Friday, June 30, 2017

In Modi Govt's tryst with midnight, India enters into ‘One nation-One tax’ regime

Prime Minister appealed to the people not to believe in rumours and misinformation about the GST and urged the doubting Thomases to see the reality.

"Yeh kisi ek dal ka siddhi nahi hae (This achievement is not of one party or one government)," Prime Minister said at a glittering function at the Central Hall of Parliament - which was graced by former foot soldiers of the long GST journey like Yashwant Sinha, Vijay Kelkar and Dr Asim Dasgupta and also the likes of business tycoons Ratan Tata and N Subhash Chandra.
"Yeh hum sabh ki sanjhi virasat hae (This is joint effort of all of us)," he said and also maintained that the GST will play a game changer in helping the poor and downtrodden too.
"Today at midnight we all will determine the road ahead for the country," he said.
Prime Minister said the GST would eliminate about 500 taxes, and will benefit the poor. He also appealed to the traders to pass on the benefit of the GST to the poor.

 New Delhi, Jun 30 
In tryst with midnight in the 21st century, Prime Minister tonight floated a new definition for GST - calling it Good and Simple Tax - and sought to dismiss the attack from Congress and other opposition parties for bringing in an "half-baked" new tax regime.
Mr Modi said there may be initial teething troubles as the transition to GST would have its problems. In this context, he gave the example of how new spectacles with updated power is initially uncomfortable.
"In reality GST is - Good and Simple Tax - as it's one tax for one country and good for the development of the country," PM Modi said.

"Yeh kisi ek dal ka siddhi nahi hae (This achievement is not of one party or one government)," Prime Minister said at a glittering function at the Central Hall of Parliament - which was graced by former foot soldiers of the long GST journey like Yashwant Sinha, Vijay Kelkar and Dr Asim Dasgupta and also the likes of business tycoons Ratan Tata and N Subhash Chandra.
"Yeh hum sabh ki sanjhi virasat hae (This is joint effort of all of us)," he said and also maintained that the GST will play a game changer in helping the poor and downtrodden too.
"Today at midnight we all will determine the road ahead for the country," he said.
Prime Minister said the GST would eliminate about 500 taxes, and will benefit the poor. He also appealed to the traders to pass on the benefit of the GST to the poor.
       He also appealed to the people not to believe in rumours and misinformation about the GST and urged the doubting Thomases to see the reality.

Ending as many as 14 long years of debate and frequent skirmishes along side allegations of derailing it, the "historic" and "breath-taking" Goods and Services Tax, biggest tax reform in India, was rolled out tonight in a grand ceremony at the Central Hall of Parliament.
While both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the proposal to enforce 'one nation-one tax' norm as "historic", President Pranab Mukherjee said the "scope of the change is truly breath-taking".
The biggest ever tax reform GST is also expected to reduce the burden on the common man and will integrate India into a common market, bigger than the European Union. By doing away with the plethora of taxes, the GST is expected to accelerate economic growth even as opposition parties have accused government of bringing in an 'half-baked' system in hurry.

President Pranab Mukherjee  said the scope of change in the GST is "breath-taking" even as some of the changes in it are "disruptive".
Addressing the gathering at the Central Hall of Parliament, Mr Mukherjee said, "Even for a person like me who has been intimately involved in matters of taxation and finance, the scope of the change we are undertaking is truly breath-taking".
He said while the GST will work as a major boost to "economic efficiency", as a measure GST is also a "disruptive change". "It is similar to the introduction of VAT when there was initial resistance".

Veteran Advani was present

First proposed in 2003 when a Task Force headed by Vijay Kelkar had recommended for GST, the grand proposal has, however, undergone a long journey wherein the ruling BJP was in the past accused of derailing and delaying it. Even hours before GST was rolled out, the Opposition Congress and Left parties and regional outfits like RJD and Trinamool Congress announced boycott of the glittering GST function in the historic Central Hall.

In fact, without naming anyone, President Mukherjee said as Finance Minister he had interacted with Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra a number of times.
Before 2014 - it goes without saying - none other than PM Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.The business tycoons Ratan Tata and N Subhash Chandra and former compatriots like Dr Asim Dasgupta, ex West Bengal Finance Minister, and former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha were among others who attended the glittering function. The occasion was also graced by the likes of Vijay Kelkar, former chairman of the Task Force which recommended first for bringing GST and the union Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia.
The presence of Dr Dasgupta was significant as his party CPI-M had announced about their boycott from tonight's proceedings in the Central Hall.
Dr Dasgupta was chairman of the first Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers and his role in the 14 year long journey was appreciated by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his welcome speech.

