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Sumon K Chakrabarti
Friday , March 02, 2012

Has India lost the mango and the sack in the Maldives?

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Democracy is rough road littered with potholes. Either you avoid them and play safe, or you fill them up for a smoother ride in the future. Mohamed Nasheed did both. First, he played safe and then he changed gears to take the problem head-on. But in doing so, he failed to avoid a collision that led to the toppling in a coup of the first-ever democratic government in the Maldives that he headed. Clearly, Nasheed's order to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, Chief Judge of Criminal Court, on January 16 was a political blunder. It brought a rainbow coalition of opposition politicians, mega-rich resort owners and radical Islamists out on the streets - united only by their opposition to a nascent, liberal democracy and the reforms it had brought about that are under genuine threat today. Chief Judge Mohamed, appointed for life by former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was facing....

Friday , December 16, 2011

Fire and the city

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Fires have become synonymous with the city of Kolkata. Since 2008, 10 major fires have broken out in the heart of the city. But why is the city so prone to frequent fire incidents? A walk around town will tell you why. The city sits on a powder keg. Old high-rises in congested areas with exposed electrical wirings are a familiar sight all around. But the real story lies in the 35 years of Left rule in the city. Last Friday's mid-night blaze brought back some murky tales of favouritism which had been swept under the carpet for ages. SK Todi, who owns the AMRI Hospital, had allowed kerosene-stoves to be stored in the basement of the hospital, which was earmarked for car parking. Todi was the only industrialist for whom Bengal's longest serving chief minister, Comrade Jyoti Basu, would wait even if he....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Manipur: Faith blocked

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India doesn't deserve Manipur. Manipur more than deserves India - despite the holier than thou incarnates in New Delhi. The state faces the worst step-motherly treatment in the history of independent India. And it defies common logic why the state of Manipur would be subjected to such treatment. Because in the 'them versus 'us' debate, the dominant population in the state would qualify as more mainstream than the overwhelming Hindu population in the so called mainland. Yes, the Meiteis, Vaishnavite Hindus, are the staunchest that you would ever come across in the country, even more than our knickerwallahs in RSS. I say this at the risk of crossing my rabid right-wing followers on twitter. Yet, the Meiteis are not only debarred from special constitutional privileges granted to the Scheduled Tribes of Manipur, they cannot even settle in the hill districts of their own state under Manipur's "Land Reform Act". ....

Saturday , June 18, 2011

Indian doctors, made-in-China

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If you have often baulked at the 'Made in China' tag, there's a new product coming your way: Indian doctors. Thousands of made-in-China Indian doctor hopefuls enrolled in Chinese medical universities since 2003, when Chinese universities touting low tuition threw open their doors to them. And their dream is alive, despite failing to make the cut in India, academically and financially. Initially, those who took the deal did that knowing well that the Medical Council of India does not recognize a medical degree from China. Off late, they do. At the picturesque Dali University, overlooking one of the biggest lakes in China, some Indian medical students complained that they had no idea that learning Chinese was also part of the curriculum. Some say that they have serious problems understanding the professors. "You can hardly understand their pronunciation, they can't speak English" are some of the common refrains.....

Friday , June 17, 2011

What Bengal Left didn't learn from China

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It's actually ironic that I am in China! To understand the enormity of the purpose, you have to be born, bred in West Bengal, my home state in India. I don't live there anymore, but just a month back, I was there to witness history. After 34 years, the world's longest ruling elected Communists were dethroned by a woman whose singular determination to overthrow the Leftists paid off after nearly 2 decades. In China, officially, they are mum about the comrades biting the dust in India. But some senior and mid-ranking officials of the 'Party' I spoke to in Yunnan (strictly off the record) have one single theory about the downfall: neglecting development of the people and pursuing capitalism in private can cause serious, irreparable damage. One top ranking official in Kunming claimed that had the Left Front followed the footsteps of Beijing, they would have ruled for....

