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THE WEEKLY NEWSMAGAZINE

October 18, 2010 Rs

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In this issue... Volume L, No. 41 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF PUBLISHER EDITOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR FOREIGN EDITOR BUSINESS EDITOR SENIOR EDITORS

Vinod Mehta Maheshwer Peri Krishna Prasad Bishwadeep Moitra Ajaz Ashraf Sunit Arora Ajith Pillai, Sunil Menon, Anjali Puri BUREAU CHIEFS Saba Naqvi (Delhi) Smruti Koppikar (Associate Editor, West) BOOKS EDITOR Sheela Reddy ASSOCIATE FOREIGN EDITOR Pranay Sharma SENIOR ASSISTANT EDITORS S.B. Easwaran, Manisha Saroop, Namrata Joshi, Anuradha Raman ASSISTANT EDITORS Arindam Mukherjee, Lola Nayar, Saikat Datta SENIOR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Arti Sharma, Dola Mitra (Calcutta), Prarthna Gahilote SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Rohit Mahajan, Pragya Singh, Chandrani Banerjee, Amba Batra Bakshi CORRESPONDENT Debarshi Dasgupta BANGALORE: Sugata Srinivasaraju (Associate Editor, South) CHENNAI: Pushpa Iyengar (Bureau Chief) CHANDIGARH: Chander Suta Dogra (Bureau Chief, North) HYDERABAD: Madhavi Tata BHOPAL: K.S. Shaini COPY DESK: Sasi Nair (Deputy Copy Editor), Paromita Mukhopadhyay, Saikat Niyogi PHOTOGRAPHERS Narendra Bisht (Deputy Photo Editor) Jitender Gupta (Chief Photographer), Tribhuvan Tiwari (Principal Photographer), Dinesh Parab, Sandipan Chatterjee, Apoorva Salkade S. Rakshit (Senior Coordinator), J.S. Adhikari (Photo Researcher) DESIGN Deepak Sharma (Art Director), Ashish Bagchi, Leela, Tanmoy Chakraborty (Graphics Editor), Devi Prasad, Padam Gupta Promotions: Ashish Rozario ILLUSTRATORS: Sandeep Adhwaryu, Sorit EDITORIAL MANAGER: Sasidharan Kollery LIBRARIAN: Alka Gupta BUSINESS OFFICE PRESIDENT: Suresh Selvaraj CFO: Vinodkumar Panicker VICE PRESIDENT: Niraj Rawlley (Circulation) GENERAL MANAGERS Kabir Khattar (Corp), Sushmita Gupta (North), Rajeshwari Chowdhury (West), Swaroop Rao (Bangalore), Moushumi Banerjee Ghosh (East), Uma Srinivasan (Chennai), Rakesh Mishra (Production), Arokia Raj (Circ South), B.S. Johar (Subs) NATIONAL HEADS Himanshu Pandey (Business Development), Alex Joseph (Retail) Shrutika Dewan (Brand & Marketing) ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGERS Chetan Budhiraja, Mukesh Lakhanpal ZONAL SALES MANAGERS Anindya Banerjee, Indranil Ganguly, Ramesh SENIOR MANAGERS: Anjeet Trivedi, Chetana Shetty, Deshraj Jaswal, Gopal K. Iyer, Kartiki Jha, Kuldeep Kothari, Pankaj Sahni, Rajendra Kurup, Sanjay Narang, Shashank Dixit, Shekhar Pandey MANAGERS: Ashish Arora, Ashwin Gajelli, M. Suneel Raju, Sumit Chhabra, Vinod Joshi Anamika Nath (Brand) HEAD OFFICE AB-10, S.J. Enclave, New Delhi - 110 029 Tel: 46867200, 26100722; Fax: 26191420 e-mail: outlook@outlookindia.com For editorial queries: edit@outlookindia.com For subscription helpline: yourhelpline@outlookindia.com For other queries: queries@outlookindia.com OTHER OFFICES MUMBAI Tel: 6738 2222; Fax: 67382233 CALCUTTA Tel: 4008 5012; Fax: 22823593 CHENNAI Tel: 2858 2251/52; Fax: 28582250 BANGALORE Tel: 2558 2806/07; Fax: 25582810 HYDERABAD Tel: 2337 1144; Fax: 23375676 Printed and published by Maheshwer Peri on behalf of Outlook Publishing (India) Pvt. Ltd. Editor: Vinod Mehta. Printed at IPP Limited, C 4-C 11, Phase-II, Noida and published from AB-10, S.J. Enclave, New Delhi-110 029

What they said to us T.A. RAHMANI Muslim Political Council of India “Will the country’s future be led on the basis of faith or the Constitution?” CURRENT

A F FA I R S

14 AVIATION Flying Dangerously 30 IPL BCCI’s Own Scam BUSINESS

16 The Microfinance Scam Profiteering seems to be compromising the sector’s avowed goal of serving the poor I N T E R N AT I O N A L

24 Executive vs Judiciary The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar M. Chaudhry, is being accused of trying to derail democracy C O M M O N W E A LT H

GAMES

38 For Whom The Games? Empty stadiums greet the athletes in the first week, defeating the purpose of CWG inspiring budding sportpersons of India 34 OPENING CEREMONY Saving Grace? F E AT U R E S

58 The Young & RTIculate The RTI Act, which turns five this month, has helped to spawn an “information generation”: young people are using the act to tackle opaque educational institutions and truant civic bodies

42 COVER STORY

Muslim Angst While one section of Muslims feels relief at the closure of a 60-year-old dispute, the aam Muslim feels shortchanged by the Ayodhya verdict. Outlook meets a cross-section of Muslims to gauge the mood. COLUMN Sanjay Kaw 66 ENDHIRAN Two Views 70 CHANDIGARH Corbusier’s Stolen Drawings

REGULARS 4 LETTERS 10 POLSCAPE 72 BOOKS 76 FINE LIVING 78 GLITTERATI 80 DIARY Cover Design: Bishwadeep Moitra, Photograph: AP

Published for the week of October 12-18 Total no. of pages 80 + Covers

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

3


www.outlookindia.com

In this issue... Volume L, No. 41 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF PUBLISHER EDITOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR FOREIGN EDITOR BUSINESS EDITOR SENIOR EDITORS

Vinod Mehta Maheshwer Peri Krishna Prasad Bishwadeep Moitra Ajaz Ashraf Sunit Arora Ajith Pillai, Sunil Menon, Anjali Puri BUREAU CHIEFS Saba Naqvi (Delhi) Smruti Koppikar (Associate Editor, West) BOOKS EDITOR Sheela Reddy ASSOCIATE FOREIGN EDITOR Pranay Sharma SENIOR ASSISTANT EDITORS S.B. Easwaran, Manisha Saroop, Namrata Joshi, Anuradha Raman ASSISTANT EDITORS Arindam Mukherjee, Lola Nayar, Saikat Datta SENIOR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Arti Sharma, Dola Mitra (Calcutta), Prarthna Gahilote SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Rohit Mahajan, Pragya Singh, Chandrani Banerjee, Amba Batra Bakshi CORRESPONDENT Debarshi Dasgupta BANGALORE: Sugata Srinivasaraju (Associate Editor, South) CHENNAI: Pushpa Iyengar (Bureau Chief) CHANDIGARH: Chander Suta Dogra (Bureau Chief, North) HYDERABAD: Madhavi Tata BHOPAL: K.S. Shaini COPY DESK: Sasi Nair (Deputy Copy Editor), Paromita Mukhopadhyay, Saikat Niyogi PHOTOGRAPHERS Narendra Bisht (Deputy Photo Editor) Jitender Gupta (Chief Photographer), Tribhuvan Tiwari (Principal Photographer), Dinesh Parab, Sandipan Chatterjee, Apoorva Salkade S. Rakshit (Senior Coordinator), J.S. Adhikari (Photo Researcher) DESIGN Deepak Sharma (Art Director), Ashish Bagchi, Leela, Tanmoy Chakraborty (Graphics Editor), Devi Prasad, Padam Gupta Promotions: Ashish Rozario ILLUSTRATORS: Sandeep Adhwaryu, Sorit EDITORIAL MANAGER: Sasidharan Kollery LIBRARIAN: Alka Gupta BUSINESS OFFICE PRESIDENT: Suresh Selvaraj CFO: Vinodkumar Panicker VICE PRESIDENT: Niraj Rawlley (Circulation) GENERAL MANAGERS Kabir Khattar (Corp), Sushmita Gupta (North), Rajeshwari Chowdhury (West), Swaroop Rao (Bangalore), Moushumi Banerjee Ghosh (East), Uma Srinivasan (Chennai), Rakesh Mishra (Production), Arokia Raj (Circ South), B.S. Johar (Subs) NATIONAL HEADS Himanshu Pandey (Business Development), Alex Joseph (Retail) Shrutika Dewan (Brand & Marketing) ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGERS Chetan Budhiraja, Mukesh Lakhanpal ZONAL SALES MANAGERS Anindya Banerjee, Indranil Ganguly, Ramesh SENIOR MANAGERS: Anjeet Trivedi, Chetana Shetty, Deshraj Jaswal, Gopal K. Iyer, Kartiki Jha, Kuldeep Kothari, Pankaj Sahni, Rajendra Kurup, Sanjay Narang, Shashank Dixit, Shekhar Pandey MANAGERS: Ashish Arora, Ashwin Gajelli, M. Suneel Raju, Sumit Chhabra, Vinod Joshi Anamika Nath (Brand) HEAD OFFICE AB-10, S.J. Enclave, New Delhi - 110 029 Tel: 46867200, 26100722; Fax: 26191420 e-mail: outlook@outlookindia.com For editorial queries: edit@outlookindia.com For subscription helpline: yourhelpline@outlookindia.com For other queries: queries@outlookindia.com OTHER OFFICES MUMBAI Tel: 6738 2222; Fax: 67382233 CALCUTTA Tel: 4008 5012; Fax: 22823593 CHENNAI Tel: 2858 2251/52; Fax: 28582250 BANGALORE Tel: 2558 2806/07; Fax: 25582810 HYDERABAD Tel: 2337 1144; Fax: 23375676 Printed and published by Maheshwer Peri on behalf of Outlook Publishing (India) Pvt. Ltd. Editor: Vinod Mehta. Printed at Rajhans Enterprises, 134, 4th Main Road, Industrial Town, Rajajinagar, Bangalore - 560044 and published from AB-10, S.J. Enclave, New Delhi-110 029

What they said to us T.A. RAHMANI Muslim Political Council of India “Will the country’s future be led on the basis of faith or the Constitution?” CURRENT

A F FA I R S

14 AVIATION Flying Dangerously 30 IPL BCCI’s Own Scam BUSINESS

16 The Microfinance Scam Profiteering seems to be compromising the sector’s avowed goal of serving the poor I N T E R N AT I O N A L

24 Executive vs Judiciary The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar M. Chaudhry, is being accused of trying to derail democracy C O M M O N W E A LT H

GAMES

38 For Whom The Games? Empty stadiums greet the athletes in the first week, defeating the purpose of CWG inspiring budding sportpersons of India 34 OPENING CEREMONY Saving Grace? F E AT U R E S

58 The Young & RTIculate The RTI Act, which turns five this month, has helped to spawn an “information generation”: young people are using the act to tackle opaque educational institutions and truant civic bodies

42 COVER STORY

Muslim Angst While one section of Muslims feels relief at the closure of a 60-year-old dispute, the aam Muslim feels shortchanged by the Ayodhya verdict. Outlook meets a cross-section of Muslims to gauge the mood. COLUMN Sanjay Kaw 66 ENDHIRAN Two Views 70 CHANDIGARH Corbusier’s Stolen Drawings

REGULARS 4 LETTERS 10 POLSCAPE 72 BOOKS 76 FINE LIVING 78 GLITTERATI 80 DIARY Cover Design: Bishwadeep Moitra, Photograph: AP

Published for the week of October 12-18 Total no. of pages 80 + Covers

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

3


www.outlookindia.com

In this issue... Volume L, No. 41 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF PUBLISHER EDITOR EXECUTIVE EDITOR FOREIGN EDITOR BUSINESS EDITOR SENIOR EDITORS

Vinod Mehta Maheshwer Peri Krishna Prasad Bishwadeep Moitra Ajaz Ashraf Sunit Arora Ajith Pillai, Sunil Menon, Anjali Puri BUREAU CHIEFS Saba Naqvi (Delhi) Smruti Koppikar (Associate Editor, West) BOOKS EDITOR Sheela Reddy ASSOCIATE FOREIGN EDITOR Pranay Sharma SENIOR ASSISTANT EDITORS S.B. Easwaran, Manisha Saroop, Namrata Joshi, Anuradha Raman ASSISTANT EDITORS Arindam Mukherjee, Lola Nayar, Saikat Datta SENIOR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Arti Sharma, Dola Mitra (Calcutta), Prarthna Gahilote SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS Rohit Mahajan, Pragya Singh, Chandrani Banerjee, Amba Batra Bakshi CORRESPONDENT Debarshi Dasgupta BANGALORE: Sugata Srinivasaraju (Associate Editor, South) CHENNAI: Pushpa Iyengar (Bureau Chief) CHANDIGARH: Chander Suta Dogra (Bureau Chief, North) HYDERABAD: Madhavi Tata BHOPAL: K.S. Shaini COPY DESK: Sasi Nair (Deputy Copy Editor), Paromita Mukhopadhyay, Saikat Niyogi PHOTOGRAPHERS Narendra Bisht (Deputy Photo Editor) Jitender Gupta (Chief Photographer), Tribhuvan Tiwari (Principal Photographer), Dinesh Parab, Sandipan Chatterjee, Apoorva Salkade S. Rakshit (Senior Coordinator), J.S. Adhikari (Photo Researcher) DESIGN Deepak Sharma (Art Director), Ashish Bagchi, Leela, Tanmoy Chakraborty (Graphics Editor), Devi Prasad, Padam Gupta Promotions: Ashish Rozario ILLUSTRATORS: Sandeep Adhwaryu, Sorit EDITORIAL MANAGER: Sasidharan Kollery LIBRARIAN: Alka Gupta BUSINESS OFFICE PRESIDENT: Suresh Selvaraj CFO: Vinodkumar Panicker VICE PRESIDENT: Niraj Rawlley (Circulation) GENERAL MANAGERS Kabir Khattar (Corp), Sushmita Gupta (North), Rajeshwari Chowdhury (West), Swaroop Rao (Bangalore), Moushumi Banerjee Ghosh (East), Uma Srinivasan (Chennai), Rakesh Mishra (Production), Arokia Raj (Circ South), B.S. Johar (Subs) NATIONAL HEADS Himanshu Pandey (Business Development), Alex Joseph (Retail) Shrutika Dewan (Brand & Marketing) ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGERS Chetan Budhiraja, Mukesh Lakhanpal ZONAL SALES MANAGERS Anindya Banerjee, Indranil Ganguly, Ramesh SENIOR MANAGERS: Anjeet Trivedi, Chetana Shetty, Deshraj Jaswal, Gopal K. Iyer, Kartiki Jha, Kuldeep Kothari, Pankaj Sahni, Rajendra Kurup, Sanjay Narang, Shashank Dixit, Shekhar Pandey MANAGERS: Ashish Arora, Ashwin Gajelli, M. Suneel Raju, Sumit Chhabra, Vinod Joshi Anamika Nath (Brand) HEAD OFFICE AB-10, S.J. Enclave, New Delhi - 110 029 Tel: 46867200, 26100722; Fax: 26191420 e-mail: outlook@outlookindia.com For editorial queries: edit@outlookindia.com For subscription helpline: yourhelpline@outlookindia.com For other queries: queries@outlookindia.com OTHER OFFICES MUMBAI Tel: 6738 2222; Fax: 67382233 CALCUTTA Tel: 4008 5012; Fax: 22823593 CHENNAI Tel: 2858 2251/52; Fax: 28582250 BANGALORE Tel: 2558 2806/07; Fax: 25582810 HYDERABAD Tel: 2337 1144; Fax: 23375676 Printed and published by Maheshwer Peri on behalf of Outlook Publishing (India) Pvt. Ltd. Editor: Vinod Mehta. Printed at Infomedia 18 Ltd. Plot No. 3, Sector 7, Off Sion Panvel Road, Nerul, Navi Mumbai - 400706 and published from AB-10, S.J. Enclave, New Delhi - 110 029

What they said to us T.A. RAHMANI Muslim Political Council of India “Will the country’s future be led on the basis of faith or the Constitution?” CURRENT

A F FA I R S

14 AVIATION Flying Dangerously 30 IPL BCCI’s Own Scam BUSINESS

16 The Microfinance Scam Profiteering seems to be compromising the sector’s avowed goal of serving the poor I N T E R N AT I O N A L

24 Executive vs Judiciary The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar M. Chaudhry, is being accused of trying to derail democracy C O M M O N W E A LT H

GAMES

38 For Whom The Games? Empty stadiums greet the athletes in the first week, defeating the purpose of CWG inspiring budding sportpersons of India 34 OPENING CEREMONY Saving Grace? F E AT U R E S

58 The Young & RTIculate The RTI Act, which turns five this month, has helped to spawn an “information generation”: young people are using the act to tackle opaque educational institutions and truant civic bodies

42 COVER STORY

Muslim Angst While one section of Muslims feels relief at the closure of a 60-year-old dispute, the aam Muslim feels shortchanged by the Ayodhya verdict. Outlook meets a cross-section of Muslims to gauge the mood. COLUMN Sanjay Kaw 66 ENDHIRAN Two Views 70 CHANDIGARH Corbusier’s Stolen Drawings

REGULARS 4 LETTERS 10 POLSCAPE 72 BOOKS 76 FINE LIVING 78 GLITTERATI 80 DIARY Cover Design: Bishwadeep Moitra, Photograph: AP

Published for the week of October 12-18 Total no. of pages 80 + Covers

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

3


NOTES MIRROR IMAGE

THE SECRET DIARY OF

Judges of Bacchanaliapuram

A

by Sandeep Adhwaryu

CROSSINGS WON ROBERT EDWARDS, 85, British physiologist whose work in in-vitro fertilisation led to the first test-tube baby—Louise Brown, born in 1978—wins MEDICINE NOBEL. JOINED K. VIJAY KUMAR, whose team hunted down Veerappan, is the new CRPF head. The Dantewada massacre, slip-ups in antiMaoist ops, saw to Vikram Srivastava’s early exit. IPS,

LAUNCHED After two years in ‘exile’, former Pak president PERVEZ MUSHARRAF unveils the All Pakistan Muslim League in London. Amid protests, Mush says keen on fighting 2013 polls. SUED MYANMAR’s jailed Oppn leader AUNG SAN SUU KYI again sues the ruling junta for dissolving her NLD, ahead of “sham polls” set for Nov 7. She was to be released on Nov 13.... TOP SPOT Thanks to Tirupati, ANDHRA PRADESH tops list of domestic travel spots for Indians. UP and Tamil Nadu follow. Popular haunts not even in top 10.

