BCCI DOESN’T BELIEVE IN COMMUNICATING!

Continuing from my last article, I thought to do some more data crunching with BCCI annual reports (or income/expenditures statements to be precise). On BCCI’s official website, you can find annual reports of the world’s richest (and now insensitive) cricket body from the financial year 2007-08 onwards.

I am not saying I carried out some deep data mining. In fact, I was not in a mood to do so because, it seems, everything related to BCCI is so complicatedly dull. Account statements shown in annual reports 2014-15 and 2013-14 look straight and easy to comprehend but when you look at 2012-13 AR, the income and expenditure statements look jumbled because they don’t correlate with what you find in the next year’s AR, i.e., the income and expenditure statements for the financial year 2011-12 are different in 2011-12 and 2012-13 ARs.

Okay, there might be some heads that I might be missing. Not an issue! There are various ways to write financial data and bookkeeping and tabulation is a boringly tedious process.

Anyway, my purpose to look into ARs of BCCI is not about its financial spreadsheets and their clarity.

In the season of continued ‘ignorances’ and convenient ‘dumbnesses’, when India’s policymakers have persisted with the same set of policies that would force thousands of farmers to commit suicide, mostly due to drought, and sometimes due to freaky weather patterns, my purpose was to look into the nature of the ‘responsiveness (or social responsiveness)’ of BCCI – as the organization that controls cricket in India, a game loved (if not revered now) by masses has found itself caught in an episode that tested its commitment towards them – who give it the sanctity to exist – who make it the richest cricket body in the world – who make cricketers stars and millionaires – yes, their love for cricket – that makes cricket a massive enterprise in India.

But BCCI failed to prove enterprising for them – for the people of this country.

Let’s see some figures here.

BCCI AR

Now what do they tell?

To be continued..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

CSR IN BCCI LOGBOOK: WELL, IT IS NOT THERE!

The Board of Control for Cricket in India or BCCI, the richest cricket body in the world, traces the history of cricket in India as far back as to 1721, as mentioned on its website.

BCCI, that was registered in December 1928 as the apex body of six private cricketing associations, showed an income of Rs. 1266 crore in its balance sheet for the year ended March 31, 2015. The 2014-15 annual report showed a fund flow of Rs. 5437 crore including the sources of funds and their application.

BCCI that claimed being a ‘charitable organisation’, availed tax exemptions for decades, before the tax authorities decided that enough was enough, that BCCI was not a ‘charitable organisation’, but an entity driven by entertainment products and commercial interests. BCCI is now in courts against around Rs. 2300 crore tax imposed on it.

BCCI that controls cricket in India, a game with mass following, with an iron hand, is facing the Supreme Court’s ire on its persistence to maintain the status quo, on its refusal to bring reforms that can cure deeply rooted corruption in the apex body of cricket in India.

How can we expect from that organisation that it will behave in a socially responsible manner and would shift the IPL matches out of drought affected regions – with 10 Indian states officially declaring drought and India facing one of the worst droughts in its history?

This is the second consecutive year when a below normal rainfall has forced the millions of Indians to struggle for a even a single drop of water and has forced thousands of farmers to commit suicide.

Today, as expected, the Bombay High Court forced BCCI to take IPL out of Maharashtra. Yes, it was logical when the court put this restriction on matches after April 30, keeping in mind the fact the holding matches at a particular venue needs weeks of planning and work.

But even then, there was no ‘common sense’ wisdom dawned upon the arrogant and insensitive BCCI administrators as they started cribbing immediately after the verdict that it was too difficult to shift venues now, that it would harm in the brand IPL, that it would cause financial damage to the franchisees, that IPL was made a soft target, and what not.

Well, you cannot expect social consciousness from an organisation that earns billions but doesn’t want to pay taxes properly and desists from spending on practices like corporate social responsibility.

A simple document search of BCCI’s latest annual report available on its website (for year 2014-15) with key search words – corporate, social, responsibility, PR, outreach, conscience, citizenship and communication – words, when used in the context of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), represent social consciousness of on organization – tells how insensitive and in fact, commerce oriented BCCI is.

Here is the ‘cheat’ sheet with the information on how many times a Communication/CSR related word has been used in the annual report and in what context: (and not even a single of them qualifies as a proper CSR word suggesting some socially responsible intent)!

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – 0
CSR – 0
PUBLIC RELATIONS – 0
PR – 0
OUTREACH – 0
CONSCIENCE – 0
CITIZENSHIP – 0

CORPORATE (1)

  • Corporate Trophy (under the head – expenditure related to cricketing activities)

SOCIAL (1)

  • BCCI presence on social media platforms is being significantly strengthened to connect directly with fans.

