Saturday, November 29, 2008

Answer Me!!

India has had a terrorism problem for quite a while. After the '98 Kargil conflict - the government has had a border safety assessment report since that time - in light of the recent attacks and the fact that terrorists entered Mumbai via the western shore on boats - makes me think nothing on that report was acted upon. The government of India needs to explain why border security was not taken seriously - given the knowledge of all loop-holes. Forming committees and ordering reports is utterly useless if they are not acted upon.

We are demanding complete transparency in government policies and steps taken. Accountability is not the public's luxury - it is their right. Every politician, every law enforcement officer, administrative official and citizen for that matter has to be accountable to one another. We have to believe we can rise as a people and hold ourselves to higher standards - instead of the better of 'who cares'.

We demand a monthly address to the nation. As a leader Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to keep the morale of law enforcement around India on a steady high. This is no easy task, public morale like a plant needs fodder - and needs regular maintenance - as well as the knowledge that the efforts of people are appreciated and are paying off.

We need a status report - every month on what has happened on the investigation. We demand a disciplined and systematic investigation. Oh! And my dear respected Prime Minister - Mr. Manmohan Singh - lets
make one thing clear - we are not waiting for 13 years to get our convictions on this case. Oh - no Sir - this is a question on your competitiveness - you have to come clean.

To the citizens, I ask - that you do not forget this incident as soon as the trains start running. In this regard I ask that you join me in a simple first step. I call it - the 'One letter a week' program. In which we put our concerns on paper. If after writing the first one - you get too tired - just keep xerox copies of your first letter. However, every week - you have to pledge to send one letter to the centre. Mumbai is a city of 19million plus - I assume - we should get
at least 19000 letters each week. The idea is to keep the inflow steady. To send a message to every involved official - we are not going to let this go. We will put in place a mutual monitoring system - pick a friend - who keeps you motivated to ensure you have sent your weekly letter - and vice versa. We have a long way to go people - but
why not take this simple step and get for ourselves a start.

Jaago India - Jaaago!!

- Sanket

Latest Update : We have an address where we can send the letters to :

Prime Minister's Office
South Block, Raisina Hill, 
New Delhi, 
India-110 011. 
Telephone: 91-11-23012312.
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857.

Bookmark and Share

12 comments:

Antonym said...

I definitely would....

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Thank you - soo much - I truly hope that the words are not forgotten. If we let this go - we have no one else but ourselves to blame - when terror strikes again. Thanks - Sanket

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Hey Pradnya,

Thanks for the response. The first thing we have to do is keep a
record of how many people we have gotten. I will send you a members
list as soon as possible. Please do not get discouraged if the number
is not as high as you expect. After all - we can not force people. But
5, 10 or 10000 I promise you I will keep a track of 10000 names if I
have to.

I am going to post my first letter tomorrow - I am going to make
available a digital copy of the envelope and its contents to all
members - hopefully along with the postage stamped with the received
date.

From next week onwards, along with each member, we will have his/her
images - depicting their weekly promise. This is also a great way to
keep yourselves inspired - as a gap in the sequence of images will be
quite noticeably visible. Also, I kindly request all individuals to
assert restraint in the use of language in as far as the actual letter
is concerned. No matter how angry we are, we can not be unprofessional
- so no F-words or expletives please. Also along with sending a copy
to the PM's office, it would be great if we can send the same letter
to a newspaper/news channel - so that in time, the PM office can not
say - "Oh! Did you send a letter? - I'm sorry - never got one!!" -
with the media as our witness - we will make sure that the officials
are held accountable.

I will also make available a template of each week's letter in which,
I will try to address different issues, trying to cover as broad a
spectrum of problems as possible while keeping National Security as
our underlying theme. This template is by no means a hard and fast
agenda - you are more than welcome to add/subtract any issues you want
- this will differ from person to person. I think reading other
people's letters will also increase our awareness of issues - give us
a broader understanding of the problems facing our country - and will
definitely help in making us better citizens.

Voting is an essential part of the democratic process and is the
foremost duty of every citizen. I promise you to keep this a
fundamental requisite with all our members. This issue will be
addressed in due course of time.

For the moment, try to spread the word around as much as you can.
Remember, the more people we get, the more successful our campaign
will be.

My most sincere thanks to you and all your efforts. Remember each day
with every small step - we make our country a better place. There can
be no more satisfying assurance than that. How effective will we be?
Only time will tell - but at least we will be able to answer ourselves
with a clear conscience that we did our part.

