Monday, 25 February 2013

Some Chirp Stories...

Here are some of the chirp stories I compiled. Thought of sharing them via a post. I will keep updating whenever new stories are created. If you have created any, do let me know. I will be glad to add them to the list, for reference, with due credits. 

I would like to thank the creators of the chirpstory platform who enable the users of Social Media to create stories, and share them easily.

If Mahabharata Happened Now  

Here is a collection of some tweets with the hash tag - #IfMahabharatHappenedNow - a story that trended on 24th-25th Feb'13. Featured even on global trend list. The story demonstrates the power of how an imaginative idea can easily go viral on Social Media. It just needs the (b/)right spark! And, good timing!! 

Wakf Scam 

Karnataka Minorities Commission investigated the State Wakf Board properties misuse and reported to the State Govt that over 2 Lakh Crore worth of assets have been encroached, leased on pittance rates, etc., causing a loss. Many bigwigs are involved. The tweeple responded to the breaking story with the hashtag #WakfScam

Cardinal Sin - 

Cardinal Sin lists some of the reaction on Social Media to the explosive news of  'amicable settlement' talk by a Cardinal of the church who tried to use his influence (subsequently he retracted having tried) to stop the families of two Indian Fishermen (who were killed on 15th Feb'12, by armed escorts of an Italian Merchant Ship in Indian waters near Kerala), from forcing their prosecution. 

On a Scale of -  

On a scale of is a collection of some fun tweets, where tweeple made fun of many things...

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Manmohan's Budget Blues & Banta's Budget Nightmares

As the Congress / UPA government led by the two time PM of India, prepares to present its budget for this financial year, with almost every bit of it finalized (save for some last minute changes, suggested by the powerful lobbying groups of various interests), here are some thoughts of the common man. I am sure neither P. Chidambaram, nor Dr. Manmohan Singh, & Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, have the time to read what I am sharing. But, I hope, against hope, somehow it reaches them, in time! Not like that speed post to Afzal Guru's family!

(image courtesy: The Hindu Business Line)

Who really looks forward to the budget?

1. The salaried class, the so called middle class, that looks for some sops to juggle its finances, dream of buying / building a home, buying a car, etc.

2. Do the rich bother? They have no major impact of the budget on their daily living, at least. If they are from the business class, most of the expenses, or the budget impact in terms of taxes, duties, surcharges, or duty on surcharges, and surcharge on duty on surcharges  to the end customer!

3. How about 'The Poor'? Most of them are too preoccupied with surviving the day, every day. Its the plight of of more than 30% (or, some say even 40%)  people in cities, in villages. They won't even know what that Rajiv Gandhi Yojana will do, or, the Indira Priyadarshini Scheme will give them, Or, Jawahar Lal Card will give them!

OK. Now let me narrate some numbers. Assume that Mr. Banta Singh lives in Hyderabad (or Chennai, or Bangalore), and earns 20000/- per month (post statutory deductions), and his wife is a home-maker. Let's say he has a small kid of 6-7 years and another girl 3 years age. You would have your own Abdul, or Rajan Kutty, or Sangayya, who more or less have the same struggle.

Here is Banta's monthly expense sheet:

Rent:              4000/-  (for a small 1BHK, on the outskirts of city)
Electricity:        750/-
Water:              350/-
Housemaid:     1000/-
Milk:                 900/-
Petrol+LPG:    1400/-
Provisions:       4500/-
Phone:              500/-
Vegetables:        900/-
Fruits:               300/-
Medical             800/-
School Fee       1000/-
Entertainment    500/-
Miscellaneous    500/-
Insurance          500/-
Contingency      500/-

Annual expenses
/travel:                    600/-
Own House dream 1000/-  (Mr.Banta Singh is an optimist!)

If Banta and his wife asked you how to improve their plans and how to improve their plight what would your answers be? Do you think Banta has done a good plan? Is it realistic expense for his family?

As you can see, there's no place for non-veg in Banta's meal plan. His family has to skip fruits if they want to buy meat. Does Banta qualify for a ration card? Subsidized ration? He found it tough to get a ration card here, being from another state. His few trips to get one were so tough, he gave up. So, Banta's family is one more malnourished!

Can Banta aim to buy good clothes for his wife, kids, and himself? Or, save money to travel and meet his family / relatives? What happens if any unforeseen expense comes his way? A big medical bill? Or, some guests? Child's admission next year?

You see the two-wheeler came as part of a belated dowry pack! Banta's salary couldn't let him buy a vehicle on his own. Now, don't ask how his father-in-law managed to find money! Why couldn't Banta use public transport? Commute took more time. It wasn't convenient, and also not so economical.

Can Banta buy some jewellery for his wife and kids? Yes. Some imitation jewellery, once in a while.

If Banta is govt servant, he will find some avenues of making "extra" income. If he is private sector employee, his chances of a better income are dependent on many factors. Let's not touch that.

Banta is forced to find ways of making more money every time govt increases petrol, LPG, electricity, train fares. Banta has to ensure his higher ups are in loop, have a share. He fears being caught by some lokayukta / vigilance squad. But, he also knows a peon in his office has a 2 story house, a car, etc. His boss has a farm house. Banta can't remain honest in a system where he won't be allowed to survive.

Banta's practical problems, and, constant pestering by his wife, have also made him compromise. His wife tells him of the expenses coming up, and challenges him to meet them. Banta & his wife have decided their family will be 2+2 (woh ji, dusra accident se hua ji! pattaa hi nahin chala! Gharwale bole, mat nikalwawo... lekin mushkil hai paaji, ghar chalana ab!)

Banta is quick learner. To make it tough for me, he posed me some more challenges! And, narrated some conditions to go with that!!

Now, imagine Banta's salary is 15000/- or less. He is not a BPL category person as per govt definition. Since Montek Singh says its a number to define where the benefits like food subsidy must be given. But, many people who go to ration shop know what kind of rice or wheat are sold. Banta's wife refused to cook if he bought rice, wheat from there! Her logic was simple. If you eat this, you will need to pay more to doctors!

