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As I write this post, Indian Digital rights activists are watching in horror as "ethical hacker" Ankit Fadia has been declared the brand ambassador of Digital India. As Twitter goes nuts trying to show how big a "blunder" this is, perhaps it is time to realize that it is not a blunder. It is a deliberate stupidification of India with deliberate installations of mirrors of Modi's will rather than independent intellectuals.

Deliberate incompetence is the hallmark of appointments by Modi sarkar and they happen too often to be considered mistakes. From Smriti Irani, who faked her own education credentials handling National Education to Ankit Fadia, a self proclaimed ethical hacker no professional respects is only the tip of the iceberg that had started showing up right from Modi's election campaign.

Kirron Kher, contesting from Chandigarh in the Lok Sabha Elections had candidly admitted in an interview to the Indian Express, "I am not a politician. I do not see myself as politician. I see myself as somebody who is working for my city and fought (elections) to get one more seat to (Narendra) Modi ji. That is how see myself. I did not ask for the ticket. It was given to me and now I am here." Contesting against a 4 time MP Pawan Bansal of the Congress and Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party, the candidature of Kirron Kher had been met with black flags by BJP workers themselves in Chandigarh. She won.

From Modi's holograms being projected nationwide to sidelining of senior leaders, Modi is clearly a man not interested in the contributions of others, even as he accepts their necessity. The Supreme Court rapped the Women and Child Ministry for the delay in filling vacancies in the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, but the reason turned out to be the PMO not clearing their appointments.

But if we see the appointments being made, there is little reason for cheer. Amartya Sen resigned in protest citing unprecedented interference in academics from the government. I do not see him as a leftist, but I am aware the supporters of the present government do. Yet we now have students of the FTII protesting as well. Surely the case cannot be that Modi lacks supporters among excellent actors that he settled for Gajendra Chauhan to avoid dealing with a "secular" (as his current whine in foreign countries goes)?

In a scathing piece on the rise of "anti-intellectualism" under the present government, Rishi Majumder identifies the common thread behind persistent absurd appointments as "The lack of a strong, distinct, individual vision for what they want to achieve with their charges." even as they are good managers. I see it as the appointees being conduits for a vision dictated from sources out of public scrutiny. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere, readily reflecting someone's will.

But there is more. It is a deliberate flaunting of unchecked stupidification in an obscene carnage of an intellectual India. The word "intellectual" itself has been turned into a slur by the supporters of this regime. The message is clear. "We do not want your fancy theories. We want the freedom to define scholarship however we wish." The trend is far reaching and flaunted at the most trivial of opportunities. Of all the journalists in the world, Modi chose Fareed Zakaria to give his first interview. Till then, Farid Zakaria's biggest attention puller was when his articles got pulled down for plagiarism.

Smriti Irani got rewarded for her loyalty and robust defense of Modi.  Fine. But it is not just that. What she was entrusted with was something she had been discredited for. It is not about less qualified politicians. Faking qualifications on an election affidavit is an act that declares that her qualifications felt inadequate to her own eyes. She could have been rewarded in many other ways, but she now she handles the nation's education. Something she has been established as inadequate about.

It is not merely loyalty. Modi's supporters include several senior journalists as well, but would someone like say, Kanchan Gupta accept being told what he could ask and what he couldn't? In addition to showing critics that they cannot stop him, no matter what he does, Modi's choices of people are also a statement of what behavior among supporters will get rewarded. Modi does not want independent thinking even among his supporters. Kanchan Gupta and Subramanian Swamy - two of the most independent thinking right wing thinkers are conspicuously free of responsibility, even as jokes circulate about Advani in the margadarshak mandal. The three countries Ajit Doval (who had been caught with Chota Rajan'sgangster) took an interest in, bombed in terms of foreign policy. As we speak, freaking "Hindu" Nepal has people outraging against India. It does not seem to matter to anyone. Baba Ramdev is selling churans to cure dengue and collaborating with the Defense Research and Development Organization - toward what purpose is anyone's guess.

