Tuesday, 10 March 2015

An open letter to Dr Annette G Beck-Sickinger

Dear Dr. Annette G Beck-Sickinger,

I came across your refusal to admit an Indian male student for internship while reading today's newspaper. While you have every right to admit the student of your choice, the reason that you have cited for rejecting his application is highly inappropriate and smacks of ignorance. On behalf of all Indians, I am taking the liberty to write to you. I beg your indulgence.

In India, we have the highest respect for our teachers and now as I write this letter to you, I consider you as my own teacher - a teacher whom I didn't have the fortune to study under. "Mata Pita Guru Deivam". Our mother shows us our father. Our father takes us to the teacher. And it is the teacher who shows us God. In that sense, the role of a teacher is very high in any Indian's life.

I do not wish to paint this letter with figures and data, as I agree with Benjamin Disraeli in that "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics". However, just to make my point that India is not the rape capital of the world, I would like to bring to your attention the following figures. United States of America accounts for the largest incidence of rape in the world. So, will you turn down an American male student too for the same reason? And Germany too isn't far behind in the incidence of rape, being ranked sixth. Yes, I do agree that all is not well with India. But that is the case almost anywhere in the world.

Let me come to the point of collective moral dilemma. I am sure the Germans would have confronted this at the end of the Second World War. Unimaginable horrors and incalculable loss of life were caused by the activities of a group of people. Is the entire nation responsible for this? No. Those horrific acts were perpetrated by only a group of people. How is it right to blame an entire nation for the fault of a few? I'm drawing a parallel between the two cases. Now, imagine how would a present day German feel if someone calls them a Nazi and blames them for the Holocaust? This is exactly the same way we feel when you label all Indian males as rapists. And for your information, Indian males are not male chauvinists. For every rapist you may point out, I can show you hundred males who respect women and give them their due place. It's entirely your choice as to which one you choose to see.

You say India is the land of rapists. I say, India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Again, it's entirely up to you to decide which one you want to focus. I am really disappointed to see how an educated, cultured and refined intellectual like you can allow yourself to be influenced by bias and prejudice. Do you honestly think you can stereotype an entire nation based on the actions of a few individuals?

India and Germany are both wonderful countries. We love your beer, cars, pretzel, bratwurst, sauerbraten among many other things. We admire and respect Max Müller, Hermann Gundert and countless other scholars. When we look closer at each other, we realize our similarities. We find that India and Germany are in many ways closer than we think. And it's the duty of each and every citizen of India and Germany to ensure that both the nations become closer.

While we welcome the statement made by Mr. Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, we strongly register our displeasure at your sweeping generalization. I would like to end this letter with a beautiful quote: "Vasudhaiva kutumbakam" (The whole world is one family)

Yours truly,
An Indian

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Powering ahead

Should emerging countries like India, splurge more on Science, Technology and Defence when the same money can be utilized for poverty alleviation programmes?

