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16 FEBRUARY 2014

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INDIA
FIRST
S

STOP THE
DROWNINGS
What will it take to prevent
manmade and easily
avoidable disasters such as
the recent boat tragedies in
the Andaman and Nicobar
Islands and Odisha?

IF20140216

www.indiafirstepaper.com

RNI REGD NO. ORIENG/2004/13647


VOLUME 9, ISSUE 24 | FORTNIGHTLY

The impassioned speeches of of Narendra


Modi and Rahul Gandhi against the BJD during
their recent visit to Odisha are highly unlikely
to translate into votes for the BJP and
Congress in the state assembly elections

Theres No
Stopping Naveen

Only at Lalchand Jewellers

FROM THE EDITORS DESK

No matter how many times Naredra Modi


or Rahul Gandhi come to the state the
people of Odisha are already sold on
Naveen Patnaik

OF CHANGE
AND CONSTANT
By SUNJOY HANS
Editor-in-Chief

lot of things have transpired in


the Indian political scene over the
past fortnight, serving once again
as a reminder of a truism: a week
is a long time in politics. And yet there are
some others that seem like fixtures,
things about which predictions can
be made with absolute certainty.
To begin with the former: The
speed of change has been
blinding lately. Take for instance Arvind Kejriwals resignation as the chief minister of
New Delhi barely a month
and a half after he assumed
the post. Even though the
Aam Aadmi Party leader
had earlier threatened to
resign if the Jan Lokpal Bill
was not passed in the Parliament, who could have
really imagined that the
Cabinet would recommend
the imposition of Presidents
rule even before Chidambaram

16 FEBRUARY 2014

presented the interim budget for the 2014-15 fiscal


year?
Equally surprising was the reunion of Kejriwal with
his mentor, veteran Gandhian Anna Hazare, after their
apparent estrangement when the protg broke away
from his gurus anti-corruption campaign to form a
political party. Despite Hazare having publicly prohibited Kejriwal from using his name and photographs in
the campaign for Delhi Assembly elections and AAP
having labeled the Parliament- and Hazare-approved
anti-corruption bill as Jokepal not long ago, the two
sides are reportedly in talks to join forces in the manner that they can further each others cause.
Those from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) and they are in the majority sounding
too pleased at the dissolution of the AAP government
in Delhi probably cannot see how Kejriwals resignation on the Jan Lokpal Bill issue implicates their parties
in the rampant corruption prevalent across the country. No political leader has let go of power as easily as
Kejriwal has and the public is watching this drama,
act by act. The Congress and the BJP seem blissfully
unaware of the possible implications and impact of
Kejriwals move on the upcoming Lok Sabha election
results.
This is not the only thing they seem to be unaware,
or in denial, of and that brings us to something that
is utterly predictable in the world of politics at the moment: The Biju Janata Dals victory in the upcoming
state assembly elections in Odisha and the continuance of the partys leader, Naveen Patnaik, as the chief
minister of the state.
No matter how many times Naredra Modi or Rahul
Gandhi come to the state in the meantime, deliver impassioned speeches in public about
the failings or inadequacies of the BJD administration, and make a case for their respective parties (detailed in the cover story
of this edition), the people of Odisha at
least the vast majority of them are not
going to buy it, as they already sold on Patnaik. The general publics perception is that
even though his administration is not free
from loopholes, Patnaik is by far the best option they have because he has been delivering the goods on many fronts unlike
any other administration in the states
history. The states development statistics speak loud and clear in his favour.
The Congress and the BJP should
see the writing on the wall in Odisha,
at least after the BJD swept the recently concluded municipal elections in the state.
With Kejriwal beginning his Jhadu
Chalao Yatra (a national electoralcum-anti-corruption
campaign
launched by AAP) and Naveen appearing ever closer to leading a possible Third Front, the two heavyweight
parties would do better to see the big
picture and make the necessary reality-based adjustments. n

INDIA FIRST 3

INDIA
FIRST
S P E A K S

Y O U R

CONTENTS

M I N D

Editor-in-Chief Sunjoy Hans


(email : sunjoyhans@hotmail.com)
Consulting Editor Pankaj Kumar
Associate Editor Siddhartha Tripathy
Senior Special Correspondent Kabita Dash
Senior Correspondent, Phulbani S. Paul Raj
General Manager Bimal Ku. Bhanjdeo
Legal Advisors Yasobant Das, M.R. Mohanty
Auditor A.K. Sabat & Co. Chartered Accountants
Orissa Correspondent H.K. Rath
Delhi Correspondent Ashok Vermani,
Samita Chaudhary
Special Correspondents Tarun Khanduja,
Ashok Mehta

09

COVER
STORY

WELL NIGH INVINSIBLE

With BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik around, it


will be a tall order for Rahul Gandhi and
Narendra Modi to turn around the fortunes of
the Congress and the BJP in Odisha

Production Head Debabrata Mishra


Assistant Art Director Prabhakar Hota
General Manager Finance Niranjan Das
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All rights reserved throughout the world.


Reproduction in any manner is prohibited. Printed
and published by Sunjoy Hans on behalf of the Sri
Jagannath Publications Pvt. Ltd.
RNI Regd No. ORIENG/2004/13647
Volume 9, Issue 24, 16 February 2014, Fortnightly
email : indiafirst.mag@gmail.com

4 INDIA FIRST

30
ECONOMY

33

A HOUSE IN
ORDER

Homebuyer sentiment
in India has finally
turned positive again

ON THE RIGHT
TRACK

DD News has
TV reaffirmed its
commitment to offering
viewer education and
awareness minus
sensationalism

34

IN RHINO
COUNTRY

Kaziranga national park

TRAVEL offers plenty of options


for nature and wildlife
lovers of all hues

36

MATTER OF LIFE
AND DEATH

Statistics suggest that

HEALTH its high time to further

raise awareness of
organ donation across
the country
16 FEBRUARY 2014

In

nutshell

Party Hoppers

nooty politicians from West Bengal


have long poured scorn and
ridiculed the "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" culture of the hindi heartland - of political
leaders including legislators switching
sides at the drop of a hat. But no more.
The eastern state now also seems to
have fallen in line. While political heavyweight Somen Mitra, who resigned from
the Trinamool Congress to rejoin the
Congress, is the latest example of a party
hopper, the state has over the past oneand-a-half decades, witnessed a substantial number of leaders switching
sides frequently to further their interests. Over the past two-and-a-half years,
there has been a steady stream of Congress leaders - legislators, municipal

Alma Matter

ven as a bitter war between the BJP and the AAP takes national centre stage, an unexpected battle appears to be brewing on the sidelines between two illustrious alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology
(IIT) - Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Delhi Chief Minister
Arvind Kejriwal. Both Parrikar and Kejriwal are automatic contenders for
comparison, given the remarkable similarity of their background, political
rise and even sombre appearances. While Parrikar has a degree in metallurgical engineering, Kejriwal is a mechanical engineer. Alumni of the IITKharagpur (IIT-Kgp) have thrown a phalanx around Kejriwal, India's
second IITian chief minister, especially after the country's first, Goa's Parrikar, made snide remarks against the Aam Aadmi Party leader earlier this
week. "Nowadays, I don't want to be introduced as an IITian chief minister
after the nautanki of Delhi," Parrikar commented, referring to Kejriwal's
dharna in the heart of the national capital demanding action against supposedly errant policemen. n
councillors and panchayat members who have been crossing over to the ruling Trinamool Congress. The Left Front
partners - CPI-M, CPI, Forward Bloc and
Revolutioanry Socialist Party - have also
seen some desertions from their ranks
to the Trinamool Congress, but to a
much less extent. n

Not a Clean Sweep

he AAP may just have to switch


from a broom, its party symbol, to
a whip, if it wants to get its already demoralized house in order in Goa. Disillusionment, conmen and disreputable
folks as members, no collective will to
fight the incumbent government and
visible lethargy are threatening to turn
the Aam Aadmi Party in Goa all that the
outfit has promised not to be, in its more
celebrated and successful Delhi model.
Rajashree Nagarsekar, convenor of the
16 FEBRUARY 2014

AAP in Goa, is candid enough to admit


that the party needed to take a reality
check. Just how lacklustre the AAP is in
Goa can be gauged by the impact made
during the nationwide membership
drive which Delhi Chief Minister Arvind
Kejriwal announced January 10. While
the nationwide target set by the AAP was
1 crore, Goas contribution was a measly
4,000. n

Bhatinda Blues

joke in Punjab about taking a circuitous route has been for protesters to go from Chandigarh to Delhi
via Bathinda, the Lok Sabha constituency of Chief Minister Parkash
Singh's Badal's daughter-in-law and the
wife of the junior Badal, the state's powerful deputy chief minister and ruling
Akali Dal president. Bathinda, in southwest Punjab, 235 km from Chandigarh,
INDIA FIRST 5

is emerging as Punjab's protest capital


with a number of organizations, be they
of teachers, political leaders or other
employees, taking their protests to the
town. With the Badal government paying a lot of attention to the Bathinda
constituency ever since Harsimrat was
first elected from here in 2009, the town
has emerged as a favourite destination
for protesters too. n

Budget Boycott

p in arms against the ruling Congress for the initial five days of
the Himachal Pradesh assembly's ongoing budget session, the opposition BJP
seems in no mood to declare a truce.
Perhaps for the first time in the state's
history, the saffron brigade has kept itself away from Chief Minister Virbhadra
Singh's budget speech and is also likely

Sidhu Sidelined

hat does the name Navjot Singh Sidhu bring to mind? Someone
who can talk his way in and out of every situation? At least that's
what it was not too long ago. Now, the cricketer-turned-politician-cumTV star seems to have been silenced in his own backyard the Amritsar
Lok Sabha constituency by those who are supposed to be on his side.
Sidhu is getting the royal ignore not only from the top brass of Punjab's
ruling Shiromani Akali Dal but also from some senior leaders of his own
Bharatiya Janata Party. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance has ruled Punjab since
2007. In recent weeks, Sidhu has faced the embarrassment of being ignored at official functions in Amritsar. n

to stay away during the coming week.


During his budget speech, Singh missed
no opportunity to take a dig at his rivals.
At the helm for a record sixth stint, Singh
said whatever be the tactics to divert the
attention of the masses the investigations against the misdeeds of the previous government would continue and
the guilty would be brought to book. n

Church to the Rescue

he influential Roman Catholic


Church in Goa has come to the
rescue of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has been criticised by his political opponents for insisting that Goa's
most popular festival of merriment, the
Carnival, has nothing to do with religion. After the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) chief minister, known for his proximity to his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi, created a stir earlier this
month by announcing a five-day budget
session coinciding with the week-long
6 INDIA FIRST

Carnival, Parrikar went a step further:


"Is it Diwali, Dussehra or Christmas?
Technically, everyone is opposed to the
Carnival. It is only happening because of
tourism. Even the Church opposes Carnival," Parrikar said. But amidst the secular flak that his comments have
attracted, it is the Church which has
now backed Parrikar. n

Admin Trouble

he much-hyped creation of new


administrative units in Jammu
and Kashmir - the infrastructure for
which will alone cost Rs.1,500 crore - appears to have created more problems
than it has solved for the ruling National
Conference (NC)-Congress alliance.
There was high-voltage political drama
when Chief Minister Omar Abdullah
threatened to resign if the Congress
members of the cabinet sub-committee
formed to recommend the new units did
16 FEBRUARY 2014

not do so before February 1. The Congress ministers said the decision to create the new units was politically
motivated to favour the NC in the Muslim majority Valley while the Congress
stood to lose in the Jammu region. The
ripples generated by Abdullah's threat
reached New Delhi and the Congress
high command called the party's state
leadership to defuse the deadlock. n

Gaining Ground

ven before the announcement of


dates, rival political parties in West
Bengal have sounded the bugle for the
coming Lok Sabha polls by organising
mass rallies at the city's sprawling
maidan the traditional venue for huge
gatherings over the years. While the ruling Trinamool Congress set the ball

A Dark Horse Haunts Hooda

hen Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda spoke


about race horses and wedding horses to refer to Lok Sabha and
Rajya Sabha candidates, he cleverly hid the pain of being haunted by a
dark horse - that too a political detractor from his own Congress party.
Hooda, who is one of the most powerful Congress chief ministers and
one who gets away with almost everything with the Congress high command in Delhi, lost the race to push one of his favourites for a Rajya
Sabha seat from Haryana. The Congress party chose to nominate then
union minister for social justice and poverty alleviation Selja, a known
Hooda detractor who is considered close to Congress president Sonia
Gandhi, for one of the two Rajya Sabha seats from Haryana for which
elections will be held February 7. n

rolling with party chief Mamata Banerjee addressing a huge turnout at the
Brigade Parade Ground January 30, the
Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial aspirant Nerandra Modi is set to
hold a meeting at the same spot. Not to
be left behind, the opposition Left Front
has convened a rally there February 9
when it is likely to unveil its political
strategy for the general elections. For
Banerjee, the Brigade Ground rally was
an opportunity to pitch for a national
role for her party as also for herself in
the post-poll scenario, which -going by
the recent opinion polls - is likely to land
the country into the lap of another coalition experiment. n

Telangana Tangle

ith the Andhra Pradesh legislature sending back the bill on


creating a separate Telangana to the
16 FEBRUARY 2014

president, along with the resolutions


rejecting it, the ball is back in the central government's court. After nearly
seven weeks, both houses of the legislature sent back the Andhra Pradesh
Reorganisation Bill 2013 not only with
their views but also with two official
resolutions adopted by a voice vote
rejecting the bill. While Chief Minister
N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, who had
moved the resolution in the assembly,
and other legislators from Seemandhra claiming that the bill was
unanimously rejected in both the
houses, Telangana legislators and also
central leaders of the Congress party
are saying that the resolutions would
in no way impact the formation of
separate state. All eyes will now be on
President Pranab Mukherjee, who is
expected to go through the views of
the legislators before taking a call on
forwarding the bill to parliament. n
INDIA FIRST 7

POLITICALLY

INCORRECT

A fortnightly update on the faux pas of the movers and shakers of Indian politics
Khap panchayats are like NGO
as we have resident welfare
associations they are part of
our culture"
Haryana chief minister Bhupinder
Singh Hooda responding to
finance minister P Chidambaram's
recent statement calling khap
panchayats a retrograde
organization.

