An era has ended. May Kalaignar’s soul reach the abode of the Lord that he publicly announced to have despised.
Kalaignar will be remembered for all that he had said, stood for, and done. So, what did he stand for and what does his era signify?
Kalaignar’s era was characterised by nepotism, hatred towards Hinduism in general and the Brahmins in particular, funded by missionaries who never stopped short of calling him their saviour and benefactor, and any thing even remotely anti-India.
A quick thinker and a fast learner, he switched sides, without compunction, to stay in power at any cost. Having worked for and against the Congress party on three different occasions, he chose to ride with the right wing BJP to enjoy the fruits of power at the center and without any second thought, quit the right wing alliance towards the end of the term and switched back to supporting the Congress. He was called a ‘Chanakya’ but was actually a rank opportunist and a clinger to power.
He roused the emotions of the people on every issue and then reaped rewards from those. The anti-hindi agitation was one such.
Kalaignar did not have a single stand on any issue. He always had a minimum of two stands and was adept in reasoning out both ways. Sri Lankan Tamil cause is a case in point. He supported the Tamil rebel groups that opposed LTTE, for the latter was patronised by MGR. Later, when the LTTE eliminated all other Tamil groups, he didn’t feel shy to support the Tigers. From supporting India’s intervention in Sri Lanka to calling for IPKF’s withdrawal, to passing on classified secrets to the Tigers, to denying their existence in Tamil Nadu, in supporting secessionism, to occasionally standing for India’s unity when he found berths in the central cabinet, from ridiculing hindu rituals and symbols and castigating his party men from following hindu rituals, to turning a blind eye to his family members’ association with temples and rituals, from casting aspersions on hindu saints to welcoming Sai Baba home, he had a dualist approach in all that he touched.
His often touted contributions to Tamil are mostly over-hyped emotion tinged statements meant for public consumption. His reign saw the mushrooming of low quality English medium matriculation schools ( MGR and Jayalalithaa are no exceptions here), degradation of the state’s primary education infrastructure, and general apathy towards corruption among public servants. When the state’s educational infrastructure is often connected with K.Kamaraj, the state’s decline due to corruption and malfeasance is linked with Kalaignar. MGR and Jayalalithaa helped carry forward this legacy with the result that dravidian rule has come to be known as the reign of corrupt politicians.
It started with Kalaignar’s Veeraanam Scam in the late 60s. Justice Sarkaria’s report on the then government’s corrupt practices termed Kalaignar’s reign thus: ‘Scientific Corruption’. Tamil Nadu’s march towards decadence and rust was initiated by Kalaignar and carried forward by MGR and Jayalalithaa. Being corrupt is now not a cause for remorse or regret. That is the victory for the dravidian reign.
A defining aspect of Kalaignar’s rule has been a gradual lowering of standards in public discourse. Indecent words, swear words and double entendres, that ridiculed women in public, became the norm. Especially with Jayalalithaa as the arch-enemy, the volume and intensity of the talks increased. And the pity was, Kalaignar rewarded such talks with plum positions in government and in the party.
World Tamil Conference, espoused by his mentor Anna Durai, later carried forward by his arch rival MGR, became a pricking point for Kalaignar. He was not able to conduct a World Tamil Conference during his last term in office as that was not approved by the world organization that had to give a go-ahead. He brought about another festival – the Semmozhi Festival- at great expense to the public exchequer to ostensibly promote Tamil, but ended up promoting family ‘talent’. During his reign, academic research in Tamil became a thing of ridicule (he awarded a Ph.D to a ‘scholar’ who produced a thesis that said Thiruvalluvar was a disciple of St.Thomas).
Whenever Kalaignar assumed power ( five time Chief Minister), anti-national rhetoric gained traction and the government turned a blind eye to such nefarious activities. Debates in the legislative assembly were either verbal assaults on the opposition or singing competitions eulogising Kalaignar (Jayalalithaa wasn’t far behind in this). Rivalry between MGR and Kalaignar became so virulent that mere exchange of pleasantries between the ruling and opposition members were scoffed at. The trend continues to this day, to the merriment of the politicians from other states.
