Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More on population!

CHILD-BIRTH STRIKE: Women in most countries worldwide are choosing to have significantly fewer children than they did 100 years ago. What does this mean for the future of humanity?

Fred Pearce looks deeply into this issue in his book The Coming Population Crash: And Our Planet’s Surprising Future, which came out in April 2010. BEACON PRESS

Raghu, Dr. Raghuveer Moudgal, seeing that I was concerned about Indian population growth sent me this link:

I guess he wanted me to feel a little better! The article, excerpts from a book, says that the population growth is indeed on a downward trend and the world population would level around 9 Billion by the middle of this century. It has elicited a number of comments which shows that people do take population growth issues seriously. Opposite views about how, in some sections of India and other developing countries and of religions opposed to birth control, women would not be permitted to choose this option of having fewer children reduced my euphoria!

While the message tries to reassure, the numbers are still huge and I get nervous thinking about another 50% being added all across. Especially as the forecast being optimistic, growth could go higher. In any case the numbers for India would surely be higher and predictably those below the poverty line would continue to swell!

I was talking to Raghu (Lt.Gen.D. Raghunath) about this and he felt that the situation could create tensions as the ratios would be skewed towards religious and other groups which encouraged people to have more offspring!

I suppose the teeming (or swarming?) millions would still find a way to survive and those who managed these swarms of people would continue to flourish!

(It is nice to have Mouli (Chandramouli Narsipur) and one more Raghu commenting on my blog as well. Hope they keep it up.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Fw. you will surely appreciate

I had said this earlier in a mail linking my blog:
"While the Indian economy is said to be booming I get this feeling as I read papers, watch TV that we have gone down in many ways and have reached the point of no return!"

Raghu reacted with: Gone down , yes but point of no return, I am not so sure. What is the return we are talking about? Perceptions vary and some return is made resulting in changes not always to our liking

On Tue, Jun 8, 2010

When I made the comment, it was about the population growth and how it continually affects us.

While it is proclaimed to be a positive thing for India, the numbers bother me! 300+ million below or near povery line is almost our population at the time of our independence!

The simplistic soution would be 'the top 300 million part with a dollar every day' to pull up those below the poverty line. I know it sounds Idiotic as I type it :-). But is it not our proclaimed Dharma?

Anyway I am posting a story which Haresh forwarded to Raghu and Raghu fw. it to me. This time I liked the often irritating Fw. habit we all have!

Read on it will surely cheer you.

Anyone more secular than the Indian Army ???

As a serving army officer, I never stop marvelling at the gullibility of our countrymen to be provoked with alacrity into virulence in the name of religion. I have never heard the word 'secular' during all my service -- and yet, the simple things that are done simply in the army make it appear like an island of sanity in a sea of hatred.

In the army, each officer identifies with the religion of his troops. In regiments where the soldiers are from more than one religion, the officers -- and indeed all jawans ý attend the weekly religious prayers of all the faiths. How many times have I trooped out of the battalion mandir and, having worn my shoes, entered the battalion church next door? A few years ago it all became simpler -- mandirs, masjids, gurudwars and churches began to share premises all over the army. It saved us the walk.

Perhaps it is so because the army genuinely believes in two central 'truths' -- oneness of god and victory in operations. Both are so sacred we cannot nitpick and question the basics.

In fact, sometimes the army mixes up the two! On a visit to the holy cave at Amarnath a few years ago I saw a plaque mounted on the side of the hill by a battalion that had once guarded the annual Yatra . It said, 'Best wishes from -....- battalion. Deployed for Operation Amarnath.

On another instance, I remember a commanding officer ordered the battalion maulaviji to conduct the proceedings of Janamashtmi prayers because the panditji had to proceed on leave on compassionate grounds. No eyebrows were raised. It was the most rousing and best-prepared sermon on Lord Krishna I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

On the Line of Control, a company of Khemkhani Muslim soldiers replaced a Dogra battalion. Over the next few days, the post was shelled heavily by Pakistanis , and there were a few non-fatal casualties.

One day, the junior commissioned officer of the company, Subedar Sarwar Khan walked up to the company commander Major Sharma and said, "Sahib, ever since the Dogras left, the mandir has been shut. Why don't you open it once every evening and do aarti? Why are we displeasing the gods?"

Major Sharma shamefacedly confessed he did not know all the words of the aarti. Subedar Sarwar went away and that night, huddled over the radio set under a weak lantern light, painstakingly took down the words of the aarti from the post of another battalion!

How many of us know that along the entire border with Pakistan , our troops abstain from alcohol and non-vegetarian food on all Thursdays? The reason: It is called the Peer day -- essentially a day of religious significance for the Muslims.

