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Reservations For Muslims: MINDLESS HINDUSTANI KHICHRI, By Poonam I Kaushish; New Delhi, 6 July 2007 Print E-mail
POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 6 July 2007

Reservations For Muslims

MINDLESS HINDUSTANI KHICHRI

By Poonam I Kaushish 

Two men knocked at God’s door wanting to experience Heaven. Before letting them in, God enquired their religion and caste. The first said he was a Muslim Dalit. God welcomed him with open arms. The second said he was a Hindu Brahmin. God replied: “Sorry, your quota for Heaven is full.” The moral of the story: Even God heeds the diktats of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government’s appeasement policy.

 

Funny? Not at all. It is a sad reflection of our times, where quotas and queues are the all-season favourites. Where people are being compartmentalized for sacrifice at the altar of caste-creed politics in the name of social and economic upliftment. With all merrily converting positive affirmation into vote percentage. Clearly, the day is not too far when India’s cricket team and casualty wards in hospitals will be reserved on caste basis.

The latest concoction of the mindless Hindustani khichri called minority appeasement is from Andhra Pradesh. Perhaps, working on the premise of third time lucky, the State Government last week decided to promulgate an ordinance to provide four per cent reservation to 15 groups of 'socially and educationally backward' Muslims in professional educational institutions and Government employment with effect from the current academic year. Asserted the State Minister for Information, "We are deeply committed to the cause of providing social justice to the socially and educationally backward classes among the Muslims." (Sic).

This time around, Chief Minister YSR Reddy has tried to circumvent objections raised for extending reservations to the minority community by putting Muslims in 15 different classes  in category E of the backward classes, covering nearly 85 per cent of the community. Thus, technically speaking, the new quota is based on backwardness not religion. It also complies with the Supreme Court’s benchmark of 50 per cent reservation.

 

Having burnt his fingers twice over, Reddy doesn’t want to take chances. Recall, in 2004 and 2005 the State Government had earmarked five per cent reservations for the entire Muslim community (excluding the creamy layer) first by issuing a Government order and subsequently by promulgating an ordinance. But both times the Andhra Pradesh High Court played spoilsport and struck it down as the overall reservations would exceed the ceiling.  

 

Given the level of dishonesty and irresponsibility which increasingly governs our political system, this step will, no doubt, lead to disaster. If reservation based on castes is bad, affirmative action on communal basis is horrendous. Ominous reasoning is being appendaged. It would bring the Muslims into the mainstream. Ensure harmony between the majority-minority communities. It would prevent Muslims from being exploited any more as vote-banks by the so-called secular parties.

 

Really? Aren’t the Congress’s intentions just that? Exploitation in the name of social and economic upliftment. Never mind if it pushes India back by a century. The moot point is clear. How does it better the lot of the mass of Muslims, if a few persons get jobs? Is the Muslim identity distinct from that of the Indian? Is he an Indian Muslim or a Muslim Indian?

 

Clearly, the State Government’s seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. In its quest to wean the Muslims back into the Congress fold, it may end up losing the miniscule support it now enjoys. Most significantly, all religious, social and political organizations of the Muslims, including Jamiat-e-Islami and Majlis-e-Iltehadul Muslimeen have outrightly rejected the Government’s move. In fact, they are livid and see the proposed ordinance as a dangerous move to create caste differences among the Muslims and divide the community.

 

Not just that. Islamic seminaries in the State have also issued a 'fatwa' against the proposal and termed it unIslamic. Six well-known seminaries, led by the Jamia Nizamia, a 125-year-old Islamic university based in Hyderabad, have asserted: "Muslims all over the world are equal. There is no distinction of caste, colour or race among them. Therefore creating distinction among them for reservation is improper under the Shariat. It is the political parties that have given way to discrimination on the basis of caste among Muslims.”

 

Added Asaduddin Owaisi, Hyderabad MP, “There is no empirical evidence or data or population figures. How can they go ahead with this? If the Government wants to provide reservations then it should be provided to Muslims who are socially, economically and educationally backward, without dividing them on the basis of caste or baradaries, as Karnataka has done.”

 

More. To counter the State Government’s move, various religious, political and social organizations have joined hands to form the Muslim United Action Committee (MUAC). Without mincing words, the clerics have warned the Chief Minister that his ordinance would prove ‘suicidal’ for the Congress in the elections. "The Congress came to power with the support of the Muslim community. By taking this step, it will lose our support," cautioned the MUAC President. Muslims account for about 9 per cent of the 76 million population in Andhra Pradesh.