The new tax regime was rolled by President Mukherjee and Prime Minister Modi in reminiscent of the historic midnight 'tryst with destiny' in 1947.
"From Ganganagar to Itanagar and Leh to Lakshadweep, it is one nation, one tax," a jovial looking Prime Minister said adding the new norms will do away with 500 other kinds of taxes practiced hitherto in the country.
The GST, he said, will help curb corruption and black money and also bring in qualitative improvement in governance.
Prime Minister remained focused about poorer section and said the new system would ultimately help this section.
Notably for the government, NCP, JD-U, TRS , JD-S broke ranks with opposition parties to attend the mid-night ceremony. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh also gave the occasion a miss.
The government has defended the decision of going ahead with the complex four broad tax categories of 5, 12, 18 and 28 per cent.
In many quarters, apprehensions have been expressed mainly because some sectors were still trying to cope with the demonetization decision announced by Prime Minister Modi on November 8 last year.Mr Jaitley also said as Finance Minister in the erstwhile UPA regime - President Pranab Mukherjee himself has been a "gawah (witness)" to the entire journey.
The Finance Minister said, ensuring GST implementation would be a testimony to the fact that "India can rise above narrow party differences".
The solemn occasion was also graced by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda - even as Dr Manmohan Singh was a big miss.
The Congress and opposition parties like Trinamool Congress, Lalu Prasad-led RJD and Left parties stayed away from today's proceedings.
Among others, Sharad Pawar of NCP came along side his party colleagues Majeed Memon, Praful Patel and Tariq Anwar.
Among the BJP MPs, Mathura representative Hema Malini - clad in a shining blue Sari - was also present.
BJP chief Amit Shah and party patriarch L K Advani were also present.
Yashwant Sinha, who is not having a sound relation with BJP leadership for sometime, was embraced more than once by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar. Sinha's son and MoS Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha was also present. One BJP MP was found indicating Jayant Sinha about the presence of his father in the audience.

Samajwadi MP Ram Gopal develops 'uneasiness', comes back to join GST function
New Delhi, Jun 30 (UNI) Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav today fell sick at the Central Hall of Parliament and was soon taken out by the ruling side members and his party colleagues.
Sitting in one of the front benches, Mr Yadav complained of dizziness and was soon assisted among others by Minister of State for Skill Development Rajiv Pratap Rudy. Mr Yadav was taken out for a while as his party colleagues and son Akshay Yadav, also MP, also accompanied him. Later party sources said, he was feeling "uneasy". But Mr Yadav soon came back and joined the proceedings when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech was on.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

In presence of PM Modi, Prez Trump pledges to "destroy" Islamic terrorism

Washington, Jun 26 (UNI) In quite an unprecedented gesture the first US Lady Melania Trump today welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a missive in the micro blogging site Twitter. The first lady also posted a photograph of PM Modi,President Donald Trump and herself. The snap shows Prime Minister Modi cheering up at two of his hosts with all three smiling and in relaxed mood.
Earlier both Ms Melania and President Trump came out on the South Portico of the White House to receive Mr Modi.

It may be mentioned that during 2014 visit to the White House, the then First Lady Michelle Obama was absent at the reception and also had given gave the dinner in honour of PM Modi a miss. In his September 2014 visit to Washington DC, Mr Modi also could not eat anything at the White House dinner he was in the middle of a nine-day Navratri fast - something observed very religiously in Gujarat. Ms Melania and President Trump have hosted China's President Xi Jinping, and his wife, Peng Liyuan in Florida in April. The First Lady has only just moved in to the White House recently this is her first big reception at the Presidential mansion.

Counter terrorism figured prominently at the delegation level parleys at the Indo-US Summit talks between two sides here today where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the President Donald Trump pledged to give a new boost to the bilateral ties.
"We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism," President Trump told journalists emerging out of the meeting at the White House. "Both India and USA are global engines of growth. Eliminating terrorism is among the topmost priorities for both India and the US," Prime Minister said.

President Trump said on the eve of his elections, he has said that India will have a "friend" in the White House and now India truly has a "friend".
He described India as an "incredible nation" and the Constitution of both the countries rightly give the needful emphasis on the power of the people and thus the phrase - "We The People".
"Prime Minister Modi and I understand the need for cooperation between two countries," he said.
Mr Trump said "we are both world leaders" in social media and both believe in the power of the people. "Your accomplishments have been vast," President Trump said about India and the country's achievement and said both he and PM Modi will try to create jobs.
President Trump lauded India's ensuing major tax reforms Goods and Services Tax (GST) and also the Indian people's contribution for terror-ravaged Afghanistan.
"In just two weeks you will begin to implement largest tax overhaul in your country's history, we are doing that also," Trump said.
Addressing the joint press conference - where however both the leaders did not take any question - Prime Minister Modi said fight against terrorism their "safe heavens" is an important part of our

Prime Minister Modi also invited US President to visit India along with his family.
PM Modi also invited Trump's daughter Ivanka to lead a business delegation to India

"Prime Minister Modi invited my daughter Ivanka to lead US delegation to the global entrepreneurship in India, and I believe she has accepted," Trump said.
The US President said it is important that barriers be removed for export of the US goods to India and for reduction of trade deficit.
"The relation between the US and India has never been stronger," Trump said.

