Tuesday 31 July 2007

Bush Fulfills His Grandfather's Dream

It's remarkably common for a grandson to take up his grandfather's major project. This occurred to me when I read recently of Thor Heyerdahl's grandson taking up his mission to cross the Pacific on a raft. But what really struck me was the http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20070723.shtml aired on July 23rd documenting President George W. Bush's grandfather's involvement in a 1933 plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist dictatorship. I knew the story, but had not considered the possibility that the grandson was trying to accomplish what his grandfather had failed to achieve.

Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 to 1972) attended Yale University and joined the secret society known as Skull and Bones. Prescott is widely reported to have stolen the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. As far as I know, this has not actually been confirmed. In fact, Prescott seems to have had a habit of making things up. He sent letters home from World War I claiming he'd received medals for heroism. After the letters were printed in newspapers, he had to retract his claims.

If this does not yet sound like the life of a George W. Bush ancestor, try this on for size: Prescott Bush's early business efforts tended to fail. He married the daughter of a very rich man named George Herbert Walker (the guy with the compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, that now belongs to the Bush family, and the origin of Dubya's middle initial). Walker installed Prescott Bush as an executive in Thyssen and Flick. From then on, Prescott's business dealings went better, and he entered politics.

Now, the name Thyssen comes from a German named Fritz Thyssen, major financial backer of the rise of Adolph Hitler. Thyssen was referred to in the New York Herald-Tribune as "Hitler's Angel." During the 1930s and early 1940s, and even as late as 1951, Prescott Bush was involved in business dealings with Thyssen, and was inevitably aware of both Thyssen's political activities and the fact that the companies involved were financially benefiting the nation of Germany. In addition, the companies Prescott Bush profited from included one engaged in mining operations in Poland using slave labor from Auschwitz. Two former slave laborers have sued the U.S. government and the heirs of Prescott Bush for $40 billion.

Until the United States entered World War II it was legal for Americans to do business with Germany, but in late 1942 Prescott Bush's businesses interests were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Among those businesses involved was the Hamburg America Lines, for which Prescott Bush served as a manager. A Congressional committee, in a report called the McCormack-Dickstein Report, found that Hamburg America Lines had offered free passage to Germany for journalists willing to write favorably about the Nazis, and had brought Nazi sympathizers to America. (Is this starting to remind anyone of our current president's relationship to the freedom of the press?)

The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was established to investigate a homegrown American fascist plot hatched in 1933. Here's how the BBC promoted its recent story:
"Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy."
Actually, if you listen to the 30-minute BBC story, there is not one word of so much as speculation as to why this story is so little known. I think a clue to the answer can be found by looking into why this BBC report has not led to any U.S. media outlets picking up the story this week.

The BBC report provides a good account of the basic story. Some of the wealthiest men in America approached Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, beloved of many World War I veterans, many of them embittered by the government's treatment of them. Prescott Bush's group asked Butler to lead 500,000 veterans in a take-over of Washington and the White House. Butler refused and recounted the affair to the congressional committee. His account was corroborated in part by a number of witnesses, and the committee concluded that the plot was real. But the names of wealthy backers of the plot were blacked out in the committee's records, and nobody was prosecuted. According to the BBC, President Roosevelt cut a deal. He refrained from prosecuting some of the wealthiest men in America for treason. They agreed to end Wall Street's opposition to the New Deal.

Clearly the lack of accountability in Washington, D.C., did not begin with Nancy Pelosi taking Dubya's impeachment off the table, or with Congress' decision to avoid impeachment for President Ronald Reagan (a decision that arguably played a large role in installing Prescott Bush's son George H.W. Bush as president), or with the failure to investigate the apparent deal that George H.W. Bush and others made with Iran to not release American hostages until Reagan was made president, or with the failure to prosecute Richard Nixon after he resigned. Lack of accountability is a proud tradition in our nation's capital. Or maybe I should say our former nation's capital. I don't recognize the place anymore, and I credit that to George W. Bush's efforts to fulfill his grandfather's dream using far subtler and more effective means than a military coup.

Bush the grandson took office through a highly fraudulent election that he nonetheless lost. The Supreme Court blocked a recount of the vote and installed Dubya.

Prescott's grandson proceeded to weaken or eliminate most of the Bill of Rights in the name of protection from a dark foreign enemy. He even tossed out habeas corpus. The grandson of Prescott, that dreamer of the 1930s, established with very little resistance that the U.S. government can kidnap, detain indefinitely on no charge, torture, and murder. The United States under Prescott Bush's grandson adopted policies that heretofore had been considered only Nazi policies, most strikingly the willingness to openly plan and engage in aggressive wars on other nations.

At the same time, Dubya has accomplished a huge transfer of wealth within the United States from the rest of us to the extremely wealthy. He's also effected a major privatization of public operations, including the military. And he's kept tight control over the media.
Dubya has given himself the power to rewrite all laws with signing statements. He's established that intentionally misleading the Congress about the need for a war is not a crime that carries any penalty. He's given himself the right (just as Hitler did) to open anyone's mail. He's created illegal spying programs and then proposed to legalize them. Prescott would be so proud!

The current President Bush has accomplished much more smoothly than his grandfather could have imagined a feat that was one of the goals of Prescott's gang, namely the elimination of Congress.

Flood situation worsens in Bihar

The flood situation in Darbhanga, Muzafarpur and Madhubani districts took an alarming turn on Sunday. The swirling water of the menacing Bagmati river entered about a dozen localities of Darbhanga town, its airport and the base of Bihar Military Police (BMP), apart from posing threat to the official residence of the DM and the busy market around Darbhanga Tower.

Overtopping of roads and breach caused at some points on the roads have cut off Darbhanga, Madhubani and Sitamarhi districts from the state headquarters.It is being said that it could necessitate orchestration of relief and rescue operations from Patna. The use of Air Force choppers and Army boats is on the government's agenda.

The Air Force command and Danapur cantonment have been kept on high alert in this regard to receive the communication regarding their deployment for the rescue and relief operations.In north Bihar, the incessant 15-day rain both in Nepal and catchment areas of the major rivers has caused flood affecting over 17 lakh people in 41 blocks of 11 districts in north Bihar.

The most affected districts have been Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur. Now Darbhanga has fallen victim to the fury of Bagmati and Adhwara group of rivers, while Madhubani to that of Kamla Balan and Bhutahi Balan rivers.The other major rivers -- Ganga, Kosi, Burhi Gandak and Gandak -- have remained relatively tamed, even as the Ganga has been causing erosion in Ramayanpur village of Manihari block in Katihar district, said water resources minister Ramashray Prasad Singh.Given the new sounding of alarm and anticipated flood in the other districts, governor RS Gavai asked the ministers and MLAs to camp in their areas to be present during relief distribution. Gavai also asked the government to supply adequate quantity of medicines to fight diarrhoea and dysentery as well as cases of snake bite.

Meanwhile, swollen Bagmati continued to cause disruptions and collateral damage. The three pillars of Ghulam Sarwar bridge, constructed across Bagmati river near Arai village in 2004 in the name of former agriculture minister Ghulam Sarwar, collapsed, snapping the road link between Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur districts.

The scene of occurrence is 20 km away from Darbhanga town. No human casualty has been reported. Around two dozens of people, who were on the bridge, later swam to safety.

The flood water from Bagmati overtopped Darbhanga-Muzaffarpur highway at quite a few points and also breached it at one point.It has snapped Muzaffarpur-Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur-Sitamarhi road links. The link between Muzaffarpur and Motihari has been also snapped due to sinking of road at one point near Motipur.

The waters of swollen Kamla Balan, Bhutahi Balan and Adhwara group of rivers had also overtopped or submerged roads and railway tracks in Madhubani district. The movement of trains on Darbhanga and Samastipur route has been suspended.

Meanwhile, the Congress legislature party (CLP) lea-der in the state assembly, Ashok Kumar, appealed to the government to take steps for the restoration of the roads linking Biraul, Kusheshwar Sthan, Rosera and Singhia-Bahedi, apart from launching rescue and relief operations.__._,_.___

Media Release by Shabnam Hashmi

It is with deep anguish and pain that I release this statement today to the media. My brother Safdar Hashmi was attacked on January 1, 1989 and he died the next day.

I started my activism in 1981 and worked for 7 years doing adult literacy work in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, later I spent a few years working with the People’s Science Movement.

Safdar always wanted to start a theatre repertory and he had asked me several times to manage the repertory whenever he was able to start it. Unfortunately he could not fulfill his dream as was life was snatched away at the peak of his creative carrier. In 1989 after Safdar’s death a trust in his memory was formed Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). I felt that I owed it to his memory and also the fact that we had the same dreams to devote time to the running of the Trust.

My involvement with SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust) within the first week turned into almost 14-18 hours and the next 15 years I spent along with a small core group building and running the organization. My son who was two and a half years at that time did not see a routine life after that and slept most of the time on old banners inside or outside the small office, he did not know what regular meals were.

I do not want to narrate here what all SAHMAT did during those 15 years, the Delhi media is well aware of the major national level campaigns, initiatives and advocacy work that we did. Media is also aware of SAHMAT’s activities after 2003.

After the Gujarat 2002 carnage I spent most of my time in Gujarat and because of many reasons found it stifling to work within SAHMAT. I resigned from the organization in January 2003.

I had heard a lot of stories from friends of being hounded once they move out of a particular movement but realized it only when I experienced it myself.

The allegations varied from corruption, to amassing a huge amount of wealth, to be surviving personally on money from the Congress Party, to have joined a foreign funded NGO, to be taking a huge salary from some other organizations, to have collected money in the name of SAHMAT in USA and not given to the organization. All these were spread by very effective rumor spreading machinery across India. Where ever I went the rumors preceded me and people were given specific instructions not to work with me or Anhad. We had to vacate the small garage office ( 4, Windsor place) under tremendous pressure.

Fortunately for me the Delhi media knew me well and had seen how we survived and lived. The constant dependence on loans from my husband’s PF or running around every second year and looking for some consultancy so that the children’s school fee could be paid. Even today as I release this statement, my son has got into one of the most prestigious film institutes (EICAR in France) and we are asking our friends and family to contribute for his fee. Out of the 15 years that I worked in SAHMAT it was for probably a year or so that SAHMAT picked up my travel and I took 3000 per month towards the travel expenses. Apart from that I have spent more than 25 years working on voluntary basis. It was during a major personal economic crises that Gauhar took leave from office and worked in TVI for over an year. He made several films (Jang e Azadi, In the Dark Times, A Beautiful Spaceship) during this one year apart from doing a weekly science programme ‘Kasauti’. Since both of us were deeply involved in SAHMAT’s work most of the first screenings were done at that platform and Gauhar’s films were kept there and sold and always the money went to the organization. Gauhar never claimed from anyone money for his films as he always made them to be used by the secular movement across India and abroad.

Last four years after we established Anhad, we have consistently worked in Gujarat and remote earthquake hit villages of Kashmir and many other states as well as intervening constantly at the national level. I do not understand what more ordinary citizens can do to contribute to the society, to improve the world around us, which we have tried to the best of our abilities. We do not claim to be perfect but we have definitely tried our best to work for the under privileged, we have tried our best to counter the communal fascist forces in the country and will continue to do so.

