Sunday, September 30, 2007

Threats of the Iron Hand

I don't know which India got freedom in 1947. Is it Gandhi's India or is it some colonial anal retentive's India?

Arundhati Roy has written with such great passion about the judiciary in India:
The Rule of Law is a precept that is distinct and can often be far removed from the principle of justice. The Rule of Law is a phrase that derives its meaning from the context in which it operates. It depends on what the laws are and who they're designed to protect.

Now Read this PTI report, published in the Indian Express:

SC stays DMK-sponsored TN bandh
Sunday September 30 2007 14:44 IST

NEW DELHI: Supreme Court has stayed a ruling DMK led alliance-sponsored bandh on Monday or any other day in Tamil Nadu on the issue of Setu Samudram.

Holding a rare sitting on a Sunday, a bench of Acting Chief Justice BN Aggrawal and PP Naolekar ordered that the DMK and its allies shall not go ahead with the bandh either on 1st October or any other date, as the bandh per se was illegal and unconstitutional in view of the apex court's earlier ruling on the validity of "bandhs."

Meanwhile, DMK patriarch and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to undertake fast on Monday demanding early completion of the Sethusamudram project.

The apex court passed the direction on an "urgent application" filed by the opposition AIADMK along with its special leave petition seeking an injunction against the bandh.

The three-hours arguments that preceded the direction was laced with scathing and stinging remarks from the bench which minced no words in expressing its strong displeasure on the very concept of bandh and the perceived defiance of law by the citizens in the country, not to mention the political parties.

"That's the problem in this country. We have to deal everything with an iron hand in this country. Otherwise things will not work.

Every organ, let it be the legislature, executive or judiciary has to deal with an iron hand," the apex court observed.

Recalling that the apex court had in 1998 clearly upheld the ruling of a full bench of the Kerala High Court that calling or enforcing a bandh was illegal and unconstitutional, the bench regretted that orders of the courts were being violated with impunity in the country.

"We have come to this stage in the country that everything has to be monitored, hammered or directed by courts. Even orders of the Supreme Court are not observed, what to talk of the High Courts. Ninety-nine per cent of the High Court orders are not complied," the apex court said.

The apex court rejected arguments of senior counsel Altaf Ahmed and A K Ganguly appearing for Tamil Nadu and the DMK that the October one protest programme was not a bandh call but rather a "hartal".

"If it is a bandh then it is a breakdown of the Constitutional machinery.Your own resolution says that the programme on October 1, is intended to ensure complete cessation of all activities, then how can you say it is not a bandh?," the bench grilled the Tamil Nadu counsel.

The bench brushed aside the claims of the State and the DMK that what was essentially intended was a public meeting.

"Where is the public meeting you show us. Your resolution say it is cessation of all activities and work. You want to show your popularity. Why do you want to close all down educational institutions and commercial activities. Where will you then find the people for your meetings," the apex court asked in a sarcastic tone.

It was Gandhi, Father of the Nation, who gave us the invaluable lesson of non-cooperation and general strikes. Today the supreme court of India, the two judges have in fact condemned Gandhi.

Acting Chief Justice BN Aggrawal and PP Naolekar's words have a lot of meaning:

"That's the problem in this country. We have to deal everything with an iron hand in this country. Otherwise things will not work.

Every organ, let it be the legislature, executive or judiciary has to deal with an iron hand."
The Iron Hand mentioned by the Supreme Court is very symbolic. Independent India saw the Iron Hand in 1975 when Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency. The Iron Hand is that of Brute Power - Unbridled Power - Absolute Power. The Iron Hand is that of a Big Bully. The Iron Hand is of Hitlerian proportions. The Iron Hand is undemocratic. The supreme court, that too the Acting Chief Justice shouldn't be using such language; it is downright FASCIST.

Gandhi, or even that matter someone like Nehru, never envisaged a senior judge of our beloved nation using such perverted language. We fought for our freedoms, how can we forget the sacrifice of so many freedom fighters - whose selfless actions gives us a chance to live in a free India? Would Netaji Subash Chandra Bose allow such fascist language from the highest judicial office in India? What would have Gandhi done? The father of our nation would have called for a national bandh to protest against such fascist remarks and he would have gone on a hunger strike.

You want to show your popularity. Why do you want to close all down educational institutions and commercial activities. Where will you then find the people for your meetings," the apex court asked in a sarcastic tone.
Popularity is not a shameful thing in a democracy. Why is the court so worried about the commercial activities?

I don't know what Lemurian dreams Karunanidhi has. McMenon is a fair dinkum malayalee - and is quite proud of what Karunanidhi has done. Search through entire Tamil Nadu and Kerala... you wouldn't find an Old RAM temple anywhere. The dark men Siva and Krishna are the most popular Gods of South India. Ram who? One who chose power over his pregnant wife, one who chose Kursi over Patni. One who unashamedly clung on to power than to protect the dignity of his wife.