 

Importantly, is the case of Muslim “backwardness” on all fours with that of the Scheduled Castes and other disadvantaged sections of the Hindu community? Not at all. True, a large number of Hindus from the lowest strata of its society converted to Islam and Christianity to get rid of the stigma of being ‘untouchables’ and denied the right to live a dignified life. Thus creating a new set of Muslims and leading to the emergence of a new social hierarchy for availing of the economic benefits.

True also that the Government’s fundamental mission is to uplift the poor and the backward classes, educate and provide them equal opportunities.  But when education and job reservations are calculated on the basis of belonging to a particular caste and religion per se, it goes against Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution.  

The problem arises when our netagan in their quest for votes recklessly label the minorities, Muslims and Christians, as backward or dalits for availing the quotas. Knowing full well that Islam does not accept any casteism and therefore no Islamic country provides reservations to the poor among the Muslims by labelling them dalits or backwards. Or has the Pope issued a new Bull that erstwhile Hindu dalits who have embraced Christianity should continue to be called dalits and be provided reservations as Dalit Christians?

Tragically, so blinded are our politicians in their quest for power that none can see the Frankenstein they recklessly continue to create. By giving legitimacy to a communal quota, religious bigotry at its most ferocious could end up in carving once more a blood-stained path across our country. Clearly, this could sow the poisonous seeds for a new communal movement and separate electorates inspired by the two-nation theory that tragically led to India’s partition.

 

What next? Unless we stem the rot, the day is not far when Muslims could once again demand communal representation both in the legislative assemblies of the States and in Parliament. Incredibly enough, the Christians of Andhra Pradesh are not far behind. They are now the latest to hop on to the reservation bandwagon. A new Christian Front is now demanding that the State Government follow the Tamil Nadu example wherein Christians are included in the 5 per cent quota for the Muslims. Given the fact that they account 10-15 per cent of the State’s population. Once this trend catches on, there will then be a demand before very long for separate quotas for the Sikhs, the Buddhists, the Jains and many more. May be even the Brahmins and the Thakurs will demand reservation!

 

It is time to remember Babasaheb Ambedkar’s wise words against reservations and the hidden monsters behind them. He said: “Reservation too should be done away with because it becomes a hindrance to development.” Clearly, the Government has honestly to end this evil of separatism and casteism which is beginning to eat into the vitals of even Islam and Christianity. Reservations are no answer for fulfilling the people’s aspirations. These will not only further divide our people on creed-caste lines but come in the way of narrowing India’s burgeoning divide between the haves and the have-nots.

 

Our petty power-at all-cost polity has to think beyond vote-bank politics and look at the perilous implications of their decisions. What exactly is the message the Government proposes to send across the country by its mindless reservation policy? It must desist from sowing the seeds of another partition? Vote-bank politics must not be allowed to continue recklessly and play havoc with India’s unity and integrity and progress. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)            

Allowance For The State:FAKE ENCOUNTERS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, By Poonam I. Kaushish; 25 May 2007 Print E-mail
 

Political Diary

New Delhi, 25 May 2007 

Allowance For The State

FAKE ENCOUNTERS FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

By Poonam I. Kaushish

 

Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Kauserbi. Two names that did not ring a bell until a few weeks ago. Yet they continue to make news and, what is more, raise national controversies. Remember, they brought Parliament to a grinding halt for a day during the recent Budget session. The two also caused three senior IPS officers to be suspended on a charge of having been involved in their killing in a “fake encounter”. Notwithstanding the police claim that the two were dreaded terrorists.

 

Should “fake encounters” be permitted or tolerated in a civilized, law-abiding society? Or, is there any scope for exceptions where national unity and security are involved? Sardar Patel, architect of India’s unity, drew a sharp distinction between terrorism and the rule of law and went ahead as India’s Deputy PM and Home Minister to crush the Communist revolt and terrorism in Telengana ruthlessly. No questions were asked then---or thereafter.

 

More about the Telengana action later.  First the Sohrabuddin story. The facts about the two killings in Gujarat in November 2005 are at best murky. Nevertheless, it is more than established that the Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Gujarat Government did abduct and murder Sohrabuddin, who had a criminal record, allegedly as part of a vendetta killing. Subsequently, he was branded a member of the rabid militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba. His wife Kauserbi was also eliminated two days later, presumably for having witnessed her husband’s abduction.

