India is passing through her most critical - perhaps dangerous - times. World's largest Democracy, India has today become the largest cesspool of official corruption, crime, political opportunism and caste/communal animosities. Political Parties are now Family Corporates, Bureaucracy their franchisee and crony capitalists their partners as they embark upon plundering the Nation together. Time for India to wake up and restart! One Anna or Kejriwal is not enough - Karan Kharb
“The Army has once again strongly rejected
calls for raising new "single-class" units like the Gujarat, Kalinga,
Dalit, Ahir, Paswan or Tribal regiments as well as attempts to tinker with its
"time-tested" regimental system. The
policy since Independence is not to raise any new regiment on the basis of a
particular class, creed, community, religion or region but to have a force in
which all Indians have representation. This is the well-defined position of
both the Defence Ministry and Army." This is part of a text that appeared
in prominent dailies in India one January morning under the title “Army rejects
calls to raise new units based on caste or religion”. What was not clarified
anywhere was the question as to who was raising such calls. The fact that the
text was identical indicates media were handed over a prepared press release.
The question is who gave it to the press - PRO of the Defence Ministry or the
Principal Information Officer to the Government of India? There were some calls
of this nature by some erratic politicians few years back but certainly none in
recent past. Therefore, the timing of this press release speaks volumes; when
communal barbs are being fired by politicians on daily basis with approaching
Being without political leanings amongst
thousands of colleagues who have served in an apolitical army, one is dismayed
at the political skullduggery played over the years plunging the country deeper
and deeper into the vortex of communalism. It does not matter if the country
gets divided further on caste and creed basis as long as the politicians /
political parties can increase their vote banks and remain in power with more
money flowing into already overflowing coffers. It does not matter which way
the endgame is played for achieving this objective – mafias, scams, money,
media manipulation, muscle, intimidation, murders, mayhem, you name it. Everything
and anything is saleable – morals, integrity, ethics, the works. It gets worse
and worse despite the fact that most Indians are able to read in between the
lines and discern what the ground situation is. Ironically, the polity knows
this as well but continues working on the same wavelength, pinning their hopes
on the over 72 percent rural vote bank. What they fail to realize is that the
IT and TV revolution is making the rural voter wiser by the day. This was
evident during the last UP elections in the reverses that the Congress suffered
despite putting all its might behind it on unprecedented levels to woo certain
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde came
up with a dramatic statement in the New Year that the BJP and RSS were running
terrorist training camps, much to the glee of Hafiz Saeed who certainly seems
to have overawed Shinde. Shinde was earlier heard referring to Hafiz Saeed as
“Shri Saeed” in Parliament despite
this radical mullah holding open anti-India rallies in Pakistan and wanted in
the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Shinde’s allegations
against BJP and RSS were accompanied with ample TV coverage including him
wearing a hat replete with badge of Central Armed Police Forces boss.
Expectedly there was uproar in the BJP and RSS who called for their
organizations to be banned if the allegation were true. Hafiz Saeed was
ecstatic with the PMI (Pakistani military-ISI) laughing all the way home. Saeed
even called upon UN to take note and probe the charges. What no one asked
Shinde is that if the BJP and RSS are running terrorist training camps in the
country, what the hell has he done about them as Home Minister, why these camps
were not attacked and destroyed with all the might under his disposal, did he
know their location in the first place or was it his buddy Hafiz Saeed who had
passed on this intelligence to him? Is Shinde proving his impotence by making
such statement without any action or it is just an utterly irresponsible
statement to fool the voters under some weird logic?
Maloy K Dhar, former Joint Director,
Intelligence Bureau writes in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s Intelligence
Unveiled’ that two years before the demolition of Babri Masjid every BJP and
RSS meeting was secretly videotaped and audio-taped under orders of the Congress
High Command. It stands to logic that this practice has continued ever since.
So, with this type of surveillance, how come Shinde does not know the location
of BJP, RSS run terrorist training camps and hasn’t acted against them?
Additionally, the Congress Government under Prime Minister Narsimha Rao is
equally to blame for the Babri Masjid demolition being privy to all happenings
and planning within BJP and RSS since two years prior to the incident. Congress
can certainly not deflect total blame on Kalyan Singh, then BJP Chief Minister
of UP.If the Congress was truly a
secular party, as they claim, they should have refused Kalyan Singh’s later
entry into Congress instead of welcoming him.
