Lady of the Century- Zohra Sehgal

A century and two years ago on 27th April 1912, a little girl was born in the small city of Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh who lived to become the most loved grandmother to the entire Bollywood industry. Zohra Sehgal has witnessed generations pass by her in the industry.

She once told Ranbir Kapoor “Do you know I’ve worked opposite your great-grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor and your grandfather Raj Kapoor? You’re the third generation of Kapoors I’m working with.”She did not just read about the independence movement, she was a part of them. For Sehgal, Jawaharlal Nehru wasn’t a national leader but an invitee to her wedding. Zohra Sehgal has lived through moments which people of this generation have just read about.

She was known to be a woman who did as she wished. An accomplished ballet dancer before she began acting, Ms.
Sehgal studied dance in Germany and joined the pioneering Indian dancer and choreographer Uday Shankar’s troupe in 1935. She performed in Japan, Egypt, Europe and the United States. She then spent 14 years with the Indian People’s Theater Association and the Prithvi Theater. She choreographed a few Hindi films, including Raj Kapoor’s masterpiece “Awaara” (1951).’

A woman of many talents and many memories, here’s how the world paid tribute to Zohra Sehgal, the lady of the century:

Musharaff in court for the first time

Pervez Musharaff, ex- military ruler of Pakistan appeared in front of the courts for the first time. He has been charged with conspiracy and unlawful acts preventing justice. He is charged separately for murder also.

He is being tried for suspending the Pakistani constitution abruptly and enforcing emergency in 2007. If he is found guilty he will be face death penalty.

Health and security has been preventing the 70 year old to come to the court for trail previously. He arrived at the National Library in Islamabad in a heavily protected convoy.

Picture Courtesy: BBC

Tehelka case: Charge sheet to be filed by 5th Feb

Image Courtesy- HT.

“The charge sheet in Tehelka case would be filed by February 5. The investigation in the case is almost over,” a senior crime branch official said. After almost three months of Tarun Tejpal being accused of sexually harassing his junior colleague, the Goa police are reaching the end of their investigation.

Tarun Tejpal, the founder and editor of the renowned magazine Tehelka was accused of sexual harassment which allegedly took place on 7th November 2013, at the Goa ‘Think’ festival.

Stepping beyond the boundary line

Banned | Photo courtesy:
Banned | Photo courtesy:

S Sreesanth has been described by words like flamboyant, determined, abrasive time and again during his seven year international. But the word “taint” got stuck to him soon after he was implicated in the match fixing controversy in IPL VI. He went scot free in many on and off-field acts during his tenure. But the alleged links with bookies and under performing for profit, landed him in jail and will take him away from the game he claims to be love.

On 13 September, an hour after Sreesanth expressed his faith in the “judiciary and the BCCI”, the  BCCI Disciplinary Committee banned him, along with Ankeet Chavan, for life, for their involvement in spot-fixing during certain matches of the Indian Premier League this summer. After hearing the news the 30 year old made a statement saying “I have done no wrong”.  Before Sreesanth had tweeted, “Been tracking the news channels…me getting a life ban??!! Very surprising…” The tweet was later deleted.

Sreesanth made his India debut in 2006. A brilliant outswinger made Sreesanth a great Test match winning prospect. Ankeet Chavan was a left-arm spinner and was considered Mumbai’s Best Bowler in the previous Ranji Season. Both the players belonged to Rahul Dravid led Rajasthan Royals. They have been banned for life after being found guilty of underperforming and ensuring the occurrence of an event during a match while knowing it is a subject of a bet. Both the players had signals through which it was understood that in the same ball, they will be doing the desired. Sreesanth has been known to tuck in a towel in his tracks before he bowled. Chavan on the other hand was to loosen his wrist band.

Former Indian Captain said “Hail BCCI for taking positive decision against the spot fixers. No room for sob sympathy for anyone who brings disrepute to cricket players/officials.” Many other known figures in the cricket world told the world how they feel. Another cricketer, from Australia, appreciated BCCI’s decision as a cautionary tale saying, “Be careful of what you choose to do!”

Both the players’ careers ( Sreesanth and Chavan) promised so much and ended with so little, and that too with the “taint” which will be with them forever.

“These terrorists are an encyclopedia of information”

Research Analysis Wing (RAW), has recently been appreciated along with other intelligence agencies (Intelligence Bureau and National Intelligence Agency) for the successful arrest of Abdul Kareem Tunda and Yasin Bhatkal. Both these terrorists were in India’s “Most Wanted” list. Talking to two retired RAW officers, certain queries about the procedure which will be followed for their punishment were answered.


Q: After many years, the intelligence agencies have arrested two of the “most wanted” terrorists. RAW has played a very important role in this. What was the reason behind the successful captures?

Yasin Bhatkal after his arrest | Image:

Mr. V. Swaminathan (name changed): You should realize that our intelligence agencies, working under a democratic set-up, are pitted against the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan who control all terrorist activities against India.  The ISI is almost independent of the civilian government in Pakistan and is only answerable directly to the army Chief. Whatever successes we have achieved in the last 20 years have been secured by out witting ISI.  Incidentally, our successes are not only in terms of identifying and occasionally capturing the perpetrators.  We are unable to capture all the identified criminals because they take shelter in Pakistan and are controlled by ISI.  We have also foiled many other acts of terrorism thanks to our intelligence agencies.

Mr. M. Bose(name changed): Intelligence agencies have been doing some really commendable work since their inception, arrest doesn’t warrant a remedy all the time, but anyway this is a very encouraging development.


