Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Special Article

BEDI’S BURDEN
Just the other day, anchor Rahul Kawal of Headlines To-day, a TV channel, was grilling Arvind Kejriwal pressing him hard to comment that Kiran Bedi, ‘did in fact committed a wrong’ in the “L ‘affair Air Ticket’. But Kejriwal, a former IRS was too slippery for the over-smart Rahul Kawal. These anchors, whether Rahul Kawal, or Karan Thapar, or Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghosh or Arnab Goswami of Times Now, are all very intellectually endowed. They do carry a wealth of knowledge to their job, but unfortunately they are also very over-bearing. Although they are supposed to be interviewing the given person, at a time, they, more often than not, do not allow the other person to complete the statement. They keep bombarding them with all kinds of questions, to be continuously one-up, on them. It looks, many times, that they are trying to show off their professional prowess, rather than contribute to a serious content output, for public domain.

In the case between Rahul Kawal (RK) and Arvind Kejriwal, anchor tried his very best with absolute impertinency to corner Kejriwal to succumb, but failed royally to upstage Kejriwal. In the event Kejriwal ended up saying “You are trying for a BREAKING NEWS but I wont let you have it”. An exasperated RK gave-up, to switch over to other questions.

Yes. This brings us to the witch hunt, the media is carrying on with the help of the ruling party, the Congress and all those disgruntled persons like Swami Agnivesh and others. Even former Supreme Court Chief Justice Verma is on record having said “unacceptable”. The news report “Ex-CJ hits out at Kiran Bedi”, has stated that “Claiming money which one has not spent was unacceptable and more upsetting is the justification given by the ex-police officer that she was spending for a cause”.

According to Kejriwal “it was a technical error”, and there have been too many unsolicited responses from across the media spectrum. “Congress ridicule Bedi’s offer to return money” was another from the wisdom pot of joker Diggy Raja, the Congress General Secretary. See how Diggy’s logic is at work. Responding to Bedi’s offer to pay back, probably not a correct response from Bedi, Diggy has reportedly stated “This means if the corrupt people returned money, they too will be absolved of their crime. Then why has A. Raja been kept in jail. Raja also returns money and comes out”. This logic is silly, to say the least. First of all, comparison is very wild. 2nd ly Digvijay Singh, General Secretary of AICC, and therefore, his party, has now publicly admitted that A. Raja has made money illegally, and this statement amounts to contempt of court, when the court is still estimating the loss, if any, due to A. Raja’s actions of commission and omission, and whether there is a fool proof evidence to fix A. Raja for illegal gratification or corrupt practices and that he is an active participant. The last word on 2G scam is still far away.

Fortunately most Indians realise that it is the ‘dirty tricks deptt’ of the Union Government that is at work, which tried to besmirch the name of Bhushans & Kejriwal earlier, but failed. Mercifully, the leader of the movement against corruption Anna Hazare, does not think so badly about the Bedi episode. ‘Anna defends Kiran, slams Gang of Four’ was a report, which exonerated Kiran Bedi and instead blamed some obscure ‘Gang of Four’. The report didn’t say who are these four, and reportedly neither did Anna clarify. By hindsight, it could be surmised as ‘Kapil Sibal, Chidambaram, Digvijay Singh and Manish Tiwari, the bombastic Congress spokesman’.

Anna’s above defence, around mid October, should have closed the issue, ‘once and for all’. But that was not to be. This Headlines To-day, probably a Tehelka spinoff, continued to fish in the troubled water, even as late as mid-November, when it cornered Arvind Kejriwal in an interview, obviously for a ‘BREAKING NEWS’ on the ‘L ‘affair Kiran Bedi’. But smart and intelligent that Kejriwal is, the HT anchor ran for cover only to shift to other issues, after failing to overcome Kejriwal’s counter pressure on the anchor.

Now coming to the ‘L ‘affair Air Ticket’ of Kiran Bedi, all media privy Indian’s know that she claimed Business Class ticket, while she travelled economy. Prima facie, it does appear a ‘wrong doing’. Arrangement for Business class is agreed in advance, once the hosts make a request for a resource person (RP) depending upon the status of RP. Once it is agreed when bill is sent, it is paid. No questions asked. It must have been going on for a quite some time. There are times RPs are paid handsomely for their services, which Kiran Bedi claims that she didn’t charge any money for her services. In the case of Bedi, she is entitled for special discount as Gallantry award winner. Of course these benefits are normally used for personal reasons, without any bar for non-personal reasons, as long as, the person is same. Hence, it was a legal entitlement. That she suffered voluntarily the discomfort of a Mahatma Gandhi class for a larger cause should have been applauded, instead she was put on the dock by the so-called intellectual luminaries. These luminaries never compromised their ego trips of travelling first or business class at someone else’s cost. It is the hurt, that Kiran Bedi walked away with greater glory, that has irked these high strung gentlemen, which has resulted in this out-burst. The fact that she was not personally benefitted, unlike A.Raja, of Diggy joker, was not given the benefit of consideration by these so-called opinion makers. She was an honest and sincere police officer on government pay-roll with no other additional source of income for her to create assets to keep doing social reach out programmes. She is an exemplary person, Indians should be justifiably proud of. Instead it is the plain and simple jealousy that keeps pushing these civil society gentlemen juries to pass a judgement, of Bedi being guilty. She was only using her entitlements, and by physically suffering the voluntary denial of comforts, she is raising some money for her altruistic activities. So where is the issue? Of course the sum, in all fairness may be ‘pittance’, as compared to the shockingly humungous zeroes that accompany every case of sleaze that rocked the media space in recent times, from across the national spectrum.

In all fairness media must say sorry to Kiran Bedi for having caused the completely avoidable hurt to the lady by this unceasing vilification campaign.

Personally I think she should not only, not refund the money thus saved, but should continue doing it, and besides even demand fee for her services to be receipted by her NGO, India Vision Foundation. Her co-trustees must help her come out of this controversy stronger rather than disapproving her of such ostensibly questionable actions. Indians can afford to lose her detractors, rather than Kiran Bedi. India and Indians will be poorer by her absence in public life, if she is forced to quit the public space by attempting to malign her fair name.

J.Shriyan
ISSUES & CONCERNS

Saturday, November 12, 2011

MONTH THAT WAS

Friends
When we crossed 10 years in the print media, after multiple highs and lows, we indeed felt justifiably very excited. Now that we have turned 11 last month, we are more relaxed, although mildly excited, all the same. Looking back over the shoulders, the labyrinth that we traversed had all the makings of trekking in woods with its own cliffs and valleys. Yes, thank God we remained reasonably unscathed. And going ahead with renewed vigour with the help of our patrons, friends and well wishers.
Yes, coming to the participative readership, we go back to what Dr K. N. Prabhu in Sept. 11 issue had suggested and echoed by Dr K V Venkataramana in Oct. 11 issue. Hence we have decided to stop all present life subscription at 15 years instead of the 25 years we had proposed initially. Hope our valued readers wouldn’t mind this change, forced purely on economic reason. The change shall be effective from Nov. 2011. Of course, for those who insist that we must keep our promise of 25 years, we shall keep it, only if one insists in writing to do so. Kindly help us to help you. Keep this periodical alive.
One of our staunch well wisher, a lady subscriber reader, asked the other day. ‘Do you think it is possible to have, even peanuts, for 25 long years for Rs. 1000/-? And you have offered to give this impressive periodical for 2 ½ decades for this paltry sum of Rs. 1000/-. How do you do that?’ She asked in bewilderment. Except a smile we could offer no answer. What she was saying was absolutely true. Only we knew how it has hurt us. She articulated the ISSUE succinctly. Her CONCERN did warm us up.

