Saptarishi
Sunday, April 08, 2007
  Sunday Morning Blues!
Has the Indian Foreign Ministry started to get their act together? I don't know. But here is a piece of news that pleased me quite a lot.

Indians are stubborn, arrogant: Pak officials

After fomenting trouble in Kashmir since 1988 that led to the death of at least 60000 people and eviction of "Kashmiri Pandits" from their homeland, Pakistanis should have expected a bit of strong arm tactics if not downright hostility. Am I not right? What about the Punjab militancy problem, also supported by Pakistan, in the 1980s? Once upon a time, Pakistan used to go into raptures with the dreams of dismembering India with "thousand cuts". India, it seems, being a diverse nation, was too complex to exist as a single nation. Pakistan, the nation of Islam under one God, had more reasons to survive as a single entity. How the tables have turned?

Let us not celebrate India's resurgence prematurely. As an Indian, I know that we have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot whenever the going gets smooth. It seems we have a propensity for "death wish". As a nation, we long for difficult times in order to prove that the whole world is an illusion. Congress (I) led UPA is slowly destroying the dynamic economy with their retrograde policies. GoI has no clue about how to contain the inflation and sustain the momentum of growth of the economy simultaneously. Many economists have already started firing the warning shots after looking at the latest numbers of the economic indicators. In the past two years, GoI has not managed to reform one single sector of the government properly. No new policies have been implemented that streamlines the bureaucratic processes. The reform process has come to a standstill. Instead we have measures that look like "Band-Aid" to cover the gaping wounds in the body.

We have antiquated labor laws and land acquisition laws that lead to advent of policies promoting aberrations like Special Economic Zones (SEZs). In India, one has to create areas within a country that have different set of incentives from the others in order to attract the investors. If these incentives are so good to create jobs, why can't they be implemented throughout the nation? What is the need for Special Economic Zones (SEZs)? The biggest hurdle to changing the laws and policies of our country is the left. It seems that the left opposes the changes in order to save the poor from the evil capitalists. After the violence at Nandigram, it is quite clear that all left cares about is how to keep the poor people in their place and deny them their right to pursue happiness.
 
Friday, March 30, 2007
  Introspection for "Social Justice Taliban"
I did not coin the term "Social Justice Taliban". I think somebody at the group blog - www.nationalinterest.in, coined it. But I loved the term and have decided to adopt it while having "civilized" discussions with the leftists. By "civilized", I mean, I want to kill them and they want to return the favor in kind ;-).

Here is what the Supreme Court of India had to say about reservations for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Judges keep SC/ST quotas untouched, call for updated definition of OBCs

Earlier, I had advocated for the citizens of India belonging to the "general category" to give up their fight against the "Social Justice Taliban" because the Talibanis seem to have the numbers on their side. In a democracy, numbers matter and you have to pick and choose the battles that you can fight and win. Judging by the numbers, as perceived from the remote US, people belonging to the general category were hopelessly outnumbered.

Fortunately, some people at Youth for Equality ignored the futility of the situation and took on the "Social Justice Taliban". I am surprised and happy to see that these guys have now started contesting elections in order change the power structure that failed to motivate even one single mainstream political party in India to oppose the bill of reservations in the centrally funded educational institutes for the OBCs. All the best to them. They will need it in the future. I still think that they are fighting a losing battle against all odds.

In the meantime, the SJT (Social Justice Taliban) is trying to figure out their next step. The verdict of the court has momentarily thrown the ranks of the "oppressed" in confusion. But, in time, they will regroup and come back with a vengeance. The next step of the SJT might come in the form of an amendment to the constitution that makes it legal to introduce reservations in every sphere of Indian life. Karunanidhi and the other Tamilian politicos are already jumping up and down with rage at the Supreme Court verdict. They have called for a shutdown of Tamil Nadu in protest against the verdict. Soon other self-proclaimed messiahs will follow in other parts of India.

In spite of all this "tamasha", the Government of India refuses to appoint a qualified committee to study the need for reservations in India. Hard demographic data is needed to answer the following questions:
  • Who are the OBCs?
  • How do we define whether a particular caste is OBC?
  • What is the percentage population of OBCs as compared to people of general category in different states of India?
  • What is the economic and social status of the OBCs in each state?
  • What are the metrics to decide whether a caste is economically and socially backward?
  • How does the data regarding OBCs change with respect to different states of India?
  • Why does OBCs comprise 70 percent of population in Tamil Nadu whereas they comprise only 6 percent of the population in West Bengal?
Hopefully, sanity will prevail and some rational study will be conducted before the government goes ahead with the OBC reservations. But judging by the emotional appeal and the power of numbers of the SJT, I find the situation extremely depressing.

I have always hated the concept of sacrifice for helping others in the Indian ethos. We have stretched the concept of sacrifice to such a limit that it seems to be quite ridiculous nowadays. But, in reality, one has to accept it as one of the natural human traits. Having accepted that I can only say that if people are being exhorted to sacrifice for the purpose of helping the underprivileged, the least the government can do is to let the people making the sacrifice know the names and the identities of the people whom they will be helping.
 
