Sunday, March 9, 2014

The painful creation of the State of Telengana

Those of us who have been following the Telengana story for the past few years will have mixed feelings about the creation of the state, particularly about the methods adopted by the ruling dispensation to do so. Sometimes, I wonder if India is really a democracy or not.

There are several pockets in India where the residents feel that their culture, language or way of life is being ridden roughshod over by the majority population. In some cases, it is also a situation of the area being neglected in terms of development or distribution of revenue, despite that area being a positive contributor. I personally feel that anyone who is feeling oppressed enough to seek a separate state should be given an opportunity to state their case, and if practical they must not be denied the right, especially in face of objections by the majority group or oppressors.

This is the analogy that makes sense. I see this as a case of one of the children in a family complaining that he is feeling claustrophobic while sharing a room with a domineering older / bigger / meddling brother and needs a space to call his own. Any parent that would like to see all their kids get the best opportunities to grow and blossom should have no objection to such a request. Why should the people of Seemandhra have any say in this matter? The resolution in the state assembly rejecting the motion of a separate state, is akin to the domineering older brother having a right to veto the separate room request of the oppressed younger brother, is it not?

Ideally, the best solution is a Referendum carried out only in the area that is seeking a separate state, and open only to the residents living there. Unfortunately, India is a poor Democracy and does not have any legal provision for the same, nor does it have a clean record on this issue. To understand the views of a few more people, I recently posted the following Status Update on my Facebook Wall and requested my friends to respond. This turned out to be a very interesting discussion, and I thank my friends for their active contributions. Please see an extract of the same below:

Hemanth Sharma
February 10 near Malleswaram

I'm really perplexed with all this brow beating and dramatics on the Telengana issue. Why should some folks have an objection if some other folks want a separate state? It is after all, going to remain within the Indian Union and unquestioningly bow before the Indian Constitution, right? 

An apt analogy is a parent getting a request from one of their two kids that he wants to have a separate room, because he wants to put up posters of his favorite bands, paint the walls in his happy colors and listen to his kind of music, without having to constantly live according to the dictates of his bossy older brother, with whom he has uncomfortably shared a room for 60 years!

Which parent will object to such a request? Also, why will the 'bossy older brother' in this case, even have a say in this matter? It really beats me!! Anyone sees this the way I do? Please write in!!

Sharath C. Srinivas From what little I have heard from my Telugu friends - it apparently is all about Hyderabad, the crown jewel, as that is where a lot of the wealth and power is. It is like one brother wanting to keep the big screen TV in his room.

Ramnath Venkateshwaran It's more complex all of big brothers friends use and claim the room and younger brother is made to sit outside like ..aatak untu lekhak..illa.. (a Kannada saying that means you can play with us if you want, but your score will not count).

Ramya Ramnath The brother should also learn to share the room if needed. In this case, Telengana wants all the Andhra people to leave that’s not fair!!

Hemanth Sharma Thanks, Ramnath, Ramya & Sharath for continuing to use the ‘separate room’ analogy. If it is about Hyderabad, so what if it is in another State? Seemandhra investors in Hyderabad will continue to own what they already do, and are legally free to invest more in Telengana. So what’s the risk? There’s more to it than meets the eye!

Praveen Paul So let Hyderabad remain a "twin state capital". Chandigarh has benefited so profitably from such bigamy....:0

Sharath C. Srinivas The risk is about losing the clout and the influence, as non Telangana politicians will be outsiders and won't get a piece of the pie. A major portion of the corporate gain in Hyderabad gets shared with those in influential positions, and outsiders won't be welcome to the grand party next (bedroom) door.

Hemanth Sharma Sharath, this is what one hears, but it doesn't make sense. Most of the investors in Bangalore are not Bangalorians and they face no issues in enjoying their properties. Why should an Andhra investor be worried about his investment in Hyderabad? His rights are protected by the rule of law, is it not?

Hemanth Sharma Praveen, actually, the situation is ideal for the development of a new, modern and high tech capital city for Andhra. They should take the opportunity to create more gold plated real estate, more industries and businesses.

