August 20, 2011

Freakonomics - India style

According to the latest medical research conducted by a team of doctors and psychiatrists from Amethi University, a number of youth today are complaining of loneliness and reporting attention deficit disorders. Times Trends reports that the team finally came to the conclusion that this sudden spurt in loneliness amongst the urban youth is directly proportional to the number of friends who are 'online' in their Facebook, and those who participated in the Anna movement and were offline!

Apparently, the downside of the Anna movement has many youth staying offline and getting on the streets and facing the real world. Among the data analysed, the team found that an equal number of youth who took to the streets and those who logged in and found their friends offline, reported similar ‘loneliness syndrome’. While those on the street felt disoriented with the noise and din around them, they were only used to the noise of the keyboardJ When contacted, one boy confessed that he missed the fact that there was no 'like' button for him to agree to a slogan or when a patriotic song was played.

The lazy youth who stayed in their usual hostel/ homes also reported the same loneliness syndrome. Their self confidence hit rock bottom when they saw only 2 friends online whereas it was always a minimum of 20, at any given time, till a week ago. They felt insecure and had the tell-tale signs of chewed-up nailsJ

Times Trends contacted Facebook to check if they noticed any change in logging patterns of account holders from India and they were relieved to know the reason, as they were actually worried that they had lost the youth, to Google+ J

August 19, 2011

Best news channel award for the month goes to....

Many many thanks to Congress and Team Anna's Civil Society, news channels are thanking their stars and loving their TRPs like never before:-)...

A year ago, any scam worth thousands of crores was a sureshot winner with news channels, not anymore, though! Arnab really worked hard with obtaining copies of CAG reports on CWG scam part II, Air India etc.. but the public were so numbed, that nothing could really interest them anymore. With IPL another 10 months away, and elections another year away, and with everybody blaming the media for the overdose of everything... Arnab and gang were a worried lot, till the India Against Corruption picked up steam, thanks to government handling (or bungling).

Never mind if the visuals were repeated every 3 minutes, the anchors were going hysterical with the reporting, much like the sloganeering youth on the street. It was pathetic to watch them but we had no choice but to endure them. Its like as if there is nothing else happening in the country or the world!! But apparently, there is the usual stuff, if you do happen to read the newspapers... there are floods in North India, Dengue in Orissa, floods and protests in West Bengal, Bombay preparing for the annual Chaturthi festival, farmers protests in Pune and UP. A US Senator was visitng India and met with politicians in Kashmir. Indian cricket team continued their show with Test cricket.. World economy very precarious and bleak.. Indefinite Truckers strike from today etc. etc..

Having watched TV this past week, with little to choose between them, I would say NDTV scores over the rest with a more balanced and mature reporting.. There seemed to be an attempt at genuine understanding and debate on the topic, with some quality experts on the panel.

August 16, 2011

The Red and Blue pills

We human beings as a species seem to have lost our sense of balance and pragmatism. Look at the political scenario in US / UK / other  European countries / India, etc. The main political parties seem to take positions that swing from one extreme to the other... Nobody seems to be value the prospect of the middle path.

Look at the politics in India, either you are with the Congress or you are branded communal and fascist. In such a polarised scenario, we see the emergence of the so-called civil society movement led by Anna Hazare. Unfortunately, he is also falling into the same weakness, that of extremism. While it is important to keep corruption in check and punish the corrupt, the means to achieve a corruption free society looks set to get derailed with almost clownish, immature, extreme, militant behavior of the team associated with Anna. We all know that more than 200 years ago, Lord Acton coined the now famous phrase, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". History shows that corruption, in some form, has always been there in society. What is new is the % of corrupt people and the magnitude:-)

To resort to a fast at the drop of the hat, or threaten a fast if his demands were not met is certainly not Gandhian behavior. There seems to be a rebellious, arrogant stance in this movement that can also describe the Congress party. So, as, citizens, we actually have not much to choose, far from the red and blue pill that the movement had originally promised. Back in April 2011, I was really taken in by the simplicity of Anna Hazare, but in less than four months the halo around him has vanished and he is just another wannabe. The corruption he wants to fight, probably started at the top, but today, it is a systemic disease and just attacking the leaders at the top will never weed out systemic corruption.

