Saturday, December 27, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Like militancy-infested Jammu & Kashmir, the Assam Government has also sought “insurgency damages neutralization grant” to the tune of Rs 25,000 crores from the 13th Finance Commission. According to official sources, in the memorandum submitted to the 13th Finance Commission in Guwahati on December 18, the State Government has demanded of the commission to treat insurgency-affected Assam at par with Jammu & Kashmir. The memorandum stated that in the last 30 years, Assam’s economy has been badly affected due to insurgency leading to fall in investment and damage to infrastructure. Under similar insurgency and terrorism-related circumstances, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir got special financial dispensation from the 10th and 11th Finance Commissions. Assam has suffered no less. So the commission should be judicious enough to extend similar grants to Assam also.
This demand highlights the fact that Assam no longer deserves any step-motherly treatment. We have full credibility to receive equal rights and provisions when compared to the other states in the country. We cannot, and neither can the rest of India, ignore the fact that insurgency has created havoc with the economical as well as the socio-political aspects of the state. We have lost so much money in this time period that our state’s economy was left badly crippled sometimes back. Entrepreneurs and investors shirked from making any sort of ventures here. Terrorist activities had left public property in shambles. Blowing up of railway tracks and oil and gas pipelines always have financial repercussions with them. But of course, the number of lives lost cannot be counted in terms of money. The state of Jammu & Kashmir has a special status in the Indian Union and enjoys various privileges as per the Constitution. We are not asking for any big concessions. All we want is some assistance from the Centre in reshaping our economy. And the insurgency damages grant can go a long way in solving that. This concession will also enhance Assam’s stature and the Centre will not ignore Assam like it has always tended to do so. Hopefully, now the tag of a buffer state against China will be removed from us.
Every year, natural resources like oil, gas, tea and timber flow out of Assam to the mainland but very little is given back in return to Assam for her valuable resources. This is a question which has been asked by many Assamese intellectuals over and over again. And the state has always responded by taking actions against them. To combat insurgency and cross-border terrorism, the State Government has to rely more on the Central Paramilitary Force. And for that, it has to bear 10% deployment charge, which is discriminatory as neither Jammu & Kashmir nor any of the other North-Eastern States have to pay any such deployment charge. Unlike the Kashmiris who love to wave the Pakistani flag from their rooftops, we Assamese have time and again shown that we consider ourselves as Indians. The ULFA has lost support throughout the state because the common people do not want to leave India. Each year, many brave Assamese in the defence sector lose their lives while fighting for India. Whenever India wins a cricket match, Assam also celebrates with the rest of the country by bursting a lot of crackers out of jubilation. We are Indians from the core of our hearts. But, unfortunately, the Central Government still gives a secondary status to Assam and her problems. It has always overlooked the possibility that Assam could become the next Kashmir someday.
Today what Assam demands from the Indian Government is equal treatment. All we want is that the Centre should acknowledge our problems and help us out of them. And the seeking of insurgency damages grant is a step in that direction. Apart from helping to shape our shambled economy, it will also ensure Assam’s importance in the Indian pantheon in comparison to states like Jammu & Kashmir. So I sincerely hope that the Centre accepts the memorandum and Assam gets her dues in full.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
As an Indian who hails from a terror-hit area of the country, I can relate very easily to this sort of incidents. Bomb blasts, gun battles and hostage situations are a rather common thing in our
Today, as I see the reactions of our politicians to this incident, I’m fueled up with anger. The Home Minister of Maharashtra, R.R. Patil has described this as a small incident which happens in a big city like Mumbai. Just how callous can anybody get than this! An incident which has shook the entire nation and made all the Indians feel humiliated has been described in this manner by the Home Minister of Maharashtra. I don’t know how to put it but all I want now is to have a revolver and gun down all these filthy political dogs! I’m rather glad that Shivraj Patil has resigned from his Home Ministership in the Centre. But now to see P. Chidambaram in his place is another awkward sight for me! It has shown that the Congress party has no strong leaders to fall back on! And when democracy is ruled by such spineless leaders, such acts of terror are bound to happen. I just wonder where will our relationship with
As I write this piece, I am seething with great anger from within. As a self-respecting Indian, I have every right to feel this way. We have already seen enough death and destruction. And we know that more might be coming our way. But we must stand strong because if we do, believe me we will become the super-power we aspire to be some day. This is a very rough phase for
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
We were sure of a better change sweeping through Indian cinema when we saw Bollywood churn out movies like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge in the 90s. Fortunately, I feel that we were not disappointed in this. Atleast we got a relief from those mindless action thrillers which dominated the 80s. A newfound wave of romance swept across tinsel town. And we got some great classics like Dil To Pagal Hai, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. This time around music also reinvented itself and finally we got out of those horrid tuneless songs of the 80s and early 90s. The music created during this period was reminiscent of the musical jewels that were created in the 60s and 70s. It was like a renaissance sweeping across Bollywood. We also had during this period some coming of age movies like Salaam Bombay. Indian cinema, during this period, also delved into newer territories in terms of ideas and storytelling. We had films like The Bandit Queen, Fire, Bombay Boys and Monsoon Wedding. What was most encouraging was that the Indian audience known for its conservatism embraced most of them with open arms and they proved to be fairly successful. And with this emerged a new breed of filmmakers and storytellers who wanted to make films which the audience could identify with. Thus, among the mainstream commercial flicks too, we had movies like Satya, 1947 Earth and Company. What was now evident was that the audiences wanted films which were backed by a great script and involved some new ideas.
