Should India Accommodate More Refugees: A Common Man’s View

With the stable and able Government in New Delhi, and with India’s rising importance in world affairs, different sections of many neighbouring and other far-away countries are eyeing for taking refuge in India. Well, if India can accommodate others, it is well and good. It is nothing new for India; India has opened its borders for many in the past, since ancient times !

But how long and how many people can India accommodate ? This is definitely a major point of discussion at present, and many like me must be either debating it at heart (inner voices) or would have at least once thought about it.

Briefly, my opinion on incoming of refugees to India :

During the last General Elections, I am aware of a particular section of a refugee community residing in India since the last 4-5 decades that “conscientiously opted out” of voting because they believed that by doing so, their cause (fight for their political goals) would get derailed, and may even be forgotten by their next generations !

Is that right ?

Well, I think such refugees can pursue their cause (though the political scene of their  country of origin may have changed completely over time and got accepted by many including their top leaders in exile), and at the same time, when they are residing in a ‘receiving’ country and utilizing all its resources (equally as its nationals or foreign nationals visiting the ‘receiving’ country), then they should participate in its Elections. Whether this impacts the ‘receiving’ country’s administrative decisions or political strategies or social schemes, there could be many “key” factors or impacts related to it. What may appear trivial now can just blow up in huge proportions down the line.

The major concern in such circumstances is the “availability and distribution” of Land and Resources (by the ‘receiving’ country), absolutely vital to existence !!!! The resources could be natural or artificial. Let’s note that the same concern is put forth in many western countries while making policies or regulations regarding settlement of permanent migrants and even duration of stay of temporary foreign labourers – individuals or with families !!

In India, we are already burdened by our own population and also by our neighbours since years. Our own people are starving in many parts of the country; then there are other parameters of human development. These needy lives – some are known, some still unknown. There’s so much to identify alone !

Therefore, notwithstanding India’s famed history of tolerance and liberalism, at the present, I think it would NOT be a wise decision by any of our Governments to accommodate “all” the refugees in future, if any !! Since we are already over-loaded, why can’t that graceful obligation towards mankind be now shared by the entire globe ?.. A world sub-body (existing or new, under the vigil of U.N.O.)  must chalk out better, clearer rules and strictly monitor its implementation in this regard. After all, it would be in order to save human races and prevent fast exhaustion of resources of Mother Earth and of the ‘receiving’ country i.e. at a “single” location or region, within and up to which the borders of that mere single nation stretch.

Also, in these matters, I wish Land and/or Resources (natural /artificial) could be traded among affected countries in some form (e.g. carbon foot-prints), at least till a “feasible” solution is sought to resolve any refugee crisis, anywhere in the world ! Perhaps somewhere, that may set up the balance that is much required to s-u-s-t-a-i-n all lives. Human crisis is not always an over-night issue to be addressed; it may hold years of unrest, strife and survival !!!

So, while being generous, let’s also be practical with measured estimations of long-term fall outs and the respective check-and-balance approaches ! Let the rest of the secured world too shoulder this utter responsibility.

What do you opine, Aamjunta?

(Note: This post expresses a mere view of a common man in India. It does not include reference of any active laws or national policies or dialogue processes on international issues, human rights, etc.)

‘Blind Men and An Elephant’ vis-a-vis Current Indian Education System

About ten days ago, we had been to the school where our Domestic Help’s daughter sought admission for the very first time. Located in a by-lane, it is not only devoid of a playground, it is also very cramped even for little ones. For most part of the school time, children are seeing playing on the adjacent lanes and no one bothers, probably because that’s how space is managed and/or the administration is indifferent. Some children aged 10-14 years do not follow the classroom decorum !… And a few are admitted into lower classes, long past their suitable ages though they are not that ‘dumb’; reason- apparently commercial, that is, the school intends to make profits from the extra (unnecessary) years a ‘dumb’ student is made to go through !!… Notwithstanding, most parents put their children on the rolls in such schools because it is convenient to drop-and-pick them on their way to work and these schools also happen to be on a reasonable price-list according to their ‘limited’ affordability.

This by-lane school, without a playground and basic necessities, charges 6200 INR for an L.K.G. kid. More than the knowledge likely to be gained in such an environment, parents should be apprehensive of the hygiene, discipline and basic attitudinal orientations a child is going to learn here to imbibe or desert !! But unfortunately there are many such mushrooming schools in cities, towns and villages, and there seems to be no one to advise these parents who are honest and hard-working but owing to various reasons, not educated (not of formal degrees) to make out certain key differences regarding formal upbringing of children !

The family struggles and aspires- the parents are diligent, eagerly bear all financial hardships and dream to one day, see their children well-placed in the society; and the children spending their days in such schools, unknowingly waste most of their formative years that are never to be recovered. This is one of the most vital factors for a society to be good or bad, for children ultimately form the long future of a nation !!!

Our Cook’s eldest son, aged about 15 years, had to change two schools over the last two years; each admission costing 65000 INR on an average; then there are other expenses too ! But however hard his parents and teachers-at-new-schools now try to discipline him, the required changes are just not coming through !! Probably, his very basic formative years were lost in the unknown by-lanes when he ought to have been sitting under the light of knowledge and beside his Guide (Teacher).

It is indeed very difficult to lead or help a budding youth emerge from such troubled waters. To make matters worse, their parents start fearing a fading dream and non-refundable or non- reimbursable schooling expenses met from hard-earned savings !

