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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The arrival of Putla burning

Putla (Effigy) burning has become one of the most important protest avenues for Indians. And now that the hero behind Gandhigiri is behind bars for non Gandhi-like activities, Putla burning remains the most effective non-violent way to protest. Everyday we hear of putlas of Greg Chappel, Ricky Ponting, Mohammad Kaif, Sonia Gandhi, Baba Remdev, Abhishek Bacchan and Rakhi Sawant being burnt. Putla burning gets good coverage on our news channels and gives great vent to the anger of protesters (Protesters can kick the hapless putlas, cover them with dirt and then burn them in a state of euphoria). Conclusion: Putla burning has arrived and so needs to be given the seriousness it deserves. Here are my suggestions to improve this form of protest and make it an enjoyable experience for all:

Emission norms: The government needs to establish emission norms (like Bharat II) for the putlas. As more and more putlas get burnt; they will be a significant contributor to pollution in our country. We need to regulate the materials with which putlas are made. Carbon trading schemes could be applied as well.

Putla burning kiosks: Putla burners often jam streets. They are frequently heckled by police and passers-by. So the civic bodies should set up kiosks or booths for burning putlas so as not to disrupt normal life. These putlas can also store readymade

Better design of effigies: Most of the putlas are very crude and have no resemblance to the person people are protesting against. Often they are just an assembly of used clothes and paper; such crude designs can confuse non-participants and thereby significantly reduce the effectiveness of the protest. I recommend setting up courses in IIT together with Madame Tussauds for better designed Putlas.

Corporatize the whole act: The market size for putlas is huge. In India we have a constant stream of issues and associated celebrities: Baba Ramdev, Rakhi Sawant, Chappel and Kaif; so the domestic market for putlas look very promising. We can also make big business of selling cheap good looking putlas to Islamic countries who need a constant supply of Bush, Blair, Pope and Ehud Olmert putlas. We should set up SEZs to promote putla export. There is also significant opportunity at the long tail. Many people would like to burn putlas of apparently non-controversial celebs like Karan Johar or Arun Lal. Custom made putlas of company bosses and naughty professors would also see good demand.

Will putlas provide the next big leap for the Indian economy? Or have the Chinese thought of it already.

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