A building is set on fire. The Indian media and commentariat respond.

[This is a Whatsapp forward doing the rounds. I am not its author. I hope the people named below take it in its stride and are not offended at my posting this here. — Shivam]

The Hindu: Building set on fire

TOI and HT: Page 1 single column with 100 words on fire. Page 2 full page analysis of every fire and why we keep seeing fires. No one to blame.

Indian Express: Features the fire in the city pages.

The Wire: This is what is happening in Modi’s India. The building manager neglected his duty to go attend an RSS shakha.

ThePrint: What the building fire tells us about how well Modi understands Indian politics and how he is redefining it.

Quint: Here’s our video on who said what about the fire.

Scroll: Here’s a chronology of building fires since 2014.

Swarajya: As Vajpayeeji asked: Who started the fire?

OpIndia: Aag kaa badlaa aag.

ANI: ‘picture of shakha men dousing fire’.

AltNews: ANI uses old photo…

Rahul Kanwal: This fire is a masterstroke by BJP’s Chanakya strategists.

Sudhir Chaudhry: Rashtrawadi Zee News aapko bataeyga ki des ke kis kis gaddar ne yeh mag lagayi hai.

Amish Devgn: Kya sirf Hindu hi aag laga sakta hai? Kya mulleh-maulana aag nahi laga sakte? Aaj ki bahas. Kya.. kya kaha apne? Thodi to maryada rakhiye…

Rubiqa Liaquat: Modiji, aap to aag ki tarah athak sulagate rahte hain har samay, kabhii dhiimii aanch pe to kabhii prbal ujjwaltaa ke saath ke puure andhere kaa naash kar aag bhuja deN. aap thakte nahii hain?

ABP News: Kya alien ne lagayi thi aag? Janiye ABP news par.

Aaj Tak: Aag ke peecha Dawood Ibrahim ka haath.

India TV: Kiski bhatakti aatma ne lagayi yeh aag? India TV ne kari atma se do-took baat.

Navika Kumar: Viewers and friends, today Times Now has exclusively accessed Rhea Chakraborty’s private Whatsapp chats! Every third message by her to her friends says ‘lit’ with a fire emoji. Clearly proves her role in the fire.

Smita Prakash: Sources tell me the fire is a handiwork of anti-Modi forces.

Shishir Gupta: Revealed: How NSA Ajit Doval facilitated the paradropping of bravehearts from RSS at site of fire.

Praveen Swami: New group called Gali Mohalla Mujahideen had been planning fire, secret IB intercepts show…
…On the disaster that followed this hubris, the historian Thucydides wrote: “Sicily would fear us most if we never went there at all.” This, he explained, was because “that which is farthest off, and the reputation of which can least be tested, is the object of admiration”.

Arnab Goswami: Jalaa do inhe! Jalaa do! Ye aag nahii bujhegii friends! Ye aag nahii bujhegiiiiiiii!

Barkha Dutt: How I braved 1042 kms when I heard about the fire and could not stop my tears on the way thinking about the heartbreaking agony of the victims who have been singed in this singular catastrophe to have befallen north 24 Parganas

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: The duopoly of fire and water in a majoritarian democracy like India is a dangerous, unprecedented slide. It will take India decades to recover from it.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra: This is a new kind of threat. It’s ‘Fire Jihad’, and the libbie-lobby is whitewashing it.

Swati Chaturvedi: I had already exposed this fire in my book, people. Go read it. Here’s the link.

Rajdeep Sardesai: As Kishore da poignantly sang, Chinagri koii bhadke to saavan use bujhayye. Saavan jo agan lagaaye, use kaun bujhaaye. G’night friends. Shubhratri.

Karan Thapar: You may question why this fire took place. You may also question why a fire and not water. But can you question? I will now question the fire.

Shekhar Gupta: You may have seen all these reports on all these things and I’m sorry I’ve not been able to deal with it in Cut the Clutter earlier. But why is this an issue? For this we need to look at Indira Gandhi’s decision in 1975. (does jazz hands)

Rana Ayyub: I have some wonderful news to share. The International Fire Reporters Collective have just selected me for an award. Its an honour. I am humbled and will keep fighting untruths.

Sadanand Dhume: Unless Indian liberals come clean and condemn arson, such fires will keep taking place.

Yogendra Yadav: We need samnavaya and samvaad and not vivaad. English-speaking urban elite are incapable of comprehending it and need to introspect. Rashtra bhasha meN karnaa hogaa. KaThin hai prantuu ho saktaa hai

Vir Sanghvi: I interviewed Sonia Gandhi in Allahabad in 1999 and she told me Rajiv Gandhi was most concerned about the fires that plague India.