Month began with the Principal District and Session Judge of Dharmapuri passing a judgement of holding a whole contingent of 269 as criminals in the attack that happened 19 years ago in the tribal hamlet of Vachathi in Western Tamil Nadu bordering close to Karnataka. On 20th Jan 1992, a large contingent of forest and police officials descended on the village, ostensibly to unearth large scale sandalwood smuggling. Although for record the team claimed to have recovered large quantity of sandalwood, they were found guilty of ransacking property, destruction of tribal houses and killing their cattle, besides men in uniform having raped around 20 women of the tribe. Of course the state government took the side of the officials, but the Civil Society persistence forced the Madras High Court to handover the case to CBI in 1995. The sixteen years trial after all, did end with 215 of Tamil Nadu officials and lower level staff being convicted for prison terms ranging from 2 years to 10 years imprisonment, 54 officials in the mean while having died. Of course it has been rather a very long wait for the men and women of Vachathi.
Surely many of those, who suffered ignominy at the hands of these cruel men in uniform, may have died as well, waiting for the day of deliverance. However it is to the credit of the system which took along, those who fought for justice, for all these years, despite inadequacies and obvious iniquities in the polity. But why at all this has happened?
Is it because of the social structure in place for ages, where exploitation and suppression, has a vertical mobility down ward bereft of any democratic camouflage? Of course Indian society has been evolving, although very slowly, towards a more egalitarian and humane kinship. And this judgement, though belated, should only help things improve to a better degree of tolerance and acceptance especially from those in power.
The arrest of Sanjiv Bhatt, the courageous IPS from Gujarat, is quite simply vindictive and devoid of any justice. It could be true that Sanjiv Bhatt may not be a paragon of virtue, but by arresting him because of a constable’s complaint has exposed the vulnerability of Gujarat government, especially the CEO of Gujarat Mr Narendra Modi. While it may not be very easy to hold candle to the senior cop for his involvement apparently with opposition politicians and some of the less than evenhanded NGO/media combine, he may well have some points to make. It is rare that any serving officer taking on the govt of the day, but he could well have said in 2002, instead of almost 10 years late, when it could have better influenced the course of the sorry events, rather than the course of investigations, which will only help in keeping alive the divide, rather than finding solutions, to bridge the divide. That Narendra Modi, apparently trying to make the difference to the social scene, needs to be revisited by the media, in the light of the deposition by the cop, and try to find a middle of the road approach in the larger interest of the social fabric rather than proving who is right or who is wrong, so late in the day. Hope it happens.
The Supreme Court’s order on setting up SIT to probe the black money cases has understandably upset the UPA government at the centre. Prime Minister has always complained about the pro-active role of apex court in recent times. What Prime Minister Singh has failed to accept and appreciate is apex court has come into intervene only when the executive has failed to perform its legitimate and expected role, for far too long. But what is disturbing is the split decision of the Supreme Court, when UPA government approached it to recall the court’s order to set up SIT to probe black money. If the Supreme Court had decided to set up Special Investigation Team (SIT) with 15 members, including 2 Apex Court judges along with the directors of CBI, IB, ED, CBDT chairman and many others of equally high rank, it must have applied itself to the seriousness of the issue, before ordering the setting up of SIT, and therefore its maintainability should have been beyond review. Hence the split decision is indeed surprising. Hope the reference to Chief Justice Kapadia for a larger bench, will set at rest the speculation entertained by the union government.
Rise and fall of former Chief Minister of Karnataka Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yediyurappa (BSY) is a stuff of Shakespearean tragedy. Coming from not so well-to-do family, he made his foray into politics in 1975 as a municipal council member in Shikaripura in Shimoga distt. Within 8 years in 1983, he entered the Vidhana Saudha, and since then did not look back. He won every election to the assembly. He tasted power as an opposition leader in 2004, and became the Deputy Chief Minister of first JDS-BJP co-alition government in 2006, with an understanding that he will be made the Chief Minister in the middle of the period of the co-alition.But somehow JDS went back on its words and the government collapsed to pave way for the election. BSY, adapt at scoring political points, using the broken promise of JDS, romped home as the largest party close to a simple majority. He managed blatant buying of MLAs with the Reddy brothers’ funding. Money power propelled Reddys to the centre stage of Karnataka politics and they hovered over BSY government as a Sword of Damocles. Being a bit of a dictator, he blundered by forcing his lady friend as a minister of prominence, which was resented from across the state BJP. Of course it is important to have some dependable deputies for a chief to perform better, but the blue eyed boy of BJP in South wasn’t sensitive enough to this Shobha dimension within the government. Thus it created hugely avoidable headaches and heartache for both his political and personal life. Thus it was his over- confidence that did him in. In a democratic set-up, it pays to be moderate in everything one does. Weakness for Mannu (earth) Honnu (wealth) Hennu (woman) in Kannada are the precursors of eventual fall of men of prominence, and that is what happened to BSY. Sometime turn of events can be such that we shall have no time to regret. Surely in the VVIP cell of Parappana Agrahara jail the strongman from Shikaripura must be ruing his moves that failed him. Hope all those in power and hoping to be in power, do find a lesson or two, in the meteoric rise of BSY and his fall equally like a meteor.
In an India, where reaping demographic dividend by official policies have never happened, the initiatives by the Karnataka Government along with Vocational Education Qualification Framework is praise worthy. It is a well known fact that we have a huge unemployment problem, but there is a serious problem of shortage of skilled hands. So it is the non-employability that needs to be addressed. While population continues to be a big economic problem, policies by both, states and centre, can at least help mitigate the hugeness of the issue by making youth better equipped to avail the opportunities available in a globalised market place. The initiative of the state government in deciding to introduce vocational courses from 9th standard in government schools, on voluntary basis, deserves to be commended. Of course an interface with the industry will go a long way in not only creating infrastructure for vocational training but also can address the industry need of trained manpower at middle and lower levels. Hope the initiative transforms itself into a meaningful policy to make a real difference at the ground level.
The news “BJP activist hits the minister with slipper” need not raise eyebrows. This is the spirit of the times we live in. Footwear has become a missile of a kind, starting with George Bush to the latest attack on minister Somanna of the Karnataka Cabinet, there have been increasing attacks on senior leaders in different parts of the world. If George Bush was hit because of patriotic hurt of the Iraqi journalist, the one at Bangalore Secretariat was blatantly for a selfish reason. The guy, a BJP worker probably, wanted some government largesse like a Chairmanship of some govt. company or agency. Of course the minister trivialised the whole episode in public, but there could be some quid pro quo arrangement, “You work for my victory I’ll take care of you”. One part of the deal was thru, the minister had won in the election and had become minister, but the minister’s promise could have been made, without the intent to keep it. Or else, how could an ordinary party activist take such a drastic step as hitting a minister, no less, with slipper?!!
Darvinder Singh, a resident of Bhagote village, some 140 km north of Jammu, has reportedly sent a demand draft for Rs: 26/- to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, asking then to show how to spend a day on Rs: 26/-, the planning commission bench mark for non-poor people. The villager had reportedly stated that the ‘said bench mark is an insult to crores of poor of the country’. It is good, a Sardar has sent this to another Sardar, in fact two of them, the PM and the Dy. Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. What is sad is, Ahluwalia continues to harp on the relevance of Rs: 26/- and Rs: 32/- as the good enough money to manage a day in a village and city respectively, across India. How can one be so wonkey and display a complete lack of sensitivity and knowledge of ground realities in India, despite being incharge of development planning for so long?
Our whole investigative system, from Delhi to state capitals, work rather too slowly, when people with power and money are involved. There could be any number of instances where cases involving VIPs and VVIPs have been soft peddled for years by government controlled agencies like CBI or state police machineries. Take the case of Hassan Ali, the notorious stud farm owner as a front activity – who is allegedly involved in billions of $ money laundering, besides other crimes, who is closely connected with another notorious international wheeler dealer Adnan Khashoggi. Instead of CBI or the Maharashtra police, here is a common man, a concerned Indian who has filed a Miscellaneous Application under MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) in the session court of judge SM Modak invoking action against Hassan Ali. Now the judge has asked the Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik to file a reply. All Indians, privy to the media, know that this has been a simmering case against Hassan Ali – the Rs: 100,000 crores Income Tax unpaid due, money laundering, black money in tax havens, scores of fake passports – since a long time and authorities have been dragging their feet indefinitely in their own gingerly pace. Isn’t it a shame, that an activist had to move the court to even make the deptts. realise their failings and therefore their responsibilities? And Prime Minister Singh says both courts and CAG should not cross their constitutional limits! Oh how this babudom and police with politicians’ complicity have let our Mother India down!!
The news that “Rabbanis’s murder was planned in Pakistan”, need not surprise anyone who knows, how Pakistan works against its nieghbours. We in India have time and again provided evidence of every kind on the involvement of Pakistani nationals and their official agencies, in terror strikes against India and Indians, including the attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul. But every time Pakistan denied, as is normal with them. Now comes the hard evidence from Kabul on the killing of former Afghan President Prof Burhunuddin Rabbani. No wonder, for the first time U.S. administration of Barack Obama is coming very heavily on Pakistan to ‘Behave or else……! The recent visit of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of state had all the features of no-nonsense approach. Of course, as usual, Pakistan tried to show off its ‘nuclear capability’ and warned of serious consequences if U.S. military gets involved inside Pakistan. How far this brinkmanship will go, has to be seen. Of course Pakistan cannot simply afford to antagonise U.S, so also U.S has its own set of problems, not to push Pakistan too far. In any event, Pakistan’s duplicity is getting exposed, and that is a positive development for India.
Jairam Ramesh, as usual makes, news with waves, wherever he goes. In environment ministry, he was the blue eyed boy of environmentalists, and industry had a love/hate relationship. That he is an IITan and urbane, makes him bit exclusive from among the semiliterate bunch of political jokers in and around Delhi. Now that he is the boss at Rural Development Ministry has given him a vast canvass to operate. He is already on his job and has given a certificate of “Poor Execution” to the flagship job guarantee scheme of the UPA. He is on record having said “There are serious, serious shortcomings in the implementation of MGNREGA. The record of its implementation is very patchy”. Most of the time, its journalist activists like P. Sainath and his ilk who kept saying negative things about this scheme, and rarely a minister from the ruling party had admitted. People like Jairam Ramesh bring freshness and open approach to the functioning of a ministry. He is a no-nonsense and yet intellectually flexible politician and instantly commands respect. He had no problem in admitting openly at a programme that there have been cases where NREGA scheme funds have been diverted to buy Boleros and Pajeros, the high end Mitsubishi SUVs while recognising that “there are very serious issues in its implementations”. He had reportedly stated that “scheme get more yawns within the country than outside”, for its ineffective implementation.
If NREG scheme was criticised for its shoddy implementation he has squarely blamed all governments, both at state and at centre for the birth and growth of naxalism, and has already set in motion the employment creation steps in rural and tribal belt on massive scale. He has also come down heavily on the poor sanitation across rural India. “Open defecation is a blot on India’s image. There is no other country in the world where 60% of women population have to go to the field for open defecation. These women do not have access to hygiene. This is actually a very sad commentary on our society. We seem to be doing nothing about it” he said at a function organised by Project: Hunger.
