Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Bihar Conundrum

      Bihar elections are round the corner and being politically involved and hailing from Bihar, several friends have asked me to write something about it. Thus here I am penning down my views, observations and thoughts. Sadly, what I'm going to write might not please many!

      As of today, i.e. 16th of September it looks to be a neck to neck fight but while NDA is now getting its house in order the JDU led Mahagathbandhan has more than one issue to take care of. The spice in this curry has been added with MIM's entry into the fray and that could prove to be Nitish Kumar's bane. 

       I'll start by giving a bit of background. After 15 years of RJD rule Bihar was indeed in shambles. Any parent, who could afford to, would make sure that they send out their kids to study in other places after their 10th or 12th. Delhi, Kota, Bangalore were some of the preferred destinations (and they still are). I was also a part of that brain drain and left my hometown Patna after I finished my schooling. 

       Nitish came to power some years after I left. By that time I had faced the humiliation one was subjected to being a 'Bihari' in Delhi. The term 'Bihari' was used as a cuss word in Delhi similar to the manner in which the word 'Bhaiyya' is used in Mumbai. Though I was and am still proud of what Bihar gave me but the political, economic and social situation was indeed something that didn't leave people like me with much to be proud of apart from 'of course' the IAS and IIT results year after year.

      Then Nitish happened! He came to power on the plank of development and to the surprise of everyone, actually delivered. The roads got better and the seasonal labor force which used to go to Punjab and other states started to stay back and get work right at their doorstep due to proper implementation of MGNREGA. Nitish used existing laws to rein in use of firearms and even went to the extent of confiscating properties of corrupt officials and turning them into schools. 
     Another important development, which most people miss out is that the police force was refurbished. Police Thanas and chowkies were given permanent buildings with residential facilities for the personnel which eventually helped in a 'BIG' way in curbing crime. Then Bihar started to show signs of economic growth. There were years when it was among the fastest growing states in India. Compared to the bleak past, things were indeed looking better. 

      People like me, who were living in other states started being complemented for the good work that Nitish was doing back home. A massive change from what we faced earlier. No body can take credit away from the JDU-BJP alliance for giving a face lift to Bihar. Yes, it was not Nitish alone, there were other people involved. A captain is as good as his team and no doubt the JDU-BJP team was the best Bihar had in decades. 
       Then, like every good story, this also came to an end. There were very clear differences between the JDU and BJP over right wing extremism and that eventually became the issue which led to both parting ways.

      During the Loksabha, both JDU and BJP didn't leave any chance to take a potshot at each other but as the Bihar elections are coming nearer, both parties are using every chance to take a jibe at each other. While JDU is claiming that it is the one responsible for the recent development in Bihar, BJP is blaming JDU for everything that needs to be done. Well, weren't both part of the alliance and thus both had a shared responsibility? The situation is like that of a recently divorced couple with each blaming the other.

Gladiators of the Bihar arena!

     However, everything said and done, it is Bihar and eventually the nation's future at stake apart from that of the JDU and BJP! After the loss in Delhi assembly it is very important for BJP to win Bihar to keep the talk about 'Modi Wave' alive. On the other hand, it's a matter of survival for the JDU. It doesn't have presence in any other state apart from Bihar and a loss there would mean that the road ahead for the party would be very tough. 

      Bihar has largely been free of communal extremism till now and the fights have more been fought between the forward and backward. Interestingly, it's the MIM's entry which has given a communal flare to the elections more than anything else. The biggest question people are asking is, who will MIM's entry favor. The answer is quite simple actually. The more MIM and its leader Owaisi will campaign in Bihar, the more beneficial it will be for the BJP. BJP and its patron, the RSS has learned their lesson and evolved their strategies. They no longer engage in communal theatrics themselves but rather make sure that the communal extremists on the other side keep ranting thus converting the neutral into BJP's favor. 

      An example of this was seen in the recent Maharshtra elections where MIM helped them polarize to a great extent. It won just 2 seats but the psephologists would be able to tell in much more detail how they derailed equations for others. With their hate speech Owaisi brothers are a potent weapon for the BJP. Leaders have been arrested in India for sillier reasons and spreading communal hatred should be a ground enough but Modi seems to be doing an Indira Gandhi here. It might hurt him in the long run but more importantly it would hurt the nation. It's sad that few people are realizing that!

     The BJP has also been able to put together a formidable combination of Forward, Dalit and Mahadalit by bringing together Ramvilas Paswan and Jeetan Ram Manjhi along with Upendra Kushwaha as part of the NDA in Bihar. 

     Nitish on the other hand has bridged gaps with his old foe Lalu Prasad Yadav. Most people, including myself are not happy with this but if you give it a thought, did he have a way out? The NDA is coming in with all its election machinery to Bihar. In such a situation could Nitish have afforded to let this become a triangular battle rather than a bipolar one? Despite all his negatives Lalu is still a force in Bihar and his being the third player would have harmed Nitish more than the NDA.

