Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fasting Feasting

Politicians in our country i.e. "Humara Bharat" are on a fasting spree. Everyone wants to fight for a cause, go on a fast-unto-death (Though I never understood the concept behind this theory) Damn! The very concept of democracy which the Indian constitution is based on, justifies fasting, protests or any other form of expression under Article 19 which states the right to freedom of speech and expression, while clause (2) of the article has few limitations. (Let's not get into the law here)

In a democracy, every citizen has the right to express his or her views through different means (unless they are not a threat to the state or incite violence, etc). Fasting (in Indian politics) has been a tradition of the past that has crept into the present and still continues to be. 

Fasting for a separate state of Telangana was brought to the public domain by K. Chandrashekar Rao, (Mostly known as KCR in Andhra Pradesh), founder of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), a political party fighting for a separate state within Andhra Pradesh. Iron Sharmila is the best live example for anyone to know what fighting  for a cause means in India. She has been fighting for almost a decade now for the repeal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) but is unheard. For almost ten years, she has been force-fed  through an IV line Similarly, many unheard voices go unnoticed in this country,

The purpose of writing this article is not to underestimate the whole concept of fast-unto-death or overestimate it. The point is that the "fasting syndrome" is not serving the purpose. 
For example: During the Telangana Bandhs in Hyderabad, many people who were in favour of a separate state were "fasting" by having bananas, snacks, soft drinks and sometimes, having had breakfast at home (early in the morning) and pretending to fast amidst the public's presence. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. were the timings decided by the members who were on a "fast". It was like a regular 9 to 5 job, with a few tea breaks and snacks time included in the fasting period or rather feasting time. To feast on so many things during fast became a trend. One member fought with the other on who would pay the bills for snacks, soft drinks and other food items purchased. For being a part of the "united fast" (throughout the state), women were given Rs.250 and a Biryani packet and men were given Rs. 150 with liquor and Biryani packet. 
KCR was made to drink lime juice during his fast while the media claimed he was "fasting" through an IV line. (Did you know: IV line is provided when a patient cannot take solid food and nutrients are provided through this line)

Another example: Recently, when I was covering an event in Bangalore, one of my colleagues told me that a group staged a protest against some accident that took place a day before the protest. Similarly, when I was asked to cover a BJP (bharatiya Janata Party) protest in Bangalore against fuel prices hike , I was contemplating on how to go about it.  But, when my friend and I got there to cover it, I heard nothing but the members of that party blaming the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government which is in power at the central level. I realized that it was absolutely NOT newsworthy. But, had to dig a story out of it and managed to do it.

The whole purpose of a cause is lost if people take to such despicable activities in ubiquity. Every corner, every street, every city is full of protests (not that it is wrong to protest) but, the reason for which the protest is staged becomes secondary in such cases. 

Therefore, one needs to be aware of the cause and fight for it (may be through fast or otherwise) rather than feasting on cakes, pastries, soft drinks during fasting.

(P.S. If you cannot fast ...have food and protest...No one is STOPPING you from having food)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"It is over-consumption related to over-population that matters"

With the population increasing rapidly in the world, one must be aware of the dangers associated with it. Some say: “the more the human resources the more is the productivity”. But, this notion doesn’t seem to work in today’s world. As the population increases, the demand for resources also eventually increases, which in turn increases the dependency of humans on various resources.

Overpopulation is not a myth, but, steps should be taken to control population.  As a result of controlling population, intra-uterine devices (IUD), Norplant (Sub dermal contraceptive), condoms for women and birth control pills or operation is done to sterilize men.

The population in India is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2040 (an increase of 500 million in 50 years)                                                 

Before stating any points on birth control methods, one needs to look at the causes for overpopulation. For example: If a developing country like India is considered in terms of population, there are many other factors which should be considered in order to study the population growth which has increased manifold times in the past few decades.

The factors which directly or indirectly affect the population are:
1.       Women and child health
2.       Poverty and hunger
3.       Environmental sustainability
4.       Education
5.       HIV and other diseases

Now, consider women and child health. Apart from looking at schemes like ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) which includes providing supplementary nutrition to mothers and children, vaccinations, mother’s meetings, pre and post-natal care and pre-school for children below six, infant mortality rate (IMR), maternal mortality rate (MMR), child marriages, female infanticide, feticide, human trafficking and sex work also affect population.

According to a report by International centre for research on women (ICRW) India ranks 11th in top 20 “hot spot” countries for child marriages in the world with 50 percent  of girls less than 18 being married. The present IMR in India is 52 deaths per 1000 live births and MMR is 230 according to WHO statistics. Human trafficking and abduction top the list of crimes committed in the country. According to Child Rights Trust, 50 percent of women between 15 to 49 years of age suffer from anemia in India.

Poverty and hunger has been a major problem in India. The gap between the poor and the rich is increasing day by day when it should happen the other way round. According to WHO report, 43.5 percent of children under five are underweight.  And, farmers who produce crops go hungrier and poorer day by day.

Environmental sustainability is a major challenge globally. But, in India, with many burgeoning industries trying to establish their base in our country, environmental damage has been happening. For example: SEZ’s was called as the National Land Loot Act by Aridham Chaudari (Source: Blood Billionaires, Scam Billionaires in The Sunday Indian). In places like Singur, Nandigram, Kalinga Nagar, etc. people have been promised rehabilitation and have been displaced from their lands which has converted them into ecological refugees from ecosystem people. Proper water and sanitation facilities are accessible only to a handful of people in our country.

