Friday, May 28, 2010

Wherever civic sense has gone!

This entire residential area where I live in this small city of Shivamogga is developed on a dried up old lake. As such the entire area is low lying causing flash floods during heavy rains at the start of the monsoon. Poor drainage system contributes to the havoc, but nothing like human greed glossed over natural stupidity! The recent drive in city development by the civic body raising the main roads to avoid clogging, but leaving cross roads on both sides of which are situated dwelling houses leaving in more vulnerability to flash floods.That is not the point, however, I am going to discuss here.

There is a small park with a rectangular walking  track of about 4 feet width around the children's playing area. One round makes up to about quarter of a kilometer. I go there for my evening walks regularly. There is a natural lawn too and a lot of children come and play. After raising of the main road by the side of which this park is situated, it has become further low. It is summer holidays for the children of different ages. It gives me immense pleasure to watch them play so enthusiastically during my walking rounds.  But it also makes me very sad when there was rain and the next day quite a few children trying to play on the swing with muddy feet; some children playing by splashing the muddy water collected in small pools. (Remember that washing powder ad on the TV legalising or moralising children getting dirty in the mud?) Recently the authorities put a thin layer of red soil over the sticky black soil and also renovated the broken swings and other children's playing installations apart from putting up some new ones. There were a couple of good pre-monsoon rains and the scene at the park was more disappointing - children getting their dress soiled with red mud! Later as the ground dried up, depressions developed under swings and other playing areas. The authorities usually lax, this time took quick notice, dug the depressed area to about a foot deep and filled with clean river sand, about a week back. Children at the fag end of their summer holidays were happily playing every evening.

Today something I observed made me not only sad but also angry. A group of about half a dozen young mothers were gathered around a swing and their small children (not over two years I guess) were not playing the swing but in the sand below as if on a summer beach. If some were digging the sand deep putting the sand outside the area, some are busy bringing dried mud blocks from other areas spread to level the ground. And one of the mothers looking educated and sophisticated was clicking her digital camera on her happily playing child (spoiling the sand bed). Soon, all of them left the park in their cars leaving the the neatly prepared sand bed spoiled.

If this is the mentality of our learned middle class society, you can easily pardon those perverts defacing bathroom walls in railways and public places, leave alone urination openly by the side of a read! And then most of us are well educated and probably working with multinationals who litter the picnic places with plastic wrappers, bottles, bags and what not!

If this is the state of affairs in this country with just over a billion people, I shudder to think what life will be when the population shoots up to two billions, perhaps in a couple of decades! (It was less than half a billion before independence including today's Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pundit Nehru once mentioned in his speech on an international platform that population was the biggest strength of India!) God save our children and their children. I am really happy, I lived in happier times of better public discipline and civic sense. No more grumbling, ok?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Indian Democracy

I have always felt that Democracy is not best suited system of governance to India. Sheer size of population, the vast spctrum of diversity - religion, culture, regionality and language etc. - are bound to fail the deemed good purpose of Democracy. Added to this, India has a low percentage of literacy. We can only boast we are the biggest surviving democracy in the world; not its success. I will give below a couple of recent happenings at the highest governing body - the cabinet of ministers.

Shashi Tharoor, a member of the cabinet of ministers was abruptly asked to resign by the prime minister. Reason? Well, he tried to stash away a few crores of money via his new lady friend. The gentleman coolly resigned with out sound. I am not trying to justify what he did, but consider this: M. Karunanidhi, the octogenarian chief minister of Tamilnadu rushed to Delhi in wheel chair when pressure mounted on the prime minister to dismiss A.Raja from the cabinet, both from opposition and insiders for his dishonesty resulting in the Govt. revenue loss to the tune of a few thousand crores of money. Karunanidhi just reminded the prime minister that A.Raja is from Dalit community. The prime minister dropped the case; mission successful and the DMK leader returned back to Chennai with a smiling face. Loss of a few thousand crores is not a matter of concern to the elite ruling class in Indian democracy, but a few crores of black money being converted into white is. Why?

