Category Archives: Social
I wrote this for the college magazine. Its my views of identity politics which though highly dangerous are universal
Fear is one of the most powerful weapons to control humans. Of all the countless fears and phobias that humans are susceptible to, the most powerful are the ones that can be classified under the category ‘fear of the other’. It has its genesis from the survival instinct of humans to form groups or clans among people with similar interests. The earliest of the groups were formed for improving efficiency in hunting. The groups gave them safety in the highly hostile surroundings in which they lived then. Any potential disruption to these groupings was viewed with scepticism and later with outright hostility. Thus the sense of identity and hostility towards the other is as old as humans themselves. But we have come a long way from the hunter/gatherers we were. Moving out of Africa, the modern man moved far and out and in the process developed new traits, survival skills and looks. Only the hidden messages coded in our genetic makeup links all of us to the small group in Africa that diversified to become what we are now. From that initial identity, we created new identities: on the way we talked, the way social norms were set, the way we bowed in front of the all powerful, the way we dressed etc. These identities, some as old as humans themselves or some just a few decades old have become major rallying points for politicians to pursue their ends.
The Indian Identity
As a civilization we have never ceased to grow. Whether it be invaders or refugees fleeing persecution in far off lands, we have always made it a point absorb the good things they brought in and thus renew our cultural gene pool. The result was the creation of multifarious identities of being Indian. The question ‘what makes you an indian’ will get you answers numerous as pollens in an orchard and as varied as flowers in a garden. So what exactly makes us Indians? Rather than answering that question, It will be easier to jot down points as to what does not completely define us as a nation.
We are not a single geographical entity. The geograpjical entity is the Indian sub-continent. But large parts of it are currently not part of our country and some others never were. Even when Burma was integrated as a part of British India in 1886, it held on to its individual identity. The Indian National Congress in its Poorna Swaraj declaration in 1929 had made it clear that Burma will not be part of free India. Afghanistan maintained its tribal identity throughout history and is still living up to its image as ‘the graveyard of empires’.
Contrary to popular belief, we have never completely come under a single administration either. The Guptas, Mauryas and the Mughals integrated and ruled over large swathes of territory that would become India later. But none of them could rule over the entire land. Large parts of south and north east India remained outside their rule. Even when India was politically unified under the raj, the British only ruled less than 60% of the land. The remaining was ruled by princes under the suzerainty of the British crown. When we won independence in 1947, we didn’t inherit a single india, but 14 provinces which were directly ruled by the British and 535 princely states. Also contrary to popular beliefs, the national movement didn’t give us a single identity either. The Indian national Congress was active in the provinces alone. Although the congress had some of the most illustrious leaders like U.N Dhebar and others coming from princely states, it was the congress policy until 1939 not to organize any mass movements in the princely states. But they took memberships from the princely states who were active in movements throughout the country. These people spread the modern ideas of freedom and equality in the princely states. The beacon of reform and freedom was carried by regional parties that were independent of the major national parties.
Given the way in which India was inherited from the british, a reorganization for admistrative convenience was one of the foremost priorities. After a lot of debates and commissions, it was decided in 1956 to reorganize the nation on linguistic basis. So can language compartmentalize us into rigid identities? We had 14 states based on 14 official languages then. But the number of languages that are in the eight schedule of the constitution now is 22. Besides these 22, there are innumerable languages spoken on regional basis. Even in areas in which the same language is spoken, the regional diversities can be mind boggling. The pace, the style and the vocabulary can be so varied that one may fail to comprehend a person from the same linguistic region but speaking a different regional variety. But on a broader scale these thousands of languages can be classified into 5 root categories.
Identity politics in India
Given these factors, identity is a fluid concept in India. There are no clear cut definitions or boundaries. Every person belongs to a minority in his own way. Still inspite of the fact that we have so many identities and inspite of the fact that theses identities are not always water tight, politics of identity have found its roots in the country and flourished, sometimes leading to disastrous consequences. Even the momentous event of the birth of free India was marred by violence and a refugee crisis that has few parallels in recorded human history. Thousands of riots small and big has happened in our country ever since. There are even political parties thriving exclusively on the concept of a particular identity.
