Category Archives: India

Satyameva Jayate : Here to Stay

 

The last few weeks have been abuzz with discussions on the latest serial to hit indian television screens viz Satyameva jayate.

Satyameva Jayate is a talk show hosted by the highly intellectual and talented Aamir Khan ( of Taare zameen par and 3 idiots fame, amongst other things, dealing with very important and socially relevant issues which we all know about but are afraid to talk openly about.

 

Aamir Khan at the 2010 Toronto International F...

Aamir Khan at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The show is aired on star plus on Sundays primetime mornings. The time, in olden days , reserved for dedicated viewers of religious mythological serials/scifi/soaps and so on.

Going by the viewer comments, the serial has hit a strong chord with the people ( in general). Of course there are negative and disparaging comments on Aamir Khan, primarily on his personal life and whether it renders him eligible to discuss issues of a serious nature.

After reading the whole spectrum of comments ranging from overtly praising to downright vituperative comments, vilifying aamir khan for his personal life and decisions, I decided to take a peep at this serial.

I saw the dowry episodes and the CSA episodes. On the whole I was impressed with his handling of difficult issues, his approach as an anchor. Naturally, the duration of the talk show restricts the number of examples or details in which you can go into issues. And there is a certain artificiality in talk shows, it being a select audience and then environment of artificial comfort.

Having said that, I did find the presentations relevant and impactful. The CSA episode was compelling and extremely painful to watch especially the stories presented by CSA survivors. I found it the best and truly an excellent and hard hitting episode with facts, scientists, doctors to support a nd provide info. Frankly, having suffered at several points in life (though mild) , CSA is something which is very important and essential issue for me and to so many others out there. I really appreciate Aamir and his team for doing a well thought out serial.

Now as far as the negative comments made:

1. what right has Aamir Khan to talk of these issues since he is a divorcee and married again?

Aamir Khan’s personal life is his. How he , his wife, their children and current wife have dealt with those episodes are their own business. All relationships need  not be permanent. I think we need to change this over idealistic, over perfectionistic mindset of ours. Why partners tend to drift away is something only they can answer. Having said that we , strangers, who are not in touch with the feelings of all the parties concerned are not the best judge on this.  So I feel there is no relevance in connecting these issues.

However, as someone very cleverly pointed out, it would indeed be very courageous of Aamir, if he can talk about the reasons marriages fail and of increasing divorce rate in his program. I am sure his views would be significant and would help silence detractors. This is a challenge which I am not sure that he will take up  but I do hope he will target in future episodes.

2. What is his motive in doing such a talk show? It is believed that he charges 3 crores for this episode.

Aamir Khan is a man of exceptionable intelligence as can be seen by the films he has acted or directed in. He is also a man blessed with the ability to reach out to people on issues without being intrusive or arrogant.  Naturally he has the right to charge the fees he does. Money may be of course a primary motive in doing the show as well as a professional challenge. To create a program which is able to challenge people in their thinking would be something motivating, i would guess. Altruism is a great quality but I have no problems in accepting if Aamir is doing the show entirely of monetary/professional considerations as long as it is meaningul for the audience. It is better to be practical than insincere altruism

3.  Comments on his religious beliefs and insinuations regarding painting muslims in a better light as ar as hindus are concerned (dowry)

Naturally, some people are making a hindu-muslim situation here.  When I watched the episodes, I could not detect any religious bias or pandering.I thought it was very down to earth, warm and interesting and emotional.

In conclusion, while certainly it is impossible to achieve huge societal changes simply through a television show, one must credit the makers for making something which is relevant and hopefully creates the impact required for people to change their mindsets, their thinking and through them the society. This is in itself, a spark to what would hopefully  lead to a volcano of changes.

Satyameva jayate!

Is The IPL sheen wearing off?

Words have been written, spoken, heard,  blogged, tweeted, facebooked, googled about the IPL (indian premier league). So why not a few more?? Bear with me.

I know cricket is the national obsession in India. And IPL has become a super craze since last few seasons.

