Shame on you Congress!

My sympathies for the Congress party which has already reached abysmally low levels since the start of UPA-2 is on the verge of complete extinction now. It pains to see how this party and the Government can stoop to such low levels in resisting attempts for cleaner governance. Why is there such a barrage of insinuations and vilification of civil society representatives in the Drafting Committee of the Lok Pal Bill? The Bhushans have been carrying out their fight against corruption at high places for quite some time now. Why were the issues raised now not raised earlier? One wonders what moral right does Digvijaya Singh have in giving his opinions on Justice Santosh Hegde! And now the Congress ‘High Command’ has directed their members not to air opinions in public. Are we so dumb to believe that Mr. Singh made his statements without the blessings of the ‘High Command’? I am not saying that all the allegations are false, I am not the one to judge it. But the timing surely stinks!

Shame on you Congress! You are the oldest party of the country, the party that has ruled the country for most times, the party which was rewarded with a couple of hundred seats in the Lok Sabha for the performance of UPA-1. And people expected you to double up the good work without the constraints of coalition partners, and here you stand having squandered such an opportunity. Taking comfort in the fact that no credible alternative exist you have become arrogant! Shame on you!

Voice Against Corruption – A Plea to the Prime Minister

Are you concerned about the corruption that engulfs public life in India? Are you conerned enough? Are you enraged? Are you enraged enough? Do you want to make a difference? Do you want your voice heard? Write to the Prime Minister. That’s what we did. A group of like minded people in my campus got together and decided that it is high time we stay a mute spectator to the decline of our country. We wrote a petition to the PM to act immediately and decisively and transparently in the CWG and 2G scams. Some 40 odd people have signed it. We are sending the petition to the PMO tomorrow. Will it make a difference at all? We sincerely believe it will. However infinitesimal the difference, it is infinitely greater than just cribbing over coffee table conversations.

The petition is reproduced below. In case you believe in the cause and method, please take a print out of the petition, get it signed from others around you and send it to the Prime Minister TODAY. It takes not more than a couple of hours. It can be as low as only 10 signatures. It can be only your signature. The effort is only to take the printout and mail it the PMO. Most offices should have concierge’s office for courier, postal etc. So it is not as difficult as it seems. You can even fax it.

Even if you do not believe in this cause or this particular method, GET ENGAGED in one form or the other. It is high time privileged citizens like us GET ENGAGED with the affairs of the country.

PLEASE TAG AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. THANKS

Text of the petition:

Voice Against Corruption – A Plea to the Prime Minister

Honourable Prime Minister Sir,

We, the people, are deeply concerned about the recent developments in our country, namely the exposure of the huge scams in the issue of 2G spectrum licences and the conduct of Commonwealth Games (CWG). We condemn the lack of urgency and transparency that the Government has displayed in handling these charges.

Sir, we had placed great faith in your leadership. Now, we are deeply grieved by your silence. Your silence on these scams and the brazenness of our public officials towards public opinion in this regard is deeply disturbing. It is quite saddening to see that even the findings of Constitutional authorities like the Honourable Supreme Court and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India are approached with substantial indifference. The lack of urgency and transparency in the Government’s response in this regard is telling.

While corruption has always been an enemy that we have fought against, these recent issues have stretched the limits of our tolerance. We sincerely believe that that the manner in which we address these two issues would be a test of our National will to root out corruption from public life. We believe that it is also a test of the political will of the Government in delivering clean and transparent governance.

Sir, we demand accountability from our public officials. As the highest elected public official in the country, we look up to you to lead us by example. We place the following demands for your consideration:

1. There should be utmost urgency and transparency in engaging with the 2G spectrum case. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report on the 2G spectrum license issue should be tabled in the Parliament immediately.

2. We urge you to apprise the Nation of the Government’s position and approach on the entire 2G and CWG issues from the floor of the Parliament immediately.

3. We urge you to ask the Minister for Communications and Information Technology to resign from the Cabinet with immediate effect so as to ensure a fair and impartial trial.

4. Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPC) should be constituted to investigate into the alleged malpractices and corruption in both CWG and 2G episodes.

5. We urge you to ensure that the JPC submits its findings within 100 days and action taken on the report within 30 days of its receipt.

6. Lastly but most importantly, we urge you to bring to bear the weight of your office to ensure that the Lok Pal Bill be passed in the current session of the Parliament itself. In this regard, may we please recall your attention to the address you made at the All India Conference of Lokayuktas and Uplokayuktas in September, 2004, in which you said:

“..we also have the mandate given by the Common Minimum Programme to enact the Lok Pal Bill which, over past three decades has been introduced from time to time in Parliament, I believe eight times, but unfortunately could not enter our statute books. I have no hesitation in saying – and even confessing – that the absence of an institution such as the Lok Pal at the Centre is to some extent negatively affecting the working of the Lokayukta institutions at the state level. The need for Lok Pal is, therefore, much more urgent at present than ever before and we shall take effective action in this regard without any further loss of time.”