"I am senior to Modi in


selling tea. I sold tea as a
child along with my two
brothers who are no
more. The tea shop is still
there for anyone to check
my claim ... He sold
blood"
Former Bihar chief minister
Lalu Prasad wants to know
where Modi, the BJPs
prime ministerial
candidate, sold tea.

I was under attack. As I


cannot use lethal weapons and
as someone with no security, I
used the pepper spray like
women do to protect myself
from the attack
Congress MP Lagadapati
Rajagopal says he went to rescue
TDP MP M Venugopala Reddy
who was targeted by Congress
MPs while he was protesting in
the Parliament.
8 INDIA FIRST

16 FEBRUARY 2014

Cover

Story

WELL NIGH
INVINSIBLE
With BJD supremo Naveen Patnaik around, it will be a tall order for Rahul Gandhi and
Narendra Modi to turn around the fortunes of the Congress and the BJP in Odisha
16 FEBRUARY 2014

INDIA FIRST 9

he first half of this month saw


the Congress and the Bharatiya
Janata Party launch their respective campaigns in Odisha ahead of
the upcoming general elections, in
which the two heavyweight parties
campaign spearheads Congress vice
president Rahul Gandhi and Gujarat
chief minister-cum-BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi fired
first salvos at the Naveen Patnaik-led
Biju Janata Dal government.
On the first day of his two-day tour of
the state, while addressing a public meet
at Bhatapada village near Cuttack on
February 9, the Gandhi scion stated that
the central government had been sending adequate funds to Odisha but they
were not reaching the people.
He said: "The money we send is being
stolen. Your money is not reaching you.
It's getting lost in between.
The Congress leader pointed out that
people in Odisha continue to remain
poor despite the state being rich in mineral resources. He also criticised the
state government for complaining about
the lack of central funds and said
Rs.5,000 crore was still lying unspent
with the government.
Gandhi also highlighted several burning issues concerning the state, including unemployment, mid-day meal
scheme, chit fund scam, central rural
job scheme scam and the Maoist problem.
He said as many as 3,500 farmers have
committed suicide while there are about
10 lakh unemployed youths in the state.
"People in Odisha want to work but
the state government does not provide
them employment," he stated.
He said 22 of the state's 30 districts
have been affected by Maoist activities.
"Rs.60,000 crore worth of iron ore and
manganese ore were looted... People
should have benefited from this money
but the benefit went to selected people,
mining mafias," he said, criticising the
government over the alleged mining
scam.
Appearing to have done his homework better than before, Gandhi added
that 20 lakh people were defrauded by
the chit-fund scam in the state.
Earlier, hundreds of Congress workers
and leaders greeted Gandhi and gave
him a rousing welcome when he landed
at the Biju Patnaik International Airport.

MODI RHETORIC
An even bigger welcome was extended to Modi upon his arrival on February 11, just a day after Gandhi left.
As expected, the Gujarat strongman
pulled no punches while making an all10 INDIA FIRST

out effort to make light of the BJD governments credentials.


Taking a dig at the efforts by some political parties to set up a Third Front,
Modi said in Odisha such a move has
only one purpose to save the Congress.
Addressing a public meeting in the
state capital Bhubaneswar, he said such
fronts take birth just before the elections
and their only aim is to help the Congress.
Noting that the eastern parts of India
have not grown on a par with western
and central India, he said it happened
only because states in the region have
been ruled by the so-called Third Front
parties.
"If we want to develop India's eastern
region, we need to teach a lesson to
those who have been advocating a Third
Front," shouted the BJP leader.
"Of the 11 parties which are clamouring for a Third Front, nine have supported the Congress always and when
the elections come, they wear the mask
of a Third Front," he said.
"The only work of this Third Front is
to save Congress. Whenever the Congress is in trouble, they appear. Unless
we identify this Third Front, we cannot
purify Indian politics," said Modi, kickstarting the party's campaign in the
state for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Castigating Patnaik over the issue of
unemployment and migration, he said a
large number of people from the state
migrate to Gujarat for jobs as employment opportunities are not available at
home. Patnaik is a member of the Third
Front.
"It surprises me even more when I
find most of the people belong to Ganjam. When I ask them where your district is, they tell me 'it is the district of
our chief minister'," Modi said.
"What leaves me worried is that the
people from the chief minister's district
in Odisha have to migrate for a job," he
said. "Who wants to leave his old parents, state, agriculture farm, and
friends," he asked.
Invoking the name of legendary
leader Biju Patnaik, father of the present
chief minister, Modi said: "You know
who is pained the most on seeing
Odisha's destruction? It is Biju babu's
soul." Appealing to the people to vote
for BJP, he said: "It will be the right tribute to Biju babu."
Describing the 2014 general elections
as an election for "political purification", he also slammed the Congress for
price rise, inflation, and corruption.
"What did the Congress give to the nation? Only one family has ruled. Do

these leaders (Congress ones) from


Delhi who come here ever speak about
inflation, price rise? Do they feel the
pain? Do they speak on corruption," he
asked.
Supporters also greeted him with loud
cheers, frenzied slogan-shouting and
waving of BJP party flags when he
started his speech, saying a few sentences in Odia, the state's mother
tongue, at the venue. A large number of
them were sporting saffron caps with
"Vote for Modi" written on them.
Modi came and left amid much fanfare, but the BJD and its future at the
state as well as national level seemed
none the worse for it.
Just the week before Modis arrival,
the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) won
three Rajya Sabha seats from Odisha
but given its ever-strengthening position now, it was disappointed to see the
opposition Congress even manage to
16 FEBRUARY 2014

wrest one.
Panchayati Raj Minister Kalpataru
Das, Textiles Minister Sarojini Hembram
and former minister Ananga Udaya
Singh Deo all from the ruling party
were elected. However, eminent architect and sculptor Raghunath Mohapatra
who was backed by the ruling party on
the fourth seat, for which no party had
the required numbers, lost.
The Congress had fielded Ranjib
Biswal, a former member of the Lok
Sabha from Jagatsinghpur and the Indian Premier League chairman, against
Mohapatra and won.
Elections was held to fill up the four
Rajya Sabha seats in the state as the
terms of Ramachandra Khuntia of the
Congress, Mangala Kisan and Renubala
Pradhan from the BJD and Balbir Punj of
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would
end April 2.
In the current state assembly, the BJD
16 FEBRUARY 2014

has 107 members, the Congress 27 and


the BJP six. The Communist Party of
India (CPI) has one member while there
are six Independents in the house.
While one member from the BJP did
not turn up for voting, his party colleagues voted in favour of Mohapatra.
The CPI and three Independent members also supported the BJD-backed
candidate.
"I am very happy the three BJD candidates won. It is very sad Independent
candidate (Mohapatra) lost," Patnaik
told reporters.

ONE STEP AHEAD


But the BJD supremo, with Odisha
firmly in hand and New Delhi in sight,
has already been making his own
moves.
By joining hands with the 10 nonCongress and non-BJP parties, which
met in Delhi recently to form a bloc to

pitch for a for pro-people, anti-communal and federal agenda in the parliament, widely seen as the first step
towards the formation of a Third Front,
Patnaik has taken a smart political step.
While it is a reiteration of Patnaiks
ideological commitment to keeping
both Congress and the BJP at an arms
length, it is likely to enhance his political
clout at the national level. In the event
of Third Front coming to power at the
Centre, though it seems to be a remote
possibility, he will be the king maker if
not the king.
In the alternate scenario of Third
Front not making it but winning substantial number of seats, he will still be
in a position to dictate terms to
whichever party would try to form government in Delhi. His becoming part of
the inchoate Third Front, thus, is a winwin gamble.
However, the wind is clearly blowing
in the direction of a Third Front. A CPIM leader recently called on declared
that regional parties should unite ahead
of the general elections so that the Congress and the BJP can be defeated.
Pinarayi Vijayan, state secretary of the
party, told reporters the country's main
enemy today is the Congress and it's
now certain that it cannot return to
power. "Similarly the BJP also has to be
kept out. Then no single party can come
to power and it's here that the regional
parties should come together ahead of
the elections.
"It's because of that the CPI-M has
tied up with the AIADMK," said Vijayan,
adding that the need of the hour now is
to think in terms of a pre-poll alliance
and after that the aspect of the third
front is expected to materialise.
"The Left alone cannot come to power
and hence it will garner the support of
parties like AIADMK, JD (S), BJD, Assam
Gana Parishad, Samajwadi Party to
name a few and mind you most of these
parties also have a similar view on policies and programmes that, we the Left
has.
"But the primary objective is to keep
out both the Congress and BJP," said Vijayan who is currently on a state wide
trip.
Kerala has 20 Lok Sabha seats and in
the 2009 polls, the Left alliance took a
severe drubbing when it could win just
four seats.
And many regional satrap across the
nation share Vijayans line of thought.
No wonder, Modi seems worried
about the emergence of a third alternative and called it an attempt to save the
Congress.
Modi has his logic. Given the proINDIA FIRST 11

Congress history of the Left, which is the


driving force behind the Third Front,
and its complete aversion of the BJP, the
possibility of the two major communist
parties joining hands with the Congress
to keep BJP out of power cannot be
ruled out. That may bother the BJP in a
scenario where the NDA does not get a
clear majority despite emerging as the
biggest alliance after the elections.
This is not an unlikely scenario given
the volatile nature of Indian politics and
the propensity of the voters to delivering
unclear verdicts. If that happens, it would
be interesting to see how parties such as
BJD react to the situation. The dilemma of
Patnaik is bound to be acute because he
has been consistently following a policy of
equidistance from Congress and the BJP.
He cannot afford to be seen as being
aligned with either of the two as it would
dilute his political appeal.
That, however, remains a hypothetical
situation and the stock BJD response to
it would be that the party would cross
the bridge when it comes to it. For the
moment, the chief minister appears to
be on a strong wicket while advocating
the cause of Third Front. More than anything else, he seems keen to prove that
regional parties have emerged as a big
force in the country and party or political combine forming government at the
Centre can afford to ignore it.
Among all the parties engaged in the
endeavour of giving shape to the Third
12 INDIA FIRST

Front, the BJD finds itself in the most


comfortable situation. While both the
left parties appear to have weakened
with CPI (M) unlikely to fare well either
in West Bengal or Kerala, Jaylalitha is
being haunted by the court cases
against her apart from the threat from
her rival, the DMK.
Similarly, Bihar chief minister Nitish
Kumar, for all his apparent bravado,
cannot ignore the multiple challenges
he faces in his state from the BJP and the
likes of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas
Paswan. Patnaik, by contrast, seems to
be having a dream run in the state with
his rivals Congress and the BJP lying
down in the dumps. Both the opposition
parties fared poorly in the recently concluded municipal elections which was
the last test of popularity before the approaching general elections.
The popularity of the chief minister
also seems to be at its peak what with his
having endeared himself to the poor
and the weaker sections with schemes
like Rs.1 a kg rice and free bicycles for
school girls. Women and youth, too,
have been the recipient of his munificence. A clever politician, he has taken
care to ensure that all sections of voters
remain pleased.
The only worry for Patnaik could be
the scams and scandals which have surfaced in the state in recent times. The
biggest of these scams is the mining
scam into which a CBI inquiry is being

demanded by the opposition. The report, which got leaked before being
placed in the parliament, has been a
huge embarrassment to the state government even though its leaders are trying to put up a brave face and shift the
entire blame on the Congress-led central government which, too, has been
getting the jitters.
Irrespective of whether a CBI inquiry
into the scam is ordered or not, the report would be a major weapon in the
hands of the opposition in the run up to
the 2014 elections. Similarly, dal (pulses)
and land scams would also return to
haunt the chief minister in the elections.
Much, however, would depend on the
ability of the opposition to corner the
chief minister and his party on these issues. The record of both the opposition
parties has been pretty dismal on this
count as they have in the past invariably
failed to sustain any campaign against
Patnaik who, no wonder, continues to
enjoy a teflon-coated image.
Political analysts appear to be almost
unanimous that the opposition, given
the serious division in its ranks, would
fail yet again. The opposition also suffers
from a major problem of credibility.
That being the overall scenario, Patnaik
should have little difficulty winning not
only the assembly elections but also the
Lok Sabha polls which would be held simultaneously. He seems to be in a position from where he can only win. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Nation

