Friday, April 24, 2015

Farmer suicide...please stop this politics of death.

There is intense battle going on between ruling party (BJP and its allies called NDA) and opposition party (mainly Congress and its allies called UPA) in Indian political circle. The main reason for this current political battle is the issue of recent land acquisition bill and many farmers committing suicide. All political parties are trying to either get maximum benefit from this issue or trying to save themselves by painting the rosy picture as if everything is under control and suddenly everything will change by the new land acquisition bill which they want to implement. Actually both the issues, the land acquisition bill and debt ridden farmers committing suicide are not new. These issues are being exploited for political gains in every elections, but this time political parties are trying to use this as a major weapon against each other. Land acquisition bill has become more controversial subject in last few months mainly because of bullying attitude of current government which brought a ordinance to implement the bill rather than choosing the path of discussion and bipartisan collaboration as it happened in 2013 to pass similar bill. Now they have to get it passed through parliament and this is where opposition parties are sensing a opportunity to put government in difficult spot as they don't have majority in upper house (Rajya Sabha). But the more serious issue here is of situation of many farmers who are forced to commit suicide because of many reasons like crop failure, poor weather, lack of proper value to their crops which results huge and unmanageable debt on them. There are so many reasons because of which many Indian farmers can get into deep financial trouble where he feels no hope of revival of his situation and forced to take extreme step to end his life. Most farm lands are owned by men so they are the ones who are dying, no doubt that their families also go through tremendous trauma and hardships but normally farmer who commits suicide is a male head of household.

BJP used this issue of farmer's suicide in previous general elections along with many other issues against the ruling UPA government, now Congress is returning the favor by attacking NDA government on this issue by linking this with land acquisition bill. I studied about this issue briefly and found that there are many reasons for which these farmers chose to take extreme step, but the main reason is that they loose hope in a system which is supposed to help them in distress. This system looks reasonably good on paper but its implementation on ground level is so pathetic that it is almost useless for these farmers. Farm sector in India is very ignored and unreformed sector, all other industrial sectors get so many reforms and assistance to increase their income but farm sector and farmers are always treated as liability and some how it seems that they are continuously asking for help and subsidies to rescue them from endless debt. The attitude of all political parties towards farmers is not very kind, they all exploit them as vote bank or use them instrument to create anti-incumbency atmosphere against ruling government but rarely they take any substantial steps to help this distressed class when they come in power. This crises reached to its worst point when a farmer committed suicide right in front of media, police, thousands of people including chief minister of Delhi during AAP rally that too in national capital. Since this death India has witnessed a pathetic display of political opportunism where political parties are busy in playing politics of blame game over a dead body of a farmer. This blame game which started immediately after this tragic incident doesn't seem to end which displays really pathetic face of all political parties who want to politicize this issue to their advantage. The death of farmers is a result of failure of political, economic and social system at multiple levels. It is a problem of years of neglect by successive governments to implement most of the schemes efficiently on ground level. They declare so many schemes but rarely they bother to check if those schemes are producing desired effect or their benefit is reaching to the people who really need it.

As per available statistics more than 60% of people in India are dependent on farm sector, so it is a largest private sector of Indian economy. But the truth is that it hardly gets attention proportional to its size from Indian political and economic experts. Farmers and farm laborers are worst affected by this neglect. Every government announces so many schemes for them, if you just go by political slogans and government announcements you will think that this class is the biggest beneficiary of subsidies and relief packages from successive governments, but then the question is why they are still in distress?? If such a large section of population is dependent on farming and related things why union budget of India doesn't reflect that percentage in resource allocation towards them? Why it is so difficult for farmers to get a loan even from nationalized banks where as any salaried person whose job is equally uncertain can get loan very easily? Why relief packages declared by all state and national governments from all political parties fail to reach to its most deserving beneficiary? Why a dead farmer is more valuable than living one? "Jai jawan, jai kisan" is very popular slogan, then why jawan's (soldier) death triggers completely different emotions among political and social class compared to kisan's (farmer) death? Instead of discussing this issue seriously, trying to come up with practical and viable solutions, why our political class is busy in playing endless blame game for years? There are many questions like this, but there is no one who is even willing to listen to them, and this is very scary scenario for those farmers who heavily depend on this system for help. This problem is political, economic and social. But political and economical angles are most important as both have tremendous capacity to change the situation. Respective governments in state and center need to work towards making farming a profitable enterprise. Today it is not considered as profitable business for most of farmers, among the social class which got benefited by economic boom in India for last two decades farmers earning their living from farming are not one of them. They need to design policies which help in increasing farmer's income so that they are not dependent on rescue packages. I request my readers whoever understand Hindi to watch this brilliant report by Ravish to understand what difficulties farmers face on ground level even after declaration of so many schemes by government to help them.

