For the Rebellion...

This is a reply to a post by my dear friend Deva . To understand the context and the basic thoughts on which I've built this post, I recommend that you read the original post first at http://devasheesh.blogspot.com/2011/08/indian-spring-or-monsoon-raga.html

Deva has portrayed the whole picture in his own way, and I don't think I can add anything more to it. What is really inspiring in the whole story is that people are standing up for something, and fighting for it to the end. Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and now Libya have fought and have actually brought about the change. Admirable. Inspirational. That's all I can say. India still hasn't seen its so called revolution take a large scale, a concrete shape, but the seed has been sown. I just pray it doesn't fizzle out in the typical Indian fashion.

What I would like to add to the whole argument is that in all these instances, people have stood against something - tyranny in the Arab countries and corruption in India. Yes, both these issues are worth fighting for. Standing up and fighting for a cause is heroic in itself. But I believe that's just the beginning. We sure need to stand up against atrocity or any wrong doing, and fight to remove it. But it should go beyond that. Standing up against a common evil is the easy part. The tough part which often gets ignored is standing up for something.

None of us want corruption and it should be rooted out. Its simple to say we stand against it. But the tougher part, which needs a lot of introspection and thought, is knowing what do we stand for. Its not as simple as "We stand for no corruption or no tyrrany". Thats just plain rhetoric. We need to know whether its liberty, equality, justice, or fairness (and a lot more, these are mere examples) that we believe in and are prepared to protect those ideals with the same ferocity as we fought against the evil. The opposite of evil is not no evil, but good. Simply eliminating the bad won't suffice, it wont sustain. The evil needs to be replaced by good. In this perspective, this is just the first step. The real new journey begins now. The foundations of this journey need to be rooted in values that are idealistic and unshakable, but open to introspection and debate. These values may be different for each country and even each man, but the thought process needs to be plain, simple, idealistic, and aiming for a common higher goal.

This path won't be easy. It will require a lot of hard work, and the toughest part will be to make people think, make them believe in themselves and their ideals, and giving them the courage to stand up for themselves and their values. It will be a long journey, with no defined destination. But it can be the beginning of something beautiful…

Open letter to Mr. Sibal

Dear Mr. Sibal,

This is an open letter to you. And I just want to focus one of your whims - Replacing JEE with a SAT like exam and including 12th Board marks in the overall equation.

This is one of those issues where you can actually present some logical (not in the political sense but in the real sense of the word logic) arguments for your decisions. And I must say, the smile with which you put forward your arguments can be really endearing. Anyways, I will try and steer clear of personal comments and sarcasm. I just want to put forward logical arguments both for and against this proposal and let you decide whats best.

Lets start with your point of view. So JEE has gotten tough over the years. The rejection ratio is probably highest in the world. It adds to the already unbearable stress of the students who have to prepare for boards and other competitives and worry about their future. This trend will lead to a burn out amongst the kids. At a tender age of 15-16 they are forced to study 10 hours a day or more. And this intense competition has led to the booming coaching industry, which adds to the stress and is adversly affecting the education scenario. I must say, you really care for the kids. Beneath that charming smile of yours lies a kinder heart.

Competition really is intense, Mr. Sibal. And it only gets worse every year. Just the rejection ratio is bound to make anyone shiver. One in hunderd make it to basic undergraduate engineering courses. And we are not talking about the best engineering college in the world. For all their maginficance, IITs stand pretty much in the middle on the global level, and very rightly so. Just that if you select the top 1-2% students in a country of over a billion, law of averages say you will get some really smart people. Anyways, despite all this, I and the rest of the country has every reason to be proud of our premiere institutes. Anyways, lets get the platitudes out of the way. Sir, its not the high standards of the JEE paper that add to the duress of the kids, or force the parents to spend their lifes earnings on coaching. I totally agree that the examination can throw up some really tough questions which can't be solved without proper training and coaching. But to reject 99 out of 100 people, you need to have a fool proof filtering mechanism.

Even if you set the bar low, the rejection ratio still remians the same. So the stress of being that one in a hundred still remains unchanged. Rather, when the filtering mechanism becomes less stringent, it will become more unscientific and more random. This will rather add to the stress, because earlier if you studied well you stood a fair chance. You knew what was expected of you. The proposed scenario will only increase the paranoia. As the rejection ratio doesn't change, the fear and anxiety of the parents and students won't change and they still will flock to the coaching institutes. The only thing that will change is earlier they studied for JEE, now they will study for SAT (or whatever you want to call it).

