All posts by John P. Matthew

Johntext Author John P. Matthew is a famous blogger and author from Mumbai. He is Country Manager Johntext India.

Indian Elections

ballot box

India is now undergoing a massive election to its 16th parliament. The facts look humungous, when compared to other nations. India is the world’s largest democracy and there are nearly 814 million voters, of which 100 million are exercising their franchise for the first time.

To add to these, is the fact that there are 543 parliamentary constituencies, and nearly $ 573 million will be spent in conducting the elections. The money spent by the parties does not fall within the purview of this figure.

The election will be conducted using the latest technology. Electronic voting machines are being used throughout the country, which obviates the need for manual counting of votes, as before.

This time the incumbent centrist party Congress is facing the right-wing party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress has ruled the country for most of its six decades of existence of the country but is facing a big challenge from Bhartiya Janata Party. The latter party is led by the hard-line Hindu politician Narendra Modi who is expected to be the prime minister if the BJP comes to power. The Congress is being led by Rahul Gandhi the grandson of the former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Personal attacks and exposing of financial indiscretions of politicians is common during Indian elections. The parties and their spokespersons are therefore slinging mud at each other accusing each other of things such as infidelity, financial misappropriation, crime, etc.

The atmosphere is thick with accusation. Which makes Indian elections all the merrier!

Two New Authors From India

Shweta Kesari lives in Indore / Madhya Pradesh.  Shweta Kesari is a 2nd year engineering student.

480328_439535516120926_1186622674_n

She will write for Johntext – literature with purpose to help – on www.madhyapradesh.johntext.de.

* * * * *

Joygopal Podder lives in New Delhi. Joygopal Podder is a published author of 14 books.

He will write for Johntext – literature with purpose to help – on www.newdelhi.johntext.de

1377192_317113828429374_254216796_n

 

India’s Political Crisis after Delhi Elections

India is going through a phase which can only be described as a transition period. Politically, the uncertainty has been heightened by the victory of Aam Admi Party (AAP), which had emerged on the political scene only a year ago. The hitherto largest parties – The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have been humbled at the elections to the New Delhi state legislature. The dark horse, the AAP in this case, won 28 seats which doesn’t ensure that it can form a government. Most of the seats were wrestled from the Congress which could only manage 8 seats. However, it can join with another party to form a government. The dilemma is which one to join: collaboration with the BJP would give it the stamp of being a communal party, and going over to the Congress camp would mean it is compromising on its ideals. The idealistic platform on which AAP was set up was that the Congress party is corrupt and therefore it should be dislodged from power.

 

It is at once a sensitive and grave situation which will also determine the fate of all parties at the national elections to be held four months from now. The ruling Congress party has many agendas to deal with: price rise, poverty, welfare project implementation. Its food security bill is one that would ensure food for the poor but would involve a huge expenditure at a time when the current account deficit is huge. Inflation is driving up prices of items of everyday use such as onions, potatoes and vegetables. People are grumbling and voicing their displeasure across the country.  They are waiting to be decisive and show their choice of leadership in the national election. This election will be a game changer for all parties concerned: the UPA (the coalition led by Congress) and the NDA (the coalition led by the BJP). The emergence of a third front which will probably constitute the regional parties is being discussed in earnest, but, so far, nothing substantial has emerged out of it.

 

Thus, the only option for the Indian citizen is to wait and watch.

Celebrity Author and Editor Accused of Rape by Journalist

In my days of working in corporations, before facebook and twitter, and, even before the banking crash of 2008, I used to encounter many cases of women being harassed in the office. This was taken lightly by my men colleagues, as if it was the norm. I saw a colleague touch the breasts of another, appearing casual as he did so. Another woman colleague was almost molested by a group of my men colleagues before I intervened. Luckily I was the senior in the group, so they couldn’t beat me up.

In India sexual harassment happens as a matter of course, without thinking. Women are molested everywhere: in trains, buses, crowded markets, public places, anywhere. They used to take it lightly as man’s obsession because of his superiority. And, what happened, consequently was the escalation of this in the work environment and then even in homes. However, women now, leaning on the shoulders of support groups, have become bold enough to report such incidents to the police. How can a grandfather rape his granddaughter with the connivance of the girl’s uncle? Yes, this gruesome deed happened. How can a girl get gang raped in a moving bus? Yes, this, too, happened. The media all the while had a sympathetic attitude to the women victims of these crimes, who, now are called “survivors.”