In a major diplomatic development, the United States today in a clear manner vindicated India's well known stand vis-a-vis proxy war by Pakistan and in a strong message urged Islamabad to "expeditiously" bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks.
At their maiden bilateral talks, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi "condemned continued provocations" by North Korea and both the leaders pledged to work together to counter the North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programs, including by holding accountable all parties that support these programs.
"The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries," a jointstatement issued at the end of bilateral talks between President Trump
and Prime Minister Modi said here.

As global nonproliferation partners, the United States expressed "strong support" for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.
"President Trump reaffirmed the support of the United States for India’s permanent membership on a reformed UN Security Council," the statement said.
Both sides committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D-Company, and their affiliates.

India appreciated the United States designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and called it an "evidence" of the commitment of the
United States to end terror in all its forms.
The decision against Pakistan-based terrorsit Salahuddin, who originally hailed from Jammu and Kashmir, was taken just hours before Trump-Modi maiden meet.
President Trump vowed to "destroy radical Islamic terrorism" and said both the US and India have been affected by the "evils of terrorism".
"Eliminating terrorism is among the topmost priorities for us," Modi told reporters in his joint address with President Trump.

In indication of greater cooperation to come in time to come between India, the US and Japan, Mr Trump also maintained that military of both the US and India are "working every day to enhance cooperation between our military forces".

He further said next month they will join together with the Japanese navy to take part in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the Indian Ocean.
"..... we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said.

The joint statement asked Pakistan to "expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot attacks and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups." Mr Modi also said that "Fighting terrorism and doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation."
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the two nations noted that in their joint statement that terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought in every part of the world.

India is the fastest growing economy in the world Trump said and added, "We hope we will be catching up you very soon," Trump said.
Both leaders also expressed concern over rising instability in Afghanistan caused by terrorism, and agreed to continue strengthening coordination for ensuring peace.
Mr Trump insisted that the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs ought to be tackled "rapidly".
"The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly," the US President said.

The leaders committed that the United States and India - leading engines of growth in the global economy -- should intensify their economic cooperation to make their nations stronger and their citizens more prosperous.The joint statement noted that extensive economic and tax reforms launched in their respective countries will "unlock immense economic opportunities" for both countries. Both the leaders also committed to further expand and try balancing the trade relationship and to removing "obstacles to growth and jobs creation".
They also resolved to pursue increased commercial engagement in a manner that advances the principles of free and fair trade.
"To this end, the United States and India plan to undertake a comprehensive review of trade relations with the goal of expediting regulatory processes; ensuring that technology and innovation are appropriately fostered, valued, and protected; and increasing market access in areas such as agriculture, information technology, and manufactured goods and services".
President Trump and Prime Minister Modi further committed to strengthening cooperation to address excess capacity in industrial sectors.
Surveying United States-India energy ties and the two countries’ respective energy strategies, the leaders affirmed the continued importance of their Strategic Energy Partnership and of leveraging new opportunities to elevate cooperation to enhance global energy security.
"The leaders called for a rational approach that balances environment and climate policy, global economic development, and energy security needs," the joint statement said.
Mr Trump also said India was the fastest growing economy.
He expressed pleasure about an order by an Indian airline company for 100 new American planes, calling it one of the largest orders of its kind. This will support thousands of American jobs.
"We're also looking forward to exporting more American energy to India as your economy grows, including major long- term contracts to purchase American natural gas, which are right now being negotiated, and we will sign them," he said.Referring to the GST reform to be implemented across India from July 1, President Trump said it was "the largest tax overhaul in your country's history".
"You have a big vision for improving infrastructure, and you are fighting government corruption, which is always a grave threat to democracy," Trump told Mr Modi.

Washington, Jun 27 (UNI) Waxing eloquent President Donald Trump  asserted that he will work proactively with India to fight Islamic terrorism - a pledge responded with equal enthusiasm by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,who said the fight also should be directed against "safe heavens" of terrorism.
President Trump yesterday vowed to "destroy radical Islamic terrorism" and said that both the US and India have been affected by the "evils of terrorism".

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Prez Polls: Opposition desperation in fielding Meira Kumar is linked to new generation politics

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing, crowd and outdoor

Is there a bit of hate politics going on in India? The answer is both - yes and no. I have tried to raise this question and also answer it in the perspective of the July 17, 2017 Presidential elections. The anguish against Narendra Modi by the opposition parties and especially the Congress party is palpable.

It goes without saying that as Congress keep losing states after states --- there is immense frustration growing. The frustrations due to prolonged exclusion from the citadel of power. It is natural in such a situation that the Congress and the other opposition parties should concentrate their fire increasingly on the personality of Narendra Modi. Thus, the ensuing Presidential polls is more about Narendra Modi and his style of functioning than Ram Nath Kovind or Meira Kumar battle.

