Few Observations During the Day of Poll (Lok Sabha 2019)

People who know me know that I voted for the first time in my life yesterday. It was a breezy experience for me, but not without a few critical observations I made during my time at the local polling station.

  • The electoral list is not smart enough and randomly assigns voters to polling booths. That is why a certain man in his 60s kept cribbing (rightly so) he had to climb the stairs to the third floor of the school
    • Or the local election body did not think to go through the voters’ age before assigning classrooms as booths. Ground floor for people in their 50s and above or those with special abilities and the highest floor for the youth – or something like that
    • A lack of elevators and ramps in at least two of the polling stations in my locality meant people with special abilities went back home without posting their ballots or did not even consider. Save for the brave ones
  • It is impossible to choose a candidate who is a saint; but then can politicians ever be saints?
  • Some candidates have absolutely poor aesthetic and logical abilities; just looking at some of the party logos made me think about their volition to contest
  • Despite police bandobast, the locality was a bit more lawless than it is on any other day. People carrying 20 chairs on a motorcycle, parking in the middle of the road, misbehaving with policemen or government officials (although, usually it’s the other way around), and staring at the opposite sex became more apparent, unhindered
  • A lack of interest in going to vote because of the heat or the polling booth is not near where they live.[1]Turnout in the Thane constituency was a measly 50% (approx.) in 2019, worse than the Mumbai average.

Walking out of the polling booth, having my left index finger inked gave me a good feeling even though choosing whom to vote was a mind-numbing exercise the previous day. It sort of made me feel good about the idea of democracy but then I came home and things were back to normal within an hour. Which makes me liken the idea of voting to that of any activity that you do for pleasure. You crave for it before you do it. But once you have done it, you really start questioning its impact. TN.

And lastly, here’s the mandatory selfie I took after I voted.

View this post on Instagram

The look of a first-time voter.

A post shared by Tejas Nair (@tejasnair_) on

Featured image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

footnotes   [ + ]

1. Turnout in the Thane constituency was a measly 50% (approx.) in 2019, worse than the Mumbai average.
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List: Airlines in India and Their Fall

I originally wanted to write about airline livery, a mildly interesting topic that you can read up on Wikipedia now. But then Jet Airways, one of my favorite airlines in India, announced its premature death and I couldn’t control exploring the history of other airlines in India that have gone under for various specific reasons. Then Santosh Desai shared his opinions on the Jet Airways crisis last week in a TOI column, where I read mentions of defunct airlines like Damania and Archana for the first time, and I think this was called for.

Here’s a list of almost all inactive airlines in India, checked and verified a day before publishing. Most of these have been forgotten, with some names not even in my parents’ memory (the elder one was born in the 1950s) – all of which makes this a sadistically interesting exercise for me. There are a lot of reasons here why airlines went bust, mostly voluntarily to avoid further disaster, but one common factor is shortage of money due to a common reason of high fuel prices. Reminds me of a time when Germany’s Lufthansa said it is difficult to run an airline in India because of the “high cost of operations”. Jet will agree. And so will some of these four dozen and more now defunct airlines in India. But there’s a hidden reason why some of these companies embraced death. See if you can find that out.

List of Airlines in India and Why They Shut Down

This list of airline graveyard is in alphabetical order. To state the obvious, most airlines permanently stopped their services because of eventual license (Air Operator Permit aka AOP or Air Operator’s Certificate or AOC) suspension or cancellation by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) or suspension by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which is why I haven’t added that as a reason. I have focused on what led to the licence revocation.

Cargo and charter carriers are not included. Those that have been merged or acquired are also not added unless the merged or acquiring entity has ceased operations, except in some notable cases like Tata Airlines and Air Sahara. Suffixes and prefixes like “airlines” and “airways” are mostly not included to allow brevity, unless absolutely needed. You may have to scroll up and down because some of these airline names have direct connections.

