No cell phones, jeans for girls, says Rajya Sabha member

This guy is a Rajya Sabha member:

Sharma’s gave vent to his thoughts while addressing a meeting of Brahmins in Ratlam district on Sunday. He termed cellphone usage by students, particularly young girls, as a big menace and the genesis of other evils. The BJP leader lambasted girls wearing jeans, saying it was the attire of American cowboys and in no way gelled with the Indian culture.

Time for the powers that be to realize that he’s languishing in a different age altogether, no? What is such a person doing trying to shape public policy?

Kim Jong-Il’s Sushi Chef

This is unbelievable stuff:

North Korea is a mythically strange land, an Absurdistan, where almost nothing is known about the people or, more important, their missile-launching leaders. There is, however, one man—a humble sushi chef from Japan—who infiltrated the inner sanctum, becoming the Dear Leader’s cook, confidant, and court jester. What is life like serving Kim Jong-il and his heir? A strange and dangerous gig where the food and drink never stop, the girls are all virgins, and you’re never really safe. We sent Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Adam Johnson to meet the man who survived all the craziness.

This is brilliant!

The chef’s name, an alias, is Kenji Fujimoto, and for eleven years he was Kim Jong-il’s personal chef, court jester, and sidekick. He had seen the palaces, ridden the white stallions, smoked the Cuban cigars, and watched as, one by one, the people around him disappeared. It was part of Fujimoto’s job to fly North Korean jets around the world to procure dinner-party ingredients—to Iran for caviar, Tokyo for fish, or Denmark for beer. It was Fujimoto who flew to France to supply the Dear Leader’s yearly $700,000 cognac habit. And when the Dear Leader craved McDonald’s, it was Fujimoto who was dispatched to Beijing for an order of Big Macs to go.

Amazing story; go read. 🙂

–via Kottke.org

How many zeros in…?

How many zeros are in Rs. 90,000 crore? (A crore equals 10 million.)

I only ask because that’s how much a certain Mr. Hassan Ali Khan owes the Indian government in tax arrears. Which apparently isn’t possible to recover:

[…] the recovery is not possible though all known immovable and move-able assets belonging to the group have been attached,” the Finance Ministry said […]

Further, it informed, the attached assets are inadequate to recover the entire dues.

Amazing.

But wait, it gets better. The total arrears are of the order of Rs. 2.48 lakh crore, most of which pertains to money laundering.

I guess the positive is that at least they caught this guy? How many others like him who haven’t been caught?

Women don’t need cell phones, says Indian Member of Parliament

From IBN-Live:

“There is no need to give phones to women and children. It distracts them and is useless. Why do women need phones? My mother, wife and sister never had mobile phones. They survived without one,” said Saini.

Yes, and the country needs be no different now than in the days of your mother, wife and sister. Right, Mr. MP?

In every country, however modern, there’s always a group of people who make us question our ‘modernity’ and ‘development’. Indeed, until every one of us has shifted their thought process, we’re not modern or developed, are we?

For the moment, I guess the least we can do is make sure such individuals cannot dictate public policy, and thus other peoples’ lives.

This man is a Member of the Indian Parliament. Shame.

On Arvind Kejriwal going after corruption

Arvind Kejriwal has been in the news recently. First DLF and Robert Vadra, then Salman Khurshid and Nitin Gadkari. Just today was the latest:

“It appears that Mukesh Ambani and not the PM runs the country,” Mr Kejriwal said, wearing his trademark cap inscribed with main aam admi hoon (I am the common man). “The PM’s heart beats for Reliance and not the people of India,” he declared.

This is what Mulayam Singh Yadav said recently about Kejriwal:

“Let him enter politics and fight elections. He will understand how things work. There is no need to give him so much of attention. He has not left out anyone and believes that everyone is corrupt. Let him continue to do what he does, he will soon exhaust himself.”

On the one hand, this is the quiet confidence of an experienced man. Let the new guy be here for a bit; he won’t stay honest for long. He’ll toe everyone else’s line soon enough.

On the other, I can’t but read this as a veiled threat—Toe the line, mister, or your new-fangled political party won’t find the oxygen it needs to survive.

For India and its anti-corruption campaign, the hope is that Yadav is wrong; that Kejriwal won’t change his ways. But what happens when every corrupt politician in India gets tired of his antics and decides to band together and come after him?

The fact that these guys have all been defending themselves says one thing, though—Kejriwal doesn’t have many skeletons in his closet. Good on you, sir.

I just hope he takes care of himself in the shark infested waters he’s waded into.

On selling ‘clean chits’

Robert Vadra recently received a clean chit for his transactions with DLF.

Faking News has more on it:

It’s not yet clear if Vadra would be selling his clean chit, but experts say that the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi would be advised to encash this opportunity.

“Till the time he is the son-in-law of the first family, getting another clean chit shouldn’t be a problem, so he may as well sell it to DLF and make quick money,” Arvind, an expert said.

Faking News is quickly becoming as great in India as The Onion is in the USA.

Also, the spate of scandals recently in Indian governance is seriously disgusting; the only hope is that public reaction reaches a tipping point and leads to something seriously groundbreaking.

Can Arvind Kejriwal make enough of a difference? He’s going to need help, once every other politician starts to come after him.

Jaspal Bhatti dead!

Killed in a road accident.

Bhatti’s car collided with a tree along the highway while he was on his way to Jalandhar for the promotion of his latest film “Power Cut”. Police said that the accident happened around 3 a.m. while Bhatti was on his way to Jalandhar from Bathinda.

