Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Short note on Water Cup challenge

The Global Parli project involves 15 villages located in the Parli taluka in Beed district, Marathawada, Maharashtra. Marathawada has the highest number of farmer suicides in the country.
All India average irrigated area is around 40% while in Parli it is only 1.72%. This highlights a lack of effective water management across Maharashtra and specifically in the Parli taluka. Marathawada region has been experiencing multiple droughts since 2012, which saw one of the lowest levels of rainfall in the last 40 years.
Ineffective water management and prolonged drought, underline the critical need for a paradigm change in water resource management to break the existing trend and progress towards water security.
A competition called Water Cup has been started by Aamir Khan called Paani Foundation www.paanifoundation.in. It is a brilliantly and meticulously planned attack on farmer suicides, rural poverty and can be the true harbinger of change in rural Maharashtra
12 of our villages have participated in this competition between various villages to create watershed development in their villages In a scientific and trained way to increase water storage capacity and many important village development works in the garb of a tournament. Last year over 3000 villages participated and improved water capacity by leaps and bounds.
The work spread over a period ending in May 2018 envisages various activities like creating . But we need the broader community to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our rural brethren for soil and water conservation works using manual labour and machine works. Most other works are done by the villagers using their own resources and government scheme and machineries."

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Assault, attack and bouncers


The National Council meeting after removal of YY and Prashant from PAC

"I entered the gates. I was asked to hand over my pen, mobile phone, etc, at a counter. Considering that we had had multiple episodes of news leaks, I found these precautions justifiable. As I turned around, I saw Arvind coming towards me. I waved at him and smiled. He frowned in response and turned away. It was churlish. I remembered his body language and the words he had chosen when he had criticized Prashant a while ago; I was almost certain that I would be relegated to the same category.

Meanwhile, as I walked in, I saw senior volunteers of the party whisking away NC members into a room to sign a predesigned resolution seeking the removal of Yogendra and Prashant. My views were out in the open, so no one asked me to sign the resolution. There were bouncers everywhere. As I settled into my chair, four bouncers stood around me. When I went to the washroom, two of them traipsed behind. I was amused that the party was taking such care of me.


Arvind came and spoke with great gusto, pointing out that Yogendra and Prashant had betrayed the party. Then, looking at Shanti Bhushan, he changed his pitch and tone; he was rude and angry. He asked NE members what ought to be done to someone who chose Kiran Bedi over the party—referring to a moment in time when Shanti Bhushan had announced that Bedi would make a good chief ministerial candidate. In what seemed like a pre-rehearsed move, some workers, led by Kapil Mishra, ran towards Shanti Bhushan shouting, ‘Gaddaro ko hatao’—remove the traitors! For a moment I grew nervous. It seemed like things would go out of hand and a ninety-year-old Shanti Bhushan would get physically assaulted. 


Fortunately, things calmed down, and Arvind continued his emotionally charged speech. He ended his rabble- rousing outpouring by narrating the story of two women who were fighting over a child. ‘The women took the child to the king and asked him to decide who the mother was. The king mulled over the situation and said that the child could be cut into two, and each woman could keep one half. On hearing this, the real mother said that the other woman could keep the child.’

Arvind thundered, ‘I have given my sweat and blood to this party and will not allow its break up. Either get rid of Yogendra and Prashant or release me from all responsibilities and positions within the party.’

After this, in what had become his customary melodramatic style, he walked out of the meeting. This was exactly the way I had anticipated the NC meeting going. No decorum, no rules, just bullying.

As Arvind walked out, AAP member Ramzan Chaudhary tried asking him why, as the leader, he wouldn’t stay back and listen to the volunteers. Arvind brushed him away and stomped off. In front of my eyes, some bouncers drew forward, caught Ramzan by his legs and hands, and carried him out of the meeting. It was alleged that he was punched outside.

A resolution to remove Yogendra, Prashant, Prof Anand Kumar and Ajit Jha from the NC was read out. It was also announced that the resolution was backed by 247 members (with fifty-four abstaining and eight being against it). The irony didn’t miss me—a resolution had been signed before it was even read out."


*
See <https://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/kiran-bedi-will-make-a- good-chief-minister-says-aaps-shanti-bhushan-730812>, accessed on 28 November 2017.
See <http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/aap-ramzan-choudhary-police-complaint-kejriwal-prashant-bhushan/1/426321.html>,accessed on 28 November 2017.