On close perusal it can be seen that all these political parties follow similar strategies to gain foothold. In the first stage, the identity is glorified citing examples from our rich history and our heritage. Together with this, mild skirmishes are made at other parallel identities to reinforce the supremacy of the particular identity. The next phase is the fear psychosis part when people are constantly reminded that all parallel identities pose a continuous challenge to our identity and hence must be resisted. Both the Hindu Maha Sabha(1915) and Muslim league(1906) gave possible hostile takeover by the other religion as the reason for their formation and existence. The final phase is the phase of outright hostility in which the party consolidates its base and calls for the complete extermination of the ‘other’.
Its not so difficult to find the hollowness in the arguments of the political parties. Its more so true in the case of India. But that doesn’t give us any room to lower our defenses. The fact that mass hysteria can be imposed even in a modern developed society was brutally demonstrated in the case of Nazi Germany. With further cultural assimilation and ‘flattening’ of the world, questions of identity can easily be converted into powerful weapons. The first step towards preventing identity blowing out into serious scales is to understand our unique history and accept our differences.
The diversity of the country is a constant reminder of the richness of our civilization. It is undoubtedly our greatest strength. Sixty years of democracy have taken us to a point from which regaining past glory and richness is a goal that is within our reach. In the process, our greatest strength will be the collective energies of our people. The lessons learnt from the pitfalls and blemishes should never be forgotten. India is more than the sum of its parts. We should accept and celebrate the multifarious identities that we simultaneously possess and the unique thread of being Indian running through those seemingly conflicting identities. If we can show the resolve to do this, the future is undoubtedly ours.
Saw some buzz on the recent deregulation. Here is the rationale.
The subsidy that we get on fuel are
LPG a whooping rs.267
What it means is that it costs HPCL, BPCL etc 54 rupees to take a litre a petrol to the petro pump, but they sell at rs.48. In the process the total losses last year was rs. 1 lakh crore. Who takes this burden? Obviously the govt. How?
1. By raising indirect taxes (you cant raise direct taxes-can cause more evasion)
2. By cuts on social sector spending
3. Printing notes
4. Asking ONGC and other upstream companies to give a part of their profits
These three acts directly affects the poor as indirect taxes are regressive (more burden on poor) and printing notes cause inflation (again regressive). Consider the fourth point. If you take away a part of their profits, those companies will have less for investments in future mining projects and acquisitions. Remember ONGC losing out to CNPC (China) in every global bid as we didn’t have the cash. So the govt appointed a committee under Kirith parekh to study this. the current decision is based on that committee’s recommendations. By deregulation
1. Burden will be equitably shared
2. We l use less (good for environment)
In short we will pay the exact price.
So relax people. Previously when you burned the fuel in your bike, you were not only harming the environment but taking a bite off the poor man’s plate. Now will be relieved of the second crime. The government has something good for you!!!
Update : The government of India tabled the Nuclear liability bill in the parliament a few days back. But because of intense opposition, the Govt has to back track. They have postponed introducing the bill and the Law Minister Veerappa Moily has said that the govt is open to discussions on the controversial bill.
The bill has far reaching consequences to every citizen of the nation that wide spread public discussions should have happened before the bill was tabled, not after it was opposed in the parliament. So what exactly is the bill and what is so controversial about it.
The purpose of the bill is the cap the economic liability of the supplier of nuclear reactor and the operator of the reactors and the total liability of the govt in case of a nuclear disaster (Remember Chernobyl).
- Total liability: The total liability in case of a nuclear accident (the cash that will be distributed to people as compensation) will be 300 million SDRs (around Rs. 2300 crore or 450m Dollars)
- Supplier: With the NSG waiver and subsequent deals India has signed with 8 nations, technically India can buy nuclear reactors from these 8 nations. So suppliers refers to Nuclear reactor manufacturers in all these nations (eg: GE(USA), Areva(France)). As per the bill, the liability of the supplier is zero. Liability is channeled from the supplier to the operator.
