Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Indians in Gulf countries: Book on problems faced by Indian expatriates in Middle East

For long, the Middle East, which is commonly termed as 'Gulf', has been considered an El Dorado for Indians. The first wave of prosperity came in many parts of India, particularly, in South India, when lakhs of Indians got jobs in Middle East in 70s and 80s.

It is a fact that despite 5-7 million Indians working in Gulf countries, there is not enough focus in India on either their contribution to our economy or their problems.

For the record, the number of Indians in West Asian countries is at least four times the number of NRIs in America. Mohammed Saifuddin's book Expat Ride sheds light on the issues pertaining to Indians in Gulf.

Contrary to the belief that every person who goes to Gulf, manages to make moolah, it tells us how large number of people fail to save adequate money.

The semi-skilled workers face pathetic conditions, work hard by spending more hours in duty but don't get as much return for their efforts. From facing extreme weather and psychological issues due to living away from families, the book tells a lot about the situation on the ground.

The book tells us about challenges faced by expatriates in getting good education to their children. That they have to pay exorbitant fees to get admission in colleges in India and the quota initiated by AB Vajpayee-led BJP government remains limited to just a few educational institutions in India.

Saifuddin also touches the issue of taxes apart from exploitation by money-lenders and depression among Indians working in the region. As many as 70% of those who commit suicide in Dubai, are Indians! This is a shocker for everybody.

The author suggests that India should conduct surveys and take more steps to redress the issues of expatriate community. Another myth is busted in the book. Muslims are not favoured in Gulf countries. In fact, in key positions non-Muslims outnumber Muslims.

Mohammed Saifuddin
The number of Muslims among powerful Indians in GCC countries is just 18%. There are other serious issues like problems faced in repatriation of dead bodies to India.

These things need to be taken up on priority. It is true that Indian newspapers and Television channels seldom pay attention to these important aspects which affect a large number of people.

But when it comes to sudden disappearance or crime against an NRI in America or Britain, our media forgets all sense of proportion and lap it up, showing it for hours.

But there is no such interest visible in Gulf. This is despite the enormous regular contribution in terms of remittances--sending money back home on regular basis, that runs millions of households in India.

Saifuddin, who hails from Hyderabad, has over the years penned articles for portal. The book comprises these articles. One hopes that the book would draw the attention of policy makers towards Indian expatriates in the GCC countries--United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabic, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shauq Jalandhari: Spreading the fragrance of Urdu poetry in Eastern India

Renowned Urdu poet Samuel Daniel 'Shauq' Jalandhari is instrumental in keeping Urdu poetry scene alive in regions not considered traditional homelands for the language.

For decades, 'Shauq' Jalandhari was the driving force behind literary and cultural activities in Chhattisgarh, once the eastern part of Madhya Pradesh.

In the last six decades of his poetic career, Shauq Sahab has got many awards and has been termed Pasban-e-Adab, Abru-e-Ghazal and Shaharyar-e-Ghazal.

Pune-based literary journal Asbaq recently published a special issue dedicated to Shauq Sahab's life.

For a long period, he remained associated with the All India Christian Urdu Writers Association [also termed as Anjuman Masihi Musannifin-e-Urdu].

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee also honoured him for his contribution towards literature. Poet Nazir Fatehpuri pays him tribute in his long Nazm [the first letter of each couplet adds to Shauq sahab's name], two couplets from which I am producing here:

Shaharyar-e-Ghazal, paasbaan-e-Adab
Aabruu-e-sukhan ka milaa hai laqab.....

...Ibn-e-Maryam ke shaidai tujhko salaam
Zakhm-khurda ko marham hai tera kalaam

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

From Shalimar to Dayavan: The joy of watching old Bollywood movies

Though I am not a movie-buff, there are a few times in the year when I occasionally get this urge to catch up on movies and see the films from the golden era of Indian movies.

I've also compiled a list of the most famous Bollywood films of all time, that I want to watch.