We avoided reacting to all the attacks and allegations for the past four years as we considered it counter productive to the cause for which we are fighting. Unfortunately despite our best efforts we have been forced to respond as this time the attack along with rumors that Gauhar Raza, my husband has taken huge amount of money for a film which is not his but SAHMAT’s , there is a legal notice also which has been sent. We have no option but to reply now.

A legal notice (reply from Gauhar Raza) is also being released along with this statement.

I want to reiterate that it is most unfortunate that we have been forced to bring this out in the public, that too against an organization that we built with our own blood and sweat and which is in the name of my dear brother, who sacrificed his life fighting for the rights of the most deprived sections of the society. I also want to underline that it is not the whole SAHMAT collective which is responsible for this but a few people within SAHMAT, who are responsible for this situation.




Shabnam Hashmi
July 27, 2007

Friday 27 July 2007

Bus crisis a result of mismanaged mobility, says CSE

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) is shocked and dismayed by the collapse of the public transport bus system in Delhi. The bus transport system has been one of Delhi's most effective strategies for combating pollution and congestion. But this has been grossly mismanaged as a mobility strategy.

"The current crisis is a symptom of a deeper malaise - a policy failure to recognise the role of buses in making cities clean and liveable", says Anumita Roychowdhury, coordinator of CSE's Right to Clean Air Campaign. The government's ongoing drive to discipline rogue Blueline buses is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction. CSE presents a range of figures to highlight the mismanagement and failure:

- While the growth in bus numbers has remained marginal over the last four years, there has been a more than 100 per cent growth in personal vehicles. In 2006, Delhi added about 1,000 new personal cars and two-wheelers to its fleet every day. In comparison, only 65 buses were added over the entire year.

- The total number of stage carriage buses, the spine of the city's public transport system, has stagnated. Bus numbers have increased slightly from 6,000 buses in 1998 to 6,500 in 2007. It is no wonder that we are seeing phenomenal rates of motorisation in the city.

- Each DTC bus transports roughly 1,000 people every day, while each private bus carries about 1,600 people per day. In comparison, a car or two-wheeler that can carry only 1 to 1.5 people each day have grown in numbers phenomenally -- "a recipe for pollution and congestion disaster," says Roychowdhury.

- Faced with the present crisis, the government now proposes to purchase 2,000 new buses. The city has not yet met the target of 10,000 standard stage carriage buses that was mandated by the Supreme Court in its order of July 98, 1998. The apex court had directed "augmentation of public transport (stage carriage) to 10,000 buses by April 1, 2001" while moving all buses to CNG.

The 10,000 buses were mandated in 1998, when the population of the city was lower -- the number would obviously be quite inadequate today. Number of passenger trips have increased manifold over the years, but pubic transport augmentation has not kept pace. At the same time, efficiency and quality of the present service has nose-dived. Conventional buses that are affordable for all income groups and flexible enough to reach all parts of the city, if upgraded with new technologies and conveniences, could have been the most effective alternative to personal vehicles in Delhi today.

The government still has no plans to suggest how Delhi will cope as daily vehicle trips are estimated to grow from 12 million to nearly 25 million by 2021. According to an estimate by RITES, even if all the public transport projects including the Metro are implemented fully, the city will still fall short of catering to nine million trips per day by 2021. In the face of this challenge, it is disastrous to allow the conventional bus system fall into decay.

A joint survey carried out in 2006 by RITES, Delhi-IIT and CSE in Ambedkar Nagar has confirmed that despite being in a dilapidated state, the present bus fleet meets as much as 60 per cent of Delhi's travel demand; cars, which occupy more than 75 per cent of the road space, transport less than 20 per cent of the people. The total number of passengers carried by all buses - DTC and private - each day in the city is approximately 8.7 million.

But instead of encouraging bus transport with fiscal measures, Delhi slaps higher taxes on buses compared to cars. The lifetime tax on a car in Delhi ranges between Rs 3,800 to Rs 7,000, but bus owners have to pay an annual tax of more than Rs 13,000 per bus each year. A 2004 World Bank study shows that the total tax burden per vehicle km is 2.6 times higher for public transport buses than cars in India. Clearly, this fiscal policy will need to be urgently reviewed and revised if transportation by buses and other mass transit systems, catering to large numbers of people, has to be encouraged.

Such a vital strategy for clean air cannot be held captive to mismanagement. Completely unplanned privatisation has, over time, attracted small time investors, who today run and operate the bulk of the city's bus service. Fifty-six per cent of the standard buses are owned and run by private bus owners -- approximately 80 per cent of who are single-bus owners. This presents a challenge for efficient and quality operations.

Yet current laws favour multiplicity of small owners as under the permit conditions, one person cannot own and operate more than five buses. This demands fundamental reforms, says Roychowdhury. The private-cooperative or private-corporation model could be developed by which the existing private players could be grouped into a cooperative or merged into larger corporations. This will also require rationalisation of routes so that each player is not competing within the route and creating chaos for commuters.

At the same time, as the single largest investor and owner of buses in the city, state owned DTC should be revitalised as it is expected to bear the responsibility of further augmenting Delhi's bus programme. The hybrid system of public and private enterprise should be strengthened. CSE presents the following five-point action plan to bring things back on track:

- Restructure the institutional and management systems of the bus service.

- Augment the bus numbers and phase in technologically advanced CNG buses with efficient emission control systems.

- As far as possible, provide dedicated bus-ways, which will increase their efficiency and speed.

- Review and rework current tax policies related to the transportation. Create an active disincentive for personal transport.

- Integrate buses effectively with other public and mass transportation systems like the metro, rail and proposed light rail systems.


By CSE

Thursday 26 July 2007

Evidence of Radioactive Material on Blue Lady

New evidence submitted by the former projectmanager of SS Norway (Blue Lady) reveals that the toxic ship-for-scraprenamed Blue Lady and currently anchored 4000 feet off Alang coast hasradioactive material on board in at least 5500 fire detection points.

Americium 241 – a radioactive substance – concentrates in the bone,liver and muscle and can expose surrounding tissues to radiation,thereby increasing the risk of cancer. Ironically, this finding wasmade months after the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of TechnicalExperts (CTE) opined "the presence of radioactive materials in apassenger ship like "Blue Lady" is quite unlikely."

The new evidence exposes the shoddy state of science in this country. A body of experts appointed by the apex Court of the countryconfidently, and without evidence, rules on a subject that hasfar-ranging implications on worker health and environment."

Supreme Court in the matter of Ship Breaking dealing with"Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India forbreaking", has specifically directed that "Before a ship arrives atport, it should have proper consent from the authority concerned orthe State Maritime Board, stating that it does not contain anyhazardous waste or radioactive substances. AERB should be consulted inthe matter in appropriate cases." There has been no compliance ofthese directions in the case of Blue Lady. No one has been punishedfor this lapse till date.

"The ship admittedly contains more than 1200 tons of asbestos,significant quantities of carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls(PCBs) and other heavy-metal-laden substances. Export of such ships tonon-OECD countries violates the Basel Convention. However, India hasrefused to challenge such imports despite the abysmal environment andsafety record at its ship-breaking yard in Alang."

The Final Report of CTE submitted to the apex court notes, "theaverage annual incidence of fatal accidents in ship breaking industryis 2.0 per 1000 workers while the All India incidence of fatalaccidents during the same period in mining industry, which isconsidered to be the most accident prone industries, is 0.34per 1000workers."

The Final Report also notes of asbestos victims in the ship-breakingindustry and cites the "Medical Examination of the Asbestos Handlers"by a team of National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) thatconcludes, " The X ray examination by NIOH showed linear shadows onchest X rays of 15 (16 %) of 94 workers occupationally exposed toasbestos. These are consistent with asbestosis…" but has failed torecommend any compensation as is required as per court's directions.

"In such a context the imminent contamination from Americium-241 canoccur to people/workers who work at or near a contaminated sidethrough ingestion of food and water, or by inhalation is alarming."

When inhaled, some Americium-241 remains in the lungs, depending uponthe particle size and the chemical form of the Americium compound. Thechemical forms that dissolve easily may pass into the bloodstream fromthe lungs. The chemical forms that dissolve less easily tend to remainin the lungs, or are coughed up through the lung's natural defensesystem, and swallowed. From the stomach, swallowed Americium maydissolve and pass into the bloodstream. That Americium-241 poses a significant risk if ingested (swallowed) orinhaled. It can stay in the body for decades and continue to exposethe surrounding tissues to both alpha and gamma radiation, increasingthe risk of developing cancer. Americium-241 also poses a cancer riskto all organs of the body from direct external exposure to its gammaradiation. Neither the Dismantling Plan submitted by the buyers of theship nor any of the Reports/Affidavits by the Technical Committee orEnvironment Ministry envisage safe removal/destruction of suchradioactive substances contained in the Blue Lady.

For details: H Mahadevan (AITUC), 9818120885, P K Ganguly (CITU),9968214082, Gopal Krishna (Platform on Shipbreaking), 9818089660

Wednesday 25 July 2007

Kerala proposes ban on organised retail

In a move that should prove popular with traders, trade unions and a sizeable section of people who oppose the opening up of the retail sector, Kerala could become the first state in India to introduce legislation banning the involvement of large businesses in retailing

The south Indian state of Kerala is set to ban all organised retailing, including those stores run by Indian companies, with the state government proposing to introduce legislation to this effect. The move is the latest development in a controversy surrounding the involvement of large businesses in food retailing in India that is expected to adversely affect the livelihoods of millions of small vendors and kirana shops.
Kerala’s leftist government says opening up the retail sector will harm consumers in the state and also affect the strong Public Distribution System (PDS) network. C Divakaran, Kerala’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister, said: “The mood of the people is against the entrance of Reliance in the retail sector.”
How exactly Kerala will implement a law banning food retailing is something that remains unclear, as food supply is on the concurrent list in India’s Constitution. This means that both central and state governments share power on the issue. “We are going to add some powers to the state government to restrict or prevent these monopoly houses in the state-level retail sector,” said Divakaran.
One of India’s largest business houses, Reliance Industries Limited, has already received clearance for six of its 70 planned retail outlets in the state. But permission for the outlets, in Kochi, will stand revoked if the law is passed, says the Kerala government. “The government has requested the Kochi Municipal Corporation to cancel the licences. And, again, our Cabinet is going to take a decision not to give licences to monopolies. We are going to discuss (the matter) and take a decision,” the minister added.
Instead around 35,000 PDS shops will be opened, to firm up the government’s presence in the retail sector.
The country’s retail business is growing at nearly 6% per annum, mostly powered by Indian players. Besides Reliance, other large businesses in the burgeoning food retail business include Hindustan Lever, the Birla Group, Spencer’s Daily and Big Bazaar.
But this growth has been met with rising discontent. Reliance Fresh outlets selling vegetables have been vandalised in Indore, Ranchi and Delhi.
Around 21 million Indians are involved in the retail trade, the second largest number after agriculture. Traders, trade unions and a sizeable section of people oppose the opening up of the retail sector.
If the move is successful, Kerala will become the first Indian state to have such a ban in place. Other states are likely to follow suit.
This puts India’s central government on the back foot as it has been welcoming retail players, both international and local. “As far as the allies are concerned, West Bengal has invited others. I tell you there is something wrong with the Kerala government,” says a perplexed Minister for Food Processing, Subodh Kant Sahay.