Over the last ten years, what we have seen is that Bollywood has churned out many films which have set landmarks in Indian cinema. The new breed of filmmakers that have come up have lived up to their expectations. Thus, we have Farhan Akhtar making a Dil Chahta Hai. Homi Adajania making a Being Cyrus. And Navdeep Singh making a Manorama Six Feet Under. Even established production houses have made some off-beat films like Yash Raj Films’ Salaam Namaste which dealt with the subject of live-in relationships. Or in the recent case of Karan Johar’s Dostana which dealt with gay men. The variety of topics that films are handling nowadays is really a signal that the audience along with the film industry has come of age. Even when some filmmakers have burned their fingers in their quest to explore other themes, it has not discouraged others from experimenting as well. Filmmakkers like Madhur Bhandarkar have redefined the way women are portrayed in films with flicks like Chandni Bar, Page 3 and the recent Fashion. Even existing genres have got a different treatment too . Patriotism assumed a new jingoism with flicks like Rang De Basanti, Chak De India and the recent Heroes. Horror saw a new style with flicks like Raaz and Bhooth. Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om gave a new meaning to the way the retro style is handled by Bollywood. The way infidelity was handled in Karan Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna was something never seen in Indian cinema before. And romance, Indian audience’s favourite subject, is also getting newer treatments with each passing films. We have some off-beat romantic films like Cheeni Kum which delight us inspite of a different handling of the topic. And we can also hope for some more different treatment to romance in upcoming flicks like Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.
I think in today’s multiplex culture scenario, the gap between mainstream commercial cinema and parallel cinema has diminished to a great extent. When we have films like Khosla Ka Ghosal and Mithya doing fine business, we can understand that all the audience wants now is a slice of difference in the films that are being served to them. Even flicks like Rituparno Ghosh’s The Last Lear and Shyam Benegal’s Welcome To Sajjanpur have lessened the gap between the two streams of filmmaking. When we have a hardcore commercial filmmaker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali make different films like Black and Saawariya, and another formula following filmmaker like Subhash Ghai make a Black & White, it is time for us to realize that serious cinema has finally arrived in Bollywood. Even well-known actors are exploring the newer themes in Bollywood. Thus we have Aamir Khan doing a Taare Zameen Par, Shah Rukh Khan doing a Chak De India and Salman Khan doing a Phir Milenge. The change has arrived . And it is definitely here to stay.
As an avid movie-going Indian, I’m looking forward for this change to consolidate further in Indian cinema so that we may experience more variety in terms of themes and ideas. Cinema is a very powerful mode of expression and this mode has finally hit substance in our country. Three cheers for the new wave in Indian Cinema!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
My first real serious experience with rock n roll happened one day when I chanced to see a documentary on TV about The Doors. There was this guy who was simply high on dope and the crowd was simply swinging with him totally mesmerized! The next day immediately bought a cassette of The Doors and instantly I fell in love with the haunting vocals of Doors frontman Jim Morrison. For the first time I thought rock n roll had a deeper meaning than I ever imagined. By that time I was reaching 18 and was taking my keyboard lessons. Listening to Ray Manzarek’s awesome keyboard parts in the songs was enough for me to take the keyboard seriously. I began to live The Doors day in and day out. For the first time my parents were baffled to hear me listen to a kind of music they were not familiar with. Morrison’s lyrics totally freaked out my psyche. For the first time I began to look at the things around me in a different way and went through the ‘confusion’ phase that most teens go through. Love, life, violence, sex. I felt I could understand these things in a clearer way than ever before. Songs like ‘Riders in The Storm’, ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and ‘The End’ have become anthems with scores of people. But for me, one underrated song that particularly stands among these gems is ‘People are Strange.’ It connected with me especially in the period when I came to Delhi for the first time and felt like a complete stranger in the place. The Doors never failed to give me solace in my hours of depression and I almost worshipped Jim Morrison.
I began to venture to other rock n roll bands too. There were Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Kiss, The Rolling Stones and the like. They made great stuff to listen. And I felt good because I was increasing my rock range. But then one day, my friend gave me a cassette called ‘The Dark Side of The Moon.’ It was by a band called Pink Floyd. Suddenly, I felt that I had reached a very extreme point of psychedelia! Rock, for me, was never the same again! It totally blew my mind. And I realized I had finally found the medium to vent out my frustrations. Pink Floyd’s songs helped me delve into the darker realms of the mind. I still get hysterical when I listen to their ‘Coming Back to Life.’ This song has become an anthem with me now. And for me, nothing can match the dark soothing beauty of this song. There is an ultimate rush of ecstasy and sadness in this song. All at the same time. Another song I fondly recall leaving a huge impression on me was ‘Wish You Were Here.’ Anybody would fell in love with this song recalling their first love. Pink Floyd’s effect started from the point where The Doors faded off. And not to forget their ever popular ‘Education’ song.
