Category Archives: Opinion

The Pursuit For My Voters ID

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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?

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Hard Work, Determination And Dreams Succeed: A Short Story

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By Ganesh Subramanian

It was a hot and dry afternoon in Laxmangarh in the Sikar district in Rajasthan. Rampal was driving a nail into one of the legs of the broken wooden chair which he was trying to repair. Oblivious to the beads of sweat forming on his forehead, Rampal was focused on mending the chair.

“Dharampal, Arey, Oye Dharampal”, echoed a voice from the gate. Rampal shifted his gaze towards the gate in the direction of the voice which had called his father’s name. He saw the landlord Dharamveer entering the compound pushing the wrought-iron gate.

Dharampal, Rampal’s father came out of the house. He was a frail man in his early sixties and wore a pair of spectacles right on the edge of his nose that it threatened to fall down at any moment. “Namaste, Dharamveer Ji, Aayiyae” said the old man.

“It has been two months since you paid the rent. I am not leaving this place unless you pay me now”, Dharamveer said with a firmness in his tone. “Give me a week’s time, Dharamveer. As I told you, business had been dull for the last 2 months. Our regular buyers have not placed their orders yet” pleaded Dharampal.

Before Dharamveer could say anything, Rampal interjected, “We have been paying the rent regularly without delay for the last 2 years. It is only now that we are asking you to give sometime. As Papa says, give us a week’s time”.

Dharamveer thought for a moment. “Alright. If I don’t get the money in a week’s time, you better look out for a new house to move into” said the landlord and left the place.

Now Dharampal makes and sells handicrafts like jute bags, purses etc. to mostly foreign tourists who visit Laxmangarh. These tourists repeat their purchases either for new designs or they buy products for their friends and family. Due to the hot weather, Dharampal’s business suffered a dip in the last two months.

“Father, why don’t you pay the rent with the money that you have set aside for my education?” Rampal questioned his father.

The old man gave a weak smile. “Son, the money that I have saved for your higher education will be used only for that purpose. We will find another way to manage the rent. You are the brightest graduate in our whole town. Let all these troubles besieging our family go with me. I want you to do your post graduation and get a good job so that you will have a comfortable life thereafter.”

Rampal quietly nodded. He decided against saying anything that would cause displeasure to his father. Rampal is a science graduate and has been hailed as the brightest student in his college. Now Rampal’s dad and the family believed that with a post graduation, he will well be on his way to leading a trouble-free life.

Next day, Rampal was sitting in the footsteps of his house reading a newspaper. He saw a small group running past his compound gate. When he asked a person in the group, the person replied that Vikas met with an accident and before he could be rushed to the main hospital in the city, he died. Rampal could hardly believe his ears. Vikas is his closest friend and hails from a not-well-to-do family. He was sincerely preparing for his Civil Service exams and was hoping to get a good posting so that he could wipe away all the problems in his family.

Rampal rushed to Vikas’s house along with the group. The scene there was nothing short of traumatic. Vikas’s parents and sisters were wailing in grief. When Vikas’s mom saw Rampal, she hugged him and started sobbing uncontrollably. Rampal’s heart sank. His initial sorrow turned to anger. Why should this happen everytime? Is basic medical facility a luxury to be afforded only by the rich? Questions kept flooding his mind like a torrent.

He was determined to start a hospital in his town so that no one faces the same situation ever again. Rampal’s dad vehemently objected. His mom shouted at his foolish decision to be an entrepreneur. Rampal started speaking to bigger hospitals in the main city for tie-ups. He lobbied with the government agencies. After two years of struggle, his efforts bore fruit. People from nearby towns also visited his hospital for excellent facilities at a very cheap price. A year later, the hospital was one of the most thriving businesses in the town. The national newspaper carried an article about Rampal citing his resilience, never-say-die attitude and hailed him as a visionary. Rampal’s father read the article and was proud of his son. Tears flooded his eyes. He apologised to his son for not listening to him earlier. Rampal smiled a contented man.

An Emotional Letter To The Economist, Dr Manmohan Singh

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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

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????