See <http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/03/27/yogendra-yadav_n_6959558.html>, accessed on 28 November 2017. 


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Some references to Amanutullah Khan in my book "AAP & Down"


This is after the resignation after 49 days in 2013 and then BJP victory in General Elections

"In the meantime, the BJP persisted with its attempts at forming a government in Delhi. Rumours emerged that it was now trying to poach some of the Congress’ Muslim MLAs—Mateen Ahmed, Asif Mohammed Khan and Hasan Ahmed. 

Arvind grew even more worried on witnessing these manoeuvrings. He also grew increasingly obsessed with stopping the BJP, no matter the price. Posters were made anonymously and plastered across the locality where the Congress MLAs lived—these posters referred to the MLAs as ‘traitors of the community’ and called for protests outside their residences. 

The Delhi police swung into action, removed the prints, registered a case under sections of the IPC for promoting enmity between two groups and for the defacement of property, and arrested Dilip Pandey, AAP’s Delhi unit secretary, along with a few AAP volunteers. Arvind went on the defensive, claiming that the BJP was framing his party after failing to form the Delhi government. 

He further suggested that someone named Amanatullah Khan, an erstwhile member of the BSP, had put up the posters and had even confessed to it, but the police seemed to wish to target AAP volunteers. What exactly was going on? It wasn’t hard to join the dots when, soon after, Amanatullah Khan was given an AAP ticket and was designated in-charge of the Okhla constituency. 

He was to play a much larger role in the future. Like Naveen Jaihind, he’d become Arvind’s go-to man."







*


A development that especially angered Prashant was that Amanatullah Khan (of the communal poster fame) had been given a ticket to contest elections from Okhla. He longed to expose AAP’s volte-face. He was placated with the promise that within two to three days of the results of the Delhi assembly elections, an NE meeting would be called, and the party would create models of transparency, accountability and participation. 

*


"Arvind had to plot a counter-attack. And he did this through Amanatullah Khan.

Amanatullah Khan alleged that Kumar Vishwas was an RSS stooge. Left with little room for manoeuvre, Kumar cobbled together support and demanded the removal of Amanatullah from the PAC, and also demanded a position of leadership in Rajasthan. To retain Kumar, Arvind accepted his demands.

 Yet, even as Amanatullah quit, Arvind made him the chairman of a panel of the Delhi Assembly and a member of seven newly constituted committees, including the Special Inquiry Committee.

‘Take that,’ Arvind seemed to say. "

Reference:

See <http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/aap-delhi- unit-secretary-arrested-arvind-kejriwal-blames-bjp/>; <http:// www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/mlas-just-beginning-prashant- bhushan-aap-legal-troubles>; <https://economictimes.indiatimes. com/news/politics-and-nation/Posters-against-Congress-MLAs- sellout-to-BJP/articleshow/38534720.cms>, accessed on 23 November 2017. 

See <http://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/aap-s- amanatullah-khan-quits-top-post-sisodia-says-kejriwal-hurt-by- vishwas/story-kEJj1RaceaXPRRouZ3XiEM.html>, accessed on 4 December 2017.

See <http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-suspended-from- aap-amanatullah-khan-made-chairman-of-panel-of-delhi- assembly-2429057>, accessed on 4 December 2017. 



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ch 26: Ruminations (some excerpts)

Periodically, I used to observe myself minutely, so as to keep negative tendencies in check. Once, on ‘Newshour’ on Times Now, I derided Renuka Chowdhury from the Congress. She had been trying to block all arguments against Robert Vadra, and, in response, I mocked her for ‘rolling [her] eyes and making faces’ instead of answering the nation. She was understandably angry, but many viewers were highly tickled.  For the next two days, there was a flurry of emails, texts, Facebook posts and tweets that expressed amusement and applauded me for an ‘apt retort’. I began gloating over my sharp riposte. 

It was on the third day that I suddenly realized what a monster I was becoming! Instead of apologizing to Renuka on air, I had taken delight in offending her.

My ego was getting the better of me; I was bursting with self-importance.

