Was somebody raped? 

The title is similar to the title of a movie, “Nobody killed Jessica!” The movie was the real-life story of Jessica Lal who was murdered in a public place. But initially, the culprits were released because “there was no evidence”! All the witnesses had become hostile because the culprit was rich and powerful!

I was reading twitter exchange on the subject of Unnao and Hyderabad rape cases. People have become cynical about rape events and the ecosystem surrounding us, which includes various authorities and society in general. One person said in his tweet, “It is straightforward. If the victim is from financially lower strata and perpetrators are rich, kill the victim. If the alleged perpetrators are poor, kill them.” The whole of India was shocked when Nirbhaya was raped and murdered in Delhi in 2012. It was not about murder or rape. It was the way the event took place. The rapists were cold-blooded in the act and selected the victim randomly. Another shocking part of the story was that one of the culprits was a sixteen-year-old boy. Others got the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, the boy was a juvenile so, he was remanded to a juvenile institution for three years and is leading a normal life.

The boy had the gumption to insert a steel rod in the lady’s organs; he should have got the death penalty whatever his age was. But then that is the law of the country. Another institution that we talk about is fast-track courts. Today seven years after the event, the culprits are still to be hanged.

In the Hyderabad case, a different scenario came up. The police took the alleged culprits to the site where they burnt the body of the victim. Police claim that the culprits attacked them, and took their guns. They started firing. Police started firing in retaliation, and all four died in the exchange of fire. A couple of police officers had minor injuries which seems to be a very convenient story. But the reaction to this story was a celebration all over India. Even in the parliament in India, the MP’s congratulated the action taken by the police.

In the rape case in Unnao, the lady who was on her way to the court for the court hearing, and was caught and burnt to death.

We read about rapes all over the world, but the cold-bloodedness by the culprits appears to be unique in India. Any rape is a horrible event. The statistics show that relatives of the victims or people known to the victims are involved in more than 75% rapes. It is a horrible mental sickness that has spread all over the world. In most cases of rapes or indecent behaviour, the victims do not report the event, as they feel ashamed, though it is not their fault. The victim is treated as if it is her fault.

I feel both numb and angry at the same time. There are so many angles to such events that you feel frustrated. Let me assure you many of the arguments are right also. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bobde made a very valid point that justice can not be instant. When the event takes place, there is a need to lodge FIR. There is a facility to lodge Zero FIR as per law in case of events like rape. Zero FIR means any police station can register the FIR, and then that police station should transfer this Zero FIR to the appropriate jurisdiction. Such an action can save time in critical cases like the one in Hyderabad where time was of the essence to at least to stop the murder. But I am doubtful how many police people know this procedure. People are made to waste a lot of time locating the correct jurisdiction.

The second thing is social. In large cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune there is large migrated population. Such migration gives anonymity, and this anonymity allows people to act in whatever manner they think is right. No person will behave funnily in his or her village or town or city. It is because they fear that someone from the family or relatives or friends of the family might see you doing the wrong things. But due to anonymity, they don’t have that fear. They feel that they can get away with anything. The situation is common for both men and women.

In a housing society, where I was the Chairman, three young women used to get drunk every Saturday night. When they would come back in an auto, their condition was always very embarrassing to even security people. Security people complained to me. Once I gave instructions to stop them at the gate, took their photos. It was at midnight. I ten minutes, the father of one of the girls called me from Delhi and started throwing weight and told me that I would face the consequences. Once he finished talking, I asked if I could send him the photographs of the girls in their current condition. He realised what I was saying. Next day he called to apologise to me and requested me to give them a month to move elsewhere.

I am all okay with personal freedom etc., but the freedom comes with a responsibility. If one does not behave decently, anything can happen. We should not forget that in the patriarchal society, men treat the women in their homes and the community, poorly. The women do not get the respect they deserve. Parents should teach the girls to behave decently, but it is more important to teach the boys to behave. The boys are given undue freedom during their growth phase while girls are under unnecessary restrictions during the growth. These boys who have grown up in such households cannot handle when they see women doing work independently and confidently. The boys probably grow up, thinking they can get away misbehaving since they have gotten away to some extent in childhood. Such growing up ends in Nirbhaya 1 and Nirbhaya 2 and I don’t know how many more Nirbhaya cases.

The Unnao case is a classic case. First, there was an error by the court. The court released the perpetrators on bail with a warning that they should not harass the victim. The victim was from a low-income family. These people doused the girl with petrol while she was going to court and burnt her. They were so confident that they did not even run away; they were found at home when police came to search. They had expected police not to act as they were from affluent families. How do we handle such errors? Should the judge be punished for a severe lapse? But will this punishment bring the girl back to life?

I have already said above that I feel both numb and angry at the same time. How will this vicious cycle stop? How does society learn to respect their daughters? What needs to be done by all to improve the situation? There are comments made that girls wear revealing clothing, but how do you explain when someone rapes four or six-year-old girl? The child does not even understand the meaning of sex.