2010 Indian Premier League

2010 Indian Premier League (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Definitely, for a not so great cricket fan like me, it has definitely made an impact by increasing the interest which I have in the game. Three reasons: Firstly, It is a short form of the game, just 20 overs each session. And for impatient people like me, it is easy on the eye and on the patience.  Secondly, The diversity of players forming part of each of the teams. That is lovely to see. The professionalism. The team spirit. I find, with few exceptions, the overseas players playing their hearts out.  Thirdly: The glamour part of it. I guess this appeals to the average person. Seeing their idols associated with their fav teams. The cheerleaders, who I find very attractive and appealing and nowhere vulgar. In fact, i appreciate them for cheering every six or every wicket. And it is an awesome celebration of the love  for cricket by indians everywhere in the world.

But while there are some pluses, associated this popularisation of a game, Some ugly sides to this has been observed especially in  this season.

First and foremost , the question of whether the exorbitant fees paid to the players have dampened their commitment for the national team.Secondly,  Match fixing rumors. which has always been prevalent but received some confirmation by a sting operation on spot fixing by some IPL players. Some of the matches which have been played for unbelievably low scores and some unbelievable results have been observed.  So, are , we the viewers and fans being taken for a ride?

Then came the Shahrukh Khan -MCA fracas which became ugly and led to the banning of SRK from wankhede stadium for five years? This has undoubtedly led to the exposure of the ugly rivalries and jealousies between persona hidden under the glitz.

On the heels of this incident, came the accusations of molestation against an IPL player. Is the amount of money and fame going to players’ head?

Such concerns are removing the sheen from the IPL glamour slowly.  Do we need to take a step back and think about the advisability of conducting such Competitions, which are breeding vices along with prizes? Or atleast, a way of moderating the Contest such that it does not become solely about oodles of money pumped in or teams buying their way through games or promoting betting?? Where it has stopped becoming cricket and more of business and where a player is a saleable object? Where the young and talented are being taught to play for lucre ? Where it has become more a showing off between business enterprises and superstar personae to display their star power and might?

Where is cricket in all these?

 

 

 

Who will be the winner?

An ugly drama is going on at present in the public glare of the world between the COAS VK Singh and the Ministry of Defense. A set of accusations and counter accusations have displayed the lack of unity and cohesiveness of the government-military. The storm was raised when the AC accused an arms lobbyist of military background of offering him 14 crores as bribes.

Whatever may have been the motives of Gen Singh and howsoever ill timed this drama may have been, it has forced several issues out in the public.

1. The extent of the unpreparedness of the military, in today’s time. India has one of the highest defence expenditures in the world but does it match with the quality of the technology/armaments we have? Why are we paying so much for sub-standard equipment?  People who do this, people who put the lives of our soldiers at risk, should be committed for treason. As per the AC, the sub standard vehicles (  Tatra) were already in use over the past years. Why was it not publicised earlier?

2. Why is not there a proper communication system in place between the government and the army to resolve their issues?  What made the Army General resort to media and publicising these issues, however important they may be, ? Was it because, he may have tried the less visible approach and may have been rebuffed? Is it due to frustrations at not being listened to or appreciated or as a consequence of the unfavorable verdict returned over the age row issue? After all, he  is a human.

3. The height and depth of corruption in the armed services. Corruption in defence has been known since the time of bofors. Existence of middlemen and arms dealers. These accusations again point at the extent to which corruption has seeped into the system. How to deal with it and root it out (if possible) would be the chief questions.

But the seriousness of these questions are being deflected, owing to the bizarre situation happening now. The reason being:

1. Army Chief’s claims of bribery ~ why did he wait until now to publicise?

2. Who’s job was it to take action when informed of bribery action? Army Chief or Minister’s? If Def Min knew of this, why did he not take action? It seems he was informed of this two years ago. why did he keep silent?  On friday, an article highlighted that Min of Def Antony, being advised of this matter twice, once by The Army Chief and One by GN Azad in 2010 and 2009 would invite  trouble, due to failure in reporting this. It is a criminal Offence. You need to give a proper reason why you did not inform at the proper time. Both the AC and the Minister would be in a soup over this.

