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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort?

In the last 15 years, novelist and writer Desraj Kali has seen Punjab undergo some striking changes. But none is as striking as its gradual religious revolution.

A growing number of people in the predominantly Sikh state, he says, are now visiting Hindu temples. Not those of principal deities like Vishnu, Shiva and Rama, but of Shani, the elder brother of the god of death Yama, who is notorious for his malefic influence on life.

More than ever before, Kali says, people are visiting the gurudwara of Baba Deep Singh in Amritsar. According to legend, Deep Singh, a Sikh warrior, was decapitated while battling the forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan. In a niche in the perimeter of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, there is a painting depicting the storied aftermath: Deep Singh, holding his severed head with his left hand and swinging a massive sword with his right, continued to fight, and died only after reaching the Golden Temple.

There are more, says Kali. People in increasing numbers are placing chadars at Pirs’ mazaars. There is a “thousand-fold” increase in the number of tantrik ads in the local media. Eeven orthodox Sikhs – Amritdhaaris, who carry the sacred dagger called kirpan – have begun visiting “non-traditional deras”, religious centres with living gurus, though Sikhism expressly forbids worship of individuals.

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How the Badals spread their control over Punjab (and why it is eroding)

Following up on yesterday’s story, part 3 of our series on Punjab under the Akali Dal.

In Punjab, the domination of the government machinery by the Badal clan is near complete. It starts right from the top, the cabinet of ministers, and trickles down to the ground, to the level of the police station.

Here is how.

Every business in Punjab leads back to an Akali Dal leader (well almost)

out today, our sequel to the previous story on why healthcare is underfunded in punjab.

Industry is fleeing Punjab – an investigation by Scroll.in found a growing number of companies have shut down or are planning to set up newer units outside the state. Among the reasons cited by businessmen for the exodus were the bribes they claim they are compelled to pay to politicians belonging to the ruling Akali Dal.

But rent-seeking is not the only way Akali Dal leaders are strangling industry in the state.

Over the past decade, Punjab has seen a handful of players come to dominate what earlier were fragmented industries composed of hundreds of small companies. This consolidation happened in a bewilderingly diverse set of industries, including stone crushing, sand mining, cable distribution, liquor distribution and bus transport. Most of these new, big players are alleged to have links to the Akali Dal.

why we need to talk about the companies building authentication apps off the aadhaar database

Monika Chowdhry, who heads the marketing division of Swabhimaan Distribution Services, the company that created TrustID, defended the app, saying it offers the valuable service of verifying people’s identities. “In our day to day life, we do a lot of transactions with people – like maids or plumbers. Till now, you would have to trust them on what they said about themselves and what others said about the quality of their work.” The company is solving that problem, she said. “We are saying ask the person for their Aadhaar number and name and we will immediately tell you if they are telling the truth or not,” Chowdhry said.

Chowdhry said that over time, the Aadhaar number of individuals will be used to create a private verified database of TrustIDs. “Our plan is to create a rating mechanism,” she said. Referring to the option for maid, plumbers and other service providers on the app, she added: “People like you and me, we have Linkedin and Naukri. What do these people have?”

How does the company use Aadhaar for verification and is there a reason to be concerned?

How do so many industrialists get into the Rajya Sabha?

Vijay Mallya’s flight to England has opened up a veritable can of worms. Every day there are little-known strands coming to light about his business and personal life, from the giant loan defaults to the marquee properties. What is not being discussed as much is his political life and the conflict of interest.

The chairman of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines has been a member of the Rajya Sabha since 2002 and is a member of the Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Standing Committee on Commerce. The committee oversees India’s aviation ministry. Its responsibilities include vetting bills drafted by the ministry, and evaluating its demands for grants.

A seat on the panel gives Mallya “access to information, and an unfair advantage to influence policy”, said former Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, calling this “a serious conflict of interest”.

There have, of course, been numerous such instances of conflict of interest in recent years.

The question is: how do these emerge. How do so many bizmen get into the Rajya Sabha? Once in, how do they land up in the Parliamentary Committee of their choosing?

Has Punjab’s obsession with cancer robbed its poor of healthcare?

Private waley kehte hain ghar le ja kar sewa karo.” Private hospitals tell us to tend to the patient at home if we cannot pay their fee.

That was Mohan Lal Shonky’s response when asked how he and others in the poor quarter of Nurmahal town in Punjab’s Jalandhar district use medical services.

Shonky, 55 years old and in poor health, is in the ghoda gaadi business. He and his sons rent out their horses and carriage during the wedding season. In a good year, they make about Rs 1.5 lakh between January and March. But this season, given the poor cotton and paddy harvests in Punjab, he expects no more than Rs 1 lakh. This, along with his sons’ earnings as labourers – will have to support them through the year.

Everywhere in Nurmahal’s Kuchapakka colony, you hear the same story, with some variations.