Cheating, a prerogative!

A few

 

Exam

Climbing Walls to help students cheat!

A few days back, I had a written a blog about Atmanirbharata

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2020/06/27/atmanirbharata-self-reliance/

Though the blog referred to Mr Modi’s appeal about self-reliance by our nation, I had said that for a society or a nation to be Atmanirbhar, each individual must try to become Atmanirbhar in his/her own life. The process starts from birth, and it continues throughout our lives. But basic training continues till we continue our formal education. At that stage, we finish our initial training for self-reliance.

I have taken education until my Master’s degree in Engineering. I have appeared for various examinations. But the thought of copying during the exams never even came to my mind. Very rarely, we would see or hear someone copying. It used to be a scandal when we read the news about someone being caught copying during exams. I had the shock of my life, I think, during the third-year engineering exam. I was writing away with full concentration and had completed writing on the main answer book. I was writing on a “supplement” as the additional book was called. The invigilator went out for a few minutes, and my classmate sitting in front of me simply pinched the main answer book. He started copying answers from that. I started sweating. At the same moment, the invigilator came inside. People rarely copied during those days, so she was casually moving around the class.

Ten minutes later, she went out again. I was at my desperate and vicious best. I just caught my friend’s hair and pulled them hard. At the same moment, I bent forward and took my answer book. Phew! That was my only experience with copying during the exams.

Why do we have exams?

Exams help us learn and digest information more easily. Because students are under pressure to get good grades, they strive to do their best. They work hard, making sure that they are well-prepared. Without exams, students would be able to put off their revision and find it hard to keep up in class.

Exams are crucial. Many students are studying because of exams. Through the exams, students can know the level of their knowledge. It evaluates the student’s skills and enables them to overcome their nerves. It is an efficient way to measure knowledge. And also helps to estimate how much they have learned. Actually, it promotes competition among students. It helps in developing one’s personality and confidence. And exams have a significant role in providing necessary qualities in life such as hard work, patience, creativeness and leadership. This makes students able to overcome their weakness and become successful in life. Therefore exams should be compulsory. It judges us about the understanding of the subject and our capabilities to apply the knowledge. It also helps to improve the memory power of a person. It allows the students to explain their understanding of a subject. It not only helps to polish the writing skills but also helps one to improve their analytical skills and expand the outlook they have about the world. Hence an exam should be a tool for enhancing one’s career. It helps us to think for ourselves.

But is it human nature to find a shortcut, always? I do not know. If I make a generalised statement, then I will be saying something unfair to those who study hard and do well in the exams. But then which is the group of people that cheats? What could be the percentage of such people?

All these thoughts came to mind after reading the news given in the link below.

Out of 860 pilots from Pakistan Airline, 262 pilots did not even appear for the examination that leads them to get a license to fly. With ¼ th of pilots coming under doubt, the system needs an overhaul.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1565352/262-pilots-under-investigation-for-dubious-credentials-to-be-grounded-says-aviation-minister

If this could happen in Pakistan, it could happen in Bharat Desh too! After all, we are long lost brothers by birth! Aviation pilot training is a critical training. When Pilots fly passenger flights, the life of many passengers is in their hands. Though air travel is supposed to be the safest travel mode if it gets into the hands of people who cheated in their exams, risk factor increases. The Pakistani minister has said that the person who was supposed to take training did not appear for the exam, but someone else did. I am sure that for these exams, not many appear at a time, and all the centres for the exams would be city-based. How the cheating took place is a mystery. If one or two cases were found, then it could be explained as an aberration. But 262 pilots are involved in this fraud. I am sure that there is a big conspiracy to cheat the system and making money. To hell with passenger safety! Are the aeroplanes built to be so much fraud-proof? Those who have “passed” the exams have been flying these planes. (Today’s news said that  the US has asked Pakistan to stop flying to the US)

That reminds me of a story told by my son. He lives in the USA since the last twenty-five years. They used to hire people from India based on telephonic interviews. Those were the days of no video calls, and the candidates were asked questions on the phone. Candidates were a little slow in understanding and responding in English. The candidates were from Telangana. Most of them were very good technically, and got selected. When the first batch reached the US, they were found to be wanting in knowledge. The mystery was solved when my son pushed one of them for the real story.

Here is how it was done. The candidates would take the call in an institute on speakerphone. The candidates would appear to be slow! The reason was that the candidates were helped by experts with answers displayed on a screen by quick searching. The telephonic interviews were stopped.

Above two examples involved higher stakes. But in India, copying in the exams has reached a different level. It is an art. The proliferation of copying in exams is done nonchalantly. These exams are tenth or twelfth-grade exams. It is very embarrassing to even see the video and photographs. Hundreds of parents and relatives climbed the school walls and the compound walls to help children to copy.

If these children’s foundation was cheating, what else do you expect from them when they grow up. Why the madness? I heard that when they pass these exams, there is a chance of getting a government job as a peon. Does poverty lead to such acts? Is job availability so reduced? What knowledge would these kids have if they get tested and many times pass without acquiring any knowledge? I have gone through the exam papers of some students. In Hindi answer sheet of an 8th grader in Pune, there were 42 spelling mistakes. These were duly marked by the teacher. But the student was given 49 marks out of 50. Why? To encourage? Or the child was from a wealthy family or from a political family? God knows! But what was the point? Amen!

Freedom and Responsibility!


Freedom means the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Responsibility means the state or fact of being accountable, or to accept blame for something. We hear these words regularly, especially regarding the Press or the digital media. In the autocratic regimes, the word freedom is meaningless as everything right or wrong is decided by the governments. In a democracy, there are disputes about these words. Freedom is well explained by a funny anecdote. A Russian and an American are discussing freedom of expression in their countries. The American says, “In my country, I can bad mouth our President. Most likely, I will get away with it.” The Russian smiles and says, “We also have equal freedom in my country. I can curse the American President anytime. I will definitely get away with it.”

Two important events took place recently in India and the United States of America, the two largest democracies in the world. In India, the Press Trust of India published a news item; they interviewed the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi. In the interview, the Ambassador made a one-sided statement and blamed the Indian Government for the fracas that took place between the Indian Army and the Chinese Army at Galwan. PTI gave this news. With the current strong sentiments against China, Prasar Bharati, a government-controlled news agency, blamed PTI. They said that PTI published a news item which is anti-India. PTI is a cooperative which gives the yeomen service of news collection and distribution. It is established as a reliable news agency. Prasar Bharati pays about Rs.6.5/ crores (65 million) to PTI as its contribution every year. If Prasar Bharati breaks the pact with PTI, PTI will be in big trouble, financially.

The second event took place in the US. Based on the policies of Facebook, Coca Cola, Nike, and many other companies decided to stop advertising on Facebook. The reason was the policy about banning hate speeches or about the false news. FB started censoring hate speeches after Floyd episode, but they did not act on similar statements or expressions made by President Trump. Their argument was that when the President says something, it is a policy matter for the nation. Should the President’s policy statements be banned? So according to them, it was important news. But FB business is entirely dependent on the advertisements given by organisations like Nike and Coca Cola. Ultimately they have toed the line, and now Trump hate speeches also get banned.

