Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Verdict against Jayalalithaa- justice delayed, denied or just misplaced?

Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) leader Jayalalithaa was finally convicted in disproportionate asset case by. It was 18 year long battle, as the FIR was filed in 1996 for the financial irregularities she and her aids committed during her first stint as CM of Tamilnadu (1991-96). There is no doubt that any person engaging in criminal activity or forgery should be tried punished, for last few decades misuse of public money has become norm in Indian political class. Corruption is very rampant at all levels in any state and at center, no matter which government is in power, so some of these recent judgments specially this one and the one about former Bihar CM Laloo Prasad Yadav are really landmark judgments in political history of India. I am sure that no one can deny the importance and need of strict vigilance and robust mechanism to catch the culprits. This can help to tame down the rampant corruption which has become norm in many sections of society in India.

The judgment which was delivered few days back took almost 18 years to come, and this is a session court, now the convict can appeal to High court and then to Supreme court. It took 18 years for one court to deliver the judgment so imagine how much time it will take for this case to go through all three courts. Such a long delay in delivering justice (for whatever reason) is very serious problem of Indian judiciary system. Jayalalithaa was doing a very good job as a Tamil Nadu CM when this judgment came. If one takes a look at central government data her state is a leading state based on many indicators which measure the progress of any state. The hysterical reaction of her supporters after her arrest is also a real shocker for me, some of them even took the extreme step of taking their own life as they can not tolerate the news of their beloved leader's arrest. Such delayed delivery of justice does create some unique situations like this and at the same time raise some serious questions which demand some serious thinking. What is the real purpose of punishing any convict? Is it just to hurt them? Is it to make them realize their mistake and then give them an opportunity to reform themselves by correcting those mistakes? Is it to set an example for others so that they don't dare to commit the same mistake? Is it to eliminate them from society (in case of capital punishment)?

So it all comes down to what is the purpose of punishment and do such delayed delivery of justice (or punishment) serve that purpose? Are we punishing the same corrupt Jayalalithaa who committed this crime? Was she already a reformed person to which court finally punished? If she has already realized her mistake and was a reformed person then what purpose does this delayed punishment will serve? Due to the nature of legal structure in India she will now apply to higher court and then come out of jail on bail so will her example act as a deterrent to other politicians? She was relatively new to the politics when she did this mistake normally these politicians and corrupt bureaucrats are so clever that they rarely leave any evidence of their crime, that is why it is really difficult to convict them is any criminal case as there is no direct evidence to prove their crime. There is no doubt that it is good to see that such judgments are finally coming, but judiciary has to make these decisions fast. Justice delivered in time can have maximum impact on the perpetrator and victims. If not then we will keep on asking this question if delayed justice is a justice at all. I have no sympathy for Jayalalithaa for the crimes she did but I feel bad for people of Tamil Nadu which were getting good governance and now feel cheated by this judgment as they feel that system unfairly targeted their leader. Judiciary needs to remove this doubt from people's mind by delivering verdicts in timely manure. There are thousands of people waiting in jails for their trials and this is very serious problem. Government and judiciary should work together to resolve this problem.

So in this case whether justice is delayed, denied or misplaced (delivered at wrong time). I don't think it is denied as she got punished for her crimes but other two scenarios are also equally disturbing. I ask this question because I am really concerned by the delay in delivering the justice. I think that it defeats the whole purpose of it. These type of incidents remind me a poem in Marathi, I can’t recall the exact poem as it is, don't remember its poet but I think it was something like this,

A lawyer meets a 65 year old lady outside the court after judgment was delivered in her favor punishing all 10 people involved in a gang rape against her. He congratulates her and says that she must be happy that finally justice is delivered, she won the case and all culprits are finally punished. She says, "Son, I am happy if you say so. But really I don’t know whether to be happy or sad, this gang rape was done on 16 year old girl, 5 of the guilty lived normal life and are already dead, 3 of them are so old that they can’t do anything on their own, this punishment doesn't mean anything to them, remaining two are doting grandfathers for their grand kids, now I am feeling bad that they will go to jail and those kids will miss them, and as far as that girl is concerned she already suffered enough because of this crime, lived her adolescent life in guilt, shame and trauma, she waited for this justice too long but she is now a grown up woman who learned to live her life with this scar...but if you say so I am happy as I won this case and finally justice is delivered"

This poem struck my mind hard when I read it as a teenager, it affected me so much that it still comes back to me whenever I see such incidents, that’s why I believe that "justice delayed is justice denied"

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fight for building memorials on public property in India.

