Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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Why she loves butterflies? A conversation with an Installation Artist



                  " I found it in a legendary land 
     all rocks and lavender and tufted grass,
     where it was settled on some sodden sand
     hard by the torrent of a mountain pass.
My needles have teased out its sculptured sex;
Corroded tissues could no longer hide
that priceless mote now dimpling the convex
and limpid teardrop on a lighter slide.
Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrim kiss,
poems that take a thousand years to die
but ape the immorality of this
red label on a little butterfly.”

         (‘On Discovering a Butterfly’ by Vladimir Nabokov)


Here is a unique artist who perceives the world around her, from the angle of a butterfly. She is Sharwari Tilloo. She believes, (backed up by her scientific analysis) that there are similarities between the life of a butterfly and human behaviour. According to her, the butterfly is a symbol of freedom and beauty; it represents the status and life of women in society, their aspirations and desires.  When I met her amidst her exhibition at the Chitrakala parishath (Karnataka, Southern India), I found that every creation at the series named ‘Metamorphosed’ depicted what she spoke.

Two hundred and fifty steel butterflies were suspended from the ceiling, each representing hundreds of women who were brutally raped in India every year. Though physically and emotionally hurt, these women should feel that they have every right to live a meaningful and happy life irrespective of the scars.  Society needs to support them in their determination to live happily and confidently.

She says on behalf of all the hapless women:
“Everything I want to say to my harasser: ‘I am not afraid. You don't scare me. I will stand up against you with my head held high’.”

Sharwari is a fulltime ‘papierieste’, working with ‘papier mache’ and other found objects. She started her tryst with art when she was just ten years old. She was guided by Bal Wad, an artist from Pune early in her life. She was fortunate to get trained under renowned potter Nirmala Patwardhan, the first Indian woman to be a studio potter. Later in life, she continued her passion for pottery under Angad Vohra at MantraHandmade Pottery, in Auroville, Pondicherry,in Southern India.

Before returning for work at Auroville, she spent time mastering Ceramics Art  at LaSalle SIA College of the Arts, Singapore. Studying in LaSalle along with art students from diverse cultures opened up the world of art and she picked up the skill of observation. An injury on the hand, while producing a creative piece, severely affected her work for years. However she was not disappointed. She went to HarvardUniversity and did post-graduation in Education. She started teaching children and also designed a curriculum for them.  

Papier Mache gave her the break she was looking for. In her explorations with papier mache, her constant endeavor was to push the limits of the medium and turn that into a ‘recognizable art medium to make sculptures and installation pieces’. Now, she does not restrict herself to only one medium. She uses ceramics, glass, gold, silver, and any recycled and organic material she can find.

She says: “My life has been analogous to that of a butterfly’s. I see the years in education as being a chrysalis, poised and absorbing everything, to break out into a butterfly. The phase that I am in now, I’m learning to fly, finding my wings, my freedom’.

Sharwari is an inspiration for all, not just as an artist, but as a person deeply involved in spreading a message of freedom to women across the globe, especially those who were victims of abuses. She is a thinker, visionary, talented artist, educationist, and a courageous advocate of women’s right to lead an honourable life. Artists, young and old, can learn a lot from Sharwari’s determination to innovate in the chosen field of art.

Good wishes to Sharwari in her research on the artistic intersection of butterfly and human behaviour. Readers of Cyber Diary can reach to her at sharwari.t (gmail). The products are available for sale.

© Sibichen K Mathew. Views are personal. Comments are welcome.


‘Shahid’ : A movie review

The other day my friend Homi, who is a leading counsel for many global entities, sent me a draft deed of a Charitable Trust he and his friends proposed to start, for my comments. I read the deed and was impressed by the noble purpose of the proposed Trust. The main objective is to render assistance in the cases of the wrongly accused and convicted persons and the reformed criminals who do not have anyone to help. Later, when I watched the movie ‘Shahid’, I was convinced about the need for such initiatives to save several innocent lives languishing in police lock-ups, prisons, and long pending legal bottlenecks and inquiries.

