Sunday, October 25, 2015

Supreme Court: Finally Touching the Untouchable

It is interesting that, probably one of the most famous litigators of Independent India is a 62 year old Muslim women, mother of 5, from Indore. Her maintenance law suit (Mohammed Ahmed Khan Vs Shah Bano Begum (1985 SCR (3) 844)) opened a Pandora ’s Box, which till then Indian leaders where trying to hide under carpet.

Shah Bano Begum was divorced by her husband in 1978. Subsequently, she filed and won (right to alimony from her husband) a criminal suit in Supreme Court of India. Under fire from fundamentalists, parliament sided with them and went out of its way to beat this poor women. Thus passed 'Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986' to dilute the judgement. Poor Shah Bano, she may never expected that she would win the case in court and lose it to Parliament of India.

However, in later judgements (Daniel Latifi case; Shamima Farooqui Vs Shahid Khan case) Supreme Court interpreted the act in such way that, it was helpful for destitute Muslim divorcées who were denied alimony from their former husbands.

Current SC

30 years after SC ruling on Shah Bano case; in which court asked government to frame universal civil code; two judge bench of SC has ‘Suo Moto’ ordered the registration of PIL (Public Interest Litigation) to consider gender discrimination suffered by Muslim women due to arbitrary divorce and second marriage of their husband when the first marriage is in force.

The question is, should the law consider this gender discrimination faced by Muslim Women as the violation of Article 14 (Equality before law), Article 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and Article 21(Protection of life and personal liberty) of Indian constitution and other international covenants.

What is Uniform Civil Code?

Before going further let’s take a look at Uniform Civil Code. This is a proposal to replace existing personal laws based on scriptures and customs of various religions with a set of common rules applicable to every Indian. These laws cover Marriage, Divorce, Inheritance, Adoption and Maintenance. Currently because of the flaws in debate across the country, this suggestion looks more like something targeted against Muslims. But this outlook is not current.

The main idea of Uniform Civil Code is bring in same set of law for everyone in the land. However it is true that, main beneficiaries of this law may be Indian Muslim women. Even under considerable opposition government some way passed Hindu Code Bill in 1956. This one and various acts like (Hindu Widows Act, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act (1987), Dowry Prohibition Act (1961) ) etc bought in considerable equality for Hindu Women under the law.

Currently only Goa have common civil code.

Politics behind the Code

Flawed debates across the country made Uniform Civil Code look like a draconian law targeted against Muslims. Fundamentalists are adding more fuel to the fire without recognising the importance of this law. Uniform code is much more than a simple law.  Unfortunately, fearing the backlash politicians may never dare to implement it.

About Future

Hope that we will all live to see a day when all matters related to law – no matter whether it is personal, civil or criminal – will be under a common law. If Supreme Court can bring in this one, then it will be one of the greatest service to the nation.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

National Perspective Plan – Came late, but finally came

Sagarmala Initiative - A new era for Indian Shipping
Having lengthy coastal belt is a blessing by nature. Many landlocked countries across the globe are desperate to get a connection to sea ports and global waterways. Major cities located on sea shores made full use of its access to maritime commons and became hub of industrial activities. Look at Singapore a county which may not reach its current form if it was not located in such a strategic location.

For long time, we ignored the industrial importance of coastal area and coastal shipping; even though 3 out of 4 of our metros are located in sea shores.

Probably National Perspective Plan (NPP) set to launch by Jan next year will open a new chapter. As per the policy potential geographical zones called Coastal Economic Zones (CEZ) will be identified and developed. These economic zones will be around a group of major or minor ports. Zone can extend 300-500 KM in coast and 200-300KM inland. As of now 14 CEZ are identified.

An important point in this plan is its integration with Dedicated Freight Corridor, National Highways, SEZss and other industrial areas (Sagarmala Initiative).

Hope that, it will be good start for the coastal areas, whose potential we ignored for a very long time. Global Maritime Commons are the primary nerves of global trading system. A direct connection with it will quickly improve the industrial activity and generate more jobs and development.


Sagarmala Initiative: Sagarmala project is to promote port-led direct and indirect development and to provide infrastructure to transport goods to and from ports quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively. This focus on, (a) Supporting and enabling Port-led Development through policy and institutional interventions (b) Port Infrastructure Enhancement, including modernization and setting up of new ports, and (iii) Efficient Evacuation to and from hinterland.