Recent agitation by RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal) and its sister organizations to convert a government bungalow in to a memorial for former prime minister of India Chaudhary Charan Singh has created lot of controversy. This incident initiated a fresh debate on whether we need any more memorials at the cost of public money and space in India. This is the same bungalow where Ajit Singh used to live as an MP recently and where  his father (Charan Singh) also lived for most of his political career. Actually this is not the first time that there is a demand to convert any bungalow or government property into memorial of some political leader. It has been done in the past by various political parties and governments to honor their own leaders, they use public money and property to do this. There are several memorials for all politicians from Nehru-Gandhi family (Pundit Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi). There are memorials for politicians like Jagjivan Ram, Kanshi Ram, MGR, etc. list is too long to include here but I guess readers got the point which I want to illustrate here. In India there are several statues of so many leaders, there are various buildings, roads, gardens named after these leaders, these all things can be considered as memorials and they are all built using public money and land. So in that respect this demand of having one more memorial for Charan Singh doesn't sound any unreasonable.

But the real question here is, does country like India need any more memorials and can it afford to have so many of them? With so many political parties and so many popular leaders in different parts of country there will be always a demand to built some memorial for some leader. Wastage of public money and land will continue forever if no one tries to put full stop on it. Once we allow one political party to built a memorial for their leader at the cost of public money then it is very difficult to stop others from doing the same. This is what happening right now, Charan Singh memorial supporters are asking the same question, so many leaders have their memorial in Delhi then why not one for Charan Singh also? I am sure it will be difficult to convenience them, but this trend needs to stop. Government should make some rule that no more memorials will be allowed in anyone's name from now onwards, no matter which family, which party a person belongs, no more memorials period. If at all any political party wants to build memorial for their beloved leader, let them collect money, buy the land at market price and then build it using their own funds, why to waster public money for such useless projects?

Why not to have a common memorial place for all former prime ministers? Teen Murti Bhawan in New Delhi can be converted into such place. Every former prime minister can have a place there and we can pay tribute to all of them at one place, why to occupy a separate building for each one of them? Space is very limited in all Indian metro political cities, it is serious problem in big cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. If we keep on wasting it for such projects then one day we might have a city full of memorials with no place for people to live in it. The amount of money which is being spent in building and maintaining some of them is another issue. Recent successful Mars Orbiter Mission cost around Rs. 450 crores, if we compare amount of money which was spent or is proposed to spend to make some of these memorials then we can understand the futility of building them. For example, statue of BSP leader Mayawati (~680 crores), proposed memorial for Sardar Patel (~2600 crores), these figures are way higher than cost of MOM mission. This is the clear case of misplaced priorities, I still fail to understand why these people think that it is a good idea to waste public money like this?

Symbolism has its own value and place in every society but society and its people also need to mature up to certain level to take inspiration from those symbols. If they are not then these symbols become political tools in the hands of some politicians who use them to polarize people to achieve their own political goals. If this happens then instead of uniting or inspiring people these symbols or memorials create rift and division. I don't think we need any more reasons to create such division and disturbance in Indian society, we already have so many of them. So I guess time has come to put end of this memorial feast at the cost of public money, I hope current government takes tough stance on this issue and sets some good precedence.

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mangalyaan- Amazing success story which can inspire entire nation.

