Friday 30 December 2011

Jaipur Literature Festival

Will you be there?

Monday 22 August 2011

A third view on the Lok Pal bill (and may there be more!)

This letter is reproduced here with Ms Roy's permission, and with the request to forward to friends. We need more debate, not just blind following.

Please also visit this page on the NCPRI site, which has a lot of related reading and additional matter.

Letter from Aruna Roy:

As a preface and a possible apology, let me say that this is a combination between a letter and a note. Please bear with the length of it. We write to you on a matter of mutual and common concern, the Lokpal bill, now in Parliament. The context of this letter is explained below.

When the Joint Drafting Committee of the Lokpal was working on the Jan Lokpal , the NCPRI had written to the Chair, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, and the co-chair Shri Shanti Bhushan, enquiring about the TORs and the process of and participation, in public consultation. Both assured us that there would be formal public consultation. It did not happen.

When the government bill went to cabinet with the intention of placing it in the monsoon session of parliament, the NCPRI decided to make its position known. The NCPRI is continuing with its deliberations and consultations and has prepared an approach paper and a set of principles for circulation. This is a work in progress.

The belief in consultations and discussion is the reason why we write to you.

The NCPRI’s (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) involvement with legislation to deal with corruption and arbitrary use of power, began with the demand for an RTI law in 1996. The Lokpal was flagged as a law that needed to be taken up along with the Whistle Blowers Bill to address the killing of RTI activists and establish accountability. A committee was set up in the September 2010 for that purpose. The issue of the Lokpal was however taken up by some members of the NCPRI Working Committee, who formed the IAC and the NCPRI discussions remained suspended.

The Lokpal discussion has had an interesting trajectory. It began as the stated logical end of a large middle class mobilization on corruption. The stated end of that campaign was the demand for the setting up of a Joint Drafting Committee for a Lokpal bill. In common usage and understanding of corruption, the term casually refers to a range of corrupt practices. The political/governance spectrum is indeed more culpable than others. For it is mandated to maintain integrity in public life, to keep the country on keel with constitutional and other guarantees. This includes preventing the arbitrary use of power and corrupt practices. The Lokpal was too simplistically ordained by the campaign as a solution to all varieties of corrupt practices in our lives.

However the assurance that all solutions to the entire gamut of corrupt practices could be worked out through a strong Lokpal has left us with a great sense of disquiet. Not only because it does not address the arbitrary use of power. But because it is an unrealistic promise to rising expectations that it is an alleviation of all ills through one bill. It is also a question of the contents of the Jan Lokpal draft itself.

There have been public meetings but few consultations on the content of the Act in detail . While gestures and symbolic assent - like sms and referendums - may approve the intent, drafting of an Act needs more informed debate. The Lokpal debate has had its share of general platitudes, we need now to go beyond that. We also have to place the role of dissent squarely in the fulcrum of the debate. The discussions after all, flow from the acceptance that a strong Lokpal bill is needed. Also that the earlier and even the current government draft is faulty, even on principles.

The NCPRI however did make efforts before the 5th of April to arrive at a consensus with the IAC in a meeting held on 3rd April in the NMML. The NAC took up the matter independent of the NCPRI on the 4th April. The NCPRI had expressed reservations about the over arching and overwhelming structure of a law, which included grievances and corruption within its ambit. It was argued that though both are equally important, they require different mechanisms for implementation.

Subsequently events took over, and in the polarised discourse, it became impossible to make suggestions and or suggest changes. Every critique was attributed to wrong intent and viewed with suspicion and mistrust by the civil society members of the Joint Committee. Critique of the Bill has evoked sharp reactions, and statements have been made that no amendments or change to the principles or the framework is possible, and that disagreement with the draft was tantamount to promoting corruption. We were baffled by such statements. The NCPRI however continued with the consultations to evolve an approach, a set of principles and measures to unpack the huge unwieldy and much too powerful structure proposed by the IAC.

We are attaching a set of documents defining our approach to the Lokpal, different both from the Jan Lokpal and the Government bills. The NCPRI would like to share a set of principles and a framework for deliberation. The summary of our basic arguments is detailed below. This was placed in the public domain by the NCPRI and the Inclusive Media 4 Change ( CSDS) on the 5th and 6th of June 2011.

The consensus that emerged was that in place of a single institution there should be multiple institutions and that a basket of collective and concurrent Lokpal anti corruption and grievance redress measures should be evolved.

Summary of the NCPRI approach towards a series of concurrent and collective Anti-corruption and Grievance Redress measures:

Rationale: Vesting jurisdiction over the length and breadth of the government machinery in one institution will concentrate too much power in the institution, while the volume of work will make it difficult to carry out its tasks.