Politicians in India are actually
securing communalism, Congress being no exception. A senior Chinese politician
rightly stated that while China built the future of its next generation in
schools and education, India was developing the future of its young in Mandir,
Masjid and Gurudwaras. Consequently, reservations are expanding at enormous
pace in India with ability sacrificed. Shinde’s deliberate communal remark
actually matches his incompetence and that of his ministry in dealing with
internal security, which should actually be his bread and butter. Paradoxically
even Chidambaram, his predecessor, had stated in 2010 that the Maoist
insurgency will be resolved in two-three years. This he reportedly said quoting
‘government sources’ as if he himself belongs to Timbuktu. Gross ineptitude of
the government in handling the Maoist insurgency, which is heading towards
monumental crisis with support from China and Pakistan, requires no
catches by NIA reportedly emerged in the Samjhauta Express blast case,
perfectly synchronized with Rehman Malik’s recent visit (invited against
bureaucratic advice not to do so) and his insulting remarks equating 26/11
Mumbai terror attacks to Babri Masjid demolition and branding Abu Jundal an
Indian agent. Yet, a grinning Shinde grasped his hand without rebutting the
fellow, Manmohan Singh still entertained Malik and a tame Shinde later told
Parliament Malik was “ill informed”. These catches of alleged ‘Hindu
terrorists’ were made despite US investigators clearly blaming the LeT and Al
Qaeda for the Samjhauta blast. If CBI can be pressurized what is great about
NIA? B. Raman, former Additional Secretary,
Cabinet Secretariat wrote in 2010, “According to American investigators the LeT
and Al Qaeda were responsible for the Samjhauta Express blast and the HUJI for
the Mecca Masjid blast. If the American investigators, who have better sources
in Pakistan, are correct, how can our investigators claim that some arrested
Hindus were responsible for these incidents? Justice and fair play demand a
thorough investigation into the two different versions that have emerged from
Indian and American investigators but this is hardly possible with the
government hell bent on capitalizing on communalism any which way.
A dispassionate look at the Godhra incident of 2002 makes it
clear that the start point for the riots was a railway bogey full of 58 Hindu
pilgrims including 25 women and 15 children were attacked by a 900 strong
Muslim mob and burnt alive. In the riots that followed, 790 Muslims and 254
more Hindus were killed and 223 people went missing. Certainly it was a
despicable episode but what triggered burning the railway bogey to initiate the
riots and on whose orders? The BJP is openly accusing that Congressmen led this
900 strong frenzied mob that burned to death the hapless pilgrims to death and
the Congress has not countered it, so what do you make of it – another act of
criminalization of politics? And yet, the media blitz by the Congress of claims
to be the most secular party!
Look at the current dispensation in India and you see what
shades of political terrorism are; casteism and communalism on the rise,
cultural terrorism, financial terrorism et al. Congress tried its level best to
implicate Modi in the Gujarat riots but actually has failed to do so despite
massive smear campaigns both at home and abroad. This continues to date despite
the world acknowledging Gujarat’s incredible development model and which the
Congress is loath to admit. That the Congress is unaware of the ground
situation was quite clear from the door they were shown by even majority
Muslims in both UP and Gujarat elections. Though blacked out in media, Congress
has just received the severest jolt pn the recent municipal elections in
Gujarat with Muslims voting en bloc for BJP. The fact is that the nation is
craving for development and upping the communal card is not going to cover up
the loot that the population has been and is being subjected to, with fresh
scams hitting the UPA on daily basis. Scams apart, what the government has
never discussed in Parliament issues areclike financial mishandling (read
misappropriation) piling up to yearly subsidies to dangerous levels of some
Rupees five lakh crores (over US$ 90 billion), prices still rising rapidly,
only small percentage of subsidies reaching ground level, only four lakh
individuals declaring their annual income above Rupees 20 lakhs, to mention
some. The Congress is naïve if it appreciates victory purely playing the
communal card albeit with weight of money power, CBI, post retirement promises
to judiciary and ironically another robot to head the country.
View the Gujarat Riots in conjunction with the 1984 anti-Sikh
riots in India post Indira Gandhi’s assassination. More than 3000 Sikhs were
massacred in northern India including publicly in the heart of Delhi and
surrounding areas, with their properties burnt. There were instances where
Sikhs, including uniformed military personal, were pulled out from trains and
brutally killed. The mobs were organized and openly led by Congressmen.