India's successful completion of Mars orbiter mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan is an amazing success story which should inspire every citizen to think big and dream big. India became the first Asian country to do so and first country in the world to do it in first attempt. They achieved it with very tidy budget of 75 million USD, one can compare it with the budget of recently released Hollywood blockbuster film 'Gravity', which was ~125 million. So this achievement is very significant as it was achieved with very limited financial resources and in such a short span of time. This success story is no doubt a golden page in history of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization). One can surely debate whether India can afford to spend so much money on such project when millions of its citizens live below poverty line, but for me this is not the subject of discussion here. This question should be asked when political parties spend millions of dollars of unaccounted money for their election campaign, they spend lavishly for ministers accommodations, their foreign trips or building memorials for their beloved leaders, for unrecoverable money of hundreds of scams during every government rule, etc. There are many occasions and incidents where this question will be relevant but I think this is not a appropriate question for this occasion. But I am sure that this question will be asked and will be debated widely in electronic and print media as well as on many blogs.

I think everyone from India will agree that there is no dearth of talent in India. Actually we produce so many talented people that many of them leave the country as they don't find suitable opportunities which can utilize their talent properly. Brain drain is a constant problem for India's talent pool. Because of lack of proper opportunities many people look for jobs outside India, some willingly and some unwillingly leave their motherland for search of better opportunities. According to me these type of achievements have great symbolic importance also, they have potential to inspire entire nation. These type of events can act as a catalyst to instil confidence in youth that they can dream big and those dreams can be achieved in their own country. I am glad to see the nationwide excitement over this success.

Even though this is not a political issue, concerned political parties are bound to make an effort to gain some political mileage out of this event. Actually such occasions are an opportunity to show bipartisan national pride by all political parties but unfortunately this doesn't happen in India even on such occasions. Former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh dared to fund such a ambitious project, he announced about it during his independence day speech in 2012. This was not result of some overnight effort or one man leadership. It took two years of hard work of many scientists and people supporting them to make it successful. ISRO scientists need to be congratulated for their tireless efforts and dedication. So the credit should be given to former UPA government for their efforts. We all including their political opponents don't hesitate to blame them wherever we feel they made a mistake so we also should not hesitate to give them a credit whenever it is due. It will be very unfortunate if we see any political fight over Mangalyaan legacy. I think Dr. Manmohan Singh and his team needs to get standing ovation for this achievement. At the same time great vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and many other scientists which believed that India can run a successful space research program should also be applauded.

Hopefully this success story doesn't stop here, hopefully this type of efforts and success get replicated in other areas also. Country with such great talent and natural resources can achieve a lot if it can utilize its resources properly. I want to end this post by congratulating all people (including scientific and non scientific staff) involved in this project, you all did a great job and deserve all the praise you are getting, thank you very much for your efforts.

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Orbiter_Mission
2. Mangalyaan: India's race for space success

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Let's teach religion...

Religion is very sensitive subject for many people. Very often people tend to get very emotional or passionate while talking in favor or against religion. There are many different religions which are practiced in world, some are very ancient (like Hinduism) and some are relatively new (like Islam). They differ from each other in various aspects, some practices are radically different from each other. Because of differences between practices and rituals of some of these religions communal tensions in different parts of the world (where people practicing these conflicting religions come across each other) is also very common occurrence. People who support the concept and practices of organized religions claim that ultimately all religions teach love and compassion towards each other. They also say that people who are fighting among themselves or spreading hatred in the name of religion doesn't understand the true essence of that religion. At the same time all radical groups or fundamentalists who are present in each and every religion, country and section of society claim that they are the only people who understand the true meaning of that own religion; they claim to be authorized flag bearers or true followers of their faith and call all others as fake, compromised, weak or misguided followers. On the other hand people who criticize organized religion call it a totally outdated concept which has done more harm than good to human race. So there are many different views about concept and practices of religion, these views are very different, some of them are poles apart form each other. 

There is no doubt that religion plays a very important role in many people's lives. For some it is so important that their behavior, thinking and even personality is shaped by their religious affiliation. So if religion is such an important subject why don't we teach it to kids in proper way as we teach them history and science? Please listen to this very wonderful talk by Dan Dennet from where I borrowed the title of the blog. Why don't we present them with all historical facts and figures about each and every religion which is practiced today? Let them know the unbiased version of history of each religion (including their own), let them understand the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of it. In current system they get very biased knowledge about their own religion and rest of religions from their own parents (or family). Many times this information is so biased that it creates false positive image of their own religion and false negative image of other religions in their minds. This image is then magnified by people like politicians or terrorist organizations who want to use these sentiments for their own benefit, this then results in creation of fanatics who claim to do something good for their own religion by harming others who practice some other religion. 