You had also famously quoted Victor Hugo in your historic 1991 Budget Speech. “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”, you said. Sir, we believe the time has come to make it clear to ourselves as a Nation and the world that we will not take corruption in public life lightly. The Lok Pal Bill should be tabled in the Parliament in the current session itself and the current session of the Parliament should not be adjourned till the Bill is passed.

7. We request you to put in place systems that would ensure and facilitate active engagement of the Citizens with the government, enhance transparency and accountability in governance. We believe that we need to raise the level of public debate in our country.

Sir, we welcome your decision to disclose the assets and liabilities received from the members of the Council of Ministers in the public domain. We make a plea to you to do more in restoring our faith in India’s democracy. On this day, as we celebrate our Nation’s children, we want you to assure us that a corruption free India is not just a dream. We want us and our coming generations to live that dream. We look up to you to lead us in making that dream a reality.

(Signed)

Give your name, signature, contact address/emailid.

Send it or fax it:

The Prime Minister’s Office

South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 101.

Telephone: 91-11-23012312.Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857.

Remembering Manjunath Shanmugam..

It has been 4 years since Manjunath Shanmugam laid down his life for standing by his principles of honesty   and integrity.  Today some of us in campus went on a candle light march in memory of Manjunath and took the pledge to uphold the values he stood for and gave his life for – honesty and integrity.

Manjunath’s IIM-L batchmate Akhil spoke briefly about his friend – a normal ordinary guy like us who stood for values. Manjunath gave his life for something that most of us (almost all of us) would consider very petty. He wanted to stop adulteration ring that was adulterating diesel with kerosene. As a Sales officer that was his job. To ensure quality fuel is supplied to consumers at the petrol bunks. Most of us would have considered adulteration a minor deviation. Definitely so if we know the consequences of taking on the powerful mafia. But for Manjunath nothing was more precious than his values, not even his life. He would have surely known that his life would be in danger but still he had the courage and conviction to stand by his principles. And that made this ordinary guy extraordinary.

As we were walking down with the candle light I was asking one question. Would India ever be a corruption free nation? Only this week Transparency International ranked India 84th of 180 countries in its corruption index. Today corruption has become almost institutionalized. We have become so inure to it that we don’t get angry when we see it. We don’t mind paying bribes for ‘convienience’.  We get excited when we see our heroes take on corrupt establishment in movies but seldom carry that feeling outside the movie halls. Movies like Ramana and Indian are huge box office hits. But, that our sitting ministers are charged with thousands of crores worth of corruption does not bother us. That our state is held to ransom by three brothers does not enrage us.

This weeks Outlook had this article on how we as a nation is getting used to corruption. http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?262842

Putting a conservative figure pf Rs. 73 lakh crore  on the total scam money since 1992, i.e., Rs. 730000000000oo, it states,

Had Madhu Koda been a chief minister even 25 years back and a Rs 4,000-crore mining scam had been exposed, the entire nation would have been outraged. There would have been rallies in the streets baying for his blood, Parliament would have been up in a storm. And for the guilty, the stigma would have been such they would never live it down. But we are in post-liberalised India now, and the Koda scam will hardly make it a week on the front pages. After all, what’s so novel about it, yet another politician and his chosen few cronies laughing all the way to the Swiss banks while he pillages the state’s precious natural resources on the side?  It seems as if the nation now lives from scam to scam, and is cynical enough to know that always the big fish will slip through the net.”

I come back to my question. Can India ever be a corruption free nation? Is there a way forward. Or is it only a free fall from here on.

Jayaprakash Narayan of the Lok Satta Party gives an answer:

“Water at 99 degree Celsius is hot but it has no energy. Add a degree, it starts boiling, develops steam and gains tremendous energy. Just like that, those against corruption need to keep up the struggle. You never know when those few extra degrees may come. After all, the Berlin Wall still came down without a single shot being fired, didn’t it?”

Manjunath was one such individual who made a difference.

I am not sure if a country can ever become corruption free. But I am sure an individual can. You and I can decide to be honest and act with integrity.  If an individual can lay down his life for values, we sure can take some ‘inconvienience’ by sticking to our values of honesty and integrity. Manjunath’s courage and conviction should be an inspiration for us in that journey.

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What really matters?

“What really matters?” asked a friend of mine to our group of friends recently. Here’s my take on it.

Philosophically or in a true sense the answer according to me is “Nothing really matters”.I think of myself on the verge of my death and ask this qn “What really matters?” and the answer I finally get is “Nothing really matters”. And for all the facade of certainty that I put up, the fact is life is uncertain and I can very well die before I even finish this post . So if I were to live every minute as my last minute, then answer is ‘Nothing really matters’ ever.

But I would not be able to do that. Because the life is uncertain I may still live even after I finish this post. But if I keep thinking of death every next instant then I would become insane. So I have to live with this facade of certainty or realise “Nothing really matters” and live like Ramana Maharishi.

