom Singh promoted against Ram Sundar Das in Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Sharad Yadav belong to this category.

Some others managed to grow despite Singh’s designs to eliminate them. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Ajit Singh are a few who belong to this category.

And V.P.Singh, at one point of time, seemed to show a lot of courage and declare that he believed in the law of dialectics and even explained, in a public meeting, that the seed will have to destroy itself for the plant to grow and further reproduce. This was at a time when the Janata Dal, as a party, wanted him to take over as party president. Singh seemed to convince even his critics that he belonged to a different culture. He even quit the Lok Sabha on the ground that he had decided to stay away from partisan politics.

But then, his activities in the past couple of months, beginning with the launch of a political outfit (it is still not clear as to whether his new venture with Raj Babbar is a political party or not) and leading up to his birthday bash in New Delhi simply show that the Raja from Manda was only pretending all these years. He seems to be convinced, like any other vassal that he is born to rule! And the idea of a third front will help him reach the throne once again! Singh alone cannot be blamed for this when a host of leaders, including the luminaries of the Left parties, gathered around the Raja on his birthday.

It is only a tragedy that several descendents of the petty chieftains who served the colonial regime until 1947 managed to preserve their positions in the new regime after independence and even capture the institutions of power ``winning’’ elections to become MPs and MLAs. We do have a number of them in the Union Cabinet; and there are Chief Ministers who wear their ``royal’’ lineage up their sleeves. V.P.Singh is not the only one.

Be that as it may. The point about the third front is that it is no longer an idea that can work. Even if all the parties other than the Congress and the BJP get together, the number of Lok Sabha seats where they can be counted as a force to reckon with is about 250. A party or a combine needs 272 seats in the House to form a Government. Now, it is impossible to count all of them together: The Samajwadi Party and the BSP cannot be in the same front. The same is true of the DMK and the AIADMK. The JD(U) and the RJD will not co-exist and Ram Vilas Paswan will not be comfortable with either of them. That means, any front of the kind cannot aspire to cross even 200 seats even if the Left parties are part of it.

The Congress and the BJP, meanwhile, remain strong enough to share 300 Lok Sabha seats between them. And this will not change in any big way even if Rahul Gandhi refuses to lead the party and internal squabbles continue to rattle the BJP. Hence, neither of these two parties will land in a situation where they will be forced to lend outside support and sustain a Government in the same way they had to do in 1989 (for the BJP) and in 1996 (for the Congress).

Meanwhile, the leaders of the regional and sub-regional parties have experienced the virtues of teaming up either with the Congress or with the BJP: To share power in New Delhi. Some of them, in fact, had switched sides at the right time and enjoyed ministerial positions in both the BJP-led NDA and the Congress-led UPA. The DMK and the PMK for instance belong to this category and there are reasons that many more regional parties will join this.

For they all have experienced the perils of talking about a third front and ended up facing frequent elections. The idea of a third front may appeal to such leaders as V.P.Singh and a few others who hang around his durbar. But then, the political choice for the people of India are determined by a variety of factors than merely the birthday wish of a descendant from the ``royal’’ family that ruled a small principality called Manda in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.