Why can't we teach religion as a subject in schools? Why we can't have unbiased, logical and  fact based discussion about each and every religion? After all everyone who believes in religion say that their religion can stand any type of scrutiny or test, so why not to teach it in very unbiased way. This will help kids from being misguided by people from their own religion as well as clear misconceptions about other religions. This might help to bridge huge gap which we see among followers of different religions and may be sometime in future we could avoid any communal clashes. I know I am stretching it too far but I believe once people are equipped with right information their decision taking capabilities are enhanced, they are less prone to make wrong choices. Our job should be to provide correct unbiased information and expect for it to produce desired results, we do this in the area of science and history so why not with religion? I believe concerned people should think over this topic and come up with some viable plan. Now a days sex education is becoming a part of many school curriculum, finally many societies and countries are agreeing to the fact that it is necessary to give youths a proper sex education. Sex is very integral and important part of human life, so giving proper information about this subject at right age will definitely benefit students, it will help to make them proper choices in their lives. Same way if religion is such an important aspect of many people's lives why not to take the similar approach in this case also? 

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. Let's teach religion — all religion — in schools-TED talk
2. Letting go of God-TED talk

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why rights of minorities matter in any civilized society?

Rights of minorities in any society or country is very often a controversial or sensitive issue. This minority can be a particular gender, religious group, people of particular sexual orientation, people with different abilities or any group which doesn't fit in definition of majority. Historically most rules, traditions etc. are designed and developed to suit needs of majority. If we look at various cultures around the world we can easily notice that majority rules, their needs and concerns always prevail. Few examples to cite in this regard are; most musical instruments or electronics are designed keeping in mind right handed users, in some sports (like boxing, football) the commercially available kit is designed mostly suitable for males, one can look around and can find many examples like this. The main point here is that majority always gets their way just because of their statistical significance, one can not ignore them just because of their number. But then what happens with minority? who will care for them? don't they also have their own needs and requirements like majority? Off course they do, and these are as important or relevant as the needs or requirements of majority. At least a mature and civilized society thinks in this way, that is why it is a job of majority to be sensitive towards these people's needs and requirements. But this doesn't mean there should be a policy of minority appeasement. Appeasement of any section of society is wrong, doesn't matter if it's for majority or minority. Being sensitive towards rights and needs of some section of society is different than appeasement.

As I said most of the time majority's rights are protected just because their vast number but minority doesn't have this number advantage, so they are always dependent on goodwill of majority. Even in any democracy majority always rules, they have the strength of numbers on their side. In a scenario where there is a substantial majority and a weak minority (as far as numbers are concerned), it is easy for majority to ignore rights of minority. But fortunately this is not what happens in most of civilized and developed societies. We can see that in most cases enough care and attention is given to address grievances of minority groups, enough attention is given towards their needs and rights. Actually the treatment offered to minority groups is often an indicator to see how developed, civilized or sensitive that society or culture is. Another issue related with this is that minority communities tend to live in more cohesive manure may be to protect their identity, or for the sake of security. Knowingly or unknowingly they form a vote bank which becomes politically very attractive entity for most political parties. Every party try to lure their votes as they know they will come in bunch, this then starts minority appeasement politics. There is nothing wrong to stick together to protect your interests or to protect the identity but when this turns into the vote bank politics then things become complicated and ugly. Often this vote bank politics creates polarization of votes where every party tries to cater demands of their own vote bank. No matter how rational or irrational those demands are they become part of local or national politics and then the whole political battle is turned into pity vote bank politics.Many irrational demands are accepted just to keep their vote bank happy and this becomes a vicious cycle from which neither political parties or voters try to come out. As much I support minority groups for their demand to have equal rights in any society I oppose this vote bank politics, no matter which party is engaged in it. Also in the name of protecting your own identity any group, religion or section of society should not pressurize the government to allow them to continue some age old, outdated traditions. Any type of discriminatory practices or biased traditions, animal cruelty should not be allowed under the name of religion, traditions or culture. These things should be stopped by engaging respective parties in proper dialogue and implementing proper laws, no matter if it's majority or minority who is guilty of practicing them.

