Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Lalooji's U-Turn

That Railway Minister Lalu Prasad is a funny man is no news. But he can be funnier than hell. Today the baapji of Bihar criticised the Karnataka government for dropping charges against former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti.

"It is absolutely wrong and against the law. I will complain to Sonia Gandhi. I tried to contact Sonia Gandhi this morning but in vain. I will once again try to contact her," Prasad said.

His wife's government in Bihar has proposed to drop charges against dreaded criminal-turned-politician and Lalu's colleague in the government, Taslimuddin. Uma resigned because she was facing a warrant. Taslimuddin hasn't and to ensure he doesn't have to, Lalu is doing everything he can.

Please drop this facade, with the charges against Taslimuddin, Laluji.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Thumbs up in arms, strike from Thursday

Twiddling with anger, thumbs on Tuesday threatened to go on a strike if they don't get their due recognition and respect, and of course the diamond ring.

"Start respecting thumb, that's the thumb rule," said Mr Mota Angootha, the president of Thumbs for Justice in Human Anatomy (TJHA), an organisation set up by thumbs. "Don't treat us like thumbshit, we are thumb-body special," Mr Antootha said, read out the organisation's banner.

The threat of strike sent panic waves among thousands of SMS-addicted youth across Asia and Europe. Government offices in countries like India (illiteracy: 35 per cent) were worried because most of the work happens thanks to the thumb-impression.

Economy experts warned of a drop in revenue from short messaging for mobile telephony companies. Experts have also warned of virtual crisis in the mobile gaming world if thumbs go on strike as planned.

Some people had already complained of something numb in the thumb. "My thumb has been bit funny since morning. Is it a partial strike or something?" Ms Asha Sachdeva said, soon after the announcement of the strike.

TJHA, however, denied reports that some thumbs had already begun the strike, but added that the strike beginning Thursday would not stop till people started showing some respect.

"When it comes to text we are made to perform, when it comes to sex we get no attention, especially in Asia. When a man is wooing a woman, he gives her rings that never come to us," Mr Angootha said.

"The wedding ring (angoothi), which rightly and etymologically belongs to us, goes to the ring finger. The small finger gets all the love and care, because it's small. The middle finger feels it's the centre of the universe. Our studies show that 98 per cent of the population would wear rings and other jewels on all fingers but thumbs," a TJHA release said, citing "gross discrimination".

Anatomy specialists have supported the thumbs movement. "They have been tolerating a lot of fingering. Do people realise that to lift even the smallest thing, one needs the thumb and one of the fingers. Remember thumbs are crucial, while any finger would do. They have the right to demand preference when it comes to ring."

"It's impossible to send an SMS without a thumb, just forget about gaming. I need to see a shrink," said 22-year-old Maria Sharma of Modernist School in Delhi. Maria and her friends are addicted to gaming and SMS to the extent they order their Coke by SMS as they are too busy playing to fetch it from the grocery shop.

The strike however would not affect children's thumbs. According to TJHA, children love the thumb. It's when they grow up that parents brainwash them into believing thumbs are bad.

"All children suck thumb. And they love it. But parents pressure them out of it. We are with the children who get penalised for their love for the thumb," Mota Angootha said clarifying why the strike would spare children.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Cricket Laao, Desh Ki Izzat Bachao

In what made Indians break into balle balle, the Indian Olympic Association has demanded that cricket be played at the 2004 Olympics.

The decision to demand a medal came soon after Holland humiliated India 3-1 in its first hockey match. IOC (not to be confused with Indian Oil Corporation) president Kuresh Salmadi said all India needed was a level-playing field, and the only thing Indians play in field is cricket. Rest of our athletes have finished anywhere between fourth and the last position.

“We are the world’s largest democracy and we want the world’s biggest event to imbibe some democratic principles like equality. Unless we are allowed to play cricket, we will not win a single medal. In cricket Australia will take the gold, Sri Lanka the silver and we are confident we can take the bronze,” Mr Salmadi told a crowded press conference in Athens.

He added that India wanted kabaddi’s inclusion but now countries like Korea were playing kabaddi and “we are not sure of being on a strong wicket there.”

Hockey, India’s national game, is played in corners not used to play for cricket. These corners are called penalty corners because playing hockey is a penalty in a country where cricket’s 12th player is treated like god and the hockey captain Dilip is treated like someone from Turkey.