During the height of movement, I used to participate in TV panel discussions almost every night; in public places, people started recognizing me, praising my arguments or making suggestions. One day, at the Mumbai airport, I caught myself trying to make eye contact with people, hungry for recognition. I had to stop myself. What was I doing?

All my life, I had mocked those who took themselves far too seriously, who were pompous and sought the limelight. A white khadi shirt clad politician with gold rings on his fingers and thick gold chains around the neck was my idea of the absurd. While I had not yet become that man, I recognized that my attitude needed a complete rethink.

There is a Marathi poem that goes: ‘There was once a man who peed into the sea; he spent his life measuring how much the sea level had risen because of his pee.’ Was I travelling to the point of becoming that man?

I had erred in a similar manner as far back as 2007. While reconnecting with my spiritual self, through a process called ‘sun gazing’, I had energized my mind and body to such an extent that I had no desire to consume food. Instead of acknowledging the science guiding this, I gave all credit to ‘my spiritual evolution’. My family started broadcasting my ‘powers’, and as people started visiting me with wonder, my conceit only grew. When, after a twenty-eight-day fast—which left me feeling, not depleted, but energized—I got a call from my mother-in-law, I found myself gloating, full of pride at my achievement. Suddenly I stopped myself. I approached my wife Minal and said, ‘This is not my true path. Siddhi—miraculous power—has a way of distracting one from the goal of self-realization. I have strayed.’ Instead of humbling my mind before a higher power, I had allowed myself to grow vain.

I had brought myself in check back then; it was time to fashion myself again.  I had to stop being an attention-junkie. To bring balance back to my life, I had to embrace anonymity—till such time that I learnt equanimity. I informed the media management team of the party that I had no desire to appear on television shows henceforth. The party wasn’t pleased—they believed I added value by being a spokesperson—but deep within I knew I’d turn into a liability for myself and the party if I remained self-obsessed.


For over a year, I did not appear on television debates. It was only when I grew confident that I’d be able to handle recognition without digressing from my path that I resumed media appearances—and that too, very rarely. I had moved on.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ch 12. The 2013 Verdict: A Foot in the Door

Since we were leveraging all channels to get our message across, I told Arvind, ‘We need a revamped website and a party newsletter which can be distributed to people of Delhi.’ Arvind connected me with his architect-friend Satyender Jain and his website designer.

I met Satyendra Jain in a restaurant, and he immediately offered to fund the newsletter every month. However, when he suggested giving me cash, I grew uncomfortable. I spoke to Arvind, and he suggested that Satyendra Jain could directly pay the printer of the newsletter every month. That is how AAP Ki Kranti, the party's newsletter, was born. Simultaneously, I worked on restructuring the website, so as to make it easy to navigate, and so it became attractive and effective.

During this time, Arvind also asked me to take charge of training and monitoring seven of AAP’s candidates, including Somnath Bharti, Saurabh Bhardwaj and Shazia Ilmi. Working with both Somnath and Saurabh proved to be an enriching experience.

Somnath was a lawyer and was passionate about the movement. He had a huge sofachair in his office on which he’d sit like a king, surrounded by his small team. As soon as we were introduced to each other, Somnath said, ‘Mayankji, I have a wonderful strategy for the election.’
‘What is that?’
Somnath continued, highly excited, ‘I want to make a computer game!’
I was taken aback.
He continued, ‘In this game, AAP volunteers will be wearing caps and hiding behind trees . . . and when the time is right, they’ll come out and shoot the Congress and the BJP.’
I grew anxious.
‘I will give this game free of charge to the students, and after they play it, people will be certain to vote for us.’
I sat in stunned silence.
Thankfully, the idea died a natural death.

My brief interaction with Somanth made it clear that we were still novices making sense of mainstream politics. But what we did have was enthusiasm. Somnath was hardworking, sincere, popular in his constituency, and willing to fight for the party’s core principles—this would hold him, and us, in good stead.

While Somnath was flamboyant, Saurabh was entirely the opposite. He was a soft-spoken engineer who had quit his job. To me, he was the ideal candidate, and I was glad that after his victory he became a minister in the Delhi Government.  We used to interact every day, and I enjoyed guiding him. 

As for Shazia, she was one of the most aggressive and combative candidates. She sought attention and resources for herself—possibly because she was in a tough constituency. It was unfortunate that she lost by few votes.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gandhiji's courage of conviction

In 1938, a group of well-meaning people felt that against the best equipped British army, Gandhi's way of non-violence was doomed to fail.

