Friday, April 27, 2007

Finally, a breather...

The Govt. has finally given a nod to the IITs and IIMs to go ahead with the admissions of the students belonging to the General category and the SC/ST category. Until the Supreme Court decision on the Quota debacle, it has put on hold the proposed expansion of seats in all Central funded Educational Institutions.

This is the most reasonable thing that the HRD ministry has done, though long overdue. However, the quirkiest part of the whole story is saying that they have given the go-ahead because it is affecting the Govt.'s stand in the case! And not because the delay affects the students and their future.

Well, at the end of the day, we need to accept that the HRD ministry is a political machinery and that politics and welfare are divorced. Now I tend to believe they were never meant to be you agree ?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Which way to Quota?

There it is. The final verdict. For everyone to see. Except that the Executive mechanism of our country refuses to see it. No, it has not blindfolded itself...Far from it...It has both its eyes wide open, but still has no vision...A sad state, for all of us !

The Supreme Court has turned down the Centre's plea to lift the stay ordered on OBC Quotas in Central Institutions, earlier this month, and has stated that its stay order is final. Interestingly, to the argument of the Centre that the stay would deny the socially backward classes of their legitimate share for the 57th year, the Court gave a scalding reply that " if the Govt. has made them wait for 56 years, it could as well wait for one more year ".

One can look at this issue at different levels :

i. Pro-quota and anti-quota debates, which we have debated for years and will continue to still debate, until the political mechanism of this country cleanses out and education becomes more important than literacy.

ii. Do we have another option to Quotas : something which we should be thinking and doing. At the emotional level, we need to stretch out a hand to those who have been bearing the brunt of their lineage and India's history. At a practical level, India is an economy whose strength is its manpower - skilled, educated manpower at lower costs. As competition amongst the developing nations shoots ahead, we will have to have more and more of our manpower to be trained and skilled. Else, this burgeoning population will spell the doom. And soon.

iii. Judicial activism or Judicial over reaction ? Who spells out what is what ? Recently, with the Quota issue aggravating the tussle between the two arms of the state, we heard the PM commenting about Judicial over reaction. Well, the supremacy of the Apex court and the Legislative powers granted to the Legislature are meant to act as checks and balances, however, in an environment where both act at a certain level of maturity. Well, now that the Ministry has been caught on the wrong foot, they cannot cry foul.

iv. HRD ministry has a Plan-B to implement the quota system ! Can we become more childish. They are worse than a 2 year old throwing tantrum fits !!! If the Court has questioned the order on the basis of lack of data, which is for everyone to see, then why this juvenile adamancy to have their way only. It makes the situation look silly, when they say that they have a Plan-B now and it is unconstitutional to not go ahead with Quotas. Definitely, how much more blatant can they get in revealing their political interests and playing to it ?

This issue has been debated in and out, for ages that it's reduced to another cliche.

When will we see the focus on the real issue than hiding it behind personal agendas and ego clashes?

When will the sun shine and the rain clouds become unbiased..i wonder ?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Curiouser and Curiouser !

'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,
'I don’t know where. . .
'Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,'
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
India feels like the ' wonderland' ,only that most of the times it's a rather murkier version of it !
Just imagine this - "In Bhopal Sindhis have slapped a code of conduct on girls" - to the extent of banning mobile phones and two wheelers to girls of their community ! The trigger to such atrocious bans being the recent elopements of two girls of their community with Muslim boys. The local Sindhi panchayat in Bhopal has asked parents to keep their daughters in check and not give them too much liberty. It even goes on to say " sometimes too much liberty becomes a burden on society".
Whatever be the reason for administering this kind of atrocious moral policing and whatever be the small/local/politically motivated group of young/old people involved in this -
this is REGRESSION. Isn't it true that these days one seems to find that we are actually regressing in a number of basic aspects of life behind the veils of development and democratic freedom.
This issue seems quite trivial at the preliminary level, but deep down we find manifestations of this gender- biasing very prevalent in our country. We have not made any progress, in fact we have regressed quite a long way back in terms of respecting women for what they are.
Everyday there seems to be mountains of evidence for much so, that this has become more of the norm than the exception. Another example that highlights the callousness with which women get treated in India, be her at the lowest rungs of society or at the highest echelons of corporate life - " In the new appraisal system for the Indian Administrative sevice, there are specific queries for women on their menstrual cycle and the last confinement"...All this while the male counterparts had no questions regarding any of their health issues !
Is it then an exaggeration that I call India the wonderland ? It is here, and only here that you will find such episodes of high drama that feed and poison a system that is already corrupt beyond its limits , inflicted with systemic infections both of the mind and the body.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quotas and then some Aishwarya.....