The fact that the much talked about Presidential elections of 2017 has been reduced to a Dalit brother against a Dalit sister contest is more ways than one attributed to the new generation politics we are witnessing.
There is a strong NAMO factor as much you need to blame both pro-Modi and anti-Narendra Modi schools of politics.
Late Vamuzo, former Nagaland CM, used to say Nagas go mad when they do not get early morning plate of rice and Congressmen go mad - when they are out of power !
Pitting a Dalit woman against a Dalit --- the Congress seemed to have walked into a trap;

In 2002, when the BJP fielded missile scientist APJ Abdul Kalam, the Congress showed the maturity and backed him. The gesture did not go in vain as two years later -- the Congress got back its rhythm in national polity. But in 2017 they are into full-fledged war against Namo. This war - in effective manner - suits Modi the most. Narendra Modi is no Atal Behari Vajpayee --- so another round of big shocker from the BJP camp is expected.

Even as the mandate of 2014 Lok Sabha polls was clear in his favour, by around two and half years of his tenure Modi wanted to use the UP elections as yet another political milestone. The demonetisation and sudden financial restrictions on parties like BSP did all the magic for him.
Still Modi-Shah did not leave things to chances and thus stepped up hardcore Hindutva politics as well. Like every authoritarian ruler, Modi has been in quest for legitimacy and the UP mandate gave him a great opportunity.

The UP mandate actually has boosted Modi's confidence. A ‘no-contest’ Presidential election would have given him another opportunity. Hence some credit must be shared by Sonia Gandhi, the Left and other opposition leaders for fielding a formidable candidate in the form of Meira Kumar. The numbers may be with the government --- but there are enough merits in the case being build up by the opposition camp that there has to be an “ideological” contest as Ram Nath Kovind is also a RSS-loyalist and also that the opposition parties led by Congress with the support of hardcore anti-BJP the Left parties needs to sustain a strong anti-BJP or for that matter an anti-Narendra Modi politics till 2019.

In fielding Meira Kumar, it is true that the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders have put some pressure on the JD(U) leadership. Despite being a Dalit and a woman, Meira Kumar is also a seemingly ‘more qualified’ leader than the NDA nominee.

Now, some kind of looking at the rear mirror has become essential at this juncture - when Modi is alleged to be an autocratic. 

"There was a nauseating contrast between the professions of the ruthless rulers and the grim realities of the situation in which the innocent lived in constant fear of the vast government agencies to whom housebreaking was a routine affair," Nani Palkhivala wrote in a Foreword for book 'Democracy Redeemed' penned by V K Narasimhan. The reference was not of Modi era, but the dark days of 1970s -- when "democratic" Congress was at the helm of affairs.

But as one tries to expose the false claim about 'freedom of expression' etc etc -- now being championed by the Congress; what is important to note here is all kinds of autocratic rule have a similar pattern. This is what Modi should be careful about. But so far he is going by his own wisdom and yardstick drawn by his few select men. 

It is said about Indira Gandhi that her decision to go for elections in January 1977 was erroneous. Narasimhan ( a prominent journalist) writes rather authoritatively: "It is inconceivable that Mrs Gandhi would have decided on going to the polls if she had the slightest suspicion that the outcome would be adverse to her. She must have reckoned all the advantages in her favour and all the odds against her before taking the decision".

Friday, June 23, 2017

Tripura NewsLetter: Challenging the Marxist power base

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is clearly pursuing an ambitious and aggressive quest for power in the hilly, northeastern Indian state of Tripura that is bordered on three sides by Bangladesh.
Despite growing acceptability for the pro-Hindu outfit in the state, which is home to substantial Christian and tribal populations, the party's expansion plans face multiple challenges ahead of the legislative assembly elections in 2018. Nearly 80 percent of the state's 3.7 million people are Bengali-speaking Hindus, mostly migrated from Bangladesh

Tribals, once a majority in what is Tripura, now comprise less than a third of the state's population. Most Christians are tribals.
The BJP, with its hardcore pro-Hindu philosophy, is in a perpetual state of conflict with the Communist Party of India (Marxists) and Christian groups in Tripura. How the BJP performs in Tripura is a litmus test of how it can perform in other Indian states where it is not in power. Tripura has been ruled by a communist government since 1998. The BJP party strategists know this well. Tripura is not like the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where pro-Hindu issues such as the banning of beef, cow vigilantism, were under the political spotlight. In Tripura, they need to tackle more pressing issues like unemployment, women empowerment, and industrialization.

Voters in Tripura are essentially pro-left. Many possess an intellectual affinity to Marxism and the communists have wielded power long and often in the state.
"The BJP leaders need to break the umbilical cord between the voters and pro-Marxist intellectualism," a BJP official said.

In Tripura, where Marxist leader Manik Sarkar has held onto power for the last two decades, the BJP strategists understand that even upper-caste Hindus do not necessarily relate to the "Brahminical appeal" put forward by their party.