There is a cynical joke. Two families go on a picnic, and their children are a 4-year-old boy and a girl. They play in the lake water while changing the clothes they see each other in nude. The girl next day tells her friend in school, “Yesterday, I came to know the difference between Protestants and Catholics!”

The more I think, the more I am getting confused and worried. How is this going to stop? Why are people becoming cruel? In one case I read today, a girl was held hostage by a boy and his friends. They regularly raped her. They demanded ransom from her parents. The girl’s family did not have the means to organise the money. The boy decided to kill and burn the girl. The mother of that boy helped to organise the killing and burning.

I am now more numb, more angry and cynical! Friends, how to change this trend? How to make this mass change in society? Police, Courts come later. How to ensure the rapes will not happen? We refer to rapists sometimes as beasts. Sorry! I disagree there. Beasts never rape; they mate only during their mating season. They do not wait at the toll plaza looking for a victim. They don’t travel on the buses at night, and create a Nirbhaya! Fast-tracking of the cases is after the event has happened. Nobody seems to have the solution to prevent the events!

Let us all pray and hope that things will start changing slowly in future!

Subtle changes in the lifestyle! 

In the year 2016, Jaya and I had taken an Alaska cruise. One day, while entering the lift (elevator), I observed that there was a mat on the lift floor with excellent little design, and Wednesday was written on the same. Then we both realised that we had lost track of time. We had boarded on a Sunday, and it was already Wednesday. They were changing the mat every day so that people did not lose track of days.

Calendar2

There were so many things to do on the cruise, and there were shore excursions. We were in our own world, busy with something or sometimes just doing nothing. We used to sit in the balcony of our cabin to gaze at the sea and the waves. When we used to enter a  harbour, we could see small, lush green hills or sometimes there were tall mountains near the shore.

Recently after coming back from Canada, I got a similar feeling at home. We were with Priya, Nikhil and Rhea in Canada. After coming back, we realised that day to day schedule is not at all rushed, except when we are going for dinners and parties or movies. Jaya and I do some professional work which keeps us busy two to three days in the month!

In this month, we have to attend four marriage ceremonies which will keep us busy. Then next Monday, Jaya has the US visa dropbox appointment so that we will be going there. But in general, there are no specific must-do programs or events. A couple of times, I asked Jaya what day is it today? Then I realised that we had reached a phase in our life where there are hardly any must-do things on any day. The solution to this, I thought, was to keep track of day and date. We have a perpetual calendar at home, but it does not have the day display. I ordered one from Amazon. The calendar will help me keep track of dates and days.

Calendar1

By ordering this calendar from Amazon, I made the physical and mental change that will keep track of the days too. Such need was never felt before.

I am aware that we have reached the golden phase in our lives, and need to take benefit out of the time available to us. I go to a gym, and Jaya has made a new year resolution to join the gym from 1st January. So, we will have a gym as one of our regular activities. Jaya’s second new year resolution is to restart painting. I did my Oxford online course to put me out of my comfort zone. The course was my first formal learning in writing English Literature. While in school, I learnt English from 7th grade to 11th  grade. All my engineering education was in English. The Oxford course kept my mind busy for those 2 ½ months as I was probably the only student in that class who had never taken courses in literature, before!

2020 will be the first year where our life will be timeless, similar to weightlessness in space. I have read a few things about space travel and found out that with weightlessness, many necessary activities need to be performed differently and carefully. There will be family commitments, but they will be much less if we compare to all these years, with both the children living abroad.

As the ageing process, this change in lifestyle happens subtly and not suddenly. We have now decided that get the body conditions checked regularly; the frequency will be as per doctors advice. Yesterday we were with our ENT friend for a basic checkup. I had a bit of cold too! I told him that I get dryness in the throat and have a problem swallowing dry food. He said, “Pramod, this is also part of the ageing process. Now you will realise why I have suggested yearly check-up of organs. Before you eat dry stuff, drink a sip of water to make your throat wet.”

Meeting doctors and their fraternity is going to be more frequent and essential now. These meetings were very few in younger days. Currently also, by God’s grace, these visits are not due to illness but for audit check-ups. The subtle changes are bound to take place. Your body is always sending you signals. If you get any different signal, get it checked. Delay in such checking can cause unforeseen health issues. With our age, doctors can find it challenging to handle illnesses if we ignore body signals.

I know of a family who has delayed in reaching the doctors and consequences of this delay are devastating. The changes in body conditions were not subtle but were distinct. One day the friend called me because he wanted to take an appointment with a neuro physician, I know. I organised that. They went and saw the doctor, and gave me the feedback. They were happy with the doctor.