  • Air Asiatic – Legal hassles involving chairman and managing director K C G Verghese who went on to write an autobiography[1]Thomas George And Ors. vs K.C.G. Verghese And Ors. on 7 June, 1994 – Indian Kanoon[2]Air Asiatic was the first airline to get a private air taxi operator license in India, circa 1989 (Review of “Wheels and Wings: An Autobiography by K.C.G. Verghese” – Anil Aggrawal, 2007)
  • Air Carnival – Unsafe and unreliable service, cash crunch
  • Air Costa – Cash crunch
  • Air Deccan – Acquired by industrialist Vijay Mallya and renamed as Simplifly Deccan, eventually converted to Kingfisher Red (see Kingfisher below)
  • Air Dravida – Cash crunch; shut down the same year it hoped to commence its operations after failing to create a fleet using aircraft from Canadian aerospace firm Bombardier
  • Air Mantra – Low seat occupancy
  • Air Pegasus – Cash crunch
  • Air Sahara – Renamed from Sahara Airlines in 2001 and then acquired by Jet and again rebranded as JetLite in 2007 which converted it from a “full-fare airline” brand to a “discount airline”[3]Sahara Airlines history – Jennifer Mangally, USA Today before merging it with JetKonnect in 2012 (see Kingfisher below)
  • Air Services of India – Merged into Indian Airlines
  • Airways (India) Limited – Income tax issues; merged into Indian Airlines
Airways India Limited 1950
The front cover of a timetable book (circa 1950) for Airways (India) Limited, probably the least known airline in India / © David Zekria[4]http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/ail1ai.htm
  • Ambica – Low seat occupancy; legal hassles
  • Archana – Heavy financial losses due to low seat occupancy and high cost of operations (with aircraft being returned to the manufacturers against pending dues)[5]https://gyaniz.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/defunct-airlines-of-india/24 April 2011
  • Bharatair (aka Bharat Airways) – Merged into Indian Airlines
  • CityLink – Cash crunch; eventually liquidated
  • Cornecon – Unknown
  • Cosmos – Unknown
  • Damania – The Aviation Ministry’s 1995 mandate that private airlines must fly to secondary routes to be eligible for major, profitable ones; acquired by Natural Energy Processing Company (NEPC) and converted into Skyline NEPC (see NEPC below)[6]According to brand strategist Harish Bijoor, Damania was the first to utilize the ministry’s permission to serve alcohol on board its flights, a welcome move allegedly jinxed by the arrival of low-cost carriers (LCC) like Kingfisher, IndiGo, and SpiceJet in the mid-2000s. (The Hindu Business Line, 23 February 2011)
  • Darbhanga – Gradual fall of the Darbhanga dynasty of Bihar further triggered by the death of its Maharaja Kameshwar Singh in 1962; DGCA cancelled its licence and one of its fleet (a VIP liner, possibly a Douglas) was taken by the Indian Air Force (IAF)[7]In December 2018, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu tweeted about the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Darbhanga Airport.
  • Deccan – Operation Polo which resulted in the annexation of the Hyderabad state from the Nizam in 1948, which, in turn, led to its changing hands from the Hyderabad government and Nizam State Railways to the Government of India; one of the eight pre-Independent domestic airlines to be merged and converted into Indian Airlines under the Air Corporations Act (see below)[8]In 1953, eight pre-Independent private airlines – Deccan, Airways (India) Limited, Bharat, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga, Indian National Airways, Tata, and Air Services of India – were nationalized and merged and converted into Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC), which later became Air India after its domestic and international fleet joined hands until the early 1990s when the national monopoly of the skies changed[9]Deccan was the first airline of south India, bankrolled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, taking cues from the Tatas.(The plane that made India fly – Muthiah, The Hindu, 20 November 2006)
  • East-West – Murder of managing director Thakiyudeen Wahid which added fuel to its financial problems[10]East-West was known for its alleged ties with underworld mobster Dawood Ibrahim. “I gave the instructions for Wahid’s killing”, underworld don and Ibrahim’s arch nemesis Chhota Rajan said in an interview with India Today’s Special Correspondent Harinder Baweja, 31 January 1996
  • Goa Way – Unknown[11]Dutch aviation enthusiast and photographer Ruud Leeuw mentions something about a deal between Lufthansa Cityline and Goa Way Aviation falling through. (20 May 2004)[12]Goa Way was branded as “India’s holiday airline”
  • Gujarat Airways – Intense competition[13](Airlines That Went Bust – Ranju Sarkar, Business Standard (pdf)
  • Himalayan Aviation – Merged into Indian Airlines
  • Huns Air – Possible heavy competition from Pushpaka Aviation and Air India[14]“Pushpaka Aviation gives tough competition to Air-India” – Chander Uday Singh, India Today, 15 April 1981; a zero-casualty accident during landing of its major flight – a Vickers Viscount 768D – at Vijayawada Airport in Andhra Pradesh on 28 August 1980 which reportedly damaged the aircraft beyond repair[15]https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19800828-0; possible consequent financial issues
  • Indian (formerly Indian Airlines) – Merged into Air India after the formation of Air India Limited (erstwhile National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL)) in 2007; its subsidiary Air Alliance was also merged into Air India along with the latter’s Express brand, all of which are now operational[16]“Why one large airline makes economic sense” – Bhanoji Rao, The Hindu Business Line, 30 June 2005
  • Indian National Airways – (Pretty successful bout till its) nationalization and merger into Indian Airlines[17]Indian National Airways was the second private airline to start operations in India (circa 1933), albeit using a government contract, after Tata Airlines. Incidentally, Indian State Air Service was the first, operating in the Karachi-Calcutta route as early as 1929.
  • Indian Overseas (formerly Mistri Airways) – Cash crunch
  • Indian State Air Service – Unknown; possible government voluntary withdrawal
  • Indian Transcontinental – Unknown[18]During its prime, Indian Transcontinental Airways partnered with Imperial Airways (now British Airways).
  • Indus – Cash crunch; inability to obtain safety-critical Bombardier aircraft parts from General Electric’s Commercial Aviation Service (GECAS)
