Thursday, June 27, 2013

Was Uttarakhand tragedy man-made?

Recent tragedy because of heavy rain and flash floods in some regions of Uttarakhand has resulted in heavy loss of life, property and damage which will take years to recover. Many villages and cities were affected because of this natural calamity. No doubt the disaster was because of heavy rains and flash floods but the question is what is reason for such a heavy loss of property and life? Why they didn't give warning to residents of those areas? Why evacuation orders were not issued (a normal protocol in almost all developed countries in case of such anticipated natural calamity)? Why proper disaster response team was not in place so that when such disaster strikes not all government machinery panic and don't know what to do and where to start?

Entire world now is in crazy race of economical progress, everyone wants development which brings more money (and in turn supposed to bring more happiness) no matter what we want development, the race is too competitive and furious, it seems there is no time to plan any strategy they just want to run, run at any cost and win the race or at a tie but loosing is not a option. Nothing wrong in all these ambitions and aspirations (about progress and development), they are required to motivate people to do the good work, discover new inventions and in turn bring long term sustainable progress. But that's where is the problem, very few are looking for 'long term sustainable progress', most of us are in race for short term gains, quicker the better, no one has time to think about impact of our actions on environment.

Because of recent economic progress in India there is huge migration of working class from villages to cities and all these people need place to stay, water to drink and also generate lot of waste, so all these things are putting enormous amount of pressure on infrastructure of these cities and some of them are crumbling under this pressure of uncontrolled immigration and poor management. In most of these cities people built homes wherever they find empty space, dry river bed, top of drainage, right on the bank of river, on hills, no place is forbidden, they manage it either legally (by paying bribe to corresponding authorities, if they are rich) or illegally (with help of some local politician who in turn gets all these votes). I myself lived in one of such illegally constructed neighborhood for most of my life, in the beginning situation is horrible, with no water connection, no latrines, electricity, etc. but slowly things improve and  they get all the required facilities (again illegally, it takes time but they manage). As these neighborhoods are illegal they don't follow any rules or regulations which are there for any legal residential construction, if anyone take a tour of any of these neighborhoods they will understand what I am talking about. There is almost negligible or no space between two houses, people construct homes like card houses, side by side, almost resting on each other. People try to construct something on each and every available space, there is no plan for emergency exit or proper drainage, any free space is too valuable to waste. Over the time these neighborhoods grow, many people with their family settle there and call it their home and then it's almost impossible for any government or authority to remove them from that place. Even government legalizes many of these settlements because there is no other option for them (our house was legalized after two or three decades). Everything goes fine as long as nothing abnormal happens like what happened in Mumbai (in 2005) or in Uttarakhand (2013) or some earthquake, and then hell breaks loose, people don't know what to do, where to go, how to escape...because there is no escape path, there is no emergency exit, even many times its difficult to send any help to these places.

Whenever I visit my old home, I often wonder if some natural calamity strikes this place (I really wish it won't) then how are these people going to save themselves, the lanes are so narrow, buildings are so close to each other that some of them don't even get sunlight even during bright sunny day, even ambulance can't reach many houses, they are only accessible either by walk or by two wheelers and thousands of people live there, I can't even imagine the situation in case on any natural disaster. My neighborhood is just one among thousands of other situated in many other cities, they grow every day. These things multiply destructive ability of any disaster (fire, flood or earth quake). This is ugly side of unplanned development, everyone wants to move in some big city, they are willing to live anywhere but they want to live there, some how modern development story in India doesn't include villages, they feel left out, people are moving out from villages in search of better life, everything happens in cities so if people want to be a part of this great success story then it's better to be in city, this is the message everyone is receiving. We need to change this, at least in India we can not afford to have such non sustainable growth (because of our huge population and very limited natural resources including land).

