Tamil Nadu’s Education Scene

I had earlier written a piece asking for more CBSE schools in Tamil Nadu and drew flak from many from the Tamil Nadu State Board Schools. Well, I don’t mean to beat around the bush and say ‘politically correct’ but ‘practically insignificant’ things. I write for progress and change. Here is how the state board education system sucks in Tamil Nadu.

Let us look at the number of children entering the IITs from the TN State Board. Here are some infographic reports that tell what we already know yet don’t want to acknowledge. This is for the year 2017. 

 

Why such an abysmal statistic when the TN state board’s education system is supposed to be ‘top class’? What ails the education system?

Even within IIT-Madras, the admission statistic paints a gloomy picture. Here what it says:

Out of these state board students who have joined the IITs, it would be a no-brainer to say that most of the students would have been from private schools affiliated to the state board and not the government schools. ( I don’t have data to substantiate this, but that could well be the case). And students would have attended expensive coaching classes for clearing the JEE.

For a moment, let us consider that the IIT-JEE entrance exam isn’t the barometer of excellence. Then the following data paints an even abysmal picture. TN’s mean score in English and Mathematics is way below the national average and abysmally below the mean scores from CBSE and ICSE boards. 

There is nothing wrong with the students. It is the state board, its curriculum and the woefully under-motivated teachers who are responsible for letting down the students who, for no fault of theirs, had chosen to study in Tamil Nadu’s State Board schools. 

Well, we can choose to recognise the lacuna and correct it or bury our heads in the sands of past glory and pretend as though all is well. 

Would the state government wake up?

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Are authors any good in contemporary analysis?

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:

  1. China would attack India.
  2. Pakistan would join China in attacking India.
  3. 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.

Dear brother from minority community

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 Economics for the stupid stars

#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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Among the G-20 Countries, India had the third lowest tax-base, just above Mexico and Indonesia.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Taxes

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

Tax Revenue as GDP Pct.jpg

Source: Here

Income Tax in Singapore

 

Property Tax in Singapore

SG Property Tax 2016.jpg

 

GST in Singapore

SG GST 2016.jpg

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.

Source: Here

Health Expenditure ( % of GDP)

Heal Exp GDP %.jpg

Source: Here

Percapita Health Expenditure (USD)

Percapita Health Expenditure.jpg

Source: Here

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

Mil Exp.jpg

Source: Here

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 Personnel.jpg

Source: Here

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 (%)

NPA Banks.jpg

Source: Here

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.

Labour Participation Rate.jpg

Source: Here

44% of Singapore residents are economically active while, with such a huge population, less than 25% in India is so.

GDP per Person Employed

GDP per person employed.jpg

Source: Here

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

Women in non-agri sector.jpg

Source: Here

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

Women proportion in parliament.jpg

Source: Here

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.

Temasek GLobal Spread

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?

References:

  1. http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/temasek-investments-in-india-at-10-billion-117071500043_1.html
  2. https://heb.org.sg/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/HEB-Gazette-2016.pdf
  3. https://www.iras.gov.sg/IRASHome/Publications/Statistics-and-Papers/Tax-Statistics/#NewBookmark
  4. http://www.worldbank.org/
  5. http://www.oecd.org/
  6. http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/temasek-to-contribute-more-to-govt-coffers

For more on Singapore, its founding and development, visit these:

  1. Sage of Singapore 1
  2. Sage of Singapore 2
  3. Sage of Singapore 3

 

 

Choices – book review

Shiv Shankar Menon’s book ‘Choices’ details his experiences as a diplomat and as a foreign secretary of India. He talks about his experiences in Chinese diplomacy, the Sri Lankan LTTE end game and the parleys that took place when he was at the helm, the Indo-US Nuclear deal negotiations under the Manmohan Singh government and India’s reaction (or was it restraint?) during the Mumbai terror attack.

516tb1hvcyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_We are treated to instances of statesmanship displayed by former Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee. The section where Menon says that whenever he spoke to Vajpayee, even when the latter was in the opposition, the latter had asked just one question -‘Is this good for India?’ – left me in tears. What statesmen have ruled us!

The section on the Sri Lankan episode when Menon says that all Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu were in agreement to the destruction of the LTTE exposes the double games played by the political parties in the state of Tamil Nadu.

There is a chapter devoted to why India opted for ‘No first use’ of nuclear weapons. What all aspects go into such a decision, the need for such an abdication and the deep calculations that are behind such a major policy are explained in detail.