 

Expectedly, the alleged killings of innocent persons led to a countrywide furore. The CPM has accused the Narendra Modi Government of communalizing the police and the administration in Gujarat. In fact, the spotlight has been turned once more on two aspects of law and order: criminalization of the police and proliferation of encounter killings. An additional DGP of the Railway Protection Force has been named to head a fact-finding team to conduct a “thorough probe” into what is described by many as a “rather bloody chapter in Punjab’s modern history” when terrorism was effectively snuffed out. Surprisingly, few among the powers that be have bothered to pause and ponder over what might have happened if the then police Chief of Punjab, KPS Gill, had turned soft on the Khalistanis who were determined to establish Khalistan as a separate independent State by hook or by crook.  Some other States have also announced probes into their respective anti-terror operations, what with more and more leaders liberally swearing by human rights, right or wrong.

 

Sensational action against fake encounters in Gujarat, has encouraged the Chhattisgarh Government to follow suit in the killing of seven tribals in an “encounter” near Bijapur last month. Its Police Chief has announced a probe, with directions to exhume the bodies of the tribals for autopsy. The local police has also been asked to register a case of murder if evidence is found that the tribals were killed as Naxals by the security personnel. Similar instructions have been given to the police in some other Naxalite-affected States in regard to the encounter killings.

 

The Centre and the States are undoubtedly entitled to have the cases of encounter killings investigated. As pointed out at the very outset, fake encounters cannot be permitted in a civilized country and innocent killed. But the point to stress here is that the Government must have full freedom to deal with terrorists and their grave threat to the country in whatever way considered best and most effective. This consideration alone prompted Sardar Patel in tackling widespread terrorism in Telengana, as recorded by Durga Das in his seminal memoirs “India from Curzon to Nehru and After”.

 

Durga Das writes: “He (Patel) crushed the communist revolt in Telengana in Hyderabad State with the help of hand-picked officials. He ordered the police to shoot at sight and kill as many rebels as was necessary to break the back of the uprising. As a result of the directive, over a thousand persons were shot dead and the communist extremists were so demoralized that for the next  two decades they eschewed armed action and took to constitutional means….” Not only that. Patel was equally ruthless when it came to Police Action against Hyderabad. He advised the Army “to send troops to garrison Secunderabad Cantonment and take police action against the Nizam if he resisted.”

 

We must resist the temptation of generalizing the killing of terrorists and superficially viewing them in a vacuum, even as we stand for human rights and oppose butchery of innocents. Such incidents should be viewed against the backdrop of national interest, remembering that a terrorist is a terrorist and a law unto himself. He chooses the time and the place of his strike and has to be tackled as in war, in which even innocent people get killed. True such killings cannot be condoned. But there is no other go. Likewise, terrorists cannot be allowed to roam freely and enact a Kandhar. India would have saved itself great humiliation and cross-border terrorism with renewed vigour if the three terrorists released at Kandhar had been dealt with appropriately and not merely jailed.

 

Interestingly, the question of encounter killings was taken up by India’s National Human Rights Commission in 1998.  It observed: “The law in India recognizes the right of a citizen to private defence and in the course of such private defence even the causing of death can be justifiable in some circumstances. The same right of self-defence is available to a policeman. In addition, the use of force if it results in causing death in the course of an attempt to arrest a person accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, can also be justifiable under the law. However, if a death is caused in an encounter that cannot be justified on the ground of a legitimate exercise of the right to private defence or in proper exercise of the power to arrest under Section 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police officer causing the death would be guilty of the offence.”

 

The Commission did not stop there and expressed itself clearly in regard to such guilt. It stated: The Commission is of the opinion that in determining whether or not the causing of death in an encounter in a particular case is justified will depend upon the facts established after proper investigation.”  Concerned over the large number of complaints it received against fake encounters, the Commission laid down a procedure to be followed.  It recommended: a) when the officer-incharge of a police station receives information about the death encounter he shall enter the information in the appropriate register; b) immediate steps should be taken to investigate the facts and circumstances leading to the death; and c) the investigations should be conducted by some other independent investigation agency like the State CID.

 

One important lesson needs to be drawn from the grisly episode of fake encounter killings: the need to insulate the police from political masters. This requires an end to the pernicious practice of transferring police officers on the whims of the State Government. Unless there is a good reason, such as gross negligence of duty or corruption, police officers need to be given a fixed tenure at any given position. Police can also be delinked from the political class by setting up an independent watchdog to monitor complaints against erring policemen. Equally of interest is a key reform proposed by the Supreme Court last year. It advocated a Security Commission to which the police personnel could turn to, if asked to perform illegal acts by the Government.