Tuesday , June 07, 2011

Of clouds and computing in China

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As they say, every cloud has a silver-lining. This cloud in Kungming had one. It was overcast when we landed early morning, to be replaced by a beautiful day soon after. But not the clouds that cast their shadow on the virtual world of China. There is no place for social networking. No Facebook, no Twitter. And to top it, an amazingly bad Google service. Google claims that it was hacked in China just earlier this month. The hacking campaign was allegedly done to collect passwords of millions of Gmail users through phishing, and originated from Jinan, capital of Shandong province. An editorial from the Chinese Communist Party's newspaper charged that Google is "thickly tainted with political colors" and "taking advantage and provoking new Sino-American Internet security disputes with sinister intentions." But the mention of the city of Jinan has amused many a Chinese. Last year,....

Monday , January 18, 2010

Jyoti Basu: The Unkindest Cut

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The more I look back I get angry. But that's not the problem. The problem is that my anger quotient increases manifold as I visualise what's happening and what lies in the future. Because then I see the eulogies pouring in, dollops of adjectives thrown in generously. I know many of you will castigate me for tearing apart a man who has just passed away. But unfortunately, Jyoti Basu, the Communist patriarch, will remain for me a man who killed two generations of Bengal's talent. And paved the way for the demise of a land which held much promise for the country. A man who presided over Bengal's industrial decline (my editor calls it an industrial wasteland), a man who enforced an education system where millions of students learnt "A, B, C, D" after six years of schooling, a man who ensured Bengal's brain-drain and led to the....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Revolt of the forgotten Communist

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It's not surprising that a renewed Naxalite movement in India started as the country was marching on the highway of globalisation. In Bengal though, it was coupled with the potent mixture of a 33-year-long Communist rule, which reaped the benefits of one-time land reform programme in repeated elections, but failed to cling on to its pro-poor image. But for a CPI-M led Left Front government, that continued their rule just three years back with a thumping election victory, things started going wrong with Singur and Nandigram. In Singur, the government gave agricultural land to TATA for making the Nano at a throwaway price; in Nandigram, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's police force killed innocent villagers, protesting land acquisition, in broad daylight, ripping apart the pro-poor Communist image. It was a question of land after all. That's how it had started back in the late 60s. The movement, which began as a....

Sunday , May 24, 2009

Swear, aye countrymen

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I, Kamal Nath, do swear in the name of god, that it has become a habit (being a minister). I, Kamal Nath, do swear in the name of god, that I was in a hurry. I, Kamal Nath, do swear in the name of god, that I have always considered PP Patil as, well, you know...one of us (Hand on heart). I, Kamal Nath, do swear in the name of god, that I even forgot to put my autograph on the dotted lines. I, Kamal Nath, had reverence spilling out of the clasped hands for my supreme leader. Swear, aye countrymen, in the name of god. This was Rashtrapati Bhavan, in between 18.30 and 20.30 on Friday evening. Happy hours. Ministers swearing, in name of god or solemnly. And in walked Amar Singh 10 minutes before Happy Hours started. Amar 'who'. Amar 'the saviour of Dr Manmohan....

Sunday , March 08, 2009

Democracy, to be continued…

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Two decisions taken last week have ensured that Bangladesh's tryst with democracy continues. One was taken on February 25, within hours of the bloody mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) erupting on the streets of Dhaka and leaving more than 70 senior army officers dead. The country's new civilian government decided to intervene and politically negotiate with the mutineering BDR soldiers who had taken control of the headquarters and held senior officers hostage. Barely two months after she was elected with a overwhelming mandate, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stepped in and engaged the mutineers in a successful carrot-and-stick strategy for the next 24 hours. In a country with a history of coups, the army - which had already rolled out tanks on the streets of Dhaka - was kept at bay. But it's doubtful whether Hasina's efforts would have yielded much if one man had not played along and....


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