Category Archives: News

Lokpal tabled in Parliament

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‘No choice’ does not equal ‘Spirit of Mumbai’

mumbai attacksYou know why we all cringe when we hear a cliche? It’s because using a cliche usually represents the forcible application of a generalization or stereotype to a complex situation.

So here is India’s most cringe-worthy cliche – The spirit of Mumbai.

This concept, screamed up to the heavens by nearly all media houses and TV news anchors, has lost its sheen. It is beginning to resemble some sort of creepy badge that is affixed to those unfortunate innocents who suffer a terrorist attack, whether they want it or not. And it really needs to end immediately.

I have friends and family in Mumbai. I don’t want them to be ‘proud, defiant and bold’, stepping out of their homes the very next day after a terrorist attack to go back to school/college/work etc in the ‘spirit of Mumbai’.

I think I would just prefer them to be safe and not have to live in fear.

For the lakhs of daily wage earners in the city it’s either work or starve – a stark choice that does not allow for any leeway.

It’s not like being in the middle of the blasts is like being at a concert or an anti-corruption fast where participation in the event announces its success.

They are not asked for permission before they are attacked. And the next day, they have go to work -whether they really want to or not. Mumbaikars have to get on with their lives and they have no choice in the matter.

Equally grating is the coverage of the event. There is jazzy new-age music played over cuts of bloody bodies, flaming ruins and charred buildings. Loud roll-overs announce the death toll, snappy sound bytes intersperse the images before they cut to news anchors who, literally, scream out the news in lung-wrenching gusto with one adjective every three words on average.

Is it too much to ask that the news be covered in a simple sombre manner which reflects the fact that 17 innocents have been murdered? Is it too much to ask that information is put out without resorting to conspiracy theories, blame-games or even self-congratulatory phrases? And does anyone really care what unique angle each channel takes to cover the event? Just give us the facts and we will appreciate it.

Meanwhile once again we wait to see if we can figure out who committed the attack and make our feeble attempts to catch those responsible.

But those in Mumbai don’t seem optimistic on that outcome.

Vinayak Hegde

Live updates: TN, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam election results

10:00 am: The picture gets rosier for Amma in TN. All she needs is for the trend in the leads to hold and she will romp home the big winner in these elections, along with West Bengal’s own Didi of course.

Tamil Nadu
Party Leading Won Total seats
DMK+ Allies 38 234
ADMK+ Allies 113
Others  1
Party Leading Won Total seats
DMK + Allies  10  30
AIDMK + Allies  5
Others 1

9:50 am: As we await Mamata’s historic win in Bengal, an interesting election tidbit from there:

One of the earliest elections in South Asia brought to power Gopala, a military commander, who was elected the first Buddhist king of Bengal in the eighth century – in  750 AD in Gaur (now in the Malda district in Bengal) to be precise according to a famous Buddhist historian Taranatha (1575-1634).

Gopala was the founder of the famous Pala empire of yore.

9:40 am: For all of you who were missing tables on this page, here goes our first one. In TN, Amma has reasons to cheer, folks, and here is why:

Tamil Nadu
Party Leading Won Total seats
DMK+ Allies 32 234
ADMK+ Allies 72
Party Leading Won Total seats
DMK + Allies  10  30
AIDMK + Allies  4
Others 1

9:30 am: An interesting Tamil Nadu factoid: The first assembly elections involving Tamil Nadu (in the Madras State as it was known then) threw up a hung assembly.

The Congress party, the leading party in the state then, could only win 152 of the 375 seats.

They were forced to turn to that towering figure in Indian politics, C Rajagopalachari (who later refused to stand for a by-election and had to be nominated by the governor).

The wily legend managed to lure back T Prakasam, a key figure, and engineer a series of re-alignments of the various political parties and the independents. When the vote  of confidence came, Rajaji won it by 200 votes to 151. Click here for the latest party position

9:23 am:
We are not calling Tamil Nadu yet
. But ADMK and allies are pulling ahead at the moment, with early leads putting them ahead in 47 out of the 70 seats.

9:20 am: The Bengal elections it is safe to say is in TMC’s bag. Mamata and her allies are ahead in 112 seats, with the Left heading for a rout with just 49 seats against their name.

