Category Archives: Politics & Society

A natural turn

Last night, just lying on the bed, unable to sleep, I was contemplating on how rugged life has been becoming and where exactly it is going to take me now. Soon my last few years of life have flown in front of my eyes and I couldn’t stop but noticing how wonderfully life has unrolled itself from living in different cities to working in varied jobs and meeting several interesting people, getting to know different cultures and traditions, and still at the end of it I remain the same confused man as I was then. How much things have changed in last decade, some for good and some may not, that I reckon all these changes have made me a different man than what I was both physically and psychologically, albeit not gaining enough strength to command life yet.

CHANGE is a nature of life and without any change with time there is no meaning to life. In fact it’s not just with me but the whole world is moving ahead in fast forward motion and I’m just like a small cog in the wheel that is rolling along.

Now, why am I rumbling on this topic of “Change in Life” all of a sudden? Because it’s very fascinating when we actually observe and analyse those little changes in our surroundings and its effect on us directly or indirectly. Just like the monsoon showers after a hot summer season and a warm Sun shine after a cold winter which would be a welcome relief.

The biggest change that happened in India which got world attention was the change in government. The proud democracy of India has deposed the incumbent government of UPA (United Progressive Alliance) and gave a thumping majority to NDA (National Democratic Alliance) paving way for a strong government at centre led by a man who has given hopes of building a strong nation. The newly elected government seems to be going by the famous demands of public, in vogue for last couple of years, to deliver a corruption-free governance, public security and economic stability if not development. After all, for a common citizen it hardly matters who is in power as long as he can make his life comfortable and secure. So what are the changes that this new government was able to bring in this short span is hard to say but it certainly succeeded in keeping those hopes of people alive that it can bring that CHANGE what majority people want to see in India. Yet there is large scale scepticism which is associated with right wing politics in India for last few decades.

Now if we go beyond Indian boundaries and observe the world, there is lot of drama unfolding which future generations might find interesting to read but as of now I’d describe it as “highly sensitive” situation. Most significant of all is the Crimea crisis which is threatening the world with a consequence of “Cold War 2.0” and war is something that no nation in today’s complex interdependence would really be able to afford. Apart from this, there are new governments in several nations like Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar etc., some elected, some re-elected, some military coups, but everyone has a common agenda to come out of the turmoil and bring in stability for which several other nations are ready to help, as they realise civil wars are like wild fires that can spread fast beyond national boundaries.

Sometimes, what may happen, certain things remain as bad as they are. One such issue which seems to have moved from bad to worse all over the world, especially in Asian countries, is the situation of security to women. In India, after 16th Dec 2012 NIRBHAYA incident, there were country-wide protests which resulted in some new laws and amendments aimed for the security of women and protection against sexual assaults but these could not bring any change in situation as the ideology of patriarchal society seems to be unrelentingly against the freedom from women. The recent shameful Badaun (Uttar Pradesh) case in which two innocent girls lost their lives reiterates how grave the situation is. The new government’s action to appoint a woman M.P (Member of Parliament) as Union Minister of Women & Child Development seems to be not enough to handle the problem and it needs a better and comprehensive action to uproot this evil and make India a safer place for women.

There are some more shocking incidents happening in the world which when I read about has shaken ground beneath my feet. One is in our own neighbour Pakistan where a women was stoned and killed for marrying a man of her choice, even disgraceful is that all accused are her family members who, it is said, have killed her for their HONOUR. Now it is beyond my comprehension as to what honour is there in killing and when an adult person has a right to elect the Prime Minister of nation then why they are being murdered for choosing their life partner. If media reports are to be believed, India is not so far behind our neighbours in this devil of HONOUR killings. There are many more like kidnapping of 200 young girls in Nigeria (by BOKO HARAM, a banned organisation), sexual assault of women near Tahir square, Egypt when the nation was celebrating a change in government etc. which are few of those shameful incidents happening around us.

In last 14 years of 21st Century INDIA has evolved itself into a modern and technically advanced nation, growing fast and catching up with the developed nations, and so does many other developing nations too. For whatever has changed in all these years, hope all will be for good and we will see a new dawn soon where all people, men and women alike, will be treated at par.