Later, when I met my doctor friend, I asked her if things were under control with my friend’s daughter. She said, “I have started the treatment, but they have come to me five years late. The daughter who is nearing 40 now can barely walk; she has a lot of pain. She cannot climb even three-four steps. Another thing, your friend also looked unwell. So, I casually asked him how was his health. He said that his diabetes is under control.” I told the doctor that this friend is going through dialysis twice a week. His kidneys are damaged because of diabetes.” She was shocked and said that it looks like your friends family does not understand the seriousness of things in life.

I have mentioned the above episode because I am talking about subtle changes but this family ignored even strong signals. On top of this,  my friend has not accepted that he has severe health issues.

Our decision to keep regular checks of body organs makes sense. I hope all my friends in this Golden phase are doing the same regularly. Longevity has gone up. So keeping track of subtle changes in the body make sense to have a good quality of life.

We have also decided to have some time table of doing things and will try to keep our brain busy. Subtle changes in brain functions can be easily ignored by saying, “Oh, now that I am passed 70, I am bound to forget things.” That is true to some extent. But let the doctors decide the source of the signal, it may not be related to ageing. It could be that hearing is reduced; it could be that your brain functioning in certain areas is changing slowly.

So keep on doing something, give time to friends. Family always gets priority anyway. Locate some people who need company. It could be your neighbour or it could people living in older people’s home. If you spend some time with them once in a while, you will see a smile on their faces.

That reminds of the tagline of Voice of America radio station, making their broadcast from Colombo during my school days. “If you see someone without a smile, give him one of yours.”

So go and buy that perpetual calendar and keep track of date and day both. I am sure you understand what I mean. Make sure that you have something to look forward to, next Thursday and Monday after that, every week. Don’t forget that every day is a Sunday in the timelessness zone of our life. It is in our hands to make the days count! It is our responsibility to ensure that we live the golden phase of our life with minimum outside support.

Our life is not a seven-day cruise. You need to find ways of keeping you busy with your mind and body activities!

The change of mindset! 

It is commonly said that change is the only constant in life. I generally believe in this statement, but some things do not change, they remain constant. Why do some things not follow the universal law of change? These constants are mainly about human behaviour. In these constants, methods might change, but basic things don’t change. Some changes happen stealthily, and others happen fast. 

You must be aware that technological changes appear to be happening fast, but they have their development cycles from 10, 20 to 50 years. People are working in the background; many trial and errors take placeThese inventions bring out changes. But this is about the technological and other changes. Social and human behaviour change takes much longer time to change, and some of the things don’t change at all. Attacks on women and rapes continue to happen 

You must be wondering why I am writing about rape and cashless transactions, together, in this blog. Cash transactions in India are our habits and, we don’t want to go away from them. There are reasons. In business, cash transactions are done to cheat on tax. But the small transactions which I am going to discuss can easily be changed by providing technology and making it mandatory.  These changes will change the mindset of people once the benefits are understood.

RFID tags are mandatory to pay toll on highways, from 15th December. There will be only one lane available for those vehicles without tag, and they will be charged double the amount. Tags will change large number of cash transactions happening daily to cashless. But how to change the mindset in cases of rape? It has to start from home, and the boys should be taught by their mothers and sisters to respect the ladies in society. In a patriarchal society, males think that they can get away with anything. But during growing age, the boys must be taught that it is only human species that rape the ladies. All other species do consensual mating and that too during mating seasons. The law of the jungle does not apply to the sex life of other species. 

Take the case of Nirbhaya 2 that has happened in HyderabadThe news has shaken India because people of India had hoped that events like Nirbhaya would not happen again. I am not saying that there will be no rapes, but the actions after that, killing the victim, burning her body are horrible. I was hoping that this kind of brutality will not happen again after the Delhi event in 2012. But it has happened! I am not sure if such incidents happened while we were an undeveloped society say, 2000 years back. Now there are laws in place. It is known that culprits of such events get the death penalty. Still, how do such ruthless attacks take place 

Mind you; I am not talking about the rape but the methodology. Rape is one social behaviour that is going to be a constant in human lives. Majority of rape cases happen to involve known people or relatives. That is even more dangerous. Some people argue that women wear provocative dresses. In these two Nirbhaya cases, the ladies were wearing day to day clothes. The common factor in both these cases is that the rapists were all from the transport industry, uneducated, and young (One in Delhi case was a 16-year-old boy)About provocative dresses, the definition of each individual is different. Some (in)humans rape even babies! It is more to do about mindset. Writing on this subject makes me very uncomfortable and sad.  

We will now look at one change that is happening in IndiaWe Indians love to do commercial transactions in cash. Any attempt to change the mindset is resisted, and people try to find loopholes. What I am writing about is not a significant technological change, but it is the application of the existing technology which will reduce cash transactions in a big way. I am talking of RFID tags to be made mandatory for vehicles to pay the toll on Indian highways. The technology has been in existence for a long time, and I have seen this used in the US 15 years back. Every day people travel on highways in large numbers. If we check the collective wastage of fuel, time of people while waiting in line to pay the toll, it is colossal wastage. When you have a tag pasted on your vehicle, the vehicle needs to reduce speed to approximately 15 Km at the toll plaza. The system will do the work. Hundreds of Crores of rupees of cash transactions will get converted to “cashless’’. If we calculate fuel and time saving on all India basis, the numbers will justify the mandate.