Recently, I had taken a few days off and watched half-a-dozen movies, ranging from Dilip Kumar's black-and-white Udan Khatola to Feroz Khan's Dayavan.

One of the movies which I yearned to watch for years was Dharmendra starrer Shalimar [first released in 1978].

In the pre-satellite TV era and even before the advent of VCR [video cassettes], I watched this movie when during Ganeshotsava [or perhaps Durgotsava] celebration, (I saw it perhaps in 1982-83), when screens were put in open in a nearby locality and amid great excitement, the movies were shown with projector. 

From the roof of our third floor apartment, I had seen this movie. As a child, I was totally hooked. It was a great experience. The world renowned thieves were called by 'Sir John' at an island and given a chance to show their 'talent' by stealing the Shalimaar diamond.

All sort of modern security measures apart from alarm system and guards were put up. Further, the diamond was under 24/7 surveillance through cameras. As the floor resembled chessboard, the hero--Dharmendra, devises a novel strategy. He gets a dress with similar black-white squares, and crawls towards the diamond.

'Sir John' senses that there is a movement or something fishy but it is not noticed exactly until Dharam gets close to the diamond.

Dharmendra finally enters the bulletproof glass vestibule that covers the 'heera'. Now what he will do? Surrounded by gunmen, how can he escape?

Here comes another trick. So that was a thrilling movie by Indian standards in that era.

Watched it again nearly three decades later, and just loved it. Zeenat Aman was the lead actress in this movie and added glamour to it.

So whenever I get chhuttis at a stretch, I decide on the half-a-dozen odd movies which I have to watch.

Among the recent movies that I saw included, some old ones, some of 70s-80s, and a few latest ones. They included Garam Hawa. It is again a gripping movie. As far as Dayavan is concerned, the story initially seemed too much of typical Bollywood masala. But after the first 30-45 minutes, I enjoyed it.

Dayavan has Vinod Khanna playing the lead role with Feroz Khan as his friend. The story line is similar to some of Amitabh Bachchan movies of the era. A poor boy, who takes on the system, rising as a criminal and later dispensing justice. But it is certainly enjoyable.

As far as the classical Udan Khatola [officially spelt as Uran Khatola] is concerned, it was an old wish. Had heard so much about it. The name also fascinated me. Either its the story, the dialogues or the songs like 'Ulfat ka jaam le jaa, mohabbat ka paighaam ka le jaa...', I loved the movie.

Have made a fresh list of the movies which I have to watch during my next such vacation. Which movies do you like, friends? Your wish list! Share it here so that I can also get an insight about the movies which others wish to watch. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Media Misinformation in India: Spreading scare in society on one hand, suppressing or ignoring 'terrorism' on the other hand

First an example about contrast in coverage of the following two incidents:

1. Three persons were killed in Manipur just a few days back. They included two Assam Rifles troopers and a civilian. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were used to trigger the blast. But the news was largely ignored in national media.

There were no 'flashes' on TV channels, no special report or follow-up. In fact, the group Revolutionary People's Frong (RPF) spokesperson said that the organisation would continue attacks on Indian army. Still, you may never hear about this 'outfit'.

In newspaper headlines, the word 'terror' was not used. Even word like 'militants' was not there in the few papers that bothered to carry this news somewhere on inside pages. It was like 'As many killed in blast, This outfit responsible'. Read the news in this English paper here

2. Now recall a similar 'attack' that had occurred in Pune sometime back. FORTUNATELY, no one was killed in it. Just ONE person was injured. Still, the moment, news came, all programmes on national news TV channels stopped. It was constant coverage of 'terror attack' for hours from then on wards.

People rushed to their homes, tried to contact their near and dear ones. Phone lines were jammed. Cell phones were out of coverage due to the massive number of calls. Channels feasted on this frenzy, and continued this 'panic' creating industry through the night.