‘Shahid’ is a movie one should not miss. And I want you to see this in a movie hall rather than waiting to watch it in the mini screen or in the DVD player. I don’t say this because of any great digital experience or any multidimensional visual experience in the cinema hall. I sincerely want the producers of this fantastic movie to get their returns. When there was a long queue to get tickets for the movie being shown in the adjacent hall, there was hardly anyone to watch ‘Shahid’ in the large multiplex where the movie was screened. After just a few minutes into the movie, my wife and I wondered how such a wonderful movie didn't attract the average moviegoers.  The answer lies there itself. The mainstream viewers are satisfied by the mediocre movies rather than high quality productions.


Based on the real life story of a human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi who lost his life in his mission to defend an innocent person, the movie very vividly and interestingly depicts the prejudices, fallacies, and injustices in the criminal justice system. It is not just in the fascist and the dictatorship systems, innocent lives are targeted and tortured. Even in many so called democratic countries this is a practice very few would like to question. Investigating agencies can charge anyone with an offence on the basis of an allegation, accusation, suspicion or surmise. He can be raided and arrested. His family members can be subjected to harassment. Bails can be indefinitely denied stating that the investigations are pending. Meanwhile, there will be a frantic search to cook evidences to justify the action of the prosecution and to impose a punishment.

Watching a good movie is a delicious treat for our senses and sensibilities. Instead of watching movies with nauseating dialogue, cheap comedies, oft repeated themes, and digital circuses, we should watch movies like ‘Shahid’. Sometimes, such movies will sensitize our hardened hearts and we would learn and enjoy real acting, gain awareness of what is actually happening in our surroundings, and make us think loud to be proactive. ‘Shahid’ showcases an unadulterated presentation of reality in a very beautiful manner. You might ask, if is so close to reality, why should we watch? You are right! But we know that reality would bite only when it is re-told by someone else, because most of us would like not to accept reality as it is.

I recommend this movie not just for its bold story-line, but for the superb direction and outstanding performance of all the actors. The expressions of Raj Kumar Yadav who played the role of Shahid cannot go away from you for a long time after watching the movie. Baljinder Kaur ‘lived’ in her role as the mother of Shahid. I have no words to describe her marvellous performance. Prabhleen Sandhu, as Mariam enthralls us with her mature performance and expression of finer emotions beautifully. KayKay Menon as ‘War saab’ did a wonderful job. Everyone in this movie acted fabulously and one should congratulate the director Hansal Mehta for this. He won the Best Director award for Shahid at the 13th New York Indian Film Festival. The film has been produced by Bohra Bros Productions Pvt Ltd, AnuragKashyap Films and Paramhans Creations.

Part of the team behind 'Shahid'

Now, check-up whether it is running in the cinema hall in your place and get prepared to use (not spend) 123 minutes of your valuable time!

                              © Sibichen K Mathew. Views are personal. Comments are welcome. 

See other movie reviews below:

The unborn love

He was very shy. She was very smart. He was an introvert. She was a chatterbox. He didn't care how he appeared. She was worried how he appeared. She told him what and what not to eat. She never wanted his belly to grow so huge. He was just 23, though his heftiness made him look older. She was 19.

She used all her pocket money in Archies to buy gifts and greeting cards for him. She gave them for every festival including the ones neither he nor she celebrated ever. She always felt that the words printed on the cards were too inadequate to express her love towards him. She wrote several sentences on her own inside the card.

He felt happy whenever she met him. He was amazed at how she remembered the birthdays of even his parents and younger sisters. She never allowed him to have any pimples or blackheads on his face. She gently removed them with her soft fingers, but he shouted at her that it pained him. Whenever she visited his room, she arranged his table and cupboards. She decided what he should wear whenever they met. He never cared what she wore. He neither complemented nor criticized her style of dressing.