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Separation woes

When a new state is defined and new boundaries are drawn, there can be either celebrations or sorrows among people. As under peculiar circumstances just before General Elections of 2014, in the last session of 15th Loksabha the “Telangana bill” has been passed and the creation of India’s 29th state is imminent, the situation in Hyderabad, the capital of erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh and at present the combined capital of newly found Telangana state and Andhra Pradesh state, can be described as nothing more than that of confusion.

Telangana

After witnessing the jubilant celebrations of people in Telangana region, I wondered about the impact of separate state to a COMMON man, that man who believed in Telangana movement, that man who trusted the politicians that separate Telangana state is the panacea of all problems in the region. In long term a smaller state might be helpful in developing the region but on closer observation we can see that separate state is coming with some immediate troubles to that COMMON man, like

  • There was announcement of state tax for all vehicles crossing the Telangana – Seemandhra border which was non-existent before. This means I’ve to shell more money to meet my friends staying over in Seemandhra region and the same for them too to visit Telangana.
  • There is news that as soon as there are two states, all the telephone calls from one region to other will be considered as STD/roaming. Another economic burden on common man
  • Telangana is very much dependent on Seemandhra for several food crops like rice, chillies etc. if the inter-state trade tax is imposed there products will be costlier than now
  • As Telangana is going to be a landlocked state (coast line is only in Andhra region) any goods in sea route has to be brought from Andhra state to Telangana which means higher cost of goods in Telangana
  • As a new capital will be built for Seemandhra, land rates in some of the “Probably” new capital have been shooting up and once the capital is decided another city is going to be unaffordable to common man

When a demand for something crops up, usually only the positive side of the demand is projected but the repercussions of it are hardly calculated, in case of Telangana these are just a few of many troubles that the people of both regions have to face. Apart from these, the relocation of Seemandhra employs from Telangana will not be without troubles as many families have settled here and made it their home so it’ll extremely painful for them to relocate all of a sudden.

Giving special status to one region, some financial packages might help but still the immediate troubles will not be resolved by it. Should we consider these as price paid for the solution provided? Please present your view what could be done now..

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An Extreme Step

SUICIDE – a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This new phenomenon has been on rise world over to resort to end your life when faced with a problem that appears indeterminable or when failed in one’s objective. This peculiar behaviour, observed commonly these days, will make one to contemplate – Is it really the only way to free oneself from troubles?

At present in India, suicides have become a common phenomenon and as per the statistics there are nearly as many suicides happening as are natural deaths. It is actually surprising to everyone that along with the advancement of the society, there is more prosperity, wealth, comfort, and also, very sadly a rise in number of cases of suicides too.

The reasons given are manifold for such an undesired change in society, to talk in political terms, firstly state’s failure to bring in an “all-inclusive” growth. It is argued that rich-poor divide has been ever widening after independence and this has resulted in impoverished conditions of large section of society, blame goes straight to the economic policies and schemes adopted by the erstwhile national leaders. This argument is a narrow approach, which only explains about the ‘POVERTY’ in India and gives only a vague reason for rise in suicides, also it fails miserably to explain the large number of suicides reported from middle class, students, women who are by and large the benefactors of the modern economic policies and globalisation.

Another perspective has been presented by Psychologists, who have argued that this “resorting to extreme step” is a psychological and psycho-social behaviour, which can be addressed only by trying to bring a change in social behaviour.

In a way Psychologists’ perspective seems more relevant than that of political but it will be a blunder to say society will be able to deal with it all by itself without the support of administration. As it is true that “administration is an instrument of social change”, hence administration can play a pivotal role in eradicating this social and psychological evil.

First and foremost is the issue of rise in number of farmer suicides, which is not only a political concern but also a humanitarian problem. In India, agriculture is considered as a GAMBLE on monsoon, as even today 60% of the agriculture land remains un-irrigated while total irrigation potential remains largely underutilised, owing to several political, economic and administrative reasons. Apart from this, the local moneylenders are to be blamed who provide loans to farmers at staggering interest rates of 24%-36%, pushing farmers into debt trap when one crop failure occurs. Hence, state can play a pivotal role here to bring economic stability in farmers’ community and provide social security to them.

