Tuesday, January 01, 2013

My recommendations to Justice Verma regarding changes to criminal law relating to VAW


I am a member of the general public of India who has been deeply disturbed about the recent happenings in Delhi, and am writing to you to put forward suggestions regarding amendments to criminal laws regarding safety of women as requested by your office through newspaper advertisements. As you know, there are a very large number of criminal cases (of which sexual harrassment cases are only a portion) pending at investigation stage or hearing at multiple levels of courts - many of which take several years before a verdict is passed. Investigations are weak, and often many accused walk away free due to lack of evidence even though they were guilty of having commited the crime. I make the following suggestions for your consideration in improving the entire justice delivery system, served through a number of laws and venerable institutions.
  • Speed up the entire justice delivery system: While I am not a legal expert, I understand one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of India - the right to legal recourse in case any of your other fundamental rights are violated (e.g. in this case, right to life) is meaningless if justice takes too long to be served. To protect and resurrect any victim's fundamental right to life with dignity and right to legal recourse, I suggest that the appropriate laws be amended to make legal proceedings timebound (not more than 1 month for completion of investigation and filing of chargesheet, and not more than 5 months after the case comes to court to pass a verdict - so 6 months overall for the first verdict, which can be contested in a higher court by either party) for serious crimes, such as
    • Crimes against women, including sexual harrassment, rape, domestic violence
    • All crimes leading to any person's death
    • All criminal cases against an elected people's representatives (MLA/MP/Minister/CM/PM/Corporator/Panch etc.) or government official (any level) or judge
  • I would say going forward, all cases except the most complex (such as, where evidence is inconclusive,such as the Arushi Talwar murder case or involves sophisticated skills in accounting / technology / forensic science etc. which can cause delays) should have timebound proceedings and assured verdicts in 6 months - this should ideally be extended to cover civil complaints as well.
  •  Improve law enforcement / police reforms: Government should be required by law to have adequate policing staff in line with developed countries. Large developed countries such as US have at least twice the number of police officers in India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_police_officers). Not just do we not have enough enforcement staff, they are extremely ill-equipped both in terms of their attitude towards crime / victims, esp. women as well as w.r.t. the methods at their disposal to prevent crime. Following suggestions are made -
    •  A serious overhaul including training on gender sensitivity, mandatory VRS for staff that does not meet minimum physical / IQ / behavioural standards tested through structured assessments is required
    • To make the police force across states more gender-sensitive, it should also be required by law to have at least 25% of all police force to be women - this can start as 50% of all new police force recruits across states to be women which can be stabilized to 25% once we have a critical mass of women in police force
    • Appropriate laws should also be amended to ensure all police enforcement professionals are treated on par with Indian Armed Forces in terms of salaries / living conditions. Since living conditions for police personnel are often not on par with armed forces personnel (who have access to canteens as well as govt. provided accommodation inside Armed Forces stations) of similar ranks, they should be adequately compensated to ensure they & their families can sustain a dignified life without resorting to corruption. Corruption cases against police officers should per pursued in a timebound manner as above
    •  Adequate life, disability and medical insurance should be provided for to ensure they can serve the nation without having to worry about the future of their family in case something happens to them in the line of duty
    • Police personnel should be provided with adequate tools & methods that can be used during crime prevention as well as investigation
      •  CCTV cameras (clicking pictures every 10 seconds - like they do on traffic intersections in some large cities) on all traffic junctions / bus and train stations, hospitals, government & private offices, hotels etc. should be made mandatory across the nation
      • Radios / communication equipment that can be relied upon for emergency response
      • Modern weapons - Automatic pistols / rifles as appropriate to keep up with sophisticated criminals
      • Faster, safer cars / jeeps - when they need to chase a criminal. Buzzers / traffic stop light changers as appropriate to assist field personnel
      • Mandatory shoulder on all roads to allow emergency response / enforcement vehicles to bypass traffic
    •  Since we cannot trust every following government to continue on this pursuit with the same zeal, the onus is on this parliament and this government to enact laws that require subsequent governments to invest on law enforcement and prevention of crime as their #1 priority / duty
    •  Laws should also require police to use all available tools / technologies in investigation and to invest in a national crime / criminals database, sex offenders database etc. accessible to all law enforcement / intelligence officers securely to allow integrated & coordinated approach to investigate crime and catch criminals across the nation.
  • 911 service integrating all types of emergencies: Several large cities today (such as the 108 service in Hyderabad) do have separate emergency dial-in numbers for police, fire, medical emergency etc. However, one national emergency number is required all over the country and the government needs to invest (maybe we need a law to bring about this change as well) in building a nationwide system that is responsive within minutes in case of any distress.
  • Good samaritan law: A law that requires bystanders / co-passengers to react to / report immediately any crime that happens in their view. This is most useful especially for crimes against women
In case any clarifications are required regarding any of the suggestions above, I can be reached at +91 XXX XXX XXXX or via email at vimalpannala@gmail.com
Vimal Pannala

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Obituary to the party "with a difference"

The expulsion of Jaswant Singh, who was their Leader in Rajya Sabha, their External Affairs and their Finance Minister not before long for writing a book echoing views somewhat similar to what L K Advani said (who remains a key figure in the BJP) a few years back is diabolical to say the least.

Does this mean RSS is getting back to pulling strings big time after Vajpayee and Advani (to a lesser extent) kept it at bay. 2 consecutive defeats in national elections have left it confused, and a throwback to the "core ideology" shows the second generation leadership's nervousness and clueless-ness in taking the party forward. Somewhat like Congress, BJP now seems to be dominated by people who are not necessarily popularly elected, or have eroding bases of popular support that are not likely to hold for long. The attempt to sideline Vasundhara Raje Scindia seems to have massively backfired after she proved conclusively that the majority of BJP MLAs in Rajasthan still supported her, and the expulsion of Jaswant Singh smacks of a cheap manoeuvre to show who is still in control before the December organizational elections in BJP.

Despite Kandahar, Jaswant Singh was one of the more respectable leaders in the BJP, someone that the English-speaking voters connected with for he was seemingly erudite and moderate. BJP has now lost that face and seems set for a turn to extreme right under the tutelage of RSS and a confused leadership.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do not equate vandalism with terrorism

I hate vandalism, especially something with communal overtones (such as in Karnataka and Orissa recently). Extreme right-wing Hindu ultra-nationalist organizations seek to do their rabble rousing to remain in the limelight once in a while. Clearly, creating communal tension polarizes the majority voters (hailing from the majority Hindu community) and helps right-wing parties in elections. Even when there are no elections, it is important not to let people forget their base emotions when it comes to India's divisive electoral politics and hence such acts keep happening. When there is a need to pick up lighter issues, they pick on issues affecting freedom of expression (soft targets such as MF Hussain and Khushboo). There have been instances when their actions have resulted in someone getting killed as well. While I don't condone their actions - they must be punished with the maximum allowed penalties for such actions, their actions are just not comparable to terrorism.