We also gathered information regarding management and curriculum of ‘established’ schools of our nephew (city-1), our niece (village) and our friends’ kids (town-1 and town-2); we spoke to a few other parents and guardians too; and additionally, we took a brief look at various initiatives by some NGOs, Government schemes, etc.

Considering the entire Education System to be a giant elephant, my husband is right in analysing its overall present scenario in India-


Someone gets hold of the ear of the elephant and says ‘education is like a big jute dust-pan’; someone hangs by the tail and says ‘its like a small, smooth rope’; someone leans on the legs and says ‘its like a tall pillar’; someone grazes at the belly and says ‘its like a huge wall’; someone sits atop the back and says ‘where’s the pain, its an easy ride’; etc.

But usually, no one looks at the elephant or tries to even realize its presence, let alone providing any substantial financial or logistical assistance !!

So the consequence is that everyone, especially children and youth, continue to suffer because we do not take a HOLISTIC approach to address the issues in the entire system; we try to resolve merely by fits and starts, and a bit here and a bit there… Sometimes, for mere sake of promotions, sometimes for only political gains and sometimes, even without understanding an iota of it !!!

Some parents and guardians send their kids to schools without verifying necessary facts or keep changing schools without really monitoring their children’s progress and reasons for their inadequate performances. In most of these cases, parents and guardians remain all occupied at work during the week and therefore, prefer to simply unwind over the weekend along with family; they just admit their children on school rolls because they do not want to miss out on this ‘prime duty’ towards their children. But after that, the required follow-up usually does not happen !

However, a very few people and organizations still continue to render their noble services borne by a zeal, a thorough understanding and truly dedicated efforts towards uplift of the Education System ! We need ample of such folks and teams…


Well, we spend thousands of crores of INR in election campaigns, day-to-day advertisements and mere social events; then why don’t we do it for completely redefining the Education System in the country ? Isn’t that the best gift we can give to our children, to our nation and to the world at large ?

Wonder when shall modern India rebuild or transform itself to once again become the marvellous hub of Education that it was in the ancient days…… Let’s not forget that there was a great time when the whole world was eager and humble to visit the unparalleled chambers of wisdom at Nalanda, Taxila (now in Pakistan), Vikramsila, Varanasi, Udaygiri, Ratnagiri, Pusphagiri, Kanchipuram, Manyakheta, etc.

Name the Subject and Seek the Master- ancient India had it all to its glory !

Elephant

Should we Approve this Space Redefinition ?

Like many of my folks, I would love to live in a villa or mansion with most modern amenities, a sprawling garden, a customized swimming pool and good parking space.

Money matters but it is not the real determinant !

For after the routine confrontation with SPACE and POLLUTION around, I am not in favour of even owning a four-wheeler (in fact, I am still avoiding it !). The Apartment concept is a wiser choice in many aspects and as a family even, we are also comfortable and happy travelling in autos, Volvos and taxicabs.

We are happy because we spare space and prevent pollution – all very little but that is what we still manage to contribute. That gives us some sort of joy within. And of course, we do not have the headache of maintenance, licence renewals or manoeuvring in traffic when we actually look forward to solely enjoying the time.

Three years ago, we planned to get bicycles but there is still no appreciable bicycle lanes across the city. And the metro rail tracks too do not utilize the underground space… Anyway, if ever we much need to own one vehicle, then we shall restrict it to minimum usage to release space-on-roads and prevent air-pollution at least.

Of late, the ‘villa culture’ is the latest style-and-status statement in the city. Millionaire home buyers, particularly in Bangalore are even seeking out helipads and four-car parking areas !!! (This entire article is a must read; every bit of information contained in it sounds so alarming to me that I could not figure out what to highlight and what to ignore !)

Moreover, irrespective of the number and quality of roads, there are huge ads and flashy show-rooms everywhere to promote sale of varieties of fashionable cars and SUVs.

So this is how it goes – we observe Earth Hour, Save Trees, Prevent Pollution, Stop Industrialization, Environment Day, etc. But we go crazy with these $million /$billion investments, mostly to satisfy our ego – why ? Surely we can jolly good afford but are we being honest with ourselves ? Why can’t we start practising some sort of contentment, despite few odds at the beginning ? …It can be done in various ways – big or small, right ?

It troubles my heart more to see how some of my folks who have well-flourished in their career abroad are now heading home not really to bring in brilliant ideas to rebuild or serve their country but to mindlessly secure a high-flown niche in a city that holds promises of multifarious entrepreneurship and where mercury levels are relatively less drastic !

I therefore strongly believe that some of such detrimental features both of the Real Estate and the Motor Vehicles industries should be “absolutely unacceptable” to a society ALREADY DEPRIVED OF CHILDREN’S PLAY AREAS EVEN IN SCHOOLS – everyone is kind of getting choked at the rate things have already deteriorated !!

Otherwise, I am afraid there may come a situation in the near future, when we would not be able to spot space on Earth to even mark our own foot-prints, literally so !!!!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

General Elections 2014: a Game Theoretic Analysis

With less than 20 days left for the first phase of elections, each party has almost finalized the list of candidates; giving a final touch (Congress has already declared) to their manifestos, busy in bridging the gaps between like (?) minded parties for opportunistic alliances, and making advertisements in the print and electronic media. Campaigning is becoming crucial for all political parties.

One strong trend which is emerging clear from the campaigning- candidate selections and the alliance formations – winning the election by hook or by crook –  that’s the ‘Game‘;  a zero-sum or/and a non-zero-sum game but mostly with opportunistic coalitions. The outcome of this game is the real face of our democratic form of government, in which some times the major national party sits in the opposition and a the leader of a small party with 20 odd members can become the Prime Minister of this country. (Please do watch the above video link to see a beautiful illustration of Indian democracy by (Late) Shri Pramod Mahajan.)