The two faces of Dhirubhai Ambani

HE achieved what almost everybody would consider impossible. In a life spanning 69 years, he built from scratch India's largest privately controlled corporate empire. Dhirajlal Hirachand - better known as Dhirubhai - Ambani would often say that success was his biggest enemy. He was a man who aroused extreme responses in others. Either you loved him or you hated him. There was just no way you could have been indifferent to this amazing entrepreneur who thought big, acted tough, knew how to bend rules or have rules bent for him. He was a visionary as well as a manipulator, a man who communicated with the rich and the poor with equal felicity, who was generous beyond the call of duty with those whom he liked and utterly ruthless with his rivals - a man of many parts, of irreconcilable contrasts and paradoxes galore.

Dhirubhai Ambani expired on Saturday July 6, roughly ten minutes before midnight, at Mumbai's Breach Candy Hospital where he had been admitted after he suffered a vascular stroke on the evening of June 24. This was his second stroke - the first had occurred more than sixteen years earlier, in February 1986, leaving the right side of his body paralysed. At his cremation, the well-heeled rubbed shoulders with the ordinary. No Indian businessman ever attracted the kind of crowd that Dhirubhai did on his last journey. After his cremation on the evening of Sunday July 7, his elder son Mukesh reminded those gathered on the occasion that in 1957, when Dhirubhai arrived in Mumbai from Aden in Yemen, he had only Rs 500 in his pocket.

He was not exactly a pauper since Rs 500 meant much more than what the amount means in this day and age. Nevertheless, one could not ask for a more spectacular 'rags-to-riches' tale. The second son of a poorly paid school-teacher from Chorwad village in Gujarat, he stopped studying after the tenth standard and decided to join his elder brother, Ramniklal, who was working in Aden at that time. (Not surprisingly, Dhirubhai ensured that his two sons went to premier educational institutions in the US - Mukesh was educated at Stanford University and Anil at the Wharton School of Business.)

The first job Dhirubhai held in Aden was that of an attendant in a gas station. Half a century later, he would become chairman of a company that owned the largest oil refinery in India and the fifth largest refinery in the world, that is, Reliance Petroleum Limited which owns the refinery at Jamnagar that has an annual capacity to refine up to 27 million tonnes of crude oil.

When he died, the Reliance group of companies that Dhirubhai led had a gross annual turnover in the region of Rs 75,000 crore or close to US $ 15 billion. The group's interests include the manufacture of synthetic fibres, textiles and petrochemical products, oil and gas exploration, petroleum refining, besides telecommunications and financial services. In 1976-77, the Reliance group had an annual turnover of Rs 70 crore. Fifteen years later, this figure had jumped to Rs 3,000 crore. By the turn of the century, this amount had skyrocketed to Rs 60,000 crore. In a period of 25 years, the value of the Reliance group's assets had jumped from Rs 33 crore to Rs 30,000 crore.

The textile tycoon's meteoric rise was not without its fair share of controversy. In India and in most countries of the world, there exists a close nexus between business and politics. In the days of the licence control raj Dhirubhai, more than many of his fellow industrialists, understood and appreciated the importance of 'managing the environment', a euphemism for keeping politicians and bureaucrats happy. He made no secret of the fact that he did not have an ego when it came to paying obeisance before government officials - be they of the rank of secretary to the Government of India or a lowly peon.

Long before Dhirubhai entered the scene, Indian politicians were known to curry favour with businessmen - licences and permits would be farmed out in return for handsome donations during election campaigns. The crucial difference in the business-politics nexus lay in the fact that by the time the Reliance group's fortunes were on the rise, the Indian economy had become much more competitive. Hence, it was insufficient for those in power to merely promote the interests of a particular business group; competitors had to simultaneously be put down. This was precisely what happened to the rivals of the Ambanis.

Who remembers Swan Mills? Or Kapal Mehra of Orkay? Even Nusli Wadia of Bombay Dyeing is a pale shadow of what he would certainly have liked to be. The undivided Goenka family that used to control the Indian Express chain of newspapers - which carried on a campaign against the Reliance group in 1986-87 - is currently divided into three factions. Whereas the multi-edition newspaper has not entirely lost its feisty character, it is yet to fulfil its late founder Ramnath Goenka's cherished dream of becoming a market leader in at least one of its many publishing centres.

A popular joke starts with a question: Which is the most powerful political party in India? Answer: the Reliance Party of India. Others divide the country's politicians into two groups: a very large 'R-positive' group and a very small 'R-negative' section. It is hardly a secret that Dhirubhai's support base would easily cut across political lines. Very few politicians have had the gumption to oppose the Ambanis, just as the overwhelming majority of journalists in the country preferred not to be critical of the Reliance group. The Indian media, most of the time, has chosen to lap up whatever has been doled out by the group's public relations executives. The bureaucracy too has, by and large, favoured the Ambanis, not merely on account of the fact that many babus have got accustomed to receiving expensive hampers on the occasion of diwali.

While Dhirubhai did not have too many scruples when it came to currying favour with politicians and bureaucrats, what cannot be denied is the fact that perhaps no businessman in India attracted the kind of adulation he did. He was more than just a legend in his lifetime. He successfully convinced close to four million citizens, most of them belonging to the middle class, to invest their hard-earned savings in Reliance group companies. He was fond of describing Reliance shareholders as 'family members' and the group's annual general meetings acquired the atmosphere of large melas attended by hordes.

What cannot also be refuted is the fact that the Reliance group believed in rewarding its shareholders handsomely. Much of the credit for the spread of the so-called 'equity cult' in India in recent years should rightfully go to Dhirubhai, even if the Reliance group was often accused of manipulating share prices. Two group companies that once carried the cumbersome names of Reliance Poly-Ethylene and Reliance Poly-Propylene - popularly called Ilu and Pilu - went to the extent of blandly stating in the fine print of their public issue prospectus documents that the value of the shares of the companies had been increased though thin and circular trading. On another occasion in January 1998, a functionary of Reliance Petroleum replied to a show-cause notice served on the company by agreeing to shell out a sum of Rs 25 crore to 'buy peace' with the income tax authorities.

When, after having spent eight years in Aden, Dhirubhai returned to Mumbai, his lifestyle was akin to that of any ordinary lower middle class Indian. In 1958, the year he started his first small trading venture, his family used to reside in a one room apartment at Jaihind Estate in Bhuleshwar. After trading in a range of products, primarily spices and fabrics, for eight years, Dhirubhai achieved the first of the many goals he had set for himself when he became the owner of a small spinning mill at Naroda, near Ahmedabad. He did not look back.

He decided that unlike most Indian businessmen who borrowed heavily from financial institutions to nurture their entrepreneurial ambitions, he would instead raise money from the public at large to fund his industrial ventures. In 1977, Reliance Industries went public and raised equity capital from tens of thousands of investors, many of them located in small towns. From then onwards, Dhirubhai started extensively promoting his company's textile brand name, Vimal. The story goes that on one particular day, the Reliance group chairman inaugurated the retail outlets of as many as 100 franchises.

He had by then already succeeded in cultivating politicians. Indira Gandhi returned to power in the 1980 general elections and Dhirubhai shared a platform with the then prime minister of India at a victory rally. He had also become very close to the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, not to mention the prime minister's principal aide R.K. Dhawan. He realised that it was crucial to be friendly with politicians in power, especially at a time when the group had embarked on an ambitious programme to build an industrial complex at Patalganga to manufacture synthetic fibres and intermediates for polyester production.

In 1982, Dhirubhai created waves in the stock markets when he took on a Kolkata-based cartel of bear operators that had sought to hammer down the share price of Reliance Industries. The cartel badly underestimated the Ambani ability to fight back. Not only did Dhirubhai manage to ensure the purchase of close to a million shares that the bear cartel offloaded, he demand physical delivery of shares. The bear cartel was rattled. In the process, the bourses were thrown into a state of turmoil and the Bombay Stock Exchange had to shut down for a couple of days before the crisis was resolved.

The mid-eighties were a period during which the Reliance group got locked in a bitter turf battle with Bombay Dyeing headed by Nusli Wadia. The two corporate groups were producing competing products - Reliance was manufacturing purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and Bombay Dyeing, di-methyl terephthalate (DMT). Wadia lost the battle and reportedly became the source of information for many of the articles against the Ambanis that subsequently appeared in The Indian Express. In 1985, the Mumbai police accused a general manager in a Reliance group company of conspiring to kill Wadia, a charge that was never established in a court of law. Many years later, a newspaper owned by the Ambanis would accuse Wadia of illegally holding two passports and played up the fact that he was Mohammed Ali Jinnah's grandson.

1986 was a crucial year for Dhirubhai. He suffered a stroke in February that year. A few months later, the Express began publishing a series of articles attacking the Reliance group as well as the Indira Gandhi regime for favouring the Ambanis. These articles were coauthored by Arun Shourie who, ironically, as Union Minister for Disinvestment in the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, presided over the sale of 26 per cent of the equity capital of the former public sector company, Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Limited (IPCL), to the Reliance group in May this year. By gaining managerial control over IPCL, the Reliance group would now be able to dominate the Indian market for a wide variety of petrochemical products.

Shourie's coauthor for the famous series of anti-Reliance articles was Chennai-based chartered accountant S. Gurumurthy who happens to be a leading light of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, an outfit that espouses the cause of economic nationalism and is closely affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Express articles written by Shourie and Gurumurthy meticulously detailed a host of ways in which the government of the day had gone out of its way to assist the Ambanis. One article was on the subject of how the Reliance group imported 'spare parts', 'components' and 'balancing equipment' of textile manufacturing machinery to nearly double its production capacities. The article provocatively claimed the Ambanis had 'smuggled' in a plant.

Another story detailed how companies registered in the tax haven, Isle of Man, with ridiculous names like Crocodile Investments, Iota Investments and Fiasco Investments had purchased Reliance shares at one-fifth their market prices. Curiously, most of these firms were controlled by a clutch of nonresident Indians who had the same surname, Shah. Though Pranab Mukherjee had to change a reply he gave in Parliament on the investments made by these firms, an inquiry conducted by the Reserve Bank of India could not find any evidence of wrongdoing. Yet another article detailed how the group had been the beneficiary of a 'loan mela' - a number of banks had loaned funds to more than 50 firms that had all purchased debentures issued by Reliance Industries.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh was one of the few politicians who took on the Ambanis. In May 1985, as finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi's government, he suddenly shifted imports of PTA from the OGL (Open General Licence) category. At that juncture, Reliance needed to import this product to manufacture polyester filament yarn. It was found that the group had 'persuaded' a number of banks to open letters of credit that would allow it to import almost one full year's requirement of PTA on the eve of the issuance of the government notification changing the category under which PTA could be imported. It was hardly a coincidence that soon after V. P. Singh fell out with Rajiv Gandhi, various tax agencies of the Indian government raided the premises of the Express group.

