Friday, August 30, 2013

Aam Aadmi Party volunteers- Misery or exhilaration?

A few months back, a wife of one of our volunteer came and requested that I close down one of our local offices, as her husband was neglecting the family and his earning responsibility and sitting in the IAC office, all day. Next day, another volunteer's daughter called me requesting that we stop her father from being part of the movement as he was neglecting his earning responsibilities. I have been hearing similar heart rending stories of our volunteers neglecting their family duties for the national cause. Yesterday, in the volunteer meeting attended by over 250 volunteers, I asked "How many of you have problems at home and work due to participating in the movement?" and over 50% raised their hands.

When I first heard of this issue, I could not sleep well for many nights, as I pondered on what to do. We did not start the movement to break families, nor cause misery to previously happy wives, children and in some case, husbands and in-laws. There is no tangible benefit of money, fame or recognition.

So why did Anna not marry? Why did Arvind quit his job? What propelled me to leave my employment? Why did so many give up their lucrative career to join? Why do thousands of ordinary people leave behind the comfort zone of family, social life and entertainment to spend time, effort and money on doing what normal people would call "crazy stuff"? What drives people to take such extreme steps? What is the future of these volunteers - more pain at home? And more importantly, what should be my response to those who come for guidance or solution?

Some say that all men are born equal. I disagree. Everyone is born different, with unique levels of intelligence, sensitivity, empathy, creativity. But, through free will and choice, people can either evolve or decrease. Looking at the broad spectrum of humanity, I have broadly divided people through their overriding characteristics and attitudes.

Level 1: People who live on a "I, me and myself" attitude. These are the people who are completely focussed on their own existence and own existential issues. All that he is interested is his own pleasures, material comforts and needs. When you hear of a father raping his own child, it is most likely someone living on this level.

Level 2: People living on the next level have expanded consciousness which encompasses themselves as well as their family and close society structure. Peer approval and appreciation, name, fame, money, entertainment, holidays, material show-offs are some their motivations. Most of humanity lives at this level.

Level 3: This is a level at which a small part of humanity lives, in which one has evolved beyond just oneself and close ones. This is the level that most of our volunteers are approaching or have reached. Someone who is at the highest point of this level, is listening attentively to the world and to the people. He is aware of their individual and collective problems. With a sense of objectivity and detachment coupled with involvement and participation, he can find out relevant solutions to their problems. Sensitivity to society, love for all and empathy for the needy manifests as charity and service to others are his characteristics.

Level 4: Who am I? What is existence? What is my role in existence? And, how do I play that role? questions like these occupy the minds and lives of people at this level. Not for them, the mundane issues of the world. Sri Aurobindo was a great revolutionary and freedom fighter at level 3, but soon his evolution took him to this level to explore the dynamic potentiality of the Universal energies and its workings.

Most of our new volunteers are generally the good, simple people, who have been living at level 2. While everyone has been watching the injustice and suffering around the nation, it is only these few people who are ready for transformation, that by force of circumstances and internal change are slowly stepping into level 3. While they may be consciously unaware, there is a great internal change happening within them. 

Transformation is happening in their mind, which manifests itself in different ways - some will come out on the streets shouting slogans, some will write poetries, some sing songs, some paint, some make cartoons and some just come and sit in the office soaking in the atmosphere. While they are bewildered and nonplussed with the higher calling, the exhilaration and enjoyment of being in the higher level makes them want to come back time and again. The earlier joys of family, evening with relative and friends and the entertainment pales in comparison. They want to spend more and more time and energy for working for others.

 It would be futile to expect their families and outsiders to understand their internal changes. Someone who is at a lower level will never understand the one who is more evolved, nor the process of his growth. Most of his earlier contacts will sneer at him, insult him and run him down - calling it a desire for money or fame or worse.

So, it is an evolutionary and life-altering growth that our volunteers are going through individually.  He is bewildered and in a strange world. His environment, his family, his friends and social is still the same, but he has changed and so have their reactions to him. He is torn between the changes happening within, the reaction of his near and dear ones and the feeling of wanting to spend more and more time with what is pulling him.

So, what should I advice him?

