Crash and Burn

The 22nd of February was a day like every other. It was a lazy Saturday when everyone wanted to do nothing but sit at home, catch a couple of movies and sleep. Everything was normal until the night. For in the night, 22/02/2014 turned into every youngster’s worst nightmare. The unthinkable happened.
Whatsapp servers went down.
Reports of facebook acquiring whatsapp for a massive 19bn dollars had met with mixed emotions. While some felt satisfaction in having contributed to its success, others felt facebook had overpaid for a simple messaging service. But it isn’t just a messaging service, is it? It is a lifeline for millions. A lifeline for the thousands of young love birds for whom talking over the phone for long hours wasn’t as convenient as sending a voice note on whatsapp. A lifeline for the thousands of guys who choose to profess their love on whatsapp because they can’t muster the courage to walk up to their love and open their hearts . A lifeline for the millions of youngsters whose monthly allowance has to be spent judiciously and spending it on calls and texts just isn’t an option. For the millions of students who share pictures of notes, question banks, answers to questions banks and lab manuals, whatsapp isn’t just a messaging service. Whatsapp is life.
On meeting a long lost acquaintance after several years, the first question one asks isn’t “Where have you been for so long?”.It is now, “You were last seen on whatsapp on 20/1/2012! Is everything alright?”. 
To discuss matters of importance, there used to be a time when people said “Ok. I’ll call you in a while, let us meet over coffee”. Not anymore. “I’ll whatsapp you! Let’s make a group and discuss it there” is the new way of doing things.
If you were lost on your way to a friend’s house for the first time, remember how you called that friend and panicked and said “I’m lost! Which jungle do you live in! There are so many roads here!”. Yeah , that is SO 2005. The new trend is to calmly send your location to that friend on whatsapp and he’ll give you directions based on that.
In schools, teachers used to have to deal with problems of bullying and kids hurting each other. Today they must deal with problems such as ,“ He is ignoring me on whatsapp” and exchanging the “I’ll punch you” emoticon.
Radio stations have moved on from “Call us at 01201217672” to “leave us a message on whatsapp”.
Whatsapp has changed the world. It was no surprise then, that when Mark Zuckerburg announced that facebook had bought whatsapp, it created an online storm.
Then late in the night of the 22ndof February 2014, merely days after that acquisition, the unimaginable happened. Whatsapp servers crashed. Youngsters around the world were being hypnotised, staring at the little circle that went round and round  saying “Connecting”. Surely, this was some evil master plan that Mark Zuckerburg and Facebook had come up with. The popularity of whatsapp was hurting facebook and they decided to take it down. For 19 billion US Dollars. 
The time was 12:30AM on 23/02/2014: Whatsapp had now been down for at least half an hour. People started calling each other as if someone was in the hospital. “Will it be OK?” was the single biggest thought in every one’s minds.
1:00AM : The worry was now turning into agitation. “I hate Zuckerburg. Jealous idiot.”.
1:15AM: Facebook witnessed a massive rise in usage. Everyone had decided to come on facebook and check if all was fine there. On finding that it was, the agitation grew. Facebook saw thousands of status updates that were “anti-FB” and “anti-zuckerburg”. ( It was actually mainly anti-Suckerburg and predominantly another variation of that name with a different starting letter, too explicit to put on this blog.)
2AM: Anger was now turning into frustration. Even those who usually weren’t awake at this hour were awake today. Sleep, was hard to come by with whatsapp not working.
2:30AM : Many people have decided to deactivate their FB accounts in protest. Mark will pay for this treachery. Nobody will be on FB when he checks in the morning. “UNITE fellow-whatsappers!”
3AM : Apparently, Mark is too stubborn to convince. Whatsapp is still down and everyone is tired of this 3 hour online Dharna. Time for sleep.
7AM: Drowsily, people check their phones, a practice that they’ve got accustomed to. On opening whatsapp, the circle thing that went round and round was still going round and round saying “connecting”. “This is going to be long day”, everyone thought to themselves and closed the app, when suddenly, there was a sound. Like the sweet sound of freedom. Of revival and redemption. The notification tone! People jumped out of bed, rubbed their eyes to be sure they’re awake and opened the app once more. Messages began flowing in. Whatsapp was working once again.
People began messaging each other in a frenzy that was last seen in India when the cricket team won the world cup in 2011. “It’s working again! Woohoo! Thank god!”.
Thank god indeed. Just imagine if Facebook had pulled the plug on whatsapp. What a travesty that would’ve been! Imagine having to actually talk to other people! With your mouth! Unthinkable. Thank god it didn’t come to that!
Sensing the mood in the country, both the national parties have started ad campaigns claiming moral responsibility for  bringing whatsapp back to life and have also put the moral responsibility for the blackout  on the opponents shoulders. NaMo has taken credit for the service not blacking out in Gujrat while RaGa has said that this is another step to empowering the youth. Prime Minister Singh said, ” “.
Meanwhile somewhere in Delhi, Kejriwal is sitting on Dharna against Zuckerburg, asking where he got the money to pay for this 19bn dollar purchase. On being told that he paid only 4billion in cash, that too paid over paypal, where the records are available, Kejriwal has started another Dharna next to the first one asking for the lokpal.. I mean Paypal bill.
More updates as soon as we get them.