And the saying “every thing is fair in love and war” is becoming a reality for this election game-war. It is a game in which political Parties, Media, Election Commission, Police and the Voters are the major players with many strategies for a goal – ‘Rule’ – with and without coalition in which Nash-Equilibrium may not be guaranteed !!

Like every other game, here too, the strategies are very important not only to form a government but also to form a stable and sensible government at the centre and in the states. Strategies are mostly formed by the active players – Political Parties, many in number and extremely divergent in characteristics; propagated by the passive players – Media; judged by the unique players of the world’s largest democracy – the Voters.

Lets analyse few of the common strategies –

Candidate Selection: It is indisputable to say that candidate selection depends majorly on the polarization factor – caste, religion, outsider vs. insider, etc. More than qualities like honesty, capability, loyalty and integrity, importance is being given whether the candidate is from Urban or Rural area, a Hindu or a Muslim, a Brahmin or a Yadav or a Kurmi or a Dalit, a Lingayat or a Vokkaliga or a Kurba, a Jat or a Thakur, an Iyer or a Mudaliyar, son/daughter of some “big” man or an aamjunta, and many more. Change of parties to earn a party ticket are common; for many candidates getting a ticket is more important than the ideology of the party. If the political parties are to be blamed for this kind of polarization and division of the society, then the media is also equally responsible for generating their masala-news and live analysis.

So far as the voters are concerned – we too are biased for our caste and religion sentiments. Remember- neither making a holy dip in Varanasi will make some one a Hindu-sympathizer nor wearing a skull-cap will make some one close to the hearts of Muslims.

Are we going forward to bridge the gap or going back to the era of un-touchability ? The choice is ours !!

Hate/Love Speeches: Making a hate speech is very easy these days. Reason – the conviction rate is very low and the convictions are not exemplary ! Hate speeches targeting religion, caste, community, migrants, etc. are threatening the peace and sovereignty of the country. The words or phrases used by the politicians are sometimes derogatory and flaring. Moreover, these days personalized comments are pathetic and in utterly bad tastes, mostly used to polarize voters and to stop some one from even doing good at any cost. What surprises me more is the negative publicity – parties are busy in finding out others’ faults, not in publicizing their own good governance. Criticizing others for their failures is not bad but laying the foundation of good future is more important. This is not only happening in party manifestos but also in reality. We fail to observe any party or leader sincerely or humbly accepting their mistakes and offering to find remedies for it; rather it appears from their statements that doing wrong things are their deliberate actions and their birth-rights.

If hate speeches are bad, then what about love speeches ? Saying “I love to be in the midst of tribal people” and doing nothing for them; or saying “I will go from home to home and sleep in villages” who had once mocked other leaders for eating and sleeping in Dalit homes. All for the benefit of TV cameras – these are merely romanticizing the election bids !

Freebies: We all love freebies and indisputably this becomes a major strategy during elections. The ‘one-kilogram per rupee’ Rice concept, re-adjustments in the number of of Cooking-gas cylinders, free Ration, Laptops, TVs, Cycles, Washing Machines, even free Electricity, free Water, loan-Waivers and many similar things are common these days. Irrespective of the class and affordability of the people, the freebies are very popular these days. Its as if these are all literally raining from the heavens. Political rallies, party manifestos and advertisements are saturated with freebies – “If you vote for me, I will give you this” ! … Are you really giving from your pocket ? NO !! Then who allowed you to do so ? … Let us understand that freebies are making us nikarma (indolent) and are being distributed from the tax-payers’ money which was meant for the development of the country. If any political party wants to give any substantial gifts to the society by making election-oriented promises, then let them promise us good governance – not generate or do nothing about tackling policy paralysis and corruption; let them create for us a system of quality education,  quality jobs, sustained opportunities to earn our livelihood at our native places (no migrant-labour), good roads, green environment, continuous supply of clean water, electricity, necessary and regulated material resources at reasonable prices, transparent accounting system, ample safety and security for all its citizens, and so on and so forth. Not freebies… Freebies will not eradicate poverty; rather it will keep re-orienting using foolish methods and then reinforce the downward-spiralling of poverty.

A true leader must have the vision to empower its nation by building on every available resource and not callously aim at the gaddi (seat of power) !!!

Alliance: Both pre-poll and post-poll alliances are becoming crucial these days. The pre-poll alliances we see these days are actually not based on a common agenda; rather these are based on political compulsions for a post-poll government formation. Moreover, no one (political parties as well as their leaders) is untouchable. On a critical analysis, we can see that most of the pre-poll alliances are actually converting a zero-sum game to a non-zero-sum game. Here are a few instances – LJP-BJP in Bihar, Shiv Shena-BJP-MNS (?) in Maharashtra, BJD-JMM in Odisha, RJD-Congress in Bihar, TDP-BJP in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, flip-flops of TRS-Congress in Telangana, DMDK-PMK-MDMK-BJP in Tamil Nadu, AIDMK-Congress, DMK-Congress in Tamil Nadu, BJP-BJD in Odisha.

Parties with a strong vote base sometimes do not form pre-poll alliances, so that they can get maximum window while forming the post-poll alliances. Examples – BJD in Odisha, AIDMK in Tamil Nadu, TMC in West Bengal, etc.