Wikipedia quotes CBI in stating that in their opinion, the acts of violence were well organized with
support from the then Delhi police officials and the central government headed
by Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv Gandhi.Rajiv,
who was sworn in as the Prime Minister after his mother's death, when asked
about the riots said "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes". Of course there was a sham inquiry that
followed. View Rajiv’s statement in the backdrop of Congress efforts to link
Modi with the Gujarat riots and you can draw your own conclusions about who was
more secular or communal. Yet Modi is portrayed as hardcore communalist to
gullible foreign audiences and the Gujarat development compared to Hitler’s
The communal card is irrelevant where farmers continue to
commit suicide because they have little relief, as exposed by the recent
‘fertilizer scam’ and the ‘farmers loan waiver scam’. The High Court has
already stated the Centre had no authority to allocate coal blocks. Shiela
Dixit, Delhi’s Chief Minister has been exposed charging double the electricity
tariffs than what is required, obviously collecting moolah for next elections
including contributing to higher central coffers. Shiela Dixit incidentally
made the remarkable discovery that a family of five can live ‘comfortably’ for
a complete month in Rupees 600 ($ 10.94), declaring it openly – surpassing even
Montek’s genius of Rupees 32 ($ 0.58) a day for a below poverty line Delhi
citizen. The continuing hike in petrol and diesel prices is publicized to
reduce subsidy but is being poured into another massive yearly subsidy to the
tune of Rupees 95,000 crores (excluding at least another 30-40,000 crores for
infrastructure) as Food Security Bill, only a small percentage of which will
reach ground level. Already, plenty food reserves under the Food Corporation of
India are rotting without cover or without turnover. Incidentally, future food
grain prices (some on five year basis) are reportedly auctioned out to big
business houses; the type that can lend you private jets for foreign trips
amongst other things. That is the reason, prices will never be controlled.
Already many small scale industries have shut shop with gross imbalance in the
India-China trade and cheap Chinese goods flooding the Indian markets.
Wall-mart bribe of Rupees 125 crores for entering India is no more secret. With
Wall-mart stores having around 80-90 percent Chinese goods, the Indian hosiery
industry will be the next casualty. The much hyped Aadhar Card is now
questioned by government ministers. The direct subsidy scheme will turn into
another scam with hordes of poor without a bank account. For those that do have
a bank account, whose door should they knock on if the subsidy is not credited
and in what time frame and at what expense should they expect arbitration?
Vote banking has overtaken every other form of banking and
money laundering tops all agendas. The GFI study (Co-authored
by GFI Lead Economist Dev Kar and GFI Economist Sarah Freitas) titled “Illicit
Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2001-2010”, released in December
2012 says illegal financial outflows from India during this period amounted to
$123 billion (annual average of $12.3 billion). So, isn’t it best to play up
the communal card and divert attention by playing on passions and religious
In addition to the communal card, the original plan of
Congress for replacing Manmohan by Anthony has undergone change with accent
shifted to dynasty politics, should the communal plank fail. Hence, while
sidekicks are openly declaring that the next election is a fight between
‘Secularism and Communalism’, a reluctant Rahul Gandhi is being draped with the
leadership mantle, with more sidekicks declaring Modi is only a Gujarat leader
and can hardly match a national level leader like Rahul Gandhi. The Congress is
apparently unaware of issues questioning Rahul Gandhi’s political achievements
and capacity, extremes in corruption presided over by the government, Vadra’s
business dealings and even the Ghandy-Gandhi controversy blitzekrieging the
India has witnessed criminalization of politics in generating
the ULFA and Bodo insurgencies and the creation of Bhindranwale – all pointing
to the Congress. In the current context, Hardcore Hurriyat members are given
visas to travel to Pakistan and meet Hafiz Saeed. Hurriyat’s Geelani is
permitted to continue with his anti-India venom through his Facebook page and
the IB continues to fund the Hurriyat without reference to the army. The
Popular Front of India (PFI) headquartered in Kerala that has proven links with
Al Qaeda and LeT since past four years and has armed itself against the Indian
State is not even listed in the 35 banned terrorist organizations by the MHA.
There would have been no action against the likes of Akbaruddin Owaisi and his
brother if the media had not taken up the issue vigorously.