RESPONSIBILITY (4)

  • It places an enormous responsibility on coaches at the grassroots level and on administrators.
  • As much as it is our responsibility to contribute to our team’s cause, it is also up to us to remember that we are entertainers too.
  • It becomes our singular responsibility to offer the right guidance to the younger cricketers..
  • While the ICC ACSU is mainly tasked with providing anticorruption cover to international matches played between Full Member National Cricket Federations, it is the responsibility of the BCCI Anti-Corruption Unit to protect all domestic games played under the aegis of the BCCI.

RESPONSIBLE (4)

  • He along with Mr. IS Bindra was responsible for ensuring a fair deal to the BCCI.. (about Jagmohan Dalmiya)
  • He was responsible for the return of South Africa.. (about Jagmohan Dalmiya)
  • He was responsible for introducing medical benevolent scheme for the retired cricketers and umpires. (about Jagmohan Dalmiya)
  • “We feel socially responsible as a unit wearing this kit and doing our bit for the environment. (R Ashwin on India’s new jersey launch – and that too, at Melbourne)

PUBLIC (2)

  • I have to request you to make best endeavours to work towards eradicating corruption from the game of cricket at the state level and assist the BCCI in its efforts to restore the faith of the cricket loving public in cricket. Shashank Manohar
  • It becomes our singular responsibility to offer the right guidance to the younger cricketers – not just on cricketing techniques but also on how to conduct oneself in public and how to be able to differentiate right from wrong.

RELATION(S) (4)

  • There is regular flow of information and news, and relations with the media are structured in a spirit of partnership and professionalism.
  • .. by the Board and defaulted in relation to the balance franchisee fee of ` 133.86 Crores.
  • .. It becomes our singular responsibility to offer the right guidance to the younger cricketers – not just on cricketing techniques but also on how to conduct oneself in public and how to be able to differentiate right from wrong..
  • .. obligations relating to UAE league matches vest with the Board and the Franchisee shall have no rights or obligations in relation to the staging of the Matches.

COMMUNICATION (7)

  • Communication Expenses (under the head ‘administrative and other expenses’)
  • Communication Expenses (under the head ‘establishment and other expenses’)
  • During the year ended 31st March, 2010, the
  • Board received a communication from the Director of Income Tax (Exemption).. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • The Board’s appeal with the ITAT against the said communication had been dismissed as non- maintainable by the ITAT. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • .. the Board has also filed a writ petition before the Honourable High Court of Bombay to stay the communication of the Director of Income Tax. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • During the year ended 31 March 2013, based on communication from Income Tax Department, the Board had paid an amount of `144.32 Crores under protest. (under the section ‘income tax assessment status’)
  • Disputed Matters with Nimbus Communication Limited (under the section ‘Dispute With Nimbus Communications Limited’)

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MAHARASHTRA IPL MATCHES: WHY BCCI IS RISKING BRAND IPL! WHAT GURUS SAY ABOUT A BRAND’S IDENTITY!

Can IPL risk being tagged anti-farmers?

Can BCCI risk being tagged anti-people?

Can Cricket risk being tagged anti-society?

What should be the BCCI response in the Bombay High Court in the ongoing hearing over watering pitches for the IPL matches in Maharashtra when the state is facing the worst ever drought in 100 years?

Because, even if cricket is still a game with mass following in India, it is no more a sports that used to arouse nationalist sentiments in masses in India. It happened to be an Indian’s passion across the class divide. That is not the case anymore. Cricket is in imminent danger of being labelled a game played by insensitive people and manned by ignorant bosses!

There are allegations that cricketers prefer to play in club class tournaments like IPL than for the national team because of commercial considerations. The cricket administration in India needs some deep cleansing and the country’s Supreme Court is trying to ensure that even if BCCI is hell-bent on opposing them.

IPL was launched as the next big thing in cricket and initially proved to be a highly successful cricketing brand aimed at revolutionizing the way the gentleman’s game was played. It had all the elements to include a prevailing youth identity – high decibel music, colourful outfits, glamorous cheerleaders, female show hosts, and parties at the end of each day and so on.

But now in its ninth year, the IPL brand has lost much of its sheen. In fact, the IPL brand value of around 3.2 to 3.5 billion US$ may see a hit of 15%, and these estimates came before the Maharashtra drought controversy began.

To ingest a youthful character, additions like cheerleaders and after-match night parties were added to the format. There is no data on how cheerleaders have helped the brand and the game, but they have been a continuous source of controversy for the tournament. And controversies and criticism pushed the organizers to stop the practice of after-match night parties. But what caused the real damage was this revelation that the IPL matches were being fixed and could easily be fixed – and not just players were involved – but also the team owners and managers.