Things got difficult for the Ambanis after V.P. Singh became prime minister in December 1989. In 1990, government-owned financial institutions like the Life Insurance Corporation and the General Insurance Corporation stonewalled attempts by the Reliance group to acquire managerial control over Larsen and Toubro, one of India's largest construction and engineering companies. Sensing defeat, the Ambanis resigned from the board of the company after incurring large losses. Dhirubhai, who had become L&T chairman in April 1989, had to quit his post to make way for D. N. Ghosh, former chairman of the State Bank of India.

Once again, in an ironical twist of fate, more than eleven years later, the Reliance group suddenly sold its stake in L&T to Grasim Industries headed by Kumaramangalam Birla. This transaction too attracted adverse attention. Questions were raised about how the Reliance group had increased its stake in L&T a short while before the sale to Grasim had taken place. The watchdog of the stock markets, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) instituted an inquiry into the transactions following allegations of price manipulation and insider trading. Reliance had to later cough up a token fine imposed by SEBI.
These are hardly the only controversies involving the Reliance group. Two senior executives of the Reliance group, including one who was known to be close to Dhirubhai, have been accused of violating the Official Secrets Act after a Cabinet note was found in their office during a police raid. One of these executives reportedly had links with a mafia don. Earlier, there had been a major uproar in the stock exchanges over alleged cases of 'switching' of shares and the issue of duplicate shares. Some of these transactions pertained to Dhirubhai's personal physiotherapist.

More recently, last year, Raashid Alvi, a Member of Parliament belonging to the Bahujan Samaj Party, levelled a large number of allegations against the Reliance group. He distributed a voluminous bunch of photocopied documents to journalists that included the letter in which a Reliance group company had sought to 'buy peace' with the income tax department. The MP accused the Reliance group companies of manipulating their balance sheets and annual statements of account.

A week after Dhirubhai's death, the Department of Company Affairs (DCA) confirmed that there was basis to some of the allegations raised by Alvi and that there were certain discrepancies in the balance sheet issued by Reliance Petroleum seven years ago. A group spokesperson sought to dismiss the discrepancy as a minor printing error that had been inadvertently committed. The DCA subsequently confirmed that different Reliance group companies had transferred interest income to one another in a questionable manner.

The plethora of scandals and controversies surrounding the Reliance group left Dhirubhai's supporters completely unmoved. His supporters - and there was no dearth of them - would argue that there was no businessman in India whose track record was lily-white. Had the textile tycoon himself not acknowledged once to Time magazine that he was no Mother Teresa, they would ask. Even Hamish McDonald's unflattering portrayal of Dhirubhai in his book The Polyester Prince - published in Australia by Allen and Unwin and not available in India - acknowledges his remarkable entrepreneurial talent that made him one of the few Indians on the Forbes list of the world's wealthy and placed Reliance among the leading 500 companies in the developing world compiled by Fortune magazine.

Senior journalist T.V.R. Shenoy, in a tribute to Dhirubhai entitled 'A Superman named Ambani' posted on the rediff.com website, points out that the Reliance group accounts for three per cent of India's gross domestic product (GDP), five per cent of the country's exports, 10 per cent of the Indian government's indirect tax revenues (excise and customs duties), 15 per cent of the weight of the sensitive index of the Bombay Stock Exchange and 30 per cent of the total profits of all private companies in the country put together. Another journalist, Manas Chakravarty, concluded his not-so-adulatory article in the Business Standard with the following sentence: '...it was (Dhirubhai's) common touch combined with his uncommon vision that was the secret of his success.'

Dhirubhai's supporters like to recall instances of his 'common touch' and his ability to interact with individuals from different walks of life. In 1983, he had hosted a lunch for 12,000 of his company's workers on the occasion of the marriage of his younger daughter Dipti. The departed Reliance group patriarch would often wonder aloud that if he could achieve what he did in a lifetime, why could a thousand Dhirubhais not flourish. He was sure that there were at least one thousand individuals like him in the country who would dare to dream big. And if all these entrepreneurs could achieve their ambitions, India would become an economic superpower one day, he would remark.

Dhirubhai's managerial skills were undoubtedly exceptional and he would repose his faith in professionals, many of whom had earlier worked in much-maligned public sector organisations. Whether it was the building of the petroleum refinery at Jamnagar in three years at a capital cost that was 30 per cent lower than comparable projects, or the restarting of the Patalganga plant in one month's time after sudden floods had occurred in July 1989, the Reliance management team displayed their competence on many occasions.

The Ambanis often scored because they stuck to their knitting or focused sharply on their areas of 'core competence'. The group flopped when they entered new areas, be these the print medium or financial services. The group's foray into power generation too has so far not yielded significant results. Dhirubhai's sons, Mukesh (45) and Anil (43) are keen on effectively implementing their plans of diversifying into the 'new economy', into new areas like telecommunications, life sciences and insurance. The Reliance group intends proving telecom services in many parts of the country and is currently building an optic fibre based broadband internet network connecting 115 cities. Only time will tell whether Mukesh and Anil prove to be worthy successors to their father. But one thing seems certain: they will try their level best not to be as controversial as Dhirubhai was.