3. Who leaked the Army Chief’s letter? It is impossible to believe that he could have done it. From a man of his stature, this seems a bad move. It could be either friends/bureaucrats/even people with an ostensible view to damage his reputation ( seeing the beating it took on the #agerow issue)

4. Is there a problem  between the Army and the bureaucracy? These moves, seem to hint at  that. Why the AC is directly issuing matters to press and request to CBI to probe  pobe bribe allegations rather than route it through the bureaucracy indicates clearly existence of some issues between bureaucracy and the Army. Is it the high handed attitude of bureaucrats which the Army Chief is trying to highlight through his actions? A serious fact in favor of this view is the statement by Brajesh Mishra, ex NSA chef yesterday, wherein he recommends The Gen to be sent on forced leave for his statements. The pro-bureaucrat attitude is evident as he finds it difficult to believe an y bureaucrat may have leaked info nor does he think that MMS can be culpable of leak. Obviously he is, trying to screen his political masters and the bureaucracy. Even the Minister of Defence, though blamed for not taking action, escapes from further judgement. Why then the Army Chief only?

His language reeks of disrespect towards  AC, who whatever may be his idiosyncracies, is a man with an impeccable background.

5. Enforcing procedures is one thing. But if enforcing procedures in itself becomes a problem and a conduit to avoid further action, can  one blame an Army Chief or anyone else for taking the more open way out? to highlight things? even if it is through the Press?

6. Some people are asking for dismissal of the AC, even without seeing the whole issue resolved.Will dismissal of the Army Chief solve the current issue? Won’t it be demoralising to the Armed Forces to know that they have no say in issues pertaining to them and to the nation and any sort of expression on issues will be  treated abjectly?  Rather, won’t it lead to these issues being buried and forgotten and the people who were involved getting scot free?

7. The DRDO has  come out with a statement where they have denied what the AC  has said on the state of the Tatra trucks. It could be a defence response by the government to protect itself (sic)

8. Lt Gen Tajinder Singh ( the alleged army lobbyist) has denied the AC’s claims and has taken him to court.

Since he is due to retire soon, it is possible that he has taken this risk of exposing the ugly side to Defense, so that these issues are known to all. One can only conjecture till the facts are out.

Till then, though there seems to be signs of some cooling, matters are still in a confused and ugly state.

Whatever be the end result of the story (hopefully, not another burial), let it be a lesson for all involved government, military, and bureaucracy.

UPA’s Unlimited Political Buffoonery~ What price India pays for coalition politics

As days go by , the Unlimited Buffoonery of UPA  is more and more out on public display. It is high time to change the name of this dilapidated association of parties, ostensibly ruling the country to Unlimited Political Awkwardness.  Besides which, their inability to manage critical situations becomes almost pathetic in its display. Not only do they display ineptitude but they also refuse to accept blame and take responsibility.Rather, they try to throw it on others. Even worse is the fact that their such actions is putting the country and people in a dangerous situation, domestically and globally.

A motley assembly of people, united in their aim to retain power and oblivious to the damage they are doing. Is this the sort of government all Indians want in their country? An assembly which has been given the chance for the second time of governing the country and what have they done with it?

Let us take two recent cases in example. This is leaving aside the long roll call of scams. That is for another post.

One is the presentation of the recent railway budget. The RM Dinesh Trivedi had presented what seemed to be, as per most reports, a very sensible and judicial railway budget, aiming at restoring the health of the railways. It involved a moderate rise in taxes for all passengers of all classes. But owing to the sheer blackmailing tactics exerted by the coalition partner of UPA, Mamta Banerjee, He was compelled to put in  his papers and there was a rollback of the  measures. His crime was he did not follow the TMC’s advice in this matter. Heavy lies the head that wears the crown. Obviously a  tough choice between what you think is the right thing pragmatically and what politics dictates. At the end of the day, politics wins. The question here is for the sake of pandering to the whims of the domestic parties, something which could have benefitted the national railways was scuppered. Ultimately Railways suffers. Mamta and her party, once again displays their totally parochial and self obsessed behavior and why one should never depend on such self serving allies. Whatever respect I had for Mamta as a tough leader, who challenged the might of the commies, have been indelibly dented by her actions. In power, she seems as power hungry and manipulative as others who had been before her.  If UPA had any spine, they should have kicked out such coalition partners. They would have gained in respect amongst people. But who cares? It is only the “chair” that matters.  This is more on Dinesh Trivedi, A man whose style differs from his party >> http://ibnlive.in.com/news/dinesh-trivedi-the-odd-man-out-in-tmc/240394-37-64.ht