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
  Why respect for private property is important?
This post has been written after reading a blog post by Aadisht. In his blog, Aadisht tries to explain the concept of private property and right of ownership to somebody who believes that collectivism is the mantra of success in India. The analogy provided by Aadisht might be distasteful from a woman’s point of view but it does get the point across. I went to his blog while reading Dilip D' Souza's rant. DD criticizes Aadisht for being insensitive to the dignity of women.

Here is my view of the importance of the right to private property in a society:

What prevents any friend of mine to call me in the middle of the night? - respect for my personal space and privacy.

What compels a friend of mine to call me up and ask me whether I am free to talk to him/her? - respect for my time.

What prevents my boss to treat me like a slave and insult me in front of the others? - respect for my dignity.

What prevents me from treating poor people like garbage? - respect for their dignity and a recognition of their status as a fellow living being.

What prevents any stranger to get into my house and demand that I accomodate him/her? - respect for my existence and my property.

If I decide to help a stranger by inviting him/her to my house for temporary stay, that is my prerogative. It should not become society's prerogative to force me to provide shelter to any Tom, Dick, and Harry.

If I decide not to allow non-Hindus to enter my house, the collective society has no business to interfere as long as I do not harm other people physically or emotionally within the bounds of my private property. I might be a communalist/racist etc. but I have the right to not allow indvidiuals that I do not like in my private property. Of course, in return, I have to be ready to pay a social cost for my refusal to treat everybody as equal. The point is that society has to respect my existence. My hateful personality or idiosyncracies are immaterial.

I agree that I have no right to demand this priviledge on the property that is not maintained using my money.

Clubs belonging to a certain group of people with certain objectives in mind, should have the right to say "yes" or "no" to let people enter its domain. If you do not like a certain class/group of people who are part of the club or their intentions, why do you want to join them? Nobody is forcing you to respect their beliefs but you still have to respect their right for existence. I would not like to join a club that provides its membership based on how much money I earn but I definitely support their right to be snobbish. That for me is "live and let live".

Society should be allowed to interfere only when what happens inside the club or an organization affects the outside world in a harmful manner. By this I mean, if a private club disbars somebody based on race, caste, class, creed, religion, it should have the right to do so until and unless the effects of this exclusion policy end up harming individuals belonging to the club or spill over onto the mainstream society in a hurtful manner.
 
Sunday, October 15, 2006
  Why I am blogging so infrequently?
I have taken a long hiatus from blogging because I have become too busy with my dissertation. I apologize for that. Next few months are going to be real busy with the Teaching Assistantship job, dissertation write-up, paper submissions, job search, and thousands of bureaucratic hurdles related to the final graduation and employment. Life is nothing but one big paper trail.
 
Monday, September 04, 2006
  Croc Hunter, RIP!
Steve Irwin put the map of Australia in the household of every Indian. Australia, after their cricketers, was represented in the hearts of Indians by the fearless "Crocodile Hunter". This man handled his dangerous friends - animals that can kill human beings within 30 sec, with the aplomb of a magician conjuring up new tricks. He would wrestle with a giant crocodile and come out unscathed and exclaim, "Crikey! he almost got me."

Today, Steve Irwin died from a chest wound received while filming a Bull Sting Ray. It seems that in the history of recorded deaths in Australia, only two or three people have died after getting stung by a Sting Ray till now. This is incredibly freakish! The most fearless man on this planet met his match in an innocuous animal that has not been known to attack human beings. Steve was making a documentary on the Sting Ray. From the various news reports filed all around the world, here is a brief narration of the sequence of events that led to his death.

"The footage shows him swimming in the water, the ray stopped and turned and that was it," said boatowner Peter West, who viewed the footage afterwards.

"There was no blood in the water, it was not that obvious ... something happened with this animal that made it rear and he was at the wrong position at the wrong time and if it hit him anywhere else we would not be talking about a fatality."

Irwin was shooting a documentary on dangerous marine life, in shallow water at Batt Reef, about 32 nautical miles offshore, at about 11am.

...

...

Footage of the attack shows Irwin swimming above a 2.5m stingray before it turns on him and sends a poisonous barb through his heart.
Steve Irwin was a fearless, intelligent, obsessesive, and an incredible human being. Above all, he was a gifted showman. The amount of material, in terms of visual footage, documentaries, and the books, he leaves behind in order to protect the the animal and plant kingdom from extinction is unmatched. He understood the role that the animals play to make this planet a more livable place. He was the ambassador of the animal kingdom in the terrified minds of the human beings, forever feeling inferior to the physical prowess of the beasts that share this earth along with us. He tried his best to make us rational and face our fears.

My interactions with animals have been limited to household cats and dogs. I have also had some interactions with the mischievous monkeys of Varanasi. In spite of such limited exposure, I have developed a sense of empathy for the animal world. I believe in the right of the animals to live a dignified life in their habitats. This feeling of love and deep respect for the nature has come from the countless programs shown on television channels like the Animal Planet, Discovery, and the National Geographic. Steve Irwin and his fellow documentary makers showed me the vistas of a life that I always wanted to lead in the back of my mind. Watching the Crocodile Hunter perform his daredevil acts gave me a sense of accomplishment vicariously. I guess, I never grew out of the thirst for adventure that I dreamt of when I was a kid.