Sharath C. Srinivas Rule of law? , and it will take a few generations to create another city equivalent to Hyderabad. The same issue exists all over, even here in the state of New York, the vast majority of the tax revenue comes from NYC, and the rest of the state is actually poor, even by US standards. 75% of the state of Georgia's tax revenue comes from Metro Atlanta, and the rest of the state is very poor, by global standards.

Anand Srinivasan Agree with you. Looks like both sides want Hyderabad as part of their state, as it is the largest cash cow.

Hemanth Sharma Anand and Sharath, The protests are apparently not anything about the revenue that Hyderabad that generates for the state, as the Central Government will handhold the new state for 10 years. It actually seems like a more self-centered objection as considerable personal wealth seems to be at stake. Where is the national interest in that?

Praveen Paul Show me the money...Or as they say in Tamil...kai le kasai...wai le dosai.. (one eats well if one has soiled ones’ hands by working hard).

Hemanth Sharma Thanks, Praveen. If all the Seemandhra protesters stop trying to be holier than thou (“we want our homeland to be united” farce) and admit that they are actually protecting their own personal wealth, they would be so much more believable.

Raghuveer Rao Let the people decide ...have a referendum.

Hemanth Sharma Raghuveer, there's a catch to this, unfortunately. India being a Representative Democracy, the people are expected to leave all the decision making to their elected leaders, and there is no genuine precedent for a referendum. However, in this case, I agree that it may be the best tool to gauge public sentiment and must be tried.

Of course, a referendum must be carried out only in the districts that make up Telengana and not across the state. To return to my original analogy, it will not be fair if the bossy older sibling is given a right to veto the request of the younger for a separate room!

Hemanth Sharma Praveen, Sharath, Anand and Raghuveer I shortly would be writing a blog article using this discussion. Thanks for your views.

Chris Anand We have enough division in the name of diversity. This stereotyping is handed down through generations and I can tell u that some have been passed down from my late grandparents to me as well. Hopefully education and a world view will break that chain and we can expect a more unified India one or two generations from now.

Hemanth Sharma Chris, going back to my original analogy, how do you address the claustrophobia that the younger sibling feels? Should a parent not ensure that his personality also gets as much chance to shine as the older sibling?

The central issue here is that one bunch of people feel that their culture and their opportunities are being overshadowed by the dominant bunch. Is a common language a sufficient bond? Apparently, not.

Raghava Gopi Krishna See, it is more a political game to mislead people. People of AP have seen their worst government in last 10 years, and AP which is known as the Food Bowl of India, but during this government, which claims to be farmer friendly, farmers have even declared a ‘crop holiday’, which is unprecedented. Lack of governance takes a big toll on job creation and Hyderabad is suffering.

The only one thing that happened well is the loot, at a never before scale, where an Ex. CM’s son is implicated in scams of 50k Crores. This is a record in itself. Now just as it did in 2009, the ruling party and its cronies are out to fool the People by getting some new flags (political parties) that will eventually merge with some or other party for their personal gain.

Things will change only when people became more rational than emotional, besides creating state will only increase non plan expenditure for both states as it will have 2 Governments and all their usual excesses, which the poor people have to foot.

Raghuveer Rao In 1948, Junagarh joined India based on a plebiscite. So there is precedence.

The problem with representative democracy is that elected representatives from other states, who may or may not have any sense of sentiments on the ground effectively get to decide the fate of the people.

Hemanth Sharma Raghava and Raghuveer, excellent points. However, what I meant was that there is no legislation that mandates referendums and also, India has not covered itself in glory while using this route. 99% of the residents of Nagaland apparently voted for independence, but India overruled them and annexed the state. A referendum carried out in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which were Portuguese colonies, on the question of whether they want to join India was apparently never even published, and other such inconsistencies.

Perhaps a genuine referendum, that is carried out only in Telengana will accurately measure the mood of the people. I’m fully supportive of such a move.

