Thursday, August 8, 2019

Visit to Global Parli – August 2019 - Dipesh Mohile

Blog by Dipesh Mohile

It was with a mixed bag of sentiments that I boarded the bus to Parli on 2nd August 2019. On one hand, I was excited to visit Parli after a gap of almost two and half years. On the other hand, I was feeling a bit guilty not to have visited it in last two years.
For the uninitiated ones; Global Parli is an initiative spearheaded by Mr. Mayank Gandhi to transform a cluster of 15 villages in Beed district through various interventions across verticals such as water conservation, modernizing education, improving farming yields, changing crop patterns and use of technology. The core idea is to alleviate poverty in these villages and to empower the farmers and villagers to stand on their own feet with their heads held high.
It was summer of 2015; when the entire Vidarbha / Marathwada regions of Maharashtra were reeling under severe drought. The situation was desperate, and it was in this crisis that first seeds for Global Parli were sown through an initiative to send water-tankers to the parched Beed district. However, visionary leader that Mayank Gandhi is; he realized soon enough that it is neither a scalable nor a permanent solution. Intense brain-storming sessions followed where many bright minds debated on various ways to bring about a more sustainable and measurable change to lives of these villagers. Global Parli was born. What I distinctly remember about those early trips to these villages is how shattered we were when we came face to face with abject poverty and lifeless eyes of the farmers/villagers that we came across. In some ways, this was very similar to what Shahrukh Khan’s character goes through in the movie Swades. As we returned home from our first trip, the haunting shehnai and A.R. Rahman’s title track from Swades echoed in our ears and our eyes welled up.
The scale was enormous; the challenges were even bigger.
The entire team came back charged up. Many of us had spent years outside India and had consciously decided to return to India. “Mohan Bhargav” in us had been awakened.
However, often, such initiatives do not survive beyond the initial euphoria because the problem proves to be overwhelming and even with noblest of intentions, one simply does not know where to begin! The team felt compelled to tackle all the issues simultaneously. The team also learnt soon enough that the thinking needs a fundamental shift. We realized we need to rid ourselves of the patronizing attitude towards the villagers. Some of the initial team members got busy with their lives (including me) and lost regular touch along the way while others dug their heels and refused to get bogged down by enormous scale of work that awaited them.
Mayank Gandhi built a phenomenally dedicated team around him. While we stopped playing active role, we watched the great experiment unfolding in front of our eyes in Parli. Soon enough, we realized that the team was successful in breaking the problem in smaller/manageable problems and started making steady progress.
But the scale of what they’ve achieved in last couple of years hit me when we visited Parli again after a gap of more than two years!!
The Global Parli team had doggedly persisted and has made a huge difference on the ground.  The team has consistently shown the tenacity, patience and perseverance to keep chipping at problems until they are solved. Various water management/conservation projects are functional; many farmers have shown the courage to switch crops; schools have improved and gone digital; a few villages have gone hooch-free. What’s even more amazing is the emotional connect that completely urban team of Global Parli has built with rugged farmers of hinterland. Global Parli team adopted a very pragmatic approach of helping the villagers help themselves rather than taking a hands-off approach of a non-profit. The villagers led the efforts to transform their lives through “Shramdaan”, spending their own money and taking calculated risks with Global Parli team’s help.
The warm welcome we received just because we were with the Global Parli team was a testament to the goodwill built with laborious effort by the Global Parli team. Details of the all the works undertaken in these villages can be found on Global Parli website and I would encourage everyone to spend some time to understand the enormity of the effort that has gone into making these projects happen.
However, in my opinion, the biggest difference is the huge change in attitude of the villagers. Gone are the empty, soulless eyes of the villagers – Instead what we came across in this trip was an animated bunch of farmers. These farmers were not afraid to express their mind. They are willing to take their destiny in their own hands. They want to be self-sufficient and are looking at ways to improve their lives instead of being resigning to their fate.
I returned with a sense of pride that I had a tiny part to play in this exciting initiative’s early days. I also returned with a deep sense of regret that I did not do more over the years.
While I returned with a renewed urge to jump in, I also returned with a few questions – “What are the factor/s that have the potential to act as a multiplying agent to catapult these initiatives into next growth phase?”
We will explore some of the themes around potential of Social Enterprises and Entrepreneurs to act as an multiplying agent in these initiatives in subsequent blogs.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

One day trip to Parli

Would you like to join me at Parli for a day on Sat 3rd August ? Many of you had shown interest in visiting and seeing the Global Parli project.
The one million fruit trees mission is entering a crucial phase. Farmers have been trained, experts have guided and all homework is over.
Now that the rains are here, you can join us in distributing lakhs of saplings from the nurseries to the farmers that have registered.
One can visit the sericulture works, the papaya plantation, check watershed development works (river, ponds, dams etc), meet the students in one of the schools, meet women self help groups and their goat rearing and local food project and participate in the Varunyantra experiment.
We can leave on 2nd August (Friday night), reach on 3rd morning, freshen and rest in afternoon in a reasonable and clean hotel, (This is optional - double bed room costs around Rs 1500) and visit all the places and catch the late night train and be back on 4th august (Sunday morning). If you so desire, take darshan at the Jyotirling - Parli Vaijnath.
You will have to spend for your own travel and hotel (optional). Tickets are available as of now on the Mumbai- Latur Express IInd AC (Rs 1285), Sleeper (Rs 345) or 3 AC (Rs 910). Return late night on same train to Mumbai. Or one can come by AC sleeper bus from all over Mumbai to Parli (Rs 850 one side).
We will take care of the local transport and food.
Mitali (96191 63595) can help you with your arrangements and travel, but please confirm soon as trains and bus can get full.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