49 days ago

Intentions mean almost everything in politics. Different people have different reasons to join politics. While there is no doubt that a number of politicians enter politics to make money and enjoy (and in the process, abuse) power, that isn’t a fair judgement of many others. That said, the rotten eggs have created and continue to create enough problems for everyone else. The victim of their craziness is the every Indian. Their incompetence has destroyed system. They have made the basic rights of every Indian inaccessible to us. In short, they have made our lives harder to make theirs easier. That is the India we live in today. That is the reality.

There has been more than enough criticism, on this blog and elsewhere, of Arvind Kejriwal’s attempt to make these problems go away. The foremost of these criticisms came not just from bloggers and Arnab goswami but also from those who were closely associated with him. It was always “My way or the highway” with Arvind Kejriwal. Unfortunately, in a democracy, that just doesn’t work. During the lokpal movement, it was always the “Jan lokpal bill” v/s “The-multiple-versions-of-the-sarkari-lokpal-bill”. If the latter didn’t match the former, article for article, it wasn’t good enough. Now many people might say that it yeilded some result and therefore that strategy actually worked well for him and the movement. The sad truth( thankfully, in this case) is that it did not. His multiple deadlines  notwithstanding, the lokpal bill was only introduced in parliament after it was scrutinised, modified, approved and went through every process that democracy prescribes. It took 2 years.His deadlines weren’t met. His changes weren’t accepted. His movement ultimately fizzled out into a monumental nothingness. But the nation got a lokpal that everyone other than Arvind kejriwal agreed upon. The unfortunate debate that follows that statement is that the BJP and the Congress have tied up to give the country a weak lokpal. Mind you, nobody other than Prashanth Bhushan really knows how the strength of this lokpal is measured. Apparently any lokpal that isn’t signed by Arvind and team is weak and useless.

And then the Aam Aadmi Party happened. The people of Delhi, in their wisdom, gave the AAP an incredible welcome to politics. Supported by the congress only mathematically, Arvind kejriwal went from leader of street protests, to CM of the national capital. And then for 49 days, did..well did something. No one is quite sure what it was.