1. Unanimous endorsement of the need for accountability of all public servants, including the contentious issue of inclusion of the PM, with a few caveats. ( No one is above the law, enforcing the rule of law).

2. An independent system for judicial scrutiny and standards.

3. An independent and strong institution to scrutinize corruption of public servants and issues, which require different administrative processes and organizational set-up.

4. A mechanism to redress grievances of the common citizen.

5. Whistle Blowers protection.

The five measures proposed by NCPRI are:

1. Rashtriya Bhrashtachar Nivaran Lokpal (National Anti-corruption Lokpal): An institution to tackle corruption of all elected representatives, including the Prime Minister (with some safeguards), Ministers and Members of Parliament and senior bureaucrats (Group ‘A’officers) and all other co-accused including those in the private and social sector. The Lokpal will be financially and administratively independent from the government and will have both investigative and prosecution powers.

2. Kendriya Satarkta Lokpal (Central Vigilance Commission): Amending the Central Vigilance Commission Act to remove the single directive and empower the CVC to investigate corruption and take appropriate action against mid-level bureaucracy.

3. Nyayapalika Lokpal (Judicial Standards and Accountability Lokpal): To strengthen the existing Judicial Accountability and Standards Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure that the judiciary is also made effectively and appropriately accountable, without compromising its independence from the executive or the integrity of its functions.

4. Shikayat Nivaran Lokpal (Public Grievances Lokpal): To set up an effective time-bound system for grievance redress for common citizens to make the government answerable in terms of its functions, duties, commitments and obligations towards citizens. The grievance redress structure would have decentralized institutional mechanisms going right down to each ward/block level, and would ensure a bottom-up, people centric approach so that complaints and grievances can be dealt with speedily and in a decentralized, participatory and transparent manner. It will integrate public vigilance processes like vigilance committees and social audits, and provide for facilitation for the filing of all grievances/complaints through the setting up of block information and facilitation centres in every Block (rural) and ward(urban) in the country.The grievance redress mechanism will be a three-tier structure consisting of grievance redress officers at the local level within the department, independent district level grievance redressal authorities and central/State level grievance redress commission. It will include and rationalize existing

5. Lokrakshak Kanoon (Whistleblower Protection Lokpal): To strengthen the existing Public interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, that is currently before the Parliament, to ensure appropriate protection of whistleblowers.

These institutions, where relevant, will also be established at the State level. In addition there will be a common selection process to staff these institutions. We feel that all these measures need to be brought in simultaneously to effectively tackle corruption at all levels and provide a mechanism to redress grievances of citizens.

We write to you, to present this alternative, to elicit your responses, and to invite you to be part of the discourse. Please do let us know whether you are interested in being part of the discourse and in receiving periodic updates.

Please forward this on to friends and other interested people.

We look forward to your reply.

Warm regards,

Aruna Roy
MKSS (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)
Village Devdungri, Post Barar
District Rajsamand 313341

(email us at

Recommended reading on the Lok Pal bill(s)

A number of posts I found interesting and informative. Please also read Amit Varma's post, Anna's Song, where he has put together a similar selection (warning: links to this blog) and Prajnya's page dedicated the Lok Pal debate, which has a large number of links from different perspectives.

In no particular order:

India needs reforms, not a super babu - Kanchan Gupta - Daily Pioneer

Is there a teaching moment we're missing today? - Swarna Rajagopalan (personal blog)

I'd rather not be Anna - Arundhati Roy - The Hindu

Rupees, Annas And Vice - Gautam Patel (personal blog, but a piece that has appeared in the TOI's Mirror set of city newspapers)

Why Anna Hazare is wrong and Lok Pal a bad idea - Nitin Pai - (personal blog, The Acorn, part of The National Interest)

Of the few, by the few and Time to step back (both by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in Indian Express)

A thinktank brings Anna the eyeballs - Rahul Kanwal - India Today

The Making of an Authority: Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi - Mukul Sharma - Kafila (a collective blog)

The dangers of a movement - Ranjit Hoskote - Tehelka

The Insurgent - Mehboob Jeelani - Caravan

Jan Lok Pal: unconstitutional, unnecessary - Amba Salelkar - Pragati (part of The National Interest)

Hazare is no Gandhi - Salil Tripathi - The Daily Star

Reign of the Tin Men - Shoma Chaudhury with Revati Laul, The third flight path - Shoma Chaudhury, with an interview with Aruna Roy and Lokpal: An option without a fast or fuss - Revati Laul (all Tehelka)

Answering Anna’s critics: 10 posers and rebuttals - R Jagannathan - Firstpost

Protesters We Like: Anna, Arundhati and the doublespeak of dissent - Lakshmi Chaudhry - Firstpost

Hazare's solution is no solution at all - Aakar Patel Friday Times

Dreams at the barricades - Mihir Sharma - Indian Express

Hazare, Khwahishein Aisi: Desiring a new politics, after Anna Hazare and beyond corruption - Shuddhabrata Sengupta - Kafila

Are we missing anything? Please leave links in the comments. Thank you.