We don't bow our heads to such a man. As a man, Ram's primary duty is to protect his wife and family. He failed in his manly duties - he is no hero, no God.

If Ram knew everything, why did he ask Lakshman to learn from a dying Ravana - the art of governance?

Ramayan is a collection of many parables. Kambar has written a wonderful Ramayan in Tamil, probably the most thought provoking Ramayana of all time.

Ravana was a good king; he was a big Siva devotee. I know there are many deniers of Aryan-Dravidian conflict, there are also people like my father in law, who thinks Tamil has its roots in Sanskrit. Ignorant people will always exist; such people don't need knowledge - cause they can do nothing with it.

Adi Sankara sang, "Bhaja Govindam," knowing too well that the only salvation for fools is through prayers. Fools are unable to use any form of intelligence anyway.

Who is the court to make remarks on "you want to show your popularity" living in a democracy? Mind you, the politicians, judges, and policemen are public servants. The court has thrown down the gauntlet. Karunanidhi is doing the right thing by observing a hunger strike; he is appealing to the greater constituency of India - the poor and the under-privileged. India is not all about Middle Class and Upper Class. Last time I checked, India was still a democracy where votes do get counted. Unlike Bush's America or Calderon's Mexico - In India votes do get counted.

BJP wants DMK government to be dismissed. I am waiting for that day. Guess what, dismiss the government - DMK will win the next election with 90% votes.

Tamil Nadu has 39 MPs in the parliament (Lok Sabha). They simply get to decide who rules India in this day of coalition politics. You don't like Idli Sambaar people, you need their votes though.

What happens when our basic rights are trampled upon - do we not assemble and call for a bandh? What if our democracy is under threat through a 'defamation law' (remember the draconian law Rajiv Gandhi wanted to implement in India?) or some other stuff?

DMK has achieved more publicity and political mileage than what it had asked for. The supreme court judges are no politicians; they should have stayed back and done their job of interpreting law - not creating new law.

The lawmakers in India are the legislature - the politicians.

The supreme court judges, listening to all what has happened the Chief Justice in Lawless Pakistan have flung themselves into a political war. Lesson One: If you are not a politician, never play politics - that too with a seasoned politician like Karunanidhi.

Karunanidhi is a popular man, every Tamilian knows him. How many Indians know this Acting Chief Justice?

Oh ho, I could be held in contempt of the highest court in India.

Arrest McMenon please, put me behind bars. Let me be the first victim of this anti-democratic machinery which is governing India.

The court, in its whatever wisdom, talked about how the Iron Hand is so critical in India. A People's Revolution is not too far away, if people and institutions who are to uphold the values of democracy start using Fascist language. No we won't turn the other cheek all the time; if you threaten us with the Iron Hand, we the people will strike back.

Sixty years after independence from the colonial Brits, we are ready for another freedom struggle - to have a Secular, free, truly Democratic India. By secular, I mean - no religion will have any special status in our nation. No more appeasement of minorities through minority businesses and vote banks.

It is time to fight for self-respect and people's rights. I wish to write more... and I will keep on writing.

*If you are a big fan of the consumerist-religionist-crap-philosophy, please don't bother to comment.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Scandal In The Palace

By Arundhati Roy

25 September, 2007
Outlook India

Scandals can be fun. Especially those that knock preachers from their pulpits and flick halos off saintly heads. But some scandals can be corrosive and more damaging for the scandalised than the scandalee. Right now we're in the midst of one such.

At its epicentre is Y.K. Sabharwal, former Chief Justice of India, who until recently headed the most powerful institution in this country—the Supreme Court. When there's a scandal about a former chief justice and his tenure in office, it's a little difficult to surgically excise the man and spare the institution.

But then commenting adversely on the institution can lead you straight to a prison cell as some of us have learned to our cost. It's like having to take the wolf and the chicken and the sack of grain across the river, one by one. The river's high and the boat's leaking. Wish me luck.

The higher judiciary, the Supreme Court in particular, doesn't just uphold the law, it micromanages our lives. Its judgements range through matters great and small. It decides what's good for the environment and what isn't, whether dams should be built, rivers linked, mountains moved, forests felled. It decides what our cities should look like and who has the right to live in them. It decides whether slums should be cleared, streets widened, shops sealed, whether strikes should be allowed, industries should be shut down, relocated or privatised. It decides what goes into school textbooks, what sort of fuel should be used in public transport and schedules of fines for traffic offences.

It decides what colour the lights on judges' cars should be (red) and whether they should blink or not (they should). It has become the premier arbiter of public policy in this country that likes to market itself as the World's Largest Democracy.