Why India didn’t retaliate after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks is explained as well. 

A fast paced memoir that touches on an ex-diplomat’s major assignments, ‘Choices’ could have been better written with more details on Sri Lanka and China.

Read this book for a helicopter view of the ‘Whys’ of India’s major foreign policy matters of the last 50 years,

Re-writing India, page by page

When Panditji, in 1963, requested the RSS to take part in the Republic Day parade as a thanksgiving for its services during the 1962 China war, the tide had begun to turn right.

Later, govt after govt, in wholly misplaced and now widely-acknowledged-as-stupid acts of appeasement, ably aided by liberal funding from missionaries and NGOs, continued to paint the RSS in bad light. This ensured that left-centric academic discourse alone hogged limelight and all other streams of thought were painted as backward and retrograde.

Decade after decade, large chunks of tax payer money was spent to write history with a Red tint, Green bias and White symphathy on the one hand, and anti-Saffron on the other. The damage this has done to the psyche of the nation did not deter the rulers and their psychophants who doubled up as gurus of great erudition.

This has resulted in brainwashing generations of Indians into believing that their days of glory didn’t exist, that theirs was a caste and superstition-ridden society and that the new age gurus were the Mughals and the British who brought some semblance of modernity and thought to the teeming millions of beggars, mendicants and snake charmers.

Anything in excess would only turn counter productive. Therefore the hatred-spewing and venom-spitting by the left media, missionary and academia have resulted in the following :

  1. RSS Prime Minister
  2. RSS President
  3. RSS Vice President
  4. RSS Chief Ministers in most states

Now is the time to write a true history of India, that does not care about the multitudes of harems of the Mughal emperors, but looks at the accomplishments of Rajendra Cholan, Travancore Kings, Chatrapathi Shivaji, the Bhosles, the Peshwas and other un-sung patriots.

Now is the time to correctly document the business acumen of the Chettiar community of South India, whose business prowess, even in the then not-so-modern times, were admirable and comparable to the current day Harvard Business grads.

Now is the time to write about our real heroes – Rani Mangamma of Madurai, Rani of Jhansi and the multitude of lady warriors who sacrificed their lives for their honour and for the honour of their states.

Now is the time to look at what happened in Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya, and explain, without any bias, as to why what happened, happened.

Now is the time to make Indians feel that their ancestors were not stupids and idiots as they have been taught to believe.

Now is the time to re-write India, page by page.

India Rising – a book review

This book is a compendium of various facets of India, from a Singaporean perspective, by an author-journalist who was part of all the facets. The book is not only interesting but also riveting as the author, Ravi Velloor, has dealt in detail, each one of the above facets.Even though the book is detailed, it doesn’t test our patience, as the lucid presentation lures us into the book and the details that it contains.

The book covers the happenings in India between 1998 to 2015. More focus has been on the UPA-I and II periods and the roller-coaster ride that the country went through under the regime.

Ravi Velloor talks about the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between India and Singapore, the behind the scenes negotiations that took place to enable that, the role played by former PM Goh Chok Tong, and the necessity of cooperation between the two democracies.

The India-US relations, how the US began to lure India into its fold, how the partnership cemented, the background on Indo-US Nuclear Deal, the stupid role played by the communists in trying to stall the deal, how Manmohan Singh ensured that the deal was made – all these are captured the sequential manner  in which these occurred. Lots of insights here on how Singh ensured the deal got through.

The book talks in detail about the state or the lack of it in Pakistan and how the nation was behind the Nov 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai. The detail on the young Singaporean lawyer Lo Hwei Yen who was killed while on her one day work visit to Mumbai would bring tears to your eyes not only because of the dastardly nature of the attack but also because of the journalistic ethic that the author displayed when he didn’t want to look at the naked body of the victim, as he thought that would have amounted to violation of privacy of a lady. Such journalists are a rare breed in this era of Twitter journalism.

5188ewqcnyl-_ac_us160_fmwebp_ql70_The author is highly critical of Shashi Tharoor for his flamboyant methods to woo international opinion to favour his elevation as UN Secretary General. Tharoor comes out as selfish, attention seeking and always-after-power type in spite of his ebullience and erudition. Tharoor, in order to win over the confidence of Sonia Gandhi and get her support to get India’s backing for his position, goes to meet her in person, carrying a biography of Nehru that he had written. Despite the Indian external affairs ministry’s misgivings in fielding Tharoor, just because Sonia Gandhi approved his nomination, India backed him, and in the process got disgraced when the US sided with the Korean nomination, Ban Ki Moon. Condolezza Rice’s comment on Tharoor is all the more damaging. Tharoor becomes the case of a person who put himself ahead of the nation.