After farmers, the next major problem is witnessed in case of student suicides. This is more pronouncing because here there is no specific cause identified that needs to be addressed. Most commonly blamed is the lack of emotional bonding and changing framework of family institutions that is taking a toll on young minds. With rise of globalisation, the society has moved from joint family to nuclear family and the relationships have become very fragile. In case of working partners it becomes even tougher for the child to find an emotional security and he/she may breakdown easily.

sad_girl

What makes the issue of student suicides gravest is the most silly reasons for which they resort to such extreme step, like – parents not allowing to use social networking sites, siblings not allowing to watch IPL, father became angry after child failed in exam etc.

Yet another culprit is the kind of educational system being promoted, which is being too much of competitive environment to students and the importance has been moving from gaining knowledge through education to scoring and getting better RANKS. Such an approach is not only dangerous for qualitative education system but it also puts the students in conditions of high stress and strain.

Along with children the case of suicides is also on rise among adults, especially women and the reason is once again related to the changing social structure and neo life styles. In globalised world not only life has become fast but the relationships in FAST generation have become impermanent. There is a noticeable rise in case of divorce, living partnership, extra-marital affairs etc., in society. Our society has not yet shed its traditional characteristics and is suffering between sanskritisation and westernization to achieve modernisation. In this regard, the people are facing severe lack of trust & emotional security and becoming a prey to alcoholism, smoking, and drug addiction and in some extreme cases – Suicide.

The role of movies and media is quite significant in this regard. Movies have been negatively propagating this ideology of suicide as last resort or in some movies, only resort in case of failures in life especially in case of love failure. And media is also going by SENSATIONALISM doctrine, making news out of every case of suicide and influencing society negatively, and projecting suicide as a common and general option.

How to comprehensively address this psychological epidemic is a million dollar question that needs billion dollar answer. Handling the issue legally has not been so successful. Suicide has been illegal in India from long but it hardly seems to work as after committing suicide there is no way to punish. In this regard, Supreme Court judgement in 1992 is significant in which Supreme Court stated that according to Article 21 of constitution “Right to Life” is a fundamental right which is right to ‘Graceful’ life and not ‘Forceful’ life. Hence, a person attempting suicide is already under severe trauma and it is not proper to punish him/her. This judgement has changed the legal view of suicides.

So, apart from administrative measures like addressing the economic problems of poor and marginalised section and trying for an ‘inclusive’ growth, the part of society, media and movies is most instrumental in bringing awareness among the people that LIFE is a gift of God and ending it abruptly is a crime not only upon themselves but also on all their near and dear ones.

Let there be hope.

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[Short Story] SPIRITS of Life

Bhola was sitting along with ten other men who were all waiting for the work to begin that morning. It is a common scene in every Indian city where thousands of families migrate from nearby villages in search of work and become daily labourers in construction works, his story was no different. When he came five years ago with his wife he expected the city to embrace them with joy but till now city has only been an insensitive host for them. They were blessed with two children in the meantime; sadly it became a curse than blessing as he found it too harsh to feed four, in this costly city, by working as daily labour.  Like every morning, today too he first went to the liquor shop to buy a quarter, drank it there itself and only then he came to work, hoping to earn some money so that his family gets some food.

Four cabinet Ministers were present in the meeting room and Finance Secretary was explaining them why the present hike in State excise duty is imminent. Such meetings are held every day in that State Secretariat but this one was more significant because a hike in excise duties will always be detrimental to governments.

“Why can’t we postpone this hike for some time and instead of hike we manage to reduce our expenditure on welfare schemes?” asked Finance Minister.

Other ministers immediately showed their displeasure to the idea of reducing expenditure on welfare schemes, while Secretary made a strong argument that welfare schemes are all in full swing and need continuous funding to earn the goodwill of people, also if they are not funded properly Government will be in trouble to explain why it is neglecting the poor.

“Government is already in trouble now. After our announcement yesterday to hike excise duties, Opposition has started raising public support against it and CM is asking me to handle the situation. What do you expect me to do now?” Finance Minister asked again.

The Secretary sighed and said “Sir, we both know well that Opposition is misleading people and are not actually concerned with people’s welfare. Hiking State Excise tax would increase cost of elite consumption products like alcohol and cigarettes which should not affect common man.  We need not take Opposition so seriously”

Finance Minister, “We need to take it seriously Sir. Unlike you bureaucrats we politicians need to walk along with people and work for their votes but not for their welfare alone. Opposition is doing same and our party is worried now what to do.”