Ironically, judicial activism first rode in on a tide of popular discontent with politicians and their venal ways. Around 1980, the courts opened their doors to ordinary citizens and people's movements seeking justice for underprivileged and marginalised people. This was the beginning of the era of Public Interest Litigation, a brief window of hope and real expectation. While Public Interest Litigation gave people access to courts, it also did the opposite. It gave courts access to people and to issues that had been outside the judiciary's sphere of influence so far. So it could be argued that it was Public Interest Litigation that made the courts as powerful as they are. Over the last 15 years or so, through a series of significant judgements, the judiciary has dramatically enhanced the scope of its own authority.

Today, as neo-liberalism sinks its teeth deeper into our lives and imagination, as millions of people are being pauperised and dispossessed in order to keep India's Tryst with Destiny (the unHindu 10% rate of growth), the State has to resort to elaborate methods to contain growing unrest. One of its techniques is to invoke what the middle and upper classes fondly call the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law is a precept that is distinct and can often be far removed from the principle of justice. The Rule of Law is a phrase that derives its meaning from the context in which it operates. It depends on what the laws are and who they're designed to protect. For instance, from the early '90s, we have seen the systematic dismantling of laws that protect workers' rights and the fundamental rights of ordinary people (the right to shelter/health/education/water).

International financial institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the ADB demand these not just as a precondition, but as a condition, set down in black and white, before they agree to sanction loans. (The polite term for it is structural adjustment. ) What does the Rule of Law mean in a situation like this? Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, puts it beautifully: "The Rule of Law does not do away with unequal distribution of wealth and power, but reinforces that inequality with the authority of law. It allocates wealth and poverty in such indirect and complicated ways as to leave the victim bewildered."

As it becomes more and more complicated for elected governments to be seen to be making unpopular decisions (decisions, for example, that displace millions of people from their villages, from their cities, from their jobs), it has increasingly fallen to the courts to make these decisions, to uphold the Rule of Law.

The expansion of judicial powers has not been accompanied by an increase in its accountability. Far from it. The judiciary has managed to foil every attempt to put in place any system of checks and balances that other institutions in democracies are usually bound by.

It has opposed the suggestion by the Committee for Judicial Accountability that an independent disciplinary body be created to look into matters of judicial misconduct. It has decreed that an FIR cannot be registered against a sitting judge without the consent of the chief justice (which has never ever been given). It has so far successfully insulated itself against the Right to Information Act. The most effective weapon in its arsenal is, of course, the Contempt of Court Act which makes it a criminal offence to do or say anything that "scandalises" or "lowers the authority" of the court. Though the act is framed in arcane language more suited to medieval ideas of feminine modesty, it actually arms the judiciary with formidable, arbitrary powers to silence its critics and to imprison anyone who asks uncomfortable questions.

Small wonder then that the media pulls up short when it comes to reporting issues of judicial corruption and uncovering the scandals that must rock through our courtrooms on a daily basis. There are not many journalists who are willing to risk a long criminal trial and a prison sentence.

Until recently, under the Law of Contempt, even truth was not considered a valid defence. So suppose, for instance, we had prima facie evidence that a judge has assaulted or raped someone, or accepted a bribe in return for a favourable judgement, it would be a criminal offence to make the evidence public because that would "scandalise or tend to scandalise" or "lower or tend to lower" the authority of the court.

Yes, things have changed, but only a little. Last year, Parliament amended the Contempt of Court Act so that truth becomes a valid defence in a contempt of court charge. But in most cases (such as in the case of the shall we say "affair") in order to prove something it would have to be investigated. But obviously when you ask for an investigation you have to state your case, and when you state your case you will be imputing dishonourable motives to a judge for which you can be convicted for contempt. So: Nothing can be proved unless it is investigated and nothing can be investigated unless it has been proved.

The only practical option that's on offer is for us to think Pure Thoughts.

For example:

a. Judges in India are divine beings.

b. Decency, wholesomeness, morality, transparency and integrity are encrypted in their DNA.

c. This is proved by the fact that no judge in the history of our Republic has ever been impeached or disciplined in any way.

d. Jai Judiciary, Jai Hind.

It all becomes a bit puzzling when ex-chief justices like Justice S.P. Bharucha go about making public statements about widespread corruption in the judiciary. Perhaps we should wear ear plugs on these occasions or chant a mantra.

It may hurt our pride and curb our free spirits to admit it, but the fact is that we live in a sort of judicial dictatorship. And now there's a scandal in the Palace.

Last year (2006) was a hard year for people in Delhi. The Supreme Court passed a series of orders that changed the face of the city, a city that has over the years expanded organically, extra-legally, haphazardly. A division bench headed by Y.K. Sabharwal, chief justice at the time, ordered the sealing of thousands of shops, houses and commercial complexes that housed what the court called 'illegal' businesses that had been functioning, in some cases for decades, out of residential areas in violation of the old master plan.

