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Singapore is one of the smallest island city-States of Asia. It bears a Sanskrit name. Singapore means the City of the Lion (Sing derives from the Sanskrit Sinmah and Pore from Pura meaning city). Singapore is ancient in name only; otherwise it is a striking blend of the ancient and modern elements of culture and society. Transparency International has pronounced Singapore as the “corruptionfree” State—a striking contrast to India that is counted among the most corrupt countries of the world. The first records of Singapore in Chinese texts date back to the 3rd century. It was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya Empire and had the Javanese name Temasek, which became a significant trading city, but later declined. The remnants of old Temasek are no longer extant in Singapore but its archaeological evidence remains. In the 15th and 16th century, Singapore was in the Sultanate of Johore. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1617, Singapore was burnt down by Portuguese troops. Thomas Stamford Raffles is recognized as the modern founder of Singapore. In 1819, he, a British East India Company official, made a treaty with the Sultan of Johore and established Singapore as a trading post and settlement, later to become a crown colony in 1867. It soon grew into an entreport town due to its strategic location on sea routes connecting Europe to China. During World War II, on February 15, 1942, the Japanese forces occupied Singapore after the British surrender despite the latter’s numerical superiority. The Japanese renamed Singapore as Syonan-to (“Light of the South”) and ruled it until they got defeated in September 1945. In 1959, Singapore became a selfgoverning crown colony with Lee Kuan Yew from the People’s Action Party (PAP) as the first Prime Minister. In 1962, Singapore was admitted into the Federation of Malaysia but ideological conflict developed between the State and Federal government in Kuala Lumpur. On August 7, 1965, Singapore was expelled from the Federation. On August 9, 1965, Singapore became and independent nation. Around 1970s, Singapore underwent immense economic development under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. It overcame problems of unemployment, infrastructure, housing, social stability and national defence. This elevated Singapore to a developing and then developed nation. On November 26, 1990, Goh Chok Tong assumed the office of Prime Minister. Under his tenure the country tackled the 1997 Asian economic crisis, the SARS outbreak in 2003, as well as terrorist threats posed by the Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third Prime Minister on August 12, 2004, after securing the confidence of a majority of PAP-dominated Parliament. “Practices such as the ban on imports of chewing gum and heavy fines for littering, spitting, and not flushing in public toilets have led some to label Singapore a ‘nanny State’. National service in Singapore is mandatory for all male citizens and male children of permanent residents. Even though it has not been engaged in any military conflict, the Singapore Armed Forces maintain a 100,000strong active force and 350,000-strong reserve force. Singapore has relatively
warm relations with Malaysia, especially since the recent changes of leadership in both countries. However, disputes still exist over issues such as the sale of water and territorial claims over Pedra Branca.”
Singapore has played a significant part in India’s march to Independence. Many Indian revolutionaries sought a haven here in their fight against the British Raj. Rash Bihari Bose, Netaji Subhash Bose, General Mohan Singh, K.P.K Menon, Lakshmi Sehgal of Rani Jhansi Brigade, all flocked to Singapore and carried their anti-British activities. Netaji’s famous radio broadcast predicting the fall of the British Empire after the British surrender to the Japanese and the formation of the Indian National Army are all associated with Singapore. It was Padang, a part of Singapore, where Netaji first gave the Indian National Army (INA) its war cry of Chalo Dilli. Since 1993, there has been a spurt of activity between India and Singapore, both recognizing each other’s importance and role in the South-East region of Asia. In February 1993, the two countries signed an MOU for co-operation in the Arts, Archives and Heritage, renewable biannually. Under this agreement, several cultural events have been organized, both in India and in Singapore. The Hindu, one of India’s leading English dailies, has a resident correspondent based in Singapore. Apart from government to government initiatives, the Singapore Fine Arts Society, Nrityalaya, Kalamandir, the Expatriate Indian Women’s Club and other similar societies actively propagate Indian culture. Indian films and music are widely distributed in Singapore on a commercial basis, targeted at the Indianorigin community and resident NRIs. There is no regular educational exchange programme between India and Singapore, though Indian students are studying on individual initiative. Many of them enjoy scholarships offered by local institutions, including Singapore Airlines. The increasingly close relations between India and Singapore in recent years are dramatically reflected in expanding bilateral trade and investment. The major items of Indian exports to Singapore are textile manufactures, including apparel and yarn, precious stones and pearls, parts for office and data machines, aluminium, electrical machinery, fish and fish products, fruits and vegetables. India’s imports from Singapore are petroleum products, electronic valves, telecommunication equipment, electrical machinery, office and data processing machines, metallic ores/scrap, organic chemicals, primary plastics and scientific instruments. The Singapore public and private sectors (including NRIs) have invested in a wide variety of projects in India, such as logistics, electronics, software, health services, construction, industrial parks and other real estate linked projects. Several MNCs are routing their investments in India through their Singapore subsidiaries. Major international investment banks, chartered accountancy and management consultancy firms have made Singapore their regional headquarters for servicing the Indian market. Singapore’s Trade Development Board and Economic Development Board have offices in India. Task forces to facilitate general economic co-operation and co-operation in information technology have been set up. Besides seeking investments from Singapore, India looks to Singapore as a gateway to the whole Asia-Pacific region. Many Indian trading and software
companies have set up joint ventures and subsidiaries in Singapore to promote their business activities in the region, covering diverse product areas such as automobile ancillaries, precision tooling, enamelled wires, concentrates for soft drinks, synthetic juice powders, palm kernel processing, micro and mini computers, etc. Air India, Indian Airlines, STC, MMTC, SCI, four Public Sector banks and two insurance companies have branches in Singapore. CII opened a representative office in September 1994. Other government agencies represented in Singapore include EEPC, EXIM Bank and the Tourism Board. Air India and Indian Airlines also have offices there and operate bilateral flights, as do SIA and SilkAir. In October 2001, the Economic Development Board of Singapore opened an India Centre to help Indian companies, especially software and IT companies, set up shop in Singapore. Realignment in global politics after the break-up of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the impact of the Gulf War on India’s economy ushered in a sea change in IndiaSingapore relationship. India’s “Look East” policy and its economic liberalization efforts coincided with Singapore’s regionalization strategy of investing in emerging economies. Since then, there have been many high-level visits exchanged between the two countries, including Head of State and Head of Government visits. Bilateral agreements on Avoidance of Double Taxation, General Economic Co-operation and Co-operation in Shipping, Tourism, Civil Aviation, Information Technology and Science and Technology have been signed between India and Singapore. On behalf of the private sector, CII signed a cooperation agreement with the Singapore Confederation of Industry. On the international front, Singapore has played a leading role in ensuring India’s inclusion in ASEAN, first as Sectoral Dialogue Partner (Singapore, 1992) and then as Full Dialogue Partner (Bangkok, December 1995), which in turn ensured India’s membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). Singapore has also supported India’s participation in the APEC Working Groups and India’s candidatures in other multilateral fora, including UN organizations. The Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA) in 2005 paved the way for the two countries to enhance their two-way trade to over $50 billion in five years. The pact on easy movement of professionals is a part of the Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA). India and Singapore have also agreed to ease visa restrictions for professionals in a wide range of areas including IT, medical/nursing, engineering and pharmacy as also metallurgists, surveyors, botanists, zoologists, university lecturers, accountants, financial and advertising executives. India and Singapore would recognize the degrees of specified universities and technical education boards of each country for the purpose of issuing multi-entry/job or stay visas.
India and Singapore are playing vital roles in transforming South-east Asia, one of the world’s most economically dynamic regions, into an ASEAN Economic Community—a single market and production base with free flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labour, and a freer flow of capital. ASEAN has provided India with a new focus for projecting its trade and commerce possibilities in its eastern neighbourhood. The sluggishness of the SAARC, because of the obstructive attitude of Pakistan, has lent the ASEAN urgency and higher priority in
Singapore is a small country but opens a big door for India’s entrance to the comity of world’s major economies in the coming decades
Corruption and Quality of Governance
That India is one of the most corrupt in the world is not the news, the news is that there is no hope for any respite from this evil which is essentially an anti-poor phenomenon. According to the Transparency International, India ranks very high on the Corruption Perception Index. There are a lot of things because of which one is proud of being an Indian. However, there are a lot more for which one is ashamed of being an Indian, and corruption is one of them. Courage, integrity and moral values of life have been major casualties in recent times. We have seen how these qualities have nose-dived to absurdly low depths. Our leaders have lost total sense of responsibilities and propriety and have misused and abused the power and authority vested in them with impunity, and with utter disregard to public interests. They have literally converted the governmental infrastructure as their personal fiefdom, resulting in series of scams and scandals. As a natural aftermath of this degradation on moral values and quality of leadership, everyday life of common citizens has become a living hell. Municipal services are heaped in corruption and inefficiency, with erratic electricity and water supply, choked and overflowing sewers, smelly drains, neglected roads and streets with potholes, and dotted with rotting garbage dumps and stinking public toilets. Standards of education in government schools and colleges have gone down and several money spinning private schools and coaching centres have mushroomed, whose sole aim is to fleece the public. In the present economic scenario, the basic prerequisites of an efficient administrative system, conducive and growth-oriented environment and good and reliable infrastructure are not available in our governing apparatus, which are essential for a sound economy. Inefficient and inapt administration, which has no work-culture worth the name, and which is forever on holiday or holiday-mood, has caused serious overruns on development projects, resulting in losses and chronic shortages of power, roads, ports and means of communication. Familyplanning programmes have failed miserably, which has led to further inadequacies of our basic facilities—education, health, housing and transport projects. Perennial shortage in our infrastructure network has stunted our industrial and commercial growth. Absence of right environments has failed the system and driven out our intellectuals to greener pastures in foreign lands, thereby causing brain-drain. Even our space programmes have been jeopardized due to flight of scientific talent. Our industrialists have also failed the nation. Inspite of prolonged protection from foreign competition, they have not developed the indigenous technology and have remained heavily dependent on outdated imported technologies to produce substandard products, most of which cannot compete in international markets either in price or in quality. The root cause of all this is our poor work-culture and corrupt practices, which have now become endemic in our national character. The main aim of the bulk of our citizens is to make hay while the sun shines and not to worry about the nation and its plebeian designs.
7 Our political system has proved to be the fountain-head of corruption. During elections, help of industrial and business houses and criminal elements are invited to fund the extravagant election expenses of candidates and use muscle power to muster votes, which results in nexus between politicians, business houses and underground mafia. This nexus associates are later reimbursed through scams and scandals by siphoning off public funds. Huge amounts received from international agencies for welfare projects are pilfered and shared among the nexus associates of the politicians in power. The bureaucracy has been made servile through carrot and stick policy. In fact, most of them have now become conduit for slush money for their political bosses, and in process have become drain into the vortex and are partners in promoting corruption. They have forgotten the legacy of courage, integrity and uprightness of their predecessors—the Indian Civil Services cadre of yore. They have forgotten that their first duty is to serve the people and not their self-interests or their political bosses. Corruption is an anti-poor phenomenon which can only be tackled by better governance and less government. Apart from its moral and ethical dimension, corruption is the major cause of poor becoming poorer and, of course, rich getting converted into super rich or filthy and vulgar rich. In democratic set up, and in a plural economy like ours, everyone is guaranteed the right to grow to one’s potential and create wealth by all legitimate means. However, corruption of any kind deprives the common man from ‘climbing’ the next ladder and he either continues at the same or slides further down to a more pathetic condition. Corruption is really anti-poor. 31.5% of the food grains and 36% of sugar in the Public Distribution System (PDS) gets diverted to black market. The fact is that Rs 20,000 crores is the subsidy involved in the PDS and 30% leaks to the black market, in other words, more than Rs 6,000 crores are made available for the politicians, corrupt officials of the PDS, the corrupt shopkeepers and their protectors. We can, therefore, see how, while in the name of the poor, an argument can be made for food security and subsidy. Different scams have shown the linkage between anti-national elements. 300 people died in Bombay blast in 1993 and this was made possible because RDX could be smuggled by bribing Rs 20 lakh to certain Custom officials. We can, therefore, see that corruption is anti-economic development, anti-poor and antinational. What is corruption and why should any government and its people fight corruption? The World Bank definition of corruption is “Use of public office for private profit”. Some or all government offices are public, and the use of these offices for ‘private profit’ by politicians, bureaucrats and the others is common in India. So much so, we have created such systems in our country that corruption has become endemic. Like Mark Twain’s statement that every one talks about the weather but nobody seems to be able to do anything about it, the entire nation talks about corruption but nobody is able to do anything about it. Former Central Vigilance Commissioner, N. Vittal, used to compare corruption with a disease like AIDS. He felt as AIDS is the result of uncontrolled sexual behaviour, corruption is the outcome of uncontrolled financial behaviour. The next aspect to be understood is why the government and responsible citizens must fight corruption? The straight forward answer is, because corruption is anti-poor and antidevelopment. The Human Development Report for South-Asia, pointed out that if India’s level of corruption could be brought down to the Scandinavian countries, its GDP will improve
8 by 1.5 % and foreign bank investment by 12%. Anything that is anti-poor and hence antisocial must be on top of the government agenda to rectify the situation, but in a country where populism takes priority over good governance, it doesn’t find even a mention. It is often said that leaders of India have deliberately kept the people ignorant so that they won’t know how badly they are governed. The present state of anarchy has made everyday life of the citizens a living hell. They not only live in the fear of life and property, they also have to make do with inefficiency in every government department. Perhaps, the present state of affairs can be described in the words of Mahatma Gandhi whose understanding of India and patriotism cannot be challenged. “India is a country of selfsuppression and timidity”, he said. This contributes to a common man’s low expectations from anything Indian, including the administration. Many intellectuals who are painted by others ‘as full of self-loathing’, perhaps also contribute to this phenomenon—that nothing can be done to eradicate corruption and we have to resign to our destiny and fate. It is not true. Of course, a lot can be done, provided there is a will to change the present state of affairs. Mahatma Gandhi’s dream was to see India with every face without a tear. Alas, in more than 60 years, we have not been able to meet the aspirations and objective potential of our people. Official figures indicate that at least 36% live below the austerely defined by the Planning Commission. Today, millions of our citizens do not have the elementary freedom from economic poverty, social deprivation or political tyranny. As famous Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen will like us to understand, we are only technically free but not truly free.
Privatisation of Education
The public choice strategy proposes that functions that are not being carried out properly/efficiently or have received a lackadaisical approach towards them must be delegated to the private sector. The world has been seeing a wave of privatization sweep across many spheres. It is sometimes not only essential but also the only choice that remains when breaking the monopoly of the government is concerned, especially in infrastructure. The impact of privatization on education could not be contained either, as it seemed to help a cause and diversify choice of resources available. At the school-level, privatization has become a very normal phenomenon. Even though privatization is a necessity, it does not come without drawbacks. The process involves private sector in the ownership or operation of a State-owned enterprise. In reality, the ideals that are upheld by the State in its enterprises has been overtaken by the underlying mantras of business enterprise— profits and more profits. It becomes necessary at this stage to understand that when the Constitution has laid down free and compulsory education for children until they complete 14 years of age, why is the State not able to meet its responsibility. And subsequently, even if it does involve the private sector to reach its goals, why is it unable to hold the ideas of social equity and service to the deprived sections! Is privatization of education really going to help or is it just another up-scale factory turning up nose on the natives?
Miss A At the time of independence, Nehru’s vision to make India a socialist country placed
immense responsibility on the shoulders of the State to establish and oversee the expansion of educational institutions. The highly ambitious goals of literacy achievement have been shouldered by the State-run schools so far. In the rural pockets, the elementary schools are State-aided and so are the majority of schools in the urban areas. In the present times, the presence of private enterprise is being felt much in the area of school-level education concentrated in the urban areas only. Even at the colleges and the university levels, the State’s contributions loom large over the country’s education scenario. Now the time has come when India’s burgeoning population demands more resource allocation and larger infrastructure to combat illiteracy and promote education. With the paucity of funds being an almost permanent feature of the departments of State, privatization has to be resorted to on a larger scale if the targets are to be met. In this scenario, the unrealistic burden that has been cast upon the State can be effectively met, too.
Mr B There are many myths about the private enterprise in education and how it can aid the
government’s efforts in scaling down illiteracy and building up a veritable force of educated human beings. It must be realised at the very outset that the motives of the two organisations are at cross-purposes and one cannot substitute for the other. It has been seen a lot many times that corporate/religious bodies take up the onus of contributing to the field of education. There is a great exhibition of the philanthropic spirit in the beginning, but it soon fizzles out. In reality, these are the image-building exercises of these trusts, which transform into commercial activities guided by motives of profit-making and diversifying operations to garner more resources. In this arena also exists the misnomer of ‘public schools’, which are completely run by private bodies or trusts. These schools have English as the medium of imparting education
10 and are churning out children from the upper class exclusively, while the lesser mortals continue to go to the State-aided schools.
Miss C The quantum of knowledge available to the world has increased rapidly in the past
few decades and that itself is a pointer to the fact that knowledge is power. It is of utmost importance that the developing and the underdeveloped must focus on the education for keeping the knowledge gap between themselves and the developed nations to the minimum extent possible. Even the World Bank has corroborated the view, stating that the knowledge explosion is fast dividing the world into fast moving rich economies and the slow moving poor ones. Now, that this is the true state of affairs, education is no longer considered a part of social service. It is a necessary area that needs careful investment that will be a greatly contributing factor to the human resource development. The value of human capital has dawned upon the world and it is much more important to invest in human being than to invest in assets of any other sort. There can be no doubts about the required contributions of the private sector in the enhancement of the education, as they are sure to benefit from such a move. Technological developments across the country have fostered a need for skilled and knowledgeable manpower. Without adequate infrastructure we will not be able to meet up the challenges, therefore the intervention of the private sector is required.
Mr D It is true that we need a large and competent infrastructure to meet the demands of the
new times and that the current system will need a great revamp. However, calling for the contribution of the private sector in a field like education can have serious ramifications. One has to consider several aspects here. When the State undertakes the onus of educating the masses, a certain non-partisan character of education can be guaranteed. But when the management is in the hands of people who are private entities, they could have agendas for fulfilment through education, ranging from generation of profits to promotion of an ideology, to mould the children’s characters in tune with certain specific values, to mention a few. In that the government think tanks have to get rolling and churn out ways and means to ensure the meeting up of requirements and standards in the field of education. It is certainly one area that cannot be left in the hands of private individuals. It is quite evident from the public school experience that the children who come out of those systems have little powers to empathize with anyone else but those of their own social class and ethos. However, when the idea is to reduce gaps and foster social equity, one cannot rely on this option.
Miss A There is not one but many maladies that ail the system of governance in our country.
And to think that it is easy to circumvent or surmount those issues to reach the goal of equitable education and opportunities in the same field is like burying one’s head in sand, like an ostrich. The government resources are on a real low as compared to the needs of the people. It is not an inherent lack but it so happens that the funds allocated happen to disappear on their way to the projects. It is not really possible to replace the people handling the affairs in one go. In such a scenario, privatization can relieve the system of the enormous responsibility that is important and yet not fulfilled. It can easily make up for the lack of funds, sincerity and political will that effects the public sector. Privatization of education can be relied upon for overcoming structural and operational rigidities and promote the effective and efficient steps towards the implementation of education projects necessary for development of the human capital. According to W.W. Rostow, the world is going through the fourth Industrial Revolution and it needs true professionals to fit the slots created for employment.