Alliances are good if they are formed to truly serve the nation or the state. But bad if these are formed to stop a party or a group to form the government, may be in the name of secularism, corruption /anti-corruption, language, regionalism, etc.

Contrary to pre-poll alliances, post-poll alliances are formed mostly with a compulsion (with political excuses) and with invisible agendas – which are selfish in nature. The compulsions of post-poll alliances will rise with the increase in small and regional parties, and the undesired effect (w.r.t. voters) will be echoed as in 1989, 1990, 1996, 1998, 2004, 2009,… and the recent post-poll alliance of Congress and AAP in Delhi which only lasted for 49 days !!

For an ideal case, alliances should not be dictated for egoistic and selfish reasons but should be committed only and only for the benefit of the people !!

Reservations based on Caste and Religion: This is another big strategy the political parties play, both before and after the elections. To gain vote shares, parties promise reservation for particular castes and religions which needs to condemned right away. Though the concept of reservations was decided and rightly offered for creating a short-term balance in the society, now it has become a major political sword for winning elections after elections, without actually balancing the caste and religion differences in a society particularly like India.

Division of States or Special Status Category: Recently, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, and the demands for ‘special status category’ to Bihar and Odisha have fuelled this strategy of forming a coalition (pre or post) and winning sympathy-votes based on “step-motherly” treatment by the Centre. If such divisions and categorizations are not justifiably carried out by the Centre (but only for coalition parties to gain sympathy-votes), then we will soon see further territorial divisions and non-beneficial alignments.

Bribing: Bribing voters and candidates are not new. Wine, Women and Wealth play important roles in bribing the voters and political rallies. Critics and analysts say that any thing in the range of Rs. 700/- to Rs. 10,000/- is being spent per vote by many of the candidates. On an average, some of the candidates are reportedly spending more than Rs. 30 to Rs. 50 crores per constituency. I still remember the punch line “Give me 10 votes and take a new bike” – very commonly seen and heard during the Local Bodies Elections-2012 in Maharashtra.

As mentioned before, the political parties are playing the election Game with their positive and negative strategies, and the media (paid or fair) is a party to it in propagating the political agendas in various forms. Both positive journalism as well as negative journalism are part and parcel of the game.

But the outcome of the Game depends on our ultimate decision- whether to fall for the cheap and divisive politics or rise and stand-up for a self-reliant, stronger India which can give corruption-free governance and sustained employment ! If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a selfish and baseless favour or meagre cash or a bottle of wine or freebies,  or a reservation based on caste /community /religion, or a loan-waiver… then whom should we blame but ourselves ? And therefore, it also lies in our hands – what ways we pave for our children – the future of our society !! In this regard, we must appreciate the efforts of countries like Japan and China which have been utterly careful and diligent to correct wrong practices and sustain good ones.

This is the right time or opportunity to show our strength, to redress defects in the system and make it clean and strong. Its our time to play our own Game; let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of “MCR” – Money, Caste and Religion but on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morals and right knowledge. We need to do something substantial, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let us prevent corruption, bring in good governance and create sustained jobs for a better life. Let’s respect our dignity, our state and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!! It is not that far… just couple of weeks more!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Jai Hind!

Special Category Status of Indian States – Recent Developments

This is a topic on and off the Indian political radar, now particularly as the General Elections are scheduled in the summer of 2014.

Currently, India has 11 ‘special category’ status states. They are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It is usually given to states which have distinct features like international boundaries, hilly terrains, special environmental issues, different socio-economic patterns and where infrastructural investments or public services are very difficult to be implemented. And most of these states bear a large tribal or economically backward population.

The country’s apex decision making body National Development Council headed by the Prime Minister and all the Chief Ministers and Union Cabinet Ministers on board, is the competent authority to grant ‘special category’ status to a state based on a set of criteria as per the Gadgil formula. This formula was evolved in 1969 by Dr. D. R. Gadgil, the social scientist and first critic of the Indian Planning Commission. Since then, the formula has been applied, modified and re-applied because of various reasons (statistical or changing social indicators, political, financial, etc.) and in various ways.

The states which enjoy the ‘special category’ status are given 90 per cent grant as assistance for externally aided projects. For the general category states, there is usually no grant and resources flow to states as back-to-back loans.

In March-2013, Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had remarked “Whoever empathises with and helps backward states will come to power in Delhi“. In May-2013, the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that a high-level sub-committee would be constituted under the then Chief Economic Advisor to Government of India, Raghuram Rajan (now the Governor of Reserve Bank of India) in order to determine the criteria of backwardness of a state. Further, Mr. Chidambaram added “… going by whatever information that I have, Bihar will certainly qualify under the new criteria”. Assuming that the Minister rightfully pre-possessed some good data about Centre’s likely financial assistance, tax-waivers and performance-linked-incentives, I believe it were apt if the statement was made by him with certainty but only after the criteria of backwardness was re-defined. Otherwise, the statement still leaves behind a gap that may rather mean that the criteria be re-set so as to accommodate Bihar in the ‘special category’ status !

Anyhow, this gesture by the Congress-led UPA Government was interpreted as a sign of wooing Mr. Nitish Kumar away from his alliance with the Opposition party, BJP and gaining his party, the JD(U)’s support. From the aamjunta, there was hardly any amount of noticeable discussion on this deal just focussing on Bihar’s genuine needs.