If we look beyond this political farce and endless TV debates where only blame game is played we can see a sad face of a Indian farmer who is confused and wondering why his fortunes are not changing even after all the hard work? Why his family is excluded from the picture of shining India? They are already practicing the mantra of 'make in India' so why they are not getting attention and care which they need and deserve? Why their death is required to initiate all this discussion which every time ends in nothing but a blame game? I am sure there are many WHYs is the minds of many farmers and their families but unfortunately I don't have any answers for their questions but I hope people who can answer them bother to look beyond their party politics and think at least for once about farmers and not about their own political fortunes, until then there will be one more prime time show, one more blog, one more headline, one more debate, one more stormy parliament session but among all this somewhere, in some village some farmer will be preparing to end his life and we all will be guilty for allowing that to happen.

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This is case of child sex abuse, please don't romanticize it.

Few days ago while watching a TV show 20/20 on ABC I watched a interview of Mary Kay and her child sex abuse victim (now her husband) conducted by very celebrated and well known American broadcast journalist Barbara Walters. I didn't know about this scandal as I was not in US when this all happened (back in 1996), but when I came to know about this scandal during this show I felt sick and disgusted. When I saw the way this whole interview was conducted I was shocked to see that TV channels can glamorize or commercialize some disgusting incident like this just to attract viewership and earn revenues. This particular case was clear cut case of child rape, when Mary Kay indulged in illegal sexual activity with her 12 year old student, it was not out of any love or anything it was clear case of child rape or child sexual abuse. I was not a sexual encounter between two adults with mutual consent but she took advantage of ignorant mind and adolescent age of that boy and abused him sexually. She got really mild punishment for this heinous crime (six months jail) and even after that she got sexually involved with same person when he was just 14. I request readers to read very powerful account by Bobbi Parish, a child rape survivor herself about this whole scandal and this infamous interview broadcasted on ABC. She has written a very powerful article and I think it covers almost all aspects related with this issue.

Child sex abuse is very serious problem in our society but it is very rarely discussed because of sensitive nature of the subject and various social and cultural taboos associated with it. If we look at the statistics from various parts of the world it is not difficult to understand that this is a very serious and growing problem everywhere, even so called sacred institutes like temples and churches are also not free from this problem. Because of easy accessibility of internet and social media this problem has become more complex. Any attempt to legitimize or romanticize this heinous crime should be questioned and criticized in strongest possible words. I don't know what ABC and Barbara Walters were thinking before scripting some program like this to telecast on national TV but it is clear that they got many things wrong in this case. I know that media loves such scandals, it gives them opportunity to sensationalize the issue and attract maximum viewership, this in turn generates maximum revenues but they also need to think about social impact of these things. Another very important question which Bobbi also raised in her article is, did they dare to make program like this because victim in this particular case was a male and not female? Will they dare to telecast similar program if the victim would have been female? Isn't this a case of gender bias where attitude towards looking at heinous crime like child rape is completely different because victim is male and not female? There are many questions like these which needs answers. I am not questioning ABC's right to telecast this type of interviews, they have right to choose what type of program they want to make and when they want to telecast it. So ABC have full right to decide contents of their own channel, at the same time we all have full right to question and criticize contents of their program if we find it objectionable and derogatory.

It would have been better if ABC and Barbara could have used this unique opportunity to highlight issue of child sex abuse and taken firm stand against perpetrators of any such crime but shockingly they chose to portray a romanticized version of this crime committed by Mary Kay. These type of programs give the impression that such things are OK if you can escape the law by using whatever tactic you can (like marrying the victim), this program doesn't even come with warning that it is not appropriate for kids. So there are high chances that highly impressionable teenagers (or even younger kids) watch this episode and think that such things are OK under certain cases (if the offender marries the victim), this is such a wrong message and I don't think even Barbara Walters want this to happen. If ABC and Barbara are serious about issue of child sex abuse then they should telecast another program highlighting this issue and clarify their stand about this infamous Mary Kay interview. Let's see if they have courage to correct their mistake.