So it was a surprise when The Tarun Tejpal sexual assault case hit me. I was dumbfounded. Here was one of India’s finest journalists, an editor of a magazine known for audacious exposes and revelations accused of sexually molesting his own junior journalist. How could he do that? When the survivor complained to magazine’s managing editor, a woman, he sat on judgement and said he would “recuse” himself from the post of editor to atone for his deed, clearly showing he was guilty as charged. The managing editor of the magazine, in an attempt to hush the incident, called it an internal matter. But news had leaked to the media.

This had the whole country in an outrage and virtually everybody condemned him for his indiscretion, save a few friends. The incident happened at the prestigious Thinkfest organised by the same magazine, and there were repeated sexual assault on two occasions, as detailed by the woman journalist. Incidentally, this journalist is also the best friend of Tejpal’s daughter. The police of Goa, where the assault happened has taken a serious view and filed charges.

If found guilty Tejpal faces jail terms from four to seven years according to amended Indian rape and molestation laws. The amendment considers even penetration with any object as rape. What prompted a leading and celebrated journalist, an author of books and novels, to act in this manner without discretion is not known. Is he a habitual offender, in which case, who were his previous victims? Would he be found guilty? That’s what the whole country, considered by some as the rape capital of the world, is waiting to know.

Among my friends in the business world Henry is one who has done reasonably well in field of freight forwarding, which is really a big business in India. He came as a migrant to Bombay and today has a business, an office, a home, among many other comforts of life.

Henry hails from Kerala as I do. On our walks in the dam near our home (he lives close to my home) we discuss all issues, including those of a political nature. What is happening in Syria is of particular worry for him as some of his shipments to this country are held up in port, and incurring demurrage (a tax for uncollected goods in port). There is nothing he can do except wait. And he is a patient man.

We also discuss the current situation in India which is not too good as our currency is not doing well internationally. This makes imports more costly and therefore most companies aren’t importing as they used to earlier. And, naturally, no importing means no business for Henry, as no clearing activity is required in that case. So these days Henry is a worried man.

However, there is hope as the central bank (Reserve Bank of India) has a new governor and all eyes are on him to see if he waves the magic want to improve the rupee’s standing vis-a-vis foreign currencies. All Henry can do is wait and watch for the clock handles to turn and the days to turn into weeks and months.

 

26 School Children Die in Poisoned Food Case

In the northern state of Bihar, India, 26 school-going children died when the government-provided food they consumed were later found to be contaminated with pesticides. Several children are still in hospital. This tragedy assumes a lot of significance because it highlights cynicism from school authorities as far as school lunches subsidised by the government is concerned.

Mid-day meals were provided to encourage students to come to school. How the tragedy occurred is anybody’s guess. Some say the cook mixed the grains in containers that previously held pesticides. Another theory is that the pesticides were added to the food. Still another conjecture, this time from the asses who are political opportunists, is that the pesticides were added as part of a conspiracy to discredit the government of Nitish Kumar. Now, the heretofore mentioned politician, the chief minister, has been doing good work, but he had a fight with other members of the NDA which is the alliance which is opposing the UPA which is ruling the country.

The political bickering goes on. Despite all this, why endanger the lives of innocent school children? They have been caught in the cross fire between feuding political parties, if the surmise stated above is true, which I doubt. But the government of the day should own up responsibility. Such callousness on the part of authorities show a slack attitude and a negligence of duties, which itself is criminal. The principal of the school has been arrested and an enquiry has been instituted. But as these enquiries go, rarely do any good come from it.

Why Can’t Our Streets Be Free?

We sometimes wonder how India manages to survive one blow and goes on to the next. You say this is part of life? No. we don’t agree. We think a lot can be done to improve the roads, the infrastructure, the very elementary things of our social and economic life.

We observe this when we went on a trip to Panjim, capital of Goa some time ago. Now Panjim is a part of India and is like any other small town. But it has a strict municipal authority who enforces the law. Therefore none of the shops encroach on the streets and there’s a complete absence of dogs and cows on the roads. We could walk down any road without ploughing our feet into dog poo or cow crap. The roads were litter free and clean. A rule is a rule here and has to be obeyed and disobedience and petty greed is not tolerated.