In August-2013, the expert committee under Mr. Raghuram Rajan identified 10 parameters for a new Composite Development Index for the allocation of Central funds to backward states. The new index considers the rating of states on the basis of their distance from the national average on parameters including poverty rate, consumption, education, health, female literacy, urbanization, household amenities, connectivity, financial inclusion and share of SCs/STs (Scheduled Castes /Scheduled Tribes) in total population. Some states like Bihar have also insisted on the inclusion of per capita energy consumption as a measure of development. Overall, if this new index rates Bihar as a backward state, then it will definitely do the same for Odisha and few other states as well.

It has been reported that ‘while Bihar was given Rs 12,500 crore as part of a special development plan, Odisha’s eight Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) districts, more backward than many of Bihar’s districts, should have received an allocation in the same proportion’. As the discussions and rallies were being held by various groups seeking the ‘special category’ status for Odisha, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia cited the state’s stable finances and “sound indicators of fiscal deficit, outstanding liabilities and interest payments” as reasons for non-consideration !!

Being born and brought up in Odisha, I can vouch that while the state is rich in many natural resources and abounds in several industrial potentialities, it is economically backward due to meagre or non-sustained patronage from New Delhi. Odisha dramatically boosts the national treasury through trade in various minerals and industries namely coal, iron-ore, bauxite, manganese, power, steel, railways, shipping, commercial ports, fishery, agriculture, art, craft and tourism. One of the most significant DRDOs of the country – testing of missiles, is based in this state only.

There are at least 32 primitive tribal groups (the state has 22.8% tribal population, higher than the 8.6% national average) and according to the Planning Commission, about 155 lakh people in the state are suffering from acute poverty. The literacy rate is low and infant mortality rate high. Health and sanitation issues have just started getting mobilized towards a better future. Only then, would come the next arduous task of strengthening the education sector.

It is a fact that Odisha does not have an international border but some analysts are of the opinion that the 480 km coastal line can be treated as a substitute. This gets pronounced considering massive environmental factors like the Paradip cyclone, 1999 and the recent Phailin cyclone, 2013 hitting the state from across the vast Bay of Bengal, the waters of which are known to whirl some of the most dreadful tropical storms and cyclones ! This coastal line, if not guarded properly, is also vulnerable to illegal trades and anti-social activities, including infiltration.

Though the present BJD government led by Chief Minister Mr. Naveen Pattnaik has taken good measures towards developing some areas of the state, much of the state funds are spent either in administration or repayment of huge Central loans; therefore, it is not adequate in helping all the economically affected people and developing remote areas. Inadequate solutions and non-uniform development of a region, both are largely detrimental to the inclusive concept of growth. A sustained development model, as also envisaged by world-bodies, can gradually come into the picture only at a later stage.

The demand for ‘special category’ status for Odisha was first raised in 1979, but successive governments at the Centre have not paid heed. On one occasion, Mr. Naveen Patnaik has led a 30-member delegation comprising Odisha ministers, BJD MPs and MLAs to President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. They have submitted a memorandum and one crore signatures collected from the state voicing their concerns and demands. But any noticeable step is yet to be taken by the Central government.

Last week, the state of Seemandhra (earlier part of high-ranked Andhra Pradesh) has been granted ‘special category’ status by the Centre, as quickly as it was curved out. Whereas states like Odisha and Bihar, whose demands have been far more justifiable and long-standing, still continue to be ignored. These type of callous decisions quite seem to be linked to political bias, appeasement tactics and ploys for vote-banks. Ultimately, the citizens suffer ! One better ranked region steadily rises up the development ladder; whereas other regions, in actual needs, may still continue to falter, under-perform and remain almost stagnant for years. This undoubtedly leads to  undesirable issues of inter-state migration or over-populated urban areas where people from low-ranked states flock in search of employment and social upliftment !! Thus, it is negatively cumulative in effect.

So, when is any Central government going to think cogently and channelize the available resources in a proper direction for the long-neglected states ? In fact, not only should it provide the necessary financial grants to economically backward states but also assist them with proper and timely guidance through various advisory bodies or committees working successfully in various parts of the country. This shall expedite development in these low-ranked states and be one of the ways to compensate faster for all the years of neglected work. No Central Government should ever make the blunder of political discrimination (for vote-banks, rivalry, etc.) among states because that will create a huge social mess in the long run !

Aamjunta – What do you say ?

Similar article by aamjunta – Odisha Assam mein hai na!

Delightful Diwali but… NO crackers, Please !!

Over the years in the Indian subcontinent, we have celebrated Deepavali or Diwali by lighting clay lamps and bursting fire-crackers to drive away evil spirits.

Now, let’s reflect from a different but existing interpretation from our ancient holy texts. It is the festival of lights, which signifies a “consciousness of the Inner Light- the Atma” dispelling ignorance and also generating compassion for all beings.

Looking at things around in this age, one can observe with a little insight that any unmeasured or unconsidered practice of bursting fire-crackers can fatally harm, aggravate and disturb four major cases of life on Earth –

1. already high levels of pollution
2. conditions of ailing people (particularly, the heart-ached or migraine-affected)
3. the common man living on the streets or slums, or awfully needing to rush his/her child, aged-parents, spouse, relative, friend to the hospital
4. creatures living on the ground or underground

Many of us have ourselves confronted these situations or watched others helplessly struggling against it. Is not it then our responsibility to check the way we celebrate Diwali and also educate the younger generations?

Let us care a little for Mother Earth and ALL beings living on it. Human beings are the highest kind of intelligent animals here. Therefore, as long as it is within our control, we should avoid killing or hurting even lower and weaker life forms; we should rather strive to protect them.  FOREMOST, we can surely try and make things Safe, Secured and Clean !!! That would in fact bring us closest to attaining the real “ananda” or “rejoice of the Inner Light”…

Lets make it a festival of lights for all; not festival of darkness for some !