More than 60 percent of the country's population now lives in states either ruled directly by the BJP or in an alliance with regional parties.

Hence there has to be a change of strategy. Bengali voters in Tripura will never entirely reject the "power of Marxism" as intellectual food for thought or as the foundations of their political reasoning. In the past, it would have been unthinkable for an opposition challenger to the incumbent Marxists or leftists to gain sufficient support in the region.

However, rural workers, such as Sapna Das, the BJP women leader in Tripura, said: "There is a gradual change and many young voters are readily rejecting the left's ideology." Drawing confidence from this, BJP leaders have designed a few electoral strategies that aim to capture the minds of voters in areas heavily populated with Bengalis, particularly in areas where the pro-Hindu slant would find easier acceptance.

Ashirwad Dey, an educationist in Tripura said: "The idea is to capture the Bengali mindset, especially among those whose forefathers had to leave Bangladesh during partition in 1947 and later in 1971 [during the Bangladesh war of liberation]."
Due to the extensive numbers that fled Bangladesh (formerly Eastern Pakistan), today's population of the Bengali Hindu community in Tripura is significant.
The BJP is aware of its challenges and inherent weaknesses. BJP leaders claim the party is trying to sell Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "developmental card", even among tribal and Christian sections. 

"The overdose of the Marxist regime in Tripura has weakened religious affinities. This applies to both Hindus and Christians. Today, this is, ironically, helping the BJP's cause," one BJP leader said. 
"Due to many factors, including the overwhelming leftist influence, the institution of the church has always been weak in Tripura," Pastor P. Konyak, a Christian leaders in the region, said.

"Today, BJP is trying to make inroads in these areas largely riding the perceived popularity of Modi and the influence of power at the center."

On the other hand, many voters think that for the first time in two decades, the Communist Party will face a real electoral contest. But that remains to be seen.


Monday, June 19, 2017

My short story: AGONY OF A FATHER ....appear in ebook and print edition of HEART ALONE - A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES

He wiped his nose as his tears subsided. The pain was still in his heart. John Samuel’s feet burned from the unaccustomed walking in the sun. Perhaps he was trying to run away.. run away from his house, his family and perhaps the large mirror in his room. It was framed well in Italian marble or so as his son Vijay had told him.

Samuel’s face was stern as he walked into the house, now almost looked like a bungalow in the well to do urban-village. He should have been a happy person, nothing seemed to have changed in last 12 hours or so. But much has changed. The news of his cricketer son Vijay’s arrest was flashed on television. It was a bolt from the blue. The thought of it almost chilled him. 

Story teller Dev

Vijay has been arrested on the charge of match-fixing. It was just matter of hours that life of a celebrity cricketer has been doomed. There was some chirping of the birds around. To Samuel, as if the voices of unfamiliar birds began to rise from the trees. He walked inside and sat underneath the shower and unknowingly wept for a while. Perhaps he won’t be able to recognize himself again. Father of a ‘match fixer’, a greedy cricketer’s parents – the thought appeared dreadful.

Why Vijay had to do all these? Why? The details of the gory episode were still not clear. Is that girl, Vijay’s fiancée to be blamed? That girl’s family did not have good reputation. Her father was a middle level politician – better known as ‘middleman’ or go between among netas!At last, he thought his son has fallen victim to this greed. 

A scheming father’s daughter, who wanted to make big as a politician, was in hurry also. Perhaps Vijay has been forced by that girl. Vijay perhaps saw money not as a goal in itself, but definitely as a by-product of his cricket; and hence the tragedy.

Cricket was known as a gentleman’s game. Samuels too are gentlemen. But alas!
Coming out of the bathroom as he toweled himself dry, all of a sudden Samuel thought of pulling the old family album. He saw his wife blinking at him in moist eyes. He told her to bring the old wooden box. She looked puzzled but walked away and returned in no time. She made an attempt to dust the box. Seeing their son’s name and photograph on television screen in action and in newspapers gave them immense pleasure once ….. a sense of proud; but today everything has been washed away.
The sun had completed its day’s journey. Samuel’s wife switched on the light. Samuel dressed himself in traditional Malayali attire, walked towards the study table and picked up his glasses. The wooden box lay on his bed.

He saw his wife going away slowly. Life has almost come to a standstill. By now, his usual coffee would have come, but probably not today. His wife must have forgotten about it wondering what her son was doing inside the jail. Samuel too did not have the appetite.
In the neighbourhood, one young boy played music loud:
Life is old there Older than the trees Younger than the mountains …… Samuel pulled the box and sat on his cot, opened it and pulled out the album. The brown album has all photographs of Vijay since childhood.