Now imagine if he was in 12-15K bracket via his own business (a small retail shop, for example), or as a small farmer. It's a living hell for a farmer when they don't know if the seeds are genuine, if the fertilizer is not fake, if it will rain on time, or, there won't be any unforeseen rains, droughts. Or, there are no pest attacks. If the yield is good, will he get good price? Will the agents in the mandis cheat him? Transport costs high. Storage facilities (cold / granary) aren't available. Bribes to so many people for loans, subsidies, insurance claims. Does it tell you why so many find it easy to End it? Leaving behind their women & kids? The private lenders, land sharks, are all making hay.

It made me share my views as a response, but, not as any solution. Because, I had none!

Had the promised bank loans, insurance, quality seeds, reached them in time without any hassle, will so many farmers feel dejected to kill themselves? So much is rotten with our agriculture, food n civil supplies, fertilizers n chemicals ministries. These are called 'plum' postings, not without any reason!

But, Manmohan ji's Govt will be happy to charge a bit more to salaries class again. Spend via overdraft, announce more schemes that benefit middle-men & contractors who can milk the system, fund election expenses.

Finally, Banta Singh and I decided to list some questions for which we hope Dr. Manmohan Singh, our Economist PM, will have some answers in the budget.

1. Why is the govt spending on schemes that don't result in real, long term benefits?

2. You offer loan waiver every now and then. Have you not created mentality that not repaying is the best solution? What about those who work hard to repay on time, only to see others who avoided re-payment (even while having money), got the benefit of loan / interest waivers? Have they not become fools in the eyes of his society?

3. You are now talking of loans for minorities at 4%. Are only Muslims the minority? What about other communities? Should it not be made available by economic criteria rather than the accident of birth?

4. How long does it take to make quality education affordable?

5.  So many of us are not having medical insurance coverage. While some states have cards for BPL, many don't. In many places people do not know what they can avail of. And, its so difficult to even know, go get a card. Can we have an affordable healthcare system? Clean govt hospitals? Equipment that works well? Staff that doesn't take bribes to treat?

6. When can we see clean drinking water reaching villages? And, hygienic sanitation facilities, sewage lines? What has NREGA done in this regard?

7. When can we have 16 hour power supply in our villages? We don't want free power. But, we need assured supply of power. Is it impossible to deliver?

8. How many times do the governments, corporations lay / re-lay the same roads in cities? Why do they fail every rainy season? Do we lack technology? Or, the rates paid are so low? Or, bribe rates are so high that quality has to be compromised?

9. Every time a road is laid, its dug up by another agency? Is it not waste of our money?

10. Why the spend on village roads is so low? If you want to stop migration, provide us water, roads, electricity. Rest of the things we will manage in villages. Why can't we do it?

11. What have you done to gram panchayats and zilla parishats? Everything is party politics. Then you have municipal bodies, MLAs, MPs. Do we need so many layers to decide what's good for our villages or towns?

12. When can we see strong action on the corrupt? Why can't we seize the property of entire family, kith n kin? Debar them from politics, or, any business with govt? When will govt recover money stashed abroad or in India (in benami a/cs, land holdings, etc)?

13. How long do you want Aam Admi to wait? Since Aam Admi word is taken over by Aam Admi Party, have you become pro-rich party?

14. What's the future for me? For an aam admi? If you make me also BPL, I can get some benefit of DCT, NREGA, etc., and my family can live and save something. If you let me grow, do well, I may become upper middle class or a rich man. But, this middle class is trishanku. No benefits. All the pain. All the curses. From govt & from the society!

Manmohan ji, you may have your Budget Blues once a year. For the aam admi, you have made our budget a nightmare every day! Any solutions, dear Dr. Manmohan Singh ji?

A zen story....

Today, I read a zen story in the Kannadaprabha, and thought of sharing it with you. 

(Image courtesy: Barbara Walton/EPA & The Telegraph)
 A Zen Guru had immersed himself in studies, and deep meditation for many, many years. After a very long spell of it, spanning over a decade or so, he felt he had attained Realization. He got up, took out his collection of precious books, made a bonfire of them!

That's it! 

What does the story tell you? 

What's its moral? Forget the moral of it, tell me what do you think of his action?

[Note: The author (Mr. Nazim Hikmet) has listed some of the opinions shared by people who heard it, in the story. If you come up with same views, then its a coincidence!] 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Mera Bharat Mahaan

मेरा भारत महान

हे बापू,
हमने  क्या  गुनाह  किये  थे,
हमको  क्यों  नहीं  दिये,
गाँधी  का  नाम?

आज  रामराज्य  नहीं,
रोमराज्य  ही  सही,

50 लाख  में  300 करोड़ का घर ,
फुकट  में  कैंसर 
जैसी  बिमारी  की  इलाज़,
सबको  नहीं, एक-दो को सही,
शुरुवात  तो  हुई, 
आशा है , हमरे नंबर भी,
आयेगी, सांस तोड़ने  से पहले ,
सब  राम -नाम लेने  से  पहले!

बापू, तेरे  एक  कमाल,
कर दिया कुछ  लोगों  को  मालामाल,
कोई  छोटामाल, कोई  मोटामाल,
आम  आदमी  को  भिखमल,
राम  हो या रोम,
इश्वर हो या जेसुस,
सब की  नंबर आयेगी,
चार कंधे मिले न  मिले,

धन्य  हुआ  बापू, 
तेरा  भारत  महान!

******** ........ ******** - Hindi wording, in English script. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

When Governance Fails, Why NOT the Media Advisers?