Mr B Against the backdrop of speck and span environments and efficiently run
organisations, are the other realities that need an equal mention. The new breed of entrepreneurs—the educational entrepreneurs—take full advantage of the situation and capitalize on the need for good education. Land allotment is done on a nominal cost and slowly as the structure begins to take shape, students are charged with building fee, development fee, maintenance fee and sundry other charges. These unaided schools, although they charge huge sums from the students, come to be sweatshops for the teachers. The country has a high level of unemployment, which helps these institutions hire well-qualified individuals at low salaries. The teacher’s work under a system of rigid rules and regulations, where innovation in teaching is not appreciated; they only have to tread the beaten path. The management has the prerogative of hiring or firing a person any time and this is what keeps the teachers on their toes. The State-run schools, however, have much attractive packages for their employees.
Miss C One has to look at the gains in terms of the output vis-à-vis the inputs given. The case
with the public sector education has been that it has failed to regenerate constructive resources from the recipients of education. Over the years, time and again, as the State has been identified responsible for the provision of education to the masses, services have been sought from it, however, considering all that comes free in this deal and the number of subsidies that are given, education has come to be a social service activity. People do not place the premium on it as is required. It is just the same phenomenon that happens to all things—they are not valued when they come free of cost. On the other hand, if education is privatized, and the institutions charge a full fee at all times, the student is likely to value it, the parents will take care that every penny worth is extricated and that efficiency and effectiveness in service is maintained. It will stop the process of devaluing of education.
Mr D The position of our country, on the ladder of development, demands that great strides
be made in the direction of building up the human resource base. It is imperative and a need of the times that education is necessarily provided to the people. The definition of literacy itself needs a revamp, because simply learning to read and write does not bestow powers of discernment on an individual. It has often been recognised by the experts that skill imparting and development of areas where the aptitude of the learner lies, are prerequisites of good education. The economic base of the country cannot support demands of the country, but there is nothing impossible if there is willingness and the great Indian ingenuity is put to use. The role of private sector has proved to be greatly facilitating in diverse fields, but the need for a guarded approach cannot be ruled out in areas like education. Relevant legislations can be worked out to ensure that privatization does not degenerate into commercialization. An understanding between government and the private sector can work miracles—universities can start up R & D activities funded by the corporates. In so far as professional courses are concerned, the issue of capitation fees must be taken seriously and here is where State intervention is required.
Is Justice Available only to the Rich?
It is often said that the one who has the riches has the power too and can call the shots whenever and wherever he pleases to. In today’s world, it is not hard to find instances where those wielding the clout can go scot-free even after having their hands muddied in cases of the worst nature—it is either a word from the authorities or one of the many loopholes that exist in the judicial system are exploited. However, one cannot generalize the impression for there are instances where verdicts are delivered in favour of the ‘not so rich and powerful’. Even though it is endeavoured to a great extent that the judicial system be kept immune from all possible pressures from several quarters, there is no guarantee of success in this attempt, for greed does not have an antidote but for a live conscience. Does this point to the fact that current system of delivering justice is a mere farce, that is now only interested in jingle of the coins, or is there still some substance to it? Are the judgements up for sale or can the average man take recourse to this route without the fear of truth getting mauled somewhere in midst of the process? Is justice available only for the rich and the powerful or can the commoners still be sure about the truth always triumphing?
Mr A In my opinion, the term justice itself has changed in its meaning greatly. What was
once the right of one and all, irrespective of clout, has now come to be doled out in a measure equal to moolah laid down in the other scale. Justice is fashioned on the terms dictated by the rich and powerful. It is no more in favour of the right. Evidences can be easily doctored to suit the needs. The dictum, survival of the fittest, conventionally implied that only those who could endure all troubles, and were equipped to beat all odds would be the survivors. And now “fittest” has come to mean “richest” in this context. Riches command power and power commands riches. All that remains necessary to emerge as winner in all situations, irrespective of being on the right or wrong side of it, is the power of money.
Miss B It is not as if the rot has overtaken the system, but merely a case of a few bad eggs.
I feel that it greatly depends on the integrity of men, whether they help in delivering justice or become instrumental in derailing it. If a man is not corrupt, it will be difficult to keep him from fighting tooth and nail to do an honest job. There are still good men left who do not buckle under pressure and neither do they have a conscience beaten dead. It really helps, especially if the person occupies a position of authority in the officialdom.
Mr C It does appear that the feeling of justice being meted out to the rich and powerful
sections of the society is gaining ground. It is not as if the idea is based on a few odd judgements, but on the premise of questionable uprightness of the men sitting on judgement and their support structure/auxiliaries. The old maxim that “there is enough for man’s need but not for his greed” is only so true. Let us not forget that even those sitting to deliver justice are humans and very much susceptible to falling under the spell of the Mammon.
Miss D I would not agree with such a view. Let us not look at the situation as if all is lost
and that the concept of justice has deteriorated beyond redemption. Let me ask you a simple question—how do you think that the system is functioning still, if the bell tolls only for the rich
13 and powerful? If every part of the machinery has gone defunct, why are the courts still doing business as usual? People would not resort to the legal redressal at all if they perceived the extent of fall to such great levels. In that scenario, only two things would have resulted—either jungle law would have prevailed or people would have figured out an alternative mechanism of arriving at a fair solution. Both are not in operation. A tree trunk that has been eaten up hollow by termites cannot stand for long. Similarly, if the system has been, say, sold out, it cannot appeal to the public any more. I think that there is still much to the judicial system and that a biased judiciary can have a very short life span, if at all. If there are faults, then the entire system of policing that supports the judiciary in carrying out its tasks by doing the basic works should be re-examined.
Mr A I hope, my friend, that you will agree with the time tested saying that, "justice delayed
is justice denied". There are countless instances of decades going by with people waiting for succour in form of a correct judgement. Cases are left hanging fire for one reason or the other. Even the dates for hearing are allocated after months, making the exercise futile and frustrating. What good is a compensation a decade after a person lost a job or suffered gravely in a large-scale accident? A victim can be helped only if there is immediate relief. And delays only amount to further victimisation. It only means that even if corruption and wrong doing exists at the upper echelons, it can be gotten away with, for they know that even if their devious activities are spotted, they are as good as safe. It is not only the judicial system and laws to be held responsible, but also the law enforcing system—the police—that aids its work.
Miss B I have some reservations about my friend’s argument. It is not true that justice
works only for the rich and powerful. Let me tell you that there are concerted efforts on part of the authorities to make the system better. Let it also be clear to one and all that any court of law, or any able judge will only evaluate the case in light of evidences presented. If the evidence collection is faulty and does not reflect the level of competence required in the handling of the job, then the judicial system is not to be blamed. If a strict eye is kept on the law-enforcing authorities, then pure and unadulterated justice is what you will get. After all, the media does keep a check by reporting what it perceives as something not falling in line.
Mr C I would like to take you back to what my friend has stated earlier. I still feel that
despite reporting by the media, there is hardly anything good that happens. Most of the celebrity and big name crimes do make news and create a short-lived furore, but what ultimately happens is the miscarriage of justice. The fire dies down after everyone has had their share of the peeps into the lives of the rich and powerful. What happened in the Jessica Lall’s case is also known to all. It is the clout of the powerful section that makes either mediocrity/incompetence take charge in their cases or merely prompt a lack of willingness by the abler ones in collecting evidences against them.
Miss D Well, I think that the system does need a double look into its functioning. The rot of
corruption has set in and it is courtesy the people who promote it by buying out whoever they desire to achieve their ends. A proper accountability needs to be introduced for the judiciary to rule out corruption on personal level, and for the law enforcers too. It is also true that nothing can keep a good man down, but if the number of this species is dwindling then something needs to be done and quickly!
Striking to win or Holding to Ransom?
Bandhs and strikes are something that affects the people across the country, as the smooth functioning of everyday life is dependent on networks of supplies. The truckers union calls a strike to register a protest, causing a paucity of several essential goods and the cost of everyday consumables sky-rocketing. State-wide bandhs are called to protest the arrest of political leaders, creating a tense situation where the common man is on tenterhooks about the duration for which peace will prevail. The amazing fact is that one section of the populace can throw the economy out of gear by refusing to do their bit. What is debatable here is—whether the option exercised in the forms of bandhs and strikes is legitimate? After all, it remains not just restricted to the major parties involved, but drags to the common man who does not have any means or the capacity to deal with the tough situations that emerge as a repercussion. On the other hand, does the aggrieved section have any other option to make their voice heard and more so acted upon?
Mr A In my opinion there is absolutely no merit in the strikes and bandhs as forms of protest
against policies and decisions enforced by the authorities. These, in my view, are merely coercive steps that fall short of blackmailing to have the demands met. If a particular section of people are upset about a certain decision, then there is always the option of sitting across the table and resolving the issue with the concerned authorities. A lack of forceful vocalization of the ideas and demands should not be replaced by retaliation in the form of stopping the services as such. Likewise, in a bandh there is an artificial shortage created of all kinds of services and commodities. This hampers the smooth functioning of life and spells big time problem for the common man.
Miss B How do you make a wayward child listen to you? Certainly not by offering him
more candies! Similar is the situation where a person with powers greater than the commoners; he has to be made to see their point or even hear out their argument. The powerful here could be seen as the law and policy enforcing authorities, the government. Many a times those in power do not see the ground realities before issuing orders and then are not ready to listen to genuine grievances caused by such orders. When the agitating side has no one to hear them out, I guess they are left with only such strong measures to have their voices falling on deaf ears. The feasibility of plans drawn up in plush offices, without any idea about the real conditions, will without doubt be met with such treatment.
Mr C I do not agree with my friend here. In event of a strike or a bandh, the common man is
the hardest hit, with the supply of essential commodities falling short. There are cases like that of political parties calling nation-wide or State-wide bandhs to protest against one party-related issue or the other. It must be noted that all this is done, allegedly, on behalf of the people— people who are hardly interested in upsetting their lives and letting a grim situation crop up that could well take on communal colours and breed trouble. If a single step can bring about so much of inconvenience and brew trouble, I do not suppose that there is any element of desirability about it.
Miss D I hope that my friends will agree that the modus operandi of the politicians and
bureaucrats is something that can have people spinning for years together, before they can have anything substantial coming out of it. I do not intend to convey that this is always the case, but it is definitely many times when the authorities want to have their way. Years and years of exploitation, a feeling of powerlessness against this superstructure has left the people to devise their own methods of having their voice heard and their demands heeded to. One man’s voice is every easily drowned in the legal tangles and in the ‘smallness’ of his being, but when a mass as a whole protests, cutting out the economic lifeline, it makes sure that the concerned authorities sit up and take notice of the grievances and listen to the viewpoints. If such a mechanism of protest were absent then it would only be those in power having their say all the time, forcing decisions down the throats—irrespective of they being right or wrong.
Mr A One thing that clearly needs to be understood here is that strikes and bandhs are
becoming more or less like weapons with the unionised workers. And the workers are taking resort to these weapons whenever something does not suit their interest. I feel that even they have got to realize that they pay a heavy price for agitating in such a manner. Such sections are not so economically sound that they could bear to go without work for days together. Somewhere along the course, they might have to give up, making the whole thing look like a lost cause. Those who gain in such scenarios are only a handful of people—the union leaders who cash in on such situations to make a name for themselves and eventually start calling the shots as per their convenience and, of course, the hoarders and the retailers who command an exorbitant price for the essential commodities when the supplies are hit. The economic impact of such coercive tactics is so large that sometimes it may prove to be counter productive. One name that must be mentioned here is that of Datta Samant. During the time when he was active as a union leader in Maharashtra, the production suffered so much so that the industries left Maharashtra and set up base in neighbouring Gujarat. Likewise, the situation created in West Bengal by the constant protests, in which the workers resorted to such steps like gheraos, had the industry doing a disappearing act from the State. I really don’t see any good coming out of the entire scenario.
Miss B I am afraid I still do not agree with your point. The basic premise that democratic
structure is based on is that one has the complete right to express one’s views and, in the absence of a proper forum, one can be created and the grievances aired. I would like to reiterate what my friend has previously said that it would be a long time before the people can even expect any positive results. All they would be getting would be sheafs of papers filled with legal and complicated clauses. Working out through this maze itself is quite a task and they would have already lost the battle. For how long can you really keep a man down who depends for life on his meagre earnings. How long can you have him tied down with empty words? The common man isn’t so gullible any more. And, is especially weary when anything threatens to reduce his little income to lesser. How else can he prove the significance of his remote existence in the total scheme of things, if not by organizing strikes and staging bandhs? In a democracy one cannot be taken so much for granted.
Mr C Everything in this world functions smoothly because the principle of co-existence
applies to it. One must not forget that the harsh step will definitely begot some harsh results,
16 and let me make it very clear that the benefit from all these antics accrues to a small section of opportunists who claim to be doing this in the name of democracy and on behalf of the people. I, however, see nothing democratic about the whole process. People are put to great discomfort, the economic processes suffer, and production comes to a standstill. How does it do any good to people who depend on their daily earnings to feed themselves and their families? It only seems as an easy way for a handful of people to shoot to prominence in a short span of time. There is no sure way either, to ascertain the honesty and morality among this group and also to make sure that none of them get sold out. After all, in any situation where there is substantial power involved (even if it means carrying out negotiations on behalf of a set of people), there is a good chance of the lure of the lucre corrupting one’s self. And one must not forget that the repercussions of the strikes and bandhs will not remain restricted to the ‘others’ only, but the earnings and the procurement of everyday necessities for one and all is affected.
The commoner is certainly at sea when it comes to the ways of ensuring his welfare. Neither does he have the money nor the power to bring about the favourable changes. All he can do is consolidate into groups so that he can at least rise to a position of challenging what he thinks is not right. The power centres are known to be ruthless in their approach when it comes to dealing with the commoners. Left with little else, mass protests like bandhs and strikes are their only ways to express dissent. The flip-side is that there are opportunists waiting to cash in on such occasions—politicos, union leaders waiting to enter the corridors of power etc. The sifting out of this category has to be made sure in order to have the suitable ends achieved.
Capital Punishment for Crimes against Women?
Every so often there is reported a crime, so heinous that it makes one and all sit up. But, as is expected, the pace of investigation and the action to follow slackens and it becomes another of those unfortunate incidents that would be soon forgotten. This is especially true in the case of crime against women, where, the extent of horror keeps extending the threshold of mental acceptance and after a while the repeat incidents are reported often for sheer titillation! Even today, it is not only the repressed and the uneducated woman or the unsuspecting children that become targets of the sick machinations of the human mind, but it is also the emancipated women who are not safe. Surprising but true, according to a WHO study, a woman gets raped in India every 54 minutes! It is not unusual to find stories of minors, and even children under the age of ten, falling prey to the wicked intents. There have been incidents that have escalated in the degree of gruesomeness, but not one ruling in the cases to set an example. How else can one expect the offenders/potential offenders to refrain from such acts? So, where lies the solution? Should there be capital punishment for such offenders so that one can put a stop to this soaring crime rate?
I completely agree that this category of crime should be totally unacceptable to the society and the best way to put a curb on such happenings is to have capital punishment for the criminals and offenders. What I am about to say should not be interpreted as a justification of killing, but that of my contention here. When a murder happens, the person is killed and not let to live and suffer the anguish. But here, in the cases of rapes and molestation, the offender should not be let off even with limited punishment. If they are allowed to get away with it, what is the guarantee that they will not come up again with another of such acts? There has to be devised a way to simply stop the incidents. There has been a lot of argument against capital punishment, but how do you get back the same life for a six year old who has been robbed of innocence even before life did start meaning something to her, or that of a young woman who has just started shaping her career? Agreed that the punishment will not revert their status, but it just might prevent the others from even indulging in such acts.
Mr B I feel for the victims of such acts, but there is another way the entire picture can be
looked at. It is really not true that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth can come into play here. We cannot take away a life for a life. That is exactly why capital punishment of any and every sort was done away with, in the first place. Things would have been different if a life could be got back by taking away another, or that meaning could be imparted to a life by sentencing the other to death. It is very difficult to judge the circumstances under which a crime has been committed. If it comes to be proven later that the person, who had been convicted and done away with, was actually innocent, how would you restore that life and give reprieve to the close ones of that person. Capital punishment does not leave any room for correction of mistake in judgement.
Miss C I cannot agree with you. Just consider the scene in totality in the country. Numerous
incidents of sexual assaults and rapes of minors and women are reported... what happens to them next. We don’t know. We just read about them, shake our heads in despair and then forget the whole issue as we move on to read the next news item. In this country, the victims would either die of shock, or commit suicide and those who cannot do anything would be subjected to further torture—be sold to become a part of the flesh trade, which is a thriving industry now. How do you account for the lives of the countless that have not known life in even its simplest colours? The conviction rate of the accused in such cases is tremendously low. Only five per cent of the accused in cases reported are convicted. In such a scenario where the system of appeals lets the judgement move further and further away, how can one lie back and promote this fearlessness. Do we want more half-lives or do we want the perpetrators of such crimes dead? I feel that it is time someone took a stand and had something substantial done about this problem.
I admit that whatever my friend here says is absolutely true, but then, is establishing truth easy these days? Much to the dismay, but I would like to mention that the number of cases of women wrongfully accusing men are coming to the fore. It is often seen that in cases of animosity among families, the incidents are wrongly reported and stories are fabricated to take revenge. Just consider a situation where an innocent could be sentenced wrongly to death. Investigation takes time and the levels of corruption have enabled white lies to seem real. It is not simply in the cases of molestation, but there are cases of women having accused their men wrongly of harassing them for dowry to get even on certain counts. I agree when my friend says that there must be some room for correcting mistakes if they are ever made.
Mr A There is something about the whole issue that is very disturbing. Instead of simply
presuming mistakes in the judgement, would anyone consider the plight of the victim in such incidents? Our society is such that the offender can still get away after committing the act and find a place among the multitude. The woman, on the other hand, who suffers the violation of her mind and body, is more or less transformed into a queer object for the society. She is considered polluted and cannot be taken into the fold. This amounts to a condition in which the victim is virtually ostracised for no fault of hers. The trauma extends to the family members and is not evanescent. The stigma attached with being a rape victim is as bad. The life stands almost ruined, as the mental balance is very hard to regain and with no one coming forward to help the wronged, there can hardly be any motivation to carry on. It does not matter if the victim does not die, for it is as good as dying many times over in the mind. How can one let the offenders in these cases get away so easy or even allow leeway for them?
Mr B One can really see that the crime is gross and reflects the sad state of the society. But I
would want to know if pronouncing a death sentence against an offender will do much by way of helping curb the crime? Fear is an antidote, but it will not work in all situations. In my opinion, a lasting solution for the problem lies in a more constructive effort, that is educating the masses and improving the outlook of the society as a whole. There can be a great change if the women are made more stronger mentally and cautioned to carry some sort of weapons like the stun guns to disable the assaulters. Patrolling must be increased in the areas that are
19 potential places of attacks. Often, it is seen that the women themselves do not come out in the open about such incidents having happened to them. They must be made to realize that it is in the interest of the whole community and that they would not be ridiculed. Also, the NGOs as well as the individuals must come forward and fight for the cause of the victims. Moreover, if from the very beginning, the males are taught to respect the women counterparts, things will become better. Literacy does work magic.
Miss C I still suspect how potent is our friend’s solution in doing away with the filth that is
there in the minds. There are several examples of debauchery on part of civil and educated masses. Where does their sensibility and respect go in such situations? I would still prefer that the strictest of punishments be meted out to the offenders. In the riots that gripped certain parts of the country, it was astounding to see that educated men from middle class families indulging in such gross activities. This is a real life happening that has belied all hopes of civilization and chivalry. There is not only this one thing, violence against women exists in our society in so many forms and it is disheartening that the women are so taken for granted. In my opinion, unless and until a few examples are set up before all to see, there is hardly anything that would refrain them from such despicable acts.