Rights of minority is very important issue in any society or country. It represents tolerance and inclusiveness of any society or culture. All minority groups should get proper representation in all concerned bodies so that their voices are also heard while making any important decisions. So far countries like US  have done very good job in this but still lot needs to be done by many other countries. Clear distinction also should be made between protecting minority's rights and minority appeasement, both are not same. I hope that our political fraternity and common people both understand the importance of this issue and act accordingly. Our society will be more vibrant, progressive and tolerant if we learn to listen and respect each others values and ideas. Sooner it happens it is better for us.

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why I don't subscribe to any of these 'isms'?

There are many sets of ideologies in our society (or world), specially there are so many 'isms' with which people like to associate themselves; like communism, socialism, capitalism, theism, atheism, etc. These are some set of principals with which people like to associate themselves (or others). After this association they create labels to label themselves as well as others accordingly (like communist, capitalist, theist or atheist, etc). Most people who follow these ideologies try to defend each and every aspect of their own ideology as if that is the only best way for progress of entire human civilization. Many of them try to convert it into some sort of organized religion or cult movement where whatever they believe is right and all others who don't believe in their ideas are wrong. This what I don't like about any organized religion or cult movement or for that matter any of these 'isms', they all try to impose their own values and principals on others (people not belonging to their group) believing that whatever others believe is wrong. Capitalists think any welfare scheme is socialism, socialists and communists think that every industry is set up to suck worker's blood and loot customers, atheists think that all who believe in concept of god and religion are stupid, theist think that all atheists are evil, etc. These boundaries and differences between these 'isms' are becoming so rigid that many times people belonging to different groups can not come to consensus even for betterment of their society or country. They keep on fighting with each other just because some of the proposals don't fit their 'ism' ideology.Actually each one of these ideologies or 'isms' have some very good and some very bad aspects, one can pick good points from each of them and implement them for betterment of our society, but this can happen only when people associating themselves with these ideologies learn to listen to each others ideas patiently, consider merits and demerits of each of them and finally, learn to accept that one ideology can not be accepted by all people.

Actually all these 'isms' or different religions or groups are human made things, we created these ideologies during various stages of human civilizations. Some of these were needed that time because of particular situation of society that time, many of them served very good purpose when they were introduced. But when slowly these things were converted in some 'ism' or some cult movement then they became rigid, almost like some organized religion where there are some very rigid rules for dos and don'ts. Once this rigidity is introduced then there is no scope for discussion as any serious or uncomfortable question is considered as a challenge to basic fundamentals of that philosophy. Any attack or even question on core principal of that group, no matter how relevant that question is, is considered as a blasphemy. Once you bar certain questions from being asked then these 'isms' are no different than any cult movement (or organized religion) and I don't want to be the part of any cult movement. Every philosophy or 'ism' is full of many great ideas, together they can deliver lot of good for our society but at the same time purely political use of these things have resulted in introduction of some populist features who are only beneficial to limited sections of society. This was clearly done to create a set of loyal followers (called as vote bank). As every coin has two sides, every policy can be used for betterment of society or just for the political gains. When the focus shifts from society's benefit to political benefit then we witness the disaster where certain policy which was introduced with noble intentions is exploited just for political gains. Caste based reservation in India can be quoted as ideal example of this type of debacle, the current policy is so messed up that no political party is even willing to take any measure to correct it, everyone (including political parties and common people) are trying to exploit it for their own selfish gains.

