Battle of Two Museums …

Posted on September 20, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized, Personalities, Light plus Weighty |

2017 is undoubtedly the year of the feud. As celebrities and corporations alike take to Twitter to hash things out, two of the UK’s most respected scientific institutions, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, have got in on the action.

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Greater than Jhansi ki Rani – ABBAKKA CHOTA – …

Posted on September 17, 2017. Filed under: Personalities, Indian Thought |

Viswanath Swanatha Bllavara –


The year was 1555 and Portuguese colonial power was at its zenith. They had destroyed Zamorins of Calicut, defeated the Sultan of Bijapur. They had taken away Daman from the Sultan of Gujarat and Established a colony in Mylapore.

They had Captured Bombay and made Goa as their headquarters. And while they were at it pretty much unchallenged, they even ruined the ancient Kapaleeswarar Temple to build a Church..

Their next target was the super profitable port of Mangalore. Their bad luck was just 14 kilometers south of Mangalore was the small settlement of Ullal – ruled by a feisty 30 year old woman – Abbakka Chowta.

Initially, they took her lightly and sent a few boats and soldiers to capture and bring her to Goa. Those boats never came back. Enraged, they sent a fleet of ships under command of the much celebrated Admiral Dom Álvaro da Silveira. The Admiral returned badly wounded and empty handed.

Another Portuguese fleet was sent but only a few injured made it back.

Now the Portuguese decided on another approach THey went on to captured Mangalore port and fort and planned to tackle Mrs. Chowta from the Mangalore fort.

An army under João Peixoto, an experienced Portuguese General was sent to Ullal. The brief was simple – Subjugate Ullal and capture Abbakka Chowta.and the plan was foolproof and there was no way a 30 year old woman with a few men could withstand the might of an army with modern weapons.

The Portuguese reached Ullal and found it empty and deserted. Abbakka had disappeared and was nowhere in sight. They roamed around, relaxed and thanked their stars. Just when they were about to call it a day, Mrs Chowta attacked with 200 of her chosen warriors.

In the chaos and confusion, many portuguese lost their lives without a fight and even General João Peixoto lost his life while some 70 portuguese were captured while the rest ran away.

So there is Abbakka Chowta, who’s just defeated a large aggressor army, killed their General, captured prisoners and defended her city – but what will an ordinary person do? – Rest? No!

Rani Abbakka Chowta rode with her men towards Mangalore that same night and laid siege to the Mangalore fort.

She not just broke inside the fort but killed Admiral Mascarenhas – the Commander of the Fort and let the remaining Portuguese flee. She didn’t just stop at that but went on to capture the Portuguese settlement at Kundapura, a full 100 km north of Mangalore.

However the Portuguese eventually managed to get back at Abbakka Chowta by the usual method of betrayal and intrigue. They succeeded in bribing her estranged husband who betrayed her for power and money.
She was arrested and put in the prison and killed while attempting an escape.

Abbakka Chowta was a Jain who fought against the Portuguese with an army comprising of both Hindus and Muslims – a full 300 years before the First War of Indian Independence in 1857.

What have we Indians done for her? We just forgot her! We do not name our children after her. We do not teach about her in our History Books. Yes, we did release a Postage Stamp in her name, named a boat after her and erected 2 statues in the whole of India for one who is a true a National Hero!

We Indians remain busy arguing whether it was actually one of her daughters who fought the battles instead of her. Some talk of her being the last Indian to have had the power of the agni-ban.

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Jojo – A Life as Great as Any …

Posted on September 13, 2017. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personal Stuff, Personalities |

An edited Version of Raj Mehta’s Tribute. –

What can you say about a brave, outstanding Cavalry officer who was blinded at 22?

That he was blinded by by an Anti Tk shell hitting the turret of his tank as he stood in the open turret in the 1965 War. That he was a topper in all he did? That he was handsome, personable, perceptive and lovable. That the only battle he ever lost, was surrendering with a half smile to the insidious lung cancer.

His name – Jayanta Kumar Sengupta. Born on 17 October 1942, Chotu was the second son of Amar Prashad, a corporate executive, and Namita Sengupta. He left Huddard High School after making it to the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Dehra Dun. He was adjudged ‘Best Cadet’ – stood 1st in the All-India UPSC order of merit for NDA and won the Gold Medal for the 22nd course at NDA and again the Gold Medal at IMA, passing out tops with the 31st course.

Commissioned into India’s oldest Cavalry Regiment, the 16th Light Cavalry in December 1962, Chotu was awarded the Silver Centurion trophy for best Young Officer at Ahmadnagar. When the 1965 Indo-Pak War started, he was attending a Gunnery course at ‘Nagar.

Currently US based veteran, Lt Col Kartar Singh Sidhu Brar, Chotu’s CO, recalls that Chotu rejoined the Regiment on 17 September and that Chotu “had a very special place in our hearts”. On arrival on 17 September, Chotu was appointed troop leader in B Squadron under Maj ‘Morris’ Ravindran.

On 21 September morning, Chotu was standing up out of the cupola with his binocs when his tank got a direct hit on the turret. The blinding flash, splinters and glass lacerated his face. ‘Wendy’ Dewan who was close recalls Chotu’s calmness – “I can’t see but I’m fine. How are the boys?” Chotu was placed on blankets on a tank deck and brought to RHQ where Gen Rajinder Singh had landed and him evacuated.

After Army Hospital Delhi, Chotu was moved to INS Aswini. His optic nerve was severed and that meant “profound, 100 percent blindness”. At St Dunstan’s he learnt Brail, powered by his wit, humour, zest for life. In 1967, he was boarded out from the Army with 100 percent disability.

In a rare interview, he smilingly recalled that ‘there was no emotional setback following the mishap. Indeed, my family and the Army were strong sources of support.” He added that his St Dunstan’s stay where soldiers blinded in war are trained was a godsend – it was a new beginning. ‘I met a lot of Britishers with a similar disability. Seeing them go about their work inspired me.”

Focusing on winning the ‘Battle of Life’, this unassuming, genuine real-life hero attracted people like a magnet. He took up a dealership with Tata Oil Mills and in 1972, he was allotted a LPG dealership in Siliguri by the Army and he relocated there from Calcutta with infectious positivity.

In 1977, Chotu got married to Ms Rita Biswas – a teacher driven by passion. The duo were like minded, compassionate and compelling. Jojo is on record paying his wife a handsome tribute for bringing greater focus, happiness and harmony in his life. Blessed with twin daughters, Sreemoyee and Sreerupa and a younger son Bibek, he and his wife were well settled when his number of days on Earth were completed. He on August 31, 2013 but his family is living out his dreams with character courage.