Award winning brand consultant Simon Mainwaring says, “The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.”

Bur even after nine successful years, IPL has failed to define its character. It draws its sanctity from cricket’s mass following in India but has compromised on cricket’s ‘a gentleman’s game’ image in the blind race to commercialization – failing to ensure transparency, authenticity and accountability with its baggage of growing controversies.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says, “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”

India started slowly in the world cricket and stepped up its stature gradually. It was decades of hard-work, propelled with patriotic sentiments to see India’s team winning that made it a game with mass following. Until IPL happened cricket was revered by masses. Though the dent had started in the last years of the last decade with match-fixing controversies, IPL finally started eroding that trust base. No one questioned BCCI to this extent that is happening these days as long as cricket earned its reputation by sheer hard-work and determination to play for the nation.

Starbucks’ Howard Schultz sums up this sentiment, “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”

Anything but human spirit, that is what we can say about IPL now, an interest that is certainly not in human spirit, an interest that is on display here by BCCI, after its persistence on holding the 20 IPL matches in Maharashtra that would take some 7 million litres of water to maintain the grounds when Maharashtra is facing the one of the worst droughts in the Indian history.

Certainly the heart is not here, with a the human spirit, otherwise BCCI would have realized its social obligations and would have taken the lead helping the drought-hit farmers and would have shifted the IPL matches out of Maharashtra on its own. After all, BCCI is the world’s richest cricket body with around Rs. 2000 crore in annual revenue and many Indian cricketers are millionaires. In fact, taking an initiative on their own would have helped BCCI to do some good damage control exercise for the brand IPL that has been hit badly by a series of controversies.

Howard Schultz says, “Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

BCCI’s insistence on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra and coming with silly counter-logics in the Bombay High Court that has already said some pretty tough words putting BCCI in the dock, something that has caused much public infamy and embarrassment, has made BCCI’s intense promotional campaign for this version of IPL, ‘Ek India Happywala’ (An India That Is Happy) look phoney, a sort of ‘rubbing salt in the wound’. It was a blunder when BCCI said it would take treated sewage water from a different entity and would transport it to Pune for the matches being held there.

The father of advertising, David Ogilvy says, “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

Yes, Indians did not want to hear the lame logic BCCI came up with in the court. Instead, if it could arrange, it should have offered that treated water to drought affected people who are not getting water even for bathing and other daily usage. BCCI should have realized the damage done so far with its stand in the issue and it could have been a good point for reconciliation for the deteriorating brand value of IPL.

Ogilvy says, “You have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.

Yes, it was a chance for BCCI to hold the ship together for the brand IPL, to give it a character, a personality. It was an opportunity for BCCI for an image makeover of IPL. BCCI’s arrogance started the row but a timely realization and thus a social intervention could have put BCCI on the way to commence on necessary rectifications for the brand IPL.

But BCCI chose to take the other way – fuelled by its arrogance – and commercial concerns – even if it means a harsh reproach by the Bombay High Court and angry responses by activists, farmer leaders, drought-affected people and people across the country.

And now, if the court passes an order that compels BCCI to shift the games out of Maharashtra, it will be a triple whammy, something that could well be the final undoing for the brand IPL.

Already, the Supreme Court is hearing the case on BCCI reforms and is sure to pass some strict measures to curb corruption and nepotism in the organization (the measures which BCCI is opposing). An adverse order by the Bombay High Court would force BCCI to discipline itself to take Maharashtra IPL matches out that would certainly send a bad message. And it would cause further damage to the already jeopardized brand IPL. BCCI would certainly lose its face to face people of the country after this IPL fiasco unless some fundamental reforms that can convince people take places in the organization.

In an age of absolute tele-density and thus information availability and social media access, it is hard to fool people for long – be it people from the country’s drought-affected areas – or people in general – people whom BCCI sees as its consumers – who consume the television broadcasts of matches – or those who buy tickets for a stadium experience. Ogilvy reminds, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE IPL DROUGHT

Okay, at the face of it, let’s accept that if at all there is any rush of sentiments left for cricket, it for the national level matches, and certainly not for the club tournaments like IPL.

IPL, a highly successful brand name, has been highly controversial too – with its fair share of fixing and betting controversies and ‘spill over’ dozes of glamour and entertainment. While sitting in a stadium during an IPL game, what you come across is deafening music and silly commentary that simply dilutes the thrill of cricket.

Anyway, I am not going to look into highs and lows of IPL here.

It is about the ‘IPL drought’ controversy here – IPL drought because by continued insistence on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra (20 in all – at Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur grounds) – and thus wasting some 60 to 65 lakh litres of water water (some estimates say 70 lakh) – when the Maharashtra state government is failing to ensure even an abysmally low supply of 20 litres a day to the families in the drought affected districts – contributing thus to the misery of people already afflicted with the one of the worst drought seasons the state is witnessing – BCCI, the body governing cricket in India, is earning a bad name.