On the lighter side, Congress can claim absolute secularism
in choosing the President of the country. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (Muslim) was
made President despite his reportedly intimate involvement in enforcing the Illegal Migrants (Determination by
Tribunal) (IMDT) Act of 1983 by
the Indira Gandhigovernment on
pretext of providing ‘special protection’ to illegal migrants from Bangladesh,
absorbing them and reducing Assam to a Hindu minority state by the time this
Act was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in 2005. Zail
Singh (Sikh) was made President despite him dining, wining, arming and
financing terrorists in his own house as Home Minister of the country and now
Pranab Mukherjee (Hindu) has been made President for services rendered in
plunging India into deep financial abyss (US$ 90 billion annual subsidy and
rising prices - no mean achievement) aside from presiding over numerous scams
that give the ruling party unlimited money power to buy votes, politicians and
political parties en-bloc. Pranab was also the Defence Minister when the now
scam strapped VVIP Helicopter Deal was signed but can hardly be quizzed with
immunity as President, nor can anyone question the two stalwarts whose names
figure in media but sit pretty as Governors. But this is not the first time.
There is another fellow whom the IB was onto for having purportedly taken a
massive 22 million euro in the ill fated Eurocopter deal but was sent off as
Governor to northeast post haste with Congress blessings. Hopefully, they will
meet what they deserve in due course of time but perhaps the time has come for
the media and public to look at this issue of immunity seriously.
While Pakistan eulogizing Hafiz Saeed is understandable with
G Parthasarthy, former Ambassador to Pakistan, confirming Pakistan Army has a
pathological hatred towards India, individuals in India openly talking of
secession and inciting communalism confirms the resolve of our government to
keep communalism on the boil in perpetuity, added advantage being to divert
attention from the massive corruption that is being continuously
engineered.It remains to be seen which
way the over 65 percent population of India in 35 years and below age group
will tolerate disgraceful communalistic antics of politicians. The mood of
youth of nation is certainly for development.
Prakash Katoch is a veteran Special Forces Lieutenant General.
The recent fatwa against the girl band Pragash singing sufi songs, visibly enthralling hundreds in the audience (as shown by the electronic media) confirms the fraud wargames that mullahs like to play in order to retain retain clout. Such games are easy in India where both State governments and the Centre kissing the floor for fear of losing votebanks. Omar Abdullah’s encouraging tweet was hastily wiped out moment the Grand Mufti opened his mouth on 3rd february. The Centre, as always, remained paralysed. So much about the freedom of speech in the rule of a government that claims to be effective and trumpets secularism. The least that the government should have considered is the crying neeed to revive the sufi culture of Kasmir that is systematically being throttled by radical Islam courtesy Pakistan and their proxies in Hurriyat’s Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Sheikh, both flush with ISI and ironically IB funds and given visas to go and meet Hafiz Saeed. Axiomatically, it is a moot question whether the Centre and the State Government want to end insurgency in J&K in the first place – more so with Shinde eugolising “Shri Hafiz” openly in Parliament and supplying ammunition to the latter by talking of BJP and RSS running terrorist training camps albeit without explaining where these camps are and why he has not ensured these are attacked and wiped out with the enormous forces under his command, notwithstanding his demonstrated impotence in dealing with the against the Maoist insurgenyc.
Pragash, the rock band killed by mullahs was just a three girl rock band with vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and Guitarist Aneeka Khalid, who when awarded fatwa was not their first performance. In fact, Pragash had performed many times earlier and had gained prominence in December 2012 after their performance at the annual Battle of the Bands competition. The band had won the best performance award in their first public appearance – such is the lure of Sufi lyrics and music. The word Pragash translates to ‘Darkness to light’ or the ‘Band of Lights’ – the glare of which was binding to the blind mullahs.. Ironically while performing at concert that the attracted the radical backlash, the girls were performing properly attired in radical tradition, not in burqa but with their heads duly covered:
The farce of the instant fatwa is crustal on many counts. The most prominent one is that of the Grand Mufti’s reasoning that “music is not good for society”. Well, what about the Sufi music that is so special to Kashmir and should be promoted as at least a soft counter to radicalism? What about the traditional music in Kashmiri weddings and festivals accompanied by women dancing? What about the rock band competitions in J&K that have happened earlier on so many occasions? What about the Iranian all girl band performing in Delhi or is it that the Grand Mufti does not consider Iranians as Muslims because they are Shias and not from the Sunni sect of Islam? Is the Grand Mufti realizing the prophecy of Agha Amin, Defence Analyst and former Pakistan Army officer, saying, “Indians will have no choice …. Against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis, non-Pashtuns, moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred…This means that Pakistan’s… ever growing reservoir of economically deprived youngsters who will fill ranks of extremists and suicide bombers will continue”. Has someone asked the Grand Mufti about the semi nude Bollywood starlets doing item numbers on daily basis? Is he not issuing any fatwas because the so called radicals are glued to the TV screens or is this fatwa only on behest of Pakistan notwithstanding preferences of their own mullahs:
Dear Grand Mufti, Islam does not prohibit music. What is prohibited is abusive language and vulgur lyrics. Don’t tell me you consider Sufi music and Bulleh Shah vulgur? To quote Mohammed Asim, “The Zubur (the book of psalms), the Prophet Dawood (PBUH), even lists ragas that Prophet Dawood sang in praise of God. There are also a number of hadiths, only if the grand mufti would care to quote, about how prophet likened anyone with sweet voice to Prophet Dawood. Would Prophet Muhammad have praised Dawood's singing if it were "un-Islamic?” The Prophet/God/Lord have been praised in all religions through lyrics so stop playing stooge to Pakistan. Kashmir’s Sufi culture is way above the radical Islam taught and promoted in the increasingly radicalized Pakistan, the tussle between Wahabism and Barlevs notwithstanding. You do not need to reinstate yourself. You should consider yourself above the Geelani’s and Umar Farooq’s, no matter how much moolah and psychological stimulation the likes of Hafiz Saeed are providing. Do open your eyes to the double faced Islam in Pakistan.