9:14 am: Assam seems headed the Congress way. Tarun Gogoi looks set to lead his party to a third term in power if early leads are indications. Congress and allies are ahead in 21 out of the 26 seats for which data is in. The Asom Gana Parishad its closest competitor is leading in only three seats. Click here for the latest party positions in all the states

9:03 am: Tamil Nadu is another state where a close fight might be in the offing. Early leads have the ADMK and allies ahead in six seats and DMK and allies ahead in four.Click here for the latest party positions in all the states

8:58 am: 20-7 for the TMC now. Let us reiterate that these are only leads. But the trend seems to point to a Left rout in West Bengal and an end to their 34-year-long stint in power.

A brief pen-sketch of Mamata, the Chief Minister to be: The 56-year-old single woman lives with her mother. The Lok Sabha lists her permanent address as  30-B, Harish Chatterjee Street,Kolkata-700 026 West BengalTels. (033) 24753000.

The daughter of a teacher, she holds a MA, BEd and LLB, and also was trained in work education.

She is known for her fiery temper and frugal lifestyle.

A battle-hardened poll veteran, she certainly is. CPM acolytes famously fractured her skull leaving her hospitalised for many months. As she told Jim Yardley of the New York Times, “They have attacked me many times. From my belly to my back to my eyes, I’m covered in these things (scars).’

8:49 am: Early indications are that Kerala is in for a keen fight. It is a dead heat there with both the UDF and the LDF leading in 58 constituencies each. The two biggies CPI (M) and the Congress have fielded 84 and 81 candidates in the fray respectively. Either of the fronts will need a 71-seat tally to gain a clear majority in the 140-seat assembly. Click here for the latest party positions

8:43 am: TMC and allies have begun to pull ahead in West Bengal. Mamata’s combine is now ahead in 10 out of the 15 constituencies for which leads are in. Mamata spent Thursday working on her paintings. Preparations for a huge victory celebration were also underway at her residence with loudspeakers and the rest of the paraphernalia already assembled. Click here for the latest party positions.

8:40 am: The action is hotting up in Kerala. Now it is neck and neck with both the UDF and the LDF leading in 40 constituencies each.

8: 29 am: It is 36-27 in favour of the UDF (the Congress Front) in Kerala now. Left Front are leading in two constituencies in West Bengal. DMK continues to be ahead in the only seat for which leads are available in Tamil Nadu.

8:22 am: More leads from Kerala. The tally is 25 for UDF and 17 for LDF.  DMK is leading in the only seat for which data is available at the moment from TN.

8.10 am: First leads pour in from Kerala. Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan leads in Malampuzha for over 1000 votes. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan leading in Thalassery with over 3000 votes. UDF is leading in five seats.

8 am: The six-week wait for who will rule Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry, Assam and West Bengal ends today. Counting of votes for Assembly elections began at 8 am in 839 halls spread over in the five states involving 43,982 personnel.

Ahead of counting

Record turnout

It has been one of the biggest elections in recent times.

Big because Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the two most important states among the five awaiting the verdicts on Friday, have recorded their highest polling percentages in 60 years.

Big because all analysts are predicting a win (at long last) for Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance, who they say will sweep the ruling Left Front out of power for the first time in 34 years.

And big, well, because when over 215 million people get together to decide their future, you can’t call the event anything but big…

Some interesting facts from the polling data shared by the election commission ahead of the results.

Home is where their heart is

For the first time 4,639 overseas voters, out of the 8,820 who had registered, exercised their franchise in the Kerala elections.

Women power

Women yet again turned out to be more eager voters than men.

“I am very happy to tell you like Bihar, women turned out in larger number than men in Kerala, Puducherry, West Bengal and (in) almost equal (numbers) in Tamil Nadu,” Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi revealed in New Delhi.

And when it came to the actual percentages, it was not just Tamil Nadu and West Bengal that recorded high numbers.

They were in the high seventies and above throughout – with Tamil Nadu recording 78.8%, West Bengal 84.46%, Kerala 75.12%, Puducherry 85.57% and Assam 76.04%.

Money power

The Election Commission revealed that over Rs 74.27 crore in unaccounted money had been seized during the elections.

Tamil Nadu led the way with over Rs 60.1 crore being recovered from the state.

In Assam, Rs 5.20 crore was seized.

Raids in West Bengal yielded Rs 8.35 crore and those in Kerala Rs 62 lakh.