Best solution : Live in balance, share with your family and make them understand your predicament. Try to bring your wife in some meetings, avoid friends and TV and spend some more time with the children and family members.

Second best solution: If the above is not possible, then continue working with the movement, in spite of the home strife. You are evolving, and evolution process is eternal, not just of this lifetime. If your family is at a lower level, you need not go to the lower level. Try to pull them up, if possible.

What do you think?

Read in Hindi...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Status Quo is not acceptable

As events move at a bewildering pace, there is a mix of emotions - exhilaration, pleasure, confusion and a lost-in-a-maze feeling. But within all this, there is a sense of direction that is deeply satisfying.

As we waded through the data that we are getting regarding the corruption of people I used to respect (I had the highest respect for Nitin Gadkari, specially as I knew about how he constructed the flyovers and how he used to desist taking money from the contractors, used to like Salman Khurshid's frankness), the scales have started falling from the eyes. Can this be the truth? Can the amounts be so large? Is this real? While the numbers and the insensitivity is staring in the eyes, the mind still wants to cling to the old, false reality. Can Salman Khurshid actually cheat the differently abled? for a mere 71 lakhs? Can Gadkari rob the farmers of their land, for money? Is there no limit? Its numbing and shocking!

The way the BJP supporters have started attacking me on FB, twitter is so amusing. Calling me a land mafia, when all I did was being an employee of a NGO funded by a developer for 3-4 years ! Based on some false newspaper report, an article in India today, based on the newspaper report and a TV report again based on the same newspaper report! By the way, that false newspaper report also never made any accusation of corruption nor of being the land mafia. My response that I had given then can be read for reality check at My personal integrity is unimpeachable.

Today, all political parties are comfortable working in the system. There is probably no serious party that has not tasted power - even a new entrant like MNS is in power in many places. So, there is no desire to change the way things operate. Sometimes I listen to some of the TV debates and the discussion about how changing the FDI component by a few percentage points will change the country, or how a certain policy will alter. I wonder, if this is the same country that I know of? A country, where more than 40 crore people go to sleep hungry? Where thousands commit suicide due to poverty? The panellists think that by fine tuning the policy, all the problems will vanish. I think that we need major overhaul, and not minor technical glitch repairing. They want status quo and we do not.

Status Quo is not acceptable!

There is this raging argument going on, that IAC will cut into BJP votes and due to IAC, Congress will come back to power. And that we should stay away and select BJP as it is the lesser evil. My counter question is "Why does India have to select an evil at all?" Also, I believe that any of the parties that comes to power will continue with the status quo, and status quo is not acceptable.

Why not try and make our dreams for the nation come true, rather than compromise with lesser evil?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Personal Rumination in midst of battle

We have had a tradition of ruminating in the midst of battle. Bhagavat Gita was conceptualized in the midst of the Kurukshetra war. I intend to reflect every week on the fast changing scenarios, inner party dynamics, the national resonance and my personal reactions to the overwhelming developments. I may not possess good writing skills nor the necessary vocabulary, but will write candidly (maybe too candidly) in a self introspective, doubting manner with a touch of self deprecating humour. Do point out if I start taking myself too seriously.

There was a Marathi poem which I had heard long back, which essentially said "There was once a man who urinated in the sea; he spent his balance life measuring how much the sea level had risen because of his urination". The last two days, I was that man.

On the Newshour program on Times Now on Tuesday, the 9th Oct, I told Renuka Choudary, the Congress spokesperson, that she should answer the nation frankly and honestly on the Robert Vadra issue instead of "Rolling your eyes and making faces". She was understandably flustered and angry, but all those who watched were highly amused and there was a flurry of emails, sms, FB posts and tweets quoting my statement. Instead of immediately apologising to her on air, I marvelled at my sharp retort. For two days, I kept on going to the FB, twitter and gloating at my smartness.

Last night, post dinner, I suddenly realised what kind of monster I was becoming. I looked at other signs - there were plenty. My sudden desire to wear appropriate clothes (kurtas), telling people how many calls, emails and sms that come and cannot be handled, combing hair before TV shows and generally feeling like a cat-that-just-ate-the-canary. All my life, I used to mock and make fun of people who took themselves too seriously, people who were pompous, self opinionated and loving the limelight. Am I sliding towards that? Yes, too many warning signs, and therefore an urgent and dire need for course correction.