Added later

A patriarch for the nation? - The nation’s problems cannot be solved by a supercop - Ramachandara Guha - The Telegraph

Annationalism - Shekhar Gupta - Indian Express

A tale of two movements - Amita Baviskar - The Times of India

The long shadow of the Ramlila stage - Ashutosh Varshney - Indian Express

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Rs 0.02

1. I'm anti-corruption.
2. I'm anti-Anna Hazare.
3. Hazare is a sanctimonious right-wing tyrant so cloaked in his own virtue that he believes he is above the law.
4. The law is frequently an ass.
5. Nevertheless, the law is frequently our only hope.
6. Better the elected asses than the dictatorial unelected.
7. The government is playing into Hazare's hands with its idiocy.
8. Yes, these views can be held simultaneously.

Monday 8 August 2011

Great-Grandson of Godawful Poetry Fortnight

We launched the first Godawful Poetry Fortnight in 2008, and followed up in in 2009 and 2010. All our posts are here, and there's a brief article in the TOI about the Fortnight here.

Now, time to gear up for 2011. You have been warned!

The essentials:

• Godawful Poetry Fortnight runs from the 19th to the 31st August.

• Our Patron Saint is William Wordsworth.
And he gets this signal honour for saying that poetry "is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Way too many aspiring poets have rallied behind that banner, too few going so far as recollecting those emotions in tranquillity, let alone reading the rest of the preface to Lyrical Ballads (which can be found on Bartleby, for those interested).

• To join in, all you have to do is post on your blog*, Facebook or Google+ a godawful poem you have written, with—all totally optional—a brief note about GPF, a bit about what godawful poetry means to you, and a link to this post.

• Post godawful poems as often as you like during the Fortnight. (The True Believers Challenge: post thirteen godawful poems, one on each day of the Fortnight.) Squeeze your muse like a boil. Get it all out. Pester your friends to post too. Once GPF is done, you will write good poetry for the rest of the year, yes?

• Technorati is pretty much dead now. So just use a Godawful Poetry Fortnight tag or label on your post, and maybe a #GodawfulPoetryFortnight Twitter hashtag as well.

• To those who feel the need to point out this Fortnight lasts only thirteen days, we draw our cape around us, and say, in a marked manner, "Poetic license."

* I'd be happy to link to you if you tell me where your poem is.
If you don't have a blog, you're welcome to use the comment space here or, if you know me and have my address, email me your poems and I'll post them as guest posts.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Chennai Reporters' Beat

Yo, Madrasis (it's okay to say 'Madrasis' for just people from the city, no?),

The noble Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan (have always loved the regal way his name rolls off the tongue) has an experiment to propose, one that we're eager to see the results of. It's happening in a few hours.

Excerpts from his post:
On Sunday, the 10th of April, we will all meet at the Luz Signal (near the Sangeetha restaurant), and proceed in a stochastic and haphazard manner towards TT K Road/Sivaswami Road. Along the way you, and I, will meet people, talk to those we meet and keep a keen eye out for all kinds of things. At the end of the walk, we will talk for a few minutes about the things we saw, and coffee/breakfast/brunch later, disperse.
you will sit down and write about whatever you think is worth writing about from the walk.
I (and perhaps one other person) will then collate these stories, edit them (minimally, and brutally honestly) and structure them into a paper we’d love to spend a Sunday with. A month of Sundays with.
All of this, then, will be published as an entirely online newspaper; due credit given, of course.
Details here.