However, there has been a move recently by the UPA government to brand antisocial elements of the extreme right-wing in the same category as terrorists - this hyphenation is dangerous, and is in the same vein as the attempt to hyphenate Sarabjit Singh and Afzal Guru to justify inaction on the death penalty confirmed by the Supreme Court on Afzal Guru for the parliament attack in 2001.

The objectives and methods of the extreme right-wingers are very different from those of terrorists. Terrorists and naxals strike at the core of India's integrity and unity as a nation, whereas extreme right-wingers are ultra-nationalists at worst. They strike to maim and kill, carry deadly ammunition with the intention to use it to cause maximum damage, whereas right-wingers almost often are just seeking attention. Much of the cultural policing the extreme right-wingers tend to get into is, while completely uncalled for, is also backed by the so-called Indian centrists and liberals. Terrorists are supported, trained and armed externally (the trend of Indian terrorism is really recent) whereas extreme right-wingers are Indians with a misplaced sense of idealism and nationalism.

I would safely compare naxals and terrorists, more so because naxals have secessionist motives that threaten India's integrity as a nation. They are often as well organized and armed, are these days supported externally, and they strike often to maim and kill. Whatever mass support they enjoyed in the past, the only emotions they elicit these days are fear and hatred. Ultra-nationalists are probably more comparable to the left-wing trade unions, whose power comes from strikes and their power to disrupt work and normal life (through bandhs / lockouts). Their means and motives are similar, often almost altruist, but definitely misplaced, and worthy of censure.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

take action on the Indian embassy blast in Afghanistan

Last week came probably the strongest evidence aware of Pakistan army's direct involvement (at least complicity) of the blast in Indian embassy in Kabul a few months back. This came directly from the US, and was one of the reasons for US deciding to attack terrorists within Pakistan territory.

This should have given ammunition to India to up ante over Pakistan's role in supporting cross-border terrorism internationally - infact, it gives India enough moral right to engage in hot pursuit into Pakistani territories on its own. Pakistan, with US attacking its western badlands and India taking on terrorist camps in PoK, would have been under tremendous pressure to set a few things right. Direct involvement from the US would also keep China at bay, really important for India to ensure a limited conflict doesn't go out of hand.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Should Rajni have apologized?

Water is a sensitive issue in India, especially between TN and Karnataka. Sometime before the Karnataka assembly elections, there was quite a bit of furore over the Hogenakkal issue.

Somehow, most likely to suit the political aspirations of some of the leaders of the Tamil cine artistes association, they got involved in the agitation and Rajnikanth was forced to express his

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Moved to a single blog

I have closed down my largely inactive blog on print ads and moved all posts en masse to this more active blog. Also changed the title to something stupid.

I hope by making this a more general interest blog I will be able to sustain interest in blogging on more things that catch my attention than just politics & business.

Ad Wars - Outstanding!

Ads are not just ways to sell your products - they are often used by companies to put down their competition (Pepsi vs. Coke, anyone?) especially in those countries where the permits it (you cannot name the competition in ads shown in India).

This is a set of three ads where BMW & Audi take on each other. And it gets better as Subaru joins in!
First Punch: BMW takes on Audi..
Second Punch: Audi gives it back...

Knockout!: Subaru kicks both BMS & Audi bigtime with this..

The Economist never fails to surprise you..!

The Economist is one of the companies that have encouraged and lent themselves to some outstanding creative work globally.. this is one other ad that is quite outstanding.. just look closely at the image..
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

This is completely fabulous!

I love ads where the hero of the ad is not the product itself, or the company, but the function of the product..
This Vicks ad is not really talking about how great or old Vicks is as a product, or how great P&G is as a company.. but talks about what Vicks does for you.. helps you breathe..
And it has just one word copy... says Respire.. quite effective, in my view.
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

ha ha.. subtle way of making a err..strong... err.. hard.. err big.. ahem ahem.. point!

These viagra ads are quite old, just as the protagonists in these ads.. and I am sure they (i.e. the ads) work really well for the old..
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Trust Beetle to say things in a beautiful way!

This volkswagen beetle ad makes a point so subtly, I just love it!
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Karate school ad...

Though not amazingly interesting, the visual has a small story, makes you think what could have caused it, leaves an image in your mind.. (sometimes quite different from the actual pic you are looking at)..
That is what ads really are trying to achieve, to help you make an association.. especially for products that you don't buy everyday but aren't high-interest products either.. the association would ensure their product is in the consideration set when you want to buy the product next..
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

ha ha... this ad is for the carnivores!

Though my vegetarian friends might not like it too much, the ad brings a smile on your face for sure!
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Nice visual :-)

A Harley ad that brings a smile on your face ;)
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Beautiful way to illustrate a point..

I don't normally care differently for ads that use kids and such, but this is quite a cool way of making a point!
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Excellent copy!

This is what I talk about when I say I love copy more than the visuals. The visuals (believe me) can get a bit stereotyped, the creativity involved in copy is just limitless!
A wonderful ad that I really like...
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Fiat: Drive by Passion!

This is something that I put up on my college noticeboard several years ago.. the magic of the ad hasn't died down on me yet...
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Who says Indian ads are boring?

A great example of good, well-executed Indian work. Might not win international awards because it is not sufficiently 'international' but is damn clever for sure and does work for me!
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Size matters!

A great visual (and somewhat suggestive, if I may say so!) for Burger King!
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Another pic that makes you think..

Images work in print ads (I like great copy better, though) without doubt. Especially with images that have a story to tell and make you think about what the story is, like in this ad where you need to think what could have caused it, and especially when they apear in print (rather than on billboards) where readers do have time to mull over it.
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Imagery works!

With an image like this, you don't need copy. Images of heart, lungs will definitely attract readers. And when you have a picture telling a small story, it always works!
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Another fantastic visual...

I have always believed that great copy in a print ad is the clincher and great visuals only add to the effect. I have seen many fantastic ads with just the copy and no visuals, and they work just as well (or sometimes better, because the focus is all on the text).
This is one example of an ad that works more for the copy than the visual.. the visual supports the copy well, but that is all to it. Copy is the hero in this ad for sure..
Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

An ad for Durex

One of the best images I have seen this year.. suggestive, yet sensitive and simply, quite fantastic. And it has a very important message too...