It started with honouring the poll promises. He told everyone that he was going to give free water, electricity and everything. His rationale was that he was using the money for the good of the people and not on helicopters like other CMs do. And there was the problem number one.He forgot to mention to everyone that the subsidy he was providing was going to be shared by everyone but the benefits went only to the ones that had metered connections. And forgot to mention that it was only going to exist for about six months.
And then he waived off the electricity bills for those people who had participated in his “non violent civil disobedience movement”. Problem number two. Who was Arvind representing? The people of delhi or just the ones that voted for him? So the injustice of high electricity bills only affected families that supported AAP? Why not waive off the bills of every household in delhi for the same period? If that isn’t blatant votebank politics, I’m not sure what is.
Then there was Somnath Bharthi. Everybody who is accused by Arvind Kejriwal of wrong doing must resign and live in cave until a probing agency that has been probed by a probing agency and found to be competent to probe, probes the person and finds him innocent. But for somnath Bharthi, an “internal party enquiry” is sufficient to clear him of all evils and be defended to the end of the world by everyone including the saintly Yogendra Yadav, to whom we shall come to next. Double standards much? We think so.
The Khap Panchayat issue. In short, Yogendra Yadav, with an eye on the Haryana elections, sent feelers to the Khaps of Harayana by calling them entities that are needed to preserve the cultural fabric of the society or some such thing. A reply to that, in short, NO. (If you don’t know what Khap panchayats are, they’re the ones that kill couples for marrying from the same clan or village or species or some such thing ( basically if you don’t marry someone “society accepts”). Just google their atrocities and mail us if your stomach didn’t churn at the thought of encouraging them.
There was  the issue also about almost cancelling Republic day celebrations because the CM of Delhi was on Dharna against the Home ministry of India demanding that the Delhi police be brought under the control of the Delhi government. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it these guys that wanted the CBI to be taken out of the control of the union government? How is this not the most straightforward case of double speak you have ever seen?
The list isn’t that short. Just take the newspapers of the last 49 days and you’ll find it hard to find 3 in a row that don’t have something related to the AAP.

But that’s hardly the point. Arvind Kejriwal has now resigned. Why? The delhi assembly refused to allow the introduction of the Jan lokpall bill. Who is the Delhi assembly? The group of people representing the people of Delhi that did and did not vote for the AAP. And the majority of those people, represent the people of delhi that did not vote for the AAP. Apparently, their views don’t matter.
The fact is, that the rules do not allow the Delhi assembly to introduce the Jan lokpal bill without consent from the home ministry. It is a fact. There is no debate there. It is a legal fact. Not even one of those  one-sided ones that Arnab sometimes uses. Crystal clear.
The problem is, Arvind kejriwal isn’t saying that. What he is saying is that, “Look. I’m trying to do everything I can to get this bill passed that will put every corrupt person in jail and clean our country of all evils but the Congress and the BJP are doing everything to stop me in my tracks. I am helpless”.
From day one, he has been the unwilling CM of Delhi. He tried everything to get the congress or the bjp to force him out, but couldn’t get them to. What better opportunity than this?
You will notice that the loksabha campaign of the Aam aadmi party will be full of stories of how the congress and the BJP never allowed the passage of an anti corruption bill and how they are all corrupt and so on.

Coming back to the “My way or the highway” strategy not working now. Let us see how that applies here too. Did he get the Delhi police under the delhi government? No. He did almost put us to shame in front of the world by putting the republic day celebrations at the capital in near jeopardy.
Did he get the Lokpall bill passed? No. But he’ll blame it on everyone else. AK, that’s what they all do.
Did he clean up the system? No. He transferred some officials and shook up the system but didn’t give himself enough time to clean it up.
Notice the use of the phrase “give himself enough time”. Arvind, did anyone force you out? The congress didn’t withdraw support. The BJP didn’t ask you to quit. Prasanth Bhushan was on a news channel saying ” The last nail in the coffin of this government was the FIR against Mukesh Ambani”. You quit. Resigned. Mukesh Ambani didn’t force you to quit. If you wanted to change the system so badly, why quit? Stay on and do it. But that was never the plan was it?

Now the Lok Sabha elections are almost here. Without Arvind as its face, the Aam Aadmi Party’s campaign will never succeed. But, with an Arvind who is seen to have been cheated by the congress and the BJP, success is guaranteed. Is that the plan?

It probably isn’t. But when the Lokpal movement gathered steam, you ditched it for a larger platform, the delhi elections. When you won that, you have now begun looking for bigger fish, the General Elections. Food for thought.
Meanwhile poor Delhi will be rewarded with president’s rule. The water bills will go up again and so will electricity bills. The jan lokpal bill will gather dust in some shelf in the secretariat.
And the people of delhi will go back to living in the Delhi of 49 days ago.