The second example is the controversial vote of India against Sri Lanka in the UN. There is more or less a consensus that India (through the UPA’s actions) have compromised their national interest for the sake of appeasement of domestic parties, this time DMK. That DMK has been a long time sympathiser and supporter of LTTE is a well known fact.  But,howsoever one may sympathise with the local SL tamils’ suffering, one cannot forget the fact that they are SL citizens. Their problems have to be sorted out by discussions and negotiations with the SL govt. That is the only way, in  my view.  India can only render humanitarian assistance. We cannot and should not make the terrible mistake of interference in another country’s affairs. Secondly, one cannot forget that whatever be their original aim, LTTE developed into the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation, killing innocents from both sides, killing India’s Rajiv Gandhi, killing and wiping out many of SL’s top leaders, creating a culture of terror and havoc. No human in his or her right senses, would support LTTE. Hatred begets Hatred, Not peace. Indians would and should take note of this. By accepting LTTE and supporters of LTTE, you are accepting terrorism and lose the moral grounds for condemning terrorist attacks in India. Hence by succumbing to DMK’s malicious blackmail, UPA has once again put our moral standing on terrorism in question.  Thirdly, the obvious movers of the vote  against SL were countries which had no hesitation in conducting wars and military operations in other countries in a high handed manner. Hence somewhat hypocritical. Is this what we would like to happen to us? Would we like our country to be overrun with armies of other countries for their benefit, at any time?Fourthly,  in an already threatening security scenario, with unstable neighbours on the west (Pakistan, Afghanistan) and threats of terrorism at a high,  China‘s expanding influence in Nepal, and Sri Lanka, besides Pakistan, this vote would make matters difficult. By doing so, we have literally pushed SL into the arms of China. An abstainment would have been a better decision.

Some say that SL has not done enough and may need to do more, in reparations towards the victims of the war against LTTE. Hence the vote. It may be true. SL being a victim of continuous and terrible terrorist attacks by LTTE, would have been hard put to control its reaction against them. But this is something which can be understood as an inevitable consequence of terrorism. Nothing right or wrong about it.  But India,  being a victim of terrorism, having been attack of countless terrorist attacks, (remember 21/11) and bombings, and even now the subject of numerous threats, be it Maoists or Kashmiri fundamentalists, Islamist groups or right wingers, should have been in a better position to understand this. Sadly, our government seems to be myopic and wholly at the mercy of their coalition partners. And hence, shamefully gives the appearance of not able to protect and manage national interests at all.

Ultimately, The chief point raised here is the dangers of coalition politics. Coalition politics becomes healthy when the partners use it for the benefit of the nation and not for self-interest.  They guide and offer advice on essential matters to the govt. But sadly, as these examples  and there are many more from the past show, Coalition partners are solely and shamelessly focussed on self interest rather than national interest. And the governing UPA is completely abject to this blackmail by its partners. This is a blot on democracy.

What should be the solutions?

 

 

Domestic Violence ~ Why we should believe

Violence of any kind is reprehensible. And Domestic violence more so, as it is enacted by a person to control, suppress and repress his/her wife/husband/partner/family member. Domestic violence includes spousal abuse, battering, intimate partner violence, physical, emotional and mental abuse, neglect, intimidation of subtle and overt kinds. There can be many, many types of violence, both overt and covert.

While occasional temper tantrums and   disagreements are routine part of everyday life, what differentiates DV is the systematic, continuous pattern of abuse which the spouse is subjected to. Secondly, the intention to control. It is a vicious cycle. The abuser seeks to control the abused person using any method including blackmail.

