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!

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!”

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”!

 

What is democracy?

Last month’s election in Maharashtra was the first time Jaya, and I missed the voting as we were in Canada at that time. From the results point of view, it looked straight forward. There was an alliance between BJP and Shivsena. It was expected to win by a high margin, but though the win was comfortable, NCP and Congress won more number of seats than expected. There was a lot of horsetrading before the election, and many stalwarts switched over to BJP or Shivsena.  

The usual bickering of sharing the power was expected, but Shivsena wanted their 29-year-old, inexperienced prince to become the chief minister at least for half the period till next elections after five years. Some give and take was expected, but suddenly the alliance reached a stage where both sides became very rigid in their stand. The partnership at present looks as if it will take time to mend if at all, it restores.  

Many times we forget who these politicians are! We treat them as different species; it is mainly because of the methods they use and wealth amassed by the corrupt ones. But like any group of people, not all are the same. The percentage of dishonest people whom we don’t like in this group is more than any regular group. But lately, it has been observed a similar percentage of corrupt people is found in the business domain also. The methods of corruption in both groups are different, but at the end of the day, the corrupt practices are mainly about making money with fewer efforts. If possible, the politicians make money using their influence in the government to push the papers quickly, sometimes tweak the policies or help people to find loopholes so that people can perform illegal things. I am talking about the regular business, not the nasty business of drugs or psychotropic stuff.  

Till the BJP government came into power in 2014, all the illegal ways were taken for granted. Some smart investigative reporters would find a few scams that were taking place. Then these would all go to committees and courts! Things continued as usual. A few of these scams were investigated, but the majority remained in limbo. 

What is politics? I don’t know how to define politics. To me, it is an activity where people with different ideologies and thought processes come together, form a group which is called a party. Then they fight local elections, some graduate to state elections, and in 2019, 552 of these people fought national posts in Loksabha. So, it is a gradual process for most people, but some of these people come in a helicopter and directly get into national politics. These are special people from elite families who are “born” to work at the national level! The process of directly reaching the federal level causes significant issues at some stage. These parties remain democratic only by the constitution but are dynastically run organisations. Some of these people are wealthy people, and nobody knows how they make so much money. Looking at these leaders, other leaders also start looking at ways of making money without doing any work. They know that nobody is going to challenge their ways.  

Over a period, it has been observed that many politicians and business persons are hands in glove! So many times, the main work of politicians, of running the nation efficiently with the help of government servants, is forgotten. Some of the government servants join hands with this nexus. The classic method followed by business persons was to have a large number of shell companies to hide the trail of black money. The present government has made an exclusive drive and shut down three lacs shell companies. There were so many such companies, but no one was bothered. Everybody was busy in their own game of making money!  

With such corrupt ways, it was a real surprise that India grew very fast during the last twenty years. That means the Indian economy was large, but a sizable percentage of the money in the system was black money i.e. in the parallel economy. The black money is used for business within the country, but it also encourages nefarious practices! Black money cannot come into the formal banking system. Hence banking systems get stretched.  

Such things are difficult in non-democratic countries like China and Russia. In such countries, only a selected group of people can do whatever they want. Under such system, China has shown tremendous growth but without checks and balances. Now the effect of not having checks and balances are coming out, and the Chinese economy is also showing a tremendous downturn.  

Democracy is a sound system where people have freedom, but there are checks and balances too! India did not implement the checks and balances properly for many years, and that has caused the political system to become more corrupt.  

The logical conclusion of what is happening in Maharashtra should be re-elections! There should be some method of ensuring that alliances which are declared before elections, must form a government if they win the election. Trying to form a government with coming together of diametrically opposite parties is a mockery of the system. It is an insult to the voters who voted for the alliance and the candidate. A friend told me the other day that he voted for a candidate because he was representing the BJP-Shivsena alliance. In the ordinary course, he would have voted for a candidate from a different party who had proven a track record in social work. An average person like you and me feel cheated because of what is happening in Mumbai. Since the ideologies of the other parties are the opposite, they will make an alliance based on the common minimum program. Should the most advanced state in India, Maharashtra, be run on a common minimum program, just because in democracy, things are pretty loosely defined?  