Sri Lankan equation makes an interesting reading. That the LTTE dug it own grave is all the more evident. But some genuinely sympathetic exchanges from Rajiv Gandhi to Prabhakaran – the former gave the latter his bullet proof vest – were discarded by the LTTE and today the terrorist organization doesn’t exist. This section explains in detail how the LTTE didn’t get the post 2001 international situation at all and this, coupled with Indian animosity, ended in the downfall of the Tigers.

While dwelling on Tigers and the final phase of assault, the author explains in detail as to what happened prior to Karunanidhi’s bizarre half a day ‘fast-unto-death’ when he had prior input from P.Chidambaram that there would be a temporary cessation of hostilities.I would only recommend that at least this section be translated into Tamil and circulated in Tamil Nadu. The sequence of event is as below ;

  1. Elections are underway in India. Polling in TN was to have happened on 13-May.
  2. Congress govt worries that any news of Prabhakaran’s death would jeopardize the polling in TN against Congress-DMK combine.
  3. Shivshankar Menon and Narayanan travel to Sri Lanka to ask them to stop hostilities for a couple of weeks.
  4. Sri Lanka agrees.
  5. P.Chidambaram conveys this to Karunanidhi.
  6. Next morning, on 28 April 2009, Karunanidhi announces a ‘fast-unto-death’.
  7. Sri Lanka announces ceasefire the same day.
  8. Karunanidhi declares ‘Victory’and calls off ‘fast-unto-death’.
  9. Polling gets over on 13-May.
  10. DMK & Congress get elected.
  11. Prabhakaran is killed on 19-May.

Conspiracy, self-centric policies, avarice, intrigue – the characteristics that Karunanidhi symbolizes, are shown in the above approach. The author captures it all.

Ravi talks about the ‘Mallu Mafia’ – the bureaucratic stranglehold that the Malayalee bureaucrats – TKA Nair, M.K.Narayanan, Shiv Shankar Menon – had on the govt, the politics that unfolded, the power struggle in the bureaucracy and after-effects thereafter.

Anthony, India’s worst defense minister ever, is dealt with in a separate chapter. As a result of the Right to Information Act, bureaucrats become averse to taking any decision and begin to pass on the buck. This strangulates decision making and puts purchases for armed forces under scanner. Meanwhile several mishaps take place in the naval force. The defense minister blames the then Naval chief D.K.Joshi and accepts the latter’s resignation in the most ungraceful manner. The UPA government under Singh had not only institutionalized corruption but also defamed the armed forces. The then Army Chief V.K.Singh’s retirement age episode took place in this period. The author has captured all these in minute detail.

What is shocking is the reason attributed to Anthony’s actions. Under fire from all directions on different scams related to 2G auction, Coal, Commonwealth Games and Aadarsh Building, Anthony was expecting Manmohan Singh to resign so that he could take over the reins.

There is an imbalance in the author’s treatment of a scam pertaining to a Singapore company in an Indian arms deal. Anthony had black-listed the company. The author loses his balance here and starts his mud-slinging on Anthony. It is a different matter that Anthony deserves not handfuls of mud but mountains of it. He makes a startling revelation that Manmohan Singh had early stage Parkinson’s disease and hence was not as active when he was Prime Minister and often looked wooden even in public appearances.

Ravi also talks about the ‘prince-charming’ who has been in eternal wait – Rahul Gandhi. He some how claims that Rahul is an exceptional listener, a voracious reader and an eager learner. None of what Ravi says has been visible sofar. He even says a Singapore minister had spent a day with Rahul and was enchanted at the latter’s curiosity. Ravi could have said more on this episode. The claim that Sonia Gandhi is also a voracious reader is news.

There is an interesting bit on Sonia Gandhi’s refusal to accept the Prime Ministership listening to her ‘inner-voice’. It turns out that it was Rahul Gandhi who argued with Sonia not to accept the position as he felt the position was too risky. Natwar Singh who was party to the conversation confirms this to the author.

Another interesting tidbit that we gather is that Rahul had come twice to Singapore and to spend some time listening to the legendary Lee Kuan Yew who had asked him not to hurry for position, to surround himself with smart and reliable folks and be ready when the time comes. Looking at the kind of folks that Congress has, it seems Lee Kuan Yew’s advice would remain an advice.