Now if Goa can do it, why can’t countless other states of India?road in panjim

Afterall, we are one country, separated by a state border and a language. It’s a pity to see some of the streets in Bombay which do not allow a pedestrian to walk freely. There are all sorts of obstructions, merchandise, animal life, on our streets. Contrast this with this picture of a street in Bandra. We think we have made our point.

bandra

Disaster Strikes Northern State of Uttarakhand, India

There’s an environmental tragedy that taken around 1000 lives in the northern state of Uttarakhand, India. Heavy rains led to landslides and big boulders and soil being rained on the low-lying pilgrimage centres of Bdrinath, Kedarnath and Rudraprayag. The people killed were mostly pilgrims who visited temples in the area to pray for redemption.

The tragedy was offset by uncontrolled development of the areas by greedy real estate sharks as tourist spots in addition to pilgrimage centres. As a consequence many hotels and resorts have been constructed on unstable earth on the ecologically sensitive Himalayan slopes. With the area receiving continuous rains in the past few weeks the entire hillside came sliding down into the valley where the temples were situated. The people who died were caught unawares as the hotels in which they lived were washed away.

Army helicopters lifted people from remote and inaccessible hilly areas to safer places like Dehra Dun. Yet many more are feared dead or trapped. Relief operations are in full swing with the help of the army.

There are many relief agencies at work including Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. If you wish to contribute something to the Indian Prime Minister’s Relief Fund please do so by clicking this link.

It’s Apocalypse Now! A Financial Meltdown Would be Apocalypse.

This is a solution to the banking crisis in Cyprus. However, it might be termed as daylight robbery by some. What else can a bankrupt nation do? Go the Zimbabwean way and change to US currency? That would be too extreme. Plus you are disrupting the sovereign composition of the country. Woe to anyone who thinks about that as a solution.

But what else was the Cyprus government to do but tax bank deposits? One day you will be looking at your bank balance and next day you find that steadily it has been wiped out. The government has been taxing your bank deposits. Tut tut. Not done.

Here, in India, if it was implemented it would have drawn howls of protest. We value our hard-earned money as our own and the government can go to a bad place, which I won’t name. As such we sold our gold when there was a liquidity crunch and people said we were “selling family jewellery.” We we value our gold jewellery, you see.

Go behind any deficit budgeting nation and you can see the looming crisis. The US budget deficit is more than 1 trillion, which is more than a 1000 billion. The congressmen won’t let Obama cut this deficit. And if US banks go belly up, one can imagine what would happen to the world.

So, it is apocalypse for now. The end of the world will not only be due to fire or water but could also be through a financial meltdown.

Kerala, a Green Tropical Paradise

Kerala is a tropical paradise that lies to the south of Indian peninsula. It has green vegetation, plenty of sandy beaches, natural beauty, and an educated citizenry. Every year it sends thousands of skilled manpower to the Persian Gulf for employment and thus received billions of rupees as remittances. Of late, tourism has been the state’s mainstay, whereas it used to be agriculture in the past. Tourist resorts are everywhere and you can see a lot of foreigners enjoying the warmth and the sun when it is bitterly-cold winter in Europe and North America. I was born in this state and am back from a short visit there.

However, the prosperity that should have automatically come with a high rate of income hasn’t yet arrived in the state. Infrastructure projects are languishing, roads are still narrow, an airport which was to start operation is still entangled in a bureaucratic muddle. The reason is political interference at all levels. The state is a beehive of left-wing and centrist politicians who like to browbeat each other in the administration of the state. Thus, an airport – near my home in Kerala – which was sanctioned by the Communist parties when it was in power is now languishing because the centrist Congress government cannot make progress because of political interference. There are strikes and work stoppages every month, and the standard of education has gone down. The agricultural economy has suffered because of the rampant increase of farm labour rates (the rate here is Rs 500 per day compared to an average of Rs 300 in other states) over the past several years rendering paddy fields fallow and overgrown with weeds. The burgeoning wage and pension accounts have depleted the coffers of the state and there isn’t much left for social development or medical care.

Still, on a primary level, the state continues to compare well with others of the country because of foreign remittances of its expatriates. Literacy is high and close to 90 per cent in most districts. Life expectancy is 75 years compared to 65 in other states. It has a functional medical care system. Tourism has contributed to its prosperity as can be seen in the rapid growth of this nascent industry. So, all in all, the state limps on, on its way to progress or “vikasanam” as it is called in Malayalam. Yes, “Vikasanam” is the most-touted word on every tongue in this green tropical paradise, which lies like a shining green emerald on the south-western coast of India.