Sad, and a huge loss to Indian satire. He was one of the pioneers of political satire in Indian television, and made simple yet powerful shows about the ills and corruptions prevalent in society.

Hindustan times also reported on the incident. Ironically, they chose to uphold perfect journalistic integrity by lifting, verbatim, a profile of Bhatti’s career from his wikipedia page. Without attribution. Including a “[1]” which indicated a wikipedia reference. And, ending their article with: “The cartoonist, humorist, actor and filmmaker is focusing on acting as he is getting numerous offers from Bollywood producers as a comedian.” Guess they trusted Wikipedia to update the article before they copied from there!

HT article screenshot

See what I mean when I say Bhatti’s death is a huge loss? That’s something Bhatti would come up with–as parody–in one of his shows.

Rest In Peace, sir.

 

On Kasab’s death penalty

Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor among the terrorists who unleashed mayhem upon Mumbai, has been given the death penalty. Well, to be precise, his death penalty has been upheld, rejecting his appeal against it.

Confirming the death sentence, the top court observed that the primary and foremost offence that Kasab was charged with was waging war against India and “We are left with no option, but to uphold the sentence.” It also observed that it was, “Crystal clear that the conspiracy was hatched by Pakistanis.”

I suppose this brings a sense of closure, if that is possible, in the Indian psyche as a whole and the victims’ families in particular. Mumbai 26/11 was a terrible tragedy, and it remains unforgivable, notwithstanding today’s verdict.

Other than that, what does the verdict achieve, though? Kasab was very much the ‘small fry’, paid to go in with a gun and fire randomly. The people who did the plotting and scheming and ran the operation sit in comfort—perhaps even hatching and plotting the next unforgivable mission, and selecting the next batch of Kasabs to do their bidding.

I suppose I should be glad, happy, whatever else, that the Kasab saga has drawn to a close. But I’m not. Because the mindless violence doesn’t stop with Kasab. It never began with him; the people who began it and ran it continue to have safe haven, and the violence won’t stop until they are hunted down.


Getting back to the Kasab verdict, two quotes from the news report:

Even as Kasab’s trial has continued, the cost of keeping him alive has been a huge burden on the state exchequer. While the Government has spent over Rs. 5 crores on his high security cell at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail, his security, entrusted to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), has cost the state over Rs. 19 crores [1 crore = 10 million].

and:

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who had been appointed amicus curiae by the Supreme Court to defend Kasab, said after the verdict, “I bow to the verdict of the court. As amicus curiae I was given full opportunity to say all that I could in his defence. Let us take pride in our judicial system which adheres to due process, whoever be the accused and whatever be the crime.”

I agree completely with Mr. Ramachandran. The millions spent on Kasab—worth every penny. His own diligence in defending him—perfect. We have a judicial system—albeit a very imperfect one—but this is the way to show that we adhere to it.

And to show that we treat our prisoners well—even the ones we know have massacred many of us.

Of girls getting married in Saudi Arabia

Trust tradition to try to upstage common sense.

Apparently it’s legal for girls in Saudi Arabia to be married at about 10-12 years of age (I’m guessing the variation in the number is decided by when puberty is reached?), and the idea has been put forward to regulate the minimum age for marriage. (That such an idea is put forward is itself a good first step!)

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has commented on this matter:

“Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.”

Please, don’t be blinded by tradition. Let the kids grow up before you thrust them into marriage.

We have similar problems in India sometimes with underage marriages, but at least it’s actually illegal in India—even though just like in this case, the problem is that tradition manages to trump logic.

Pathetic.

Siding with the Truth–Satyamev Jayate

We are a nation of contrasts.

On the one hand, India is an amazing country, taking many things for granted that other peoples have to strive very hard for. We are a nation of cultures, languages and history; we celebrate festivals of all religions and backgrounds; we are gutsy enough to go back to work the day after we’re bombed and terrorized. We’re not perfect, but we find a way to be a proud, resilient, affable populace.

And yet—we’re not perfect. We take things for granted that other peoples abhor, and have ideas and practices that straight-thinking individuals would repudiate every time. Among other things, we kill our girl children, have set up sexual abuse laws for children only this week, and demand huge favors and material gifts from our women and their families—even going to the extent of killing ‘unsatisfactory brides’—just for their ‘privilege’ of marrying us.

When bad practices are ingrained into a society, there’s perhaps only one way to remove them. Laws help, but not always, especially when social norms and stigma prevent crimes from even being reported. The only way is perhaps to bring the issue into large-scale public discourse, and try and change the thinking of most people in society. Those of us that are not directly affected often are distant in engaging with these issues—‘oh, it’ll never happen with us’!—and a thriving public discourse may be the only way to change that.

Satyamev Jayate (literally, truth stands invincible; this is India’s national motto) is a new TV show that does just this. It talks about the devils lurking in Indian society, and invites individuals who have themselves been scalded to tell their sordid tales. Further, there is an effort to raise money for donating to charities, and sometimes even ideas on how to get personally involved.

This is a great show, and something that everyone in India needs to watch. The first three episodes deal with the three practices I mentioned in the second paragraph—female infanticide, sexual abuse of children, and the ‘business’ of marriages. Credit to Star Plus and Aamir Khan Productions for keeping the shows free-to-watch on the internet after the show airs on TV. Kudos also to Mr. Khan, for choosing this as his entry into television, instead of hosting another game show or another dance competition.

Please, spread the word. Our problems won’t solve themselves. We’re a great nation, but as I’ve said before, we still have a way to go.

Links: