A LOGICAL RAIL BUDGET BUT WHAT ABOUT DEFUNCT WORK ETHOS OF INDIAN RAILWAYS?

Some headlines from the past hour on the Rail Budget 2016 are:

Rail Budget growth-oriented, but revenue target will be a challenge, says industry – Times of India
Rail Budget gets a thumbs down on D-Street for fourth consecutive time – Economic Times
Rail Budget 2016: PwC says investment to be a challenge for Railway amid flat traffic, high costs – Economic Times
Rail Budget 2016: Railway-related stocks fall up to 10% on Dalal Street – Business Today
Big proposals, no fare hike: How Suresh Prabhu avoided the bitter pill in Rail Budget 2016 – Firstpost
On Rail Budget day, Indian rupee hits new 30-month low at 68.72 vs US dollar – Financial Express

These are just few from the lot of analytical pieces written – taking sides based on the parameters taken into consideration – but overall, it is a mixed bag with the obvious question – that asks – how – a how that can unravel every good intention behind a Railway Budget that is otherwise logical and future oriented.

The Rail Budget 2016 started on a logical note – with no-nonsense announcements and proposals. In its initial run, as Suresh Prabhu, the Rail Minister started presenting it, it sounded the most logical Rail Budget in the recent times.

The budget began with more emphasis on improving passenger services and amenities this year – something long overdue – than announcing mindlessly new trains to appease votebanks – but in the end, it came out to be pretty ambitious – and that is the whole point behind raising questions – shadowing the positive senses.

The Rail Budget 2016 is passenger centric, policy change centric and future centric that also intends to be ‘work culture change’ centric. It, in fact, talks vehemently about it.

But given the sorry state of the affairs at Indian Railways, we need to be sceptical. In fact, we need cynical questions here.

Indian Railways is a mammoth organization employing maximum number of people in the world’s largest democracy and claiming a robust outreach network in almost every part of country barring the North-East. It is good that this strategically important last mile connectivity is now a priority of the government. And so, Indian Railways is the lifeline of the nation as the majority here still cannot afford air-travel.

But Indian Railways is a corrupt and defunct organization. Corruption, in fact, has percolated in every wing of its functioning – from tickets checkers or TTEs travelling in trains to booking clerks duping innocent people on ticket booking windows to its officials (in every hue) sitting in its zonal offices to its headquarters in Delhi.

And this corruption is vivid and variegated – from petty offences like TTEs illicitly pocketing money in trains to senior level officers cornering big convenience money in freight handling to big commission in projects.

Unless that culture is not corrected, any attempt to take Indian Railways on a futuristic journey of course correction is impossible.

So, whatever Mr. Suresh Prabhu intends to do with his reformative tools, with newly proposed three freight corridors, with no hike in passenger and freight fare to build on volume, with more and more use of technology in enabling Railways to act more passenger customer friendly, with ways to increase revenue, with plans to build infrastructure including private collaboration, we need to keep in mind that it is about mindset change – a mindset that travels through the floodgates of bribes and other modes of illicit money.

The chronic corruption that has infested every part and every appendage of the huge machinery that Indian Railways is.

A mindset change is a long and tedious process with no timeframe and with no guarantee of outcome. It may happen. It may not happen. It becomes even more complicated when the ‘mindset’ is shaped by corruption as is the case with Indian Railways.

And Mr. Suresh Prabhu is one of its most prime examples. He is very active on Twitter. In fact, his alertness on Twitter is an example for all other ministers to follow – but only as long as it pleases him. He doesn’t like to act on or respond to negative tweets.

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

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GOD IS OF EVERYONE. GOD IS FOR EVERYONE.

Yes, that is ideally the ideal position – but something that has been a deep rooted ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon universally – in almost every religion with different hues – in every society – and in every country – including India.

We worship women. In Hinduism, Goddess Shakti is revered like anything. And it doesn’t end here. And I am sure every religion has its own female deities.

Yet we deny women the basic right – the right to the equality in the places of worship.

And that’s why the Shani Shingnapur protest by a group of women activists demanding their right to worship in the innermost sanctum of the temple, barred for women, is important – away from the debates of being politically motivated or being a mere publicity stunt.

Because they pull our attention to this very important discrimination prevailing in our society that we have so subtly legitimized – again in the name of religion – and have efficiently co-opted women to perpetuate such practices – out of fear psychosis – or emotional bondage – or cultural blackmail.

Well, our scriptures say God is for everyone. They say he knows what is in our conscious and he comes to everyone. They say our faith is as important for God as God is for us.

And when we worship our deities of both genders with equal faith and devotion, why do we discriminate between their devotees based on their genders?