Immediately, words were put into mouth by asking cops, 'Could X/Y be responsible'. Cops said, 'We don't rule out X/Y'. Soon there were flashes about 'Role of X/Y possible in this attack'. All so-called security experts were ready with their information about 'modules' and 'terror groups'.

No one was killed. No group had claimed anything or given any threat in this case. There were apparently no leads immediately. But the names of Muslim fugitives names were taken repeatedly. The follow up stories continued for days, causing anxiety in not just Pune but other cities also.

Channels were screaming at the top of their pitch. From secretaries to ATS chief, from Chief Ministers to  Home Minister, everybody was being contacted.

There were reports that 14 states in India are now on alert. Height of media madness. In fact, when name of one Dayanand Patil who had carried the bag containing explosive, came up, the reports suddenly begun drying up.

Even, 'clean-chit' statements were quick for him. It seems the tailor had picked up the bag by curiosity. Wonderful!

But for these two days there was panic across India, due to extensive coverage. Muslims again felt besieged.  You can't find a house on rent easily in any city. This has happened innumerable times. The cycle continues. Read the link again in DNA.


After these two examples, I just wish to point out that this has been happening for years now. The PANIC shown by these irresponsible TV channels, is causing the fear of Terrorism in society. In fact, the objective of the terrorists must be to make people feel insecure.

By giving so much coverage, section of media is not only behaving irresponsibility but is also unknowingly playing in the hands of the forces that would like to destabilise the nation. How long would this continue? There are illegal explosives seized across India.

When thousands of kilogrammes of explosives were seized from a person in Rewa, immediately he got a clean-chit. Why? Was it because the suspect or prime accused was not from a particular religion. Cops believed that he would be taking it only for 'illegal blasts for mining'.

Of Crude bombs, HuJI link

What if it fell in hands of Naxals? Crude bombs explode in various cities. There are certain cities in India, where its criminals use crude bombs to hit the enemies or create panic. These reports are never flashed. It's not just because North East is ignored.

Even when top most dignitaries were on North East visit and blasts occurred just around their arrival or departure, it didn't stir the news channels in Hindi heartland. English channels that claim to be 'restrained' are no less different in their attitudes.

Just a few years back, there was a suggestion on HuJI link by someone and a blast story from Assam was played up by terming it as Terrorist attack. Later when ULFA claimed it was responsible for the attack in which dozens had perished, suddenly the news anchors and channels' interest in the story evaporated.

Its not about big stories either. In Pune, fortunately no one was killed. But Kanpur is also a big city, when bombs exploded there, it was not considered a major story. Why? Only when there is no lead or when there is an 'unknown', media can attribute it to groups with Arabic sounding names and Muslim names.

This is not to say that there is no terrorism. It is a big challenge for India, our police, security agencies to fight militancy and terrorism. But such immature behaviour, contrasting responses and biased media reporting can't help the country.

Militant, Insurgent, Secessionist, Outlaw or T...

Till 10-15 years ago, the word 'militant' was used in context of Kashmir. Now, in North East viz. Assam, Manipur, Tripura or Nagaland, the word 'secessionist', 'insurgent' or 'outlaw' is used. But in case of Kashmir,  the dreaded T word is used even when there is no incident, and just a suspect's arrest.
I don't at all want to say that Muslims are not involved or that they are falsely implicated. But by exacerbating the situation, causing panic, immature reporting and generalizing, section of media is doing great disservice to the nation. People with no knowledge about security establishment, make wild guesses and speculations.

These things harm investigation and hamper working of the security agencies. Media has failed to evolve a code for itself. In one incident, where no one is killed, it becomes 'terror attack, while another where many are killed is just a 'blast by outlaw group'.

Isn't it time to write to Press Council of India? Or better approach courts! Whatever. The need is now to once gain define terrorism and militancy, and once defined, the term should apply on all such groups. Every such group must be seen and dealt with in the same manner by media. Is it too much to expect?

[Read 25 old posts on the subject of militancy and terror on this blog HERE]