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LLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MYSELF. I AM JAMES PONNAPPAN ALI EYRE,

native of Jagathy, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (aka God’s Own Country (oops!) Liquor). Anyway, being the seniormost judge of the three-man bench of the ‘high’ court of Bacchanaliapuram I have been given the privilege of putting on record some of the cases we intend to adjudicate by putting belief/faith above the law. In fact, we have been in touch with lawyers and an opinion poll agency (the muchtrusted Murugan and Saini) who have promised to file a slew of petitions after ascertaining the belief of people on various issues. M&S have even arrived at a sample size which will help them determine what people believe (984 male/female respondents in the age bracket 5-70 across 98 cities and towns, 110 villages and 500 bus stands/milk kiosks). That apart, the lawyers have been rather petition-happy and have come to us to vet the cases they propose to file. Some of them, I have to admit, are rather bizarre but then as George Orwell put it, “To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle.” Also, belief is SANDEEP ADHWARYU belief and it’s above the law (certainly not below it). Anyway, all such banalities aside, let me share three of the proposed petitions which I and my fellow judges are looking at: Rum is headier than rasam which in turn is better than eating chalk: This has come from Chanakya Puri, a wily Punjabi lawyer who lives on an island off Kochi. His plea is backed by a survey which reveals that 80 per cent gave their preference for rum while 12 per cent felt rasam laced with vodka made for a fiery ‘bleddy Mary’. And six per cent of the respondents shook their heads to convey the DK/CS sentiment. The remaining two per cent felt chalk was good if eaten with cheese. Nutan of Malappuram discovered gravity: Suggested by a lawyer from Kozhikode, the plea is that Nargis Nutan discovered gravity in 1550, more than 100 years before Sir Isaac. Apparently, she was sitting under a jackfruit tree in what is now Down Hill when a 36 kg fruit fell on her. She immediately understood what gravity and a swollen head was all about and recorded her findings in a notebook. “It took more than an apple for Nutan to discover the magnetic pull of the earth,” notes the petition. Interestingly, a survey among schoolkids of Malappuram revealed that a majority (96 per cent) firmly believed that Nutan discovered gravity although 62 per cent preferred apples to jackfruit. Nonetheless, I must acknowledge this is a case of much gravitas. What comes down must go up: This one comes from an aviation correspondent of a local newspaper. An M&S survey has revealed that an overwhelming majority (96 per cent) were of the view that if a plane lands, it will take off at some point in time. Some four per cent respondents refused to answer since they didn’t fly and so didn’t care. With cases like these, the bench has busy days ahead. But then, remember, believable injustice is a lot better than unbelievable justice. 4 (as imagined by Ajith Pillai)

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK


NOTES POLSCAPE

“He probably thought I was a monkey.”—BBC cameraman Shaun Whitmore after he was ‘attacked’ by one of the langurs employed at the Commonwealth Games sites to scare off the local “bonnet monkeys”. He got scratches on his hand.

Ballad Of The New State ALL IS NOT WELL IN K. Chandrasekhara Rao’s TRS. Following his fast in November 09, KCR had managed to become hero again for the Telangana cause. Strangely, it’s from a completely unexpected quarter that he’s getting hit. Maoist balladeer Gaddar has stolen some of his

halo by floating a new front, the Telangana Praja Front. Gaddar accuses KCR of neglecting Telangana’s SCs and STs and turning the TRS into a “family party”. The Congress has been silent on the development, but Chandrababu Naidu was quick to extend his support. Naidu has been at the receiving end of KCR’s barbs for long and many in the TDP feel Gaddar may be the perfect foil to neutralise the TRS chief. 4

Long Journey, Cut Short THE WHEEL’S COME FULL CIRCLE. AFTER MAKING POLITICALLY CORRECT NOISES ALL week—from asking for restraint before the Ayodhya verdict to “feeling vindicated about the rath yatra” later—it seems temptation is getting the better of the Ram movement mascot, L.K. Advani. Murmurs suggest that while the party has taken the line that it won’t stir the communal pot, Advani is wondering if he should throw down the ladle. Sources say that he is keen on some kind of mobilisation. Indeed, partymen fear the veteran leader may get on the rath yet again. But not if the Sangh has anything to do with it. The RSS diktat, apparently, is that no political mileage should be exacted from the September 30 verdict. The reason: the Sangh is peeved that the BJP, while taking all the political mileage, does precious little for the Ram temple’s construction itself. Real action, the RSS believes, will speak louder than tall promises. 4 Cartoons by SANDEEP ADHWARYU

la Jayalalitha(aa). The man now calls himself Ashok (rao) Chavan. In fact, he’s even got the name-plates changed at his official residence and his office in the Mantralaya. New stationery has also been printed. When asked, Chavan played it

down, saying there was nothing new about it. He explained the ‘Rao’ away as a honorific that all politicians in Maharashtra add to their names after they have put in several years in politics. So, after all this, has the name change had any

Double Or Nothing KERALA FM THOMAS ISAAC feels he can take on the “lottery mafia”. He’s written to the Bhutan government asking them to hand operations of its lottery in Kerala over to the government. Isaac promises to double returns, compared to what they get now from a private partner! 4

Lucky Strike MAHARASHTRA CM ASHOK Chavan has of late taken to tapping mystical forces for support and confidence. A new fad for the superstitious CM has been numerology, which explains why he has gone in for a name change a

12

impact? If Chavan is to be believed, it has augured well for him. The CM says Mumbai was peaceful after the Ayodhya verdict only because of his new, lucky name! 4

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK


AVIATION SAFETY

AP

Looming cloud The Mangalore crash

MAYDAY ECHOES Airlines in India continue to tempt danger by Amba Batra Bakshi

FTER the Mangalore air crash this May, aviation experts had warned that if the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) did not put in

A

place stringent safety measures, it would be like perpetually seeking disaster. As it is, the air accident rate for India is four times the world average. The inadequate infrastructure and the unprecedented air traffic growth contribute their share, besides, to the risk of flying. But some recent near-escapes indicate that training and drilling of personnel for a range of routine and emergency situations, vital to cutting risk, is still not being seriously pursued. In the past four months, several incidents have taken place that could have resulted in huge fatalties. Two days after the Mangalore crash that killed 158 people, a Spicejet aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing soon after takeoff at Delhi airport:

14

pieces of tyre were found on the runway it took off from. Two days later, another scare: the Dubai-Pune flight of Air India’s low-budget carrier, with 118 on board, plunged a few thousand feet on hitting an air pocket. In June, the ATC in Mumbai asked a Kingfisher flight to do a go-around just as it was about to land: a Spicejet plane was in the middle of the

Flying red... ● In May, a Spicejet aircraft was

forced to make an emergency landing in Delhi: pieces of tyre were spotted on the runway. ● The Dubai-Pune flight of

Air India’s low-budget carrier plunged on hitting an air pocket. ● In June, the Mumbai ATC asked

a Kingfisher flight to do a go-around as a Spicejet plane was stuck on the runway. ● A mid-air collision was averted

over Tamil Nadu ● 25 passengers were injured

during evacuation in Mumbai

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

runway. Days later, a mid-air collision was averted by alert pilots as a Jet Airways and an Air India plane came “dangerously close”—in fact, on the same flight path—over Tamil Nadu. Capt A. Ranganathan, an aviation expert, says, “There has been complete lack of accountability on the part of DGCA and AAI officials. The airlines have also been guilty of suppressing several safety violations. Unless we have an open and accountable system, we can’t expect to improve safety standards. The main worry is the lowering of training standards for pilots.” More recently, there was an engine fire on a Jet Airways flight at Mumbai airport: 25 passengers were injured in the badly managed evacuation procedure. “These procedures are of prime importance and we are looking into what factors could have caused so much confusion in this particular incident,” says a senior DGCA official. “Such incidents should not occur again.” The August issue of Aviation Watch, a monthly newsletter from Bangalore, comments: “Airline companies in India might just not be doing enough to train cabin crew for safety and emergency procedures.” It says training in basics like jump-and-slide and the use of fire extinguishers, rafts, emergency doors— airlines abroad conduct them every year—are grossly neglected in India. Increasingly, the feeling in the industry is that the DGCA is only paying lip service to safety issues. The figures speak. In just the two months of July and August, there have been 18 instances of radar failure at six airports, including busy ones like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Even Delhi’s IGI airport had one of its two radars nonfunctional for four hours on August 3: apparently a cable link had been cut. It is learnt that radar failures occurred at the Ahmedabad airport five times, on July 1, 3, 5 and 7, and on August 20. Mumbai airport had its radar failing thrice, on July 9, 14 and August 4. Every time one takes a flight, one can only hope the DGCA acts to fulfil its pious post-Mangalore promises. 4


BUSINESS LENDING

Bouthu Swarnalatha Warangal A farm labourer, Swarnalatha is one of many in Seethampet village of Warangal district who sometimes contemplate suicide. Hounded regularly for falling behind on repayments for the Rs 15,000 she had taken from an MFI, Swarnalatha says she can’t afford to repay the weekly instalment as her daily earnings are not even sufficient to meet her needs.

SIDDHARAJ SOLANKI

“The constant hounding and abusive language are getting too much. I sometimes feel death alone will offer me respite from this hellish loan cycle.”

Ripan Sarkar Siliguri When Sarkar thought of starting his artificial flowers kiosk in Siliguri, he approached banks for a loan, but found their eligibility criteria impossible to meet. “I had no proof of permanent residence,” says Sarkar, whose family migrated to Siliguri from Assam. So he joined a private loan scheme called Bandhan by depositing Rs 1,100 as security for Rs 10,000 borrowed with full repayment in 45 weeks. “You would end up paying about Rs 2,000 as interest, which is better than the documentation headache.”

“Banks make you feel really small...the attitude is you will run off with the money and never pay back.”

SANDIPAN CHATTERJEE

Power money A self-help group meeting in Gujarat

IS IT MICRO USURY? Ethics runs smack into profit in the debate on the small loan business by Lola Nayar

NDIA’S microfinance institutions (MFIs) have often hit the headlines. But this time, they are doing so not necessarily for the right reasons. They have been accused of making huge profits and ensuring their own topline growth at the cost of the poor whom they aim to help with easy and affordable credit. SKS Microfinance, one of the biggest MFIs, hit the high streets

I

16

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

with a very successful IPO and listing in August. But this raised questions about the firm’s operations and profit motives. What particularly drew strong criticism was SKS chairman Vikram Akula and other top management making millions through stake sale and ensuring high returns to equity investors. This criticism came from none other than the father of modern microfinance, Nobel lau-

reate Mohammed Yunus, with whom Akula first worked at Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Questions are also being raised about the coercive tactics used in many cases to ensure weekly repayments and the steep interest charged by the MFIS, sometimes over 40 per cent. In what way are these charges justified? Though the avowed intention of MFIs and banks providing microcredit is to help small borrowers, there is increasing evidence to show its cumbersome processes are forcing landless farmers and traders to seek out the traditional moneylender. On the flip side, loan beneficiaries often face undue pressures. Last month, over 1,000 women members of 50 selfhelp groups in Bhubaneswar protested against the high interest charged by MFIs. The first farmer suicide in drought-hit

West Bengal this year is also traced to the harassment over loan repayment. On October 5, the Andhra Pradesh Human Rights Commission ordered a probe into the functioning of MFIs in the tribal and Dalit-dominated areas of Warangal, Anantapur, Karimnagar and Rangareddy districts following six suicides

“The big MFIs restrict themselves to safe terrain. The small and medium or start-ups seek difficult terrain.” Mathew Titus Sa-Dhan

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

in three months by debt-trapped farmers and labourers due to the alleged excess by MFIs. All this is a rude shock. Just a few years back, MFIs were being lauded for helping the poor get access to credit. Today, horror stories abound across the hinterland about MFIs adopting the same tactics and goals of big banks and moneylenders. What has gone wrong? In a complaint to the state government in February, Khammam district collector V. Usharani had alleged that MFIs have not only been violating state regulations for tribal areas but have also been indulging in unfair practices, including taking their property as collateral. “Due to coercive recovery methods,” she said, “certain borrowers have committed suicide.” Prof K. Venkata Narayan of Kakatiya University, Warangal, substantiates this,

17


BUSINESS LENDING SANDIPAN CHATTERJEE

Kanu Das Calcutta Kanu Das, 35, a garment hawker in Calcutta’s busy Gariahat market, doesn’t believe in microfinance schemes from nationalised banks or MFIs. “These schemes are worthless. They want a shop address before sanctioning loans. How do I get that?” he asks. So this Durga Puja season, Kanu went to the local moneylender for the Rs 30,000 loan he needed for procuring stocks. Now he needs to pay Rs 800 a month. “There is no pressure to pay back every week, something MFIs insist upon,” he says.

“Both banks and microfinance people want a shop address before they sanction a loan. How do I get that?”

pointing out that as each of the 7-10 members of a self-help group are held responsible for ensuring other members repay the weekly instalment on time, defaulters face the humiliation of others staging a dharna in front of their houses to put pressure. Often, they are forced to sell off their belongings to fund repayment. In Palivelpula village of Warangal, Banda Elisa sold her mangalsutra and mortgaged her house for Rs 30,000. Today, she pays Rs 600 as rent to live in her own house and has even mortgaged her ration card. Reports of harassment and suicide have also emerged from different parts of the country, particularly from states like Orissa, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Driven by reports of malpractices, the Reserve Bank of India and the finance ministry have woken up to the issue. Last year, the RBI completed a study on how to improve the reach of microcredit and ensure greater operational transparency. “MFIs have no doubt been able to provide access to finance to segments of people left behind by the formal financial sector. The high interest rate charged by them, however, remains a contentious issue and banks funding these entities need to be sensitive to this issue of public policy,” says an official RBI response to Outlook. Recently, the finance ministry issued an advisory to public sector banks, giving funds to the sector to “try to persuade MFIs to restrict the lending rate to 20-24 per

18

MICRO GAIN, MACRO PAIN Microfinance institutions make big claims, but critics point at the holes. FINANCIAL INCLUSION

OPAQUE BENEFITS

By March-end 2009, over 22 million people were beneficiaries

A significant percentage of clients exist only on loan books

Rs 25,000-30,000 crore deployed in the system

Poor may be benefiting but high MFI profitability raises questions

Large funds flowing to sector from banks and equity investors

Steep interest rates, sometimes over 40%, defeat purpose of helping poor

Reach out in areas where banks have been tardy in providing service

Tight schedule of weekly repayments putting tremendous pressure

Rapid scaling up through innovation/ technology to cover remote areas

Proxy agents flourishing due to lack of checks and balances

Loan repayment remains over 95%

No data available on indebtedness

cent all inclusive”, official sources state. Obviously, MFIs defend their actions, specially the high interest rates. Mathew Titus of Sa-Dhan, an umbrella organisation for MFIS in the country, points out that the smaller the loan size, the bigger is the cost of delivery and collection. As such, it is easier for big players (with average loans of Rs 5,000-20,000) that

MFIs justify their high interest rates, saying the cost of delivering and collecting small loans is very high. 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

have reached a critical scale of over 1.5 lakh clients to reduce the interest rates “but for small ones lowering even 0.5 per cent interest rate may be a challenge”. Rather than putting a cap on interest rate, Titus moots fixing a rate “band”. Interestingly, a study report covering 60 MFIs in 2009 by M-Cril, a global rating agency of microfinance institutions, revealed that while their yield has increased from 18.8 per cent in 2002 to 31.4 per cent in 2009, their operating expenses ratio (OER) has come down from 19.9 per cent to 11.5 per cent during the same period. What’s more, the report indicates that ‘portfolio at risk’ has also come down from 12.2 per cent to just 0.5 per cent in the same period. “These two factors have improved the


BUSINESS LENDING

Naresh Chand (left, foreground) Jeevana village, Muzaffarnagar Naresh Chand rues the day he took microcredit to buy buffaloes. In 2006, the Punjab National Bank first made credit available to his 10-member self-help group. Prompt repayments helped get Rs 2.90 lakh to buy cows and buffaloes. “We paid back Rs 1.29 lakh. We stopped when the government started a loan waiver, which we did not get. Now, the bank has served notice to repay Rs 5.51 lakh,” he says.

“We are in a tight squeeze and don’t know how to repay the money. Some of us have sold the buffaloes to repay the loan.”

return on assets significantly across the sector from an average of -1.5 per cent in 2001-02 to 4.3 per cent in 2008-09 as compared with the global average of 1.5 to 1.8 per cent. Based on the above data, it can be said there is room for reduction of interest rate,” is the official response of the state-run National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD). It stresses that larger MFIs, which cover nearly 80 per cent of the market, “need to take a lead in this”. As expected, the government’s move to cap the interest rate has not gone down well with most players. Akula says “an interest rate cap would hurt fledgling MFIs the most” as providing microfinance to the rural poor is a labour-intensive and costly affair. But G. Padmaja Reddy, founder and MD of Spandana, one of the biggest MFIs, says it “will overall sanitise the sector from the accusation of charging high interest rates.” Reddy buttresses her point to state that “as per traditional wisdom, if we add up 12 per cent cost of funds, 10 per cent cost

20

of doorstep delivery of service and 2 per cent risk, overall interest rate chargeable amounts to 24 per cent just to break even”. This thumb rule applies to all MFIs with the doorstep delivery cost being determined by the number of borrowers. This is where the catch lies. Experts admit there is no verified data about the number of clients each MFI has. Many clients also borrow from multiple sources to meet their needs or even juggle the weekly loan repayments, thereby getting sucked into the vicious debt cycle. Another worrying issue—that of “ghost

“Though large MFIs are paying investors huge returns, they’ve been tardy in bringing down lending rates.” Harsha Moily Mokshayug Access Society

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

client” and “proxy” agents—has also surfaced in recent years. Ramesh S. Arunachalam, a microfinance practitioner, has detected 7-9 per cent ghost clients in many sampled portfolios and 6-12 per cent of portfolios in non-microfinance clients. He suggests a large group can visit randomly selected MFIs and concurrently perform a rigorous client, portfolio and systems/MIS audit in their operational areas—including following the entire trail of money and process flow (back and forth, right up to HQ). Also, the emergence of broker agents (who supply joint liability groups to MFIs) is a scary phenomenon, as their presence makes traceability of priority sector funds rather difficult. Arunachalam recalls first coming across a broker agent in 2005. Today, they are in many fast-growing and urban areas. “The excesses attributed to MFIs are perhaps due to broker agents, who are not accountable to the microfinance system in any way,” he underlines. Some of the MFIs admitted that there


BUSINESS LENDING

“Capping interest rates for MFIs will hurt the poor” NILOTPAL BARUAH

In an interview to Outlook, Vikram Akula, founder and chief of SKS Microfinance, defends the for-profit model. Your work is admired, but your decision to go for an IPO did not go down well with people (including Prof Mohammed Yunus) who see it as wealth creation at the expense of poor. I have great respect for Prof Yunus. Before starting SKS, I spent time at Grameen Bank to learn its model. In microfinance, both for-profit and non-profit models play a role. India needs about Rs 2,40,000 crore of microcredit. A for-profit model is critical to tapping the capital markets to meet the needs of the poor. In 12 years, SKS has reached more than 7 million people. It took Grameen three decades to reach the same number. Has microfinance become more about profits and topline growth than helping the poor access affordable loans free of debt traps? Are MFIs moving away from jansewa? SKS uses investments, profit and topline growth to give poor people

could be fraud cases of “proxy borrowing”, and even some bad characters emerging as ringleaders or “brokers” who help push loans in some areas and use strong-arm tactics for recovery. Suresh K. Krishna, MD of Grameen Financial Services, points out that “it’s a people-intensive sector. There is need to have a regulatory system. Of course, that would add to the costs.” Krishna has been trying to minimise bad practices through audits and staff transfers. NABARD, a major funds provider to selfhelp groups through NGOs and banks, has been promoting the concept of “savings first” before providing credit. This is a concept most NBFCs and NGOs would like to promote but are barred under present

22

Big reach Akula at a village

SKS

covers

access to financial services. This is large-scale jansewa. A commercial model is a critical tool to accelerate inclusion. SKS has checks to ensure we serve the customer first. We do not incentivise our staff on loan size or collection. In the states where we have economies of scale, SKS has reduced interest rates to 26 per cent. How do you rate the role of selfhelp groups vis-a-vis joint liability groups, which are growing rapidly? SKS’s joint liability groups are better monitored and trained than many self-

RBI rules. There could be a change if any of the NBFCs or MFIs are able to get banking licences. At present, while there is a divide on whether MFIs have added to the agrarian crisis and contributed to the suicides, experts like Arunachalam feel

“Most MFIs have very high operating costs. Salary packages and ESOPs are higher than in financial firms.” Vijayalakshmi Das Friends of Women’s World Banking