She was distantly related to him. They met while their families were going on a trip to attend the marriage of a relative in a distant city. They sat on nearby seats and she joined with his younger sisters in cracking jokes at him when they were playing Anthakshari. He knew all the Hindi songs though he hardly sung. He prompted his cousins by suggesting appropriate lyrics. She liked that quiet young man from that time onwards.

He finished his engineering and got placed in a large software company in the capital city. She missed him badly. She called him several times in a day. He always talked to her, though the calls never originated from him.

She couldn’t wait seeing him till his next visit to the native place. She was eager to meet him. He never encouraged her trip to the city. But she came to the city with her younger brother to see her relatives with whom her family didn’t had any contact for so long. She made enquiries about the opportunities for her higher studies in the city.

He tried to avoid meeting her alone in his room. But she wanted to chat with him for long time away from the people. They spent time together in his small room. She didn’t want to waste her time arranging his untidy table and unorganized shelves. She simply wanted to look into his eyes. While leaving him late in the evening, she felt closer to him than ever. But he regretted for being so close to her on that day.

She continued writing to him. He read her letters late nights and weekends. He returned her calls much later to tell her that he will call her later. Indeed, he called her later as promised. But his calls were always brief. And the contents were always the same. She found that the conversations were no longer exciting.

He sent a big birthday card for her, the biggest since she met him. He had underlined a few printed words which didn’t mean anything to her. She stopped going to the Archies shop. She found the words on the cards too romantic and unrealistic. She lost interest in all festivals and the only card she sent was for his birthday.

She was pained because of his indifference. She stopped calling him thinking that he would call her if she stops calling him.  That never happened. She called him to tell that she will be soon joining for higher studies in the capital city. He said: ‘All the best. Will definitely miss you as I am flying abroad next week to join a job there.’ She didn't say a word. She heard, ‘Hello, are you there?’ She hated the voice at other end.

                  *                              *                                   *                              *

Painting by Lucia Hartini

It was a sudden realization. She was no longer a young girl. When the life outside is blurred, why to worry about the life growing inside? She was bold. She went to the same city alone and came back home as a different person. She never wanted herself or anyone else to live in destitution. For a few nights she heard the cry of a little being and woke up with a throbbing pain within. Then life went on as usual, though nothing was eventful henceforth.  

                                                                            © Sibichen K Mathew


Are you ready to pay for the ‘real’ news?

I picked up one of the leading national newspapers from Delhi while leaving the hotel to catch a flight. I was horrified at the size of the newspaper (82 pages) as the cash starved airline would definitely charge me for carrying excess weight. But I could finish the newspaper within a few minutes on my way to the airport. That was because it hardly contained any news!  More than 80% of the content was advertisements, advertorials and other paid stuff (It was not a Sunday newspaper, which normally carry many extra pages).  It was foolish for the advertisers to presume that most readers would decide on their purchases based on the size of the advertisements. They are in fact irritants for many readers. None buy a newspaper to read advertisements. Some would be eager to see the classified advertisements, if they are particularly looking for a ‘match’, property, or a movie. Newspapers need to carry some news also!


People have become habituated to reading the leading news on the front page of the newspaper in spite of knowing them in advance through TV or internet. But when they see full page advertisement on the first two pages, they are not very patient to read that and quickly move to the page where the main news is printed. The companies who had spent huge money to get their advertisements released on the entire front page should understand the reality that people won’t take them seriously. Sensible advertisers will ask only an exclusive space in the front page along with the leading news. They know that readers would spend more time on the front page if there are important news items on that page.

The whole lot of qualified advertisement consultants and managers need to understand the psychology of readers and the sociology of markets. Some guys chose to have a customized half sized page exclusively inside for their advertisements. People won’t be comfortable to read such pages as they can’t flip the pages easily. Same is the case with magazines that contained a few thick advertisement pages and post cards in between making it difficult for readers to flip the pages easily.