BY PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA

Gujarat: Encounters Of A Different Kind

“When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother…when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered.”
Robert F. Kennedy said that in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1). But he could well have been describing the alarming ascendancy of hate and fear in Indian politics, especially in states like Gujarat.
I’m back in Gujarat talking to community leaders and voluntary organizations about inter-communal relations, more than five years after the Godhra train carnage and the ensuing anti-Muslim pogroms seemed to rip this society apart.
I see signs of economic boom everywhere: world-class highways; upscale office buildings and hotels; trendy shopping malls competing with the best of Delhi and Bangalore; and construction cranes announcing many more of the same. The upbeat mood of the middle class is palpable -– cocky, some might even say.
Yet, as far as the Muslims are concerned, the state has not only failed to heal the wounds of 2002, but it seems to have largely succeeded in invisibilizing the community.
Thankfully, there are still a handful of activists here who refuse to throw in the towel in their David and Goliath encounters with institutionalized intolerance. This is their story.
The “normal” Gujarat
“Shanti j che!” Gujarat is absolutely peaceful and is on the march, declare its leaders as they attribute all negative news on the social front to a secularist conspiracy to defame the state. But behind the veneer of “Vibrant Gujarat” barely hides the menacing face of Hindutva, which often spills over into public space, as it did during my visit:
A Bajrang Dal man, who ought to be behind bars for participating in the 2002 violence (2), has set himself up as a “marriage breaker,” kidnapping and forcibly separating dozens of young couples who have dared to fall in love across the communal divide (3).
A BJP leader and his cohorts barge into a university campus to assault an award-winning fine arts student for “offending religious sentiments” with his sketches (4). The police arrest the student for promoting enmity, but the gate-crashers go scot free. (Note A)
Three senior police officers are arrested for staging a fake encounter in 2005 to gun down a common criminal, who’s deliberately tagged as a terrorist on his way to assassinate the Chief Minister (5). Days later, the state admits that the police may have also killed the victim’s wife and burned her body! There are persistent reports that this may have been just one of several encounters staged by the Gujarat police.
Such unconscionable acts encouraged or condoned by a democratically elected government elsewhere might have seriously threatened its right to govern. Not so in the laboratory of Hindutva. Quite the contrary, the state’s PR machinery is in full swing trying to turn those very acts into a badge of honor (6), betraying the dismal depths to which politics here has sunk.
In the mean time, the government in Delhi, preoccupied with coalition politics and the latest growth statistics, doesn’t seem terribly concerned about the continuing dehumanization, leaving it to various commissions and the judiciary to occasionally offer a glimmer of hope to the victims.
Invisibilizing a community
Widows from Delol now in a Kalol camp. Their husbands werepulled from a Tempo and hacked to death in 2002 (2007)Five years on, the state has yet to express any remorse for its acts of commission and omission; instead, it often invokes Newton (action-reaction) to justify violence and to withhold aid from uprooted families, whose very existence it denies (7). And, in stark contrast to dozens of Muslims incarcerated without trial for the Godhra train fire, hundreds of accused Hindus roam free under the benevolent shadow of the state. (Note B)
Muslim leaders say that it isn’t anymore a question of if societal odds are stacked against their community; but whether, faced with social boycotts and threats of renewed violence, the community is resigning itself to second-class citizenship:
Dr. Hanif Lakdawala of Sanchetana, which works for social justice for the urban poor, says that discrimination is so blatant that otherwise nice people find creative ways to package them: In 2002, many schools sent away Muslim children citing “safety concerns” (8). But nowadays, they tell parents that their child may not feel comfortable being among mostly Hindu children. The travesty, he says, is that they are wont to offer the same pretext to turn back the next Muslim child who comes along…and the next.
If ghettoization started years ago (Note C), the pogroms only seem to have accelerated the process: It is now virtually impossible for Muslims to purchase homes in most parts of the city, except in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods (“negative areas” in local parlance) (9). Even Sanchetna was unable to lease office space in the suburbs under Lakdawala’s name and had to fall back on a Hindu trustee’s name.
Dr. Shakil Ahmad of the Islamic Relief Committee (IRC), who lives in Juhapura, tells me that the area has minimal civic amenities and woefully inadequate schools (10). Many residents complain that they find it difficult to obtain utility connections and bank loans -– my auto-rickshaw driver was literally kicked out by a State Bank manager who told him that he doesn’t advance loans to Muslims!
If there are some here who take the trouble to couch their prejudices, there are many others who behave as if the state’s gaurav (pride) hinges directly on humiliating the minorities:
During an earlier trip, Dr. J.S. Bandukwala, a professor and social activist, had shown me a letter from a self-styled Hindutva historian taunting him to convert back to Hinduism. A young social worker had told me that a well-known NGO asked him in a job interview if he knew how to make bombs! And Muslims were expressing fears that concerted efforts were underway to push them out of their traditional livelihoods.
Bandukwala now not only receives threats from Hindutva activists, but he is also blacklisted by his own community for daring to advocate reforms. Many of the new shopping malls are reportedly reluctant to employ Muslims. And, as predicted, only Hindu-owned automobile garages have been allowed back in some of the riot-torn areas.In rural Gujarat, Muslims have been kept out of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which was designed to provide a safety net for poor families (11). And, in the town of Godhra, a prominent doctor says that he was forced to withdraw from a public tender, after provocative leaflets started appearing across town naming him as an undesirable competitor.
And so the list goes on, leaving little doubt that an insidious campaign has been underway, with the active collusion of state and civil society, to invisibilize Muslims; so much so, that a casual visitor would hardly suspect that anything was amiss.
But for an average Muslim family still smarting from the 2002 pogroms, “normalcy” seems to be merely the absence of overt violence.
Secularists who won’t go away
Backdrop at a street play by Nishant Natya Manch (2004)
“You can fit all the secularists in Gujarat in the back of two trucks,” my friends used to wryly joke last time I was here. The latest version has the Chief Minister’s office opining that one truck would do, as half of them will disappear the moment they sense danger!
But those on the “back of the truck” are in no mood to acquiesce to institutionalized bigotry: Some of them doggedly pursue court cases, believing that without a modicum of justice, there can be no reconciliation. (Note D) Some pursue youth initiatives cutting across religion and gender as a pathway to reconciliation. Others focus on primary education as the only long term hope for ridding the society of communalism. And, there is near unanimity that working with the poor on issues that they care most about -- jobs, housing, education, water, and public services -- is a more effective way to build bridges than to lecture them on communal harmony.
---
Janvikas was thrust into massive relief and rehabilitation work in the aftermath of the 2001 earthquake. It had barely returned to its grassroots developmental work, when the 2002 violence sucked it once again into the eye of the storm. Before rushing in to help, says Gagan Sethi its outgoing Managing Trustee, they had to first look in the mirror: What was their own record on inter-community relations? How many Muslims did they have in their organization?
The answers weren’t pretty -- they were shocked to hear some of their own staff say that Muslims had it coming! And it took a great deal of introspection before the organization resolved that it could not remain silent on the issue of communalism.
Janvikas hasn’t looked back ever since and has devoted a considerable part of its energy to fighting intolerance, at several levels:
On the legal front, Center for Social Justice (CSJ) provides legal aid to the victims, including to Bilkis Bano, whose gang-rape case was transferred to Mumbai by the Supreme Court. It also supports the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), many of whose post-Godhra rulings were based on CSJ’s field investigations.
Harmony sculpture by Yuvshakti, Halol (2005)
Janvikas spear-heads efforts to draw national attention to internally displaced families who still can’t return to their villages: In a direct challenge to the state’s shameful assertion that there are no such people (12), 5,000 families came together last year under the umbrella of Antarik Visthapit Hak Rakshak Samiti. Their formal report elicited a strong notice to the Gujarat government from NHRC. And a Supreme Court committee found these families living under “difficult and pathetic conditions” (13).
The idea of bringing together Hindu and Muslim youth, including some who had taken part in the violence, sounded far-fetched when Gagan first mentioned it to me. But the idea has blossomed into Yuvshakti, whose first major project was Cricket-for-Peace, which saw religiously-mixed teams from several talukas compete in a friendly but serious tournament in 2005. The youth movement now works across Panchmahals on community-specific issues. (Note E)
Dhanraj Pillay, Deep Sethi, Sunil Gavaskar, and P.T. Ushawatching mixed women’s cricket finals, Halol (2005)
The idea of secular NGOs working closely with Islamic organizations was also unimaginable in 2002. But, today, even as others go on about the need for madraasa reforms, Janvikas has already taken a baby step -– the first of its kind, I believe -– to bring the teaching of science, mathematics, and Gujarati to some of the maktabs in the Kutch, in partnership with Jami’at-ul-Ulama-i-Hind. Deepika Singh, who runs the program, is optimistic that the pilot will be eventually scaled up by the Jami’at, bringing positive change to elementary education in remote Muslim communities.
As I bid goodbye to Yuvshakti volunteers in Halol, they inform me that local authorities won’t let them use their grounds for cricket anymore and that the harmony sculpture unveiled by Sunil Gavaskar in the town square during my last visit is gathering dust in the municipal office!
Presumably, a friendly game of cricket reaching out to Muslim youth is a serious threat to this state of intolerance.
---Renowned danseuse and social activist Mallika Sarabhai has paid a heavy price for challenging the state in the Supreme Court for its handling of the 2002 pogroms. Her decision to risk her career and personal safety to help a community in distress had stood in stark contrast with the deafening silence of other prominent artists: In a tragic illustration of majoritarianism at work, one well-known Muslim musician reportedly lamented that he was unable to take a public stand on Gujarat as “it takes just one phone call from the PM to destroy a career.”
Last time I was here, Mallika was still fighting the government’s attempt to pin an absurd human trafficking case against her. The charge was eventually dropped; but, in a bit of irony, a BJP MP, reportedly close to Gandhinagar, has just been caught red-handed in a real human trafficking case.
As I catch up with Mallika at the Darpana Academy, she asks me if I had encountered any protestors on the streets burning her effigy! The CM is apparently miffed at Doordarshan for agreeing to broadcast Darpana’s path-breaking TV series, SAT-Television For Change, and he has been leaning on the Planning Commission to pull the plug. The series, billed as “high quality stuff” by Doordarshan, is an “unprecedented development communications move,” Mallika asserts, which will set the standard for social programming at the national level.
Despite the intervention of the nation’s highest court, Gujarat seems to miss no opportunity to hound activists like Mallika, who is any day a more fitting ambassador of Hindu culture and values than those who would accuse her of being “anti-Hindu.” Unfazed, she continues to use her art form to address critical social issues and to send a message of universal peace and harmony. (Note F)
It would be a shame if she were driven out of Gujarat by a vindictive government.
---
Dr. Mukul Sinha of Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) strongly believes that pursuit of justice must be grounded in grassroots work among the affected people. He cites JSM’s legal support to dozens of Muslims held under POTA, on the one hand; and their Public Interest Litigation on behalf of Sanklit Nagar, on the other, which resulted in a court order forcing the municipality to service the area.
Such grassroots work has generated unprecedented solidarity among poorer Hindus and Muslims, he asserts, even prompting joint action against slum demolitions. (Lakdawala mentions similar solidarity in Sabarmati Nagrik Manch, which is protesting the Sabarmati river front development.)
Women in Sanklit Nagar, Juhapura and their destroyed home elsewhere (2003)
When some of us met Sinha back in Sep 2002, he firmly believed in the principle of Occam’s razor: The simplest explanation for the Godhra train fire –- accidental or caused by a miscreant -- was most likely the right one. He has since become widely known for his success at the Nanavati-Shah commission hearings in discrediting the state’s constantly changing conspiracy theories (14).
“Aren’t you legitimizing a body widely seen as a cover for the ruling elite?” I ask. By staying engaged, he responds confidently, JSM has not only been able to access the state’s “evidence,” but it has also been able to garner the attention of even the notoriously communal Gujarati media, which is beginning to question the government’s credibility. “They don’t know whether to keep us in or to kick us out. With us in, they risk continuing exposure of the state; but without us, they lose the only legitimacy they have.”
---
When I first met Rajendra Joshi of Saath, the group was working predominantly in Hindu slum areas of Ahmedabad. The 2002 violence drew it deeper into Muslim areas, where it has been helping some of the victims with support from NRI groups.
Tehera, whose destroyed home was rebuilt by IRC, receiveslivelihood assistance from Saath (2007)
As Rajubhai updates me on Saath’s work, I’m particularly intrigued by their pilot project to convince the local power company that despite all the fearsome myths surrounding Juhapura, there were profits to be made here. (“It’s a dangerous place, a mini-Pakistan, where men walk around with AK-47’s,” a reporter had sought to educate me in 2002!) Thanks to Saath’s work supported by USAID, and parallel efforts by IRC and other community based organizations, the initial fee for a power connection has dropped from a high of Rs. 12,000 to about Rs. 2,500. And the company has even set up an office in the area, cutting out exploitative middlemen.
Saath also trains unemployed youth for service jobs in the mushrooming retail sector, with support from the American India Foundation (AIF). “What about reports of discrimination against Muslims?” I ask. “With the entry of many non-Gujarati companies,” Rajubhai responds, “some employers just don’t care what religion one belongs to.”
This, the first optimistic note I hear during my trip, gives me pause: Does the much-talked about shortage of labor in the service sector promise a “business solution” to communal harmony -- by taking unemployed youth off the streets of cities like Ahmedabad?
---
RFK’s rousing 1968 speech, On the Mindless Menace of Violence, (featured in the movie Bobby) is still ringing in my ears as I get ready to depart Gujarat after an all-too-brief a visit: “Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul….Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens.”
I’m immensely grateful that despite threats to their personal safety, there are a few activists here who are determined to bring justice to their fellow citizens and persevere in their struggle to cleanse the society of the politics of hate and violence.
What happens in Gujarat, many believe, presages the future of a secular India. But, fortunately -– as recent elections have shown –- a vast majority of poorer Indians, regardless of their religion and caste, sense a shared destiny and are demanding that politicians respond to their basic human development needs first: Recent images of Muslim groups leading protests against the proposed Special Economic Zone in Nandigram should be an eye-opener.
It’s only a matter of time before a majority of Gujaratis too conclude that a government that is single-mindedly pursuing the politics of exclusion and conquest can’t possibly serve the long-term interests of their state. When they finally manage to put the Hindutva genie back in the bottle, it will have been in no small measure due to the sacrifices of those few activists on the back of that truck.
Acknowledgements:
In addition to those mentioned earlier, I am grateful for the insights of Martin Macwan, who speaks passionately of the shared destiny of poorer Muslims and Dalits, and who now devotes full time to the education of Dalit children and youth; Mukhtar Mohammed, a businessman turned community activist at Kalol, whose relentless efforts to seek justice for the riot victims secured some of the earliest convictions in a local court; Shri P.G.J. Nampoothiri, former Director General of police, Gujarat, and until recently NHRC’s Special Rapporteur, who played a critical role in NHRC’s Gujarat interventions; Rohit Prajapati (an ex-RSS man) and his colleagues at PUCL, who remain the last line of defense against communal forces in Vadodara; Father Cedric Prakash, who co-facilitated the Concerned Citizens Tribunal, which came closest to a “Truth Commission” on the 2002 violence; and K. Stalin of Drishti Media, who brought the plight of India’s Dalits to international attention through his award-winning film, “Lesser Humans.”Notes:
A. The Dean of the Fine Arts Department at M.S. University, Vadodara, Dr. Shivaji Panikkar, who was a victim of the campus violence, was recently attacked in Ahmedabad by a hostile Hindutva mob.
B. Former IAS officer Harsh Mander successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to reopen more than 2,000 riot cases that the Gujarat police had summarily closed. His Nyayagarh initiative is pursuing 512 of those cases, resulting in the arrest of over 200 people to date.
C. e.g. Nafisa Barot of Uthaan, which works on women’s and water issues, says that her family was forced to shift homes half a dozen times in the 70’s to escape harassment by neighbors.
D. Per Tehelka, 13 riot cases have lead to convictions so far. Small as this is in relation to the extent of the crimes, even this would have been impossible without the tenacity of a few activists from Gujarat and elsewhere, as already noted. In addition, efforts by Teesta Setalvad in successfully pursuing the Best Bakery case, despite numerous personal threats and witness tampering, are well known.
E. Delhi-based Anhad, convened by activist Shabnam Hashmi, recently organized a youth convention, which brought together 350 delegates from across the state. Anhad was the first to defy the unofficial ban on the film Parzania, which it screened unopposed while I was in Gujarat.
F. Mallika’s latest theater project on India’s “Unheard Voices,” Unsuni, based on Harsh Mander’s book, is reportedly facing the heat of Gujarat’s censors.


By Raju Rajagopal

What's wrong with Delhi Traffic System?

