Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Incredible and not-so-incredible India

Two reports:
1) A story of make-believe "never-say-die" attitude that is Incredible India

At the time of taking the decision to start GaneshaSpeaks, he was working as a senior executive with a large telecom company. Understandably, his parents were worried and did not approve of his decision to give up his well-paying job for an uncertain future. Friends also voiced their concern. But Pandeet strongly believed in the idea and the entrepreneurial bug had already bitten him. So he managed to convince everyone and started looking for the initial capital required to start the venture.

"It took a lot of convincing for me to have an angel investor commit Rs 10 lakh (Rs 1 million) to the project. Since we were always short of money, the initial two years were pretty much hand-to-mouth. It was only in the third year that we started making significant profits," he says. However, Pandeet had been pragmatic in his planning and had put some money aside. "I did have a reserve amount to sustain my lifestyle for one year. I had decided that if I am not able to run the business during that period I would get back to doing a job. However, six months down the line, I was convinced that the concept will work and then there was no looking back."

2) Not-so-incredible - NDTV begins an article on an accusatory note: Linky

The efforts of an American Vietnam war veteran-turned-Gandhian Jeff Knaebel seeking political asylum in India suffered a blow after the central government told the Supreme Court that it could not accede to his request. Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati Monday told an apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Anil R. Dave that Knaebel, 72, was not entitled to political asylum in India. However, Knaebel was left with a ray of hope when Vahanvati told the court that he could make a "proper application for citizenship" of India and this would be decided by the government in accordance with the law.

The court granted Knaebel two weeks time to apply for the citizenship. The court said that if such an application was made, it should be decided by the central government as expeditiously as possible. The court said that till the application for citizenship was decided and communicated to Knaebel, he would stay in Himachal Pradesh where he is currently staying, and adhere to the Indian laws.

Here is his case history as can be discerned from this article:

The US war veteran tore his American passport and birth certificate at Rajghat June 19, 2009 and thereafter became stateless. Living in Shimla since 1995, Knaebel fears American reprisal after his action of tearing the passport and speaking out his mind on American policies. In his plea for political asylum, Knaebel told the court May 15, 2010 that the US policies were based on military machines and destruction "which would one day consume this beautiful planet". He described himself as a believer and practitioner of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence. Knaebel, who gifted all his assets in the US before coming to India, made a representation to the Prime Minister's Office seeking asylum. He later moved the Supreme Court for directions to the Indian government to grant him asylum.

Comment: Indians (at large) commit the mistake of blaming the bureaucracy and the babu-dom for being too stiff-upper-lipped and acting as per the written word. Sometimes, the blame falls on CISF people like as happened in the "Harbhajan Singh not allowed to enter the Madras airport because he did not have the xerox copy of the flight ticket" episode. Sometimes the blame falls on the Passport authorities when Saina Nehwal forgets to renew her passport on time knowing well in advance that her passport would expire. Sometimes the blame falls on the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs because the Indian Olympic Association (and Suresh Kalmadi & co.) refused to apply for permission from the concerned ministries, even though it is expected from the IOA that in case they cannot come up with money guarantees to host the event, the various ministries of GoI should step in.

In a country such as India, with a billion+ population, there are rules and those who enforce the rules get the brickbats whether they enforce it or not, depending on the circumstances and on who gets to pass the commentary. Rules need to be bent for certain select elites because they are elites, and if rules do not get bent, accusations of lacking a heart and being inhuman pop in and out. Now lets analyze this case from a non-NDTV perspective: Linky

He wrote to the National Human Rights Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office to draw their attention to his alleged harassment in the hands of police while he travelled to Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. He then sought the Supreme Court’s intervention to seek political asylum in the country. The court then asked the government to sympathetically consider his plea.

However, attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the government yesterday, said Knaebel was not entitled to political asylum. Asylum cannot be granted in a case where a person has voluntarily given up citizenship of another country, Vahanvati said. He instead suggested that Knaebel should apply for Indian citizenship if he wanted to stay on in the country.

A two-judge bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Anil R. Dave then granted him two weeks to apply for citizenship. The court also directed the government to dispose of his application as early as possible. Till then, Knaebel was asked to stay put in Himachal Pradesh and obey the laws of the country. Knabel had pleaded for asylum on the ground that constant harassment by the police was interfering with his work.

For a careful observer, there are considerable differences between the tone of Telegraph and the tone of NDTV. NDTV puts within quotes Att. Gen Shri. Vahanvati's statement of "proper application for citizenship" while the Telegraph reports it. The imputed meaning of the quotes, one would assume, is that there is a mechanical behavior on the part of GoI from the NDTV, which unfortunately is unbearable in this glorious humane Twenty first century. And a glorification of a Vietnam war veteran-turned-Gandhian who had to move to the land of Gandhi to propagate Gandhi's principles instead of propagating the same in a more necessary place such as the US by dissing (by inference) the intentions of the bureaucracy is not only irresponsible on the part of the media that is NDTV, but also seeking a callous disregard of rules and regulations (all of which have been perfectly codified and properly enunciated) for an elite subset.

To put my cynical hat on, it took Shri Knaebel till he was 57 to actually make a visit to India to learn about Gandhi. And it took him fourteen more years to give up his American citizenship. The war on terror had begun in 2001, for those who forgot. The war in Afghanistan started in the 80s, etc. To be not so humble, I love google. So I did a customary search on Shri Knaebel, obviously pushed by my cynicism. What I discovered (in the first link nonetheless) is a story of cover-up, lies, betrayal and falsity: Linky

Friends, what the Chitralekha magazine forgot to tell its readers is that Jeff Knaebel married me legally – Dr. Delia Maria in Pune in December 2003 with a commitment to join my Gandhian work here in Pune. He even wrote me a pre nuptial agreement with clauses most of which he has broken today. Six years later he has changed his mind, and deserted me and my son in the middle of the night of 28th February 2009.

The Chitralekha magazine, has kept its readers in the dark about Jeff Knaebel’s personal life – how he deceived an Indian woman with false promises and over 100 letters in order to get a foothold in India. It also does not tell of how he has abandoned two US wives and two children, had long drawn out financial squabbles running for years with business partners and is now hiding from his Pune family and friends. It does not tell of how he paid a media agency Planman Rs. one lakh to get his book “My Experiments in moral sovereignty”, press coverage in Delhi.
Early this year, like a thief in the night, he disappeared to Ranchi Jharkhand where he gave huge sums of money from family accounts to strange people there with whom he has now quarelled. He is touring north India pretending to hold Gandhian values when at the same time he refuses to make peace with family and friends in Pune.

I am not disappointed with the lies and betrayal on the part of Shri Knaebel, that is his personal matter. I am disappointed with the callousness on the part of NDTV to impute a lack of humaneness on the part of the Indian bureaucracy while it chooses to bat for liars, cheats, demagogues and unethical retards. Not like people reading this blog did not know about this, but I had to fume. And I never mentioned the word Christmas Islands anywhere till now.



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