Ravish Kumar: Aag mein jhulajhte Huey gareeb kisan aur bhooke majdoor ki kahani kaun batayega? Kya Modi ji ke New India mein unki kahani raakh ke neechay dab ke reh jayegi?

Rohini Singh: Before I go to Khan Market and take one more selfie with my iPhone, will the UP Police please explain me why such fires are still taking place despite my Twitter activism against them?

Swapan Dasgupta: I was a firsthand witness to the fires that Sri Advani’s rath left in its wake – a reminder that historical wrongs need immediate and urgent redressal, as Nirad Babu reminded us quoting Churchill about the Great Fire of London 1666.

Aatish Taseer: I know what it’s like when a building is set on fire. It is this fire of hate that I lost my Pakistani father to. Did I tell you about my Pakistani father?

Aakar Patel: That one time when Hanuman set fire to the Dravidian Scholar Ravan’s Palace.

Devdutt Patnaik: Indians have long worshipped Agni, the Vedic fire god of the Vedas. Their refusal to take responsibility can directly be traced to this ancient practice

Shivam Vij: If only Rahul Gandhi had taken my advice and bought fire extinguishers…

Addendum based on suggestions after publication:

The News Minute: While an empty building set on fire in Delhi has become the centre of a national debate, what about fires that have caused severe devastation in South India? 20 years after Carlton towers….

R Jagganathan: The fire incident has to be studied with nuance. For one, it is not Indic enough.




Biometric-Wala: An encounter with the newly sought-after craftsman who fashions an identity for you—or, at least, a UID card

First published in The Caravanuid2.jpg, 1 October 2011

CONTRARY TO WHAT HIS NAME SUGGESTS, Bechu Lal Yadav, 29, isn’t a seller of goods. He is a recordist of identity. And he is among a new breed of technical professionals who have come up overnight—the Biometric-walas.

Originally from Bhadohi district of Uttar Pradesh, Bechu Lal makes biometric “smart” cards for zero balance bank accounts. They may resemble ATM cards, but in the absence of ATM machines in villages, the second embedded chip is used to verify the card through thumb impressions and record cash transactions. He owns a few such zero balance smart cards himself, and is proud of it.

Bechu Lal had been making these cards for the company eGramIT when the firm discovered an even bigger client than retail banks: the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Across the country, companies like eGramIT have been subcontracted by UID “registrars”, which fall into almost any kind of government department or agency, to help issue Aadhaar (12-digit identification) numbers.

For a brief period, he could be found at the Life Insurance Corporation of India in Lucknow helping people fill forms, be photographed, iris-scanned and fingerprinted. But after a so-called fight, about which he does not know much, the enrolment came to a standstill and he was sent to Lajpat Nagar in South Delhi for a month to lead a team.

His company has rented out a large hall in the Sitladevi temple complex in Lajpat Nagar. “We may be shifted out of here because we are now hearing it’s not allowed to have centres at temples or mosques,” he says. The enrolment centre opens at 10 am, but it’s also where Bechu Lal sleeps at night. Even before he is awake at 8 am, people start knocking on the door. “Can you accept our forms?” they ask. “Can I please wash my clothes?” he replies.

He and his team of five manage to enrol roughly 250 people a day. Restive crowds become angry—middle-class people want to push their way up the queue, leaving working-class people behind, and some kick up a fuss. But Bechu Lal never loses his cool—less because of his temperament and more because of a certain Mr Mittal from the temple board who sits at one end of the table and manages the crowds. “The people here are good,” says Bechu Lal. “In other places there’s a lot of fighting.”

People are dying to get themselves an Aadhaar card—sorry, number (UIDAI insists it’s not a card but a number, even though people will get cards). Coming from Lucknow, Bechu Lal claims that one driving factor behind the sense of urgency is the notion of a permanent ‘Delhi identity’. “People see that their fingerprints and eyes are being recorded, and it’s obvious to them there can be no identity card more foolproof than this,” he says.

Some people have even taken an entire day off from work to wait for hours to enrol. They fear that without the Aadhaar card they might not be able to receive subsidised food grain or be able to operate bank accounts, and perhaps even be asked to leave Delhi. “I don’t know if other cards will become obsolete,” he says. “It hasn’t even become operational.”

What will he do after everyone has been enrolled for Aadhaar? “No worries,” he says. “The biometric field has a lot of opportunities.”

Make No Mistake, Odd Even 2.0 Was A Failure

By Shivam Vij

(This article by me first appeared in HuffPost India on 30 April 2016.)

Pity the politician who starts blaming the media. Shooting the messenger is the surest sign of the politician’s frustration and failure. Continue reading “Make No Mistake, Odd Even 2.0 Was A Failure”