Chennai Floods 2015 Vs Cumbria Floods 2015

Chennai floods





Year 2015 saw some unprecedented weather patterns in the whole world and Chennai in India and Cumbria in the UK experienced some worst floods due to this. My intention of writing this blog is to compare and contrast the floods which happened at the same time in 2 different parts of the world. Did India being a developing country and UK being a developed country make any difference? Let’s find out

When –The floods happened in Nov 2015 –Dec 2015. UK was hit by storm Desmond which caused some unprecedented flooding.

How Much -The amount of rainfall received was frightening  and explains the scale of the devastation caused by these floods. On 1st of Dec 2015- Chennai received approximately 272 mm of rainfall in 12 hours according to Skymet data. Cumbria had received 350mm of rainfall in 24 hours over the weekend of 5th and 6th Dec.

Death Toll – Chennai had approximately 300 deaths due to the floods and in Cumbria 3 deaths.

Chennai has a population of more than 4.5 million people and approximately 25 lakh homes were affected from the floods. In Cumbria 45000 homes were affected because of the floods.

How did Chennai Cope?

The TN government showed a poor and delayed response to the floods, even the national news channels did not have any coverage of the flood situation until Twitter reacted furiously. As the country’s citizens are used to not depending on the state machinery, Chennaites themselves took up the task of rescuing people and rebuilding Chennai during the floods. The people of Chennai used social media to launch a massive recuse and relief effort which helped to save many lives. The Chief Minister’s Public relief fund received a donation of 195 crores. The TN government requested the central government a whopping 25000 crores for the restoration process. The central government responded with a 1940 crore relief money. Lack of leadership became very evident as the T.N Chief Minister Jayalalitha was nowhere to be seen and there was no structure on how the relief money will be used and spent. Local Politicians had interferred with common people providing relief materials and were more interested in promoting  J.Jayalalitha. This had caused a lot of disappointment and anger amongst people. I guess this is not surprising as the sole aim of Indian politicians seem to be scoring points with their vote bank in any circumstance. Inspite of a major calamity like this the government has still not outlined any future plans on how to prevent or respond to a situation like this. 

How did Cumbria cope?

In Cumbria an effective state machinery took over the job of rescue efforts by deploying all its services including the army. The government worked out an evacuation and rescue plan to save people who were caught in the floods. Residents of flooded homes were provided alternate accommodation along with other basic needs. Every household which was affected by the floods was given 5000 Pounds for recovery. In the UK most homes have home insurance. Mr Cameron led from the start by first seeking assurance from the insurance companies that there won’t be any problems in insurance pay outs. Next he visited the flood-hit areas on foot and then announced that there will be a major review on the flood defences. The Cumbria community foundation launched the Cumbria flood appeal and had managed to generate 5 million pounds. David Cameron had also announced 40 million pounds to repair and improve flood defences.

The current situation is that Chennai is recovering by itself, unfortunately most people don’t have home insurance unlike people in the UK, which means they have to rebuild their lives by themselves. There have been a lot of heroic efforts during the floods and it has shown the true nature of Chennaites and human beings in general.

People caught up in natural disasters in any part of the world have ways of coping and this was quite evident in both Chennai and Cumbria. Chennai coped itself due to a collective public effort and Cumbria coped due to a systematic response from the government. There are a lot of lessons to be learnt for both Cumbria and Chennai and hopefully we will be prepared for future natural disasters like this.

Sorry is the word Salman Khan

I am sorry

 A few weeks ago the most talked about news or the only news in India and midst Indians was Salman Khan’s conviction in an accident case. He was convicted for 3 years in jail because he drove his car onto pedestrians sleeping on the street injuring some and killing 1 person as well. The court concluded that he was drunk and he did not take responsibility for his actions. This happened in the middle of a night in the year 2002. It took 13 years for him to be convicted. It is reported in the media that he is a changed man since that night. He started his own charity called “Being Human” and has helped and touched a lot of lives. If Salman really does want to prove that he has changed the only way he can do it is by accepting it and taking responsibility for the accident. “Sorry” is the word Salman and this will bring peace to himself and the people and their families involved in this case.