It is highly frequent but it is more difficult to establish and prove clearly owing to the fact, that it often occurs behind closed doors and secondly, the social position of the aggressor may render it difficult to publicise accusations. Especially, in a country like India, where many women find it difficult to handle the social stigma, it is very easy and natural to remain silent. So while there  may be a few which are publicised owing to various reasons, a majority of them may be unknown. Even in the cases of celeb cases, many times they fade off from public eye ( zeenat aman-mazhar khan, salman khan-aishwarya rai) probably owing to fears of reputation of the victim and for the sake of family. One never sees them being penalised for their actions.

While domestic violence is unarguably,a known  and sad reality of life for many women in India and in rest of the world, what is more shocking is the attitude by which people respond to accusations of domestic violence against women. While a few are supportive and positive, many are cynical, question the woman’s background, attitudes, leanings, skepticism. In the case of well known people who are victims, it is even worse.  In a recent conversation on twitter, one could obtain a sample of the responses  and glean the mindsets. The conversation is here.

In my view, Accusations of domestic violence should never be taken lightly. One should give benefit of doubt to the victim, while keeping in mind that every person  (including abuser) needs to be heard. An open mind set is required.  Cynicism and conditional support till the story is completely proven is technically fine but at end of day, in a genuine case, this would be really dehumanising as victim is left to fend for him/herself in a traumatising situation. Hence, i feel we can do a greater service to humanity by being supportive.Yes, there are and would be people who misuse the laws and sympathy of others by false cases, but does that mean we become cynical to everyone? Isn’t that a blot on our humanity? What is the point of giving support when the victim is no longer in need of it?

One has to understand, that given the sort of societal structure and importance for reputations in a country such as India,obtaining support from one’s own family is itself a challenging process. Many times, it is the family who degrades you and disrespects your needs for the sake of its reputation. So, as society members, why do we want to add on to that set of challenges? We have a choice. To be human. We should and must exercise it.

And for the abuser also, we have to be human. We need to understand the roots of the abuse. Many times childhood abuse/insecurities/psychological issues may be behind the perpetrator’s actions.  We must condemn the action of abuse but we must need to give help in the form of counselling. But, at the same time, if the relationship is not safe or healthy any longer, we need to ensure that the abuser does not get chances to victimise again. Hence, the need for publicity and legal action.  Abuse is cruel but it is equally bad being an abuser  or victim. We have to be fair to all.

Ultimately, in such cases, the law and investigating authorities would decide based on evidence. This may be a long drawn out fight with public scrutiny and inquisition, hence why so many hesitate to come forward. Even the courageous women who come forward, face such difficulties and flak. A recent case of Meena Kandasamy‘s public detailing of her shocking violent marriage in a magazine, invoked a whole range of responses on twitter. ( Conversations)Her own celebrity/activist status seems to have worked against her, creating disbelievers and skeptics who challenge everything she say. If a well known person can face this much inquisition, what about victims from humbler backgrounds, who have no support structures?

Some people accuse victims of making up stories. True, it is possible. But I believe, that no woman or man, in his right senses, would ever do that unless they have a grudge against that person and they are going all out to destroy the person or they seek to obtain some monetary benefits. If the latter is true, it will come out during investigations and in the courts. Justice may be delayed but not denied.

A victim, whether it is a man or a woman, needs to be supported at all times while an abuser, a man or woman, should be given help to manage conquer his/her abusive traits, without ensuring the re -victimization. Howsoever, the truth may play out,  as circumstances and more evidence comes out, is a different issue. But, we, as humans, need to ensure that our humanity is not compromised by other issues. we should never fail to hear calls for help, no matter how many wolves in sheep clothing may be there.

The AMRI Death Saga: A horror too real to be forgotten

No.

I really, really,  dont know how to start writing on this incident. And, it is not due to the fact that sheer apathy has numbed my mind. It is so shocking and mind-numbing that the words just remain stuck in my mind, refusing to come out as I go over and over in my mind, the atrocities committed by human beings. Especially, those in charge of taking care of and saving precious human lives.