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

help groups. We require potential members to undergo financial literacy training to understand interest rates and the repayment process. Moreover, we provide members with individual loans for income generation, whereas self-help group borrowers take loans for the entire group. Chances are not all members get an equal share of the loan amount. There is increasing pressure on banks to reduce exposure to MFIs and reach rural areas directly. Most banks do not have the infrastructure, corporate culture or knowhow to develop last-mile networks in remote areas. By the time most banks open, SKS field officers have already visited hundreds of borrowers in the villages. There is also a proposal to cap the interest rate charged by MFIs. Capping interest rates would damage the goals of financial inclusion. It would stifle smaller MFIs and strangle a fledgling industry. Competition among MFIs is the best way to bring down interest rates. 4

that “the burgeoning growth of microfinance, coupled with the decentralised model, is perhaps responsible for a serious deterioration in portfolio quality.” MFIs are looking forward to the upcoming microfinance credit information bureau to help them reduce risk of default and people getting into debt traps. Privately though, a few MFIs admit that if there was a freeze in lending activity, there could be a default of 50 per cent. That would be catastrophic, as some Rs 30,000 crore has been spread over 22 million people. Are we then skating on thin ice when we claim that microfinance is robust and growing? 4 with Madhavi Tata from Hyderabad and Dola Mitra from Calcutta and Siliguri


SPOTLIGHT PAKISTAN REUTERS

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has been the centre of public ire

CRACKING PILLARS The judiciary and executive join the mighty churn in Pakistan by Mariana Baabar in Islamabad

N this prolonged season of discontent and pessimism, brought about by unprecedented floods, poor governance, and a dismal security scenario, the people of Pakistan have turned their ire against one man who isn’t to blame for their sorrows— Chief Justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhry. He isn’t responsible for

I

governance, nor does he oversee security agencies. But such is the price of judicial activism, of taking to the streets in protest, as he did against former president Pervez Musharraf, of wearing the mantle of saviour. Expectations are stoked to a peak where disappointment reigns. It’s this sentiment that school teacher Manzoor Alam articulates as he says, “Arrey bhai, ek bun-kabab ke dukan to khali nahin kar sakta, to ye chief justice kis kam ka?” (If you can’t get a bun-kabab

24

shop to leave its premises, then what’s the use of being the chief justice.) The bun-kabab shop refers to a McDonald outlet against which chief justice Chaudhry had ruled that it couldn’t operate from a public park. Really, can you blame the chief justice whose orders only the administration can implement? In disregarding the judicial order, the administration has taken its cue from President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who haven’t 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

dithered from displaying their disdain for the Supreme Court. And so when Chaudhry asked the government to write to the Swiss government to reopen the corruption cases against Zardari, he was told his order couldn’t be executed because the president enjoys legal immunity. The court’s response to this plea of the government could come next week. Chaudhry has also been accused of attempting to usurp the role of the executive to embarrass Zardari and his PM. For instance, Chaudhry recently issued suo motu orders to control the price of sugar and petroleum products and cancelled the promotion of senior bureaucrats. These orders were simply ignored. The government’s disdain springs from its perception of Chaudhry—that he is seeking vendetta against Zardari who was reluctant to reinstate him in the


SPOTLIGHT PAKISTAN

AFP

months following Musharraf’s ouster. He was ultimately brought back under pressure from the street and the army. This history of conflict has prompted people to ask: has Chaudhry decided to wreak vengeance on his bete noire, and create conditions for his ouster? Or is he a man who in his zeal for judicial activism refuses to take into account the political consequences of his orders? Such questions apart, there’s no denying that Chaudhry’s judicial activism, however innocent, threatens to derail democracy. As journalist Imtiaz Alam told Outlook, “He’s trying to become an ayatollah but is really a bull in the china shop of fragile democracy. What was feared is becoming imminent, the democratic system is crumbling under its own weight, this time not at the behest of the garrison but due to a power struggle between the executive and judiciary.”

HE tussle between the judiciary and executive has inflicted collateral damage. Gilani had to sack his defence production minister,

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Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, who publicly accused the chief justice of being corrupt. Also, the battle between the judiciary and executive has led to mutual recriminations, considered all around to be inimical to democracy. Federal minister Khursheed Shah publicly lit into the Supreme Court, saying, “We want to strengthen the judiciary but it is overstepping its mandate and interfering in administrative decisions, from fixing the price of sugar to validating the promotion of civil servants.” The Supreme Court countered by saying it was its duty to give relief to the common man. But the court’s argument doesn’t impress Ayaz Amir, the journalist-turnedpolitician whose party, the Pakistan the Muslim League (N), had taken to the streets to have Chaudhry reinstated. As Amir told Outlook, “The Supreme Court spends the whole day on suo motu issues while also giving observations which make headlines. Really, what jurisdiction does the chief justice have in matters of petroleum and pro-

26

Dark clouds If Zardari’s party walks out, Gen Ashfaq Kayani will be the ‘arbiter’

motion of senior bureaucrats?” This judicial overreach has led people to perceive a hidden political agenda in the Supreme Court’s recent orders. As political analyst Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi says, “There is a strong impression in the political circles that the Supreme Court has overstretched the judicial boundaries to constrain the role of the elected parliament and the elected executive. If the president’s constitutional immunity is disregarded, Pakistan will be the first country in the world whose superior judiciary wants the sitting president to be prosecuted abroad.” Should judicial activism lead to the ouster of Zardari and destabilise the government, democracy is bound to suffer. His departure is liable to roil the political waters—it is possible Zardari’s party will walk out of the government,

“There’s an impression that the Supreme Court has overstretched its boundaries to constrain the role of executive.”

Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi Political analyst

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

and another political formation cobbling together a new coalition seems unlikely. The ensuing political vacuum could see the army step in. As Imtiaz Alam warns, “The court may emerge as an arbiter against the executive but will erode the very democratic foundation on which its majestic building stands. The chief justice will not be the ultimate arbiter; it will be Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, even if he is disinterested.” So then, is Chaudhry playing the game at the army’s behest? This question has acquired a new salience as there are many who point to Chaudhry’s curious disinterest in a clutch of petitions filed by the relatives of those who had disappeared mysteriously during the Musharraf regime. Chaudhry had earlier defied the army to entertain these petitions, much to the admiration of people. His seeming indifference has now goaded grieving relatives to protest and demand to know, “Why isn’t he displaying the same courage as he had during the Musharraf rule? Is it because he wants to protect the army?” Unfortunately for Pakistan, the judiciary is now getting listed among those who have compounded the woes of people. As political analyst Dr Farukh Saleem notes, “President Zardari, PM Gilani, Mian Nawaz Sharif, our media, the army and judiciary have all contributed to the instability, insecurity and uncertainty we call Pakistan.” 4


VE I USKET L C IC I EX CR BCC

Graphic by TANMOY CHAKRABORTY

1

In 2009 BCCI paid about Rs 300 crore in foreign exchange violating RBI rules to the South African cricket board for change of venue from India.

A TANGLED MONEY TRAIL

Rs 300 cr

1

Media rights first given to MSM Singapore were later scrapped and given to WSG Mauritius.

2 BCCI asks MSM to pay Rs 425 crore to WSG as facilitation fee. MSM pays Rs 125 crore.

Rs 125 cr

2 The South African board was advanced Rs 11.62 crore for staging the IPL without RBI clearance. This was adjusted against BCCI's earnings during the tournament. BCCI paid guarantee of Rs 62.69 crore to 55 players in foreign exchange, violating RBI rules.

MSM Singapore Rs 300 c

HE Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has caused a loss of hundreds of crores to the exchequer by violating Foreign Exchange

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Management Act (FEMA) regulations and through money-laundering. This has come to light following investigations by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The investigating agency is ready with its complaint against BCCI. The ED was probing the alleged money-laundering during the IPL events organised in India and abroad by BCCI. The violations pertain to allocation of TV rights, mobile rights, interactive service rights, exclusive coverage rights and commentary rights for the IPL matches. The ED has also found that in shifting the IPL tournament venues from India to South Africa in 2009, foreign exchange transactions “in the range of Rs 200-300 crore” were made without paying taxes mandated by RBI guidelines. The taxable amount varies

r

3 Later, the WSG contract was scrapped and MSM was brought back. WSG is asked to pay Rs 300 crore to MSM. Later, MSM pays the money into BCCI's account.

69 cr Rs 62.

by Chandrani Banerjee

30

Rs 300 cr

WSG Mauritius

Rs 11.62 cr

THE NOT SO SHINY SIDE An Enforcement Directorate investigation nails BCCI’s role in money-laundering from case to case and is calculated after factoring in the liabilities and holdings of the company or individual. For the IPL-II tournament, the South African cricket board and sponsors were advanced $25,00,000 (Rs 11.62 crore) by the BCCI. According to investigators, this amount was adjusted against the BCCI’s earnings in South Africa. No tax was paid on this either. The money was brought in illegally through Mauritius and Singapore. The BCCI thus flouted Section 6 of FEMA and caused a loss of 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

crores of rupees to the exchequer. The advance itself was not above board. “As per FEMA, it is a violation for an Indian to give a guarantee/surety or undertake a transaction which has the effect of guaranteeing a debt, obligation or other liability owed by an Indian citizen to a person residing outside India without RBI’s permission,” says Manish Mohan, a Supreme Court lawyer. “So this is a clear case of FEMA violation.” The penalty is thrice the amount of tax that was due. The amount is yet to be tabulated.


CRICKET BCCI

AFP

The Mumbai wing of the ED, which investigated the BCCI, has sent a detailed update on the probe, dated July 9, 2010, to one of its Delhi-based special directors. The exclusive documents accessed by Outlook confirm the tax evasion. Investigations also point to frequent awarding and cancellation of media rights. This was done to facilitate huge earning of foreign exchange even as FEMA regulations were overlooked. Consider what the ED report has to say on the sequence of events: January 21, 2008: BCCI enters into an agreement with M/s Multiscreen Media (MSM), Singapore, formerly known as Sony Entertainment Television, for media rights for the Indian subcontinent. The contract was for five years (2008-2012) with an option to extend it by another five-year term. March 14, 2009: BCCI unilaterally terminates the contract to MSM Singapore because of poor quality of broadcasting. March 15, 2009: A fresh contract is drafted and media rights are given by the BCCI to World Sports Group (WSG), Mauritius, unknown in broadcasting. March 25, 2009: The BCCI executes a fresh agreement with MSM Singapore. March 25, 2009: Another agreement is signed between MSM and WSG for Rs 425 crore. This was for assistance provided by WSG to MSM in finalise the BCCI-MSM agreement. As per the agreement, the “facilitation fee” was to be paid in US dollars by MSM, Singapore, to a designated account of WSG in Mauritius. The agreement between the BCCI, WSG and MSM contains clauses which make it binding on BCCI to ensure that MSM pays WSG the facilitation fee. According to the ED, the payment being paid on the instructions of the BCCI amounts to “BCCI entering to a financial transaction with WSG,” a foreign company. This contravened Section 3(d) of FEMA, under which such transactions have to get RBI clearance. As things stood, MSM Singapore had already paid Rs 125 crore to WSG as facilitation fee and the remaining Rs 300 crore was yet to be paid. June 2010: After the ED investigations, the BCCI terminates its agreement with MSM Singapore and wSG. It signs an

32

Money game An IPL match in progress in Johannesburg last year

amended agreement with MSM Singapore, in which the media company agrees to pay the BCCI Rs 300 crore, which represents the balance of the facilitation fee that was to be paid to WSG. Tax is not paid on this amount. Neither are RBI guidelines followed. Further, the ED in its letter number F. No-T-3/81-B/2008/PKN of July 9, 2010, written to the special director of enforcement directorate, Balesh Kumar, pointed out that the payment guarantees given by BCCI-IPL for international cricket players were in violation of Section 6(3) of FEMA. The letter notes that BCCI, in clear violation of FEMA, paid guarantees as per the BCCI-IPL MoU to hire international players. The amount, paid in dollars, amounted to Rs 62.69 crore and extended guarantees to 55 players. These guarantees were given without any RBI permission. As per the MoU inked between BCCI, IPL and the players, a base fee was deter-

Lalit Modi’s downfall became the occasion for painting him black, ignoring the mud that is all over BCCI itself. 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

mined for each player. BCCI-IPL guaranteed to pay the base price to these foreign players irrespective of the success of the auction bid. This payment guarantee extended to the foreign players by BCCI-IPL is in violation of FEMA. B.R. Lall, a former joint director of CBI, who had investigated the Jain hawala case and recently finished a book on the routes and gaps in the system, told Outlook: “Such dubious transactions are common. The major reason is that FEMA is a management act; prosecution is not possible under it. The earlier act, FERA, had strict provisions for prosecution. I would not hesitate to say that influential lobbies have worked to convert FERA into FEMA and made it toothless.” Kirti Azad, a BJP leader and former Test cricketer, reacting to the BCCI’s involvement in tax evasion and money-laundering, had this to say: “It is very unfortunate, since the representatives of the BCCI are top people of the country. There are politicians cutting across party lines— this prevents any inquiry against them. Those who initiated an inquiry against Lalit Modi are pointing fingers when they too are part of the drama. The BCCI may act as if it has nothing to do with the IPL mess, but it is part of the muck.” Perhaps it’s because of the high profile of the BCCI office-bearers that the ED report does not name a single official. 4


Photographs by JITENDER GUPTA

CWG SPECTATORS

by Rohit Mahajan

“Invited to the CWG? Are you joking? If I go to the hockey stadium, I would most possibly be turned away.”

N the cramped, grubby bank branch office that sells tickets to the magnificent palace-arenas of the Commonwealth Games

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(CWG), several brave souls queue up to demonstrate a sport foreign to the first world—Operation Ticket Hunt. It’s a complicated process that demands irrelevant information which is, in some mysterious way, connected to achieving your goal. You fill a form, furnish personal details, list out the events you wish to watch, and then wait patiently in the queue, pickling in Delhi’s postmonsoon stickiness. But don’t crib or sigh, this week they have at least dispensed with one crucial step demanded earlier—of providing proof of identity to the man at the ticket counter. The bank is open, there’s a cache of CWG tickets printed at a considerable cost. The buyers seem determined to lay a siege on the premises. And then the printer fails, for it has run out of ink. The tickets have the branding of the Games and can’t be sold unless details of specific events and dates are printed on them. There’s no tech support; a bank officer must fetch an ink cartridge. But it’s 5 pm, and the official supplier of the cartridge is some 10 km away. It’s unlikely that there would now be any printing—or selling—in this branch. The queue melts away. Are you still surprised at the sight of empty stadiums on your TV? As he goes through the gates of the Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium with his wife and grandchildren to watch India play Malaysia, Milkha Singh is visibly an unhappy man. No, India’s only gold medal winner in athletics in the CWG didn’t have to stand in queue for tickets. The 75-year-old fumes as he explains, “Who are these games for? For the public, athletes or officials? They are sending passes to all sorts of people, but why can’t former athletes be invited honourably? Why do I or someone like P.T. Usha have to fill a form and apply for a pass?” Usha has similar sentiments, as has Ashok Kumar, hockey star of yesteryears

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Ashok Kumar Former hockey national

“The organisers are sending passes to all sorts of people. Why can’t former athletes be invited honourably?”

Milkha Singh Former athlete

Row upon row of empty seats greet wrestlers at the Indira Gandhi Stadium

NO ONE CAME TO THE WEDDING Weird rules at ticket sales, chaos at venues, taint and apathy have kept spectators away from the CWG and a pivotal force in the team that won the World Cup in 1975. “Invited to the CWG?” he exclaims. “Are you joking? If I go to the hockey stadium—(where his father Dhyan Chand’s statue is the first sight for a visitor)—I’d be turned away.” Spectating seems to operate under a policy of strong deterrence even on the day of the event of your choice—traffic and parking restrictions, overbearing and often rude scrutiny at security checks, expensive catering etc. Only those with the greatest mental 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

strength can persevere. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many of them around, at least not on the first fews days of the CWG. When Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra won gold medals in shooting, there were some 30 spectators present. Three wrestling gold medals were won in front of small, though frenzied, knots of supporters; the weightlifting arena was a sea of maroon chairs, unoccupied and mute. The irony is that these are the events in which several gold and silver medals were cer-

tainties. There should have been packed stadiums howling their partisan support. Yet, victory was achieved, medals awarded and the national anthem played before stands not even a quarter full. The reasons behind the absence of the fan, apart from the struggle of getting into an arena, are several. First, Indians seem to love stars, not sports; they don’t come to sports other than cricket in large numbers. They’d rather watch Bollywood-style pageantry (the opening ceremony, for example) than actual

sporting action; that’s true all the more for Delhi than, say, Calcutta or Mumbai. Says veteran journalist K. Datta, “I’m quite certain that if the CWG had been held in Calcutta or Mumbai, the response would have been much better. Can you imagine, even a retired football player like Oliver Kahn can draw up to one lakh people in Calcutta?” Datta remembers the 1950s when Delhi loved sports more. “The other day, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa was telling me that more people used to come to watch OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

them train than there are now in the whole stadium,” he adds. And to think, Delhi’s population has grown over 10 times since then. No doubt, lovers of sports have dwindled in numbers, though not the intensity with which a handful follow them. In the shooting range was a young banker who gave us only his first name, Prashant. In his possession were tickets worth Rs 50,000; he’s taken a 14-day leave from work and is hopping from venue to venue with his wife because they’ve spotted a rare opportunity to watch some top-level sports stars. That opportunity, though, seems to have escaped the organisers and government. The CWG’s stated objective was to promote sports other than cricket, but in the days before the games were to start, damning stories about the pandemonium, corruption and unreadiness

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CWG SPECTATORS

dampened the city’s spirits. “It was a disaster in publicity management,” says Kabul Singh, former cyclist and now a journalist with a Punjabi TV channel in the US. “The collapse of the footbridge probably decided it for several people— they’d rather give the event a miss.” He believes the response would have been better if the media had “managed” (suppressed) bad news. “The way media played up the bad news was like pointing out the flaws of your own daughter during her marriage,” Singh says.

HIS was an argument many fans Outlook talked with put forth—that the pride of the nation should be paramount, corruption is

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endemic anyway, and that despite problems, we do manage to scrape through and make things work. The opening ceremony, for instance. Positive headlines about it helped ticket sales on Monday. “We sold very few tickets for the opening ceremony,” says a branch manager with the Central Bank of India, vendors of tickets. “But after it passed without a problem, the sales have gone up. All the tickets made available for sale for some events—especially involving Indian teams, as in hockey and tennis—have been sold out days in advance.” And therein lies another mystery— despite the tickets being sold out, stadiums have, at best, not been more than a 30 per cent full. This is because tickets were ordered in low numbers. “We did not know how many people would come to events like shooting or archery,” says a source in the CWG organising committee. Since the tickets are very expensive to print—at the government press in Nasik—the organisers were hesitant to give large print orders. No wonder, “sold-outs” barely filled the stadiums. Another source says that several stadia are empty because of flaws in distribution methods of some sports associations. However, one association official says the process of procuring tickets is slow and messy. “For Friday’s events, we hadn’t got tickets from the organisers until late Thursday. They supply tickets

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Enrapt Prashant, a Delhi-based banker, is on a 14-day leave to better enjoy the CWG

day to day. How do we distribute them?” Observers believe that since it was clear that demand for tickets wouldn’t be overwhelming, plans should have been put in place to bring young people to the games, including from other parts of the country. Instead, to lessen traffic chaos in the heart of Delhi, the government closed schools and colleges—thus signalling precisely the age-group interested in sports to keep away. Ironically, travel agencies created special CWG packages— not to come in but to go away from Delhi. Ostensibly, tickets are cheap, but there’s a catch. While some tickets could be bought for as little as Rs 100, separate tickets must be bought for different sessions—morning, noon, evening. “So, if you want to spend all day watching cycling, you’d need to spend Rs 250,” says a Cycling Federation of India official. “For a family of three, the total would be over

Despite tickets being sold out, stadiums are only 30 per cent full— because tickets were printed in low numbers! 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

Rs 750 plus expenses on food and water.” It is small change for the middle-class Delhiite, but those who actually get into sports—those who should have comprised a large section of the spectators— come from a poor background. Datta remembers a time you could see a movie for 50 paisa. “Now you pay 250 bucks. But let the cinemawallahs chase money, sport can’t be primarily a moneymaking enterprise,” he says. “If the organisers really wanted to promote sport, they’d have done well to allow in students for free.” He adds that in any case, ticket sales are a minor fraction of the Games revenue, not worth the empty stands. The stadiums themselves are no doubt grand, matching the best anywhere. The focus should now be to make optimum use of the facilities. “Whether you use it or not, the athletics track has to be changed in six-seven years...so we should let even common people and children, apart from athletes, use it,” he says “But I do fear the new venues may just stand unused and slowly crumble away, as happened after the Asian Games.” After a loss of face, the CWG have revived a bit and crowds are trickling in. But building a sporting heritage, after the games are over, is perhaps going to be the trickiest part. 4


DIPLOMACY CWG TRIBHUVAN TIWARI

Advantage India The opening ceremony show won accolades in the foreign press after months of negative images of India

INCREDIBLE ILLUSION Will an evening of spectacle establish India as a big power? by Pranay Sharma

INALLY, after months of nail-biting, heart-stopping anxiety and damning headlines, ‘Incredible India’ mounted a dazzling opening ceremony to the Commonwealth Games (CWG) on October 3, causing much relief, even exultation, in the beleaguered CWG organising committee and the government.

