Being a democracy, every Indian has the right to protest against unfair practices and injustices. However calling for a hartal at the drop of hat is not something that goes well with any literate society like that of Kerala. It is paradoxical that tomorrow’s call for hartal by the CPM is to protest against the arrest of one of its leaders for conspiring in the murder of an activist of another party! Gone are the days when hartals used to be a powerful tool to protest against the atrocities in the society ; now it has become more of a tool for arm twisting and intimidating the people. Apart from the loss of manhours and business revenue, hartals will throw normal life off gear. Tourists will be stranded in what they thought was a God’s own country, leaving the message that it can be a devil’s world too at times! Patients suffer for want of medical aid, exams and job interviews will be postponed and marriage arrangements will go hay wire for many a couple.
Afterall , downing the shutters for a day and being forced to remain indoors will not bring any magical cure for the ills that plague our society. It seems that the time has come to hold a ‘hartal against hartals’, to protest against the innumerable shut downs that we have to endure. Kerala has been punished by a spate of regional issue-based hartals in recent times in addition to the countless nation-wide strikes called by various political outfits. It is high time that the political parties come out with a practical solution to register a protest without harassing the hapless common man. How about working overtime to highlight the grievances as in the case of Japan? )
Mountains of dusty and dog eared files and papers in government offices are all set to become things of the past thanks to the ambitious digitilalization project in the state Yes, Kerala is all set to become the first fully digital State in the country, which will add further impetus in delivering efficient and transparent services apart from making the Kerala offices paperless and super organized.
In the ambitious e-governance project that will be taken up in an year, every citizen would be given an email id based on the UID Adhar and all government transactions and applications would be through e-mail. In addition, all panchayats will have 4G connectivity with optical fibre broadband. In the first phase, Palakkad, Kannur, Kottayam and Malappuram districts will be included in this innovative e- district project, which will be followed by the rest of the 10 districts in the state.
The project, which will be completed by March 31st next year will provide all the certificates online.In addition, the infamous red taped files in the Secretariat would also move towards digital mode by March 31. The IDEAS file tracking system will enable the ordinary people to access information and to track files without having to depend on Right to Information Act. All the contracts above Rs.25 lakh in government departments and public sector undertakings would come under the e-tendering system. It is envisaged that by March 2014, the estimates, administrative sanction, technical sanction, tenders, bills and payments in the Public Works Department,would be on electronic mode.
The digitalisation process will also simplify various procedures like corrections in the SSLC book, visa, applications for higher studies and other relevant documents. This futuristic digitilization process will bring respite to the citizens in accessing the information they need without making countless visits to the various departments and greasing the palm of the officials to get the files approved!
We have been expecting this for the past few days; the media have been abuzz with news of the likelihood of a hike in price of petrol by about Rs. 5. It’s as if they were preparing us for a shock; which has come out today evening, in the form of the news that petrol price would go up by about Rs. 7. Continue reading
Sholto’s post made me think… Are we in Kerala really supporting Anna Hazare and his movement? Well, I am confused…
Is it really the popular kind of support that is generated elsewhere in India that we see happening in Kerala too?
Cynic that I am I feel it’s not so. Here it all seems to be party-centric, planned and implemented by various political outfits, politically motivated students organisations, trade unions etc. Average Malayalees, who have trained themselves to be indifferent to such ‘goings on’ and have got used to dismissing vices like corruption, injustice, dowry, casteism, female infanticide and foeticide etc. with a mere shrug of the shoulder and at times even finding words to justify such things as ‘practically good’, seem not much bothered about what Anna Hazare is fighting for and what the Lok Pal bill means in principle. They are too concerned about the practicalities of life that they don’t have the time to stop and think of principles. Principles, who cares?!- that’s the attitude. Be hypocritical, you’ll be respected in Kerala, be genuine, you’ll be ostracised. I remember how a couple of people were asking me, when Anna Hazare began his first hunger strike and people were going to light candles here in Kochi to support him, whether I was also going to join in. I said a firm ‘no’ because I still don’t believe in the genuineness of these candle-lighters from Kerala. The very same people, I have seen, engage in things illegal and corrupt in their personal lives. (Well, they got justification for that; it’s all ‘small things’. They forget it has to begin with ‘small things’!). Well, I can’t name people and make a list of things and explain how they are violating the very same things that they pledge not to violate by lighting candles in support of Anna Hazare. I will earn more enemies in the process, I already have many!!
So, are we genuine in supporting Anna Hazare? The students who kept away from colleges, do they respect people like Mahatma Gandhi or Anna Hazare and try to understand them and their ways even to a small extent? The guys who are likely to observe a hartal or two (well, they lost a chance now as the Delhi cops have yielded and Anna Hazare is all set to go fasting), do they understand that hartal is another variant of ‘Satyagraha’, which was used by one Great Man( ‘Great’ is now a word that we use to praise undeserving people and to even write about the doings of marketing companies and hence is shorn of all its ‘greatness’), whom we call Mahatma (a word that we don’t understand the meaning of nowadays), to promote things for a society and not for any political party. People who discuss the pros and cons of Anna Hazare’s fight and the Lok Pal bill and then sit back to ‘watch and enjoy’; do they understand that if people like Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare had done the same, nothing would have happened.