The "Quota"isation of India continues...Indian govt has recently introduced a fixed quota of 27% for OBCs ( Other Backward Classes) in all institutions of higher education including the IITs & the IIMs. This had raised a huge public uproar but seems like Mr. Arjun Singh, the honorable HRD Minister is determined to atone for all our forefathers' sins, and demands that it be done, very soon.

Definitely, I and most of the so-called " Upper caste" Indians do not believe in perpetrating such discrimination and we are ashamed for the cruel treatment meted out to the underprivileged classes amongst us ( In fact, in the same breath, we must remember that there were a number of upper caste men and women who openly opposed the caste system and were instrumental in bringing about changes to it ) ... We also do strongly believe in setting right the wrongs that have been done in the past.

But is Quotas the way out ? Just by doling out Quotas, are we really making any good ?

Ensuring that the underprivileged get an equal opportunity to education and job is just the first step. We have been giving quota to the SC-ST category for about half a decade, but is it not true that there are very very few of them who utilise this opportunity and come up in life ? How many of the Govt. vacancies for these quotas remain unfilled for ages ! And in the bigger scheme of things, is it not true that Quota has become another crutch for these communities?

What we need is a system which will handhold the underprivileged ( I refrain from defining this here - should it be caste based / income based, that is a topic for another discussion ) and give them the right tools and methods to utilise the opportunity given to them.

Well, it gives us some relief to see that atleast the judiciary has now woken up to the act and has raised some very pertinent queries regarding the new Quotas being introduced. The main issue that the Court has raised is on the very basis of the definition of OBC and whether we should be using the 1931 census as the basis for quotas at all. The Supreme court has asked the Govt to identify the backward classes on a periodic basis and use adequate data to do this. Whatever be the queries and issues, the Govt is in an unusual hurry to implement quotas this year ( well, I can't refrain from remembering the kind of urgency they displayed in the matter of the women's reservation bill..!!!) .

By using Quotas as a political tool to cater to certain pockets of the "vote-banks", we are witnessing the most blatant political maneuvering and like the court has said, "the reservation policy cannot be and should not be intended to be permanent or perpetuate backwardness.” Let's hope and pray that we restore some bit of semblance in this society and not let political machinations lead us to doom.

How can I talk about Quotas when India is getting dressed in designer wear and dazzling diamonds for The Wedding...The fanatic frenzy and feverish fervor that is displayed all over the place, believe me, one would not have witnessed it even when India celebrated her independence.

There is no respite for us poor souls ( very few of us, let me say), who want to get a breather...every sight and sound blares out each miniscule detail of the bride and the groom - from the nosepin that she might wear to what would be the colour of the fireworks to who would attend and who wouldnt..and who will carry the baraat..and who will smile and who will cry...aaah...the pains that these guys go to speculate all this and more.... I wish that this kind of enthusiasm and excitement was displayed by the media in more serious issues...I am half-expecting a special edition Times ( The Abhiash Times of India or maybe it should be The Times of Abhiash in India or how about India in the Times of Abhiash) being delivered to me on the D-day..

There is nothing wrong in celebrating and nothing wrong in being happy about some celebrity getting married to another star...after all, marriage is an occasion of celebration and cheer ;P...but why this national preoccupation to the exclusion of everything else....

I guess at the end of the day, we as a nation do say, saas bhi kabhi bahu thi...:-)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Where to India ...?

The last two days' newspapers in Mumbai carried two news which I really had to write about since the new age mantra is about "India and development" - the cause for much excitement within and without India.