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The rousing reception to the participants, the stobe-lit night, and the thunderous applause of the packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium every time the speakers mentioned “India has arrived”, were heady enough to prompt the villains-of-yesterday to crow about

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their abilities, their achievements. The mesmerising opening ceremony had its impact well beyond the stadium. The Guardian exclaimed, “India has arrived: spectacular ceremony opens Commonwealth Games”. The Sydney Morning Herald was equally upbeat, 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

“An ancient land opens its heart to the world”. But is one razzle-dazzle evening enough to repair India’s battered image? Could it engender global amnesia about the other side of India—so dark, inefficient and corrupt? Relief the opening ceremony surely was, as it proved the doomsayers wrong, admits a senior Indian diplomat. But he adds there’s no reason for anyone to crow considering “the shelflife of a negative story is much longer than that of a positive one”. The effusive headlines on the opening ceremony haven’t dissuaded the western media from harping on the negative


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most standing in violation of an archaic Master Plan that never envisioned the commercial growth of the city on a par with Bombay. The callous sealing and demolition of some of these establishments by judicial fiat will remain one of the most shameful chapters of India’s development story. ASHOK LAL, MUMBAI Why are none of the judges defending themselves? Does their silence speak of guilt? MUKHTAR AHMAD, ALIGARH Why has Rajeev Dhawan been quoted as a former Supreme Court advocate when he is very much an active apex court advocate? MOHAN TANEJA, ON E-MAIL

When the Scales Fall Congratulations for having the courage to publish the contents of the supplementary affidavit (Your Honour?, Oct 4). A free press rather than the judiciary, I believe, is the strongest pillar of Indian democracy. Every time I convince myself that Vinod Mehta (and therefore Outlook) is a Congress stooge, he surprises me. It’s an open secret that the high courts in the country are filled with corrupt judges, in a you-scratch-my-back-and-I-scratchyours arrangement with politicians. But this is not to say that there aren’t judges of impeccable integrity, who have stood up for social equality and passed judgements upholding the Constitution. We have to ensure that the few rotten apples do not corrupt our entire judiciary. ASHWIN, JERSEY CITY, US

During the high noon of judicial activism, a court in Delhi could make a central minister stand in the courtroom. Cut to now, when instances of the judiciary itself being compro-

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mised have cropped up. How the mighty have fallen! SALIM, KANNUR There are five lakh commercial establishments in Delhi,

The one consolation that the aam aadmi had so far has been proved an illusion, thanks to a legal luminary who’s shown the courage to submit an affidavit against tainted judges. RANJIT SINHA, NEW DELHI We need to recognise the moral corruption of legal eminences like Mr Shanti Bhushan. They only want to hog the limelight as the champions of civil liberties in an “uncivilised third-rate banana republic”. They have no qualms labelling the army and police as fascist and the judiciary as corrupt even as they defend extremists of every hue. SUDHARSHAN, MADRAS The six black sheep with white collars on your cover well illustrated the paradox that plagues our judiciary today. It’s high time only people of integrity at the local, district, state and national level are appointed to administer justice to all. GEORGE OLIVERA, MYSORE Corruption in judiciary is a well-known fact. The appointment of judges became the prerogative of the collegium in

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

1993, when the Narasimha Rao government at the Centre was weak. India is probably the only country where the judiciary itself appoints the judges! RAJIV CHOPRA, JAMMU When even hardened criminals go unpunished in the country, how can one expect saints in the judiciary? NAVIEN K. BATTA, MUSCAT At least corrupt judges in the higher judiciary make news. The lower judiciary is run like a property office. The only way to improve our judiciary is to introduce an independent judicial commission and a system of reward and punishment like in other services. SUDHIR PANWAR, LUCKNOW It is very unfortunate that journalists of reputed magazines like Outlook are proving themselves to be no more than touts of vested interests (How to Lower the Bar). At least we all know that Chief Justice F.I. Rebello has taken administrative measures to regularise the internal management of the Allahabad High Court, where different benches were entertaining public interest matters for which they did not have the authority. Your magazine has deliberately targeted even a sincere and honest man like him, against which action the high court has now also issued a press note. DURGESH KUMAR SINGH, ALLAHABAD Apropos of And Justice For All, truth has an ugly habit of confronting wrongdoers as it has done in the anonymous pamphlet in the Karnataka HC. If the issues it raises are appropriate and if the judicial proceedings are in conformity with its contents, then merely recusal from a case is not sufficient. The judge must tender his resignation. N.K. SINGHAL, ROHTAK


DIPLOMACY CWG

images India generated weeks ahead of the CWG. The Indian diplomatic corps will have to work that much harder to “rebuild India’s image,” he says. Even this rebuilding of India won’t succeed unless its dark side is proved to have been permanently exorcised from what’s India. Just two days after all the rah-rah comments, a malfunctioning security barrier seriously injured three members of the Ugandan delegation. Imagine the incalculable damage to India’s image had the injured delegates been from a developed country? We Indians are more sensitive to their opinion, forgetting amidst this Indiahas-arrived chatter of who we really are. Proof of this came through India’s strong response to the racist remarks of a Kiwi talk show host against Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. India read out a strong demarche to the New Zealand high commissioner and demanded demonstrable action against the TV host. In the din, the Ugandans were forgotten even as its sports minister railed against the CWG organising committee.

SSUMING there is no mishap in the remaining week of the CWG, the razzle-dazzle of the opening ceremony has at least injected

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an element of realism in estimating India. As John Lee of the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney, told Outlook, “If the games proceed smoothly, the world, especially the west, will come to a much more balanced view of India—that it is a rising power with growing significance and enormous capacity but is also a developing country struggling to cope with the demands of modernity.” This isn’t to say that the widely reported CWG mess has dampened the enthusiasm of international investors. “India’s challenge now is to convince ordinary people that although its state sector is not as ruthlessly efficient as China’s, the dynamic Indian private sector is becoming the country’s heartbeat,” says Lee. However, Vivek Dehejia of Canada’s Carleton University feels the opening

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“China wouldn’t have felt good if India hadn’t hosted the games well. As neighbours we take pride in the success.”

Dingli Shen Fudan University

“Let’s wait for the CWG to come to a successful conclusion and then introspect on the costs and benefits.”

Vivek Dehejia Carleton University

“The elite are happy. But you cannot build an international image simply by having a gala opening ceremony.”

Yogendra Yadav Social scientist

ceremony has had a positive impact on the mood worldwide. As he told Outlook, “It will go a long way in undoing or at any rate mitigating the harm done to our international image because of the earlier fiascos.” Through the opening ceremony, India also proved wrong not a few Chinese commentators who had begun to doubt India’s ability to pull off a global event. Dingli Shen of China’s Fudan University, though, told Outlook, “China wouldn’t have felt good if India hadn’t been able to host the games properly. We are neighbours and take pride in each other’s success.” 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

Should the CWG pass off smoothly, Dingli feels India could grow in confidence, and with some more experience, even bid for the Olympics. Dingli’s observation is bound to enthuse those who feel India ought to bid for the Olympics. Months before the CWG, Sheila Dikshit talked about the Olympics bid, as did the everambitious CWG organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi. Says social scientist Yogendra Yadav, “After the botched up preparation, I had thought, well, at least India will now not try to bid for the Olympics, but it seems I was wrong. The elite are happy with the success of the opening ceremony.” Yadav’s implication is that the elite, indifferent to the grim Indian reality, will now root for staging the Olympics, to demonstrate to the world the country’s emergence. But no country can call itself a big power as long as nearly half its population lives below the poverty line, deprived of basic civic amenities. “You can’t build an international image simply by having a gala opening ceremony,” he quips. Even Dehejia agrees, “Let’s wait for the CWG to come to a successful conclusion and introspect further as a nation on the costs and benefits before proceeding further.” He says India should first ensure that all its people get an equitable share in its economic pie before embarking on adventurous projects such as the Olympics. Dehejia and Yadav need not worry. The Indian government has woken up to the exorbitant costs inherent in hosting international games—it recently asked the Indian Olympic Association how it could bid without its approval for the 2018 Asian Games, noting that it needed to do a cost-benefit analysis before granting approval. This should abort the IOA’s plan as it can’t hold the games without the government’s financial backing. Unless, obviously, the closing ceremony too is a grand success, providing those enamoured of images yet another chance to mount pressure on the government for harnessing sports to make a statement about being a power to contend with. So what, if it is a power unable to feed its hungry? 4


ARVIND SWAMINATHAN OPINION

Laxman Parva VVS is a happy anachronism in a world bristling with crass industry faith’, can well be the lanky number six’s pep-up chant to an inevitably callow partner between overs; he then goes about slaying onfield demons without much ado. The almost incisive artistry of the doctor who wasn’t could well be included in Gray’s Anatomy. But what Laxman, a batsman with ball bearings, not bones, in his wrists really signifies goes beyond the boundary that we have circumscribed our sporting heroes by. mercenary hospital milking the masses. Imagine an emerOne, in a new India that says it’s ok to grab all you can get, gency room full of flashy white coats discussing golf to flaunt it if you have it—“it don’t matter how they come, as swings, luxury cars and country homes. Now, imagine the long as they come”, in the memorable words of Sunil expert, called in to help only when a life has to be saved, Gavaskar—a satisfied, contented, old-school cricketer who making a ooh-inspiring cut here, an aah-inspiring stab only plays the real thing, Test there. Imagine. REUTERS matches, takes the mind back to an Resident non-Indians who cannot innocent era lost by cricket to comutter Vangipurappu Venkata Sai merce and cinema. without breaking into a grin have Two, in a Hyderabad that has settled on ‘Very Very Special’ to become ground zero of all that is work their way around his name. wonky about modern India—think But if there is a full form of VVS that Satyam, think Azharuddin, think comes closest to capturing the Telangana, think the real estate essence of Laxman, it has to be scams and the drugs and sex scan‘Very Very South Indian’. A quiet, dals of the stars and starlets—Laxunderstated, tough-as-nails winman is a truly positive and uplifting ner like his other peninsular pals story. A winner over and over again, and peers: Anil and Rahul and Sri. by intent, not accident. More Saina In a post-liberalised India that has than Sania. seen the loud Punjabification of the And three, in an Andhra Pradesh republic in the way we walk, talk, whose political landscape has been dress, look, work, live, play and win, clouded by the antics of upstarts Laxman’s VVSness is not to be like Jaganmohan Reddy, Laxman’s scoffed at. Smaller stars in the conpatent lack of ambition seems to stellation (mostly VVN) have requexemplify the Zen motto: “To have ired hair cuts, bare chests, big deals, more, desire less”. He last played an fast cars, gal pals, loose lips, dancing shoes to announce their presODI four years ago, and gladly gave ence. By contrast, all Laxman has Savant stylist Laxman, proponent of the late charge up the ‘icon’ status so that his needed to reveal his mien is his verTwenty20 home side, Deccan Chatebral steel. How cool is that? rgers, could have the freedom to spend its money wisely. Possessed of a beautifully balanced stance, as if bowing At the risk of overstating the case, VVS has been more to the Maker, the Sai-bhakt has crossed many orbits in a yogi than cricketer at the wicket, at peace with the world decade bookended by his epic 281 and his unbeaten 73 last that is at war with him, with chapter 2, verse 47 of the week. But he has also softly broken the stereotype of male Gita on his lips. machismo that the poets of Bollywood, and the fiction “Now that the Allahabad High Court has allotted Lord writers of IPL, have inflicted on us. That when waging war, Rama his own house plot in Ayodhya, only Laxman can save India,” went a bulk SMS that the saviour’s latest rescue act in it is wrong to approach it in a peacable way. In a lineup which already has a Bombayite approaching Mohali inspired. And then came another: “Ram naam sab divinity and a Delhiite who is a demigod, Laxman shows you kare, Laxman kare na koi; Laxman batting na kare, Bharat can kill them with civility and propriety. ‘Be patient, have mahaan kaise hoi?” Say it with pride, Jai Sri Laxman. 4

T is easy to recognise V.V.S. Laxman each time his toothy grin fills up half the front page. But is it all that difficult to imagine him as a doctor, which is actually what his doctor-parents wanted him to be? Imagine a

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OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

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COVER STORY MUSLIM REACTION

THE SCENT OF A BETRAYAL Acceptance, anger, fear is what the aam Muslim feels post-verdict

by Smruti Koppikar ALI KOVOOR

F normalcy is the mere absence of violence, then even the most volatile parts of the country can be said to have retained their normal demeanour in the days following the Allahabad High Court judgement on the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits. If,

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however, normalcy implies a socio-cultural atmosphere of mutual respect, trust and goodwill among people, underscored by the absence of subterranean tensions, then parts of India have not been normal at all. The Ayodhya judgement, it is said, is less about justice and more about a loaded compromise. Clearly, it found favour with Hindutva groups, their supporters, and even other segments of India’s majority population. The jubilation and self-congratulation were writ large on the face of many a Hindutva leader as news of the judgement trickled in; almost in concert, they reiterated the project a “bhavya Ram mandir”, and desired that Muslim community representatives come forth for a “settlement”. In the celebration and prevailing “normalcy”, it may be possible—but not prudent—to ignore the disquiet among Muslims. Among them, there’s an unmistakable sense of hurt and angst. Sometimes it comes across as acceptance, helpless or otherwise, of the judgement and ensuing situation; often it translates into seething anger at the one democratic institution they believed would give them justice; mixed in between is trepidation that the judgement may have paved the way for “settling” ownership issues about other disputed shrines in the country. The Ayodhya judgement, much like the demolition of December 6, 1992, marks a moment in the Muslim psyche; many in the community see the demolition as a blow and the judgement as a betrayal.

Kozhikode, Kerala 43-year-old Abdul Razak has taken the judgement in his stride, saying “it has averted communal clashes. Just imagine what would have happened if the verdict was different”.

Sep 30 Muslims await the Shahi Imam’s speech at Jama Masjid, Delhi AP

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18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

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COVER STORY MUSLIMS

P. ANIL KUMAR

‘jiski lathi uski bhains’. If Muslims haven’t protested or come out on the streets, it’s because they remember ’92-93 only too well; they only get the bullets.” In Bangalore, architect Mohamed A. Subhan too reflects this angst. “Those who went to court did not ask for a partition but to confirm the ownership of the land,” he says. “The court has done everything else other than that. Take 50 more years, but resolve the ownership issue.” Quoting historians about “more than a dozen places in Ayodhya where Ram is claimed to have been born”, Subhan wonders how the court came to declare that “Ram was born below that dome”. In a sense, he’s putting into words sentiments that many in his community only whisper. In Benares, weaver Shafi Ali, 40, says: “In 1992, the government assured us that the Babri mosque will not be pulled down, but it was demolished. This time they promised us justice but Hindu belief was given weightage.”

URT is mixed with anger. B.F.H.R. Bijli, 65, retired chief engineer, Kerala Water Authority, says, “The judges ruled by faith, not evidence. Just like an occupying force, the fanatics had

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Hyderabad “If judgements are based on faith,” says Mohammed Omer in Lad Bazaar, “then Charminar is mine, Mecca Masjid is mine, so is the Andhra Pradesh High Court.”

“There was no justice done at all to the Muslim community. It’s very visibly a one-sided verdict; the distribution of land is all wrong, and there is no acknowledgement of the demolition at all,” thunders Rehana Salamat Sheikh, principal, Anjumani-Islam Allana English High School in Mumbai. Adds Hasina Khan, activist and prime force behind Awaaz-e-Niswaan, an organisation to raise awareness among Muslim women: “Our community has no option but to accept the decision but it tells us that the system itself is so biased. It’s as if the judgement says, ‘You (the Muslims) have also been given something, so don’t make a noise!’ There’s insecurity among Muslim youth.” In the old Hyderabad city, Syed Osman Ghani, a 28-year-old medical shop owner, dismisses the judgement as a “chaar aanabaarah aana verdict” asking if India can truly be called secular now. “What will we do with the 1/3rd land?” he asks. At Lad Bazaar, Mohammed Omer declares: “If judgements are based on faith, then Charminar is mine, Mecca Masjid is mine, so is the Andhra Pradesh High Court.” Shakil Ahmed, young journalist-activist in Mumbai, puts it succinctly: “This is typical

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demolished the masjid. Like in war, the occupying forces dictate terms. If you can fight against the odds, fight, or submit.” That sense of submission is now taking root among many Muslims, especially the youth. “It’s now clear that like in the United States and Israel, the process of marginalising Muslims is well and truly under way in India too,” says Farooq Mapkar, wrongly accused in the ’92-93 riots in Mumbai and acquitted after 16 years of legal battle. “On judgement eve, Muslims were being counselled to keep peace, stay indoors and not hold meetings, imams and maulanas were asked not to talk about it, but the Shiv Sena newspaper was allowed to come out with repeat articles and stories of ’92, whipping up sentiment. Do you think we can’t see the administration is not even-handed?” Hyderabad’s MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi says the “prevailing peace is not to be confused with the sense of unease” that exists in the community. “How can we move on,” he asks, “Muslims have been reduced to second-class citizens”. Mumbai’s S.M. Malik, professional translator, manager and post-graduate in Arabic, declares that post-judgement, “Muslims are living with a third-grade identity”. He narrates an analogy, much cited recently in the press, that’s doing the rounds in several sections of the community: a Muslim body sought the restoration of the mosque in Shahidganj, Lahore, which had been demolished in the 18th century to build a gurudwara. The matter was resolved in a court, Sikhs were given their rights and the gurudwara still stands there. “If in an Islamic nation like Pakistan a religious minority can be given its due, why is this not possible in India that calls itself the largest democracy of the world?” The notion of equal citizenship seems to have taken a blow.

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COVER STORY MUSLIMS

The twin themes of marginalisation and second-class citizenship are difficult to miss even among those who have apparently “accepted” the judgement. Indeed, acceptance seems to be the most honourable way out for many in the community; even those who are angry say their angst may be addressed if and when the Sunni Waqf Board appeals in the Supreme Court, but right now they will have to simply accept the situation. Dildar Ahmed, a nylon net seller in old Delhi, typifies it: “The case has moved forward, it has somewhat blunted the urge among Muslims to fight for a mosque, but this will go to the SC.” Not far away, Mohammad Arif, date seller, says, “Go to the SC, but what can we expect—half of the disputed land?” Adds J.S. Bandookwala, retired physics professor, Baroda

NILOTPAL BARUAH

Bangalore Prof A.R. Kamruddin, a former advisor to UNESCO and director, Darul Umoor Tipu Sultan Research Centre, says, “This is not a problem between Hindus and Muslims, it’s a conflict between people with narrow political interests.”