That is why key questions are not even asked when 'answers' are presented so glibly. Why, for instance, does the traffic police have a "mandate" to collect 'hafta'? Why have the Bluelines suddenly become 'killers' (reminiscent, for those with slightly longer memories, of the late and not-so-lamented Redlines)? How would the details of ownership, registration, and speed governors reduce the accident rate - considering that the owner does not drive the bus, the registration merely specifies the sale of a vehicle, and speed governors control speed not accidents? Would penalities and sentences prevent accidents by buses, when they havent done so for private vehicles? Has the event of "public" reporting violations directly reduced "extortion" by police and by goons? All private vehicle owners are licensed and trained drivers - has that reduced road rage? And where are the statistics that prove that because it is so hard to get a commercial license in the US the rate of accidents is lower (in fact it is higher)?

For those who would like to be better 'informed', it may be worthwhile to examine the system of having Bluelines at all.
The current road transport policy was introduced in 1972 when the Delhi Transport Undertaking was restructured into a Corporation and has been in effect since then. Under this policy, there are basically three kinds of bus services in Delhi:
1) Inter-city
2) Intra-city
3) All-India private tourist services
Of these, DTC operates the first two services only.

The Inter-city bus fleet is constituted by those buses owned and operated by the DTC, as private operators are not given permits to ply their buses on inter-city routes until both the state governments have agreed to it.

The Intra-city bus service is further divided into the stage carriage system and the contract carriage system.
Stage carriage system
Stage carriages are a fleet of buses, which hold a permit to stop at the stages (bus stops), on the routes they ply on. Contracts for operating these buses could be allotted to people under any of the following schemes:
1) Graduate scheme: unemployed graduates could operate bus services by obtaining a permit.
2) SC/ST scheme: permits are granted to people in the SC/ST category.
3) Ex-service men scheme: retired services employees are granted the permits under this category.
4) Suvidha scheme: under this scheme the DTC buses are being hired out for tourists, weddings, and other group travel.

Contract carriage system
Contract carriages are the fleet of buses which ply from point to point and are not allowed to stop at stages (bus stops). Owned and maintained by the private operators, they ply their buses under contract to specific organisations. They operate as chartered buses, school buses etc. Presently, also plying on Delhi roads, are mini buses, better known as RTV (Rural Transport Vehicle)or hari bhari, which are CNG buses with a seating capacity of 15-25 people. RTVs or hari bhari are owned by private operators but come under the contract carriage system.

What the above reveals is that, as early as 1971, the seeds had been sown for the gradual privatisation of services within the public transport system. In other words, through contractual and permit systems, most of the profitable intra-city routes were turned over to private operators while DTC ran all the inter-city routes and most of the non-profitable intra-city ones.

The Bluelines form part of the Stage Carriage system, and it may be worthwhile now asking why they are being represented as 'killers' as compared to the DTC or the Contract Carriage operators? The answer lies in the nature of the system itself. Since the Stage Carriage buses are required to stop at bus stops to pick up passengers, since they are running on the profitable routes and there is implicit "competition" (the favorite word of private promoters) amongst them for those passengers, and since those (and it should be remembered that they are all "private entrepreneurs") who get the contract from the government operate on certain fixed margins, they attempt to increase the rate of return (another favorite phrase with private promoters) by sub-contracting out the operation to the drivers and conductors, demanding a certain amount per trip while cutting down on all labour costs (as all good private profit-makers do). This means that most of the drivers are not regular or permanent employees, but are, in a sense, private entrepreneurs themselves because they are also trying to maximise their own rate of return after accounting for what they have to give to the owner. It is this thrust of maximisation ofprofits at all levels that, in fact, contributes to "shining" GDP growth.

It is this system of contractual and competitive obligations that makes the drivers cut corners, overtake each other, drive carelessly, disregard traffic rules, and consider the passengers as just so much (paying) sheep to be carried. No amount of speed regulation or inspection or training is going to work unless and until the contractual system is changed. After all, the drivers come from the same ethnic stock as drive the DTC buses - there is nothing genetically wrong with them. And if this present bunch of greatly 'informed' opinion makers think that further contracting out to larger private players (the so-called corporatisation of public transport) is going to improve matters, then I think there is something greatly wrong with their 'opinion'.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

Over one million people affected in Bihar floods

Over one million people are reeling under floods in Bihar as all major rivers are in spate with surface communication between Bhagalpur and Kahalgaon, where the national thermal powerplant is situated, been snapped.

State Water Resources Department said most of the rivers, includingPunpun, Bagmati, Kosi and Adhwara Group, were maintaining risingtrends and some of these rivers had crossed the danger mark in someplaces.Water Resources Minister Ramashray Prasad Singh held a high-levelmeeting with senior officials of the department and ask them to takeprecautionary measures to ensure all vital embankments are protected.

According to an initial estimate, around one million people spreadover the districts of Bhagalpur, Sitamarhi, Madhubani, Saharsa andSupaul continued to reel under the impact of flood.A Bhagalpur report quoting official sources said train services on Bhagalpur-Kahalgaon loop section were suspended following fissure in arail bridge near Lailakmakhwa village.

Road communication was also disrupted as the water of swollen Jaruaovertopped the road at Puraina between Bhagalpur and Jagdishpur.

Sources said the state government had sought Rs 15,000 crore from theCentre.

Thursday 19 July 2007

BBC Editorial Crisis Highlights Case for Global Ethical Journalism

The International Federation of Journalists today called on media organisations across the industry to join a global campaign to reinforce ethical journalism following the news that the BBC, one of the world’s most trusted broadcasters, has committed serious breaches of its own editorial standards.

“There is a massive problem of falling standards across the media industry that needs to be addressed urgently,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “When an industry leader like the BBC stumbles, there can be little doubt that the crisis of quality is deep and wide spread.”

The BBC is facing a major internal review following a scandal over fake phone-ins and editorial breaches. The BBC has suspended all its TV and radio phone-related competitions after viewers were deliberately fooled over prizes and winners in a number of high-profile programmes. BBC Director General Mark Thompson plans to enforce mandatory training for the BBC’s 16,500 staff.

But the IFJ and its UK affiliate the National Union of Journalists say that training alone will not solve the quality crisis.

“Commercial pressure and insecure working conditions add to the pressure on people who have to make editorial judgements,” said Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary. “It’s time to end casualisation, short-term contracts and other employment pressures that compromise quality.”

The IFJ at its recent Congress in Moscow launched a global Ethical Journalism Initiative to confront falling public confidence in media standards. “Quality content and public trust is the key to survival in and age when technology and the Internet have turned the world of information upside down,” said White. “As the BBC case shows, ethical journalism and editorial standards can be reinforced in every newsroom and media.”

ARREST OF ACTIVIST SAROJ MOHANTY

AN URGENT APPEAL
17 July 2007

Saroj Mohanty, poet and long-time activist with Prakrutik SampadSurakhya Parishad (PSSP), which has over 15 years been opposing theentry of large bauxite mining companies in Kashipur, has beenarrested. Saroj was picked up at a railway station in RayagadaDistrict, on Saturday, 14 July. He is currently in judicial custody inRayagada district jail.The charges against him are completely fabricated but serious. Thesecharges include section 395 of the IPC (Dacoity), section 397 (Robberyor dacoity, with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt), and section450 (House trespass with intention to commit offence that ispunishable with imprisonment for life).

These absurd charges against Saroj, stem from attempts in late 2004 bythe mining company UAIL and the Orissa government, hell-bent onpushing theproject for bauxite mining through, to undermine theresistance to the project by slapping false cases on the leadershipand mass base of PSSP. The intense protests by the people was met bysevere repression, harassment and arrests, which continues to thisday. As part of the continuing repression carried out at the time, anumber of PSSP activists and ordinary people were falsely charged.

Among them was Saroj Mohanty.Prior to his intense involvement as senior activist with the strugglesof the adivasi people of Kashipur region, Saroj Mohanty was activewith the anti-liquor movement in Sambalpur district as soon as hecompleted his MA in Political Science from Sambalpur University . He has been a student leader throughout his college and university years.

He is a well-known progressive Oriya poet and intellectual and iscurrently the Editor of the respected journal Anvesha. Anvesha hasbeen a forum for rich debate on questions pertaining to development, industrialization and other important socio-economic issues of ourtime.

The arrest of Saroj Mohanty at this time constitutes a setback to themovement in Kashipur and to movements that are erupting all over thecountry against the plunder of people's resources, lands andlivelihoods by large industry. It is an increasingly alarming trendthat activists and movements struggling for preservation of people'slives and livelihoods are being ruthlessly targeted physically and bythe use of law.

This is an urgent appeal to you/ your organization to join the manyvoices demanding his release and that these fabricated cases againstSaroj and other activists of PSSP Kashipur be withdrawn.A protest programme demanding his release is being organized on 21July in Bhubaneshwar in front of RAJ Bhavan, the Governor's Residencefrom 10 am onwards.

We request you to lend your solidarity and raiseyour voice byparticipating in the programme; organize protest programmes in yourown city on that date; write to the Chief Minister and Governor,Orissa demanding that Saroj be released. The suggested draft of themail is at the end of this letter. You can change it in your own waytoo. Do send a copy to kashipursolidarityi ndelhi@yahoo. com.

In solidarity, Ranjana Padhi, Nagraj Adve, Madhumita Dutta, D Manjit and Arun BidaniFor Kashipur Solidarity Group

Shri Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister of Orissa
Tel. No.(O) 0674 2531100,
Fax no. 0674 2535100,
Email: cmo@ori.nic. in

Shri Rameshwar Thakur
GovernorPhone 0674-2536111
Fax 0674-2536582

Wednesday 18 July 2007

An Open Letter to Harsh

Aadarneey Harsh Sir,
Namaskar,

Jitendra ki maut ki khabar sunkar mujhe gahra sadma pahucha hai kyonki mai uske saath vigat 5-6 maheeno se vyaktigat roop se juda hua tha, par mujhe jis ek aur baat se kafi aaghat pahucha hai wah yah ki aapne uske nam se jo ek apeal-numa patra apne kuchh mitron ko bheja hai (jo mere kisi mitra ne mujhe forward kiya hai) usme Jitendra ke bare me aadha hi satya likha hai jabki aap vigat 4-5 maheeno se jante the ki Jitendra ko T.B. hai. Char maheene pahle maine Varun aur Rajesh bhai ke saath milkar LNJP Hospital me uska ilaj shuru karvaya tha aur uske baad Jitendra March ke maheene me Sarai Basti Hostel me shift ho gaya tha .

Shuruaat ke kuchh dino tak hamare atirikt prayas se uska ilaj bhi chala par choonki aapki aur sangathan ki usme bilkul bhi dilchaspi nahi thi isliye baad me uske liye ek hi vikalp bach gaya tha ki wah Sarai Basti me pada pada apni maut ke din ginta rahe. Tabse lekar ek-do saptah pahle tak , jab use antim bar Kingsway Camp T.B. Centre me Sarai Basti ke kuchh bachhe akela chhod gaye ,Jitendra ke saath kabhi sammanjanak bartav nahi kiya gaya .