It is a very critical situation, and honestly, I may not have the right answers. In the complex world, the news gets gathered in different ways. There are rules and regulations which many follow, but some do not comply. What is right or wrong, history will judge. It is a well-known fact that newspapers, news sites, TV channels have corporate policies. These policies are based on the “corporate board” or the owner. The news items will show the “colour” approved by the top bosses. In crude language, the entities are sold. So when you hop from A to B to C, we see different versions of the same news. At the end of the day, an average person gets confused. Then there are mouthpieces owned by some political parties. Mouthpieces “advice” the world on subjects of how to run the country. They teach the generals how to fight a war in the harsh terrain of Himalayas. It is okay if their party cannot run a city government efficiently. Such editors, the anchors of news channels and the “analysts” of all hues always ride on a high horse. For them, everything is one article away or one grilling interview away.

I am not saying that we should ban these entities. They have a definite role to play in a democracy. Many valuable news items that remain hidden in the debris of news that gets generated. Some organisations, some authorities or governments are trying to hide them. Investigative journalism helps bring out many such hidden items. Bofors case during Rajeev Gandhi’s time was a classic case which needed to be exposed. Such exposes are necessary for any society and must be brought out. Even this one example that I have quoted can become controversial because of the people connected with Rajeev Gandhi, and his party will not like what I have written. My idea is not to write something sensational or controversial but to try and analyse the need for such investigations. The investigations, in my opinion, are an essential part of our society. But I want to share a couple of stories that I saw on a news channel.

There was a piece of top breaking news sensationalising the failure of the central Government to procure sixty thousand ventilators in time. A tender was floated for this item and orders were placed on 14th May to be completed by 30th June. Ventilators till then, were all imported. Due to Corona pandemic, it would have been challenging to get them from abroad. Many companies developed them quickly, locally. Based on the feedback of their capabilities, orders were placed for fifty thousand ventilators. By 30th June only one company supplied its quota, and all others failed due to various reasons.

A highly complex product was being tried by Indian companies, including some large organisations. But they collectively were unable to supply their quota within a stipulated time. Now the news headline is “Government failed to procure ventilators on time.” Twenty thousand ventilators were procured, and the completion date was 30th June. The news item was discussed on 5th July. One company completed its quota and must have told the news channel that we have no orders though we have completed our contract. (This company can supply 2500 ventilators per month) The news channel generalised the news and blamed it on the Government. The last date for completion was 30th June, the performance needs to be analysed. Based on this data, the new orders can be placed. TRP, jingoism, channel policy? Your decision, friends.

The same channel has this story about a COVID patient who died because the Ambulance came late. Bangalore has suddenly seen the surge of COVID patients. Ambulances have a protocol that after each COVID patient is taken in the vehicle, it is thoroughly disinfected and sanitised. Bangalore is not geared up for the surge; hence there is a shortage of ambulances. The Ambulance reached the home and was told to park away from their home. It was done to avoid neighbours knowing about Corona infection. Is Corona infection a stigma? The patient tried to walk towards the Ambulance. Half-way through he collapsed and died! So much for delay caused by the Ambulance. But the story continued in the same vein on the channel.

Why sensationalise something when there is no sensation? Could TRP be the only reason? Or the ego does not allow these channels to say, “Oh! Sorry, it was our mistake.” They are never wrong!

After writing the piece, I am still confused! What is important, the news or a piece of suitable news? Ultimately, FB and Twitter of this world check for the hate speech using algorithms. Algorithm before Trump episode condoned the President even if he promoted hate speech or shared the fake news. Specifications for the algorithms are written by a human being who follows the company policies. Is sharing the Chinese Ambassador’s blaming India right thing or it should be treated as anti-national? If political parties keep bickering about everything in this world, how the generated news should be treated? They talk against the Prime Minister of the country as well as the armed forces. Should this be treated as treason? I am not sure. The jury is still out!


The Real China Story!


Disclaimer: I have written this blog based on Mr Bambawale’s zoom meeting with Indian Express that I attended. If there is some incorrect explanation, it is because of my misunderstanding. It has nothing to do with Mr Bambawale’s views. His views were crystal clear!

Yesterday I heard Gautam Bambawale’s interview on the China situation. The Zoom meeting was arranged by the Indian Express; the interviewer was Shubhajit Roy. For records purposes, Gautam was India’s ambassador to China. Incidentally, another Indian Ambassador to China, Nalin Suri was my hostel mate, in Elphinstone, in the year 1967- he was in the arts stream!

Years back, Andy Grove used to teach at Stanford. Some students were asked how they felt when “THE” Andy Grove taught them. Their answer was simple. They said, ” We felt as if God was teaching us!” I will not take Gautam to that level about his knowledge of China, but he was almost there. He was soft-spoken, knowledgeable, and humble. He had the clarity that he had retired and politely replied to a question that it was not for him to comment on a specific tricky question about future policies. He also refrained from talking about political issues.

dragon

In the beginning, he explained beautifully, the difference in the Chinese philosophy of life and our philosophy—the meaning of word China means Zhong Guo (Middle Country). It means that they are at the centre of the Universe. The 21st century is not going to be the century of Asia, as per the Chinese. As per them, it is going to be the Century of China! Indian thinking is वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्, the world is one family! Gautam explained that because of the difference in basic thinking, Chinese are of expansionist mentality, and Indians want to get along smoothly with all others.

About the Galwan crisis, he said that it is the game-changer in the India/China relationship. Last so many years, both sides have shown restraint. There is an agreement that during any clash, bullets will not be fired. The practice was followed by both the parties during Galwan skirmish too. As a democracy, our government has shared the details of our casualties with all. The Chinese shared the details of losses on their side in the 1962 war in the year 1994. So we may never know the Chinese details about casualty anytime soon.

By game-changer, he meant that China now probably feels that India can be pushovers. Chinese GDP is almost 4 ½ times that of India, which could have given false notions to them about India’s weakness. According to Bambawale, the Indian army has given a fitting reply to the Chinese in Galwan, and we should be proud to have such strong armed forces. He also said that India had matched the Chinese buildup in Ladakh. All the previous events involved not more than 100 to 150 men, but this time buildup is enormous on both sides. Deaths have occurred in such events after more than forty years.

One of the reasons for disputes is that there is no clear cut border demarcation. During the last few decades, border disputes and trade disputes have been handled independently of each other. The border disputes were sorted out over a period, but that did not put brakes to the trade activity. Now the trade between the two countries has reached a level of 100 billion US dollars. According to Gautam, the time has come to delink border disputes and the business. China sent a message to India in no uncertain terms about their intentions. Probably they misjudged the bravery and courage of our troops. They may try to push us again anywhere on the 3400 km border.