Dear Minister, in all this you have thrown in the idea of adding a weightage to class 12th Board marks in the mix. In a country of over 20 Educational boards and their varied marking schemes, how are you going to ensure fairness? Lets say you find some way of normalization (similar to CAT), and work out a formula. But how are you going to ensure that the board results are not rigged? Why should you subject the IITs to adopt a variable in the selection process which they can't control or even be completely sure of its authenticity. I am not criticizing any particular educational board, but today's CBSE boards marks are way off the norm, almost bordering on unbelievability. And there have been instances of large scale rigging in state boards. There is absolutely no quality control in this process. Do you realize this opens up a huge potential for corruption in the Boards?

The answer to increasing competition and stress is not by trying to tinker with the filtering process. The answer lies in building more world class institutions. Why is that a country of over 1.2 billion has just 5 world class engineering institutions? And just one world class Medical College? And just a few colleges in other streams worthy of being compared with the best? Why haven't we built any IITs after 1960s? The way in which new IITs have been created is a total joke. Lets not even get there. That was more of a political stunt than real concern for students. I've seen students opting not to join those colleges. There is a process for building great institutions. You can't lease a few buildings, name them IIT, and say, voila. There is a long nurturing period.

Sir, whatever the selection mode, if you choose only a few thousand students out of half a million, they will always be stressed. The coaching institutes will always thrive. Specially given the fact that not making it through subjects you to mediocrity at best. I totally appreciate you for raising the right issues. But the solutions you propose seem more of a coverup act than solving them. There are no quick fix solutions. If you invest your efforts in building institutions aiming to make them world class, they will bear fruit after 20 years. It will be thankless act. Most building processes are. Someone else will claim the success. But the fruits would be real. Five don't suffice. We need 50 IITs and 50 AIIMS. We need 10 more JNUs. We need world class Architecture schools. And much more.

Humble request, Mr. Sibal. You've had your glory. Build a few (a lot would be preferable) institutions without much fanfare. Give them autonomy. Let them thrive. We need them. And desperately. All the students and India would be eternally grateful.

Random Dream

Last night I had a dream in which me and Diego Maradona (:O!!!!!!!!) steal a wallet or something from a family at gun point, and then run wild for our lives trying to evade the police. It was totally random.. and I must say almost like a comedy thriller... I obviously don't remember the details, but I am more than positive it was Maradona. And he was something between his playing days fit and todays drug bloated self. And yes, he could run, and I could barely outrun him...
Damn, it was funny :D
I was laughing in my dreams...

It can only be titled "Rants of a disgruntled common man"

Let me make it very clear in the first line itself. I am not a fan of Narendra Modi. Rather I would despise him from the core if he were indeed involved in Godhra massacre the way they say he was. But that does not stop me from admiring the work he has done for Gujarat.

No, I am not even promoting him for the Prime Ministership or any such thing. But I would like to ask a few questions. The moment Modi's name comes up, the whole political class, esp. the Congress brings up the lives lost in Godhra. Fair enough. But isn't it Congress which presided over the killings of 3,500 Sikhs in 1984 after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by a Sikh, which was the action of one individual. Why is that so casually ignored? Anyways, I have something more important to ask. How many lives do we lose each year to abject poverty? And by that I mean just the number of deaths. Not the number human lives wasted in beggary or such inhuman ways. Do we have any estimates? Do we have any idea? Do we even bother? Why? Because it happens one at a time, away from the glare of the TV cameras. Because it is not as dramatic as communal violence? Because we have gotten so used to it that it doesn't stir the common people any more? Because it never becomes the election "mudda"?

Call it what you may, but that to me is massacre in a different format, the behind-the-back, quietly-eroding-every-fabric-of-humanity way. So it goes unnoticed. But its human life anyways. Whether what they have can qualify as dignified human life is a different question all together, which we humans don't want to ponder over purely because we want to spare ourselves the shared guilt (we nonchalantly pass it off as destiny or our own helpless to do anything about it). Have we ever thought why a country which once was the richest in the world (though centuries ago, we still brag about it), which boasts of some of the most fertile land in the world does not have enough food to feed its own citizens? What has led us here? Who are the people responsible for leading us here? Do they have any answers as to what have they done over the years? Well, truth be told, every leader of the country or state we have had till now is directly responsible for this situation. Why? Because it was his primary duty, and he has not only let us down, he has misguided us and misled us into believing that this is the best India can be/do. All of them are collectively responsible for every life lost due to starvation or poverty. They never take responsibility, and we never hold them accountable. All of them are mass murderers. We just fail to see it that ways.

