Important Info you may need on election day

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Very soon, "shut up and vote!" will become a new cliché, thanks to the youth of Youngistan who are determined to vote this time, no matter what! Enough has been already spoken about elections and I am sure every one of us don't need more of that since we all want to shut up and vote. Good to know that. Here are some crucial information which may help you on election day (lets call it E-Day!).
  1. Poll dates: 23rd April, 2009 (Bangalore), 30th April in few other parts of Karnataka, See rest of the elections schedule here.
  2. Poll timing: between 8AM to 5PM.
  3. Find your polling booth
    1. You can find the location on google special page for General elections 2009 or Election commission website or search here. Check out the example below.
    2. You can find the route map on google election page or here.
  4. To know more about the candidates. Click Here .
  5. To know more about political parties' manifestos: There is a detailed comparison done by The Hindu, check that out here. download in pdf.
  6. IMPORTANT: Carry your voter ID card.

Update: If your name is included in electoral roll and if you don't have your Voter ID (EPIC), don't worry, you can still vote if you produce other ID proofs like Driving license, passport, etc..

Last but not the least, your vote may be one in millions but it's important that you make it count. Get the mark of democracy on your finger!

Example to find your electoral details on google election page.
Step - 1:

Step -2:


Talibanization of 'Switzerland of Pakistan'

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"With high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes, Swat Valley is a place of great natural beauty that used to be popular with tourists as the Switzerland of Pakistan". It's even called as "Switzerland of East" because of it's attractive geography. "It's pristine beauty,snow capped mountains, rivers and rare Buddhist archaeological sites are known all over the world." It was an important tourist destination and major socio cultural center before it was captured by Taliban. Today, "Switzerland of Pakistan" is Taliban's battle ground for Islamic fundamentalists. The roots of Talibanization in Swat Valley can be traced to cold war politics.

The Cold War saw periods of heightened tensions and the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989) was one of them. Soviet Union forces were supporting the Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government against the Mujahideen resistance. Mujahideens in Afghanistan were actively supported by United States and Pakistan extended all possible support to help Mujahideens win over Soviet forces. Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency program to arm the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Operation Cyclone is one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken. United states engaged general Zia-ul-Huq to fight a US-aided war by proxy in Afghanistan against the Soviets.  Zia now found himself in a position to demand billions of dollars in aid for the Mujahideen from the Western states. Ronald Reagan's government met all his expectations. Pakistan continued to fight proxy war which in no way benefited it's people. "The war left deep scars to the Pakistani society with the menace of Kalashnikov (AK-47 assault rifle) culture spreading all over the country.

Many Afghan Mujahideen later converted to new forms of Jihadist outfits in the shape of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the early 1990s. The Pakistan and US trained Arab and Afghan fighters later in 2001 initiated a 'Jihad' against US. The links of the spectacular and deadly events of September 11 attack were deeply rooted in the Soviet-Afghan war. Osama bin Laden invested his inherited money into the Soviet-Afghan war to fight the 'infidel communist power' and was abetted by CIA, ISI, US and Pakistani military establishments for over 10 years.[wiki]"

Today, the children of Cold War politics have matured enough to threaten those who had nurtured them. Pakistan and it's friends refer those (strong) insurgency groups as "non-state actors". "According to USA, a plethora of non-state armed group have been engaged in violent struggle in Pakistan after the end of Cold War. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Harkat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI), Harkat ul-Mujahidin (HuM), Harkat ul-Ansar, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-taiba (LeT), etc... are just to name few of them. The so called non-state actors, with the help of "elements" within the state structure, are as powerful and influential as the Pakistani state." The real state within the state of Pakistan is not the ISI but the jihadist network in Pakistan's hinterland. The power of jihadist in Pakistan is so pervasive that, despite the presence of 20,000 Pakistani troops in the valley, (so called) democratic leaders had to be on their knees to surrender Swat Valley, the "Switzerland of Pakistan". Undoubtedly, Talibanization of Swat Valley is going to be one of the defining moment in balancing the power equation in Pakistan.

Rules of Taliban in Swat Valley directly conflict with natural justice. Simply because, stricter interpretation of Islamic laws contradict the natural laws. Poverty, coupled with apathy towards modern education are fundamental reasons behind the current mess in Swat. This may sound rhetoric, unfortunately that's the ground reality. The only pragmatic way to overcome the mess in Pakistan is to bring the political stability through democratic institutions. Pakistan needs time to clean up the mess created by it's dictators in the past (more on this here and here). Passing the blame on Pakistani state is not going to do any good, the world must compassionately understand the situation and help Pakistan to realize it's political stability. Long term paths of eradicating poverty, modern education along side the religious education should be pursued with greater vigor and tenacity.

'Bhay ho' ki Jai ho?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"In an apparent attempt to pull the plug on Congress's 'Jai Ho' campaign, BJP has released a parody of the 'Slumdog Millionaire' song called 'Bhay Ho' which describes how the nation has been facing 'bhay' (fear), 'bhookh' (hunger) and 'aatank' (terrorism) over the past five years [TOI]." BJP claims that, "Bhay ho" is not an official video but was sent by party sympathizer. "Even as the saffron party opposed the idea of the Slumdog Millionaire child artists campaigning for Congress, calling it a "mockery of poverty", the short film, Bhay ho, features two street children Nagarjun and Durga singing the song [IE]." Take a look.

BJP's Bhay ho! ad, composed by the local band.

Congress's Jai ho! ad, composed by the oscar winning band!

There was a widely circulated SMS after Slumdog millionaire's huge success. It read, "the credit for Slumdog Millionaire getting Oscar awards should go to India's ruling Congress party because without years of Congress rule there would not have been slums in India." Congress quickly bought the rights of Jai ho for it's election campaigning. By then, L.K. Advani's tech wizards had already flooded internet with BJP's campaign ads. This year's general election has brought technology and innovation into politics. More over, there is no dearth of money for month long festival of democracy. "Various political parties are expected to spend about Rs 1,650 crores from their party funds, which would include about Rs 1,000 crores from the two main parties -- Congress and BJP alone. In addition to spending by parties, candidates of the national parties are estimated to put in Rs 4,350 crores, while those from the regional parties are expected to spend another Rs 1,000 crores [Outlook]." More over, simultaneous assembly elections in couple of states will pump in more money into the system. Unofficial/unaccounted money is expected to reach unprecedented heights. While the estimated spending of election commission will be around Rs. 1,300 crores, Rs 700 crores will be spent by various central and state government agencies for purposes like photo identity cards, EVMs and polling booth.

No matter who wins the election, this election stimulus package will pump in more money into the system. With inflation rate kissing the zero mark, Aam Admi will have more money in his hand, thanks to generous political parties. Elections ki Jai Ho!

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.