Jojo had kept the Honour Board ticking. He did his BA from North Bengal University obtaining the expected ‘First-class-First’. He routinely won the ‘Best Dealer’ Award from Tata Oil for several years. As an LPG dealer at Siliguri, his consumers remember with awe how he had memorized some 8000 subscriber names, consumer numbers and addresses, compelling them to call up ‘Joy Da’ – to verify their details instantaneously when seeking gas refills, terminations or transfers of LPG connections.

Chotu went through a transformation in 1990 by taking up social work on a large scale. By 1998 he, Rita and friends had founded the Prerana Educational Centre. Flourishing, it has 145 physically challenged students on its rolls. Earlier in 1990, Jojo had also founded the North Bengal Council for the Disabled (NBCD) to run the centre.

Apart from Prerana, he also reached towards the rural handicapped under the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program. Since 1998, about 700 villages around Siliguri have been covered to help the rural disabled to cope. Jojo ensured that the CBR became a WHO certified initiative which today benefits some 3000 people.

In 2003, Capt Sengupta’s daughter, Sreerupa married Maj Gopal Mitra, SM (Retd). Alas Maj Mitra was totally blinded in a terrorist encounter in Kupwara, Kashmir. Commissioned into 15 Mahar, this St Xavier’s Calcutta Honours graduate suffered total visual impairment.

He underwent extensive reconstructive surgery but his military career was over. The young gallantry award winner underwent several reorientation courses, ending up with his being the first blind student to top a Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai post graduate course.

Mitra then did M.Sc. in Development Management at the London School of Economics (LSE) with outstanding grades. After several career advancements, he is now with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund as Programme Specialist for Disability. Sreerupa completed her Masters from LSE, London and now works at the United Nations along with husband Gopal.

Her twin, Sreemoyee completed her Masters in Early Years Education from the famous Institute of Education, London and now teaches at Neev School, Bangalore.

Jojo’s son, Bibek, is a top-notch financial expert and Chotu’s sister-in-law, Nalini Sengupta, runs the famous Vidya Valley School at Pune, where Chotu was on the Founding Governing Board. Ms Rita carries on her legacy with Jojo and has ensured that the Institutions they started are vibrant and flourishing.

Suffering for almost a year from lung cancer, Capt Sengupta passed away at Command Hospital Pune at 0945 hours on 31 August 2013. Chotu had realised a week or so before his death that he would lose this battle.
Brave and courageous as always, he requested to ba shifted to the Officers Ward from the ICU where he could be visited by only a few and very briefly.

He faced death with the same calmness that was his trademark during all the turbulence in his life.

Arriving 15 minutes after he had gone with his trademark of a lingering, wry smile while nurses, doctors, officers were in tears and his family stood bowed in respectful silent grief.


For those wanting to know about the Division and what it did ..

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Chinese Education …

Posted on September 10, 2017. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Personalities, Searching for Success |

Why American Students Need Chinese Schools.

After putting her son in an elite state-run school in Shanghai, an American mother finds that the U.S. education system could learn a few things from China —most of all that teacher knows best

When my little boy was 3, his Chinese teacher forced a bite of fried egg into his mouth. At school. Without permission.

“She put it there,” my first born told me, lips forming an “O,” finger pointing past his teeth.

“Then what happened?” I prodded my son, who despises eggs.

“I cried and spit it out,” he said.

“And?” I pressed.

“She did it again,” he said. In all, Teacher Chen pushed egg into my son’s mouth four times, and the last time, he swallowed.

We are Americans raising a family in Shanghai— China’s megacity of 26 million people—and the Chinese are known to pump out some of the world’s best students. When we realized that a few blocks from our new home was one of the best state-run schools, as far as elite urbanites are concerned, we decided to enroll our son. He would learn the world’s most spoken language. What was not to like?

Plenty – as it turned out. And it was only the first week of kindergarten. The next day, I marched off to school to confront Teacher Chen about the egg episode, brash in my conviction about individual choice.

“We don’t use such methods of force in America,” I blurted in Mandarin, my son clutching my hand. (I was born and raised in America but grew up speaking Chinese at home.)

“Oh? How do you do it?” Teacher Chen challenged.

“We explain that egg eating is good for them, that the nutrients help build strong bones and teeth and helps with eyesight,” I said, trying to sound authoritative. “We motivate them to choose…we trust them with the decision.”

“Does it work?” Teacher Chen challenged.

In truth, no. I’d never been able to get my son to eat eggs. He’s a picky eater. Later, Teacher Chen pulled me aside for a lecture. “In front of the children, you should say, ‘Teacher is right, and Mom will do things the same way,’ OK?”

‘Many studies support the Chinese way of education.’

I nodded, slightly stunned. It was the voice of Confucius, who had staked his entire philosophy on the concept of top-down authority and bottom-up obedience, giving direction to our lives.

Many studies support the Chinese way of education. Researchers have found that 6-year-old Chinese children trounce their American peers in early math skills, including geometry and logic. In the past decade, Shanghai teens twice took No. 1 in the world on a test called PISA, which assesses problem-solving skills, while American students landed in the middle of the pack.

When young Chinese head abroad, the results are impressive. They are earning more spots at the world’s top universities. The Ivy League enrolls eight times more Chinese undergraduates than a decade ago, according to the Institute of International Education, and the Chinese are helping to launch Silicon Valley startups in disproportionate numbers.

Yet, from my perch in Shanghai, I started out with some major objections to Chinese education. Force-feeding would get a teacher dragged into court in the U.S., the land of infant choice, free-form play and individualized everything. In China, children are also subjected to high-stakes testing at every turn, which keeps them bent over books from toddlerhood on.

I began to wonder: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids? And do we really have something to learn from this rigid, authoritarian form of schooling?

For five years now, I’ve parented a child inside China’s school system and interviewed Chinese teachers, parents and students at all stages of education. I’ve discovered that there are indeed some Chinese “secrets” that work and are worth emulating. Most have to do with attitudes about education.

There are real upsides to a mentality of “teacher knows best.” As I worked through my anxieties about submitting to this kind of system, I began to observe that when parents fall in line with teachers, so do their children. This deference gives the teacher near-absolute command of her classroom. My son became so afraid of being late for class, missing school or otherwise disappointing his teacher, that he once raised a stink when I broached the possibility of missing a few school days for a family trip. He was 5.