     However, the bigger question is, whose side is Lalu on! 

     The coming together of 'Janta Parivaar' was a drama of which Mualayam apart from Lalu and Nitish were part of. A dream which was destroyed even before it could take proper form. The BJP leaders made sure that CBI is used by them as effectively as it was used by the UPA when at power in center. Mulayam had to walk away from the parivaar and now it is more like a house at war!

The Janta Parivaar - A distant dream!

      The pertinent question however is, what will happen to the Mahagathbandhan post the election? There are few scenarios and I'm discussing them one by one!

Scenario 1: Mahagathbandhan gets majority with JDU as largest party

Seems possible but post the win Lalu will bargain. Will Nitish fulfill his wishes? Or will that lead to another war between the two Janta pariwaar veterans. Only time will tell.

Scenario 2: Mahagathbandhan gets majority with RJD as largest party

Will be a tricky situation. Nitish was the CM face but his party not being the largest will make things difficult for him.

Scenario 3: NDA gets majority

There will of course be a fight for the CM post and the central BJP leadership and RSS will take a final call (like putting a Khattar in Haryana). However, Manjhi and Kushwaha will need to be managed tactfully. In this case if RJD is the largest party it will go for LOP, a situation which will completely sideline Nitish.

Scenario 4: A hung house

Though very unlikely but with fringe players like the left and Samajwadi party, it might happen. Would be a precarious situation with unpredictable outcome.

     As of now, my personal hunch is that scenario 3 is the most likely outcome with JDU being pushed to the third spot thanks to well calculated placement of candidates by the MIM. If that happens, Nitish as a leader will be under questioning in his own party and Lalu will pave way for his next generation in the RJD.

      Nitish will need to do something exceptional in the last few weeks that he had at his disposal. What he and his close aide Prashant Kishore can conjure, we will have to wait and watch. 

      On the other hand, if NDA loses, it will be final nail on the Modi wave as unlike Delhi, they don't have a Kiran Bedi here to shield Modi ji from humiliation of loss!

Friday, September 11, 2015

What Delhi can learn from Singapore

           In the first week of September I was in Singapore for a conference. Before leaving I had made a mental note of the things that I need to observe and understand while I was there. For that, I had booked by return ticket three days post the end of the conference and that proved to be a good decision. 
           The conference I was participating in was about 'Customer Experience' and had delegates from across Asia. There were people who had spent 10 or more years in the industry catering to customer needs and expectations. The chief speaker was Shep Hyken, world renowned customer experience Guru and I was one of the six keynote speakers. I was probably the youngest speaker at the conference and also one from the most unusual of backgrounds, i.e. politics. My keynote was about usage of Social Media for Politics and the customer experience learning from it.
           But no, the conference is not I'm going to talk about here in this blog! Here I'm going to talk about what I learned from the 50 year old country which when it became independent had aspired to become cosmopolitan like Mumbai!
            I'm breaking this blog into segments for the ease of reading.

Getting a mobile connection - Before leaving Delhi respected tourism minister and my dear friend, Kapil Mishra had given me this brief, "What is there in Singapore that it attracts so many tourists? What can Delhi learn from there?"

Well, thus after landing in Singapore I decided to do two things, one was to travel by public transport as much as possible and the other was to travel solo. 

At the airport I decided to get a local sim card and got one easily by submitting a copy of my passport. The card had a validity of 1 week and was good enough for my 6 day visit. There were similar 1 month, 3 month and 6 month validity cards available. Tailor made for tourists! I don't know if there is any similar facility provided by any Indian mobile operator at any of the international airports. 

Thus, at ease of getting a mobile connection - well Singapore scored way better than Delhi for sure.

Transport services - I had been provided two days of accommodation in Marina Bay Sands by the conference organizers so I decided to hire a cab till there. Again, the manner in which one hired a cab impressed me. There was a queue at the airport with one guard. No ticket counter or booth of any sort. The cabs would come and park on opposite side of the road and the guard would let one group per cab proceed from the queue to the cab area. 

Quite different from the maddening rush and hounding by drivers we see at IGI.

Once inside the cab there was a GPS device which was also doubling up as an advertisement board.

Without any hassles I reached the hotel and was given a printed receipt for the travel.

The next day I used the metro and also commuted in the low floor buses. The first thing that struck me was that all transport services were disabled friendly. A disabled person could use the metro or bus without any help. Well, that's something we need to learn for sure.

Stray dogs - Another thing that struck me in Singapore was the absence of street dogs. Many people might call me anti-animal but the fact of the matter is that 36% of world's rabies related deaths occur in India! People who traverse late night in Delhi, Bangalore or any other major metro are very well familiar with this menace. Somehow Singapore has been able to do away with this.