It's true that, according to the designated land-use in the old master plan, these businesses were non-conforming. But the municipal authorities in charge of implementing the plan had developed only about a quarter of the commercial areas they were supposed to. So they looked away while people made their own arrangements (and put their lives' savings into them.) Then suddenly Delhi became the capital city of the new emerging Superpower. It had to be dressed up to look the part. The easiest way was to invoke the Rule of Law.

The sealing affected the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people. The city burned. There were protests, there was rioting. The Rapid Action Force was called in. Dismayed by the seething rage and despair of the people, the Delhi government beseeched the court to reconsider its decision. It submitted a new 2021 Master Plan which allowed mixed land-use and commercial activity in several areas that had until now been designated 'residential'. Justice Sabharwal remained unmoved. The bench he headed ordered the sealing to continue.

Around the same time, another bench of the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of Nangla Macchi and other jhuggi colonies, which left hundreds of thousands homeless, living on top of the debris of their broken homes, in the scorching summer sun. Yet another bench ordered the removal of all "unlicensed" vendors from the city's streets. Even as Delhi was being purged of its poor, a new kind of city was springing up around us. A glittering city of air-conditioned corporate malls and multiplexes where MNCs showcased their newest products. The better-off amongst those whose shops and offices had been sealed queued up for space in these malls. Prices shot up. The mall business boomed, it was the newest game in town. Some of these malls, mini-cities in themselves, were also illegal constructions and did not have the requisite permissions.

But here the Supreme Court viewed their misdemeanours through a different lens. The Rule of Law winked and went off for a tea break. In its judgement on the writ petition against the Vasant Kunj Mall dated October 17, 2006 (in which it allowed the construction of the mall to go right ahead), Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia said:

"Had such parties inkling of an idea that such clearances were not obtained by DDA, they would not have invested such huge sums of money.

The stand that wherever constructions have been made unauthorisedly demolition is the only option cannot apply to the present cases, more particularly, when they unlike, where some private individuals or private limited companies or firms being allotted to have made contraventions, are corporate bodies and institutions and the question of their having indulged in any malpractices in getting the approval or sanction does not arise."
It's a bit complicated, I know.

This was exactly when his sons went into partnership with two mall developers. Sealing helped malls; Sons & Co raked in the bucks.

A friend and I sat down and translated it into ordinary English. Basically,

a. Even though in this present case the construction may be unauthorised and may not have the proper clearances, huge amounts of money have been invested and demolition is not the only option.

b. Unlike private individuals or private limited companies who have been allotted land and may have flouted the law, these allottees are corporate bodies and institutions and there is no question of their having indulged in any malpractice in order to get sanctions or approval.

The question of corporate bodies having indulged in malpractice in getting approval or sanction does not arise. So says the Indian Supreme Court. What should we say to those shrill hysterical people protesting out there on the streets, accusing the court of being an outpost of the New Corporate Empire? Shall we shout them down? Shall we say 'Enron zindabad'? 'Bechtel, Halliburton zindabad'? 'Tata, Birla, Mittals, Reliance, Vedanta, Alcan zindabad'? 'Coca-Cola aage badho, hum tumhaare saath hain'?

This then was the ideological climate in the Supreme Court at the time the Sabharwal "affair" took place.

It's important to make it clear that Justice Sabharwal's orders were not substantially different or ideologically at loggerheads with the orders of other judges who have not been touched by scandal and whose personal integrity is not in question. But the ideological bias of a judge is quite a different matter from the personal motivations and conflict of interest that could have informed Justice Sabharwal's orders. That is the substance of this story.

In his final statement to the media before he retired in January 2007, Justice Sabharwal said that the decision to implement the sealing in Delhi was the most difficult decision he had made during his tenure as chief justice. Perhaps it was. Tough Love can't be easy.

In May 2007, the Delhi edition of the evening paper Mid Day published detailed investigative stories (and a cartoon) alleging serious judicial misconduct on the part of Justice Sabharwal. The articles are available on the internet. The charges Mid Day made have subsequently been corroborated by the Committee for Judicial Accountability, an organisation that counts senior lawyers, retired judges, professors, journalists and activists as its patrons. The charges in brief are:

1 That Y.K. Sabharwal's sons Chetan and Nitin had three companies: Pawan Impex, Sabs Exports and Sug Exports whose registered offices were initially at their family home in 3/81, Punjabi Bagh, and were then shifted to their father's official residence at 6, Motilal Nehru Marg.

2. That while he was a judge in the Supreme Court but before he became chief justice, he called for and dealt with the sealing of commercial properties case in Delhi. (This was impropriety. Only the chief justice is empowered to call for cases that are pending before a different bench.) .

3. That at exactly this time, Justice Sabharwal's sons went into partnership with two major mall and commercial complex developers, Purshottam Bagheria (of the fashionable Square 1 Mall fame) and Kabul Chawla of Business Park Town Planners (BPTP) Ltd. That as a result of Justice Sabharwal's sealing orders, people were forced to move their shops and businesses to malls and commercial complexes, which pushed up prices, thereby benefiting Justice Sabharwal's sons and their partners financially and materially.