Satyameva Jayate,

- Sanket

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Dear Veena,

Please join in and participate. As this project takes shape, I might have to make it a separate blog - as it does not belong my recreational writing sector - I will keep all members informed and will try to make the transition as smooth as possible. This will be better the earlier we do it.

Sincere gratitude,

- Sanket

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

I am IN for this initiative. No matter if this initiative may or may not have any direct/indirect impact on our impotent government, it gives me an excuse to do something rather than just sitting and getting depressed/feeling helpless and accusing everyone.



Care to join us?

- Pradnya Joshi

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Our first batch of weekly letters is about to go out - this one dedicated to Meetu - a bright beautiful girl who lost her life at Leopold Cafe on 26th Nov 2008. Too often when reading news, we only take in numbers - 200 dead 300 injured - Do not forget - these were people - every single one has a story behind him/her. In future endeavors of this group and our \'One Letter a week\' project, I promise to tell the stories of every single person I can - who was a victim of Mumbai attacks.

Let us all remember Meetu - let us all tell her story - let us make our voices heard - help me spread the word - here is the project link - I am keeping our members informed through comments on the post. http://discoversanket.blogspot.com/2008/11/answer-me.html

Meetu\'s dedication page :

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37198268363&ref=m

saurabh said...

Dude just a small question.. Why only Mumbaikars should send the letter, let as many people who can send it..

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Hey Saurabh,

I never asked the rest of the people not to participate, I would love people to participate - no matter where they are from - my article at the end calls for entire of India to wake up - and it has already started - we have had Indians from Canada and US volunteer - people from pune are joining in and many more on facebook. I only stressed on Mumbaikars because - we as a people are quick to cry bloody murder when terror strikes, but we do not accept responsibility nor take a step to stop it. So, I want to put the onus on all Mumbaikars - that it is their duty to participate and not be hypocritical. I strongly urge anyone and everyone to participate.

Regards,

- Sanket

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

MUMBAI MAYHEM - Is War a solution?

Friends...

Here we are, once again amidst a national crisis - a terror attack on Mumbai- the heart of our homeland. They say, "once bitten twice shy" but, in our case the same idiom would sound something like this: "Once bitten...twice bitten...thrice bitten....still not shy??". It is quite apparent, that we as Indians have not been learning from our mistakes. Why haven't we learnt from our mistakes? Are we stupid? No, that can't be right; we come from a fantastic, prosperous, intelligent, ancient civilization. Are we careless? Are we dreaming? I would say YES and YES! What follows is just my personal perception.

Subconsciously, we live in a dream where massive 9/11 scale massacres and terrorist attacks are things to worry only for nations like US and the UK.  We need to acknowledge the fact that India is now in the league of these nations. With a GDP growth of approximately 9%, we indeed are the fastest growing economy in the world, paving our way in becoming a world economic super power. This alone is a good enough reason for India being a prime target. Again, this is just a personal view and I am just looking from another angle. I fully understand, there can be and there are a million different aspects to this issue.

Let's talk reality. No country, even with a mightiest military and intelligence can ever be 100% secure from threats like these. In a country like ours, with a population density of approximately 313/ square Km (2001 census) the picture tends to get even dirtier with the risk of larger human casualties. How easy is it to walk into a crowded sabzi mandi  with a grenade in your pocket, while the area Police Hawaldaar sips his cutting chai at a near by shop?? Who will stop this person? While there is no denying the fact that serious measures need to be taken to audit, scrutinize and upgrade the national security policy, it's time our leaders step up to this challenge. No matter how much we improve our security, the liaison between Intelligence and our security agencies...the fact remains that we can never be immune to the deadly virus of terrorism. So what next? Are we ready to face the aftermath? Are we well equipped?

This, my friends, I believe is extremely crucial. Being ready! Being well equipped...to face the consequences, quickly and efficiently. "Teevra Chaukas" which is the motto of the Corps of Signals of the Indian Army, is what we need. In the case of recent Mumbai attacks, several questions remain unanswered and I am determined in pursuing them. Why were the commandos flown in from Delhi? How come the financial capital of the nation, doesn't have it's own commandoes? Why do the commandos fly into Mumbai...but have to use buses to get the location of the attacks. Why didn't the commandos have a layout of the hotels? Does this all not mean, we aren't prepared? (In spite of specific Intelligence information?). Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of not being ready.

This whole incident might very well bring us on the verge of a war with our neighbors. "If war is what they want - a war is what they will get!"...I'm sure this sentiment is what echoes in the minds of many Indians. But do we really want a war? Don't get me wrong. I am a proud son of an Indian Army Officer and I share the anger as an Indian. But, I truly believe it is not a solution. According to the ICICI Securities and Finance Company, daily expenditure in Kargil was, by conservative estimates, Rs 400-500 million. Can we not use this to strengthen our preparedness? Can we not use this to improve security equipment, provide emergency first aid training, launch self defence initiatives for citizens? We as citizens need to ask these questions!! And ask them NOW!!