I hope people demand better infrastructure and fight for it (both in cities and villages), and once they get it try really hard to maintain it, I hope they follow the rules and don't play with their own life, I know it's easy to say this than to follow but all these disasters should force all of us to think. It is not logical or even practical to follow single model of growth for entire country, India is such a diverse (geographically, socially and economically) country so we need to have some model which takes into account everything (not only middle class, skilled workers or educated class), there are many intelligent and experienced people who can come up with such model and I hope they come up with something which suits our diverse country and its people. I am sure with proper planning and implementation of good and practical ideas we can avoid man made disasters and also deal with natural calamities in much better way, so that next time when something like this happens at least we are better prepared. I know we can not control nature's behavior but we can definitely control our actions and make sure that we don't make situation more complicated and worse.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

1. Geologist explains why Uttarakhand tragedy was man-made

Monday, June 24, 2013

Please recycle and reuse...

I consider myself a recycle freak, I try to recycle as much as possible, if I see something in trashcan which is recyclable I try to remove it from there and put it in recycle waste containers, it makes me really uncomfortable to watch recyclable waste dumped in normal trash. Many countries have recognized the need to recycle most of waste generated by humans, consumerism is at its peak in our society, because of easy (and cheap) availability of lot of stuff many times we use more than required and then generate lot of waste, but then don't bother to recycle it, so we do two mistakes at the same time, we overuse the stuff (which is totally avoidable) and then don't even efficiently recycle the stuff. In many countries, specially in developed nations like USA they have made it very easy to recycle many things but still I see that many people are not aware of these things or they don't care and they dump may things in normal trash. I believe it's really bad to dump things which can be easily recycled in normal trash. General tendency is that just one person doing all this (recycling, saving water and paper, etc.) will not make any major difference, I agree to this to some extend but if everyone starts thinking like this then no one will do it. Some one has to start doing this and what can't that someone be us, actually many good things always start with one person doing it and then many times others follow.

As I said things are available so easily and cheaply now a days that it's hard for people to think before they use them or even throw them, whether to print certain stuff or not is not a very big decision now a days, printers and papers are available everywhere (home, office, anywhere you go). Many organizations are trying to reduce use of paper by switching to e-statements and e-bills rather than traditional printed format but still there are many who prefer traditional format, there is nothing wrong in it but they all should make sure that they recycle that stuff efficiently. We teach many good things as part of our tradition and culture to our kids and I think we need to include habit of recycling and using things more efficiently (so that we generate less waste) as a part of our cultural training. Our planet and environment is everyone's property, we all own it and use it and that's why we all are responsible to protect it, take good care of it. There is no single owner of this planet earth that doesn't mean no one should care for it, rather there are so many owners of this beloved planet so it should be treated with out most respect and care but that doesn't seem to be happening. People care lot about their own religion, country, family, home but don't care much about this planet which is actually the reason for existence of everything they care, it's very strange but true.

If we can't stop our self from overusing the things then at least by recycling we can reduce the impact of our consumerism on this planet and this activity can also generate lot of jobs (in recycling industry). There is no negative or side effect of this activity, this is just a simple habit we need to incorporate in our life style. Most of us are already very careful about not dumping any trash outside, we make sure that we throw it in trashcan, we try to keep our surroundings clean, we need to do exactly same thing but next time whenever we throw trash we need to make sure to throw it in "proper disposal bin", that's all, it's not that difficult. Most of us are in search of many good habits to incorporate in our day to day lives and I feel habit of recycling and reusing the stuff as much as possible can be definitely be one of the good habits which can make us better person and help our planet, just think over it, one simple habit can help our planet and future generations to great extend.

Thanks for reading and please share your views about this topic. 

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Better to live in present...

"Better to live in present than glorify past which is never going to repeat itself"...I read these lines in one of the comments to some article where author wrote a post about glorified Indian past thousands of years ago where women had equal status like men and contributed in all aspects of society's development, etc. I always come across many posts who talk about our glorious culture, there was time in history when India was considered as wealthiest nation of that time (financially and intellectually). There are many things from our past which we all should be proud of but at the same time there are many things which needs introspection and honest analysis. Many people even now try to defend age old caste system (mostly just because it was originated in that golden era) and try to show how it was designed with good intentions but it's the people who messed it up (but they are not ready to accept that the system itself had some flaws in it which allowed this type of exploitation), some even regret that the era where women had very specific role (that is to look after home, serve their men and produce kids) is being threatened by some of these new feminist movements, etc. etc. I think readers must have got an idea about what I am talking here.