The first of these news items says " Sex Education banned in the state( Maharastra)" and the second one goes " Mumbai tops in suicide by homemakers".

Maharastra is the fifth state in India to ban sex education in schools..the other states being Kerala ( imagine our torch bearer for literacy doing this ! ) , Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, and I am sure, others to follow the trend very soon. And to top it all, even the Central board schools(CBSE, ICSE ) have to follow the state dictum here.

The reason being cited for such a move is that sex education in schools is " an assault on Indian values" and that it is a means of " imposing western culture on the state".

Let us ask a few basic questions here :

The legislators who talk about the assault on Indian values and aping the western culture have very conveniently disregarded our cultural heritage or do not have any learning and respect for these values. On the one hand , we boast about Kamasutra and Vatsyayana's contribution to the world, and here we are giving in to false impositions of moral policing by a bunch of ignoramus.

In deciding this issue, have they ever asked what is being taught in sex education, and why is it required ? Do they really have an idea about how many adolescents fall prey to wrong and incorrect information, or lack of correct knowledge ? Do they know that approximately 5.7 million adults ( age 15-49 yrs) who lived in India, are living with HIV and the counter ticking very very fast? Did they consult any child psychologist or for that matter any of the stake holders in this matter - parents, teachers, principals, students before taking such a decision ? So much so for democracy !!

Talking about imposing western culture in the state, why don't they first do something about the media which seems to churn out enough and more of mind - sickening movies & music videos all targeted at this adolescent population ( my views on freedom of expression is for another day's blog) ! If that is not corrupting the yound minds, then what is ??? Or maybe they think that children will not go wayward by watching such soft porn churned out mindlessly by our remix gurus and commercial cinema producers and will only be interested in such matters once they teach it in schools!!!

How much more lopsided can the state machinery be ? And how much can politics and policy strangulate logic and reality ??? Its for you and me to think, since the future of our next generation is in OUR hands and cannot be left to the political machinery !

Now for the next news item..this one caught me unawares, but I guess, I was not alarmed at the news...It says Mumbai tops in suicide by homemakers....well, though emphasis is on the fact that Mumbai tops the list, it should be on the fact that " homemakers are the single largest group committing suicide in Mumbai".

It is not the unemployed or professionals or students who top the list - but the simple woman who remains behind the scenes in most of the households here...yes, I do agree that women have progressed immensely in this country, and yes, I do agree that there are more of women professionals and many of those who have jobs and positions which will make men turn green and purple...and yes, I do agree that there are more and more of women who go on to do higher studies in India and abroad...and yes, there are a lot of them who are happy while juggling profession and family...BUT there are a lot more out there , behind the scene....

And while there has been a huge amount of discussions and debates about the women who make it to the frontlines, there have been very few thoughts about these women of the other world....our counterparts...And now they have got the focus on them for all the wrong reasons....

As usual, while I was on my way to work ( which is when I think, I think ), this bit of news kept bothering me...The news article calls this a phenomenon caused by " spillover stress"...( whatever that means)...but somehow the term caught my attention...why spillover...what do they mean by spillover stress...does it mean that the homemaker's stress is only a spillover stress different from others...another case of stereotyping, I believe...

The analysis and opinions by psychologists lists out rising prices, children's education, day-to-day monotony, husband's whims, lack of sleep etc etc as causes for this stress ultimately leading to the drastic step. Well, I agree and I think there is more to it than just these obvious she is living in times where everyone is racing ahead, and success is being defined by professional success, fame and money...these symbols and stereotypes being reinforced day in and day out by various media..the saas-bahus of the world, commercial cinema, and all our newsprints with the focus on page 3 showcasing life as one big party and advertisements of creams and treatments making you feel like the "before" in the before-after clips....

Hugh...and here she is struggling to make both ends meet, cooking and cleaning and the daily chores of her life make her age faster than she can afford one of those pricey creams and anti-wrinkle formulae....where will she go if not get depressed...and I am only thankful that the number is only 361 and not more....

This news item is not only about Mumbai and its homemaker women, its just a pointer to where we are headed.....