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

JLF: THE DESCENT

Today, Facebook, like it does, prompted me to revisit this image from January 2011. Well, normally I don’t follow these advises but today I did it – because it made me revisit what was once among my ‘must visit’ events.

Yes, it was once. Not anymore.

And it has nothing to do with me. I still feel about the same way – the feelings that started taking me away from the event – first some valid questions – then a valid dislike – and then a sense that the event doesn’t figure in my calendar.

‪Jaipur Literature Festival is an event which saw meteoric rise and then a meteoric fall – all in a span of few years only.

What makes this trend remarkable development, a must-study case study, is that it started with marketing itself as a ‘literature’ event – but then rapidly degraded.

Well after 10 odd years, it is now established well beyond doubt that though it is a grand event – it is an event without literature’s soul and the descent has been rapid.

To cater to the marketing forces, the organisers have compromised its literary quotient.

Now it is just another routine marketing event and the kind of media neglect that it is getting is ‘informative/symptomatic’ of that.

JLF-1

JLF: DESCENT HAS BEEN RAPID

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

VILLUPURAM MEDICAL STUDENTS SUICIDE: SHABBY HIGHER EDUCATION KILLS SOME MORE DREAMS

Reports say three students of an Ayurveda medical college in Tamil Nadu committed suicide alleging the college administration of playing with their future. Reports say the students of the college were protesting bad infrastructure, administration’s apathy and principal’s exploitative callousness in the college.

Big promises of a bright future – like after passing out from a medical college – duplicitously selling practices like ‘Naturopathy and Yoga Sciences’ – garnishing them with glamour quotient of terms like ‘medical colleges’..

Apathetic and insensitive college administration, principal and management – exploitative to the core..

Exorbitant fee – Rs. 6,00,000 in two years – here in this case – its goes higher easily in higher education institutions of professional studies – and many sincere students who cannot secure position in good institutions – but still find education as the only alternative for their careers ahead – end up in these exploitative institutions that run like a money-making machines – killings dreams – slaying lives..

They promise skies while giving you admission but after that the sole focus shifts to collecting fees and imposing further types of fees and fines to fill coffers..

Many states in India have engineering colleges with seats running in hundreds of thousands. Their graduates cannot stand even a sound humanities graduate from a good institution. Similar is the case of management colleges. These are the two streams that have killed maximum dreams in India – thus milking the maximum money. Now many colleges are shutting their door because they are not getting students.

Medical education is relatively a safe bet for such money sharks that prowl through educational institutions. Because setting up and running a medical college requires deep investment and regular onslaught of checks and balances. Even then we regularly come across reports of poor quality and threats of affiliation withdrawal. That makes allied fields like ‘naturopathy, yoga, homeopathy, Unani and even fakes like electrohomeopathy’ a safer bet for fraudsters or for people from extended clan of education mafia.

These girls had spent almost Rs. 6 Lakh and they had not completed even the second year. And they had not learnt anything. And their repeated pleas have fallen on deaf ears. And Rs. 6 Lakh is a lot for many families in India to arrange – cut or tighten your budget or borrow – and when you see happening things like this, your impulse can drive you to take any decision in those desperate moments of despair.

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

WHEN YOU FEEL LETDOWN..

COLORES INFINITUM

Developments making you feel low are part of your existence. They invariably come to you – and sometimes come to haunt you.

Try hard but you are bound to feel so – its frequency depends on how you tackle it – and the first step (or the first offensive) that you need to take on this path – is – don’t let the development make you feel that it is some type of curse. Doing so is half the battle won.

You feel letdown by various reasons. But the share that causes maximum mental unease and stress is external – driven by and given by others – and you need to keep yourself away from the crowd in such circumstances.

One needs to learn and nurture the practice of winning over the tide – gradually and effectively.

You must keep in mind that you should not totally disregard something or some development that drags you down sending your soul in a nowhere zone because it has important elements to learn from.

You miss an important opportunity to learn life defining lessons when you dismiss any negative development in your life without giving it some time to ponder over.

You did no wrong or you were caught on the wrong side should only prevail after you have given the development enough time. After thinking it over, you may come to the conclusion that you did no wrong and there is nothing to feel gloomy about.

Alternatively, especially when the development involves a social setup with multiple people in fray, you may still feel low in spite of the fact that you came to find that you were not wrong. It happens because you start thinking about what ‘more others’ would think.

Try not to think that – or try to overcome that – for – if you were not wrong for what you had been targeted – your mental composure, if sustained, will make you the winner in the long run.

