Posts Tagged ‘India’

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Rants of an angry Indian over the incidents in the last few weeks!

In Thoughts on December 31, 2012 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , ,

423319_10151368624512139_1391968885_nThe World will End – It probably did!

It was said the “World will end”! Probably nobody ever thought about the magnitude of the statement. It was not the world itself in the physical sense but it probably was referring to erosion of cultural and human values – the compassion towards fellow human beings, the core human values and the sheer lack of patience and virtue.

Month of December 2012 and how it affected me:

This whole month of December 2012 was really painful. At one point I stopped reading the newspapers, stopped watching the news channels, stopped discussing about it with anyone and actually stopped people from talking about it in my presence. It was probably not the wise thing to do, but it was just overwhelming with so much negativity going on and it was getting toxic to the extent it was beginning to affect my spirit, my ability to focus on what I was doing all stemming from my anger at my own helplessness to be able to make a difference. As much as I tried to stay away from it the more I was hearing, as much as I assured myself things will get better, it only got worse.  I was no more the person I was which became more evident to others than to me. It was all very depressing! I am sure it is not just me but thousands of other Indians and others across the globe that must have been feeling the same or much worse. I decided to put down my thoughts as a way to positively and constructively drive my anger and disappointment. So here it is. If there is at least one person who reads this and takes a vow to make this place a better one, I will feel much better.

Why? What is causing this?

Before we try to jump into what can be done, it is imperative at this point that we also try to understand what is causing this in the first place? Because chasing the wrong problem will not help us solve it. As much as we say the victims are one amongst us, it is important to face the bitter truth that the perpetrators of crime are also one of us. That being the case, we as a society have blood stains in our hands and have been a reason directly or indirectly for all these crimes. There is no point blaming just the government and its agencies for all the incidents. We the people, the media, the agencies of the government have all been hand in gloves in letting happen what has happened. This is not something new today, as Aurobindo wrote on August 21,1893 when returned to India at the age of 20.

Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism. 1

The People:

In the hyper-kinetic world that we live in, everyone craves for recognition, attention, care and love. Our lives have become more materialistic and less holistic. We fail to see the people and their souls instead decide to see their position in the society and our materialistic gains from that. We have ceased to respect people as people but begun objectifying people as a means to selfish gains. There is a mad rush for wealth, fame, power and what not and in the process the value for one’s principles, values and virtues are lost and that vacuum is giving space to demonic thoughts!

The Media:

The media for their part knowingly or unknowingly glorify the criminal’s and help them get their shot at stardom. Then they keep moving on to news stories that kept their TRP running and would cover a story if and only if it would generate the TRPs and the necessary sponsorship to keep their boats afloat. Such is the sorry state that the media house is just another business where profit and loss statements are driving the content rather than the collective responsibility they carry towards the society. To all the Rajdeep Sardesai’s and Arnab Goswamis’s trying to keep a story alive for a few more days is not going to help achieve any action on ground. Media houses have to completely rework the way news items are being gathered and reported. There is more to news reporting than the “breaking news”, or to get in front of the cameras from on site and shout at the top of the voice, or to sit in the studio with a bunch of people arguing over a ton of things which translate to nothing, or to simply spread negativism around which makes people angry and brings down the energy levels of the entire society. The print media are not far behind either! Right now I hate to go pick up the newspaper every morning.

The government and its agencies:

I think it is a waste of time to even expect our government and its agencies to deliver anything given the lackadaisical nature of people and also the media houses of this country. Understood, the government is not doing enough, but when has it in the last 65 years of Indian Independence? Now that it is clear that the change is not flowing top-down it is time for us to take the change bottom up.

What can I do? What can we do?

That brought me to the question, what can I do? What can we do? Right now, a lot of negative energy is being created and channelized into protests, prayers, memorials, candle light vigils and tons of post of social networks like Facebook, twitter etc., etc., The media houses do their part by inviting guests to talk about the things and end up raising the decibels in every home ending up causing more headaches. While all of these have a lot of potential and I respect people taking part in these shows of solidarity to the victim and their families, I get the feeling none of this is translating into anything actionable on ground to prevent these from happening again and make it a better place to live in.