One more thing which is very common among some Indians is, whenever they see some novel invention (let it be anything, starting from discovery of gravity, earth's shape or discovery of Higgs Boson) they always like to go back, find some related reference mostly from some ancient vedik text or quote by some ancient personality or mythological story and claim that Indians were first to think or know about that invention, but these people fail to appreciate or give full credit to people who either got a clue from those texts or many times even without taking any clue discovered these things on their own and introduced those concepts to modern world in proper way (which is very important thing to do). Many scientists work very hard to develop these ideas into something very relevant and applicable concepts in modern world. It's not wrong to feel proud about glorious past or study scriptures to get some clue but using these things to dilute impact of others hard work and intelligent discoveries is very wrong according to me. Some how all these things make me feel like we Indians are too much in love with our so called glorious past and want to ignore completely present situation of our society and country (which is not so glorious). One simple question we need to ask our self is, if we were first to discover all these things then why we failed to communicate it properly? Who stopped us from sharing it with rest of world and claim that glory?

We still mention proudly about Universities at Nalanda, Takshila, Nagarjunkonda and how people from all over the world used to come to study in them, but fail to acknowledge that we our self  are responsible for their destruction (directly or indirectly) and when we got chance we failed to rebuild them and reestablish their original glory. We Indians talk all the time how these things got destroyed but don't want to talk why we failed to rebuild these things. We proudly mention Ayurveda but at the same time don't want to accept that we failed to capitalize on early head start given to us by our ancestors in many fields (like maths, medicine, astrology, etc.), for example in Ayurveda they accumulated vast knowledge about various diseases and herbal medicines, even astrology was very well developed, they new about many stars and their properties, they even developed various mathematical theorems and equations but that was all past, long long ago but sadly we didn't bother to continue that process and lost that advantage. The truth today is that till now we didn't contribute any new medicine in modern day drug therapy which can be accepted all over the world, we even failed to standardize our traditional medicine system so that it can produce medicines with reliable quality and reproducible results. Research and development is not our priority even today, we need to buy many sophisticated instruments and technologies from other countries, most of these countries are way ahead of us in many ways and we are not even trying to catch up with them, we even are not in race, but not because we can't run but somehow we don't want to run.

Some how we proudly want to take credit of all good things which our ancestors achieved in past but totally want to reject or blame it on others (mainly on foreign invaders) all bad things (including casteism, religious riots, superstitions, etc.) these things happened in same society and our ancestors were very much part of it. It is very common habit to blame everything on foreign invaders, they all came from outside and messed up our wonderful system and culture. We were so good, so intelligent, so brave and so honest still we got duped by some foreigners who came in small groups and destroyed our whole system. If we were so superior and intelligent then how did they managed to fool us? Why we lost battles with them even though they were smaller in numbers? We take the easier path to blame them for everything but don't accept that we also were equally responsible for this debacle which pushed our society several hundred years back.

Glorious past is always nice thing to have and it can teach us a lot but only if we want to learn from it, we should be definitely proud of it but mentioning it again and again just to show off and take away (or dilute) credit from others may make us feel happy temporarily but it's useless exercise. If we are not willing to take any serious efforts to reach that level again then it is not a good attitude according to me. If we develop habit of living in that past then we may not be able to fully understand and recognize challenges of present and won't be ready to face problems of the future. Presently our society in India is in total mess, our political system sucks, bureaucracy is heavily corrupted, we have pathetic medical infrastructure and we are or going to face lot of social, environmental and economic challenges if we continue like this. Living in glorious past is not going to help us in any way, we need to look at present situation and tackle all these problems right now before they go out of our reach and become reason for our dark future.

It always pays off to live in present by getting all possible clues and lessons from past, but if we refuse to accept present situation and just keep on singing songs about past glories then we all know what will be our future. So lets gear up and accept that currently there are many problems which we need to solve and also accept that these problems are mostly created by us, so it's our responsibility to think about them now and find possible answers. I believe if we change our attitude then it wont be difficult to fight with these issues and work towards finding possible solutions, but the big question is are we willing to change our attitude? This is the question I want every Indian to ask to him/herself today.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

(Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

1. Were Our Ancient Ancestors Scientifically Advanced?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rape is never the victim's fault.