 

All this is fine. But one cannot really put forward the logic of Ahimsa in today’s terrorist-ridden world and assert that the killing of another human is wrong whatever be the situation. Most legal systems the world over turn a blind eye to fake encounters by the state since rabid motivated terrorism cannot be tackled softly.  Exceptions have willy nilly to be made and fake encounters allowed in dealing with the increasing terrorist menace. 

 

Every State is honour-bound to maintain law and order and, above all, to protect the integrity of its country as its sworn “dharma”, eloquently illustrated by Lord Krishna in the Mahabharata. Recall, Krishna tactically spread the news that Ashwathama (Drona’s son) had been killed whereas only an elephant by that name had fallen.  One could  argue  endlessly whether Krishna was right or wrong. However, the crucial point is that the news demoralized the Kauravas on learning that their “undefeatable” Drona had been eliminated---and enabled the Pandavas to win the epic battle of Kurukshetra.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

Presidential Poll: SAY NO TO A SECOND TERM, By Poonam I Kaushish;18 May 2007 Print E-mail
POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 18 May 2007

Presidential Poll

SAY NO TO A SECOND TERM

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Should the ‘People’s President’ Kalam get a second term? A question that has turned into a political hot potato. Both the UPA and NDA are sharply divided. The BJP still favours him as a consensus candidate. But the Congress makes no bones that it wants a Congress nominee in place of Kalam, whom it considers a ‘persona non grata’, post the Office of Profit Bill controversy and the embarrassment it caused to Sonia Gandhi. While the Left continues to hold its Presidential cards close to its chest, RJD’s Lalu is ambivalent towards a Congress nominee. The BJP also hoots for Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in case of a contest. Both the Samajwadi Party and Janata Dals still bet on Kalam. However, all eyes are now on made-in-India Mayawati Memsahib, following her historic triumph in UP. Which card will she play---Brahmin or Thakur? To put a stronger punch into her transition from Bahujan Samaj to Sarvajan politics. Or will she, too, opt for Kalam? Anything and any combination is possible today in India’s bizarre politics dominated by brazen opportunism and reckless pursuit of power.

 

Constitutional experts and thinking people hope that India will get a President of whom the country can be truly proud. They also hope that the convention of one term for the President will continue and that there won’t be a second term for Kalam. No, they are not opposed to Kalam personally. Barring a few unfortunate occurrences, he has conducted himself admirably. But they are rightly opposed in principle to a second term for the President, as it could encourage the incumbent during his first term to join hands with the Government of the day for mutual aggrandizement and compromise India’s best long- term interest. Contrary to popular belief, a President is vastly empowered under the Constitution to prevent the Government of the day from playing havoc with the country. Alas, even persons who should know better continue to take a simplistic view of the President’s power. Many erroneously view him as no more than a rubber stamp, except when he has to choose from among rival claimants a person who, in his opinion, could provide a stable Government.

 

Confusion continues because of the failure of free India to do what its first President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad recommended way back in November 1960. He wanted legal experts to make a scientific study of the powers and functions of the President and spell them out so as to leave no scope for any abuse. Dr. Prasad conceded that the Indian Constitution was based largely on the British Constitution. But he also pointed out that there were certain obvious differences. “The British Constitution”, he said, “is a unitary Constitution in which Parliament is supreme…Our Constitution is a federal constitution in which the powers and functions of the Union Parliament and the State Legislatures are clearly defined…” Again, “the Head of the State is an elected President who holds office for a term and can be removed for misconduct in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Constitution.”

 

In fact, Dr. Prasad, who had earlier presided over the Constituent Assembly, took up the issue of the President’s powers with Nehru first in 1950 soon after moving into Rashtrapati Bhavan. Nehru referred these points to the then Attorney-General, M.C. Setalvad, and the latter’s opinion is of no less interest today. Setalvad held that the President was essentially titular like the British monarch and was bound by the advice of his Council of Ministers. Like the crown, the President could exercise “the right to be consulted, the right to warn and the right to encourage.” Setalvad was also of the opinion that the President could dismiss a ministry and order fresh elections. The power to hold elections on his own discretion was not in accordance with the letter of the law. However, it could be exercised as a reserve power if the President felt strongly that Parliament did not reflect the political balance in the country. (Nine State Assemblies were dissolved in 1977 by the Janata Government following the Lok Sabha poll earlier that year in exercise of this power).