A similar exercise is being carried out for the grant of possible independence to Scotland from the UK. If the referendum is extended to all UK residents instead of just Scotland, I wouldn't be surprised if the independence motion is defeated. Since it would be confined to the people of Scotland alone, I'm expecting a new nation to be born soon.



It would be ideal if we did the same here. But as Raghava says, perhaps we are too corrupt and politically sleazy as a nation to do the right thing. We definitely need to learn a thing or two from our former colonial masters!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Selection Criteria for Retail Properties in India

I recently got an opportunity to consult with a small retail chain, thanks to a consortium I’m a part of and I was asked to write a small piece on the important points to be considered while selecting properties for retail. I promised to revert with “8 to 10 Bullet Points” in a few minutes and ultimately churned out this report that runs into six pages! As it is compressing some 22 years of experience gained by leasing and or project managing close to a million square feet of space, I thought it would be a good idea to share it with others who may find the information useful, or for students of retail who could understand the dynamic of site selection based totally on personal experience.

Opening Remarks

Please note that these points are generic points and hence are not placed according to any priority, but sometimes, depending on the Format, Size, and Target Audience, some of these points may attain a higher level of importance or even a criticality, which needs to be established subsequent to a detailed study.

Further, the criticality of Property selection is heightened when one is choosing a High-street location, as the costs are generally high and the foot traffic is not always assured. Thus, the following considerations would be most relevant for the selection of High-street locations.

Mall location considerations are entirely different and will depend on the success of the mall to attract the appropriate footfall in sufficient numbers, together with the design of the mall, the traffic flow and store design. Thus, mall locations will require a detailed and separate study.

Considerations

Property Identification can be clubbed into four main considerations:

A.      Format / Business Considerations
B.      Commercial Considerations
C.      Technical Considerations
D.     Hygiene Considerations

A.     FORMAT / BUSINESS CONSIDERATIONS

Depending on the merchandise being sold, location would be ideally located in certain markets in the city where similar merchandise is sold or is famous for. Thus, taking on the traditional or established players in the city and offering a differentiated experience or merchandise to be considered.

Audience Classification

  •          Luxury
  •          Premium
  •          Budget


The network plan will need to be defined. Under each of the above classifications, one needs to clearly define whether one is targeting the following groups:

  •          Impulse /
  •          Daily Needs


Thus, an Impulse Luxury item will need to be located in the middle of a high income shopping district that hosts sufficient footfall of the audience who can afford the merchandise, on the other hand, Luxury Daily Needs products can be a little less exacting in choice of location as one hopes to promote premium and budget customers to try the merchandise. Similarly, Premium Impulse merchandise needs to be very aptly located on High Street / Malls / Luxury Destinations.

Work Place / Residence Locations of Audience

Studies have shown that a large percentage of customers prefer to stop by and shop for their requirements while driving on the way home from work. Thus, being located on a street that connects a popular work district to a high end residential district is always a good idea. However, it is critical to be located on the left side of the road (Indian driving characteristics).

High Street Considerations

When a High Street Location is being considered, one has to primarily determine whether the street is a One Way or not. If it is a one-way and does not funnel people from a work district to a residential district, it will not be an ideal choice.

Distance of Storefront from the Street

Most retail formats require vast amounts of visibility into the store to encourage passersby to promote themselves to visitors after being enticed by the displays in the store. Thus, if the storefront is too far setback from the pavement, the impact of the display is minimized.

Availability of Storefront Parking

Most formats that have some parking facilities in front, are seen to perform better than those on high-streets that do not have parking. Thus, properties that have some parking in front of the store, subject to the point about the distance of storefront from the street, will be desirable.

Store size

The size of the store shall be as per the requirements of the business, and shall be able to carry the entire assortment of merchandise correctly and efficiently. The added requirements of the space for the Stock Cycle and the Staff Cycle need to be provisioned for. If the space is too less, this will result in the assortment getting pruned, and if the space is too large, it will be inefficient and result in higher costs.

Width of Frontage

Based on the format under consideration, the site being selected shall offer a minimum credible width to achieve a defined Entrance, offer Good Visibility and ensure an Attractive display.