Eleven cases of ‘paid news’ were also being investigated by the commission.

The actual counting

The Chief Election Commissioner has said that the vote counting will take place in 839 halls – 234 of them in Tamil Nadu, 312 in West Bengal, 142 in Assam, 140 in Kerala, and 11 in Puducherry.

An elaborate three-tier security cordon has been put in place for the counting, set to begin at 8 am.

43,982 officials and nearly 17,700 central security personnel will be involved in the process.

Exit Poll predictions: Here is how the various exit polls called the elections

Mobile number portability: A great idea sirji?

Mobile number portability

Mobile number portability

Okay, as of Thursday we will all have the means to switch mobile phone operators without having to lose our precious 10-digits.

But is this the real deal we as cell phone users really sought?

Before you pop a vein in outrage and accuse me of whining against a much-needed “progressive” law, consider that as an Indian mobile phone user you still can’t keep the same number living in another state in the country.

Consider that you still pay substantially high amounts to get new SIMs and are otherwise charged a lot more under “roaming” charges, when in fact you are still only roaming well within the confines of your own country.

We call ourselves united, a nation of one, and yet we are forced to pay to get new SIM connections just because we choose to move to live in another part of this good green nation.

I don’t want to offend any pro-Telangana, anti-Telangana or neutrals with this hypothetical example, but consider that if tomorrow they do decide to partition Andhra Pradesh into two or more numbers, and decide to call it two states, then bigger contentious issues aside, would I have to then pay roaming charges travelling from Visakhapatnam to say Hyderabad?

Idea Mobile Number Portability: ‘Lift’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to flag off the nationwide rollout of number portability on Thursday. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal claims that this move would increase competition among providers, “enhance” choice among consumers and force telecom providers to “improve the quality of their services”.

I really wonder if portability would do all that. Because much of the mobile phone users I know are more than content with sticking with one mobile service operator.

How many people do you really know are eager to switch from A to V? They are virtually the same. The rates are almost the same. The service, barring minor differences, is the same and yet we are supposed to get excited about this paltry new reform set to be unveiled?

This just sounds like another pretentious move to keep the public content with moderately improved services.

And despite the comforting fact that V and A do allow me as a user to shut their ridiculous promotional offers on call and messages within a month or two of me harassing their staff and raising a “Do Not Disturb” complaint at their office, I still get weird automated calls from husky sounding women singing vernacular songs that gloat up some random company or offer.

Yes, I’m a mobile phone user and I’m still deeply disturbed by the service I receive. Now here’s an Idea, sirji: How about we get mobile numbers and SIMs that follow us wherever we choose to move to within India? How about a real ban on unsolicited texts and calls from all those companies whose products I don’t need?

Ashwin Sriram

Barkha Dutt on the Radia tapes – The bark trumped the byte

On Tuesday night, Barkha Dutt went on air to do something we wish our politicians were brave enough to do – To face questions from a panel of editors on her role in the Niira Radia tapes.

It would have been the perfect retort to the mob flooding social networking sites demanding answers from the NDTV Group Editor, mocking her with Twitter hashtags like #Barkhagate and crying out for more coverage on the tapes.

The debate that the NDTV proudly said was unedited, however, just showed up the cracks in Television debates as we know it in India.

The loudest one (Barkha, in this instance) interrupted the rest; her sentences were so long that you forgot how it began before it ended; and more than one person spoke up when uncomfortable questions came up.

Read the rest of the entry

It’s decided: Ayodhya is to be divided



The Allahabad High Court rules that the disputed land in Ayodhya be divided into three parts to be distributed among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party for ‘Ram Lalla.’

Live updates on the verdict:

1:03 am: Ayodhya verdict taken positively as leaders appeal for calm

00: 17 am: Mixed reaction to Ayodhya verdict in Pakistan

00:12 am: @awaaz_neeche – kalmadi can heave a sign of relief, today ppl forgot kalmadi bashing thanx 2 ayodhya verdict. N from 2morow india vs aus test series.