  • Irrawaddy Flotilla & Airways – Japanese invasion of Burma in 1942 (during World war II) forced the company’s personnel to destroy some of its own fleet (housed in Pazundaung (now in Myanmar)), the rest of which were automatically handed over to the Burmese government in 1948; supposedly the fleet owned by its Chennai division never saw a resurrection as the company went into voluntary liquidation two years later[19]Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (1865 – 1950) by the Maritime Archives & Library – The National Archives of the UK, October 2008 (pdf)
  • Jagson – License lapsed without a single regional flight operating between 2009 and 2010[20]Its charter service apparently is still operational between New Delhi and Mumbai.
  • Jamair – Cash crunch, legal issues, labor problems, increasing competition, and shrinking fleet[21]Jamair – Wikipedia (unreferenced and unverified)
  • Jet – Cash crunch; lack of trust by lenders (mainly SBI)[22]Jet’s subsidiaries JetLite and JetKonnect were discontinued in 2012 and 2014 respectively. As it happens, the former was merged into JetKonnect.
  • Jupiter – Possible competition by national carriers; lack of profitable routes
  • Kalinga – Merged into Indian Airlines
  • Kingfisher (+Kingfisher Red) – Massive financial losses and eventual cash crunch, probably a precursor to Mallya’s fraudulent activities
  • MDLR – Cash crunch due to the 2007-2008 financial crisis and a rapid rise in fuel prices; tax irregularities which resulted in convictions of several employees; failed to give lease payments to British Aerospace (BA) for its aircraft; founder Gopal Kanda was arrested for abetment of an employee’s (Geetika Sharma) suicide with charges later dropped by the Delhi High Court; eventually became a part of Emirates in 2010[23]MDLR stands for Murli Dhar Lakh Ram (Group); was known for its high number of female employees
  • Mesco – License withdrawal by DGCA probably by request in 2001; first private helicopter charter company (air taxi) in India and still active in charters and maintenance work
  • ModiLuft – Mounting tensions with its technical partner, Germany’s Lufthansa; was set to make a comeback as Royal Airways through a different owner[24](Airlines That Went Bust – Ranju Sarkar, Business Standard (pdf); its permit was eventually bought and converted into SpiceJet by entrepreneur Ajay Singh
  • NEPC – DGCA’s policy of mandatory ACAS-II/TCAS-II fitments and cash crunch; eventually the IATA suspended it and its subsidiary (Skyline NEPC) for non-payment of dues[25]NEPC Airlines, Skyline Grounded – K Giriprakash, Business Standard, 11 July 1997
  • Orient – Base transfer from Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) to Karachi, Pakistan; requisition by the Pakistan government post Partition of India; in 1955 was merged with the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)
  • Paramount – Legal tussle with lessors of their liners manufactured by Brazilian aerospace firm Embraer; fleet grounding; multiple attempts to restart operations using Airbus and Bombardier aircraft in 2010, and then in 2013, did not materialize as lenders (SBI, again, among others) took its promoters to court (and DGCA) for pending dues and eventually seized the fleet
  • Premier (aka Easy Air) – Founder Umapathy Pinghapani’s arrest[26]Pinghapani, who promoted Premier Airways and its Easy Air brand from the United States, was arrested after he withheld the flying licence of a pilot (M Bhaskar) he had hired. (Anirban Chowdhury, The Economic Times, 4 March 2016); starting trouble; ministry’s no-objection certificate (NOC), which it gathered in 2014 expired a year later even before it could fly even a single flight
  • Pushpaka Aviation – Financial fallout with Air India, which Pushpaka was an associate of in running international flights between Mumbai and the Persian Gulf in the early 1980s; India Today reported a suspicious revocation of the contract between the parties including DGCA in late June 1983
  • RajAir (formerly Raj Airways) – Non-viability possibly due to high cost of fuel and competition[27]It began as Raj Airways in 1993 and shut down in less than a year before briefly reemerging as RajAir in 1995. (airlinehistory.co.uk, 29 July 2018)
  • Royal Star – Unknown
  • Safari – Government’s “very anti-private sector” reluctance to issue permits other than for 24-hour non-scheduled ones, as complained by founder and India’s “Air Commodore” Vijaypat Singhania; one of the first private aircraft operators in India in the 1970s[28]Action man Vijaypat – Archana Chaudhary, The Hindu Business Line, 24 July 2000[29]Safari is still known among aviation enthusiasts for its maintained fleet of three Douglas Dakotas (DC-3)
  • Sahara – Rebranded as Air Sahara; later acquired by Jet, rebranded as JetLite, and then merged with JetKonnect (see Air Sahara and Kingfisher above)
  • SGS (aka Air SGS) – Never took off despite a NOC from the ministry in 2016[30]SGS stands for Subhaash Gulaati Group
  • SpanAir – Grounded in 2014 due to safety violations both inside the cabin and on the ground; it still runs charter services
  • Svarima – Unknown
  • Tata (aka Tata Air Services) – Became a public limited company post Independence and was thus registered as Air India; while Air India International Limited catered to international flights, Air India (along with Indian Airlines) flew flights domestically as NACIL/Air India Limited; currently operating all flights under the single brand name of Air India[31]Air India is the first and the only Star Alliance member from India. (Air India to join Star Alliance – Cuckoo Paul, Air Transport World, 25 June 2014)[32]Tata now promotes Vistara as a domestic airline in India in partnership with Singapore Airlines (SIA) and AirAsia India along with AirAsia Berhad.
  • TAIP – Annexation of Goa in 1961; last of the fleet (Douglas DC-4), which escaped bombing by the Indian Armed Forces (IAF), was flown to Lisbon and never came back[33]TAIP stands for the Portuguese transliteration of Air Transport of Portuguese India
  • UBAir (UB Airlines) – Unknown or not launched[34]FDI in aviation: No flights of fancy, yet – Ashwini Phadnis, The Hindu Business Line, 25 October 2004; possible working name for United Breweries (UB) Group’s Kingfisher Airlines
  • Vayudoot – Money bleeding due to low seat occupancy; was run by the government
  • VIF – Inability to scale up with its single Dornier aircraft
  • Vijay – Unknown
  • Zoom Air – License suspension by DGCA over safety concerns in 2018; attempts to revive fell through in 2019.