Tourist spots -  Despite being a small country Singapore has developed multiple world class tourist destinations in this small area at their disposal. 
The central business district (CBD) complemented by the towering Marina Bay Sands (MBS), the ArtScience Museum and Garden by the bay is a complete package in itself. I witnessed the sight of lights in CBD coming up while the sun withdraws slowly into the clouds from the top floor of MBS and it was quite a sight. The top floor of MBS also houses the famous infinity pool. Not being much of a swimmer, I didn't take a dip there but yes, it's a great visual attraction.
The infinity pool

Garden by the bay from top of Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands and ArtScience Museum

I also visited the S.E.A. aquarium and the Jurong Bird park both of which are international tourist attractions and rightly so.
36 meter wide viewing panel at S.E.A. - The largest in the world

Ship wreckage at S.E.A. aquarium

Feeding birds at Lory Loft

Inside the waterfall aviary which houses world's tallest man made waterfall

Thus, I can without a doubt say that the Singaporeans have worked hard over the years to develop their country as a tourist spot and have been successful in doing so.

Crime and policing - Now here's the interesting part. During my entire 5 day stay in Singapore I did not see a single police vehicle. During one of my cab journeys I asked the cab driver about it. He replied, "No need of police, they observe everything on CCTV." 
Then I asked my hosts about it. The reply was really interesting, "It's not that we don't have crime here in Singapore but they have put CCTV cameras almost everywhere and moreover, when a criminal is caught, they make sure it's all over the media. The punishment gets more highlight than the crime."
This also reminds me of the fact that the AAP was laughed at when it mooted a similar idea as part of its manifesto in 2015 assembly elections.

The flip side - This is what some people have asked me not to talk and write about but I can't help it. Coming from a country where 'Right to Freedom of Expression' is a fundamental right, I can't finish this without talking about the flip side.
Though Singapore is a representative democratic republic but almost everyone I met had reservations about what they talk and made it a point not to voice out their opinions in public. It is pretty obvious that Singapore is a 'de facto' one-party state with the ruling  People's Action Party (PAP) having won every election since 1959.

Take away - Singapore had the advantage of location and leadership. Apart from being strategically located at the center of world trade transit route, it also had a leadership which realized the potential and led the country to great height. 
We as the AAP in Delhi have got a lot to learn from Singapore and with a bit of conviction and right steps we can for sure tap into the great tourist potential that the city has.

I would like to sum up with a line a fellow Indian delegate said during one of the conference lunches, "India has such huge tourist potential. Had Leh-Ladakh been in Singapore, they would  have made a fortune out of it. But sadly, we don't even have mobile network there!"

Hope someone is listening!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

#PKofPolitics - Arvind!

          Yesterday I along with more than twenty others went to watch Aamir Khans latest movie PK! These twenty included some of the people in the center-stage of upcoming Delhi assembly elections like Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. Arvind watches movies once in a while and at times, if the movie is about Social or political issues, many of us accompany him. The previous two movies we watched together were Satyagrah and Chakravyuh.

          During the interval in PK all of ate popcorns and burgers as some of us had missed the breakfast due to back to back meetings. While gobbling the popcorn Rajen, a fellow volunteer who had come all way from Singapore to contribute to AAP said, "You know, all of Rajkumar Hirani's pictures are about an outside perspective to something established. Like a Gangster talking about the medical system, a gardener's son talking about the education system and now, an alien looking at the religious institutions." 

               "Like questioning the status quo," I added.

               "Yes, and in that manner I see Arvind as the PK of politics," he replied.

               A smile danced across my face and I could immediately relate to what he was saying.        

          Having known Arvind for almost four years and working full time with him for close to three, I have seen different shades of him. I have seen him in deep thought, in turmoil, torn apart by actions of others, smiling like a child, commanding all he sees like the captain of a ship and sometimes in complete disarray. However, while watching PK and after listening to what Rajen had to say, something new stuck me, Arvind is nothing else but an outsider into the world of politics.

          Arvind is not someone who will sit down and wait for things to get solved. Instead, he's someone who will look for solutions. The tougher the problem, the more out-of-the-box solution he would come up with. I have seen him doing that again and again for last four years and from the ones who know him from earlier than that, I have heard innumerable stories about the same.

         I have heard from Rishi how he went around with the idea of an anti-corruption ombudsman, asking for support, after returning from Amit Jethwa's funeral. I have heard from Yogendra Yadav how he was christened the 'Gram Swaraj wala Arvind' in late 2000's by fellow activists and have listened Manish recall how when they started Parivartan, Arvind used to hold the ladder so that he could climb up to paste posters, which was the cheapest way to propagate the word that they were there to help those who felt cheated by high electricity bills or PDS shops not giving them their allocated ration.

          Like PK, Arvind or AK, as many fondly call him, won't stop if the political establishment would reject the idea of a strong and independent ombudsman against corruption. He would go ahead and challenge the whole political establishment. He would be bereaved by the death of his friend, Santosh in our case, but that would not stop him from going ahead and fighting the established political parties and their goons in elections.