As always meeting ended without any common opinion.

All of you, today the Opposition party has declared Bandh to oppose government’s decision to increase prices again, so no work will happen. You people can come to the rally organised to protest against the government and you’ll receive reward for your time spent” said the labour leader to all men waiting there for the work to begin.

Bhola and other men had no other option than going with their leader, holding the banners and placards given to them, which they cannot read, all men went behind the politicians who marched towards the State Assembly in protest. The party members were shouting slogans against government and hundreds of men following also lent their voice in support.

Because of large gathering, it caused severe traffic jam and Police after a formal warning, arrested the politicians. As the party cadres were causing havoc on arrest of their leaders, police had to open lathi charge and water cannons to wither the crowd. Men ran helter-skelter, few were injured too who were sent to hospital, luckily Bhola escaped unscathed.

In the late evening, all labours gathered at same place where they were waiting in the morning. Their leader came with smiles, took them all to a nearby motel where they all had food and drinks. Finally gave them each a bottle of liquor before leaving.

spirits

Late night Bhola reached his hut in BharatNagar, cursing his wife, in inebriated state and fell on his bed with a thud. His wife searched his pockets for any money but to no avail, there was only a half filled liquor bottle in his hand, half he must have emptied she thought. Both children were still awake and crying with hunger. She had nothing to give them to eat, took the half-filled liquor bottle from her husband and with tears running down her cheeks, poured a few caps full of liquor in the mouths of children. “Oh Lord! Forgive me for this crime, I can’t see them crying for food, by this poison liquid at least they’ll have some sleep for the night.”

Opposition’s ruckus went for next six days and government had to succumb to the pressure at last.

Next day a national daily published in front page the words of Finance Minister, “Owing to public pressure, we are taking back our decision to hike the excise duties; we strongly reiterate that for government nothing is more important than public welfare and we are always committed to do what benefits the common man. After all this is the Government for Common Man.”

There was another news in inside pages – “In one of the huts of BharathNagar slums a women and two children were found dead. People suspect it as suicide but no proper reasons were found as yet. The Police said they have registered a case and will investigate to find the cause of death.”

 

Note: It is a work of fiction.

 

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women MpowerMENt

No_violence_against_women

“All are equal before LAW, no discrimination shall be made on the basis of caste, creed, sex, and place of birth”, this is a common sentence we read long back in our school, it’s inscribed in our Indian Constitution, the lengthiest Constitution in the world. I’m sure that if a foreigner gets to read this he’ll perceive India as a modern and rational country but in reality we see that sadly the modernity of India is confined only to books and Indian society is still widely orthodox and even moronic.

Women empowerment has been included as the foremost criteria, by the then Government, when India got freedom from colonial rule and even after 65 years of independence we still say “Women empowerment stands first in our goals to achieve” and I doubt when India will be able to achieve this goal and how many more innocent women will have to sacrifice their lives to this men dominated society.

Over the past few decades women rights are proliferated and we see a lot of women coming out of their houses, working at par with men in this competitive world, making it look like an unbiased place but is it really unbiased? When we see the heinous crimes on women in metros, like Gang Rape case of Delhi in Dec 2012, we are forced to reconsider what is amiss here that we are unable to curb the atrocities on women even after making strict laws against such crimes. Both the houses of Parliament were stalled asking for change in laws and make it as death penalty for crimes like Rape, which seems to be a fair demand to curb the violence on women but will it really suffice to ensure safety of women remains to be answered.

By asking for death penalty for criminals, we are actually going for reformative measures than asking for preventive measures, it’s common in India that we are more concerned with the medicine of disease than taking preventive measures to avoid the disease. Even Justice Verma committee has said that we need to address the issue comprehensively not compartmentally. Until we don’t go to the root cause of this Superiority complex of men and make every one realize “Equality of women and men” is the essence of any society, we will not be able to arrest such crimes happening on women. So question comes as where does this problem begun? As we dig deep into Indian conservative society in history, we encounter a lot of shocking rituals like Sati, Purdah system etc. which depict the social inequality that was rooted in the society. With the efforts of great social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and few others, such rituals are eradicated but the deep rooted conservativeness to view women as inferior and burden is what we need to uproot right away.