That’s a interesting history of airlines in India, isn’t it?

A lot of these players entered the commercial aviation market following the Indian government’s Open Sky policy in 1992, but soon began to bite the dust due to “high cost of operations”, a reason given out by many modern, private players both inside and outside India. Really shows how many businesses aspired to fly high in the world of civil aviation in India and failed. And the small number of airlines active today (GoAir, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Vistara, AirAsia, TruJet, and Air India (Express, Alliance)) is not that encouraging either.

The fact that Jet is trying to revive itself makes me a hopeful man this otherwise dull pre-election-day Sunday. TN.

footnotes   [ + ]

1. Thomas George And Ors. vs K.C.G. Verghese And Ors. on 7 June, 1994 – Indian Kanoon
2. Air Asiatic was the first airline to get a private air taxi operator license in India, circa 1989 (Review of “Wheels and Wings: An Autobiography by K.C.G. Verghese” – Anil Aggrawal, 2007)
3. Sahara Airlines history – Jennifer Mangally, USA Today
4. http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/ail1ai.htm
5. https://gyaniz.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/defunct-airlines-of-india/24 April 2011
6. According to brand strategist Harish Bijoor, Damania was the first to utilize the ministry’s permission to serve alcohol on board its flights, a welcome move allegedly jinxed by the arrival of low-cost carriers (LCC) like Kingfisher, IndiGo, and SpiceJet in the mid-2000s. (The Hindu Business Line, 23 February 2011)
7. In December 2018, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu tweeted about the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Darbhanga Airport.
8. In 1953, eight pre-Independent private airlines – Deccan, Airways (India) Limited, Bharat, Himalayan Aviation, Kalinga, Indian National Airways, Tata, and Air Services of India – were nationalized and merged and converted into Indian Airlines Corporation (IAC), which later became Air India after its domestic and international fleet joined hands until the early 1990s when the national monopoly of the skies changed
9. Deccan was the first airline of south India, bankrolled by the Nizam of Hyderabad, taking cues from the Tatas.(The plane that made India fly – Muthiah, The Hindu, 20 November 2006)
10. East-West was known for its alleged ties with underworld mobster Dawood Ibrahim. “I gave the instructions for Wahid’s killing”, underworld don and Ibrahim’s arch nemesis Chhota Rajan said in an interview with India Today’s Special Correspondent Harinder Baweja, 31 January 1996
11. Dutch aviation enthusiast and photographer Ruud Leeuw mentions something about a deal between Lufthansa Cityline and Goa Way Aviation falling through. (20 May 2004)
12. Goa Way was branded as “India’s holiday airline”
13, 24. (Airlines That Went Bust – Ranju Sarkar, Business Standard (pdf)
14. “Pushpaka Aviation gives tough competition to Air-India” – Chander Uday Singh, India Today, 15 April 1981
15. https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19800828-0
16. “Why one large airline makes economic sense” – Bhanoji Rao, The Hindu Business Line, 30 June 2005
17. Indian National Airways was the second private airline to start operations in India (circa 1933), albeit using a government contract, after Tata Airlines. Incidentally, Indian State Air Service was the first, operating in the Karachi-Calcutta route as early as 1929.
18. During its prime, Indian Transcontinental Airways partnered with Imperial Airways (now British Airways).
19. Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (1865 – 1950) by the Maritime Archives & Library – The National Archives of the UK, October 2008 (pdf)
20. Its charter service apparently is still operational between New Delhi and Mumbai.
21. Jamair – Wikipedia (unreferenced and unverified)
22. Jet’s subsidiaries JetLite and JetKonnect were discontinued in 2012 and 2014 respectively. As it happens, the former was merged into JetKonnect.
23. MDLR stands for Murli Dhar Lakh Ram (Group); was known for its high number of female employees
25. NEPC Airlines, Skyline Grounded – K Giriprakash, Business Standard, 11 July 1997
26. Pinghapani, who promoted Premier Airways and its Easy Air brand from the United States, was arrested after he withheld the flying licence of a pilot (M Bhaskar) he had hired. (Anirban Chowdhury, The Economic Times, 4 March 2016)
27. It began as Raj Airways in 1993 and shut down in less than a year before briefly reemerging as RajAir in 1995. (airlinehistory.co.uk, 29 July 2018)
28. Action man Vijaypat – Archana Chaudhary, The Hindu Business Line, 24 July 2000
29. Safari is still known among aviation enthusiasts for its maintained fleet of three Douglas Dakotas (DC-3)
30. SGS stands for Subhaash Gulaati Group
31. Air India is the first and the only Star Alliance member from India. (Air India to join Star Alliance – Cuckoo Paul, Air Transport World, 25 June 2014)
32. Tata now promotes Vistara as a domestic airline in India in partnership with Singapore Airlines (SIA) and AirAsia India along with AirAsia Berhad.
33. TAIP stands for the Portuguese transliteration of Air Transport of Portuguese India
34. FDI in aviation: No flights of fancy, yet – Ashwini Phadnis, The Hindu Business Line, 25 October 2004
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Preparing To Vote for the First Time