Do a simple calculation to see if it can be an eye opener for you.

The Maharashtra government has decided to supply 20 litres of water every day to each household in Latur, one of the worst drought-affected districts of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra that is facing the worst drought in 100 years. But the problem is, even this supply is so erratic, once in a week or 10 days.

The 65 lakh litres of water used (wasted) by the IPL management to keep the cricket pitches up and ready for the 20 IPL games to be played in Maharashtra can supply 20 litres water to 325,000 families. To say, to argue, it is nothing, not even a day’s water supply to all families in a district like Latur with around 2.5 million people.

But, there is this big ‘but’ – with the social horror spreading in Maharashtra with thousands of farm suicides – and when the Maharashtra State Water Policy puts usage of water of purposes like IPL last in its priority list.

When some 2500 water tankers are needed in the region, the government can provide barely 100-200. The rest are privately operated. The region’s water reservoirs have water level below 5% – somewhere it is as low as 1%. There is no water for sowing. People are not able to take bath for days. Basic water needs like sanitation have become a luxury.

People are dying, they are committing suicide. According to a data-set, Maharashtra saw over 3200 farm suicides last year, while Taliban killed 3400 in the same period.

When seen in the context of all these, this use (or misuse) 65 lakh litres of water, that the BCCI says is not potable and therefore can be wasted, becomes a criminal offence.

Branding is all about strengthening your symbolic perception in people’s psyche and it happens with variety of factors – communication, action and obligation – and BCCI is failing here on all these three parameters. Its persistence on holding the Maharashtra leg of the IPL matches will associate a socially evil tag to IPL – the worst drought in Maharashtra’s history. So far, every communication coming from the BCCI camps and cricketers have only deepened the feeling that BCCI has no obligation towards the people of this country even if it claims to be the custodian of a people’s game.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

LOOMING DROUGHT: WHEN COURTS REMIND GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF THEIR DUTIES

When a country’s top courts remind its citizens of their duty, of their social obligations, it is a humiliating development for its politicians, for its bureaucracy, for its opinion leaders, and for its people.

Something that the Supreme Court of India and the Bombay High Court did today!

Something, that again tells us that how fundamentally flawed we are in working for the well-being of a democracy’s founding entity – every individual life – even if we form a functional democracy!

The courts reminded us of our obligations towards our brothers and sisters in yet another ‘looming-drought’ year – with thousands of farm suicides!

What the Supreme Court observed should set the state machinery in motion to tackle the drought problem without delay – only if it happens so! It said (as reported by media outlets), “We should realise that there is problem. Nine states and now Rajasthan have declared drought. It is difficult to believe that there is no drought in Bundelkhand and Marathwada”.

The Supreme Court took on the government for not releasing MNREGA funds that has shrunk the MNREGA workdays to 48 from 100. It gave the government some lessons on timing its priorities when it said, “Relief has to be given immediately and not after one year. Temperature is soaring at 45 degree Celsius, there is no drinking water, nothing is there. You have to do something and provide relief on time”.

The top court said, “If you are not releasing the funds, then no one will like to work. States will say they have no funds, so they can’t pay anyone for MGNREGA work. No state will make any commitment to the people”.

Yes, commitment to the people – the basic entity that drives our Constitution – and therefore should always be a priority for our political class!

The country is staring at a drought like situation with areas like Bundelkhand, Marathwada and Vidarbha and states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are already facing severe drought conditions, leading to farm suicides and internal migration.

As the SC says, there is this grave concern already in 10 states while the activists say more states are precarious and are going to fall.

While the top court reminded the polity and bureaucracy of its duty, another higher court, the Bombay Court, came down heavily on the so-called elite who act like parasites on multitudes of ‘have-nots’ in the country.

In a country, that is still majority quality illiterate, malnourished and poor, as per the universal norms, and is facing acute water shortage – that is causing thousands of farmers to commit suicide, especially in Maharashtra in the last one year – wasting water there, lakhs of liters, is a crime, an obscenity – that can never be forgiven.

We do small things – like we observe Earth Hours, ration our air-conditioner usage, shut down markets to deal with electricity crisis, we run no-honking campaigns or care-free days, or run innumerous advertisements on judicial use of ‘scarce’ resources. We do accommodate things like handling milk shortage in summers by bringing changes in our daily routines.

If these small things become so important for us as a society that we act like in unison, from the government machinery to the citizenry to the media outlets, then shouldn’t we be ashamed and feel outraged that India has failed miserably in handling farmers’ suicides in the country – continued unabated for decades.