Source: http://www.agencyfaqs.com/

Friday, March 14, 2008

Not just IPL, even ICL is good for the game

IPL, ever since it has been announced, has hogged the headlines so much so that the second edition of ICL is being conducted almost unnoticed.
IPL is doing a world of good - getting big corporates to invest in the sport as well as putting more money in the hands of players. Moreover, the business model of IPL allows organizers to have a great de-risking strategy -
  1. Establishment of team franchises - Rather than owning all teams as ICL does, IPL leased out each of the 8 city teams for the next 10 years. By doing this, it has incentivized each franchisee to invest in building a quality team, setting up local sports infrastructure and create local buzz for getting the crowds into match venues. ICL teams have so far failed to excite local cricket fans in each of the cities they represent.
  2. Spending limits on team building - By limiting the amount of money each franchisee can spend on building their teams, IPL has ensured teams are of similar strength, atleast on paper. This provides for close contests, raises viewer interest and breeds sporting rivalries between cities. In contrast, ICL divided players into teams themselves and ended up with lopsided teams - e.g. the new Lahore team in the 2nd edition of ICL is much stronger than any of the Indian city teams.
  3. Broadcasting rights sold in advance - for the next 10 years for a hefty billion dollar-plus amount. This large, long-term commitment from the broacasters binds them to invest in promoting IPL among their viewers and consequently raise ad revenues for themselves, while paying a fixed amount to IPL. On the other hand, ICL is telecast on Zee network's Zee Sports and its partner Neo sports, so there is no assurance of returns till the ad revenues come in.
  4. A big title sponsorship as well - IPL has everything in place well before its first version, whereas ICL didn't quite get it right. IPL now needs to ride on its initial momentum whereas ICL needs to think about sustenance.

Given all these advantages, IPL seems set to sweep to success when it launches its first edition in April 2008.

Beset with problems in organizing their cricket matches at quality venues, keeping its flock of cricketers together and building viewer interest for its still nascent league, ICL has to contend with the lack of a level-playing field. While non-cooperation from BCCI and its affiliates is par for the course, it really hurts and starts getting unethical (probably illegal as well) to ban ICL players from appearing in ICC-recognized matches.

ICL needs to learn from its me-too follower IPL on some of the strategies it has brought to the game. And while ICL's position as the first-to-market need not guarantee profits or long-term sustenance, it definitely deserves official recognition. There is easily enough space for IPL and ICL to co-exist - there are enough soccer leagues and they all do well. There is also an opportunity that they merge and become the same league - some of the teams could be in the premier league and the rest in a first division league.

Whichever way this interesting sports-business-politics-legal drama plays out in 2008 and the coming years, Subhash Chandra's enterprise needs to be commended. He forced BCCI out of its slumber to create an enduring business model that promises to change the sport forever.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lalunomics much better than Chidambaram's nothingness

I follow and wait for India's budget with great enthusiasm, expecting great strides forward from a person who once delivered the so-called "dream budget" way back in 1997. Mr. Chidambaram in his second coming has been really disappointing, to an extent probably undone by the expectations people may have unrealistically had from him, given his self-acknowledged "limited mandate" that the UPA government to govern the nation. His budgets, apart from incrementally expanding the net of service tax wider, have brought little cheer to the markets - fringe benefit taxes, cash transaction tax and short-term capital gains taxes have all been bad news.

While there is nothing wrong for politicians to pander to the electorate, there is a big difference between what is just bad economics to what is really poor foresight and government policy. Waiving off farmer loans worth Rs. 60,000 crores (about USD 15 billion) is not just not enough, is a step in the wrong direction that will do little to stop farmer suicides or change anything that is systemically wrong with Indian agriculture. Most Indian farmers turn to the local village moneylender when in need of money and many suicides happen because of the illegal money lender's crushing interest rates and farmers' illiteracy and ignorance of better options. Waiving off loans en masse sets a very wrong precedent - something future governments will find hard to overturn when faced with similar difficulties (which they will because the current loan waiver will hardly make an impact on farmer suicides). Minimum support prices, waiving off farmer loans, subsidies on electricity, diesel, fertilizer and seeds are all attempts to do something visible, but hardly effective in the long run to solve farmers' problems.

What the farmers, urban poor and indeed, even the ultra rich need is not the crumbs our government is happy to throw at them. What is needed is a social security net that gives them the confidence to take business risks and invest in the crops that are likely to give them the best returns. There are financial tools markets provide to ensure returns are safeguarded - be it crop insurance, commodity futures etc., there are ways in which farmers can avoid ending up penniless. That such institutional mechanisms exist in India today but continue to be legislated against is an example of misplaced priorities and lack of understanding of how free market, if given a chance, could have protected small and marginal farmers instead of ruining them.

This budget was regressive, though it was only aiming to be populist and pander to UPA's electorate in next year's elections. It did give the salaried class a big tax break, and while we should thank Mr. Chidambaram for it, in view of the sixth pay commission that should be submitting its recommendations soon (which the government will be forced to accept, given it is an election year) this break was probably unnecessary. Three new IITs is probably a good thing, but it is a good time to question if higher education (esp. institutes of excellence such as the IITs and IIMs) should be in the public sector at all. A whole lot of money has also been allocated for primary education, which is good.

On the other hand, while the finance budget was almost all negative (a 2 out of 10 from me), the railway budget was impressive, forward-looking and quite revolutionary in some ways. Green lavatories, internet, new trains, rationalization of freight rates and passenger fares, higher allocations for safety, investments for metro rail systems are all great news and will go a long way. When Lalu took over the Railway Ministry, a lot of the "educated elite" had very low expectations, some of us thought he will convert the Railways into another Bihar. He has not just proved us wrong, he has gone ahead and done something revolutionary and quite unexpected - taking advantage of simple operations management techniques to boost profitability. No wonder that Lalu got a pat on the back from RSS who thought he was UPA's best performing minister. I thought so too, and so did a lot of people.

For this budget, and for good economics throughout his tenure, I would give Lalu an 8 on 10. The big reason why he doesn't get more is because the logical next step is to privatize Indian Railways, which is one step he would never take, given his stated political positions.

Lalu's success may have been because of the relatively freer reign he may have got thanks to his political clout. Chidambaram, on the other hand, was not in Congress in 2004 and almost lost out on the job also because DMK did not want him to get it. His appointment may have been the only time our Prime Minister displayed some assertiveness, but it was probably a bad bargain in the end. It may have been much better for the nation if he had bargained for some good economics and some good sense in return for a lesser qualified Finance Minister.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Should India continue to have linguistic states?

The recent mob violence in parts of Maharashtra are a cause for deep concern as well as national shame. While the immediate motivation maybe short-term political gains, the underlying cause remains the fact that the Indian people are divided across lingustic lines. Differences in language exist, and cannot really be changed, for India will remain a diverse country. However, linguistic states have contributed to strong identification with people of their own state as compared to those from other states, and this has reinforced regionalism.

