Category Archives: Governance

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 3

Jack continues his photo exploration of Myanmar’s first real year of democracy. Presenting the third part of the 4-part series.

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Sunset from Ubein Bridge. Locals and tourists flock to the bridge to witness the spectacular sunsets.

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A young girl plays with her skipping rope outside the tourist jetty in Mandalay. Tourism in Myanmar has boomed over the past year, topping over one million foreign visitors for the first time. However infrastructure still remains underdeveloped.

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A passenger smokes a cheroot out of the train window.

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A trishaw driver, fishing in a flooded field hopes to catch something, while a cow wanders past.

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A young boy drags a bag of recyclable rubbish, which will be sold for small change. Often people of all ages work to support themselves and their families.

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A toddler sits by himself on the banks of the Irrawaddy river.

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 3

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आज़ादी मुबारक हो….

independence day

By Joybrato Dutta

पसंद न था

खेतों में टमाटर प्याज़ उगाना

हैसियत में  नहीं

आज बाज़ार से उन्हें ख़रीदना

कभी सोचते थे

दुनिया को इशारों पर नचाओगे

आज सोचते हो

बिना प्याज़ टमाटर के घर में क्या बनाओगे

तुम्हे आज़ादी मुबारक हो

तुम किश्तों में कटते हो

कभी हिस्सों में जुड़ते हो

चाल है तुम्हारी नवाबों वाली

जाल में फंसे हो EMI वाली

तुम्हें भी आज़ादी मुबारक हो

गाँव के साथ तेवर भी छोड़ दिए

कड़ी धुप में अटल रहने वाला सर

आज AC कमरे में झुका दिए

भूख मिटाने के सपने देखने  वाले

आज दो वक़्त के आगे तुमने घुटने टेक दिए

तुम्हे भी आज़ादी मुबारक हो

कहीं कांग्रेस ने फैलाया जाल

तो कहीं माओवादियों ने किया बूरा हाल

प्रेमिका के साथ long drive का सोंचा

तो traffic jam और खड्डों ने टोका

अकेली बेटी को बहार भेजने से डरते हो

जवान बेटे को गाड़ी देने से डरते हो

कभी सिनेमा घर के बढ़ते rates

तो कभी auto-rickshaw के बढ़ते fares

बच्चों की फीस हो

या दिवाली में सिलवानी नयी कमीज़ हो

पेट्रोल के बढ़ते दाम

घर का बढ़ता किराया

सब ने मिलकर तुम्हे बंधी बनाया

ख़्वाबो के महल में आज़ाद रहने वाल़े

आज तुम्हे आज़ादी मुबारक हो

The Pursuit For My Voters ID

voter id

By Malathy Madathilezham

The article is a tad old but is very relevant to the day and time as well

I am an Indian citizen, true, but I haven’t had the opportunity to cast my vote till now. Just recently I completed my voters ID formality and am just sharing my experience.

Initially I and my mom submitted our forms at a nearby school on the given dates. The teachers were given the duty to help us in filling the form, etc. They were quite helpful and that experience was a pleasant one. The date allotted for us to complete the rest of the formalities was December 1st, 11 am at the Village Office at Maradu.

So, I took leave on that day. I was pretty happy cause I would be finally be able to Vote for the next elections and I had the copies and originals of all the prescribed proofs of Identity and address. We reach there well before the allotted time and there was a board saying we are to go to the community hall nearby. We go there and its utter chaos. In addition all eyes (even the women stare!) are on me and my mom, as if we are some alien creatures. May be its fact that I am wearing jeans (with a Looooong kurta though) and my mom is in her Kurti and Churidar, may be it’s that outsider feel that both of us still exude or just the attitude. But this is quite normal so we ignore that.

There are a number of counters (read benches and desks with some people with a self important air around them), but there is no order or boards indicating where we go first. So we just stand in the first queue that we stand. Thankfully it turns out be the right one and there are not many people in front of me. Thus we submit the receipt kind of thing there and are handed over a few more forms and asked to go to the next counter. We find out which one exactly is the next counter and rush there. On taking my form there, the lady says I need to give a reason why till now I did not apply for voters ID Card. So I write that down. Then she raises another objection that I need to have a ration card as proof of address and my passport wont do!! Or else I need to go to the village officer in the next counter and get a temporary residence certificate with my passport as proof. I go there and then he tells me this is not the correct ward number, or the house number and lot of other things which frankly I could not understand. Now I am really frustrated and angry and look at my mom. She knows I am about to blow my top. Then she asks if on the basis of her residence proof he could issue me one. Fortunately for him, he says he can do that. He asks me to make some changes here and there. And Voila! He issues me a temp residence proof. Then back to the same counter where the queue has grown long by now. She fills up some forms and sends me to the next counter.