Maharashtra deserves better than this so-called solution of the hotchpotch government. Maharashtra is paying a massive price due to the ego of certain individuals. But to me, it is not only the ego but arrogance. Most of us are hoping that the government will not be allowed to form. Is this the democracy we are looking for? Maharashtra elections for me are comparable with Brexit!

I sincerely hope that no government is formed with presently elected reprentatives. In the next election, those parties who have gone back on words would suffer as people will vote against them.  

My hope is that we have re-elections in April 2020, where we the people will show to these politicians who are the real kingmakers!  

Migration, Human and Birds!

Migration is a phenomenon that is happening since times unknown. Till permanent human settlements started, there was hardly any difference between human migration and migration by other species. Out of different species, birds are known to travel long distances for the reason of saving themselves from severe weather conditions. The species who could not fly had limitations of how much they could move to overcome harsh conditions. Humans must have also faced the same problems as these species. 

Polar bears handle the harsh winters differently. Nature has designed their body in such a way that they can prepare themselves in advance. The polar bears go into hibernation when the severe winter conditions begin. They go to sleep literally in caves, up to four months. They store enough food in their body and can go without food during hibernation. No other species hibernate like the bears, as per my knowledge. Turtles and other species are known to go to specific spots to lay their eggs, every year. Probably they “find” their “safe” area to lay eggs.  

Many birds like flamingos are known to travel thousands of km to protect themselves from harsh weather. It’s God’s design that has given the birds instincts and “GPS” to fly far away from their natural habitat. Human migration is a different phenomenon altogether. When did the human race move away from their nomadic phase? Once they started designing and creating various modes of transport, the migration process started. But the reasons for human migration very rarely have been the weather. In very few cases, human still moves to different locations during harsh weather conditions. It may be snow, rains or the harsh Sun! But now the reasons are many and varied. New ideas for migration keep getting added. There are so many aspects to non human migration,  maybe I will write separately on that subject. 

In migration between humans and other species, the main difference is the feelings, human bonds and the alienation that humans feelFor humans, ithe initial phase, migration started from adventure, to look for El Dorado, education, for jobs! Europeans travelled to the east to take over colonies to spread their empire. Reasons like political asylum or refuge to different countries to run away from wars or despotic regimes have now been added. Humans don’t mind going to places where the weather is harsh for improving their careers and leading better lives! My current sojourn made me think about how humans deal with the mental aspect and social aspect of life. It made me think about the assimilation of humans with the new society. It is about the social aspects of keeping in touch with friends and families back home. It is about keeping your own culture and taking part in the new culture. 

Anandi Gopal Joshi was the first wellknown migrant who went to the US to take medical education. I can’t even imagine how she must have managed it in those days. Anandibai died young at the of 22 in the year 1887. So naturally, we do not know what she went through in those days and how she handled it. Compared to the current level of communication, in those days, there was zero communication or as good as no communication. How must she have handled the initial phase after reaching the US? Did she have enough money to eat every day? Did she have sufficient warm clothing for the winter? I am sure she must have been a vegetarian, so what food did she eat in those days?  

Especially in the US and Canada, migration is nothing new. The countries came into being by the migration of the British, the Spanish and the French to that vast landmass overcoming and initially killing “the American Indians”! These countries came into being with war and migration — the main aim of reaching the landmass was to form the respective colonies.  

Since early 50 s of the last century, many people have been moving around the world, but large percentage move to the US for obvious reasons. In olden times the communication method must have been by postal mail, in today’s language snail mail. Telephones were rare in India, so communicating back home must have been difficult. know of someone who called his parents on the phone (parents had a phone at home in India) only once in fifteen years when his twins were born!   

Jaya was in the US for one year for her MS in 1980-81. We did not have phone at home in Pune. Jaya would send me a letter to fix the time on which she would call me at someone’s houseWe considered it lucky if we got connected within one hour of the set time.  