It is really very demoralizing to see that in this age when we have made advancements in all spheres, there are still aspects in the human character that have failed to evolve. And what a pity, it only extends to the hapless woman to be let out! It is a shame that women are still not recognized for the contribution they make to a family and the society as a whole. The brutality and the barbarity of the incidents that one comes across is truly shocking. Suggesting capital punishment for such crimes against women could be one way of intimidating the potential offenders and making them refrain from mores of the sort. But then, there is also the danger of closing all doors after pronouncing a judgment. The system of investigation cannot be relied upon with a blind eye and one has to think twice when it is about deciding about a human life. One cannot afford to decide in haste and repent at leisure here. Nonetheless, a way has to be figured out to put an end to such tragic happenings.
Does India Need Another Green Revolution?
This battle is against an enemy that is completely ruthless and spares none. And what can come to aid if nature abets its rage. With most of the rural population depending on agriculture for subsistence, it is not amazing that the maximum number of victims are from this bloc during a drought year. It is pitiable that though India is generally regarded as a land that abounds in food grains, there should be a substantial percentage of rural and tribal population resorting to wild grass for feeding themselves. With the crop failure comes not only the problem of starvation, but also of the increase in the number of suicide cases, as well as increased exploitation of the small and marginal farmers at the hands of money-lenders. All this only causes one to ponder whether it is time for another green revolution—to boost the crop production so that the basic provision of food can be achieved.
Mr A I feel that India really needs to initiate the process of going about another round of
”Green Revolution”. It is a pity that having come so far we still have people dying of hunger. Moreover, nothing can be more disappointing than the fact that after having seen success in the sphere of food production, calamities like drought still bring as unmanageable and unwieldy situations before us. Ensuring that enough food is provided for the population is one of the basic duties of any government, and there should be no second thought about making this possible. Human capital is the most valuable asset for a country and productivity depends on how healthy and efficient they can be. What good is all the advancement if more than 70% of the population that still lives on agro-based occupations in rural areas has to look skywards all the time. We have to use the knowledge acquired over the years to make certain that no life is lost to hunger.
Miss B In my view the second green revolution would be nothing but folly—repeating a
mistake all over again. It would amount to ignoring the long-term effects, and endorsing shortterm gains. Why are we a blind eye to what history has put in clear terms before us. Green revolution did give bumper crop as yield, but not without strings attached. It used the high yielding varieties of crops that depleted the soil nutrients to a large extent. This is a heavy price to pay for one time crop. Let us not forget it is the same measure of arable land that will depend on for cultivation and that we cannot afford to ravage it. I feel that in order to face natural calamities like droughts, and to avoid starvation deaths, the government and its agencies need to put on their think caps and step up their efficiency. Why does nobody seek relief from the much hyped overstocked warehouses, rather than resorting to a measure that will not only take time to show results but will also be high on the negative aspects.
Mr C I am afraid to see so much of resistance and pessimism in my friend. Agreed that in
long-term the green revolution showed more of undesired effects than benefits, but the underlined problems of those times can be certainly rectified today. We have more than four decades of hindsight to make use of. It would not make sense if one thought that the mistakes then would be simply repeated again. What we are meaning to do is to boost productivity using scientific knowledge that decreases dependence on weather conditions. Going by my friend’s logic, one would abandon all experimentation upon meeting with failure once. And mind you, though the green revolution had many negative effects, it
21 marked hope for the Indian farmer, nonetheless. I strongly support the efforts for increase in food production as it is one of the ways to ensure healthy and prosperous rural population, and a promise of certain help in times of distress.
Miss D I
have a different contention altogether. The issue is not so simple as my friend puts it across to us. Any high-yielding variety would demand a lot of input too. That in case of the last green revolution was in terms of water and fertilizer. Considering the plight of an average Indian farmer, how far does one think it is feasible? In my opinion, the real problem lies with the government agencies that are meant to deal with such situations. The Public Distribution System (PDS) needs to be hauled up. There are tall claims of food surplus that are made in the Parliament. So why is it that in times of crisis the surplus is unable to reach where it is needed most. The assistance from the Centre to the affected States also needs to be questioned—whether it is adequate or lacking? It is really worth a thought that at a time when there are reports of people dying due to hunger, the politicians are spending crores on celebrating their birthdays and distributing cakes and colour televisions as return gifts to the guests. We have come very far in time and the politicians claim much more sensibility than Marie Antoinette. It is high time the governing machinery was shaken up and was made to answer all the difficult questions. The answer lies not in another green revolution, but in hauling up the system.
Mr A It is not that I am not in agreement with my friend, but what I fail to understand is
that after having achieved so much of success in scientific agricultural practices, why is it that we shrink from having a go at it once again. It is only a large-scale implementation of a practice that will prove to be of mass benefit. It is not only the question of advanced agricultural practices, but also of making sure that the multitude that makes India does not go empty stomach, or worse still, resort to wild shrubbery for food. The country’s population is our own, and more so is our responsibility to feed them in times of crisis. My contention is that the Green Revolution would be nothing but a precautionary measure. The current reserves of food will not last forever and we need to be prepared even if there is a succession of calamities. A resistance to fostering such a positive step only surprises me. More- over, if there are constraints for the small farmer, they can be overcome with some subsidies from the government.
Miss B It would be worth noting that the agricultural subsidies form quite a
large portion of the burden on the State exchequer. Why should this be increased any more? One should also consider that the land holdings in India have been fragmented to a very large extent over the years and the average size of a holding is very small. In such a scenario, using a practice that is capital intensive would neither be economical for the farmer, nor be of any help in terms of yield. Green revolution and such like procedures spell profits for the bigger landowners, who have already struck gold and who can afford to invest the money required initially to have it going successfully. If one takes a serious look at the agricultural sector, most of the small and marginal farmers already carry the burden of a debt that seems never ending. Also, it is only a few who make the prosperous large land owning class. So, if in case a revolution like it does come through, it would again accrue the benefits to an already rich section of farmers.
Mr C Solutions can be sought for most problems, and there is one for what my friend has
22 just described. If serious efforts are made to consolidate the fragmented land holdings, a lot can be achieved. The groups of farmers can form cooperative societies, that would help all of them share benefits. The need is to educate the farmers and spread awareness among them, about how they can benefit and prosper from such revolutions. One big advantage of going about this exercise would be that it would reduce the distance between the farmers and the official machinery. The small farmers can approach the banks for loans and become a part of the benefit-reaping category. Besides, one cannot refrain from trying out newer techniques. While we figure out ways of boosting food production, we also have to make sure that this food reaches people who require it in times of crisis.
Miss D I feel that we definitely need to stock up for the future. Being prepared is better
than having to stare a disaster helplessly in the face. I feel that introducing new techniques and new varieties of crops certainly would bring about some change for the good. But equally important here is the reshaping of a few aspects of governance, and the spread of public education and awareness. The various schemes launched to counter such bad times are not able to generate good results, and that is all due to corruption pervading at various levels. Several cases of ration cards being distributed after the setting up of enquiry commissions have come to light. Also, it is seen that the village heads (often at the lower-most rung in the implementation of such schemes) are very corrupt. We have to root out instances of the sarpanches keeping the ration cards of the villagers with themselves, hoarding a portion of each ones share of the free grain, only to sell it off later, while the latter starve. Corruption is one cause that has to be rooted out if a hunger-free society is desired.
Network Neutrality—To Stay or Go?
The face of the Internet is changing. From the basic applications and the repository of information it is fast becoming a platform for diverse pursuits and activities. There has been increasing speculation about the outcomes resulting from the tussle over allocation of spectrum for wireless services. Whatever the result, the ramifications will be felt throughout the world. It has been felt that the network neutrality principle would be threatened by this move. The telecom companies are lobbying for levying surcharges on content providers that are not their retail customers; prioritizing data packet delivery based on the ownership affiliation of the content, or the source or destination of the content; as well as building a new “fast lane” online that consigns Internet content and applications to a relatively slow, bandwidth-starved portion of the broadband connection. So should the unspoken yet accepted law of network neutrality go or should the Internet remain as it is today?
Mr A I feel that the Internet today enjoys the popularity that it does simply because it does
not make the user feel hindered at any step in his virtual journey. However, I do feel that if the journey itself starts only after one has bought a ticket and that too with certain complexities involved the charm of the exploration will wear off. It has always been felt that the remarkable social impact and economic success of the Internet is in many ways directly attributable to the architectural features that were part of its initial design. The Internet was calculated to be an entity with no gatekeepers over new content or services. Experts often feel that the great strides made in this sector are because of allowing the contributors to work unhindered for its growth rather than attributing centrality to the controlling features. Consequently, the Internet has created a platform for innovation. This has led to an upsurge of step ups—from VoIP to wi-fi, to blogging—many innovations that might never have evolved if the regulations had been far more pronounced. I really think that network neutrality needs to stay and there is no need for changing the scenario drastically.
Miss B Today ISPs, and crucially telecom companies, are up in arms demanding that the
unwritten policy changes, with support from free market lobby groups. The reason for their angst is the stunning growth of Web 2.0 services such as video, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and file sharing. The ISPs feel the services demand too much of their infrastructure, thus people need to pay for access to certain content which requires more bandwidth. The telecom companies are definitely being threatened by VoIP. It would be only reasonable to let phone and cable companies charge Internet firms additional fees for using their high-speed lines. Telecommunication companies spend billions of dollars to construct a fibre-optic network for delivering high-speed Internet and cable TV services. Network operators are looking to recoup the cost of the fibre-optic cable and other infrastructure pieces that make a high-speed Internet possible. They argue that the upgrades are necessary to deliver such innovations as high-definition video-on-demand and high-quality teleconferencing. They expect businesses and consumers to share the cost of network upgrades.
Ever since the commercialisation of the Internet began on a serious note, the number of users has increased manifold. The tribe of loyalists have worked their way forward contributing to its various aspects—the speed of their connections and the variety of things
24 they can do on the Net. A remarkable feature of the process has been that all this came about with a mere touch of regulation. Excepting pornography and gambling, no bureaucrats have decided what services could be provided over the Internet, or who could offer them or how they could charge for them. Some of the service ideas have been bad, and failed. Some are wonderful. But many would never have been tried if there were regulations telling businesses whom they could charge, how much or how little, or what they could or couldn’t sell on the Net. Freedom, actually has been the Web surfer’s friend.
Miss D One major likelihood is that the telecom companies would move on to create a two
tiered ‘pipeline’, where the paid for priority data gets a faster movement and the low priority data may be sidelined depending solely on the discretion of the provider. An individual’s favourite Website may be relegated to the Internet’s slow lane if the companies that run its backbone network have their way. Proposed services from telecommunications and cable companies would let ISPs and other Web businesses pay extra to receive preferential treatment for their data packets, carrying everything from video to music to text over the Internet. Such packet prioritization would deliver a richer experience to the visitors of that particular site—a valuable perk for high-bandwidth services like streaming video. Prioritizing content based on type—meaning a quick, uninterrupted data flow, such as streaming media—is supported by both consumers and content providers. The good part is that such services will give incentives to the telecom and cable firms—by giving them a new revenue stream—to upgrade their networks, which will boost overall service quality.
Mr A I really do not think that charging and such two-tier system by the telecom companies
is justified. The very scheme goes against a basic tenet of the Internet, that all packets are treated equally. At this point in time the Internet now allows information to move in data packets through networks of computers and routers on a “best efforts basis”. In other words, the system routes packets with little regard for what type of information or applications they contain or who created them. There are apprehensions that prioritization will allow established firms with deep pockets to position the virtual deck against smaller, yet potential rivals. Also, businesses already pay for bandwidth, therefore the extra charges are nothing but doublebilling.
Miss B A decade ago the big telephone companies were complacent about the Internet.
Now they see Internet applications beginning to have revenue impact on their core businesses. Skype, for example, is an Internet telephony application that is capable of better voice quality than telephony, with useful features impossible for a conventional telephone company to deploy. It isn’t tied to the telephone company’s network and it can run on any Internet connection. This is a simple yet effective example to explain why the carriers are now rooting for their gains. The largest providers of today’s Internet infrastructure are also the strongest opponents of network neutrality. If their profit stream diminishes, which it must if the Internet is to remain neutral and open, then it is only simple to note that we strike at the root of infrastructure. IP protocol inventor Robert Kahn also feels that net neutrality is a slogan for a mandate that would prevent innovation on the networks. He and other engineers feel that legislation could restrict developments that would improve data delivery and alleviate traffic burdens.
Miss D The issue of Net neutrality is so contentious that many people debating it cannot
even agree on a definition. But there are a few things that come across as logical observations and need to be made a note of. The state of affairs as related to the Internet, and the carriers is very fluid. Someone has to pay for the infrastructure. For many years the people who stood up for the Internet, advocated that it should not be subjected to government regulations but rely on interoperability and market forces to resolve itself. That idea was largely successful with only physical network (spectrum, fibre, etc) coming under the ambit of regulatory law. But, so far the Internet and applications remained outside. However, the business model has changed. The physical network isn’t as important any more. And now the matters will have to be perceived in a new light. What happens ultimately is for tomorrow to herald. And whatever the outcome it will be felt across the globe.
Do Women make Better Parents than Men?
Bringing up the children has been the mother’s duty since time immemorial. However, things are changing fast as there are single persons opting for adoption and couples unwilling to tide it through together who are opting to take up the job single handed. There is much to support the mother’s role as the primary caregiver of the family and the young ones, especially through reasons embedded in tradition as well as convenience. However, there have been many examples of single men coming forward, with the nurturing spirit surfacing strongly. Would they fare equally well as any woman or would they be at sea, if confronted by the daunting task of caring for a real child 24/7? The external responsibilities that a male usually carries out in a family—set up as the breadwinner and the protector—give him a tough aura that comes in the way of visualising him performing the mother’s role. However, this cannot be used as a benchmark to determine whether the man is capable of providing children with equal, if not more, tenderness, love and care. The perception that precedes any male when it comes to parenting may well have become redundant now, or is it still the same? Are men likely to fare badly at parenting, or have they become more sensitive to the needs of children in a changed environment? In fact some would rather believe that they better than the mothers as well. So do men actually make better parents than women?
Mr A This question is quite a poser as there cannot be a perfect answer to it. All individuals
are different from one another and may respond or perform at different levels as per their individual capabilities. However, if a generalist idea has to be formed it would be so that women generally make the better parents as they have the innate maternal instincts that allow them to take the best care of their children. Women would have subconsciously built a bond with the child even before it is born. Carrying a child in the womb for nine month is sufficient for strong emotional ties to be formed that are beyond understanding of average human relationships. Nature has implanted the nurture and care automatically in women. Bringing up life in its first few years is extremely important and to ensure safety and survival the women are attuned intrinsically to this need. For the men this part might be the difficult bit. They are seen largely making valuable contributions in a child’s development after he/she has achieved control over bodily functions and has reached a certain level of comprehension.
Miss B Well, the normal perception would be that a woman definitely makes for a better
parent due to her instincts and her innate capabilities. However, there are certain ways in which a father or a male can contribute in the upbringing of children that women cannot do complete justice to. Men are generally rational and logic driven and decisions/choices and actions are based on sound reason. The way a father can allow a child to go all out and grow up would not be possible with mothers, who are more protective and would be daunted by the slightest crunch in the heart. Of course, the exceptions are always there but the go getting spirit, courage and fierce determination can be imparted very well by the male only. It is important as it makes the child more worldly wise and equipped with a skill that will not be taught in any school as a part of the curriculum.
Indeed this one is a tough call but I must admit that somewhere there is an initial advantage that lies with the woman. She is the one who is physically and mentally programmed naturally to do a better job of parenting. Women generally are more sensitive and attentive to even the smallest needs exhibited by the children. They are inherently good listeners, blessed with more patience to deal with hours of bawling. It can be very challenging to keep comforting little children as they are not able to express or communicate at times about what bothers, pains or frightens them. Mothers are usually patient at such time and are willing to put aside hours to calm and reassure them. The important part worth taking notice of is that the young years are really crucial in the formation of a self-confident and a secure individual. If the children are neglected and ignored, they are likely to shape up as insecure somewhere and no matter how much of inputs and care are given after they grow up, that deficit cannot be made up for. I personally think that women are more capable of adding this tremendous value to a child’s life.
Miss D Well, there may be a slight element of risk in generalising totally about who is
actually a better parent. My friends here have argued that women make better parents as they are innately programmed to be so. However, in the light of recent developments I would like to differ and cite the alternative point of view. The equations in today’s world are changing and the women are actively seeking employment and pursuing very challenging careers. Though the idea of motherhood is very fascinating, the actual process of bringing up a child can be very demanding. And here is where the male’s rational, organised and practical outlook counts. They can make it tick even in such a very demanding situation and hence men are capable of being better parents.
Mr A I would still say that there is no doubting the fact that mothers make better parents as
they are known to be more balanced, especially in crunch situations. If we were to take a neutral scenario where the financial pressure and the emotional mess of a broken household are absent, women are capable of dealing superbly with the task. Usually, the women are projected as emotional wrecks, poor decision makers and incapable of providing a secure future only in situations where they are not educated enough to go out and earn. Other than that, there are ample examples where independent single women have done a splendid job of parenting. I feel that the women are capable of a healthy left brain- right brain activity balance and create and nurture life adeptly.
Miss B I do agree that there are some very valuable skill sets that may be the exclusive
domain of women, but there is much that men may be capable of doing. Men are usually not known to be very expressive about their ideas or their feelings. They are more of the doers. The fact that I really appreciate about fathers is that they are capable of imparting many critical life lessons to their children without actually making them look like lessons. Children emulate their elders. A practical parent would teach the child to evaluate situations without really reacting at the drop of a hat. Men are good at controlling their emotions and by exhibiting more of the controlled reactions in crisis situations teach them calm, analytical approach. Then, there is the general conduct adopted toward the various people that instils etiquette, politeness and fist lessons in people skills. The other issue with the females is that even when the child has grown up, they may still be clinging on somewhere. Men will not be so edgy about letting go. I really feel that men are better parents as they are capable of a more hands off approach.
Miss D Well this has been one really tough call where each one has tried to shed light by
expressing their perspective. It comes across as a logical conclusion of this debate that the role of both man and woman is equally significant as parents and it is not necessarily so that women make better parents. Most women make good parents as they are better listeners and tend to be more attentive to one’s needs. Being more sensitive than males, women can forge a closer relationship with their children. Father is commonly seen as the rationalist, but this is not always true. Some fathers can make better parents than mothers; and this could be largely attributed to an individual’s personal upbringing, the childhood he or she experienced and the values that they believe in. If one has had a loving family unit and an environment that made him/her feel loved, it inspires a quite confidence and self-assurance which further gets translated into further parenting. Therefore, it is really immaterial as to whether men or women make better parents. Anyone, with a more mature and balanced outlook is likely to do a better job of parenting—being hands off when required and involved when desired.
Ragging: A Criminal Act?
Ragging was supposed to be harmless fun where students could mix and become friends with their seniors at educational institutes. In India it has taken an ugly face. Every year incidents are reported where students are beaten and killed by their seniors, many young people commit suicide than face the humiliation of ragging. And, for every case that is reported in the media, there are thousands of cases of making students do unspeakable things in the name of ragging. We question whether ragging should be treated like any other crime or whether it serves a useful purpose. Mr A The issue of ragging comes into limelight every academic year when some students either
commit suicide or are murdered in some college of higher learning in India. Mostly government institutes are named in ragging excesses cases. Our society has been unable to deal with the problem; apart from condemning the incidents every year, the government has not done anything. The present debate is whether ragging is another form of crime, but I feel that everyone should not be painted with the same brush. It is good fun to interact with new students and to make friends. If some people go overboard and commit crimes, they should be dealt with according to the law. But to ban ragging or to say that students who indulge in it are criminals, is going too far.