Though Right to education (RTE) act is brought into force, many children lack access to good education from the very basic level.

 India tops the list in the world with highest number of HIV cases in the world. In fact, many diseases are caused because of sanitation, poverty and lack of proper health care systems.

Apart from these factors, we should also look at how China has been successful in implementing one-child policy as a drive to control population. Though India had a policy of hum do humare do in the 1970’s, it was largely criticized because of sterilization techniques which were proved fatal to many in the country.

In the film “Something like a war”, doctor speaks about the three lakh operations he did in 13 years. He makes it appear as if it is something very normal, but with hindsight, those operations did not benefit many women as they had side effects and had to suffer from many other diseases. Especially diseases related to hormonal imbalance in women.

As India and China are compared to each other in terms of population or development, when we consider population, India’s population is said to exceed that of China’s.  But in terms of development, India is far behind, violating basic human rights like right to water, food and proper sanitation. But China has managed to tackle these problems with proper planning and implementation of programs.  Also China’s research and development sector has 4000 people working under a single project in the sector while India has hardly 40 people working under one project in this sector.

In terms of technology, sustainability and economic development, China is far ahead of India. What one has to look at is not China or India’s technological advancement, but development with inclusive growth.

 According to Ramchandra Guha, development means "economic efficiency, social inclusion and environmental sustainability". Another definition he quoted was, "Minimization of suffering and maximization of welfare".

But this concept of development can be followed through proper implementation of programs/ schemes on birth control, educating people about family planning. In the process, many uneducated people who are unaware of safe birth control methods take to sterilization processes, contraceptive pills which adversely affect their health worsening their condition.

Though fertility rate has dropped in the past decade, the existing population has to be aware of family planning and birth control methods in order to spread the word to the coming generations. Also, the existent population should use the available finite resources very carefully in order to survive on this planet.
For Example: A woman in rural Ethiopia can have ten children and, in the unlikely event that those ten children all live to adulthood and have ten children of their own, the entire clan of more than a hundred will still be emitting less carbon dioxide than you or me.

Like Fred Pearce says “The truth is that the population bomb is being defused round the world. But the consumption bomb is still primed and ever more dangerous. It is over-consumption related to over-population that matters”.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nothing works!

This is my political reporting assignment. The topic which was given was "Reservations in private sector. Will it work?"
Now, before I copy paste my assignment from a word document, I want you to know that this is the most not-thought (if there exists a word like that), crappiest and unsatisfying assignment which I have ever done. For which I scored a 6 upon 10. Pretty decent. But, "how????" that's the question in my head. the material I read to do this assignment was totally opposite to what my opinion was, which made it more tough for me. This assignment was done in about 45 minutes, while other assignments took me minimum 3 hours or may be even 2 days.
Okay...Here it is....

Reservations in private sector will not work. It has many arguments and crucial factors associated to it. First, private sector strives for quality of work and efficiency. Private sector is competitive and economy-driven.
“The private sector is defined in a manner so as to include not only employment but also commercial concerns, which enviably include transactions in various markets”
According to Ambedkar, the real solution lies in removing the structural inequalities caused by past exclusion and isolation in more fundamental ways and suggested the policies of “structural equalization”. In his final solution, Ambedkar suggested dual remedies, firstly a set of policies relating to the safeguards against discrimination and secondly strategies to overcome deep rooted deprivation caused by historical exclusion and isolation of lower castes.
Among the several reasons, the absence of discrimination in recruitments and use of merit based policy in private sector are the main arguments against reservation in private sector by the corporate sector and others. With regard to this, the chief of Infosys, Mr. N.R. Narayan Murthy asks, "Are you going to have reservation in the Armed Forces?" (Source:

Some of the suggestions mentioned by people from the private sector are: 

The FICICI   which represent about 443 chambers, associations and member bodies suggested that three measures, and this  include  (a) definite medium and long term plan for  educational and skill development through Government and private partnership for SC/ST (b)  development of entrepreneurship with well define affirmative action policy  for financial institutions to supply capital to vulnerable groups for  setting up businesses (c)  awarding government licenses and contracts to SC and ST   and preference  to the SC/ST  in government procurement ( c) some  representation of the disadvantage  communities in private employment on an voluntary basic with substitutive incentives  to the firms following the preference in the forms of  tax-breaks.
Has the private sector become the preserve of upper castes? remain a question in everyone’s minds.
“A study conducted by Carol Upadhya and AR Vasavi of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, states that the IT “workforce is less heterogeneous than is commonly assumed, and that the large majority of IT professionals come from middle class, educated, urban backgrounds, and from the upper castes.” Of the 132 software engineers who were interviewed, 71 percent belonged to the upper castes. About half were Brahmins. Eighty-four percent of the respondents were from middle class families, while only 5 percent hailed from rural areas. (Source:
What one has to analyze here is why should/do we look at this from the perspective of caste? As we know that private sector is economy and merit-driven, caste takes a back seat in such circumstances. While recruiting, private firms or companies choose a person based on his or her merit, not considering his or her caste, which is very encouraging because at least then people do not bring in discrimination here. Even if a person belongs to a lower caste and has merit, he or she is recruited without considering his caste.
Considering the history of caste discrimination in Indian society, caste is undeniable in our country and therefore, we bring that issue in every aspect of our life which is not so appreciable but ingrained in our minds as an indelible scar.
 Most of the industries in private sector do not recognize the existence of discrimination of lower castes in employment in supply of capital, in education and other markets because they are dependent on quality.