          What makes my belief even stronger is that Arvind is still fighting for the same issues he started for. Be it Janlokpal or corruption in PDS or Gram and mohalla Swaraj, all of them are still very much on his agenda and to-do list.

           Many people give many reasons for Arvind's resignation. Say that he was mistaken in doing so. Even Arvind accepted that it was a mistake. I on the other hand, still believe otherwise. I believe that it was necessary for him to resign on the issue of Janlokpal. It was due to Janlokpal that a Vandana Singh, a Vikas Yogi, an Ankit Lal and innumerable others like us left their jobs and plunged into this fight. Had he not taken a stand on Janlokpal, it would have been a shocker for people like us.

           He kept the hope alive in us. Hope of a better Delhi, a better India and ultimately, a better world. Let's see what the future holds for us, but I will keep striving to bring about change with our own version of PK, who we know as AK!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What happened at Assi ghat?

As I lay in the hospital with my friend Nandan on the bed beside me, the incidents in the past 24 hours criss-cross my mind. A cleanliness drive, an evening full of patriotic songs and then the visit to a shop to buy water is what has landed us in the hospital.

Nandan and Kavish had planned a Play4Change(street music walk) from Durga Kund to Assi Ghat so I decided to join them and we added an extra cleanliness drive prior to that. We went to Durga Kund with brooms and other campaign material, swept the place for about half an hour alongwith distributing pamphlets. After that we left for Assi Ghat in a group of about 15, singing kranti songs.

The walk ended at Assi ghat at about 8pm with Raghupati Raghaav Raja Ram. The atmosphere was so electric that even the crowd was singing with us. It was an excellent but physically draining campaign so after finishing we went towards a nearby tea shop to get some water. Others left while four of us, Nandan and Kavish, the two guitarists, Prabhat, a BHU student and I remained.

We bought water from a shop on the way out from Assi along with some biscuits. A few people came up to Nandan and me and started to talk about Arvind , the elections and started asking us some questions as both of us were wearing AAP caps. The same old usual questions! Why AAP resigned from power in Delhi. Why is Arvind fighting from Banaras. Etc.

3-4 people approached us and asked us to stop talking, remove AAP caps and move away from there. We refused to comply. Those people had #BJP badges so we asked them to sit down and talk to us, debate with us. Either prove their points or try to understand ours.

‘Banaras has been a land of debates and discussions, let’s sit down and debate. Let’s see who can convince the other.’ Nandan said to one of those guys. They didn’t sit.

‘It’s our own country man, are we not even allowed to stand and talk?’ I asked.

None of them replied but they went some distance and stood with their group which had about 15-20 people while we continued chatting with the people at the tea shop.

After few minutes a bigger group, maybe 7-8 of them came back again and threatened. They said, ‘It’ll be better for you people to leave otherwise things can turn bad.’

We said, 'What will you do? Beat us? If beating us solves the problem then beat us.'

One of them first hit Nandan straight on the nose and they went back to his group. Blood spewed from Nandan’s nose but he stood there only and said, ‘What kind of country is this becoming? People are not even prepared to listen to what others have to say? Is this the democracy we are so proud of?’

 'You hit us and run away and then call us Bhagoda,'I shouted. Then few of them came back and hit Nandan on the nose and me on the ear. Both of us were hit multiple times and Prabhat also got hit trying to save us. I lost my specs in the process.

Then those guys sat on their bikes and rode away while we stood there with folded hands asking if they wanted to hit us more. They ran away, we didn't. We took water from the tea shop and washed Nandan's nose which was bleeding profusely. Around 30 locals watched.

Later friends suggested that we get an FIR registered and medical examination (MLC) done which we did. The report shows that tendons in Nandan's nose have been damaged and my left ear drum has an internal blood clot. Doctors say my hearing won't be affected but there is serve pain and it will take almost a week for the ear drum to heal. Nandan's injury might take a bit longer. According to Doctor he was hit on nose with some metallic object.

The interesting part is that both the FIR and the MLC state that there we were not under the influence of alcohol. Still people like Mr Sambit Parta, who is a BJP spokesperson and several news channels have stated that we were drunk and then pissed in the Ganges due to which we were beaten up.

Well, one would have to salute the imagination of the person who came up with this argument. But at the same time I think this country has suffered enough due to such baseless rumor mongering . It’s an argument that can very easily polarize people in election season apart from harming  Nandan’s any my  personal and family reputation. What damage it will cause to the party is unfathomable.

I write this blog because I want to tell my side of the story, because I want the truth to come out. However, I don’t ask you to believe me blindly. Please verify with the FIR and MLC record. Please, please at least check if both of us consume alcohol or not. Please try and see through this façade of fake and polarizing propaganda being run by these people.