Mr B You may be right but facts do not match up to your statement that ragging is mere fun. Young
students have died. They have been stripped and made to do sexually degrading acts. I fail to see how these humiliating acts will result in any kind of friendship. On the contrary, young students may start disliking their studies. There have been cases where students have run away from their institutes or tried to kill themselves rather than spend days of being beaten or exploited. Unfortunately, only the murders and suicides get the attention of the media. If the daily humiliation was reported, we would realize the extent of this disease that has crept into education institutes. The problem seems to be severe in prestigious institutes like medical and engineering colleges, but even in other cities and small towns every group of senior students seems to take delight in the sadism they are able to inflict on helpless fresh students. Instead of making learning fun, these students, who are nothing short of goondas, ruin careers and lives. It is for this reason that we should be able to say that enough is enough, and that ragging is nothing but criminalisation.
Mr C You have a point there. Ragging is not recognized as a crime, even though it has serious
consequences. So students who indulge in it know that they can roam around scot-free despite committing the most heinous of crimes. Juniors suffer in silence because they are beaten up if they complain. In the highly improbable event of being caught, they are suspended for some time, or in the worst case, they might be expelled. So they go somewhere else and finish their education. These criminals go about their lives without any fear of punishment. Is it a surprise that our society is becoming more and more violent? When people fight on the streets, or when they beat up their families, or when policemen beat up suspects mercilessly, it is just because they were not punished for doing similar things in college. Our society is paying the price of letting people with sadist tendencies to go scot-free. I would say it is high time we put a stop to this. Ragging should be equated with crime.
Mr D Friends, you seem to forget that not all ragging is bad. In most cases we just have fun. People
open out and become confident. They are not scared of anything anymore. I would say that ragging should not be banned, since it helps in many ways. As seniors we see a lot of fresh students and there is no way of getting to know them. In many colleges where there is no ragging, students go about their studies and pass their three or four years without getting to know their seniors or their juniors. Through ragging we can make a lot of friends; at least we know who is doing what.
Mr E I am afraid that these are myths that are propagated to continue an evil practice of ragging.
No one makes friends by being subjected to sexual torture, or by being beaten up. Also, do not expect anything from the Supreme Court or the government, apart from strong statements. Ultimately the responsibility lies on the institute, and unfortunately, heads of institutes are busy protecting their own turf than bother about hostels. They have no idea what is going on in their own institutes. Even after a murder, the institute first tries to cover up, then denies responsibility. We have seen this happen wherever cases have been reported. As for the Supreme Court, how will it ensure that its directives are being heard in the states? Please remember that only extreme cases reach the Court’s notice. Can it ensure speedy justice for murders and sexual crimes before the senior students are released on bail and the case forgotten? I think these crimes require exemplary punishment but it is doubtful that the courts will ever do that. So young people will continue to suffer the indignities of going to college.
Mr A The problem exists, no doubt, and some demented students have given a bad name to ragging.
Beating up students or making them do degrading acts are certainly reprehensible, but let us not ban ragging altogether. More control is needed at the college level. Unfortunately, the teachers and the institute heads have failed to fulfil their duties. If only they are made accountable, such things might cease. So the idea is to control such incidents and I would say ragging should not be banned completely. Let the students indulge in their harmless fun. What is wrong with that?
Mr B Ragging is not harmless fun anymore. Let’s not deluge ourselves with this kind of logic. It is the
most harmful, the most devious form of criminality. When we gloss over these things, we are actually encouraging the criminalisation and brutalisation of society. This has to stop. Even a small ragging incident should be made punishable, in order to send a message to students that this is not OK. If you look at the report of the incident at Rajindra Prasad Medical College, you will see that these colleges are torture chambers. There is high degree of sadism involved. Yet, neither the colleges nor the government has done anything. The Supreme Court must take it upon itself to make ragging a nonbailable offence. We need to go further: students caught doing ragging of juniors should be debarred from further studies and sent to do social service.
Mr C You have a point there. I think that in the long term interests of society, we have to award very
strict punishment. Ragging arises because senior students are frustrated and they vent their frustrations on junior students. When they finish their education, they perpetuate the same system that causes frustration among young people. The brutal policeman, the bribe-seeking teacher, the corrupt bureaucrat, the husband who beats his wife, the father who demands sexual favours from his daughter —these are all manifestations of ragging behaviour. This vicious circle has to be broken somewhere and it should be broken at the college level. Let us send out a clear message that bullying the weak is not acceptable in our society.
Mr D Friends, we are all agreed that ragging is a menace that has to be stopped. Some students felt
that not all ragging is bad, but since it has taken a very ugly face, especially in government institutes, it is high time that we did something about it. When I read accounts of ragging on the Internet, I feel sad at the uncontrolled sadism that takes place in hostels. Students have written that they preferred to sleep outside on the drain-pipes rather than go back to their hostels; some students have written that ragging left them hating their studies. There are some instances of people dropping out of college rather than face the humiliation of ragging. We cannot just say that these are just fun things. The Supreme Court has done well in its strict directions about ragging. It should be backed by severe government action as well.
Politics of Development
The best way to inspire and involve the Indian youth in making India an upcoming economic power is for all political parties to engage themselves in politics of development. In your well-considered opinion what measures should be adopted to achieve the goal. Needless to reiterate and reaffirm that India needs politics of development rather than the politics of polemics and populism. More than ever before, both people and political parties should see to it that they work for harmony and not for acrimony among people professing different faiths and practising varied ways of conduct and character in their day to day lives. No other concern and consideration should weigh on the perceptions and priorities of politicians, programmers and planners, except those that enhance developmental activities in all walks of life and ultimately help improve quality of life of those subsisting at the lowest levels of our socio-economic ladder. It is time now that political parties of every hue and hype focused their manifestos, programmes and policies on developmental vision and pragmatic approach and action to achieve the goals of social justice. There is no denying that the most effective measure in this direction is the involvement of youth in developmental activities and a harmonious harnessing of their youthful energies and enthusiasm. For this to happen on the ground, we, as an upcoming nation, need to orient ourselves towards development, whether on farms or in factories, on technologies or service sectors, et al. In order to make the best use of resources, both human and natural, all political parties must converge on developmental politics, because without development we cannot hope to engage our youth in constructive and creative activities, nor can we envisage a situation in future when poverty would be a thing of the past. It is true that barring a few examples, we do not have many icons among our political parties. The youth needs role models that only politicians can provide, because they wield power and affect people and their proclivities in large measure. Political parties should visualise a situation in future where our burgeoning youth should see an imprint of great leaders in every action. It goes without saying that people’s ethos, values and character are crucial factors that determine whether the country will move forward on a progressive path or stagnate. The education system, along with many other channels and sources of knowledge, must concentrate on cultivating in every citizen a sense of eternal values, as well as instilling discipline among them. The media, too, as partner in national development, should celebrate the success of the people and become an invigorating instrument of inspiring the youth by highlighting the best and the most unique among those who shine like stars in the firmament of our political spectrum.
Development and Social Gaps
Some right thinking people feel that breakneck development in the name of liberalisation deepens social gaps. Express your views on the subject of development versus social disparities. Globalisation/liberalisation has given an unprecedented push to development, as a result of which the tempo of life has acquired both success and stress, incentives and impatience, achievements and angst. Besides these candid contradictions, research and development the world over has opened new vistas of opportunities in service sectors, travel and tourism, infrastructure and industry. The spread of a culture of emergency and the accelerated pace of development has increased the volatility of economics which, in turn, has led to deepening social gaps, thereby increasing social tensions and instability. Nearer home, the rise of naxalism in different parts of the country is a strong pointer to the disparities that fast-paced development has brought in its trail. For a developing country like India, it is not only the urban-rural divide and deepening social gaps that confront us, but we also have to cope with the sway of individualism over the binding force of a collectivist society. There is, and will be a decline in social values. It is feared that the ever-widening gulf between the haves and have-nots, knowledge and ignorance is bound to increase if development without social equity is preferred and promoted. Inequality and the feeling of being left behind and outside can be a seed to social conflicts and confrontation between the privileged and the deprived. No doubt, without development the multi-faceted problems of poverty, ignorance, disease, deprivation etc. cannot be tackled. But it is equally true that the fruits of development should reach those who need them the most.
State-funding of Elections
Some thinking people advocate State-funding of elections as one of the most effective measures to rid our electoral system of the scourge of money and muscle power. On the basis of your experience and knowledge, express your views on the proposition under deliberation. Despite occasional hiccups if the Indian democracy has acquired the image of a vigorous and vibrant form of government, it has also earned the sobriquet of money and muscle-driven democracy. Quite true and troubling description of our electoral process in some cases, the right thinking people and parties are of the strong opinion that State-funding of elections would go a long way in minimising the insidious influence of both money and muscle power in our otherwise quite fair and free conduct of elections. The extent to which money power has become the driving force in elections, it is not irrelevant and irreverent to say that most candidates with limited means at their disposal find themselves handicapped and victims of denial of level playing ground. This amounts to negation of equal opportunity to one and all, as far as elections are concerned. In order to overcome this obvious flaw and disadvantage, State-funding of elections is one way that should be fully explored and worked out. No doubt, State-funding of elections is one of the most immediate and urgent electoral reforms that are required to cleanse the system that has become money-centric. While the idea is good, there are some imponderables that may crop us during the course of raising funds by the Central and State governments, the distribution of such funds, whether in cash or kind, among a plethora of parties, both national as well as regional. It is too simplistic to assume that Statefunding of elections or more transparent flow of business money to political parties and politicians will eliminate the evil impact of money over elections. State-funding has also its limitations with multiple parties and candidates. Since the elections have become a very expensive affair, State-funding may not help much in arresting the rot that results from excessive flow of money expenditure that candidates tend to spend in the hope of making much more money or assets once they get elected. Even if the State-funding is only in kind, such as free supply of electoral/publicity material, diesel, petrol, vehicles etc., the expenses incurred by parties, friends, relatives of a candidate, may defeat the very intent and purpose of the proposition. But still, with all these apprehensions lurking, there is no harm in hammering out a way so that State-funding of elections gets a start, with the hope that the initiative would prove a healthy step in the right direction.
Reforming Criminal Judicial System
Suggest three effective measures to reform criminal judicial system in India. Based on experience, knowledge and ground realities, state how the steps suggested by you would prove effective indeed. In India ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ does not provoke as much rage and outrage among people as does the acquittal of those in high-profile criminal cases. In recent years, the high and influential accused have so managed and manipulated to get themselves acquitted that the people at large have begun to lose faith in the entire criminal judicial system. The words of warning from various quarters that the judicial system in India is almost on the verge of collapse, should send the right message to the powers-that-be to take immediate and corrective steps to stem the rot that has set in the system, before it is too late to mend the matters. Rightly, the letter and spirit of the entire legal system stresses on the fact that no innocent person should be punished for the crime that he or she has not committed. It is equally imperative that no accused or criminal should go scot-free simply on the technical ground of ‘benefit of doubt’. Since the Indian judicial system, especially the criminal system, has come under a cloud, both for delay and denial of justice to the victim/aggrieved, it is the crying need of the hour to reform the system without delay and dithering. The following measures, if adopted with due deliberations and discussion, would go a long way in strengthening people’s faith in the system and also help delivering justice that people expect from the courts. The impression that crime has become a low-risk, high-profit business these days can be effectively countered if the trial courts start looking into the loads of circumstantial evidence, rather than entirely depending on witnesses who tend to turn hostile and buckle under the weight/threat of money and muscle power. Recommendations of Justice Malimath Committee that dealt with the problem of hostile witnesses should be incorporated in the Evidence Act and Section 164 of Criminal Procedure Code. Another measure that can help set the distortions right is the separation of investigation agency from the law and order wing of the police. Since both need proper training in the modern techniques of crime detection and control, investigation and prosecution should be handled separately and the principle of accountability strictly followed. The Evidence Act needs to be amended in such a way that the onus of proving not guilty is shifted on the accused. It has been seen that wherever the onus of proof has been shifted on the accused, the results have been quite different. Separation of civil and criminal wings would not only cut delays in delivery of justice, but would also lead to greater specialisation and faster disposal.
Water is the elixir of life. With sources of water drying and depleting every passing day, it is time that we in India devised and developed some ways to conserve water, both for the present and future generations. You are invited to suggest some steps that can help save and conserve water. Nothing could be more true and telling than the fact that water is the elixir of life. Conservation of water is as much essential as preserving our flora and fauna and also protecting our heritage. With the highly disturbing reports of our water sources drying up or depleting in nature and nuance, it is time that we sat up and gave a serious thought and consideration to measures that could help save water and conserve it for use, both for the present and future generations. There is no denying that with the fast changing patterns of life, the demand for water is going to increase, both for domestic and non-domestic purposes. Unless some prompt and purposeful measures are taken to save and conserve water, the day would not be far away when we might be asked to face the music for want of adequate and regular supply of water, for domestic, agricultural, industrial and many other usages. The problem of depleting water sources is real and therefore the measures to meet the challenge should be equally robust and realistic. Knowledgeable people visualise the solution in traditional wisdom and modern technology. Just as the subject of environmental studies is being taught at different levels of school and college education, similarly the subject of water (how to avoid its wastage and conserve it) should be included in school curriculum. If students, in particular, and the public, in general, are made aware how to use water prudently and conserve every drop, we can face the dilemma of scarce water resources and increasing demand for this precious liquid. With modern technology at our disposal, waste-water from cities and industry should be recycled. A comprehensive water policy that addresses the issues related to water resources, water-table going down in certain States, crop pattern or diversification ensuring linkages with sectors like energy, forestry and agriculture, should be drawn up. Last but not least is the crying need to work in harmony with nature and give back what we take. After all the havoc that we have done to nature, the latter is still benign and bountiful. To make the best use of nature’s benevolence, all users of water in India are required to know that discretion is the better part of valour and prudence is the panacea for many a man-made mess.
Sharing Knowledge Globally
In the highly compact and complex world of today, sharing knowledge globally is the urgent need of the hour. Comment. With the most sophisticated means of communication and connectivity at our beck and call, it is but natural that today’s world has become a global village. With opportunities aplenty in the fields of travel and trade, commerce and industry, science and technology it is in the fitness of things that knowledge gained through legal and transparent channels is shared globally. Barring a few areas of national security and the matters related to national pride/prejudice, the sharing of knowledge to fight the scourges of terrorism, fundamentalism, natural calamities and diseases should become the telling tone and temper of our times. Ours is an age of convergence of ideas and information and if the contours and contents of cooperation and coordination keep on expanding to the advantage of one and all under the sun, the dream of having a world knowledge platform would become a ringing reality. The evolution of world knowledge platform would surely be a meeting place for science, technology, industry, management and marketing that, in turn, would enable joint design, development, cost effective production and ultimately marketing of knowledge in various domains. Such a scenario in future would not only accelerate and accentuate growth but also improve the human lot. In the years to come, the exploration of space can act as a motivator for natural collaboration between nations. The thrust into space will benefit the world’s next industrial revolution that will be triggered by missions of exploration of minerals as energy sources from planets and asteroids. All this and much more can be visualised and achieved, once the nations of the world voluntarily come on the world knowledge platform.
Preventing Custodial Torture
Suggest three effective measures to prevent custodial deaths in India. State how the steps suggested by you would bring about a qualitative change in the situation. The frequent occurrence-cum-reporting of custodial deaths and fake encounters is not only the negation of ‘rule of law’ but also a gross violation of human rights. In a democratic set-up like ours, it is a matter of shame and shock that law enforcers tend to become law-breakers and yet manage to go scot free. Having lived with this pernicious phenomenon for quite long, it is time that public conscience is stirred and law-makers rise to the occasion and think of some concrete and cogent measures to prevent such aberrations as cast a slur on the working of our lawenforcing agencies. If the powers-that-be mean business in this regard, there is no reason why the following steps should not bring about a qualitative change in the prevailing situation. It is imperative that investigating work be separated from policing, thus restoring the confidence of people in police force and its working. Things have gone wrong chiefly due to the combining of investigation with policing and giving a free hand to the police to extract confessional statements from the accused. The law governing the entire hierarchy of law-enforcing agencies needs to be changed because anything allowed to remain static for long loses its relevance and propriety. Instead of using force/torture to extract information (right or wrong) the police should adopt scientific methods. crimes are committed in all societies—both developed as well as developing. Whereas the most advanced countries resort to scientific methodology to gather information from the accused and his accomplices, here in India we are still using age-old and time-barred tricks and tactics. Custodial torture should be treated as a heinous crime and transparency should be brought into the working of police across the board. Law-enforcing agencies should ensure that all guidelines issued from time to time are adhered to while arresting and detaining an accused. The UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment should be given a serious thought by the powers-that-be.
Labour intensive industrialisation
In order to ensure that benefits of economic development reach one and all in India, labour-intensive industrialisation is the urgent need of the hour. Express your views on the subject. Despite the fact that Indian economy has been surging ahead and the GDP growth showing a steady rise over the years, the spectre of unemployment and imbalanced development among various regions still keeps staring us in the face. Unless the fruits of economic development reach one and all, there is every likelihood of the tremors of unrest erupting every now and then. Undoubtedly, we need credible policy solutions to reduce imbalances. Industrial development must spread to new regions so that the feeling of neglect and alienation among people living in the least developed areas of India is adequately addressed and pacified. The hold of ‘crony capitalism’ must yield to capitalism with social concerns. In the present economic-cum-market dispensation, industrialisation ought to be a winning process of social transformation, intensive employment and economic development. A developing country like India cannot afford to view industrialisation as a negative phenomenon. There are areas of concern, like displacement of persons, environmental damage and alienation of working class. These concerns must be dealt with and remedied before the situation gets out of hand. If our labour laws are inhibiting the growth of new ventures, they have to be suitably amended without harming the larger interests of workers, both skilled and unskilled. It should be clear to one and all that without labour-intensive industrialisation, there can be no lasting and meaningful solutions to the problems of unemployment. There is an urgent need to impress upon research institutions to come up with all possible solutions on how to prevent ‘crony capitalism’, inject greater competition in the industrial sector and tackle problems faced by domestic enterprise. All said and done, efforts are required to ensure that markets remain competitive by curtailing monopolistic practices.