Amusing to see some sidekicks on TV debating that the fatwa was only an advice, one fellow even parroting time and again it is a ‘mere’ advice. Admittedly, fatwa is issued by a recognized religious authority in Islam but since there is no hierarchical priesthood or anything of the sort in Islam, a fatwa is not necessarily binding, However, what about a fatwa in a region infested with radicals? As per Islamic mythology, Allah sent one lakh twenty four thousand prophets on earth and the Prophet Muhammad was the last one. On the last four (Muhammad, Moses, Jesus and Dawood) Allah bestowed miraculous powers of music. So, why Grand Mufti are you putting up with the rape and death threats to Pragash and why your fatwa? Can you still claim to be a devout Muslim or are you content with being on cross roads with a peaceful and loving Allah or are you under threat by radicals of Pakistan? Do you still have to play the fatwa games? Can’t you believe you command respect without these games? Why terrorize these poor girls and their families especially when boy’s bands are freely playing in Kashmir? Some 30 bands performed in the two- day event organized by the CRPF at the indoor stadium and Pragaash was one of them. No other band was awarded the fatwa by the Grand Mufti.
It is too much to hope that the Central Government can provide succor to the traumatized Pragash who should have actually been invited to Delhi to perform to an international audience. They would bend backwards even at the slightest hint and here is aquestion of standing up to the Grand Mufti himself. More importantly, the present dispensation has lost its bearings by just one talk by Modi at SRCC and is busy finding relief through hanging Afzal Guru – conveying the ‘softest’ tough message. Hopefully, the next government can interpret what freedom of expression actually means.
Prakash Katoch is a former Special Forces Lieutenant General with an outstanding record of honours and awards conferred upon him for gallantry in war and distinguished service. Member of a Think Tank for Strategic Planning, he is an accomplished author and a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers.
Dr Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, affectionately called the ‘MetroMan of India ’, bid adieu to his 56 year long career of creating 21st century monuments. His exit was a reflection of how he lived; simple, elegant and completely inconspicuous.
Just pause for a moment and think. 56 successive years, in a single job, without a break. 56 Years.
In other words, Dr Sreedharan, worked continuously for a duration, in which an average Indian generally goes from the cradle to his/her grave. And no one in the media was paying a tribute to this great man. They were not even talking about it. All they had was a silly ticker at the bottom of the screen, that said ‘Dr Sreedharan Retires’. No ten thousand word articles, no special Dr Sreedharan shows, nothing. It was like, it didn’t even happen.
Fundamental question is, Why? Is it simply because, Dr Sreedharan, is not your quintessential Indian Success Story?
I mean, he is not an IITian, nor is he from an IIM. He is not from a minority community. He did not surmount racial and casteist prejudices imposed by the society. He did not fetch water at 4 in the morning and did not study under street lamps. He did not milk cows to pay for his education. He is neither an actor nor a singer. Neither is he a cricketer nor a cricketer who claims to be an actor.
He was just a simple middle class Indian, who went about his job. In other words, he does not fall under any bracket that our media terms as ‘an Indian Success Story’.