Having the teacher as an unquestioned authority in the classroom gives students a leg up in subjects such as geometry and computer programming, which are more effectively taught through direct instruction (versus student-led discovery), according to a 2004 study of 112 third- and fourth-graders published in the journal Psychological Science.

A 2014 study of more than 13,000 students in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis found that math-challenged first-graders learned more effectively when teachers demonstrated problem-solving procedures and followed up with repeated practice.

By contrast, Western teachers spend lots of time managing classroom behavior and crushing mini-revolts by students and parents alike.

A Chinese teacher who arrived in the U.S. two decades ago recalled to me her surprise the first year she taught American kids. “I started out very controlling, but it didn’t work at all. My students talked back!” says Sheen Zhang, who teaches Mandarin at a Minnesota high school.

Parents sometimes complained when she assigned too much homework. A mother once asked her to change the way she talked to her classwork-skipping daughter. “She wanted me to say, ‘You can do better!’ instead of ‘You didn’t finish this!’ ” exclaimed Ms. Zhang.

‘Chinese society grants teachers a social status on par with doctors.’

The Chinese parent knows that her kid deserves whatever the teacher metes out, no questions asked. In other words, let the teacher do his or her job. As a result, educators in China enjoy an esteem that’s tops in the world.

Half of Chinese would encourage their kids to become teachers, while less than a third of Americans and Brits would do the same, according to a 2013 study by the Varkey Foundation.

Chinese society grants teachers a social status on par with doctors.

There are also educational advantages to the Chinese insistence on elevating the group over the needs of any individual child. The reason is simple – Classroom goals are better served if everyone charges forward at the same pace. No exceptions, no diversions.

My son suffered from asthma during the winter, but Teacher Chen denied my request to keep his rescue inhaler near the classroom — its use might be a distraction to his classmates. When I loudly protested, I was told I could transfer my son out of the school. In other words, no kid gets special treatment, and if I didn’t like it, I could get out. Ultimately, I found a solution: a preventive steroid inhaler that I could administer at home.

The school’s attitude is draconian. But Americans have arguably gone too far in the other direction, elevating the needs of individual students to the detriment of the group.

Some parents think nothing of sending an unvaccinated child to school—ignoring community health—or petitioning to move school start times to accommodate sports schedules. Meanwhile, teacher friends tell me that they are spending more time dealing with “problem” students, often through intervention programs that whittle away teachers’ time with the rest of the class. Where should we draw the line?

Another bracing Chinese belief is that hard work trumps innate talent when it comes to academics. Equipped with flashcards and ready to practice, my son’s Chinese language teacher knows that he is capable of learning the 3,500 characters required for literacy.

His primary school math teacher gives no child a free pass on triple-digit arithmetic and, in fact, stays after school to help laggards. China’s school system breeds a Chinese-style grit, which delivers the daily message that perseverance—not intelligence or ability—is key to success.

Studies show that this attitude gets kids farther in the classroom. Ethnic Asian youth are higher academic achievers in part because they believe in the connection between effort and achievement, while “white Americans tend to view cognitive abilities as…inborn,” according to a longitudinal study of more than 5,000 students published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.

Chinese kids are used to struggling through difficult content, and they believe that success is within reach of anyone willing to work for it. This attitude gives policy makers in China great latitude when it comes to setting out and enforcing higher standards.

In the U.S., parents have often revolted as policy makers try to push through similar measures. In part, we are afraid that Johnny will feel bad about himself if he can’t make the grade. What if, instead, Johnny’s parents—and his teacher, too—believed that the boy could learn challenging math with enough dedicated effort?

Americans aren’t afraid to push their children when it comes to athletics. Here we believe that hard work and practice pay off, so we accept scores and rankings.

Eyes glued to scoreboards at a meet, we embrace numbers as a way to measure progress. A ninth-place finish in the 100-meter dash suggests to us that a plodding Johnny needs to train harder. It doesn’t mean that he’s inferior, nor do we worry much about his self-esteem.

My son has been in the Chinese school system now for five years. During that time, he has morphed into a proper little pupil who faithfully greets his teacher each morning — “Laoshi Zao! Good morning, teacher!” —and has developed an unbending respect for education.

In primary school, I watched, a bit dazed, as he prepared his own backpack for school at 6 years old, slotting his English, Chinese and math books into his bag each morning along with six pencils that he sharpened himself.

When his homework books come home — parents in China are required to sign them daily to prove involvement—he brings them to us immediately. He began teaching his younger brother Mandarin, two small heads huddled over a picture book, naming animals. A little older now, he expertly performs timed drills in arithmetic, his pencil traveling down the page, and he gains confidence from his success. He also eats eggs of his own free will.

When I tell the story of my son’s Chinese educational experience to American friends, they gasp. When they spend time with him, they are surprised that he doesn’t cower in the corner or obey commands like a Labrador retriever.

My son is imaginative when he draws, and has a great sense of humor and a mean forehand in tennis. None of these qualities has slipped away, and I now share the Chinese belief that even very young kids are capable of developing a range of demanding talents.

Still, I must confess that I have been paralyzed by anxiety at times over the Chinese way, which demands fealty. Teacher Chen wasn’t just authoritarian; she sometimes delivered very harsh punishments. Once, she isolated my young son and several classmates in an empty classroom and threatened to demote them after they failed to follow in “one-two” step during a physical exercise.

Her power was even more worrisome when coupled with the Communist Party’s political agenda. At 4, my son learned the lyrics to “The East Is Red,” extolling Chairman Mao. The following year, his teachers began running mock elections for class monitor, part of the grooming process to identify star students for eventual Party membership.

At the same time, China’s education landscape is littered with dropouts in a system that perpetuates an underclass: Children who fail to test into regular high schools would populate a city the size of London each year. Because of the high stakes, families sometimes take extreme measures, including cheating and bribery.

And there is no denying that the traditional Chinese classroom discourages the expression of new and original thought. I observed an art class where 28 toddlers were instructed to sketch exactly the same way, with errant drawings tacked to the wall to shame the deviants.

“Rain falls from the sky to the ground and comes in little dots,” bellowed the teacher, as the children dutifully populated their pages. In this classroom, rain did not blow sideways or hurtle to the ground in sheets. There was no figurative rain, such as purple rain, nor did it rain tears or frogs, much less cats and dogs.