I like many ideas which come from many of these 'isms', I endorse them without being bothered about from which ideology they come. For me the idea or thought is important not its source. I choose to follow principles which I find are logical and non discriminatory. I use very simple criteria to accept them or reject them, may be this is the reason I don't subscribe to any of these 'isms' because I believe in something from each one of them. I am a capitalist who supports open market, I am a socialist who support social welfare schemes for really needy sections of society, I am a communist also who believes in rights of workers and in their fair share in profit, etc. If we think of ourselves as a human first and also look at all others as humans without associating any tags or labels with them then I think we can look beyond these artificial boundaries created by all these 'isms', religions or any other things. This will help us to listen to each other without getting mad at each other and may be we can agree on many points, after all each of these groups claim to work for betterment for society so let's do it. Fighting with each other just to prove each other wrong is definitely not going to do any better so let's unite and go forward, we have lot of work to do.

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What is this 'love Jihad'?

When I heard this term 'Love Jihad' for the first time few weeks back I thought it was from some movie based on terrorism or something like that, I didn't know that this was the term coined by some members of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. When I came to know that this is some political issue, then I got curious and I read more about why they are using this term or what is the logic behind it. I also came to know that this was not the original creation of UP's BJP unit but it was also used previously in other states like Kerala or Karnataka or Gujarat. So what is this term 'love jihad' refers to? Currently it is used to propagate that there is some group of Muslim young boys who get trained in some institutions specially to target young girls from other faiths (specially Hindu girls) and convert them to Islam by luring them in love trap. This is the whole concept behind the logic of this 'love jihad' political drama. Yes, it is a purely political drama according to me, that is why it is specially used in a state which is prone to communal polarization. Various political parties play communal card to reap election benefits, they try to use any incident for their political benefit and this term is used because of some recent incidents of forceful conversions in UP.

Forceful conversions of people from one religion to other religion is a serious matter. Every case of forceful conversion should be investigated seriously and investigating agency should try to punish the culprits involved in such acts. At the same time we should also know that Indian constitution gives every citizen freedom to choose his/her own religion. Evey conversion is not forceful but it is also true that forceful conversions do happen and this issue should get the attention which it needs. It is really sad to see that this issue is getting heavily politicized. Normally if any issue which gets heavily politicized many other unrelated dimensions are added to it and then it becomes very difficult to find any logical solution to it as involved political parties don't want to settle the issue for their own political benefit.

The word 'Jihad' means struggle or resisting according to Wikipedia. It seems this word is mentioned many times in Quran but I wonder how people managed to link love with this word? No doubt that many times there is struggle or resistance involved in a process of winning someone's heart but this term is definitely not referring to that process. It seems the purpose behind creation of this word was to attract media and mass attention, specially to attract the youth who might find this phrase very attractive. Concealing one's identity or using some fake identity to win someone's love is not a new phenomena, there are many movies (love stories) where central characters do these things and during my teenage and college years even I have seen many people doing these type of things. Whether these things are called love or something else can be debated but the point I want to make is that this is not something new or something associated with only a particular religion or community. The term 'love Jihad' is as ridiculous as one another term which is very popular in media, 'honor killing'. Term 'honor killing' was derived to report cold blooded murders of young couples or boys and girls in name of protecting honor of their caste or family. These killings mainly happened in rural parts of India where divisions based on caste, class and religion are more rigid and strong. One can fight for their honor, one can even die for it but how one can perform a cold blooded murder of some helpless person and call it 'honor killing'? People do all kind of silly things in love, it is even said that 'everything is fair in love and war' but forcing anyone to convert their religion is not one of them, so this term 'love jihad' doesn't mean anything. It is as ridiculous as the term 'honor killing'. It is just another political stunt to polarize public opinion, I hope people understand this.

Forceful religious conversions or cold blooded murders of people because of inter caste or religious marriage are very serious issues. Forcing anyone to change their religion against their will or killing anyone just because they married someone out of their community is a crime. These things should be dealt with utmost seriousness, every case should be investigated like any other serious criminal case. Politicizing each and every issue or looking at it with communal angle is not going to help anyone but political parties. So let's look at the real problem and try to solve it rather than make it another unresolvable political dispute.

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

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]