When you pay peanuts, what you can expect?
It is true that readers need not be worried much on the size of the paper because they don’t need to pay anything extra for that. In fact, if there is no advertisement, the price would definitely go up. There are many newspapers like the New York Times (printed paper) which contain almost 55% advertisements. The pages in the Sunday newspapers in United States and many other countries are about five times more than the one on a weekday. For some Indian newspapers, advertisements are for survival and not for making profits. Price of newspapers in US is between  to $ 0.70 to $2.5. In UK the maximum price is around  2 pounds. Similar trend is seen elsewhere also. Price of Indian newspapers range from Rs 1.50 to Rs 5 (not the Sunday newspapers).

To get ‘real’ news, we need to pay
Most people of this generation, in spite of the internet and news channels in Television, continue their habit of reading a printed newspaper along with a steaming cup of coffee. This is true with even younger generation who is exposed to TV channels and internet along with the daily newspapers from their childhood. I could see many of them glued to the printed news in the morning. Yes, print media is still a center of attraction for people. Even when you knew the news headlines through the TV or from mobile alerts or from the online source, you would still like to read about what happened in your region, nation and across the globe from the printed paper. However, they get annoyed seeing the overemphasis for advertisements, sponsored news, and ‘paid’ views in their daily newspaper.

Only way we can ensure ‘real’ news in our newspapers is by showing willingness to pay a higher price for the newspaper. Are we willing to pay at least Rs 10/- for the newspaper? This could reduce the over-dependence of newspaper companies on advertisers, and they would possibly focus on disseminating news and less of sponsored stuff. A cup of coffee from a street vendor would cost you more than that these days. Even the entry fee for the ‘public toilets’ is Rs 5/- in many public utility centres in India! 

There are many leading newspapers who are interested in increasing the circulation prices due to the dwindling advertisements revenue.  New York Times, after incurring huge loss, has increased the circulation prices and became less dependent on advertisement revenue. Advertisers increasingly use the TV Channels and internet for releasing their ads and newspapers and started demanding less tariffs and more space.

The newspaper prices in many countries are governed by state regulations. In India the relevant law is ‘The Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1956’. This is an Act to provide for the regulation of the prices charged for newspapers in relation to their pages and of matters connected therewith for the purpose of preventing unfair competition among newspapers so that newspapers may have fuller opportunities of freedom of expression. At that point of time when the Act was passed, the purpose was mainly to create a level playing field in the business of print media.

The Act stated as follows:
If the Central Government is of opinion that for the purpose of preventing unfair competition among newspapers so that newspapers generally and in particular, newspapers with smaller resources and those published in Indian languages may have fuller opportunities of freedom of expression, it is necessary or expedient so to do, the Central Government may, from time to time, by notification in the Official Gazette, make an order providing for the regulation of the prices charged for newspapers in relation to their maximum or minimum number of pages, sizes or areas and for the space to be allotted for advertising matter in relation to other matters therein.

However in a landmark judgment in the case of Sakal Papers (P) Ltd., And Others vs The Union Of India (1962 AIR 305), the Daily Newspapers (Price and Control) Order, 1960, which fixed a minimum price and number of pages, which a newspaper is entitled to publish, was challenged as unconstitutional. The court held as follows:

The freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount importance under a democratic Constitution which envisages changes in the composition of legislatures and governments and must be preserved. No doubt, the law in question was made upon the recommendation of the Press Commission but since its object is to affect directly the right of circulation of newspapers which would necessarily undermine their power to influence public opinion     it cannot but be regarded as a dangerous weapon which is capable of being used against democracy itself. In these circumstances the Act and the Order cannot be sustained upon the ground that it merely implements a recommendation of the Press Commission and    was thus not made with an ulterior object. The decision in Hamdard  Dawakhana (Wakf) v. Union of India upon which reliance was placed by the respondent in support of the contention that where an enactment is  challenged on the ground   of violation of fundamental rights it is legitimate to take into consideration several factors including  the purpose of the legislation, the mischief intended to be suppressed, the remedy purposed by the legislature and the true reason for that remedy does not, therefore, arise for consideration. Similarly since the Act taken in conjunction with the order made thereunder operates as a restraint on the freedom of Speech and expression of newspapers the mere fact that its object was to suppress unfair practices by newspapers would not validate them. Carrying on unfair practices may be a matter for condemnation. But that would be no ground for placing restrictions on the right of circulation.

