Systemic Feast of Vultures In India


I was attracted by the title of the book. I read about it in a pre release article and after going through the  short interview of the author, opted for pre-release order of the book written by The Hindu correspondent Josy Joseph. It took me some time to start reading the book but when I started it, could not hold myself from reading back to back. By the time I finished it, I felt exhausted at the systemic failures and loot, married as per convenience.

Author while exposing the corruption galore  in India credits his various sources who are ordinary and also sometimes beneficiaries of the system but still had some nobleness in them. He writes about them, ” Everyone here lives with a little bit of guilt and a lot of contradictions. Most regret paying bribes, many are angry at themselves for accepting bribes, everyone is irritated with the way people use influence to scuttle the rightful claims of others and almost all of us find a way to influence someone to jump the queue.” The lines are poignant and apply to us all perhaps.

The author starts the book with a prologue on the  wrenching story of village development of Hridyachak in Bihar. It is scary start of the journey ahead for any sensitive human being and particularly who has seen it from close quarters like me. It may remind you of mountain-man Dasarath Manjhi. He then shifts to chapter wise narration, starting with the power of ubiquitous Middlemen in India and their movement in the corridors of powers. He writes a chapter on the most powerful typists of India exemplified through the lives of R K Dhawan and Vincent George. The latter was winner of the fastest typist in a contest in his native city in Kerala, ending as the personal staff of a P M and the subsequent powerful first family scions ruling the roost. R K Dhawan who started as an assistant to Smt Indira Gandhi in 1962 (She was chosen as the chairperson of ‘New York World Fair Committee’ in 1962) and later prospered into the most confidential and most powerful politicians for decades.  Had you ever seen a typist with this angle?

He then traverses the arena of arms market and the middlemen involved in it. They are scores of authentic examples. While most of us know about Bofors, there are many interesting but shocking stories about the rich and powerful and how have they operated in the cover of their official positions through their English speaking foreign educated corrupt sons and daughters.

His most detailed exposure is about the corporate battles that have been fought silently in the Indian aviation sector. By the end of the book, you may start hating the chief of so-called biggest airline and his humble ways. He finds him to be a silent killer indeed literally. Interestingly much of this is documented in the dossiers of our own intelligence agencies, but still nothing is happening against him and many more for the reasons known and unknown. The way every arm of government  and state has been used and misused to monopolise  the sector is mind-boggling. You will understand perhaps for the first time, what a white-collar criminal is. I don’t know if some good storyteller/director may think of shooting a movie on the subject soon! Although he may not be courageous and lucky enough to survive the ordeal.

He writes about the plunder and loot of natural resources taking place in mineral rich Central India, all in the name of development. Development for whom? The local inhabitants in these most mineral rich areas have got two things only. One, the jobs of security guards and other lowest paid sundry jobs to fight against their own and the second, unparalleled amount of environmental destruction leaving them covered in tattered clothes and black soot.

He mentions about Ambani’s Antilla and the abject poverty around and also reveals that there was  an orphanage earlier there. It’s hard to miss the realities and believe me, it will bite you.

Author’s words keep on hitting you as you traverse through the book and feel anguished and sometimes even depressed at the way the whole system has been taken for a ride explained through authentic real examples by the investigative journalism of the man credited inter-alia with exposing Navy War Room Conspiracy, CWG scam and many more. He opines that the dismantling of License-Permit Raj is only a misnomer  and unless something most extraordinary happens we may be doomed sooner than we think and we may have to be satisfied by just sending summons to the plunderers sitting pretty in London.

Disclaimer: Don’t read the book if you are too sensitive and you can not digest the hardcore realities of Indian Democracy.

The Week 33 at Saifai

Saifai Medical University

Saifai Medical University

Knowing fully well that I would be a forced bachelor for next few months at least, I landed at Saifai, Etawah in the 1st week of Aug’16 as the Registrar of just notified U P University of Medical Sciences. Since my kids were studying at Lucknow, I was hesitant to start with but did not have many choices either. I had to prepare myself to live alone. In Lucknow, with college days and in job friends and family around I was obviously more than busy. Now I had to shift 260 Km north-west of Lucknow. I had the idea that in an educational institute, one can have a good volume of free time beyond regular office hours of 9 to 5 pm. It was aware that in a smallish town like Saifai(A Gram Panchayat still) where you would not find time-consuming trappings (including that of travelling to office and back eating up two hours every day) of any big city, I would have to devise new ways to utilise my time and my energy in a more productive way.