We saw yesterday(5th Sept'12), the knee-jerk reaction of the UPA / Congress government to an article by Mr. Simon Denyer, India bureau chief of The Washington Post (WaPo), on Dr. Manmohan Singh, and him presiding over a govt accused of too many scams & corruption, slowdown, etc. The immature reaction by Ministers, PMO advisers, and party spokespersons, has once again shown the govt shooting itself all over its body. And, whatever Congress, its spokespersons, or, PM’s media advisers say, or, do, it doesn't surprise even a common man with the least knowledge of the nuances of politics & how the ‘national’ media reports! While the Congress was busy demonstrating its lack of respect for democracy, freedom of speech, yet again, some in the Mainstream Media (MSM), gleefully took the words spread by ‘PMO sources’, reported an ‘apology’ news without fact-checking. As is well known, most of the Indian Media, has either been (/ become) the handmaiden of the rulers, and, have  tried to massage the news so that the ass of top bosses is always well covered! Bloggers, and Social Media activists have enough records to show how some of these media folks crawl when they are only asked to bend! So, a NO apology is a BIG, SHOCKING news! Mr. Simon Denyer had a field day standing by his story, denying apologies, clarifying to umpteen people! 

The wonderful technical capability provided by Social Media (SM), an "amoral technology", if you believe in Ms.Sagarika Ghose's gospel, is exploited to the hilt by those fed up with hypocrisy, double standards in MSM, and ruling establishment. The activist world once again challenged the gang of “jee huzoors” of MSM. Some TV news channels were forced to debate the WaPo article, and on a few channels no spokespersons of Cong or Govt made an appearance.  But the letter by PMO official, Mr. PankajPachauri, stating the ‘objections’ of the govt, along with the rebuttal by Mr. Denyer, were promptly published by The Washinton Post. This once again exposed the nervousness, or hyper sensitivity to even mild criticism of the govt, PM, and super-PM! The letter was very poorly drafted, probably in a nervous, tense state, by its author in PMO. And the rejoinder by the reporter puts the ball firmly back in Mr. Pachauri’s court! Will he respond, or, let it pass? We shall know in a day or two. Hope there won’t be any secret orders to block access, and restrict permission to foreign news organization, as a fall out of this article - to avoid spread of “hate-news” & “rumors”, the favorite terms of Congress these days!

Last evening, even as the discussions on the Washington Post article were not over on the channels, definitely not so, on SM like Twitter, we got to see one more incident of how the PMO’s media advisers work or react to what they get to read, listen. 

This post is an attempt to look at the working of the Communications Adviser to the PMO, Mr. Pankaj Pachauri in the light of the above as well as a few more discoveries from his tweeter Time Line. There's absolutely nothing personal, no enmity, no agenda. The intent is to see a PMO that's efficient, that's supportive of the PM, and that one can be proud of (irrespective of our person ideological or party preferences). I am willing to correct and update this post, should Mr. Pankaj Pachauri or anyone from govt shares information that tells me what I have written is incorrect / incomplete, so far as the facts are concerned. My inferences may / may not change! I did try to draw his attention last night on the following incident. As of this hour (5:30 PM, 6th Sept), I have no twitter response. I do hope he will find some time to write to me. Enough of background and disclaimer! 
Now to the action!

Last night,  I got a tweet of Mr. Devjyot Ghoshal, special correspondent with Business Standard, on my T/L via, via retweets, by ever alert Mr. Sachin Dikshit (@ssachin_d), and Bhartiya Agnostic (@BharatiyaAgnosti). 

It reads: 

@DevjyotGhoshal: In case you want more examples of how shoddy @PMOIndia media team is, see slide 12 of this official 

His teaser was quite inviting to make me open the slide, and to say the least, I was shocked to see how someone in PMO could create such a slide and share. My reaction was due to the image used on this slide. Without really bothering to go thru the T/L of either @PMOIndia, or Mr.Ghoshal, I contested it, and asked how can he say its an official document, and whether there’s any proof of it being made by a PMO official.

It led to a healthy discussion, and in no time, Mr. Ghoshal and BharatiyaAgnosti came with the details of how they came across it. It was in a re-tweet by the @PMOIndia (official PMO handle) and @PankajPachauri on 1st Sept’12. I thank all of them for proving they had in fact checked the details. Its a healthy contrast to what we have been seeing of late among some MSM to break the news first even on twitter! They pronounce death of some people who have not died, they flash apologies on behalf of others, when none was made!

It was a re-tweet of @UPAGovt twitter id's tweet, mentioned below.

It reads as:

It was sent at: 1:40 PM ; on, 1 Sep 12 by @UPAGovt

The source material for the slide set has come from the PMO website: 
This link was tweeted by @PMOIndia (official!) handle on 31/08/12 at 9:10 PM. 

It reads:

Full transcript of Prime Minister's press conference on NAM, Pakistan and coal allocations -

A person who goes by the identity “India2014” created this slide set, using the PM office Press Release of the interaction the journalists accompanying the PM had on his return from Tehran, mentioned above. This person  uploads it onto his/her a/c on SlideShare website at the URL mentioned above. So far, so good! You may observe that its an anonymous account as per details visible on Slideshare. (I have taken screen shots). 

On the same day at 1:40 PM, "@UPAGovt" tweeted the link to mentioning the @PMO India handle. This twet then promptly gets re-tweeted by the @PMOIndia and @PankajPachauri handles. I do not have the time stamp data of when the @PMOIndia and @PankajPachauri handles re-tweeted it. Twitter does not show those details currently. 

It may be possible that Twitter account "@UPAGovt" and SlideShare account "India2014" are run by the same person. Or, if they are different persons, I am sure, at least, they know each other (very?) well. Otherwise, one cannot pickup a particular slide set and send it to the PMOIndia. I say this is because India2014 does NOT have any followers at the time of my writing. So, how did @UPAGovt come to know of the existence of such a slide-set on the PM's speech? I guess you can smell the link between persons behind these ids.

Now the question, who is this @UPAGovt and why Mr. Pankaj Pachauri chose to Re-tweet this slide set? Apparently, Mr. Pachauri has NOT seen ALL the slides. I am 100% sure. If he had seen this slide # 12, he probably would not have Re-tweeted the tweet of @UPAGovt. He not only Re-tweets it from his handle, but the same tweet is also re-tweeted by the PMO handle. I presume the PMO handle is NOT operated by the PM directly. It has to be somebody in his office. It may be Mr. Pankaj Pachauri, or someone who is under his supervision. Otherwise, this re-tweet can’t be explained. I hope Mr. Pachauri clarifies to me on this point. (Note: This tweet has seen 18 re-tweets, 10 favorites so far.). Mr. Pachauri has re-tweeted a few other tweets of @UPAGovt, on some earlier occasions (on 22nd and 23rd August). I see nothing wrong, nor am I raising objection on them. But, it tells there is some twitter familiarity with this handle. A scan of @UPAGovt's followers revealed that Mr. Pankaj Pachauri is one of its followers. I did not find any journalist following it, which suggests that its NOT a official handle of the UPA govt or Congress party. I expect Mr. Pachauri or @UPAGovt to clarify in this regard. 