Kalaignar’s last term was characterised mostly by corruption, nepotism, and bland display of sycophancy at every level. Governance became a casualty, with his own children and extended family members fighting for the spoils of the administration, both at the state level and at the central level where the DMK had a say.
Kalaignar would be remembered for two schemes – Uzhavar Sandhai ( farmer’s market) and Valluvar Reading Rooms, both of which are now defunct. He would also be remembered for his attempt to sell arrack in polythene sachets and converting the state to a place of ugly statues. Another star scheme that helped attract many followers was the ‘First Graduate Scheme’ that has indeed helped many from the poorer sections to become graduates with a little push from the government.
Kalaignar Karunanidhi – A man who had very humble beginnings, yet raised his family’s wealth to stratospheric levels at the cost of the state’s administration and the country’s standing in the international comity of nations. That the party which suffered several splits during his term did not disintegrate into un-noticeable subgroups is a testimony to the organisational skills of Kalaignar. He kept his party together and the DMK stands tall as a cadre based party that has some potential left.
Kalaignar, who is called the ‘Last Dravidian Stalwart’, was a man who had all the chances to become a Lee Kuan Yew but gave up all those in pursuit of personal glory and family wealth to the detriment of the state and nation.
An astute politician, a life-long fighter, the epicenter for his party, a pragmatic leader who somehow had the aura of an able administrator, and an almost statesman, Kalaignar would be long remembered for all he had said and done. As the unifying force for the millions of party cadre, he leaves behind a dilapidated party often fraught with internecine rivalries. Truly, a fighter who has called it a day after 94 years of continuous combat. The party leadership should unite in this time of transition to ensure cadre don’t vaporize into the myriad fissiparous pull factors visible in the state.
The Tamil film ‘நடிகையர் திலகம்’ (Queen among the female actors) is a biopic that glorifies an actor to the extent that it does injustice to her husband.
Savithri, the erstwhile lead actor in Tamil that the film is based on, was supposed to have been the female equivalent of the then doyen of Tamil film industry – Sivaji Ganesan. There was supposed to be no role that she could not emulate.
The film portrays the meteoric rise, the path of slow and painful decline and ultimately the pathetic end of Savithri. Gemini Ganesan, the then male superstar and heart throb of girls of that age, is painted in a bad light and is shown to be the precursor to the decline and demise of Savithri.
Given the headstrong nature of Savitri, she had never heeded sane advice and had ventured into uncharted territory – film direction and production.
The biopic could have covered the different conspiracy theories that had surrounded the life and times of Savithri and Gemini Ganesan. The film does not speak of the role of another leading female actor of those times, Banumathi, who was supposed to have enticed Savithri to produce films. What had made Banumathi to lure Savithri into this film production business, did Gemini Ganesan have any role in this, was there anyone else behind this ill-thought out move, what transpired between Savithri and Chandrababu, a comedy superstar who also had a sad end – the film could have investigated on these lines.
When Savithri, the then reigning superstar was undergoing such turmoil in her finances, what did the the other leading movie players do? What was Sivaji’s stand? Did MGR, an erstwhile superstar and the then Chief Minister of the state, do anything to ameliorate Savithri’s sufferings? What did the film industry associations do? Had these been addressed, the biopic would have given a complete perspective of the situation that prevailed in the state in general and Tamil film industry in particular. A chance missed.
The film meanders on an unnecessary love story of an investigative journalist while trying to provide a third person narrative to the biopic. The time spent in these sequences could have been better spent in going over the intertwining factors behind the decline of a gifted actor Savithri.
Malayalam actor Keerthi Suresh dons the role of Savithri and her performance is a treat. She speaks more through her eyes like what Savithri was supposed to have done. She emotes Savitri so much so that, at times, the viewer begins to see Savithri in Keerthi Suresh. Dilqar Salman, who plays Gemini Ganesan, does justice with the necessary dose of tom boyishness and grace.