Wishing everyone a truly Delightful Diwali.

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Socialism in India – Some Ground Realities

A guest article by a fellow aamjunta

Implementation of socialism – whatever be its form or type – without properly educating (not just formal Degrees) the targeted audience, will always be a disaster anywhere in this world !!

I am now of the opinion that Socialism, whatsoever be the form or type, would be perhaps unwise to implement to the fullest extent in our country.

I have always tried to the best of my capacity, to extend all possible help and uphold fair treatment towards the section of Domestic Workers – during childhood under the guidance of my parents, then during working years in a self-motivated way and now, with more inspiration and support from my family-in-law. Irrespective of the communities and cities they come from, I find most of these people get disoriented from work at some point of time. Then they suddenly become highly ungrateful, rude or may be even disloyal to any extent !

I don’t buy the argument that disparity in wealth is the reason. Here are my observations regarding this point.

This section of people I am particularly talking about were initially in poverty and they have been through lot of struggle. Some of these families now control agricultural plots and/or produces. When they stepped out seeking work, there was no sign of disengagement from society, no resentment or a rebellious tone. They were rather focussed, sincere and polite. Hope bloomed in their lives in the form of better employment, they toiled and they prospered; they were able to send their kids to standard schools and colleges. They could avail most of the welfare schemes launched by the respective governments. In general, their living standards improved.

But almost all of them, at one point, still seem to lose their base… their humble connection to the soil or rather say, roots. They think they have become mega-haves, and it does not matter whether their achievements were by right or lucky charm or some sort of vote-bank politics or by their hard efforts.

This year, the Indian festival of Teej (Gowri Habba /Tay /Bali Trutiya) was on a Sunday, followed by Ganesh Chaturthi the next day. Our Cook had obtained an approved Leave for both the occasions, mainly to observe fasting. I also agreed to accommodate her preparing our dinner for Tuesday on the same day morning as she expressed her desire to celebrate her younger son’s birthday in the evening. The same schedule was also supposed to be repeated on Friday for her elder son. I also offered her half-duty on both these ‘birthday’ occasions so that she could make it early to her household and prepare well. Even Saturday’s ‘rotiz‘ (Indian bread) at dinner were agreed to be made during the day time, if it was not possible to do so in the evening.

All these, assuming traffic and unpredictable rain while her festival-shopping would be on. Things looked fine till Saturday late afternoon when I became doubtful… I called her up to ensure that she comes in the evening to at least make the ‘rotiz‘ for dinner. This especially because all the three ‘tavaas‘ (flat pans) in my kitchen got seasoned as per her expertise, including the non-stick ones which were reduced to raw pieces of iron plates – I just could not further manage making ‘rotiz‘ using them !

She did not respond to my three calls, though paced at good intervals. Thankfully somehow, my fourth call was received amidst hullabaloo of many busy bees (kids). Thinking that she might be shopping for the festival, I went on to ask her “when are you coming today evening ?… its fine even if you come at 10:30” (11:00 PM being her last slot and by her own suitable choice). Without any hesitation or an iota of guiltiness, she promptly replied “kyaaa Didi, ek din nahi khane se nahi chalega ???… aap bhi vrat kar lijiye naa !” (“Didi (an address to an elder sister in many Indian languages), can’t you skip meal for a day… you too can observe a fast !”)

I lost my cool for a few seconds. Not because I was bent upon having ‘rotiz‘ at dinner but the reason was that my generosity seemed to be unhesitatingly taken for a ride !! My granting extra Leaves or spontaneously agreeing to let my palate chew cold ‘rotiz‘ were not the only signs of free-handedness towards someone whose labour I equally respected like mine or anybody from the upper echelons of the society; there have been considerable ones- small and big, over the months.

Managing to quickly gather myself, I said “aap bhi ek kam kijiye- yahan aake khana banaiyye aur kuch khaa lijiye…ek din vrat rakh kar kya milega !” (“you too do one thing- come here, cook and do eat something…what would you gain by fasting just for a single day!”)

She perhaps understood the sarcasm. She then muttered that she would make it in the evening, which of course she did, though much reluctantly. And as if I was the person responsible for the incomplete cleaning activities in regard with the festival at her house !

I am sure all of us keep facing these type of situations in our daily lives in India- big or trivial…

These are not just isolated incidences. As I am preparing to launch my ideas and goals to improve lives of such classes of people in our society, these incidences in fact de-motivate me, weaken me. I am stuck with such confusion that it sometimes make me ponder for days if I am doing justice to all the other strata by attempting to uplift the plight of these folks… would I be really helping these under-privileged people in bettering their lives or simply fuelling their recklessness, vanity and ego ? Is the improvement in their financial and social conditions teaching them some sort of defiance in the wrong context ? Would this dwarf trend one day grow up into a big giant ?

These people are known to stir the most touchy heart-to-heart conversations, be the protagonists of almost all the famous writers and poets of the world, subjects of famous revolutions, real strength of kings and emperors, nature’s most admired children….. Now, where is that wonderful emotion gone ? Why these type of lackadaisicalness from the same folks ?!

These type of indifferent attitude and lack of work ethics is not limited to the  un-organized sector as illustrated above. Therefore, I do not see how moulding an un-organized sector into an organized one can help promote simple affairs of the heart ! And we are perhaps concerned more about those values and less about scheduled performances routinely guided by brains.