As we saw in the image above, this particular slide-set has an objectionable line on BJP, the Principal Opposition Party in Parliament, I feel it was imprudent on the part of PMO office, Mr. Pankaj Pachauri to tweet / re-tweet this slide set. Isn't the PM's office different from the politician Manmohan Singh's office? 

Had the re-tweet been from Mr. Pankaj Pachauri’s own handle, rather than, the PM’s official twitter handle, the damage is limited, and one can let it pass as personal opinion. The same argument holds good had those lines been tweeted by a Congress party functionary like Mr. Digivjay Singh or Shashi Tharoor. Now, can you say the same about it when its tweeted from PM’s official handle? 

Is the occasion right to say “But these people stall it. Vote out BJP, Preserve Democracy!”? (Note: I will have ZERO objection, had this NOT been re-tweeted by PMO). The issue is the use of official handles of PM, PM's media adviser (who is now twitter certified, due to his position in PMO) to give voice to such opinions. Does this not show the PM used his official position, and machinery to express his HATRED for  BJP? On what grounds, can the PM / PP say or agree that BJP is NOT democratic? Is it NOT a serious accusation against BJP? Again, these charges & counter charges are acceptable if traded as political parties, not as functionaries of Legislative, using GoI infrastructure. Too much to demand? Haven't we been too lax all these years? Isn't that resulting in so much mess, so much bad press? Let's not even talk of how difficult it has become for the "aam admi", whom this govt wanted to put on a pedestal. But, many have not even had a good coffin too, having to end their lives due to many faulty policies, inflation, etc Those are tragedies, for which no one sheds even crocodile tears these days. A suicide of a farmer, a mother who kills her children, then herself, does not shock anyone. Even compensation for victims is not paid on time, and many a times, delayed so much and paid only on paying bribes. But, these are different issues. Not something that Mr. Pachauri has to bother. 

The PMOIndia twitter handle is followed by many embassies, leaders of other nations, journalists of national & international media, shouldn't Mr. Pachauri been more sensible in re-tweeting stuff which has a political hate-speech tone? What kind of an image such indiscretion project about our PM, and, more importantly, about our nation? How can the PMO officials be so casual in their approach to sharing news or information? Does this not require serious review of how the PMO functions in its media department?

Lets look at one more incident here. Many, including myself, had seen it, re-tweeted it, and let it pass. But, on second thoughts it calls for closer examination. 

On 25th Aug at 7:26 PM Mr. Pachauri tweeted to Mr. Milind Khandekar, managing Editor of ABP news -  (emphasis added by me) -

@milindkhandekar All the black faces, black minds, black hearts and black Twitter handles are out in the open-- #ThankYouTwitter

These words ARE Mr. Pachauri's views about those Indians who protested peacefully on Social Media, the Govt’s shoddy censor action on Social Media, some websites, many of whom / which had NOTHING to do with Assam situation, or the scare in other parts that led to NE people fleeing.

Thank God, he did not re-tweet it from the PMO handle! I may even have let it pass as his person opinion, had he not been Media Adviser to PMO. A few tweeple @SSachin_D, @Alok_Bhatt, @AmritHallan, @Addyshi2, and @ProudHindu123 rightly objected to this tweet. 

In the light of what happened yesterday, I thought let us re-look at it and think a bit deeper.

Doesn't that tweet reflect poorly on the Media Adviser that he has such utter disregard for democratic means of protesting? That he calls millions of Indians as BLACK HEARTS, BLACK MINDS? And, he does NOT apologize for his absolutely unacceptable remarks? And, he is a Media Adviser in a government which is trying to STAMP OUT HATE-SPEECH, RUMORS! Does he even realize the folly of his blunder? Isn't it tragic that he comes from the MSM which tom-toms its right for free speech, and at the same time wants trampling of the FREE SPEECH of THE MASSES ON SOCIAL MEDIA? Haven't they come to define HATE SPEECH as anything that's critical, anyone critical of the government, the pro-establishment elements in MSM? If such is the mindset of people in charge of media, policy, what do we as citizens expect to get out of the PMO? Who should own up the blame for a bad image of the Prime Minister? Is it the fault of aam admi (common citizen) to have elected you? Or, is it your fault to have such officials in the media department in the highest office of this country? 

I sincerely wish Mr. Pachauri introspects and responds to this post. I have raised serious objections on his being able to do justice to the job. Do you know why? Mr. Salman Khurshid, the Union Law Minister had this to say with respect to media communication & PR of the Government!  

A few days ago (on Sep 4, 2012, 10.54PM IST, per PTI report) , Mr. Khurshid lamented  that the Government is losing 'communication battle'

I quote:

NEW DELHI: The government is  "losing the communication battle" because its skills do not match up to the proliferation of media where many people are "screaming and shouting that something has gone wrong" without explaining the basis, Law minister Salman Khurshid said here today.
"The media has transformed itself media, electronic media, print media there has been a proliferation of media. And the communication skills that we need for modern media, we don't have, unfortunately. Therefore we are losing the communication battle," Khurshid said.
He was speaking at the Global summit organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

I do not know if he had any premonition of what's going to happen, but, apparently he has seen something closely to say these words!  

FINALLY, here are questions for those who matter. I hope someone in PMO reads, responds, takes corrective measures. I wish to be an optimist!

Here are some questions (Sorry, if some are repetitive!) to Mr. Pankaj Pachauri, the PMO officials of UPA government, and (spokespersons of) Congress. It will be a bonus if Dr. Manmohan Singh gets to know! Hamaari ek khwaish, ki woh sunein, aur bolen, ek aam admi ki baat!