Being a Social Media person I know how rumor mills on Social Media work and how main stream media falls prey to it. I would request the main stream media to at least cross check and verify the facts when it comes to statements and arguments of this nature.

Written by Ankit Lal while lying on a hospital bed.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Remembering Santosh!

Two days ago while I was traveling to Kaushambi office from C.P. office in metro I got a call from Vikas saying that Santosh is critical and they are going to Fortis, Gurgaon. At first I couldn't believe him. Just a day ago Kiran had told me that Santosh was better and was responding very well to voice commands. But he said that Arvind had tweeted this and they were all on the way.

In next five minutes I received more calls from Aniket and few others. Everyone was on way to Gurgaon. The first thought on my mind was to get down immediately and board the metro to Gurgaon. But I could not. I had some donation cheques which I had to give at Kaushambi office and I had already made the person wait for more than an hour. So I went to Kaushambi, gave it to Bipul da and caught the metro to Gurgaon.

During the entire hour and a half journey flashes of incidents in past two and a half year kept criss-crossing my mind. I had met Santosh for the first time at Jantar Mantar in April 2011. Even at that time she was known to be a firebrand activist with the strength to call a spade a spade.

After April 2011 all of us worked for grass root mobilization and Santosh was the one who used to give us tips. She had far more knowledge about the ground scenario than any of us. While attending the weekly volunteer meetings of IAC she would narrate the experiences she had while fighting the rashan mafia. How she was attacked multiple times and how she made Sheila Dixit run away with her questions.

Then in August 2011, when Anna was arrested, she along with most others was on ground mobilizing people while I along with 10 others was underground, away from all the action, acting as part of the IAC communication channel. One incident I specifically remember is of 21st August. Anna was into the 6th day of his fast and despite of public support across the country there was no communication from the government and Anna's health had started to deteriorate.

Anna spoke from the stage and said that if these politicians won't listen to our demands then we'll take the fight to their doorsteps. Within an hour I got a call from someone saying that about 40 volunteers were at 7, Race course road, PM Manmohan Singh's residence. I went to Arvind, informed him and asked him if I could go. He said, "Go, but don't get arrested."

I left Ramlila ground and as I expected I found Santosh at the crossing of 7, RCR along with 40-50 others which included Arunima, Rolly, Arun, Bhupendra and many others. She was the one who had coordinated this effort and reached that far ditching the police. On seeing me she said, "Bhai, I'm going back to Ramlila ground to get more people, you be here."

That day was the first time anyone protested in front of PM house in the history of India's anti-corruption protest. All of us were detained and later released near Ramlila ground. The next day we went to then Finance Minsiter, Pranab Mukherjee's house and next day to that to Chidambaram's house in morning and Advani's house in evening. Santosh and few others were regular feature in all those protests.

In her own small way Santosh had made a difference. The places which were a strict no-no for protests started feeling susceptible and vulnerable. Even beefing up security measures and closing down metro stations had no effect.

Yes, it was Santosh who was trigger to this change!

In May 2012 when I and Prerna decided to get married, Santosh was one of the first people I informed.
On the day of my marriage after Arvind did Prerna's kanyadaan she said to me, "Bhai I wish I have a marriage like yours."
"Yours will be better," I replied.

That day I didn't know that fate had something else in store for her!

Then in December Damini rape case happened. Few know that Santosh and her youth team, which includes but is not limited to Vandana, Hitashi, Vikas, Ankit Sharma, Sarita, Sanjeev, etc. was one of the first to reach Vijay Chowk and lead the protests.

It's her firebrand style of protest which has inspired people across India. Santosh was not someone who would be afraid of the police and their canes and tear gas. She was one who would take it all head on, even if she was alone. And she taught that to many, I apart from Arvind and many others are her disciples in that field.

Then in April 2013 the candidate selection process for Delhi Assembly elections started. When the question of Seemapuri constituency cropped up many of us had only one name in mind, Santosh. But she was reluctant. She didn't think she would be that good as a politician and wanted to continue the life of a rebel, a protester. But finally we were able to convince her and as expected .

I still remember that evening at Swati and Neveen Jaihind's house. It was a small get together and Santosh said to Swati, "It's very difficult. Earlier it was physical attacks but now they are trying to malign me. Saying that I charge people for their rashon." Swati consoled her, said, "Don't worry, you are worthy that's why you have been given ticket. You just do your work, that's the best answer to them."

Santosh continued with her campaign and then in 2nd week of June I got a call from Kumar bhai, asking where I was. I told him that I was at Kaushambi office to which he said. "Santosh is coming there. She has lost her phone and Arvind has asked me get a new phone. Come to me with her and then get her a mobile. I'll give the cash to you and you get her a phone."

Santosh came with Abid and we went to Kumar's home in Aditya's car. We sat for some time and then Kumar said, "I'm giving you the money, go and take a mobile. How much money should I give."
"If you are coming along then it's Ok otherwise I'm leaving," replied Santosh.