In these times, with increasing regionalism in Indian politics, India needs to examine whether it should continue with linguistic states. Any step to change the status quo, however, is fraught with political suicide. The question then is who, if any, will bell the cat?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What is the religion of blood?

News reporting sensationalism or creating news out of thin air?


Airport but no roads!

Short-sightedness exemplified.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Symbolism ahoy!

Thanks to the UPA government, India now provides, equal status to men and women. And to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. And to Caucasians and (South) Asians. To converts, agnostics and believers. To people who believe in ghosts to people who have worked with nobel laureates. And to dalits and rajputs and the all other castes our political elite belong to. To pseudo-secularists and to the emergency-enforcers. And I could go on and on.
India now has 2 women and 2 men at the top of the political spectrum and it would have made a great statement of what the current government is doing for the sake of gender equality, religious and racial equality in India if there was even a grain of truth in it at the ground-level.
  1. Pratibha Patil is a Hindu, and the first woman president of India. She was the 'surprise' UPA candidate and won from the presidential collegiate.
  2. Hamid Ansari is a Muslim, and won the vice-presidential election from a field of 3 muslim candidates, including a muslim-woman candidate. This election is again not a popular vote - just people's representatives in the parliament vote (amazingly, almost always in line with party 'suggestions')
  3. Manmohan Singh is a Sikh, and the first Sikh prime minister of India. He has never been popularly elected and is a political light-weight even in his own party. He was nominated by the Congress Working Committee (a forum that the Congress party president traditionally controls)
  4. Sonia Gandhi is (was) a caucasian Christian, and chairs the ruling coalition. She is immensely popular, politically powerful but is neither well educated nor understands India intuitively. Incidentally, all three of the above have been hand-picked by her (though Hamid's case was more of a quid pro quo arrangement with the Left).

If you look at it, it makes a picture-perfect pattern - especially since it has all been made happen by one person - Sonia herself. It is a great tool to take to the next elections - see, 'I made it happen'. She has played the sacrifice card twice, which already gives her a demigod status in the minds of many ordinary Indian voters. The political calculations are clear - forget minor irritants like governance, foreign policy, terrorism, corruption, infrastructure - as long as she can make people believe that she is engineering a social revolution by bringing the 'down-trodden' to the fore. And if this is enough to go by for development and bring the Congress back to power then who cares about the 'minor irritants'.

Her 'symbolic social reform' falls beautifully in the political space carved out by the Left, Lalu's RJD and to a smaller extent, DMK. Of course, it makes sense for them to stick together. And that is why the Left would not pull the plug on UPA, even if it strongly disagrees on a crucial foreign policy issue. The country and most of its people be damned.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Not my President too!

I have been really away from this space, but this issue makes my blood boil enough to make a comment..

Friday, February 02, 2007

IIT should be setup in Medak

Politicians from all major political parties in Andhra Pradesh are falling over each other to have the privilege of establishing the latest campus of the famed IITs in their district. The two major 'contenders' for an IIT campus are Basara in Adilabad district (which has a famous Saraswati temple and the original choice of the state government almost a decade ago) and Medak district (which has been proposed by the current Congress government at the state on account of its proximity to Hyderabad).
This was because the central government made a perfectly logical, cogent argument that getting the best of faculty or industry to the somewhat inaccessible Basara (about 150 kilometres by road from the nearest city, Hyderabad and without a broad-gauge rail link or an airport) would be tough and asked the state government to propose an alternative location closer to Hyderabad. The state government proposed a location in Medak that is barely 20 kilometres away from Hyderabad, which will very well connected with the rest of the country and the world by road, rail & air. The original decision by the state government several years ago seems to have been based on purely sentimental & religious reasons, as Adilabad never had the basic infrastructure required for an institution of higher learning.
That Medak was the erstwhile constituency of Indira Gandhi has been raised by the opposition parties (TDP, TRS & BJP) to counter the logical argument of the central government, citing opportunism by the local state government to earn brownie points with the Nehru-Gandhi pariwar that still wields enormous influence on the central 'command' of the Congress party.
Thankfully, both Adilabad & Medak are in the Telangana-region of Andhra Pradesh, where there has been a long-standing demand for separate statehood. Otherwise, this could have added another dimension to the demand for a separate state by some people in Telangana. The opportunistic TRS, however, which claims to represent the fight for separate statehood by the people of Telangana, has alleged that the row over IIT in two different districts of Telangana was a “conspiracy” of the chief minister to divide the region and weaken the movement for a separate state!
The basic fact remains that the establishment of a new IIT will benefit students from all parts of the nation, including Medak & Adilabad. Apart from an issue of false pride, there is very marginal benefit to either the people of Adilabad or Medak in having an IIT located in their district as IITs by themselves do not lead to any significant rise in local employment. Infact, an IIT is proposed to have a sprawing 600-acre campus (if in Medak) or a 1000-acre campus (if in Adilabad) and might not employ more than a a couple of hundred locals as junior administrative staff. As it happens often in Indian politics, a small factory should be promised to the people of Adilabad to compensate for their 'loss' and the IIT should definitely be located near Hyderabad.
As if to prove that political opportunism in India has no boundaries of state, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik (usually very suave & calculated) has raised the demand for an IIT in Orissa again to cash in on the very comic confusion in Andhra Pradesh.
While more institutions of excellence in engineering (which is what IITs are meant to be) would benefit the entire nation, I don't quite understand the very irrational demand by states to have an IIT in their own state. At best, an IIT nearby will be convenient for students from the state, but in that case states that send the most students to the IITs (such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan & Bihar do) have a reasonable justification to ask for an IIT in their states and the centre has, very reasonably, agreed to their requests.
The ideal way to look at it, of course, would be not look at each insitution of higher learning as of "IIT status" or not, but rather to try and improve infrastructure & quality of education in each of these institutions, to bring them on par with the IITs. Many engineering colleges (and other professional institutions) are older than the IITs and have successful alumni that can rival those of the IITs'. Such alumni can be successfully leveraged by enterprising Deans of these institutions to fund expansion, research as well as afford better quality teachers. While there might be procedural issues with it, given the way our governments have gotten used to (not) work over the last 6 decades, it pains me that the protests on the streets are not about eliminating procedural issues in improving quality of education in all colleges, but for the false pride of having an IIT in the vicinity. It is sad that people being made to protest on the streets have no idea of what an IIT means to them, or say, how to get into one of them, for that matter.