  1. Do you subscribe to the words on the image of the slide # 12?
  2. Do you believe the PM’s official Twitter Id can be used for sharing any partisan view?
  3. Do you believe that BJP is a danger to democracy?
  4. Do you think to preserve democracy, BJP must be voted out? BTW, BJP is not even ruling India, at this point in time. Its Congress party led UPA – just in case, anyone forgot!
  5. What kind of media policy, procedures are adopted by PMO in interacting with Main Stream Media? And, interacting with Social Media?
  6. Do you re-tweet (or, publish anywhere else) information shared by any person without verifying? In this particular case what kinds of review or validation was done?
  7. What is the official position of this twitter handle @UPAGovt? Is it run by anyone in the know of PMO? Or, Mr. Pankaj Pachauri? I have seen Mr. Pachauri re-tweeting a few of its tweets earlier too. Also, there was some objection by some in the govt on the use of anonymous handles. Then, how does re-tweeting @UPAGovt tweets pass the expectation?
  8. I feel highly let down by Mr. Pachauri's role as the Media Adviser. Since he advises, and operates the PM’s social media accounts, I feel there has been damage to the PM’s image is more from within, due to ineffective portrayal of govt work (Mr. Salman Khurshid too says it!).
  9. The PM is working actively to get many things going, with whatever constraints the party president, colleagues, coalition partners impose on him. The least one expects to see is that he has a PM Office that he can trust, and expect them to do justice to his trust in them.
  10. The denial of interview requests to Mr. Simon Denyer by many in PMO, and subsequent rejoinder by Mr. Pachauri, and the rebuttal by Mr. Denyer shows that PMO did not handle the matter efficiently.
  11. What kind of action does the Prime Minister proposes to take to clean up the PMO media department? In my view, we have crossed the stage of asking should the PM take action, or, should he forgive and let it pass. 
  12. Whatever may be the coverage in Caravan, Time, The Washington Post they have to be welcomed, reviewed, corrective measures taken that express shock, anger, and other feelings. It is unreasonable to expect all MSM folks to behave like some preferred MSMs who act as pet dogs! 
Finally, I wish to voice what many concerned Indians want to say to Dr. Manmohan Singh. You still have an year or two left before the polls. Please, for the sake of aam-admi, speak up, get rid of the cobwebs, clean up the dead-wood, and let the ENGINE of government run. We can't afford to have divisive bills stalling progress. The nation prospers by cohesive, efficient action, not by designs that are meant to divide and garner votes. I am not a Congress sympathizer. But, I am quite concerned about healthy politics, clean administration, bright future, transparent, citizen friendly laws. And, I am sure, every right thinking Indian, irrespective of ideology, demands an equal, level playing field to live, progress, have a peaceful life. 

Note: 1. I have taken screen shots of the twitter T/L from the official @PMOIndia, @PankajPachauri, and @UPAGovt handles to support the observations made in this article. Hope no one deletes them to prove I am wrong! 
2. I thought of calling this post - "Mr. Pankaj Pachauri, your time’s up!". But, I let him and the PM, decide it!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Is Social Media the real devil?

This post (part 1) is an attempt to place the Social Media in perspective, for the benefit of our Main Stream Media (MSM) anchors, and other panelists, who love to hit at the Social Media, generally, more so these days, in the context of Assam, law & order, politics, etc., etc. "MSM, the scare mongers?" is Part 2 - it dwells on to the issues of how  MSM anchors, expert panelists, and GoI have considered the Social Media (SM), their intent, some questions on what has gone wrong, and what should be done to retrieve the situation for the benefit of all. Your views are most welcome. 


Since the time violence broke out in Assam sometime in middle of July’12, our #MSM pundits began by calling it violence, riots, then ethnic violence, then, some shouted  communal violence, and, what not! Soon, the details tumbled out, and the inept handling by Congress government in Assam & Congress led UPA government at Centre became public knowledge. The strategy of Government has changed to blame the Internet & Social Media for their failures, to contain violence in Assam, some stray attacks on NE people in other parts of India, and spread of rumors that led to fleeing of about 50000 people to NE areas. To top it all, GoI came up with orders to block websites with ‘inflammatory content’, ‘hate speech’, and attempted to gag some people for spreading (mis)information, rumors, etc. Had they gone after the right ones, there should not have been any problem. But, as usual, it went after the wrong ‘Right’ ones, most of who happen to have nothing do with violence, spread of rumors, or spewing hate! The hidden intent of the rulers thus became visible, due to such callous decisions, executed in a very haphazard manner! To help the government, some spin meisters are working over time in Media shows with select anchors, busy shuttling between studios, and spinning columns for the print, while blog-world is full of both sides of the narrative.

So,a  lot of time has been devoted by MSM, television & print, to discuss the ‘evils of Social Media’. Theories, hypothesis are being spun with such great ease on how the SM  has caused or is causing more law & order problems, cyber war, cyber terrorism, and what not. Listening to them, you should imagine, that millions of Indians who are on Twitter or Facebook are going to go out with their guns, machetes, and what not, after skimming through the messages that are rumors, or, told them of violence! So much for responsible debating on this issue!

I thought, let me make an attempt to clear some clutter about Social Media, for the benefit of our Media Anchors, and, Experts on these panels. This is a bit long column. Hope you will read on until the end!

Since the scope of SM is quite wide, I am restricting this post mainly to Twitter, a leading micro-blogging service. Facebook, Google+, and Orkut offer a different kind of interaction, mainly among those who know each other (or, whom you allow to join your network). Blogs are sites hosted by individuals to express their views, share what they want to (Note: They need not, necessarily, agree with all they put out, when they share 3rd party information (assuming no copyright issues). It should be seen as information sharing on as-is basis, as long as they do NOT morph, edit to alter meaning of the original source content. Ideally, such sharing must provide a URL link to the source. Some may not do, for whatever reasons, best known to them.). More detailed information of what each of these services is available on many sites, tutorials. 

