Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Castro: In lieu of a tribute

It was August first week, 1985. Strictly speaking, this my first foreign trip. Earlier, in late 1960s, I had been to Nepal in a school tour, but that was hardly foreign. I was sent to Havana by my bosses in “Patriot”, the former Delhi-based pro-Soviet daily, to cover world indebtedness conference, called by Cuba’s supreme leader Fidel Castro. This was my first assignment; the effort, apparently, was to ascertain if I could be transferred to the news bureau from the desk.

How Gujarat government refused to make public inquiry commission report on corruption

It was February 2011. I was in the Gujarat state assembly, covering routine House proceedings. Mostly boring, as after sitting for the whole day, I wouldn’t get a story worth reporting, except for the usual BJP-Congress duels, which seemed to be happening more according to a written script. On one of these days, a good friend, Mahinder Jethmlani, running Pathey Budget Centre, a small state budget analysis centre in Ahmedabad, reached up to me with a colourful four-page folder.

Land allocation to Dalits: A feasible option to end oppression?

A major plank of young Jignesh Mevani, widely projected as the new Dalit icon of Gujarat, is that the state government should provide five acres of land to each Dalit family, and it should part of the solution to rehabilitate those doing the despicable job of manually scavenging of dead cattle. The view apparently stems from the understanding that agriculture is a respectable profession, and can certainly provide a good livelihood option. Mevani has threatened, in case five acres land is not offered by September 15, he would launch a “rail roko” agitation.

Why the pledge to give up scavenging dead cattle may face roadblock

The year was 1993. I had just joined the Times of India, Ahmedabad. With very little knowledge of Gujarat then, as part of my frantic effort to know the state, its people, culture, society and politics, I would meet as many people as I could –experts, activists, politicians, others. One person whom I would often visit was Achyut Yagnik, considered then – as now –the main contact point for journalists landing up in Ahmedabad. As friend, philosopher and guide, Yagnik would also help researchers, Indian and foreign, in every possible way, sending them to Gujarat’s different parts to interact with knowledgeable individuals.

Rupani is a better choice as Gujarat CM, but is that enough?

You can be a frank and an approachable leader, but is that enough for you to solve social issues which bog society? Soon after Vijay Rupani became Gujarat chief minister on August 5 evening, a top Sachivalaya insider, whom I have known for more than a decade, phoned me up to know what people thought of “the new incumbent”. Hesitant, I told him that he knew Rupani for quite some time, in fact ever since Rupani was in the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, hence he should know better. Refusing to be named, he didn’t mince words, “Rupani is frank, approachable, dynamic”, adding, “It has always been a boon to work with him.”

Dalit outrage? BJP in Gujarat appears “relaxed”

Amidst the recent Dalit agitation in Gujarat in the wake of the July 11 attack on four Dalit youths belonging to the Rohit (chamar) community off Una for skinning a dead cow, I decided to find out what would be the impact of the incident, already a national issue, on Gujarat politics. Apart from immediately getting in touch with some senior Dalit rights activists, I contacted a few senior BJP and Congress leaders, too. The reason I did this was, one of my friends, who happens to be a senior activist, Ashok Shrimali, a Dalit, would always tell me how, over the years, and especially after the 2002 riots, “80 per cent of the Dalits have moved away from the Congress to the BJP”.

Swamy “used and abandoned”? This is what happened in Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have “cleared” his views on BJP’s maverick politician Subramaniam Swamy. However, whatever I know of Modi as chief minister of Gujarat during my nearly 15 year stint in Gandhinagar as the Times of India correspondent, it wasn’t at all surprising the way he reacted. His “critique” of Swamy, if it all it can be called that, came after Reserve Bank of India Raghuram Rajan had decided to quit and return to the academia in Chicago. So, was Swamy “used and abandoned”, to quote a phrase used by Gujarat’s top cop GL Singhal in the “Gujarat Files”, a book based on stings by journalist Rana Ayyub to “expose” government role in 2002 riots and fake encounters?

Nothing Gandhian about prohibition in Gujarat; it’s a British legacy

I lived in Moscow for seven long years from 1986 to 1993 as Patriot correspondent, and travelled almost all corners of the ex-Soviet Union – from its Far-Eastern cities to its northern most port Arkhangelsk, many of the Central Asian towns which were later ravaged by internecine ethnic clashes and, of course, the cultural capital, St Petersburg. Yet, what surprises many of my acquaintances and friends is, how couldn’t I “learn” to give up my essentially teetotal characteristic?

“Wasted” waters of two re-profiled rivers — Narmada and Sabarmati

I have in my hand a new book, “Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis”, edited by two scholar-activists whom I have known for a little while for their insightful reports on ground-level environmental issues and their implications – Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon.

Modi’s educational qualifications — An unnecessary controversy

Ever since the controversy – if can be called that – broke out last year about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BA and MA degrees, I had been informally telling some of those involved in questioning his educational qualifications, including Ahmedabad-based political activist Roshan Shah and a few scribes, that, what I know for sure is, he was an MA student in Gujarat University. I am naming Roshan – whom I have found to be a fine person with good insights into local Gujarat issues, and a keen campaigner against Modi and Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel on social media (something Modi’s opponents utterly lack) – because he was a kingpin in raising this and similar such controversies, citing RTI pleas and complaints.

An alternative to reservation

Last evening, I was a little put off for a while. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, and new Gujarat BJP chief Vijay Rupani (whom I had known as a relatively more suave politician among many of his ilk) told media that the Gujarat government would provide 10 percent reservation to dominant castes having income less than Rs 6 lakh.

Trump an American Modi? No way, say NRIs

A tweet the other day by a well-known America-based political scientist, Milan Vaishnav, amused me. Associated with the think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which has research centres in Beijing, Beirut, Brussels, Moscow, and Washington, he quantified what I had witnessed during my recent US visit: Though he has been called “American Modi” by many in India, Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump isn’t quite liked by NRI Modi supporters.

Dalits: “Trained” to be empowered?

The other day, after several months’ gap, I visited Dalit Shakti Kendra, situated around 12 kms from the spot where the now-famous manufacturing plant of Tata Nano car is located. Situated away from Ahmedabad in a pollution free atmosphere, my purpose, unlike my earlier visits, which I had made to attend several rights’ groups events held there, was very specific. I had come to know that 50-odd boys had come from different parts of rural India, mostly Dalits, to be trained in some sort of technical skill; alongside, they were also being “trained” to be empowered in their struggle against discrimination.