Kumar accompanied us to the mobile shop and got a mobile for her. The mobile shop owner was himself surprised that Kumar came to take a mobile for someone. Kumar replied pointing towards Santosh, "She's my MLA, who will I get a mobile for if not her?"

We bought a Samsung mobile of Santosh's choice and walked out of the shop. Then Kumar asked, "You could have taken this with Ankit, why did you call me?"

Santosh didn't answer straight forwardly which was against her nature. I was surprised as this is not how she was. I also insisted, "Yes, tell us, what's the matter?"

"Bhaiya the local MLA's aides have threatening me," Santosh replied to Kumar.

"Don't worry, the most they can do is that they'll not let you win, what else can they do?" Kumar replied.

"No, they have said they will kill me," Santosh replied nonchalantly.

We didn't say anything and changed the topic and then left soon-after.

After almost two weeks she met with an accident while coming to Kaushambi office. Soon after she crossed into U.P., the bike she was traveling on was hit by a car from behind. Santosh sustained severe head injuries while the person driving the bike, Kuldeep, suffered injuries in his hands and one of his legs.

She was brought to nearby Yashoda hospital by passers by and I being nearby reached within 10 minutes of the accident. Her situation was critical but the doctors Dr. Atul Gupta, Dr. Naresh Gupta and Dr. Vipin Mittal worked hard and made her survive. The golden hour, i.e. the first hour after the accident was utilized very effectively and she was operated within the first hour. This helped in Santosh's immediate survival after the accident.

After three days we shifted her to a bigger hospital for better care but finally after 37 days of struggle Santosh left us, leaving many questions unanswered.

Santosh may have left us but many questions remain. Her dreams are still unfulfilled and it is now upon us to bring her dreams to reality.

She may have left us but her memories will always be with us.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

One year of the Janlokpal movement: What have we achieved?

On 5th of April 2011 for the first time I left the comfort of my home and participated in a demonstration. Strangely, I was not the only one. The day of 5th April 2011 is a major milestone in the history of anti-corruption movement in this country as it was the first time when the anger against graft actually spilled on to the streets.

A year has passed since that day and in this past year the people participating in this movement have gone through much and learnt many lessons. Few of them too tough to digest. But still, if today, I pause for a second and look back at the year that has gone by, I will still find many reasons to be happy and hopeful.

Happy, because now I know that there are not one or two, but millions of Indians like me who dream of a better India. Hopeful, because this movement has brought many of these onto the same platform.

Happy, because even if we have not achieved Janlokpal, this movement has brought attention to the issue of corruption. The same people who used to say that graft has penetrated the DNA of India and nothing is possible now say that may be, the movement is on the right path. Hopeful, because at least now, the youth of India has started to take interest in what is going on in our country. At least a chunk has moved from being unconcerned to being participants in this movement against corruption.

Happy, because few years down the line I would be able to tell my daughter or son that I was a part of the movement against corruption. Hopeful, because I know that if we keep trying like we have doing in the past one year, my children might be born in a better India.

However the last one year in this movement has also taught me that those in power will stoop to any level to silence the ones, who voice their discomfort over the current status of things. It has taught me that they will make promises and commitments only to backtrack later on. It has taught me that they will not leave any stone un-turned to defame the anti-corruption movement and it's faces.

Despite, of all these, I am hopeful. I believe that some day soon we will be able to achieve 'Swaraj' as envisioned by Anna and Arvind. This hope is not based merely on dreams, but also because I see the kind of effort these people put in and how firmly they believe in the decentralization of power that they talk about.

The coming year will be crucial for the future of this movement. It may very well shape the future of this country. All we need to do is have faith and work continuously towards what we had set to achieve a year ago.

Monday, November 21, 2011

शीर्षक की तलाश जारी है...

यह हिंदी में लिखने का पिछले कई सालों में मेरा पहला प्रयास है, अतः अगर गलतियाँ हों तो उनके लिए मैं पहले ही क्षमा मांगता हूँ.

सामान्यतः मेरे दिन काफी आराम से एक एयर-कनडीशन्ड कमरे में व्यतीत होता है और मैं जिन लोगों से बातचीत करता हूँ वो ज्यादातर या तो software engineer होते हैं, लेखक होते हैं अथवा अन्ना के आन्दोलन से जुड़े हुए आन्दोलनकारी होते हैं (और अगर आप इन प्रजातियों से परिचित होंगे, तो आप ये भी जानते होंगे कि इन तीनो में से कोई भी सामान्य इंसानों की श्रेणी में नहीं आते)|

कल का मेरा दिन थोड़ा अलग रहा|
प्रथम तो कल का दिन काफी भाग दौड़ भरा रहा. परन्तु मुख्य बात ये रही कि कल मेरा दिमाग रह रहकर एक ही घटना कि तरफ बार बार मुड़ जा रहा था.
मेरे दिमाग में एक ही वाक्य गूँज रहा था, 'हम जैसों के लिए कोई कुछ नहीं सोचता इस देश में.'