Is Democracy Dead?
Many angry Indians are asking this question after the recent
drama in the parliament over the Telengana issue

he mayhem in the Lok Sabha


during the introduction of a
highly controversial bill for creating a separate state of Telangana
Thursday an incident that was widely
publicised and pilloried by the media
has left citizens angry and frustrated,
with people from different walks of life
calling it a shame and disgrace and wondering where India's democracy was
headed.
While some say they are trying to reflect on the shortcomings of Indian
democracy, others despair at the regular
disruptions in legislative functioning
and steady erosion of the decorum and
dignity of the highest institution of
democracy. Lok Sabha speaker Meira
Kumar has dubbed the incident as a
"blot on democracy".
"The dignity of parliament is being
16 FEBRUARY 2014

continuously eroded. As a citizen of this


country, I am angry, but I don't know
what to do," Shaheen Ansari, who is
pursuing her doctorate from Delhi university, said.
Lagadapati Rajagopal of the Congress,
the Lok Sabha MP from Vijaywada, released gusts of stinging pepper spray -

We were complaining about


the disruptions, and here we
have MPs coming down to what
is called "goondagardi"
(hooliganism). Where is our
democracy going"
Vinit Sharma, a software
professional from Bangalore

usually used by women to ward of attackers - towards fellow members after


the ruckus that followed Home Minister
Sushilkumar Shinde tabling the Telangana bill, with other MPs for a united
Andhra Pradesh tearing up papers and
uprooting microphones.
Rajagopal, one of the six Congress
members from Andhra Pradesh suspended by the party for moving a notrust move against the government on
the Telangana issue, later claimed he
acted in self-defence as he feared an attack on himself by MPs favouring the bifurcation. He didn't say how he got to
smuggle the pepper spray inside the
house.
Vinit Sharma, a software professional
from Bangalore, called it parliamentary
hooliganism.
"We were complaining about the disINDIA FIRST 13

ruptions, and here we have MPs coming


down to what is called "goondagardi"
(hooliganism). Where is our democracy
going," Sharma asked.
"I feel depressed and hopeless to see
this. They are just politicising everything
and people suffer," Sharma added.
Shweta Arya from Delhi termed
Thursday's happenings a shame.
"It is a shame on our country and
democracy. If I could I would ban these
MPs permanently from entering parliament," Arya, who works with a private
firm, said.
Asked if saw a way out, she said she
had little hope from these parliament
14 INDIA FIRST

representatives. "I feel it is our bad luck


that we are going to face similar situations in future as well," she said.
Zigmeela Bhutia, an IAS aspirant from
Gangtok, said: "Our political representatives portray the quality of the mass."

We elect our representatives.


If we chose criminals and send
them to parliament this is what
we will get
Rajesh Kumar, a Bihar
government employee

"I think it is time to reflect," he said.


Echoing this, Rajesh Kumar, who
works with the Bihar government, said
citizens need to be more careful about
who they vote for.
"We elect our representatives. If we
chose criminals and send them to parliament this is what we will get," he contended.
Francois Gautier, a French journalist
who has been long based in India, said
on Twitter: "I covered Parliament in
Delhi: worse than a fish market. MPs
think they are gods and can do anything.
This is the Nehruvian legacy?"
Pankaj Poddar from Mumbai took a
16 FEBRUARY 2014

dig through a four-line rhyme: "Roses


are red/Violets are blue/I am an MP/ I
will pepper spray you".
With the Lok Sabha polls round the
corner, many said they will have to think
all over again before voting.
"I think it is very important for everyone to ensure that they vote for good,
educated candidates, and not for goon
type of people," Delhi housewife
Sharmila Bose said.
According to an analysis by think-tank
Association for Democratic Reforms
(ADR), about 30 percent of Lok Sabha
members and 17 percent of Rajya Sabha
members have criminal cases pending
16 FEBRUARY 2014

against them. Of the 543 elected Lok


Sabha members, 162 have declared
criminal cases against themselves and
76 have declared serious criminal cases
against themselves in their election affidavits.
Some, however, sided with the Andhra

About 30 percent of Lok


Sabha members and 17 percent
of Rajya Sabha members have
criminal cases pending against
them

Pradesh MP. Inam Sarah Pangain, a freelance writer from Arunachal Pradesh,
compared L. Rajagopal to freedom
fighter Bhagat Singh.
"The centre and the states neglect
people's aspirations. That is more
shameful than a pepper spray. I don't
think pepper spray in parliament is
shameful. It is quite a strategy to express
frustration. Remember Bhagat Singh
threw a bomb," Pangain maintained.
"Rajagopal is hero for us, he stood for
the demand of a unified Andhra
Pradesh. The government is being dictatorial. It doesn't want to hear our voice,"
S. Siva, a student from Hyderabad. n
INDIA FIRST 15

Nation

Being Second Only


to Morarji Desai
Chidambaram has already equalled Desai's record of
eight regular budgets. He will also surpass the eightbudget track record of Pranab Mukherjee, who is now
president and quite unlikely now to re-join this race

16 INDIA FIRST

fter presenting India's 83rd


national budget this month,
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will be just one short of
the record 10 tabled by former prime
minister Morarji Desai, who was finance minister in the cabinets of
prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru
and Indira Gandhi before holding the
top post during the 1977-80 period.
Desai went on to present eight annual budgets and two interim budgets. In his first stint as finance
minister, he presented five regular
budgets from 1959-60 to 1963-64 and
one interim budget for 1962-63. In
his second stint, he presented three
annual budgets from 1967-68 to
1969-70 and one interim budget for
1967-68. During all the four budget
presentations in the second stint as
finance minister regular and interim Desai was also deputy prime
minister in the Indira Gandhi cabinet.
Since independence in 1947, India
has seen 25 finance ministers in
some cases the prime minister himself or herself holding the finance
portfolio. Among them, they have
presented 66 normal annual budgets, 12 interim budgets and four special-occasion budgetary measures,
16 FEBRUARY 2014

also called mini-budgets.


In contrast, all the previous budgets
presented by Chidambaram were fullfledged budgets even though the one
for 1996-97 was presented in July, and
not February, as is customary when
H.D. Deve Gowda was prime minister.
Therefore, the latest to be presented
next week will be the first interim
budget for him.
In a way, therefore, Chidambaram has
already equalled Desai's record of eight
regular budgets. He will also surpass the
eight-budget track record of Pranab
Mukherjee, who is now president and
quite unlikely now to re-join this race.
In terms of numbers, in the past, there
were three finance ministers who presented seven budgets each Yashwant
Sinha, Y.B. Chavan and C.D. Deshmukh.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who
was finance minister between 1991 and
1996, tabled six of them, so did T.T. Krishnamachari who was the country's
fourth finance minister.
The next set of finance ministers in
terms of the number of budget presentations were R. Venkataraman and H.M.
Patel with three each, while Jaswant
Singh, V.P. Singh, C. Subramaniam, John
Mathai and R.K. Shanmukham Chetty
had two each in their kitty.
India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Nehru, has one budget to his credit so


have his daughter Indira Gandhi and
grand-son Rajiv Gandhi.
Besides them, Charan Singh, N.D. Tiwari, Madhu Dandavate, S.B. Chavan
and Sachindra Chaudhuri also presented one budget each.
Some circumstances also did not afford some leaders with the finance portfolio the pleasure of presenting a
national budget. Those in this category
were Inder Kumar Gujral and Hemvati
Nandan Bahugana.
As far as next week's exercise goes,
history can throw some light on what to
expect.
Under normal circumstances, finance
ministers tend not to bring any new provision in interim budgets. Since such
budgets are normally presented in an
election year, finance ministers leave the
task of a full-fledged exercise to their
successors.
But Chidambaram says nothing stops
him from making some changes. "We
can make any proposal, short of amending any law," he said. "We cannot propose amendments to the Income Tax
Act, the Customs Act or the Excise Act.
But we can also outline a vision for the
future."
But why this exercise, if it is so futile?
This is because the previous budget

was for 2013-14, and the government


was allowed by parliament to only draw
money till March 31 this year for various
expenses, including salaries and wages.
To draw funds beyond this cut-off date,
fresh permission from parliament is
mandatory as per the Constitution.
A sanction is, accordingly, required to
draw such money from the Consolidated Fund of India for the next fiscal
beginning April 1 thus, the outgoing
government presents what is called a
vote on account.
Even here, the permission of the
house is generally sought for drawing
money for the first four months of the
fiscal, leaving the next government to
deal with the expenses thereafter. Therefore, since even a normal budget is approved only in May even if it is tabled
end-February this regular annual exercise, too, calls for a vote on account to
provision money till then.
Also, unlike a regular budget, the interim one does not have any new proposal on the revenue side that is, no
taxation measures are proposed and
status quo is maintained. Such a budget
only lists an estimate of the income generated and the expenditure incurred
during the previous year, as also the
likely expenses during the period for
which the vote on account is sought. n
INDIA FIRST 17

Nation

Breaking
the Caste
Jinx
History suggests that a lot will have to fall
in place for Narendra Modi to become the
first non-Brahmin prime minister of India
to complete his term

hould Narendra Modi actually be


crowned the prime minister in
May, the post-Mandal social justice political platform will finally have
prevailed at the centre too. Egalitarianism will have trumped the caste/class
stranglehold on Delhi Durbar. The chaiwala jibe will reverberate with great
irony, but only if Modi has the numbers
to obstruct the concert of regional leaders.
A gradual erosion of the caste or feudal hierarchies has been taking place
since independence in the south, west
and eastern India. After Narayan Dutt
Tewari and Jagannath Mishra surrendered their chief ministerial bungalows
in Lucknow and Patna respectively in
1989, these stations too are firmly with
backward caste and Dalit leaders.
The Gaddi at Delhi has so far been insulated from the winds of change. Of the
66 years since independence, Delhi has
been ruled by Brahmin prime ministers
for 51 years, including spells of six years
by BJPs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and twoand-a-half-year of Janata Partys Morarji
18 INDIA FIRST

Desai.
Manmohan Singhs 10 years must be
considered unique because it is unlikely
that there will be a Congress president
as powerful as Sonia Gandhi was in 2004
when she nominated him the prime
minister. Sonia did have a nebulous,
Brahmin affilation but Manmohan
Singh was outside the caste framework.
Lal Bahadur Shastri, Charan Singh,
V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve
Gowda and Inder Gujaral together account for about four years.
The evidence so far shows that it has
not been possible to forge a durable
consensus on a caste other than the
Brahmin for the job of prime minister of
India. A Kayastha, two Rajputs, a Jat, a
Vokaligga and a Khatri became prime
ministers but did not last beyond a year
or two. Every Brahmin prime minister
completed his term.
The question of a non-Brahmin alternative at the centre never arose for the
38 or so years that the Nehru-Gandhi
family lasted at the helm. Dynasty ensured continuity.

P.V. Narasimha Rao was the first Congress prime minister who faced, with
great anxiety, the prospect of Brahmins
losing political power. He himself came
on top under unusual circumstances.
Had Rajiv Gandhi not been assassinated halfway through the 1991 general
elections, he would probably have had
to sit in the opposition. A wave of sympathy after his death gave Narasimha
Rao just the number of seats from the
south to be able to hold onto power with
his cunning and craft. He never allowed
a rival power centre in the Hindi belt to
emerge. Arjun Singh was assiduously
kept out. This made room for the BJP to
grow.
The 1991 verdict taught the Congress
a lesson: the electorate was discarding
Brahmin candidates. Satish Sharma,
Sheila Kaul, Mani Shankar Aiyer and
Vidya Charan Shukla were the only winners.
This trend was not confined to the
Congress. If stalwarts like Vasant Sathe
and V.N. Gadgil lost in Maharashtra, so
did the oppositions Madhu Dandwate
16 FEBRUARY 2014

and Rama Krishna Hegde lose, the latter from Karnataka.


Narasimha Rao was quite transparent with his preferences. Three of the
four Brahmins who won elections were
slotted in the cabinet. Others like
Pranab
Mukherjee,
Bhuvanesh
Chaturvedi, V.N. Gadgil, Nawal Kishore
Sharma and Jitendra Prasad were accommodated variously, in the Planning
Commission, Rajya Sabha and as party
general secretaries and spokesmen of
the party.
Traditionally, the vice president became chairman of the Indian Council of
Cultural Relations. Narasimha Rao bypassed K.R. Narayanan and handed the
job to Vasant Sathe who had lost from
Maharashtra. For similar consideration,
Gen. V.K. Krishna Rao was retained as
governor of Jammu and Kashmir for an
exceptionally long tenure despite the
controversies attending him.
These details are not to serve as proof
of the Brahmins assertiveness, but as
evidence of their tenuous hold on political power and general nervousness
16 FEBRUARY 2014

that even that was receding from him.