Let me try and explain why we can safely call them so. After 60 years of independence, we hardly have a 1 km stretch of road which is levelled and without pot holes. I am not a civil engineer, but my friends would back me up on this one. A newly constructed road which in normal circumstances should last atleast 3-4 years looks a decade old in less than 6 months. Why is the PWD/CPWD engineer who approved it and the contracter who built it not responsible for the mess? Why don't we make them accountable? Tenders are passed and won by paying bribes, shitty roads are built, and they break down in 6 months. New tenders are passed and the cycle goes on. And every honest tax paying individual loses. And not just in our money which we pay as taxes, which can be put to better use. But we pay other prices as well. The amount of time lost in driving on such roads, the accidents caused because of poor driving conditions etc etc. There was a study a few years back which summarized that poor roads alone contribute to over two thousand crores of auto spare parts. We pay a price not only via taxes, but in various ways. We just don't realize it or have accepted it as the way of life in India. And the leaders are responsible because it does not take 60 years to build an efficient system which performs its duties. If you have any doubts regarding this, please take a look at Japan. Yes, I am fully aware of the differences of size as well as history. But if that is the benchmark, where do we stand?

Why is it that there are no concrete minimum wage structure in India, one that is diligently followed. Why have we allowed this exploitation of the poor, which condemns them to a life of abject poverty and hopelessness. Why is that majority of the country does not have a fair chance at life? We, as a nation can't provide that to our own people. Our own people who till our lands, grow our food, clean our roads, and dispose our garbage? Why can't we give them a decent life? I am not asking for a good life. But decent, human living standards. Is that too much to ask?

And why do we not ask these questions? And if we do, whom do we ask?

I am not really in a mood to tharsh any and everyone. I know India has its particular challenges. But lets ask ourselves a few honest questions. Why can't accountability not built into the funcitoning of the Indian Government. Let me propose a simple system which I am sure would work. Let's say a stretch of road needs to built. Put up a board at both the ends of the road saying when the road was built, who built it, who was the overseeing officer, and what is the estimated life of the road. In case of failure to meet the preset standards, the people can hold the contracter and the officer responsible, who can then be persecuted for their misdeamours. Yes, there are issues of tolerences, but they can be built into the system. Its simple. And it will be effective. Roads meant for 4 years would atleast last 3 years. I can accept that level of performance. But 6 months. Come on, don't bullshit us around so much. It really hurts our intelligence. And our pride of being Indians. Similar systems can be designed for every single post in the government.

Something similar or even more stringent can be designed for our elected officials esp. MPs and MLAs. One simple way could be that every single candidate be required to present a proposal of the work he will do in his constituency with the funds allocated to him. And the winning MP will be held accountable for it. Failure to do so would simply lead to barring of candidature for the next election term. He does not need to present a full fleged progress map. Just the work he will do with the funds that are directly allocated to him. And the proposal should not have 2 schools and 5 hospitals. It would require details of the work, with reason for doing so, and the budget for it. If nothing, it will ensure that only people who know what's required of them and who understand how to do them will be able to contest the elections. If the details of the proposals are made public, people would come to understand which candidate understands their deepest problems, and how he will solve them. This will automatically ensure the most eligible candidate wins.

I am no expert on democracy and the election system, but in developed countries people are aware enough not be fooled every time. We still are not a mature democracy, in a sense that the people still do not have that level of awareness and understanding. We need these checks and balances to take us to a level where every eligible voter is capable of understanding these nuances. When that day comes shall I be proud to call India the largest democracy in the world. Right now, it's a bad joke on the whole idea of democracy.

Anyways, coming to the basic idea behind this long rant. Narendra Modi is no saint. Whatever he is accused of doing is not pardonable. But we need to give credit where it's due. The point I want to raise is why are people who have been directly and indirectly responsible for millions of lives lost and a few hundred million wasted because of poverty never brought to justice? Because they had the skill to disguise it behind words and excuses?

Ah, the sad part is that the rant ends but this drama of Indian politics doesn't.

Okay, the last line was too dramatic, but I could not sustain myself...

Dreams...

We have to believe in the beauty of our dreams... And give them shape... For there is no greater joy than the joy of creation.
But the biggest reason to do so should not be that dream is grand or beautiful or that it will change the world. The biggest reason is that it will make us better men or women, taking us closer to our highest evolved selves. And that is the sole purpose of life: Evolution.

Excuses

"When you're the janitor, reasons matter. Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering."
Steve Jobs

Footnote: We are the CEOs of our own lives...