If people take some solace from posting to Facebook or taking to the road to protest, so be it, but if they really believe that this will trigger a change in the society then everyone is going to be plain disappointed! I saw a lot of posts on the day of the incident and a couple of days after that and on the black Saturday with messages like RIP, condolences and even some with crude language. I can understand the anger, but all of this is just negative channelizing of the anger. Also, all that is gone a few days after and we all get back living our lives believing all is well; while it is not. It is just a time bomb waiting to tick! We need that anger; we need that disappointment; all to be channelized in a positive manner resulting in concrete steps to curtail such activities. So what can we do?

As people: As a common man we cannot pass new laws, we cannot enforce laws, we cannot change the world overnight. But we can do some of the following:

  • Teach the next generation to respect Women and people in general.
  • Teach the kids the ill effects of violence and hatred in any form.
  • More importantly get them to “think” rationally. Help them see the big picture and not be narrow minded to what they just see or experience.
  • Channelize their failures into positive energy that will help them take on the different obstacles in life and carve success stories.
  • Include such horrific stories of in their syllabus and give them a perspective, today’s younger generation are smart enough that they can differentiate between the good and the bad and this will help building strong values at a very young age which is the key to a person’s integrity.

This way at least the coming generations will behave more rationally and don’t turn into demons and devils at the slightest taste of bitterness in their lives.

To try and address what is happening today, we have to take a bigger role than being a passive spectator. We need to

  • Take a vow that we will never be passive spectators to these unjust incidents if it happens in front of us.
  • Never encourage incorrect thoughts or words against women or anyone for that matter from people we know even if it is just for fun. A very common mistake the society commits is to laugh at lewd remarks and statements at women or other people which gives the impression it is a funny or a brave thing to do. They are not funny, they are not brave! They are hurtful and exhibit cowardice! This is what is commonly referred to as harassment or eve-teasing. Take a vow to oppose any such statements even the slightest ones.
  • For some reason I cannot comprehend, our society is not broad minded towards woman! I am totally ashamed and disappointed at this but that is the bitter truth. Most matured of men and women get shaky when having to deal with anything to do with women, be it looking at a relationship, their success stories or anything for that matter. Whatever the reason might be: insecurity, jealousness or even the fox’s story of the fruits are sour, this has to change! There is no other way! A society cannot progress when it is narrow-minded! It just cannot! See the big picture! Be holistic in your views not materialistic!
  • Shun the media houses that do not do a good job at news reporting. Let them know, that quality of content is important, show them that shouting in the studio and reporting racy news doesn’t necessarily mean better TRPs. Turn your TV sets off if that is what it takes. Once the message reaches I am sure we will get better content.
  • We probably have a chance only once in 5 years to have our say on the government. Make sure that doesn’t go wasted. We research for hours together before we want to buy anything as simple as a cell phone to things as big as a house. But do we research before casting our votes to a candidate? Have we checked how many criminal cases are pending against the candidates and what type of cases those are? We better begin doing that, it might not take more than possibly a couple of hours to see what is going on with the candidates in our constituency.
  • Finally, make good use of the social media. In the current circumstances, with the lack for good media houses, social media can be a very powerful medium if used properly. Agreed, there is a mismatch in the society in terms of wealth, power and fame. Let us not knowingly or unknowingly enlarge this problem through the social media. Share good positive things, positive energy is contagious. Refrain from sharing negative thoughts, negative energy is toxic!

As Media people:

  • The media today has a good financial backing and far and wide network coverage. They have access to information which is not available to general public. The technology has evolved so much that the media if they wish to, can put them to good use. If Obama’s campaign could use data to find out what people wanted to hear and target the audience accordingly, I am sure we can use the same data to find out what is causing this behavioral anomaly in these perpetrators of crime. That will go a long way in understanding the “Problem” and then in turn actually “solve” it. I am sure there are a number of NGOs who will be willing to partner in such studies for the welfare of the society. This will be quality content from the media houses. This will be positive use of their reach into the society.
  • Stop giving bigger than life coverage to these perpetrators of crime. You are not shaming these criminals in any way, in fact the exact opposite is happening. Instead focus on the success stories of the victims who have fought back into their lives. That will indeed shame the criminals and spread positive energy in the society.

As Government Agencies:

Again, I am not going to waste my time on this one, but if there is one thing I wish for, a little bit more sincerity towards the work government agencies do. Just that will go a long way in making this a better place to live.