Narasimha Rao would have been
quite content when Atal Bihari Vajpayee
became the prime minister in May 1996
but this government lasted just 13 days.
After a turbulent two years of Deve
Gowda and Inder Gujaral, Vajpayee
came back as leader of the National
Democratic Alliance for a full six years,
an extra year on account of the circumstances in 1998-99.
The 2004 election results were a
shock, in different ways, for Vajpayee
and Sonia Gandhi. The act of renouncing power raised Sonia Gandhis stature
sky high even though, it must be added
in parenthesis, she did not have much
of an option. If she had listened to the
wailing, weeping party loyalists and
yielded to the temptations of prime
ministership, the issue of her foreign
origin would have plagued her.
The most capable Congress leader
available to her for the top was Pranab
Mukherjee. But he would have had considerable political potential beyond her
control. Manmohan Singh was a tried

economist, well in tune with the sole


superpower, and would not be a political threat just in case Rahul Gandhi
readied himself for battle.
Assuming that Rahul Gandhi has his
eyes set on a vague future beyond 2014,
the only certainty in the coming elections is that the BJP will be the largest
single party.
Unlike the Congress, the BJP has
shown greater foresight in opening the
option of a social justice route to power.
Kalyan Singh, Bangaru Laxman, Uma
Bharti are some examples. There clearly
are in the Sangh Parivar lobbies for and
against this trend. Hence the periodical
waxing and waning of these stars. But
nothing succeeds like success, and
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj
Chauhan is an example of the Parivars
endorsement of the trend.
Prime Ministership is a different level
of play. Should the party win an adequate number of Lok Sabha seats, the
RSS-BJP leaderships commitment to
social justice will also be seriously
under test. n
INDIA FIRST 19

Nation

STOP THE
DROWNINGS
The boat tragedies that struck both the Andaman and
Nicobar Islands and Odisha in a span of a fortnight were
clearly manmade disasters and easily avoidable. So
what will it take to prevent such incidents from
happening in the future?

ince January 26 this year, two


major boat tragedies have been
reported in India over a span of
as many weeks. What is worse, there is a
disturbingly similar pattern to these unfortunate events.
While India's 65th Republic Day celebrations were under way, as many as 21
tourists died in a boat accident off Viper
Island, just near the dockyards in Port
Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It was reported that the boat
with 43 passengers aboard was overcrowded and there were no life jackets
or divers on board.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock over the accident and
through an official statement "condoled
the loss of lives".
"The prime minister has asked all
central agencies to immediately assist in
the rescue and relief operations," the
statement said.
President Pranab Mukherjee also did
the same, calling upon the authorities
concerned to engage in speedy relief
and rescue efforts and render all assistance to the kin of the victims".
A report the next day quoted the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Lt. Governor as saying: "For the safety of tourists,
rules are already there. What we need is
proper implementation."
20 INDIA FIRST

This expression of concern was all


well and good, but it all seemed a little
too late in the day, particularly in light of
the fact that two months ago, a tourist
had written a letter to the union tourism
ministry about the lack of safety standards in the islands' tourism circuit,
which had then been forwarded to the
local authorities.
Three days later, at least five women
drowned and nine others were missing
when an overcrowded boat capsized in
the Ganga in Bihar's Buxar district. Bodies of all five women have been recovered, Buxar District Magistrate Raman
Kumar said. Eight women were rescued
by villagers.
Kumar said 22 women, mostly labourers, were in the boat when the accident
took place. Then, the Bihar government
announced a compensation of Rs.1.5
lakh to the kin of the five women.

ODISHA TRAGEDY
And exactly a fortnight after the Andaman tragedy, another major boat accident took place in Odisha.
The toll in the February 9 boat tragedy
in Odisha had risen to 28 by February
10, with rescuers retrieving more bodies.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered
an inquiry into the tragedy and announced an ex-gratia grant of Rs.1.5

lakh to the kin of the dead.


"Seventeen bodies were retrieved
today (Monday). It is estimated that at
least three people are still missing," state
Special Relief Commissioner P.K. Mohapatra stated.
The dead include 17 women, of whom
three are below the age of 10, and 11
men of whom one is below seven
years.
The boat which went down in the Hirakud Dam reservoir, about 350 km from
Bhubaneswar, around 4.30 p.m. Sunday,
was carrying more than 100 people
against a capacity of 70. Most of the passengers were picnickers.
The accident occurred when the people from Sambalpur and nearby areas
were returning after a picnic on the
other side of the reservoir.
Witnesses said the mechanised boat
capsized in the middle of the reservoir
after water entered into it following a
snag. The passengers tried hard to drain
out the water from the boat, but in vain.
Many of the picnickers jumped off the
boat in panic. A survivor said the boat
did not have basic safety measures. "I
desperately tried to rescue my wife and
seven-year-old daughter but I could
not," said Abinash Jena.
Ordering an inquiry into the tragedy,
Patnaik said the state government will
16 FEBRUARY 2014

also bear the cost of treatment of the


survivors.
Finance Minister Prasanna Acharya
and Revenue and Disaster Management
Minister Surya Narayan Patro visited the
region and reviewed the situation.
Congress vice president Rahul
Gandhi, who was in the state on a twoday tour since February 9, also visited
the tragedy site, and met the survivors.
Expressing grief at the loss of lives, he
also requested the authorities to provide
all possible assistance to the affected
people.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Niranjan
Patnaik asked the government how and
why were boats without adequate safety
jackets, trained crew and communication equipment being allowed to carry
passengers. The Bharatiya Janata Party
in a statement rejected the probe ordered by the government and demanded a judicial inquiry.
Their criticism of the government
might be nothing more an effort to corner the ruling party, but their questions
are relevant in the national context.

TIME TO TAKE STOCK


India witnesses a fair number of such
tragedies annually and little changes in
terms of implementation of the multifarious laws, rules and regulations for
16 FEBRUARY 2014

prevention of mostly avoidable manmade disasters.


The question is how much more time
and loss of life will it take for us to
change?
As a nation, we tend to wake up to
harsh implications of this laxity only
when we feel its impact first-hand. Else,
we see poor execution of legislation as
somebody else's problem. The fact is
that non-adherence to various safety-related rules and regulations by commercial entities and indifferent enforcement
by authorities concerned are tantamount to wilful negligence and should
be entirely unacceptable.
The Disaster Management Act, 2005,
that includes in its scope manmade disasters, was enacted with the express aim
of providing the requisite institutional
mechanisms for planning and implementation of a holistic approach to disaster management, including, in
particular, preparedness and mitigation
apart from coordinated and prompt response.
The Act defines mitigation as measures aimed at reducing the risk, impact
or effects of a disaster or threatening
disaster situation.
The institutional mechanism laid
down by the Act includes, apart from the
National Disaster Management Author-

ity and the National Executive Committee at the centre, the constitution of a
State Disaster Management Authority
(SDMA) in every state headed by the
chief minister.
The SDMA inter alia lays down disaster management policies and guidelines
and reviews implementation of the state
disaster management plan. The state executive committee headed by the chief
secretary is to monitor implementation
of disaster management plans by state
departments and district authorities.
The district disaster management authorities have been given wide-ranging
powers and responsibilities with regards
to planning and implementation of district-level disaster management. Comprehensive attention to risk assessment,
mitigation, preparedness and capacity
building, apart from prompt and effective response, are invariably a part of
these statutory provisions.
Further, the national executive committee, chaired by the home secretary,
can give directions to the central government ministries or departments concerned, the state governments and the
state authorities regarding measures to
be taken by them in response to any
threatening disaster situation or disaster.
Not only that, if the national executive
INDIA FIRST 21

committee, state executive committee


or the district authority feels that provisions of any rule, regulation, notification, guidelines, instructions, order,
scheme or by-laws are required to be
made or amended for preventing disasters or their mitigation, it can mandate
these.
The recent accident suggests that
there may be a need to review existing
laws/rules governing commercial boating. But, as every Indian would probably
agree, our biggest problem is not so
much the law as its enforcement.
We need to strengthen the application
of safety-related rules and regulations
preferably through mandatory public
disclosure (for e.g. permissible number
of passengers and availability of safety
measures like life boats being displayed
on every tourist boat) and also through
better regulatory inspections which include not only capacity building of licensing/inspecting agencies but also
making them firmly accountable for
lapses.
The Law Commission's Consultation
Paper on Manmade Disasters states that
"the preventive aspect is being neglected. Regulatory mechanisms to en-

22 INDIA FIRST

sure preventive measures are utterly


lacking and the law is too lenient towards those violating the safety regulations or otherwise contributing to the
root causes of disasters".
Though this paper focuses on building collapses, fire outbreaks and stampedes and has specifically left out rail,
road and boat accidents, the underlying
observations and principles would
apply equally to these disasters.
Attention has been drawn to the provisions of the Disaster Management Act
wherein non-performance of duties are
punishable with imprisonment for a
term which may extend to one year or
with fine or both.
Highlighting the importance of
greater accountability for better enforcement of laws for prevention and
control of manmade disasters, it has
been rightly pointed out that this applies equally to officials as well as those
in charge of management or are entrusted with the duties connected with
prevention and safety.
There is no reason why gross dereliction of duties on the part of officials and
casual and careless manner of performance of duties should not attract penal

provisions.
The section dealing with offences and
penalties in the Disaster Management
Act is in fact broad enough to cover
many acts of negligence and gross dereliction.
However, based upon the observations and recommendations of the Law
Commission, some amendments and
specific rules could be framed to provide
greater clarity. For example, in the reference to public servants, inserting the
words "fails to perform" and "neglects
to perform" along with the existing
"ceases" or "refuses to perform duties
imposed under the Act", may facilitate
wider applicability of these penal provisions and better accountability vis--vis
the provisions of the Act.
The fact that Indian courts have held
that the defence of sovereign immunity
is alien to the concept of guarantee of
fundamental rights in cases of violation
by public officials and would apply only
to a limited range of cases and that
courts have applied strict liability (of
public as well as private agencies) in
cases where there is direct contributory
negligence in gross violation of petitioners' rights to life and personal liberty,

16 FEBRUARY 2014

should help India bring in a culture of


greater accountability.
Needless to say, this also requires
streamlining of laws and legal procedures so as to bring them within the
reach of ordinary citizens and to avoid
vexatious litigation directed at the state
and its functionaries.

THE WAY TO GO
In the wake of the boat accident in
Andaman and Nicobar Islands last
month, the regional administration has
evolved a number of safety measures,
including an enforcement agency to
prevent the recurrence of such
tragedies.
Blaming the "greed and negligence"
of boat operators for the January 26 accident, the Lieutenant Governor, Lt.
Gen. (retd.) Ajay Kumar Singh, said that
the enforcement agency will ensure
strict adherence of all safety guidelines
and measures.
Besides setting up SOS kiosks at jetties
across popular tourist destinations, the
administration is also planning to introduce pre-paid ticketing system for availing boats and other services.
"We have plans to set up an enforce16 FEBRUARY 2014

ment agency, comprising officials from


the administration, police and the
tourism department to ensure all safety
guidelines and measures are strictly adhered to," Singh said.
"During the rescue operations, we

"During the rescue operations,


we could not find details of the
passengers because the
operators did not bother to
register any information. So, it
is imperative that we have an
enforcement agency
Lieutenant Governor, Lt. Gen.
(retd.) Ajay Kumar Singh, on
last months boat accident in
Andaman and Nicobar Islands

could not find details of the passengers


because the operators did not bother to
register any information. So, it is imperative that we have an enforcement

agency," he said.
"Through the SOS kiosks located all
across, the rescue agencies during an
emergency can get vital information
and effectively carry out relief and rescue operations. We also plan to introduce prepaid ticketing system for boat
rides so that last minute inclusion of
passengers as well taking beyond the capacity can be avoided," he added.
Singh said the boat operations across
the Ross Island a favourite tourist destination which was suspended following the disaster, will be resumed soon.
Also, our public must be educated
about safety measures and their enlightenment to demand this. I wonder if foreigners who are accustomed to much
higher standards of safety would have
travelled in a boat sans life jackets.
Our public also needs to be better informed about their rights as consumers
and citizens to be able to seek redress for
such negligence.
Overall, it is high time that public and
private agencies rose to the occasion.
They should either voluntarily act to improve the safety culture in this country
or be held accountable for their negligence. n
INDIA FIRST 23

Nation

A Common
Question
Can Aam Aadmi Partys fast-rising membership across
the country translate into success in the 2014 general
elections?