D.P.Tripathi, a general secretary of NCP of Sharad Pawar is in the news, for right reasons fortunately. NCP is known to be in the news, mostly for wrong reasons, due to the machinations of its chief and his coterie, and his proximity to questionable characters. However, whatever the reason, the decision of Mr Tripathi to write a book on a Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, is commendable. What is significant is, that he released it on 2nd Oct. 2011, being Gandhi Jayanti day at Lahore. What Tripathi claimed was that both Gandhi and Faiz were both advocates of peace, and hence his decision to release it on 2nd Oct. While it is beyond the wildest imagination of anybody to compare Gandhi, the Mahatma, and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the poet, who migrated to Pakistan, this is a welcome addition of confidence building efforts for the sake of peace in the sub-continent, to alter the average mindset of Pakistani civil society. Mr Tripathi had reportedly equated both Mahatma and Faiz Ahmed as ‘two historical figures, who worked for peace throughout their lives’. By all account Faiz Ahmed Faiz must be a peace loving man, but by any stretch of imagination, to elevate him to the level of Mahatma Gandhi, is far fetched. Could it be that there is an unstated agenda of promoting NCP interest in electoral arena?! Hope it is not.
Suddenly Income Tax department is very active, when it comes to Anna associates. Media was full of reports on the notices to Arvind Kejriwal and latest being the news of Rs. 9 lakh recovery notice that reportedly Kejriwal received. And comes the news “IT notice to NGO’s associated with Bedi”. Reportedly notices pertain to certain exemptions enjoyed by them under different provisions of the Income Tax Act. While, on record, Kiran Bedi did not attribute any motive to the notices and their coming to-gether at the same time, it is very apparent that somewhere along the line, the dirty tricks department is alive and kicking. It certainly portray the central government in poor light. It wins neither friends nor influences people. And as it stands, both Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi have welcomed the government’s negative initiative. This action by the government will only help the Anna Team image.
The news that “India to train Afghan forces” is a welcome development. Besides the regional co-operation, the pre-eminence of India as regional power has to be asserted, at least on a low key. But at the end of the day, it is the empowerment of Afghan people that should be the priority of Indian government. The co-operation between India and Afghan has a long history and need to be sustained for the good of both countries. In an atmosphere of hostility from our immediate western neighbour, it is in the interest of India, to be seen as somebody genuinely helping Afghanistan in its moments of need. This helping approach can help us even-out things with Iran. The Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) reportedly covers co-operation in the fields of political, security, trade and economic tie-ups, capacity building, so also educational, social, cultural, civil society, and people to people relation besides training Afghan National Security Forces. This co-operation shall effectively keep Pakistan at a distance, with whom Afghanistan is disillusioned after the killing of former President Rabbani. Reportedly Haqqani group was responsible for the killing of Rabbani with the involvement of Pakistan’s ISI, and Afghanistan was most unhappy with the incident. Thus this SPA should go a long way in strengthening relationship between both countries and to the advantage of both countries. Also, since it is the peace time co-operation, international community shall take a serious note of it, so shall the other Islamic countries. This will surely help the image of the ‘Idea of India’.
Conducting Essay Competitions and Elocution Competitions in schools and colleges on the eve of Gandhi Jayanthi has been an on-going exercise by many social organisations. However the activities of Bomaby Sarvodaya Mandal (BSM) have been highly inspiring and exemplary. According to reports from Mumbai, some 1100 jail inmates from across the state of Maharashtra took Gandhi Peace Examination on 2nd Oct, with another 3000 convicts lined up for the examinations in small batches through the year. Although this programme of examination is there as a reform exercise for jail inmates, its effect has been far deeper in transforming these criminals into responsible citizens. Of course exposure to life and times of Father of the Nation can have salutary effect on these victims of time and circumstances, to help them recognise their own role in nation building in whatever little way its possible. BSM Chief TRK Somayya was on record saying that one Laxman Gole, a hard core criminal, has so completely turned over a new leaf that he has become a full time management consultant. In fact, according to reports, on 1st Oct., he gave an inspiring speech to some 350 students of Chetana Instt. Of Management Studies, Bandra, Mumbai, on “Gandhi & Management”. That is indeed a metamorphosis. Yes BSM should be commended for their inspiring and exemplary efforts in making a huge difference to the society around them.
It used to be medical colleges in Karnataka which were employing doctors on daily basis whenever Indian Medical Council Members used to visit to check the facilities and doctors’ strength in the proposed colleges. These colleges used to pay some Rs: 25000/- per day as payment. In Karnataka, marketing medical seats is a hugely successful business and therefore to pay these one day/2 days’ doctor’s, huge payment was possible. Now comes the case of Aided Schools verification in Mumbai. In the wake of this verification drive, these school are on overdrive to literally buy boys and girls students from unaided schools so also young farm hands from the fields at Rs: 1000/- per day per student. After all, at stake is the huge government grants. Of course, like it is possible to buy Medical Council Members, it should also be possible to buy education deptt. Inspectors. It was reported recently that all over Maharashtra many schools existed only on papers, and some with very low number of students, but were still siphoning off huge government grants. So you know where does our education ministry budgets go. Thus free India spends thousands of crores of rupees but still our literacy rate leaves much to be desired. This is one more type of ‘chori’, or can it be called loot of public money? And it is happening in Anna's home state!
In an attempt to partly stem the spree in murders of RTI activists, Central Information Commission (CIC) took a decision to go public with information sought by these activists before they were murdered. This is a positive move, as the information so sought and presently made public, can give some clue to the possible cause of murder and who probably committed. Of course there could be more than one information sought and hence there could be complication in identifying the murderer. In any case, the proposed move by the CIC can drive some unease into the minds of possible criminals. Of course, this action may not be of major help in the resolution of the problem, but shall help all the same. Something is better than nothing.
What is happening to Pakistan? There have been series of killings of minority Hazara Shias in and around Quetta. Community has been accusing the police of abject failure to protect them despite repeated pleas and attacks. Come to think of it, if this is the state of minority Muslims what about fate of minority non-Muslims? Its indeed very tragic that the government in Pakistan cannot control the fundamentalist terror outfits on their soil. And comes the news that judge Parvez Ali Shah who gave the judgement awarding the death sentence to the assassin of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, has gone on indefinite leave. After – believe it not - a group of lawyers attacked the office of the judge in the court, for awarding capital punishment to the killer Malik Husain Qadri, Justice Shah felt helpless, as there were also death threats, which led to his indefinite leave. If this is the case of judge, then what about ordinary citizens! Can even God save Pakistan?
Global rating firms are in the news these days. If S&P had shocked the U.S. out of its wits, some time ago, they have shocked Italy as well with downgrading their sovereign ratings. And now comes Moody’s downgrading State Bank of India, the biggest Indian Bank, over the deterioration of asset quality. Of course this need not shock us. Our public sector banks are known to have financed many questionable projects with equally questionable apprisals which have resulted in soaring NPAs. The present NPA of all banks could be close to 100,000 crores, despite all imaginative window dressing undertaken jointly between corporate houses and bank management, where it helps both to save their skin at the market place, so also with the Ombudsman at the RBI. It’s a corruption of another kind, probably beyond Lokpal!
Corruption no doubt is probably the biggest problem the country is facing, all other issues are the byproducts of this national malaise. All political parties are responsible for the state of the nation and no political party can be absolved of this raging crime. Of course all political parties do have good and honest people who hold hope for a better future. But what is the good of the good people if they are not better in dealing with the issues, atleast, within their party forums? Union government of the Congress makes always extra efforts to put BJP in the dock, while glossing over their allies DMK’s massive loot of national wealth. Their voting allies BSP and SP – on whom CBI decided to go slow because they helped the government in the test of strength in the parliament is known to all. But media too does not take it up. Besides Maharashtra is reeking in corruption cases, and nobody is talking about it. What about Goa mining scandal? Andhra Pradesh is another, there too CBI is chasing Jaganmohan Reddy, since he left Congress. If Karnataka has been exposed it is only because of Lokayukta and why can’t Maharashtra have Lokayukta? and nobody answers the querry. Lokpal is being persued by a bunch of honest people. May be it holds some hope and people too think the same way. Will the UPA government act?
Sri Ram Sena is a disagrace to the memory of Maryaada Purushottam Sri Ram. If people like Mutalik are the leaders of this outfit, even Sri Ram may not be able to save them. Remember the Tehelka scoop! Of course Tehelka is known for the scoops, rightly or wrongly. But for once they caught the real villain, when they caught on camera, wheeling dealing of this Mutalik, who reportedly agreed for a large sum for creating a riot. The men who barged into Prashant Bhushan’s chamber in Supreme Court and beat him up are reportedly, the disciples of this Mutalik. If they are the types who would cause a riot for money, it is no surprise that they did it to Mr Bhushan, probably for money. In any case, once again, their colour is exposed, as those who have contempt for the law. Hence they have to be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law of the land.
The print media and electronic media who went to market saying “Take heart auto drivers Bedi also overcharges”, are suffering from poor taste. It is meanness of the highest order to cast aspersions and motives to Kiran Bedi. Her life, whatever is known to public is an open secret. Why should organisations calling her should be given the benefit of her gallantry awards, and what if her NGO is benefitted by this discount or excess receipts. If she says that she is not benefitted by it personally, I think we should trust her, for whatever she has done as a cop or after retirement is above the national average of any ‘Make a difference’ individual standard. All those who disagree with what she has done with this ticket fare is nowhere near her, in her standard of probity and what she has done for Indian society as a whole. We at I & C are fully with her. And for press to quote this joker of a Digvijay Singh, is a poor missile. Yes, please do not stoop low and mercifully Kiran Bedi is a tough lady to be pushed around by sensation monger jurnos or the likes of Digvijay Singh. You can’t do what she is doing, let her do whatever good she is trying to do.
What lives by sword has to perish by sword. It was Nicholas of Romania long ago. Saddam Hussain, the Iraqi president, and his children followed. Osama was killed violently without a moment's hesitation when he was found at the end of his fugitive run. And now comes Libyan-King of Kings of Africa-Gaddaffi lynched inside a drain pipe, while trying to escape. What a way to die for a ruler who ruled his country for over 4 decades? Yes, it was a sad end to one of the most colourful personalities in the Arab world. Having taken the reigns of a nation at so young an age as 27, he had an opportunity to go down the history as a model ruler. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, is an oft repeated saying. No wonder like most leaders, who enjoyed absolute powers, Libyan strongman had to pay for the unfettered freedom he had on his people, who had no freedom of any kind. Will despots ever learn lesson from such ends?
The news that “China upset with India-Vietnam oil & gas deal” did throw up some interesting dimension in the relations between: India & China, Vietnam & China and probably between India and Japan with U.S. participation. While the terms of agreement between China and Vietnam is not available in the public domain, the fact that an agreement took place between India and Vietnam, only a-day-after, is very significant. It shows in no uncertain terms Vietnamese preference to India while asserting its own regional role. In this context Chinese newspaper “Global Times” stated the Chinese thinking. “India is willing to fish in the troubled waters of the South China Sea so as to accumulate bargaining chips on other issues with China”. While China realises that India is no longer the India of 1962, but a dominant global player with its own intrinsic strength, it is unhappy that Vietnam, a former communist regime, no longer looks at China as Big Brother and instead looks up to India, the competitor China would like to live without. That is probably is true since Japan is warming up towards India with its own overtures as appeared in media in recent times. And west, represented by U.S, is happy joining the emerging block by identifying itself with Japan in its overtures with India. This development is good for the region and good for the world.
Kashmir is our ever present national headache. Different people had different opinions at different times. Its fate is entwined with our civilisational ethos. Thus the stand of Team Anna man Prashant Bhushan became a subject of intense debate. We have taken it up under Focus, for the importance it deserved. Hope our readers shall find it worth their time. Do revert with your inputs. Rest is as usual.