The resurgence of Hindutva

A short aside: Shashi Tharoor's book 'India: From Midnight to Millennium'
I have just finished reading Shashi Tharoor's India: From Midnight to Millennium and he makes significant points on how Hindutva has really born as a response to fundamentalist forces of other religions, notably the Muslims in the last few centuries in India. Tharoor doesn't try to defend the indefensible, and doesn't try to say two wrongs make a right. I loved the entire book, especially his rather frank assessment of the several pre-1997 prime ministers of India (notably Nehru, Indira & Rajiv).
Shashi Tharoor also makes interesting & thought-provoking points on how some NRIs detached from their motherland tend to mix their own confused identities & seclusion (often self-inflicted) from the majority community in their chosen countries with the so-called marginalization of the majority Hindu community in India (Hindu-pride not being adequately assuaged by the 'pseudo-secularists') and support Hindutva organizations overtly or covertly.
The real issues facing India (even in the new millennium)
While there is no denying the fact that there is significant minority-appeasement by some political parties playing votebank politics, countering it with Hindutva will only help lend credence to parties trying to cash in on the minority vote without actually caring for the welfare of the under-privileged sections of the society. Of course, while everybody wants to speak for the poor, there has never been an acknowledgement of the fact that poverty is the country's biggest enemy. Widespread malnutrition, illiteracy, school dropouts, rising health costs & cost of inefficiency & lack of productivity due to ill health in large sections of India's working population are all due to poverty & wretchedness of a large section of the society, which is poor because / in spite of caste, creed & religion. Poor (and often illiterate) always are less discerning voters, and fundamentally, in a democracy, it serves the powerful politicians & the new elite (even those who have risen through the ranks from under-privileged sections of the society) to ignore development (fill their coffers while it lasts) & keep the poor (and hence under-privileged) where they are.
Cause & Effects: Resurgence of the Hindutva campaign
Continued appeasement by the UPA coalition (led by Congress & supported by the self-righteous 'champions of poor' Left) at the national-level and by the SP-led coalition in India's largest state has directly led to the resurgence of Hindutva though it is completely the wrong kind of response. The speeches that have started coming out of BJP, allies such as Shiv Sena & sister organizations such as Bajrang Dal & VHP clearly point to the fact that rabble-rousing of the early 90s will be returned to. Sadly, the Hindutva response is only going to arouse further insecurities among the minorities which may lead to irrational, disproportionate responses from the fringes of our community (such as terrorism) as well as from the mainstream (such as riots).
Needless to say, Hindutva activities border on fundamentalism and almost always lead to bad press in India (further insecurities among the population at large) and outside (slowing of FDI/FII interest, resulting drop in investments & long-term economic development in India if they continue long enough).
That the Hindutva fire is being stoked by politicians & parties desperately out of limelight should not be lost on any discerning reader of the situation. The complete failure of the opposition to raise & derive political mileage out of the government's several policy & administrative failures or ineptness & corruptibility of several of its ministers and the desperation of out-of-favor politicians to be relevant again has led to the revival of the often-malicious Hindutva campaign.
So what is the right response to the Hindutva campaign ?
While ignoring the Hindutva campaign may lead to serious damage (such as the Babri Masjid demolition) of the secular fabric of India, continued minority appeasement would only strengthen & provide credence to the entire campaign. 'Soft Hindutva' has proven to be completely ineffective and even politically counter-productive as in Gujarat. The answer is really not another, opposing campaign, because any single, identifiable campaign against Hindutva is bound to be drowned in the majority cacophony and may even lead to the strengthening of the movement. I suggest a series of smaller, less-visible efforts to effectively tackle the menace -
  1. Acknowledge the problem - To counter the campaign head on, I believe the most important requirement is to first acknowledge the problem and justify to the masses why it is a problem. This might be easier than in the early 90s as we do have horrific precedents of the several riots that have taken place in India since the acute polarization that have taken place since the Mandir movement.
  2. Educate the masses - Begin educating masses at large about the ills of such divisive politics. Who can do it? A strong, charismatic leader such as Indira Gandhi (despite all her ills) could educate the masses on the benefits of good governance as opposed to freedom & individual rights. A leader whose reputation was beyond reproach (such as Nehru) could educate people on the importance of their vote, the importance of dissent in democracy. Do we have such leaders today? Sadly, no. Vajpayee is in the other camp and is too old (and probably too disinterested) to make a fresh beginning (though Ariel Sharon did, and that is why I adore him). Sonia is too much of a foreigner to understand the complexity & sensitivity of the centuries-old problem. Besides, she lacks the charisma to carry it off with the entire nation. Leaders like Rajesh Pilot & Madhavrao Scindia had the charisma to carry it off at least in pockets of India, but they are sadly dead. Sharad Pawar, the other leader of national stature we have in the country, seems to have lost his zeal quite a bit. I have a more profound question, though - Why would anyone want to take the pains to educate the masses rather than attempt to take political advantage of the situation? For all I know, such an effort might be successful but might also end a political career. In this, I just place my hope in innate human goodness that somebody would deem it fit to act sincerely on this. Of course, the educator doesn't need to be a politician, NGOs could do it - but I seriously doubt their effectiveness & reach in a highly political debate that grips India today.
  3. Develop the nation - The other thing to do is to continue on the frenzied pace of development. As more of India's youth (esp. those outside the large cities or in top professional colleges) are weaned away by gainful employment, the less likely they are to be swayed by divisive forces & the resulting violence. Hindutva would cease to be an issue (as would other divisive issues such as reservations, minority appeasement, lack of integration in some parts of India such as the north-east and J&K which really are all inter-connected) if the much touted trickle-down effect happens faster. This is not a quick-fix solution, and development doesn't necessarily eliminate fundamentalism, but over the long-term, it is our best bet for long-term peace. The question I asked earlier comes back to haunt me - why would politicians convert their easy votes to more difficult ones by educating them or enabling them to feed themselves better? Again, I can only take refuge in the innate human goodness and that there will be somebody who will put in effort.
  4. Deal strongly with terrorism - At least some part of the Hindutva movement is because of a feeling that India is turning into a soft state that is not ready to protect its citizens from Islamic fundamentalism & terror. Events like Pokhran & Kargil tend to unite India, though the impact on foreign-relations will have to closely evaluated from a cost/benefit perspective. Strong responses to terrorists infiltrating from Pakistan / Bangladesh (hot pursuit, bombing terror camps across borders), believe it or not, can increase unity & brotherhood even with the Muslim community. Just as development is not a quick-fix solution and needs to keep happening, strong actions such as these must be sparingly used to maintain efficacy.
  5. Regulate Education - Just as christian missionary schools all over the nation have become famous for their quality of education, it is important that Hindu schools (RSS-run as well as government schools in some cases to prevent ruling party bias from seeping in) as well as madrasas are regulated to encourage high-quality content as well as to prevent religious fundamentalism from being ingrained into the impressionable minds of young students.
Can judiciary prevent politicians of both sides from making inflammatory speeches? How can they do it? By punishing past offenders. Though recent instances of judicial activism warm my heart, I think the judiciary has been largely ineffective in preventing the spread of communal hatred. The fundamental right to practice one's faith or celebrate religious festivals is often misused by the scheming politicians to drive home communal messages. That not one of the politicians involved in the Babri Masjid demolition or the several riots that followed is proof that the law is on a weak wicket here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Good riddance...