References:

1 – Thanks to my friend Sudharshun for his post on FB for this quote from Aurobindo!

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Fuel prices in India – Demystified!

In Opinion on May 17, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Petrol costs more than what Aviation fuel costs, thereby putting it right up there in the most valuable commodities. If this keeps going up like this, the so called “Middle Class” families will soon be families below the poverty line. Agreed that the price of oil is rising at the international market, however still why is this disparity between the prices of Petrol and Diesel and more so between and India and other non Oil producing nations?

Reports suggests that the actual cost of importing, refining and distributing petrol works out to approx Rs.36 per litre. If that is the case where is the remaining cost coming from. Are they profits? no… they are excise duties and levies imposed by the government. These work out to about Rs.30 per litre of petrol. In contrast, while Diesel costs a little higher in the international market, it is sold cheaper in India, courtesy lesser levies and

petrol-price-hike

taxes. It is suggested that the levies on Diesel is about Rs.10-Rs.15 per litre.

Why Diesel is getting this Partiality? Some people say it is because of the fact that Diesel is used in farm lands and that is a vote garnering measure. Also, that Petrol is the rich people’s fuel. While all of this was true in the 80’s and 90’s things have changed dramatically at the turn of the millennium. Diesel guzzling SUV’s are the rich men’s favourites and two wheelers and compact cars running petrol is the Middle class families friend. Even official data supports this fact by reporting that Diesel consumed in the country is 5 times more than Petrol. So a simple Rs.2 increase in diesel in enough to negate a Rs.10 decrease in Petrol. It is time the policy makers get realistic and give petrol its due.

Another funny thing the government does with fuel prices is that, it levies a custom duty on crude oil and then subsidizes the prices of refined products like LPG, diesel and kerosene. Why levy a custom duty in the first from the oil companies and then follow it with a subsidy? It only leads to financial pressure on the oil companies who have to first pay the duty and wait for the subsidy. Collecting money from the government is monumental task, and for the period in-between unwanted interest rates are paid, there by affecting the bottom lines of the already sunk oil companies. After all, oil companies are not privately held, so who is actually losing the money? I think the answer is very clear to every taxpayer in the country.

So what can the government do? The simplest of free crude oil imports from duties and the retail sales of petrol and diesel from all forms of taxes and levies. After all, who is the government fooling by adding a custom duty to show income to the government and then giving out a subsidy and billing it as an expense.

Or Alternatively, they could sell ads for every liter of petrol so that at the petrol pump, so that we get to see ads like “this liter of petrol brought to you by blah blah blah” – zoo zoo can show its super power by offering free petrol in its super weeks..and Abhishek Bachchan can suggest using aviation fuel instead of regular gasoline and claim ‘what an idea sir ji’!!!

Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

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What does Pakistan want after all?

In Thoughts on May 16, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

Pakistan was successful in projecting an image of inability in controlling the terror network all along. Post OBL, that is getting increasingly difficult. The entire episode of Osama Bin Laden’s “assassination” by the US forces in Pakistan has come as a complete embarrassment to the Pakistan government and military. It is funny, that unable to do anything about the US presence, one after another Pakistan officials both from the government and military establishment are threatening India with dire consequences if they try something similar.

This is after India’s Prime Minister clearly rejecting any such ideas himself. Even going by the track record of India, irrespective of the ability of the armed forces, the political circles do not have it in them to take up such an action. So why is Pakistan barking against an empty sky??? Thankfully, India has shown some maturity by not responding to such unwarranted statements from the Pakistani establishment.

Pakistan cannot do anything about the US forces, for everything in Pakistan is funded by the US. They do not have an economy. I don’t think they even have a development plan in place to take care of their country’s growth.

United States, wants to be the most dominant force in the world, India and China are vying for top spots in GDP growth, and while other countries are having similar growth goals, I guess Pakistan has a singular goal, to be the No.1 terror state in the world. I must admit they are being very successful in that.

One can certainly understand if a group of fanatics want violence and death, which is detrimental to their own growth, leave alone destroying others, but how could one nation as a whole have such a degenerative motive. India and Pakistan achieved freedom at the same time, technically, Pakistan got it earlier than India. Still, Pakistan has largely remained an under developed country thriving on financial support from US on one hand and China on the other.