How to resurrect AAP

With the Congress doing badly and Modi surging like never before, there never has been a more appropriate time for a party like the  Aap with all its original principles on the National scene.

For that to happen, what are the steps that need to be taken?

1. Kejriwal should immediately go and meet Yogendra Yadav and request/plead with him to come back to Aap as the National Convenor. He will have to let go of all ego and all national ambitions.

2. Aap should call a National Convention and AK should submit his resignation and hand over charge to YY to reconstitute a fresh NE and PAC. He should profusely apologise to all members and supporters for some of the ill-thought decisions taken. He should work on governance only and not on organization.

3. In the PAC, instead of just NCR based members, the team should be the best talent from across the country. Old members should be persuaded to join. Policy for one-man-one-post should be made.

4. AK should continue with his cabinet as CM in Delhi but should hold no position in party structure. He must stop talking too much and focus on good governance. Power brokers should be kept away. Sanjay singh's role should only be to represent party in Rajya Sabha.

5. YY and his team should travel all over the country and appoint teams for each state and districts. After a period, internal elections should be held. Local leaders should be empowered to take up key responsibilities to build the organisation from scratch.

6. Should not fight state elections anywhere except Delhi, in the initial years, till a certain team strength is built . Start by fighting small - Zilla parishad and municipal elections. Age and time are on our side, wisdom lies in building the party and the nation step-by-step after great deliberations and without compromising on principles.

7. Strong measures must be put in place to ensure that wrong-doers are penalised and merit based, capable and honest people are given the space to grow and occupy decision making space. Merit, not loyalty, should be the way towards growth in the party.

8. Leadership should be made up of people who have the guts, courage of conviction and the ability to work as equals in group dynamics. Those with contrary opinions should be treated as allies rather than adversaries. Leadership should be of equals with someone being projected as the first among equals.

9. A two-tier Internal Lokpal (the first tier to check the veracity of the complaint against MLAs and senior partymen prima facie and a three member Lokpal to investigate and give their judgment)

10. Reinstate the donor list on the party website. Start asking for donation. Many will give.

11. Reaffirm our internal ideology
a. Participatory working
b. Accountability
c.  Transparency
d. Decentralization of decision making
e. Integrity in all dealings.

12. Create our national principles
1. Do what is good for the nation - no isms (neither capitalism, nor socialism, nor communism, neither leftism nor rightism)
2. No truck with any of the mainstream parties(Bjp / Cong)
3. No minority appeasement nor majoritarianism. Law of land in dealing fairly with all. More.....

13. Speak to media in matured, measured, balanced and objective manner. The aim should not be to attract media attention by negative and exaggerated stories. Media should be compelled to approach us by our work.

14. Be the voice of the needy, the farmers, the workers and all those who are not heard in the country. But be a balanced and honest voice.

15. Most of all, create an agenda for alternative politics. Power will come as long as the party continues to work hard and ethically. It must always be kept in mind that Nation first, party next and individuals last.

Finally, there is no shortcut to Nation Building.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Should one vote for Modi or against? - an open letter

Dear friends

Am neither in BJP nor in opposition. Just passionate about our beloved country.

Would like to present key pros and cons of the last govt in a brief, balanced and dispassionate manner, considering the short and long-term good of the nation.

These are the six major critical indicators

1.     Economy (4/5)
Overall, it is on the right track. India is one of the fastest growing economies with 7.2% GDP growth, inflation under control and in the last 5 years – India has jumped from 9th to 5th largest economy in the world. The failure of DeMo to achieve its objective of black money eradication reduces one point.

2.     Law and Order (3.5/5)
No major riots, no bombings (unlike 2009-14 period), control and eradication of secessionist tendency in different parts of the country except Kashmir are positive points. Kashmir could have been managed much better. Relation between centre and state are above average except with Delhi govt

3.     Development and administration (3/5)
The pace of development – Roads, Electricity, Houses, Cooking gas, Toilets, Medical (ayushmann scheme), opening of bank accounts and transfer of funds directly into beneficiary accounts (thereby reducing leakages) is unprecedented. Corruption at higher level has reduced, but at the lower levels – corruption has not been tackled effectively. Administration machinery is probably functioning slightly well, but jobs are not being generated fast enough. Farmers are suffering and the distress is real. They are not getting the benefits of development as much as they should get.