There are clear downsides to China’s desire to cultivate a nation of obedient patriots, and Americans naturally resist. We harbor a healthy mistrust of authority, and our freedom to raise a fuss is a right we should celebrate. It’s foundational to our national character.

But the skepticism we freely apply to our political leaders can be destructive when transferred to the men and women who stand at the front of our classrooms. Educational progress in the U.S. is hobbled by parental entitlement and by attitudes that detract from learning: We demand privileges for our children that have little to do with education and ask for report-card mercy when they can’t make the grade. As a society, we’re expecting more from our teachers while shouldering less responsibility at home.

From my years living in a very different country, I’ve learned that wonderful things can happen when we give our educators the respect and autonomy they deserve. Sometimes, it is best when parents—and children—are simply obliged to do as they’re told.

Also Read

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Modi – but a Lalit …

Posted on September 9, 2017. Filed under: Personalities |


Lalit Modi, to borrow the line Gene Hackman uses on Will Smith in the closing minutes of Enemy of the State, is either very smart or incredibly stupid.

The former IPL commissioner who has been on the lam for nearly five years, ought to have been gratified by the manner in which leaders from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party were competing with each other to generate sympathy for him.

But as a series of incriminating emails emerged suggesting gross impropriety on the part of Sushma Swaraj, the ruling establishment insisted that the extraordinary effort the External Affairs Minister put in to helping Lalit Modi acquire travel documents was undertaken wholly and solely on humanitarian considerations.

Their stand is understandable. Once Prime Minister Modi saw the storm clouds gathering, his priority was to insulate the government from the charge of wrongdoing – one of the senior-most members of his cabinet had acted improperly in helping a fugitive from the Enforcement Directorate? Throwing Sushma – someone he does not have the best of relations with – to the wolves would have meant destroying his own halo and he was not going to allow that to happen.

The problem with this strategy, though, is it that put the party onto a very slippery plane. For if Sushma Swaraj had to be defended, that would require the BJP to bat for Lalit Modi.

At any rate, the BJP on Monday played to script – Lalit Modi’s family obligations were duly talked up, the economic offences which he is being investigated for were made light of, and the subversion of official procedure by Swaraj described as a minor matter. The crisis might eventually have blown over but for Lalit Modi’s decision to mount his own defence.

Among the documents Lalit Modi released via his lawyer and PR firm on Monday night was an unsigned ‘Witness Statement’ from 2011 in the name of Vasundhara Raje in which the BJP Chief Minister of Rajasthan – who was at the time leader of the opposition in the state assembly – said she would support “any immigration application that Lalit Modi makes but on the strict condition that my assistance will not become known to the Indian authorities.”

Raje’s ‘witness statement’, if authenticated, suggested impropriety on an ever greater scale than Swaraj’s because the document said the government of India must never come to know she was helping Lalit Modi.

Remember, hers was not the request for anonymity that a noble benefactor might make as she donates generously to, say, an orphanage. What Vasundhara is apparently demanding is respect for the code of omerta, that sacred bond of secrecy which ties people on the wrong side of morality.

Lalit Modi was, after all, a man wanted for questioning in connection with money laundering and other cases involving upwards of Rs 450 crore. Obviously she would not want her assistance to “become known to the Indian authorities.”

Was the release of the document the gesture of an artless man who believed he was clearing his name by showcasing the support he had received from a prominent BJP politician?

Or was it a warning shot across the collective bow of the BJP and the Indian political class as a whole that he has a decade’s worth of dirty linen which he is prepared to bring out into the open unless the hound dogs are called off?

Even though the copy released did not bear Vasundhara Raje’s signature, another letter written to the British authorities by his immigration solicitors in London, Gherson, referenced Raje as one of three persons backing Modi’s application.

It was apparent by Tuesday evening that the BJP had not quite figured out how to react to the Vasundhara angle. No statements of support from Amit Shah or Rajnath Singh were forthcoming.

As regular party spokespersons absented themselves from TV studios, the C-listers who were fielded still defended Swaraj, though perhaps not as passionately as the day before, but on Raje’s role they chose to hide behind the absence of her signature on that very incriminating document which Lalit Modi’s team had released.

Even as Arun Jaitley was splitting hairs over the shade of blue in the ‘blue corner notice’ India had issued against Lalit Modi, the wanted man himself – if indeed he is really still wanted – came up with a red card of his own.

Speaking to Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today TV in Montenegro on Tuesday night, Lalit Modi confirmed that Vasundhara Raje had indeed submitted a statement backing his immigration application.

Was Modi issuing a veiled threat to the Narendra Modi government that an incriminating document bearing the signature of the Rajasthan government might one day be made public?

Are his seemingly guileless admissions of proximity to Raje and Sushma Swaraj and her family an act of calibrated brinkmanship designed to ensure the BJP and RSS curb the investigative appetite of the ED?

The fact of the matter is that three days into this sordid scandal, neither the External Affairs Minister, who looks after passport issues, or the Finance Minister, who controls the ED, has been able to clarify why the Modi government quietly dropped its legal efforts to revoke Lalit Modi’s passport.

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Corbusier’s Chandigarh Man …

Posted on September 8, 2017. Filed under: Books, Personalities |

Mukul Bansal – “Lakhon mein intikhwab ke kaabil bana diya, Jis dil ko tumne dekh liya, dil bana diya — Anonymous (You’ve changed me into such a noble person I’ve become one in a million. You touch one’s personality in such a way, he starts feeling one with the whole of humanity)

When I started researching the late Aditya Prakash, a former Principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, I discerned a common appreciation of his multi-faceted personality among his friends, admirers and students along the lines of the Urdu couplet I’ve quoted above.

Prakash lived in his life the thought behind this couplet that endeared him in a very special way to those who came into contact with him.He was a man of many parts in the true sense of the term and was considered to be a Renaissance man by his friends and admirers.

Prakash was born in Muzaffarnagar, UP and over his decades of stay in Chandigarh, he distinguished himself as an architect, painter, academic and author, and above all, as a friend, philosopher and guide.

He began studying architecture in August 1947 in London. Briefly, he studied art at the Glasgow School of Art, before joining the Chandigarh Capital Project as Junior Architect under Le Corbusier on November 1, 1952.

Remarkably, Prakash could come up with his own observations, which written accounts of those times tell us, were welcomed by Corbusier.
In an interesting conversation between Prakash and one of his students, Rajneesh Wattas, who later became Principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, the latter asked him whether he (Prakash) would call Corbusier “dictatorial” or “arrogant”.