True to that song coming from the neighbour’s house: ’All my memories gathered 'round … Samuel thought the same about his son. Tears welled up momentarily yet again after long time. Suddenly his attention focused on a snap of high school going Vijay. They were in far off northeastern state of Mizoram then. Samuel was a civil servant and was posted for a while in Mizoram. Vijay had one day come to his office to find out what his papa was doing- a normal curiosity of any young boy or girl of his age. Samuel was lost in his ‘office work’. 

He was pleasantly surprised to see his son but had a tight schedule. He promptly telephoned Vijay’s mother and told her about Vijay’s visit so that she did not worry. Mizoram was still reeling under insurgency and on odd occasions children were being kidnapped by groups to demand either release of their fellow militant-cadres or ransom. Samuel was in a ‘good government department’ and thus that chance was not altogether ruled out. Having assured his wife, Samuel ordered for some ‘jalebis’ for his son from the office canteen and got engrossed into his work. He started clearing files.

And as jalebis came in, Vijay had dished out a genial smile…almost sage like – who knew what’s stored in for him.
The state of Kerala hardly knows the winter chill. So Samuel room’s window too was not shut. The soft moonlight seeped through widow and fell on the floor and bed. His attention from Mizoram days was distracted. He found the moonlight outside lovely though the pangs of pain in him did the usual churning. A few night birds were crowing. He stared outside and wondered what his son could be doing now.
His wife came in asking when will he have dinner. The coffee has been given a slip. During the day both Samuel and his wife could not relish lunch too. He simply blinked towards his wife rather helplessly. “This is all my fate,” said Samuel’s wife cursing herself for the folly and the punishment meted to her son. Samuel sat calm and after a pause simply remarked, “call me when its ready; I won’t have much”. There was a long pause in the room. His wife did not ask him even what he was doing with the old album. Of course, she knew the obvious.
Suddenly she was walking out of the room briskly, stopped for a while and then told him rather in terse manner, “you remember the story from Mahabharata .. the poetic journey of the Pandava brothers towards heaven and a dog accompanying them. Everything is in this life” – and she walked away faster. Samuel stood in silence for a while and again sank himself onto the bed staring helplessly towards the wooden box and the old album. A sense of guilt was lurking in his mind. He remembered that on that fateful day when his son Vijay had come into his office room in Mizoram, something had happened. It was not unusual either in the life of a civil servant or in a government office. Files are cleared in probably all offices with some grease of bribe.
Similarly that day, a contractor had walked in and handed over Samuel a bulk size of currency notes. Samuel recalled Vijay had stared in utter astonishment towards his father and the contractor uncle as the businessman spoke crudely, “so Mr Samuel sir, here is what I promised… my files should not be delayed any longer”.

Vijay was not young enough not to know that it was a bribe and at the same time he was not grown up enough to tell his father, “papa please return the money”. Samuel recalled seeing a lot that day in the young eyes of Vijay. Truth is truly like a flowing stream. Samuel had thought about this incident time and again. He had even told his wife about it. But none had any clue how to resolve this puzzle or whether there was any puzzle in the entire episode or drama that unfolded in the office chamber that day, years back.

Samuel perhaps knew now, what he should have done years back. And as tears rolled by his aging cheeks, he lost the count of time as the unseen Time and the wall clock moved on.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Disputes persist as India, Pak enter SCO: PM Modi builds 'terrorism' pressure on Islamabad,

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Astana, the differences between India and Pakistan came to light when contrary to Narendra Modi's assertiveness on terrorism, his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif rather gave a push to the economic benefits and said, the global leaders, should not leave a legacy of "toxic harvest of conflict and animosity".
Mr Sharif went onto say that Pakistan is "diligently implementing" the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is already a bone of contention with India.

India made entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 9, 2017 with the Prime Minister Modi taking a dig at Pakistan on terror front and said the rejuvenated Eurasian forum should make coordinated efforts to fight terrorism including radicalisation, recruitment and financing of terrorists.
"Mujhe pura viswas hae ki Bharat-SCO sahyog, atankvad ke khilaf ladai ki ek nayi disha tatha shakti pradan karega (I have full confidence that India-SCO cooperation will give the fight against terrorism a new direction and new prowess)," Mr Modi said in presence of heads of nation of SCO including Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

PM Modi also sought to build up pressure on Pakistan vis-a-vis terror front and said
the fight against terrorism cannot achieve success unless there are concerted efforts on the issue of radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists.

"The fight against terrorism is an important part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Whether it is the issue of radicalisation, recruitment of terrorists, their training and financing, unless we take coordinated and strong efforts, it is not possible to find a solution," Mr Modi said.

"Terrorism is violation of human rights and basic human values," he further said.

On the sidelines of Summit of Shangahi Cooperation Organisation, where India and Pakistan got berth as members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pursued his diplomatic skills in establishing dialogue at the highest level with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and both sides agreed that they have "great interest" in working together. Modi was quite emphatic in telling the Chinese leader that even as India too favoured push to the connectivity projects vis-a-vis Eurasian region, the Chinese initiatives like OBOR and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)
had certain issues to be addressed.
"For connectivity initiatives and for success and approval of the projects, sovereignty and regional integrity must be respected while inclusivity and sustainability are essential," Prime Minister said.
Modi with Chinese Prez

India had abstained from the conference on the One Belt and One Road, a Chinese initiative as the proposed CPEC link would pass through Gilgit and Baltistan, both falling in Jammu and Kashmir and is forcefully occupied by Pakistan.