The author also covers the wholly unconstitutional National Advisory Council with Sonia as the Chairperson that had enormous powers even on the Prime Minister and the complete compromise that Singh had to resort to in order to please Sonia and her coterie and similar such items in this book that send shock waves over one’s spine.

The author concludes with Modi, talking about his performance in Gujarat, his gradual ascendancy in national politics and then becoming PM at last. An essential book on India through the eyes of an outsider who knows more people inside than the rest of the insiders.

Wahabism, et al

I am with Jeyamohan on his views on Wahabism.

I consider Sufi-Islam as more suited to our multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic society than the most puritanical interpretation that Wahabists espouse.

As a society, we have been an all-encompassing and inclusive society when it came to acceptance of religious and cultural values. I have seen Hindus take their crying babies to mosques and dargas for the mystics in those places to smear them with ash or tie some sacred talismans to the children’s arms. I have also been a part of some muslim marriages where friends were kind enough to prepare vegetarian meals for veggies like me in Neyveli.

The ‘Sandal-paste’ functions at the holy dargas of the late noble souls of Islam (Nagoor, Ajmer et al ), are all the Indian versions of Islam that act as a confluence of multiple beliefs and cultures. More non-Muslims take part in those festivals that are celebrated with great piety.

The Hazrat-bal shrine in Jammu and Kashmir is a revered site for people of all religions. Do the Wahabists want to stop that practice too?

The muslim women that I knew wore white purdahs that were no different from the kind of saree that my widowed grand mother wore until her death. As as child, I had often mistook many such elderly muslim ladies to be my grand mom and had walked behind them calling them ‘Pithi’ ( child lingo for ‘Paatti’ in Tamil). But today the white dress is almost extinct. That, in itself, is a grand transformation for me and makes me think of earlier days.

Mohamad Rafi gave us as much pleasure due to his music as T.M.Soundarrajan did. We have never discriminated one against the other. A.R. Rahman is seen only as an artist. Who can forget the contributions of the legendary Dr.Kalam towards nation building? If Wahabist ideals are to be followed, then Dr. Kalam has to be despised for his ability play the veena and Mohamad Rafi for his songs. This would be the most stupid thing to happen to us.

If Karukurichchi Arunachalam was adored for his Nadaswaram skills, so was Sheik Chinna Moulana for his mellifluous rendering of the different kirtanas through his Nadaswaram.

In my book ‘Pazhayia Kanakku’ I had spoken about an elderly muslim lady from Therazhundhur. She, according to me, was the embodiment of Islam who stood by the religion’s values of compassion, justice and humility. Any other interpretation of the religion, to suit foreign vested interests, that seeks to destroy the cultural amity and religious tolerance in our multi-cultural context, should not be allowed.

For me, the late Mr.Ajees, my Dad’s classmate who set up stalls for water distribution during the summer chariot festival in Therazhundhur, was a more pious muslim and a compassionate person than those Saudi funded political associations like Popular Front and Tawheed Jamat that seek to divide the society. For me, the voices of people like the late Mr.Ajees represent Islam .

The unity and integrity of the nation and society are very fragile entities. They need to be safeguarded at any cost. Any force seeking to cause touble – whether the Right, the Left or any other dispensation – needs to be shown its rightful place, in prison, in line with the legal tenets of the country.

As a nationalist and a global citizen, I am horrified when I learn about a conference on ‘Shirk’ that seeks to destroy ‘dargas’ and other structures. It is a pity that such amorous alliances which show a clearly dangerous and devious attitude are allowed in a multi-cultural democracy.

Nagoor Dargah, The Hazrat Bal Shrine and Ajmer Shrine are important places not only from a religious point of view but also from cultural and historical points of view. They are as much part of our civilization as they are part of a religious path. They are our treasures and should be treated as such. Radicals who seek to cause harm to such shrines have no place in our civilized society.

I abhor the paid-Wahabists who proclaim their unitary and tunneled vision as much as I abhor the narrow interpretation of our cultural values and systems.

In our current troubled times due to the rise of ISIS and other radical groups, it is the duty of right thinking citizens to take a stand against religious segregation and balkanization and further division of the society.

For those of you wanting to react in a knee-jerk fashion, stop. Read ‘Hatred’s Kingdom’ once to know about Wahabism. Then talk.