Year after year ISI trained militants are push into the Indian side of LOC and ensure peace does not prevail in the region. After all, what does Pakistan want? Kashmir? I don’t think they will stop at that. Yes, Indira Gandhi did play a pivotal role in the separation of Bangladesh as a separate state, so what? Pakistan wants freedom for Kashmir, but what have they done to their own freedom? Where is the 70 years worth of freedom gone? At least Bangladesh, after being an independent state, is trying to make some economic progress, and now they are known for their textile industry and are fast catching up in a number of other segments as well. Where is Pakistan heading?

Sorry but one cannot think of Pakistan in anything but terror links and that occasional Onion export to India. How much ever one wants to de link Pakistan from terror, that is the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind. I completely fail to understand the mind set and thought process that must be going on in the minds of the Pakistani officials who are running the government and the army. For one, Pakistan is being “Used” by vested interests, who don’t want peace in the region, China and US included, so that they can keep supplying defense supplies to both the countries and their economies can thrive on that. Secondly, the religious fanatics have been influencing the Pakistan top brass, as the various terror organization now don’t have a number of options after Saudi Arabia denounced all form of terrorism and Afghanistan coming under American super vision. Can’t the Pakistan establishment really not see the ‘Big Picture’ or just turning a blind eye towards all of that and leading Pakistan towards a point of no return?

I have interacted with a number of different people of Pakistani origin, all of them have come across as very soft, friendly and likeable people. After all, they are our own distant cousins. It is sad to note, how much of a difference it makes to one’s life style and living being on different sides of the border. There seems to be fundamentally wrong with Pakistan, right from the days of partition up until today. There seem to be a lack of visionary. May be education is making the difference between the two countries, the lack of awareness and the lack of rational thinking to decide between right and wrong is making a huge impact.

I can only wish, that some day Pakistan gets a visionary who would lead them from darkness to light. Yes, being an Indian, there is a selfish motive to see peace in the region, but more so, for the millions of good souls in Pakistan who are helpless and are far from being on the same thought plane as the military leaders and other government official who are leading Pakistan into a point of no return.

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Recalls – How about applying this concept to the electoral process?

In Thoughts on April 28, 2011 by shsmani Tagged: , , , ,

This past year, we have been hearing about a lot of recalls, predominantly in the automobile space. So what is this recall? Recall is the process of taking the car out of the roads back to the company facility for unsatisfactory performance or probable concerns!

How about we apply this same concept to the electoral process? We elect MPs, MLAs, and elected representatives to the various civic bodies in our country. How good would it be if we had a recall switch to recall and throw a MP or MLA or any other elected representative for that matter, out of office for non-performance. Think about it, there is so much we can achieve by this; we could have prevented the huge scams like the 2G from happening.

Few critics could argue that tApplying Recall to the electoral Processhis would add the additional cost of re-elections and the subsequent burden to the tax payers. I would like to remind them as to how much of our taxpayers’ money has already gone into the pockets of vested interests as a result of these scams. One way or the other, the tax payers hard earned money is not fully and properly utilized so why not have a control mechanism in which, tax payers get to have their say more frequently than the 5 year period. This way at least there will be some pressure to perform.

The concept of recall in the electoral process is not completely new, rather not new at all. According to Wikipedia, the process of recall elections dates back to the Athenian democracy and is prevalent in a number of constitutions across the globe today. They include counties like USA, Venezuela, and parts of Canada and Switzerland.

More recent example of a successful recall is the 2011 recall of Carlos Alvarez, mayor of Miami-Dade county, Florida. Imagine, if we had a similar process in India, we could have by now removed a number of our “tainted” ministers who should never be in office in the first place. The term “tainted” minister pains me. How could a person be guilty of malpractice, dishonesty and deceit hold a public office and be an elected member?

Lokpal Bill and Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption are our first steps toward the right direction. However it will be rendered meaningless if the enforcement of the laws are weak. How do we keep it under check? It is through such tighter control over the elected body via processes like recall elections.

Ideally the setup for India should be to have the ability to recall independent elected members, rather than the entire government. That way re-election spending can be reduced and people can send out feelers if they are unhappy with the performance of the government.

Well, this is the rants of yet another Indian of the 1.2+ billion Indians. Hope to see the light of the day when India grows to its fullest potential, sooner rather than later!