Though newspapers do wonderful service in disseminating news and views irrespective of the number of circulations, editions or pages, there are a few newspapers that exist only to serve 'sectoral' or parochial interests in a biased manner. Some papers are printed only to earn from  the government advertisements by inflating their circulation. Some of the leading national dailies fill up more than 60% of space with sponsored stuff on some days.

Concluding note

It is necessary to have suitable amendments in the pricing regulations of newspapers, not just for ensuring a level playing field or for making the business profitable, but also to fix a reasonable price so that the readers can get unadulterated news and less of sponsored stuff. Press councils should have more representation from the public so that their genuine expectations are taken care of. Newspapers should not be allowed to form cartels and function against the interest of the readers. Many other crucial issues related to media ethics are not dealt with in this article that exclusively focused on the scope of paying more for getting quality, with the assumption that newspapers would no longer justify their frantic marketing efforts for getting sponsorship for survival. 

Views are personal. Post your views as comments below. 

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The Bangalore Literature Festival and a few thoughts to ponder

After spending a few hours last weekend at the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF), I do not have any hesitation to shower my appreciation for the excellent effort by the organizers in making it lively, informative, and entertaining. The team led by Vikram Sampath, Srikrishna Ramamoorthy , and Shinie Antony and others did a wonderful job.  
The emblem of BLF

In this article, my attempt is to showcase the key intellectual conversations that reverberated in the highly intellectual environment at the Crowne Plaza, Electronic City.  Literature was always a driving force for change globally. Authors and thinkers, by joining together, can trigger revolutionary changes in society.

As mentioned by  Ashok Vajpeyi in his address,  literature militates against all kinds of tyranny. He said: ‘Literature offers you alternate ways of looking at reality, man, and universe. Literature survives on the notion of plurality. Literature keeps the possibility and desirability of change alive and it offers a lesson in humility. These are times were everything is so aggressive and noisy. Only literature can bring about enduring change through humble action.’

Three speakers shared their vision of India
(Read below what they spoke. Some of their ideas, if implemented,  can make India strong)

Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halagali, and T V Mohandas Pai spoke about their vision of India in a discussion moderated by T M Veeraraghav. They presented a few unique thoughts. It is worthwhile to share their unique views and ideas with the readers of Cyber Diary.

Photo: Sibichen K Mathew

Here is the Great Indian Dream by Mohandas Pai

Google image
A global citizen but a Bangalorean at heart. Head of Aarin Capital Partners and a member of BPAC Bangalore. He works with the Union and State Governments in the fields of education, information technology and business. Mr. Pai served as the Head of Human Resources, Head of Education, Research & Administration and Head of Finacle Infosys Leadership Institute at Infosys Ltd. since 1996. He served as the Chief Financial Officer at Infosys Ltd. from 1994 to 2006.

I have a very simple vision of India: An India where every citizen has bare necessities of life.
A house to stay in, water in the taps, a sewage connection, toilet, food on the table, education for children, a road to the house, security for the life and property, a country where there is justice for everyone, prevalence of law, (which implies that the courts work), quick disposal of cases, country where everybody can practice the religion of their choice, life with full liberty where all rights guaranteed under the constitution are available. The vision is to have a society where women can walk in the late evenings, and a country where parliament functions (not a dysfunctional parliament).
 A country where every Indian can go for the great Indian dream: This is my vision of India. This was also the vision of the founders of Indian constitution.

We need to reform politics: Said  Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda
Member of Indian Parliament in the Lok Sabha. He belongs to the Biju Janata Dal party. Previously, he had served in Rajya Sabha, from 2000 to 2009. Jay Panda is a member of the Citizens’ Alliance against Malnutrition, a high level advocacy group composed of young parliamentarians, from various parties and other influential personalities. He is a 1046 hr pilot, columnist, passionate about adventure sports and an avid nonfiction reader.