But, there is another argument. Private sector is directly or indirectly associated with politicians and the way the government runs. Many bureaucrats in the private sector also control the economy of the country. Despite the existence of reservations in India, lot is controlled by bureaucrats including the economic policies and budget allocated for various sectors. 

For example: When the general budget is announced, most industries and companies in the private sector are benefited. Similarly, ICICI being a private bank was almost affected by recession, but it was not brought into public only because many top shots in the country had their accounts in that bank.

“Padmini Sharath Kumar, Polaris’ vice-president, corporate communication, said, “We don’t ever capture any information on caste in any of our HR processes. So, we would not have any data in this regard as far as Polaris is concerned.” Vivek Punekar, HCL’s vice-president, HR, said, “HCL is an equal opportunities employer. Our recruitment policy and procedures strongly prevent any discrimination. We do not maintain any data on caste distribution, simply because we have not felt the need to differentiate people” (Source:

Another criticism about private industry is that it is economy-driven. A good no. of companies from abroad establish their base in our country to expand their market. This in turn is dependent on our country’s economy too. Because, if private sector compromises on merit and efficiency accompanied by quality of work, many companies from outside India would never set their base in our country, which in turn would affect the economy of our country as a whole. Directly or indirectly, a significant percentage of our economy depends on the private sector. 

“However, some companies and industry spokespersons have acknowledged that the private sector must bear some responsibility for social justice and for creating greater opportunities for a wider section of the population, and the idea of evolving a voluntary affirmative action programme has found favour in some quarters” ” (Source:

“Reservation in the private sector could stoke hope and optimism. At its worst, it will be a placebo. A placebo is a medication that is made of an inert substance. Placebos are prescribed to provide mental relief. They are most useful in the treatment of economic disorders and ironies” Source: (Source:

Also, government itself plays a very major role in promoting the private sector and if reservations in private sector are introduced, then the whole purpose of the private sector s lost. 
Therefore, what matters in the private sector is “not where you come from or which caste you belong to, but how you perform.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cast out CASTE

This was an assignment given to us . It is in context with "India untouched" short film.

Question: Would you agree with the Hindustan Times headline that reads “Development overrides caste in Bihar battle”
Does development override caste in other parts of the country?
Substantiate your argument with examples from the film and recent news stories or experience.

My Opinion:  
In Bihar and in other parts of the country or in India as a whole, Caste is undeniable and it is a reality in India. I do not agree with the headline because it is the other way round. Caste is ingrained in Indian society. For example: Once a baby is born, he or she is termed as someone belonging to one particular caste, named according to the rituals followed in that caste and the caste tag follows him or her throughout his or her entire life including death.

Caste was based on the division of labour. But, in the film, “India Untouched”, the chief priest says that Brahmins evolved from God’s head, Kshatriyas from shoulders, Viashyas from knees and Shudras from foot. There is a contradiction to this in Mahabharatha,(as stated in Amartya Sen’s book “The Argumentative Indian”) when Bhirgu tells Bharadvaja that caste divisions relate to differences in physical attributes of different human beings , reflected on skin colour. Bharadvaja responds not only by pointing out to the considerable caste variations in skin colour within every caste, but also puts a more profound question: “We all seem to be affected by same kinds of emotions like anger, desire, sorrow, fear, worry, hunger and labour, how do we have caste differences then?” Also, the Bhavishya Purana says that “Since members of all the four castes are children of God, they all belong to the same caste”. Therefore, children of the same father cannot belong to different castes.

However developed we are as a nation, in terms of technology, economy or industries, caste overrides development.  For example: In the film, a doctor working at “Safdarjung Hospital” is not recognized as a potential for that profession and neglected by his higher officials only because he is from the Scheduled Caste. In his words, it is “hi-tech discrimination”. Another example: The Dalita Govindam program proposed by the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD) in Tirupathi for Dalits was one that caused lot of resentment among Dalits. A separate temple was constructed for them in Tirupathi and other religious ceremonies were performed separately for them.

When it comes to reservations, in the film, there were protests against reservations, but reservations are the only way to give the oppressed and the neglected, an opportunity to be recognized. But in a way “reservation perpetuates caste”.
The prevalence of caste system itself contradicts the very fundamental right in the Indian Constitution which is “right to equality”.

While considering development, it is very important to consider the economic status of different sections of the society which is “class”. In ‘The Argumentative Indian’, Amartya Sen states that there is a greater impact on lower-caste families if they happen to be poor and landless. “Even the violence associated with caste-related conflicts tends to involve a great deal more than just caste”. Caste and class are inter-related.
For example: ‘Reserved’ posts often go to relatively affluent members of disadvantaged groups.
Another example: In the film, an old man from Punjab talks about a dalit Sikh who tried to enter the room from the side where the non-dalits are supposed to enter and he was beaten up by an iron ladle on his head. Similarly, the honour killings and Khap Panchayats, inclusion of caste in census – these issues only worsen situations.