24 INDIA FIRST

ince its dramatic showing in


Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party has
expanded swiftly across most
parts of India. But it's not clear if the
party will make a similar impact in the
Lok Sabha polls.
AAP leaders are confident it will, and
point to the soaring numbers who are
joining it in state after state at a time
when most people are wary of politicians and political parties.
Although its government in Delhi
could come apart over more issues than
one, AAP is attracting youths, activists
and professionals as well as retired bureaucrats in thousands, shows a nationwide IANS survey.
AAP's growth is startling in some
states, feeble in some.
For a party formed only in November
2012, AAP now claims 9.8 million members nationwide.
Uttar Pradesh has embraced AAP like
few states have, one reason being its
proximity to Delhi, the original AAP hub.
Uttar Pradesh boasts of some 1.8 million members, followed by over one million each in Bihar and Maharashtra.
Delhi, Haryana and Himachal
Pradesh claim 800,000 members each.
Other membership ranges from over
16 FEBRUARY 2014

100,000 in West Bengal, Chhattisgarh,


Uttarakhand and Assam to around
200,000 in Orissa, Gujarat and Jharkhand, around 250,000 each in Karnataka
and Tamil Nadu, about 400,000 to
500,000 each in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, and
nearly 600,000 in Kerala, say AAP leaders.
With Haryana and Maharashtra set
for assembly elections this year, AAP is
focussing on these two states.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal
hails from Haryana's Bhiwani district.
His uncles still live there.
Political pundit and AAP strategist Yogendra Yadav is widely seen as
Haryana's chief ministerial candidate
and is also tipped to fight the Lok Sabha
polls from Gurgaon, adjoining Delhi.
In Uttar Pradesh, AAP has 72 functional district units and hopes to contest
all 80 Lok Sabha seats. AAP's Kumar
Vishwas has vowed to take on Congress
vice president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.
Many of its leaders belong to or live in
the state: Ashutosh (Mirzapur), Manish
Sisodia (Ghaziabad), Shazia Ilmi (Kanpur) and Sanjay Singh (Sultanpur).
AAP functions in 34 of Maharashtra's
35 districts, AAP state secretary Preeti
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Sharma Menon said. Its most prominent


leaders are activists Anjali Damania and
Mayank Gandhi.
In Bihar, Social Welfare Minister
Parveen Amanullah quit the Janata DalUnited cabinet to join the fledgling
party, giving it a major boost. "AAP is
getting tremendous response," said
state convener Somnath Tripathi.
AAP has expanded rapidly in Karnataka's urban parts, particularly Ban-

AAP plans to contest 150 to


300 Lok Sabha seats, primarily
to defeat politicians it feels are
corrupt or have a criminal
history

galore, but has made lesser impact in


Andhra Pradesh. "People see a ray of
hope in AAP," lawyer and AAP member
Ravi Chandra said in Bangalore.
Like in many states, most AAP members in Kerala are under 45 years. It is
getting members of other parties too.
Political analyst Vijay Kumar Sharma

said in Jaipur that AAP was "a topic of


discussion everywhere".
In Odisha, prominent people who
have joined AAP include well-known
farmer leader Lingaraj, retired IPS officer Surendra Nath Swain and retired IAS
officer Prasanna Mishra.
Savita Bhatti, wife of late comedian
Jaspal Bhatti, and former Punjab director general of police Shashi Kant have
joined AAP in Chandigarh.
AAP plans to contest 150 to 300 Lok
Sabha seats, primarily to defeat politicians it feels are corrupt or have a criminal history.
Comparisons are already being made
between Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and
BJP's prime ministerial candidate
Narendra Modi.
But the Lok Sabha battle won't be
easy as the AAP network is new and
untested. And though the party has a lot
of admirers, critics too exist.
Kolkata taxi driver Ram Lal said: "I
have heard neither about AAP nor Kejriwal. I want good roads. My vote is for
Narendra Modi."
Jaipur resident S.K. Jha added: " AAP
may create a stir in Delhi, Mumbai or
Bangalore. But it will be difficult to break
through vast states like Rajasthan." n
INDIA FIRST 25

Environment

Betting on a
Cleaner
Future
Gujarat-based Hindustan Powerprojects
Pvt Ltd, Indias largest solar power
development company, is paving the
way for increased harnessing of
renewable energy across the country

industan Powerprojects Pvt


Ltd (HPPPL), just-renamed
Moser Baer Projects, plans to
invest around Rs.32,000 crore over three
years to increase its overall generation
capacity by over 5,000 MW, of which
1,000 MW will come from solar power.
The company's current capacity fron
hydro and solar generation is less than
1,000 MW.
Its solar business Hindustan
Cleanenergy - is looking to enhance its
portfolio from 350 MW to 1000 MW by
fiscal 2016-17 and has already invested
Rs.5,500 crore on this.
India's largest solar power development company will bring 100 MW of
solar power online in the next few
months, half of which will be generated
in Gujarat in the country's western extremity, where sunlight streams in late
into the day.
Taking journalists on a tour of the
company's solar farm located here
among mustard and cotton fields, 150
km from the state capital Gandhinagar,
Rajya Wardhan Ghei, chief executive of
the solar vertical, said scarcity of domestic coal and increasing demand for clean
power has led HPPPL increasingly focus
on solar power.
"Coal-based power plants face a lot of
issues in acquisition of land and fuel
linkages, causing delays in projects and
higher costs. (State miner) Coal India is
also finding it difficult to meet the country's fuel requirements from domestic
resources," Ghei noted .
The 30 MW Gunthawada plant, inaugurated by Gujarat Chief Minister
26 INDIA FIRST

Narendra Modi in October 2011, is Asia's


largest solar power project.
The journey from Ahmedabad, with
the coming general elections quite evident from giant party hoardings on the
highway, crosses a milestone indicating
the Tropic of Cancer a few kilometres
from the solar farm.

"With a short set-up period and


no fuel availability or
transmission issues, solar
projects lend themselves to a
more decentralised form of
development compared to big
thermal or hydro projects
Rajya Wardhan Ghei, chief
executive of HPPPLs solar
vertical
"This solar farm is generating about
48.5 million Kilowatt hour (KWh) annually, which is providing electricity for
50,000 homes everyday," Ghei said of
the Rs.465 crore project.
There are 236,000 panels for generating power, Ghei said, indicating the rows
of solar panels laid out neatly as in a
plantation farm over an area of 300
acres. Pointing out that the land requirements of thermal projects are much
higher than for solar ones, Ghei said the
Gunthawada farm was performing even
better than projected in its design, with
a plant load factor (PLF) of 19.7 percent
as the measure of capacity utilisation.

HPPPL was the country's first power


producer to install 5MW and 30MW
solar projects, and aims to be the first to
attain 1,000 MW solar capacity by 201617, the chief executive said.
The government, which instituted the
National Solar Mission in 2009, has set
the target of generating 30,000 MW of
solar power by 2017.
The company's other completed solar
project is the 5 MW unit at Sivaganga in
Tamil Nadu, which employs the same
thin film technology as at Gunthawada.
Of HPPPL's existing capacity, around
120 MW of solar assets are overseas in
Germany, Italy and Britain.
With most of India having a high incidence of solar radiation, Ghei points to
its comparative advantages.
"With a short set-up period and no
fuel availability or transmission issues,
solar projects lend themselves to a more
decentralised form of development
compared to big thermal or hydro projects," Ghei said.
HPPPL has a power purchase agreement with the Gujarat Vidyut Nigam Ltd
(GVNL) for supply from Gunthawada at
Rs.15 per unit for the first 12 years and
at Rs.5 per unit from the 13th to the 25th
year.
As the first major project commissioned under the Gujarat Solar Mission,
Ghei said that apart from the abundant
daylight in the region, the decision to
set-up in Gujarat was guided by its progressive solar policies. "We could not
have completed this project in record
time withiut the support of the state
government," Ghei said. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Food

A Delicacy to Die For


It takes a lot of time and effort to make Harisa, a traditional
Kashmiri dish but its well worth it

f you have eaten harisa once, you


simply cannot ignore it, goes the
old saying in Kashmir. As the winter chill becomes more biting, Kashmiris
are using traditional foods that have sustained them over the centuries to brave
the fury of the freezing temperatures.
One of the choice foods prepared only
during the winter months and eaten
with gusto at special places in old and
uptown Srinagar city is 'harisa'.
While many locals have now started
making the mutton-based preparation
in their homes, the best harisa still
comes from traditional cooks known as
'harisa garows'.
The high-calorie delicacy requires
long hours of preparation, which includes removing bones from the mutton, mincing it vigorously and mixing it
with foeniculum seeds, cooked rice, cinnamon, cardamom and salt to taste.
Harisa is cooked for the entire night
by traditional cooks in huge vessels over
simmering fires, with the alert cooks
stirring with a long wooden staff to ensure that the broth does not stick to the
vessel's bottom.
Zahoor Ahmad, 39, has his Harisa
shop in Srinagar's Ali Kadal area. Zahoor's father and grandfather have been
renowned Harisa makers of the city and
many buyers believe the best stuff is still
sold at this small shop and a few others
situated in Srinagar's old city areas.
"It needs a minimum of eight hours to
make the best preparation and this is
done during the night," Zahoor said.
At first light, Zahoor leaves his shop
for morning prayers at a nearby
mosque. When he returns, the shop is
abuzz with activity.
Buyers who had deposited their tiffin
carriers and nickel-coated copper vessels arrive in vehicles from different
parts of the city to carry the preparation
home.
Many locals of the area come to eat
inside the shop, where Zahoor adds
boiling edible oil to the plates of Harisa
laid for his customers.
The same practice is followed at another well-known harisa shop at Jamalatta in Nawa Kadal. As the hot oil
16 FEBRUARY 2014

sizzles, the aroma of harisa fills the shop.


"Normally, one cannot eat more than
half a kilogram of harisa at one time. If
you have eaten it in the morning, it
makes for a full meal for the entire day.
It keeps you warm and gives energy to

"It needs a minimum of eight


hours to make the best
preparation and this is done
during the night
Zahoor Ahmad, owner of a
Harisa shop in Srinagar

brave the winter cold," said a customer


who comes once a week from north
Kashmir's Ganderbal district to eat at
the one of the harisa shops in the old
city and also carry home some in a tiffin
carrier for his family.
As mutton prices rise, so does the
price of harisa. Zahoor said it was sold

for Rs.450 per kg last year.


"Because of the increase in mutton
prices we are selling harisa at Rs.550 per
kilogram this year," other sellers said.
Those who wouldn't compromise on
quality don't mind the price increase.
"Every harisa seller is charging the
same rate these days," said one of the
buyers.
The more affluent Kashmiri families
have since some years started the practice of sending large quantities of Harisa
to the families of their newly-married
daughters. Zahoor says this has become
a practice that many affluent families
have now taken to.
"Normally, a well-to-do father sends
anything between five to seven kilograms of harisa to his daughter's new
home. We dress such gifts with kebabs to
make the dish more attractive", said the
owner of the shop at Jamalatta.
A story still told to children by parents
is about an Afghan governor of Kashmir
in the past who liked the dish so much
that he did not know where to stop. He
simply over-ate himself to death. n
INDIA FIRST 27

Sports

ALARM
BAILS
Cricket desperately needs gentlemen
back on the field and even off it

ricket was once known as the


gentleman's game, the sport
for the bourgeoisie, for the cultured men. Modern cricket, however, is
all about cut-throat competition and
dogfights. On-field altercations, matchfixing and outrageous fan behaviour
have made the game not so gentlemanly.
Long gone are the days when every
beautiful shot was greeted with a cultured applause at Lord's. The muffled
sound of clapping has now been replaced by throaty abuse, boos and hooting with accompaniments like drums
and cymbals, which can easily drown
out the 'vuvuzelas' of FIFA 2010 World
Cup fame.
So much so even the dressing rooms
have become noisy and argumentative.
The result is players are getting reprimanded and disciplined.
The handling of players has become a
major problem for coaches and man28 INDIA FIRST

agers. They have found the easy way out:


Sack the player like the England and
Wales Cricket Board (ECB) did in the
case of easily their best batsman Kevin
Pietersen because the team management could not handle him.
There have been many instances
when the very existence of the sport has
come under strain. The earliest is the
Bodyline series (1932-33) between England and Australia where the on-field rivalry turned ugly.
The English pacemen, under instructions from their captain Douglas Jardine, tried to terrorise that prolific
run-getter, Donald Bradman, with persistent short-pitched bowling aimed at
the batsman's body.
Things got so bad that only primeministerial intervention prevented the
infamous series from descending into a
full-scale diplomatic war.
From then on cricket has never been
the same and Australian captain

Michael Clarke's threat to break England pacer James Anderson's arm in the
first Ashes Test late last year only reinforced the belief.
Clarke was overheard on the stump
mike telling Anderson to "get ready to
have your f****** arm broken". The Australian captain was fined 20 percent of
his match fee and the situation was
brushed under the carpet by the Australian camp as being "banter" and
"part and parcel of the game".
During the summer Ashes, England
pacer Stuart Broad decided not to walk
after his thick edge carried the ball to
first slip Clarke on the third day of the
first Test.
Broad stood his ground seeing the
umpire unmoved. Like a good actor,
Broad's poker face fooled everyone except the Aussies who were flabbergasted
by umpire Aleem Dar's shocker.
Batsmen walking after snicking a ball
is a rarity today in a sport prided as
16 FEBRUARY 2014

being cultured.
Of course, there are exceptions. Cricketers such as Adam Gilchrist and Rahul
Dravid gained the reputation as walking
evangelists.
The Australian wicketkeeper batsman
is the true proponent of walking, having
done it on numerous occasions, even
when he was in sight of a hundred.
Dravid, too, did it at Lord's in his
debut Test when he walked at 95, the
stump mike failing to catch the faint
snick. The umpire shook his head not
able to notice even the slightest of deviation of the ball. Yet, Dravid chose to
walk.
The ungentlemenly acts have encroached on to the field of play because
of the huge money involved in the game
and no one wants to sacrifice his wicket
for fear of missing out on big bucks.
They are willing to suffer sledging than
being morally correct.
How can one forget the incident be16 FEBRUARY 2014

Even the dressing rooms have


become noisy and
argumentative. The result is
players are getting
reprimanded and disciplined
The handling of players has
become a major problem for
coaches and managers
tween Michael Slater and Dravid in the
first Test of Australia's 2001 tour?
Slater's rant began after his appeal for
a catch against Dravid was turned down
by the third umpire.
In what cricket pundit the late Peter
Roebuck described as "Slater's moment
of madness", the Australian opener
walked up to umpire S. Venkatraghavan
and argued the decision with him and
then turned to Dravid and exchanged
words with him that obviously didn't in-

volve asking what he had for breakfast.