Tackling Hunger Globally
Hunger is one of the indicators of the magnitude of social injustices that exist in the world. Its existence can be traced back very many years back. The French Revolution in the 18th Century was driven not only by demands for political freedom, but also by the lack of bread in Paris. Food has been the cause and effect of many riots occurring whenever government policies caused severe economic hardship and clashed with the basic human right to food. Tea was a non-edible food item that was used as a protest tool by a group of Boston citizens, to protest the British tax on tea imported to the colonies. The food crises around the world prompted the establishment of the World Food Programme. In addition, many other United Nations agencies have included hunger or food security in their work programmes. These include: The United Nations Children Education Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organisation and the different United Nations missions to war torn countries. The term ‘hunger’ is loosely defined and the meaning is often adapted to serve the purposes of those who may be experiencing it. For many, especially in affluent countries, hunger is the gnawing pain in the stomach when a meal is missed. On the other extreme, hunger is the physical depletion of those suffering from chronic under-nutrition. Hunger is, however, multi-dimensional, encompassing the emotional and political aspects of the society. It includes the anguish of a farmer faced with the choice of selling the produce from his farm, to pay rent for the land or feeding his family with the food. It involves the grief of watching in helplessness as loved ones die for breaking the practices and policies set by a handful of elites. Restrictions and laws are put in place to ensure that the poor and hungry are forced to provide their labour in exchange for low wages or small portions of food. In order to maintain the status quo, regulations are in place to reduce the chances of self-sufficiency for the poor. Even the Indian government’s schemes of rice and wheat at extremely subsidized rates is a no-go—either that grain finds its way to the black market or the quality is too poor to be consumed by any human being. Population growth has been believed to be the cause of hunger in some parts of the world, as there is pressure on the world’s limited resources. Thomas Malthus, an English economist, argued that population growth would inevitably outstrip the food and water supply at some point, since productive land and safe drinking water are finite resources. Mass starvation and anarchy would, therefore, be a consequence of a high rate of population growth. This belief and the problem of addressing the needs of a growing population led to drastic measures to reduce the rate of population growth. Hunger is a cause and effect of poverty. It is responsible for the debilitation of people physically, physiologically and psychologically. The most abundant asset available to the poor is labour, which could be used to earn a living. However, hunger means that this labour is ineffective, entrapping the poor in hunger and poverty. For the abjectly poor, the daily struggle of finding food for the family pushes aside any consideration of long-term development.
40 While modern technology and medical research have discovered many innovative ways of fighting many pests and diseases, famines has been a source of serious distress for many years. The pressure to feed the world’s population has resulted in the use of marginal, erosion-prone lands and deforestation. This makes the environment more prone to famine situations and the fertility of the land is undermined. Natural disasters are indiscriminate and affect the poor and rich alike. An option to the hunger in present day is to reconstruct agriculture to be more self-reliant and discourage specialization. Help from aid agencies has to be reduced by increasing self-reliance, for that is a long-term measure. The development of farm cooperatives should be encouraged to facilitate and support farming activities among farm workers and urban migrants wishing to return to their rural homes. Increasing the amount of arable land under cultivation can also enhance food security. Reduction or cancellation of debts owed by farmers would be an incentive for their increased contribution towards ensuring food security. The exploitation of farm workers and small farmers is mainly because of their inability to exact a fair price for their labour and the goods they produce in a monopoly-controlled market. No wonder the suicides have become a regular feature in the rural districts. Unless the work is taken up on a war footing across the world, we will be put to shame repeatedly by skeletal expressions of people in places like Somalia, Ethiopia, and closer home in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh etc.
Tradition and Modernity: Friends or Foes?
Modernity in the Indian sense is, in any case, a command from the West. India did not get enough time to develop an indigenous idea of modernity because of the intervention of colonialism. At the time of Independence, urban India had inherited a rather basic problem: this was a contradiction between imposed modernity and age-old traditional values. There were, as a consequence, three options for the average Indian urban man: whether to embrace the Western model of modernity; or to go back, if possible, to her traditional roots; or to try to create a synthesis between the two. It was colonial education that brought to us a historical understanding of our culture. Western education gained currency which taught us to value our past and it became fashionable to talk about our heritage—Jyotindra Jain, Former Director of Crafts Museum, New Delhi. Jean Baudrillard, a major theoretician of the European present, characterizes the present state of affairs, at least in the Western context, as “after the orgy”: the “orgy”, according to him, was the moment when modernity exploded upon us, the moment of liberation in every sphere— political liberation, sexual liberation, liberation of the forces of production, liberation of the forces of destruction, women’s liberation, liberation of unconscious drives, liberation of art. It was an orgy of the real, the rational, of criticism and of anti-criticism, of development and of the crisis of development. There has been an over-production now of objects, signs, messages, ideologies and satisfactions. When everything has been liberated, one can only simulate (reproduce) liberation, simulate the orgy, pretending to carry on in the same direction; accelerating without knowing we are accelerating in a void. The impact of technology is fast changing our everyday too: the major difference may be that we are not in the age “after the orgy”, for, our revolutions have not succeeded, but have aborted, got stopped midway, our utopia has taken an atavistic (reappearance of characteristic or quality not seen for many generations) turn, our Janus now has both its faces turned towards the past. Our struggles for emancipation—social, sexual, aesthetic—seem to have left us halfway, having failed to bring about a transformation that embraces all the layers of society. Nevertheless, tradition gives a sense of identity. There is an element of security in it; yet innovation is necessary to prevent stagnation and rot. Society must and will continue to innovate. Cultural exchange is the stuff out of which social processes are made. Traditional medicine, for example, was humane and modern medicine is merciless; traditional science had built in correctives, but modern science and technology is aggressively domineering; in tradition there was respect for plurality, but modern societies are self-consciously homogenising. Modern societies may breed fascists, but traditional ones had their share of Changez Khans too. True, modernity has got many emancipatory possibilities. But then, modernity is not free from its discontent—dislocation of the individual from the protective context of family-kinship ties, alienation from the communitarian ideal and loss of collective memory.
42 Perhaps, in matters of faith and fashions, it is neither the hard stands taken by both, nor the rigidity of their arguments that brings them nearer to each other. Just as all that meets the eye may not be the only reality, in the same vein, to assert with authority that tradition and modernity are incompatible is to rush in where even the angels would pause and ponder to tread. Seemingly, both tradition and modernisation look to be at loggerheads with each other, but on deeper analysis, one finds that even the most traditional/orthodox societies have prepared themselves, though reluctantly, to accept new realities which modernity has unfolded with an unprecedented speed. It is almost hypocritical to disown the advantages of modernisation in our daily perceptions and practices. Since no age or generation is fully static in thought and action, there are always some prudent persons who take on the untenable and anachronistic spell of traditions and prefer new ideas and concepts (that) are born out of the existing realities. For analytical/inquisitive minds, tradition is stagnant in nature and nuance and modernisation is consistent with change and challenge of times. If some knowledgeable persons opine that tradition and modernity are not friends, they are not much off the mark. To them tradition is a morass of beliefs and customs that refuse to liberate human minds from its stranglehold. On the contrary, modernisation is a process that tries to update men, minds and machines. Since the trio holds key to all material progress and prosperity, it is not unnatural that both tradition and modernity should live in a ‘love-hate’ relationship with each other.
In Search of Happiness
He who is conditioned by the modes of material nature is subjected to threefold material miseries due to forgetfulness of his relationship with Krsna.” —Bhagvad Gita After the fulfilment of the basic needs of food shelter and clothing, there is one quest that makes men take the various courses in life that they do. Day and night one aches for few and fleeting moments of happiness and contentment, that will brace them for going about the routine of life, which may not give them any joy. Such is the quest for happiness! And this big predicament has been pondered upon by the two sets of healers—the spiritual gurus and the scientists. The path of spirituality preaches the path of looking inward, and merging with the Almighty in thoughts, words and action, to achieve that supreme bliss. Religions tend to be methodical institutions of peace and happiness, by employing faith, meditation, mantra, prayer, yoga, etc., aimed at the present life, as well as the life beyond death. The scientists relate to physiological conditions, such as the release of serotonin, which is the feel good factor for the brain. There is also the effort in this way to reduce sorrow by finding cures to all kinds of maladies—that of the body and the mind. Sages like Samarth Ramdas have said that the more human beings yearn for happiness, the faster they are drawn into the web of sorrow. Some would argue that it could be done otherwise by involving oneself in the charitable works and dedicating oneself to the welfare of mankind. Upon looking closely one would find that even the most charitable works have a subtle selfishness underlying in them. The individual keeps giving in to the devious mind, that is ever on a lookout for ways to fend off even the slightest chances of pain. And it is because of the mind that the individual takes recourse to memories from the past, that has given him immense pleasure, and pines to live it up again. It races from one thing to the other, one hope to the other, and one possibility to the other—always in perpetual agitation, always trying. The search would only go on, but the spiritualists and scientists somehow almost agree to one method of arriving at a truly happy state, devoid of any illusions of happiness. This they concur can be found in a state of thoughtlessness and Pragnya—a Sanskrit word, meaning “ability of the brain to naturally experience the life”. Pragnya, or Grey Matter, is the highest state of the brain. It is even beyond the basic brain. One has to be aware that apart from the brain that we know, there is the psychic mind, our everyday “me” or self that we live with. It is not very difficult to understand that the memory of happiness is just a xerox copy of it, and that particular feeling cannot be relived the way it was, the intensity with which it was. For instance, one can photograph a beautiful occasion, but cannot feel or experience the beauty of it just by seeing the photograph. Thinking about it will only trigger the process of memory searching and once again the individual only can yearn to relive that experience. Since this happiness dwells in the memories, one only spirals down in hopelessness when they cannot be enjoyed when wished.
44 Life changes every moment (the human body ages with it) and so do the things attached with it. The definition of happiness, and for all other concepts and constructs for individuals, at various stages of life, is different. Happiness is not the only concept here. Some changes appear as losses, creating a feeling of sadness. There have been several methods devised for comforting this perturbed mind, but the effectiveness of these ways is suspect. The mind or “I” has been lusting for happiness for many ages. In every new body, it carries forwards the same desires and the illusion continues in each life. The inner happiness, on the other hand, is beyond the words. Thoughts cannot touch it. The first step towards this eternal happiness is through Pragnya. The mind can do only what it has learned. However quick the mind may be, it cannot speak the language it has not learned. Therefore, its limitations are bound with what it has been fed with. Mind has never actually seen the true happiness. It has only learned the word “happiness”. Therefore, the being cannot be criticized for running after the happiness that it has known. But for all the efforts, if it wants, it can arrive at thoughtlessness and experience a better state of happiness than can be dished out by material world.
Fast Life: Thrill or Thorn?
The present-day trends and tendencies on the part of individuals and nations hold the view that ‘speed and success’ are synonymous both in content and context. Opinions may differ among knowledgeable persons on the subject of ‘fast life, fast buck and fast food’. For some the hectic pace of life is heading towards a priceless possession, whereas for some it is a dubious drift towards perils or problems. Polemics apart, like nations, individuals too have to grasp the basic or rigorous reality that we live in a highly competitive world in which the rise or decline of individuals is determined by the rapid pace of speed with which they respond to new challenges and constantly changing circumstances. The ability to keep pace with the mobility and momentum of fast moving times, as also the determination to sweep aside odds and obstacles and press ahead with reform and restructuring is the key to success. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If today the requirements of combating forces inimical to progress and prosperity are urgent and pressing, so is the urgency to accelerate the tempo of our concepts and concrete actions. It is due to the rapid pace of life and other compulsions that we are obliged to win the race against time and adopt all possible means to rush help to those peoples who are in dire straits. Since there is no gain without pain, it is but natural that the more we exert to break previous records and accomplish targets, the more we suffer the ill effects of our burnt out energies. It is not only individuals who have benefited the most from rapid strides made on the pathbreaking parameters of ‘speed and success’, but the world as a whole has achieved unprecedented supremacy over ‘time and space’. The speed with which we can travel across the globe, and even probe space and other planets, is a telling tribute to the tone and temper of life that has adjusted itself so well with mind-boggling miracles brought about by ‘man, mind and machine’. Undoubtedly, speed offers thrill. The axiom ‘slow and steady wins the race’ has lost much of its relevance. The need of the hour is to steal a march over others, be they natural phenomena or human hindrances, and register success stories without delay. There is no denying that rapid pace of life has contributed a lot to progress and prosperity (that we see around) in patches and pouches. No other era stands out for its conspicuous contradictions and palpable paradoxes as ours. If there are path-breaking success stories, fully backed by race against time, there are innumerable instances of anger, angst and alienation staring us in the face. We are living in the best of times, as also in the worst of times. We are a living witness to enthralling, enchanting, delicious, delectable paradoxical ironies and ironical paradoxes. ‘Sky is the limit’ has become both a motive and a marvel. Passions and pursuits are directed toward tackling many a problem that confronts us. The state of helplessness in the face of colossal upheavals is a thing of the past. Targets and deadlines no longer pose serious challenges, because human beings, with their hearts in ‘proper place’ and minds in ‘meticulous mould’, have learnt to outsmart or outwit them.
46 To say or assert with authority that the spectrum of life is all colourful and there are no dark spots, is only half-true. The other half is littered with the fearsome findings of psychiatrists and psychologists, who see the emerging trends among the most successful and busy bodies highly disturbing. A thrill in senses and a thorn in flesh—this is how one can describe the curves and contours of the rapid pace of present-day life. Given the pressure of the work place and stiff deadlines and targets, health is not a priority at this level. Spondylitis, high blood pressure, and backache, ulcers that are directly related to stress, even a niggling cardiac problem, are worries that today’s baby boomers are grappling with. No doubt, the rewards offered for good work have gone up. So there is an urge to outperform others. There is certainly a trend for people who are at the top and financially comfortable to venture out into other unrelated areas, which they had missed out because of their hectic life style. There is a massive trend and is visible more and more. The lament: ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.’ —W.H.Davies is both timely and telling.
PAST IS NO PREDICTOR OF FUTURE
Readers will find this Essay useful in their preparations for Civil Services Exam and other similar UPSC and SSC exams. Like a triangle whose three angles are inextricably interlinked, so are the three periods of time —present, past and future—closely inter-connected. Events and eventualities, causes and consequences take place in the context or ambit of time and space, people and places. It may be a normal or natural activity to sift chaff from grain, but in case of time, past and future, the exercise may not prove fruitful because past is no predictor of future as we presume or understand it to be. Since no opinion or conclusion is final in nature and nuance, it is equally true that past is not the mirror that always reflects the future course of events, as some historians, sociologists or even scientists would like us to believe. Each age unfolds certain unforeseen eruptions of national, regional or even global dimensions, that makes all our calculations based on past go awfully awry. Making predictions about future is a risky business. Even an astute astrologer couches his ‘socalled’ predictions in a bag-full of ‘ifs and buts’. If human intelligence and intuition fail to predict in exact terms the future course of happenings in an individual’s life, how can an entity like ‘past’ make accurate or infallible forebodings about future that is always shrouded in uncertainties. Since the role of the past as a predictor of future cannot be ruled out outrightly, it is always prudent to take predictions with a pinch of salt. When natural calamities strike some part of a country or region, there may have been no indications or warnings in the past. The occurrence of earthquakes, their intensity, timing and location can seldom be predicted even though we may have a plethora of records, analyses and other scientific details about them. The way societies are undergoing transformations at neck-break speed is, however, a rebuttal of the assertion that past always foretells such varied choices and visible changes in social mores and modes of life and living. In the best or worst of times, past stands for memories, sour and sweet, and future for hopes and ambiguities, with the present acting as catalyst or bridge. The world over the majority holds the opinion that past is no soothsayer. Had it been so it would have predicted the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent developments affecting both the developed as well as the developing nations. No doubt, some broad hints of changes to come are always present in the layers of the past, but no definite shape of things to emerge in future is ever possible to forecast.
48 The question that stares in the face of each generation is: Does the past predict the future? The answer may be both Yes and No. Since all the three periods of time chase one another, there is every reason to agree (with quite a few reservations, of course) with the assumption that events of the past have a bearing on developments in future. Despite our claim and conviction that science and technology have nearly conquered and controlled the forces of nature, there still remains the element of surprise and shock that time delivers when we least expect it. The unfolding of some unforeseen events in future upholds the argument that ‘past is no predictor of future’. There is always some loose link between past and future but to invest the past with the powers of prediction is like misreading the significance of past viz-a-viz its relationship with future. Many a time, if not always, past proves to be the forerunner or precursor of future. That the League of Nations (after the World War I) was doomed to die was aptly— rather accurately—predicted by the past through its knowledgeable persons and credible critics. The prediction came true and thus past acquired the distinction of being a predictor of future, though for a brief period only. It goes to the credit of past that it contains enough evidence to help write and interpret history in an unbiased manner. In order to judge events in the right perspective, past is a reliable guide to take corrective, steps, if need be, to prepare the roadmap for future planning and programming. Through the warnings emanating from past, the contours of future can be set right. Although we resist the attempt (with sound reason) to label past as the predictor of future, yet we can learn a few useful lessons from the past and adjust our mental antennas for the future. There goes a saying that ‘history repeats itself’, sometimes as a farce and sometimes as a dark tragedy. When reason yields to rhetoric and discretion discards discourse or discussion, follies overwhelm and give undeserved credence to the belief that past repeats or predicts. In fact, the genesis of future happenings, like the outbreak of an armed conflict, some epidemic, drought or floods, and similar situation, lies somewhere between past and present. If future too is affected by the lengthening shadows of past acts of commission and omission, no one can help coming to the conclusion that past does shape and sharpen the events in future. It hardly matters, though, whether we call ‘past’ the predictor of ‘future’ or not, the future shape of things is generally cast in the womb of past.
Ideology or Technology?
The choice is not as baffling as Hamlet’s predicament: “to be or not to be.” If ideology means a set of ideas that form the basis of an economic or political theory, or that are held by a particular group or community, technology stands for scientific study and use of mechanical arts and applied sciences. Over a period of time, both ideology and technology have acquired a strong gravitational force that has rendered them more as combatants than as comrades-in-arm. To the unsuspecting or uncritical, progressive ideology may appear seriously dealing with issues like poverty, social inequality, deprivation, exploitation, et al and technology too may seem trying to grapple with human problems that hinder faster economic development, better means of communication and transport, improving quality of life and living conditions, updating the frontiers of knowledge, et al. If their aims are meant for human welfare, why is technology being preferred over ideology in the present world? The question is equally rigorous and relevant and calls for cool consideration and discreet discussion. In concept and complexion, ideology tends to become inflexible if new inputs are not allowed to revitalise and rejuvenate its contents and contours. Technology, though flexible and forward-looking, is also subject to becoming a terrible tool of death and destruction in the hands of evil. Since technology has managed to occupy the centre stage of the world, and rightly so, any conflict or competition between ideology and technology is not only untimely but also untenable. There is no denying the fact that technology has acquired the power and potential to turn and twist our senses and sensibilities. It is the practical application of technology that determines its pivotal place in our concerns and calculations. Although humankind desperately needs the three paramount pillars of Gandhian thought and practice— Truth, Ahimsa and Goodness— yet it is the fast tempo of life, coupled with worldly success and a candid control over time and space, that stands out as something tangible and telling as compared to abstractions. The question that needs to stir our conscience should be: Can we afford to abandon our concern for socio-political causes and commitments to human values that lend meaning, motive and mission to our perceptions and practices? Has ideology become irrelevant and irrational in the deluge that science and technology has unleashed? No doubt, technology is on the march to attain more and more milestones. But technology devoid of political philosophy, economic egalitarianism and social justice for all is fraught with dangerous dimensions. A world where only technology matters is likely to become as perilous as a single track mind obsessed with fantasies bordering on phantoms. There is near unanimity on the view held the world over that technology unites people, irrespective of their colour or creed, whereas ideology divides them and puts them in watertight compartments. The memories of ‘Concentration Camps’, ‘Gas Chambers’ and other forms of genocide associated with ideologies like Fascism, Nazism, Marxism and the like are too chilling and blood curdling to be easily erased from mental screens. Equally unnerving and unsettling are the events and their consequences that were the direct outcome or fallout of the holocaust let loose by nuclear technology mindlessly employed during the closing years of World War II (1945). The division of the world in two power blocs, and the traumas of Cold War —all in the name of ideology—is too fresh an irritant that none in his/her senses would ever wish their repetition.