I am old enough that people sneer at me when I say I will be voting for the first time in my life this year at the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. So much that they begin to criticize me for having not voted all these years.

If the Opposition parties had their way, they would even blame me and my ilk for letting the current government execute demonetization, implement the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and resurrect hardcore nationalism. But a lot of people blame a lot of things here in Indian politics, so it’s better if I, a novice, don’t dive deeper. Instead, let me share my strategy pointers as I do the spadework to vote for the elections scheduled 29 April 2019 here in my constituency.

first time voting in lok sabha 2019 india
I won’t lie, I’m excited to vote for the first time / © element5digital/unsplash

If you are a first-timer this might help. Don’t take my word for it, though. And apologies if the time for you to consider this is already up.

Things That You Could Do Before Voting

A few things to do as part of your preparation before you cast your vote:

  • Take a good look at the past three-four years of your life. Analyse what went wrong and what went right. How much of this right/wrong was directly or indirectly influenced by the local, state, and national governance? (Examples: difficulties finding employment, joy standing up for the national anthem before a movie at a theater, ease of starting a start-up, etc.) And then start your research on the candidates and their political parties
  • Go to your state CEO’s website and learn more about the voting process, why your vote matters, and of course, the candidates. Here’s a quick access to Maharashtra CEO’s website as well as online affidavits (PDF) of candidates representing your constituencies
  • Religiously go through the affidavits of those candidates that are likely to win or who have won in the past. Usually, this can be figured out by checking their respective parties and their performance. If it’s a big state/national name, pay more attention. (This is important because according to Mumbai Mirror columnist Ajit Ranade, about 20 per cent of the candidates have criminal cases against them.[1]There are roughly 4,400 candidates in the fray. On average, there are 14 choices for every Lok Sabha seat before the voters. Cumulatively, about 20% of the candidates have criminal cases against them. So, on average out of 14 candidates for every seat, about three or four have criminal cases. (20 April 2019) He further states that if you can’t find a clean candidate, the None of the Above (NOTA) option might come handy)
  • Go to all your favorite candidates’ party websites and read their campaign catalogs to see what they are promising. You don’t have to believe what they are promising; just see if they are sensitive enough with what is actually happening around and that they align with your personal vision about the country
  • Do an extensive Google search of your favorite candidates. (Example: Search for “Manoj Kotak” and see what results come up. Then customize the search and go back by three-four years. Lastly go back a little further and see what they have been quoted saying or what has made them newsworthy. Trust your instincts and aim for local news outlets to get a real vibe about the candidates. I am depending on Navi Mumbai TV (NMTV)
  • Don’t fool around asking for and testing other people’s political leanings
  • Avoid messages (videos and images too) related to party campaigns on WhatsApp and social media like the plague
  • Avoid television and/or loud news channels
  • Avoid newspaper columns by politicians
  • Compare the report cards (that you just generated by consuming information about them) of your favorite candidates objectively, without paying heed to what they have promised. Instead, look at what they have achieved so far.