My experience: A Brahmin priest at my friend’s house did not drink water, when offered, only because they (their family) did not belong to Brahmin caste. But, for doing a religious ceremony at home, when the priest was given money, he accepted it.
This shows how caste discrimination still prevails in today’s society. Similarly, in the film, the people working in a leather factory say that “we, being dalits do menial jobs and the manager who collects money, checks finances is a Brahmin”.

“The whole concept against religious orthodoxy comes from socially disadvantaged groups because they questioned the existence of social divisions as well as barriers of disparate religions reflecting a profound attempt to deny the relevance of these artificial restrictions” (Source: The Argumentative Indian).
For example: If a (Hindu) dalit wants to convert into Christianity, he is termed as a dalit Christian even after conversion.

Thus, the whole concept of democracy is not justified when people in the society are denied fundamental rights on the basis of caste or class. And our country boasts of unity in diversity, but, social barriers like caste, class, colour only divide society into fragments but never unite it.
But, however developed or technologically advanced we are as a nation, caste is etched like an indelible scar in our minds that cannot be erased, it is not restricted to one particular religion, and has become “socially acceptable”.


The "V" speech

This is one of the best dialogues I've ever heard .It is from "V for Vendetta". Though it is an old movie, it can always be remembered.

V : Voila! In view humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the “vox populi” now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a bygone vexation stands vivified, and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin, van guarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.
The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.
Verily this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it’s my very good honour to meet you and you may call me V.

Evey: Are you like a crazy person?

V. : I’m quite sure they will say so.

"Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I know of no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot…"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dailies - And, yes.... I survived it!!

Believe it or not, I didn't know I was so horrified by the very idea of dailies (Publications come out at 6p.m. on the stories reported on that day....Its maddening!) unless I woke up at 2 a.m. last night and kept staring at my cellphone. I thought I would manage to remain quite chilled out until that incident happened. I didn't understand why that happened. But, yes. It did. This was what I was going to do in the future and I realized it late. Like, in the night when I freaked out.

I woke up at 5 a.m. to bathe and get ready (*considering the number of people in my room and I had to go to the event*). So, couldn't take risk of waking up later than 5.30 a.m. Because i was writing my magazine article last night, I couldn't do a research on the event I was assigned to attend to. (Though there wasn't any information available on the internet, I did a Google search on it). I came to the lab and checked the way to Kidwai Institute of Oncology because that was where the event was happening. I had no clue what the event was all about, who all will be present at the event.(except for Police commissioner being the chief guest).
Took an auto to the wrong place. Got to know the address through a motorcyclist when we stopped in the traffic. (foolish...I know). I took an auto rickshaw to Kidwai institute. Finally, we made it.

It wasn't easy. None of them at the institute knew about the seminar. Had a hard time finding if there was any seminar being held at all. finally, spoke to the Social welfare Officer and she told us about Children's day being celebrated at the children's ward at the institute. they were all cancer affected kids between the ages 0 to 14. During the event, I found "actual journalists" (because we are trainee journalists) doing no work at all. (not kidding) I was surprised. I thought they knew everything about it. But, all they did was to take the press release from the organizers of the event and have snacks. (No offense) But, that was what was happening, except for one TV journalist struggling to get everyone's byte or SOT (Sound on tape).

I'm not praising myself,but, I found myself probing many people - cancer patients (kids), their parents, Director and medical director of Cryo-Save (European stem cells bank), Social Welfare Officer, Head of Department of Children's ward, Police commissioner (Shankar Bidri) and other sources present at the event.

We were always told to report and get extra information than the obvious (in this case, more info on the event, except for the press release that was prepared a day before). I did my best to talk to every single person I found and thought was important for my report.

And, I realised that I did better than others (not boasting, but true). I was feeling good about covering an event that was chaotic, where finding sources of information was quite difficult because BIG people leave the place as soon as the event is done. But, I somehow managed.

After the event, I went to cafe coffee day, nearby and thanks to the ambience ( *Never felt so thankful*) because I was able to type out the event's report. 20 minutes 520 words (which was later edited by my sub-editor to 460 words)! BINGO! Never knew my pace was good until today. I was happy. not because of the pace at which I wrote my report but, got another story out of the event and wrote about 400 words there. So,  1 hour and almost both the stories done. Wow!!!

But, couldn't find a cyber cafe anywhere in the proximity to mail my story to my coordinator. Till 2 p.m. I was looking out for one. But, found none. thanks to my friend's net on Phone. And then, I sent my stories. Done.
Was relieved. And, at the end of the day, I did my best to survive this phase, though there was madness in the newsroom. I did it.

I realized that I like the dailies :) It is fun (only if your stories work). I was fortunate enough that way. And, yes, I SURVIVED IT. (*feels so better and this keeps me going for the next beat) :):)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Partial Parity

Note: Whatever I have written is very personal and is my opinion. Feel free to express yours.