Prakash’s reply was, “I would put it this way. He had struggled all his life to have his ideas accepted and this acceptance came to him only after the Second World War. So when the opportunity came, he was anxious to implement his ideas without discussing them; therefore, one has to make allowances for a man of genius.”

Prakash was picked up to be the Principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture for his deep interest in academics and research. He joined the college on December 13, 1967, and retired on March 31, 1982. His students, were fond of him for his focused involvement in whatever he took up.

In one of his writings in the early 1980s, Prakash outlined his manifesto as an architect: “I like to think that ‘architecture’ is an attitude of life. Undoubtedly one becomes an architect to earn a livelihood. But in the absence of a cultivated way of looking at life, the practice of profession becomes mechanical.”

In 1983, Prakash’s booklet “Reflections on Chandigarh” was published in verse with an “Afterword” by Mulk Raj Anand in which Anand writes, “You accept the main plan of Le Corbusier for what has come to be called the ‘City Beautiful’, based on the order of ‘Working’, ‘Care’, ‘Living’, and ‘Circulation of Man’.

He goes on to say, “You are quite right when you say that what was supposed to be a ‘pedestrian’s paradise,’ has become a motorcar city.”

There is a pencil sketch of Corbusier at the beginning of the booklet which is captioned, “The most Profound ARCHITECT of the Industrial Era.”

Wattas, architect, author and landscape designer was a former student of Prakash. “I’m very lucky. I was associated with Prakash in three different ways – as student, as faculty in the Chandigarh College of Architecture and with him as my mentor and an inspirational role model. His clarity of thought and knowledge left a deep impression on me”.

Prakash worked on the design of the College of Art and the Chandigarh College of Architecture. The mural in the porch of the Chandigarh College of Architecture was made by him.

Virendra Mehndiratta, Hindi short-story writer, who was a very close friend of Prakash for 50 years, likes to use a Punjabi expression to describe their friendship, “Humne is dosti ka sukh manaya” (we lived our friendship to the full).

Prakash was a sincere and genuine person who while living life on his own terms was constantly involved in doing hard work. By his association with Le Corbusier, he had realised early enough in life the concept of saadgi mein sundarta (beauty in simplicity).

He was all praise for the creative endeavours of his friends and treated their work with warmth and offered praise freely. Prakash worked in the Chandigarh Capital Project from 1952 to 1963. During this time, he designed several public buildings in Chandigarh including the District Courts Building, The Tagore Theatre, the Chandigarh College of Architecture, The Central Craft Institute besides Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana.

He died in harness, in the true sense of the word, on August 12, 2008, on a train in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh. He was on his way to Mumbai to perform, ironically, in a play, “Zindagi Retire Nahi Hoti”.

Paying tribute to Prakash, Mehndiratta said, “He brought together enlightened scholars, writers and artistes of all hues and formed a discussion group, which is now known as the Aditya Prakash discussion group. It’s still active.When a person like Prakash departs, our life force too diminishes. We do not realise how much we lose when such sincere and honest people pass away,”

In the afterword to Aditya Prakash’s booklet “Reflections on Chandigarh”, published in 1983, Mulk Raj Anand writes, “You accept the main plan of Le Corbusier for what has come to be called the ‘City Beautiful’, based on the order of ‘Working’, ‘Care’, ‘Living’ and ‘Circulation of Man’”.

PS What was supposed to be a pedestrian’s paradise has become a nightmare of a motorable city.

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Vijay Mallya – the irrepressible King Fisher …

Posted on September 8, 2017. Filed under: Books, Personalities |

In Kingfizzer: The Rise and Fall of Vijay Mallya, Kingshuk Nag tries to shed light on Mallya’s personality and the role it played in his decline.

Without a doubt, it is Mallya’s personality – larger than life, (he is an unashamed and reckless sybarite) – that makes this story sizzle. For a young man who took charge of the Mallya empire in his 20s after the unexpected death of his father, the image of a playboy can be forgiven.

But Mallya continued to revel in this image as he aged – the yachts got bigger, the parties wilder and so on. Even a Rajya Sabha seat didn’t tame the “king of the good times”.

Former journalist M.J. Akbar, now a Union minister in the Narendra Modi government, wrote this about Mallya in 2005: “The fundamental fact of his personality is that he is a romantic. He has the romance of an adventurer. He is the kind of man who could give finance chiefs ulcers. I have seen Vijay fail but not defeated.”

Apart from being reckless, many thought Mallya was cocky and arrogant. In the end, it was this perception that worked against him. As Nag writes: “His lifestyle was his addiction. Although his airline sank, he continued to live the good life.”

This built up public opinion against the loan defaulter. In his defence, Mallya argues his bad debts are much smaller than many other notables in India Inc – and he’s right.

But instead of lying low as the Kingfisher story exploded, Mallya gave the opposite impression – people thought he was funding his other lifestyle businesses, from Formula One racing to football from the loans meant for Kingfisher. That put pressure on the banks to go after him.

Nag tries to shed light on Mallya’s personality and the role it played in his decline. This is where the book adds value. The only son of a workaholic father, Mallya was no doubt a pampered child. Unlike his father, he became a spendthrift.

But the irony is that he is a deeply religious man, and “also moderately conservative”. Apart from planning his life by astronomy, Mallya is heavily influenced by godman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

The problem, Nag argues, is that the public looked down on people in the liquor business – his diversifications then were an attempt to “gain respectability” in society. The book argues that Mallya lost all sense of proportion while justifying these actions for the sake of his business.

And what of the future? Legal experts agree that it is going to be tough to get Mallya back into India in a hurry.

At the same time, Mallya is a fugitive in the UK and has lost most of his businesses. Pressure is going to build up on his remaining Indian beer business.

In that sense, it’s going to be a long walk home.

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Raghuram Rajan …

Posted on September 8, 2017. Filed under: Business, Personalities |

Rajan left the central bank last September after unnerving political leaders with his outspoken nature. Several months later, Modi blindsided the nation by scrapping 86 percent of currency in circulation, saying the move was essential to unearth unaccounted wealth and fight graft. Since then, speculation has raged over who thought up the policy, with the debate getting hotter.

Excerpts from what he said on the launch of his book –

Q – “I do what I do ….” I thought your kids did not like the title. What was in your mind about this title?”