The reaction of the country to the revelations on the irrigation scam with Ajit Pawar's resignation, Nitin Gadkari's attitude of sleeping with the enemy and Robert Vadra's Real Estate ventures was interesting, to say the least.

The way Arvind Kejriwal went about demolishing one party's claim on honesty after another with clarity, documents, strategy and complete candour is unparallel. His honesty and truth comes out so vividly on TV, that he has become the hero of this nation. In a nation starved of icons (so starved that we used of think of Rahul Gandhi as a youth icon), here was a ray of hope. I have known him for many years and he is a complete WYSWYG (What you see is what you get). There is no pretence, no fake attitude, no game playing. Completely obsessed with serving the nation, by what he thinks is the right way. The inner clarity and truth makes him also fearless. But the real test will come when the vision, manifesto and party workings come to the fore. Am personally very impressed with his thoughts on decentralization and governance, as articulated in his book Swaraj. (Am I sounding like Salman Khurshid - will-give-my-life-for-Sonia Gandhi-kind? :))

Congress is its worst enemy. Earlier in every public meeting, I used to ask people to cheer for the three people who were instrumental  in the growth of the India against Corruption(IAC) movement -Manish Tiwari, Kapil Sibal and Chidambaram. Every time they opened their mouth, thousands of angry Indians would join the movement. This time its Manish Tiwari, Rashid Alvi and Renuka Chaudhary. Is a 130 year old party so bereft of quality people that they have these people as their spokespersons? I would have thought that parties would like to have their smartest and best faces as the TV spokespersons. Are these the best? Its a matter of deep concern for the nation. At least, BJP has much better spokesperson with Nirmala Seetaraman being really good.

The best course for Congress would have been to respond to the Robert Vadra accusation with gravity, seriousness and impartiality. Instead, we are witnessing this terrible spectacle of one sycophant minister after another (one governor too), jumping on each other to rubbish the allegation on the ground that it was motivated. No planning, no understanding, no strategy - just a mad rush to show to the boss some "chaplusi" or "sycophancy". I shudder at the quality of people in government. No wonder, we are in such a mess.

BJP is in a strange position. They tried their utmost to prevent the IAC party formation, but did not succeed. They dont know how to deal with this unknown entity. Every revelation made by Kejriwal was known to them - Robert Vadra, Nitin Gadkari's "Char kaam hum karte hain...", Irrigation scam (where their members are involved), Electricity issue in Delhi- but they kept quiet. Now when it is out in the open, there is a quandary. If they support the revelations, the question will be asked and is being asked about what they did as opposition till now, inspite of having the information and secondly, supporting IAC's stand will also strengthen IAC, to their detriment. Cannot swallow and cannot spit out. Cannot take too strong view on corruption, as their leaders are going to be exposed too. Their discomfiture as they again try to reclaim the opposition space is amusing.

What is also very interesting is that both parties are on tenterhooks. They know that IAC has much more data on their parties and senior leaders. So, how does one react? You justify one and another will hit you. Now, with Kejriwal's call to the people to give information on corruption of leaders, our offices are flooded with unbelievable information on the corruption of some of the top leaders of the nation. The revelations are shocking, to say the least. Media has also become very aggressive on this issue and the immediate future of the major parties is seeming rocky.

The strategy of both parties will be to somehow shoot the messenger. Try and discredit IAC and its members. So, we are soon going to witness all agencies, loyalists swooping on some of the faces of IAC, trying their damnest to discredit them. Strategy being " Cant refute facts, dont worry - impute motives, plant some stories and brazen through".

I think this may backfire badly. The people are loving this spectacle of the corrupt squirming and if any attempt is made to deflect - the parties will have to pay dearly electorally. And if any of the IAC people are physically harmed, especially Arvind, then this country may see a revolution. India is ready for the next phase of change.

We, surely are living in interesting times.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Smaller states?