 

Much has happened since the first President put forward his views. In 1974, the Supreme Court made it clear in the Shamsher Singh case that the President was bound to act in accordance with the advice of his Council of Ministers. Two years later, Mrs. Gandhi got the Constitution amended so as to end all nagging doubts on the issue---doubts which eventually led to the great Congress split of 1969.  The Constitution 42nd Amendment provided: “There shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice.” Subsequently, the Constitution 44th Amendment has clarified that the President is not tied hand and foot and that he can “require the Council of Ministers to reconsider such advice either generally or otherwise.” But this power is not unlimited. The amendment, introduced by the Janata Government, provides that the “President shall act in accordance with the advice tendered after such re-consideration.”

 

Several other points of controversy have been resolved and healthy conventions built over the years in regard to the office of the President. Rajen Babu, as Dr. Prasad was popularly known, was of the view, for instance, that the President as the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces could send for the Service Chiefs and ask for information about defence matters. Setalvad, however, opined that the President could not send for the Service Chiefs. Instead, he could send for the Defence Minister and ask him to make inquiries.  At one stage, Rajen Babu strongly complained to Nehru that he often read of the appointments of Ambassadors and Governors in the Press and was officially informed only afterwards. This had its effect and an order was passed by the Cabinet stipulating that all the papers relating to top-level appointments be submitted to him before orders were issued. But a lot more remains to be done now that various meanings are being read into the Constitution and the President is generally expected to function impartially, objectively and independently vis a vis the Government.

 

Most experts are inclined to agree with Rajen Babu that the President has certain reserve, discretionary powers which flow from the oath of his office which is as follows: “I will faithfully execute the office of President and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India.” The President also enjoys certain powers on three other counts. First, the President, like the British crown, can “exercise the right to be consulted, the right to warn and the right to encourage.” Second, the President has under Article 86 of the Constitution the right to “address either House of Parliament or both Houses assembled together, and for that purpose require the attendance of members”. He has also the right to “send messages to either House of Parliament whether with respect to a Bill then pending in Parliament or otherwise.” The House to which any message is so sent shall consider it with “all convenient despatch”. Third, the President has the power under Article 143 to consult the Supreme Court on any question of law or fact that may have arisen or was likely to arise.

 

The President has one other power which, has seldom been exercised. This is the power to question and the right to information, which incidentally gives Parliament its unrivalled authority over the Executive and makes the daily question-hour sacrosanct. Nehru called on Rajen Babu once a week to keep him informed. The President is thus empowered to uphold the Constitution and so also established conventions by asking questions---or by delaying the signing of any proclamation or other papers till the authorities satisfy him fully.  The President could put pertinent questions to the Centre before signing any document and demand full satisfaction. There is no time limit for him.

 

Thus, the President is not required to be a rubber stamp by the Constitution. He could be wholly Constitutional and yet act impartially, objectively and independently.  Among other things, he could always exercise his judgment and ask for any decision to be reconsidered by the Government Constitutionally, he could even go to Parliament and also seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on any issue of basic importance. All in all, the President enjoys vast powers. Remember, he is required to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution to the best of his ability and not that of his Council of Ministers. He can serve the country faithfully only so long as he functions independently and impartially in the best national interest. Temptation of a second term could jeopardize his independence and the national interest. Clearly, it is time to say a loud no to a second term for the President---by convention or by law..---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

  
Sports Goes For A Six!: ALL ABOUT MILLION DOLLAR BABIES, By Poonam I Kaushish; 23 February 2008 Print E-mail

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 23 February 2008

Sports Goes For A Six!

  ALL ABOUT MILLION DOLLAR BABIES  

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

It was billed as the mother of all auctions. Where 77 ‘men in blue’ were paraded as prized bulls. And Corporate India’s Mukesh Ambani, Vijay Mallya and Ness Wadia jostled with Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta to get a slice of the action and own the czars of cricket. Each cricketer went under the hammer ranging anywhere from Rs 20 lakhs to Rs 6 crores. An auction which has clean bowled the way we play cricket for ever. All in a matter of seconds. Paisa phek tamasha dekh!  

Welcome to the Great Indian Bazaar of Indian cricket. Of big bucks and million dollar boys. Who could’ve imagined that the auctioning of 77 players for the five Indian Premier League teams would result in mass hysteria. Never mind, that the true blue-blooded sportsmen are horrified by this brazen gambling and commercialization at its crassest best.