Recently I saw this very realistic post on my Facebook wall shared by one of my friend which conveys a very important message "Rape is never victim's fault". We all read many posts or articles where many people accuse victim after rape or any sexual assault, they question victim's behavior, dressing, choice of friends and many other things which according to them encouraged other person to sexually assault the victim. Most these comments and objections try to put the entire blame of incident on shoulders of victim and draw some ridiculous conclusion that victim asked for it and some how she got what she deserved. Forget about insensitive nature of all these comments that's not what is important here but the attempt to put all blame on victim and indirectly sympathize with perpetrator of crime bothers me a lot. 

This picture below speaks for itself, no need to explain anything, women have total right to choose what they want to wear (same choice which most cultures and societies offer to men). There is heavy commercialization of human body in advertising world but that's true for both the genders but somehow women get criticized more for exposure compared to men, it's very clear that people (mostly men) are not very comfortable with exposed women body and they try to put blame of their weakness on women in the name of culture, tradition or religion (they use whatever which can help them in this). They are expected to cover their body and show some decency, follow some rules which are supposed to help men to control their sexual desires, so somehow they think that responsibility of keeping man's sexual desire under control lies on women.
The accusation that by dressing in particular way or by their behavior or choice of friends or partners in relationship they ask or invite sexual assault is totally baseless and ridiculous according to me. Nothing, absolutely nothing gives anybody license to sexually harass anyone based on their appearance or behavior or anything. By putting entire blame on victim these people make that victim feel inferior, guilty and worthless which is very dangerous and isolated victims sometimes push them to take extreme step of ending their life (suicide, and then same people blame them for being weak). Victim of any crime needs all support and help society can offer to him/her and victims of sexual harassment like rape need even more support because not only their body but also minds are hurt and it's not easy to heal these type of injuries without support from near and dear ones. Because of social pressure and tremendous stigma attached with such crimes sometimes even near and dear ones hesitate to support victim the way they should. We need to confront this mentality with full force, these people if allow to become successful will bring back the era of human civilization where women were forced to cover themselves (not by choice but by force) and follow all rules and regulations imposed on them by male dominated society (these rules are totally one sided and gender biased), I don't think many of us want that era back. We need to make one this clear to these people, they need to stop blaming victim, I can't say that there are no fake rape accusations or some people don't misuse sexual harassment laws to their advantage but these type of cases are not very common and we should not generalize things based on few isolated incidents.

Sexual harassment is very serious and complicated issue, treating it in such a casual way is not the proper way to handle it. People need to get educated about this issue, both men and women need to be educated about their rights and responsibilities, I know that we can not eradicate this problem completely but together at least we can help the victims to deal with their pain and tackle this problem more efficient and proper way.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

(Copyright for text: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lal Krishna Advani, always number two...

Recent high pitch drama related with resignation of senior leader from Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) Mr. Lal Krishna Advani (LKA) and its subsequent rejection and withdrawal was in news for last few days. It seems Mr. Advani is not happy in direction his party is going and the way decisions are taken now a days (without consulting him). LKA never hid his aspiration for PM (prime minister on India) position, he always wanted to become PM but somehow destiny denied him that chance. He worked really hard to make BJP a strong political force (from just 2 seats in Loksabha in 1984 to 161 seats in 1996, and then subsequently to power in 1999). He was central figure in Ram Mandir movement which actually helped BJP to attain status of major opposition party, created vote bank for them and also helped them to win 1999 general election. But in spite of all his efforts and aggressive politics LKA always remained number two in BJP with Atal Bihari Vajpayee being more acceptable face to other coalition partners of NDA (national democratic alliance).