Then why can’t we act sensitively! They why can’t we sensitize people?

Then why can’t we do away with the lure of organizing some cricket matches in Maharashtra that would waste some 60 lakh litres of water, as the court was informed today – when people don’t have water even for basic needs like sanitation and cleaning.

How can we sleep at the end of the day after watching an IPL match that has wasted some 60,000 litres of water when a family in Latur gets just 2 litres of drinking water supply a week?

How can we feel peaceful if people are forced to engage in rioting for their daily supply of water – a supply that doesn’t come ‘daily’?

The Bombay High Court so rightly reprimanded the BCCI, “How can you waste water like this? Are people more important or IPL? How can you be so careless? This is criminal wastage. You know the situation in Maharashtra. Only if water supply to BCCI is cut will you understand.”

Isn’t it time to do the imperative as the High Court observed, “Ideally, you should shift the IPL matches to some other State where water is in abundance”.

Certainly, there is nothing like ‘Ek India Happy Wala’ – as the IPL promo says – if BCCI insists on holding the IPL matches in Maharashtra even after this hostile observation by the Bombay High Court.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY CAN’T OUR POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENTS ACCOMMODATE VOICES LIKE KOVAN?

While striking down the Section 66A of the Information-Technology Act, the Supreme Court bench had observed, “It is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right.”

The Supreme Court decision on March 24 this year officially declared a ‘draconian’ law finally draconian.

The observation focuses on ‘balance between right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on right’, here in the context of the freedom of expression, and rightly so because the law enforcing agencies have had a pretty bad track record in that.

The SC bench of J. Chelameswar and Rohinton F. Nariman said, “If Section 66A is otherwise invalid, it cannot be saved by an assurance from the learned Additional Solicitor-General that it will be administered in a reasonable manner. Governments may come and governments may go, but Section 66A goes on forever. An assurance from the present government, even if carried out faithfully, would not bind any successor govt.”

Going by the bad precedent set by the law enforcing agencies, the apex court rightly refused to trust the words of the country’s political establishment.

Because the political administration has time and again acted so – with incidents like cartoons and Facebook posts being the reasons for charges like ‘sedition’ and follow-up arrests. Flurry of such cases and the widespread outrage over them were the central reason behind the SC’s decision on 66A.

But what about the concerned Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

66A was obstructing the freedom of expression with incessant cases of its misuse, and the right logic was put forward that anything of serious nature causing some serious offence could well be handled by the concerned Sections of the IPC.

What about the misuse of the concerned Sections of the IPC?

There is a long list and yesterday’s arrest of a Tamil folk singer, S. Sivadas or Kovan, for writing and propagating songs with ‘allegedly derogatory’ lyrics on Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, has not come as a surprise.

Yes, but as it is to be, and as it is, the anger and the outrage is pouring all across – including from the political establishments anti to Jayalalithaa.

Activists or people like Kovan or many like him, like, for that matter, Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra who was arrested for circulating emails with cartoons of Mamata Banarjee, the West Bengal chief minister, are not known beyond their immediate field of activity or their immediate geographical spread – before their unjust arrest.

They have every right to criticise anyone within the democratic norms. The Constitution gives them this freedom.

But who takes guarantee of ensuring that when the administration acts on the contrary, compromising the rights given by the Constitution?

Courts have to intervene then like the top court did with Section 66A. But it doesn’t happen in a day and the struggle with the controversial IPC Sections takes years for saner voices to prevail, like we saw in Dr. Binayak Sen’s case.

Why can’t our political establishments accommodate voices like Kovan or Ambikesh Mahapatra or Binayak Sen or many others who have a different conscience than our ruling establishments?

What about culture of tolerance in our political establishments?

This May, the Kerala High Court observed in a case, “Being a Maoist is of no crime, though the political ideology of the Maoist will not synchronise with our constitutional polity. The police cannot detain a person merely because he is a Maoist, unless the police form a reasonable opinion that his activities are unlawful.”

This and other similar court observations follow from a landmark observation in 2011 given by the Supreme Court while granting bail to Dr. Binayan Sen. The court had said, “We are a democratic country. He may be a sympathiser. That does not make him guilty of sedition. If Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography is found in somebody’s place, is he a Gandhian? No case of sedition is made out on the basis of materials in possession unless you show that he was actively helping or harbouring them.” (Here ‘materials’ means Naxalite/Maoist literature.)

If Kovan has done anything that goes against the state then his arrest can be justified but not on the pretexts like his songs are maligning the image of the state’s chief ministers or he is openly criticising the state sops selling liquor/alcohol – especially when ‘prohibition’ has become a sensitive issue across the country.

