PUNE, India (Reuters) – A bomb ripped through a packed restaurant in the Indian city of Pune on Saturday, killing at least eight people including one foreigner in the country’s first big attack since the 2008 Mumbai massacre.
The explosion came a day after India and Pakistan agreed to meet for high-level talks in New Delhi on February 25. New Delhi suspended a four-year-old peace process with Islamabad after the Mumbai attacks, blamed on Pakistani-based militants.
I recently came across this article on the Washington Post.
Being a part of a generation that gradually, if with cautious unease, learnt to adjust to the Internet, I could not help but compare India’s policymakers with those of developed nations based on their level of acceptance of changing media.
Frankly, it is difficult to imagine our lawmakers in the same position as described in the article.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is among four Indians who share space with U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the Forbes 2009 list of the World’s Most Powerful People.Those who dominate the list were chosen based on the number of people they influence, their ability to project power beyond their immediate sphere of influence and their control of financial resources.For Singh, a self-effacing economist who led a resurgent Congress Party to a landslide victory in the general election this year, the accolade is a reflection of how far he has come since his name was proposed as an obvious choice for the post of Prime Minister.The Congress’ showing in the recent assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh had set the trend for its performance in subsequent by-elections where it won 10 of the 31 seats contested.The message was clear. Independent of the shackles of its communist allies, the party led by Singh (placed 36th on the Forbes list) is now free to aggressively push much-needed reforms.Under Singh, the Indian economy grew at the rate of 6.7 percent in 2008/09 despite inadequate monsoons and a global slowdown.Singh assured investors at the World Economic Forum of a seven percent growth next year and a medium term objective of achieving a growth rate of 9 percent per annum as the economic downturn shows signs of reversing.Billionaire Mukesh Ambani is placed 44th on the Forbes list followed by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal at 55th and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata at the 59th spots.With a net worth pegged at $19.5 billion by Forbes magazine earlier this year, Ambani is thought to be Asia’s richest man.Forbes says the “ranking is intended to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word,” but interestingly, some of the names on its power list have strong India connections in their own unusual ways.Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, ranks 50th on the list and is described as “boss of Mumbai-based organised crime syndicate D-Company.”Tibetan spiritual leader in exile and Nobel laureate the Dalai Lama (39) fled Tibet to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.Powerful and influential Indians have often made the Forbes lists. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has appeared on its 100 most powerful women’s list.From autocrats to multi-billionaires, Forbes judges power based on its own varied criteria. It throws open the question of who has missed its list and deserved to be there.Is a militant more powerful than the Pope?But does the common man care beyond his three daily meals? How much bearing does it have on their lives?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday expelled former finance minister Jaswant Singh from its primary membership for praising Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah in a book.
When Omar Abdullah took over as Kashmir’s youngest Chief Minister in January 2009, his coronation befitted a king.Backed by a resurgent Congress party at the centre, 38-year-old Abdullah’s appointment was seen as a positive step towards bringing a fresh perspective to the troubled state’s political logjams.That Abdullah came from a family of Kashmir’s best known politicians and was the third generation member to ascend to the post of CM made it imperative that he live up to the expectations of many who wanted an immediate solution to Jammu and Kashmir’s complex problems.Born to a family that has witnessed political intrigue in the restive state for decades and had a history of alliances with the Congress, Abdullah was seen as the right candidate to a post many deemed as the ‘crown of thorns’.Like all CMs before him, among the many problems he inherited, Abdullah needed to immediately address allegations of human rights violations, demands for repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, ensure better governance, maintain peace and stability in the region and continue dialogue with the separatists who boycotted elections in Jammu and Kashmir.Political pundits predicted that Abdullah would make up in sincerity and hard work what he lacked in experience.Abdullah’s first test of strength came with his handling of the rape and murder of two Muslim women in Kashmir’s Shopian district last month.Abdullah came under heavy criticism from separatists and pro-freedom protestors, lying low since a record voter turnout during 2008 elections despite their boycott calls and threats of violence.Residents said two women, aged 17 and 22, were abducted, raped and killed by security forces in Shopian town, 60 km south of Srinagar.The daily street protests, strike calls, police firing on protestors and incidents of army shooting at civilians gave a new lease of life to separatists who rejected the findings of a judicial inquiry ordered by Abdullah after the Shopian incident.Abdullah admitted that his government made a mistake in the handling of the Shopian crisis, which included allegations of delay in initial police action to ensure justice.He said he was “misled” by some of his junior officials but learnt serious “lessons” from the incident.Detractors see the candid admission and the subsequent damage control measures of suspending senior police officials as indication of earnestness but inexperience.Faced with accusations by opposition People’s Democratic Party of involvement in a sex scandal that rocked the state in 2006, an emotional Abdullah took an impromptu decision to quit his post until his name was cleared.Party workers, including his father and former CM Farooq Abdullah have advised calm in the face of a political storm brewing in the restive state. But many see Abdullah’s conditional resignation in the face of pressure as an indication of his youth and lack of experience.As he completes his six months in office, Abdullah may need to face criticism with a cool head, keeping the welfare of his people in mind.At 38, he is one of the youngest politicians with possibly one of the toughest jobs in Indian politics.Besides being the chief minister, he has 20 portfolios under his belt, has to haggle with the central government for timely flow of development funds, contend with a vociferous opposition and worry about security issues in between walking a fine line on the question of Kashmir’s independence.So is it that the grandson of Sheikh Abdullah, the Lion of Kashmir, has taken on more than he can handle? A classic case of biting off more than one can chew?