- Operator: The operator, (in India all reactors are under NPCIL , a departmental undertaking under the Dept of Atomic Energy) will have to pay a maximum of Rs.500 crores
- So the remaining (2300-500 crores) will be the govts liability……
Summing up…..if a reactor blows up, the govt will collect 500c from NPCIL and put in another 1800c and distribute it to people
All this appropriations should be done by the govt. No one can sue the supplier (read the huge American companies). If its a case of gross negligence, the operator can sue the supplier to get back what it paid (max of 500c).
If all reactors are run by NPCIL, a govt undertaking, then why divide the liability between govt and the operator??
ANS: We plan to expand our total installed nuclear capacity form 4300MW (19 reactors) to 4lakh+MW by 2050. The most modern reactor of Areva has a capacity of 1600MW. So that is about 250 reactors by 2050. The govt simply cannot run all those. So naturally we will open nuclear sector to private operators very soon. The differentiation is to take into account this fact.
Putting in perspective, the Bhopal gas tragedy case was settled off court. The total damages paid by Union Carbide was 470 million USD. That is estimated to be less than one fifth of the damage caused by the incident. So when the effect of an industrial disaster is placed at more than 2500 million USD, the govt is trying to cap a possible nuclear tragedy at 10m (Rs.500c) USD for the foreign operator…
Come on people, even common sense suggests that this is the most unjust piece of legislation ever to be taken up in our parliament. It also goes against three fundamental aspects of our legal system:
- Article 21 of the constitition: ‘Right to Life’. The meaning of this article has been expanded by the Supreme court ever since to Right to life with dignity. The bill threatens exactly that
- ‘Precautionary principle’: This is a result of a number of SC judgments on industrial cases. As a precautionary step, the onus of the safety of an industrial establishment in our country is completely placed on the operator. Lack of economic accountability removes this onus
- ‘Polluter pays’: This has also been a result of SC judgments. The compensation and the cost for cleaning up the environment will have to be paid by the polluter, namely the supplier and operator.
If its so unjust and unfair then why is the govt trying to pass it….Who needs this bill???????
ANS: The American companies and the American companies alone need this bill to be passed by the govt. The wont supply their reactors to any nation that dont have a liability regime in place. The French or Russian companies dont need this.
So why cant we just buy only from Russia and France and not from US??
ANS:We cant do that. As a non NPT nation, none of the nuclear nations (NSG members) are supposed to sell nuclear reactor or fuel to us. But under US’ initiative, an exemption has been given to India (‘NSG waiver’). The waiver was given only because of US’ clout (Not for our good, but for american giants to access India’s growing nuclear market). So as a return for that India has given written assurance in 123 agreement that a part of our nuclear requirements will be sourced to American companies.
Plainly, US gave us the exemption for them to make profits, so we are bound to buy reactors from them.
Fortunately because of the intense media glare and scrutiny the issue got (The Hindu had initiated an extensive debate in the op-ed page), the bill has been put in the back burner. But going with what has been happening recently, I feel its just a matter of time before the govt passes it. Whenever American does anything, it comes with strings attached that we might have never even dreamt of. End User Verification Agreement, Iran vote and the current bill are only a few to name. Its an open world. There are other nations who are ready to offer better products at better terms (Russia has been helping us with nuclear reactors since when….even the nuclear reactor in Arihant is supposed to be based on Russian design). Given that, the policy makers in South bloc should have the balls to negotiate with US on equal terms and not come later to the people with such preposterous legislations that defy common sense.
Tail note: The liability regime in US is the Price Anderson Act. As per this liability is capped at 10 billion USD for operators (again, 1000 times higher than our 10 million) and remaining is to be paid up by the govt. Is this how the govt values an Indian life. I think preposterous is an understatement
In the first place, let me give a note of warning to all those cribbers like me who might get excited at the phrasing of the topic. So i l better explain the term ‘curriculum review’. Its an exercise done every three years or so in which radical changes like swapping an S6 subject and an S7 subject or deleting a module in a subject only for it to appear in some other subject are made in the curriculum. But this time, as Deepak sir put it, more people are thinking out of the box and still more have become receptive. Thus he said there is room for hope. Also considering the changes to be implemented in IIT B, we can expect real changes this time, he said. It is in this context that he called an informal meeting of students in his room one fine evening.