Kovan’s case reminds me the Marathi movie ‘Court’, India’s official entry to the Academy Awards (Oscars) this year. In the movie, the main protagonist is jailed time and again as police links his anti-establishment songs to the ‘alleged’ suicide of a person, even if there is evidence on the contrary.

Here are links to Kovan songs. I don’t understand Tamil but I am free, and rightly, to express my solidarity.

Shut down TASMAC and Amma TASMAC (Tamil songs – TASMAC is the Tamil Nadu government outfit that runs the liquor shops in question.)

And here is a photograph, sourced from Twitter, showing S. Sivadas or Kovan performing his art.

Kovan-Twitter

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BLACK MONEY: SC TAKES AWAY SHEEN FROM NARENDRA MODI & BJP GOVT

It was a big day politically for BJP with the party declaring its chief minister for Maharashtra but its prospect was marred by two hostile developments, the developments that BJP cannot take on head-on to defend itself or to attack to deflect the barrage of questions being shot on it.

Because, the developments owe their genesis to an agency criticising or attacking which will only harm the party.

Judicial activism has been a sore point for Indian politics and the politicians running the show but has come as the saving grace, the desperate ray of hope for millions of Indians cursed to be crushed under political apathy and corruption.

It is not that the judiciary is corrupt. It is. It is, in fact, highly corrupt at lower levels but when the judicial activism gets its flow from the apex judicial body, the Supreme Court of India, it sends a stern message to the erratic institutions and individuals, including the lower levels of judiciary. And this message is repeated every time, whenever the Supreme Court wields the Constitutional hammer to rein in the erring parties.

So, when the Supreme Court came down heavily, twice, on the Indian government today, criticising it for ‘repeated’ excuses on forming government in Delhi or conducting fresh elections and rapping it for ‘selective’ disclosure of the names of the black money account holders, the warning, the message was repeated again, but, with a severe symbolic blow to BJP this time.

And it was not about the issue of government formation in Delhi. It was, as expected, about the black money issue.

So, even if the Supreme Court’s direct question on ‘how BJP would form the government’ was embarrassing enough as BJP cannot form the government in Delhi with ethical and transparent means, it was humiliating and shocking when the apex court directed the BJP-led Union Government to submit the list of all overseas account holders by tomorrow, an issue on which the government had taken a U-turn on ‘complete disclosure’, going as far as to appeal to the Supreme Court to review its 2011 order that ‘had sought complete disclosure’ of information.

Now, BJP could have championed the cause, as it had been making promises and war-cry about it since the matter started getting wider attention with the PIL in Supreme Court in 2009. It was one of the major poll planks of BJP and Narendra Modi spoke at length about it.

But, they could not champion it, even if they had the intent. They failed in recognizing the pulse and packaging the communication.

Sooner or later, they had to reveal all the names because it was a Supreme Court monitored probe. But the way they made statements with selective disclosures of three names only and talked of revealing more names in stages and phases with no definite timeline made for negative headlines and indicated of political motives to score political mileage. The Supreme Court Bench would have all these aspects under consideration while dealing the blow to the ruling party today.

So, the championing edge that BJP carved and used in the days before May 26, 2014, the day Narendra Modi’s government was inaugurated, was lost today.

What BJP should have done had to be put into motion by the Supreme Court and the NDA government led by BJP acted in the way similar to that of practiced by Manmohan Singh led UPA government.

BJP messed with the wrong pole here, a pole that has remained the very few avenues left where the common Indian can pin his hopes hoping for getting the truth out of web of political U-turns.

BJP, its leaders, and its rank and file – they simply lost the Black Money advantage today.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RIGHT TO REJECT TO RIGHT TO RECALL TO RIGHT TO REELECTION

Suppose a Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi gets fewer votes than the overall NOTA (None Of The Above) votes and based on the post-election outcome, becomes the prime minister of the country – wouldn’t it be ridiculous, wouldn’t it be sacrilegious, when a candidate rejected by the majority of the electorate is given the charge to run a democratic country.

Okay, it is not going to be the case with Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi of the moment, but we should not be surprised, if we get an election result with significant number of seats showing significantly higher share of NOTA votes even in the very first election implementing the ‘Right To Reject’ option. Recently, the Supreme Court made it mandatory and asked the Election Commission of India to introduce the NOTA option on EVMs (electronic voting machines) and ballot papers.

On an average, 30-40 per cent voters do not vote in elections in India we find if we carry a voter turnout analysis of different elections. Reasons vary for not participating in the elections but the major reason has been the voter’s apathy to the electoral process where he finds the political parties or the candidates in fray not worthy of being elected.