My friend Sanket has started a fantastic initiative called "One Letter One Week". This is a campaign with the idea of writing to the Prime Minister's Office (Or any concerned political office)....writing one letter every week....until we get answers to the questions we are asking as citizens. How long can they ignore us? Sanket maintains a great blog and regularly updates his efforts, activities and peoples support for this campaign at : http://discoversanket.blogspot.com/2008/11/answer-me.html


I sincerely urge you to visit his blog and support this initiative.

My heart goes out to all the families who suffered a loss of life in this tragedy. But, I am confident we will emerge as winners.

JAI HIND

NIKHIL GOGATE




Hi Nicksie

Powerful letter but unfortunately I think its misplaced and misdirected. I have one simple question to you and sanket. How many times have you voted in LS elections or in the assembly polls? There have been 4 of those in all since 2000 and the voter turnout since 1998 has actually reduced from 60% to 57%(as of 2004). The point is that our politicians are not really responsible to us. If you want answers from them please ensure that YOU are the one electing them. How many college going students actually go and vote? Or spend time to find out about their MP or local MLA? I am quite confident that people reading this email in India dont know the name of their MLA or their MP or for that matter the BMC official incharge of their area.

Its all well and good that people are angry now that 200 mumbaikars have been brutally killed. But did you know that twice that number have committed suicides in vidarbha alone in the past year? Why not the uproar then? Why not write letters to the PM then? Its actually shameful that it took 10 misguided men to commit mayhem close to our home for us to realise the gravity of lack of leadership in India. I think everyone is aware that its not a recent problem and its been there for quite sometime. But then isn't that the whole point. If its been a problem for so long why haven't we as citizens addressed it?

We are a democracy and we get the leaders WE elect. So unless you and I start to vote, lets not expect any answers. A SC judge in 1968 made a very good statement "Every society gets the criminal it deserves". Unfortunately, thats also true in case of leaders.

Regards
Ayan
- Show quoted text -
--
http://astl.uta.edu

Ayan Majumdar
Graduate Research Assistant for ASTL
The University Of Texas At Arlington
500 W. First Street
Woolf Hall 111
Arlington
Texas- 76019

"Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life--think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced. Others are mere talking machines."
- Vivekananda


Dear Ayan,

 Your point is well taken. Nikhil mentions in his letter that there
are many aspects to the situation we are in. And you point out an
important one. I address this issue in the comments on the post Nikhil
sent earlier.

Tentatively, we have decided to keep three broad wings to our initiative :

a) Letters to the PM - addressing national security concerns.
b) Letters to the media - urging them to keep the focus on this story
and not let it fade away.
and
c) Responsible Citizen - where by we pick a friend and share our ideas
on how you could be a better citizen. All members will take a pledge
to be better citizens tomorrow than they are today.  We take this as
seriously as we take the media and the politicians movement. We will
put in place a mutual monitoring system to ensure we as a group do not
fail. If someone slacks off we push each other till everyone catches
up.

Once we catch momentum  - I am also hoping we can start an teaching
volunteers program for underprivileged children. But we can't take on
everything at once.

Yes, the problems we face are enormous and our progress is going to be
very slow - but you can't look at the scale of the problem and stop in
your tracks saying 'I don't think anything is going to change'

I say 'YES IT CAN - AND IT WILL CHANGE'  - and need help especially
from bright people like you. I would like you to head the 'Responsible
Citizen' wing of our group. Talk to a friend, spread the word.

I am hoping Nikhil will head - Letters to the media and I am
personally taking responsibility of Letters to the PM.

This is by no means a hard and fast rigid hierarchy - we are an open
group welcoming and encouraging ideas from anyone and everyone.

I strongly urge you to be part of the solution.

Regards,

 - Sanket


Hey Ayan:
 
Thanks so much for your response. Yes, we are a democracy...and it is WE who elect our leaders. Honestly, it is a shame that a country with a strong 1 billion plus population...has not been able to bring about a change with the most powerful weapon at their disposal...their vote!!...for so many years!! I will be honest in saying that I haven't voted even once in my life and I am ashamed of it. There can never be an excuse for it.
 