50 Technology is indispensable in whatever age we may be living. Equally important is the place of socio-economic/political system that assures the benefits of progress reaching the last person under the sun. Generally, when we talk of ideology, we seem to discuss some philosophy that is retrograde, but when we eulogise technology, we appear to swim with the current. If technology promises the best now, ideology holds the promise of the best to be in future. In fact, technology has been called a great social leveller. What ideology fails to achieve and fulfil, technology does without much pride and prejudice. With the spread of liberal education, and cross migration of people from one region to the other, it has become literally impossible for the die-hards to resist the vibrant influences that technology has imprinted on human psyche. For the paradigms of ideology, that purport to promote social services like education, health care, potable water, houses, employment, etc for all, it better join hands with the ever expanding horizons of technology and thus play the role of an interlocutor. Instead of being at loggerheads, both humane ideology and towering technology can work hand in glove with each other.
Life is Action, not Contemplation
The end of man, said Carlyle long ago, is action and not thought, though it be of the noblest. Is it not logical, after all, that what man knows or thinks to be right should find expression in what he actually does? If we go on thinking and contemplating about the rights and wrongs of a particular course of action and do nothing practical, we might earn the reputation of being ivory-tower philosophers, and that would be all. Total absorption with the thought processes, and continual weighing in mind of the pros and cons of a concrete step or manifestation would bring little gain; it would be very much like a vain search for the truth in a vacuum. Such a search is characteristic of saints and sages; it would ill-become the citizens of today who have to fulfil a host of duties and responsibilities. In modern life, man lives by actions, not by ideas, though thoughtless actions often prove dangerous and even disastrous. In the ultimate analysis, mere contemplation signifies indolence, while activity indicates life and speed, both of which ensure gains. In the divine account-books, Mahatma Gandhi warned us, only our actions are noted, not what we have read or what we have spoken or thought of. Man’s actions are the best interpreters of his thoughts; nothing else can be a sure index. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, eminent thinker and also, by common consent, a man of action, knew very well the near-fatal weakness of the Indian people. “Our chief defect”, he said, “is that we are more given to talking about things than to doing them.” Even though we are quite familiar with the theory of Karma, we are prone to believe that our destiny is already ordained, and written in our “kismet”. There are countless people in this country who just lie low, waiting for something to happen and also waiting for someone to give them food and succour. They believe that since they are also God’s creatures, the Almighty Himself would provide them the various means of subsistence. But they get a rude shock when they starve day after day and find that they have to fend for themselves, to do whatever they can and leave the rest to God. There are also those who are so indolent as to leave even the thinking to other people. Such people indulge in even greater self-deception. The author of the dictum “Life is action, not contemplation” was no less a person than Goethe himself. He was known to be a great dreamer and thinker, but he also realised that it is action alone that can lead to a nation’s salvation. Apparently, he was thinking of contemplation in the narrow sense and action in the broad sense. He was reproaching the dreamers and idlers who do nothing and are a burden to society. In India we have the theory of action called the Karma Yoga. This theory, however, does not exclude fruitful contemplation. It disapproves of only such contemplation as leads nowhere, and merely promotes lethargy and inaction. Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, provided an excellent example of a thinker who indulged constantly in the game of ideas and ideologies; he put across certain beliefs and theories and he was convinced that ideas move and transform the world. While great philosophers, after prolonged periods of meditation and contemplation, impart ideas to mankind, those who put such ideas into action are equally great men. It is also well to remember that some ideas may appear fanciful and impracticable initially, but in course of time they lead to marvellous inventions which relieve human misery and distress on a wide scale. There is the classic example of Newton who gazed at the stars and the sky so often and so persistently that people
52 thought he was crazy and a drudge. But it was his endless contemplation that gave to the world the theory of gravity and other invaluable discoveries that changed the outlook of mankind and made it more scientific minded. No less significant have been the sudden flashes of thought in the minds of geniuses that have led to concrete manifestation. Archimedes of Syracuse discovered the principle of weight and displacement of water when he was lying in his bath-tub. So excited was he on finding a solution to the complex problem that he ran into the streets naked and shouting “Eureka” (I have found it!). Similarly, India’s famous scientist Sir C.V. Raman is said to have made his greatest invention when he was having rest on a sea-beach. His mind had been preoccupied with a certain process and it was again a sudden thought, a flash of lightning as it were, that indicated the solution, much to the benefit of humanity. Whenever anyone deplores the habit of endless thinking, without translating most such thoughts into action, one is reminded of the classic example of Hamlet who was constantly contemplating action but was so engrossed in his thoughts that he lost several opportunities of taking concrete action, by way of revenge on the wrong doer, and then he regretted his lethargy. When he did act, it was too late and he actually lost his life. All this made Shakespeare’s Hamlet a great and highly effective tragedy of an aggrieved hero who thought much but did little. It is not contended that thinking is not necessary or a dispensable habit. In fact, thoughtless actions often prove troublesome and may even lead to disaster. If we act hastily and thoughtlessly, we generally have to repent at leisure. So, well-thought-out actions are any day preferable to hasty deeds, but care has to be taken that action is not unduly delayed on the pretence that we must carefully think and consider the desirability of an action before taking it. Contemplation and action are in effect inseparable in a normal and rational human being. Besides, even for simple living there has to be high thinking. In his world-famous play “As You Like It”, Shakespeare wrote: All the world is a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exists and their entrances; The Acts being seven ages. We have to also examine another aspect of this question—good acts and bad acts, which are preceded in turn by good thoughts and evil thoughts. If human thoughts are evil in nature and designed to harm or destroy others, the consequent actions will also be wholly undesirable and uncalled for. Melancholy thoughts and general pessimism do not lead to beneficial actions. It was the generally pessimistic and gloomy outlook that prompted such sad thoughts in Hamlet’s mind: “The earth seems to me a sterile promontory....this majestic roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.” In a fit of despair, Hamlet even described Man as “the quintessence of dust”. A jaundiced eye, it is said, can never see the brighter side of things. So people who think constantly of the seamy side will always be sad and gloomy; what is worse, they can never become men of action. Gloomy thoughts shut out all views of joy and happiness in human life and also of all virtues of man. So, at times they prompt men and women to kick the bucket to get rid of everything, in the totally erroneous belief that they can find happiness in the next
53 world. If they had acted, they would have found relief, not only in creation but also in relieving boredom and promoting happiness around them. As to the question who deserves the greater credit for the progress of the world—the thinkers or the men of action—it all depends upon what the thoughts and actions were. But generally it would be fair to give the credit to both, and in more or less equal measures. All earnest thinkers deserve veneration. It is true that thoughts and contemplation show the way and open up vast possibilities for the welfare of mankind, but unless there is concrete action, there can be no additions to practical knowledge or to human achievement. Both thinkers and actors have their due roles to play; the point is that unless there are concrete actions, thinking processes serve little purpose. So Goethe’s dictum is no more than a half-truth. In sum, action has to be there in all walks of life but it cannot be divorced from thought; it should rather flow from it as if in a logical sequence. The urge to action and the desire to experience life through action influences the thoughts and activity of all men who make a mark in life. Abstract thinking not followed by concrete manifestation naturally proves barren. So the greatest satisfaction to man comes through a happy and fruitful synthesis of thought and action.
Promotion of Sports: A Social Necessity
The importance of sports and games is being increasingly recognised in India from both the educational and social points of view. More and more funds are being allocated for encouraging sports in schools, colleges and universities; in fact, sports have become an essential part of the curricula. Time was when only a few students who were fond of certain games, like hockey, football, cricket or tennis, were allowed special facilities. But now regular programmes are drawn up in all educational institutions to persuade as many students as possible, regardless of special aptitudes, to participate in games and not merely watch matches occasionally to cheer up their favourite teams and attend the prize distribution functions at the end of a sports season. Educationalists and others have come to the conclusion that it is in the interest of society as a whole that adequate facilities should be provided, depending of course upon the availability of funds, for games and sports for the country’s youth, both boys and girls. Sports foster friendship and amity. Nor does the belief hold good any more that those who take part in sports or games would be no good at studies and that each year their absence from the class or shortage of lectures would be condoned because they can either attend to their studies or be on the playing field for some game or the other. It is felt that apart from some exceptional cases of students showing extraordinary talent and skill in certain games, or students who are expected to be high on the merit list in university examinations, most other students should play one game or other, not necessarily for achieving distinctions but for the sake of sport. Several factors need to be taken into account in this connection. First, physical fitness is of the utmost importance for everyone, young and old. Participation in games and sports invariably ensures good health, fitness and, generally, freedom from ailments of various types which find easy victims among people who take no physical exercise and are either lazy, indolent or deskbound or are book worms and keep studying all the time under the mistaken concept that they can win success in life by studying all the time and concentrating on the development of their mental faculties. They feel convinced that brains matter, not brawn, that spending hours on the play-field is a waste of time. But such students, sooner or later, find that unless the human body is kept in smooth trim and in an overall fit condition, even the brain will refuse to cooperate after some time. Actually, physical fitness is essential for proficiency in studies and for winning distinctions in examinations. Ailing bodies do not make for sharp brains. Exercise in some form or another is necessary, and sports provide an easy method to ensure such fitness. Secondly, regular participation in sports provides a healthy channel for diversion of energies. Wherever students and other youth participate in sports regularly ensure constructive sublimation, misdirection of youthful vigour is much less and the tendency to indulge in indiscipline and mischief, disruptive activity of various kinds is curbed. Young people have surplus energy, and if this is fruitfully utilised, the foundations are laid for a healthy society where people are fully aware of the need for discipline, co-operative effort, team spirit, the cult of sportsmanship, of joint devotion to the achievement of a common goal in collaboration with others. They also learn to cultivate the vital quality of learning how to work together, to become not only good winners but also good losers. Both sides playing a game cannot win simultaneously and ups and downs are common.
55 The losers must learn to take their defeat sportingly. The right spirit can be learnt on the playgrounds. There is no point in bearing a grudge against the rivals; today’s losers can be tomorrow’s winners, as in society in general and the political arena in particular. Thirdly, the statement that ‘‘the battle of Waterloo was won on the play-fields of Eton’’, implying that playing games and the spirit of sportsmanship help to inculcate lasting values which make for good soldiers, good fighters and good discipline, apart from promoting 100 per cent physical fitness. In British schools and colleges the fullest importance is given to sports, especially cricket and football. The result has been the creation of a healthy, well-developed, disciplined and efficient society in which people know the right proportions in life, put everything in the right perspective and seldom conduct themselves in an unsporting, ungentlemanly and unbecoming manner. Playing the game on the playground naturally instructs people to play the game of life in the right spirit, which is what matters most, not victory or defeat. According to sociologists, society gains in many ways when the government encourages sports and games everywhere, provides playgrounds, the necessary equipment and other facilities, rewards outstanding sportsmen so as to encourage others also to play games. The crime graph dips, which means that the incidence of general crimes decreases because the right spirit and the right approach to things is developed on the playground. Sport, it has been said, is not only a manifestation of animal energy of surplus strength to develop more strength; it is, in addition, a safe and wholesome outlet for the aggressive spirit in human beings. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines play thus: ‘‘to move about in lively or unrestrained or capricious manner, frisk, flutter.’’ This definition, however, also conveys a wrong concept and a misleading interpretation. In genuine sports there is no question of a ‘‘capricious manner’’; the aim is to play the game in a fair manner according to the prescribed rules of which every player is supposed to be fully aware. Those who violate the rules, play foul or exceed the permissible limits, or indulge in tactics that are unfair, are promptly pulled up by the referee or the umpire. Anyone who refuses to mend his ways or to repeatedly violate the rules is ordered to quit the field and is replaced by another player. This helps to inculcate the habit of respecting the judge and of observing the rules. Obviously, society as a whole stands to benefit if its members play the game according to the prescribed rules, which means the laws and regulations, and does not flout them. Those who flout the law and become anti-social elements are hauled up by the forces responsible for maintaining law and order. The executive authorities enforce the laws and the judiciary punishes those whose guilt is duly established. Sportsmen generally tend to become good citizens, and society is thus the ultimate beneficiary. While most people concede the importance of sports in a healthy society and under a good government, there has also been much criticism, which is fully justified, too, about the craze, enthusiasm and fervour displayed by people of all ages, especially the country’s youth (except the sober elders and duty-conscious officers and employees), whenever cricket Test matches are being played in India or abroad and wherever India is one of the participants. Work virtually comes to a stop in offices, factories, schools and colleges. Everyone starts listening to cricket commentaries, forget their work and duty, in effect lose themselves mentally in the process; all their attention is concentrated on the ball-by-ball Test commentaries. At wayside
56 shops, in trains and buses, on ships and in aircraft, it is the same story during the cricket season—people attentively listening to radio commentaries or watching the cricket matches on TV. Surely this is not what we mean by sport and sportsmanship. The right description for this habit is ‘‘craze’’. It does not develop any of the values which sports and games inculcate—discipline and playing the game in the right spirit. Tennis, hockey and football are more vigorous games, and a match is over in about an hour. Watching such games is understandable and should be encouraged but cricket Tests last for five or six days each, and the waste of time of the general public who listen to the commentaries from morning to late afternoon can be well imagined. Some observers have contended that there is a close link between sports and a country’s industrial development and the general progress of society. That is why it is contended, most of the gold medals at the Olympics are bagged by advanced countries such as the USA, Russia and Germany, and Britain too manages to bag a few of them. Of the eastern countries, China and Japan plunder most of the gold and silver medals. Is there a link also between performance in sports and a country’s military might? Militarily China is the most powerful country in the East, but Japan, which matches the USA in industrial, especially electronic, advancement, does well in sports despite its small size. India is a large country of continental size, and given the proper incentives and the necessary facilities, this country’s sportsmen should do well on the sports field, but whether it is the climatic factor, the lack of adequate nutrition and of incentives, our sportsmen do not compare favourably with those of the USA, Russia, Germany and Australia. In any case, the relatively poor show of our athletes in international competitions does not weaken the case for encouraging sports which help to lay the foundations of a healthy, sound society. The cost is returned several-fold.
Technology—Bane or Boon?
he overt observation of some knowledgeable persons who passionately feel concerned for the welfare of humanity, in the wake of scientific strides and technological triumphs, laments that “technology creates more problems than it solves”. Their concern echoes the similar sentiments of thinkers like J.G.Ballard for whom, “technology dictates the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages or we remain mute”, and for Omar Bradley “our technology has already outstripped our ability to control it”. Despite these jarring notes, technology has acquired a halo that is almost impossible to shake off. Who can deny the robust role and range of technology that we experience in our every day life. If we care to look at the scintillating side of technology, we find space technology and its applications provide useful data for natural disaster monitoring, solving environment problems, improve telecommunications and provide other basic services. Through fax, e-Mail and the Internet, information technology has outstripped all barriers that time and space had placed in man’s search for instant information. Though electronic information is hard to control, yet the individual newsgatherer is visible and vulnerable. The latest in the success story is the likely boom that bio-technology promises to unfold in the years to come. Rightly, biotechnology is being seen by scientists and entrepreneurs alike as the next big thing with the potential to revolutionise the fields of agriculture, health and medicine. The promises are many: diseaseresistant and high-yield crops that could solve the world’s food problems; new medicines and drug delivery systems to cure diseases and prevent genetically inherited disorders; and new enzymes that make industrial production more efficient and cost-effective. For ages the axiom, nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so, was the golden rule that moulded human perceptions and concrete actions. With the advent of science and technology, and their subsequent sway over human ideas, intuitions and ideologies, it is now ‘the use or abuse’ of technology that renders it either a blessing or a bane for humanity that lives and survives on the ever- spreading tentacles of technology. In short, it is the technology that rules the roost now and keeps its ambience alive all the time in various manifestations. With the frontiers of technology influencing all aspects of life, both in terms of time and space, it is anybody’s guess as to what the future holds in store for humanity, that has become so enamoured of technology. If the past is any guide, one can learn a lot from the happenings of the 20th century, that used and abused scientific and technological achievements for increasing physical comforts and living standards, as also for fighting the two world wars, resorting to nuclear bombing and land mines and other means of mass deaths and destruction, dislocation of millions resulting in untold misery and suffering. In the face of so much good that we expect from science and technology, scientist warn that if we do not change our ways, our civilisation is not likely to survive.
58 Man’s greed, aided and abetted by science and technology, has already over-exploited and abused the earth’s material resources and destroyed its ecosystems. Forests are vanishing and there is increased desertification, the seas and oceans are stained with death because of the poisons that we have poured into them. We have even polluted the rain with poisonous smoke from our industrial chimneys. We have not only raped the soil and denigrated the ecosystems, but also lost touch with our inner self. There is no denying that our cares and concerns are being controlled by technology, in its various forms and facets. Whether in company or in solitude, technology has come to occupy a pivotal place in our day to day life. If the despots use it to perpetuate their repressive rule, the terrorists have employed it to explode symbols of progress. With no end to man’s rapacious nature in sight, technology has become a hand-maiden of unscrupulous exploiters of natural resources and immoral traders of wild life species. Technology as it reigns supreme over our intellect and imagination, is redefining human relations. In a bid to hit the jackpot, or make a quick buck, the individual has lost his identity and, in the bargain, has fallen an easy prey to alienation and estrangement. Smarting under physical fatigue and mental stress, he has become a victim of the phenomenon of being an “outsider” among his own people. Despite a host of benefits that technology has conferred on us in varying degrees, the onslaught of anger and angst is very much conspicuous. If today we are scared of some impending disaster, it is because technology has given such powers to individuals and groups which even the demons or deities of mythology did not enjoy. We are standing at the threshold where technology as a source of boon or brazenness is staring in our face. In moments of introspection, we must bear in mind what Aldous Huxley had said: “technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards”.
Influence of Advertising on Daily Life
The half-truth is the essence of advertising. —Nicholas Samstag The impact of advertising is a matter of continuous debate. For and against claims about advertisement have been made in different contexts. Cigarette manufacturers have been claiming that cigarette advertising does not encourage smoking and their eventually successful opponents just the opposite. Children under the age of four may be unable to distinguish advertising from other television programs, as the faculty to judge a message develops on attaining adolescence. There is, however, no doubt that Advertisement-loaded media do influence our daily lives. Marshall McLuhan, media thinker and philosopher of the electronic age, in his Understanding Media observes: “The continuous pressure is to create ads more and more in the image of audience motives and desires. The product matters less as the audience participation increases.” An observant netizen has culled a few nuggets from the currently popular television advertisements that tellingly illustrate McLuhan’s point: Before going to propose to a girl Believe in the best—BPL. Proposing to a girl Vicks ki goli lo kich kich door karo—Vicks. For writing a love letter Likho script apna apna—Rotomac. If you love someone Go get it—Visa power. Not satisfied with your date Yeh dil mangey more—Pepsi. Have many girl friends The Complete Man—Raymonds. Having many boyfriends Yeh hai hamara suraksha chakra—Colgate. Advertising promotes consumerism and encourages mass production. Some advertising campaigns inadvertently or even intentionally propagate sexism, racism, and ageism. Is the advertisement industry creating or merely reflecting cultural trends? Advertising often reinforces stereotypes as it banks on recognizable “types” for telling stories in a single image or 30-second time frame. The public perception of advertising is getting increasingly negative. It is accused of dishing out half-truths and hoodwinking the consumer to benefit the advertiser or Big Business. Realizing the social impact of advertising, Media Watch educates consumers about registering their concerns with advertisers and regulators.