In addition, it has kicked off a political controversy with the Left Front, Janata Dal President and Union Cabinet Minister Sharad Yadav and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray lambasting the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL) as "a gambling game of industrialists and a shameless, obscene demonstration of money-power."

Think. The eight franchisees of the IPL forked out a combined Rs 7000-plus crore first to buy the team franchises. Then, they spent a whopping Rs.160 crore on purchasing players at the auction. Before this, the telecast rights were sold for a huge Rs.3,672 crore for 10 years and the title sponsorship for another Rs 200 crore for a five-year period.

Raising a moot point: when money becomes the driving force of the sixes, bumper, silly mid-off, first slip, LBW, googly et al what happens to the “desh ki izzat?”  Will Team India give its heart and soul to play for the country? Will being selected on it continue to be treated as the ultimate honour in the life of a cricketer? Or, will club identities come to replace national loyalties? After all, whoever pays the bucks gets the loyalty.

Has cricket in India entered the age of sponsored gambling where its stake-holders are abdicating their responsibility and letting the 'free-market' forces take control of the sport? Will it only create a super-elite category of overpaid, arrogant superstars at the cost of domestic cricket? Will the new cricket corporate czars have any emotional attachment to the sport? Importantly, will substance become the first casualty of the hoopla and hype of the auctioning? Will it widen the gap between cricket and other sports? 

True, the BCCI and IPL promoters dismiss these fears as much ado about nothing. Why is everyone raving and ranting about the cricketers earnings? What about other sports like Golf, tennis and car racing. The Jeeva Singh’s, Sania Mirza and Kartikhen, they assert. Besides, money raised would be spent to improve the standard of sports in India and also to promote other sports, specially at the grassroot-level.

How one wonders will paying Messers Dhoni, Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly, who already earn crores for playing a year's cricket for India and more from sponsorships, raise the standard of the sport? Rather, wouldn’t it widen the gap between the haves and have-nots in cricket and other sports?

Besides, the American experience, on which the IPL is based, clearly shows that players more often than not prefer their club over country thanks to the money being bank-rolled by it. In addition, club owners too become possessive as they want to protect their investments at any cost. And, more often than not refuse to release the players for matches played for the country. Besides, the recall value of club teams is more. People identify with the Chicago Bulls rather than the US Olympic basketball team or the New York Yankees instead of the US baseball team. 

 

Sadly, the auction has once again underscored the ugly reality that cricket has ceased to be a sport. It has become a mammoth corporate conglomerate which lacks transparency and is all about wielding power and money. Worse, it has become another pocket borough of our netagan. Wherein crores are spent in deals over-the-table and under-the-table in keenly fought elections for the control over the BCCI. Imagine, its kitty is virtually the same as the budget allocation of a Union Ministry.

Not just cricket, Indian sports as a whole is controlled by politicians and vested interests. The justification trotted out is that netagan are ‘experts’ in raising funds, even for khel-kood!  If the truth be told, sports today has per se degenerated from purely a sporting activity, physical prowess and competitiveness to downright object of a nexus between politics and bodies controlling it.   

The entry of paid sponsors for games and sportsmen has added an ugly dimension to an already murky arena. The decline of standards in sports is in direct proportion to the increase in the players’ affluence. Plainly, a sport gets corrupted when money is involved. From harmless betting in schools and colleges, it today has an international pattern. The racket is like a business between players, managers and bookies. They initiate betting, running into crores of rupees and funneled abroad via the hawala channel. The high-stake punting on winning teams has increased the greed and led to collecting inside information on a team’s strategy, forecasting the outcome to match fixing.

This all pervasive malady has grown to monstrous proportions and is now being referred to as a full-fledged industry and trade with a turn-over running into hundreds of crores.  With big money and bigger events, sports stars get big sponsors. With the IPL auctioning, celebrity endorsement of sports is simply mind-boggling.  

Some will argue that India is only following the ground rules set in the international arena. Where David Beckham and Michael Jordan, the world’s best football and basketball players respectively, made history with multi-million dollar tie-ups. Major sports goods manufacturers like Reebok, Adidas and Nike outbid each other to sponsor anything and everything from caps, footwear, T-shirts and balls etc they wore. And, the ‘sacred’ Wimbledon, the Australian, the US and French Open tennis tournaments and football, hockey and baseball competitions are simply following suit.