But India is also in the preparation mode to give it back to Chinese all along the border. India should reset all the previous ways and give a fresh thought about handling the situation. India’s sharp reply to a brutal Chinese attack is a message sent to China in no uncertain terms. Just after I exited the Zoom meeting, I saw the news on TV that the Indian government has banned 59 Chinese apps from India. It has given instructions to service providers and Google/Apple not to allow users to use or download the apps- they are given 48 hours to do it.

The naysayers will, of course, ask how India will be benefitted from this action. There may not be severe damage financially, but it is the first clear message to China to behave. Commercially there are many things that government can do. But the society in general and the business houses also have this responsibility. He gave a couple of examples. In India, Chinese cell phones have a 60 to 70 % market share. For our next phone, all of us can switch to Samsung- he jokingly said that he is not the agent for Samsung. He also further noted that individual components, products may become expensive for the initial period. It is the cost we as a nation may have to bear to reset our equations vis a vis China.

He was asked why China has started the border dispute? Firstly, he felt that China wants to bring all the Asian countries under their hegemony. This thinking has probably started because there is a global pressure from the world regarding Corona Wuhan’s episode. On the side, the US and China trade war has been going on for a couple of years. China is also in conflict with Japan. But China also gets into fights with the outside world when it has internal or party clashes going on within China. These are their standard diversionary tactics. Overall it seems that China is driven by their wish to show that they are going to be number one in the world over a period.

From here onwards, I will write my two cents on the subject. Why do political parties not come together even in an event when there is a threat to national security? Is tweeter a medium to air one’s views on security matters? Do opposition political parties expect the government to share information about Galwan in the public domain? The government needs to think, discuss, plan execute plans ruthlessly if required. We should not make any decisions emotionally, but we should not forget that the effect of this reset is going to be long term. Colossal money will have to be budgeted for the expenses on the armed forces.

Even if there is a four-day war, we cannot afford it because the economy is already fully stretched due to the pandemic. But if the need arises, we may be forced to make the ultimate decision. If we hesitate, China will try to go for a kill which we can ill afford!


Get Well Soon, Ramdev Baba!


You have jaundice, your eyes look yellow! You go to your allopathic doctor. Your bilirubin is checked, and it predictably high. You go to your chemist, he says, “Liv 52! Jaundice!” Period, discussion over. In India, when you have jaundice doctors generally prescribe Liv 52. There is no other medicine. Other drugs would only be supplementary things. There could be some cure in Homeopathy, but Liv 52 specified in Ayurved is THE drug! It cures jaundice. There are no medicines for jaundice in Allopathy!

In the year 2017, Jaya and I had decided to take a holiday in Europe. Ten days before the journey date, Jaya had a pain in the right foot. The orthopaedic doctor advised her to stop using heels and gave her some pain killers. He said that only a long rest could help her. We went to our homoeopathic doctor. He was very confident that he would be able to cure Jaya. The only advice he gave was to take a wheelchair at Frankfurt airport as it is vast and you need to walk a lot. We were to also take a train from Frankfurt to Munich, which added to the distance. But later we could climb up and down the mountains in cold weather. Thanks to our doctor! By the time we were back, Jaya had almost forgotten the problem.

Allopathy cured me of Cancer in the year 2013. Otherwise too, we have taken different allopathic treatments for various ailments. Now the usual disclaimer: I am a firm believer that each pathy has its pluses and minuses. None of them has a cure for each illness. My statements are based on my personal experience and experiences of near and dear ones. I have no prejudice against any pathy.

COVID 19 has brought the whole world, including the researchers, scientists to their knees. They are not able to find the cure, nor are they able to find the vaccine. All the governments, the world over are trying to contain the pandemic and try to minimise the spread. Some have succeeded, and others have failed; the death rates are high as well as the infections. Our country has managed to delay the spread and control the death rate reasonably well.

Recently, our yoga guru Baba Ramdev and his company Patanjali declared that they had found the cure for COVID 19! A big show and drama were made during the announcement. Obviously, the rumour mill started running at high speed on social media. Expert social media writers went into a frenzy. When I read last, Ramdev was about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his excellent work in the field of Medicine.

Let us see the whole sequence of events. Patanjali’s manufacturing unit had asked the Uttara Khand government for a license to produce a drug for immunity booster.

The Uttarakhand government has claimed on Wednesday, that the license issued to the Ayurveda products manufacturing company on June 12, pertained to the development of immunity boosters and not a medicinal cure for coronavirus.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed in Rajasthan government against yoga guru Baba Ramdev, his aide and chief executive officer of Patanjali Ayurved Limited, Acharya Balkrishna. Three others made misleading claims that the company has found a cure for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) called Coronil.

Ramdev said the medicines were developed by Patanjali Research Center, Haridwar in association with privately-owned National Institute of Medical Science (NIMS), Jaipur.

The AYUSH Ministry is yet to examine the claims made by Patanjali. The ministry has asked the company to provide details of the Medicine, such as name and composition, research study details, Institutional Ethics Committee clearance, CTRI registration and result data. The government has asked Patanjali to refrain from advertising the medicine kit until the claims are duly examined.

There is a ban on advertising of this Medicine, to be sold as Corona cure, till everything is checked by different authorities and formal clearance is given.

What has Patanjali attempted? They have tried to jump the bandwagon to offer a cure to humanity, nothing wrong in that. But the fact is that the whole world, including renowned research institutes, pharma companies are struggling to find the elusive golden wand. These organisations have a backing of millions of dollars the world over, and they are still struggling. It is a fact of life that research done in non-allopathic sciences is negligible, if at all!

On social media, the usual gang of “India is the greatest” has become active. They give various references from Vedic times to prove that we had nuclear weapons, aeroplanes and so on during those times. Great story reading for those times, but that is about it. The cures offered by Indian medicines have been around for thousands of years, but unfortunately, most remained in families and in the private domain. Sometimes remedies were passed on, and at other times they were lost to time with the demise of the expert. Till twenty to thirty years, few new cures in Ayurved or Homeopathy, have been attempted by Corporates in the public domain which had funds. So there is a chance that non-allopathic drugs may come up with some great results over a period, but not yet.

But our Bharat gang is churning out stories. There is a purported theory going around. Patanjali has not followed the guidelines to get the clearance for a drug for the supposed use, in its official statement. So those saying anything against Patanjali are enemies and are being paid by other pharma companies to act against Patanjali! How can ayurvedic research be wrong? But friends, on probing, even Patanjali is saying that it is an anti immunity drug and not the cure for COVID! If Patanjali has really discovered the treatment, then they should not have trouble in defending the probe. But we should not raise the bogey of the greatest civilisation on the earth…

It is plain and simple. Patanjali is five thousand crores plus business. As a business entity, it must ensure that the company makes good profits. Their strategy went wrong, and they were quickly caught on the wrong foot! No harm! If they have come with a right immunity booster drug, it will sell. It will be even better if the results are provable. You take Medicine for fifteen days, and your immunity is up because we say so. Such statements will not boost the immunity though it might enhance their sales. But because of timely action by authorities, at least people’s hopes will not go up, wrongly, about Corona cure.