Sagarmala Initiative – PMO

Eurospirit - Off Mumbai Coast

Supreme Court: Make Selection Process Transparent

Presently courts are one of the most respected institutions in India. This has more to do with tarnished images of executive and legislature than with the efficiency of courts itself. Needless to say Indian courts are extremely slow and a business with it burns common man’s pocket. However, as the last respite Indian courts are doing a wonderful job.

Ever since Supreme Court of India declared 99th constitutional amendment and NJAC act as unconstitutional (4-1 majority judgement), one question that frequently disturbs us is – who will oversee the keepers of Indian constitution. The present collegium system of appointing judges - which Supreme Court for itself - is a big black hole. No one knows what is going on there and what criteria they follow.

Supreme Court may fend off current demand for abolishing collegium. By the way ‘National Judicial Appointment Committee Act’ and 99th amendment was passed by both houses of parliament and 20 of Indian state legislatures. President of India also gave his assent to 99th amendment.

I still don’t understand the problem with SC regarding this amendment and bill. Proposed NJAC Commission will consist of 6 member panel (Chief Justice of India, 2 of most senior judges in SC, Law Minister and 2 eminent people). These two eminent people will be selected by a committee composed of CJI, Leader Of Opposition and Prime Minister. This structure doesn’t allow executive to impose their will over selection of judges.

If SC thinks this laws is against constitution, then there isn’t much option left in front of government. But one thing the court has to understand is collegium system - introduced by SC through verdicts of 1993, 1998 – should go. People have the right to know the selection process in SC and other higher courts of the land.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Candle Light Economy

There was a time when candle light dinners carried a premium among hotels in Bangalore. Now these hoteliers are the most worried folks as power cut (also known by its glorified name - load shedding) is back in Bangalore with a bang. These power cuts enable the families to have candle light dinner every day!!!

Electricity boards says water level is much lower than expected in Karnataka’s reservoirs; thermal power plants are shut down for annual maintenance (or due to some technical issues). If our love for environment is progressing in this rate, then there will never be enough water in reservoirs. If we are looking forward for constructing new thermal power plants then higher pollution level will make sure that we won’t live much longer to complain about electricity shortages. In both ways Bangalore is doomed, unless we are trying to fix the root cause.


Sunday, October 18, 2015


Shiva statue and Gopuram from a distance
When I and Jithu started our night long journey to Mookambika, rain was slowly washing down the dust from Bangalore’s heavily polluted air. In bus, we kept on talking about all things under sun for next couple of hours. After all, when two people who know each other for some time is confined to a compartment the easiest thing to do is talking. Slowly we said good bye to Bangalore city. Our bus was supposed to reach Mookambika by 6.30 in the morning. However bus reached only at 8.30 in the morning.

Gopuram - Close view

We spent that day in Mookambika itself. We means, me, Jithu and Jithu’s parents. By the way, they came from Palakkad in a train. Forget to tell you something about Jithu. Just like air and water are essential for our day to day life; train is important for Jithu. If there is a way, he use only train!!! Unfortunately there was no direct train to Mookambika and hence he was forced to use bus. I never saw a person who is so much addicted to Indian Railways.

Next day (Saturday) we decided to go for Murudeshwar. Unfortunately, it was on that day, farmers and their unions declared bandh to add more fire to already heated Karnataka – Tamil Nadu water sharing agreement. If you want to understand the value of water, you just need to follow Kaveri dispute. It is also a ready ready-reckoner for the possible intra-state crisis on water sharing in the future.

Even though we thought of starting in the morning, some way it become noon. Contrary to expectations bandh was not much effective on coastal districts. Still, there was less number of vehicles on the road. Close to 12.30 we got a bus going to Bindoor. In between an auto driver approached us and offered a ride to Murudeshwar (located 60km from Mookambika) for 400 INR or so.

We boarded the bus and quickly we reached Bindoor. Here road from Mookambika join Edapally- Panvel National Highway No 17. We got down here and boarded a cab to Bhatkal (30 INR). From Bhatkal we boarded another tempo traveler (17 INR) going to Murudeshwar. This vehicle stopped every now and then making it one of the most boring stretch in the journey.