Our year was represented by four. Ullas (cribber like me, sick and tired of the system, doesnt mind speaking out), Srinath(pretty much tired, has reservations when it comes to speaking out), Tony(ok, this is one person whose is so difficult to understand…i think he also fed up with the system, but doesnt mind going with the stream..no cribbing i mean) and me. We(me and ullas) had everything planned before going for the meeting. Ask for the stars so that they might be benevolent to give atleast a photo of the moon. Voluntary attendance, 4 courses in a semester and one lab (2 hours), flexible electives and supplementary exams. Now thats too much in the bag, especially the first two points.
We were quite surprised to know that both the faculty in th room, Deepak sir and Dhanraj sir were thinking in line with us. Chk http://deepakwrites.blogspot.com/2009/03/engineering-education.html for confirmation. The second years were also strongly in favour of a radical change, although they didnt have a conspiracy like us as it was obvious in their lack of co-ordination.
Ok now everything is going so well. Although its almost sure nothing of this is going to be implemented as the system drags along with its ultimate curse of encouraging mediocrity, there were a bunch of dreamers envisioning a better future. Thats it guys, wake up…this is no fairy tale. If its not a fairy tale, then we have the villains. Yes i am talking about the final year delegation. They had entirely different plans in their minds. They found the system to be ‘too light’ on students. Six hard core subjects and two labs and a mini project in 65 working days were not enough for S6, they said while some of us are seriously contemplating on beginning an ascetic life after going through such a semester. One of them argued that as we will be in the academic area during the morning anyways, we will be jobless for at least two hours a day if our 4 course plan is implemented. Our natural choices of going back to the hostel to sleep or going to the library to read the newspaper were mysteriously evading him.
Deepak sir had a hard time moderating such a discussion when the two groups poles apart. I am not being judgemental with this article. But we represented the attitude of at least 90 percent of the students while they a handful. What we argued for was a flexible system in which students can chose courses according to their priorities. Reduce the minimum credit requirement so that we can use the free time to pursue our passions and get credit for those. For some it might be taking up challenging courses offered by their department or some other department or maybe spending time in the library reading current affairs or maybe devote more time for extra curriculars improving their chances of winning laurels outside college. In any case, credits should be given to the work done during this extra time, if its constructive. No credits for sleeping off, although its really constructive for ones body and mind. That not only avoids uninterested students forcefully studying boring subjects but also make campus life more interesting and fruitful.
This is the second time i m writing about a terrorist incident, guess ably its about the recent attack on Mumbai. Unlike all the previous terrorist attacks on our soil, the perpetrators managed to do something extra ordinary this time. By making a fool of the already much discredited intelligence machinery of ours, they converted our economic capital into a war zone. Although none of the regular services in the city was affected, the resilient city of Mumbai came to a grinding halt. And how much insensitive and naive was the reaction of the media by airing military movements live on tv which reminded us of the Munich hostage situation in which the hostage takers watched the movements of the German special forces live in the tv in the olympic village, it was able to bring the horror of a terrorist attack right to our drawing rooms. Suddenly the whole of India could feel the horror of the hostage desperately waving for help from the windows of The Oberoi, the pain of the GM of the Taj who worked with rescue team even after knowing his whole family had been killed inside the hotel, the grief of young mocha who lost both his parents and together we prayed for the brave men in uniform who went into the war zone without any regard for personal security. We also hailed the heroics of senior police officers Karkare,Kamte who went into the line of fire obviously beyond the call of duty. It also brought right in front of us the faces of the terrorists in action for the first time.