Site Aspect Ratio

This is the ratio of width to the depth of the site. Depending on the format, rectilinear spaces would be ideal, where the width is not too large and the depth consequently too shallow. On the other hand a narrow frontage with a very long throw for the depth is not desirable.

Signage Space

One of the most important aspects that need to be considered. Buildings that are intelligently built will have made specific and sufficient planned spaces provided for signage. The store will require adequate signage length to make a good impact and further, the width of the signage shall have a minimum such that a standard width of material can be used for the signage without wastage.

Visual Clutter

Storefronts that have clean signage and ensuring that the width and specification adopted by all the tenants of a building follow the same guidelines, the visual presentation will be orderly and impactful. If everyone follows their own standards, this will result in visual clutter and nobody’s signage will be effective. Thus, poorly designed buildings that have not specifically planned for sufficient signage needs to be avoided.


B.      COMMERCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

Cost of Rent

The monthly cost of rent outflow shall be based on the profitability analysis for that neighborhood. The potential of the location to support its rental shall ideally be judged on the basis of the expected turnover at that location. Based on analysis, rent outflow shall be pegged at an Allowable Percentage of the Expected Turnover, say 10%. Thus, if the required turnover level cannot be achieved within the time frame agreed, the site would be under severe strain.

Rent Escalation

All landlords will expect the rent to escalate at a particular rate each year, and would typically expect an escalation rate that covers for inflation. This can be bunched together and charged once in 3 years to ensure that the store gets a chance to stabilize before suffering a higher rental.

Cost of CAM (Common Area Maintenance) or Utilities

In some cities, Commercial properties are required to pay higher costs towards Water and Power Utilities. Thus it is important to understand the cost of utilities fully before committing to a property. In managed properties like malls, this is a shared expense and depending on the professionalism and efficiency of the mall, the costs can vary between 20% to 50% of rent outflow. Thus, it is as important as the rent, and similar to rent suffers from some escalation too.

Cost of Signage

Municipalities of several cities charge a license fee for the signage f a store, beyond a particular size or area. This could be of sizable value and hence it is important to peg the cost of this license as part of the input Operating Costs.


C.      TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Availability of Power

It is important to correctly determine and establish the amount of Connected Load that one will require. Typically, all buildings would have been designed on some assumptions and the power connection available would be a finite defined limit. If the formats requirements exceed the permitted load / available connection, the enhancement costs are quite prohibitive and due to the shortage of power in most Indian states, quite long in lead time.

Use of Generator

Generators are used when the connection is of lower capacity or is not available to the store at the time of launch. However, captive power generated using fossil fuels typically costs about 2.5 times public utility power, and hence quite unaffordable in most instances. Even when the connected load of sufficient capacity is available, generators are used when there are power failures and due to the cost consideration mentioned before, the absence of mains power for extended periods of time could have serious financial impact on the store. It will not be out of place to mention here that power generated by use of fossil fuels is highly polluting in nature and it will be necessary to minimize the use of such devices.

Space for Air Conditioners – ODU’s

The building shall have sufficient setbacks and locations that can take the mounting of the required number of air conditioning units. As these generate considerable heat and also a fair amount of noise, they may be objected to by neighbors; hence it is critical to locate them appropriately. Conversely the length of the piping permitted between the ODU and the IDU is finite and has to be taken into consideration while deciding if it is feasible to have cost-effective air conditioning in the site.

Ceiling Height

Most retail formats have some standard fixtures that they need to display and stock their merchandise, and hence the services need to be placed above that height. Thus the ceiling height or more accurately, the clear height below the lowest beam of the site shall be sufficient to house the fixtures and also have remaining height in which false ceilings, lighting, ducting and other services can be comfortably run and efficiently maintained.

Columns

While columns are an integral part of any building, it must be noted that modern and well designed buildings have a minimal number of columns, ensuring that the space utilization is of a higher efficiency. Multiple and closely spaced columns result in the racking not being laid out in the most useful manner resulting in low efficiency.