Then, go and vote. I wouldn’t recommend aiming for the NOTA option because it is not yet powerful enough that the Election Commission of India (ECI) will quash the poll if it gets the highest number of votes.[2]Even if the number of electors opting for NOTA option is more than the number of votes polled by any of the candidates, the candidate who secures the largest number of votes has to be declared elected. (Section 6.6.6, Electoral Statistics Pocket Book 2017, ECI)[3]…even if, in any extreme case, the number of votes against NOTA is more than the number of votes secured by the candidates, the candidate who secures the largest number of votes among the contesting candidates shall be declared to be elected… (ECI’s Provision for the NOTA option on the EVM/Ballot paper – Instructions, 11 October 2013)[4]The ECI while introducing NOTA indicated that although votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are invalid votes so they will not impact the result of the election process. Therefore, whether NOTA gets more or less votes, it is not taken into account for calculating the total valid votes. (The Economic Times, 12 April 2019) It will only mean that the winning candidate will win by a lower margin and overall votes. For a winner, the number of votes is as important as their kid’s mock board exam marks.

So, go out there and do what you think will “help” the country in the truest sense of that word. Ignore the jingoism, ignore the oratory, ignore the ridiculous schemes, ignore the promises. Look at the work and its effect on you and the things you care. And then go and vote. TN.

Disclaimer: It is not my intention to support a party or a candidate publicly. If any of the statements above hints at anything, it’s only your imagination at work. Please don’t contact me.

Update: Added footnotes to support the pointers about NOTA and candidates’ criminal records. (24 April 2019)

footnotes   [ + ]

1. There are roughly 4,400 candidates in the fray. On average, there are 14 choices for every Lok Sabha seat before the voters. Cumulatively, about 20% of the candidates have criminal cases against them. So, on average out of 14 candidates for every seat, about three or four have criminal cases. (20 April 2019)
2. Even if the number of electors opting for NOTA option is more than the number of votes polled by any of the candidates, the candidate who secures the largest number of votes has to be declared elected. (Section 6.6.6, Electoral Statistics Pocket Book 2017, ECI)
3. …even if, in any extreme case, the number of votes against NOTA is more than the number of votes secured by the candidates, the candidate who secures the largest number of votes among the contesting candidates shall be declared to be elected… (ECI’s Provision for the NOTA option on the EVM/Ballot paper – Instructions, 11 October 2013)
4. The ECI while introducing NOTA indicated that although votes cast as NOTA are counted, they are invalid votes so they will not impact the result of the election process. Therefore, whether NOTA gets more or less votes, it is not taken into account for calculating the total valid votes. (The Economic Times, 12 April 2019)
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Types of Staff at Every SBI Branch

Last day I waited for roughly 20 minutes before my turn came up at the general information kiosk at a State Bank of India branch in a Navi Mumbai ward. As was expected, the personnel at the kiosk was unable to answer my query. She said the person who was handling my case (KYC and debit card request submission) was on leave, which somehow seemed to excuse her of the duty to trace the paper trail, investigate, and resolve it. For her advantage, I do hand it to her for giving her absent colleague a quick call, in vain. All this while, another of her colleagues sitting next to her was hearing our conversation, sipping tea from a tiny paper cup, staring at the long line behind me, looking careless, unperturbed, and proud to be present there at that moment, possibly enjoying schadenfreude. This article is dedicated to people like her.

SBI branch
Just enter any SBI branch and observe these types / © Wikimedia Commons

At a time when some aviation experts are criticizing SBI for their callous attitude against the heartbreaking Jet Airways fiasco, I think it is fair for me to take a few potshots wrapped with satire at them. Most of us who have an account with the nation’s biggest public lender will relate to this almost immediately, and that is the highlight of this article. Here it goes…

Different Types of SBI Staff

A random list of the types of personnel you see at every SBI branch in the country:

  • Slacker – Got in through caste reservation. Were the first one to be pissed when their branch reduced the size of tea cups as part of regional cost-cutting. Do not have any friends. Take more than a dozen snack and loo breaks per day. Were the person who convinced their branch manager to put up a banner warning customers that they will be booked under IPC 352 and related sections if they try to manhandle a SBI employee. Were disappointed when TikTok was banned in India.
  • Idler – Usually an unpaid intern and/or a relative of an existing employee. Take up a desk at the front of the entrance and makes heavy use of the “Machine out of order”, “Counter closed”, and “Lunch time” signage. Have slightly more powers than a SBI customer. Assume the role of a clerk when the actual clerk is on leave. Boasted they will be able to get their friend a loan at half the market interest rate but are clueless how they will actually do it.
  • Ruler – Usually the branch manager, the deputy branch manager, or the business head. Left no stone unturned after the hiring process to get themselves a cabin in the branch but failed. Think they own the branch and at least 51% stakes in SBI. When their boss is on leave, behave like they own SBI. Rarely have a successful marriage. Believe that their English-speaking skill is the best among the branch staff and often show it off during corporate meets.
  • Vanity Persons – Got in through caste reservation pretty late in their life. Or as an extension of their dead spouse’s job. Usually older than the branch manager, but assume a designation 3-4 tiers below them, with the sadness about this fact very apparent on their face. Have an online MBA in people management. Have their favorite deity’s idol on their desk. A stickler for SBI’s draconian rules. Very punctual, especially about lunch and snack timings. Are usually all the 3-4 tellers in the branch.
  • Idler II – Often the security person. Obese. Have not fired a rifle since initial school training in 1991. Know more than the Idler, and sometimes, even the manager. Possess superior staring skills, even more when people of the opposite sex are around. Would be accused and convicted in a social controversy in an ideal world. Lead an antisocial life.
  • Infant – Pretty new to the banking world, and usually are appointed directly as the branch manager. Know less about banking than the branch staff’s average knowledge. Eat lunch alone in their cabin. Are an equal participant and victim of marital discord. Often keep a line of customers waiting at a general information kiosk by putting the personnel behind the desk to work on something “urgent” and as “needed by the HO before lunchtime”. Do not have any children.
  • Worker – The only people who work, and act seriously upon queried by a customer. Lead a happy family life, and are currently trying for a baby. Aspire to become a manager before retirement but don’t know that they are unlucky. Do not care about work, lunch, snack timings. Often at the receiving end of people who religiously partake in random acts of kindness. Do care about customer satisfaction. Do not get offended by articles mocking them.
  • Invisible – *that empty chair*

What more types of people have you met at an SBI office? TN.

Note: If you are an SBI employee and are reading this, do not take offense. Instead, try to change the status quo in your branch. If you still think it is wrong of me to generalize, please get in touch.

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Mumbai Film Festival: A Waiting Guide

It’s been nearly six months since the last edition of the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) concluded and I am finding it difficult to wait out any longer for the next one. Especially with Cannes releasing its official poster for 2019 featuring a tribute to late French filmmaker Agnès Varda as well as folks on my Twitter already starting to build up on TIFF 2019. It was difficult enough to see critics reshare opinion pieces of their favorite and not-so-favorite movies they caught at Sundance this year. And then our own MAMI came out with a tweet that sent a tribute to the late legendary Indian filmmaker Mrinal Sen on 10 April, and I just couldn’t control. Yours truly is filled with misery these days.

Mumbai film festival 2019
Poster for the 21st edition of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star / © MAMI

But, thanks to cheap access to the Internet and theaters nearby, I have somehow managed to find a way to sustain the gap – which almost feels like an eternity – between the festival editions, October through October. The key, they say, is to stop thinking about it, but good luck doing that if you are an active social media user. And if you are someone who follows the film fraternity (for whatever reasons), you are bound to become miserable over the 12 months. More so if you are disturbed by the wave of low-quality movies that have come out of Bollywood in 2019 so far. Why Cheat India, Total Dhamaal, Mere Pyare Prime Minister, Junglee

If you think you are in a similar situation, don’t worry. I have found a few ways to keep myself occupied till the week-long festival comes back, scheduled between 17 October and 24 October this year. If you can manage to find a buddy then nothing like it. Schedule a day and a time, grab a few packets of instant popcorn, and fire up your home theater to end your hectic days with doses of filmy smack. Here’s how…

Waiting Out the Next Edition of the Mumbai Film Festival

Since the 2018 edition was my most successful in terms of catching the movies that I actually wanted to, it has become even more difficult to exist and function knowing that October is so far away. I often think about my days at the festival and how I managed to watch both the opening and closing films for the first time in three years. Talking to a few acquaintances that I made in 2017 and 2018 made me realize that I am not the only one.

Here are a few things that I have been doing over the past few weeks to make for the cinematic hunger that has suddenly dominated me.

Watch and Complete Previous Editions

In 2018, there was a guy who watched 27 films in six days. This is like an unachievable record for me. Because there’s a limit of four movies per day (that you can book online against your MAMI ID), and this guy booked three extra films by standing in queues. That’s five movies back to back between 10AM and 10PM, each at least 150 minutes long. I would be doing better if I had that kind of commitment for anything in my life.

But that’s not the point. The point is that if you are like me – whose record is a measly 13 per festival – then you have a lot of films to go back to. You’ll have even more if you skipped any of the recent editions of the festival because there are upwards of at least a 100 titles that are screened per year.