The man at the next counter is kind enough not to ask too many questions or bring more objections. He signs the forms and sends me forward. The last counter was where the photos were being taken for the Voters ID Card. Now I think the old man in front of me liked the young photographer as he did not seem to keen on getting up from the seat. So some questions and answers later, finally I got my photo taken (I guess my photo will show the level of my frustration!). And thus ended the ordeal of finishing the formality to get my Voters ID.

What I cannot understand is, if the website of the election commission states some mandatory ID proofs are required and that Passport, Driving License, Statement of your Bank account, Ration card; any of these can be taken as proof of residence, then why this insistence of taking only the ration card as proof of ID. Why make life difficult for people like me who may not be fortunate enough to have one. You cannot question the fact that I am an Indian, I have an Indian Passport, and my driving license proves that I am above 18 years old. Instead of making procedures like these simple and uncomplicated why the tendency to make the experience difficult, tedious and frustrating?

An Emotional Letter To The Economist, Dr Manmohan Singh

manmohan singh--621x414

By Anupam Singh

Hope you are okay, healthy & kicking!

The Food Security Bill has been passed in Lok Sabha, but should I congratulate you?

No! I would rather congratulate Her Highness the visionary Sonia Gandhi for her Vote Security Bill. You know it better than anyone that its the worst time to undertake such a bill but you are helpless seeing the interest Her Highness has shown in it. Passing the Food Security Bill is good politics, passing it not is good economics. And we all know who wins the unfortunate battle of Politics Vs Economics, that too when the elections are lurking round the corner.

Sir, people have known me on social networking sites as one of your most vocal adversaries. I have hammered & bludgeoned you through my writings in letter & words for most of your tenure as the PM of India. But today, am in a different mood. I’m writing this letter to exhibit a different sort of emotion. Today, I sympathise with you & understand the predicament you must be going through. I know that when the world sleeps you remain awake to self-pity & imprisonment. Every morning while having the morning tea you helplessly ponder over India’s deteriorating economy. You represent a 100 million people but deep inside you are a loner. I know you might feel embarrassed reading this letter, thinking how could a young little chap decipher your state of mind so well.

Mr Prime Minister, I’m writing this letter to you based on some of my recent observations. In the Lok Sabha, Her Highness had to take the mantle into her own hands. She had to personally lead this initiative to get the bill passed because you, Mr Manmohan Singh, as a learned economist must not have been in its favour at this point of time. I know that you clearly understand the bearing such an act would take on the economy. Unfortunately for us, the highest moral ground you could take was to simply NOT BE IN FAVOUR because you don’t have the guts to steer the government policy as per your discretion.

Today, the nation is in a fix. Investors, who once entered into the Indian market thanking your liberalisation policies of 90s, are fleeing our market. The Rupee has stooped so low that its shamelessly in position 69 with the dollar on the higher side. An economy which boasted of high Forex reserves, healthy account deficit, growth & robustness not very long ago is caught in a quagmire. You know the state of economy far better than me but you can’t disagree my saying that the situation in India is of a crisis, an economic emergency.
Fortunately, the best person to sail us through these turbulent times is in the chair of the Prime Minister. You have done it earlier & most of us Indians are a fan of how you helped recover the economy in the 90s. I personally liked the manner you got the Indo-US nuclear deal done, infact that was the only time in your tenure that you looked in control of the proceedings.

Whatever the upcoming 2014 election results, there is no way you would be the next PM. And I must remind you that you’ll go down in history as one of the worst Prime Ministers ever. Leave aside opposition or the media, your own party will discredit you, disown you once your term is over & every congressman will label all that was wrong with UPA rule as the PM’s personal failure. This is what happened to Narasimha Rao & this is what will happen to you. History will repeat itself. I know you are not that bad a PM as the history books will project you, but you have neither acted with the dignity & style that a prime minister of the world’s largest democracy should have.

This economic scenario might be a threat for India, but I see an opportunity in it for you. An opportunity to salvage what you’ve lost. An opportunity to establish that the countrymen’s belief in you was not unfounded. Sir, doesn’t your heart bleed to see people’s loss of hope in you!

In a crisis like this, any country would have died for an economist to be at the helm of affairs. And no Indian has a better CV than you have as an economist. This is the last ditch moment to rise above your helplessness & break the shackles that tie you. This crisis can be a saving grace & blessing in disguise to help you unburden. The Food Security Bill is through in the Lok Sabha & it might very well help the congress garner some votes but will surely take away the last bit of respect people have in you. If you show the courage to stand & speak, the country, opposition, the media will speak with you in the same tone. No Sonia or No ruling party can overrule what the PM wants & stands for.