Isliye aapka yah likhna ardhsatya hai ki aspatal me bharti karaane ke thik ek din pahle wah New Delhi Railway Station par Track ke beech me pada mila tha. Mai ya mere jaise mitra jo achchhi tarah se un haalaat se parichit the jinse Jitendra lagataar sangharsh kar raha tha, we kabhi bhi yah kabool nahi karenge ki Jitendra ki maut ko mahaj ek dravit karne wali ghatna mankar thode nakli aansoo baha liye jaen aur sachmuch ki us badi gairzimmedari se bach nikla jae jo Jitendra ki asamay maut se saabit hui hai . Jitendra ki maut se kai aise sawal upaj rahe hain jinke jawab dene ki zimmedari se ham bach nahi sakte –

(1) March ke maheene me jab Jitendra ko Sarai Basti Hostel me shift karaya gaya to kya uske ilaj ke liye paryapt intajam kiye gaye the ?

(2) T.B. ke ek aise mareez ke liye jisne pahle hi jeene ki aas chhod di thi , us hostel me kya suvidhaen muhaiyya karai gayi thin ? Ham sabhi is baat ko jante hain ki Hostel me khana, paani, ilaj aur safai ko lekar kitni laparvahi barti jati rahi hai aur mareez ki baat chhod den vahan to samanya bachchon ke liye bhi hamesha infection ka khatra bana raha hai .
(3) Jitendra lagbhag teen maheeno tak Sarai Basti Hostel me raha aur is beech uske ilaj ko lekar jis bhayanak aapraadhik kism ki laparvahi barti jati rahi , is baat ko tamam purane saathi kabool karenge. Uske nam par jo doodh, phal aadi aate the use doosre log khate the aur uski dawaiyon ke paison se filmo ki CD mangai jati thi.

(4) Kya yah sach nahi hai ki apne ilaj me barti ja rahi laparwahi se Jitendra atyant dukhi tha aur usne hamme se zyadatar logo ko yah baat batai thi ki uska is sangathan aur Hostel Prashasan se poori tarah bharosa uth chukka hai – ki sabhi uske marne ki pratiksha kar rahe hain – ki wah khud ko bahut hi asurakshit aur akela mahsoos kar raha hai ?


(5) Jab zyada tabeeyat bigadne par use pahle LNJP aur baad me Kingsway Camp TB Centre bhej diya gaya to kya yah sach nahi hai ki uske saath jo Dilip nam ka bachcha hota tha caretaker ke taur par , use paani aur emergency ki dawaiyan khareedne tak ke paise nahi diye jate the aur wo bechara do-do dino tak mareez ke saath bhookha-pyasa hospital me baitha rahta tha.

(6) Agar aise haalaat me Jitendra Kingsway Camp se bhag kar fir New Delhi Railway Station aa gaya tha to uske pas iske alawa aur kaun sa vikalp tha ? Aur kya Jitendra hi akela aisa bachcha tha Sarai Basti hostel ka jiske saath aisa amanveey vyavhaar kiya gaya ? kya Aarif , jo Blood Cancer se peedit tha uske saath bhi yahi vyavhaar nahi hua aur baad me apni zimmedari se bachne ke liye use C.W.C., jise aap khud bachchon ke khilaf barbar karravai karne wali ek sanstha ke roop me batate rahe hain, ke hawale kar diya gaya?


Ye saare hi sawal atyant apriy lagne wale hain par kya ek aise vyakti ko jo bachcho- khaskar sadak ke bachcho ke liye behtar duniyan banane ke naare ke saath abhiyan chala raha ho , in sawalon se bach kar nikalne ka rasta diya jana chahiye ?

Aap likhte hain ki Jitendra jaise bachchon ki madad ke liye ek (street based) community health initiative turant shuru karne ke liye aapne ek plan taiyar kiya hai ……Tajjub hai… Jitendra ki maut sadak par nirashrit pade hue kisi bachche ki maut ki ghatna bhar nahi hai balki yah aise bachchon ke nam par desh-videsh se dhan lekar shuru kiye gaye hostel aur care and protection ke daave ke auchitya par bhi ek sawaliya nishan hai .Vastavikta to yah hai ki ab is naare ke peechhe ki asliyat khulkar saamne aa gayi hai aur zyada dino tak sadak ke bachchon ki ummeedon ke saath chhal karne ki ijazat kisi ko nahi di ja sakti. In zaroori sawalon ke jawab ab liye jane chahiye tabhi Jitendra jaise bachcho ko nyay mil paega .

Aapse ek baar fir mera yah nivedan hai ki aap please sadak ke bachchon ko unke haal par chhod den taaki we kam se kam jeewit to rah saken . Jabran in bachchon (?) ki madad karne ki aapki koshishon ne unka jeena doobhar kar diya hai .

Aasha hai aap anyatha nahi lenge .

Saadar,
Abhishek Sharma
(Aman Sathi)

Mob- 9312364054.
Email- <asdilse@gmail.com

Dear Dost Varun aur mere ajeez dosto,

Namaskar,

Do dinon pahle Jitendra ki dukhad maut ki soochna mili. Vyaktigat roop se maine kya khoya hai yah bata pana mere liye muskil hai. Un abhage aur sharmshar kar dene wale do-teen logon me mai bhi shamil tha jinhone pahle pahal LNJP Hospital me Jitendra ko dakhil karate hue use yah bharosa dilane ka apradh kiya tha ki ham TB se uske anthak sangharsh me hamesha uske saath khade honge. Haalaanki tab mujhe bilkul bhi guman nahi tha ki apne khoon-paseene se seenchkar jis abhiyan ki ham buniyad rakh rahe hain uska kewal gumbad hi prakashman ho raha hai aur roshnee ko neeche tak laane ke liye betab haathon ko jad se alag kar dene ki waseeyat hai.

Dhoomil ne " Akaal" shirshak kawita me ek jagah likha hai.......".Bachche hame Basant bunne me madad dete hain"......sachmuch bachche ek bahut bade bazar ka hissa hain. Sabhi unki sambhavnaon ki taskari karne me lage hain . Ek badi jamat hai jo seedhe bachchon ka vyapar kar rahi hai to doosri taraf ek usse bhi badi aur zyada khatarnak jamat hai jo unka sanrakshan karne ke nam par unka vyapar kar rahi hai .Bhayanak baat yah hai ki ye jamat zyada sangathit, aarthik roop se zyada samriddh hai aur sabhyata ke mahan aadarshon evam naitikta ke sabse aakramak aur chakachaundh paida karne wale naaron-daavon aur udghosh ke sath bachchon ke upar jaise toot padi hai..............BACHCHE UNHEN BASANT BUNNE ME MADAD DETE HAIN.

Pyare dosto, mujhe maf karna, ki mai pahle se hi bhayanak haalaaton me phanse (ya Pablo Neruda ke shabdon me - "patthar aur patthar ke beech") bachchon ki zindagiyon ko aur kathin......aur asahneey bana dene wali us sazish me shamil tha jo DIL SE ke nam par chal raha tha aur jari hai. Yah sach hai ki maine vastavikta ko anubhav karte hi khud ko abhiyan se alag kar liya tha par kya isse hi mai un tamam apradhon se mukt ho jaunga jinki kali chhaya hamesha apne wazood ke ird-gird mai mahsoos karta hun ? Meri tarah hi kya mere aur doston ka antarman unhen is baat ke liye nahin kachotata hoga ki kyon hamne un bachchon ke dilon me aisee ummeeden jagain jinhen poora kar sakne ki kuvvat hamme kabhi thi hi nahi . kya hame apne dil par haath rakh kar ek bar yah nahi kabool karna chahiye ki ..............pyare bachcho ham jinhen tumne tootkar pyar kiya-ham asal me jhoothe, makkar aur avval darze ke chalak log the......aur ye hamin hain....jinhone Jitendra ko Sadak se uthakar Hospital-Hospital se uthakar Sarai Basti- Sarai Basti se uthakar Kingsway Camp laate le jate rahe.........thik waise hi jaise koi pocketmar pocket se perse nikalne ke baad tabtak us perse ko dhota rahta hai jabtak us perse ko wah poori tarah khali nahi kar leta.........aur is beech Jitendra ke haalaat badle nahi kyonki yah hamara sarokar bhi nahi tha ............kyonki hamara zyada dhyan un deshi-videshi dhankuberon ki taraf tha jinki kripadrishti se ham raton-rat maalaamaal hote rahte hain.........aakhir isi din ke liye to ham har roz har pal apni aatmaon ko maarte rahte hain....... Jitendra Track ke beech leta maut ki baat joh raha tha , wah kyon Sarai basti me marna tak nahi chahta tha.....koi poochhe bhasha ke bazigaron se, jo duniya ke lupt ho rahe shabdkosh ke sabse komal aur lagbhag pighla denewale shabdon ko bhi apne kutsit iradon ke liye istemal kar le rahe hain........jo bhayanaktam apraadh kar chukne ke bad bhi nidar aur nirbheek hokar kahne ka madda rakhte hain ki we to bilkul pak-saf hain..... ki unke alawa is duniyan me aur koi bhala kaise nirdosh ho sakta hai.....we itne nirdosh hote hain.......ki hamesha anjan hi rah jate hain......ya khuda. Varun mere bhai, apne ko kamzor na hone den . Jitendra ki maut ka koi rahasya nahi hai..........jo haalaat the sabke saamne the- jo haalaat hain we bhi sabke saamne hain.....han kuchh log is maut ko ek rahasya ki tarah pesh karenge........aise logon ki pahchan karne aur unki nazron me nazren daalkar unke chhipe hue daant aur naakhoon baahar nikalne ka yahi waqt hai taaki fir koi Jitendra har badhe hue haath ko maut ka haath na samjh le. Jitendra koi pahla nahi tha.........kitne hi the aur hain bhi jinhe bachana hoga maut ke saudagaron se.....hame apne dam par hi aage badhna chahiye. Is mushkil ghadi me mai har qadam par aapke aur un sabke bhi jo sachmuch bachchon ke paksh me khade hain ,saath hun. Aapka

apna,
Rajesh Chandra
Mob-9871223317.

