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Showing posts with label dubai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dubai. Show all posts

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Namo hype tour

Roll up, roll up…for the Namo Hype Tour that is dying to take you away…from reality, from conciliation, from tolerance, from grace, from the Constitution. Roll up, the Namo Hype Tour will provide strong leadership, bring in investment, chant Hindu mantras, and oppress poor and middle class Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Never mind that, he will give you, if you are rich and powerful, preferably Hindu, electric power, water, roads and tax breaks.
Er…he has little support outside of Gujarat. Never mind, his global public relations agency has subdued even the television reporters who exposed his complicity in the post-Godhra riots in 2002; that was when he leashed his police as Hindu mobs fell upon Muslims and slaughtered thousands of men, women and children.
I have this on good faith from a friend in Ahmedabad, who is neutral about Modi. He affirmed a story I heard while in Gujarat about a bunch of Hindutva thugs, who chased a car because they had determined it was carrying beef. They seemed to have had intelligence…no, information, because intelligence is not part of the Hindutva worldview, only bigotry.  They chased this butcher but he managed to escape into Sarkhej, a Muslim neighborhood, where they dare not venture.
Policing in Gujarat is outsourced to Hindu and Muslim thugs.
To herd Muslims into ghettos is very much part of Modi’s agenda. I heard it time and  again from many people in Gujarat, all of them Hindus. Some lament it; others think it’s good. “We know where they are should any trouble arise,” a Modi supporter told me disingenuously.
That’s the Hindu Hriday Samrat (Emperor of Hindu Hearts) part of Modi’s platform. That’s not gone very far because his share of seats in the assembly has declined steadily since 2002: from 126 seats then, to 117 in 2007 and 115 in 2012.
Modi is now projected as the governance icon with a “Gujarat model.” His ideal is not that different from a raft of Latin American, Caribbean and African dictators, who sold their countries to local and international business interests. His PR people have sought to create an image for Gujarat that is truly fantastic…a veritable haven of governance and development.
And so it was I arrived at Ahmedabad airport recently, fully expecting a Singapore-style experience. Aside of the jetways, a modern and much-needed convenience that beats taking a bus from the ATF-choked tarmac, the Ahmedabad airport has an air of moffusil desolation…at least for ordinary citizens.
Upon landing, the non-VIP must walk through a garbage-strewn pathway to the parking lot to get to the car and then drive on a standard Indian road that is nowhere near the Singapore experience. Or even Dubai or Abu Dhabi. But we must not talk about these UAE airports and roads because they are Muslim; else you risk being attacked by Hindu fundamentalist goons, who are Narendra Modi cultists.
So what is the ground reality in Gujarat? The simple answer is: unsustainable development. A drive from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar and back tells the story. There are scores of real estate developments, residential and commercial. It looks impressive, especially if you are a xenophobic NRI or a member of the World Economic Forum.
A closer look reveals most completed projects are empty and many others unfinished.  Dig as you may, statistics are hard to come by from the Modi government.
The word is the celebrated automobile venture that shot Modi into prominence, the Tata Nano project in Sanand, just outside Ahmedabad, is floundering because of poor sales and a misbegotten marketing strategy.
Propaganda plays a big role in the Modi campaign, initially for chief minister, now for the prime minister. His PR handlers specialize in hype as a strategy and often fudge issues with smoke-and-mirror tactics.
The manner in which his machine hyped the recent visit of a few fringe Republican members of the US Congress seemed to suggest Washington has absolved him of the charge of “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” that in 2005 led to a denial of a diplomatic visa and revocation of the B category visa he held.
Sources in the US State Department say the US government will follow the judgments of Indian courts. Despite the pressure of the Hindu lobby, the US administration stands firm in its assessment that there is enough evidence to show Modi was complicit in the 2002 riots. Many Western diplomats point to the life sentence handed out to one of Modi’s ministers, Maya Kodnani, as a damning indictment.
Modi propagandists proclaim the European Union reached out to him after a decade-long boycott. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sources in the EU say the boycott continues and its diplomats are under instructions to have no official contact with him.
In the end, my sojourn in Gujarat convinced me Modi’s “Gujarat model” is a mutant that is alien to the inherent decency, fairness and above all moderation of the people in the state.