So, is it the absence of education (the intellectual or emotional wealth) in their families and communities ?

Perhaps, socialism minus education will always act in the negative direction. It will perturb the society even more. It is quite similar to saying that power corrupts without sanity !!! In the realistic world, it would be perhaps wiser to have two groups- one, that of educated and financially privileged people and the other, of rustic simpletons toiling hard, than to form a society based on all equal terms for every strata BUT minus the most effective factor of progress- education, whether of formal degrees or of moral lessons !

Its high time to quickly check Maslow’s pyramid vis-a-vis education, and may be along with a few other factors recommended by social scientists, psychiatrists, social activists, government authorities and other stakeholders. This is very much required, at least, in the present Indian scenario !

Aamjunta — what do you think ?

Those Two Rupees…

Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people.

Garrison Keillor

“Babu, will you please give me two rupees more than your usual rickshaw-bhadda (fare)?”

The poor rickshaw-puller innocently asked me on my way to Sheltar Chak from Barabati Bali Yatra (one of the traditional carnivals of Odisha) Maidan.

Before I could say anything, he added, “I’m just requesting, don’t give if you don’t approve it”

I retorted back with irritation. “But, you had agreed for six rupees as the bhadda, why two rupees more?”

He was mum for some time and then said, “I’m falling short of  two rupees”.

From what?”, I questioned him again threateningly…

I’m falling short of two rupees to buy a Milk Dabba (can) for my 6-month old baby. I’ve collected thirty-eight rupees only from my entire day’s rickshaw- pulling, and the Milk Dabba costs forty rupees”.

I tried to open my mouth to say something. Before I could say anything, he stopped the rickshaw, looked back, saw my face and said, “no problem, I just requested you, if you don’t want.. don’t give, will wait for some more time and by God’s grace, I hope I will be able to earn two rupees more”.

Then he started paddling towards my home. After a couple of minutes, he murmured to himself (addressed to his kid), “By the time I collect two rupees more, shops will be closed, and you (his kid) will have to sleep again in hunger tonight”.

It was 11 P.M. at night in the month of November, quite late for the eastern part of India. He was pulling me in his cycle-rickshaw to my brother’s place in Cuttack. I was in my 12th standard at that time, studying at Ravenshaw College. That evening, I got late watching music and dance numbers in the famous Habib Melody. No one agreed to go for a fare of six rupees; all the rickshaw-walas (pullers) were charging ten to twelve rupees. I was bit surprised when this rickshaw-wala had agreed for six rupees after a moment’s thought. May be he was a bit calculative at that time and thought of losing the chance to earn four to six rupees more, just to get that Milk Dabba home in time. Even though he fell short of two rupees, he did not lose faith on his profession.

It is a 10-15 minute journey by rickshaw from Barabati Stadium to Sheltar Chak. In the entire conversation, I was silent for most of the time, thinking about him, his 6-month old baby, me, my friends and the society in general. I was not that matured at that time to understand everything. During Bali Yatra, I found some people throwing money on anything and buying trinkets indiscriminately. But the same people would have gone to any extent to bargain with a poor rickshaw-wala. I too had spent a lot from my pocket-money on eating and watching melodies and operas. Whereas the rickshaw-wala was struggling to save forty rupees by a whole day’s toil, in order to feed his small kid (forget about himself and his other family members).

The value of two rupees for him was the value of his kid’s life, whereas it had no meaning at all for some other people. Such is the denomination of money- something which has no value for someone might be a whole life for somebody else.

Those two rupees ….. aamjunta think about it.

Give me 10 Votes, I’ll give you a Bike!

Jai Hind!

While watching the live telecast of our 63rd Republic Day celebration from Delhi, the background music of क़दम क़दम बढ़ाये जा, खुशी के गीत गाये जाये जिंदगी है क़ौम की, तू क़ौम पे लुटाये जा (Qadam Qadam baṛāē jā, khushi kē geet gāē jā… yē zīndagi haiñ qâum kī, tū qâum pē lūtāē jā) made me nostalgic and for some time, brought the mighty feeling of a soldier  of the Indian National Army (INA).  On a personal request from Netaji, Ram Singh Thakur composed this  song for the Indian National Army. Way back in 1942, when Ram Singh Takhur composed this extremely patriotic song, he never would have thought that this will make him eternal.

While marching for a free India, Netaji declared his motto “Give me blood, I will give you freedom“. That attracted many Indians to not simply participate in the freedom struggle but even sacrifice their lives for the honor of their motherland. Gone are those days….. India is a democratic republic celebrating its 63rd Republic Day today.

Over the years, many things have changed, so also our “leaders” and we “the people”. Not that all the changes are negative, there are of course many positive ones that have shaped the country. Still, I believe that many more things could have uplifted our status as a welfare state. Today, what bothers most Indians like me is “Corruption”! With the logjam in Parliament and politics over Lokpal Bill, a “corruption-free India” may not be possible in the near future.

Even if a strong Lokpal Bill is passed, corruption is no way going to die in a single day. This is because it has spread to the root of our system, our existence and our blood.  Except a few people, I would say most of us are corrupt and involved in favoritism in some way or the other. Very often, we do not have an option if we need to get our work done smoothly or quickly. Though it is hard to accept, it is a fact.

Corruption during the election reaches its peak. Political parties, irrespective of their national or regional strength are involved in various forms of corruption. In most of the cases, corruption is also closely linked to crime and underworld activities. The power of MWMW (Money, Wine, Muscle power and Women) takes the centre stage. MWMW is becoming the general norm and eligibility criteria for party candidates.

