Sunday, August 11, 2013

10 questions that need answers

We are told that the public memory is short. I think it is getting shorter as time passes by. News items that grab headlines for days altogether get dropped from the mainstream media (and hence public discourse) as we move to the next “breaking news”
I wonder what happens to the questions that remain unanswered? This is why i thought to put some of these back on the table. These are the issues that are important as per my understanding. At the outset, let me also say that i may have missed some bigger and more burning issues.
1.       What is the status of the Purulia Arms dropping case
On the night of 17 December 1995 a Latvian aircraft dropped a large consignment of arms including several hundred AK-47 rifles and more than a million rounds of ammunition over a large area in West Bengal’s Purulia district. Several days later, when the plane re-entered Indian airspace, it was intercepted by the Indian Air Force and forced to land. The crew of the aircraft consisted of five Latvian citizens and Peter Bleach, a British citizen. They were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment while alleged kingpin Niels Christian Nielsen (aka Kim Peter Davy), a Danish citizen and member of the Ananda Marga group, escaped. The Latvian crew (who gained Russian citizenship while in Indian custody) were later pardoned and released in 2000. Peter Bleach, too, was released on 4 February 2004, via a presidential pardon. In 2007 Kim Davy was traced by Denmark authorities and on April 9, 2010 Danish government decided to extradite Kim Davy to India but Danish authorities failed to successfully defend their decision in the Danish high court. The court, therefore, refused extradition of Kim Davy to India. He has still not been extradited.
Who were the intended recipients of such a large cache of arms? If 7 terrorists could created such a havoc in Mumbai with some AK47’s what would have happened if even some of these “several hundred” AK 47’s would have reached the anti national elements? And this was in 1995. Answers awaited?

2.       Why do Mumbai’s roads get washed away every year?
Not only are the roads of Mumbai are in the same (bad) state every monsoon, the state just keeps getting worse. Something should be done to break this contractor – BMC-neta nexus. Maybe the reason this happens every year is that this is a way of “indirect” loot and hence public reaction is not too strong.  But loot it is. Can something be done?

3.       Why has Dawood not been brought to book for all the crimes against the country?
India’s most wanted terrorist safely operates from our neighbourhood. He is always in our subconscious mind – thanks to Bollywood who keeps romanticising this criminal (more on that in a different blog). He was in the news twice recently – IPL betting and the attack on Abu Salem inside the jail. Can we never bring him to book? Why can’t he be chased and be made an example of – remember Bin Laden and America?

4.       What will happen to the Padmanabh temple treasure?
Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and located in Thiruvananthapuram. The shrine is run by a trust headed by the royal family of Travancore. In June 2011, the Supreme Court directed the authorities from the archaeology department and fire services to open the secret chambers of the temple for inspection of the items kept inside. The temple has 6 vaults The review of the temple's underground vaults was undertaken by a seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court to generate an inventory, This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy temple as one of the wealthiest temples in India and with the final estimate of the wealth, it might overtake the Tirupati Temple—hitherto thought to be the wealthiest temple—having some 32,000 crore or 320 billion (US$5.4 billion) in gold, coins and other assets. It is estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to 1.2 lakh crore or 1.2 trillion (US$20 billion), making it the richest temple in the world. If the antique value is taken into account, these assets could be worth ten times the current market price. It’s a lot of money to be just forgotten about. Mind boggling i say. Any ideas?

5.       What is the status of the Swiss bank accounts that Indians held?
Anna Hazare and his group brought this debate into the national discourse last year. The numbers were dizzying – enough money kept outside the country to pay off our national debt. Although we can keep debating the size of this offshore money, I wonder what has happened to action that was to be taken against the people who held this? Or are we waiting for “Anna is back” I am sure many in the government would also be praying for one of his “indefinite” fasts to go on a path of no return – the nuisance will be gone once for all and the public memory is short. Action report required, maybe?

6.       If “Garibi Hataao” has been the mantra of Congress, why is most of India still poor?
This is classic. Garibi Hatao (GH) has been the mantra of all Congress governments and they have “ruled” this country almost 55 years now. If they were a private company, they would have closed 50 years ago due to gross mismanagement. If they were an employee in a private company, they would have been dismissed 54.5 years ago due to utter incompetence. But we are not so lucky. I guess GH applies only to their netas. Garibi Hataao anyone?

7.       What is the status of the Telgi scam? Has the money been recovered?
Abdul Karim Telgi is a convicted counterfeiter. He earned money by printing counterfeit stamp paper in a 600 billion (US$10 billion) scam. He and several associates were sentenced to 30 years rigorous imprisonment. On 28 June 2007, Telgi was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 13 years for another aspect of the scandal. He was also fined 1000 crore (US$170 million). The Income Tax Department requested that Telgi's property be confiscated to pay the fine. He is in bad health and may die soon, burying with him the secrets of both the co-conspirators and the current status of all the money that is believed to be scammed. Will we ever get the answers?

8.       What are we doing to prevent the disaster that we are speeding into?
We are heading full speed into a terrible disaster. We here is the world – which supports 7 billion people now – more than ever in the history of the planet. It took us thousands of years to reach a population of 1 billion – by 1800’s. In the next 200 years we doubled to 2 billion by 1920’s and then doubled again to 4 billion by 1970’s. We are on track to doubling again – soon. Most of our problems can be traced to the sheer number of people that the planet is currently supporting. At this rate, we will reach the point of no return soon. Can something be done about it?

9.       Why is there still no treatment for Cancer?
The world's oldest documented case of cancer hails from ancient Egypt, in 1500 BC. The details were recorded on a papyrus, documenting 8 cases of tumors occurring on the breast. From the 1920’s mankind has been trying to find a cure for the dreaded disease. It is difficult to imagine that the problem remains unresolved after almost a century of dedicated research. What will it take to discover a cure in the next decade?

10.   Why is the army called every time there is a crisis?
We have a wonderful tactical unit to tackle all crisis – it is called the Indian Army. Uttarakhand floods – no problem.  Riots/curfews to be imposed – let’s call them. Terrorist attacks – call of action. Elections – their duty calls. Kids fell into borewell ditch – let’s send the SOS out. And by the way, they are also required to unfailing guard our borders, with us being surrounded by hostiles from all sides. Are we not demanding too much from them? What will it take for us to really develop a disaster recovery unit instead of calling out the army every time?
When asked correctly, questions can lead us in the right direction. Not all of them will have answers, not all of them should have answers. Some solutions may be immediate, some may take time. But i think it is important not to forget about these, maybe the mainstream media can publish the important ones that slip out of our collective memory every year. And some more that need us to think about answers to them.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.
Next week – Why are we here and what are we here for

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