India is a young nation with almost 2/3 of the population under the age of 30 years. It would be a fair guess that if we exclude children a well over a quarter of the population is youth and capable of voting.  Imagine the change they can bring, if they exercise their right to vote. You rightly pointed out- how many more Nikhils are out there who haven't voted? How many college students actually vote? What most of us fail to understand is that voting is not just a right (which could mean it is optional), but it is more of a resposibility (which makes it mandatory).
 
I agree that we have our share of criminal...our leaders and we elected them. We all know, we need a radical change in the leadership of our country. But this is not going to happen tomorrow or day after. For now...we have to endure what we the citizens of a democracy have brought upon ourselves. We can strive to keep our leaders focussed. We are the ones who need to work hard atleast until the time comes for the change we all are waiting for. This initiative is targetted at doing the same. Encouraging the youth to voice and reminding our leaders what they are elected.
 
Jai Hind
Nikhil

Prags said...

Hi... This is a great initiative and I would want to be a part of it.
Can someone throw light as to how do I join the group? Is it through facebook?

A comment on the above chain...

Voting - yes. This is definitely something that we as citizens of India need to do. However we have limited options. Whom do we vote? How do I
know who is worth my vote? I hardly know the profile of any of the politicians who come begging for votes. So how do I ensure that the person whom I am voting is capable of performing his duties?
Of course I have the option of 'No Vote' but that does not really ensure that a righteous person gets elected.

Besides not many educated youth, me included, would like to get their hands dirty by entering into politics. Also, not many of us are capable of becoming a politician even though we have the desire to be one.

It seems like a viscious circle to me!

I have not lost hope though and would like the citizens of this country to come up with practical solutions to sort out this problem.

Regards
Pragati
pragati2020@gmail.com

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Dear Pragati,

Thank you for your enthusiasm and participation. Yes, there is a
facebook group online, you can access it here. Although, I am going to
make a new website for this program. It should be done this weekend.

Our first batch of letters to the PMO go out this weekend. I still
need to set up some logistics. Mainly, I need to acquire the physical
addresses of the Indian Embassy in the United States : this is for
people in the US, and we need to acquire the physical address of a
major news channel - Could be NDTV - - IBN or TimesOfIndia.

All that is coming up this weekend, so look for updates, and also
encourage other friends to join in.

I will give you the website as soon as I have the domain and some
other things set up.

Jai Hind,

- Sanket

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

What is 'One Letter A Week'?

The 'One Letter A Week' - is a citizens initiative started by citizens affected by the Mumbai Terror Attacks of 26th November 2008. Although 'One Letter A Week' (hence forth referred as 'ONLW') was primarily started as a response to the Mumbai Attacks, we welcome you to use it to address any (social)issue that concerns you. The idea is simple - when you sign up for 'ONLW', you pledge to write one letter every week - addressing your concerns on a written letter and send it to the respective authorities. You share your concerns with other 'ONLW' members and you share your feedback as well. We as an online community promise to publish your concerns (subject to editing)- to get them a larger audience and to get other people interested in your cause. In other words, we as ordinary people stand for each other.

Where does it start?

'One Letter A Week' starts by addressing the security and administrative lapses of the Indian Government that led to the Mumbai Terror Attack. Please understand that this is not a blame game. We are interested in the pursuit of genuine solutions. We are interested in knowing the reasons that led to government lapses and more importantly we are interested in keeping a regular follow up - of what the government is doing to rectify the flaws in our system. We are eager to learn - how can we as citizens assist the government in its policies.

To start with we are sending a letter to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) with our security concerns. The concerns are detailed on the article 'Answer Me' (http://www.onlw.blogspot.com/2008/12/answer-me.html). We have made available a sample draft of a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on our main page. Please look under letter drafts for a downloadable copy of the letter. You can start by using this letter as it is, or you can make any alterations you wish. The letter is to be sent at the following address:


Prime Minister's Office
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi,
India-110 011.
Telephone: 91-11-23012312.
Fax: 91-11-23019545 / 91-11-23016857.

Please ensure you document your effort by having a receipt of the letter sent, or a photo of the envelope with the postage stamp or any proof that is convenient for you. This will ensure that when you share your effort with other members you will have something concrete to show. We at the 'ONLW' committee will accept your word as sufficient proof too. But we would love to have a picture of your envelope to post it on this website. Remember, every single step is a victory.

Why should I send one letter every week?
An important recurring problem with us as a society and with the Indian media is that we lose focus on issues like terrorism, the minute things are restored to normal. The media and newspapers move on to the latest headlines of the day and we fail to vigilantly hold the government accountable to its promises. 'One Letter A Week' ensures that by refreshing our concerns every week, we have acted as responsible citizens and are not prone to lies and deceit. In this regard, we would like to stress the importance of participating with a disciplined time line. Please understand that sending 50 letters in a day is not what we are looking for - we would rather you send 50 letters over 50 weeks. 'ONLW' is designed as a long term solution to keep the Indian citizens vigilant and to keep the elected government accountable. So it is extremely crucial that you send your letters on a weekly basis.