4. That the Union Bank gave a Rs 28 crore loan to Pawan Impex on collateral security which turned out to be non-existent. (Justice Sabharwal says his sons' companies had credit facilities of up to Rs 75 crore.)

5. That because of obvious conflict of interest, he should have recused himself from hearing the sealing case (instead of doing the opposite—calling the case to himself.)

6. That a number of industrial and commercial plots of land in NOIDA were allotted to his sons' companies at throwaway prices by the Mulayam Singh/ Amar Singh government while Justice Sabharwal was the sitting judge on the case of the Amar Singh phone tapes (in which he issued an order restricting their publication.)

7. That his sons bought a house in Maharani Bagh for Rs 15.46 crore. The source of this money is unexplained. In the deeds they have put down their father's name as Yogesh Kumar (uncharacteristic coyness for boys who don't mind running their businesses out of their judge father's official residence.)

All these charges are backed by what looks like watertight, unimpeachable documentation. Registration deeds, documents from the Union ministry of company affairs, certificates of incorporation of the various companies, published lists of shareholders, notices declaring increased share capital in Nitin and Chetan's companies, notices from the Income Tax department and a CD of recorded phone conversations between the investigating journalist and the judge himself.

These documents seem to indicate that while Delhi burned, while thousands of shops and businesses were sealed and their owners and employees deprived of their livelihood, Justice Sabharwal's sons and their partners were raking in the bucks. They read like an instruction manual for how the New India works.

When the story became public, another retired chief justice, J.S. Verma, appeared on India Tonight, Karan Thapar's interview show on CNBC.

He brought all the prudence and caution of a former judge to bear on what he said: "...if it is true, this is the height of impropriety...every one who holds any public office is ultimately accountable in democracy to the people, therefore, the people have right to know how they are functioning, and higher is the office that you hold, greater is the accountability...." Justice Verma went on to say that if the facts were correct, it would constitute a clear case of conflict of interest and that Justice Sabharwal's orders on the sealing case must be set aside and the case heard all over again.

This is the heart of the matter. This is what makes this scandal such a corrosive one. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been devastated. If it is true that the judgement that caused this stands vitiated, then amends must be made.

But are the facts correct?

Scandals about powerful and well-known people can be, and often are, malicious, motivated and untrue. God knows that judges make mortal enemies—after all, in each case they adjudicate there is a winner and a loser. There's little doubt that Justice Y.K. Sabharwal would have made his fair share of enemies. If I were him, and if I really had nothing to hide, I would actually welcome an investigation. In fact, I would beg the chief justice to set up a commission of inquiry. I would make it a point to go after those who had fabricated evidence against me and made all these outrageous allegations.

What I certainly wouldn't do is to make things worse by writing an ineffective, sappy defence of myself which doesn't address the allegations and doesn't convince anyone (Times of India, September 2, 2007).

Equally, if I were the sitting chief justice or anybody else who claims to be genuinely interested in 'upholding the dignity' of the court (fortunately this is not my line of work), I would know that to shovel the dirt under the carpet at this late stage, or to try and silence or intimidate the whistle-blowers, is counter-productive. It wouldn't take me very long to work out that if I didn't order an inquiry and order it quickly, what started out as a scandal about a particular individual could quickly burgeon into a scandal about the entire judiciary.

But, of course, not everybody sees it that way.

Days after Mid Day went public with its allegations, the Delhi high court issued suo motu notice charging the editor, the resident editor, the publisher and the cartoonist of Mid Day with Contempt of Court. Three months later, on September 11, 2007, it passed an order holding them guilty of criminal Contempt of Court. They have been summoned for sentencing on September 21.

What was Mid Day's crime? An unusual display of courage? The high court order makes absolutely no comment on the factual accuracy of the allegations that Mid Day levelled against Justice Sabharwal. Instead, in an extraordinary, almost yogic manoeuvre, it makes out that the real targets of the Mid Day article were the judges sitting with Justice Sabharwal on the division bench, judges who are still in service (and therefore imputing motives to them constitutes Criminal Contempt): "We find the manner in which the entire incidence has been projected appears as if the Supreme Court permitted itself to be led into fulfilling an ulterior motive of one of its members.

The nature of the revelations and the context in which they appear, though purporting to single out former Chief Justice of India, tarnishes the image of the Supreme Court. It tends to erode the confidence of the general public in the institution itself. The Supreme Court sits in divisions and every order is of a bench. By imputing motive to its presiding member automatically sends a signal that the other members were dummies or were party to fulfil the ulterior design."