FOCUS

“I disapprove of what you say, But your right to say it, I will defend until my death”, said Voltaire, the French philosopher. In an India of over 1200 million people with myriad kinds of dogmas, practices and beliefs, what Voltaire said centuries ago, always stood its test of time. Tolerance of one’s speech, practices and beliefs has always been the corner stone of the ‘Idea of India’.
The debate on ‘Idea of India’ has been going on at different points of time almost continuously. Only because, there is no country like India in the entire world. There have been rightly many thinkers, not just Indians, but from across the global spectrum, who wrote, at times with disdain and more often with pleasure, at the exasperating diversity called India.
While quoting Rudyard Kipling may be out of place in the present context, there are others who have been more kindly-critical and some very approbative.
Writing on India, John Keay writes “India challenges the visitor like no other country. Vast, ancient and impossibly demanding. It’s the world’s most complex and bewildering society. It is an experience and it changes people in unexpected ways. Dust and distance become constant companions, punctuated by moments of such intense and arresting beauty, that all else, poverty, heat and sickness are forgotten.” John Keay is a Scott, and has been visiting India frequently since over 40 years. “Hinduism”, he writes “when shorn of its prostitution to political ends, remains the most accommodating of religions. Indians, resident and non-resident, are the most obliging of people.”
Then you have Friedrich Max Muller, the German Indologist, who said “If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow – in some parts a very paradise on earth – I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant – I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human, a life, not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life –again I should point to India”. Max Muller is one of the earliest to have been fascinated by India and Indian ethos and started learning Sanskrit as a youngster and specialised to write his treatise on Rig Veda, funded by East India Company, in as far back as 1847.
Dr. Arnold Toynbee, the historian of global eminence who’s epochal works “Study of History” - 10 volumes, published in 1954, said on record, and we quote, “It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way – Emperor Ashoka’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Sri Ramakrishna’s testimony to the harmony of religions. Here we have an attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow to-gether into a single family – and, in the Atomic age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves”.
It is indeed very true that, whether it is from the early days of Max Muller or days of Toynbee in mid 20th century, things in India did degenerate. But the basic tolerance, despite occasional ruptures, sustained to remain a model of co-operative co-existence. There is absolutely no doubt that the ethnic and linguistic diversity that is found in India is found no-where in the entire world occupied by homosapiens.
In a country as unique as India with half a dozen religions, some 25 recognised languages and some 1000 dialects, what are its antecedents! Its customs in Kerala are as totally different from those of Kashmir or from Kutch to Kolkatta. India is Kaleidoscopic in depth and variety. It has an incredible diversity, yet is bound in unity that stretches way back into the unwritten history. In the words of late Indira Gandhi, ‘the secret of India’s greatness and resilience is the acceptance of life in all its fullness, the good and the evil, and at the same time trying to rise above it all. In all the ups and downs of its long and chequered history, Indian customs, mores and traditions have been continuously evolving. Inspite of various foreign influences of thousand years, the roots of Indianness has remained strong and healthy. Christianity came to India from outside, so was Islam. Parsees driven away from their homeland, found refuge in India. All of them made India their home and flourished’. Writing in “Eternal India” late Ms. Indira Gandhi stated “While others only spoke of secularism India truly practiced and sustained our scriptured perception of tolerance and compassion”.
Hence it is very important to understand that India is the only democracy which does not have an official religion. It has enshrined in its constitution – Sarva Dharma Samabhava. It is in this context that we need to view what Prashant Bhushan, a senior Supreme Court Advocate and Team Anna member has said. Of course like Voltaire said centuries ago, he has every right to express his own view. Hasn’t the one book sensation Arundhati Roy created a stir by mouthing unwarranted verbose, also on Kashmir?
While meeting the press in Varanasi in U.P. Mr Bhushan has reportedly stated while answering a pointed question that ‘Army should be withdrawn from Kashmir so also the operation of AFSPAct, which gives enormous power to the army,” and that “if these moves do not bring about changes in Kashmir scene then plebiscite or referendum should be taken.”
While withdrawal of Army and suspension of operation of AFSPAct is an eminently debatable issue, as a person, who is in the know of things, should have refrained from uttering his wisdom on referendum. We all know, for that matter, the whole world knows that, it is the reluctance of the Muslim majority in Kashmir that is at the centre of the problem to go separate or go with Pakistan and not remain united with the Hindu majority India. So it’s the mindset which is the problem. Isn’t problem with the problem is the way we look at the problem?
In an Indian context such thought, in the terminology of religious bigots, is blasphemy. Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju is on record having criticised Prashant Bhushan for his advocacy of plebiscite in Kashmir, saying that it will encourage secession in other parts of India. But this observation too is not an appropriate response to the concept of ‘Idea of India’.
Sikander Bakht, a practicing Muslim while he was alive, was the Vice President of the so-called Hindu Nationalist Party, the BJP. Way back in Oct 1998, while in New York, as the Industry Minister in the NDA government, he had reportedly told a meeting at Harward Club, that “The partition of the country in 1947 caused the creation of two states on the basis of religion. But India defied history by refusing to become a theocratic state”. Mr Bakht reportedly asserted adding “that secularism would not be relevant or even existed in India but for the Hindu majority”. According to him “India is the only island of democracy in an ocean of theocracy”. And what is the scenario in Pakistan to-day? For all the 64 years of post independent Pakistan what kind of a picture the country presented? Despite being an Islamic Republic, East Bengal seceded to become Bangladesh, and with violence of every kind among different denominations of Muslims, there is an ever present uncertainty, whether Pakistan, as a nation, will hold at all !
George Fernandes, one of the tallest of Indians, despite Tehelka mud slinging attempts, while being honoured in his native Mangalore some years ago, was heard saying “There is no country like India in the whole world which is genuinely secular. During the whole of my political life of over 50 years, in a country where Hindus constituted 80% and Muslims constituted 12%, my being a Christian was never an issue. And I was voted to victory, time and again, at the hustings. That’s India in all its generosity”.
Of course there were those media men and women and their friends in politics and civil society, who dismissed the observations by both Bakht and Fernandes as compulsion of electoral/coalition politics. But then M J Akbar was a Congress M.P., a renowned journalist himself, had no problem in echoing what other two gentlemen have said.
“Hindu fundamentalism, long the thirst of a section of the middle class, has never got much response in an India who’s population is 80% Hindu. It needs to be pointed out that India remains a secular state not because 1/5th of its population is Muslim, Sikh or Christian and therefore obviously has a vested interest in a secular constitution, but because 9 out of 10 Hindus do not believe in violence against minorities. If all the Hindus had been zealots, no law and order machinery in the world would have prevented the massacre of Muslims who are scattered in villages and towns across the country” wrote M.J. Akbar, a Muslim, in his book “India, the siege within” – Penguin – Page 23.
There is this interesting story of an Indian Jew, Moshe Shek. After graduating and specialising in catering takes up a job in the UK then goes to Switzerland and migrates to Israel, the land of Jews. After being with Tel Aviv Hilton, he returns to make India his final home. When Roxanne Kavarana, a Paarsee, another Indian of an Iranian origin, asks him, “What made you leave Israel, the land of Jews, and settle in Mumbai? His answer was very revealing. He said “I had gone to Israel in search of Jewish culture. But in modern Tel Aviv I found nothing. My time seems to go in commuting to work and house. Everything appeared Greek to me. Though I was with Israelis, I couldn’t see any Jewishness in them, at least in the group I was with, probably because they themselves were foreigners from all parts of the world. I had always fasted on ‘Yom Kipper’ – the day of atonement – while in India. I didn’t do so when I was in Israel. I have realised that I don’t have to go halfway round the world to find my Jewish identity. We have synagogues, a community and Jewish culture here in Mumbai too. In Israel I was only an Israeli. Here in Mumbai I am an Indian and Jewish”. So its “Shalom Mumbai” reports Kavarana in the Times of India.
These reproductive narrations have only represented the brighter side of the ‘Idea of India’ and there are any number of instances of its generosity cutting across every kind of barrier. Of course they are not suggesting that there are no problems! Problems are aplenty, some small and some very big. There have been many socio-political upheavals. In 1947, it was the partition related violence between Hindus and Muslims. In 1975 it was emergency, and in 1984 it was anti Sikh riots after the assassination of Ms. Indira Gandhi by Sikh security men in uniform. 1993 saw the Bombay riots post Babri Masjid demolition by Hindu zealots and their political friends. Godhra train torching followed by Gujarat pogrom and the bloody attack that followed, on Aksharadham temple. The Mumbai serial blast was another that ruptured the national scene. Every time, there were many prophesies from ‘dooms-day’ prophets that India will balkanise, and that flare up shall spread, and India can be on the “edge of the precipice” “an abyss” or something gravely negative. But the vast majority of Indians, both men and women, from ordinary to well placed, always maintained that nothing of that sort shall happen to India and that there is no doubt that “India shall hold.”
26/11 Mumbai terror attack was literally an attack on the nation, engineered from across the border and there were other attacks that followed almost in regularity. And ‘Idea of India’ withstood every such onslaught that tinkered with the great Indian civilizational concept. Here, it is pertinent to quote this American youngster, a 16 year old from Washington.
Adam David Foley staying in Malegaon, under Rotary student Exchange programme witnessed the aftermath of the blast in Malegaon. Talking about American war on terror, he has reportedly said “I feel that President Bush has taught Americans to fear everything. He has repeatedly said that terrorists are everywhere, which is not true. His attempts to justify his wars have left us terrified back home. Here – In India – I see no such fear – within a day things are back to normal. And everywhere I heard people saying ‘no tension’. I can’t get over the fact that people are able to pick up their lives so quickly. It’s almost like nothing has happened.”
Look at the history of politics in this country. With 80% Hindu, the nation chose 4 Muslim gentlemen and a Sikh gentleman as the 1st citizen of the country. That’s more than 1/3rd of the total period of 64 years, that these gentlemen presided over the presidential palace, something unthinkable in Pakistan, where even a very temporary position of Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan by a Hindu judge was shouted, protested and agitated out of office by the very “Idea of Pakistan”. And ‘Idea of India’ whole heartedly accepted an intellectual economist Sikh as its Prime Minister since last 7 years and a Christian as National chairperson of Coalition Co-Ordination committee, also since last seven years. Which country can boast of such world view, with only one from the majority community holding any of the three national position of eminence? That’s the catholicity of this country.
A country with a history of over 5000 years, and a cultural base that survived the onslaught of invaders and marauders still being example to the rest of the mankind as a temple of sustainable democracy, tolerance and spiritual teachings cannot be simply brushed aside. India is not a country but a continent of diverse ethnic identity and hence ethnic strife in differing degrees are bound to be there. However, it is to the credit of the ethos of this country that these strife’s have not caused any visible long term strain on the country as a whole.
Hence utterance of Prashant Bhushan, a senior Supreme Court lawyer which can lead to dismemberment of the country is really unfortunate. The concept of ‘Idea of India’ should survive to send the message of the essential oneness of mankind. This is good for India and good for the world.
On 23rd June 1966, the conscience keeper of the nation and founder of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Jayaprakash Narayan – JP - writes a letter to Ms. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister. His honesty was typically transparent. Quote “We profess democracy, but rule by force in Kashmir-unless we have auto suggested ourselves into believing that the two general elections under Bakshi Saab had expressed the will of the people, or that the Sadiq Government (then in power) is based on popular support except for a small minority of pro-Pakistan traitors. We profess secularism, but let Hindu nationalism stampede us into trying to establish it by repression. Kashmir has distorted India’s image the world over as nothing else has done. There is no nation in the world, not even Russia, which appreciates our Kashmir policy, though some of them might, for their own reasons, give us their support. That problem exists not because Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir, but because there is deep and widespread political discontent among the people.”
“Historical events, some without, some within our control, have narrowed down greatly the room for maneuverability. For instance, any manner of de-accession of any part of the state is now, impracticable-no matter how just or fair according to the principles of democracy and secularism. Whatever be the solution, it has to be found within the limitations of the accession. It is here that Sheikh Abdullah’s role may become decisive. Nor do I think he is a traitor. Nobody can be held to be a traitor by the government of India unless it has been established in accordance to due process.”
“I would like to close this letter with one more question from the Sheikh. Before he left for trip abroad, this is what he had said at a farewell function at the Constitution Club on 10 February 1965 - “We might have differences among ourselves. But after all India is the homeland of all of us. If, God forbid, India ceases to be India and goes down, how can others be saved?”- Why do I plead for Sheikh Abdullah’s release? Because that may give us the only chance we have of solving the Kashmir problem” - Unquote.
The above communication from one of the greatest Indian to another proud Indian is unequivocal in its openness and democratic human concern bereft of any socio-political divide. And JP’s quote of the undisputed leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah’s statement, requires repetition to all those doubting Thomases, who keep repeating their statements of parochial bigotry, to be put at rest for ever. “We might have differences among ourselves. But after all India is the homeland for all of us. If, God forbid, India ceases to be India and goes down, how can others be saved?” Can you hear Mr Prashant Bhushan?
India needs to nurture the Idea of India. The discomforting events of recent past such as the burning of the book by a French Scholar on Shivaji, or the vandalisation of the History Department of Delhi University by a section of intolerant students for having included the scholarly Ramanujam’s essay on many versions of Ramayana are symptoms of a growing trend of intolerance. The sagacious former Prime Minister Vajapayi said that if one did not agree with the views of another (a book or writing) the best thing to do was to write a book or piece with one’s point of view. Burning books, libraries or vandalizing university departments, beating those who disagree with us are the very antithesis of the Idea of India.
Therefore, the physical attack on Prashant Bhushan for his stand on Kashmir has to be roundly condemned. The whole show of violence on Prashant Bhushan is absolutely unIndian and against our very ethos. Law must deal with it very firmly by even denying them bail, lest the persons involved in such violence are allowed a free run.
As Indians we must endeavor to protect the image of India as a peace loving, law abiding, tolerant open society where there is unconditional social harmony without the numerical differences of the so-called majority and minority.