Mr. Narendra Modi is an emerging and very popular face in national politics, he already proved his power of governance and decision making as Gujarat chief minister and is now aspiring for bigger role in national politics (prime minister's post). Everyone related with Indian politics knows how much LKA want to become PM, he lost his chance to ABV in 1999, because LKA was considered as too radical or too extremist (pro-Hindu ideology, his close association with Ram mandir movement, etc.) to be a leader of coalition front which consisted of some so called secular parties such as TDP and JD(U). One can say that today NM is what LKA was few decades back but with proven track record of success he achieved as Gujarat PM, this gives him better creditability and chance to secure top position compared to LKA, but like LKA even NM has a tag of too radical Hindu extremist leader (more because of Godhra incident in 2002) and there is no doubt this label will be a major road block in his journey to achieve wider acceptance among other partners of NDA. So I think LKA is not happy with the fact that what he couldn't achieve some years back some one else with similar background and credentials can achieve so easily that too in his own party. Actually all three ABV, LKA and NM come with RSS background, they all believe in same ideology but have different approach that's why some are more acceptable compared to others.

I think by this time Mr. Advani must have realized that there is no point in fighting on the issue of Modi as future leader of BJP, LKA did whatever he can to achieve success to his party, he feels that he didn't get his due but that's how it is, in life sometimes you have to compromise and I think he realized this and that's why withdrew his resignation, BJP is definitely stringer with LKA with them than without him. Whether Modi can win this election for them or not is another big issue to discuss but right now there is lot of buzz in media about his name and he is very popular, it will be interesting to see how other partners of NDA react to selection of his name.It's good that Mr. Advani realized that there was no pint in stretching this drama any long, better to be late than never, I think he took right decision, lets see what happens next.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Camping...chance to connect with nature

Like last few years (3 years to be precise) we went for camping this year as well. It all started 3 years back when my very enthusiastic friend Vishnu threw this idea about going for camping to me, normally I am not very enthusiastic about visiting any exotic place (and there are many such places in every country, specially in US) but this idea of leaving your comfortable home for no particular reason appealed to me and we started this adventure. People who know me very well know how enthusiastic I am about traveling, I don't like to travel that much, I know it is exciting and many people just love to travel but some how I don't enjoy it as much as I enjoy many other activities (may be because of all the driving which I have to do). But even after all this I go for many trips but not just because of my interest in the places where I am go but most of the time because of people or group with whom I travel. I am particularly lucky to meet lot of amazing people in my life and they all make all these occasions special and unique for me so the rest doesn't matter much, the pleasure of traveling with amazing people takes care of other boring aspects of journey. But camping is the one thing which I enjoy just because there is a huge element of unpredictability in it, we always try go to the new campsite every year, so normally we don't know how it will be (you can get most of the information from internet but there are always surprises), we normally plan it 1-2 months in advance so whether prediction is not known (and people living in New England know what I am talking about), and during camping (with tents and sleeping bags) one can not isolate oneself from whether like one can do by staying in hotels or resorts or other places which can protect you from temperature fluctuations, rain, etc, so all these things make camping lot more interesting than other outings to me. My be this is not the best way to spend your long weekend for everyone (sometimes among rain or too cold or too hot and humid whether, surrounded by insects and some wild animals like bear) but it's definitely very unique and interesting way to spend time with your family and friends.

All these camping trips are unique experience for me in their own way, every time there are some new people in our group, most of them try this adventure for the first time in their life with us and most of them enjoy this and want to try again. Based on description I am providing I am sure that some people might think that this doesn't look like thing to do for every one or may be doesn't sound like lot of fun and I think that is true. Some times these things are physically very demanding and one starts thinking why to do it when other more comfortable options are available. Another thing which I like about these outings is I also get chance to spend time away from TV and internet during these trips, only our phone stays with me and that too for important calls, so there is lot of free time for discussion, games, arguments, walks, etc. These activities are great but now a days we struggle to find any free time to do them regularly in this era of internet and video games. I do enjoy internet and video games a lot and by staying away from these things for some time I  learn to appreciate importance of these inventions which have become integral part of our life today and it also reminds me to properly use them and there are many things which are equally wonderful.

Whatever I wrote in this post about camping are totally my personal thoughts, people may or may not agree with them, they might think camping is bad idea, somewhat a health risk (because of allergies, risk of physical injuries, etc.) and they are totally right but there is element of risk involved in almost everything we do and it's up to us to evaluate it and decide whether we want to go for it or not. There might be better ways to connect with nature and understand our surroundings than camping but this one suits me and may nature that's why I love it, I suggest people to give it a try at least once before rejecting it as a bad idea.  