वाकिया बहुत ही सामान्य है जो शायद आपमें से भी कई लोगों के साथ घटा होगा.

मुझे कुछ प्रिंट लेने थे तो मैं तैयार होकर घर से निकला और मेरे घर के पड़ोस में एक साइबर कैफे चलाने वाले ६०-६५ वर्षीय व्यक्ति, जिनका मैं नाम तो नहीं जनता परन्तु मिलता अक्सर हूँ और अंकल कहता हूँ, की दुकान कि तरफ गया. मुझे अंदाजा था कि अब तक अंकल या तो आ चुके होंगे अथवा आ रहे होंगे. मैं अपने घर के सीढ़ियों से उतर कर जब उनकी दुकान कि तरफ मुड़ा तो देखा कि अंकल खड़े होकर एक रिक्शेवाले से झगड़ रहे हैं. यह शायद पहली बार था कि मैंने अंकल को किसी से इस प्रकार बात करते हुए देखा था.

मैं भी जाकर उन २-३ लोगों के साथ खड़ा हो गया जो कि अंकल और रिक्शेवाले के बीच का ये प्रातः कालीन प्रसारण देख रहे थे.
२-४ मिनट का वार्तालाप सुनने के बाद मुझे समझ आया की सारी बहसबाजी रिक्शेवाले द्वारा भाड़े से ५ Rs ज्यादा मांगे जाने को लेकर थी.
अंकल के पास खुले पैसे नहीं थे तो उन्होंने रिक्शेवाले को २० का नोट दिया और रिक्शेवाले से ५ रुपये वापस मांगे परन्तु रिक्शेवाले ने अपनी गरीबी और बढ़ी हुई महंगाई का हवाला देकर ५ रुपये वापस देने से मना कर दिया. अंकल का पारा चढ़ गया और वो आजकल की सामान्य मानसिकता के विपरीत ५ रुपये वापस लेने के लिए रिक्शेवाले से बहस करने लगे.
मेरी उम्मीद के विपरीत रिक्शेवाले ने ज्यादा बहस नहीं करी. जैसे ही उसे लगा की अंकल वाकई में गुस्सा हैं वो तुरंत जाकर बगल की परचून की दुकान से खुले पैसे ले आया और अपने रास्ते चलता बना, अपनी अगली सवारी खोजने. २-४ जो दर्शक थे वो भी अपने अपने काम पर वापस चले गए, बचे मैं और अंकल.

५ रुपये के उस सिक्के को, जो अंकल ने रिक्शेवाले से काफी जद्दोजहद के बाद लिया था, बड़ी शान से अपनी जेब में डाला और चेहरे पर ऐसी विजयी मुस्कान लिए हुए दुकान का शटर ऊपर उठाने लगे जैसे अभी अभी पानीपत की दूसरी लड़ाई जीत कर आ रहे हों. मुझे उम्मीद थी की वो खुद कुछ बोलेंगे परन्तु ऐसा हुआ नहीं. वो दुकान खोलते ही अपने रोज़मर्रा की झाड़ पोंछ में व्यस्त हो गए.

थोड़ी देर में प्रिंटर चालू कर के उन्होंने मुझे जो प्रिंट चाहिए थे वो निकाल के दे दिए. मैंने जब पैसे पूछे तो उन्होंने कहा, 'वही पुराना, ३ रुपये प्रति पेज.' मैं भी न जाने क्या सोच रहा था की मैं बोला, 'क्या अंकल, अब तो सब जगह २ रुपये रेट हो गया है. लक्ष्मी नगर में तो कुछ लोग ६० पैसे पेज के हिसाब से भी निकालते हैं.'
मुझे नहीं पता की मेरे शब्दों में ऐसी क्या चुभन थी, परन्तु अंकल बिलकुल से बिफ़र गए. 'तो जा कर करा लो लक्ष्मी नगर से. यहाँ क्यों आए?' मैं उनकी बात सुनकर थोड़ा विचलित हुआ, परन्तु पहला तो की मैं उनका अक्सरहां का ग्राहक था, दूसरा मुझे प्रिंट लेकर जल्दी निकलना भी था और सबसे बड़ी बात की वो उम्र में मुझसे काफी बड़े थे, इसलिए, मैंने उनसे कोई बहस करने की बजाय चुप रहना बेहतर समझा.
कुछ पलों तक ख़ामोशी रही, सिर्फ प्रिंटर की किर्र- कीं उस ख़ामोशी में सुनाई देती रही. फिर अंकल खुद ही बोले, 'जब मैंने ४ साल पहले ये दुकान चालू की थी तब इसका किराया २५०० रुपये था, आज हर वर्ष १०% के हिसाब से बढ़कर ४५०० रुपये हो गया है, अगली जुलाई में शायद ५००० रुपये हो जाये. जो रिक्शा वाला साल भर पहले १० रुपये में ख़ुशी- ख़ुशी आता था आज १५ में भी नहीं मानता, और आप कहते हो की सब २ रुपये ले रहे हैं. अरे, मेरी दुकान पे तो रेट आज भी वही हैं जो ३ साल पहले थे. मैं अपना घर कैसे चलाऊंगा? आटा, दाल, सब्जी, दूध सबके दाम इतने बढ़ चुके हैं यह तुम्हे पता ही है.' मैंने कोई जवाब नहीं दिया बस हूँ करके सर हिला दिया. अंकल ने आगे कहा, 'अमीरों को तो ज्यादा फर्क पड़ता नहीं महंगाई का और गरीबों के लिए सरकार इतनी साडी योजनायें चलती है. ये तो हम जैसे बीच में फंसे हुए लोग हैं जिनको कोई नहीं पूछता. हम जैसों के लिए कोई कुछ नहीं सोचता इस देश में.'