The chief of Delhi’s metro rail system Elattuvalapil Sreedharan resigned on Sunday after a section of an overhead bridge under construction gave way and crushed five workers to death.This is the second such accident involving the mass transit system in less than 12 months. Last October, a section of an under-construction flyover in the capital’s Lakshminagar area collapsed and fell on a bus, killing at least two persons.The Metro project, led by the 77-year-old Sreedharan, came under rare media criticism following the deaths.Sreedharan has enjoyed strong government support so far and is not shackled by the delays, cost-overruns and red tape that have plagued big projects in India for decades.His reputation , access to officials including the prime minister, and a mandate to jump obstacles himself rather than wait for civic authorities, have enabled him to get results.The widely acclaimed chief’s resignation could also come as a serious blow to Delhi Metro projects scheduled to be completed before the Commonwealth Games.Sreedharan’s resignation comes at a time when Nandan Nilekani, another engineer-entrepreneur and co-founder of Infosys Technologies, quit his job to head a government agency.Do you feel the Delhi metro chief took the right decision and will his resignation be accepted?
It was the late 80s and I was in school, contemptuous of rules and looking for a cause to rebel against parental interference. I was too young to run away and wise enough not to push it so as to end up without dinner.I was itching for an icon, a just cause to let out my angst, when I saw him for the first time on our black and white television one night.I could have sworn Michael Jackson was looking straight at me and I stared right back, unabashed, mesmerized. “He knows,” I remember thinking.Back then we had no cable connection and only a single channel — the government-run Doordarshan — that like a venerable grandfather took our education in its hands, combining crop rotation with calculus and regional films with Indian classical music.Some urbane, convent-educated, upper middleclass families did listen to “Western Music” comprising mostly Bach, Mozart and the occasional Belafonte.But when MJ unashamedly burst into the screen during a programme on Doordarshan called the Hot Tracks, with his hip gyrations, metal-studded jacket, top hat and sheer energy — it was just too much.“Why would any self-respecting adult declare he’s ‘Bad’ on national TV? What’s happening to lyrics?” my father seethed with righteous indignation. But I wasn’t paying attention.I had got my icon, the man who was to be my hero for the next 10 years.Over slamming of my bedroom door, angry bursts from the stereo, breaking into the moonwalk in the shower and lifesize posters inside closet doors.Looking back, I know I was doing exactly what millions of teenagers across the world were doing. I do not know of any other celebrity who became as much a youth icon as MJ did from New York to Tokyo, Sydney to Alaska.When MTV came to India, I immediately fell in love with “music videos” and Michael Jackson was the master of them.Far from the generation of soul singers perched on straight-backed chairs, MJ exploded into the scene, shook up a generation and forced it to look at pop like they’ve never done before.Like a million others I was unable to breathe, unable to look away, swearing to him that I will never fall in love with anyone else. Ever.But when globalization brought with it access to western music and the entire world of rock, jazz and country opened up to me, I am ashamed to say my single-minded devotion slowly gave way to something stronger, something different. I had many suitors now. And Jackson was a school girl’s crush.With his nose jobs and drastically changing looks, I squirmed in embarrassment remembering my juvenile dogged love for a man who was so clearly a “has-been”.Until last week, that is. News of his sudden death made me sit up from my sleep-deprived stupor. “Michael Jackson is dead.”As I write this I keep asking myself, how could I have not seen this coming? This is his game. This is what he does best.Look at him, dead for three days and still able to shake up the charts, kick the crowd in the teeth and hold them spellbound in disbelief.It’s a sappy thing to say but I just have to. Sometimes dead lovers remind you of what you could have had and what you made of your choices.When I think of MJ, I will have to find a way to separate the debt-ridden man, mired in ugly controversies and struggling with his personal appearance from the “imperfect genius” he was, larger than life and stylish as hell.