Live and let live
Francois Gautier
The most precious freedom that Indian Christians enjoy is to hold Jesus Christ as their Saviour, as the Son of God, as the only “true” Divinity. It is their absolute right to cherish that belief – and if any Hindu outfit or government tries to impeach upon that liberty, then definitely Indian Christian should fight tooth and nail for their religious privilege. They would be justified to speak about “Hindu fundamentalism, Saffron Brigade, or Hindutva”, as Oliver D’Souza does in his article “Do not close the door on freedom”, published in the Forum pages of the Deccan Herald on Sunday October the 14th. D’Souza’s particular brief is against an anti-conversion bill introduced in Parliament, which he feels is part of a conspiracy by the BJP/RSS/Shiv Sena and which will lead to the curtailing of the freedom to convert “en masse”.
But the moment Christianity tries to impose this belief of “only one true God – Jesus Christ” – on the world, then it is itself impeaching upon the freedom of others. For this belief of “our God is the only real one, all the others are false” is at the root of many misunderstandings, wars, terrorism. What else do the terrorists attack on the United States represent, but a direct outcome of Islam’s strong contention that Allah is the lone God and that not only is Jihad permitted, but one can go straight to heaven if one dies fighting to impose Allah on the world. Such a strong faith, such a strong belief, that it imprints a near “mystical” softness on Osama Bin Laden’s face; or that the suicide pilots of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon most probably died with a smile on their face and Allah’s name on their lips.
True, Christianity does not strive any more like Islam to convert by force or violence, but nevertheless, the conversion drive planned by the Church in India does resemble a war: it has huge funding, strategy (see Christian websites), generals (in the Vatican) and it posses “soldiers” of Christ – the missionaries, priests and nuns. It is their mission to convert downtrodden, the untouchables, the tribals; and contrary to what Olivier D’Souza says, they do use economic enticements, traps and tricks for the gullible. Many of us journalists have seen in Kerala for instance, these “miracle boxes” where the poor people drop a wish: a fishing boat, a loan, a scholarship; for the grant of a boon by Jesus Christ. A few Christians, particularly the Catholics, recognize that the Church is pouring huge amounts of money in India and that the free schooling, medical care and sometimes free housing – is bait that few poor people can resist.
Christians and Muslims keep harping about the caste system; it is true that there have been and there still is in some rural parts of India – terrible abuses in the name of caste. But it should also be remembered that no government in the world has done more than India for its underprivileged: does the US government have any reservation policy for its Negroes? Do the French, who have a three million Muslims minority, which often lives in poverty, have a quota system, to access universities and government posts? No. Muslim girls are not even allowed to wear a veil in French Public schools! In the same way, it could be pointed out that an untouchable in India can reach one of the highest posts in the country – that of President; a tribute to the flexibility of the caste system. And was not Krishna from a low social strata, as were many of India’s saints and Gurus? It would be difficult for a Jew in France, for instance, to become President of the country, a post that no woman has been reached – whereas India, where women are also supposed to be downtrodden, had Indira Gandhi ruling it with an iron hand for nearly twenty years.
A man of Olivier D’Souza’a stature, who is obliviously widely read and well versed in India’s Constitution, should not dishonour other religions by heaping abuse on them, and by making veiled and direct attacks on Hinduism and the “caste fraternity” (read Brahmin). “Praise other religions”, says Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the worldwide movement the Art of Living. If Christianity flourished in India in such an unprecedented way – after all the first Christian community in the world was an Indian one, that of the Syrian Christian community of Kerala in the 1st century AD – is because of Hinduism’s infinite tolerance, which accepts the divinity of other religions, contrary to Islam and Christianity.
Olivier D’Souza would do well do read P.N. Benjamin’s piece “who’s afraid of dialogue” in the open page of The Hindu’s slit October issue. Benjamin, who is a Christian, pleads for an end to aggressive evangelizing and for an inter-religious dialogue. Will these words of wisdom be heard by the majority of Christians? For as famous French writer and politician Andre Matraux said: “The 21st century will be spiritualised or else it will see the downfall of humanity”. Unless the Church and Islam begin to accept the fact that it is the basic right of people to worship the God or Gods which fit into their local culture and traditions, and that these beliefs should not be disturbed by conversion drives.
The author is a French Christian and is the South Asia correspondent of “Le Figaro”. This piece appeared in Deccan Herald, of 28/10/2001



SERIAL : 38

GANG LEADER FOR A DAY
Black and Blue
Of all the relationship I’d developed during my time at Robert Taylor, a turned out that the strongest one by far was my bond with J.T. As unusual and as morally murky as this relationship may have been, it was also undeniably powerful. Our years together had produced a close relationship. This bond would become even more intimate, to the point that J.T. felt personally indebted to me, when I had the opportunity to help save the life of one of his closest friends.
It was a classic Chicago summer afternoon: a cloudless sky, the muggy air broken occasionally by a soft lake breeze. I was hanging around at Robert Taylor, outside J.T’s building, along with perhaps a hundred other people. Tenants were barbecuing, playing softball, and taking comfort in the cool shadow of the building. Few apartments had a working air conditioner, so on a day like this the lawn got more and more crowded as the day wore on.
I was sitting on the lawn next to Darryl Young, one of J.T.’s uncles, who relaxed on a lawn chair with a six-pack of beer. Since the beer was warm, Darryl sent a niece or nephew inside every now and then to fetch for his cup. Darryl was in his late forties and had long ago lost most of his teeth. He had unkempt salt-and-pepper hair, walked with a stiff limp, and always wore his State of Illinois ID on a chain around his neck. He left the project grounds so rarely that his friends called him “a lifer”. He knew every inch of Robert Taylor, and he loved to tell stories about the most dramatic police busts and the most memorable base ball games between competing buildings. He told me about the project’s famous pimps and infamous murders as well as about one tenant who try to rise a tiger in his apartment and another who kept a hundred snake in a apartment-until the day she let them loose in the building.
Suddenly Darryl sat up, staring at an old beater of a Ford sedan cruising slowly fast the building. The driver was a young white man, looking up at the building as if he accepted someone to come down.
“Get the fuck out of here, boy!” Darryl shouted. “We don’t need you around here. Go and sleep with your own women!” Darryl turned and hollered to a teenage boy playing basket ball nearby.
“cheetah! Go and get Price, tell him to come here.”
“Why do your want Price?” I asked.
“Price is the only one who can take care of this,” Darryl said. His face was tight, and he kept his eyes on the Ford. By now the car had come to a stop. “Take care of what?” I asked.
“Damn white boys come around here for our women,” Darryl said. “It’s disgusting. This ain’t no goddamn brothel.”
“You think he’s a john?”
“I know he’s john,” Darryl said, scowling, and then went back to shouting at the Ford. “Boy! Hey, boy, get on home, we don’t want Price sauntered out of the building, trailed by a few other members of the BK security squad. Darryl stood up and hobbled over to Price.
“Get that boy out of here, Price!” he said. “I’m tired of them coming around here. This ain’t no goddamn whorehouse!”
“All right, old man,” Price said, irritated by Darryl’s enthusiasm but clearly a bit concerned. “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of him.”
Price and his entourage approached the car. I could hear Price speaking gruffly to the driver while the other BKs surrounded the car so that it couldn’t drive off. Then Price opened the door and gestured for the white guy to get out.
Just then I heard the loud squeal of a car rounding the corner of Twenty-fifth and Federal. Some kids shouted at people to get out of its path. It was a gray sedan, and I could see it roaring toward us, but unsteadily, as if one of the wheels were loose.
The first shots sounded like machine-gun fire everyone seemed to duck indistinctively, except for me. I was frozen upright; my legs were stuck in place and everything turned to slow motion. The car came closer. Price and other BK securities men ran toward the building as more shots were fired. The car flew passed, and I could see four people inside, all back. It looked as if two of them were shooting, one from either side.
Price got hit and dropped to the ground. The rest of his entourage reached the lobby safely. Price wasn’t moving. I saw Darryl lying flat on the grass, while other tenants were crawling towards shelter-a car, a tree, the building itself-and grabbing children as they went. I was still standing, in shock, though I had managed to at least hunch over. The grey car has vanished.
Then I heard a second car screeching down the back alleyway. I was puzzled. In most drive-by shootings, a gang wouldn’t risk a second pass, since the element of surprise has been used up. Indeed, looking around now at the expanse infront of the building, I saw perhaps a dozen young men with guns in their hands, crouching behind cars or along the sides of the building. I have never seen so many guns in Robert Taylor.
Price still hadn’t gotten up. I could see that he was gripping his legs. Some how the sight of him lying motionless mood me to action. I headed toward him and saw that one of the BKs had come back outside to do the same. We grabbed Price and started to drag him toward the building.
“Get Serena! Get Serena!” Some one shouted down from an upper floor. “She’s out there with her baby!”
The BK helping me with Price ran over to help Serena and her children to a safe spot. I dragged Price the rest of the way by myself and made it to the lobby just as the second car emerged from the alley. I heard some shouts and some more gunshots. I saw that the BK who’d gone to help Serena had draped his body atop her and her kids.
In the dim light of the lobby, I could see that Price’s leg was bleeding badly just above the knee. J.T.’s men pushed me out of the way. They carried Price farther inside the building, toward one of the ground-floor apartments. I wondered where J.T. was.
“Sudhir, get inside, go upstairs to Ms. Mae’s-now! “It was Ms. Bailey. I gestured toward Price, to show that I wanted to help. She just yelled at me again to get upstairs.
About five flights up the stair I ran into a group of J.T.’s men on the gallery, looking out. “I don’t see no more!” One of them shouted to some BKs on the ground outside. “It don’t look like there’s anymore! Just get everyone inside and put four in the lobby.”
I heard a stream of foot steps in the stairwell. Parents yelled at their children to hurry up, and few mothers asked for help caring their strollers. I heard some one say that J.T. was in the lobby, so I hustled back down stairs. He stood at the centre of the small mob, taking reports from his men. There was lot of commotion, all of them talking past one another:
“Niggers will do it again, I know they will!”
“We need to get Price to the hospital, he’s still bleeding.”
“No, we need to secure the building.”
“I say we drive by and shoot back, now!”
As instructed, four young men now stood armed guard the lobby, two at each entrance. Under normal circumstances young gang members like these bragged about their toughness, their willingness to kill their family. But now, with the danger real, they looked shaky, eyes wide and fearful.
J.T. stood calmly, wearing dark sunglasses, picking his teeth. When his eyes fell upon me, he fixed me with a glare. I didn’t know what he was trying to communicate. Then he pointed toward the ceiling. He wanted me upstairs, at his mother’s place, out of the way.
Instead I walked even farther into the lobby, out of his view. I asked a rank-and-file BK where Price was. He pointed down the hall. J.T. approached, patted me on the back, and pulled me in close. “Price isn’t doing so hot,” he whispered. “He’s bleeding real bad, and I need to get him to the hospital.”
“Call the ambulance,” I said instinctively.
“They won’t come. Listen, we need your car. If they see one of our cars come up to Provident, they may call the police. We need to barrow your car.”
“Sure, of course,” I said, reaching for my keys. I had recently bought a junker, a 1982 Cutlass Ciera. “Let me get it.”
“No,” J.T. said, grabbing my hand. “You can’t leave the building for a while. Go up stairs, but let me have the keys. Cherise will take him.”
I gave J.T. my keys and watched him walk toward the apartment where Price was being looked after. It was common practice to have a woman drive a BK to the hospital so that he wouldn’t immediately be tagged as a gangster. Cherise lived in the building and let the Black Kings use her apartment to make crack cocaine. J.T. sometimes joked that the young women in the projects would never turn on their stoves if it weren’t for his gang cooking up crack.
J.T. commandeered a vacant apartment on the fourteenth floor to use as a temporary headquarters. The scene was surreal, like watching an army prepare for war. I sat in a corner and watched as J.T. issued commands. Small groups of men would come inside, receive their orders, and hurry off. J.T. assigned several men to take up rifles and sit in the windows of the third, fifth and seventh floors. He instructed other groups of men to go door-to-door and warn tenants to stay away from the west-facing windows.
He told one young BK that there probably wouldn’t be another shooting for at least a few hours. “Get some of the older people out of here,” he ordered. “Take them to 2325.” A BK foot soldier told me that Price had made it to the emergency room but was said to be still bleeding badly.
J.T. came over and told me what he knew. The first car, the beat-up Ford, was a decoy to lure some Black Kings out of the building. The attack appeared to be a collaboration between the MC’s and the Stones. They were deeply envious, J.T. told me, that the BKs had been able to attract so many customers to their territory. The MCs and the Stones were a constant source of worry for J.T., since they were held by “crazy niggers.” His term for the kind of bad businessman who thought a drive-by shooting was the best way to compete in a drug market. J.T. much preferred the more established rival gangs, since a shared interest in maintaining the status quo decreased their appetite for violence.