मैंने कुछ नहीं कहा, उनके पैसे दिए और अपने प्रिंट्स लेकर घर की तरफ चल दिया परन्तु अंकल की भावनाएं उनके अकेले की नहीं हैं. एक बहुत बड़ा तबका है भारत का, एक तबका जिसको 'मिडल क्लास' कहते हैं, कहीं ना कहीं अंकल की आवाज़ उस पूरे मिडल क्लास की आवाज़ है, कहीं ना कहीं अंकल का गुस्सा उस पूरे मिडल क्लास का गुस्सा है, कहीं ना कहीं अंकल की बेचैनी उस पूरे मिडल क्लास की बेचैनी है.

शायद यही वजह रही की जब अन्ना हज़ारे नाम के एक बूढ़े फ़कीर भ्रष्टाचार के खिलाफ उठा तो उसको इतना समर्थन मिला. यही गुस्सा, यही बेचैनी कहीं न कहीं अन्ना के आन्दोलन में आये हुए लोगों में भी दिखी. बहुत कम लोग अप्रैल में अन्ना को जानते थे. जो जनता जंतर मंतर पर थी वो वहाँ अन्ना के लिए या किसी पार्टी विशेष के विरोध में वहाँ नहीं थी, वो खुद के लिए वहाँ गयी थी.

हालाकि अगस्त में रामलीला मैदान में और उसके पहले तिहाड़ और छत्रसाल स्टेडियम में जो हुआ उसमें जरुर अन्ना के लिए समर्थन भी था और एक पार्टी विशेष के खिलाफ गुस्सा भी. और ये सिर्फ इसलिए नहीं हुआ की अन्ना ने जनता पर कोई जादू कर दिया, उन्होंने बस वो मुद्दा उठाया जो की मेरे और अंकल और उस रिक्शावाले, तीनो की ही ज़िन्दगी से जुड़ा हुआ है. उनका तरीका भी विरोधी पार्टियों द्वारा सामान्यतः की जाने वाली रैलीयों से भिन्न था. न कोई आगजनी, न तोड़फोड़, न भड़काऊ भाषण. जंतर मंतर या रामलीला मैदान पर एक समाधान की बात हो रही थी, न कि समस्याओं के बारे में बात करके वोट लेने की कोशिश.

हालाकि, सरकार ने जिस तरह से इस आन्दोलन को दबाने, तथा इससे जुड़े लोगों को बदनाम करने कि कोशिश करी, एक बात तो साफ़ हो चुकी है, कि सरकार कि मंशा साफ़ नहीं है. शायद वक़्त आ गया है कि फिर से ऑफिस के बाद मैं अन्ना के आन्दोलन में भागीदारी के लिए वक़्त निकालूँ. शायद वक़्त आ गया है कि मैं ऑफिस में बैठकर भी इस आन्दोलन में जैसे भी संभव हो विअसे अपना योगदान दूँ. शायद वक़्त आ गया है कि एक साल पूरा कर चुके इस आन्दोलन को सही मुकाम पर पहंचाया जाये. शायद इस बार मैं २-४ और लोगों को अपने साथ लेकर भी जाऊंगा. अब वक़्त आ गया है कि मेरे और अंकल जैसे लोग घर या दुकान या ऑफिस में बैठ कर चाय कि चुस्कियां लेते हुए अपने नेतागणों के घोटालों पर चर्चा करने कि बजाय कुछ करें. क्यूंकि मुझे अच्छी तरह ये पता है कि अगर आज अन्ना हार गए, और उनका आन्दोलन दबा दिया गया तो अगले ५० सालों तक इस देश कि युवा पीढ़ी कुछ बोलने कि हिम्मत नहीं करेगी.