Maharashtra (population 11.24 crore) is roughly the size of  japan (population 12.6 crore) with  47 prefunctures ( equivalent to states). France is one and half times size of maharashtra (population 1.6 crores) and has 21 regions or states. UK (population 6.3 crores) is 66% of maharashtra in size and has 4 countries, 28 states or counties. The European Union, with as many states as India currently (29), has an average per-country population of 1.8 crore. The 50-state USA has an average state population of just 65 lakh people. Indian states have an average population of 4.2 crores. Hence there is a need for rationalizing and creating more and smaller states.

There is a concern that creating more states will increase bureaucracy and administrative costs. That cannot be a reason for not giving more democracy. Efficiently managing costs and governance is another subject and should be taken up.  Most western countries has many more government staff per population than India. The major difference is that most of the government officials are at village or urban local body levels. In India most govt employees are centralized. So, unfortunately we have less government at grass root level and lots and lots at district HQ, State and National HQ.

By making smaller states, there is an element of decentralization of power, outreach and bringing power closer to the people. In the recent past, we have seen Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh benefiting due to bifurcation of its state. The newly formed states as well as the old states have benefited  The same is likely to happen in Andhra Pradesh. The growth rates of smaller states in the last five years too have looked encouraging. Haryana, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh have done well. The growth rate of a bifurcated Bihar has been an impressive 11 per cent over the last five years. Uttarakhand has also posted impressive figures compared to its erstwhile Uttar Pradesh
Historically all BIMARU states are large states. Most naxalite activities are in large states.

Nor does the logic of smaller states end with their mere creation. We don’t just need smaller states, but more empowered states. Smaller states without greater economic and constitutional empowerment can amount to nothing. Unless funds, functions and functionaries are empowered, the size of the state is irrelevant. India needs to become a country with Empowered States rather than an aggregation of states without powers.
Smaller states will mean that major decisions will be taken while understanding the issues and requirements. Mumbai should not decide what is good for Vidarbha. Solutions to Vidarbha lie closer in Nagpur. 

The southern end of Maharashtra to the eastern end is over 1150 kms long. Neither the problems of distant Gadchiroli, Chandrapur nor Washim reaches Mantralaya, nor does the decision reach far off Vidarbha. Vidharbha is one of the worst administered parts of Maharashtra with highest rate of farmer suicides and is one of the most extreme naxalite prone area (a sure shot indicator of bad governance).

Administering and governing large and diverse states is extremely complex and inefficient. Indian states are simply too big both in terms of size and population to be well managed.

Larger number of states will strengthen the federal structure as more and more voices are heard demanding larger say in running the affairs of the state. 
Finally, creating higher number of states is not the same as a secessionist tendency. It will respond to the aspirations of the people, and not alienate them. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Delhi Chalo - the war for India

When I read that Arvind Kejriwal declared that he will stand against Sheila Dixit in the November Delhi elections, I got charged up. What daring, what disregard to power and personal victory ! He has chosen not to play safe like others but to lead from the front. This is independent India's biggest Dharma yuddh. A veritable war with a small band of honest, daring patriots taking on the hydra headed corrupts. A war for the future of our motherland.

The excitement did not allow me to sleep and I sent a message to Arvind late that night showing my willingness to leave everything and join the war. How could my consciousness allow me to live a normal life with my family, work and day-to-day issues in Mumbai when the battlefield was in Delhi? Next morning I talked to my family and clients and asked their permission to be stationed in Delhi.

I reached Delhi and went to stay in a hotel. The peon working in the hotel saw my AAP badge and asked me if he could have it and what was my relation with AAP. Once I told him that I was part of AAP, he was so excited, came to drop me in the room and asked if he could just see Arvind. The cleaner of the room found out that I was with AAP and told me that he was an ardent supporter of AAP. When I went down all auto rickshaw drivers waiting outside the hotel asked me for AAP badges and newsletters.

I have brought my car from Mumbai and while driving to the Kausumbhi office, I was stopped by a traffic constable for not having LPG entry in the RC book. He saw the AAP stickers and asked if I was connected to the party. He then called 4 of his superiors who were on the road and all came with me with folded hands asking me to convey their regards to Arvind. In the evening, we drove through a red light by mistake and another traffic constable stopped us. Seeing we were with AAP, he said that he will charge only Rs 100. Soon, he changed his mind, pushed the 100 Re note in my pocket and said "How can I take money from Kejriwal's people?". He warned me not to repeat the offence and let me go.