“We are professionals” says  my Professor. How professional are we? is a big question here. Keeping our hard news reporting aside however planned and unchangeable our schedules are, there is some sort of hierarchy that exists in this institution. I never felt the urge to write about it, until today. Bias exists everywhere. No matter however “PROFESSIONAL” the institution is or claims to be.
Favoritism /bias/partiality (whatever one calls it) towards a particular set of “pseudo intellectuals” always exists. And, these pseudo intellectuals always feel the necessity to be in “good terms” with the ones who are biased or partial towards them. Be it school, college/university or any institution, it is undeniable.
If we look at the very definition of it, it means favoring a person or group over another. It all begins by developing relationships, personal or professional. It could be a student-teacher relationship, mother/father-daughter/son relationship, and employee-manager/boss relationship, whatever the case is. For example: If we actually analyse this, this concept is something related to our psychology. It is like…things we like the most, people we like the most, anything you like, - this whole concept of liking itself brings in bias or favoritism at some point of time.  
And, that point of time is (as the definition says…) when there is more than one person or a group and you like/support/favour that group or person over the other, it creeps in. But, what one has to look at is, IS bias/partiality spoiling people from doing their work or doing good to them? (This is debatable too) because at the end of the day it is the individual who has to struggle to flourish, though partiality helps them to a certain extent.
For example: In Spain Philip III was enthroned in 1598 and duke of Lerma rose to power because of this concept of favoritism.
And, whenever my Professor says we are “PROFESSIONALS” and we are expected to be neutral and not biased about anything.  (Precisely, that is what my profession demands) I rethink. Only because when it comes to statements, people make them all the time. But, when it has to be applied to them, they do not FOLOW. So, the question here is, why make a statement, when you yourself do not follow it?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The "humane side" of rural India

I've been waiting to update my blog for a week now. Yaaayyy!!! Now I feel so relaxed after having started to type everything (and thanks to the free time...NOW!)


About Bagepalli Taluk

                                   "A view from Nowhere" - (attributed to Jay Rosen)
              People still shift their home by using Horses as the means of transport

Bagepalli is one of the most backward taluks in Karnataka, Kolar District. Literacy rate according to a 2003 report is about 52 percent in the taluk. But, in reality it is about 40 percent. Language spoken in the Taluk is Telugu.Geographical location: Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Border.

Our Journey to Bagepalli:

                                                                  Bagepalli Town

I was made the team coordinator (because people who knew any South Indian language were made coordinators) and had to be responsible for the group in all ways. At first, I was skeptical about my team members but as the days passed by in the village ours was the BEST group with the best team members (*personal opinion*). On 24th Oct, 2010,  I woke up at 4.30 a.m. because our bus was at 6 a.m.. After being dropped at Majestic (KG bus stand), we headed to Vijaya Cafe for an awesome breakfast and then got it done by 8 and luckily got a bus to Bagepalli. (*looked like buses were waiting for us* -sigh of relief)
We were on our way to Bagepalli town and assuming the conductor to know telugu, I spoke to him in Telugu and luckily he replied in the same language. *smiles*

                                                               In the bus

Everyone was happy going to their respective Taluks. It was the "one week break" we desperately needed from hectic schedules at IIJNM. But, we were equally worried about our accommodation and the rest of the things. But, thank god! I arranged all this before we actually got there. We had to take a bus to Rachavarepalli from Bagepalli and finally got there. After this, everything seemed very confusing. We had to take an autorickshaw to Chinaganapalli (the village we stayed in) and we did. The person who had to accommodate us was waiting for us right there. We felt much relaxed (Because most other teams did not know where they were gonna stay and Ours was decided and properly planned).

                                                     Our home... sweet HOME :)

He asked us to stay at his place. Gave us an room to stay, TV and amazing home cooked food (his mom made). We were asked to adjust and whatever we wanted was only a place to sleep. We had no idea that we would have all this in our so called "temporary home".

That evening people in the village kept wondering who we were and kept asking others where we were from and why were we there in their village. But, whatever it is, people in villages are much welcoming and warm compared to people living in the cities. (Got to know this). We stayed with all kinds of cattle - cows, sheep, buffaloes - and enjoyed every bit of it. (Though my friends made fun of the "Buffalo's sussu  ka factory" :P:D).
                                      Weirdest Autorickshaw I have ever seen

First Day - Patalpalya, Tholapally and Somanathapura

                                                       My teammates

We visited these places in Auto. Our driver, Suresh Anna, made it easier for us by knowing every place there. As planned, our schedule for the first day was to visit the above mentioned villages, of which, Patapalya was one of the five hobillies of the Taluk. We visited the angandwadi center there, met the two kids and saw how anganwadi workers meeting is conducted. Then, visited the PHC at Patapalya.

Lack of doctors, people believing in superstitions to cure diseases, child marriages, using same bedsheets for deliveries of mothers, lack of medicines for diseases, lack of awareness among villagers and many more. All these were still prevalent in villages. Sadl;y, I walked out of the PHC assuming the Panchayat members of Patapalya to tell something informative and useful about the hobblie. But, none of the members knew when the elected President and the secretary of the Panchayat would "visit" the office. (It is their duty to be in the office from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). But, except them, you will find members of the panchayat in the office who give most important information about the socio-economic conditions in the surrounding villages.