And according to the media, not an ‘Indian Success Story’ meant ‘No tribute’. And this in a day, when even a guy like Chetan Bhagat will get a glowing biography on his life and times, the day he finally decides to stop writing.
OK, sod the media. They have TRPs and paying news customers to take care of. But what about the government? They don’t have to answer to anybody. And this guy dedicated his entire life to them. At least they can do something. But No.
When names were being bandied about for the Bharat Ratna, India ’s highest civilian honor, everyone, from politicians to Dhanush, had only one name, ‘I am stuck on 99′ Tendulkar. In fact lobbying for that guy reached such epic proportions, that the government actually changed the award criteria to accommodate that actor.
And Mr Sreedharan, who triple checks all the existing criteria, was not even being mentioned. The travesty is all the more acute if you consider what Dr Sreedharan has done for our nation. Like:-
Date: 22nd of December in 1964, Location: Rameshwaram town For most of the non south-Indians, Madras and South India are interchangeable terms. But what you do not know is, South India also happens a favourite holiday spot for various cyclones brewing in the Bay of Bengal. And this South India is not Madras alone, but the entire states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. This geographical part of India has been hit by so many cyclones that nowadays meteorologists have run out of names.
For most of us, This is THANE station near Mumbai......
One such cyclone, hit the coastal town of Rameshwaram on 22nd of December, 1964. And it was a deadly one. Not so long ago, south of Rameshwaram, there used be a bustling town called Dhanushkodi. It had its own post office, customs office and even a Railway Station. My bet is most of you wouldn’t have heard about it. Why? Because on that fateful night, the Indian Ocean swallowed the entire town. More than 2000 Indians were killed. The ocean even ensured that, a passenger train which was beginning its last journey of the day at 11.15 P.M, made its last journey ever. If you still can’t imagine the ferocity of this cyclone, let me help you.....Dhanushkodi,
So where does Dr Sreedharan come in all of this?
As a sideshow, the cyclone destroyed the Pamban Bridge, the only bridge connecting Rameshwaram to mainland India. And this meant Rameshwaram was completely isolated. Considering the above cyclone something had to be done, and fast. At that time, Dr Sreedharan was a Deputy Engineer in the Southern Railway. And this piece of wreck was in his territory. Indian Railways, gave Dr Sreedharan six months to restore connectivity to Rameshwaram. Which was asking a lot considering Dr. Sreedharan, had to convert this
To IN SIX MONTHS!
Dr Sreedharan finished the job in ..FORTY SIX DAYS.
He took one month and 15 days to restore, THAT bridge, back to full operation. The bridge which was India ’s longest sea bridge for 96 years, till the Bandra Worli Sea Link was inaugurated in the year 2008.
Forty six days to restore this 2.3 Km bridge in a state where
THIS BRIDGE took six months to restore after being washed away by a flash flood, in 2006.
There are some achievements that look cool, but once you get an award, you completely forget about them. And then there are some you won’t forget, even if you suffer a total memory loss. This was one of those things. For all this trouble, Dr Sreedharan got a Railway award consisting of Rs 100 and an awful looking plaque. The process of short-changing Dr E Sreedharan, began in 1962. Even If Dr Sreedharan, sat and twiddled his thumbs for the rest of his life, he would have been considered a superhero for his bridge-building awesomeness alone. Fortunately for India though, he did not like twiddling thumbs.
Packing his bags for his next assignment, he set off to Calcutta, where he became the chief designer of the Calcutta Metro. And then, getting bored of railways in general, he took charge of India ’s largest Ship building company, Cochin Shipyard. There he designed, built and commissioned India ’s first indigenously built Merchant vessel, the Rani Padmini, in 1981.
After building everything from trains to ships, Dr Sreedharan according to government rules, had to retire in 1990 when he completed 60 years of age. But, when you are Dr Sreedharan, you don’t have the plebeian privilege of retirement.
He was asked to go to Mumbai, to take charge of what was then deemed to be India’s toughest project since independence. It involved burrowing through basalt mountains, spanning kilometre long marshes and rivers and taking railways to a place where even the British thought it was impossible. This region was the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, affectionately called, the Konkan.
The railway babus simply called this herculean venture, Konkan Railway. Naming things is not really their forte. This is what Dr E Sreedharan had to do, Lay 760 Kms of railway track, through a terrain that had treacherous terrain marked by inaccessible rocky tracts. Where there were no rocks, it was marsh with dense undergrowth infested with poisonous reptiles.