Amazing undercurrent of support from the poorest of the poor. I must have talked to over a hundred workers, drivers and others and all, save none, were in favour of Arvind. I felt that I was caught in the epicenter of a revolution.

Then when Arvind told me that our internal survey shows victory for AAP in 45-47 seats out of 70 seats, it confirmed my intuition that something magical was indeed going to happen. BJP's internal survey shows 8 confirmed seats and Congress' survey shows 23 seats for them.

Congress has targeted AAP only. BJP seem relegated to the distant third. When someone put AAP hoardings, they were removed overnight. Thousands of illegal hoardings of Congress and BJP banners and hoardings abound in Delhi. When Kumar Vishwas and Sanjay Singh went to meet the PWD minister asking why only AAP banners are removed, they were told by the Minister that "You do politics your way and we will do politics in our way". AAP has put up posters behind innumerable Auto Rickshaws and the drivers are penalized and posters torn. We approached the Delhi HC which opined that it is perfectly legal to fix posters, but the removal continues unabated. So, when Kumar and Sanjay met the relevant minister and reminded that what the corporation was doing was contempt of court , he arrogantly said "So what? Go and complain to the court". A cozy CongBJPbhaibhai relationship is comfortable for both as they loot the nation. But if AAP wins, all the corrupt practices will have to cease and going to jail of the looters is a real possibility. They are petrified.

The Congress has hit back in a most violent manner. When our members went to protest against the refusal of police to register FIR in a rape case, our volunteers were beaten black and blue by the police. Our senior volunteer of Lalitpur was run over by a car, again and again by the son of the local Congress leader, till he died. And finally, one of finest volunteer and candidate for Seemapuri constituency Santosh Koli was knocked down by a speeding car in what we think was a deliberate attempt to murder.

Friends, there is lot of work to be done. Delhi is calling, our responsibility is calling, a wonderful opportunity to serve our motherland is calling. Let us not be found wanting.

We need volunteers from NOW. Please come to Delhi at the earliest. You may come to stay till the elections, or you may come for a week or ten days at a time. Whatever your skill sets, everyone is needed. The second war of independence has begun.

You may contact 08588833528 (Abhisekh) for your lodging and boarding arrangements. Dr Munish Raizada  09873703054 (neonatal Surgeon from Chicago) along with me is handling the volunteer management.

By the last election, I had felt that we had no hopes of victory for honest politics. Vote buying, criminals and religious and caste politics had increased. But the Anna movement  and the awareness has opened a window for honest politics. Let us use this election to begin the process to overthrow the corrupt and give power to the real owners of this nation - the Aam Aadmi.

It surely is a DO or DIE battle for our future. India can wait no more!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Whose votes will AAP cut?

People are wondering that when AAP stands for elections, whose votes will it cut?

Elections are won by buying of votes more than ever before. This trend of purchasing votes is increasing, election by election, by all parties. By 2019 elections, vote buying as well as religious and caste voting will be at an unprecedented high. May be, because of the Anna movement and heightened awakening in the populace, there is a window of opportunity in the next 2014 elections for ethical politics. Missing this opportunity will be terrible for India.

BJP calls AAP a B-team of Congress, while Congressis call AAP as B-team of BJP. We must be doing something right to be accused by both :). When Indira Gandhi was asked whether we leaned towards USA or Russia, she said "neither, we stand firm". That is my answer to these accusations. We believe that Congress in its 60 years of rule has completely messed up the nation. While, there has been growth, the performance has been much less than the potential of India. India has grown not because of the government, but, in spite of it. We do not think that BJP is an alternative or solution to Congress.

Status Quo can not be acceptable. The poor, dispossessed, unequal and discriminated are facing the brunt of miseries that can be set right by good governance. Changing players is not the solution; we need to change the rules of the game. The present system does not have the ability to make India a humane, caring and developed nation.