With pathbreaking changes in communication methods, today it is effortless to remain in touch with eacother. These changes help the migrated persons to be in touch with back home, and the emotional umbilical cord remains intact, helping to settle down quickly. But I have known of extreme cases of the communication spectrum.  

A classmate moved to the US in 70 s of the last century. He has travelled to India only once during these 45 plus years. I did not have the heart to ask him the reason, but from the discussion I had with him did not indicate any specific reasons– I did not probe. I know of a family who was at the other extremeTheir daughter moved after marriage. The parents would talk to her on the video chat for two to two and half hours every day for the first five years. I don’t want to become judgmental in this, but when are you going to make your children independent? I know that this same girl would have two to two and a half hours discussion or much less with her parents in a week, when she was in India.  

Migrated families have their practical difficulties. As they grow, so do their children. Those who have managed to remain connected with back home, they come for marriages and deaths in the families. That also later becomes difficult as they move up the ladder in their careers. They also want to take their family holidays in different parts of the world. Their connect becomes weak depending on case to case.  

Many people of my age now come back home to be away from harsh winters from November to March. But this is going to happen in people of my generation. How much connect will remain after we are gone is difficult to predictI always wonder how much relate will the thirdgeneration Panvalkar or Kulkarni will have with India?  

Frequency of coming “home starts reducing from one year to two years to maybe even five years. Such things can happen when parents back home don’t die early enough and get restrictions on travel. When these physical meetings start reducingI have seen in many families that the mother is waiting hoping to make that favourite dish, their “child” loved thirty years back. But the child does not have time when in India because of other commitments.  

Each individual, each family, handles these issues in their unique waysbut one thing is sure the situations will remain in flux and will keep on changing, which to me, is natural! How to handle such things? What is the magic wand? Where is the magic wandBut I hear from many of my generation, that the magic wand  is getting developed under the name of detachment!  

  

 

 

Migration at what cost!

We always read about trafficking of humans. Sometimes it is done to use the “trafficked,” girls or women for forced prostitution. Many times, it is families that are running away from poverty or for political asylum due to conditions in their respective countries. 

I do not know what percentage of people successfully reach their proposed destination in the case of trafficking for a better life, and they really live normal life or live lifelong as aliens! 

But recent news items are definitely showing a disturbing trend. Three hundred Indian people were forcefully deported from Mexico to India. These people had reached Mexico using whatever route but their final destination was the USA. The US government has taken a strong stand with Mexico. Mexico was threatened that unless they take forceful action against potential illegal immigrants, Mexican goods will be taxed heavily. Mexican government chartered a plane to deport the three hundred Indians. 

Essex

In the UK, in Essex, a refrigerated tractor-trailer was found. To the horror of people, they discovered that there were thirty-nine Chinese people inside, who were all dead. The truck was registered in Bulgaria by an Irish company. The truck came to the UK from Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Death of illegal migrants due to capsizing of boats or the tragedy like the one in Essex are heard quite regularly. 

All of us want a better life, and we all strive for that. But what does it mean by a better life? What are the ways of achieving the same? 

Before taking desperate measures like illegal immigration, do we try to improve life in our own country? With better travel facilities, better communication it is reasonably easy to go other countries. But migration is not going to be as easy as people think. 

Each country has its own laws and requirements of skill sets suitable in their country. If you don’t fit into the criteria, migration will be difficult. 

But the desperate attempts are not new! Way back in 1981we were travelling in Texas in my brother’s car. The car had a problem, but luckily a Mexican family helped us to reach a motel. The Mexican family was very clear in thinking; they said there is only one Motel nearby that will let you all stay. All others would refuse admission for obvious reasons, racism. We were welcome by, who else, a Patel. Next day, we checked with him about breakfast. He told Jaya, “Bhabhi you make Poha for all of us, those will be my charges. I won’t charge you rent; you are from my home country.” His story was somehow he had managed to reach Miami through South America. He immediately took a bus and in 4/5 days reached San Fransisco. There through other Patels, he managed a driving license, which helped him get Social Security number and now he was running a Motel in Texas. He was living there without family, had not spoken to them in years. He said, “I am leading a good life, now I will buy one more Motel.” That was his definition of a good life! 