People taking their boats to sea. Statue is surrounded by Arabian sea on three sides
Finally we reached Murudeshwar. After having lunch from nearby hotel, we went to see Murudeshwar Shiva statue.

Located on Arabian coast of Bhatkal taluk (Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka), Murudeshwar has the second highest Shiva statue (123ft) in the world (highest one is ‘Kailashnath Mahadev’ in Nepal with a height of 144ft). There is a 20 storey gopura in front of the statue (with lift facilities) from where we can see Shiva statue with blue waters of Arabian Sea sparkling in the background.
A Shani (Saturn) temple is located next to Shiva statue. Here I visited a Saturn temple for the first time.

Shiva - A close view
Story behind Murudeshwar Temple (courtesy – Wikipedia)

“Ravana wanted to attain immortality by obtaining the Atma-Linga (Soul of Shiva). For this Ravana started worshipping Shiva with devotion. Pleased by his prayers, Lord Shiva appeared before him and asked him what he wanted. Ravana asked for the Atma-Linga. Lord Shiva agreed to give him the boon on the condition that, it should never be placed on the ground before he reaches Lanka. If the Atma-Linga was ever placed on the ground, it would be impossible to move it. Having obtained his boon, Ravana started back on his journey to Lanka.

Narada, who came to know of this incident, realised that with the Atma-Linga, Ravana may obtain immortality and wreak havoc on earth. He approached Lord Ganesh and requested him to prevent the Atma-Linga from reaching Lanka. Lord Ganesh knew that Ravana was a very devoted person who performed prayer rituals every evening without fail. He decided to make use of this fact and came up with a plan to confiscate the Atma-Linga from Ravana.

As Ravana was nearing Gokarna, Lord Vishnu blotted out the sun to give the appearance of dusk.
Ravana now had to perform his evening rituals but was worried because with the Atma-Linga in his hands, he would not be able to do his rituals. At this time, Lord Ganesh in the disguise of a Brahmin boy accosted him. Ravana requested him to hold the Atma-Linga until he performed his rituals, and asked him not to place it on the ground. Ganesh struck a deal with him saying that he would call Ravana thrice, and if Ravana did not return within that time, he would place the Atma-Linga on the ground.

Ravana returned to find that Ganesh had already placed the Atma-Linga on the ground. Vishnu then removed his illusion and it was daylight again. Ravana, realising that he had been tricked, tried to uproot and destroy the linga. Due to the force exerted by Ravana, some pieces were scattered. One such piece from the head of the linga is said to have fallen in present-day Surathkal (Sadashiva temple is said to be built around that piece). Case covering is believed to fell at Sajjeshwar; lid of the case at Guneshwar and Dhareshwar and the cloth covering the Atma-Linga at Mrideshwar (which later has been renamed as Murudeshwar).

After visiting Shiva Statue and Shani Temple, we went to Murudeshwar Railway station (Konkon Railway) to catch a train back to Bindoor. From Bindoor (Mookambika Road Station) we boarded a bus back to Mookambika.

After having a very big Cheese Paper Masala Dosa at Adiga’s (near to Mookambika Bus stand) we went back to Dharmapeedam guest house for spending the night.

PS: One interesting happened at Murudeshwar was; we met a teacher who taught Physics to Jithu back in his under graduation days at Victoria College, Palakkad. It was a surprise for both of them. She was very happy to see her old student after a very long time at an Arabian shore.


Me sitting in the tracks

Me, in front of Gopuram

Jithu, on the way back to Mookambika temple

Konkan railway's innovative service.
A big clock at Murudeshwar Railway station

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Russians are back in Middle East, West Asia

Russian’s are the latest ones to jump in to the great Syrian battlefield which is already heavily populated by foreign fighters, foreign money and foreign arms. One thing is sure about this civil war, whichever side wins, Syria will definitely get a dark age lasting at least for a decade. Her infrastructure housing, factories, roads, airports etc. are already in shambles; her intelligentsia is fleeing the country.

Timing is very much crucial here.

Assad is currently facing major reversals in battle; Iran is back in the game with money in hand (after US and allies removed sanctions in selling oil). After the misfortunes faced by militia allegedly backed by Iran in Yemen, they need to open another front against Saudi led alliance; Pushed into a corner in Ukraine and significant fall in oil prices, Russians badly need to open another channel to divert attention and to remain in great Middle East game. For Russia, Syria is not mere an alley but also a place where they hold a good strategic foothold. For Assad this civil war is a matter of life and death.