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

our temporary home
beautiful view of lake early in the morning

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Violence breeds only violence...

Recent killing of Mahendra Karma, the Chhattisgarh Congress leader in a terror attack by the Naxalites has initiated discussion about how to tackle this very complicated issue of Naxal violence in India. I am no expert in this area and I recommend readers to read some excellent articles mentioned in links section which express very balanced views about this and other related incidents. All these issues are very complicated socioeconomic and political issues for country like India, there are many people who either support or oppose either sides involved in this conflict, they all are very emotional about their beliefs but this argument about who is right and who is wrong is going on for decades without producing any result, so I think time has come to stop that argument and think over the problem all over again. We all know that 'violence only breeds violence' we have seen it many times in human history, no matter for what purpose it is used violence always results in more violence, people suffer, generations fight with each other for no reason, different communities, groups or religions hate each other without even knowing why they are doing this. This violence exists in many forms and hatred is one of them and no one can predict when this can take form of physical violence which results in actual killing of people.

I think I have mentioned this before in some of my posts but let me say this once again, we humans are very intelligent species and we very often use that intelligence to justify many of our acts which are not normal, let it be any war, murder or any other thing. There are so many examples from history or even from some holy books (scriptures) where violence on massive scale is justified or even glorified, celebrated and surprisingly many people are very much OK with it. I agree that sometimes it is impossible to avoid fight and war but to glorify it is altogether different thing. So one thing is for sure that we humans are no strangers to violence and we are very much involved in it from the beginning of our civilization. But this doesn't mean that violence is the only option available for us to settle any major dispute, I agree that it is the most used option by many communities but things are not same all the time, from time to time we always get some person or group of persons who think differently and believe that similar effect can be achieved (or major conflicts can be resolved) without using any violence. Many of these people are ridiculed for their attitude and thinking but even after all the odds against them they were successful and were able to leave their mark on history but unfortunately somehow they failed to generate very loyal supporters who can take their beliefs to next level and make sure that they become part of day to day lifestyle. I agree that it is not easy way to follow, may be that's why it failed to attract many followers. In today's world these examples are looked as kind of exceptional cases where this strategy worked somehow. Mahatma Gandhi is very good example of this, he won independence by using non violence protests but after getting that independence India is continuously battling with one violent conflict or other and now his ways to resolve conflicts are considered as outdated and non practical things to follow. Violence comes very naturally to animals, and humans are animals but at the same time we call ourselves civilized animals but many times our behavior doesn't justify the civilized tag attached to us, I think we need to work harder to call ourselves a civilized community.

Most probably this kind of conflict is a result of false propaganda (specially in case of communal riots) where some people mislead masses for their own selfish political or personal benefits or gross negligence by government (Naxal problem) where it allows knowingly or unknowingly exploitation of one class of society by other class for long time (I feel this is the major reason behind Naxalite movements in different parts of India). Both these scenarios are totally avoidable with proper planning and education. People need to be aware of their rights and all resources available to them to execute those rights, at the same time they should also be aware of their responsibilities, this is very important as a responsible citizen of that country. Rights and duties are different sides of same coin, one cannot demand only rights without fulfilling their duties, and one can not fulfill their duties completely without having those rights, so both of these work together and wherever we see any imbalance conflict is bound to emerge sooner or later. So for any society to have healthy atmosphere it needs to make its people aware about their rights and duties.

If we start arguing who is right and who is wrong then it will become topic of endless discussion, people from both sides can argue very passionately to justify their approach but ultimately we only see lot of emotions, passion and drama but no real solution. We need healthy discussion or dialogue not argument about this issue, and one should keep emotions in control during any discussion otherwise it turns onto argument and defeats the whole purpose.  Ultimately common people suffer in all this, so they need to take control of the situation, and once they realize that they are being used by both sides as prawns to ply power game I think they will look for solution, until this happens this bloody game will continue.

Thanks for reading and please share your views about this topic. 

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)

1. The continuing tragedy of the adivasis- Ramachandra Guha
2. दन्तेवाड़ा की जड़ें- सुनील