60 Advertisement sustains the media [newspapers, televisions, internet, e-mail, telephone] and the media impact on our daily lives. They are full of advertisements. One has to search for the news in the ‘national’ dailies. They justify advertisements as newsreaders can use. From morning till late night, men, women and children have to bear a blitz of advertisement. Our tastes, our habits, our clothes, modes of travel, entertainment, our choices of schools, colleges, universities, leave aside products, get decided by advertisements. Our hopes and frustrations too are ordained by advertisement. The electronic society is losing touch with reality, as did the industrial society with nature. We now live, not in a real but virtual world. We care more for the photograph than the face before us. Perhaps the most pernicious effect of advertisements is on middle-class children and their relations with parents. Some of them have become “couch potatoes”, watching too much television, and unavoidably, too many advertisements. Craze for fatty, fast foods among boys and girls is due to advertisements. This is affecting children’s health and growth. Working couples do not have time and give hefty pocket money to please their children who spend on chips and candies, spoiling their teeth and digestive system. Advertisers make viewer/consumer believe that their product will make them achieve goals or fulfil desires. They are commercializing our festivals, religious practices, sports and cultural events. Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Gurparb, all have been tuned into commercial displays of saleable goods, bought, at times, beyond means. There is also a brighter side. Advertising is a powerful tool capable of motivating large audiences to participate in campaigns against disease, poverty and war. Power of advertising is overwhelming. It may not brainwash overnight. It will change you subtly, but surely. It has the power to prevail. Our daily living is tightly in the ad grip!
Prosperity Through Environment
Protection of the environment in all its forms has been receiving much public attention at domestic and international forums. The question is by no means new but it has acquired much greater urgency than ever before because of the ceaseless pollution of the atmosphere, the reckless destruction of the multi-faceted gifts of Nature by thoughtless human beings. Among the offenders are people who are, or should be, aware of the folly of their deeds and the irreparable damage they are doing to the safety and prosperity of mankind, the present and the future generations. Hence the environmentalists' clarion call. Human existence depends upon the environment. Few persons would now question the statement that we have been poisoning or destroying valuable resources on earth (including water) and also in the air—all in the name of economic development. In fact, development, expansion and growth are the key slogans in the modern world; nothing else seems to matter. Senseless poisoning is proceeding with unbelievable speed. While genocide rightly receives severe condemnation, ‘‘ecoside’’—ruthless murder of the environment—has only recently become a cognisable offence. After all, it is the biosphere, that is, the air and water encasing the earth, besides the green cover and the wildlife, that sustain life on this planet. In chemical terms, it is the mixture and fine balance of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapour that is vital for life. These are operated and maintained by multiple biological processes. For centuries man took for granted that the bounties of Nature were inexhaustible and that the resources get renewed automatically. Both these assumptions have lately been proved wrong. The struggle now is for adequate renewal of such resources as man has to use every day, and also for preservation and protection of as many resources as possible. Attempts are being made to check the reckless destruction of precious environment. Scientists have warned that mankind might have to return to the much-dreaded ‘‘ice age’’ if the reckless destruction of trees, other greenery and natural resources continues at the pace associated with ‘‘modern’’ progress, especially in industry. A look-back in this regard would be helpful. Oddly enough, it was only in 1972 that the first systematic international effort was made to take stock of the situation and plan adequate steps to counter the process of destruction. The step was the UN Conference on Environment held in Sweden. The conference was poorly attended, for political and other reasons. Then came the UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements in 1975 in Vancouver and the UN Desertification Conference in Nairobi in 1977 to check the ruinous growth of deserts. But in many ways the year 1990 marked a specific advance in the programmes for saving mankind from disaster. The occasion marked recognition of the basic fact that the environmentalists are fighting for the concept of sustainable progress with the belief that environment and development are not opposite poles. In this connection, the observation of the Brundtland Commission (in its report published in 1987) was recalled. The commission said: ‘‘Economy is not just about the production of wealth, and ecology is not just about the protection of Nature; they are both equally relevant for improving the lot of mankind.’’
62 The Montreal Protocol was very much in the news in 1990. The aim of the Protocol is to save the precious ozone layer from chemical damage. All enlightened countries now concede that destruction of the ozone layer will have serious consequences on human, animal and plant life. There is no denying that the major culprits in causing pollution and damaging the ozone layer are the developed countries. These countries have benefited all through the years by using cheap CFCs and have harmed the global environment. If they want the developing countries to restrain themselves from following the same course, they should assist them. Though the developing countries produce only a small proportion of the world output of CFCs, they require massive assistance to switch over to new technologies and to less harmful substitutes. Therefore, a large fund is needed. The Government of India’s growing concern over this problem is obvious from the establishment of a department and Ministry for Environment and the series of laws passed to check the practices that endanger the environment. Among these are: The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Water (Pollution and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Environment (Protection) Act, May 1986, the Forests (Conservation) Act, 1980, the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which has been frequently amended to make it more effective. Besides, there is a full-fledged national forest policy, several programmes and projects to conserve the environment and check the destructive practices. There have been many social conflicts over the issue of natural resources in India. The controversies over the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Narmada Project are among the outstanding examples. Competing claims and Inter-State disputes over water and forests are quite common. As in the case of land disputes, the controversies over the natural resources involve vested interests. There are, in many cases, unequal antagonists; several agrarian conflicts have ecological roots. The grave consequences of some of the dam construction projects have been highlighted by the numerous agitations carried on by voluntary agencies and courageous individuals. The Chipko movement started by the brave Sunderlal Bahugana to save the Garhwal forests won well-deserved international recognition. The social good has to be weighed against individual benefit and a rational balance needs to be struck. The writing on the wall is clear. If the present generation fails to preserve and protect Nature’s bounty, the coming generations will hold us guilty of betraying an invaluable trust. But in their excessive zeal the environmentalists ignore a vital aspect. India needs more foodgrains, more water, more electricity, more industries for manufacturing and finishing goods for domestic consumption and exports—all for the social good. Dams over rivers and construction of large power houses to harness energy sources enable the economy to flourish. These amenities can be made available only by sacrificing some of the greenery. If the building of large dams is to be halted in response to the environmentalists' agitations, where are the additional foodgrains, irrigation facilities and uninterrupted power for industry to come from?
Economic Reforms in India The economic reforms
or liberalization in India mark a shift from socialist economy to a market economy. Initiated by the then Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, their immediate cause was a foreign exchange crisis during Chandrashekhar government when India had to sell its gold reserves. Reforms ended the Licence Raj (investment, industrial and import licensing) and several public monopolies. The UF government brought a budget that encouraged reforms but the 1997 Asian financial meltdown and political instability caused economic stagnation. The Vajpayee administration continued with privatization, reduced taxes, introduced a firm fiscal policy aimed at lessening deficits and debts and enhanced initiatives for public works. India under Nehru and Congress followed the Soviet model of planned economy to rid India of the exploitive colonial British economic policy and its vestiges after independence. Five-Year Plans achieved much but also led to heavy centralization, inefficient State capitalism, State monopolies in mining, machine tools, water, telecommunications, insurance, and electrical plants. The so-called Hindu rate of growth became a joke as India stagnated at 3.5% from 1950s to 1980s, while per capita income averaged 1.3%, even as Pakistan grew by 8%, Indonesia by 9%, Thailand by 9%, South Korea by 10% and in Taiwan by 12%. Today, the private sector has become an active participant in the telecommunications sector. Insurance has been opened to private investors, both domestic and foreign. The economy has grown at more than 6 per cent, coupled with full macroeconomic stability. The rate of inflation is once again coming down after spiralling alarmingly. Rising incomes have helped reduce poverty. According to official figures, the proportion of poor in total population has declined from 40 per cent in 1993-1994 to 26 per cent in 2000. Most importantly, the attitude toward reforms has changed. Virtually every political party today recognizes the need for continued reforms. Though slow pace of reforms is credited with India’s firm fundamentals and weathering the shock of global economic depression, yet all is not well with India’s reforms and the fiscal deficit remains in doldrums. The combined deficit at the Centre and States exceeds 10 per cent of GDP. This deficit is unsustainable; it is also crowding out private investment. Infrastructure like roads, railways and ports all need expansion. Improvement in quality of service and delivery systems is a must. The government has recently started building roads, but the pace remains slow. India’s power sector is also in a horrible State. Economic reforms have bypassed agriculture. Farmers are committing suicide and do not get full market price for their product. Procurement prices are below the market price. Further, export restrictions must be phased out. If India grows at 6 per cent per annum on a sustained basis, it will take 14 years to reach the current level of per capita income of People’s Republic of China, 36 years to reach Thailand’s, and 104 years to reach that of the United States. Thus, the need for accelerated growth can hardly be overemphasized.
Successful Versus Effective Leader According to some experts, the influence of leaders on organisational outcomes is overrated and
romanticized and this results into biased attributions about leaders. Still, it is largely accepted that leadership is central to a performing organisation and leaders do contribute to key organisational outcomes. In order to facilitate successful performance it is important to understand and accurately measure leadership performance. It is important to distinguish between performance and effectiveness. Performance reflects behaviour, while effectiveness implies the assessment of actual organisational outcomes. So, it becomes important to delineate the particular behaviours that contribute to key organisational outcomes versus the actual organisational outcomes. At times, outcomes may be subject to external factors and beyond the control of the leader and it may not be easy to determine what exactly is driving a particular outcome. Leadership effectiveness refers to the ability to influence others and achieve collective goals, according to Judge, Bono, Ilies, & Gerhardt study. Some researchers, however, suggest that leadership success ought to be based on the effectiveness of the team, group, or organisation. But, leadership effectiveness is “often based on the perceptions of subordinates, peers, or supervisors. Many studies rely on peer rankings on who emerges as a leader in a given situation, even though many personality traits have been associated with leadership emergence For example, extraversion and openness to experience have been positively associated with leader effectiveness, while neuroticism was negatively related to leader effectiveness. The relationships between personality traits and performance outcomes were stronger for leader emergence than for leader effectiveness. Another related concept is leadership advancement over a long career span. Early longitudinal research had suggested that factors such as interpersonal, cognitive, and administrative skills were related to leader advancement. While overlap exists among these constructs, some distinction has to be made between job performance and effectiveness of leadership. By Job performance is meant contributions of the leader to organi-sational goal accomplishment (Motowidlo, 2003). Job effectiveness refers to evaluation of the results achieved by the leader. Effectiveness can be influenced by a variety of external factors, outside of the leader’s immediate control (Campbell et al., 1993). As such, it may not be accurate to attribute all the achievement factors to an indivi-dual’s leadership capabilities. For example, so many CEO’s became achievers only during the booming spree. Therefore, while assessing performance, it is appropriate to examine elements within the leader’s control, such as speci-fic behaviours that facilitate collective action and goal achievement. Evaluating leadership in such a manner is necessary for more accurately identifying predictors of leader performance. Likewise, analysts ought carefully weigh leadership behaviours in order to more clearly establish the importance of leadership to organi-sational outcomes. A leader is anyone who influences a group toward obtaining a particular result. Leadership is not dependent on title or formal authority. Political examples are Gandhi and Jai Prakash Narayan. An individual who is appointed to a supreme position has the right to command and enforce obedience by virtue of the authority of his or her position. Mrs Indira Gandhi was, thus, an effective leader as Prime Minister
The Role of a Manager in an Organisation A manager in an organisation is not always a leader. Management and leadership are two different
concepts, though often appear to overlap. Modern organisations tend to be complex and operate in a global business environment. Therefore, there is renewed focus on the importance of management and leadership and their distinctive roles in promoting and advancing the interests of the organisation. Hard competition and continuous pressures for change demand that managers and leaders work closely together for achieving business goals. On the practical level, a manager is called upon to evince the quality of leadership and a leader the knack for managing difficult situations in their respective roles in any organisation. Pragmatically speaking, then, the distinction between a mana-ger and leader is not problematic. “A mana-ger is often portrayed as a procedural administrator/supervisor—an individual in an organisation with recognized formal authority who plans, coordinates and implements the existing directions of the organisation (Koontz et al, 1986).” A leader, on the other hand, is defined as someone who occupies a position of influence within a group that “extends beyond supervisory responsibility and formal authority” (Vecchio et al. 1994: 504) and is involved in devising new directions and leading followers “to attain group, organisational and societal goals” (Avery 1990: 453). This distinction between the supervisory manager and visionary leader has to be understood in terms of their respective tasks and functions. Dunsford, a management guru, believes that management is concerned with ‘efficiency’—with tasks such as coordinating resources and implementing policy, while leadership has to concern itself with ‘effectiveness’ of making decisions, setting directions and principles, formulating issues and grappling with problems. Katz (1974: 90-102), however, has identified three critical managerial skills and the last two happen to be attributes of competent leadership. These are: technical skills (the ability to perform particular tasks or activities); interpersonal skills (the ability to work well with other people); and conceptual skills (the ability to see the ‘big picture’). Modern leadership theory supports an integrated approach to management and leadership. Early work on leadership identified the various styles of leadership based on personal traits and behaviour of an effective leader, such as drive, desire to lead, decisiveness, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, intelligence, job relevant knowledge (Kirkpatrick and Locke 1991: 48-60). The behaviourist models focused on the relationship between a leader’s actions and their impact on the attitudes and performance of employees. These studies compared various styles of leadership, such as authoritarian and democratic styles. They studied if an effective leader was more prone to efficient accomplishment of a task rather than being inclined to the welfare of employees and subordinates. The ideal style, as proposed by Stogdill in 1974, both approaches. In later work we find considerations part of a wider approach to modern management. combined the best of leadership theory of as
The traditional distinctions between a manager and leader is disappearing. Modern business operates in the midst of uncertainties as the current global slowdown and enveloping financial crisis show. Accordingly, the role of a manager demands flexibility, dynamism, management skills as well as leadership quality.
The Tasks of a Leader There are several ways of defining a leader. The one who leads others is a simple and complete
definition. But, then, what are the tasks of a leader? Leadership is a much sought after quality and every organisation needs good and effective leaders to lead the organisation to success and for achievement of its goals. Some persons are born leaders, for others leadership gets thrust upon. In a given organisation, the Head of the Organisation or the Chief Executive Officer is accepted as a leader irrespective of his or her possessing the quality of leadership. Management Gurus, more or less, agree on the following tasks for the leader of any organisation, irrespective of its nature and goals: A leader must be able to: (1) impart vision and direction to her/his organisation (2) affirm and articulate values that she/he cherishes for her/his organization (3) set high standards of performance and raise the level of expectations (4) she/he must make herself/himself accountable (5) must be able to motivate others within the organisation (6) achieve unity in the organisation (7) involve others in decision-making. The leader’s most important task is to clarify the overall goals of the organisation. This is what transforms a mere crowd into a community, a directionless mob into a group with a purpose. A crowd in a fair, for instance, is joyous, free spirited but selfoccupied. In the same way, a gathering may have individually talented and even highly motivated people but they will achieve nothing if they lack vision or goal to achieve collectively. The success of leadership depends on personal characteristics that include experience, imagination, persuasiveness, farsightedness, and astuteness in inter-personal dealings. The leader will not be able take his/her organisation very far if he is not able to generate, manage and monitor the use of resources. Most organisations have resources available, but seldom are they sufficient for everything that everyone wants to do. Resources do not manage themselves; allocation and monitoring systems have to be established. Budget, timetables, staffing plans, policies, procedures and priorities need to be set and worked out. Empowerment and delegation of authority demands astute handling because human material is not like machines or furniture that can be allocated in a fixed pattern. To select, develop, and share power with subordinates/associates is an art that is not easy to learn or acquire. Winning trust and loyalty of disparate persons can be demanding but is necessary for the task of assigning tasks to others. Decision-making and responsibility need to be dispersed for accomplishing current tasks and preparing others for future leadership. Relations within and outside an organi-sation play an important role and this is yet another essential task for a leader. Building relations and range of contacts require friendliness, wit, wisdom, negotiation skills, and the ability to entertain or at least to hold the attention of a wide range of people. A leader also has to be Enterprising because finding new opportunities and creating desirable change is also his/her task. Every organisation has certain momentum that imparts it continuity yet, obsolescence is a constant challenge for a leader. In large organisations this can require a massive refocusing of people and resources. Leaders are needed at all levels but most people would want to follow rather than lead. Finally, a great leader creates more leaders. Like Gandhi.
Management: Its Nature and Scope Management studies are of recent origin but management is as old as man’s need for organizing
work and activities. Management now has become a ‘discipline’. Numerous Management Gurus have emerged. They have been defining, redefining and commenting on the scope and nature of Management. Question as to whether Management is a Science or an Art has been resolved by saying that Management is the “oldest of the arts and youngest of the sciences”. Management is different from other higher studies because of its inclusive nature. It, not only deals with the theory and practice of production of goods and services but also with development and deployment of human resources. Manufacturing, procuring, distributing and delivering of goods in a competitive environment and international markets demands efficient and effective operations. Selling, promoting and marketing of goods too calls for coordinated efforts and innovative ideas. Services to customers and the analysis of queue systems is yet another aspect of Management. Historically, Management Studies have their origin in the body of knowledge stemming from industrial engineering. This body of knowledge formed the basis of the first MBA programs, and has become “central to operations management as used across diverse business sectors, industry, consulting and non-profit organisations”. It is not only the scope but also the nature of Management that demands proper understanding. How the various “parts” of an organisation relate to their “whole” and what contribution they make to its efficient and productive working are important issues. Looked at from these considerations, an organisation needs to devise standards for measuring its performance. Here, the distinction between efficiency and effectiveness assumes significance. Often, Management is divided into Operations management and Production management. Operations management is the process whereby resources or inputs are converted into more useful products. Thus, there appears hardly any difference between “production management and operations management”. However, “production management” is used for a system that produces tangible goods. Operations management is used for a system that transforms various inputs into tangible services, for example, banks, airlines, utilities, pollution control agencies, super bazaars, educational institutions, libraries, consultancy firms and police departments, and, of course, manufacturing enterprises. The second distinction relates to the evolution of the subject. ‘Operations management’ is currently in vogue. Earlier, ‘Production management’ was in use. Both terms are interchangeably used. Stanley Vance has defined Management as simply the process of decision-making and control over actions of human beings for the attainment of pre-determined goals. Lawrence Appley says it is the “accomplishment results” through others. According to John Mee, management is the art of maximizing results and minimizing efforts for securing maximum happiness and prosperity for the employees and the employer and giving the public best possible service. The scope as well as nature of Management, thus, remains undefined but its goals are hotly pursued.
Bribery in Business The survey further reveals that a minimum of 13 clearances are required to start a new venture and
the ordeal could last a minimum of 33 days. Obtaining a licence requires 20 clearances and could take 224 days if you remain on the fast track with an open purse. Registering property involves six clearances taking 62 days. Whatever new methods may be devised to check corruption, the Indian ingenuity would find ways of checkmating them. Still, the commission has recommended a unique company number to get all clearances at one go, hoping that this would drive out corruption. Sometimes, one wonders how people are able to get into business and make a success of it. It seems Indian businessman too is equally corrupt and soon learns how to loot and rob the consumer because, ultimately, the costs of bribe are passed on to the buyer and consumer. National Knowledge Commission survey’s findings are startling. Sixty-one per cent—who started businesses between 2000-07—said they did not get a bank loan when they started. “There was a high perception among entrepreneurs that it is very difficult to get bank loans at the start-up stage though it becomes comparatively easy at the growth stage”, the survey said. Naturally, once you are running an operation, the Bank officials will themselves advise you as to how to hoodwink and overcome the Banks and bypass rules and conditions for a loan at reasonable bribes because while documents may be signed on the table, bribes are paid under the table. Perhaps not. Now even this formality is done away with. Bribes are being taken and given in the open. The biggest motivating factor for becoming an entrepreneur, according to the survey, was the willingness to be independent of the family and a job. Ambition to become rich also plays a part. Strong motivation appears to be the vital factor in entering and surviving in business because the business world is no bed of roses. Bargaining and calculating risks are a necessary part of an enterprise. On top of that, one has to do unlawful things for survival and success. There is a belief that behind every million made, there is a big crime and hundreds of novels have been written on this theme. Both private individual business and corporate business are rife with bribery. Corporate competition is often carried out as a war and bribery and corruption are resorted to because “everything is fair in love and war”. Alcatel, one of the “biggest and cleanest corporate entities”, finally got exposed in 2001 when Costa Rica prosecutors combed through the bank records and found Alcatel made $15 million in illicit payments to top politicians and bureaucrats and former President Miguel Angel Rodríguez was jailed for accepting bribe from Alcatel. In Europe, governments are finally cracking down on big business. Transparency International is fighting corruption effectively. The OECD agreement took effect in 1999 in 35 countries, imposing criminal penalties on companies found guilty of bribery. “The climate has definitely changed”, says Susan Hawley, an anti-corruption research consultant. “The change in laws is beginning to bite.” But India continues to be one of the most corrupt nations of the world.
