'Obsession with politics blurs the vision'

Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s remark that ‘obsession with politics blurs the vision’, must not be looked only in the context that the minister assigned.

Kapil Sibal’s context – broadly on the opposition’s continued demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scam and specifically on Arun Jaitley’s remark that the manner in which a judicial probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scam was announced may invite breach of Parliamentary privilege.

A little introspection into Kapil Sibal’s own party in another recent episode will betray how obsession with politics has blurred the vision of the Congress party too.

The Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh’s claim that the ex-Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare had called him two hours before 26/11 attacks to say that his life was in danger, is bound to shock anyone. Digvijay saidthat his initial reaction on hearing about Karkare’s death was, 'Oh God, they have killed him'.

It may be another thing that Hemant Karkare’s widow has accused Digvijay Singh of playing politics with her husband’s death.

A little background about Digvijay’s statement: Karkare was investigating the Malegaon bomb blast allegedly carried out by Hindu extremists. Days after Karkare’s death, the then minority affairs minister AR Antulay made an unsubstantiated statement: Karkare could have been a victim of “terrorism or terrorism plus something”.

Rejecting Digvijay’s entire claim, Kavita Karkare (Hemant Karkare’s wife) ascertained (on Dec’ 12) that if her husband felt threatened by anyone, she would have known. She said that her husband did not get any threat calls and Hindu extremists did not have anything to do with the death of her husband.

Interestingly, the latest disclosures by WikiLeaks point that secret cables sent to United States after a month of the Mumbai attacks revealed, the United States thought that the Congress ‘implicitly endorsed the conspiracy theory’ after initially distancing itself from its own party man AR Antulay’s ‘completely unsubstantiated claims’. And US reportedly feels that the Congress backed the conspiracy theory to please Muslims.

There may be another reason behind Digvijay Singh playing the Muslim card now. The Congress earlier this month appointed Digvijay Singh as in-charge of the party's affairs in Assam, a state which has a high population of Muslims and no political party in the state can think of forming the government without their support.

Now, the Congress party is trying to distance itself from the party general secretary’s controversial remark calling it the leader's personal statement. Had it been any other party which gives its leaders freedom to express their views, it would have been easier to believe this. But not with the Congress.

In a significant revelation, Ms. Kavita Karkare has reportedly denied that Digvijay Singh knew her husband personally, contrary to the defense that the Congress later tried to put.
What is of more significance is Ms. Karkare revealation that during the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections (2009), she was approached by political parties who offered her money to speak to the media and make statements that suited them.

Off course Ms. Kavita Karkare was very clear and said, “no such questions would be entertained.”

High on whitener, low on health

As the three kids entered the crowded bus in New Delhi railway station, the conductor at once grabbed them for tickets. Their untidy clothes and blank faces made him guess that they were ticketless passengers. The boys, ages 10 to 14, looked unaffected. They seemed accustomed to the rough handling. Closer scrutiny revealed that they were in some kind of stupor. 

The youngest who was bare-chested held his shirt close to his mouth constantly inhaling from it. The eldest after the brief scuffle with the conductor joined his partner taking out a folded handkerchief from his pocket. It contained the intoxicant. All through their half-hour journey from New Delhi Railway station to Nizamudin, they kept their pieces of cloths close to their mouths. As if it was their life. 

The other passengers in the bus seemed unconcerned. One of the boys who felt that the effect had lessened took out a white tube from his pocket and squeezed some transparent liquid on his piece of cloth, quickly slipping the tube back to his pocket. 

The tube contained whitener - a white fluid used to erase errors in handwritten, printed papers. It is increasingly being used by street children as an addiction. The addicts who are mostly adolescents sniff it. 

I could no longer hold myself and I enquired about their whereabouts. The eldest who seemed their head called himself Yasin. He said that he lived in Nizamudin in South Delhi with his elder brother who was a rickshaw-puller. His two friends were his neighbours. His voice was hoarse and manly unsuited to his age. And he spoke with a lot of effort. 

He revealed that the piece of cloth contained whitener which they bought from Nizammudin. For the people living in the capital, the sight of poor street urchins is not a very uncommon one. Many among them are also aware of the addictions that these people get into very early in life. 

What is more worrying is that whitener addiction in juveniles is increasingly being associated with crimes. 

300% more harmful than alcohol

Inhaling the substance is many times more harmful than alcohol, say health experts.

Dr Dnyaneshwari Patharkar of Go India Foundation says that inhaling whiteners is 300 per cent more harmful than regular alcohol because it directly affects the nervous system and hampers functioning of lungs, brain and kidneys.
Interestingly, the substance is not covered under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and therefore the police are finding it difficult to tackle this menace. The police cannot stop it sale as it is a stationery product that is easily available in the market. It is the shopkeepers who have to limit its sale to students and office-goers.