The man responsible for most of the excesses during apartheid in South Africa has died a quiet, peaceful death. Though he didn't quite deserve it.
The Truth & Reconciliation Commission blamed him for much of the horror during apartheid, but was never arrested or tried for any wrongdoing. I wonder if it was part of the agreement the white government would have probably reached before handing over power to ANC. Whatever it is, I am sure not too many (except the family, of course) is going to miss him.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A sense of deja vu...

On a day when I was happy, even gloating for my proud nation, for having 'scaled another peak' and having finally delivered justice, notwithstanding the maxim 'justice delayed is justice denied' I see this and I feel like puking.
Dara Singh may or may not have killed Graham Staines, but for the statements he made after getting arrested and in the lead up to it, I think he definitely deserves to rot in jail till he dies and to rot in hell after it. I would prefer he goes to hell sooner rather than later, though. He is a major threat to peace & communal harmony in Orissa and the rest of India, and I seriously think the court might have erred in acquitting him for even if he didn't personally kill Staines & much of his family, his statements were inflammatory enough to have precipitated the whole thing.
Overall, I think India's record in condoning 'mass action' is too bad. Riots, pogroms are too often easy shields for people to hold up and give reasons why something bad happened and could not be controlled. What happened with the Ujjain professor is a case in point on how mass action can used to finish off political rivals or 'inconvenient' elements in the system.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A case of misplaced priorities

When the focus should really be on this, the focus seems to be on this. I really don't care whether Shabana has had Islamic education. While her freedom of speech allows her to have an opinion & express it, and whoever has taken umbrage at her statement is well within their rights to criticize her opinion, I feel sad that things which are far more important such as children's education and how the nation is faring in it are seen as much less important.

It is not really just the media's fault; for they devote more time & energy to report what they think people find interesting. Why can't there be protests, even bandhs, against the government's inability to do better on education?

If the BJP really wants to be a credible, righteous opposition, why isn't there a 'shiksha-yatra' ? Hell, transient benefits such as keeping kerosene prices down seem to attract so much more of the government & opposition's attention than working on issues that really matter in the long-term - such as education, public health & population control. Of course, with governments of the day focusing so much on 'providing stable governance' and opposition focusing on making quick gains by protesting against more visible issues such as inflation, corruption etc. (which really aren't as important problems as lack of overall development) you can't expect too much. But why are the people not complaining?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

this is wonderful

another large deal in the steel industry.. and this time it is a true blue Indian company looking to take over a much larger rival to establish itself on the global scene ..
It is especially interesting given Tatas are generally more conservative (than the Mittals) that they are going for it.. A revised & significantly better offer is expected and should take Tata Steel to the top 5 in the world... If SAIL gets going as well, India's dominance in the steel industry would get even more stronger.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

How stupid can it get?

A delhi-based 'NGO' has apparently recommended Sonia Gandhi's name for the Nobel Peace prize. How stupid can we get?

To even start the debate on what she has done to deserve it is to belittle other Indian Nobel prize winners and peace prize winners worldwide.

But I am sure whoever had this hare-brained idea is getting an MP ticket next time.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My take on the West Asia Crisis

Last month or so has been extremely hectic for me with a lot of work, travel & some changes in personal life. I spend a significant amount of time these days discussing politics with my friends / colleagues, and I come across people with divergent views quite often. It is important that I spend time crystallizing my thoughts and make sure what I think is right is indeed so. I havent found a better way to crystallize your opinion than writing it down, and thats exactly what I plan to do here.
My take on the West Asian crisis is not dependent on a deep knowledge of the ground-level situation there, but on the basis of what news is easily available on the internet. Most people have taken a humanist approach to the whole situation that I do not agree with. I feel there was some justification for the way Israel reacted.
It is necessary for us to compare the other extreme of Israel, India when it comes to reacting to cross-border terrorism. Israel is known for its often knee-jerk military reactions to any offensive against its people, whereas India is often accused of doing the exact opposite.. treating the lives of ordinary Indians (& its soldiers) as expendable. The irony couldn't be starker.. Israel flattens a part of a country for the dominant force in the region possibly having kidnapped two of its soldiers, whereas India was ready to lose men in Kargil to stick to its ideological position of not crossing LoC.
My political view is mostly right-wing secular, and nationalistic. I & several friends of mine who I talk to regularly on this topic believe the correct path is probably somewhere in the middle, but we were hard pressed to find one country that was following the middle path.
Israel's military & confrontationist approach to the recent crisis in West Asia (as in many others) is a reflection of how tenuous the situation is in that region, which is difficult to fathom sitting thousands of kilometers away.. my point is that it is not entirely unjustified. Being a nationalist, I would go to any extent as I deem necessary to assure the safety of citizens & soldiers. Any response that in my view is likely to stop violence against my people or deter my enemies from inciting violence against my nation by increasing the price they pay for the same (e.g. by bombing their country) is a fair response.
The whole humanist angle to this situation stands on the premise that countries in war-like situations should respond to violence in a rational, proportionate manner. Which means, if I kill 50 of yours, you should kill only 50 or 100 of mine, but if you manage to kill 500, then you are overreacting. What crap, I say.
There is no such thing as proportionate response in international conflicts. It is always emotional, and it is always your people vs. mine. There has been a lot of concern on schools, bridges, ports being bombed by Israel in Lebanon, but that is how wars are fought & won. You cannot expect that there will be no civilian casualties, that there will be no excesses in the war and there will be no near-misses of missiles missing intended targets and hitting something else.
While one can question if Israel was intentionally hitting civilians, there has been some proof which has come out which clearly shows that terrorists were hiding, or worse, were being sheltered in the buildings that were hit.
The loss of life in war is always sad, but does that make war unnecessary, or the cause behind the war unnecessary? It is important to remember that war is just a symptom of deep-rooted schism between people belonging to different religions, races, etc. War sometimes may bring lasting peace, and may sometimes linger for long & create destruction all around. There are no good wars, though. The victors in the war are always good, for they write the history.
Israel is a tiny country fighting a lonely battle (except for the logistical support from the US) in a hostile environment, and it needs to do all it can to ensure the safety of its people. If that means some innocent lives will be lost, I believe that is a price that terrorists / state-sponsors of terrorism will have to pay. For, in several countries, terrorists continue to have popular support, and even more importantly, get direct & indirect logistical support from the ordinary civilians. Till that stops, the war will go on.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A black day in India's parliamentary democracy