11:59 pm: Police zeal draw flak from Hyderabad residents

11: 27 pm: Ayodhya: Judge refers 274 books, 798 judgements in 5,238 pages

11:05 pm: Sangh Parivar invites Muslims to build temple

10:48 pm: Ayodhya verdict opens a new chapter for national integration: BJP

10:30 pm: @sidvee –  If Lalit Modi had been in charge of this Ayodhya verdict, Shankar Mahadevan would have been performing by now

10:00 pm: The decision has opened up a ‘chance for reconciliation’ between Hindus and Muslims of India, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said on Thursday after the verdict (Read More)

9:45 pm: The Ayodhya verdict has been hailed as a “mature” decision by Bollywood celebrities who have urged their fans to maintain peace. (Read More)

We have built enough mosques and temples. Lets build the nation now #ayodhya #verdict
8:10 pm: In a statement, the PM today appealed to all Indians to respect the verdict and cautioned the public not to take heed of any ‘disruptive elements’ who might try to stir up trouble. He also said he had complete faith in the secular spirit of the nation.  (Read Full Report)
Ayodhya tweet – @mohak INDIAN WINS BIG OUTSOURCING CONTRACT! Jerusalem, Palestine, Israel issue to be resolved by Allahabad High Court!!!! #ayodhya

6.14 pm: What the judges said: Here is a gist of the text of the verdict by  the three judges

6.07  pm: ‘Babri mosque was built at Ram birthplace’: More details on the verdict

6.01 pm: We should all welcome the judgement, says Congress

5.58 pm: UP Chief Minister Mayawati appeals for calm

5.53 pm:  The RSS says the Allahabad High Court verdict  should not been seen as anybody’s victory or defeat.

5.44 pm: Chaos at media centre after the Ayodhya verdict

5.41 pm: Allahabad High Court website crashes

5.30 pm: Meet the  three judges – two Hindus and a Muslim – of the  Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court who authored the long-awaited verdict on the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute

5.28 pm: Verdict opens up ‘chance for reconciliation’: Muslim panel member

5.22 pm: Sunni Wakf board lawyer to appeal against Ayodhya verdict

5.11 pm: Ayodhya land to be divided in three. Click here for the story

5.10 pm: Ayodhya verdict –  Babri Committee disappointed, will move SC

5.08 pm: Accept the verdict: Litigant Hashim Ansari

5.06 pm: Will study the Judgment and then react, says  Law Minister

5.05 pm: Ram idols existed on site, says Allahabad High Court

5.00 pm: The initial confusion that was unleashed was unbelievable. TV channels being allowed to telecast images of over-the-top lawyers flaunting victory signs was also uncalled for. Couldn’t the government have ensured that at least this didn’t happen? What do you think? Leave your comments below

4.58: The ownership of the disputed site is to be divided into three parts: the site of the Ramlala idol to Lord Ram, Nirmohi Akhara gets Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, Sunni Wakf Board gets the rest:  TOI

4.56: Nirmohi Akahara gets Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara

4.54: Disputed land divided into three parts:  The Allahabad High Court rules that the disputed land in Ayodhya be divided into three parts to be distributed among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party for ‘Ram Lalla’, say lawyers.

4.52 pm: Division of the land to start in three months: 1/3 for temple, 1/3 for Sunni Wakf Board, claim to third part not known yet, says counsel for Hindu Mahasabha

4.46 pm: Judges have suggested a three-way division of the 40m x 27m disputed land: Ravi Shankar Prasad, lawyer and BJP leader

4.43 pm: Sunni Central Board’s suit dismissed, claims lawyer of Hindu Maha Sabha

4.42 pm: Court accepts that the disputed land is Ram Janmabhoomi, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

4.41 pm: Ayodhya verdict out, judgement runs to 8,000 pages

4.36 pm: Chaos outside court as lawyers hold individual press briefings

4.31 pm: Lawyers brief media outside court

4.30 pm: Aaj Tak says: Court Gates are opened and copy of the order is likely to be read out soon

4.25 pm: The Allahabad High Court’s ruling on Thursday will address three questions: whether the disputed spot was Rama’s birthplace; whether the mosque was built after the demolition of a temple; and if the mosque was built in accordance with the tenets of Islam. The primer on the dispute can be found here

4.23 pm: Ayodhya: Judges to give three separate judgements

4.20 pm: The Ayodhya dispute centres around a piece of land 40m x 27m. The High Court verdict will decide who owns it