Greed is human nature.. But what is alarming is the extent and magnitude that is shocking us, today. Look at the reasons of the global economic collapse in the world.. it has been individual greed that has been the root cause. White collar crimes are becoming common place everywhere and in India too. Can this Jan Lokpal bill address all aspects of corruption?? Unlikely. If I could have a word with Anna today, I would tell him, "Great work done my friend, to force the government to introduce the Lokpal bill. Now, allow the bill to be debated and then influence changes and allow the bill to evolve, instead of attempting to perfect a bill and bringing the country to a standstill."

August 10, 2011

Mumbai to be renamed Shipumbai

Apparently, there is another ship drifting towards the Mumbai Coast! This is going to be the third in as many months. What could the reason be? Media don't seem interested, as on date. Who should the concerned citizens go for help? Somebody came to me and asked for suggestions. I was quite blank but not one to look dumb, I managed, "Well, err, make a list of names who will not show any interest and then you end up with the right person". I thought that was a decent answer but nay, he persisted, "make the list for me".
As I had pretty nothing much to do on that Sunday evening, I said, "Lets see, let me jott some names randomly - Times Now, Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, the Supreme Court, CAG, PAC, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, The Hindu, Ministry of Shipping, Barack Obama, Greenpeace, Kapil Sibal, Digvijay Singh, Subramanium Swamy, ED, Home Ministry, IB, perhaps?" "Why not some prominent Mumbaikars like Udhav Thackeray, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Lata Mangeshkar, or Mukesh Ambani?"
I could see the enthusiasm levels fall dramatically in my friend and he was probably wondering why he had asked me for help.... Not to let him off so easily, I had after all by now, gotten deep into the thick of things... I continued, "the Civil Society (not the one led by Anna) does not feature in this exhaustive list and is probably the right forum," I declared triumphantly...
The Civil Society was called in and was asked to prepare a detailed report on why ships were drifting towards the coastline, ever so often. They were asked to look at an obvious Paki hand, whether some money was getting pumped out through these ships, whether this was Mukesh Ambani's plan to get in oil to India, etc. etc. Or is the Home Ministry working through these ships since they are all at sea, anyway. Since no media showed any interest in this activity, the civil society was asked to look at collusion with media and politicians. A strict two month deadline was offered and the civil society went to work. They toiled hard and took their brief very seriously. And their findings took everyone by surprise. They said that the ships like the friendly Mumbai coast and gave a clean chit to everybodyJ. They ended their 786 page report by recommending a name change for the city to Shipumbai!

The Vanishing Thin Line

Any cosmetic industry will get excited at the word "vanishing" but I am referring to the thin line between activism and violence. Increasingly, this seems to be the norm, in every part of the world. Most of us seem to be less strong in handling situations and challenges. And the phenomenon is rampant in the so-called developed / developing / third world countries, infact more so in the developed world as the citizens are probably not as resilient.

Let’s take the past two weeks and look at some events around the world...

  • one insane citizen massacred ~ 90 people in Oslo
  • a small unrest against police killing in a suburb of London has paralysed the whole city due to widespread arson and looting!
  • Virginia Tech Univ, already with a past history of the worst shooting incident in an University campus, spotted an armed man in the prowl, that has the students jittery
  • the less said about the Indian students in Australia, the better
  • apparently the Chinese province adjoining Pakistan is ridden with armed conflict

While the above stories do not shock us Indians and similar countries where violence, bomb blasts are becoming common place, we ought to look farther and see a similar pattern. Most often the reasons are disparities, lack of opportunities, racial hatred and unemployment.

Lets look at India a little more closely, a huge melting pot, where we have the best of technology firms jostling for space with sprawling slums, where the disparity levels have reached alarming levels. We have myriad problems, from population explosion, to corrupt political practices, to weak governments, to inflation, unfocussed agriculture policy and land acquisition, across all Indian states.

Corruption, however, is being singled out as the root cause of our problems and we have some bunch of activists-turned freedom fighters who claim to follow Gandhian values leading the movement. Never mind that they are resorting to violence by burning copies of Lokpal bill in public.. this is today's Gandhi for you, staring you in the face...