Did you know that Tharoor is a PhD. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and has the distinction of getting a doctorate at the age of 22, the youngest in the history of the prestigious Institute. Perhaps A. Raja's only qualification seems to be a dalit leader with a regional mass base, and no party seems to dare questioning a dalit in this Democratic set up. Tharoor with his vast experience of being an International diplomat for many years would have been an asset in the cabinet. But who cares?

The second case is of Jairam Ramesh. He was summoned by the prime minister and told point blank that he should not interfere with ministries other than his. His sin? Well, he criticised the policies of home ministry. But Mamta Banerjee recklessly criticises almost all other ministries except hers. She is left scotfree. Why?

Jairam Ramesh is a mechanical engineer with degrees from IIT and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His innovative changes in the customs and traditions carried forward from the British for so many years were well applauded. His past record as a political leader is flawless. But again, Mamta is a regional satrap with mass support which Ramesh lacks.

While Tharoor is an upper cast Kerala Nair, Ramesh is a Mysore Brahmin, both belong to a class of persons - Indian in blood and color but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. Both the cases amply demonstrate that we do not want such people to rule us but we need A.Rajas and Mamta Banerjees.

That is the democracy we the so called intellectuals are forced to live with. The other day my good friend Manju ( declared himself a dumbo and invited me to join his club of dumbos. I wonder if we are already not dumbos in the garb of intellect!...Any objection?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cheers India!

Look at these facts about Indian attitude towards alcohol consumption in India.

Maintaining a bar at home stuffed with a variety of good spirits and beers as well as wines in double earning middle class families has become a status symbol. Alcohol is no more to be a privately consumed vice across all classes and castes. Rather in the privacy and comforts of home alcohol is best enjoyed in the company of friends.

Visit and you will see what the site says - 'Too much of anything is bad, but too much of a good whisky is barely enough.' !

In tandem with global phenomenon, Indian youth is falling into alcohol attraction faster than ever. A NIMHANS study reveals that the average age of alcohol consumption in India has fallen by nearly nine years over the past decade, from 28 years to 19 years and projected to fall further to 15 years in another five to seven years. Blame it on liberalised generation.

Wine has become cool and sophisticated drink. Statistics show that consumption of wine has increased by over 25 % in recent years, perhaps because added to change in social attitudes, quite a few independent medical research have revealed that wine, especially red wine contains reservatrol, an ingredient proved to be beneficial for its cardiovascular, anti-cholesterol and anti-inflammatory properties.

Look at the commercial scenario. Indian alcohol market has crossed a whopping $ 14 billion in 2008 and projected to grow @ 10% per year - a growth rate more than China, US and Europe combined! Yet the imported liquor share is very meagre. Vijay Mallya, the liquor baron says, he hopes his flagship United Spirits Ltd to top the world's liquor market. Not without reason; in addition to the Karnataka Govt. liberalising its wine policy, now said to be more liberal than Goa, in India, he says, the fact that every year a 100 million potential consumers attain legal drinking age, which alone should help realise his aim in next five years! India is already the third largest market in the world and with the tag of second largest population, I will not be surprised if it becomes the biggest alcohol market in the world soon. In recent times viniculture has rapidly expended, thanks to Govt. declaration that wine is a family drink. In and around Bangalore area of vineyards is rapidly increasing. Bangalore has become a noticeable wine exporter with rapid growth in wine export to countries such as UK, France and the US! State Govt. support for viniculture has helped greatly in this 'achievement'.

In America, in recent times, because of the liberalisation, the Govt. is facing drastic increase in alcohol related crimes. I have reason to believe that it will increase more drastically in India, if not already. But then in America, law enforcement is far more superior in all respects than the shoddy state of law in India. Unless youth awareness is brought in on a war footing instead of Governments keeping its eyes only on revenue earnings, I don't see any bright future to this country. I do not have dumb hopes. I can only shout - 'Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai' and MERA BHARAT MAHAAN !