What we need to do is to provide changes which will save time and energy and cover large number of people. When Metro starts to run in a big way in Mumbai or Pune in next ¾ years, there should be system of providing common pass to Metro, “current local trains” and BEST (in Mumbai) and PMPML (in Pune). It is a common system world over. In a “small” Metropolis like Montreal with a population of 1.5 million, the scanning cards for monthly, weekly duration are provided. Metro in Montreal carries 1.3 million passengers a day, very smoothly. These scanning systems work efficiently. When I went to see World Cup final at Melbourne in 2015, the scanning system for tickets easily handled entry of 93000 plus spectators in a short time. There were hardly any queues. The change I have suggested will eliminate vast number of cash transactions in these two cities; it will make life easy for people. PMPML is currently facing an issue of disposing off coins (2.5 million) which are lying with them because banks have refused to accept such a huge number of coins. It is the change in mindset that it is crucial. Mindset change should be in people as well as officials who run these organisations. 

We need to change the mindset in every field. The societies which are open to accept the change improve, or else they remain uncivilised. In India, you look at any area; we don’t want to use the “queue” system. We quickly break traffic rules; motorbikes are driven on footpaths when there is a traffic jam. We drive vehicles on the wrong side, nonchalantly. It is our mindset that needs to change. Leave your home 10/15 earlier instead of breaking the rules.  

What do we need to do, to change the mindsets? To me, social studies should be a mandatory subject in every field like engineering, medicine, economics. It should be compulsory for all courses. Parents should be the role models to the children. If mothers break traffic rules while going with their children, it is guaranteed that the child will break the rules when he/she grows up! Mom is always right! Large organisations are helping in some way by making it mandatory for their employees to wear a helmet while coming to the office! But some employees put on their helmet only two minutes before they reach the office. It is my head, who the hell is my office to make it mandatory? Such an attitude is a result of not wanting to change the mindset.  

My definition of developed country is a country where a small minority breaks public rules! You get different feeling on the roads in such countries. Why we Indians do not want to change? We take pride in not following the basic rules in a society. Is this because of British rules we had? In the last 50 years of British rule, we started doing everything against the government to make their life miserable. We seem to have forgotten that now we have our own government for the last 70 years. So we should stop the non-cooperation movement, change our mindset! To me, this is the biggest challenge in India!  

Ever the optimist, I discussed with an Uber driver, about the fast tag. He said, “Modi is going to make our life miserable. Fast tag, camera-based traffic violation fines! But sir, we deserve this! We will probably take five years to see the dramatic effects of these things. We need this. In the last six months, I can see the effects on traffic violations!”

Mumbai saga!  

Recent political saga brings questions to my mind! Is this typical human nature? Is everybody so powerhungry? Where do voters like you and me remain relevant? Many voters had voted for the alliance between BJP and Shivsena, but they fought about the chief ministers post and split. Shivasena joined the opponents, and it has formed a government in alliance with the “secular” former opponents the Congress party. Shivasena is strong proponent of Hindutva principle, and Congress has always been a “secular” party. Secular is defined as not connected with religious or spiritual matters. 

In between, Ajit Pawar of NCP “joined” with BJPFadnavis and Ajit Pawar took oath as Chief Minister and Dy Chief Minister. That was another episode from the saga. The government formed lasted only for a couple of days, thanks to the Supreme Court. 

Saga1 

All these happenings appear to be a stolen script from the Epic of Mahabharata. We have two Epics, Ramayana and MahabharataRamayana is the epic which follows utopian text and Mahabharata has the reallife script. The last three days story of Fadnavis taking the oath was a shame on the democracy. One felt like shutting the eyes or not putting the TV ON. One felt like not even reading the newspapers. It was a shameless behaviour. It can be compared with the disrobing of Draupadi in public by DushasanaHer modesty was saved by Lord Krishna by supplying an endless supply of sarees! Similarly, the Supreme court’s order to prove the required strength of MLA’s within 24 hours saved disrobing of democracy in Maharashtra.  

saga3

Ajit Pawar openly went against his leader Sharad Pawar and tried to break the Chakravyuha set up by his uncle Sharad PawarAjit Pawar like Abhimanyu thought he had the knowledge to break through the vyuha. Like Abhimanyu had learnt half knowledge about breaking of chakravyuha while he was in his mother’s wombAjit dada thought that he had learnt all the tricks from his guru and uncle, Sharad Pawar. But he did not know that he had only half the required knowledge.  