So, since I am not Ramana now and I have to go on with my existence, What really matters?

To me what really matters is my integrity. By integrity I mean whether I am true to myself and I am free of any conflicts in mind. The conflict can be a small one as some disagreement I had with my Prof last week and want to let him know about my disagreement, or, it can be my behavior with someone which I regretted and want to convey my regrets about, or, it can be my fear that I may die and I need to take an insurance before it so that my parents will be financially secure in case that happens or it can be some job that I had to push myself to go to every morning..the conflict can be anything..If once aware of these conflicts I have taken steps to address them then I have retained my integrity or ‘mental peace’ as my friend K may like to call it.

However, sometimes it may happen that due to some circumstances I may have to live with that conflict. That cannot be avoided because we are social and emotional beings and no man/woman is an island. But as long as I am aware I have a conflict and take some steps to reduce the conflict given my constraint it is fine. But in the end if it turns out I need to compromise because of the constraint its fine too; then it means for me the constraint is more ‘important’ , so my integrity is intact again. So the essential thing is to be conscious of the choices I make at every point in my life and living it with integrity.

But am I living my life with integrity? Though I have realized the need for it and have been trying on and off to do so the answer would be No. But I hope to do so more in the future and go to sleep with less conflicts in my mind.

P.S.: My belief is that there is no life after death. But I were to believe in life in death, then ‘Nothing really matters’ may not not hold true.

Learnings for an accidental researcher..

I read an article titled “The right mindset for research” in today’s edition of Education Plus (The Hindu).

Some expert quotes caught my attention –

“Research is an open-ended problem.  When a mind seeking immediate returns works on it, it is easy to get disheartened and bored. An age when the pizza delivery companies promise you a free dinner if they take more than half an hour to deliver is counter to the mindset needed for research.”  “Research needs an inquisitive mind which is never satisfied with the current solution or status of affairs.  But it needs discipline too- Dr. Rupak Biswas, Acting Chief , NASA Advanced Supercomputing

“Research mindset offers a competitive advantage. It is like the story of the hare and the tortoise.  If you have a mind trained for research, you will be the tortoise – the climb would be slow and steady, but eventualy you would win the race” – Dr. Rajesh Kasturirangan, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc

For someone like me who at core is an action-oriented person and an accidental doctoral student it is yet another reminder of what I need to learn from my stay here as a doctoral student. I know that I have always excelled in ‘mastering the system’, a system which essentially is based on ‘learning by rote’, predictability and maintaining the status quo. I do not necessarily see it an inferior skill but I know I need to move beyond it if I were to realize my potential.

I have always found answers for the questions posed to me. But what I would like to learn by the time I finish my thesis and graduate is to ask the right question and systematically answer it.

P.S.: For those who are interested in reading the article, the link is http://www.hindu.com/edu/2009/07/13/stories/2009071350020100.htm


The Serenity Prayer

Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie (Image via Wikipedia)

Perhaps one of the most influential books that I have read is ‘How to stop worrying and start living’ by Dale Carnegie. I remember that I bought a old second-hand copy (though it looked like a fifth or sixth hand only!) of the book from one of the platform shops for some 15 or 20 bucks. The copy was really old, papers turned almost brown and brittle. I also remember that I read it during my second semester of Engineering; as I topped the batch that particular term. I used to wonder whether it is a coincidence or it was the effect of Dale Carnegie 🙂

Whatever be the practical usefulness of the principles enunciated in the book, Dale Carnegie’s excellent writing skills, his ability to keep the reader engaged, the numerous anecdotes that dot the book and the book’s ‘feel-good’ character made it an interesting and fulfilling read.

Some of my experiences (both first-hand and second-hand) in the last one week made me remember one of the numerous anecdotes and quotes that I read in ‘How to stop…..’. Dale Carnegie had quoted what is popularly known as ‘Serenity Prayer‘ to drive home the point that there is no point worrying about the things that we cannot change and we would be better off dealing with things wherein we can indeed make a difference. Stephen Covey gives a similar call when he asks us to differentiate between those things that fall within our  ‘Circle of concern’ and those which fall within our ‘Circle of influence’.  Coming back to ‘The Serenity Prayer’, here is it:

“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Once again, I pray to God for that wisdom and courage.

P.S: I had once heard that Dale Carnegie committed suicide. But my ‘customary research’ for this post showed it is just a rumour. I am relieved! 🙂 For those who felt bad like me to hear that Dale Carnegie committed suicide, here is his obituary in the NY Times which makes no mention of a suicide and says he was ill for some time before death – http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1124.html

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Fed up with Media!

“Mallya saves Bapu’s legacy” cried media headlines!! How can a person who is liqour baron and one who unabashedly shows off his wealth can ever be a savior of Bapu’s legacy!! And what is Bapu’s legacy – non-violence and truth or a pair of glasses!