Terrain and weather posed serious challenge making heavy machinery prone to accidents that could result in loss of material and life. Sreedharan had to surmount all these odds and more. And to do that, he had to: 1. Acquire 5000 hectares of land from 42,000 assorted land owners. 2. Build 2000 Bridges, both major and minor, across Marshes, swamps, rivers and backwaters. 3. Blast 92 tunnels, totalling 83 kilometres in length through Basalt, nature’s adamantium and soft soil, nature’s china clay. You need nuclear weapons and Arnold to bore through the former while the latter generally collapsed on itself, if someone as much as farted. And then came the most difficult task in the Indian Index Of Difficult tasks. 4. Dealing And Negotiating With The Chief Mini sters, Home Ministers, Other Ministers And Their Chelas Of Four Different States.
And to complete all of the above tasks, Dr Sreedharan, was given 8 years. It would be like Hercules being asked to accomplish his twelve tasks, blinded and with one hand tied to his back, in three days.Needless to say, he would have failed.
Dr Sreedharan, supposedly retired and who qualified for Indian Railway’s senior citizen quota, finished the job in 7 years. Konkan Railway to me, is the second biggest achievement of Independent India, with the first being India remaining India. New standards will have to be invented, to realistically measure the impact of Konkan Railway on the Indian economy.
For starters 1. For the first time ever, three largest ports on the Indian coast, Mumbai, Karwar and Mangalore have a direct connection. 2. Travel time from the southern states to the north, have been reduced by upto 40 percent. The crummy old Nethravathi Express, used to take 38 hours to travel from Trivandrum to Mumbai. Now, thanks to Dr E Sreedharan and the
KONKAN RAILWAY the same train takes 22 Hours. A 16 hour reduction in travel time. And a 16-18 hour reduction in travel times of all trains going from Kerala,Karnataka, Goa to the North. All the trains. Try measuring the impact. Don’t bother, you can’t.
And new levels of difficulty need to be established to measure the difficulty of this task. The sheer number ofarchitectural impossibilities overcome by Dr E Sreedharan and his team in making this wild dream a reality, is mind boggling. All I can do is suggest you to go here,here and here. However, there is one thing that encapsulates what all the above links have to say:- THIS IS THE VIADUCT OVER THE PANVEL NADI Which basically is a MarshBetween two HillsAnd to traverse it, The train has to travel at a height, which is as tall asIn other words, Dr Sreedharan and his team, built a goddamn Qutub Minar, over a marsh, between two hills, just so that, a train could chug over it. Need I say more?
You will see this wonder of Modern India immediately after Ratnagiri on the Konkan Railway. In the 15 kilometer stretch between Ratnagiri and Nivasar, there are 3 tunnels and 5 viaducts. The third viaduct is the Panval Nadi viaduct, immediately after the first tunnel. The exact sequence will be —-> Big Tunnel, Massive Gorge, Big tunnel again.
Dr Sreedharan though, never had the chance to taste his success. In December 1997, one year before the Konkan Railway was thrown open to traffic, he was shunted to New Delhi to head a new organization. It was created to find a viable solution to the traffic woes of theaam aadmi in the national capital.
This organization was called the Delhi Metro Railway Corporation. Of all the railway systems in the world, building a metro is the most difficult in the world. Most difficult, becomes impossible, when you have to build that damn thing under and over a megapolis. Impossible reaches ‘You must be kidding me’ levels, when that megapolis in question is Delhi and the country in question is India.
There are more people in this pic than there are in Canada . Delhi Metro was not India ’s first metro. Calcutta has that honor. But Calcutta ’s ‘I built my own metro’ story, was one sorry tale Sample this:- 1. It took 22 years to build the Calcutta Metro, A metro whose total length was 16.75 kms. In other words, Calcutta Metro construction dudes managed a grand average of,.76 kms a year.
2. The Calcutta metro suffered from debilitating shortages in almost everything. Shortages of funds, shortages in labour and shortages in everything else. The only they had in plenty was those damn shortages.
3. And it was harried by the parent, the Indian Railways, every step of the way.
If the Calcutta metro was any indicator, the 168 Kms long Delhi Metro would have been beset with shortages, harassed by the Railways and completed not before A.D. 2083.