Black money, country made liquors and drugs are being poured into the game from different sources. Even though the Election Commission is very strict and has put many officials as observers, there are several eye-opening cases that come to light every day. Huge amount of cash has been recovered en route to the poll-bound states. Drugs and country liquors are becoming a strong weapon to woe the voters. Recent raids in Punjab and UP led to the discovery of huge amount of drugs and liquors.

With corruption largely being a moral issue, law enforcement agencies have always found it hard to root it out through either force or preventive surveillance. Moreover, sometimes the observers and the law enforcement agents are also corrupt. But the worst thing happens when the common man, the aamjunta or the voter becomes corrupt. If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a meagre cash or a bottle of wine or drugs, then whom can we blame! Neither the Election Commission, nor the Lokpal Bill can bring any solution for this.

For an example, in the recently conducted Municipal elections in Maharashtra, money took the centre stage to buy votes. Many political parties had bribed the voters a meagre sum of Rs 5,000/- per vote. Irrespective of the rich or poor, literate or illiterate, educated or  uneducated, people across the society were involved in this kind of dishonest activities. House maids, vegetable vendors, daily workers, factory workers, auto walas, school teachers, and many others including polling officials went for holidaying or picnics on election black-money. New bikes without registration were kept in petrol pumps; one could take a bike free-of-cost, just on the condition of arranging 10 votes from his/her family and/or friends. The new motto now being “Give me 10 votes, I will give you a bike” !!!!

The actual election process and the common man’s attitude is very pathetic. As long as we do not cure ourselves of this shameful attitude, no legal process or authority can prevent unethical practices like bribery, intimidation and  misuse of office and power. These huge malpractices combined with casteism, communalism and regionalism are going to ruin the election system and the fundamental structure of Indian democracy. It is going to let India’s face down as a world leader in practising true democracy and being its ambassador.

Jaago aamjunta, jaago… This is time to show our strength, and make the system clean and strong. Let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of MWMW but based on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morale and right knowledge. We need to do some thing unique, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let’s respect our dignity and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!!

Jai Hind!

An “Open Letter” to my Fellow Indians on the eve of “Independence Day”

My Dear Fellow Indians,

First, let me congratulate you on the eve of Our Independence Day. Wish our hard earned Independence from the tyranny and suppression lasts long and we discover ourselves in  a country without hunger, terrorism and corruption in everyday life.

Like every human being, I too have a life, and a desire for a peaceful and “Independent Life”. Unfortunately, the current political system and state of affairs do not allow me to have a life of my own – without fear of coming back home when I step out, without fear of losing my life’s saving when I invest, without fear of getting cheated by our Ministers and Politicians, without fear of getting killed or kidnapped by the Maoists if I travel to “Malkanagiri” or “Similipal” or “Dantewada“, without fear of getting a fake degree if I take admission into a college, without fear of getting raped or kidnapped when I roam around in our national capital “New Delhi“, without getting targeted by a section of people and media if I am a Hindu or Muslim or Sikh, without getting labeled by my fellow Indians that I am a “Chinki” if I am from the north-eastern states, without fear of loosing my life and job if I am from Bihar and UP when I am in “Mumbai“, without getting targeted by the Mafias and Babus if I file an RTI and without being thrown out from private schools and hospitals if I am a poor.

Friends… the recent incidents such as 2G or ISRO or Adarsh scams, land grabbing by politicians in name of trusts and charity, CWG mess, siphoning taxpayers’ money in the name of development and other schemes in various states, dividing India in the name of regionalism and religion, nexus of judiciary, layers and politicians, slow and inactive steps of our Police and CBI, populist schemes to attract votes have really shaken the faith of every Indian like me on the political, judiciary, educational and structural systems of India. It is indeed a mater of concern –  for you, for me, for our future generation and for every Indian.

Then… should we allow ourselves to be ruled and governed like this? Don’t we think a change is required at this stage? How can we justify and console ourselves every day when we get hurt, when we are cheated, when we are thrown out by the police in the midnight, when we are taken for granted for every thing – in the parliament, in the cabinet meetings, in the press briefings! Our freedom is at stake, our life is in danger and our survival is in jeopardy.

Do you think that the country which is famous for its “youth” will present itself to the future like this? Do we have any remedy for these kind of short-term and long-term diseases?

Yes, we have, but it is not easy and cheap. It is difficult and sometimes very costly. The solution is just another struggle for independence; a fight for our survival, a fight for our dignity and a fight for our future. Remember, this fight is not against any one else, it is against our “chalta hai” attitude, against our own people; it is a fight of our inner strength against ourselves and against the pseudo-systems – cultural, communal and social. It has to start from the family through right teachings of life and value system, and from the very own “I and you — We“.  Neither the blame game nor the pahle aap and pahle aap can help here. We may have to pay a heavy price in terms of life, money, time and peace for this. It is not free..

A change in attitude and look is necessary; may take a long time for a change, be it short-term or long-term. Another Rang de Basanti….

On the very first Independence Day when Pundit Nehru addressed the nation, he addressed with hope, a sense of fulfillments and sense of achievement.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance …. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.     

Pundit Nehru (15th Aug, 1947)

Friends, he (Punditji) was right on his own way and at that moment; as the first Prime Minister of India, to architect India and the future of Indians. Sixty Five years have passed… and we are still discovering and re-discovering ourselves!!! “independent” is just another metaphor in public speeches.

Hope and wish India and Indians wake up to a dignified life and true freedom – their “birth right“.

Jai Hind!

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