Many of us have heard of the phrase ‘Facebook Nation’. It simply tells you how big is this mass of users is! At the same time, its better to keep in mind that, it’s comprised of lots of  small islands (formed by group of  friends, family members) around each of these users. This is true for others like Google+, Orkut too.

Some facts about Twitter & Facebook:

1. Twitter: Twitter has about 15 Million Indian users and 500+ Million users globally (as of June’12). Though India is the 6th among Twitter user nations, none of its cities fall among the top 20 tweeting cities list! (Source: Semiocast -

It processes about 340+ million tweets per day, globally. It’s roughly about 150 GB data per day. 

2. Facebook: 53 Million Indian users: 48% are between 18-24 years, 28% between 25-34 years age. And, this is not even 5% of India’s population! FB has 900+ Million users globally.

Facebook processes 500+ Tera Bytes of Content daily (300 million photos, 2.5+ billion ‘Like’s. (Facebook’s was of saying I saw it – don’t read it always as ‘like’ in English!)
Facebook runs more than 30000 Servers. Its systems scan 105 terabytes of data every 30 minutes! (Source: TechCrunch:

And, its not for no reason, many experts call Facebook a Nation! At the same time a word of caution. Do not assume all these people on Facebook, are active users. Some big companies goofed up recently in an IPO, and the shocks are still being absorbed by those who suffered it!

Here are some generic observations on Twitter, based on my experience with it. You can call it a fish market (or, see it as, many soap bubble blowers networked), if you wish! Some shops attract more crowd, some very few! Even in shops with huge crowd, it’s not necessary that everyone buys (into) what the shop is selling! So, if you think a tweet as a fish, some may like it, buy (share) it, or totally ignore it! Many a times, a very good (it’s so subjective to say it) tweet finds no takers! Blame it on disinterest of the crowd, or, the timing, or their not-liking it for whatever reasons! There’s no way to know. Also, the Twitter time line is like a flowing river, or, a turbulent sea, depending on the overall activity! So, a tweet is simply swept away in no time, unless a few more like it, share it, reply to it, etc. If not, it’s gone! It stays on your timeline, but the old ones are not that easily accessed, unless some inquisitive follower digs through your TL! So, there’s less likely chance of what was said by you a few hours, or, few days ago, being actively debated.

Note: Those who confuse followers with loyal supporters may please spend a few minutes to read this article from CNET. In one line, for our purposes, it states, Followers don't necessarily equal influence on Twitter! (From: ->

So much of gyan baazi! I had to share the background on the magnitude of Social Media and also place in perspective how information flows there, for the benefit of our debating fraternity on MSM.  

Hope you found the above useful. You may please read part 2 it deals with how India's MSM & the establishment are treating SM. 

MSM, the scare mongers? Politicians, the beneficiaries?

This is the 2nd part of the series on how MSM has treated SM in the context of Assam and in general in present political situation. This post looks at how MSM reacts to Social Media chatter, and, also attempts to examine the knee-jerk reaction by the rulers, and dare to suggest  some solutions! (Part 1 – Is Social Media the Real Devil?)

I am not at all attempting to suggest people do not use these Social Media sites to spread hate, spread rumors, etc. It does happen, but then, there are enough remedial measures. Effectiveness of these measures is, again, subjective view.  But such hate speech, rumor mongering is not limited to unknown, or, anonymous, people, or only to Social Media also. Some media personalities, politicians, too indulge in such activity. But, then, followers, or trolls, do try to counter them. So, very few of such irresponsible comments by well known people go unanswered. Many a times they are forced to apologize, and, delete such comments.

Many of us have seen quite a few media personalities, cyber pundits, politicians, taking the word ‘followers’ for its traditional meaning. But, on Twitter, not all followers are “Followers” of your vision, ideas, and ideologies! There are the curious onlookers, strong critics, mild opponents, and, media people (for nuggets of information they can use in their works), etc. And, then there are some whom the MSM loves to call ‘trolls’. Those who question anything that is wrong, or is in conflict with their ideas / ideologies. Some do it in decent ways, trying to point out wrongs, use satire, sarcasm, or humor (again, each reader may perceive it differently, due to many factors). Some, unfortunately, use indecent methods! They use abusive, and very obscene, words to target the person, than the thought in a tweet / comment. It simply shows their intellectual inability to counter an idea effectively. The intent of the rage, may be genuine, but expressed in unjustifiable and, wrong ways. Can anyone stop it? Technically YES – there are processes available for reporting, blocking, etc. But, it’s easy for anyone to take a new avatar, by creating another identity. This is the boon, and bane, of Social Media.

We have also seen some journalists using the tag #TrollBait these days to tease, and invite trolls to abuse! Some proclaim themselves to be Troll slayers! So, they get some kind of (sadistic?) pleasure in defeating an opponent! As long as it is done in words, using satire, it is fine. Hope no one really attempts to slay in real physical way!

Those of us who know the working of SM agonize when we see in the innumerable debates on the TV networks, or in the writings of some of the experts, unsupported claims on the dangers of ‘unregulated’ Social Media (SM) & the Internet. To those who don’t know how internet & SM works, these scares would seem very real. Going by some of the (stupid?!) arguments put out one should expect a civil war to break out just because somebody tweeted, and a few more re-tweeted it. Many of these ‘experts’ who use twitter do spout their views on such fears online too. Here the ‘followers’ do respond. But, they may not get a reply if the person chooses to ignore. Quite a few of these ‘fear mongering’ expert media personalities holding high positions,  also abuse, block anyone who questions them (persistently), even when they use civil language. Many of the MSM do not use the option of ‘Ignore’ – human nature does not allow a person to take a hit on the chin, that easily!

