Thursday, March 15, 2012

Larger Questions need to be asked.

I have been watching the debate on the Railway budget over the last two days. I cannot point a single media channel or speaker speaking on the merits of the issues at hand. While in all cases the India inc. representing corporate India and the eager to identify with the rich "aspirational middle class" hog the media limelight and claim that the "jholawallas" by any name reds or TMCites are on opposite sides, the big question is does this government or any care for the national carrier the railways. I am not an economist well versed with the nuances of budget making, however it seems a fact that the railways being a cheap mode of transport has come at this price over the years by the massive concessions offered to the public at large. On the other hand the services and safety aspects have been given a short shrift and today the number of accidents and deaths are reaching unacceptable numbers. Daily loss of lives on the Mumbai suburban network alone is about ten. The level of hygiene, food served and quality of service even in the top trains is nowhere near world class. Most of us accepted this due to our typical "chalta hai" attitude and because the services came cheap.

Every year budgets are made, the railway minister is the king or queen of her ministry, distributing largesse to her constituents and the train services are doled out. Some cosmetic changes are made and figures conjured to give us a rosy picture. A few years back a Laloo Yadav went to Harvard to teach the Americans how to make profit in a welfare ministry. So what is going wrong?? It seems a clear case of short sighted leadership and working without a vision. Now to give credit where it is due, this government in this budget took into consideration the reports of its committees which suggested massive investment to improve services and safety. The money for the same has been given to the railways by the Government in the form of a loan at 8.5% interest. While lakhs of crores are needed the money raised through fare hikes is a mere 6-7000 crores which is like small change. So why this hullabaloo?? Corporate India will tomorrow receive massive doles and largess es for which they lobby, cajole, threaten and even outright bribe the powers that be, and the same media will sing paeans of praise for the reformist budget of Pranobda. Nobody will question these doles but everyone is up in arms when a mere 3000 crore roll back is demanded from this government. Over the last few years the cost of living has gone up exponentially and these fare hikes and debates are just playing with the lives of the poor and political games with the least regard for the country. I am increasingly coming around to a view that Manmohan Singh and his government policies are dictated by corporates and they are increasing disparities which are unprecedented in the life of this nation. We have left Gandhi and his ideals far behind and we live in hope that at least some day we will get a government and a media which addresses these larger questions than have a railway minister while spouting patriotic sentiments talking of losing his job in the same vein as Bhagat Singh making the supreme sacrifice for his country.

So let us ask our leaders to lead the country and not their parties. Let them heed the voices and demands of the silent majority at the bottom of the pyramid and for a change ignore the shouting corporate voices.

Vispi Jokhi

Friday, March 09, 2012

Rahul Dravid Good Bye and Fare well

A lot will be said about Rahul Dravid but personally I feel sad that he did not go on a performance high, but he left with his head held high and dignity intact. I will say Rahul was the "Maryada Purshottam" of Indian cricket and was idealism personified. I cannot think of a single occasion when Dravid could be faulted for his conduct. He was the guy all India loved. For the mothers he represented the ideal son, for the chicks the dependable type of guy who they could have as a partner, for the youth the brother they could only dream of having, for his peers and colleagues the person to emulate. For the purist he was a joy to watch. Yet he was fallible, failed at times but always got up to rediscover himself. Even today I feel that he could have fought on and even if he was dropped would have tried to make a comeback. Like a true Karmayogi he did his duty and performed to achieve results but maintained his equanimity at all times.

There was a phase in his career where a young Dravid found that in the explosive one day format a purist was a misfit. He could not remain technically correct and have a acceptable strike rate. To remain in the team he rediscovered and changed his batting style. In the interest of the balance of the team he agreed to do the back breaking job of wicket keeping and it is a tribute to his fitness that he did just that for a whole world cup. As skipper he presided over the turbulent Chappel era but never has he uttered a word about those times and in the true team spirit let dressing room talk remain just there. Even the incident where he declared the innings closed in a test match against Pakistan with the great Tendulkar short of a double hundred, I distinctly remember Tendulkar slowing down and remember that against all tenets of team spirit Tendulkar expressed publicly his displeasure at being denied a double hundred. Rahul has maintained a dignified silence in this matter. While Dravid has played in an era of great batsmen like Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag and Ganguly, his contribution to Indian team in winning causes is as high if not higher than his team mates.

Along with his illustrious colleague Anil Kumble he has been a relatively unsung hero of Indian and world cricket. His advertising endorsements are few and rare. He hits sixes but rarely, but thing he always does, he puts his teams interest above his individual interest always. His retirement today is another example of this same sentiment. I do not know weather there is something in the soil of Karnataka that Bangalore has produced sporting heroes like Prakash Padukone, Gundappa Vishwanath, Javagal Srinath, AnilKumble and Rahul Dravid all of whom are role models. Even in his finest hour in Australia a few years ago, I remember his modesty and humility when said that adulation and hero worship is not appropriate for achievemnts in a game and should be reserved for the teacher, soldier or the unsung worker who makes supreme sacrifices in the service of others.

Rahul Dravid is 39 years old and he will I am certain now become an ideal family man, mentor coach or commentator. We will see him in the IPL skipper rajasthan royals after having been snubbed by nincompoops like Mallya. Indian cricket and world cricket is today poorer due to the absence of this great human being. In an era starved of role models, he remains the model for all aspiring sportsmen to emulate.

Dr Vispi Jokhi