This conviction has raised a lot of questions about our judicial system, people’s attitudes, divide between Bollywood and general public, media’s craze for sensation and the poor helpless victims involved and their attitudes. But the most important question is why do these sort of incidents keep happening in our country? It was reported that Salman Khan left dying people under his car and ran to his lawyer’s house. Why and what made Salman do that? Is Salman inhuman? Has Salman not got any remorse or feelings? Probably not then what made him do that? I guess the answer is attitude and culture. In India we have an attitude that money, power and influence can buy anything including the law. This is highlighted in many instances time and again, it’s even shown in Bollywood movies the very own movies where Salman is a high profile star. So it’s the attitude and culture which made Salman run away from the accident and since then he hasn’t stopped running.

There are many instances that people in power get concessions and there is nobody to question it.

  1. Rahul Gandhi went away on a sabbatical and did not attend the parliament during that time, nobody questions it.
  2. Sachin Tendulkar Rajya sabha MP has 3% attendance record in the Rajya Sabha and an RTI was raised regarding this. Sachin Tendulkar’s answer was he was tending to his brother who was unwell and so he could not attend Rajya Sabha. The question is did he not leave his house or engage in other activities during this period of time. Imagine how many regular workers in our country would be able to say this answer and still keep their jobs.
  3. Sanjay Dutt was convicted of having 3 AK 56 rifles at his home illegally. He alleged that he received death threats and he bought these rifles to protect his family. Why would somebody buy AK 56 rifles to protect their family as opposed to a licensed pistol? He was convicted and imprisoned for 5 years. He has been out of jail so many times citing that his wife is not well. Although I have my sympathies for him and his wife, Is this special treatment available for every other prisoner in the country?
  4. Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor dies in a hotel under mysterious circumstances. Mr Tharoor was not questioned in relation to this case until an year after his wife’s death and was questioned only when the SIT requested it. If this was any other citizen in any other country the first person to be questioned will be the husband who in this case is Mr Tharoor.
  5. Devyani Khobragade was arrested in the US on charges of ill-treating her domestic help Sangeeta Richards. Devyani Khobragade’s arrest was not well received by the govt due to the way there diplomat was treated and Indo US relations were sour at that time. The Indian govt seems to be proud that it handled the situation very well but the biggest question is, What happened to Sangeeta Richards and Is she not an Indian citizen and Does the Indian govt not have any responsibility to Sangeeta and her family?

This list will go on and shows how much the law bends over if you are a citizen with money and power. I personally don’t want to judge these celebrities and politicians because given an opportunity to bend the law without any repercussions anybody will abuse it. It’s the system and the culture which is responsible for this.

So let’s see some examples of convictions in UK

  1. Chris Huhne a politician gets a speeding ticket and he requested his wife to take the ticket as he didn’t want his career to be ruined. So his wife takes the ticket. 10 years later he is a Cabinet Minister from the Liberal democrat party. At this time he and his wife separate and wife admits taking speeding points for her husband. This results in both being jailed for 8 months and Chris Huhne is told to pay 77,500£ in legal costs
  2. Probably the biggest scandal ever in the UK political circles is the MP’s expenses scandal. MP’s claimed expenses fraudulently for second home, tax evasion etc. This came into light through the FOI act and what followed was something to be applauded. The leaders of the major political parties told their MP’s to pay back all the expenses and most of them have paid back

There is some more to add but the following link will be a worth a read.

I guess it will be years before this will happen in India. I have often noticed that when I cite examples from other countries we Indians get defensive and try to dig dirt about those countries. I think that attitude should change, the attitude should be to learn from better systems rather than finding fault in their systems.

There are definitely a lot of positives which have come up with this high profile cases

  1. Social media gives a chance for people to voice their opinions and in all this it’s good to see that people want a change.
  2. Change is already happening and that’s the main reason Arvind Kejriwal was re-elected in Delhi. They failed when they were elected the 1st time but they were re-elected again with a phenomenal majority and Sorry was the word which got them re-elected. Arvind Kejriwal accepted his mistake and the public magnanimously provided him with a second chance.
  3. There is a demand for a complete overhaul of our judicial system hoping that will make law equal for everybody.
  4. When people talk about the poor victims in the Salman Khan’s case it reminds us that humanity still exists within each and everyone of us and that will eventually get rid of the selfishness.
  5. Strong leadership with an attitude towards positive change is needed and there are definitely some politicians and citizens who are committed towards a positive change.

