Ashok Malik


Ashok Malik can be contacted at

Corruption, old & new

Just how much of a tricky animal “civil society” activism can be became apparent about 10 days ago, when a public meeting took place in New Delhi under the banner of the Coalition of Democratic Movements. Ostensibly called to discuss the issue of corruption and the need for a strong Lokpal law, the meeting soon descended into an attack on liberalisation.

Sai’s empire of the soul

Just under 11 years ago, as Satya Sai Baba entered his 75th year, I travelled to Puttaparthi to report on the celebrations. I was not a believer and went as an agnostic explorer of the Baba phenomenon. I was fortunate enough to get a darshan, being pushed into the front rows of the massive throng that he greeted in person.

A hero by default

All democracies have a government and an Opposition. Some democracies have a Cabinet and a shadow Cabinet. India is unique. It has a National Advisory Council and, starting this past week, a shadow National Advisory Council. The confusion this will lead to can only be guessed.

Beyond boundaries

Cricket encounters between India and Pakistan come with the inevitable mix of passion, paranoia, politics and propaganda. Like the central event in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, a match between these two countries is interpreted differently by a variety of stakeholders and spectators. Often we take away from such a match only what we want to take away.

Nuclear family

Japan’s earthquake and tsunami have now trigged a nuclear power plant meltdown that threatens the country with an epic crisis. A technological superpower that has developed excellence in earthquake-resistant construction — it is situated in one of the planet’s most seismically active zones — Japan is better off, strange as that expression may sound, than most other countries. If a triple disaster of this type had struck a standard Asian or developing country, the casualties would have been in the hundreds of thousands and not the tens of thousands.

For the love of life in power

Rapprochement was inevitable. It was always difficult to see the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) threat to withdraw support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and break its partnership with the Congress as more than bluff and brinkmanship. Political compulsions have forced the parties to stay together — or perhaps hang together. The DMK is worried about a heavy defeat to the AIADMK-led alliance in Tamil Nadu.

Endgame for PM?

In the past week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come under pressure on three counts. First, at his meeting with leaders of opposition parties, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee seemed to indicate the Congress was willing to concede a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) inquiry into the 2G telecom scandal if that was the only route to saving the Budget Session of Parliament from disruption. Should this perception be correct, it cannot please Dr Singh and his inner council.

The cricket republic

Between February 19 and April 2, India will co-host cricket’s Fifty50 World Cup. Immediately after that it will stage the planet’s richest cricket tournament: the Indian Premier League (IPL), India’s flagship Twenty20 (T20) event. At the beginning of 2011, India toured South Africa. Later in the year, it will play top-line Test series against England and Australia. In a country that needs few excuses not to immerse itself in cricket lore, 2011 is an extraordinary bonanza. It’s a 12-month festival of quality cricket.

Great Exhibition

Those who travelled to the fifth Vibrant Gujarat Summit this past week experienced not just dazzling investment statistics and the fruits of purposeful governance but also, in a sense, social engineer

The JPC headache

In theory, the first week of January is a time of renewal. Politics is seldom so neat and precise.

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I want to begin with a little story that was told to me by a leading executive at Aptech. He was exercising in a gym with a lot of younger people.

Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen didn’t make the cut. Neither did Shaji Karun’s Piravi, which bagged 31 international awards.