As the voter did not have any option to express his displeasure than to go to the booth, complete the formalities like getting the designated finger the ink-marked, approach the polling officer and tell him he did not want to cast his vote as he found none of the candidates were worthy. The officer then would make his entry in a prescribed form and would take his signature or thumb impression. A complex, tedious and repulsive process that didn’t promise the voter secrecy of his decision! And having no secrecy with such decisions, at local level, with a polluted Indian politics, may well have its consequences.

So, the option was there but was not practical. In fact, was illogical. Also, many would not be aware that this option (right? – Section 49-O of The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) even exists.

But after the Supreme Court order making it easier and thus practical to exercise this right as well as ensuring the secrecy, we can expect significant jump in the voter turnout, and a significant portion of this jump would certainly be the NOTA votes, voters who don’t vote because they don’t approve the candidates.

Yes, this is going to be a long-term process, spread over elections. But an upward trend of surge in NOTA votes would inspire others, who do not cast their votes for similar reasons, to participate in the electoral process.

It is true, India is still not a mature democracy and elections are not fought on development issues but on silly considerations of caste, religion and regionalism. It is true voters do not react maturely when they select candidates on these lines, when they select tainted candidates and candidates with criminal cases against them, when the elect candidates languishing in jails.

But this simple way to empower them with an option to reject all would certainly push them, who waste their vote by voting on silly considerations, to think otherwise, if not tomorrow, then, in the long run, when rejection of candidates would become a sustained trend election after election.

Also, another objection by the naysayers is this ‘Right To Reject’ is not rejection in real terms. Even if the NOTA votes polled are 20 per cent of the overall votes cast, it cannot disqualify a wining candidate even if he gets just 10 percent of the overall votes. True! But, for how long can this irresponsible show continue?

Obviously, there would be voices. And the demands would intensify with increasing share of NOTA votes in the overall vote-pie.

That would set in motion the fight to demand the ‘Right To Recall’ and hence subsequently, the ‘Right To Reelection’, cancelling election process in constituencies with share of NOTA votes dwarfing votes gained by all other candidates, recalling poorly performing candidates and holding the polls again to select the suitable candidates.

Once, the ‘Right To Reject’ becomes a practiced electoral process in the country with voters effectively using it, lawmakers cannot continue with their sham without its visible public consequences.

Yes, it is not going to happen soon. But the best outcome of this Supreme Court decision is it is going to open fronts for further ‘rightful’ demands in the future of Indian democracy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RIGHT TO REJECT – NONE OF THE ABOVE – BRAVO! CHEERS!

Right To Reject – None Of The Above – Bravo! Cheers!

It is evolutionary. It is revolutionary.

It is so soothing to the ears. It is unlike those so many competitive examinations that every Indian of this generation takes or the future generations are bound to go through where ‘none of the above’ option of the multiple choice questions are, many a time, a hard nut to crack, creating line of thoughts and thus confusion to pin-point the correct one.

Here, it is going to be the natural choice in ‘many cases (many candidates)’ – ‘none of the above’ being the correct and so the chosen answer.

It would be the beginning of such occasions, hopefully, if implemented, where we are going to have the NOTA (None Of The Above) option chosen, and chosen correctly by the majority of the Indians and there would, obviously, be no fixing allegations here.

Right to Reject in polls is a reality now after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision today. Let’s see what innovation (manipulation) is offered by the politicians of India to negate it – the way they are working overtime to shield the tainted, convicted of their lot.

Also, there will be loads of wisdom flowing on its ‘if and buts’, on its ‘theoretical and practical aspects’ and on its maintainability but it is an evolutionary decision that, if survives the fangs of political manipulation, could revolutionize the systemic change in the electoral process, as the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, P. Sathashivam, said while delivering the judgement on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) demanding the right to negative voting, and so would be a boon to cleanse the political muck in the country.

What is remarkable about this decision is it makes things easier for the voter while maintains secrecy of his decision and so makes his right more accessible to him by introducing a much needed correction.

In fact, there is a provision in the election rules in India (49-O – The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) on electors not deciding to vote. It says: If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

So, there was already an option for an elector to reject the candidates in his constituency but the process was tedious and was open to the risk of being targeted by the supporters (including the political goons) of the candidates once the name went public.

The Supreme Court decision would make it easier by introducing the ‘None Of The Above’ button in the electronic voting machine (EVM) or option on the ballot paper. The elector can easily exercise his Right To Reject without the requirement to approach the presiding officer of the poll booth putting his decision on paper and so risking being targeted later on. The Supreme Court has also ruled the secrecy of NOTA votes ‘must’ be maintained.

Though the apex court has not set any deadline for it, we can expect it to be rolled out in the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram this November-December with a pro poll-reform guard at the Election Commission of India.