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

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

1. Mary Kay LeTourneau is Not a Lover, She’s a Rapist

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar- Most used but least understood political and social icon of India.

April 14th, 2015 was the 124th birth anniversary of one of the great thinkers of modern India Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, also known as Babasaheb. I don't think I need to introduce him to anyone from India but for others who don't know about him he is considered as a great political and social leader who started awareness campaign and mass movement among suppressed classes of India (mostly dalits) for their equal rights and social upliftment. His contribution towards social upliftment of suppressed class of Indian society which was specially affected because ugly practice of casteism is more than any other leader of his time. His name and image is used by almost all political parties in India for reaping political benefit but hardly they bother to read his books, understand his views and follow his advise. Even political parties who claim to carry on his legacy lack the clarity of thought and level of thinking which he displayed almost six to seven decades back.

Babasaheb was a Maharashtrian and because I was born and went to school in that state I was introduced to this great personality at very early age as there were lessons about him in our school text books. I was impressed by his writings and personality in my teenage years mainly because of rebellious nature of it. He was not scared to take on well established traditions, customs or ideas. He challenged them not just out of emotional rage but he took on each of them rationally, with tremendous logic and by producing lot of evidence to support his argument which a very rate thing today in our political class. Rarely we see such a spirit of scholarship and rational thinking now not only in a political class but across the board. I think he was one of the greatest thinker which India ever produced who was way ahead of his times. But unfortunately his teachings and thoughts didn't get the importance which he deserved in Indian social and political circles, may be because even his so called followers or supporters are not capable or willing to accept many things which he wrote or said. His name and his image is completely reduced to tokenism to show empathy and sympathy towards particular class of Indian society. No doubt that Babasaheb cared a lot about situation of dalits in Indian society, he was damn against casteism and practice of untouchability which was rampant during that time (and still exists in one form or other). He fought really hard for their rights but to brand him only as a dalit leader is gross injustice to intellect and scholarship of this great man. His scholarly work covers various aspects of social and political life, he was very well read and well educated person (not just literate who think that they are educated). One should read his books and articles to understand how well read he was and how much research he did to question many discriminatory practices which were socially accepted back then. Sadly after his death there was big vacuum and there was no capable leader of his caliber to fill that vacuum. Due to this that vacuum was filled by many political parties who claim to be caretakers of suppressed class of Indian society, they used this class as vote bank for years. There is no doubt that policy of reservation and other social welfare schemes has brought some change in social and economical status of these communities but still lot more work needs to be done.

But if you roam around in India, you will see many statues of Dr. Ambedkar, many streets named after him, his name is well known and he is used by all political party to exploit political gains. So he is one of the most use political icon in Indian politics but at the same time he is least understood. When I look at the reason why they ignore his writings or messages, I find it is not because he was not very clear about what he thinks about Hinduism or casteism or what is the role of reservation, but because it is very inconvenient for them to follow his advise and reap political benefits. Even his so called followers don't care to read his books and follow most of the things recommended by him. So it is ironical to see that in spite of being one of the most used political icons on India he is least understood. I hope people who take his name day and night, all political parties who claim to carry on his legacy at least take some serious efforts to read his writings and reflect on them. If they really care about him then they should show courage to discuss all the issues raised by him openly, they should dare to question the things which he dared to question. Many things which he questioned are still in practice, celebrating his birth anniversary is a great thing, tokenism has its own importance in our society and culture but if we really want to honor this great man then we need to discuss and debate all issues which he raised in his books and articles. If we can remove evil of casteism from Indian society then it will be real tribute to this man.

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

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

2. प्राइम टाइम : बाबा साहब अंबेडकर का लोक रूप

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I respect people but not all their views, opinions and sentiments.