A 15 ml bottle of whitener along with a diluter of the same quantity costs around Rs 25-30.

Will India produce the next globally innovative product

When Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria asks if the Indian IT industry is aiming to give the world the next Google, Facebook or Twitter, we don't have an answer. This, in spite of the fact that IT is one industry that we pride ourselves in. In fact, most other industries too have failed to provide a globally innovative product. One reason for this is Indian companies aim to cater to a demand led market to get faster return on their investment.

For this reason and for many others the average engineer or IT professional in India fails to think beyond a hefty paying job. The mentality of the society is also such that it forces Indians even with efficient skills and ability to play safe. The government and corporates should have the foresight to encourage young minds by investing in R & D to drive innovation. Otherwise India will continue to be looked at as a centre for very basic IT work and for routine customer requirement.

New mantra of marketing gurus- Join the Social service bandwagon

How do you react when Mahendra Singh Dhoni emotionally appeals to you to Save the Tiger in a television commercial? Off course you are touched by the dwindling number of the wild cats in Indian forests and by this novel initiative of Aircel in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). But, the first question that might hit you is how?

Don’t expect the Indian cricket captain to provide an answer. Or star footballer Baichung Bhutia and actor Suriya who may follow with the same appeals in other ads to tell you how you should save the animal from extinction. Aircel, which in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has launched this “public service campaign”, should tell the viewers how it would like them to save the tiger. Or if the initiative is solely about USP and nothing else then an advertisement about Aircel’s new night chat plan might well do the task.

Marketing gurus have found a new mantra to enhance their company’s brand image: join the social service bandwagon.

Good intensions are useless in the absence of commonsense.
-Jami, Baharistan

Where 3 idiots fail

3 idiots is undoubtedly a brilliantly entertaining movie that captures the decay in the Indian education system. It celebrates creativity and pragmatism over convention and principles. However, where the film fails is its failure to rise above conventional stereotypes of “success”.

The film impresses when it encourages the protagonists to pursue their passions and undertake a non-conformist path. The motto (of Baba Ranchhoddas) to strive for excellence and not run after success confronts the non-creative and tyrannical nature of the education system.

However, the movie disappoints by rewarding the lead character Rancho played by Aamir Khan with the same old definition of success that it earlier confronts. He emerges as a brilliant scientist with some 400 patents to his name and the one whom Chatur, a product of the nerd is seeking to woo.

In fact, even the other friend is shown, though subserviently, rewarded in the stereotypical definition of success. Farhan, played by Madhavan has authored several books on “Wildlife” which in a way is testimony to his “successful” career.

Perhaps Rajkumar Hirani was more concerned about doing Bollywood-style justice to the “rebellious” student by making “success” in the form of Chatur run after Rancho as promulgated by the erstwhile Baba Ranchhoddas. One can argue that the school which Rancho runs towards the end of the film is enough testimony to his victory. And in his own definition.

Morality of 3 idiots and Chetan Bhagat? Afterthoughts of Chetan Bhagat and 3 idiots controversy

The basis of Chetan Bhagat’s argument over not giving him “due credit” in the film 3 idiots has been moral and not legal.

Bhagat had entered into a contract with Vinod Chopra Films Private Ltd, under which he assigned the rights of film adaptation to the production house. He was given a certain sum of money in return. The author admits to this and there is no confusion here.

What Bhagat has argued is about the credits in the film and its attribution to the novel. For the first two times that I watched the film, I missed the credit to the author just like Bhagat’s mother did. It squeezes in one line “Based on the novel “Five Point Someone” by Chetan Bhagat”, at the end of the film just before the Special Thanks begin. The script writer Abhijat Joshi is credited right at the start of the movie. Moreover, Bhagat is also upset with what the producers’ have claimed – that the movie contains only 5 percent of the book.

Having read Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone and watched the movie it is quite easy to draw comparisons between them. The script of 3 idiots borrows significantly from the book and one cannot dispute this. (For similarities you can follow the link)

When a journalist had interrogated Vidhu Vinod Chopra about the similarity, the producer of the film had very wryly questioned “have you read the book?” When the journalist answered in the negative, he said “Then Shut Up.” I would have interpreted it as - then “Go and first read the book.” It is difficult to ascertain that the controversy meant an increase in the sale of Five Point Someone or more audiences for 3 idiots. But I know of at least 10 people who read the book only after the controversy. And many others who had earlier read the book and now watched the movie to find out about the controversy that the media was highlighting. Thus, both the parties benefitted.

I am not saying that everything was scripted. But, both the author and the actor are known to market their products in a number of "different" ways. Who knows?

The views expressed in the article are personal.