Government alone cannot face and resolve this issue but whole society should realize as its moral responsibility to bring awareness among every individual to treat women with respect and value their individuality. Parents must stop treating their daughters as inferior to sons and provide equal opportunities in every aspect, make the boy feel a sense of equality so that he does not feel in anyway superior to his female counterparts. Same needs to be maintained in our educational institutions, teach the children sense of equality, young men and women can get involved in schools and communities to advocate them about women’s equal rights.

All this stuff seem to be too far fetching, idealistic and unreal but there’s no other way to ensure at least in our future generation women will be really feel a sense of equality and Women empowerment won’t be still a goal to achieve. However these preventive measures will not help in any way to save the women of present day so there can be harsher laws against such crimes, however only time can answer how much such laws will help for the cause of women.

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NOTA small thing

A revolution will always start silently, just like stillness in air before a storm. Indian politics is in such a bewildered hush now as a storm is on its way, however we are yet to witness whether it’s gonna be really a storm or a simple “storm in a cup”.

First, Supreme Court gave judgement that a convicted legislator will be disqualified immediately and unlike before, he cannot continue in post even if his appeal is pending in higher court. The party in power tried to bring an Ordinance (it’s a Presidential order which comes in effect immediately) to override the decision and in turn protect the convicted lawmakers. But thanks to the comment of “tear it into pieces” by one of the known faces of Indian Politics, this ordinance was taken back. As a result what we witness is, for the first time in the history of independent India, some of the ex-Chief Ministers, who are MPs at present, got disqualified when they were convicted in cases related to some scams in past few weeks. It is first step towards political decriminalization in India.

NOTA

In another famous case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India, Supreme Court has given a landmark judgement to make NOTA (None Of The Above) button mandatory in EVMs (Electronic Voting Machine) in elections from now on. This decision might seems pretty small because

  • NOTA votes count will be made public but they do not have any significance as of now,
  • Even if NOTA gets maximum votes, the person with next maximum number of votes will be declared as winner

For Ex:- If a constituency has 1000 votes and three candidates A, B, C are contesting elections. Now the voting results are something like this,

Candidate A –   150

Candidate B –   200

Candidate C –   250

                NOTA votes –   400

Total Votes                =  1000

In this case, though majority voted for NOTA, Candidate C will be declared winner.

As explained above, when there is no credible impact of NOTA on electing the right candidate, is it not a futile exercise to provide NOTA button in elections? Actually it’s not that simple. Though it seems like NOTA might not have much impact, its reverberations are yet to be experienced, like

  • As NOTA vote count is made public, Political parties will be cautious in selecting their candidate, because it will be embarrassing if NOTA votes are more than winning votes, which means majority people actually rejected all the candidates.
  • Though as of now it is not conceivable that re-elections be held in case of majority voting NOTA but may be in near future, when technological advancements make holding elections a quick and low-cost activity, we may see re-elections with fresh candidates by disqualifying all the candidates who lost to NOTA J
  • This provision of NOTA can slowly take us towards the significant “Right to Recall”. This is a right of voters using which they can disqualify a legislator (before his term is expired) by conducting election.
    • Actually this “Right to recall” has been implemented for Panchayati Raj system in Madhya Pradesh where in a village of Anuppur district the Gram Chairperson, a lady, was voted out. The ballot paper included two symbols, one chair occupied by a woman and another chair empty. As majority voters stamped over empty chair, the gram chairperson was voted out.

Now you believe, after seeing the prospective changes this NOTA button can bring, that its NOTA small change. Actually this button has a personal significance in my life. In 2009, I was excited about using electoral franchise for the first time in life and was discussing about it with a friend, he surprisingly said “I don’t want to take part in any kind of political activity in this country, it’s better to keep away from such $$^^%#”, and he was strongly supporting his argument saying, when all the politicians are criminals why should he vote to one of them and become a party of the criminalization, instead he sought to keep away from elections process. I had no way to convince him then, but with the advent of NOTA such an argument has lost its meaning now. It is time we, being responsible citizens of this world’s largest democracy, must actively participate in democratic process as “Voting is not just our Right but it is our moral duty to choose the right representative”. What say? Please share your thoughts…

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