I really wish that the Prime Minister of my country gets a dignified exit with his head held high. And if you don’t I’ll continue bludgeoning you as my daily routine, you being my favourite object of ridicule!

You know, every Indian except the concerned person in power has a solution to any damn serious national problem. Giving unsolicited advice is our favourite pastime & I’m no less! So, Dr. Saab, I would conclude my emotional outbursts by advising you on how to resolve this economic crisis.

You have only two options Mr Economist..

1st)  Stand up for what you believe in. Take your cabinet in confidence. Talk to Her Highness. Take the bull by the horn. Stall the Food Security Bill. Follow the principles of good economics, leave the rules of good politics aside. The power is with you. You are still our Prime Minister & the most able man to ride this crisis.

OR..

2nd)   As your Commerce Minister has already suggested we might have to pledge Gold to save our economy as we did in 1991. My suggestion is why put the country’s Gold on collateral when we have so many highly qualified Gold Medallist economists in the government. Please collect your medals & we shall have enough Gold to sail us through. Furthermore, none of us would then say that your Gold medals are of no use.

So Mr Economist, take a stand or sell your Gold medals..!!

Your’s critically,

Anupam Singh

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 2

Second part of Jack Hoyle’s pictorial blog on democracy in Myanmar. Here’s his work behind the lens as Myanmar completes a year of democracy. 

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Two boys hanging out at Yangon’s main bus station. A poor diet and lack of access to basic healthcare could be reasons for the smaller boys unhealed wounds.

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The daughter of the charcoal shop owner in her Sunday best.

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A drizzly day in Pyin Oo Lwin, the former British hill station, now a popular summertime retreat for the wealthy.

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A sand carrier sprints to dump his heavy load. Sand is dredged from the Irrawaddy River and used for ever increasing construction projects around the country.

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A family of rubbish collectors in Yangon, stand amongst what they have scooped out of the blocked storm drains. They use little more than a wicker basket and their bare hands.

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The sun goes down over Ubein Bridge, on the outskirts of Mandalay. Dozens of fishermen line the bridge during the rainy season, when the waters are high enough and the fish are in abundance.

Related Links

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 1

Traffic Woes And Kochi

traffic delays

By Malathy Madathilezham

What are the uses of roads?

1. It is an obstacle course intended to test the skills?

2. It is a rain water drain?

3. Garbage disposal unit?

4. Who cares!!!!

Well the the people in charge of the maintenance/construction of road in Kochi would definitely select the fourth option I guess!! I say ‘people’ because even that is a question that I don’t have a proper answer to!!! Public Works Department? National Highways Authority of India?The Corporation??

Lot of confusion…so I am not getting into that.

I, like many other Kochiites, need to travel to reach my office every morning and come back in the evening. Now what is supposed to be a very simple 5 to 8 km distance to be covered has been made more interesting with a well designed obstacle course, with puddles or stones to be avoided, streams of water and other miscellaneous stuff to make the ride more interesting! You know in case we get bored! Whichever route you take, the road provide you ample entertainment, thrills and a very slow tour of the city for those of you tourists!

Kochi is growing. Yes, it definitely is! But good roads are substantially important for any city, growing or not! After all transport of men and material is important for any commercial activity. Accidents are just one of the hazards. Imagine after paying hefty road taxes, the long term impacts on our body by travelling on these disgracefully bumpy paths, that are supposed to be called ‘roads’! I think we should sue the authorities for the irreparable physical damage to our bodies!!!

Everyday morning, I get up, the thought of going to office scares me. It puts me off because of these dreadful paths… All I want is the right (luxury?) of being able to ride/drive to office in reasonably good roads, without having to dodge the puddles or holes, water streams etc… Is that too much to ask????

A Look Inside Myanmar’s First Real Year Of Democracy – 1

Jack Hoyle comes back with his second pictorial blog. From cricket, he makes a move to politics and democracy in Myanmar. Here’s his work behind the lens as Myanmar completes a year of democracy.

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Monks await the arrival of The Lady, Aung San Suu Kyi. A reported 100,000 people flocked to hear her give a speech. It was the first time she had visited Mandalay since her release from house arrest.

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Aung San Suu Kyi was over six hours late, due to the huge numbers of people in the streets cheering along her motorcade. Monks huddle together to keep warm, while another spectator shields himself from the rain with a poster of The Lady.

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A monk sewing.

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Workers load a boat in Mandalay, shored on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.

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A boy holds up a captured bird. This particular bird is often sold as street food along the roadside.

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Myanmar youths have found a new sense of confidence since the democratic reforms. Previously people, particularly the young, would have been persecuted for wearing such ‘daring’ attire, where as these days it’s a common sight.