Will “India is the most celebrated civilisation” brigade accept that this is a million-dollar question! Should the companies not follow the guidelines specified and submit documentary proof? Is curing 280 patients a breakthrough? I do not think so.

Firstly, such a trial should be started after following guidelines. The whole process must be documented. Patients should be of different severity, age, sex, comorbidity and other such variables. Once the systematic trials are done, results shared with authorities, then mass production of the drug would make sense. Let the horses not run faster than the chariot!

 


Atmanirbharata-Self Reliance!


Tejas Fighter

Atmanirbharata is a word that came into circulation, recently. The term means Self-reliance! When our PM talked about Atmanirbharata, all the “experts” and the political opponents decided that India was being taken back to the stone age. They declared that India is going back to the permit Raj. On the other side, China baiters started screaming “Ban the Chinese products” and some such slogans. Self-reliance means the reliance on one’s own powers and resources instead of those of others.

How can a society, state or a nation become Atmanirbhar? For any change to happen in humanity, it is the smallest part of the vast populace must become Atmanirbhar first.

Self-Reliance” is an 1841 essay written by American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson’s recurrent themes: the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency and follow his own instincts and ideas. Emerson emphasises the importance of individualism and its effect on an individual’s satisfaction in life. He stresses that anyone can achieve happiness and become Atmanirbhar, simply if they change their mindset.

The philosophical thinking about Atmanirbharata has been prevalent in the world for a long time. Since most have not analysed the term, the usual expert comments are thrown using strong expressions against the thought process. Atmanirbharata has to start from childhood. We teach our kids to crawl, walk, run and ride a cycle. How do we do it? We do it by encouraging them. We explain to them that we can fall, and get hurt, but unless these things happen, children do not become independent. These actions are the fundamental actions that we need to know about life’s journey. We all know that kids love them, they want to be Atmanirbhar in their life. I am talking about physical acts. So, what should we do about our mental facilities? Should we not become Atmanirbhar in our thinking too? Do we like to be pushed by someone- do it this way, do it that way! Do not use your brain, do as I tell you!

The physical part is eating, drinking, toilet training and so on! As children grow, formal education begins. All these are things designed by and for life’s university. If done well, the child grows up into a self-reliant human. The family, school, the society, the town, and the nation become self-reliant if everyone becomes self-sufficient.

When our PM talked about Atmanirbharata, what did he mean? He did not say bring draconian rules of license raj. Do not stop imports of things that make the nation dependent on the other countries even for basic things. No nation in the world can become 100% self-reliant because of various reasons. There are hundreds of reasons for this, but that is not what we are discussing.

Assuming that we are a nation of self-reliant people. They take up jobs, they become businesspeople. They become officers and pilots. Within their sphere, they have to act to get the things to the best of their ability. I will share an example of an individual who is a buyer for an organisation. The management decides to cut expenses to improve profitability. The buyer’s job is to find the correct supplier of quality goods at the right price. The buyer looks around, locates the supplier in China, and starts buying from him everything. That my friend is not Atmanirbharata. He should have checked why the cost is so low. Is it sustainable over a period? What happens in situations, like COVID? The buyer did not spread his risks- then he failed in making his company self-reliant! Deciding your policy in such a way that in all situation his organisation should remain self-reliant. Atmanirbhar anyone?

I had shared an example of the Indian Motorcycle industry, becoming world-class in a short period. The sector still buys components from China, but the Chinese companies are more dependent on our Motorcycle companies. That is Atmanirbharata.

During the spread of COVID, in India, there was a shortage of everything needed by health professionals like doctors, nurses, ward boys and ambulance drivers. Within three months, we started making a massive number of PPE’s, Masks and what have you. Now we can probably export these items. We ramped up our facilities and capacities to make ventilators in large numbers, so we do not need to depend on other countries. Mind you, not every component required for ventilators may be available in India. But by importing these components, we are well on the way to become in the manufacture of ventilators. We did the same thing in COVID test kits- this was achieved by a small company in Pune.

The first big Atmanirbharata decision taken by the government is opening up the Coal sector to the private sector. In future, India can export a lot of coal!

Let us now consider the year to year problems faced by our farmer brethren. Though we have made significant progress in irrigation, our topography, and financial constraints (and not to forget corruption!) make farmers dependent on rains for water. Regularly, the rainfall is short or too much. Many times, we do not get rains when most needed. So what is the solution? I had written a blog about Jalyayukt Shivar, a drive, by the Maharashtra government to make farmers self-reliant for their water requirement by digging water reservoirs in every village. The rainwater is stored in these reservoirs and could be used when needed. Friends, it is Atmanirbharata at its best. You do not need Chinese or American components for this project; you need the will-power and smart thinking to make such projects a reality. When I wrote this blog, we did not even know the word COVID 19. There was no China hate in the air!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/jalyukt-shivar-a-new-drive-in-water-management/

My friend Ram sent me an article about Ulhas Paranjpe, Ram’s batchmate in engineering. Ulhas has developed a technology by which villagers can build water tanks by using Ferrocement in construction; this method more than halves the cost of building the tanks.


I have taken the liberty to share his cell phone number here. He is just one phone call away and gives telephonic advice on how to build such tanks: Ulhas’s Cell plus WhatsApp number +91 98207 88061. The web site: http://www.jalvardhini.org/

Are we taking India back to the dark age? Is this going to be the permit Raj again? Many of these experts have probably never seen a village and give expert advice on the TV channels and spread their (lack of) knowledge. Or maybe they have an agenda against the government!

Atmanirbharata does not mean that you do not use products made in other countries. Any product or services where our nation does not have expertise can be brought in, but the locally available products must be procured locally.

What is the point in getting Ganapati Idols, Decorative items, Manja used in kite flying? These items are IndJalvardhiniian, and the traders started importing them from China because they were getting more margins. End-user did not even know that these items were made in China. This is negative Atmanirbharata.

Very few countries in the world make aeroplanes. India had no choice but to import them. But over a period, we have developed a fighter plane, Tejas, for the Indian Air Force. That my friend is Atmanirbharata. Not all parts made are in India for our fighter plane.

Jaya, in her career, had made great strides in Atmanirbharata. She took training in Canada for some systems, in 1981, which cost eight hundred thousand dollars in those days. One system was imported, and Jaya got fourteen such systems made in Pune, at Rs eight hundred thousand each!

Friends, Atmanirbharata is no China-bashing, it is not going back to license Raj. It is being prudent in what we buy and what we produce in our country. Go ahead and import a few things from China or where ever you want. But do not outsource Chole Bhature from Philippines and Rasgulla from Bangla Desh!


National Security and Use of Social Media!

The Chinese army has been behaving in a threatening manner in the Galwan area of Ladakh. There acts of last a few weeks culminated in an incident killing twenty-plus Indian soldiers, including a Colonel. The whole world finds it tricky to find the correct information from the Chinese side. But various accounts indicate that forty-plus Chinese soldiers also lost their lives in the skirmish that took place on the 15th of June.