Sunday 27 March 2011

Change a letter, change the story

These, reformatted and with typos (hopefully) corrected, are from a Twitter hashtag we started in the wee hours, #changealetterchangethestory, which in turn was ripped off from a couple of old posts on this blog (1, 2 and you'll see that my first few were from my own contributions there), which in turn were inspired by an email thread. Please add more! And check out the thread, scrolling back to the beginning, before it became a sort of minor viral. We particularly recommend contributions by @tinytoots, @ravages, @leftarmspinster and @rajasen (who are cordially invited to repost their selections here or on Facebook, where this will eventually cross-post). The basic rules: (a) add a letter, subtract a letter, or change a letter, (b) provide a blurb and (c) if (b) is funny enough, you may be permitted to bend (a) slightly. Jurassic Pork Stars Miss Piggy. Kermit guests as amphibian with a taste for the Other White Meat. Bone With The Wind Rhett decides he doesn’t give a damn and follows his libido. The Princess Ride Another set of Princess Di revelations. The butler did it, apparently. A Suitable Toy The search for the perfect self-gratification aid Vernon Dog Little Dyslexic boy framed for incident in the city pound. A Stud in Scarlet Holmes helps a metrosexual accused of a crime of fashion. The Complete Woks of Shakespeare The man who introduced Chinese cooking to Elizabethan England. The Dairy of Samuel Pepys How one man milked success for all it was worth Of Human Bandage Florence Nightingale's rip-roaring autobiography Finnegan's Cake Buttery, over-cooked Beautiful Thong @soniafaleiro's lyrical real-life story of Fashion Week Sin Fish @chakraview's coming of age story, set in an aquarium Heaver Lake Vikram Seth's beautiful collection of poetry on throwing up Nine Hives William Dalrymple's ode to bee-keeping Known Smurf @anniezaidi 's debut novel about her childhood's favourite toy (yeah, okay, that was 2 letters) Homage to Catatonia The pro-LSD manifesto Popcore Essayists @jaiarjun edits set of learned essays on incestuous pornography The Grill @soniafaleiro on the art of barbecuing My Fiend Sancho @amitvarma's experiments with devil worship My Experiments With The Troth MKG's story of his marriage The Decline and Fall of the Roman Umpire @prempanicker's argument for neutral match officials Mound of the Baskervilles A pictorial study of the gravestones of Yorkshire Of Rice and Men How to ensnare a Tamizh groom To Fill a Mockingbird A guide to the bird-feeders of Alabama The World According to Carp Scientific study of the migration habits of this popular fish Fear and Loafing in Las Vegas The flaneur's guide to sin city Match 22 Elizabeth Taylor's marriages Midflight's Children The progeny of the Mile-High Club (one more cheat - 2 letters changed) The Unbearable Lightness of Peeing Blessed relief Sods and Lovers The Hemingway you never knew The Girl With The Dragon Tatti Creative defecation The Girl Who Flayed With Fire S&M, pyromania; it's all there The Grate Indian Novel Slightly irritating IWE work The Sly Company Of People Who Caress Love for sale, surreptitiously India Balling An NYT reporter takes a gap year in India Trainspitting Why the railway tracks turned red Shtupping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Frost's raunchier side Love and Ponging in Bombay How a deodarant salesman found romance in the city's trains Malgudi Pays RKN's guide to budding IWE writers Sacred Dames The BJP's sadhvis - an insiders account Groom on the Roof Finding love in the hills In An Antique Band Life on the road with The Rolling Stones Maxiumum Pity When Mother Teresa opened a branch office in Bombay 2 Statues Best-selling Indian novel with wooden characters Lunatic in my mead The mad bootlegger of Bangalore The Hungry Diet Amitav Ghosh's patented, guaranteed weight loss manual The Mother Side of Midnight Oedipus revisited Supperman The sad story of an overweight superhero The Kite Punner Who strangled him with the manja? A Hose for Mr Biswas Naipaul's epic work on suburban gardening What Ho, Jeeves Bertie can;t remember who he was with last night (well, okay, no letters changed) The 3 Mistakes of My Wife How his spouse said 'I do, I do, I do' The Singh And I @bhogleharsha on how to keep smiling in the commentary box Spittle Women The first compartment of the 8.20 Churchgate fast Withering Heights Collected criticism Sex and the Pity How the losers get laid The Twin Showers The Ashleigh and Mary-Kate voyeur tapes Park Night Bruce Wayne cruises the Oval, looking for a little Robin Lady Chatterly's Lever Give me a place to stand and I'll make the earth move for you, baby It Takes A Pillage The USA's war on Countries Which Won't Give Them Oil Who Filled Roger Rabbit? A taxidermist's tale of woe The Audacity of Grope Another president's memoir The Audacity of Dope How an idiot became President The Wind in the Pillows Why she had to change the bedclothes The Call of the Mild Indian engineers move to the USA Caturday Night Fever The LOLCATS collection Pilates of the Caribbean Weight Loss in the West Indies Dork Knight @sidin's secret fantasies

Monday 7 February 2011

Caferati's Fifth Annual Poetry Slam at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (formerly Prince of Wales) museum garden
Sunday, 13th February, 2011
7.00 pm.