A – “My wife liked it. She did….. We were looking for a title and she has always been a good sounding board and I had something like sort of RBI Days and all that. She remembered this statement that it came from one of the monetary policy press conferences. As it was ending I was asked whether I was dovish like Yellen or hawkish like Volcker.

‘I understood what the reporter was asking, but I wanted to push back on the attempts to pigeonhole me into existing stereotypes. …………… Somewhat jokingly, I started in a James Bond-ish vein, ‘My name is Raghuram Rajan —- To my horror, mid-sentence I realised I did not know how to end in a way that did not reveal more on monetary policy than I intended.

‘So with TV cameras on. came the title of the book ‘I Do What I do’ reflects the serendipitous nature of public life.”

Exactly one year after his term as Governor of the Reserve Bank of India came to an end, Raghuram Rajan published his book with his “commentary and speeches” to convey what it was like to be at the helm of the central bank in “those turbulent but exciting times”.

Rajan has stayed away from the press since. He, however, made an exception recently for the media team at Chicago Booth, where he is currently teaching. During the interview, Rajan touched upon the financial crisis of 2008 as well as his recent stint at the RBI.

When Raghuram Rajan stepped down as the Reserve Bank of India’s governor in September last year, he left a gift for his successor — the gift of silence – to allow the new governor time and space to give voice to his ideas. Rajan has stayed away from the press since.

The man who predicted the 2008 global financial crisis also presaged the damage Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unprecedented cash ban would cause to India’s economy. Raghuram Rajan was governor of the Reserve Bank of India in February 2016, when he was asked by the government for his views on demonetization, according to Rajan’s book, “I do what I do”, the first time he’s spoken about his experience in the country.

“Although there may be long-term benefits, I felt the likely short-term economic costs would outweigh them and felt there were potentially better alternatives to achieve the main goals,” he writes. “I made these views known “.

Rajan left the central bank last September after unnerving political leaders with his outspoken nature.

Several months later, Modi blindsided the nation by scrapping 86 percent of currency in circulation, saying the move was essential to unearth unaccounted wealth and fight graft. Since then, speculation has raged over who thought up the policy, with the debate getting more divisive last week as a slew of data showed demonetization contributed to a sharp growth drop ..

Raghuram Rajan and the Dosa

Rajan was replying to a question from a Dosa-loving engineering student at a Federal Bank event in Kochi.

“In real life, I have a query on Dosa prices — when inflation rates go up, Dosa prices go up, but when inflation rates are lower, the Dosa prices are not lowered. What is happening to our beloved Dosa, sir?” she asked. His response –

“The technology for making Dosas hasn’t actually changed. Till today that person puts it (Dosa batter) on the tawa, spreads it around and then takes it out, right? There has been no technological improvement there.

“However, the wages that you are paying to that gentleman, especially in a high-wage sort of state like Kerala, are going up all the time,”

“So, what happens is that in an economy which is growing and when there are sectors which are improving technologically while other sectors are not improving their technology, the prices for the goods manufactured by sectors, that are not improving their technology, will go up faster”.


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Another kind of Terrorism …

Posted on September 7, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

The Wire – 30/5/2017 Injustice, Intolerance and Intimidation in the Making of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’

The veteran rationalist thinker, writer and communist leader Govind Pansare was brutally assassinated in Kolhapur on February 20, 2015. More than two years have passed, but justice remains elusive. The same is true for Narendra Dabholkar and M.M. Kalburgi, whose second death anniversary is three months away. All three men were also killed by right-wing fundamentalists.

The investigations into the assassinations have been very slow and have moved only because the Dabholkar and Pansare families have petitioned the high court to monitor the investigation. The police have managed to arrest only two suspects so far and two have been absconding. All the accused are associated with the radical Hindutva organisations Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagriti Samiti, with their totally unconstitutional agenda of establishing a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in the country.

The chargesheets filed by the police in the Dabholkar and Pansare cases clearly mention that the accusedare absconding since the Margao bomb explosion case in Goa in 2009. In spite of objections on the pressure tactics used by the lawyers of the accused and the spokespersons of Sanatan Sanstha, no action has been taken against them. The state government has not yet declared the absconding suspects as wanted in the Pansare case. The investigation officer is changed at every interval and the activists’ demand to hand over the case to a dedicated team for investigation is also pending with the government.

Fundamentalism has no religion

It is really painful to define ‘justice’ in cases where people are killed because their ideology and expression of thought are not acceptable to some. Regardless of political affiliation, the government seems to be insensitive in solving these crimes and punishing the guilty. Not even a single arrest has been made in Kalburgi’s case yet.

Fundamentalism and fanaticism is not a characteristic feature of any specific religion. Farook Hameed, a young activist of the Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam (DVK), was killed by Muslim fundamentalists on March 17, 2017 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The DVK is an offshoot of the Dravidar Kazhagam founded by Periyar in the 1940s and propagates atheism and rationalism.

Being an atheist in individual life is something accepted by the society, but it seems one cannot propagate atheism the way others propagate a religious faith without risking one’s life. Farook openly expressed his ideology. He had posted comments about atheism, criticising religion and caste on his Facebook page. He was the administrator of a WhatsApp group called ‘Allah Murdad,’ meaning ‘There is no God’. The result: he was killed, reports say, by his own friends. Farook’s murder is in fact a threat to all Muslim youths who embrace atheism or even rationalism.

The Coimbatore incident is, in essence, no different from those where the victims belonged to the Hindu religion and were killed by Hindu fanatics.

The situation in India is growing more complex by the day. The space for free expression and freedom is shrinking rapidly. The fascist forces are trying to shut voices of freedom and we are compelled to fight the battle in the available space.

The campaign of returning awards by the writers and scientists brought the anxiety of intellectuals before society. They were concerned about everything that is going against the principle of equality, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and secular values in our nation. There have been three ‘yatras’, or journeys, of writers and poets to express solidarity with the families of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi so far. The first was a part of the Dakshinayan campaign in which 14 eminent writers from Gujarat visited Pune, Kolhapur and Dharwad, where the three rationalists were killed.

Then a team of Marathi writers and activists followed the same route during their journey to Goa for a national conference in defence of freedom of expression held in November, 2016. In February 2017, 11 members of the Progressive Writers’ Association, Madhya Pradesh travelled to Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. They condemned the respective governments for failing to arrest the killers. Based on their dialogue with local people in these regions and their experiences, they will write books, plays and hold discussions to spread their thoughts across the Hindi speaking belt.