When you assess and come to the act of brashly disregarding the negative happening even if you know you were wrong, you move one step ahead in the quagmire that may derail your life one day. You have to very careful about that precipitation.

Any negative development in your life should have this sole purpose – that what you could learn from it – that how it can better your thoughts. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, preaching is always easy. But friends, your experiences also tell so.

Think it like this – and it will further help – that one has no option in life but to fight back – that no one helps beyond few words of sympathy – that beyond a point, your sad state of mind is seen as your weakness and people start keeping their distances.

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

MASOOD AZHAR DETENTION: WHERE WAS SUSPENSE?

The news that Masood Azhar had been detained in Pakistan in Pathankot terror attack case broke like a sweeping development – taking over all in its awe.

But scratch a little and there is something familiar that worries us as – something that has worried us all in every case where perpetrators are ‘hiding’ at large in Pakistan with a respectable public life.

Unlike Dawood Ibrahim, whose presence Pakistan denies vehemently, such has not been the case with Hafiz Saeed, the LeT and JuD chief, with a US bounty of US$ 10 Million on his head. He is a highly respectable figure in Pakistan. He spews venom against India. He warns Pakistani establishment on speaking even a single word that is pro India. He regularly visits border areas in Pakistan to deliver anti-India ‘sermons’.

And such has not been the case even with Masood Azhar, even if he was an imprisoned terrorist in India who was swapped in the IC814 hijacking episode in 1999. A natural, responsible step by Pakistan would be to hand over Masood Azhar to India – because he would always remain wanted in India – with his past – with his arrest in Sringar in 1995 or his role in 2001 Parliament attack and his conviction in absentia, his role in 2008 Mumbai attacks, or in different terror attacks in India.

But India must not forget that Pakistan did not hand over Masood to America even after intense pressure in journalist Daniel Pearl murder case.

So, Pakistan is not going to detain him or arrest him for India – that is like daydreaming.

Also, it was said (or alleged) that Masood was taken in ‘protective custody’. Now what is this ‘protective custody’? You don’t need to go far and deep to know what this term legally means in Pakistan than a simple Google search.

A Google search with ‘protective custody’ returns with loads of pages saying ‘Osama bin Laden was in protective custody in Pakistan’. That is more than enough to tell us what it means. Osama enjoyed a safe life in Pakistan for years, in its military backyard – till one fine day – when America disrupted and destroyed the related ‘collective designs’.

Today’s rumour that spread like wildfire may well be intended at creating atmospherics for India-Pakistan FS level talks – that both countries are in a trap to look committed to – after Narendra Modi’s surprise Lahore visit on Nawaz Sharif’s birthday on December 25 last year.

Anyway, we can expect that something good will come out from this dilemma – that it will not work as some ‘entrapment’- because both countries are looking closest to their shared and distinctive realities now.

If Pakistan needs a ‘Pakistan’ that goes ahead on the path of development, away from a very certain scenario of nation’s disintegration, it must maintain peace with India – because most of its resources, in the situations now, are being absorbed in destabilizing India – something that is nothing but a daydreaming. A peaceful relation with the world’s third largest economy, that is also its neighbour, will give Pakistan the much needed leverage to initiate on the process of nation building.

For India, a peaceful Pakistan and peace at India Pakistan borders would help in developing areas in these conflict zones at par with other parts in the country. And obviously would smoothen the flow of energy resources from ‘energy-rich’ central Asian countries.

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

WHEN YOU LOVE REVENGE FLICKS

And not when you watch them as time-pass entertainment or a conscious film watcher to see how a particular narrative has been developed:

It is because of the human psychology in a society like India where VIP culture is deeply rooted as a cultural practice (or malaise) – where we all, more or less, at some point of time or regularly – face (or feel) its brunt – and the main protagonist of the movie is shown taking on such (rogue) VIP elements.

It is because such films give wing to our fantasy that craves (and at times cribs) because of the fundamentally feeble nature of human beings who have been harassed by rogue (or corrupt) elements – something that we all face – and find ourselves forced to compromise. Yes, exceptions are there but then it is not yet time for any of them to become norm in our society.

And we can see they vary according to the subsets of societies in India – like South Indian flicks portray an ‘all supercharged, superhuman like hero’ who first faces life’s troubles due to bad elements (VIPs – politicians, police, criminals with VIP sort of stature) – and then take on them with a force that dwarfs even the best bravado shown in the films made in Mumbai – because VIP culture or personality cult worship in India is most deeply ingrained in the South Indian culture.

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

WELL, PROBABLY WESTERN UNIVERSITY THOUGHT IT WAS NOT A MATTER WORTH RESPONDING..ANYWAY..