Following are the key excerpts from his talk:

There is a saying that for a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. My vision for India is essentially political reforms. I come from a non-political background. But I am involved in politics for last several years. Democracy is always criticized because we see lot failures all around. We find corruption everywhere. A cursory glance at the non-democratic countries shows that they are worse than the democratic countries. As Winston Churchill used to say, democracy is the worst system except for all the other systems all out there. We should be aware that the rest of the world sees the glory of our democracy. Other democracies have also gone through exactly the problems we face today. In US from the middle of the 19th century to the 20th century there were fights, wrestling matches etc. inside their legislature. There was huge corruption. As they progressed from a predominantly agricultural economy to industrial economy there was the rise of middle class. But in the next 50 years, during what generally called the progressive era, things changed and the politics and democracy became more open and transparent. We also need to achieve that progressive stage where democracy is more transparent. There should be a political transformation in the country. With technology, rapid growth of internet, social media, it is possible for a candidate with non-political background to mobilize the voters. 
The author Patrick French wrote in his book ‘India: A Portrait’ that almost all political parties have MPs because of family connections. The stark finding: 75% of MPs below the age of 45 are hereditary MPs, 100% of  MPs under 30 are the hereditary MPs, where either their parents, grandparents or uncles or aunts were politicians. The younger the MP, the greater the likelihood that he or she has inherited the seat. It is like joining the family business. The growth of middle class and the spread of middle class values such as thrift, emphasis for meritocracy etc. are gradually changing the scenario. Public should engage in the battle to bring political parties under the Right to Information Act and to make elected representatives quit the job once they are convicted.

National Security and development are in danger in a declining state: Warns  Lt. General  Ramesh Halagali.                         

Lt. General  Ramesh Halagali
(After his retirement he is a full-time social worker in rural Karnataka)

My vision of India gravitates towards national security. National security is not primarily securing our frontiers against external aggressions and also defending the country from internal fissures, but more importantly it stems from the fact that the armed forces are not merely a fist in a velvet glove. The whole anatomical body of this nation, the civil societies, and various appendages of this nation together make India strong.  Unless India spearheads itself with a strong security framework and enable itself to cast its international shadow deep beyond its frontiers we probably will remain mediocre. But what we see on the horizon today is that there are vistas of great wisdom and these wisdoms are clearly indicating that national securities are getting stronger irrespective of what we are reading in the media in the recent past. India today not only secures its frontiers but has also enabled the entire political framework to function and allow the geopolitical environment to enable itself for the fructification of the socio economic development. But somewhere down the line we say that there is a declining state. This is where we have to focus on.
Unless the instrumentalities that make our nation’s securities are strong, the armed forces alone cannot project power. We need to have strong leaders:  Leaders who are self-less, leaders who are honest, leaders who have a vision to take India forward and those who take the tri colour of India over the horizon. Unless the character of the nation becomes strong, the national security will take a beating. My view is that the national security and internal growth and development are intrinsic to each other for growth. We must continue to focus on spreading the knowledge so that it shapes the future of our country.  

The Discussion

‘If we mess up the governance, we will lose the opportunity to grow’ Said Mohandas Pai

We are a two Trillion Dollar economy. We are the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity and 7th largest economy in the world in nominal terms. If we continue to grow at 7% annually, we will become close to 10 trillion dollar economy in 20 years.  In 10 years, we will grow by five times.  We are going through a democratic transition.  We have 650 million people below 35 years.  If we can create work for them, we can create economic output.  We are a country with high savings rate, which is around 30% of GDP. 4 years ago, we used to invest 37% of GDP and grew at 9%.  This growth will throw-up enormous opportunities in the next 20 years. We can see rapid economic growth, huge productivity, changes in living standards of people, fulfilment of great dream of every citizen, provided we set the governance right in this country.  We can create lot of Indian multi-nationals in many areas. This is a first world in the third world country.  We are sitting at the intersection of many scientific discoveries and abilities, which give us innovative ability to develop this country. If we ‘mess up’ this due to bad governance, this opportunity will never come back.  We will be one of the global powers, if we take this vision forward.