They gathered in front of Gandhi and advised him to seek a compromise, a reconciliation on issues rather than waste his life fighting a hopeless battle.

Gandhi very calmly replied to them, "My life gets meaning only in seeking complete freedom of the country from the Britishers, so that we can have self-rule. I do not stand for reconciliations, settlements or compromise with violence, subjugation or enslavement. Give your advice to the weak who doubt my way."

On another occasion, some other people asked Gandhi, "What are the chances of your non-violent struggles to succeed?"

Gandhi smiled and said, "Honestly, I don't know. No one has ever experimented with non-violence as a tool for a national movement in human history."

"So, why do you pursue such a struggle that you are not sure of succeeding?"

"I do not work so that I succeed. I work because it is the correct thing to do, because it gives meaning to my life. It gives me the dignity to my existence even in its failure. A life without a cause has no purpose." Gandhi responded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

AAP & Down - The Arvind I knew

Chapter 1 (excerpt)

While I had met Arvind only a few times, I had heard many inspiring stories about him. For instance, during his avatar as an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, he’d regularly expose fellow of officers who’d ask for bribes. While working with the Income Tax (IT) department, he was also operating as one of the founders of a grass-roots activism organisation called Parivartan. He’d visit the Sundar Nagari slums of Delhi, attend to the grievances of citizens, and resolve their concerns, whether this had to do with getting a ration card or common income tax and electricity complaints. Arvind used RTI to help people get their work done in government offices without paying bribes, and he organised public hearings to hold government officials accountable.

There are two stories involving Arvind and Parivartan that are particularly motivating. 

As all of us know, IT refunds can get held up for a variety of reasons, and the citizen gets severely inconvenienced. To resolve this, each time there was an impasse, a team of Parivartan volunteers would meet the concerned officer along with the assessee and ask for the date of refund. On the said date, they would reach the IT office with musical instruments. If the refund was refused, they’d sit on the floor of the office, sing songs, beat drums and clang cymbals, till the refunds were made.

Another story involved an individual who was asked for a bribe of Rs 25,000 by an IT officer to pass his refund order. Parivartan volunteers, along with select media entities, took a procession led by drums and cymbals, carrying a cheque of Rs 25,000 to pay the bribe. The officer, as expected, ran away from the back door.

I was bowled over by Arvind’s approach and audacity. I became his admirer. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

AAP & Down - prologue

I was sitting under a tree and talking to some of the farmers of Parchundi—one of the fifteen villages we have adopted in Marathwada, Maharashtra for rural development. 

We were having an intense discussion about some impending post-monsoon work. From the corner of my eye, I could see Govind, one of the smartest boys of the village, fidgeting. He appeared uninterested in the goings- on. Each time the conversation paused, Govind seemed to want to say something, but the words would stall.
When the meeting ended, I asked, ‘Govind, what is it?’ Sheepishly, he looked at me and whispered, ‘Sir, tell me please, exactly kay zhala?’ (‘What exactly happened?’) 

All interest in our earlier discussion vanished as every face in the gathering lit up with expectation.

It was a question I had got used to hearing wherever I went:
Kay zhala?
Kya hua?
Shu thayu?
What happened?

Yes, what happened to you and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)?

In other words: How did the party splinter? Where did it lose its way? And what exactly compelled you—one of its founding leaders—to quit?

Thousands of books have been written, lms made and historical volumes published with the details of India’s independence struggle. But very little has been written about what has been called India’s ‘second independence struggle’—a struggle almost synonymous with the creation of AAP and its promise to rescue a nation plagued by corruption. Equally little has been written about the party’s sudden implosion—and with it, the caving in of the dreams of a billion Indians for a new India.

Someone had to attend to this gap. Someone had to write about one of the most important phases in post- independent Indian history with knowledge, objectivity and insider information. Someone had to trace AAP’s meteoric rise and fall.

This book attempts to do that. It offers, not just bare- boned history, but a personal account and analysis of the events of the recent past, the minds of its protagonists—be it Arvind Kejriwal or Anna Hazare—and the ups and downs of one of India’s most controversial parties.

This is my truth and what I know of AAP.