Nowhere in the Mid Day articles has any other judge been so much as mentioned. So the journalists are in the dock for an imagined insult. What this means is that if there are several judges sitting on a bench and you have proof that one of them has given an opinion or an order based on corrupt considerations or is judging a case in which he or she has a clear conflict of interest, it's not enough. You don't have a case unless you can prove that all of them are corrupt or that all of them have a conflict of interest and all of them have left a trail of evidence in their wake. Actually, even this is not enough. You must also be able to state your case without casting any aspersions whatsoever on the court. (Purely for the sake of argument: What if two judges on a bench decide to take turns to be corrupt? What would we do then?)

So now we're saddled with a whole new school of thought on Contempt of Court: Fevered interpretations of imagined insults against unnamed judges. Phew! We're in La-la Land.

In most other countries, the definition of Criminal Contempt of Court is limited to anything that threatens to be a clear and present danger to the administration of justice. This business of "scandalising" and "lowering the authority" of the court is an absurd, dangerous form of censorship and an insult to our collective intelligence.

The journalists who broke the story in Mid Day have done an important and courageous thing. Some newspapers acting in solidarity have followed up the story. A number of people have come together and made a public statement further bolstering that support. There is an online petition asking for a criminal investigation. If either the government or the courts do not order a credible investigation into the scandal, then a group of senior lawyers and former judges will hold a public tribunal and examine the evidence that is placed before them. It's all happening. The lid is off, and about time too.

Click here to sign the 'Investigate Justice Sabharwal Petition' to the President of India

© Outlook Publishing (India) Private Limited


Arundhati has hit the nail right on its head. Not many writers/ journalists are as courageous as her... Hey we won the Twenty20 World Cup - why do we care about the judiciary being more equal than others in a democracy?


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Malayalam Rock Song!

Good stuff guys, Mallu Metallica!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oprah for Vice-President?

I am going to speculate on DC politics - Oprah Winfrey wants to be the next US Vice President. A strong case can be made that Oprah has started her political journey by backing Obama .

Michael Moore has been running a campaign, Draft Oprah for President.

C'mon! Isn't it time we had a winner on our side?

America loves Oprah. She's got good politics, a great heart-and she'll have us all exercising AND reading! This can't be a bad thing.

Oprah Winfrey raises $3 million for Barack Obama

"I haven't been actively engaged before because there hasn't been anything to be actively engaged in. But I am engaged now to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States," Winfrey told a star-studded crowd of 1,500, according to a source at the event.

The outdoor party raked in a whopping $3 million for Obama, the Democratic senator from Illinois who aspires to be the nation's first African-American President.

This is from CNN - excerpts from a Michael Moore interview:

O'BRIEN: Oprah Winfrey for president.


O'BRIEN: Seriously, you really...

MOORE: Yes, seriously.

O'BRIEN: Democratic candidate?

MOORE: God, yes. President Oprah? The woman has good politics. She's got a good heart.

O'BRIEN: Is America ready for a black female president?

MOORE: They don't -- people don't -- Oprah, they love -- America loves Oprah. Don't you love Oprah?

O'BRIEN: You know I love Oprah.

MOORE: Well, of course. Everyone would vote for Oprah. For crying out loud, if California would vote for Schwarzenegger, America, who loves Oprah, would vote for Oprah.

Obama-Oprah could give the Clintons a good run for their money. If the Americans, in fact vote for the two big O's, it will be something special.

Republicans know it too well that they don't stand a chance in this election. Who would they vote for - O or C? Mrs Clinton is the compassionate conservative when compared to Team O2.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Is it good to migrate?

Here is an article published in the New York Times. I'll be posting some of the reactions and views in the next couple of days.

September 7, 2007
Border Crossings
In India, Even Cared-For Populace Leaves for Work

Take a look at the SLIDESHOW

TRIVANDRUM, India — This verdant swath of southern Indian coastline is a famously good place to be poor. People in the state of Kerala live nearly as long as Americans do, on a sliver of the income. They read at nearly the same rates.

With leftist governments here in the state capital spending heavily on health and schools, a generation of scholars has celebrated the “Kerala model” as a humane alternative to market-driven development, a vision of social equality in an unequal capitalist world. But the Kerala model is under attack, one outbound worker at a time.

Plagued by chronic unemployment, more Keralites than ever work abroad, often at sun-scorched jobs in the Persian Gulf that pay about $1 an hour and keep them from their families for years. The cash flowing home now helps support nearly one Kerala resident in three. That has some local scholars rewriting the Kerala story: far from escaping capitalism, they say, this celebrated corner of the developing world is painfully dependent on it.

“Remittances from global capitalism are carrying the whole Kerala economy,” said S. Irudaya Rajan, a demographer at the Center for Development Studies, a local research group. “There would have been starvation deaths in Kerala if there had been no migration. The Kerala model is good to read about but not practically applicable to any part of the world, including Kerala.”