This article appeared on Times of India website on April 16, 2013.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Goa in the Off Season

White Trash, Desi Detritus

It is “off-season” in India’s only civilized state. Late diners, prowling the strip between Calangute and Baga, find a haven in Cavala, a hostelry that has a great bar and a nice outdoor restaurant. And so it was that we found ourselves ordering dinner late one evening. As we waited to be served the food, we ordered some beer and various cocktails.

One gulp down the hatch, I nearly choked as the drink went down the wrong tube. That was because I saw a barefooted white guy walk through the restaurant into the bar, wearing only a ponytail and a saffron loincloth. Mercifully, he didn’t stay there for more than two minutes but it was long enough for me to be offended

Goa is famous for its tolerance but blue-collar tourists and just plain white trash types are stretching it to the limit. In the end, they spend less than tourists from other parts of India, who are equally obnoxious in that they believe and behave that Goa is all about unrestricted and inexpensive alcohol consumption. They drink themselves silly and venture out into the sea, unable to swim, to become the latest statistics in drowning deaths. Both the white trash and the Indian yobs detract from the wonder of this place: its gorgeous landscape; its fresh seafood and its charming lifestyle that is unrivaled anywhere on the Indian subcontinent.

Whether you stay in a five-star hotel by the beach or especially if you live in a seductive little, off-the-map village like we do, the living is easy. Nowhere in India can you find the blend of European charm and desi comfort. Where in the world can you find a place today that is simply shuts down between 1 pm and 4 pm: siesta!

In the circumstances, it is easy to be what Bombay call bindaas. Why get exercised about loincloth-wearing white trash types or beer guzzling desi morons? For one thing, both behaviors are obnoxious. On the other hand, many people like us have made Goa into our haven, away from the ugly chaos of modern India. If we must put up this, we may as well live in Bihar or Thailand.

Our retreat is threatened by white trash and desi jerks. The locals in Goa are too busy to care; they are either applying for visas to Dubai, Canada and Australia or selling heritage properties to developers. An hour’s drive around the place shows up the ugly condominiums and resorts that are springing up like topsy all over Goa; plus there are these little boutique developers who buy properties for a song, develop it and sell them at egregious profits. Indeed there’s one like that in our village that a Delhi-based boutique developer bought for 16 lakh five years ago and flogged it for 80 a few weeks ago; you can be sure no local bought it.

Such stories spread like wildfire in the small gossipy community that is a Goan village and soon, every gent with a broken down old shack is looking for 30 or 40 lakh. Where all this will end is difficult to say but the state government, in a ham-handed way, is looking to curb foreigners from buying property in the state. It is an easy populist posture but the real threat comes from developers like the Tatas, Rahejas and various other national developers, who are offering to make Goa into a place that could resemble Gurgaon near Delhi or the hideous Hiranandani township in Powai, Bombay: as ugly as sin and as crass as Disneyland.

On the other hand, Goa is full of self-righteous NGOs set up by has-been journalists and retired advertising agency types. They are against all development and would rather Goa retain its traditional ways. Their misbegotten idealism has condemned the wondrous place to be a jobless economy; net exporter of locals to Bombay, the Gulf States, Australia and Canada. They fight to retain the old feudal ways and oppose all development of any kind; their idealism is only matched by their serious wrong-headedness.

As I prepare to head back into the rubble-strewn, loud and garish world of modern India, I take comfort in the fact that I will come back here again soon to this constellation of different worlds: a retreat; a home to fly away from; a loud vacation spot; a milk-cow for political plunderers; a virgin land for unscrupulous real estate developers; a place to vent self-righteous NGO indignation. Sometimes these orbits cross as they did for me that evening on Baga beach. The results are often distressing.

from daily news and analysis september 13 2006