The Crocodile Hunter made us love other creatures of God instead of fearing or hating them. He understood the future of this planet - a peaceful coexistence between man and the other species of the animal kingdom. He made us wish for a life filled with adventures where we have constant friction with death. I embellished my life with his exploits vicariously. Here is wishing the Crocodile Hunter a bon voyage to the other world. May he rest in peace!
 
Sunday, August 20, 2006
  Ustad Bismillah Khan passes away, RIP!
I am a musically challenged individual. I have never been able to understand the subtle nuances in the musical compositions. I am not a competent person to comment on the music produced by individuals all around the world. However, even I could not let the death of one of the stars of Indian classical music go unnoticed.

One of the most high profile musicians of India, Shehnai maestro, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Bharat Ratna, passed away today. I have grown up hearing his music being played on the television and in our house. My ma will be heartbroken. I remember how my ma used to proudly proclaim that Ustadji is from Benares - the city of our forefathers. She felt a sense of kinship with him because of Varanasi.

He was the third musician from the classical music traditions of India to be awarded Bharat Ratna. This itself speaks about the achievements of this humble man who refused to move away from Varanasi despite fame. He will be sorely missed in the cultural pantheon of India. It is a sad day for all of us.
 
Monday, August 14, 2006
  Happy Birthday, India!
August 15th, 2006, is the 60th birthday of the Republic of India. This day always evokes a sense of introspection in me. How do we judge the performance of a nation like India in the last 59 years? Are we a success or a failure as a nation? Where will India be in another 50 years? Will it reach the pinnacle of success or will it split apart because of internal strife.

We have come a long away since those brutal days of 1947 when India announced its arrival to the world after emerging from the bloody ravages of an incident, nowadays known by two simple innocuous words - "The Partition".

We have the world's largest constitution that has somehow managed to withstand the ravages and challenges of time. We have established the rule of law that separates state from any single dominant religion. In our armed forces, we have an institution that has managed to guard the spirit of Indian democracy and its people. The three arms of the government - the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive, have managed to fulfill, albeit inefficiently, the roles laid out by the constitution. Our economy has finally managed to break the shackles and grow at an average rate of 8%. In the last 10 years we have managed to lift 100 million people out of dire poverty. We have managed to implement a law called the "Right to Information" that guarantees the common citizen of India the ability to access any type of information from the government. Although the infrastructure in India seems to be showing no signs of improvement, yet, I do believe, that lot of work has already gone into developing them as fast as possible. It is another matter that the pace of infrastructure development could have been much faster in order to support the growing economy. There is much to celebrate!

During the celebrations, we must keep some unsavory facts about our country in perspective. We have more than 300 million people living in dire poverty. Even in this cycle of unprecedented growth of the Indian economy, we see farmers of Vidarbha (Maharashtra) and Andhra Pradesh commiting suicide after the failure of their crops. The liberalization of the economy, responsible for freeing the people from the shackles of government bureaucracy, has come to a virtual standstill because of the pressure from the leftists who provide support to the coalition government in the center. Executive arm of the GoI still does not have the desired respect for human rights and right to free speech and expression enshrined in our constitution. The list of pending law suits that need resolution in the courts have reached few millions. Our legal system shows no signs of any reforms in order to keep pace with a fast changing society and economy. We have archaic laws inherited from the British that consider practices like homosexuality to be punishable offence. The bureaucracy, scared by the efficacy of the RTI law, now want to modify it in order protect their vested interests.

We have a raging conflict with the Islamic fundamentalists in the state of Kashmir. This conflict threatens the secular fabric of India. In Central India, the Maoists are trying to undermine the state of India in their own way. The security situation for the common man on the streets has deteriorated because of the spineless nature of the GoI and increased victimization complex among the Muslims that is being exploited by the Islamists. In the meantime, everybody in the government as well as in the opposition is too busy playing appeasement and partisan politics.

I can go on and on about our problems and our achievements in the years since the independence. I can also keep fighting over what, I think, are the best ways in which India can provide hope to its starving millions and what should be the next policy change of the government. However, this post is not an exercise in that. On this day, I would like to just roll with the flow, relax, and feel the love that I have for this land and her people. I can not normally characterize this love in words. My birth as an Indian is probably an accident in the cosmic scheme of the things. But I have grown up to love her enormously. Cynics will sneer at me for admitting this love in words. I am OK with that.

It is time that Indians stop pontificating on the historical injustices that we have suffered in the hands of the Mughals and the British. Let us start by assuming that we are responsible for our mistakes and we have to figure out how to rectify them. Let us not repeat the mistakes of our past. Today, India stands at the crossroads of development and it is for us - the current generation, to show her the way.
 
"Saptarishi" in Sanskrit means the Seven Sages or rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and other Hindu literature. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion. The constellation of Ursa Major is also named as Saptarshi. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saptarishi)

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