Many months ago, Mr. Kapil Sibal tried to order pre-screening of the content that goes on Twitter, Facebook, etc. He was ill-prepared, and ill-advised, to speak on this matter. And, that resulted in him being the butt of jokes, and tweets, with a lot of embarrassment for GoI. A case had been filed, by a ‘concerned’ citizen, in a Delhi Court, but the real intent of both measures, as knowledgeable people deciphered soon, was to curb views critical of Congress leaders. Reports released by Google and others show how many requests are made by different Governments to block, or remove, content that’s online. GoI has bested many (incl. some non-democratic ones) nations here! I agree, whatever outright filthy, obscene, must not be allowed to stay on. These platforms have mechanisms to report for action to take them down. GoI, and some pundits, thought they should be pre-screened, or taken down automatically. The Government’s lack of understanding of the SM to block some patently wrong content, did not work (fully) as per its plans. Simply because the party sycophants wanted to use the Government power to push its plan and paint its leaders in shining colors!

Any vigilant administration should have learnt from this fiasco. But the UPA Government has repeated the same blunder in the context of Assam Riots. Some of the Pakistani bloggers had exposed the misuse of images from Thailand, Tibet, China, Delhi, etc by vested interests in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to incite local Muslim masses. Neither the govt intel (cyber monitoring) agencies, nor anyone in the MSM in India, took note of the blogs. The government was caught napping. It’s simply because there are so many blogs, and it had probably not deployed the right tools to crawl the web. This Faraz Ahmed, who exposed the evil designs, was an unknown entity to many in outside world, until some days. (Its indeed ironic, his blog post figures in the block list.)

The #MSM diverted the debate, may be due to instructions by some party bosses, from real issues that caused the riots, failure of administration to stop it, and stop the rumor mongers from spreading hate. As it turned out, in cities like Pune, Hyderabad, and Bangalore, some people of the NE areas were subjected to physical violence, intimidation, threats, direct, indirect, subtle, and not-so-subtle. Lot of the rumors were spread via SMS messages, handbills, and direct one-to-one interaction by the trouble makers. It was not by tweets, or thru Facebook. The hate mongers may have used information from various sources, including Facebook, and morphed the images, or added text to change explanation of the original images. One of the persons, arrested in Bangalore, has reportedly sent 20000 SMS messages, by using multiple phones, changing SIM cards! (It’s really not a simple task. It cost money, and time. Who paid for it? I hope investigators unravel full details. This incident shows how committed was he to ensure trouble spreads.) So far, all the arrested in various cities, for indulging in violence, rumors, are from the same Muslim community, whom our rulers tries to paint as victims. 

The media which conveniently professes criminals or rioters have no religion, doesn’t waste a second to pounce on alleged ‘Saffron terror’. In the recent Pune blasts case, a reporter from a mainstream news channel (CNNIBN) accused a Hindu group, without any evidence (later on it has come to light that its work of IM- Indian Mujahideen - I know accusing any Muslim organization without evidence is also wrong. If it’s a jihadi group, no right thinking Muslim should feel offended. It’s a mystery why the MSM thinks when a Jihadi organization is to be named it paints ALL Muslims as bad! But, when facts emerge, some sections of MSM do try to hide the facts.

The problem, in my view, also lies with educated, liberal, Muslims, who do not stop these MSM, and the vested interests among their leadership, from tagging all with such extremist views. One wonders why the MSM does NOT give space to truly sane Muslim voices. Why do the (pro-)extremist view peddlers get space? And, worse still, they are branded secular! So, what we end up seeing is tit-for-tat counters than objective debating. We see the same Teestas, Javed Anands, Owaisi (saabs), etc., in panel discussions. Will MSM take note to bring more sane voices to the studio, please? Or, it hurts “the anything for TRP” model?

Such biased reporting shows that a many in the TV & print news media have lost the sense of ethical reporting. What we see is deliberate ways to promote some interests, and divert attention from ‘inconvenient’ truths. They mix their ideological, political bent to color the news. This is where the real danger and tragedy lies. They have been able to do this without major opposition from their studios, editorial offices. When persistently questioned, on social mediums like Twitter, some of them have sheepishly, reluctantly, admitted to what sells, why they do so. This is where the small percentage of users on Social Media have made it difficult for key people in media, and parties, who compromised their duty to propagate a partisan view & interests. Such activism has perturbed the MSM & rulers (mainly the ruling Congress party), to execute this ham-handed action to muzzle the Social Media.

So, in this context, the orders for banning some of the content on the web, and Facebook / Twitter accounts raises many concerns.

If one observes the 16+ twitter accounts the Government wants blocked, apart from some fake, some parody accounts of PMO, we see that they are NOT rumor mongers. The government is yet to explain why accounts of Mr. Kanchan Gupta, and Mr. Shiv Aroor are ordered to be blocked. So far, I have not seen Headlines Today taking a strong position on the totally uncalled for action of GoI on Shiv Aroor. I hope they will make a statement, or a report to question the GoI action.

There are some fundamental questions on how the GoI arrived at its decision on blocking the Twitter accounts and some URLs. I believe, GoI, and the MSM, have a lot to answer for.

  1. On what basis did the GoI identify these 16+ accounts? Knowing many of these accounts by regular interaction, I can say the Government has shot in the wrong direction, to actually muzzle anti-Congress views in many cases.
  2. Why the GoI did not find it prudent to give any notice to the individuals to seek clarifications?
  3. Will the GoI explain what objectionable content or activity did they observe in each case?
  4. How did the tweets of these people impact the situation in Assam, or cause NE people to flee from southern & central Indian states?
  5. Is it not a fact that there are many jihadi activists, or Muslim organizations, and some  Urdu media, with access to Twitter / Facebook? How many of them have been banned or blocked?
  6. On what basis did the Government order blocking of whistle blower sites, news articles which reported the news?
  7. Its a fact, per cursory examination of some of the blocked content, the hate mongers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or even local folks, have used visual clips, reports of MSM, and just added their twist in some opening and closing parts of it without morphing, altering the commentary? I did notice an NDTV clip used in one such URL (by a Muslim organization from across the border). A Tehelka post on Facebook was also among the many such instances. Now, how many of these were the creations of any ‘Internet Hindu’, or Hindu organizations? Has the GoI got any evidence to prove it?
  8. Times of India said 20% of the blocked sites belong to Hindus. A cheeky way of hiding that 80% were creation of Muslim organizations?! Why didn’t Times of India write the other way? Will they explain, apologize for this hate mongering against Hindus? Do they think their readers are idiots to not ask who are the 80% whom ToI does not mention? Or, is it a smart way to subvert GoI censoring them? 
  9. On what basis did the Government block search of the word “Assam” itself in some of these sites? While a search eases one’s work, it does not stop one from finding what they want to. It takes time, but not impossible.
  10. The parody, or, in some cases, fake, accounts is another tale. The Government must know it has better work to do than bother about such accounts. The official PMO account has already been verified by Twitter, as can be seen by the Blue Tick Mark. If GoI, thru its PR body, sends official communication to media houses, other states Government. organizations, and foreign embassies, they know whom to follow for official information from PMO. In a democracy, where free speech is allowed, one can never block, stop people from speaking, making fun of, on issues. Why is the GoI wasting so much time, and, money, on such frivolous exercise of going after some parody accounts, making itself the butt of jokes?