Until Mumbai, the general idea of a terrorist was a tall long bearded man carrying an ak 47 wearing Pathan attire. But the images we saw from CST that day was a far-cry from this. Apart from the loaded Kalashnikov and the explosives filled bag, the duo caught on tape was no different, atleast in looks from an average college going student in his early twenties. The images of them walking into CST and spraying bullets at ordinary people eager to get into their respective trains back home wearing versace t shirts and cargos cant be more chilling. It shows how even ordinary young people like us are being converted into ruthless savages by mindless brainwashing. It should also lead to more thoughts regarding the real causes of terrorism. Thoughtless and futile responses like Americas war on terror can only bring more people into this track as we are seeing nowadays. When western dominance in Islam following regions is used as the reason for propagating terrorism, how can more dominance through outright invasions cure this problem? When derailing Indo-Pak talks is one of the major objectives of such forces, wont our response by cutting our ties with Pakisthan be in line with their goals? Still the insensitive media was, throughout the 60 hours of terror was not only trying to stir public response towards a violent response but also gave unconfirmed rumours like Indian troop buildup in the border headline status. Inspite of all this, the highly matured response by the government to use the situation to create international pressure on Pakisthan and to expose the nexus between that country’s military and the terrorists was exemplary and something that other nations who give dis-proportionate responses to such incidents pulling both the parties into a deeper quagmire should try to emulate.
I make it a point to say this everytime i get the chance that my batch is the closest knit group in the whole college. We are not the loudest but when it comes to bonding, we are second to none. We proved that again today by giving our teachers a memorable teachers day.
We presented our teachers with a hand made card and a rose as a token of our love and appreciation. All the girls worked together upto 3 in the morning (who knows…you cant check that out) making the cards. Hats off to you people. But it would have been better if it had been a personalized message in each card. But that was impossible as we didnt know half of them. Ijaz, our day scholar who would rather lose a meal than miss a class bunked the first hour to get flowers. Now thats dedication. We the rest of us supported them in all possible ways by frequently calling up and enquiring about the progress and letting them know that we were sleeping at 12 knowing they had only started their work.
Finally we gave them the mementos in the morning. Raghu sir seemed to be the most happy among all as it was his first teachers day. My dear friend Febin also seemed to have made it memorable by the succesfull execution of “operation KuKu’. At the end of the day, it was quite memorable for both the teachers and us.
So it came, as easily as it started;the end of the mammoth vacation. It was going to be the second half of my engineering life and every information from ‘how to hold a pen’ to ‘frequency response of amplifiers’ would have to be dug out from the deep trenches of my ‘long term memory’. Still the usual buoyant feeling was inside me on the first morning of s5. I got up early, was one of the first to reach the toilets and was back in my room to dress up with more than half an hour to spare. Like everyone, I was planning to wear my finest new dress for the first day, infact these are some of the few days you actually worry about what you are wearing. I took my trolley and dialed the key of my number lock, the faithful combination of three digits that have guarded my case for two and half years. But quite unusual for its behavior in the past years,it didn’t open.Natural i thought;some mistake in the alignment.I reset it and dialed again.Still no intention of opening up.So i try my old combination and then again my original. Inspite of the fact that me myself have personally locked and bid him farewell last night, the VIP case of mine seemed to have caught a terrible case of amnesia. Me, wrapped only in my bath towel worked on it for more than half an hour and leaves hope. I wear the dress that was worn the last day and check my watch only to know that not only am I late to have breakfast but also have to run just to reach the class on time.