How does one report in such a critical situation? Whose responsibility is it to give the status report? Which reports should be believed? To me, the answer is quite simple. It is the responsibility of the government, based on the information the government gets from the armed forces who are on the battlefront. In the days of Satellite imagery, it is well nigh impossible to hide any information because the images are commercially available to anybody willing to pay for them. The agencies are around the globe, so the government can not ban the agencies from selling the imagery.

With this limitation, the delay in information could only be because of delay in communication from the battlefront- when soldiers are busy in action or a battle, the flow of information has to wait. All the different news agencies have their “sources” in the government and the armed forces. So information keeps on trickling in. The Galwan incident took place unexpectedly. The armies of both nations were having a standoff for quite a few days. The confrontation became a battle; at the time the action was being fought, there would be a complete break in the information flow from the battlefront. Once the action stops, information flow would begin. Then the “sources” come into play. The information would start flowing in FB, WA, Instagram, and all such channels. The videos of the fight between the Chinese and our soldiers, I feel, are also doctored! My logic is simple. Were the soldiers waiting for someone to take out a Sony camera or start his/her cell phone to take a video of their fight?

It is at this juncture we have challenges. Whose “news” should be believed? It is plain and simple. The official news, the bulletins, the messages released by the government agencies are the ones that should be treated as authentic. These are based on the information from the battlefront, discussions with enemy governments.

Our prime minister held a video meeting inviting leaders of opposition parties and Chief Ministers of various states to give a full status report. The meeting was held after about three days of the incident. Most of the participants gave their full support to the government and the armed forces. But there is a particular party who said they support the armed forces. It means they did not support the government, and that party has continued to behave in the same vein. Their leaders give interviews on TV channels and to newspapers. First thing in the morning, their leaders do is to tweet a set of questions to the government in a coercive manner. They challenge the details based on media reports, which includes information from Chinese social media and what the Chinese government has said.

I understand that for some people, politics is “Dhanda”- business. Sometimes I wonder. How some families have tons of money without having ever “to work” like lesser mortals like you and me. Okay, there was inheritance. But the incomes are earned in terms of the days in which you live. When we were in school/college discussion about Rs one lac or a hundred thousand was very rarely in a discussion. The datum then, in recent times, graduated to One crore or ten million. When there was no income for the last seventy years, how the balances keep on fattening? Who gives them money? I never heard certain people paying income tax. So this shows that the money comes from Dhanda.

It is your livelihood, so keep on doing things that will include commenting on anything against the government every day. I am good with that; if you want to spend every day with confrontation, it is an individual choice. But which matters or subjects should be taboo? To me, the defence of the nation is one subject on which all should agree and work together. When you are a senior politician, you have access to everybody in the nation, including the Prime Minister. If you have some doubts about an action taken, or news available, why not check with the right authorities? Why did the ruling and opposition parties not come together and formed an action group or a committee?

When the so-called national parties continue to confront as if everything is normal, the enemy takes advantage of the situation. It spins the propaganda which suits their line of thinking. It starts spreading doubts in the minds of people in our own nation if the government can handle the situation or not. Yesterday there was news that China and we have agreed in principle to make the verifiable disengagement to reduce the tension on the border. How this is achieved may not be disclosed in detail in the public domain for security reasons. There could be some give or take on the stand we have taken. I am sure the army experts know what is negotiable and what is not. But even on this news, the doubting Thomas-es are saying somethings which are simply not acceptable.

Historically, the Hindus and the Hindu nations have been docile. A friend, Shrirang, expressed his anguish aptly while we were discussing this matter on WhatsApp. I am giving below what he wrote verbatim!

Is it that we remain subservient to the Chinese, or maybe some other country, always?

Do we not have any nationalist pride at all? So first Moghuls, then the British and now Chinese?

The effort will be fierce, citizens will have to accept a higher price, but the battle should not be lost in minds.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” … Sun Tzu, Chinese General

Very well said, Shrirang! I am sure these four lines represent the thought of the nation in today’s times. Our thinking in olden days can be shown in two incidents. The Chinese attacked us in 1962. But we as a nation were complacent. We had ammunition factories, but those were busy manufacturing lanterns and coffee percolators. Krishna Menon, the defence minister at that time, had made a statement that we should not waste our resources on manufacturing ammunition. As if coffee percolators were an essential commodity. In 2013 A K Antony, the then defence minister, had made a statement in Loksabha about Aksai Chin. He said, “Not even a blade of grass grows in this area; hence we should not develop any infrastructure there. The infrastructure would help the enemy for rapid movement.”

China was happy with docile Hindu Rashtra, who would pretend as if nothing is happening. China started having problems with India because we have started building that “not needed” infrastructure. They were used to a docile India. Now the India, that has woken up, is not to their liking hence the fight. Chinese are supported in this fight by a group of opposition parties by trying to divide the nation in these tough times.

Are we still having descendants of Raja Jaichand with us? Friends do not start an argument on how Jaichand did something, which was for the betterment of Hindu Rashtra! It is not the question of nationalism or patriotism but self-esteem and self-respect!

No one Killed Jessica!


Jessica Lal

Manu Sharma Killed Jessica Lal in public, point-blank because she refused to serve him a drink as the bar she was attending as a bartender was closed! I have written in details about the case. The subject came in my mind because Manu Sharma was recently released after serving a sentence. It seems that in India if you are rich enough, you can avoid, delay or get a reduced punishment. You can literally get away with murder, pun intended!

There is a saying. Justice delayed is justice denied! In any society, crimes happen most of the times which are done on purpose, but sometimes accidents also occur. These accidents even end up in deaths, loss of property, and loss of opportunities. In every democratic society, they are supposed to follow the legal procedures to handle crime. The average human tendency is to escape the punishment altogether or at least try to get the least possible punishment. The police and the legal system are such that they look as if these have been designed for delays.

I read about Manu Sharma; he shot dead Jessica Lall more than twenty years back, in Delhi area. The date was 29th April 1999. I will not bother about exact dates because these are not important but the general time frame is important.

The incident occurred at two am. Mehrauli police station had registered an FIR at 4 am, after recording Shayan Munshi’s statement. Shayan was moonlighting with Jessica as a bartender and hardly knew the local language, Hindi. The police seized two empty cartridges and found that a black Tata Safari was missing from the party. The Tata Safari was taken from UP police on 2nd May. Three days later, the police arrested Amardeep Singh aka Tony Gill and Alok Khanna. Following their statements, police reached out to Sharma’s lawyer; on 6th June, Sharma surrendered. The police arrested ten others including a UP politician’s son, Vikas Yadav.

The charge sheet was filed on 3rd August. On 23rd November, the additional sessions judge framed charges against Sharma under IPC sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of the offence, or giving false information to screen offender) and 120-B (punishment for criminal conspiracy), and Arms Act section 27.

So far, so good!