The scene transition between two films that run in parallel and that too entangled with the personal lives of Gemini and Savitri, the color transition from black and white image to color costumes of the then real life characters, the then Madras’s imagery, the mellifluous background score and an outstanding song that brings out the romance between Gemini and Savithri and many more finer aspects of the movie bring out the needed talent that the Tamil movie industry has, but seldom uses.
‘Nadigaiyar Thilakam’ — one-sided biopic, supported well by the lead actors, but laid waste due to unnecessary characters and a not-so-needed sub-story line. The surprise upside – the discovery of a great talent ‘Keerthi Suresh’.
A welcome different attempt in the Tamil / Telugu film industry. Hope more of such emerge on the life and times of Jayalalithaa, yet another enigma and a power to reckon with until her mysterious death in 2016.
What a movie!
‘Asthu’ (अस्तु), a Marathi movie that revolves around an Alzheimer patient excels in many spheres and takes mainstream cinema to a different level.
Dr.Chakrapani Sastry, a retired Sanskrit scholar, afflicted with dementia, forgets even his daughter’s names, yet is able to recall relevant verses from ancient texts that suit the occasion. He gets lost, follows an elephant and is taken care of by the mahout’s family for a day. The struggles that Sastry’s daughter Irawati undergoes to find him forms the crux of the story.
Sastry’s slow descent into dementia is well captured. The scenes where the mahout’s wife takes care of the scholar have deep philosophical undertones bordering on Karma and the like. These scenes are bound to bring tears to the viewer.
The transitions from one scene to the other, through the eyes of the daughter, are well made , with an object or verse in the preceding scene acting as the connector to the succeeding one. Eg – The miniature elephant souvenir in a scene followed by the one that shows the actual elephant Lakshmi.
Irawati Harshe plays Irawati, daughter of Sastry. Her controlled and graded emotional outbursts are a treat to watch. Milind Soman plays a supporting husband and an understanding son-in-law.
The mahout and his wife (Amruta Subash) glitter in their performances, the latter stealing all the scenes effortlessly.
Dr.Mohan Agashe, a real life Psychiatrist, plays Dr.Chakrapani Sastry and anchors the film all the way through. A man that doesn’t remember anything, following an elephant that is supposed to remember everything, is an interesting aspect of the film.
I particularly liked the steady stream of jingling noise made by Irawati’s bangles. The Kannada-Konkani-Marathi lullaby that the mahout’s wife sings is bound to anchor you to the seat. The lullaby makes all the characters sleep, and that includes the elephant.
The mahout’s daughter is a silent performer. She never spoke a word, but captured my heart.
It is an honour to watch the film. I honoured myself twice.
Ravi Velloor is the author of ‘India Rising’ – a book on India from a Singapore perspective. It is a well researched book and showed the author’s efforts.
But the author is also an Associate Editor with The Straits Times.
It was Doklan crisis time. Ravi Velloor wrote an extremely below-standard article that said the following:
- China would attack India.
- Pakistan would join China in attacking India.
- Singapore Air Force, that has its training facilities in India’s Kalaigunda Air Base, should look at other options for its training.
None of the above happened. The article was under-researched, alarmist and lacked details.
How could the author, who writes a great book, write such an article that reeks of arm-chair analysis and advertises lack of clear thought processes?, I thought.
I got the answer. Arun Shourie, author of many exemplary books, and importantly of a book on China that brought out how and why Nehru prostrated to China and allowed the 1962 disgrace to happen, said during the same Doklam crisis, that India was preparing to get yet another slap on the face. And we know what happened in Doklam.
I got my lesson – Authors are good at hindsight, but, are not pragmatic and not worthy of contemporary analysis.
May be I am wrong. Point me to journalist-authors who are right in both roles at the same time.
Here is the article that I had referred to.
I am pained beyond belief to have seen a three minute video of two religious heads of a religious denomination spewing venom on Prime Minister Modi and BJP leader Amit Shah.
One has the right to his own opinion. But as a religious leader, one has the responsibility not to fall prey to crowd induced euphoria and (mis)direct followers in a particular direction.