4.     Geo-political position and dealing with neighbors (5/5)
India’s position has never been better and we are considered as one of the major nations of the world. Our dealing with our pesky neighbors has been exemplary. We have shown the magnanimity of offering hand of friendship and when rebuffed, we have been firm and strong, setting boundaries of sovereignty.

5.     Political culture (1.5/5)
Misuse and abuse of various institutions like media, judiciary and executive, authoritarianism, lack of transparency, no internal democracy of parties, deterioration of quality of debate and discourse in public life, VIP culture, dynasty politics and dominance of money, muscle and divisive agenda of vote bank continues to plague our electoral system.

6.     Social fabric (1/5)
India is more polarized than ever before. Minorities are insecure. Statements against Muslims by ruling party leaders, entry of Sadhvi Pragya are sending wrong signals. Triple talaq was a good step, and so also reduction of appeasement of Muslims for vote bank. But overall, the social fabric needs to become more harmonious.

Based on what is important to an individual, he should vote for BJP along with their strengths and weaknesses or vote BJP out. It is unfortunate for the nation that right now, we do not have the choice of at least two different ideologies, programs and vision for the nation. It is either for BJP or against.

That’s not healthy.

Just keep one’s prejudice away and vote for India.

India can wait no more!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

EVM hacking - the truth

The EVM hacking theory is flawed for several reasons.

Let’s list them out:

    AAP had won nearly 96 per cent of the seats in the 2015 elections with precisely the same EVMs. Congress has since won 4 states using the same EVMs. If the machines were hacked, should re-elections be done?

    I was a candidate in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and few days before the poll, scores of our volunteers were called for ‘EVM checking’. They were allowed to select machines randomly and press buttons multiple times to confirm that their votes were being registered correctly. Some volunteers pressed an assortment of buttons across various machines, and each time the result was correctly registered.

     Of all the machines we tested, only one proved to be faulty—when volunteers repeatedly pressed the button against my name, the vote was transferred to a nondescript independent candidate. As soon as we pointed this out, the officer promptly replaced the machine. That’s when I came to understand the kind of rigid standards and care that was taken by the independent EC to ensure that elections were fair.

    Even if there happen to be a few faulty machines, this does not amount to a case of massive rigging. Maybe some machines might be sending that faulty vote to a BJP candidate. To discredit out EC and democracy based on some faulty machines is undermining our country.

5  Machines are individual sets (like a calculator, using its own algorithm) that cannot be influenced from outside, by wi-fi etc. Therefore EVM cannot be mass influenced, nor changed without physical contact with each individual machine.

    During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 9,00,000 EVMs were being protected day and night by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), election officers and political workers across all parties. To suggest that EVMs, despite being under such scrutiny, were having their motherboards tampered with was unrealistic.

As a corollary, there were thirty-four lakh permanent and temporary employees as part of the election exercise. It is impossible to conceive of any party being able to arm-twist all of them into ignoring physical manipulation of EVMs. India is a noisy, contradictory nation and not a homogeneous political group and even a small group of 4/5 people would have different political opinions. So, lakhs of people keeping quite or complicit in this is not correct. Some whistle – blower could have exposed if there was something hidden. Many retired Election Commissioners have been anti-govt, but no one has made any such ridiculous claims.

 In several constituencies across Punjab and Goa, where AAP made allegations of the ruling party hacking EVMs, the maximum seats went to the Congress. Did the BJP manipulate the results so the Congress could win?

In many of the cases, opinion polls and especially exit polls have been reasonably accurate. But opinion poll and exit polls are not made on EVM, why do they match?

   I had done some serious study of EVM and their possible misuse in 2017.  The results of all the 1,642 polling stations in the 40 assembly seats of Goa as well as those in 33 assembly seats in Punjab that had VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail)—an independent verification method in a ballot-less voting system which allows voters to check that their vote has been cast correctly. Connected to the EVM, the printer-like apparatus generates a receipt indicating the symbol and name of the candidate a voter votes for. After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT for some seconds, the ballot slip is cut and dropped into a drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep is heard. VVPAT machines can be accessed by polling officers only. The VVPAT rolls are taken out for counting only if a candidate, his election agent or counting agent (in the candidate’s absence) applies in writing to the returning officer (RO) to count the printed paper slips in any or all the polling stations.

1  As per counting data of the 33 VVSAT constituencies of Punjab, the Congress got the largest number of votes in 20 seats, followed by SAD (ShiromaniAkali Dal) and AAP which emerged victorious in 6 constituencies each. A lone seat went to the Lok Insaaf Party. This showed little variation with results in other constituencies having EVMs without papertrail. As we know, while the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 77 seats, AAP got 20 seats and SAD secured 15 seats.

 .  Neither AAP’s candidates nor AAP itself approached the courts with their complaints, which should have been the obvious course of action.

 . When the EC, to call the opposition’s bluff, scheduled an open hacking challenge for EVMs, the opposition did not participate. Instead, it sought permission to physically handle the EVM and change the internal circuitry of the machines, which was turned down by the EC on grounds that it was ‘irrational and implausible’.

The hue and cry against EVM is just a drama. In my next round, I shall write about who and why are some people trying to discredit EC.