Now I sometimes wonder what is it that endears rock n roll so much to the youth? Maybe it is some sort of a medium to vent out their hidden frustrations. Or maybe it is something with which the teenager’s often troubled mind can identify with. I think more than the music it is the lyrics which form the real core of rock music. If you go through lyrics like “Remember when you were young, You shone like the sun,” you will realize that it connects more with the youth than anybody else. Though it’s timeless quality can appeal to any age group, it will be more appealing to the troubled teenaged mind as it will take back to the magical innocence of childhood. Or take this one for example. “I wish I die before I grow old.” Now how would a young mind react to it? Or even the ones who are in the prime of their youth? Really psychedelic!
Maybe I’m just goofing around trying to define what rock n roll is all about like most idiots before me have done. But here like most, I myself have felt its impact on my brains. But again, I really can’t do justice to it by trying to make an explanation out of it. A friend of mine, who unfortunately died of a drug overdose, summed up rock n roll in the best way possible. “You have to feel it to understand it.” I think I’m no authority to better that!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The Project Tiger was the Indian government’s mammoth attempt to put tiger conservation under the official scanner of the government. Launched in 1973-74, the project aimed at tiger conservation in specially constituted ‘tiger reserves’, which are representatives of various bio-geographical regions falling within our country. Under the Project Tiger, various tiger reserves were created in the country on a ‘core-buffer’ strategy. The core areas were freed of all sorts of human activities and the buffer areas were subjected to ‘conservation oriented land use.’ Nine tiger reserves were established in different states during the period 1973-74, by pooling the resources available with the Central and State governments. The WWF also gave an assistance of US $1 million in the form of equipments, expertise and literature.
Over the years, the government has made long claims of huge success in this area. But recent statistics and suggestions by naturalists have formed a different picture altogether. Poaching has steadily risen with Sariska, one of the reserves under Project Tiger, being left with no tiger at all! The situation had become so bad that tigers had to be imported from the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve to Sariska. And the situation is still is not going well because out the three tigers (one male and two females) that had been brought to Sariska, the male has refused to adjust to its new surroundings. Now the situation has become such that one can only speculate if Sariska will ever see tigers flourish in its jungles again. Corruption in the beaurucratic system has infected the efficient functioning of the Project with the evidence of the rise in poaching in recent years. There have been several cases of poaching reported this year from sanctuaries like Manas and Kaziranga in Assam. And the brunt of poaching has fallen on other endangered species too like the One-horned Rhinoceros.
Ask tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar what he thinks about the prospects of the tiger’s survival in the near future, and he gives you a dismal picture. For him, it is the worst wildlife crisis that India had faced post-independence. And Sariska proved to be the national embarrassment in this case! Certainly, Thapar speaks from a position of authority. He has been tracking tigers for nearly three decades, keeping a keen eye on the cats, spending hours shooting them with his camera as well as watching them hunt, sleep and play. He has campaigned for their protection and fought to preserve their habitats. He insists that today the poachers have finally gained the upper hand and are mercilessly laying traps for the great cats. What’s more, the forest protection machinery seems to have collapsed completely.
Thapar heard the warning bells in early March when a census conducted in Sariska by the Forest Department, which was supervised by the empowered committee set up by the Supreme Court revealed that the park had been wiped clean of its tiger population by poachers. The tiger count in June 2004 stood at 16, but, according to the survey, the tigers had vanished entirely by October. One person who has responded swiftly to the conservationists is Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Soon after the Sariska report, he called a meeting of the National Board for Wildlife of which Thapar is a member and also agreed to create a National Wildlife Crime Prevention Bureau. The Central Empowered Committee constituted by the Supreme Court is an administrative body which looks into environmental cases which come before the court. It also began an inquiry into the crisis. Thapar is also a member of the committee. Then, the CBI’s recently formed wildlife squad instituted an inquiry and backed the finding that Sariska’s tigers have vanished.
Today the beast is under grave threat in reserves across the country. According to Thapar, the solutions lie in setting institutions right. At the meeting of the National Board for Wildlife, Thapar pushed for the splitting up of the Ministry of Environment and Forest. He’s pushing for an environment ministry that deals only with issues like pollution, CNG and urban environmental problems. Then, he argues, there should be a separate forests and wildlife ministry. But only time will tell if any of these suggestions will ever be implemented. Plus, one is also forced to think how much of reforms in the institutions will give positive results after analysing the results of a government initiative like the Project Tiger. People like Thapar will continue to stand by the tiger in this testing time, but the fact is also that how much aware can the people get regarding the preservation of this magnificent beast. Poaching and trading in tiger parts are the biggest threats to the tiger today. Unitl the government comes up with some proper alternatives to quell them, there can be no hope for the tiger. Especially in countries like China, where officialisation of tiger trading has jeopardised the chances of the tiger’s survival there.
Therefore, it is now very essential that a ‘preservationist’ approach is taken towards the conservation of the tiger. Otherwise the day is not far when our coming generations will get to see the tiger only in pictures!