Now to concluding thoughts, some solutions to use, interact, and tackle the beast that is Social Media!

  1. GoI, governance is a real world activity. So, please focus on effective, efficient, real world administration. You can’t govern Social Media! It’s going to be self-governed! It will be better for GoI, State Administrations, and MSM to stop wasting time & money on what some people say on Social Media. Any (further) attempts to muzzle SM voices  only exposes the intent that the rulers have things to hide, and people on SM are not allowing them a free ride! If there is truly zero loss in many scams, and many people are being let of by courts, why bother with Social Media chatter? If not, then you are telling us why you are going after the people who question you! BTW, the 16+ is a small sample of the many thousands, if not lakhs, who do not subscribe to the same views of MSM and GoI. Do you think you can stop all of them?
  2. Government can ask some of its key dept.s to identify responsible people who can share Government view, or policy, via social media. Mind you it’s a cost and huge effort. The best way is to keep your information available, accessible, deploy tools that publish the link to such information. A small team per state Government, and central Government  can be set up by GoI as SM interaction executives, who take inputs, respond in a efficient, sensitive, and sensible, non-red-tape manner, and then take up with the Government dept concerned to make use of the input / queries.
  3. There is no need to press panic button on what is being shared by people on Social Media. In fact, if at all one is intelligent enough, its better to watch the chatter that goes on in this media, without making noise. USA and some other countries to monitor the chatter to sift intelligence. The cyber expert who promoted a China or Iran like approach to SM, on some TV shows is so out of touch with reality. But, then he is a lawyer, not an intel specialist. Laws that are not enforced uniformly, or non-enforceable laws, are useless. We will continue to see such ‘violations’, and more wasted debates.
  4. Its evident many in #MSM and pundits, lawyers, politicians do not know the nuances of Social Media. Yes, its game changer! They do not know how to play it. So, they are rattled by the few who question them! You get rattled only when you are doing something wrong! So, its time to re-visit your personal goals, ambitions, and your media organizations role and objectives. If you are using your position to promote some specific interests, do not be on Social Media. You will be questioned vigorously, and, exposed! If you really want to be in politics, kindly jump in! But, do not use your position in Media to further those interests!!
  5. The best way for MSM folks is to be totally neutral in your job, and do not use your twitter handle for any ‘personal’ / controversial views. If you truly want it to be personal, keep the account private. Do not use it to promote any official work. Interact with only those whom you know personally. The moment you keep your account open, mix personal with official views, you invite responses.
  6. There will always be rumors, hate speech on any medium. It did not begin with Social Media. It’s only that the rumors spread with fast with new technology. Do you want to go back to only print media, handwritten bills, or cyclo-styled printing days?
  7. If the Main Stream Media stops spreading rumors, mixing facts with fiction, reporting un-verified news, and add own views, its going to reduce lot of rumors on Social Media. The death of two police officials injured in the recent Mumbai Azad Maidan ‘peaceful’ protest was done first by Aajtak, tweeted by some H/today journalist. Where was the need to tweet unverified news? Has any channel so far visited their family to give a true picture so far? They do many flimsy interviews in many small incidents. Here was the news of two officials (one said he was ACP, another says he is an Inspector. The other lady constable one says pregnant, somebody else says no such lady constable by that name was deployed for duty or injured!) Where are the facts? I still do not know if the news by #Aajtak is to be taken as rumor. It happened a day before Eid. So, a nervous Government may have wanted to quell any potential for ugly repercussions.
  8. Once a tweet is sent out, there is very little chance of one stopping it from spreading. Once somebody retweets, it spreads even if the original is deleted. A re-tweet takes the form of a new tweet in technological sense. So, any amount of ranting by the concerned people on Twitter, or on TV shows, is going to be ineffective. So, dear MSM folks, TWEET RESPONSIBLY.
  9. Sagarika Ghose, Rajdeep Sardesai, and some from  other media houses, are known to tweet in irresponsible ways at times. Many of us have the snap shots of their tweets. Some of the vigilant MSM watchers were among the 16 blocked tweeple. This fact itself gives enough hints that the GoI block order was influenced not to target rumor mongers, but to try and curb those who question the biased ways of MSM and the corrupt practices of some in the ruling lot. Any effort to silence the people would mean an invitation to many more to wake up, and take up, the issues!
  10. Twitter is NOT your TV studio! Do not treat it as one way tool. If you are uncomfortable with it, do not use it. If you use it, be responsive, and responsible. No one, in general, has a personal grudge to go after you. The 4th pillar is expected to be unbiased, vigilant, & fearless. People who read them need a place to voice their views. As the vested interests in media houses have tried to muzzle the alternate view, Social Media has given people the option to question them. If you realize this and change your approach to work, you would do yourself, and the nation, a great service. Social Media is here to stay! It can neither be wished away, nor trampled upon!
Truth is like small grass, it does not need much support to grow. It grows slowly, but, far and wide. But, the corrupt go up the ladder fast, using various crutches. One fine day, the dried grass shall burn everything with unimaginable rage, and, consequences. So, the Media has a great responsibility to not become the crutch of the corrupt. I hope our MSM anchors (and, the rulers) who were enthralled to live report the Arab Spring, do well to remember what it did to the regimes there!