In today’s times such stories may be happening, but those will be less due to computerisation. But what is it that drives people to try desperate measures? India and China are two countries with the largest population. We generally know what is happening in India but in China there two are countries, one well to do and the other very poor. Workers in large factories in China are treated worse than slaves. They live in cramped accommodations and are allowed to go home, once in a year. 

If these people try to migrate in desperation, it is no surprise. In certain East European countries and African countries, conditions are desperate. 

Besides this in East European countries, there is a Mafia which is very active in the sex slave trade. They simply kidnap girls for their purpose and “sell” them. 

About the Essex incident, it was said that all these poor people had paid Euros ten thousand each for “immigration”. In such transactions, there are no guarantees. If you are lucky, you reach your destination. There is always a fear, that you may get caught later and be deported! Whether these poor, uneducated are aware of these aspects, I am really not sure. In the sex trade, young girls are never allowed any freedom to go anywhere else. They are simply tools of the sex trade! Once their shelf life is over, many times they are simply “wasted”! 

One question that always comes to my mind is that whenever we read stories of illegal immigration of Indians, why the people involved are mostly from Punjab side? What is different in Punjab that these people take big risks, including the risk of losing a life! 

One new aspect has been noticed by me recently. In the US, many educated people have been working on a work permit. Because of the current quota system of the US Government, many of these people may never get their green card in their lifetime. Will these people continue to live in this stress all their life? 

There is an article I read recently which says, when the children (not born in the US) of these H1b visa people become adults, their visa status as good as comes back to square one. Till they were not adults, they were on a dependent visa; they could continue their stay on dependent visa. 

Every migrant is looking for his El Dorado! (A mythical city made up of Gold!) Nothing wrong in that, but should people take the risk where your odds of reaching are not very high. After reaching the destination, one’s chances of getting caught are also high. Most of such people are not having high skills or education. So the employers take the risk of employing aliens, a term used for illegal immigrants. Taking advantage of the situation, they are paid salaries well below normal salaries. 

Now European nations and the US are in the process of tightening visa rules. Canada offers visas to skilled people. With computers used at every stage, the chances of getting caught while trying illegal immigration become high. So, is it worth it? Or their situation is like “between a rock and a hard place”? Maybe that is the reason people are taking chances. 

Other aspects of migration are political and continuous war-like situation, in many countries. Such migrations are more in European countries. 

These issues have their own complications, but these arise due to situations beyond people’s controls. These people are treated humanely by many nations, but they have their quota for absorbing refugees. 

Human migration has become a significant phenomenon of the last fifty years but is increasing day by day. Whether this will happen legally or illegally is going to be the key to such situations. 

The latest news today says, that 39 dead people found in Essex lorry could even be Vietnamese. No identification is available on the bodies of any of the victims. To me these are the saddest immigration events! 

In olden days people used to move from education or jobs, within their country to different cities. Such migration still continues in a big way, but international migration temporary or permanent is on the rise. I sincerely hope no more Essex type of accidents happen again! 

  

 

 

 

Beggars and Survivors!

I came across two articles today. Topic in one of them was how much money should we have in savings so that we survive in emergencies. The second was about homeless people in California. I have recently written a blog about people for whom thousands of crores of Rupees are also not enough.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/cheats-frauds-or-failed-businesses/

So, I am talking about the three ends of the spectrum. Super rich people are at one end and homeless are on the other end. You and I are in between where discussion about emergency funds can happen!

Panati1

Besides this, I also read one more story about a poor young girl who was standing in line to buy cooking oil for her home. People were buying in terms of half a litre, one litre and so on. When the girl reached the counter, she said, “I want to buy oil worth ten paise (like ten cents).” She put forth a पणती (picture above) – it is a lamp made out of the mud and generally lit with the help of a wick which is dipped in oil. The shopkeeper got irritated and said, “I don’t sell oil in such small quantities”. The girl said, “ But I have only so much money to buy oil; if you don’t sell me the oil, then we will not be able to cook anything at home tonight.” The shop keeper yielded to her request and filled up the lamp with oil. The girl insisted that he must take ten paise from her.