The crucial engagement between two Asian players also came on the backdrop of Beijing stalling India's admission into the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group and also eloquently expressing its reservation on designating Pakistan-based and Jaish-e-Mohammad leader as a global terrorist by the United Nations. In his brief speech at the SCO Summit, Prime Minister Modi without making any specific reference said, "Fight against terrorism, extremism and radicalization was one of the main tasks before the organization".  Both India and Pakistan - which were enjoying 'observer' status to the SCO since 2005 - were today granted admission into the body that was founded largely at the initiative of China in 2001.
The founding members of the SCO are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
On Modi's bilateral engagement with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Foreign Secretary Dr S Jaishankar said, "It's also understood that where India-China have differences they shouldn't become disputes and if handled well these can become opportunities".
During the meet, Prime Minister told the Chinese President that India is grateful for China's support to ensure India's admission into the SCO.

"In the time of global uncertainty, India and China are the factors of stability. As the world becomes more multi-polar, India and China should work together," Dr Jaisankar said. India has maintained that in the SCO there are several member nations who are in the neighbourhood of Afghanistan and the SCO berth would help India establish important dialogues with such nations and establish peace in Afghanistan and in the rest of the region.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My short story 'Chaitali's Father' appear in book HEART ALONE ,,,,, (print edition)

(the print edition of Heart Alone can be ordered online

At the end of five years and more they were married; my mother was surprised into it. Not the one to believe in feminism of the kind that had come to stay, she always thought a woman is a puppet whose strings are held in one man’s hands or the other. For the present and probably her future she was blaming my father. She blamed her fate, but if she had the little courage to protest; well her life as well as mine would have been different. For my father on the other hand, Contempt for women was a symbol of true manhood – Purushwata. It had come to stay as a minimum virtue in my father’s family to underestimate woman or to find fault with them. Well, feminine traits were like a disease they would be more careful than any other malady in the society. 

Actually, my father had inherited that. 

Four of them, my father, my grand father and two of my uncles were more than convinced that only in ‘vinash kaley’--- when your end is imminent- men would listen to women, especially the wives. The better half was a misnomer; as a consolation they could call it – bitter half.

On this backdrop came in my life – first the birth and then my upbringing.
I was born in Chait month and thus named Chaitali.
Right from childhood, I could understand that my father had acquired the reputation of being a difficult man to stay with. My mom would consider him an ambitious intriguer, who never gave my mother his confidence.
Sitting in my 2-tier Rajdhani Mail berth on way to New Delhi, I was thinking about all these. My life of 25 years and my parents.
Just then the engine hooted as if to signal that it is catching up the speed and so should I; may be.
Story teller

The train was fast in motion and as I craned my neck trying to peep through unclean glasses of the compartment, I saw we were passing across the platform of a tiny railway station in onetime governance-starved Bihar.

But the platform was crowded. The people pouring into these stations to move on to concrete jungles of Mumbai or Delhi always intrigued me. So many of them. Every time where do they go in these cities to get lost in the sea of humanity, where elementary humanly values hardly existed.

Lost in myself and as the train moved on; memories of early childhood spun before my eyes. My father changing my clothes, giving me bath once in a while during weekend. Sometime patting my head and calling me his ‘special daughter’. As I grew up, my mother would recall some of these tales even angrily often screaming, “it is your father who spoiled you”.

Then, how my father rejoiced my piggy bag collection of coins. How I used to count 50 paisa and one rupee coins -- after the other – one- one – one and one. Time had flown by. But slowly those days of family laughter – small family of me, my mother and my father also had passed by.

Neither my childhood remained nor those innocuous days.
The train hooted once again. I was wondering how the relation between my father and my mother was getting complicated because it was becoming more and more difficult to keep secret.