D.     HYGIENE CONSIDERATIONS

Handicapped / Wheelchair Access

Some municipalities insist that certain types of public buildings provide for free and unrestricted handicapped access. This needs to be evaluated, and checked if the building under consideration requires the same, and whether it meets the criteria.

Toilets

Availability of clean and safe toilets for staff and customers.

Safety and Security

The site that typically has staff working till late hours, stores high value merchandise or stores cash collections overnight shall have sufficient evaluation of the safety and security aspect for all the three store cycles, i.e. The Stock, Staff and Customer Cycles.

Presence of Pavement, absence of Electrical Infrastructure

Other aspects that need to be looked into are whether the pavement / footpath in front of the store is sufficiently wide and safe for customers to use, and whether there are any obstructions from Transformers, Telephone Junction Boxes, etc that can adversely affect the visibility of the store and also render the pavement unsafe for pedestrians. Particularly, the presence of un-cleared garbage and badly broken down pavements and roads in front of the stores needs to be avoided.

Traffic Conditions

To permit customers to cross the road with ease and safety, the traffic shall be sufficiently light and well regulated, or if the traffic is very dense, safe Zebra Crossings and or Subways / Skywalks shall be available at a reasonable distance.

Legal Documentation and Ownership

Properties need to be leased from people who are the rightful owners and sufficiently rigorous due diligence needs to be carried out by an expert law firm to establish the same. The Lease Document shall be drafted in a scientific and totally legal manner that can stand to scrutiny by any public office. Finally, properties that are taken on lease for commercial activities shall be declared Commercial and documented as such. Residential premises shall not be leased for commercial activities as this is a contravention of the law.

Concluding Remarks

While the above list is a comprehensive list of Look-Out-For items for a person entrusted with property search, each format will have its own specific and specialized requirements that need to be studied in detail and locations appropriate for the business identified. In the event that a more specific study is required to define the requirements of a specific store format, the same can be provided subsequent to a detailed study of the format, the assortment, the profitability and the catchment analysis.

Ideally, for a chain store a detailed Net Work Plan shall be drawn up in consultation with Operations and Marketing, reflecting the market potential of the city and the desirable locations that one would like to be present in, and based on the same the site search should be initiated. Please do contact the undersigned for more detailed support.



Thank you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mahalakshmipura Police makes me proud!

I had the most amazing experience recently that strengthened my belief that there is some good left in this world yet. 

Early into the morning a few days ago, I realized that my iPhone had been stolen. I suspected a kid who used to visit us often and ask to do some odd jobs for some pocket money. As he was a familiar sight in the neighborhood, he has a free run of all the homes in the vicinity. My suspicion was confirmed when the 'Find my iPhone App' indicated that the phone was in the vicinity of this boys' home. I approached the Mahalakshmipura Police with this information and the phone was in my possession before the end of the day! Awesome Police Work! 

What really made this a happy-happy-happy day was the way this juvenile offender was treated. I was worried that he would face the strong-arm treatment and suffer a lot of trauma. Surprisingly, all the officers and staff were totally conscious of the fact that he was and underage offender, and made all efforts to treat him with compassion and understanding. Finally releasing him to the custody of an adult relative. I was happy to write them a Letter of Appreciation commending them for their sensitivity, and I hope that all police stations in the country will be as humane and professional. 

Proud to be a resident of Mahalakshmipura! I am happy to reproduce that letter below: 

In a similar vein, I should not forget Apple! What a brilliant product! You guys really made my year!! Congratulations to the entire team of designers at Apple Inc. Worth every buck I paid. 

LETTER OF APPRECIATION 

I write this letter with much pleasure and satisfaction to record my sincere and heartfelt appreciation to Inspector Kumaraswamy and his team of Offices and Staff of Mahalakshmipura Police Station Bangalore for the excellent job done in locating my iPhone in just a couple of hours. 