Gandhi once said, 'hate the sin, not the sinner' and I totally agree to this statement, but it is also true that it is very difficult to follow this advise. Many times we find it very difficult to isolate beliefs, acts (good or bad) from any person and look at them independently. If we see some person doing good things we start liking them, and we like or love them so much that many times we even try to defend their bad things as we believe that such a nice person can not do anything wrong (hardcore devotees and fan clubs come in this category). Similarly if we have negative image of some person in our mind we develop such a negative attitude towards him/her that we don't want to offer any words of appreciation even towards good deeds done by them (we see this attitude very often in politics). I personally believe in respecting people no matter who they are, I think we as a humans should first learn to respect each other irrespective of our religion, nationality, color, race, etc. According to me this is a basic requirement to call anyone a human, we all need to have mutual respect. But this mutual respect doesn't mean that we need to respect each other's views, beliefs, opinions or sentiments. All these things differ from person to person, people have different type of opinions about same issues, they follow different religions or no religion, some are sensitive and some are not. There is tremendous diversity among all of us as far as our emotions and thinking patterns are concerned, it is impossible to expect that everyone will agree with each other on everything. If we are compelled to respect each and every sentiment and all the time have to be careful not to hurt them then we can not talk or discuss or argue about any issue or can not even question anything. Because no matter how careful we are, our questioning or criticism is bound to hurt someone's sentiments or make some one feel uncomfortable. So the expectation to respect every sentiment or belief or view is totally unreasonable and against spirit of argument or rational discussion.

So let me make clear what I mean in title of this blog post: I respect all people and as a human beings I consider it as my duty to do that but I am not obliged to respect all their beliefs, opinions or sentiments. Rather I am totally free to challenge their opinion, criticize them, question their beliefs or sentiments, at the same time they are also free to do the same with my beliefs or sentiments. They have right to offend me and I also hold the same right. Let me also make it clear that questioning someone's opinions or beliefs or commenting on their sentiments positively or negatively does not mean showing any disrespect to that person. When I question I am trying to challenge or object those beliefs or opinions not the existence of that particular person, there is a difference between challenging a person and challenging their beliefs. Many cultures or religions consider obedience as a necessary virtue and very important sign to show respect towards seniors. But obedience doesn't mean blind faith or total devotion without any right to question, this type of obedience is total surrender which is dangerous for any human being as it shuts their thinking process off. Any human without any logical or rational thinking of their own will become like a robot which can be used to carry out any good or bad work, actually recruitment of young kids for terrorism is a ideal example of this. We have enough devotees or followers in this world, we need many more rational and independent thinkers who are willing to challenge and question things around us. These are the people who can initiate change, who have capacity to go against the flow.

So next time when you see someone questioning your sentiments or views or beliefs don't think that it is a sign of disrespect or insult but take it as a challenge to validate your thoughts, take it as a challenge to prove your point with evidence and data, it will only improve your own knowledge and help that other person also understand your views better. Let's show respect towards each other as a person but feel free to challenge each other's thoughts, this is the only way we can progress.

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

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cruel side of digital revolution...cyber bullying

Digital revolution brought many changes in people's lives, from last two decades or so digital technology has changes how people interact with each other, it has revolutionized the way many things in our society work. At the same time it has also created a parallel universe like our real universe, it is called "cyber world" where many good and bad things happen like they happen in our real world. Cyber bullying is one such ugly phenomena which is spreading rapidly in this virtual world. Because of immense popularity of social networking sites and ease of availability of this technology and gadgets many people spend lot of time in this virtual world. They make many friends in this world and interact with many known and unknown people which is not possible in real world. Bullying is common incident even in real world and in cyber world it is even becoming more common. People get bullied for so many things there, they get bullied for their appearance or expressing their thoughts or sometimes bulling is in the form of sharing some derogatory material about them, so the point is there are many forms of bulling which happen and they all have detrimental effect of various degrees on people who are victim of it. The major difference between bulling in cyber and real world is that in cyber world it spreads very rapidly. It really takes few minutes or hours to become some video or photo or post viral. People not at all related with that person or issue can comment and harass that person without revealing their identity. These cyber bullies are more aggressive and brutal as many of them think they can not be caught so they can say anything to anyone on internet. It is also very difficult to design any effective laws to curb this behavior which makes it very complex and difficult problem to handle.

I consider cyber bulling comparatively more dangerous because often it happens in virtual world where environment doesn't offer any protection to victim. The victim suffers in isolation, there are no bystanders which can intervene. Many times by the time people close to victim know that something like this is going on its too late, it is very difficult to detect this problem. People who go through his hesitate to tell about this for same reasons which people who get bullied in real life don't like to talk about it. But in real life there is possibility that some bystander might inform to authorities or even intervene to stop it or victim might try to relocate to some other place to avoid facing those bullies but in cyber world both things are not that easy. There it is really easy for bullies to chase the victim and intimidate them. This is why we need to educate our kids about cyber bulling and teach them ways to deal with it. If we don't counter this evil then it will spread very rapidly. Any form of bullying should not be tolerated and if we all stand together against it then only we can put any brakes to these type of incidents. I hope no more precious lives are lost because of bullying, we already have enough pressure and problems in real life and we should not make it more difficult by allowing cyber bullying to continue. 