International Trade Barriers Work Economists generally believe that trade barriers
decrease overall economic efficiency. In theory, free trade expects removal of all such barriers, excepting those considered necessary for well-being or security of a country or nation-State. In practice, though, even countries promoting free trade heavily subsidize some of their own industries, especially agriculture and steel. In recent years, free trade agreements between two or more nations have become common. For instance, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), European Free Trade Association, European Union (EU), Union of South American Nations. Other variants of trade barriers result from differences in culture, customs, traditions, laws, language and currency. Countries and nation-States do differ from one another and do not follow common and uniform laws, procedures and customs. According to an analyst, current debate and differences over free trade include such barriers as: 1. Intellectual property infringement—including copyright, patent and trademarks. 2. Customs procedures that are not uniformly applied. 3. Lack of competitive bidding for foreign government tenders. 4. The application of direct or indirect subsidies by a foreign government in favour of domestic suppliers. 5. Burdensome certification and testing requirements that are not required by domestic manufacturers. 6. Influence pedalling—A corporate entity or country is interfering with fair trade practices at other’s expense. 7. Bribery, corruption and requests for payoffs—When foreign bribery prevents you from competing fairly on the basis of price, quality or service. Trade barriers work because they are effective in protecting a country’s own interests; both industry and services sectors do need protection and promotion so that they continue to make their contribution to the country’s economy and well-being, keep workers employed and increase country’s prosperity without undue competition from other countries. But, in global context, trade barriers or protective measures may not be so beneficial as some economic protections are more costly than others and can trigger a trade war. As far as subsidies are concerned, poorer countries do not have the ability to raise subsidies and are more vulnerable than richer countries in trade wars. By raising protections against dumping of cheap products, it risks making the product too expensive and beyond the means of its people. Whether trade barriers work or are beneficial has different answers. When viewed from an individual country’s perspective, in an unequal world it becomes necessary to protect its interests and trade barrier is a handy protective tool for the purpose. But from the world perspective, trade barriers only impede trade and raise costs of goods and services. Yet, the least developed countries remain helpless because they are not powerful enough to use trade barriers as protective shield. They have to depend on richer and powerful countries for their growth and well-being. Rich nations must redress the deep inequities in the trade system and reverse the marginalisation of poorer countries. However, World Trade Organisation’s current con-figuration makes this impossible, and extending its work into new areas of the global economy will only make matters worse.
Moral Majority There is a
general perception that informal subgroups or even disparate large segments within many nations pursue a strict moral agenda, usually based upon a deep belief in a religion. The term Moral Majority refers to such people. Whether such people form a majority or not is highly debatable and remains unproven. Nor are there any reliable surveys devised to test such majority claims. But in the name of Moral Majority, there are always some groups who launch campaigns, often smacking of fanaticism and, even resort to criminal and offensive political or social, often a mob-like response against individuals or groups whose actions and behaviour dare depart from the perceived moral standards of the so-called majority. Every country, including India, has this phenomenon of “Moral Majority” that from time to time causes dissension or discord in society, distends issues to their extremities and pits opposing groups who abuse, confront and clash with one another—all in the name of majority. Usually, such groups are informal and disorganised but there are also some political or cultural or religious outfits who assume collective burden of watching and guarding the society as a whole against any immoral influence or action, imported manners, fads or fashions from an alien culture. In India, which is a big and secular country, there are numerous such entities who are organised and always ready and eager to jump into the fray whenever a slight occasion for moral reaction arises. It could be a book, cartoon, painting or speech or some kind of entertainment and the Moral Majority is there to condemn, howl and hurt the protagonist of any so-perceived “immoral action”. In India, the concept of Moral Majority does not appear to have had much impact on politics. In the USA, however, where the term “Moral Majority” gained wide currency, Ronald Regan’s election in 1980 and George Bush’s elections are said to have been greatly influenced and their victories attributed to Moral Majority. In fact, the Moral Majority was a political organisation in the USA that had an agenda of evangelical Christian-oriented political lobbying and set up conservative Christian political action committees that campaigned on issues that, it believed, were important to maintaining its Christian conception of moral law, a conception they believed represented the opinions of the majority of Americans (hence the movement’s name). Some Indian secularists label the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and the Shiv Sena as organisations that represent in India the equivalent counterparts of the US-based Moral Majority we have described above but such a view does not have much basis simply because India is so vast a nation and is so lacking in moral fibre that claims or accusations of being Moral Majority of any kind does not hold water. The same is true of the Muslim outfit Deoband that pronounces fatwas of one kind or the other that hardly rub on the majority of Indian Muslims. In India, it is the political parties and politicians who dominate and hold sway over all so-called religious lobbies and Indian politicians are devoid of any moral fervour. They are wily and make use of religion and religious moral groups only to grind their own axes. The devil is not a big concern in the Indian tradition, nor is Moral Majority an Indian concept.
What is Wrong With Child Labour? Not all work is bad for children.
According to social scientists most kinds of work are unobjectionable, if they are not exploitative. School boys delivering newspapers is a common sight in the USA and Canada. This activity benefits the child as he learns how to work, gain responsibility, and earn some pocket money. But if the child is not paid, the same work becomes exploitative. The United Nations Children Fund (Unicef)’s 1997 State of the World’s Children Report says: “Children’s work needs to be seen as happening along a continuum, with destructive or exploitative work at one end and beneficial work—promoting or enhancing children’s development without interfering with their schooling, recreation and rest—at the other. And between these two poles are vast areas of work that need not negatively affect a child’s development.” Social scientists agree but draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable work differently. International conventions define children as aged 18 and under. Individual governments may define “child” according to different ages or other criteria. “Child” and “childhood” are also defined differently by different cultures. In fact, children’s abilities and maturity vary widely and, therefore, defining a child’s maturity by calendar age can be misleading. In 2000, the ILO estimated, “246 million child workers aged 5 and 17 were involved in child labour, of which 171 million were involved in work that by its nature is hazardous to their safety, physical or mental health, and moral development. Moreover, some 8.4 million children were engaged in so-called ‘unconditional’ or worst forms of child labour, such as forced and bonded labour, conscription by military forces in armed conflict, trafficking, commercial, sexual and other forms of exploitation. In India, child labour is exploitative in the extreme. Growing children are employed as domestic help and live in miserable conditions. They are low paid and sleep in staircases or on the road. Those employed by the roadside dhabas or teashops in the cities or on the highways likewise lead a life of deprivation and dreariness. Yet, if they do not take up this type of work, they face starvation and illtreatment at home, even at the hands of parents and relatives. There are laws prohibiting child labour but in India the laws are seldom implemented. More boys than girls work outside their homes. Increasingly, however, more girls are working in some jobs: for instance, as domestic maids. Being a maid in someone’s house is risky. Cut off from friends and family, these little maids can easily be phy-sically or sexually abused by their employers and even by neighbours or unknown visitors. Children in hazardous and dangerous jobs are in danger of injury and death. According to UNICEF, it is a myth that “ child labour is only a problem in developing countries. … children routinely work in all industrialised countries, and hazardous forms of child labour can be found in many countries.  child labour will only disappear when poverty disappears.  only a very small proportion of all child workers are employed in export industries—probably less than 5 per cent. Most of the world’s child labourers actually are to be found in the informal sector—selling on the street, at work in agriculture or hidden away in houses—far from the reach of official labour inspectors and from media scrutiny.” In our view, poverty is largely responsible for what is wrong with child labour; other causes are not as pervasive.
Children on Crossroads According to researchers at Stanford University and the University of California-Santa Barbara, stories
about crime and violence make up 40 per cent of the child-related newspaper coverage. Though we do not have similar statistics and research-based analysis on Indian children, situation is alarming in India also. University of California also found “a general lack of public policy coverage” related to children in the sources studied. In this behalf, the Indian situation is worse because our television and newspaper presentations on children’s issues hardly mention, much less focus on policy issues that affect children. Nor are the age groups clearly marked in the newsier articles and television discussions. It is the adolescents mostly who get the media attention. In news coverage of children the emphasis is on reports of crime, with children portrayed as both victims and perpetrators of violence. Such an emphasis diminishes the public’s perception of the relative importance of other child-related concerns. A child who experiences any kind of maltreatment—neglect, physical or sexual abuse—is likely to get involved with the juvenile justice system. It’s not clear how many youths under 18 are tried in adult criminal courts in this country. Cases of threeyear old charged with rape and murder have been reported in newspapers. It is no consolation that brutalisation of children is a world wide phenomenon. In India, situation is as bad as anywhere else but cases of child abuse do not get reported. Peculiar to India is female foeticide or selective abortion based on the foetus gender or sex selection of child. This is a crime perpetrated against the yet-to-be born girl child. Often, parents themselves are responsible for committing this crime. Besides, domestic violence too affects children badly. Children get physically abused or hurt at home or get mentally damaged while witnessing violent fights between parents and among relatives. Children some times intervene to protect the adult victim, endangering themselves. Children also copy the violent adult behaviour they witness at home and elsewhere and they, thus, expose themselves to stress-related problems. They lose self-confidence or develop guilt complex blaming themselves for the violence at home, especially between parents. Unlike the laws of many other countries, Indian Penal Code makes no distinction between child sexual abuse from rape or molestation or other kind of crime. In fact, the laws against child sexual abuse are only in their developing stage. Some parts of the law applicable to sexual abuse of a child are related to sale, hire, distribution, or circulation of obscene objects of literature to children. Several movements have been started to initiate amendments to the penal code, adding specific crimes for sexual abuse. But, in an increasingly violent society, laws are no succour to the innocent victims of crime and violence. In sum, rape and sexual abuse of children in India is a large problem not easy of solution. India’s corrupt and weak legal system renders the problem even larger. However, the situation can be improved by appropriately educating children and adults on crime and violence, and educating the police, law officers and judges to be more sensitive toward social issues.
The Pros and Cons of Having Credit Card Plastic money is much in vogue today. Like many other conveniences of modern age, credit cards are
a product of technology and clever thinking. These plastic devices have now become a ubiquitous feature of our mundane, day-to-day, buy and sell world. Credit cards are geared to make life easier for the common person, who is increasingly becoming a gargantuan consumer of goods and services. A credit card is a piece of plastic with some engravings and codes that help one pay for goods and services even if one has no cash or currency notes on hand. This part is easy. But this short process of buying and paying through the card can become paying through one’s nose. Because, what happens invisibly while transacting business with the help of a credit card is not always a smooth affair in the long run. One must always remember that, ultimately, this card is as good as your credit and each transaction made through the credit card has legal implications. At times, it is an invitation to get into debt with all the attendant complications. Each time your credit card helps you buy something, you, in fact, are borrowing from your credit line with the credit card issuing company. As a borrower one is expected to make monthly payments on the outstanding balance to the credit card company. A credit card holder may be required to pay just the minimum amount until the due date, usually once every month. If the credit card holder fails to pay the required minimum amount, a finance fee is charged to him/her. The fee is often hefty and inordinate. Obviously, there are advantages in having a credit card. One can buy a lot of things without carrying wads of notes in one’s wallet or pockets. Keeping track of one’s finances and expenses becomes easier because a single accounts statement is made available by the company. Purchases can be made simply by mail or phone. Payment of expenses can be made in easy monthly instalments. If the product bought was defective, credit card allows one to withhold payment for it. The convenience is extensive indeed—car rental, hotel, restaurant and other reservations. At times, it feels like a great bliss in a complicated world where time is short and chores unlimited. In an emergency, one can use the credit card to obtain cash. One’s credit card history helps one to enhance one’s credit-worthiness which can prove to be a boon when one wants to avail of home loans and other larger borrowings. But one must not forget that a credit card demands to be used carefully and very prudently. Like most modern devices, a credit card is neither good nor bad but depends upon its user to make it so. Yes, the credit card has its pros and cons. Only its advantages are immediately visible and readily availed of, while disadvantages remain hidden. For impulsive buyers, credit card can become a burden so utterly disproportionate to the weight of this plastic genie. It can turn its reckless user into a compulsive overspender and bury him/her into a heap of debts. Plastic accounts are truly handy and serve the same purpose as money. With literally millions of establishments the world over accepting credit card payments from their customers, paying for goods and services has never been easier. Yet, despite all the convenience that credit cards bring, and despite the purchasing empowerment the credit card holders experience, there are still things that need to be considered before securing a credit card.
ALL OF US LEARN FROM OUR FAILURES AS WELL AS SUCCESS
There is no finality about failure, said Jawaharlal Nehru. Perhaps, that is why learning from failure is easier than
learning from success, as success often appears to be the last step of the ladder. Possibilities of life, however, are endless and there are worlds beyond the stars—which is literally true. What appears as success in one moment may turn out to be a failure or even worse in the next moment. We often do not know what is failure and what is success ultimately. There are examples of people who became wealthy but renounced all their wealth achieved after a lifetime’s effort. The kings like Bharthrihari gave up their kingdoms because of their failure in love. The Duke of Windsor abdicated the throne of England for marrying an American divorcee Miss Simpson. While we can see our failures clearly, success is prone to blind our vision. Yet, the time-world that we live in is a mixture of pain and pleasure, sorrow and delight, light and darkness, success and failure! Success as well as failure are parts of our life and experience. We gain from both and also lose from both. Failure dejects us, success delights us, but experience accretes them both. After a while, success also loses its shine just as failure loses its sting. An aware person learns from both successes and failures of life and begins to see life what it is. Most people try to achieve what they want. They either fail or succeed in getting what they want. In a difficult world trial and error become our way of solving life’s problems. Yet there are escapists who avoid undertaking the trial because they are scared of meeting failure or committing the error. They, perhaps, consider making mistake as wrong and harmful but the fact is that, for most of us, trial and error are both helpful and necessary. Error provides the feedback for building the ladder to success. Error pushes one to put together a new and better trial, leading through more errors and trials, hopefully, finding ultimately a workable and creative solution. To meet with an error is only a temporary, and often necessary part of the process that leads to success or well-earned achievement. No errors or failures, often, means no success either. This is more true in business and while handling an on-going project. According some business training programmes, an early partial success is not commended. In fact, early success in a long-term project is regarded as a premature outcome of good efforts that is likely to cause complaisance and slackening of effort to achieve the ultimate objective of the project. Early success might tempt one to get fixed on to what seemed to have worked so quickly and easily and stop from looking up any further. Later, maybe, a competitor will learn from the slackened ‘achiever’ to further explore for larger possibilities and push on to find a much better solution that will push the earlier achiever out of the competition. Yet, there are many organisations who believe in what they call ‘culture of perfection: a set of organisational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable’. Only a hundred per cent, untainted success will be acceptable. “To retain your reputation as an achiever, you must reach every goal and never, ever make a mistake that you can’t hide or blame on someone else”. But this is a flawed strategy because the stress and terror in such an organisation, at some point, become unbearable and lead to attrition. The ceaseless covering up of small blemishes, finger-pointing and shifting the blame result into rapid turnover, as people rise high, then fall abruptly from grace. Meanwhile, lying, cheating, falsifying of data, and hiding of problems goes on and swings and shakes the organisation from crisis to crisis and, ultimately, weakens it irreparably. Some ego-driven, ‘experienced’ achievers forget that time and environment have changed and demand other kinds of inputs. A senior lecturer of ten years’ standing was rejected and one with only one-year experience was selected. When the senior protested, selectors told him: “You too have only one year of experience—only repeated ten times. The selected lecturer has fresher and more relevant experience.” Balance counts and a little failure may help preserve one’s perspective on success. Finally, life is more than a count of failures and successes, as a humorist said: “try and try—only twice, the third time let some one else try” is yet another way of looking at life’s struggle.
Daily living is becoming a war of nerves and each one of us is called upon to work out strategies to cope with
daily challenges of our existence. Gone are the laid back days when work was a pleasure that set the rhythm of life. We now live in an age of anxiety and competition and willy-nilly are caught in the ongoing rat race. Right from our first days in school to the last days of our career we are constantly reminded of competing or how to get ahead of the next guy or keep abreast of him/her. Every one these days is complaining of stress—at home, in office, on the road, anywhere and everywhere. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown is a proverb that is in need of immediate modification. Now even the common man is seldom at ease and kings either have disappeared or no longer wear crowns. Life is full of stress for every one, young or old, and when constant stress has you suddenly down you feel physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Well, you may be suffering from burnout! When you are burned out, you find yourself in maize of insurmountable problems. It is blank and bleak and you cannot even think what has happened to you. Utter desolation surrounds you all the time. Energy? Where has it all gone? There is not whiff of it left and you do not know what will support and sustain you! Will you ever come out of this blackness or blankness or both mixed up together to get you sucked up into a darkening world! Humans, however, are not without reserves and resilience. You will come back and feel the sanity returning; better prepared for the next time because the war of nerves continues. Next time, hopefully, you will know what is coming in time. You will understand the signs and symptoms of the impending burnout. It might not be all that difficult to prevent it then. Effective burnout-busting is within your grasp. The strategy involves taking hold of yourself emotionally and physically and seek out others who might be of help when you need it most. Psychiatrists suggest that one must stay connected to others and this, in itself, is a reliable safeguard against burnouts. Burnout happens gradually, though once in its middle you feel awful and unwilling to fight it. Therefore, one must be always on guard and must recognise the signs of burnout and meet it head on, and most likely, one would succeed in heading it off. Burnout is usually rooted in stress. And stress has a way of telling you when it is getting on and over you. So recognise the symptoms of stress and overcome them. If you are vigilant, you stand a good chance to avoid burnout even before it sets in. We have been stressing the role of STRESS so far but mark that though extreme stress leads to burnout, burnout and stress are not the same thing. An overstressed person is quite capable of imagining that if she/he could just get organised, everything would be under control and okay. But burnout empties out all motivation. A burned-out person sees no positive change happening. Excessive stress is like floating in a sea of tasks and responsibilities; burnout is a total drowning. While one is aware of being overstressed, one does not know anything once one is in the grip of burnout. The process of burnout is seldom sudden. Long periods of hopelessness, the cynicism, and the detachment from others bring about symptoms of burnout slowly and one loses one’s capability of recognising the symptoms. It remains for others to notice that you are passing into burnout but will you listen to the other, your friend or colleague or any well-wisher? Workplace is a natural setting for burnouts but one or more bad workdays cannot be called a job burnout. An effective way to head off job burnout is to just give up what one is doing and take up something else in its place. Going on a vacation can also do the trick—change of scene, as they say. Change of scene helps one recharge one’s batteries and return to oneself with a new perspective. Besides reading books, you can join a support group, know your limits, accept your feelings, confide in others and, most importantly, build or maintain a foundation of good physical health. Be sure to eat right, get enough sleep, and make workout part of your daily routine. Know your own needs and find ways to meet them. And because burnout is related to stress, many of the methods for countering stress can also help prevent burnout. Smile at life’s little ironies and that will keep burnouts off limits!