TIT BITS

Slightly high BP raises chances of stroke
Washington: Even if your blood pressure (BP) is slightly elevated, you may be prone to a stroke, new research says.
Prehypertension is a clinical category to describe patients whose BP is elevated but still considered within normal range. People with prehypertension have a 55 percent higher chance of experiencing a stroke than people without it, University of California School of Medicine noted. That hypertension or abnormally high BP is a major risk for cardiovascular diseases and strokes is well-known, but much less is known about the dangers of prehypertension, the journal Neurology reports. A stroke is a condition where a blood clot or ruptured artery or blood vessel interrupts blood flow to the brain. A lack of oxygen and glucose (sugar) flowing to the blood leads to brain damage, causing impairment in speech, movement and memory.

Hands-free computer for disabled
Washington: An innovative technology that could enable people to operate a computer without using a keyboard or mouse-only their brainwaves-have been developed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev software engineering students. The BGU technology features a helmet equipped with 14 EEG connect points that sense brain activity. ‘’The technology is designed to assist those who are physically disabled who might otherwise be unable to manipulate a computer mouse or keyboard,” said Rami Puzis. The student team, Ori Ossamy, Ofir Tam and Ariel Rozen, developed the prototype application for their bachelor’s degree project under the supervision BGU Prof Mark Last, Rami Puzis, Prof Yuval Lovitz and Lior Rokah. As part of a recent demonstration, a student composed and sent a hands-free email using only thought combined with the adaptive hardware.

Cure to back pain is only exercise
London:A study has confirmed that the key to curing agonising long-term back pain is not by resting but by doing more exercise. Research showed those who were as active as possible recovered far more quickly and were not left depressed. Patricia Olaya-Contreras, a researcher of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, randomly advised 109 patients to either “stay active even though it hurts” or “adjust your activity to the pain”. The results showed that the active group recovered more quickly and did not feel depressed. “If you don’t keep moving, it’s easy to get locked into a downward spiral,” the Daily Express quoted Olaya-Contreras as saying.

Prostate cancer ‘wonder’ pill launched
London: A ‘miracle’ pill that can help prostate cancer patients live around five months longer has been launched in the UK, following a green signal from the European medical authorities earlier this month.
The 3000 pounds-a-month drug, developed by British scientists and marketed under the trade name Zytiga, can increase life expactency even in men with advance, aggressive cancers, reports the daily express.
Zytiga works by cutting off the tumour’s supply of testosterone, stopping it from growing. It can be used in up to 80 per cent of patients with drug-resistant prostate cancer who have already tried-anti-hormonal therapies and chemotherapies. A trial of 2,000 men showed that patients given the one-a-day pill lived 15.8 months on average compared with 11.2 months for those taking a placebo. The drug still needs to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for the NHS.

Electricity from the nose?
Washington: Electricity from the nose? Well, it may appear weird, but engineers claim they are working on a technique which would generate power from human respiration, reports PTI.
A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says that it is actually working on a method which would someday power sensors in one’s body via the respiration in one’s nose, the ‘Energy and Environmental Science’ journal reported. The engineers have already created a plastic microbelt that vibrates when passed by low-speed airflow such as human respiration.

Camel dung market
New Delhi: Handmade paper, woolen mats and rugs and even mosquito repellents made out of camel dung is finding its way into urban market shelves, reports PTI.
Novelty items made from camel milk, wool and dung are being introduced into cities through Camel Charishma, the marketing arm of Rajasthan’s Lokhit Pashu Palak Sanshtan (LPPS), a society aimed at supporting livestock dependent people. “We have introduced a variety of paper products like diaries, journals, calendars, mobile covers, greeting cards and other stationery items made from the dung of camels,” says Hanwant Singh Rathore, Director of LPPS, which is exhibiting for the first time at the 19th edition of the annual Dastkar Mela here.



HEIGHT OF INTOLERANCE

When a spelling mistake can
turn you into a blasphemer
Islamabad: A teenage Pakistani Christian girl, who misspelt a word while answering a question on a poem written in praise of Prophet Mohammed, was accused of blasphemy and expelled from school, according to a media report.
Faryal Batti, an eighth grade student at Sir Sayed Girls’ High School in the Pakistan ordnance Factories colony at Havelian near Abbottabad, misspelt the word in an Urdu examination.
While answering the question on a poem written in praise of Prophet Mohammed, Bhatti misspelt the word ‘naat’(hymn) as ‘laanat’ (curse). This was an easy error for a child to make as the written versions of the words are similar, ‘The Express Tribune’ daily reported.
The error led to accusations of blasphemy against Bhatti and upproar among local religious leaders.
According to the school’s administration and religious leaders, who took exception to the student’s mistake, the error was ‘’serious’’ enough to fall within the realm of blasphemy.
Bhatti’s Urdu teacher Fareeda Bibi noticed the error while collecting answer sheets from her students. She reportedly summoned Bhatti, scolded her and beat her. When Bhatti’s classmates learnt of the alleged blasphemy, the teacher brought the matter to notice of the principal, who in turn informed the school’s management.
The news also spread through the Pakistan Ordnance Factories colony. The next day, male students of the school and some religious leaders organised a rally demanded the registration of a criminal case against Bhatti and her expulsion from the area.
Prayer leaders condemned the incident in their Friday sermons and asked the colony’s administration to take action against Bhatti and her family.
Following the spike in tensions, POF Colony Managing Director Asif Siddiki called a meeting of local clerics and schoolteachers to discuss the situation. Bhatti and her mother attended the meeting and explained that it was a mere error caused by the similarity between the two words. They apologised and said Bhatti had no malicious intentions.
In a move apparently aimed at pacifying religious elements clamouring for action, the POF Colony administration expelled her from the school.
Bhatti’s mother, Sarafeen Bhatti, a staff nurse at the POF Hospital in Havelian, was transferred to the Wah Cantonment Hospital.

EXPERIMENTING

Solidarity in learning
A personal computer was connected to the internet and embedded into a brick wall around an informal playground nest to a residential slum in New Delhi. Within a few days it was noticed that groups of slum children aged eight to fourteen years were able to use the computer without any instruction. And taking the experiment forward, across the country, it was noticed that given adequate resources, groups of children were able to acquire computing skills without adult intervention. Thus, the first ‘hole-in-the-wall’ experiment in 1999 has, today, lead to open 84 such learning stations across rural centres in the country, with 45 others in process and a few in the offing abroad in countries like Cambodia and Africa.
“This raised a question,” says Parimala Inmadar. Head Design Lab, Center for Research in Cognitive Systems & Group Consultant at NIIT LTD, who was the Assistant Professor at the Center for Research in Cognitive Systems, the NIIT Institute of Information Technology, when the experiment was carried out. Dr Sugata Mitra who was the main driving force behind the experiment then, said the wall separated NIIT premises from the adjoining slum. “Within no time, curious children with most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English, began flocking to the machine, exploring it and figuring out which actions yielded results,” he says.
Inamdar goes on to ask: “What else could children learn on their own with appropriate technology?” Describing the results of her studies of technology-enabled study groups, Inamdar says that there were several astounding observations:
• Within a short span of time the children had reached very high levels in understanding and playing games in the PC, notwithstanding the fact that understanding of the operating system was necessary.
• Rural children were able to pass a curricular examination in computer science from their exploratory group learning at a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ learning station, with no classroom instruction for it at all.
“The way they were learning was a process of teaching, interaction, peer instruction and observation,” relates Inamdar. It was a method of random trying, accidental discovery, then understanding the operation, and repeating the process till they tire of it. Of course, then there was always another random trial waiting for them!
“What was interesting to note,” observes Inamdar. “is the method of information exchange, which clearly showed that it was collaborative effort, both physically and mentally.” The children started learning by mere visual identification of the icons, but gradually were picking up English terminology. “The challenge then widened to devising a visual-based text where children describe what each icon does,” she points out.
The experiment was then given a new shape in the form of a 10-day digital design workshop in three ecologically and culturally diverse rural areas, where children were exposed to art from different parts of the world by French artist Pascal Monte. “I wanted to leverage on the lack of language communication, and the ‘foreign-ness’ of the process,” says Inamdar. The children were first given time to observe and understand, and then given a free opportunity to create some of their own, albeit with digital aids. Surprisingly, they rapidly entered the world of digital imaging by observing the artist and collaboratively exploring high-end imaging software. The output of these workshops was later exhibited by the Pompidou Center, Paris.
The long term objectives of this research are to improve the outcome of elementary education, especially in government schools, with computer aided education in the class. As Inamdar puts it: “Research hopes to enhance the offerings and add value to both: the process and the pedagogy .”
Dr Mitra, who is now NIIT’s chief scientist emeritus and a professor of educational technology at the United Kingdom’s Newcastle University, aims to spread this model around the world to boost the learning and life skills of children, particularly those living in poverty and with few educational resources. Where conventional schools are absent or ineffective, the hole-in-the-wall web site says, the hands-off method could be a solution that uses the power of collaboration and the natural curiosity of children to catalyse learning.


FEATURE

SOCIO-ECONOMIC RELEVANCE
OF POPULATION IN INDIA
Dr.K.Shanker Shetty

Human capital plays cardinal functional role in the socio-economic growth of a developing nation like India, is an understatement. Relevance and challenges of demographic factor always haunted India in recent decades incessantly. It can neither control the population under coercion like China did, nor allow the acceleration of the growth unabated. Though, India has recovered from the worst recession with marginal bruise there has been a shift of economic power from the west to the east and accordingly Asia and India are flourishing with huge flow of capital, manufacturing activities, software networks and enhanced standard of living. However, Asia in general and India in particular, inspite of huge population face the shortage of human capital, specially leaders in business. There is dearth of policy makers, leaders and industrial captains to lead the country into the new phase of greater power status.
In the meanwhile, in the Western World, during the next two decades people aged 65 and above will rise from 17% of the voting age population to 26% with enhanced demand for social-security remedies. U.S. census bureau recently has estimated that 194 of 227 countries witness population growth except in Germany and Japan. Though emerging economies of Asia have relative demographic advantage with younger working population at the high ratio, U.S. too has relatively younger population. Whereas, population in Germany and Japan may decline at 0.2% by 2015; China and India’s will rise by 0.4% and 1.2% respectively. However, it will be the increasing population mix that will determine the growth pattern of emerging markets and relatively reduce in advanced countries where it is declining. In fact, there will be difficult adjustment period ahead, as advanced economies have to cede their dominant positions on global economic stage.