We need to increase judges by four times, said Jay Panda

The economic potential will be handicapped if our cases are continued in the courts for more than 20 years. Our police are not responsive in detecting crime. These are not the roots of the problem, these are symptoms. What is the root of the problem?
In our judicial system, we have a dismally low ratio of judges. If we look at the developed countries, there are at least 50 judges per a million people. Some of the more developed countries have 100 judges for a million people.  We have just 13 judges for a million people.  We need to quadruple the number of judges we have.  It is both in terms of quantity and quality.  Quantity is necessary but not sufficient. We need to have qualitative improvements in the process as well.
We cannot have indefinite adjournments.  Fortunately, the fast track courts, which we have set-up are setting the good example by disposing about 84% of the cases entrusted with them in the last few years.  We do not have consensus to earmark budget for setting-up large number of fast track courts. These are the kind of changes that we need.

Some people do not want their  cases disposed : Mohandas Pai

Why we do not have many judges because some of the political parties want the cases to be pending for more than 20 years. May be they can get away from murder, rape and other crimes.  Some people would like to have an ordinance to get protection. Political parties do not want to ensure justice for the people. (edited to avoid specific references)

If armed forces can deliver justice in 3 months why can’t other courts too? 
Asks Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halagali

It is amazing that if the armed forces are islands of excellence in delivery of justice, why the country is not looking at the modalities that they are following? Judicial system has to produce excellence.  If military courts can be so clean and so fast, why can’t the regular courts follow this?  In our own country, we have such shining example of armed forces.  There are reasons why we do not want follow.   I would not like to delve that.

The only solution: Make the educated middle class vote in elections, argues Jay Panda

We have to actually come-up with the solution to the problem of political inefficiency rather than just criticizing it. India has a unique democracy where once people become middle class, they will disengage with the system. They don’t vote.  In other democracy, it is the people who are from the middle class, who vote in greater numbers. 
In many developed countries, middle class enthusiastically vote.  It is the opposite for us.  It is poor, who vote here, when the educated middle class stay away.  People should come out and vote for the least bad candidate.  This is the way we can bring out changes in the country.

It is the middle class people who got us freedom from the colonial rule 
reminds Mohandas Pai

Who got us the freedom in this country? It was the educated middle class and the accomplished people. They led this country to independence. Where are those educated middle class today?  Middle class does not want to engage into politics.  The reason is that they do not want to get their hands dirty.

We need populism too. We can’t ignore the common people: Said Jay Panda

We are the only democracy in the world that had universal adult franchise on day one. Every other democracy took hundreds of years. But, we do not give value to this right. In a country like India with 1.2 million people, we need to have some degree of populism. But the corporates oppose this.  We need to have a balance between formulation of long term economic policies and short term measures to satisfy the people.

We do not have a national leader now: Mohan Das Pai

We do not have  tall figures to represent India as a whole like Gandhi was and also how Nehru was, to tell people what is required. We have this feudal concept of taxation and revenue disbursement. The government unilaterally decides how the taxes are to be utilized. The tax payer has no role in that.  Unless the middle class comes forward to the decision making process of the country, we cannot ensure good governance.

More than 90% of my colleagues were against the new button on the Ballet machine 
said Jay Panda
After the independence, the middle class engaged mainly on two occasions. One was during the national emergency and the other was during the recent protests against corruption and rape.  The recent good news is that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has ruled that the Election Commission must have a new button on the ballot machine for rejecting all the candidates if the voters so wish.  I can tell you that more than 90% of my colleagues are against this.  They are horrified. A small minority like us in politics welcome it.  The reality is that some of these progressive steps have been taken by the Courts and not by politicians.
I do believe that middle class will always on the edge of setting agenda. The clout of middle class will keep increasing. Their responsibility is greater, but they won’t succeed if they act in isolated silos.