As the atmosphere of fear and intimidation grows, hundreds of writers and artists visited the historical place of Dandi, Gujarat to hold a silent protest march on January 30, 2016 to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. A platform of collective voices of the left and Dalit movement was created in Mumbai Collective, while Delhi observed Pratirodh I and II with a clear stand to enjoy the right to dissent and free expression. The progressive forces in many towns, small and big, in the country have started organising programs like seminars, book publications and poetry recitations to protest against the attacks on women, minorities, progressive people and Dalit communities.

The atmosphere of fear exists, not only because of fundamentalist violence, but also because of the criminalisation of peaceful expression. Many have been attacked by the self-appointed nationalists and so-called religious people, while many from the minority communities, especially youth, have been arrested, held in pre-trial detention, and subjected to extensive criminal trials by the government machinery.

Fear of such repression, combined with uncertainty as to how the statutes will be applied, leads others to engage in self-censorship. State governments are using draconian laws such as the sedition provisions of the penal code, the criminal defamation law and laws dealing with hate speech to silence dissent. These laws have been repeatedly used for political purposes against critics.

There have been major attacks on free speech in the country from the government itself. The information and broadcasting ministry under the BJP government has become an image manager for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government’s advisory to news channels not to telecast the Nirbhaya documentary and serving a legal notice to the BBC for airing the Nirbhaya film India’s Daughter, issuing show cause notices to channels on Yakub Memon’s execution coverage, banning a documentary on beef – all of this tell their own story.

The BJP government has crushed the resistance of the students from the Film and Television Institute of India against the appointment of a pro-BJP director and has charged JNU students with sedition. It has appointed RSS affiliated people in various academic institutes.

There have been cases of deaths of journalists, intellectuals, attacks, arrests, threats, sedition, defamation and censorship of films, broadcast media, print media, music, cyber media and hate speech. The attempt to impose a one-day banon NDTV India, the filing of a complaint against an Outlook investigation on child trafficking in Assam, the trumped up cases against human rights activists in Bastar, are all attempts to silence the media and the voices of democratic dissent. Reporters covering the courts have been assaulted by lawyers, taken into police custody and their access to the courts restricted.

The time has come for thinkers, writers, poets, artists, scientists to overcome this feeling of intimidation and regenerate the society. Thinkers can become an explosive, powerful force. We have seen some examples in our freedom struggle, in Revolutionary Russia, Latin America and Africa. We have seen recently in India that the individual writers chose their timing of dissent in tandem with other fellow writers. Their act wasn’t solitary, but in solidarity with others.

At such a crucial time it will be unfortunate, if the real thinkers stop writing or speaking or expressing their views. The active thinkers can awaken society, create standards of morality, humanism and honesty and preserve them. The absence of thinkers causes civilisations to collapse. We have been observing this decay with our own eyes. The process of decaying has taken alarming speed. Make the people think aptly at individual, collective level and at the level of small groups is the first step. To create a live internal debate is the second and going to the people and thinking together, is the third.

We have seen Russel taking a stand against war, we have seen Sartre taking a stand against the US in Vietnam, and we have seen Chomsky and many others taking a stand against the aggressive foreign policy of America. Many writers opposed Franco’s dictatorship. We have seen and heard Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi doing this during many social campaigns. We have seen them expressing their views fearlessly throughout their lives.

The strategy to fight the battle with right-wing forces, in Pansare’s words, is ‘shatru-mitra vivek’ (Śatru-bandhu bibēka). The regressive forces are in power not because they have support from the majority of people, but because the progressive forces are scattered and not united. The union of the left and Dalit movement can challenge the communal forces in power, he used to say.

So, if now the government at the Centre says that people should sacrifice their desire for justice and truth in the national interest, in the name of nationalism and patriotism, it should be opposed. If there are forces, which declare that India will be a Hindu Rashtra by 2023 or 2025, they should be opposed. For this is a secular nation and will remain secular. This is a democratic nation and will remain so.

Megha Pansare is an assistant professor at Shivaji University, Kolhapur, where she teaches Russian. She is the daughter of Govind Pansare.

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Mr Modi and the Raincoat …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

THE WIRE – Ashish Khetan is chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of the Delhi government and a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party.

Narendra Modi is truly a street-smart politician. His ‘rain coat in a shower’ metaphor for Manmohan Singh is a simple but powerfully accurate description of Singh’s ten-year long prime ministership. He allowed scams like 2G spectrum, coal block allocations and the Commonwealth Games loot to happen right under his nose without any direct charge of personal corruption sticking to him. His staunchest critics derided him as ‘Maun Mohan Singh’ but even they could not call him a corrupt prime minister.

The Congress is understandably furious at the use of the ‘raincoat’ metaphor. It has touched a raw nerve. But instead of getting worked up, the Congressmen could have well pointed out how Modi himself has been a master at the art of being seen as clean, like a lotus, while remaining immersed neck deep in muck.

For 14 years, Modi, while he was Gujarat chief minister, held the home portfolio. While his deputy minister of state for home, Amit Shah, was arrested, jailed and then externed for a spate of extra-judicial killings, the chain of evidence never travelled beyond Shah. As Shah and his loyalist police officers did time in jail, Modi reaped a rich political harvest by polarising society using these killings.

His other ministerial colleague Mayaben Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the Naroda Patiya massacre. Babu Bajrangi, who killed women and children in Patiya and later, after being released on bail, ruled the streets of Ahmedabad for several years, kidnapping girls, blocking the release of films and terrorising minorities, all along openly flaunted his proximity with the chief minister.

In 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to life based on eye-witness accounts and his own confession on a spy-camera, but his statement indicting Modi was dismissed as hearsay.

As chief minister, Modi presided over the killings of more than 1,000 men and women, and yet used every repudiation – whether from within the party or without – every judicial stricture, every effort to inquire into his culpability so to further cement his stay in power.

In fact, when it comes to the art of enjoying the proverbial shower without getting wet, Modi is many shades better than Singh.

Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) reports on the 2G spectrum, coal blocks and Krishna Godavari Dhirubhai 6 Basin singed Singh, politically and personally. But CAG reports on the scams of the Modi government in Gujarat faded without a whimper.

In 2012, the Modi government earned strictures from the CAG for giving away a 10% participating stake in a KG Basin gas field measuring 4,57,000 acres it had won in an expensive bid to a mysterious overseas company named GeoGlobal Resources, incorporated in Barbados, with a capital of just $64, for free.