Well, it now seems to me that perhaps Sholto hinted at this when he used the phrase ‘typical Kerala style’ (“Kerala citizens have been demonstrating in support of Hazare in typical Kerala style…”)…
Yes Sholto, we are indeed supporting Anna Hazare, in true and typical Kerala style. Let’s hope public property is not destroyed and buses not burnt; that would be too much of support, I guess!!
If we trace popular fury with the perceived corruption of the present Indian federal government, we might say it started with the Commonwealth Games. It did not really start then as there was a popular sense that corruption and graft were growing endemic among the powerful and monied, but it was the embarrassment and incompetence of the games organisation that drew international attention to India and its quavering infrastructure and the nepotism of its political classes and provided incontrovertible evidence to middle class India that something was seriously wrong in Delhi, Since that moment there have been a trail of cases that have displayed the invidious nexus of power and money that is stultifying development and success.
The arrest of Anna Hazare yesterday by the police recalls Indira Gandhi’s similar arrest of opponents in the 1970s and whilst the government claims it is to forestall any inconvenience from demonstrations in the capital poor Ambika Soni for being wheeled out as the representative of the government), for most Indians it is evidence of the arrogance of the present Congress government, mired as it is in allegations of corruption. It does not help the government cause that Hazare is described as “Gandhian” which stirs powerful feelings among Indian citizens.
Kerala citizens have been demonstrating in support of Hazare in typical Kerala style: student non-attendance at college classes and surely there will be a hartal or two. Keralites are painfully aware of how corruption and various black money schemes exist with the Apple a Day property scam that was written about previously on the blog.
When the newly elected UDF Govt in Kerala led by Oommen Chandy with 13 new ministers took the oath last day it saw the emergence of Jayalakshmi, the youngest minister in the cabinet and the first tribal minister in Kerala. Though it was only her fourth visit to Kerala’s capital city,it turned out to be a historical moment for the 29-year-old Jayalakshmi hailing from a remote hamlet in Wayanad.
Born in the valiant Kurichiya tribe, the frontline warriors of Pazhassi Raja, Jayalakshmi is an expert archer. Living in the traditional joint family of The ‘Palott Tharavadu’ where 5 families live together even now, Jayalakshmi is a graduate in English Literature and has always been interested in politics unlike her two younger sisters who are married and have opted to be house wives.
A committed Panchayat ward member of the remote Thavinjal Village in Wayanad , she always tried to be at the beck and call of the needy and to alleviate the woes of common man. Her passion for social work grabbed the attention of none other than Rahul Gandhi, who had been to Wayanad scouting for new and young faces for the Youth Congress. When the elections came, as expected her name featured in the list submitted by Rahul.
A former district secretary of KSU, the students wing of the Congress, Jayalakshmi has also served in various responsible positions like member of state level representatives’ committee of Mahila Congress.
Eldest of three daughters of Ammini and Palott Kunhaman who is a a mail overseer at the Subdivisional Post Office, near Mananthavadi, Jayalakshmi was defying the conventions when she decided to enter politics. In her tribe, girls are habitually married off at a very early age and when she postponed her marriage, it created a few anxious moments for her closely knit family.
Hailing from one of the most backward districts and tribes of Kerala, the yeoman service of Jayalakshim in the days ahead will make a quality change in the live styles of the people of Wayanad in particular. She will indeed be a role model for scores of women from other backward areas to come out into the power corridors and to do something worthwhile for their community.
The photo-finish race between UDF and the LDF in the recent assembly polls was quite like a 20-20 IPL match going right down the wire! Kerala has not witnessed many instances of a political suspense thriller as the one unveiled on the 13th of May, when the counting for 140 assembly seats were taken up.
The UDF leaders were complacent and overconfident about their victory that even the exit poll results and the poll pundits’ prediction of a tight contest failed to bring them to reality . The swerving fortunes and the ups and downs as results came tumbling in from constituencies kept everyone on tenterhooks as the leaders were left wondering at the unexpected turn of events. Kerala, has a history of never returning the ruling party to power a second term. However, during this poll, it appeared for a moment that the Kerala electorate might have decided to break the 30 year old recurrent pattern of sending the UDF and the LDF alternatively to power, which made it a nail biting thriller right up to the last lap!
After a neck and neck contest, which at one time looked like an imminent tie with both parties heading to 70 seats each, took a faint decisive turn only in the last leg of counting. It took the votes of a few panchayats like Piravom and Thrithala , which placed UDF ahead by just 2 seats, one of the lowest in Kerala poll history. The fact that Congress on its own could muster just 38 seats of the 82 it contested will remain a topic of discussion in the days to come and the UDF leaders will be pondering on the factors responsible for its poor performance.