I call the Indian democracy model Monarcracy - winning elections with democratic means, but once they get elected, they become Kings and Queens. BJP is as corrupt as the Congress. When Gadkari said that "We do their 4 works and they do our 4 works", it became obvious that BJP, Cong and other parties are bhai-bhais. While, the naive citizen may think that there is a ruling party and separate opposition parties, we know now with experience, that all politicians work together in business. They get elected probably as different parties, but once elected, they work together for making money.  The adage is true "The closest friend of a politician is from the opposing party, while his worst enemy is from his own party". I know of a major MLA candidate of BJP who does compromise with the Congress MP of the area. He does not canvass against the MP in his Vidhan Sabha area, and the MP ensures that a weak opponent is pitted in the Vidhan Sabha election against the BJP candidate. That is the kind of tie-ups that are prevalent between parties.

Congress revealed that it had collected around Rs 2000 crores as official money for which they do not know the source. These were cash received from people, which was less than Rs 20000 each for which name, address and PAN is unavailable. This essentially means that cash or unaccounted money was shown in this manner. BJP revealed around Rs 950 crores in the same manner. That is the difference between the two. Congress has had more opportunity, which is why they have a bigger amount.

There will be a good away swing of votes from BJP towards AAP.

Generally, it is believed that the urban, middle-class, educated people who have generally been voting for BJP might shift to a more sensible and non-corrupt AAP. These voters have been the main constituent of the anti-corruption movement and it is believed that they would form the core of the voters of AAP. While it is true that these people who are sick and tired of the present parties will vote for AAP, it is not all.
There are millions of voters who do not have allegiance towards BJP because of its hard religious Hindutva agenda or its agenda of Ram Mandir, Article 370 etc. These voters do not like that agenda but still vote for it because it is less corrupt, with less nepotism, is more development oriented and do not appreciate the appeasement policy of the Congress. I used to be one of those voters.

These voters will now have an option for voting for AAP. So, it would essentially vote for a clean party with an excellent leader like Arvind Kejriwal, a party dedicated to fight against corruption, transparency, accountability, participation, decentralization and integrity. It can be rid of parties that are corrupt nor criminal.

But, the bigger swing is going to be from the Congress.

A very large part of the Congress voters are OBC, SC, ST, Dalits, Muslims, Christians (around 72%). For decades, they have been frightened by Congress leaders. These leaders say that in BJP rule there will be riots and it will be difficult for these communities to live. In 2009, just few days before the Maharashtra assembly elections, Congress leaders reached the madrasas, mosques and churches and told the priests that they it was correct that congress was corrupt and that their Congress candidate was bad. But.....the community had to choose between a bad, corrupt Congress where at least they could live in peace or a communal party, where their life would be in danger. Thus, out of lack of choice they vote for the Congress. Congress gets votes because of TINA factor. TINA means "There is no alternative".

Once, AAP comes in the fray, this 72% voters who do not like BJP, will have a much better choice.
Besides this, there is a large voter base (in some areas more than 40% voters) that do not vote because none of the candidates excite them. A lack of good choice makes for low turnout. AAP can give a good alternative and we believe that a large number of new voters or voters who do not generally come out to vote, will. In a normal election, AAP does not have much hope of winning. But, if there is a wind or wave of patriotism close to the election, then voters will come out in large numbers with India's flags and shouting "Bharat Mata ki Jai", apprehending the vote buyers and propelling voters towards a new India. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Internal Lokpal - the truth

I joined India against corruption, a movement to fight against corruption and quit my well paying job for the same on 12th August 2011. If I was corrupt, would I be stupid enough to do that?

In March 2012, there was an article in Mumbai alleging that I had used my NGO to benefit a construction company. It disturbed me, because there was no merit in it. Other newspapers and TV channels tried to go deep into it, but could not find much merit in it, though some media did pick up and wrote some things about it. I have led a life of great personal integrity, even going to extreme actions where honesty is concerned. So, the clouds of allegations against me was disturbing.

In August, when Anjali exposed the irrigation scandal, like me, newspaper articles surfaced against her, again full of lies. She was equally disturbed and we had a talk with Arvind that these are just scandalous articles and if no one complains, then we will be living a life with allegations against us. Luckily, Arvind decided to form an internal lokpal against us and we welcomed it. I was specially delighted because the complaint against me had gone cold and if there was no lokpal, I would have to live with that allegations without any chance to disprove it.