On the other side, hands of Western powers are tied after the world saw the brutality and success of Islamic State (IS). Britain and France might not take the risk of creating another Libya, where no one is in control. Even though Turkey backs the so called moderate rebels, they can’t digest the fact that fall of current Syrian dispensation headed by Assad will also create a free Kurd country which extends from Iraq to Turkey’s borders. Although Saudi and other GCC countries spent billions on shopping defence gears, they don’t have the will to engage in a ground offensive. Last but not the least, pride of the pack – US – is going to face a presidential election. After watching thousands of dead bodies flying back home from the battle fields of Afghan and Iraq, US citizens are not in any mood to start another bloody battle.

So Russia’s timing is excellent. One thing to see is, whether it will make them or an alliance with Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq will pull Putin to the quick sand from where he won’t be able to get out gracefully.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Telangana: Demand for forgiving agricultural loans… again!!!

Politics often defy common logic. After all politicians care more about buying hearts (or votes) than earning it. On last Monday, close to 30 legislators were suspended from Telangana assembly for their continuing protests to get a firm commitment from Telangana government for one time loan settlement for farmers. By the way, they announced a state wide bandh on Oct 10.

I know farmers are facing a lot of challenges and many of them are committing suicides because of economic hardships. But is writing off the farm loan every time is the right way to solve things? Most often, along with farm loans many other loans also get disappeared from the books. For capital crisis in agriculture we need to find a solution, not to apply some quick fixes.

I am sure that, if government and our agricultural research centres are not helping Indian farmers to compete with high productivity of Chinese, European and American farmers; if there is not enough cold storage to store their  perishable farm products; if we are not building good distribution networks; if the farmers are not able to bring modern farming methodologies to their field; if they are completely depends on monsoon; if poor farmers have no access to banking channels and depends on loan sharks for capital, our problems are not going to disappear.

Writing off loans is not a solution; it’s a new problem on its own.


Dadri Lynching: Modern UP or Medieval UP?

We often claims that, we are living in a modern society; we demand permanent seat in UN because we are the second most populous nation in the world and are upholding democratic values; we often criticise China for not being a democracy; we criticise Pakistan for its state sponsorship of terrorism; we claims that education will take us from stone age to modern world; our political parties set candidates on seats based on which caste they belongs to; the list is long. But what we really are?

When I look at the incident of public lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq at Dadri in UP; I can't hold myself from asking this basic question. Who we really are? I can't believe that people are ready to kill a person because he allegedly consumed cow meat. What more, in so called modern India, these rumours are enough to create a communal riot and subsequent death of so many individuals.

Where was this anger when so many innocent girls were raped privately and publically in the streets of UP and Bihar (for that matter in many other states as well)? Where is this social anger when system drinks all public welfare funds? Where this anger when public services are way below the standards? Where is this anger when your dear ones don’t get bed when you reach hospital? Where is this anger when your kid is not able to receive education because there is no school, teacher etc?

First think about these questions before killing someone based on some rumours. Is human life so cheap?


Great news from Atlanta – TTP is going to change the rules of trade

While Europe was busy about migrants; West Asia was busy about IS and India was busy in Bihar elections (and associated drama), history was in making in Atlanta. The historic deal of TTP (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) came to its formal shape in this busy town. Of course it has to be ratified by participating nations.

You may be wondering how this deal is going to make history? I would rather say, this is not only going to make history but will also change the economic future of Pacific Rim nations. Let’s look at some facts related to this deal.

TTP countries (Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam) produces 40% of global economic output. This deal is going to affect farmers, manufactures, drug makers, auto companies etc. in one way or other. US President Barak Obama, who invested a lot of time and energy for this cooperation says, “This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products”

Interesting fact is China is not part of this deal. After all US don’t want to get China on its way, while getting back on the foot in terms of economic recovery. This deal already have powerful opponents.  However, I am for it. Once implemented this deal is definitely going to change the face of trade among participant nations.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Shot From The Street

Light piercing the darkness
All of us are coming to this world with an expiry date.
Wish all the footpaths in Bangalore are like this; wish if there were no potholes in other footpaths as well.

Super Cop On The Road

Super cop on the road; along with stray dogs wandering cows are now becoming the new normal in Bangalore roads.