Yes, I am talking about the Ghastly, Massacre (yes, massacre) which occured  day before yesterday. The Black Murderous Hospital Death trap or The AMRI Death Saga in Kolkata where, as per the latest report 93 helpless patients have succumbed to the fire which ravaged the hospital.

The AMRI hospital is run by some well known industrialists and reportedly charges exorbitant fees.

The fire which was detected as early as 300 am by the relatives of some of the patients in the ICU, was reported late  to the authorities. But owing to the negligence, sheer callousness and apathy of the authorities in charge and in spite of the pleadings and prayers of the relatives, was allowed to spread, till it became uncontrollable, causing smoke to suffocate many of the patients to death. And as per reports, by the time the fire-brigades arrived,   there was nothing that could be done except to  look for survivors and bodies.

What makes it more heart-rending and appalling are the following facts IN THE COURSE OF THE FIRE:

1. As per several relatives of patients who tragically passed away, nobody listened to their repeated warnings of smoke. The hospital staff brushed it away saying the ICU was well equipped to handle such incidents

2. Instead of alerting the fire authorities, the hospital guards tried to control the smoke themselves, wasted 90 mins, precious time on this. which could have been used fruitfully had they alerted the requisite authorities.

As per TOI, it seems that the hospital punished guards who violated their rules. In a previous fire incident, the guard was punitively dealt with for having called in the fire services promptly. This may have scared the guards in this case.

As a result, the fire went out of control, smoke spread, CO monoxide spread through the ventilation. The ICU patients, because of lack of ventilation and AC, suffocated to death with no way to escape, suffered the worst  fate. Hydrogen Sulfide also reported amongst the gases. Many were too infirm or old to escape on their own.  Many relatives could not even locate their kin.

3. As per relatives’ accounts, even when they pleaded with hospital staff to be allowed and rescue their kin, they were refused.  This indicates the height of callousness.  One can’t imagine the callousness which makes people refuse to listen to prayers and pleadings.

4. As per reports, people from the adjacent slum, who tried to help out where not allowed in also.Later, they scaled the wall, jumped in and played a big role in the rescues.

5. The fire brigade was initially not  very well equipped. They had only manual ladders which affected the rescue efforts at a critical time period.

6. The hospital staff kept giving false assurances to the people adding more to the anger and misery.

WHAT’S REALLY SHOCKING AND COULD HAVE PREVENTED THE FIRE FROM SPREADING:

Firealarms and smoke detectors, connected to sprinklers were found  turned off the previous evening so that doctors and staff could smoke. Can you believe this? That the safety of an entire hospital and the patients inside ( most were old and infirm) were compromised for the sake of a cigarette? The sheer callousness displayed by the staff and admin  of this hospital makes me wonder as to what exactly were they running in the first place.

There has been widespread nation wide anger and condemnation of the hospital and this incident.

While some immediate responses by the government of Bengal, has been to summarily cancel the hospital license, and send the directors to custody, very very critical questions arise. For all hospitals as a whole in India, for administrators, government and to us as people :

1. Safety and Fire Alert Issues. How can chemicals be stored in basement of a hospital? What is the provision for storage and disposal of such flammable stuff? How was such stuff allowed to be present in close proximity to patients?

2.Why should circuitous routes to deal with fire exist in hospitals, especially when human lives are at risk?

3. More importantly, how can hospitals, supposed to be caretakers, become killers  of patients due to callous attitude? The aim to make money has overpowered regard for human life.

4. If this sort of negligence and attitudinal shortcomings occur without any cease, in a hospital in a metro like Kolkata, which charges exorbitant rates, imagine what would be the situation in villages and rural areas?

5. Why are there  no fire or emergency drills at regular intervals to keep people prepared for emergencies?

6. Where were the staff ? 2 hospital nurses gave up their lives saving the patients. But what about the rest of the staff in the hospital?

7. Most importantly, how to rescue the spirit of humanity and lives first?

Just an update: Volunteers are becoming very very sick following helping out in the tragedy. One has to really stand up and applaud (and it is the least) to those who have helped in saving lives at the cost of their own.

Sources:

TimesofIndia

The Telegraph

The Hindustan Times

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