The announcement triggered panic waves among all but 14 cricket-playing nations. “The Games are for humans, why does India want insects in all this,” asked a flabbergasted Finland fan.

Looking at the Sachin Tendulkar poster on the wall behind Mr Kalmadi, an American Olympic delegate wondered why Indians have such awkward-shaped baseball bats. To this the Finnish fan's flabber was even more gasted. "Bats, why bats? To eat the crickets?

In India, people began bursting crackers and some danced holding Olympic flame replicas saying India may finally win a medal.

“We are a country that believes in unity in diversity. We do not believe in individualism like the West. We believe in team work and in cricket, it comes out so well,” an Indian commentator said on TV.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

MEA culpa: Dealing with hostage crisis is no silly matter

In an exclusive interview ('A hostage crisis is not a silly matter')
to Rediff Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, India's Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed, who heads the Crisis Management Group, explains how the government is handling the Iraq hostage crisis. In the not-so-exclusive red ink, I am butting in.

It is more than three weeks since the hostage crisis began. Where is it going?

I have been spending all my days handling the hostage crisis. We have been meeting every day for more than 15 hours, trying to deal with the situation and to ensure the release of the hostages. But frankly speaking, we do not know now when they will be released.

You are so cool Mr Ahmed. Frankly speaking, what do you do in those 15 hours every day.

Why? What has gone wrong in handling the situation?

Nothing has gone wrong from our part. We are always in touch with the Kuwait Gulf Link transport company, which is negotiating for the release of the hostages. We are still hopeful of positive developments. A hostage crisis is never a silly matter. We have to remain patient. It may take days for negotiations to succeed.

Exactly. What do you do in those 15 hours besides being hopeful and patient?

Last week you said the negotiations had reached a sensitive stage and the hostages would be released.

Yes, we have been always hopeful of their release. Last week the tribal leader, Hishan Al-Dulaimi, whom the Kuwaiti company had engaged to negotiate with the abductors, nearly clinched a deal. But the deal broke down soon.

Sir, how in the name of Saddam Hussein, will Al-Dulaimi negotiate with al-terrorists. What do you know about al-Dulaimi, al minister?

Why is the Indian government not directly negotiating with the abductors?

Why should the Indian government talk directly to the abductors? We feel it will create a bad trend. If the Indian government talks directly to the abductors and releases the hostages, it could lead to similar abductions there.

There is nothing like an indirect negotiation, Mr Ahmed. Most negotiations are indirect. You have already created a bad trend by meeting for 15 hours a day and turning it into a national crisis by involving the Crisis Management Group. Terrorists may kidnap more Indians for this is where they will get world's attention when India's crisis management group meets for 15 hours a day.

You said India has limitations or constraints in dealing with the situation. What are the limitations?

What I said was that India cannot directly negotiate with the abductors. It is not an easy task for us. It is a strategic decision. I have been personally spending close to 15 hours every day only on the hostage crisis these days. We are not sitting idle.

Oh no, not again. What do you do in those 15 hours every day? And being the one of the two external affairs ministers that we have, you seem to be doing pretty much nothing else.

The abductors have also demanded ransom money. Will India pay ransom?

We have very clearly said that India will not pay any ransom for the release of the hostages.

Thank you so much. Why would India pay a ransom when some thugs in Baghdad can hold the country to ransom.

Some reports say some of the hostages may have been killed.

Our information says that no one has been killed.

You must be knowing better. You spend 15 hours a day every day trying to know. But what do you do in those 15 hours apart from trying to know things?

Who do think are the abductors?

Our information is that the Holders of the Black Banners are sympathisers of the resistance movement in Iraq.

Thank you for disclosing such confidential things.

Do you think they have any links with Al Qaeda?

They may have. We are not sure.

You sure seem to be spending 15 hours a day every day.

Have you sought the help of the Iraqi government, particularly Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, to resolve the crisis?

Yes, we are in touch with the new Iraqi government. We are using all our diplomatic channels for an immediate end to this crisis.

Don't forget 15 hours, Mr Ahmed. Every Day.

Have you sought American help?

No, we have not. Why should we? The hostage crisis is something we are handling effectively, and diplomatically. We are sure we will succeed in our efforts.