Dissent, a Headline in Nastaliq Unicode The Urdu papers were universally critical of the Ayodhya decision, but praising Muslim restraint Yeh daagh daagh ujaala, yeh shab gazida sahar/Woh intizaar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar to nahin (This blemished light, this dawn by night half-devoured/Is surely not the dawn we were waiting for) T was with these lines from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Sub-’h-e-Azadi 1947— which portray his disillusionment with the bloody, partition-stained freedom—that the Hindustan Express (HE) greeted the verdict of the Babri title suit. And disillusionment there was aplenty in the Urdu papers, most of which criticised the verdict for priming faith over law. “They described the judgement as being faith-driven and then asked if the country is going to be run on the basis of faith or the Constitution,” says Arshad Amanullah, a writer and filmmaker in New Delhi. Quite aptly, the headline in one of the paper’s articles was ‘Insaaf ke mandir ki aastha ka sawal’ (Question of belief in the temple of judiciary). Insisting that the judgement is being “criticised squarely”, Milli Gazette editor Zafarul-Islam Khan says “there are some who even feel the court over-

stepped its brief by dividing the land instead of delivering a clear verdict in favour of one party based on factual evidence”. Hilal Ahmed, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, says some papers have even raised the spectre of a ‘Hinduised’ judi-

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Loss of faith As expressed in Urdu press

ciary. “While the Babri Masjid has lost its commemorative value amongst Muslims, the resentment directed at the verdict has to do more with the law turning against you. At the same time, the so-called Muslim elite is failing to articulate this disenchantment into a language of rights and dignity,” he says. Papers like the HE and Daily Sahafat

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

haven’t hesitated to frontpage pictures of jubilant Hindus. Attempts by certain Hindus to have a dialogue with the Shias have also got prominence since one of the litigants is the Sunni Central Waqf Board. And expectedly, the possibility of a negotiated settlement has got little play. “Going to the Supreme Court and appealing against the judgement is being cited by most as the next step,” says Zahid Ali Khan, editor of the Hyderabad-based The Siasat Daily. Some papers have even rubbished the ASI’s findings. “They point out, with the help of some historians, that the ASI’s evidence used by Justice D.V. Sharma in his observations was inaccurate,” says Sohail Anjum, a journalist with the Voice of America’s Urdu service. Torn between its Muslim readership and furthering national interest, Urdu papers are lamenting the loss in the court but simultaneously praising the peaceful reception of the verdict. “The coverage has been remarkably sober, where the dichotomy is being framed in a secular, sensible and mature idiom,” concludes Amanullah. 4 Debarshi Dasgupta


COVER STORY MUSLIMS

WHO STANDS WHERE ON AYODHYA VERDICT THOSE UNHAPPY WITH THE VERDICT

THOSE FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT

VHP: Wants to go in appeal so that the entire plot is allotted for a temple. "The 3,500 sq ft of land allotted to us is not enough to house even the garbha griha of the grand temple which is proposed to be built. We are confident the SC will set aside the high court ruling," says VHP leader Ashok Singhal.

HASHIM ANSARI (left), first Muslim litigant. Says if the issue can be sorted out through talks “today, tomorrow or after two months”, it must be done. MAHANT BHASKAR DAS, head, Nirmohi Akhara. Says it's pointless to drag the case again to court.

UP SUNNI CENTRAL WAQF BOARD: Against any out-of-court settlement. Will appeal against Allahabad High Court order. "This is not the end. The verdict will be final only when the Supreme Court decides so,” says its counsel, Zafaryab Jilani (left). SAMAJWADI PARTY: Is opposed to the judgement. "The country is run by the Constitution, not by faith," says Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Even a week after, a clear plan of action is yet to emerge

MAHANT GYAN DAS (left), head, Hanuman Garhi. Backs Ansari for an amicable settlement. MAULANA KALBE SADIQ, Shia cleric and senior vice-president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Claims he has a compromise formula but declines to divulge details before October 16.

MIM: All for going in appeal. "We have a strong legal ground. The best way is to move SC," says MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi.

MAULANA KHALID RASHEED FIRANGIMAHALI, member, AIMPLB executive. Says no point in starting yet another court battle. “The title dispute which just ended took six decades to be resolved. How many more years would a fresh court battle take?”

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS ● Apex court upholds the Allahabad High Court order. Will be a double blow for a Muslim side already on the backfoot. ● SC quashes high court verdict. Would be construed as minority appeasement by the Hindu side, with attendant problems.

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS ● Aware of the pitfalls of appeal, mosque and temple are built side by side on the disputed land that has been trifurcated. ● The Muslims give up their one-third allocation and are given alternative site to build mosque.

THOSE WHO WANT TO RESPECT COURT VERDICT BJP: Does not favour going in appeal. "BJP is not in favour of taking the high court judgement on Ayodhya to the Supreme Court. If through consensus and reconciliation with Muslims, a temple can be built at the site, it would be very good,” says party president Nitin Gadkari. RSS: The organisation is for a negotiated settlement and is not inclined to go in appeal. The judgement is not a win or loss for anybody, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said after the verdict. “We invite everybody, including Muslims, to help build the temple." CONGRESS: Respects the verdict but says those who want to appeal are free to do so. "The judgement is indeed an important document. But it is not operational. It is a fair assumption that appeals may be lodged," says Union home minister P. Chidambaram.

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS ● Evolve a formula which will satisfy Muslims and Hindus. ● Muslims find the dice loaded, allow construction of temple on entire site.

JITENDER GUPTA

Meerut Jalis-ud-din, a maulana at the Chhoti masjid in Maliyana, says, “This was a dispute between two brothers, a Hindu and a Muslim. Where did the third party come from? That is an aspect of the judgement I don’t understand.”

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18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

University, and founder, Zidni Ilma Charitable Trust, which focuses on the education of Muslims, specially girls, “Given our problems, we can’t go on a confrontation with the RSS. At times we may be right but can’t go too far with our confrontation.” In Kozhikode, Abdul Razak, 43, has taken the judgement in his stride, saying “it has averted communal clashes. Just imagine what would have happened were the verdict different.” The Muslim on the street in Lucknow accepts the verdict, because, as daily wage-earner Meraj says, it “saved us from riots”. The intelligentsia find other reasons. Dr Mansoor Hasan, former head of cardiology department, King George’s Medical College, says: “Our acceptance should not be misconstrued as vindication of the condemnable demolition, but we need to move ahead.” Adds former high court judge and erstwhile Uttarakhand Lokayukta, S.H.A Raza, “The judges did cross certain limits, but the majority verdict could not have been better.” If there’s a practical edge to the acceptance, there’s also a vulnerable helplessness. As Farzana Contractor (nee Khan), Mumbai-based editor of food magazine Upper Crust, reflects: “Our dignity which was lost post the razing of the Babri Masjid has not been restored, but nobody wants a repeat of that horrendous time. So the consensus is: swallow your pride and accept what is dished out.” Such resignation is true of Muslims in other cities too. In Bhopal, Shafique Khan, who works in Life Insurance Corporation, is satisfied with the judgement because it did not trigger off violence and mayhem. Bangalore’s N.A.M. Ismail, a journalist in his 30s, too is resigned. “The only thing is that the RSS should not claim victory and act patronisingly. There is one lingering question in my mind: could the title suit have been dismissed in that fashOUTLOOK 18 October 2010

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COVER STORY MUSLIMS SANJAY RAWAT

APOORVA SALKADE

Mumbai Activist and prime force behind Awaaz-e-Niswaan, “We have no option but to accept the judgement. But it’s as if it says ‘You (the Muslims) have also been given something, so don’t make a noise’. There’s insecurity among Muslim youth.”

Pandora’s box. “That’s our worry now,” says school principal Sheikh in Mumbai. S.M. Malik adds: “We may want to move on as a community, but it depends on the establishment. Radical Hindu groups may make a list of 3,000 more title disputes. For us, the Babri Masjid is an index case of several issues; that’s why we want a just decision. The same yardstick shouldn’t be replicated elsewhere.” In Benares, there is an edginess to the mandir-masjid debate. Shafi Ali says what happened of the Ayodhya site “will happen here too, it’s a matter of time”. The mix of dismay and trepidation about the future is not limited to other disputed sites alone; it translates into implications of living in a predominantly Hindu society. As Mumbai-based writer and independent researcher Sameera Khan points out, “This judgement seems to legitimise the whole Hindu right wing’s claim and justifies their violent movement. It’s the way that movement has taken root in people’s minds and hearts and the venom I have seen spewed particularly on Muslims. I am today marked as a ‘Muslim’ and that identity seems to overshadow all my other identities. It often influences where I can live, work, study etc. I, and many other young Muslims, find this more hurtful and offensive than the judgement”. 4 with Debarshi Dasgupta, Sugata Srinivisaraju, Prarthana Gahilote, Madhavi Tata, John Mary, Saikat Datta, Snigdha Hasan, K.S. Shaini and Sharat Pradhan

Delhi Dildar Ahmed, a nylon net seller in Old Delhi, is among those who feel their angst might be addressed if the case went to the SC. “The case has moved forward,” he says, “it has somewhat blunted the urge among Muslims to fight for a mosque, but we will go the SC.”

ion?” Prof A.R. Kamruddin, a former advisor to UNESCO and director of the Darul Umoor Tipu Sultan Research Centre, and now in his 70s, says, “Since the judgement satisfies the egos of some people, we can now keep that as the basis. This is not a problem between Hindus and Muslims; it’s a conflict between people with narrow political interests.” In Meerut, truck driver Yakoob Ali, scarred by the 1987 communal violence here and now feeling betrayed by the judgement, says, “It is cliched to say that we are all brothers but I want it to be our reality now. Let us accept.” Quick calculations tell him that each party will get at least 136 bighas of land. “That’s enough to build a beautiful mosque and also set up a small school. Let’s all build what we have to.” Mumbai’s Sohail Khandwani, board member of Mahim Dargah and Haji Ali Dargah, is satisfied that “nothing untoward happened, though there’s something in the hearts and minds of Muslims”.

“How can we move on,” asks MIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi. “Muslims are now reduced to second-class citizens.” 50

Those Muslims who do not live in community mohallas or lead the typical Muslim life, however, harbour more genteel feelings at the outcome. Given their education, professional work, cosmopolitan lifestyles, they are perhaps more accommodating of the judgement. As Irfan Khan, former media professional and member of Muslims for Secular Democracy in Mumbai, avers, “It’s a political judgement but I believe a great burden has been lifted off our shoulders. This should be over now. Now, in fact, if the Hindutva brigade doesn’t build a temple or demands Kashi and Mathura, they will get exposed as troublemakers.” This section of Muslim opinion is not too keen that the Sunni Waqf Board approach the Supreme Court. Others too see the futility of approaching the apex court. Says Shabbeer Hosarwala, trade union leader and development officer, New India Assurance Company, “There’s no point in appealing to the SC. So what if it’s a one-sided judgement? At least, the land’s been well distributed. It is sad to get angry or disappointed over this. The common Muslim on the street does not want to waste any more time; this sentiment is more amongst those in social service and trusts.” Retired colonel Fasih Uddin Ahmed in Lucknow, in fact, calls the judgement “balanced”. Yet, irrespective of their angst, relief or acceptance, there’s some trepidation that the judgement will open the proverbial

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

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COVER STORY KASHI & MATHURA

Photographs by TRIBHUVAN TIWARI

Big letdown Mohammed Ibrahim Ansari, middle, with a friend at the ghats in Benares

LAST RITES IN KASHI In Kashi and Mathura, Muslims have a nervous eye on the future by Prarthna Gahilote in Benares and Mathura

UST a kilometre away from Kasai Bara, the Muslim ghetto in Mathura, Ravikant Garg, two-time BJP MLA from Mathura, sits in his sparsely furnished office, coordinating the birth anniversary celebrations of RSS ideologue

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Deen Dayal Upadhyay. It’s a busy day for Garg. The celebrations will have high-profile participants, including BJP president Nitin Gadkari and senior leaders of the RSS. With the trademark tilak in place and prasad from the Krishnajanmasthan temple to offer, Garg is more than happy to talk about the September 30 Ayodhya verdict. He says his hap-

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piness is just a reflection of the mood of the ordinary Sangh worker in Mathura. The dejection is gone, the grassroots worker is upbeat. “The Ayodhya verdict has infused new enthusiasm among the cadre. We have been waiting for this for the last 18 years,” he says. He is keen to reveal the new slogan doing the rounds among the saffron brigade in Mathura: “Ayodhya hui hamari, ab Mathura ki bari (Ayodhya is ours, now it’s the turn of Mathura).” Traffic blares outside Garg’s house. The road leading to the Krishnajanmasthan temple is dotted with pilgrims. Next to the mandir is the Shahi Idgah mosque which the Sangh parivar alleges was built over a Krishna temple razed by Aurangzeb in 1659. The mosque at Mathura and the Gyanvapi masjid at Benares are often referred to as future Ayodhyas by the parivar since it is alleged that both were

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

built after razing temples. While a civil suit was filed in 1991 1669 and from its rubble the mosque was built. In 1991, a civil in the case of the Benares mosque, no legal action has been suit was filed in the Allahabad HC in this regard. The plaintiffs on the Hindu side include Lord Vishwanath himself and taken on the Shahi Idgah. There are no signs of the heavy security presence in Math- Pandit Somnath Vyas. The defendants are the Anjuman Masura that was in place on verdict day. Shopkeepers are happy jid and the Sunni Waqf Board. The case is still pending. Maulana Abdul Batin Nomani, the representative of the that business is back to normal. It was severely hit during the run-up to the verdict with PAC jawans, CRPF and UP police per- town’s Muslim community, sums it up, “Our hopes have been sonnel literally taking over the town. Dharmendra Jadaun, dashed. We had hoped for justice...but justice was not done. 28, a shopkeeper in Deeg Gate says, “It was a moment of joy The verdict will open the doors for troublemakers in outfits for all of us. The Hindus here are happy. That said, the rela- like the VHP, Shiv Sena and the Bajrang Dal. Muslims here tionship between us and our Muslim friends has not changed now fear that these forces will take confidence from this verafter September 30. We have always lived like brothers.” dict and demand the same for the Gyanvapi masjid.” Jadaun’s words find resonance among several Muslims. Indeed, the fear has seeped down to the ordinary Muslim. Sixty five-year-old Liyaqat Ali, a fruitseller, says, “The judge- In Lallapura, another Muslim ghetto, sentiments are running ment is good. Even if we got a high. Discussions over the Septhird of the entire land, at least we tember 30 verdict are still not over. got something. That should be celA week after the judgement, chai ebrated.” Adds Akbar Quereshi, shops still buzz with groups talk70, a scrap dealer: “The judgeming about the verdict. “Babri was ent has been pronounced. With not just a mosque. It was a symbol that, the tension and the fear is of the Muslims in India. The court gone. We were tense till the 30th.” has made us second-class citizens Being a minority (one lakh Mustoday,” says Ramzan Ali. Adds lims out of a total 25 lakh populaGhulam Gaus, a 45-year-old weation), such studied optimism prover, “The property was ours and bably comes from compulsion. the judgement has given it to Particularly when the community someone else. Injustice has been is entirely dependent on the temdone.” Choking on his words, ple and commerce around it for Mohammad Islam, 35, says, “The livelihood. “The temple is the only The Keshav Dev temple and Shahi Idgah in Mathura lumpen lot have been empowered. industry here. Most of us are No one likes to spell it out, but we either weavers catering to the are scared that the Vishwanath needs of the temple or depend on temple dispute will meet the same pilgrims who come here,” “The judicial system in this fate. Behind closed doors, every explains Haji Hussain, who runs a country can’t be trusted Muslim in Benares fears this.” shop close to the Krishna temple. anymore. This can happen in What is worrying the Muslim is Such economic compulsions the verdict comes despite the Kashi next. After all, it’s the may be true for Mathura. But 800 Places of Worship (Special Provikilometres away, Benares, one of VHP’s longstanding promise.” sions) Act, 1991, which makes it the main Hindu holy centres, thrimpossible for anyone to change ows up a different picture. The narrow lanes of this temple the status of a religious place, including Kashi. Will Ayodhya town are also choked with pilgrims and tourists. Life seems become a precedent? Atiq Ansari, who heads the weavers to be all calm. But that’s on the surface. Look deeper and you association here, points out: “The verdict was based on faith, see things are simmering. Welcome to Madanpura, a Mus- not evidence. It’s strange that the court decided to acknowllim locality. “Would you call this justice?” asks 50-year-old edge the faith of the Hindus but not that of the Muslims. The Mohammad Noomani, a weaver. “The court had been given judicial system in this country cannot be trusted now. The the job of deciding who owned the land. Their job was not same thing can happen here. After all, it has been the VHP’s to divide it. What the court has done is worse than what hap- longstanding promise to the Hindus.” pened in 1992.” Mohammad Ibrahim Ansari, 73, is enraged. Ansari’s fear is not entirely unfounded. Dharamguru Kam“The court has divided Hindus and Muslims once again. I eshwar Upadhyay, who is closely associated with the VHP, feel a little less Indian today. We had put all our faith in the makes it clear, “Kashi and Mathura are as important symbols judiciary and it’s let us down. Our faith in the judicial system of Hindu pride as Ayodhya and Somnath. The BJP can go on and the government has gone forever,” he says. advocating restraint. The sant samaj will not listen to the BJP. In Benares, the bone of contention is the Gyanvapi masjid The new generation of Hindus has new-found energy after which stands next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The Hindu this verdict. Only time can tell what this energy will unlock. side believes that a Shiva temple was razed by Aurangzeb in Whatever be the case, Hindu pride will win.” 4 OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

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SANJAY KAW COVER STORY/ OPINION

The Secret Witness Undercover with the kar sevaks in Ayodhya, winter 1992 “We will force the paramilitary forces to surrender,’’ chipped in a third cop. It was from this group of policemen that I learnt that a PAC constable had been caught removing bricks from the disputed structure. “He had removed 10 to 12 bricks when he was caught,’’ a policeman told me. One of the constables was very upset with the conduct of the CRPF. Some days before, CRPF men prevented an Uttar Pradesh constable from unit of the BJP, I had wormed my way into the ranks of the kar sevaks at Ayodhya. Initially I was put through intense standing inside the disputed structure. The matter had to grilling. Several times I had to recite an apocryphal tale of be sorted out by senior officials, the constable told me. being a Kashmiri Hindu who had abandoned his studies in The bonhomie between the kar sevaks and the UP policeKashmir because of militant activity. But after I was accepmen was glaring. They bought us tea and, later, one of them ted as ‘genuine’, I saw at first hand the face of the religious invited us over for breakfast to their camp. drama that had remained veiled by political hoopla. There were many kar sevaks who were carrying arms Somehow, I managed to stay in a tent near the disputed with them. One boy showed me a flick knife and taught me site. One early morning (a few days before the December 6 how to use it. Also, some sadhus were carrying wireless sets demolition), I saw hundreds with them. One sadhu told D. RAVINDER REDDY of people assembled near two me he was keeping an eye on grave sites. Soon, they started those who were moving susbreaking the gravestones with piciously in and around the iron rods, large boulders and site. “We are also keeping an sharp instruments. I, too, had eye on journalists who are to join them. People called it staying at the Shan-e-Awadh “chhoti (small) kar seva’’. hotel,’’ he said. Another grave was spotted, One person who was stayand this was also vandalised. ing with me in the tent told The grave sites were levelled me that all the arrangements and water was sprinkled on had been made by the RSS. the ground to make sure that “Be it food or tents, everyno traces were left. The rubthing has been organised by ble was lifted and thrown the RSS.” He took me to a huge into a nearby pond. Within an Rann neeti The RSS was well-prepared for the final act ‘bhojanalaya’ for food. The hour or so, two makeshift person serving us food said shops were set up at the site to sell tea. All this happened 1,00,000 people had already reached the site. He told us in the presence of an ex-BJP MP. that a few more kitchens had been opened and godowns had been packed to meet any eventuality. The person who Some Bajrang Dal activists even wanted to build a small took me to the bhojanalaya said: “We have even planned temple there. But they were prevented by others, who said the rann neeti (war strategy). The UP police is supporting it would give rise to another controversy and hamper the us and we are even sure of victory.’’ construction work of the Ram temple. Rhetoric apart, I witnessed an awesome organisational The PAC or Provincial Armed Constabulary’s interaction machinery managing the needs of tens of thousands of kar with the kar sevaks was as cordial as that between the BJP sevaks: identity cards, meal coupons, tents, lights, feeding and the RSS. As I moved through Ayodhya wearing soiled arrangements. The machinery wasn’t, however, confined clothes, I met many PAC men. I was treated with respect, to merely boarding and lodging. The tools required for the even deference. One night some kar sevaks and I spent final demolition were also being put together. Everyone about four hours chatting with a group of PAC men. “Don’t knew that D-Day was nearing. 4 worry about us, we are solidly behind you,’’ said one policeman. “If we are ordered on December 6 to attack you, we (The writer went undercover to Ayodhya to report for will lay down our arms and join you,’’ reassured another. The Statesman in 1992.)