Implementation of the Right To Reject option in the electoral process cannot change the disturbing political reality of India in one go but it is potent enough to initiate a chain reaction for further demands of electoral reforms and probity in public life.

Until now, very few politically conscious people have been using this right but with increased ease and accessibility, it can be expected that there would be a ripple effect, a ‘Spiral of Silence’ pattern of outcome where a silent but increasing number of the NOTA votes would inspire others to join the voice of conscience. It would bring the voters to the polling booths who otherwise don’t vote because they don’t approve any candidate in the fray.

Okay, this individual right to reject all the contesting candidates in a constituency by voting negatively is not going to result in the rejection even if the overall NOTA votes outperform the votes received by the winning candidate. But, for how long?

Imagine the scenario where every concluded election registers an ever increasing number of constituencies opting to reject all the candidates with the NOTA votes outdoing votes received by all others.

The would be the natural ground to demand the Right To Recall the ‘wrongly’ elected candidates and the Right To Reelection to get a better people’s representative.

How long can such legitimate demands be ignored or ‘suppressed’ in the changed scenario?

Politicians! Beware!

Though rare, it’s the real democratic tango of Indian democracy!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

POLITICIANS VS THE REST OF ALL: WHY DEMOCRACY IN INDIA IS IN IMMINENT DANGER OF DISINTEGRATION?

The Indian Constitution, when adopted, mirrored the soul of Indian Democracy on a healthy balance of ‘a process of checks and balances’ that its different wings exercise on each-other, notably the Indian Parliament, the Judiciary and the autonomous constitutional entities like the Election Commission (EC) or the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) or the Central Information Commission (CIC).

There are many other institutions and functional establishments including the law and order apparatus but most of them either can’t keep the politicians in check or have been efficiently co-opted by the political class.

And there are really very few institutions that still matter as the forces ‘still able’ to take on the political class and have the lethal edge by their Constitutional guarantee and the positive public perception about them and so are in the hit-list of the politicians.

Here, when we talk of the institutions, we need to keep in mind that it is about the people running those institutions and how they have undermined the sanctity and authority of the institutions provided by the Constitution and so of the Constitution itself.

The situation in the country, at the moment, is more or less ‘politicians Vs the rest of all’ where on one side are the institutions controlled, manipulated and co-opted by the politicians and on the opposing side are the few institutions where not all but still many people refuse to be co-opted by the political class.

The different functional wings of the Indian Democracy have no visible lines of demarcation. On one side, there is corruption and their promoters – the corrupt politicians and the bureaucrats.

On the other side are the institutions that are seen as ‘still’ viable option to get some Constitutional remedy, to the problems that owe their genesis in the systemic failure of the System called Indian Administration.

While the all-pervasive corruption has eaten into the credibility of almost every functional wing of Indian Democracy, its scale of imminence to cause a chronic and systemic problem varies.

As the majority of the politicians of the day have become synonymous with corruption, elitism and authoritarianism, the Indian Parliament has seen the maximum credibility erosion, and by the political developments in the country, the rot, at the moment, looks irreversible.

The rot in Indian Judiciary is also deep, but the activism and alertness of higher courts and Supreme Court has become a big relief point for the people oppressed from the political tyranny and from the chronic corruption in the lower courts.

On a more positive note, Constitutional bodies like the Election Commission, the Comptroller and the Auditor General or the Central Information Commission have performed exceedingly well in an atmosphere of political gloom and sociopolitical anarchy and so are being targeted increasingly by the politicians.

If the Indian Democracy is still surviving somehow it is because of the institutions like the higher courts or the EC or the CAG or the CIC.

And politicians look all set, hands-in-glove, to challenge the good work being done by the good people in these institutions.

Subverting the Democracy by negating the important decisions taken by the Supreme Court or the Constitutional bodies has been an old practice but in recent times, it has grown on an unprecedented scale.

In the last few months, the nation has seen the ugly display of corrupt politics when the politicians across the party-lines came together to make Constitutional amendments and legal changes to nullify the Supreme Court orders on reforms in ‘Representation of the People Act’ regulating the conduct of elections, to invalidate CIC’s ruling on keeping political parties under the Right to Information Act (RTI) or the demands to scuttle the EC’s efforts to regulate the electoral ecology of the country for a free and transparent way.

And the political brazenness says it’s just the beginning.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

*“Why India is in imminent danger of disintegration?’ is a regular column on my blogging platforms to take a periodic look (say a weekly or a fortnightly or a monthly round-up of events depending on the factors in play) on political developments that are dangerous to the democratic health of the country and contribute to the process of social disintegration of the nation..”
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/why-democracy-in-india-is-in-imminent-danger-of-disintegration/