CHINA & INDIA
The population in China, which has the 2nd largest economy, will grow faster than that of U.S. by 2025 says an U.N. estimate. China’s median age is likely to rise from 34.2 now to 38.9 in 2025 as against 32.6 of India. In the decades to come, India and China will be the centre of global trade; and unless there is a big U-turn in the outsourcing policies of the developed countries, the world economy will be concentrated in these two countries. At the same time, thanks to its demographic dividend factor, even at the cost of brain drain, 2% of India’s 1.3 trillion GDP is received by India through remittances from working population abroad. Some demographers even aver that China and India are decades away from becoming advanced nations, because their populations are very poor. Though China has grown by leaps and bounds recently majority of Chinese still live under abject poverty. So is the case with India that inspite of its average growth at 8.5% the population growth has nullified the relative advantages in terms of per capital income.

Demographic Trends as per 2011 Census
As per the census 2010-11, India’s population has been 1.21 billion which is equal to the combined population of U.S., Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan. In reality India added another Brazil in terms of total population between 2001-11, despite of a declining incremental growth rate in India. However, in India, girls ratio has declined to 914 from 926 levels for every 1000 boys during the same period though literacy ratio has gone up to 74% from 64.8% a decade ago. Yet, there has been an improvement in the quality of life.

Treat Population as a National Asset
For a dispassionate observer on the population trends in India, it transmits a clear message that India must turn over its 1.2 billion population into a national asset, reaping abundant quantity of visible and non-visible “demographic dividend”. Census reconfirms our status as the second most populated nation though the gap between China and India is reducing. Yet, India is far behind China in terms of income and development indices which can be minimized only through innovative policies and implementation of strategies so as to transform its huge demographic structure into an impressive, productive and effective human resource. This must encourage India to evolve and devise policies on food, shelter, education, health, HRD and training of at least 40% of the populace in an environment in which economic infrastructure can be a positive factor. India like China must ensure to treat its large population as a national asset and not a liability. However, this is possible only if the principle of ‘inclusive’ growth becomes an effective instrument of nation’s socio-economic policies without rhetorical lip services.
India must also realize that if it fails to realize, recognize and harness the abundant energy of its human resources, our dream of becoming a ‘global power’ will remain a mere notion. This is despite the fact that the incremental burden in quantitative terms of population has shown reduction between 1991-01 and 2001-11, of 186 m i.e. 17.6% increase. Yet, there is ample scope to improve the quality of human power. It will be in tune with the improving pace of economic growth. It was ‘Art Hoppe’ who said that “We all worry about population explosion, but we don’t worry about it at the right time” (Ref: Editiorial; “Positive Curve” Times of India, April 12, 2011). However, a moderate population trend is key to riding demographic transition.
The census 2011 also reveals that the country’s birth rate, death rate and natural population growth rate are on the decline. The survey also indicated that overall birth rate dipped by 14% between 1998-2008, which is a positive trend. However, this was not achieved through coercive method is noteworthy. Probably, the declining but positive trend might have been triggered due to the improved educational method and literacy of female segments and also improved income level among specific segment of population. Reduced death rate and infant mortality rate reduction, is due to better healthcare system. At present about 50% of population comprise of below 25 years of age, indicative of a “demographic dividend” eventuality of an “Youth” brigade useful for future growth process. At the same time, political leadership must ensure that India feeds its millions and the economy generate enough jobs. In this direction, government would do well to encourage investment in and expansion of the labour intensive manufacturing sector, both in rural and urban areas, to soak up the large number of unemployed. Population policy of the government must undergo changes in such a way that even while the number of younger – working age population increases, overall growth of population must be kept balanced with the available national resources to employ and feed the incremental numbers. China has succeeded in this regard. Its incremental population has gradually reduced, as a result of which the gap between the total population between China and India has reduced though China has three times the land to that of India. Further, as a result of controlled population growth, China’s per capita income has risen to three times to that of India. Therefore, India must adopt a balanced approach in formulating its population policy so as to have short term dividends without affecting the long term advantages accrued on account of a larger number of younger working population i.e. demographic dividend.

Regressive & Untenable Policy
At the same time, 79 years after the last caste based census in India once again some political parties desired a similar dividing policy of our population and a census of caste based census was again enumerated in 2011. In this regard, it is worth recalling that sensing the danger of further fragmenting the unity of India Sardar Patel had put an end to caste based census in India, which was in fact a rallying point for the British to divide and rule India, since 1931 census. However, by reversing the trend, the caste based census was again undertaken in 1911 due to vote bank politics is reprehensible. In fact, 2001 census enumerated 18,740 categories of SC/ST in India; there were 1963 castes in the central lists of OBCs which included 4000 sub castes and each state with separate list of OBCs; there were 4830 gotras among Jat community alone! With such a scenario of caste/sub caste system can India ever achieve unity among its 1.21 billion population? In reality it is a blight on our modernity and caste hierarchy makes the socio-economic imperatives purely on the basis of birth which is untenable.
Building Human Capital in India
It is the truism that unless India adopts a balanced population policy, the country may face irreversible imbalance in providing adequate employment opportunities, food supply, housing, education and healthcare facilities and other welfare related infrastructural avenues to them. It shall prove to be disastrous for the nation which aspires to be a super power of the future. Further, as the economic centre is shifting towards developing economics like India and China with increasing level of confidence and overflowing investment, there is a need to have a strong human capital to harness the process. There is also an imperative need for a sustainable economic policy, attracting enhanced investment and support the same with enhanced energies and aspirations of Indian people. Obviously, to become a great power, other things remaining the same, India needs to grow at a constant GDP growth rate of 10% for at least a decade, warranting simultaneously up gradation of existing capabilities of our working force and also improve their productivity, efficiency and employability through adequate education and training in technical and non-technical spheres. M/s.Mckinsey have estimated in 2010 that by 2020 India will need to upgrade and reskill about 500 million of its people from the present level of just 50 million.
Moreover, only 2% of the existing manpower has the requisite training to sharpen their skills. “Boston Consulting Group” on the other hand in its report opined that out of the 89 million workers who may join the labour force between 2009-13 nearly 47 million are school drop outs. It is worth stating that though India’s population is four times that of U.S., India has less number of technicians and engineers of which only 25% of employable in global markets.
Fortunately, India has a strong degree of demographic dividend to be accrued by way of large young army of population. Yet, it is of no use unless it is properly educated and trained to face the new global socio-economic realities. Therefore, says, Harish Manvani, “an equally important aspect of building human capital is creating the capital for innovation, which can be done when we embed ‘creativity’ into the DNA of our education system and reward innovation. This will build the much needed intellectual capital which is key to sustaining long term icon progress” (Building Human Capital – The Economic Times, July 28, 2010).

India must reap Demographic Dividend
Often, Indians feel that their country is faced with the curse of ‘excess population’ without thinking that such exigency has remedy by transforming the danger into an opportunity. Though it is a young nation, the promise of the demographic dividend is multiplying in India unlike in Europe, Japan and even marginally in China. There are 45 million Indians between the age of 13 and 35, 333 million literate young Indians and 62% of the literate youth live in villages, 35% of literate youth are interested in science and technology and 34% in environmental pollution and 40% of the literate youth are OBCs, 27% are general caste, 23% are SCs and 10% are STs. What is significant is that literate youth normally prefer to move from rural to urban areas. In fact 82% of the literate youth in villages being below matriculates and only 6% are graduates who prefer to move out. However, growth in the number of literate youth is rapid in urban India at 3.15% p.a. than 2.1% in rural centres. At the same time, it is to be noted that “A Demographic dividend may become a liability unless the growth is made inclusive”. (“Nivedita Mukherjee” India, “rearing to go”, “India today”, October 4, 2010, P-37”) otherwise, country may face a socio-economic problem of the worst kind. Further though India has 18% of the world’s student population being the largest in the world, the government policies and directives so far failed to articulate them towards inclusive development spheres which is imperative. While India has a chance to house the most vibrant workforce, 25 years from now, a failure in skill development-mission due to lack of proper education can upset our apple cart. Industry is afraid that if they put in their resources in training a particular group of workers, they run the risk of them getting poached. This is the zero sum game mentally which benefits none. But things are changing now. Moreover the demographic dividend can work in India’s favour only if the labour is skilled and employable, otherwise it may turn out to be a dangerous cocktail and hence vocational education is a key factor in employability. With the demographic dividend on hand, if more Indians are provided education plus to enrich the skills and readily employable, it will help create savings, investment and GDP growth. If government fails to improve the skills through adequate education, demographic asset may convert itself as a net liability affecting the future of India.
The Asian tigers including China grew because they succeeded to use this demographic dividend to their advantage, by heavily investing in education, quality training resulting in improved efficiency and productivity in workplaces. It is estimated that 12.8 million Indian youth will enter the employment market every year. But has Indian government ever bothered to improve and enhance the quality of “Talent energy” in India? However, “the key to obtaining demographic dividend is not just the level of skills in the working force, but the availability of jobs. No point having more skilled people if they can not find jobs; the essence of inclusive growth is job creation and the pattern of enterprises that will create employment. (“Pallavi Singh”, “Talent Energy”, “The Economic Times” December 12, 2010). Yet, due to prevalent system of education, skill distribution in India is not properly or evenly distributed. The National skill development corporation set up a public pvt. partnership to improve skill development. In Indian context what corporate sector need is “skilled workforce” which in turn, it depends upon the quality of education and skill development programmes and hence there is an imperative necessity for the corporate sector that India produces a “talent pool” through proper education system. In fact manpower crunch in India has often hit many institutional functions and also affected badly flagship schemes of the government including Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan with an investment of Rs.54,371 crores; NRHM with the budget of Rs.51417 crores, ICDs with the spending of Rs.27,384 crores and abort all MGNREGs with an expenditures of Rs.1,21,861 crores. They suffered because of absence of adequate number of trained personnel with the basic educational background, apart from lack of good governance.

Population V/s Food Problem
The world population is expected to cross 9 billion in 2050 from 7 billion and India’s to 1.7 billion from 1.2 billion in 2011. The question, therefore, arises is whether the world is ready with adequate food for the gigantic size of its habitats. At the beginning of 2011 food industry around the globe is in a crisis because economic recession prices have peaked even when millions of people languish in poverty and hunger leading to food riots, land grabbing, export bans, etc.
In India government ought to be mainly concerned with feeding its growing population because high volatile prices have made the life of below poverty line people miserable. Tragedy in India is that large quantity of food is wasted in and near the farms; rats, mice and locusts eat the crops in the fields and then huge quantity is allowed to rot for want of storage facilities even while millions go hungry to bed every night. Indian population suffered even at the time of freedom and hence they still remain non-independent of hunger even while they call India shining but India is actually starving. Irony is that more number of people go hungry in India than in Pakistan. There are many remedies to meet the challenges of hunger of India’s population. Innovation in agriculture, a sustainable food security to the poor and above all revival of green revolution are some of them. There must have improved production and supply management to provide food to every member of society; subsidy is not the “be all and end all” remedy to feed the poor population in the country, but the political will to provide adequate food to the hungry population is the basic need.