America is a dirty word. Come what may Mr Ahmed would not be in touch with America for even a minute, forget 15 hours a day every day. This is a Left-supported government. When you are with the Left, touching America even with a bargepole isn't right.

When do you expect that the hostage crisis would blow over?

We expect some positive developments soon.

Dear India, be patient. He is working on it 15 hours a day, every day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Rabri to stop monsoon*

Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi has criticised the monsoon for bringing floods and disaster in her state. She said the monsoon was being unfair to the state in an election year and accused it of playing into Opposition hands.

"All the roads are swept away, train tracks have disappeared. I have to build all these roads before the Assembly election. My husband has to work on the rail lines. Monsoon has targeted my family," she told a press conference.

Her husband, Lalu Prasad, is the railway minister of India. Three months ago, her husband used to be Laloo Yadav.

Ms Devi, who is known for her soft-spokenness and mild manners, threatened to ban the monsoon from the state if she is returned to power.

"Met Department says Monsoon has to cross Bihar to rain in rest of the country, including Delhi. But just because Delhi, Punjab and Haryana need water, I will not let Bihar suffer. We do not need water and the Bihar Assembly will pass a bill to stop monsoon from crossing the state next year."

When asked how will she be able to stop monsoon, a natural phenomenon, she said it is 'possible'.

"No one is above the law. If Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh can stop water in his state's interest, why can't I. What is monsoon if not water?"

She said if Delhi wanted monsoon, the Central government should find an alternative route.

When told that monsoon cannot be controlled by any law, she said she would ask Lalooji and the railway ministry to help out. "He is building road bridges from railway funds for me. He has allocated new train routes in Bihar, I am sure he would find an alternative route for monsoon too."

She ended the press conference abruptly when reporters once again asked how. "You all look educated but none of you got any brains. You ask the same how again and again," she said as she left for her TV room to see if the press conference was being shown live.

World is cruel, even to Amar Singh!

Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh is hurt. He says the Congress is not following coalition "dharma" by making "unilateral" decisions on investment, reducing interest rates on provident fund and hiking prices of petroleum products.

Over to Shri Singh: "We want to ask whether it is coalition dharma to not consult supporting parties before making unilateral announcement..."

Tch... tch... this Congress party! It just doen't consult. It didn't consult Samajwadi Party when forming the government. In fact SP leaders like Thakur Amar Singh don't know whether they are part of the coalition.

Why? Because the Congress wouldn't tell him so. The Congress, when it invited random small-time leaders to a dinner, didn't offer the same invitation to Amar Singh's party. And every day since then, it has refused to recognise him as part of the government or the coalition.

Amar Singh is hurt for over 100 days, but still the Congress doesn't consult him, even to tell him that it doesn't need to tell him.

Everybody loves Amar Singh from Amitabh to Ambani to Mallya to Mulayam. He's in everybody's party except Soniaji's Congress party. Life sucks. Sometimes, even Amar Singh's.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Main Hoon Na!

The seven Indian truck drivers held hostage in Iraq are still captive. The day before yesterday there were hopes that they would be released but then we heard that the kidnappers wanted more money and also appeals from Asha Parekh and Amitabh Bachchan.

There are some Bollywood fans among the captors. Bollywood fans seem to be invading every nook and corner of the world. So how could our External Affairs Ministry be unaffected. Bollywood has no place for subtlety so the ministry men threw diplomatic caution out the South Block windows, and went for the gut.

They are vocal, when not equivocal. And whoever said Natwar Singh has asked his men to shut their mouths is wrong. The ministry men open their mouth whenever they want to change feet.

By now the whole country knows that we have a minister of state for external affairs who has taken charge to deal with the situation while the senior minister Natwar tries to find Non-Aligned Movement to revive it. So the burden of solving the crisis in Iraq landed on E. Ahmed's shoulders.

Since the kidnappings in Iraq, Ahmed has become a household face. Who needs a spokesman when the minister himself can speak on affairs foreign.

And when Ahmed speaks, he does it in typical Bollywood style. He is aggressive and muted at the same time. So he went ahead and called the US the “occupation” force in Iraq. The official spokesperson couldn’t have managed that because that’s not the official Indian position.

That brings me to a recent National Interest piece written by Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta. He has ripped apart the external affairs ministry’s handling of the Iraq hostage situation and E. Ahmed’s Main Hoon Na mentality. Must read. Click here.