In Ramayana, when Lord Rama went for 14 years of vanvas, his brother did not take a quick jump on the throne. Bharat’s mother Kaikeyi had played her cards well to send Rama to vanvas. But Bharat was loyal to his brother, and for all these 14 years he kept Rama’s paduka’s (footwear) on the throne as a gesture to show his respect to Rama. He looked after the administration under the tutelage of Rama’s paduka’s and was representing Rama. BJP and Shivsena fought the election under the leadership of BJP. Once the results were out, they took the role exactly reverse of Bharata. By breaking the partnership with BJP, Shivasena has sent BJP on five-year-long vanvas! While doing so, they have accepted the terms of their “opposition” of not making Thackrey’s son the Chief Minister! If they had shown the same maturity in discussions with BJP, they would not have broken their pre-poll alliance!   

In all this saga, where does the common man like you and me stand? People voted to the BJP-Shivsena pre-poll alliancePeople voted the candidate in their area irrespective of his party. The vote was for the alliance. They had faith in the coalition and not on individual party. They now feel cheated 

The show was the politics at it’s best or the worst! One crucial point comes to mind. These parties run on donations given to them by their cadre and some other organisations. The money is given to run the affairs of the party. But they have shown so much faith in their MLA’s that these guys were put “under house arrest, in fivestar hotels. These were about 150 people. They were in hotels for about ten days. If we consider an average room rate of Rs. ten thousandthey spent Rs. 1.5/ crores minimum. The first thing is why fivestar hotels are needed to keep these people “under arrest”? The second thing is why these MLA’s are required to be kept under “arrest”If this is the faith the parties have in their MLA’show will they ensure that in future MLA’s will not rebel? Once the government is formed, there will be dissatisfied soulsBJP sitting on opposition benches is not going to keep quiet. There are 26 independent MLA’s, so they probably need additional 15/20 MLA’s. In Karnataka, BJP showed patience and got a chance to form government after a couple of years! Poaching of MLA’s is nothing new, but now there are good laws like anti-defection laws in place! Maharashtra saga may show the way for creating some good laws against breaking alliance after elections have been won with pre-poll agreement 

Politics world over is the same. It is the methods of handling the situations that vary. Brexit is a classic case of the political mess in Britain. Young people, who are affected the most by Brexit did not take part seriously in the referendum. When the results were out, Britain had opted for going out of the EU (European Union). There was enough time for Britain to exit smoothly, but the successive governments handled things poorly. The result was that a Prime Minister had to resign. Second Prime Minister who thought that he could sail through has been stalled at every stage. He was finally left with no option but to call for an early election. What the election results will do, is anybody’s guess. I am sure there must have been many internal offers to switch votes for the MP’s. But in Britain, they don’t “arrest” their MP’s against the fear of revolt. But the result has been the same, confusion.  

Both democracy and dictatorship have their pros and cons. But democracy has more pros than cons. People prefer to live in political uncertainty rather than living under the fear of tyranny. Look at what is happening in Hongkong. China is trying very hard to push her ways and take control of Hongkong, but the people of Hongkong are fighting tooth and nail against the changes China is pushing!  

Besides election troubles and chaos, governments world over are experts in creating a mess. Currently, there is big story going on in the Parliament in Ireland. A huge printer worth 1.3 million pounds was ordered. When the printer arrived in the parliament house, they realised that it could not be taken inside the building because of the size. The printer was moved to a storage godown at the cost of two thousand pounds a month for almost one year. The location was corrected to accommodate the printer that cost another twenty thousand pounds. Finally, the printer was installed and got ready to print about two months back. Not a single paper has been printed, yet!  

Saga2

All activities in a society reflect on some other action. We have difference of opinion at home, in the place of work. We bicker with friends and relatives.  So why bicker about what happened in Mumbai. It has been happening since the days of Mahabharata! We rarely see things happening in the Ramayana way. Yudhisthir had to give that famous reply “अश्वत्थामा हतो नरो वा कुञ्जरो वा” to deceive Dronacharaya. When Dronacharya was told that Ashwathama died, he asked Yudhisthir as Yudhisthir always spoke the truth. But अश्वत्थामा हतो नरो वा कुञ्जरो वा meant that he was not sure if it was the human or the elephant of the same name! In short, he also discretely lied! But we have only one in a million  Yudhisthirs, so what more can we expect from our society and from our politicians? 

 

 

 

Perceptions and Grudges!

Perception is how something is regarded, understood, or interpreted. A grudge is a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury. Though these two words have different meanings, these are interlinked in our day to day lives. An event takes place; we meet someone. We meet people for work, or we also meet casually. We meet known people or unknown people.  

According to my understanding, the perception comes into play firstthen the grudge may be formed if any. The same event is looked at by people in different ways. If five people are discussing why sales are going down, there will be ten different views. But some people have particular perception of the situation and do not accept opinions from others.  