In 1984, after Operation Bluestar there was anguish in the Sikh community over the desecration of the holiest of their shrines. Some of this anger and hurt was visible in the army too.

I remember the first Sikh festival days after the event -- the number of army personnel of every religious denomination that thronged the regimental gurudwara of the nearest Sikh battalion was the largest I had seen. I distinctly remember each officer and soldier who put his forehead to the ground to pay obeisance appeared to linger just a wee bit longer than usual. Was I imagining this? I do not think so. There was that empathy and caring implicit in the quality of the gesture that appeared to say, "You are hurt and we all understand."

We were deployed on the Line of Control those days. Soon after the news of disaffection among a small section of Sikh troops was broadcast on the BBC, Pakistani troops deployed opposite the Sikh battalion yelled across to express their 'solidarity' with the Sikhs .

The Sikh havildar shouted back that the Pakistanis had better not harbour any wrong notions. "If you dare move towards this post, we
will mow you down."

Finally, a real -- and true -- gem....

Two boys of a Sikh regiment battalion were overheard discussing this a day before Christmas.

"Why are we having a holiday tomorrow?" asked Sepoy Singh.

"It is Christmas," replied the wiser Naik Singh.

"But what is Christmas?"

"Christmas," replied Naik Singh, with his eyes half shut in reverence and hands in a spontaneous prayer-clasp, "is the guruparb of the Christians.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Our micropark has a new look! Will it last?

I blogged about our bigger problems! Population for example! The more I think about it the more troubled I feel. I was very young when the British were thrown out. But old enough to understand that we had freedom from subjugation and to hope that we were on our way to a glorious future.

Today I felt frustrated as I took a walk in our pretty micro park.

The older chairs have sunk in due to lack of proper foundation. Could be ignorance or carelessness!
Seem to have got it right later! The foundations are visible.
These prettier chairs were installed a few months back. It felt good! But if you look closely, you will notice that the foundation is already sinking. We never seem to learn!

Actually no big deal and I would not have been so badly affected and angered, if it is not for the reason that a newly made wall collapsed recently and bright young girl Sanjana lost her life. Today's report said the absence of weep holes led to wall collapse. But the parents and friends are still weeping! The same careless attitude on a much larger scale is apparent here.

I am not negative about India. We have made progress at the same time we also have lost our way. Many scholars and experts have studied and written about India and have offered solutions with all sincerity. But something is missing! Will we be able to contain the asuras (devils) as Mouli calls them? Hope so!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mouli reacts to my concerns about expanding population!

It seems I really provoked my dear friend Mouli to get this reaction.

Nidhi, Don't let these do-gooder J types put a topi on your head ! These English spouting writers sitting in ac rooms giving out their pathetic vedic utterances and suggesting slogan like solutions read and read and talk and talk and then write out the same stuff that Swami Vivekananda spotted a Century ago.

I quote R J: 'There are five things we have to fix quickly: education, labour markets, economic policy, governance and corruption.'

Mouli retired as teacher and this is what he says about (fixing?) Education.

EDUCATION stupid EDUCATION. Unlike our days of school (in suburban city environment) when we were basically left-on-our own, there are five asuraas (Devils) who will never let any good happen or last longer than they wish ! The Neta, the Baabu, the Laala, the Jhola and the Daada. (The leader-politician, the bureaucrat, the business man, the journalist-intellectual and the godfather!)

Here is a window from a UNESCO/NCERT committee that looked at the status of girl's education- in rural India and in slum India: Most girls from below or marginal poverty levels stop going to their broken down, often no teachers, blackboardles, benchless, bookless schools and 65-to-a class rooms at 12 or below; know why ?

Not because of the previous finding ! They begin menstruating around 12, and there no bathrooms ! Wait; crores have been sanctioned for this very necessary facility( one hole in the ground, bucket of filthy water and a plastic mug, no roof) at so many bathrooms per girl etc. The women members of this" great committee" who spoke to the girls and their parents and women teachers reported this as the PRIMARY reason for girls not going beyond grade 6/7.( Boys of course race to the nearest walls and bushes)

Where did the crores go ? Into the deep pockets of the asuraas. Asuraas also pocketed money sanctioned for free school lunches and gave these hungry kids stone filled rice with water called sambar !.

Thank God ! Kerala, Tamilnaadu and some parts of Karnataka( old Mysore and the two Kanaras) came out relatively well. Some of these asura ridden districts have Central ministers as their MPs. who are educating their kids at expensive boarding or private schools. Let me finish: schools located in Dalit and BC areas came out worst with no hope. The ones with a majority of ruling castes( Jaatis) came out better !

More about Governance, Labor policy blah blah. (Hopefully later?)