ACH time I read about Ayodhya, it reminds me of the terrifying experience I went through during my first visit to the holy town in 1992. Armed with a letter of introduction from a member of the Delhi

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18 October 2010 OUTLOOK


RTI YOUTH IMPACT

All You Need To Know.. The youth will not take no for an answer. Five years on, the RTI comes of age. TRIBHUVAN TIWARI

Santosh Jha, 25, RTI activist, Parivartan by Arpita Basu and Neha Bhatt

um kyon government se soochna maangte hain?” asks Dwarika Prasad Nauni, RTI state coordinator for the Mountain Children’s Foundation in Uttarakhand, as he wraps up a workshop on the right to information with 30-odd tweens and teens in Dehradun’s

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Horrawala village. “Kyonki hum tax dete hain,” pipes up a 12-year-old, chewing on his pen in a rain-soaked portico. Clearly, Dwarika hasn’t wasted his breath. In fact, he is used to such bangon responses, having seen nearly 500 RTI applications—on sanitation, lack of playgrounds and low voltage, among

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other things—filed by bal panchayat children trained by the foundation from across the state in the space of 12 months. The involvement of the young with RTI has been growing apace here ever since the Right to Information Act came into effect on October 12, 2005. “The public faces may be older,” says 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

Shekhar Singh, who was part of the act’s drafting team, “but the movement is energised by the young.” A study Shekhar initiated in 2008 found that 31 per cent of rural applicants and 26 per cent of urban applicants were aged below 35. Two years on, those numbers have only risen, but even so, he stresses, “The actual participation of young people, in terms of helping others know about and write applications, is far greater than what statistics show.” Shekhar adds that if it weren’t for some parents wanting to shield their children from possible victimisation, the role of the young would be even more visible. He seems to be right. Walk into any

Delhi

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T four feet something, Santosh’s energy belies her petite frame. The school dropout was introduced to RTI through activist Arvind Kejriwal, and now, at Parivartan’s Sundar Nagri office, she holds fort, helping others acquire everything from BPL and ration cards to school admissions through RTI. Threats and attacks by local authorities who dubbed her an ‘atankwadi’ have not fazed this spunky 25-year-old. “RTI is now my identity,” she says. Marriage can wait.

organisation oiling the wheels of the RTI machine—be it the J&K RTI Movement office near Srinagar, Sandhan in Katni, Madhya Pradesh, the Calcutta-based West Bengal RTI Manch or the RTI Study Centre in Bangalore—and the buzz centres around young faces. Not

all are activists, or even applicants, but they are all, in some way or the other, part of the information revolution by choice, driven by their faith in this newfound ‘magic wand’. Eighteen-year-old Mohsin Khan, for instance, religiously drops in at Parivartan’s Kaushambi OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

“There’s no limit to what you can achieve through a simple RTI application. It’s a jadoo ki chhadi.”

office in Ghaziabad near Delhi (to which he was introduced by his banker cousin Feroz, who quit his job to join the organisation), even if it means skipping classes. Mohsin is joined by over 30 volunteers, all in their early 20s, working against time to identify the best per-

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A Few Givens Apropos 39 Steps to Paradise (Oct 4), India’s constitutional position on Kashmir rests on two unassailable grounds: the unquestionable legality of Kashmir’s accession to India; and Kashmir’s relevance to India’s essentially secular identification. The demand of the separatists for azadi cannot be accepted as it will lead

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is clearly playing safe. Diehard Periyar followers may still say he missed an opportunity to defy superstition by entering the Brihadeeswara temple through the side entrance and not the jinxed main gate. And what of the news that he was enthralled by the bhajan recital of saint Arunagirinathar’s poems on Lord Shiva. So much for Dravidian rationalism! K.R. NARASIMHAN, CHENNAI

Looks like we outdid ourselves in corruption this CWG. We reached a nadir of incompetence, callousness and insolence. Things couldn’t have been otherwise when over 50 per cent of Delhi’s residents live in unauthorised accommodation, don’t have access to running water, proper sanitation, and whose homes lack basic safety measures. This is a city where much of

Surprise, surprise. No deaths/ scams/calamities this week in Crossings, instead there is good news all around. What happened, was the Devil on leave or has your Diwali bonus come early? KIRTI KUMAR, ON E-MAIL to the fragmentation of the country, which is the very aim of terrorist leaders. Proposed independent states in that region will remain puppets of the US and pose a threat to our unity and security. Immediate confidence-building measures should be taken up, with the grant of autonomy to J&K and withdrawal of central security forces. DR M. HASHIM KIDWAI, EX-MP, NEW DELHI

And All Shall Qualify Apropos Ministers of Offence (Sep 27), with 29 tainted ministers already, the Karnataka cabinet reshuffle may well be a benchmark for equal opportunity corruption: those elected party members who aren’t ministers currently will get a chance to prove that they won’t be found wanting in the ‘tainted’ stakes. G.L. KARKAL, PUNE

Bedevilled Doorway The item Who is at the Gate? in Polscape (Oct 4) was hilarious. Torn between his rationalist credentials and a desperate need to please the Hindu votebank, Karunanidhi

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The Secret Diary of Javed Akhtar & Co. Lame. R. ROY, BIRMINGHAM, UK

On the Faultline The spectacular opening ceremony at the Commonwealth Games may well be a saving grace, and the games might proceed apace after all the hitches, but till then one would have agreed with Santosh Desai (Two Seconds To Midnight..., Oct 4). Maybe the government should have put Lalit Modi in charge, instead of Kalmadi. Modi may be as corrupt, if not more, but he knows how to get a job done. The IPL, despite being a big bag of sleaze, is one of the best sporting extravaganzas. G. NATRAJAN, HYDERABAD Living abroad for over a decade, I’ve always been proud of being an Indian. But I was beginning to get ashamed at the chaos and corruption surrounding the CWG, the ineptitude of the organisers being reported everywhere, and humiliated by the calumny heaped on the country as a whole by the media here. BHARAT SHAH, LONDON

will be done. Games over, the Congress and its minions will laugh their way to the bank. DINESH KUMAR, CHANDIGARH As far as corruption goes, India is completely secular. NARENDRA, INDORE Why write such letters when the addressee is indifferent to such appeals? PROF CHANDRA PRAKASH, RICHMOND, US It’s Congress Wealth Games, Mr Kejriwal! VISHAL MALHOTRA, DEHRADUN

the budget for building and infrastructure is used to grease the palms of officials. The CWG mess is in organic order. VIKRAM TIKU, VANCOUVER Desai’s article was just a rehash of media reports on the CWG. TV channels have now changed their tune post the opening ceremony, but earlier, their usual, breathlessly hyper representation of the ‘facts’ seemed to be part of a campaign to stop the games from being a success. In such a big event, mistakes do happen; nothing is easier than finding fault. One just doesn’t run after TRPs while running one’s country down. One doesn’t let nobodies like Hooper (one of the beneficiaries of taxpayers’ money) and Fennell denigrate India. K.N.S. CHADHA, MOHALI

Pen Stripes Does Arvind Kejriwal (Open Letter to Sonia Gandhi, Oct 4) seriously think that the corruption in the organisation of CWG and elsewhere happens without the knowledge of Congress president Sonia Gandhi? Let him smother the weakest hope that anything

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

What’s the point of writing to Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh? Really, how many scams have they unearthed or pursued to prosecution before the media did? VINOD KUMAR, DELHI They had their priorities right, can’t you see, Mr Kejriwal? Isn’t it evident from the very name of the event— CWG, in which Wealth is the Common Objective, Games coming last? SARVESH SRIVASTAVA, GURGAON

Brick Lanes Since the book on the CWG, Sellotape Legacy, was touted as a brick-by-brick expose of scams and misdemeanours, I expected more data and more sense (Books, Oct 4). I am disappointed—a lot of hot air, only a faint whiff of solidity. I must agree with someone who said that by allowing lackeys like Kalmadi and Aiyar to voice their opinions in public, the Dynasty can then choose to pick the right person to side with. SRIRAM N., BANGALORE One question seems to have slipped through the cracks: why should there be a Commonwealth Games at all? Why should India be part of


RTI YOUTH

JITENDER GUPTA

JAVEED SHAH

Adil Hossain, 23, AMU Student Uttar Pradesh

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E used RTI to probe AMU’s infamous on-campus Local Intelligence Unit (which spied on the now-dead gay professor Shrinivas Siras), sought data on disciplinary action against students and questioned the cancellation of student polls. Posting his findings online got him suspended for “tarnishing” AMU’s image. Undaunted, he is fighting back.

“The idea that I could force the university to give info it did not want to share made my friends feel they have a remedy.” NILOTPAL BARUAH

Hemant Kumar, 23, Student Karnataka

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VERY weekend, this student from Mysore travels 70 km to his village, GM Halli, where he prods sleeping authorities, RTI application in hand. His own success stories egg him on; the revamped hospital, recovering his friend’s stolen land, the potholed road that now stands repaired. With full support from his professors, he is now “a local hero”.

Dr Muzaffar Bhat, 32, Dentist & RTI activist Jammu & Kashmir

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UGGLING “80 calls a day”, visitors, workshops and paperwork, Dr Muzaffar Bhat finds little time to play doctor these days. He has rallied against timber smuggling, misuse of funds earmarked for model villages and a ration supplies racket, withstanding physical attacks and even a cooked-up criminal case for arson and looting. “With RTI, we can bring change. I would have earned more had I continued my practice full-time, but this is more fulfilling,” he says.

“There are hiccups along the way but I feel privileged to be part of the generation that is empowered by RTI.” forming state for this year’s RTI award. Last year, Arunachal Pradesh came out tops, while Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh fared the worst. This year, Kalidas Reddy will be looking out for Karnataka. The 26-year-old law student, who learnt about RTI at N. Vikramsimha’s Study Centre, went from theory to practice thanks to his neighbour, a private pre-university candidate whom Bangalore University refused to admit. “After I filed an RTI for

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guidelines on admitting private candidates, the university said its ‘regulations/guidelines are silent’ about it. I went to the media with it, and subsequently the university declared that private students would be permitted to study in regular courses,” recalls Kalidas with satisfaction. One reason why RTI is firing the imagination of the young, at least in urban areas, is its usefulness in dealing with educational institutions. As Magsaysay 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

awardee RTI activist, Parivartan’s Arvind Kejriwal, puts it, “The culture of questioning is taking root. Even in socalled hallowed institutions, walls are crumbling.” He cites how the use of RTI forced the UPSC to reveal its long-controversial selection procedure, and pushed IIT-JEE against the wall to check irregularities in cut-off marks. In Delhi University (DU), thanks to RTI, the university budget was finally released on its website. Bhopal, too, is seeing young

engineering students questioning fee structure and fund allocation in their colleges, while both in Shimla and Imphal, teachers found to be appointed without meeting the required criteria were dismissed. Such tangible impact has meant a rise in RTI applications, confirms DU public information officer Jay Chandra, “from 1,100 in 2007 to 1,900 in 2009”. (These figures exclude colleges that handle RTI independently.) This year, 1,500 appli-

cations have already come in. For students fearing a backlash, Saurabh Sharma of the youth organisation, Josh, offers an ingenious way out: “Students file for information in each other’s colleges instead of their own, so that no one gets into trouble.” Look back 15 years, and such a scenario would be difficult to even imagine. Dilip Simeon, a former DU academic, says, “It was virtually impossible to get this kind of information then. If you OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

“For a society in turmoil, to have the right to question and demand an answer is empowering.”

were not happy with your marks, at most you could apply for revaluation...but you could even end up getting less marks than you did initially. Student unions could not make inroads into administration or far-reaching inquiries into areas like teachers’ appointments.” That said, the new openness does generate its own problems. As DU professor Alok Rai points out, while RTI might grant access to answer scripts, it cannot obviate the

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RTI YOUTH

APOORVA SALKADE

Dinesh Shetty, 34, Director Maharashtra

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INESH ALWAYS makes sure his team of 18- to 25-year-olds isn’t pressed for time after performing ‘Haq’, a street play on RTI, which has got spectators crowding around with questions after each of its 70-plus shows. Having highlighted poorly-equipped hospitals and problems of public school students, Dinesh is sifting through ideas for a second play on RTI.

“The mere threat of filing an RTI for non-receipt of my dad’s death certificate ensured I received it in 30 minutes.” subjectivity inherent in evaluation, leading to interminable arguments. These pitfalls notwithstanding, it’s clear that students have found a lastresort tool for redressal in a largely opaque, dysfunctional system.

OFFBEAT REVELATIONS

UT it’s not just the Eword that drives youth involvement with RTI. Magsaysay award-winning activist Aruna Roy, who heads

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the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (which played a big part in making the RTI Act a reality), points out that hundreds of young people in rural areas (where 60 per cent of India’s youth is) are using RTI to address gaps and distortions in the NREGA. A slogan pasted on a rundown steel cupboard in the Parivartan office sums up the mood: ‘Sarkar se jawab maango/har vibhag se hisab maango.’ Ask 23-year-old Hemant Kumar Rathod, who has pulled up gram panchayats, rural hospitals and questioned the use of school funds. On the 70-km journey from Mysore, where he studies, to his village, GB Halli in rural Karnataka (which he visits every weekend to file RTI applications), he excitedly points out the stretch of once-

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SANJAY RAWAT

● Revealed: several rules flouted

in Padma awards to Sant Singh Chatwal and others ● ’Top secret’ correspondence

between PM and Sonia Gandhi on RTI amendments becomes public ● Rs 26 lakh collected for relief

after 1971 Bangladesh war found to have vanished ● Journalist exposes doctors with

fake medical degrees in private and public hospitals ● Background checks of prospec-

tive grooms in state service

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

potholed road that he got repaired through RTI two years ago. In Delhi’s Model Town, Mohit Goel filed his first RTI application three years ago, when the MCD dug up roads in his locality and forgot about them. When the roads were hurriedly repaired, it inspired the 32-year-old senior marketing manager to shoot off 90 more applications. At Josh, Saurabh and Aheli Chawdhury know that feeling well. Putting the act’s inspection clause to use, Josh inspected over 50 roads that the Delhi government claimed it was making on a budget of Rs 400 crore. One road had only been constructed on paper. “When we asked to inspect it, the road was completed over the weekend,” says Saurabh with relish. Never short of success stories to relate, 25-year-old RTI activist Ankita Anand says, “People called RTI a middle-class phenomenon because it entailed paperwork. They’d say ‘Yahan roti ka sawal hai and you’re talking about information’. But for those who do not get their ration or are awaiting their BPL cards, it is a question of survival. Filing RTIs brings results,” she says. One challenge these young RTI enthusiasts have set themselves is to dispel the misconception that one needs expertise in legal jargon to write an appli-


RTI YOUTH

VIVEK PATERIA

cation. Visiting schools and colleges, they stress time and again that even handwritten questions submitted to the Public Information Officer—the first point person for the applicant—with a fee (Rs 10 usually) will do. On principle, Ankita has taken to not writing out questions for lazy applicants, even though she has the format pat: “I’d rather spend two hours explaining the process to someone who can thereafter do it himself or herself.” That level of dedication to the cause is shared by other young people. Damini Ghosh, for one, gave up a lucrative career in corporate law to join central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi and “do something more meaningful”. Her colleague, Rajorshi Roy, joined the Central Information Commission, quitting a UNAIDS job and taking a hefty pay cut. Gandhi also recalls how Shibani Ghosh, a Rhodes scholar, worked with him before moving on to environmental law. “These are bright, outstanding young people, who are working for peanuts. Clearly, they are in it for the empowering feeling it gives them, of being part of something worthwhile,” he points out.

T’S not just satisfaction at seeing work done, says Prateek Pandey of the Chhattisgarh Citizens’ Initiative. “When something

I

gets achieved through RTI, it gives you a sense of identity irrespective of social class,” says Prateek. “It is a means for young people to be taken seriously as participants in democracy,” feels Pune-based Vijay Kumbhar, who runs an RTI website, surajya.org. They also make enemies in the process: Parivartan’s Santosh Jha ducked in time to dodge a razor aimed at her neck, while 30-year-old Sola Ranga Rao from Andhra Pradesh, who sought information on funding for his

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Rolly Shivhare, 28, Social activist Madhya Pradesh

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OLLY’S father had hoped that she would secure a government job; little did he know she’d end up working squarely against it. She has unearthed discrepancies in the state’s Right to Food campaign (making it an election issue) and brought to light indiscriminate industrialisation plans, revealed in the MoUs she accessed through her RTI petitions.

“Youngsters are more keen to learn about RTI than about child or human rights. This needs to be channelled.”

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

village drainage system, paid with his life; like Amit Jethwa, also in his early 30s. And success stories notwithstanding, extracting information from the system is a gruelling task. Tellingly, city municipal corporations, the police, railways and the ministry of external affairs have been identified as the worst offenders when it comes to delaying or not replying to RTI applications despite the Central Information Commission’s orders. An activist says the police has been known to demand Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 in exchange for information, purportedly to pay “staff salaries”. Earlier this year, the CIC pulled up Delhi Police and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for not helping out an RTI applicant’s friends, who were assaulted during a site inspection. The bureaucracy, meanwhile, is intent on whittling down the act, to make it less accountable. Yes, it’s a battleground out there, but these young warriors are upbeat about it. This, after all, is the information generation, growing up with the power to dig out what generations before didn’t even know how to question. As Shailesh Gandhi points out, “There is great potential in the act, provided it is not treated as a grievance redressal tool, and the youth is privileged to have it.” Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who describes the act as a “qualified success” so far and expects it to take root over the next 10 years, agrees: “In my time, the primary objective of a young man was a good education and the civil services. Now, that is changing, with greater professionalism and a sense of freedom among youth, which makes RTI appropriate and timely.” For all the indifference attributed to the stereotype of youth, their RTI applications tell a different story. Shekhar Singh spells it out: “All the cynicism I see is among older people. What spurs us on despite the obstacles to RTI reaching its full potential is the knowledge that the youth is on our side.” 4


FILM RAJNI MANIA

This Alien Is Our Own

Flip That Ciggie

The pasha of pulp is back to his best

Late nights with the Rajni army

by Sudha G. Tilak

by Sadanand Menon

ECHNICAL wizardry, visual effects marvels, international technicians and the combined efforts of two Oscar winners go to make the Rajnikanth caper, Enthiran, a superlative extravaganza. The tale is an improbable pageant to celebrate a 61-year-old superstar’s eminence as the pasha of pulp.

NTHIRAN. Day one. Late night show. An impossible to attain ticket procured after hopping through a warren of dens. Fan clubs have

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A mammoth budget, the line-up of two homegrown Oscar winners, A.R. Rahman and Resul Pookutty, animatronic technologists from Stanwinston Studio, international stunt coordinator Yuen Woo Ping, and the coming together of the biggest name from south Indian cinema, Rajnikanth, with Bollywood’s beauteous face, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, would have been enough to make the film a talking point. But with the hand of S. Shankar, the filmmaker known for mounting his plotlines on a spectacular canvas, Enthiran also does not fail to deliver as the first-ever gala involving special effects of this magnitude in Indian cinema. Shankar uses the sci-fi delusional fantasy and his trademark stylised way of telling a story to send home the moral of tinkering with cloning and the dangers of humans seeking omnipotence. Terminator meets Chennai gunpowder and the effect is monstrous. “I’d say the Almighty has got two things right...you and me,” snarls Rajnikanth aka Robot, admiring the curves of Aishwarya Rai during a momentous occasion in the run-up to the film’s climax. Maybe, but this time

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around, Shankar has split Rajnikanth’s colossal image into a hundred clones and turned him into a robot, giving the hero the subdued human avatar of a nerdy scientist. Unrecognisable for his fans, Rajni is hardly noteworthy when he plays Dr Vaseegaran, a robotics scientist who has no time to trim his beard or date his lady love Aishwarya. Enthiran’s real hero is Chitti as “Rabart”, the humanoid robot designed by Vaseegaran to aid the Indian army as a war machine who kicks butt with frenzy. The irony is not lost as Rajni’s avatar as a man machine comes close to reflecting his superstar status. He is a dangerous, edgy and destructive megalomaniac with a “silicon lion’s” appetite for ravishing the heroine. Rajni is in his element, with his poker-faced dialogue

“I’d say the Almighty has got two things right...you and me,” snarls Robot, admiring Aishwarya’s curves. 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

E

PTI

deliveries, his romantic antics, his slipshod show of affection and his ability to make Ash’s beautiful eyes swim in tears. To mark his love, he performs dorky feats like delivering babies (why do heroes win brownie points when they help birth babies under stressful circumstances these days in Indian cinema?) and cooking up a feast, enough to have the women melt. Later, as the devious terminator who wants to demolish and annihilate the whole of Chennai and its citizens for the sake of mating and producing humanoids with Aish-

Moo on Fans in Mumbai offer a milk ‘abhishekam’ to a Rajni cutout

warya, Rajni scores. As for the music, someone tell Rahman all is forgiven, including the criticisms over the CWG and the World Tamil Conference anthems. With Malaysian rap and hip-hop artistes, Kraftwerk feel and groovy electropop, a good number of Enthiran’s songs carry the Rahman brand multi-ethnic music fusion. Rajnikanth’s cult demands undying devotion, age be damned. This caper is a salute to kitsch without any apologies.