Local lessons would matter less if this were a section of Mexico or Manila — places known for the hardships that make migrants flee. But Kerala’s standing as the other way — the benevolent path to development, a retort to globalization — makes the travails of its 1.8 million globalizing migrants especially resonant. The debate about Kerala is a debate about future strategies across the impoverished world.

Laly Mohan’s life offers the kind of case study common here. Having risen from a poor family to finish two years of college, her husband, Ramakrishnan, 39, saw few job prospects and left for the gulf 15 years ago. As a driver in Qatar, he now earns $375 a month, about five times the local wage, and sees his family once a year, on a three-week visit.

Mr. Mohan’s earnings have brought the family the accouterments of middle-class life: a renovated kitchen, a new motorscooter and a parochial school education for two daughters, Blessy, 10, and Elsa, 6. But despite her husband’s daily calls, Ms. Mohan said, “I feel very alone,” and the girls plead for their father’s return. “They want Papa and they also want money,” she said. “They cannot have both.”

“So many educated people are here, but we have no jobs,” Ms. Mohan added. “That is a big problem, a really big problem.”

To its admirers, the state’s struggles are those endemic to the developing world, while its achievements are unique. It is poor, even by India’s standards, with an annual per capita income of $675, compared with $730 nationwide. (The figure in the United States is about $25,000.)

But Kerala’s life expectancy is nearly 74 years — 11 years longer than the Indian average and approaching the American average of 77 years. Its literacy rate, 91 percent, compares to an Indian average of 65 percent, and an American rate the United Nations estimates at 99 percent.

Those enviable outcomes, its supporters stress, are a result of policy choices: Kerala spends 36 percent more on education than the average Indian state and 46 percent more on health.

“The fact that quality of life can be improved through government intervention, even in societies that are very poor — I think that’s important,” said Prabhat Patnaik, the vice chairman of the state planning board. Kerala’s experience, he said, shows “the quality of life is not just related to the growth rate” of the economy.

“Put it in the context of any other part of the developing world and its achievements still stand out as remarkable,” said Richard Franke, an anthropologist at Montclair State University in New Jersey. “Children don’t die in the first year of life, boys and girls have approximately equal life chances, they get educated, and they live long lives.”

He added, “The Kerala model stands as a great achievement, with or without migration.”

Kerala’s culture of human investment is at least two centuries years old and owes early debts to the missionaries and maharajahs who emphasized schools. By the early 20th century, literate Keralites were already migrating internally, to work as clerks in Delhi and Bombay, and sending money home.

Kerala was equally well known as a font of leftist politics. The Communist Party came to power in 1957, a year after statehood, and has ruled on and off since. The state transferred land from the rich to the poor, set a minimum wage and invested heavily in clinics and schools.

Though Kerala’s tax rates have been comparable to other Indian states’, its collection rates have been higher, and it has spent more on education and health.

It also gained a reputation as a place hostile to business, with heavy regulation, militant unions and frequent strikes. There are fishing jobs but little industry and weak agriculture. Government is the largest employer; many people run tenuous businesses like tea shops or tiny stores.

Talk of the Kerala model began after a 1975 United Nations report praised the state’s “impressive advances in the spheres of health and education.” Starved for success stories from the developing world, experts noticed.

Amartya Sen, a future Nobel laureate in economics, wrote widely on Kerala, arguing (in a book with Jean Dreze) that its “outstanding social achievements” were of “far-reaching significance” in other countries. In a book on three places that inspire global hope, Bill McKibben, an American, wrote that “Kerala demonstrates that a low-level economy can create a decent life” and shows that “sharing works.”

Yet even as Kerala gained fame, large numbers of its workers were leaving. The Persian Gulf needed labor, and Keralites were used to traveling for jobs. The number of overseas workers doubled in the 1980s, and then tripled in the 1990s. In a state of 32 million where unemployment approaches 20 percent, one Keralite worker in six now works overseas. The largest number work at taxing construction jobs, outdoors in the Arabian sun, though high literacy allows some Keralites to land office work.

Without migrant earnings, critics say, the state’s luster could not be sustained. The $5 billion that Keralite migrants send home augment the state’s economic output by nearly 25 percent. Migrants’ families are three times as likely as those of nonmigrants to live in superior housing, and about twice as likely to have telephones, refrigerators and cars. Men seeking wives place newspaper ads, describing themselves as “handsome, teetotaler, foreign-employed” or “God-fearing and working in Dubai.”

“The gulf is the biggest factor in sustaining a higher quality of life,” said B. A. Prakesh, an economist at the University of Kerala.

At its best, migration produces stories like that of Benjamin Fernandez, 55, who moved to the United Arab Emirates 30 years ago as a secretary and now owns a construction firm there. He built a big house in India with a teak spiral staircase and educated his daughters in private schools. One is studying to be a doctor, and the other is applying to business school. “The U.A.E. built a life for us,” he said.