Perception is best described by the story of an Elephant and five blind men. Each man thinks and depictthe elephant differently because he cannot see the whole elephant. They describe the elephant depending on the part they have touched. But in this case, the men are blind and cannot see the entire elephant. But in life, we also look at many situations like blind men. We are not blind, but our perceptions create a tunnel vision in our mind. We look at situations through that tunnel vision. Tunnel vision can also be compared with a narrow mind. The term narrowminded has been created for such thought process 

Why doe this happen? Why people become narrowminded? Why are people not willing to be open? It depends on how you are brought up from childhood, what experiences you get during childhood, younger days and later. Is this a good trait? The effect of such thinking is what many times leads to situations that are difficult to handle and can become complicated 

The net effect of perception leads to grudges. That is how perceptions and grudges are hands in glove! Sometimes, in addition to this, the ego also gets added to this mix. That then becomes a deadly situation.  

Take the example of Kashmir. British had the whole Indian subcontinent under their rule for 150 years. When we got independence, they divided the subcontinent based on religion. India and Pakistan were created. But about Kashmir, both India and Pakistan had different perceptions which have led to 70 years of continuous conflict. Both sides think that Kashmir is rightfully theirs. Pakistan believes so because the majority population there is Muslim. But Kashmir Raja was Hindu, so he had agreed to join India. Rest as they say is history. 

Recently I came to know about the situation in a family. I know both the brother and the sister. We went to the sister’s home for chitchat. While chatting, I asked her how her brother was? She said that he was fine, with the usual routine problems in life. After some more discussion, she said, “While chatting, I remembered about our mother who died several years back.” She said, “When I was talking about our mother, my brother looked upset and suddenly said, you don’t even take her name in front of me again. I was taken aback and stopped the subject. I don’t know what had happened between the two. I don’t even remember any specific incident or clash between two of them. What grudge was formed by him against her, I don’t know.” It is a case of a family of all educated people. Outwardly I knew there was some friction, but it is prevalent between any two people. It is there between husband and wife, parents and children. Sometimes a sibling gets more support and love from parents, but there are reasons for it. Whether those reasons are right or wrong is a matter of perception. But this lady felt that it was unfortunate when she realised that her brother had a big grudge about their mother.  

Perceptions and grudges make things difficult for everybody. As we grow from childhood to adulthood, we meet and see many people. We form our opinions about them, sometimes without giving the benefit of the doubt to that person. A friend was a Chairman of a medium-sized company; his colleagues used to be afraid of him as he was a bit short-tempered. But inwardly he was a soft person. He always would ask his colleagues about their family, the children and small details about everything at their home. He was so helpful that when one of his senior managers was to go to Japan, for the first time, he made sure that he had enough winter clothing and business suits. The manager was a vegetarian, and the boss suggested to him the ways of getting the right vegetarian food. The outwardly strict person had a personality which could be compared with coconut, hard from outside and soft from within with sweet water inside — those who did not know him from close thought that he was a tough person. 

Grudges sometimes can be funny also. I joined COEP, Pune in 1967, and I got admission to the hostel. There used to be different food messes run by the students. There was a different type of food in each mess. Two were cosmopolitan, which served non-vegetarian food. Then there was one with typical Maharashtrian food, another one used to serve Maharashtrian spicy food and one used to serve Gujarati type of food. I wanted to join the mess which used to serve typical Maharashtrian food. The committee would interview the prospective candidates. The committee consisted of senior students. I was not admitted. Hence, I joined a cosmopolitan mess. During my third year, I had become senior enough and moved the Maharashtrian mess. During a chat with the committee, I asked them why I was not admitted in the first place. I was told, “You were from Bombay, and you wore a bold striped shirt for the interview. So, the majority of the committee thought that I was showing attitude!” That used to be the perception about us Bombay guys in the late 60s of the last century. I had observed that some of the students from Pune would not talk to us guys. We were supposed to be smart and a half! Later, some of them have become very dear life-long friends. It was just a matter of perception. Luckily, they did not let the perception to convert into a grudge!  

Now in my golden years, after travelling all over the world, meeting different professionals from various fields and different countries. I have understood that humans are the same everywhere. Perceptions and grudges are common traits in all human beings. Lucky ones like me did not come into contact with too many of this type! Unless of course, now some might think that I have become equivalent of Boston Brahmin! (By the way, I am a Pune Brahmin in real life)  🙂🙂

 

 

“Enjoying” Education, JNU Style!

By the time I completed my education, I was 23 ½ years old (actually young)! Never in my mind, there was a thought that I should hang around in the college and keep on enjoying student life. I enjoyed my college life. I studied 11 years of school, two years of college pre-engineering, six years of engineering college, taking my Master’s degree in engineering. So totally, I studied for 19 years. The education made me employable, and I already had a job offer before my final examination for the Master’s degree. In the first year of engineering, we had 400 students who joined, but with me, for a Master’s degree, there were about 20 students.  

These days, I am reading about JNU saga. I am just trying to understand what it is all about. My fees for the Engineering course fee was princely Rs.110/; now I am told that it is Rs.10000/. Inflation changes many things, including money earning capacity too! The old problems of many parents not affording fees also remain! In advanced countries like the US and Canada, the percentage of people joining colleges after 12th grade is quite small. Majority of the students who join colleges take student loans and repay them after they get a job. Repaying student loans is a significant problem in these countries They don’t give subsidies for everything!