Our rural leaders need training: 
Said Lt.General Ramesh Halagali (Retd)

Why is the political leadership not demonstrating the skills and aspirations of the yester-year leadership?  You can keep arguing that they are corrupt, they are incapable and they are inefficient. You could call them anything, but ultimately the leader requires training, the leader requires motivation, the leader requires a set of parameters to function. There should be systems in place that enable him to move in a channel and not allowing drifting. The nation needs to create a system that ensures transparency and accountability of every action they take and they should be subjected to enquiry and investigation for any deviance. 
The entire focus of the IT sector is on banks, insurance companies and other businesses. There is no technological investment in rural areas where 80% of people live. Is there any automation in education, health and services in rural areas? Are the leaders in rural areas motivated enough? The answer is NO.

Facebook, Twitter etc. becoming crucial in Indian democratic politics, said Jay Panda

In the upcoming election, social media is going to make its presence felt. But it won’t be a game changer. But in one or maximum two more elections social media especially twitter, facebook etc. going to be the game changers. India has 300 million middle class people. Another 300 million is aspirational middle class. These 600 million people will be and can be mobilized through social media. We have seen the influence of social media in organizing flash mobs against Delhi rape, corruption etc. for instance. Social media is blurring the line between urban and rural with increased internet penetration across the country. We grew up with less information from just a few newspapers or the government run TV channel. `Now we have close to 800 TV channels and the internet subscriptions have crossed about 15 million.    
If we can bring about voting through online using some biometric system it will be a game changer.

Citizens should fund the political parties in elections 
Said Mohandas Pai

How many of you have given money to candidates for election? You should give them money and then ask them to be accountable once they are elected by doing what they promised. Election commission should revise this absurd limits or ceiling for election expenditure: 25 lakhs for assembly election and  45 lakhs for parliament election. Every MP in parliament tells a big lie that they have spent less than the ceiling. There are MPs who have spent 15 cr in Bangalore for their elections. Nandan Nilekani has to spent this much if he contests election. Do you think he will win by just spending 45 lakhs?  And he does not have any black money. How will he spend for his election because of this ceiling?
Parliament froze the seats based on the census of 1971. Later on the basis of 2001 census it amended the rural-urban ratio in seats. Since only 28% people were urban, seats in urban areas were restricted to 28%. They froze this till 2030. But by 2025 there will be almost 50 % urbanized population whereas the seats will be only 28%. It means the middle class people, urban people and the educated people will be disenfranchised for 20 years, because politicians know that the educated people will demand performance and they cannot be manipulated with populism.

Views for transformation 

All above speakers have given their valuable viewpoints that can definitely transform this country. Their statements are not theoretical and hypothetical, but are crucial for radical progress of the country. There should be a debate across the country on the suggestions given by them. My only critical observation is that most of the views expressed in the discussion were tilted towards the educated middle class. But I am sure that none of them have any bias towards any particular economic category)

Some suggestions to the organizers of BLF

1 . It is suggested that organizers consider arranging for author interactions at various locations simultaneously within the festival premises so that visitors can interact with their favourite authors informally.
2.    There can be workshops for budding writers (children and adults). The literature quiz for children was a good initiative.
3.   One could also think of discussing specific titles that showcased unique ideas (a new genre or an extraordinary work)
4.   There was scope to have some more titles on display. Books from many established publishers  were missing in the display. Considering the fact this is not a book fair, at least the best sellers or  unique titles from leading publishers could be displayed.
5.     For future BLFs, organizers can think of having an exclusive session on Indian blog literature.
6.    More space should be covered, as many visitors could not tolerate the hot sunlight during most of the day.
7.   Celebrities who have an association with literature or any related area are more welcome for the visitors than others.

 © Sibichen K Mathew.   Views are personal. I do not necessarily subscribe to the views of any of the speakers mentioned above. However, I am responsible for the errors in summarizing the discussion. The objective of this report is to create awareness among the readers about various viewpoints aiming at a better nation and a responsible society.  Comments on the above views are welcome. (Post comments below or e-mail sibi5555(gmail))


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