Modi himself seems to take absurd speech to greater heights when he talks of Ganesha's head being an evidence of plastic surgery being practiced in ancient India. Not even transplants, mind you. Plastic surgery. While speaking of a super elite hospital helping improve healthcare for the masses in India, like the 32-rupees people would be lining up to pay over a thousand rupees to even be seen as an outpatient in this miracle hospital. Let there be no doubt that not even an effort to sound rational was made.

At a time when Modi has the biggest organized support among all public figures on the internet, at a time when he launches an average of two websites a month, at a time when a large part of his election victory was due to towering ethical and unethical efforts online, it is absurd to imagine that he does not have anyone to be a better brand ambassador for Digital India than Ankit Fadia - who is not respected by anyone other than abject ignorant newbies to coding. As far as appointing for incompetence goes, Ankit Fadia would rank as his second most spectacular appointment (the first being Smriti Irani, of course), because for anyone who has even passable knowledge of the subjects Ankit Fadia writes about, his name has become synonymous with plagiarism. A superstar script kiddie with dubious claims to fame. But he has the one thing Rishi Majumder had identified as a prerequisite. There is no evidence of Ankit Fadia even wanting to learn as long as he can sell his books and meaningless certificates.

Modi sarkar does not care that it reflects idolizing of incompetence on issues crucial to the nation. It does not need to care about public opinion for another 3.5 years. In a world where policies useful to cronies must be pushed unhindered, intelligent people slow things down with their questions. Even when they support. Unthinking and efficient people doing as told is what makes selling the country out from under people's feet possible. Meticulously following the government's stand, and unperturbed, supporting the government's opposite stand as well, when criticism forces a U-Turn.

 

The message to supporters is even clearer than it is to critics. I want your support, not your brain. If you want your reward, this is your key.

 

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English: Montek S. Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman,...
English: Montek S. Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, India, speaks at the closing plenary of the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2008 in New Delhi, 16-18 November 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The provisional census data on houselisting has a shocker on sanitation in India - sanitation in India statistics reveal that less than 31% of Indians had access to proper toilets. Yep. You got that right. MOST INDIANS DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO A TOILET. Half of india still defecate in the open.

A proposal to make Human Right to toilet an integral part of the 12th 5 year plan document was discarded by the Planning Commission of India. Ghosh, a professor at JNU said that a cabinet minister "gave a bizarre argument that Indian women like to defecate in the open". Of all the things that get blamed on women, from obesity in children to rapes, this is one I had never imagined I would encounter. That women do not want the luxury and privacy of a toilet and like to defecate in the open.

This, of course happens to be the Planning Commission of India which spent 35 lakh rupees for renovating 2 toilet blocks, 5.19 lakhs of which went into a smart card system to limit access to toilets to those who had cards issued. The electronic access system got disabled after protests by people on the floor. Gone 5 lakh. Poof. Planning Commission chairman Montek Ahluwalia spent Rs. 2 lakh per day of foreign travel at a time when our Prime Minister was making noises about austerity. One toilet for public use can be added for Rs.10,000/- but right to toilet seems to be limited to the stinking elite.

In other news, yesterday, the Delhi high court judge expressed displeasure at the negligible number of public toilets for women (269) in Delhi, as compared with men (3,712). Not to mention India being seriously behind on toilets with respect to its commitment to UN's millenium development goals and four South Asian Conferences on Sanitation, not to mention on a National, state, district and mohalla basis. Big promises, empty inside. Naam bade aur darshan chote, etc.

News from Madurai is that residents of Alwarpuram, Shenoy Nagar and Gandhi Nagar are defecating in the riverbed of Vaigai, because the toilets in their area are either locked or defunct due to stinking conditions. Complaints raised have not worked, concerns raised about both health and river have failed to worry anyone into action.