Cricket has constantly been marred
with unsportsmanlike conduct and
India has not been averse to it.
In Melbourne in 1981, India's famous
series-levelling win was marred by Sunil
Gavaskar's decision to march off the
field with fellow opener Chetan
Chauhan in response to an lbw decision
against him by umpire Rex Whitehead.
Thankfully, India's manager Shahid
Durrani quickly doused the fire sending
Chauhan back to the middle.
And how can one forget the dreaded
'Monkeygate', when Indian spinner
Harbhajan Singh was accused of racially
abusing Australian all-rounder Andrew
Symonds.
Despite the increasing use of technology and stricter laws to punish the culprits, cricket still suffers from
behavioural problems and Pietersen is
the latest victim. He is unlikely to be the
last. n
INDIA FIRST 29

Economy

A House in Order
Homebuyer sentiment in India has finally turned positive again

he new year has held some


hope for realtors as the confidence levels of homebuyers
have risen, shedding their reluctance to
invest in residential real estate. This is in
sharp contrast to last year when their
mood had taken a severe beating amid
high property prices, rising interest rates
and large defaults in delivery. With low
sales and high inventory, both end-users
and investors stayed away.
These are the findings of the nationallevel Consumer Confidence Index Survey, conducted jointly by Realty Plus
magazine and leading realty portal
99acres.com that presents an insight
into the minds of homebuyers. This first
of its kind of online survey sought to differentiate between the buying behaviour of end-users and that of investors.
It confirmed the marked trend of a
market driven by investors and speculators giving way to one steered by end
users. The survey reflects the buoyancy
in the overall confidence level of homebuyers. End users, with renewed confidence, are now showing a strong intent
to purchase a home.
The survey findings have revealed
that an overwhelming 75 percent of
prospective homebuyers have shown
their definite intent to purchase a home
in the near future. There is also a marked
increase in their confidence levels, with
39 percent being bullish about homebuying and 46 percent displaying reasonable confidence.
Prospective homebuyers, especially
fence-sitters, are now shedding their apprehension to invest as they realise that
in view of uncontrollable inflation,
home loan rates may not decline soon.
They have also realised that with a new
land acquisition policy in place and with
increasing material and labour cost,
property prices will only go up in the
coming months.
Close to a fourth of the respondents
are of the view that prices will rise after
elections, and once the economy revives
in the second half of 2014. And as such,
it is not wise to keep on waiting for
property prices and interest rates to
soften -- rather, it is beneficial to invest
now when prices are comparatively depressed or stable.
30 INDIA FIRST

Survey findings have revealed that an overwhelming 75 percent


of prospective homebuyers have shown their definite intent to
purchase a home in the near future. There is also a marked
increase in their confidence levels, with 39 percent being bullish
about home-buying and 46 percent displaying reasonable
confidence
In view of exceptionally large occasions of project delays and delivery defaults adversely impacting the
confidence level and buying sentiment, those intending to buy homes
were extremely cautious about
builder's track record and his financial
strength. The survey established that
in order to ensure safety of their investment, a majority (51 percent) of
the respondents opted for "ready-tomove" properties and those nearing
completion compared to projects that
are under construction or newly
launched.
The survey highlights that compared
to end users, more investors are playing
the "wait and watch" to reflect their low
risk appetite. This is further reinforced
by the survey finding that it is not high
net worth individuals, but retail investors who are active and they are opting for affordable and mid-income
properties.
But the overall optimism of investors
is reflected in survey findings with 61
percent respondents saying that they
are inclined towards investing in residential property in 6-12 months while

50 percent say it is the right time to invest as prices will go up in the future.
Real estate also continues to be the
best bet for investment as the survey establishes that 47 percent of the respondents vouched for it as the best asset
class, compared to just 19 percent votes
for equity, 17 percent in gold and 14 percent for mutual funds. About a fourth of
investors think it is wise to play safe by
investing in deposits, as it is a volatile
period.
Historically, annual returns from real
estate have been in the range of 15-20
percent. While one-fourth of investors
are bullish about a 20-percent-plus return on investment, 43 percent expect it
in the range of 15-20 percent.
According to the survey findings, a
third of the respondents also settled for
less than 12 percent return.
This implies that retail investors are
now dominating the current market.
High net worth individuals, investors
and speculators have taken a back seat,
as they have been finding it difficult to
exit the market, and also do not see any
positive change in this regard in the
short term. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Business

CLICKING BIGTIME
E-commerce is poised to become a $70-billion industry in India by 2020

here is a common saying about


the Indian retail consumers'
"can't touch, won't buy" mentality. However, this is gradually changing with the rising trend of online
shopping.
India's e-commerce business jumped
by more than 80 percent in 2013 and the
momentum is likely to continue for at
least the next five-six years, the founders
of the country's largest e-commerce
firm, Flipkart, say.
Flipkart co-founder and chief executive officer Sachin Bansal said the ecommerce business in India is expected
to reach around $50-70 billion by 2020
on the back of a fast-growing internetconnected population and improvement in related infrastructure like
payment and delivery systems.
The size of India's e-commerce market in 2013 was around $13 billion, according to a joint report of KPMG and
Internet and Mobile Association of India
(IAMAI). The online travel segment contributed over 70 percent of the total consumer e-commerce transactions last
year.
Bansal said online retail, also known
as "e-tail", will lead the industry's
growth in the coming years.
"Consumer mentality and shopping
patterns are changing very fast. Online
shopping is going to become mainstream in the coming five-six years,"
Bansal said in an interview.
He said smartphones would be the
biggest online shopping driver in the
coming years.
"Over half a billion Indians will switch
16 FEBRUARY 2014

to smartphones in the next five-six


years. That's going to be a big driver of
e-commerce in India," Bansal added.
According to Bansal, online shopping
is becoming increasingly popular in
smaller cities.
"Tier-II and Tier-III cities are opening
up very rapidly. By 2020, you will have ecommerce penetrated everywhere,
whether it is smaller cities or rural
areas," said Bansal.
Alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, Sachin and Binny Bansal
co-founded Flipkart in 2007. They claim

"Consumer mentality and


shopping patterns are changing
very fast. Online shopping is
going to become mainstream in
the coming five-six years
Flipkart co-founder and CEO
Sachin Bansal
the company now controls nearly onethird of India's online retail business
and has over 1 crore (10 million) registered users.
"By 2020, our target is to be a $20 billion company. We are thinking really big.
We are investing a lot on technologies,
especially on mobiles and the supply
chain," said Binny Bansal.
"We have raised a good amount of
funding this year. We are well funded for
the foreseeable future. However, we will
continue to raise funds as and when required," he said when asked about fund-

ing for the company's expansions.


Flipkart has raised nearly $550 million
since 2009 from venture capitals like
Tiger Global, Accel Partners, Iconiq Capital and Naspers Group.
Sachin Bansal emphasised on the
need for implementing a uniform goods
and services tax (GST) as this would
help boost the e-commerce business.
"Right now it's a bit complicated for
sellers to ship products across India because taxes vary from state to state and
it is also calculated differently. GST will
really be a help for the industry," he said.
He pointed out that despite high
growth in recent years, India's e-commerce industry is still in a nascent stage.
Online shopping accounts for less than
one percent of the total shopping in the
country. Total global online sales
reached $1.22 trillion in 2013. In China
alone it was around $200 billion.
Just around 12 percent of Indian population is into online transactions
against more than half of their Chinese
counterparts. This proportion is much
higher in the developed countries like
the US, where the figure is 64 percent.
Internet connectivity and other logistics infrastructure are still a big drag.
This makes servicing in smaller towns a
bit challenging, said Bansal.
According to the KPMG and IAMAI report, only around 10,000 out of the more
than 150,000 pin codes in the country
are covered by courier companies. The
penetration of courier services is critically important to boost online shopping as deliveries are mostly done
through them. n
INDIA FIRST 31

Science

Against an
Unlevel
Playing Field
Women researchers cry foul over the
continuance of gender bias in the
fields of science and technology

oon after giving birth to a baby


girl, London-based biologist
Aarathi Prasad was told by her
boss that she no longer worked as hard
as she was expected to. Having a family
was her "fault", she was told.
"Since another lady and I in the laboratory had become mothers we were unable to stay till late at night and would
leave around 5 p.m. Our boss, an unmarried man with no children, told my
colleague that 'you and Aarathi do not
work as hard as you used to'," Prasad
said in an email interview.
On telling him that they had to look
after their families now, he said, yes,
but that is your fault, added Prasad, 38,
a PhD in molecular genetics who has
worked on a post-doctoral project using
chemical genetics to identify early therapeutic targets in cancers. She has also
authored a book, Like A Virgin: How Science is Redesigning the Rules of Sex,
which was published in Britain 2012.
Like Prasad, many women scientists
and researchers feel that their role in the
fields of science and technology is either
"under-represented", or goes "unnoticed".
This sentiment was loudly echoed at
the inauguration of the Women Science
Congress, which was part of the justconcluded 101st Indian Science Congress held in Jammu.
"Though there are a lot of women scientists out there, many get lost in their
careers. We have to prevent the loss of
young talent, and attract young women
scientists to at least continue their research," said Kasturi Datta, distinguished biotechnology professor,
School of Environmental Sciences,
32 INDIA FIRST

Delhi.
"We need a society free of gender bias,
where the deserving are fully supported," and women scientists should
"be aggressive and take their research
forward undeterred," said Dutta, under
whose guidance, 25 students have been
awarded Ph.D degrees. She is the recipient of several awards including from
FICCI for life sciences, a Senior Women
Bioscientist award and the Ranbaxy
award for basic medical science.
Quoting a recently published study by
the US department of labor, which
stated that only 11 percent of all engineers in the US are women, Prasad said
the language used in job advertisements
are mostly male-oriented and also convey the notion that male candidates are
more competent.
"The language used in job adverts in
science is such that it attracts more male
applicants. Even if two identical resumes are submitted to laboratories
(one male and another female), not only
is the man more likely to get the job but
also more likely to be given mentoring,"
Prasad pointed out.
She added that women, without good
mentoring, tend to get lost in their careers, are not considered to be competent enough and hence not given due
credit.
"They are under-represented because
the way job advertisements are worded,
and the demanding nature of the job
that punishes career breaks for reasons
like having children, makes it difficult
for women to have a career in science,"
she rued.
Sanjana Kaul, a professor at the
School of Biotechnology at the Univer-

sity of Jammu, said that women research


students should be encouraged to pursue their careers.
"Pressure from family regarding marriage and jobs should not force them to
forego higher education. They should be
encouraged to travel as demanded by
their research. Being a woman should
not prove to be a hindrance," Kaul
stated.
Ranbir Chander Sobti, general president of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA) said that key policies
for the use of science and technology
must recognise the gender-specific nature of development.
Neglecting the talent and creative
power of women should be considered
a "serious social disease", he said
"Examples of this disease may be
quoted as deficit of women scientists at
top-level university management and
professorial posts, practical exclusion of
women scientists in development policy
creation and ignoring women scientists
in delivering awards and other forms of
recognition," Sobti said in his speech at
the Women Science Congress.
However, Rama Govindarajan, professor at the TIFR Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences, Hyderabad expressed the
feeling that the problem of under-representation of women is "deep-rooted"
and is not specific to the fields of science
and technology.
"The problem for women starts even
before they are born, or are mere babies.
It is not only for those in the fields of science and technology. Some, like me
(and my colleagues) have been lucky to
have been recognised in our fields,"
Govindarajan said. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