As you may recall, I had suspected a young boy of the theft as he used to frequent our house very often and hence had free access to the house. My suspicion was confirmed by the iPhone locator application, which indicated that the phone was located in the vicinity of that boys’ house, hence permitting the recovery of the same in no time at all. 

This was great police work, no doubt, but I write this letter to bring everyone’s attention to another issue. As this boy was a minor, I was quite concerned as how he would be treated when he was found to have committed the theft, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised to note that the views of virtually everyone in the Mahalakshmipura Police Station was that he should not be subjected to a harsh experience, and hence he was to be treated as a juvenile offender and handled in a very humane and sensitive manner. 

This is indicative of the sensitivity of the entire station to the rights of underage offenders and the approach was one of ‘counsel’ instead of ‘punish’. I really appreciate this approach of yours and I hope you will be held up as a good example of Police Sensitivity and the same will be practiced in every police station in the country. 

Do keep up the good work. 

Thanking You, 

Yours Sincerely, 

Hemanth Sharma 

Are Indians oversensitive to satire? The Assam Rape Festival

Recently on Facebook, a very good lady friend of mine from Malaysia shared an article posted in the National Report, titled “The Assam Rape Festival in India begins this week” http://nationalreport.net/assam-rape-festival-india-begins-week/ which spoke of a festival that dates back to the year 43 BC, wherein all the men in a village in Assam chase down and rape every girl in the village to exorcise their demons! 

To be honest, to begin with I too read the article with a lot of concern and decided that I need to learn more about this barbaric festival, when I started noticing some cultural inconsistencies and realized that this was a hoax. Unfortunately, many of the other readers were readily fooled by the mock seriousness of the article and had posted comments that were very critical of India and its customs. The indignation of some of the commenter’s was quite funny to me as I was ‘in on the secret’, but I felt that it was necessary for me to write to the site and put things in perspective. My comment to the site is reproduced below: 

 This article is a work of satire. It is as true as the next article in the series “The Great American Mass Shooting Festival Begins Next Week (Response from India) - See more at : http://nationalreport.net/great-american-mass-shooting-festival-begins-next-week-response-india/, which should be billed as The Great American Mass Killing Jamboree”, perhaps a more 'American' term. Even the section in which it is posted - 'Entertainment' is a dead giveaway. Poorly researched – the names used of the so called protagonists are not even culturally accurate. Not particularly funny too, one must add, but surely we need to thank this author, as all Indians really need to wake up to the problem of violence against women. Rapes do happen in India and happen too often for us to be complacent anymore. One can argue that out of a population of 1.2 billion, there will always be a few bad eggs, but that is a specious argument that we should not hide behind any longer. Many political parties and the media are constantly lobbying for stricter laws and the sensitization of the police and society at large, to make rape an unacceptable criminal act, which will be dealt with an iron fist, and each and every Indian must support such forces. 

The lady friend of mine from Malaysia, who I spoke about earlier, wrote to me and asked me if this festival news was true. My response: “Not a chance. Rape is punishable with life imprisonment. We do hear a lot of rapes taking place but they are on account of individual depravity and not some institutional or cultural sanction. India has a 5000 year old history of civilization and one of the safest places on earth.” 

What really surprises, are the indignant and sometimes vituperative reactions from some gullible readers who were fooled into thinking this article to be true. One is shocked to see how many people are ready to believe the worst of a country like India, which has been a beacon of non-violence, philosophy and ethics since thousands of years and was the cradle that gave birth to people like Gautam Buddha, Mahaveera, Mahatma Gandhi and millions of lesser known personages of the human endeavor story. 

I also read in the news today, that this article has stirred up a major controversy with the story sparking widespread protests among the people in Assam, who say it has tarnished the image of the state. I’m also shocked to learn from Yahoo News that “The Assam Criminal Investigation Department has registered a suo-motu case against the website for posting the "defamatory" article. CID Additional Superintendent of Police Nirmal Baishya said that investigations have revealed that the article was sourced from Uganda and the website is hosted in Houston in the US”. Surely a gross overreaction, I would think. 