On the other hand, the LDF camp is in a jovial mood as the poll results have clearly indicated that people have endorsed the anti corruption movement taken up by the Chief Minister, Achuthanandan. The poll results will indeed be a wake up poll for politicians who take the electorate for granted. The message on the wall reads clearly that the people expect nothing short of good governance . Gone are the days when politicians could create a smoke screen by diverting the attention of the electorate to the opposition camp’s internal squabbles and scams;these would not wash with the voters anymore and only hard work pays off at the end of the day.
Congress was indeed caught off the guard when it ended up winning the elections by the skin of the teeth. The absence of a clear verdict will make it more challenging for the ruling front and to stay firmly on the road in their five year travel time, they need to come up with a stellar performance!
Kerala probably is one of the very few places on earth where politics is so deep rooted that even the common man passionately follows and participates in the political activities with zeal. The euphoria of elections in Kerala and the feverish pitch of electioneering that hits its crescendo in the last lap of electioneering is something that has to be seen to believe. This stunning sight has become the backdrop of many movies and novels and now Kerala is planning to introduce the innovative concept in tourist trails in the form of Election tourism, which could be promoted in the next two months when the state gets ready to face the election heat yet again!
Imagine the scene where a stereotype politician clad in crisp white – khadi coming up with his customary ear to ear grin and folded hands to the wide-eyed tourist:) The KTDC chairman Cheriyan Philip finds good scope in this niche area of election tourism . “Election tourism can help to bring some additional revenue to the tourism industry during off season. A discount package for two weeks from April 1 to April 15 is a really marketable idea. ” says the KTDC chief.
The innovative tour operators can wrap up the sights and sounds of a typical Kerala electioneering campaign in a package that combines some of the regular tourist spots in the state with the frenzied door-to-door campaigning and the high decibel street corner meetings that goes into the making of a typical day for a candidate. The tourists from the UK, US and Europe will be truly surprised by the highly charged up mood of celebration that goes hand in hand with the elections in India, which is in striking contrast to the sober poll activities in that part of the world.
The field is quite open as no tour operator in the state has so far come forward to experiment with the innovative idea of election tourism . In fact not many travel agents are keen on the proposal as they feel that only academicians or political science students come here for the sole purpose of watching the election and to compile data for their research projects. But the popularity and ease of online and social media have made it all very easy these days, which makes travel redundant.
As the political parties in the fray are working overtime to come out with plans to woo the vote bank, the tourists who reach Kerala might get a rare chance to experience the thrills and spills election tourism at its best in Kerala if this novel concept gets any takers!
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The election to the local bodies- panchayaths, municipalities and corporations- begins today in Kerala, with seven districts- Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kasargode and Kannur – going to the polls today.
The second phase of the local bodies election will be held for the Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Trissur, Malappuram and Palakkad districts on Monday, the 25th.
70,915 candidates are in the fray for 21,612 seats in the three tier elections. The first phase of elections, which has already started today morning, is for 9,238 seats. With 50% reservation for women having been implemented in these elections, women are contesting in large numbers everywhere.
With the local body elections in Kerala only a few days away, the electioneering has reached its crescendo with the candidates in the fray leaving nothing to chance. Apart from making the best use of colorful graffiti , interesting parodies and street corner meetings,the candidates are hitting upon many novel ideas like gate crashing to meet and greet the voters in person to lure the electorate in the last lap of the electioneering! Though these are intended to outsmart their political rivals , many a time, such mindless acts create a few hiccups among the voters.
In a village in Aleppey, an independent candidate took things into his own hands when an elderly voter died in his ward. Apart from spending from his own pocket to meet the expenses of refreshments and arranging the seating arrangements, he even took pain to buy a coffin as a mark of respect to the departed soul. However he was embarrassed when he was told that the family has made all the arrangements for the funeral! Strange indeed are the ways and means of politicians who can turn even a grim incident like death into their favour!
In another incident in North Kerala, a lady candidate and her gang of enthusiastic party members gate crashed into a house where a betrothal ceremony was going on. As the simple function was getting underway, the overzealous candidate whizzed past the groom and a small group of around 10-15 family members , straight into the kitchen! When she found that the customary election promises and wide grins were proving ineffective in influencing the family , the candidate decided to give a personal touch to her approach. Apart from showering praises on the culinary skills of the ladies of the house, she even took time off to taste the curries and the special dishes that were being prepared to cater to the groom’s party. If all these were not enough the hosts were left red faced when the candidate and her sprightly gang announced that they are planning to have their lunch with them. Shocked and unprepared, the hosts could do nothing to keep off these pesky politicians who wasted no time in savouring the food that were meant for the groom’s party.
Caught unawares, the bride’s family had to indulge in an emergency damage control exercise to make sure that there is enough food to be served for the groom and his family members. As the candidate and her gang left the house after a sumptuous meal and a hearty ear to ear grin that the politicians are so very skillful, the hapless family members were running around to make sure that the groom’s party is served food in time and to leave a good impression among them!