TV

On The Right Track


In an era of ever-intensifying competition in the broadcasting
space, DD News has reaffirmed its commitment to offering
viewer education and awareness minus sensationalism

ndia's state-run broadcaster Doordarshan News, which claims it has


50 percent of the national viewership among the 389 news and current
affairs channels in the country, is tying
up with Bombay Stock
Exchange to launch a
new
business
programme on financial literacy as part of a move to
have more viewer-relevant information, viewer
education and viewer
awareness in its eclectic
coverage.
"It is for the first time
that DD News is going
into collaborations with
other organisations. We
have not done this before, and we hope to
bring viewers some new
insights into our programmes," Additional Director General DD News
Mayank Agrawal said.
DD News is tying up
with the Bombay Stock
Exchange to launch a
new
business
programme on financial literacy that kick-started on
February 10. The hourlong programme would
be shown five days a week, Monday to
Friday at the 8.30-9.30 p.m. slot.
Its programme on the Right To Information Act, titled Janne ka Haq, has
been running for the past few years. It
has tied up with the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) to take the
programme forward.
A 12-episode extended version of the
programme, titled Janne ka Haq Aap
ke shahar mein (The right to know in
your city), being sponsored by the DoPT
is being telecast. "It shows different stories about the RTI, the problems people
face in different cities. Two episodes
have been shot, in Srinagar and Chandigarh, and we have telecast them,"
Agrawal said.
Another venture on promoting non16 FEBRUARY 2014

motorised transport is on the anvil. For


this, DD News has tied up with the
Urban Development Ministry. A fourepisode programme will promote cycling, walking and the use of public

"It is for the first time that DD


News is going into
collaborations with other
organisations. We have not
done this before, and we hope
to bring viewers some new
insights into our programmes"
Additional Director General
DD News Mayank Agrawal

transport, says Agrawal. "We have roped


in actor Rahul Bose as anchor," he said,
adding that it will be shot on the lines of
Aamir Khan's reality talk show

Satyameva Jayatey, with an audience


and a government official in the studio
for an interactive episode.
"We will also show best examples and
success models from India and abroad,"
Agrawal added. Among
the focus cities would be
Nanded in Maharashtra
where cycling is popular,
Bangalore and also Amsterdam in Holland, he
said.
DD News the only
news channel broadcast
on satellite, cable and
terrestrial network has
planned out a new programme, Janadesh, for
wide coverage of the
elections. It would be
launched in the middle
of March.
"It is a special programme for the elections. We are selecting
anchors and panellists,"
Doordarshan News Director General S.M.
Khan said.
The 12-episode programme will have on
board anchors, analysts
and psephologists, who
will take inputs from various constituencies, discuss election
trends, candidates and the profiles of
constituencies, he said.
According to the Prasar Bharati website, DD News "is the undisputed leader
in terms of absolute viewership with
about 50 per cent share among TV news
channels."
Khan maintains that DD News discusses all issues, minus the sensationalism. "We provide hard news. We discuss
all controversial news, and there is no
censorship," he said, and gave the example of its Newsnight programme that
is beamed live from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
"We carry the views of the panellists.
Whatever is there, whatever people say
is shown. There is no question of censorship," Khan added. n
INDIA FIRST 33

Travel

Deep in
Rhino
Country
Although nothing compares to
looking down at those one-horned
pachyderms from atop an elephant in
Kaziranga, the national park offers
plenty of options for nature and
wildlife lovers of all hues
34 INDIA FIRST

nlike a tiger reserve where the sighting of India's national animal is often a matter of chance, a visit to
this national park in Golaghat and Nagaon districts
of this northeastern state is certain to offer more than a glimpse
of the one-horned rhinoceros, dwelling in its natural habitat.
Despite the elephant grass being at its tallest around this time
of the year, one could spot as many as 34 of these odd-toed ungulates during the course of two jeep safaris and an elephant
ride some as near as a couple of metres away.
The best time for sighting, though, is March when the forest
officials burn the grass to facilitate fresh growth, and the small
watering holes dry up, forcing the animals to go to the larger
reservoirs to quench their thirst. Big cats still remain elusive!
A World Heritage Site declared by Unesco, Kaziranga boasts
a third of the world's Great One-horned Rhinoceroses, even as
it is also home to Asiatic Water Buffalos, Swamp Deer, elephants, gaur, sambar, wild boar and hog deer.
Park officials claim the park is also home to 86 tigers in its
area of 430 sq km as per Census taken in 2000, making it a reserve with one of the largest densities of this big cat. But only a
lucky few claim to have spotted one, including residents and
regulars.
This apart the park also houses nine species of primates including the Assamese Macaque, Lutings, Golden Langur and
the only ape found in India, the Hoolock Gibbon. It also has
quite an array of birds, both resident and migratory.
As per an official notice board on the outskirts of the park,
Kaziranga has 1,552 Great One-horned Rhinoceroses, 1,432 Asiatic Water Buffalos, 468 Eastern Swamp Deer, 1,048 Asiatic Elephants and 478 species of bird species.
Located to the south of the mighty Brahmaputra river, the
park itself is divided into four ranges - Burapahar, Baguri, Cen16 FEBRUARY 2014

Getting There:

n Kaziranga Nation Park is a 150minute drive from Jorhat and 180minute drive from Guwahati. Cabs
cost around Rs.1,800 to Rs.2,500.
Bus rides are available, too.
n The nearest airports are at
Jorhat and Guwahati, 100 km and
225 km away, respectively.
n The park is on National Highway 37.

Accommodation:

n Double rooms and cottages in


one of the several Assam Tourismrun properties around the park
cost between Rs.1,500 and Rs.3,000
per night, while a stay in a private
luxury resort can go up to around
Rs.20,000 per night for two people
with all amenities thrown in.

Eating out:

n Food is inexpensive and one


has restaurants to pick, suiting
every budget. In the Assam
Tourism-run properties, a meal
costs around Rs.400 for two people.

16 FEBRUARY 2014

tral, and Eastern which are headquartered at Ghorakati, Baguri, Kohora, and
Agoratoli, respectively.
Among them the Kohora range is rich
in birdlife, the Agartoli range promises
glimpses of elephants and turtles, the
Baguri Range has a fair concentration of
the Great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceroses and the Burapahar Range offers
good sightings of the apes.
Once one has settled in one of the numerous hotels, lodges and resorts, both
the jeep safari and an elephant ride are
must-dos. While a jeep safari covers a lot
of distance, a ride on the pachyderm
takes you to the interiors for a closer
view of rhinos and other fauna.
Trekking and hiking are prohibited so
as not to disturb the animals, but one

can climb atop one of the several observation towers at Sohola, Mihimukh,
Kathpara, Foliamari and Harmoti, for
sightings. The park remains closed from
mid-April to mid-October.
The rides at the park are also not too
expensive. A jeep safari for some three
hours can cost around Rs.2,000 per trip,
while an hour-long elephant ride is for
Rs.550 per head, inclusive of the park
fee. Book an elephant ride in advance
they are much in demand.
Reaching Kaziranga is also not too difficult. The nearest airports are at Jorhat,
around 100-km away, and at Guwahati,
some 225-km away. While the nearest
railhead is 40 km away at Jakhalabandha, the park is also well connected
by road, along the National Highway. n
INDIA FIRST 35

Health

For
a
Matter
of
Life
and
Death
Statistics suggest that its high time to further raise awareness of organ donation
across the country, not least within the medical community

plant. But only 6,000 of these new paalita, a widow with three young
tients manage a kidney transplant and
children, felt the world closing
we are not even talking about old cases.
in on her when doctors told her
Of these 6,000 successful cases, only 300
she immediately needed a kidney transare from cadaveric donations," he said.
plant. Fortunately, she found a donor,
Understandably, organ donation and
and 10 years later is leading a healthy
especially cadaveric donation is an
and happy life with her now grown-up
emotional issue for families. But people
children. Not everyone is as lucky as her
working in the field NGO workers say
because organ donation is still a taboo
that for most families this gesture is
and an estimated 500,000 people die
comforting in some ways.
each year in India because of non-avail"When you understand that even in
ability of organs.
In a nation of 1.2 billion people,
there are just 0.08 people per million population who can be called
organ donors.
"One of the foremost steps to be
taken in order to encourage organ
donation is to motivate doctors of
every department. In most cases,
where a patient dies of heart failure, for instance, the doctor doesn't know or doesn't think that
organ donation could be an option. The Chennai model is a good
example in this case because with
a slight change in legalisation,
there have been more donors and
more heart transplants are taking
place," said Kewal Krishnan, a
cardiac surgeon at Delhi's Max
Hospital.
According to Krishnan, an accident victim or a victim of stroke
On an average, India has 150,000 to
can become a heart donor. An in200,000 new patients with severe
dividual who may have died of a
kidney problems every year. They
cardiac problem can become a
donor of other organs like the
either need regular dialysis or a
liver or the kidney.
transplant. But only 6,000 of these
"Seventy percent of those who
new patients manage a kidney
have received a heart transplant
can work up to 9-10 years and
transplant and we are not even
lead an active life. For most of
talking about old cases
them in fact, there is no limitation
Nephrologist Dinesh Khullar
of activity; so it's really a new lease
of life," Krishnan pointed out.
Nephrologist Dinesh Khullar
also felt the need to encourage cadaver
your loss, your loved one can save five
organ donation, which means organ
lives through organ donation and enharvesting of a person who is brain
hance the lives of as many as 30 people
dead. "In many developed countries, cathrough tissue donation, it gives you
daveric donations constitute 90 percent
some kind of solace. It is the only posiof organ donors, but in India it's a differtive outcome of your loss," NGO worker
ent scenario. On an average, India has
Sumita Nath said.
150,000 to 200,000 new patients with seDoctors, however, stress the need for
vere kidney problems every year. They
raising the awareness of their own comeither need regular dialysis or a transmunity on the subject. "When a doctor
36 INDIA FIRST

realizes that a patient's chances of survival are less than a year, when it's a 5050 percent situation despite maximal
medical therapy, he should broach the
subject with the patient and his or her
family," Krishnan said on the sidelines
of such an awareness programme organized by Max Hospital earlier this
week where doctors, NGO workers and
those who have donated or received organs took part.
Referring again to the Tamil Nadu
model, Krishnan said that in most
hospitals, posters can be found
outside the Intensive Care Units
(ICUs) that if a person dies or is
brain dead for two-three hours,
the health ministry should be immediately informed. There is also
an organ sharing network between hospitals, which was facilitated by an NGO, the MOHAN
Foundation.
"Instead of waiting for the government to take steps to update a
national organ registry, I think
hospitals, government or private,
can also form a network in the
northern region, like in Tamil
Nadu. Through this, if a person is
brain dead, an independent
organ procurement team can approach the family and talk to
them about organ donation. Even
in case of a young accident victim, such an option can be discussed with the family and other
lives can be saved," Krishnan suggested.
Khullar also stressed the need
to give organ donors some incentive not monetary but in ways
of hailing them as heroes. "I remember the case of a liver transplant, where a young woman was
the donor for her husband. Two
years later, he needed a kidney
transplant and she again donated. In a
different case, a young IT professional
did the same for his father, first a liver
then a kidney transplant. Both these
cases had an emotional quotient, which
we only considered after taking the
donors' health in view. But if there were
enough donors, would such tough decisions have to be taken by such young
people?" Khullar asked. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Society

Take them by the hand


Young victims of sexual child abuse typically exhibit behavioural
changes and can become scarred for life unless their parents step in

akshi (name changed) was just


13 years old when she was sexually assaulted by a relative who
had come to live with her and her family
in their south Delhi home.
The girl, who was studying in Class 7,
was too terrified to even confide the repeated sexual assaults to her mother,
who also failed to see the tell-tale signs.
After months of torture, she finally broke
down one day.
Her parents both educated professionals instead of approaching the police asked the
28-year-old relative to leave
and tried to counsel the girl.
Sakshi, however, was not able
to respond well to counselling.
Her story is not an isolated
one. There are many such Sakshis who are not able to confide in their parents or recover
from the mental and physical
traumas inflicted by someone
they relied on or considered as
a part of the family.
According to police officers
and psychologists, in the majority of cases, the accused are
known to the victim. Delhi Police, in their latest data, stated
that rape cases increased from
680 in 2012 to 1,559 in 2013.
According to the figures, in 96
percent cases the victims were
known to the accused.
Despite such startling figures, most
victims do not even confide in their parents, let alone register the crime, police
said. Experts say this is why parents
should take note of behavioural changes
that may occur in children.
"Children may suddenly start avoiding a particular relative or friend. Such
specific avoidance should not be ignored by parents," said Shekhar Sheshadri, professor, Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry at Bangalore's National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.
"Symptoms like sleep disorders, bed
wetting, and school avoidance can be
because of different reasons but can also
be symptoms for a sexually abused
child," he said.
According to data released by the Na16 FEBRUARY 2014

tional Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for


2012, offenders were known to the victims in as many as 24,470 (98.2 percent)
cases.
The data revealed that parents or
close family members were involved in
393 out of 24,470 cases (1.6 percent),
neighbours were involved in 8,484 out of
24,470 cases (34.7 percent), and relatives
were involved in 1,585 out of 24,470
cases (6.5 percent).
Experts believe that developing a cul-