The Prabhakaran Saga – a review

The Sri Lankan ethnic war -How it started, how it progressed and how it ended – all the three phases are described in minute detail by S.Murari, the veteran journalist who has had a very long relationship with Sri Lanka.

Murari explains the ethnic problem from 1956 when the Sinhala Only Act was passed. We get to know about the Sri Lankan political situation, the inner political workings of the Sri Lankan government, the tussles and skirmishes that shaped the country’s journey and with that, how the Tamil problem evolved over these long years.

Murari speaks from personal experience from his many travels to Sri Lanka, his friendship with many veteran tamil leaders as well as the
militant leaders like Anton Balasingham, Sri Sabarathinam, moderates like Amirthalingam, Kadirkamar, Neelan Thiruchelvan and Sri Lankan politicians  Chandrika Kumaratunga, Ranil Wikramasinghe and Premadasa.

41jqymo3psl-_sx319_bo1204203200_What we get to learn from this long and often repetitive narration is that lasting peace in Sri Lanka was a possibility but the intransigence of either the militants or the government or both lead to the the present situation where in tens of thousands of innocent Tamils have been killed or displaced.

The stellar role played by India, especially Rajiv Gandhi, the impressive role played by the IPKF that lost more than 1000 Indian soldiers in Sri Lanka, the double games played by Karunanidhi and Prabhakaran – all these are made visible to the reader. Murari also criticizes the 72 hour timeline given to IPKF to effect a complete arms surrender. The time was too short and the LTTE were never willing to surrender arms either.

What we get to see is that, but for the LTTE ideologue Balasingham, Prabhakaran wouldn’t have survived this long. For Balasingham was highly successful in hiding Prabhakaran’s often maniacal actions by his clever explanations and reasoning. But, as Balasingham admits later, he has not been able to justify Rajiv’s assassination that alienated the Indian Tamils as a whole and India as a nation from the Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. Even Prabhakaran admits to the blunder but it seems to have come in too late in the game.

When Balasingham dies, with him the worldly wise and pragmatic Sri Lankan is also gone due to which Prabhakaran doesn’t have a clever strategist. That, with the post 9/11 world scenario that Prabhakaran didn’t understand till his very end, result in the complete decimation of a 30 year long rebellion. End result is the wholly unnecessary death of more than 1,00,000 civilians and displacement of several thousand.

Murari glitters with his often unbiased approach in the book’s rendition. Kudos to the author for upholding the highest journalistic ethics.

Any student of the Tamil ethnic problem needs to read this book, in full.

My way of being 'intolerant'

Pusillanimity – that is what i need to call the action or the lack of it of the worthies. Those that have been keeping mum over the Paris murders – what else to call them ? Neutered men ? But that does not point to these people in the true sense of the word. I was looking for a stronger word but abandoned my search. This is why :

If the attacks would have been from the right wing, these worthies would have taken the moral high ground and preached to all and sundry about the need for secularism, the concern on rising right wing terrorism et al. But when middle east related terrorism rears its head every time, these people keep quiet. They decry the violence but don’t go any further.  To top it all, they ice the cake with a call for restraint.

Some even have the temerity to find reasons behind such carnages. Though that points to a sick mind, it also points to a lack of concern on what one has to say in such situations – a kind of damned attitude. Psychologists could possibly term these are behavioural problems of a mind that has been fed on hatred and poisonous thoughts.

Who are the worthies ? What have they said in the past? How are they expected to behave in the future ? I leave the guessing to your imagination.

So what should we learn from this guarded silence ?

This is what we should learn :

Be silent about these eminences. Don’t talk about them and don’t spread word. Don’t even decry them and their statements or the lack of them. Ignore. And that is the greatest punishment to these worthies.

So, this blog takes a stand : There shall be no mention about any of the worthies in this site. And the worthies are :

  1. Mani Shankar Ayer
  2. Rahul Gandhi
  3. Sonia Gandhi
  4. Sitaram Yechuri
  5. K.Veeramani
  6. Karunanidhi
  7. Vaiko
  8. Indira Parthasarathy
  9. Gnaani
  10. Arundati Roy

What do I seek to gain by boycotting these eminences ?

Peace of Mind. And that is my way of protesting against these elements and their silences on this crucial issue facing the peace loving countries.

I consider the very act of writing on these worthies is, by itself, below the dignity of this blog and its readers.

Leave your comments if you agree with this. Comment even if you don’t agree. But spread word.