Next stop was at Tholapally, where anganwadi center was empty, angandwadi assisntant was sleeping, Panchayat office closed and nothing worked there.
                                   Gummanayana Alaya ruled by Navakota Empire

We then went to visit a 100 year old fort called "Gummanayana Alaya" at Tholapally. It was almost 3000 ft high and we had to go to the hill top. But, the most funniest part was - one of my friends falling repeatedly like "kungfu panda" - that was the most hilarious part of the day and Yes! he made my day. And, thanks to my CONVERSE flip flops which had grip and helped me climb rocks, while my friend was constantly falling down. :P:P
 Somanathapura was again a tragedy. Nothing went right there. The only person we met was the Milk dairy secy.

On the whole, first day didn't go that well. Apart from visiting the fort, we realised that we had to see such grave and harsh realities again and again in the coming days. We were back home. Tired. Two of them slept. I was sitting outside the house. Aunty, served tea and some snacks. sitting there, I wondered how we in the cities cannot stand any outsider in our area/ locality, but these villagers respect you so much for being a part of this village and making an effort to know them. And, what made me happy was I knew I would become a part of them very soon.

                               Clicked this from a moving autorickshaw on a bumpy road

Day 2 - The most tiring day

We get up from sleep and we had aunty serving fresh,hot milk (actual milk and not the watery one we get at our hostel), pours hot water in the bucket for us (like moms do) and then serves breakfast for all of us together.

We had to visit three villages. But, ended up visiting about 9 villages. We began our journey on the bumpy roads of the taluk, almost sitting on each other each time there were potholes. Sometimes, the auto's tyres were in the air and sometimes us. On thr rocky road, we felt we would never come back alive.Whole day Suresh anna was with us. We went to Billur, Rachhhevuru, Pulagallu, Tholapally again, Chakavelu and four other villages. (forgot names :P:P ) It went well. Met a freedom fighter from Rachheruvu, entered Andhra Pradesh as Raccheruvu was part of AP but was geographically under Karnataka. (And, people in the border areas never know which state they belong to because both states interfere in their matters and end up doing literally nothing for them. NOTHING!) This is one of the reasons why they remain the most backward regions in the state.

         A 1st standard student of PSS Educational Trust, a private school in Chakalvelu

Then we got a shock at one the PHC's at Shivapura. We got to know that a Unani (Ayush) doctor was giving aloepathic medicines to the patients . (He can be sued for it) But, he himself told that he had no other choice because patients always wanted injections thinking they would cure their disease.this shows the pathetic conditions of PHC's and lack of paramedics and doctors in our country.
It was a hectic day. Tiring. even after we got came home, we had the feeling of travelling in the auto, on those bumpy roads where we almost died. But, I survived it. That's how my Day 2 ended.

Day 3 - Almost did the same things

                                                        Rakshita and me :)
One most important thing I have to mention what I did on Day 3 was ate properly. (I felt the need to mention this because we were invited for lunch at our Auto Suresh anna's sissy's place). And, trust me, she cooked AWESOME food:):). Adding to this, (given my love for kids) Rakshita, a six months-old baby made my day.

Day 4 - The day I didn't wanna work!

There's a point of time when one gets annoyed seeing others in their group not work and relying completely on that person. Yes! This was that day. I was seriously pissed off with my team members (not their fault - language barrier) because I had to do every single thing. But, yes! I did it. And, it didn't end on a good note.
Because, I did not get any data from the places I visited. 
Totally annoyed, took a bus with my team members and came back HOME. Not to vent my anger on others anymore, the best thing I could do was to sleep. And, I slept. Woke up and had tea, sitting on the cement slab outside the house.
                                                       Venu and Sreekanth

Thinking about some random stuff, I sipped my tea and saw two kids on the other side of the street. In the meantime, the dog (one with dark circles, probably very old man he is) got entangled by a rope that was tied to a cow. Both, the cow and the dog were struggling to help each other. Nothing worked. I asked those two kids to get the dog out of that place because I dint know how a cow would react if I went and did something to free the dog.  Assuming the kids to know something, I asked them to help. And, they did.
That's when my day started getting better. I realized this at the end of the day. After that, the kids came n spoke to me and introduced themselves. Venu and Sreekanth. Innocent, simple and full of respect is what comes to my mind when I think of them.
We spoke for sometime and then they asked me if I could teach them English lesson on Kalpana Chawla because their English teacher died in a accident. So, I had to become their temporary English teacher.And, yes...I agreed to teach.
I was explaining it in Telugu as they did not understand English properly. So translation was a big challenge to me. (Until then, I never realised that my mother tongue would come to my rescue and was very thankful about it). And yes, I used to speak in their dialect (telugu has different dialects which comes from three different regions in Andhra Pradesh - Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema). And, they spoke in the Rayalaseema dialect which I knew very well because my dad belonged there.

And that day I was actually very happy and satisfied, not because I taught kids who asked me, but I dreamt of teaching people in the village all the time.(Like I always wanted to serve people in some way or the other, so education was the best bet). and the kids told me " No one has taught them so patiently until then". I was very happy because more than teaching them, I realised I became someone very important to them in their life and that is the way they would remember me. and yes, they made my day. :):) Also, it is one of the most memorable days of my life until now.