Finally a positive change can happen only if we accept and forgive our mistakes, once again “Sorry is the word Salman Khan” which changes everything, brings peace and that’s what “Being Human” is.

Are we ready to get rid of corruption?


corruption logo




Every Indian who wants India to prosper and become a successful nation feels that getting rid of corruption is the only solution for that. Of course I agree but are we ready to get rid of corruption? Do we understand what a corrupt free India will be like? There is an old saying that if you point a finger at somebody remember that the rest of the fingers of your hand are pointing towards you. This is a blog for those people who point fingers at others and don’t realise that the rest of the fingers are pointing towards them.

So what does Corruption mean? These are some of the definitions which I found on the web

1.      Lack of integrity or honesty, use of a position of trust for dishonest gain

2.      Inducement by improper means to violate duty

3.      The process of decay

My blog is focussed on the 3rd definition, we as a culture are so used to corruption that we don’t realise that our culture, attitude is in the process of decay.

Now, let’s look at some of the day to day examples which we will come across in a corrupt free India.

1.      We have to pay the right amount of tax, be honest with our taxes, if we don’t the hand of law is much bigger, so we will be penalised for it.

2.      Imagine this scenario, rich kid drives dad’s car without a license, kills somebody on the road, walks away from it and the dad finds a poor man and makes him to take the blame and the son walks free. In a corrupt free India this kid will have to be prosecuted. This story is about Chris Huhne an MP in the UK who was sent to jail, it’s an interesting read

3.      You cannot drink and drive, you have to take a taxi home or arrange a friend (who has not had any alcohol) to drop you back home. This applies for all the road traffic offenses like not wearing a helmet, not wearing a seat belt, driving whilst talking on a mobile phone and most importantly have to give a proper test to get a driving license etc.

4.      You cannot drive an unlicensed auto or taxi

5.      You cannot bribe a customs officer and bring things into the country for which you should have paid customs duty.

6.      You cannot get a fake medical/sickness certificate

7.      You cannot get false reports on investigations, forensics, autopsy reports

8.      You cannot get a loan if you are not eligible for 1 even if your bank manager is your blood relative

9.      You cannot jump queues or cut corners because you know a politician or an influential person. This applies to influential persons as well just because you are in power doesn’t mean that you get priority. This is very commonly seen in our temples where celebrities and people of power have a special line for themselves.

10.   You fail to pay a bill you have to pay the specified penalty and not get away by bribing the officer.

11.   Your kid who is not good at studies can’t get a seat in a good school/college through a recommendation from a politician, they have to sit through the exams and get admitted in school/college if they are successful.

12.   Public officials have to work their standard hours of work and have to be doing official work when at work. They will also have to complete work at the stipulated time.

13.   Can’t use government vehicle for personal reasons

14.   Hospital staff can’t sell medicines to Local pharmacies at a cheaper price and you can’t buy cheaper medications which should have been given to the poor people.

15.   All government employees will be accountable for their work and if they don’t the organisation is responsible for it including handling people’s complaints.

16.   Can’t smuggle government supplies ranging from a simple pen to building materials for personal use.

17.   Street shops should be only in legitimate places and can’t bribe the police and get away from it.

18.   MP’s either Lok sabha or Rajya Sabha would have to attend parliament and cannot get away with poor attendance.

19.   Businesses have to comply with health and safety regulations which would automatically reduce their profit.

20.   Judiciary cannot be bribed to get favourable verdicts.

21.   Politicians who are corrupt and convicted will not get special treatment and celebrities will not be able to openly support a corrupted politician blaming political vendetta.

22.   You can’t have black money in real estate transactions.

23.   Politicians or celebrities can’t set up properties or companies in your name (no benami names)

24.   Common man will not get money, alcohol, biryani during election time. Election funding will have to be made public.