The trial began in May 2001, against nine accused, fast by our standard. The prosecution examined 101 witnesses and two court witnesses.

During the trial, Sharma was released on bail on several occasions until 11th November 2003, when the Delhi High Court dismissed his bail application, following which the Supreme Court too dismissed his special leave petition. The trial court was merrily offering him bail. I am Manu Sharma! He was telling the society, “Nothing is going to happen to me! What did that broad think of herself!”

In the background, different wheels had started turning. It began with the eye witness Shayan Munshi. He was either bought or threatened or both. For two bullets found at sight, the police created a new story that two different persons shot from two different revolvers. Manu’s shot had hit the ceiling. Shayan Mushi signed his statement, written in Hindi- the language he did not understand, or maybe he was coerced into signing.

On 21st February 2006, Sharma and the other accused were acquitted by the trial court. The trial court concluded that links in the chain of evidence were either missing or broken. The court held that the prosecution had miserably failed to bring home the guilt of the accused. The court accepted different theories and stories from the defence. The wheels were rotating fast to “misinterpret” things suitably so that all would be acquitted. It was supposedly a case where there was an eye witness.

The acquittal led to widespread public outrage, following which police submitted a status report to the Delhi High Court, which accepted it and took up as a fast-track case. Sharma was represented by Ram Jethmalani (now deceased) in the Delhi High Court and later in the Supreme Court.

On 18th December 2006, the High Court convicted Sharma observing that the trial court judgment was “an immature assessment of material on record which is self-contradictory, based on a misreading of material and conclusions were unsustainable”. The court sentenced Sharma to life, awarded lesser sentences to Vikas Yadav and Amardeep Gill, and acquitted six others.

Sharma appealed twice to the Supreme Court. In April 2010, the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and life term.

The case displayed the influence of media coverage on the case. It was highlighted by the Delhi High Court as well as the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court observed that various articles in the print media gave rise to unnecessary controversy and “apparently, had an effect of interfering with the administration of criminal justice”. The Supreme Court held “presumption of innocence is a legal presumption, and should not be destroyed at the very threshold through the process of media trial and that too when the investigation is pending”.

The society reflected its reaction when there was a movie made with the title “No One Killed Jessica!” The film shows frustration with the system. The world over there is corruption, is a known fact. But we get utterly disgusted when it is done blatantly. I have a slightly different take on the entire scenario. The High Court and the Supreme Court made stinging remarks about the interpretation made by the lower court. Is there any system by which the judge involved can be hauled to the court for moral corruption? If money has changed hands, it can not be small money. Or maybe the judge was also threatened to make an interpretation suitable to the perpetrator. I am assuming that it was a case of the judge being threatened. I am sure the High Court and Supreme Court can provide adequate protection to these judges. Instead of just passing the remarks if this route is followed, such blatant law-breaking will not happen.

Some good things have started to come out. Following the conviction by the High Court, a different Bench directed the government to create a witness-protection policy. I do not know how rigorously the suggestion has been followed. It also brings out the subject of temporary jobs. What were Jessica Lal and Shayan Munshi doing, working as temporary bartenders? I have nothing against bartenders. But people usually try and take up jobs suitable to their education and family background. From what I have read, there was no “need” for these two to take up this job. Or was it is the glamour of getting an opportunity of mingling with movers and shakers?

Jessica Lal’s sister was advised by many not to pursue the case as high and mighty were involved. Has the society come to such stage that killing of a human being can be just one of the incidents? It also throws light on the so-called “High Society”! The party was supposed to be a private party in the honour of Bina Ramani, the Club owner’s husband. But it was said that anybody who paid a certain amount could barge in! So much for a private party!

The recent proliferation of social media has done one thing. Such cases and blatant behaviours can not get hidden. They get exposed rapidly. On the other extreme, we have now what is called “Trial by Media”! That is the other extreme of hiding facts.

Will justice or resolution of court cases be decided by the size of your bank balance? I hope not. Let us try to create a just world where everyone will be equal in the court of law! Amen- this seems to be the right word to end the blog!

 

To Hell with China- the confused us!

OUR CHINA BEATERS!

Corona, Ladakh and other things got every Indians’ muscles flexing! Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian! The slogans are seen everywhere in discussions, social media and wherever we look. Great idea! But there is a cynical joke. A lot of posters, Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian are seen everywhere- the only problem is they were printed and imported from China because these were good quality and inexpensive.

Import and export between nations is not an emotional decision, but such decisions are based on hard bargaining to try and see that both the sides are benefitted- and it needs to be a win-win situation. Import and export values between any two countries are never the same. In the case of China, the import from China is always higher than the export to China for most countries. Why has this happened? China has ensured that the industry grew phenomenally. They maintained quality and lower price than most of the nations in the world. They found efficient ways of sending goods to Europe by using the rail network of Russia. That reduced the transit time by almost 30 days.

Can any nation beat China in their own game? No, it is not easy, and there are other reasons like a dictatorship, lax labour laws and so on. In China, businesses rarely have to face legal hurdles. In democracies, legal issues can really strangle the industry. But is it doable at all to beat China in their own game? Yes, it is feasible, and this “miracle” has been performed by a sector in India. But before this, let me share thoughts of my friend Arvind on the subject.

Nobody, citizens, government, companies or anyone else can stop using, buying Chinese products overnight. The government, unless it officially declares war, can not stop or cancel orders or participation in tenders. It takes time for companies to develop alternative sources. The alternative sources will be costlier since China uses a dumping strategy. Being a totalitarian government, it has many advantages as for labour, company and other laws are concerned.

Atmnirbhar Bharat will be successful only if we as citizens of this country are ready to pay more for some products, initially. Businesses should put the nation first policy too, and the government, bureaucracy and politicians should not manipulate things for pushing their individual interests. Only competent leadership can change the future of the nation.

The link below are views of Rajeev Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto and Suzuki India, Chairman Mr. Bhargava. They have spoken pragmatically about China.

https://www.news18.com/news/auto/maruti-suzuki-bajaj-resist-boycott-china-movement-says-chinese-parts-necessary-for-production-2670601.html

I am talking about the Motorcycle industry in India. Motorcycle industry jointly has reached the top position in the world in numbers. In the early part of this century, Chinese companies started pushing their motorcycles in India. The “experts” began writing epitaphs of Indian Motorcycle companies Hero, Bajaj and TVS. But these companies were made of sterner stuff. They got their act together, pulled up their socks. And lo! Within a couple of years, the Chinese bikes were thrown out from Indian markets by customers and not by tariffs and jingoism by Deshbhakts. What did they do? They did the right things.

Those were days when IT companies were on a high, after the success of Y2K in the global market. They started hiring engineering talent from IIT’s, NIT’s and all good institutes. The kids wanted to do only coding in life, engineering career was a no-no. Here was what Bajaj tried. They used to get an opportunity for campus interviews on 7th or 8th day. One year they decided to hire people on zero-day. They told the institutes that they would pay three times the salary that IT companies paid. They got the zero-day slot, but to their surprise, very very few students wanted to join even at such a high salary. All wanted to jump the IT bandwagon. Bajaj reversed their strategy and went to the next level of schools. Changed interview language to Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil when needed. They got the hidden gems as these kids were good but had a language issue. Rest as they say is history.