For those with a different cultural palate, it may seem incongruous for a weathered and aged star to cavort with a beauty contest winner, but in Enthiran, Rajnikanth, the last superstar standing, is brave enough to mock his own incredible status. 4

Enthiran ✪✪✪ Starring: Rajnikanth, Aishwarya Rai, Danny Denzongpa Directed by S. Shankar

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

bulk-blocked theatres for almost the next two weeks. Inside the packed auditorium full of die-hard fans in autoerotic animation, Rajni signals his arrival through digital fracture. RA-JA-NI. His name punches the screen alphabet by alphabet. Phatak-phatakphatak. The alphabets form digitally in the morphology of monolithic architecture. Then the full name repeats in a final smashing crescendo. The acolytes are on their feet, arms extended towards the Holy Name. A collective baying engulfs the hall, drowning the high-decibel ambitions of the Dolby system. By now, the Rajni raanuvam (army) is jumping in the aisles in the most vivid display of premature ejaculation ever in public. The sighting of the messiah is imminent and the flock is in a state of self-hypnotised hysteria. Rajni reigns. However, the audience reaction at the beginning and the end of this Rajnikanth blockbuster is a study in contrast. The audience enters the hall on the crest of a hype that has been sustained over months. At last, on this auspicious Friday, the serious Rajni fan has been active since 3 a.m., decorating the entrances to theatres with flags, festoons

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FILM RAJNI MANIA

R.A. CHANDROO

This metal-trap that has inexand cutouts, performing plicably acquired ‘desire’ honey and milk abhishekturns savagely upon its own ams on their idol and danccreator. Blinded by fury at ing in the streets. So, when being spurned by the woman the fans eventually enter the he ‘loves’, Robot turns Rakhall on high adrenalin, it shasa and, much like Ravana, makes no difference to them abducts the heroine to his what the film is. Their ecstcordon sanitaire. Only, this asy derives from the fact Ashokavatika is some super that the deity who was shopping mall. remote and distant in his Recklessly mixing metaphgarbha griha is now maniors, writer/director Shankar fest as an utsav murti, come dips into the fable of Jason out in their midst in a new and the Argonauts. The avatar. It’s celebration time. robot begins to clone himself All the euphoria explodes in in autotelic abundance—a the opening reel, to be folRajni army of infinite Rajnis. lowed by inevitable ennui and It’s like some consumer excthe ‘downer’ affliction. While ess to the power of ‘z’. There the screening begins to an is such a surfeit of Rajnis on infernal din of whistles, catthe screen that no one will calls, ululations and primal ask for another Rajni film for shrieks, it ends in eerie sila few years. ence. Fans shuffle out of the Employing the device of auditoria, littered with plastic the self-duplicating Rajni and paper garbage, themselmachine, the hitherto alienves turned into cultural refating-yet-plausible-pseudouse—silent, muted, slouched. scientific gimmicology tips For over two-and-half hours into top gear. What the scithey have been assaulted, attentist had originally planned acked, pulverised by an ‘arti- Fire-proof? A Chennai fan matches his hero’s dress code as a one-body war-machine ficial-intelligence’ movie that seems to constantly resist the temptation it begins to acquire ‘feeling’. We realise to decimate “India’s enemies” performs that the mirror-image sameness only a self-fulfilling fantasy as it takes on the to slip into becoming really intelligent. The film is a simple gig in two parts. In pretends to a difference. The human and collective might of the Indian army, air one part we have a futurist scientist, the android are equally macho and very force and all other comers. Finally, the played by Rajnikanth, who ends up cre- soon, like the human, the android too robot’s creator finds a way to trap him ating a humanoid, an arti-fact, a metal- begins to experience ‘male lack’ as its and disarm the Red Chip. With his lic sarcophagus, and proceeds to invest it whole body digital scan system locks ‘chips’ down, Rajni Robot is happy to collaborate with the state. Thalaiva, we with his own physical identity. Here, into the luscious image of Sana. This paves the way for the second part preferred you as the eternal ‘outsider’ however, we have a product of advanced cybernetics that still does not escape the of the movie, as a corrupting virus, the who proved it by simply flipping a cigmaster-slave binary. This lookalike ‘non- ‘Red Chip’, is deliberately inserted into arette in his mouth. This high-tech robs human’ can perform superhuman feats Robot’s central drive by a rival scientist. you of your aura. The piled-on techno fads, one more of strength, endurance and memory. All hell breaks loose as the programme Strangely, however, it does not boast a mutates from ‘Robo-Cop’ to ‘Terminator’. breathless than the other, are psychologically traumatic. You can visibly expemachine’s gender-free quality and seems rience the Castration Complex at work— to have an inbuilt phallocentrism. Not yet a sense of emasculatory helplessness in infected with the ‘flower of evil’, it the audience. Fans who came for a joint remains attractive and yet ‘safe’ to the celebration of shared power sense their opposite gender. It paves the way for the The pile-on techno fads agency being appropriated by the merely peculiar irony of the scientist’s girl- are psychologically technical. Which accounts for the dazed friend Sana feeling ‘safer’ in the comp- traumatic. You sense silence as the movie concludes. What any of the robot (more Rajnikanth). remains is the overarching human But, though this advanced cyborg lacks the fans’ emasculatory stench in the auditorium. 4 a primate’s digestive or copulative organ, helplessness in the hall.

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18 October 2010 OUTLOOK


HERITAGE CONTROVERSY

ANIL DAYAL

by Chandersuta Dogra

T’S a whodunit that could confound even a Sam Spade or a Maigret. Investigations have led nowhere and the plot is thickening by the day as

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Chandigarh’s best known architects go for each other’s throats, accusing each other of smuggling out precious Le Corbusier artefacts to western auction houses. And as the air gets murkier, the Chandigarh administration, entrusted with preserving and protecting Le Corbusier’s legacy, flails in the dark. It is three years since Outlook (July 9, 2007) broke the story about how symbols and artefacts created by Le Corbusier, the celebrated French architect who designed Chandigarh, and his associate Pierre Jeanneret were picked up by canny French collectors and sold to auction houses like Christie’s and Bonhams. Several fact-finding and heritage committees later, Corbusier artefacts continue to vanish from the city with surprising ease. In February, and again in August, Corbusier artefacts were put up at two auctions by the Paris-based Artcurial and Bonhams respectively. Then, somebody stirred the hornet’s nest in Chandigarh. The one who set things off was the comfortably retired, 87-year-old M.N. Sharma, who has the distinction both of being Chandigarh’s first chief architect and one of the few surviving architects who had worked with Corbusier in the ’60s. Sharma suddenly shot off a letter to the administrator of the union territory with the grave allegation that Kiran Joshi, a former professor of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, was the source of some original drawings of Le Corbusier’s works sold at the Artcurial auction in February. (Joshi has been engaged by the Chandigarh administration to prepare a dossier accompanying an application for UNESCO World Heritage Status for Chandigarh, and therefore had access to original Corbusier drawings lying in the record rooms of Chandigarh’s architecture department.) Sharma’s letter states that Joshi’s

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M.N. Sharma, left, at home with his Corbusiers; inset, a Corbusier drawing auctioned by Artcurial

Answering charges, Kiran Joshi, left, says auction catalogues actually locate some pieces to Corbusier’s former colleagues.

A City Cannibalises Itself Heritage works by Le Corbusier vanish, are au ctioned abroad, leaving echoing accusations ‘action’ was brought to his notice by one Papillaut Remi, a representative of the Le Corbusier Foundation in Paris, on the latter’s visit to India in February. This dramatic allegation resulted in two inquiry committees being formed. One, headed by a subdivisional magistrate, has given its report, which is still under wraps; the other is yet to do so. But the story gets curiouser. It turns out that in the very same Artcurial sale, there were two items attributed to Sharma himself. One is a photograph of Jane Drew, a Corbusier associate who worked on the Chandigarh project with him, the other a photograph of a paper collage made by Sharma of symbols of 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

Chandigarh. Sharma dismisses this as irrelevant, pointing out that the originals of both these items lie with him. However, a very stung Joshi has seized on their inclusion in the auction. She has also pointed out that the auction’s catalogue attributes a set of drawings of various buildings in Chandigarh to “the private collections of former collaborators and associates of Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret” and has demanded that the administration find out who supplied them. In her detailed reply to one of the inquiry committees, Joshi has questioned how photographs could be taken of original works lying in Sharma’s house without his knowledge. She has

also imputed that Sharma, during his tenure as chief architect, helped himself to drawings by Corbusier, and two Corbusier paintings of tapestries in the high court in Chandigarh that feature in the Artcurial catalogue. She has also stressed their value, saying that “against an estimated price of 5,000 to 7,000 euros each, one of the pieces fetched 14,026 euros (about Rs 10 lakh) even before the auction.” Moreover, she has questioned Sharma’s claim that several original signed drawings/sketches in his possession were gifted to him by Corbusier, when he was a junior architect on his team. “He should be asked to submit proof that these were indeed per-

sonal gifts to him by Corbusier and do not constitute stolen government property,” she has written. Sitting in his sprawling bungalow designed by him in Corbusier’s trademark minimalist style, Sharma flatly denies that he has sold any Corbusier artefacts in his possession. He goes on to argue, however, that it is no crime if he did, since they are his private property. “But to take old drawings that are the property of the administration and pass them on to auction houses, like Joshi has done, is unpardonable,” he says. Meanwhile, two former principals of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, a favourite haunt of French collectors OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

who have been picking up furniture designed by Corbusier or Jeanneret at routine auctions of ‘condemned’ furniture by the college, are also trading allegations. At an auction held in 1999 when professor I.J.S. Bakshi (who, incidentally, is Joshi’s husband) was principal, Eric Touchaleaueme, a French collector, bought up most of the items on offer. Some auction committee members, among them the then vice principal of the college, Rajnish Wattas, have since alleged that Bakshi was particularly interested in selling the items to Touchaleaueme. While denying these allegations, Bakshi has levelled his own—that in 2008, Wattas, who was then principal, auctioned 55 hostel beds designed by Corbusier for a mere Rs 10,000, ostensibly to oblige a mysterious third party. As all this plays out, the Chandigarh administration, sitting pretty on its inquiry reports, offers little clarity. In a half-hearted attempt to stall the February sale at Artcurial, it had sent an indignant fax message to the auction house, asking for the sale to be halted, and for a full disclosure of the sources of the artefacts. The auction house did not oblige, pointing out that the letter had not been signed by anyone, and was not on official letterhead. A three-yearold exercise to make an inventory of all heritage items lying in government departments and elsewhere in Chandigarh has been just as inadequate. Says Wattas, who at one time headed the committee in charge of this: “Our committee was toothless, and we lacked a legal framework to define what heritage items are.” Curiously, he adds: “No one, for instance, knew what the Frenchies would like.” At his suggestion, a larger, more powerful committee was set up, but it never met. He, like Sharma and Joshi, feel the administration should clear the air by making its inquiry report into the latest round of allegations public and take action against the guilty. Easier said than done. Finance secretary Sanjay Kumar told Outlook that he is yet to read it since it is a voluminous document. Till then, speculation mounts and Chandigarh’s chatterati are in full voice. As for Corbusier’s legacy, it’s clearly for sale. 4

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books The Mahdi On His Steed A search for the Semitic binary of good and evil, messianic longing, and its uses in modern conflict

CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM AT WAR: The Clash of Messianic Militarisms by Talmiz Ahmad Aakar Books | 475 pages | Rs 1,250

by Saeed Naqvi

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HEN Ayatollah Khomeini returned from the outskirts of Paris to lead the Islamic revolution in Iran, the clergy in the holy city of Qom fell into deep thought. An Islamic state, in all its pious purity, can only be supervised by the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, who, though invisible, is in Samarra in Iraq, and who will reappear at the time of his choosing. That time had clearly not come because no “signs” of the second coming had manifested themselves. In the absence of the Mahdi, the “Vali Faqih”, or intermediate Imam, would hold the fort. Imam Khomeini, in other words, was “Vali Faqih”. The return of the twelfth Imam is specific to Shia belief, but variations on the theme of some catastrophic or benign divine intervention are native to all Abrahamic faiths. Self-proclaimed Mahdis have, on occasion, appeared to fight colonialism. In the late nineteenth century in Sudan, for instance. This kind of a detail becomes a mere footnote in Talmiz Ahmad’s Children of Abraham at War: the Clash of Messianic Militarisms. He expands the theme on a wide canvas, even going back to Zoroastrianism as a possible source for the Jewish belief in the conflict between good and evil and the eventual cata-

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clysmic battle in which evil would be defeated, leading to eternal bliss. With variations, the concept of “eternal bliss” and therefore “eternal life” is part of all the three major Semitic systems. Even a believer like the great Urdu poet Iqbal could not resist poking fun at it: “Tere azad bandon ki na yeh duniya, na woh duniya, Yahan marne ki pabandi, Wahan jeene ki pabandi.” (Neither the present nor the promised afterlife is satisfactory for Your freedom-loving creatures/ Here we must die; there we must live eternally!) Talmiz, citing Christian and Jewish scholars, recalls commands from the Hebrew Bible which accord divine blessing for violence against alien nations and their gods. According to these traditions, it was at God’s command that Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho and destroyed “utterly all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass with the edge of the sword...he utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded”. I am tempted to quote another Urdu poet, Josh. He has “contempt” for a vengeful, terrible God. “I take no revenge,” he says. “Is God smaller than me?” Talmiz cites similar streaks in Christianity and Islam. The book is a tapestry of pertinent quotations from scholars, all leading to Talmiz’s basic thesis: all conflicts, particularly in the West Asian theatre, however one-sided, fall back on the belief that aggravation of the conflict might precipitate Armageddon, a precursor to the Second Coming of Christ, or any other manifestation of the Messiah. Continuous conflict, according to these

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

belief systems, holds promise of bringing man closer to the bliss of afterlife. Ever since President Bush senior knelt in prayer alongside Rev Billy Graham on the eve of Operation Desert Storm, divine sanction for US action on behalf of Israel is almost taken for granted. This belief only gained momentum during George W. Bush’s two terms. The puzzling aspect of the book is this: Talmiz Ahmad is India’s serving ambassador to Saudi Arabia. That the MEA has allowed him to express views, sometimes totally in contradiction with official policy, shows uncommon openness. In another era this might have been considered mutinous. Talmiz, of course, can most justifiably argue that his book is neither a critique of Indian policy nor a recommendation for resetting of compasses. He simply gives us a catalogue of US policy initiatives in the Middle East as listed by western scholars, many of them Jews. On the marriage of neo-conservatives with the Christian Right, he quotes Hugh Urban: “Bush represents the neocon radical foreign policy in a guise which is acceptable to his large base of support in the Christian Right.” The neo-cons and the Christian Right both accept the centrality of religion in their agenda. On this, Urban cites Irving Kristol: “The three pillars of modern conservatism are religion, nationalism and economic growth. Of these, religion is easily the most important.” From this system of thinking, the evil Other is easily identified as Satan, without whom the Axis of Evil cannot be conceptualised. This book is a reassertion that the thinking ambassador is not quite extinct. 4


books

BIBLIOFILE

Why Wily Wylie

A Quilt For The Greyhound IMMORTAL LAST WORDS by Terry Breverton Quercus | 592 pages | Rs 399

by Ruskin Bond

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HE last words of the famous can be touching and sometimes funny, but one cannot always be certain they were the real thing, or are simply words attributed to them by tradition and popular acceptance. “Kiss me, Hardy,” Admiral Nelson is reported to have said to his second-incommand, as he lay dying aboard his embattled flagship Victory. “Nonsense,” said my old friend, Sir Edmund Gibson, who was something of a history buff. “Nelson wasn’t like that. What he said was: ‘Kismet, Hardy’ (Fate, Hardy).” No doubt Nelson had picked up the expression ‘kismet’ in the course of his naval campaign off Egypt. Dear old Sir Edmund, who lived to be 84, often said: “Growing old is a rotten business, Ruskin. Don’t even think about it.” Well, it’s too late now. I have to start thinking about it. William Pitt the Younger is supposed to have uttered these touchingly patriotic last words: “Oh, my country! How I love my country!” In actual fact his last words were: “I think I could eat one of Bellamy’s veal pies”—Bellamy’s being the first dining-room in the House of Commons. Terry Breverton records this and other memorable last words in this

I prefer the mundane. It must take quite an effort trying to say something profound when one is struggling for breath.

entertaining compilation which has life-sketches of 370 of history’s betterknown celebrities, ranging all the way from Alexander the Great (died 323 BC) to Michael Jackson (died 2009). Alexander’s last words: “To the strongest!” Michael’s last words: “I love you more!” I prefer the mundane to the majestic. It must take quite an effort trying to say something very profound when one is struggling for breath. The most convincing last words are those spoken without any thought for posterity. When Frederick the Great of Prussia lay dying, he noticed that one of his favourite greyhounds was shivering. “Throw a quilt over it,” he told his attendant. And said no more. This last anecdote reminds me of one of my aunts who, as she lay dying, told her anxious husband: “Don’t forget to feed the parrot”. The dying don’t always realise that they are going. “I’ve not felt this well for ages,” said Keith Floyd, the famous TV chef, just before passing away. And the Contessa Di Verulles, friend of Rousseau, having passed wind rather loudly, remarked: “Well, a woman that can fart is not yet dead!” These last words were recorded by Rousseau. Groucho Marx made up his own epitaphs. ‘Here lies Groucho Marx—and lies and lies and lies. PS. He never kissed an ugly girl.’ An alternative went: ‘Excuse me. I can’t stand up.’ Neither were used. The Eminent Victorian, Lytton Strachey, said: “If this is dying, I don’t think much of it!” The economist John Maynard Keynes has my undying admiration. When asked if he regretted anything, he said: “I should have drunk more champagne.” Perhaps King George V summed it all up on his death-bed when he exclaimed, “God damn you!” We cannot be sure if he was addressing his Maker or his night-nurse. A comma would have made all the difference. 4

THEY are the power couple in today’s literary world and it was perhaps only a matter of time before they shared the same agent. The question was who was going to shift loyalties: would Nobel prize-winning Orhan Pamuk give up his agent, Andrew Wylie, and switch to Booker prize-winning girlfriend Kiran Desai’s long-time agent, David Godwin or the other way around? Wylie won, and how! He got the unassuming Kiran one of the world’s highest advances ($2.5 million) for a four-page proposal for her next novel, The Loneliness of Sonia and Sunny, to be published in 2012.

A Bird Of Prey BUT for Penguin India, it was winwin. They not only acquired Kiran Desai’s next, but also Pamuk’s next three works, including his new novel, A Strangeness in My Mind. Penguin, of course, won’t tell what it cost them to acquire the world’s most costly pair of writers, but it was a pre-emptive bid, which means the publishing house offers a sum large enough not to tempt Wylie into putting them up for auction in India.