Q: It’s been said that RAW and other agencies like IB and NIA, have worked together to successfully locate and arrests these terrorists? Why do you think this wasn’t done before?

Swaminathan: Your impression that RAW, IB, NIA worked in collaboration only this time is not correct. There is always a body (it has changed its name from time to time) to which all these agencies report any information gathered by them and it is that body which collates all the information and draws conclusions which are placed before the Home Minister and Prime Minister.  In my time we had a joint intelligence committee headed by a very senior IPS Officer Sri. K. Subramanyam who was considered India’s best strategic expert.  He was founder of IDSA (Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis).  He passed away a few months ago.

Bose: Inter agencies coordination is key to sources, it’s not that that there was nothing like it earlier, but the catch this time got some attention.


Q: Do you personally think that these guys will also be made “Terror Icons” like Kasab?

Swaminathan: I do not know what you mean by terror icons.  The two guys recently captured would be questioned thoroughly by the various police agencies and intelligence agencies.  There are experts who can question any person in such a way that ultimate they tell the truth.

Bose:  The whole term ‘terror icon’ is disturbing, its media which acts like the PR agents of them. Kasab certainly was a priced catch in the recent times. I am sure we are all aware that intelligence is banked upon information thus; these terrorists are an encyclopedia of information.


Q: It took years for the government to punish Kasab, when it was clearly understood beyond reason that he was guilty.  Do you think the government will ensure that speedy justice is delivered this time around?

Swaminathan: Being a democratic polity, we have to give the opportunity to everybody – citizen or not – to have a fair trial.  This can be time consuming.  In the case of Kasab, it did not take too much time compared to some terrorists of Indian Origin who are in custody much longer and not yet brought to trial.

Bose: There is a law of the land, we all need to follow them and that’s what makes India a democratic country where the 3 estates are well established. Executions don’t help otherwise world would have been a safe place by now and Israel not a super power.


Q: What is usually RAW’s role after an arrest is made?

Swaminathan: RAW or IB or NIA all provide verifiable evidence to the prosecutors.  Sometimes they may have to withhold the name of the source from where they got the evidence to protect the source and also to be able to use the source in future.

Bose: I don’t know much about it, but there are certain legislative procedures where the RAW will now come into play.


Q: Two terrorist in 2-3 weeks have crossed the Indo- Nepal border. Do you think the Indian military is lacking pro-activeness?
A BSF soldier stands guard at the Indo-Nepal border. The border with Nepal is a porous one, unlike with other neighbours | Image:

Swaminathan: The border between Nepal and India is quite open.  There is no military presence guarding the frontier. Travel between India and Nepal is quite easy both ways.  That is why Nepal is being used by terrorists.  If Nepal had a strong government, they would have ensured that their country is not used as base by terrorists.

Bose: It’s a porous border, people come in and leave, besides that, just like everybody else terrorists are smart enough to deceive and camouflage their identity well. I agree, that there is a bit of political will required to handle these situations but it serves the much larger geo-political purpose.

66 years on, agriculture still India’s backbone

Agriculture forms 75% of India's GDP | Photo: Nayan Das
Agriculture forms 75% of India’s GDP | Photo: Nayan Das

It is going to be 66 years since Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of 14th August 1947 spoke his golden words, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”  So it soon will be 66 years since India woke up.

Every year on Independence Day there are certain number of stories which are always run by media houses, like, “Independence day- just another holiday”, “Is India really Independent?” etc. We also constantly debate over the fact that India has not grown. There is more corruption, more illiteracy, more poverty; it’s a very long list as you know. But what about how much India has grown? What about how India has become one developing nation from an under-developed nation?

The fact that India’s literacy has more than doubled from 30% to 74%, according to the Census of 2011, is completely ignored by all of us. After the implementation and continuous practice of Green Revolution principles, India has become a self sufficient nation in terms of food. No one talk about how Indian agriculture has developed and evolved since independence.

India is known to be an agrarian based society. Our agricultural sector is the backbone of India’s economy.  With its allies like fisheries and forestry the agricultural sector is the single largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country by contributing almost as much as one-third of the total GDP.

About 70% of the country’s population live in rural area according to the census of 2011 and most of them are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Every farmer toils for at least 10-12 hours tilling and working on a field. Gorango, a farmer in Bhogaram, Orissa, works for almost half the day. He used to work on the land owned by a rich family in the neighboring village, but today he owns a piece of  land all by himself. He works of himself and earns for himself. This is the case of lots of farmers in India.

One of the best things that happened to the Indian agrarian society was the initiative and implementation of the Green Revolution in 1966-67. Prior to the 1960’s India used to rely on imports and food aid to sustain its livelihood. After severe droughts in 1965 and 1966, India decided to change its agricultural policies. The green revolution was a boom in the country. It gave birth to the bread and basket state of India, i.e. Punjab.

According to the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations (in 2009), India is the largest producer of a number of crops like jute, milk, select fresh meat etc. and also the second largest producer of wheat and rice. According to Agricultural Development in India since Independence: A Study on Progress, Performance, and Determinants by, Amarnath Tripathi and A.R. Prasad, in India barren and uncultivated land has fallen from 37484 thousand hectares to 17709 thousand hectares since 1950-51 to 2000-2001. The amount of net sown area has increased by 18.44% since 1950-1951.

Still think India has not developed at all? At least the backbone of the country’s economy has. India is going to be 66 years in a few days. We are developing, if not in the speed, but in our minds, we are. By the latest census, India is a country with 1.24 billion people. For a number like this, development takes time and patience.  So this year let us go into this New Year of Independence with what John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what, you can do for your country.