In this case, the two were asking the followers to chant a certain name for the downfall of PM Modi. All this, in a meeting called to ask for a secular item – water.
One preacher even went to the extent of asking how could Kanyakumari have an enemy of the majority community in the constituency, as its MP? He further said that had the community chosen an MP from its own religious denomination, the Inaiyam port would not have happened.
I know that leaders of minority communities (mis)direct gullible followers to vote in a particular pattern. But until now these have happened inside places of worship and congregation. But a preacher spreading such a message in an open forum is an ominous sign.
My appeal to brothers & sisters in the minority community:
Go ahead and don’t vote for Prime Minister Modi, vote for Rahul Gandhi or even Karunanidhi. But, do so on your own volition. Don’t let devious preachers herd you as cattle, for they are acting to fulfil their master’s wishes – this time it is money, foreign governments and mercenaries.
My dear brothers and sisters in the minority community: We have been brothers and sisters until now. Preachers come and preachers go, but we are brothers for ever. Don’t let the chord of trust break.
When your preacher calls your elected representative an enemy of your community, they are not only insulting the member of parliament, but are also deriding the collective wisdom of the people who have voted the person and made him their representative.
Time to get out of the preacher’s spells and think for yourselves. Your preacher has no business directing your secular thought. In fact, it is your right not to be directed, in a particular way, to exercise your constitutionally given right.
Never were P.C.Alexander, K.M.Cherian, Abdul Kalam, George Fernandes, Varghese Kurien et al seen in their religious shades. They were seen as exemplary citizens and role models for every one to emulate. Let us build more of this lot and less of the preacher (c)lot, for the latter are parasites that feast on communal divisions and societal disruptions.
Breaking trust is easy. Tearing down communities is easier. Rebuilding is difficult. Don’t let our pluralistic society become a polarised one. #VandeMaataram.
#Mersal (whatever language that is), is a Tamil movie in which ‘sound’ economic principles have been mouthed. A newbie revolutionary – read an ageing actor – has found it fit to compare the GST rates in India and Singapore. He has also found, in his profound wisdom, that the hospitals provide free service in Singapore (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they say).
A nation’s income is through taxes. Salaried classes in India can’t cheat on their taxes as the tax component is deducted from their salaries. However, the entrepreneurs, consultants and independent workers, who are in the tax bracket, don’t have a standard tax deduction mechanism. This class tends to cheat, the main culprits being the real estate operators, rich farmers, independent professionals such as Lawyers , Chartered Accountants, Doctors, movie producers, movie actors and financiers. It is normal practice for this group to demand payment by cash for services delivered.
Now that we are in comparison mode, let us do it in full.
Comparison with OECD Countries:(ref: thehansindia.com)
- India’s tax to GDP increased from 10.4% in 1965 to 16.6% in 2015-16, the corresponding tax-to-GDP ratio of OECD countries increased from 21% in 1965 to 33% in 2015.
- Even compared to OECD nations with lower GDP (Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia and Poland) India’s is still lower at 16.6% versus average of 24% of these nations.
- Among the G-20 Countries, India had the third lowest tax-base, just above Mexico and Indonesia.
- A high tax-to-GDP ratio is also a common feature of countries with high level of social security measures such as Belgium, Denmark etc.
- The level of tax compliance in most advanced countries is very high, as high as 90%.
The advanced countries ( in this case Singapore, Denmark) have severe penalties for tax avoidance and evasion. It is not possible to evade tax, especially personal income tax, in Singapore. But, if personal income tax increases, then there would be lesser incentive to earn more. This could cause productivity loss and income generation by individuals and corporates. Hence the Singapore government reduced the personal income tax from 40% to 15%. However, to make good the loss, the govt introduced the GST – Goods and Service Tax. This was a tax at the point of consumption and not at the point of earning.
India’s income tax contribution to GDP is very less. This, coupled with an increased fiscal deficit (the difference between country’s revenues and expenditure) makes the government spend less on, say, health care or education.
On 25-July-2017, Deccan Chronicle published a report that the number of India’s tax payers has increased – from 4 crore to 6.26 crore. Total population is 120 crores. Just 5.2% pay income tax.