They probably started quarreling over everything. My mom refused to get snapped with my dad. My father discussed literature and good old values – often impractical and backdated ones – something probably only to tease my mother. My mom – pretending to be a worldly-wise lady egged by her sister – once questioned my father about the very wisdom and utility in writing short stories. “What do you get out of these sheets of paper and what’s our gain?”
My father perhaps guessed that my mom would not have dared to ask such a ‘pragmatic’ question unless egged by her sister, otherwise a too clever worldly-wise person at least I knew.
“For me living and breathing and eating is to write. Once a collection of short stories is out, I know the dream is a reality. What next came became a subsequent point of focus. Whether or not my work will move the readers or fetch me few thousands rupees did not really matter much,” my father replied.
As expected, my mom was angry at such reply. She also thought – my father had tried to insult her sister and her parents.
She gave an angry look – her face turning angrier at the sight of graying hairs along my father’s temples.
My mom always thought her marriage was a true case of miscarried justice. She deserved a much better paying husband and also someone with more sober outlook as her sister’s husband. More dutiful towards his in-laws. Someone devoid of that 3-letter tag: MCP (male chauvinist….
But in the midst of getting angry and disturbed, she also hoped one day she can rearrange my father’s outlook on life, and probably also change him as an individual. But that was not used to be. Far from getting himself as a good son-in-law; my father would scream at the peak of his voice: “For me father-in-law is not father, he can’t be……a man has only one father in this life”.
What more prescription one required to push the marriage to a brink?
Resting my head on a thin pillow as provided by Indian Railways in Rajdhani Mail, I was trying to sleep.
The engine of the locomotive was too often breaking the sweet monotony of silence. As the train halted outside a platform waiting for the green signal: I could hear a few night birds chirping. Staring outside the glass, I could feel the movement of a calm moon moving silently up in the sky – oblivion of my pains and the story of my parents.
The silent nights know a lot, I had read somewhere in a folktale of tribesmen from the northeast; yet the nights are always silent, they say.
I then opened my Facebook account on the laptop.

Dried and fallen leaves --- can be little autobiographical, one of the postings read. It also reproduced a few touching Hindi lines: 

- Woh haas kar pucchthi he humse, Tum kucch badal badal se gaye ho…aur Hum muskara key jawab deten haen ..tutey hue patte ka aksar rang badal jata hae
(She/He asks me whether I have changed a bit: but I reply with a smile on my face, a fallen leaf always loses its original colour)

I felt disturbed further. Out of anguish I tried to take a glance at my mother’s berth and found her virtually snoring. I was happy, at least she was sleeping. Any sleeping disorder could harm her health.
But I knew, my mother also had her role in ensuring her long separation from my father.
Tears welled up in my eyes threatening to spill, but to my utter astonishment, I could keep my head cool and ultimately withdraw my anger against mother. I felt sorry for her too. She too had her share of the tragedy, may be.
My mother’s married life was not on sound footing.
My father’s flirting with writing stories was unable to make impact both commercially and for namesake. Critics dismissed his writings rather easily and regularly. He was unable to sustain the interest of readers beyond few pages, they said. One publisher in fact also wrote a brief letter that landed on my mother’s hands. It was too simplistic and ruthless. The publisher said my father was unable to sustain the interest of the readers especially in the second half of the novels.Thus in the meantime, in the midst of his soul searching my father’s life made leapfrog from light comedy to sentimental melodrama to grim tragedy. And in no case he had any strength nor my mother could get any satisfaction of a married life. The drift between them was telling. Even my presence could not sustain them as one unit.
The term ‘we’ had vanished long back and both of them started living with ‘I’ and ‘you’. Sadly, I, their only offspring did not figure much. Thus when the time came the separation was easy.
The train halted again adjoining a paddy field. I could see a cut down tree under the focus of full moon night. How did it matter to me whether the tree used to have delicious fruits or it was a towering large banyan tree hanging from the branches? In the ultimate it was a cut down tree in an abandoned corner.

By now my mom too was awoke. She was sitting leaning on her left arm. Disturbed sleep was not good for her. Moreover, for last one week my father had begun to come to her in dream. Actually we were rushing to Delhi to meet my ailing father. This was my first trip to Delhi in last 15 years. During this period I have traveled from Bangkok to Mumbai; but my mother ensured that ‘unsafe’ Delhi was not in itinerary.

The dream would burn my mother’s heart. She would complain too. But the disobedient husband in my father often came – rather frequently these days.
I knew this was one such occasion. The bad dreams had again disturbed her. I could make out from her face in the dim light in the compartment my mother felt a kind of inflamed passion – something that had always been there. The passion and pains were as if coved by a huge pile of blankets. “Will you need the tablet?,” I asked mom. She nodded – that only meant the trouble was serious. She was thinking hard about the ‘man’ in her life and how both of them had handled things. The youth hood in life and initial years in marriage do not last long. My mother had lived the past – mishandled it as well. But now she thought about the future with trepidation.
The locomotive had started moving again. Gradually, both of us slept.

Next day, we reached Delhi on time. The East Delhi locality where in my father stayed was not very far off. We were still late.

As we entered the flat and my mom saw the photograph hanging, I saw her moving around with a vacant look in her eyes. She almost looked lost and forlorn. She recalled that about 15 years back, my father had once asked her over phone whether she felt ‘lonely’. 

Not surprisingly I was with my mother, so she had shot back, “I am not alone”.

But I knew today was different. The loneliness had enveloped my mother. Suddenly I also could realize her pain. I also realized that no one was now left who would address me ‘special daughter’ or provoke my mother into a quarrel. No one will cheer me over phone and email in particular – to scale higher peaks.