In this free-for-all vicious circle of avarice lies the forgotten Greek philosophy of sports: The health of a nation depends upon the proficiency of its youth in sports and games.  It led to the start of the Olympic movement in 1884, which won the support of even Hitler, who went out of his way to make it a grand spectacle in 1936 in Berlin.

It took wings in India under Nehru’s patronage who conceptualized the Asian Games Federation and organized the first “regional Olympiad” (Asian Games) in New Delhi in 1951.  His message was clear: “Play the game in the spirit of the game”.  The National Sports Federations too adhered to the Olympic ideals of amateur sports, namely, anyone found guilty of monetary benefit from sports was disqualified from participation in international competitions.  In fact, way back in the early 1960s, a woman athlete and a swimmer from Kolkata were disqualified for appearing in a Bata advertisement for sports shoes.

Tragically, all is forgotten.  Most of our sports bodies today are controlled and headed by ambitious people with powerful connections and clout: Varying from industrialists, businessmen, politicians to small-time managers.  They have little to contribute, but a lot to gain. Unlike the past, where sports patrons like the princely rulers of Patiala, Bikaner, Jaipur and Jodhpur graciously spent time and money for the healthy promotion of sports.

Sadly, the ball game started changing once black money started increasing with each passing year. So did the Government’s contribution, with budgets spiraling from Rs.13 crores during the Second Plan to about Rs.300 crores in the Ninth Plan. Sports, is now controlled by a Ministry at the Centre and in the States. But sports management continues to falter at all levels.

Finally, the million dollar question: How is the Government going to stall the domino effect? The day crores replaces honour as a player’s driving force Indian sport might as well say set-game-match. Let’s face it, rescuing sport from the Octopus-like grip of deceit and money will be a lot of sweat and tears. We need to stem the rot. Time to win and do a Chak De India! ---- INFA

(Copyright , India News & Feature Alliance)                  

 
Crisis Of Leadership: WHERE ARE THE NATIONALISTS?, By Poonam I Kaushish; 16 February 2008 Print E-mail
 

POLITICAL DIARY

New Delhi, 16 February 2008 

Crisis Of Leadership

  WHERE ARE THE NATIONALISTS?

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

Remember the famous Roman saying: Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. So true of India today. See how our netagan contrive while the country burns. One look at Maharashtra says it all. The State stood mute testimony to three days of gory violence against all non-Maharashtrians unleashed by a small-time neta Raj Thackeray’s and his outfit Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Even as the Centre and State Governments vacillated shamelessly for 13 days before going through the arrest-bail charade.

 

It would be easy to dismiss Raj Thackeray’s diatribe of wanting to rid Maharashtra of all North-Indians as a case of competitive populism at its crassest best. Or that it’s all about supporting regionalism. But, the tragedy of the episode is two-fold. First, how dare the MNS Chief cock a snook at the law and order and be allowed to get away with it.

 

Second, where was the Iqbal of the State? Its roab? Which allowed a piddly local outfit to run riot with India’s Commercial Capital and made its leader a national hero. When, in fact, Thackeray should have been told to shut up. That he wasn’t tells us the asli rajniti story. Of a ruling Congress leadership, which wanted to play both ends against the middle. One, counter ally NCP’s Sharad Pawar’s clout over Maharashtra and, two, use Thackeray’s new stature to eat into the Shiv Sena base and, eventually, benefit the Congress.

 

Exposing as never before, the acute crisis of leadership and paralysis of governance the country faces. Of pygmy leaders with small minds masquerading as giants. Bereft of any sense of nationalism who willy nilly abet competitive populism and vote-bank politics to batter down all semblance of leadership and chip away at established democratic institutions. Leadership today is all about political survival alone. Looking for genuine leaders is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Ask them about the nation. What nation, they ask?

 

Think. Isn’t it ridiculous that a country as vast as India and boasting of a billion-and-growing population is swinging like a yo-yo between hope and despair, thanks to the fracas between the ruling coalition partners, its adversaries and friends-turned-foes or vice versa. All bogged down by tantrums, one-upmanship and clash of egos. Especially in a scenario where polarization is now based on vote-bank politics and unbridled lust for power and money --- not on values, ethics or national agenda. Forget good, clean governance and national interest.