"Children may suddenly start


avoiding a particular relative or
friend. Such specific avoidance
should not be ignored by
parents Symptoms like sleep
disorders, bed wetting, and
school avoidance can be
because of different reasons
but can also be symptoms for a
sexually abused child"
Shekhar Sheshadri, professor,
Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry at Bangalore's
National Institute of Mental
Health and Neurosciences

ture of conversation, and imparting sex


education at the right time, can help reduce instances of such abuses.
"Talking about sex education is still
taboo. With the decrease in puberty age,
it's important to discuss when, how and
what kind of sex education should be
imparted," said Adarsh Kohli, professor,
Chandigarh's Postgraduate Institute of
Medical Education and Research
(PGIMER).
"Parents should create a rapport with
their children," she added.
Sheshadri added that an environment of comfort helps
children open up to their parents.
"Children should be provided with an environment
where they feel free to talk to
parents. The habit of talking
daily should be inculcated
from a young age," he added.
He said that the discussions
should not be one-sided, and
even parents should share their
daily routine with their children in an interesting way.
To help children who have
undergone
such
trauma,
health experts suggest that parents handle the matter in an
understanding way.
"They should never blame
the child," said Sheshadri.
He added that parents
should ensure that their child does not
feel "blamed" or "responsible" for what
happened with him/her.
"If children get the slightest idea that
they may be scolded or blamed, then
they may refrain from discussing it with
their parents," he said.
Monika Chhibber, head of clinical
psychology at Fortis Hospital, said that
apart from opening channels of communication and reading change in a
child's demeanour, it is essential to
maintain a close collaboration with the
child's school and teachers.
"Since a child spends many hours at
school, often teachers are able to pinpoint if something is amiss. Hence it becomes essential to maintain a close
association with the school and teachers," Chhiber stated. n
INDIA FIRST 37

Movie

Review

'Heartless'- stylish career


relaunch for Adhyayan Suman
Subhash K Jha

Film: "Heartless"; Cast: Adhyayan Suman, Ariana Ayam, Deepti Naval, Om Puri;
Director: Shekhar Suman; Rating: ***

ou really can't put a good man


down. Even when his heart
breaks he bounces back
stronger than before.
So it is believed. But watching actorturned-director Shekhar Suman's directorial debut I am not too sure. His
vulnerable ailing protagonist Aditya
(played by the director's son Adhyayan)
goes through a series of life-changing
knife-in-the-heart experiences that
leave him disenchanted and shattered.
"Heartless" is no ordinary coming-ofage story. It tells the powerful if illogical
story of a young heir whose urgent need
for a heart transplant puts him in an incredible medical and emotional crisis.
The screenplay by Nina Arora weaves
the story of love and betrayal into a tenable if somewhat far-fetched medical
condition known as anesthetic awareness. The film is subtly sleek in appearance. The first half when the romance
between the weak-hearted Addy and the
girl at the hotel reception (newcomer
Ariana Ayam, treacherously sweet and
adequate) unfolds has a zipped up
classy quality to it. The courtship is cluttered with unwanted songs. And just
this once, they are excusable.
How can we have a modern day Dev38 INDIA FIRST

das without the music flowing in his


veins?
The Dubai landscape is glamorized by
cinematographer Derrick Fong only to
the outer limit of believability. The star
son gets to drive sleek sports cars and
wear designer suits only because he
plays rich. The film's biggest USP is its
restrained narrative. Nowhere does the
director allow the inherent melodrama
of the plot to overpower the characters.
The actors grapple successfully with
characters that seem to belong to a daytime soap opera. Adhyayan Suman
makes a confident comeback in the author-backed role. His eyes are filled with
a pain that seems more existential than
physical. He brings to his borderline-ludicrous character a sense of bridled
tragedy and a stifled desperation evident in his breathless speech and anguished body language. He plays a life
threatened with annihilation, stopping
itself from falling apart in the nick of
time. Adhyayan's scenes with his screen
mom Deepti Naval ring true even when
they go from the real to the surreal to the
other worldly. Shekhar Suman plays a
kind of mentor-friend to Adhyayan with
that jaunty gaiety that comes naturally
to him.

Indeed if this week's other release


"Hasee Toh Phasee" is at heart a fatherdaughter story, "Heartless" is a motherson saga told with a tearful wave of the
hand by a director who doesn't weigh
down the narrative with excessive characters. The plot restricts its manoeuvres
to just a handful of effectively etched designer-characters, in clothes to match.
While Adhyayan's character remains
on its feet, the film works effectively and
cogently. Once he is horizontal on the
operation table the narrative suffers a
rush of woozy incredulity requiring herculean amounts of suspension of belief
from the audience. Tragically the sort of
going-with-the-flow that the film demands from us is not justified by the
thinned-out proceedings.
But all said and done "Heartless"
works within its ambitious realm of love,
betrayal and mortality. It makes an endearing departure from routine romances about broken hearts and
mended morale. Director Shekhar
Suman doesn't quite manage to hold
the audience's attention in that spellbinding grip which the plot suggests.
But the drama never sags.
This is a stylish career-relaunch for
Adhyayan Suman. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

Bollywood

It's very easy


to slot me:
Parineeti
Subhash K. Jha

arineeti Chopra doesn't feel that she is being typecast as the out-of-the-box bindaas rabblerouser and contends instead that she has
portrayed different characters in her films.
She said: "To say that I am only playing
bindaas characters is I think a very limited
way of looking at the characters I've
played. I mean, just because my character in 'Ladies Vs Ricky Behl',
'Ishaqzaade', 'Shuddh Desi Romance', and 'Hasee Toh Phasee'
were unconventional, does it
mean they are all the same?"
"Of course, no matter who the
actor is, his or her personality is
bound to seep into the character. But
to me my characters in 'Ishaaqzaade',
'Shuddh Desi Romance' and 'Hasee Toh
Phasee' are entirely different. No similarity at
all.
"In the first, I was shooting guns all over the place.
In the second, I was a small-town girl smoking, drinking
and living in with her boyfriend. And now in 'Hasee Toh
Phasee', I am almost a child in a grownup girl's body. It's very
easy and simplistic to slot me," she added.
Her new release "Hasee Toh Phasee" has not exactly set the
box-office on fire. But Parineeti's performance has been unanimously hailed as a tour de force.
And she is over the moon with the praise.
"I was playing a borderline whacked-out character. When
people had seen the promos, they thought I was doing one
more vibrant bindaas character. But this one is completely different," she said.
Parineeti is excited about working with director Habib Faisal
a second time in "Daawat-e-Ishq".
"Habib will always be special. He gave me 'Ishaqzaade'.
When I did 'Ishaqzaade' with Habib sir, I was new and raw. This
time while doing Daawat-e-Ishq with him I understand his
craft much better. I think I am much better able to understand
what he wants from me as an actor. I don't have to struggle to
understand him. So the work atmosphere is far smoother and
we get the scenes done far quicker."
Parineeti enjoyed working with Aditya Roy Kapoor and Anupam Kher in "Daawat-e-Ishq".
"We've become really close. Anupam Sir is like Aditya's and
my age. We quickly finish our shots and rush to his van. I am already depressed because the shooting is nearly over. I want to
do more films with Anupam sir," she said. n
16 FEBRUARY 2014

INDIA FIRST 39

Hollywood

Scarlett wants to be
versatile like Brad Pitt

ctress Scarlett Johansson wants to follow in Brad


Pitt's footsteps and establish herself as a versatile
actress.
In an attempt to explore more avenues, Johansson gave
her voice to the operating system named Samantha in the
Oscar-nominated film "Her".
"If you want to grow out of the stereotype the media
stamp on you as an actor you have to focus on challenging
yourself and taking on diverse roles. Brad Pitt has managed to do that. While he has always been regarded as 'so
gorgeous' he has never let that prevent him from being a
character actor, which is what he is and what I have always wanted to be," Johansson said in a statement.
The 29-year-old says she would prefer to be known as a
character actor than be classified as the romantic comedy
queen.
"There is nothing wrong with an acting career in which
you play the romantic lead or America's sweetheart or the
romantic comedy queen, but I have never thought of myself as playing those kinds of roles. I have always wanted
to be a character actor," she added. "Her" releases in India
Friday. n

Stand by every mistake


I've ever made: Kristen
Stewart

ctress Kristen Stewart didn't immerse


herself in work after breaking up with
Robert Pattinson, but she does realizes her
mistakes. Eonline.com reports that the 23year-old, who spent 2013 taking road trips
with her friends to New Orleans and
Nashville, working on her poetry, playing
guitar and reconnecting with middle school
friends from Woodland Hills, California,
doesn't explicitly discuss her 2012 fling with
director Rupert Sanders, but she responded
to those who've criticized her personal life in
an interview to Marie Claire. "I stand by
every mistake I've ever made, so judge
away," the Twilight star told Marie Claire.
The interview will appear in the March 2014
issue of the magazine. The actress has one
regret that she did not pursue a college education. "The biggest struggle I've ever had
has been about not going to school and
working instead. I was worried about turning down specific individual experiences.
Like each movie was, 'F**k, I have to do that
movie.'" n
40 INDIA FIRST

16 FEBRUARY 2014

book

review

A fascinating journey into


Shiva's abodes
M.R. Narayan Swamy

Title: Bol Bam: Approaches to Shiva; Author: Scharada Dubey;


Publisher: Tranquebar; Pages: 243; Price: Rs.350

his is an outstanding spiritual travelogue.


Scharada Dubey, an "incurable Hindu", would
have scored high marks had she been a journalist. This is reportage at its best, a perfect blend of
her love for Lord Shiva with the numerous interviews
conducted with mainly poor pilgrims she meets at
some of India's most prominent Shiva shrines.
"Hinduism is not the easiest of religions to preach or
translate for those unfamiliar
with
its
labyrinthine maze of stories and symbols, its
multiplicity of forms and
the contradictions inevitably thrown up in
discussing the various
aspects," she says -- and
rightly so. But Dubey
beautifully succeeds in
unraveling the many
mysteries and mythology
associated with Shiva,
one of the Trinity that
dominates the Hindu religion, without drowning
us with needless history
and religious jargon.
She takes us to Gauri
Kund, Guptkashi and Tirjuginarayan in the hills
that are associated with
the marriage of Shiva
and his consort Parvati.
We travel with her to
Kashi, Shiva's hometown
outside of the Himalayas,
the Shiv Baba Mandir at
Akbarpur in Uttar Pradesh and Jageshwarnath near
Damoh in Madhya Pradesh. There is the Bada Mahadeo cave and the Chauragarh temple in central India
where thousands of trishuls stand in colourful clusters.
The Somnath temple comes alive in the book, and so
do the many ancient shrines in Tamil Nadu. There are
many more. The chapter on Tamil Nadu, where worship of Shiva is a way of life, is enthralling.
Why worship Shiva? Indeed, why worship God?
"I began seeking God as a friend who would under16 FEBRUARY 2014

stand me when it seemed no one else did," the author


says. Her cousin Sanjay explains why he chose Shiva, a
reason echoed by many others in the book: "He is the
most easily pleased." Shiv Gopal in north India agrees:
"He can be pleased with a 'lota' of water and a few
leaves." Shiva indeed is an elemental deity worshipped
in the simplest and most basic of ways. The Kaanwariyas - whose slogan 'Bol Bam!' is the title of the
book - she meets at
Haridwar agree.
But this book is not
just a book about Shiva
or
Hinduism. That
would have narrowed its
appeal. Dubey speaks
about what keeps the
Hindu faith resilient and
resistant to a single, totalitarian dogma, and
how attempts have been
made to replace the
multiplicity of Hindu belief and practice with a
single-point agenda. She
also focusses on the secular discomfort with the
idea of God, and the
dangers posed to the
Hindu religion by Hindutva. She is ill at ease
with those who use
Hindu symbols to kill
and destroy.
She admires the mass
of poor she meets at pilgrim sites who "have
nothing, or very little,
(but who) seem to feel it necessary to prove their devotion" in contrast to the rich who have every comfort
money can buy but who "don't seem to feel it necessary to give thanks to God in equal proportion". Hurt
by the inequities and suffering around her, she prays
to Lord Shiva: "Make this a democracy in the truest
sense, by empowering every one of these people."
This is a must read for anyone who worships Shiva
or who simply wants to know the Hindu religion and
India better. n
INDIA FIRST 41

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A Unit of Lalchand R
Resorts
esorts Pvt.
Pvt. Ltd.
Ltd.

6 , Janpath,
Janpath, Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar - 751001
Ph
Ph - (0674) 2380850
Fax
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Tel
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