JNU1

The table above shows the number of students in JNU and the trend there is completely reversed. Total joining UG course is 841, PG course the number is double that number and those doing M Phil or PhD is five times the number. The trend all over the world is reverse. For higher degrees, the number of students reduces drastically. But why JNU has this different trend? Do these students want to enjoy student life and not take employment? How long subsidies should be given?

Education should be kept affordable for as many people as possible. The more educated people in a society make the society developed, and the country, in general, becomes an advanced country! But such things happen over some time, maybe a couple of generations.  

But one thing I am trying to understand, why are 3500 students doing M Phil and PhD in Social Sciences, Language Studies and International studies? How will such a large number in these subjects become employableDoes the country need such large number of PhD’s in this subject? Another trend I read was that these people finish one degree and then register for the next degree. Probably idiots like me take 19 years of education earning postgraduate degree and take up a job right away. How many years do you want to remain a student? The grants and scholarships offered for such courses keep these folks living their life without becoming “adults” or responsible citizens 

Inflation over the years is a normal phenomenon. The JNU folks are severely protesting the same. The protest to my eyes at least looks like political rally! I have been observing over some time. What is so special about JNU that as students they want special treatmentWhat great achievements have they shown? Some of the alumni have done exceedingly well in life. But that happens with many institutes. Some of the other renowned institutes have a much more significant percentage of their alumni who have done well.  

JNU4

JNU has produced alumni who have been giving support to known terrorists! They have been demanding plebiscite in KashmirThey have been supporting the Naxalite movement. Are these achievements the reason they want special treatment? Just because they are in Delhi, they want to take morcha to the parliament? I have never heard of IIM, IIT or NIT students taking morcha to the parliament to protest against the fee hike!  

It will make an excellent sense to have 3500 well-trained artisans rather than having 3500 PhD in the subject of social science. Probably the “success” of Lutyen’s gang for some period encourages people to become intellectuals. An intellectual is defined as a person possessing a highly developed intellect. But then why only social scientists are intellectuals? Why a space scientist, not an intellectual? Why a Medical Doctor, not an intellectual? Why an Engineer, not an intellectual? In many professions in life, there are people of high intellect, but only the so-called social science people are called intellectuals!  

These “intellectuals” always talk of freedom of speech. But any freedom comes with responsibility. Do they appear to be responsible personsHow the subjects or opinions which are typically considered antinational by the majority are taken up by JNU gang as the subject of national importance? 

JNU3

I know the principle that one should remain a student for life and keep on learning new techniques, methods, systems. But this should be done while you are gainfully employed and have become productive. At the age of 70, I have recently done an online course on the subject of my liking. But I paid fees for that and did not expect any subsidy or scholarship, along with whatever freebies I could get. I am showing above a photo of 45-year-old “student” from JNU! I have nothing against age but are you otherwise gainfully employed?  

I have done my master’s degree, so I am aware of how the higher education system works. Add three to four years to your PG degree, why your PhD degree should not be completed by the age of 27 or 28? Why keep on remaining a student beyond this age? When will you become productive? The superstars who have come out of JNU left JNU after their PG or PhD course and moved to foreign countries. They did shine after becoming gainfully productive, earning their own money! Not by expecting subsidies for hostels, and messor by getting the scholarship under some course or the other! At least I am not aware of any alumni doing some path-breaking work while still being a “student. 

Now I have started thinking if JNU is a laboratory to produce politicians. Every dispute, every issue is politicised and is given national importance because the protesters take the protest to the parliament, the highest institute of Indian democracy. Parliament has issues and problems to discuss and resolve, which are of national, and international importance. JNU is not even a small cog in the Indian nation.  

It is high time a serious thought is given how to depoliticise such an important institute! Importantly, it should be found out why such high numbers are doing PhD? Are these degrees useful to the nation? The money should be spent on courses which are of importance to national growth. It should not be wasted on “life long” students taking degrees which are of no real use to India’s growth story!

 

Even Better India!

My previous blog was Better India! The blog got responses from people, and the subject has touched many hearts! My friend Ajit was very vocal and made strong pointsThese many comments induced me to write this blog, Even better India! 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/better-india/ 

Most have agreed about self-discipline, and road discipline and rule-breaking by ordinary people. But the comments also suggested that if specific actions are taken against a group of people, we can have “Even Better India”! Who are these people? Which is this group of people who need to be controlled? Politicians, Bankers, Rogue business persons? Or all these can be defined under one group, Goondas? Maybe this is too strong a word! People working in government have great opportunities to take bribes, but let me assure you it happens in the private sector too! Let me tell you that taking bribes has been happening even in my parent’s generation! I know it because my father was a police officer and retired as a DCP! Since he was an honest officer, after retirement, he did not have enough money to buy his own home too! Our family found a different solution for them. While I was in school, at some family friend’s house, I had accidentally seen a few bundles of hundred-rupee notes! He was a government official. So how do we start to make even a better India?  