 

Look at the inexplicable configurations of the UPA. The enemies and friends are all rolled into one. The Congress and the Left parties, which account for 64 seats in the Lok Sabha, are arch rivals in three States: West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. Both have been fighting each other tooth and nail in every election since Independence. Yet they came together at the Centre simply to keep the “communal BJP” out. The Congress and RJD are arch rivals in Bihar and Jharkhand and the NCP cannot see eye-to-eye with the Congress in Maharashtra. Ditto the case down South with the DMK & Co. Can Governments be formed and held together merely on the negative and ill-defined premise that my enemy’s enemy is a friend?

 

Today, the Left continues to have the Congress-led UPA profusely sweating over the Indo-US nuclear deal. Wherein Comrade Karat has once again threatened to pull the plug if the Government goes ahead with it. Making plain that the Grand Dame of Politics should be ready to go to the polls if it went ahead. This eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between Manmohan Singh and the thorny Left has pushed the country into suspended animation.

 

The basic issue is not the Indo-US nuclear deal or whether the UPA Government stays or goes. Or, who is to blame and why. But it is the sad spectacle of today’s polity exposing their hollowness and hypocrisy of political commitment and subordinating national interest to personal egos and gain. If the Congress feels so strongly that the deal is the best thing for the country why doesn’t it call the CPM’s bluff and face the consequences? Sadly, as oft is the case, power breeds arrogance and absolute power breeds absolute arrogance.

 

Again, look at the Party’s relationship with the UP Chief Minister and BSP supremo Mayawati which swings like a pendulum. First, the Congress High Command read Sonia, tried very hard to have a pact with her prior to the State Assembly polls, failing which it decides to humour Mayawati and let her get away with outrageous anti-Congress diatribe. Now suddenly Sonia has woken up to the BSP’s electoral threat and has decided to deride her. But, when the Dalit icon dares the Congress to take action against her in the Taj corridor scam, the Party backs off.

 

So unlike the Congress leadership during Indira Gandhi’s time who epitomized the stuff leaders are made off, including the capacity to be a butcher when the need arose. Hailed as Durga after India’s victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan she was the only man in her Government. None dared oppose her and if someone did he would be cut to size in no time. Remember, like true leaders she gambled her political career by taking on the powerful Party Syndicate of senior leaders.

 

But more than that she was a true democrat and nationalist. True, she imposed Emergency in 1975 after the Allahabad High Court set aside her election, but she was uncomfortable with it. Recall, she not only lifted the Emergency but called for elections in 1977. After her defeat, she gracefully demitted office.

 

Sadly, her son Rajiv, who took over the reins, converted the Congress into an organization of ‘yes men’ who were loyal only to him. Pure sycophancy. Thus friends and rudderless leaders were handpicked by Rajiv to form his coterie and propelled on to the centre-stage. His wife Sonia carried the family banner forward and has perfected sycophancy and loyalty into Brand Congress. The most unpleasant aspect of all this is the withering of internal democracy.

 

The BJP too is on the decline. Vajpayee has been replaced by Advani, who may talk tough but lacks the charisma and oratory skills to weave a magic spell. Surrounded by ‘hot-house’ second rung leaders who trot around with an all-important air but are incapable of wining even a single municipal election. The Party President Rajnath Singh and his “coterie” of junior and inexperienced ‘yes men’ play the cat and mouse game with Advani.  Knives are even out for Modi who just resurrected the Party. 

 

Gone are the days of Brand BJP---collective leadership as opposed to individual control. Its reputation of being a highly disciplined cadre-based faction-free party is in tatters. Its killer instinct, that its leaders so assiduously described, has been killed by the vicissitudes of power.

 

What about the regional parties? With a mohalla mentality they lack a national perspective. Worse, with the national parties losing their clout with the electorate there is a very high premium on these parties which get traded and horse-traded many times over. The trading is made easier by the total collapse of the moral fabric of all parties in their naked lust for the gaddi. Unfortunately, the national parties have been caught in a web of their own making. By pandering and giving in to the blackmail of these regional vote banks. They have created a Frankenstein over which they have no control.

 

What next? India today once again is facing a Hobson’s choice. Gripped in the vicious tentacles of a petty power-at-all-cost polity the time has come to throw out the scoundrels and replace them with true nationalists who feel, think and breathe India.

 

A people, no doubt, get the leaders they deserve. But, at the end of the day, are we going to mortgage our conscience to “fair-weather fliers” and “hot-house leaders”? Are we going to allow leaders without nationalism to recklessly play havoc with India’s future?  The moot point: How long are we going to continue to look for giants among the pygmies and allow the latter to ride-roughshod over us? Time for people to look for real leaders. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News and Feature Alliance)      

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