·      Science and Technology is one of the powerful criteria to determine the level of advancement of any society.
·      India is being looked upto as a major player in the international arena. It is said that the twenty-first century would belong to the Asian super-twins India and China. We drive the global economy and nations over the world have accepted the fact that India is a reckoning force in the years to come. If we are to perform our duties and obligations successfully in a constantly changing society, then funding on technological endeavours would become inevitable and of utmost necessity. To quote Dr. Kalam:
“Many individuals with myopic vision questioned the relevance of space activities in a newly independent nation, which was finding it difficult to feed its population. Their vision was clear if Indians were to play meaningful role in the community of nations, they must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to their real-life problems. They had no intention of using it as a means of displaying our might. ”
·         Many critics question the importance of spending a major part of the GDP on defence in peaceful times. But the fact remains that India is confronted with a security scenario that is drastically different than any other country, except maybe, Israel. We have security concerns within the nation as well as outside. Insurgency and militancy are one of the main forces snuffing out the innocence of thousands of children.
·         A few have even said that several government schemes like the rural employment scheme, rural electrification schemes, food security schemes are a sham. How else would you explain the fact when millions of people are starving in one part of the nation when there are others who talk about offshore accounts in tax havens?
·         Poverty is directly related to energy security and technological advancement.  Looking at it one way, it’s like the money that is being spent on technological advancement is indirectly invested in the social security and the mass empowerment programmes.
·         Poverty alleviation should focus not only on the economic liberation, rather on the social well being of the community too. Rahul Gandhi once talked about how something as simple as electricity could transform a person’s life. During the debate on US – India civil nuclear deal, he spoke of a woman Kalavati in Vidharbha region and her children’s aspiration. He directly linked the dreams of the common citizen to energy security.
·         We have our fair share of folks who love the machines, swoon over the history and long to see Indians on the moon and flying on toward Mars. The national pride of seeing an Indian scale such a feat will be possible only if the funding towards space research is enhanced. Just imagine the pride in your voice when you say to your children or grand-children that you were alive when an Indian flew towards Mars.
·         On the other hand, we have some people to whom their daily bread carries a far more significance than an Indian on moon or the purchase of new Dassault Rafale aircraft. These people are the citizens of our country too and their voice carries as much power as others, if not even more.
·         Some people say that the root cause for the Maoists to woo the youth from the economically and socially backward areas is the lack of development and positive changes in their lifestyle. Many of the government’s flagship schemes fail to reach the desired targets and this in turn makes it easier for the militants to exploit the masses. Therefore, the topmost priority should be given to the empowerment of the disadvantaged masses.
In many cases, technology has proved to be the game changer in the life of the common man, emancipating him when several government schemes have failed to do so.

Consider for example, the telecommunication revolution of India  :
      When a fisherman from a remote hamlet of our country says that his life has become better with the telecommunication boom, you know that you don’t have to look farther to explore the truth.  For instance, He gets up very early in the morning and sets off to the sea. As soon as he gets the catch, he is able to contact someone and find out a fair price in the market for his goods, thanks to the advent of cell phones. This virtually eliminates the need for middlemen and thus consolidates his earnings. Mind you, this comes from the mouth of a person for whom the terms like spectrum allocation, jail-breaking etc. has no direct impact on his day-to-day life.

       It should be kept in mind that poverty alleviation and advances in science & technology are two sides of the same coin. Whenever the world celebrates the momentous achievement of a path-breaking invention, the poverty level comes down. This is because sometimes, science and technology creates jobs for the unemployed. Thus, investing in one is very much like investing in the other.
       The success story of this twenty first century would be on how nations would manage to strike a fine balance between expenditure on poverty alleviation and increased funding in the science and technology sector.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

America's double talk

     We have often heard of that eloquent speech by American diplomats saying that America and India are natural partners and are poised to play a strategic role in the affairs of the twenty first century. If only things were as simple as that! It is well known that America often plays by its own interest and the desire to be seen as the only super-power of the world. We all know the animosity the Reagan administration had towards India and how they favored Pakistan over India. So, how then can US call India as an time immemorial ally. And America was one of the first to impose sanctions on India over our Nuclear Programme. The lengths to which certain countries would go to safeguard a false notion of superiority is well documented. The CIA pumped in millions of dollars to create the Taliban in order to overthrow the Soviet Union. And well, the same has spun back like a Frankenstein threatening to devour both Pakistan and the States.
      The English domination of trade and politics during the Middle Ages was quelled by the America, the new nation which promised the ideas of liberty, fraternity and equality. And now, history repeats itself. Just as how America overthrew the British as the global masters, now, America herself is being challenged by China and India. In these troubled economic times, it has forced President Barack Obama to focus on the outsourcing of jobs in his election campaign. He vowed to bring back every job that 'he felt' is legitimately an American citizens'. Just when the whole world is moving towards a globalized economy without any market barriers, here comes a jolt from one of the most influential persons. Whenever the Honourable President makes a visit to India, he speaks lavishly about India's economic growth and speaks of India as a companion, a complementary power that would drive the future. But sometimes, you do get the overtones of him referring to India and China as competitors. Now, everyone likes a healthy competition. But at the same time, it should be one with a level playing field.
       Recently, India decided to cut its oil imports from Iran owing to America's pressure. If the US has a problem with the Iranians, it is upto them to solve it rather than asking for India to protest on their behalf. Will they cut their oil imports from Venezuela just because they follow a radically different political ideology and they were their opponent during the Cold War? Absolutely never. Recently, an American diplomat said that America recognizes India's strategic autonomy in the region. Just what did he  mean by autonomy? We are a sovereign nation and rightfully one of the few nations that has the capacity to become the next superpower. Does he think that India is subservient to US in anyway so as to use the word "autonomy" when the exact word is "sovereignty"?
        But having said that, the relationship between America and India is of vital importance to the world. America is now India's largest military trading partner and the ties are expected to grow further. There is space for the growth of both these majestic nations. But India should keep in mind that each and every nation, no matter how friendly places its own policies ahead of its allies. Keeping that in mind, we do have a tremendous scope to conquer the sky!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Economic State in India