The Lokpal was made up of Justice AP Shah, Justice (Retd)BH Marlapalli and Justice (Retd) Jaspal Singh and Arvind announced that in 3 months time, the findings will be published. Unfortunately, due to the tremendous media attention or paucity of time, the 3 judges recused themselves. It took AAP another many months to create a new Lokpal consisting of Justice Bhagwati Sharma, Admiral Ramdas and Ileana Sen.

The Lokpal was presented the complaints against us in terms of newspaper articles. They refused to consider that as proper complaints, arguing (justifiably) that there are thousands of articles and if they take cognisance of each article, they will never end. They insisted that a formal complaint with affidavit be made for them to process. They also mandated that they will only take complaints against National Executive members.

Fortunately, someone complained against me on 25.01.2013 and point of allegations against me on 28th Feb 2013. I was asked to explain my stand by 11th March 2013 which I did on 10th March 2013. My answer was sent to the complainant for his rebuttal. I am now awaiting the judgement by the honorable Lokpal.
I have the highest respect for the Lokpal, as they have an unsullied reputation of having served the nation and I will respect the judgement. I have taken a stand that if the hon'ble Lokpal finds any fault of mine, even moral or technical, i will leave the national executive, AAP and public life. No excuse, no questioning. I have submitted myself completely to the honesty and eminence of the excellent Lokpal that the party has selected.

As far as Anjali Damania is concerned, she too is paying the price for fighting for the nation against the corrupt. There has been no complaint against her. I beseech all readers to kindly make a proper complaint against her so that it can be taken up. She has not been a part of the National Executive and therefore her case cannot be taken up the Lokpal.

On 9th March, Kejriwal in a TV show said that Anjali Damania is not the executive member of the party. Parallely, unknown to him, we had a 4 day Maharashtra Session in Mumbai where people from all 35 districts came. We elected Anjali Damania as the Convenor of Maharashtra. We informed the decision to the National Executive on the 12th. All documents / emails can be shown on the dates. So, neither did Arvind lie nor me.

I am personally uncomfortable with the delay in the Lokpal issue and hope that it will get resolved. I cannot intervene nor ask. I can only wait. Once I sent my reply, I felt that the results will come out soon and hence hoped that in 15 days' time, it would come out. I am sure there is a good reason for the delay and our report would come out soon.

This is the truth as I know. Some of my friends will attack even this, but it is their way of functioning and I respect that.

By the way, anyone can please file complain against me in the police, CID, CBI or whichever forum they have confidence in. We are thorns in the side of the Maharashtra Govt and specially Ministers like Ajit Pawar, Chaggan Bhujbal and Sunil Tatkare. If we had any weaknesses or corruption cases, do you think they would have let us go?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Urban nonsense in the Swaraj context

While we read many real stories about rural India's centralized decision making in Swaraj, I thought of sharing my observations about the functioning of the Urban Development. One can extrapolate this (with minor modification) in any of the other government departments. This is symptomatic of the government's functioning everywhere.

 As poverty takes a stranglehold in the rural areas due to various factors like reducing landholdings, lack of infrastructure, reducing of water levels etc, there is an urban emigration. The urban landscape is planned in an incremental and haphazard manner with little thought given to infrastructure, mass transportation or housing stock. For a few years, I have been participating as well as watching this circus of urban planning in Mumbai and have been periodically amused, angered and staggered by the brainlessness of the process and the people.

 Some observations (broad strokes)

The entire governance is totally centralized. The Britishers had a master-slave relationship and obviously, they kept all decision making in the hands of a few. Today, in an independent India not only have we maintained the centralization, but with our innate suspicion, added labyrinths and labyrinths of layers of permissions and rules and sub-rules.
So, who are the players in this chaotic Urban Planning process and what role do they play?

The Urban Planning process is initiated and arbitrated by Civil Servants.