So after settling in this week, I focussed on reading as much as I could and watching as little idiot box as possible. I had my cook Daulat Ram and one more to take good care of me. While packing my bag for Saifai, I had stuffed plenty of books to go through and a 4G connection for navigating smoothly through the online world of some great stuff over You Tube. So I downloaded the videos of well-known writers and their talks recorded at various platforms and universities globally and started listening  to them one by one in absolutely peaceful surroundings of a rural India. I had a good time over last 6 days and am eager to share my learnings over my 2nd week in Saifai and week 33 of Gregorian Calender;

  1. I started with the talks of 2002 Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman. His book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ is a marvellous book. He narrates the most obvious and easy examples of many mental traps and fallacies like ‘Regression to Means’, and ‘Less is More’ and ‘conjunction’ and ‘Narrative Fallacies’ who comprise our capacity to think logically. His ideas of fast-moving and life saving ‘System 1’ and most logical  and analytical ‘System 2’ are bang on target. This book coming out of almost half a century of writer’s psychological research is the only book in my life which started reading again on the day I finished it for the first time. This is addictive. Beware. You will be sucked in to it if you could survive first few pages.
  2. Next, I went through the lectures of a young balding Yuval Noah Harari. He has authored a top notch best seller ‘Sapiens’. It narrates the story of growth of humans over 70000 years and the way we have progressed by developing believable stories like Money or Economy or Family or Human Rights. He says thousands of years ago we were no better than say a Chimpanzee but soon Homo-Sapiens learned to work together by agreeing on few stories and promising returns in the future in lieu of their sacrifices on the day. He says 100 or even a 100000 men can work together but 100 chimpanzees who may be physically more powerful can not develop a common narrative to rely on and therefore sapiens won the race to prosper and therefore we are now 7 Billion and more while thousands and thousands of animal species are getting gobbled up by the sapiens induced growth. His most interesting talks available on you tube are one of the most original way of seeing ourselves. His idea of ‘Data-Religion’ is most interesting and seems to be believable. A must watch and must Read.
  3. I also went through lectures of  Sadhguru who in his inimitable style presents most coherent explanations of various events of life. If you listen to him regularly, you don’t need to go to any scripture to deconstruct the myths of life. He is too good. Gets you peaceful.
  4. I started reading the just released  book, ‘A feast of Vultures’ by ‘The Hindu’ journalist, Josy Joseph. He writes about endemic corruption and minces no words in exposing the nouveau rich and even corrupt journalists. The book is an authentic expose of every day scams of India and corrupt-to-the-core-systems well protected bt the illegitimate beneficiaries. More on this next week.
  5. I went through the talks of Guru Charan Das, ex CEO of P&G turned author of ‘The Difficulty of Being Good’. I had written my first impressions of the book in my initial blog writings last year. He narrates the right perspective of ‘Dharma’, which he gained by studying  Sanskrit at University of Chicago. A good take on mythology and history of India.
  6. I stumbled upon ‘The Theory of Minimalism’ and ‘100 things challenge’ to appreciate the fact that what we have is perhaps 100 times more than what we actually need to live which in turn leads to subjugation of even those 1 percent needs in favour of those amassed but useless 99 percent things. Authors Joshua Becker in his book ‘The More of Less’ has narrated the examples well. After going through his talks, I feel motivated enough to de-clutter my life as well. I will follow it up.
  7.  I heard Ram Chandra Guha on ‘Makers of Modern India’ and various fault lines plaguing India. He talks on the basis of solid historical evidences and demolishes hearsay on many issues like Nehru-Patel Rivalry. He explains the great tradition of leaders of that time where the most opposite of political rivals like Ambedkar or Shyama Prasad Mukherjee coming together for a better and stable India. He extols then leadership’s vision in readiness to adopt concept of Linguistic States in 1956 vis-a-vis Ceylon’s Single Language(Sinhalese) policy in the same year leading to decades long eventual civil war in island nation and rise of LTTE. He also reveals many fault lines of modern India including those of; attacks from left and right of ideologies; the damages to environmental legacy and marginalisation of weaker sections and schedules tribes and vices like fractured polity.
  8. I chanced upon a repeat watch of ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ as a free showcase movie. The movie running on perhaps the best up to now performance of Kangana Ranaut is a real treat to watch. The movie set up in Kanpur, has believable characters and touches the life of all married couples who  have vouched for ‘7 Janmon ka Saath’! Tanu Trivedi and Datto Sangwan are hilarious in their own rights. I loved the movie. It deserves a one more watch perhaps.
  9. As an icing on the cake, I clocked a neat 36 Km by brisk walking everyday 6 am to 7 am at sports stadium, Saifai. I think by using good quality sports facilities in this village I made it an eventful week. My Map-My-Walk app has never been busier.

So, this is what I did this week. The week 33. Do I need to do more in a week?