Games Barrage FUNNY, how quickly we got accustomed to the book launch parties, although they are a fairly recent invention. But for the first time in the last two decades, it’s been all quiet on the book launch front. The reason: the Commonwealth Games. What that has to do with book parties is anyone’s guess but that’s what publishers are telling their expectant authors. Illustrations by SORIT

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18 October 2010 OUTLOOK


fine living

reco

mmendations

CULTURE VULTURE

DELHI THEATRE

Small Fish, Big Ship, Tall Tales

Doordarshan

KITCHEN IQ

MIND YOUR BODY

Balancing Act SANJAY RAWAT

by Rujuta Diwekar

Navratri Thali

WHO Government-run television channel

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WHAT For the CWG‘s grand opening ceremony, the national broadcaster switched from “Krishi Darshan” to “Kreeda Darshan”, though not quite in a giant leap. WHY Living up to its eponymous farsightedness, a rare chance to monopolise TRPs was channelled to a profitable end—adverts. So, the ‘live’ spectacle shrunk to a corner as the Andhra Pradesh CM kept popping up (with no particular special effects), adding to breaks that stretched our viewing pleasure an hour longer than the world’s. In the commentary, Camilla became Camillia, while Rwanda was hailed for having “come a long way”—a cheerful reference to the tragic coming to terms? HOW TO

Be a TV show resident First, quit doing whatever it is that you do: the ‘former’ tag really works with selectors. So your chances are bright if you are a hasbeen actor or an ex-girlfriend, but it’s surefire success if you are a former thug or bandit. Next, ensure you are tangled in controverSORIT sies. That way, you also beat camera-shyness. Lastly, be good with words, especially the ones that get beeped out. If all else fails, crossdress.

MIND

If you have it, you want to share it. If you share it, you don’t have it. What is it? A secret

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N THE SIDELINES OF THE CWG, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF DRAMA, WITH ITS THEatre festival Jashn-e-Bachpan, sets the ball rolling for children to come out and play. From Manipur to Kashmir, Haryana to Karnataka, there are 28 plays, from comedy to fantasy, all acted by children. Tongue-incheek, Marks-ISM, from Calcutta, focuses on peer and parental pressure; Delhi play Rang Umang contextualises class differences and fear of numbers; while Shahie Paezaar, from Kashmir, revolves around a royal shoe. Look out for animated installations dotting the venue, in particular an eye-catching ship hanging mid-air (above), with cartoon characters popping out—one that lights up quite gloriously at night. Till Oct 15, NSD, Mandi House 4

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NATIONAL DVD

Paperback Romance

FRANCOIS OZON IS A SIGNIFICANT YOUNG FILM-

maker of French cinema’s new “New Wave”, and Angel his first English film. Based on a novel by British writer Elizabeth Taylor, Angel is set in Edwardian England and tells the story of a poor girl who gets popular by writing crummy romances. The lush, kitschy film shows how she creates an alternate reality through her fantasies. Moser Baer-NDTV Lumiere, Rs 399 18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

NATIONAL GADGET

Torch Bearer IT STARTED THE SMART phone race and now RIM, maker of BlackBerry phones, is running to keep up with the pace. The new BlackBerry Torch 9800 comes powerpacked: a brand new operating system called BlackBerry OS 6, a 3.2 inch hi-res full touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard, optical track pad, an enhanced browser with pinch and zoom features, 8 GB memory and of course, GPS, WiFi and 3G. BlackBerry’s best effort yet? It has a lot to prove in a sea of smart phones attacking the same pie.

KIND OF HATE MY E-MAIL

inbox post Diwali and the festive season. No, not because I have loads of e-mails from prospective clients but because I have any number of them from journos who want quick quotes or want a ‘few’ questions answered on how to ‘detox’ post Diwali. Now, am I NOT averse to journalists, but I certainly am to the idea of ‘detox’, the silliest urban myth around. When you stuff your stomach when it would rather be in sleep mode, you damage your system and wearing white clothes, fasting, juicing, steaming and the like will not undo that damage. The way out of this seemingly difficult situation is to reduce the damage without dampening your festive spirit. What I’m saying is: No need to give up on late

night parties, great food, drinking and cards. Just be smart about it. Here’s a quick way to remember: S—See all the food laid out before you, but choose only two items. Do not ‘try’ (the usual euphemism for eating) other foodstuff. There will be another party to go to tomorrow, even maybe with the same caterer. M—Mithai should not be within 50 feet of you. Give away every box you receive. Eat homemade mithai, as far as possible, and just one piece a day, not with your meal, but as a snack by itself. A—Act as if you are drinking, but don’t drink at every party you attend. Restrict yourself to consuming alcohol just twice a week; decide how much before you enter the room, and stick to your

SORIT

decision. And remember: always eat before you drink. R—Rest to recover from all the hectic partying, hosting and gossiping. Lack of sleep upsets your body’s metabolic pathways. A good oil massage from a trained therapist will also help you. T—Train your muscles, which basically means exercise. If you typically work out for one hour, make it 30 or 20 mins during this ‘hectic’ season but don’t skip. Working out is a foolproof way of preventing the bloating that is often the return gift from all the partying. 4 (A fortnightly column on nutrition and fitness by the best-selling author of Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight)

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

HUNGER PANGS DURING THE long days of Navratri are shushed valiantly, for every fasting tummy knows it will be well rewarded at sunset. And sure enough, a lavish spread awaits: delicately prepared sabudane ki khichdi, shakarkandi ki chaat, aloo sabudane ki tikki, special sawank chawal, kuttu (buckwheat flour) ki poori, palak paneer and a variety of other vegetables. For the sweet-toothed, there’s makhane or sabudane ki kheer and singhara ki barfi to savour. The pure vegetarian Navratri thali, sans onion, garlic and grains such as wheat, barley and rice, bears the ‘saatvik’ tag on its sleeve. But in the hands of culinary fairies, it has come to don a spicier avatar in restaurants. Tuck in. 4

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REVIEW

QUESTIONS

Bipasha Basu

She sheds her glamour for Priyadarshan’s Aakrosh, a film based on honour killings

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Why did you choose this script? The subject was very interesting and working with Priyadarshan was the attraction.

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It’s a serious subject. Yes, it’s based on honour killings, an issue that needs to be addressed.

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Will such a film work? You know, these honour killings are happening in big cities like Delhi too and awareness is required. I think audiences are intelligent and as for me, I enjoyed being part of this.

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Priyadarshan is now known for comedy. He has done Virasat too, but sometimes there are constraints that get you into doing stereotypical things both as an actor or a director.

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Any highlights while shooting? The shooting itself. Priyan sir is very quick and you have to be on high alert at all times. Working with friends like Ajay (Devgan), Akshaye (Khanna) was Paresh Rawal was really comfortable.

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How has it turned out? It’s good. I’m seeing the final cut in a day.

In these days of commercial cinema, a film like Aakrosh is a risk, isn’t it? You know, it’s not a drab docu-drama. It’s a fast-paced investigative thriller with the backdrop of honour killings.

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Does Ajay say what made him choose this film? Ajay is a fantastic actor, credible in any kind of role—be it action, comedy, drama. He’s made a name for himself. I’ve worked with him in All the Best, Apaharan and now this film. He can do any role with great passion.

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FOR a majority of viewers, Do Dooni Chaar would hold tremendous nostalgic interest. It marks the return of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor—the young, romantic twosome of the ’70s. Here they play a middleaged, middle-class Delhi couple—the Duggals— working hard to bring up their two bright children and trying to find a perfect balance between their needs, desires, dreams and indulgences. However, the film is also interesting because it makes for a self-assured debut by filmmaker Habib Faisal, formerly an NDTV cameraperson. Do Dooni Chaar is not so much about story-telling, focused only on its twists and turns, as it is about presenting a slice of life. Any middle-class family that has built its home from scratch would identify with the Duggals and their struggles to graduate from owning a two-wheeler to a car. That’s where the title of the film also stems from. Faisal is bang on in getting the little details and nuances of Delhi’s middle-class culture in all its shabby

Anjana Anjani

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Robot (dubbed)

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Do Dooni Chaar Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Archit Krishna Directed by Habib Faisal

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Must See

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Good

glory—right from the nighties, sweaters and mufflers that the protagonists wear to the kitschy showcases and sticker-laden steel almirahs and the noisy neighbourhoods. The keen eye for detail also shows in the spread of quirky characters—the coachingschool owner to the corrupt Meerut cop—and the use of the varied Delhi lingo—from the Punjabi to the Haryanvi mix. Most of all, the film is interesting in showing an old economic order (typified by the senior Duggals) clashing and coexisting with the consumerist culture. Faisal gets good support from the cast. Instead of playing the film as some kind of a starry

BOLLYWOOD 1

Lata Khubchandani

...AND the prince danced. He twirled to the beat and matched steps with the villagers of Toleshar Charan, on the outskirts of Jodhpur. When complimented on his moves, he quipped, “It’s hereditary.” Soon, Maharaja Gaj Singh, who accompanied Prince Charles to the water conservation project, too was on the dusty dance floor.

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Watchable

Avoidable

comeback of RishiNeetu, the director keeps their presence low-key. They are one with the real-life characters they play. Even the two kids, Archit and Aditi, are just as real. But the film does not quite reach the same level of fineness as the other recent Delhi films like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye primarily because the narrative gets unwieldy and the filmmaker is unable to offer a neat resolution. The end becomes a muddle of high emotions, morals and stupid slapstick in making a case for the teaching profession. A little subtlety would have worked better. 4

PTI

Kick Block Jab Punch TAEKWONDO—it’s the SRK family sport. And now, there are two little champs at home—Aryan and Suhana—who won gold at a recent national meet. Both Gauri and Shahrukh were there cheering them on, like true taekwondo parents. King Khan was all smiles and seemed to enjoy playing the proud papa. FOTOCORP

Just Like My Mom ALL of seven months and little Krishna Thea, Top Chef hostess Padma Lakshmi’s daughter, has already stunned New York. While on a recent outing, both mom and daughter wore blue and pink Indian numbers—complete with anklets and bindis. And mom’s camera-friendly gestures were apparent on Kris.

Namrata Joshi

HIGH FIVES

Tell us about your role? I play Geeta, a fragile vulnerable girl scared to voice what she feels. It’s a role I’ve never played before and that was exciting.

Anything you learnt in the process? That I am lucky to be who I am, to be free to love who I please!

Dancing Prince

HOLLYWOOD

COUNTRY

The Social Network

The Boys of Fall (Kenny Chesney)

Legends of the Guardians

All Over Me (Josh Turner)

Dabangg

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Roll With It (Easton Corbin)

4

We Are Family

The Town

Our Kind of Love (Lady Antebellum)

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Peepli [Live]

Easy A

Come Back Song (Darius Rucker)

Courtesy: Film Information

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

Gimme More HER Hissstrionics continue unabated. Besides the release of her overpublicised film, the bicontinental Mallika Sherawat has now set her eyes on yet another goal—attaining the brand ambassadorship of her long abandoned state, Haryana. We’re sure the hookah-smoking patriarchs will approve.

DAILY MAIL

OUTLOOK 18 October 2010

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the Commonwealth? Why should ex-colonies choose to tie themselves to a rapacious colonial overlord who stripped their resources bare and consigned so many of their peoples to lifelong poverty? B. PURKAYASTHA, SHILLONG Wasn’t there chaos and inertia when Mani Shankar Aiyar was the sports minister? Just because he was against the whole thing doesn’t absolve him of some of the faults he’s accusing others of. SUMERA, MELBOURNE Far from accepting responsibility for the fiasco he almost brought about, Kalmadi will now preen. Before that, he should be presented with the ‘order of the boot’. DAVID ALBUQUERQUE, BRISBANE

Dragon Bound Apropos of Chopped Sticks (Oct 4), India’s hegemonic ambitions have forced Nepal out of the loop, and right into China’s lap. India’s foreign

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Flight of Imagination This is what Sonia’s response to Arvind Kejriwal’s open letter would be... Dear Arvind, I can’t help saying you’re a naysayer. There’s always hope for India. Bigger corruption scandals have happened, bigger money has been stolen in more brazen ways. Has India flinched? I wonder if you are a patriot, raising fingers as you do at this national spectacle. Scams come and go. So stop complaining and start supporting this game like all patriotic Indias. We need your activism there. VARUN GARDE, BANGALORE

Ill Thought Out Given our woeful attitude to hygiene and public health, the disease burden can only exacerbate (Deep in the Miasma, Oct 4). Some CMs, particularly from the south, are of the view that river-linking—wishfully known as the Ganga-Cauvery garland canal system—could end their agricultural woes. But an extended canal system will only make diseases endemic. H.N. RAMAKRISHNA, MICHIGAN Thank you. The country was so busy with Ayodhya and the CWG that the thousands of people who were dying of mosquito bites failed to register. In western UP especially, the administration has been completely useless. SUDHIR PANWAR, LUCKNOW

policy is one of the worst; we have only enemies all around. We are seeing the results now of foreign policy playing on from Indira Gandhi’s time. NASAR AHMED, KARIKKUDI

Uncle Sam’s Cuz Once bitten, twice shy (Short Shrifted, Oct 4). American corporations feeling cheated with the liability clause in the Nuclear Damage Bill must remember their cousins Union Carbide and Dow, who got away scot-free. J.S. RAMLAL, NAVI MUMBAI

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Let Them Have Cake Really! Making a slumcake (Slumcake Millionaires, Oct 4) and making it available for party invitees only smacks of a Bollywoodian act, rehearsing the old ayyash French royalty. GAJANAN, SYDNEY If you can win an Oscar for poverty porn and make a movie where a seven-yearold jumps into a pool of excrement, then why not a cake shaped like a slum? SHUBHANG, NEW DELHI

Kalmadi should be given a cake shaped like a broken bridge or a dirty toilet bowl to remind him of the CWG fiasco! G.N., ON E-MAIL

Other Skeletons Too Apropos of Cream Weaver (Oct 4), we mortals hesitate to judge on issues of morality, so isn’t the Ambanis’ success actually a part of India’s success too? Fact is, almost all pioneer industrialists worldwide have had unbelievable quantities of skeletons in their cupboards: Rockefellers, Kennedys, you name it! K.S.C. NAIR, CALIFORNIA

Production and Operations Management has been shortchanged, so no issues. Still it will be blasphemous to ignore The Goal by Dr Eliyahu Goldratt. DR JITENDRA SHARMA, IMT NAGPUR

The Best Medicine I read Melvin Durai’s book Bala Takes the Plunge (Books, Oct 4) and found it hilarious. The last time I enjoyed a book thus was Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Country. And though Hari Menon has patronisingly termed him a ‘humour blogger’, he has been writing and publishing funny stuff for a long time. SAAZ AGGARWAL, PUNE Just as humour is subjective, so are book reviews. But why does it feel like this reviewer did not read the same book that I did? CAROLYN GILL, EAST ST PAUL

Autumn Regatta

We the Sufferers Speaking from personal experience, I have to agree with the view that management education has no relevance in our real, contemporary ‘man-eat-man’ world (Course Correction, Sep 27). With a post-graduate diploma in management from a Delhibased institute and no placement in sight, I am in a fix now. I really feel the education ministry must monitor the growth and mushrooming of such institutes. SUDEB BANERJEE, NEW DELHI Apropos of your ‘8 MustRead Books for MBAs’ in the B-Drive series, why is there nothing on operations? It’s not the first time that

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

The opening up of the internet for senior citizens is a great thing (Enter, All Ye Web Fuchchas, Oct 4). Now they don’t have to look towards their offspring for attention anymore, they have a whole new world waiting to be discovered. RAJAT MEHTA, CHANDIGARH The fact that a whole group of senior citizens are getting hooked on to the internet is refreshing. But then they should also guard against cyber crime. MURAR YEOLEKAR, MUMBAI


GOA

ANVAR ALIKHAN

Anthony Gonsalves Lives ONE day, having run out of reading material, I idly leafed through the Goa telephone directory. It turned out to be a treasure trove of resoundingly Lusitanian names—Joao de Brito Filomena Pedro Lopez, Abel Angelo da Piedade Noronha and Caetano Joaqim Mario Caldeira. The names seemed to belong to Portuguese grandees rather than to ordinary middle-class Indians hassling over mundane things like gas connections and college admissions. Some names were richly sonorous, like Terezinho Aduzinela Noronha. Others were snappily alliterative, like Concesao Caetano Coutinho. Yet others seemed amusing, if not downright quirky, like Perpetual Fernandes, Resurrection Coutinho, Elcy Rocy Fernandes and Ariceto alias Annuncio Silveira. And then there were the ones named, curiously, after famous personalities: Adolf Noronha, Mussolini Gomes, Napoleon Monteiro, Nelson Dias, Caesar Cabral and Bismarck Alfonso (not forgetting Churchill Alemao). The Hindu names were no less singular, like Vissu Virgincar, Tucarama Lolienkar and Pundlik Yesso Paryekar. Recalling the number of Shahs in the Mumbai directory, I then thought I’d find out what the most common Goan name was. The answer: Fernandes. (Yes, there are 4,849 Fernandes’s listed, 1,531 D’Souzas, 1,182 Rodrigues’s and 1,058 Pereiras). From there, it was just a small, logical step to want to know exactly how many Anthony Gonsalveses there are in Goa, and I’m happy to report that I discovered no less than five (plus another five Antonio Gonsalveses). On some juvenile whim, I phoned up a couple of them and quizzed them on their relationship with Amitabh Bachchan, but after a while, they got irritated and hung up. I then spent the rest of the day repeatedly watching Bachchan’s brilliantly inane Anthony Gonsalves number on YouTube, in an attempt to decipher those fiendishly cryptic English words once and for all. I’m proud to share with you the fruits of my research: “You see, the whole country of the system/Is juxtaposition by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere/Because you are a sophisticated rhetorician/Intoxicated by the exuberance of your own VERBOSITY!” I can’t imagine myself wasting my time so utterly anywhere else but in Goa. But that’s the charm of the place.

Ellroy Comes To Anjuna WHAT’S happening in Goa? Someone called it the “rape capital of the world” not long ago. Someone else stated that the drug mafia could assassinate the CM if it wanted to. The significant thing is that the former was a minister, and the

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latter an MLA. Some years ago, I’d written a script for a TV serial (which never got produced). It was supposed to be a slick detective thriller set in Goa—a kind of ‘Raymond-Chandlercomes-to-Candolim’ affair. The hero was a cynical, prematurely retired Mumbai cop, who comes back to Goa to run a private security agency, and is confronted with a juicy new crime to solve every week: missing blonde tourists, blackmailed holidaying CEOs, that kind of thing. But that script was about the innocent Goa we knew ten years ago. In today’s hard-edged, criminalised Goa, the missing blonde would turn out to have been raped and strangled by some political thug; the holidaying CEO would have been silenced by a Russian hit man. And as for my Inspector Bhende, tough as he may have seemed back then, he wouldn’t have survived more than four weekly episodes: he’d either end up getting hit by a convenient lorry on some lonely village road, or being bribed with a couple of crores to hang his principles and move to Coonoor or somewhere instead. A strange coincidence: one of the episodes of the serial was about the unmasking of a Nazi war criminal settled in Goa—a plausible story, given the cosy relationship between Salazar’s Goa and Nazi Germany. And, that of course, by some freak chance, was almost the exact plot of that delightful hoax played on the media by some journalists two years ago.

The Mobile Brass Band MY aunt Habiba lives in a wonderful 350year-old family house, where the kitchen is big SORIT enough to swallow up a Mumbai apartment. How did people travel around in the Portuguese days, I asked her (having just driven 45 minutes on a terrible road). “Well, there was a pretty good bus service,” she replied, “with those old brass buses”. “Brass buses?” “Yes, a bit like America’s metallic Greyhound buses, but made of brass, so they wouldn’t corrode in Goa’s salty sea air.” You live and learn.

Tipping Point AT a restaurant I got chatting with the waiter, who had a well-practised, professional charm, unhindered by his limited English vocabulary. In the process, I discovered an interesting life story: Venkat hails from a village in Andhra Pradesh. He spends the tourist season in Goa, where the tips are good. Off-season, he has a second job in Mumbai. But he prudently makes sure neither employer knows about the other. In the harvest season, he goes back to his village to help on the family farm. He doesn’t like Russians: “Don’t know how to tip,” he scowls.

18 October 2010 OUTLOOK

Outlook 18th October 2010  

Outlook 18th October 2010

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