No need to talk about corruption. Listen to Justice Hegde Karnataka's Lok Ayukta on this subject..

Then Sethu, another NRI just returned to India, said this;
'was chatting with a real estate broker y'day- he told me that for a 100 crore project, the builders have to pay approximately 25 crores as payments/bribes etc to various authorities! The magnitude of the % took me by surprise...

Reminds me about a civil contractor who told me 50 odd years ago 'We should have a subject in our engineering colleges on how to give bribe effectively'. He was so disgusted with the system that prevailed at that time! Obviously nothing has changed, except for the magnitude of projects and thus bribes!

There must be an answer to all this! But at the moment I am at a loss for words except to echo another pathetic utterance I hear often 'There is no hope!'

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I am talking about us and our population!

While safely away as an NRI, I used to worry about the ever expanding population of India.
I had a notion that many of our problems stemmed from our uncontrolled growth in population! It seemed to be expanding in the same manner as the universe! While there is limitless space for this to happen in the cosmos, India I thought was limited in every way.

After my return, my worries about the exploding population were dismissed with disdain! I was told that our population was our strength. We were doing very well they said.

Wikipedia also says: 'The economy of India is the eleventh largest economy in the world by nominal GDP. and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP).'

Copied from Wikipedia.

It was also heartening that the percentage of the population below poverty line was dropping! All very encouraging. I still had niggling worries. I wondered about the real numbers of the Indian population during this period. In 1973-74 our population was 600 million and today it is around 1200 million. So in real numbers, about 300 million still live below poverty line!

(Seeing the way prices have shot up since we returned, I am sure that more and more of our people are pushed below the poverty line! I guess that the real figures will emerge much later.)

The impression I gathered as I spoke to people was that those who mattered and could make a change, were really not concerned! The collective wisdom of the aam janata appeared cynical. It opined that 'They, the politicians, do not want people to be better. They want them to be where they are, a mass or a mob that could be manipulated at will. Possible only if the people are kept ignorant and poor!'

To be honest it is not just the politicians, who are the least admired as a group, there are many more who harbour similar thoughts!

Then today I saw this article: Well worth reading. While I share his concerns, will we ever get down to it and do what is necessary? I am not so sure!

Demographic time-out by R Jagannathan Thursday, June 3, 2010 2:00 IST

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The demographic dividend that India is currently reaping is so much a part of accepted wisdom that we are in danger of becoming complacent about it. Loosely speaking, a country derives a demographic advantage when its working age population is rising, leading to growing demand, rising private consumption, booming government revenues....

......But there’s a big if to all this.The power of demography has to be harnessed through the right social and economic policies. There are five things we have to fix quickly: education, labour markets, economic policy, governance and corruption. If we don’t, the demographic advantage will turn out to be a curse. Just as there is nothing more useful than having a youthful labour force, there is nothing worse than having a disengaged and angry population that does not find meaningful jobs........

Read the full article.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A reaction to my update on Shirdi

I had posted about the new ways VIPs are treated in Shirdi. Sriram reacted to this news and I thought I will put his comments as a blog! The motives for pilgrimage are many and mostly mystifying to me! But it makes a lot of economic sense. It makes people travel. I believe some go only on pilgrimages. No holidays for them. It helps the local economy. Encourages the culture and traditions of the place.
Does it answers prayers? Hope it does! Does it ensure one an easy transition to heaven? I suppose it does, but not very certain. It is something we cannot verify!
While the scheme possibly handles the VIP issues, it will surely give rise to a larger breed of VVIPs! You can bet on it!
Comments from Sriram:
I see a lot of references to the "paid" darshans at Tirupati, but about the only thing it buys you is that you get to merge with the queue at a more forward point, based on the level of donation.
It is still a free for all near the main sanctum sanctorum
where all these various lines come together, and at that point,
you just get pummeled and pushed towards the single line
going around in front of the deity.

At best you get the darshan for a few seconds
before you are forced to move on.
Of course it is different for VVIPs like the Bachchans,
for whom there are no rules and the temple is probably
closed to the general riff-raff like us!
Things were no different at the Padmavati temple at Tiruchanur,
except that the crowd was somewhat less.
The speakers were blaring continuous announcements in five languages
about the need to safeguard your valuables, so all in all,
it was not a very spiritual experience.

But perhaps that is the point of a pilgrimage -
maintaining focus and single pointed
devotion in the midst of all the various distractions!
I have always enjoyed my visits to the less renowned temples
like our family deity at Chunchanakatte, etc.
They also seem to have impressive Sthala Puranas
and the atmosphere is definitely very serene.

I saw this online 'Mumbai Mirror'
This blog will interest Shirdi Saibaba devotees!
Lay as well as the wannabe VIP's.