I am personally going to try and catch all the pending movies of the 2018 edition. I also created an ambitious list on IMDb so I have a headstart here. If you are looking for inspiration, here is a list of lists –

Lists to Catch Up Old MAMI MFF Movies

Other than these, IMDb itself has a separate section of films that were nominated/awarded in the festival. Have a look at the lists for as back as 2013 here.

Catch Up on MCU or GoT

Now I know that not everyone is a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or TV shows like Game of Thrones, but if you are and if you have been putting them aside for long, now is the time to catch up.

The latest Avengers installment is scheduled to release in a week’s time. Which makes April the perfect time to complete the three phases of MCU that lead up to it. Same for GoT as its final season is currently running on HBO (Hotstar in India).

If none of these franchises interest you, there are numerous other shows and movies in various genres available for consumption. Obviously. So go to IMDb or Letterboxd and take a look.

MAMI Year Round Programme

This should have been on top of my list. Because it is MAMI’s own way of answering the hunger of cinephiles after they are done with the festival every year.

The Year Round Programme is a subset of the MFF where MAMI organizes screenings (often premieres) of new movies and web shows at their partner theater network (PVR) throughout the year in Mumbai and Delhi. Access is free; members only have to sign up separately for the programme (on their website), wait for email invitations of new screenings, register their interest (as soon as possible because of the limited number of seats), and then wait for the confirmation.

If you’re an early bird and/or first-timer, you have high chances of getting a seat. On the other hand, if you get a confirmed seat and don’t show up, it will be hard for you to show your loyalty to the sweet MAMI people again.

The Year Round Programme hosts a lot of cool movies and web shows as MAMI directly partners with the producers and distributors. For example, their last show in Mumbai was the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, in association with National Geographic. In the past, they have screened Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Sonchiriya, Made in Heaven (Amazon Prime Video), Green Book, and Stranger Things (Netflix) to name a few.

Made in Heaven at MAMI
A photo from the recent screening of Amazon’s Made in Heaven in Mumbai © MAMI

It’s a great initiative by MAMI because it gives a form of community to the participants. And more importantly, a way to stop missing the festival.

Embrace the Academy Awards

Or any international awards for that matter. I like to keep a track of the Oscars – winning films, nods, snubs, long shots, everything – and then predict which ones will win when the night comes. Unfortunately, I have never been able to watch all movies let alone predict correctly. But I still have at two lists prepared and ready:

These will be enough for at least 2-3 months from now, depending upon the number of titles you have seen already.

If Oscars are not your thing, you can pick any of the major international awards like the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Independent Spirit awards, or even Filmfare and Indian’s National Film awards. The idea is to continue watching films to keep the spirit high and constant. Heck, you may also consider the Razzies.

r/bollywood

This might come as a surprise but let me at least make a case. The amount of information that is exchanged in this small Reddit community of Bollywood lovers is just breathtaking. All types of news, trailers, and trivia are discussed there every day by users from around the world.

They even have polls of new Bollywood releases, and unlike popular opinion, have constructive discussions that you can take part in. The community is also actively moderated, which means no spam, no advertisements. Just plain Bollywood worship.

Go and have a look here: https://www.reddit.com/r/bollywood/

Young Critics Lab

This is not for me, but for people who are between the age of 18 and 25. If you are that young and still interested in cinema, the Young Critics Lab organized by MAMI every year will be a beautiful opportunity.

It is a short workshop for young students and professionals who want to get a little hands-on training about the basics of film criticism. The club’s favorite and National Award-winning critic Baradwaj Rangan conducts the workshop between July and October. He is sometimes supported by an international film critic. 2016 saw The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw come to Mumbai for the class while in 2017 (when I attended), TIME magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek made an appearance.

I wrote a detailed article about YCL last year which I think will be enough to push you to sign up if they host it this year. Keep your eyes and ears open in May/June when they usually announce it.

Prep

Lastly, and this is not very relevant here, there’s Sujay Kulkarni’s fantastic take on how to prepare for the festival. Writing for VICE, he captures the very essence of the festival – from ticket booking to finding obscure films outside of your watchlist to getting from one venue to another – in so less words.

Take a look as you revisit your own time at the festival last year… or five years ago. Whichever suits you.

Stay Tight

There is no doubt that the MFF has transformed into a national phenomenon if not a global one. Last year the ticket price was INR 500 (approx. $7) which surely helped increase the footfall. And with so many new members looking forward to the 2019 edition, I’m sure it will be grander this time.

The MFF is now officially open for entries. If you are a creator, you need to sign up and submit as soon as possible. Check out the website for more details. If you are unsure if your film belongs to MFF, check out the rules and regulations here. And don’t forget to follow MAMI on Twitter becausethat’s where the action is.

Here’s to six more months of hope-filled anticipation. TN.

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  • about me

    Tejas Nair is a freelance writer based in Mumbai, India. He writes about cinema, literature, current affairs, culture, and society. He manages search-based digital campaigns for Publicis. more »