Population Surge V/s Unemployment Scourge
“Unemployment” problem is a curse on a socially structured nation like India which aspires to climb the ladder upwards towards a great power plateau, because it pulls down the ascendancy through the socio-economic deficiency strings affecting the nation’s forward march. Whether, it was in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria or Yemen, it is the unemployed youth who are in the front line of ‘jasmine revolution’. We find them in the form of separatists, terrorists, Marxists or Naxalites in different parts of India because unemployment thrives out of excess population within the nation. There is impatient among the unemployed and chronic unemployment is like a ‘ticking bomb’ as explained by Chris Grayling, the British Employment Minister.
India with the demand for talent for outweighing supply, the struggle to recruit new people takes a narrow path even while increase in population walks through highways. Rural sector in particular is plagued by both direct and disguised unemployment and in cities companies find it difficult to procure employable youth for the right job.
In India not only 38% live under poverty but crores are unemployed or under employed. Further, there is brain drain of skilled and highly talented with 11.4m immigrants going abroad even when 5.4m immigrants coming to India. Most of the immigrant workers from India are from IT, plumbers, masons, carpenters, electricians, doctors, engineers, etc. On the other hand, India’s employment market is severally affected by the reservation mania perpetuated by the vote bank political dispensations. It is a shortsighted and opportunistic policy which has created more problems than solving. This policy negates that principle that all people do not have equal talents but all should have an equal opportunity to develop such talents to get employed.

In Nutshell
In nutshell, it must be stated that population is the most important factor in the growth, peace, progress and prosperity of our nation. The issue must be dealt with through a deliberately woven policy which must ensure to drive away the negative aspects but enlist positive imperatives for the good of the nation. Reaping the ‘demographic dividend’ must be the ultimate objective of our national population policy in this direction.

Author is an economist and a former General Manager of Vijaya Bank

A Tribute To Apple Founder
& To Global Change Makers !
Rakesh Manchanda
We humans tend to be selfish. While working on computers for decades, I never took the time to learn more about Steve Jobs and his inspiring life, even though I used his innovative devices that made my life easy and communicate with many. Let me share with you a slice of his life that I learned after his sad demise. According to Jay Elloit, a former APPLE executive, Steve Jobs encouraged productivity and was never driven by `stock price`. He was not driven by money. He simply loved to create things, be it in his garage or at his corporate headquarters in Cupertino. Stay hungry ! Stay foolish ! was his famous teachings to young minds. Today, many cities across America can relate to India`s Anna brand demonstrations against unfair protection to Wall Street and Black Money. At the same time, we see people with flowers and candles paying their tribute to Steve Jobs. One such placard on television reads : Break the Wall and Let the Street stand alone. Jaya Kamlani, who is an activist friend, a Steve Jobs supporter and a compulsive writer from America fears,” We shall soon see in America what we saw recently in Egypt, if they don’t create jobs in America fast enough.” Death today is helpless and is unable to overshadow Steve Jobs’ life. As he put it: “Death is life’s change agent.” Years ago, distressed at the 30-second startup time for the early Mac, he asked the systems programmer: “Even if it took you three days to make it a single second faster, it would be worth it.” Result ? a full three seconds were skimmed off. Steve knew that due to cancer, death was lurking around the bend. He used this fear as a time management tool and stole oxygen from hidden challenges. During his days of struggle in his professional life, he would stand in front of the mirror and rehearse his speech to become a better communicator. One of his famous quotes he used to rehearse was: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do?” If the answer was a simple “NO” for several days in a row, then he believed it called for a change in his life. Let us examine how Steve Jobs steered his life. He transformed the technology, communications and the music industry. He introduced the first personal computer: the Macintosh. He also inaugurated the `post-PC` world. Forced by the executive board to leave Apple, he returned in 1997 to save the drifting company. However, in that decade out, his company created the “OS” operating system, while he went on to create the animation company Pixar and launched the NEXT Computer, a company that did not take off. It was Apple that blocked the music industry’s free-fall with the introduction of its iTunes software and an innovative distribution system.Though digital music players and smart phones were familiar things, the iPod and iPhone as media puts were rich and novel creations. Going toe-to-toe in competition with Amazon’s “Kindle” tablet for downloading books, Apple lured its customers and shareholders to its sleek and user-friendly iPad. From the mouse and the graphical user interface, to the essential touch screens and applications, it seems unthinkable that one human being could have played such a decisive role, working with different product teams from the design phase to the product rollout plan. In many ways, his personality seeped into his products, and his work philosophy was shaped by Thomas Edison and Karl Marx. He understood and promoted work as a religion, carefully calibrating mileage per second. Why is the world so touched by Steve Jobs’ death? It is not just love for Apple’s innovations, but rather Steve’s modest life story, his leadership skills, and work ethics. Although Apple has an impressive Public Relations team, people knew how to reach him: “sjobs@apple.com”. Flooded with complaints and suggestions, at times he asked his staff to leave him alone to respond to the sea of emails. In his career, he tried again, failed again, failed better, and succeeded spectacularly, except for cancer, which corrupted his body in an irreversible mode. He had lived life to his fullest, through thick and thin, sometimes selling empty coke bottles at 5 cents apiece in his youth. Steve Jobs was ahead of his time. Like Madonna, he constantly reinvented himself.

The teacher who inspired me most.
Prof. B. M. Hegde,
hegdebm@gmail.com
I had many teachers at every stage of my school life that inspired me to forge ahead with confidence. Among them I would like to pay a special tribute, for the purpose of this article, to Dr. Walter Somerville, the chief of cardiology at the Middlesex and Harefield Hospitals in London and, the then editor of the British Heart Journal (now called Heart), who had the maximum influence on my career in general and my research interests in cardiology and my writings in particular. He was my mentor and a great motivator in addition to being the best clinician. He is my role model in life too. In his death a few years ago I had the same feeling of loss that I had felt when my parents died.
An Irishman by birth, Walter had his early education in Dublin and moved to London for further training as he felt medicine in Dublin is very much controlled by religion then. Originally he wanted to be a journalist but fate took him to the medical school instead although he was a journalist for three decades as the editor of the prestigious British Heart Journal with great distinction. His early training did help him a lot. He trained to be a cardiologist training with Paul Wood at the Hammersmith Hospital and was in fact assisted Paul Wood in the first historic cardiac catheterization done in the UK in 1939 He was a close confident and colleague of the two founder fathers of British cardiology, Paul Wood and Evan Bedford. When Paul Wood had a heart attack in 1962, he wanted Walter to treat him. He eventually succeeded Evan Bedford to be the chief at the Middlesex Hospital and Paul Wood at the Harefield regional cardiology centre. He had a long stint of cardiology training in Paris which at that time was the Mecca of cardiology. Walter edited the original British cardiology textbook by Paul Wood after the latter died with the help of other students and colleagues of Late Paul Wood. Walter had the unique distinction of serving as the President of British Cardiac Society for five terms!
He married his own student, a dynamic paediatric cardiologist, Jane Somerville, who is one of the leading authorities in her field even to this day. She goes round the world teaching and lecturing. She was a consultant at the National Heart Hospital in London where she had created the first Grown up Children’s Cardiac Unit. Between the husband and the wife they had some of the best research papers in cardiology. Jane bore him four children all of whom are doing very well in life. Having been a consultant to the air force, Walter contributed a lot to the British forces for which he was honoured by the Queen as a Commandant of the British Empire. Walter was in the British air force during the second World War and was closely involved with invasion of Japan where he was badly burnt. He narrowly missed becoming a fighter pilot. He was so handsome and had such fine English accent that MGM studios wanted to take him as an actor but Walter denied the offer.
My life changed a lot after I came in contact with Walter. When I was his senior registrar at the Middlesex Hospital, he used to take me to his editorial office during free time and taught me the house keeping details of journalism and research. I worked with him on a couple of research projects. He got me a place to work under Nobel laureate Bernard Lown at the Harvard Medical School which gave me an insight into some of the great minds in cardiology at that time like Lewis Dexter, Sonnenblick and Eugene Braunwald, to mention a few.
His universal compassion as a great doctor, his love for humanity, his keen sense of observation, his critical view of medical research, his incisive intellect and above all his indomitable courage gave me excellent examples to live and work. One incidence is worth mentioning here. He was eighty two and working full time. He was on his way home at 7 pm in the dark on a cold wintry night, walking the distance between the hospital and his home for his daily exercise. He was waylaid by two black youth mugging him to rob him of his belongings. They left him bleeding unconscious on the pavement in the Regent’s Park in the heart of London. Later he was picked up and in the hospital a large blood clot was removed from his brain. That left him blind in one eye with a future threat to the other eye as well. A year later he became totally blind. That did not deter Walter from working full time using talking books and journals and writing extensively with the help of his secretary. He could not, however, see patients after that. He lived another decade that way full of life. I had to spend time with him each time I went to London where I found him his usual self. He knew his way round his large pent house. He could even fill his wine glass without spilling. Never once did I hear him complain!
The last time I saw him he was showing signs of imminent death. I had discussed with Jane about my observations and she did agree. He died in peace a few days later. I wrote an obituary in the British Medical Journal about this great man, my mentor and an example of a man who was an ideal teacher, a thinker, honest researcher, a good husband, a doting father, a great clinician and, above all, a motivator par excellence to hundreds of his trainees. A line about his universal compassion is not out of place here. I was there with him again as Commonwealth Fellow in cardiology when my mother came down with cancer. Being the only child and my father having died earlier, I had the responsibility to be by her side at the crucial time. My term was getting over in a couple of months.
When I met him to ask for advice I could see his eyes filling with tears! Without a word he asked his secretary to get him Sir John McMichael on the phone. Sir John was another great cardiologist at the Hammersmith Hospital, who was at that time the head of the Commonwealth Commission. He told Sir John that I must be relieved immediately with all my expenses paid by the commission to get back to be with my mother. He also told Sir John that I must be given a second term after my mother gets well if I wished to. I did get back and was a rare case where one got the Fellowship twice.
I had noticed similar empathy shown to patients in distress many times in the wards. He had a great respect for me as a cardiologist. He used to think that I was a good teacher. When he retired in 1982 from the Middlesex Hospital the NHS was going to abolish his post for want of funds. He saw that I was appointed a visiting professor of cardiology in his place for a month every year as long as I wanted, with a hon. consultant status at the Middlesex. His other colleague, another of my great teachers, Late Richard Emanuel, was also very helpful in recommending my name for the post. If I am not mistaken it was the first such appointment there. Richard was another of my role models. Richard’s wife Lavinia treats me as their own son.
In conclusion, here was a great man that inspired generations of his students to be good doctors, a breed that is threatening to be extinct in this era of corporate medicine where money rules the roost with compassion and patient care being relegated to the background. Modern medicine which had been hijacked by technology today has become a bane to society according to the recent audits in fourteen industrialized countries. At this crucial time we need more teachers like Walter to change the sad state of affairs to stop the sad demise of clinical medicine. May his tribe increase!