The change we seek

28th December 2013 will go down in India’s history as the day when a common man rose to become chief minister of its capital.
Arvind kejriwal’s isn’t a story of someone who shot into the limelight out of nowhere. He’s one of those people who has dedicated his life to the cause of the nation. A man who, like many of us, was fed up with the menace of corruption and took it upon himself to rid India of it. Long before the much publicised Lokpal agitation, he was involved in pushing for another anti corruption tool. The right to information. He’s a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay award for emergent leadership for his contribution to the enactment of that law.

Along with Anna Hazare, he led one of India’s largest post-independence movements to get the Lokpal bill enacted. Two years hence, that bill is a theoretical reality. But like all laws, its success lies in its enforcement.
But that movement was the beginning of a meteoric rise to power. Armed with nothing but good intentions, Arvind broke away from Anna’s principle of staying outside the political system and took the plunge into the dirty world of Indian politics. It’s been anything but easy for the man, but he’s handled it all with grace. The people of Delhi loved his ideas. Who wouldn’t. Electricity at half price, 700 litres of free water, legalising illegal colonies and a corruption free reign. His Aam Aadmi Party won 28 seats of the 70. A close second to the BJP with 31.

On being offered outside support by the congress party, Arvind in one of the most refreshing thoughts of recent times, went back to the voters  to seek their opinion on whether he should accept that support and form the government. An overwhe

lming majority gave him the go ahead. Everybody wanted to live in the city of their dreams and he had promised them that.

Is there anything wrong in what Arvind kejriwal is doing? Can you find fault in any of his promises?
Is it wrong to promise free water and cheap electricity?
Is it wrong to promise safety for women and a house for the homeless?
No. Nothing wrong at all. But that’s the reason populism is hard to beat. The majority opinion isn’t always the right opinion.

A lot of people might find it ridiculous but the “The great Indian Middle class” is an unnecessarily pampered majority. True, we’re burdened by price rise, harassed by corruption and bogged down by poverty. Why would anyone call that pampering?
Here’s why.
A precious minority really does anything for the poor. Everyone talks about the poor, no one actually helps them. Beggars are ignored, homeless girls are forced into prostitution. If society doesn’t care for the poor, who will?
Everyone is corrupt. You break the rule, you should face the consequences and not bribe your way past the law. It could be something as small as riding without a helmet or a much more serious crime. But that doesn’t actually mean anything in India, does it? Where you flash the cash and get away with anything. “I’m fed up with bribing government employees for every small thing. I can’t afford to spend so much on bribes”. THEN DON’T! We have 120 crore people in this country. Let’s say we have 20 crore government employes (an extremely exaggerated number. A 2001 census put the number at roughly 2 crore.) Say all 20 crore of those are corrupt. What in the world are the other 100 crore people doing?! Wake up India! Stop giving bribes! If the giving stops, the taking will too!

Nothing comes free in life. Someone needs to pay for the electricity you use. Either you or the government. The government gets its money from you. In the end, you’ll either pay more taxes or more electricity bills. But you’ll pay. Or it has to borrow money. And it puts the finances of the state through a shredder if those debts are too high.

We’ve all been taught our fundamental rights over and over again. When was the last time somebody reminded you of your fundamental duties? When have these been followed? Don’t spit on public property, don’t disfigure monuments and so on.
But the beauty of our constitution is, it enforces your fundament rights and makes sure you have them but doesn’t force you to perform your duties. That’s why we’re pampered. Nobody ever has the guts to tell the people of this nation what they are doing wrong.

Where does Arvind kejriwal feature in all of this?
He’s won an election on the back of extreme public anger against the political class by promising things that people want to hear. By promising to pamper people more. Not once in his campaign has he, or anyone else, reminded people of their role in this process of change. Until the people of this country change, excuse the cynicism, nothing will change.

This isn’t to say that he won’t fulfil his promises. He obviously has a plan that gets all that to work.
But this nation has pinned all its hope on this new brand of politics. Everyone is waiting for the Aam Aadmi party to change the nation. Everyone is watching. Praying.
But suppose he falls short, this nation must not lose hope. Its all we have.
What will change this country is its society. Is the people. Is us.
Jai Hind.