Another example of Bajaj. Today they export about 1.8 million bikes a year, their primary market being Africa. In Africa, bikes are used as a taxi or a tempo. Bajaj has earned a name there. Before Bajaj, there were Japanese bikes which were superb but expensive. They had a limited market. The Chinese bikes were sent to Africa in an individual box, and they were assembled by local mechanics and sold. Bajaj made better bikes and despatched them in assembled condition, ready to use. They priced them between the Chinese and Japanese bikes. They have ultimately captured the market and running a highly profitable operation.

So, friends, it is doable. What you need is the will to fight, gauge the market correctly. Besides this, the Motor Cycle industry had the advantage of a large Indian market for Motorcycles. The local market helped them volume, which has proved beneficial.

Coming back to the slogan to hell with the Chinese products. If you look at Chinese cars, they are not so competitive in the world market, yet. But since many global multinationals went to China- Volkswagen, Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota- all the named companies and others have a significant presence in China. Chinese manufacture seven to eight times the cars that we manufacture in India. In India, we simply do not have a market for more cars. Plus we do not have the infrastructure of roads and pollution control. With smaller numbers, we cannot compete with Chinese in four-wheelers. Mind you, China is still not able to sell “Chinese Branded” cars in the global market. But these vast volumes helped China to create a reliable components industry; the Indian industrial buyers have fallen into China trap due to low price. Many international component companies like Aisin, Denso, Conti, Valeo started China operations in a big way. Corona pandemic exposed the errors made by Industrial buyers. I have discussed this with many senior friends in the industry. The corrective measures have already begun, and over a period, China dependence will come down. It takes time to develop components suitable for your use.

It is impossible to boycott China immediately. It will take at least five years of focused efforts. In automotive products, direct import from China is about 10%. However, many tier two suppliers of the vendors from ASEAN countries import quite a lot from China. It will take time to develop ‘non-Chinese’ tier-two suppliers.

The government can discretely ensure that items like Ganesh Idols, Agarbatti, Patang Manja and such stuff does not get imported from China. These items can not be put on the banned list. So the government can talk to the business community and trade groups to make sure that “Indian” items are not imported. For such things, how do you know that they are cheaper? These are imported simply because trade margins are high. There could be hundreds of such items which can be easily “banned.” This is also doable. When Malaysia started behaving strangely with India, Indian government discretely talked to import organising bodies. Within three months the majority purchase of palm oil was switched over to Indonesia.

The main thrust of India should be to push local manufacture of good quality cell phones, tvs and such things in India. Special efforts will have to be taken. Years back, there was a story of the US pushing the Japanese to allow them to sell the US-made cars in Japan. It was declared during the visit of the US president to Japan, that the market is now open. When the delegation went back to the US and talked to car manufacturers, they realised that the manufacturers would take at least three to four years to manufacture Japan-specific, right-hand drive cars.

So it is good to let out steam, but there is no point in shooting the bullet in your foot! Another point is to find out if banning Chinese goods going to damage Chinese trade more or hit the Indian manufacturing capability? The right way would be do it over a period!

Reincarnation!


Dictionary meaning of reincarnation is a new version of something from the past. Atheist Pramod has changed his colour like a Chameleon. After all, he has to survive in this world; many people believe in reincarnation and rebirth. It is better to conform to the majority opinion. What about the previous blogs where the expression was always against such thoughts.

Okay, do not worry; there is no change of heart, but the good old atheist Pramod is still around. I am using the word incarnation, which correctly means what I want to say. I am talking about today’s global situation caused by the pandemic. The change that happened in this world is unprecedented. There are some good and new things to be learned and if possible old ones to be deleted as described in computer language. According to Satya Nadella, Microsoft boss, the proliferation of video conferencing apps has happened so fast that, according to his estimate, the growth that took place in two months would have taken two years in the ordinary course.

Each country had its ways of understanding the situation. Based on their understanding (or misunderstanding), they applied the lockdown. In some cases, it was rigid, and in others, it was flexible. The end results have been varied. These figures below are dated today.


These are the figures I have taken from a tracker today morning. All the countries except India have high death percentage. Why is it so? I will never claim that India has the most disciplined people. India has the worst medical infrastructure that may be in par with Brazil on the list. But most countries have started “opening up,” the same as India. India of low death rates is opening up along with high death rate countries. It is because of the fear that economically no country can now afford to take any further shocks. These countries forgot that India had started the Lockdown early or on time!

I am using the word reincarnation for this change. Since I do not believe in reincarnation, I do not know what should be the difference between the first and the second avatar. But I feel that the change should be a game-changer. New Zealand and Australia have managed to control the pandemic war the best. New Zealand has become the first Corona free country. But what I read about the first day in New Zealand, the Corona free day, is a bit scary. Every restaurant, mall and public area is full of crowds. Social distancing norms are not required to be followed as per government directive. But is it the right thing to do? Where is the reincarnation? The society has been declared Corona free, does it really mean that there are no asymptomatic cases? When such cases can create problems, should we be totally going back to normal? One thing is for sure that indeed, a second wave could come and then we could be caught on the wrong foot. What happens if you do not go to a restaurant or a mall or a stadium? Heavens are not going to fall!

Every society or the nation has to make its decisions based on their knowledge and expertise. England with a large number of cases, even today, has decided to go ahead with cricket series with the West Indies. Okay, WI did not have much of an issue with COVID. But England still has the problem. The measures mentioned as SOP are very tight; at every stage, there will be COVID testing. I do not have the details, but I am sure that at least the matches would be played in an empty stadium. The act of holding a series while infection levels are high could be either wise or stupid! It could be at the best bravado. Why the England board take this decision? Why the British government gave them the go-ahead? Is playing matches to the empty stadiums an incarnation? I think every sporting event is performed to provide joy to the people. People’s involvement is the key to any sporting event. I had travelled to Melbourne, Australia in, 2015 to see the Cricket World cup final! Did we enjoy the game? There were 92 thousand plus people present for the match. But today’s situation may force reincarnation on us.


We, humans, are social animals. We need to see each other and talk to each other. When we meet, we shake hands, give a hug or say Namaste, the Indian style. Some prefer Adab too! In the reincarnation, the preferred method should be Namaste and Adab. Some may prefer an elbow bump or a leg bump, but this could be more amongst friends.


Why are we in a hurry to go back to the olden days instead of doing something which will be more correct to avoid future health issues? But it all depends on the social fabric. Only Japan has been disciplined in health matters. Whenever a Japanese person catches a cold, he/she will move around with a mask. It is the discipline taught at home, or school or in the society in general. When the football world cup was played in Brazil, a significant contingent of Japanese had travelled to see the matches. Japanese had a section of every stadium dedicated to them. Brazilians were shocked when they observed that the Japanese spectators cleaned their portion of the stadium spic and span, after each match. So if the society has good habits like the Japanese, go back to what you have been doing otherwise..