If ever there were a movie made about Dr Sreedharan’s job, it would look something like this:
But this was Dr E Sreedharan. When he started off, he put in place some things that were never before done in the history of Indian mega construction projects Like 1. His appointed himself as the judge, jury and the executioner as far as the Delhi Metro was concerned. No external influences were tolerated.And he took no prisoners. There have been stories were, people walked in with the traditional M.P recommendation letter, walked out of his office, with the paper in two different hands. 2. After giving himself the power, he changed the tendering process, upside down. In a country, where opening a single tender on an average,tooksix to nine months,Dr Sreedharan got the job done in 19 days. YES,19 Days. 3. When confronted with the standard Government ‘I am short of money’ rigamarole, Dr Sreedharan did what any sensible government servant would do. He simply cut out the Government from the funding. He single-handedly went and got a loan of USD 5 Billion sanctioned from the Japanese Bank of International Co-operation to fund the Metro. Now, 60 percent of the necessary finance secured, Government shut up and stumped up the remaining cash. 4. He then hired top International consultants from an assortment of countries, to cover for the lack of local talent, to supervise and execute the project. For the first time in the History of India, the entire Delhi Bureaucratic circle was completely circumvented. That too, by one 74 year old dude from Kerala. As a result Phase one of the 5 billion dollar metro, was completed three years before schedule, entirely within the initially stipulated budget. And there was not even a single shard of corruption. In India , that is the closest we can get to walking on water. If someone had in 1998, said that such a thing would happen in India , He would have been given a priority ticket to Agra/Alibaug/Kilpauk or the nearest mental asylum. Today, the Delhi Metro is complete and for the first time, Dilliwalas are enjoying the benefits of a full fledged suburban rail system that has a punctuality factor of 99.999 percent. All thanks to this man
Next time, any Dilli boy/girl tries to mock you or anyone with the moniker Madrasi, just mention the words, Metro-Sreedharan-Madrasi in the same sentence. The other side will shut up. The successful execution of the Delhi Metro, made Dr Sreedharan the Tom Cruise of the Metro Rail universe. Every Indian city worth its salt, now wanted its own metro and Dr Sreedharan as its consultant. One such city was Hyderabad . And the company executing that metro was a company called,MAYTAS INFRASTRUCTURE. You know where this is going. In September 2008, Dr Sreedharan, after observing as a consultant, sent the following report to the Planning Commission, Government of India Making available 296 acres of prime land to the BOT [build, operate and transfer] developer for commercial exploitation was like selling the family silver. I fear abig political scandal some time later, as it is apparent the BOT operator has a hidden agenda which appears to be to extend the metro network to a large tract of his private land holdings so as to reap a windfall profit of four to five times the land price. Planning commission, that plans little and develops less, as usual did not pay heed to this report. In fact they chastised Dr Sreedharan, for not backing up his allegation with necessary proof. This is what happened, three months later
Remember how thescandal started? It started by Satyam Computers, arbitrarily taking over Maytas infrastructure, a company that was neither in IT, nor was a competitor. In fact the only link between Satyam and Matras was that it owned by Ramalinga Raju’s sons. And sensing that Maytas was in big trouble, he ‘bought’ the company to save it.And Dr Sreedharan, predicted that the company was in trouble, three months before the world knew it. So let me just encapsulate, if that can be done, on what Dr S reedharan has done for the country1. He restored India ’s longest sea bridge which was completely destroyed, in 46 days. 2. He designed India ’s first Metro.3. Supervised the building of India ’s first indigenous Merchant vessel. 4. Executed India ’s most difficult project since Independence.5. Gave Delhi wallahs, something called the Metro. 6. Predicted India ’s biggest corporate fraud, three months before it happened.I don’t know how the Bharat Ratna nomination thing works. But I believe you stand a chance if you have done something good for the country. Now tell me, what has Dr Sreedharan not done for the country? I mean when you can consider a guy who sells a computer anti-virus on prime-time television for India’s highest civilian award, Why is there not a whisper about a guy who has ensured 400,000 people on the western coast of India saw a train for the first time? Or, was responsible for a sharp drop in road-rage killings in Delhi?Come to think of it though, I really don’t want Dr Sreedharan to get the Bharat Ratna. I mean, he will then join a club that is populated by people like Bismillah Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Bhimsen Joshi etc. No disrespect to them, but they were at best, paid performers who had negligible impact on the population of India.(Lata Mangeshkar in fact has had a negative impact. A flyover which will bring respite to thousands, if not lakhs, of Mumbaikars is not being constructed solely due to her ‘privacy’ concerns) Dr Sreedharan should not be given the Bharat Ratna. Because the Bharat Ratna does not deserve a man like Dr Sreedharan.