The best response to this article was from the internet troll, Frappy the Anti-Masturbation Dolphin - "There better not be any masturbation at the festival." That is the level of seriousness that it deserves!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Support for Ms. Durga Nagpal IAS

The country is awash with the news of the Samajwadi Party's (SP) Government in Uttar Pradesh bowing to the pressures of the so called Noida based Sand Mafia and getting the officer in question, Ms. Durga Nagpal IAS, suspended on what seems like spurious charges. The powers that be in SP, must have assumed that like in the past 65 years, they could ride roughshod over this lady, and via their retrograde action on her, send out a stern message to all other officials - that they will face similar consequences if they do not toe the Party line. Being Democratic Dinosaurs, the poor chaps may have never imagined that the entire nation will erupt in anger and condemnation, as is happening now, in response to their illegal actions.

On the first hand, we understand that the Sand Mafia is an entrenched lobby with close connections to the ruling party honchos. Thus, it is quite conceivable that goons from the Mafia, who have been facing the brunt of Ms. Nagpals’ official actions, would have complained to their Political Godfathers to fix this ‘pain in their side’ Officer. After suffering the seizure of several trucks and many Crores of Rupees worth in fines for the illegally mined natural resource, the Mafia would have naturally chafed at the ‘interference’ in their activities and resented it. Naturally.

While I do not support retrograde action of any sort, I believe that the SP Government should have handled this with more finesse. If an officer is causing you problems by preventing your cronies from say, looting, then you would typically look for a more pliant Officer and post him / her in place of the honest and upright Officer. Such action is permitted by law and is well within the boundaries of civilized governance and decency, even if the action was contemplated for less than honest reasons. But, to give the whole issue a religious and communal color to suit their actions is reprehensible and deserves condemnation in the strongest possible language and the strongest purgatory actions permitted under the Constitution.

The Officer was just doing her job and apparently following a Supreme Court order prohibiting the sprouting up of religious structures illegally on Government owned land. Media reports suggest that she herself did not get the structures demolished, but in a most mature and sagacious manner, managed to convince the villagers themselves to abide by the law and demolish the structures in question. Even while this needs to be proven, one must express ones’ total and complete admiration for the maturity of the young officer. If this is indeed true, without doubt she needs to be felicitated and publically adored instead of being witch hunted, as the SP Government seems to be doing. Another report in the media also mentioned the fact that her superior Officers at the District level have given their reports to the Government that there was no evidence of malafide intent on the part of Ms. Nagpal, and that post her actions on the demolition of the Mosque structures, there was absolutely no evidence of communal tension or unrest, nor was any complaint received protesting her actions. All this seems to show the SP Government in very poor light, unfortunately.

Thus, for the SP Government to latch on to this flimsy excuse and accuse her of taking actions that could Endanger Public Peace and be Detrimental to Communal Harmony is just a whole lot of rot. This is Minority Appeasement and Communal Politics of the basest order, and their using it as a fig leaf to cover the disgusting naked illegality of their action in suspending Ms. Nagpal, and later serving her with a Charge Sheet, is plainly visible to every right-thinking citizen of this country.

We the people of India have to protest this illegal action and make it clear that we will not stand for such Banana Republic Politics any longer. Since the SP Government seems to have decided to brazen it out and continue with this travesty of justice, we are forced to turn to the Judiciary to set thing right, as usual. Unfortunately, the Judiciary is currently, the only arm of Democracy that still overwhelmingly stands up to scrutiny, particularly at the level of the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Thus, it is inevitable that we petition the Respected Chief Justice of the Honorable High Court at Allahabad, and seek his intervention in the matter.
  • The Actions of the SP Government are illegal and anti-Democratic in nature, and Bad in Law.
  • The principles of Natural Justice and the Fundamental Rights of the IAS Officer Ms. Nagpal seem to have been undermined.
  • The actions of the Government looks to be strongly in response to the spectacular work the Officer has done to preserve the Natural Resources for the public good, which apparently impeded the functioning of the Sand Mining Mafia.
  • In smothering the faculties of an honest and upright Officer, the SP Government has verily extended its tacit support to corruption and crony capitalism, to the detriment of the nation.
  • Instead of encouraging and motivating Good Governance, the SP Government seeks to exercise pecuniary control over its Officers, and encourage yes-men and pliant Officers who look the other way when an illegality is being perpetrated.
To do my bit, I have created an online petition, addressed to the Respected Chief Justice, and am collecting signatures in support of the same. Please click on the link below and sign the petition, and then share it with all your contacts, exhorting them to sign the same too. It is hoped that we can all manage to collect 500 endorsements. Thank You.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Maoism in India - Why the Kid Gloves?

