Depressing three weeks of July for India's IT capital
By V.S. Karnic Jul 24, 2007, 4:01 GMT
Bangalore, July 24 (IANS) Suspected links with international terror, rising rupee, weak monsoon and doubts over the survival of Karnataka's coalition government are all adding up to make the life of this IT capital of India an unsettling one.
The monsoon season usually starts early in June and continues till August/September. For most of the past seven weeks, the weather has been cloudy but there has hardly been any rain, except for one heavy downpour.
The met department has held out hopes that the remaining part of July and the month of August will see good rainfall. The weathermen say heavy winds that blow across the city have been taking away the rain clouds elsewhere.
Strengthening rupee threatens to eat into the bottom line of IT companies, and there is already talk that geeks may be asked to work longer hours to maintain a healthy balance sheet.
However, no firm has officially announced that it has plans for longer shifts. So far it is only a talk that working longer hours may become inevitable if the rupee's upward march continues.
The city has got over the initial shock and disbelief over three of its men being linked to a terror plot in Britain last month.
But it is yet to get over the doubts over the negative impact the Bangalore link will have on the city's brand name.
Likewise, trauma continues for the two families of the three - doctor Mohammad Haneef and his cousins Sabeel Ahmed, also a doctor, and Kafeel Ahmed, a mechanical engineer.
Meanwhile, ruling coalition partners Janata Dal-Secular and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have begun to increasingly distrust each other as the D-day for handing over the chief minister's job to the BJP under a power-sharing agreement nears.
As per the agreement reached in February 2006 when the two came together to dislodge the Congress-led coalition with the JD-S, the job of chief minister is to be passed on to the BJP Oct 3.
Trying to give a royal flavour to the unstable political scene is Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, son of former Maharaja of Mysore Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar. He has been a Congress MP from Mysore and now wants to play an active role in state politics.
Not to be left behind is a popular Kannada film actor and Congress MP M.H. Ambareesh. He too wants to enter state politics. He has a rider, though, that present Maharashtra governor and former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna should return to active politics.
While the political class continues its power games, the suspected Bangalore link to the failed British terror plot has brought about a remarkable transformation of a soft-spoken software engineer, Firdous Arshiya.
Firdous, wife of Moahammad Haneef detained in Australia since July 2, has been pitch-forked to the front pages of national and international dailies and prime time news bulletins of electronic media asserting her husband's innocence.
Even as Firdous gets vocal, defending her husband, the parents and sister of Kafeel and Sabeel Ahmed have retreated into a shell to avoid being hounded by the media.
The doctor couple of Maqbool Ahmed and Zakhia Ahmed and their daughter Sadia Kauser have not stirred out of their two-storey house in the middle class locality of Banashankari in Bangalore for nearly two weeks to avoid the media probing them about the suspected involvement of Kafeel and Sabeel in the plot.
The doctor couple's elder son Kafeel is believed to be the man who drove a gasoline filled jeep into the Glasgow airport June 30. He is unlikely to survive from the 90 percent burns he suffered as he is said to have set himself on fire after the botched terror bid.
His younger brother Sabeel has been charged with knowing about the plot and not informing the British police.
Apart from Firdous' firm belief that her husband is innocent, what gives her strength and courage to face the media glare is the weak charge against him - that he was 'reckless' in leaving behind his SIM card with cousin Sabeel when he left for Australia to work in the Gold Coast Hospital in Queensland.
In contrast is the plight of the Ahmed parents who obviously are finding it difficult to defend their children following the seizure by the city police of a hard disc belonging to Kafeel. Officially there is no word from the police on the contents of the disc.
Bangaloreans retain the hope that the terror link, even if it is firmly established, is a one-off affair, in spite of reports that the city has become a safe place for radical ideas and terror cells.
They are confident that Brand Bangalore has enough resilience to overcome these ugly developments.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at email@example.com)
© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service