Sunday, December 21, 2008

Diwali 2008 @ VT - Archana's dance

Part of the Diwali function at Virginia Tech during November 2008. My daughter Archana was the Cultural secretary of the Indian Association and was the key figure in conduting the Diwali celebrations.
This dance is a typical Kerala dance normally performed during the "Onam" celebrations. Archana choreographed the dance.
Very difficult to spot persons by dress as all have similar sarees. However, you can see Archana( with the red blouse) occupying the front row and in the centre most of the time( near the girl with the blue blouse in the initial part of the dance)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Mumbai terror" aftermath- What do we do next

The dust is settling down. But the heart still bleeds. There is a mixed feeling of anger, frustration, helplessness, and insecurity. There is a direct hate towards politicians for their ineptitude, insensitiveness and their “promise now- forget later” attitude. But these feelings, however natural they may be, will not prevent recurrence of such attacks. Whoever forms the Government, these things will not change. We have to demand change and change our attitude and outlook as well.

We need a paradigm shift in the way we as citizens think and act. For far too long India and her people has been very tolerant. We are a nation who always reflect and take pride in our culture, tradition, our soft attitude. We accept corrupt people and we offer bribes, we tolerate court cases which go on for years, we accept people breaking queues. These are what I believe is internal terrorism which erodes our value systems. We have always believed these as part of our normal daily process. Well, they are not. We have allowed them to be and we are responsible for it. Let’s own it up. Let us show our collective anger against these also so that corruption, indiscipline, laxity in judicial process etc. are rooted out of our country. Ironically, this grave tragedy has provided us with a window of an opportunity to unite and eradicate all the above social maladies. Let us also correct ourselves when we point fingers at politicians.

Let us all take a common resolution and oath that 1) we will not bribe and we shall not tolerate corruption at any level. 2) We shall respect rules and not break lines. 3) We shall demand fair judgment to be delivered in reasonable time.

This is the time when we should move and make these changes happen. Else, we will again get into the usual rut and allow things to drift. This alone can change the fabric of our society. Only then can we become a strong and a united nation which can face both internal and external challenges.

The anger in the aftermath of the “Mumbai terror” has had an unprecedented effect on our politicians. The collective energy created by this anger has for once made our politicians scared of our citizens. They are now aware that nothing short of action is going to satisfy the people. However, knee-jerk reactions are not the answer to the problem we face.

What we need is a clear and concrete action plan from the Government with timelines and milestones. These action plans should be categorized as a) immediate, b) short-term, and c) long-term.

Action Plans:

a) immediate(0 to 30 days):

1) Remove people from posts who are directly accountable and those who made insensitive statements. (This is partly done as I write but more will have to follow. This action is symbolic and essential but not enough by itself).

2) Collect info and evidence on perpetrators. (As per the Government and the media reports, the detailed evidence collected points to elements in Pakistan).

3) Provide the evidence to the concerned country asking them to take action in closing down terror training camps and handover listed persons who are fugitives from Indian justice.

4) Simultaneously, get global support by providing evidence. Global support should also include targeting terror camps incase the concerned country doesn’t cooperate. There is precedence here as U.S.A has already targeted terror camps. However, a lot of tact, diplomacy and applying global pressure are important as the neighbouring country is a nuclear weapon country and the worst situation would be when the terrorists get hold of the nuclear arsenal.

5) Make a clear statement of intent (details will form as part of “short-term” plans) to improve equipment and facilities to coast guard, National Security Guard (NSG) and other relevant departments.

b) Short-term (0 to one year):

1) Follow up on the "immediate" plans.

2) Depoliticize departments like police and intelligence wings like Research and analysis wing (RAW). Make this a purely professional outfit.

3) Create a structure where different departments don’t act as “silos” (e.g.: Navy and coast guard). Information flow should be smooth and clearly define responsibilities, accountabilities and chain of command.

4) Study the requirements of up gradation in equipment, infrastructure, technology and facilities for coast guard, NSG and other relevant departments and provide resources at once.

5) Create a Federal intelligence agency for acting against terror. Simultaneously, train and improve skills in police force to handle terror. A group of the trained people at some stage can be brought under the Federal agency.

c) Long term (one to two years):

1) Should move into a presidential form of government (in the lines of U.S.A).

2) Cabinet and Ministers need not be politicians and preferably should be experts in the respective fields.

These are my suggestions for my countrymen and for the government. It is my strong belief that if we do this we could move forward with our head held high.

These suggested plans are by no means exhaustive but are the salient points. I am open for suggestions from anyone who would like to take India forward. People who think there is substance in this blog, I would request you to share this link with all your friends so that we can formulate some meaningful action plans.

Remember, let’s not lose time. Let’s move and make a paradigm change to propel our country where the citizens are secure, “ actually free “ and where others will look up to us.

Jai Hind