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

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Religious Freedom Restoration Act- A regressive step to allow discrimination.

As expected recently passed 'religious freedom restoration act' created lot of debate and controversy in US media and political circles. Depending on which political party they support people are busy in either criticizing or fiercely defending this controversial law which allows public businesses to deny services to its customers if they feel that it conflicts with their religious beliefs or teachings. Actually most countries allow their citizens to practice religion of their choice (and I know that India and US give this right). They have it in their constitution, so it is not that in US people are discriminated because of their religion or they find it difficult to practice their beliefs. Constitution gives complete freedom to every citizen to practice their faith. I believe that anyone's religion or faith is their personal thing, they have right to choose it and practice it without disturbing others. But it is a problem when people start bringing their faith or religion in public and mixing it with politics or when law makers start making law to favor particular religion or to appease some minority community. Such appeasing behavior either by public or law makers creates huge problems and disturbs social disharmony.

This current law of Indiana is clearly designed to appease conservative community of all religions (specially Christians) who might want to use this law to express their displeasure towards certain groups or communities. It is believed that this can be specially discriminating towards gays and lesbians as certain business might refuse to serve then as their religious beliefs allow them to discriminate against these groups. This is why we specifically have anti-discriminatory laws, some people for whatever reason they try to discriminate. Most of them do these things with lot of conviction and belief because they think that they are doing right thing which is taught to them by their religion or guru or culture or some other belief. If you are in public your personal beliefs don't matter much. You have to follow public code of conduct of that society, you might think your religion is greatest thing human kind ever discovered but that doesn't mean you can abuse other religions; you might think that people or specially women should only dress in certain way because your religious holy book says so but that doesn't mean you can force everyone to follow that dictate. The point is if you are a public business then you are out there to serve customers, and those customers can come from different race, gender, nationality, religions or sexual orientation. One can use any tag to describe those individuals but they all are 'customers' and your business is to serve those 'customers'. Any business's job is not to judge their customer's personal beliefs or character, not to discriminate them based on their sexual orientation or race or gender. These type of discriminatory things used to happen just few decades back, those terrible memories must be still fresh in many people's mind. Many brave people fought very tough and long battles, some even sacrificed their lives to eliminate (or at least reduce) those ugly things from our society. I won't say that discrimination or racism doesn't exist today but at least it doesn't have protection of law, people can be questioned and punished by law if they do these things openly. But if state starts designing any law which can even remotely encourage any type of discrimination then it sets up a very dangerous precedent. This can open the flood gates where political institutions can try to bring similar legislation which can go any extend to appease majority or minority depending on their political interests. In India already these things happen on regular basis and they create lot of mess but I never expected that such thing can happen even in USA, But I think I am wrong in thinking like this, I can see religious fanaticism is on rise everywhere, even US is not a exception to this, so I think this was kind of expected. Even conservative parties are now a days are accused of not conservative enough by their core supports, so they are forced to lush the envelope more to make their constituencies happy. Extreme conservatives or liberals both create big nuisance when they try to push their agendas using political platform.

This law if it lives up to its expectations is definitely a regressive step which might legalize certain type of discrimination. Most religious institutions and their followers are not happy with growing acceptance which gays and lesbians are getting in societies across the world. Same opposition or resentment was displayed when racism or gender discrimination was questioned. There were attempts to continue those discriminatory practices under the name of culture, religion or whatever. But now we all agree (even conservatives) and know that those things were wrong. So why are some people are so eager to destroy those things which took so many efforts and sacrifice to achieve? Just for some political gain? Why to have any law which even remotely has the possibility of some people getting discriminated? How does these things identify with a very progressive and liberal image of USA? If we all agree that any type of discrimination is wrong then why not to stand together against anything which encourages it in any form? I hope better sense from both sides prevails and necessary arrangements are made so that there is no possibility of any discrimination on any grounds against anyone by use or misuse of any law like this. We as a society are already struggling to get rid of discriminatory practices, if any law is needed it is needed to stop discrimination not to encourage it in any way or form. 

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

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