Caferati's Annual Poetry Slam made its debut at Kala Ghoda in 2007 (the first in India, actually) and has returned every year since then, to much enjoyment from its faithful audience and participants. This is its fifth edition.


There are no required themes. (Since it's the eve of St Valentine's Day, we suggest you bring at least one love poem.)

We’re proponents of free speech, but please understand (1) that we must abide by the laws of the land, and (2) that there may be children present in the audience. Please don’t bring poems that could get the Festival in trouble with the law.


For initial submission via email:
11.49 p.m., 11th February, 2011. (We may extend this deadline, but don’t count on it.)
To respond to the invitation to the Slam:
10 a.m., 13 February, 2011.
On the day of the Slam, 13th February 2011:
Report to the sound console at the venue by 6.00 p.m, and ask to speak to one of the Literature volunteers. Please show all five of your poems to the volunteers.

How our Poetry Slam works
Even if you know how a conventional Slam works, please read this section. There are more than a few tweaks.

Before the Slam:

Each poet must have ready at least five poems.

To be invited to compete in the Slam, you must submit one poem via email. (See address at the bottom of this post.)

The organisers/judges will short-list poets from the entries. Selection criteria will be the quality of the writing and how well, in the judges’ opinion, those poems lend themselves to performance.

The selected poets will be informed of their selection only via email. Their participation will be confirmed only once they reply to that email and confirm that that will be able to perform at the Slam and that they will come prepared to perform five of their poems.

At the event:

Participants in each round will perform in random order.

After each round, the judges will vote, and the competitors with the lowest points in that round will be eliminated, until we have a winner. The exact number that will be eliminated in each round will be decided depending on the number of participants selected to compete in the Slam, and will be announced before the performances start.

Scoring will be cumulative. Those who survive each round will carry their points with them. Elimination in each round will be based on total scores up to that point. In case of a tie, the totals from that specific round will be used as a tie-breaker.

Rules and Conditions

Submit only one poem via email.

The contest is open to anyone over the age of 16, except families of the organisers and the judges. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been published or not, whether you’ve performed before or not.

Since the main event is live on stage, selected participants must be prepared to travel to the venue (at their own expense), from wherever they are, to perform their work.

Entries must be your own, original work.

Entries can be in Hindi, Marathi, Urdu and English

Each poem must take no longer than two minutes to perform. Time on stage will be kept strictly, and you will be cut off if you exceed the limit.

Participants selected for the Slam can, on stage, read from a written version, recite from memory, declaim, shout, or sing their words. They can stand still, gesture, pace, jump and up and down, stand on their heads, whatever. They will be judged on both the quality of the words they perform and the performance itself.

No costumes, musical accompaniment, or audio visual aids allowed. It's just you and your voice

There is no entry fee.

Submissions remain the intellectual property of the entrants, but by submitting an entry, you give the the Kala Ghoda Association, the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival and its Sponsors, and Caferati permission to use your entry, with acknowledgement, but with no payment to you, in their websites, as part of Press Releases (where they may be reproduced by media organisations), and in a possible special booklet or CD featuring the best of the Festival.

The decisions of the jury are final and binding, and no correspondence will be entertained regarding the jury’s decisions.


Caferati’s editors will evaluate initial submissions.

On the event day, there will be a panel of 6 judges.

The expert panel:

(to be announced)

The Audience Panel:

Three randomly chosen members of the audience will join the experts to help judge each round.


Prizes worth approximately Rs 3000 (first place), Rs 2000 (second place, and Rs 1000 (third place).

Winners will be announced at the end of the contest.

How to enter

Email editors AT caferati DOT com with the subject line Kala Ghoda Poetry Slam 2011.

Please include:
Your name
Your age
Your telephone number (preferably a cellphone you carry at all times)

Sunday 6 February 2011

The Essential Indian Books survey / the Readership survey

Would much appreciate it if you could post links to these on your blog. I'm trying to get at least a few thousand responses, and a link from you would help big time.

If you prefer to Tweet, you can use and

Click here to go to the surveys.

Essential Indian Books

Informal Readership Survey

Or you can take them on this page, below.

Do please pass the URLs on to friends as well. The more people we get to fill this out the better the results will be.

Many thanks!

Sunday 30 January 2011

ForbesLife India - an e-sampler

Please also read a short introduction by Indrajit Gupta, editor, Forbes India, and the introduction to ForbesLife India by Charles Assisi, editor.

If you'd like to subscribe, please see this page for details.

We hope you'll pick up your copy soon, and we look forward to your feedback. You can write to us at ForbesLifeIndia AT, follow us on Twitter or 'Like' us on Facebook.