Movie Review: Satyagraha: Poor Story Except In Bits

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By Ankush Kumar

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, & Manoj Bajpayee.

Introduction: The message is loud and clear. And Satyagraha adds no new aspect to the revolution.

Premise: Only if you are news blind, you will miss the fact that this one is based on the Arvind Kejriwal & Anna Hazare movement.

Plot: Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) is a school teacher who lives by the Gandhian principles, Maanav Raghvendra (Ajay Devgn) is a NRI business magnet. At the core it’s the story of these two individuals. How a shrewd businessman becomes a nationalist and then becomes part of the revolution.

Acting: Amitabh Bachchan is brilliant as he underplays his character, the portions where he really breaks down with citizen kanesque acts he is let down by his editors, Ajay Devgn disappoints this time though, the punch is missing in his dialogue delivery. Kareena Kapoor looks less of a journalist and more like an add on. The whistles might be heard but Manoj Bajpayee character is becoming caricaturish now. Arjun Rampal has a miniscule role but his heart is worn on his sleeves.

Technical Insight: The script disappoints, Anjum Rajabali can learn a thing or two with changing times, you will feel like re reading the newspapers all over again with very little entertainment value, editing is hopelessly bad, scenes of highest emotions has been killed by lazy edits. Cinematography though is brilliant especially the revolution bit. The music is a sore bore except for Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. Prakash Jha, maybe out of commercial compulsions gives in, sir atleast once give us a Damul again.

Kela moments: Many actually. The songs weren’t needed. And how on earth Kareena Kapoor is the only journalist covering the agitation?

Citizen Kane moments: Amitabh Bachchan consoling his widowed daughter in law Amrita Rao, the scene where Mr. Bachchan breaks down when he returns to the scene of his son’s death and Mr. Bachchan scene where he tells Devgn he will miss him when he is gone.

Brownie Points: 2.5/5.

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.

Single Woman In A Village

malathy in a village

By Malathy Madathilezham 

This is the first time I am living on my own in a remote little place in Maharashtra (actually not as remote as some of the other places my travels have taken me.. but yet). This is my first job after graduating from Tata Institute of Social Sciences this March.

All my life I have been travelling. “I have studied in 14 different schools!” is something you will hear me say as part of my introduction. Yeah I know its a bit corny but yet. But all the traveling and living has been in a sheltered and protected manner and largely very comfortable. The culture and way of living mostly urban. I have never experienced rural life until very recently during the course of my two year study and the training that I received in my organisation. I have read enough and more but experiencing it shows how different life in ‘Bharat’ is from that in ‘India’. Even more so being a woman…

No, I am not going on a tirade against gender discrimination here… don’t worry. Just a few points on what I constantly find myself thinking about.

I am really privileged. Yes, I am. My birth has guaranteed me certain success in life even if I am mediocre in my performance. Unless off course I am really stupid or have real bad luck!! I cannot imagine being born a woman in one of these villages. Off course then I would simply be blissful in my ignorance and thankful about whatever I have.

(Lack of) Information is power. This is the game people play here. It is not that there are not enough government schemes, or opportunities to help people. But there is no smooth flow of the information regarding these to those who need it. Illiteracy is not the only reason here. A few people have the monopoly over the access to this information and they try their best to keep that monopoly.

The slow pace of life. Its really slow. In addition, the more you make someone wait, the more important you are. This is the culture here. Getting used to it takes time.

A single woman living (so far) away from her parents and native is a shock for many. “ Even boys will not be so daring!” was a quip by a Gram Sevika when I told her that I am from Kerala. Everyone is curious to know what I am doing here. To add to that curiosity is the fact that I have really short hair right now. So then dealing with the number of questions that a random shopkeeper, autowala or tai on the road can sometimes be simply frustrating! There are days that I don’t feel like going out to avoid this!

I love to cook!! I never thought I would say this but it is true! Yeah am not so organised or planned as my mother but yet I realise that I actually look forward to cooking something different and tasty everyday .

Well that is it for now… Looking forward to more learning and understanding the rural reality…