Why will it succeed?
'One Letter A Week' derives it effectiveness from its longevity. It is impossible for a government office to ignore hundreds of letters from all across the world and from all across India that keep appearing week after week. 'ONLW' never stops. While we are hopeful that the Indian Government will respond, we are not naive to rely completely on hope. We propose that when you send your letter to the PMO - you also send a copy a major media outlet. ONLW committee members are working on providing a media outlet address.

For starters here is the address of NDTV Headquarters:

NDTV Ltd.
Archana Complex
Greater Kailash Part 1
New Delhi 110 048
INDIA.
Ph. : +91 11 26446666
E-mail us at: feedback@ndtv.com

Second of all please understand that unlike email, a written and signed letter is proof by law in an Indian court. Should the government choose to ignore our letters altogether, we have a legal course of action under the Indian constitution. This fact alone serves as a strong deterrent to a complete denial on the government's behalf. At the very least the government is liable to respond to your written concerns - and you can hold them to their word.

Even if we have no response from the government or worse the government does not even acknowledge that they have received any letters at all, we have a fall back option with the media. We can get the media to testify our efforts and we can get the government to answer the media .

Why should I participate in 'ONLW'?
In addition to being the responsible thing to do. 'ONLW' enables ordinary citizens to take effective concrete actions. ACTION being the key word. If you are one of the millions of people simply frustrated by the ineptness of the Indian Government, this program is for you. If after all you have done, if our letters still go unnoticed, you will still have the knowledge that you actively participated and gave it your honest efforts, we believe this is a reward in itself. At the very least 'ONLW' hopes to absolve you of the guilt that you have been a mere bystander.

But hang on, there is more:
1) For registering with 'ONLW' and sending us the picture of your first envelope, we award you 50 points and we will proudly show your participation on our website. You are designated with the honor of 'ONLW Certified Concerned Citizen'.
2) For every weekly letter sent, and validated by ONLW, we award you additional 20 points - when you cross 100 points, you are designated 'ONLW Certified Active Member'. We will proudly hail your designations alongside your photographs for your participation.
3) For the first 20 members to cross 150 points, we will send you a free T-Shirt (available in large, medium and small) certifying you as an 'ONLW Certified Proud Citizen of India'. And with this designation, you also secure the rights to validate the letters of any participants from your area.

And along with all those goddies, you get complete bragging rights. So next time when you participate in a discussion on social issues, you will have something to set you apart from others.

Can I cheat ONLW?
Yes, you can easily cheat us. If you keep telling us you have sent letters and you have actually not, we really would have no way of telling. You could even get yourself a t-shirt without really participating. So, why are we telling you this? Because we implicitly trust you and believe you wont. When you cheat 'ONLW' - you cheat all of its participants and fellow Indian citizens and by extension - your country. If you are a citizen that has faced problems due to or has condemned corruption in India, we believe you will take this small opportunity to be honest, active and a crucial part of Indian democracy.

How do I get involved?
Here is a step by step guide towards making you a successful :
Download and save a copy of the draft to the PMO available on the website.
Read the letter and make changes to it as you like - or use it as its.
Take a printout of the letter and sign it.
Post it with appropriate postage to the PMO address made available on the website.
Make sure you keep a receipt of your letter, or better take a picture with the stamped envelope and email it to us.

Cheaper option:
Simply copy the content of the letter onto a postcard and post it.


Here is the deal :
Cost of the printout + envelope + stamp Rs 5.00
Time spent reading and sending the letter: 1 hour a week.
Feeling that you are actively participating in the solution and are not mere helpless victims of terror - PRICELESS :)



Legal Disclaimer:
All content on this website is offered as information only and is in no way a source of legal advice. Any person participating in this program or following the content of this website, does so on his/her own discretion and responsibility. The authors of individual articles and the 'ONLW' committee are not legally binding to any consequences of your actions and vice versa.

Please understand that while we want this to be an effective platform for you, getting involved in lengthy legal disputes actually hinders the purpose and vision of 'ONLW' and turns away future members.


Please address any further questions to :
sanket.korgaonkar@gmail.com OR
nikhil.gogate@gmail.com

Thank you for your time and patience.

Sincerely,

'One Letter A Week' Committee.

Post a Comment

Wag a Finger SHAKE a Leg!! GO Crazy - N gimme ur 2 Cents!!