Some governments currently follow the advice of the experts, and others do not comply. When we do not follow the expert opinion, the country ends up in numbers like the US, rapidly. To achieve personal freedom, many states in the US are opening up due to pressure from the population. The result is there for us to see. On top of that, the Floyd killing issue has created another pandemic, that of public unrest. For protesting against the police, the people are coming out in large numbers where the social distancing norms are tossed out of the window.

In the high-density cities like Mumbai and Delhi, social distancing is just on paper. The Indian government and the local governments need to go into reincarnation mode and see how this is avoided in future. Maybe they have to build a large number of low-cost homes for people. In today’s times, people are helpless. They stay in such tricky conditions just to earn their living. Nobody likes to live in the circumstances that we see in Dharavi’s of this world.

So, friends, reincarnation is not mandatory as long as it goes with the need of the hour. We must have habits which will be useful in case of future pandemics as and when they hit us like a Tsunami. Learn to take things seriously like many so-called “poor” countries did, as against the casual approach of the “rich” countries.

https://summit.news/2020/03/12/mayor-of-florence-encouraged-italians-to-hug-a-chinese-before-coronavirus-pandemic-hit/

Read the above link. The Mayor of Florence in Italy started a stunt asking the citizens to go to the airport and “Hug the Chinese”! It was this cavalier attitude of the Mayor that led to a wildfire spread of COVID in Italy. Learn to take things seriously. One act by the Mayor spread the pandemic!

 

Fantastic progress! Really?

Images and statistics are both deceptive. It is difficult to guess what something represents, and it is impossible to predict where a person ends up in his career. When sixteen-year-old Sachin Tendulkar walked on the grounds to play against Pakistan, people had heard about the prodigy. That he would have retired after playing for 24 years of international cricket, scoring around 35000 thousand runs. Shoaib Akhtar, the Pakistani great fast bowler, recently said that Sachin would have scored around One hundred thousand runs, had he been in today’s era.  Vinod Kambli also walked out at the same time with similar statistic and look where he ended up.

During the second half of the last century and in the twenty years that followed, the world has progressed rapidly. Millions of poor people were brought above the poverty line, the world over. It is an accurate description in countries like India and China with huge populations. It was predicted that India and China would be “developed” nations in a certain number of years. It was based on some predictions, based on financial activities of those periods and statistic. But that was not to be! Why is that so?

That the United States and Europe were developed and prosperous was beyond discussion. Surprisingly, I found that there could be some measures to compare the richness of different societies. PPP- purchase power parity is the word used! A root canal procedure costs Rs 2500/ in India, while it costs, on an average, Dollars 2500/ in various countries like the US, Canada, Australia.

Let me tell you that Dollars 2500/ is a lot of money in the respective countries compared to other living expenses. So is Rs 2500/ in India under Indian conditions. It is a procedure that anybody may require. These aspects were never discussed openly. There were wars to be fought, politics to be played and yachts to be built. Do not worry; statistics tell us that many people have become middle class. Do not worry, if you are not able to buy your Chivas or Dom Perignon, be patient. The shops will open!

The current pandemic has thrown that hidden statistic open! I am considering only the US and India for discussion. In the US, around 35/40 million people have registered for the monthly dole as they do not have money for their next month’s meal. When we travel to the US, we move around in planes, helicopters and BMW’s. We forget that there about 30 % of people whose life has been hit by a typhoon or a Patton tank. The statistic is that it is 30% of US working force that is badly hit. If we consider 30 % of people hit by the pandemic, the number is 35/40 million. In our language, it is from 3.5 to 4 crores. The numbers are much more than this because many people do not get counted in official figures.

One to two months of bad times, without wages, has brought these people on the road. The stark reality is that statistics can be easily twisted to suit any argument. In the US, 3 to 4 crore people are brought to their knees, then the statement that the US is the wealthiest society in the world is baseless. The so-called middle-class like you and me take education and get a reasonable job. We save, get ahead in life, then we keep on saving and try to go forward in life.

So, the theory that millions the world over have become middle-class is not valid! Or I should say that these people have not become middle class- they have come just above the poverty line. When everything is hunky-dory, life looks and feels rosy! Spanking Metros, sprawling airports are the signs of progress. Are they? A sustained and unprecedented event has brought in open what is hidden behind the “progress!”

Why is that so? In the shining glory of the life that we live, the reflection of the bright lifestyle blinds our sight. We accept whatever is said and declared by various governments and organisations! The shining armour of the progress was pierced by one pandemic. Societies are bleeding.

Are we going to learn any lessons out of the catastrophe the large population is facing? I am not sure. The massive construction projects will restart, with workers living in their huts near their projects. These people live from project to project at the mercy of their contractors. They have some money in hand when things are “normal”. They aspire like you, and I do. The moment they have some free money with them, they will buy a bike—nothing wrong in that. The public transports are shoddy, and having your bike makes sense. The officegoers in Mumbai will go back to their trains- packed like sardines! Homes near your offices cannot be taken even on rent, forget buying them.

To me, all these claims of a large group of people becoming middle class is a statistic. If one or two months of no work and mostly no income going to push this group below the poverty line, the definition poverty line needs to be changed. To me, if families could survive six months of “no income”, then they could be treated as middle class. If in the first month of “no income” 20 % of the US workforce comes on the dole, then there is something wrong with of these definitions.

In India, there are two types of people who have progressed from low income; the wise ones have saved money from their income. All the members of such families do some work. Whereas there are some who can not bring families to cities. Such people survive on meagre amounts in cities and send remaining money to the family. The arrangement does not allow them to save money at all.

To me, the middle class is those people who come above the poverty line, live comfortably and SAVE MONEY! If you cannot save money, one shock and you are back to square one.

In every country, people are working on minimum wage. They could be in Mom and Pop stores or the stores in Malls. They could be working in Amazon or Ikea stores. Under Indian conditions, these are people working as assistants to people running kiosks on the roadside. These could be housemaids or cleaning staff in unorganised sectors! They all survive from salary to salary. Their conditions are such that they are afraid to fall sick for two reasons. The first one is they cannot afford the treatment- hence sometimes they waste money on quacks when they are sick. The second reason is that if they cannot attend work after falling ill, they are not paid for that day. It is a double whammy!

What is the solution to such problems? There is only one solution. Let there be inflation, let things cost more but pay people much more than what they are paid today. It will cause big churning in society, especially for retired people. I am not a communist or a socialist.

I am a Capitalist with a big C; I am out and out for the survival of the fittest. I understand and agree with market forces etc. But something is drastically wrong with the current model in which the one month of “no income” can ruin families!

Hey folks! I am with you! You do not need dole! It is your birthright to earn decent money against work done, and you should be able to save every month. So, all the nations, all the societies must first change the definition of poverty line! If that cannot be done, make everyone RICH!