Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dr. Manmohan Singh - Still admirable?

Dr. Singh is often regarded as an honest, one with high personal integrity, highly respected & admired. These were the qualities that won him the Prime Minister’s post four years ago. Now that we have seen four years of his governance, it is time we re-look at his tenure & evaluate how he measures against the high praise as against taking them on face value.

Back in the earlier 90’s, when the V.P. Singh government announced a loan waiver of Rs. 10,000 crore, our hon. Prime Minister, Dr. Singh, who was the finance minister then in the subsequent government, criticized the waiver calling it a burden on the exchequer. When the same was done a few weeks ago (and this time an estimated Rs. 60,000 crore) he hailed it as being historic. No word on the impact of this on the exchequer or on fiscal irresponsibility. Arun Shourie analyzed the latest union budget in his excellent four part series. In the process exposing some plain lies being told by our hon. Finance Minister with a Harvard degree.

The UPA assumed office proclaiming to carry out economic reforms with a “human face”. And that it cared for the “aam aadmi”. Dr. Singh made many speeches to this effect after taking oath. Well it is common knowledge now that the common man continues to be “aam” & that little has improved in his life since UPA assumed office. That was four years ago. This is in continuation of the Congress’s grand tradition of raising the poverty issue for political gains & doing little about it. Indira Gandhi was the pioneer, remember “Garibi Hatao”?

The anti-terrorism record of the UPA government has been appalling to say the least. Terrorists have continued to attack with impunity, our countrymen continue to die & cross border terrorism continues. The POTA was dropped giving it a communal color. Here’s a nice post by offstumped summarizing UPA’s anti-terrorism record. Apparently the Prime Minister was only concerned that it would harm the minorities (loss of sleep?). But no such concerns when terrorism continues to claim innocent lives in our country.

Even the wild life isn’t immune to our Prime Minister’s incompetence. The national animal, the majestic Tiger, is closer to extension. This was the result of Dr. Singh’s promised personal help to Tiger conservation. That prompted Dr. Singh to advise Chief Ministers on what they should be doing to save Tigers, but little action on his part.

Dr. Singh’s office recently issued a statement asking political parties to refrain from politicizing the price rise issue. Well, he seems to forget that the UPA came to power by politicizing similar issues in 2004. Besides his office has been involved in many questionable activities as recent events suggest. The responsibility should also lie with the office bearer.

Similarly, in the recent past, Dr. Singh asked the babus to be fair, honest & efficient, but did not lay out plan to achieve the desired result. All one ever hears is Dr. Singh sermonizing on terrorism, economic policies, minority issues, foreign relations, education etc. But there is hardly any action that follows those sermons. As if by just uttering his desire, the desired will be achieved. He seems to forget that it is the Prime Minister’s job to deliver & not just sermonize. In fact, this has been his hallmark in the four years as the Prime Minister – Lip Service.

The tentative & reluctant nature of his leadership & lack of conviction was on full display during his Indo-US nuclear deal initiative. This was the only issue on which he showed some interest & passion, but he has failed miserable here too.

And recently, sycophants in Congress have been demanding that Rahul Gandhi should be the party’s next Prime Ministerial candidate. What does that say about Dr. Singh? All along he has been living under the shadow & command of his party president, Sonia Gandhi. Any self respecting man would be unwilling to work in such an arrangement or allow himself to be sidelined time & again. Also, by turning a blind eye to what happens in his party, the various scandals, scams, sycophancy etc. Dr. Singh is damaging his own credibility & image. There’s more than can be discussed.

Taking a moral high ground after all this isn’t convincing at all. The Common Minimum Program is nothing but a plan to cling to power. And four years of following the plan have yeilded all the problems & controversies that we see today. By letting all that happened since the UPA came to power, Dr. Singh is equally guilty. After all he is the Prime Minister of our country & responsible for the government. It is time we re-evaluated Dr. Manmohan Singh again before we blindly continue to admire him.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Traits of self proclaimed ‘Secularists’

It should be common knowledge by now that the self proclaimed ‘secularists’ have lost their credibility in the blogsphere & other independent mediums. They are often referred to as ‘pseudo-secularists’, a term not totally unfounded. These ‘pseudo-secularists’ exhibit certain traits common amongst almost all of them, which helps in immediately identifying them as such with remarkable accuracy. Secularism has acquired a totally different meaning in India.

It is common among the ‘pseudo-secularists’ to refer themselves. Often in debates, discussions, you’ll find them referring to each other. Words like ‘eminent historians’ or ‘experts’ or similar such are thrown in during discussions to justify their arguments. They never bother to elaborate on their sources. It turns out that almost all the time the source is one among their brethren or a JNU historian/expert with a proven ‘pseudo-secularist’ track record. Also, free usage of words like ‘many people’ or ‘a majority of the people’ or ‘all minorities’ are used without bothering to elaborate on the statistics or their sources, as if they have been given the right to speak on their behalf.