Fortunately I had kept my hostel dresses out which gave me a breather for a few days. That evening I had to take my large case with half luggage stil in it all the way to the city to open it.With the city 22 kms away and all the buses plying in the route packed to ‘capacity’ even at unearthly hours, it was without doubt the journey of the semester. As my friend Renjith later pointed out it may be my due for taking my luggage all the way from home after vaccation in my car without a hassle.Anyway it was really funny answering people as i walked out of the college, to the shop with my luggage on the very first day itself
When I was writing my last post, I was wondering why I was keeping on writing all serious stuff in this page. Was that because there was nothing funny happening my life? Obviously not, with the kind of people around me. One of the striking reasons in the funny incidents of our lives is being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This incident was no different. This was also strongly reminiscent of something that happened when I was in plus 2……
After our usual game of badminton in the local club, we four: me, aravi, deepak and fayaz (as I am introducing my friends for the first time in my blog; whenever I say ‘we five,six…..’ it will be me and the members of an elite club called RRD who are not at college at that point of time. The first three people mentioned above are also members of a more elite sub group called GRADHS, with Hari, Rahul and Dhanya making up the remaining slots. So coming back to our topic, we four were thinking what to do next. Time was only 5.30 or something, not the time for any of us to go back home. Then the remaining three think of taking a puff. I am also forced to go with them(I am the good guy, no smoking or boozing) to their favourite spot as I was the one with a bike(fayaz’s vespa was obviously a two wheeler but i wont call it a bike or a scooter).
Their favourite spot is an isolated road spinning off from the highway. On returning, we were confronted by a police patrol jeep. The driver gave me pass light indicating me to stop. As I slowly parked near the jeep, I was wondering what to tell them and also how fayaz made it without being stopped.
I hand him my license with an air of pride.
Cons:evide entha paripadi (what are u guys doing here?)
Me:Kaatu kollaan vanatha (nothing, just came to enjoy the breeze)
That is obviously the last thing that you will ever tell a policeman. But believe me, nothing else came to my mind then..
Cons: pha @#$%%^………where r the papers?
me: paper?(Hindu or manorama)…..(hmmm…I am not so dumb).
As I didnt know where the documents where, I call up my dad. Then the C.I comes into the scene. And he happens to be the friendly neighborhood police officer who came to talk about community policing during our local New year night. He takes the phone from me.
C.I (to my dad): makane thooki.nalla stalamalla.shookshichaal kolaam (your son has been found wandering in a bad locality. Just check it out)
Throughout all this, I was sitting in my bike with one leg on the road and the other on the footrest. The C.I gets pissed at this. He looks at me throughout and shouts:
“pha ezhunelkada” (get up you @!#$%).
Finally, with a few more not so friendly warnings, he let us go. As the jeep guzzled away deepak and me were looking at each other trying control our laughter. Fayaz and aravi came back in that vespa a few moments back but left at twice the speed the moment they saw us being questioned by the police at a distance(now thats friendship). As we finally laughed when the jeep completely faded from our sight, I knew that I would have a lot of explaining to do on reaching back home…
No single terrorist incident would have blotched the collective conscience of humanity than the inhuman hostage situation in a school in Beslan which left hundreds of innocent children victims of the most gruesome plague spreading across the planet:terrorism. It was a few years before that the perpetrators of this ghastly crime:the chechen terrorists, came into international lime light through a similar hostage situation in a Moscow theatre. A few days back i saw a documentary on that incident in NGC. An incident that happened during the crisis involving a mother and her daughter touched my heart so much that i feel that no mother should have the ill fate to undergo something like that ever.
This mother, named Tamara was shot in a cross fire in the stomach. Red cross was called to take her out. She was with her daughter. She begged with the commander of the terrorists to allow her daughter to come with her. Although he refused initially, he finally allowed that when the mother begged in the name of Allah. She was holding her daughter’s hand as she was being taken out in a stretcher escorted by the rebels. When they were just about to reach the entrance of the theatre, a terrorist came forward and forced the daughter’s hand from Tamara’s hand. Before the mother, who was lying in the stretcher injured seriously could make out what was happening and look back, the terrorist had already taken her daughter back into the theatre. The sixteen year old girl was later killed as security forces stormed the theatre in line with Kremlin’s policy of no dialogue with terrorists. As the mother narrated the story of not even being able to say goodbye to her daughter for the program, there were tears flowing through her cheeks.
Tamara is just one of the countless many mothers who have lost their sons and daughters in this futile inferno of terror. Incidents like this highlight the inhuman nature of such atrocities when innocent civilians are used to ‘wake up’ the government. Just like how we Malayalees and NITians pray that no father should meet the fate met by Echara Warrier, father of Rajan, lets pray that no mother should meet the fate met by Tamara.