The profile of people flocking to these venues in Delhi and Bombay are either those with time on their side or those who are unemployed... the former are the ones who are the 'bribe-givers' and therefore feel indignant while the latter are the ones who don't have the means. It is indeed easy to get very romantic and think ourselves to be freedom fightersJ. However, nett nett, these movements have successfully brought the country to a standstill. There is been no policy level decisions taken, as all of them are always doing some fire fighting with respect to the Lokpal bill or the myriad scams that have hit the country in the past one year.

I beg to differ from these activists. I would root for growth, strong governance, strengthen internal security, be inclusive in sharing of resources with tribals and villagers. And most importantly, focus on quality education for every citizen. Such positive approaches will serve Indians far better, in the long run.  

August 8, 2011

Interesting anecdote

I work for a very distinguished and accomplished citizen in our country, Prof M. S. Swaminathan. Being his 86th birthday, we had the who's who come and greet him on the occasion. We had many people over, from a Central Minister, to International Scientists; to the most well known media personality of Chennai felicitate him. There were people who called him the most distinguished living Indian citizen and another said he prays for his work to be immortal and then another recommended him for India's highest Civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.

I sat there as part of the audience and looked at Professor and wondered how gracefully he handled the compliments and praise. When it was the turn of the birthday boy to speak, he shared a lovely anecdote that was the answer to my thoughts. He thanked one and all and said he was extremely grateful for all the love and affection shown. He ended by saying that once when Sir C. V. Raman was asked how the compliments never went to his head, he apparently remarked that he wore the turban tight to ensure the head didn't swell with compliments!! Professor added that he didn't have a turban to sport and so he apparently assumes the compliments are for another "Swaminathan" and that keeps his head intactJ. It’s so rare to see and work with such a genuine, humble and dignified person in spite of his yeomen contribution to transforming Indian Agriculture and the feeding the millions. It’s an honour to meet and interact with him.

August 4, 2011

The News Tonight

Philosophically speaking, one can wonder on what is 'real' and what is a 'dream'... taking a cue from this seems to be the 24/7 news channels and the print media... At the time these 24/7 channels first began reporting, one could catch up with the headlines of tomorrow's newspaper by watching the 9 pm every night. Not anymore, it seems...

Often what seems to be 'breaking news' and headlines at prime time newshour does not find mention even in a remote corner in any page on the newspaper the next day!! I have been watching this strange news reporting for the past year or more and sometimes get confused on what is the ‘real headline’ news:-). I am sure I can be forgiven as I hope to have company! Last night for example, we had some breaking news on Ms. Sheila Dixit involved in CWG Scam II which we were told was bigger than CWG Scam I... There then followed a detailed discussion on whether she ought to resign, and a parallel in Karnataka CM resigning was cited. A very interesting discussion then ensued on the difference between "financial irregularity" and "corruption". However, there was nothing in the Times of India this morning, about this "very big scam"

Brings me to the question, what is real and what is not? 

August 1, 2011

Anna is in great demand

Just heard from uninformed sources that there is frantic back room lobbying by the Congress and the BJP (the ruling & opposition parties, for those with blurred visionJ), to get Anna onto their camps. Apparently, both parties see an excellent spokesperson in Anna, for their respective parties. He seems to have no qualms in talking to the media and giving vent to his feelings, never mind, if it contradicts what he said a few days earlier. This, according to a senior party member, is an amazing trait that will bowl the media and citizens alike. And yes, Anna also seems to have the ability to relate to Aam aadmi, that both parties would like to exploit as the netas seem to have got disconnected with the Aam aadmi, offlate. We were probably better off when we were with 1G communicationsJ
Apparently, the activity had reached feverish proportions on the eve of the Monsoon session in Parliament. While, initially, the media thought the parties were sending feelers with regards to the Lokpal bill, it is now unreliably learnt by a news channel, TV Now, that Anna is being sought out by both parties and a tug of war over him has broken out. Some sources claim that a Rajya Sabha seat is being promised to get him on their side! Some unconfirmed reports claim that he will be their official Presidential nominee in 2012J

Anna, as on date, has not spoken about the recent developments. We wonder if he may want to protest against this news by sitting on a fast in his own village in Maharashtra, as that seems to be the only place where he would be welcomed :-)