Independent India started with people who had their needs barely covered, but there was only small higher middle class and wealthy class. Our country was in a euphoric mood, and the income tax slab at the top end was 97 %! We were in a socialist mood. There was general hate about wealthy people as if they were some aliens. Wealthy Kings and Royalty were expected, but there was dislike about rich people. At 97 % income tax rate tendency to hide profits and not showing correct income started becoming a norm. My personal view is that I would have also done the same thing had I been a taxpayer in those days. Over a period, the government understood the folly of such high taxation plus need to get linked with the global systemTax % over a period became more realistic and with global links business activity in India started increasing. IT industry suddenly put many Indians in the worldwide workforce. The number of people in the middle class and higher middle class started growing.  

Now we have millionaires and billionaires in the working class. Along with this change, businesspeople started becoming superrich. Income tax compliance increased, but people still started hiding their income, the most standard method was to create a group of shell companies, thanks to the creativity of chartered accountantsSome well-known global accounting firms also started helping businesspersons by suggesting the Swiss Banks and Cayman island routes. Some super-rich became roving Casanovas and had lifestyle which created many Nonperforming assets. Homes in London, Villas in Cannes, spending summer months in St Moritz became the lifestyle of these people.  

When there were so many super-rich people, politicians could not be far behind. The nexus became stronger. The lawmakers tweaked the laws for their friends, and the quid pro quo was not far awayWhen money levels reached thousands of crores, the need for bank loans increased, with this cheating the banks also increased. Over some time, friendly managers, general managers and directors of the banks started the quid pro quo acts with the rich! You help me; I will “help” you!  

Some of the super-rich entered the political arena, along with these people some harmful elements from the society also joined the bandwagon, including those with murder charges, started becoming netas and getting elected in Vidhan sabha and Lok SabhaWe all forget that theoretically, India is a great democracy with significant rules and laws to keep check on malpractices! The income tax departments, enforcement directorates, and other authorities were around but were kept dormant under pressure by politicians. These group of officials were “told” to ignore malpractices done by certain groups of businesses. Politicians thought that they were immune to such actions.  

But in recent years, the government is trying to ensure that the vigilance departments would start doing the job actively, without any influence from interested” people. The action created Mallyas, Modis and Kotharis. People who thought that they could never be caught have become official fugitives. Government has started action against shell companies, and three lac shell companies were forced to closeThe act of closing shell companies automatically brought out the trail of black money. Government has started acting against chartered accounting firms who were “guiding” people to hide the black money trail. A chartered accounting firm in Bangalore was guiding thousands of employees to “steal” money from Income Tax. All these people were made to pay correct tax, and it was easy for the department to locate who was guiding them. The authorities acted against this particular company too! 

The nexus between all these groups is so deep in the system that it is going to take time to bring them to books. Some political families, who were middle class twenty years back now have thousands of crores with them, without any specific known source of income. How is this happening? Will the government have the guts to act against such families? I think the government has shown courage already by taking action against individuals and families 

Supreme Court is also quite proactiveThey are actively pursuing cases like Sahara, DSK, Unitech, Amrapali and many others. The court has put many big shots in jail. They have been told, arrange to return people’s money if they wanted to come out of jail. Mallya, Modi, Kothari have been shamed as they are declared fugitives! They are living the life of fugitives in other countries. The courts, even in the UK, are making it very difficult for them to get bail. These folks ran away from India before they were declared offenders, so their exit from India and entry into the UK has been legal, so extradition has become a tough and longdrawn process.  Banks have also started correcting their errors. The NPA money to the tune of four lac crores has been recovered from defaulters 

One thing is sure that the system does not like non-corrupt officials and politicians. But some non-corrupt people have shown that one can work in the present corrupt environment. When the government started giving various subsidies based on Aadhar card links, many groups and individuals were upset. Some state governments are already acting on corrupt officials, but there is a long way to go!  

Making changes is not as easy as it looks, but again it is about the culture. The world over there is significant corruption in large business deals. But usually, it does not happen on day-to-day be basis like our policemen, anti-encroachment team taking hafta (speed money)! So, it comes back to the same issues what I wrote in the blog “Better India”! If the policeman on roads, clerks in the offices, peons sitting outside the boss’s cabin stop taking haftas, things will change.  

Government action on business people, politicians, and goondas is going to help create “Even better India”! But as Ajit had also mentioned in his comments that the general public is good; no, I don’t agree! All the big guns or goons whatever you want to call them, are being chased and are being taken to task; the same non-hafta culture and culture of self-discipline must filter down to the lowest common denominator!  

Actions need to be taken right across the board and not against only some groups! Combination of these two actions is going to make “Even Better India”!