Every so often, we hear of an attack perpetrated by Maoists or Naxalites, in which several Policemen lose their lives and public property is destroyed. These outlaws have in the past also indulged in kidnapping, intimidation, revenue theft and have even ‘punished’ local people with torture and execution style killings, accusing them of being police informants, or similar 'crimes'. The politicians and the Government are generally seen doing a lot of hand-wringing and “strongly condemning the Maoist action”, but I do have to express my puzzlement at why, without any exception, in every State where this problem exists, the Maoists need to be treated with kid gloves – like just so many wayward children being a tad naughty!  With so many police families having been orphaned over the past couple of decades, and the loss of Governmental control over vast sections of the country, and the destruction of public property, machinery and assets, including the snatching away of thousands of police issue firearms should have been reason enough for any sensible government to launch a concerted effort to rein these terrorists in, using whatever means that it has at its disposal.

However, instead of strong and determined action, surprisingly, we hear politicians insisting that they do not advocate the use of the Army or the Air force "to fight our own people", and hence they will insist on the use of the poorly trained and ill-equipped State Police and Para-military forces, who seem to be like sitting ducks as happened in Dantewada. I was also quite shocked to hear a similar view being espoused by a former Army Chief, who was part of a television debate on the aftermath of the Dantewada incident. He seemed to suggest that the armed forces should be used only to quell an attack from across the borders, like traditional armies all over the world have been doing for about 5000 years. I cannot believe that a notion so outdated is still the view held by a man once tasked with the protection of this nation. Any entity or group waging war against a democratically elected Government should be equated to a traditional enemy, in my view. However, to make this decision easier, there is sufficient reason to believe that the Maoists have sympathizers across the borders judging from the ever increasing number of foreign made weapons that they possess. Thus, coming to the conclusion that they must be actively supported and financed by powers without – is something even a lay person will arrive at. In conclusion, if even one pistol or one grenade has been provided to the Maoists by a foreign power, for whatever reason, this becomes a war like any invasion of our land was before. There is no doubt in my mind that we need to quell such movements, and hence, the inability to understand the “they-are-our-own-people” approach.

This has been going on for a couple of decades, during which thousands of lives have been lost, and it is increasingly evident that it seems that we have a lot of Maoist sympathizers in the political establishment. The same establishment had no qualms about brutally attacking and thrashing up sleeping women and children peacefully protesting against corruption along with Baba Ramdev, or water cannoning and baton charging the thousands of young protestors seeking justice for the Delhi gang rape victim. However, when it comes to dealing with the Maoists, the selfsame establishment becomes all shy, coy and ties itself up in knots. Is this an acceptable and ethical position when “our own people” have taken to arms, some of which are reportedly supplied by foreign powers, and have been wantonly killing other Indians like policemen and villagers who are also “our own people”? Why should the Army not go in and disarm these groups using Arial reconnaissance and tactical support from the Air force?

Of course without a doubt, these groups should be first given the opportunity to surrender and abhor the armed struggle, join the political mainstream, and offered a time-frame of 12 months to turn in their weapons. I am a very staunch supporter of democratic processes and if the Maoists have the conviction that their cause is just, and that the people will be benefited by their movement, they should join the electoral process and become part of the Government. Clearly, only those who refuse the rule of law, and ignore the democratic process need to be brought to book using every power that is at the disposal of the Government. Why is such an action illegal or unethical? Can someone explain?