The UD Secretary : An IAS officer whose main subject in the exam may have been Mathematics or Sociology or similar will pass one UPSC exam and become an expert in all topics of nation running and building. He would one day be the chief of Railways or of Human Resource or Mining and be expected to run the future of millions of people depending on the same. And he would be transferred to various departments and without any pre training expected to become nation's greatest expert in that subject. So, the Urban Planning of Mumbai will be decided by this EXPERT.

Urban Planners : There are very few trained urban planners in the non-private sector, maybe less than the number of municipal corporations, so urban planning is done by under-trained and under-educated architects or engineers. The urban planner of Pune whom I spoke to told me that he had never seen a major city except Mumbai, not even Delhi. He was coming from a village and did his civil engineering from a small town. In his world view, a paved road network was a great stride of urban development. As you know, Pune dreams of being a World Class city attracting people from all over the globe. Studying and learning from global case studies of cities is unimaginable. Remember, the IAS officer who decides which urban plan to go for, gets their inputs from these.

Politicians : The master plan decision finally goes to the political bosses. The Urban development Ministry in Maharashtra is always with the Chief Minister, for obvious reasons. No CM in recent memory has ever allowed UD to be wrenched away from his grasp. The Minister of state is a complete non-entity, with no knowledge of city (the last two incumbents were from village constituencies). Decisions are taken by politicians of all levels to change the no-development zone or to alter the roads -based on note and vote bank pressures, holistic planning be damned. So, any final plan made is subject to these pressures. DP plans are periodically amended and messed with - the difference between the original plan and the final product is absolutely shocking!

International Experts : Lost for ideas and travelling across the globe, the IAS officer feels envy and takes the shortest route. Catch the international experts. There are lots of these experts peddling their wares across the globe, selling some small success stories somewhere and trying to fit it wherever there is an opportunity. Masters at packaging, but no understanding of the context of the urban areas.

I wonder what would have happened if Gandhiji had come home to India from South Africa and hired international consultants for the civil war against the Britishers? There would have been hundreds of experts suggesting various methods of killing, death and bloodshed. Instead Gandhiji, travelled for 3 years within the length and breadth of the nation and created weapons based on the ethos and soul of the nation like non-violence, truth, renunciation, spirituality and such and therefore found resonance from all sections of indians. His entire strategy was going deep into the ethos of Indians and using best global communication practices of rail, newspaper etc, converted this longing for freedom into the World's greatest and unique movement.

Post independence, India adopted the political system running well in a small European country (Britain, but adjusted in India as a tool to extract maximum out of Indian slaves. Post independence, it then proceeded to load it with more slave-master relationship activities. Indian policy makers, not having created the system did not understand the same, did not know where the nuts and bolts of the system - hence could not amend or improve it (assuming that there is a will to alter it). We are paying a huge price for it as our governance is in a complete mess with Englishmen replaced by these Brown coconuts - brown outside and white inside :-).

Blindly following international experts without understanding the country, its people, its culture, its ethos, its soul and without any mechanism to understand and engage with the people is one of the biggest mistake we shall make. In Vedic times we had a special Veda on Urban Planning called the "Sthapatya Veda" which had some great knowledge about urban grids, drainage, usage of the five elements, the sun, the wind and such beautiful concepts. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were some of the cities which were far ahead in these concepts. What we need is to extract that knowledge and using best global practices create an Indian, unique urban plan. A plan that is people centric, not built structure centric, not aesthetic centric. A master plan that takes the minds and hearts of the people, not an imported, non-contextual plan.

For example, this latest nonsensical approach of not planning parking areas in new plans to discourage cars. It is like telling a newlywed couple to desist from having children as there is a population explosion or creating a nation where children are so badly treated that people would stop having children.

Aspiration levels of Indians cannot be compared with those in Japan or USA. My son's first salary will be used by him to buy a car. Now, if i tell him to desist because there is no parking, my decision will lead to a kick on my backside. His greatest desire is to buy a car and if he has to double park on the street, he will do so. Planners will have to consider these aspirations. Without a proper non-auto mass transit system, if we start punishing people for owning cars, we are being stupid. Democracies cannot be run by sticks, we need to incentivise people by offering better solutions so that lesser private vehicles are used.

The question is : whose Mumbai is it? The people of the city or its "Angrez" decision makers? Is it a surprise that it is in complete mess?