Raichur, in Karnataka ran into a strange problem when its 3 fancy e-toilets costing 5 lakh each and with a working life of 7-10 years were not being used by the public. You put a coin into a slot, the door unlocks. Exhaust fan starts, FM radio plays... you are supposed to do what you normally do in a toilet. When done, if you forget to flush, never mind, the toilet does it for you, and there is a timer that rings when your time is up at the end of two minutes or something. Such miraculous toilets probably freaked out the public at large. Or possibly our crowds are either not used to paying for peeing or take newspapers into loos to poop and 2 minutes won't do.

Whatever it is, the experiment follows Kerala installing some 450 of these toilets (that's a cool Rs. 22.5 crores, by the way) by the same manufacturer, who also got (the visibility to get) a grant by the Bill Gates Foundation. Considering that Raichur City Municipal Council and Kerala are both ruled by the Congress with its reputation for you know what, one starts wondering about all kinds of things about these 5 lakh rupee toilets that play FM music.

Though they do seem to be doing good work when in the mood. Intinta Paarishudhyam in Andhra Pradesh seems to have built 50,000 toilets in four months for the sane cost of Rs.10,000/- (of which they pay about a third) or so, using sanitation kits and local labour. They claim that this model can be easily replicated all over India and I found myself wondering why it took 65 years to figure out that people can build toilets when mobilized. So I am a bit skeptical. God knows how good it actually turns out to be. Reports that use words like "high voltage" for a sanitation programme in India leave me wary.

Dakshina Kannada district Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is constructing sanitary napkin incinerators in schools to encourage hygiene and prevent blocked toilets when girls gispose them in toilets. An astonishingly caring move.

Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, the rural sanitation programme has failed abysmally to meet its target in UP due to lack of funds. Only 7% f the target toilets were constructed. 11,44,430 toilets were to be constructed in 5,799 gram panchayats, but it could construct only 79,653 toilets. The rural development department was able to provide only Rs 74.6 crore under MGNREGS against the requirement of Rs 514.9 crore to panchayati raj department for executing of the scheme till March 2013. Further meetings led to another Rs.108 crore. The state couldn't use Rs 576.28 crore available for construction of individual toilets in rural households last year because of revised guidelines. Apart from MGNREGS share, the state received Rs 256.84 crore (against Rs 366.22 crore) from the centre and Rs 32.9 crore from the state. It also had about Rs 200 crore lying unutilized from the previous year. The department has to spend Rs 10,000 to get a single toilet constructed under NBA. To construct a toilet, Rs 4,500 comes as a MGNREGS share, Rs 3,200 as centre's share, Rs 1,400 as state's share and Rs 900 has to be contributed by the beneficiary.

Chennai Corporation failed to get any bids to construct 2,000 toilets, so it is waiting to fail once more before it rolls up its sleeves and gets to work.

In other news, some 85% of rural households in Bihar not having access to toilets is contributing to rapes, it seems. Police and social activists speak of a worrisome trend or rapes happening when women go to defecate in the open, particularly in the early morning and late evening. Mr. Pandey estimates that 400 out of Bihar's 87 rapes reported last year would be avoided if there was access to toilets. This is interesting and worth examining if there is any corelation. It reminds me of a horrendous gang rape of a child last month. She was caught by her rapists when she went to defecate in the open. The link has more such recent incidents.

A report by Ministry of Drinking water and sanitation for the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan on the sanitation situation in some districts of Maharashtra tells us that the number of households without access to toilets is 71% in Aurangabad division, 62% in Amravati division and 60% in Nashik division. Additionally, another 12% are not working.

CSR fitted 48 bio-toilets jointly developed by the Railway Research Design and Standard Organisation and Defence Research Development Establishment and is looking to fit 200 more on trains at a cost of Rs.80,000 each. This will prevent the night soil from dropping onto the tracks and create a hygienic, aesthetic and safety hazard (corrosive to rails) and reduce the excreta to water and gas.

Even the economic capital of Mumbai has a shocking 1,137 manual scavengers, even though they are (token) banned by the state.

I have no point to make. All the points are made. This is a sample. This is where we stand. thought it was worth a compilation to get a large view. The Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan has a long, long way to go.