Various thoughts started coming to my mind. On one side, we have homeless people; then some people barely survive like the young girl. You and I come next in the line and then there are super-rich people. What must be going through the minds of each of these groups of people, every day? About the homeless in California, some unexpected things were revealed. In Los Angeles, as per official count, there are fifty-nine thousand homeless people.

In a rich country like the US, in LA out of a population of 4 million people, 59000 are officially homeless, but this number could easily be one hundred thousand. It means 2.5 % of the population is homeless. There would be about 15% who barely survive. If this is the statistic in LA, then what would be statistic world over? How are the homeless treated in California? You will be shocked to know about it. The following paragraph shows the extreme views of a person who is against the homeless.

Gene Gorelik, a property developer in Oakland and an aggressive critic of the homeless, recently suggested luring the thousands of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area onto party buses stocked with alcohol and sending them on a one-way trip to Mexico. “Refugee camps in Syria are cleaner than where these people live.”  

As against this, residents had installed big boulders on the sidewalks in San Fransisco to deter homeless people from erecting tents where they could live in tents. In Los Angeles, homeowners installed prickly plants for the same purpose.  This is the picture of authorities removing boulders from sidewalks!

Panati2

I understand that everybody wants the area surrounding their homes should be clean and beautiful. But unfortunately, homeless people are also a fact of life. How to handle these conflicting situations? The funds sanctioned by a town council in California were not allowed to be spent by citizens to buy a shelter for homeless people.

In India, we have heard of many stories where rehabilitation of people living in shanties created different issues. These people were given properly built homes with amenities. These people took possession of the houses, then sold the houses and moved back to shanties.

Does one like to become homeless? I don’t think so. I am sure each individual would have a different tale. Some could be penniless due to their drug habits, some may have physical disabilities, and their family does not want to support them. But one heart rendering story of a nurse is touching. She had a regular job, she was alone, and her home was free of mortgage. She was in her fifties. She was detected with a very rare form of cancer.  She was treated for nearly two years. The treatment was so expensive that her insurance coverage was insufficient. She sold her home and moved to a rented apartment. By the time she was in remission, she had no money left, even to pay the rent and she became homeless!

How should society handle such cases? If such things can happen in a prosperous state like California in the US, what would be the status in other countries in the world? During my current stay in Montreal, whenever I go out, I see a beggar or two. Some are begging, others scavenging the garbage cans!

I am sure that not every homeless person is a druggy, and they may have their true stories like that of the nurse. During my childhood in Pune and Mumbai, I used to see hundreds of beggars and homeless. One thing is sure that at least in Pune and Mumbai, the number of beggars has drastically reduced.

I am sure that the number of homeless is still significant. Many graduate, from homeless status to move to shanties. Many of these poor people do some job or the other. If there is a will, they can get some job in large cities.

But how to handle such situations? Humans have progressed, with progress come factories and other businesses. Then there is service industry which is needed to service various items. But technology is such that robots are created and automation is done to reduce the costs, thereby reducing employment. So, it is a vicious circle!

But are reactions shown by people in California justified? Is it possible for the society to keep on feeding and providing shelter to such people, lifelong? In this discussion, we have not talked about people like us. When we live a normal life, take up a job after education, save money, buy homes, pay mortgages and follow the normal life pattern. But we can also have emergencies in our lives. Suppose our income becomes zero for a short duration. How should we prepare for such eventualities? Experts say that we should keep aside money which will see us through at least for six months. By that hopefully, things will be back to normal. According to me, in the US savings done by people are small, so they think in terms of six months. But in countries like India, saving rates are higher. People would be more comfortable with savings that will see us through for a couple of years. These safety margins will change from nation to nation or society to society.

Friends after a lot of thinking, I am still not able to understand how to handle the problem of homeless people very poor people. One way could be to help them train in some skills, so they become employable. But there will be some who will never want to work for which there is no solution. But I am quite sure that in most other countries people will not treat the homeless the way they treat in them in California.