The President has finally given his assent to the Office of Profit Bill under obvious duress & considerable pressure from the Government (particularly the Prime Minister) who ostensibly asked the President to sign the bill to avoid a constitutional crisis. I wonder if the so-called constitutional crisis could be worse than the bill getting passed in an undemocratic & unconstitutional way. In the meanwhile, even as this shameful act was being carried out, the MPs went ahead & increased their salaries. The only positive thing that happened was the central government chickening out & bowing to pressure from RTI activists & withdrawing, atleast for now, the proposed amendments to the RTI bill.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pranab Mukherjee vs L K Advani

If I thought Vajpayee & Dr. Manmohan Singh were so different and the differences in personalities & capabilities would probably narrow down as we go down the hierarchy of power, I was so very wrong. The stated No. 2s of each government are probably even more different than their bosses - indeed, probably in some ways because of their bosses but mostly different, ideologically and practically from each other because of their own rise to prominence on the national scene.
The No. 2 psyche is interesting to analyze from another angle - L K Advani's biggest mistake was to be born in Vajpayee's era - a leader who was more acceptable and politically more astute but had more or less the same ideology. Advani has been a No. 2 all his political life, right from his Jan Sangh days when Vajpayee was always seen as a future prime minister (even by the then Prime Minister, Pt. Nehru) and Advani his faithful ally. On the other hand, everybody in Congress suffers from the No. 2 psyche all his or her life - almost everybody in the party is subservient to the Nehru-Gandhi family, and being No. 2 comes easy to Congressmen. Pranab Mukherjee has been that loyal Congressman who is finally getting rewarded for his loyalty (quite like Shivraj Patil, but that story another day).
Pranab Mukherjee is the quintessential Congressman who has spent decades in the same party. His friendship with the Left leaders makes him indispensable for negotiating the tricky allies, and his left-of-centre views endear him to the Left leaders who are happy to humor him. His popularity outside the party is minimal at best, and he surprisingly won his first Lok Sabha election in 2004 (after several decades of politics without an election win) but this was unlikely without tacit left backing.
L K Advani, on the other hand is a popular mass leader in his own right - his policies are clearly right-wing as opposed to Pranab's left-wing inclinations. Infact, Advani was the architect of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement (and some say even the Ayodhya demolitions) and was a key factor in bringing BJP into prominence at the national-level. His Rath yatras used to draw immense crowds (though this has dwindled since for his recent yatras were quite poorly attended) and he has a bastion at Ahmedabad that he has held for some time now. Indeed, if were not for his 'rigid' right-wing hindu nationalist views, he might have been a moe acceptable prime ministerial candidate than Vajpayee. As compared to the ailing Vajpayee, Advani (though of almost the same age) was fitter to lead the nation.
Advani was the Home Minister & then the Deputy Prime Minister with the Home portfolio, Pranab is the Defence Minister & widely recognized as no. 2 in the government, indeed has backed up Manmohan Singh when he has been away on international tours etc.
Advani's mass base & ideology (the fact that there is an ideology and that it is not very different from mine except on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue) makes him for me a far better politician. Pranab is the party man, somebody with little standing outside the party (and no mass base even within the party) and is dependent big time on his friends to succeed. His inability to change the party fortunes in West Bengal (Congress is a distant third in the state) and lack of action on terrorism make him a distinct second for me even in this race for the better politican.
Pranab has not been faced with any major challenges / has not been hit by an major controversies so far. On the other hand, Advani's 'softening' and his Jinnah remarks raise a furore in the party that cost him his presidentship. Senior leaders such as Mayawati & Madan Lal Khurana quit, and many RSS & BJP leaders openly criticized him & his leadership. With Vajpayee announcing his retirement from active politics, he is the tallest leader for BJP. Pramod Mahajan's recent death may have actually helped his political fortunes, as the forced hyphenation of Advani-Mahajan as Ram-Lakshman by Vajpayee has come undone. Advani does need to do some serious introspection to ensure he speaks the party line and is not at dissonance with what the party wants him to say.
My verdict? I am keen to give NDA a big lead here, but Pranab's controversy-less performance as Defence Minsiter so far and Advani's own uneven performance as Home Minister force me to call honors even. The verdict - NDA 1.5, UPA 0.5.
Next on the list for my verdict? - The Finance Minister / External Affairs Minister duo of Jawant Singh & Yashwant Sinha (they exchanged positions in between the NDA rule) and P Chidambaram (Natwar Singh has already forfeited his points - I have already written about him and he doesn't merit further discussion).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Democracy is development

It has been a while since I have blogged, as I have changed my job and relocated to a new city and that's had its toll on the time that I have been able to spend on the blogosphere. I have kept in touch with the news, though.

I have in my previous posts cursed the democratic systems of India and have lamented the democracy tax that India pays (and China doesn't) for development. An entirely refreshing perspective came about when I read this article in The Hindu about a speech that Amartya Sen made, saying democracy itself is development, something that Indians have & Chinese don't.
It is easy for us to take things such as freedom of expression for granted, but to focus entirely on economic development would indeed be futile, as UNDP reports show that though India has done well on the economic front in the last 15 years or so, it lacks far behind in Human Development factors.
It is a humbling experience after you go through these reports to see how well much smaller countries like Sri Lanka with similar or greater challenges have done compared to us on human development factors.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why does India always behave like it is impotent ?

India is a nuclear power, and it is the largest and the strongest nation in the region. This might precisely be the reason why it should not be snobbish or big-brotherly with its neighbors, but to look the other way each time they take advantage of us is a little too much to digest.
When India's most powerful man speaks with fear, you really start feeling whether India does need its nuclear arms & its huge armies. It might as well to lay down its arms to terrorists and beg for mercy.
This is what the Prime Minister said in a statement as government's first official reaction to the Diwali-eve blasts in Delhi -

"The news of the serial bomb blasts in the capital New Delhi reached me on my arrival in Kolkata after a day's visit to Tripura. I decided immediately that these acts required my presence in Delhi and I cut short my engagements tomorrow and returned to Delhi.
"I share the shock and distress of all those affected by this blast. My heart grieves for those who have lost their loved ones. I condemn the cynical and premeditated attacks on innocent people. These are dastardly acts of terrorism aimed at the people of India.

"These terrorists wish to spread a sense of fear and suspicion among peace-loving people. These blasts have been timed to create disaffection during the festive season when people of all communities are celebrating our national festivals. "We shall defeat their nefarious designs and will not allow them to succeed. We are resolute in our commitment to fighting terror in all forms. I am confident that the people of India have the will, capacity and resolution to win the war against terrorism.
"I urge the people to remain calm, not to panic or believe rumours and ensure that we all go about our activities normally. The government will take all possible measures to maintain law and order and defeat the forces of terrorism."