So, people either pay taxes and enjoy benefits in, say, Singapore, or don’t pay taxes yet complain about lack of services – like movie actor Vijay – in India.
Now that this ‘intellectual’ has sought to compare, let us start with other parameters based on which comparison can be made. I have compiled most of these from from world bank data. Hence the data would not be fudged – like the income tax returns of movie actors.
Tax revenue as % of GDP
Income Tax in Singapore
Property Tax in Singapore
GST in Singapore
For a population of around 5 million and a GDP of USD 221 Bn, GST alone constitutes S$ 11.1 Bn. The revenue, not realized as income tax, is realized as a consumption tax. As there cannot be any evasion at the point of consumption, the GST in Singapore is serving its purpose and contributing towards nation building.
Health Expenditure ( % of GDP)
Percapita Health Expenditure (USD)
Let us take this case. GST collection is S$ 11.1 Bn which is approximately US$ 8.2 Bn. Let us extrapolate Singapore’s per capita health care spending as US$ 3000. For her 3.5 million citizens, Singapore would have spent US$ 10.5 Bn only. Thus GST alone would have helped offset the health expenditure for her citizens ( assuming health care is free, while it is not). The remaining 1.5 million people in Singapore are either Permanent Residents or foreigners. There is a differential medical cost for these two categories.
So, when a country introduces a tax regime, it is for a purpose – to serve its citizens.
Military Expenditure as % of GDP
A casual look at the percentage spend on military would reveal many facts. Considering the land areas of the two countries, doesn’t this spend disparity strike the eye? Why does India need to spend less or Singapore spend more? Yes, it is true that both the democracies are surrounded by not-so-friendly neighbours. But does that justify Singapore’s spend?
Well, it does. Military spend, however high it might be, is one of technology acquisition. And that translates directly into military superiority. And Singapore needs this military superiority. Not that there is going to be an invasion in the near future, but that a nation should be confident of its military prowess. With a minuscule population, as a nation, Singapore needs to maintain its technical superiority. And that is financed by her taxes, GST being one.
When that is applied to India, ‘intellectuals’ begin their boil. Why?
Armed forces personnel
Armed forces need to be paid. From where does a nation get to pay them, if not for the taxes that she imposes on her citizens? India’s border with Pakistan alone is 2900 KM. To stop infiltration by terrorists, India has built 150,000 flood lights mounted on 50,000 poles. What could be the cost incurred for just the maintenance of these lights? How about the border with China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh? Any guesses ?
Banks NPA to Total Gross Loans (%)
Banks, predominantly state owned in India, have a higher NPA. Various factors such as mismanagement, interference by political forces, subsidy culture, frequent directions to waive loans off for political gains and the like have contributed to this NPA. Not that Singapore banks don’t have NPA. They do. But the banks are professionally managed, and with little political interference, they run as corporate companies that work for a profit while at the same time acting as an extended arm of the state in financing national growth. (Before I forget – How many movie producers and actors are yet to service their loans from state owned banks in India?)
Labour Participation Rate
The proportion of the population ages 15 and older that is economically active: all people who supply labor for the production of goods and services.
44% of Singapore residents are economically active while, with such a huge population, less than 25% in India is so.
GDP per Person Employed
The contribution to GDP of each employed person in both Singapore and India paints a clear picture on the disparity of the situation. On the one hand the non-tax paying groups, hoarders, anti-nationals, foreign funded NGOs that seek to create disturbance combine together to pull the nation down, while on the other, the tax paying salaried class has to bear the burden of thefts, freebies and dole-outs in India. In this situation, how would the government get the resources necessary to ‘build hospitals instead of temples’ as the actor says?
Share of women employed in non-agricultural sector
Who stopped the Indian governments of the past from utilizing the women work force from contributing to nation building? Who was in power for around 60 years after independence? ‘Intellectuals’ should ask this question before questioning GST and advising on Hospitals.