   One does not need to be a keen economist to know that India is facing a tough economic scenario. Just observe this: the rupee has slid to an all time low, the price of petrol is soaring at a rate even oil sheikhs would be stunned. Is this an outcome of a policy paralysis or gross financial mismanagement of this government.
   A few years back, the government was proudly boasting about its 9% economic growth rate. But frankly, does it matter to a common citizen like you and me if the Sensex hits 20,000 or 15,000. I think not. By economic growth, the government refers to the income generated by the industrialists. And by boasting about that, haven't we shown that we have sunk to such base levels where we celebrate a few million dollars earned by our celebrities when the majority of our nation is reeling under an economic crisis.
   This government has time and again demonstrated that staying in power is of utmost importance rather than going for a few good decisions which would help the economy in the long term. It is understood that coalition politics has its own limitations but that should not be at the expense of the well-being of the country. This is the same India where the ruling Central Government heeded to the decision of an ally and put off the idea of FDI in retail for the time-being. We should start giving up this communist mindset and be much more receptive to the ideas of Globalization and Liberalization. Another policy paralysis of the government is the much-hyped decision to disvest the public sector companies. Started with a bang but completely fizzled out.
    A few good things to point out about a few men in this government. Dr. Manmohan Singh had done one of the best things that could happen to India in the recent decades. India shall forever be indebted to him for his Globalization, Liberalization and Privatization policy. But a government of a country that is tipped to drive the global economy in the near future should not rest only on its past laurels. It should focus relentlessly on evolving means to bring our country to the forefront of human welfare development and economic progress.
    An irony to note is that while several thousands of our countrymen are dying out of hunger, there are several tons of foodgrains that are rotting outside the FCI godowns. What might be the reason? Our government in order to be the largest buyer of foodgrains from the farmers just goes on accumulating the foodgrains without even bothering for proper storage facilities. The result is that several tons of grains are just left to the mercy of the elements of the weather with only a sheet as their cover. So, why does the government not improve the storage facilities? The answer is simple enough. The government simply lacks the required funds. Supposing, the government builds new godowns, what happens will be that the government wouldn't have the funds to buy the grains in the first place. It is like a person who sells the cow in order that he can buy better fodder to increase the milk production. Ultimately, he gets better fodder but now where is the cow to get milk?
     And one more thing, freebies are not going to do a world of good for the common man. The government is too keen on giving free fans, mixers, grinders, laptops and what not. Tell me how does the common man get benefited by this. One should remember that these freebies are given when people are already owning atleast one of them. Isn't this a ploy to improve the domestic consumption thereby favoring a select few industrialists. Ofcourse, it would help them to cash in on the vote-banks too.
    The time for decisive action has come. History would judge us by the action or inaction that we take now. It is therefore in the best interests of all that some solutions to these problems be found. A few recommendations include:
1. Disvest the public sector companies
2. Throw open the electricity distribution and collection to the private sector
3. Stop freebies of all kinds
4. Enhance the usage of renewable and alternate sources of energy
5. Stop populism and present budgets with a long-term view not just limited to five years in power.
We are now standing at a wonderful juncture in our history. We must lift our country to our golden days and justify the epithet "The Golden Sparrow" before it's too late. The onus is on us. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose. All the best!