Today is January 5 gone here in India – and should be around mid-day in Canada and there is no response yet to my email sent to some Western University, Canada email IDs, i.e., media@uwo.ca, achakma@uwo.ca, kmarnoch@uwo.ca about a ‘lottery scam email from an email ID with uwo.ca domain suffix’ – apart from an auto reply from kmarnoch@uwo.ca of being out of office’.

I had written the email with link to my detailed article on this experience – WHEN I GOT THIS LOTTERY SCAM EMAILFROM A UNIVERSITY STUDENT EMAIL ID!

Maybe it is important for them or may be not or maybe they had already got a whiff of it before I wrote to them or maybe it is an attitude issue.

Anyway, it seems – it is business as usual.

Here are the screenshots of the emails that I received – the one on December 24 from some ‘uwo.ca’ email ID and then on December 28 from some Barry Stone. I had deleted the mails but then thought to retrieve them and put their screenshots here.

UWO-CA-2

UWO-CA

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

NO MORE ‘GIVE IT UP’

In September 2012, it was reduced to just six from a copious, unrestrained flow so far.

Then some months later, some thoughts went into it ‘within a reconsideration mode’ and the number was increased by three, making the cut at nine in a year.

Then came the elections in 2014 and the tally was further upped by another three to make for a comprehensive ‘a dozen for a dozen’ mark.

Now comes January 2016 and another approach is going to be adopted.

According to a government notification issued today, now if you are in income bracket above Rs. 10 Lakh (the taxable sum), you are no longer entitled to avail subsidized LPG cylinders.

Logical and fair.

We can even lower this income threshold to Rs. 7.5 Lakh or Rs. 6 Lakh (the income threshold for OBCs or the ‘Creamy Layer’ threshold – above which OBCs are entitled to get caste based reservation).

Millions in India, its masses, need subsidy and any policy in India can only succeed when it looks at subsidies as ‘social obligations’ and not as ‘unavoidable or necessary evils’.

That means we need a rationalized subsidy policy where the whole emphasis should be on identifying those who really need and those who unnecessarily avail subsidies.

And we need steps like the one taken today – what was voluntary till date doesn’t remain ‘on individual discretion’ anymore.

The exchequer had a subsidy payout of around Rs. 41000 crore in 2014-15. The country can do much better if this subsidy burden is directed at those families in real, dire need.

The government notification also tells the ‘give it up’ initiative failed to live up to expectations. India has around 15 crore LPG connections that itself tells millions of families are still dependent on traditional, alternative sources of energy. They, simply, cannot afford the luxury of LPG connection – something that is considered a basic need today. They need subsidy in real terms. Millions of households with LPG connections need subsidy because they face difficulty in managing their monthly budgets.

But those families that earn some Rs. 50000 a month certainly doesn’t it.

So, the notification today is a logical move and will add up significantly to the lot of around 57 lakh families that have so far ‘given up’ their subsidies voluntarily.

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

MODI’S NAWAZ STOPOVER

As it goes – Narendra Modi thought – and Nawaz Sharif proposed – and two met – while Narendra Modi was to leave for India via Pakistan’s airspace – as reports say..

But shouldn’t we leave the part – ‘as reports say’ – and instead should prefer to go with the part – ‘as it goes’?

Are there written rules for policymaking on diplomacy?

No, there should not be and there cannot be!

Written rules are for extremes of policies made in a democratic nation that India is!

Written rules, like in a constitution, ensure that what a policy must not do!

Written rules define boundaries of policies according to times and are open to time-specific changes!

Written rules don’t say ‘do not follow or mend a policy’ because it is contrary to the position earlier taken – if it is not akin to compromising with sovereignty of the country!

Written rules don’t say, in case of India-Pakistan talks here, that talks should be done on ‘this or that’ precondition!

Written rules don’t say that ‘don’t tweak your policies to take an altogether different approach to try something good even if it means trusting a nation like Pakistan with bad track record on this parameter’!

Written rules don’t say that ‘don’t take a path opposed to the one taken previously as it is not in sync with domestic politics of the nation’!

Written rules never say diplomacy cannot be exercised ‘the common man’ style!

So, what is wrong if Narendra Modi chose to have a brief stopover in Pakistan to wish Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, personally on his birthday – doubling the day’s moments of joy as it was also the wedding of Sharif’s granddaughter that day!

Shouldn’t we see this as the ‘icing on the cake’ – that doing this on the day – on December 25 – gave the developments an overall higher appeal to the symbolism of this ‘common-man-esque’ call as the day happens to be birth anniversaries of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well?

Why should we go on scouting for ‘inside stories’ and why should we go on endlessly about possible scoops?

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