Day 5 and 6 (The day I didnt wanna leave):

Day 5 was okay. Not that great. Two of my firends had already left and my other two friends and I stayed back. But, day 6 was something I never wanted. On the first day, I was waiting for this day. And, when it was that day, I never wanted it only because it was the day we were leaving. Sad because - One, I loved the village and the people and everything in those 6 days. Two - I knew I had to get back to hectic schedule in college which would make me almost forget that we spent 6 most amazing days in the villages of Bagepalli. Auto anna came to pick us up and we had to leave the place.  We left to Bagepalli and were feeling nostalgic.

What I felt and learnt:

From day 1 people in the village never treated us as outsiders though we actually were. They gave us space to live in the little space they lived in. They cooked food for us, liked us, expected us to teach their kids and most importantly treated us as one among them. (which is very much in contrast with what people in the cities do - not all - no offense - But, we cannot stand two people who come and stand at our door and act like we don't care. May be do not even talk to them) But, the villagers taught us many more things. To live in a world full of problems but still wear a smile on your face. They do NOT have materialistic desires, like we do. They feed you even if they STARVE. And, that is the REALITY of people living in rural INDIA. And, more HUMANE.
                                                          AWESOME food

I loved the autorickshaw rides everyday. sitting at the back of the auto with my friend, clicking pictures of random things, staring at the tree that stands alone from the rest of them, looking at the road that never seems to end, which also could be the GLORY ROAD and still remain happy in the simplest way ever.
Loved the time spent in the rural set-up with my teammates (not all except three of 'em) and yes, every one has to experience their way of living. Trust me on this. (*unless you know how to adjust*)

Waiting to go back there....

P.S. Thank you Shreya Kumar, Prarthito and Rashi :):):)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The day I exercised my RIGHT as a CITIZEN :)

25th September, 2010, for me - is a memorable day. Though most of it was screwed big time (couldn't finish story idea).
Okay...the reason I'm "hyping" (like the media hype for TRP's, but that's not the case here) it up so much is because I filed an RTI. (Ohh...wait! not one RTI, but 4). Not just filed an RTI, but had to go through a lot before submitting the application at Karnataka Information Commission (KIC) Office (M.S. Building).

My day began with the auto driver coming 45 minutes late (Can't help it, "Indian" timings). He claimed he was having breakfast (For an hour? DUH!). Okay after a lot of cribbing, my friend and I took a bus to MAJESTIC (K.G Bus stand). The bus we got into, was moving at a pace of 1 metre per minute (TRAFFIC!) which was a result of previous day's rain (which apparently, flooded the city - but sadly, not at Kumbalgudu). It was humid, people in the bus looked frustrated, some restless people just got down the bus and walked past many vehicles to catch another bus some 200 metres away. Roads with pot holes (Possible story idea - killed!), traffic congestion, pollution, high emissions (All possible story ideas - Acc to our Vice Dean - "Possibly, but look for something new") and stink of overflowing drains, stench of garbage (*looks away* - enough of such stories!).

Finally after a lot of struggle, we reached MAJESTIC bus stand after 1 hour 45 minutes.Our first plan for the day was, to go to KIC and file "an" RTI (Right to Information Act). We got to KIC office and asked them if we could submit the RTI forms (I took a print out of the form). One guy, didn't know English nor Hindi , then we were sent to another employee, who told us to fill the form, they had. I filled one, then ran to the office, then asked for four more forms. (*feels happy*) As it was my first chance, I thought I could utilize this opportunity fully and file 3 more. And, I did. Information I wanted was on IMR(Infant Mortality Rate) and MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) in Bangalore, for the past five years. And I have decided not to reveal the rest, because they are my story ideas (Can't make them public now ...lolz).

I went into the office, smiling. (Assuming, I can finally submit the forms ). But, it wasn't over. I was asked to give an I.P.O (Postal Order) of Rs.10. (But, the form said "Pay Rs.10 in the form of cash or through I.P.O). I did not know it was complusory to give an I.P.O (Lesson 1). My friend and I asked people where Post office was and rushed to the one in the premises of M.S. Building. Huh! We asked for I.P.O and they said they closed the account. (Ohh...Why did they close an account? Because, it was 1.40 p.m and the office is open till 1 p.m. only on SATURDAYS - Lesson 2) We begged them to open an account or enter it into Monday's account. (But, that fellow seemed unyielding)  To add to our misery or may be the other way round, he told us that the Head office (G.P.O) is open till 3 p.m. We rushed to head office. Actually walked. May be the fastest I've ever walked (Looked like I could win a race).

Ohh...Before this we took an auto and we told the driver to take us to GPO. that fellow dropped us in between because it was one way (Some Crap!) We got down, didn't pay him money. (how can I forget? ...My friend was bankrupt and I had a fresh Rs.500 note without change- Beat that!) We looked at guavas on the way, but, decided to get back to them after a while. Finally, bought 15 I.P.O's and got to know how they look (Lesson 3) and got back to office, thinking this is DONE! But, I didn't know there was something in store for us.

I was asked to get photocopies of the forms and the I.P.O. Figured out the nearest "XeroX' shop, got them photocopied and rushed back expecting the officer to ask us to do something else too. Gave him the photocopies, he put a KIC stamp on it. Gave them back to us, and kept the originals with him.  "Done, Thank you" was what he said. We then understood that FINALLY we filed RTI's, inquired about the time period for the response (which is 30 days) and found out the possibilities of not receiving information within 30 days.