Proportion of seats held by women in Parliament
For all tall talk for the last 70 years, dynastic rule, prejudices and discrimination have ensured that women don’t have adequate representation in parliament. Only when women take to politics in large numbers would some balance prevail in the skewed Indian political scheme. And no additional marks for guessing who didn’t promote more women in politics (Clue: Who ruled the country for 60 years?)
Coming to wealth generation for the country: Singapore has two Sovereign Wealth Funds (Temasek Holdings and GIC). These companies invest Singapore citizen’s surplus CPF contribution and other surplus in overseas markets. Eg: Temasek has holdings in SingTel while the latter has a major stake in India’s Air Tel. When Air Tel needs money to expand in, say Africa, DBS Bank, another Singapore bank with connections to Temasek, could lend money. When Air Tel makes money, SingTel smiles its way to the bank while DBS Bank also smiles, which in turn benefits Temasek and in turn, Singapore. And she spends the money on her citizens -health care, road, rail, airport modernization et al. (Recently Temasek has sold its stake in Air Tel to SingTel).
Temasek to contribute to Singapore’s kitty.
It is the combination of state capitalism, better tax realization, professional management of government companies and a corruption free government that has resulted in better facilities for Singapore citizens. Anything else would have resulted in disaster.
India cannot have a sovereign wealth fund, for there is no surplus and there is always a deficit in her budget. And the reasons are as above. Leave alone overseas investments. A mere mention of LIC money getting invested in the domestic stock market leads to so much hue and cry in the Indian media. So forget sovereign wealth funds and overseas investments.
Note to Actor Vijay & his dialogue writer(s):
Before I close, a point to ponder. I hear you have mentioned about building temples instead of hospitals. Well, in Tamil Nadu, the government doesn’t build temples. It destroys them under a new name – HR & CE. Again, you can’t compare with what happens in Singapore. The Hindu Endowments Board, constituted by the Singapore government, owns properties, takes rent and administers temples in Singapore from the funds accrued. And it maintains the temples. Underline the word ‘maintains’. Here is a pointer from a government gazette notification.
Singapore is a country run like a company for the genuine betterment of her citizens. India has been run as a charity for 70 years, for the betterment of the different dynasties and their sycophants. Now, when a person tries to correct this anomaly, it would definitely be a pain for the history-sheeters, rent seekers, vagabonds, money launderers and communists. Teething pain, you see.
So, Actor Vijay – Before you sign up for the next Coca-Cola ad (after fighting for ‘water conservation’) or begin to mouth dialogues against taxation, read. Or am I asking for the moon?
For more on Singapore, its founding and development, visit these:
The book ‘Clinton Cash’ talks about the not-so-graceful goings on in former President Bill Clinton’s foundation. The author Peter Schweizer paints a vivid picture of the following :
- Why the US State Department opposes a matter
- Why Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, opposes a matter
- How a large donation finds its way into the Clinton Foundation
- Why Bill Clinton gets to deliver talks worth a few hundred thousand dollars
- Why the State Department reverses its earlier stand
- How Hillary Clinton helps in this reversal
- How government contracts are awarded to the donor
The above steps repeat so many times that one begins to anticipate these when a new matter comes up.
The stand, donation, speech, stand-reversal, govt contracts sequence happens in the following:
- Haiti Earthquake relief
- Rwanda Dictator support
- India’s Nuclear Deal
- Russia getting to own US Uranium mines
The part on the Indian civilian nuclear deal is not dealt with the requisite detail that would be needed for such intensely important items. The piece ignores the nuclear proliferation by China, the clandestine nuclear acquisition by Pakistan and the role played by the republican president George Bush in cementing the Indo-US Civilian nuclear deal – this part gives the book a pro-republican tinge.
The book is a fast read for one who is interested in the decimation of the so-called left liberal school. I am one.
This graph shows IIT / NIT admissions by education board for the year 2016-17.
It clearly shows that CBSE students outshine the state board students. Telangana, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh boards do while Tamil Nadu State Board doesn’t appear in the list. Probably TN board students who got admission were so minuscule that they didn’t figure in the data set.
Time the educators make a note of this. ( based on data from india vidya . com)