As per the Modi government’s own estimates, announced in a press conference, the gas field was worth about $20 billion. Though state government-run corporation Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), the owner of the gas field, had spent in excess of Rs 20,000 crore in drilling and exploration costs, Geo Global’s share of Rs 20,000 crore towards expenditure cost was also borne by GSPC.

The issue failed to get the attention of the national media as Modi was on the ascendance and the corporate media owners could see which way the wind was blowing.

Arvind Kejriwal’s hour-long press conference on the issue was blacked out. Till date there has been no inquiry into this shady deal nor any investigation into the real operators behind Geo Global, which was incorporated just six days before the joint venture with the GSPC.

A new CAG report last year indicted Modi’s Gujarat government for wasting Rs 20,000 crore of public money in an exploration process which has yielded one-tenth of what he had promised. Primetime TV refused to take cognisance of it.

Just weeks after Modi’s inauguration as prime minister, the CAG released five different reports for the year ending March 2013, highlighting financial irregularities by the Modi-led Gujarat government amounting to more than Rs 25,000 crore, which included Rs 1,500 crore in undue benefits to companies including Reliance Petroleum, Essar Power and the Adani Group.

If the Singh government gave away coal blocks to Congress cronies for a song, Modi as Gujarat chief minister also gave away about 16,000 acres of land to Adani SEZ for rates between Rs 1 and Rs 32 per square metre.

Other companies like Bharat Hotels, Larson & Toubro, Essar Steel and real estate developer K. Raheja also got large parcels of prime land for a fraction of market price.

It had all the hallmark of crony capitalism: arbitrariness, private gains at the cost of the exchequer and proximity between beneficiaries and the chief minister.

When the opposition’s demand for a probe into land deals reached a crescendo, in 2011, chief minister Modi appointed an inquiry commission under a retired judge, a time-tested technique of deflection and obfuscation.

The report of the commission was never made public and with neither media nor courts interested in holding him accountable, the Gujarat government had little incentive to release the report. Modi’s proverbial raincoat remained intact.

For 13 years, chief minister Modi didn’t appoint a lokayukta in Gujarat. His government spent Rs 45 crore of taxpayer’s money in litigation blocking the appointment of retired justice R.A. Mehta, widely regarded as honest and competent, as lokayukta. For the last three years, Modi has not appointed a lokpal. Yet he projects himself from every pulpit as a warrior against black money.

Between 2004 and 2015, the BJP has shown more than three-quarters of its funds as cash received from unnamed sources. The same funds catapulted Modi to prime ministership. Yet he has been drumming about the virtues of a cashless economy.

As Modi’s march to Delhi was gaining pace, the UPA in a rearguard attack launched a probe into the business affairs of Gautam Adani, Modi’s principal backer.

A probe by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) nailed the siphoning off of hundreds of crores abroad by the Adani Group by an intricate conspiracy involving over-valuation in imports for projects subject to a low or nil rate of customs duty. The report was finalised days before the results of Lok Sabha elections were due.

Seeing the body of evidence against Adani, the UPA quickly moved to hand over the case to the CBI. For two years, the CBI, which reports to the prime minister’s office, is sitting tight on the file.

In July last year another, the DRI probe revealed that 40 of the country’s biggest energy companies, including Adani and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, were prima facie found involved in over-invoicing of imported coal. The scam was conservatively estimated at Rs 29,000 crore, with the common power consumers bearing the brunt of the inflated power bills, a direct effect of over-invoicing.

This author has written several letters to the PMO, CBI and Enforcement Directorate detailing the report and asking for a thorough probe. Only acknowledgments have come from in return, while Modi goes on publicly embracing both Adani and Anil Ambani.

The UPA was shamed into removing Ashok Chavan after the Adarsh Scam, Suresh Kalmadi after the CWG scam, A. Raja after the spectrum scam, Pawan Kumar Bansal after a bribery scam and Ashwani Kumar after the coal scam status report scandal.

No such scruples bother Modi. After more than 40 suspected killings connected with the admission and recruitment scam called ‘Vyapam’ which happened on Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s watch, Modi has not said a word about the propriety of a tainted chief minister continuing in office.

Public outrage after Vasundhra Raje and her family were found to be mixed up with fugitive Lalit Modi failed to evoke a response from Modi.

Addressing an election gathering in March 2014 in Chandigarh, then prime minister-designate Modi blasted the Congress for giving a ticket to the tainted Bansal. On his watch, Modi’s alter ego Shah appointed tainted B.S. Yeddyurappa, who presided over many scams including the infamous Bellary scam and whose corrupt image had compelled the BJP to expel him as Karnataka state president in April 2016.

Yet Modi can afford to talk about the janam patri of the Congress without having the fear of having to account for his own track record. Modi as a prime ministerial candidate talked of bringing lakhs of crores of black money deposited in offshore bank accounts back to India. On his watch as prime minister, Vijay Mallya fled the country.

The list of Modi’s wrongdoings runs long. His omissions and commissions in the Gujarat pogrom and the subsequent subversion of criminal justice system are shocking to the conscience of a reasonable person and a “kalank” for us as a nation. His silence over episodes like the Dadri lynching is as troubling as Singh’s silence as prime minister.

Though perhaps he will never have to face an inquiry into the alleged Sahara-Birla payoffs, the swift income tax settlements facilitated by his government in both cases will go down as egregious examples of an abuse of power to protect those in power.

The persecution of political opponents at the hands of police agencies, the harassment of civil rights activists and the systematic chipping away of institutional integrity and autonomy have surpassed the record of Congress regimes of the past.

If Singh was an accidental prime minister, notebandi has shown that Modi is an arbitrary prime minister.

Singh has never had to face criminal prosecution for any of his actions or omissions. Modi too so far has staved off a criminal prosecution. The prime minister who ran the most corrupt central government in independent India’s history ironically remained for ten long years in public imagination as Mr Clean. It was only towards the end of his stint that his sheen wore off and he became a figure of ridicule and revulsion.

The present prime minister, who is running one of the most duplicitous, insensitive and arbitrary governments since independence, is similarly projecting himself as an honest man. It remains to be seen how history will judge Modi – but so far, he has managed to reap a rich political harvest from all the wrongdoings of his government and his party, without one charge sticking to him.

You may attribute this to the inadequacy of our legal system that has always failed to hold the powerful to account, or to the artful device of “raincoat in the bath” as Modi himself has put it. Though their styles contrast – one professorial, the other a relentless demagogue – both Singh and Modi have made a fine art of donning the raincoat.

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