4.16 pm: BJP core group to meet after Ayodhya verdict

4.15 pm: Cabinet Committee on Security to discuss Ayodhya Verdict

4.12 pm: Hundreds of journalists gather outside court

4.09 pm: 51-member body to deliberate on the Ayodhya Verdict

3.56 pm:  All India Muslim Personal Law Board to meet later today

3.43 pm: Media to be briefed at the DC’s office

3.36 pm: Petitioners to be brought to media centre to brief the media

3.28 pm: BJP meet at 6 pm

3.22 pm: Roads around the High Court building sealed

3.18 pm: Lucknow Bench declared ‘no access zone’

3.14 pm: Judges to give three separate judgements. Details here

3.10 pm: Justice Dharamveer Sharma, Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice SU Khan to deliver verdict

3.02 pm: 3-Judge bench to deliver verdict

2.55 pm: Verdict will be given to media from DC’s office: Lucknow DM

2.45 pm: Maintain peace and tranquility: Chidambaram

Tweet on Ayodhya –  @Rumsii The way we respond to the Ayodhya verdict 2dy wud determine how mature the Indian youngistan is. I hope we keep our secularism unhurt.

2.35 pm: Full verdict to be available on Allahabad High Court and

Tweet on Ayodhya – @sagarikaghose No Ayodhya discussions or polemic on CNN IBN. We don’t believe in raising temperatures for TRPs.

2.31 pm: 2000 paramilitary forces on vigil

2.26 pm: Cabinet Committee on Security to meet at 5 pm today

Tweet on Ayodhya @vaibhavmeh Minutes left in ayodhya verdict…jus hoping my countrymen will keep up the oath which they use to take

2.22 pm: 22 Uttar Pradesh areas under air surveillance

2.18 pm: Tight security arrangements in Rajasthan

2.16 pm: Bollywood appeals people to maintain calm

2.14 pm: Tight security in Karnataka ahead of Ayodhya verdict

Tweet on Ayodhya –  @vikaspgoel 1992 to 2010 ; Bombay to Mumbai . Let’s prove that it’s more than just a name change , we have grown up. #Ayodhya

2.10 pm: 1,19,000 policemen have been deployed in UP

2.05 pm:  Security forces mobilised

Tweet on Ayodhya –  @reachsundar #Ayodhya verdict on #Flintstones 50th anniversary…Coincidence or a hint to us that we gonna go back to the caves if we fight – – – again!!

2.00 pm: Sonia, Chidambaram appeal for peace

What a crying shame!

We have spent Rs 75000-odd crores, according to some estimates, on the Commonwealth Games to heap shame on ourselves. How Indian indeed!

On Thursday, the BBC has put up images of the Commonwealth Games village that will make any self-respecting Indian’s head bow in shame.

Doesn’t it makes us all wonder why the government went chasing after the rights of a Games that evokes such little passion in the first place? After all, this was no Olympics, no Asian Games, no FIFA World Cup, no T20 World Cup even.

The less said about the planning too, the better.

Funds were released late, despite us winning the bid in 2003. And once they were cleared, no proper organisational structure was put in place.

Whatever happened to that very Indian trait – the need to weave an intricate bureaucratic web ALWAYS? Our babus and ministers display an undying love for it when there is little need. At a time when we needed a clearly thought out hierarchy the most, though, almost no effort was made.

Instead, we kept it simple. Our idea of a successful organising committee was having Suresh Kalmadi at the helm. Does more need to be said?

The Delhi government and various lower-level committees that were involved in this massive non-exercise shouldn’t also be forgotten. Their list of failures are so long that it even winds its way via the doorsteps of India’s legendary metro man E Sreedharan, whose team was given such a tight deadline that they found themselves dealing with a sad mishap that claimed lives.

Sitting at the head of this ruinous extravaganza was a Prime Minister, who kept a studious distance from this all. The rest of the world might call him wise, but what was the wisdom in his approach of considered silence till today?

Worst of all, we couldn’t even cobble together a decent bunch of spokesmen when the shit hit the ceiling.

Oops! Dangerous word that – the ceiling. But I am getting away from my point. Couldn’t we at least spot our Lalit Bhanots and shield them from the world media and the microphones then?

Since it is the queen’s games, let me end by posing the moot question once again – why at all did we have to get into this right royal mess?

The lesson we Indians must learn at least now is to avoid such attempts at advertisement in future.

Yes, in incredible India, bribes can be taken and given; corners can be cut; deadlines can be missed and power can be abused – but not on the world stage, please.

R Rajesh Kumar