The statement didn't actually bother me till I heard from a BBC newsperson noting that though the Prime Minister made the right noises in asking people to remain calm & condemned the attacks, he never actually said anything about punishing those terrorists involved in the heinous crime. The statement shows that the Prime Minister is scared more about religious unrest as a fallout of the blasts rather than hunting down the terrorists, who if left to themselves will almost definitely strike again. He does make weak noises about fighting terrorism & evil designs of terrorists that will not be allowed to succeed, but clearly not enough. Indeed, the first paragraph about him coming back early from West Bengal sounds unnecessary & almost stupid. He doesn't need to tell people that it is a serious enough act for him to come back. That the Prime Minister thinks he should explain his coming back early presumes on his part a serious amount of ignorance among Indian people and lacks sensitivity on his part.
Compare this to what US said about the same acts -
"We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms. It is a cowardly act of violence and we hope that the perpetrators are swiftly identified and brought to justice."
The attitudes of the two countries reflects very clearly in the statements made by the two about the same act. Interestingly, the statement is very similar to the one President of USA George Bush made 3 hours after 9/11 attacks -
"We have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people," Mr Bush told reporters. "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly attacks."
The speeches clearly reflect the attitudes of the two nations. And lest you feel this is about the personal charisma of the two leaders concerned in the way their statements are written and both countries act in similar ways, here is what US Secretary of State Colin Powell said after 9/11 -
A terrible, terrible tragedy has befallen my nation, but it has befallen all those who believe in democracy," Mr Powell told the OAS assembly. "I hope we can move the order of business to the adoption of the charter," he said, "because I very much want to be here to express the United States' commitment to democracy in this hemisphere."
The session opened with a moment of silence before representatives of Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador and Canada all made statements condemning the attacks. "I will bring to President Bush your expressions of sorrow and your words of support," said Mr Powell. "You can be sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice." He added with reference to the region that "terrorism, as is noted, is everyone's problem and there are countries represented here who have been fighting terrorism for years and have seen horrible things happen in your countries. It is something we must all unite behind".
Again, not so much rhetoric, not talking about peace between US muslims & the majority population, all that came much later. What was of paramount importance was that the terrorists, americans & the world had to know that terrorism would be dealt with firmly.
Now about action that followed these comments. US attacked Afghanistan within months & dethroned Taliban. It failed to wipe out Al Qaeeda, or Taliban, and has even failed to capture Osama Bin Laden. But its actions definitely restored a sense of confidence among Americans that their government is taking care of their security. In India, except for an innocent person who was captured to be released later, there has been practically no action even after the group responsible & its origins were known.
There was a lot of controversy a few years ago when Bangladeshi Rifles killed a BSF jawan & infact hung his body on a pole, pretty much like what you would do after hunting a goat. Nothing was done even then, and Bangladesh didn't even apologize publicly. Indeed, India doesn't need to send out its forces each time an Indian is killed overseas. But India has been found wanting in using strong language even as it uses diplomatic channels.
Nepal, a long time Indian ally (remember, Nepal is the only other Hindu majority nation in the world and it is in India's strategic interest to ensure Nepal doesn't disintegrate). By stopping to send arms to Nepal & doing nothing apart from proclaiming 'we support a return to democracy', India has shot itself in the foot twiceover - China now supplies arms to Nepal in truckloads & gets closer to Nepal than India; India by a quick military coup would against the King would have gained the support of Nepal's democratic parties, Maoists and perhapes would have been able to bring them to the negotiating table. There was another nice thing that would have happened for the ruling party domestically - it would have definitely pleased the Indian Hindus no end.
India similarly did not act when Indian-origin Prime Minister in Fiji was deposed & kidnapped a few years back. A quick military action here would have proved decisive. The surprising thing is India did act decisively in the past, during the times of Indira Gandhi (in liberating Bangladesh) & Rajiv Gandhi (in Sri Lanka & Maldives) but surprisingly seems to develop cold feet everytime in recent years. Action in Fiji would have found wide-spread support from the large Indian diaspora worldwide, giving them the confidence that Indian government will take care of them wherever in the world they are. This I am sure would have helped build investment momentum in India by NRIs as well as helping diplomatically with many governments, wherever Indian lobbies are influential.
It is interesting to see how Indian action in Maldives in defeating a coup attempt was seen by its neighbours & the World media as noted in this article.
Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi told the Indian Parliament that he saw the event as having "provided an opportunity for India to assist a friendly country and frustrate an attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government." While the big powers, including the United States, endorsed India's intervention, the world media interpreted the action as indicative of "the scale of its ambitions in South Asia", as Time magazine observed, a confirmation of India's growing role as a regional superpower cum policeman.
In Sri Lanka, while the Jayewardene government breathed a sigh of relief that Male's ordeal had ended peacefully, The Island daily observed that "it would be ostrich-like to ignore the fear of small nations of South Asia, about current developments providing opportunities for what has been described as the spread of Indian hegemonism." Time also noted that, there was similar disquiet among India's other neighbours, although the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal endorsed India's action. Pakistan, however, was critical, even accusing India of having "stage-managed the coup attempt".
Indian diplomats and political analysts find such criticism unfair and point to the fact that it was Male that sought New Delhi's help. A.K. Banarjee, who served as India's High Commissioner in Male during the crucial 1987-1989 period, but was out of station in Delhi the day the coup took place, observes that "to the contrary, despite traditional cordial relations, the importance of the Maldives to India was not fully appreciated in Delhi until the coup, and it is the possibility that the Maldives could have turned elsewhere for help that subsequently established Male in New Delhi's psyche".

India's operations in Sri Lanka were not as successful, as documented in this interview of J N Dixit, India's former National Security Advisor & a leading thinker on national security. Dixit was High Commissioner to Sri Lanka from 1985-89, around the same time India sent its peace keeping force (IPKF) to broker peace between the Sri Lankan government & the LTTE. IPKF ended up fighting LTTE, and losing badly. It all ended in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi a few years later. India's fiasco in Sri Lanka is sometimes linked to US's Vietnam, but reverses in Vietnam never stopped US from trying again.

The inaction & passiveness in recent years has however not resulted in any goodwill for Indians worldwide, as India & Indians continue to be targeted by terrorists. India didn't act even days ago when Maniappan Kutty was killed ruthlessly (whereas an Afghani colleague was let off unharmed) by the Taliban in Afghanistan, in an area where the official government of Afghanistan has little influence.

As Nitin of Acorn says, India should atleast post its forces in Afghanistan as a deterrent to Taliban, this might just prevent another Kutty from happening. And it will suit India's strategic interest as well - I wonder how India wants to be a UNSC permanent member when it is not willing to ensure security to its people. Interestingly, all the other UNSC permanent members have had active military operations outside its shores often enough.