We got out of the office. Obviously smiling. The reason behind our smiles was that we learnt how to file an RTI which took almost 3 hours. And, then we parted ways and I went to KSCB (Karnataka Slum Clearance Board), but did not get information and was asked to go to Viajayanagar BDA. Travelled all the way to vijayananagr. Walked for 1.5 kms to find the office, finally found it. And then, from there I was aked to go to Domlur Revenue Office. by the time I got to Domlur, it was 6 p.m and Yes, luck never favours. Office closed.
Wow! Great day. Celebrate! Bullshit. Disappointed, I took a bus to Rajarajeshwari Nagar, went to Gopalan Aracade, McDonalds as usual became my saviour. (Happens always!) And, reached hostel at 9 p.m.
It was one HELL of a day! Gosh!! 

But, YES, I was proud to exercise my RIGHT as a CITIZEN by filing an RTI :)

P.S. Demanding information is your RIGHT. Utilize the RTI, know it, use it and become a responsible citizen. Don't be a passive citizen. And, to know more about the act, Click Here. Here's the links to state information commissions - Link:

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Vital important, yet neglected" - Ramchandra Guha

This post is about how the whole concept of development made me think and I still am thinking. In the process, we were invited by the Alumni association of IISc, Bangalore, to attend a talk on "the Tragedy of Indian Adivasis" by Ramchandra Guha. A historian, a columnist and the one who wrote " India After Gandhi: History of world's largest democracy".
I was so excited to meet this man (*grins*), who is regarded as a "democrat" in the world's largest democracy and the TIME magazine called him "Indian democracy's preeminent chronicler".

                                                            Ramchandra Guha

He began the talk by giving a gist of how Jaipal Singh, a former Indian Hockey player, became the representative of Adivasis and questioned, the then President of India, Rajendra Prasad, about the rights of Adivasis in India. (They are the Adivasis of Peninsular India. Note: Adivasis also were dominant in the N.E of India and have a different past, but, here the discussion is about the Adivasis of Peninsular India).

Most importantly, he brought out the distinction between the Dalits and Tribals or Adivasis. (Most of us, including me, assume/assumed Dalits to be tribals and vice versa. But, both belong to different categories, which is later explained in detail, how and why).
He also mentioned that dalits see B.R.Ambedkar as their national leader but, adivasis do not have anyone like that.
The adivasis are a much lower category of people in our society. They form 8% of the Indian population and are among 40% of those displaced in the country. Adivasis are neglected in the society and, dalits and muslims are regarded as pan-Indian communities. The statistics provided by Mr.Guha were as follows:
Literacy rate of Adivasis - 24%
Literacy rate of Dalits - 31%
School drop rate among Adivasis - 31%

Main reasons for the isolation of Adivasis were:
They lived in the forests.
Their votes do not matter (but, dalits' votes do)

                                                               During the lecture

This exclusion of adivasis by government and people, is the cause for adivasis to become part of naxalite movement. More than 200 of 500 districts are naxal affected.

He categorized the tragedies of Indian Adivasis into nine segments, they are:
  1. Adivasis sit on the most important resources (forests, water, food)
  2. They were neglected in the National movement (the freedom movement involved Dalits but not tribals)
  3. Demographic situation (Minorty)
  4. They did not have any national leader to represent the community
  5. Skills they possess are related to land and forests (which makes it difficult for them to live, if they are displaced, becoming ecological refugees)
  6. They do not get real benefits by affirmative action like reservations.
  7. Apathy of public officials.
  8. They are used by naxalites as tools to fight against the government.
Religious context of Adivasis:
Adivasis do not belong to any religion.
Mr.Guha divided them into three categories - namely:
  1. The RSS work on the pretext of forcing the adivasis to worship Hindu gods and presume them to be hindus.
  2. Chirsitan missionaries work on converting them saying "there is no lord in the forests except for theirs"
  3. And, the Maoists - use them as tools or instigate them against the government to join the arms struggle.
                                                           Interacting with students

He pointed out at the state's failure to deal with naxal issues. Also, the idea of naxals to make Dandakaranya forest as their central zone (main area) as the hills and forests are well suited for guerrilla warfare.
Mr.Guha also highlighted the role of media in this context. The media concentrates on Dalits due to the presence of political leaders like Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party, who is a dalit. "Media wants to stay protected due to security issues and has to come out of it to tackle such issues", he said.  He also said " when dalits and adivasis are included in the constitution, Why different rights for Dalits and why less preference and rights for Adivasis?" (Which none of us might not have thought of)

The whole discussion was meant to make us critically think on how the adivasis are neglected, exploited and used by various communities for their gains.

According to Guha, development mean "economic efficiency, social inclusion and environmental sustainability". Another definition given by him was, "Minimisation of suffering and maximisation of welfare".
"Maximisation of welfare" - Karl Marx and "Minimisation of suffering" - Mahatma Gandhi. (P.S. - See the statements made by them and observe the contrast in ideologies).

P.S:   Nanadan Nilekani -  Chairman, UIDAI, was also present at the talk

Note: My next post is on development!!! wait for it..... :):):)