Sunday 15 July 2007

माइक थेवर को जानना ज़रूरी है ।

माइक थेवर। हज़ार शोहरतमंद नामों में एक गुमनाम। मगर काम बेहद ज़रूरी। माइक थेवर वो काम कर रहे हैं जिसकी हिम्मत बड़े बड़े उद्योगतियों को नहीं हो सकी। माइक की एक कंपनी है। अमरीका के फिलाडेलफिया शहर में। १६० करोड़ टर्नओवर वाली कंपनी। माइक ने १५ साल की कड़ी मेहनत से तैयार की है। इसकी एक नीति है जो नई बहस और साहस के लिए प्रेरित करती है।माइक अपनी कंपनी के लिए सौ फीसदी अफरमेटिव एक्शन के तहत लोगों को नौकरी देते हैं। अफरमेटिव एक्शन यानी जब कंपनी सामाजिक आर्थिक रूप से पिछड़े तबके को आगे लाने के लिए नौकरियां देती हैं। अमरीका में सारी बड़ी कंपनियां करती हैं। पत्रकारिता के बड़े अखबार वाशिंगटन पोस्ट में भी अफरमेटिव एक्शन लागू है। यानी तथाकथित मेरिट नहीं होने पर भी नौकरी।माइक अनुसूचित जाति जनजाति और ओबीसी के लड़कों को नौकरी देते हैं। हाल ही में उन्होंने २५ लड़कों का चयन किया है। इनमें से कोई भी नौकरी पाने की पात्रता नहीं रखता है। अमरीका न हिंदुस्तान में। लेकिन माइक इन्हें मुंबई में अमरीकन अंग्रेजी की ट्रेनिंग देंगे फिर ले जाएंगे। इससे पहले भी वो १५ लड़कों को नौकरी दे चुके हैं। ये लड़के मुंबई के धारावी के रहने वाले हैं। ज़्याजातर के मां बाप बड़ा पाव बेचने और आटो चलाने वाले हैं। वो अब अपने घर हर महीने पच्चीस हजार भेजते हैं। मां बाप की भी जिंदगी बदल रही है।
\u003cbr\>ये लड़के भी नौकरी पाने की पात्रता नहीं रखते थे। इनके चयन की एक ही पात्रता देखी गई...सामाजिक और आर्थिक रुप से सताए हुए तबके की पात्रता। माइक ने इन्हें व्हाईट कालर वाला बना दिया। जिसके लिए कई लोग लाखों खर्चते हैं। डिग्री लेते हैं। फिर कहते हैं हमारे पास मेरिट है। माइक सोचते हैं कि यह सब कुछ नहीं होता। काम का प्रशिक्षण देकर काम कराया जा सकता है। और वो शायद दुनिया की अकेली कंपनी के मालिक हैं जिनकी कंपनी में यह नीति सत्ताईस या बाइस प्रतिशत नहीं बल्कि सौ प्रतिशत लागू है। यानी सारी नौकरी अनुसूचित जाति जनजाति और पिछड़े तबके के कमजोर छात्रों को।\u003cbr\>\u003cbr\>\u003cbr\>अब माइक कौन हैं। वो केरल के गरीब ओबीसी परिवार के हैं। कई साल पहले इनका परिवार मुंबई के धारावी आ कर रहने लगा। स्लम में। माइक ने खुद बड़ा पाव बेचा है। मुंबई के निर्मला निकेतन से बैचलर इन सोशल साइंस की डिग्री ली। टाटा इंस्टि्यूट आफ सोशल साइंस से मास्टर डिग्री ली। एक दलित लड़की से शादी की। तमाम विरोध के बाद भी। और स्कालरशिप पर अमरीका चले गए। वहां उन्होंने स्वास्थ्य क्षेत्र में काम करने वाली एक कंपनी टेम्प्ट सल्यूशन कायम की। एक काययाब कंपनी। कामयाबी के बाद माइक को एक बड़ी ज़िम्मेदारी का अहसास हुआ। पिछड़े और सताए हुए तबके को लोगों को मौका देना का। जिस समाज से उन्हें मिला वो उसे वापस करना चाहते थे।\u003cbr\>\u003cbr\>फिर उनकी कंपनी की यह लाजवाब नीति सामने हैं। वहां किसी को मेरिट के आधार पर नौकरी नहीं मिलती है। माइक चुनते हैं। चुनते समय ध्यान रखते हैं कि जिसे मौका मिल रहा है उसमें भी सामाजिक प्रतिबद्धता है या नहीं। यानी वो आगे जाकर बाकी को आगे लाने में मदद करेगा या नहीं। माइक जल्दी ही अपनी कंपनी के लिए बिहार, उत्तर प्रदेश और पूर्वोत्तर राज्यों के ऐसे लड़कों को मौका देने की योजना लागू करने वाले हैं।\u003cbr\>\u003cbr\>यह कहानी इसलिए सुनाई कि एक दो रोज पहले भारत के बड़े उद्योगपति प्रधानमंत्री से मिलने गए। वो दो साल से अफरमेटिव एक्शन के नाम पर आना कानी कर रहे हैं। कहते हैं सरकार की बेकार आईटीआई संस्थानों को दीजिए और हम वहां ट्रेनिंग देकर देखेंगे कि ये काम करने लायक है या नहीं। क्यों भई अपने बाप की जमीन पर उद्दोग खड़े किए हैं क्या? तमाम रियायतें, आयात निर्यात नीति में बदलाव, फ्री की ज़मीन और आप दुनिया से कंपीट कर सके उसके लिए सरकार का समर्थन। कोई उद्योग कह दे कि उनकी कामयाबी में इन हिस्सों का योगदान नहीं है । मैं यह बात इसलिए कह रहा हूं कि जिन गरीब बच्चों को माइक अमरीका ले जा रहे हैं अपनी कंपनी में नौकरी देने के लिए, वो गरीब बच्चे वहां के फुटपाथ या तीसरे दर्जे के होटल में नहीं ठहराये जाते हैं। वो सभी माइक के घर में रहते हैं। इसीलिए कहता हूं माइक थेवर को जानना ज़रूरी है ।",1]
);
//-->
ये लड़के भी नौकरी पाने की पात्रता नहीं रखते थे। इनके चयन की एक ही पात्रता देखी गई...सामाजिक और आर्थिक रुप से सताए हुए तबके की पात्रता। माइक ने इन्हें व्हाईट कालर वाला बना दिया। जिसके लिए कई लोग लाखों खर्चते हैं। डिग्री लेते हैं। फिर कहते हैं हमारे पास मेरिट है। माइक सोचते हैं कि यह सब कुछ नहीं होता। काम का प्रशिक्षण देकर काम कराया जा सकता है। और वो शायद दुनिया की अकेली कंपनी के मालिक हैं जिनकी कंपनी में यह नीति सत्ताईस या बाइस प्रतिशत नहीं बल्कि सौ प्रतिशत लागू है। यानी सारी नौकरी अनुसूचित जाति जनजाति और पिछड़े तबके के कमजोर छात्रों को।अब माइक कौन हैं। वो केरल के गरीब ओबीसी परिवार के हैं। कई साल पहले इनका परिवार मुंबई के धारावी आ कर रहने लगा। स्लम में। माइक ने खुद बड़ा पाव बेचा है। मुंबई के निर्मला निकेतन से बैचलर इन सोशल साइंस की डिग्री ली। टाटा इंस्टि्यूट आफ सोशल साइंस से मास्टर डिग्री ली। एक दलित लड़की से शादी की। तमाम विरोध के बाद भी। और स्कालरशिप पर अमरीका चले गए। वहां उन्होंने स्वास्थ्य क्षेत्र में काम करने वाली एक कंपनी टेम्प्ट सल्यूशन कायम की। एक काययाब कंपनी। कामयाबी के बाद माइक को एक बड़ी ज़िम्मेदारी का अहसास हुआ। पिछड़े और सताए हुए तबके को लोगों को मौका देना का। जिस समाज से उन्हें मिला वो उसे वापस करना चाहते थे।फिर उनकी कंपनी की यह लाजवाब नीति सामने हैं। वहां किसी को मेरिट के आधार पर नौकरी नहीं मिलती है। माइक चुनते हैं। चुनते समय ध्यान रखते हैं कि जिसे मौका मिल रहा है उसमें भी सामाजिक प्रतिबद्धता है या नहीं। यानी वो आगे जाकर बाकी को आगे लाने में मदद करेगा या नहीं। माइक जल्दी ही अपनी कंपनी के लिए बिहार, उत्तर प्रदेश और पूर्वोत्तर राज्यों के ऐसे लड़कों को मौका देने की योजना लागू करने वाले हैं।यह कहानी इसलिए सुनाई कि एक दो रोज पहले भारत के बड़े उद्योगपति प्रधानमंत्री से मिलने गए। वो दो साल से अफरमेटिव एक्शन के नाम पर आना कानी कर रहे हैं। कहते हैं सरकार की बेकार आईटीआई संस्थानों को दीजिए और हम वहां ट्रेनिंग देकर देखेंगे कि ये काम करने लायक है या नहीं। क्यों भई अपने बाप की जमीन पर उद्दोग खड़े किए हैं क्या? तमाम रियायतें, आयात निर्यात नीति में बदलाव, फ्री की ज़मीन और आप दुनिया से कंपीट कर सके उसके लिए सरकार का समर्थन। कोई उद्योग कह दे कि उनकी कामयाबी में इन हिस्सों का योगदान नहीं है । मैं यह बात इसलिए कह रहा हूं कि जिन गरीब बच्चों को माइक अमरीका ले जा रहे हैं अपनी कंपनी में नौकरी देने के लिए, वो गरीब बच्चे वहां के फुटपाथ या तीसरे दर्जे के होटल में नहीं ठहराये जाते हैं। वो सभी माइक के घर में रहते हैं। इसीलिए कहता हूं माइक थेवर को जानना ज़रूरी है ।

By Ravish Kumar...
(Ravish is one of the brilliant and social relevant tv journalist of India associated with NDTV. He can be contacted on RAVISH@ndtv.com. This story is also on his blog
http://naisadak.blogspot.com/)

Friday 13 July 2007

An Open Letter to All

Dear friends,
Namaskar.
DILSE campaign ki vastugat sthiti aur arajakta ko samne lane ke liye HARSH ke nam ek khula patra dete hue mai ek imandar uttar ki ummeed kar raha tha par abtak jawab me jo khamoshi hai usse zahir hota hai ki HARSH ko yah ehsas hai ki unki pratishtha kafi kam ya Shayad khatm ho chuki hai.
Mai yah spasht kar dena chahta hun ki is patra ke peechhe mera maqsad kisi vyakti vishesh ke viruddh abhiyan chalana nahi balki beghar bachchon aur auraton ke nam par AIF, DELHI GOVT., JAMEEYAT aur anya sroton se jo sarvjanik dhan aa raha hai, uske durupyog ko rokna aur DILSE campaign ko bachana hai.
Mujhe is bat par hairani hai ki 02 july,2007 se lagatar mere pas dhamki bhare gupt phone calls aa rahe hain aur yah kaha ja raha hai ki mai apna patra wapas le lun warna mera future tabah kar diya jaega. Mai in phone calls ka vivran upar karne ki koshish kar raha hun.
Yah mera dridh nishchay hai ki mai apni bat ko wapas nahi loonga . Hona to yah chahiye ki jinhen patra ki sachchai par bharosa nahi ho pa raha we swayam Sarai Basti hostel jakar wahan ki halat dekhen
aur doosre sabhi mamlon ke bare me purane sathiyon se bat Karen. Wastutah jitne bade paimane par gadbadiyan hain, patra se kewal unka aabhas-bhar ho sakta hai. Kya AIF ya doosre organizations ko, jo is abhiyan ko dhan muhaiya kara rahe hain, in mamlon ki sachchai ka pata nahi lagana chahiye ?
Ant me fir se usi bat par wapas aate hue kahna chahta hun ki mai apni bat par atal hun aur jinhen patra par bharosa nahi hai we samne aakar meri baton ko galat sabit Karen.
Aadar sahit,
Abhishek Sharma
Aman Sathi,
Aman Biradari, Delhi.
Email-asdilse@gmail.com
Mob-9312364054.