25.   There won’t be cheap labour in India as everybody in the system will have a minimum wage and they have to pay tax and will get all employee rights as any other job.

26.   Consumers will have better consumer rights and if you sell faulty stuff you are accountable for it.

This is just a simple snapshot of our day to day lives in a corrupt free world.  “You” in this blog refers to the common man who is against corruption and is part of corruption. I know that every common man would like to live in a corrupt free world but they have to realise that they are part of the corruption and their attitudes and culture has to change if they want to get rid of corruption.

So we need to ask the question again – Are we ready to get rid of corruption? May be the answer makes more sense this time.

Elections in India and UK

Election fun fair






It’s been a few months since the last general elections in India and Britain will have its general election exactly 1 year later in 2015. I thought it might be time to write a blog comparing elections in India and UK.

Elections in India are like anything else in India. Indian marriages, cricket matches and movies are all extravagant and very much part of people’s lives, so are elections in India.

Elections are won based on power, money, religion, caste and people. One can only wonder how much of that money can be saved and spent towards growth, development and eliminating poverty in India. Money is spent on rallies, meetings, posters and votes. Obviously rallies and meetings brings road blocks and inconvenience.

In a democratic country like India anything can happen. Parties can contest the elections without even naming their PM candidate. There is no agenda or plan set out before the start of their propaganda or even Election Day. Personal, direct attacks are common and have become part of our elections. There are no public debates as politicians are afraid of taking part and answering people’s questions.

Like the endless number of castes and cultures in India there are endless number of parties. This is actually the beauty of a democracy but obviously in India we overdo it to the point that we need a book the size of oxford dictionary to list all the parties. Contestants get party tickets mostly because of money or due to their power to woo people. This means special entry for cine actors, actresses, cricketers etc. because they have a large fan base who are potential voters. Unfortunately most of these people are disconnected from reality, lack understanding of governance, do not have any leadership skills and end up exploiting the very own people who had elected them. The sad part of this is a real hard working party member is denied the opportunity of contesting elections because of a celebrity. If a husband is not allowed to contest his wife contests, wins and rules the state. I guess we follow the old monarchical style rule in our democracy through dynasty politics.

On the other hand we are the 1st country in the world to have an electronic voting system. So it means to a certain extent booth capturing, and other malpractices in voting are minimal. The other good thing about elections in India is the Election commission of India which conducts elections. In the last few years thanks to Supreme Court they have got more powers and they conduct the elections efficiently and every citizen is given an opportunity to cast their vote irrespective of where they live. After all democracy is still alive in India.
Election victory is then celebrated with the Tax payer’s money through rallies, posters, ads etc.

Elections in the UK

Elections in the UK are a different ball game. There are 3 main parties here Labour, Conservatives and Liberal democrats. Now we have a 4th party emerging called UKIP.

Political parties announce their PM candidate well in advance and that person leads the propaganda. The PM candidate is the leader of their party and is usually chosen in a democratic way by their party. This happens in the American elections as well but their party leaders are chosen by the people themselves. The parties put out their plans and agenda well in advance and these are usually debated in the public domain. In the last elections the 3 big party leaders actually debated on national television 3 times before the actual elections. It’s something which is impossible in India as there is not even a PM candidate named before the election.

Elections in the UK are generally a quiet affair in comparison to the fun fair in India. Propaganda is usually done through door to door canvassing, promotion through media. Politicians put forward their plans and these are discussed in public domain, everything is evidenced based on stats, government figures. There are no rallies, no protests, no processions, no posters, no road blocks etc.

Parties are usually funded through donations, lot of the times business people make large donations to parties they support and is all in the public domain. Party tickets are generally given fairly. Politicians don’t change parties midway through elections and it’s very rare to see politicians change parties.
There are no big victory ceremonies or rallies to celebrate their victory.

So what’s the difference?

I guess in India we easily point fingers at the politicians but it’s the people who are responsible for it. They vote for the party which pays them to vote. People are short sighted, careless and irresponsible and treat elections like another festival. This can only be changed through education, proper governance, good leadership and stricter laws. That seems decades away, let’s hope for the best.