Yet the suicide rate in Kerala is four times the national average, and there are also families like that of Shirley Justus, 45, who struggled to raise three daughters by herself while her husband drove trucks in Muscat and Dubai. Her oldest, Suji, graduated from high school last year and made two study plans, one aimed at England and the other at Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. Ms. Justus, afraid to be responsible for letting her go, vetoed both ideas. Her daughter obeyed with little complaint and then hanged herself.

“If my husband was here, she wouldn’t have done this,” said Ms. Justus, who has made her living room a shrine to her daughter and her life a search for answers. “He would have solved the problem.”

With nearly a quarter of the money migrants send home being spent on education, some Keralites experience a painful cycle: migration buys education, which leads to more migration. Educated Keralites, more choosy about jobs, are more likely to be unemployed.

In the family of James John Pereira, literacy and migration have been intertwined for nearly 100 years, since his father left to work as a valet on a Sri Lankan plantation. His earnings put Mr. Pereira through private school, and Mr. Pereira’s 49 years abroad as a clerk did the same for his five children, all of whom earned master’s degrees.

But three are now working abroad themselves, as is the husband of a fourth, Jacqueline, who is raising a 10-year-old daughter by herself. “The literacy rate here is great,” she said, “and unemployment is much greater.”

Kerala’s homegrown critics say such stories underscore the problems of a strategy that severs human development and economic growth. “Keralites are developing the gulf economy,” Professor Rajan, the demographer, said. “They are not developing our economy.”

Professor Franke, the Kerala admirer, said the economic forces that lead people to migrate were beyond the state’s control. “But what’s unique about Kerala is that the benefits are likely to be shared in a more fair and just way,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say it discredits the model,” Mr. Franke said of Kerala’s migration. “It shows that it has weaknesses.”

© New York Times

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Universal Health Care

Watch the movie SICKO by Michael Moore.

Universal Health Care is a good thing. Caring for the fellow human being in distress is not an extra-ordinary human quality. To care for another person should never be an exception; it should always be a given.

OK, I might be living an Utopian dream. Hey believers in God, which God has asked you not to care for the fellow being?

Evert state has a responsibility to make sure that the citizens who live and work in that country enjoy good health and education. A healthy brain and healthy body helps keep the state in good health.

Education and Health Care should never be a business; it always has to be a service.

Some people have started to abuse the sanctity of some words and terms. I am not talking about the obvious and blatant crime in the usage of "collateral damage" in a war. I am talking about something like "REFORM." Last time I checked the dictionary, the meaning given was "To Improve."

The days "reform" has been given a perverted meaning of "privitisation."

These days, educational reforms means giving license to private entities to run educational institutions for the sake of monetary profits, whether it has any benefit to the society or to the state.

The same rule has been applied on Health Care Reforms. Give away licenses to profiteers to take care of the health of the subjects and the state itself.

Privitisation of Health Care, bringing in the Shylocks of 'Health Insurance' to play with your lives - is a direct assault on the very principle of Democracy.

More on Health Care soon.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Richard Menondé oru thamaasha

Richard Menon, the founder and CEO of Ecstasyvision, is one of the biggest porn film producers in the US.

New Jersey-based Menon is the first person of Indian origin to have shot p0rn movies in Los Angeles and also to have established an Indian-owned adult entertainment company in the US.

Check out the website as well,

Here are some excerpts from Menon's Interview with OneIndia:

Can you tell us something about your Indian upbringing?
From the age of 0- 32 I was in India. Basically I am from Trichur in Kerala State and have lived in Delhi, Vishakapatanam, Patna, Hyderabad, Bombay etc. I belong to a conservative family that had a modern outlook too.

Menon lives up to his Malayalee credentials:
Do you think adult movies are misleading the teenagers?
Anything in extreme is not good including porn films. Teenagers are also misled by religion and politics.
Where do you visualize 5 years from now?
I plan to be running the Museum in India. Also want to teach Commerce in Tutorial College.
No doubt, he is from Thrissur! The land of Pooram and PC Thomas' Tutorial :-))


After Kuthiravattam Pappu's Cherian Nair in Poochakkoru Mookkuthi , Richard Menon is the first Christian Menon.

Moné Richardé, Ootharathu-tta!

Here is a request: Everyone who has been to PC Thomas' tution/coaching should buy this DVD and support Richard.



Miss Teen South Carolina, Lauren Upton, went to Miss Teen USA 2007 and gave this performance:

Which prompted ABC's Jimmy Kimmel to do this:

Lauren didn't stop herself from going on air again, this time on NBC, to defend herself:

She should be drafted in to the White House to replace Karl Rove. With Lauren helping Bush, more people would start listening to Bush!

With more than 12 million Youtube views so far, one person who has really got some publicity is the young actor Aimee Teegarden.

There are some hilarious comments in "blog shrub"

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