One more trait that’s very common is to manufacture facts or fabricate stories. By repeating them often, over time, they can be passed off as facts. The dictionary meaning of rumor is ‘Gossip (usually a mixture of truth and untruth) passed around by word of mouth’ & that’s exactly what these manufactured facts & stories are, with large doses of ‘untruths’ thrown in. When all the ‘pseudo-secularists’ repeat a fabricated story enough times, it gives them license to write these as truths. This was in full use during discussions on the Gujarat violence post the Godhra incident & many ‘eminent’ personalities were found indulging in this. To name some prominent ones – Arundhati Roy (false stories of atrocities on Muslim women), Teesta Setalvad (forcing a witness to commit perjury) were two such. This tactic was also used during last year’s Gujarat elections. It’s amazing how the press & the ‘eminent’ ‘pseudo-secularists’ were all speaking in one voice against the ‘communal’ (read Modi & BJP) forces.

Another trait exhibited invariably by the ‘pseudo-secularists’ is to discredit the Hindu argument. Anything supporting the Hindu argument & criticizing Islam or Christianity is automatically discredited. The fervor & zeal shown in protecting any Muslim terrorist or Christian missionaries accused of conversion on humanitarian grounds is totally absent when it concerns the Hindu groups. The Muslim terrorists are misguided youths & yet the Hindus are ‘Hindu Terrorists’. On one hand they say terrorism has no religion, yet the use the term ‘Hindu Terrorists’. Again without any justification or proof. Is there any Hindu group involved in forceful conversion? Is there any Hindu group involved in imposing it’s religion on others or claiming superiority over others? Are there any Hindu groups training militants in armed warfare? Does any Hindu group carry out suicide bombings? Such questions are never raised or answered. Yet the term ‘Hindu Terrorist’ is used very liberally without any proof or supporting facts. Also, to support their arguments against Hindus & Hinduism, they often cite sources, works, books that are convenient to them or from among their own, giving the cold shoulder treatment to any intellectual debate inconvenient to them or criticizing Islam or Christianity. Works of people like Ram Swarup or Sitaram Goel, among others, are hardly discussed or people like Arun Shourie aren’t given as much air time as given to ‘eminent’ ‘pseudo-secularists’.

When it comes to the Bible or Koran, everything that these books say is automatically accepted as the universal truth. Nobody dare dispute or question them. When you do, you are termed a ‘communalist’. Yet when it comes to Hinduism, scientific & historic proofs are sought (ex. the recent Bhagwan Ram controversy or the Babri Masjid issue). The ancient Hindu texts are discredited as myths (ex. Ramayana & Mahabharata) while others cannot be disputed. This is another trait that is so common among the ‘pseudo-secularists’. It is common & convenient to criticize Hinduism without any fear of retaliation, yet no voice is raised against Islam or Christianity. They know the consequences will be grave (Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad). Besides how else would one establish their secular credentials without blaming the majority?

This not a complete list of traits but some most common ones, there are a few more like being shrill, high jacking discussions when on the defensive etc, discussing them would lengthen this post. It has turned out quite long enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Servants of people?

I read/heard/learnt in school that the babus & ministers were there to serve the people & hence were public servants. Now, after experiencing & reading a lot in the news I've realised that isn't the case. The babus & ministers think they are privileged & unaccountable, above scrutiny.

In an article, T N Ninan writes how some ministers were harassing businesses to make some money for themselves. The ministers seem to think it was their right to have a share of the pie since businesses were doing good, after all they run the state. But these ministers forget one important thing, they are there to help their state prosper, not extort money from it. They are public servants. It is the minister's primary duty to create conducive atmosphere for people & businesses to prosper. After all, businesses bring employment & products & services that are of value to people. Doesn't this help improve their lives? But what the ministers seem to be doing is to punish the businesses for doing better & not contributing crores to the rulers of the state. Whatever happened to the oath of public service they took on becoming ministers.

Not surprisingly, the state that turned out best to do business in was Gujarat. This state should be a case study for everyone to follow.

Friday, April 4, 2008

And now credibility crisis in the FDA

Not that it has a stellar track record, it continues to fumble. Now, it's my turn to do that 'I told you so' dance. I've even written about this before. I always knew this, a lot of my relatives are in medicine. We've heard way too many stories in the past of bad or ineffective drugs being in the market. Now we have more. I've always been skeptical of the plethora of drugs & their effectiveness. There seems to be a pill for everything.

The drug companies churn out these high promising drugs in search of newer markets & in doing so start playing with people's health. What drives them to do this? Simple, pressures of turning impressive results every financial year, so Wall Street can continue financing them. This happens when a drug company is headed by a non-medico CEO, as is the case in many of them. And also the search for the next blockbuster drug that will bring in profits.

This also raises serious questions of ethics. The companies should be concerned with finding a genuine cure for our ailments, not waste R&D budgets on quick fix drugs. This will only encourage bad lifestyle leading people to think there's a drug that will fix them. But that does not work. This situation is a result of concern for profits than for cure. If you read or watch any drug commercial carefully, the side effects listed are serious enough to do major damage. Many drugs are not suitable for a lot of people. A majority of the drugs only treat symptoms leaving the cause so more money can be made later. Moreover, most of the drugs are effective only for a while, prolonged usage can cause severe health concerns, worse than the original ailment. The FDA has failed in being an effective watchdog.

There are no magic pills to solve our health problems. Following a healthy lifestyle is the only cure that goes a long way in leading a disease free life. Popping a pill for everything isn't going to help.

Related post: Side effects may include...